B.C. rural health advocates launching initiative to help solve health-care issues

As the search for answers to B.C.'s rural health care crisis continues, small towns feel they're being shut out of the process and so as Travis Prasad reports, they are mobilizing a committee to come up with concrete action.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on a health-care crisis that has been plaguing rural B.C. for years.

“We’ve been struggling with recruitment and retention, with enough physicians, nurses, midwives, for two decades,” said Dr. Jude Kornelsen, with the UBC Centre for Rural Research.

“We’ve been struggling with adequate patient transport from their community to a larger centre.”

Read more:

People at risk of suicide and self-harm to get enhanced care, province says

Advocates for health care in small communities have said for far too long the wants and needs of residents have been ignored.

“They’re not feeling very listened to,” said Peggy Skelton, BC Rural Health Network’s president.

“They feel like people are discussing what should be happening in rural areas without really discussing it with the people who live in those rural areas.”

The health network said solutions to health-care challenges are much harder to fix in small towns compared to urban centres.

“Rural is not smaller urban,” said Dr. Kornelson.

“That’s one of the mistakes made in planning. (It’s) completely different, (in terms of) economies of scale and access to resources.”

Read more:

‘I know that it saved my life’: Can virtual health care ease Canada’s ER crisis?

The B.C. premier has said he’s heard frustration, despondency, and a lack of hope on the future of health care from rural mayors.

“My job is to hear those concerns,” John Horgan said in Whistler last week.

“I’m well aware of them. These problems didn’t arrive yesterday and they won’t be solved magically tomorrow.”

But advocates want action now.

The BC Rural Health Network is launching an “implementation committee.”

Researchers and residents will be giving policymakers evidence-based solutions to rural health-care challenges.

Over this past summer, hospitals in communities such as Clearwater, Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Merritt, Oliver and Mackenzie have all had to temporarily close their emergency rooms due to staffing shortages.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

ArriveCAN delayed U.S. crews trying to help Canada as Fiona wreaked havoc: N.S. premier's office

WATCH: Fiona update: 1 day after the massive storm hit Halifax

Power crews from Maine headed to help Canada amid post-tropical storm Fiona were delayed at the border due to the ArriveCAN app, the Nova Scotia premier’s office confirmed to Global News on Sunday.

ArriveCAN is a controversial mandatory COVID-19 pre-screening tool for people arriving in Canada — one the federal government is reportedly set to make optional at the end of the month.

The province of Nova Scotia and the state of Maine have a memorandum of understanding that allows them to provide mutual assistance in managing an emergency or natural disaster.

Read more:

Fiona, a record-setting storm, leaves path of destruction in eastern Canada

But as Fiona battered Nova Scotia, the crews from Maine faced a hurdle at the border due to the app — an issue that was only resolved once the federal government intervened, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said in a briefing on Sunday.

“I do know that there was a situation where some crews from Maine were having an issue at the border … We became aware of that, we alerted the federal government. My understanding is that that was dealt with pretty quickly. But … there was an issue to begin with,” said Houston.

Post-tropical storm Fiona made landfall early Saturday morning, bringing severe wind, heavy rain, and leaving hundreds of thousands without power across eastern Canada.

The fierce storm toppled a number of trees across the region, with some falling into power lines, cars and houses, and there have been multiple reports of blocked and washed-out roads as crews begin assessing damage in areas where the storm has already passed.

As of 6 a.m. AT on Sunday, nearly 267,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were still affected by outages, 82,414 Maritime Electric customers remained in the dark and more than 20,600 homes and businesses in New Brunswick were without power, with some provincial utility companies warning it could be days before the lights are back on for everyone.

Newfoundland Power reported outages affecting more than 3,600 customers, as high-end tropical storm force winds knocked down trees and power lines, although Environment Canada said winds would diminish this morning.

— With files from the Canadian Press and Global’s Alex Cooke 

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Protesters march to Toronto city hall in call for action against gun violence

WATCH ABOVE: Toronto has been plagued by a surge in gun violence this year. But financial help is on the way from Ottawa with a focus on preventing guns from ever making it into the hands of youth. Kayla McLean reports.

