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Saskatchewan stabbings highlight rural policing challenges, experts say



An ongoing manhunt for a suspect in a series of deadly stabbings that shattered two small communities in Saskatchewan is raising fresh questions about rural policing in Canada.

Efforts to apprehend Myles Sanderson are likely hampered by the Prairie province’s vast geography, network of criss-crossing back roads and underfunded policing services, experts said.

Police officers in the region are often spread thin with massive areas to patrol, said Rick Ruddell, a justice studies professor at the University of Regina.

“Response times in the countryside can be lengthy because there aren’t many officers and it’s a really big area to patrol,” he said.

“Saskatchewan is five times the size of the United Kingdom. There’s an incredible amount of space for someone to disappear.”

Police continued to search Tuesday for Sanderson, who is wanted in the deadly rampage over the weekend on the James Smith Cree Nation and the nearby village of Weldon, northeast of Saskatoon. Police had said he could be in Regina, a three-hour drive away, but a notice sent via Saskatchewan’s emergency alert system Tuesday said he may have been seen on the First Nation.

Another suspect, Sanderson’s brother Damien Sanderson, was found dead in a grassy area of the First Nation on Monday, RCMP said.

Ten people were killed and 18 people were injured, not including the suspects.

The lack of officers on the ground and vast geography can hinder the ability to respond in the immediate aftermath of a serious crime before additional resources are brought in, Ruddell said.

“There are a lot of back roads and gravel roads that are maybe only accessible six to eight months a year,” said Ruddell, who holds the Law Foundation of Saskatchewan Chair in Police Studies.

“It really increases the complexity of an investigation because if you get a police officer from a few hundred kilometres away, they might not have a very good understanding of the back roads system.”

Part of the issue is that many rural and remote areas in Canada are policed by the RCMP, which often rotates officers to different locations.

Sometimes officers aren’t on the ground long enough to know the area before being called upon to assist in a manhunt, said Michael Boudreau, criminology professor at St. Thomas University in Fredericton.

“The Mounties who were searching for the suspect during the mass shooting in Nova Scotia didn’t even know what road they were on,” he said, referring to the April 2020 rampage that left 22 people dead.

One solution is to put in place a local police force with officers who live in the area permanently and know the community and geography, Boudreau said.

“If the person you’re trying to catch knows the area better than you, they will be able to elude you for much longer,” he said.

Scott Blandford, a former police sergeant in London, Ont., said while mass murders are rare in Canada, the recent stabbings highlight the “cracks” in the policing of rural areas.

“One homicide is a major undertaking for a small police service or small detachment. When you have this many homicides as well as additional injured persons across multiple crime scenes, it really becomes a really taxing situation and they have to depend on external resources,” he said.

“It’s what I would call a perfect storm for a small organization.”

The need to bring in additional resources can cause a delay in the investigation while the sheer size of the province can be challenging, Blandford said.

“There are so many roads. Where do you set up roadblocks? Where do you focus your resources? That’s the challenge,” he said.

Meanwhile, police officers on the ground in rural areas across Canada appear to be overworked and under stress, according to research by University of Regina psychology professor Nicholas Carleton.

A study published in the The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found RCMP officers — many of whom work in rural areas — suffer from a higher level of anxiety than officers on municipal police forces, likely due to working conditions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 6, 2022.


Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press


Ontario reports 72 new COVID-19 deaths as wastewater signals climb once again –



Ontario is reporting 72 new deaths linked to COVID-19, as wastewater signals are once again on the rise after trending downward for months, according to the latest report from Public Health Ontario.

New data released Thursday from the Ontario Ministry of Health shows the number of people in hospital with the virus climbed from 1,141 this time last week to 1,265 this week. 

The number of people in intensive care with COVID-19 also rose slightly from 129 to 133. Of those, 57 patients require a ventilator to breathe, about the same as last week’s total of 58.

Test positivity on Thursday dropped slightly to 12.5 per cent, down from 13.1 per cent last Thursday.

Meanwhile, the latest report from Public Health Ontario, which is updated every Friday, shows the level of the novel coronavirus seen in Ontario’s wastewater began creeping upward around the first week of September and is estimated to have been climbing since.

That’s after a period of plateau and slow decline following a peak in early July.

Data from Public Health Ontario shows the amount of the novel coronavirus seen in Ontario’s wastewater began creeping upward around the first week of September and are estimated to have been climbing since. (Public Health Ontario)

Wastewater signals have increased in most parts of the province, including in the Greater Toronto Area, with the Central East and West regions seeing the steepest climbs. Central East includes Haliburton Kawartha and Pine Ridge; Peterborough; and Simcoe Muskoka, while Central West includes Brant County; Haldimand-Norfolk; Hamilton and Niagara Region.

The news comes as Ontario opened Omicron-targeted COVID-19 vaccine bookings to all adults Monday.

Last week, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore noted vaccine uptake among Ontario’s youngest age group was lower than expected.

“We have work to do to continue our (official) message,” he told The Canadian Press at the time. “It will accelerate as we head into indoors and head into the fall as we perceive the risk of transmission will increase.”

The most recent wave of the illness to hit Ontario — which started on June 19 and peaked in early August —  is being fuelled largely by Omicron variant BA. 5.

Experts have said reported case counts are a severe underestimate of the actual extent of COVID-19 infections in Ontario. 

