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Party lines drawn ahead of key Emergencies Act vote on Monday – CBC News

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Canada’s political parties are standing firm in their positions during two days of weekend debates on the use of the Emergencies Act, ahead of a key vote on Monday on whether to ratify the extraordinary powers.

MPs, who have been sparring in the House of Commons hour after hour, are scheduled to sit from 7 a.m. ET to midnight on both Saturday and Sunday.

The at-times tense and personal debate has pitted the Liberal government against the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois, a combination Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux referred to as an “unholy alliance.” The New Democrats have said they will support the government’s use of the act but have urged the Liberals to tread carefully, while reserving the right to pull support at any time.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, who has announced he is seeking the leadership of his party, accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of engineering the crisis for political gain.

“They have attempted to amplify and take advantage of every pain, every fear, every tragedy that has struck throughout this pandemic in order to divide one person against another and replace the people’s freedom with the government’s power,” he said Saturday.

Poilievre said the Emergencies Act was the “latest and greatest example of attacks on our freedom.” 

Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said Sunday that the “vigorous” debates over the Emergencies Act are a sign of a healthy democracy, casting the discussion in a positive light a day after a major police action cleared protesters away from Parliament Hill on Saturday.

“The fact that there has been a vigorous debate taking place in Parliament, that will come to a vote in our democratically elected House of Commons tomorrow … to me is an affirmation that our democracy is strong,” he said in an interview on Rosemary Barton Live.

Protests not an emergency: Conservatives

The Conservatives argue that the protests do not rise to the level of an emergency and do not warrant the use of extraordinary powers — claiming the government’s actions are “sinister” and politically motivated.

“There is no emergency, there is no threat to our democracy, and it’s a shame the government has not pulled this bill,” said Warren Steinley, a Conservative MP from Saskatchewan. Steinley was among several Conservative MPs who voiced support and visited with protesters earlier in the month. The party has since called for the end of the demonstrations.

Other Conservatives characterized the protests as a matter more appropriately dealt with by Ottawa police, not an emergency response.

“There’s no al-Qaeda, there’s no Taliban, there’s no North Korean special forces looking to take over the government. Mr. Speaker, this is a matter for local law enforcement officials, and it is wrong for this government to make it out to be anything more than that,” said Conservative MP Michael Kram. His characterization of the protests was criticized by Liberal MPs and Green MP Elizabeth May.

Yasir Naqvi, the Liberal MP for Ottawa Centre, made an impassioned speech on Sunday outlining the harms of the protest on the city’s downtown.

“I cannot overstate the profound impact this occupation has had on my community,” he said, adding it will take time to heal.

Liberals argue measures are restrained, limited

The governing Liberals have argued that the Emergencies Act was necessary to put an end to the protests in Ottawa and others across the country, pointing to such measures as cutting off financial supports and compelling the service of tow truck drivers.

The measures are automatically time-limited, expiring after 30 days, and Parliament has the power to revoke the emergency declaration either in initial votes this week or at any point during the month-long window.

Blair told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton that the government was committed to maintaining the emergency only as long as needed to resolve the situation in Ottawa.

“We have said and made a commitment to Canadians that we brought these measures reluctantly because they were necessary, but they would only be in place and only where they are required for as long as is necessary,” he said.

WATCH | Bill Blair defends Emergencies Act measures: 

Emergencies Act measures will ‘only be in place as long as they are needed,’ minister says

8 hours ago

Duration 9:54

Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton that the measures taken by the federal government have been effective in dealing with the situation in Ottawa. 9:54

That question is growing in importance as police have succeeded in dislodging protesters from their main encampment near Parliament Hill, establishing a secure perimeter with fencing and towing the vehicles that have occupied much of the city’s downtown core for more than three weeks.

In defending their decision, Liberals have repeatedly pointed to comments made by interim Ottawa police Chief Steve Bell on Friday, in which he noted the Emergencies Act had allowed police to set up barriers and secure an area in the city’s downtown.

