Open houses for proposed West Kelowna development – Okanagan

[ad_1]

West Kelowna residents are invited to a series of open houses to look over plans for a proposed development on Campbell Road.

“The whole purpose is to make the project better through this process,” George Mylonas, President and CEO of Landstar Development Corporation out of Calgary said.

Blackmun Bay Village is being pitched as a 6.8 hectare development that would include nearly 340 townhomes and condo units and a 120 room luxury hotel, with towers as high as ten stories.


READ MORE:
More public consultation needed before West Kelowna development can move forward

It would also include a 241 slip marina and a winery.

Barb Mayo attended an open house at the Lakeview Heights Hall in West Kelowna on Thursday night.

She has some concerns about the scope of the development proposal.

“Well, progress is going to happen,” Mayo said. “But I think it should be on a much smaller scale.”

A common concern among those attending was the increased traffic the development would put on Campbell Road.

“That’s a lot of cars,” Barbara Cochrane said. “If someone has to get out in a hurry, for whatever reason; probably a fire, it’s going to be stressful.”

West Kelowna city council asked the development company to hold the open houses ahead of considering the application.

Two more are planned for Friday, February 15 from 6 p.m. to 8p.m. and Saturday from 3p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Lakeview Heights Hall at 860 Anders Road.

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

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Quebec’s proposed religious symbol ban prompts concerns from EMSB community – Montreal

[ad_1]

Montreal parents and teachers are voicing a growing chorus of concerns as the Coalition Avenir Québec government prepares to move forward with its contentious proposal on religious neutrality.

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

The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) opened its doors to the public on Wednesday for an emergency meeting on the province’s plan to bar civil servants in positions of authority  —including teachers, police officers and judges — from wearing religious symbols in the workplace.

“Our teachers are wearing religious symbols — it has had no effect on students’ success,” said EMSB chairperson Angela Mancini, adding the school board wants to teach its students about diversity.

The proposed legislation was a key election promise made by Quebec Premier François Legault, who maintains it has widespread support from across the province. It has also sparked protests in Montreal and accusations from teachers that the CAQ is trying to create a problem where none exists.

READ MORE: Quebec’s proposed religious symbol ban for public workers fuelled by specific symbols: study

The meeting drew parents, retired educators, teacher’s associations and residents, who showed up to offer their opinions over the proposed ban. The EMSB, which has strongly opposed similar plans from other governments, will use the feedback to formulate its own decision and develop an eventual action plan.

For Saba Ansari, a mother of Muslim faith whose children used to attend an EMSB school, the province’s plan is disappointing.

“Why are we focusing on these kinds of issues?” she said. “This is personal freedom, actually, and it should be given to us.”

If the Legault government’s plan becomes law, Ansari said she fears her children will face hardships due to their religious beliefs.

“How will they feel? They will feel like second-class citizens.”

WATCH: Religious symbols debate turns another corner






The Montreal Teachers’ Association called the government’s decision “regrettable,” adding it would vigorously defend the rights of educators if they are barred from exercising religious freedom.

“Targeting individuals based on what they wear and their personal religious beliefs feeds intolerance,” said MTA president Peter Sutherland, “and is in complete opposition to the very values of tolerance and inclusion that teachers promote in their classrooms every day.”

Last week, the provincial government approached Quebec school boards to ask if they know how many teachers and staff wear religious symbols at work.

READ MORE: Quebec status of women minister calls Muslim head scarf a symbol of oppression

The education ministry then admitted Tuesday it began those surveys in 2018, when the Liberals were in office. Education Minister Jean-François Roberge then denounced the criticism the CAQ government faced from school boards and the opposition over the issue.

Legault, for his part, said earlier this week it doesn’t matter how few teachers in Quebec wear religious symbols at work. He said governments need to have a “vision” and recognize that the practice will become more prevalent.

“We know there will be more and more in our society, and in other societies, and we should have legislated on this issue years ago,” he said on Monday.

READ MORE: Quebec asking school boards how many employees wear religious symbols

The bill on religious neutrality is expected to be tabled sometime in the spring.

— With files from Global’s Brayden Jagger Haines and The Canadian Press

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

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Veterans Affairs $165M gaffe headed to Federal Court in proposed class-action lawsuit

[ad_1]

A proposed class-action lawsuit has been filed against the federal government over the $165-million accounting blunder by Veterans Affairs Canada, CBC News has learned.

The court action, which has yet to be certified, was filed on Tuesday by former soldier Dennis Manuge, who successfully took the Department of National Defence to court a few years ago over the clawback of military pensions.

The new case involves the miscalculation of disability awards and pensions at the veterans department, a fiscal gaffe that went on for almost eight years, starting in 2002.

