Canada will reinforce a ‘rules-based international order,’ Freeland says – National

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Canada will continue to meet with like-minded nations as it aims to bridge divides between countries at a time of simmering international tensions, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said from Germany on Saturday.


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The approach is necessary as Canada strives to reinforce the “rules-based international order,” Freeland said in a conference call with reporters as she wrapped up her time at the Munich Security Conference.

“We also think we need to … bring together specific coalitions around specific issues,” she said, listing the Lima Group – which helped empower Venezuela’s opposition in its fight against President Nicolas Maduro – as an example of Canada doing just that.

The group helped identify the politician Canada and its allies recognize as Venezuela’s real leader, Juan Guaido, as a contender to bring down Maduro’s regime.

WATCH: Freeland says coalition against ISIS is ‘succeeding’ but fight is not over






“There is now a very long list of countries who have recognized Juan Guaido as interim president,” she said. “That is a sign that the international community is coming together around democracy in Venezuela.”

But she added that Canada is not – and should not be – leading the fight against Maduro.

“This is a process led by the people of Venezuela,” she said. “They are the ones who need to win this effort. Our job as the international community is to support them, and that is very much what we’re doing.”


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She said that beyond seeking out like-minded countries, Canada will continue to name and shame those involved in human rights abuses, listing the country’s involvement in protesting the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar as an example of such an approach.

The federal government has appointed former Liberal MP Bob Rae as Canada’s special envoy to Myanmar and pledged $300 million over the next three years to combat the crisis there. Last September, Parliament voted unanimously to strip Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, of her honorary Canadian citizenship for failing to stop the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people.

Freeland’s public push for a rules-following international order also comes in the midst of an ongoing dispute between Canada and China, following what she called the superpower’s “arbitrary” detention of two Canadians in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

WATCH: Freeland says Canada, Lima Group calling on Venezuela military to recognize Guaido






Freeland said the detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig was central to her discussion with Rob Malley, president of the International Crisis Group, and is yet another example of nations rallying together.

“The ICG has been a very important partner in working to build international support,” she said.

Numerous countries – including Germany, France, the Netherlands, the U.K., Australia, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia – have spoken against the men’s detention. Earlier this week in Munich, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said the American response had not been strong enough.

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Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders, supporters call for stop work order on Coastal GasLink pipeline

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Driving along the forest service road outside Houston, B.C. voices come in and out over the radio channels as people co-ordinate with one another at a worksite for the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline.

About 15 minutes down the road from the worksite is the Unist’ot’en camp and healing centre. The camp is located on the edge of the Wedzin Kwah (Morice River) and is currently home to dozens of people, many of whom have come to support the Unist’ot’en in their opposition to the pipeline.

The bridge that crosses the river has been used as a checkpoint by the group for nearly a decade. People at the camp have been controlling who has access to the territory past the bridge in an effort to put Wet’suwet’en law into practice on the land.

Approaching the bridge on Wednesday it’s clear much has changed since the RCMP arrived earlier this month to enforce a court injunction for access. That led to an agreement between the nation’s hereditary chiefs and police to allow pipeline workers through Unist’ot’en.

As it stands, work continues on the TransCanada-owned Coastal GasLink pipeline while Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership are still fighting the project, calling for a stop work order from the province. 

Depending on who you ask, the work taking place along the forest service road past Unist’ot’en is either scheduled pre-construction work on a welcome, $40 billion natural gas project that has all the necessary approvals or it is the unlawful destruction of a landbase, according to Wet’suwet’en law, in an era when governments are publicly committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).  

Police approach the Gidimt’en checkpoint Jan. 7 to enforce an injunction ordering people to stop preventing Coastal GasLink workers from accessing the road and bridge. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

In addition to the workers who have been moving through the area regularly, staff and chiefs from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en have also been visiting on a regular basis.

A pair of fisheries staff from the office are stopping in at the Unist’ot’en healing centre on their way to check on streams in the area.

But they’re stopped on the bridge because a group of people are standing in the road.

Several members of the RCMP are talking to camp spokesperson Freda Huson. She’s telling them about a truck that drove through and knocked out an electrical box earlier that day and wants to know what the police are going to do about it.

A woman stands next to her with a notebook that is being used to track how many vehicles are coming and going through the area.

