Category Archives: Masters2017_4

Newfoundland and Labrador’s marijuana-themed wish list for the federal government


[Picture source: Creative Commons]

By Amber-Dawn Davison

The topic: Newfoundland and Labrador is assembling a list of requests for the federal government in preparation for the legalization of marijuana in 2018.

What’s new: A series of briefing notes from Service NL acquired through a Freedom of Information request lay out several expectations that the province has of the federal government.

In a September 2016 briefing note, the province asked that the federal government develop a roadside testing device that can accurately detect marijuana, and that it incur “costs associated with development, purchase and training of law enforcement officials related to roadside testing devices.”

Service NL said in a second briefing note from October of 2016 that it expects the federal government to establish a national impairment limit on marijuana and amend the Criminal Code of Canada to “support law enforcement.”

Why it’s important: St. John’s has the highest municipal rate of impaired driving offences in the country, at over 400 cases per 100,000 people. Service NL is concerned that the province’s already troublesome impaired driving situation will be made worse when marijuana becomes legal.

Service NL responded by making several amendments to the province’s Highway Traffic Act in early March, ahead of anticipated federal guidelines on the legalization process. The amendments were based on recommendations from MADD, and lay the groundwork for marijuana legalization by banning alcohol and psychoactive drugs for drivers 21 and under, and increasing impaired driving penalties for everyone.

Service NL hopes these amendments will help ease the eventual integration of federal guidelines into provincial legislation.

What the government says: The province is working with MADD to address existing issues with impaired driving, and future problems they foresee with cannabis. Minister Trimper of Service NL says the primary concern is not eradicating cannabis, but rather finding a way to manage it.

“The issue we are dealing with is that across the country, some 40 per cent of young adults are now using this drug. When you look at that type of statistic, it’s better to find a way that [marijuana] can be perhaps safely consumed and our roads can be protected from its use.”

He stated that the recent amendments to provincial road safety legislation have helped the already-attentive law enforcement agencies to curb the problem.

“Because we have become more sensitive to it, police have certainly become more vigilant than they have been,” Trimper says. “In terms of moving forward, we’ll be working closely with the two police forces we have here.”

What others say: Patricia Hynes Coates is the National President of MADD Canada is from Newfoundland, and has been working closely with Service NL. She says that the provincial government’s position reflect what MADD is seeing across the country: determination to deter everyone, especially youth, from impaired driving.

“We know that we’re not going to catch everyone, so our focus is on deterring people,” says Hynes Coates. “I lost my stepson Nicholas Coates several years ago, and nothing I do at this point is going to bring him back. But if we can stop somebody else from driving while impaired and save a life, well that’s what’s important to us.”

Another Newfoundland native, Rick Janes, says that although he is against legalization, he trusts that the provincial government’s policies will be sound. “At the end of the day, I am confident that as Canadians we can implement [adequate policies surrounding road safety and marijuana],” he says. “I just hope we can do it with minimal loss of life.”

What’s next: The federal government’s official announcement regarding the legalization of marijuana is expected on Thursday. Service NL is awaiting federal direction on the process, including anticipated amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada, roadside testing devices, and funding options.

Minister Trimper says that the process will be bumpy, but he expects the federal government’s national strategy will make the transition easier to swallow. “The roll out of [marijuana] will come in one voice, one direction, instead of each of us taking up our own cause and going in different directions,” he says. “I would suspect we’re going to see not only consistency in Newfoundland, but across the entire country as well.”

ATIP documents:

Metro Vancouver seeking site for regional park service yard


The topic: City of Vancouver is looking for new location for Pacific Spirit Regional Park service yard.

What’s new:

Metro Vancouver has had a service yard for Pacific Spirit Regional Park on University Endowment Lands since 1990. The service yard consists of facilities and storage for equipment to service and maintain the regional park. The University Endowment Lands are owned and administered by the province of British Columbia, so the city has been leasing the land.

The current service yard is made up of repurposed trailers and outbuildings that are nearing the end of their life span and the city wants more permanent buildings. Metro Vancouver approached the province to seek a longer lease, however the province denied their request and advised Metro Vancouver that they would need to vacate the current site.

Why it’s important:

According to the Metro Parks Committee Report, of the 6 sites that were initially being considered only 4 remain: the Sedgewick Fill Site, 16th Ave Parking lot, 16th Ave Homestead North of Reservoir, and Chancellor Boulevard.

Building on these sites would mean taking land out of the Pacific Spirit Park which in turn could mean logging and clearing in Vancouver’s busiest regional park.

