When hospitals become home: Children put up in wards when both parents have COVID

A spokesperson from the Toronto Children’s Aid Society is urging parents to have a list of alternative caregivers for their children in case both parents end up in hospital for treatment for COVID-19.



continues to surge across Canada, the virus has left some children in a surprising and “really difficult” predicament.

With both parents or caregivers hospitalized by the coronavirus and no relatives or friends to look after them, they’ve had to be put up in hospital as a sort of last-ditch foster home.

It hasn’t happened often but the unusual scenario underscores how spread within households amid stay-at-home orders is playing a key role in fuelling the pandemic. With a heavy impact on certain families.

“That’s something we’re really struggling with,” said Dr. Julia Orkin, a SickKids physician who liaises with community hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area.

“Two parents have to be admitted to hospital, and there’s no caregiver for the child,” she said. “We have seen that on a handful of occasions and that’s been really, really difficult for all teams involved.”

The result in some instances is “families as a whole being admitted to hospital,” said Orkin.

Dr. Michael Warner, intensive care unit head at Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital, said he hasn’t come across that situation himself, but has heard of it happening at a handful of other GTA hospitals.

Since the pandemic began early last year, Toronto’s Children’s Aid Society has periodically gotten involved when all of a family’s caregivers have fallen ill and “there does not appear to be other caregivers for their children,” said Alicia Pereira, an agency spokeswoman.

Just in the last six months, it has had half a dozen such cases, she said, though in most of those instances the society was able to find a friend or relative to act as a guardian.

“In all situations, Toronto CAS works to keep children within their own communities,” said Pereira. “Where we can, we work with caregivers either prior to or during the hospitalization to make plans for their children.”

She said the agency urges parents to prepare for the possibility that COVID-19 could leave them unable to look after their kids.

That includes developing an emergency plan and involving the children to discuss it where appropriate. Some teenagers could provide care for young siblings if needed, said Pereira.

Parents should also have ready a list of alternative caregivers that could be easily accessed by hospital staff or child welfare workers, and instructions for any special needs of the kids, she said.

“It is suggested to prepare a bag for your children, packed with all the things they would need if they go to a caregiver’s home,” Pereira added.

It would seem like an unusual precaution, but Ontario has seen as many as 2,000 or more people at a time in hospital with COVID-19 during the latest wave of infection, and a generally younger demographic than in the two previous spikes.

With lockdowns curbing some other types of transmission, households became “one of the main sources of spread,” said

a study posted

last October by scientists with Public Health Ontario and the University of Toronto.

The researchers identified just over 26,000 people who had tested positive by the end of last July and lived in a private home. Of those, the virus had spread to at least one other member of the household in almost 8,000, or 30 per cent, of the cases.

At Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, staff have looked after entire families seriously ill with COVID, said Dr. Gordon Rubenfeld, chief of the hospital’s trauma, emergency and critical care program.

“It’s quite strange because of the way the patients are being moved around the province,” he said. “Some (family members) will be in separate places.”

Among other factors, people who lived in neighbourhoods with above-average numbers of residents in each home were more like to see such secondary spread, the study concluded.

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Federal government accused of climate hypocrisy, taken to court over greenhouse gas exemptions

OTTAWA — The Liberal government is being accused of undermining a climate treaty it took public credit for helping get passed by giving exemptions to some manufacturers who use a highly destructive greenhouse gas.

Soprema, a manufacturer headquartered in France, has filed a court case against the government over the exemptions. Honeywell, another international firm, has also been protesting the exemptions, arguing the government is effectively rewarding companies that haven’t put in the work to reduce emissions.

In particular, the companies are protesting an exemption handed to their competitor DuPont to continue producing and importing thermal insulation products that use hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), described by environmental organizations as a “super greenhouse gas” with a global warming impact more than a thousand times worse than carbon dioxide.

Both the federal government and DuPont argue the court case is without merit, and say the exemption permit was lawfully given out to allow DuPont more time to comply with the HFC regulation, which took effect Jan. 1. Other companies including Owens Corning were later given exemptions and are the subject of other court filings by Soprema.

The issue may be obscure to the general public, but it has been percolating for months as the companies protest to Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Honeywell asserts that the permits given out have the potential to add 1.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions.

“This exemption rewards the one company — again, DuPont — who seemingly chose to purposefully avoid making the necessary investments and preparations to meet its environmental stewardship responsibility,” Honeywell and Soprema said in a joint letter to Trudeau’s office in December. “It sets a dangerous precedent for industry participants that they may ignore their responsibility to comply with (the environment department’s) climate regulations.”

The companies also point to the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, a 2016 treaty to reduce HFC use that Canada helped draft and get passed.

“Canada played a leadership role internationally in proposing and contributing to the adoption of the Kigali Amendment to phase down HFCs,” says the federal government’s website on the Montreal Protocol. “Subsequently, Canada was among the first countries to ratify the Kigali Amendment and was active in encouraging others to do the same. Partly thanks to Canada’s efforts, by November 2017, a sufficient number of countries had ratified the Kigali Amendment to ensure its entry into force on January 1st, 2019.”

Canada enacted a regulation to ban HFCs in certain products as of Jan. 1, 2021, requiring companies to find climate-friendly alternatives. In court documents, Soprema says it was ready to comply, but then it was “informed of a rumour” in August 2020 that exemptions were being handed out. It eventually confirmed DuPont products were getting a two-year “essential purpose” permit that exempted them from the ban.