Freda Huson (left) at the entrance to the Unist’ot’en camp and healing centre with a supporter, speaks to a member of the RCMP Division Liaison Team. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Interactions with the RCMP have become a daily occurrence in the area, with police fielding complaints from both sides. Officers have been coming and going through the territory, sent in from detachments across B.C.

People at Unist’ot’en are growing increasingly frustrated with them and a perceived lack of action on complaints.

List of complaints, allegations

At the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, where several of the nation’s hereditary chiefs work, that frustration has grown into a formal request to the province to issue a stop work order against Coastal GasLink, at least until the litany of complaints and allegations can be properly addressed.

The chiefs have taken issue with several incidents and work activities that have been happening since the enforcement of the injunction at the Gidim’ten checkpoint Jan. 7.

In particular, they’re upset that Coastal GasLink workers razed the buildings at Gidim’ten and about the heavy machinery brought into the area past Unist’ot’en, where workers recently cleared a large treed area the Wet’suwet’en say is a historic trapline site where people were actively trapping.

The buildings that were constructed by the Gidimt’en on the Morice Forest Service Road were razed by Coastal GasLink contractors in late January. The company said the buildings were torn down for safety purposes. The area is now being used by RCMP working in the area. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

« Having the RCMP stand idly by when there is personal and private property being destroyed is not anything that the hereditary chiefs would agree to, nor would we expect it, » said Chief Na’Moks, who estimated the area recently cleared is about 20 hectares.

« There’s miscommunication between the RCMP at all levels. »

CBC sent requests to the RCMP to find out how many complaints it’s received and files it’s opened since the enforcement at Gidimt’en but has not received a response.

Remnants of traps that were set in a treed area since cleared by heavy equipment in a pile on the side of the road at the Coastal GasLink worksite. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC )

Coastal GasLink said it stopped work temporarily after the trapline incident, stating in a release « Fully approved and permitted work was shut down temporarily today due to safety concerns arising from a number of individuals entering an active construction site and the continued placement of traps on the construction site.

Work resumed and Coastal GasLink directed any questions about the matter to the RCMP.

On the road

The fisheries staff from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en stop and talk with members of the RCMP Division Liaison Team on their way to the site.

They’ve been there several times recently and have watched as the bulldozers and excavators level an area where the company plans to build a work camp for construction crews.  

« They’re digging a lot, » Gary Michell says to his brother Brian as they pass workers in hardhats and high visibility vests and the heavy machinery on either side of the forest service road.

Pre-construction work on the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline is underway along the Morice Forest Service Road near Smithers in northern B.C. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

The brothers point out the trapping tents set back from the road, in the snow. This is the area where the trapping equipment was destroyed by the heavy equipment that was clearing the area.

They spot a pile of wooden boxes and traps piled on the side of the road amid tree debris.  

After checking the streams, the brothers drive out where the road ends and point out the signs of another trapper in the area, a pickup truck parked on the side of the road, the trapping sign tacked to a tree and tracks in the snow leading into the bush.

‘Nobody will take responsibility’

Several provincial bodies are involved with fielding the complaints and allegations from the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters: conservation officers, the oil and gas commission, the environmental assessment office.

A joint investigation into allegations from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en of non-compliance by Coastal GasLink with its permits is underway and said officials visited the area to conduct a site inspection this week.

« It will take some time subsequently to determine whether any non-compliances are evident and, if so, the appropriate enforcement action, » wrote a spokesperson from the province’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

A man stands at a Coastal GasLink worksite where the company gained access to after receiving an interim injunction from the B.C. Supreme Court in December 2018. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

In an email response to CBC about the recent allegations from the hereditary chiefs, a Coastal GasLink spokesperson wrote: « We are committed to undertaking all work in a safe and respectful manner that minimizes any impacts to traditional activities and meets regulatory requirements.

« We will continue to co-operate with the regulators and address any identified deficiencies. We remain open to dialogue with all stakeholder and First Nations.

A previous complaint against Coastal GasLink from the hereditary chiefs took at least a year to resolve. The chiefs say the complaints began in 2013 but the province said the complaint wasn’t received until January 2018.

Site inspections were carried out last summer and found Coastal GasLink was not in compliance with six of the 23 conditions of its Environmental Assessment Certificate specific to pre-construction.

The Environmental Assessment Office issued a warning to the company and an investigation report posted on Jan. 16 said the company is now in compliance at those sites.

Coastal GasLink says it is on track with pre-construction and construction activities. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

In a statement on its website, Coastal GasLink said it was its understanding « that certain work required prior to construction, such as geotechnical earthworks or the placement of monitoring wells typically and routinely done in advance of construction, was appropriate.