In 2010, the department discovered and corrected the indexing mistake, which affects about 272,000 elderly veterans, but quietly fixed the issue without notifiying those affected until the former veterans ombudsman blew the whistle last November.

Last week, CBC News revealed documents that detailed how the error happened and some of the assumptions bureaucrats used when the issue was buried.

The lawsuit takes aim at that aspect and said the government’s « conduct in failing to disclose the calculation error once discovered in 2010 is public misfeasance in office which should be censured by a damage award, » said a copy of the statement of claim.

Peter Driscoll, the lawyer representing Manuge, said the federal government knew what it was doing and acted unlawfully.

« We say that there is a duty, among other things, upon the government to disclose such an error, make good on that error in a transparent way, and that’s what they failed to do, » he told CBC News in an interview.

Repayments coming 2020

Manuge, who was collecting disability benefits during the period in question, said he believes someone needs to held accountable for not reporting the initial mixup.

« Any Canadian can understand a mistake, but just come out and say, ‘Listen, we made a mistake, this is what happened and here’s what we’re doing to fix it,' » he said in an interview Wednesday.

The Liberal government dodged questions last week about whether it would investigate.

« If Veterans Affairs is not going to hold themselves accountable, if we cannot get a straight answer … then, you know, I am really confident that the Federal Court will find some answers for us, » said Manuge.

As part of owning up to the mistake late last year, the Liberal government promised it would reimburse those affected, but underlined the payments wouldn’t be made until 2020.

That, said Driscoll, is offensive.

« You know when a veteran owes the government money in the form of an overpayment and VAC benefits, or assistance, or whatever the case may be, they’re immediately required to pay it back, » he said.

2007 lawsuit

Driscoll said a number of veterans, in addition to Manuge, contacted their law office and claim that their attempts to get information about reimbursement out of service agents at Veterans Affairs have been met with obfuscation and the brushoff.

Driscoll said Manuge’s experience and perseverance through the previous court case involving the Service Income Security Insurance Plan meant he was the right person to front a class-action lawsuit.

Manuge was injured in an accident at Camp Petawawa, Ont. in 2001, just before being deployed to Bosnia. His condition forced him to leave the military two years later, and he suffered from lower back pain as well as bouts of depression.

At the time, his Canadian military long-term disability benefits were reduced by the amount of money he received in disability from Veterans Affairs.

He fought the clawback and filed a class-action lawsuit against the federal government in March 2007, which took almost five years to make its way through the courts.

His lawyers won a victory in 2012, when the Federal Court said it was unfair of the federal government to treat pain and suffering awards as income.

The former Conservative government decided not to appeal and negotiated a $887-million settlement with the roughly 7,500 soldiers who were affected.

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Class-action lawsuit proposed on coerced sterilization in Alberta

[ad_1]

A proposed class action has been filed against the government of Alberta on behalf of Indigenous women who say they were subjected to forced sterilizations.

The lawsuit seeks $500 million in damages, plus an additional $50 million in punitive damages, and has been brought on behalf of all Indigenous women sterilized in Alberta without their prior and informed consent before Dec. 14 this year.

The statement of claim, filed on Tuesday, alleges Alberta — including senior officials and ministers — had specific knowledge of widespread coerced sterilizations perpetrated on Indigenous women.

It also alleges the government turned a blind eye to that conduct and breached its fiduciary responsibilities.

Nothing in the claim has been tested in court.

“As a result of the defendant’s acts and omissions, Indigenous women suffered… physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and psychologically,” the statement of claim says. “Coerced sterilization has been destructive to their health, family, relationships and culture.”

READ MORE: Survivors of forced, coerced sterilization demand accountability

It also refers to the proposed representative plaintiff May Sarah Cardinal and a sterilization procedure she allegedly underwent in a northern Alberta hospital in December 1977.

It says Cardinal was 20 years old and married when she went to the hospital to give birth to her second child, and she and her husband wanted to have more. It says the people treating her told her that a doctor had decided she should be sterilized so as not to have more children.

“She did not consent to this surgery,” it says. “There was no valid medical reason for the surgery.”

Celeste Poltak, a lawyer with the Toronto-based firm Koskie Minsky LLP, says that coerced sterilization of Indigenous women is “yet another dark chapter” in the relationship between governments and Indigenous Peoples.

“This court action is a powerful and practical means for finally achieving access to justice for the victims,” she said in a statement. “The litigation of this claim will afford the government an opportunity to both examine the failings that permitted this situation and provide meaningful compensation to the victims.”

Poltak’s firm, which is working alongside the Edmonton-based firm Cooper Regel, notes that Alberta’s Sexual Sterilization Act explicitly authorized forced sterilizations in the province until 1972.

After it was repealed, doctors and nurses in Alberta continued to perform coerced sterilizations, the firm said, alleging these actions were a product of systemic and institutional racism.

