Saskatchewan should declare HIV-AIDS public health emergency

No Comments


The rate of HIV-AIDS in Saskatchewan, particularly in First Nations communities, is so high that the province should declare a public-health state of emergency.

That’s the view of a group of doctors in the province who, on Monday, are issuing a cri de coeur for action.

The ad hoc coalition, led by Dr. Ryan Meili of the West Side Community Clinic in Saskatoon, is comprised mostly of physicians who provide front-line HIV care, but they have some chilling data to justify sounding the alarm.

The HIV infection rate in Saskatchewan is 13.8 per 100,000 population, almost double the national average of 7.8 per 100,000.

But the provincewide numbers hide the real problem: On reserves, the infection rate is 64 per 100,000.

Yet, even that number is misleading, and likely an underestimate, because there is very little testing done on First Nations.

Where systemic HIV testing is carried out, the story that emerges is even more troubling.

On the Ahtahkakoop First Nation, for example, 60 of 1,700 residents tested positive for HIV, a staggering rate of 3,500 per 100,000 population.

To put that number in perspective, consider that it is .

Since the early days of the epidemic, HIV-AIDS has spread principally through unprotected sex, particularly among men who have sex with men. But, increasingly, the virus is being spread through intravenous drug use, which is a scourge in many impoverished First Nations.

Despite its dismal statistics, Ahtahkakoop First Nation is actually one of the few good news stories because the community is tackling the issue head-on: It has implemented universal testing, opened a needle exchange and hired a nurse who specializes in infectious-disease care.

In many other indigenous communities, there are no prevention programs, no treatment and no care to speak of. But there is a lot of stigma.

Like all infectious diseases, HIV preys on people who live in poverty and in dismal conditions, such as those that are commonplace on reserves.

Over the past decade, there have been 1,515 cases of HIV-AIDS recorded in Saskatchewan, and 1,075 were in people who identified as indigenous.

That’s 71 per cent – in a province were roughly 20 per cent of the population is indigenous.

It would be wrong, however, to dismiss Saskatchewan’s HIV problem as merely another “Indian problem,” or as the responsibility of the federal government, not the province.

The provincial numbers over all point to a broader problem.

Last year, there were 158 HIV cases reported in Saskatchewan, up sharply from 112 in 2014.

Yet, almost everywhere else in the world, infection rates are falling, and death rates are falling even faster thanks to earlier and better treatment.

But in Saskatchewan, once again, the HIV-AIDS death rate is 3.1 per 100,000, four times the national average of 0.7 per cent.

Most troubling of all may be the fact that, last year, three babies were born HIV-positive in Saskatchewan, even though mother-to-child transmission is entirely preventable.

Despite it all, Saskatchewan doesn’t even have an AIDS strategy. They did, but it expired in 2014. The indifference is shocking and shortsighted, especially when you consider that each new HIV infection costs the health system about half a million dollars.

Twenty years ago, when HIV-AIDS was much more top of mind in public policy, and more present in the headlines, British Columbia declared a state of emergency.

Since then, the province has gone on to be a world leader, with innovations such as supervised injection, universal testing and the treatment-as-prevention philosophy.

Saskatchewan has an abysmal record on HIV-AIDS, but it can, like B.C., turn it around.

If it takes the declaration of a public health emergency to do so, so be it.

Also on The Globe and Mail



Bono: ‘The world needs more Canadas’
(CP Video)

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

More women join growing ranks of Ontario’s entrepreneurs: report

No Comments



A new report suggests women are joining the growing ranks of Ontario’s entrepreneurs in increasing numbers, outpacing the rest of the country.

The Ontario edition of the Global 2015 Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) found that 14.4 per cent of Ontario respondents were involved in setting up a business, putting it ahead of larger economies like the U.S. and Australia.

For every 100 male entrepreneurs in the province, the survey suggested that there are 92 female counterparts.

This number put Ontario ahead of Canada and many of the other 62 economies included in the global survey.