On Saturday, crowds of mourners and protestors marched from the Yonge Street and Bloor Street intersection to the steps of Toronto City Hall in Nathan Phillips square.

Participants — many wearing clothes commemorating those who had died — marched to draw attention to gun violence in Toronto and called for it to end.

At the heart of the event were the families of those who had died as a result of gun violence, organizers said.

“No one is listening to their voice and that’s why we are doing this, providing (a) voice for them and opportunity for them to speak up about their concern, their trauma, their grief,” Louis March, the founder of Zero Gun Violence, told Global News.

“(We march) to make sure that the government hears their voice and does what is necessary to stop this violence.”

Read more:

Toronto police identify 17-year-old boy killed in daylight shooting

Some in attendance said they had seen loved ones killed in the past few months.

“We came today to support everyone that has lost people — mothers, kids, everybody,” Jesiah Martin said.

“I lost my dad this year, so we just came out here to support. And his favourite colour was red, so we came out here in red. So everybody hearing this, drop your guns. Just help the community.”

Jesiah attended the event with his siblings and mother, Aisha, all dressed in red.

“We came out as a family today to represent the absence of Brandon Brooks, who was my children’s father who was recently murdered in April due to gun violence,” Aisha, who did not provide a surname, said. “We are here to stand in his absence to bring community awareness that guns need to be put down.”

Brandon Brooks was killed during a shooting in M’Chigeeng First Nation at the beginning of April, Ontario Provincial Police said. Five people, all from southern Ontario, were charged with first-degree murder.

Read more:

Tougher bail rules, sentences for gun violence in Canada ‘certainly an option’: minister

“He was a nice, loving man,” Brandon’s daughter, Taya, said. “Every day he would take me to the park.”

Data maintained by Toronto police shows there have been 302 shootings and firearm discharges in 2022 so far. A total of 146 people have been killed or injured, with 31 firearm-related deaths.

Knia Singh, who is running in Toronto’s upcoming mayoral race, said the key to blunting the edge of Toronto’s violent crime is an increase in mental health resources.

“More police and stiffer sentences are not going to solve this violence; getting to the minds of people, mental health and ensuring that they have support is what is going to reduce violence in this city,” he told Global News.

Read more:

‘Unacceptable’: Toronto mayor speaks out after 4 separate shootings on Father’s Day

March said that while resources are being dedicated to the problem, policy is failing to make a difference in Toronto.

“There’s a lot of talk, there’s a lot of money being spent and we still have the problem,” March said.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

A Fiona wedding: Couple ties knot in PEI during wrath of storm

Post-tropical storm Fiona is set to hit the Atlantic coast making for yet another major weather event that will have missed Ontario. The last major event was Hurricane Hazel in 1954. Ahmar Khan reports.

Naomi and Tyler Wheeler have lived through a pandemic, wildfires, heat waves, minor earthquakes and most recently a post-tropical storm that laid waste to huge swaths of Atlantic Canada.

As the former hurricane Fiona pounded Prince Edward Island on Saturday, devastating much of the province, the couple pledged to weather storms — and any other apocalyptic events life sends their way — together.

In front of just 16 guests, down from the 85 they’d hoped to entertain, the Wheelers professed their love for each other and exchanged rings at the Rodd Charlottetown hotel in the capital city’s downtown core.

Read more:

Storm Fiona: Nova Scotia premier tours ‘heartbreaking’ aftermath in Cape Breton

The couple officially tied the knot in Halifax in 2017 in a small ceremony and decided to have a party later.

“We tried to schedule it three times,” Naomi Wheeler said with a laugh. “And then COVID kept getting in the way. Of course, a hurricane happens when we reschedule.”

The couple live in the bride’s California home town, while the groom hails from Montague, P.E.I. They wanted to have a party for Tyler Wheeler’s family and other friends who wouldn’t be able to make it to Los Angeles.

They landed in Charlottetown Wednesday when Fiona was churning its way through southern waters. But as the storm approached Canada and warnings grew stringent, their friends cancelled. The couple was disappointed but understood. They wanted their friends and family safe.

