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Liberals say faith in RCMP commissioner remains strong, deny political interference

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OTTAWA — The public safety minister and emergency preparedness minister both said Wednesday their confidence in RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki hasn’t waned as allegations swirl about political interference in the investigation into the tragic 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia.

Bill Blair was the minister of public safety at the time of the shooting spree that terrorized communities and killed 22 people over 13 hours on April 18 and 19, 2020.

A report published Tuesday by the inquiry investigating the tragedy includes notes from an RCMP superintendent alleging Lucki said she had promised Blair and the Prime Minister’s Office that information on the guns used by the shooter would be released as it affected pending gun control legislation.

The same report quotes an RCMP communications director as saying Blair and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were “weighing in on what we could and couldn’t say” during media briefings.

Blair, now emergency preparedness minister, categorically denied that Lucki had ever made such a promise or that he had asked for the information. Nor, he said, did he tell anybody what the RCMP should communicate about their own investigation.

“I’m telling you, and I would tell the superintendent, if I spoke to him, that I made no effort to pressure the RCMP to interfere in any way with their investigation,” he said. “I gave no direction as to what information they should communicate. Those are operational decisions of the RCMP, and I respect that and I have respected that.”

He also pointed out that at a news conference a day after the mass shooting, both he and Lucki said the investigation had to play out and that it would be inappropriate for the RCMP to release information on the guns until the investigation had verified the details.

Lucki issued a statement Tuesday night saying she did not interfere in the investigation and briefed Blair on what was happening as is standard procedure. But she acknowledged she could have handled a meeting with Nova Scotia RCMP about the “flow of information” better.

“It was a tense discussion, and I regret the way I approached the meeting and the impact it had on those in attendance,” she said. “My need for information should have been better weighed against the seriousness of the circumstances they were experiencing. I should have been more sensitive in my approach.”

Blair and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino both said Wednesday their faith in Lucki’s leadership of Canada’s national police force remains strong.

“I think it’s important to say that on the easiest of days, it’s a very challenging and demanding job to be the RCMP commissioner and certainly the worst mass shooting in the history of the country was probably one of the most difficult days, not only for law enforcement but for all Canadians,” Mendicino said.

Federal Conservatives dismissed the explanations provided by Blair and said Lucki herself must also answer the allegations.

Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen called it “disgusting” that Trudeau and his government would leverage the massacre to advance their political agenda on gun control.

She also said a deeper investigation into the matter is warranted.

Mendicino said the inquiry is doing just that.

“I think we absolutely should continue to be totally forthright with Canadians, which is why the mass casualty commission has within their remit an independent way to look into the circumstances around all of this,” he said.

The Conservatives requested an emergency debate on the situation Wednesday afternoon but Deputy Speaker Chris D’Entremont, who is from Nova Scotia, said the request didn’t satisfy the policy for what necessitates an emergency debate in the House of Commons.

The Conservatives intend to push for a committee investigation as well.

New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh also called for a full investigation into the allegations, calling them “very very serious” and “deeply problematic.”

“It should never be the case … that a mass shooting should in any way be used as a political wedge,” he said. “That is the allegation we are dealing with and that is deeply troubling.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2022.

— With files from Marie Woolf

 

Mia Rabson and Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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Funding and politics hit N.Ireland abortion services – FRANCE 24 English

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Issued on: 04/07/2022 – 07:36Modified: 04/07/2022 – 07:35

London (AFP) – Campaigners in Northern Ireland are closely watching US moves to restrict abortion, particularly concerns that women will now have to travel across states for terminations.

Abortion was only decriminalised in the British province in 2019 — 42 years after terminations were made legal up to 24 weeks in most circumstances in the rest of the UK.

But despite legislation, lack of government funding and political wrangling have meant women are still having to travel to the British mainland for abortions.

Currently, there are still no surgical abortion services available in Northern Ireland and no options for abortion after 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Last year, 161 women crossed the Irish Sea to England and Wales for an abortion, according to UK government statistics published last month.

“The fact that 161 people travelled last year is totally unacceptable, even one should be a scandal,” Dani Anderson from the Abortion Support Network told AFP.

The recent US Supreme Court decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling which enshrined the right to abortion prompted some states to introduce a ban.

That has raised fears women from low-income, rural and black and minority ethnic backgrounds will be hit hardest if they have to travel.

