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Military members urged to contact Habitat for Humanity amid housing crisis

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OTTAWA — An email encouraging members of the Canadian Armed Forces to consider contacting Habitat for Humanity if they can’t find affordable housing is casting a spotlight on a growing challenge facing many military personnel and their families.

The email was sent by a senior officer at 19 Wing Comox to other members at the Royal Canadian Air Force base on northern Vancouver Island, which is home to the military’s search-and-rescue school as well as several squadrons of aircraft.

“Further to our discussion this morning, one potential housing option for our folks is Habitat for Humanity,” said the email dated May 5. “Should this be of interest to any of your personnel, please have them review the information located here.”

The email, confirmed as authentic by the Department of National Defence, included a link and contact information for the charity’s northern Vancouver Island chapter along with a list of criteria to apply for a home.

Defence Department spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande said members were not being directed to Habitat for Humanity, but rather that it was being presented as an option to those having “significant difficulty” finding housing.

“To the best of our knowledge,” she added, “this has not been an option presented or explored by CAF members in other regions of the country.”

But the email has highlighted growing complaints and concerns about the impact that skyrocketing home and rental prices are having on members of Canada’s Armed Forces – and Ottawa’s repeated failure to provide enough military housing.

Chief of the defence staff Gen. Wayne Eyre warned last month that his troops were feeling the bite of escalating housing prices and other costs of living as a result of their unique lifestyles, which include constant moves throughout their careers.

At the same time, Eyre lamented a shortage of military housing, saying: “Now we’re somewhere in the neighbourhood of 4,000 to 6,000 units short on our bases, which is also accentuating the housing problem.”

Online forums are rife with Armed Forces members discussing the current housing crunch, with some on the verge of moving desperate for advice on how to find affordable accommodation in markets where even rental prices are sky high.

While several Armed Forces members contacted by The Canadian Press declined to comment because they did not have permission to conduct an interview, realtors say they have seen firsthand the stress that many troops and their families are facing.

“The last couple years have been exceptionally, exceptionally tough for them,” said realtor Tracy Fogtmann, who works with military families relocating to the Comox area. “I’ve been in the business for 19 years and have never seen anything like this.”

The situation is similar in other military communities such as Kingston, Ont., where broker Luca Andolfatto has seen the stress many troops, their families and even their realtors are feeling.

“It’s a lot of stress and a lot of pressure both on the personnel themselves and on the realtors,” said Andolfatto, who has worked with military families for 34 years. “Anyone who isn’t ranked as an officer would find it a struggle.”

Jeff West is the executive director of Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North. He said the charity has had a long-standing working relationship with 19 Wing Comox, with Armed Forces members having previously volunteered to build local homes for those in need.

While he could not say exactly how the May 5 email came about, West suspected it had to do with a recent meeting the organization had with a senior officer.

“I think basically what happened is we went out and talked to him about what we’re up to, just maintaining contact, and this email came out of the leadership,” he said.

While unable to say for sure whether any of the 39 local Habitat for Humanity homes built since 2004 have gone to military members, West said he was not aware of any such arrangements to date.

But he acknowledged a “housing crisis” is affecting both military and non-military families in the area.

The Armed Forces has actually advised service members against buying a home, warning in March that some bases are located in “unpredictable and seemingly inflated housing markets,” and that a price correction was expected.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported in February that “rental affordability continues to pose a significant challenge across the country.”

Andolfatto can testify to that reality in Kingston.

“Some of our rents here I daresay are stronger than some of the rents you’d find in the GTA,” he said. “I’d say going to rent is just as problematic, and actually even more challenging.”

Many bases have military housing. But even as internal Defence Department assessments have repeatedly asserted since 2017 that at least 5,000 more units are needed to meet the military’s growing requirements, the number of homes owned by government has steadily decreased for years.

The Defence Department says the Canadian Forces Housing Agency has proposed a plan to build 1,300 new units over a 10-year period and consider “alternate delivery options” such as leases and public-private partnerships for the rest.

Four years after that plan was first raised, however, only 16 units are under construction and none have been finished.

Meanwhile, an internal review published in December warned that at current funding levels, the CFHA has not been able to properly maintain the 12,000 units now in its portfolio, with nearly one in five rated as “below average.”

Not all members of the Armed Forces are struggling, including those whose required moves resulted in them buying or selling at the right time or place, said Canadian Forces College professor Alan Okros.

The military also offers a number of benefits to help offset costs.

But Okros said there’s no denying some troops are having difficulty, and that the issue is emerging as an important factor in retaining personnel.

