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Category "News/Politics"

15Jul

New air passenger protections kick in today | CBC News

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Airline passengers have new rights starting today, as rules from the Canada Transportation Agency that have prompted backlash from industry and consumer advocates kick in. 

The Air Passenger Protection Regulations require airlines to meet certain obligations, including clear communication to passengers about their rights and timely updates for delays or cancellations. Passengers will also be compensated up to $2,400 if they’re bumped from a flight. 

In addition, passengers are now entitled to a certain standard of treatment when stuck on the tarmac. People will be allowed to leave the plane in certain situations if the delays exceed three hours — though that’s twice the time the Senate committee that studied the rules recommended.

Time spent on the tarmac became a huge point of contention when two planes were stranded for up to six hours on the tarmac at the Ottawa airport in 2017 due to bad weather. The passengers were kept on board with no air conditioning, food or water.

Air Transat was fined after the CTA found the airline broke its agreement with passengers. Transportation Minister Marc Garneau used the example to illustrate why the new bill of rights — then in the Senate — should be a priority.

Lost baggage procedures have also been updated to allow for compensation of up to $2,100. There are also clearer policies for transporting musical instruments. 

The regulations will apply to all flights to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights. Large airlines, those that have serviced two million passengers or more in the last two years, will have a slightly different regulatory regime than smaller airlines in some cases.

Smaller airlines, for example, will have to pay less compensation for delays or cancellations that are within the airline’s control but are not related to safety issues

Pushback from both sides

The rules have been controversial among airlines and passenger advocates, and the government will have to fend off attempts to kill the rules in court. 

The International Air Transport Association and several airlines are arguing the rules violate international agreements and Canada is overstepping its authority. It’s asking a federal court to invalidate the regulations. 

While the airlines say the rules go too far, passenger rights experts say they don’t go far enough.

WATCH: Incoming air passenger rights detailed ahead of new law 

Air passenger rights taking effect on July 15 include compensation for travellers bumped from their flights. 3:09

Two advocates are also challenging the tarmac delay rules, saying they violate the charter rights of some Canadians with disabilities who may not be able to sit for extended periods. 

Bob Brown, a disability rights advocate who is quadriplegic, says the rules reduce the distance he can travel by air without putting his health at risk by up to 2,000 kilometres. The case is currently before the Federal Court of Appeal.

These are only some of the changes coming in. Starting in December, airlines will also have to adhere to standards about flight disruptions and seating passengers with children. Compensation for cancelled flights and delays are part of phase two of the rollout.


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15Jul

New air passenger protections kick in today | CBC News

by admin

Airline passengers have new rights starting today, as rules from the Canada Transportation Agency that have prompted backlash from industry and consumer advocates kick in. 

The Air Passenger Protection Regulations require airlines to meet certain obligations, including clear communication to passengers about their rights and timely updates for delays or cancellations. Passengers will also be compensated up to $2,400 if they’re bumped from a flight. 

In addition, passengers are now entitled to a certain standard of treatment when stuck on the tarmac. People will be allowed to leave the plane in certain situations if the delays exceed three hours — though that’s twice the time the Senate committee that studied the rules recommended.

Time spent on the tarmac became a huge point of contention when two planes were stranded for up to six hours on the tarmac at the Ottawa airport in 2017 due to bad weather. The passengers were kept on board with no air conditioning, food or water.

Air Transat was fined after the CTA found the airline broke its agreement with passengers. Transportation Minister Marc Garneau used the example to illustrate why the new bill of rights — then in the Senate — should be a priority.

Lost baggage procedures have also been updated to allow for compensation of up to $2,100. There are also clearer policies for transporting musical instruments. 

The regulations will apply to all flights to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights. Large airlines, those that have serviced two million passengers or more in the last two years, will have a slightly different regulatory regime than smaller airlines in some cases.

Smaller airlines, for example, will have to pay less compensation for delays or cancellations that are within the airline’s control but are not related to safety issues

Pushback from both sides

“We have recognized that when somebody buys a ticket to take a flight, particularly when they are buying it for the whole family, it’s a considerable expense,” said Transportation Minister Marc Garneau.

To mark the date, the CTA launched a website where passengers can lodge complaints.

The rules have been controversial among airlines and passenger advocates, and the government will have to fend off attempts to kill the rules in court. 

