If there’s a labour shortage, how come some people are still out of work?


To read the headlines you’d think nearly every Canadian who wants a job would have one by now.

The country’s unemployment rate hit a 43-year low of 5.6 per cent in December, and in January the economy added 66,800 new jobs. That’s on top of the growth of 163,000 jobs netted over 2018, according to Statistics Canada data. 

Numbers like these paint a picture of a healthy job market where workers have plenty of choice. But as labour market experts explain, that doesn’t mean everyone who needs a job can find work that fits their skills, industry and location. 

Steven Tobin, executive director of the Labour Market Information Council in Ottawa, says the confusion stems from too much focus on national averages such as the overall unemployment rate or job growth.

Steven Tobin, executive director of the Labour Market Information Council, says economists tend to think too much about national averages when it comes to unemployment rates. Pockets within the labour market still have challenges finding work. (LMIC)

« Those are very good indicators, and they help us really articulate a temperature check on how things are going, » he says.

« The reality is that national figures do mask the differences in the labour market that are prevailing either by geography, obviously, in a large country, and also that there are pockets of workers where there may be differences. » For example, unemployment is higher among youth and older workers than it is overall, he says.

Even economists have failed in putting too much emphasis on net job numbers, losing sight of the fact that net figures entail some people gaining jobs and others losing them, says Tobin.

Here’s a look at why those numbers — and the headlines — might not reflect reality for all Canadians.

More skill shortage than labour shortage

There’s a lot of conversation about labour shortages, but in many cases what’s really at issue is high demand for workers with particular skills and expertise.

« Quite often we conflate a skill shortage with a labour shortage, » says Tobin. « They manifest themselves kind of in the same way, which is there’s a vacancy that goes unfilled. But they’re really quite different concepts.

« If you have a region which has high unemployment, you’re not likely to be experiencing a labour shortage. But if employers are having difficulty finding people, it’s not that people are not there, but that they’re missing the skill set. »

Workers including Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, the national union representing auto workers, gather in Windsor, Ont., on Jan. 11, protesting the planned Oshawa closure. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

For instance, strong demand for app developers or marketing managers does not help a line worker from the GM plant that’s set to close in Oshawa, Ont., nor does it help an out-of-work oil and gas industry veteran. 

Some provinces have fewer opportunities

« One of the main sources of a variation in the Canadian market right now is different strengths across regions, » says Brendon Bernard, economist at job platform Indeed Canada.

« In provinces like Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec — where labour shortages and hiring difficulties have picked up — we have seen nice progress in a couple of key dimensions of the labour market. » Measures such as the average length of time it takes a person to find work are improving at « a fairly decent pace, » he says.

But these job market conditions are not present everywhere.

« That’s really the case in the oil-rich provinces, where wage growth used to be the strongest and jobless spells used to be quite low. Those labour markets haven’t recovered since the downturn in oil prices a few years ago, » says Bernard. The prospects seen at the national level are not « really being felt in provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan. »

And not everyone can easily move to a province where the job market is better.

« Mid-career to older workers have established themselves in communities, invested in home ownership which either inhibits their ability to move, or they don’t have the desire to move because of families, » says Tobin.

Demand in a region may outstrip supply

On the opposite side of the spectrum, some geographic areas may be short on workers, not just because the economy is strong overall, but because housing prices have pushed those workers out of the area.

One Vancouver bakery, Solly’s Bagelry, famously closed shop for several weeks in 2017 because it didn’t have enough staff to operate.

Solly’s Bagelry in Vancouver closed for several weeks in 2017 due to a worker shortage. (CBC)

It may be hard for workers to get by on wages around $15 per hour in Vancouver, which has the highest housing costs in the country. The benchmark home price was $1,019,600 in January, according to data released by the Canadian Real Estate Association Friday, and rent for a one-bedroom apartment runs around $2,000 a month.

Some industries are struggling

The most notable exception to the overall good news stories emerging about Canada’s job market continues to be the oil and gas industry.

