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Shooting victims’ families want to ensure inquiry recommendations followed

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TRURO, N.S. — Families of victims of Nova Scotia’s mass shooting called Wednesday for an oversight committee to ensure the recommendations coming out of the public inquiry into the tragedy won’t be ignored.

In his final submissions to the inquiry, Tom Macdonald, the lawyer for the brother of victim Sean McLeod, said the committee should include a small group that tracks whether the inquiry’s recommendations are followed.

Macdonald said it should include representatives of the provincial and federal governments and the RCMP as well as an advocate for families. It would be led by a single “implementation czar” who would hold the federal and Nova Scotia governments to account.

The lawyer said the murders of McLeod and his wife Alanna Jenkins in West Wentworth, N.S., on the second day of the rampage, along with the 20 other people — including a pregnant woman — killed on April 18-19, 2020, should prompt lasting reforms.

“Two years from now you may have totally different leadership at the RCMP, a different minister of public safety, maybe a different government, and these (recommendations) are too important to be left to the ups and downs of change,” said Macdonald.

He said there was “voluminous” evidence of the policing shortfalls, including confusion over which staff sergeant was overseeing the initial response, poor knowledge of local geography and an “unacceptable delay” in warning the public of an active shooter driving a replica police vehicle.

Jane Lenehan, who represents the family of Gina Goulet, said the Mounties’ image of reliability in Nova Scotia was gone, despite the bravery of some individual officers during the mass shooting.

“The vision and mystique of the red serge, that comforting and reassuring belief in the RCMP, has been shattered,” she said.

Goulet was the 22nd victim, dying at her home on the outskirts of Shubenacadie, N.S., almost 13 hours after the first murder. The gunman was killed by police half an hour later at a gas station in Enfield, N.S.

Lenehan said her clients were disturbed by the poor relationship between the RCMP and local police forces, and noted that police testified during the inquiry the relationship has only worsened.

She reminded the commissioners of an email exchange between Truro police Chief David MacNeil and RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather that began slightly before 10 a.m. on the second day of the killings, when MacNeil offered “any support” needed. Leather replied that the RCMP believed it had the suspect pinned down and said he’d be “in touch.”

In his testimony before the commission, Leather, the head of criminal operations, said he was too busy to follow up, adding that MacNeil should have contacted a lower-ranking RCMP officer closer to the scene.

Lenehan told the commissioners “this kind of bureaucratic response may make sense to the RCMP, but it made no sense to the families.”

“This exchange was an important one to my clients, as the perpetrator was able to drive through Truro, unimpeded, about 15 minutes after it occurred,” she told the commissioners. Goulet was killed after that.

She said the commissioners should recommend requirements for co-operation between police forces.

The lawyer also called for a permanent moratorium on the auctioning of decommissioned police vehicles, saying it wasn’t worth the risk to public safety. She added the RCMP could instead sell the vehicles for scrap metal and parts.

Steve Topshee, a lawyer whose firm represents the families of victims Lillian Campbell, Aaron Tuck, Jolene Oliver and Emily Tuck, also raised the need for a system to ensure the inquiry’s recommendations are followed.

He said that if there are no reforms, it raises the question of whether the province should continue to contract with RCMP for rural policing.

During a short afternoon session, the inquiry was urged to make strong recommendations to address gender-based and domestic violence.

The commission had previously heard that the killer’s rampage was preceded by an assault on his spouse, Lisa Banfield. Evidence gathered indicated he had used coercive tactics against her throughout their 19-year relationship, as well as against other women.

Lawyer Jamie Goodwin spoke on behalf of a coalition of advocacy and support organizations such as women’s shelters. He said the commission needs to use its platform to call out the “false dichotomy” between public and private violence.

“We cannot make sense of the murders of April 2020 without understanding the perpetrator’s history of family, gender-based and intimate partner violence,” Goodwin said.

— By Michael Tutton in Halifax with files from Keith Doucette.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2022.

 

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

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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

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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

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OTTAWA –

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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