March 14, 2016

National Newswatch – Keith Leslie, Canadian Press
Ontario will test idea of a guaranteed minimum income to ease poverty

The idea has been floating around for a while.  The notion is to set a minimum but adequate amount for people on welfare to be able to meet the basic necessities of living for themselves and their families.  The idea is an alternative to present convoluted system of giving inadequately and taking back even in the inadequacy such that people can never overcome the circumstance of poverty – they meet the welfare wall.  Ontario is planning a pilot study with the feds watching closely.  Sen. Art Eggleton, an advocate for the idea, says “Social programs should lift people out of poverty, not keep them there, and a basic income is a new approach that could work.”

Globe and Mail – Gloria Galloway
Indigenous Affairs ‘redoubled’ funding efforts for better education: minister

Indigenous high schools have a 40% graduation rate and considerably less money than any other school district to operate.  Indigenous Affairs Minister Caroline Bennett is facing a changed fiscal scene but is still looking for a way to allow the funding quietly cut by the previous Conservative government from the Indigenous educational budgets to be improved.  First Nations are concerned across the country that the promised funds are not coming.   Related article:  CBC News – Susana Mas  First Nations education funds quietly ‘removed’ by the previous government, Liberals say – Liberal government to ‘redouble’ its efforts to deliver on First Nations education, Bennett says

Toronto Star – Editorial (March 13, 2016)
Canada’s Border Services Agency needs independent oversight

Since 2000, thirteen people have died while in the custody of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), all in secrecy with little or no information revealed about who these people were or how they died.  The UN and at least five human rights groups want changes and accountability in the light of the most recent suicide while in custody, identified by the Star as Melkioro Gahungu, who hanged himself as he awaited deportation to Burundi. He had been in prison after killing his wife in 2009.  CBSA claims that the Privacy Act prohibits any disclosure.    Related article: Globe and Mail Editorial (March 13, 2016) If Correctional Services won’t fix solitary confinement, then Ottawa must

Toronto Star – Thomas Walkom
Trudeau quietly agrees to share info on Canadians with U.S.

Walkom makes it clear that we are talking about the exchange with US Security and intelligence agencies personal biographic detail on Canadians who wish to travel to the US and in turn US citizens travelling to Canada.  The two countries will do more and more jointly and what started as an effort to speed up commercial trade at the border has now been complicated by practical legalities in overlap.

Hill Times – Derek Abma
Former PBO Page to help run new think-tank

There is a new Ontario government think tank starting at U of Ottawa called the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy and former Parliamentary Budget Office Kevin Page has been appointed to chair it.  The think tank’s focus is public policy and institutions like World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Ottawa Citizen – Andrew Seymour
Lockdowns at Ottawa jail tripled in 2015, documents show

Lockdowns are when inmates in a prison are confined for prolonged periods – sometimes days on end – to their cells.  All routine and all ways of coping are disrupted.  Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre had 147 lockdowns in 2015.  Staff shortages are the reason for the on-going problems but there is no end in sight.  Irene Mathias, an organizer of the Ottawa prisoner family support groups Mothers Offering Mutual Support (MOMS) says:  “This amounts to caging people like animals. Not only does it damage them mentally and physically, it cuts them off from family support and it reduces their prospects for a fair trial by reducing their access to lawyers as well as time to read disclosure and prepare for their day in court.”

Globe and Mail – Colin Freeze, Matthew Braga, Les Perreaux
RCMP fight to keep lid on high-tech investigation tool

ON March 30, a Montreal court will explore the public’s right to know how the RCMP were able to secretly monitor cell phone communications in a mob related case that has advocates wondering about how sophisticated the RCMP mass surveillance techniques are and the dangers for ordinary citizens.  Government lawyers have acknowledged only that the RCMP used an extraordinary communications-interception technique involving “mobile device identifier” equipment.