Volunteers sought for 3rd annual National Lake Blitz

National Lake Blitz returns

Living Lakes Canada is inviting Canadians to help protect their local lakes by becoming volunteer lake monitors this summer through the third annual National Lake Blitz.

As of Feb. 1, individuals can register to take part in the program, which aims to track various impacts on the country's lakes, such as habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and the effects of rising water temperatures due to climate change.

Volunteers will receive a free Lake Blitz Standard Kit, which includes a thermometer, tape measure, field guide and datasheets, with a Lake Blitz Level 2 Kit also available for purchase to allow for further measurement. Online training on how to monitor lakes will also be provided.

All data collected by volunteers will be uploaded to the Lake Blitz observation map. Monthly meet-ups and online workshops will be held featuring expert guest speakers on relevant lake monitoring topics.

For those who prefer not to get their feet wet, the Lake Blitz will also feature a photo challenge starting May 1, with categories including Lake Biodiversity, Lake Landscapes, Lake Impacts and Kids (age 12 and under).

Registration for the National Lake Blitz closes on May 1 or when supplies of the Lake Blitz Kits run out. To learn more and to register, visit LakeBlitz.LivingLakesCanada.ca or contact the Lake Blitz Program Manager at [email protected].


Liberals set to introduce law delaying expansion of medically assisted dying regime

Assisted dying delay

The federal government is expected to introduce a law as early as Thursday to delay the extension of medically assisted dying eligibility to people whose sole condition is a mental disorder.

Justice Minister David Lametti announced in December that Ottawa intended to seek the delay after hearing concerns the health-care system might not be prepared for an expanded regime.

On Wednesday, he did not offer a timeline on the length of the delay.

"I can't answer that, because that's precisely what the bill will be about," he said. "My parliamentary colleagues have a right to hear that first."

The government gave notice to the House of Commons on Tuesday that a bill on medical assistance in dying was on the way, which means that a bill can be tabled on Thursday at the earliest.

In a sign that is what will happen, Lametti and Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister for mental health and addictions, are scheduled to speak to the media on Parliament Hill Thursday morning after a technical briefing with officials from Health Canada and the Justice Department.

An update to assisted dying law that passed in 2021 created a two-year clock that delayed the extension of eligibility to those whose sole condition is a mental disorder. The clock runs out in mid-March.

Because those terms were written into the law, a legislative amendment is required to change the timeline, and Lametti has said that he expects there will be agreement from other parties and senators to make that happen in the short time frame available to Parliament.

The Liberal government had not originally planned for the law to extend assisted dying eligibility to people whose sole underlying condition is a mental disorder.

But it approved a Senate amendment to do so after senators argued that excluding people with mental illness would conflict with their Charter right to equal treatment under the law.

Some of the Liberals' political opponents are saying that delaying the change is proof that it was a bad idea in the first place.

Conservatives have argued that offering assisted dying to people with mental illness could lead to preventable deaths, since unlike with physical ailments, it is more difficult for health-care professionals to tell when a mental-health problem is past the point of treatment.

Conservative MP Michael Cooper said Wednesday that the government's decision to seek a delay underscores its "reckless approach" to expanding the regime. He suggested that Liberals should scrap the expansion entirely.

"It should never have come to this," he said. "The reason we're introducing legislation at the 11th hour now is because they ignored experts all along, who said this cannot be done safely at this time."

An expert panel on medical assistance in dying and mental illness that the government convened to explore the issue concluded last May that further delay would not be necessary.

It found that existing eligibility criteria and safeguards were adequate "so long as those are interpreted appropriately to take into consideration the specificity of mental disorders."

Rose Carter, a lawyer who served as the vice-chair of that expert panel, said she is not troubled by the delay and expects to see consultations with advocacy groups, provinces and health-care organizations take place during that time.

She said it's important that the roles of different health-care sectors are "clearly understood" when the expansion does happen.

"I would like to see if the various bodies really continue to work, as I know a lot of them have to come to some unity across Canada," she said. "I would hope that the government would keep their chin to the wheel and stay focused on this and push through."

Medically assisted dying is administered under Criminal Code laws, which are a matter of federal jurisdiction. But the practice is delivered by provincial health-care systems with funding from Ottawa.

That federal-provincial relationship adds a layer of complexity to introducing the expansion.

"Doctors practising in Ontario would expect to be treated the same as doctors practising in Newfoundland or Nunavik," Carter said. "So there's got to be continuity in that way, and that that's really important."