Mixed support from premiers

The government’s use of the Emergencies Act received an uneasy response from premiers throughout, with some like Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaking out in support, while others were opposed.

In a separate interview airing Sunday, B.C. Premier John Horgan said while many premiers agreed the situation was serious, they were concerned with federal overreach.

“I think the premiers agreed that the events in Ottawa were just not tenable and something had to be done. But at the same time, we all expressed our concerns about the intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. We all expressed a concern that it be locally focused, geographically focused,” he told Barton.

WATCH | B.C. Premier John Horgan on invoking the Emergencies Act: 

‘Something had to be done,’ B.C. premier says on invoking federal Emergencies Act

8 hours ago

Duration 8:36

B.C. Premier John Horgan told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton the premiers agreed the protests in Ottawa were untenable, but they expressed concern about intrusion into provincial jurisdiction through the use of the Emergencies Act. 8:36

Premier Jason Kenney in neighbouring Alberta took a much harder line, saying on Saturday his government would challenge the use of the act and potentially join as an intervener in a separate case being launched by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“That kind of extraordinary power I don’t think is justified,” Kenney told Barton in an interview that took place Friday, ahead of his announcement.

“I think they could have dealt with the situation in Ottawa using the same sort of laws they were using in Windsor and at Coutts,” he said, referring to blockades of border crossings in Windsor, Ont., and Coutts, Alta.

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Firing Bank of Canada head would spark global ‘shock wave’: ex-budget watchdog – Global News

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If any Canadian government were to fire the head of the Bank of Canada, the result would be a “global financial shock wave,” warned the country’s former budget watchdog.

In an interview with The West Block guest host Eric Sorenson, former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page said the Bank of Canada’s reputation is one as a “strong” and “transparent” institution.

“We’ve gotten used to, over the past three decades, having an independent central bank that is independent — making decisions on these policy interest rates that is divorced from the political environment,” said Page, now president and CEO of the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa.

“It would be quite a shock wave, a global financial shock wave, to have a government literally remove a central banker who, by all intents, seems to be doing a fine job — but is doing a very difficult job.”

Page had been asked what the effects could be if a Canadian government were to fire a central banker.

That comes as Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre has been leading a campaign of criticism centring on the Bank of Canada’s handling of rampant inflation, which sits at 6.7 per cent.

The domestic target is two per cent per year.

Read more:

Canada’s treasury ‘depleted’ as budget weans COVID spending, eyes uncertainty

As part of his criticism of the central bank, Poilievre has vowed that he would fire Tiff Macklem, governor of the Bank of Canada, if elected prime minister. That comment triggered rapid criticism over concerns it signalled an intent by the perceived leadership frontrunner to interfere with the bank.

Long-standing tradition is that the Bank of Canada operates independently of political decisions, with governors appointed on seven-year terms.

Officials have emphasized that those longer terms are what allows them to operate with a “measure of continuity over economic cycles — not electoral cycles — and allows for decision making that considers the long-term economic interests of Canadians.”

The Bank of Canada has opted to keep interest rates at rock-bottom during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is among the factors experts say have fuelled skyrocketing home prices. And as inflation keeps pushing the cost of living higher and higher, critics of the central bank like Poilievre have pointed the finger and argued its low rates are powering domestic inflation.

Canada, however, is far from alone.

Read more:

Conservative leadership hopefuls debate future of party, trade Netflix suggestions

Inflation is rampant around the world right now, with no clear end in sight.

High consumer spending amid the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions has combined with supply chain shocks worsened both by factory closures caused by the reality that the virus is still circulating in high numbers, as well as the sharp shortages in supplies caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


Click to play video: 'Bank of Canada forecasts nearly 6% average inflation outlook in 1st half of 2022'



1:51
Bank of Canada forecasts nearly 6% average inflation outlook in 1st half of 2022


Bank of Canada forecasts nearly 6% average inflation outlook in 1st half of 2022 – Apr 25, 2022

“I think it’s a very simplification to assume that if we just change the leader, that somehow this sort of global environment — and inflation truly is a global issue — just somehow disappears,” Page said.

