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Feds say ‘no willing partners’ to bring fire codes onto First Nations — including AFN

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fire codes onto First Nations

The federal government does not have a willing partner to find a way to introduce fire codes on First Nation reserves, a newly released document shows.

The senior director for the Indigenous Fire Marshal Service, however, says there are steps Ottawa can take now to better protect communities.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” said Blaine Wiggins. “Analyzing the problem that they already know is not an option.”

A meeting scenario note for Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu, obtained by The Canadian Press through access-to-information legislation, details some of the sticking points the department says it has run into when it comes to improving fire prevention.

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The note was prepared ahead of an anticipated meeting with Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald last October.

For decades, house fires on First Nations have caused deaths and injuries at a much higher rate than off-reserve. Experts say that’s due to of a range of factors, from insufficient housing and overcrowding to improper education and funding for fire prevention and suppression services.

Another major gap is that national and provincial building and fire codes do not apply to structures on First Nations. That means it is up to communities to pass their own bylaws.

Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare believes that ought to change.

“It’s a no-brainier,” he said in an interview Friday. “(You’ve) got to have fire protection in your home.”

Andrew MacKendrick, Hajdu’s director of communications, confirmed the minister met with the National Indigenous Fire Safety Council and then later spoke with Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse on the matter, as per directions from Archibald’s office.

Woodhouse heads the fire safety file for the AFN, which is the advocate voice for more than 600 First Nations across the country. She did not respond to a request for comment and the assembly did not provide a comment on its position by deadline.

According to the document, the agenda for Hajdu’s meeting included the possible development of legal and regulatory fire protection on-reserve.

It also detailed the AFN’s own history with the issue.

It noted that chiefs passed a resolution at a 2017 gathering recognizing the lack of national fire standards on-reserve and endorsing the creation of an office that eventually became the Indigenous Fire Marshal Service, which is part of the Indigenous safety council.

But Indigenous Services officials noted that the idea of bringing in regulations or legislation was then abandoned, “due to a lack of First Nations leadership support.”

“(The) Assembly of First Nations has previously not been supportive of legal or regulatory approaches to fire protection. To my knowledge, there are currently no partners willing to support co-developed approaches to fire enforcement,” reads a set of prepared opening remarks for Hajdu.

Hare, who is a member of the AFN’s executive, said he plans to raise the issue when they next meet.

“I’ll just put the question out there: Do we support it or not?”

He said while First Nations do not accept many of the “codes” that have been imposed upon them by the federal government, he finds it difficult to imagine a chief saying, ‘Well, we can’t do this.'”

Wiggins said his office of eight is working to get buy-in from communities and build capacity for them to institute their own standards.

“Instead of one legislation for 630 communities, 630 pieces of bylaw for 630 communities.”

He said one step Ottawa could take is working with organizations like his to make better funding decisions when it comes to equipment.

“I can go to a dozen First Nations communities where there are fire trucks, you know, really good fire trucks that are sitting in buildings not being utilized,” he said.

“Nobody knows how to use it.”

MacKendrick said Hajdu is open to all options, and is looking to hold a gathering to discuss fire safety in the coming weeks.

Federal officials have previously noted that legislating fire and building codes on First Nations raises complicated questions, given that much of the housing stock is in poor condition.

For example — is there a risk that homes that are not up to code are at risk of becoming condemned?

For Terrance Meekis, who assists with fire prevention on Sandy Lake First Nation, the idea of Ottawa bringing fire codes into communities like his raises questions of capacity.

Meekis said there are 10 firefighters in the northern Ontario community, which is better than others in the region.

He said Sandy Lake does not have fire codes, but is inspecting homes and dealing with ones that only have one door, or a blocked entryway. They also lack basic equipment like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Three children died in a house fire last year, but Meekis said the community has seen fewer deadly blazes than in years past.

In fact, one of the first fires he witnessed took the lives of his great-aunt and cousin.

“I’ve really been fighting for fire safety for the past 20 years.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2023.

A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu’s name in several references. It has since been corrected.

