Watchdog warns it’s ‘becoming harder’ for low-income Ontarians to get ahead

[ad_1]

The province’s financial watchdog says “it is becoming harder for lower-income Ontarians to move up” the ladder as salary increases have sputtered in recent years.

In a 49-page report to the legislature on wage growth, distribution, and mobility, the financial accountability office (FAO) found that “between 2000 and 2016, the after-tax income of the median Ontario family grew only modestly.”

Amid protests, Tories pass bill that scales back workers’ rights and freezes minimum wage

“The decline in relative income mobility indicates that the income distribution in Ontario has become more entrenched over the last 35 years,” the FAO concluded Thursday.

“As the share of Ontarians trading places on the income ladder has declined, the differences in income have become more permanent, reinforcing existing income inequalities.”

The report comes after the Progressive Conservative government cancelled a planned $1 increase to the $14-an-hour minimum wage that had been scheduled for Jan. 1.

“It has become more difficult for Ontarians to ‘get ahead’ — that is, move up the income distribution,” the FAO said.

“In this report, upward income mobility is defined as the share of working-age Ontarians who move up at least one income quintile over a five-year period,” the office continued.

“This share declined from 41 per cent in the early 1980s to 32 per cent more recently. The decline was most pronounced for lower-income Ontarians.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the FAO found the gap between rich and poor is growing and becoming more insurmountable since 2000.

“During this period, the incomes of the poorest 40 per cent of Ontario families increased much more slowly than the incomes of the richest 40 per cent of Ontario families,” the report said.

“Families with a higher incidence of low income, particularly working-age people living alone and single-parent families, experienced absolute declines in their real after-tax income.”

Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said the Tories “heard loud and clear that life became harder during 15 years of Liberal government.”

“That is why we are committed to putting more money in peoples’ pockets and creating and protecting jobs in Ontario,” said Fedeli, noting on Jan. 1, the “low income individuals and families tax (LIFT) credit took effect, helping 1.1 million Ontarians.

“The vast majority of those earning $30,000 per year or less will pay no personal income taxes when they file their 2019 tax returns,” the treasurer said, adding the government also extricated Ontario from its cap-and-trade environmental alliance with Quebec and Ontario.

That should save families about $260 a year on energy costs.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Federal watchdog says 4-year-old victims rights regime falling short

[ad_1]

The new federal watchdog for victims of crime says rules meant to give victims and their families louder voices in the justice system have fallen short.

The previous Conservative government introduced what it called a victims’ bill of rights almost four years ago that allowed victims of crime to get information about offenders in the corrections system and have their views taken into account when decisions are made about them.

The regime to enforce those rights doesn’t go far enough, says Heidi Illingworth, who late last year became federal ombudsman for victims of crime.

In an interview, Illingworth says she wants to see the regime strengthened to give victims « legally enforceable » rights because « we still are not there yet. »

« To me, it doesn’t go quite far enough, » Illingworth said. « If we’ve given rights in legislation, there has to be a remedy to that right otherwise it’s not an actual right. That’s what the problem is right now, is that there is no way to enforce the rights that have been given to victims. »

She used the example of how relatives of Tori Stafford weren’t able to provide their thoughts on transfer decisions for the two people convicted in the eight-year-old’s 2009 murder, finding out only after the killers had been moved.

Terri-Lynne McClintic had been moved to an Indigenous healing lodge, which corrections officials later reversed, and Michael Rafferty from a maximum-security prison to a medium-security facility.

« It’s a second victimization to many folks when they’re dealing with these big systems, » Illingworth said this week. « They’re not able to give input. A decision is made and then they’re informed after the fact. »

Giving judges discretion

Illingworth plans to launch a special review of the victims’-rights framework to highlight the issue and provide recommendations for the government to consider.

In late September, Illingworth became the third person to hold the post of victims watchdog, after the Liberals took months to fill the position vacated by Sue O’Sullivan, who had held the post for seven years.

Prior to her appointment, Illingworth spent two decades at the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, having become interested in victim services during her post-secondary studies when she did a placement with a victims agency.

Her corner office has the usual pictures of friends and family, but there is also Indigenous art Illingworth brought home after a victims conference nine years ago in the Northwest Territories.

Indigenous people are over-represented in the justice system as both victims and offenders. Illingworth said the artwork reminds her of the need for more holistic services for Aboriginal victims, such as access to elders for traditional treatments, and provide better supports on- and off-reserve.

Those and other victims’ services need more money, she said.

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down a law requiring people convicted of crimes to pay fees for victims services. The surcharges have existed since 1988, but the previous Conservative government removed judges’ authority to waive or lower the fees when they deemed them inappropriate in particular cases.

The Liberals introduced legislation in 2016 to return discretion to judges, but later folded the measure into an omnibus justice bill now before the Senate.

Illingworth is hopeful the bill, C-75, will soon become law, restoring most of the money stream but allowing judges to make exceptions.

« The judge needs to have some discretion, but it’s really, really critical that victims’ services get funded properly and not just after-thought funding. We have groups and communities who don’t have enough, » she said.

