Canada’s review of Huawei won’t be derailed by threats, Goodale says

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Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale is brushing off recent threats from China’s envoy to Canada, who warned of « repercussions » if the federal government bans the Chinese firm Huawei Technologies from supplying equipment to Canadian 5G networks.

Goodale spoke to reporters Friday during the Liberal cabinet retreat in Sherbrooke, Que., a day after Ambassador Lu Shaye told the media at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa that « there will be repercussions » if Canada bans Huawei from its 5G network. Lu did not say what those repercussions would be.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau followed up on Goodale’s remarks during the closing press conference of the retreat, saying that China should keep its politics seperate from business.

« One of the things that is of concern in this situation is the apparent blending of Chinese commercial interests with Chinese political positioning and consequences, » Trudeau said. « This is something that I think should be of concern, not just to Canadians but to people around the world. »

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters in Sherbrooke, Quebec on Friday 0:44

Ottawa is studying the security implications of allowing the Chinese company to help develop the next generation of mobile infrastructure in Canada, which promises to be 10 to 20 times faster than current wireless connections and is designed to serve medical devices, self-driving cars and other connected technology. Unlike some of its allies, however, Canada has not announced a ban on Huawei equipment.

Goodale said Friday that China also threatened Australia when it reviewed Huawei’s role in its telecommunications network.

« We understand that those sorts of comments will be made in the process, but we will make our judgment based on what’s right for Canada and not be deterred from making the right decision, » he told reporters.

Chinese ambassador, Lu Shaye, warns there may be « repercussions » if Canada bans Huawei from its 5G network

Ambassador Lu Shaye spoke reporters at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa 0:51

Goodale wouldn’t say when Canada is expected to finish its 5G review.

« We will make the appropriate analysis and take the decision ultimately that we believe to be in Canada’s national interests, » he said. « We’ve made it abundantly clear that we will not compromise national security. »

Trudeau said Canada would continue to follow the rule of law and that China and the rest of the world would be better off if Beijing did the same.

« We are reliant in this globalized and largely peaceful world on agreed-to rules and principles that must be respected if we are all to prosper together. That is the point we are respectfully and firmly making to China, » Trudeau said. 

Other Five Eyes countries have banned Huawei

Huawei has long insisted it is not a state-controlled company and denies engaging in intelligence work for the Chinese government. However, Chinese law dictates that companies must « support, co-operate with and collaborate in national intelligence work. »

Most of Canada’s partners in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance have taken action against the telecommunications firm.

New Zealand and Australia have banned the use of Huawei products in their 5G network development, fearing Huawei could use its access to spy for the Chinese government.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers introduced bills that would ban the sale of U.S. chips or other components to Huawei, ZTE Corp. or other Chinese firms that violate U.S. sanctions or export control laws.

The bills specifically cite ZTE and Huawei, both of which are viewed with suspicion in the United States because of fears that their switches and other gear could be used to spy on Americans. Huawei is the world’s biggest telecommunications equipment maker.

« Other countries have obviously made their views known, and their views are important to us. And we will weigh all of that very carefully and in the decision-making process, » said Goodale.

China’s Ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye is warning Ottawa against banning Huawei Technologies from participating in Canada’s 5G networks. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The back-and-forth between the ambassador and minister is the latest development in a deepening bilateral dispute.

Relations between China and Canada were put on ice last month when Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition request.

China then detained two Canadian citizens: businessman Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave to work for a non-governmental organization based in China.

McCallum briefing parliamentary committee 

Lu maintains the arrests of Spavor and Kovrig were legal and just while the arrest of Meng was the opposite.

Earlier this week, a Chinese court sentenced Canadian Robert Schellenberg to death for his alleged role in the smuggling of 222 kilograms of methamphetamines. His lawyer said he plans to appeal.

In the wake of that ruling, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused Beijing of arbitrarily using the death penalty and called world leaders to solicit their support.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says she will continue to see support from Canada’s allies in its dispute with China despite warnings from the Chinese ambassador to Canada to not to do so. 1:12

Lu said the current impasse could be resolved through negotiations, but those negotiations would be threatened if Canada were to ban Huawei Technologies from participating in Canada’s new 5G network for security reasons.

Trudeau spoke today with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. The two « reaffirmed their commitment to supporting multilateralism and the rules-based international order, » according to a PMO readout of the call. 

« Trudeau and the secretary-general discussed the arbitrary detention of two Canadians in China, the application of the death penalty to a third Canadian in China, and the importance of safeguarding international norms, including diplomatic immunity, judicial independence and respect for the rule of law, » the readout said. 

‘Last arrow in our quiver’

The Conservatives have urged Trudeau to speak directly to Chinese Xi Jinping. Canada’s ambassador to Beijing, John McCallum, was in Ottawa Friday to brief a Parliament committee. He described a phone call to Xi as the « last arrow in our quiver. »

« I think it is more effective if other means are deployed before we get to that point, » he said.