“There was the whole stages of grief about it,” Tyler Wheeler said. “We’re just kind of in disbelief that this could happen.”

The couple then simply decided to go with the flow, said the bride.

“The flow is just a hurricane.”

The wedding was delayed by an hour-and-a-half while the officiant, Sarah Haberl, and the groom helped patch up a family member’s roof. The Wheelers first met as students at a 2013 party in Montreal. Later that evening, the pair recognized each other at a club where they had gone to act as “wing people” for friends.

“We were terrible wing people,” said the bride.

Nine years later, as Fiona raged, the couple finally celebrated their love and friendship with their closest friends in a storm-adapted ceremony they said was sprinkled with personal touches.

The room was lit with 30 candles and three iPhone flashlights. The invocation and vows were read by candlelight and a headlamp, Haberl said.

The ceremony included a poem, a little bit of the childhood of the couple and had some “lovey-dovey things,” she said.

The rings the Wheelers eventually exchanged were first passed around the room so guests could offer a blessing on them.

Read more:

After the storm: residents of Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec survey damage

The raspberry and vanilla swirl cake was topped with fresh flowers and made by the groom’s sister-in-law.

One of the first songs partygoers danced to was the well-known sea shanty `Barrett’s Privateers.’

“We had to get a little bit of Nova Scotia in there,” the groom said.

Amid the celebration, the couple said there was a touch of sadness because the groom’s grandparents couldn’t attend.

Reflecting on their ceremony and the past few whirlwind days, the bride said they didn’t realize how fast and how bad things could get with the weather. But Naomi Wheeler said she also feels overwhelmed by the amount of support she got and how everyone came together.

“I think we embraced it. It was a lovely, lovely, cosy, intimate evening,” she said. “I feel very loved.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Overnight shooting in Surrey, B.C.’s Guildford area sends one to hospital

One man is in hospital with “serious injuries” after a shooting in the Guilford area of Surrey, B.C., Saturday night.

Surrey RCMP said officers responded to a report of gunshots in the 16200 block of 80 Ave, around midnight.

When officers arrived at the scene, they found the victim.

Read more:

Surrey police investigating shooting on residential street near Scott Road

Investigators are conducting neighbourhood canvassing and are looking to speak with witnesses.

Police said they believe the shooting to be a targeted incident and the parties are known to each other.

Read more:

Man found with gunshot wound in Cloverdale neighbourhood, Surrey RCMP investigating

Anyone with potential information is being asked to contact Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Storm Fiona: Nova Scotia premier tours ‘heartbreaking' aftermath in Cape Breton

WATCH LIVE: Provincial and municipal officials in Nova Scotia will update Fiona damage and recovery efforts at 2:30 p.m. AT.

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said it was “really heartbreaking” to see the extensive damage post-tropical storm Fiona brought to Cape Breton, after a tour of some of the hardest hit areas of the island on Sunday.

Fiona hammered Atlantic Canada Friday night into Saturday, causing widespread power outages, washing out roads and downing trees.

Read more:

Eastern Canada begins to assess full scope of storm Fiona damage

As of 1 p.m., more than 252,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were without power — and for some, it could be days before the lights are back on. Power crews from neighbouring provinces and Maine have arrived to help.

“Fiona definitely left a mark on the province,” Houston told reporters during a stop in Glace Bay, along with some of his cabinet ministers.

He said the priority at this point is to reconnect power and find safe shelter for everyone.

“We know that there’s a lot of people who are without right now. Our local MLA here, John White, tells me he knows of dozens of families right now that don’t have any place to go. So we’re concerned about that. We’ll do everything we can to support them,” said Houston.

The province’s request for federal financial aid and military support have both been approved, and help is currently on the ground or on the way.

“Just the effort that’s required to move the trees, to move the brash, it’s a huge undertaking,” he said.

“I think, in Dorian, there was somewhere around a thousand military personnel that came to support Nova Scotians. We’re hopeful that will be at least in that range this time.”

He said once the clean-up and recovery efforts are taken care of, there will be a closer look at improvements the province can make with infrastructure and communications services, which proved to be a problem during Fiona.