« The inspection has since clarified that these activities fell under the definition of construction. Coastal GasLink has since satisfied all the conditions and is on track with pre-construction and construction activities. »

Knowing the results of the current investigation could take a while, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en wants elected officials in the B.C. government to step in.

Na’Moks said at this point it looks like the different provincial bodies and politicians are busy « trying to point fingers at each other. »

« So they’re going to play the name game for a little bit here and nobody will take responsibility, » he said.

« That’s why the cease and desist must happen. »

The elected and hereditary divide 

Twenty First Nation band councils along the route have signed agreements with Coastal GasLink. Some have been outspoken in their support for the project. But others, particularly currently elected leaders within the Wet’suwet’en, have been less eager to talk about the situation.

From left: Hereditary Chief Smogelgem, Chief Warner Williams, Chief Madeek, Chief Hagwilneghl and Chief Na’Moks speak to media following a meeting with RCMP members and Coastal GasLink representatives to discuss ways of ending the pipeline impasse on Wet’suwet’en land earlier this month. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

The hereditary chiefs at the Office of the Wet’suwet’en have said the band councils have jurisdiction only over reserve lands, and not over the nation’s 22,000 km of traditional territory that was the focus of a landmark Supreme Court of Canada case.

The plaintiffs in the Delgamuukw case were the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Nations. The Supreme Court’s decision confirmed Aboriginal title to land in British Columbia had never been extinguished, laid out the nature and scope for Aboriginal title, and how to prove such a claim in court. 

The court decision did not however go so far as to decide on the nations’ land claims to their territory and instead recommended a new trial.

Victor Jim is someone who knows the Delgamuukw case intimately. He worked as an interpreter on the case for several years. Jim is also a hereditary chief, former teacher and currently the elected chief in the village of Witset.

Sitting in his office on Friday he is visibly drained talking about everything that’s happened in the last couple of months.

« It’s been pretty hard on me, » he said, mentioning that it’s had an impact on his health. He mentions the names of a couple of close friends from whom he hasn’t heard in recent months.

Jim says he’s been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism and name calling over his council signing an agreement with Coastal GasLink. But he said it’s not right to frame this pipeline conflict as hereditary chiefs vs. elected band councils.

It’s more about the unfinished business between the Crown, province and Wet’suwet’en post-Delgamuukw.

Signs at the Unist’ot’en camp. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

« They need to go back to litigation for jurisdiction and title, and they’ll win it, » he said, in reference to his fellow hereditary chiefs.

« I think if we had ownership and jurisdiction things could have played out a lot differently. You know the governments would realize that they can’t push industry on us if we had title and jurisdiction. »

When it comes to his own band’s agreement with Coastal GasLink, Jim said it came about after they realized the project would go ahead with or without their support.   

« We support [Coastal GasLink], but the way they do business I’m beginning to have my second doubts. You don’t run roughshod over a nation to get what you want as industry, » he said.

He said the band has received some financial benefits from the company already that they plan to put toward language instruction and facilities.

Looking forward, Jim said he hopes someone can take leadership to bring the Wet’suwet’en people together so they can talk about what’s gone on and where things go from here.

Injunction case still before the court

The interim injunction that led to the spotlight on this pipeline and those opposed has yet to go to trial. Coastal GasLink has said the injunction application was a last resort after repeated attempts to gain access to the area past the Unist’ot’en camp.

A group of people hold up signs expressing their solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en outside the constituency office of local MLA Doug Donaldson on Thursday. His office was occupied by a group of people for several hours. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

The named defendants in the case, Freda Huson and hereditary chief Smogelgem, said they’re expected to file their response in court in late February. They haven’t said what their legal strategy will be but they do have the option to file for a counter injunction against Coastal GasLink.

Meanwhile supporters of the Unist’ot’en, Gidimt’en and the Wet’suwet’en continue to organize rallies and actions across the country. On Thursday two people were arrested for mischief after occupying MLA Doug Donaldson’s constituency office in Smithers for several hours.

Those arrested at Gidimt’en in early January are expected to be in court on Monday.

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Meng Wanzhou expected in B.C. Supreme Court to make changes to bail order

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Vancouver—Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is expected to appear at B.C. Supreme Court at 9:45 a.m. Pacific Time Tuesday to make changes to her bail order.

