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Canada’s oil, gas emissions cap may wait until 2023, leaving climate plan hole

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector will not be ready until late this year or early 2023, the environment minister said on Tuesday, leaving a major hole in an emissions reduction plan due to be released by the government this month.

Oil and gas production is Canada’s highest-emitting industry and a main focus of Trudeau’s goal of chopping emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, based on 2005 levels.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault told Reuters that Ottawa needs more time to consult with industry, unions, environmental groups and the provinces to sort out what mechanism it will use to cap and then cut oil and gas emissions.

“On the oil and gas cap, there are still a lot of discussions in terms of how do we do it from a structural point of view, what kind of vehicle do we use,” Guilbeault said from Toronto, adding that options include creating a cap-and-trade system for the industry.

“The ERP (Emissions Reduction Plan) will not say how we’ll do the oil and gas cap, because we’re consulting and we don’t know how we will do it.”

Guilbeault is the first Liberal minister to rule out including the oil and gas cap in this spring’s plan, although he has previously said work on it may extend beyond 2022.

A government official said it had never necessarily targeted spring to clarify how the oil and gas cap will work. The government may outline the ERP on March 29, he said.

The government has not determined what year it will use as a benchmark for capping oil and gas emissions and then reducing them, Guilbeault said. He added that the ERP this month will set projected carbon levels by sector, including for oil and gas, but these targets will not be legally binding and may change.

This spring is pivotal for Trudeau’s plans to address climate change, with the emissions reduction plan, final regulations to reduce the carbon intensity of fuel and details of financial support for carbon capture facilities all due.

New policy takes time to develop, but having to wait possibly to 2023 for draft emissions regulations shows lack of urgency, said Dale Marshall, national climate program manager at Environmental Defence.

“When it comes to oil and gas, the federal government keeps showing up with bagfuls of carrots. But a regulatory stick always seems hard to find,” he said.

Simon Donner, a climate science professor at the University of British Columbia and a member of a government advisory body, said addressing oil and gas emissions is critical.

“If we don’t do something to address oil and gas, then growth will continue and that would negate any chance of meeting 2030 targets,” Donner said.

Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, said he expects Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to finalize a carbon capture tax credit soon, with the budget unveiling weeks away, and he does not anticipate any delay to releasing Clean Fuel Standard regulations this spring.

“In climate and energy policy right now, the number of files on the move is just staggering,” said Bora Plumptre, research director at Electric Mobility Canada, an organization whose members include utilities and equipment manufacturers.

“They are having a really tough time figuring out how they are going to get to that (emissions reduction) target.”

One way to get there is for governments to work collaboratively with industry by cutting the red tape that carbon capture projects face, said Tim McKay, president of the country’s biggest oil producer, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Nia Williams in CalgaryEditing by Paul Simao, Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)

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Prince Charles and Camilla wrap up Platinum Jubilee visit in Northwest Territories

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YELLOWKNIFE — Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, took part in ceremonies and learned about Indigenous language in the Northwest Territories Thursday as their royal visit wrapped up.

They were greeted by a large group at the Yellowknives Dene First Nation community of Dettah. The First Nation east of Yellowknife has a population of just over 200 people and dozens came out to shake hands with the couple and take part in a ceremonial lighting of a fire.

The prince also took part in a round dance with community members and learned about traditional tools.

“It’s very emotional for me,” said 53-year-old Eileen Drygeese.

Drygeese said her parents and grandparents would tell stories about when they met the royals during a tour in the 1970s when Prince Charles was a teenager. She gave Camilla a medicine bundle to represent the women of her family and their history together.

Some members did not support the visit, Drygeese said, but added they understand the power of showcasing their community and culture.

Many of those who came were wearing orange clothing and other items with the words “every child matters” representing the legacy of residential schools.

Charles was given a pair of moosehide moccasins before he joined Dettah Chief Edward Sangris, Ndilo Chief Fred Sangris and other Indigenous leaders for a private meeting.

