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Canada, U.S. heading in opposite directions as Trump says ‘No’ to trans troops

LEE BERTHIAUME, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jul 27th, 2017

The Canadian Forces says it is pressing ahead with improvements to its transgender policy, even as U.S. President Donald Trump looks to bar transgender people from military service south of the border.

Trump surprised many Wednesday when he announced on Twitter that he was reinstating a ban on transgender people serving in uniform, after the previous Obama administration lifted the ban last year.

“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory,” he wrote, “and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

The announcement sparked concern for the hundreds of trans members already serving in the U.S. military, and accusations that the president was exaggerating the challenges of accommodation.

It also cast a light on the Canadian Forces, which lifted its own ban on transgender people and LGBT members following a court case in 1992 — a fact the Forces highlighted on its own Twitter account Wednesday.

canadian-forces-tweet

National Defence spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said work continues on an update to the Canadian military’s transgender policy, which first came into effect in 2012.

While many of the changes are expected to be technical in nature, it is also expected to give commanding officers and units more guidance when it comes to such basics as bathrooms and showering.

The update, which started last year, is expected to be complete in the fall.


Related stories:

Pentagon may not have been aware of Trump’s decision on transgender military members

We got this: Trans advocates, celebrities react to Trump’s military decision


There are no official figures for how many transgender people are in the Forces, but estimates put the number at about 200.

Le Bouthillier also said the military has paid for 19 sex-reassignment operations between 2008 and October 2015, at a total cost of around $309,000. That works out to about $16,200 per operation.

While the costs do not include any hormone therapy, Alan Okros, an expert on diversity in the military at the Canadian Forces College, said many service members receive such treatment for various conditions — not just sex reassignment.

By comparison, Veterans Affairs Canada spent nearly $20 million on medical marijuana last year.

Okros also said he was unaware of any negative impacts that allowing transgender people to serve in uniform has caused on operations or the military’s overall ability to do its job.

Through an Access to Information request, CityNews discovered that Cadets Canada has been dealing with the issue of transgender cadets since at least 2013.

Cadets Canada is a youth program aimed at children aged 12-18, where they learn leadership, teamwork and citizenship skills and attributes through one of three separate branches- the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, Army Cadets and Air Cadets.

Documents obtained through Access to Information reveal that there have been several openly transgender cadets since 2013 – and that it seemingly posed no problems or obstacles until it came to training camps, where cadets have to share showering and sleeping accommodations. In the absence of a formalized policy, senior staff were quick to work out solutions for sleeping arrangements and showers, being sensitive to the needs of the transgender cadet, and their peers.

In an April 2015 email, a Colonel writes: “The number one concern is the safety of this cadet and all others. We do not want to create a negative experience for all concerned.” Later adding: “Our program accepts all applicants and this cadet is just another cadet with individual needs,” before working through where the cadet in question would sleep.

A May 2015 email reads: “We need to put a policy in place… we need to be prepared to accommodate these Cadets as long as it does not cause us or cause them undue hardship.” A policy was developed and implemented in 2016.

The policy directive reaffirms the organization’s commitment to providing a discriminatory-free environment, but also addresses the logistics of shared sleeping and bathing quarters:

Use of Washroom/ Showers
5.3 Any cadets, including those who are transgender cadets, may use the washroom / shower that best correspond to their gender identity. All adult supervisors are responsible to ensure that there is adequate washroom / shower facility space available; this may mean providing a single space facility or setting up a schedule for use of an existing space in order to accommodate all cadets.

Sleeping Quarters 
5.4 It is incumbent on the adult supervisor to make arrangements for the transgender cadets in order that they are not discriminated against. This may include, depending on the location and availability, a separate sleeping arrangement away from the group in order to accommodate the cadet. Corps / squadron / CTC COs will, at all times, exercise discretion and be considerate of what state of the transition the transgender cadet is currently going through before making a decision.

Canada is one of 18 countries that currently allow transgender military personnel, which includes Israel, Australia, Britain, Germany and France.

“The disruption factor is not a major issue for these countries at all,” Okros said. “So some of (Trump’s) objections are based on concerns or exaggerations that aren’t borne out.”

Randall Garrison, who serves as both the NDP’s defence critic and its LGBTQ critic, called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to denounce Trump’s “despicable” comments.

“Service to one’s country is of the highest honour. Transgender people who are currently in the military and those who wish to serve are, in many ways, the bravest of the brave,” Garrison said in a statement.

“Prime Minister Trudeau must denounce this policy immediately in order to demonstrate that Canada not only respects human rights but that we will stand up against discrimination.”

The Liberal government sidestepped questions about Trump, however, as Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office noted transgender military personnel have been allowed to serve openly for 25 years.

“Our position on their valuable service in the Canadian military has not changed,” spokeswoman Jordan Owens said in a statement.

‘Why Can’t He Be Our President?’ Justin Trudeau on the cover of Rolling Stone

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jul 27th, 2017

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Photo credit: Martin Schoeller/Rolling Stone)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau graces the cover of the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine accompanied by a provocative headline: “Why Can’t He Be Our President?”

Trudeau follows in the footsteps of former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama among the world leaders who have previously fronted the venerable pop-culture magazine.

Trudeau is pictured with his shirtsleeves rolled up leaning against a table in the cover photo captured by Martin Schoeller.

In an article published online on Wednesday, writer Stephen Rodrick contrasts the policies and style of Trudeau to those of his American counterpart, Donald Trump, outlining their stark differences on health care, marijuana legalization and environmental policies.

Trudeau is quoted as telling Rodrick that while he disagrees with Trump “on a whole bunch,” the pair have “a constructive working relationship.”

Trudeau adds that going out of his way to “insult the guy or overreact or jump at everything he says (that) we might disagree with is not having a constructive relationship.”

Canada Post vows to stop parking delivery trucks in Toronto bike lanes

NEWS STAFF | posted Wednesday, Jul 26th, 2017

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It’s a common site on the streets of Toronto — cyclists deftly avoiding delivery trucks that have parked in bicycle lanes.

Canada Post is a frequent offender, but not for long, the Crown corporation vowed on Tuesday.

“Canada Post understands the concerns raised regarding safety and bike lanes in Toronto,” it said in a statement. “As a result, we are instructing our employees to not park in bike lanes in the City of Toronto. For pickups or deliveries, they are expected to find a safe location to park their vehicle.”

Cyclists will likely rejoice, but deliveries could be impacted.

“If a safe parking location is not available, our employees are expected to avoid the stop, continue on their route and return any undelivered items to the depot,” Canada Post added.

Mayor John Tory said the decision would help keep traffic flowing, and would ultimately make the roads safer for cyclists.

“I have made no secret of my desire to get Toronto moving. Traffic – bikes, transit vehicles, delivery trucks and cars – can’t move if lanes are blocked,” he said in a release.

“This decision will help make the commute safer for cyclists.

“We will continue working with Canada Post and all other stakeholders to address delivery issues in Toronto.”

Trump: Liberation from ‘Obamacare nightmare’ is close

VIVIAN SALAMA, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jul 26th, 2017

YOUNGSTOWN, OH - JULY 25: U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a rally at the Covelli Centre on July 25, 2017 in Youngstown, Ohio. The rally coincides with the Senates vote on GOP legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.  (Photo by Justin Merriman/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a rally at the Covelli Centre on July 25, 2017 in Youngstown, Ohio. The rally coincides with the Senates vote on GOP legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. GETTY IMAGES/Justin Merriman
Celebrating a slim but symbolic health-care win in Washington, President Donald Trump told supporters in Ohio that the nation was one step closer to liberation from the “Obamacare nightmare.”

“You think that’s easy? That’s not easy,” he told a crowd of thousands just hours after the Senate took a small but hard-fought first step Tuesday toward Republicans’ years-long promise to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Clearly energized to be back in front of a friendly crowd of supporters, Trump said repeatedly that he believes in speaking directly to the American people and not through the “fake news” media. And he joked about accusations that he doesn’t act presidential.

“It’s so easy to act presidential,” he said. “But that’s not going to get it done.”


Related stories:

Cheers, whoops for McCain’s return, then impassioned speech
2 Republican senators suggest bill to repeal Obamacare ‘dead’
Health care bill collapse leaves divided GOP at crossroads


Trump said that with the Senate’s vote to allow consideration of a health care bill, “We’re now one step closer to liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare and delivering great health care for the American people.”

Tuesday’s trip to Youngstown, a staunchly working-class, union-heavy enclave that has long helped anchor Democrats in Ohio, served as a welcome distraction from Washington for a president who loves to relive his once-unlikely Election Day win.

In a room filled with supporters, Trump talked up his first six months in office, claiming that no other president had done “anywhere near” what he’d done in his first six months.

“Not even close,” he said.

Far from questions about investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign and his repeated attempts to discredit his attorney general, Trump painted the picture of a president adored by his country, despite his dismal approval ratings.

Trumpeting his administration’s tough approach to illegal immigration and criminal gangs, Trump described people “screaming from their windows, ‘Thank you, thank you,’” to border patrol agents and his Homeland Security secretary.

“We’re liberating our towns and we’re liberating our cities. Can you believe we have to do that?” he asked, adding that law enforcement agents were rooting out gang members – and “not doing it in a politically correct fashion. We’re doing it rough.”

“Our guys are rougher than their guys,” he bragged.

Trump also said he’s been working with a pair of Republican senators to “create a new immigration system for America.”

“We want a merit-based system, one that protects our workers” and one that “protects our economy,” said Trump, endorsing legislation introduced by Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue that would put new limits on legal immigration.

Ahead of the rally, Trump stopped by a veterans’ event as part of the White House’s week-long celebration of servicemen and women. Following brief remarks by several of his Cabinet members, Trump entered a small room of veterans, several of them over 80 years old, and praised them for their commitment and sacrifice for the country.

“A truly grateful nation salutes you,” Trump told the group in Sutherland, Ohio.

But he quickly shifted gears to recall his unexpected election win in Ohio, praising Youngstown and towns like it for helping him secure the electoral votes that put him over the top.

“It was incredible time we had. You saw the numbers,” he said. “Democrats, they win in Youngstown – but not this time.”

Trump has mainly sought to re-litigate his 2016 victory in friendly territory, escaping Washington to recharge with boisterous crowds that embrace his jabs at “fake news” media, Democrats and even those Republicans whom Trump once vowed to defeat as part of his effort to “drain the swamp.”

Democrat Hillary Clinton herself did not frequent this stretch of the industrial Midwest in her campaign against Trump, instead dispatching her husband, the former president, on little-noticed bus tours of the region. Trump ended up narrowing Clinton’s advantage to 3 points on his way to an 8-point victory statewide.

The surrounding 13th Congressional District, which Trump lost by 6.5 percentage points, is among the Democratic-held seats that Republicans are targeting next year, and the local congressman, Rep. Tim Ryan, happens to be one of the Democrats’ most intense internal critics.

Ryan won two-thirds of the vote to win an easy re-election in November despite Trump’s performance, a result that demonstrates the president’s appeal among white voters who have historically backed Democrats. Shortly after, he ran unsuccessfully against Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for House minority leader, and he continues to criticize the party for leaning too heavily on leaders from coastal states and failing to communicate a coherent economic message to much of the rest of the country.

Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.

Fires force evacuation of 10,000 in 3 French Riviera towns

CLAUDE PARIS, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Jul 26th, 2017

0726-francefires
People watch smoke rising above a forest as a wildfire burns near La Londe-les-Maures on the French Riviera on July 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Authorities ordered the evacuation of 10,000 people as fires hopscotched around the Riviera for a third day Wednesday, tearing through the forest of La Londe-les-Maures.

A violent fire took off in the dry Mediterranean forests around La Londe just before 11 p.m. the night before, and 540 firefighters were sent into the region, the prefect of the Var region, the top state official, said in a statement.

About 3,000 campers were among the 10,000 evacuated from La Londe and nearby Bormes-les-Mimosas and La Lavandou, the statement said. La Londe is under 30 kilometres from the city of Toulon. Tourists from France and elsewhere flock each summer to the coast.

Four tracker planes and a fire-fighting aircraft were sent in. About 800 hectares of back-country forest had burned by morning.

Fires began raging along the coast on Monday, forcing smaller, scattered evacuations with flames reaching a corner of Saint-Tropez. Since noon Tuesday, firefighters had conducted about 100 operations, the prefecture said.

Further east, reinforcements were sent in to battle a blaze in Artigues that burned up to 1,700 hectares of forested land.

Another fire was contained Tuesday evening in La Croix Valmer after burning two villas, seriously injuring one firefighter and devouring about 500 hectares.

France’s Mediterranean coast is particularly vulnerable to fires, with its massive back-country forests, often dry in the summer, and Mistral winds blowing across the sea to fan flames. Smoke blew across the shores from the fires that were visible across bays on the picturesque coast, frightening some. But firefighters warned against panic. No injuries have been reported among residents and vacationers.

Further south, flames ate through some 2,000 hectares of forest on the northern end of the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, in what was the largest blaze.

City removes signs at pools banning kids over 3 from opposite sex change rooms

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jul 25th, 2017

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File photo of a swimming pool.
A southern Ontario city has retracted a policy that had left many parents uneasy about taking their young children to their local pool.

Officials in London, Ont., received a flood of complaints after signs posted at municipal swimming pools said children over the age of three weren’t permitted in change rooms for the opposite sex.

The city’s aquatic services department had said the policy was based on feedback from users and their comfort levels with such situations.

The recently posted signs, however, drew outrage from parents on the department’s Facebook page and by Monday afternoon, a spokeswoman said they had been taken down.