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Measures to protect victims’ rights don’t go far enough, federal watchdog says – National

[ad_1]

OTTAWA — The new federal watchdog for victims of crime says rules meant to give victims and their families louder voices in the justice system have fallen short.

The previous Conservative government introduced what it called a victims’ bill of rights almost four years ago that allowed victims of crime to get information about offenders in the corrections system and have their views taken into account when decisions are made about them.


READ MORE:
Cut down on court delays in Canadian justice system by supporting victims of crime: ombudsman

The regime to enforce those rights doesn’t go far enough, says Heidi Illingworth, who late last year became federal ombudsman for victims of crime.

In an interview, Illingworth says she wants to see the regime strengthened to give victims “legally enforceable” rights because “we still are not there yet.”

“To me, it doesn’t go quite far enough,” Illingworth said. “If we’ve given rights in legislation, there has to be a remedy to that right otherwise it’s not an actual right. That’s what the problem is right now, is that there is no way to enforce the rights that have been given to victims.”


READ MORE:
Federal ombudsman calls for changes to fund for parents of murdered, missing children

She used the example of how relatives of Tori Stafford weren’t able to provide their thoughts on transfer decisions for the two people convicted in the eight-year-old’s 2009 murder, finding out only after the killers had been moved.

Terri-Lynne McClintic had been moved to an Indigenous healing lodge, which corrections officials later reversed, and Michael Rafferty from a maximum-security prison to a medium-security facility.

“It’s a second victimization to many folks when they’re dealing with these big systems,” Illingworth said this week. “They’re not able to give input. A decision is made and then they’re informed after the fact.”

WATCH: Stafford says McClintic is out of healing lodge and back in prison






Illingworth plans to launch a special review of the victims’-rights framework to highlight the issue and provide recommendations for the government to consider.

In late September, Illingworth became the third person to hold the post of victims watchdog, after the Liberals took months to fill the position vacated by Sue O’Sullivan, who had held the post for seven years.

Prior to her appointment, Illingworth spent two decades at the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, having become interested in victim services during her post-secondary studies when she did a placement with a victims agency.


READ MORE:
‘I don’t understand’: Indigenous advocates question why non-Indigenous offenders in healing lodges

Her corner office has the usual pictures of friends and family, but there is also Indigenous art Illingworth brought home after a victims conference nine years ago in the Northwest Territories.

Indigenous people are over-represented in the justice system as both victims and offenders. Illingworth said the artwork reminds her of the need for more holistic services for Aboriginal victims, such as access to elders for traditional treatments, and provide better supports on- and off-reserve.

Those and other victims’ services need more money, she said.

ARCHIVES: Harper unveils victims’ rights bill

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down a law requiring people convicted of crimes to pay fees for victims services. The surcharges have existed since 1988, but the previous Conservative government removed judges’ authority to waive or lower the fees when they deemed them inappropriate in particular cases.

The Liberals introduced legislation in 2016 to return discretion to judges, but later folded the measure into an omnibus justice bill now before the Senate.

Illingworth is hopeful the bill, C-75, will soon become law, restoring most of the money stream but allowing judges to make exceptions.

“The judge needs to have some discretion, but it’s really, really critical that victims’ services get funded properly and not just after-thought funding. We have groups and communities who don’t have enough,” she said.

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

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

[ad_1]

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

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Ethics watchdog mum on probe of Taverner’s controversial appointment to head OPP

[ad_1]

The province’s ethics watchdog is keeping a tight lid on his investigation into the Progressive Conservatives’ controversial appointment of Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner to head the OPP.

Integrity commissioner J. David Wake is looking into whether there was any political interference in the hiring of Taverner, a long-time family friend of Premier Doug Ford.

“The office will not comment on an ongoing inquiry. I can tell you that the inquiry is in progress. I do not have any information on timelines,” Michelle Renaud, a senior adviser in the commissioner’s office, said Tuesday.

The Tories appointed Taverner, 72, as Ontario Provincial Police commissioner last November.

But the posting triggered a firestorm of criticism because of the 51-year police veteran’s close relationship to the Ford family and concerns about the independence of the OPP, Canada’s second-largest force.

NDP MPP Kevin Yarde (Brampton North) formally requested Wake investigate the appointment.

Taverner, who did not return messages from the Star on Tuesday, voluntarily returned to his old job overseeing three police divisions in Etobicoke, while the integrity commissioner’s probe is ongoing.

While Ford insists he had nothing to do with his friend’s hiring, he has indicated he wants him to run the OPP.

“We look forward to having Ron Taverner as the commissioner of the OPP,” the premier said at his most recent new conference on Dec. 18.

“You look at his credentials, speaks for itself, 50 years of policing around the province. Again, he’s a front line police officer … a cop’s cop as they say. And that’s what is desperately needed at the OPP right now,” he said.

“There has never been a more popular police officer in this province than Ron Taverner.”

Ford, who has said he expects Wake’s review to take four to six weeks, added it was “a real shame” that the media “are chasing this gentleman down like I’ve never seen.”

