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New five week, use-it-or-lose-it paternity leave benefit kicks in

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  • OTTAWA — The federal government says more families than expected are taking advantage of the new ability to extend a year’s worth of parental leave benefits over 18 months.

    Since the extension was made available in December 2017, more than 32,000 parents have availed themselves of the option — well above the anticipated 20,000 claims federal officials expected to get each year.

    On Sunday, a new use-it-or-lose-it leave for non-birthing parents — most often targeting fathers — will come into effect for parents of children born on or after March 17. The leave will also be available to parents of children placed for adoption beginning Sunday.

    Parents will get five additional weeks if they opt for the traditional 12-month parental leave, or eight weeks under the new 18-month option, so long as the couple agrees to split the time off to care for a new child.

    That option will only be available to parents who qualify for employment insurance benefits, which some experts fear could act as a barrier for parents who don’t or can’t work enough to meet the minimum requirements for hours worked.

    Over the next 12 months, federal officials expect 97,000 families to take advantage of the measures, which are designed to encourage non-birthing parents to take more time to care for a newborn and allow mothers to get return to the workforce sooner.

    The vast majority of parental leave claims come from women, who comprise about 85 per cent of the total.

    Quebec has had its own program since 2006, and take-up has steadily increased over time. In 2017, about 81 per cent of spouses or partners in Quebec took time off to care for a new child, compared to 12 per cent in the rest of the country.

    Quebec’s parental leave system provides up to five weeks of paid leave to new fathers, covering up to 70 per cent of their income.

    The federal benefit would cover 55 per cent of earnings for those taking 12 months of parental leave, or 33 per cent for those opting for an 18-month leave.

    Jordan Press, The Canadian Press



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    Canadian man charged with spying in China gets visit by consular officials

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  • OTTAWA — Global Affairs Canada says consular officials in China visited today with detained former diplomat Michael Kovrig today.

    It is the fifth time Kovrig has received a consular visit since he was detained by Chinese authorities in early December, but the first since he and fellow detainee Michael Spavor were charged with stealing state secrets two weeks ago.

    Spavor has received four consular visits thus far.

    The two have not had access to lawyers and receive one visit from Canadian officials a month.

    The Canadian government says their detentions are arbitrary and warns Canadians travelling to China to do so with a “high degree of caution” because of the arbitrary application of local laws.

    Canada is calling for the immediate release of both men.

    Canadian officials have complained the two men are being held in retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou under an extradition request from the United States.

    Global Affairs notes the number of countries who back Canada’s position on the matter including the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Spain and Denmark as well as NATO and the European Union.

    Consular visits typically include assessing the well-being of the men, trying to get them medical attention if needed and helping them communicate with loved ones.

    Because of privacy laws, no specifics about the visit can be made public.

    The Canadian Press


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    EU military wants to partner with Canada in Mali as it races for exit

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  • OTTAWA —  As Canada’s military mission races to leave Mali and the United Nations pleads for it to stay, the European Union is making a fresh appeal to the Canadian Forces to partner with it in the West African country.

    Gen. Esa Pulkkinen, director general of the EU’s military staff, told The Canadian Press that he has asked the Canadian government to bring its military training expertise to Mali as part of a broader effort to stamp out Islamic extremism in Africa’s Sahel region.

    Pulkkinen said he’s aware of the context of his request — it comes as Canada faces pressure from the UN to extend its Mali peacekeeping mission in order to bridge a gap until Romanian replacements can arrive.

    But he says Canada would make a great bilateral partner with the EU’s military training efforts in West Africa, which he says are crucial to stamping out security threats to Europe.

    Those threats include the mass northward migration to Europe, an increase in the smuggling of arms, drugs and human trafficking, as well as terrorism.

    Pulkkinen was in Ottawa this past week, and said he was planning to make a formal request to Canadian officials after raising the matter informally.

    “I need brains. I don’t need the quantities,” he said.

    “Your officer training is top level in the world. More importantly, you have French language skills as well, which we need when we provide advice for our Malian friends.”

    Pulkkinen already commands 1,000 troops in Somalia, the Central African Republic and Mali, and is partnering with the United States on various missions on the continent. He said the EU wants to ramp up its presence in Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad as well. 

    Joining forces with Canada would be a natural fit, he noted, because the EU mission is predicated on the same shared values.

    “We try to find other partners that share the same universal Western values as we have. They are very important when you provide education for our African troops,” Pulkkinen said.

    “The same understanding of the respect of human rights and other issues — you name it.”

    But the mission will be a tough sell for the EU.

    Canada is in the final throes of withdrawing its eight helicopters and 250 military personnel from Mali, where they have been providing emergency medical evacuations and transporting troops and equipment across the vast country.

    The drawdown has moved the UN to formally ask Canada to extend its mission in what appears to be a final effort to prevent a gap in military medical evacuations for wounded peacekeepers and UN staff.

    The UN sent a formal request, in writing, to the federal government late last month after months of behind-the-scenes prodding got them nowhere with Ottawa.

    The letter marks an unusual step: the UN usually only makes such requests if it believes it stands a good chance of a positive response, which in this case is far from certain.

    The government, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has repeatedly played down the gap it would be creating by leaving Mali on schedule.

    Pulkkinen’s request on behalf of the EU will only increase the pressure on the Trudeau government, which has faced criticism for what has been seen as a relatively weak return to the business of UN peacekeeping due to the Mali mission’s modest scope. The Liberals made peacekeeping a signature foreign policy promise during the 2015 federal election.

    Canada will face pressure this coming week when the UN hosts a major peacekeeping summit in New York, the first one since Vancouver hosted a similar gathering in November 2017.

    Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is expected to attend next week’s peacekeeping summit in New York, but her office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    Mike Blanchfield, 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

    sat30mar - 31mar 3010:00 ammar 319th Annual Central Alberta Family Expo10:00 am - 5:00 pm (31)

    sat30mar1:00 pm- 4:00 pmMAGSaturday @ the MuseumMAGnificent Saturdays welcomes all ages and abilities to participate in a fun art project every week! 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

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