OTTAWA — The federal auditor general says Canada’s prison service has not given offenders timely access to programs to help ease them back into society, including courses specific to women, Indigenous people and visible minorities.
Auditor general Karen Hogan found Black and Indigenous offenders experienced poorer outcomes than any other groups in the federal correctional system and faced greater barriers to a safe and gradual return to the outside world.
Hogan pointed out her office raised similar issues in audits in 2015, 2016 and 2017, yet the correctional service has done little to change the policies, practices, tools and approaches that produce these differing outcomes.
Hogan says disparities were present from the moment offenders entered federal institutions.
The process for selecting security classifications saw Indigenous and Black offenders assigned to maximum-security institutions at twice the rate of other groups of offenders.
They also remained in federal custody longer and at higher levels of security before their release.
The audit found that timely access to correctional programs continued to decline across all groups of offenders. Access to programming, which teaches crucial skills like problem solving and goal setting, worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of men serving sentences of two to four years who were released from April to December 2021, 94 per cent had not completed the correctional programs they needed before they were first eligible to apply for day parole.
“This is a barrier to serving the remainder of their sentences under supervision in the community,” the report says.
The prison service needs to find a different way to organize programming, because “that timely access is so critical to an offender’s successful path forward,” Hogan said Tuesday at a news conference.
Correctional service efforts to support greater equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace also fell short, leaving persistent barriers unresolved, the report says.
Close to one-quarter of management and staff had not completed mandatory diversity training a year after the deadline.
In addition, the prison service had not established a plan to build a workforce that reflects the diversity of its offender populations, which has particular relevance for institutions with high numbers of Indigenous and Black offenders, the report says.
Hogan noted the correctional service has acknowledged systemic racism in the system, initiating an anti-racism framework to identify and remove systemic barriers.
The service has agreed to act on the auditor general’s recommendations to remedy the various issues she identified.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino stressed efforts toward “rooting out racism in all of its forms” by diversifying the prison service’s workforce, improving our training and collecting data to inform policies. “And we know we’ve got a long way to go.”
Mendicino noted he recently directed the correctional service head to create a new position of deputy commissioner for Indigenous corrections, saying it will ensure the overrepresentation of Indigenous offenders in the system, especially women, is addressed.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2022.
The Canadian Press
Ottawa police say they're ready to shut down Canada Day occupation attempts – CBC.ca
Ottawa city officials say they are prepared for a “unique” Canada Day, with plans to keep anti-government protests from turning into another occupation.
The traditional nationally broadcast shows are returning for the first time since 2019, this time from the plaza in front of the Canadian War Museum because of ongoing construction on Parliament Hill.
Ottawa police say they expect more protests and larger crowds than usual during Canada Day celebrations as groups related to the Freedom Convoy continue to plan demonstrations. Some in those groups have indicated they’d like to protest through July and August.
“This is expected to be a unique Canada Day, with larger crowds and a larger event footprint,” interim Ottawa police Chief Steve Bell said during a Monday news conference.
“We’ve developed our plans in the shadow of the unlawful protests and Rolling Thunder event. We’ve been speaking with community members and businesses and we’re very aware of the lingering trauma and concern about what they’re hearing after those events.”
Bell said officers will allow legal protests while shutting down illegal activities, including setting up structures or speakers without a permit and the threat of occupation, like on downtown streets in the winter.
He said police have been following online commentary and trying to talk to people who’ve said they’re coming to protest.
“[We’ve] planned, we’re prepared and we have the resources,” Bell replied when answering a question about whether police were ready to step in again like they did in late April, when attempts to gather near the Rideau Centre mall were shut down by officers.
Provincial police and the RCMP have offered help to shut down occupation attempts as long as there’s a risk, he said.
The Ottawa Police Services Board received an update on plans for Canada Day when it met Monday evening.
Bell spoke about the toll recent months have taken on officers, noting the demand is not “sustainable” and describing police as “fatigued” ahead of the long weekend.
“For this event we’ve actually had to cancel days off, we’ve cancelled discretionary time off, called people back from annual leave,” said the chief. “This is an all hands on deck event, but that has a cost on the health and wellbeing of our members.”
