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Goldman Sachs will no longer fund drilling in Arctic refuge sacred to First Nations – CBC.ca

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In the wake of a U.S. banking giant’s announcement it will no longer invest in new oil projects in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Gwich’in leaders are heading to Bay Street to push some of Canada’s biggest banks to do the same. 

Investment firm Goldman Sachs released an updated environmental policy framework this week. In it, the company says it will “decline any financing transaction that directly supports new upstream Arctic oil exploration or development,” including but not limited to new work in the Alaskan refuge.

It’s the latest win for Gwich’in leaders who have been lobbying banks to refuse to fund development in the refuge.

Supporters of drilling say it would be an economic boon in the region, but the Gwich’in and other critics note the refuge, which is a winter home for polar bears, is also sacred calving ground for the Arctic Indigenous group’s traditional food source — caribou. 

“For them to really understand the importance of this makes my heart very humble and grateful,” said Gwich’in Steering Committee Executive director Bernadette Demientieff.

May also be financially motivated

Goldman Sachs’s decision not to fund drilling in the refuge follows other international banks, including Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland, which have said they won’t fund exploration projects in the region.

In explaining its decision, Goldman Sachs acknowledged Indigenous people have used the land for centuries — but the decisions may also be financially motivated. 

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska is a calving ground for caribou.  (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/The Associated Press)

“Oil development in the Arctic Circle is prone to harsh operating conditions, sea ice, permafrost coverage, and potential impacts to critical natural habitats for endangered species,” the firm notes in its framework. 

Demientieff said Gwich’in leaders have been talking with the bank for two years to get this result.

“We do not have the ability to give up … this is our way of life,” she said.

Scotiabank, TD, RBC, CIBC

Gwich’in leaders are now taking the fight north of the border.

CBC reached Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Councillor Cheryl Charlie as she was boarding a flight to Toronto, where she plans to meet representatives from Scotiabank, Toronto-Dominion, Royal Bank of Canada and CIBC to ask them to follow the U.S. company’s lead.

A representative from the Gwich’in Tribal Council also plans on attending the meetings. 

“The Goldman Sachs announcement … is a step in the right direction,” she said. “Hopefully this week we can build on that.”

A representative from RBC confirmed the bank is meeting with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and said they “regularly meet with a broad range of stakeholders to understand their perspective.”

Scotiabank declined to comment for this article. TD and CIBC did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Gwich’in chiefs testify in Washington, D.C., before a U.S. congressional subcommittee on ANWR development. (CBC)

On a recent episode of Goldman Sachs’ corporate podcast, Exchanges, John Goldstein, head of the company’s sustainable finance group, explained taking environmental issues into account can make investments less risky, and improve one’s odds of making money.

“The business case is fundamentally better than it’s ever been,” he said. 

The company said its decision will also apply to “upstream” oil exploration elsewhere in the Arctic, and that any transactions relating to Arctic oil that it does fund will be subject to “enhanced due diligence.”

Banks pull out, politicos weigh in

Banks have been pulling out even as U.S. President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans clear the political path to drilling in the region.

A 2017 tax cut approved by the then Republican-controlled Congress created a plan to allow oil leases in the area.

Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Councillor Cheryl Charlie said Gwich’in people will continue to use every tool possible to stop drilling in the refuge.

“Talking to financial institutions in Canada is one strategy that we have …. Talking to governments is another strategy,” she said.

“Atogether, it demonstrates the level of effort and commitment that the Vuntut Gwich’in is going to go … in order to protect our way of life.”

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Canada’s taxpayers’ watchdog says complaints have spiked amid coronavirus pandemic – Global News

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Canada’s taxpayers’ ombudsperson says his office has seen a steep spike in complaints compared to one year ago, delivering an early warning about how complicated returns should be handled this year.

Francois Boileau says the number of complaints from taxpayers about the Canada Revenue Agency was up 93 per cent in December from the same month in 2019.

Urgent requests, for people in dire financial straits, are up 120 per cent since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, he says.

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Boileau says the statistics paint a portrait of the difficult circumstances some Canadians find themselves in as a result of COVID-19, and the need for the agency to improve services for the coming tax season.

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He says too many Canadians still spend hours trying to get through to a call centre agent.

Boileau adds that delays are especially frustrating for people who received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit last year and are now trying to sort out whether they have to repay some of the aid.

Just a few weeks ago, the CRA sent out letters to 441,000 people questioning their eligibility for the CERB, and warning they may owe back some of the payments. The Liberals have promised leniency for people who will have problems paying the money back, but have yet to say what options will be available.

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Boileau noted that some callers continue to complain about waiting five hours or more to speak with an agent.


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He says he is worried the CRA won’t be able to meet response-time standards as the calendar ticks closer to what will likely be a complicated tax season due to the pandemic.

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“I hope it (won’t) be,” Boileau says. “They are preparing for it. They know what’s going on and they’re taking all the necessary steps.”

While the pandemic has been a focus of Boileau in his first few months as ombudsperson, his office continues to work away on a review of how the CRA has handled the processing of Canada Child Benefit payments.

Boileau’s predecessor, Sherra Profit, launched the review of the CCB in late 2019 after three years of flagging overly stringent eligibility rules that prevented payments to some of Canada’s most vulnerable families.

