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Former UN committee member defends stance on LNG pipeline in B.C.

Former UN committee member defends stance on LNG pipeline in B.C.VANCOUVER — A former member of an anti-racism committee at the United Nations says she stands by its statement in support of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary clan chiefs.Gay McDougall was vice-chair of the United Nations Committee to End Racial Discrimination when it called for three major resource projects in British Columbia to be halted until the free, prior and informed consent of all affected Indigenous groups was granted.Those resource projects included the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, the Site C hydroelectric dam and the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline."This question of the right of Indigenous people to make decisions according to their own laws, customs and traditions, has to be respected by the state authority," McDougall, whose term on the committee ended Jan. 19, said in an interview from New York.The First Nations LNG Alliance issued open letters to both the United Nations committee and the B.C. human rights commissioner last week accusing them of failing to do their research before taking a position.CEO Karen Ogen-Toews, a former elected chief of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, says in the letter that the committee should have been aware that 20 First Nations governments negotiated agreements with Coastal GasLink following five years of consultation.She accuses the committee of issuing a decision without investigation, research or due diligence, and says the statement was ignorant of Canadian laws and regulatory procedures.The letter references a comment made by the committee's chair to a media outlet after the statement was issued that he did not know the project had support from Indigenous groups and that the committee does not conduct investigations."The UN committee's statement and recommendations should simply and immediately be withdrawn, along with an apology to the 20 nations," the letter says.McDougall said more work went into the statement than the comments by the chairman suggest and she believes the chairman was surprised by the question.McDougall was part of the committee's working group that spent six months researching the issues in Canada before the statement."This was not an ill-considered position that we had," said McDougall, who is also a human rights lawyer. She visited British Columbia and spent time with the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, an Indigenous advocacy group that has issued statements in support of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs who oppose the pipeline.Through the union, she said she met both elected and hereditary chiefs from several First Nations, including some who said they were in favour of the project."We do a lot of work on issues relating to Indigenous Peoples, their land and natural resources, which are under threat in various places around the world. So this issue of the Indigenous Peoples not being a monolith is not new to us," she said.In 2017, she said at least one Wet'suwet'en leader spoke to the committee in Geneva. A Wet'suwet'en news release says Na'moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, appeared as a witness and submitted a discrimination complaint to the UN over Canada's environmental assessment process.The visit by Na'moks and two other First Nation leaders came on the heels of the approval then cancellation of plans by Petronas to build a massive pipeline and LNG plant in the Skeena River estuary of northern B.C.It's McDougall's understanding, as hereditary clan chiefs say, that they have authority over the broader 22,000 square kilometres of traditional territory, while the elected band councils administer smaller reserves, she said.Kasari Govender, B.C.'s human rights commissioner, issued a letter Thursday in response to the First Nations LNG Alliance saying she is aware that 20 First Nations support the project but that human rights is not a numbers game."Just as these bands have the right to give their consent, other Indigenous rights holding groups impacted by resource projects proposed on their territories also have the right to withhold their consent," she says in the letter.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2020.Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

More than 98,000 still owe money after Phoenix overpaid them, says MacKinnon

More than 98,000 still owe money after Phoenix overpaid them, says MacKinnonOTTAWA — More than 98,000 civil servants may still owe the federal government money from being overpaid through the disastrous Phoenix pay system.The government revealed the estimate this week in a written response to a question from the Opposition Conservatives, but could not say how many of its employees are owed money, or how much.Tens of thousands of federal workers have been impacted by problems that have plagued the electronic pay system since it was launched in early 2016 — some have been underpaid, some overpaid and others not paid at all, sometimes for months at a time.And the problems persist, despite the hiring of hundreds of pay specialists to work through a backlog of system errors.The public service pay centre was still dealing with a backlog of about 202,000 complaints as of Dec. 24, down from 214,000 pay transactions that went beyond normal workload in November.In response to an order paper question from Conservative MP Kerry Diotte, Steven MacKinnon, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of public services, told the Commons that as of Dec. 5, an estimated 98,249 individuals potentially owed the government money as a result of an overpayment.MacKinnon also reported the median value of total overpayment balances was $1,383.But MacKinnon said the government could not say how many workers were underpaid and would not reveal the highest overpayments and underpayments."The government is not in a position to provide the answer regarding underpayments as the system cannot automatically calculate such transactions," MacKinnon said in his statement to the Commons."To protect the privacy of the affected government employee, the highest overpayment value will not be reported."MacKinnon stressed that the number of overpayments reported included what he called true overpayments and administrative overpayments.He defined true overpayments as pay received by employees that they were not entitled to, while administrative overpayments included things like acting pay provided when an employee worked in a higher classification.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2020. The Canadian Press