The briefing was held behind closed doors. McCallum told reporters he expected to tell the committee some things that the families of Spavor and Kovrig might not want aired publicly.

John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, talks to reporters after briefing members of the Foreign Affairs committee regarding China in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019 (Chris Rands/CBC)

Despite the diplomatic tensions, McCallum said he believes it’s safe for most Canadians to travel to China, but added anyone who has had a past run-in with Chinese authorities might want to stay away.

He said his security detail suggested he remove the Canadian flags on his diplomatic car, but he called it a « crazy idea. »

« I drive proudly with the Canadian flag, » he said.

Both countries have issued travel warnings.

On Monday night, Global Affairs changed its online travel advisory for China to advise Canadians to « exercise a high degree of caution due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws. »

A day later, China issued its own advisory and urged its citizens to « fully evaluate risks » and exercise caution when travelling to Canada, citing the « arbitrary detention » of Meng.

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Amid provincial review, Simcoe County leaders and residents want to chart their own course

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Nadine Woods, a business owner in the Georgian Bay town of Port McNicoll, doesn’t mince words when discussing the notion that a provincial review encompassing 82 municipalities and millions of people will result in improvements to her small community.

“I don’t think they know enough about our area to be able to butt their nose into our area and say that they know how to fix everything,” says Woods, the owner of Port McNicoll Barbershop. “I’m wary of the whole thing.”

Woods wants her local representatives to address the issues themselves.

County leaders couldn’t agree more. They say they intend to get ahead of provincial reviewers by coming up with recommendations of their own for reform.

The government’s announcement this week that it will review the governance of eight regional municipalities and the County of Simcoe has sparked a mix of speculation, concern and hope across the large part of the province that’s affected, which includes the highly-populated GTA regions of Peel, Durham and York. The consequences will also be felt in areas with more rural residents like Oxford and Simcoe counties.

The province says its goal is to cut red tape, find efficiencies and improve services, but some residents and municipal leaders worry the exercise is more about trimming the provincial deficit and getting rid of politicians.

“I think Queen’s Park is hemorrhaging money and they need to find some,” says Woods.

Her town of Port McNicoll is part of Tay, which has a population of roughly 10,000 and is represented by five ward councillors, along with a mayor and deputy mayor, who serve on county council — translating to an average of about 1,400 constituents per representative.

“They’re looking for things to cut here but we don’t have enough already,” she says.

Simcoe County politicians say previous attempts to slash the 32-member regional council (the largest in the province) have failed and the county must address representation across the board — at ward and regional level — that isn’t optimal, and improve service delivery. Made up of 16 member municipalities, all of which have two representatives at the regional council table, the county is a vast patchwork of jurisdictions ranging in population from 8,962 in Penetanguishene to 36,566 in Innisfil.

Spanning from York Region boundary in the south, up to the southern shores of Georgian Bay in the north, it’s also home to Barrie and Orillia, cities that function independently and don’t have a seat at county council, but share county-provided services like paramedics, long-term care and social housing. A county statement boasts of being one of the largest counties in Ontario, with combined population expected to surpass half a million this year.

Considering the looming review, county politicians are urgently developing their own plans for reform.

Anita Dubeau, deputy mayor of Penetanguishene, says the province’s unexpected move last spring to slash Toronto council in half during an election was “a wake-up call” for those in her region.

She says she and her colleagues must be proactive, considering past failed attempts to chop county council.

“I have supported downsizing our council for many years,” she says.

“There has been attempts to try to downsize that house (county council) for some years, but it’s very difficult when you bring it to the floor.”

Past efforts fell through because, among other reasons, the deputy mayor and mayoral representative from each of the 16 townships couldn’t agree on who should concede their seat, Dubeau says.

“I think there is more of a flavour for that now,” she says. “There is a lot of work to be done in the next six months.”

But she says an arbitrary cut like that inflicted on Toronto, would do more harm than good.

“We need to try to come up with a plan on our own,” she says.

Consolidation has been an ongoing evolution for Simcoe County, which once consisted of 32 municipalities — until a rearrangement of boundaries in the mid-’90s.

Tiny’s Mayor George Cornell, who also heads the county council, says “now that the province has come forward with a request for review, that definitely puts (municipal reform) front and centre for the county.

“We don’t want to be waiting.”

He wants to look at representation across all 16 communities to address set-ups that “aren’t optimal,” for a region he describes as “somewhat unique” due to its municipal makeup.

Cornell says it will be on the agenda for the next meeting.

“I don’t get the sense at all that it will be anything like the process used with Toronto,” he says, of the province’s review. “This will be more collaborative.”

Cornell and Dubeau agree the review could be catalyst for how to better deliver public services.

“We (Penetanguishene) do have some shared services with Midland and that’s a good beginning,” Dubeau says. “We have fire services that have been amalgamated.

Simcoe County residents and business owners the Star spoke to expressed a range of opinions about the provincial review, with some saying there is plenty of opportunity to find efficiencies, while others worrying about losing political representation or the province simply bungling the process.

