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Justin Trudeau reminds Canadians what’s worth being angry about

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First, a confession: A few weeks ago, I lied on the CBC’s At Issue panel — or, at least, I delivered a partial truth. Asked by host Ian Hanomansing whether the SNC-Lavalin affair made me angry, I answered that I don’t do anger because it gets in the way of thinking clearly.

That was true as far as the crisis that has been dominating Canadian politics is concerned.

Over the six weeks of the SNC-Lavalin saga, I have been curious as to its root cause and saddened by the deterioration of the relationship between the prime minister and two of the talented women he recruited in the last election.

I have also been somewhat bewildered by the fact that those who seem to have arrived at the unshakable conclusion that Justin Trudeau is guilty of mortal sins against the justice system have often been the most vociferous in arguing that Canadians do not yet have all the facts they need to make up their minds.

But this week, for the first time, I did feel real anger and, notwithstanding my answer on the CBC, this column is partly written in anger.

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I was a junior radio news editor in the Toronto newsroom of Radio-Canada when I first heard about the mercury poisoning of the Indigenous communities of Grassy Narrows and White Dog.

The story surfaced in the early 1970s, a time when Canada was still relatively innocent about damages to the environment. Ontario’s ministry of the environment was only a few years old, and the federal government would not have a stand-alone department until the end of that decade.

The notion that entire communities could be contaminated with a deadly poison because of air they breathed, the water they drank or, in this case, the fish they depended on for food, was foreign to many of us.

The Japanese though already had a name for what ailed the two Northwestern Ontario communities. They called it Minamata disease from the name of the bay whose mercury-contaminated waters had devastated the health of the communities that fished them.

When Japanese experts first visited Grassy Narrows and Whitedog and found evidence that a similar health crisis was underway, then-Ontario Natural Resources minister Leo Bernier dismissed them as “Japanese troubadours.”

More than 40 years have elapsed since the July morning when I edited reports about the mercury contamination of the English-Wabigoon river system. I am confounded by the notion that the issue is as alive today as it was then, and by what that says about how this country fails its Indigenous peoples.

Canada has had more than half-a-dozen prime ministers since the situation came to light under Pierre Trudeau’s government, and more than 20 ministers of the environment and Indian Affairs.

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Over the same period, Ontario has been governed by parties of three political stripes, including some who professed deep commitments to the environment and/or to the welfare of the First Nations.

And still those Indigenous communities struggle with the consequences of mercury poisoning and have to fight for every inch of government help they get.

For years, they were told the river would eventually clean itself. It did not.

It was only two years ago that a medical centre was promised to the community.

The CBC and the Star, to name just two media organizations, have devoted journalistic resources to document and keep this story in the public eye for decades.

And so, when the prime minister — with the general approval of the well-heeled party donors he was rewarding with his presence on Wednesday night — sarcastically dismissed an Indigenous rights activist who had paid her way into his fundraising venue to call his attention to the enduring plight of the people of Grassy Narrows, his performance was beyond words.

Trudeau did not even have the excuse — used by leader of the opposition Andrew Scheer to explain why he let patently false assertions connecting Hillary Clinton to a child sex ring stand at a recent town hall — of not having heard the protest or known what it was about.

The demonstrator unfurled a banner in his face.

Trudeau’s behaviour was out of character. He has since apologized publicly.

Read more:

Trudeau apologizes for sarcastically dismissing Grassy Narrows demonstrators at Liberal fundraiser in Toronto

His put-down could be construed as a symptom of the impact the SNC-Lavalin affair is having on his performance. There is no doubt the prime minister has increasingly looked anchorless over the course of the ongoing crisis.

Trudeau coupled his apology with a commitment to turn more of his attention to the Grassy Narrows predicament. Maybe he will. But he is hardly the first to make promises.

Would it make a difference if we expended as much energy on keeping his feet to that fire as we have on pursing every SNC-Lavalin angle? I don’t know.

But I am somewhat thankful to the prime minister for having reminded me that some matters are more worth being profoundly angry about than others.

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Singh says Liberals must demonstrate willingness to work together

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh meets with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on Nov. 14, 2019.

Jagmeet Singh said Thursday he is hopeful the New Democrats can find common ground with the Liberals in the minority Parliament and suggested the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois are less than ideal dance partners for the Trudeau government.

Mr. Singh, who leads a caucus of 24 MPs, said Thursday he will look for indicators in the Dec. 5 Throne Speech that demonstrate a willingness to work together.

The commitments he’s looking for include a single-payer universal pharmacare system, national dental care, a commitment to fighting the climate crisis in a “meaningful way” and a pledge to drop an appeal of a human-rights tribunal decision on Indigenous children, Mr. Singh said.

“What I want to make very clear is the Liberal government has to work with parties to pass bills,” Mr. Singh told reporters after meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday morning.

“There’s no question about that.”

The Prime Minister, who was reduced from a majority government to a minority in the Oct. 21 election, has been meeting with other party leaders this week on Parliament Hill to assess what each is looking for in this Parliament and where he may see eye-to-eye with them.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants New Democrats to support his minority government, the Liberals will have to move toward universal pharmacare and dental coverage and respect other NDP priorities as well. Trudeau is meeting each opposition leader in turn as he begins planning how to hold on to power without command of the House of Commons. The Canadian Press

He met with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer on Tuesday and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet on Wednesday.