At least 5 days of traffic control
Last week, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told people thinking of coming to the capital “not to be intimidated by individuals who may be coming to Ottawa to cause trouble.”
He said Monday he wants this to be a safe, festive event for children and families and that people who “come to disrupt” will be dealt with, without a warning.
Bell told the police board that the force has been clear with its expectations for demonstrators, and that harassment won’t be tolerated.
“If there is a hate or bias crime incidents, if there’s intimidation or threats, we will actively investigate those,” he said, adding police know residents have “scars” from the occupation.
“I want to reassure you that those feelings, that trauma that our community has felt is front and centre in all of our planning efforts and will be front and centre in our response efforts.”
Overall, Bell said police are expecting hundreds of thousands of people downtown. For comparison, an estimated 56,000 people went to the shows on Parliament Hill in 2019 and that doesn’t count everyone celebrating nearby.
There will be the traditional Canada Day road closures Friday July 1 and early Saturday, though there are more closures near LeBreton Flats because of that change in show location.
But Ottawa police are establishing another “vehicle exclusion zone” — similar to what was set up in late April for the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally — with no street parking at all and no protest vehicles allowed in from 8 a.m. this Wednesday until at least 6 a.m. on Monday, July 4.
Those plans may change if needed, officials said Monday. People are asked to plan ahead, expect delays and check city pages and local media for updates.
Canada's COVID-19 response better than many comparable countries, study finds – CBC News
Canada handled the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and weathered the ensuing upheaval better than several other nations with comparable health-care and economic infrastructure, a new study suggests.
The research, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Monday, credits Canada’s strong performance to restrictive and persistent public health measures as well as a successful vaccination campaign.
A team of Ontario researchers compared data from February 2020 to February 2022 in 11 countries dubbed the G10 due to the late inclusion of one subject. They analyzed data from Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States — all countries with similar political, economic, and health-care systems.
“If you look at Canada compared to the G10, the differences are enormous,” study co-author Dr. Fahad Razak said in a recent interview.
“If you look at our vaccination rate, we had the highest in the entire G10, we had the lowest number of people infected and lowest of people dying.”
The research suggests Canada’s cumulative per-capita rate of COVID-19 cases was 82,700 per million, while all countries — with the exception of Japan — were above 100,000 per million. Canada’s rate of COVID-19—related deaths was 919 per million, once again second-lowest behind Japan. All other countries were over 1,000 per million.
Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa who was not involved in the study, said the methodology of the research is sound, even if it can be challenging to compare infections and deaths across jurisdictions.
“Bottom line: Canada’s relatively strict approach resulted in fewer infections and deaths,” Deonandan said in an email.
WATCH | Expert explains how Canada fared comparably well in the pandemic:
‘Persistent level’ of restrictions
Razak said at least 70,000 more Canadians would have died during the first two years of the pandemic if Canada had the same death rates as the United States, the country with the highest cumulative number of COVID-19-related deaths.
“That means most of us would probably personally know a grandparent, or a friend or family member … who’s living today in Canada who would have died if we had the same trajectory as the United States,” Razak said.
He said Canada’s comparatively positive outcomes came about despite gaining access to vaccination later than most countries, noting there were also other health-care system structural disadvantages to overcome across the country at the outset of the pandemic.
“Some hospitals were so overwhelmed that we had to ambulance or airlift patients to other hospitals,” he said.
But Canada, he said, differed from other developed countries when it opted to implement public health measures that were both strict and persistent. Though such measures drew vehement opposition in some circles, Razak said they helped mitigate the pandemic’s overall impact.
“Compared to many other countries … they would have periods with tight restrictions but quickly pull back,” he said. “For Canada, it was really this high and persistent level almost entirely for the first two years.”
Highest proportion with two doses
Razak said the success of Canada’s immunization drive emerged as the strongest takeaway from the research, praising officials for engaging with the population and ensuring vaccines were readily available across the country.
More than 80 per cent of eligible Canadians have been fully vaccinated with two doses as of June. The percentage of the vaccinated populations in other G10 countries is between 64 and 77 per cent, according to the study.
“There was a magic in Canada around these vaccine roll-outs during dose one and dose two,” Razak said.
