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Governor General: Climate change, Indigenous issues transcend boundaries with Russia

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Gov. Gen. Mary Simon says Canada needs to find a way to continue cross-polar collaboration while holding Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine.

“In terms of Indigenous Peoples and research and climate change, these are issues that transcend boundaries, really,” Simon said in an interview following her state visit to Finland.

“It’s a very difficult situation.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent Simon to Helsinki in early February to mark the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and Finland, alongside a delegation of Arctic research and government officials.

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Finland has been actively seeking closer military ties with other western countries following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Finland shares a 1,340-kilometre border with Russia. The country has maintained a strong military in recent decades, but avoided any official alignment with the NATO military alliance.

That is until last year, when both Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO, with Canada being the first country to vote in support of both joining the group.

Last October, the Finnish government tweaked the Arctic strategy it had released a year prior, saying that the Ukraine invasion meant a new Cold War was underway.

The report calls for Finland to try to keep a “functioning relationship” with neighbouring Russia on matters like climate change and Indigenous Peoples, but little else.

“There will be no return to the prewar reality,” reads the report’s English summary, which urged Finland to examine everything with Russia through a security lens. “Even chaos is possible.”

In an interview, Simon said it’s clear Canada will need to still collaborate with people within Russia and all Arctic countries on issues like climate change and Indigenous Peoples.

“Something that’s important in each of the countries is to figure out how you can continue working together when a terrible war is going on (which is) contradictory to the rules-based international order,” she said.

Simon stressed that this doesn’t mean deep ties with Russia.

“For Canada, we take our responsibility very seriously to defend our northern sovereignty. And we will definitely continue to protect Canadian interests at home and abroad,” she said.

“What happens in the North impacts the world, and when you look at security issues and climate change, the world is paying attention more than ever,” said Simon, an Inuk who grew up in northern Quebec.

Before becoming viceregal, Simon did the heavy lifting on Canada’s Arctic and Northern Policy Framework, leading dozens of consultations throughout Northern Canada.

Before that, she was Canada’s ambassador to Denmark, a role with a large focus on collaborating with the Inuit of Greenland.

Simon noted that the Far North has generally avoided geopolitical conflicts through the decades, but is facing increasing attention as a venue for resource extraction and shipping routes.

“The Arctic … has historically been the region of co-operation. And safety and security challenges have recently emerged as the region’s strategic importance grows,” she said.

The tension has been particularly notable at the intergovernmental Arctic Council forum, which has been largely on hiatus since Russia’s invasion.

The body, which Simon helped found, co-ordinates circumpolar research, shipping routes and search-and-rescue services among eight countries as well as Indigenous nations.

But all members except Russia have pulled out and started side projects involving things like fisheries without any input from Moscow.

Simon noted the tricky situation the Arctic Council faces.

“The sea level rising is having a direct impact,” she said of the region.

“These are things that we have to continue to work together on.”

While in Helsinki, Simon met with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö to discuss security and climate change.

Simon then headed up to the Arctic Circle to meet with officials working in education and those representing the Indigenous people of the region, the Sámi.

She noted Finland’s moves toward truth and reconciliation with Sámi people, which she described as being “at the beginning stages,” while also holding lessons for Canada on engaging Indigenous youth.

Finland’s coalition government recently attempted to incorporate an existing Sámi legislative assembly as part of the country’s governance, though the legislation collapsed this week over uncertainty of what role the council would hold.

Simon also said Finland’s renowned education system might hold lessons for Canada, in reaching higher graduation levels across the country.

Meanwhile, Simon said she wants to maintain frank discussion with Canadians, a few weeks after Rideau Hall closed down the comment section of all social media accounts, citing harmful vitriol.

“These are difficult decisions we have to make sometimes,” she said.

“We support constructive criticism; I’ve always been very supportive of that. If people don’t agree with me, I like to hear about it. But it should be done in a very respectful way; it’s important to do that.”

Simon declined to elaborate on how the comments affected her personally, but said her staff had coped for “a long time” with a deluge of inappropriate comments.

“We’re not trying to block anything here, but I think it’s important to realize that we also can’t let abuse, harassment and misogyny that is harmful in our space continue.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2023.

