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Reforms needed for transgender people to access justice: Canadian Bar Association

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OTTAWA — A new study says Canada’s justice system features “significant and pervasive” barriers for transgender people who encounter legal issues.

The Canadian Bar Association and the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario found that transgender people are more likely to have coexisting legal issues and are less likely to interact with the justice system.

The study found that about seven out of 10 transgender people report having at least one issue that could be addressed by the system — such as issues with discrimination, medical treatment, employment, housing or debt — compared with a little less than half of the general adult population in Canada.

“As a corollary of that, often, the participants on our study were dealing with multiple legal problems at the same time,” said Julie James, an assistant professor at Toronto Metropolitan University.

The study is based on interviews with 182 transgender people who were surveyed over the course of three years.

People who took part said they are reluctant to seek legal help over fears of discrimination, inadequate services or a lack of accessible transgender-specific legal information.

“They reported often being told directly that they were being denied housing, shelter space, consumer services, police protection, health care, drug treatment and or employment because they are trans,” the report says.

More than 90 per cent of of the survey participants said they found the legal system served non-transgender people better than transgender people.

“It was really highlighted that coming to the legal system was absolutely their last resort,” James said.

“If they have come to the legal system, it was basically a matter of life and death for them and they were finding no other way to actually survive through what they were dealing with.”

The study found that people are often hesitant to interact with the justice system because of previous negative experiences or fears that they may be misgendered or disrespected in a public space.

James said the research also found that interacting with the justice system often had an emotional toll on the mental health and finances of transgender people.

“The impact of legal problems was pretty profound,” she said.

The report concludes that tinkering with policies and regulations is not enough and “systematic change” is needed, including on preventing harms in the first place.

It also calls for more education on transgender identities and more support for transgender legal professionals. It says law societies in Canada should mandate that practitioners receive at least three hours of training focused on equity and diversity.

Justice Minister David Lametti’s office said he is looking forward to reviewing the report and its recommendations.

“Minister Lametti continues to look at how the federal government can be of best support to those providing on the ground services to improve access to justice for 2SLGBTQI+ people,” spokesperson Diana Ebadi said in a statement.

Canadian Bar Association president Steeves Bujold said lawyers in Canada need to understand the needs of the transgender community to build back trust.

“Without trust, the justice system can’t work,” he said.

“It’s based solely on trust.”

An advisory group at the bar association that includes members of the transgender community is now reviewing the study’s findings, said Bujold.

“It will bring expertise. It will also bring legitimacy to the recommendations and the concrete actions we will be taking,” he said, adding he hopes the group will make its recommendations before his term as president ends in August.

The findings of the study weren’t a surprise for Gemma Hickey, an LGBTQ activist who advocated for and received one of Canada’s first non-binary passports — which allow Canadians to identify as neither male nor female on their travel documents.

Hickey said they have had to fight for their rights.

“I really feel that this analysis brings that to light for other people, perhaps, who don’t fully understand what it’s like to be part of a marginalized community.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.

 

David Fraser, The Canadian Press

 

 

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Climate-related extreme weather puts oil and gas assets, production at risk

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CALGARY – Suncor Energy Inc. filed a disclosure document last year laying out what would happen if extreme weather were to force a 10-day shutdown of its massive Base Plant oilsands mine in northern Alberta.

The document — which Suncor filed with CDP, a global non-profit that maintains a database on corporate environmental action and climate risk — details the financial risk to the company posed by such a scenario.

While the likelihood of extreme weather events remains “unknown,” Suncor said in the document that a 10-day Base Plant shutdown could cost the company $56 million per day (more than half a billion dollars in total) in the form of lost revenue due to production losses.

When analysts talk about the oil and gas sector’s exposure to climate change-related risk, they often come at it from a policy or demand forecast perspective. They look at the risk that climate change will prompt governments to impose more regulation on the fossil fuel sector, or that the energy transition will lead to a decline in demand for oil and gas.