Shanta Cadeau, co-owner of the Old Corner Store in Hillsdale, is among those who support the province.

“I think there is lot of wastage,” Cadeau says.

Across the street Evan Nelson, the owner of Hillsdale Truck and Auto Supply, is also on side. He says he supported the Ford government’s unprecedented move to slash Toronto city council by nearly half, but hopes Premier Doug Ford doesn’t take a similar rushed approach in Simcoe County.

“They should consult with us,” he says.

Missy Edwards, who resides in Tay Township but works as an accountant in neighbouring Midland, fears the review will result in municipalities being amalgamated and residents losing their political voice.

“Even with the councillors we have now it’s still hard to get your voice heard,” she says.

“When they get rid of red tape, it just seem to create more red tape.”

Jason Miller is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Reach him on email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca

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Ford government’s regional review could be a good thing — or a very bad thing

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Beware provincial Tories looking to help. If you’re a municipality, it’s a hard-learned lesson based on experience. And one that was top of mind on Tuesday when Doug Ford’s government announced the prospect of reshuffling of the regional governance system in the GTA and across the province.

Maybe the system could use some tweaking. Or more than tweaking. For instance, perhaps Mississauga, the sixth largest city in Canada and third largest in the province, has outgrown its place as subservient to the Peel Regional government, as Mayor Bonnie Crombie often argues.

Months after Premier Doug Ford's government upended the Toronto election, Ontario mayors cited that Tuesday as an example of how not to undertake municipal reform.
Months after Premier Doug Ford’s government upended the Toronto election, Ontario mayors cited that Tuesday as an example of how not to undertake municipal reform.  (Metroland file photo)

Perhaps there could be some standardization of how regional governments and regional chairs are elected. Perhaps, though it appears to be outside the purview of this review, the whole Greater Toronto and Hamilton area — even the greater Golden Horseshoe — could use some more formal regional co-ordination of files like planning transit and housing (as was first proposed almost 25 years ago by a task force led by Anne Golden).

Perhaps.

But then you have experience.

Read more:

Ontario mayors greet regional reform news with excitement, dread

Mississauga and Brampton mayors respond to provincial review of regional governments

Regional amalgamation creates ‘turmoil’ and isn’t efficient, Durham politicians say

It’s been two decades since Mike Harris’ Progressive Conservative government forced the amalgamation of the six municipalities that made up Metropolitan Toronto into the city we know today — alongside companion amalgamations of school boards, and a shuffling of which level of government pays for and delivers a host of essential services. It was a disaster. It was unpopular and locally opposed at the time, and it’s little exaggeration to say digging out from under the rubble these actions created has been a main preoccupation of the city’s government ever since. The promised cost savings never materialized (instead the city government became larger, more expensive, and arguably less efficient), the many service funding crises created by the restructuring have only been mostly resolved within the past year or two, and Toronto’s politics have often been dominated by resentments created by process.

This thorough fouling up of Toronto was followed by similar amalgamations across the province a few years later, that created controversy and urban-rural resentment and governance difficulties in Hamilton, Ottawa, Sudbury, and other haphazardly pasted-together municipalities across the province.

Fast forward to last year, when Premier Ford tossed a bomb into Toronto’s election by overruling a years-long local process of study and discussion to redraw the city’s ward representation, and instead slashed the size of council almost in half on a whim in the middle of an election campaign that was already underway.

It’s a record of creating chaos. Intentionally, many suspect, though the claimed motive is always the same: efficiency and effectiveness. The sum total of the historic arguments offered by people like Harris and Ford is that better and cheaper government is best achieved by putting ever-fewer people in charge of governing ever-larger areas. It’s just that the evidence they are correct about that is, to put it lightly, contested.

“We will be looking at ways to make better use of taxpayers’ dollars and make it easier for residents and businesses to access important municipal services,” Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark said in a statement Tuesday announcing the review of regional government structure, and of those municipalities inside regional government structures.

There it is again — efficiency and effectiveness.

The two people appointed to lead the review — former deputy minister and Metrolinx executive Michael Fenn and recently retired long-serving Waterloo Region chair Ken Seiling — may temper the fears of a hack job. Both men have long experience with municipal and regional government, and a glance at their resumés shows they seem likely to understand the issues on which they are expected to make recommendations.

If the consultation and study process is legitimate, they may pave the way for the kinds of tweaks and changes that are needed and avoid the kind of ill-considered, rushed, bold statement Ford and his party’s history may lead us to expect.

If. That’s an important if.

If there are some reasons for hope, they remain alongside anxiety about another possible result.

My colleague Jennifer Pagliaro, reporting from a press conference of GTA mayors held Tuesday after a meeting at Toronto City Hall, summed up, “One clear message from GTHA mayors here in Tory’s office is: Don’t drop a bombshell on us restructuring our governments the way you did in Toronto.”

As Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said, “I hope that the municipalities and the region will be consulted sincerely as this process unfolds.”

Or as Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward put it, citing Toronto’s experience as a “classic example” of what she hopes they will avoid: “You don’t do it with a hatchet, you do it with a handshake.”

Let’s hope so.

With files from Robert Benzie, David Rider, and Jennifer Pagliaro

Edward Keenan is a columnist based in Toronto covering urban affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @thekeenanwire

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Doug Ford government announces review of regional governments

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In a news release Tuesday, the province said it was appointing Michael Fenn and Ken Seiling as special advisers to ensure the regional governments “are working efficiently and effectively.”

The regional governments under review are Halton, York, Durham, Waterloo, Niagara, Peel, Muskoka District, and Oxford County), the County of Simcoe, and their lower-tier municipalities.

“Our government committed to improving the way regional government works and we will be looking at ways to make better use of taxpayers’ dollars and make it easier for residents and businesses to access important municipal services,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, in the news release.

More to come

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RCMP to conduct review of actions taken at Gidimt’en camp blockade

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RCMP will conduct a review of what took place last week after officers entered a fortified checkpoint on a forest service road in northern B.C. where people at the Gidimt’en camp were barring a pipeline company from access. 

Wet’suwet’en members set up checkpoints preventing people working on Coastal GasLink project from accessing their traditional territory, which sits about 300 kilometres west of Prince George, B.C.

A court injunction granted in December ordered people to stop preventing Coastal GasLink from gaining access to the road and a bridge. RCMP began enforcing the injunction on Monday, arresting 14 people, and sparking protests across Canada.

Reading off a prepared statement in a press conference in Vancouver on Monday, Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs said that the review is being conducted as it would for any major operation and that, « to date, we have not yet identified any issues regarding police officer conduct. » 

An RCMP official said that prior to the injunction being enforced, officers developed an operational plan that involved moving police resources into the area because of the location of the blockade and the ‘unpredictable’ nature of what could have happened. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

But people arrested at the Gidimt’en camp alleged to CBC News that there was an inappropriate use of force by police, with a spokesperson for the camp describing the scene as « chaos all around. »

The Coastal GasLink project is run by TransCanada Corp. and is meant to move natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the coast, where a liquefied natural gas project is scheduled for construction.

TransCanada has said it signed agreements with all First Nations along the proposed pipeline route to LNG Canada’s $40-billion liquefied natural gas project on the coast — but the hereditary leaders say those agreements don’t apply to the traditional territories.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and RCMP have since reached an agreement over the enforcement of a injunction.

RCMP call situation ‘unpredictable’

Stubbs said that prior to the injunction being enforced, RCMP developed an operational plan that involved moving police resources into the area because of the location of the blockade and the « unpredictable » nature of what could have happened.

« This is an area that’s very remote, it’s an area that has a number of people that could swell from 10 to 100 so there’s a lot of unknowns. So we have to be ready to make sure that we can react to what is presented to us. »

He said as RCMP entered the camp, one person secured themselves to the barricade, two attached themselves to the underside of a bus that was blocking access to the bridge, and another was suspended in a hammock off the side of the bridge. 

« The situation was challenging — the protesters reaction to the police ranged from passive resistance, to active resistance to actual assaultive behaviour, » he said.  

RCMP officers climb over a barricade and start making arrests to enforce the Coastal GasLink injunction at the Gidimt’en camp in northern B.C. on Jan. 7, 2019. 1:42

But Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’moks said he didn’t consider those actions to be threatening.

« When you discuss a threatening action that would make me think of people being aggressive, and when you’re passively there, I don’t think there’s any aggression there, » he said.

« There is some inhumanity that happened there, I don’t think that our people needed to be treated in the way that. »

People arrested last week said that protestors were put at risk after RCMP pulled people from the gate and pinned them to the ground, and that barbed wire cut atop the gate was flying in people’s faces.

As part of their enforcement action, RCMP also established an exclusion zone, preventing access to the area by the public and media. RCMP have denied they jammed communications, preventing media and public from providing information about the situation at the camp on Monday afternoon.

The RCMP statement said that « the level of trust between the RCMP and the Hereditary Chiefs now in place will continue to play a direct and positive role going forward. »

But Na’moks said « we’re not there yet. »

« I believe there has to be trust built. » he said. « This is too fresh in our minds, too fresh in our souls. »

Stubbs said there’s no timeline as to when the review will be complete. 

He said RCMP will maintain a presence in the area this week and will next week transition to a « significantly scaled down presence, one that everyone is comfortable with. »

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Three years later, Ontario police watchdog hasn’t begun review of officer suicides

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Three years after the suicide of a Toronto police officer prompted the province’s police watchdog to promise a systemic review of officer mental health, the review still hasn’t begun.

The problem, according to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), is a lack of resources and the fact that two other systemic reviews are already underway.

