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Canada can take ‘lessons’ from Australia on registry for foreign interference: Trudeau



The federal government can take “lessons” from Australia and other allies when it comes to creating Canada’s foreign agents registry, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.

Many experts in recent weeks have cited Australia’s foreign registry as an prime example that Canada can follow for its own program.

Australia’s public registry requires people advocating for a foreign state to register their activities, under penalty of fines or jail time. The United States has a similar program.

Trudeau, who was in Newfoundland on Wednesday, told reporters that parliamentarians will “study various proposals” over the coming weeks. The government kicked off consultations for its “foreign influence transparency registry” last Friday.

“We’re going to continue to work as parliamentarians to study various proposals. There are lessons learned around what Australia and other countries have done around a foreign influence registry,” Trudeau said.

“It’s an important tool. It’s not a silver bullet that’s going to save everything, but I think it’s part of the toolbox that we need to look at, and that’s why the public safety minister is moving forward as we committed to delivering on a public and national foreign influence registry.”

Ottawa last week opened public consultations for a long-awaited foreign agents registry as the minister tasked with running them acknowledged that the challenge posed to the country by foreign interference is significant.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told reporters in Ottawa that consultations will be held until May 9.

Mendicino said he hopes the consultations will increase transparency around illegitimate foreign state lobbying and activities, modernize existing legislative authorities and engage Canadians in protecting democratic institutions.

“There are few greater challenges that we face than foreign interference. Countering this threat, protecting the safety of Canadians and maintaining our national sovereignty are my paramount objectives as minister of public safety,” he said last week.

“Foreign hostile actors have targeted Canada. While those threats are not new, they have evolved and as they have evolved, so, too, have we stepped up our efforts to protect Canadians.”

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Experts have called for Ottawa to create such a program, especially in light of recent reports from Global News and the Globe and Mail highlighting the alleged efforts of the Chinese government to influence Canada’s elections and society.

Michael Wernick, who served as clerk of the Privy Council for Canada from 2016 to 2019, told Global News on Feb. 28 that a registry is something that can be acted upon now amid calls for a public inquiry that can play out over an extended period of time.

David Mulroney, who was the government’s envoy to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) between 2009 and 2012, told MPs sitting on a committee studying foreign interference on Feb. 7 that Ottawa should create a registry of foreign agents, something “that would simply require transparency of those who disperse funds for, lobby for, or speak for foreign states in Canada.”

Mendicino on Friday said consultations have begun online, and that he will be participating in roundtable discussions in the coming weeks. It’s how long it would take to establish a foreign agents registry after the consultations wrap up.

The Liberal government has been under immense pressure to explain what it knew about foreign interference in the 2021 election after the Globe and Mail reported last month that intelligence sources said China attempted to interfere in that campaign to help the Liberals win another minority government.

That report came after months of revelations from Global News about allegations of Chinese interference in the 2019 election.

Trudeau has announced a slew of investigations into the matter, but the decision on whether a public inquiry is warranted will be made by a “special rapporteur,” who is expected to be named in the near future.



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‘Instant action plan’: More than 100 evacuated from nursing home amid flood



As floodwaters poured into a Mississauga long-term care home –submerging much of the ground floor – rescue crews worked to rapidly get residents into inflatable rafts to evacuate the property while others worked on stopping the water from rising further.

The operation that unfolded over the course of 12 hours on Tuesday following torrential rains eventually saw more than 100 residents safely moved out of the nursing home, some by raft and others on foot once the water receded.

Mississauga Fire Captain Dan Herd said the evacuation of the Tyndall Seniors Village, which saw multiple emergency services from across the Greater Toronto Area come together, was on a scale he hadn’t seen before.

“There was water inside the building, the first floor – in between probably three to four feet high on the walls – and some windows were broken, damaged,” Herd said, adding that the parking lot was inundated by water at one point.

“We set up an instant action plan, and we started to move thousands of litres of water at a time … the water rescue team was using their rescue boats to assist the removal of ambulatory patients and occupants.”

The flooding began after incredibly heavy rains on Tuesday caused the nearby Etobicoke Creek to overflow, Herd said.

Once enough floodwater had been pumped out of the home, some residents were able to walk out of the building, he said. Those who were unable to walk were carried down stairs and out of the building by first responders using lifting equipment, Herd said.

“This is my first personal experience of something to this size,” he said of the operation.

None of the residents were injured, said Tom Kukolic, acting deputy chief for Peel Region’s paramedics service.

Once first responders determined that none of the 116 residents needed emergency care, efforts then shifted to a “safe extrication and relocation” operation, Kukolic said, with residents eventually taken to two long-term care homes and two hotels.

“Once the paramedics and firefighters were able to bring the residents out of the home and move them to the triage area, we then had assistance from Peel Wheel-Trans, Toronto TTC Wheel-Trans, and Mississauga Transit,” Kukolic said.

The relocation effort was “a seamless transition” thanks to the collaboration of several emergency response teams, including York Region and Toronto paramedics, he said.

“Extricating people, it’s very difficult. It is very laborious work … however, what we do from a paramedic practice perspective, is ensure that we have enough people to safely move residents,” Kukolic said.

Tuesday’s massive downpour caused chaos across Toronto and its surrounding communities, with flooding shutting down several major routes and terminals and knocking out power to thousands.

Mississauga Fire Chief Deryn Rizzi called the response at the nursing home “a great example” of how multiple agencies across the Greater Toronto Area can work together.

“We are there to work collaboratively together, to address the incident to achieve a common goal, which in this case, it was to evacuate the residents safely,” he said.

For Kukolic, the full-day operation showed how preparation can help first responders deal with large-scale responses triggered by sudden events such as Tuesday’s flooding.