State of emergency still in effect

Local states of emergencies were declared in Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) and Victoria County on the island.

CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall said the state of emergency remains in place for seven days because it’s simply unsafe for people to be travelling around.

Read more:

Cape Breton gets hit hard by Fiona: ‘the last 24 hours have felt surreal’

“As we get to understand truly the depth of the damage in our communities will be able to revisit that,” she said.

“Right now, the importance of that local state of emergency is that we’re trying to keep people away from dangerous situations, away from the areas that are really, really precarious.”

She added that even driving through the Glace Bay area, there are active power lines down.

“We don’t want people walking into them. The winds can pick up again. We know that there’s going to be a bit of rain coming in. So this local state of emergency is very, very important to adhere to right now.”

More than 200 displaced

McDougall said more than 200 people have been displaced from their homes by the storm in her area — including an apartment building with over 100 residents — and the number could grow.

“Unfortunately, as this progresses, we’re going to see that number increase as people get in — insurance folks, what have you — to really kind of dig in and see what the damages to those buildings that still are in a precarious situation, there are going to be places that are deemed evacuation necessary,” she said.

She said it’s been an “all hands on deck” approach, with the municipality working with its provincial and federal counterparts before the storm even arrived.

Initially, Centre 200 in Sydney had been chosen as an emergency shelter. The Canadian Red Cross had already set up cots.

However, the arena lost power and a backup generator system failed.

CBRM then partnered with the Coast Guard College and the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre to set up two medium to long-term shelters.

McDougall said the municipality is now in talks with the Salvation Army to bring in community food trucks, as supplies begin to run low among residents.

We’re kind of creeping up to that 72-hour mark. What are we going to do? Because we know most of our stores here, they don’t have power. We don’t have access to replenishing any of those supplies,” she said.

“So Salvation Army’s partnership with the United Way here is to identify where the worst hit areas are and create that schedule of community food trucks to offer those nourishing meals.”

McDougall thanked all the community organizations and leaders who have been working together to help out.

“Amidst the chaos, there’s a lot of beautiful things happening.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Pedestrian dead after fatal hit and run in Brant County, Ont.

OPP are investigating a fatal hit and run that left a pedestrian dead in Brant County, Ont.

Police say around 1:21 a.m. Sunday, emergency crews responded to Muir Road for a report of a person laying on the road.

Police determined a pedestrian had been struck by a car. They suffered life-threatening injuries and were pronounced dead at the scene.

Read more:

Police identify 38-year-old London, Ont. man as victim of fatal Adelaide Street hit and run

OPP says the suspect vehicle is described as a Ford pickup truck with damage to the front right corner and missing a passenger mirror.

Automotive repair facilities, scrap yards and local repair outlets are asked to contact OPP if a vehicle matching the description was recently being repaired.

Anyone with information or surveillance footage of the incident is asked to contact police at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

1 dead after two-vehicle crash on Highway 401 near London, Ont.

OPP say one person has died after a collision on Highway 401 near London, Ont.

Police say emergency crews responded around 2:45 a.m. Sunday to the westbound lanes of Highway 401 at Elgin Road.

Two vehicles had collided and one person died, police say. Their name has not been released.

Read more:

18-year-old dead, 4 injured after crash northeast of Goderich, Ont.: OPP

The highway was closed but has since reopened.

The investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information is asked to contact OPP at 1-888-310-1122.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

The West Block – Episode 2, Season 12

THE WEST BLOCK

Episode 2, Season 12

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Host: Mercedes Stephenson

Guests:

Larisa Galadza, Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine

Nicholas Marcus Thompson, Black Class Action Secretariat

Location: Ottawa, ON

Mercedes Stephenson: Putin’s gamble ratcheting up the war in Ukraine and sounding the alarm on anti-black racism.

I’m Mercedes Stephenson. Welcome to The West Block.

Russia holds sham referendums and mobilizes the reserves to fight for the first time since the Second World War.

Is the war entering a new and dangerous phase? I’ll ask Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine.

And, a multi-billion dollar class action law suit to fight anti-black racism in the federal public service.

