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7 sent back to Canada after using library lawn to enter U.S. from Quebec – CTV News Montreal

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DERBY LINE, VT. —
Seven people apprehended after entering Vermont illegally from Quebec by driving across the lawn of a library built in both the United States and Canada were immediately returned to Canada, the U.S. Border Patrol said Thursday.

Surveillance videos released by the Border Patrol shows the car drive by the Haskell Free Library and Opera House on July 4, nearly hitting a car as it turns onto a street in the Vermont community.

Agents apprehended the vehicle a short time later as it headed south on Interstate 91. The occupants were from Canada, France and Romania.

They were returned to Canada under special public health rules intended to minimize the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Haskell Free Library was deliberately built straddling the border in the early 20th century so people from both countries can use it. The entrance is in Vermont and before the library was temporarily closed by the pandemic, Canadians were allowed to enter the United States to visit the library without having to visit a customs post.

Since the border between the two countries was closed by the pandemic to routine border crossers, the area in front of the library has been used by people from both countries who have met friends and families there, talking across the border.

In the Border Patrol video there appears to be a group holding one of those reunions on the other side of the library from where the illegal crossing took place.

The video was recorded by cameras located on utility poles near the library.

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Canadian governments OK settlement with Purdue Pharma over opioid addictions

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VANCOUVER — A proposed $150-million settlement with Purdue Pharma Canada covering all provinces and territories has been reached for the recovery of health-care costs related to the sale and marketing of opioid-based pain medication.

British Columbia Attorney General David Eby said Wednesday that it’s the largest settlement of a governmental health-care cost claim in Canadian history.

The province launched a proposed class-action lawsuit in 2018 against more than 40 drug companies on behalf of all federal, provincial and territorial governments with the aim of recovering health-care costs for the “wrongful conduct of opioid manufacturers, distributors and their consultants.”

Eby said the proposed settlement was accepted by governments across Canada and a plan is being worked on to determine how the money will be divided, based on the impact on each province.

“The money will be going to supporting provincial programs to fight the opioid epidemic that we believe Purdue’s actions contributed to through their deceptive marketing,” he said.

Over 27,000 people died across the country from toxic street drugs between 2016 and September 2021.

“We took this action to recover health-care costs and to hold opioid companies to account for their part in allegedly engaging in deceptive marketing tactics to increase sales, which led to increased rates of addiction and overdose,” Eby told a news conference.

He said the B.C. government is “committed to aggressively pursuing litigation against the other manufacturers and distributors that put profits before people.”

The cost of the opioid epidemic on provincial health-care systems is “likely in the billions of dollars,” Eby said.

“In the United States, the claims amount to trillions of dollars, and have resulted in the bankruptcy of Purdue’s arm in the United States.”

He said Canada faced the possibility of being grouped into a number of unsecured creditor claims within the U.S. bankruptcy proceeding, where the amount available to the entire group is just $15 million.

The B.C. sanctions allowed Canadian jurisdictions to prevent Purdue from liquidating their Canadian operations to pay American claims, which would have left Canada with nothing after U.S. bankruptcy proceedings, he said.

“So in that respect, this is a remarkable accomplishment for British Columbia and all the provinces in Canada to ensure that Canadians see some proceeds from Purdue’s actions in deceptively marketing.”

In the United States, more than 3,000 lawsuits have been filed by governments, unions, hospitals and other entities in an effort to make drug companies, pharmacies and distributors accountable for their role in the opioid crisis.

American businesses, mostly those that sold or made the drugs, have already faced settlements, judgments and civil and criminal penalties totalling more than $47 billion.

British Columbia’s Mental Health and Addictions Minister, Sheila Malcolmson, called the settlement “an important step forward” in the effort to end the province’s toxic drug emergency.

“We know the settlement will not make up for the lives lost, the terrible loss of loved ones in our communities, so our government remains steadfast in its commitment to end the public health emergency,” she said.

Eby said there are many manufacturers, distributors and their consultants that remain named in the litigation.