Back in 2016, director Gerry McNeilly said that a growing number of complaints he was hearing about police mental health issues signalled a pressing need to tackle the problem, province-wide. So one week after the suicide of a Toronto officer, McNeilly said he would employ a special tool of his office to launch a systemic review of officer mental health and suicides, examining police services across Ontario and making recommendations for change.

“I think we’re setting up officers to fail,” McNeilly said in an interview in February 2016, saying he hoped his office would officially announce and launch the systemic review mid-year.

In the years since, police officer suicides have continued, with a spike in 2018 prompting Ontario’s chief coroner Dirk Huyer to launch a review of nine deaths.

Critics say that while they welcome that review, it has long been apparent that a detailed, provincial examination — such as the one committed to by the OIPRD — was warranted.

“It’s a little too late for us, and it’s a little sad that it took this number of deaths for them to spring into action,” said Heidi Rogers, whose husband, Toronto police Sgt. Richard Rogers, died by suicide in 2014.

When she complained to the OIPRD about the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death, which she says included severe anxiety and bullying, she says she was assured the forthcoming systemic review into officer mental health would tackle the issues.

The delay, Rogers said, has sent a message that “you don’t warrant our attention.”

Spokesperson Rosemary Parker stressed that the OIPRD director “continues to be very concerned about suicides, mental health and operational stress among police officers.” But the review has not been launched due to “resourcing issues” and two other ongoing reviews.

“It has always been the intention of the Director to address a range of issues regarding officer mental health and operational stress in a systemic review, should he be in a position to launch one,” she said.

She noted that McNeilly has, in the mean time, spoken with current and former police officers affected by mental health challenges, and families of officers who have died by suicide, and the majority support a systemic review.

Parker added that such a review would “help in addressing issues police services face with the number of staff off due to operational stress.”

The Star asked Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General if it would consider providing additional resources to the OIPRD in order to help facilitate a review of police officer mental health in the wake of the suicides.

“The Office of the Independent Police Review Director is an independent agency and conducts reviews independent of government,” a spokesperson wrote in an email Thursday in response.

Last week Huyer announced that his office would review the 2018 suicides of nine active, or recently retired, police officers. The number is “far greater than we have seen in many years,” he said, noting that in that last few years there have generally been fewer than five.

The coroner’s office has not released the identities of the officers, but one was a Waterloo Regional officer. None of the 2018 suicides were Toronto police officers.

Huyer hopes the review will have an impact across the province, saying his panel will look for systemic approaches to police wellness and identify reasons why distressed officers aren’t getting the help they need. But the coroner’s review is limiting its examination to the affected police services of the nine officers who died, unlike a broader review that would be undertaken by the OIPRD.

Huyer notes, however, that he may ask other police services for their wellness programs for officers.

Former Ontario ombudsman André Marin said a province-wide, independent probe is needed. Marin’s 2012 report, In the Line of Duty, concluded the OPP and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services were “reluctant” to support officers suffering from mental health challenges connected to workplace stress.

In an interview, Marin said he believes little has changed since the release of his report, which made recommendations ranging from counteracting stigma to collecting information about police services’ mental health supports.

He noted that three OPP officers died by suicide within a three week-span this past summer, prompting the provincial police force to launch an internal review.

“It’s hard to say whether or not, had this been addressed more seriously, these suicides would have been preventable,” Marin said. “But there are many that feel they have been given the short shrift.”

“I don’t think this is a problem that’s going away any time soon,” he said.

The ability to perform a broad examination of a policing issue in Ontario is among the OIPRD’s greatest powers, and the work undertaken through systemic reviews “has the most potential impact on policing in Ontario,” the agency said in its 2017-2018 annual report.

Complex and resource-intensive undertakings, the 10-year-old agency has completed three systemic reviews to date, including a comprehensive and scathing report on Thunder Bay Police death investigations, released last month. The watchdog is in the midst of two others, examining policies around strip searches and police use of force against people in mental health crisis.

In his recent review of police oversight in Ontario, Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch specifically highlighted the importance of OIPRD systemic reviews, saying inquiries into policing issues should not be wholly left to “the whim of the government of the day.”

“The OIPRD should be properly resourced and funded to study and report on systemic issues in policing,” Tulloch wrote in his report.

Among Tulloch’s recommendations was that the agency receive funding and resources to bolster its investigations. When the previous Liberal government passed its Safer Ontario Act — omnibus policing legislation which acted in part on Tulloch’s report — the OIPRD began implementing plans that included hiring more staff.

But additional resources for the agency are now in limbo, due to a hiring freeze across the public service in June, and then the decision by Doug Ford’s Tory government this summer to halt and review the Safer Ontario Act.

Parker, the OIPRD spokesperson, said the agency is “not in a position” to spend the entirety its 2019 budget of $11.8 million, “partly due to the expenditure freeze, but also because the agency is awaiting the government’s review of the Safer Ontario Act,” she said.

