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Minneapolis council majority backs disbanding police force

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Jun 8th, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS — A majority of the members of the Minneapolis City Council said Sunday they support disbanding the city’s police department, an aggressive stance that comes just as the state has launched a civil rights investigation after George Floyd’s death.

Nine of the council’s 12 members appeared with activists at a rally in a city park Sunday afternoon and vowed to end policing as the city currently knows it. Council member Jeremiah Ellison promised that the council would “dismantle” the department.

“It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,” Lisa Bender, the council president, said. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period.”

Bender went on to say she and the eight other council members that joined the rally are committed to ending the city’s relationship with the police force and “to end policing as we know it and recreate systems that actually keep us safe.”

Floyd, a handcuffed black man, died May 25 after a white officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, ignoring his “I can’t breathe” cries and holding it there even after Floyd stopped moving. His death sparked protests — some violent, many peaceful — that spread nationwide.

Community activists have criticized the Minneapolis department for years for what they say is a racist and brutal culture that resists change. The state of Minnesota launched a civil rights investigation of the department last week, and the first concrete changes came Friday in a stipulated agreement in which the city agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints.

A more complete remaking of the department is likely to unfold in coming months.

Disbanding an entire department has happened before. In 2012, with crime rampant in Camden, New Jersey, the city disbanded its police department and replaced it with a new force that covered Camden County. Compton, California, took the same step in 2000, shifting its policing to Los Angeles County.

It was a step that then-Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department was considering for Ferguson, Missouri, after the death of Michael Brown. The city eventually reached an agreement short of that but one that required massive reforms overseen by a court-appointed mediator.

The move to defund or abolish the Minneapolis department is far from assured, with the civil rights investigation likely to unfold over the next several months.

On Saturday, activists for defunding the department staged a protest outside Mayor Jacob Frey’s home. Frey came out to talk with them.

“I have been coming to grips with my own responsibility, my own failure in this,” Frey said. When pressed on whether he supported their demands, Frey said: “I do not support the full abolition of the police department.”

He left to booing.

At another march Saturday during which leaders called for defunding the department, Verbena Dempster said she supported the idea.

“I think, honestly, we’re too far past” the chance for reform, Dempster told Minnesota Public Radio. “We just have to take down the whole system.”

Ford government could unveil Stage 2 of reopening economy this week

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Jun 8th, 2020

Ontarians could get details this week of Stage 2 of reopening the province’s economy, even as emergency orders have been extended and as hundreds of cases of COVID-19 are detected each day.

The plan is expected to provide a rundown of which businesses and workplaces can resume operations, and if there are any conditions. However, a time-frame is not expected at this point.

Last week, the province said health officials were in discussions about the second stage of the province’s economic reopening plan, and Premier Doug Ford said he hoped to bring it forward over the this week.

Ford said even though Ontario extended its state of emergency until June 30, it would not slow down the reopening process.

Ontario reported 415 new cases of novel coronavirus on Sunday; however, more than half of them were due to a delay in adding new cases to the database.

Toronto Public Health reported 362 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, a jump of 2.9 per cent over the previous day. The spike in cases were attributed to delayed reporting.

With files from The Canadian Press

Toronto businesses boarding up windows over protest fears

BT Toronto | posted Friday, Jun 5th, 2020

It seems the scenes of vandalism and looting at protests south of the border have given local Toronto businesses the jitters.

Several retailers throughout the downtown core have taken precautionary steps to protect their stores by boarding up windows with sheets of plywood.

Earlier this week, Toronto police said they were monitoring social media posts about possible protests being planned in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, and the death of Toronto woman Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who fell from her balcony while police were in her home.

Police Chief Mark Saunders said the force is also preparing for another potential protest over the coming weekend, though he declined to give specifics.

Social media posts show several different actions were planned in the city on Friday and Saturday, and Saunders wouldn’t say which ones officers would attend, or how big he thought they’d get.

On Thursday police said that they have “not advised businesses to board up their premises,” but stressed that investigators are continuing to keep a close eye on potential protest activity.

“We continue to monitor and will respond, if necessary, to ensure the safety of everyone involved,” police said.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of downtown Toronto last Saturday, chanting “justice for Regis” following the death of Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto last Tuesday.

The 29-year-old fell from the balcony of a 24th-floor Toronto apartment while police were in the unit. The province’s police watchdog is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding her death.

Last Saturday’s protest was peaceful, and police Chief Mark Saunders thanked Torontonians for their behaviour at the rally.

Not Another Black Life, the organizers of last Saturday’s peaceful rally, have told CityNews they are not planning or are involved in any other protest scheduled for this weekend.

Women’s group angered by ‘intoxication’ ruling, NDP critic calls for appeal

THE CANADIAN PRESS AND ASHER ROTH | posted Friday, Jun 5th, 2020

A court ruling allowing people accused of sexual assault or other violent crimes to argue they were so intoxicated they didn’t know what they were doing has angered women’s-rights activists but civil libertarians call the criticism unwarranted.

A decades-old law had banned such a defence but Ontario’s top court this week declared it unconstitutional for trampling on key rights of the accused.

The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, which intervened in the case, called the decision a setback for victims, particularly of sexual assault.

“We are dismayed that women’s rights to equality and dignity are not given more adequate treatment,” the organization said on Thursday. “It also risks sending a dangerous message that men can avoid accountability for their acts of violence against women and children through intoxication.”

Cara Zwibel, a director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the decision clarified the legal situation around use of the intoxication defence. While she sympathized with concerns the ruling would undermine protections for sexual assault victims, she said they were overblown.

“I don’t see it as seriously undermining the rights of victims,” Zwibel said. “This is a rarely used provision; it’s not this widespread, systemic concern.”

At issue was a law the federal government enacted in 1995 amid a backlash over a court ruling that recognized drunkenness could be raised to defend against a sexual assault charge.

The Appeal Court decision setting aside the law came in a pair of separate cases in which two men, both high on drugs, either killed or injured close relatives. Their defence, however, ran afoul of the ban on arguing extreme intoxication.

In overturning their convictions on Wednesday, Justices David Paciocco, David Watt and Peter Lauwers said a person must act voluntarily to commit a crime. While lawmakers might have sought to help victims attain justice, they said the law violated an accused’s rights by holding them accountable for violence they really had no control over.

“It enables the conviction of individuals for acts they do not will,” the court said. “To convict an attacker of offences for which they do not bear the moral fault required by the charter to avoid this outcome is to replace one injustice for another and at an intolerable cost to the core principles that animate criminal liability.”

Megan Stephens, the legal fund’s executive director and co-counsel on the intervention, said the ruling could further discourage women from reporting sexual assault.

“I recognize the importance of protecting the constitutional rights of all,” Stephens said. “It is discouraging, however, that the security interests and equality rights of women and children receive only brief reference by the court given that they are disproportionately victimized by intoxicated offenders.”

Jill Presser, a lawyer who argued the case for the civil liberties association, called the criticism unfounded. The justices, she said, were grappling with a highly complex legal flashpoint in which preventing wrongful convictions bumps up against the right of vulnerable Canadians to be free from violence.

“That’s a really difficult meeting point in the law,” Presser said. “While the bulk of the judgment doesn’t focus on the victim, that animates the entire decision.”

The decision still leaves the onus on an accused to come up with expert and other evidence to prove they were in a state of automatism to raise the intoxication defence successfully, Zwibel said. Simply claiming to have been drunk wouldn’t cut it.

Provincial New Democrat politician Jill Andrew called on the Ministry of the Attorney General to try to fight the ruling.

The Supreme Court of Canada, she said, should weigh the impact “on the lives of women, trans women and sex workers, their bodies, and the justice they deserve after surviving sexual assault or violence.”

Andrew points out that it’s already difficult for sexual assault survivors to come forward and get the justice they deserve for the heinous crimes committed against them

She says the move by the court flies in the face of some of the progress made by the #MeToo movement.

A petition on Andrew’s website had already garnered over 11,000 signatures at publishing time.

How worried should we be about foreign takeovers?

THE BIG STORY | posted Friday, Jun 5th, 2020

In today’s Big Story podcast, right now, Canadian businesses are vulnerable. Many of them are worried they won’t survive COVID-19, and that makes them attractive targets for foreign investors. In some cases, it’s a win-win: Canada needs foreign capital, and these companies want to acquire assets in a stable and prosperous country. But some of these deals raise real security concerns.

When a state-owned Chinese company pays millions more than anyone else is willing to for a Canadian operation…why is that? What do they think they’re getting out of it? How can our government balance the need for foreign money with the risk of handing over Canadian assets and property to other governments? And how many of us are even paying attention?


You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle and Spotify.

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Hundreds join justice for Black lives protests in Oakville, Barrie, Burlington

MADISON FITZPATRICK AND NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Jun 5th, 2020

A trio of protests in southern Ontario saw hundreds of people march for justice for Black lives on Thursday.

More than 300 people marched through downtown Oakville early in the afternoon in solidarity with protests for justice and against police brutality being held around the world.

Hundreds more came out to a demonstration hours later in Burlington where they marched to city hall.

And it was similar scene in Barrie where hundreds made their way down to the city centre, just over a week after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of law enforcement officers.

Organizers say the rally took place in the name of Tony McDade of Tallahassee and Breonna Taylor from Louisville —all lost their lives in police-involved violence over the past several months, while protesters cite years of racism at the hands of American law enforcement.

Barrie police say everyone was respectful and adhered to physical distancing rules.

Officer Peter Leon said there were about 600 to 1000 people in attendance and he was pleased with the tone of the demonstration. He said police worked with the organizers and people were calm and organized.

He also noted that many in attendance were wearing masks, and abiding by public health regulations.

Stockwell Day steps down from several roles after comments about racism

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jun 4th, 2020

A former Canadian Alliance leader and Conservative MP has resigned from Telus’ board of directors and as a strategic adviser to a law firm after comparing racism to his experience of being mocked in school for wearing glasses.

Stockwell Day made the comments during a panel on CBC’s “Power & Politics” Tuesday.

Day had said on the show that he knew “for a fact” that most Canadians including his relatives, friends, and opponents are not racist.

Telus said Day’s comments “are not reflective of the values and beliefs” of the organization.

McMillan LLP, a law firm with offices in four Canadian cities, also announced Day’s resignation Wednesday in a statement.

CBC says Day has also stepped down from his role as a commentator.

“Should we all be more sensitive about any kind of hurting or insulting people whether it’s racist or not?” Day said on the show.

“Should I have gone through school and been mocked because I had glasses and was called ‘four eyes’ … should I have been mocked for all that? No, of course not. But are Canadians largely and majority racist? No, we are not.”

Day apologized for his comments on Twitter on Wednesday.

“By feedback from many in the Black and other communities I realize my comments in debate on Power and Politics were insensitive and hurtful,” Day wrote.

“I ask forgiveness for wrongly equating my experiences to theirs. I commit to them my unending efforts to fight racism in all its forms.”

In its statement, McMillan LLP said “At McMillan LLP, we believe that systemic racism is real and that it can only be addressed when each of us — as individuals and organizations — commits to meaningful change. Yesterday, Stockwell Day made comments during a televised interview that run counter to this view.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Trudeau joins third pandemic summit amid campaign for Security Council seat

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Jun 4th, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is taking part in his third international summit in a week as Canada campaigns for a coveted United Nation’s Security Council seat on a platform of helping to rebuild the post-pandemic world.

Today’s summit, hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is aimed at ensuring poor countries will have ready access to an eventual vaccine for the deadly coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Trudeau will join leaders from 50 countries and major organizations, including philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, at the international pledging conference, which hopes to raise nearly $10 billion for GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance — the leading agency for distributing vaccines to less-developed countries.

He has already announced Canada’s five-year, $600-million pledge to GAVI, which has immunized 760 million children and prevented 13 million deaths in the world’s poorest countries since 2000.

Trudeau’s participation in the virtual conference comes one day after he delivered an address to a virtual summit of the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States.

He told members that Canada is committed to helping developing countries hardest hit by the pandemic to survive the crisis.

His remarks underlined a message he delivered last week when he co-hosted a UN-sponsored conference aimed at developing a co-ordinated global recovery plan that leaves no country behind.

Without a global plan, the UN estimates the pandemic could slash nearly US$8.5 trillion from the world economy over the next two years, forcing 34.3 million people into extreme poverty this year and potentially 130 million more over the course of the decade.

Trudeau’s leading role in the international conferences comes just two weeks before the UN’s 193 ambassadors are to start voting by secret ballot to fill two, non-permanent seats on the Security Council. Canada is competing for one of the two seats against Norway and Ireland.

The June 17 vote is to be conducted without a full meeting of the General Assembly because of physical distancing requirements to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Closer to home, Trudeau is also expected today to announce when seniors can expect to receive a promised emergency boost to the old age security pension and guaranteed income supplement to help them defray additional costs caused by the pandemic.

On May 12, Trudeau announced the federal government would provide a tax-free, one-time payment of $300 for seniors eligible for the OAS and an additional $200 for those eligible for the GIS. That money — totalling some $2.5 billion — has not yet begun to flow.

In April, the federal government spent $1.3 billion to provide seniors with a one-time special payment through the goods and services tax credit, worth an average of $375 for each single senior.

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