Pro-pipeline protest convoy approaches Ottawa after rolling across country

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A convoy of angry Albertans and other westerners rolls into Ottawa Tuesday for a mass protest against federal energy and environmental policies that has also become a magnet for extremist, anti-immigrant elements.

A couple of hundred vehicles are expected on Parliament Hill as part of the United We Roll convoy, which began in Red Deer, Alta., on Valentine’s Day and made its way east over four days with stops for rallies along the way.

« The core message is we need immediate action for our pipelines to get in the ground, to get to tidewater and to the rest of Canada, » said lead organizer Glen Carritt, the owner of an oilfield fire and safety company in Innisfail, Alta.

The protesters want the Liberal government to scrap the carbon tax and two bills that overhaul environmental assessments of energy projects and ban oil tankers from the northern coast of British Columbia. Carritt said participants also are unhappy about the government’s recently signing a non-binding United Nations compact on global migration.

Carritt said Canada’s borders « need to be controlled » by Canada and its citizens, not the United Nations.

Another convoy was originally created by a group that called itself Canada Action, which cancelled the plan and refunded thousands of dollars in donations after that effort became associated with extremist elements in the Yellow Vests Canada movement.

Organizers change name

Carritt originally referred to his convoy as a « yellow vest convoy » but renamed it United We Roll after it too was linked to people spewing hateful rhetoric against Muslims and immigrants.

« After much consideration, we have decided to make this convoy about being inclusive and supporting Canadians first and foremost, » Carritt wrote on the protest’s GoFundMe page in late January. « Our new name is United We Roll! Convoy For Canada! »

Some trucks in the convoy display the signature yellow vest garment on their front grilles, but Carritt stresses the rally is open to anyone fed up with the federal government — as long as they aren’t violent.

« Everybody’s involved, » said Carritt. « It doesn’t matter — you can wear a yellow vest or blue coveralls or black hardhat or suit and tie. Everybody that’s peaceful is welcome. »

Jason Corbeil, another organizer, renounced any association with a Sault. Ste. Marie, Ont., yellow vest group that had claimed online to be part of the convoy. The blog of one of those organizers includes calls for specific politicians to be executed, refers to immigrants as « sub-human » and argues women don’t belong in politics.

The ‘United We Roll’ convoy of semi-trucks set out from Red Deer, Alta., on Feb. 14, headed to Ottawa to draw attention to the energy sector and the need for pipelines. (Jeff McIntos/Canadian Press)

Corbeil said the convoy does not condone hate and is about uniting people.

Evan Balgord, the executive director the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, however, is warning that the convoy is giving a platform for hate.

« This convoy is a Yellow Vests Canada convoy, and any well-meaning pro-pipeline individuals involved are in fact legitimizing and breathing oxygen into the broader Yellow Vests Canada movement, which spreads hate, conspiracy theories and death threats targeting Muslims, politicians and other Canadians, » he said.

Counter-protests expected

Indigenous Solidarity Ottawa is planning a demonstration near Parliament Hill Tuesday to counter the convoy’s protest, condemning what it calls « pro-pipeline, far right and outright racist » rhetoric.

Saskatchewan Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall is planning to speak at the convoy’s Parliament Hill event Tuesday. She said she is pleased to participate and that the organizers have made clear the protest is about pipelines and energy policy, not hate.

« I see everyday Canadians who are out speaking out strongly in support of Canadian pipelines and their jobs, and I want to be there to say I appreciate what they’re doing, » she said.

The rally could bring much of downtown Ottawa to a standstill over the next two days, with street closures planned around Parliament Hill to make room for the 200 or more semi-trailers, pickup trucks, cars and buses expected. While the United We Roll group is largely made up of people from Western Canada, a group of like-minded protesters from Eastern Canada is to join up with them in Ottawa.

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Convoy of hundreds of trucks nears Ottawa to protest federal oil policies – National

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Hundreds of trucks are expected to roll into Ottawa Tuesday to protest the federal government’s policies on the oil industry.

The main portion of the United We Roll Convoy set out from Red Deer, Alta., last Thursday and made stops in Regina, Dryden, Thunder Bay, and Sault Ste. Marie before mustering at Arnprior, Ont., just outside the capital.

