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Edmonton activist calls for more research on killers of Indigenous women

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Muriel Stanley Venne was left for dead in the back alley of her home. It was a violent end to a marriage marred by years of abuse.

Looking back, Venne feels she was perilously close to becoming a statistic — just one of hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.

“The only reason he didn’t kill me was because he thought I was dead,” Venne recalled.

Nearly 50 years later, Venne —  now an internationally-recognized human rights activist  — is calling for more research on the killers of Indigenous women and girls. She wants federal prisons to interview the convicted murderers. 

To understand why Indigenous women are murdered at disproportionate rates, advocates and policy-makers must hear from the killers themselves, she said. 

This is an excellent opportunity to start dealing with the root causes of this pain.– Muriel Stanley Venne

“If we don’t interview them and find out why did what they did what they did, we will be missing a great part, a factor in the awful tragedies that are happening in the country and have been happening for many years,” said Venne, who pitched her idea to Correctional Service Canada commissioner Anne Kelly last week.

“This is an excellent opportunity to start dealing with the root causes of this pain that is throughout the Indigenous community.”

Venne met with corrections officials in Laval, Que. last week.

She is a member of National Aboriginal Advisory Committee, which provides advice and recommendations to Correctional Service Canada on Indigenous offenders. She’s also the founder of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, based in Edmonton.

“The statistics have gotten worse instead of better and that’s of very grave concern to me,” she said. We are not speaking to the perpetrators and valuable information could be gained from this. 

“It’s something that I, as a Canadian woman, find very concerning,” she said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM. The fact that it’s taken so long to get where we are is something that haunts me.” 

A 2017 report from Statistics Canada showed Indigenous women are six times more likely to be victims of homicide than non-Indigenous women.

An RCMP report in 2014 found 1,181 police-recorded incidents of Indigenous female homicides between 1980 and 2012, and missing Indigenous females dating back to 1951.

Of these, there were 164 missing and 1,017 homicide victims, making Indigenous women and girls over-represented among missing and murdered women in Canada.

In September 2016, a national inquiry was launched to examine the disproportionate numbers and investigate how such cases are handled. The inquiry is set to release its final report in April.

But a lack of information around what drives killers to prey on Indigenous women will leave that final document lacking key answers, Venne said.

‘To answer the question why’

Venne said she plans to meet with correctional officials again but no meeting date has been set.

While her idea remains only a proposal, Venne remains confident the model could provide valuable insight on the motivations and psychology behind each killing — and help prevent future violence. 

“To answer the question why,” she said. “Why is it that this happens?

“With these startling statistics, I just agonize over the fact that our women are killed on a routine basis and it’s being left at that. I’m hoping that things will evolve.”

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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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