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More Indigenous-led services needed for communities, national wellness summit hears

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TORONTO — More Indigenous-led services are needed to help communities deal with tragedies and mental health issues, an Indigenous leader who lost loved ones in the Saskatchewan stabbing rampage said Friday.

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand – whose sister, Bonnie Burns, and nephew, Gregory Burns, were killed in the attacks earlier this month – told a national summit on Indigenous wellness that such services were crucial to supporting families affected by what took place on the James Smith Cree Nation and the nearby village of Weldon.

“We put in mental health workers, we put in elder services, we put in transportation to and from the hospital, we provided meals,” said Arcand.

“We even threw kids a birthday party, we brought out the city fire department. The kids were so happy to come on the fire trucks… it kind of let them forget about what happened back home.”

At the summit, which took place in Toronto, Indigenous leaders shared knowledge, resources and solutions for issues such as mental health, substance use, lack of housing and suicide prevention.

Arcand said Indigenous-led services, like some of the programs offered by his organization, allow for nuanced supports and resources that account for issues such as intergenerational trauma from residential schools. Existing services — like systems in place for incarceration, child welfare and health care — have historically abused people from First Nations, he added.

“These are things that people forget to understand, that they look at us different as First Nations people,” said Arcand.

“But when we as a First Nations organization is Indigenous-led, I can talk the same language as another First Nations person and have a quicker understanding and a better response time compared to a non-Indigenous organization that doesn’t understand.”

Speaking at the summit, Arcand discussed the effectiveness of some of the Saskatoon Tribal Council’s community-based services, including their Health Bus program, which brings paramedics, mental health teams and dental services directly to members of First Nations communities who experience barriers to health services in urban areas.

The Saskatoon Tribal Council services over 25,000 people from First Nations, as well as non-Indigenous people, Métis people, newcomers and whoever else needs support, he said. The tribal council also runs a homeless shelter in the city.

Arcand also said he supports the creation of a First Nations police force, as James Smith Cree Nation Chief Wally Burns called for following the stabbing attacks.

“First Nations reserves and infrastructure is not there, or proper services, but these are things that need to be addressed,” Arcand said. “Unfortunately, it takes a tragedy for people to wake up and it’s got to stop. It’s got to be preventative instead of reactive.”

Prevention and harm reduction were major themes at the summit, which Arcand said mimicked the function of Indigenous-led services, where experts and community workers can provide culturally-relevant support that is self-determined.

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said Friday’s meeting, which she hopes to make an annual event, was the first of its kind to bring together Indigenous leaders and community experts from all over Canada to share resources and knowledge.

Hajdu said the summit aimed to bring together people who are designing programs “through the lens of Indigenous experience, reality and connection to old age tradition, that are actually having more effective outcomes than Western-imposed programs that for far too long Indigenous people have suffered through.”

However, she added that an important function was to allow community workers to connect and support each other.

The minister said her office plans to gather findings from the summit and apply them to programs, services and funding models offered through the federal government.

Carolyn Bennett, federal minister of mental health and addictions, said she was particularly interested in proposals for mental health response teams that include elders and knowledge keepers, as well as respite care to allow caregivers to rest and prevent burnout.

Bennett said there’s interest in holding a second Indigenous mental wellness summit in Saskatchewan.

“But what today is about is preventing those [tragedies] in terms of people who have been damaged, in terms of perpetrators, as well as victims,” she said.

“This is about prevention and about wellness and letting everyone have the tools and the pathways to be as healthy as they possibly can be — mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.”

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

 

Tyler Griffin, The Canadian Press

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South Korea president Yoon seeks more Canada trade as China looms over Ottawa visit

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OTTAWA — South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol says Canada is a natural match for boosting the production of electric vehicles, as both countries try to contain the risk of a more aggressive China.

On his one-day visit to Ottawa Friday, the president praised Canada’s natural resources and research into artificial intelligence, saying they could complement his country’s work in digital technology and semiconductors.

“If we co-operate in this area, (Korea’s) digital and data technology and Canada’s A.I. technology can work together, I think, and in synergy,” Yoon said in Korean during a press conference on Parliament Hill.

Yoon already met this month with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the queen’s funeral in London and at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. From there, he had short flights for his one-day visits to Toronto and Ottawa.

Butanalysts saidYoon’s visit was more than a matter of convenience, noting it was his first formal bilateral visit since he took office in March.

Robert Huish, an international development professor at Dalhousie University, said Canadians often don’t realize how deep their cultural and economic ties have been with South Korea for decades.

“Canada sometimes forgets that it is a Pacific nation, and it’s very much committed to engaging in the South Korean market,” said Huish, who researches security in the Korean Peninsula.

“Going forward, there is a want to make that stronger.”

Huish said planeloads of Nova Scotia seafood used to arrive in South Korea multiple times a week before the COVID-19 pandemic and a network of Canada-Korea friendship groups has fostered strong industrial links.

“Canada is finding itself as a very strategic market to South Korea, from seafood exports to now getting into electric-vehicle components.”

Both could be on the agenda next month when Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne will be among a delegation heading to Seoul.

Yoon also thanked Canada for its support in containing the threat posed by North Korea.

Canada recently deployed a frigate as part of an ongoing, multinational surveillance operation that tracks whether the Communist regime is trying to evade sanctions. That includes monitoring for ships transferring fuel or commodities.

