Connect with us


Broke, hungry and just 20, I was too embarrassed to ask for help when I moved to Canada




I walked out of my boss’s office, struggling to hold back the tears. Unfortunately, he had just told me he had no choice but to walk back a promise to give me a salary advance. I should have been signing the lease for a tiny studio apartment in Toronto later that evening. I could cover the monthly rent, but as a newcomer to Canada, I didn’t have enough cash to cover the first and last month’s deposit.

As my boss’s words sunk in, I felt the ground slipping under my feet. I was all alone in a new country with no one to ask for help. I couldn’t believe I was at this crossroads: return home to Latvia or be homeless in Canada.

Growing up in Riga, Latvia, my father told me stories of the 1972 Canada-USSR hockey rivalry. Compared to his experience living in the Soviet Union, Canada seemed like a free and safe country, uninvolved in major geopolitical conflict. I became captivated by this fascinating faraway land and dreamed that it might become my home someday.

A woman standing with a dog by the Gulf of Riga.
Diana de Jurei, age 17, in Jurmala, Latvia. (Submitted by Diana de Jurei)

In 2009, when I was 20, I got a one-year Canadian work permit. My father’s small business manufacturing and selling protective gear and workwear went bankrupt during the 2008 economic crisis, and my family was barely able to make ends meet. And yet, they scraped together $2,000 to help me move to Canada. At the time, it felt like a lot of money. Little did I know how insignificant it was for someone who was trying to establish a new life in a city like Toronto.

It was a hot and stinky summer day when I arrived in the midst of a city worker’s strike. Toronto was covered in piles of uncollected garbage. To add to the unpleasant smell, I ended up in a hostel that called itself a hotel and had to share my room with cockroaches. I was alone and sad to leave behind my life, my family, my beloved dog and friends. I didn’t know when I was going to see them again. It was a step into the unknown, a country where I didn’t know anyone.

But I was determined to make it work as going back home wasn’t a viable financial option. I only saw one path: to remain in this country so I could eventually support my parents.

Finding work quickly was my number one priority. Between groceries and accommodation, the $2,000 my parents had given me was nearly gone. After almost a month of searching, I found a minimum wage job with a community newspaper selling advertisements. I found an affordable studio and needed only $1,500 for the initial deposit, so I approached my boss. When my boss refused an advance at the very last moment, I felt completely broken.

Shell-shocked, I walked home that day for nearly 45 minutes to save the $1.50 TTC fare — that’s how desperate I was to save money.

But I was unexpectedly saved by the kindness of a new friend I’d met just a week prior. He didn’t have the money either, but he felt sorry for me because he knew what it was like to be a newcomer. He approached his employer for an advance of $750, which was enough to tide me over.

To this day, I couldn’t believe that my friend took a chance on me. I had no furniture and had to sleep on the floor for almost a year, but at least I had a roof over my head. Some days, I slept with a winter jacket on and to save money on a down blanket. And I returned the funds to my friend as soon as I possibly could.

My minimum wage was barely enough to pay my bills, and often next to nothing remained to buy groceries. I remember times when I opened my fridge and it was completely empty. Often a bagel and a coffee bought by a colleague would be the only thing I ate all day. I eventually became anaemic. Most days I was walking around on the verge of fainting. I couldn’t look for another job because my new work permit was tied to one employer. I learned about food banks, but never went, as I mistakenly thought they were for people who are homeless or in situations even more challenging than mine.

During those difficult times, I was often humbled by the kindness of complete strangers who helped me. Frankly, I was embarrassed to share that I was struggling in any way. However, my job selling advertising space in a newspaper entailed meetings with various businesses. During polite small talk, people would ask about my family and how they were adapting to life in Canada. When they learned I moved here all by myself, they were often surprised and sympathetic.

Sometimes on a lucky day an owner of a restaurant would offer a free lunch and, at other businesses, I would be given something useful to take home. After one of those meetings I even ended up with a pillow. I’m forever grateful for the kindness and generosity of the many people I’ve met.

After five challenging years living paycheque to paycheque, I obtained a Canadian permanent residency. It took another five years to achieve the level of financial stability to sponsor my mother.

A woman kneels next to a German shepherd.
Diana de Jurei’s mother, Nadya, with the family dog in Riga, Latvia. (Submitted by Diana de Jurei)

It was a very lonely life, and I barely saw my family in Latvia. During this time, my parents separated. When my mother got seriously ill and had two complex surgeries on her legs due to varicose veins, I was wracked with guilt that I couldn’t afford the airfare to see her. My mom was my rock. Canada gives people an opportunity to have a better life, but often at a significant price. If it wasn’t for her strong belief in me and enormous emotional support even from afar, I likely wouldn’t have made it.

We had the same dream that one day we would reunite. Unlike the hot summer day of my arrival, my mom came to Winnipeg, where I lived by then, on a cold blustery winter day in January 2018. When we stepped off the plane onto Canadian soil together, I felt incredibly happy that I would get to show her a better life and the home I established for us in Canada. I had worked hard, built a successful career in marketing, adopted a new puppy and was now reunited with my family.

