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Canadian-American couple forced apart at border after they couldn’t prove common-law status



Canadian Stephen Barkey and American Cathy Kolsch say they’re devastated after being forced apart when they tried to cross the Canada-U.S. border on Monday.

“We don’t know when we’re going to be reunited,” said Barkey, a 65-year-old retired sales rep. “It feels like my whole life has been ripped apart.”

The couple, who had been living together in the U.S., tried to cross the border from North Dakota into Saskatchewan after Canada loosened its travel restrictions to allow immediate family to enter the country. But Kolsch was denied entry to Canada because the couple wasn’t able to prove she is Barkey’s common-law partner.

When they turned back to re-enter the U.S., Barkey was then denied entry because the U.S. land border is now closed to Canadian visitors. Consequently, the couple was forced to separate and return to their respective countries.

“We were screaming and sobbing and pleading,” said Kolsch, a 61-year-old retired paramedic. “It’s inhumane what happened to us.”

Barkey and Kolsch are one of many cross-border couples separated during the pandemic. To help stop the spread of the coronavirus, Canada currently prohibits foreigners from entering the country for non-essential travel.

The federal government loosened the rules on June 8 to allow foreigners to visit immediate family in Canada — including spouses and common-law partners. However, many cross-border couples have been dismayed to discover that their relationship doesn’t qualify.

“We are together. We are common-law,” Kolsch said.


Canadian Steve Barkey and his American partner live in an RV and split their time between Canada and the U.S. before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. (submitted by Cathy Kolsch)


To qualify as common-law, unmarried couples must prove that they’ve lived together for at least one year.

Barkey and Kolsch said they have lived together for a year-and-a-half in their recreational vehicle (RV), mainly splitting their time between Barrie, Ont. and California.

When the pandemic hit and the Canada-U.S. land border closed to non-essential traffic, Barkey stayed in the U.S. with Kolsch. But after the Canadian government revised its travel restrictions, the couple drove their RV to the Saskatchewan border, confident they would qualify as a common-law couple.

Although they came armed with proof of their life together, including receipts for the campgrounds they’ve stayed at, the couple said they didn’t pass the test.

The border officer wanted to see a rental agreement or mortgage documents — which the RV dwellers couldn’t provide, Barkey said.

“We’re being discriminated against because we live in an RV.”

‘We felt like criminals’

The couple’s situation went from bad to worse when they tried to re-enter the U.S., and Barkey was denied entry.

“We were both just holding each other and crying and shaking,” he said.” We felt like criminals.”

Forced to go their separate ways, Barkey drove the RV to a friend’s farm in Grenfell, Sask., to self-isolate for 14 days.

Kolsch was stuck at the North Dakota border, homeless and alone. She said she spent about $1,000 on a taxi, hotel and then a flight two days later to California to stay with friends.

WATCH | ‘Travel bubble’ in Atlantic Canada important to reopening economy:

Atlantic Canadians should be able to travel within the four provinces sometime in early July, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said. Globe and Mail health columnist Andre Picard says such a travel bubble is the logical conclusion to gradually lifting COVID-19 restrictions.  7:49

“We just cry every time we talk to each other,” said Kolsch, who speaks with Barkey by phone multiple times a day. “This is unjust.”

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) told CBC News that foreigners must satisfy border officers that they meet the requirements to enter Canada.

When asked what documents cross-border couples need to provide to prove their common-law status, CBSA couldn’t provide a definitive list. Instead, the agency offered suggestions such as a common-law status certificate or documents showing a shared residential address.

Many couples still separated

No amount of documentation can help David Poon of Regina and his Irish partner, Alexandria Aquino of Dublin. The couple hasn’t lived together long enough to qualify as a common-law couple.

Frustrated by their situation, Poon and Aquino founded the organization Advocacy for Family Reunification at the Canadian Border. Poon said hundreds of the group’s 1,600 members are still separated from their loved ones, despite Canada loosening the rules for immediate family members.

“As the world gets more scary and more difficult, the one thing they wish is to embrace their partner,” said Poon, a 34-year-old physician.


David Poon of Regina and his Irish partner Alexandria Aquino founded the organization Advocacy for Family Reunification at the Canadian Border. (submitted by David Poon)


The organization has started a House of Commons petition asking the federal government to allow all committed cross-border couples to reunite in Canada.

“I do not believe the government set out to exclude us,” Poon said. “I believe we have just been lost in the technicalities.”

CBSA said the government understands the challenges cross-border families face during the pandemic but that the current travel restrictions are required to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“These are unprecedented times, and the measures imposed were done so in light of potential public health risks,” CBSA spokesperson Rebecca Purdy said in an email.