“By allowing the Competitor to continue using HFCs, the Minister has rendered a decision which has unreasonable and deplorable consequences,” Soprema says in its March 15 Federal Court filing, translated from French.

Soprema argues the exemption “violates Canada’s international obligations under the Protocol,” “thwarts the deployment of environmentally and health-friendly alternatives,” and “disadvantages and undermines companies that have invested the necessary efforts and funds to comply with the Regulations and enable Canada to respect its international commitments.”

Soprema also argues the government didn’t meet its own criteria in handing out the “essential purpose” permits, making them illegal. It says companies had three years to prepare for the regulation, and Soprema’s own efforts show it “did not involve any major technological revolution or investments of a magnitude that could jeopardize the survival of enterprises.”

The filing asks the Federal Court to declare the permits illegal and order them cancelled. The filing also seeks a wide range of documents to shed light on how the decision was made.

Environment and Climate Change Canada, the federal department, said the government is still meeting its obligations for reducing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, and said the Jan. 1 regulation actually exceeds those obligations.

“The objective of the essential purpose permit provision is to provide flexibility in recognition of the challenges that some companies in a specific sector may face in developing and producing compliant products,” a department spokesperson said in an email. “ECCC expects applicants to demonstrate that efforts are being made to find an alternative including mitigation measures to reduce the environmental impact if possible.”

DuPont told the National Post it will fight the Soprema application in court.

“DuPont holds a permit that was issued in accordance with federal legislation, which expressly provides for the issuance of such permits,” the company said in a statement. “Permits have also been provided to other market participants. DuPont intends to vigorously oppose Soprema’s application in Federal Court, which is without merit.”

DuPont said it has a program to phase out HFCs, and the permits provide them with the time for research, securing their supply chain, and for transitioning their manufacturing sites.

Laura Reinhard, a Honeywell vice president and general manager, said Honeywell has been working on phasing out HFCs for many years now, and was caught by surprise when the exemptions were issued because manufacturers had been given plenty of time to get in compliance.

She said this regulation should have been a good news story for Canada, but now that’s been flipped.

“Canada did a really tremendous job, in my view, getting out there in front and setting regulations that were really going to help with this crisis we have on climate change,” Reinhard said. “This exemption that they gave to one very large customer, and then it morphed into three or four players, it really undermined a lot of the work that (Canada) did. And now it’s set the industry back and on pause.”

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

After criticism over Bill C-10, Liberals vow to make it clear CRTC won't regulate social media posts

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault speaks via videoconference during question period in the House of Commons Monday, May 3, 2021.

The Liberal government is promising to change broadcasting Bill C-10 following a week of controversy that an amendment to the legislation infringes Canadians’ rights to free expression.

Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said a new amendment would make it “crystal clear” that social media posts by Canadians would not be subject to regulation by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Guilbeault said the government wants “to make sure that the content that people upload on social media won’t be considered as programming under the [Broadcasting Act] and that it won’t be regulated by the CRTC.”

Critics who had sounded the alarm over the bill expressed caution over Guilbeault’s move.

University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist said Guilbeault’s announcement Monday came after the minister had been arguing the amended bill did not affect user-generated content.

He said Guilbeault was now acknowledging “what was obvious, namely that government changes resulted in regulating the content of millions of Canadians. Many will be waiting to see what is proposed this time as the government tries to patch up a deeply flawed bill.”

On April 23, the Heritage committee removed an exemption for user-generated content from C-10, the bill that updates the Broadcasting Act and sets up the CRTC to begin regulating online companies like Netflix.

Experts feared the exemption would bring online posts by Canadians, including video posts on social media like YouTube and TikTok, under the CRTC’s authority.

Earlier Monday, Liberal MPs on the Heritage committee agreed to send Bill C-10 back to the justice minister for a second review of the bill’s compliance with charter rights, despite shutting down debate on that motion Friday.

Parliamentary secretary Julie Dabrusin told reporters Monday the government still believed the bill didn’t infringe free expression rights. “There’s no change on the view that we’re not concerned about the freedom of expression aspect. It’s just if it provides greater comfort to get the charter review, then so be it, get the charter review,” Dabrusin said.

On Friday, a Conservative motion in the Heritage committee asked to send the bill back to the justice minister to issue an updated “charter statement.” Charter statements are issued by the justice minister and review the impact government bills could have under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The initial charter statement for C-10 specifically cited the exemption for user-generated content that was removed.

Conservative MP Rachael Harder called for the committee’s clause-by-clause consideration of the bill to be suspended until after it had received an updated charter statement and until the heritage and justice ministers appeared at committee to answer questions about the amended bill.

The Liberals on the committee, backed by the NDP, voted Friday to shut down that debate. Over the weekend, NDP MP Heather McPherson defended the amendment in a TV appearance, saying C-10 had other safeguards protecting Canadians.

But then at Monday’s Heritage committee meeting, McPherson proposed an amendment to the Conservative motion, calling for the charter review and minister’s committee appearances to happen within 10 days.

Dabrusin proposed the committee wait until the committee had finalized amendments to the bill — more than 100 have been proposed by the various parties — before it sent it to the minister. “A charter review halfway through is not a proper charter review,” she said.