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Canadian soccer player describes the horror of the earthquake in Turkey

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Canadian soccer player Sam Adekugbe is one of the lucky ones. He managed to escape earthquake-ravaged Antakya in Turkey.

Some of his teammates and staff at his club Hatayspor are still missing.

The 28-year-old from Calgary is now safe in Istanbul with Canada captain Atiba Hutchinson, who plays in the Turkish Super Lig for Besiktas. But in a Zoom call Wednesday sitting next to Hutchinson, a sombre Adekugbe told a harrowing tale of being caught in the quake — and the horror of what he saw in the aftermath.

“Unfathomable. Something you never really expect,” said Adekugbe, who looked shell-shocked.

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Adekugbe was relaxing at home with some teammates after a 1-0 win over visiting Kasimpasa in a Turkish league game Sunday evening. The quake began as he started cleaning up his home when they left.

He started shaking, which initially made him think he was having a panic attack. Then the furniture and TV began to tip over and cups and dishes smashed in the kitchen.

He went outside to find the road split and people yelling amid freezing rain and lighting strikes. After witnessing the damage around his home, he drove the 20 minutes to the team training ground, seeing the devastation along the way.

“It just felt like a movie. You’re seeing collapsed buildings, fires. People yelling, people crying,” he said. “People digging through the rubble. Broken pieces of houses. Just things you never really expect.”

It got worse the closer he got to the centre of the city, which is located 1,100 kilometres southeast of Istanbul in a region bordered by the Mediterranean and Syria.

“Roads split. Bridges broken. Twelve-storey highrises just completely collapsed. Families looking for loved ones. Parents looking for their kids. Kids looking for their parents. It was just something unfathomable. Something you never really expect.”

Adekugbe says people are still missing, including the team’s sporting director, Taner Savut. There is confusion over the whereabouts of Ghana international Christian Atsu, who was at Adekugbe’s home that night.

Reports of Atsu being rescued are now in doubt, said Adekugbe, who joined the search for survivors after getting to the training ground.

“It’s also people who work around the team,” Adekugbe said.

He says one of the team’s equipment men died in the quake. So did the daughters and mother of a woman who works in the team kitchen.

The wife of another equipment man needs urgent medical attention, facing having her arm amputated if she doesn’t get it.

“Of course I’m thankful that a lot of my teammates have been found. But the people that do help the team, the people who work around the club, they still have loved ones that are missing and unaccounted for. Really it starts to hit home when you just see the agony, the desperation on their faces,” he said.

In the light of day, the horror grew.

“You’re looking through rubble trying to find your teammates. You’re trying to yell for them in like darkened spaces of apartments that used to be standing,” Adekugbe said. “It’s just something you never find yourself doing. People coming back with broken bones. People still missing to this day. It’s something you can’t really explain.”

Adekugbe and some of his teammates managed to get out thanks to his coach, Volkan Demirel, who used to play for Fenerbahce, another Turkish club based in Istanbul. He called the Fenerbahce president who organized a plane departing from a city about a 150-minute drive away.

Adekugbe and other Hatayspor players and staff were bused to the waiting plane, which took them to Istanbul.

“We were very lucky,” Adekugbe said.

“I just grabbed what I could … I have three suitcases and my dog.”

Hutchinson was waiting to take him in. Adekugbe had called him in the aftermath of the quake, showing him the damage via FaceTime.

He called his parents when he got to the training ground.

Antakya is renowned for its cuisine, which has many Middle Eastern influences. UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has designated Antakya as a “city of gastronomy.”

Adekugbe, who joined Hatayspor in June 2021 from Norway’s Valerenga Fotball, has won 37 caps for Canada and saw action in all three of Canada’s games at the World Cup in Qatar.

Born in London, England, he was three when his family moved to Manchester and 10 when it came to Calgary.

At 16, he moved to Vancouver to join the Whitecaps residency program. He signed a homegrown contract with the MLS team in 2013 but made just 16 appearances for the team over the next four seasons, spending much of the time out on loan.

Adekugbe had loans stints with Brighton in the English Championship and Sweden’s IFK Goteborg before joining Valerenga in January 2018.

