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Street checks banned in Nova Scotia

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Nova Scotia’s justice minister says he will permanently ban street checks after a legal opinion co-authored by a former top judge found the Halifax police practice, which disproportionately targeted black males, is illegal.

“The decision that I’ve come to, based on a number of contributing factors, is we will move to make the moratorium to a permanent ban on street checks,” Justice Minister Mark Furey said Friday.

“It’s reasonable that any Nova Scotian is treated with respect and professionalism.”

Furey’s announcement comes after Michael MacDonald, a former chief justice of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, and Jennifer Taylor, a research lawyer, analyzed the controversial police practice of logging information about people they interacted with or observed.

They wrote in a review released Friday that street checks are not reasonably necessary for police to execute their duties.

“We have concluded that the common law does not empower the police to conduct street checks, because they are not reasonably necessary. They are therefore illegal,” the review says.

The practice came under the spotlight because of a CBC News investigation. That triggered a formal review by criminologist Scot Wortley that revealed black people were street checked at a rate six times higher than white people in Halifax.

‘Interfere with individual liberty’

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission called on MacDonald to offer a legal opinion on street checks, which are different from another controversial practice known as carding.

Friday’s report says street checks are when an officer interacts with or observes someone, and then records personal or identifying information into a database.

“The Wortley report confirms that street checks interfere with individual liberty, and disproportionately affect Black Nova Scotians,” wrote MacDonald and Taylor.

They say street checks are not authorized under the Nova Scotia Police Act, and they also put an individual’s privacy rights in question.

Their review says under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadians have the right to simply walk down the street or spend time in public spaces anonymously. When police document those moments, they’re no longer private.

In April, Furey ordered a moratorium on random street checks.

“We are not aware of the police having any difficulty executing their duties during this time, without the ability to record street checks,” wrote MacDonald and Taylor.

‘Nobody believed us’

MacDonald and Taylor say police still have other tools available, including the ability to gather information at traffic stops or police inquiries into suspicious activity.

“If the police are legitimately concerned for someone’s personal health or safety, that would be an appropriate reason to stop them and ask some questions.”

For Lake Echo resident DeRico Symonds, who organized a large march against street checks in March, the announcement is “a huge win” that’s long overdue.

“The black community was saying, ‘This affected us.’ Nobody believed us. Then it took another white male to validate that,” he said, noting both MacDonald and Wortley are white.

“That it took this amount of effort is absolutely disappointing,” he said. “If folks don’t get their driveway shoveled in Halifax, it’s an uproar, it’s immediate action.”

‘Larger systemic issue’

Symonds intentionally put the hood of his jacket up while doing an interview with CBC News to pay homage to those who have been the target of street checks for wearing a hood.

“We have to look at the larger systemic issue,” he said of ongoing racism.

It’s a comment mirrored by the justice minister.

Furey said since the April moratorium, he’s had many meetings with members of the African-Nova Scotian community. Youth, in particular, are passionate about making change, he said.

“This is about systemic racism in Nova Scotia. We’ll have another continued discussion around that.”

Furey said Friday he will immediately tell police in the Halifax Regional Municipality that the ban is now permanent.

“I anticipate we’ll have continued co-operation,” he said of Halifax Regional Police and RCMP. “Street checks based on race are unacceptable.”

Furey said he hasn’t actually read the report, and was basing his comments on two briefings about its contents. He said he will spend the weekend reading the 92-page review himself.

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Next phase of transit job action to be announced Wednesday

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The union representing striking Metro Vancouver transit workers is set to announce Wednesday the next phase of job action as dozens of Unifor members from the Coast Mountain Bus company prepare to receive strike training.

The union said in a statement the escalation was caused by “a failure by the employer to make new offers at the bargaining table.”

Meanwhile, transit users in Metro Vancouver had a slightly smoother commute Tuesday with no SeaBus cancellations, as the labour dispute entered its 19th day.

TransLink was reporting delays on some bus routes early Tuesday, however, and advised transit users to look up their route at alerts.translink.ca.

“Ultimately, this job action is difficult to anticipate,” TransLink spokesperson Ben Murphy told CBC News Monday.

“That’s sort of how the union has designed this — that’s why they’ve gone with this overtime ban.”

On Monday the network experienced as much as a 10 per cent drop in service due to bus drivers refusing to work extra hours.

Unifor, which represents bus drivers, mechanics and SeaBus operators, says bus drivers will refuse overtime hours again on Wednesday and Friday.

Seeking wage increase

The union said CMBC remains unwilling to discuss wages, a key issue in the dispute, while the company insists its proposal is well above increases offered to other public-sector workers in the province.

Unifor has said they are seeking a wage increase that would bring their workers closer to those in other major regions, like Toronto.

“Currently, the difference is about $2.85 an hour, but Toronto is set to receive another two per cent each in the next two years. So it’s about three dollars an hour,” said Unifor western regional director Gavin McGarrigle.