The committee didn’t vote on the motion or the Dabrusin’s amendment Monday. That vote is set to happen when it meets again on Friday afternoon, though Dabrusin indicated the government wanted to agree on a compromise before then.  “I would suggest that we actually take some time, we have until Friday, to talk among the parties and see if we can arrange for resolution,” she said.

Critics of the legislation were not convinced the latest moves would fully address their concerns.

“At this point anything that provides for a pause and sober reflection is welcome,” former CRTC commissioner Peter Menzies said in an email. “But if all that comes out of it is deflection and further name-calling, it won’t help. The problems with C-10 are fundamental.”

Geist, who has said the best course of action would be to scrap the bill and start over, said the committee should have moved to the charter statement immediately.

“The solution lies in stopping [clause-by-clause] review until an updated assessment can be conducted and the responsible ministers can respond to questions about the changes,” Geist wrote in an email.

He added “it’s hard to understand why the Liberals instead chose to delay moving rapidly to a charter review.”

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

When a Canadian discovery 'resurrected' thousands from the dead

The 1630 painting The Vision of Ezekiel, which depicts the Biblical account of a valley of bones being resurrected into living beings. Physicians in the 1920s would reference Ezekiel in describing the effects of insulin.

By the early 1920s, James Havens, a Kodak executive living in upstate New York, had known his son mostly as an invalid. After a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes at age 15, Jim Jr. had entered adulthood as an emaciated skeleton hovering in and out of coma.

After years of desperately seeking out cures, Havens began hearing rumours of a team of Canadian doctors who were pioneering a “miracle” treatment for diabetes. Pulling on his Canadian contacts in the photography industry, Havens was able to secure several vials of the new treatment — the first ever shipped to the United States — just as his increasingly delirious son began to take a turn for the worst. In rare moments of clarity, the young Havens would reportedly wake up just enough to beg his doctors for death.

The effects of the experimental treatment were not instantaneous, but after some initial hiccups over dosage amounts, the fog lifted from Jim Jr.’s mind, he regained strength and was beginning to walk again. Soon, the man nobody had expected to live past adolescence was making marriage plans, and he would ultimately become a famed woodblock artist with pieces hanging in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“The restoration of this patient to his present state of health is an achievement difficult to record in temperate language,” wrote Havens’ doctor J.R. Williams. “Few recoveries from impending death more dramatic than this have ever been witnessed by a physician.”

 Jim Havens as an adult, decades beyond the point at which he had been expected to live.

This year marks the 100


anniversary of the discovery of insulin by a Canadian team led by Frederick Banting. Insulin is critical to the wellbeing of millions of diabetics around the world, but often forgotten is the cinematic drama of the moment it came to the world. For millennia, the world’s diabetics had been doomed to short, tragic lives filled with fear and suffering. And then, in an instant, they were granted futures. This is the story of how a Canadian discovery caused thousands of people around the world to rise from their death beds.

Diabetes occurs when the human body becomes unable to regulate blood sugar. A body coursing with over-sugared blood then becomes subject to a cascade of organ failures, including blindness, kidney failure and limbs damaged to the point of amputation. It’s for this reason that diabetics were once referred to as “sugar-poisoned.”

The most potent form of the disease is “type one” or childhood diabetes, which afflicts

one in every 300 Canadian children under the age of 19

. It’s a chronic illness that can shorten life expectancy, but if properly managed all the worst complications can be avoided. Neil Young is probably the most famous Canadian with juvenile diabetes, although diabetics are also in the NHL and on the Canadian Olympic team.

But before the 1920s, a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes was regarded with the same horror as late-stage pancreatic cancer: Medical interventions could buy the patient a few more years of life, but a slow and excruciating death was basically inevitable.

Diabetics were placed on what was known as the Allen Diet. It was essentially medically supervised starvation; patients were given as little as 200 calories a day to avoid overwhelming their bloodstream. Most patients lasted only a matter of months before slipping into comas and dying.

When Frederick Banting took up the study of diabetes as a young doctor fresh from the First World War, the typical diabetic was a gravely thin shut-in barely able to walk.

At the time, it was already known that diabetes was caused by a malfunction of the pancreas. But it wasn’t as simple as cutting open a healthy pancreas and discovering that it regulated blood sugar through the production of insulin. The pancreas is also filled with digestive juices that destroyed insulin before it could it could be isolated by medical researchers.

Banting’s innovation was to take the pancreas’ of dogs and surgically restrict their ability to produce digestive enzymes. The result, which Banting would soon put into large-scale production using cattle, was that the dog’s pancreas was now excreting a pure liquid that, when injected into the human bloodstream, could offset the effects of diabetes.

 Frederick Banting (left) performing surgery on a dog in this circa 1921 photo.

It was Toronto that would see the first “resurrections” from insulin. Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Hughes shared Jim Havens’ experience in being brought back from the brink of death. “To think that I’ll be leading a normal, healthy existence is beyond all comprehension,” she wrote of insulin. “Oh, it is simply too wonderful for words this stuff”

Sickly children who had vanished from sight within the walls of their home were now seen walking confidently to school. Elsie Needham was raised from a diabetic coma in her hospital bed at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. Husbands carried their gray, 76-pound wives into Banting’s office seeking the miracle treatment, and returned weeks later with spouses restored to perfect health.