Workers prepare to load a tank car with oil at an Altex Energy terminal in Alberta. The oil and gas industry has still not recovered from losing more than 52,000 jobs in the 2015-2016 downturn. (Dave Rae/CBC)

« We lost about 52,500 direct jobs in 2015-2016, » says Carol Howes, vice-president of communications at Energy Safety Canada, a non-profit that advocates for workers in the oil and gas industry. « And while some of those have come back, certainly we’re not seeing the volume of activity or the requirement for the same number of workers as we lost. »

The result? Howes says the sector is seeing « a lot of discouraged workers » who may not want to come back to oil and gas « if and when things start to turn around again. »

Energy Safety Canada has been advising some of these workers on how they can transfer their skills to industries such as renewable energy and clean tech, says Howes.

As for the 2,500 workers facing unemployment with the closure of the GM plant in Oshawa, Ont., expected by December, Bernard says that, while there’s been some overall growth in auto manufacturing jobs in recent years, that comes after a long period of decline. It won’t be easy for Oshawa workers to find other jobs in the industry, he says, « given that new opportunities aren’t just springing up like they might be in other sectors of the economy. »

Not all jobs are good jobs

When we hear of job vacancies, it suggests there’s lots of choice for workers. But not all unfilled positions are ones that people can afford to take, because those jobs may not offer the salary, stability or benefits workers need.

« It’s definitely the case that jobs being plentiful doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good jobs, » says Bernard.

Over the past 10 years or so there’s been « a growing prevalence of term or contract employment and away from permanent employment. While jobs might be out there, they might not necessarily be everything that workers are looking for. »

Someone who loses a job in a decent-paying sector with low turnover could, in theory, take a lower-paying food services job, but that might not be the best decision for long-term career prospects, says Bernard.

« In that case, it might be better to hold off and look for the right fit, even if finding that match isn’t quite immediate. »


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Haitian Montrealers ‘sad’ and ‘scared’ for people in Haiti – Montreal


It’s been about two years since Stelline Metellus Auguste escaped her home in Haiti’s central plateau because of what she calls political unrest.

Watching the images and video coming out of her country now, she says brings back painful memories.

“I have family there — I have a son,” said Metellus Auguste. “He lives out in the country, but still he’s there in Haiti and there’s disorder everywhere in Haiti, in all the cities.”

WATCH: Concern growing for Quebecers in Haiti as violent protests continue

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Violent demonstrations began in Haiti a little over a week ago.

Protesters are demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse, something he refuses to do.

“I’m scared for everyone, not just for my family, for friends and the people that live there,” she said. “It’s sad for everyone.”

Since the protests began, several people have been killed.

READ MORE: Canadian travel alert for Haiti raised as violent protests rage on

Haitians in Montreal say it’s hard to watch their country engulfed in violence and unrest.

“All the roads are barricaded, tires in flames, trees down, blocking every every passage,” said Mac Warner. “It’s sad.”

To show support for the people in Haiti, some gathered at the Haitian consulate in downtown Montreal on Saturday afternoon.

READ MORE: Quebecers stranded in Haiti amid violent protests expected back in Canada Saturday

They say, they want Haitians to know, they are standing with them in solidarity.

“I cannot be Haitian and just ignore what’s happening there,”said Frantz Andre, one of the organizers affiliated with a committee for people without status.

“I have to be part of the solution, not part of the problem by being silent.”

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


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In-bounds avalanche buries 2 people at Castle Mountain Resort


Two people were caught in an in-bounds avalanche at Castle Mountain Resort in southwestern Alberta on Friday.

It happened near the top station of the Tamarack (Red) chairlift.

Officials say one person was fully buried and another partially buried. Both were rescued by ski patrollers.

« EMS was activated as the situation unfolded and both patients were found to be uninjured after an initial assessment, » read a statement from Castle Mountain Resort. 

« This avalanche did not damage any Castle Mountain Resort infrastructure (including lifts). »

Castle Mountain Resort is about 250 kilometres southwest of Calgary, near Waterton Lakes National Park.