TransLink spokesperson Jill Drews said it comes down to what the company can afford.

“Money doesn’t come from nowhere, it doesn’t grow on trees and we’ve presented an offer that the region can afford,” she said.

“If we go beyond that, it could mean things like raising fares or raising taxes or cutting service that we’d hoped to roll out through expansion plans.”

Unifor’s overtime ban has so far forced the cancellations of dozens of SeaBus sailings and delayed or cancelled numerous bus routes over the past several week.

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Toronto Star shutting down StarMetro newspapers

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The Toronto Star is shutting down its StarMetro newspapers across Canada.

A Torstar spokesperson tells News media the final print editions in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Halifax will be published Dec. 20, but that digital content will still be available.

“We are going digital-only outside of Ontario as more and more of our commuter readers are using their smartphones, laptops and tablets to access their news on their way to and from work,” Bob Hepburn told CBC News in an email.

“This trend, coupled with a corresponding decline in print advertising volumes, has decreased the need for a free daily commuter newspaper in these cities.”

An internal email sent to staff by Torstar president and CEO John Boynton stated “print advertising volumes have decreased significantly in recent months to levels below those required to make them commercially viable.”

Boynton’s memo, provided to CBC News, suggested 73 employees would be affected by the closures of the papers.

The memo also said there are plans to open new Star bureaus in the coming weeks in Vanouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Halifax that will be staffed by Star journalists. The jobs were going to be posted internally on Tuesday and externally on Wednesday.

CBC News has learned the new digital bureaus will be staffed by five reporters in Vancouver, five reporters in Alberta and one in Halifax.

It was only a year ago the company rebranded its free Metro daily newspapers across Canada. The rebrand included an investment that more than doubled the number of Metro journalists, The Star reported at the time.

By Tuesday afternoon, reporters for the paper were tweeting about the shutdown.

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Thousands of CN Rail employees on strike amid contract talks

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The federal government has urged Canadian National Railway Co. and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference to continue negotiating as the roughly 3,200 conductors, trainpersons and yard workers went on strike.

Labour Minister Patty Hajdu said Tuesday the government is concerned about the impact of a work stoppage on Canadians, but remains hopeful the two sides will reach an agreement.

The rail workers walked off the job after failing to reach a deal by a midnight deadline.

Union spokesperson Christopher Monette said they were still in talks with CN in hopes of reaching a negotiated settlement and ending the dispute as soon as possible.

The union has said passenger rail services in the country’s three biggest cities would not be affected by the strike.

CN workers walk a picket line in Brampton, Ontario, after going on strike shortly after midnight. (Meagan Fitzpatrick/CBC)

It represents workers at commuter rail services including Go Transit in Toronto, Exo in Montreal and the West Coast Express in Vancouver, where passengers would remain unaffected.

The workers, who have been without a contract since July 23, say they’re concerned about long hours, fatigue and what they consider dangerous working conditions.

“We have members out there who are operating trains when they should in fact be resting,” Monette told CBC News after the strike began.

The dispute comes as CN confirmed Friday that it was cutting jobs across the railway as it deals with a weakening North American economy that has eroded demand.

“We are disappointed that the TCRC has initiated strike action which will result in a significant disruption to service,” Janet Drysdale, CN’s vice president of financial planning, said at the Scotiabank Transportation and Industrials Conference on Tuesday.

“We apologize to our customers, but we do appreciate their understanding that safety is always our first priority. Negotiations are expected to continue later today, under the watchful eye of federal mediators.”

Industries react

CN currently handles more than half of all Canadian chemicals production. It is the only railway to service the three major petrochemical centres in North America, which includes the Alberta’s Heartland, the U.S. Gulf Coast and southwestern Ontario.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum producers said in a statement that they are concerned about the strike and “any developments that can negatively impact on the availability of rail capacity, particularly in light of the current shortage of available pipeline capacity relative to oil production in western Canada.”

The association said they will be monitoring the potential impact the strike will have on the industry’s competitiveness.

Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) urged the Canadian government, CN, and Teamsters to work together to prevent serious damage the strike will have on the Canadian economy.

“Fully $38 million worth of industrial chemical products rely on CN’s network to get to their destinations every single day, and … the economic impact of the work stoppage is $1 million per day per facility that is shutdown,” Bob Masterson, chief executive officer of CIAC, said in a statement.

Mining said to be 52.3% of revenue

The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) also expressed “serious concern” regarding the strike and how it will affect the mining sector.

According to the association, the mining industry accounted for 52.3 per cent of rail freight revenue in 2018.

“In the minerals and metals sector, experience has demonstrated that a rail stoppage significantly impacts the ability of companies to bring essential inputs to their mines, and the ability to move mineral products and by-products to downstream customers,” said Pierre Gratton, chief executive of MAC.

“MAC members have advised that this strike will result in a severe reduction or elimination of railway capacity and will trigger the closure of mines with concurrent lay-offs of thousands of employees beginning in a matter of days.”

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