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Halifax home demolished after fire that claimed the lives of seven children

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  • HALIFAX — Three weeks after a fast-moving house fire killed seven young members of a Syrian refugee family, the charred remains of their suburban Halifax home have been torn down.

    Neighbour Nicole Snook, whose home is down the street from where the Barho family lived, said the two-storey house was demolished without warning on Tuesday.

    “It was quite a shock,” said Snook, who has young children of her own.

    “Even though I saw it every day, what happened there was so unspeakable — it’s so hard to comprehend.”

    Embraheim and Kawthar Barho came with their children to Canada in September 2017. At first, they lived in rural Elmsdale, N.S., but they had recently moved to the neighbourhood of Spryfield to take advantage of immigrant services, including English-language training.

    Early on Feb. 19, their relatively new rental home caught fire. The flames spread so quickly that only the parents managed to escape, though Embraheim is still recovering from extensive burns.

    All seven of their children, who ranged in age from three months to the mid-teens, died in the home.

    The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

    A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $700,000 for the family.

    All that remains at the grim site on Quartz Drive is the concrete foundation.

    Photos on social media show a huge mound of stuffed toys piled against a utility pole on the property’s edge.

    Snook, who was left badly shaken by the tragedy, said she had planned on setting aside a few moments to pause outside the home, pay her respects and seek some form of closure.

    But with her family to care for and a constant stream of curious onlookers on the street, she never got around to that simple ritual.

    “I needed to go there to have a moment … (But) I never had an opportunity because there’s been a parade of people coming and going,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

    “I wanted a bit of a private moment. But there’s been no privacy at all … People come and go from the front and the back non-stop.”

    Snook said most of her neighbours are probably relieved now that the house is gone.

    And the number of gawkers has dropped over the past week.

    However, she said many of those who showed up to gaze upon the wrecked house probably had good reasons for doing so.

    “I think most people needed to go and pay their respects and some just needed to see it,” she said.

    “We’re tangible, physical beings. When something like this happens, that punctures people to the very core of what it means to be human. We need something to touch, to see — to somehow make sense of something that’s so senseless.”

    The Barho family were among 1,795 Syrian refugees who have come to Nova Scotia in recent years.

    Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press


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    New Leger polls suggests federal Liberals lagging Conservatives

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  • OTTAWA — A new poll conducted by Leger for The Canadian Press suggests the governing federal Liberals have lost ground to the Conservatives over the past month.

    Overall, 31 per cent of respondents polled after the federal budget was released Tuesday said they would vote for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals if an election were held now, a decline of about three percentage points from February.

    That compared with 37 per cent who said they would back the Conservatives under leader Andrew Scheer, a one-point increase from February, while 12 per cent said they would vote NDP and eight per cent the Greens.

    Scheer also jumped ahead of Trudeau on the question of who would make a better prime minister as the Tory leader got the backing of 25 per cent of respondents compared with 24 per cent for Trudeau, who has been struggling to contain damage from the SNC-Lavalin affair.

    As for the budget, which the Liberals are hoping will help turn the page on SNC-Lavalin, 12 per cent of respondents said it was good and 19 per cent that it was bad, but 39 per cent said they didn’t really know about it.

    Leger’s internet-based survey, which cannot be assigned a margin of error because online polls are not considered random samples, was conducted March 19 and 20 using computer-assisted web-interviewing technology and heard from 1,529 Canadians who are eligible to vote and were recruited from the firm’s online panel.

    The Canadian Press


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    Liberals pledge $253 million to undo Tory-era changes to benefits tribunal

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  • OTTAWA — The federal Liberals are promising to spend more than $250 million to revamp the body Canadians turn to with disputes over access to federal benefits, partially restoring the system that existed before the Conservatives created the Social Security Tribunal.

    The tribunal hears appeals of government decisions on things like eligibility for employment insurance and the Canada Pension Plan that, before 2013, were overseen by four separate bodies.

    Key changes included cutting the number of people hearing most cases from three to one, and replacing part-time hearing officials in many places with full-time staff in fewer locations.

    In an interview this week, Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the government will bring back the three-person hearings for the first layer of appeals inside the tribunal, and retain the single arbitrator for the second, and final, layer.

    He says the changes respond to rare agreement from labour and employer groups that some sort of return to the three-panel hearing system was needed.

    Tuesday’s federal budget proposes spending $253.8 million over five years, beginning in April, to make the system easier to navigate and shorten decision times.

    “It was felt by EI commissioners and the stakeholder communities, both employers and employees, that there was a lack of transparency, and a lack of collaboration in the way in which the system was working,” Duclos said in an interview Wednesday.

    “So despite the fact that it was not in my mandate letter, we did feel that it was important to transform the system and there will, therefore, be a return to a tripartite system — more fair, more respectful, faster, (and) more collaborative.”

    When the Conservatives unveiled their plans to create the Social Security Tribunal, they argued it would streamline the appeals process and save millions of dollars.

    A report last year from consulting firm KPMG estimated the tribunal saved federal coffers about $22.6 million a year, but waits for decisions also shot up as the tribunal was undermanned and overwhelmed with cases and didn’t have a proper transition plan.

    Average timelines for decisions increased from approximately 44 days to more than 200, and in the worst case, average wait times of 884 days for decisions on CPP disability benefits that were highlighted in a critical 2016 auditor general’s report.

    What the Liberals heard in closed-door meetings and consultations with stakeholders, labour and employers groups, as well as experts over the last three years were calls for a return to the system as it existed before the tribunal’s creation.

    At the same time, the KPMG report warned against that, arguing the tribunal could be improved, and some who worked in the system felt things were much better than what existed before.

    “(I)t became eventually very clear to me in conversations with employers and employees — and I can tell you there was a consensus, which is rare in that environment … that we needed to transform, to reform that system for all sorts of reasons,” Duclos said. “The first was that it was very unfair, very complex and to the most vulnerable workers in our country, it was not only unfair, but also very slow.”

    The tribunal has been changing its operations as officials waited for the budget announcement to publicly detail the future of the tribunal.

    Appellants can choose whether to have hearings in person, on the phone or by videoconference. Rule changes have also made it easier to launch appeals and wait times have dropped. The backlog of cases has fallen from about 7,250 in April 2017 to 3,925 at the end of last year.

    The budget shows that there will be $36 million spent on the overhaul over the next 12 months, rising to $59 million in fiscal year 2021-2022, and setting in at $57 million annually thereafter.

    — Follow @jpress on Twitter.

    Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


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    march, 2019

    fri8mar - 30aprmar 85:30 pmapr 30Real Estate Dinner Theatre5:30 pm - (april 30) 10:00 pm

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