“By Christmas of 1922, I had witnessed so many near resurrections that I realized I was seeing enacted before my very eyes Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones,” Elliott Joslin, who pioneered insulin treatment in the United States, would write later.

 A diabetic girl brought back from the edge of starvation by insulin.

All of this was happening in an era not accustomed to medical miracles. Polio, measles and rubella still surged unchecked through the world’s children. At the time, the only widespread treatments for cancer were disfiguring and mostly ineffective surgeries.

What’s more, the planet had just been clobbered with the deadliest pandemic in human history. Unlike COVID-19, the 1919 Spanish Flu had not been accompanied by daily case counts, reams of peer-reviewed data or the near-immediate turnaround of a vaccine. Instead, whole families and settlements around the world were wiped out by a disease whose character was never fully understood.

And yet, seemingly out of the blue, a clear Canadian serum was bringing people back from the dead.

“Insulin worked wonders, near-miracles, time after time,” wrote the Canadian medical historian Michael Bliss, whose 1982 book The Discovery of Insulin remains the best chronicle of insulin’s early days.

Banting famously had an artistic bent; He was a talented painter and his diaries explode with narrative richness. But many of the other pioneers of insulin treatment were staid, analytical men not inclined to feats of flowery rhetoric.

 The Lab, a painting by Frederick Banting.

Nevertheless, in going through their journals Bliss found that the wonders of insulin could crack the visage of even the most hardened physician. “This Insulin effect is as striking and the results as brilliant as anything I have ever seen in medicine or surgery,” reads an early 1920s entry by Rollin Woodyatt, a physician Bliss singled out in particular for his otherwise dry approach to medical writing.

The discovery of insulin has been called the first great North American medical discovery. Banting was the

first non-European recipient of the Nobel Prize for Medicine

, an award that is now dominated by U.S. researchers. His miracle was the harbinger of a century that would see human life dramatically changed by the discoveries made in Canadian and U.S. laboratories. The children resurrected by insulin would live to see a polio vaccine, organ transplants, the invention of the MRI, and the eradication of smallpox.

 One of Frederick Banting’s first patients, Teddy Ryder. On the left is a severely emaciated Ryder as he enters what were expected to be the final stages of his disease. On the right, Ryder after beginning insulin treatment.

Yet, while these and other discoveries saved the lives of millions, few of them have carried the supernatural aura that insulin bore at its inception.

One of the only exceptions occurred in the late 1990s with the introduction of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART). Now known as the “drug cocktail,” it instantly transformed the death sentence of AIDS into a chronic condition much like diabetes. And just like the discovery of insulin, the first months of HAART also saw waves of emaciated near-death patients arise from their deathbeds and face a future where they could see old age. Doctors around the world spoke of a “Lazarus effect” as whole wards of dying AIDS patients began walking out of the hospital under their own power.

“The effect was so profound that it’s hard, even now, to judge,” wrote the AIDS physician Howard Grossman in 2008. Grossman specifically remembered one of his patients, John, who went from making funeral preparations to taking up scuba diving in the course of year.

That medical miracle, too, was

thanks to a Canadian


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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Seize on pandemic-fuelled enthusiasm for outdoors to expand protected wilderness, former parks chief urges

A hiker looks at Lake O’Hara, located in Yoho National Park, in this undated handout image.

EDMONTON — A former Parks Canada head says governments should look to expand protected wilderness in Canada, seizing on the enthusiasm for the outdoors that has emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think it does help alleviate the potential impacts on existing parks and I think it creates new opportunities for people to connect with nature,” said Alan Latourelle, who headed the federal agency between 2002 and 2015. “We have a base of public support that we should seize at this time.”

The pressures of urban sprawl makes it more difficult to protect spaces in urban areas, and, particularly in the north, competing land uses — mainly the desire for resource extraction — pose a challenge for additional protected spaces, said Latourelle.

“I think we’re the last generation that has the opportunity to make a significant expansion of our parks program,” he said.

In recent weeks, Alberta’s government has moved to add user fees to some of its protected areas, citing the conservation needs from increased visitors seeking to get out of the city. This includes a $90 annual pass for Kananaskis Country — an area just west of Calgary — and $30 fees for random camping on Crown lands.

“Kananaskis has seen a dramatic increase in vehicle traffic and visitors over the past several years, and this is putting significant pressure on wildlife, land, facilities, services and on public safety,” said Jason Nixon, the environment minister, in a news release announcing the changes.

Critics have slammed the plan, questioning whether or not the money will in fact be reinvested in parks and the New Democrat opposition has questioned the wisdom of adding more costs for families amidst economic uncertainty.

Megan Youdelis, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Guelph who studies conservation, pointed out that fees are already high, especially for National Parks, where the Discovery Pass gives access to 80 parks, but at the cost of $140.

“The fees are already fairly steep in a lot of parts, especially the mountain parks,” said Youdelis. “Raising fees obviously would make it even more of a middle- to upper-class luxury than it already is.”

But, the affair also raises larger questions of how best to protect wild areas, whether that’s done via user fees that fund maintenance and education programs or limiting visitors, or expanding protected areas so there’s less impact on each.