Taverner’s most recent public comments on the controversy came Dec. 15.

“Out of the greatest respect for the brave men and women of the Ontario Provincial Police, I am requesting my appointment as commissioner be postponed,” the superintendent said.

His decision to delay the OPP move was welcomed by critics who questioned why qualification levels for the commissioner’s position were lowered two days after the job was posted.

That last-minute change to the threshold allowed Taverner to meet the criteria.

The New Democrats are hopeful Wake will use his authority to call for an independent public inquiry with open hearings.

Experts have warned Taverner’s appointment could raise questions about the OPP’s ability to conduct investigations into the provincial government — as the force did into deleted documents related to a previous Liberal administration’s closure of two gas-fired power plants.

That probe resulted in criminal charges and a conviction against a top political staffer.

Questions about potential conflicts of interest would always linger with Taverner as commissioner, retired RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson told the Star last month.

“Every investigation of the government is going to be tarred,” he added. “It just sounds like a mess.”

OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair, who applied for the commissioner’s job, has also asked for a review of Taverner’s appointment and any “potential political interference.”

Blair is headed to court to force Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé to investigate the hiring.

Dubé’s office has declined to do so, insisting it is beyond his jurisdiction. Blair was serving as interim commissioner after the retirement of commissioner Vince Hawkes last fall. He has since been replaced by Gary Couture.

In Blair’s complaint to the ombudsman, he alleged the premier’s chief of staff, Dean French, asked the OPP “to purchase a large camper-type vehicle … modified to specifications the premier’s office would provide us” and keep the costs “off the books.”

The premier called that “a baseless claim without merit.”

“That’s just not accurate whatsoever. I asked if they had a used one,” Ford said last month.

He did not say why he needed the van or why his office allegedly wanted the costs of customizing the vehicle kept hidden.

Like all premiers, Ford is currently ferried in an OPP SUV.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Companies should get ‘meaningful consent’ for user data, privacy watchdog says

[ad_1]

After a year of high-profile data breaches that have shaken the public’s trust in companies’ collection of personal data, Canada’s privacy watchdog is issuing new guidelines for private-sector companies to obtain “meaningful consent” from their users and customers.

The guidelines make clear that it’s no longer sufficient for companies to simply provide a legal disclaimer — that most users will never read — to obtain consent to collect, use and monetize users’ personal information.

Federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien is issuing new guidelines for private-sector companies to obtain “meaningful consent” from their users and customers.
Federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien is issuing new guidelines for private-sector companies to obtain “meaningful consent” from their users and customers.  (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS File)

“Under privacy laws, organizations are generally required to obtain meaningful consent for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. However, advances in technology and the use of lengthy, legalistic privacy policies have too often served to make the control — and personal autonomy — that should be enabled by consent nothing more than illusory,” the guidelines, which come into effect Jan. 1, read.

“Consent should remain central. But it is necessary to breathe new life into the ways in which it is obtained.”

The guidelines, issued by federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien along with his counterparts in B.C. and Alberta, are organized around seven key considerations for companies collecting user data. They include:

  • Emphasizing key points, including what data is being collected, how it is being used, and who it will be shared with. The risks associated with sharing things like location data — as well as the possibility of physical harm, embarrassment or loss of employment in the event of a data breach — should also be emphasized, the watchdogs said.
  • Providing “layers” of information on privacy policies. Some users may want a quick summary of the dangers, others may want a deep dive into the nitty-gritty legal language of a policy. The watchdogs suggest companies provide both options.
  • Making consent an “ongoing” process. It’s not enough for companies to ask users for their consent once, and then collect their information forever. Any changes to a company’s privacy policy should be run by users, and companies should provide periodic reminders their users can change their privacy settings.

The watchdogs also said children cannot be expected to provide “meaningful consent” for the use of their private information — a particularly pressing issue for those children who unwrapped new gaming systems, mobile phones and other internet-connected goodies over the holidays.

“Where a child is unable to meaningfully consent to the collection, the use and disclosure of personal information … consent must instead be obtained from their parents or guardians,” the guidelines read.

Therrien’s office said children under the age of 13 are considered not being able to consent to the use of their personal information, while children over the age of 13 may be able to — but companies must be sensitive to what they’re asking of minors.

The guidelines are largely voluntary, representing what Therrien’s office considers best practices for companies to follow. But they come at a time when high-profile data breaches — along with cases of companies blatantly taking advantage of their customers’ trust — have shifted the conversation around privacy and data autonomy from the fringes to the mainstream.

While tech giants such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon have yet to be hit with substantial fines or penalties for their transgressions, countries around the world — including Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. — are openly talking about reining in those companies’ power.

Public polling released by Therrien’s office showed that Canadians’ awareness and concern about privacy issues have been steadily rising in recent years. In 2012, just 42 per cent of respondents told the Office of the Privacy Commissioner they were concerned or extremely concerned about privacy issues. That grew to 52 per cent in 2014, and 57 per cent in 2016.

Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutilier

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Ontario’s dental watchdog bares sharp teeth against critics

[ad_1]

Describing a toxic work environment fuelled by bullying and favouritism, more than two dozen current and former staff and executives of the province’s dental regulator have been waging a quiet war against their leadership.

In response, lawyers for the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario and its top executive — registrar Irwin Fefergrad — have issued letters threatening legal action and promises of repercussions. In recent months, the college has also launched an internal investigation seeking to identify employees they suspect have leaked documents to the Toronto Star.

That investigation has targeted one former employee with threats of legal action should he not cooperate with college lawyers. The man, who left the college last year, was blindsided and says the ordeal is “affecting my work life, my personal life, my health.” The former college employee — who has not provided documents to the Star — has hired a lawyer.

Over the past year, the Star has obtained internal college documents and letters and interviewed current and former employees and board members of the college who allege secrecy surrounding the college’s finances, conflict of interest and abusive treatment of staff. A former senior executive at the college filed a $1-million wrongful dismissal lawsuit last year that also cited bullying behaviour.

Lawyers for the college — which is mandated by the government to regulate Ontario’s 10,000 dentists including investigating public complaints — have denied any wrongdoing by the college in a series of written statements since May and warned of legal action should the Star publish the allegations.

“The college takes seriously the spreading and publication of false and defamatory information,” reads a written statement to the Star Friday from college lawyer Linda Rothstein with the law firm Paliare Roland. “We reiterate our concerns about the veracity of the information you have received, the motivation of the individuals providing it to you, and the legal implications to you and the Toronto Star in publishing that information, or opinion based on that information.”

Fefergrad, a lawyer who was appointed college registrar 18 years ago, had a salary rate of $607,497 in 2017, according to documents obtained by the Star. He declined requests to be interviewed, referring all questions to the college’s lawyers.

Read more:

Ontario’s dentist watchdog plagued by ‘toxic culture,’ lawsuit alleges

The ‘radical paradigm shift’ that’s changing Ontario’s oversight system for health professionals

The college’s lawyers have issued warnings to critics, threatening defamation suits for public statements that question college leadership.

“In my opinion, Irwin Fefergrad goes to great pains and uses his extensive legal resources and connections to resist change and deflect reasonable, legitimate questions,” says Natalie Archer, a Toronto dentist and former college executive council member who has been publicly critical of the college. “In my opinion, the college has a history of threatening to sue dentists and anyone who questions them. This has been very effective.”

In 2013, Archer, former college president Dr. Tom McKean and dentist Dr. Dick Jones received libel notices from college lawyers after being quoted in the London Free Press criticizing the college’s controversial in-house insurance arm. They alleged the arrangement (which is unique among medical colleges) represents a conflict of interest because the college both disciplines and insures dentists.

Beginning in September of last year and continuing into this year, 20 current and former staff and former executive council members sent letters to the provincial health ministry and MPPs alleging a “culture of hostility” within the college that presents “serious repercussions for the (college’s) ability to protect the public,” including preventing staff “from responding to patient complaints in a timely manner.”

In February, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath wrote to then premier Kathleen Wynne and health minister Eric Hoskins urging them to take “immediate action to investigate these serious allegations.”

Horwath’s press secretary confirmed there was no response to the letter.

The college’s annual legal bills have risen from about $672,000 in 2012 to more than $1 million this year as of Sept. 30 — a rise that has exceeded projections the past two years, according to college records.

In Friday’s written response, the college said rising legal expenditures were related to an increase in college members, the complexity of issues coming before its committees and the costs of investigations and proceedings against dentists.

Legal costs have exceeded budget in the past two years, the response said, because of “unforseen civil litigation costs” including defending a “significant civil action” and investigating a “potential breach of confidentiality.”

In a letter sent Sept. 17 to the former employee at the centre of that investigation, college lawyers ask him to voluntarily meet with them or “we will ask a court for assistance if you are unwilling to co-operate.”

The man worked for the college for several years and left a little more than a year ago. “When I left the college, I thought I was leaving behind all of their antics, politics and what they do there.” He is speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of compromising his current job.

“I thought I was turning over a new page … More than a year later, they’re accusing me of these things. It was shock, disbelief.”

The letter reads:

“We have reason to believe that the breach occurred during the period of time that you were an employee of the college, and furthermore, that you are one of certain former college employees who might have information that could assist us in identifying the person or persons who are responsible for the breach.”

Attached to the letter is a draft notice of application that college lawyers said was ready for submission to court. It asks a judge to require the man to identify “every person to whom he provided the confidential documents” during his employment, along with the “particulars of the occasions on which he provided those documents and/or information, including the date and the method by which they were provided.”

Citing “circumstantial evidence,” the draft notice of application says the former employee “may be involved in, or have documents or information relating to, the theft of the Star documents from the college.”

It also asks for a court order permitting a forensic examination of his electronic devices — computers, mobile phones, tablets, hard drives and USB memory drives — on which “confidential documents are or were at one point stored.”

The application names the Toronto Star and two Star reporters, saying they provided the college with copies of documents — internal college emails, Fefergrad’s calendar entries, expense claims and regulatory records — upon which they based questions during reporting.