A proposed class action is also underway in Saskatchewan by Maurice Law, an Indigenous-owned firm, that names the Saskatoon Health Authority, the Saskatchewan government, the federal government and a handful of medical professionals as defendants.

It was launched in 2017 by two women each claiming $7 million in damages.

Earlier this month, Canada was ordered by the United Nations Committee Against Torture to stop the “extensive forced or coerced sterilization” of Indigenous women and girls — a finding that prompted calls for additional federal action by human-rights groups and the federal NDP.

All allegations, including recent ones made in Saskatchewan, must be impartially investigated and those responsible held to account, the committee said, adding the state needs to take legislative and policy measures to stop women from being sterilized against their will.

READ MORE: Feds won’t change Criminal Code to outlaw forced sterilization, despite First Nations outcry

Watch below: From December 2018 The federal government says it’s working to stop the forced sterilization of Indigenous women.






Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has defended his government’s response.

During a roundtable interview with The Canadian Press on Friday, Trudeau called the practice “heinous” while he stressed the importance of a working group of senior officials to oversee measures to improve cultural safety in health systems.

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Class action lawsuit proposed on coerced sterilization in Alberta

[ad_1]

A proposed class action lawsuit has been filed against the Government of Alberta on behalf of Indigenous women who say they were subjected to forced sterilization.

The lawsuit seeks $500 million in damages, plus an additional $50 million in punitive damages. It has been brought on behalf of all Indigenous women sterilized in Alberta without their prior and informed consent before Dec. 14 of this year.

The statement of claim, filed on Tuesday, alleges the province — including senior officials and ministers — had specific knowledge of widespread coerced sterilizations perpetrated on Indigenous women.

It also alleges the government turned a blind eye to that conduct and breached its fiduciary responsibilities.

Nothing in the claim has been tested in court.

« As a result of the defendant’s acts and omissions, Indigenous women suffered … physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and psychologically, » the statement of claim says. « Coerced sterilization has been destructive to their health, family, relationships and culture. »

‘No valid medical reason’

The statement of claim also refers to the proposed representative plaintiff May Sarah Cardinal, and a sterilization procedure she allegedly underwent in a northern Alberta hospital in December 1977.

It says Cardinal was 20 years old and married when she went to the hospital to give birth to her second child, and she and her husband wanted to have more. It says the people treating her told her a doctor had decided she should be sterilized so as not to have more children.

« She did not consent to this surgery, » the statement of claim says. « There was no valid medical reason for the surgery. »

‘Another dark chapter’

Celeste Poltak, a lawyer with the Toronto-based firm Koskie Minsky LLP, said coerced sterilization of Indigenous women is « yet another dark chapter » in the relationship between governments and Indigenous Peoples.

« This court action is a powerful and practical means for finally achieving access to justice for the victims, » she said in a statement. « The litigation of this claim will afford the government an opportunity to both examine the failings that permitted this situation and provide meaningful compensation to the victims. »

Poltak’s firm, which is working alongside Edmonton-based firm Cooper Regel, notes Alberta’s Sexual Sterilization Act explicitly authorized forced sterilizations in the province until 1972.

After it was repealed, doctors and nurses in Alberta continued to perform coerced sterilizations, the firm said, alleging these actions were a product of systemic and institutional racism.

This court action is a powerful and practical means for finally achieving access to justice for the victims.-Celeste Poltak ,  lawyer

A proposed class action is also underway in Saskatchewan by Indigenous-owned firm Maurice Law. It names the Saskatoon Health Authority, the Saskatchewan government, the federal government and a handful of medical professionals as defendants.

It was launched in 2017 by two women, each claiming $7 million in damages.

Earlier this month, Canada was ordered by the United Nations Committee Against Torture to stop the « extensive forced or coerced sterilization » of Indigenous women and girls — a finding that prompted calls for additional federal action by human-rights groups and the federal NDP.

The committee said all allegations, including recent ones made in Saskatchewan, must be investigated impartially, and those responsible held to account. The state needs to take legislative and policy measures to stop women from being sterilized against their will, the committee said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has defended his government’s response.

During a roundtable interview with The Canadian Press on Friday, Trudeau called the practice « heinous » while he stressed the importance of a working group of senior officials to oversee measures to improve cultural safety in health systems.

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

A 51-storey condo tower proposed for densely populated St. James Town has residents concerned

[ad_1]

Hassan Awadh says the last thing St. James Town needs is a 50-storey condo tower.

“I look out from my balcony and all I can see are highrises,” says Awadh, 50, who has lived in the area with his wife and four sons since 2008.

