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Goodale to address RCMP oversight after years of harassment allegations against force

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The federal government is expected to unveil this morning some major structural changes to the RCMP and how it handles harassment— changes that have been years in the making.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale will make the announcement with RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki starting at 10 a.m. ET in Ottawa at the Canadian Police College. CBC News will carry the announcement live.

Goodale’s office said the minister will address two 2017 reports he requested that dove into the force’s workplace harassment issues.

The reports, one from former audior general Sheila Fraser and the other from the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, called for greater civilian oversight in the management of the Mounties, and an independent external adjudication of harassment and sexual abuse situations.

Goodale has said he’s open to entertaining the idea of civilian oversight, and has called publicly for a “new culture” free of “workplace harassment, bullying and sexual misconduct.”

“But it would be a massive change in the way the institution has operated for over a century,” said his spokesperson, Scott Bardsley, when asked about civilain oversight.

“It would require careful thought, and would need very strong support both at the political level and publicly among Canadians because of its fundamental importance.”

Fraser, who reviewed the case of four members who sued the force over workplace harassment, found the RCMP defended its actions to protect its image rather than deal with abuse and abusers.

She also said there was a trend to push the harassers towards resignation or early retirement instead of dismissal. 

“It lacks the closure that victims need … there has been no accountability … the message is that harassment is not taken seriously by senior management,” Fraser said.

In a separate workplace harassment report, Ian McPhail, then chair of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, found bullying and abuse of authority within the force is so bad that it threatens its ability to police the country.

“The RCMP will not be able to bring about the necessary change required to address its dysfunctional culture on its own,” wrote McPhail. 

That report looked into 264 harassment complaints filed between 2013 and 2016.

Class actions ongoing

The RCMP has for years been plagued by allegations of sexual harassment, intimidation and bullying.

In 2016, Bob Paulson, then the RCMP commissioner, delivered a historic apology to female officers and civilian members as part of a settlement in two class-action lawsuits  As the settlement was announced, the government set aside $100 million to cover the claims, but left open the option of increasing the sum.

The government expected 1,000 people to submit claims, but as of November 2018, more than 3,000 had been received.

As a result, the RCMP has already flagged it will need more money to cover the settlement.

In 2018, lawyers for two veteran male RCMP officers filed a $1.1-billion class-action claim in Federal Court seeking compensation for thousands of past and present employees for what they claim is widespread “bullying, harassment and intimidation.”

The RCMP’s disciplinary review body — the independent committee that investigates things like harassment complaints and Mountie misconduct — says it’s drowning in casework.

“The ERC [external review committee] will face continued operational pressures in delivering its case reviews in 2018-19 due to the need to manage a significant backlog of files and increased workload projections,” noted a report recently tabled in the House of Commons.

The RCMP refers disciplinary cases — which can include dismissals, medical discharges and pay stoppages — to the external committee for review to ensure the process is fair and transparent.

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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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