La CAQ et le PQ ne veulent pas d’un autre débat public sur la laïcité

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Le gouvernement caquiste envisage de ne tenir aucune consultation publique sur le projet de loi visant notamment à interdire le port de signes religieux chez des employés de l’État en position d’autorité.

L’équipe de François Legault veut clore le débat, qui anime la classe politique depuis plus d’une décennie, avant le solstice d’été.

Il n’est pas question de tenir une consultation générale comme à l’hiver 2014. Près de 80 individus et groupes — y compris la famille Pineault-Caron et la communauté des druides du Québec — avaient été invités à l’Assemblée nationale afin de commenter la charte affirmant les valeurs de laïcité et de neutralité religieuse de l’État du ministre péquiste Bernard Drainville.

Il n’est pas question non plus d’organiser des consultations particulières comme à l’automne 2016. Environ 40 individus ou groupes avaient été invités en commission parlementaire pour réagir au projet de loi favorisant le respect de la neutralité religieuse de l’État de la ministre libérale Stéphanie Vallée.

Plus de 10 ans après le dépôt du rapport Bouchard-Taylor, l’Assemblée nationale doit maintenant légiférer, fait valoir une source gouvernementale.

Les élus péquistes sont « prêts à procéder » sans de nouvelles consultations publiques, a indiqué mercredi le chef parlementaire du Parti québécois, Pascal Bérubé. « Le moment est venu de trancher cette question. On veut vraiment une adoption qui aura lieu d’ici juin. L’enjeu est très connu. Ce qui manque, c’est de mettre au jeu le projet de loi », a-t-il déclaré dans un impromptu de presse.

Le PQ propose de frapper les employés de l’État en « position d’autorité » — les policiers, procureurs, juges, gardiens de prison, ainsi que les éducateurs en garderie et les enseignants — d’une interdiction d’afficher leurs convictions religieuses. Il prône aussi l’inclusion d’une clause de droit acquis afin que personne ne perde son gagne-pain après la mise en oeuvre de la loi. « Sur un sujet aussi sensible, je pense qu’il faut viser à avoir le plus large consensus possible », a poursuivi M. Bérubé.

La CAQ n’entend pas pour sa part astreindre les éducateurs en garderie à une éventuelle interdiction du port de signes religieux, mais réfléchit à la possibilité d’inclure une « clause grand-père » dans le projet de loi. « On essaie d’aller chercher un consensus », a affirmé le premier ministre, François Legault, dans un bref échange avec des courriéristes parlementaires.

Le chef du gouvernement n’a pas manqué de souligner l’appel de certains élus libéraux — Sébastien Proulx et Gaétan Barrette, a-t-il nommé — à rallier la recommandation d’interdire le port de signes religieux chez les agents de l’État en position de coercition faite par la commission Bouchard-Taylor en 2008. « Il commence à se former un véritable consensus au Québec », a-t-il soutenu, avant de filer vers le Salon bleu pour la période des questions.

M. Proulx et M. Barrette ont expliqué avoir invité les autres membres du caucus à appuyer le « compromis » Bouchard-Taylor, mais en vain. Depuis, ils sont tous deux rentrés dans le rang, ont-ils assuré à la presse à tour de rôle.

« Certains d’entre nous ont discuté différemment de ce qui était la position traditionnelle parce que c’est sain de pouvoir le faire », a affirmé le leader parlementaire de l’opposition officielle, Sébastien Proulx, mercredi avant-midi. « Au sein du Parti libéral, il y a des débats et c’est tant mieux », a-t-il ajouté, tout en se disant « à l’aise » avec l’absence de toute interdiction.

La posture du PLQ de défendre les libertés individuelles à tout prix est « inattaquable », a fait valoir Gaétan Barrette. « Il n’y a rien d’autre à dire. »

Cette position n’est pas de nature à gonfler les appuis des francophones à l’égard du PLQ, convient du bout des lèvres l’ex-ministre de la Santé. « Il y a un message qui doit aussi être envoyé à la population francophone. On comprend le sentiment populaire, mais un moment donné, les lois sont faites aussi pour s’adapter », a-t-il lancé.

Le leader parlementaire de Québec solidaire, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, appréhende la reprise d’un « débat qui va être divisif » à la faveur du dépôt du projet de loi sur la laïcité de l’État rédigé par Simon Jolin-Barrette.