As the Ukrainian counteroffensive continues to reclaim Russian held territory, Vladimir Putin is showing no signs of backing down. In fact, there are concerns the conflict might escalate after Putin demanded snap referendums in four occupied areas of Ukraine and has announced he is mobilizing up to 300 thousand Russian reservists to bolster his faltering war efforts.

In an address to the UN General Assembly, the Ukrainian president says it’s time for Russia to pay for its war crimes.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy: “A crime has been committed against Ukraine, and we demand just punishment. The crime was committed against our state borders. The crime was committed against the lives of our people. The crime was committed against the dignity of our women and men.”

Mercedes Stephenson: For more on what’s happening right now in Ukraine, I’m joined by Canada’s ambassador in Kyiv, Larisa Galadza. Thank you so much for joining us today, ambassador.

Can you tell us a little bit about what the situation is on the ground right now and what the feeling is with the Ukrainian people?

Larisa Galadza, Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine: Thanks. Thanks for having me. You know it’s September and in two important ways this is like any other September with kids going back to school and the weather turning. But of course, those things remind us very acutely that the war continues to rage and this country is still suffering very badly. A lot of children have not gone back to school because they don’t have bomb shelters. Every school has to have a shelter. And the winter is turning and millions of people still don’t have homes. I recently drove to Irpin again, the same town we were in with the prime minister back in May, and those bombed out buildings, many of them look exactly as they were back then. So where are their residents? Where are they going to live as it gets colder? So these are urgent matters and all of this is happening against a very, very dynamic security and political backdrop. The air raid sirens continue to wail. The missiles continue to fly. Russia continues to attack. Ukrainians continue to make excellent progress in the Kharkiv region, but as they go into those newly liberated areas, they’re finding new and more examples of the horrors the Russian troops have inflicted on Ukrainians.

And then this week, it’s been you don’t know where to turn for the action. Yes, the war continues in Kharkiv and Donbass and Kherson. There’s Putin’s speech, as you mentioned, the mobilization, the sham referendums, the threats of nuclear war. There’s the release of 215 prisoners of war. That’s huge. There was President Zelenskyy’s incredible speech to the UN General Assembly. The prime minister spoke with the President Zelenskyy this week as well. The exhumation of bodies continues in Izium, 445 bodies. And that’s just—that’s just this week.

Mercedes Stephenson: It’s a reminder of the sharp contrast of the reality of the war in Ukraine that so many here are not seeing in the news every single day, the disruption of daily life, schools, bomb shelters, the incredible cold that you feel in Ukraine in the winter with those winds coming off of the plains. I want to ask you about the threats you mentioned from Vladimir Putin, those nuclear threats in particular. How real do you think that is?

Larisa Galadza, Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine: Those are not new threats. That is something that we’ve heard from Putin before and consistently. And as the Ukrainians say, they don’t believe them but you have to take them seriously. And the Ukrainians themselves the way to do that is to show strength, so strength in the face of those threats and to not give in and to not stand down.

Mercedes Stephenson: Where do you foresee the war going in the immediate future, because you’ve had this phenomenal success of the Ukrainian offensive, which took back territory much more quickly and successfully than a lot of people were expecting. Now you have Vladimir Putin holding these sham, snap referendums in occupied areas to try to say Oh, look, see, they want us to see we can annex them. It’s completely legal, him calling up 300 thousand reservists. Do you think that there is going to be a real spike in the bloodshed in coming days?

Larisa Galadza, Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine: I think you’re absolutely right that what Putin has called for and announced is clear evidence that he is desperate. He’s desperate because the Ukrainians have the upper hand in the Kharkiv region and the Russians are hugely degraded in the other parts where they continue to hold territory. So he needs to make a quick move. Where is this going to go? Well, first of all, the international community has already said very strongly it will not recognize these referendums. So if he thinks that’s going to accomplish something, it’s not. The Ukrainians, likewise, have said we don’t care what you do. In fact, they’ve been through it before. They—Russia held a referendum in 2014 in Crimea. They don’t care. They’re going to continue fighting for their territory until every square metre of it is returned to Ukrainian control. Canada and its allies are working very hard in light of these announcements from Putin, first of all, to continue to undermine the lives, the disinformation, the crazy messaging, to isolate Russia with additional sanctions, to support Ukraine in defending its territory and taking it back and then, of course, to ensure that the international community remains steadfast in its support for international law.