What the government says:

David Eby, is the NDP MLA representing Vancouver-Point Grey — the riding next to the University Endowment Lands. He’s been writing to both the Minister Steve Thomson of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations and the Minister Peter Fassbender of Community, Sport and Cultural Development since July 2016 to find out why the province will not extend Metro Vancouver’s lease.

In a response to Eby’s initial letter, received through Freedom of Information request, Minister Fassbender confirmed that the province will not be extending Metro Vancouver’s lease, he also pointed out that the city has had facilities in the regional park in the past – making it a viable option for future locations.

In a response letter to Eby, Minister Fassbender confirmed that the province will not be extending Metro Vancouver’s lease, he also pointed out that the city has had facilities in the regional park in the past – making it a viable option for future locations.

What others say:

While Eby is concerned that the locations being considered for a new service yard would take away public green space, he’s more concerned that the province won’t reveal the reason they won’t extend Metro Vancouver’s.

“More troubling to me is the province saying that there is some sort of alternative use for the site that’s under discussion internally that they refuse to disclose to the community,” said Eby.

In his letters with the province, Eby has been trying to get an answer from the province – a point that he wants addressed.

In his letters with the province, Eby has been trying to get an answer from the province on what they plan on doing with the current service yard location.

The province did not provide Eby with a direct response as to their intention for future of the current site, and according to Eby he’s filled freedom of information requests to find out that have come back heavily redacted.

“All they will say is that there is an alternative use for the site currently under discussion and that it’s not under discussion with the community,” said Eby. “It’s under discussion somewhere in the bowels of government.”

What’s next:

Eby plans to continue advocating for his constituents – especially with the upcoming election.

“We’re going into an election in May, so I’m certainly not hesitating to let everybody in the UEL know the high-handed manner with which the provincial government is treating their community assets — which is this park and this public asset — which is this works yard and their plans for it,” said Eby.

Metro Vancouver plans to review the remaining 4 sites. Once complete, they say they will engage the public, Musqueam First Nation, park partners and community groups.

The city plans on the implementing the new service yard next year.

Government money goes missing in Prince George


The topic: Money going missing in the Prince George Government Agent’s Office

What’s new:
An undisclosed amount of money went missing from the Prince George Government Agent’s Office last year. After a thorough internal investigation, the fate of the money, which may have come from private citizens’ payments, is still unknown. Outside observers and government representatives say there was clearly a procedural breakdown.

Why it’s important:
Service B.C.’s Government Agent’s Office handles money coming in from the public. Any government service fees, such as B.C. Hydro bills or hunting licenses, can be processed through the office. This means that potentially large sums of money are coming and going from the Prince George location, the city being the largest urban centre in northern B.C.

An internal memo from the Ministry of Finance, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, released in February 2017, details the investigation into the missing money.

According to the memo, the money went missing between March 18 and March 23, 2016. The document is highly redacted, so the amount of money gone is unclear, but it was enough to prompt local policy changes as well as an investigation by the Ministry of Finance.

The investigation was co-run by the Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizen’s Services, under which the Government Agent’s Office operates, and Ministry of Finance, which investigates monetary issues.

According to the memo, the investigative team noted that initial response to the missing money was swift, they filed a report and contacted the local RCMP detachment immediately.

Investigators questioned ten people who were working in the department over the five-day period, the memo says. Over the course of the investigation no employees admitted to loosing or stealing the money, and none offered any insight into how it might have happened. The investigation therefore came up inconclusive.

What the government says:
The memo, as well as the Ministry of Finance website, note that there are strict guidelines set out for Government Agents handling money. The full extent of these guidelines, however, is not public.

Tasha Schollen, communications director for the B.C. Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizen’s Services, says that the investigation into the missing money concluded that staff had become lax in handling cash and revenue. They have since been reprimanded and reminded of proper procedure for dealing with money.

What others say:
Dan Simunic is a professor of accounting at University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. After analyzing the heavily redacted memo, Simunic says that the Government Agent’s Office was operating under a “non-system.”

“What’s really lacking,” says Simunic, “is internal control over how cash is handled.” He continues, “You should not have ten people with access to the cash. This is auditing 101.”

Simunic says that there are some fundamental auditing principles that should have been followed. Chief among them is limited access to the cash. He suggests that one have clear lines of responsibility and authority for the people who work there.

“Theres no excuse when you have an office of ten people that no one person is accountable,” says Simunic, “it’s egregious.”