Meng, who was arrested on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States, was granted $10 million bail on Dec. 11.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, right, arrives at a parole office with a member of her private security detail in Vancouver, on Wednesday December 12. She is expected in court this morning to make a change to one of the people acting as sureties for her $10 million bail.
Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, right, arrives at a parole office with a member of her private security detail in Vancouver, on Wednesday December 12. She is expected in court this morning to make a change to one of the people acting as sureties for her $10 million bail.  (DARRYL DYCK / The Canadian Press)

In a statement, the Canadian Department of Justice said on Tuesday Meng is seeking to change the name of one of the people named as a surety in her bail order.

“The British Columbia Supreme Court will decide whether or not to consider and accept a substitute surety for Ms. Meng,” said Ian McLeod, with the DOJ.

“The Crown agrees/agreed to this application, and it was anticipated at the time of the original bail order for Ms. Meng.”

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Previously, five parties had been named as surety, including a realtor who put up his own home, worth $1.8 million, two former employees of Huawei and their family members, a neighbour, Scot Filer, CEO of Lions Gate Risk Management — the group responsible for making sure she sticks to bail conditions, in addition to cash put up by her husband, Liu Xiaozong.

It’s unclear which party the Tuesday bail order change application involves.

More to come

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Olympic medallist Katelyn Osmond to receive Order of Newfoundland and Labrador

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Figure skating champion Kaetlyn Osmond will be receiving the highest honour in her home province – the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Osmond left Marystown, N.L., for Edmonton at a young age, but her province and hometown continue to cheer for her, even re-naming the local arena after her in 2014.

READ: Fans and skaters welcome Olympic medallist Kaetlyn Osmond back to Edmonton

She and artist Christopher Pratt were among 10 people named today as recipients of the order, granted for “excellence and achievement” to former and current residents of the province.

They will be inducted at a Jan. 29 ceremony.

The Olympic bronze medallist and world figure skating champion was greeted with a parade when she visited Marystown in April, meeting with young skaters and performing at the arena.

WATCH: Olympic medallist Kaetlyn Osmond arrives back in Edmonton






Dominic Lundrigan was arena manager when Osmond first laced up her skates as a kid and he recalled an enthusiastic young athlete who always pushed herself to skate faster and jump higher.

Lundrigan called Osmond the “pride and pleasure” of the small town and said her visits always lift local residents’ spirits.

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Four Winnipeggers appointed to the Order of Canada – Winnipeg

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Rideau Hall has announced a list of 103 people set to be honoured with the Order of Canada, including four from Winnipeg.

Created over 50 years ago, the Order of Canada is one of the country’s highest honours.

Each year, extraordinary athletes, artists, politicians and researchers are recognized for their achievements and service to the country.


READ MORE:
Governor General Julie Payette to make first visit to Winnipeg Monday

Two Officers and two Members of the Order of Canada reside in Winnipeg, including Doneta A.P. Brotchie.

“People are so gifted and so talented and give so much and I’m so extremely humbled to be on any list,” Brotchie told 680 CJOB News.

Brotchie has been recognized for her continued involvement in the public and private sectors in Manitoba as a business leader and volunteer.

Doneta Brotchie is pictured.

Winnipeg Chamber

Brotchie said when she learned of the news she felt extremely honoured.

“It’s hard to believe that I’m standing side-by-side with every other person on that list,” she said, after receiving a phone call from the Governor General.

Currently Brotchie works for Leadership Winnipeg as the Program Director, but her journey to the job was filled with volunteer work.

“The doors open for me and I want to say ‘yes’ to as much as I can.”

Brotchie’s passion for volunteering began when she spent time helping out with Bears on Broadway and Canstruction, but her list doesn’t stop there.

“I love volunteering, I was on a number of arts boards. The Art Gallery, Winnipeg Symphony, Manitoba Theatre Centre and a number of health organizations like the HSC Foundation, and the Grace Hospital Foundation,” she said.


READ MORE:
Manitoba paramedics honoured with Governor General’s service medal

Brotchie spoke highly about another Winnipegger honored — Digvir Jayas.

“Digvir is somebody who is an extremely significant person in his field and has done numerous things at the national level and is also a very wonderful guy,” she said.

Jayas has been recognized for his advancements to agricultural practices worldwide, and for his promotion of academic and scientific research in Canada.


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Ross D. Feldman and Leonard Joseph Cariou are the other two Winnipeg residents to receive the Order.