But the study, conducted by the Ryerson University’s Brookfield Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship — also indicated that women in Ontario are dogged by stronger fear of failure than their peers elsewhere in the world.

It found 52.4 per cent of female respondents in Ontario said fear of failure would prevent them from starting their own business, well above the 40.7 per cent of male respondents in the province and 47 per cent of female in the rest of Canada.

Study co-author Charles Davis, an associate dean at Ryerson University’s Faculty of Communication and Design, said attitudes among survey respondents indicated that Ontarians felt they worked in a province that was conducive to launching a business and that they themselves had the skills to get the project off the ground. Their optimism, however, only extended so far.

People don’t believe that it’s possible to grow firms big in Ontario,“ Davis said in a telephone interview. ”They believe that it’s possible to grow a sustainable, profitable firm, but they don’t have big ambitions.“

Large-scale growth was not part of Jean Blacklock’s initial vision when she left the corporate world and struck out on her own in 2011.

When she founded the Prairie Girl Bakery in downtown Toronto, she hoped simply to fill a vacancy in the city’s food scene by offering freshly baked, home-quality goods in a market dominated by fast-food or pre-packaged options.

Her small store, which opened in 2011, soon outstripped her original vision. Three shops now operate throughout the city, allowing the bakery to offer a wider array of cupcakes and cookies more quickly.

Her experience has led Blacklock to share the survey’s conviction that Ontario is a sound place for entrepreneurs to get a leg up.

She attributes much of her success to the fact that she opened up shop in a highly populated area, adding Ontario’s comparatively high population relative to other parts of the country would create similarly favourable conditions for other aspiring business owners.

“It is really basic. It’s not really magical, but . . . it’s just math,” she said. “I think Ontario is a strong point in that matter.”

Blacklock said fear of failure did not ultimately stop her from pursuing her vision, but said it is part of reality as an entrepreneur in Ontario or any province.

Anxiety has kept her from expanding into the potentially lucrative markets found in major shopping centres, she said, adding the exorbitant rent costs and lengthy leases have held her back from exploring some of those potential opportunities.

Davis theorizes that fear of failure among Ontario’s women may be higher because of greater “family management responsibilities,” but Blacklock said her experience suggests anxiety over future success is shared equally among all entrepreneurs.

“Every time we see (other small business owners), we chat about . . . how scary it is,” she said. “I’m hesitant to say that it’s different for a woman. That’s not been my observation.”

The GEM report found that most of Ontario’s entrepreneurs are concentrated in consumer services, with retail, hotels and restaurants accounting for 26 per cent of all entrepreneurial enterprises in the province.

The report pointed to other conditions that make Ontario fertile ground for entrepreneurs, such as good commercial and physical infrastructure and a culture that promotes entrepreneurship based on opportunity, not necessity.

But the report also said there’s room for improvement in gaining access to new technologies, saying the process of seeing products move from university labs to the market is slow and inefficient.

The report also indicated that business owners want to see more government support to help them obtain new tech.

Also on The Globe and Mail



Trudeau uses ‘It’s 2016’ line to encourage China’s business elite to include women
(CP Video)

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Ex-Statistics Canada chief questions Liberal pledge of more independence

No Comments



The country’s former chief statistician is casting doubt on the Liberal government’s promised commitments to Statistics Canada based on its handling of an issue that forced his sudden departure last week.

Wayne Smith quit Friday after losing a battle over Statistics Canada involvement in a five-year-old — and controversial — central IT department, Shared Services Canada. Smith told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month he would resign if the issue wasn’t resolved to his liking.

The government took Smith up on his offer, staying silent until last week when he received a letter from the clerk of the Privy Council, the highest-ranking official in the federal civil service, that accepted his resignation.

He also received a letter from Trudeau himself that said little about the IT dispute — only that the government was committed to giving Statistics Canada its independence, Smith said.