“The underlying philosophy for me is the worst possible conservation strategy you could have is to keep people away from parks,” said Latourelle. “The more people experience the parks, develop this deep connection and support for parks, that’s critical for the long term.”

While Alberta’s the example in the news now, parks systems elsewhere in the country have grappled with similar issues. Parks Canada has had to deal with influxes of visitors and parking issues at Lake Louise. British Columbia limited visitors to B.C. Parks last year, which CBC News reported had led to people visiting more remote areas, which in turn led to more search and rescue operations and to overuse of less strenuously maintained areas.

“The visitation is always an issue and it’s always very public, but again, if it’s well managed, if you had a strong public-education program and strong infrastructure … then you can minimize the impacts of the visitation,” said Latourelle.

That means good infrastructure like trails, so that people don’t bushwhack; bathrooms and garbage cans so human and dog waste isn’t left on the trails; and zoning plans that protect wildlife corridors even


of technically protected areas, Latourelle said. You can also cap visitation to some areas.

“A lot of people are looking for more nature-based experiences right now, especially since we’re all stuck in lockdown,” said Youdelis.

Ian Urquhart, the conservation director at the Alberta Wilderness Association, cautioned that governments jumping to policy decisions should think twice about doing so based on the visitation numbers from 2020 — it was an atypical year, even though it really did stress landscapes and services.

“If you’re trying to develop good policy, it’s not the best idea to use 2020, because it was exceptional,” he said.

And, of course, expanding protected areas has the simple effect of spreading people out over more area. It would be “fantastic,” said Youdelis, adding that a good way to go about it would be to engage local Indigenous nations, perhaps through the Indigenous Guardians program a federal pilot project giving Indigenous groups stewardship over lands.

“But it would definitely need to make sure not to replicate the colonial legacy of parks,” she said. “Conventional parks … have evicted Indigenous nations, suppressed their land management practices that have contributed to conserving the spaces for thousands of years.”

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Rights activists skeptical as Canadian fashion brands carefully deny using China forced labour

People rally outside the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., February 19, 2021.

It’s been a tough few months for some of the world’s top apparel brands.

After repudiating cotton allegedly produced with forced labour from China’s Uyghur minority, firms like Nike, Adidas and H&M have faced a

sharp backlash

in the country, imperilling their access to the lucrative market.

Canada’s leading clothing brands, on the other hand, are not exactly sticking their necks out on the issue.

Some told the National Post recently they do not source or have taken steps to avoid sourcing cotton made with forced labour in the Xinjiang region, but only one has joined an

international association

of manufacturers addressing the issue. None have signed a

human-rights consortium

‘s pledge to take verifiable action in the area.

Companies surveyed by the Post offered broad statements of principle on the topic, but few details about their supply chains in China, or criticism of the country for allegedly coercing Uyghurs into textile work.

One Canadian firm with a growing presence in the China market, Vancouver-based Lululemon Athletica, did not respond to repeated queries about where ingredients for its products originate.

Mehmet Tohti, a Uyghur-Canadian activist, said he takes Canadian manufacturers’ assurances about the issue with a grain of salt.

“Many companies are deeply afraid to talk openly,” said Tohti, citing the recent blacklisting of Western brands in China. “Secondly, there is a huge benefit from forced labour for a company, because you can get the products cheap.”

No Canadian manufacturer has signed a

“call to action”

developed by the Coalition to End Forced Labor in the Uyghur Region, noted Lori Waller of Above Ground, an Ottawa-based labour-rights group. The manifesto requires brands to eschew any products made in Xinjiang or other workplaces that exploit Uyghur workers.

“It’s really not enough to simply ask suppliers to sign statements that none of their products contain this,” she said. “You need to do some work to verify.”

Meanwhile, little action appears to have flowed from a new

set of federal rules

designed to counter the use of forced labour in Xinjiang and elsewhere, federal officials indicate.

Human rights groups, the United Nations, journalists and others have documented a broad campaign of repression against the Muslim Uyghurs, including a network of re-education camps believed to hold a million or more people.

Amid reports of forced sterilization and rape in the camps, Canada’s House of Commons, the U.S. and other nations have labeled the actions genocide.

There is also growing evidence that Uyghurs are being compelled to work for meagre pay in factories and in the Xinjiang fields and mills that produce 20 per cent of the world’s cotton. One in five clothing items sold in the West includes such textile, the Uyghur forced-labour coalition estimates.

The Post asked six of Canada’s best-known clothing brands if they had investigated whether their supply chains involved forced labour in China, whether they had concerns on that front and if they were removing any suppliers involved in such work in Xinjiang.

Most cited codes of conduct and other policies that insist on fair labour practices from their suppliers. Few answered the questions directly; one not at all.

The media-relations office at Lululemon, which already has 50 yoga-wear stores in China and has said it wants to expand there, failed to respond to five emailed requests for comment.

Others were somewhat more forthcoming.

Canada Goose, whose CEO recently said China is an “increasingly crucial” market for the parka manufacturer, requires all of its suppliers, “no matter where they are in the world,” to sign a supplier code of conduct barring use of forced labour, the firm said through an outside public-relations firm. The statement did not mention Xinjiang.

Roots, which has 26 “partner-operated” stores in China and two in Hong Kong, said it does not source “any product directly from the Xinjiang” and requires direct suppliers to certify an absence of forced labour, said spokeswoman Kristen Davies

. Meanwhile, it continues to “actively review” its supply chain.