Feldman was recognized for his leadership in the prevention and control of hypertension in Canada.

Cariou has been honoured for his achievements as an actor of stage and screen, and for his commitment to Canadian cultural institutions.

“There are so many people doing great things, and I’m in awe in the number of people,” Brotchie said about the other recipients.

Appointees are selected by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Advisory Council for the Order of Canada.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Federal minister Sohi asks NEB for pipeline inventory in order to find more capacity

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Federal Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi told a business audience Friday morning that he has asked the National Energy Board to report back on how much oil is flowing through Canada’s pipelines. He wants to find out if they can handle more capacity.

“That’s a question that I’m raising with the NEB and I’m hoping that they’ll be able to provide me with an answer as quickly as possible,” Sohi later told reporters.

READ MORE: Study says lack of pipeline capacity costing Canada billions in lost revenue

“Is there room for us to ship more oil through pipelines that already exist? And is there a way to optimize that capacity?”

The potential increase in pipeline capacity would coincide with the ability to send more oil by rail. Sohi reported that moving oil by rail has increased this year to where 270,000 barrels per day are being transported. His hope is to gain more capacity through both means.

READ MORE: Alberta to purchase rail cars to move oil without feds: Notley

He made the remarks inside the World Trade Centre to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, while outside on Jasper Avenue, protesters were chanting: “Pipelines now” and “Build that pipe,” as they urged for completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. They were also protesting against Bill C-69, which looks at how projects are regulated.

Sohi said he sympathizes with those who are out of work.

“What I would say to the people out there, showing their support for the energy sector is, we agree with them.

“We share the frustration. I have family members who have been laid off. I have family members who worry for the future. We’re in this together and we will pull together out of this.”

Sohi took pointed questions from the audience, who didn’t agree with the government’s actions that include a tanker ban in Northern B.C. waters, the importation of Saudi oil to the Irving refinery in New Brunswick, and the cancellation of the Northern Gateway and Energy East pipelines. They see over-regulation hampering the industry.

READ MORE: Premier Notley disappointed with Ottawa’s response to Alberta oil bottleneck

Sohi pointed out that the Enbridge Line-3 pipeline will be up and running next year, originating in Hardisty, Alta.

He also said he’s met with more than 40 First Nation leaders, listening to their concerns on the environment. Sohi insists rushing through the process is the mistake that started this mess, and that mistake won’t be made again.

Chamber President Janet Riopel said there is clear frustration that we’re seeing a lot of talk and no action.

“We need to understand keenly why we don’t see more movement in this pipeline construction. I mean Canadians are losing out.”

Sohi told reporters the review of the NEB on the impact of tanker traffic will be concluded by the end of February.

Answers to his question on pipeline capacity he hopes will be back to him as soon as possible.


© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Nalcor issues stop-work order to Astaldi; 500 workers being sent home from Muskrat Falls

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Nalcor Energy is breaking ties with the financially-troubled main contractor at the Muskrat Falls hydro megaproject, after weeks of fiscal and legal conflict between the two companies.

Nalcor has directed the Canadian subsidiary of Italian construction firm Astaldi to stop working on the site, and is arranging for Astaldi’s 500 workers in Labrador to return home.

The latest dramatic development comes after weeks of legal jousting, with Astaldi seeking more cash for its work on Muskrat Falls, and Nalcor insisting Astaldi is responsible for debts owed to subcontractors and suppliers.

Astaldi has been facing financial woes both in Labrador and Italy, where the parent company has filed for a type of creditor protection.

‘Closely monitoring’ Astaldi financial situation

In an emailed statement sent late Thursday afternoon, Stan Marshall — the chief executive officer of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Crown energy corporation — said Nalcor has been « closely monitoring » Astaldi’s financial situation.

« Given Astaldi’s inability to continue to pay its workers, Nalcor has directed Astaldi to stop work, » Marshall said.

Work is focused on ensuring we meet the critical path for first power as planned in 2019.– Stan Marshall

« We are taking this action to minimize the financial harm placed upon the workers by Astaldi. »

Marshall said Nalcor’s immediate priority is to « make arrangements for Astaldi’s approximately 500 workers living at the Muskrat Falls site in Labrador to return home in a safe and orderly fashion. » 

According to Marshall, there are financial protections for those workers in place. Astaldi’s surety has directed payment of funds to the Resource Development Trades Council (RDTC), in relation to the contractor’s obligations to the workers’ pensions and benefits plan.