The controversy has Smith wondering whether the Liberals will follow through on a campaign pledge to give Statistics Canada greater independence from political intervention.

He also questioned why the Liberals chose his successor after they argued two years ago for an outside body to recommend a nominee for chief statistician.

“Given the Shared Services Canada issue and given their method of appointment of my successor, I’m more than a bit concerned about just how sincere this commitment is.”

The issue of independence comes down to the credibility of Statistics Canada and the information it provides to voters and governments, Smith said.

“When we publish data, people have to believe it and they won’t believe it if external forces are able to influence or prevent Statistics Canada from carrying out its mission.”

During question period Monday, NDP MP Kennedy Stewart assailed the government for what he called a “clearly broken promise.”

The government responded by thanking Smith for his service and touting the return of the mandatory long-form census and its response rate of nearly 98 per cent, the highest rate the agency has ever recorded.

“Our government remains committed to reinforcing the independence of Stats Canada. We are working on that,” said Greg Fergus, parliamentary secretary to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains.

Fergus didn’t directly mention Shared Services Canada.

Shared Services Canada has come under persistent fire from departments frustrated with having to hand over control of their systems to the central IT agency, complaining about delays in projects and a lack of understanding of individual department’s digital needs.

Shared Services head Ron Parker defended his agency’s work, saying it had worked hard to meet Statistics Canada’s IT needs. He said there were no operational and capacity issues when he met with Smith in April.

The IT agency is in the middle of expanding computing capacity for the national statistics office, he added.

Parker also said the government will know next year when it will realize the savings promised to taxpayers by creating Shared Services Canada following a review of its plan to modernize federal digital infrastructure.

The long-term plan doesn’t envision anyone opting out of the shared IT arrangement, he told a briefing in Ottawa.

Smith said federal officials told him the centralized IT program could crumble if Statistics Canada left because it would embolden other frustrated departments to demand independence from the arrangement.

“There never has been a substantive discussion about whether the points I’m raising are valid or not valid,” he said.

“It has really been about the consequences for Shared Services Canada if Statistics Canada was pulled out of that arrangement.”

Smith said the statistics office’s data centre in Ottawa has experienced numerous outages because Shared Services Canada has not invested in infrastructure. A new system to disseminate findings from the 2016 census fell so far behind schedule that Statistics Canada had to come up with a workaround for the upcoming releases, he noted.

Parker said Shared Services Canada had servers in Gatineau, Que., ready to handle that system, but Statistics Canada raised concerns about security and reliability. The servers should be in place and the system operational by the end of the year.

Also on The Globe and Mail



Liberals say long-form census provides ‘reliable data’
(CP Video)

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Lawyers challenge Ottawa on Supreme Court appointment changes

No Comments



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing a court challenge aimed at forcing him to name someone from Atlantic Canada as the next judge of the Supreme Court of Canada. The challenge pits a tradition of regional diversity that is as old as the court against the government’s search for increased racial diversity – and possibly the first indigenous judge on the country’s most powerful court.

The Atlantic Provinces Trial Lawyers Association applied to Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Monday for a declaration that the “Prime Minister’s proposed departure from the constitutional convention of regional representation on the Supreme Court of Canada” requires a constitutional amendment and the unanimous consent of all provinces.

The court has a vacancy because Justice Thomas Cromwell of Nova Scotia retired on Sept. 1.

“If we lose our connection to the national institutions, from the perspective of Atlantic Canadians, that would further marginalize them,” Halifax lawyer Raymond Wagner, whose name is on the court filing, told The Globe and Mail. The trial lawyers association represents plaintiffs with medical malpractice or personal injury claims.

Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said in an e-mailed statement to The Globe that “regional representation is important and will be considered in the appointments process,” and that the short list of three to five candidates to be given to the Prime Minister by an independent advisory board later this week will include candidates from Atlantic Canada.