But the oil and gas sector, like all industries, is also exposed to climate risk in a physical sense. That risk has been hammered home this month, as out-of-control wildfires in northern Alberta forced several Canadian oilsands companies to evacuate non-essential workers from their sites. Suncor itself, Canada’s second-largest oilsands producer by volume, has temporarily curtailed production at its Firebag complex due to the fire danger.

Also this month, Hurricane Beryl forced the temporary shutdown of offshore oil platforms along the U.S. Gulf Coast, one of North America’s most important regions for energy resources and infrastructure.

“Oil and gas infrastructure, like everything else, has been increasingly exposed to severe weather events fuelled increasingly by climate change,” said Craig Stewart, vice-president of climate change with the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

“We’ve seen it all the way back to Hurricane Katrina, which disrupted activity in the Gulf of Mexico back in 2005. We saw it in the Fort McMurray fire in 2016, where oil and gas sector or oilsands activity was disrupted for a month … and we’ve seen it elsewhere in the world as well.”

More than 40 per cent of the world’s commercially recoverable oil and gas reserves are highly exposed to the effects of climate change, according to a 2021 report by risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft. The report pointed to that year’s deep freeze in Texas that knocked U.S. oil and gas output to a three-year low, as well as the effects of Hurricane Ida, which caused a record 55 spills in the Gulf of Mexico and created historic disruptions to the supply of both crude oil and refined products.

Refineries, drilling rigs, export terminals and pipelines are also vulnerable to flooding, tornadoes and even drought, which has the potential to limit the amount of water the industry can draw on for processes like hydraulic fracturing. And all of these weather events are becoming more common, Verisk Maplecroft said.

“These types of events are going to become more frequent and more extreme, creating even greater shocks within the industry,” the report stated.

There’s big money in oil and gas, which means there are millions of dollars at play every time a tropical storm rears its head or a refinery trips off during a heat wave. If weather knocks out a significant amount of a jurisdiction’s oil output, it can cause temporary commodity price spikes that trickle all the way down to the consumer.

For example, nearly half of the total petroleum refinery capacity in the U.S. and 51 per cent of that country’s total natural gas processing plant capacity is located along the Gulf Coast.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration warned of the potential for a “particularly intense” hurricane season in 2024, suggesting there is a heightened risk of weather-related production outages.

The EIA has also said a “high-impact” hurricane that significantly disrupts U.S. oil production could increase monthly average retail gasoline prices by up to 30 cents US per gallon.

In Canada, the largest oil-producing region is the oilsands, located in the boreal forest of northern Alberta — an area highly prone to wildfires. Thousands of oilsands workers were evacuated in the 2016 wildfire that destroyed part of the community of Fort McMurray, forcing companies to reduce their oil output by a million barrels per day.

The resulting economic impact was so severe that Canadian GDP contracted 0.4 per cent in the second quarter of 2016. Economists say GDP would have grown 0.1 per cent that quarter, excluding the impact of wildfire on Canadian oil production.

Thomas Liles, vice-president of upstream research for Rystad Energy, said while that event took place more than eight years ago, it remains fresh in the minds of many.

“From the industry’s perspective, there’s still a lot of scarring from the events in 2016,” he said.

Environmentalists say it’s ironic that the fossil fuel sector is being affected by climate change-related disasters, even as it makes plans to continue to grow oil and gas output in the future.

“They’re just throwing fuel on the fire,” said Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist for Greenpeace Canada.

“These companies have business plans that are going to make extreme weather even more extreme.”

But Liles said while the risk remains, the energy industry is better prepared for weather-related disasters than it was a decade ago. Companies have spent years developing detailed emergency response plans to protect their workers and their assets.

“I think the industry at large is pretty used to judging risks and dealing with those accordingly,” he said, adding that even if extreme weather intensifies in the years to come, it’s unlikely to dissuade companies from investing in lucrative areas like the oilsands or the Gulf of Mexico.

What fossil fuel companies are increasingly doing, said the IBC’s Stewart, is seeking insurance coverage to protect them against not just physical loss and damage, but against the impacts of business interruption in the event of extreme weather.