The International Air Transport Association and several airlines are arguing the rules violate international agreements and Canada is overstepping its authority. It’s asking a federal court to invalidate the regulations. 

While the airlines say the rules go too far, passenger rights experts say they don’t go far enough.

WATCH: Incoming air passenger rights detailed ahead of new law 

Air passenger rights taking effect on July 15 include compensation for travellers bumped from their flights. 3:09

Two advocates are also challenging the tarmac delay rules, saying they violate the charter rights of some Canadians with disabilities who may not be able to sit for extended periods. 

Bob Brown, a disability rights advocate who is quadriplegic, says the rules reduce the distance he can travel by air without putting his health at risk by up to 2,000 kilometres. The case is currently before the Federal Court of Appeal.

These are only some of the changes coming in. Starting in December, airlines will also have to adhere to standards about flight disruptions and seating passengers with children. Compensation for cancelled flights and delays are part of phase two of the rollout.


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10Jun

It is ‘its own thing’: Andrew Scheer disagrees with Indigenous inquiry’s genocide finding | CBC News

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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says the level of violence directed at Indigenous women and girls in Canada should not be labelled a genocide.

In its final report, released last week, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) came to what it called an “inescapable conclusion” — that genocide was committed by the state against Canada’s Indigenous peoples from the colonial era to the present.

It pointed to the Indian residential school system, the ‘Sixties Scoop’ of Indigenous children, instances of forced sterilization of Indigenous women and allegations of police inaction on murder cases to justify its genocide conclusion.

“Every single life lost is a tragedy and has a huge impact on families and loved ones, and there are concrete things the government, all levels of government, can do to help protect vulnerable people in our society, specifically Indigenous women and girls,” Scheer said.

“That being said, the ramifications of the term genocide are very profound. That word and term carries a lot of meaning. I think the tragedy involved with missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is its own thing, its own tragedy, and doesn’t fall into that category of genocide.”

Marion Buller, the inquiry’s chief commissioner, said this “Canadian genocide” is different from the Holocaust or the genocidal campaign against the Tutsi in Rwanda, but the term can still reasonably be applied to the Indigenous experience in Canada based on the UN’s 1948 convention on genocide.

After the report’s release, Conservative Indigenous affairs critic Cathy McLeod said the party did not want to focus on the word alone, but rather on some of the inquiry’s 231 recommendations. “The Conservative Party will commit to a national action plan in terms of moving forward in partnership, of course, with Indigenous peoples,” she said.

Despite calls from some in the crowd for him to say the word ‘genocide’ during the inquiry’s closing ceremony, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not use that word to describe the violence. The following day, however, Trudeau appeared to embrace the description: “We accept their findings, including that what happened amounts to genocide.”

In a Monday morning interview with CBC’s French-language service, Radio-Canada, Trudeau said that while he accepts the inquiry’s findings, he cited “cultural genocide” as his preferred term to describe the Indigenous experience.

After the the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its report on the Indian residential school system in 2015, Trudeau called on the Conservative government of the day to take action to address that instance of “cultural genocide.”

The inquiry went further than the TRC by saying Canada, through its policies, has aimed to “destroy Indigenous peoples.”

“Canada has displayed a continuous policy, with shifting expressed motives but an ultimately steady intention, to destroy Indigenous peoples physically, biologically, and as social units, thereby fulfilling the required specific intent element,” the inquiry said in a supplemental report on the use of the word genocide.

The inquiry found that Indigenous women and girls are more likely to be murdered or to go missing than members of other demographic groups in Canada — and 16 times more likely to be slain or to disappear than white women.

Citing research from Statistics Canada, the inquiry said Indigenous women and girls made up almost 25 per cent of all female homicide victims in this country between 2001 and 2015.

To help Indigenous women, the inquiry recommended sweeping reforms to the justice system and policing, including stiffer penalties for men who carry out spousal or partner abuse and “Indigenous-specific options” for sentencing. It also said more Indigenous judges, justices of the peace and police should be hired to ensure Indigenous voices are in positions of power in the criminal justice system.

The report also calls on provincial and territorial governments to improve the restraining order system by making them “available, accessible, promptly issued and effectively serviced and resourced” — to help Indigenous women stay out of harm’s way when faced with a violent partner.

