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National

Protesters march for freedom as crowds celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — Plans for a full day of protest events alongside Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa caused only minimal disruptions Friday as a few hundred people marched through downtown to voice their opposition to the federal government and public health restrictions.

The city was once again crowded with people draped in the Maple Leaf, but this time the vast majority of them were joining in the official celebrations.

There was a celebratory, if low-key mood in the capital, where the main holiday events were moved away from Parliament Hill to nearby LeBreton Flats Park, and Place des Festivals Zibi across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Que.

Large numbers of police were present throughout Ottawa’s downtown core, and people hoping to enter the Hill were screened with metal detectors and bag searches.

In the late afternoon, police directed traffic and escorted hundreds of marchers who chanted, danced and called for the resignation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They gathered at the National War Memorial east of Parliament Hill, where they sang O Canada.

Along the way they were met by both supporters and some counter-protesters weary of the now-familiar shouts of “Freedom” after February’s convoy blockades and April’s Rolling Thunder event.

Organizers re-routed the march after learning the Supreme Court was fenced off as part of the extra security measures. When they arrived back at Parliament Hill after the march, supporters were frustrated to hear they would need to submit to a search and security check to enter the grounds for planned speeches and a scheduled dance party.

With some refusing to enter the security lineup, the crowd of marchers largely dispersed.

The atmosphere by evening was charged and at times noisy, but remained peaceful.

Lisa Owens came from Port Hope, Ont., to join the group.

“I am here because I believe that the government has turned to evil,” she said. “This is darkness vs. light.”

Jason Kowalyshyn, a biological engineer from Hamilton, said he came to celebrate Canada Day and to “advocate for collective rights and freedoms.”

“What bothers me the most are child suicides during the lockdown, because of the lockdown. They got depressed and they were taken away from their friends,” he said.

Officials had warned there would be zero tolerance for “unusual noise,” blockading roads and sidewalks or setting off fireworks this weekend. But attempts to enforce one bylaw led to a tense situation in front of the gates to Parliament around noon.

The brief clash centered around two women with a group called Stand For Thee, which had been handing out copies of the Bill of Rights and calling for Trudeau’s arrest. The Bill of Rights was superseded in 1982 by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which governs the application of laws at both the federal and provincial level.

The women were selling merchandise from a table on the sidewalk when bylaw officers told them to take the table down, citing a the city’s use and care of roads bylaw.

That order prompted a crowd to start shouting and chanting. Bylaw and police officers retreated as the crowd pressed in, chanting, “Rule of law!” But the group eventually removed the table.

One woman, who refused to give her name, told the crowd: “Everything they’re doing is a violation of our rights.”

“Do your job, go into the Hill and take down the people that have created tyranny,” she said.

No one took her up on that suggestion and protesters dispersed not long afterward. In all, the disruption lasted about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of people in the downtown were there to enjoy warm weather  under skies that turned sunny late  afternoon. Families strolled through the closed-off streets eating ice cream, snapping photos and taking in street performances.

Longtime Ottawa residents Trudy and Michael Hallen said Friday’s celebrations were much smaller than years past. Still, Trudy Hallen said it was nice to see children out wearing red and white, and what she called a nice cross-section of Canada celebrating.

As for the protesters, “I hope they get the message that they’re a really small part of society, they don’t speak for everybody else,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2022.

Sarah Ritchie and Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

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National

Proportion of French speakers declines nearly everywhere in Canada, including Quebec

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OTTAWA — The proportion of Canadians who predominantly speak French at home declined in all provinces and territories except Yukon between 2016 and 2021, according to the latest census release.

Statistics Canada says over three in four Canadians report English as their first official language, a proportion that’s increased over the five-year period.

That’s while the proportion of people who report French as their first official language declined.

Jean-Pierre Corbeil, an associate professor of sociology at Laval University, said immigration plays a key role in the trends we see with languages in Canada.