Sorenson asked: “Can the Bank or the Canadian government on their own bring inflation down in this country?”

Page said: “No.”

“This is a global phenomenon. A lot of it is supply-related, and it’s because of those very strong supports that went in 2020 to help during the lockdown,” he added.

“The economy’s come back really fast and eventually markets will adjust.”

So when might Canadians expect to see inflation back in a more normal range?

Page said the Bank of Canada’s moves to raise interest rates will play a role in helping slow the economy.

“I think over the next couple of years we could see inflation back maybe in that three per cent range.”


Click to play video: 'Sticker Shock: Coping with the rising cost of inflation in Canada'



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Sticker Shock: Coping with the rising cost of inflation in Canada


Sticker Shock: Coping with the rising cost of inflation in Canada

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

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David Milgaard, who advocated for justice after he was wrongfully convicted of murder, has died

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David Milgaard, who was wrongfully convicted of murder and spent more than 23 years in prison, has died. Milgaard was only 17 when he was arrested for the rape and murder of Gail Miller in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He was released from prison in 1992 after DNA evidence proved his innocence. In 1999, Milgaard was awarded $10 million in a wrongful conviction lawsuit against the Canadian government. Milgaard and two friends had been on a road trip, driving through the city when the murder happened.

Milgaard, who was born in Winnipeg, had been living in Calgary with his son and daughter.

Milgaard maintained his innocence throughout his time in prison. His mother Joyce Milgaard, who died in 2020, tirelessly advocated on her son’s behalf. In the decades since his release, Milgaard had spoken publicly, calling for changes in how Canadian courts review convictions.

His picture is now included in the Canadian Journey’s gallery at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Isha Khan, the museum’s CEO, said Milgaard was a human rights defender.

“He is someone we know, and the reason we know is that he was able to tell his story, and it takes a special kind of person to continue to try to connect with people,” she said, adding his work is not over.

“There are people across this country in correctional institutions who have been wrongfully convicted, who need a voice and don’t have a voice that David Milgaard did for whatever reason it may be, and it is our job to listen and to look for those stories.”

Milgaard had recently been pushing for an independent review board to prevent miscarriages of justice.

“David was a marvellous advocate for the wrongly convicted, for all the years he’s been out since 1992. We’re going to miss him a lot. He was a lovely man,” James Lockyer, a Toronto-based lawyer, told CTV News Channel on Sunday.

Lockyer, a founding director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, joined Milgaard’s case following his release in 1992 and helped him through the process to get DNA testing done. Lockyer said as a result of the DNA evidence, a man named Larry Fisher was arrested, and charged with the rape and murder. Fisher died while serving a life sentence.

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Ontario international students, families making 'massive sacrifices' for the Canadian dream – CBC.ca

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The death of an Indian student in Toronto last month made international headlines, but while Kartik Vasudev’s story ended in tragedy, his parents’ sacrifices offer a glimpse into the hardships that many international students and their families face to achieve the dream of a future in Canada.

Vasudev’s father, Jitesh Vasudev, told CBC News he and his wife spent their entire life savings and mortgaged their house to take out a loan of $50,000, just to afford the first year of his son’s education in Canada, before he was shot and killed. 

“The only mistake of my innocent child was that he dreamt big of studying in a foreign country, and he wanted to make a name of himself while representing India,” said Vasudev’s mother, Pooja Vasudev, in a video posted to Instagram. “We had a lot of dreams and expectations with our child, he was going to be our support in our old age.”

International students who spoke to CBC News say those kinds of sacrifices are common, and can take a major toll. 

They say international students can pay almost four times more in tuition fees than domestic students, and are calling for change.

An Ontario Auditor General’s report from last year highlighted the reliance of Ontario colleges on international student tuition.