WATCH: Truck convoy rolls through Calgary on the way to Ottawa






The rally is expected to occupy almost a kilometre of Wellington Street, in front of Parliament.

Lead organizer Glen Carritt says the display is about showing support for new oil pipelines and opposition to the federal carbon tax and new rules on oil transportation.

The convoy includes members of the Yellow Vest Movement, whose demonstrations across the country have had widely varying agendas, from supporting pipelines to denouncing a United Nations compact on global migration.

WATCH: Alberta’s plan to ship oil by rail backfires






Demonstrators from eastern Canada are also expected to link up with the convoy.

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Ottawa, provinces commit to addressing abuse in sports

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Canadian politicians are banding together to address harassment, abuse and discrimination in sports, but details on their plans remain slim.

Kirsty Duncan, Canada’s Minister of Science and Sport, announced in Red Deer, Alta., on Friday that the federal government, along with each province and territory, has signed a declaration to tackle and prevent harassment, abuse and discrimination in sport.

« This pan-Canadian declaration will drive a systemic culture shift to prevent abuse, discrimination and harassment in sport, » she told reporters following a meeting with federal, provincial and territorial representatives ahead of the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

« Athletes must be at the centre of everything that we do. They have a voice and we must listen. They are not commodities, they are people and they need to be respected. »

WATCH | Minister Duncan announces plan to deal with abuse in sports:

The Minister of Sport and Science discusses how the federal government plans to make sport safer for young athletes. 3:02

The move brings various levels of government together on the issue and will drive action going forward, ensuring there are policies in place to address abuse, and concrete measures are implemented to prevent it, Duncan said.

While the declaration includes commitments to eliminate gender-based violence against women and girls in sport, and work on concussion prevention and awareness, Duncan did not provide details on what steps would be taken next.

« This is a priority for all jurisdictions going forward. This will be on all federal-provincial-territorial meetings going forward. There’s still work to be done and we’re considering at the national level a range of options, » she said.

The news comes amid headlines about Canadian athletes being subject to abuse, including a CBC investigation published on Sunday which reported that « at least 222 coaches » were convicted of sexual offences from 1998-2018. The report also said 34 other cases of accused coaches are currently before the courts.

An investigation of numerous sexual harassment complaints prompted Marcel Aubut to resign as president of the Canadian Olympic Committee in 2015.

In June, several former members of Canada’s ski team spoke publicly about the abuse suffered at the hands of former coach Bertrand Charest in the 1990s. Charest was convicted last year of 37 offences of sexual assault and exploitation.

A group of Canadian wrestlers, including Olympic champion Erica Weibe, wrote to Duncan in December, appealing for an independent body to investigate harassment and abuse. They claimed that a conflict of interest and inconsistency in the current system had created an environment of fear and mistrust.

WATCH | 1-on-1 with Minister Duncan:

The Minister of Science and Sport talks about the response needed from sports organizations. 1:25
Minister of Sport and Science Kirsty Duncan discusses her desire to eliminate abuse in sport. 1:00
Minister Kirsty Duncan discusses her efforts to eliminate abuse in sport. 1:33

Duncan told reporters on Friday that she believes a « third-party mechanism » is important when it comes to investigating abuse cases.

« I’m working on it, » she said.

Tackling abuse in sport will take co-operation from an array of groups, said Duncan, a former gymnast and long-time coach.

« This is a long-standing systemic problem, it is a culture problem and it’s going to take our athletes, it’s going to take our parents, our families, our national sport organizations working together, it’s going to take governments working together, » she said.

The declaration shows that Ottawa, along with all of the provincial and territorial governments are committed to doing what they can to ensuring athletes are in a safe environment, said Ricardo Miranda, Alberta’s minister of culture and tourism.

« Now we have jurisdictions in agreement to share information and work together, things that perhaps that may not have happened in the past, that have allowed for certain situations to present themselves, » he said.

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Ottawa suspend les expulsions vers Haïti

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Aucun ressortissant haïtien au Canada ne sera expulsé dans son pays natal en raison de la crise qui sévit là-bas.

