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Quebec suspect in decades-old murder and sex assault may have other victims: police

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Quebec provincial police say they believe a man charged this week in the murder and sexual assault of a junior college student 22 years ago may have had other victims. 

Marc-André Grenon, 47, was charged Thursday with first-degree murder and aggravated sexual assault of Guylaine Potvin, 19, in April 2000.

He was also charged with attempted murder and sexual assault in a separate, violent sexual assault that took place in Quebec City in July 2000, in which the victim was left for dead but survived.

Police said today their investigation leads them to believe there are other victims — including minors — allegedly connected to Grenon.

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A police unit that investigates serial offenders has been transferred to the case, and police have released photos of the suspect over the years so that other potential victims may recognize him.

His arrest is the first made by the police’s cold case squad since it was beefed up with more resources in 2018.

Grenon remains detained until his next court appearance on Nov. 21.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2022.

 

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Ministers decline request to testify on Afghan aid blockade as desperation grows

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Three Liberal ministers have declined invitations to testify in the Senate as the upper chamber probes why Canada still won’t allow humanitarian workers to help in Afghanistan.

Aid groups say Ottawa has told them that paying people in Afghanistan or buying goods there could lead them to be prosecuted under anti-terrorism laws.

Many of Canada’s allies have found carveouts so that aid workers don’t get charged with supporting the governing Taliban, which is designated as a terrorist group.

But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has no explanation for why Canada hasn’t fixed the issue.

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The Senate’s human-rights committee will launch hearings into the issue on Monday and invited three ministers to attend, but all of them said they had prior commitments at the time of the planned meetings.

The United Nations says six million Afghans are now categorized as being at risk of famine, while another fourteen million are in critical need of food.

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Investments in Inuit housing inadequate to address human rights violations: watchdog

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From a family living for seven years in a condemned home that was meant to be temporary to people with disabilities having to be carried in and out of their bathrooms, Canada’s housing advocate says during a tour this fall of several Inuit communities she got a glimpse into the dire living conditions many have faced for years.

“The current levels of federal investments are not adequate to remedy the human rights violations caused by the housing shortage,” said Marie-Josee Houle.

The independent, non-partisan watchdog helps promote and protect the right to housing. Houle, who was appointed to the role earlier this year, travelled in October to Nunavut and Nunatsiavut, an Inuit region in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“The purpose is to really learn more about systemic issues in the North that need really serious attention and to listen to people with lived experience of their housing precarity and homelessness,” she said of her trip.

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“That focus on the North is also because people don’t go there or they don’t have the opportunity to go there.”

Among the biggest takeaways, Houle said, was that housing is in short supply. Housing that is available is not in a good state, with issues like mould, or is otherwise unsuitable for elders or people with disabilities or children.

“The government neglect and underfunding for Inuit housing has absolutely taken its toll over the years,” she said.

“Residents report a lack of trust in public institutions responsible for housing because the wait-lists are decades long and they’ve given up even applying for the housing programs.”

Houle said inadequate housing in the North has led to overcrowding, increased contact with the justice system, exacerbated mental health issues and tension among families. It also means many people are forced to leave their communities, which can result in isolation, racism and violence.

“If it’s not by choice, it can be a traumatizing experience for people,” she said. “There’s a lot of harrowing stories.”

The 2021 census found almost a third of the nearly 49,000 Inuit who live in Inuit Nunangat — or Inuit homeland in Canada comprising communities in Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Newfoundland and Labrador and northern Quebec — were living in dwellings in major need of repairs. More than half were living in crowded homes.

This is not the first time abysmal housing conditions have been documented in the North.

The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples released a report in 2017 detailing the severity of the housing crisis in Inuit Nunangat. Former Nunavut NDP member of Parliament Mumilaaq Qaqqaq documented “inhumane” housing conditions in several communities in March 2021.

The federal government said it has made several investments in housing across Inuit Nunangat over the years. That includes $256.7 million over two years in the 2016 budget, $400 million over 10 years in the 2018 budget and $845 million over seven years in the 2022 budget.

But Houle said there’s a need for more federal, provincial and territorial support, such as long-term funding and maintenance. She said it should respect Inuit self-determination and address unique northern challenges, such as the climate, short construction season, lack of transportation infrastructure and high costs.

In its 2022 pre-budget submission, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami said it would take more than $3 billion over the next decade to construct new housing, as well as maintain and repair existing homes in Inuit Nunangat.

Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok and representatives from Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in October to request $500 million in the upcoming budget to address the territory’s housing gap.