The trip has been shaped by Canada’s reckoning with its relationship and history with Indigenous people as possible graves continue to be found at the sites of former residential schools across the country.

The three-day tour began Tuesday in Newfoundland and Labrador, where Prince Charles recognized the visit came at an important moment.

“We must find new ways to come to terms with the darker and more difficult aspects of the past, acknowledging, reconciling and striving to do better,” he said.

During a Platinum Jubilee reception at Rideau Hall on Wednesday, Gov. Gen. Mary Simon encouraged the couple to listen to Indigenous leaders, elders and community members in the North.

RoseAnne Archibald, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said during the reception that she asked the prince for a formal apology from the Queen, as head of the Church of England.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said Thursday that while all effective power rests with the government, not with the Queen, he understands comments from the royals could be important to some Indigenous people.

“It’s nuanced,” he said. “There are some Indigenous Peoples ⁠ — much like non-Indigenous people ⁠ — who couldn’t care less. There are many who have a profound deep connection to the Royal Family.”

The couple were greeted earlier Thursday on the tarmac by Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty and Margaret Thom, the commissioner of the Northwest Territories.

They were also presented with flowers wrapped in birch tree bark by a young student from the K’alemi Dene School,

While Charles met with leaders, the duchess stopped at a school to hear about programs aimed at preserving Indigenous languages. There, she took part in a demonstration with a greenscreen and puppets, as well as stop-motion animation.

“Very clever,” Camilla said about the animation project.

Later, Charles was made an honorary Canadian Ranger at an event in Yellowknife. Rangers are a part of the Canadian Army Reserve in northern and isolated areas.

The prince also met with local experts to discuss climate change and permafrost.

The last royal visit to Northwest Territories was in 2011, when Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, were welcomed by large crowds during a one-day stop in the North during a whirlwind first royal tour for the newlyweds.

This royal visit was to culminate with a celebration in Yellowknife in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2022.

 

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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Liberals revive bill to create watchdog for Canada Border Services Agency

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OTTAWA — The federal Liberals are rekindling a plan to allow travellers, immigration detainees and others who feel they have been mistreated by Canada’s border agency to complain to an independent body.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino introduced legislation Thursday to give the RCMP watchdog the additional responsibility of handling public complaints about the Canada Border Services Agency.

The bill to create the Public Complaints and Review Commission comes after previous versions died on the order paper.

Border officers can stop travellers for questioning, take blood and breath samples and search, detain and arrest people without warrants.

An internal agency unit handles complaints from the public, while other bodies, including the courts, the federal privacy commissioner and the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, examine various concerns.

But the border agency is not overseen by a dedicated, independent complaints and review body, prompting civil liberties advocates, refugee lawyers and parliamentary committees to call for stronger monitoring.

The government proposes spending $112 million over five years, and more than $19 million a year ongoing, to establish the new body, which would replace the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.

Michelaine Lahaie, chairperson of the existing RCMP complaints commission, told a news conference she was pleased to see many of her key recommendations had been included in the bill.

The legislation would require both the RCMP and border agency to respond to interim reports from the new watchdog within six months — addressing a long-standing sore point.

The RCMP commissioner was taken to court over chronic foot-dragging in providing feedback on interim reports from the current complaints commission. The problem has led to lengthy delays in the public release of final reports and recommendations.

“Codifying the timelines is a way to ensure that we remain vigilant going forward,” Mendicino said.

The RCMP and border agency would also have to report annually to the public safety minister on progress in implementing commission recommendations.

In addition, there would be race-based data collection and publication to increase knowledge of systemic racism in law enforcement and guide responses.

The new Public Complaints and Review Commission would carry out specified reviews of any non-national-security activities of the RCMP and border services agency, either on the commission’s own initiative or at the request of the minister.

It would also conduct complaint-related investigations concerning both agencies, which include:

— receiving complaints from the public about conduct and level of service;

— reviews when complainants are not satisfied with the RCMP or border agency’s handling of their concerns; and

— initiating complaints and investigations into conduct when it is in the public interest to do so.

“Ultimately, this legislation is about strengthening our law enforcement agencies by strengthening accountability, transparency and in our trust in them, and it will lead to a safer country for everyone,” Mendicino said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2022.

 

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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Five reasons Quebec’s language law reform is stirring controversy

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MONTREAL — A protest against Quebec’s proposed overhaul of its language law drew a large crowd in Montreal on Saturday. The government says Bill 96 is a moderate reform that will improve protection for French while preserving English services, but critics say the bill will limit access to health care and justice, cost college teachers their jobs and increase red tape for small businesses.

Here are five reasons the bill, expected to be passed before the summer, is under fire:

Health care

Marlene Jennings, president of the Quebec Community Groups Network, an anglophone advocacy group, says the law could prevent hundreds of thousands of English speakers from accessing health care in their language. The bill requires government agencies, including health services, to communicate with the public in French except “where health, public safety or the principles of natural justice so require.”

There are also exceptions for people who have the right to English education in Quebec, those who have previously communicated with the government in English and immigrants who have lived in the province for less than six months.

On Tuesday, Premier François Legault offered assurances that the law won’t affect access to health services in English, but Jennings is skeptical. “We already have problems, when language hasn’t been made an issue, to access quality health-care services in a timely fashion. Bill 96 is going to compound those problems,” she said in an interview.

Education

The bill would require all students at English junior colleges to take three additional courses in French. Students with English education rights — those who have a parent or sibling who was educated in English in Canada — will be allowed to take courses on the French language, but other students will have to take other subjects, such as history or biology, in French.

Adding French-language classes in English institutions will be a challenge, said Adam Bright, an English literature teacher at Dawson College in Montreal. Because the law would require students without English education rights to take a French exit exam, Bright predicts few of those students will choose English literature courses, making it more difficult for them to succeed in their other classes.

He said his union expects the changes would lead to staffing cuts in the English department. “My wife is also an English literature teacher at Dawson, so if this bill goes through, both of us are going to lose our jobs,” he said in an interview.

Red tape for businesses 

The bill would expand provisions of the province’s language laws, which previously only applied to businesses with 50 or more employees, to those with 25 or more.

François Vincent, Quebec vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, estimates that complying with the law after it comes into effect will involve 20 to 50 hours of paperwork for business owners. Some businesses may have to hire consultants to help. While Vincent said it’s important to help people learn French, he doesn’t think that additional red tape will do that.

“Asking a small garage or a small restaurant in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean that’s working 100 per cent in French to fill out paperwork so that the Office québécois de la langue française will say ‘Congratulations, you work in French,’ will not change anything,” he said in an interview.

Access to justice

The bill would require all court filings by businesses to be in French or translated into French and empower the minister of justice and the minister responsible for the French language to decide which provincial court judges need to be bilingual.

It calls for amending pieces of legislation — including Quebec’s Charter of the French Language, the Code of Civil Procedure, the Consumer Protection Act and Montreal’s city charter.

Pearl Eliadis, a Montreal human rights lawyer, said that complexity can make it hard to see the extent of the changes being proposed. “Access to justice isn’t just going to court and being able to get there, it’s also being able to understand the law,” she said.

Warrantless search and seizure

The bill would proactively invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution to protect it from charter challenges.

Among the elements of the bill that would be shielded is a provision granting language inspectors the power to engage in search and seizure operations without a warrant. Eliadis said inspectors are not required to show reasonable grounds or reasonable suspicion before conducting a search related to the law.

“It’s more than a group of administrative rules designed to bolster French, because they’ve deliberately gone into each part of the act where constitutional rights can be invoked and essentially, with one sweep of the brush … disappeared an entire swath of our constitutional protections, leaving us with no remedy,” she said. “I worry the rule of law is being diminished.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2022.

 

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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