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More cost overruns, delays coming for new navy, coast guard fleets

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OTTAWA — Federal bureaucrats are warning that more cost overruns and delays are on the horizon for the delivery of new ships to Canada’s navy and coast guard, as “significant challenges” batter Ottawa’s multibillion-dollar shipbuilding program.

That includes uncertainty around the cost of building 15 new warships for the navy, which was already slated to be Canada’s largest-ever military procurement with the government’s estimated $60-billion price tag.

Top procurement, navy and coast officials are blaming the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain problems, labour shortages and rising costs for steel and other material for the latest setbacks, the full impacts of which are still being assessed.

“Simply put, ships are not being built fast enough and are costing more as a result,” Defence Department procurement chief Troy Crosby told a parliamentary committee in recent testimony.

The frank assessment comes as the Liberal government faces pressure from the NATO military alliance and others to spend more on defence, raising one possible area for large new investments without having to undertake a significant policy rethink.

Yet whatever opportunity for increased spending the problems represent will be cold comfort to the navy and coast guard, as each passing day increases the threat another one of their aging ships will join the growing list of vessels forced into retirement before a replacement is ready.

Extra sunk costs are also growing as more taxpayer dollars are shovelled into projects that have already received billions in additional funding without any commensurate added benefit to Canada.

Federal officials told the standing committee on government operations and estimates that they are now assessing the specific impacts with Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax and Seaspan Shipyards in Vancouver.

Irving is building six Arctic patrol ships for the navy and coast guard as well as the fleet of 15 new warships that will serve as the navy’s backbone for the next 40 years. Seaspan is building several research vessels for the coast guard and two navy supply ships.

Every one of those projects had seen delays and cost overruns since the shipyards were selected in 2011 for their respective work packages, which officials blamed on a lack of experience in government and industry.

While the government and shipyards have since learned many hard-earned lessons, Public Services and Procurement Canada assistant deputy minister Simon Page said the procurement plan is facing “significant challenges.”

“We now have to deal with the additional costs shipyards are charging and the new schedules,” he said. “We are working closely with third parties to review everything and make sure … the costs are justified. We are working with them to ensure performance.”

Crosby for the first time acknowledged “uncertainty” in the cost of the navy’s new warship fleet, after having stood by the government’s $60-billion estimate in recent years. That includes having dismissed a $77.3-billion estimate from the parliamentary budget office.

In fact, Crosby specifically referenced the PBO’s finding last year that a one-year delay in building the vessels represents a $2.2-billion shortfall due to inflation and other escalating costs.

The coming delays will also add pressure on Canada’s aging navy and coast fleets, each of which has lost several ships in recent years as breakdowns and other issues have forced decades-old vessels into retirement before their replacements are finished.

Those include the navy’s two support ships and three destroyers, as well as several coast guard vessels.

Canadian Coast Guard commissioner Mario Pelletier said in a recent interview his agency plans to use charters as it waits for a new ocean research vessel to replace the CCGS Hudson, which was forced to retire after 59 years in service in January.

The new offshore oceanographic science vessel is one of those projects that has been hit hard by delays and cost overruns, with its original $100-million budget having skyrocketed to almost $1 billion last year.

At the same time, Pelletier said the coast guard needs its first of six medium icebreakers in the water by 2030. While the vessels are likely to be built by Chantier Davie, the government has yet to officially add the Quebec-based company to the shipbuilding program.

Officials told the parliamentary committee that negotiations with Davie are continuing, but would not say when they would be finished. Davie was selected for addition more than two years ago, but negotiations to finalize the deal have been shrouded in mystery.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Apr. 6, 2022.

 

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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Montreal sauna suspected origin of Canada’s monkeypox outbreak: doctors – Global News

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Monkeypox cases in Canada are suspected to have originated from a local sauna in Montreal, doctors have told Global News.

The country’s first two cases were reported by Quebec public health officials on May 19.

Dr. Robert Pilarski, a general physician in Montreal, who treated one of those patients last week, said the individual likely got the virus from a sauna he recently visited.

“He actually got it from G.I. Joe. So this is the suspected epicentre of the epidemic,” Pilarski told Global News.

Read more:

Quebec to start vaccinating monkeypox contacts, confirms 25 cases

Another doctor, who did not wish to be identified, also said the source of Montreal’s monkeypox outbreak was Sauna G.I. Joe.

Government officials have so far stayed clear of confirming the origin of monkeypox in Canada due to concerns of privacy and stigmatization.