In his meeting, Mr. Scheer urged Mr. Trudeau to study the implementation of an east-west energy corridor to address national-unity challenges and also called for tax cuts, the cancellation of new environmental-assessment rules and funding for Toronto subway expansions.

Mr. Blanchet said Wednesday he looks forward to collaborating with the Liberal minority on issues that affect Quebeckers, including more financial help for the elderly and a compensation plan for dairy farmers. He also warned he would not shy away from opposing measures that go against Quebec’s interests or infringe on provincial autonomy.

Canadians expect parties to work together to serve them according to their priorities, Mr. Trudeau said Thursday.

“We’re very much focused on working with all parties in the House,” he said.

Mr. Trudeau also indicated areas where the Liberals see shared priorities with the NDP including the fight against climate change, the need to tackle affordability issues such as housing, growing the economy in ways that help everyone, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and improving the health-care system.

Mr. Singh said Thursday he hopes the Prime Minister will choose to work closely with the New Democrats on national, progressive programs and cited pharmacare as an example.

The Conservatives are not interested in rolling out such a program, Mr. Singh said, adding that the Bloc doesn’t have an interest in delivering plans that benefit Canadians across the country because they are “not a national party.”

Mr. Singh said Mr. Trudeau will have to work with him if he has any interest in delivering national, progressive programs.

“And if he’s going to work with me, it [pharmacare] is going to be universal,” he said. “It is going to be public.”

Mr. Singh said he is willing to be constructive with Mr. Trudeau, but vowed that he won’t do this “blindly” to avoid another election. The NDP is deeply in debt.

He said he is ready to head back to the polls, adding he will work for the nearly three million Canadians who voted for the New Democrats.

“But by no means does that mean I’m beholden in any way to working with the Liberals,” he said. “I have a job which is to fight for Canadians.”

“I am hoping that they are prepared to work with us.”

Mr. Singh has left the door open to voting against the Throne Speech, but he hasn’t identified specific issues that would prompt such a move.

By Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

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Cloverdale pastor found guilty on one sex charge

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A Cloverdale pastor has been found guilty on one count of sexual assault, while his wife has been acquitted on all counts.

Samuel Emerson was a pastor at Cloverdale Christian Fellowship Church for eight years.

Emerson was being tried on five counts of sexual assault, two counts of touching a young person for a sexual purpose, and one count of sexual interference.


What did church know about B.C. pastor accused of sexual assault?

His wife Madelaine was charged with two counts of sexual assault, one count touching a young person for a sexual purpose and one count of threats to cause death or bodily harm.

A publication ban was in effect to protect the identities of the victims.

“I was kind of overwhelmed by it all, I know everybody involved, and its the first time to hear a lot of the circumstances,” said Emerson’s father, Randy, the church’s senior pastor.

“So, it’s been a long two and a half years for us, and lots of hurt all the way around.”

Many members of the church were in attendance at the Surrey court room where the verdict was delivered, some of them expressing disappointment with the result.

Emerson will be sentenced at a later date, and remains free from custody on court-ordered conditions.

The offences were alleged to have occurred between 2015 and 2017.

Randy Emerson told Global News in a previous interview the incidents were alleged to have taken place off church grounds.

Randy also previously told Global News that Samuel resigned his position upon his arrest.

He said the family’s five children had been living with their grandparents after their parents’ arrest.

With files from Catherine Urquhart

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Ron MacLean ponders his future

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He’s been called Judas. Pontius Pilate. Brute, too.

But while Ron MacLean has heard these references, he said there is only one truth when it comes to how he feels about Donald S. Cherry.

“I love Don,” he said.

You can tell from his voice these have not been easy days for MacLean. He’s worrying about the well-being of his close friend and the criticism he has faced for his response after last week’s controversial Coach’s Corner broadcast.

They have, after all, been partners for 35-years on Coach’s Corner until Remembrance Day when Cherry was fired by Sportsnet for saying “you people who come here” should wear poppies to honour the troops who provided this way of life and freedom.

MacLean took to Twitter, as well as appearing on the Sunday night Hometown Hockey broadcast, to apologize.

But he had no idea he would never appear with Cherry on Coach’s Corner again.

“It all happened so fast. I wish we could have had another day,” he said.

And now he is faced with trying to figure out what comes next?

He spent Wednesday at CBC headquarters meeting with Sportsnet brass and producers to work on just that.

“I am doing some thinking,” MacLean said Wednesday. “I am taking these days to sort and order what I will say Saturday.”

It’s going to be interesting to see how Hockey Night in Canada is going to handle that first intermission. It’s a massive hole to fill.

My suggestion is for everybody to stop trying to sink this ship.

I am hoping saner heads will prevail and we can get Coach’s Corner back where it belongs.

Forgive Don for a minor faux pas. Forgive Ron for his reactions in what was clearly a difficult time.

Make amends to those who feel hurt by what they think Cherry was trying to say.

And then get back to entertaining the audience on Saturday night.

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