L’Agence des services frontaliers du Canada (ASFC) a suspendu vendredi les expulsions vers Haïti grâce à un sursis administratif au renvoi, et ce, « jusqu’à nouvel ordre ».

« L’ASFC est consciente des répercussions de cette situation sur les personnes concernées », a indiqué sa porte-parole, Judith Gadbois-St-Cyr, dans un bref courriel.

Elle n’a pas précisé combien de gens ont été déportés du Canada vers Haïti depuis le début de la crise.

Depuis environ une semaine, Haïti est en proie à de violentes secousses sociales, des manifestants réclamant le départ du président Jovenel Moïse pour de multiples raisons. Les manifestations ont jusqu’ici coûté la vie à plusieurs protestataires et de nombreuses activités sont paralysées en raison du mouvement soulevé par la colère populaire.

Questionné sur cette crise jeudi matin, le premier ministre Justin Trudeau a évité de préciser s’il soutenait toujours le président haïtien.

« Par rapport au président Jovenel, nous suivons la situation de près et nous allons continuer d’offrir de l’aide au peuple haïtien », s’est-il limité à dire.

M. Trudeau a souligné qu’il était « très préoccupé » par cette crise qui touche de nombreux Canadiens. Un peu plus d’une centaine de touristes québécois sont confinés dans un hôtel de la Côte des Arcadins, en Haïti ; les violences qui secouent le pays les empêchent de se rendre à l’aéroport de Port-au-Prince pour rentrer chez eux.

Affaires mondiales Canada et « tout notre corps diplomatique » travaillent pour les aider, a rappelé le premier ministre.

Avis aux voyageurs canadiens

Ottawa a d’ailleurs publié jeudi soir un nouvel avis concernant Haïti, et recommande maintenant aux Canadiens d’éviter tout déplacement dans ce pays, alors que le Canada s’efforce de rapatrier ses ressortissants qui y sont coincés.

Le gouvernement a par ailleurs annoncé que l’ambassade du Canada à Port-au-Prince demeurait fermée vendredi. Ottawa affirme cependant que les services consulaires sont toujours fournis par téléphone ou par courriel, 24 heures par jour.

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Environment Canada lifts winter storm warning for Ottawa – Ottawa

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After a windy snowstorm dumped about 20 centimetres of fresh powder on Ottawa overnight Tuesday, Environment Canada has terminated the winter storm warning for the national capital.

But the snow hasn’t let up yet and the national weather agency predicts another five centimetres will fall before tapering off into flurries later Wednesday.

WATCH (Feb. 12, 2019): Southern Ontario pummeled by winter storm





More blowing snow is in Environment Canada’s forecast for the afternoon, with winds gusting up to 60 kilometres per hour.

Wednesday will reach a high of -1 C, with a wind chill near -13, according to the agency. Wednesday night will bring flurries and a low of -11 C, with a wind chill of -10 in the evening and -18 overnight.

While the worst now appears to be over, the heavy snowfall still put a halt to many activities across the city Wednesday morning.

The Ottawa International Airport is reporting that a number of flights are delayed or cancelled because of the weather conditions.

On the roads, Ottawa’s public transit provider warned earlier in the morning that road conditions remain poor and told transit riders to expect detours, delays and trip cancellations for both OC Transpo and ParaTranspo rides.

OC Transpo is posting live transit updates here.

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All schools in Ottawa are closed for the day.

City council’s regular meeting on Wednesday has been cancelled, as has the budget consultation meeting scheduled for the evening.


READ MORE:
All schools closed, public meetings cancelled in Ottawa in anticipation of winter storm

All city libraries and recreation facilities are closed in the morning but will reopen and resume regular programming at 12 p.m.

The municipality has also cancelled green bin, recycling and garbage collection for the day. Wednesday’s pick-up will take place on Thursday and collection for the rest of the week will be delayed by one day.

Clean up underway

On Tuesday afternoon, the City of Ottawa said the top priority for its road crews during the storm would be to keep the Queensway, Transitway, and other major and arterial roads clear.

Crews will plow residential roads “as soon as possible,” the city said but warned those streets won’t be cleared as quickly as the main roads.