Beyond facilitating access to restraining orders (or “protection orders,” as they’re often known in Canada), the inquiry is calling on the government to offer guaranteed access to financial support, legislated paid leave and disability benefits and “appropriate trauma care” to Indigenous victims of crime or other traumatic events.

Trudeau has vowed to review the calls for justice and implement meaningful reforms.

“You have my word that my government will turn the inquiry’s calls for justice into real, meaningful, Indigenous-led action … we must continue to decolonize our existing structures,” he said.


For immediate emotional assistance, call 1-844-413-6649. This is a national, toll-free 24/7 crisis call line providing support for anyone who requires emotional assistance related to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. You can also access long-term health support services such as mental health counselling and community-based cultural services through Indigenous Services Canada.


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3Jun

Inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women issues final report with sweeping calls for change | CBC News

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After more than three years, dozens of community meetings and testimony from well over 2,000 Canadians, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry will deliver its final report to the federal government at a ceremony in Gatineau, Que. today.

The report, which CBC News obtained before its official release, includes many recommendations to government, the police and the larger Canadian public to help address endemic levels of violence directed at Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people.

CBCNews.ca will carry the closing ceremonies live starting at 9 a.m. ET.

Beyond defining the level of violence against these women as a “Canadian genocide,” recommending official language status for Indigenous languages and a guaranteed income for all Indigenous peoples, the commissioners are also recommending sweeping reforms to the justice system and policing in this country, including stiffer penalties for men who carry out spousal or partner abuse.

“We call upon the federal government to include cases where there is a pattern of intimate partner violence and abuse as murder in the first degree under section 222 of the Criminal Code,” the report reads.

First-degree murder is the most serious of all the homicide offences. If convicted, offenders usually spend longer in prison, with fewer chances for parole.

The inquiry said that, too often, murder investigations are “marked by indifference” and negative stereotypes that result in Indigenous deaths and disappearances being investigated and treated differently from other cases — differences that result in fewer solved cases.

And when there is a reasonable chance of a conviction, the inquiry said, Crown attorneys too often are willing to accept plea bargains or reduced charges in exchange for guilty pleas in cases of murdered Indigenous women.

To that end, the inquiry calls for more “Indigenous-specific options” for sentencing, without specifying what exactly the government should change on that front. It called for a strengthening of Gladue principles in Canadian courts, a legal term that stipulates an offender’s Indigenous ancestry should be considered in the sentencing process.

“While the prosecutorial decisions … may well be justified, the frequency with which this occurs understandably raises questions in the Indigenous community, particularly when the sentences on conviction escape the mandatory parole ineligibility of 10 or 25 years on the more serious charges.”

To ensure more equitable outcomes, the inquiry said, more Indigenous judges, justices of the peace and police should be hired to ensure Indigenous voices are in positions of power in the criminal justice system. Failing that, the report said a separate court system for the Indigenous population should be established to lead to more “meaningful and culturally appropriate justice practices …”

Far too many murder cases aren’t solved and don’t make it to trial at all, the inquiry said — and that means the federal funds ought to be bolstering the ranks of Indigenous police forces across the country to ensure better investigations.

“We call upon all governments to immediately and dramatically transform Indigenous policing from its current state as a mere delegation to an exercise in self-governance and self-determination over policing,” the report reads.

“The federal government’s First Nations Policing Program must be replaced with a new legislative and funding framework, consistent with international and domestic policing best practices and standards, that must be developed by the federal, provincial, and territorial governments in partnership with Indigenous Peoples.”

The report also calls on provincial and territorial governments to improve the restraining order system by making them “available, accessible, promptly issued and effectively serviced and resourced” — to help Indigenous women stay out of harm’s way when faced with a violent partner.

Beyond facilitating access to restraining orders (or “protection orders,” as they’re often known in Canada) the inquiry is calling on the government to offer guaranteed access to financial support, legislated paid leave and disability benefits and “appropriate trauma care” to Indigenous victims of crime or other traumatic events.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett would not comment on the report’s recommendations ahead of their official release.

“Out of respect for the independent National Inquiry and the families, we won’t comment on the details of the final report before then. After decades of demanding a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, families are finally getting the answers they have been looking for,” a spokesperson for the minister said.