Joe Fresh, the cheap-chic fashion line owned by Loblaws, “reached out to vendors for a commitment that they will not use cotton from the Xinjiang region,” said Loblaws spokeswoman Catherine Thomas.

Aritzia “does not manufacture in China’s Xinjiang region and is in full compliance with all trade regulations,” said vice president Renee Smith-Valade. It is also the only one of the companies that belongs to the

Better Cotton Initiative

, a non-profit that has spoken out about forced-labour in Xinjiang.

Hudson’s Bay, which has several private-label clothing brands, “does not use factories in, or source cotton from, Xinjiang,” stated spokeswoman Tiffany Bourre.

But Penelope Kyritsis of the Washington, D.C.-based

Workers Rights Consortium

said statements like those of the Canadian companies are little more than rhetoric until they sign on to something like the call to action and vigorously verify their commitments.

“So I couldn’t tell you with satisfaction that their supply chains are free of Uyghur forced labour,” she said.

The new federal regulations implemented last July bar imports of products made wholly or in part from forced labour. They require companies that do business in Xinjiang and get help from the government’s Trade Commissioner to sign a Xinjiang integrity declaration. And they ban exports that could be used in human rights abuses, like Beijing’s omnipresent surveillance of Uyghurs.

Asked repeatedly if any imports have so far been banned, officials from Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said only that the government is working on the issue.

CBSA is responsible for intervening based on research conducted by Employment and Social Development Canada, but it’s not an easy task, said agency spokeswoman Jacquie Callin.

“There is no visual clue for a Border Services officer to understand the labour standards by which a particular import was produced,” she said. “It takes research, coordination and diligence amongst all stakeholders to establish reliable and actionable sources of information.”

But Waller said there is much that Canada could do now, primarily by making use of work already done by the United States: It has

barred numerous Chinese products

from entering the U.S. because of suspected involvement of forced labour, including a blanket ban on cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang.

“From everything that we’re hearing so far, it’s still very much in the stage of figuring out how to enforce it,” said Waller about Ottawa’s efforts.

Unless Canada quickly follows the American lead, it risks being used as a “backdoor” by China for getting banned forced-labour products into the U.S., warned Tohti.

One Canadian company has signed the Xinjiang integrity declaration and others are “conducting their due diligence” before signing, though none can be identified for commercial-confidentiality reasons, said a GAC spokesman.

As for rejecting export permits for products that could be used in rights abuses, department officials said only that aggregate information on various types of permit denials is contained in the annual report on Export of Military Goods to be tabled May 31.

But that document offers almost no information on why permits are denied, and none on the export product itself.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Rights beyond borders: Big questions were triggered when an Indigenous American shot an elk in Canada

It was never really about the 600-pound cow-elk, killed near the frosty banks of the Slocan River near Castlegar, B.C., some 35 kilometres north of the U.S. border. Richard Desautel knew that before he pulled the trigger.

“I was walking with my ancestors,” he said.

“It’s an area where my ancestors hunted for nigh-on to nigh-on centuries ago. For me to go back in my homeland where my ancestors hunted was an uplifting experience in my heart that I can’t really describe. It just runs chills up and down me,” said Desautel, who is a U.S. citizen and member of the Lakes Tribe in Washington state.

Bagging the elk on Oct. 14, 2010, did not just fill him with awe and his truck with ceremonial meat that he later shared with his community back on his reserve. Desautel was stalking much bigger quarry during his two-week hunting trip across the border.

His aim was true.

By design, it triggered a charge under the provincial wildlife act and a Constitutional challenge that was argued for more than a decade.

“Pulling the trigger was the easy part,” Desautel said.

His claim, widely supported by First Nations groups, shot fear through federal and provincial governments: What if the Supreme Court of Canada decided that Constitutionally protected Aboriginal rights extend to Indigenous people outside of Canada?

The federal government warned of the “potentially significant effect” of “an Indigenous collective, resident entirely in the United States, being entitled to assert the full range of aboriginal rights in Canada, including the right to limited and scarce resources”; B.C. said it would lead “foreign nationals” to claim “Canadian soil, too”; Quebec added another fear — it would help gangsters exploit the Canada-U.S. border.

Other provinces and territories that share a border with the United States — Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Yukon — were also concerned enough to join the fight.

Last week, they all lost.

It was the first Supreme Court decision to consider whether Aboriginal rights in Canada extend to Indigenous people outside the country and, following Desautel’s victory, no one is certain what it might mean. That’s the thing about Constitutional challenges, it is hard to predict how and where they might be applied.

For First Nations, big things are expected.

“I lift up Richard Desautel and the entire Sinixt Nation as this decision will impact Indigenous peoples whose territories span international borders,” Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said. “It’s incumbent now on all governments and jurisdictions to work together with First Nations and Indigenous peoples to bring life to the decision in ways that respect and uphold Indigenous and constitutionally protected rights across international borders.”

Murray Rankin, B.C.’s minister of Indigenous relations and reconciliation, declined to say if the province stands by its dire warnings expressed in court. He said the government is studying the decision.

“It will take time to examine the ruling in detail and determine the effect on provincial policies going forward,” Rankin said. “This decision contributes to our understanding of Aboriginal law in Canada, and it will help guide the province as we continue our work together with Indigenous peoples.”