There are already huge lineups for TTC buses in the area, the local Food Basics and FreshCo supermarkets are overflowing in the evenings, says St. James Town resident Hassan Awadh.
There are already huge lineups for TTC buses in the area, the local Food Basics and FreshCo supermarkets are overflowing in the evenings, says St. James Town resident Hassan Awadh.  (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star)

There are huge lineups for TTC buses in the area, particularly on Wellesley St. just west of Parliament St., and the local Food Basics and FreshCo supermarkets are overflowing in the evenings — signs of how tightly packed the community is, Awadh says.

In fact, St. James Town is considered one of the most, if not the most, densely populated neighbourhoods in Canada.

That’s a key reason a new development application by Greatwise Developments Corp., calling for a 51-storey condo highrise, four townhouse blocks and two midrise buildings including a 10-storey rental building — 890 new units in all — has local residents, service providers and city planners nervous.

“I mean, you’ve got to be kidding me. There’s not enough services in the area for the people who are already here,” says Vickie Rennie, 61, who has lived for 48 years near the 4.3-hectare parcel of land at the northwest corner of Wellesley and Parliament Sts. where the proposed development would unfold if approved by the city.

There are four rental highrises there already — 240, 260 and 280 Wellesley St. E. and 650 Parliament St., all dating from the late 1960s.

St. James Town seen in the 1960s when it drew a hip young crowd who enjoyed the amenities, such as the outdoor pool.
St. James Town seen in the 1960s when it drew a hip young crowd who enjoyed the amenities, such as the outdoor pool.  (Norman James/Star library)

An Aug. 21 fire at 650 Parliament displaced more than 1,500 residents, forcing them to local community centres, hotels, relatives’ homes and other Greatwise buildings in St. James Town.

The blaze caused “catastrophic” damage to the building’s electrical and mechanical system and the building owners recently said it will take at least six months to complete the repairs.

Corporate records indicate the proponent behind the development application, Greatwise Developments Corp., located at 333 Wilson Ave., is administered by Samuel Grosz.

Records show the buildings on the property are owned by a variety of entities including Parwell Investments Inc. and Lilsam Inc., all listed at the same Wilson Ave. address.

The application doesn’t call for the demolition of the four aging buildings.

The project is similar to the “reurbanization” of Parkway Forest, a subdivision near Sheppard Ave. E and Don Mills Rd. in North York. There, hundreds of new rentals and thousands of new condo units spurred by the Sheppard subway line are springing up alongside 1960s-era towers.

A photo of two children playing in St. James Town in 1969.
A photo of two children playing in St. James Town in 1969.  (Dick Darrell/Toronto Star)

Toronto’s planning department has sought input from local residents and community groups on the Wellesley-Parliament project, and the height and scale of the 51-storey condo tower has been mentioned as a key thorn.

Planning staff have suggested to the landowner that the height should come down.

“Our comment was fairly preliminary in the context of the existing buildings on site. They are in the range of 20s up to 32 storeys,” says Thomas Rees, a city planner on the file, who notes 51 storeys is almost double the existing buildings on site.

“That one is really going to stick out,” he adds.

But in a statement from Greatwise on Friday, spokesperson Danny Roth said the company believes the height will have a “minimal” impact on the pedestrian experience.

“Its height will fit into the range of heights that have recently been approved in the neighbourhood, particularly along Sherbourne St. and Bloor St.,” Roth said.

There will be other challenges for the landowner.

Prompted by the recent blaze at 650 Parliament, the planning department is demanding that before the new application can be approved, Greatwise do a health and safety audit of the existing towers on the parcel, including 650 Parliament.

The audit would cover items including the electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems in the buildings, Rees says.

“We’re asking the developer to provide a building safety audit … to identify what needs to be fixed, and then we want that to be subject to a peer review to ensure it’s accurate and not missing anything,” he says.

The city wants to find ways to secure necessary improvements to the buildings as a condition of development, Rees adds.

The proposal calls for a 51-storey condo highrise, four town house blocks and two mid-rise buildings including a 10-storey rental apartment — 890 new units in all.
The proposal calls for a 51-storey condo highrise, four town house blocks and two mid-rise buildings including a 10-storey rental apartment — 890 new units in all.  (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star)

Density issues raised by the application are also on the city’s radar, the planner said.

On behalf of the ownership group, Greatwise said it’s proceeding with an application “we believe meets existing policy frameworks, including the city’s official plan and the Growth Plan for the (Greater) Golden Horseshoe.”

The statement added that “more than just from a policy perspective, the applicant’s proposal brings reinvestment to a community that has seen little to no change since it was built in the 1960s.”

St. James Town is actually a larger neighbourhood bounded by Wellesley, Sherbourne, Bloor and Parliament Sts.

The four buildings in question are part of a cluster of crumbling highrises in the area — 19 in all — that are home to about 17,000 people, many of them new arrivals in Canada.

When first built, the ’60s-era towers became a magnet for hip young men and women who enjoyed the amenities, including an outdoor pool.