Il craint de lire un « projet de loi de catho-laïcité » ou de « laïcité à deux vitesses » qui prévoirait une interdiction de signes religieux chez les enseignantes des écoles publiques « souvent de confession musulmane », mais pas dans les écoles privées « de tradition chrétienne ». « C’est un très mauvais message à envoyer. Ça ressemble beaucoup au message qui a été envoyé à l’époque de la charte des valeurs du Parti québécois », a déploré M. Nadeau-Dubois.

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Expect every year to be ‘awful’: Experts weigh how to protect B.C. public from wildfire smoke

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If the last few years are any indication, wildfire smoke is becoming a fact of life in B.C. — and with that comes the inevitable questions about how it’s affecting our health.

As it turns out, the experts still have nearly as many questions as average British Columbians.

On Wednesday, scientists from across North America gathered in Vancouver at a workshop organized by the B.C. Lung Association to share what they’ve learned so far and what they still need to figure out.

One message came out loud and clear — the changing climate means we can expect longer and more severe fire seasons in the future, and we need to do what we can to protect public health.

« We need to go into every wildfire season expecting it to be awful, because if we do that then we’ll be ready for whatever comes at us, » Sarah Henderson, senior scientist at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, told the conference.

Henderson laid out some of the research findings. Living in smoky conditions during the wildfire season might cause lung irritation, trigger asthma and bring increased risk of dying from a stroke or from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

During the record-breaking summers of 2017 and 2018, researchers measured a 40 per cent increase in people needing Ventolin inhalers — commonly used for breathing problems — and an 18.6 per cent increase in doctor visits for asthma, Henderson said.

Millions in additional health care

Those poor health outcomes can impact society in other ways, too. When a group of researchers looked into the health effects of a 2001 wildfire that burned for seven days in Alberta, they estimated that smoke inhalation accounted for an additional $10-$12 million in health care costs.

But the actual contents of wildfire smoke and its effects on humans can vary widely depending on what type of tree or plant matter is burning, if the fire is smouldering or flaming, the weather conditions and distance from the fire.

And we don’t have enough information about how the smoke affects babies in utero, infants, pregnant women, or about the long-term effects of repeated exposure. 

« We know almost nothing about the mental health impacts, beyond anecdotes, » Henderson said.

The long-term effects are particularly concerning when it comes to those who spend their time closest to the source — the firefighters who head out to the front lines every summer. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently studying a cohort of these men and women, but it’ll take a few more years before data is available, the conference heard.

Researchers are studying the long-term effects of wildfire smoke on firefighters. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

John Balmes, a professor at the University of California’s School of Public Health, pointed out that firefighters are often exposed to toxic gases that don’t reach the rest of the population, including carbon monoxide. At the same time, they generally don’t wear respirators or masks because the equipment isn’t practical for the job and can even melt onto their faces.

« We actually don’t have an effective way to protect the wildland firefighters, » Balmes said. « We need new technology. »

The overarching message of Wednesday’s meeting was that there’s an urgent need for more research and new strategies for mitigating damage to human health from wildfires.

« We need to change the conversation about smoke. There’s this deep desire for these things to go away and not come back again, » Henderson said.

« But we will have more bad wildfire seasons — we may have worse wildfire seasons. »

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TransLink’s largest-ever SkyTrain station upgrade opens to the public – BC

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The wrapping came off of TransLink’s largest-ever SkyTrain station upgrade Saturday, with a new platform at Commercial-Broadway Station now open.

Work on the $81-million project has been underway since 2015 to help accommodate growing ridership, which has further surged since the completion of the Evergreen Line extension.

The station was originally constructed in 1985 and saw its last major expansion in 2002 when the Millennium Line platform opened.


READ MORE:
$81M upgrade to Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain station complete

TransLink says the station now handles about 200,000 passengers every weekday and more than eight million boardings per year.

The upgrade includes a new Expo Line platform that will allow downtown-bound passengers to board trains from both sides, reducing congestion at peak hours.

It also includes a new elevated walkway over Broadway that will allow passengers to more easily transfer between the Expo and Millennium lines, and the number of elevators in the station has doubled from two to four.

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

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Andrew Scheer takes questions from public at Toronto town hall

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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is taking questions from the public at a town hall event in Toronto on Saturday.

CBC News will stream the event live and provide analysis starting at 6:30 p.m. ET on CBC News, CBCNews.ca and CBC News’s social channels.

Before Parliament returns from its winter break a week from Monday, Scheer and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have been criss-crossing the country meeting with Canadians and fielding questions on a diverse range of topics.

