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B.C. man says old-growth protests escalating after brief hospitalization



NANAIMO, B.C. — A British Columbia man says he was briefly hospitalized on the 24th day of a hunger strike to protest old-growth logging but plans to go without food until the end of the month before joining others in escalating action against the government.

Howard Breen, 68, said a “death-watch team” at his home in Nanaimo noticed he was experiencing blurred vision, loss of balance due to low blood pressure and back pain around the kidneys before an ambulance was called early Sunday morning.

He said a doctor and his daughter, a cardiac nurse, determined late Saturday that he needed medical attention because he was at risk of suffering kidney or heart damage.

“We had a vote, and I abstained,” he said Sunday. “All I said is, ‘Just please let me go as far as I can take it.’”

Breen, a member of the group Save Old Growth, said his condition deteriorated after he stopped drinking liquids on Thursday, but he was back to drinking herbal teas after spending three hours in hospital.

His decision to get medical treatment was “based on science,” he said, “something that the current government isn’t acting on in respect to the climate and the forests.”

Breen said Forests Minister Katrine Conroy spoke with him and fellow hunger striker Brent Eichler by phone on Friday but refused to have a Zoom meeting that would be recorded and available to the public.

Conroy said the government recently announced the deferral of nearly 1.7 million hectares of old growth in partnership with First Nations. The province is moving forward with recommendations of an old-growth strategic review that received input from four months of public engagement, she added.

“I am concerned about the health of Mr. Breen and Mr. Eichler. I urge them to put their health first as our government continues the important work to protect B.C.’s rarest and most ancient forests,” she said in a written statement.

Breen said activists are planning a “citizens’ arrest” of Conroy at a Council of Forest Industries conference in Vancouver next week.

Premier John Horgan could also be targeted as part of the group’s efforts to stop all old-growth logging, what they consider “crimes against humanity and nature,” he said.

“It’s not a physical execution of a citizens’ arrest warrant,” Breen said.

Police will be urged to make the arrests, the same tactic he and other members of the group Extinction Rebellion tried against then-federal environment minister Catherine McKenna in 2019 when she made an announcement in the Victoria area.

However, Breen said police arrested him after he took out some zip ties like those officers had previously used to take protesters into custody. He was not charged because the point was for police to make the arrest, Breen added.

“In the minds and hearts of Canadians we are stepping up the consciousness-altering mindset that we are empowered to uphold our democracy and our rights.”

Thirty-three other activists with Save Old Growth planned to join the hunger strike until the end of April, Breen said.

Two members of the group were arrested last week after allegedly chaining themselves to a 227-kilogram barrel placed in the middle of the Trans-Canada Highway on Vancouver Island.

“We only allow those types of actions with the most seasoned activists because it’s not the faint of heart who can be that vulnerable,” Breen said, adding any actions aimed at having “the most highest level of success” will remain non-violent.

Save Old Growth activists have also blocked other major highways and bridges, drawing the ire of some motorists.

Eichler, 57, who said he has been on a hunger strike for 31 days, noted the group is not asking for an end to all logging in B.C.

“We need to have houses for people and that sort of thing. But we can’t keep cutting down the very small amount of old growth that’s left in our ecosystem,” he said.

“Once they’re gone it will be like the cod (fishery) on the East Coast. The governments were warned by the scientists that the cod were going to disappear. We still don’t have a commercial fishery in Eastern Canada, to this day, decades later.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2022.

— By Camille Bains in Vancouver


The Canadian Press


Canada Day: Celebrations moving from Parliament Hill | CTV News – CTV News Ottawa



There will be Canada Day celebrations in-person for the first time in three years this July, but they won’t be happening on Parliament Hill.

The Canada Day main stage will be at LeBreton Flats park just west of downtown Ottawa this year, Canadian Heritage said in a news release Monday.

“The Centre Block Rehabilitation project means the Canada Day main stage is moving to a new location in the heart of the capital,” the release said.

However, it added that “the iconic Parliament Hill will feature some activities.” No further details were provided on what activities Parliament Hill would host.

Parliament Hill has been the site of the Canada Day main stage for more than 50 years.