But the buildings have since fallen into disrepair.

In April, Greatwise submitted a joint official plan amendment and zoning bylaw amendment application for the Wellesley-Parliament project.

“The proposed development will allow us with hindsight to correct many of the site’s existing challenges including the current lack of public road connections through the site, undefined open spaces, an abundance of surface parking and outdoor garbage storage areas, and the monotony of the prevailing architectural forms, among other issues,” Roth said in his statement.

Proposed features include a new supermarket, a network of new streets and a new 0.1-hectare public park, though the city says the applicant’s park allotment needs to be bigger.

The developer also plans to take out the Food Basics discount grocery store on Wellesley and replace it with another unspecified supermarket.

The fear among local residents is that the new one will be a “high-scale” store, which is not appropriate for a low-income community, said Hanna Ahmed, who has lived in the neighbourhood for eight years, in an interview while shopping at Food Basics.

Resident Hanna Ahmed fears a "high scale" store will replace the discount grocers if the development is approved.
Resident Hanna Ahmed fears a « high scale » store will replace the discount grocers if the development is approved.  (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star)

Rees, the city planner, notes the Wellesley-Parliament application comes at a time when St. James Town faces enormous density challenges.

For example, a school in the catchment area, Rose Avenue Junior Public, is already over capacity.

Subscribe to the Star to support deep local reporting in your community

The Wellesley-Parliament project and other residential developments approved or close to being approved along Sherbourne, Howard and Bloor Sts. mean the school will have to contend with many more students.

“We’re working with the school board to see how we’re going to deal with this. I don’t know what the answer is, but to me it’s a big concern. We don’t want to force kids to be bused when there’s a school right behind them,” Rees says.

Housing developments in the school’s catchment area since 2016 — within or near St. James Town — include a 32-storey tower already built at 28 Linden St.; another at 555 Sherbourne St. that is 43 storeys; two highrises — 38 and 46 storeys — under construction at the north end of Parliament St.; and two others on Sherbourne above 50 storeys each, at various stages of the city’s approval process.

Construction is nearly complete on the Selby, a 50-storey residential rental building also on Sherbourne.

Niv Balachandran, an executive member of the St. James Town Service Providers Network, a coalition of organizations serving the community, says residents feel their voices are being drowned out by a powerful landowner.

“Resident feedback has been that the process has been disenfranchising for people who want to be engaged, but do not feel they are on an equal footing to have their voices and concerns heard,” Balachandran says.

Donovan Vincent is a housing reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @donovanvincent

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Quebec’s proposed religious symbol ban for public workers fuelled by specific symbols: study – Montreal

[ad_1]

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ)’s proposed ban on religious symbols for public servants seems to be widely supported by Quebecers — but only when it comes to certain symbols.

According to findings by the Angus Reid Institute, about 65 per cent of Quebecers and 41 per cent of Canadians in the rest of the country say they support the Quebec government’s overall proposal.

READ MORE: EMSB commissioners unite to fight pending legislation on religious neutrality

If passed, the ban would affect public employees in positions of authority, including police, judges and teachers.

Respondents answered whether or not they support a ban on religious symbols for public servants.

Angus Reid Institute

“The issue has been particularly salient in Quebec, some argue, because the province has long functioned as a distinct society, itself a minority within Canada,” the study states.

READ MORE: François Legault stands firm on religious symbol ban, eliminating school boards in inaugural address

It points out that Quebec governments have grappled for over a decade with questions of reasonable accommodation for religious minorities.

“[Premier François] Legault is the fourth Quebec premier — and the CAQ the third different governing party — to attempt to address these issues through legislation.”

“Like the proposals of his immediate predecessors, Legault’s plan has been met with harsh criticism, even as a majority of Quebecers voice support for it.”

READ MORE: François Legault doubles down on religious symbol ban after meeting with Justin Trudeau

According to the poll, 79 per cent of people surveyed in Quebec and across Canada, say wearing a crucifix is acceptable.

Seventy-eight per cent of Canadians say they also approve of the Star of David.

This is a striking difference to the 17 per cent and 15 per cent who say they are comfortable with the niqab and the burka, respectively.

Should public employees be allowed to wear religious symbols?

Angus Reid Institute

“Out of nine religious symbols asked about in this survey, only three (the aforementioned crucifix, star of David and nun’s habit) are acceptable to more than half of Quebecers,” the study states.

“Elsewhere in Canada, majorities see six of the nine symbols as acceptable.”

Critics of the CAQ government argue the planned legislation discriminates against non-Christians and, in particular, Muslim women.

WATCH BELOW: Quebec Premier François Legault speaks directly to English-speaking Quebecers in his inaugural speech.






“Symbols from Sikhism and Islam are less favourably viewed, particularly if they cover the face (such as a niqab or burka) or, as some argue, could be considered a weapon (as in the case of the kirpan),” the institute found.