‘Challenging situation’ for workers

On Wednesday, CBC News reported that the RDTC — the umbrella group for 16 local trades unions working on the hydro megaproject — filed a $7.8 million lawsuit against Astaldi and Nalcor over unpaid remittances to those plans.

« We understand this is a challenging situation for workers and will continue to work with the RDTC to address their outstanding concerns, » Marshall said.

Workers are pictured at the Muskrat Falls site in Labrador in this June 2018 file photo. The Resource Development Trades Council, which represents 16 unions there, has filed a $7.8 million lawsuit against Astaldi and Nalcor. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

According to Marshall, Nalcor recently notified Astaldi that all of the funds the contractor is currently eligible to earn under its contracts have been paid.

He said the action against Astaldi « will not have any impact to the ongoing work activities of the other contractors and workers on site, » and their work will continue as planned.

« Work is focused on ensuring we meet the critical path for first power as planned in 2019. »

Contingency plan in place

The Muskrat Falls project is billions over budget and years behind schedule. But Marshall said a Plan B has been in the works, to keep the project on the rails going forward.

« We have also been working on a contingency plan to finish the work should Astaldi be unable to complete its remaining scope of work, » Marshall said in a statement.

« We remain committed to have first power from the project in 2019 with full power in 2020. Our goal is to finish this project strong and we’re ensuring that we have everything in place to do this. »

Stan Marshall is the CEO of Crown-owned Nalcor Energy. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Astaldi was selected in 2013 to build the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric generation facility on the Churchill River in Labrador. The contract included construction of the intake and powerhouse, spillway and transition dams, with an 824-megawatt generating station.

It was originally valued at between $1 billion and $1.1 billion. 

Astaldi asked for more cash to finish the project, citing delays and higher costs.

Two years ago, Nalcor and Astaldi reached a deal to make that happen, jacking the bill up to $1.83 billion.

The latest total estimated price tag to complete Muskrat Falls, including financing costs, is $12.7 billion.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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Oblate religious order covered up decades of sexual abuse of First Nations children, victims allege

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This story is based on a report by Anne Panasuk of the investigative program, Enquête. Watch Enquête’s full report here, in French.


« He’d let us drive. He knew how to do everything. We were impressed to see a priest act that way, » recalls Jason Petiquay.

Petiquay was 11 when he was sexually abused by Raynald Couture, an Oblate missionary who worked in Wemotaci, Que., from 1981 to 1991.

The Atikamekw community 285 kilometres north of Trois-Rivières was one of many remote First Nations communities in Quebec where priests belonging to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) were spiritual leaders and authority figures for generations.

Petiquay described how Couture would lure young boys to his cabin by inviting them for a ride on his all-terrain vehicle or in his pick-up truck.

Jason Petiquay says he’s had to respond to more suicides than fires in his role as chief of the Wemotaci fire department. Many of those who took their own lives, he said, were abused by Father Raynald Couture, an Oblate missionary posted in Wemotaci from 1981 to 1991. (Jean-Pierre Gandin/Radio-Canada)

His story of abuse is one of dozens Atikamekw and Innu people in Quebec told Radio-Canada’s investigative program Enquête in a report set to air Thursday evening.

It paints of bleak portrait of widespread sexual abuse at the hands of at least 10 Oblate priests in eight different communities served by the missionary order, which began its evangelization work among Inuit and First Nations in Canada in 1841.

MMIWG shines light on decades-old secret

It has been almost a year since women from the isolated Innu communities of Unamen Shipu and Pakua Shipu, on Quebec’s Lower North Shore, described how they were sexually assaulted by an Oblate priest who worked in their territory for four decades, until his death in 1992.

One after another, alleged victims of the Belgian native, Father Alexis Joveneau, told the federal inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIWG) how the charismatic and much-admired priest had abused them as children.

« I could not talk about it, » Thérèse Lalo told commissioners. « He was like a god. »

In the wake of the testimony from Lalo and others, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate issued an apology, setting up a hotline and offering psychological support to Joveneau’s alleged victims.

Father Alexis Joveneau is seen with Innu children in Unamen Shipu, Que. The Oblate missionary lived and worked in Innu communities on Quebec’s Lower North Shore for more than four decades, until his death in 1992. (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec/Fonds Pauline Laurin)

« We are absolutely devastated by these troubling testimonies, » the OMI’s Quebec office said in a March statement.

