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Trudeau backs embattled Bennett after Wet’suwet’en elected chiefs called for her ouster

On Monday, four elected Wet’suwet’en chiefs demanded B.C. and the feds reject a recent agreement reached with hereditary chiefs.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave his backing Tuesday to Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett after elected Wet’suwet’en chiefs said she should resign after making a deal with hereditary chiefs they claim was drafted without their consent. 

“I want to begin by thanking Minister Bennett for the extraordinary work that she has done over the past months and continues to do on a very difficult issue that … has gone on for decades now,” Trudeau said.

“The challenges facing the Wet’suwet’en are significant in terms of how they engage and how they work with the federal government and we will always be there … as a partner, to listen, to work with them, and to continue moving forward on the path to reconciliation and partnership.”

On Monday, four elected Wet’suwet’en chiefs demanded B.C. and the feds reject a recent agreement reached with hereditary chiefs.

They want negotiations restarted to include the elected leadership.

The agreement lays out the steps to transfer jurisdiction of Wet’suwet’en territory to traditional governance, including land, water and revenue-sharing that would give the hereditary chiefs leverage over further resource development, the CBC reported.

The release by the elected chiefs was signed by Chief Rosemarie Skin of Skin Tyee Nation, Chief Dan George of Ts’ilh Kaz Koh First Nation, Chief Maureen Luggi of Wet’suwet’en First Nation and Chief Patricia Prince of Nee Thai Buhn Indian Band.

Luggi told CBC  the elected chiefs want Bennett to resign — and not B.C.’s Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Scott Fraser — because Bennett has a special constitutional relationship with First Nations as the minister who represents the Crown.

“In this instance, we are witnessing a failure of the Crown and we believe they are wanting to pursue negotiations and leaving a certain group of people out,” Luggi said to CBC.

“When you look at Aboriginal rights and title, they are collective rights and all members and all of our interests must be respected at every stage.”

Luggi said the elected chiefs are considering legal action.

The agreement with hereditary chiefs came on the heels of a dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which triggered protests and railway blockades that paralyzed parts of Canada’s economy over the winter.

The pipeline has the support of all First Nations along the route, but hereditary chiefs of Wet’suwet’en Nation, through which 28% of the 670-km route passes, oppose it.

A group of unelected hereditary chiefs had set up a camp near Smithers and had kicked out Coastal GasLink workers.

The RCMP said they have found traps like felled trees and three stacks of tires along with flammables along the access road.

On Jan. 7, 2019, RCMP arrested 14 protesters along the B.C. logging road. 

International attention was drawn to the issue when a British newspaper reported RCMP were ready to shoot protesters when they broke up the camp. The RCMP denied the story.

On Dec. 31, the B.C. Supreme Court granted CGL an injunction against members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation from blocking the pipeline route near Smithers, B.C.

But the situation has been further complicated after a Jan. 3 edict by the Unist’ot’en, a smaller group within the First Nation, that they intend to terminate an agreement that had granted the company access to the land.

The RCMP checkpoint had been set up at the 27-km mark of the forest service road “to mitigate safety concerns related to the hazardous items of fallen trees and tire piles with incendiary fluids along the roadway.”

The $6.6 billion pipeline, to be operated by TC Energy Corp, would transport gas from near Dawson Creek in northeast B.C. to Kitimat on the coast and supply Canada’s largest liquefied natural gas export terminal, called LNG Canada, which is under construction.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter: @Nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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EXCLUSIVE: Edmonton looks to set up race-based criteria for business subsidies

The Edmonton proposal said “30 per cent of funding goes to business owners who self-identify as a member of a marginal community” in one of the streams.

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The City of Edmonton is looking at a cash program to help businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic – with nearly a third of the cash set aside exclusively for businesses own by minorities.

The idea was discussed at an Edmonton City Council committee meeting Thursday afternoon and will be debated by the full council on Monday.

The Economic Recovery Grant Policy says businesses are eligible for grants if they meet one of nine categories including if “it demonstrates benefits to members of communities that are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”

The Economic Recovery Grant will provide financial support for local businesses through two streams: the City Stream and the Business Association Stream.”

In documents obtained exclusively by the Western Standard, the Edmonton proposal said “30 per cent of funding goes to business owners who self-identify as a member of a marginal community” in one of the streams.

Edmonton city council document

In the other stream “30 per cent of funding goes to projects or programs that directly target businesses that are members of marginalized groups.”

Edmonton Ward 3 Coun. Jon Dziadyk said the proposal gives him some concerns.

“The merits of a quota system can be debated. I only hope this added criterion does not impede the immediate dispersal for businesses poised to best assist in the economic recovery effort that all Edmontonians are facing,” Dziadyk said.

On May 11, 2020, Edmonton City Council approved the redirection of $5.295 million to fund a COVID-19 business relief program.

Under the first grant stream, businesses could apply for matching funds in the range of $1,000 to $25,000 to help them change their services or product delivery to follow COVID-19 guidelines, the CBC said.

Under the second grant stream, a business could apply for $10,000 to $75,000 to put toward a long-term development activity that aligns with the program criteria.

