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Trudeau government has adopted dozens of secret cabinet orders since coming to power – CBC News



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has adopted 72 secret orders-in-council — hidden from Parliament and Canadians — since coming to office, CBC News has learned.

A review by CBC News of nearly 8,900 orders-in-council (OICs) — or cabinet decrees — adopted by the federal government shows the number of secret or unpublished OICs has been rising since Trudeau came to power in 2015.

The only outside indication that a secret OIC even exists is a missing number in the Privy Council’s orders-in-council database. OICs have a wide range of applications, from stopping a foreign company from buying a Canadian business to outlining who is authorized to give the order to shoot down a commercial airliner hijacked by terrorists.

More than half of the secret orders-in-council adopted by the Trudeau government have arrived since April 2020, a month after the COVID-19 pandemic began. Eleven have been adopted so far this year.

While the Liberals criticized the Conservatives in 2015 for the number of secret OICs they adopted, Trudeau’s government has adopted more than twice as many over its years in office.

The Trudeau government adopted five secret orders-in-council in 2016, seven in 2017, eight in 2018 and 12 in 2019. It adopted none in 2015. The number of new secret OICs spiked at 21 in 2020 before dropping to eight in 2021.

The four secret OIC’s adopted in 2015 were adopted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.

The government can cite a small number of reasons for exempting an order-in-council from publication — such as national security or military operations, or because the OIC in question is related to national security reviews of proposed foreign investments in Canadian companies.

Fuel for conspiracy theories

Opposition critics say there can be legitimate reasons for adopting secret OICs — but they’re concerned by the large number of them adopted by the Trudeau government. They say they also fear that the government’s refusal to reveal anything about the secret OICs could fuel misinformation or conspiracy theories.

Some of the secret OICs were adopted under the Investment Canada Act. It allows the government to avoid publishing cabinet orders related to national security reviews of certain transactions, such as a foreign company’s purchase of a Canadian business.

Laurie Bouchard, spokesperson for Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, said 32 of the secret OICs adopted between November 2015 — when the Trudeau government came to power — and March 31, 2021 were related to the Investment Canada Act.

The government adopted 55 secret OICs during that time period.

Bouchard said the number of secret OICs specifically related to the Investment Canada Act is not yet available for the period of March 31, 2021 to the present. During that period, the government adopted 17 secret orders-in-council.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper answers a question during question period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 2, 2015. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

During a six-year period under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, eight secret orders-in-council were introduced that were related to the Investment Canada Act, said Bouchard. During that period — April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2015 — the Harper government adopted 22 secret orders-in-council.

But the Investment Canada Act would only explain a portion of the secret OICs that have been adopted.

The Privy Council has refused to release at least two of the secret OICs adopted this year, citing a section of federal access to information law that allows the government to keep secret documents which, if revealed, “could reasonably be expected to be injurious to the conduct of international affairs, the defence of Canada or any state allied or associated with Canada, or the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities.”

One of those two OICs was adopted between Jan. 28 and Feb. 1, 2022. The second was adopted on Feb. 18.

Police officers push back protesters in front of the Senate of Canada building on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The first of those two OICs was adopted around the time the convoy protest began to occupy downtown Ottawa. The second was adopted as police began arresting protest leaders and were about to launch an operation to clear protesters from the streets.

That second secret OIC also appeared a few days before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. COVID-19 was also continuing to spread at the time.

The Privy Council Office refused to reveal any details of the OICs or their subjects.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky greets Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the two leaders arrive for a joint press conference in Kyiv on May 8, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

Four more secret orders-in-council were adopted around May 6 — the day before Trudeau’s surprise trip to Ukraine. The one OIC in that sequence that was published added Russian individuals and entities to Canada’s sanctions list.

The Prime Minister’s Office won’t say whether those OICs were related to the conflict in Ukraine.

The five remaining secret OICs of 2022 were adopted between March and May.

Privy Council won’t say why orders were kept secret

Beyond revealing that two orders-in-council were being kept secret under access to information law, the Privy Council refuses to explain the grounds used to justify keeping secret the other unpublished OICs, or to say whether any of the secret OICs are related to the COVID-19 pandemic or renewals of previous orders.

The Privy Council Office said in a media statement that it believes in transparency.

“The number of orders that either are, or are not, published in any given year is not a proxy measure for transparency of government,” PCO spokesperson Pierre-Alain Bujold said in the statement.

“That is because the legislative, socio-economic and national security context evolves and changes significantly year over year.”

Normally, orders-in-council are published on a Privy Council website where Canadians and parliamentarians can see them. But an exception can be made for OICs that meet a very narrow list of conditions that allow them to remain unpublished or secret.

