As more workplaces open up, Canadians are faced with the challenge of going back to work after being told for months that can be dangerous.
Data on work refusals reported to provincial labour authorities shows there’s been a spike in the number of people who have formally refused to work citing dangerous conditions. But virtually none of those work refusals are being upheld, which may illustrate just how unprepared existing labour laws are for dealing with COVID-19.
All provinces have laws allowing people to refuse dangerous work. But a general fear of contracting COVID-19 is not enough to justify a work refusal, and neither are the risks associated with travelling to-and-from work, illustrating the challenges Canadians face as they balance exposure to the virus with getting back to the office or factory floor.
As some Canadians grapple with whether it’s safe safe to return to their jobs, provinces are going ahead with reopening plans that will see more Canadians getting back to their workplaces.
Stage two of Ontario’s reopening includes personal care services like hair salons and day spas, along with shopping malls and outdoor restaurant patios. Quebec is reopening salons, restaurants, gyms, arenas and indoor pools in parts of the province.
As more businesses start calling their employees back to work, provincial labour laws are about to get tested as authorities try to balance the economy with keeping workers safe from the pandemic.
CBC asked the provinces for data on work refusals related to COVID-19 related to concerns such as inadequate physical distancing or lack of protective equipment.
Work refusals are reported to the labour ministry or a workplace safety commission, depending on the province, which sends an inspector to decide on the refusal.
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Ontario has seen the largest number of work refusals: 280 from January to June. Out of those, only one related to COVID-19 was found to meet the criteria of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, according to Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.
The one case upheld in Ontario involved a worker at Berry Global, a plastics packaging plant in Scarborough. The work refusal happened after another employee came to the plant after possible exposure to COVID-19. The ministry issued an order for the plant “to take every reasonable precaution to protect workers.” The company did not have more details to add.
There have been COVID-19-related work refusals in other provinces as well, although the overall numbers remain low.
In Quebec, there were 21 refusals related to COVID-19. Only one was upheld. It involved an immunocompromised employee in a workplace where they could not get reliable information on the health condition of their colleagues, according to Quebec’s workplace health and safety commission. The commission did not identify the workplace.
Work refusal process an important protection
Katherine Lippel, a legal expert at the University of Ottawa, said formally refusing to work due to safety concerns can kick-start important protections.
“What you need to know is that when somebody exercises the right to refuse dangerous work, even if the exercise is not upheld, there are protections by law that that person gets,” she said.
For instance, their employer has to try to work with them to address the possible danger and the worker can temporarily stop working and protect themselves. If the issue is not resolved between the employer and worker, then a provincial inspector steps in.
Lippel, who is the Canada Research Chair on Occupational Health and Safety Law, has a forthcoming paper reviewing some challenges facing workers during the pandemic. She argues that there are structural gaps in the protections available to workers as they return to work.
They include: the risks faced in getting to work (such as using mass transit), which is generally not the employer’s responsibility, and protections for people with underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to COVID-19.
Unions frustrated with process
Labour unions have been keeping a close watch on these issues as their members worked through the lockdown. The United Food and Commercial Workers represents about 70,000 workers in Ontario, many in essential services like grocery stores. They also represent workers in other hard-hit sectors such as tourism.
“We’ve been a little frustrated with some of the process here in Ontario, as most of the work refusals that have been done and have been processed through the ministry have not led to any orders or been upheld,” said Tim Deelstra, spokesperson for UFCW in Ontario.
“And so that process is a bit frustrating, because obviously workers who are on the frontlines of this situation are concerned about their health and welfare and they want to believe that they have options available to them if they are concerned.”
Deelstra said that their members have been involved in about eight work refusal applications in Ontario, in grocery retail and industrial meat processing.
The Ontario labour ministry said that “large portions of the COVID-19 work refusals were initiated by workers who have limited rights to refuse work under the OHSA.” These are employees in sectors such as healthcare and corrections, where refusing to work “directly endanger(s) the life, health or safety of another person.”
The ministry says that even in those cases, inspectors can still investigate the complaint if a hazard is identified.
Over 70% of Canada’s coronavirus cases have recovered as country adds 244 new diagnoses – Globalnews.ca
The number of novel coronavirus cases in Canada stands at 107,570 as of Sunday, and more than 70 per cent of those diagnosed have recovered, data shows.
As of Sunday afternoon, the country diagnosed 244 new cases while 71,467 of those diagnosed with the virus have recovered. Over 3.6 million people in Canada have been tested so far and 8,780 have died.
Those numbers are incomplete, however, as Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and all three territories did not provide updates.
Quebec, the province hit hardest by the novel coronavirus, recorded 114 new cases on Saturday for a provincial total of 56,521 cases. To date, 5,627 in Quebec have died from the virus while 25,862 have recovered.
In Ontario, the province hit second-hardest by the virus, officials reported 129 new COVID-19 cases for a provincial total of 36, 723 cases. More than 1.6 million residents have been tested so far while 88.6 per cent of all confirmed cases in Ontario have been resolved.
