Doug Ford says Killers not criminally responsible should never be let out - Canadanewsmedia
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Doug Ford says Killers not criminally responsible should never be let out



Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Thursday that someone will be held responsible for the disappearance of a patient from a Toronto mental-health facility and that some people detained after being found not criminally responsible for violent acts should never be released.

“You can’t let guys like this loose,” Mr. Ford told radio host Jerry Agar. “You throw away the key.” The Premier also referred to the patient as a “nutcase” and “crazy,” terms that advocates say stigmatize mental illness.

Mr. Ford made the comments as police and hospital officials promised to review the circumstances that allowed Zhebin Cong, a patient at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health who was found not criminally responsible (NCR) for murder in 2016, to flee the country on an international flight, the same day he failed to return to the facility while on an unsupervised day pass.

Mr. Ford sent a letter to Toronto Police Services Board chair Andrew Pringle on Thursday asking why the public was not immediately notified when Mr. Cong went missing on July 3 and about the potential risk posed to public safety. The police did not publicly release details of the case until July 14 and say they did not realize he left the country until July 16, nearly two weeks after he failed to return to the facility.

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders announced Thursday that the force will be conducting two investigations – a full review into Mr. Cong’s disappearance and an internal department review.

“We will review if he [Cong] received assistance, money, or a passport from anyone who may have facilitated him leaving the country,” Chief Saunders wrote in a statement. “We are working with Canadian and international law enforcement agencies. We will be seeking a Canada wide warrant to aid in taking him in to custody if and when he returns to Canada.”

Mr. Ford said he would also press CAMH and the Ontario Review Board, which manages the cases of patients found NCR, to determine who “dropped the ball.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory called on the provincial government to launch an independent review into the incident. “I believe such a review could work with CAMH and the Ontario Review Board to address issues related to Mr. Cong’s disappearance from the facility and the city,” Mr. Tory said in a statement on Thursday, “but there are other questions which go well beyond that and which require answers if the public is to be confident that this kind of thing won’t happen again.”

On Wednesday, CAMH announced that it would start a review on all patient passes and privileges, with a special focus on those who have been granted unsupervised access in the community. The announcement came two weeks after Mr. Cong’s disappearance. The hospital also plans to increase security in its forensic units.

The incident highlights the challenges of managing the rights of NCR patients with the need to maintain community safety.

Hours after Mr. Ford’s radio interview, CAMH chief executive officer Catherine Zahn said “it is clear that there is still work to do to address misperceptions surrounding mental illness, as well as the prejudice and discrimination faced by those who live with mental disorders.”

Camille Quenneville, CEO of the Ontario branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, called the Premier’s comments “disappointing.”

“I suspect the Premier, on reflection, understands the inappropriateness of that language,” she said. “I would expect that he likely regrets using those names.”

Mr. Cong, 48, has been detained at CAMH since 2016 after killing another boarder in his rooming house. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and found NCR. Violence by people with schizophrenia or other mental illnesses is rare.

In Canada, patients who are deemed NCR are detained in psychiatric facilities for an indeterminate period where they receive treatment, with the ultimate goal of helping them re-integrate into society. Patients can earn privileges, such as day passes for supervised or unsupervised community access, based on their progress in treatment. An independent tribunal, known in Ontario as the Ontario Review Board (ORB), sets the parameters of supervision and management for people found NCR.

There are approximately 1,600 patients in Ontario whose cases are being managed by the ORB and many of them are living in the community.

Only two forensic patients at CAMH have ever been charged with a crime while AWOL, including a man who robbed a convenience store and a bakery while he was missing from the facility this past June.

While it’s unclear where Mr. Cong went, he had long expressed a desire to return to his home country of China to live with his mother. His command of the English language is poor and he showed little interest in integrating into life in Canada, according to ORB decisions.

Forensic patients at CAMH are allowed access to computers, money and phones. It’s not clear whether Mr. Cong had a passport in his possession at the facility.

A May, 2019, decision from the ORB noted the challenges involved in helping Mr. Cong move into the community. According to the decision, Mr. Cong was doing well in treatment and was not showing any signs of mental illness. He had been given the permission to live in a CAMH-approved accommodation in the community. But Mr. Cong had not obtained a permanent-residency card or signed the housing application form. The decision noted that without a permanent-residency card, Mr. Cong may be deported to China. The decision said Mr. Cong was “surprised” and “anxious” about the fact that he could only move into the community if CAMH approved his housing.