Simunic says that with responsibility comes accountability for missing money.

What’s next:
According to Schollen, the Prince George government agent’s office has put into place new procedures, including ensuring that the deposits are secured at all times, and requiring employee signatures for access to the cash room and safe.

Schollen also said that there are more safeguards that have been put into place, but for security reasons, they will not release further details.

Supporting Documents:

1) This page of the memo shows that there was money missing, and that an investigation was launched. The FOI request was put in to the Ministry of Finance (not by me, I got this from the website). This information was helpful because it provides the story: the fact that there was money missing.

2) This page of the memo shows that there were ten people questioned in this investigation. Therefore the investigation did take some time and resources, so it was not a throw away amount of money. The expert, Dr. Simunic, highlighted that the number of people with access to the money was likely a factor in the inconclusive result.  The FOI request was put in to the Ministry of Finance (not by me, I got this from the website).


Access to information requests:

First Nations legal clout in stopping Kinder Morgan


The topic: First Nations legal rights in stopping Kinder Morgan

What’s new: First Nations rights can cause a legal quagmire when it comes to the construction of the Kinder Morgan Trans-mountain Expansion.

Why it’s important:  A controversial decision to approve the Kinder Morgan Trans-mountain Expansion by the Liberal government was made in November last year. The new pipeline would more than double the amount of existing diluted bitumen being transported from Alberta oil sands to a tanker terminal in Burnaby, B.C. Tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet is estimated to increase seven-fold.

Prior to the government’s announcement, the National Energy Board conducted a review of the pipeline and concluded that construction would be in the public interest. This review was followed by consultations of communities along the pipeline route, performed by the Ministerial Panel.

Although some First Nations had negotiated agreements with pipeline, overall the consultation panel found significant opposition. “Even among those people who had negotiated benefit agreements and signed letters of support for Trans-mountain, most said their rights were not respected and that their concerns about impacts were ignored, or at the very least, minimized,” reads the report from the Ministerial Panel released in November 2016.

A briefing note regarding First Nations consultation said that upholding Indigenous rights may present a “tension” for the project. Section 35 of the Constitution Act grants First Nations rights to land, and First Nations groups in direct opposition to the pipeline are arguing that approval of the pipeline would violate this legislature.

The Sacred Trust Initiative from the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation is mandated to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker terminal from being built. They conducted an independent assessment report on how the pipeline would affect their First Nation, which takes into consideration the increased likelihood and consequences of a spill. The assessment found that “spilled oil has the potential to foul every corner of the Burrard Inlet,” and “a large spill has the potential to expose over one million residents around the Burrard Inlet to acute toxic health effects from toxic air emissions.”

John Konovski, senior advisor at the Sacred Trust Initiative, said that “The issues is that the National Energy Board examined didn’t include all the interests of Tsleil-Waututh have. The biggest one being that marine shipping was not part of the environmental assessment.”

Failure to respect First Nations titles and inadequate consultation has caused problems for the construction of pipelines in the past. “As we have seen from the Federal Court of Appeals decision that quashed the NEB approval for Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline in June 2016, failing to consult appropriately with these groups has the capacity to bring a project of this nature to a standstill,” reads the report from the Ministerial Panel.
What the government says:  Roxanna Coulon, communications office for Natural Resources Canada, wrote in an email thatNo relationship is more important to our Government than the one with Indigenous peoples.” According to Coulon, the pipeline expansion project has committed more than $300 million to socio-economic agreements with First Nations groups over the next twenty years, and the 2017 budget provided $64.7 million to fund an Indigenous monitoring and advisory committee to support communities affected by the pipeline.
What others say: Bruce Miller, a UBC professor who studies Indigenous affairs, said that the Tsleil-Waututh have a fair case in opposition to the pipeline, but legal proceedings can be a lengthy process.I think in the end it’s unclear that it really will go through,” said Miller.
What’s next: Tsleil-Waututh and other First Nations groups are taking their case to the B.C. Supreme Court. Konovski said the case is likely to proceed over the next year to year and a half.

Newfoundland and Labrador for marijuana roadside testing device, national limit and amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada


The topic: Need for legislation, national limit and roadside testing devices in face of national marijuana legalization

What’s new: Ministers from Newfoundland and Labrador addressed the need for improved road-side policing mechanisms in light of the pending national legalization of recreational marijuana, according to provincial briefing notes from the Department of Service Newfoundland.