Although provinces do not have jurisdiction over whether or not assisted dying is legal, not all of them have signalled that they are on board with the coming changes.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith's office has said that the province objects to the extension of eligibility to people whose sole condition is a mental illness, and Ottawa shouldn't move forward "without agreement" from Alberta.

Those comments come as Canada's premiers prepare to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa next week about federal health-care transfers.


Feds to lay out 'sustainable jobs' plan for energy transition ahead of legislation

Feds to lay out jobs plan

The federal government will show Canadians its plan to protect jobs during the clean energy transition no later than early spring, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Wednesday.

Legislation to guide how that plan is implemented, however, won't come for some time after that.

The Liberals have promised a "just transition act" since at least 2019, and Wilkinson has been saying it will finally happen this year.

That prospect prompted outcry in Alberta, where the energy transition will have the biggest impact and provincial politicians are headed for a tightly contested election this spring.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to help shape that legislation. Her chief opponent, NDP Leader Rachel Notley, asked the federal Liberals to delay the whole thing at least until after the election, which is scheduled for the end of May.

But Wilkinson said the bill, for which he didn't offer a timeline, will in some ways be secondary to the action plan listing what the government intends to do. He said that plan will hopefully be revealed by the end of March, though it may "slip into the next quarter."

"The legislation will guide future efforts and will create a governance structure, but it's the policy statement that I think is going to be the most impactful," he said. "And, as I say, we will be releasing that in the coming few months."

He said the plan is based on lengthy consultations with provinces, labour organizations, business and Indigenous communities. Ultimately, he said, it will contain no surprises.

The concept of a "just transition" has existed for several decades, but it took on new meaning after the 2015 Paris climate agreement committed most of the world to transitioning to cleaner energy sources in a bid to slow climate change.

The idea is that any efforts to adjust reliance on fossil fuels must ensure that people who work in energy industries can move to new sectors and will not be left out in the cold.

The "just transition" debate exploded last month when Smith lambasted the federal government for a briefing document that listed the number of jobs that could be affected by the ongoing global transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.

Smith misread the total number of jobs in the affected sectors to mean the number of jobs the federal government expected would be lost, and pledged to "fight this just transition idea" with everything she had.

A week later, the premier wrote to Trudeau warning him that the Ottawa-Alberta relationship was "at a crossroads," and demanding that Alberta be included in all discussions on a "just transition" going forward.

She also said the legislation shouldn't be labelled as a "just transition" bill, but one about "sustainable jobs."

That request hit the federal government with interest and even amusement, since several federal ministers had already signalled their intention to use the term.

"I think I've been pretty clear I don't like the term 'just transition,'" Wilkinson said Wednesday.

"I prefer 'sustainable jobs.' I think it speaks to a future where we're looking to build economic opportunity for all regions of this country, very much including Alberta and Saskatchewan."

Smith will be in Ottawa next week as part of a first ministers meeting on health care, but there is no sign she will get a one-on-one meeting with Trudeau on sustainable jobs.

MPs vote unanimously to have Canada resettle 10,000 displaced Uyghur people

MPs vote to resettle Uyghurs

Members of Parliament have unanimously called on Ottawa to start a refugee program to resettle 10,000 Uyghurs fleeing persecution in China.

"This is an important moment today where we are standing together as one," Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi told reporters on Parliament Hill.

"We have hard work to do ahead of us. We will do this work."

The Montreal MP proposed a motion last June calling on the government to develop a plan within 100 days to resettle 10,000 Uyghur people and other Muslims of Turkic origin to Canada.

That gives Ottawa until May 12 to come up with the outline of a program that the motion says should start in 2024 and meet its target within two years.

The idea is to resettle people who are living in countries such as Turkey rather than bringing them directly from China, with Zuberi arguing that there is no safe way to do the latter.

MPs passed the motion unanimously Wednesday in the Commons. It earned 322 votes, including that of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

After passing the motion, MPs from different parties shook hands and hugged. Zuberi pumped his fist in the air as dozens of people wearing traditional Uyghur clothing clapped, with some cheering, "Thank you, Canada" from the public galleries.

While private members' motions are non-binding, Zuberi took the support of Trudeau's cabinet as a sign his government will follow through.

"This is a promise to the Canadian people, to the international community, that we will do this," he told reporters, flanked by Uyghur advocates.

"I will push for people to be saved without any delay."

Mehmet Tohti, head of the Ottawa-based Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, said the Uyghur diaspora in Canada is ready to help officials craft a plan and put it into action.

