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Acadia Axemen player takes responsibility for hockey brawl with St. FX X-Men

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  • WOLFVILLE, N.S. — A member of a Nova Scotia university hockey team has taken responsibility for making comments that led to a bench-clearing brawl last weekend.

    Acadia University’s Rodney Southam admitted to making a comment about sexual assault to an opposing player during a physical confrontation when playing against the St. Francis Xavier X-Men on Saturday night.

    Southam claims in a statement issued late Thursday night to have been unaware that Sam Studnicka, the target of his comment, has a sexual assault survivor in his family.

    “Immediately after my comments to Sam, I realized something more was happening because of the reaction from the team and surrounding coaches,” said Southam. “I know when this was said that the linesman heard it and so did the X-Men players on their bench. I take full responsibility for saying something I should never have said.”

    Southam said he told Studnicka “You look like a little (expletive) rapist.” Minutes later, Southam and Studnicka were to take a faceoff against each other, but after two false starts, the melee began.

    The brawl led to five Axemen players, eight X-Men and both head coaches being ejected. Video of the fight went viral.

    Atlantic University Sport, which oversees university sport in the region, launched an investigation and suspended the two head coaches and 15 players on Wednesday. During the investigation Southam told AUS executive director Phil Currie of his role in the incident.

    The AUS and St. Francis Xavier University did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday night.

    Studnicka, through his university, issued a statement on Monday explaining he had regularly been targeted with comments about sexual assault in his three years playing for St. FX.

    He said there’s no place for comments about sexual assault in society as it’s a very serious issue.

    Southam, who was captain for two seasons with the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets, said he was completely unaware of Studnicka’s relationship to a sexual assault survivor.

    “In my year and a half at Acadia, we’ve had battles with St. FX but nothing to do with comments around sexual violence,” he said. “I’ve read in the St. FX statement that those types of comments have been a continuous and ongoing part of the games between our teams, but this issue has never come up in our locker room or any other time during my year and a half at Acadia.”

    Southam also explained in his statement that when he was playing junior hockey he was accused of sexual assault but allegations against him didn’t proceed.

    He said he carries those allegations with him and is frequently the target of taunts calling him a rapist.

    “Because the taunts I endured are never far below the surface and are always in the back of my mind, that’s why I think I said what I said in the heat of the moment on Saturday,” Southam said. “I do know I wish I could take that word back and I should have known better.”

    Official complaints have been filed by the AUS on five athletes and three coaches involved in Saturday’s incident and will be subject to a secondary review process.

    Additional evidence will be gathered to determine if further sanctions are needed.

    The Canadian Press


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    From Hawkesbury to Estevan, documents show towns to be hit hardest by automation

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  • HAWKESBURY, Ont. — Sitting around a table with fellow Steelworkers, Steve Berniquez starts listing companies that once stood in and around Hawkesbury, a small Ontario town an hour’s drive east of Ottawa.

    When he mentions Canadian International Pulp and Paper, everybody nods. Its mill closed in 1982 and that was a bad one, more than 400 jobs gone at once.

    “We had how many mills around here where everybody could work? Now we don’t have anything else,” Berniquez says, leaning back in his chair. “They’re not coming back to us.”

    If federal calculations are accurate, automation and technological advances could make the local situation worse in the coming years, with Hawkesbury, a town of about 10,000, hit harder than any other city in Ontario.

    An internal government presentation from last August listed Hawkesbury as having the largest share of workers at high risk of being affected by automation. The chart in the lengthy presentation to a group of deputy ministers went province by province with the municipalities that were facing the same fate: Bay Roberts, N.L.; Summerside, P.E.I.; New Glasgow, N.S.; Winkler, Man.; Estevan, Sask.; Quesnel, B.C.; and Brooks, Alta.

    Also on the list was Lachute, Que., across the Ottawa River from Hawkesbury.

    Federal officials expect that rural areas and small towns will feel the biggest negative effects of automation, as well as regions “dependent on high-risk sectors like manufacturing or mining,” while gains from technological advances accrue to large urban centres.

    “Less-educated local workforces mean that rural areas and small towns are less likely to seize the economic opportunities presented by new technologies,” reads the August presentation, a copy of which The Canadian Press obtained under the access-to-information law. “Less-diversified local economies mean that rural areas and small towns are less likely to adapt if incumbent sectors and businesses are disrupted.”

    The steelworkers who considered the past, present and future of Hawkesbury on a snowy spring day estimated about one-third of manufacturing jobs that disappeared in the town over the past 30 years could be attributed to technological changes.

    Among the recent examples was an automated packing machine that replaced two workers in one plant, and a “magic eye” that does quality control instead of a handful of workers. Three years ago, 100 workers lost their jobs when a local warehouse decided to automate work.

    Berniquez has seen it. He works in the next-door village of L’Orignal, in the melt shop at Ivaco Rolling Mills, which makes wire rod and steel billets — semi-finished products that go on for further processing elsewhere. Earlier this month, the company announced it will lay off 50 people of the 538 who work there, most directly because of the tariffs the United States has put on Canadian steel imports.