But the allegations in the Enquête report suggest the religious order’s superiors long knew about allegations against Joveneau.

Francis Mark, an Innu man from Unamen Shipu who said he was assaulted by Joveneau, said many years ago, he turned for help to the late Archbishop Peter Sutton, an Oblate who was made bishop of the Labrador City-Schefferville diocese in 1974.

« He let me down, » said Mark. « He didn’t guide me. Was there justice? No. »

Devout elders kept silence

In some instances which Enquête looked into, when Oblate superiors or church officials were told about the abuse, the priests were simply sent to neighbouring communities, where other Indigenous children were abused in turn.

In other cases, as in that of Father Raynald Couture in Wemotaci, deeply religious elders in the community insisted on silence.

Charles Coocoo of Wemotaci said he confronted Father Raynald Couture about his abuse of children, asking him to leave the community, but Atikamekw elders insisted the Oblate priest stay. (Jean-Pierre Gandin/Radio-Canada)

« The mushums, the kookums [grandmothers and grandfathers], they asked him to stay in the community, » said Charles Coocoo, a Wemotaci man who once demanded that Couture leave.

Mary Coon, a social worker at the time, went straight to the religious order to ask them to intervene, but without an official police complaint, the Oblates refused.

« The boys wouldn’t file a complaint, » said Coon. « We wanted to get him out of here, but how could we? There was no complaint. We had nothing. »

In 1991, Couture was sent to France, where he remained until eight of his victims pressed charges. In 2004, he was sentenced to 15 months in jail, a punishment another victim, Alex Coocoo, called so light as to be « ridiculous. »

‘A sin to talk’

Claude Niquay said he was a seven-year-old altar boy when he alleges he was first molested by Father Clément Couture, another Oblate missionary who was posted in Manawan, an Atikamekw community southwest of Wemotaci, until 1996.

Niquay was forced to see his alleged abuser every day, when he delivered meals cooked by his grandmother to the priest.

When he tried to tell his grandmother about the assaults, he was punished.

« She’d tell me to go sit in a corner, that it was a sin to talk about those things, » he said.

Claude Niquay says he wasn’t allowed to talk about the abuse he says he suffered as a boy, told speaking out against a priest was blasphemy. (Radio-Canada)

Before Couture’s arrival, the community had been served by two other Oblate priests, Édouard Meilleur, and later, Jean-Marc Houle, whose alleged victims — elderly now — still recall their assaults vividly.

Antoine Quitish was just five when Meilleur allegedly stripped off his cloak and forced himself on him, « poking » Quitish’s chest with his penis.

« I’m happy that [the story] is out now, » said Quitish, now 75.

Other Atikamekw elders described Meilleur as an exhibitionist who would slip his hands under girls’ dresses during confession.

Father Edouard Meilleur, OMI, right, worked in Manawan, Que., from 1938 to 1953. Elders recall that he’d slip his hands under girls’ dresses as they confessed to him. (Submitted by the Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw)

Enquête heard how Houle, who was posted in Manawan from 1953 to 1970, was drawn to pregnant women: he’s alleged to have spread holy oil over the stomachs, the breasts and the genitals of his victims, explaining he was warding off the devil in their unborn children.

The stories got out.

« I told the archdiocese, ‘If you don’t get that guy out of there, tomorrow morning it will be on the front page of the newspapers’, » recalls Huron-Wendat leader Max Gros-Louis, then the head of the Association of Indians of Quebec.

Houle was removed, said Gros-Louis — only to be sent to the Innu community of Pessamit, on Quebec’s North Shore.

Community warned of priest’s behaviours

Robert Dominique, then a band councillor in Pessamit, said his Atikamekw friends warned him about Houle, but the culture of the time ensured his silence.

« For elders, their faith is deeply rooted, » Dominique said. « Religion is sacred. »

Saying out loud that a priest was violating women and children was inconceivable, Gros-Louis agreed.

« You wouldn’t be allowed to go out anymore. You’d be banished, excommunicated, » he said.

There is no evidence Houle’s alleged assaults continued in Pessamit. However, people in that community recall abuse by three Oblate priests who preceded him.

Rachelle Dominique said was assaulted by three different Oblate priests sent to the Innu community of Pessamit on Quebec’s North Shore. (Jean-Pierre Gandin/Radio-Canada)

Dominique’s sister, Rachelle, alleges she was first assaulted by Father Sylvio Lesage in the 1960s, and when Father Roméo Archambault replaced him in the 1970s, for her, things got worse.