The Canada-U.S. land border remains closed to non-essential traffic until July 21 and that date may be extended. But Barkey and Kolsch haven’t given up hope they can soon be reunited.

Barkey could fly to the U.S., as the U.S. has only closed its shared land border with Canada. But he’s too afraid to try, concerned he has been flagged after being denied entry. So Kolsch is gathering more documents of their life together, hoping she can convince CBSA that she meets the requirements to join her partner in Canada.

“I should be there with him,” Kolsch said. “I know we qualify as a couple.”

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Online Casinos & COVID-19- The Beginning Of A New Boom



The outbreak of the pandemic has changed human lives in the most unexpected ways. No one expected businesses to go remote for several months in a row. And who could have ever thought that people would self-quarantine and shun social outings for such a long time? Still, there is nothing more real than the fact that COVID-19 has made social distancing the way of life. While some businesses have witnessed a complete downfall during this period, others have come ahead as winners.

Of course, healthcare organizations, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and other essential service providers have found opportunities to grow. Apart from the very obvious, there is a surprise winner in the list- online casinos. Again the reason for this boom is very obvious- people are looking for ways to keep themselves entertained while being mandated to stay at home. Let us discover the major factors that have led to the online casino boom in the COVID era.

Amazing source of indoor entertainment

Life has taken an unprecedented turn after the virus struck and things are not likely to change much in the foreseeable future. Even the post-pandemic era will emphasize on social distancing. Movie theaters, bars, and restaurants have shut their doors. Sports arenas, conferences, and concerts have been canceled. No wonder, people are looking for a sense of normalcy and only indoor entertainment can help. They have been indulging in activities like cooking, reading, exercising, gardening, and chatting with friends and family to be busy and engaged. However, when it comes to an amazing and exciting form of entertainment, online gaming definitely takes the cake. More so, online casinos bring the thrill factor of winning as well.

Luck is all one needs to win

When it comes to online gaming, there are a lot of options for people of all ages and interests. But you cannot expect to ace with skill-based virtual games unless you have the right kind of dexterity, expertise, and experience. With casino games, however, sheer luck is what keeps you going and even helps you win. You need not cultivate special skills and gain experience with this category of esports. Just place your bet where your intuition tells you and you can make big money if you are fortunate enough. What’s more, you can access your favorite casino website anytime with just a good internet connection and try your luck!

Opportunity to make a fortune

Perhaps the biggest reason why online casinos are experiencing a major boom in the COVID season is that they give the players an opportunity to make a fortune. Money is tight these days, with pay cuts and job losses being rampant. In such circumstances, even a few dollars made can give your finances all the support and stability they need. You can start with a small gambling bankroll and make it big in no time, if you have luck on your side and learn the basics of betting. And you can even embrace the games for supplementing your income in the post-pandemic period because you can expect economic tightness ahead. Online gambling surely has the potential to be a lucrative and entertaining side hustle.

There are options galore

Versatility is another factor that makes this activity a hot favorite for people looking for great entertainment indoors. It is easy to find a game that gets your adrenaline rushing and brings you big dollars as well. Check leovegas and you can find the incredible range in table games and esports. You have the freedom to play as many as you want to and choose the ones you would want to play again and again. There couldn’t be anything more thrilling than having a new one to try every single day. And you even have the chance to grab a jackpot or two!

Online casinos for everyone

If going to Vegas has always been a distant dream for you, now is the best time to make it true. The wow factor about online casinos is that they are for everyone- you need not be a millionaire to take a luxury flight to a gambling destination and stay at an expensive hotel there. It is easy to access a casino website with just a few clicks, without spending a dollar on being at a physical destination. You can save on the overheads of the trip and splurge on real gambling instead- and have a good chance of making big money too. And that goes for middle-income people who want to fulfill their Vegas dream!

Offers and promotions

While players love online gambling, businesses are also cashing in on the trend and offering the most amazing promotions on the websites. Obviously, you get the opportunity to win more with less. Moreover, online casinos are going the extra mile with the user experience on their website. So you can expect an exciting experience every time you play. There is great emphasis on security as well, so you need not worry about theft of your data and money even as you transact online.

Feel good even in isolation

Social isolation is the biggest impact of the coronavirus as it hits people mentally, even if they save themselves from getting infected. A thrilling activity like online gaming is a great way to beat the lockdown blues and stay happy and motivated even during the crisis. The fact that you have the hope to make big money adds to the positivity, which is a much-needed virtue for everyone these days. And you can probably connect with a group of fellow enthusiasts and create a community where everyone has the opportunity to share their experiences and beat isolation as well.

