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Here’s what the Emergencies Act says — and the powers Ottawa invoked last winter

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OTTAWA — A public inquiry is underway to determine whether the federal government was justified in its invocation of the Emergencies Act last winter during the “Freedom Convoy” protests.

After dozens of witnesses gave testimony and hundreds of sensitive documents were submitted into evidence, the Public Order Emergency Commission began its final week of hearings Monday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other high-ranking cabinet members are expected to appear next.

They will face questions about whether the emergency declaration and the powers under the Emergencies Act were really necessary to clear the protests — driven by opposition to COVID-19 measures and anti-government sentiment — that had clogged Ottawa’s downtown for weeks and inspired border-crossing blockades.

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Here’s a look at what the legislation actually says, and the specific powers that the federal Liberals brought in.

What is the Emergencies Act?

The act, which became law in 1988 and served to replace the War Measures Act, sets out a definition for a national emergency.

It is “an urgent and critical situation of a temporary nature” that “cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.”

Under the act, such an emergency either “seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians and is of such proportions or nature as to exceed the capacity or authority of a province to deal with it,” or “seriously threatens the ability of the government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada.”

There are several types of emergencies laid out in the act, to do with public welfare, public order, war and other international emergencies.

February’s declaration fell under the part on public order emergencies. This section allows a federal government to declare the emergency then bring in orders and regulations, “on reasonable grounds,” to deal with it.

What definition does the act use to determine a security threat?

Under the Emergencies Act, a public order emergency consists of “threats to the security of Canada” as defined under the Canada Security Intelligence Service Act.

The CSIS Act says such national threats include:

— espionage or sabotage against Canada or detrimental to Canada’s interests, or activities directed toward it;

— foreign-influenced activities “detrimental to the interests of Canada” that are clandestine or deceptive and involve a threat to any person;

— activities directed toward or supportive of the threat or use of “serious violence against persons or property” for a political, religious or ideological objective;

— activities to covertly and unlawfully undermine or intended to destroy or overthrow “the constitutionally established system of government in Canada.”

How did the federal government justify the emergency declaration?

On Feb. 14, just over two weeks into demonstrators’ occupation of downtown Ottawa, the government issued a proclamation through the Governor General declaring the public order emergency.

While it is an option under the act to declare an emergency in only one geographical area, the order specified that the emergency existed “throughout Canada” and necessitated “the taking of special temporary measures.”

The proclamation stated that the emergency consisted of:

— the “continuing blockades by both persons and motor vehicles” at various locations and “continuing threats to oppose measures to remove the blockades, including by force;”

— the blockades being carried on “in conjunction with activities that are directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property, including critical infrastructure, for the purpose of achieving a political or ideological objective within Canada;”

— the “adverse effects on the Canadian economy,” as well as “threats to its economic security,” the “breakdown in the distribution chain and availability of essential goods, services and resources” and adverse impacts on Canada’s relationship with its trading partners; and

— the “potential for an increase in the level of unrest and violence that would further threaten the safety and security of Canadians.”

What emergency policing powers were brought in last winter?

The government’s proclamations took advantage of the full slate of powers available under the act.

The first was the regulation or prohibition of public assembly that could reasonably be expected to lead to a breach of the peace; travel to, from or within specified areas; and the use of specified property.

This included the ability to empower RCMP to act on provincial and municipal laws and to designate and secure “protected places.”

Government regulations made under the act specified that the places that could be secured included all areas of critical infrastructure — including transportation hubs, utilities infrastructure, border crossings, power plants, hospitals and “locations where COVID-19 vaccines are administered.”

Other secure locations included Parliament Hill and the rest of the parliamentary precinct in Ottawa, official residences, government and defence buildings, monuments and any other place designated by the minister of public safety.

Using the act, the government empowered police to compel companies to provide services including the removal, towing and storage of vehicles, equipment or other structures or objects that were part of blockades.

The government left itself some wiggle room for “other temporary measures” that were authorized by the act but were “not yet known” at the time of the proclamation.

A person who contravened the emergency orders would face a fine of up to $5,000, five years in prison or both if they were indicted, per the act. Upon a less serious summary conviction, a person would face up to $500, a prison sentence of up to six months or both.

What were the emergency economic powers?

Under the 58, the government was able to regulate or prohibit “the use of property” to fund or support the blockades.

The government issued a separate set of economic regulations that set out a “duty to cease dealings” with anyone involved.

This meant that financial services providers could immediately freeze personal or corporate accounts without facing any liabilities.

The regulations included an order that banks, credit unions, crowdfunding platforms and other financial services providers register with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, or Fintrac, and report suspicious transactions.

They required that the institutions review their relationships with anyone involved in the blockades and report their holdings to the RCMP or the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

What are the checks and balances under the act?