READ MORE: Quebec group says cuts to Ontario francophones touch all linguistic minorities

Turbans and hijabs are acceptable to about 60 per cent of Canadians outside Quebec. Within the province, the majority of respondents are opposed to public employees wearing head coverings.

Percentage by province of people who think public servants should not be allowed to wear religious symbols at work.

Angus Reid Institute

Across the country, the institute found young people under the age of 35 to be less supportive of a potential ban on public employees wearing religious symbols.

READ MORE: National Assembly crucifix representing Quebec ‘heritage’ only 36 years old

This was not the case for older demographics.

WATCH BELOW: François Legault stands firm on proposed religious symbol ban






“Political partisanship is also a key driver of views, with past Conservative voters mostly supporting a religious symbols ban in their province,” the study states.

“While [the] majority of past Liberal and New Democratic Party voters are opposed.”

Percentage of Quebecers who think public employees should not be allowed to wear religious symbols.

Angus Reid Institute

rachel.lau@globalnews.ca

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

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Battle continues over proposed Motherisk class-action suit

[ad_1]

Were Motherisk’s hair tests reliable? Did the lab meet forensic standards?

These questions, answered nearly three years ago in a government-commissioned review that exposed a litany of failings at the Hospital for Sick Children’s former drug-testing tab, were revived Wednesday in Toronto Divisional Court, where the ongoing battle over a proposed national class-action lawsuit highlighted a hard truth for thousands of alleged Motherisk victims: When it comes to the fight for compensation in any given case, the damning conclusions reached by retired judge Susan Lang remain up for debate.

The hearing was an appeal by the proposed lead plaintiff — a Toronto mother who claims her access to her son was limited for several years due to Motherisk’s flawed testing — of Superior Court Justice Paul Perell’s decision not to certify the case because of the “intensely individualistic nature of the claims.”

“The significant damages are caused not by the common unreliability of the tests, but by an individual’s test being wrong with sometimes tragic consequences,” Perell concluded late last year. “Class members should not suffer the disappointment of a class action that will not take them far enough on the path to substantive justice.”

However, the plaintiff’s lawyer, Kirk Baert, argued in court on Wednesday that because “nothing has been conceded in terms of liability” by the defendants, who include Motherisk’s founding director, Dr. Gideon Koren, former lab manager Joey Gareri and Sick Kids, there are substantial — and outstanding — shared issues related to the conduct of the lab.

When pressed by the three-judge panel about whether Sick Kids admits Motherisk’s hair tests did not meet internationally recognized forensic standards, hospital lawyer Kate Crawford said, “We don’t make a full denial. We need to look at the circumstances of each test . . . Any court is going to have to look at every case. There is no across the board answer.”

Crawford said that a class-action is not the “preferable” way to decide these claims — which is one of the tests for certification — because establishing negligence hinges on proving that the results were false and that those tests led to a negative outcome in each case.

Justice Fred Myers challenged her on that point, asking her if “every person should have to sue the government of Ontario” to determine whether the tests were unreliable “when Justice Lang has already told everyone who reads a newspaper that is the case.”

“How is that preferable?” he said.

Beginning in the 1990s, Sick Kids made millions from Motherisk’s hair tests, which were admitted in a handful of criminal cases and thousands of child welfare cases — primarily by children’s aid societies, as evidence of parental substance abuse — until late 2014, when a Star investigation exposed questions about the reliability of Motherisk’s results.

In December 2015, Justice Lang concluded that Motherisk’s results from 2005 to 2015 were “inadequate and unreliable” and that the lab “fell woefully short of internationally recognized forensic standards.”

Lang’s review led to a second probe of nearly 1,300 individual Ontario child protection cases. Motherisk Commissioner Judith Beaman concluded in February that 56 families were “broken apart” by Motherisk’s faulty testing.

“The testing was imposed on people who were among the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society, with scant regard for due process of their rights to privacy and bodily integrity,” Beaman wrote in her report.

Reuniting these families has proved difficult, because, once finalized, adoptions are virtually impossible to overturn.

In court on Wednesday, Koren’s lawyer, Darryl Cruz, said the “big problem” with the proposed class action is that it has “a poor foundation.”

“The plaintiff’s entire case is premised on the Lang report. The Lang report was good work but it was directed at something. Her task was not to determine responsibility of any person. She was looking at something very different,” Cruz said. “She was not determining whether anyone met the cause of action of any negligence claim.”

The three-judge panel reserved its decision.

It looks as if you appreciate our journalism. Our reporting changes lives, connects communities and effects change. But good journalism is expensive to produce, and advertiser revenue throughout the media industry is falling and unable to carry the cost. That means we need you, our readers. We need your help. If you appreciate deep local reporting, powerful investigations and reliable, responsible information, we hope you will support us through a subscription. Please click here to subscribe.