Sitting in my apartment sipping tea, my mom was contemplative that day. She also said that if she knew then what I would have to go through, she would have never let me leave. I’m not sure I would have, either.


Source link

Continue Reading


Federal government asking RCMP to ban use of sponge rounds, CS gas for crowd control



OTTAWA — The federal government says it wants the RCMP to ban the use of two crowd-control tools that forces across the country say they have in their arsenals: sponge rounds and CS gas.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s office confirmed that it wants the measures outlawed, even as the RCMP declines to say whether or not it will comply with that instruction.

The decision to restrict even the use of “less lethal” alternatives to crowd-control tools such as rubber bullets and stronger forms of tear gas has some critics questioning whether the federal Liberals are playing politics with policing.

“Removing less lethal options from our members’ available options raises real concerns for public and police officer safety,” National Police Union president Brian Sauvé said in a statement.


The confirmation that the federal Liberals want the tools banned comes after The Canadian Press raised questions about a mandate letter Mendicino gave to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki last year.

The letter directed the force to stop using three use-of-force methods: the “carotid control” neck hold, rubber bullets and tear gas.

The RCMP made headlines recently when it confirmed that it still allows officers to use the controversial neck hold despite those instructions and the fact that other police forces have stopped using it.

The force does not use rubber bullets or the more-dangerous chemical compounds referred to as tear gas, which cause irritation to a person’s eyes and mucous membranes.

But the minister’s office is now clarifying that it wants similar tools banned, too.

Mendicino’s office said in a statement that it used the terms “rubber bullets” and “tear gas” in the mandate letter “as they are general language understood by most Canadians.”

It confirmed that it considers the milder CS gas and extended-range impact weapons, which fire foam rounds, to be the operational terms for such tools — meaning that it does want the RCMP to stop using them.

That came as news to Sauvé and other experts, who say that the decision is a departure from existing policy, since police forces across the country and around the world have such crowd-control methods in their arsenals.

The RCMP said in a statement that it is “working with partners, stakeholders and bargaining agents” to review the mandate letter — and gave no indication that it intends to follow Mendicino’s orders.

“The RCMP continues to report publicly on our use of police intervention options, including the carotid control technique and the 40 millimetre extended range impact weapon that fires sponge-tipped rounds, not rubber bullets, as well as the use of specialty munitions,” it said.

It added that its extended range weapons, in use since 2017, “provide an officer with more time and distance from an individual being responded to in order to better enable de-escalation and communication, when tactically feasible.”

Public disclosures show that the RCMP used CS gas 102 times in 2021, and it used extended-range impact weapons 86 times.

The public order units of major municipal police forces, including in Vancouver and Toronto, confirmed to The Canadian Press that they also have access to the tools.

In an interview, Western University criminologist Michael Arntfield argued that CS gas is “entirely different” than the compounds typically referred to as tear gas, and sponge rounds are different than rubber bullets.

He said tear and rubber bullets are “very inflammatory terms,” bringing up images of coups d’état, or of police attacking people who had been marching for Black civil rights outside Selma, Ala., in 1965.

“I’m not sure why those terms would be used if the government was serious about looking at less lethal alternatives.”

Arntfield said he is “genuinely confounded” about why Mendicino would “tack on” a request for the RCMP to stop using police tools that are commonplace across Canada in asking them to stop using the neck hold.

“It looks like political theatre and has absolutely nothing to do with law enforcement operations.”

On Parliament Hill this week, Mendicino said broadly that there is a need to reform law enforcement institutions.

“We are closely consulting and collaborating with law enforcement and experts in the area to take an evidence-based approach so that we can keep our community safe, while at the same time making sure that police have the tools they need when it comes to de-escalating,” Mendicino said.

But he would not answer questions about why the RCMP seems to be defying his instructions, walking away from reporters when the question was posed.

El Jones, an activist who helped lead a study on defunding police forces, says police are “an unaccountable force in Canada.”

The fact that the RCMP is not following political direction shows that impunity, she argued. “I think the police are very much signalling to us, no one can tell us what to do.”

The issue of which tools are and aren’t available to police is receiving heightened attention following the killing of Tyre Nichols, who died after being beaten by police in Memphis, Tenn., in early January.

The “carotid control” neck hold, which the RCMP reported it used 14 times in 2021, had been widely condemned after George Floyd was killed when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes.

Jones said police are not transparent enough about their policies or how much training they provide for officers when it comes to the use of force.

“We don’t have good use-of-force study in Canada,” she said. “The picture of use of force in Canada, period, by the police, is just not very clear.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2023.


David Fraser, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading


Inuit, environmental groups call for stronger measures to reduce underwater noise



Hunters from Pond Inlet, Nvt. — known as Mittimatalik in Inuktitut — have said they’re seeing fewer narwhal in areas where they were once abundant, making it harder to feed their families, and that the whales’ behaviour is changing.