During his swing through Alberta, Scheer encountered people angry about the state of Canada’s energy sector after the Federal Court of Appeal quashed construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project pending further environmental review and consultation with Indigenous peoples.

Scheer had to get out of his vehicle and walk to the venue in Nisku, Alta., because of a 22-kilometre convoy of truckers protesting Trudeau’s carbon tax and environmental policies. Scheer sought to reassure people by promising to scrap the prime minister’s carbon levy designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Scheer also answered questions about what the Conservative party would do about a growing meth problem on the Prairies as the drug claims more lives each year. Scheer vowed to better equip police and unveil a gang prevention strategy.

Trudeau, for his part, has had a lot of questions about Canada’s immigration system and how the federal government is handling a spike in asylum seekers entering the country by foot.

In Quebec, Trudeau was also confronted by a dairy farmer who was upset with the concessions the federal government has made on dairy in striking trade deals with the U.S., the EU and Pacific rim countries.

The town hall tour by the prime minister and the leader of opposition comes ahead of a federal election later this year. The various parties are soliciting feeback to help them craft the policy platform they will present to voters in October.

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City of Regina introduces new public transit fares, discounts – Regina

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The City of Regina is introducing more transit fare options, effective immediately.

New passes include a 31-day senior pass, a semi-annual adult pass, a semi-annual youth pass, an affordable adult pass and an affordable youth pass.

The changes are being put in place to help assist lower-income residents through the Community Services’ Affordable Fun Program, which provides residents with city recreation and leisure discounts.


READ MORE:
City of Regina approves lower bus fares for 2019

The city is also decreasing the number of current fares, also effective immediately.

An 31-day adult pass is dropping from $92 to $88, a 31-day youth pass is down from $66 to $64, a 20-ride adult pass dropped from $58 to $55, a 20-ride youth pass moved from $49 to $46 and the senior annual pass dropped from $300 to $207.

Officials with the City of Regina said they hope the changes will encourage residents to continue to use public transit following a four per cent increase in ridership in 2018.

The increase comes after a two-year, $17.2-million investment to improve Regina’s transit system in which 50 per cent of funding was provided through the federal government’s Public Transit Infrastructure Fund.


READ MORE:
Construction set to begin on new transit fleet maintenance facility

With the funding, Regina replaced six para-transit and 13 conventional buses and a number of bus shelters. The city also improved bus stop and shelter accessibility, made accessibility improvements on buses, added the new Arcola Express route and expanded services in different neighbourhoods across the city, including Harbour Landing and Fairways West.

Further information regarding routes, schedules and fares can be found at Regina.ca/Transit.

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

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Le sommet de la tour Eiffel fermé au public

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Depuis le 7 janvier, les visiteurs n’ont plus accès à l’emblématique dernier étage de la Dame de fer en raison d’une campagne de travaux de rénovation et de maintenance rendus nécessaire par son exposition aux intempéries. La réouverture est prévue le 1er février à 18 heures.

Pour espérer admirer Paris à 360 degrés à 300 mètres d’altitude, soit la hauteur du dernier étage de la tour Eiffel, il va falloir patienter un peu. En effet, comme chaque année, la société d’exploitation du célèbre monument réalise une campagne de travaux sur le sommet de la tour Eiffel et les ascenseurs qui y mènent. Empêchant ainsi une partie des nombreux visiteurs (7.000.000 par an) d’atteindre ce niveau, si prisé des touristes. L’endroit sera rendu au public le 1er février à 18 heures.

Mise en beauté salutaire

D’ici là, des travaux de maintenance importants seront réalisés sur un des deux ascenseurs menant au sommet, avec le remplacement de nombreux éléments comme les câbles ou les roulements, histoire d’assurer, et on le comprend, l’acheminement des nombreux visiteurs en douceur. En cause, l’exposition constante aux intempéries de tous types (températures négatives, pluie, neige, grêle, soleil…) de cet étage qui subit aussi des vents permanents à cette altitude (lorsque le vent au sol atteint par exemple une vitesse de 50 km/h, il souffle à plus de 80 km/h au sommet de la tour).

Au programme aussi de la mise en beauté des deux niveaux (l’un intérieur, l’autre extérieur) qui composent le dernier étage de la tour, de nombreuses autres interventions qui vont permettre d’améliorer la sécurité et le confort de visite, comme les sanitaires, escaliers, planchers, châssis vitrés, éclairages, radiateurs… À l’issue de cette campagne de rénovation, le sommet sera de nouveau accessible. Pour le plus grand bonheur des touristes. En effet, la moitié des visiteurs de la tour Eiffel y passent chaque année.

