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  • CHARLOTTETOWN — With only a few days before voters were to go to the polls in Prince Edward Island, the Green party suspended all campaigning Saturday after the sudden death of one of its candidates and his young son.

    The party confirmed Saturday that Josh Underhay and his son died in a canoeing accident on Friday afternoon.

    Voting day is Tuesday.

    Green party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, whose party has been leading in the polls, issued a statement saying he was bereft when he learned of Underhay’s death.

    “Josh has been a dear friend and colleague of mine for many years, as a volunteer, musician, passionate cycling advocate and Green party supporter,” Bevan-Baker said.

    “He has touched the lives of everyone who knew him, including the students he taught, fellow musicians and members of the party … Josh brought humour, enthusiasm and boundless energy to every situation.”

    Bevan-Baker said the Greens would suspend all election-related activities for the remainder of the campaign.

    The province’s three other major parties suspended all campaign events scheduled for Saturday.

    The RCMP issued a statement saying two canoeists were reported missing Friday after they failed to show up at an agreed pick-up point along the Hillsborough River, which cuts through the middle of the Island and empties into the Northumberland Strait near Charlottetown.

    Firefighters, police and a volunteer ground search team were called in to look for the pair. They had help from a police tracking dog and an aerial drone.

    Police would not identify the victims, but a Green party official confirmed Underhay and his son were later found in the water near their capsized canoe.

    Though they were wearing flotation devices, both were declared dead at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown, police said.

    Police asked for the public’s help as they continued their investigation, saying they’d like to hear from anyone who saw a red canoe on the Hillsborough River on Friday afternoon.

    Later in the day, Elections P.E.I. issued a statement saying it had invoked a section of the Elections Act to cancel the vote in Underhay’s district and order a byelection within the next three months.

    Underhay, a married father of two boys, had been the Greens’ candidate in District 9, Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park.

    According to a profile on the party’s website, he was a teacher at Birchwood Intermediate School in Charlottetown, as well as an experienced musician and a student of languages, speaking English, French, Spanish, Mandarin and Czech.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his condolences in a tweet, saying Underhay was “committed to serving his community, his students, and all of P.E.I.”

    “The tragic accident that took him and his son is absolutely heart-breaking,” the prime minister said.

    Federal Green party Leader Elizabeth May said she knew Underhay well.

    “To lose Josh and his son in such a tragic accident is unbearably sad,” May said in a tweet. “My deepest condolences to his family and all members of the P.E.I. Green family.”

    Provincial Progressive Conservative Leader Dennis King issued a statement saying the tragic loss of Underhay and his son marked “a heart-breaking day for all Islanders.”

    “It is a reminder of how fragile life is and how often we take it for granted,” King said. “Josh was a dedicated teacher and community leader who had a love for life and a passion for people. He was an advocate, talented musician and friend to many.”

    The Green party has been leading in opinion polls since August, but the race remains too close to call when the margin of error in recent surveys is factored in.

    Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s Liberals will be seeking a fourth term on Tuesday, which has prompted some critics to suggest the party has overstayed its welcome.

    The close numbers have also raised the possibility of a minority government, which would mark a historic moment for the Island. The last time a minority was elected in P.E.I. was 1890.

    The Conservatives have been plagued by infighting for the past eight years, churning through no fewer than six leaders, including King, who was elected in February.

    However, the party enjoyed a boost in the polls the following month, leaving them in a virtual tie with the Liberals.

    As for the Island’s New Democrats, led by Joe Byrne, their poll numbers have remained at single digits for the past year.

    — By Michael MacDonald in Halifax

    The Canadian Press

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    Unions increasingly at odds over replacing troubled Phoenix pay system

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    OTTAWA — The federal team charged with finding a replacement for the government’s troubled Phoenix pay system will present the Liberals with options within weeks that are expected to include “multiple pilot projects,” government official…

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  • OTTAWA — The federal team charged with finding a replacement for the government’s troubled Phoenix pay system will present the Liberals with options within weeks that are expected to include “multiple pilot projects,” government officials say.