    Automation, punishing tariffs and now additional costs from the federal carbon tax in Ontario have left steel and aluminum companies in the town in a bind, the workers say.

    But Berniquez isn’t ready to throw in the towel, nor would he considering moving to another town for work. He said it’s not how he was raised. “We need to protect what we’ve got,” he said.

    As manufacturing declined, the town has found new sources of employment. More health-care jobs have flowed into town thanks to the local hospital, the steelworkers say, and, according to the latest census figures, the local service sector employs the largest share of workers in the town.

    “These folks are making the (local) economy work,” said Richard Leblanc, the area co-ordinator for the United Steelworkers union. “We focus a lot on these big manufacturers that have gone, but some of that has been replaced.”

    How quickly towns like Hawkesbury have to adapt is unclear. The government presentation notes that Canadian firms traditionally have low takeup rates of new technology. There is also uncertainty around how quickly new technology will come available and the breadth of its impact on any number of professions, including doctors and accountants.

    A report this month from the Brookfield Institute suggested there are few easy answers for workers who want to know what training courses they should take to prepare. The report, produced to help a federal organization studying future skills needs, said a key problem is that the country lacks a “holistic, detailed, and actionable forecast of in-demand skills.”

    “A complex array of changes could impact employment over the next 10 to 15 years. Some, such as population aging, are well understood, while others, such as technological change, present a high degree of uncertainty,” the report said. “When these changes interact, uncertainty expands, making it challenging to predict the future of Canada’s labour market, and more specifically, what skills will be most in-demand.”

    The federal Liberals’ latest budget promised $1.7 billion in spending to provide a training tax credit and employment insurance benefits to cover wages during time away from work. The steelworkers questioned how low-income workers will be able to afford the upfront costs of programs and worried about time off from companies where training time is at a minimum because staff are stretched thin.

    The spending in the 2019 budget comes after billions more, over three previous federal budgets, aimed at helping workers prepare for the tectonic digital shifts in the labour market, and help those in the workforce stay there later into life.

    Hawkesbury’s future is more clouded because so many younger workers have gone off to college and university and moved away. In fact, nearby Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., have the lowest shares of at-risk workers in their respective provinces, based on the Finance Department calculations.

    David Bruneault stayed in Hawkesbury as friends got higher educations, eventually landing jobs as teachers or physiotherapists down the highway in the capital. The 34-year-old went into manufacturing, but says he’s willing to take a retraining course to learn to do something else.

    “You don’t want to be left with nothing,” Bruneault said. “I’m thinking about it a lot more now, too, because everything is uncertain.”

    — Follow @jpress on Twitter

    Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


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    Supreme Court upholds residential-school compensation for former student

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  • OTTAWA — A former residential-school student is entitled to compensation for abuse at the hands of a nun, the Supreme Court of Canada says in a decision that helps clarify the scope of appeals in such cases.

    The decision came Friday in the case of an Indigenous man, known only as J.W. due to privacy considerations, who said he was assaulted at a residential school in Manitoba.

    For over a century, tens of thousands of Indigenous children were required to attend residential schools, primarily run by religious institutions and funded by the federal government.

    Students were not allowed to use their languages or cultural practices.

    Former pupils provided accounts of physical, sexual and emotional abuse as part of an independent assessment process to determine how they would be compensated for what they went through, a program that flowed from a major 2006 settlement agreement aimed at ensuring a lasting resolution of the residential schools legacy.

    J.W.’s claim was rejected by an adjudicator on the grounds that he had failed to show the nun’s alleged act — grabbing his penis while he was lightly clothed, waiting in line for a shower — had a sexual purpose.

    His efforts to have the decision overturned by other adjudicators failed, but a Manitoba judge found fault with the internal decisions and sent the case back to the initial adjudication phase. A reconsideration adjudicator decided in J.W.’s favour in September 2016, awarding him $12,720.

    Meanwhile, however, the federal government successfully challenged the judge’s ruling in the Manitoba Court of Appeal, which said that, under the terms of the assessment process, judges can’t carry out detailed reviews of adjudication decisions.

    In its decision Friday, the Supreme Court said the courts can intervene if there is a failure to apply the terms of the settlement agreement.

    However, in looking at the specific facts of J.W.’s case, only five of seven judges agreed that his appeal should succeed and that he could be compensated. Of the five, the judges split along two lines of reasoning.

    In writing for three members of the court, Justice Rosalie Abella said while claimants in the assessment process do not have a “broad right” to judicial intervention, “they do have a right to the implementation of the terms of the settlement they bargained for.”

    “The courts’ supervisory power must permit intervention when it is necessary to ensure the benefits promised are delivered.”

    Abella lauded the 2006 settlement agreement as a respectful part of the healing process following a profoundly shameful era in Canada’s history.

    The legacy of abuse committed at residential schools consists of “deep wounds not only to those who were forced to attend, but also to our national psyche,” she wrote. “The recovery process, when it is possible, is slow and painful.”

    — Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

    Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press



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