Ottawa decided to revoke the emergency declaration after just one week, but it would have automatically expired after 30 days unless the government undertook a process to extend it, which would have required parliamentary approval.

Both chambers of Parliament were required to affirm the decision at the time. In the House of Commons, New Democrats voted with Liberals to make that happen. But the Senate never came to a vote because the emergency was revoked while senators were still debating the motion.

The act also requires that two formal reviews of the government’s actions be undertaken. One is the public inquiry that is currently holding its public hearings in Ottawa. The other is a special joint parliamentary committee, which is still working on a study it began earlier this year.

The act relieves ministers, public servants and companies ordered to provide services under the act from any liability. But the Crown itself can still be held liable for its actions, and is still subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The law sets out rules by which people must be compensated if they suffer loss, injury or damage as a result of orders made under the act.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 21, 2022.

 

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Canadian ‘father’ of evidence-based medicine wins Einstein Foundation award

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A Hamilton researcher has won an international prize worth about 280-thousand dollars for promoting quality in medical research.

In today’s announcement, jurors for the Berlin-based Einstein Foundation Award describe Dr. Gordon Guyatt as a pioneer of evidence-based medicine.

Guyatt, a professor of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact at McMaster University, developed protocols that help doctors incorporate high-quality, up-to-date research into their treatment decisions.

The annual Einstein Foundation Award recognizes people who have transformed the way medical research is done, leading to better care for patients.

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Guyatt has worked with the World Health Organization to create evidence-based guidelines on whether or not doctors should give COVID-19 patients an antiviral treatment called Paxlovid.

Guyatt says evidence-based medicine didn’t exist until his mentor, the late Dr. David Sackett, paved the way by founding Canada’s first clinical epidemiology program at McMaster University.

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How Canadians Can Travel Visa Free In Any EU Country

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The Canadian passport has gone from strength to strength. Currently presented as the eighth strongest passport to hold worldwide, it allows residents access to over 180 countries travelling visa-free. A large percentage of these countries are situated within the EU, where Canadians can stay for 90 days, sometimes more, without the need for a costly and time-delaying visa holding things up. There are plenty of opportunities within this scope to be taken advantage of for Canadian citizens, and this guide explores the best of the best and the reasons why.

Strong Global Relationships

The main consideration for this post is that Canada has built strong and stable relationships with many countries around the world. Its economy has gone from strength to strength, and it has been able to create amazing trade links globally. Canada is well-known as a trustworthy ally and has played a part in many major world negotiations, bringing relevant and reliable factors to the table. Canada has moved a long step away from being associated with British governance and has forged independence in many respects.

All About the Schengen Zone

The Schengen area comprises of 26 countries. It removes international borders through the creation of universal exit and entry stipulations for those wanting to visit for any purpose within a 90-day period. This is the main component that allows Canadian citizens to travel visa-free across these countries.

List of Countries in the Schengen Zone

  • Malta
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Austria
  • Norway
  • The Netherlands
  • France
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Iceland
  • Greece
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovenia
  • Slovakia
  • Denmark
  • Spain
  • Luxembourg
  • Lithuania

The Requirements

So, what are the rules and regulations for border access in the Schengen zone? In short, there aren’t many. Canadians wishing to travel to this zone are required to get their passports stamped by the authorities on arrival. They can come and go over 180 days for any 90-day period. Aside from this, there are no more restrictions in place. Certain countries require visa-free travellers to report to the authorities when they arrive, but this is not true everywhere.

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Beyond the Schengen Zone

Outside of these countries, there are over 100 additional countries that Canadian travellers can visit without a visa. Inside of the EU, this includes the United Kingdom, where Canadian residents can enjoy up to six months of visa-free restrictions. This is why it has gained status as one of the top ten strongest passports in the world.

The Malta Example

The most obvious allure of visa-free travel is the opportunity to invest and make roots in an economically prosperous country. Real estate, for example, for international investors, has seen major lucrative returns in various countries worldwide. The example here focuses on Malta and everything that has to offer. If you are looking to invest and get residency in Malta, the process is even easier for Canadian residents who enjoy the benefits of visa-free head starts.

There are lots of reasons to invest in property here, from the strong economy to positive living standards and vast property options. It is also a stepping stone to permanent residency, should that be a route you wish to tread. Thanks to the 90-day visa-free sounding board, there is plenty of opportunity to lay down roots and even find permanent commerce ventures.

Benefits of Visa-Free Travel

There are a few benefits to visa-free travel worth noting. Aside from the investment door being held open, general convenience is also a factor.

No Fees

Visa fees can be a costly expense that eats away at your budget for actual travelling. There is not much you can do to get around these fees, and they must be paid to secure a visa for the country. Therefore, when you don’t need one, not only is it less expensive, but there is also a clear financial benefit as a direct result.