    The plan could pit at least two of the three potential bidders on the projects against each other in a competition to see which system works better, either independently or in tandem with one another.

    “In the coming weeks, the next-generation team will present options to the government for next steps, which will likely include multiple pilot projects to test possible solutions beginning later this year,” Treasury Board spokesman Farees Nathoo told The Canadian Press in an email.

    The proposal is laying bare divisions among the unions representing the roughly 300,000 federal employees who have been living under the Phoenix pay cloud for more than three years.

    One of those unions, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, says the move is wrongheaded and could result in another bungled pay system.

    Testing separate pay systems through individual government departments, or in groups of departments, could produce problems for federal employees similar to those being experienced under the current, flawed system, warns PSAC national president Chris Aylward.

    “That is very concerning because they have no clue about the way forward,” Aylward said.

    When issues began to surface shortly after the IBM-built Phoenix pay system was launched in 2016, the government initially, in part, blamed the problems on segregated, antiquated departmental human resources systems that were incapable of properly communicating with each other and the Phoenix system, he noted.

    “It concerns me if they say, ‘We don’t know how many providers we are going to use, we may have to use more than one,'” said Aylward.

    “It sounds like we’re starting Phoenix all over again…. They need a system that works. One pay system that works for all 300,000 employees that currently get paid out of Phoenix.”

    The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, which represents about 60,000 of those employees and has been working closely with the government to find a new pay solution, doesn’t share PSAC’s concerns.

    “I think that, so long as those are compatible systems and they are connected through some sort of internal cloud, then there shouldn’t be a problem between systems,” said union president Debi Daviau.

    “But at this point we’re just trying to determine what is going to be the best system.”

    Daviau suggested a pilot project at the Canada Revenue Agency, for example, could see about 50,000 people properly paid within a year, as opposed to implementing an entirely new software product, which could take several years.

    PSAC, which represents the vast majority of federal workers, recently rejected an agreement supported by 13 other unions that will see federal employees who’ve been impacted by the failures of Phoenix provided an extra five days of paid leave over four years.

    It has also walked away from contract talks with Treasury Board affecting more than 100,000 workers, turning down proposed pay increases amounting to 1.5 per cent annually.

    The government last week invited “qualified respondents” to submit proposals to enter a third stage for developing a new HR and payroll system to replace Phoenix, after narrowing the field of potential bidders to three companies: Ceridian, SAP and Workday.

    Bob Conlin, the public services lead in Canada for Germany-based SAP, suggested the government should tread carefully if it ultimately decides to contract more than one system provider and test their programs in different departments.

    SAP already provides human resources systems for the Canada Revenue Agency and the Customs and Border Services Agency.

    Those departments would benefit more from combining HR and payroll services under an existing service provider, said Conlin.

    “If they were to extend (HR) with payroll, it would not be a Herculean leap for them,” he said in an interview.

    “They would benefit in a big way from the opportunity to upgrade to modern technology.”

    But Conlin cautioned that CRA, CBSA and the Department of National Defence, in particular, must be treated carefully.

    “Those are some of the clients that absolutely have to get done right,” he said. “They are also some of the more complex civil service pay environments.”

    On Thursday, the Parliamentary Budget Office told the House of Commons the government could expect to pay about $57 million dollars to buy, test and implement a new pay system. The price tag did not include annual operating costs estimated to reach almost $106 million.

    The PBO also estimated it will cost taxpayers $2.6 billion to stabilize the existing pay system until a new one is fully adopted.

    The former Conservative government had estimated Phoenix would save $70 million annually.


    Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press

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    New B.C. museum policy highlights return of Indigenous remains, artifacts

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    VANCOUVER — Letters to Scotland sent by a woman from the small settlement of Victoria around 1850 gave Dianne Hinkley more insight into why the bones of her ancestors may be spread around the world.
    One of the le…

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  • VANCOUVER — Letters to Scotland sent by a woman from the small settlement of Victoria around 1850 gave Dianne Hinkley more insight into why the bones of her ancestors may be spread around the world.