But this July 1, LeBreton Flats will host the daytime ceremony and evening show, among other activities. Another new location, the Place des festivals Zibi, will “feature programming for the whole family,” the release said.

Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill has been closed to vehicle traffic since the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests occupied downtown Ottawa for three weeks in January and February. The road is typically closed for Canada Day celebrations.

Canada Day celebrations were held virtually the past two summers because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, officials had been planning to move the Canada Day main stage to nearby Major’s Hill Park due to the construction planned on the Hill.

The Centre Block construction project is expected to be finished between 2030 and 2031. The $5-billion project is the largest and most complex rehabilitation project in Canadian history.

No one from Canadian Heritage was avaible for an interview with CTV News.

Yasir Naqvi is the Member of Parliament for the area that includes Parliament Hill.

“It is really exciting that the live Canada Day show is back after two years of being virtual because of the pandemic – it is taking place at Lebreton Flats because of the construction that is taking place on Parliament Hill,” he said.

“Because of the construction that is taking place at Centre Block it is just logistically impossible to put a stage and all the infrastructure that goes with putting a full-on Canada Day show, so Canadian Heritage has made the decision to move it to Lebreton Flats where there is ample space, not only for the stage, but also space to accommodate people.”

Naqvi couldn’t say how long it might be before Canada Day celebrations return to the hill.

“I don’t have a precise answer to that. It is my understanding that it may be the case for the next few years because of the construction that is taking place that Canada Day will be at another location like we are doing this year at Lebreton Flats for 2022,” he explained.

“From a health and safety perspective, you have to keep it safe, you have to bring in large trucks to set up staging and everything that goes into putting on a very robust show for the entire day, back offices, space for artists, lighting, that is why the decision was made to move it to Lebreton Flats.”

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'Canada is not immune,' leading Black voices say in response to Buffalo mass shooting –



Members of the Black community in Canada on Monday are warning this country is also vulnerable to hate crime as they react with shock and horror to Saturday’s bloodshed in Buffalo that left 10 Black people dead.

“Canada is not immune to it,” Velma Morgan, the chair of Operation Black Vote Canada, told CBC News Monday. 

“We’ve seen what happened at different places of worship, we see what happens in London, Ont., we’re definitely not immune to it at all.”

Payton Gendron, 18, is accused of a racist rampage after he crossed the state to target people at the Tops Friendly Market in one of Buffalo’s predominantly Black neighbourhoods. He had talked about shooting up another store as well, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told CNN.

Authorities in Buffalo are working to confirm the authenticity of a 180-page manifesto posted online, which identifies the accused by name as the gunman. It cites the “great replacement theory,”‘ a racist ideology that has been linked to other mass shootings in the United States and around the world.

Velma Morgan, chair of Operation Black Vote Canada, says she was horrified when she heard and saw the news of the Buffalo shooting. (David Chang Photography)

Referring to a Statistics Canada report, which says hate crimes against Black Canadians increased by 96 per cent over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Morgan says Canadians should “absolutely” be concerned when it comes to tolerance and diversity.

“We definitely have to be very conscious of [hate crimes against Black people] and we have to, I think, pre-empt it,” Morgan said. 

“We need to start doing things to prevent that kind of behaviour here.” 

‘It’s just horrifying’

Morgan says she was horrified when she heard of, and saw, the news of the Buffalo shooting. 

“Just to think that on Saturday, people are doing their shopping, as we all do on a Saturday morning … And to think they were shot, killed simply because they were Black. It’s just horrifying,” she said.

“He didn’t just turn up at a store. He planned it. He planned to go to this place because he knew and probably had been there before. He knew that the majority of people there were Black. It was a Black community,” Morgan added.

“His alleged manifesto talks about Black people and our inferiority and all the things that he thinks are wrong with us. So, you know, it’s systemic racism, it’s a lack of education within the school system, educating people on people’s rights and people’s worth.”

Amanda Bartley, a human behaviour researcher and a board member with Family Service Toronto, says Black people experience fresh trauma whenever there’s an attack like the one in Buffalo.

“It’s super traumatizing to see your people gunned down and murdered, whether it’s at the hands of a civilian or even the police,” she said.

