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Vancouver’s mayor says feds and B.C. need to step up funding for homeless

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VANCOUVER — The deadline to dismantle an encampment along Vancouver’s Hastings Street has passed with little change, but the city’s mayor says he’s reached out to the federal and B.C. governments for urgent funding and other supports.

Vancouver fire Chief Karen Fry issued a safety order last month to remove the tents and structures on the street’s sidewalk in the Downtown Eastside, and the street was supposed to be cleared on Wednesday.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart says in a statement that since the order, the city has increased resources for those living on the street, including creating space to store personal belongings, street cleaning, washroom access and peer support services.

However, Stewart says while the city is assembling these supports, the operations require significant investments from senior levels of government.

He says he spoke this week with new B.C. Housing Minister Murray Rankin about how the city and province can co-ordinate their approaches to connecting unsheltered residents to housing.

Stewart says he also reached out to the government of Canada asking for additional urgent housing funding.

“Vancouver has been home to a significant homeless population since starting an official homeless count in 2005 and the pandemic has only made matters worse, requiring all three levels of government to come together to take concerted and sustained actions,” Stewart says in the statement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2022.

 

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Banning Russians from visiting Canada would trap dissidents, Liberals say

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OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says she does not support following European countries in barring Russians from getting visas, since many are likely to flee their country.

Joly says Russian President Vladimir Putin’s move to recruit more troops for his war in Ukraine shows the regime’s desperation, which she says is putting Russians at risk.

She also said Canada is working with allies to see whether international tribunals can prosecute Russia for illegally invading Ukraine.

She says right now her top concern is Russia’s plan to hold votes in parts of Ukraine it has occupied, likely in an effort to have them join Russia.

Joly said these are “sham referendums,” which Russia could use as a premise to claim that Ukraine was the aggressor.

She also says Canada will soon ramp up its sanctions against Russia, and that she will make a national address on Monday about Canada’s support for Ukraine.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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NB Power ‘paternalistic,’ not negotiating fairly on dam project: Wolastoqey Nation

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FREDERICTON — The Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick says negotiations with the province’s energy utility have broken down regarding a multibillion-dollar plan to upgrade the Mactaquac dam and generating station west of Fredericton.

NB Power has reneged on certain terms that had been agreed upon by both sides, the First Nation said Wednesday, involving issues such as community interests, cultural protection and economic opportunities.

Chief Gabriel Atwin of the Kingsclear First Nation — a member of the Wolastoqey Nation — says the Crown corporation is not negotiating in good faith because the government is upset about their title claim to large swaths of the province.

“It’s a paternalistic approach,” Atwin said in an interview. “I believe that the unfortunate part is the premier is upset with the Wolastoqey people because of the title claim and basically trying to block every step of negotiation in any field — not just Mactaquac dam.”

Last year, six Wolastoqey chiefs filed a title claim in court for 60 per cent of New Brunswick’s territory and targeted corporations such as NB Power and forestry giant J.D. Irving, which exploit resources on their traditional lands. The chiefs want the land returned, they want compensation for the use of that land for the last 200 years, and they want title to the entire area.

A news release by the Wolastoqey Nation said NB Power and the chiefs spent several years negotiating terms for the Mactaquac dam, which the province wants to keep operational until 2068 at a cost of up to $3.6 billion. The dam is located 20 kilometres west of the New Brunswick capital.

Documents shared by the First Nation said NB Power made a first offer in March 2021 with six terms, involving issues such as employment and education, environment, community interests and cultural protection measures, with money set aside for each.

The Wolastoqey responded with a counter offer in September 2021, which included environmental protections and a proposal for a 200-megawatt renewable energy project that would cover the First Nation’s energy needs and allow it to sell surplus power at a competitive rate, the documents show.

In a letter sent to the Wolastoqey in May, Charlie Ryan, NB Power’s project director for the dam project, said the utility would like to continue negotiations focusing solely on employment and education, environmental concerns, and procurement and contracts.

Completed in 1968, the dam, Atwin said, has destroyed a number of cultural traditions such as salmon fishing because there’s no passage for the animals.

“That’s how we feel as people,” Atwin said. “We’re an afterthought.”

NB Power said in a statement that the utility has discussions with First Nations communities as part of its “duty to consult.”

“NB Power remains committed to working with the Wolastoqey Nation as the utility continues to explore a path forward for the Mactaquac life achievement project,” it said.