In an interview with CBC News before the news organization obtained a leaked copy of the report, Bennett said the government accepts that the status quo isn’t keeping Indigenous women and girls safe.

She said, however, that the government already has moved ahead with meaningful reforms, including its overhaul of the child and family services regime and a de-colonizing push for greater self-government for Indigenous peoples, part of a larger fight for equality.

“The inquiry is really only a beginning. We’ve got to do the work, and we’ve got to change attitudes, and we’ve got to increase the safety of Indigenous women and girls wherever they are in this country,” Bennett said.

“Indigenous women and girls need to be safe wherever they live in this country — whether it’s in their home communities or a downtown urban centre. That’s the only way we’ll stop this national tragedy.”


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11Mar

Consultants say 40% of Parks Canada real estate in poor condition

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About 40 per cent of Parks Canada’s buildings, forts, bridges and other items of real estate are unsafe or unusable, or require billions of dollars in major repairs, says a new report.

An analysis the agency commissioned from an independent consultant says Parks Canada has deferred up to $9.5 billion in badly needed work – and ought to spend up to $3.3 billion on top of that to cope with the threat of climate change.

Parks Canada’s current annual spending on repairs falls short, says the report, despite a $3-billion injection of cash that began in 2014 and is now about half-spent.

CBC News obtained the September 2018 document, produced by New Zealand-based Opus International Consultants, under the Access to Information Act.

Parks Canada paid the consultants about $1 million to review the condition of the agency’s 16,618 assets.

“When reviewed, 24 per cent of the asset[s] were assessed as being in good condition, 36 per cent in fair condition, and 40 per cent in poor or very poor condition,” says the report.

“Forty per cent is a significant percentage to be in poor/very poor condition, given the interconnected nature of the service that is provided by the PCA [Parks Canada Agency] assets.”

Verifies findings

The agency now reviews the state of its vast asset pool — 46 national parks, 171 historic sites and other buildings, various bridges — every five years, and asked Opus to verify the findings of its latest catalogue from 2017.

Parks Canada is replacing the bridge over the canal in St. Peter’s, in Cape Breton Island, which has been there since 1936. An internal report says many of the agency’s marine assets are in bad shape. (Parks Canada)

In ordering the Opus work, Parks Canada acknowledged that “under-investment has been a chronic issue impeding the sound management and consistent life cycle management of the portfolio.”

Opus directly inspected a sample of 252 assets in 15 locations and examined other data to produce an independent review, including a projection three decades into the future.

[We are] addressing deferred work on Parks Canada’s assets across the country and considerable progress is being made.– Agency spokesperson Dominique Tessier

The company’s engineers determined Parks Canada had low-balled the replacement value of the assets. Opus says the portfolio is worth $24.1 billion — a figure one-third higher than the $18 billion estimated by the agency’s own staff.

The report says that at current low rates of repair, the average condition of the portfolio will decline further over the next 33 years, as more assets fall into poor or very poor condition.

The consultants also noted that the portfolio is not welcoming enough for disabled visitors and estimate that Parks Canada needs to spend $428 million on making its parks and facilities more accessible.

They also say climate change will batter Parks Canada assets with heavy rain and flooding, forest fires and salt water damage. The consultants say protecting parks assets from climate damage will cost between $1.66 billion and $3.3 billion, though they caution the figures are only an “initial indication.”

Finally, Opus notes Parks Canada has budgeted $140 million annually to maintain its assets, in addition to special cash injections coming largely from a non-agency budget that have added up to more than $3 billion between 2014 and 2017.

The consultants estimate the agency needs to spend between $825 million and $900 million each year to maintain the average state of the portfolio, aside from any accessibility and climate change-related cash infusions.

Developing plan

A spokesperson for the agency, Dominique Tessier, said Parks Canada has spent only about 48 per cent of the $2.6 billion it was promised from the federal infrastructure investment program.

The Garrison Graveyard at Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal, N.S. A consultant estimates Parks Canada has deferred some $9.5 billion in needed repairs to its assets across the country. (Parks Canada/The Canadian Press)

The program is “addressing deferred work on Parks Canada’s assets across the country and considerable progress is being made,” she said. “The work completed through the federal infrastructure program will restore and improve the condition of Parks Canada’s assets.”