More snow means more risk

The avalanche danger rating for that area was « high » at the alpine and treeline levels and « considerable » below the treeline, where it is expected to remain throughout the Family Day long weekend.

Those heading into the backcountry to enjoy the Family Day long weekend need to check the avalanche conditions before venturing out, safety experts warn.

Up to 20 centimetres of snow is forecasted in some areas, and Avalanche Canada expects the danger level to rise in parts of B.C. and some southern sections of the Rockies.

Avalanche protection consultant Chris Stethem says people need to be aware of potential issues anywhere.

« If there’s a significant snowfall, there’ll be a rapid rise in the risk, » he said.

Parks Canada visitor safety specialist Stephen Holeczi says the Banff area may not receive the heaviest snowfall in the mountains this weekend, but he adds that visitors should still stay sharp in avalanche terrain.

« I think if I was personally going up in the backcountry, I’m thinking about, when I get up into those higher elevations, I’m going to be looking for those new wind slab formations, because I think that’s probably what’s changing with the new snow that we’re about to receive here, » he said.

Officials also advise people to avoid avalanche terrain, especially if they don’t have avalanche safety gear and training.


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Is the SNC-Lavalin scandal’s biggest victim Trudeau’s relationship with Indigenous people?


The appointment of Jody Wilson-Raybould, a We Wai Kai First Nation woman, to serve as the first Indigenous minister of justice was a powerful symbol for Indigenous people and a signal to all of Canada.

Her resignation from cabinet is equally powerful.

Trudeau was elected promising that the relationship this country has with Indigenous people was, to him, of the utmost importance. When Wilson-Raybould was appointed attorney general, it signalled that maybe he meant it, that maybe this time would be different. Maybe Wilson-Raybould would finally be the one to uphold basic human rights and fairness for Indigenous people.

A First Nations woman was the top lawyer in a country that still has the paternalistic Indian Act on its books, that consistently fails to properly “consult” Indigenous communities on decisions that profoundly affect them, that claims it desperately wants to reconcile yet fights not to deliver equitable health, education and social services to Indigenous kids.

Perhaps, it seemed for a moment, she could change history.

But it wasn’t long before that old familiar feeling of doubt crept in.

There was double speak on what nation-to-nation actually meant. There was little progress on bringing clean drinking water to First Nations. There was big talk but no action on revising the Indian Act. More inadequate consultations. And on and on.

It must have been increasingly uncomfortable for Wilson-Raybould in cabinet, watching as the government ignored its promises on making First Nations, Métis and Inuit proper partners in everything from drafting legislation to fulfilling funding commitments.

And then, abruptly, she was no longer the country’s top lawyer, fired from her historic role and shuffled off to Veterans Affairs.


There were planted whispers in the corridors of power that she had been demoted because she was a “thorn in the side” of the Trudeau government, because she was “difficult to get along with,” because she was someone people had “trouble trusting.”

Read more:

Trudeau ‘frankly surprised and disappointed’ by Jody Wilson-Raybould’s sudden resignation

Opinion | Susan Delacourt: ime to break the silence that has defined the relationship between Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould

Opinion | Thomas Walkom: Wilson-Raybould resignation from cabinet overdue

How much of that perception was created because she was too honest and too blunt about the government’s empty rhetoric on reconciliation?

Incensed, First Nations leaders stood staunchly by Wilson-Raybould.

The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs accused the Trudeau government of racist and sexist overtones in a whisper campaign against her after she left Justice.

“I’m familiar with her work ethic, her deep dedication and commitment,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the union, who has known Wilson-Raybould for years.

“She is an amazing individual but to see her publicly humiliated and the subject of a deliberate smear campaign is infuriating,” he said.

“We are completely disgusted with the Trudeau government and its handling of this issue … I know Jody. She is full of integrity.”

Eventually, of course, a new story about her demotion emerged — that she had been pressured to intervene in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin and was punished for her refusal.

