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Feds may need to think beyond income taxes to get benefits to First Nations families



OTTAWA — As the first Canada Child Benefit cheques were mailed in 2016, cabinet ministers fanned out across the country to raise awareness about the Liberals’ landmark new program to lift children out of poverty.

Then-Indigenous affairs minister Carolyn Bennett was dispatched to Enoch Cree Nation, just outside Edmonton, to speak about the importance of the new benefit to people on First Nations and encourage them to fill out their income tax returns.

“It is important that Indigenous families are aware of this benefit and we are committed to provide the support they need to help with tax filing,” Bennett said in a statement about the trip.

In the six years since, the government has struggled to make the benefits available to First Nations families, and Indigenous advocates and economists have called for a more creative approach that looks beyond income tax.

Now, Canada’s auditor general has added her voice to that chorus.

In a report released Tuesday, Karen Hogan found the government isn’t doing enough to make sure income-tested supports like the child benefit get to hard-to-reach populations like those living on reserves, despite spending tens of millions of dollars on outreach.

The most recent figures show only 79 per cent of eligible families on First Nations accessed the Canada Child Benefit in 2017 compared to 97 per cent of the general population.

The auditor said it’s not possible to know whether that gap has closed since 2017 because the eligibility figures are based on census data, which is only gathered every five years.

Though not directly related to her report, the auditor said Tuesday the government should consider an approach that doesn’t include income tax filing as a mandatory requirement.

“You could explore, as they’re doing with the Guaranteed Income Supplement, a different way of demonstrating income other than a tax return,” Hogan said at a news conference.

“It’s that sort of creative thinking to go out and reach that hard-to-reach population, which might be helpful in trying to actually increase uptake in some of these programs.”

There are many reasons people may not fill out their income tax returns, from principled stands against colonization and lack of trust in government to lower literacy stemming from poorly funded public services, said Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.

“To expect families who have got this additional piece of the traumatic crises and the disadvantage because of the underfunding of education and therefore the lower literacy levels to access benefits that way, it just makes no sense,” Blackstock said in an interview.

The Assembly of First Nations has said for years that relying on tax returns is not effective.

When questioned on whether the government would consider separating the benefit from the income tax system, Families, Children and Social Development Minister Karina Gould pointed to the government’s existing strategy of connecting First Nations families with federal employees to help them fill out the necessary forms.

“There are actual people from Service Canada who connect with third-party organizations who have community relationships, where they can go and build that trust in terms of making that application,” Gould said at a news conference Tuesday.

“It is absolutely a top priority for me.”

Public sector economist Ross Hickey said it’s not clear if federal workers can overcome the lack of trust First Nations families have in the government. But the government has a fiduciary and moral responsibility to Indigenous people to make sure they get the benefits they’re entitled to, regardless of the personal decision they make about their tax returns, he said.

There are options the government could consider to encourage people to fill out their income tax forms, automate the process or circumvent it entirely, Hickey said, but the government needs to balance that against ensuring the integrity of the program.

One option would be to engage band offices, said Hickey, who is of Indigenous heritage.

“The band, I think, can play a role in encouraging those Canadian Indigenous band members to ensure that they’re getting access to those programs,” he said, but added right now bands don’t have the incentives or the resources to do that.

Blackstock suggests creating a parallel program specifically for First Nations that doesn’t use the income tax system.

“There already are mechanisms to flow funding through First Nations for the provision of social services, like child welfare, social assistance, etc. And this ought to be added to it,” she said.

Others have suggested automating the income tax system, but Hickey said it’s an imperfect solution because many people make money under the table.

“It’s not going to be one solution to this. There need to be a lot of different approaches taken, I think,” Hickey said.

The suggestions aren’t new, however, and the auditor’s greatest frustration with her job is that often she highlights issues and nothing changes.

“It’s very frustrating and discouraging for the government to know, for many years, that problems exist, that barriers exist, but that little action is taken to address and eliminate them. So it’s time for actions to actually catch up with all of the words,” Hogan said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2022.


Laura Osman, The Canadian Press


‘McGregor-Mayweather rematch in the making’



Los Angeles, United States of America (USA)- has reported that Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather are in discussions over holding a second bout.

Mayweather beat McGregor in their huge clash back in June 2017 but McGregor has hinted at a possible rematch in a post on his Instagram account.

The UFC superstar posted a cryptic post hinting at a second bout by sharing a picture of their 2017 clash and writing, “I accept.”

However, it’s uncertain as to whether a rematch between the pair would be another exhibition bout, or whether Mayweather would make it one more professional fight.

Meanwhile, YouTuber, Jake Paul, has repeatedly claimed that Mayweather still hasn’t paid him following last year’s exhibition bout. Their eight-round exhibition bout went to a draw as Mayweather was unable to knockout Paul, “Floyd Mayweather is broke. I have been saying it all the time. I think he probably spent it on the girls he pays to be around him. He’s hard to hit, but even harder to collect money from. Who should I fight next?”