Rachel Mendleson is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow her on Twitter: @rachelmendleson

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Proposed city budget could hit businesses outside downtown Calgary the hardest – Calgary

[ad_1]

Calgary businesses are taking a hard look at Wednesday’s municipal budget, as fear persists of another increase in non-residential property taxes.

Although it remains unclear how businesses will be impacted by the budget, some business owners are preparing to take another hit.

Circa Vintage Art Glass in Inglewood sits in the shadow of the city’s struggling downtown core. Brian Imeson has been the owner and operator for 16 years, selling vintage art glass from Europe dating back to the 1940s through to the 1960s. It’s a unique and niche business, but Imeson has felt the impact of increasing taxes in the last few years.

“Based on what we experienced last year with the really huge increases, I think the fear is really what’s around the corner for us for 2019,” Imeson said.


READ MORE:
4 things to know about Calgary’s proposed four-year budget

Luckily for Imeson, Circa Vintage Art Glass has a small square footage, so he has been able to pony up funds to pay for the increased taxes, but he said other businesses in the area don’t have that luxury.

“It’s been a tough time for small business in Calgary for the last few years,” Imeson said. “If you’re not seeing a lot of increases in your business but your costs are going up in the form of tax base and whether its wage scenarios as well, it’s sort of double fold in several ways.”

Over the past couple of years, the city has been trying to make up for lost tax revenue due to the high vacancy rates in the downtown core. Businesses outside that area have been left to shoulder the tax burden.

City council had approved $41 million and $45 million to cap the increase at five per cent. But to get to that same level this year, it would require an $89 million investment — an unsustainable venture, according to city council.


READ MORE:
2018 property tax rate finalized by Calgary city council

City Manager Jeff Fielding said there would be proposals to help mitigate increases again this year, but that would leave increases at around 25 per cent.

“I think the impact started last year in a big way, this year it’s going to be even worse in my opinion,” Imeson said. “Next year, if things aren’t straightened out, if things aren’t sort of rectified, or if solutions can’t come to this year, the next two, three years are going to be dire for a lot of people.”

At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Naheed Nenshi reassured small businesses that council is aware of the issue and is working on solutions.

“We’ve got your back, we’ve had your back the last couple of years,” Nenshi said. “There are creative solutions out there and we’ll have a solution for that in January.”


READ MORE:
Downtown Calgary struggles with commercial vacancies while ‘burbs’ boom

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) also chimed in, suggesting a solution might be cutting spending altogether.

“I think one crucial point that hasn’t been addressed as it should be is: we need to cut spending here, we need to get our fiscal house in order,” said Franco Terrazzano, Alberta director of the CTF. “We can’t just keep shifting tax burdens on people. Businesses can’t afford it.”

At Circa, Imeson is hopeful for a solution, but continues to wait patiently.

“I think it’s a bit dire,” he said. “I don’t want to scream that the sky is falling but I think there needs to be a really hard look at how this can be resolved to help preserve small business.”

According to commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE Ltd., downtown vacancies were still high in the second quarter of 2018, with an overall office vacancy rate of 27.8 per cent.

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

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Sidewalk Lab’s use of cellphone data in proposed U.S. deal raises concern in Toronto

[ad_1]

Your cellphone knows when you are sleeping. It knows when you’re awake. It knows where you’ve been and it sends all that information to Google.

As Toronto contemplates allowing the American tech behemoth to build one of the world’s first “smart neighbourhoods” on the eastern waterfront, details have emerged of how Google proposes to collect and commodify data collected from millions of cellphones — and sell it to government.

The Sidewalk Toronto plan is a proposed 12-acre development along the eastern waterfront intended to use technology to improve the lives of its residents.
The Sidewalk Toronto plan is a proposed 12-acre development along the eastern waterfront intended to use technology to improve the lives of its residents.  (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Sidewalk Labs, which is owned by Google’s parent company, recently entered into negotiations to sell the state of Illinois an urban planning tool that maps out commuting patterns based on people’s cellphone location data, which the company “de-identifies” to protect privacy.

The tool, called Replica, is a real-world example of what Sidewalk Labs — which has been vague about its plans for the future Quayside development — says it will do with data. And the company has said it will bring the program to Toronto.

Read more:

Waterfront Toronto ‘not shying away’ from Sidewalk Toronto data privacy questions, senior official says

Tech expert resigns from advisory panel on Sidewalk Toronto over data ownership concerns

Sidewalk Labs launches research grants to study human behaviour

“GPS data should provide the characteristics of individual travellers,” said two Illinois public servants in a public procurement document filed in February, adding that the depersonalized data allows for “analysis of not only what trips are being made, but by whom.”