If it’s safe to do so, the city is asking residents to sweep the snow away from fire hydrants connected to their properties.

Only call 311 if you have an emergency, the city tweeted early Wednesday morning.

Ottawa police say they’ve responded to five collisions since 5 a.m. Three of the five accidents involved vehicles that “slid into the ditch,” the Ottawa Police Service tweeted.

Police urge pedestrians not to walk in the streets and remain on the sidewalks.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Diplomats sue Ottawa for $28 million for health problems suffered in Cuba

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OTTAWA—A group of Canadian diplomats and their family members left ill after serving in Cuba are suing the federal government for $28 million, charging that Ottawa “badly mishandled” a crisis that has left them suffering debilitating brain injuries.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Federal Court, paints a picture of a federal government that was more concerned with keeping a lid on a worsening health crisis that first surfaced for the Canadians in early 2017 in Havana.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

“Throughout the crisis, Canada downplayed the seriousness of the situation, hoarded and concealed critical health and safety information and gave false, misleading and incomplete information to diplomatic staff,” the lawsuit claims.

It says the department failed to provide “reasonable or appropriate” medical support to diplomats and their families suffering an array of symptoms that has left them struggling to return to work and normal life.

Indeed, it claims that Global Affairs interfered with the health treatment of Canadians, at one point calling a Miami physician to press him to alter his assessment that one family was determined to have traumatic brain injuries.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland declined to comment on the case Wednesday but said that she has met with some of the affected diplomats.

“They told me about their situation. I’m really concerned about them. They have Canada’s utmost sympathy and support,” Freeland said in Washington, where she was attending a meeting of nations involved in the fight against Daesh.

“They were in Cuba. They were representing us. They were representing their country and their health and safety absolutely needs to be a priority,” Freeland said.

The lawsuit covers 14 people in all — five diplomats along with their spouses and children — and alleges that they were “targeted and injured, suffering severe traumatic harm.

“These mysterious but extremely serious and debilitating attacks have resulted in brain injuries,” the lawsuit states.

It’s believed the “attacks” began in late 2016, originally focused on American diplomats and intelligence officers, it said. Individuals were “targeted” in their homes. For some, symptoms followed unusual sounds or sensations of pressure, it said, such as a “loud screeching metallic noise . . . that seemed to bombard and suffocate” one Canadian.

For others, there was no warning, “leaving an individual gripped in pain, blinded by a headache, or doubled over in dizziness or nausea, confused and disoriented.”

Global Affairs has stated publicly — as recently as last month — that it has no idea what has caused the health symptoms, despite an RCMP-led investigation. But the lawsuit says that the department was immediately concerned that it was some form of sonic or microwave attack, “potentially by a hostile foreign power.”

“The plaintiffs are clearly the victims of some kind of new weaponry, or method of attack,” it states.

The incidents left personnel with symptoms consistent with traumatic brain injuries, including headaches, loss of memory, dizziness and balance problems, the lawsuit states. “Neurological assessments of victims’ brains actually show damage consistent with that seen in cases of concussion,” it states.

The lawsuit accuses the federal government of putting diplomats and family members in harm’s way despite knowing the “high and growing risk that they would sustain the brain injuries.”

It also alleges that the Ottawa kept diplomats in the dark about the risk and gave them false assurances of safety.

And later, federal officials suggested the problem was psychosomatic, leaving ill personnel to “contend with rumours that they were faking it.”

The lawsuit charges that the federal government has frustrated efforts by the ill diplomats and their family members to get proper medical treatment, restricting what medical professionals they see and what information they can share.

It even alleges that brain experts at the University of Pennsylvania — who were treating American diplomats — were instructed to “stop testing the Canadians,” cutting short the assessments of individuals who had travelled to Philadelphia at their own expense.

The lawsuit notes that in April, 2018, Global Affairs deemed Havana an unaccompanied post, meaning that family members would no longer be allowed to join diplomats. In November, it gave Havana the same rating as missions based in Iraq and Afghanistan. And in January, Global Affairs announced it would be looking at reducing its embassy staff by half, to eight, after yet another diplomat had been confirmed with health symptoms.

