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Hockey Canada reopening 2018 sexual assault investigation – CTV News

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TORONTO –

Hockey Canada says it is in the process of making changes.

Whether those moves will be enough to satisfy the general public, fans, federal government and corporate sponsors remains to be seen.

The sport’s under-fire national federation made a series of announcements in an open letter to Canadians published Thursday, including the reopening of a third-party investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving members of the country’s 2018 world junior team.

Hockey Canada said participation in the investigation by the players in question is mandatory, adding anyone who declines will be banned from all of the federation’s activities and programs effective immediately.

The organization previously said it “strongly encouraged” players take part in the investigation into the alleged incident that occurred at a Hockey Canada function in 2018, but didn’t make it mandatory.

Hockey Canada CEO Scott Smith, who took on the role July 1 and has held various jobs at the federation since 1995, testified on Parliament Hill last month that “12 or 13” of the 19 players from the team were interviewed before the original and incomplete investigation concluded in September 2020.

“We know we have not done enough to address the actions of some members of the 2018 national junior team or to end the culture of toxic behaviour within our game,” Hockey Canada wrote in its letter Thursday. “For that we unreservedly apologize.

“We know we need to do more to address the behaviours, on and off the ice, that conflict with what Canadians want hockey to be, and which undermine the many good things that the game brings to our country.”

Hockey Canada quietly settled a lawsuit in May after a woman claimed she was assaulted by eight players, including members of the country’s 2018 gold-medal winning junior team, at the event in London, Ont.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Smith, Hockey Canada’s then-president, and outgoing CEO Tom Renney were grilled by MPs in Ottawa about the situation last month after news of the alleged assault and settlement broke.

Unhappy with what it heard from the executives, the federal government subsequently paused public funding for the national body. A number of companies also suspended sponsorships as they awaited next steps.

“We recognize many of the actions we are taking now should have been taken sooner, and faster,” Hockey Canada’s letter read. “We own that and will do better to deliver on our responsibilities to Canadians.”

Hockey Canada said it will now require players, coaches, team staff and volunteers associated with its high-performance program to participate in mandatory sexual violence and consent training.

It will also conduct a full third-party review of the organization’s governance, and is committing to become a full signatory to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, a new government agency with the power to independently investigate abuse complaints and levy sanctions.

Hockey Canada said it will also create an “independent and confidential complaint mechanism” to provide victims and survivors tools and support to come forward.

Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge said last month federal money would only be restored once officials produced the incomplete third-party report and became a signatory to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner.

Hockey Canada did not commit to releasing either the incomplete or full report to the government in its letter Thursday.

“We have heard from Canadians, players, their families, fans, sponsors and those impacted by what occurred in 2018,” the organization wrote.

“We know you are angry and disappointed in Hockey Canada — rightfully so.”

Hockey Canada said once its investigation is completed by the same Toronto law firm hired in 2018, it will be referred to “an independent adjudicative panel of current and former judges who will determine the appropriate consequences, which may include a lifetime ban from Hockey Canada activity, on and off the ice.”

The woman who made the assault allegation was seeking $3.55 million in damages from Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and the unnamed players.

Hockey Canada has said it learned of the incident the day after it was alleged to have occurred, started to investigate and notified London police.

The organization previously said the woman declined to speak with both police — the force closed its investigation in February 2019 — and its law firm, but corrected the record when Smith and Renney testified in Ottawa.

“Our understanding until very recently was that the young woman had chosen not to speak to the police,” a June 20 statement attributed to Renney said. “We have subsequently learned through her lawyer that she did in fact make a complaint to the police, who decided not to lay charges.”

Hockey Canada has added the woman decided not to identify the players.

“We acknowledge the courage of the young woman involved and respect her decision to participate with the investigation in the manner she chooses,” Hockey Canada wrote Thursday.

Details of the settlement have not been publicized, but Smith testified before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in June that Hockey Canada came up with the funds and paid the entire sum, adding no government money was used.

St-Onge ordered an audit to make sure that’s the case.

The committee is set to meet July 26 and 27 to hear from more witnesses. It has also requested a redacted copy of the non-disclosure agreement related to the settlement along with a long list of Hockey Canada communications.

The NHL is also conducting an investigation because some of the players from the team are now in the league.

St-Onge said she only learned of the incident and settlement on a call with Renney days before TSN’s initial story. Hockey Canada said it informed Sport Canada of the situation in June 2018.

The federation added Thursday it will be releasing a detailed “Action Plan” that “outlines a wide range of steps we are taking within our organization, and with our partners and stakeholders, to advance and improve the culture” around the game.

