CALGARY — An association representing Alberta real-estate agents is providing its members with an emergency response app a month after an alleged sexual assault during an open house.
The Alberta Real Estate Association is including a subscription to the LifeLine Response app at no additional cost to its 10,500 members. The app allows users to alert their personal support network, summon police to their location using GPS and view threat notifications in their areas.
“Quite commonly we’re working alone,” said association chairwoman Jennifer Gilbert. “We’re in unfamiliar locations with relative strangers.”
Gilbert said the app had 600 new subscriptions as of Tuesday morning.
“It demonstrates the need.”
Calgary police say a real-estate agent was working at an open house last month when a man came into the home. Police say the woman tried ending the conversation, but he kept talking to her. He then grabbed and touched her sexually without her consent. The man left the house and returned two more times.
Merideth Schutter also had a scary experience working as a real-estate agent in Vancouver six years ago.
Two men came into an open house she was holding, locked the door and shoved her into the kitchen cabinets. A young couple came in and the men ran off.
Schutter had a few bumps and bruises, but she knows the situation could have been a lot worse. The experience left her feeling alone and terrified and made her question whether to stay in a career she loved.
“These are crimes of opportunity. As Realtors, we’re encouraged to put our faces on things — the sides of buses, social media — and tell people where we are at any given moment,” she said.
“If one of my teenagers ever did that, I’d have something to say about it. Yet, here I was doing exactly that for a long time.”
Schutter has since left the real-estate business. She is now CEO of PROtect, a safety app inspired by her frightening open house encounter. PROtect syncs with calendars and contacts, so that loved ones and colleagues can be alerted if the user doesn’t “check out” at a certain time. There’s also an emergency help button.
PROtect has partnered with ReMax, but nurses, young restaurant workers and others have also used it.
“Even somebody who sells insurance and mortgage brokers — places where people are out meeting strangers alone or going into their homes,” said Schutter.
Safety should be top of mind for everyone in the business — not just women, said Gilbert.
She advises agents to do their homework before meeting a new client and to let loved ones or colleagues know when and where a meeting is happening.
It’s a good idea to note the property’s exit points, she said, and to let neighbours know if an open house is going to happen, so they can keep an eye out for anything odd.
“Maybe don’t meet with somebody out at that acreage at 8:30 at night by yourself, unless you’ve met with them in-office first.”
Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press
No national security issue in Chinese takeover of Canadian lithium company: Liberals
OTTAWA — The pending takeover of a Canadian lithium mining company by a Chinese state-owned company raises no national security concerns, federal Liberals argued Thursday.
Liberal MP Andy Fillmore, parliamentary secretary to Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, told a House of Commons committee that the Industry Department reviewed last fall the proposed takeover of Neo Lithium Corp. by China’s Zijin Mining Group Ltd.
That review concluded that Neo Lithium is “really not a Canadian company,” he told the industry committee, describing it as an Argentine company with directors in the United Kingdom and only three Canadian employees “on paper.”
He said the only reason Neo Lithium “had any Canadian toehold whatsoever,” was to get on the Toronto Stock Exchange in a bid to raise money for what Fillmore called an “increasingly dubious appearing” mine development project in Argentina.
Moreover, he said that project involves lithium carbonate, not the lithium hydroxide used to manufacture batteries that are critical for electric vehicles.
For those reasons, Fillmore said a formal national security review of the takeover was deemed unnecessary.
“These are the things they found, right? That in fact it’s not a relevant lithium to Canada’s national security interests and it’s not really a Canadian company.”
However, Conservative MP Ed Fast, who had called for the emergency committee meeting to find out why no formal security review was done, said it’s “just false” to say Neo Lithium is not a Canadian company.
And he noted that the company’s own website touts the mine as “the pre-eminent lithium brine asset in the world” to meet surging global demand for electric vehicle batteries.
“It goes without saying but bears restating that critical minerals such as lithium are a strategic asset, not only for Canada but for the world, and will play a critical role in driving our future prosperity and in meeting our environmental objectives,” Fast said.
While the mine in question is in Argentina, Fast argued that it is incumbent on Canada and other “free-trading, rules-following allies” to ensure the global critical minerals industry is not monopolized by one country, especially one whose interests “are sometimes hostile toward ours.”
China currently dominates the world’s supply of lithium and batteries.
Conservative MP Tracy Gray further argued that lithium carbonate can be converted into lithium hydroxide for use in batteries.
But Fillmore countered that the conversion process involves additional costs and “significant environmental implications,” which is why lithium hydroxide is preferred.
“I could probably make a passable hat using my socks but I’d much rather wear a hat,” he said.
Thursday’s meeting was called to consider a motion by Fast, calling for the committee to hold six meetings to explore the Neo Lithium takeover and whether a formal national security review should have been conducted.
In the end, committee members unanimously agreed to a Bloc Quebecois compromise to hold two meetings on the subject next week. The steering subcommittee, which is also to meet next week to set the committee’s agenda for the coming months, could decide to schedule more meetings on Neo Lithium.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2022.
Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
CP NewsAlert: Man charged after four bodies found in Manitoba near border
WINNIPEG — A Florida man has been charged with human smuggling after the bodies of four people, including a baby and a teen, were found in Manitoba near the United States border.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota says Steve Shand, who is 47, appeared in court earlier today.
The bodies were found yesterday in Manitoba near the border community of Emerson.
Mounties say it’s believed they died from exposure while trying to cross the border into the U.S. from Canada.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office says the dead were a family of four Indian nationals who were separated from others in a group crossing the border.
More coming …
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