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Twitter users voice opposition of UCP plan




UCP plan

Alberta’s United Conservative Party (UCP) said if elected, schools will operate under rules for gay-straight alliances that were developed before the NDP came to power.

UCP leader Jason Kenney outlined his party’s education platform for the April 16 provincial election at the private Calgary Jewish Academy on Monday.

He said his government would proclaim the former Progressive Conservative government’s Education Act of 2014 to replace the NDP’s amended School Act.

The Education Act included a provision to allow gay-straight alliances — clubs meant to make LGBTQ kids feel safe and welcome — in schools if students wanted them.

“We support those as an opportunity for young people who might be facing harassment or bullying to get that peer support and so we will encourage schools to comply with that legislation,” Kenney said.

Albertans were quick to jump on Twitter to weigh in on the issue, using the hashtag #QueerkidsAB, which was trending across Canada on Monday and into Tuesday morning. Those opposing the UCP’s plan said it would harm LGBTQ students in Alberta.

Kristopher Wells, an associate professor who specializes in sexual minority issues at Edmonton’s MacEwan University, accused Kenney of taking a “back-door route” to undo progress the NDP has made on LGBTQ rights.

“This is an attack on LGBTQ rights in the province,” Wells said.

“It’s a move to undermine gay-straight alliances and has the ability to do real harm to LGBTQ students, who remain amongst one of the most vulnerable groups of students in our schools today.”

The New Democrats said at the time there were some loopholes in the Tory legislation that some schools were using to delay or deny students trying to set up the clubs. That’s why the NDP amended the School Act to take protections for LGBTQ students further.

A flashpoint of the NDP legislation was a prohibition on school officials telling parents if their kids joined the clubs. Last summer, a coalition of faith-based schools, parents and public interest groups lost a bid to have a judge put the law on hold until there is a ruling on its constitutionality.

Commenting on how a UCP government would deal with any pushback from religious schools on gay-straight alliances, Kenney said: “Our approach would be one of co-operation rather than one of confrontation.”

Kenney also said his party would ensure all sex education in the province covered the topic of consent.

Other planks of the United Conservative platform include lifting a cap on charter schools and requiring clear and understandable report cards.

Education funding would be maintained or increased, while at the same time, UCP will seek more efficiency. The NDP’s curriculum review which Kenney has previously threatened to put through “the shredder” if it strayed too far from learning fundamentals — would be put on hold to allow for broader consultations with parents, teachers and experts, Kenney said.

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Ontario’s government to Fund Municipalities




Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government is giving municipalities “transitional funding” next year, even as the province downloads public health and child care costs onto cities.

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement to a packed room of 2,000 mayors, councillors and policy advisors at the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) conference in Ottawa on Monday.

Ford said the funding will give municipalities more time to search for savings, while also helping protect “the future of public services.”

“So you can continue to deliver important services people rely on every day, including public health and child care,” Ford said in a mid-morning speech.

While Ford provided few details on the transitional funding, sources in the Premier’s office said the province is trying to limit the financial hit to municipalities, especially when it comes to public health.

The government will standardize the cost sharing arrangement of local public health units – the province will pay 70 per cent starting in 2020, while municipalities will carry 30 per cent of the burden.

However, government sources said if the public health costs borne by the municipalities were to rise by more than 10 per cent, the province would provide funding to offset the additional amount.

“It provides them more of a cushion for those changes,” the source said.

The costs of creating new child care spaces – currently fully bankrolled by the province – will also be split in 2020, with municipalities taking over 20 per cent, while the province pays the rest.

The government said that cost sharing agreement will eventually grow to a 50/50 split by 2021.

Downloading costs is a top concern for the representatives of 444 municipalities at the AMO conference, with many expressing apprehension about the net effect to their bottom lines.

“We’re a little nervous,” Jerry Smith, a councillor with the Township of Perth East, said.

“We’re not 100 per cent sure of what is going to happen, we’ve had so much downloaded to the municipalities.”

But, Ford stressed that the current fiscal situation of the province, which is carrying a $10.3 billion deficit, is his top priority.