Barriers

In Northern Ireland, campaigners say this is already a reality.

Grainne Teggart, deputy programme director for Amnesty International in Northern Ireland, said travelling for an abortion had not been “safe or viable” for many during the pandemic.

From a healthcare perspective, “later trimester abortions are more complex, so it is the women who should be travelling the least who are being made to travel”, added Naomi Connor, co-convener at the grassroots campaign group Alliance for Choice.

She said they have seen cases where women facing domestic violence or in coercive relationships were reluctant to make long journeys because they were “really anxious about anyone finding out”.

As in neighbouring Ireland, where an abortion ban was overturned in a 2018 referendum, religious conservatism is strong in Northern Ireland, both among Catholics and Protestants. This also led to a delay in legalising same-sex marriage.

In rural communities particularly, women have been hesitant to explicitly seek terminations because of stigma.

One refugee in Belfast, who fled her home country after a forced marriage, was told she would have to travel to receive an abortion.

But with limited knowledge of English and other restrictions, she was unable to make the journey, said Connor.

Abortion was only decriminalised in Northern Ireland in 2019 Niklas HALLE’N AFP

She was eventually helped, but there have been times when case workers have had to say nothing can be done.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Connor.

Politics

Healthcare is a devolved issue for the Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast.

But the main pro-UK party is currently refusing to join the power-sharing executive between unionists and nationalists in a row over post-Brexit trade.

Northern Ireland’s health minister Robin Swann claims he is unable to commission full abortion services without a functioning executive.

Individual health trusts that have stepped in are struggling due to limited funding.

“Since April 2020, when services were supposed to be commissioned, different individual health trusts have had to withdraw services due to a lack of resources,” said Connor.

The recent US Supreme Court decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling

The recent US Supreme Court decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling Samuel Corum AFP

Last year, one trust had to temporarily suspend its early medical abortion services for a year, redirecting patients elsewhere in Northern Ireland.

Campaigners also complain of a lack of public information about options for women before they are past their first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Still, there is renewed hope that abortion services may finally be commissioned, despite the current political paralysis.

MPs in the UK parliament in London recently voted to implement access to services in Northern Ireland, passing the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2022.

They allow the UK’s Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis to step in, controversially overriding the authority of the devolved administration in Belfast.

Teggart welcomed the regulations as a “very necessary move”.

“For the health minister (Swann) it is a damning indictment on his failure to prioritise the health of women and girls,” she said.

Lewis wants services to be “delivered and available to all across Northern Ireland as soon as possible”.

Swann was “currently awaiting legal advice” on the implications of the new regulations, his department said.

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ROTHENBURGER: Council proves absurdity of politics on parking, code of conduct – CFJC Today Kamloops

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Why? Because, claimed Mayor Ken Christian, Coun. Dieter Dudy and others, it’s just fine that it’s flawed. If it’s not any good, it can be changed later. It’s the good intention that counts.

As Singh and Walsh challenged clause after clause in the proposed Code, the answer from corporate officer Natalie Garbay to most of their questions was that the wording came from a provincial working group template, or from other cities. Not exactly an explanation.

So, the Code went through as presented, almost unscathed. Not so with Singh’s parking proposal. According to Singh, reducing parking-space requirements would help both affordable housing and the fight against climate change.

This time, though, Christian, Dudy and others supported sending it to a committee because it’s vague and needs further discussion. According to Dudy, there was too much “ambiguity” in Singh’s motion. Christian noted that the idea hasn’t gotten much traction in the community and isn’t a priority.

Singh’s motion does, indeed, require further discussion, and I suspect Singh and the rest of council will back off of it entirely as public opposition grows.

But the Code of Conduct also needed further examination because it’s very poorly written and, in some respects, too restrictive. Yet that one, according to the majority, needed to get passed right now.

Sometimes, politics is simply absurd.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

Editor’s Note: This opinion piece reflects the views of its author, and does not necessarily represent the views of CFJC Today or Pattison Media.

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New York's Primaries Were Decided by Politics As Usual – New York Magazine

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Governor Kathy Hochul greets people during a campaign stop on a corner of Second Avenue and 86th Street on June 28.
Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Even with earthshaking news sweeping the nation — notably, the recent Supreme Court rulings overturning decades-long laws governing abortion, environmental protection, and the carrying of concealed firearms — New Yorkers held decidedly ordinary primaries for most state offices last week. Politics is how democracies process change, and the basic rules apply to all kinds of change, be it commonplace or cataclysmic.