    One of the letters says that “skulls were all the rage” in the new community, Hinkley said.

    “It was all the fashion that you had to have a skull on your mantel piece,” Hinkley recalls the letter saying.  

    The woman’s letter said she found the remains on rock piles that were all over the place and that she “would try to get them a couple of skulls, so they can have them in their house for fashion as well,” Hinkley said.

    Those rock piles were actually burial cairns and the pilfering is one of the many reasons why Hinkley has found Cowichan artifacts and remains from Russia to the United Kingdom and from Israel to South Africa.

    That search has been helped with a repatriation grant from the Royal B.C. Museum, which recently changed its policies to no longer collect or study ancestral remains. 

    The museum has also announced that anything it acquired from Indigenous Peoples during the anti-potlatch years, from 1885 to 1951, will be considered eligible for repatriation because it was obtained at a time of duress. 

    During those years, the federal government banned potlatch ceremonies, which were important social events where valuable gifts were given to show generosity and status over rivals. The government saw the events as anti-Christian and a waste of personal property.

    Lou-Ann Neel, the repatriation specialists for the Royal B.C. Museum, said by the time the ban was lifted, much Indigenous wealth had been lost.

    “Our regalia was gone, our masks were gone, some of them were burnt by missionaries, some of them were just taken and confiscated. So you can’t hold a potlatch without these treasures,” said Neel, who is part of the Mamalilikulla and Kwagiulth people in Alert Bay, B.C.

    Neel said the loss of their belongings started with the colonial belief that Indigenous people were endangered and dying out.

    “That really sparked a collecting frenzy, that sent out people: anthropologists, military, adventurers or self-proclaimed pioneers. (They) just felt like they had permission because the general sense across Canada and the U.S. was that ‘Indians’ would soon been gone.”

    Hinkley said her research shows that between 1870 and 1930 museums were popping up around the world and they needed something to display.

    She said collectors from around the world would land in the villages and buy or take anything they could.

    “Their bodies, the skeletal remains and all of that was sold to museums,” she said.

    “There must have been essentially very little cultural materials left in those villages. They took everything, they took cedar woven maps that hung on the walls, they took knitting needles, everything, fish hooks, you name it, they collected it.”

    Hinkley said the change in the museum’s policy is “huge” because it allows Indigenous people in the province to find more information about their artifacts.  She said some museums, especially those in the United Kingdom, refuse to even speak with them about the artifacts.

    The Royal B.C. Museum distributed more than $580,000 in repatriation grants last year to First Nations, helping them begin the process of finding and acquiring their ancestors’ remains and artifacts. It has also written the Indigenous Repatriation Handbook to help as a guide. 

    The museum has about 700 ancestral remains. Neel said most of them were handed over to the museum through development when roads or homes were under construction and the bones were unearthed.

    Because the museum is no longer a repository for remains, she said they’ll be searching through the records to determine where the bones were found and will ask First Nations what they want to do with their ancestors’ remains.

    “It’s the right thing to do and the right way to do it.”

    The B.C. museum has about 15,000 Indigenous artifacts, and Neel said a portion of those would have been taken during the potlatch years. They are starting the task of looking at every object to determine how it came to the museum, she said.

    Neel said Indigenous communities are excited about the prospect of having their ancestors and ancient treasures returned.

    “There are obviously things in the collection that were purchased legitimately, there’s a paper trail for them and those things really do legitimately belong to the museum collection.

    “What the committee did was take a close look and said really what we’re concerned about are the things that were not acquired in the best of times. Some communities were still very much under duress, even after the potlatch ban was dropped.”

    For the Cowichan, Hinkley said the other challenge is they don’t have anywhere to bring their treasures home. But she said the repatriation negotiations tend to drag and that will give them time to get their museum ready.




    Terri Theodore, The Canadian Press

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