“As it was the case with COVID-19, we never confirm publicly outbreaks for both privacy and identification matters,” Jean Nicolas Aubé, a spokesperson for Montreal public health, told Global News in an emailed response.

“Rest assured that we always intervene directly with businesses or settings where an outbreak occurs or where our investigation could lead us,” Aube added.


Click to play video: 'Quebec confirms 25 cases of monkeypox, plans to administer vaccine'



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Quebec confirms 25 cases of monkeypox, plans to administer vaccine


Quebec confirms 25 cases of monkeypox, plans to administer vaccine

Despite multiple attempts and inquiries from Global News about health regulations and tracing measures, there was no response from Sauna G.I. Joe by the time of publication.

Recent cases of monkeypox around the world have researchers scrambling to find out how the virus is spreading in countries that typically don’t see it.

Monkeypox, a rare zoonotic infectious disease, is usually found in certain parts of Africa, where it is endemic.

Read more:

More monkeypox surveillance needed, WHO tells member countries

What started out as a small cluster of cases in Quebec is now being called a “serious outbreak” of the virus by provincial health officials.

As of Thursday, 25 cases have been confirmed in the province and about 20 to 30 suspected cases are under investigation.

The majority of confirmed cases in the province are tied to men aged between 20 and 30 years, who have had sexual relations with other men. There has been one case in a person under 18.

Monkeypox is not considered a sexually-transmitted infection, but the virus can survive on surfaces such as bedding and is transmitted through prolonged close contact.

“It’s not sexual activity as such that transmits it. It’s skin-to-skin contact that transmits it as far as we know at this moment,” said Dr. Michael Libman, a tropical disease expert and professor of medicine and infectious disease at McGill University.


Click to play video: 'Scientists trying to identify origins of Monkeypox cases detected in Canada'



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Scientists trying to identify origins of Monkeypox cases detected in Canada


Scientists trying to identify origins of Monkeypox cases detected in Canada

Stigmatization and transparency

Cases of monkeypox started emerging in Europe earlier this month.

Montreal public health said it had alerted physicians about a week before the first cases were confirmed. It also contacted “local actors” and communicated advice on hand hygiene and environmental cleaning procedures, Aubé said.

According to social media posts, Sauna G.I. Joe hosted a sex party on May 19, the same day Canada confirmed its first cases of monkeypox.

Read more:

Monkeypox likely spread through sex at 2 raves in Europe, expert suggests

During a press conference on Thursday, Quebec public health officials said they do not think it’s necessary to single out locations over fears of “stigmatization,” adding that there are now measures in place.

“The enemy is the virus, not the people affected,” said Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec’s interim public health.

However, experts stress that there should be greater transparency and omitting key public health information can be problematic.


Click to play video: 'Monkeypox is not a sexually-transmitted infection, WHO says'



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Monkeypox is not a sexually-transmitted infection, WHO says


Monkeypox is not a sexually-transmitted infection, WHO says

David Brennan, research chair in gay and bisexual men’s health at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN), believes not disclosing information can have a negative impact on the community.

Hiding information could be interpreted as “men having sex with men is bad,” said Brennan.

There needs to be a culture shift and harm-reduction approach as has been the case in the past with sexually-transmitted infections, such as HIV/AIDS, added Nolan Hill, gay men’s health specialist at the Center for Sexuality in Calgary, Alta.

“I think it really does speak to this broader culture where we’re uncomfortable with the idea of sex and we’re uncomfortable talking about sex,” he said.


Click to play video: 'What is monkeypox and how is it transmitted?'



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What is monkeypox and how is it transmitted?


What is monkeypox and how is it transmitted?

Outside of Quebec, only one other case of monkeypox has been confirmed in Toronto.

On Saturday, Toronto Public Health (TPH) identified two locations connected to possible cases of monkeypox: Axis Club and Woody’s bar.

Kerry Bowman, a professor of bioethics and global health at the University of Toronto, said these details matter, especially when it comes to higher risk settings.

“I would argue it is important to identify where it is coming from because if you don’t then people are not in a position to protect themselves,” he said.

Read more:

Physical distancing recommended amid monkeypox spread in Canada, Njoo says

However, disclosing that information comes with the “added responsibility” of not feeding into any prejudice, Bowman added.

Federal public health officials are working to finalize and release guidance on case identification, contact tracing, isolation as well as infection prevention and control.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says this updated guidance will be released in the next few days.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said Thursday mass vaccinations are not yet needed, but people can avoid infection by maintaining physical distance, masking and hand hygiene.


