Recipients noticed what seemed like red flags as soon as they opened the emails from Service Canada, demanding repayment of pandemic benefits.
The government logo looked strange, or was broken. The text was grey, instead of the black typically used in official government correspondence. Some were written in French first, followed by English, which to many seemed unusual.
“You were paid more benefits than the amount for first you were eligible,” said one such email, seen by CBC News.
There was a link and a 1-800 number.
Some immediately dismissed it as another scam by fraudsters purporting to be from a government agency.
On Twitter and Reddit, they said the formatting looked vastly different from government correspondence they’d received in the past. One wrote that the government logo looked “horrible,” as if it had been made with the no-frills app MS Paint.
Others thought it was suspicious to be contacted via email, rather than a secure message.
More than 100 people reported the emails to the national fraud watchdog.
But Service Canada says the emails are no hoax, and those who receive them really do have to pay up.
The agency uses the email address in question — EI-AE.ServiceCanada@canada.gc.ca — to contact people about employment insurance and emergency benefits. It has sent 26.2 million emails about the $2,000-per-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which the government launched in March 2020 for workers who were laid off or had their hours cut significantly during lockdowns.
It’s not clear how many variations of the repayment letter have gone out.
Some emails seen by CBC News say recipients must repay a portion of their CERB, but don’t state how much.
Recipients are told to call a 1-800 number or click a link to share information “that could modify our decision and impact the amount you owe” within 30 days. After that, the email says, they will receive a letter in the mail detailing their debt and how to repay it.
Service Canada says 1.7 million Canadians have been or will be contacted about debts related to the $2,000 advance payments they received after applying for CERB, because they wound up being ineligible for the full amount.
The agency says people can verify its emails are legitimate by calling 1-800-622-6232.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says it has received 166 reports about the emails since March 2020, which a spokesperson attributed to “large number of scams circulating, and [because] in some cases, it is difficult to know if the email is legitimate or not.”
Good to stay vigilant
One expert says Canadians should be extra vigilant about any emails that demand a payment, given how many sophisticated scams are operating in Canada, including multiple scams relating to CERB repayments and Service Canada.
“I think individuals, given just how easy it is for them to be victimized, and all the steps that they have to go through [if their accounts are compromised] are overly cautious in some cases,” said Ritesh Kotak, a cybersecurity expert in Toronto.
“Anyone can spoof an email [address] — it looks like it’s from a particular individual but it’s not, and it’s relatively simple to do. And hackers and fraudsters know this.”
Kotak says Service Canada should reconsider whether email is the best way to contact people about repayments, when it could send secure messages or letters by mail instead.
“Clearly there are ways that the government can communicate in secure methods, and they should leverage that.”
In a statement, a Service Canada spokesperson said the content and format of its emails were informed by privacy, legal and communications experts, and were in line with government policies. The emails sent with French before English originated from its Quebec offices, the agency said.
Asked whether the agency would consider making changes to avoid such confusion, a spokesperson said: “We continuously review client feedback about all of our communications, and this feedback informs the way we exchange information with clients.”
Canadians favour metric measurements, but use imperial: poll – CTV News
While many Canadians don’t support moving away from the metric system of measurement, many continue to use imperial measurements in their daily lives, a new online poll by Research Co. has found
Canada is a “metric” nation, having officially converted in 1970, but there is inconsistency in employing such measurements, the poll published Monday has found, with Canadians gravitating toward imperial measurements for height, weight and oven temperature.
It was found that 80 per cent of Canadians measured a person’s height in feet and inches, while only 20 per cent rely on metres and centimetres.
Seventy-six per cent of Canadians determined a person’s weight in pounds, while only 24 per cent did in kilograms. And finally, 59 per cent measured their oven temperature in Fahrenheit while 41 per cent preferred Celsius.
But for volume, speed and outdoor temperature, Canadians preferred the metric system, the poll found.
Eighty-four per cent of Canadians determined the volume of liquid in a container in litres, whereas 16 percent used quarts and gallons.
Eighty-two per cent of Canadians gauged a vehicle’s speed in kilometres per hour, whereas 28 per cent did in miles per hour. For measuring the outdoor temperature, 77 per cent of Canadians used Celsius, compared to 23 per cent who used Fahrenheit.
There were also discrepancies in who wants to adopt which system across the country, with the preferences greatly differing according to age.
“Practically two-in-five Canadians aged 55 and over (38 per cent) would go back to the imperial system of units,” said Mario Canseco, President of Research Co., in a release.
“This wish is less prevalent among their counterparts aged 35-to-54 (23 per cent) and aged 18-to-34 (24 per cent).”