“The CAF is so short of people,” he said. “It becomes: ‘Do you really want to lose somebody by posting them from an inexpensive to an expensive city, which basically forces them to quit rather than take the move?’”

Back in Comox, Fogtmann continues trying to match incoming service members with new homes for themselves and their families.

““But it’s really stressful,” she said. “My heart goes out to them.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 23, 2022.

 

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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Canada Day Ottawa: Ottawa police prepare for festivities, possible protests | CTV News – CTV News Ottawa

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Police officers in cruisers and on bicycles are patrolling downtown Ottawa and the Parliamentary Precinct today, as the city prepares for Canada Day festivities and possible protests against COVID-19 mandates and the federal government.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to visit downtown Ottawa and the LeBreton Flats area over the next few days to celebrate Canada’s 155th birthday. Canadian Forces veteran James Topp will also complete his cross-country march at the National War Memorial, as he protests the remaining COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

At LeBreton Flats, there was a very strong security presence Friday morning as preparations continued for the Canadian Heritage Canada Day festivities. The Canada Day daytime show begins at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, while the evening show begins at 7:30 p.m. 

Ottawa police interim Chief Steve Bell says the increased police presence will remain in place through the weekend.

“We’ve talked for a number of days about all the planning and preparation we have and the expectation of people attending,” Bell told CTV News Ottawa. “I think what you’re seeing is those plans coming into action and us being out there and vigilant around who’s attending, and trying to make sure people that understand it’s a safe place on Canada Day and you should come down and enjoy the festivities.”

On Wednesday, officers stopped a small convoy of vehicles in the area of Pinecrest Road and Hwy. 417 and several tickets were issued.   Bell defended the actions of officers to stop vehicles in the capital region.

“We actually have good legal grounds for the plans we’ve put in place. We make sure that we stay on legal grounds because that’s very important as a police service,” Bell said. “We’re comfortable with the posture we’re taking and the actions officers are taking, and it’s all in the name that we ensure public safety and we can have a good, festive Canada Day.”

JAMES TOPP ARRIVES IN OTTAWA

Canadian Forces veteran James Topp will finish his cross-country march to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates this evening at the National War Memorial.

The final leg of his journey began at 1811 Robertson Road at 10 a.m. Topp is scheduled to arrive at Hog’s Back Park at 1:30 p.m. and finish his march at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at 6 p.m.

“We have been in contact with Mr. Topp and his group and have plans in place to ensure that he can safely and lawfully move from the west end of the city down to the Parliament Hill buildings,” interim chief Bell said on Monday.

Speaking in Ottawa last week, Topp said a number of groups that formed out of the Freedom Convoy had come together to protest the federal government.

“What I would like to see with the establishment of C3 – the Canadian Citizens Coalition is for us to have further conversations about the way forward, about the way of the future, of what we see Canada being and becoming,” said Topp.

SNOWBIRDS 

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will not be taking part in Canada Day festivities in Ottawa.

The Royal Canadian Air Force announced the Snowbirds fly-past over Ottawa on Friday has been cancelled, following a problem with the aircraft’s emergency ejection parachute that grounded the fleet for nearly a week.

PARLIAMENT HILL

Visitors to Parliament Hill will need to pass through a security checkpoint, and be searched by a Parliamentary Protective Service officer.

A sign on the fence along Wellington Street says several items are restricted, including tables, speakers, barbecues, aerosols, weapons, fireworks and sporting equipment.

MOTOR VEHICLE CONTROL ZONE

A motor vehicle control zone remains in effect around the Parliamentary Precinct, downtown Ottawa and roads near LeBreton Flats.

The zone stretches from Colonel By Drive/Sussex Drive in the east, Booth Street in the west, Laurier Avenue in the south and Wellington Street in the north, along with the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway and Albert Street west of Booth Street.

The roads in the motor vehicle control zone are not closed today; however, motor vehicles taking part in any form of demonstration, event or protest will not be permitted in the area. There will be no on-street parking or stopping on roads in the control zone.

The city of Ottawa says a motor vehicle control zone will be in effect from Wednesday at 8 a.m. until July 4 at 6 a.m. (City of Ottawa/Twitter)

TICKETING AND TOWING VEHICLES

Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services says officers are out ensuring all parking regulations are observed in the motor vehicle control zone.

“All vehicles found failing to observe the no-stopping zones will be ticketed and towed. Parking time limits and no parking zones outside the centre core will also be strictly enforced,” the city said.

Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Ottawa Bylaw says 120 parking tickets were issued and 28 vehicles were towed in the vehicle control zone.

Ottawa Bylaw will also be focusing on the following bylaws to ensure residents and visitors obey the rules over the Canada Day weekend.

