Quebec education minister acts on promise to give children more recess – Montreal

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The Coalition Avenir Québec government is following through on an election promise guaranteed to win the hearts of the province’s schoolchildren: more recess.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge announced today that starting next fall, schools will have to offer recess periods of at least 20 minutes each in the morning and afternoon.

READ MORE: Should Canadian schools have more recess breaks?

Roberge extolled the benefits of recess on children’s health, noting that there are currently no rules establishing how much play time students should receive.

A 2017 poll by a Quebec health coalition found that almost 40 per cent of Quebec schools offered less than 30 minutes of recess a day. One school out of five did not provide afternoon recess.

WATCH: Most Canadian teachers would welcome a way to get students to focus more in the classroom 






Roberge said schools will be permitted to extend recess beyond 20 minutes, even if it cuts into classroom time.

He said the policy will not result in additional costs, but he added that the government will soon approve spending to spruce up schoolyards.

READ MORE: Quebec’s Education Ministry says school surveys on religious symbols began months ago

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Ford breaks promise to keep pot stores away from schools

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Private cannabis stores can open within 150 metres of schools under new regulations posted by Premier Doug Ford’s government — something he had promised not to allow.

“I won’t put it besides schools like you did,” Ford said in a spring election debate to then-premier Kathleen Wynne. The Liberal government had planned to open its first state-run marijuana outlet 450 metres from Blantyre Public School in Scarborough.

Premier Doug Ford’s government has released long-awaited details on rules for pot shops that will be allowed to open April 1. The rules include letting stores open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week and restricting entry to patrons aged 19 and over.
Premier Doug Ford’s government has released long-awaited details on rules for pot shops that will be allowed to open April 1. The rules include letting stores open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week and restricting entry to patrons aged 19 and over.  (Chris Young / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The long-awaited details on rules for pot shops that will be allowed to open April 1 came Wednesday evening as the Progressive Conservatives tried to distract attention from a new tell-all book by former party leader Patrick Brown.

“It’s troubling that Doug Ford’s latest back-door decision — this time to allow pot shops to move within a stone’s throw of kids’ schools — was done without any consultation with parents or communities,” said Deputy NDP Leader Sara Singh.

Shops will be allowed to serve customers from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, restricting entry to patrons aged 19 and over, unlike liquor and beer stores where children can tag along with their parents.

Attorney General Caroline Mulroney insisted the guidelines, including the smaller distance buffer from schools, are in the best interest of the public.

“The purpose of these regulations is to keep kids safe and to ensure all people operating in this tightly-regulated retail system behave with integrity, honesty, and in the public interest,” she said in a statement released over the supper hour.

The hours of opening “are consistent with on-site retail stores for alcohol and will provide retailers with the flexibility to respond to local market conditions and consumer demands,” the statement added, referring to LCBO agency stores that are part of convenience, hardware and other stores in rural and remote areas where there are no liquor stores nearby.

Wynne’s plan to put a pot store so close to a school raised concerns among parents, but an analysis by the Star last April found more than half the city is within 450 metres of a school.

The Liberal government planned to allow only 150 state-run pot stores by 2020, which critics said would not be enough to stem the black market. Ford scrapped that policy in August, opening the opportunity to the private sector to avoid spending taxpayer money on stores and to create more opportunities for the business sector.

Budding entrepreneurs can submit applications for stores to the government starting Dec. 17, but will not be considered if they operated an illegal weed dispensary after the Canada-wide legalization date of Oct. 17, if they have an outstanding tax issues or ties to “organized crime.”

Stores must be stand-alone operations and not tucked into other retailers as a sideline and all employees will be required to complete an “approved” training program for which the government did not provide details.

To avoid any store operators from controlling too much of the market and promote small business, no one company will be allowed to have more than 75 stores across the province.

The government has not set a ceiling on the number of stores that will be allowed to open throughout Ontario.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

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Little action on Ottawa’s promise to help struggling media sector

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OTTAWA—Nearly nine months after the federal Liberal government announced it would spend $50 million over five years to boost “local journalism in underserved communities,” not one dollar has gone out the door.

Nor has the government outlined how it intends to facilitate charitable support for professional “non-profit journalism and local news.” Nor how it intends to support “the transition to digital media.”

Unifor president Jerry Dias, whose union represents nearly 12,000 workers in the media sector, says there need to be some “dramatic changes” in the way local newspapers are funded.
Unifor president Jerry Dias, whose union represents nearly 12,000 workers in the media sector, says there need to be some “dramatic changes” in the way local newspapers are funded.  (Justin Tang / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO)

All were promises made in last year’s budget and repeated in the heritage minister’s mandate letter.

It’s baffling to those in the journalism industry, newspaper publishers and the country’s largest media union, especially with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau championing the need for strong traditional media this past week.