“I was proud to be a member of paramedic services and a first responder,” he said.

“It was really great to see how everybody came together to ensure that our most vulnerable were taken care of.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Alberta law society clears former cabinet minister Tyler Shandro of misconduct



EDMONTON – The Law Society of Alberta has cleared Tyler Shandro of professional misconduct after he confronted a physician at the edge of his driveway four years ago over a social media post, when Shandro was the province’s health minister.

In a decision released Thursday, the law society panel found Shandro not guilty on three citations surrounding his conduct.

Regarding the citation over the driveway dispute, two of the three society panel members said Shandro’s actions that day were as a family man and did not reflect his role as a lawyer. Shandro was not practising law at the time.

“It is clear that Mr. Shandro attended at the home of (Dr. Mukarram Zaidi) as a father and husband, and not principally as the minister of health,” wrote committee members Bud Melnyk and Grant Vogeli.

On that committee member Edith Kloberdanz dissented.

In the report, she said she would find Shandro guilty for his behaviour during the confrontation, saying he didn’t need to visit the doctor’s home uninvited in an emotional state to resolve his concerns.

“The public’s trust and confidence in lawyers is based on the ability of lawyers to manage their behaviour in highly stressful situations and circumstances,” she wrote.

Kloberdanz said the impact on Zaidi and his family “was not given sufficient weight” by the majority, and that she was troubled Zaidi’s children were present for at least some of the incident.

The incident dates back to March 21, 2020. It was a turbulent time. The province had just invalidated its master working agreement with physicians, and COVID-19 was taking hold around the world.

Shandro told the committee that he and his family had been facing serious threats.

The incident began after Zaidi posted on social media a message critical of Shandro while referencing his wife’s company.

That day, Shandro, a Calgary legislature member at the time, went to the Calgary home of Zaidi, asking two boys playing basketball on the driveway to get their father.

Zaidi told the committee that Shandro was crying and “emotionally charged” during a conversation that lasted less than two minutes.

“(It) was a very intimidating experience, seeing the Crown’s representative and a lawyer attending at my house to tell me to delete a post,” Zaidi said, describing Shandro as “his ultimate boss.”

Shandro remembered the incident differently.

The social media post was personal, since it referenced his wife’s business, and the conversation came out of a concern for the safety of his wife, Shandro said, adding he was not yelling or crying.

Shandro testified that Zaidi looked “embarrassed” and asked, “What do I do? Delete the post?”

Shandro said he replied: “You have to decide that for yourself.”

Then-premier Jason Kenney defended his minister at the time, saying it’s understandable that a husband or wife will get passionate when their spouse is being attacked, threatened or defamed.

The committee also looked into Shandro’s decision around that time to phone two other doctors who had been critical of government policy, and to use his government email to respond to a member of the public who had sent his wife’s company a complaint email.

Law society lawyers argued the incidents were examples of inappropriate and intimidating behaviour by Shandro meant to muzzle public dissent.

On those two counts the panel unanimously ruled that while Shandro’s behaviour was at times inappropriate, it did not rise to the level of sanction.

Shandro lost his seat in the legislature in last year’s general election and has returned to practising law. He has been a law society member since 2005.

In January, he was appointed to the board of directors of Covenant Health, a publicly funded provincial health provider.

In an emailed statement to The Canadian Press, Shandro said he was pleased to be exonerated.

“These complaints were the culmination of years of politically fuelled personal attacks on me and my family,” he wrote.

“These complaints were also based on false allegations, and I have maintained the allegations were baseless and frivolous.

“I look forward to continuing to serve my community.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2024.

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Saskatchewan food bank says it’s prepared to reduce hampers by half



MOOSE JAW, SASK. – Jason Moore recently took stock of the inventory at the food bank in Moose Jaw, Sask., and realized nothing would be left in two weeks.

To keep the shelves from going bare, the food bank’s executive director says it’s prepared to cut its hampers in half. That means one hamper per month for clients instead of two, starting in August.

“By still giving out two hampers for the remainder of July, we’ll be bare bones by the end of the month,” Moore said Thursday.

“We get to know our clients, and we know the struggles they’re facing. Not being able to help them is absolutely devastating.”

Moore said in past years, there would be enough food to last into the fall, just in time for the big annual Halloween drive to replenish pantries at the food bank west of Regina.

But this year is not like the last, or the one before, as more and more clients continue to access services.

Moore said the food bank helps about 800 households a month, double from two years ago. Donations have not increased at the same rate, he added.

The spike in demand is due to higher grocery prices, rent increases and other pressures affecting the cost of living, he said.

“It’s a crisis,” Moore said.

“Sadly, our government keeps asking food banks and our communities to carry this load, and yet they offer very little for aid.”

Food banks across the country have said they’re being pushed to the brink due to inflationary pressures.

John Bailey, CEO of Regina’s food bank, said Moose Jaw’s struggles point to a larger trend in Canada of food banks unable to keep up with demand.

He said while the Regina agency has been able to manage the influx, it has still put a strain on operations. The food bank served about 9,000 people five years ago. It expects to help roughly 20,000 this year.

“It’s folks who never expected to be accessing a food bank who now use it on a regular basis. It’s just spiking demand.”

Bailey said addressing underlying issues — with more affordable housing, a living wage and disability supports — is necessary to reduce food bank usage.

Without more of those programs, he said, strain on the food bank will keep growing, though staff will “continue to work tirelessly to meet the needs of our community.”

Moore said he has reached out to Moose Jaw residents and businesses, along with other food banks in the country, to ask for donations so he doesn’t have to cut the hampers.

“I think we are all responsible for feeding the hungry people in our communities,” he said.

“They are our brothers and sisters and our neighbours.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2024.

— By Jeremy Simes in Regina

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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