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Will climate change force more Canadians to move?

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Few will forget post-tropical storm Fiona, battering the east coast last fall. From Cape Breton to Charlottetown, Halifax to Port aux Basques, Canadians were caught between downed power lines and trees, with harrowing stories of narrow escapes from the rising waters.

Some homes were completely submerged, and carried out to sea. One woman in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland, tragically lost her life this way.

Two other people in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island also died during the storm. An initial catastrophe estimate pegs the damage at $660 million, the most costly weather event to ever hit Atlantic Canada.

And, by chance, W5 happened to be on the ground the week leading up to that storm. It’s not completely random, we were working on a climate change story, but it was planned well before we ever even heard of Fiona.

What many viewers may not know is that our biggest pitch meeting of the year happens each spring. Reporters, producers and executives all bring their best story ideas to the table to see what gets the green light.

So we had already spent several months researching coastal concerns along the east coast, specifically the impacts of eroding shorelines, storm surges and rising sea levels on homeowners. But Fiona brought that research to life — sadly, showing us real life examples of massive destruction from the elements.

The Savery family in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland will never live by the water again.

Photo credit: Rene J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press Inc.

Their iconic blue house became the poster child for destruction during that storm

Before the storm, their home — a three-year labour of love — was meticulously gutted, painted and renovated to perfection by the father of the house, Lloyd Savery.

But heavy swells and wind from Fiona ripped it to shreds in a few seconds the morning of Sept. 24.

“If that storm happened at three in the morning, you would have had a lot more deaths,” said Peggy Savery. “Because nobody took it seriously and then we wouldn’t have gotten up [out of bed].”

The Saverys have been living with family for almost half a year now. Their insurance company determined the loss was caused by a flood, which isn’t covered under their policy. So they must rely on government help to get back on their feet.

Josh, Lloyd and Peggy Savery, looking out at what used to be their oceanfront property (W5)

The federal government promised recovery funding through a few different programs, including the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA). The Saverys applied but have not received a dime yet.

Ottawa funnels DFAA money through the provinces. Newfoundland just closed its applications for assistance on Jan. 31, roughly 4 months after families like the Saverys have been without a home. That province is currently assessing more than 300 claims.

Once compensation packages are finalized by the government and each homeowner, it will still take another 3-4 weeks for funding to come through.

“They say time heals all. But I don’t think we’ll start healing until we know what our future is going to be,” said Savery.

This is what is left of the Savery home (W5)

STORMS ARE GOING TO HAVE A ‘BIGGER IMPACT’

Climate experts say there are more storms like Fiona on the horizon, so homeowners have to be prepared to adapt.

“Storms that would have occurred 50 years ago are going to have a higher water level in the present day,” said Danika van Proosdij, a geomorphologist at St. Mary’s University in Halifax. “They’re going to have a bigger impact, larger waves, larger surge, more extensive flooding.”

Van Proosdij is worried that there are too many Canadians living in vulnerable areas. She believes governments may have to prohibit people from rebuilding in hard hit areas.

Nova Scotia recently introduced its Coastal Protection Act, which requires all future homes be built at a safer height and distance from the shoreline. In the interim, Van Proosdij also suggests homeowners think about nature-based adaptation solutions for their properties, which can provide protection for people and habitat for the environment in the area you wish to shore up. That can include so-called ‘living shorelines’ on homeowner properties.

W5 got an up close and personal view of a living shoreline on our trip out to the east coast. While many homeowners may think of armour stone or hard rock to protect their properties from storm surge and erosion, conservationists like Rosemarie Lohnes are taking what she calls a ‘soft engineering approach.’ She goes out and gathers plants, shrubs and trees in the area to weave together to withstand the encroaching ocean.

“We often think of it as grandmother’s quilt, right? It’s got lots of different parts to it,” Lohnes explained. She showed us how seeds and small immature plants are planted together to reinforce the natural habitat around the house.

Lohnes’ company, called Helping Nature Heal, works in several provinces across the East Coast and carefully assesses each property to determine if this strategy might work or if it needs to be done in conjunction with rock or mortar protection. She admits that a nature-based solution doesn’t work for everyone, but for the house we visited, it has done wonders.

“This client hasn’t lost any of what we call horizontal distance. So the distance from the cliff edge to her home has not changed in six years,” Lohnes said.

“Now, obviously, with big storms like Fiona, some of our locations were completely wiped out. Nothing can stop those things,” she admitted. “You know, this is not a solution to climate change or erosion. This is a strategy to buy you some more time.”

‘THE SEA ALWAYS WINS’

Adam Fenech, director of the Climate Lab at the University of Prince Edward Island’s School of Climate Change and Adaptation, agrees that engineered solutions are only a stopgap. His team monitors eroding shorelines across the province.