Un accès limité

En attendant, il faudra se contenter de l’accès au 2e niveau (moins onéreux), par ascenseur ou par escalier pour les plus téméraires, qui offre déjà un très joli point de vue sur la capitale. Et au 1er étage, qui propose tout de même jusqu’à fin janvier une terrasse aménagée ambiance «sports d’hiver» avec un espace détente sous un dôme abrité ou dans d’amusantes télécabines et un bar- fabrique à cookies.

Tour Eiffel au Champ de Mars. 5, avenue Anatole France (VIIe). Tous les jours de 9h30 à 23h45. Tarifs 2e étage: billet ascenseur: 16€ (adulte), 8€ (jeune), 4€ (enfant) ; billet escalier: 10€ (adulte), 5€ (jeune), 2,50€ (enfant) et gratuit pour les moins de 4 ans.

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Des travaux nécessaires pour la sécurité du public

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Hydro-Québec procède depuis l’automne dernier à des travaux de réfection du mur de soutènement du barrage Simon-Sicard, qui a été construit en 1929 dans le cadre de l’aménagement hydroélectrique Rivière-des-Prairies. Il s’agit de travaux importants et nous sommes conscients qu’ils peuvent causer des désagréments. Toutefois, le mur de soutènement est aujourd’hui vieillissant et les travaux sont nécessaires pour la sécurité du public.

D’une longueur de 1,3 km, le mur a une fonction de soutien et de protection de la rive. Divers experts d’Hydro-Québec ont réalisé des études techniques et environnementales afin de préparer la réfection du mur. La protection des paysages a été un facteur important lors de l’élaboration des travaux. Nos équipes sont présentement à l’oeuvre dans les sections qui montrent des signes de vieillissement, essentiellement aux endroits où frappent les glaces en hiver. Bien que ces travaux soient d’une certaine envergure en milieu urbain, il est important de rappeler qu’ils respectent les normes environnementales en vigueur.

Lorsque le chantier arrivera à sa fin, la technique utilisée, soit le remblai en enrochement, permettra le réaménagement des berges tout en favorisant la biodiversité. Le concept de réaménagement a notamment été présenté à la Ville de Montréal ainsi qu’à la Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM) afin de respecter les orientations du Plan directeur de développement des berges de la rivière des Prairies.

Enfin, dans un souci de bien informer les citoyens des travaux à venir, nous avons travaillé en étroite collaboration avec l’arrondissement d’Ahuntsic-Cartierville, la CSDM, la Société d’histoire d’Ahuntsic-Cartierville, le Comité ZIP Jacques-Cartier, etc. Les citoyens ont également été invités à venir échanger avec l’équipe Projet lors de deux soirées d’information qui ont eu lieu en juin et en novembre derniers.

En terminant, mentionnons que l’achèvement des travaux au printemps prochain permettra de réduire la largeur actuelle du remblai. Le réaménagement des berges suivra par la suite avec une nouvelle piste cyclable et un sentier piétonnier en rive, notamment dans le secteur Sophie-Barat.

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Feds should consider making some criminal pardons automatic: public safety panel – National

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OTTAWA – A panel of MPs wants the federal government to look at making criminal pardons automatic for some offenders who have served their sentences.

The House of Commons public safety committee also suggests lowering the $631 fee for a pardon and simplifying the often complex process for applicants.

Committee members say in a recent report that a criminal record can hinder a person’s ability to get a job, find housing, go to school or travel.

READ MORE: Supreme Court rules mandatory payments for minor offences unconstitutional

Under changes brought in by the former Conservative government, lesser offenders – those with a summary conviction – must wait five years instead of three before they can apply for a suspension.

Offenders who have served a sentence for a more serious crime – an indictable offence – must wait 10 years instead of five.

WATCH: Gov. to move forward with ‘free and rapid pardons’ for simple marijuana possession charges







In addition, the application fee quadrupled to $631 from $150 to ensure full cost recovery.

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Declare opioid overdoses a public health emergency, inquest says

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The province of Ontario should declare a public health emergency concerning the opioid overdose epidemic, a coroner’s jury has recommended.

The recommendation was among 55 that came at the conclusion of the inquest into the death of Bradley Chapman, a Toronto man who died of acute opioid toxicity in August 2015 at age 43.

It follows similar calls to the province last year from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and a group of more than 700 front-line health care workers.