He alleged that Chinese officials phoned him on Jan. 16 from his cousin's hospital room in China, as an intimidation tactic ahead of Wednesday's vote.

Tohti said his two sisters died in concentration camps in China, and his three brothers have disappeared.

"Doing advocacy against China is not easy, and many of our community members in Canada, Uyghur-Canadians, they sacrifice their family members just to speak up," he told reporters.

"For that reason, we value this motion and we value the will of the Canadian Parliament."

The UN Human Rights Office reported last August that China is committing "grave human rights violations" against Uyghur people in the Xinjiang region, and that some who fled to other countries have been "forcibly returned."

Beijing has rejected such reports, characterizing them as attempts to smear a rising China. But the country has severely restricted media reporting and human-rights analysis in Xinjiang.

China insists it is implementing "re-education" camps to weed out Islamic radicalization after deadly attacks, but its officials stand accused of perpetrating sexual violence and forced labour.

Thousands of Uyghurs have sought refuge in countries such as Turkey, where they face a risk of being sent back to China.

A report by the Wilson Center think tank in Washington found that between 1997 and 2022, some 1,574 Uyghurs in countries abroad had been detained or sent back to China, where most were imprisoned or tortured.

The Washington-based Uyghur Human Rights Project said that it would monitor Canada's progress, and that Wednesday's vote sets an example for other democracies.

The Commons had passed a motion in February 2021 that recognized China's treatment of the Uyghur people as a genocide, though Trudeau's cabinet abstained from the vote, saying more international investigations were needed.

The government continued that line of argument in responses to petitions tabled this week in Parliament.

And while Zuberi's motion noted the result of the February 2021 vote, it did not ask voting MPs to again designate China's actions as a genocide.

Zuberi said he was encouraged that Wednesday's vote included support from Trudeau and Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly, which he chalked up to the fact that more information has been emerging about the situation in Xinjiang.

"This was the first time that cabinet pronounced itself on the issue of the Uyghurs," he said.

Prince George RCMP officers charged with manslaughter

Police charged in death

Two Prince George RCMP officers have been charged with manslaughter, the B.C. Prosecution Service said Wednesday.

Cst. Paul Ste-Marie and Cst. Jean Francois Monette now face the count in relation to the July 18, 2017 death of Dale Culver.

As well, three other officers, Cst. Arthur Dalman, Cst. Clarence (Alex) Alexander MacDonald, and Sgt. Bayani (Jon) Eusebio Cruz, have been charged with attempting to obstruct justice in relation to the incident, BCPS said.

Culver's death sparked an investigation by B.C.'s civilian based police watchdog, the Independent Investigation Office. In March 2020, IIO chief civilian director Ronald J. MacDonald forwarded a report to the BCPS in which he recommended that charges be laid.

Culver, an Indigenous man from the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en Nations, was 35 years old at the time of his death.

An RCMP release from the time said police received a report about a man casing vehicles and found a suspect who tried to flee on a bicycle.

There was allegedly a struggle when police tried to take the man into custody, other officers were called, and pepper spray was used. Officers noticed the man appeared to have trouble breathing and called for medical assistance. He collapsed immediately after being taken out of the police vehicle and died soon after, police say.

The BC Civil Liberties Association alleged in a 2018 complaint to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP that the association had "learned of troubling allegations that RCMP members told witnesses to delete cellphone video that they had taken."

The first appearance for all officers on these matters is scheduled for March 14, 2023 in Prince George Provincial Court.

"The charges were approved by an experienced criminal lawyer who has no prior or current connection with the officers," BCPS said in a statement.

- with files from The Canadian Press

Thousands of Helly Hansen sweaters recalled in Canada due to 'flammability hazard'

Sweaters a fire hazard

Health Canada says consumers should stop wearing certain Helly Hansen sweatshirts, sweaters and hoodies because they may be a "flammability hazard."

It says 128,680 of the affected items have been sold in Canada since August 2019.

Health Canada says treated brushed cotton fabrics in the clothing "either do not or may not comply" with Canada's Textile Flammability Regulations.

It also says that as of Jan. 9, Helly Hansen had not received any reports of incidents or injuries.

The government of Canada recalls website has a list of more than 600 purchase orders affected.

Canadians are asked to check the side seam labels inside the sweaters for the purchase order number and contact Helly Hansen for a replacement credit.

They can also contact the company to get more information.