“And they are on notice by this settlement that we will be pursuing them aggressively.”

Health Canada said the federalgovernment is exploring “all appropriate options to hold companies accountable for (their) role in the overdose crisis if they acted inappropriately in the marketing and distribution of opioids.”

To limit the marketing of opioids directed at health professionals, all opioid advertising material must be vetted by an advertising preclearance agency before it can be used.

“As of June 2019, all promotional materials are required to follow exactly what is in the product monograph. Health Canada is also identifying non-compliant marketing practices and rigorously enforcing the laws as they exist today,” Health Canada said in a written statement.

British Columbia’s application for certification of its class-action lawsuit has been scheduled to be heard in B.C. Supreme Court in the fall 2023.

The province said certification could open the door to further settlements to recover health-care costs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2022.

 

Brieanna Charlebois, The Canadian Press

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Anti-hate group launches online booklet to combat hate among young people

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A few weeks ago, Toronto teacher Nigel Barriffe said he spoke to a young, Black colleague who had entered a classroom after lunch to find a racial slur and swastika etched on a school locker.

“We know that many of our Jewish students and families have had racist epithets thrown at them. We know our Muslim students and families have been under attack for years,” Barriffe said Wednesday.

Barriffe and members of the Canadian Anti-Hate Networktold a news conference about scenarios that are described in a new online booklet that aims to educate parents, teachers and students on how to identify and confront various forms of hate in classrooms and online.

The booklet was created by the network, a group that monitors hate groups and researches extremism in the country. It includes examples from educators and community members across Canada and provides steps on how to support impressionable children.

It describes the ways a parent or teacher can intervene when they believe a student is being radicalized by a hate group. It also includes workshops and defines various extremist ideologies.

Elizabeth Simons, deputy director of the network, said the scenarios increase in severity as you flip through the document.

“Everything in the tool kit is real examples that we have found,” she said.

“You start with anonymous, hate promotion so that could be graffiti, that could be the swastika on the desk. You don’t know who’s behind it, but it’s happening and you have to deal with it.

“Then it escalates all the way to overt (hate groups recruiting students and) organizing within the school community and outside the school community.”

The federal government is spending $35 million on 175 anti-racism projects across the country, including the booklet.

Bernie Farber, chair of the network, said hate crimes involving children and adults have surged and silence is no longer an option.

He said there have been recent hate attacks involving youth, including the beating of a Black Edmonton student allegedly by seven other students who were screaming racial slurs. There have also been numerous cases of students distributing hate-promoting flyers.

“I had a meeting today with the York Region School Board (in Ontario) who indicated to me racial incidents … have gone up to heights that they have not seen before,” said Farber.

“Three times in the last year, pride flags were stolen from school properties and burned, the latest of which occurred only a few weeks ago in Windsor, Ont. Then there are the children who marched across the playground in North Bay, Ont., shouting, ‘Heil Hitler!’”

“There are too many stories about swastikas in high schools to count.”

Ahmed Hussen, the federal minister of diversity and inclusion, said the booklet is available for free online and has been distributed to some schools that conducted workshops on racism.

“Inclusion is a choice that we must make and inclusion is something that we must fight for every single day,” Hussen said.

“As much as we would like to as parents, we can’t shield our children from everything. But we can give them the tools to make the right decisions when they react to real-life situations, whether in person or online.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

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Response to mass shootings should be ‘political and immediate,’ survivor says

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OTTAWA — Former public safety minister Bill Blair was asked yet again Wednesday about whether his government interfered in the investigation into the April 2020 shooting spree in Nova Scotia — a question that has grabbed political attention in Ottawa for over a week.

Blair and the Prime Minister’s Office are accused of pressuring RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki to release details about the type of weapons used by the gunman, with two RCMP officials alleging Lucki told them that information was connected to upcoming gun legislation.

The government announced a ban on assault-style weapons on May 1, 2020, after cabinet approved an order-in-council enacting the changes.