The Atlantic lawyers’ group brought the case after Mr. Trudeau introduced a self-nominating process for Supreme Court judges, and Ms. Wilson-Raybould told a government committee that applicants will be considered from inside and outside Atlantic Canada.

The court challenge raises the stakes for the Liberal government in the appointment. Even if it announces a high-profile First Nations appointment, the government could bump up against the tradition of regional representation – with roots so old, it may be protected by the Canadian constitution. And that could mean the Liberals pay a political price in Atlantic Canada, where they hold all 32 federal seats. And the actual appointee could be caught up in a legal or political quagmire.

Quebec is the only province guaranteed in written provisions of the Supreme Court Act three positions on the court. By convention, Ontario also has three, the Western provinces have two and Atlantic Canada one. From the Supreme Court’s inception in 1875, it has always had a judge from Atlantic Canada.

The case has echoes of Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati’s 2013 constitutional challenge to Federal Court Justice Marc Nadon’s appointment to a Quebec vacancy on the Supreme Court, while Stephen Harper was prime minister. Justice Nadon was the first appointee to be ruled legally unqualified by the Supreme Court. And the court was left one judge short for 10 months, during the legal battle and its aftermath.

One important difference between the two cases is that in the current one, the government has not yet announced its choice of a judge.

“It’s very important for our organization that we not be seen as against the principle of diversity or a particular individual by name. That’s why we brought it before the naming took place,” Mr. Wagner said. If the court ignores the application, the organization will meet again once the government names a judge to decide whether to file another application, he added.

Multiple Liberal sources have told The Globe that the government is keen on finding a minority judge to replace Mr. Cromwell. Mr. Trudeau’s insistence on functional bilingualism as a new requirement adds to the difficulty of finding a qualified minority judge in Atlantic Canada.

But does the tradition of regional representation amount to a constitutional convention? “Oh yes, definitely,” Peter Russell, a political science professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, told The Globe. “An important part of our Constitution is to have the highest court in the land which interprets the Constitution have legitimacy in the various regions of Canada.”

Also on The Globe and Mail



Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin’s full lecture on tolerance in Canadian society
(The Globe and Mail)

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Patrick Brown vowed in 2015 e-mail to repeal Liberal sex-ed curriculum

No Comments



Social conservative supporters of Patrick Brown who are angry at the Progressive Conservative leader’s flip-flopping on the issue of sex education say he promised them last year he would scrap the updated curriculum if he became premier.

In an email sent to anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition during the race that ultimately saw him become party leader, Brown wrote “I will repeal it! I say that everywhere.”

It appears to contradict assertions Brown has made recently, that a letter under his name promising voters in a Toronto riding to “scrap” the curriculum did not reflect his views.

Jack Fonseca, with Campaign Life Coalition, produced the 2015 email on Monday.

During the fallout from the controversial letter, which was distributed in a Toronto riding ahead of a byelection, Brown has said he was livid to see his name attached to that position and that he supports the updated curriculum.

When asked last week when his views on sex ed changed, Brown said he has always taken a “middle of the road” approach, criticizing the government for not consulting parents enough, but not on the need for the curriculum.

Brown’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the email.

Also on The Globe and Mail



Parents discuss the various sex-ed lessons they want to teach their children
(The Globe and Mail)

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Ontario Liberal fundraiser resigns amid party reorganization

No Comments



Premier Kathleen Wynne’s lead fundraiser has stepped down amid a reorganization of the Ontario Liberal Party as it begins a ramp-up to the 2018 election.

Bobby Walman, who had been the head of the Liberals’ campaign-finance system for eight years, confirmed Monday that he had departed over the summer.

In an e-mail, he said he had “voluntarily resigned” to return to running a political consulting company.

“My decision to move on was discussed with the Premier and leaders of the Ontario Liberal Party around the end of last year,” he wrote. “I agreed to stay until early summer 2016 to ensure a smooth and seamless transition.”

His departure comes as the Liberals look to overhaul their fundraising operation to comply with campaign finance reforms sparked by a .

