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Government tables bill to limit handguns, pledges to buy back assault-style weapons – CBC News

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New gun control legislation the federal government tabled today includes a national freeze on the purchase, sale, importation and transfer of handguns in Canada.

The government also is pledging to start buying back thousands of banned assault-style weapons before the end of the year.

While the proposal falls short of a full ban on handguns, it would effectively limit their number in Canada.

“In other words, we’re capping the market for handguns,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a press conference Monday.

“As we see gun violence continue to rise, it is our duty to keep taking action.”

WATCH Trudeau announces legislation: 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces new gun control legislation

7 hours ago

Duration 1:17

Trudeau says the gun control bill tabled today includes a national freeze on the sale, importation and transfer of handguns in Canada, making this the government’s most ambitious attempt yet to restrict access to firearms in this country.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino presented the bill, C-21, in the House of Commons Monday.

“The bill we just tabled represents a milestone amidst a long and difficult battle which takes place on our streets every single day,” Mendicino said at the news conference. “It’s a battle which has claimed too many lives, leaving empty chairs at the dinner table, and empty desks in our classrooms.”

The legislation revives some federal measures that didn’t pass before last year’s general election and implements some new proposals made during the campaign.

They include taking away firearms licences from those involved in domestic violence or criminal harassment, increasing criminal penalties for smuggling and trafficking of firearms, and a “red flag” law which would require people deemed a threat to themselves or others to turn in their firearms to law enforcement.

Toronto police display guns seized during a series of raids. The Liberal government has introduced Bill C-71, which proposes tough new restrictions on hand guns and a mandatory government buy-back program for assault-style weapons. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

The government previously proposed working with provinces and territories to put restrictions on handguns. Trudeau said his government abandoned that idea after consultations.

“In our discussions with law enforcement, advocates and experts, it became apparent that we needed a different solution,” he said.

“So we decided to take a new route, something that would tackle this issue at a national level.”

A limited number of people would be exempt from the handgun restrictions, including elite sport shooters and those with authorization to carry, such as valuable goods carriers, senior government officials said in a briefing.

The government also said in a news release that it would require magazines for long guns to be changed so they can’t carry more than five rounds. Sales of large-capacity magazines would be banned.

It also would increase the maximum penalty for offences under the law, such as illegally owning, acquiring or manufacturing a firearm, from 10 years imprisonment to 14.

“We recognize that the vast majority of gun owners use them safely, and in accordance with the law,” Trudeau said.

“But other than using firearms for sport shooting and for hunting, there is no reason anyone in Canada should need guns in their everyday lives.”

WATCH | Mendicino doesn’t rule out national handgun ban:

Public safety minister doesn’t rule out national handgun ban

5 hours ago

Duration 9:16

“We’re always going to be prepared to look at all options, but today was a significant stride in that direction,” said Public Safety Marco Mendicino when asked if the Liberal government would ever introduce a national ban on handguns.

Mendicino confirmed that the government would be proceeding with a mandatory buyback program for the over 1,500 assault-style weapons the government banned two years ago — including the AR-15. He said the details will have to wait for consultations with industry on compensation and likely won’t be available until this summer.

He said that the first weapons would be bought back before the end of this year.

“It’s going to be hard but we are going to get it done,” Mendicino said.

He added that the government is aiming to ban an even larger number of assault-style weapons through an amendment to the bill.

The legislation comes after a number of mass shootings in the United States, including a recent shooting at an elementary school that killed 19 children and two adults in Uvalde, Texas. Trudeau said in response to the massacre that Canadians are “remarkably united” in wanting to reduce gun violence at home.

Prior to the presentation of the bill, the House unanimously voted in favour of a motion expressing its horror at the Uvalde shooting and condolences to the family, friends and communities of the victims.

On Twitter, Conservative public safety critic Raquel Dancho said the legislation does not effectively address gun violence.

“Today’s announcement fails to focus on the root cause of gun violence in our cities: illegal guns smuggled into Canada by criminal gangs,” she said. “The PM has had 7 years to fix this serious issue, yet he continues to chase headlines and bury his head in the sand.”

John Brassard, the Conservative house leader, told CBC’s Power & Politics, the legislation unfairly targets legal gun owners.