Former Alberta premier Jason Kenney accepts role in Calgary advising law firm

Jason Kenney joins law firm

Jason Kenney, more than three months after stepping down as Alberta’s premier, has landed a new role as a Calgary-based adviser in law firm Bennett Jones.

Kenney, who is also a former federal cabinet minister, will work in the public policy group.

Kenney says on Twitter he looks forward to the new job and that his work won’t include lobbying the provincial government or its agencies.

He says Alberta’s ethics commissioner has signed off on his new role and Kenney says he won’t be accepting any other jobs without first checking with the commissioner.

Kenney announced last May he was stepping down as premier following a lukewarm 51 per cent vote of support in a United Conservative Party leadership review.

Kenney was instrumental in creating the UCP in a merger with his Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Party, but he fell out of favour with many in the combined party over COVID-19 restrictions and what was seen as a top-down management style.

It was a not an amicable departure.

Kenney publicly clashed with his eventual successor, Premier Danielle Smith, over her plan to introduce sovereignty legislation to challenge what she considers federal intrusions into provincial areas of constitutional authority.

Kenney challenged the legality and economic effect of such a bill, and resigned as a legislature member on the day Smith’s sovereignty act was introduced last November.

Bennett Jones, with offices across Canada and in New York, said Kenney will provide advice on attracting investment in Canada’s energy sector and with Indigenous communities.

“I’m thrilled to be joining this iconic firm, which has both deep Alberta roots and a major national presence," said Kenney in a statement Wednesday.

"Bennett Jones’ Public Policy group has the greatest policy depth of any Canadian law firm, and I look forward to working with several former colleagues from both senior elected and public service roles."

'Dances with Wolves' actor to be charged in U.S. may have victims in Canada: police

Actor may have Cdn victims

Police in southern Alberta say they have been working with authorities in the United States in a sexual assault investigation involving a former actor in "Dances With Wolves."

Nathan Lee Chasing Horse, who is also known as Nathan Chasing His Horse, is accused of sexually assaulting girls as young as 13 and taking wives as young as 15.

Las Vegas police also allege the assaults span two decades and happened in the U.S. and Canada.

Chasing Horse, who was born on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, was arrested Tuesday near Las Vegas.

Police in Calgary and the neighbouring Tsuut’ina Nation say they have been collaborating with authorities in Las Vegas and believe there may be victims in Alberta.

Both are reminding the public that there is no statute of limitations on investigating or prosecuting sexual assaults in Canada.

“However, we know that not all victims will feel comfortable reporting to police, and encourage them to reach out to the resources provided by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, or locally to a community organization,” Calgary police said in a statement Wednesday.

Tsuut’ina Nation police said that they are reviewing all related historical sexual assault files and “working with a dedicated Crown prosecutor to ensure all victims have a voice.”

Chasing Horse is known for his role as the young Sioux character Smiles a Lot in the 1990 Oscar-winning Kevin Costner film “Dances with Wolves." He later gained a reputation as a so-called medicine man who performed healing ceremonies.

His arrest was the culmination of a months-long investigation that began after the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department received a tip in October 2022.

No lawyer is listed for Chasing Horse in U.S. court records.

Court documents show that he is to be charged with at least two counts of sex trafficking and one count each of sexual assault of a child younger than 16, child abuse or neglect and sexual assault. U.S. authorities have not said when he will be formally charged.

Las Vegas police arrested Chasing Horse as he left a North Las Vegas home Tuesday. 

The Associated Press reported that it had obtained a search warrant, which says Chasing Horse, 46, shared the home with his five wives and is believed to be the leader of a cult known as The Circle.

AP also reported that Las Vegas police noted in the document that they have identified at least six alleged victims and uncovered sexual allegations against Chasing Horse dating to the early 2000s in multiple states.

He was banished in 2015 from the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana, the warrant reportedly says, amid allegations of human trafficking.

“Nathan Chasing Horse used spiritual traditions and their belief system as a tool to sexually assault young girls on numerous occasions,” the AP story says, quoting what detectives wrote in the warrant. It adds that his followers believed he could communicate with higher beings and referred to him as “Medicine Man” or “Holy Person.”

One of Chasing Horse’s wives was allegedly offered to him as a “gift” when she was 15, while another became a wife after turning 16.

Chasing Horse is also accused of recording sexual assaults and arranging sex with the victims for other men who paid him.

Although the warrant includes details of crimes reported elsewhere, the AP story said the arrest stems from crimes allegedly committed in Nevada’s Clark County.