She said on Tuesday that she resigned from cabinet with a “heavy heart.” When she first sought elected federal office — after practising law on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and serving as the British Columbia regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations — she truly felt she could make a difference. She wanted to pursue “a positive and progressive vision of change on behalf of all Canadians,” she wrote in her resignation letter, “and a different way of doing politics.” Maybe she could change things using the master’s tools in the master’s house.

But that is harder than it looks. Even the purest of intentions and hope are rarely a match for 150 years of colonial history.

Then, on Tuesday night, the prime minister seemed to throw Wilson-Raybould under the bus. He said if she had any problem with what was happening, it was her “responsibility” to come directly to him, and she did not. Trudeau said he was “disappointed” with her decision to leave cabinet. He also mentioned that Canadians are “puzzled” by her resignation and so was he.

Not all of us are. She clearly had her reasons.

Perhaps she had enough of the colonial power system.

In any case, the result is the same: she is no longer in a position potentially to overhaul that system from within, and so yet another symbol has soured.

Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald tweeted, “Ninanaskamon 4 your groundbreaking work as the 1st Indigenous woman to serve as the top lawyer in Canada. I know this will only be a temporary setback for you. Your kind of strength and leadership is unstoppable in the long run. Remember who you REALLY are @Puglass.”

Wilson-Raybould signed her letter with her traditional name, Puglass. It means “a woman born to noble people.”

We should wait and listen to hear what this noble woman has to say.

Tanya Talaga is a Toronto-based columnist covering Indigenous issues. Follow her on Twitter: @tanyatalaga


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A Vegan Banana Pancakes Recipe That’s Perfect for Lazy People Like Me | Healthyish


Do you know what a Finstagram is? If not, let me explain. It’s a private Instagram account that people use to share things they wouldn’t share on their “main” Instagrams. 2019. Really quite a time to be alive. I don’t have a Finstagram because my job is to run all of the Instagram accounts for this place, but if I did, my handle would definitely be something like Saltygurl93. If you’re wondering why, it’s because my sweet tooth was replaced with double the salt tooth. I love everything savory, especially when it comes to breakfast items. Shakshuka, breakfast salad, frittatas–you name it.

This is a story about how I went from Saltygurl93 to PancakePrincess93.

One random morning, I woke up with a craving for something sweet that was so strong I couldn’t ignore it. It felt too early for cake, and I recently threw my waffle maker out in a Marie Kondo style spree. It felt like the best option would be pancakes. So, I poked around in my pantry for viable pancake ingredients and hopped on Google looking for something simple. I came across this recipe, scanned my kitchen, realized I had all of the ingredients, and dove in.

First I smashed an overripe banana that had been sitting on my counter a little too long, then I added a drizzle of oil and ⅔ cup of almond milk. I opted for some maple syrup because I still wanted a little pancake-house sweetness in my life, then in went cinnamon, baking powder, and a pinch of salt. This recipe calls for buckwheat flour, but I had whole wheat so I subbed that. Use what ya got! And if you have leftover whole wheat flour, you should make these flatbreads. Sorry for the aside, I just really like bread! And whole wheat flour! Deal with it!

I whisked it all nicey nicey, then doled out the batter into little pancake blobs on my non-stick. In less than one Friends episode, I had a stack that looked just like those leaning towers of pancakes you see on the commercials! Truly! I’m not vegan, so I mixed together some honey and butter and spooned that right on top of the stack.

These vegan banana pancakes don’t require one thousand things like buttermilk or fancy grains, and they come together fast enough for your random Saturday morning banana pancake craving. And yes, I played the Jack Johnson song while I ate them.

Get the recipe:


You don’t have to be a veg-head to love these banana and buckwheat vegan pancakes.


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Firefighters rescue several people from Hamilton house fire – Hamilton


Several tenants of a downtown Hamilton apartment building have been rescued by firefighters.

Fire crews were called to a two-and-a-half storey residence at 86 Wellington Street South just before midnight Friday where they encountered heavy smoke and fire on the first and second floor.