The Nunavut government recently announced a new plan to build 3,000 more homes by 2030, tripling the annual rate of new public housing units currently being constructed. Of those, 300 will be transitional housing units, 1,400 public housing units, 900 affordable housing units and 400 market housing units.

“It is ambitious, but I think if we stick close to the plan and things work out, it’s very achievable,” said Lorne Kusugak, the minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corporation.

Kusugak said the territory can’t continue to build homes the way it has in the past, where bids have come in at about $1,000 a square foot. He said instead of issuing annual requests for housing, the territory is partnering with the private sector to build homes over a longer period of time at a lower cost.

“We know this isn’t going to be easy and there will be a lot of criticism throughout the process, but we have to do something,” he said. “If we accomplish a few more houses each year by doing this … then we’re headed in the right direction.

“It’s going to be a struggle, it’s going to be a fight. We’re ready for that fight.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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‘More American than football’: Retired history professor recounts abortion fight

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Betsy Jameson found a yellow piece of paper in 2017 when she cleaned out her office after retiring from the history department at the University of Calgary.

The paper, faded and slightly stained, had the names and phone numbers of three doctors in New York and New Jersey. It was from the summer of 1967 when she was a 20-year-old student training to be a hall adviser at a college residence in Ohio. The names were doctors who would perform abortions at a time when it was illegal in most states.

“I thought it was an interesting piece of personal antiquity, until last night,” Jameson, 75, wrote on Facebook in May.

Her post, which she said was her first on a controversial topic, came the day after the bombshell leak of a draft opinion suggesting the U.S. Supreme Court was poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion countrywide in 1973.

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“I found myself absolutely furious,” she said in a recent interview. “I kept trying to calm down. I’m not given to walking around infuriated.

“So, I finally decided I had to do something.”

As a women’s historian, she believes the reason for studying history is “to understand where we came from and to inform how we behave in the present.”

So, she refreshed her memory on abortion rights and sat down to write the Facebook post.

“I was 25 when Roe v. Wade made abortion legal,” she wrote. “It has been legal for two-thirds of my life, but I remember when it wasn’t — the lies one told to get one, the expense and distance and danger.”

Following the post, Jameson received a call about an abortion rights rally in Calgary where she took the same message to the 200 or so people who gathered on May 15. There were also some anti-choice activists, she said, but they rallied on.

“I’m a mother and a grandmother,” she told the crowd. “I love my grandsons and my son more than anything. I’m grateful. I chose to have my child. Most women have not had that choice.”

Jameson, who’s a dual citizen and has lived in Canada since the late 1990s, worries about how the changes in the U.S. could affect Canada.

The right to an abortion does not exist in Canada in the same way it was enshrined in Roe v. Wade, which has served as a legal example for reproductive rights advocates around the world since 1973.

Abortion is decriminalized in Canada because of a 1988 Supreme Court decision, but no bill has ever been passed to enshrine access into law. The right to an abortion is also not considered a constitutionally protected right under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In June, the final U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn the law that provided the constitutional right to abortion for almost 50 years led to more rallies across Canada. Women and their allies took to the streets to denounce it and carried signs reading “My body, my choice” and “Back to the future.”

Many who spoke at the time felt angry and weary over the ongoing fight to have their bodies and decisions respected.

Jameson said it is discouraging to fight the same political battles that she fought when she was living in the U.S.

“My parents were civil rights advocates and I had grown up … being part of the civil rights movement and then the student antiwar movement and the women’s movement and all of those have suffered challenges recently,” she said in the interview.

“I think I and other people in my generation made a mistake, which was: We thought that when we won legal victories that we’d won. I underestimated how long it would take to bring about profound cultural change that went with the legal victories.”

Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion, she said, basically determined that there’s no right to abortion because it was not supported by history or tradition.

“He and I have different opinions of history and tradition,” said Jameson, suggesting his is a narrow, legal definition.

“In many states for a very long time, abortion was not criminal, but because there wasn’t a law on the books that said you can do it, he counts it as not a right. My definition is what women did and how the state behaved in the face of local sentiment.”

By that measure, she said there’s a long history and a long tradition of abortion in the U.S.

“If you only go by the legal definition, it’s still the case that for more than half of U.S. history, more than half of the states have allowed abortion,” she said. “And it’s still the case that those laws restricting it were made by white men of property.

“I would simply tell the justice that if we define history and tradition by what Americans have done, then abortion is more American than football.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2022.

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