Rule one: Incumbency and the support of the political Establishment is often decisive. Governor Kathy Hochul, whose ten months in office were preceded by years of crisscrossing the state by car as lieutenant governor, has been making friends, cutting ribbons, and collecting IOUs for years. Since taking office last August, she’d had an incumbent’s power to hand out tax breaks, regulatory rulings, and cash grants, and could call in favors from Montauk to her hometown of Buffalo.

“She dominated what I like to call the iron triangle of New York Democratic primaries,” Democratic consultant Bruce Gyory told me. “It’s the minority vote at the base. It’s highly educated, professional women along one side, and white ethnics along the other. And she was able to win all three.”

On the Republican side, Representative Lee Zeldin was backed by nearly all of the state’s county-level party organizations, winning 85 percent of delegate votes at the GOP state convention in March. As the only elected official in the race, he gained the visibility that comes with the power to steer federal funding to different projects on Long Island, where he racked up huge majorities that powered him to victory.

While progressive candidates didn’t fare as well as they’d hoped, it’s worth noting that parts of New York have a left-leaning Establishment — and like their more mainstream counterparts, these mini-machines dutifully turned out their supporters and performed well in the Assembly primaries. In Manhattan, where Dick Gottfried is retiring after 52 years as the longest-serving Assembly member in state history, his handpicked successor, Tony Simone, was backed by nearly every incumbent on the west side, including Representative Jerry Nadler, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and City Councilman Erik Bottcher.

In Queens, the Democratic Socialists of America claimed a decisive victory for the Assembly seat left vacant by the retirement of Cathy Nolan. Juan Ardila won over 43 percent of the vote in a crowded field, thanks in part to the support of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, State Senator Jessica Ramos, and Councilmembers Tiffany Cabán, Shekar Krishnan, and Jennifer Gutiérrez. And Brooklyn’s DSA-backed incumbent, Phara Souffrant Forrest, won re-election with over 67 percent of the vote, as did self-identified socialist Emily Gallagher with about 80 percent.

In short, this was an ordinary primary in many respects, even coming just days after the repeal of New York’s concealed-carry law and the striking down of Roe v. Wade. People did not surge to the polls — but they didn’t stay away, either. Despite a lot of hand-wringing reporting about low-voter turnout — the Daily News called it “torpid” — Gyory says it’s “a bit of an optical illusion” that some journalists have misinterpreted by not taking into account an explosion of new voter registration over the last 30 years, thanks in part to registration drives and motor-voter laws that make it easy to sign up while renewing driver’s licenses.

“Historically, it’s not a low turnout. It’s actually going to probably hit 900,000. It’s going to wind up being the third-highest gubernatorial turnout since we started having these primaries,” Gyory told me. “The highest turnout ever was just shy of 1.6 [million], four years ago. The previous high was 1.2 million, the famous Koch-Cuomo gubernatorial primary of 1982.”

The state Board of Elections website records over 864,000 votes cast in the Democratic primaries, with another 446,000 among Republicans for a total of over 1.3 million.

As we gear up for congressional primaries in August and the general election in November, it remains to be seen whether big national questions — including responses to the Supreme Court rulings, and the ongoing, explosive revelations from the investigation of the January 6 insurrection — will dominate local contests.

“I believe that come September, October, that the top two issues of this campaign will be the same as the top two issues of this campaign today, and that’s crime and public safety and the economy,” Zeldin told me. “They are as personal as it gets for a broad range of New Yorkers who are seriously thinking about fleeing.”

As an anti-abortion candidate who celebrated the repeal of Roe v. Wade and would not say publicly whether he thinks Donald Trump actually won the 2020 presidential election, Zeldin is out of step with most New Yorkers, who polls say support abortion rights and gun control. His path to victory depends on New Yorkers focusing on local issues like inflation and rising crime rates.

Zeldin has his work cut out for him — but he’s not wrong to assume that, even at a time of major upheavals, New Yorkers will focus on pocketbook issues and the need to walk the streets in safety. We should expect him and Hochul to spend the rest of the year making promises, raising money, doling out government funds, calling in favors, lining up local political clubs, and generally doing what wins elections: politics as usual.

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