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B.C. agrees to pay $300,000 to couple who say logging flooded their property



Lawyers for the British Columbia government have agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit by a couple whose property flooded after a third of the forest in the surrounding watershed was cut down.

The agreement came in a handwritten note that was signed by the Crown’s lawyers and handed over in court on the day the trial was set to begin last month.

Ray Chipeniuk and Sonia Sawchuk had launched the lawsuit in 2014, claiming that BC Timber Sales, the provincial Crown agency responsible forauctioning about 20 per cent of B.C.’s annual allowable cut, was negligent in its failure to take reasonable care to ensure their property in northwestern B.C. would not be damaged by the logging.

It also alleged the agency committed the civil tort of nuisance by clearcutting the watershed to an “unreasonable extent,” causing flooding and increased flows of water that would continue to affect the plaintiffs’ enjoyment of their property, south of Smithers.

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The province’s 2015 response to the civil claim denies negligence and denies that the province owed the couple a duty of care. It says BC Timber Sales engaged in a planning process “typical for forest operations” in B.C., including assessing conditions at the watershed and engaging a hydrologist to provide advice.

The couple’s lawyer, Ian Lawson, said he had put forward an offer to settle for $300,000. He said he was in B.C. Supreme Courtin Smithers last month, waiting for the trial to begin,when Crown lawyers asked for a pause.

They then gave him the handwritten note agreeing to the $300,000 settlement, subject to final approval, “which counsel for the province undertakes to promptly pursue.”

Lawson described the last-minute decision as “rather dramatic.”

The Forests Ministry declined to comment, saying the matter has not been formally finalized.

The Canadian Press has seen a copy of the offer signed by Crown lawyers.

Chipeniuk, a retired professor of environmental planning at the University of Northern B.C., said in an interview that he and his wife spent years searching for an ideal rural property with land as close as possible to its natural state.

They purchased the 65-hectare property in 2004 and got to work expanding a network of forest trails and gardens to enjoy during their retirement.

Chipeniuk said the landscape is now so saturated he can’t use his tractor in parts of the property and lengthy stretches of trails are unusable for much of the year.

Chipeniuk said that for a year, heraised concerns with BC Timber Sales about the possibility that logging could affect downstream hydrology.

But the cut block was auctioned, and 30per cent of the watershed was logged in 2009.

The property first flooded in 2012, then again in 2018.

The first flood caused a landslide on the property, submerged the couple’s driveway and resulted in the contamination of their well water with E. coli, the lawsuit states.

The floods resulted in the combined loss of more than 160 trees, while reducing the property’s value by an estimated $236,000, according to the plaintiffs.

Chipeniuk said that in addition to the physical damage caused by the flooding,it had left him and his wife feeling what some psychologists call “ecological grief.”

Just about every day, he said, they felt a twinge of depression stemming from the changes the logging and flooding had wrought on the landscape.

Chipeniuk said that based on conversations with previous owners, the property had never had issues with oversaturation or flooding in the 30 years prior to the logging.

After filing their lawsuit, the couple hired Younes Alila, an expert in forest hydrology and professor in the department of forest resources management at the University of British Columbia, to provide evidence about what led to the flooding.

Alila described the evidence that logging was the culprit as a “slam dunk.”

He prepared a 70-page report outlining his conclusion that the clearcutting had “supercharged” flows in the watershed, with snow and snowmelt the the key factor.

The fairly flat, three-square-kilometre watershed lies in the “rain shadow” of B.C.’s coastal mountains, making it a drier environment. Just over half the average annual precipitation of 500 millimetres falls in the form of snow, Alila said.

“The flat topography in the snow environment is very responsive to floods,” he said, with snow in a lower-elevation area melting all at once, and more quickly, than it would on a mountain with lower temperatures at higher altitudes.

The logging changed the composition of the forest, removing half the coniferous trees, another factor influencing snowmelt, Alila said in an interview.

Conifers, which keep their greenery in winter, help collect snow before it reaches the ground and redirect some of that moisture back into the atmosphere through a process called sublimation.The evergreen trees also provide shade, slowing down snowmelt on a sunny day, he said.

“When you remove the (coniferous) trees … it eliminates both the interception of the snow and the shading of the snowpack. It increases the amount of snow accumulating in the cut block, and it increases the energy available for its melting.”

Prior to logging, two-thirds of the watershed was covered by coniferous trees, Alila said, while the rest were deciduous trees that lose their leaves in the winter.

Now, about one-third of the watershed has been logged, one-third is covered by deciduous trees and one-third by the remaining conifers, he said.

Alila said the loss of half of the watershed’s conifers effectively doubled the  impact of the logging rate to 60 per cent in terms of its effect on snow, snowmelt and hydrology.