Friday’s meeting comes after months of anticipation for Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy, a document that industry groups hope will clarify which countries Ottawa wants to grow closer to, and which countries should be lower priorities due to trade barriers or human-rights concerns.

Countries like Britain and France have already published such documents, and the Liberals promised Canada would outline its Indo-Pacific strategy months ago. On Friday, Trudeau pointed out twice that South Korea is also working on its own strategy for the region.

Also Friday, Trudeau announced Canada’s ambassador to China, a post that had been left vacant since last December.

He has tasked Jennifer May, a career diplomat with three decades of experience in foreign service, with advancing both trade and democratic values.

“China is certainly a real challenging actor in the region,” Trudeau said Friday. “A nuanced approach that is looking out for the interests of Canadians, the interests of citizens across our democracies, is essential.

“For too long, China and other autocracies have been able to play off neighbours and friends against each other, by offering bits of access to their market.”

At multiple points in his visit, Yoon mentioned Canada’s sacrifice in the Korean War, including after laying a wreath at the National War Memorial.

Earlier in the day, during a visit to Trudeau’s office in the West Block, Yoon praised his policies and support for multiculturalism.

“You are such an attractive leader; you brought unity to Canadian society,” a translator for Yoon said in English.

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

 

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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Group linked to ‘Freedom Convoy’ ordered evicted from Ottawa heritage building

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OTTAWA — A group loosely associated with the “Freedom Convoy” protest in Ottawa last winter has been ordered evicted from a former church east of downtown.

In her ruling, Ontario Superior Court Justice Sally Gomery says The United People of Canada breached an agreement of purchase and sale with the property’s owners.

Gomery found the group violated the agreement by failing to pay deposits totalling $100,000 on Aug. 10 despite two extensions of the deadline.

She says the owners served the group with a valid notice of termination on Aug. 11.

The group argued it had not materially breached any agreement with the owners and asked the court to allow members to stay.

The dispute took on a surreal air over the summer, with group members defending the property with water guns while dressed in red capes and dish gloves.

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

 

The Canadian Press

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Oil and gas companies should invest profits in climate action: Steven Guilbeault

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OTTAWA — Oil and gas companies can show their commitment to climate action by investing some of their record profits to cut their emissions, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said Friday.

Canadian oil companies are reaping the benefits of surging oil prices following the Russian invasion of Ukraine with many companies posting record profits in the first half of 2022.

This week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on countries to impose windfall taxes on fossil fuel companies that are raking in cash while people are suffering from high inflation and “our planet burns.”

Guilbeault says neither he nor the government is stoutly against windfall taxes that could redirect some of those profits to people or climate action.

At the moment, he says, carbon pricing and regulations to ratchet down emissions from the energy sector are ensuring the companies have to shoulder some of the burden.

But he says he’s still waiting to see comprehensive plans from the sector.

“We are very eager to see companies’ investment plans into decarbonization,” Guilbeault said in an interview.

“If they don’t make those investments while they’re making record-level profits, then when would it be a good time for them to make those investments? If not now, then I don’t know when.”

The European Commission recently proposed a windfall tax along the lines of what Guterres wants. The United Kingdom imposed one over the summer, though new Prime Minister Liz Truss is not a fan and while she won’t cancel the one brought in already, she won’t extend it as some have requested.

Guilbeault said he wants “to make clear that I’m not against windfall taxes.”

A surge in global oil prices following the Russian invasion in Ukraine sent oil company profits through the roof. In the first six months of this year, Canada’s four biggest oilsands producers reported more than $21 billion in profits, more than three times their profits in the same period last year.

Kendall Dilling, president of the Pathways Alliance, said in a statement Friday that companies are committed and will invest but there are a number of federal policies still being finalized, such as an investment tax credit for carbon capture and storage projects.

The Pathways Alliance is an organization of Canada’s six biggest oilsands producers charting a course toward net-zero emissions by 2050.

Dilling also said industry profits fluctuate, and in 2020 Pathways companies had negative profits.

Oil prices tanked in 2020 mainly because of the COVID-19 pandemic and plunging demand.

Dilling said the “projects and technologies to reduce emissions will be developed and financed over a period of 30 years, during which we will be subject to fluctuating commodity price cycles, such as these.”

“We remain confident that continued collaboration with governments will enable a fiscal and policy framework that is required for our industry to proceed to final investment decisions,” Dilling said.

NDP environment critic Laurel Collins called on the government Thursday to follow Guterres’s call and impose a windfall tax.

Collins said “oil companies are making record profits” and the government should tax them to “help put more money back in people’s pockets.”

In response to Collins’ question Thursday, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland pointed to windfall taxes being imposed on banks and insurance companies for excess profits made during the pandemic.

She promised such a tax in this year’s federal budget and draft legislation to create one was published in August. The Canada Recovery Dividend is proposed as a one-time 15 per cent tax on the average taxable income above $1 billion in 2020 and 2021.

The parliamentary budget officer estimated in a report Thursday that tax would raise about $3 billion.

Freeland is also proposing to permanently raise the corporate income tax rate for bank and insurance company profits above $100 million, a tax the PBO says would raise about $2.3 billion over the next five years.

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

 

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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