Certainly, online casinos deserve to be a winning platform because they go a long way in bringing entertainment and positivity for people locked indoors and struggling to stay sane during the crisis situation. The rising figures of traffic to these websites are enough to indicate their popularity and things are going to get only bigger and better in the future. Till then, keep playing and winning!

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Canada not ready for second wave of COVID-19, Senate committee says – CTV News



Canada is ill-prepared for a second wave of COVID-19, says a Senate committee, calling on the federal Liberals to deliver a plan by Labour Day to help people and communities hit hardest by the pandemic.

Seniors, in particular, are a focus of the report from the Senate’s social affairs committee, from those in long-term care homes to those with low incomes.

Just this week, the Liberals rolled out one-time special payments of $300 to the more than six million people who receive old-age security, and $200 more for the 2.2 million who also receive the guaranteed income supplement.

The income supports are meant to help seniors facing increased costs as a result of the pandemic, such as more frequent prescription fees and delivery charges for groceries.

Senators on the committee wrote of evidence of “financial insecurity and increased vulnerability” for low-income seniors as a result of the first wave of the novel coronavirus.

A potential second wave, which could coincide with the annual flu season that starts in the fall, would make the situation even worse for these seniors “without concrete and timely government action,” the report says.

Senators say the Liberals should deliver a plan to help low-income seniors, among other populations vulnerable to economic shocks like new immigrants, no later than the end of August, and contain short- and long-term options.

The report also says the federal government needs to pay urgent attention to seniors in long-term care homes where outbreaks and deaths in the pandemic have been concentrated.

The document made public Thursday morning is the committee’s first set of observations on the government’s response to the pandemic, with a final report expected later this year.

Before then, the Liberals are planning to provide another economic update like the one delivered Wednesday, or possibly a full budget. The government shelved plans to deliver one at the end of March when the House of Commons went on extended hiatus due to the pandemic.

The long-awaited economic “snapshot,” as the Liberals styled it, said federal spending is closing in on $600 billion this fiscal year. That means a deficit of $343 billion, fuelled by emergency pandemic aid that the government budgets at over $230 billion.

The Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada said the spending figures demand a “full and transparent assessment” to see what worked, what didn’t and what needs to change for an economic recovery.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, said the Liberals should take back up their promise to create a national pharmacare system as the government considers its next steps.

A federal advisory council last year calculated the cost of a program at over $15 billion annually, depending on its design.

“The last thing we want to have is Canadians in frail health as we’re dealing with this pandemic and I think the government really needs to think of that,” Yussuff said in an interview Wednesday.

“Had it not been for the health care system we have right now,” he added later, “think of how this country would have fared in this pandemic.”

The Senate committee’s report also notes the national emergency stockpile of personal protective gear like masks, gowns and gloves wasn’t managed well over the years, nor sufficiently stocked when the pandemic struck.

Committee members added concerns that military members could be deployed without sufficient personal protective equipment because of “inconsistencies from international procurement.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2020.

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PM's mother Margaret and brother Alexandre were both paid to speak at WE Charity events –



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mother Margaret and his brother Alexandre have both been paid tens of thousands of dollars to appear at WE Charity events.

In a response to an inquiry from CBC News, WE Charity has provided details of the speaking fees paid to both individuals for their participation at events between 2016 and 2020.

Both Margaret and Alexandre are registered with the Speakers’ Spotlight Bureau, which arranges appearances for clients in exchange for negotiated fees.

Margaret spoke at approximately 28 events and received honoraria amounting to $250,000. Alexandre spoke at eight events and received approximately $32,000.

Alexandre (Sacha) Trudeau speaks during an interview in Toronto, Wednesday August 13, 2003. (Aaron Harris/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Trudeau and his government have been under fire since announcing on June 25 they were awarding a $19.5 million sole-source contract to WE Charity to administer the Canada Student Service Grant, a $912 million program offering grants of between $1,000 and $5,000 to post-secondary students in return for supervised volunteer hours.

WE Charity said last week it was pulling out of administering CSSG, citing the ongoing controversy surrounding it and the government’s decision to give the sole-source contract to WE. Prime Minister Trudeau said the federal government would take over the program.

News of the payments to two members of Trudeau’s family seems to contradict WE Charity’s earlier claim that it had “never paid an honorarium” to Margaret Trudeau.

The federal ethics commissioner is investigating the WE contract to administer the volunteer grant, after Conservative and NDP MPs contacted the office raising concerns about the relationship between the charity and the prime minister’s family.

This evening, the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that — as CTV News first reported — the prime minister’s spouse, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau “received $1,500″ for participating in a WE event in 2012, before Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party.

“The Prime Minister has never received payment for any events with WE,” the PMO said.

