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Ethics committee says government must tell Canadians it’s tracking their movements

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OTTAWA — A House of Commons committee says the federal government needs to tell Canadians if it’s collecting data about their movements, and allow them to opt out of that collection.

Those are some of the recommendations made by the ethics committee, which started looking into the issue back in January after public outcry about the federal health agency’s secret collection of data from cell providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Public Health Agency of Canada used data from cell towers to track 33 million mobile devices as a way to assess “population mobility patterns” during pandemic lockdowns, and issued a tender in December to continue tracking location data until May 31, 2023.

The committee said the government should notify people about these programs “in a manner that clearly outlines the nature and purpose of the data collection.”

It’s also calling for changes to privacy laws so that de-identified information and aggregate data are considered personal information, subject to privacy protections.

PHAC has previously said location data from cellphone towers would be stripped of personal identifiers, and that it’s taken advice from privacy and ethics experts, including the privacy commissioner.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2022.

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Little change to Vancouver downtown street encampment as residents wonder where to go

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VANCOUVER — It was difficult to see any difference had been made to the tent encampment in Vancouver’s troubled Downtown Eastside on Wednesday, a day after city staff began what’s expected to be a weeks-long process to remove the structures.

That’s for good reason, said a resident who goes by the name Edith Elizabeth — the people who live in the tents have nowhere else to go.

She said previously, residents would relocate their structures nearby so city staff could clean the street.

“It’s just like, ‘Okay, cool, take down our structures and move down the block so they can wash it,’ and that’s it,” said Elizabeth. “But here, now, it’s just like we have to disappear or something.”

Vancouver fire Chief Karen Fry ordered tents along the stretch of Hastings Street dismantled last month, saying there was an extreme fire and safety risk.

The city has said staff would concentrate their efforts on the “highest risk” areas, but several structures in those areas remained in place on Wednesday.

The neighbourhood struggles with many complex challenges including drug use, crime, homelessness, housing issues, and unemployment.

It was tense on Tuesday, Elizabeth said, with a heavy police presence on the street.

The Vancouver Police Department released a statement Tuesday saying multiple people were arrested after officers were assaulted during a “melee.”

It said staff at a community centre had called police to report a man throwing computers and behaving erratically. The man resisted arrest, police said, as “a large crowd gathered, and became hostile and combative with the officers.”

Elizabeth said police used pepper spray and the incident left people feeling scared.

An update from the city on Wednesday said a big contingent of police at the Main and Hastings intersection in the afternoon “was not as a result of the City’s effort to remove structures”, and instead stemmed from the incident outside the community centre.

The city said staff aimed to approach encampment residents “with respect and sensitivity, encouraging and supporting voluntary removal of tents and belongings through conversation.”

“We recognize that some people believe the city should not do this work, but there are significant safety risks for everyone in the neighbourhood that the city cannot ignore,” it said.

Elizabeth stood near her belongings on the sidewalk where she said she’s been staying for about three weeks after moving from another spot nearby.

“It’s not like this is a forever, permanent place,” she said, although she’s not sure where she might go next.

“As far as options down here, generally there’s been Crab Park, which is like tent city,” she said, referring to tents set up around the park near Vancouver’s waterfront.

Elizabeth said she, like many others living in tents along the street, doesn’t feel comfortable or safe in single-room occupancy buildings with “awful” conditions.

The city said staff have been meeting each week with a community-based working group since May, and more frequently with members of the Overdose Prevention Society and Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users over the past two weeks.

Staff spent Wednesday telling residents about storage options for their belongings, the city said.

These included up to two 360-litre storage totes, which staff would seal with tamper-proof labels before placing them in short-term storage. The city said the totes are on wheels, so owners can take them away if they did not want them stored.

A long-term storage container is also being provided nearby, the city said.

Community advocacy groups, including the drug-user network and Pivot Legal Society, have said clearing the encampment violates a memorandum of understanding between the city, the B.C. government and Vancouver’s park board, because people are being told to move without being offered suitable housing.

The stated aim of the agreement struck last March is to connect unsheltered people to housing and preserve their dignity when dismantling encampments.

The City of Vancouver may enforce bylaws that prohibit structures on sidewalks “when suitable spaces are available for people to move indoors,” it reads.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2022.

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Bedard shines, host Canada downs Latvia 5-2 at world junior hockey championship

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EDMONTON — Team Canada needed some time to shake off the rust as they embarked on a late-summer campaign for gold.

Coming into their first game of the world junior hockey championship in Edmonton, many on the squad hadn’t laced up their skates for a competitive bout in several months.

The time away showed at moments, but Canada held on for a 5-2 victory over Latvia to open the tournament on Wednesday.

“I know a coach is never happy with the game, but considering the time of year and where we’re at in this tournament, I think it was good.” said head coach Dave Cameron.