“The real problem in this country is not the law-abiding firearms owners, who are heavily regulated, heavily-licensed … the real problem in this country has to do with gangs and criminals who are importing firearms, mostly from the United States, using illegal guns on our streets,” he told host Vassy Kapelos.

Alistair MacGregor, the NDP public safety critic, agreed that handgun smuggling is an issue, but said the problem is complex and will require a number of different measures.

“What the government should be doing now is working with provinces, and working with municipalities, to help those jurisdictions that do want to ban a handgun,” MacGregor said.

The Coalition for Gun Control, a group founded in the wake of the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal, welcomed the bill.

“This proposed law will strengthen screening processes for gun licences with a particular focus on risk factors associated with domestic violence, but also suicide and hate crimes,” Wendy Cukier, the group’s president and a professor at Toronto Metropolitan University, said in a media statement.

“The game-changer is the proposed national ban on the sale and importation of handguns which will stem the flow of these guns. Legal handguns are a significant source of handguns used in crime and are the guns most often used in mass shootings. Canadians want them banned.”

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante also praised the proposed measures but added she wants to see a full ban on handguns eventually.

“National tools to fight armed and domestic violence are a win for Montreal and cities across the country,” she said in a media statement. “We hope that the step taken today by the Canadian government leads us towards the complete ban of handguns on our territory and out of the reach of young people.”

Tracy Wilson, vice-president of public relations for the Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights, criticized the bill and the Trudeau government’s approach to the issue, saying the proposed law puts too much emphasis on regulating legal firearms and not enough on criminals and unlicensed weapons.

“Once again, it’s targeting the entirely wrong demographic,” she said.

“Once again, [Trudeau’s] choosing to go down the path of targeting legal, licensed, RCMP-vetted gun owners, instead of focusing on unlicensed criminals and their illicit firearms.”

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ERs in Canada overwhelmed, face closures – CTV News

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Hospitals overwhelmed by the pandemic’s onslaught are still facing a number of challenges, causing unprecedented wait times in emergency rooms across the country.

Along with limited hospital beds and a backlog of surgeries, a primary cause for dysfunction has been a shortage of physicians and nurses.

Many of the problems facing hospitals are not new, but experts say that the pandemic has exacerbated the situation, leading to a crisis so dire that patients are now starting to see emergency department closures in hospitals near them.

A LONG, ‘LONG WEEKEND’ FOR EMERGENCY ROOMS

On Saturday, Perth and Smith Falls District Hospital (PSFDH) announced a shutdown of its emergency department until Thursday, citing a COVID-19 outbreak. However, its doctors say the real reason is an ongoing staff shortage.

“Yeah, COVID caused the closure of the emergency department, but the reality of it is that we had no built-in resilience of our nursing staff,” Dr. Alan Drummond told CTV National News on Saturday.

Drummond said that PSFDH’s emergency room dropped from 50 nurses down to five, leaving the unit exceptionally thin.

“Somebody needs to be held accountable for the fact that we lost 50 per cent of our nursing staff within several months, which set us up, basically, to fail,” he said.

Drummond said the catchment area for the PSFDH is about 25,000 people in a large geographic area between Smiths Falls and Peterborough, meaning many patients travel long distances to get to the emergency department.

Patients needing urgent care will now have to drive 20 kilometres from Perth to Smiths Falls.

“I don’t think it’s fair for the people in this community,” local resident John Hastings told CTV News on Saturday.

The Town of Clinton in Ontario was without an emergency room for the entire Canada Day long weekend, as the Clinton Public Hospital’s emergency room announced a shutdown from July 1 to 5.

This marked the longest 24-hour closure of the Clinton Public Hospital’s emergency room.

Physician and nurse shortages are to blame, according to Deborah Wiseman, the chief nursing executive with the Huron-Perth Health Alliance, who anticipates more service disruptions this summer.

“Not just this weekend, but what you’ll see is more to come. I’m going to say for the next six months to several years, with our human health care shortages, both in the nursing and physician areas. We are really struggling to maintain services,” Wiseman told CTV National News.

Wiseman said they are investigating everything to try to resolve the health-care worker shortage and keep their emergency rooms open, including using paramedics in emergency rooms.