In France, Trudeau emphasized his government’s commitment to supporting the need for a vibrant free press to hold government and their institutions to account.

However Jerry Dias, president of Unifor which represents nearly 12,000 workers in the media sector, says the time for talk is past, and it’s time for action.

“You’re not going to all of a sudden change people’s habits to buying print media, I get all that,” said Dias in an interview. “But we’ve closed over 200 local newspapers in Canada so there has to be a mechanism in which to fund them. There needs to be some dramatic changes.”

A 2017 report by the Public Policy Forum said from 2008 to 2016, 169 local media outlets closed and another 54 reduced services, a trend that accelerated in 2017, most notably with the swap of assets by Torstar and Postmedia. A subsequent followup report in September shows the quality of news coverage across the country has also declined.

Yet Dias said what the federal government announced in last February’s budget amounted to “nickels and dimes.”

“What they threw at it was no solution, it was more tokenism than anything else,” he said.

News Media Canada, which represents 800 daily, weekly and community newspapers, had urged the government to provide $350 million to support a Canadian Journalism Fund, and was disappointed with last year’s announcement of $10 million a year, for five years.

John Hinds, president and CEO of the industry association, said the association’s numbers show that from 2009 to August this year, 137 Canadian daily or weekly community newspapers ceased publication, 38 of which closed since January.

“It’s pretty chilling,” he said in an interview.

Yet the industry is still waiting for details of how the government will meet its nine-month old promises of support.

“We were told they would issue an RFP (request for proposals) at some point for a group to look at sort of managing the fund because they don’t want to do it on their own” in order to respect the independence of media outlets, Hinds said.

“Our view would be that we’d like to replicate the model that they followed in the U.K. with the BBC, where the BBC has funded 120 journalists to work in local newspapers,” he said.

News Media Canada has talked to Canadian Press, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and a Quebec media coalition about joining forces to submit a proposal, Hinds added. “We’d love to get working on it, as you know time is off the essence on this. But to date, we haven’t had any followup.”

Simon Ross, spokesman for Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, insisted the government is moving “to quickly implement” the measures promised last winter, but he declined to provide any details “because I don’t want to scoop myself.”

“What I can tell you is we are working with organizations across the country so we can implement this as quickly as possible and to ensure that it respects journalistic independence because that of course is very important.”

Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc

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World leaders gather in Paris to mark end of World War One, to renew promise of peace – National

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World leaders with the power to make war but a duty to preserve the peace gathered by the dozens Sunday to mark the end of World War I’s slaughter 100 years ago, turning Paris into the epicenter of global commemorations that drove home a powerful message: never again.

Over 60 heads of state and government gathered – silent, somber and reflective – for a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the mute and powerful symbol of sacrifice to the millions who died from 1914-18.


They heard high-school students recalling the joy felt by soldiers and civilians alike when the fighting finally stopped at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918. And they heard the commemoration’s host, French President Emmanuel Macron, warn about the fragility of peace and the dangers of nationalism: a theme that seemed directed, at least in part, at U.S. President Donald Trump, who listened stony-faced.

“The traces of this war never went away,” Macron said.

“The old demons are rising again,” he intoned. “We must reaffirm before our peoples our true and huge responsibility.”

WATCH: Trump, Macron hold bilateral meeting in Paris






The Paris weather – grey and damp – seemed aptly fitting when remembering a war fought in mud and relentless horror.

The commemorations started late, overshooting the centenary of the exact moment when, 100 years earlier at 11 a.m., the eerie silence of peace replaced the thunder of guns on the Western France. As bells marking the armistice hour started ringing out across Paris and in many nations hit by the four years of slaughter, French President Emmanuel Macron and other leaders were still on their way to the centennial site at the Arc de Triomphe.

Under a sea of black umbrellas, a line of leaders led by Macron and his wife, Brigitte, marched in a stony silence on the cobbles of the Champs-Elysees, after dismounting from their buses.


READ MORE:
Remembrance Day: 330 Canadians, my great uncle, and a cemetery 6,000 km from home

Trump arrived separately, in a motorcade that drove past two topless protesters with anti-war slogans on their chests who somehow got through the rows of security and were quickly bundled away by police. The Femen group claimed responsibility.

Last to arrive was Russian President Vladimir Putin. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was positioned in pride of place between Trump and Macron, a powerful symbol of victors and vanquished now standing together, shoulder to shoulder. Overhead, fighter jets ripped through the sky, trailing red, white and blue smoke.

WATCH: World leaders arrive in France ahead of Remembrance Day






The geographical spread of the leaders in attendance showed how the “war to end all wars” left few corners of the earth untouched but which, little more than two decades later, was followed so quickly and catastrophically by the even deadlier World War II.