“The melt used to be desynchronized between the deciduous and the coniferous trees,” he said, meaning it used to happen at different rates and times.

The synchronization of snowmelt induced by the logging amplified the magnitude, duration and the frequency of water flows, especially in the springtime, he said.

It would take decades for the watershed’s hydrology to recover from logging, Alila said, noting his analysis of forest hydrology research in dry, snowy environments uniformly suggested there is little to no recovery in the first 20 years after logging.

Substantial recovery is expected only after 60 to 80 years have passed, he said.

The logging company that cut the trees, Triantha Enterprises Ltd., was also named as a defendant in Chipeniuk’s lawsuit. The company agreed to an earlier settlement, the details of which are subject to a confidentiality agreement, Lawson said.

A settlement isn’t as powerful as a judgment, which could inform cases in the future, Lawson said, but he hoped it would encourage other property owners who may have experienced similar circumstances to explore their options.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 8, 2022.


Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press




Canadian military would be ‘challenged’ to launch a large scale operation: chief of the defence staff





Canada’s military forces are “ready” to meet their commitments should Russia’s war in Ukraine spread to NATO countries, but it would be a “challenge” to launch a larger scale operation in the long term, with ongoing personnel and equipment shortages, according to Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre.

Eyre told Joyce Napier on CTV’s Question Period in an interview airing Sunday that while the forces in Europe are “ready for the tactical mission they’ve been assigned,” he has larger concerns about strategic readiness. He said there’s a lack of people and equipment, and further concern around the ability to sustain a larger scale mission in the longer term.

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The Canadian Armed Forces are still struggling to retain staff, with nearly 10,000 fewer trained personnel than they’d need to be at full force, and equipment stocks below what they require.

“We’ve got challenges in all of those,” Eyre said, adding the numbers reflect what’s been “let slip over decades, as we’ve focused on the more immediate (needs).”

Eyre said Canada’s military would be “hard pressed” to launch another large-scale operation like it had in Afghanistan, as an example, without having to redistribute its resources around the globe, as threats evolve.

“The military that we have now is going to be increasingly called upon to support Canada and to support Canadian interests, to support our allies overseas, but as well at home,” Eyre said, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, climate change impacting the landscape in the Arctic, and an increase in digital and cybersecurity threats.

“It’s always a case of prioritization and balancing our deployments around the globe, not just with what, but when, and with who … and getting that balance right is something that that we’re working on,” he said. “Could we use more? Yeah, absolutely. But we operate with what we have.”

“We prioritize and balance based on what our allies need, and what the demand signals, just to make sure that we achieve the strategic effect the government wants us to achieve,” he also said.

Meanwhile Defence Minister Anita Anand said on CTV’s Question Period last week that Canada should “be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” and balance its NATO commitments with securing the Arctic and promoting peace in the Indo-Pacific.

Eyre said his number one priority is getting Canada’s armed forces up to full strength, with an attrition rate of 9.3 per cent between both regular and reserve forces, up from 6.9 per cent last year. The Canadian Armed Forces Retention Strategy was released just last month.

“We are facing the same challenge that every other industry out there is facing in terms of a really tight labor market,” Eyre said. “Every other military in the West is facing the same challenge.”

He explained the organization is working on streamlining its recruitment process, among other changes, to meet the increasing need, with the goal to get numbers up “as quickly as possible.”

“Ideally, would have been yesterday,” he said. “We’re looking at where we can accelerate the recruiting, the training, and optimizing our training pipeline.”

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How soccer is evolving in Canada




Soccer wasn’t really a thing when I was a kid. I grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s. Sure, we all had soccer balls. And we played a lot of what should be more accurately called, Kick and Run. But I – and all my friends – did not really know the rules, the teams or the players. We might’ve heard of Pelé, but not more than that.

We followed hockey, baseball, football (CFL and NFL) and basketball, in that order. I did occasionally watch soccer on TV, but that was because we didn’t have a lot of channels and the soothing English accents often lulled me to sleep.

Things are much different now. My 13-year-old son is a massive soccer fan. He plays on a team three or four times a week. His schoolmates include a lot of second-generation Canadians, whose parents came from soccer-obsessed nations. He watches Premier League and Championship League matches. He’s watches La Liga and Bundesliga. He watches World Cup qualifiers and could tell me the backstory on most of the players. In fact, he watches classic games on YouTube and plays FIFA22 on his PS4 and as a result, knows more about Pelé than I ever did. But, because of him, I now watch enough football to know a game is a match, a goalie is a keeper and I know which plays end up in corner kicks or throw-ins.

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I once asked him, “How well do you know the Germany national team?” and he said, “Not very well.” He then proceeded to name seven of their 11 starters. It’s a different world.