Overall, the poll found that the metric system was preferred by more than half (56 per cent) of its respondents, compared to 23 per cent against it.
The online poll surveyed 1000 Canadian adults from Aug.1 to Aug. 3, and was “statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region,” according to the release.
The only countries in the world that still use the imperial system on a daily basis are the United States, Myanmar, and Liberia.
Where to look for cheap rent in Canada, as prices soar, again – CBC.ca
As rent prices spiked over the past two months, affordable pockets of rental housing became harder and harder to find.
In July, the average monthly cost for rental properties across Canada was $1,934 — up 10.4 per cent over last year, according to the data of the property listing company Rentals.ca. A similar hike in June saw the average rent spike 9.5 per cent.
Analysts say the steep prices are being driven by more demand than inventory.
And that demand is being driven in part by some people fleeing larger cities, while others flock to them.
This creates a challenge for people like Joan Alexander.
The senior has rented homes across Canada, in St. Catharines, Ont., and Guelph, Ont., then in Castlegar, B.C., and for the past two years on Prince Edward Island.
Alexander and her partner chose Summerside, a city about 50 kilometres northwest of Charlottetown, for its small-town feel.
But rising rental costs and other considerations — like proximity to health care — are driving her to relocate.
“We really hoped that P.E.I. would be our last stop on our life journey,” she said.
Last year, rents on P.E.I. rose higher than they had in a decade. Plus rental places are scarce.
Finding affordable rental housing in Canada after a pandemic is proving a challenge for many, with spiking interest rates, inflation and limited rental stock.
Ben Myers, president of Bullpen Research and Consulting, a real estate advisory firm that tracks rental pricing in Canada, says if you are looking for a deal there still are some places he’d describe as comparatively “cheap.”
He suggests looking at Red Deer or Lethbridge in Alberta, or Saskatoon.
“You can get a two-bedroom for under $1,150 a month. It’s all about where you can work,” said Myers.
Alexander says she was able to find a few havens on the Prairies.
“It felt almost too good to be true. There seemed to be a few pockets where we could find what we were looking for. Pet friendly, affordable, safe housing,” said Alexander, who needs monitoring after donating a kidney and a place that welcomes her small, beloved dog — Beau.
Lloydminster — a city that spans Alberta and Saskatchewan — attracted Alexander and her spouse with affordable prices and a pet-friendly property owner.
They move in October to their new $1,200-per-month home.
Rentals.ca listings include detached and semi-detached homes, townhouses, condominium apartments, rental apartments and basement apartments. The company can’t provide an average rent for all cities. Some smaller communities don’t have enough rentals to get an accurate average.
So it’s worth hunting. There are some hidden gems.
Myers says that in a normal year, rent can fluctuate on average three to five per cent. But average rents grew 10 to 12 per cent in 2019, due to a shortage of supply, he says. Then the pandemic hit and rent declined, on average, 15 to 20 per cent.
“We are now adjusting back to pre-pandemic levels,” said Myers.
Renters on the move
Then there are the super-expensive anomalies — like Vancouver, which rebounded even faster from the pandemic, with a per month average rent of $2,300 in June 2022.
Myers says there have also been significant shifts to cities that used to enjoy low rent, as some people migrate to smaller places where they can get more real estate for their dollar.
Retiring Baby Boomers from the Toronto area are creating demand and raising prices in places like the Niagara Region and Halifax, for example.
“Halifax has gone kind of nuclear. Definitely a lot of Ontarians moved to Halifax during the pandemic,” Myers said.
Also, he says a lot of students stayed in their university towns like Victoria, London, Ont., and Kingston, Ont., when offices closed during the past two years.
“All the benefits of living in a big city were almost bad because you didn’t want to be around a lot of people during a pandemic,” said Myers.
Vanishing affordable rentals
But all this change has just put more pressure on the rental market that’s been seeing declines in rental options for low earners for more than a decade, according to housing policy researcher Steve Pomeroy.
He uses Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) data to probe losses in the rental market.
Pomeroy, the senior research fellow for the Centre of Urban Research at Carleton University, estimates that between 2011 and 2016, the number of rental units that would be affordable for households earning less than $30,000 per year — with rents below $750 — declined by 322,600 in Canada.
That has an effect on the one in three Canadians who rent, according to 2016 census data.
Pomeroy says historically Quebec offered the largest rental stock available in the country.
“Quebec has always been culturally very different. Rent is much more culturally accepted. It’s a bit about European influence … You get these very scenic estates of two-, three-storey homes with the wrought iron staircase and with three units, and two are rented. So by definition, two-thirds of your population are renters,” he said.