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Canada’s Climate Crisis: An In-Depth Look at the Current State and What’s Being Done to Combat It

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Canada's Climate Crisis

Canada’s annual average temperature increased by 1.9C from 1948 to 2021. According to the Government of Canada, northern regions exhibited an increase in annual mean temperature three times over the global mean warming rate.

Climate change affects food security, biological diversity, and people’s health. Many believe that Canada’s dealing with a climate crisis and wondering what’s been done to combat it. Here’s a quick overview of the current situation and the plans the government has available to tackle this problem.

What’s the Current Climate Situation in Canada?

According to the last update from the Climate Action Tracker, the action taken by Canada has been rated as “highly insufficient.” That means the country isn’t in line with the global agreement made in Paris to stick to the 1.5C limit.

Furthermore, CAT experts believe the emission reduction target by 2030 is only enough to be in line with a 4C warming. They warn that Canada should strengthen their climate policies and targets while offering more support to others to reach set goals.

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Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan

The plan for reducing emissions by 2030 was adopted in March 2022, and the government itself describes it as achievable but ambitious. The idea is to lower emissions in 2030 by 40% when compared to 2005. It’s worth noting that Canada has a plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

According to this plan, the country will invest over $9 billion to promote pollution-cutting effects. The strategy includes:

  • Improving electric vehicle infrastructure. People who want to purchase ZEVs (zero-emission vehicles) can hope for financial support.
  • Greening buildings and homes. The idea is to adopt revised building codes that are in line with the environmental goals.
  • Clean energy projects. These include investing in solar and wind power, electricity, and other projects.
  • Reduce gas and oil emissions. It seems to be the most ambitious part of the plan, especially since Canada keeps supporting the Trans Mounting pipeline and exporting LNG to Europe.

Some other details include empowering farmers to implement sustainable practices and communities to launch climate action projects.

What Can You Do to Help with Climate Change?

Collective action is important to restrict climate change, and some suggestions for individuals include the following:

  • Consider how you travel. Use public transport or walk when possible. If you are heading to far destinations, consider not taking frequent long-distance flights. For example, if you want to go to Vegas to enjoy casino games, consider playing online roulette while at home, which can provide immersive fun while reducing your carbon footprint.
  • Use LED lightbulbs and energy-efficient appliances. Many modern appliances come with an energy efficiency rating.
  • Eat veggies to reduce a carbon footprint. It takes less energy and greenhouse gas emissions to produce vegetables. Apart from lowering your carbon footprint, this is a healthy diet that could help you lose pounds and manage weight.
  • Focus on reusing and recycling items. Consider shopping for second-hand clothes and not purchasing anything you don’t absolutely need. Consider donating the items you don’t need anymore, and make sure to recycle those that you throw away properly.

A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy

The federal authorities adopted this long-term plan in 2020, and its goal is to secure a future with a healthier environment and economy. The main principles of this plan include the following:

  • Making energy-efficient structures more affordable. The idea is to make locations where Canadians live easier to purchase, maintain, and upgrade while ensuring houses and buildings energy-efficient.
  • Affordable and eco-friendly transportation. From clean electricity supply to ZEVs and other details, the idea is to reduce congestion while making communities healthier.
  • Carbon pollution pricing. The idea is for pollution to be pricey but ensure that the households get back more than they pay.
  • Achieving a clean industrial advantage. The country aims to focus on “Made in Canada” services and products with low carbon footprints.
  • Embrace the power of nature. Restoring and conserving natural spaces while planting billions of trees is another way to reduce pollution and fight climate change.

The government has released the final National Adaptation Strategy for comments. It’s the first strategy of this type that was designed by working with Indigenous People, municipal, territorial, and provincial authorities, as well as other relevant platforms. The idea is to design shared priorities and unite everyone across Canada to take joint action to decrease climate change risks.

Final Thoughts

Scientists are racing to find the most effective climate change solutions, with the potential options leaving them divided. However, they agree on one thing – it’s necessary to take strong action in the soonest possible timeframe.

Canada has already adopted a climate change action plan, and the only question is if it’s aggressive enough. It remains to be seen whether some changes to the strategy will be made in order to reach the long-term goals of dealing with the climate crisis.

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Debt in Canada: What’s normal for your age?

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If you’re like most people, you have at least some debt. Your mortgage, car payment, credit card balance, and student loans are all liabilities that contribute to your total debt.

Have you ever stopped to wonder how much debt is normal for your age, though?