Starting next year, the Liberals plan to ban corporate and union donations, bring in lower contribution caps and prevent provincial politicians from attending fundraising events. Ms. Wynne ordered the new rules after The Globe revealed that hundreds of the province’s corporate leaders were paying up to $10,000 for private face-time with the Premier and members of her cabinet.

Mr. Walman kept a low profile as he expanded the Liberals’ fundraising efforts. Even Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake had difficulty getting Mr. Walman to speak with him when he investigated a controversial Liberal fundraiser earlier this year: Mr. Wake had to issue a summons to compel Mr. Walman’s co-operation after Mr. Walman ignored Mr. Wake’s requests for a meeting.

In a memo to party members Monday, Ms. Wynne and party president Vince Borg announced that Zak Bailey, a veteran of several health-care charities, has taken over as chief fundraiser. The previously semi-independent Ontario Liberal Fund has been merged into the party itself, meaning Mr. Bailey will report directly to Patricia Sorbara, who is leaving her post as Ms. Wynne’s deputy chief of staff next month to become CEO of the party.

Ms. Sorbara also serves as campaign manager, a role she has filled since before the 2014 election. She will focus on organizational matters – including the party’s voter identification database and get-out-the-vote apparatus. One of Ms. Wynne’s most trusted advisers, Ms. Sorbara became a controversial figure when a former Liberal candidate accused her of offering him a government job in exchange for dropping out of a nomination contest ahead of last year’s Sudbury by-election.

David Herle, the Liberals’ pollster, will again serve as chief campaign strategist with the title of managing campaign co-chair. As he did for the 2014 election, Mr. Herle will be in charge of the campaign’s overall direction, including advertising. One source said Mr. Herle has been sitting in on daily meetings and phone calls with the Premier’s top staff in recent months.

Deputy Premier Deb Matthews and Tim Murphy, a former chief of staff to former prime minister Paul Martin, will also serve as co-chairs.

Bay Street lawyer Alexis Levine will oversee the process of nominating candidates, the memo said. Meanwhile, political consultant Michael Keegan is undertaking a reorganization of the party to handle the redistribution of ridings ahead of the election, as the legislature grows from 107 members to 122.

Also on The Globe and Mail



Union sees improvement in GM talks
(Reuters)

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Family of Canadian soldier who died by suicide receives Memorial Cross

No Comments



Denise Stark took a deep breath after a moment of silence inside a stately downtown Hamilton church. It’s the same church in which she and her family said goodbye to her young son nearly five years ago.

At the age of 22, Corporal Justin Stark was already a veteran of the Afghanistan war. More than six feet tall and built like an Olympic swimmer, Cpl. Stark had wanted to make the military his career. But 10 months after returning from the explosives-laden battlefront, he took his own life inside the Hamilton armoury while his fellow soldiers slept ahead of a training exercise.

Cpl. Stark’s parents always believed their son’s suicide was connected to his traumatic experiences in Afghanistan, but a military board of inquiry disagreed, seemingly closing the door on officially recognizing his sacrifice and their loss.

The inquiry’s conclusion infuriated many military advocates, and a groundswell of family supporters emerged. Local bikers, soldiers who had served with Cpl. Stark, mothers and fathers who had lost sons in Afghanistan and military members struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder all signed a petition calling on then-prime minister Stephen Harper and his ministers to grant the Stark family the Memorial Cross.

It took time, and a change in government, but on a rain-soaked Saturday, the Stark family finally received the honour. Before hundreds gathered in Central Presbyterian Church, Ontario Lieutenant-Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell presented three members of Cpl. Stark’s family – his mother, his father, Wayne, and sister, Jennifer – with the medals, commonly known as the Silver Cross. Five other family members, including his brother, received Memorial Ribbons.