Why it’s important: The provincial representatives agree that the legalization of marijuana will increase risk to public safety and road safety. This means an appropriate amount of time and new tools and regulations will be necessary to make changes and ensure the safety of its residents.

RCMP and Newfoundland Constabulary Officers currently only have Standard Field Sobriety Test and Drug Recognition Experts as their means of detecting and addressing inebriated driving, according to the document. Both of these methods were established in the 1970s and have since been only slightly changed.

Standard Field Sobriety Tests include exercises such as the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (where the subject visually follows the officer’s finger from left to right), the walk-and-turn test and the one-leg stand test, according to the RCMP website.

Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) are trained to detect inebriation in subjects through various tests in addition to the Standard Field Sobriety Test methods, according to the RCMP. These include the use of a breathalyzer (only appropriate for alcohol level detection), what the person looks like, what the person says and ultimately the opinion of the DRE. Some mildly invasive tests are recommended, such as a darkroom examination of pupil size, blood pressure, temperature and pulse reading, however these are now rarely used.

According to the Newfoundland Ministers, these testing methods are not sufficient for cannabis detection and there is a resulting need for the recognition and implementation of a legal limit as well as investment in research and development for a reliable tool for testing drug impairment by the side of the road.

In addition to new testing devices, there is a need for amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada, which currently has alcohol and cannabis under the same umbrella term “impaired driving”. Newfoundland recognizes the need for discrepancy between the two, as well as the cascading implications this will have for the police and public.

The document addresses the need for different policing tools and techniques for alcohol and cannabis impaired driving, while drawing parallels between the dangers of impaired driving.

It states that both alcohol and cannabis contribute to poorer lane tracking, greater variability in steering, an increased need for adjustments and slower reaction times. Divided attention and decision making abilities are also outlined as being negatively impacted by both substances.

In addition to increase police training, the provincial departments intend to adjust driver education programs and counselling programs to incorporate material that covers cannabis and its related risks and regulations.

What the government says: Paula Walsh, Newfoundland’s Assistant Deputy Minister for Public Safety and Enforcement declined to comment on new roadside education programs, but says she is not sure what kind of roadside testing device to expect. “In order to be able to determine a certain level of alcohol impairment, there’s a method of being able to use a breathalyzer to determine whether the individual is over the legal limit. It would be helpful to have a similar method for marijuana,” Walsh says.

The province has requested six to twelve months to make changes to provincial legislation to support anticipated amendments to the Criminal Code and to train more police officers to detect cannabis intoxication in drivers.

What others say: According to a study released by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Marijuana is primarily detected according to THC levels, which can be measured through blood, urine and oral fluid samples.

All three of these would be more invasive than any other road side sobriety test currently implemented in the country, however the oral fluid detection method would be the least invasive of the three and most similar to the existing breathalyzer which tests for blood-alcohol levels. The oral-fluid testing device involves the insertion of a device into the mouth which collects saliva. The saliva is then tested for THC presence and levels. Canadian police are currently testing these devices across the country.

What’s next: The Liberal Government recently announced that legislation will be released this month and national legalization of recreational marijuana will be in effect by July 2018. Newfoundland’s input was directed towards the federal Marijuana Task Force that has been in effect and collecting data since December of last year. The new marijuana legislation will stem primarily from the findings of this task force. Newfoundland ministers hope this will include guidelines for roadside safety regulations and accurate intoxication testing devices.

Veteran’s Access to Healthcare Needs to Change, says 2015 Report


The topic: Veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces, or CAF, have difficulty accessing healthcare from Veterans Affairs Canada.

This is a flow chart of the relationship between VAC and CAF. It demonstrates how complicated the relationship is.
This information comes from Veterans Affairs Canada. It was helpful because it delineates the complex relationship that VAC and the CAF have.

What’s new: In a document created by a third party consultation company, Hitachi Consulting Government Solutions, from March of 2015, entitled “Review Progress on Transitions from Military to Civilian Life: Transforming Veterans Affairs Canada” Hitachi Consulting reviewed the transition process from the CAF to VAC. This document was obtained by access to information laws.

A page of the 2015 Hitachi Consulting report. It demonstrates the increasing number of Canadian veterans. It is helpful because it shows that there will be more veterans in the future, some of whom will need healthcare from the CAF and VAC.

The key finding of the report was that there is no one definition of “transition,” a testament to how complex the process of transferring healthcare from the CAF to VAC is. The report also found that that there has been little change in VAC with regards to veterans and their families, that veteran feedback was not observed and that there was no process to measure transition success. It also found that sharing Department of National Defence health records with VAC took too long. The system that the report describes is one that is ill designed, very slow and not effective.

This is a page of the 2015 Hitachi Report that details the key findings. It is from Veterans Affairs Canada. This is the key finding of the report.

What is really new about the findings in this report is that an independent third party has now confirmed findings from other government reports. There have been many reports calling for the transition process from military life to civilian life, and especially for the transfer of healthcare, to be reformed and streamlined. But many of these recommendations have not been enacted.
Why it’s important: The complexity of the transfer process can be overwhelming for veterans. The complicated process can result in delays and those delays result in ill and injured veterans not receiving the healthcare that they need. Provincial healthcare does not cover soldiers and veterans often rely on VAC for the specialized healthcare that they may require. The consequences of veterans not getting healthcare that they need can be dire. Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have committed suicide and murder-suicide because they didn’t have proper support.

These are statistics from Veterans Affairs Canada released under the Access to Information Act. It lists the amount of veterans with PTSD, which underscores how serious of an issue it is that the CAF-VAC transfer is reformed.

What the government says: The current Liberal government and the previous Conservative government have been very quiet with regards to this issue. Despite numerous reports and campaign promises elected officials have done nothing. While on the campaign trail Justin Trudeau promised to reinstate lifelong pensions for injured and ill veterans. To date that promise has not been fulfilled.

When asked why nothing has changed, Gary Walbourne, Ombudsman for National Defence and the Canadian Forces, said that it was an issue of bureaucracy. “I’ve been dealing with the same people as when I started, ” he said at a town hall meeting for ill and injured veterans on March 22 in Ottawa. He went on to describe a system that was resistant to change despite the fact that many of the requested changes to support veterans would not require an Act of Parliament and that it would not require very much money.
What others say: Barry Westholm is a former Sergeant Major with the Joint Personnel Support Unit, the unit that the CAF has designated to help ill and injure veterans. In a written document, his response to the Hitachi Report, he wrote that “I can state from experience that the benefits afforded injured service-members and their families while still in the CAF can be difficult for a person to understand, and in fact can cause a great deal of frustration for a military family.”
What’s next: At the town hall meeting last week many veterans expressed their distrust and dislike of VAC and the transition process. There was a lot of discussion around how to organize in order to create a better venue for having their voices heard and how to have the transition process reformed. Many options were discussed. But what was agreed upon was that they wanted no more reports. They wanted action.


Some of my correspondence with VAC
My previously-released Access-to-information document


More of my correspondence with VAC


My correspondence with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care
The continuation of my correspondence with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care


More of my correspondence with VAC


The last of my correspondence with VAC


B.C. doctors still see gaps in educating the public about concussions in youth sports

Photo provided by Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Morris-Flickr.

The topic: Managing and preventing concussions in British Columbia’s youth sports leagues.

Note: Please see the annotations made to the pages below on DocumentCloud

What’s new:

The Concussion Awareness Training Tool was introduced in late 2015 to help educate parents and young athletes about concussions, but doctors and officials suggest that gaps still exist in British Columbia’s approach to treating concussions.

Why it’s important:

The province’s ministry of health identified that between 2001 and 2010, 22.6 per cent of head injuries were suffered by kids ages one to 19. Moreover, 12.9 per cent of all head injury hospitalizations were concussions, according to briefing notes prepared for health minister Terry Lake.

The documents outline a recommended response by the minister in conjunction with the B.C. Injury Research and Prevention Unit (BCIRPU), who in fall 2015, introduced the final stage of the Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT).

The tool’s purpose is to serve as a resource that supports the “development of a free online concussion awareness training tool that provides toolkits to B.C. health professionals, educators, players, coaches and trainers,” the document said.

The Sept. 14, 2014, briefing notes were obtained under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Dr. Shelina Babul is the associate director of both the BCIRPU and the B.C. Children’s Hospital, specializing in concussion research as well as sports injury prevention and rehabilitation.

Babul helped develop the CATT and co-authored The Burden of Concussion Among Children & Youth in British Columbia—a report that according to the briefing notes, was co-funded by the province’s health ministry.

An infographic indicating the reach of the CATT. Photo courtesy of Dr. Shelina Babul and Kate Turcotte

The tool has already been adopted by 15 sports associations and schools, and over 23,000 British Columbians have completed the online training, Babul said.

Babul said that reform was needed prior to the development of the website to address the lack of awareness among medical professionals, parents, coaches and young athletes about diagnosing concussions and preventing future head injuries.