As was first revealed in the Star, the lawsuit notes that an American diplomat had warned his Canadian neighbour about the potential dangers. That information was passed to the Canadian ambassador, along with the symptoms suffered by the Canadians, yet the embassy “took no apparent action.”

Within weeks, the U.S. embassy officially informed the Canadian embassy that its personnel were getting ill, “possibly because of sonic attacks.” Yet that information was not shared with the Canadian diplomatic staff nor were steps taken to ensure their safety, the lawsuit states.

Even as the Americans were evacuating staff and family members, Canada took a “business as usual” approach insisting that there was no reason to believe the Canadians were being targeted,” the lawsuit says.

With files from Daniel Dale

Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier

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Manslaughter trial of Ottawa police officer charged in Abdirahman Abdi’s death to begin Monday

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The high-profile criminal trial of Ottawa police constable Daniel Montsion is set to begin Monday, two and a half years after Abdirahman Abdi died following an altercation with city police outside his apartment building in Hintonburg.

Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) charged Montsion in 2017 with manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon, following an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the 37-year-old Somali-Canadian man’s death in 2016,

WATCH: Ottawa police officer charged with manslaughter in death of Abdirahman Abdi





Police were dispatched on the morning of July 24, 2016, in response to reports of “multiple assaults” at a coffee shop west of downtown Ottawa. After attempting to make an arrest, officers chased Abdi on foot and a struggle ensued in front of his apartment building on Hilda Street.

In its statement announcing the charges laid against Montsion in 2017, the provincial police watchdog said there was “an interaction” between Montsion, another police officer and Abdi that Sunday morning and Abdi “went into medical distress.”


READ MORE:
New video shows aftermath of Abdirahman Abdi arrest

Video footage recorded after the confrontation showed a handcuffed, bloodied and unconscious Abdi lying on the ground. He died in hospital the next day.

Family, friends and the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition have described Abdi as someone who had mental health challenges but who was not violent.

His death sent shock waves throughout the Ottawa community and across Canada, sparking questions about racial profiling, police brutality and mental health supports, and prompting demands for police training reform.


READ MORE:
Pleas for better police training blend with tears at funeral of Abdirahman Abdi

Montsion’s trial begins Feb. 4 and has been scheduled for a three-month period. Montsion is being represented by well-known Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Michael Edelson.

Both Edelson and Philip Perlmutter, the Toronto Crown prosecutor assigned to the case, declined to speak with Global News ahead of Monday’s trial.

The Ottawa Police Association did not respond to a request for comment.


READ MORE:
Black Lives Matter shut down Yonge-Dundas Square to protest death of Ottawa man

A community vigil and candlelit walk was held Friday night in Abdi’s memory and to inform the public on how they may support Abdi’s family during the trial period.

“Nearly three years later, the injustice and pain of Abdirahman’s death continues to ripple through his family and his community,” a description for the event read.

As support rallied around Abdi’s relatives in the aftermath of his death, so it did around Montsion after the SIU laid charges against him.

In late March 2017, it was reported that black and blue rubber bracelets were being purchased and worn by members of the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) in solidarity with the criminally charged officer.


READ MORE:
Police wristbands cause controversy as cop faces manslaughter charge

The bands were inscribed with the words “united we stand” followed by Montsion’s badge number on the outside, and “divided we fall” on the inside.

Ottawa’s disbanded community police advisory group expressed concern at the time that the bracelets were causing needless tension and division as Montsion’s case progressed through the courts.

The president of the Ottawa Police Association said in the response that the wristbands were not part of the OPS uniform and officers would not wear them while on duty.

– With a file from The Canadian Press

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Ottawa tarde à mettre en place son analyse comparative entre les sexes

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Les libéraux de Justin Trudeau ont promis d’examiner comment leurs politiques affectent les femmes et les hommes différemment, mais selon des documents internes, le gouvernement tarde à implanter cette analyse dans tous les ministères et organismes publics.

Selon un sondage interne mené par Condition féminine Canada pour mesurer l’implantation de « l’analyse comparative entre les sexes plus » (ACS+, dans le jargon gouvernemental), moins de la moitié des ministères et organismes publics ont un plan en ce sens, la plupart des ministères affirmant qu’ils n’ont pas les mécanismes internes pour le faire.