That’s a lot from a single elk.

After Desautel shot and quartered the elk back in 2010, he and his wife lugged the meat to his pick-up truck, slipping and sliding on the frosty hills. It took them several trips, back and forth. Then he reported the kill to conservation officers and waited for their response. Provincial wildlife officers arrived at their campsite several days later — “It took them a while to find us,” he said — and ticketed him for hunting without a license and hunting big game while not a resident of B.C., just as he had hoped.

In provincial court, he admitted to each of the acts and claimed a single defence: he was exercising his Aboriginal right to hunt in the traditional territory of his Sinixt ancestors. That right, he declared, is protected by the Constitution of Canada.

Canada’s courts have established how to determine Aboriginal hunting, fishing and gathering rights in their normal course. They look at what the First Nations group was doing at the time of its first contact with European settlers, where it was doing it, and whether it has continued to do it in some fashion.

These considerations are at the heart of settling many of the country’s First Nations’ resource disputes, from the first Supreme Court case on the matter after the enactment of the Constitution Act, to recent disputes over lobster fishing in Nova Scotia.

What was different this time was the border.

Desautel wasn’t Canadian, he didn’t live in Canada, and the tribe he was a member of wasn’t located in Canada; his reserve doesn’t straddle or even abut the border.

The territory his ancestors once hunted on did, though. The traditional territory of the Sinixt spanned what became the international border between B.C. and Washington state.

Desautel is a member of the Lakes Tribe of the Colville Confederated Tribes (CCT) in Washington. The Colville Reservation’s northern boundary ends in a line parallel to the border, but is 60 kilometres south of it. It is a union of 12 Indigenous groups, including the Lakes Tribe, named after B.C.’s Arrow Lakes. They are also known as the Sinixt.

 It was never really about the elk.

As the Lakes’ name suggests, in pre-Colonial times, the Sinixt traditional territory stretched north, to beyond present-day Revelstoke.

They didn’t stay there. In the latter half of the 19th century, the Sinixt gradually moved to the southern portion of their territory that was in the United States. There was periodic hunting north of the border until 1930, despite it being outlawed by the province.

At Desautel’s original trial on his hunting charges, court heard that the small band of Sinixt remaining in Canada dwindled, and after the death of the last member on the government’s rolls in 1956, the Arrow Lakes Band was deemed extinct and its reserve lands reverted to the provincial government.

The original judge hearing the charges said the evidence was clear: “There is no dispute that Mr. Desautel was hunting well within the traditional territory of the Sinixt. There is also no serious dispute that wherever else Sinixt members may now live, they exist today as a group known as the Lakes Tribe of the CCT, and of course, Mr. Desautel is a member of the Lakes Tribe.”

Desautel was acquitted, but that didn’t end it.

The B.C. government appealed and appealed, and the case inevitably ended at the top court.

Members of the Lakes in the U.S. had periodically tested the idea its people retained rights in the north. Prior to Desautel’s challenge, the closest Canadian courts came to considering whether Indigenous people outside Canada had Aboriginal rights in Canada came from Sinixt claims.

In 1991, a U.S. member was convicted in B.C. of cultivating cannabis and was ordered deported. He argued his Aboriginal rights didn’t allow that. The Federal Court sent it back for an immigration hearing without a substantive ruling on the bigger issue. In 1994, another U.S.-born Sinixt crossed into Canada to visit a hereditary chief. He didn’t report to Canadian border officials and was arrested. His defence of exercising his Aboriginal right to travel within his territory was rejected by provincial court in B.C., but it didn’t escalate to the Supreme Court.

Legal scholars and government officials had been eyeing the Desautel case for years.

In 2018, it was a featured discussion at the annual conference of the Canadian Council on International Law, which debates international legal problems. There, a lawyer for the B.C. attorney general told scholars the case “constitutes a precedent for other eventual similar cases.”

When the case finally got to the Supreme Court, it attracted 19 intervenors as public interest advocates, including the federal government, the governments of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Alberta, the Yukon and 13 First Nations and Indigenous organizations.

The B.C. government argued that extending the view of Aboriginal rights across an international border “would be incompatible with Canadian sovereignty.” The right to hunt was the thin end of the wedge, the province argued: “Typically, the Aboriginal right to hunt is considered to include the necessarily incidental right to access the hunting territory.” That would jeopardize border security and Canadian resource control, lawyers said.

The federal government was also worried. Ottawa’s arguments evoked COVID-19 fear.

“Control over borders is a crucial aspect of national sovereignty. Parliament must maintain the ability to make reasonable choices for the general welfare of the nation and therefore must be able to pursue pressing objectives such as maintaining national security and preserving public health,” federal lawyers told the court.

In response, Desautel’s lawyers argued all of that was irrelevant. The Sinixt were on the land before there was a province or a border. In a rebuke, his lawyers said the governments’ position ignores the core goal of Aboriginal rights being in the Constitution: reconciliation.

Desautel’s argument, however, did not ignore a wider potential. He was only charged for hunting, not for unlawful entry to Canada, and so the Supreme Court did not need to consider issues of border control, yet. That may come.

“There may be a future case where the government attempts to limit a Sinixt person’s ability to cross the border, but there was no such limit in Mr. Desautel’s case,” his lawyers told court.