Tessier said the agency is also developing a long-term plan “to ensure the effective management and ongoing sustainability of its infrastructure portfolio.”

In the meantime, on Jan. 1, 2020, Parks Canada is introducing admission fees at five sites that were previously free of charge, and is increasing fees by a 2.2 per cent adjustment for inflation at 19 other sites — all to ensure visitors pay a fair price that doesn’t undercut private operators.

Tessier said the new revenues will be “re-invested in the same places where they are collected to support visitor programs, services and facilities.”

The places being hit with new admission fees are: Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan ($5.80); Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ont. ($7.80); Georges Island National Historic Site, Nova Scotia ($7.80); S.S. Keno National Historic Site, Yukon ($3.90); and S.S. Klondike National Historic Site ($3.90).

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4Mar

Trudeau has support of remaining 33 members of cabinet, survey shows

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In the wake of Jane Philpott’s sudden resignation from the federal cabinet over what she said was her “lack of confidence” in the way the Liberal government has handled the SNC Lavalin affair, CBC News reached out to the remaining 33 members of cabinet to ask if they still support Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

As of Monday evening, all remaining members of the federal cabinet were saying they continue to support Trudeau and the government. Some issued statements, others simply confirmed their support. Below is a list of statements from cabinet ministers who provided them to CBC News:

Minister of Indigenous Services Seamus O’Regan

“I have full confidence in this prime minister and am committed to continuing on with the important work ahead for Indigenous peoples and all Canadians.”

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau

“Absolutely. I’m proud to work with a leader that is focused on jobs, growing the middle class and strengthening our economy.”

Minister of the Environment Catherine McKenna

“Yes, Minister McKenna has full confidence in the PM and will remain in cabinet,” said spokeswoman Caroline Thériault.

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Patricia Hajdu

“My confidence in the prime minister remains untouched. I stand by him and believe in his ability to lead a government that delivers for all Canadians. I am sorry to see one of my Cabinet colleagues step down and I wish her the best.”

Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion Mary Ng

The minister told CBC that she supports Trudeau “100 per cent.”

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett

“I have absolute confidence in our government, and our prime minister, and will continue the vital work of advancing reconciliation and self-determination as the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations.”

Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Pablo Rodriguez

The Quebec MP said he backs Trudeau “totally,” 

Minister of National Revenue Diane Lebouthillier

“I support the prime minister and am proud of the work we have accomplished during the last three years to make life better for all Canadians.”

Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould

“I have full confidence in the Prime Minister and this government.”  

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen

“Minister Hussen has full confidence in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his vision for Canada,” said spokesperson, Mathieu Genest.

Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade Dominic LeBlanc

“I have full confidence in the prime minister. We will continue to take action to make life easier for Canadians, and create good, middle class jobs across the country.”

Minister of International Trade Diversification Jim Carr

“The PM and this government as a whole has minister Carr’s full confidence. He remains committed to his role as minister and to the important work the PM has given him to carry out on behalf of Canadians,” said spokeswoman, Isabella Brisson.

Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie Mélanie Joly

”Of course, the Prime Minister has my full confidence.”

Minister of Infrastructure and Communities​ François-Philippe Champagne

“I absolutely have confidence in the prime minister and the plan he put in place for Canadians and I will continue to be a strong voice for rural Canada, for a strong and growing economy and for Quebec.”

Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Jonathan Wilkinson

“I am proud of the progressive accomplishments made under the leadership of the prime minister. I have full confidence in the prime minister and our government.”

Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi

“I have full confidence in our government. Canadians elected us to build a strong middle class and provide opportunities for those who work hard every day to join the middle class. That is what we have focused on since day one and this is what we will continue to do under the strong leadership of PM Trudeau.”

Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan

“I fully support the prime minister and our government, and as minister of science and sport, will continue focusing on our important work for science and research, and on making sport safe for all.”

Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility Carla Qualtrough

“I have full confidence in the prime minister and our government, and I look forward to continuing to serve Canadians.

“I’m sad to hear of Jane Philpott’s departure from Cabinet. She was a valued member of the team around the table. I thank the Prime Minister for his faith in me as I take on the interim position of president of the Treasury Board and minister of digital government.”

All remaining members of the federal cabinet have told CBC News that they continue to support Trudeau and his government.