Les conservateurs et les libéraux ont reconnu que l’ACS+ était utile pour réfléchir aux politiques et pour s’assurer que personne n’est laissé de côté.

L’analyse comparative entre les sexes est un outil utilisé pour réfléchir à la manière dont une politique donnée peut affecter les hommes et les femmes de différentes manières, tout en tenant compte de l’âge, du revenu, de la culture, de l’ethnicité et d’autres facteurs qui se recoupent.

Si l’analyse — idéalement réalisée dès le début de la conception d’une politique — révèle qu’un sexe serait soumis à des impacts négatifs disproportionnés, les responsables ont la possibilité de réorganiser les choses ou d’atténuer ces effets.

M. Trudeau a demandé à la ministre de la Condition féminine, Maryam Monsef, de s’assurer que le gouvernement utilise davantage l’ACS+ dans la prise de décision. En 2017, les libéraux disaient avoir appliqué une analyse comparative entre les sexes à un budget fédéral pour la première fois. Mais des lacunes importantes subsistent, selon les propres conclusions du gouvernement.

Par exemple, en 2016, le gouvernement Trudeau a imposé à toutes les notes de service adressées au Cabinet et au Conseil du Trésor — qui constituent souvent la base de dépenses importantes ou de décisions stratégiques — une analyse différenciée selon les sexes. Selon l’enquête interne, moins de la moitié des ministères ont vérifié si cela avait été fait pour ces notes ou pour d’autres documents.

Les résultats montrent également que 40 % des ministères et organismes affirment ne pas surveiller dans quelle mesure ils ont mis en oeuvre l’ACS+ et quels en seraient les effets.

« L’ACS+ est moins intégrée à certaines phases du cycle politique », indique le sondage, ajoutant que les ministères et organismes signalaient des obstacles importants à la collecte et à l’analyse des données distinctes pour les femmes et les hommes.

La formation problématique

Selon les résultats de l’enquête, présentés en mai 2018 à un comité de hauts fonctionnaires, la formation sur la manière de procéder à une analyse comparative entre les sexes n’est toujours pas obligatoire dans l’ensemble du gouvernement et se concentre uniquement sur l’analyse des politiques.

Sarah Kaplan, directrice de l’Institute for Gender and the Economy de l’Université de Toronto, n’était pas surprise d’apprendre que l’ACS+ n’avait pas été plus largement appliquée, en dépit des priorités féministes dont se vante tant le gouvernement Trudeau.

« Je suppose que la plupart des employés des ministères voient simplement cela comme un ajout à leur horaire déjà complet d’activités qu’ils sont censés faire. Je pense donc que c’est pour cette raison que nous ne voyons pas une mise en oeuvre en profondeur », a expliqué Mme Kaplan.

Selon elle, la formation proposée aux fonctionnaires est l’un des principaux problèmes — elle ne va pas assez loin pour offrir des conseils pratiques sur la manière d’appliquer tôt l’analyse comparative entre les sexes.

« La formation en ligne est vraiment efficace pour vous donner l’état d’esprit de vous dire : » Ce sont quelques éléments à prendre en compte «… mais la formation contient beaucoup moins de choses sur ce que vous devez faire réellement, techniquement, si vous voulez faire cette analyse comparative entre les sexes », a-t-elle précisé.

Un enjeu de longue date

Les difficultés du gouvernement pour appliquer une perspective de genre aux décisions politiques traînent depuis longtemps. Un plan d’application d’une forme d’analyse sexospécifique est en place depuis 1995.

En 2016, le vérificateur général, Michael Ferguson, a publié un rapport affirmant que les analyses sexospécifiques du gouvernement n’étaient « pas toujours complètes, ni de qualité constante ».

En réaction au rapport, un plan d’action de 15 ans avait été instauré et le gouvernement assure qu’il travaille à la mise en oeuvre de l’ACS+.

« Notre gouvernement continue de placer la problématique hommes-femmes au centre des décisions afin que nos politiques répondent mieux aux besoins de tous les Canadiens », a déclaré le porte-parole de Mme Monsef, Braeson Holland.