Investigation underway into cause of house fire in east Hamilton

Deputy Fire Chief John Verbeek says the tenants in the ground floor apartments had already evacuated the house by the time firefighters arrived on scene but he says there were still tenants on the upper floors.

The remaining tenants were rescued and five were treated at the scene by paramedics. One tenant was taken to hospital with smoke inhalation.

Verbeek says five dogs were also rescued from the building, however, one did not survive.

Damage is estimated at $295,000.

The Ontario Fire Marshall is investigating the cause.

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


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In Vancouver, a haven for money laundering, some people use ‘bags of cash’ to pay their property taxes


VANCOUVER—A councillor’s chance encounter with a taxpayer in the parking lot of city hall toting “bags of cash” to pay his property taxes has sparked a renewed focus on whether B.C. cities are doing enough to fight money laundering.

Counc. Melissa De Genova drafted a motion to council last week after a man carrying a bag of cash approached her outside of city hall and asked her where to go to pay his taxes.

The City of Vancouver accepted 19 cash payments in excess of $10,000 in 2018, and has received about 15 a year over the past six years, usually to pay property taxes, according to the city’s finance department.

After De Genova’s motion passed asking city staff to examine whether they should investigate the source of large cash payments for property taxes and business licences, the city said it would no longer accept cash payments over $10,000.

Vancouver has a reputation for being a haven for money laundering, said Christine Duhaime, a lawyer who specializes in financial crime. Under the direction of Attorney General David Eby, the province is currently investigating the extent of money laundering in B.C.’s real-estate sector.

Duhaime said De Genova’s worry about cash payments is probably misplaced, because it’s not an area that has been flagged as high-risk by international anti-money laundering bodies, and Duhaime said many people who now live in Canada come from countries where corruption is common and are averse to using the banking system.

But based on what she sees regularly in her practice, Duhaime said the public is right to be concerned about money laundering in British Columbia and there are things cities could do to help deter the practice.

“I have files I’m working on right now where people from China defrauded a bank over there, left China, somehow get immigration status here, and buy a bunch of houses in Richmond (a suburb of Vancouver), and then the banks in China trace them here,” said Duhaime. “And we’re not talking $10,000. It’s more like $10 million.”

One of her current files involves someone who was on a wanted list.

“I just shake my head,” Duhaime said. “How did he get a bank account? How did he get a mortgage? How come all these banks in China want him, but we can’t figure out that he’s on a wanted list?”

She said Metro Vancouver cities could work proactively on money-laundering risk in three areas that do fall under their jurisdiction: casinos, real estate and policing.

For instance, cities could make casinos sign agreements that require operators to report on what they are doing “to ensure our cities are not safe havens for money laundering.”

Cities could ask developers who apply for rezoning to provide their anti-money laundering policy, setting out how, for example, they can reassure the city that the proceeds of crime won’t be used to purchase unit in a new highrise.

Like casinos and banks, real-estate developers are subject to federal proceeds-of-crime legislation.

On policing, municipal governments set the mandate and budget for city police forces, Duhaime said. The motion passed by Vancouver city council includes working with the Vancouver Police Department to explore ways the city can implement a bylaw to require all people or companies involved in property transactions to provide “specific information to the city in the interests of deterring money laundering and the business of organized crime.”

The motion also directs city staff to work with the VPD to see whether the city could legally require information from property owners and business-licence applicants to help it prevent money laundering.

Jen St. Denis is a Vancouver-based reporter covering affordability and city hall. Follow her on Twitter: @jenstden


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‘Little Ice Age’ caused by death of 55-million Indigenous people after colonization: study – National


The elimination of nearly 55 million, or 90 per cent, of Indigenous North Americans during European colonization led to global climate change and the “Little Ice Age” of the 17th century, a recent study finds.

Researchers at University College London found that the Great Dying — the massive loss of life that followed Christopher Columbus’ 1492 conquest of the Americas through genocide and the spread of disease — left roughly 56-million hectares of land abandoned.