He would take her into the church basement, she remembers.

« He was behind me, holding my little breasts, » she alleges, « and after I had to masturbate him in the dark. »

She described feeling « broken, vilified. »

Radio-Canada’s Enquête uncovered allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of 10 Oblate priests in eight different communities served by the missionary order. (Radio-Canada)

Jean-Yves Rousselot also recounted being sexually assaulted by Archambault — alleged assaults that continued when that Oblate missionary was replaced by Father René Lapointe. The young altar boy told his grandfather what had happened and was beaten.

« I had to go to confession, to confess that I had committed blasphemy, » Rousselot said.

Lapointe was his confessor.

The priest would later be relocated to another Innu community, Nutashkuan, where he remained for 30 years, allegedly paying children to masturbate him.

In 2003, provincial police launched an investigation following a complaint, but charges were never laid.

Class action suit awaits Oblates

In the Innu community of Mani-Utenam, Gérard Michel recalls community elders sending him, along with another young man, to Baie-Comeau in 1970 to ask the archbishop to remove Father Omer Provencher, who is alleged to have been sexually assaulting girls in the community.

Nothing was done.

« Nothing, nothing, nothing, » said Michel, now an elder himself.

Provencher, who left the priesthood to live with an Innu woman years ago, told Enquête he will not answer any questions until he is formally charged with a crime.

Father René Lapointe, the priest who spent three decades in Nutashkuan, denies he ever sexually assaulted children.

Now at the Oblates’ retirement home in Richelieu, he told Enquête there is absolutely no truth in any of it.

« Nothing is true in that story. These are all inventions, » he said.

Raynald Couture was sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2004. He said he asked the Oblates for psychological support during his time in Wemotaci but was told to deal with his problems on his own. (Radio-Canada)

Raynald Couture, the Oblate priest who was found guilty of sexually assaulting children in Wemotaci, lives in the same retirement home.

He admits his past crimes.

« I drank like a bastard, and that’s when those things happened, » he told Enquête. He called his assaults « a weakness » and then a « game with the children, » and said he sought help from his superiors, asking to see the Oblates’ psychologist.

« They never even came, » he said.

Most of the priests accused of having assaulted so many Innu and Atikamekw people as children are dead now; Father Alexis Joveneau, who died in 1992, is buried in the cemetery in Unamen Shipu, where he spent so many years.

In late March, just days after the Oblates issued their apology and set up a hotline for Joveneau’s alleged victims, a class action suit was launched in Quebec for all victims of sexual assault at the hands of Oblate priests.

Lawyer Alain Arsenault says to date, 48 victims have come forward, alleging they were assaulted by 14 different Oblate missionaries.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate are still very present in several of Quebec’s Innu communities. (Radio-Canada)

With the court case pending, the head of the Oblates’ Quebec office, Father Superior Luc Tardif, turned down a request to be interviewed for this story.

Regardless of the results of that lawsuit, people in Unamen Shipu are asking that Joveneau’s remains, buried next to their Innu loved ones, be exhumed and taken away.

– Based on a report by Anne Panasuk of Radio-Canada’s Enquête

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Voting irregularities alleged in New Brunswick election, court order sought – New Brunswick

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The struggle for control of the New Brunswick legislature moved to the courts Tuesday, ahead of potential recounts in two ridings – including one Saint John district where a lawyer for the Progressive Conservative candidate is alleging voting irregularities.

The party has asked the Court of Queen’s Bench to throw out the 10-vote victory for the Liberals in the riding of Saint John Harbour, stating in an affidavit that party officials have found at least 40 electors who voted more than once.

READ MORE: N.B. election result uncertainty due to unwritten rules: experts

If the allegations from riding president Peter Lawrence Josselyn and candidate Barry Ogden are upheld, the incumbent Liberals would hold two seats less than the Progressive Conservatives.

The Tories, led by Blaine Higgs, won 22 seats in the 49-seat legislature last week – one more than the Liberals led by Premier Brian Gallant.

Neither party has enough seats for a majority, and both leaders have been trying to gain support from the third parties holding the balance of power, with the Greens and the right-leaning People’s Alliance each holding three seats.

WATCH: Confusion reigns one week after New Brunswick election






A spokesman for the chief electoral officer said judicial recounts are planned for Wednesday for Saint John Harbour and the riding of Memramcook-Tantramar, which was won by the Green party by a margin of nine votes.

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