The reporters “refused to identify the source or sources,” the draft reads.

The man says he has repeatedly denied through his lawyer that he is the source of the leak.

“It’s had a profound effect on me that I didn’t know stress could have on the human body. It’s a devastating blow to basically have an employer make those types of allegations and come after you when there’s no tangible or real evidence. It’s based on hearsay. They’re turning lives upside down,” he said.

The “circumstantial evidence” includes allegations that the former employee was passed over for a promotion several months before he left the college and that he became “disgruntled.”

The man says he left the college because of a poisonous work environment where bullying is rewarded with promotions and those who speak out face reprisals.

“I spoke out against my own manager and I paid the price for it,” he says. “They’re spinning it back on me. We were all walking on eggshells, worried and stressed because that was the environment there … I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

In the Friday response to the Star, Rothstein said the college does not “target” individuals.

“The college investigates all allegations against it and its employees and council members seriously, regardless of the source … The college also takes carefully considered, appropriate and measured steps to mitigate the harm done by the spreading of false and defamatory information, particularly when that conduct appears to be ill-motivated. This may involve the delivery of a libel notice.”

The college sent three separate letters threatening libel suits to Archer, Jones and McKean in October 2013 in response to their comments in the London Free Press. The letters alleged published comments by the three dentists — two of them former executive council members were “false, misleading and patently defamatory” of Fefergrad and the college.

The college demanded written apologies and retractions of their statements “in a form satisfactory to us.”

Jones refused and, in a six-page response, dismissed the college’s claims as “frivolous, vexatious and without merit.”

In a recent interview, Jones, a Waterloo-area dentist, said he, Archer and McKean were “bullied for simply expressing our legitimate concerns” about Fefergrad’s leadership.

“It’s a toxic situation that’s gone on for far too long.”

The libel notices to Archer and McKean were the second each had received within two years after they had made comments critical of the college.

“Dr. Archer regards your communication as a wholly unreasonable personal attack made in the face of legitimate and necessary criticism,” reads the response from her lawyer. “Moreover, threatening to take legal action on notice of one business day hardly seems like notice at all.”

The college never pursued legal action against any of the three.

In an interview, Archer said her attempts to raise concerns about Fefergrad’s management during her six years on the college council were met with “hostility, attacks and the most inhumane, unprofessional behaviour and tactics I have ever been exposed to.”

In October 2017, 16 current and former college staff anonymously wrote to Hoskins, then provincial health minister, asking for the ministry to appoint a supervisor to oversee the college because of “serious systemic problems,” including a “toxic culture” that included sexual harassment in the workplace, “abuse of power” and a “failure to protect the public.”

“We have reached the conclusion that the deficiencies in the (college) cannot be fixed under the present leadership or within the current system,” it reads.

In a response to questions from the Star in June, the college “cautions the Toronto Star about publishing any of the anonymous, speculative and factually untrue allegations contained in the anonymous letter.”

In December 2017, Archer also wrote Hoskins alleging “financial mismanagement,” conflict of interest in the college’s dual role as disciplinary body and malpractice insurance provider, and “interference in the regulatory processes” by Fefergrad who, she alleged, “inserted himself into (disciplinary) panel deliberations.”

Archer wrote that during her time on college council as vice-president and member of the finance committee, her requests for detailed information about major expenditures were routinely refused.

“I observed very significant legal expenses,” she wrote, including large budget items for which she sought greater detail. “The request was rebuffed … A forensic audit must be conducted to identify and remedy any fiscal oversight issues at the (college).”

A written statement from the college to the Star in July says Archer is “actuated by malice in the defamatory statements she makes about the college, its employees and its council members.”

The ministry never responded to the letters, the authors say.

Also last year, the former head of the college’s insurance arm, Rene Brewer, filed a $1-million wrongful dismissal suit against Fefergrad and the college alleging a “systemic culture of harassment and workplace bullying,” conflict of interest and sexual harassment toward staff.

In a statement of defence, the college and Fefergrad cited Brewer’s “abusive management style” as cause for her firing and said her “false and reckless” allegations have “maliciously and vindictively” impugned their integrity.

The dispute remains before the courts and none of the allegations have been proven.

The Star investigation has found other examples of swift college response to public criticism.

Marco Caminiti, a prominent Toronto oral surgeon, strongly criticized the college’s online self-assessment tests in a June 2016 opinion piece published in a dentistry magazine.

“Even our great regulators, the Colleges, fall short in assessing our competencies. The farcical attempts to ensure practitioners are up to date and ‘educated’ using online competency exams … highlights our ignorance even more,” Caminiti, who was then president of the Ontario Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, wrote. “Unbeknownst to them, they are, to a certain extent, allowing and enabling the incompetency of some of our colleagues to grow and fester, creating a dark stain on this great profession.”

The tests are composed of about 200 multiple choice and case study questions. Virtually every dentist who takes the assessment is successful on their first attempt.