“When we speak to our colleagues across the world, Canada was the envy of the world in terms of our population rallying around this. It is a lesson to the world, that very high engagement can occur with the right strategy.”
Dr. Eleanor Fish, an immunology professor at the University of Toronto who was not involved in the study, said the findings were consistent with her own assessment of the pandemic in Canada.
Like Razak, she said the population’s high vaccination rate played a major role in the country’s strong performance.
WATCH | Dr. Theresa Tam on timing of boosters:
Fish also cautioned that there could be challenges ahead this fall, when COVID and other respiratory illnesses are likely to put a strain on the health-care system.
“We should be planning for that now,” said Fish.
The study also showed the countries’ response to the pandemic left an economic burden, with government debt rising for all countries and Canada registering one of the highest relative increases.
“We had these very significant economic impacts, we had very tight restrictions on our individual freedom which led to things like isolation … but we also had really among the best results in terms of controlling the impact of the virus,” Razak said.
“Was it worth it? That’s not a scientific question. That’s a values and morals and policies question.”
Fuel standard regulations to start later, cut more emissions from gasoline, diesel
OTTAWA — The federal government is delaying new emissions standards on gasoline and diesel another year but is demanding the oil and gas sector make bigger cuts to fuel emissions by 2030 given how much more money the companies are now making.
Cabinet approved the final regulations for the long-awaited Clean Fuel Standard last week and The Canadian Press obtained them today ahead of their intended publication on July 6.
A confluence of communications errors led to the regulations being distributed early upon request and the government was scrambling Monday to inform provinces as the news was about to leak.
“The CFS will be a key tool that complements pollution pricing and the pending oil and gas sector emission cap, to cut emissions and drive the use of clean fuels and technology in Canada,” a statement from Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault’s office said Monday.
“Since the previous draft of the CFS, we’ve been working to make this as focused as possible on our end goal — driving down emissions and driving up innovation.”
The Clean Fuel Standard was first promised in 2016 as part of the Liberals’ first climate plan. At that time it was expected it would cut 30 million tonnes of greenhouse gases a year by 2030, but a new analysis based on the final regulations is expected shortly.
The initial plan was to have draft regulations ready by the spring of 2020, but the draft wasn’t published until December 2021, and was followed by a mandatory six-month comment period.
The draft regulations said the new standard would kick into gear in December 2022. But the final regulations say the first compliance check will now be in December 2023.
The draft regulations also included kerosene, jet fuel or fuel oil on the list of fuels that need to comply but those are not included in the final regulations.
But they do increase the expected cuts to emissions from both gasoline and diesel.
The draft regulations expected gasoline to drop carbon intensity 2.5 per cent in December 2022 from a baseline number set using a 2016 average intensity. The final plan adjusts that baseline slightly, and requires a drop of 3.6 per cent for gasoline, and 3.8 per cent for diesel in December 2023.
The emissions intensity cap declines each year until 2030. Initially the plan was that both gasoline and diesel emissions intensities would decline 12.5 per cent by 2030. The final regulations, however, now say gasoline has to fall 14.7 per cent by 2030, and diesel by 15 per cent.
In June 2020 the federal government said it would scale back the standard in the early years as oil and gas companies reeled from a pandemic revenue hit.
Guilbeault’s office now says companies are making record profits and “there’s no doubt there is the capacity to invest in clean options.”
“In fact, the future sustainability of the industry depends on investment in innovation.”
Most Canadian oil and gas companies reported massive profits in the first quarter as global oil prices surged, largely due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In May, Guilbeault told The Canadian Press he expected those companies to use those profits to invest in clean tech, after one oilpatch CEO complained federal tax credits for carbon capture and storage technology were not generous enough.
The emissions intensity is calculated on what are known as life cycle emissions — every ounce of carbon dioxide, methane or other greenhouse gases produced when oil and gas is extracted, processed, refined, upgraded, transported and finally, burned.
There are multiple options to lower emissions intensity, such as by replacing fossil fuels with clean electricity during the extraction or refining phases, distributing biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, or investing in electric or hydrogen fuel-powered vehicles.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 27, 2022.
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
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