Rogers stresses that she is pleased Huyer has launched his review, saying it will at least garner more attention to the issue of police mental health. Although she feels “nothing has changed” in the years since her husband’s death, she is buoyed by the belief that the younger generation of police officers are more willing to speak out if they are facing a mental health challenge stemming from the job.

“Whereas the older guys, who have been around for a while, their idea of handling (mental health issues) was to go out drinking after a shift,” she said.

With Star files

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Former judge unveils panel tapped to review Toronto police missing-persons probes in wake of McArthur case

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The retired Ontario judge leading an independent examination of Toronto police missing persons investigations has announced an advisory panel to help conduct the wide-ranging review that was struck in the wake of deaths linked to alleged killer Bruce McArthur.

The tasks of the eight-member team — which includes experts in LGBTQ issues, law, policing and more — include outreach, particularly to members of vulnerable and marginalized groups, and generating community feedback on recommendations that will arise from the review.

“They will also assist me in ensuring that everyone who wants to be heard is indeed heard,” said retired Ontario Court of Appeal justice Gloria Epstein in a statement Tuesday.

Epstein was last year tapped by the Toronto police board to perform an external review of how Toronto police conduct missing persons probes — an independent examination struck amidst mounting criticism over police handling of the disappearances of men now alleged to be victims of McArthur.

The 67-year-old landscaper is charged in the deaths of eight men between 2010 to 2017, most of whom had ties to the city’s Gay Village and were from South Asian or Middle Eastern communities.

Three of McArthur’s alleged victims were previously the subjects of a missing person’s probe dubbed Project Houston, an investigation that examined the disappearances of Skandaraj (Skanda) Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, and Majeed Kayhan, who went missing from 2010-2012.

But the probe ended after 18 months, when police could find “no evidence to suggest criminal activity.” It is alleged that McArthur went on to kill five more men after Project Houston wound down.

The review will not examine the police probe into McArthur, in order to not compromise the ongoing criminal trial set for January 2020. But it is looking into how Toronto police investigated the men’s disappearances before McArthur came onto police radar, as well as other disappearances where community concerns have arisen.

Specifically, it will review whether the missing persons investigations could have been impacted by systemic bias or discrimination and whether the policies and procedures currently in place within Toronto police provide sufficient protection for members of the LGBTQ community or marginalized groups.

The advisory committee includes: Ron Rosenes, a health researcher and consultant working in the HIV and the LGTBQ community; Haran Vijayanathan, the executive director of the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP); Christa Big Canoe, an Indigenous lawyer with Aboriginal Legal Services; Monica Forrester, program co-ordinator at Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project and a transgender woman of colour; Brian Lennox, former Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice; Michele Lent, a former New York police officer, member of the Gay Officers Action League who has trained of officers on investigative techniques; Andrew Pinto, a lawyer specializing in workplace human rights; and Angela Robertson, the executive director of Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre.

Epstein told the Toronto police board last year that she would launch a “broad consultative process” to include public and private meetings. She and her team have also begun collecting and analyzing documents, according to an update posted on the review’s website.

“In my opinion, the work of the review is of critical importance to our diverse communities within Toronto and specifically to how missing persons investigations are done, and should be done, particularly as affecting marginalized or vulnerable communities,” Epstein told the Toronto police board this summer.

McArthur is due back in court next week.

Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at wgillis@thestar.ca or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis

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Secret review finds several ‘issues’ with aborted prosecution of defence lawyer who alleged cover up

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Prominent Toronto defence lawyer Marie Henein is calling on the government to release a report into how crown attorneys mishandled police misconduct allegations in a Brampton drug case that ended up with criminal lawyer Leora Shemesh in court facing charges.

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada late Wednesday announced a review had been completed which identified several “structural, educational and process-related issues” in the matter, and that steps had been taken to address them “on a national basis.” The PPSC did not make that review public.

Defence lawyer Leora Shemesh, seen here in a Feb. 15, 2012, file photo, alleged federal prosecutors charged her with perjury and attempt to obstruct justice in an attempt to cover up for a lying police officer.
Defence lawyer Leora Shemesh, seen here in a Feb. 15, 2012, file photo, alleged federal prosecutors charged her with perjury and attempt to obstruct justice in an attempt to cover up for a lying police officer.  (Colin McConnell / Toronto Star)

“This is not, nor should it be, the stuff of secret inquiry or immune from scrutiny. The PPSC is a publicly funded body with clear obligations to the public,” Henein wrote in an email to the Star on Thursday.

“It is impossible for the public to know the nature of the problems investigated and how meaningful or sufficient the recommendations without meaningful disclosure of the report.”

Last summer, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) launched the internal probe after Henein, who was representing Shemesh, alleged federal prosecutors covered up for a lying officer in one of Shemesh’s drug cases in Brampton, and instead charged her with perjury and attempt to obstruct justice.

The Crown alleged Shemesh claimed she had a nanny cam video of a Peel police officer stealing money from her client, and then allegedly perjured herself by denying it when compelled to testify in court. The Crown alleged that delayed or impacted other proceedings.