Chasing Horse is due in court Thursday in North Las Vegas.

Canada-wide recall of mugs, houseware items due to 'mould contamination'

Indigo mugs recalled

Health Canada warns that several branded mugs, mug ornaments, and houseware products have been recalled from a popular national bookstore chain due to possible mould contamination.

A safety notification issued Wednesday (Feb. 1) states that a variety of Indigo-branded ceramic mugs, mug ornaments, and houseware products may have been subject to humid conditions. As a result, there may be mould under the glazed surface of the products.

People with compromised immune systems who use these products may experience gastrointestinal symptoms and infections from mould ingestion if they use the affected products.

The products range in colour, design, and size. The mug ornaments come in several colours and have a gold script or print. The UPC code is located on the bottom of the product.

Indigo Canada said it sold 21,890 units of the affected products in Canada between August 2022 and December 2022. As of Jan. 30, it hasn't received any reports of injuries.

What you should do for the Indigo recall on mugs and household items

Immediately stop using the recalled items and return them to an Indigo store for a full refund.

For more information, contact Indigo by telephone toll-free at 1-833-463-4461 between 9 a.m. and midnight EST by email at [email protected] or visit the company website Indigo Online.

Find out information about the recall with Health Canada online.

Former Tory interim leader, longtime Manitoba MP Candice Bergen stepping down

Former Tory leader resigns

Former Conservative interim leader and longtime Manitoba member of Parliament Candice Bergen has announced she is stepping down.

Bergen said in a video posted to Twitter that she submitted a letter of resignation as the representative for Portage-Lisgar after meeting with her party's caucus.

The MP said last September, after serving as interim leader of the party following the ouster of former leader Erin O'Toole, that she was not planning to run in another federal election.

Prospective successors including Manitoba finance minister Cameron Friesen are already lining up to seek the party's nomination to replace Bergen.

She was first elected to represent the reliably Conservative riding in 2008.

Many federal MPs credit Bergen for helping unite the party's caucus, which found itself divided under O'Toole's leadership and after Conservatives lost the 2021 election to the Liberals.

Former CBC journalist dies after random assault in Toronto's east end

Reporter dies after attack

A longtime former CBC producer has died after a random daytime assault in Toronto's east end.

The broadcaster says Michael Finlay, who worked with the network for 31 years, died Monday, a week after the attack.

Toronto police say officers responded to a call about an assault on Jan. 24 at 3:35 p.m. in the Danforth Avenue and Jones Avenue area.

They say a man was allegedly assaulted and fell to the ground with serious injuries – a male suspect is still at large.

In a note sent to CBC staff and obtained by The Canadian Press, Cathy Perry, the network's executive director of newsgathering and operations, says Finlay died of medical complications after being injured in a random assault in the city last week.

She calls Finlay an "exceptional" journalist who travelled around the world to produce radio programs and knew "everything about every news story here at home and abroad."

Police say the investigation is underway and are asking anyone with information to contact them.

NDP seeks to probe federal contracts with other consulting firms — not just McKinsey

NDP seeks to expand probe

The NDP is calling on a House of Commons committee to expand its study of federal contracts awarded to McKinsey & Company and include other consulting firms that have received large contracts.

New Democrat MP Gord Johns is bringing forward a motion to expand the scope of the study to include other firms including Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Accenture, KPMG, and Ernst & Young.

McKinsey has received attention in recent weeks after media reports highlighted the rapid growth of the company's work for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government.

"Canadians are really upset to see that the Liberal government has given hundreds of millions of dollars to a private company instead of letting Canada's public service do the jobs we hired them to do," Johns said in a press release.

"We need to get to the bottom of how much money has been spent in contracting with private companies, outside of McKinsey, under both the Liberals and Conservatives."

The government operations committee will hold its next meeting on the McKinsey contracts later today and will hear from Dominic Barton, the firm's former global managing director.

The Liberal government's relationship with Barton has come under scrutiny amid questions about the extent of the firm's influence on public policy.

Barton was the chair of an advisory council on economic growth for former finance minister Bill Morneau and later served as Canada's ambassador to China.

A researcher testifying before the committee on Monday called the focus on McKinsey a distraction.

Amanda Clarke, an associate professor of public administration at Carleton University, said the study should focus on the public service's reliance on consulting firms overall.

"The focus on outsourcing and contracting in the federal government is the broad enough umbrella to get at these issues and any given firm," Clarke said Monday.

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