Atwin said the chiefs are hoping NB Power will come back to the table to resume talks and that negotiations will result in something that is “economically sustainable for their community.”

The Wolastoqey Nation had no say in the construction of the dam, Atwin said, adding that the project has created noise and light pollution and environmental contamination and reduced food security.

“I just want to reiterate that the chiefs are not asking for anything unreasonable,” he said. “We just want to share in the benefits of this dam.”

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

 

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press

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Migrants across Canada call on Ottawa for action on regularization, permanent status

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TORONTO — Thousands of migrants and their supporters held rallies across Canadian cities on Sunday to call on Ottawa to extend permanent status to undocumented people.

There were also calls to swiftly implement an inclusive regularization program for undocumented migrants — a longstanding demand that advocates say appears closer than ever to becoming a reality based on recent moves by the federal Liberal government.

Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, said it’s an opportune moment for Ottawa to listen to his group’s calls for more access to basic rights for undocumented people in Canada.

“We have a historic opportunity right now to fix a wrong that has been going on for many, many years,” he said by phone before heading to a planned afternoon rally in Toronto.

“We want to make sure that parliament does not in any way delay.”

Ottawa launched a regularization program during the COVID-19 pandemic for asylum seekers who worked in the health sector. Since then, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has indicated interest in expanding the initiative.

A mandate letter from December 2021 asked Trudeau’s immigration and citizenship minister to “build on existing pilot programs to further explore ways of regularizing status for undocumented workers who are contributing to Canadian communities.”

Hussan said the program should include all undocumented people and argued it should be a focus for the government as parliament prepares to return next week.

“Prime Minister Trudeau has already indicated that he wants to do the right thing. The question now is, only, will everyone be included,” Hussan said.

“We believe that equality is equality, any exclusion is discrimination, so each and every migrant worker or refugee, student and undocumented person should be included.”

A spokeswoman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser said work to deliver on the mandate commitment on regularizing status for undocumented workers is ongoing as the ministry engages with experts and stakeholders.

Aidan Strickland said future policy decisions will be based on lessons learned from recent programs like the one for asylum seekers working in health-care during the pandemic.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, IRCC will continue to explore new avenues to help more foreign nationals already living in Canada to make this their permanent home,” Strickland said in an email.

“While we cannot speculate on future policy decisions, this is an opportunity for us to look at best practices and lessons learned from our previous experiences to ensure the most inclusive and effective public policy.”

Hussan said he expected thousands of people in total attend the rallies and marches planned in 13 cities including Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver, Fredericton and St. John’s, N.L.

Heavy rain did not deter hundreds of people from gathering in a Toronto park with umbrellas and signs calling on the government to extend “status for all” — a mantra repeated in chants and speeches throughout the afternoon event.

Labour groups and unions were also in attendance waving signs.

Several migrants, including farm and health-care workers, shared their stories before the group marched to rally outside Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s downtown constituency office.

Nineteen-year-old Merari Borgez, who moved to Toronto from Mexico City as a child, told the crowd about how her family struggled to access health-care and education and were unable to travel and say goodbye to relatives due to their lack of status in Canada.

“Living without status is dehumanizing,” she said, calling on politicians to work quickly on extending status to families like hers. “We don’t want pity. We want action.”

Similar days of national protest have been held on the issue of migrant status, but Hussan said Sunday’s events were expected to be larger as momentum for the cause has grown in recent years.

That’s partly due to a growing number of undocumented people who are organizing for more rights, he said, as well as a renewed spotlight placed on inequalities they faced in essential jobs during the pandemic.

He said calls for status and regularization would give undocumented working people in Canada rights to advocate for better work, study and living conditions, as well as to access universal health-care.

The measures would also give people more labour mobility and improve work conditions, he said.

Caroline Michael, an undocumented health-care worker in Toronto, also joined the calls for permanent status.

At Sunday’s event, she shared challenges she’s faced as a refugee looking to remain in Canada. After being denied various applications for status, Michael said regularization is her last option.

She said she has been asked to pay for health-care services and her situation has deeply affected her mental health, but she is not able to take time off from the hospital where she works due to her status.

“This is like (you are) in prison. You’re being held captive,” she said. She called on parliament to extend permanent status to all migrants, including herself and others who have been working on the frontlines during COVID-19.

“Why should we be treated this way,” she told the crowd. “All human beings deserve to be treated rightly. We have the right to live happily in Canada.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2022.

 

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

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