Several provinces have seen no new COVID-19 cases in days.
Manitoba recorded no new cases for the 12th day in a row on Sunday, surpassing its previous streak of five days in June. Of the confirmed and presumptive cases, 314 have recovered. Seven residents have died while just over 69,000 have been tested.
Officials in Nova Scotia said Sunday the province hasn’t reported a new case in five days and remains at 1,066. Sixty-three people there have died while 1,000 infected have recovered. Over 58,000 residents have been tested so far.
New Brunswick recorded no new cases since Thursday. On Sunday, officials said all but three of its 166 cases have recovered. Two people in the province have died from the virus while 46,502 have been tested so far.
Officials in Newfoundland and Labrador said Sunday the province hasn’t seen a new case in three days, while 258 out of the province’s 262 cases have recovered. Over 20,000 residents have been tested. Three people residing in N.L. have died.
Prince Edward Island reported its first newly confirmed case in three days on Sunday, bringing its total up to 34. Of those 34 cases, 27 have recovered.
Dr. Heather Morrison, the province’s chief health officer, said the woman who tested positive for COVID-19 may have been in contact with a man who tested positive for the virus after returning from Nova Scotia. As of Sunday, officials said 13,730 had tested.
Nunavut reported Friday the province was still free of COVID-19 after a test for its first presumptive case came back negative. The Yukon saw 11 confirmed cases while the Northwest Territories’ total remained at five. All known cases in the territories have recovered.
As of Friday, Alberta had seen 8,596 cases and 160 deaths while in Saskatchewan, officials reported a provincial total of 815 cases, adding 15 people had died from the virus.
British Columbia recorded 187 new deaths for a total of 3,028 confirmed cases on Friday. Nine cases are epidemiologically linked, which happens when a patient may have been in contact with one or more people who tested positive with the virus but has yet to be confirmed.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada's largest Indigenous police force has never shot anyone dead – CTV News
In its 26 years of existence, officers with Canada’s largest Indigenous police force have never shot and killed anyone and no officer has died in the line of duty, despite a grinding lack of resources and an absence of normal accountability mechanisms.
It’s a record of which the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service is proud, especially in light of the recent uproar in North America over police killings and brutality involving Indigenous, Black, and mentally distressed people. It’s a record achieved in communities frequently in social distress, places where hunting rifles and shotguns are ubiquitous.
The key difference from urban, non-Indigenous policing, insiders and observers say, is the relationship building between officers and the people they serve.
“In the past, you might have been the only officer in there,” Roland Morrison, chief of NAPS says from Thunder Bay, Ont. “You would have no radio, you’ve got no backup, so you really effectively have to use your communication and talk to people. You have to develop relationships with the communities in order to have positive policing.”
Inaugurated in 1994, NAPS is responsible for policing more than 38,000 people in 34 communities, many beyond remote, across a vast, largely untamed swath of northern Ontario. Currently the service has 203 officers, about 60 per cent of them Indigenous, Morrison says. Its mandate is culturally responsive policing.
Erick Laming, a criminology PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, says people from First Nation communities — many with an ingrained suspicion of police given the brutal realities of generations of enforced residential school attendance — have a higher level of trust when officers are Indigenous.
In contrast, he said, new RCMP recruits with no such background might find themselves in Nunavut or Yukon confronted with significant language and cultural barriers.
“If you’re from the community, you have those lived experiences. You can relate to people. You just know how to deal with the issues,” says Laming, who is from the Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation north of Kingston, Ont.
“If you don’t have that history, you can have all the cultural-sensitivity training in the world, you’ll never fully be able to fully integrate into that situation.”
Another example, he said, is the service in Kahnawake, Que., which calls itself the Kahnawake Peacekeepers rather than a police force.
While all officers in Ontario undergo the same basic training, the province’s nine Indigenous police services are fundamentally different from their non-Indigenous counterparts.
For one thing, they are not deemed an essential service, although federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said last month that policing First Nations communities should be. Nor are those in Ontario subject to the provincial Police Services Act, which mandates standards, including for an extensive oversight framework.
Now, the process for filing complaints against members of an Indigenous police force is ad hoc, although NAPS does have a professional standards branch and will on occasion call in Ontario Provincial Police. Officers have been disciplined, charged or even fired for excessive use of force.
Another difference is that Indigenous forces are completely reliant on the vagaries of government program funding — with Ottawa footing 52 per cent of the bill and provinces 48 per cent. The current operations budget for NAPS, for example, is around $37.7 million — more than its peers — with expenses approaching $40 million.
The upshot, particularly in years gone by, has been a dire shortage of officers and even of basic facilities and equipment that urbanites can scarcely imagine. In more than a dozen cases, Indigenous self-administered police services in Canada have simply folded.