The report showed that while international students represented only 30 per cent of the total enrolment in public colleges, they accounted for 68 per cent of tuition fee revenue at a total of $1.7 billion. A majority of students — 62 per cent — were from India.

According to a 2020 report from Global Affairs Canada, international students contributed $16.2 billion and $19.7 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2017 and 2018.

A better future in Canada

Students and advocates told CBC News that many international students from India come to Canada to become permanent residents and build a better future for themselves as well as their families.

They say there are limited employment opportunities in India compared to Canada, leading their parents to go to great lengths to send them abroad.

Jobanpreet Singh knows that struggle firsthand.

Jobanpreet Singh, left, says his family spent all their savings, took out massive loans and also sold assets just to pay for his first year of college. (Submitted by Jobanpreet Singh)

“[Vasudev’s family] sacrificed a lot to send their child to Canada for a brighter future,” the 22-year-old international student said. “I can’t imagine how painful it must have been for them.”

Born and raised in a farmer’s family in Punjab, India, Singh came to Canada as an international student in August 2021, where he is studying at the Academy of Learning Career College in Toronto. 

For his first year in Canada, his family spent around $30,000 on his tuition and living expenses.

Singh said his family spent all their savings, took out massive loans and sold assets just to be able to pay for his first year of college.

“[International students] have work stress, school stress, and we have extremely high tuition fees, which is topped off with the fact that we can only work 20 hours a week,” he said.

Singh said it is very difficult to handle expenses and living costs in Toronto while working those limited hours.

According to a statement from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), “limiting off-campus work to 20 hours per week reflect the fact that the focus for international students in Canada is on their studies.”

Tuition gap between domestic and international students

Sarom Rho from advocacy group Migrant Students United says international students who come to Canada also face rising costs of tuition fees, which are already three to four times more than domestic tuition.

“The majority of current and former international students and their families have made massive sacrifices for them, for example by selling lands, taking out massive educational loans, selling assets, just to pay for these extremely high tuition fees,” said Rho.

Rho added that because of these financial burdens, international students also face significant mental health issues.

Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities said in a statement that it understands that as newcomers to Canada and Ontario, international students can face unique challenges. 

“Student wellbeing is paramount, and we support the steps taken by Ontario’s colleges and universities to ensure that international students are well supported before and after their arrival in Ontario,” said James Tinajero, spokesperson for the ministry.

Gurpreet Singh, a 22-year-old Seneca College student, came to Canada in September 2020. His parents mortgaged their entire agricultural farmland to send him to Canada.

Gurpreet Singh has completed half of his education and the remaining two semesters of his studies will cost him about $16,000. He says he is paying for the rest of his studies on his own. (Submitted by Gurpreet Singh)

He said because of his international student status in Canada, he can’t apply for scholarships and bursaries at his college.

“That’s a huge drawback for us,” said Gurpreet. “If we’re not getting anything extra [over] the domestic students and we pay the same taxes, then why do we pay this huge amount for our tuition?”

The ministry says college and university boards of governors have the full authority to set tuition fees for international students.

“Colleges and universities are allowed the discretion to establish tuition fees for international students at levels the institutions deem appropriate,” said Tinajero.

Gurpreet has completed half of his education, and the remaining two semesters of his studies will cost him about $16,000. But instead of asking for help from his family, Gurpreet is taking the responsibility on himself.

According to the IRCC, international students can work full-time when they are on a scheduled break, like during winter and summer holidays, or during a fall or spring reading week. 

Gurpreet is currently on a summer break from his college. He says this is his last chance to work full-time before he begins his third semester in the fall.

For the next four months of summer break, Gurpreet says he’ll be working in two different warehouses doing long days of general labour.

“Right now I’ve [got] to concentrate on my work to pay off my fees, so I’m willing to compromise for the next four months,” he said.

“I know this is going to be hard, but these hardships are temporary, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

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