“We know that the composition of the population over time has an impact on … the numbers of people speak French or English or, if you will, a non-official language,” Corbeil said.

The sociologist said the rise in temporary immigration might be having an impact on French in Quebec, given that temporary immigrants are less likely to speak the language.

A recent study by the Institut du Québec found that while non-permanent residents represented nine per cent of international immigration to the province from 2012 to 2016, that number had climbed to 64 per cent by 2019.

In Quebec, the number of Canadians who reported English as their first official language topped one million, while one in 10 Quebecers report speaking predominantly English at home.

As the country becomes more linguistically diverse, the percentage of Canadians who reported English or French as their mother tongue has also declined.

The agency defines mother tongue as a citizen’s first language learned at home in childhood and still understood by the individual.

Corbeil said that while some people put a lot of emphasis on French losing ground in Quebec, that phenomenon has already played for the English language in regions like Toronto, where nearly half of residents’ mother tongues are not English.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced in 2019 its plan to boost francophone immigration to areas in Canada outside of Quebec. It’s hoping to increase the share of francophone immigrants to 4.4 per cent by 2023.

In 2021, 3.6 per cent of arrivals outside of Quebec were French-speaking immigrants.

It would be more effective to direct French-speaking immigrants to Quebec, given the limited influence of the language outside of the province, said Charles Castonguay, a retired mathematics professor from the University of Ottawa who specializes in the language landscape of Canada.

“That will do much more to stabilize the weight of French in Canada than scattering these immigrants,” he said.

English-French bilingualism remained unchanged over the five-year period, with 18 per cent of Canadians reporting they can conduct a conversation in both languages.

The census release comes after Quebec introduced a new language law this year that restricts access to government services in English. In June, Quebec Premier François Legault drew criticism for sounding the alarm over a decline in the number of people who speak French at home.

Legault declared that “nobody could deny” French is in decline, saying fewer Quebecers were speaking the language at home as well as at work.

Corbeil said the impact of Bill 96 would not be reflected in the data given it was passed this year.

“It’s really the immigration policy and immigration measures (where) I think the focus should be put, because it’s difficult actually to see … what are the measures that will have an impact on the language dynamics,” Corbeil said.

Statistics Canada will publish a census report on workplaces later this year that will shed light on languages spoken in work environments.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.

Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press

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Business

The return of Zellers: Hudson’s Bay to resurrect Canadian discount retail chain

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Canadian department store Zellers hopes to make a comeback next year, a decade after the discount chain shuttered most of its locations.

Hudson’s Bay Co. said Zellers will debut a new e-commerce website and expand its brick-and-mortar footprint within select Hudson’s Bay department stores across the country in early 2023.

The company said the relaunched Zellers will offer “a digital-first shopping journey that taps into the nostalgia of the brand.”

The return of Zellers comes as soaring inflation drives consumers to discount retailers in search of lower prices and fierce competition from existing stores like Walmart and Dollarama.

It also comes amid an ongoing lawsuit over a Quebec family’s use of the Zellers brand.

The Moniz family is behind various recent trademark applications and corporate registries, including Zellers Inc., Zellers Convenience Store Inc. and Zellers Restaurant Inc.

In a statement of claim filed last fall, HBC accused the Moniz family of trademark infringement, depreciation of goodwill and so-called passing off — the deceptive marketing or misrepresentation of goods.

The Zellers department store was founded in 1931 and acquired by HBC in 1978.

It operated as the discount division of its flagship Hudson’s Bay department stores, with the slogan “Where the lowest price is the law.”

The store hit its peak of about 350 locations in the late 1990s before losing ground to big box competitors such as Walmart.

In 2011, HBC announced plans to sell the majority of its remaining Zellers leases to Target Corp., closing most stores by 2013.

The retailer kept a handful of Zellers locations open as liquidation outlets until 2020.

The company recently launched pop-up Zellers shops inside Hudson’s Bay department stores in Burlington, Ont., and in Anjou, Que.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.

Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press

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