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21Feb

Ottawa could face four class-action lawsuits over $165M error at Veterans Affairs

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The federal government now faces four proposed class-action lawsuits over a $165 million accounting error at Veterans Affairs that shortchanged more than 250,000 former soldiers, sailors and aircrew, CBC News has learned.

The latest claim was filed this week by the Ottawa law firm headed by retired colonel Michel Drapeau. It joins similar cases launched by lawyers with Koskie-Minsky of Toronto, McInnis-Cooper of Halifax and the Kelowna office of Murphy-Battista.

The court actions, which have not yet been certified, relate to a bungled calculation of disability awards and pensions at Veterans Affairs — an oversight that started in 2002 and ran undetected for almost eight years.

Last month, CBC News revealed internal federal documents that explained how the error happened and detailed some of the flawed assumptions bureaucrats used to bury the mistake when it was uncovered.

Veterans ombudsman Guy Parent speaks to media October 1, 2013 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

In 2010, when the department discovered and corrected the indexing mistake, it did not notify any of the 272,000 veterans who were affected. The matter did not become public until former veterans ombudsman Guy Parent blew the whistle last November.

The Liberal government owned up to the error and promised to reimburse veterans, beginning in 2020 — but Dennis Manuge, the former soldier who initiated the first class-action claim, said the mushrooming number of cases is a sign of the frustration and impatience felt by those affected.

The fact that it will take until after the next election to rectify the situation is one of the major factors driving the court cases, he added.

“The trust level isn’t there, and I think that’s regardless of the party in office,” said Manuge, who noted the former Conservative government fought a separate class-action lawsuit related to a clawback of veterans’ disability payments.

In that case, Manuge — acting on behalf of roughly 7,500 former soldiers — won an $887 million settlement in 2013.

The documents obtained and published by CBC News last month show how Veterans Affairs officials traced the confusion over the disability payments back to changes in forms related to the 2001 overhaul of the Income Tax Act.

Critics say the revelations over the unchecked error raise important questions about fiscal accountability at Veterans Affairs.

They’re asking what actions bureaucrats took when the error was first discovered — and why it was kept hidden for almost a decade.

Many of the affected veterans have died

A significant number of the affected veterans — 170,000 — have passed away since the error was discovered. The Liberal government promised to repay their estates, but the documents show Veterans Affairs does not keep track of next-of-kin and has no means of finding them.

Manuge said he has no confidence that all affected veterans’ families will get justice.

“If we wait another two years, the older veterans involved, well, many of them will be gone,” he said. “I can only speak for myself … that’s one of the major factors in my making a decision to have a go at this.”

The government’s handling of the error “just isn’t good enough,” he said. “It’s not acceptable.”

Since the matter is before the courts, federal government officials declined comment on Wednesday.


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28Jan

Online applications to sponsor family immigrants hit limit in just 11 minutes

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It took just minutes today for Canadians to snap up 27,000 online application spots for bringing parents or grandparents into the country — fuelling frustration and fury among people who say the new system is flawed.

At noon ET today, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada opened up to applicants its online form for indicating interest in sponsoring a family member through the 2019 Parent and Grandparent Program.

Just eleven minutes later, the department tweeted that the applications received had met the annual limit and the form had been closed to new applicants.

A flood of angry complaints followed from frustrated would-be applicants, many of whom said they had cleared their schedules and set up their computers to fill out the online form — only to find it shut down within minutes.

“This is not a concert ticket you are selling, this is about uniting families. The whole process is atrocious,” wrote Naimul Khan on Twitter.

Some called for an independent audit of IRCC’s sponsorship process.

Cayo Whyte of Peterborough, Ont. took the day off work to fill out the form to sponsor his mother from Jamaica. He managed to get on the website and load the form — but by the time he completed it, the application window had closed.

“I feel so disappointed, so heartbroken, so stressed out. The words aren’t there to describe how disappointed I feel,” he told CBC News.

Whyte, who has been in Canada since 2009, said he has worked hard to advance his education and get a well-paid job.

“I am doing everything by the book but I cannot seem to make any headway in supporting my family in coming here,” he said.

Whyte said the first-in process is particularly unfair to him because he took a bit longer — about three minutes — to fill out the form because he has a disability. His past attempts to sponsor his mom through the former lottery system were also unsuccessful.