Britain’s Prince Charles shakes hands with Governor General Mary Simon in Ottawa on May 18, 2022. Because the Governor General can sign a secret order-in-council that has been signed by only four cabinet ministers, some members of cabinet might not know about them. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

Some cabinet ministers may not even know about them. While OICs must be signed by the Governor General, convention states that only four members of cabinet have to sign the documents first.

Former Privy Council officials say OICs are supposed to be kept secret only in rare circumstances because publicity is the only real check on their use.

In 2015, Privy Council officials said secret orders-in-council were being kept in a safe, separate from other OICs, and cabinet ministers were only being briefed on them in rooms that had no wireless access.

Privy Council officials now refuse to confirm whether those same security measures are still in place.

A review by CBC News of secret orders-in-council since 2002 found none adopted in 2002 or 2003 under then-prime minister Jean Chrétien, while three were adopted in 2004 and 2005 under then-prime minister Paul Martin.

Secret orders-in-council were rare under the government of Paul Martin. (Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press)

That number began to rise under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, fuelled in part by provisions adopted in 2009 requiring that OICs stemming from national security reviews under the Investment Canada Act be left unpublished.

During its nine years in office, the Harper government adopted 29 secret orders-in-council.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said Trudeau promised a more open and accountable government.

“While unpublished orders-in-council are sometimes necessary, the number of unpublished orders-in-council under this government raises concerns,” he said. “It’s incumbent on the government to provide a more detailed explanation of why the number of unpublished orders-in-council [has] increased.”

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong says he wants to know why the number of secret orders-in-council has increased under the Trudeau government. (Joe Fiorino/CBC)

NDP ethics critic Matthew Green questioned why Canada doesn’t have an arms-length, third party non-partisan review of orders-in-council.

“There is a growing propensity of this government to have everything be categorized as national security,” said Green.

Green Party Parliamentary Leader Elizabeth May said she was surprised by the number of secret OICs — particularly given the cooperation between the government and opposition parties to adopt emergency measures at the outset of the pandemic.

May said the government should give Canadians some indication of why an order-in-council has to be secret.

“I think they should provide a general descriptor if they’re not going to make an order-in-council public, say that this is a national security concern involving our use of the such-and-such act,” May said.

“But to have that many orders-in-council … without any indication as to what they were is not transparency.”

Three secret Harper government OICs unveiled

While the Trudeau government’s 72 secret orders-in-council remain cloaked in secrecy, the subjects of three of the Harper government’s secret OICs are known.

In 2017, the Department of National Defence accidentally released improperly redacted briefing records for the chief of defence staff to CBC News. It revealed that Order in Council 2010-0192, adopted between Feb. 11 and Feb. 16, 2010, was related to NORAD’s Operation Noble Eagle. It outlined who was authorized to give the order to shoot down a commercial airliner in the event of a terrorist air attack.

Order in Council 2010-1639, adopted sometime between Dec. 23 and 31, 2010, authorized the military to assist law enforcement agencies such as the RCMP in the event of “a more traditional hijacking scenario where a disgruntled individual may want to take out his aggressions on a company headquarters or specific person(s), or even the government.”

Order in Council 2015-1070 blocked a Chinese company, O-Net Communications, from buying the Montreal-area company ITF Technologies. O-Net filed for a judicial review in Federal Court, which granted the application. O-Net Communications now owns ITF Technologies.

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ERs in Canada overwhelmed, face closures – CTV News



Hospitals overwhelmed by the pandemic’s onslaught are still facing a number of challenges, causing unprecedented wait times in emergency rooms across the country.

Along with limited hospital beds and a backlog of surgeries, a primary cause for dysfunction has been a shortage of physicians and nurses.

Many of the problems facing hospitals are not new, but experts say that the pandemic has exacerbated the situation, leading to a crisis so dire that patients are now starting to see emergency department closures in hospitals near them.


On Saturday, Perth and Smith Falls District Hospital (PSFDH) announced a shutdown of its emergency department until Thursday, citing a COVID-19 outbreak. However, its doctors say the real reason is an ongoing staff shortage.

“Yeah, COVID caused the closure of the emergency department, but the reality of it is that we had no built-in resilience of our nursing staff,” Dr. Alan Drummond told CTV National News on Saturday.

Drummond said that PSFDH’s emergency room dropped from 50 nurses down to five, leaving the unit exceptionally thin.

“Somebody needs to be held accountable for the fact that we lost 50 per cent of our nursing staff within several months, which set us up, basically, to fail,” he said.

Drummond said the catchment area for the PSFDH is about 25,000 people in a large geographic area between Smiths Falls and Peterborough, meaning many patients travel long distances to get to the emergency department.