Mercedes Stephenson: Speaking of Canada’s support for Ukraine, of course, we’ve sent M777 howitzers which are big artillery guns. The Ukrainians are asking for more of those. They’re also asking for Canadian LAV’s, light armoured vehicles that have a big cannon turret on them. We’ve agreed to send armoured vehicles so far, but not ones that have weapons. Is this something that the Canadian government is looking at? Will we send the Ukrainians more weapons? Do we even have them to be able to send?

Larisa Galadza, Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine: We’ve got more weapons still on the way. The package that the government announced of $500 million in weapons is still being delivered. It is contracted for. It is on its way. The training is happening and we’re doing this every step of the way, in concert, in tight coordination with the Ukrainians to make sure that we do in fact, deliver what they need. There’s no point giving them things that we happen to have and that they don’t need. So that’s what’s happening right now and we know that what we’re providing goes into service. We will help them use it properly. We will help them maintain it and that is going to make an incredible contribution to this fight that’s going to go on for a while longer still.

Mercedes Stephenson: What are your Ukrainian counterparts asking you for? What would be helpful to them? Because obviously, we’ve announced this package but they’re saying they need more. What more do they need?

Larisa Galadza, Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine: So, they do need weapons, everyone. You can talk to the most humanitarian of humanitarians and they’ll tell you what they need, but the first thing they say is weapons. They need tanks and I’m sure you are aware that they’re trying to get those from their European—their close European partners. So, number one ask is for weapons.

A number two ask is continued support for their macro financial stability. Here, Canada has provided almost $2 billion in support, to make sure that Ukraine doesn’t fall apart economically. Their export economy, as you know, is hugely curtailed. Their Black Sea is cut-off except for these special corridors that take the grain out so that people don’t starve in other parts of the world. Industry is interrupted. So the economy is in bad shape and Canada and our partners are helping to stabilize that.

The third thing they ask for is support for accountability for holding Putin, holding every soldier, all the way down the line, accountable for the atrocities that have been committed here and in particular, to set up an international tribunal to try Russia for the crime of aggression. So that is a very clear ask of Canada and all our partners.

And the last thing they ask for is help with the recovery. However we can help with the recovery. Recovery is that part of the effort that is required to open schools, make sure they have shelters, and build temporary homes or homes for people that don’t have them. All this has to happen right away. Rebuild some medical clinics. Make sure that the most critical of critical infrastructure is back up and running in newly liberated areas. So those are sort of the four key asks.

Mercedes Stephenson: You, ambassador, of course, are Canada’s ambassador there. You’re in Kyiv. The embassy was formerly “reopened” by the prime minister, but it was very symbolic. When are we expecting the embassy to actually reopen in a way where it will be able to process visas, bring people out of Ukraine and function as a fully capable embassy would?

Larisa Galadza, Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine: We’ve been here since May 8th with a team and our priority was to reengage in high level diplomatic and political engagement and that’s what we did. And we had a team here and we’ve had a team here steadily since the 8th of May, when the prime minister came to visit President Zelenskyy. It was always meant to be a gradual and rolling reopening. First things first, and then always with top-of-mind is the security and safety of our personnel. We’re now at a point where we have a larger team here. We have more of our local staff engaged. We are working at the chancery, but the embassy has been functioning all the way along. The building, the chancery is open. We’re glad to be back in there and visas continue to be processed online as they always have been. We have been accepting visa applications in the embassy in many years. So we’re serving the priorities as they’ve been given to us by Minister Joly, by the prime minister and we are incredibly active.

Mercedes Stephenson: Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us today and please do stay safe, along with all of your staff.

Larisa Galadza, Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine: Thank you very, very much.

Mercedes Stephenson: Up next, one of the lead plaintiffs in a landmark class action lawsuit, alleging decades of discrimination against black federal civil servants in Canada.