The state began negotiations for an anticipated three-year, $3.6 million sole-sourced contract for Replica earlier this year. The contract hasn’t yet been signed, a state official said this week.

In the wake of two high-profile resignations of Waterfront Toronto advisers who question whether the future development will benefit the public, and an Associated Press investigation that showed Google tracks people even when they turn off tracking on their phones, critics question whether Toronto should volunteer to be a guinea pig for the company’s urban experiment.

According to the documents filed in Illinois, Replica will be used to build a travel demand model that would allow city planners to “run alternative scenarios for where traffic would go if a new bridge or road were constructed.”

“It’s clearly in the public good for some of this info to be used for city planning,” said Brenda McPhail, director of the privacy, technology and surveillance project at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “But do people even know their data is being collected?”

“Is it reasonable for that data to be used by a for-profit vendor to sell back to the government?” she asked. “It’s a morass of ethical issues.”

The tool, which Sidewalk is in the process of selling to Kansas City and Illinois, has been offered for Toronto to use in the future free of charge, said Sidewalk Labs spokesperson Dan Levitan.

Sidewalk Labs, a sister company of Google, is planning a major project at the waterfront's Quayside location. The primarily residential project is set to feature buildings made entirely from timber.
Sidewalk Labs, a sister company of Google, is planning a major project at the waterfront’s Quayside location. The primarily residential project is set to feature buildings made entirely from timber.  (Supplied)

Jim Balsillie, former CEO of Canadian technology giant Research In Motion, reviewed the Illinois procurement documents for Replica and said it reinforced his belief that Waterfront Toronto should have developed a policy on how data would be handled before signing a deal with Sidewalk Labs, not after.

“This is precisely the type of technology that shows the unique power of citizen and sensor data. If this is introduced in Toronto it will have major implications for privacy, prosperity, values and democracy,” he told the Star.

The Sidewalk Toronto plan is a proposed 12-acre development intended to use technology to improve the lives of its residents. A detailed project description hasn’t been released but in public meetings, Sidewalk Labs has discussed sensors on roadways that could measure things like temperature or air quality.

Critics of the project warn it could result in “mass surveillance” and privacy invasions, and there are also calls for the data collected to be controlled by government rather than a large profit-oriented U.S. corporation.

The sales pitch for Sidewalk Lab’s Replica is simple: Cities spend millions on household travel surveys for traffic planning. Data gathered from cellphones provides much more reliable data, that updates more frequently, at a cheaper cost to the government. Replica uses sophisticated algorithms to protect the privacy of people whose phones were used to create commuting projections.

“Cities, transit agencies, and planning departments are already buying anonymized and aggregated location data to understand how people move around in cities. Replica combines this data with census information to create a richer and more accurate model of how people travel, while using a synthetic, virtual population to ensure much more rigorous privacy,” Nick Bowden, who leads the team building Replica, said in a statement sent to the Star.

“It’s clearly in the public good for some of this info to be used for city planning,” said Brenda McPhail, director of the privacy, technology and surveillance project at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “But do people even know their data is being collected?”
“It’s clearly in the public good for some of this info to be used for city planning,” said Brenda McPhail, director of the privacy, technology and surveillance project at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “But do people even know their data is being collected?”  (Supplied)

In April, Bowden wrote a blog post on Sidewalk Toronto’s website introducing the Replica tool for city planners and said the program would be used in Toronto.

“We are currently building Replica to support the development of plans for Sidewalk Toronto,” Bowden wrote. “We’ll be sharing Replica with local Toronto researchers and public agencies to gather feedback and make it more useful to them.”

Contacted this week, Sidewalk Labs spokesperson Levitan said those statements were aspirational and while Replica may be brought to Toronto in the future, “the Replica team is now focused on developing their model for other cities in the U.S.”

Replica analyzes people’s movement through a city without actually using real people’s data, according to the Sidewalk Labs’ website. Instead, a “synthetic population” of “doppelgangers” is created with GPS data from millions of actual cellphones and then adjusted according to the census data to make it statistically accurate. This way, there are precisely the correct number of rich people and poor people, of single mothers and university students, of cyclists and truck drivers, in each area of the city. But none of these people are real; they’re simply modelled on real people.

Replica’s location data “is collected by third party mobile apps with all identifying information — like names and phone numbers — removed,” the website states.

It is unclear whether Replica, if brought to Toronto, would later come with costs. The Illinois procurement documents describe a “charter customer program” that allows customers “to evaluate Replica risk-free and only pay when the customer acceptance criteria has been met.”

Ironically, just before Illinois entered into negotiations to purchase Replica, the state was poised to enact one of the strictest cellphone privacy laws in the world, which prohibited companies from collecting geolocation data from anyone’s phone without their express consent. After it was passed by the state assembly, Illinois governor Bruce Rauner vetoed the bill.

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس