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RCMP to conduct review of actions taken at Gidimt’en camp blockade

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RCMP will conduct a review of what took place last week after officers entered a fortified checkpoint on a forest service road in northern B.C. where people at the Gidimt’en camp were barring a pipeline company from access. 

Wet’suwet’en members set up checkpoints preventing people working on Coastal GasLink project from accessing their traditional territory, which sits about 300 kilometres west of Prince George, B.C.

A court injunction granted in December ordered people to stop preventing Coastal GasLink from gaining access to the road and a bridge. RCMP began enforcing the injunction on Monday, arresting 14 people, and sparking protests across Canada.

Reading off a prepared statement in a press conference in Vancouver on Monday, Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs said that the review is being conducted as it would for any major operation and that, “to date, we have not yet identified any issues regarding police officer conduct.” 

An RCMP official said that prior to the injunction being enforced, officers developed an operational plan that involved moving police resources into the area because of the location of the blockade and the ‘unpredictable’ nature of what could have happened. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

But people arrested at the Gidimt’en camp alleged to CBC News that there was an inappropriate use of force by police, with a spokesperson for the camp describing the scene as “chaos all around.”

The Coastal GasLink project is run by TransCanada Corp. and is meant to move natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the coast, where a liquefied natural gas project is scheduled for construction.

TransCanada has said it signed agreements with all First Nations along the proposed pipeline route to LNG Canada’s $40-billion liquefied natural gas project on the coast — but the hereditary leaders say those agreements don’t apply to the traditional territories.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and RCMP have since reached an agreement over the enforcement of a injunction.

RCMP call situation ‘unpredictable’

Stubbs said that prior to the injunction being enforced, RCMP developed an operational plan that involved moving police resources into the area because of the location of the blockade and the “unpredictable” nature of what could have happened.

“This is an area that’s very remote, it’s an area that has a number of people that could swell from 10 to 100 so there’s a lot of unknowns. So we have to be ready to make sure that we can react to what is presented to us.”

He said as RCMP entered the camp, one person secured themselves to the barricade, two attached themselves to the underside of a bus that was blocking access to the bridge, and another was suspended in a hammock off the side of the bridge. 

“The situation was challenging — the protesters reaction to the police ranged from passive resistance, to active resistance to actual assaultive behaviour,” he said.  

RCMP officers climb over a barricade and start making arrests to enforce the Coastal GasLink injunction at the Gidimt’en camp in northern B.C. on Jan. 7, 2019. 1:42

But Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’moks said he didn’t consider those actions to be threatening.

“When you discuss a threatening action that would make me think of people being aggressive, and when you’re passively there, I don’t think there’s any aggression there,” he said.

“There is some inhumanity that happened there, I don’t think that our people needed to be treated in the way that.”

People arrested last week said that protestors were put at risk after RCMP pulled people from the gate and pinned them to the ground, and that barbed wire cut atop the gate was flying in people’s faces.

As part of their enforcement action, RCMP also established an exclusion zone, preventing access to the area by the public and media. RCMP have denied they jammed communications, preventing media and public from providing information about the situation at the camp on Monday afternoon.

The RCMP statement said that “the level of trust between the RCMP and the Hereditary Chiefs now in place will continue to play a direct and positive role going forward.”

But Na’moks said “we’re not there yet.”

“I believe there has to be trust built.” he said. “This is too fresh in our minds, too fresh in our souls.”

Stubbs said there’s no timeline as to when the review will be complete. 

He said RCMP will maintain a presence in the area this week and will next week transition to a “significantly scaled down presence, one that everyone is comfortable with.”

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Federal Budget 2021: Ottawa adds $1B to broadband fund for rural, remote communities

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The federal government will add $1 billion to a fund for improving high-speed communications in rural and remote areas of Canada, bringing the total to $2.75 billion by 2026, the Liberals said Monday in their first full budget since the pandemic began last year.

The money is going to the Universal Broadband Fund, which is designed to support the installation of “backbone” infrastructure that connects underserved communities to high-speed internet.

It’s one of many government and private-sector initiatives that have gained urgency since the pandemic began, as Canadians became more dependent on internet service for applications ranging from e-learning to daily business operations.

Ottawa says the additional money will keep it on track to have high-speed broadband in 98 per cent of the country by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030.

Money spent on high-speed communications will be good for a recovering economy, said Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, a non-partisan think-tank.

The latest data from Statistics Canada says there were about five million people working from home during the pandemic, up from about two million prior to that, Antunes said in an interview.

“That’s a quarter or so of the workforce,” he added. “And I think a fair number of those people are going to continue to work from home, at least in some part-time way.”

Improved connections to high-speed broadband and mobile communications will add to the productive capacity of the economy overall, especially as it reaches beyond Canada’s cities, Antunes said.

He said there’s been a “real issue” with economic growth outside major urban centres and the improved connectivity “is something that can help stimulate that.”

The Universal Broadband Fund was initially mentioned in the 2019 budget, though specifics were not available until last November’s fiscal update.

The $1-billion top-up to the broadband fund announced today is in addition to $1.75 billion promised to the fund by the federal government’s November fiscal update.

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COVID-19: What you need to know for April 19

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Provincewide

  • Per today’s government report, there are 4,447 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 421,442 since the pandemic began; 2,202 people are in hospital, 755 of them in intensive care, and 516 on ventilators. To date, 7,735 people have died.
  • According to data from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, there are 40 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 36 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 127 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 3,755 confirmed resident deaths and 11 confirmed staff deaths.
  • Per the government’s report on Ontario’s vaccination program, as of 7 p.m. yesterday, Ontario has administered 66,897 new doses of COVID-19 vaccines, for a total of 3,904,778 since December 2020. 3,212,768 people have received only one dose, and 346,005 people have received both doses.

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Federal budget 2021 highlights: Child care, recovery benefits, OAS increases – everything you need to know

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The federal government’s first budget in more than two years certainly looks the part: At 739 pages, it is a hefty document chock full of billions in new spending.

Those funds will be spread among a number of key groups – students, seniors, parents and small-business owners, to name a few – as Ottawa looks to bolster Canada’s recovery from COVID-19 but also plan for life beyond the pandemic.

To that end, the deficit is projected to hit $354.2-billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which just ended – better than expected about five months ago, given the economy’s resilience over the winter months. It is estimated to fall to $154.7-billion this fiscal year, before dropping further in the years to come as pandemic spending recedes from view.

Here are some of the highlights from Monday’s budget.

The budget outlines tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies for a national child-care program, a promise the Liberal Party has made in some form since the early 1990s. Child-care supports became a point of national debate during pandemic lockdowns as parents with young children struggled to juggle work and family responsibilities.

In total, the government proposes spending as much as $30-billion over the next five years, and $8.3-billion each year after that, to bring child-care fees down to a $10-a-day average by 2026. The proposal, which requires negotiation with the provinces and territories, would split subsidies evenly with those governments and targets a 50-per-cent reduction in average child-care fees by the end of 2022.

The federal program is largely modelled on Quebec’s subsidized child-care system, implemented in the 1990s in an effort to increase women’s access to the labour market. Since then, labour participation rates for women aged 25 to 54 in the province have grown to exceed the national average by four percentage points.

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