Nicholas Marcus Thompson, Black Class Action Secretariat: “The manager told her we should go back to the good old days where we had slaves. And that manager faced no consequences.”

Mercedes Stephenson: A group of black civil servants says the federal government is resorting to stall tactics to deny them their day in court, nearly two years after they sounded the alarm on anti-black racism in the public service.

More than 15 hundred black federal employees have joined the proposed class action lawsuit, taking aim at what they describe as the government’s wrongful failure to hire and promote black employees in the public service.

The lawsuit alleges decades of discrimination and harassment against tens of thousands of black employees and job applicants, who say they were subjected to racist comments and jokes and passed over for promotions, or just not even hired in the first place.

The effects of that exclusion were debilitating, with employees reporting anxiety, shame and significant financial losses. The lawsuit is seeking $2.5 billion in damages, including compensation for lost income and other benefits.

Joining me now with more on the lawsuit is one of its lead plaintiffs, Nicholas Marcus Thompson, Executive Director of the Black Class Action Secretariat. Thank you so much for joining us today, Nicolas. We appreciate your time.

Nicholas Marcus Thompson, Black Class Action Secretariat: Thank you for having me.

Mercedes Stephenson: Can you tell me a little bit about when you first started to notice a pattern in your own life and in the lives of your black colleagues who are working for the Government of Canada that you went, you know what? This is discrimination. This is racism.

Nicholas Marcus Thompson, Black Class Action Secretariat: Well, when I joined the public service about eight years ago, I immediately noticed that there was a very troubling trend. And that trend was that black employees were in entry level positions, other racialized employees were just above that and the leadership of the public service was reserved for white employees and that I noticed workers working for 15 years, 20 years and they’re in the same position. And that has really culminated in significant psychological injuries for workers, mental health injuries and as well as the financial losses. So—and that’s where really, I decided that we had to do something about it. And I started talking with workers across the public service and they told me the same thing that they were very well qualified and were being denied promotions, were—they experienced racism in the workplace. One worker was told we should go back to the good old days where we had slaves…

Mercedes Stephenson: Where we had slaves?

Nicholas Marcus Thompson, Black Class Action Secretariat: Correct. The manager told her we should go back to the good old days where we had slaves, and that manager faced no consequences. And it is that constant ability of public service leaders to make comments like that and there’s no consequences for it.

Mercedes Stephenson: That’s—it’s atrocious. It’s atrocious in that’s very direct and as you’re saying also this insidious systemic racism, where people are not being promoted. They’re staying in the same job their entire career, while their colleagues around them are promoted. People hear the stories and the numbers, but I think it’s powerful when we have some of those examples. Can you share with us some of your story or some of your colleague’s stories that are involved in this lawsuit that have led you to this point?

Nicholas Marcus Thompson, Black Class Action Secretariat: Sure. The public service, black workers make up the largest racialized group in the public service. So that’s 3.8 per cent of the almost 300 thousand public service. And black workers in terms—black workers are the least paid in the public service. Despite being the largest group, it is the least paid group representing approx.—just over 1 per cent in the executive rank. To put that into perspective, the executive ranks of the public service has approximately 8 thousand employees and the black workers make up just about 100 executives in the entire public service that prides itself in being inclusive and diverse and merit-based. But that is not the case for black workers. Many black workers, 70 per cent are women, mothers and grandmothers, who have dedicated their lives to serving Canada and in return, Canada has denied them promotional opportunities, has treated them inhumanely. And all of that results in a denial of basic human rights and it also results in degradation. It also results in humiliation. Workers have told me that they have attempted suicide because they have nowhere to turn to, no recourse in the workplace, lack of support from their unions and just nowhere to turn to. And that they have suicidal ideation. Experts have told us how this discrimination impacts your brain. It actually causes your brain to move in a particular way, which has a direct impact on your parenting, on your social life, on your relationships. So, black workers are in a crisis in Canada’s public service.

Mercedes Stephenson: Canadians like to say we’re not that kind of country. We don’t have that kind of racism here, which is partially exactly why we wanted to sit down and talk to you about the story. What do you say to Canadians who are surprised to be hearing this today?