« Nous constatons des progrès significatifs dans l’ensemble du gouvernement, notamment en ce qui concerne les effectifs en place pour appuyer l’ACS+. Par exemple, les analystes des politiques de 80 % des ministères suivent désormais le cours en ligne offert par Femmes et de l’Égalité des genres Canada. Nous continuons de voir une adhésion importante au gouvernement et continuerons de travailler avec nos partenaires partout au gouvernement pour promouvoir l’adhésion. »

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Ottawa drops appeal in political activity case, ending charities’ 7-year audit nightmare

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The Liberal government has withdrawn its appeal of a stunning 2018 court ruling that quashed a section of the Income Tax Act limiting the political activities of charities.

The landmark case was launched a tiny Ottawa charity, Canada Without Poverty, which argued that the section violates the Charter of Rights guarantee of freedom of expression.

Justice Edward Morgan of the Ontario Superior Court of Canada agreed in his July 16 ruling, declaring that the section no longer had any « force and effect. »

Canada Without Poverty had been under threat of losing its charitable status after auditors at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) determined that 98.5 per cent its activities were political. Charity law, as it was written at the time, had limited political activities to no more than 10 per cent of an organization’s resources, though critics have said the law’s definition of ‘political’ was too fuzzy.

Leilani Farha, head of the tiny Ottawa charity Canada Without Poverty, helped launch the court challenge of the political-activity limits in charity law, saying it restricted freedom of expression. An Ontario court agreed. (Idil Mussa/CBC News)

After losing the case, the Liberal government eventually agreed to rewrite the Income Tax Act to accommodate Justice Morgan’s ruling – but paradoxically announced Aug. 15 it was appealing the case because of an alleged error of law in the judgment.

Anne Ellefsen-Gauthier, spokesperson for National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier, told CBC News the government still believes Morgan made an error in law by applying a test for religious freedom rather than for freedom of expression.

But after consulting with the charity sector last fall and reviewing higher court rulings, the government has decided not to fight the Ontario case because little would be gained by the effort.

« Higher courts have already been pretty clear on the different test that needs to be applied to freedom of expression, » said Ellefsen-Gauthier. « We’re dropping the appeal. »

The law amended

The Liberal government has since amended the Income Tax Act, under Bill C-86, to remove all reference to political activities for charities. The omnibus bill, one of two implementing last year’s budget measures, received royal assent on Dec. 13, 2018.

The department also recently published a guidance document to inform the charity sector on how the new regime — which still includes a strict prohibition on partisan activities — will be applied. Notably, the term « political activities » has been replaced by the phrase « public policy dialogue and development activities. »

But charities still cannot endorse or support political parties or candidates for office, something the sector has always accepted.

Ottawa’s decision Thursday appears finally to end a long nightmare for some charities targeted by a special CRA auditing program launched in 2012 by the former Conservative government to review the political activities of charities. More than $13 million was earmarked for audits of 60 charities over four years.

The Conservative government of Stephen Harper launched a four-year program to audit the political activities of charities beginning in 2012. Some $13 million was budgeted for the program, which targeted 60 charities. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

In its first year, the controversial program targeted environmental charities, most of which were critics of the government’s energy and pipelines policies. It was later expanded to include religious and human rights charities, among others. The targeted charities said the audits drained precious resources and in some cases led to an « advocacy chill » as groups self-censored so as not to aggravate the government.

The Liberals campaigned in the 2015 federal election on ending the « political harassment » of charities but did not halt the audit program immediately, winding it down only in stages and letting some audits continue. The program has since been cancelled.

« The decision to let Justice Morgan’s decision stand is a huge victory for democracy in Canada, » said Leilana Farha, head of Canada Without Poverty.

« The government has done the right thing twice. First they made the legislative changes recommended by the government’s appointed panel and ordered by Judge Morgan, and now they have properly decided to withdraw their appeal … »

« This decision puts Canada in the lead among common law countries and will have a positive effect not only in Canada, but worldwide. »

Follow @DeanBeeby on Twitter

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Canadians in the west, more than those in the east, say Ottawa does not treat them fairly: poll

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Nearly three out of four Canadians living west of Ontario believe their province is not treated fairly by the federal government, according to a new poll from the not-for-profit Angus Reid Institute.