However, Mayweather has since dismissed the accusations claiming that Paul has suggested that the pair should have a second exhibition bout.

“This is the guy who said he didn’t get paid, which we know is truly false, which is why I don’t entertain the bull*** a lot of the time. We know he got paid and if he didn’t get paid he wouldn’t be trying to get another payday. It is so crazy that Logan Paul wants to do an exhibition again but it is the same guy that said he didn’t get paid. It is what it is,” said Mayweather.

Mayweather was expected to earn US$64 million from the fight, with Logan receiving US$18.5 million of the purse.

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G7: Canada to elevate small Commonwealth nations' concerns – CTV News



KIGALI, Rwanda –

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau headed to the G7 summit in Germany on Saturday without a consensus from the Commonwealth to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but with a chorus of countries calling for help to overcome the fallout of the war.

Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly arrived in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, on Wednesday for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, which has been dominated by the concerns of nations that are suffering from food scarcity. Trudeau departed for the G7 talk slater in the day.

In the final communique from the Commonwealth summit, the 54 participating countries said they discussed the conflict in Ukraine, ” underscored the need to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states,” and ” emphasized that all countries must seek peaceful resolution to all disputes in accordance with international law.”

The countries stopped short of condemning Russia, as Trudeau and United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson have done throughout the summit.

“I can assure you that the topic of standing up for Ukraine was much discussed,” Trudeau said at a press conference following the conclusion of the summit, referencing “strong language” in the communique.

Most Commonwealth Nations condemned Russia’s actions at a United Nations vote in March, but 10 abstained. Among them was India, whose Prime Minister Narendra Modi opted not to attend the Commonwealth summit and instead spoke virtually with the leaders of Russia, China, Brazil and South Africa.

Trudeau said Russian President Vladimir Putin has run a disinformation campaign and has even been “telling outright lies,” including blaming the food security crisis on Western sanctions against Russia.

He said food shortage stems from Russia’s illegal actions, including blockade at key ports, as well as the deliberate targeting of Ukrainian grain storage facilities through cruise missile strikes.

“I was very clear with our friends and partners around the table, and not just clear on Russia’s responsibility, but on how Canada and the West are stepping up,” Trudeau said.

Canada will be raising the growing threat of famine at the G7 in Schloss Elmau Germany, Joly said.

She said Canada was in “listening mode” at the Commonwealth meetings, where leaders of smaller nations were able to speak without the dominating presence of the United States, Russia and China.

“What is clear to us is that Russia is weaponizing food and putting a toll on many countries around the world, and putting 50 million lives at risk,” Joly told reporters Friday in Rwanda.

Trudeau had attempted to meet with the chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, for several days during the Commonwealth summit but the sit-down was repeatedly postponed and eventually cancelled.

Shortly after Trudeau arrived in Rwanda, the government announced Canada would dedicate a new ambassador to the African Union, which has suffered from the food shortages inflicted on the continent as a result of the warin Ukraine.

Both Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Putin have met with representatives of the African Union, with Russia blaming sanctions against its government for stopping the flow of grain.

At the conclusion of the Commonwealth summit, Trudeau announced $94 million in funding for various education initiatives and $120 million to support gender equality and women’s rights in Commonwealth countries.

Some of the other voices the prime minister has promised to centre at his international meetings, including the G7 summit,

belong to youth leaders who spoke at a Saturday-morning event focused on issues facing young people around the world.

Some of the delegates spoke about the devastating effects of climate change, particularly around remote island nations where infrastructure cannot withstand natural disasters and rebuilding efforts take years. The onslaught takes a toll on education and health services, one delegate told the forum.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2022.

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New federal task force to review Canada’s immigration, passport delays – Global News



The federal government has created a special task force to help tackle the major delays with immigration applications and passport processing that have left Canadians frustrated.

In a statement announcing the new task force, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government knows the delays are unacceptable, and will continue to do everything it can to improve the delivery of the services in an efficient and timely manner.

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Passport renewal wait times now online as Ottawa looks to address long lineups

Trudeau said the new task force will help guide the government to better meet the changing needs of Canadians, and continue to provide them with the high-quality services they need and deserve.

Ten cabinet members will spearhead the new committee, which will review how services are delivered, and identify gaps and areas for improvement.

Click to play video: 'New passport wait-time estimator shows system backlog'

New passport wait-time estimator shows system backlog

New passport wait-time estimator shows system backlog – Jun 15, 2022

The committee will be expected to make recommendations outlining short- and longer-term solutions that would reduce wait times, clear out backlogs, and improve the overall quality of services provided.

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Canadian passport delays are frustrating travellers. What’s the fix?

In addition, the task force will monitor external issues, such as labour shortages around the world, which contribute to travel delays at home and abroad.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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