The Stark family did not speak to the media after the presentation. In a statement, Ms. Stark thanked her son’s regiment, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, and the family’s advocates across the country. She said their support has “helped us on our healing journey to bring about some peace and degree of closure.”

She hoped her son was resting in peace, “as your sacrifice to Canada will never be forgotten.”

Cpl. Stark, who died on Oct. 29, 2011, is one of at least 62 military members and veterans who have killed themselves after deploying on the Afghanistan mission, a continuing has found. Some of their families have received the Memorial Cross. But many have not, even though they believe their loved one’s suicide was connected to the Afghanistan mission. The Globe and Mail will tell their stories this fall.

The Memorial Cross was created in 1919 to commemorate Canadian soldiers killed in the First World War. In 2007, during the Afghanistan operation, rules governing who is eligible for the medal were revised to include all service-related deaths, not just overseas mission casualties. The change opened one of the military’s most recognized honours to those who died in training mishaps and by suicide linked to service.

A military board of inquiry into Cpl. Stark’s suicide found that “no definite link could be established between” his death and his Afghanistan tour, according to a heavily censored copy of the inquiry report obtained through Access to Information legislation. His parents, though, saw profound changes in their son after he returned from Afghanistan in December, 2010. He became withdrawn, easily agitated and had trouble sleeping at night. He wouldn’t share much about his deployment and did not seek medical help.

Because he was a reservist, Cpl. Stark was not in regular contact with the regular-force members he served with in Afghanistan. That isolation took a toll on their son, the Starks told The Globe in an interview in August. They believe he was also frustrated by a lack of full-time opportunities in the Canadian Forces, which had started to wind down combat operations in Afghanistan.

A spokesman with Veterans Affairs, which is involved in commemorating military members, said he could not comment on why the Stark family received Memorial Crosses because of privacy reasons. However, he noted that Veterans Affairs will offer an “opinion” on a military member’s death when asked by the Canadian Forces.

“To arrive at our opinion, we look at relevant information, which may include results from board of inquiry, service-health records and applicable legislative tests,” Zoltan Csepregi said in an e-mail.

Cpl. Stark has also been posthumously awarded the Sacrifice Medal, created in 2008, and his name has been added to the Seventh Book of Remembrance, kept in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.

After the medal presentation on Saturday, biker Keven Ellis reflected on the family’s long fight. Mr. Ellis is president of the North Wall Riders Association-Steel City, a military-support group that led the petition drive. He hopes the recognition of Cpl. Stark will encourage other families to push for commemoration.

“This young man took his own life but through service to our country, and it’s our responsibility to remember them and stand up for them,” Mr. Ellis said.

Also on The Globe and Mail



Canadian military defends use of ‘soldier cards’ to stem sexual misconduct
(CP Video)

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

The Globe wins Online Journalism Award for coverage of missing and murdered indigenous women

No Comments



The Globe and Mail’s  of missing and murdered indigenous women has won a prestigious international award from the Online News Association. 

The Globe was the only Canadian media outlet to be recognized this year among an international field.

The New York Times took home five awards. Other winners include The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post and the Texas Tribune. The University of British Columbia’s graduate journalism program was honoured with a student award. 

The awards were handed out at a gala on Saturday in Denver. 

The Globe’s award, in the topical reporting category, focused on the federal government’s lacklustre approach to linking unsolved missing-persons cases, the failures of Manitoba’s child welfare system, the in the crisis and the among the victims of serial killers.

“We submitted the work surrounding murdered and missing indigenous women because we were proud of the journalism and we wanted this important and all too often ignored story to be brought to the world’s attention,” The Globe and Mail’s Editor-in-Chief David Walmsley said. “Journalism matters. This honour firmly places the plight of these families at the forefront of global consciousness.”

The Globe tied with The Guardian US in the topical reporting category, for its project examining a deadly police force in California.

The Globe team included reporters Kathryn Blaze Baum, Tavia Grant and Renata D’Aliesio, data journalist Matthew McClearn, multimedia editor Laura Blenkinsop, interactive designer Christopher Manza, video producer Hannah Sung and editor Angela Murphy among others.