And Westerners who feel that way — that the rest of the country is not giving them any respect — say it’s been getting worse in recent years.

This survey, the third in a four-part series from Angus Reid looking at Western Canada and its place in Confederation, shows that Western Canadians increasingly believe that the values and lifestyles of their region are distinct from the rest of Canada, a finding that has key implications for national political parties — each of which has their own regional bases of power — as they campaign in this election year to build the kind of broad national coalition that can not only win government, but can also be seen to be governing in the interest of Canadians from all regions.


READ MORE:
B.C. has few friends among the provinces, but Quebec has bigger rivals: poll

The survey also paints a picture of a federation where residents in all regions, except British Columbia and Ontario, do not believe they have the respect of Canadians living outside their region, a finding that also has political implications for any government in Ottawa that is trying to design, for example, a national housing strategy, a defence procurement program that benefits all regions, a national climate change strategy, or a national employment insurance program fine-tuned to regional variations.

WATCH: Trudeau discusses Alberta oil crisis and Western alienation






Angus Reid also tries to come to grips with the question: What is the West? And it finds that, even within Canada’s four westernmost provinces, there are some strong differences in politics and identity, most notably between British Columbia and the three provinces to its east: Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

But those four provinces are united on this: A healthy majority of all of their residents agree with the statement that their province is not treated fairly by the federal government. Just 28 per cent of Canadians west of Ontario agree that they are getting a fair shake from Ottawa.

 

Angus Reid then asked those Westerners who do not believe their province is getting a fair shake from Ottawa if things have been getting better or worse in that regard in “the past few years.”

Not one of that group of Westerners — zero per cent — told Angus Reid they believe the treatment of the West over the past few years is “a lot better.” Instead, 46 per cent said treatment of the West over the last few years was getting “a lot worse”; 21 per cent said it was getting “a little worse.” Just 12 per cent thought it was getting “a little better” and 21 per cent said the West’s treatment by Canada was unchanged.

By contrast, those who live in Ontario and Quebec were much more satisfied with the way Ottawa treats their provinces, while Atlantic Canadians felt about as disconnected from Ottawa as those in the West.

That said: Canadians in all regions — save B.C. and Ontario — say they don’t get enough respect from the rest of the country.

In this, Quebecers and Albertans, for example, are united. Angus Reid found that 74 per cent of Albertans disagree with the statement “My province is respected by the rest of the country.” In Quebec, 71 per cent disagreed with that statement. But it didn’t stop there: 71 per cent of those in Saskatchewan and 71 per cent of those in Atlantic Canada also say they are not respected by the rest of the country.


READ MORE:
Western Canadians still feel more connected to their province than to country as a whole: Ipsos

It was only in Ontario and B.C. where a majority said they believed the rest of the country respected them — 53 per cent in Ontario and 57 per cent in B.C.

Angus Reid also found that Westerners situate themselves in different communities of interest. Those in Alberta and Saskatchewan seem to identify with each other, seeing many similarities in values and lifestyle when they look across the border at each other. Manitoba, Angus Reid noted, appears to have “unrequited love” for Saskatchewan, in that 70 per cent of Manitobans say they identify most with Saskatchewan, while 61 per cent of those in Saskatchewan say they most identify with those in Alberta.

WATCH: 62 per cent of Alberta feel they’re not getting enough from Confederation (October, 2018)






British Columbians, though, stand distinctly apart with 54 per cent of those in that province saying they identify most closely with those in the state of Washington. The number two pick in this category of British Columbians — 18 per cent — was the state of Oregon.

The survey of 4,024 Canadian adults was done online between Dec. 21 and Jan. 3 by Angus Reid Institute, a Vancouver-based not-for-profit research organization. Angus Reid itself paid for the poll and designed its questions. Margins of error cannot be calculated for online polls of this kind, but the pollster says that a poll of a randomly-selected group of 4,024 Canadians would be accurate to within 2.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

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