Tanya Ball began her career as a social worker for the Kaska Dene First Nation. Now she runs a land guardian program, working to monitor and protect a vast stretch of the band’s northern British Columbia wilderness.
But she’s still a social worker, in a way.
“Land guardians can help the land heal,” she said. “And the land can help the guardians heal.”
Ball is at the forefront of the new way Canada protects its remaining healthy rivers, lakes, forests, mountains and plains. Crown governments would once rope off an area deemed particularly scenic or good for outdoor recreation and call it a park.
“There’s no future when it comes to conservation where the federal government is involved (and) Indigenous people aren’t involved from the get-go,” said federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault. “This traditional model is a thing of the past.”
Conservation is now something Indigenous people lead instead of something done to them. Most protected areas in Canada are now being proposed by Indigenous groups, who aim to look after those lands themselves.
There are now about 80 protected areas in Canada monitored by the people to whom the lands originally belonged. Some are designated only by the local First Nation and some are part of the national parks system.
But more — many more — are on their way.
The most recent federal budget contains funding for at least another 27 Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas. Ottawa just signed a memorandum of agreement with the Nunatsiavut government in Labrador to develop one with both parties involved from the start.
It’s the only way Canada is going to fulfil its international promise to protect 30 per cent of its land mass, said Sandra Schwartz of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
“Achieving those protection targets for Canada are realistic,” she said. “Many of those opportunities are on Indigenous land.”
Indigenous conservation comes from the historic cultural attachment to the land and the political desire for a land base, said Val Courtois of the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, who has been involved in the movement for years.
“The assertion of rights in Canada has always been about that relationship to place. This is just a new way of describing that responsibility.”
Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas have been created under federal, provincial and band structures and vary widely in how they function and what they do. Some don’t meet international conservation area standards and won’t count toward Canada’s 30 per cent goal.
But they all involve some level of Indigenous co-management, they all involve land-use planning and they all involve guardians — local First Nations people charged and trained with stewarding the land.
Ball said her staff of eight takes water samples, makes maps, monitors hunting, delineates archeological sites, keeps track of visitor impacts, watches animal movements, assists conservation officers and runs research projects.
“They’re very busy,” she said.
One thing they don’t do is put up fences. Indigenous Protected Areas aren’t meant to keep anyone out, Courtois said.
“I would fall off my chair if I heard of an Indigenous group that is saying ‘let’s exclude everybody,’” she said. “There may be small portions that are particularly sacred, but the idea of exclusion of people is an antithesis of how we understand these places.”
Decisions on local development are made locally, she said.
Tara Shea of the Mining Association of Canada said her group generally supports Indigenous protection — as long as the process is transparent and potential mineral tenures are considered in advance.
“We strongly believe mineral development and biodiversity conservation can go hand-in-hand.”
There are challenges. While the federal government has set aside more than $300 million since 2018 for Indigenous conservation, Guilbeault acknowledges a source of permanent funding for such programs is still being sought.
“We don’t do permanent programs. The philanthropic world has played a huge role in conservation and will continue to. We welcome their involvement.”
Ottawa, the Northwest Territories, area First Nations and the U.S.-based Pew Charitable Trusts are currently negotiating a way for Pew money to finance the guardian program at the Edehzhie National Park and Indigenous Protected Area.
Another obstacle is the varying degrees of support from provincial governments, which control most of Canada’s Crown land.
“The level of enthusiasm varies,” said Guilbeault, who declined specifics. “Some provincial governments don’t believe in the government-to-government relationship.”
“It’s tough for provinces,” she said. “They’re used to being in the driver’s seat.”
Ball believes Indigenous conservation is important for the whole country as a crucial component of reconciliation. She sees what happens if people from her First Nation go out on the land they once again help manage.
“Sometimes people want to come out just for the day. I just see a difference in people by the end of the day. Their behaviour changes, their mood has lifted,” Ball said.
“I think that’ll really help with social issues, too.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2022.
— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960
Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
French speakers declines nearly everywhere in Canada: census – CTV News
The proportion of Canadians who mainly speak French at home continues to decline in nearly all provinces and territories, including Quebec, the latest census release shows.
Statistics Canada reported Wednesday that the percentage of Canadians who speak predominantly French at home fell to 19.2 per cent in 2021 from 20 per cent in 2016. All provinces and territories saw a drop other than Yukon, where the figure was up from 2.4 to 2.6 per cent.