Last year, The Globe won the breaking news category for a large publication for its of the shooting on Parliament Hill. 


Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

‘It was a complete shock’: Arcane law strips unwitting Canadians of citizenship

No Comments



Byrdie Funk had what some would call a quintessential, small-town Canadian upbringing.

At two months old she moved from Mexico with her Canadian parents to a farming community in southern Manitoba. She learned to skate on a backyard pond and trudged between snowdrifts to school, where she would stand with fellow students to sing the national anthem before class.

She used her Canadian passport to travel to South Africa, toting a suitcase sporting the maple leaf, and was later married at a historic trading post on the banks of Winnipeg’s Red River.

But earlier this year the 36-year-old woman’s life was upended when she received a letter from Citizenship and Immigration Canada informing her she was no longer a Canadian citizen.

“It took my breath away,” Funk said in an interview from her home in Squamish, B.C.

“I had no idea that anything like this could even happen.”

She is one of an unknown number of people ensnared in an arcane law that automatically revokes the citizenship of certain Canadians who fail to officially apply to retain their nationality before the age of 28.

The little-known policy applies to anyone born abroad between Feb. 15, 1977, and April 16, 1981, to Canadian parents who were also born outside the country.

The rule was abolished by the Conservative government in 2009, but the change wasn’t retroactive, so it didn’t include anyone who had already turned 28 by then.

Funk said she only learned about the law this spring after trying to renew her passport.

The law was drafted in the 1970s out of concern that citizenship could be passed along indefinitely to generations abroad who were less and less connected to Canada, said Audrey Macklin, a law professor at the University of Toronto.

Macklin said it wasn’t necessarily unfair, at least in theory, to require someone twice removed from being born in Canada to prove a connection to the country.

The problem, though, was rooted in the government’s inability to identify and inform those people that their citizenship would “evaporate” if they didn’t take specific steps to retain it, she said.

Lindsay Wemp, a spokeswoman with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said in an email that the immigration minister can offer discretionary citizenship in extraordinary circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

Funk said she contacted Minister John McCallum’s office in July and has yet to receive a response.

Donald Galloway, a University of Victoria law professor, said he didn’t think the government has taken the necessary steps to let people know “the narrow hinge” their status was hanging on.

“I think it’s quite shocking to live in a country where the government creates these byzantine rules and says ‘Well, it’s up to you to know the details,“’ he said.

Funk isn’t alone. Eva Friesen of Steinbach, Man., became stateless after losing her citizenship at the age of 28. She had to officially immigrate to Canada after living as a Canadian since she was six.

The now-37-year-old woman heard about the rule by word of mouth when she was 27, but she said that didn’t give her enough time to arrange the necessary paperwork before the deadline.

“I think that’s totally unfair, especially if you grew up here and you know nothing else,” she said.

Another unrelated Manitoba resident, Monica Friesen, discovered at 30 that she had let her citizenship lapse decades after arriving to Canada.

“I don’t understand how the government can’t inform people,” she said. “I hope (my story) opens up the eyes of the government that maybe something should be done.”

She eventually received a discretionary grant.

Galloway estimates there are hundreds affected by the law, many of whom are likely unaware. An Immigration Canada spokeswoman said the exact figure is unknown, but small.

The policy is another chapter in the story of the “lost Canadians,” made up of residents whose citizenship was either revoked or never granted in the first place due to kinks in Canada’s laws.

Over the years, the government has legislated corrections for the oversights, normally by retroactively offering citizenship to affected groups, from war brides to the children of soldiers born overseas. But recourse was never offered to those affected by the 28-year rule.

Don Chapman, the self-styled leader of the lost Canadians, has been lobbying on behalf of these groups for years.

“The laws are a dog’s breakfast,” Chapman said in an email, adding that Canada’s reputation as being fair and compassionate is not always deserved.