Prime Minister Trudeau admitted to reporters earlier this week that he did not recuse himself from cabinet discussions that led to the decision to award the contract to WE Charity.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on stage at We Day on Parliament Hill. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

CBC News contacted WE Charity to clarify the terms under which the prime minister and members of his family had appeared at past WE Day events.

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Madame Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and Madame Margaret Trudeau have participated in WE Charity events and programs over the years,” a WE spokesperson told CBC News late in the evening on June 25.

The charity has never paid an honorarium to these individuals for their involvement in these programs and events.”

The charity said Sophie Grégoire Trudeau’s involvement as an “Ambassador and Ally” has been “entirely on a volunteer basis and travel expenses related to this involvement were paid for by WE Charity.”

On Thursday, WE Charity emailed CBC News, saying the organization wanted to reach out “proactively” to “provide you with some updated information.”

Less than an hour after the WE statement went out Thursday, Canadaland reported on its website that it had records showing Speakers’ Spotlight had invoiced Free the Children (the not-for-profit arm of WE, now called WE Charity) directly for some of Margaret Trudeau’s speaker’s fees — and had asked WE about the discrepancy.

The money trail

The email to CBC News said that “WE Day” is an event organized by the WE Charity. Corporate partners, it said, have sponsored speakers at these rallies, who are often contracted through speakers’ bureaus which act as agents setting up appearances in return for negotiated fees.

One of those sponsors, the charity said, has been ME to WE Social Enterprises — another part of the WE organization that does seek profits from its activities. In the past, those activities have included things like branded merchandise sales. Much of that profit is returned to the WE Charity arm.

WE Charity said that when she appeared to talk to students about mental health issues, Margaret Trudeau’s fees were usually sponsored by ME to WE Social Enterprise and paid through a speakers’ bureau, it said. The bureau received a 20 per cent commission.

But WE Charity now acknowledges that, on some occasions, the speakers’ bureau that represents Margaret Trudeau was paid directly by WE Charity — an “error in billing/payment,” it said, that came to light as a result of an “internal review process.”

Co-founders of WE Craig (left) and Marc Kielburger (right) are seen on stage during WE Day California in Inglewood, California, April 25, 2019. (REUTERS)

ME to WE Social Enterprises then reimbursed the charity in its role as the sponsor of those speeches, the charity said.

The value of these billing errors amounted to $64,000 worth of appearances. For the rest, and for all the appearances by the prime minister’s brother, the social enterprise part of the WE organization paid the speakers’ bureau as a corporate sponsor of WE Day.

Prior to the pandemic, thousands of Canadian students attended WE Day rallies across Canada. Other speakers at this event, such as astronaut Chris Hadfield and athlete Chantal Petitclerc, were also paid to appear.

Some 35,000 students and recent graduates have applied for the CSSG, which connects them with volunteering opportunities in exchange for payments of between $1,000 and $5,000, depending on the number of hours worked.

Earlier this week, opposition MPs on the House of Commons finance committee passed two motions meant to pry more information out of the government about the process that led to the decision to hire the WE Charity to administer a $900 million federal program.

One motion tasks the committee with interviewing witnesses about the contract, including Clerk of the Privy Council Ian Shugart and Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth Bardish Chagger. The second motion demands that all documents, memos, briefing notes, correspondence and other documents related to the deal with WE Charity be delivered to the committee by Aug. 8.

MP Michael Barrett, Conservative critic for ethics, called the news of the fees “scandalous.”

“We know now that Justin Trudeau handed almost a billion-dollar contract to a charity that not only had close ties to the Liberal Party, but which paid his family almost $300,000,” he said in a media statement.
“Parliament must immediately be recalled so that we can get to the bottom of this. All of the documents related to the contract must be made public. Every single cabinet minister needs to come clean about whether or not they knew that the prime minister’s family had a financial relationship with WE Charity when they approved this massive contract. Canadians deserve answers and the prime minister and his government must be held accountable.”

NDP MP Charlie Angus accused the Liberal government of thinking “they could play Canadians for suckers.”

“Did they really think that people weren’t going to notice a billion dollar contract given to people who are very close to the prime minister’s family?” Angus asked while appearing on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics this evening.

“When asked straightforward questions about whether his family was receiving money from WE, the prime minister should have told the truth and he didn’t tell the truth. That’s why he’s in trouble,” Angus told guest David Cochrane. “He doesn’t seem to understand, and the people around him don’t seem to understand, that there are laws that have to be followed.”

In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office said members of Trudeau’s family “engage with a variety of organizations and support many personal causes on their own accord.

“What is important to remember here is that this is about a charity supporting students. The Canada Student Service Grant program is about giving young people opportunities to contribute to their communities, not about benefits to anyone else.”

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