While Istanbul escaped quake damage, Hutchinson’s concern for Adekugbe grew when internet connection was lost and a second quake hit.

Both players urged Canadians to donate to relief organizations to help the region and its people.

“There’s a lot of people that are still under the rubble,” Hutchinson said.

“People are just really in bad conditions right now,” he added. “It’s really cold here. Just making it through the day and the night, it’s extremely difficult.”

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.

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How much money is needed to retire in Canada

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Canadians now believe they need $1.7 million in savings in order to retire, a 20 per cent increase from 2020, according to a new BMO survey.

The eye-watering figure is the largest sum since BMO first started surveying Canadians about their retirement expectations 13 years ago. It’s also a drastic increase from the $1.4 million in savings Canadians expected to need for their nest eggs just two years ago.

The results reflect Canadians’ concerns about current economic conditions, particularly inflation and higher prices, said Caroline Dabu, head of wealth distribution and advisory services for BMO Financial Group.

“If you look at the average Canadian, they’re feeling the rising inflation costs,” said Dabu.

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“And so, not surprisingly, we are seeing that Canadians are feeling they absolutely will need more to retire.”

Canada’s annual inflation rate hit a four-decade high of 8.1 per cent in the summer of 2022 and has since fallen to 6.3 per cent as of December 2022. BMO Economics expects the country’s CPI to decline to around three per cent by the end of the year.

The sharp increase to Canada’s inflation rate in 2022 exceeded wage gains, eroding purchasing power for most families and heightening fears about the future. The BMO survey found that just 44 per cent of Canadians are confident they will have enough money to retire as planned — a 10 per cent decrease from 2020.

But while the $1.7 million figure may sound overwhelming to working-age Canadians, Dabu said the number says more about the economic mood of the country than it does about real-life retirement necessities.

“Certainly when we’re working with clients, we find that many overestimate the number that they need to retire,” she said.

“It really does have to be taken at an individual level, because circumstances are very different … But $1.7 million, I would say, is high.”

While rising inflation may require tweaks to a retirement plan — such as contributing slightly more to savings each month if you’re a young worker, or making cash flow adjustments if you’re nearing the end of your working career — Dabu said these changes don’t necessarily have to be drastic.

When it comes to retirement planning, Dabu said, knowledge is power. By working with a professional financial advisor and making a plan that encompasses individual circumstances and goals, Canadians can come up with their own retirement savings number.

“In the survey, we note that 53 per cent of Canadians didn’t know how much they will need to retire,” Dabu said.

“That increased confidence comes from knowing the exact number that I need to save for, and how I’m going to get there.”

The BMO survey also found that approximately 22 per cent of Canadians plan to retire between the ages of 60 and 69, with an average age of 62.

Millennial and generation z Canadians are the most nervous about their ability to save and invest right now, the survey found. However, all age groups — 74 per cent of survey respondents — said they are concerned about how current economic conditions will affect their financial situation, and 59 per cent said economic conditions have affected their confidence in meeting their retirement goals.

The BMO survey was conducted between Nov. 4 and 7, 2022 by Pollara Strategic Insights via an online survey of 1,500. The survey’s margin of error is plus/minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2023.

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Driver arrested after city bus hits daycare in Laval, Que., at least five injured

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A 51-year-old man drove a city bus into a daycare in Laval, Que., on Wednesday morning, authorities said, killing two children and injuring six more.

Pierre Ny St-Amand, an employee of the Société de transport de Laval (STL), was arrested at the scene.

He has been charged with several crimes, including two counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm.

Around 8:30 a.m., the Laval city bus crashed into the Garderie Éducative de Sainte-Rose in the Sainte-Rose neighbourhood on Terrasse Dufferin. There is a bus stop for the 151 line on the roundabout near the daycare.

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A neighbour who witnessed the crash said he and a group of parents tried to rescue children pinned under the bus and managed to subdue the driver, who was acting erratically.

Laval police spokesperson Erika Landry said two children are confirmed dead, one at the scene. Urgences-santé confirmed 12 people were injured, including six other children who were recovering in hospital but are expected to survive. One adult was also taken to hospital to be treated for shock.