Adam Fenech, director of the Climate Lab at the University of Prince Edward Island’s School of Climate Change and Adaptation (W5)

“I think that we have a habit of thinking that we can control nature and we can in the short term. But, I always think, the sea always wins.” Fenech told W5.

“In the end, we’ve got to think about not building so close to the shore, leaving behind vulnerable places and living in more secure, resilient places.”

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Bissell Recalls 3.3 Million Steam Cleaners Due to Burn Hazard

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NEW YORK — Bissell is recalling approximately 3.3 million “Steam Shot Handheld Steam Cleaners” across North America due to a burn hazard. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada issued notices on Thursday detailing the risk, which has led to over 150 reported injuries.

The recall affects select models of the Bissell-branded steam cleaners, which can spew hot water or steam while in use or heating up. This malfunction poses a burn risk to users. Bissell has received 183 reports of hot water or steam expelling from the devices, including 157 minor burn injuries. Of these, 145 injuries occurred in the U.S. and 12 in Canada as of June 4, according to Health Canada.

Consumers are advised to immediately stop using the recalled steam cleaners. They should contact Bissell for either a refund or store credit. Impacted customers can choose between $60 (CA$82) in store credit or a $40 (CA$55) refund for each affected unit. Detailed instructions for identifying the recalled models, cutting the product cord, and uploading photos are available on Bissell’s website.

Bissell emphasized that “safety is our top priority,” and the company opted for a voluntary recall “out of an abundance of caution.”

The affected steam cleaners, manufactured in China, were sold at major retailers such as Target and Walmart, as well as online platforms including Bissell’s website and Amazon, from August 2008 through May 2024. About 3.2 million units were purchased in the U.S. and nearly 355,000 in Canada.

For more information on the recall and to register for a refund or store credit, consumers can visit Bissell’s website.

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Court Ruling on CRA Audit Condones Government Overreach, Says Leading Muslim Charity

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The Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) has expressed strong disapproval of a recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision, claiming it allows the federal government to violate Charter rights with impunity. The court’s decision upheld a ruling that permits the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to continue its audit of MAC, a process the charity alleges is tainted by systemic bias and Islamophobia.

MAC, an organization that promotes community service, education, and youth empowerment, serves over 150,000 Canadians through its mosques, schools, and community centers. The association argues that the CRA’s audit infringes on their Charter rights, specifically the guarantees of equality, freedom of religion, expression, and association.

The association initially sought to halt the audit through the Ontario Superior Court, arguing that the audit process was fundamentally biased. However, Superior Court Justice Markus Koehnen rejected their request last year, stating it was premature to intervene in the ongoing federal review. Koehnen acknowledged the validity of many of MAC’s arguments but emphasized that court involvement was inappropriate while the audit process was still active.

The Ontario Court of Appeal recently upheld Justice Koehnen’s decision, agreeing that the challenge was premature. The panel of judges found no error in the previous ruling, emphasizing the necessity of allowing the CRA’s internal processes to conclude before judicial intervention.

MAC’s representative, Sharaf Sharafeldin, criticized the decision, stating that the “prematurity principle” imposes significant legal and administrative burdens on charities. These costs, according to Sharafeldin, lead to financial hardship, reduced programs, and compromised charitable work, preventing effective challenges to Charter violations by the time the audit is completed.

In a statement, MAC highlighted that the decision disproportionately harms visible minorities and disadvantaged communities, who already suffer from systemic discrimination by government agencies.

The federal government has argued that the CRA’s selection of MAC for audit and subsequent review did not infringe upon Charter rights. The audit process includes potential internal appeals within the CRA, appeals to the Tax Court of Canada in the event of financial penalties, and to the Federal Court of Appeal if charitable status is revoked.

This ruling underscores the tension between government oversight and the protection of Charter rights, particularly for minority and disadvantaged communities. The outcome of this case could set a significant precedent for how charitable organizations can challenge perceived systemic bias and government overreach in Canada.

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Canada Post to honour acclaimed director Norman Jewison with commemorative stamp

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Canada Post is set to honour the legacy of Toronto-born filmmaker Norman Jewison with a commemorative stamp.

Jewison, best known for directing Academy Award-winning films “In the Heat of The Night,” “Moonstruck” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” is considered one of Hollywood’s most prolific filmmakers.

Throughout his career, Jewison has worked on more than 40 television and film productions.

He was nominated for the Academy Award for best director three times and received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his body of work in 1999.

Jewison died at the age of 97 at his home in Malibu, Calif., in January.

Canada Post will unveil Jewison’s stamp at an event in Toronto on July 24.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2024

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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