Amanda Bartley, a human behaviour researcher in Toronto, says Black people experience fresh trauma whenever there’s an attack like the one in Buffalo. (Submitted by Amanda Bartley)

Bartley says Canadian leaders need to “call out white supremacy … and be much more proactive in addressing hate crimes and far right violence before it even occurs.” 

“It feels like we’re constantly tiptoeing and we’re stopping short of saying that we have a white supremacist problem,” she said.

Birgit Umaigba, an ICU nurse in Toronto, took issue with a tweet by Catherine McKenna, Canada’s former minister of the environment and climate change, who said she was “feeling very fortunate to live in Canada — a diverse and tolerant country that values freedom while respecting human rights.”

“First of all, that was very distressing to read because it was so void of any empathy for the people that had just lost their lives,” Umaigba said.

“I’m not sure which Canada they are talking about, because for me and people who look like me, it is daily racism. Canada has this notion of always so tolerant and welcoming. We are diverse but it is so not true. It’s daily racism here, the institutions are steeped in so much racism.”

She too says Canadians “should be worried.”

“There’s so many examples: the London truck attack … A white supremacist ran into an entire Muslim family and killed them,” Umaigba said.

“The Quebec mosque shooting happened five years ago, so what are we talking about?” she said, referring to a shooting that claimed the lives of six people during prayers at a mosque in Quebec City in 2017.

“People are flying Confederate flags in their houses as we speak right now.”

Birgit Umaigba, a registered nurse who specializes in critical care and emergency medicine, says: ‘We carry this burden right now of the Buffalo shooting.’ (Submitted by Birgit Umaigba)

Umaigba says the burden should not be on Black people alone to both suffer and combat racism.

“We need white people to step up. We are suffering because of that. Yes, there are good ones. I’m not saying that all white people are racist but we need the good ones, the allies, the co-conspirators, to step up and do the work,” she said. 

“A lot of us are not OK. We carry this burden right now of the Buffalo shooting,” Umaigba added.

‘White folks have work to do too’

Amie Archibald-Varley lives in Binbrook, a community in southeastern Hamilton about 90 kilometres from Buffalo. 

Like Umaigba, Archibald-Varley says “white folks have work to do too” and is encouraging white people to talk about the shooting with their colleagues, spouses and children. 

“Hate is not something that is innate, it is learned, it is taught,” she said.

“We also need to talk about how we can educate about racism within our school systems. I think that’s hugely important,” she said.

Amie Archibald-Varley says ‘white folks have work to do too’ to combat racism. (Submitted by Amie Archibald-Varley)

Meanwhile, Archibald-Varley says incidents like the Buffalo shooting leave Black communities hurt and traumatized.

“I just want to go get groceries and not have to deal with this sh*t. This is crazy,” she said.

“This is not just a U.S. problem. This is a problem here in Canada as well … That could have been any one of us Black individuals.” 

She says the entire community needs to band together against racism.

“We can’t keep having these same things happening without stronger laws, stronger policies, without having solidarity from other community members,” Archibald-Varley said.

‘We’re hurt, we’re broken’

Archibald-Varley, who is the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, says while she was raised to be a strong individual, the killings take a toll on members of the Black community.

“As a community we’re hurt, we’re broken, we’re scared, but we’re strong,” she said.

“We’ve seen the damage and the harm perpetuated to us through systemic racism for years, but we are still here and we’re still going to continue to fight for changes that call for accountability, to see better things, better health outcomes, better resources, better representation for Black folks and other racialized folks,” she added.

“We’re grieving together, but we’re strong together as well.”

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


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Team leader critical of RCMP mental health support after Nova Scotia mass shooting



HALIFAX — The RCMP’s treatment of their tactical team in the days following the April 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia was characterized as “absolutely disgusting” Monday during testimony before the public inquiry examining the killings.

Retired corporal Tim Mills, who headed the 13-member Emergency Response Team, told the inquiry that a lack of mental health support in the week after the rampage that claimed 22 lives is the main reason he left the force after a 29-year career.

“The RCMP as an organization wants to give this impression that they care about their members,” Mills testified. “The way that we were treated after this (Portapique) was disgusting, absolutely disgusting.”