“It was built on evidence based resources and developed through an environmental scan to see what existed at the time and what were gaps in those handful of resources,” Babul said in an email.

“We saw what the identified needs were and we developed a new resource.”

Google analytics tracking activity on the CATT website. Photo courtesy of Dr. Shelina Babul and Kate Turcotte.

However, Babul said that a void still exists in the concussion education system. She isn’t alone.

Dr. Moira Stilwell is the former Minister of Social Development for B.C. The document details how Stilwell put forth a private legislation in 2012 known as the Return to Learn and Return to Play protocols that suggested guidelines for a student’s return to academics and athletics after a concussion.

The legislation was rejected, and according to Stilwell, has yet to be revisited by the provincial government.

What the government says:

Lake has said that that he wants to review how the programs like the CATT are progressing before pursuing legislature similar to Rowan’s Law—an Ontario bill that was passed in 2016 to manage and prevent concussions in youth sports.

The law prompted discussion surrounding whether other provinces should adopt a similar legislature.

Lori Cascaden, a spokesperson for the B.C. Ministry of Health, said that “legislation of this nature is not currently being contemplated” and that the ministry “continues to review best practices regarding concussions” in an email statement.

What others say:

Dr. Ian Gillespie is a former president of the B.C. Medical Association. Gillespie said that the online tool is a strong step towards developing an educational protocol for medical professionals, sports leagues and athletes about concussion diagnosis and prevention.

But it’s just the start.

“Sometimes if a scan is done and nothing shows up they may be sent away,” Gillespie said.  “The assessment is still not standardized yet in emergency departments and there often isn’t attention to some of the cognitive consequences experienced by a person afterwards.”

What’s next:

The 2016 federal budget dedicated $1.4 billion towards the Pan-Canadian Concussion Strategy. B.C’s Ministry of Health and Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development are participating alongside the rest of Canada’s provinces and territories.

Cascaden referred to the strategy as a “national harmonized policy approach,” designed to research a method of implementing a Canada-wide plan for managing and preventing concussions.

Proof of Completed requests:

Federal previously released:

RCMP and Soccer Gambling Ring Investigation


Provincial (Newfoundland and Labrador):

Acknowledgment Letter EDU 015 2017 (provincial)

AtippRequest-2017-03-09 cap-and-trade

Municipal (City of St. John’s, Newfoundland:

MA 27 2017 – transfer to City of St. John’s (municipal request)

Farming and child labour at Mount Elgin Residential School



Farming practices at Mount Elgin Residential School

What’s new:

Students at Mount Elgin Residential School using the tractor to farm | Photo courtesy of Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, Algoma University

There is evidence in Mount Elgin’s records obtained through an access to information request that children were forced to labour on the farm. An RCMP report says that students ran away from the school and often complained that the conditions were too hard on them.

Why it’s important:

Little has been published on Mount Elgin, which operated just outside of London until 1946. It was mentioned briefly in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2015 reports as one of the few schools that operated in southern Ontario.

The records show how the school operated, and how children were used to benefit the farm.

In 1945, the school farmed hundreds of bushels of crops.

As noted in the above document, the school only employed one farmer, so the students were left doing most of the work.

Anne Lindsay, an archivist from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, noted that it was common for residential schools in Ontario to run farms for the students to learn how to harvest crops and to subsidize some of the costs for food.

An RCMP report from 1943 shows the repercussions and impacts of these extreme farming practices at Mount Elgin. Constable W.E. Needham was called to retrieve students who had run away from the school. In the report, the officer explains that the students ran away because they were forced to work on the farm. The officer calls the discipline “too severe.”

“[These] children have very little or no recreation,” wrote Needham in the report, “and with help so scarce they are obliged to do the majority of the farm work, resulting in these children being overworked.”

That children ran away from residential schools is not new information. What is new information is that many were running away from Mount Elgin because they were being overworked on the farm.

In the grander scheme of things, this report shows that new information is still coming to the surface about what happened in these schools. Though the offices of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have closed and become the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, the process of reconciling with the past is not over because new information is still being discovered.

What the government says:

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada could not comment on this school in particular. The spokesperson simply referred to the webpage on reconciliation when asked what the government does when new information surfaces about the operation of schools, whether that changes the reconciliation process.

Lindsay at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation was quick to dismiss the report and its implications.

“At that time, children were an economic part of a family,” said Lindsay. “You have to look at it in the context of childhood at that time.”