Lynn Loubert, the city’s division manager of aquatics, arenas and attractions, explained that the policy did not reflect a bylaw that allows kids aged 12 and under to be accompanied by a parent or caregiver in opposite sex change rooms.

“The practice did not reflect the provisions of the Parks and Recreation Area bylaw,” Loubert said in a statement. “In light of the confusion, all signs at City of London pools regarding age requirements for using change rooms have now been removed.”

Amanda McNeil, a single mother who was among those who complained about the signs, said she was pleased with the change.

“I am happy that (city staff) finally came to their senses,” said McNeil, who often visits what she calls “one of the better outdoor pools” in the city with her two sons, Zakk and Lucian, aged six and three. “The (sign) should never have been up to begin up with.”

The signs had directed parents to ask a staff member to escort their child through the proper change room.

But McNeil said she was “completely appalled” by the idea of sending her six-year-old son into another change room with a staff member who is a stranger.

“It’s not a viable option at all,” said the 29-year-old. “I can’t guarantee my child’s safety if he is not with me.”

Christine Ciura, 28, a stay-at-home mom, felt the same way, which is why she entered the change room with her three-year-old son, Landon, as usual, this morning.

“I disagree with the (rule) completely. It’s ridiculous,” she said. “My son doesn’t understand how to get changed himself. He needs help with these things.”

Ann Douglas, an author from Peterborough, Ont., who has written several books on parenting, says the needs of children should come before those of adults in such a case.

“If we are balancing a young child’s need for physical assistance with the task of getting dressed and undressed, and maybe needing some parental reassurance or guidance, versus a grown-up feeling a little bit uncomfortable because a four-year-old is staring at their body parts, we have to look at where the greater need is,” said Douglas, who is a mother of four herself. “It’s definitely on the child’s side of the equation.”

“What looks great on paper to a policy maker who hasn’t been a parent sometimes doesn’t play out quite so neatly in the real world,” Douglas added.

Coun. Mohamed Salih, who had contacted city staff about the signs over the weekend, confirmed the city will continue to allow kids aged 12 and under to be accompanied by a parent or caregiver in opposite sex change rooms, as per the city bylaw.

“I was disappointed when I learned about the signs. I can imagine the hurt out in the community,” Salih said. “We want to make sure (London) is an inclusive community, where people feel they can go out without any additional barriers.”

Justin Bieber cancels rest of tour for ‘unforeseen circumstances’

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Jul 25th, 2017

Canadian singer Justin Bieber performs live during a small concert for charity in Toronto on Monday, December 7, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadian singer Justin Bieber performs live during a small concert for charity in Toronto on Monday, December 7, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
NEW YORK – Justin Bieber is cancelling the rest of his Purpose World Tour “due to unforeseen circumstances.”

His representatives didn’t offer details about the cancellation in a statement released Monday but said the singer “loves his fans and hates to disappoint them.”

Bieber has been on the tour for the last 18 months, playing more than 150 shows in six continents. The Grammy winner’s upcoming shows included stops in the U.S. and Canada, including the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

The statement said despite the tour’s success, “after careful consideration he has decided he will not be performing any further dates.”

Tickets will be refunded at point of purchase.

Bieber had two stops in Toronto coming up on Sept. 5 and 6.

Convicted serial killer Wettlaufer faces nurses’ college disciplinary hearing

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Jul 25th, 2017

Elizabeth Wettlaufer is escorted by police from the courthouse in Woodstock, Ont, Monday, June 26, 2017. Wettlaufer, a former Ontario nurse who murdered eight seniors in her care, was sentenced Monday to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley
Elizabeth Wettlaufer is escorted by police from the courthouse in Woodstock, Ont., on June 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley
A convicted serial killing nurse who murdered eight seniors in her care faces a professional college disciplinary hearing Tuesday.

The College of Nurses of Ontario alleges Elizabeth Wettlaufer committed professional misconduct when she overdosed 14 patients with the intent to harm or kill them.

A college spokeswoman says Wettlaufer is not expected to attend the hearing with the discipline panel, which is could make their decision by the end of the day.

In June, Wettlaufer pleaded guilty to first-degree murder of eight seniors, attempted murder of four others and aggravated assault of two more people.

She confessed to the murders while at a psychiatric hospital in Toronto in the fall before detailing the crimes to Woodstock police.

The college knew Wettlaufer was fired from Caressant Care in Woodstock, Ont., for a medication error in 2014, but she continued to work – and harmed patients – until she resigned as a nurse in September 2016.


Related stories:

Wettlaufer sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years

Ontario to call public inquiry into Elizabeth Wettlaufer nursing home murders

Ex-nurse Wettlaufer felt ‘urge to kill’ seniors in her care, pleads guilty

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