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A 'demographic tsunami' is about to make Canada's trucker shortage even worse – CBC.ca

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Trucking runs in Mark Sydorchuk’s blood.

His brother is a trucker. His father was a trucker. And ever since his dad let him back up his first big rig in an empty parking lot when he was 13, there was nothing else Sydorchuk wanted to do.  

“I couldn’t really reach the pedals,” the 25-year-old recalled. “It was scary but, at the same time, awesome. I was in love after that.” 

He’s not exaggerating. Everyone should love their job as much as Mark Sydorchuk. (Just watch the clip below.) 

Why trucking desperately needs new blood

Mark Sydorchuk is the young blood Canadian trucking, which as an industry has one of the oldest demographics in the country, desperately needs. 0:32

Young blood, like Sydorchuk, is something Canada’s trucking industry desperately needs as it faces a serious shortage of qualified drivers that’s only set to get worse. 

As of 2018, the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) estimates that shortage could be as high as 22,000 vacant driver positions across the country. Those vacancies are expected to swell to 34,000 by 2024, thanks to an inability to recruit enough young people or women to replace aging drivers. 

“It’s been described as a demographic tsunami,” said Jon Blackham, the OTA’s director of policy and public affairs.

“Trucking has one of the oldest workforces in the entire economy and, at the same time, there is a declining share of young people willing to get into the industry.”

Cost, U.S. age restrictions are barriers to young people

That few young people seem to be willing to take up the trade might seem counterintuitive. Not only does trucking pay well — salaries range from $44,000 to $110,000 — it also offers those behind the wheel a life of travel, where they can get paid to see large swaths of North America. 

To become a qualified driver, students must complete an eight-week course, which costs about $8,000 and grants them a licence in the province where they’re registered upon graduation.

Gus Rahim is the president of the Ontario Truck Driving School based in London, Ont. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

While it might sound attractive to someone looking to take a few years off between high school and college or university, very few young people ever sign up to take a course, according to Gus Rahim, the president of the Ontario Truck Driving School, based in London, Ont.

“A lot of the people getting into it are looking at a second career. They’re a little older, anywhere from say 40 to 65, and these are the ones who are coming into the industry now.”

Rahim said he believes the reason trucking has problems attracting young blood is partly due to the age restrictions in the United States, where drivers must be at least 21 to haul cargo across state lines. As a precaution, most American shippers want their drivers to be at least 23. 

Gus Rahim explains the financial barriers to young people becoming a trucker. 0:25

In Canada, where most drivers only have to be 18, that’s a problem. Most truckers who starting their careers cut their teeth on long-haul jobs where crossing the U.S. border is common. It means any Canadian who starts at 18 has to wait at least three years to work in the United States. 

That wait is too long for most, Rahim said. 

“By the time they go from 18 to 21, a lot of them have already tried careers, they’ve tried something and maybe they’ve stuck with it and it’s very hard to get them to change their mind at that time.” 

The other barrier, according to Rahim, is cost. For young people, many of whom work minimum-wage jobs, the $8,000 tuition cost can be hard to come by.

In Ontario, where more than half of Canada’s trucking companies are based, prospective students can’t apply for loans under the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to help pay their tuition — something Rahim wants to see the provincial government change.

Why trucking can’t recruit women

The other problem facing trucking is the recruitment of women.

Historically, women have made up only three per cent of all truck drivers, according to the Ontario Trucking Association. More recent estimates put that figure anywhere from five to seven per cent, thanks to OTA networking events aimed at recruiting women and raising their profile within the industry.

Still, the OTA said the number of women behind the wheel isn’t growing as fast as they would like. One reason for that might lie with women themselves, according to Carole Dore, an instructor with the Ontario Truck Driving School.

“I think it’s because they don’t think they can do it,” she said. “Anybody can do this job — it’s not just a man’s world anymore.”

Truck driving school instructor Carole Dore, who drove a truck for 11 years, explains why she thinks women are such a rarity in the trucking business. 0:26

Dore, a mother of three, worked as a truck driver for 11 years; she got her start driving a school bus for a year, then decided to move up to a bigger ride.

She did mostly local jobs, hauling freight between cities, sometimes taking cargo to Grand Rapids, Mich., or Toledo, Ohio. Her longest trips were 10 to 12 hours, leaving her enough time to see her children every day. 

“It was important for me to be there for them,” she said. “I made it home every day.”

Trucking is not always an easy life

Yet women like Dore remain more the exception than the rule when it comes to driving trucks, which might be because it’s not a career for everyone, some drivers acknowledge.