After grilling prosecutors Robert Johnston, Surinder Aujla and Lois McKenzie about the way they handled the officer’s ultimate confession that he had stolen money, Henein brought an abuse of process pretrial motion asking the judge to stay Shemesh’s charges because her constitutional rights had been violated.

Instead, the Crown withdrew the charges laid in 2015 against Shemesh, saying there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.

In its news release, the PPSC said it is putting in place “directives and guidelines to clarify procedures and requirements, and developing training to address identified gaps.” Prosecutors have received a “memorandum” outlining how they should “address allegations of misconduct by participants in the justice system.” The review was conducted by Robert Prior, a retired chief federal prosecutor with the PPSC’s British Columbia regional office.

Nathalie Houle, PPSC media relations adviser, told the Star in an email Thursday that “due to the specific nature of the report and the personal and internal details it contains, the PPSC is not releasing the report publicly.”

In a followup email, Houle wrote that the issues identified in the report included the “timely contact with the police regarding the allegations of police illegality, follow up on reporting of police misconduct by prosecutors, documentation of the steps taken on prosecution files, (and) deficiencies in the timeliness and extent of internal reporting, consultations, and in the development of a clear, comprehensive plan.”

Henein wrote in her email to the Star on Thursday that she is pleased there has been a review and constructive changes resulting, but “transparency and accountability minimally demands that the gaps be identified and the recommendations be made public.”

Shemesh, in a separate message, wrote “at least changes will be made and that education will ultimately always be key for those who hold positions of power. Those who hold the position of minister of justice ought to exercise that power reasonably, honourably and with true integrity.”

The Criminal Lawyers Association, representing more than 1,200 lawyers across Ontario, separately raised serious concerns about the conduct of three prosecutors in a complaint to the Law Society of Ontario, the legal profession’s regulatory body.

The complaint sent last fall alleged the prosecutors “set upon a course of action to mislead the court in order to cover up certain police officers’ malfeasance and protect their prosecutions.”

Complaints and investigations are confidential unless or until a matter results in regulatory proceedings, Law Society spokeswoman Susan Tonkin said.

The Law Society’s online directory indicates the three crown attorneys are not the subject of any disciplinary action.

Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy

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Police carding should be banned in Ontario, independent review says

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Random street checks, or carding, should be banned as there is little evidence to show the practice is useful in reducing crime while it disproportionately affects racialized individuals, according to the results of an independent review released Monday.

The report was prepared by Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch, who was tapped by the previous Liberal provincial government in 2017 to conduct a review of its new regulation on carding — the stopping and documenting of citizens not suspected of a crime.

“There is little to no evidence that a random, unfocused collection of identifying information has benefits that outweigh the social cost of the practice,” Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch, seen here in an April 6, 2017 file photo, said in a report released Monday.
“There is little to no evidence that a random, unfocused collection of identifying information has benefits that outweigh the social cost of the practice,” Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch, seen here in an April 6, 2017 file photo, said in a report released Monday.  (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star)

The regulation was aimed at prohibiting arbitrary stops — which Tulloch recommends should be explicitly stated in the regulation — and outlined the scenarios in which officers could stop an individual and request their information. The regulation also included new rules to govern those interactions, including a requirement that the officer tell the person they don’t have to provide identifying information.

Aside from reviewing the regulation, Tulloch also focused on whether purely random stops — traditionally known as carding — to gather information should ever be allowed. He found that it should not, while also noting that some critics have blamed recent spikes in gun violence on the new regulation and the restrictions placed on carding — a claim he said was not supported by the facts.

Many other jurisdictions, Tulloch said, have not reported an increase in criminal activity following a drop in carding practices. “There is little to no evidence that a random, unfocused collection of identifying information has benefits that outweigh the social cost of the practice,” he said.

“The data indicates that the better use of police resources is a more focused approach,” Tulloch wrote in his report.

“A widespread program of random street checks involves considerable time and effort for a police service, with little to no verifiable results on the level of crime or even arrests,” he said.

“Given the social cost involved with a practice that has not definitively been shown to widely reduce or solve crime, it is recommended that the practice of randomly stopping individuals to gather their identifying information for the creation of a databasae for intelligence purposes be discontinued in those remaining jurisdictions that still employ the practice.”

The review followed a number of public consultations across the province. Sylvia Jones, the minister of community safety and correctional services, said in a statement the government will review Tulloch’s recommendations.

“Our government has been very clear: we will fix the police legislation the Liberals broke. We are committed to developing legislation that works for our police and for the people of Ontario. Our new police legislation will reflect a simple principle: racism and discrimination have no place in policing. Justice Tulloch’s report will inform our work as we fix Ontario’s policing legislation,” she said.

“Public safety is, and always will be, a top priority for this government. You can count on us to keep our communities safe, stand up for victims, and hold criminals accountable for their actions. We will not let you down.”