In an email exchange with Fefergrad, obtained by the Star, the college’s then quality assurance manager Michael Gardner writes: “Did you see Marco Caminiti’s editorial in the most recent issue of Oral Health? He called the College’s assessment farcical.”

Fefergrad says he had not read it. He then writes 11 minutes later: “Pisses me off to no end.”

In a June 2018 written statement to the Star, college lawyers said Fefergrad “endeavours to maintain open and courteous dialogue with (dental) associations and their leadership. (His) response to the criticism in respect of the Oral Health article was made in that spirit and was resolved amicably.”

In an interview, Caminiti said he received a call from Fefergrad about the opinion piece.

“Irwin was very succinct in his discussion with me about the article that I wrote, he was not pleased with the comments,” Caminiti said, adding that he stands by what he said in the opinion piece.

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

These are the death probes police watchdog wants reopened

[ad_1]

It was, according to the OIPRD, a “textbook case to treat as a suspicious death unless and until a thorough investigation showed otherwise.”

Instead, “police quickly latched onto the finding of hypothermia, disregarding the evidence that compelled further investigation,” the report said — including the possibility, given her state of undress, fresh head injuries and bruises and abrasions, she had been sexually assaulted.

A central issue, the report found, was the failure to thoroughly investigate an unnamed man who was with Gliddy on the night she died. The man was interviewed, but it was not clear to OIPRD investigators in what capacity, namely whether he was a suspect. “Very few questions” were asked of him in a recorded interview, the report notes.

The OIPRD identified other concerns about Gliddy’s death probe, including “haphazard” collection of exhibits and photographs from the scene and a failure to interview key witnesses.

“Investigators should have focused on how (Gliddy) came to be unconscious, whether anyone else’s actions contributed to her death — and more specifically, whether she was sexually assaulted,” the report states.

A senior officer who investigated Gliddy’s death, and who was interviewed by the OIPRD, said in hindsight, police could have done more … The case closed earlier than it should have in the circumstances.”

“C.D.,” February 2014

“C.D.” was an 18-year-old Indigenous woman who was in a common-law relationship with a male who was nearly 50. A man called 911 and reported his girlfriend had tried to hang herself but was still alive. She was later pronounced dead and an autopsy determined the cause of death was “ligature hanging,” according to the report.

During the initial police investigation, it was determined the 911 caller gave a false identity, and the boyfriend, who was unco-operative, later disappeared.

The police investigation “was deficient in several critical areas, leaving important questions unanswered which could affect the ultimate conclusions in the case,” according to the report. That included that no formal statements were taken and none of the woman’s acquaintances were interviewed.

Major problems were identified with the forensic work. The report also questioned how the coroner’s investigative statement could conclude the woman’s boyfriend found her and “cut her down” when photographic evidence suggested the belt had not been cut.

The OIPRD report also notes the “coroner briefly attended the scene” and it appeared “he declared the death to be non-suspicious before he had even examined the body at the hospital and before the autopsy had been performed.”

Subscribe to the Star to support our journalism covering issues that matter to Canadians

Marie Lynette Spence, April 2016

Police were called in to investigate after a woman’s body was found in a wooded area. The woman’s pants were partially pulled down. According to police, the supervising coroner did not think the death was suspicious.

Days later, an autopsy ruled the cause of death as hypothermia “in a woman with ketoacidosis and acute ethanol intoxication.” The autopsy report notes 34 recent injuries to her head, neck, torso and more.

The OIPRD investigation found multiple problems with the police probe, including that the discovery of her body in a state of partial undress should have compelled “police to treat this as a suspicious death unless and until foul play could reasonably be excluded.”

Errors were also made in part due to confusion about who was the primary investigator — police or the coroner. The death “was only one of a number of cases in which the coroner made decisions better made by, or in consultation with, criminal investigators.” As a result, there were issues maintaining the scene, and Spence’s body was moved though it is not known by whom, or why.

“G.H.,” March 2015

A passerby called police after finding the body of a 20-year-old man, G.H., in the snow, the report said. Firefighters confirmed the death, and according to police advised them the deceased “had possibly been in a fight.”

The cause of death was listed as “hypothermia,” with other conditions noted, including “elevated blood ethanol concentration.”

The OIPRD raised the alarm about a number of factors, including that no criminal investigators attended the scene while the body was there. Instead, the coroner ordered the removal of the body “before investigators had even arrived at the scene.”

There was also insufficient questioning of a witness, who “was never asked the most rudimentary questions about his knowledge,” the report said. The report raised concerns about some officers’ basic police knowledge, saying it was evident at least two investigators on this file failed to have a complete understanding of how the deceased’s injuries had to be considered.

“I.J,” March 2017

The body of a 57-year-old Indigenous woman was discovered by a passerby on the icy pavement. She had “a clump of hair gripped in her hand” and “fresh abrasions and cuts.” She had been released from hospital less than two days before, after police brought her there under the provisions of the Mental Health Act.

A forensic pathologist determined her cause of death was “hypothermia and ethanol intoxication in a woman with a left ankle fracture.”