Click to play video: 'Monkeypox: 26 confirmed cases in Quebec, Ontario, officials recommend physical distancing'



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Monkeypox: 26 confirmed cases in Quebec, Ontario, officials recommend physical distancing


Monkeypox: 26 confirmed cases in Quebec, Ontario, officials recommend physical distancing

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Supreme Court of Canada to rule on sentencing for Quebec City mosque shooter

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OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada is slated to rule this morning on the sentencing of a man who went on a deadly shooting spree at a Quebec City mosque.

The high court decision in Alexandre Bissonnette’s case will determine the constitutionality of a key provision on parole eligibility in multiple murder convictions.

Bissonnette pleaded guilty to six charges of first-degree murder in the January 2017 assault that took place just after evening prayers.

In 2019, Bissonnette successfully challenged a 2011 law that allowed a court, in the event of multiple murders, to impose a life sentence and parole ineligibility periods of 25 years to be served consecutively for each murder.

A judge found the provision unconstitutional but did not declare it invalid, ultimately ruling Bissonnette must wait 40 years before applying for parole.

Quebec’s Court of Appeal struck down the sentencing provision on constitutional grounds and said the parole ineligibility periods should be served concurrently, meaning a total waiting period of 25 years in Bissonnette’s case.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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‘Always hope’: Remains of Cree woman sent home to Alberta decades after disappearance

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Violet Soosay’s search for her missing aunt began four decades ago.

The pursuit took her to parts of Alberta and B.C. and down paths of uncertainty as weeks, months and years passed without word of Shirley Ann Soosay.

On Friday, about 43 years after she was last heard from, the body of Shirley Ann Soosay is expected to be returned to her home community of Samson Cree Nation, south of Edmonton.

Her remains had been buried in a California cemetery in 1980 under the name Kern County Jane Doe. Last spring, the county sheriff’s office identified the remains as belonging to 35-year-old Soosay.

Violet Soosay has worked since then with the county coroner’s office and the California cemetery to transport the body back to Alberta.

“Now there’s closure. There’s healing that can start happening,” Violet Soosay said in a phone interview.

The website for the American non-profit group DNA Doe Project says the Jane Doe’s body was found in an almond orchard near Bakersfield, Calif., in July 1980. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed.

Wilson Chouest was convicted of killing the Jane Doe, along with another unidentified woman in 2018.

Violet Soosay said she last saw her aunt in 1977 at a family funeral. She remembers her as caring, supportive and a free spirit.

“That was my constant memory that I kept because it gave me that sense of connection,” she said.

Shirley Ann Soosay was close with her mother and had maintained regular  contact with her, whether it was through holiday cards or letters, said Violet Soosay. The last correspondence came in 1979.

“After that, she just disappeared. Nobody knew. My grandmother was very frantic and heartbroken. She knew something happened.”

A few years later, Violet Soosay said she promised her grandmother she would bring Shirley Ann Soosay home. Her grandmother died in 1991.

In early 2020, Violet Soosay said she came across an artist’s rendering of the Jane Doe on a Facebook post from the DNA Doe Project. She believed the woman was her aunt.

The volunteer organization formed in 2017 to help identify unidentified deceased persons using forensic genealogy. The Kern County Sheriff-Coroner Division contacted the project in 2018 hoping to determine the identity of its Jane Doe.

Dawn Ratliff, the coroner division chief, said her office set up tip lines and worked with media to broadcast stories hoping to identify the woman, but every effort led to a dead end.

“In all the years that we had her, we never received a single inquiry. And at that point I just knew she wasn’t local. But I just didn’t know where she would be from.”

Ratliff said when she eventually heard from Violet Soosay, she asked her to submit a DNA sample. It was processed and compared to DNA they had from the remains. The two were a familial match.

Violet Soosay said that when she got the call with the results, she was flooded with years of emotions, including frustration, anger and elation.

“It was a crazy moment when I found out that she was my aunty.”

The family is planning to bury Shirley Ann Soosay in a cemetery at Samson Cree Nation.

Violet Soosay said bikers are supposed to follow her aunt’s casket from a funeral home in Wetaskiwin to her final resting place. There will also be a wake with traditional drumming.

Before the body was disinterred in California, the Tule River Tribe performed a ceremony there with prayers and drumming, added Ratliff.

“To be able to restore her name has really been tremendous,” she said.

Violet Soosay said she is grateful for the support and work of Ratliff, investigators and those involved with confirming the identity of her aunt’s remains.

She said she also has a message for Indigenous families with missing loved ones: “There’s always hope. There’s always some way to bring them home.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.

 

Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

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