I still know almost nothing compared to the other soccer dads, but like millions of Canadians, I watched Canada’s qualifying matches and I know we have a great team, with some stellar players who are worth watching. The qualifying matches regularly beat both hockey games and CFL football when it comes to viewership.

But we should care about more than just the matches themselves. The World Cup is one of the biggest and most lucrative sports spectacles on Earth. This will be the first one hosted in the Middle East. And although Qatar may look shiny and new on TV, it’s mired in what many Western nations believe to be medieval and backwards policies on working conditions, LGBTQ2S+ and women’s rights.

Finding people to talk about it in Qatar is NOT easy. One of W5’s goals this week was to talk to migrant workers to describe how they were treated, their living conditions and their labour rights. Most were too afraid to talk to us.

And to confound things, there have been many stories of journalists being detained or arrested for reporting on migrant workers. Last week, a Danish reporter was live on TV from Qatar and when asked what things were like there, he directed his camera operator to pan left – revealing security officials in golf carts, who immediately tried to stop the live hit. The next day Qatari officials apologized, but the message was clear: we can stop you from reporting when we want. It’s a fascinating video that’s been viewed millions of times around the globe.

The Qatari government denies they’ve put any restrictions on media. In a tweet, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy says “several regional and international media outlets are based in Qatar, and thousands of journalists report from Qatar freely without interference each year.”

Not everyone is convinced. Qatar ranks 118 out of 180 countries in the 2022 Press Freedom index, published by Reporters Without Borders. Freedom House, which is a U.S.-based freedom watchdog, gives Qatar a 25 out of 100 score on Global Freedom, which includes freedom of expression. (Canada ranks 98 and the US ranks 83).

A Reuters Institute column from last week on press freedom in Qatar suggests authorities obscure press freedom laws, by hiding behind trespassing laws.

“One of the most common risks when doing journalistic work in Qatar is to be accused of trespassing. This is what Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani of Norwegian state broadcaster NRK were accused of when they were arrested by officers of Qatar’s Criminal Investigations Department in November 2021, while covering World Cup preparations. The journalists were held for over 30 hours before being released without charge. They deny they were filming without permission,” says the article.

A little insider info: I have personally written, “we don’t want you to get arrested, but…” at least twice in correspondence with our team in Qatar. I’ve never encouraged anyone to break the law of course, but sometimes doing our jobs leads police or security into thinking they have a duty (or at least a right) to stop you.

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Don’t have a cow: Senator’s legen-dairy speech draws metaphor from bovine caper



OTTAWA — Haven’t you herd? A dramatic tale of 20 escaped cows, nine cowboys and a drone recently unfolded in St-Sévère, Que., and it behooved a Canadian senator to milk it for all it was worth.

Prompting priceless reactions of surprise from her colleagues, Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne recounted the story of the bovine fugitives in the Senate chamber this week — and attempted to make a moo-ving point about politics.

“Honourable senators, usually, when we do tributes here, it is to recognize the achievements of our fellow citizens,” Miville-Dechêne began in French, having chosen to wear a white blouse with black spots for the occasion.

“However, today, I want to express my amused admiration for a remarkably determined herd of cows.”

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On a day when senators paid tribute to a late Alberta pastor, the crash of a luxury steamer off the coast of Newfoundland in 1918 and environmental negotiators at the recent climate talks in Egypt, senators seated near Miville-Dechêne seemed udderly taken aback by the lighter fare — but there are no reports that they had beef with what she was saying.

Miville-Dechêne’s storytelling touched on the highlights of the cows’ evasion of authorities after a summer jailbreak — from their wont to jump fences like deer to a local official’s entreaty that she would not go running after cattle in a dress and high heels.

The climax of her narrative came as nine cowboys — eight on horseback, one with a drone — arrived from the western festival in nearby St-Tite, Que., north of Trois-Rivières, and nearly nabbed the vagabonds before they fled through a cornfield.

“They are still on the run, hiding in the woods by day and grazing by night,” said Miville-Dechêne, with a note of pride and perhaps a hint of fromage.

She neglected to mention the reported costs of the twilight vandalism, which locals say has cost at least $20,000.

But Miville-Dechêne did save some of her praise for the humans in the story, congratulating the municipal general manager, Marie-Andrée Cadorette, for her “dogged determination,” and commending the would-be wranglers for stepping up when every government department and police force in Quebec said there was nothing they could do.

“There is a political lesson in there somewhere,” said the former journalist.

Miville-Dechêne ended on what could perhaps be interpreted as a butchered metaphor about non-partisanship: “Finally, I would like to confess my unbridled admiration for these cows that have found freedom and are still out there, frolicking about. While we overcomplicate things, these cows are learning to jump fences.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2022.


Marie-Danielle Smith, The Canadian Press



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