He says perhaps it’s time for the remainder of Canada to consider a more European model, where renting is more accepted.
He says there are many cities, in France and Germany for example, where renters almost match owners in population.
North America historically has had a different culture, where owning is seen as better.
“Traditionally there has been very strong support for home ownership. Here in Canada we’ve had mortgage insurance including increasing access to credit for buyers … the political system has very much reinforced that belief system, that ownership is the right thing to do.”
But now, tenancy and anti-poverty organizations are lobbying for more renters’ rights. That’s something Pomeroy sees as a positive shift.
He also says he believes many younger Canadians see renting as their future. It gives them the freedom to pursue experiences, move for jobs and not remain tethered to a property that they can’t afford.
Pomeroy recently asked his graduate students — all employed and in their 20s — if they thought they could buy a home in the next five years. Would you want to?
He says he was surprised to hear for the first time, none of them believed they could.
“Nobody thought they could, and only about half actually wanted to.”
A year after the fall of Kabul, Canadian veterans urge Ottawa not to abandon Afghans trying to flee – CBC News
It’s been one year since Kabul fell to the Taliban after American and allied troops — including Canadians — left the country.
Video footage showed Afghans streaming onto the tarmac at the Kabul airport, desperate to escape, as a U.S. air force plane took off. Some fell to their death trying to hold on.
“We watched that terrible situation unfold … we saw that tremendous catastrophe that happened in Kabul,” said Brian Macdonald.
A Canadian veteran who served in Afghanistan, Macdonald leads the non-profit Aman Lara, which is Pashto for “Sheltered Path.” The collective of Canadian veterans and former interpreters has been working over the last year to bring refugees to safety in Canada.
“When we were unable to get them out a year ago, it was devastating. But since then we’ve come together, we’ve doubled down and been able to get 3,000 people out,” he said.
But it’s been a slow and dangerous process when those refugees need to go through the Taliban to get a passport.
“These people that have helped Canada now have to stand up and go to an office that’s controlled by the Taliban and give their name and address and the dates of birth of their children,” Macdonald said.
“It’s a very dangerous thing to do.”
There was hope this June, when Pakistan agreed to temporarily allow Afghan refugees approved to come to Canada across its border, without a passport or visa.
But Macdonald says they’ve hit roadblocks bringing those refugees to Canada.
“We were hoping it would be thousands, and it ended up being dozens,” he said.
“We’re dealing with the Afghan-Pakistani border, and it’s a very wild place. And so messages aren’t always clearly communicated, but we believe the window may still be open.”
Ottawa promises to speed up application process
A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said Canada has added more employees on the ground to process applications as quickly as possible, including in Pakistan.
The department did not say how many undocumented Afghans have successfully made it to Canada through the arrangement with Pakistan.
Canada initially said it would bring 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada — focusing on Afghans who were employed by the Canadian government and military. The federal government says that, to date, it has welcomed 17,300, with more still to arrive “in the coming weeks and months.”
“We remain steadfast in our collective resolve to bring vulnerable Afghans to safety in Canada as quickly as possible,” says a joint statement released Monday by Fraser, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan.
The statement does not indicate when Ottawa expects to reach its target of resettling 40,000 Afghans.
In the statement, the ministers lamented what they called the “steady deterioration” of human and democratic rights in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power last year, citing the reintroduction of severe restrictions on the ability of women and girls to go to school and to move freely within the country.
‘We can hold our heads high,’ says deputy PM about evacuation
But the federal government has been criticized for not doing more to help Afghans who assisted Canada in the NATO-led effort and are now at risk of being killed by the Taliban for their ties to Western nations.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said “we need to not think in the past tense” when asked if Canada could have done more a year ago.
“We can hold our heads up high when we think about our response compared to that of our allies. There is a lot more work to do,” Freeland said in Toronto on Thursday.
“We need to keep on working to bring more people from Afghanistan to Canada, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Last month, Canada stopped accepting new applications to its special immigration program, a move that advocates say amounts to the abandoning of Afghans desperate to come to this country.
Macdonald hopes the federal government reconsiders its approach and commits to welcoming every Afghan who helped the government into Canada.
“A year ago, we were panicking to get as many people out as possible,” Macdonald said.
“We all thought — as veterans and other interpreters — that that window had closed, that the people we didn’t get out were stuck in Afghanistan.
“But what we’ve learned over the last year is we can still move them out. It’s at a snail’s pace. It’s not as many people as we’d like. But we are still grinding away every day, moving people out of Afghanistan. And we’re just going to keep doing that until we get as many people out as we possibly can.”
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