The 2022 tournament is being held in August after the original iteration was called off on Dec. 29 after just four days as rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials forced games to be forfeited.

Teen phenom Connor Bedard hasn’t played a “real game” in three months, and said getting back to competition felt good.

The 17-year-old was quick to show his offensive prowess, opening the scoring in the first period and adding an assist on a second-period power-play goal.

“It always feels good to score, especially that first one of the tournament,” said Bedard, an early favourite to go first overall in the 2023 NHL entry draft.

“I think it’s always exciting no matter who gets it. So definitely felt good. And it was cool to kind of be going to the corner and seeing some fans.”

Ridly Greig and William Dufour each had a goal and a helper for Canada (1-0-0), while Lukas Cormier and Olen Zellweger also scored. Captain Mason McTavish notched two assists.

Rainers Darzins and Bogdans Hodass put away goals for the Latvians, who were coming off a 6-1 drubbing by Finland on Tuesday.

Canada’s Sebastian Cossa made 22 saves and Patriks Berzins stopped 39 of 44 shots for Latvia (0-2-0).

The Canadians broke out with a three-goal performance in the second but found themselves in trouble in the final frame due to a series of undisciplined penalties.

Latvia got nine seconds of five-on-three play midway through the third when Greig was called for hooking after Kent Johnson had already been sent to the box for delay of game.

The Canadians weathered being down two men and Cossa preserved the advantage with a collection of timely stops.

Earlier in the period, Latvia cut the deficit to 4-2 on a power play after Greig was called for tripping.

Just four seconds into the man advantage, Hodas — a Medicine Hat Tigers defenceman — ripped a shot off from the top of the faceoff circle, sailing the puck over Cossa’s pad.

Dufour gave the Canadians some breathing room with 5:16 to go in the third period. The New York Islanders prospect collected a slick pass from Greig and sent a quick shot in past Berzins to give his side a 5-2 lead.

Greig capped a big middle frame by collecting a pass from Dufour along the boards for an odd-man rush and streaking up the ice, using one arm to hold back Latvia’s Peteris Purmalis. With his free hand, the Ottawa Senators prospect poked the puck in past Berzins at the 17:16 mark to give Canada a 4-1 lead.

“It was a pretty lucky bounce,” Greig said. “And the tracker was right on me so I just tried to get it on net with one (hand).”

A power-play goal gave the Canadians a three-goal lead after Latvia captain Ralfs Bergmanis was called for slashing.

Bedard set up the play with a no-look backwards pass to Zellweger at the blue line. The defenceman wound up and fired a rocket through traffic, finding the back of the net 16:17 into the second.

Minutes earlier, Cormier scored with the man advantage after Dans Locmelis was called for roughing.

Joshua Roy calmed a bouncing puck and dished it to Cormier, who sent it sailing past Berzins from the top of the faceoff circle.

Canada’s power play looked to be in trouble on its first attempt of the tournament earlier in the period.

The man advantage saw Cossa nearly send a puck into his own net while trying to clear and Johnson come within inches of scoring an own goal. The host nation turned the puck over multiple times and Latvia registered a pair of short-handed shots.

“That was just to give the fans their money’s worth,” Cameron said.

“That was at the time where we were in their zone for a period of time five on five and we thought that was going to carry over into the power play and we got too comfortable and we thought it was going to be easy.

“We stalled in our execution and hats off to Latvia, they didn’t give up.”

The Canadians went 2 for 4 on the power play Wednesday and Latvia was 1 for 5.

Canada kept Berzins busy across the first period, outshooting Latvia 18-4.

The host nation dominated play but Latvia scored the equalizer with less than two minutes to play in the opening frame. Darzins chipped a shot up and over Cossa stick side to make it 1-1.

Bedard opened the scoring 7:31 into the game, blasting a shot through a pair of Latvian defenders and over Berzins’ glove from the top of the slot.

With a different roster than the December tournament and a short training camp, Canada is still trying to build chemistry as the world juniors get underway, Cossa said.

“We’ve been practising but nothing’s really game speed,” he said. “So it was nice getting into the game now and just kind of fix things coming up here, practice and get ready for the rest of the games.”

Earlier Wednesday, Winnipeg Jets prospect Daniel Torgersson scored twice as Sweden (1-0-0) took a 3-2 victory over Switzerland (0-1-0) in Group B play.

In the final game of the day, Germany (1-0-1) defeated Austria (0-0-1) 4-2 for its first win of the tournament.

The Canadians will continue round-robin action Thursday when they take on Slovakia (0-0-1).

NOTES: Greig turned 20 on Monday. The world juniors are a showcase of the best under-20 players across the globe, but the International Ice Hockey Federation has allowed athletes born in 2002 who have already turned 20 to play in this summer’s championship. … Cossa was playing on familiar ice, having helped the Edmonton Oil Kings to a WHL championship in June. … Canada’s goal song is “Can’t Stop” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2022.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

 

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