On the other side of the globe, Australia and New Zealand held ceremonies to recall how the war killed and wounded soldiers and civilians in unprecedented numbers and in gruesome new, mechanized ways.


READ MORE:
Analysis: PM Trudeau is in France this Remembrance Day, just as he should be

Those countries lost tens of thousands of soldiers far away in Europe and, most memorably in the brutal 1915 battle of Gallipoli, in Turkey.

In Paris, the jewel that Germany sought to capture in 1914 but which the Allies fought successfully to defend, the armistice commemorations were being followed by the afternoon opening of a peace forum pushed by the host, French President Emmanuel Macron.

Trump will be the most notable absentee at the forum, where Macron’s defence of multilateralism will take centre stage. Trump lives by an “America First” credo, and plans to visit the American cemetery at Suresnes on the outskirts of Paris before heading home.

WATCH: Justin Trudeau arrives in Paris for Armistice anniversary ceremony






On Saturday, he was criticized for cancelling a visit to the Belleau Wood battleground northeast of Paris because of rain.

In the four years of fighting, remembered for brutal trench warfare and the first use of gas, France, the British empire, Russia and the United States had the main armies opposing a German-led coalition that also included the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. Almost 10 million soldiers died, sometimes tens of thousands on a single day.

The United States came late to the war, in April 1917, but over 1 1/2 years it became a key player in the conflict and tipped the scales for the allies. When the war ended on Nov. 11, 1918, the U.S. armed forces was on the cusp of becoming the major military power in the world.

WATCH: Donald Trump arrives after other world leaders to Armistice ceremony in Paris






Even though Germany was at the heart of provoking two world wars over the past century, the nation has become a beacon of European and international co-operation since.

On Sunday, Chancellor Angela Merkel met with the head of the United Nations, born from the ashes of World War II, and the president of Serbia. It was a Serb teenager, Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated the Austro-Hungarian crown prince in Sarajevo in 1914 to set off events which led to the outbreak of war.

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First Nations leaders urge new Quebec government to keep its promise on Indigenous rights declaration

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Following the Coalition Avenir Québec’s win in the Quebec election Monday, First Nations leaders are reminding premier-designate François Legault of his commitment to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

The declaration, adopted by the United Nations in 2007, is viewed as one of the most comprehensive international instruments on fundamental rights and freedoms of Indigenous Peoples.

« Quebec being a provincial government and having jurisdiction over territories and resources, which the UNDRIP speaks at length about, it’s very important, » said Ghislain Picard, chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL).

« Because this is a new government, it’s even more important that they be taken to task on this. »

François Legault, Quebec’s premier-designate, at a news conference Tuesday. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The AFNQL represents 43 First Nations in Quebec and Labrador. It is also calling on the new government to meet with First Nations within 100 days of its formation.

« We have quite a bit of work ahead of us making sure that they have a full understanding of what’s at stake when it comes to Indigenous issues, » said Picard.

« But at the same time, we were complaining about the outgoing government for a number of years because of the lack of concrete engagement on their part with many of our issues. »

Commitment in letter

In a letter to Picard on Sept. 14, Legault wrote that a CAQ government would implement UNDRIP as a way to improve the nation-to-nation relationship between Quebec and First Nations communities.

« A Coalition Avenir Québec government will work with all communities to achieve a common goal of rapprochement [reconciliation], prosperity and respect for their rights, » the letter stated.

« In addition, in order to affirm that all Aboriginal peoples contribute to the diversity and richness of Quebec society, a CAQ government will implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. For us, it is essential that First Nations are able to collaborate fully in its implementation. »

Call to action 43 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report calls on federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the declaration as a framework for reconciliation.

« It is important because no matter what Canada says, Quebec and any other jurisdiction are not really in any type of obligation to follow the direction from Ottawa, » said Picard.

Activist has doubts

To date, the declaration has been endorsed by nearly 150 countries, including Canada. Among the provinces and territories, Alberta was the first to support UNDRIP. Ontario and British Columbia followed suit. Montreal’s city council also endorsed the document last year.

Ellen Gabriel, a Kanien’kehá:ka activist from Kanesatake, has doubts about the election promise.

« All the historical, cultural and social circumstances that have caused Indigenous people to be where we are, those are part of the consultation and engagement that Indigenous people have to have if this party is serious about implementing the UN declaration, » she said.

Human rights activist Ellen Gabriel recommends that both Canada and the provinces implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (Julia Page/CBC)

One of those issues Gabriel sees as being problematic is the party’s language policies — something she feels conflicts with Indigenous peoples’ rights to their languages.

« We face the same problems as the immigrants in the sense of language because you have to speak French and a lot of Mohawks don’t speak French, » said Gabriel.

« How do they … considering their political ideology in regards to language and what they think is their land, propose to move forward in the implementation of the declaration? »

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