“Changes to policies and procedures can occur with the stroke of a pen,” Hockey Canada wrote. “Those changes are meaningless, however, without an equal commitment to addressing the toxic behaviour that exists in many corners.

“We know this change will not occur overnight, but we are committed to learning, and working with our partners to do better.”

Companies that paused or withdrew funding from Hockey Canada or specific events include Scotiabank, Telus, Tim Hortons and Imperial Oil, under its Esso brand.

Hockey Canada received $14 million from Ottawa in 2020 and 2021, including $3.4 million in COVID-19 subsidies, according to government records.

Smith testified last month Hockey Canada has reported three sexual assault complaints in recent years, including the alleged incident in London, but wouldn’t discuss the other two in front of the committee last month. He added there have been up to two complaints of sexual misconduct each of the last five or six years.

“Canadians have been loud and clear: you expect our national sport and those representing it to work hard to earn your trust each day,” Hockey Canada wrote Thursday.

“We have heard you and are committed to making the changes necessary to allow us to be the organization you expect us to be, and to restore your confidence and trust in us.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 14, 2022.

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Medical assistance in dying given to 10K Canadians in 2021 – CTV News

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More Canadians are ending their lives with a medically-assisted death, says the third federal annual report on medical assistance in dying (MAID). Data shows that 10,064 people died in 2021 with medical aid, an increase of 32 per cent over 2020.

The report says that 3.3 per cent of all deaths in Canada in 2021 were assisted deaths. On a provincial level, the rate was higher in provinces such as Quebec, at 4.7 per cent, and British Columbia, at 4.8 per cent.

“It is rising remarkably fast,” University of Toronto law professor Trudo Lemmens, who was a member of the Council of Canadian Academies Expert Panel on Medical Assistance in Dying, wrote in an email to CTV News. He noted that some regions in the country have quickly matched or surpassed rates in Belgium and the Netherlands, where the practice has been in place for over two decades.

Advocates say it isn’t surprising because Canadians are growing more comfortable with MAID and some expect the rising rates may level off.

“The…. expectation has always been it (the rate) will be something around four to five per cent, (as in) Europe. We will probably, in the end, saw off at around the same rate,” said Dr. Jean Marmoreo, a family physician and MAID provider in Toronto.

The report uses data collected from files submitted by doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists across the country involving written requests for MAID.

Among the findings:

  • All provinces saw increases in MAID deaths, ranging from 1.2 per cent (Newfoundland & Labrador) to a high of 4.8 per cent (British Columbia);
  • More men (52.3 per cent) than women (47.7 per cent) received MAID;
  • The average age was 76.3 years;
  • Sixty-five per cent of those provided with assisted death had cancer. Heart disease or strokes were cited in 19 per cent of cases, followed by chronic lung diseases (12 per cent) and neurological conditions like ALS (12 per cent);
  • Just over two per cent of assisted deaths were offered to a newer group of patients: those with chronic illnesses but who were not dying of their condition, with new legislation in 2021 allowing expanded access to MAID.

Documents show that 81 per cent of written applications for MAID were approved.

Thirteen per cent of patients died before MAID could be provided, with almost two per cent withdrawing their application before the procedure was offered.

Four per cent of people who made written applications for medical assistance were rejected. The report says some were deemed ineligible because assessors felt the patient was not voluntarily applying for MAID. The majority of requests were denied because patients were deemed not mentally capable of making the decision.

But other countries with long-established programs reject far more assisted death requests, said Lemmens, citing data that shows 12 to 16 per cent of applicants in the Netherlands are told no.

“It ….may be an indication that restrictions (in my view safeguards) are weaker here than in the most liberal euthanasia regimes,” he wrote in his email to CTV News.

But Marmoreo, who has offered MAID since 2016, sees Canada’s low rejection rate differently.

“It is more like that the right cases are put forward,” she said.

“We have a very good screening process right from the get-go. So before people actually even make a formal request to have assisted dying, they have a lot of information that’s been given to them by the intake….here’s what’s involved in seeking an assisted death, you must meet these eligibility criteria.”

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B.C. ‘clear’ there’s not enough housing as Vancouver encampment ordered dismantled

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VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s acting attorney general says the province was “clear” with Vancouver officials that the Crown corporation responsible for subsidized housing does not have enough spaces available for people who are being told to dismantle their tents along a street in the city’s Downtown Eastside.

Murray Rankin, who is also the minister responsible for housing, says housing is a human right, and the “deeply concerning scenes from Hastings Street demonstrate how much more work we have to do to make that a reality for everyone in our communities.”