The Liberal government scrapped its controversial lottery system for reuniting immigrant families and adopted a first-come, first-served online system after an angry backlash from would-be sponsors.

Under the family reunification program, about 20,500 parents and grandparents will be admitted to Canada in 2019, and 21,000 next year.

This year, 27,000 were allowed to sign the “interest to sponsor” form online, accounting for duplication and errors. Eligible sponsors must provide proof of status and financial eligibility.




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15Jan

China issues travel warning for Canada as diplomatic tensions mount

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China blasted Canada for “irresponsible” remarks on Tuesday after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the country of “arbitrarily” sentencing a Canadian to death for drug smuggling, aggravating already icy relations.

Beijing and Ottawa have been at odds since early December, when Canadian police arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.

Days later, China detained two Canadians on suspicion of endangering state security — former diplomat Michael Kovrig and business consultant Michael Spavor.

Monday’s death sentence by a Chinese court on Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg for allegedly smuggling 222 kilograms of methamphetamines has become the latest strain on ties.

Trudeau said it should be of “extreme concern” to Canada’s friends and allies, as it was to Canada’s government, that China had chosen to “arbitrarily apply” the death penalty.

We urge the Canadian side to respect the rule of law, respect China’s legal sovereignty, correct its mistakes, and stop making irresponsible remarks.– Hua Chunying, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying expressed “strong dissatisfaction” with the comments at a regular news briefing.

“The remarks by the relevant Canadian person lack the most basic awareness of the legal system,” Hua said.

She also took Canada to task for issuing an updated travel advisory for China, warning its citizens about the risk of arbitrary enforcement of laws in the country. Hua said that Canada should instead remind its people to not engage in drug smuggling in China.

“We urge the Canadian side to respect the rule of law, respect China’s legal sovereignty, correct its mistakes, and stop making irresponsible remarks,” Hua said.

Hours later, the ministry issued its own travel warning. 

Citing the “arbitrary detention” of a Chinese national in Canada at the request of a “third-party country,” it urged its citizens to “fully evaluate risks” and exercise caution when travelling there.

No new evidence

Zhang Dongshuo, a lawyer for Schellenberg, said on Tuesday that his client would appeal, arguing that the court should not have increased his sentence given no new evidence had been introduced.

Schellenberg had appealed against an original 15-year prison sentence issued in November, but the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court in the northeastern province of Liaoning sided with prosecutors at the retrial that the punishment was too light.

Zhang said there was insufficient evidence to prove Schellenberg was part of a drug syndicate, or that he was involved in the smuggling of methamphetamines.

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg attends his one-day retrial at the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court in northeastern China’s Liaoning province on Monday. (CCTV/Associated Press)

Even if the court accepted all of the charges, it should not have increased his sentence, given that facts the prosecution presented as new evidence had already been heard in court, Zhang told Reuters.

“Chinese law stipulates that during an appeal, only if new evidence is discovered and retried can there be an increase in the severity of a sentence,” Zhang said.

China has not linked any of the three Canadians’ cases to Meng’s arrest, which was made at the behest of U.S. authorities as part of an investigation into alleged violations of U.S. trade sanctions. But Beijing had warned of severe consequences if she was not immediately released.

‘Politicizing law’

A Chinese state-run newspaper rejected any suggestion that China was putting pressure on Canada with the sentence, saying it was “unreasonable speculation.”

“Public opinion in Canada has claimed recently that China is ‘politicizing’ Schellenberg’s case, but what Canada is doing is actually politicizing law,” the nationalist Global Times said in an editorial late on Monday.

Though Schellenberg was arrested in 2014, state media has played up coverage of his case following the deterioration in relations with Canada. The court invited media to cover the retrial, and state television aired a five-minute segment on the proceedings.

Drug smuggling is routinely punished severely in China, and foreigners convicted of drug crimes have been executed before, including a Briton in 2009.

Schellenberg had faced a number of charges in Canada related to drug possession and drug trafficking, according to Canadian court records.

But international rights groups condemned Schellenberg’s sentence, with some saying it was too severe and may have been politically motivated.

“China is going to face lots of questions about why this particular person, of this particular nationality, had to be retried at this particular time,” Human Rights Watch’s Washington-based China director Sophie Richardson told Reuters.


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