While not caught by the 28-year rule, Jim McLellan of Wolfville, N.S., has experienced firsthand the sometimes tragic fallout of Canada’s idiosyncratic citizenship laws.

McLellan was born in the United States in 1945 to a Canadian mother and an American father. Prior to 1947, Canadian law denied citizenship to any child born abroad to a Canadian woman who was married to a foreigner.

He said he entered Canada in 2005 to care for his ailing mother and didn’t visit a hospital about his own deteriorating health in order to avoid the risk of deportation.

Legal changes in 2015 paved the long road to citizenship, after which McLellan learned he had terminal lung cancer, which had metastisized to his brain. Eight months ago, he was given four months to live.

“I’ll be dead in a few weeks,” McLellan said in a recent interview, his voice slurring slightly. “I had to live all of that time without health care.”

McLellan said he hopes his story inspires Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make good on his word that “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.”

“We’re ready to shout it from the rooftops,” McLellan said.


Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Statistics Canada head’s resignation was months in the making: documents

No Comments



Canada’s chief statistician was warned three months before his surprising resignation last week that a showdown with the federal government was inevitable as the agency pushed for more independence, documents show.

Wayne Smith quit on Friday afternoon, and his resignation letters accused the federal government of hobbling his agency’s independence by forcing Statistics Canada to use the government’s central information technology system.

Behind the scenes, the National Statistics Council — an independent body of experts that advises the chief statistician —warned of future problems unless the government agreed with Statistics Canada’s request that it no longer use the IT system overseen by Shared Services Canada.

In a June report obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act, the council wrote that the Liberals’ push for the agency to find new ways to collect, analyse and distribute data was at odds with the government’s insistence that the agency use the new central information platform.

The June report said Statistics Canada needed to be more agile because it was facing huge challenges in a world of big data: demands for up-to-the-minute information that businesses and planners rely on, declining response rates on traditional surveys, and meeting the government’s need for statistics in new policy fields.

The council argued Statistics Canada couldn’t be nimble if it relied on Shared Services Canada for IT services.

“Technology deficiencies and the bureaucratic red tape with SSC are increasing risks and delays in the production of major statistical programs,” the council wrote.

“If unresolved, these could inhibit the potential for innovation on the part of the agency.”

The report said that Statistics Canada needed control over its IT system to prevent privacy breaches, avoid delays in getting “cutting-edge” equipment and software and ensure the on-time release of market-moving information. It also wanted to ensure online forms didn’t fail — which happened to the census submissions website on the first day of online filing.

“Governments cannot tell (Statistics Canada) to be bold and innovative and then limit its technological capacity to deliver existing or develop new programming,” the council wrote in the report.

The Liberals said Friday that a “great deal” of work has been done to modernize the technology the statistics agency relies upon. Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, who is responsible for Statistics Canada, also said the government was committed to giving the agency the independence the Grits promised during last year’s election campaign.

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose told The Canadian Press that the current government should be able to find a solution to the situation. Ambrose was public works minister at the time the previous government announced the creation of Shared Services Canada to centralize IT services across the government.

“These kinds of things are fixable,” Ambrose said.

“It’s up to the government to look into it and address it, if it’s possible to address it.”

NDP public services critic Erin Weir called Smith’s resignation a troubling development.

“The Liberals promised, in black and white, to restore Statistics Canada’s independence. It’s clear from Mr. Smith’s comments that the current Liberal government is responsible for compromising that independence,” Weir said in a statement.

Smith told his staff in a letter Friday announcing his departure that Shared Services Canada — “and anyone who can influence Shared Services Canada” — had substantial control over Statistics Canada’s work.

In his resignation letter to the statistics council, Smith said he can’t support federal initiatives to centralize IT services that effectively undermine the independence of Statistics Canada. He added he does not wish to preside over what he describes as the decline of a world-leading statistical office.


Courtesy: The Globe And Mail