Problems were identified with the initial actions taken by police, including that the crime seen depicted in photographs “was not accurately or completely captured by attending officers describing the scene, including the investigators.”

That the woman’s belongings were scattered and her money holder was open should have “required that this matter be dealt with as a suspicious death and that foul play not be discounted without a thorough investigation.”

Jethro Anderson, October 2000

Anderson, 15, was reported missing to police by his aunt on Oct. 29, 2000, but according to the records obtained by the OIPRD, there was no police activity before Nov. 3, 2000.

According to the report, police were told volunteers would be conducting a ground search along the Kaministiquia River because he was known to hang out there, and there was concern he may have fallen into the river. Anderson’s body was found Nov. 12 in the river. A coroner was contacted and observed bruising to his left cheek and an abrasion. Later, the coroner reported the cause of death was “asphyxia due to drowning.”

The OIPRD described the police probe as “wholly inadequate.” That included that, despite being told by multiple sources Anderson had been assaulted before his death, “no sustained or serious criminal investigation followed.”

A review of the file “compels the conclusion that (Anderson’s) death did not get the attention it deserved. It also invites consideration as to whether this is explained by his personal circumstances, Indigenous status or both. At the very least, the poor quality of the investigation had the effect of undervaluing his life.”

Curran Strang, September 2005

Strang, 18, was reported missing Sept. 22, 2005, but according to the report, there is no indication police acted before Sept. 24. Strang’s body was located Sept. 26 in the river, about four metres from shore. He was face down and had no shirt or socks on.

The coroner attended the scene and ordered an autopsy. The OIPRD report states Strang’s lungs were full of water and the cause of his death was “consistent with drowning and acute alcohol intoxication.”

The OIPRD found problems with the investigation, including that injuries found on Strang’s body were not investigated by the pathologist. The report states police were “not in a position, based on the very limited investigation conducted, to rule out foul play in this death.”

“In some of these cases, the passage of time may make re-investigation difficult. The point of recommending re-investigation is to reflect that in these cases, the original investigations were so incomplete or inadequate to prevent the ruling out of foul play or third party contributions to the deaths,” according to the report.

Kyle Morrisseau, November 2009

Morrisseau, 17, was reported missing Oct. 28, 2009, after a school counsellor reported he hadn’t been at school for two days. His body was found in the river on Nov. 10, was removed from the water and the coroner was called. An autopsy report stated the cause of death was “asphyxiation due to drowning associated with alcohol intoxication.” There were abrasions on his shins.

The OIPRD’s investigation found there were “many leads developed during the missing persons investigation which were not followed up on,” and many investigative steps that would be expected in a suspicious death probe were not taken, according to the report. “As such, TBPS is not in a position to rule out foul play in this death,” it states.

Jordan Wabasse, February 2011

Wabasse, 15, was reported missing on Feb. 8, 2011. His body was not found until May 10, 2011, when boaters spotted it floating in the river. The coroner attended the scene and an autopsy concluded the cause of death was “cold water drowning,” with contributing factors being “alcohol use, cold ambient temperature,” according to the report. A pathologist stated “in the absence of any other evidence, there is no reason to suspect foul play.”

The OIPRD identified problems with the investigation, including that despite receiving information that Wabasse may have been mistakenly targeted for drug debts, it was concluded there was “no reason to suspect foul play.”

“There were several leads to follow up on and individuals to interview who may have had direct knowledge of this matter. This was not pursued,” reads the report.

“There is compelling evidence that (Wabasse) may have been a victim of a crime,” the report says.

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

Jennifer Yang is a Toronto-based reporter covering identity and inequality. Follow her on Twitter: @jyangstar

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Ontario’s fiscal watchdog says deficit is $1.2 billion lower than claimed, but warns of huge future shortfalls

[ad_1]

Ontario’s fiscal watchdog says this year’s budget deficit is $12.3 billion — $1.2 billion lower than Finance Minister Vic Fedeli has projected.

But financial accountability officer Peter Weltman also warned huge shortfalls will continue into the future unless the Progressive Conservative government makes dramatic spending cuts or increases taxes.

In last month’s fall economic statement, Fedeli said the shortfall has ballooned to $14.5 billion. He did not include the value of the province’s $1 billion reserve fund, which would have brought the deficit down to $13.5 billion.

Weltman insisted his calculation, which is $1.2 billion lower than the government’s figure, is the correct one.

The difference is mainly due to the government’s lower forecast of tax revenue.

Fedeli emphasized the government is building “prudence” into its fiscal planning.

“As we have always said, and as the financial accountability officer confirms, we have inherited a structural deficit from the previous government,” the finance minister said.

“While we have already taken steps by finding more than $3.2 billion in efficiencies and savings, we still have more work to do,” he said, noting the Liberals “recklessly spent taxpayer dollars.”

But the new regime’s books have also been called into question.

As first disclosed by the Star last week, the province’s controller, Cindy Veinot, quit after refusing to sign off on the treasurer’s version of the public accounts.

Veinot, who was the government’s chief accountant, resigned because she “did not agree with accounting decisions made by the current government.”