The study will be published in the March edition of Quaternary Science Reviews but is already available online.

“This population practised a substantial amount of agriculture,” researcher Alexander Koch told Global News.

New stat holiday proposed to mark Indigenous reconciliation set for Sept. 30

The mass vacancy resulted in a sudden “terrestrial carbon uptake” when the land was reclaimed by nature.

Colonization of the Americas at the end of the 15th century killed so many people, it disturbed Earth’s climate, according to a new study by University College London.

According to the study, a spike in plant life was responsible for up to 67 per cent of a significant drop in carbon dioxide levels between 1520 and 1610. Carbon had been transferred from the atmosphere to the land surface through photosynthesis.

Previously cored Antarctic ice samples were investigated. Researchers observed that 7.4 petagrams — or 7-billion metric tonnes — of carbon had suddenly disappeared at that point in time.

Exhibition ‘Shame and Prejudice’ honours First Nations, questions how Canadians see their history

Carbon absorption was greater in wet, tropical environments but still occurred in the drier, coniferous and deciduous forests of the U.S. and Canada.

“These changes show that the Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas is necessary for a parsimonious explanation of the anomalous decrease in atmospheric CO2 at that time and the resulting decline in global surface air temperatures,” the study said.

An undated painting shows Christopher Columbus arriving at one of the Caribbean islands on his voyage of discovery from the Naval Museum in Madrid, seen on May 19, 2006.

AFP/Getty Images

The Little Ice Age was a time period that saw winters in North America and Europe average approximately two degrees colder than the current era. Its coldest period is largely agreed by scientists to be between 1600 and 1800.

A difference of two degrees may not seem like much but, in fact, does make quite a difference to daily life.

New law on Indigenous languages will aim to help them ‘survive and thrive’

“A 1-2 degree Celsius temperature drop would have a significant effect on winter weather around North America,” said Anthony Farnell, chief meteorologist at Global News. “Snow would arrive earlier in the fall and stick around longer in the spring. Borderline storms that now fall as rain or freezing rain would be more likely snow if it was just a couple degrees colder.”

Farnell went on to explain how an increase in snow compounded the situation in the 1600s.

“When there is more snow on the ground, the albedo of the earth’s surface increases which means more of the sun’s warming rays are reflected back into space. This then leads to even colder temperatures and more snow which is how a series of cold winters can snowball into a ‘little ice age.’”

The nearly 200-year cold stretch began to decline soon after the first Industrial Revolution began in the United Kingdom in 1760.

WATCH: How researchers determined 55 million killed after colonization

Global News questioned Koch over his team’s data — particularly the population figures. He explained they used a vast amount of data, previous studies and sources to draw their conclusion.

“[The numbers are] based on archaeological evidence, historical documentation and something like house counts,” Koch explained. “For later periods, we didn’t need to do that. We looked into taxation records and census data that was established by the colonizers.”

Those records became more and more robust over time, according to Koch.

Nebraska advances bill requiring tracking of missing Indigenous women, Montana not far behind

Dr. Pamela Palmater is an outspoken Mi’kmaw citizen and faculty member at Ryerson University. She told Global News the population figures aren’t just important — they could change how Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission moves forward.

This report substantiates what the chair of the TRC said that it wasn’t just cultural genocide that Canada committed, it was also physical and biological,” explained Palmater. “This kind of scientific hard data shows just how extensive the genocide was and that means something different for Truth and Reconciliation.

The well-known activist added that she hopes the new scientific data will quiet some of the skeptics.

WATCH BELOW: Activist: ‘Someone’s got to account for this’ after study claims colonization sparked climate change

“One of the biggest struggles in our resistance, in our advocacy and even trying to get someone to talk about reconciliation is denial,” Palmater said. “It’s always a denial from the colonial, or settler, governments about what they did, limiting the harms and denying what the true extent and impact is.”

That impact, according to the study, may have been greater than previously thought.

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


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New Manitoba court for people with FASD could be game changer: experts


Lawyers and judges say a new court set to open in Manitoba specifically for people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder could be a game changer.