The Conservatives have accused the Liberals of using a tragedy to further their agenda. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement last week that it’s completely unacceptable for a government to “use this horrific act of mass murder to gain support for their gun policy.”

But that’s not how a survivor of another mass shooting sees it.

Heidi Rathjen was a student at Montreal’s École Polytechnique in December 1989 when a gunman murdered 14 women and injured 14 others at the school.

She said the response to mass shootings should be “political and immediate.”

“The Conservatives and the gun lobby have been falling over themselves claiming that the (orders-in-council) were some kind of devious self-serving political move that exploited a tragedy, while for the majority of Canadians banning assault weapons is the right thing to do to prevent mass shootings,” she said in an email to The Canadian Press.

“If it took a tragedy to prompt the government into long-awaited action on gun control, that may be a sad commentary on politics, but it is surely beneficial for public safety.”

Rathjen, who leads an advocacy group called PolySeSouvient, said it “would have loved” for the government to respond immediately to what happened at Polytechnique.

“Unfortunately, it took six years of advocacy before a reasonable gun control law was passed, and victims’ families are still fighting for a complete ban on assault weapons — three decades later.”

Blair said his office worked with the RCMP on the list of banned weapons for months before the announcement, but those conversations had “no nexus” with discussions about the shooting spree.

“The RCMP of course were involved in those discussions from the outset because they are responsible for administering the Canadian Firearms Program,” he said.

Allegations of government interference came to light through evidence released by the public inquiry into the shootings, in written notes from Supt. Darren Campbell and a letter to Lucki written by RCMP strategic communications director Lia Scanlan about a meeting held 10 days after the shootings.

Scanlan’s letter, which was written nearly a year later, said Lucki mentioned “pressures and conversations with Minister Blair, which we clearly understood was related to the upcoming passing of gun legislation.” Scanlan’s perception that the commissioner was under political pressure left her feeling disgusted.

“It was appalling, inappropriate, unprofessional and extremely belittling,” Scanlan wrote.

Lucki has acknowledged she did “express frustration with the flow of information” in the meeting.

Blair and Lucki have denied there was any pressure to release a list of the weapons used in the shooting, and neither they nor the Nova Scotia RCMP revealed that information to the public before it was reported by the media in November 2020.

Former police officer Michael Arntfield says if the alleged interference happened, it’s unclear how it would have impacted operations or the investigation.

But more importantly, he says, the “juicy political scandal” is distracting from what is supposed to be an inquiry into why and how a man disguised as a police officer and armed with illegal weapons was able to evade police and continue killing for more than 13 hours.

“The larger conversation about systemic problems in the RCMP operationally, administratively, has been paved over,” he said.

Blair said he did have questions for Lucki when they spoke, and made a point to note that the government “did hear very clearly concerns from the people of Nova Scotia” about the RCMP’s actions.

He said that’s why the public inquiry — which he initially opposed calling — has been tasked with exploring the RCMP’s communication.

The force released limited information to the public on Twitter during the shootings.

It sent a single tweet on April 18 warning of a “firearms complaint” in Portapique, even though the communications officer on call that night was aware there were multiple people dead and that the gunman’s whereabouts were unknown.

Thirteen people were killed that night and several buildings burned to the ground. The next morning, the gunman took another nine lives as he drove through rural parts of the province, evading police until just before noon.

The inquiry has heard it took 27 minutes to get Scanlan’s approval that morning for a tweet warning the public that the gunman was driving a mock RCMP cruiser and wearing a police uniform.

During that time, Kristen Beaton and Heather O’Brien were murdered on the side of the highway in Debert, N.S. Beaton was pregnant when she was killed. Her husband, Nick Beaton, and O’Brien’s daughter, Darcy Dobson, led the calls for a public inquiry into what went wrong in July 2020.

“When you pulled the oxygen out of (an inquiry) that was assembled at the behest of bereaved families to get answers about what’s wrong with the RCMP, it distracts from the original motivation of the inquiry,” Arntfield said, adding the questions about what went wrong are of “life and death interest to Canadians.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2022.

 

Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press

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