  • No unnecessary motor-vehicle or other noise, including speakers or shouting
  • No unnecessary motor-vehicle idling
  • No encumbering a sidewalk or roadway by any means, including setting up tents or other illegal structures
  • No public urination and defecation
  • No open air fires
  • No littering
  • Discharging of fireworks – contravening any regulations under Fireworks By-Law.

DOWNTOWN PARKING

Ottawa City Hall and the underground municipal parking facility will be closed all weekend.

City Hall and the parking structure will be closed from 5 p.m. Thursday until 6 a.m. on Monday.

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Tips for starting online betting safely

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Sports betting has been part of the entertainment world for a long time now, but it has become even more popular now. This is because of the internet and especially online betting. It has increased the number of opportunities for betting and now people don’t need to leave their homes to have fun.

 

The internet has some of the most popular options such as NFL Week 1 odds and more rare possibilities. Because of this diversity, you can be sure that you can find an option fitting your taste. But if you have never bet on sports online before, you need to know how to do so safely. This article will help you with this.

There are many different interesting sports to follow

The world is full of different types of sports, which means that there will be one that will entertain you. Even if you are only looking for Canadian sports, there are still many different fantastic possibilities. This obviously means that there are also plenty of different possibilities regarding betting as well.

 

Even though there are many exciting opportunities for betting, you need to only bet on sports that you are familiar with. If you know everything there is to know about the sport, it will be easier for you to place your bets. Therefore it’s a much safer way to bet. If you are interested in specifically betting on a game that you don’t know too well yet, you should do some research.

Choose a safe betting site

Not only do you need to bet in a safe way, but you also need to choose a safe betting site. There are many different options when it comes to different betting sites, so you have a lot of options to choose from.

 

If you don’t know how to recognize safe betting sites, you don’t have to worry. There are plenty of different guidebooks specifically about this online. You can also use different websites that introduce popular and safe betting sites for the players. This will make the search process much easier.

What is the best betting site for you?

As we said, there are many different betting sites. Not only do you need to choose a safe option, but you also need to find one that is the best for you. And how can you know which is the best for you?

 

Simply by thinking about what you are looking for. It doesn’t matter what type of betting site you choose, as long as it fits you and it’s safe, it’s a good choice.

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Spouse of gunman to testify at N.S. shooting hearings but won’t be cross-examined

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HALIFAX — The spouse of the gunman in the Nova Scotia mass shooting will testify mid-July before a public inquiry, but she won’t face direct questions from lawyers representing victims’ families.

Lisa Banfield, on the advice of her lawyers, had initially refused to speak under oath at the hearings into the 22 killings carried out by her spouse on April 18-19, 2020.

However, she changed her stance after a criminal charge laid against her for supplying ammunition to the killer was referred to restorative justice.

The public inquiry said today in a news release that due to Banfield’s status as a “survivor of the perpetrator’s violence,” only the inquiry’s lawyer will be asking her questions during her July 15 appearance.

Josh Bryson, a lawyer for the family of victims Peter and Joy Bond, says his clients are losing faith in the credibility of the inquiry.

Bryson says the families’ lawyers have been polite and respectful throughout the hearings, adding that it is frustrating to be denied the opportunity to pose direct questions to key witnesses.

“Cross-examination can make or break a witness’s evidence … You test the evidence in a meaningful and trauma-informed way,” he said in an interview today.

The inquiry has also refused to allow cross-examination of Staff Sgt. Brian Rehill and Staff Sgt. Andy O’Brien, who were the first RCMP managers overseeing the response to the shootings.

Emily Hill, senior commission counsel, says participatinglawyers can submit their questions in advance and can provide follow-up questions to the inquiry’s lawyer to ask during the single day set aside to hear Banfield.

Banfield’s evidence could provide further information about the killer’s personal history and state of mind and may also be key to the commission’s mandate to examine the “role of gender-based and intimate-partner violence” in the killer’s actions.

The inquiry has heard she was the last person with the gunman before he went on his rampage. The killer allegedly assaulted her and confined her in a car, but she managed to escape. She fled into the woods and hid before emerging the next morning and telling police the killer was driving a replica RCMP vehicle.

The RCMP have said from the outset that Banfield wasn’t aware of her spouse’s intentions when she provided him with ammunition, but they proceeded with charges alleging she, her brother and her brother-in-law had illegally transferred ammunition to the killer.

During a briefing this morning, the commission confirmed that senior RCMP officers, including Supt. Darren Campbell, Chief Supt. Chris Leather, assistant commissioner Lee Bergerman and Commissioner Brenda Lucki will testify in July and August — under oath and subject to cross-examination.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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