“We can’t continue throwing money at the problem as our predecessors did into top-down, big government schemes,” Ford said.

“That is neither compassionate or sustainable.”

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Elections Canada warns climate change discussion could be partisan




OTTAWA — A pre-election chill has descended over some environment charities after Elections Canada warned them that discussing the dangers of climate change during the upcoming federal campaign could be deemed partisan activity.

An Elections Canada official warned groups in a training session earlier this summer that because Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, has expressed doubts about the legitimacy of climate change, any group that promotes it as real or an emergency could be considered partisan, said Tim Gray, executive director of the advocacy group Environmental Defence.

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier speaks during a candidate nomination event for the upcoming federal by-election in the riding of Outremont in Montreal, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019.

Any partisan activity — including advertising, surveys, or any kind of campaign costing at least $500 — would require a charity to register as a third party for the election, an onerous requirement that could jeopardize a group’s charitable tax status, Gray said.

It is “discouraging” that Environmental Defence and other charities may have to zip their lips about climate change being real during the campaign period “because one party has chosen to deny the existence of this basic fact,” he added.

“Obviously climate change is real,” said Gray. “Almost every credible institution on the planet is telling us to get our act together and do something about it.”

One party has chosen to deny the existence of this basic fact

Last fall, the United Nations climate change panel, made up of hundreds of scientists from around the world, said if the world doesn’t act faster to cut global emissions the planet will face irreversible and catastrophic consequences.

Five of the six political parties expected to have any chance of winning a seat in the upcoming campaign agree that climate change is real and caused by humans. Bernier, however, is the one outlier: he believes that if climate change is real, it is a natural cycle of the earth and not an emergency.

“The main reason for climate change, it is not human activity,” Bernier said Sunday in Gatineau, Que., where his party was holding its first convention.

“There is no climate change urgency in this country.” he said in a speech in June speech. He also disagrees that carbon dioxide, which experts say is responsible for three-quarters of greenhouse emissions globally, is bad.

“CO2 is not ‘pollution,”‘ he tweeted. “It’s what comes out of your mouth when you breathe and what nourishes plants.”

Because of that, Elections Canada is warning that any third party that promotes information about carbon dioxide as a pollutant or climate change as an emergency could be considered to be indirectly advocating against Bernier and his party. Activities can be considered partisan by Elections Canada even if they don’t mention a candidate or party by name, the agency’s rules say.

An Elections Canada spokesman confirmed “such a recommendation would be something we would give.”

Gray says the impact is stifling the conversation about climate change at a critical time.

“At this point, unless I can get greater clarification, after the writ is dropped we would stop doing anything online that talks about climate change, which is our entire mandate,” he said. “You feel you’re being drawn into this space where you’re being characterized as being a partisan entity for putting up Facebook ads that say climate change is real, which seems ridiculous to me.”

Environment groups in Canada are still on edge after spending much of the last five years fighting against the Canada Revenue Agency accusations and worry that if Elections Canada accuses them of being partisan, it will attract another round of audits for partisan activity. Gray said the two may have different definitions of partisan, but the fear is still having a chilling effect.

“We need to ensure that we’re not saying things that are going to be considered to be illegal by Elections Canada.”

Climate change is a scientific fact

It doesn’t mean Gray is forbidden from giving interviews about climate change during the campaign, he said. Rather, it would affect any kind of activity the group undertakes that costs more than $500, such as a Facebook ad campaign.

In 2012, the former Conservative government unveiled a $13-million audit program to seek out charities the Conservatives alleged were abusing their tax status with partisan activities. The probes went after two dozen environment, human rights, anti-poverty and religious groups — none of them considered partisan — for going beyond a rule that limited their spending to no more than 10 per cent of their funding on political advocacy work.

The program was launched as the Conservatives called many environment groups “radical” and a “threat” to Canada.

The Liberals promised to end what they called a “witch hunt” against any civil society groups that opposed the government’s policies. It took more than three years, but eventually legislation was changed last year to lift the 10 per cent limitation. The non-partisan rule, however, remains.

Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network Canada, called the Elections Canada warning “shocking.”

“Climate change is a scientific fact,” she said. “It’s not an opinion.”

The situation is “contributing to ongoing confusion” about what environment charities can and cannot do, and will give fuel to pro-oil groups that want to silence their opponents, Abreu added.

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