Other provinces are experiencing similar issues. Six emergency departments in Quebec will be partially shuttered this summer owing to a staffing shortfall, the provincial government announced on Thursday.

Nova Scotia Health says people should expect long wait times in all four health zones because of high demand during the long weekend.

“Unfortunately, we’re currently experiencing what we call ‘bed block,’ where we have a large number of admitted patients and nowhere to send them,” Dr. Margaret Fraser, a physician at Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney, N.S. told CTV National News on Saturday.

Bonnie Nunn, a resident from Trehern, Manitoba, told CTV National News on Saturday that her daughter recently needed emergency treatment and had to be taken to Portage la Prairie, about 45 minutes away, because the Trehern emergency department was closed due to a lack of staff.

“I’m really angry, angry at everything. I don’t think enough thought went into this,” she said.

“I’m not angry at nurses. They need time off too.”

WHAT IS CAUSING THE STAFF SHORAGES?

Dr. Katharine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association, told CTV News Atlantic in May that the rate of physician and nurse burnout is double what it was pre-pandemic.

“Our health-care system is at a level of crisis we’ve never really seen, and the health workers are in a state of crisis we’ve never seen,” said Smart.

A June survey released by Statistics Canada showed that 95 per cent of health workers feel that the pandemic has impacted their mental health and has added stress to their work-life balance.

During the pandemic, health workers have faced extended work hours, decreased vacation time, and changes in the method of delivering care.

In the fourth wave of the pandemic between September to November of 2021—the period in which the survey was conducted—many health workers were looking to leave or quit due to job stress or concerns around their mental health.

“How do we retain workers? Probably a raise,” Halifax-based ICU nurse, Elinor Kelly told CTV News Atlantic in May.

“Probably a decent one. I think that’s going to have to help. Especially for critical care nurses because critical care, we have a lot of people that we train and recruit, but after a year or so they can go work privately at triple the amount of money I’m making after 27 years.”

Dr. Paul Saba, a family physician and president of the Council of Physicians at Hôpital de Lachine in Montreal, said he wants the government to make substantial changes.

“The health-care system has to be improved. And it can’t just be a short-term electoral promise … for the next few years, but long-term,” he told CTV National News on Saturday.

With files from Deena Zaidi and CTV News Atlantic

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Missing 13-year-old Edmonton girl found alive in Oregon, 41-year-old man arrested

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EDMONTON — Police say a 13-year-old Edmonton girl missing for more than a week has been found alive in the United States.

She was located following a week-long search that began when she was seen arriving at her junior high school but didn’t show up for class.

Edmonton Police Insp. Brent Dahlseide says the girl, who was reported missing June 24, is currently in an Oregon hospital for a precautionary examination after being found safe in the state early Saturday morning.

Dahlseide says a 41-year-old Oregon man will be charged with child luring and is expected to face additional charges in Canada and the U.S.

He says Edmonton police received assistance from other agencies in Canada, as well as from the FBI and other police services in the U.S.

Dahlseide says it’s believed the suspect came to Edmonton, but it’s not yet clear how he initially made contact with the girl or how she crossed the U.S. border.

“We would be speculating to say they crossed the border together, but I do know that they were located together, again, in the U.S. once they gained entry,” Dahlseide told reporters during an online news conference Saturday, noting he believed the two had been communicating online.

“I don’t know how long they may have been in contact with one another. I do know that the reason we’re going with a child-luring charge at this point is that it’s one we can support because of some of the online history.”

Photos of the girl have appeared on billboards and posters across Alberta this past week asking people to be on the lookout for her and contact police with tips.

Dahlseide said an Amber Alert was not issued because investigators lacked a description of a suspect or a suspect vehicle. He said police got that information on Friday and were drafting the alert that afternoon when they learned from Canada Border Services the suspect had crossed into the U.S.

At that point the suspect was no longer in Canadian jurisdiction, Dahlseide explained, which is another criteria for an Amber Alert. He said they made a deduction about where the suspect was going and alerted authorities on the U.S. side.

Dahlseide said he believed the arrest was made outside Gladstone, Oregon, just south of Portland, away from the suspect’s residence. He said the suspect’s name would not be released until charges are formally laid.