« If you have somebody who can’t read, can’t write, physically cannot connect cause and effect, there has to be a way to address a sentence that they will understand, » said Winnipeg defence lawyer Lori Van Dongen.

« That is just common sense. »

Van Dongen said people with the disorder are often set up by the justice system to fail. The legal world has been slow to adapt to their challenges — whether it’s bail conditions they can’t adhere to or a list they are unable to read, she said.

When a fetus is exposed to alcohol it can cause brain injury and the impacts range from mild to severe. Only some people show physical signs, but most people with the disorder see and understand the world differently.

They struggle to understand the consequences of their behaviour and many are impulsive. They follow others easily and have drug or alcohol problems. Without the proper support they often end up in front of a judge and behind bars.

It’s not known how many people in Canada have the disorder, because it can go undetected and is difficult to diagnose. But Health Canada says it’s the leading known cause of preventable developmental disability in the country.

Research suggests that up to one-quarter of inmates in federal corrections facilities could have the disorder. A 2011 study out of Stony Mountain Institution in Manitoba found the rate was 10 times greater in the federal prison than in the general population.

Mary Kate Harvie, a Manitoba provincial court judge, said it was clear a long time ago that changes had to be made so people with the condition could be treated fairly in the legal world.

In 2004, she was involved in creating a program that helps young people get a diagnosis and connects them to community supports. It also gives lawyers and judges more information about issues an accused offender might have because of the disorder.

Challenges linked to criminal behaviour

The program has had more than 1,200 referrals, has done more than 400 assessments and helped get almost 300 kids diagnosed.

Harvie said the Manitoba Court of Appeal has made it clear that a sentencing judge should consider how challenges faced by someone with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder can be linked to their criminal behaviour.

« If people are not showing up to court because they have short-term memory loss, that’s a big difference from someone who is just blowing court off. »

Administrative charges have filled courts, remand centres and prisons with offenders who break curfew or miss a meeting with their parole officer because they struggle with the concept of time, Harvie said.

« We are hoping this project will start to address a number of aspects of that. »

Smaller, quieter courtroom

The court, which is expected to open at the end of February and sit one day a week, is an extension of the original youth program. It will have judges with an understanding about the complexities of the disorder as well as support workers to advise and connect sufferers with community programs.

It will also help obtain a medical diagnosis for anyone who shows signs of having the brain injury — although the wait continues to be long.

This is a really good move for our courts, for our province, for our clients.’– Defence lawyer Wendy Martin White

There will be a smaller, quieter courtroom with fewer distractions and visual images will be used to make sure offenders understand what’s going on.

Defence lawyer Wendy Martin White said she is optimistic that the new court will help her clients and hopes it will divert people from jails and toward community supports.

« This is a really good move for our courts, for our province, for our clients, » she said. « I’m looking forward to seeing where it’s going to be in a year’s time and then in five years’ time. »

Audrey McFarlane, executive director of Canada FASD Research Network, suggests it’s time for a national strategy.

« Right now all the provinces and territories do what they think is best and … they are trying really hard, but Canada needs to also provide additional support, guidance and leadership, » she said.

« Canada, as a whole, has put in very few resources to address FASD. »


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B.C. people smuggling investigation alleges Rwanda, Kentucky, Alberta connections


Court documents obtained by CBC News provide an intriguing glimpse into an alleged people smuggling case that started in the African nation of Rwanda and ended in Aldergrove, B.C., with stops in Kentucky and Washington state.

On May 13, a Rwandan woman dragged a suitcase across a ditch separating the U.S. and Canada just east of the Aldergrove border crossing. She immediately applied for refugee status.

How the 38-year-old woman got to B.C. is at the heart of the mystery.

The Canada Border Services Agency alleges two men — a Kentucky pastor and an Alberta man — « organized, aided and abetted » the illegal entry.