Below, I’ll outline the average and median debt by age in Canada, so you can see how your finances compare. Then I’ll explain some of the key reasons why Canadians’ debt is increasing.

Average debt by age group in Canada

First of all, it’s important to understand that debt is normal. Very few Canadians are 100% debt-free. Even those with near-perfect credit scores likely have an auto or student loan they’re paying down.

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These are the debt metrics measured by Statistics Canada during census surveys.

Here’s the average debt by age group in Canada as of 2019, according to the latest data sets from Statistics Canada:

Note – this data applies to individuals who are not in an economic family. The numbers differ for economic families, which include married/common-law partners and families with dependent children.

The total debt measured includes:

  • Mortgage debt
  • Lines of credit
  • Credit card debt
  • Student loans
  • Vehicle loans
  • Other debt (doesn’t fit in the categories above)

Median debt by age group in Canada

Looking at average debt provides a decent overview of the data. However, the averages are very skewed by the debt incurred by Canada’s ultra-wealthy taxpayers.

When calculating the average, all values are added together and divided by the total number of values. This means that a few extreme values can greatly influence the result.

In contrast, the median is the middle value in a dataset when values are arranged in order. As such, it is less affected by outliers and provides a more accurate representation of typical values.

For example, a multi-millionaire with a $2-million mortgage will skew the average higher than the average Canadian.

For a more accurate look at Canadian debt, I find that the median data as of 2019 provides more accurate insight:

Why is consumer debt increasing in Canada?

Over the past year, consumer debt has notably increased. This is especially true for credit card debt. The average monthly spending per credit card increased by 17.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the previous year, according to a recent report by Equifax Canada.

In the report Rebecca Oakes, vice-president of Advanced Analytics at Equifax Canada, stated that “Gen Z and Millennials are driving up higher consumer spending the most.”

Even though inflation is slowly easing, it’s still relatively high. The high inflation has driven up the cost of everyday goods, including groceries and fuel. This, in turn, means that Canadians are spending more per month than they were before 2022, when inflation started to rise.

Unfortunately, workers’ pay hasn’t grown with inflation. This means that the average Canadian simply has less money to spend, increasing their reliance on credit cards to purchase daily necessities.

  • Pent-up demand and travel

Oakes goes on to state that “Pent-up demand and increased travel with the easing of COVID restrictions, combined with soaring inflation, have led to some of the highest increases in credit card spending we’ve ever seen.”

It makes sense that Canadians would be eager to travel after several years of travel restrictions, even if it means incurring more credit card debt.

  • Increased interest rates

To keep inflation under control, the fed steadily increased interest rates throughout 2022 and is discussing more rate hikes this year. As the federal interest rate has increased, variable interest rates, such as those offered by credit card companies, have also increased.

Those who carry a credit balance over to the next month must now pay even more interest on their credit card debt, increasing their overall debt.

Creating a plan to manage your debt

Accruing debt in the short-term may be inevitable due to high-interest rates and inflation. However, it’s important to create a plan to get your debt under control.

A reliable budget plan paired with consistent action is the best way to get out of debt.

Revisit your monthly budget to find areas where you can save, try to pay down high-interest credit card debt as quickly as possible, and consider taking up a side hustle to earn extra money that you can put towards your debt.

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Six bodies, including one child, recovered from St. Lawrence River

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Ottawa·Breaking

The bodies of six people, including one child with a Canadian passport, were recovered from the St. Lawrence River late Thursday afternoon, according to Akwesasne Mohawk Police Chief Shawn Dulude.

The St. Lawrence River flowing east past Cornwall Island.
The St. Lawrence River flowing east past Cornwall Island. (CBC News)

The bodies of six people, including one child with a Canadian passport, were recovered from the St. Lawrence River late Thursday afternoon, according to Akwesasne Mohawk Police Chief Shawn Dulude.

Dulude said he could not provide any information on the nationalities of the other five deceased.

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The Mohawk community of Akwesasne straddles the Canada-U.S. border and occupies territory in Ontario, Quebec and New York state.

The Akwesasne Mohawk Police, with the assistance of the Canadian Coast Guard, is leading the ongoing investigation, Dulude said.

The bodies were spotted in Canadian waters by a Canadian Coast Guard helicopter, he said.

The discovery of the bodies coincided with the search for a missing Akwesasne community member that also began Thursday, Dulude said.

 

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