Lisa Koperqualuk, vice chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, says that’s because of noise from ships.

“It impacts our culture when marine animals are disturbed and are not in their usual places,” she said, adding hunters have to travel further to find narwhal.

Research has found narwhal are sensitive to noise. Aerial surveys indicate their numbers are declining in Eclipse Sound on the northeastern end of Baffin Island during the summer.


A 2020 report by the Fisheries Department suggests that could be due to increasing ship traffic from mining, cruises, ice breaking and development, as well as other factors such as the presence of killer whales or natural movement in the region.

Newly revised international guidelines on reducing underwater noise from ships recognize the unique effects on Inuit, but environmental and Inuit organizations say stronger measures are needed.

The International Maritime Organization’s subcommittee on ship design and construction met in London last week, where members agreed on revisions to the 2014 guidelines. They include updated technical knowledge and sample templates for underwater noise management plans.

The draft updated guidelines also reference Indigenous knowledge and Inuit Nunaat, or Inuit homeland in the United States, Canada, Greenland and Russia. There, it states effects from underwater noise on marine life could be greater due to ice breaking, the presence of noise-sensitive species and Indigenous hunting rights.

“That is something ICC is really encouraged about because really we are the first Indigenous organization to have a voice at the IMO,” Koperqualuk said.

The council, which represents about 180,000 Inuit worldwide, wanted a separate section included in the guidelines focusing on challenges particular to the Arctic and Inuit Nunaat. For instance, it said noise travels further in cold water and expressed concern about the consequences for marine species Inuit rely on for food, culture and livelihoods.

Koperqualuk said there was interest in specific recommendations for ships operating in these waters, such as using Indigenous knowledge in voyage planning, but the north-specific section was ultimately not included in the guidelines because it’s not universally applicable.

Koperqualuk also noted the guidelines are voluntary and there has been little uptake by ship owners.

Andrew Dumbrille with the Clean Arctic Alliance, made up of 20 non-profit organizations, agreed there is a need for mandatory measures.

He pointed to a 2019 study on implementation of the existing guidelines overseen by World Wildlife Fund Canada, the Chamber of Shipping America, World Maritime University and Transport Canada. Several organizations reported they were a low priority as they are not mandatory as well as barriers such as the lack of baseline measurements for underwater noise or reduction targets.

“These new guidelines are more detailed and they have the latest science and latest perspective on not only underwater noise impacts but technology fixes and management solutions,” Dumbrille said.

“Unfortunately these guidelines are still voluntary and so that’s problematic on a number of levels.”

The revised guidelines are to be submitted to the Marine Environmental Protection Commission in July for approval.

A working group tasked with reviewing the guidelines ran out of time last week to finalize a list of suggested next steps, areas needing further research and assessment, and suggestions to increase awareness and uptake of the guidelines. Dumbrille said a correspondence group will continue that work.

“The pathway to regulatory measures is slow,” he said. “Some people are saying it’s not fast enough to respond to the threat and the urgency and the need around addressing underwater noise because our oceans are getting louder and that’s especially true for the Arctic.”

The Arctic has some of the lowest underwater sound levels on Earth, but research suggests that could change as new shipping routes open due to sea ice loss.

A study published in the scientific journal Environmental Pollution in October predicts underwater noise emissions from ships could double every 11 and a half years on average without incentives or regulatory steps. A 2021 report by the Arctic Council found noise pollution from ships had doubled in some areas of the Arctic between 2013 and 2019.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada says underwater noise has been linked to a wide range of effects on marine species that rely on sound, including behavioural changes, habitat loss, increased stress levels and permanent injury or death.

Transport Canada saidit’s pleased with the revised international guidelines, but acknowledged more work is needed.

In June 2021, Transport Canada announced the Quiet Vessel Initiative with $26 million in funding over five years to test the most promising technologies, vessel designs, retrofits and operational practices to make ships quieter. Ottawa has also been developing an Ocean Noise Strategy which, it expects to launch later this year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2023.

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


Emily Blake, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading


Extreme cold temperatures across Quebec, East Coast expected to linger until Sunday



MONTREAL — Residents from Quebec to Newfoundland and Labrador are waking up this morning to more extreme cold weather.

Emergency officials warned people to seek shelter and monitor for frostbite if they had to be outside overnight, as the temperature across much of Eastern Canada was expected to feel like -40 C to -50 C with the wind chill.

Temperatures in Quebec City were forecast to fall to -30 C overnight — with a wind chill index of -45 — and the arctic weather was expected to last until Sunday.

Extreme cold warnings remain in effect across the East Coast, with temperatures in the Halifax area expected to feel like -39 C through the morning.


Government and private agencies scrambled on Friday to provide shelter for vulnerable people in scores of cities and towns in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, as conditions risked giving exposed skin frostbite in minutes.

The City of Montreal opened two temporary emergency warming centres, each of which can accommodate up to 50 people between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m. The centres are to close on Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2023.


The Canadian Press

Continue Reading