Tuesday, November. 7

News In Brief

QUEBEC’S BAN ON FACE COVERING TO BE CHALLENGED IN COURT: Two groups have filed a legal challenge to Quebec’s Bill 62, saying the face-veil law “gravely infringes” the religious and equality rights of certain Muslim women in the province. The recently adopted law prohibits students from covering their face in class. It also forces people whose fare requires a card with photo ID to uncover their face before riding public transit, although they can put the veil back on once they’ve been identified. The National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Marie-Michelle Lacoste, a Quebec woman who converted to Islam in 2003, filed the challenge in Quebec Superior Court on Tuesday. The challenge takes direct aim at the section of the law that forces public sector employees and private citizens to have their face uncovered when giving or receiving public services.

FORMER BLUE JAYS STAR HALLADAY DIES IN PLANE CRASH: Former Toronto Blue Jays star pitcher Roy Halladay died Tuesday after his plane crashed in the Gulf of Mexico. He was 40. The sheriff’s department in Pasco County, Fla., confirmed Halladay’s body was found at the scene of the crash. At a news conference, Sheriff Chris Nocco — who knew Halladay — said the ICON A5 went down about noon Eastern Time near Holiday, Fla. Halladay was an amateur pilot who often posted on social media about small planes. ICON aircraft had posted a video with Halladay trying out a new plane. Halladay won a Cy Young Award with the Blue Jays in 2003 and took the NL award in 2010 with the Philadelphia Phillies. He threw the 20th perfect game in MLB history on May 29, 2010. The native of Denver, Colo., was selected by the Blue Jays in the first round (No. 17 overall) of the 1995 MLB Amateur Draft.

HEALTH SPENDING TO HIT $242 BILLION THIS YEAR, REPORT SAYS: A boost in economic conditions across the country has contributed to a slight uptick in health spending across Canada, according to a new report released Tuesday. Figures from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) projected that health spending would reach $6,604 per capita by the end of 2017, representing an increase of $200 per person over 2016 levels. Health care costs have been rising at an annual average pace of 3.2 per cent since 2010, and CIHI said the projected 2017 spike of nearly four per cent may be signalling an era of increased government spending on all areas from hospitals to prescription drugs. Chris Kuchciak, manager of the CIHI’s Health Expenditures Department, said the growth rates Canada witnessed in recent years had marked a return to relative austerity compared to the previous decade when spending rates were rising between six and seven per cent each year. And that period had come after a period of fiscal restraint in the mid-1990s, he said.

FEDS TO TIGHTEN WORKPLACE HARASSMENT RULES: The federal government is embarking on a regulatory overhaul to crack down on harassment in federal workplaces, from Parliament Hill to local bank branches. New legislation unveiled Tuesday is aimed at giving workers and their employers a clear course of action to better deal with allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment, exerting more pressure on companies to combat unacceptable behaviour and punish those who don’t take it seriously. The changes will merge separate labour standards for sexual harassment and violence and subject them to the same scrutiny and dispute resolution process, which could include having an outside investigator brought in to review allegations. The proposed rules would also enforce strict privacy rules to protect the victims of harassment or violence. Once passed, the legislation would also allow anyone unhappy with how their dispute is being handled to complain to the federal labour minister, who could step in to investigate and order sanctions for employers.

HEALTH CANADA CHANGES RULES ON ABORTION PILL MIFEGYMISO: Women who want to use the abortion pill Mifegymiso can now take it farther along in their pregnancy, Health Canada said Tuesday in announcing changes to how the medication is prescribed and dispensed. The federal department said the abortion pill can now be prescribed up to nine weeks into a pregnancy, rather than the previous limit of seven weeks. As well, the drug that was initially known as RU-486 can be dispensed directly to patients by a pharmacist or a prescribing health professional. Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, one of several organizations that has been calling for more accessible abortion in Canada, lauded the changes by Health Canada. Sandeep Prasad, executive director of Action Canada, said in a statement that Mifegymiso has the potential to significantly improve access to abortion, especially for women in rural and remote areas who are forced to travel hundreds, sometimes thousands of kilometres, to find an abortion provider.