Dr. Marc Girard, the director of professional services at Sainte-Justine Hospital, said at an afternoon news conference that the hospital received four victims, all preschool-age children, two boys and two girls.

The children were conscious when they arrived at the hospital, but were suffering from various traumatic injuries, Girard said. They are now recovering and in stable condition, he said.

Sébastien Rocheleau, director of medical services at the Laval regional health authority, said the Cité-de-la-Santé Hospital received three patients from the daycare. One child died. The other two are under observation and their injuries are not considered life-threatening. Nathalie Vaillancourt describes the scene at a daycare after a bush crashed into the building Wednesday morning.

Driver was in ‘another world,’ resident says

Hamdi Ben Chaabane, who lives in the neighbourhood and was one of the first on the scene, said the bus must have been travelling 30 or 40 km/h when it struck the daycare.

“From what I saw, it wasn’t an accident,” he said.

After the bus struck the daycare, the driver emerged and began acting erratically.

“He opened the door. He took off all his clothes. He was totally naked,” Ben Chaabane said. “We don’t know why he did that. We dove on him. We tried to subdue him.”

He described the driver as being “in another world.”

“It was a nightmare. It’s horrible. He didn’t stop yelling. He wasn’t saying words,” Ben Chaabane said.

Drone captures bird’s-eye view of Laval daycare bus crash scene

Police created a large perimeter around the Garderie Éducative de Sainte-Rose in Laval, Que., after a city bus crashed into the daycare.

When the group tried to pry children out from underneath the bus, Ben Chaabane said they reached one child, who was only lightly injured, but were unable to reach a girl who was stuck deeper beneath rubble.

He said they continued trying to reach the trapped children until firefighters arrived and told them to leave because the roof of the daycare was caving in.

According to the Stéphane Boyer, the mayor of Laval, the person who was arrested has worked for the STL for 10 years  but didn’t have any prior incidents on his record.

“There is a hypothesis that this was an intentional act but it will have to be confirmed by the investigation,” Boyer said, adding that it was unclear if the suspect had any connection to the daycare.

“It’s chaos,” said Julia Moreno, a mother whose child was in the daycare when the bus struck it. “There are injured children. It’s terrible.”

Nathalie Vaillancourt, another mother whose child was inside, said the bus destroyed the front facade of the daycare. Both mothers said their children were unscathed.

Urgences-santé dispatched seven ambulances, a “tactical medical vehicle” — which responds to unusual medical situations, often alongside police — and a rapid response team.

“It’s terrible what happened this morning in Laval,” Premier François Legault told a group of reporters at the National Assembly. “All my thoughts are with the children, with the parents and with the employees.”

Legault said Public Security Minister François Bonnardel, Family Minister Suzanne Roy and Christopher Skeete, the MNA for the Sainte-Rose riding, will be in Laval to assess the situation.

Cropped photo of man smiling.
Pierre Ny St-Amand faces charges of murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm. (Pierre Ny St-Amand/Facebook)

Laval’s mayor said psychologists would be available for those affected.

“It’s a tragic act,” Boyer said. “Obviously there are lots of parents right now wondering if their child was affected. I really want to be there for the families, show support.”

The STL said in a statement it was devastated by the “tragedy in Laval.”

“Our hearts go out to the families and employees affected by this tragedy,” the statement said. “The Service de police de la Ville de Laval is currently conducting an investigation in which we are actively collaborating.”

The bus drivers’ union released a statement this afternoon saying its members are in shock and wholeheartedly support the parents and the daycare workers affected by this “tragic event.” The union says it is co-operating with the authorities investigating the event.

The CISSS de Laval, the regional health board for that city, is inviting anyone who needs psychological help due to Wednesday’s events to contact the province’s telehealth services.

“Anyone who needs psychological help can dial 811, option two. They will be listened to and directed to the right resources,” the health board tweeted.

 

With files from Chloë Ranaldi, Sarah Leavitt, Radio-Canada

 

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