So far, they have had “varying” success, he said.

“Reinsurers have reduced their exposure to the commercial market in Canada over the last five years due to the growing threat of climate-driven disaster,” Stewart said, adding that getting insurance in wildfire-prone areas like the boreal forest is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses.

“Any operations, whether oil or gas or something else, that are located in those areas are going to have difficulty.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2024.



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Small fashion houses sowing sustainability with sewing pattern releases

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When Michelle Larsen started her fashion brand, she planned on making each item herself, with an eye to transparency, sustainability and fair labour practices.

She held fast to those principles as her brand evolved over the years, but she recently flipped her original vision on its head: many people are now making one of her designs.

Larsen’s line, Fortiv, is one of a handful of small fashion brands that have started selling PDF sewing patterns — blueprints for cutting and marking fabric, and instructions on how to sew those pieces into a garment — in addition to, or instead of, ready-to-wear clothes.

“I had this connection a couple of years ago that it really aligned with my values to make sewing patterns, because it was giving other people the possibility to make things,” she said from Vancouver. “There’s a layer of accessibility there that I really value.”

Larsen and her peers see the sewing pattern model as a continuation of their “slow fashion” mission — in contrast to fast fashion companies such as Zara and Shein — to reduce their industry’s negative impact on people and the planet.

But slow fashion is often pricey, because in addition to reducing the number of designs released per season and garments made per design, a pillar of the model is paying a fair wage to everyone involved in the process.

“There are many people, including myself, honestly, that can’t afford higher priced items,” Larsen said. “It feels really nice to be able to say to someone, ‘Hey, if you can’t afford this $240 tulip top that I make, you can sew it.'”

Larsen has so far released only that pattern: a corset-style sleeveless shirt with lace-up sides and wide scallops at the hem.

A second pattern, an elastic-waist skirt with gathered side panels, is entering testing and should be available to customers soon.

The tulip top PDF will cost you $22 before tax, and it requires only a metre or so of fabric, which Larsen noted is easy to find at a thrift store for just a few dollars.

The pattern pieces are narrow, so they fit easily into offcuts for those who already sew. That’s part of why she designed the shirt that way.

“I’m constantly aware of my own usage of resources as I go about my business,” she said.

But beyond reducing waste, the move also makes good business sense.

Though the number of people who know how to sew is lower than the number who need to wear clothes (a designation that encompasses nearly everybody), Larsen doesn’t see the move as shrinking her customer base, since she will continue to sell made-to-order pieces.

“It’s coming full circle in a way,” said Leah Barrett, a fashion professor at Toronto’s George Brown College. “I am old enough to remember a time when clothing was made at home.”

Much of the fashion industry’s environmental impact comes from overproduction, said Barrett, who specializes in sustainability in apparel manufacturing.

It’s possible home sewists — a preferred term for many, given sewer’s unfortunate homonym — may make mistakes that lead to inadvertent waste, or make more garments than they need. But the scale of that waste would pale in comparison to that of fast fashion brands, which have to guess how much to produce to satisfy customers.

“There’s a lot of that prediction of demand that goes wrong and leaves designers with serious inventory issues,” Barrett said. “There’s no way around it.”

Except, perhaps, selling patterns.

Though there’s still prediction involved — will customers like a garment enough to buy the pattern and take the time to sew it? — there isn’t much waste if designers guess wrong.

Barrett pointed to another Canadian clothing company that’s expanded into the sewing market, Weyburn, Sask.-based Cedar & Vine, which is selling 100 per cent linen fabric that sewists can use to make the patterns it recently released.

“A style can fail if it’s not in the right fabric,” she said, so offering fabric — or at the very least fabric suggestions — will “minimize failure,” and therefore waste.

Pivoting to patternmaking seemed like a good solution to designer Brooke Cannon, who has long felt torn. She wants to create, but the world is already overflowing with stuff.

“It’s like a negotiation with myself,” she said. “I would tell myself, ‘it’s just a small amount and I would rather people invest in my brand and my artwork rather than a fast fashion brand.’ But at the end of the day, it’s still participating in it.”

She and business partner Katie Beaton decided to shutter their respective online shops — accessories line Never Ending Weekend for Cannon and cult favourite slow-fashion line Beaton Linen in Beaton’s case — and start something new together.

The result is the B.C.-based Beaton Weekend, which will soon release patterns of some of Beaton’s best-loved designs.

Cannon has spent the last several months sketching the designs and writing and illustrating the sewing instructions.

“I’m basically spending all my time doing very nerdy and not very dopamine-driven work,” she said.

Ultimately, she hopes it will be worth it.

“The thing about creating patterns is that once they’re made and they’re out in the world, it’s passive income. It’s done. You’ve created something, and it’s digital,” she said. “It just kind of takes care of itself.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2024.



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Bangladesh’s top court scales back government jobs quota after deadly unrest that has killed scores

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DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh’s top court on Sunday scaled back a controversial quota system for government job applicants, a partial victory for student protesters after days of nationwide unrest and deadly clashes between police and demonstrators that have killed scores of people.

Students, frustrated by shortages of good jobs, have been demanding an end to a quota that reserved 30% of government jobs for relatives of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971. The government previously halted it in 2018 following mass student protests, but in June, Bangladesh’s High Court reinstated the quotas and set off a new round of protests.

Ruling on an appeal, the Supreme Court ordered that the veterans’ quota be cut to 5%, with 93% of jobs to be allocated on merit. The remaining 2% will be set aside for members of ethnic minorities and transgender and disabled people.

The protests have posed the most serious challenge to Bangladesh’s government since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won a fourth consecutive term in January elections that were boycotted by the main opposition groups. Universities have been closed, the internet has been shut off and the government has ordered people to stay at home.

With most communications offline, it was unclear whether the verdict has satisfied protesting students. There was also no immediate reaction from the government.

The protests turned deadly on Tuesday, a day after students at Dhaka University began clashing with police. Violence continued to escalate as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and hurled smoke grenades to scatter stone-throwing protesters.

Bangladeshi authorities haven’t shared any official numbers of those killed and injured, but at least four local newspapers on Sunday reported that over 100 people have been killed.

An Associated Press reporter on Friday saw security forces fire rubber bullets and tear gas at a crowd of more than 1,000 protesters who had gathered outside the head office of state-run Bangladesh Television, which was attacked and set on fire by protesters the previous day. The incident left streets littered with bullets and marked by smears of blood.

Sporadic clashes in some parts of Dhaka, the capital, were reported on Saturday but it was not immediately clear whether there were any fatalities.

Ahead of the Supreme Court hearing, soldiers patrolled cities across the South Asian country. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said the stay at home order will be relaxed from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday for people to run essential errands.

Meanwhile, the government has declared Sunday and Monday as public holidays, with only emergency services allowed to operate.

Protesters argue the quota system is discriminatory and benefits supporters of Hasina, whose Awami League party led the independence movement, saying it should be replaced with a merit-based system. Hasina has defended the quota system, saying that veterans deserve the highest respect for their contributions in the war against Pakistan, regardless of their political affiliation.

Representatives from both sides met late Friday in an attempt to reach a resolution and Law Minister Anisul Huq said the government was open to discussing their demands. In addition to quota reform, the demands included reopening of university dormitories and for some university officials to step down after failing to protect campuses.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has backed the protests, vowing to organize its own demonstrations as many of its supporters have joined the student-led protests. However, BNP said in a statement its followers were not responsible for the violence and denied the ruling party’s accusations of using the protests for political gains.

The Awami League and the BNP have often accused each other of fueling political chaos and violence, most recently ahead of the country’s national election, which was marred by a crackdown on several opposition figures. Hasina’s government had accused the opposition party of attempting to disrupt the vote.

___

Saaliq reported from New Delhi, India.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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