Patients needing urgent care will now have to drive 20 kilometres from Perth to Smiths Falls.

“I don’t think it’s fair for the people in this community,” local resident John Hastings told CTV News on Saturday.

The Town of Clinton in Ontario was without an emergency room for the entire Canada Day long weekend, as the Clinton Public Hospital’s emergency room announced a shutdown from July 1 to 5.

This marked the longest 24-hour closure of the Clinton Public Hospital’s emergency room.

Physician and nurse shortages are to blame, according to Deborah Wiseman, the chief nursing executive with the Huron-Perth Health Alliance, who anticipates more service disruptions this summer.

“Not just this weekend, but what you’ll see is more to come. I’m going to say for the next six months to several years, with our human health care shortages, both in the nursing and physician areas. We are really struggling to maintain services,” Wiseman told CTV National News.

Wiseman said they are investigating everything to try to resolve the health-care worker shortage and keep their emergency rooms open, including using paramedics in emergency rooms.

Other provinces are experiencing similar issues. Six emergency departments in Quebec will be partially shuttered this summer owing to a staffing shortfall, the provincial government announced on Thursday.

Nova Scotia Health says people should expect long wait times in all four health zones because of high demand during the long weekend.

“Unfortunately, we’re currently experiencing what we call ‘bed block,’ where we have a large number of admitted patients and nowhere to send them,” Dr. Margaret Fraser, a physician at Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney, N.S. told CTV National News on Saturday.

Bonnie Nunn, a resident from Trehern, Manitoba, told CTV National News on Saturday that her daughter recently needed emergency treatment and had to be taken to Portage la Prairie, about 45 minutes away, because the Trehern emergency department was closed due to a lack of staff.

“I’m really angry, angry at everything. I don’t think enough thought went into this,” she said.

“I’m not angry at nurses. They need time off too.”


Dr. Katharine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association, told CTV News Atlantic in May that the rate of physician and nurse burnout is double what it was pre-pandemic.

“Our health-care system is at a level of crisis we’ve never really seen, and the health workers are in a state of crisis we’ve never seen,” said Smart.

A June survey released by Statistics Canada showed that 95 per cent of health workers feel that the pandemic has impacted their mental health and has added stress to their work-life balance.

During the pandemic, health workers have faced extended work hours, decreased vacation time, and changes in the method of delivering care.

In the fourth wave of the pandemic between September to November of 2021—the period in which the survey was conducted—many health workers were looking to leave or quit due to job stress or concerns around their mental health.

“How do we retain workers? Probably a raise,” Halifax-based ICU nurse, Elinor Kelly told CTV News Atlantic in May.

“Probably a decent one. I think that’s going to have to help. Especially for critical care nurses because critical care, we have a lot of people that we train and recruit, but after a year or so they can go work privately at triple the amount of money I’m making after 27 years.”

Dr. Paul Saba, a family physician and president of the Council of Physicians at Hôpital de Lachine in Montreal, said he wants the government to make substantial changes.

“The health-care system has to be improved. And it can’t just be a short-term electoral promise … for the next few years, but long-term,” he told CTV National News on Saturday.

With files from Deena Zaidi and CTV News Atlantic

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Missing 13-year-old Edmonton girl found alive in Oregon, 41-year-old man arrested



EDMONTON — Police say a 13-year-old Edmonton girl missing for more than a week has been found alive in the United States.

She was located following a week-long search that began when she was seen arriving at her junior high school but didn’t show up for class.

Edmonton Police Insp. Brent Dahlseide says the girl, who was reported missing June 24, is currently in an Oregon hospital for a precautionary examination after being found safe in the state early Saturday morning.

Dahlseide says a 41-year-old Oregon man will be charged with child luring and is expected to face additional charges in Canada and the U.S.

He says Edmonton police received assistance from other agencies in Canada, as well as from the FBI and other police services in the U.S.

Dahlseide says it’s believed the suspect came to Edmonton, but it’s not yet clear how he initially made contact with the girl or how she crossed the U.S. border.

“We would be speculating to say they crossed the border together, but I do know that they were located together, again, in the U.S. once they gained entry,” Dahlseide told reporters during an online news conference Saturday, noting he believed the two had been communicating online.

“I don’t know how long they may have been in contact with one another. I do know that the reason we’re going with a child-luring charge at this point is that it’s one we can support because of some of the online history.”

Photos of the girl have appeared on billboards and posters across Alberta this past week asking people to be on the lookout for her and contact police with tips.

Dahlseide said an Amber Alert was not issued because investigators lacked a description of a suspect or a suspect vehicle. He said police got that information on Friday and were drafting the alert that afternoon when they learned from Canada Border Services the suspect had crossed into the U.S.

