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Posts Tagged "Ottawa"

13Sep

Municipalities back Vancouver motion to push Ottawa for safer drugs

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https://vancouversun.com/


Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart joined Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, and Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service’s Capt. Jonathan Gormick to discuss the epidemic of drug-related deaths, at a press conference in Vancouver on Friday, September 6, 2019.


Jason Payne / PNG

Local governments across Canada will press the federal government to increase access to safer drugs, and declare a national health emergency in response to the fentanyl-driven overdose crisis, after a motion by Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart was passed Friday.

Stewart’s motion, drafted with his overdose emergency task force, was approved by city council in July. Coun. Rebecca Bligh brought it to a Federation of Canadian Municipalities executive meeting this week.

The motion requires the federation to call on Ottawa to support health authorities, doctors, their professional colleges and provinces to “safely provide regulated opioids and other substances through a free and federally available Pharmacare program.”

The federation will also demand that the federal government declares a national public health emergency and provides exemptions to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, so that cities and towns can run pilot programs which prioritize a move toward a “safe” drug supply.

Stewart said Friday that there was some division among the federation’s membership over the motion but it passed following an effective speech by Bligh. He hopes it will “shift the national dialogue toward a safe supply” during the federal election.

He wants the substances act exemptions to allow health professionals with a non-profit organization to distribute diacetylmorphine, which local research has shown can be an effective treatment for chronic, relapsing opioid dependence.

Stewart met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau two weeks ago and told him what Vancouver needs in order to replace fentanyl-tainted street drugs with a safer, regulated supply, he said.

“It was a private conversation but I can say that I left the conversation in good spirits,” Stewart said. “I was definitely heard and that was very important.”

Stewart said front line responders are fatigued, people are experiencing multiple overdoses and suffering brain injuries, and the city and province desperately need the federal government to step up.

“We’re going to have to take it to the next level here. We’re reducing overdose deaths but overdoses are increasing. Just not dying isn’t good enough,” he said.

“It’s got to be life and hope for people.”

Karen Ward, a drug user and advocate for others who use drugs, helped with the motion and was pleased the municipalities passed it.

“If a province is a bit hesitant, the idea is that this will give a city the power to take rapid action — and individual doctors, in fact,” she said.

“It’s a necessity to have safe supply at this point because the supply has become so contaminated everywhere.”

Ward said the federation can now send a clear message to Ottawa that municipalities want the power to treat the overdose crisis “like a real” public health emergency.

“This is one way to get them to talk about it, face it squarely and acknowledge this massive disaster, and say look, we need to change our (approach),” she said.

“We need to take it as seriously as possible. It’s a health issue. It’s also a justice issue.”

According to the federal government, there have been more than 9,000 apparent opioid-related deaths across the country since 2016.

Illicit drugs killed 1,533 people in B.C. in 2018 and 538 in the first half of 2019, according to the B.C. Coroners Service.

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18Jul

Trudeau says Ottawa open to proposals for B.C. refinery as gas prices soar

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18Jul

$900-million settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in military

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OTTAWA — The federal government is paying $900 million to settle multiple class-action lawsuits lodged on behalf of survivors of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and sexual assault in the military.

The settlement provides $800 million for members of the Canadian Armed Forces and $100 million in compensation for another class of employees of the Department of National Defence.

Over the past few years, participants in several lawsuits alleging similar misconduct and systemic problems in the military agreed to co-operate in their legal actions against the government.

The government had originally sought to defend itself in court against the lawsuits, filing documents in December 2017 in an attempt to quash them.

But after facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018.

In Thursday’s settlement, the government also promises an external review of existing anti-harassment programs and revisions to how it deals with disability benefits for survivors of sexual assault or harassment.


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4Jun

Ottawa renews annual spending on women and children’s health, rights and ups it to $1.4 billion a year

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces a $1.4-billion annual commitment to support women’s global health at the Women Deliver 2019 Conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Tuesday.


LINDSEY WASSON / REUTERS

The federal government is pledging to spend $1.4 billion a year “advancing the health and rights” of women, teens and children around the world.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement on the first full day of Women Deliver 2019, an international conference on gender equity being held in Vancouver this week.

The aid package renews Canada commitment to women’s health abroad by pledging to extend the current $1.1 billion a year aid beyond 2020, when it was set to expire, and increase it.

Maryam Monsef, the minister for women and gender equality, called the 10-year commitment “unprecedented.”

She said the announcement means funding is promised under her government until 2030, and the $1.1 billion amount will increase gradually to $1.4 billion a year by 2023.

A 10-year maternal, newborn and child health policy that expires in 2020 had been brought in in 2010 under the previous Conservative government.

Monsef and her staff said most of the extra funding of $300,000 a year would be spent on the “neglected” area of sexual reproductive health rights, including abortion.

When Trudeau announced the funding commitment at the start of Tuesday’s plenary, he said such funding was needed more than ever.