RCMP DESTROYED MURDER VICTIM’S BELONGINGS, INQUIRY HEARS: The brother of a murdered Indigenous woman says Alberta RCMP destroyed his sister’s belongings even though nobody had been charged in her death. Paul Tuccaro, whose sister Amber disappeared in 2010, told the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women that police could at least have given them to her family instead of throwing them out. In two hours of emotional testimony in Edmonton, he described how RCMP seemed to downplay the family’s concerns about Amber’s disappearance and didn’t keep them in touch with the investigation after her body was found. The national inquiry is scheduled to sit for three days in the Alberta capital to hear from family members about their missing daughters, wives and mothers.

PRIVATE RETAILERS TO SELL POT IN MANITOBA: Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says retail sales of marijuana will be done exclusively through private retailers when recreational use of the drug is legalized next July. Pallister announced Tuesday some of the major points of the province’s plan for marijuana sales, which he says is aimed at cutting into the black market and keeping cannabis away from kids. The government will maintain a wholesale monopoly, but private stores will sell the drug at a price they can set themselves. Municipalities will have the right to ban marijuana stores if they want, cannabis will not be sold in the same stores as alcohol, and there will be private online sales as well. The government is asking potential retailers to submit bids in the coming weeks, and says bids will be judged on storage security, distance from schools and more.

JUDGE DECIDING ON DIRECTED ACQUITTAL REQUEST IN GAS PLANTS TRIAL: Two former top political aides will hear on Thursday whether they need to offer further defence to accusations they illegally destroyed documents about the Ontario government’s politically explosive decision to cancel two gas plants ahead of the provincial election in 2011. Ontario court Judge Timothy Lipson on Tuesday reserved his decision on a request from David Livingston and Laura Miller for a directed acquittal — that he dismiss the case against them without the defence putting forward any evidence. Livingston and Miller, top aides to ex-Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty, argued through their lawyers that the prosecution has failed to prove their guilt on charges of mischief and illegal computer use but prosecutor Tom Lemon said emails from 2012 indicated their culpability. Among the emails, court heard, were instructions on “double deleting” documents, and discussion of the increasingly tense political situation at the time: A legislature committee and others were requesting documents related to the Liberal government’s decision to scrap and relocate the gas plants, which cost taxpayers more than $1 billion.

JAPANESE INTERNMENT LETTERS CONVEY BETRAYAL: Researchers have discovered an archive of 300 letters Japanese Canadians sent to the federal government protesting the sale of their homes, businesses and heirlooms while they were held in internment camps during the Second World War. Authors of the letters include the Victoria owners of a successful dry cleaning business, an internee whose cousins died in France serving Canada during the First World War and a man who put two of his Canadian-born children through medical school. Historian Jordan Stanger-Ross of the University of Victoria says many Japanese Canadians were prepared to accept being sent to internment camps during the war, but losing everything was not expected and was regarded as a profound betrayal. He says the federal government promised to keep the homes and businesses for the internees until after the war, but it changed policy and the properties were sold. Stanger-Ross is part of a seven-year project that found the letters while examining the dispossession of Japanese Canadians.

SENATOR WANTS TO DISCUSS CAPE BRETON AUTONOMY: A Mi’kmaq senator says Cape Breton could follow the lead of a First Nation that transformed itself economically through self-sufficiency, and discuss separating from Nova Scotia. Sen. Daniel Christmas said the Nova Scotia island is “dying” and he predicts depopulation and high unemployment rates will continue unless drastic action is taken. Christmas said Cape Breton should start discussing its independence and could borrow from the self-reliant economic model he helped craft for Membertou First Nation two decades ago. Membertou is just outside Sydney, Cape Breton’s largest community, and has become one of the most prosperous Indigenous communities in the country. Christmas — named to the Senate last fall by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — first made the proposal last Thursday during the inaugural Father Greg MacLeod lecture at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre.

The Canadian Press