“I think (the recommendations) have the ability to really make a difference and to save lives if adopted,” said Chapman’s sister, Leigh. “I think that they alert the public that we absolutely need to do more, that the deaths are preventable. And they also give a sense of what we could do to prevent them.

“I think that Brad fell through so many cracks and people continue to fall through cracks.”

The jury’s 55 sweeping recommendations, aimed at several public bodies, including the provincial and federal governments, the City of Toronto, and the chief of the Toronto Police Service, include:

  • assigning a provincial co-ordinator at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for a response to the opioid overdose crisis;
  • providing increased funding and resourcing for harm-reduction programs and services in Ontario;
  • decriminalizing the possession of all drugs for personal use;
  • tracking and sharing of information on the number of individuals released from incarceration who become homeless.

“I think you can summarize what (the jury) did by saying the current way of dealing with drug use isn’t working,” said Suzan Fraser, a lawyer for the Chapman family. “We need a harm-reduction strategy. We need to stop pushing people to the margins by criminalizing them, by stigmatizing people who use drugs and who are homeless.”

David Jensen, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, told the Star that the ministry has received the recommendations and looks forward to reviewing them.

“The government is committed to making mental health a priority. That’s why it’s investing $3.8 billion over 10 years to develop and implement a comprehensive and connected mental health and addictions strategy,” Jensen wrote in an email. “The government will continue to make mental health a priority and work toward creating an Ontario where everyone is fully supported in their journey toward mental wellness.”

Chapman was found by a security guard slumped over in an alcove on Walton St. near Yonge and Gerrard Sts., in the early morning of Aug. 18, 2015. Police were unable to rouse him, and when paramedics arrived, Chapman had no vital signs. He was resuscitated and rushed to Toronto General Hospital, where he was put on life support and listed as a John Doe. Chapman’s family only learned what had happened thanks to some sleuthing by a hospital spiritual counsellor.

Among the jury’s recommendations are that all front line police officers should be equipped with naloxone, and that first-aid training for officers incorporate “a module on how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose.”

“The Service will review the recommendations from today’s inquest and, where appropriate, make the necessary changes to our processes, procedures and/or training,” Meaghan Gray, director of corporate communications for the Toronto Police Service, wrote in an email to the Star.

The inquest was one of two called nine months after a Star investigation published in 2016 chronicled the circumstances that the led to Chapman’s death. The other inquest focused on the death of Grant Faulkner, 49, a man who perished after the plywood shelter he was staying in caught fire on a sub-zero night in January 2015. The Faulkner inquest wrapped up in June 2018 with the release of 35 recommendations. The two inquests were the first to focus on the deaths of homeless individuals in the GTA in more than a decade.

The jury also said the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario should develop guidelines for the care of “people who are experiencing homelessness, including those with mental health and addiction challenges.”

“We are going to move with that,” said RNAO CEO Doris Grinspun, who also commended a recommendation that responsibility for health care in correctional facilities be transferred from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Brent Ross, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services thanked the jury members for their service and for recommending ways to prevent deaths.

“(The ministry) works to make sure our policies and procedures are based on the best evidence and are in line with best practices,” Ross said.

Kenyon Wallace is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @KenyonWallace or reach him via email: kwallace@thestar.ca

Mary Ormsby is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Reach her via email: mormsby@thestar.ca

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NSTU says poll shows majority of Nova Scotians critical of province’s handling of public education – Halifax

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The Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) commissioned a poll that shows the majority of Nova Scotians are critical of the province’s handling of public education.

The poll was conducted for the union by Corporate Research Associates (CRA).

READ MORE: N.S. Liberals appoint education advisory council after dissolving elected boards

The poll found that 60 per cent of those surveyed believe the government’s actions have a negative quality on public education. Those actions, according to NSTU, include imposing a contract on teachers and eliminating elected school boards.

The survey also found 83 per cent of those polled have a favourable opinion of public school teachers.

Seventeen per cent think the government is doing a good or excellent job of managing the public school system, while 75 per cent rate their performance as fair or poor.

READ: Decision to axe N.S. school boards, a reminder of power of cabinet: Charter expert

Forty-three per cent believe replacing elected school boards with a single advisory council has had a negative impact on student achievement, while 23 per cent see it as positive.

The survey was conducted by phone in October and November, and the sample size was 400 randomly selected Nova Scotians. The poll has a margin of error of ± 4.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The full CRA report can be found here. 

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

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