With files from Wendy Gillis

Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering legal affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant

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Year in Review: Top 5 news stories for Global Kitchener in 2018 – Kitchener

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A house explosion, a brazen daylight shooting, municipal and provincial elections and the ION LRT delays were the biggest stories to emerge in Waterloo region in 2018.

Kitchener home blows up house, body found, man later charged with murder

On Aug. 22, a Kitchener neighbourhood was rocked by an early morning home explosion.

WATCH: Neighbour captures dramatic moments following explosion in Kitchener






A house on Sprucedale Crescent was destroyed and surrounding homes were also damaged.

READ MORE: Death of woman at scene of Kitchener house explosion ruled a homicide by police

The body of 58-year-old Edra Haan was found in the backyard while her husband, Udo Haan, 58, was airlifted to a hospital in Hamilton with critical injuries.

Police later revealed that she was killed prior to the explosion.

WATCH: Residents in Kitchener return to their homes following house explosion






The following day, Waterloo Regional Police declared her death to be a homicide investigation and said they had no clear suspect although they were looking to speak with Udo Haan about the incident.

READ MORE: Udo Haan charged with murder, arson in connection to Kitchener home explosion

On Thanksgiving Day, police arrested Udo Haan at Grand River Hospital. He was charged with first-degree murder, arson with disregard for human life and two counts of arson with damage to property.

Provincial election brings four new MPPs to Waterloo Region

To no one’s surprise, the Liberals long reign of power in the province of Ontario finally came to an end on June 7.

On that night, four of the five ridings in Waterloo region saw new MPs elected.

READ MORE: Mike Harris Jr. wins tight race in Kitchener-Conestoga

A familiar name was elected in Kitchener-Conestoga although it was a different face.

WATCH: Doug Ford’s PCs win majority government in Ontario; NDP in opposition






Mike Harris Jr., son of the former premier of the same name, narrowly won, filling a seat formerly held by PC MPP Michael Harris.

Harris Jr. was appointed as the candidate in the riding by party Leader Doug Ford on April 21, Michael Harris initially announced he would step down for health reasons but was later cut loose by the party on April 21 amid a texting scandal.

READ MORE: Belinda Karahalios returns PCs to power in heavily-eyed Cambridge riding

In other area ridings, NDP candidate Laura Mae Lindo came out on top in Kitchener-Centre while NDP incumbent Catherine Fife held on to her seat in Waterloo. PC candidate Belinda Karahalios won the Cambridge seat, unseating Liberal incumbent Kathryn McGarry while in Kitchener-Hespeler, Conservative Amy Fee won the night’s closest race in the area.

Man gunned down in downtown Kitchener, police chase ensues

Just over a month after the house exploded on Sprucedale Crescent, Kitchener was the scene of another high profile murder that would capture national attention.

On Sept. 20, 20-year-old Isaiah Macnab was gunned down at a picnic table in a parking lot near the New Directions halfway house.

WATCH: Fatal shooting in downtown Kitchener leads police on high-speed pursuit






The shooting, which occurred in broad daylight near the intersection of Pandora Avenue and King Street, would be followed by a police chase.

It would run across several regions before police would lose sight of the vehicle in Mississauga.

READ MORE: Isaiah Macnab identified as victim of ‘targeted’ downtown Kitchener shooting

During the police chase, a Waterloo police SUV would collide with a civilian vehicle leaving the driver and the officer with minor injuries.

Municipal elections brings major change to local council

There were two elections that brought major changes through Waterloo region this year.

A few months after the provincial election, municipal elections were held across the province and there were a few major changes in the region.

READ MORE: Kathryn McGarry unseats Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig

In Cambridge, longtime mayor Doug Craig was ousted by Kathryn McGarry, a former Liberal MP in a move the surprised some. Craig had held the office for 18 years.

The other major change was at the regional level, as Waterloo regional chair Ken Seiling retired after 33 years at the helm.

READ MORE: Karen Redman wins race to replace Ken Seiling as Waterloo regional chair

His replacement, Karen Redman, collected more than 60 per cent of the votes in her battle with former North Dumfries mayor Rob Deutschmann, former Waterloo councillor Jan d’Ailly and local business owner Jay Aissa.

In Kitchener, Mayor Berry Vrbanovic was easily re-elected as was Mayor Dave Jaworsky in Waterloo.

READ MORE: Berry Vrbanovic easily wins second term as Kitchener mayor

But there were also three new councillors elected in Kitchener and all were women.

The additions of Christine Michaud, Margaret Johnston and Debbie Chapman meant that the council is now made up of five woman and five men.

ION delayed yet again

Area residents were left exasperated once again when it was learned that the ION LRT system which was scheduled to launch in December, would be delayed until Spring 2019.

In April, it was announced that the ION trains would not be launched until December 2018.

READ MORE: ION trains delayed, now scheduled for Spring 2019

Initially scheduled to launch in July 2017, the launch is now expected to be almost two years off of the initial launch date.

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

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