As with any gruelling Constitutional challenge, a parsing of words and meanings ensured.

Lawyers devoted page after page arguing the meaning of a key phrase in Section 35 of the Constitution Act: “the aboriginal peoples of Canada.” Specifically, the preposition “of.”

Things would have been clearer if the drafters of the Constitution had used the word “in” instead of “of” — if that is what they really meant — but they didn’t. Even the letter “s” at the end of “peoples” was examined in detail.

In the end, the Supreme Court rejected the government’s arguments.

“An interpretation that excludes Aboriginal peoples who were forced to move out of Canada would risk perpetuating the historical injustice suffered by Aboriginal peoples at the hands of Europeans,” the court said. Two of the nine judges dissented.

Not even the court knows where this might lead.

“I will say little more about what that means for the exercise of rights,” Justice Malcolm Rowe, writing for a majority of the court, said in the ruling. A narrow test case “is not well-suited to deal with such broader issues.”

“All this said,” Rowe concluded, “it is for the parties themselves to decide how they wish to proceed.”

Mark Underhill, Desautel’s lawyer, said the government’s main argument — fear over people from a foreign land accessing their territory and resources — is a “bitter irony” for First Nations people.

“They were here first. They’re the people you forced out, and are now saying you can’t come back in.”

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Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Liberals shut down debate on Bill C-10 amendment allowing regulation of social media content

Liberal MPs voted Friday to shut down debate on a Conservative motion to review whether an amendment to broadcasting Bill C-10 violates charter rights.

The controversial amendment would allow regulation of social media content and critics say it amounts to an attack on free speech.

On Friday, a motion by Conservative MP Rachael Harder called for the Heritage committee to send the amended bill back to the justice minister for an updated “charter statement.”

Charter statements are issued by the justice minister and look at the potential effects a government bill might have under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The existing charter statement, which states that C-10 is “carefully tailored” to be consistent with the right to freedom to expression, specifically cited a clause that was removed by the committee last Friday.

“The removal of Section 4.1 from Bill C-10 fundamentally changes the legislation, and dissolves the ground on which the charter statement stood to justify charter compliance,” Harder said. “The original charter statement should be considered null and void.”

Section 4.1 had exempted content posted by Canadians to platforms like YouTube from CRTC regulation.

Conservative MP Scott Aitchison argued that the motion to “ask a Liberal justice minister” to review the bill is a “very reasonable compromise to make sure that as we proceed… that we’re doing so ensuring that we are not in any way infringing on Canadians’ fundamental freedom of expression.”

Liberal MPs said that the committee is in the process of amending the legislation clause-by-clause, and it wouldn’t make sense to send the legislation for another review in the middle of that process.

Under the legislation, “charter statements reflect the bill at the time of introduction and are not updated,” Liberal MP Anthony Housefather said. He added that if that charter statement “were to be updated at any point, for whatever reason if that was permissible, it would only make sense to do so at the end of debate of the bill, when all the amendments had been adopted, and one knew what the legislation would look like.”

Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin proposed a motion to adjourn debate on the bill, effectively stopping the discussion. The five Liberal MPs on the committee and the sole NDP MP voted in favour of stopping the debate. The four Conservative committee members and one Bloc Québécois member voted against.

On Twitter following the Friday afternoon meeting, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault accused the Conservatives of delaying work on the bill and “putting the interests of big foreign streamers over those of Canadian creators.”

The Liberal government has argued that it has no interest in regulating Canadians’ social media content, and that the bill is about supporting the cultural industry by ensuring the CTRC can impose the same Canadian content requirements and contributions on digital services like Netflix as it does on traditional broadcasting.

A coalition of 40 organizations representing the cultural sector, including the film, TV and music sectors, issued a press release Friday afternoon condemning the Conservative Party for “sacrificing culture on the altar of partisanship.”

The Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions pointed out that the Conservatives have changed their position on the issue, after initially criticizing the bill for not including social media such as YouTube in its scope.

Worries about the bill’s potential to harm Canadians’ free expression charter rights emerged a week ago, after the committee removed section 4.1.

Critics said that would give the broadcast regulator control over much of the content Canadians post online, with former CRTC commissioner Peter Menzies saying that move doesn’t “just infringe on free expression, it constitutes a full-blown assault upon it and, through it, the foundations of democracy.”

Guilbeault’s office has argued there are still adequate safeguards to ensure Canadians’ rights are respected. The CRTC has to abide by the charter, “and any action contravening this would be considered unconstitutional,” press secretary Camille Gagné-Raynauld said in an emailed statement.

She added that C-10 also explicitly says “it has to be construed and applied in a manner that is consistent with the freedom of expression,” and noted the focus of the bill is “professional series, films, and music.”

But critics have said giving the federal government regulatory authority over social media content is dangerous, even if the current government doesn’t want to use that power to regulate Canadians’ online videos.

Aitchison said at committee it’s “very concerning that the CRTC, while maybe [they] wouldn’t do it, would have the ability and the authority to start regulating individual Canadians’ content that they post on social media.”

He added: “This is the fear that I have. Freedoms aren’t taken away in one fell swoop in societies. They’re chipped away, bit by bit by bit, all under the cover of, you know, some important protection of Canadians from some fear that we should have.”

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques