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Quebec adopts secularism bill that bans religious symbols for state workers

Quebec adopts secularism bill that bans religious symbols for state workersQuebec's contentious secularism bill banning religious symbols for teachers, police officers and other public servants in positions of authority was voted into law late Sunday.Premier Francois Legault's government used its majority to push through Bill 21 by a vote of 73 to 35 after applying the mechanism of closure to end debate on the bill prematurely. The Parti Quebecois also voted in favour, while the Liberals and Quebec solidaire were opposed.The bill prohibits public servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols on the job. Its opponents say the law targets religious minorities while the government argues it affirms the Quebecois people's secular identity.The Coalition Avenir Quebec government introduced last-minute amendments toughening the law, making provisions for a minister to verify that it is being obeyed and to demand corrective measures if necessary.Liberal member Marc Tanguay said the changes would result in a "secularism police."Just before the final vote, the bill's sponsor, Simon Jolin-Barrette, minister of immigration, diversity and inclusiveness, asked all legislators to "convey the principles of state secularism with calm and respect."The legislation includes wording that preemptively invokes Section 33 of the Canadian Constitution. As a consequence, no citizen will be able to challenge the bill on grounds it violates fundamental freedoms granted by law.A Section 33 declaration, however, needs to be renewed every five years. Legault told reporters earlier in the day his government was closing a door that no one would choose to reopen."My prediction," he said, "is that neither the Liberals, nor the Parti Quebecois — I don't think they'll be in power in five years — would want to change this law."Liberal Helene David quickly contradicted him. The Opposition critic for secularism told reporters a Liberal government would not renew Section 33. "We will see in five years what we will do," she said. "There are strong chances we will want to repeal (the law)."Bill 21 fulfills a major campaign promise by Legault's party. The premier has often said the legislation is a "compromise" because his party decided against including daycare workers or private school teachers in the bill. The legislation also grants certain public sector workers such as teachers an acquired right to continue wearing religious symbols if they were hired before the law took effect.Bill 21 also forbids anyone giving or receiving a state service with their face covered — largely seen as a measure targeting full-face Islamic veils.The Liberals offered an amendment that would have let university students studying to become state employees affected by the law, such as teachers or lawyers, to have an acquired right to continue wearing religious symbols.Jolin-Barette, said no. The so-called grandfather clause "would only to apply to those already working."Despite criticism from across the country by federal and provincial politicians, human rights advocates and many other groups, Legault's government has stayed united in its drive to adopt the legislation.Legault and his ministers have proclaimed that the bill will go down in history alongside other major pieces of legislation affirming the Quebecois nation's values and way of life, such as the 1977 Charter of the French Language, known as Bill 101.The premier said Friday the bill has allowed many Quebecers to regain a sense of pride. But Pierre Arcand, interim Liberal leader, said Sunday Legault's legacy will be "this botched bill, that can't be applied, that violates the rights of minorities. Mr. Premier, we will remember you for this."Bill 21 was the second law debated and passed over the weekend. In a 62 to 42 vote, the government used its majority around 4 a.m. Sunday to push through Bill 9, which reforms the province's immigration system.Jolin-Barrette's bill gives the province more authority over who receives permanent residency in the province. The government says the new selection criteria will permit it to fast-track newcomers who better meet the needs of employers. Applicants in the old system were selected on a first-come, first-served basis.The bill is controversial because it creates a legal framework that allows the government to force newly arrived immigrants to pass a French-language and so-called values test before becoming eligible for permanent residency.While specific wording on the two proposed tests isn't included in the bill, the legislation permits the province to institute the tests by way of regulation.Also contentious is the provision in Bill 9 permitting the government to cancel roughly 18,000 immigration applications — some from people who have waited in limbo for years as their files languished under the old system. Those applicants will have to start the process over again.Including the applicants' families, the fates of some 50,000 people wishing to immigrate to Quebec were at stake.Opponents to the bill, including the provincial Liberals, said the Coalition Avenir Quebec government has provided "no credible explanation" to eliminate the applications.The federation of Quebec's chambers of commerce saluted the bill's passing early Sunday."The concerted efforts of the government will lead to a better link between the skills of immigrants and those required for positions to fill in Quebec companies," the federation's president, Stephane Forget, said in a statement."These changes will have a very important impact to facilitate the recruitment of future employees ... and therefore, better integration of immigrants."The Canadian Press


Canadian sports fans have changed since the Blue Jays' World Series wins

Canadian sports fans have changed since the Blue Jays' World Series winsTORONTO — After more than a quarter century since one of the country's major pro sports teams took home a championship, Canadian sports fans will finally be able to celebrate on Monday with a parade and rally for the Toronto Raptors.


Government wins last-ditch reprieve for law allowing inmate segregation

Government wins last-ditch reprieve for law allowing inmate segregationTORONTO — Prisoner isolation, declared unconstitutional 18 months ago, will remain legal for now after Canada's top court granted Ottawa's urgent request to allow the current law to stay in force for the time being.The reprieve from the Supreme Court, pending a full hearing on the issue, sets aside a lower court order that would have made administrative segregation illegal after Monday.The stay gives the Liberal government yet more time to enact a replacement regime aimed at fixing problems that prompted several courts to declare the current system a violation of the Constitution."It is disappointing that the attorney general is going to such lengths to perpetuate a practice that has been declared cruel and unusual," said Michael Rosenberg, lawyer for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which successfully fought the law.In its request to set aside the deadline the Ontario Court of Appeal set in April, the government warned that banning solitary confinement without a practical alternative in place would create a dangerous situation in prisons.Supreme Court Justice Suzanne Cote agreed the government had solid preliminary arguments and granted the stay request on Friday until the legal situation can be thrashed out "on an expedited basis." That will be sometime after July 2.Administrative segregation, authorized by the Correctional and Conditional Release Act, entails extreme isolation of inmates prison authorities deem a risk to themselves or others — when no reasonable option exists.Experts say segregation can have mental-health consequences that become more severe the longer a prisoner is isolated.In December 2017, Ontario Superior Court Justice Frank Marrocco declared parts of the act unconstitutional due to a lack of independent oversight of inmate placement in solitary. Ottawa did not appeal that ruling.Marrocco also gave Ottawa a year to fix the problem but the government twice persuaded a reluctant Ontario Court of Appeal to allow it yet more time to remedy the situation through Bill C-83, currently before Parliament.The government has steadfastly maintained the bill would address the court-identified problems by creating "structured intervention units" that would, among other things, give prisoners more meaningful contact with other people.Legal and human-rights activists branded Bill C-83 as window dressing.Last week, the Senate passed the bill with several changes designed to address the criticism. The government has since said it accepts some, rejects some and changed others. The Commons must now review those changes and then the Senate will take its own look, a spokeswoman for Independent Sen. Pierre Dalphond said Sunday.Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, disputed suggestions the bill preserves solitary confinement under a different name."C-83 allows for the separation of inmates when that's necessary for safety reasons, while providing programs, interventions, mental health care and meaningful human contact on a daily basis — all subject to binding external review," Bardsley said. "As the summer recess approaches, it is vital that Parliament be seized with the future of our correctional system "The bill would also scrap disciplinary segregation. Punishment instead would involve a loss of privileges, a fine, or the performance of extra duties.Colin Perkel, The Canadian PressNote to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the Senate would look at the bill on Monday.


Poll suggests majority of Canadians favour limiting immigration levels

Poll suggests majority of Canadians favour limiting immigration levelsOTTAWA — New polling numbers suggest a majority of Canadians believe the federal government should limit the number of immigrants it accepts — a public opinion trend that Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says he finds concerning.Sixty-three per cent of respondents to a recent Leger poll said the government should prioritize limiting immigration levels because the country might be reaching a limit in its ability to integrate them.Just 37 per cent said the priority should be on growing immigration to meet the demands of Canada's expanding economy.Hussen says he is concerned by this because he has heard directly from employers across the country who are in desperate need of workers. Economists and experts widely agree that immigration is key to meeting labour and population shortages.Canadians may be worried about the ability of communities to absorb more newcomers due to housing and other infrastructure shortages, but Hussen says the answer is not to cut the number of immigrants coming to Canada."It's not a zero-sum game," he said."I think the answer is to continue on an ambitious program to invest in infrastructure, to invest in housing, to invest in transit, so that everyone can benefit from those investments and that we can then use those community services to integrate newcomers, which will also benefit Canadians."The poll of 1,528 Canadians were randomly recruited from Leger's online panel conducted from June 7 to 10 for The Canadian Press. Polling experts say online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not generate a random sample of the population.The results suggest Conservative voters are far more likely to favour limiting immigration levels, as are a majority of Green supporters — 81 per cent of Conservative respondents and 57 per cent of Greens chose this option, while 41 per cent of Liberals and 44 per cent of NDP supporters were in favour.On the flip side, 59 per cent of Liberals said they prefer government increasing the number of immigrants, as did 56 per cent of NDP respondents and 43 per cent of Green supporters. Only 19 per cent of Conservatives favoured this option.The numbers are not the first to suggest a hardening of public opinion against immigration in Canada.A Leger poll in February had almost half of respondents saying they believe Canada welcomes too many immigrants and refugees. And an EKOS poll released last month suggested 42 per cent of Canadians believe the country accepts too many non-white newcomers.In 2017, Immigration Department officials warned of a "tipping point" that could undermine public support for welcoming immigrants if public discourse was not approached with care, according to internal data prepared by the Immigration Department for a committee of deputy ministers.The data, which was obtained by The Canadian Press through access-to-information law, suggested a majority of Canadians at that time supported the migration levels, but there was also polling data that suggested this support dropped when Canadians were informed of how many immigrants actually arrive every year.If the government wants to do more on immigration, managing public attitudes and paying close attention to the performance of settlement services would be key, the internal briefing note states."Other circumstances can also colour attitudes to immigration: hardening attitudes toward immigration in other countries; feelings of disenfranchisement flowing from economic downturns and globalization," the document says."Engagement with the Canadian public is necessary, however any high profile debate will need to be carefully managed."Hussen said his department has been focused on sharing positive stories of newcomers giving back to their communities as a way to keep public attitudes from turning against new Canadians and refugees.He added that this has become increasingly necessary to counter what he called fear-mongering and misinformation being spread about immigrants by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer."We used to have a political consensus on immigration, but what worries me is looking at the other side and seeing the leader of the official Opposition taking a stance that is rooted in misinformation and conspiracy theories...basically spreading myths about immigration," Hussen said."It's unbecoming of a leader to do that and has a corrosive effect on our social fabric."But Scheer says it's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's fault that public support for immigration is waning. He pointed to the influx of over 43,000 asylum seekers that have crossed into Canada "illegally" since 2017 using a forest path in Quebec and avoiding official border checkpoints where they'd have been turned back to the U.S. asylum system."There is absolutely nothing fair or compassionate about real victims of persecution having to fight the government to be reunited with their families, or forcing the oppressed to wait longer for Canada's help while others jump the queue, exploit loopholes and cross the border illegally from places like upstate New York," Scheer said in a statement Sunday.He called Hussen's comments about him an attempt to blame the Opposition for "exposing Trudeau's track record" and vowed to restore fairness and order to Canada's immigration system.—Follow @ReporterTeresa on Twitter.Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