Mills detailed his attempts to get more time for his eight part-time team members to “decompress” after the April 18-19, 2020, rampage instead of quickly returning to general duties at their detachments after the unit was stood down for three days.

He said it was agreed during a debriefing involving team members and three psychiatrists on April 24 that a request would be made for the part-timers to work at headquarters with the full-time team members for a period of two weeks.

“Their advice was to be around like-minded people, talk openly about it, stay busy,” Mills said.

But, he said the request appeared to go nowhere, and by April 29 he was told the part-time team members had to return to their home units.

“There are members off because of Portapique … that are still off today, that didn’t see what we saw. They forced our guys back to work a week and a half after.”

Mills said he pushed to find out who had made the decision, but it all became too much for him by November of 2020. “At that point I was like, ‘I’m done working for a broken organization,’” he said. Mills retired from the RCMP in July 2021.

Meanwhile, Mills and the team’s second-in-command the night of the shootings, Cpl. Trent Milton, gave testimony Monday related to an inquiry document detailing the team’s initial response to the shootings.

Mills said he was first notified of the ongoing situation around 10:45 p.m. on April 18, 2020. The first members of his team arrived outside Portapique just under two hours later.

Milton was the first one there and he said he decided to wait for Mills and the team’s tactical assault vehicle about 10 minutes behind.

“At that time, based on the information and facts that we had, it was what I’ll call a non-active threat, there was no active gunfire and the location of the perpetrator was unknown,” Milton testified, adding that other Mounties were already at the scene.

Soon after its arrival, the team was about to enter Portapique when it was sent to check out several suspicious sightings involving someone with a flashlight outside homes in the community of Five Houses, across a river and nearly three kilometres away.

But they did not have operational tracking and digital mapping devices in their vehicles, while technology that was on their phones and would have allowed team members to locate one another wasn’t working. As a result, they relied on verbal radio directions from commanders to navigate their way in the pitch dark.

At one point, the document notes that Mills had difficulty finding the location of the reported sightings using the instructions he was given over the radio, which also had too many members on it at the time.

He soon asked Staff Sgt. Brian Rehill, who was the risk manager at the RCMP’s Operational Communications Centre in Truro, N.S., to call his cellphone to sort things out.

“If you listen to the radio comms at all, total confusion on that geographical area,” Mills testified. “It was totally pitch black that night, poorly marked roads, rural area. So trying to figure out where to go that night … was frustrating and tough to do.”

Mills also voiced frustration over the team’s next assignment, which was to rescue Clinton Ellison, who had been hiding in a wooded area in Portapique following the killing of his brother Corrie Ellison by the gunman hours before. Mills told inquiry investigators that Ellison would have been found sooner had there been tracking technology or a helicopter overhead to detect a body heat signature.

He said the same may have applied to the gunman’s common-law spouse, Lisa Banfield, who spent the night hiding in the woods and was found by the tactical team the next morning after she sought refuge in the home of a Portapique resident.

The inquiry document confirms that RCMP knew for certain from talking to Banfield at around 6:45 a.m. that gunman Gabriel Wortman was heavily armed and on the loose in a fully marked RCMP cruiser complete with a light bar.

The tactical team was finally updated at 8:20 a.m. with further information that the marked car had a call sign on its side of 28-B11.

During its nearly nine hours in the Portapique area, the tactical team also came across several victims of the gunman and verified that they were dead. Those victims included Corrie Ellison, Lisa McCully and Greg and Jamie Blair.

The team was in the midst of conducting a house-to-house evacuation of the area with a Department of Natural Resources helicopter overhead when police received a 911 call around 9:35 a.m. about a shooting in Wentworth, along with a witness report of an RCMP vehicle leaving the scene.

Const. Trent Milton, another team member, told the commission: “We knew that … was obviously our individual. We had an active threat again, and we were pushed into the threat to try to stop it.” The chase ended shortly after 11:25 a.m. on April 19 when Emergency Response Team officer Const. Ben MacLeod and another Mountie shot Wortman at a gas station north of Halifax.

Mills told commission investigators that he was satisfied with his team’s performance when confronted with a unique situation. “Put it this way,” he said, “you would never dream up a scenario like this, you know, because there’s too much going on at once.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2022.


Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press

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