In some cases, newcomer families to Canada haven’t receive child benefits because they can’t get needed documents, such as a note from a school or family doctor. In other situations, women fleeing domestic violence have felt like they need to get their partner’s signatures on forms and other information about custody _ despite the government promising that wouldn’t be the case.

Boileau says some of these situations add complications for the CRA, which has to take time to sort things out.

Read more:
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“It takes time and time is of the essence with the CCB,” he says.

“It’s really touching the lives of citizens, taxpayers that are in a vulnerable state of mind.”

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Boileau says his officials are currently reviewing answers from the agency to some additional questions, although there is no firm timeline on when the review will be complete.

The office of the federal auditor general is doing its own review of the CCB, which it expects to publish this year. According to the auditor general’s website, the review will focus on whether recipients were eligible for the benefits, and that payments are made in a timely and accurate manner.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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Too soon to know if Canada's COVID-19 case decline will continue, Tam says – CTV News

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MONTREAL —
Canada’s chief public health officer says it’s still too soon to know whether the recent downward trend in new COVID-19 cases will continue.

Dr. Theresa Tam says there’s been an improvement in the COVID-19 numbers in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec but the disease is regaining steam elsewhere.

She says it appears local health measures may be starting to pay off, but it’s not clear whether they’re strong and broad enough to continue to sustain progress.

Some long-standing virus hot spots have made headway in lowering the number of new cases in recent weeks, but are still fighting outbreaks and flare-ups as they race to vaccinate vulnerable communities.

The federal public safety minister announced today that the Canadian Armed Forces will support vaccine efforts in 32 First Nations communities in northern Ontario.

Quebec, meanwhile, reported a fifth straight decline in the number of hospitalizations as the health minister urged citizens to keep following health measures.

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Garneau won't rule out invoking Emergencies Act to limit pandemic travel – CBC.ca

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Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau says the federal government won’t rule out invoking the federal Emergencies Act to limit travel as parts of the country continue to experience high infection rates of COVID-19.

“We are looking at all potential actions to make sure that we can achieve our aims. The Emergencies Act is something you don’t consider lightly,” Garneau said in a Sunday interview on Rosemary Barton Live. “But we are first and foremost concerned about the health and safety of Canadians. And if we can do that in a way that we have the regulatory power to do it, we will do it.”

The Emergencies Act would give cabinet the power to regulate or prohibit travel “to, from or within any specified area, where necessary for the protection of the health or safety of individuals.”

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to rethink all travel plans inside and outside Canada’s borders, particularly as March break approaches.

“People should not be planning non-essential travel or vacation travel outside of the country, particularly because, as I said a few days ago, we could be bringing in new measures that significantly impede your ability to return to Canada at any given moment without warning,” Trudeau cautioned. 

“Last night I had a long conversation with the premiers about a number of different options that we could possibly exercise to further limit travel and to keep Canadians safe, and we will have more to say on those in the coming days.”

When asked by CBC’s Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton when such plans would be announced, Garneau said the measures are “in very active discussion.”

“I’m not going to predict when or what, but I can tell you that we are very seized with it in our government.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau says all options are on the table when it comes to implementing stronger measures to restrict travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

U.S. moves to strengthen land border measures

The minister also said Canada is looking at implementing COVID-19 testing along the Canada-U.S. land border as the United States moves to strengthen safety measures at land ports of entry.

“It would be easier to do … if we have quick tests that can be done because it’s a little bit more challenging to do testing at the border. But it’s something that we’re looking at very seriously,” Garneau said.

“As quick tests come along, that makes a big difference because there are challenges with respect to … certain land border points being very congested. And meanwhile, there’s a huge amount of traffic flow that has to keep going.”

U.S. President Joe Biden signs a series of orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., after his inauguration on Wednesday. One executive order in the country’s national pandemic response strategy includes potential COVID-19 safety measures imposed along the Canada-U.S. border. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

According to an executive order within the U.S. government’s national pandemic response strategy, top officials have been ordered to “commence diplomatic outreach to the governments of Canada and Mexico regarding public health protocols for land ports of entry.”

Within 14 days of the date of the order, officials must submit a plan to President Joe Biden to put appropriate public health measures in place.

“We will engage in a very serious way with the U.S. administration on how best to deal with land borders,” Garneau said.

The Canada-U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel until Feb. 21.

Currently, travellers over the age of five returning to Canada by air must produce proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken no longer than 72 hours before boarding a flight.

Biden open to Canadian input on ‘Buy American’ concerns

Aside from implementing a new approach to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, an executive order is expected Monday on Biden’s “Buy American” plans, fulfilling his campaign promise to purchase, produce and develop made-in-America goods.

“Obviously, if we see that there can be cases where there is damage done to our trade because of Buy America policy, we will speak up,” Garneau said. “President Biden has indicated that he is open to hearing from us whenever we feel concerned.”

Trudeau has already expressed his disappointment in Biden’s decision to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, with many now turning to Buy American provisions as another potential obstacle in the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

“Less than an hour after the end of the inauguration ceremony, we were in touch with top-level advisers in the White House and discussed many things,” Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, told CBC Radio’s The House this week. “Among them was Buy America.”

Garneau also said that he plans to speak with Antony Blinken — Biden’s nominee for secretary of state and Garneau’s U.S. counterpart — very soon.

“I’m really looking forward to talking to Secretary Blinken and carrying on the messages … between our prime minister and the president,” he said.

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