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Liberals, Tories announce duelling plans to combat guns and gangs

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  • OTTAWA — As the Liberals begin to roll out spending on a multimillion-dollar plan to combat a rise in gun and gang violence in Canada, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer unveiled his own platform pledge to crack down on gangs, including tougher criminal penalties for gang members.

    In duelling news conferences Thursday, the Liberals and Conservatives each tried to paint their own measures to combat guns and gangs as the most effective.

    The Trudeau government announced a plan to spend $86 million on expanded intelligence and border-security measures for the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency — part of a five-year, $327-million funding promise made earlier this year to stop criminal gun and gang activities.

    Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said gun violence and organized crime are serious problems in Canada and that the Liberal government’s approach is to focus on prevention, ways for gang members to get out, and enforcement — being “smart on crime” versus soft on crime.

    “It takes a multidimensional approach and we all have to pull together as a coherent team,” Goodale said.

    “You need the community-based activity. You need the enhanced police activity. You need the stronger activity at the border. It is a comprehensive, coherent plan, plus you need the backup of legislation like Bill C-71,” he added, referring to the Liberals’ anti-firearms legislation, which is still making its way through Parliament.

    Scheer, meanwhile, said he wants more punitive measures against gang members. He wants to impose tougher jail sentences and limit parole and bail opportunities for gang members who are repeat and violent offenders.

    “Conservatives will take action to make it easier for police to target gang members and put them behind bars, where they belong,” Scheer told reporters in Brampton, Ont. “We’re going to put an end to the revolving-door prison system and take these violent thugs off of the streets for good.”

    The announcements came hours after a mass shooting in a California bar Wednesday night, in which a gunman killed 12 people and then himself.

    Canada has experienced a rash of deadly gun incidents this year, including a mass shooting on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue in July that killed an 18-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl and injured 13 others.

    This has led to calls for Ottawa to ban handguns and assault weapons, including from both Montreal and Toronto city councils.

    Federal consultations on a possible ban are ongoing, Blair said, and he expects to deliver a report on the idea by the end of the year.

    Scheer firmly rejected a handgun ban, saying Thursday it would amount to symbolism over substance.

    “It’s lazy government to ask law-abiding people to follow more laws. It’s harder, more challenging to get real criminals off the street,” he said.

    Follow @ReporterTeresa on Twitter.

     

     

     

    Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press



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    Mistrial declared in Dennis Oland murder retrial, jury is dismissed

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  • SAINT JOHN, N.B. — A mistrial has been declared in the retrial of Dennis Oland for the second degree murder of his father.

    The stunning development comes just over a month after jury selection was completed for the complex trial, which was expected to take at least four months.

    Justice Terrence Morrison of the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench announced the mistrial on Tuesday at what was expected to be the start of evidence presentation in Oland’s second trial for the 2011 bludgeoning death of his father, Richard Oland.

    The 16-member jury has been dismissed, and the trial will continue Wednesday by judge alone. 

    Morrison said there were improprieties in the selection process.

    Oland will have to be re-arraigned and enter his plea.

    Then there will be opening arguments and, finally, the retrial of Dennis Oland will get underway.

    “It cannot be helped,” Morrison told the jury as he thanked them for their service.

    “Your services are no longer required.”

    Richard Oland’s body was discovered on July 7, 2011, in his uptown Saint John office.

    The 69-year-old businessman and former executive of Moosehead Breweries Ltd. had been beaten to death.

    Dennis Oland, his only son, was charged with second-degree murder in 2013 and tried in 2015, but the jury verdict in that case was set aside on appeal in 2016 and a new trial ordered.

    The Canadian Press


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    Bolder action needed to reduce child poverty: Campaign 2000 report card

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  • OTTAWA — Brynn Vincent was only 13 when she started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Two years later, she was addicted and had run away from home and then she found out she was pregnant.

    She sought treatment for addiction at a rehab facility then moved into a homeless shelter.

    “Being in treatment with other women who are cranky and coming off of all types of drugs and alcohol while being pregnant was so hard,” she says. “But I finally decided I need to change, I need to get better — I’m having a baby, obviously I can’t bring a baby into this type of lifestyle.”

    Now 19 and sober, Vincent is living in her own apartment with her daughter and is finishing her education at the Youville Centre in Ottawa, a charity that provides mental-health treatment and other supports to adolescent mothers and their children.

    But her daughter is one of 1.4 million children living in poverty in Canada, 29 years after the House of Commons voted to end child poverty by 2000. Campaign 2000, a group formed to hold the government to its promise, is releasing an annual report card on it today.

    The report calls for the federal government to provide more funding to the provinces, territories and Indigenous communities to expand affordable, quality child care.

    Anita Khanna, national co-ordinator with Campaign 2000, acknowledges the Liberal government has introduced important measures to tackle this problem, including boosting the Canada Child Benefit — a tax-free monthly benefit to help with living and child care costs — two years earlier than planned. The benefit will now increase annually, tied to inflation.

    But while this benefit does help low-income families, it does not fully address the need for better access to child care as a way to help lift families out of poverty, she said.

    “A system of cash transfers is not the provision of good child care. It doesn’t build spaces for child care, and right now that is a huge part of the problem,” she said.

    Vincent credits the work of volunteers and staff at both the shelter and at the Youville Centre for helping her navigate the patchwork of supports for low-income teen single mothers.

    But her struggles are not over. Her limited income means she regularly has to get help from food banks and other charities.

    Her income is only about $7,000 a year. Without a provincial child-care subsidy, she could never have dreamed of completing her education, she says. 

    But if the federal government were to adopt universal child care, it would help mothers like her who are struggling to make ends meet while also trying to build more for their futures and those of their children, she says.

    “That would take a lot of stress on parents living in poverty, it would just be one less thing to have to worry about constantly,” Vincent said. “A lot of working parents in poverty work solely to pay for child care. So if I’m working every day and I’m only making enough money to put my child in daycare so that I can work … in my eyes that’s ridiculous.”

    Canada now has only enough regulated child care spaces for about 30 per cent of the Canadian kids up to the age of five, Khanna said. Campaign 2000 is calling for Ottawa to send $1 billion a year to the provinces and territories to build more daycare spaces.

    The Trudeau government recently announced Canada’s first-ever anti-poverty law, which includes a pledge to reduce the number of Canadians living in poverty 50 per cent by the year 2030. No dollar figure is attached to the bill.

    Campaign 2000 applauds the law but is calling for the Liberals to spend $6 billion on this strategy and to adopt more aggressive targets: it wants to see the 50-per-cent poverty reduction target achieved within five years rather than 12.

    “We really feel there’s impatience on this for action on this,” Khanna said. “Frankly, aiming to lift only half of those children out of poverty in 12 years is not ambitious enough and we know that collectively we can do much better.”

    — Follow @ReporterTeresa on Twitter.

    Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press




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