Rankin in a statement Friday says BC Housing has accelerated efforts to secure new housing for encampment residents including pursuing new sites to lease or buy and expediting renovations on single-room occupancy units as they become vacant.

He says BC Housing is aiming to make a “limited number” of renovated units available next week, with more opening later in the fall.

Vancouver fire Chief Karen Fry ordered tents set up along Hastings Street sidewalks dismantled last month, saying there was an extreme fire and safety risk.

Police blocked traffic Tuesday as city staff began what’s expected to be a weeks-long process of dismantling the encampment but little had changed by the end of the week with most residents staying put, saying they have nowhere to go.

The city has said staff plan to approach encampment residents with “respect and sensitivity” to encourage the voluntary removal of their tents and belongings.

Community advocacy groups, including the Vancouver Area of Drug Users and Pivot Legal Society, have said clearing the encampment violates a memorandum of understanding between the city, the B.C. government and Vancouver’s park board, because people are being told to move without being offered suitable housing.

The stated aim of the agreement struck last March is to connect unsheltered people to housing and preserve their dignity when dismantling encampments.

The City of Vancouver may enforce bylaws that prohibit structures on sidewalks “when suitable spaces are available for people to move indoors,” it reads.

The province is not involved in the fire chief’s order or the enforcement of local bylaws, which prohibit structures on sidewalks, but it is “bringing all of BC Housing’s resources to bear to do what we can to secure housing for people, Rankin said.

“I recognize the profound uncertainty and upheaval people impacted by the fire order are facing, and we will provide updates on this work as we have news to share,” he said.

Rankin, who had been serving as minister of Indigenous relations, was appointed acting attorney general after David Eby stepped down to run for leadership of the B.C. NDP.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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N.W.T. RCMP deploy controversial roadside cannabis screening devices

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YELLOWKNIFE — RCMP in the Northwest Territories have begun using roadside cannabis-screening technology that has faced criticism from defence lawyers elsewhere in Canada.

Mounties in the territory announced late last month that they had deployed devices designed to take a saliva sample and test for the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, the main psychoactive substance in cannabis. They said the technology would help them detect impaired drivers and make roads safer.

But some criminal defence lawyers have raised concerns about these devices’ ability to deliver reliable test results, particularly in cold temperatures. They argue the technology isn’t effective at determining whether someone is impaired.

“It can lead to people being arrested who are actually innocent,” said Kyla Lee, a lawyer based in Vancouver.

Lee said research has shown the devices may be more likely to deliver false results in extreme cold temperatures, and movement during analysis could also affect outcomes. She added that while the devices can deliver either a positive or negative test result, they do not indicate how much THC may be in a person’s bloodstream.

Lee recently represented a Nova Scotia woman in a constitutional challenge of the law that allows for roadside drug testing technology in Canada.

Michelle Gray, who uses cannabis for multiple sclerosis, had her car impounded and her licence suspended for a week after she failed a cannabis saliva test at a roadside checkpoint in 2019, even though she passed a sobriety test that same night.

“The technology just doesn’t exist yet to allow police to make a determination of impairment via drugs using physical equipment,” Lee said.

Lee is awaiting a decision on the constitutional challenge in Nova Scotia. She said she expects there will be further court challenges in other Canadian jurisdictions where these devices are used, including the Northwest Territories.

There are two devices approved for roadside cannabis screening in Canada: the Drager DrugTest 5000 and the Abbott SoToxa mobile test system. The companies that manufacture the devices recommend they be used in temperatures no lower than 4 C and 5 C, respectively.

Cpl. Andree Sieber of the Regina Police Service, which began using roadside devices to detect cannabis use in early 2020, said officers bring drivers to their vehicles for testing to prevent issues with weather conditions or temperatures.

“We’ve used it throughout all seasons here in Regina,” she said. “We have very cold winters and some pretty nasty, snowy cold days and you have the person attend back to your vehicle with you where it’s heated and it’s not an issue.”

Sieber said the more THC a person has consumed, the more likely they are to show signs of impairment and to test positive.

The RCMP said roadside screening devices are just one tool they use to detect and investigate drug-impaired drivers alongside officers’ observations. They said field sobriety testing and drug recognition experts remain the primary enforcement tools.

“Police officers rely on what they see and hear, as well as what they smell when investigating impaired drivers,” the RCMP said in a written statement. “Regardless of how a drug is consumed, there are signs of that consumption and police are trained to recognized them.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 13, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Emily Blake, The Canadian Press

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