No Lengthy Delays

Visas for EU countries might have a quick turnaround, but this entirely depends on how well you fill in the forms and who is around to process them. It has been known to take weeks of administrative duties to fulfill the criteria. There is documentation to send back and forth, and official registrations to adhere to. The whole process is long, arduous, and not entirely intuitive.

Free Range Travel

If you fancy hopping from country to country at short notice, this is one of the main appeals of visa-free living. You can go wherever you like whenever you feel the itch. There are no barriers within the countries that acknowledge Canadian residents as having visa-free benefits.

Flexible Adventures

It also allows for a greater degree of flexibility as per your travel arrangements and in general. If you need to leave, for example, because of unexpected circumstances, your trip won’t be lost. You can return within the stipulated timeframe or even outside of it if you follow the rules.

No Hoops to Jump Through

The biggest benefit is that there are no hoops to jump through at the border control point either on arrival or exit.

Conclusion

Canadians have one of the strongest passports in the world. Ranking at number eight, they have a unique status globally in that nearly 200 countries allow Canadian citizens to visit and travel for extended periods visa-free. Canada has strong global ties, a favourable economy, exemplary educational opportunities, and a renowned healthcare system. It has long been a country of peace and its residents are enjoying the benefits of the strength of forged relationships.

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Advocates criticize slow expansion of needle exchange program in federal prisons

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The federal prison needle exchange program is failing because of a poor rollout by the Correctional Service of Canada and a lack of improvement since it was introduced four years ago, health advocates say.

Inmates at nine of the 43 federal prisons have had access to sterile equipment for drug use since the program last expanded in 2019, and last summer officials said it would be implemented across the country.

The HIV Legal Network published a report this week that found the program is still inaccessible to most people and has not expanded beyond those nine institutions.

In June, only 53 people — of nearly 13,000 offenders in federal custody — were participating in the program.

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Sandra Ka Hon Chu, co-executive director of the HIV Legal Network, said multiple layers of institutional approval and stigma are key reasons for the low participation rates.

“A lot of people who want to access the program because there’s injection drug use happening inside prisons are not able to access it because of the multiple barriers to participation,” she said.

The federal government said it is committed to expanding the program but that COVID-19 caused a delay in its plans.

A June 15 briefing note prepared for Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said consultations were held in early 2020 to expand the program to two more institutions, but “following delays as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, re-engagement with these sites is required.”

The note, obtained through an access-to-information request, also said Correctional Service Canada would prepare plans for additional sites to be confirmed this fall.

Correctional Service spokeswoman Esme Bailey said in an emailed statement that the department is still committed to putting the program in more prisons and consultations continue.

For people behind bars, participation in the program requires approval that includes an evaluation by a nurse and a threat assessment approved by a warden. No reasons are provided as to why an application is given the green light or not.

Ka Hon Chu says the process creates an “extremely high barrier” that dissuades people from applying “because there is zero guarantee of actually being accepted.”

The HIV Legal Network study, which was done with the help of Toronto Metropolitan University, said the assessment process is based on “security rather than clinical need” and the program requires daily inspections to verify equipment is being used correctly.

Participants are given a kit containing one syringe, one cooker, three water bottles, one vitamin C and filters. They are required to always keep the kit visible in their cell and visit a nurse when replacement pieces are needed.

Ka Hon Chu said participants are effectively “outing” themselves as drug users and risk being stigmatized by other inmates, correctional staff and the parole board.

“People were concerned that they would get more heavily surveilled as a result of their participation, that they would (be) more heavily scrutinized,” she said, noting one of the most common concerns the group heard is that people may be denied access to other programs as a result of taking part in the needle exchange.

The report recommends enhancing confidentiality by removing the need for daily visual inspections and by offering more discreet distribution points.

It also said a lack of knowledge about the program is affecting uptake.

Advocates argue in the absence of adequate programming aimed at harm reduction, the risk of HIV infection will continue to rise because people are relying on using unsanctioned, unsafe means of using drugs while behind bars.

“The concern is that there’ll be more equipment floating around in prisons, but the reality is that there is a lot of injection equipment already in prisons that (is) just not regulated and it’s not sterile,” said Ka Hon Chu.

The correctional investigator said in his latest annual report, released last summer, that the needle exchange program “exists more in name than in practice” because of low participation rates.

Ivan Zinger, who has raised the same concern in previous reports, also said the Correctional Services drug strategy needs substantive reforms.

He said the culture in Canadian prisons “remains mired in a prohibitive and repressive mindset.”

“Maintaining a zero-tolerance approach to drugs that relies on ever more intrusive detection, disciplinary and repressive measures — strip-searches, body cavity scanning, cell searches, charges, urinalysis testing — is a costly game of diminishing returns,” the report said.

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

— With files from Stephanie Taylor

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