'He was ditched:' La Loche victim spiralled without support, now going to prison

'He was ditched:' La Loche victim spiralled without support, now going to prisonSASKATOON — A promising football player whose dreams of playing professionally were crushed after a deadly school shooting in northern Saskatchewan has been sent to prison and his family says it's because he didn't get the mental-health help he needed.They say they watched as the physical pain and the memories from the 2016 shooting in La Loche transformed the teen from a spirited athlete and outgoing student with good grades to an angry and confused young man who turned to alcohol.At one point, he was also using methamphetamine."One minute he'd be happy and fine, next minute he’d be miserable," his grandfather said in an interview in Saskatoon.The Canadian Press is not identifying the victim, now 19, because he was a youth at the time of the La Loche shooting.The victim was 16 and from Saskatoon, but was spending part of the school year with his grandparents in La Loche, a remote Dene community 700 kilometres to the north, when he was shot at the entrance of the high school.In the panicked minutes that followed, a 17-year-old student with a shotgun wounded six others and killed a teacher and a teacher's aide. He had earlier killed two teenage brothers in a nearby home.The shooter pleaded guilty to charges that included first-degree murder and was sentenced last year as an adult to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years. Because he is appealing his sentence, he can't be named.The gun blasts struck the young football player in the chest and arm, where he suffered permanent nerve damage. He couldn't grip a football anymore, said his mother.“When it could have been anything else in the body, it was his hand," she said.He underwent multiple surgeries and tried weightlifting and playing basketball, but grew frustrated and lost his passion for sports, said his grandfather.His mother packed away her boy's stacks of Sports Illustrated magazines, collection of footballs and other gear. He told her he didn't care what she did with it.Sitting at a Tim Hortons, the mother swiped through pictures of her eldest son on her cellphone.Images of a past Christmas he spent with his two younger brothers. A photo of him when he was about 12, flashing a big smile at a flag football game.Another photo of him, taller and bigger, dressed in a black-and-yellow jersey on the sidelines of a high school football game. It was taken shortly before he left for La Loche.Growing up his favourite football player, said his grandfather, was former Saskatchewan Roughrider Weston Dressler. Scouts had told the family there was a chance the youth could play professionally.But that never happened.Last week, he was sentenced after earlier pleading guilty to several offences, including assault with a weapon and possession of an unloaded prohibited firearm with ammunition.The young man admitted to using bear spray on his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend during a confrontation in 2018. A few months later, police discovered him inside a vehicle with a sawed-off rifle and rounds of ammunition. Court heard he told friends he wanted to commit a robbery.He was sentenced to three years in prison.Court heard he was a La Loche shooting victim and didn't get the proper counselling he needed to recover.His grandfather agrees."He was ditched."The grandfather said he had asked the provincial government for an advocate to help the family co-ordinate counselling services while the young man recovered in Saskatoon. But that didn't happen.Most of the help went to La Loche, he said."It was all about La Loche, La Loche, not really the victims," the mother added.Counsellors were sent to the village after the shooting, but a year later community leaders complained about a lack of continued support.Earlier this year, after the third anniversary of the shooting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited La Loche and announced $2.2 million in funding for projects and mental-health services for students.Prosecutor Kristin MacLean said in the recent case involving the shooting victim, the court considered the trauma he suffered. The Crown feels the prison term is appropriate given factors such as the risk to public safety and prevalence of firearm-related crimes in Saskatoon.Defence lawyer Logan Marchand said the La Loche shooting sent his client on a downward spiral."The mental-health impacts from the PTSD alone, I think, also influences his behaviour," said Marchand.He had requested provincial jail time and probation so his client could get more help with his addictions and to deal with the shooting.Marchand said his client didn't get the counselling he needed to help him recover and believes prison will do nothing more to help."Without some form of intervention ... in some ways his presence in front of the courts at some point in the future was almost an inevitability."Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press


Monday 17th of June 2019 02:03:55

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