At that point the suspect was no longer in Canadian jurisdiction, Dahlseide explained, which is another criteria for an Amber Alert. He said they made a deduction about where the suspect was going and alerted authorities on the U.S. side.

Dahlseide said he believed the arrest was made outside Gladstone, Oregon, just south of Portland, away from the suspect’s residence. He said the suspect’s name would not be released until charges are formally laid.

He said the girl’s family were informed early Saturday she’d been found safe and they are making arrangements to bring her home.

“I’m sure we likely woke them up, showing up at their door so early,” Dahlseide said.

Canadian investigators have not had a chance to speak with the girl or the suspect yet, Dahlseide said, and other questions remain.

He said investigators believe the suspect was in Mission, B.C. for three to four days, so they’ll be asking RCMP there to speak to people who may have seen him or the girl during that time. The FBI will also be able to help supply bank or credit card information to piece together the suspect’s movements, he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2022


Rob Drinkwater, The Canadian Press

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People planning to attend AIDS conference in Montreal still struggling to get visas



MONTREAL — International AIDS organizations say people from Africa, South America and Asia who are planning to attend a major AIDS conference in Montreal are still struggling to get visas from the Canadian government.

The groups say a growing number of activists — including some who were scheduled to speak at the conference which begins at the end of the month — are having their visa applications denied, often on the grounds that the Canadian government doesn’t believe they’ll return home after the event.

Tinashe Rufurwadzo, the director of programs, management and governance at Y+ Global, an international organization of HIV+ youth, said the chair of his organization’s board and another of its employees, who are based in Malawi and Kenya, are among the young activists who have been denied visas to attend the conference.

He said both have travelled extensively to speak at AIDS-related events.

“Personally, I’m sick and tired of seeing young people from Africa mostly portrayed on PowerPoint slides as pictures, as photos on banners, as footnotes on case studies. Why can we not have them at conferences to share their lived experiences of what exactly is happening?” he said in an interview Friday.

Rufurwadzo said representatives of populations most at risk of HIV — such as people who inject drugs, transgender women, sex workers and gay men — need to be able to participate, as do adolescent girls, who are increasingly affected by HIV.

If people from the most affected countries aren’t able to attend, he said he doesn’t know how realistic the learning at the conference will be.

While those whose applications are denied will be able to attend the conference virtually, Rufurwadzo said that won’t allow the same level of participation. He also said young people, especially those from rural areas, may not have consistent access to the internet.

Last week, almost 250 organizations from around the world sent a joint letter to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser calling on him to take action to ensure participants can attend the International AIDS conference.

Aidan Strickland, a spokesman for Fraser, said in response to earlier questions from The Canadian Press that the department has been working closely with event organizers and that applications “have been assessed in a timely manner.”

“While we cannot comment on the admissibility of any particular individual, we can say that, in general, all visitors to Canada must meet the requirements for temporary residence in Canada, as set out in Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,” Strickland said in an email. “All applications from around the world are assessed equally against the same criteria.”

Javier Bellocq, an Argentine who runs a community journalism project called the Key Correspondent Team which focuses on people living with HIV and high-risk groups, said from the stories he’s heard, it seems like each Canadian consulate is applying different rules.

In some places, he said, applicants have been required to pay for medical examinations as part of the visa process.

“The conference, in theory, arranged with the Canadian government that there will not be medical examinations, but there are, there are many medical examinations.”

Of a group of 40 Argentines, including Bellocq, who are planning to participate in pre-conference activities, only two have received visas so far, he said.

Tumie Komanyane, who runs programs for international NGO Frontline AIDS in South Africa, said groups she works with were planning to help more than a dozen young people attend the conference, but decided not to even bother applying for 10 visas after the first four applications were rejected.

Komanyane said she’s aware of other young people from the region, including some who had scholarships to attend the conference funded by the Canadian government, who have had their visa applications denied.

“It’s incoherent,” she said in an interview Saturday. “With the strides that Africa is making in the HIV field, all the lessons and evidence that could be coming from the beneficiaries directly is going to be lost.”

While she works with young people, she said, she doesn’t want to speak for them.

“They have agency, they have voice, and they shouldn’t be represented by people like me. They should be able to go and share what this work means for them,” she said.

Bellocq said he’s not worried about himself, noting the Argentine passport is relatively powerful and he’s a professional who has been travelling internationally form more than 30 years. But he worries about people  from countries with less passport privilege and members of marginalized groups who are at high risk of HIV.

With pre-conference events starting in just over three weeks, he said, “time is not on our side.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2022.


Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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