Now retired, Terry Armstrong, who spent 22 years with Ontario Provincial Police as well as five years as chief of NAPS, says people would be shocked to find out just how poorly funded First Nations policing has been.
Armstrong recounts how a few years ago, in the Hudson Bay community of Fort Severn, Ont., a NAPS officer found himself dealing with a homicide. Besides having to secure three crime scenes and the body, the lone officer had to arrest the suspect and deal with a separate gun call. Bad weather prevented any forensic or other help flying in until the following day.
One thing he always stressed to newcomers as chief, Armstrong says, is the importance of treating people respectfully.
“Some day, they’re going to be your backup. When stuff goes south, you’re going to need people to support you,” he says. “If you’re going to be a dick … when you need help, they aren’t going to be there for you.”
One frigid afternoon in February 2013, the only on-duty NAPS officer in Kasabonika Lake First Nation in Ontario’s far north detained Lena Anderson, an intoxicated young mother upset over the apprehension of her daughter. The new detachment portable was unheated. The old holding cell was unusable because prisoners could escape through holes in the floor.
The arresting officer left Anderson, 23, in the caged back seat of his Ford 150 police truck for warmth while he went to get help from his off-duty colleague. Alone for 16 minutes, Anderson strangled herself.
The tragedy, combined with a threatened strike over working conditions by NAPS officers, caused an uproar. The situation, says Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, prompted his Nishnawbe Aski Nation to take a stand. Governments, he said, had to do better or face the far more daunting prospect of doing the policing themselves.
As a result, Fiddler says, a new funding agreement was reached in 2018 that allowed the hiring of 79 new officers over five years and critical infrastructure upgrades to detachments and poor or non-existent communication systems. Most importantly, he said, the deal set in motion pending Ontario legislation that would finally allow First Nations police services to opt in to the Police Services Act, putting in place solid standards and accountability mechanisms.
“That’s something our communities and citizens deserve.” Fiddler says. “If they have an issue with NAPS, there should be a forum for them to pursue their grievance.”
However, giving investigative authority to the province’s Special Investigations Unit or Office of the Independent Police Review Director must come with cultural safety built in, he says.
Stephen Leach, current review director, says his office is not yet involved in the opt-in process.
“My expectation is that once the Community Safety and Policing Act is proclaimed and the opt-in process is further along, then I would be involved in explaining how the public complaints process works, and listening to how it might have to be adapted to meet the needs of First Nations communities,” Leach says.
Stephen Warner, a spokesman for Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, confirmed the government was working on regulations to the new act. Part of the work, he said, was to set clear and consistent standards for policing delivery “informed by, and responsive to, the views of the communities that police are both a part of and serve.”
Toronto-based lawyer Julian Falconer calls the new legislation a game changer. Despite having devoted much of his career to holding police accountable, he says he has no qualms in representing NAPS.
Despite, or perhaps because of, their chronic lack of resources, Falconer says Indigenous police behave much differently from their urban counterparts. He cites the dearth of police killings and racist behaviours that have sown deep mistrust of policing among Indigenous, Black and marginalized groups.
“Mainstream policing has a lot to learn from Indigenous policing,” Falconer said. “The relationship between community and policing is so dramatically different.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 12.
Times are tough for Canada's self-proclaimed french fry capital – CBC.ca
For the past few years, Ottawa’s Carole Richard has made an annual pilgrimage with her friends to the small town of Alfred, Ont., to sample the local spuds.
The village of about 1,200 people on County Road 17 — about 70 kilometres east of Ottawa — is, after all, the self-proclaimed french fry capital of Canada.
“I like small fries like these, well-cooked, a little dry,” said Richard, pausing between bites at the Landriault Snack Bar. “They’re super good.”
These days, however, fried potato enthusiasts like Richard only have one local option for satiating their cravings. Of the multiple chip stands and canteens that once dotted the village, only one — the Landriault Snack Bar — still remains.
“When we [were] here 10, 11 years ago, there were four,” owner Bruce Forget recently told Radio-Canada in a French-language interview.
“They all disappeared quietly,” he said.
Some in Alfred trace the decline of the fry shacks to the arrival of a Tim Hortons franchise at the village’s entrance.
Others cite the 2012 completion of Highway 50 on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, which allowed motorists travelling between the National Capital Region and Montreal to bypass County Road 17 altogether.
There’s also the simple fact that the french fry business is hard work — one of the main reasons that Suzanne Villeneuve, owner of Miss Alfred, decided not to open her doors this winter.
Had she done so, her canteen would have celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.
“People can’t imagine [how busy it is],” Villeneuve told Radio-Canada in French, noting that all the food at Miss Alfred was homemade.
“It was 12 hours a day [six days a week]. On the seventh, you changed the oil and then finally took care of your own business.”
As for Forget, he agrees that running a fry shack is hard work — and is well aware that, when it comes to the village’s crispy claim to fame, he’s the only one left keeping it alive.
“I’m the last of the Mohicans,” he laughed.
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