Doug Groulx, an Ontario truck driver with 29 years experience on the road, said most people don’t want the job because it takes you away from your family, including during holidays.

“We don’t get Canada Day off if it falls on a Monday. You have to go to work,” he said, citing one example. “Maybe they don’t want to miss out on that.”

For Groulx, that isn’t a problem; he has no children and has never been married. But he said he has plenty of colleagues who are — and they depend on strong relationships with their partners. 

“I guess you have to work with your partner,” he said. “You have to have that understanding that you’re going to be gone for five days. 

“I wouldn’t call it a hard life but you have to put your time in,” he said. “I don’t have any regrets.”

To become a qualified driver, students must complete a course that can take up to two months and cost upward of $8,000. (CBC)

The same rings true for bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Mark Sydorchuk. As earnest as he is, even he understands that trucking isn’t always easy.

“It’s demanding. Not many people like that kind of job because you [have] got to sit there for hours and look out the window. It gets boring and lonely at times,” he said. “Some people like the job, some people don’t.”

Yet we all still depend on trucks, with almost everything we own getting shipped by truck — something that could become problematic if the industry doesn’t solve its driver shortage. But it’s a problem that Sydorchuk believes could be solved easily.

“If loads start paying more, they’ll see more drivers,” he said. “While they’re paying really cheap for loads out there, no one’s going to want to do the job.

“They don’t get paid enough.” 

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Senegalese diplomat arrested by Quebec police owed former landlord more than $45,000

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MONTREAL — The detention and alleged beating of a Senegalese diplomat by Quebec police last week occurred while a bailiff was attempting to seize property at her residence in connection with a court judgment against her.

Quebec’s rental board in June ordered Oumou Kalsoum Sall to pay a former landlord more than $45,000 for damage to a furnished home she occupied from Nov. 1, 2018, to Oct. 31, 2020. The tribunal found that she caused flooding that led to structural damage and that her use of the property forced its owner, Michel Lemay, to replace most of his furniture.

“The pictures speak for themselves,” Anne A. Laverdure, an administrative judge, wrote in her ruling. “The furniture is full of cockroaches. Pieces of furniture are scratched and scuffed. Some are missing. Everything is dirty.”

Laverdure awarded Lemay almost $13,500 for structural damage to the home and $23,000 to replace furniture. The administrative judge awarded Lemay another several thousand dollars for other damages.

Court records show that the debt was not paid and that a bailiff went to Kalsoum Sall’s residence in Gatineau, Que., across the river from Ottawa, on Aug. 2 to seize property in connection with the debt.

Kalsoum Sall is a first counsellor at the embassy of the Republic of Senegal in Ottawa, according to a federal government database of foreign delegations. The Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has claimed that the diplomat had to be hospitalized after being handcuffed and beaten by police.

Quebec’s independent police watchdog said Monday it opened an investigation into the incident. Gatineau police have said that they were called to the residence to assist a bailiff and that they arrested a woman with diplomatic status after she allegedly hit a police officer in the face, adding that she was tackled to the ground after allegedly biting another officer.

Global Affairs Canada has described the incident as “unacceptable,” adding that the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations — which Canada has signed — gives diplomats immunity from any form of detention or arrest.

Gilles Rivard, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations and to Haiti, said that while he doesn’t know exactly what happened during the Aug. 2 incident, some diplomats can be aggressive because they believe there will be no consequences for their actions.

“They can be aggressive because they know that they have immunity, so they believe that they can do whatever they want,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

While police are not officially supposed to arrest a diplomat, Rivard said, it’s possible a police officer might handcuff an individual while they wait to confirm the person’s diplomatic status.

“But if after that, that person shows that she is a diplomat, or he is a diplomat, normally they have to be released,” he said.

In 2001, a Russian diplomat struck and killed a woman while driving in Ottawa. The Canadian government asked Russia to waive the diplomat’s immunity so he could be charged in Canada, but Russia refused, Rivard said, adding that Canada’s only option in that case was to expel the diplomat.

Rivard said he doesn’t think the Aug. 2 incident is serious enough to damage Canada’s very good relationship with Senegal.

The Senegalese Embassy in Ottawa did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Tuesday afternoon. A call to the embassy was not answered.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.

 

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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Alberta awards prize to essay that argues women should pick babies over careers

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EDMONTON — Alberta has awarded a prize to an essayist who argues the sexes are not equal and that women should pick babies over careers to avoid the province having to import more foreigners and risk “cultural suicide.”

The United Conservative government removed the essay from its legislature website Tuesday following an outcry of condemnation.

Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk — Alberta’s associate minister for the Status of Women and also the contest organizer and one of the judges — also distanced herself from the entire affair.