What others say:

Mike Cachagee is the president of the Ontario Indian Residential School Support Services. He is from Chapleau Cree First Nation and is a residential school survivor. Though he never went to Mount Elgin, he was one of the student farm hands at residential schools near Thunder Bay.

Mount Elgin Residential School | Photo courtesy of Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, Algoma University

Cachagee did not agree with Lindsay’s assessment of the report.

“If they had done the same thing with white schools, yes I could say this was a sign of the times, but they didn’t,” said Cachagee. “It was a sign of the times in how they treated Indigenous people.”

What’s next:

Indigenous groups like Ontario Indian Residential School Support Services are working with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to ensure accurate recording of what occurred at residential schools across the country. As more reports are found and filed, new information is surfacing about what went on at these schools. According to Cachagee, the Ontario Indian Residential School Services want to make sure that information is properly archived and used for educating the public.

ATIP and FOI Requests


BC’s naloxone funding is a “good start” says Vancouver Police but the opioid crisis needs ongoing strategy.

Photo courtesy of College of Pharmacists of British Columbia

By Maureen McEwan

The topic: British Columbia continues to face an opioid crisis. The province declared a public health emergency last April in response to an increase in drug overdoses and deaths.

In September, Premier Christy Clark announced 10 million dollars to go towards combatting overdoses and drug-related deaths. The BC Ministry of Health is providing 1.1 million dollars to provincial police forces for response training and supplies to better prepare the forces. The department’s documented goal is to ‘improve immediate responses from police to an overdose’ by training municipal and RCMP forces in naloxone administration.

(Please click the link below to view the Ministry of Health’s document)

Naloxone is a medication which ‘reverses the effects of an overdose from opioids e.g. heroin, methadone, fentanyl, morphine.’ It has been used effectively by first responders – paramedics, firefighters, etc. – in emergency situations and has saved lives from fatal overdose.

What’s new: Until December, officers in BC could be investigated by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) during ‘officer-related incidents of death or serious harm.’ The IIO’s mandate was widely considered as a barrier to officers responding in critical opioid incidents. But the watchdog announced it will no longer investigate when an officer uses Naloxone or CPR in order to save a life. This may allow officers to use their new naloxone training in a crisis more readily.

Why it’s important: The Ministry of Health reports there were over 900 drug overdose fatalities in BC last year- the highest number in decades and the highest in Canada.

Municipal and RCMP forces are gradually being trained Canada-wide but the provincial strategies vary. Several cities, such as Calgary and Toronto, have begun training their municipal forces in naloxone administration. The RCMP has trained many members in different regions. But there are large urban areas without any Naloxone officer training in place.

If the training of BC’s forces improves overdose responses, other provinces may follow. With faster response times, lives could be saved across the country.

What the government says: Sarah Newton works for the B.C Ministry of Health’s Government Communication and Public Engagement Department. She provided a statement on behalf of the Ministry in response to interview requests.

“In B.C., we are doing everything we can to keep people safe, including expanding access to life-saving naloxone.”

The statement confirms that the province provided 1.1 million to fund intranasal naloxone costs and administration training for municipal police and RCMP. The verified funding amount currently stands at 700,000 dollars less than the initial 1.8 million proposed by the provincial government.

What others say: Jason Doucette is a Media Relations Officer at the Vancouver Police Department (VPD). In an email interview, he says the VPD was the first department in Canada to train sworn and civilian members to administer nasal naloxone. The issue and training began in September.

“The supply of naloxone we purchased is good for 18 months. The cost of replacement will be an on-going expense for the VPD every 18 -24 months. The 1.8 million dollars is a good start,” he says, referring to the Ministry’s initiatives.

(Please click below to view the Ministry’s open data file in full).

Doucette adds that the VPD has shared all of its Naloxone training materials with different police agencies across the country.

The RCMP and Toward the Heart did not respond to questions before the article was published. Vancouver Coastal Health – Insite declined to interview.

What’s next: The mayors of the largest cities and several federal cabinet ministers met on Feb. 24 to discuss escalating drug-usage and deaths. They are pledging to work together in response to the country’s overdose crises, with BC leading the task force.

The western province serves as the provincial model in opioid crisis-response. The widespread training of police and RCMP forces in naloxone administration may improve immediate responses in ‘high risk areas,’ as the VPD suggests. As a result, BC could see a decrease in overdose deaths in future.