He noted there are 200 million women around the world who have no access to contraceptives, and he and several other presenters at the conference spoke of “pushback” to gains for women’s sexual and reproductive rights.

“The unfortunate truth is that we live in a world where rights are increasingly under threat,” Trudeau said in a brief announcement.

Speaking in French, he said only women should have the right to determine what is best for their bodies and that abortion “must be accessible, safe and legal.”

“We can’t talk about sexual and reproductive rights in isolation from the rest of women’s health because, just as there are 200 million women who don’t have access to contraception, hundreds more die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth,” he said.

The Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH) called the federal promise of funding an “historic day.”

“The investment will not only ensure that Canada’s long, proud tradition as a leader in women and children’s health continues, it comes with a purposeful approach that addresses critical gaps in the health needs of women and adolescents,” the organization said in a news release.

It said it renews funding for reproductive, maternal, newborn and children’s health and nutrition and adds aid for the “most neglected areas of sexual and reproductive health and rights.”

Its acting executive director, Julia Anderson, said in the release that the funding comes at a critical time “when rollbacks on women’s health rights are being acutely felt around the globe.”

Soon after his election in 2016, U.S. President Donald Trump reinstated and expanded Ronald Reagan’s Mexico City Policy, which bars international non-governmental organizations that deliver any counselling or abortion services, no matter what nation pays for that service, from receiving U.S. government support.

A number of U.S. states have recently or are considering abortion bans.


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18Mar

Joyce Murray tapped as new Treasury Board President in latest Trudeau shuffle

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OTTAWA – Longtime Liberal MP Joyce Murray has been tapped by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to join cabinet as the new Treasury Board President and Minister of Digital Government.

Trudeau appointed the Vancouver-Quadra, B.C. MP and one-time leadership contender to the role in a single-person shuffle at Rideau Hall on Monday.

This is Trudeau’s third shuffle in as many months. Murray has held the position as parliamentary secretary to the Treasury Board throughout the current government’s mandate.

“Murray will help advance the priorities of the Government of Canada and deliver its commitments to Canadians,” the PMO said in a statement about her cabinet appointment.

She will take on overseeing the federal public service and intergovernmental spending as part of the Treasury Board file. This position also touches on the management of government departments.

Murray was first elected to represent her current riding in a 2008 by-election. Prior to federal politics, Murray was a B.C. cabinet minister.

Speaking with reporters following her swearing-in ceremony, Murray said that despite the turnover in who leads the Treasury Board, work at the department has continued.

“There’s a lot to do and I am going to be focused on … continuing and completing the agenda that has been set out and building on the really good work of previous Treasury Board presidents,” Murray said.

Adding a woman allowed Trudeau to maintain gender balance while filling the vacancy left by Jane Philpott’s resignation from cabinet. Philpott resigned earlier this month saying she had lost confidence in the way the government was handling the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

Since Philpott resigned, Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough had been temporarily acting in the Treasury Board position.

This slight front bench rejigging follows February’s cabinet shuffle in which Trudeau filled the vacancy left by Jody Wilson-Raybould when she resigned from veterans affairs after allegations emerged that she felt pressured by senior PMO officials to interfere in a criminal prosecution against the Quebec engineering giant.

In February’s shuffle, Trudeau moved around three existing cabinet ministers, giving one — Maryam Monsef — an additional portfolio to cover off all cabinet responsibilities.

Philpott had only been in the Treasury Board positon for a few months. She was shuffled into that role in January, in response to Scott Brison’s departure. It was that shuffle that saw Wilson-Raybould replaced as justice minister and attorney general by David Lametti. During that visit to Rideau Hall, Trudeau shuffled three ministers into new roles, and appointed two rookies.

Trudeau’s former top adviser Gerald Butts cited the January shuffle as the flashpoint for the months-long ongoing SNC-Lavalin controversy, citing, as Trudeau has put it, an “erosion of trust” between Wilson-Raybould and the PMO after they sought to shuffle her into Philpott’s old job as Indigenous services minister and she turned it down.

During her post-shuffle media availability, Murray acknowledged that it has been a “challenging few weeks,” but said the caucus is united and she does not have any outstanding questions about the scandal.

In a statement to her constituents earlier this month, Murray offered her perspective on the SNC-Lavalin affair, saying she had “absolute confidence” in Trudeau and the work the Liberal government is doing.

Murray has at times been outspoken and critical about some key Trudeau policy moves. She had been pushing for electoral reform since her leadership bid — which she lost to Trudeau — and said it was “difficult” to see that it was a promise the Liberals would not be following through on. She has also said that cabinet’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain expansion disappointing, and has voiced concerns from her constituents that tax dollars are being spent to purchase the project from Kinder Morgan.

In her personal life, Murray and her husband have been seized with assisting one of their sons who was seriously injured in a fall while honeymooning in Cancun.

“I am happy to say that he is healing well, he is in great spirits. He is still in Vancouver General Hospital but we hope that he will be home soon for convalesces and eventually rehabilitation of his injuries,” she said.


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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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