“The essay contest was intended to reflect a broad range of opinions from young Alberta women on what democracy means for them,” Armstrong-Homeniuk said in a statement.

“While the essay in question certainly does not represent the views of all women, myself included, the essay in question should not have been chosen.”

Armstrong-Homeniuk was not made available for an interview.

Her office declined to say who else sat on the judging committee and how and why the essay was chosen.

The contest advertised that essays would be judged by Armstrong-Homeniuk and other legislature members but did not specify names.

Armstrong-Homeniuk was appointed to the cabinet post in June but has been the face of the contest since it was introduced in February.

The “Her Vision Inspires” contest challenged women ages 17 to 25 to describe their ideas for a better Alberta.

The top two essays suggest ways to get more women, and the public in general, involved in public life.

The third-place winner — identified only as S. Silver — won a $200 prize to be spent at the legislature gift shop.

Silver’s essay posits that the governing mission of humanity is to reproduce itself, but that Alberta has lost its way to instead pursue “selfish and hedonistic goals.”

The solution, she argues, is to acknowledge that “women are not exactly equal to men.”

Society, she writes, should celebrate and embrace the birthing role of women and stop pushing them to put off prime procreation years while they “break into careers that men traditionally dominate.”

She says the idea that Alberta can put off procreation and instead “import foreigners to replace ourselves … is a sickly mentality that amounts to a drive for cultural suicide.”

Opposition NDP critic Rakhi Pancholi said Armstrong-Homeniuk owes the public a full explanation of how this view was not condemned but honoured and rewarded.

“Sexism, racism, hate — this is not what any government should be celebrating, yet increasingly these views are becoming acceptable in this UCP government, and even now applauded,” Pancholi told reporters.

Pancholi zeroed in on the “cultural suicide” reference, likening it to 1930s Nazi Germany urging women to be baby vessels to propagate the Aryan race.

“This is an absolutely reprehensible claim. It is a nod to the racist replacement theory that drives white nationalist hate,” she said.

The contest was run through the legislative assembly office, which is headed up by Speaker Nathan Cooper.

Cooper’s office, in a statement, said the contest was conceived and administered by Armstrong-Homeniuk in her role as regional chair of the Commonwealth Women’s Parliamentarians group.

“Neither the Speaker’s office nor the legislative assembly office were involved with the selection of the essays in any capacity, including who was on the MLA panel judging the contest,” said the statement.

“As soon as the content of the third-place winner was brought to the Speaker’s attention, he immediately made the decision for the content to be removed.

“The content is abhorrent and does not reflect the views of the Speaker or the legislative assembly office.”

Three candidates in the race to replace Premier Jason Kenney as party leader and premier also took to Twitter to criticize the award.

“It’s a disgrace that an essay saying women are not equal to men won an award sponsored by government. Women, and their contributions, are equally valuable and amazing whether we are moms or not. Can’t believe this needs to be said,” wrote Rebecca Schulz.

Rajan Sawhney followed up, writing, “Agree, Rebecca. Same goes for the comments about ‘foreigners.’ Alberta is the proud home of people from all over the world — from Ukraine, to the Philippines, and everywhere in between.”

Leela Aheer said, “Well, I read 1st and 2nd place (essays). Those were great! I’m not sure how the 3rd essay elevates women.”

Lise Gotell, a women’s and gender studies professor at the University of Alberta, said the essay perpetuates an essentialist, sexist and racist point of view stemming from the long discredited and outdated concept that a women’s role is to reproduce as a bulwark against immigration.

“The fact that it was chosen says a great deal about the views on appropriate gender roles being advanced by this government,” said Gotell in an interview.

“This essay reads like something that quite frankly could’ve been written in the 19th century.”

—  With files from Angela Amato in Edmonton

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.

 

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Two miners trapped in Dominican Republic rescued with help from Canada

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OTTAWA — Defence Minister Anita Anand says two miners who were trapped in an underground mine for 10 days in the Dominican Republic have been rescued with the help of Canada.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Anand said the Royal Canadian Air Force transported mining equipment to Santo Domingo following a request for assistance from the Dominican government.

Two miners with the Dominican Mining Corporation, known as Cormidom, had been trapped since July 31 in an underground mine.

According to a news release from the Dominican Republic Embassy on Saturday, Canada was expected to send over a mining excavation system made up of machines, tools and various rescue technologies.

The statement says the equipment was provided by Machines Roger International, a mining company based in Val-d’Or, Que.

Anand thanked the Royal Canadian Air Force personnel involved in the mission who arrived in the Dominican Republic on Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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