“I believe that the consolidated financial statements of the province of Ontario as issued … materially overstate the deficit of the province for the year,” she said in a submission to the legislative “transparency” committee examining the province’s books.

The accountant says the shortfall is $5 billion lower than Fedeli’s estimates because he excluded the government’s share of the co-sponsored Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union Pension Plan and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan as assets on the books.

Neither Weltman nor Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk count the pension as assets even though they were booked as such until Lysyk changed her mind in 2015.

NDP MPP Sandy Shaw said “just like Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, Doug Ford’s Conservatives have really cooked deficit numbers themselves.”

Shaw (Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas) accused the Tories of “fear-mongering” by citing such massive shortfalls.

“We’re concerned he’s using this to justify deep cuts,” she said.

Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter (Scarborough Guildwood) said the fiscal watchdog proves Fedeli is pushing an “inflated deficit number, which really provides the context for deeper cuts to programs and services that people rely on.”

Green Leader Mike Schreiner said “the Ford government is playing political games with Ontario’s finances.”

“It was wrong for the previous government to play political games with the budget. It is wrong for the Ford government do it only a few months into their mandate,” said Schreiner.

In his report Monday, the financial accountability officer projected next year’s deficit would be $15.1 billion, rising to $16.4 billion by 2022-23.

“While the government has not indicated when it intends to balance the budget, it has committed to not raising taxes,” said Weltman.

To get Ontario back into the black before the 2022 election without tax hikes would require that program spending growth be held at 1.2 per cent annually.

That would require Ford’s government to cut the equivalent of $850 per person from today’s levels by the next campaign.

The Ontario government currently spends about $10,000 per person for provincial programs.

Weltman notes that beyond forgoing the $1.9 billion in cap-and-trade proceeds, the government will also lose $500 million in revenue from its new income tax cut for people earning less than $30,000 a year.

The low-income individuals and families tax credit (LIFT) was one of the Tories’ signature campaign promises.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Ethics watchdog concerned that Scheer’s office advised MP to contravene code

[ad_1]

The federal ethics watchdog says he’s concerned that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s office encouraged a Tory MP to violate the conflict-of-interest code for members of the House of Commons.

In a written ruling Tuesday, Mario Dion says Calgary Conservative MP Stephanie Kusie contravened the code last March 29 when she posted on social media a letter she’d sent the ethics commissioner that day asking him to investigate Raj Grewal, who was a Liberal MP at the time.

Kusie was one of two MPs to ask Dion to investigate whether Grewal was in a conflict of interest when he invited a construction company executive — who was paying Grewal for legal services at the time — to official events with Justin Trudeau during the prime minister’s trip to India early this year.

Grewal was kicked out of the Liberal caucus last week amid revelations that he was under police investigation after racking up enormous gambling debts.

Dion says he’s imposing no sanction on Kusie because she posted her ethics complaint on the advice of the Opposition Leader’s Office (the « OLO, » in Parliament Hill jargon).

Indeed, Dion indicates he’s troubled by the cavalier attitude Scheer’s staff took toward a rule meant to prevent disclosure of an ethics complaint against an MP until that MP has been notified.

Under the code, an MP who requests an ethics investigation is prohibited from making any public comment on the matter until the commissioner confirms that the subject of the inquiry has received a copy of the complaint, or 14 days after the request is made, whichever is earlier.

He says Scheer’s office first gave Kusie’s letter to the National Post, several hours before the commissioner received it, and then urged her to post it on Facebook and Twitter.

« I am concerned that Mrs. Kusie received information and advice from the OLO encouraging her to make public comments once the OLO had made her request public as this clearly prompted her to contravene a provision of the code, » he says.

‘An error in judgement’

Dion says Scheer’s office urged Kusie to post her letter, despite knowing that other MPs — including Scheer himself — had previously run afoul of the code by prematurely disclosing their requests for investigations. He notes that in January 2017 the leader had been forced to apologize for public comments about a request for an investigation into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s conduct.

Yet, Dion says both Kusie and an aide told him that in their dealings with Scheer’s office on the matter, « they had never been informed of past incidents involving other members but instead were encouraged to post on social media. »

Only after Dion informed Kusie a week later that she might have contravened the code did the leader’s staff mention those past incidents.

And even then, Dion says an email to Kusie from her assistant summed up advice from the leader’s office this way: « Staff in OLO did not think that the commissioner’s concerns were ‘a big deal,’ had noted that other members had been ‘similarly reprimanded’ and had sought to obtain approval to ‘leak out the letter (Mrs. Kusie) received confirming that the ethics commissioner is indeed investigating Grewal.’ «

As well, the leader’s staff proposed getting the National Post to correct its March 29 story to delete a reference to Kusie’s sharing her letter to the ethics commissioner with the newspaper. The Post did update its story on April 5, specifying that it got a copy of the letter from « a Conservative staffer. »

Dion concludes that Kusie’s violation of the code « was an error in judgment made in good faith » and on the advice of the leader’s office and consequently recommends no sanctions be imposed.

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس