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Canada’s top five federal contaminated sites to cost taxpayers billions to clean up

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YELLOWKNIFE –

With a cost estimate of $4.38 billion, remediation of the Giant Mine, one of the most contaminated sites in Canada, is also expected to be the most expensive federal environmental cleanup in the country’s history.

The figure, recently approved by the Treasury Board of Canada, spans costs from 2005 until 2038, when active remediation at the former Yellowknife gold mine is anticipated to end. That includes $710 million the federal government said has already been spent, but does not include costs forlong-term care and maintenance.

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“It doesn’t bother me so much that it’s going to cost $4 billion to clean up Giant Mine. What really bothers me is that the taxpayer is covering that cost,” said David Livingstone, chair of the Giant Mine Oversight Board.

It indicates the federal government failed to ensure private developers provided financial security to remediate sites. He said while that has improved over time, there will likely be more issues in the future.

“We as a society need to get a better handle on what it costs us to support mining industry and oil and gas industry,” he said. “If the numbers suggest that it’s going to cost more to clean up a site than that site generated in revenue to the Crown, we’ve got a problem.”

There are more than 20,000 locations listed in the federal contaminated sites inventory, from dumps and abandoned mines to military operations on federal land.

Environment and Climate Change Canada says that after Giant Mine, the four most expensive cleanups are the Faro Mine in Yukon, the Port Hope Area Initiative in Ontario, Esquimalt Harbour in British Columbia and Yukon’s United Keno Hill Mine.

More than $2 billion has been spent on the five sites so far, and it’s anticipated they will cost taxpayers billions more in the coming years. Their final price tags are not yet known.

The most recent numbers from the Treasury Board of Canada indicate more than $707 million has been spent on remediation, care and maintenance at Faro Mine, a former open pit lead-zinc mine.Its remediation project is expected to take 15 years to complete and is currently estimated to cost $1 billion, plus $166 million for the first 10 years of long-term operation and maintenance.

Parsons Inc. was awarded a $108-million contract in February for construction, care and maintenance at Faro Mine until March 2026, with the option to extend the contract for the duration of active remediation. The company said the contract could ultimately span 20 years and exceed $2 billion.

In 2012, Ottawa committed $1.28 billion in funding over 10 years for the cleanup of historical low-level radioactive waste in the municipalities of Port Hope and Port Grandby, Ont. To date more than $722 million has been spent on assessment and remediation.

The Port Grandby Project was completed earlier this year and has moved into long-term monitoring for hundreds of years. The Port Hope cleanup, which started in 2018, will continue into 2030.

The cleanup in the Esquimalt Harbour seabed in Victoria currently has a budget of $162.5 million. Roughly $214 million has already been spent on remediation and assessment. The Department of National Defence said that may include costs before 2015, when the remediation project began.

Cleanup of United Keno Hill Mine, a historical silver, lead and zinc mining property near Yukon’s Keno City, is estimated to cost $125 million, including $79 million during its active reclamation phase. That is expected to begin in 2023 and take five years, followed by a two-year transition phase then long-term monitoring and maintenance. More than $67 million has been spent on remediation, care and maintenance at the site so far.

Other costly federal sites that have been cleaned up include the Cape Dyer Dew-Line, 21 former radar stations across the Arctic, for $575 million, the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens on Cape Breton Island, N.S., for nearly $398 million, and the 5 Wing Goose Bay air force base in Labrador, for $142.9 million.

The 2022 public accounts state the gross liability for the 2,524 federal contaminated sites where action is required is nearly $10 billion based on site assessments. Of the 3,079 unassessed sites, 1,330 are projected to proceed to remediation with an estimated liability of $256 million.

The federal contaminated sites action plan was established in 2005 with $4.54 billion in funding over 15 years. That was renewed for an additional 15 years, from 2020 to 2034, with a commitment of $1.16 billion for the first five years.

Jamie Kneen with MiningWatch Canada said the contamination from Giant Mine highlights the importance of the planning and assessment process for development projects.

“If you don’t actually do any planning around something, you can end up with a pretty horrible mess,” he said. “In this case, it killed people before they started even capturing the arsenic. We don’t want that to happen anymore.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2022.

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

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Quebec CEO of Future Electronics resigns, vows to fight sex allegations

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MONTREAL — A prominent Quebec businessman says he’s stepping down from his role as chairman and CEO of electronics parts company Future Electronics to focus on protecting his reputation amid allegations reported this week that he had paid minors for sex.

Robert G. Miller says that allegations reported by Radio-Canada and CBC on Thursday that he gave girls aged 14 to 17 cash and gifts in exchange for sex between 1994 and 2006 are false.

A news release Friday from Future Electronics says Miller “adamantly and vehemently denies the malicious allegations made against him” adding they are “false and wholly unsubstantiated” and arose during a “bitter divorce.”

The statement notes a Montreal police investigation was conducted into the allegations and says authorities determined they were unfounded.

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The statement claims the allegations are now resurfacing for financial gain.

Miller was chairman, president and CEO of Future Electronics but the release says he had not been involved in day-to-day operations for a number of years and will now focus on serious health problems and “the protection of his reputation.”

In tweets earlier today, the province’s prosecution service and Public Security Minister François Bonnardel urged any possible victim or witness to file a complaint with authorities.

Montreal police confirmed in a news release that they had investigated allegations against Miller in 2008-2009 and submitted a file to the provincial prosecution service to determine if charges were warranted.

A spokesperson for the prosecution service said Friday that no charges were laid in the matter.

Headquartered in Montreal, Future Electronics describes itself as a “global leader in electronics distribution,” with 5,500 employees and 170 offices in 44 countries.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.

 

The Canadian Press

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Reforms needed for transgender people to access justice: Canadian Bar Association

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OTTAWA — A new study says Canada’s justice system features “significant and pervasive” barriers for transgender people who encounter legal issues.

The Canadian Bar Association and the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario found that transgender people are more likely to have coexisting legal issues and are less likely to interact with the justice system.

The study found that about seven out of 10 transgender people report having at least one issue that could be addressed by the system — such as issues with discrimination, medical treatment, employment, housing or debt — compared with a little less than half of the general adult population in Canada.

“As a corollary of that, often, the participants on our study were dealing with multiple legal problems at the same time,” said Julie James, an assistant professor at Toronto Metropolitan University.

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The study is based on interviews with 182 transgender people who were surveyed over the course of three years.

People who took part said they are reluctant to seek legal help over fears of discrimination, inadequate services or a lack of accessible transgender-specific legal information.

“They reported often being told directly that they were being denied housing, shelter space, consumer services, police protection, health care, drug treatment and or employment because they are trans,” the report says.

More than 90 per cent of of the survey participants said they found the legal system served non-transgender people better than transgender people.

“It was really highlighted that coming to the legal system was absolutely their last resort,” James said.

“If they have come to the legal system, it was basically a matter of life and death for them and they were finding no other way to actually survive through what they were dealing with.”

The study found that people are often hesitant to interact with the justice system because of previous negative experiences or fears that they may be misgendered or disrespected in a public space.

James said the research also found that interacting with the justice system often had an emotional toll on the mental health and finances of transgender people.

“The impact of legal problems was pretty profound,” she said.

The report concludes that tinkering with policies and regulations is not enough and “systematic change” is needed, including on preventing harms in the first place.

It also calls for more education on transgender identities and more support for transgender legal professionals. It says law societies in Canada should mandate that practitioners receive at least three hours of training focused on equity and diversity.

Justice Minister David Lametti’s office said he is looking forward to reviewing the report and its recommendations.

“Minister Lametti continues to look at how the federal government can be of best support to those providing on the ground services to improve access to justice for 2SLGBTQI+ people,” spokesperson Diana Ebadi said in a statement.

Canadian Bar Association president Steeves Bujold said lawyers in Canada need to understand the needs of the transgender community to build back trust.

“Without trust, the justice system can’t work,” he said.

“It’s based solely on trust.”

An advisory group at the bar association that includes members of the transgender community is now reviewing the study’s findings, said Bujold.

“It will bring expertise. It will also bring legitimacy to the recommendations and the concrete actions we will be taking,” he said, adding he hopes the group will make its recommendations before his term as president ends in August.

The findings of the study weren’t a surprise for Gemma Hickey, an LGBTQ activist who advocated for and received one of Canada’s first non-binary passports — which allow Canadians to identify as neither male nor female on their travel documents.

Hickey said they have had to fight for their rights.

“I really feel that this analysis brings that to light for other people, perhaps, who don’t fully understand what it’s like to be part of a marginalized community.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.

 

David Fraser, The Canadian Press

 

 

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Ottawa tight-lipped on details as Canada, U.S. call out China over balloon

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OTTAWA — Canada announced that it had called China’s ambassador onto the carpet — but otherwise remained tight-lipped — as Ottawa and Washington expressed their disapproval about a high-altitude surveillance balloon found floating over the United States.

Chinese Ambassador Cong Peiwu was summoned for the dressing down from Global Affairs Canada officials on Thursday after the Pentagon revealed the presence of the balloon over the sensitive military sites in the western U.S.

“China’s ambassador to Canada was summoned by officials at Global Affairs Canada,” a department spokeswoman Charlotte MacLeod said in a statement on Friday. “We will continue to vigorously express our position to Chinese officials through multiple channels.”

U.S. officials also announced Secretary of State Antony Blinken was postponing a planned high-stakes weekend diplomatic trip to China, even as the Biden administration weighed a broader response to the discovery of the balloon.

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The discovery was announced by Pentagon officials on Thursday, who said one of the places it was spotted was over the state of Montana, which is home to one of America’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

On Friday, Pentagon spokesman Brig.-Gen. Patrick Ryder described the object as a manoeuvrable surveillance balloon flying at an altitude of about 60,000 feet, or 18,288 metres, with a “payload” or basket underneath.

Ryder did not offer further specifics, including the balloon’s size, what the U.S. military believes it was doing or even how it ended up hovering over Montana. However, he did downplay any potential threat when asked why it wasn’t being shot down.

“In terms of the discussions about whether or not to shoot down this balloon, that was an option,” he said. “Because we assess that currently it does not pose a physical or military risk to people on the ground, for now we’re continuing to monitor and review options.”

At a news conference in Toronto, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said that the balloon’s movements were being actively tracked.

She said Norad, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Department of National Defence and other partners were “assessing the situation and working in close co-ordination,” adding that Canadian intelligence agencies are working with American partners.

“We continue to take all necessary measures to safeguard Canada from foreign intelligence threats,” said Freeland.

“We take this very seriously.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said on Twitter Friday that she had spoken to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the security of Canada’s airspace.

“We are collaborating with our American partners and continue to take all necessary measures to safeguard Canada’s sensitive information,” she said.

Neither Freeland nor the Defence Department said whether the surveillance balloon flew over Canadian airspace. Defence Minister Anita Anand’s office declined to comment.

Adding to the confusion, the Defence Department said it was “monitoring a potential second incident.”

However, Ryder said the U.S. military was only tracking one balloon, which was slowly heading east.

China, which angrily denounces surveillance attempts by the U.S. and others over areas it considers to be its territory and once forced down an American spy plane, offered a generally muted reaction to the Pentagon announcement.

In a relatively conciliatory statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the balloon was a civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research. The ministry said the airship has limited “self-steering” capabilities and “deviated far from its planned course” because of winds.

“The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into U.S. airspace due to force majeure,” the statement said, citing a legal term used to refer to events beyond one’s control.

Social media was alive on Friday with suggestions based on publicly available flight-tracking data that the Canadian military had deployed aircraft earlier in the week to track the balloon as it travelled over the Rockies in British Columbia and down into the western U.S.

Research consultant Steffan Watkins, who monitors such flight information and noted the continued presence of Canadian military aircraft over Valhalla National Park and other places as early as Tuesday, said the lack of information from the government was troubling.

“I’m sure that Norad has been tracking it the entire time,” Watkins said.

Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier would not confirm any details.

Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as Canada’s ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016, was skeptical of the Chinese government’s explanation. If it were true, he said, Beijing would have notified Ottawa and Washington about what was happening.

The balloon’s appearance represented an awkward moment for the Chinese government and president Xi Jinping, he said.

The Chinese leader had signalled an interest in cooling tensions between China and the U.S. late last year amid growing economic problems and challenges at home, Saint-Jacques said.

“They were counting on the visit of Blinken to restore some kind of dialogue,” he said.

The balloon’s appearance also weakens the Communist Chinese government’s long-standing opposition to incursions into what it considers its territory, including in disputed regions such as the South China Sea.

“They protest every time an American aircraft comes close to Chinese airspace,” Saint-Jacques said.

“So the Americans will say: ‘Who are you to complain? You sent a balloon that is coming over our territory.’ So I think all this makes the Chinese look really clumsy.”

University of Manitoba associate professor Andrea Charron, one of Canada’s foremost experts on Norad, said the balloon’s appearance also underscores the urgent need to modernize the aging North American early warning system.

Military commanders have long warned that the system, including a series of 1980s-era radar stations in Canada’s Far North, has passed its best-before date. The government has announced plans to replace it in the coming years.

“We know we have sort of big gaps in radar coverage that we’re trying to fill with Norad modernization,” Charron said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.

— With files from The Associated Press.

 

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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