For instructor reference:

What is the information?
The information was a request released on January 27th, 2017 to a political party for a financial breakdown from the Ministry of Health. It requested a specific breakdown of the 10 million announced by the Premier to combat overdose deaths in September at the UBCM and the precise initiatives that the funding was allocated to in that proposal.

From which department did these pages come?
The BC Ministry of Health – Open Data Website retrieval.

Why was this information helpful?
The information was helpful because training for naloxone is seemingly sporadic nation-wide. BC has put forth funding and policy in order to facilitate mass training for its municipal and RCMP officers. As legislation around naloxone has loosened in the past year, more and more its use is being seen in major Canadian cities.
There was a discrepancy in the BC funding total which was significant but that could be attributed to a number of factors. It was confirmed through communication with the Ministry as 1.1 million.
The information was also very intriguing in relation to the IIO’s mandate and December announcement. Officers in BC may start to engage more as first responders in incidents of opioid overdose moving forward.

Canadian Border Services officers warned about illegal Syrian and Iraqi antiquity trafficking


The Topic: Looting and the illegal sale of antiquities from Syria and Iraq to finance militant operations.

What’s New: The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) warned its officers that looted antiquities from Syria and Iraq are being trafficked worldwide. The officers were told that they have the authority to detain suspected cultural properties from Syria and Iraq.

Why It’s Important: According to an intelligence brief from the spring of 2015, militant organizations like the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL), the Free Syrian Army and al Qaeda are smuggling Syrian and Iraqi antiquities around the world—including to places in Europe and North America—and are selling them for profit.

The intelligence brief was obtained from the CBSA as a previously requested document under the federal Access to Information Act. It highlights the fact that profits from illegal antiquity sales could fund weapons and ammunitions for militant organizations.

While the smuggling and sale of antiquities has been happening for decades, the brief says that “the scale of the reported looting of antiquities from museums, libraries, archives and archaeological sites in Iraq and Syria has surpassed illicit operations in previous years.”

A graphic from the CBSA intelligence brief taken from It is a model of what the antiquities trade could look like.

According to the document, smugglers often move the artifacts into Europe using routes from either Turkey, Lebanon, Israel or Gulf states. The artifacts typically have false accreditation papers stating they are from the Holy Land rather than Syria or Iraq.

When it comes to Canada, the brief sites the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, which prohibits illegally exported Syrian and Iraqi artifacts from entering the country.

The brief contains two links to lists of items at risk from Syria and Iraq. The lists come from the International Council of Museums (ICOM). They are detailed with photographs and descriptions of items that could be stolen and sold illegally, such as small sculptures, coins, jewellery and stone tablets with ancient writing on them.

What the government says: When asked if any artifacts have been seized recently in Canada, CBSA spokesperson, Nicholas Dorion, said in an e-mail response that the CBSA detains artifacts on behalf of Canadian Heritage. He said any information on artifacts that have been seized would be from them.

Canadian Heritage has yet to respond to questions about the matter.

“CBSA officers are skilled in examination techniques,” said Dorion. “And [they] use proven indicators such as advanced information, innovative technology, and training to prevent, intercept and apprehend individuals who attempt to smuggle cultural properties into Canada,”

What Others Say: John Osborne, a professor of art history at Carleton University says that it is normal for the CBSA to be alerting its officers about these stolen antiquities. Osborne has been asked by the CBSA to authenticate seized antiquities before.

“Anytime there’s a breakdown of civil order, you see an increase in looting activity,” says Osborne.

He says that individuals that are buying these antiquities are typically private collectors since Museums are very strict about accepting gifts or buying pieces if their origins cannot be explicitly traced.

Dr. Clemens Reichel, a curator at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and specialist in Near Eastern archaeology says that currently, it is hard to tell what is missing from Syria since there aren’t any individuals on the ground there who can keep track of things.

“It’s a dark cess pool,” says Reichel about Syria and the black market. “You don’t know what’s being bought all over the world.”

However, Reichel does not think Canada has a major market for smugglers since many of them are going to places like Europe, Jordan and Israel instead.

What’s next: Reichel says that there have been discussions at the ROM and at a national level in regards to what would happen to any artifacts that are seized here.

“Customs would hold on to the piece,” says Reichel. “But if it becomes a storage issue, like for items that need temperature control, the option would be for national museums to become temporary custodians of the piece.”

Reichel says that ideally, the items will be sent back to their country of origin once it is safe for them to return.

Supplementary Documents:

Click here for documentation of my completed Access to Information and Freedom of Information requests.

Click here for the documentation used in this story.