He said the girl’s family were informed early Saturday she’d been found safe and they are making arrangements to bring her home.

“I’m sure we likely woke them up, showing up at their door so early,” Dahlseide said.

Canadian investigators have not had a chance to speak with the girl or the suspect yet, Dahlseide said, and other questions remain.

He said investigators believe the suspect was in Mission, B.C. for three to four days, so they’ll be asking RCMP there to speak to people who may have seen him or the girl during that time. The FBI will also be able to help supply bank or credit card information to piece together the suspect’s movements, he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2022

 

Rob Drinkwater, The Canadian Press

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People planning to attend AIDS conference in Montreal still struggling to get visas

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MONTREAL — International AIDS organizations say people from Africa, South America and Asia who are planning to attend a major AIDS conference in Montreal are still struggling to get visas from the Canadian government.

The groups say a growing number of activists — including some who were scheduled to speak at the conference which begins at the end of the month — are having their visa applications denied, often on the grounds that the Canadian government doesn’t believe they’ll return home after the event.

Tinashe Rufurwadzo, the director of programs, management and governance at Y+ Global, an international organization of HIV+ youth, said the chair of his organization’s board and another of its employees, who are based in Malawi and Kenya, are among the young activists who have been denied visas to attend the conference.

He said both have travelled extensively to speak at AIDS-related events.

“Personally, I’m sick and tired of seeing young people from Africa mostly portrayed on PowerPoint slides as pictures, as photos on banners, as footnotes on case studies. Why can we not have them at conferences to share their lived experiences of what exactly is happening?” he said in an interview Friday.

Rufurwadzo said representatives of populations most at risk of HIV — such as people who inject drugs, transgender women, sex workers and gay men — need to be able to participate, as do adolescent girls, who are increasingly affected by HIV.

If people from the most affected countries aren’t able to attend, he said he doesn’t know how realistic the learning at the conference will be.

While those whose applications are denied will be able to attend the conference virtually, Rufurwadzo said that won’t allow the same level of participation. He also said young people, especially those from rural areas, may not have consistent access to the internet.

Last week, almost 250 organizations from around the world sent a joint letter to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser calling on him to take action to ensure participants can attend the International AIDS conference.

Aidan Strickland, a spokesman for Fraser, said in response to earlier questions from The Canadian Press that the department has been working closely with event organizers and that applications “have been assessed in a timely manner.”

“While we cannot comment on the admissibility of any particular individual, we can say that, in general, all visitors to Canada must meet the requirements for temporary residence in Canada, as set out in Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,” Strickland said in an email. “All applications from around the world are assessed equally against the same criteria.”

Javier Bellocq, an Argentine who runs a community journalism project called the Key Correspondent Team which focuses on people living with HIV and high-risk groups, said from the stories he’s heard, it seems like each Canadian consulate is applying different rules.

In some places, he said, applicants have been required to pay for medical examinations as part of the visa process.

“The conference, in theory, arranged with the Canadian government that there will not be medical examinations, but there are, there are many medical examinations.”

Of a group of 40 Argentines, including Bellocq, who are planning to participate in pre-conference activities, only two have received visas so far, he said.

Tumie Komanyane, who runs programs for international NGO Frontline AIDS in South Africa, said groups she works with were planning to help more than a dozen young people attend the conference, but decided not to even bother applying for 10 visas after the first four applications were rejected.

Komanyane said she’s aware of other young people from the region, including some who had scholarships to attend the conference funded by the Canadian government, who have had their visa applications denied.

“It’s incoherent,” she said in an interview Saturday. “With the strides that Africa is making in the HIV field, all the lessons and evidence that could be coming from the beneficiaries directly is going to be lost.”

While she works with young people, she said, she doesn’t want to speak for them.

“They have agency, they have voice, and they shouldn’t be represented by people like me. They should be able to go and share what this work means for them,” she said.

Bellocq said he’s not worried about himself, noting the Argentine passport is relatively powerful and he’s a professional who has been travelling internationally form more than 30 years. But he worries about people  from countries with less passport privilege and members of marginalized groups who are at high risk of HIV.

With pre-conference events starting in just over three weeks, he said, “time is not on our side.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2022.

 

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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