Nicholas Marcus Thompson, Black Class Action Secretariat: Well, I would say the government’s own data does not—it tells us very clearly and supports what workers have been saying—is that they’re being denied opportunities. They’re asked to train new employees. They’re good enough to train new employees. They’re good enough to act for a temporary period in a higher position, but those positions almost always goes to white employees and some racialized employees. So my message to Canadians is: Black people want to fully participate and they’re being denied that opportunity at the highest level in the largest employer in Canada. So listen. Listen to us. Be an ally, and let’s work together because we want to make Canada a better place and to fully participate in Canada.

Mercedes Stephenson: I imagine a tremendous financial consequence too, because federal government pensions are based on the rank you retire at. So if you’re never promoted, then that’s having a significant impact. How has the government responded so far to your proposed class action lawsuit?

Nicholas Marcus Thompson, Black Class Action Secretariat: Well the government is speaking from the both sides of its mouth. They’re saying one thing publicly and they’re fighting black workers in court. They’ve just brought in an expert from the U.S. to challenge their own data. They continue to bring motions to delay the case. The government has fully acknowledged that this issue exists in all of its institutions and that the pain and damage that it causes is real. And then it shows up in court, fighting black workers, forcing black workers to recount the trauma that they’ve endured at the hands of the government for decades.

Mercedes Stephenson: Nicholas, what needs to happen going forward? How would you like to see the government respond and what changes need to be made?

Nicholas Marcus Thompson, Black Class Action Secretariat: Well firstly, the government needs to come to the table with workers and work with us to create those solutions that are necessary. And that is, the legislative changes, amendments to the Employment Equity Act. We’re seeking to create a separate and distinct category for black workers under the legislation, to ensure that black workers are not left behind when it comes to hiring and promotional opportunities. And we’re also seeking accountability through an accountability commission, to police the public service, to ensure that black workers do not face this discrimination again. And we are presently building a national and international coalition with organizations from across the country and internally as well, to bring attention to this issue that is happening in Canada. We’re scheduled to make a major announcement next week, so stay tuned on that.

Mercedes Stephenson: We will absolutely be tuning in for that announcement. Nicholas, thank you so much for joining us today.

Nicholas Marcus Thompson, Black Class Action Secretariat: Thank you for having me.

Mercedes Stephenson: Up next, what we’re watching here at The West Block, from protests in Iran after a young woman died in police custody to a state funeral in Japan.

Mercedes Stephenson: More than a dozen people have been killed in nationwide protests rocking Iran, in what’s proving to be the biggest challenge to that country’s regime in years.

The protests were sparked by the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman earlier this month who died in police custody.

Masha Amini was arrested by the country’s notorious morality police for allegedly wearing the regime mandated head scarf too loosely. Her name has become a clarion call for Iranians who want to see the compulsory hijab abolished.

The protests have spread to at least 50 cities, largely driven by Iranian women. Some have removed their hijabs in public, considered a crime in Iran. Others have gone even further, openly burning their head scarves. Authorities have responded with a violent crackdown. Internet and cellular service is down in much of the country. Cutting off access to Instagram and WhatsApp so people can’t post what’s happening.

The United States imposed sanctions last week on Iran’s morality police, holding it responsible for the 22-year-old woman’s death.

Also expected to make news this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be in Tokyo to attend the state funeral for former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated earlier this year. I’ll be in Japan to cover the prime minister’s visit for Global National and I’ll see you here again next Sunday, right here on The West Block.

I’m Mercedes Stephenson. Thanks for watching.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

London, Ont. police searching for missing woman

London, Ont., police are asking for the public’s help in locating a missing woman.

Police say 39-year-old Amanda Jastrau was last seen around 8 p.m. Thursday near Commissioners Road East and Wellington Road.

Read more:

London, Ont. police seek public’s help locating missing teen girls

She’s described as a white woman, 5’7″ in height and around 180 pounds. She was last seen wearing a black shirt, grey sweatpants, flip-flops and sunglasses.

She has a large tattoo of a fairy on her right arm and a tattoo of a black key on her right wrist.

Anyone with information is asked to call the London Police Service at (519) 661-5670 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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