Toronto opens hotline for passengers on flight with Canada's first coronavirus patient

Toronto opens hotline for passengers on flight with Canada's first coronavirus patientPublic health officials have set up a hotline for passengers who travelled alongside the man with Canada's first confirmed case of coronavirus on a flight from China to Toronto earlier this month. The patient's wife is also presumed to be carrying the illness, though her case has not yet been confirmed by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. China Southern Airlines flight CZ311 landed in Toronto from Guangzhou, China on Wednesday, Jan. 22.Health officials previously said they were reaching out to passengers who sat within two metres of the couple, but they are now offering assistance to all passengers on the flight through the hotline.Passengers of that flight with questions or concerns are asked to call 416-338-7600.Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, says her staff has been working "around the clock" to identify anyone who may have come into contact with the couple since the man's case was first reported this past weekend."I'm pleased to share that this process is well-underway and we have reached out and heard back from the vast majority of these individuals," she said in a statement."This is very positive news given the short timeline and it demonstrates that the system is working well."The man with the confirmed case is in stable condition at Sunnybrook Hospital, while his wife is at home in self-isolation.Ontario clears 8 patientsOntario health officials have also cleared more patients suspected of carrying the new strain of coronavirus, lowering the number of cases being investigated in the province from 19 to 11.Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's associate chief medical officer, said Monday that the "vast majority" of the 19 people tested were in hospital under "appropriate" isolation measures.British Columbia identified the country's third presumptive case on Tuesday.Ontario said its "robust detection protocols" mean that most people being tested are unlikely to be carrying the coronavirus, which has symptoms similar to other respiratory infections.Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses ranging from the common cold to severe diseases such as SARS.The new strain of coronavirus was identified by Chinese health officials on Dec. 31, 2019. It is believed to have originated from a food market in Wuhan, a city of more than 11 million people currently under quarantine.At least 106 people have died of the virus in China, alongside another 4,515 confirmed cases.

Suspect in Whitehorse armed robberies charged after allegedly assaulting N.W.T. police

Suspect in Whitehorse armed robberies charged after allegedly assaulting N.W.T. policeA suspect in a string of armed robberies in Whitehorse earlier this month allegedly assaulted RCMP officers while in custody in Inuvik, N.W.T., say RCMP.Corey Cardinal, along with Timothy McKay, were arrested in Inuvik last week in connection with armed robberies and a break and enter on Jan. 18. Police said no firearms were involved in the robberies, but in one incident, a suspect allegedly held a knife.On Jan. 19, Inuvik RCMP were told a suspect in the Whitehorse robberies could be in the Inuvik area, and that he was believed to be with an accomplice. That day McKay, the alleged accomplice, was arrested, said N.W.T. RCMP.Two days later, Inuvik police found Cardinal at a residence in Inuvik, arrested him, and took him to the Inuvik detachment cells. While in the cells, Cardinal became "aggressive," said N.W.T. RCMP in a news release on Tuesday. "During this time, RCMP members were assaulted and received non-life-threatening injuries," reads the release.Suspects back in WhitehorseCardinal has been charged with two counts of assaulting a peace officer causing bodily harm, two counts of assaulting a peace officer, one count of resisting arrest and one count of breach of probation order.He had previously been charged with two counts of armed robbery, one count of break and enter and breach of probation charges in connection to the alleged robberies in Whitehorse. McKay was charged last week with two counts of armed robbery; one count of break, enter and theft; uttering threats and possessing a weapon. McKay also faces breach of probation charges.N.W.T. RCMP say Cardinal and McKay were arrested on a warrant issued by Yukon RCMP, and both have been taken back to Whitehorse.

Indigenous group seeks big funding boost for guardians to help protect lands

Indigenous group seeks big funding boost for guardians to help protect landsAn Indigenous organization is asking for a big funding boost from the federal government to put more people on the land who observe and report on changes to the environment.The Indigenous Guardians program trains and equips local band members to watch over their traditional lands and protected areas.It got about $6 million for a pilot project in 2017, and the Indigenous Leadership Initiative is asking for $500 million over five years.It has created more than 60 aboriginal groups from coast to coast that monitor changes to land and water and work with scientists to build up knowledge.Such groups are built into the creation of new national parks and protected areas.Indigenous participation is considered crucial to Canada meeting conservation goals of 25 per cent of its land area by 2025.A report concluded every dollar spent generated more than two dollars in social returns.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2020The Canadian Press

Tuesday 28th of January 2020 07:13:22

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