Earlier this month, members of Ontario’s since-dissolved science advisory table said they would have advised against the province’s decision to scrap COVID-19 isolation requirements had they been consulted on the move.

On Aug. 31, the province scrapped the mandatory five-day isolation period for those who test positive for COVID-19.

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Canada’s economic activity creeps up, unexpectedly – Al Jazeera English



The economy grew 0.1 percent in July, compared with a forecast for a 0.1 percent decline, but inflation persists.

Canada’s economic activity unexpectedly edged up in July, data shows, while gross domestic product (GDP) in August was most likely flat, with the surprise gain seen unlikely to change much for the central bank.

The Canadian economy grew 0.1 percent in July, compared with analysts’ forecast for a 0.1 percent decline, Statistics Canada data showed on Thursday. Growth in goods-producing industries more than offset the first decrease in services-producing industries since January.

“The economy fared better than anticipated this summer, but the showing still wasn’t much to write home about,” Royce Mendes, head of macro strategy at Desjardins Group, said in a note.

The slight gain in July and likely lack of growth in August suggest third-quarter annualised GDP growth of about 1 percent, well below the Bank of Canada’s most recent forecast of 2.0 percent, analysts said.

“After a solid first half of the year, momentum appears to be slowing as multi-decade-high inflation and rapidly rising interest rates weigh on the economy,” Benjamin Reitzes, Canadian rates and macro strategist at BMO Economics, said in a note.

The Bank of Canada raised rates by 75 basis points to 3.25 percent earlier this month to fight inflation, which began to cool slightly in July, but is still running at levels not seen in nearly 40 years.

The July GDP data showed oil sands extraction drove growth, jumping 5.1 percent on higher output, with crop production also helping, up 7.2 percent mainly on volumes of wheat and other grains.

Demand for Canadian wheat has increased since Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a special military operation, helping push up export volumes.

But Canada’s retail trade sector contracted sharply in July, falling to its lowest level since December 2021, pushed down by a 7.1 percent decline in output at petrol stations, Statscan said, though that likely reversed in August.

Accommodation and food services also contracted in July, driven by less activity at bars and restaurants.

Hot inflation meant the Bank of Canada was likely to increase interest rates at its next decision in late October, but then the game may change, economists said.

“The deceleration in economic momentum is why we see the Bank of Canada only hiking rates once more in October,” Mendes said. Money markets are betting on a rise in October, with one more in December or January to bring the central bank’s policy rate to 4.00 percent.

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Canada matching more donations for Pakistan flood aid, will raise cap to $5M – CTV News




The federal government will extend its matching of donations to help people dealing with catastrophic flooding in Pakistan in hopes the crisis doesn’t fall off the public radar.

“I felt that it wasn’t getting the (media) coverage that a crisis like this deserves,” International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a Thursday interview.

Severe monsoon rains this summer have affected more than 33 million people, many of whom have needed emergency food, water, sanitation and health services.

More than one-third of Pakistan was underwater, including much of its agricultural land, which experts believe will spark a food shortage.

Sajjan said he saw devastating scenes on a visit to the country earlier this month.

“When I was flying over affected areas, you literally could not see the end,” he said.

“Countries that have had the least to do with contributing to climate change are actually now the most greatly affected by it.”

On Sept. 13, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government would match up to $3 million in donations made to the Humanitarian Coalition and its dozen member charities.

That matching campaign was due to end on Wednesday.

Sajjan said it will be extended, and the amount is now capped at $5 million.

Ottawa previously committed $30 million of its own spending.

Sajjan said the idea has been to respond to the immediate, interim and long-term needs of the country, to make sure the right amount of aid dollars reach the correct places.

“What we’re doing is funding in chunks, to make sure we’re assessing the needs in a timely basis so the resources can be there,” he said.

“Now we that we have a little bit of breathing space, we are looking at the midterm need assessment.”

Canada will likely fund climate mitigation work in the country once it has recovered, to lower the impact of future floods, Sajjan said.

He noted that Canada helped fund the early-warning system that officials told him was key to saving lives this summer.

That came after massive 2010 floods in Pakistan.

Within a year, the former Harper government pledged $71.8 million for relief efforts, including $46.8 million from donations Ottawa had matched.

When asked why Canada is only matching slightly more than one-tenth that amount, the Humanitarian Coalition said the funding is in line with cost-matching in past crises such as the 2021 earthquake in Haiti.

“To be sure, the match amount is modest, but it does fit within a recent range,” wrote spokeswoman Marg Buchanan.

She said the amounts are based on what humanitarian groups predict people will donate, “influenced by timing, waning media interest and other dominant stories.”

NDP development critic Heather McPherson argued the Liberals have been slow to put up the funding promised for other humanitarian initiatives.

She pointed to unspent funds in Ukraine and for reproductive health elsewhere.

“Their announcements are starting to be a little slim; I don’t think people are feeling very reassured,” McPherson said.

The Conservatives have called on the government to allow cost-matching for more organizations responding to disasters, including the flooding in Pakistan.

“It is easier (for Ottawa) to say that it is going to match a contribution to this big player, as opposed to saying it is going to match donations to all of the organizations that are doing this work,” Garnett Genuis told the Commons this week.

“Organizations tell me that they get calls from previous donors who say they were going to donate to what they were doing, but they actually want to donate to another organization that is getting matched.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.

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