In Quebec, the percentage of people who speak French at home has been declining since 2001.
The federal agency also looks at the proportion of people whose first official language is English or French. It found more than three in four Canadians report English as their first official language, a figure that’s increased over the five-year period.
That’s while the proportion of people who report French as their first official language declined.
Eric Caron-Malenfant, deputy head of Statistics Canada’s Centre for Demography, said at a news conference that the latest census report shows a continuation of language trends in the country.
Jean-Pierre Corbeil, an associate professor of sociology at Laval University, said immigration plays a key role in the trends we see with languages in Canada.
“We know that the composition of the population over time has an impact on … the numbers of people speak French or English or, if you will, a non-official language,” Corbeil said.
The sociologist said the rise in temporary immigration might be having an impact on French in Quebec, given that temporary immigrants are less likely to speak the language.
A recent study by the Institut du Quebec found that while non-permanent residents represented nine per cent of international immigration to the province from 2012 to 2016, that number had climbed to 64 per cent by 2019.
In Quebec, the number of Canadians who reported English as their first official language topped one million, while one in 10 Quebecers report speaking predominantly English at home.
As the country becomes more linguistically diverse, the percentage of Canadians who reported English or French as their mother tongue has also declined.
The agency defines mother tongue as a citizen’s first language learned at home in childhood and still understood by the individual.
Corbeil said that while some people put a lot of emphasis on French losing ground in Quebec, that phenomenon has already played for the English language in regions like Toronto, where nearly half of residents’ mother tongues are not English.
Outside of Quebec, the number of people who speak predominantly French at home declined by 36,000.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced in 2019 its plan to boost francophone immigration to areas in Canada outside of Quebec. It’s hoping to increase the share of francophone immigrants to 4.4 per cent by 2023.
In 2021, 3.6 per cent of arrivals outside of Quebec were French-speaking immigrants.
It would be more effective to direct French-speaking immigrants to Quebec, given the limited influence of the language outside of the province, said Charles Castonguay, a retired mathematics professor from the University of Ottawa who specializes in the language landscape of Canada.
“That will do much more to stabilize the weight of French in Canada than scattering these immigrants,” he said.
English-French bilingualism remained unchanged over the five-year period, with 18 per cent of Canadians reporting they can conduct a conversation in both languages.
However, a closer look at the numbers shows the rate of bilingualism is up in Quebec but down in the rest of Canada.
The census release comes after Quebec introduced a new language law this year that restricts access to government services in English. In June, Quebec Premier Francois Legault drew criticism for sounding the alarm over a decline in the number of people who speak French at home.
Legault declared that “nobody could deny” French is in decline, saying fewer Quebecers were speaking the language at home as well as at work.
Corbeil said the impact of Bill 96 would not be reflected in the data given it was passed this year.
“It’s really the immigration policy and immigration measures (where) I think the focus should be put, because it’s difficult actually to see ΓÇª what are the measures that will have an impact on the language dynamics,” Corbeil said.
Statistics Canada will publish a census report on workplaces later this year that will shed light on languages spoken in work environments.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.
Passport delays: Canada opens new service sites – CTV News
The federal government is adding new passport service locations across Canada as a backlog in processing applications continues.
Social Development Minister Karina Gould announced Wednesday that people can now apply for and pick up passports at Service Canada centres in Red Deer, Alta., Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Trois-Rivieres, Que., and Charlottetown, P.E.I.
That’s on top of five new locations added in July, and Gould expects to bring another seven to nine locations into the program soon.
“I think this is a really important and long-overdue change,” she said in an interview. “Those of us who live in more urban areas, we don’t realize that we’re so lucky to be close to a passport office.”
The additions should make it easier for people outside large centres to access services and ease stress on offices in regional hubs, she added.
No new federal money was required to make the change, Gould said. Resources come out of a revolving fund made up of passport fees.
Gould said the current crisis and complaints over long wait times have accelerated the work but she was already looking at bringing passport services to more locations before the backlog.
She visited Sault Ste. Marie in April, before media began reporting on complaints over wait times. The local Liberal MP, Terry Sheehan, told Gould that people in the Sault had to drive seven or eight hours to Thunder Bay or Toronto to visit a passport office in person.
Until Wednesday, there was no passport office on Prince Edward Island.
“So I was starting to already look at who is not close, and how can we fix this,” she said. “And then it became that much more acute.”
Nearly 1.1 million applications for new and renewed passports have been filed since April as pandemic restrictions loosen and Canadians resume travelling.
More than one-quarter of those hadn’t yet been processed as of early August.
Government statistics show the system is starting to catch up with demand, as the gulf between the number of passport applications each month versus the number of passports issued is getting smaller.
Call centre wait times have gone down significantly and “triage measures” were implemented at 17 passport offices to mitigate in-person headaches.
Gould said 442 new employees were hired so far this summer and 300 are already trained and working.
But a large backlog remains.
In the first week of August, the number of passports issued within 40 business days of an application fell to 72 per cent from 81 per cent the week before.
That is largely because of mailed applications.
During the first week of August, passports from in-person applications were issued within the government’s 10-day service standard 95 per cent of the time, a rate that has remained steady throughout the summer.
For mailed applications the service standard of 20 days was met only 40 per cent of the time in early August, down from 53 per cent in late July. The government also warns it can take more than 13 weeks to get your passport by mail.
The overall numbers aren’t materially better than in June, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to respond to growing complaints and called the system’s performance “unacceptable.”
The week of June 20, 76 per cent of passports were issued within 40 business days.
The processing times also don’t take into account the wait to get an in-person appointment and there are only a limited number of walk-ins available.
Proof of upcoming travel is required to get service within two months at offices with 10-day processing times, including those announced Wednesday.
Urgent services for people who can prove they need a passport within 48 hours are only available in bigger urban centres — Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Gatineau, Que., and Quebec City.
As the backlash over the wait times continues, some reports suggest Canadians are making “fake” travel plans to show to passport officers, then cancelling their flights once their application is in the queue.
Gould said she’s not aware of this being a “widespread issue” but she has heard about it anecdotally. “I strongly discourage Canadians to do that. It’s unfair, it’s unkind and it’s unnecessary,” she said.
Gould said at the morning press conference that the government failed to predict to what extent demand would sharply spike earlier this year. She insisted an unexpected glut of mailed-in applications is the main culprit in the passport delays.
Although she wouldn’t comment on the specifics of its deliberations, she said a cabinet committee stood up earlier this year — the Task Force on Services to Canadians — is looking at how to make sure that services under federal jurisdiction are being delivered in “a timely and effective way” that takes the toll of the pandemic into account.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.
UK: Inflation hits 40-year high
London, United Kingdom (UK)- According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) has risen to 10.1 percent in the 12 months to July, up from 9.4 percent in June and remaining at the highest level since February 1982.
Food price inflation hit 12.7 percent in July, the highest rate in the category for more than 20 years.
The biggest increases came from bakery products, dairy, meat and vegetables, which were also reflected in higher costs for takeaways. Price rises for other staple items such as pet food, toilet rolls, toothbrushes and deodorants also sent inflation soaring to the highest rate in four decades.
Driven by a summer rush, with travellers flocking to packed airports across the UK, prices for package holidays also rose, while airfares increased.
“A wide range of price rises drove inflation up again this month. Food prices rose notably, particularly bakery products, dairy, meat and vegetables, which was also reflected in higher takeaway prices.
Price rises in other staple items, such as pet food, toilet rolls, toothbrushes and deodorants also pushed up inflation in July.
Driven by higher demand, the price for package holidays rose, after falling at the same time last year, while airfares also increased.
The cost of both raw materials and goods leaving factories continued to rise, driven by the price of metals and food respectively,” said ONS’ chief economist, Grant Fitzner.
Separate ONS analysis showed that poorer households were facing greater rates of inflation than those with higher incomes because they spent a bigger proportion of their budgets on energy and food, which are rising fastest in price.
While all advanced economies have seen a rise in inflation, it has been stronger in the UK than in other G7 countries and most European nations.
This reflects the country’s greater use of gas, the underlying strong growth in spending last year, pay growth in the private sector rising above five percent and the ease with which companies expect to pass on higher costs to customers.
Many economists on Wednesday said the upward surge in inflation along with robust wage growth in the second quarter would stiffen the Bank of England’s resolve, encouraging the Central Bank to raise interest rates further and faster.
Households are expected to come under further pressure this autumn from a fresh rise in energy bills, which the Bank of England forecasts will drive inflation above 13 percent and trigger a long recession as families rein in their spending.
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