Athanase Moucat, pastor of the Revival Pentecostal Church in Louisville, Ky., allegedly aided the entry of a Rwandan woman into Canada, according to a CBSA search warrant application. (Revival Pentecostal Church website)

Reached by CBC News, the U.S. pastor said he had no idea the woman would seek refugee status in Canada.

« It shocked me, and I’m surprised, » said Athanase Moucat, who is also originally from Rwanda.

« We paid (for the plane ticket) from here in Kentucky to Washington state. That’s it. »

But he wouldn’t say why his congregation would raise money to fly the refugee applicant to Spokane, Washington.

« I don’t have to explain (that) to you, » he told CBC News.

The second man — from Edmonton — allegedly drove the woman from Spokane to the illegal crossing point. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

Charges have not been laid, and the allegations have not been tried or proven in court.

Border jumper ‘appeared to be in distress’: CBSA

The alleged people smuggling case is laid out in a search warrant application, filed by the CBSA in Surrey, B.C., provincial court.

Such applications seek to convince a judge that more information needs to be gathered.

The report said the Rwandan woman was spotted on the Canadian side of the border because she was zigzagging « back and forth across 0 Avenue » pulling a wheeled suitcase, and « she appeared to be in distress. »

Long stretches of the U.S-Canada border are open, marked by simple signposts. (CBC)

When approached by two border agents, the report states she presented a Rwandan passport and indicated she was applying for refugee protection.

‘She was tortured in Rwanda’: Kentucky pastor

It’s not clear why she was seeking asylum — but Rwanda remains affected by ethnic tension after a government-sponsored genocide in the 1990s, according to Human Rights Watch.

Moucat said the woman feared for her life back in Africa.

« She told me … she was tortured in Rwanda, » said the Kentucky pastor.

Staying in the U.S. doesn’t appear to have been an option.

President Donald Trump has slashed U.S. refugee admissions to historic lows, making it extremely difficult for asylum-seekers in the United States. Canada’s acceptance rate, by contrast, is the highest it’s been in almost 30 years.

Last year, 341 people from Rwanda appealed for refugee status in Canada, according to the Immigration and Refugee Board. Fifty were accepted — a 15 percent success rate.

The U.S. crackdown on illegal immigration has seen an increase of refugees heading to Canada. (CBC)

‘Hotspot for illegal activities’: search warrant application

CBSA investigators claim the woman’s long journey began with help from her church in her homeland.

« (Her) pastor in Rwanda arranged for her to meet with a pastor they knew in Kentucky, » states the application.

The documents identify the Kentucky pastor as Moucat, head « of the Revival Pentecostal Church For All Nations » in Louisville.

The CBSA doesn’t say how the woman got from Africa to the U.S. It states Moucat paid to fly the Rwandan from Louisville to Spokane, where she rendezvoused with the Albertan who had driven down to meet her — « a Canadian citizen … born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. »

The application alleges he drove her just south of Aldergrove, where she was dropped off and crossed the border on foot in an area where the U.S. and Canada « are separated only by a shallow ditch that one can easily walk across … a hotspot for illegal activities. »

The Rwandan woman walked across the Canada-U.S. border just east of the Aldergrove, B.C., port of entry. (CBC)

Alberta man detained then released

According to the CBSA, the Edmonton man was detained as he drove back into Canada through the Aldergrove port of entry, around the same time the woman was making her illegally crossing.

Border agents were suspicious of his claim he was coming back from an overnight trip to « attend a church event » in Spokane.

Upon learning the woman had been picked-up nearby, the CBSA seized the man’s two smartphones. The search warrant application seeks to unlock the devices and search for messages and GPS locations.

The application notes the man « denied he had driven anyone to the border » or had accepted payment from the woman, and he was eventually released.

Moucat said he doesn’t know the Edmonton man, and received no payment for flying the Rwandan national to Spokane.

According to Canadian immigration officials, individuals rarely face people smuggling charges if they haven’t been paid.

The status of the criminal investigation is unknown.

The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada refuses to comment on the woman’s asylum bid, citing privacy — but it says refugee applications are taking up to two years to process because of a backlog.


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