It’s believed this phase of the program would run throughout 2021 and account for the remaining 60 per cent of the available grant money.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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First-time drunk drivers in Alberta won’t be charged criminally

Instead, under a measure designed to clear up thousands of hours of court time, the drivers will face steeper fines and restrictions in a process the government says will take no longer than 30 days.

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Alberta drivers arrested for the first time for drunk driving will not be charged criminally, under new laws unveiled by the Alberta government Thursday.

Instead, under a measure designed to clear up thousands of hours of court time, the drivers will face steeper fines and restrictions in a process the government says will take no longer than 30 days.

Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer said Thursday the legislation would see a first-time impaired driver fined $1,000 and banned from driving for over a year unless they have an ignition interlock installed in their vehicle.

Drivers can appeal the decision, with the entire process scheduled to take no more than 30 days.

Schweitzer said repeat offenders and those who cause bodily harm or death will still face criminal charges.

“By removing these matters from the court system, we will save thousands of hours of police and court time per year, ensuring Alberta’s prosecutors and courts are able focus on the most serious justice matters and more police are patrolling the streets,” the government said in a release.

“This bill would introduce a new Immediate Roadside Sanction program in late 2020 that would keep our roads safer by providing serious, immediate and escalating consequences for all impaired drivers – a system that has been proven to significantly reduce impaired driving and especially impaired driving fatalities in other jurisdictions.”

The government said new zero-tolerance consequences for novice drivers and commercial drivers will also be introduced, as will new fines, longer vehicle seizures, mandatory education and lengthy periods of ignition interlock. 

“The new impaired driving administrative model is based on changes made in British Columbia, which has seen their rates of impaired driving incidents drop by 36 per cent from 2011 to 2018 and the number of impaired driving fatalities fall by 54 per cent from 2010 to 2018,” said the government.

“We have heard loud and clear from Albertans that they are frustrated with seeing cases dropped because of the court backlog we inherited from the previous government. This legislation proposes smart administrative changes that will ensure our courts and police can keep our communities safe by focusing on serious and violent crime,” said Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer.

Alberta police chiefs welcomed the move.

“This announcement is good news for policing and the justice system as a whole. With court time being used more appropriately, we will have increased capacity to begin repairing the damage caused by impaired driving and follow other successful models in reducing traffic collisions that cause serious injury or death. An expedient, simplified traffic system also means officers are granted more time in our communities to focus on reducing crime and victimization,” said Dale McFee, chief of the Edmonton Police Service, and president, of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police

Anti-drunk driving advocates also welcomed the proposed changes.

“MADD Canada welcomes these new laws and sanctions. These streamlined administrative options for certain offenders have proven very effective at reducing impaired driving and saving lives in other provinces. They will do the same in Alberta. We thank the Government of Alberta for its leadership and ongoing efforts to prevent impaired driving,” said Andrew Murie, chief executive officer, of MADD Canada.

The UCP government is also setting up a new system to deal with traffic tickets.

“If passed, Bill 21 would also create an administrative process for dealing with non-criminal traffic offences. The new online system would be introduced in late 2021 and would be easier and quicker for Albertans to navigate,” the government said.

“These tickets, currently dealt with by the courts, will be handled online by administrative adjudicators – removing almost two million tickets from the courts. This system will be easier to use and Albertans will have their matters dealt with in 30 days, not months or years after the fact to ensure impaired drivers are off the roads as soon as possible.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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EXCLUSIVE: Calgary councillor worried city cops may bring home ‘rage’ and cause unreported domestic disputes

“There’s some sick rage there. I would bet it goes home with them and the outcome goes largely unreported,” Druh Farrell tweeted.

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Calgary councillor Druh Farrell has called into question the home lives of city police officers, saying rage from their duties likely comes home with them and results in unreported domestic disputes.

“After watching multiple videos of the horrendous police violence against POC (people of colour), I can’t help wondering about domestic abuse within law enforcement families. There’s some sick rage there. I would bet it goes home with them and the outcome goes largely unreported,” Farrell tweeted at the height of rioting in the U.S. over the death of George Floyd.

The tweet drew an angry response from people in the police community.

“It’s an absolutely stupid thing to say and I’m so disappointed,” said former Const. Mike McNamara, who served with the Calgary Police Service for 25 years.

“If she wasn’t referring to CPS members, I wish she would have said that… it’s very inflammatory to all the hard working, decent, respectful policemen out there.”

Al Koenig, a 30-year veteran and longtime head of the Calgary Police Association was equally outraged.

“Using a tragedy in another country to disparage police families in Calgary is despicable as well as ironic, given the continual gong show that has become City Council,” said the now retired former officer.

” Perhaps some focus on her own job would be a better use of resources.”

In a series of tweets following her original, Farrell credited the work CPS has done with minority groups.

“Calgary has also moved to a community policing model, building partnerships with other agencies to strengthen relationships with diverse and marginalized communities. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Thankfully they’re aware of the issues and are working to address them,” she tweeted.

“That doesn’t mean members of the public shouldn’t feel free to criticize their police service. That’s the sign of a healthy democracy.”

Floyd – an African American – was killed last week after a white police officer knelt on his neck while arrested him in Minneapolis.

Since then there has been eight nights of rioting across the U.S. that has resulted in deaths, thousands of arrests and billions of dollars in damage.

Four of the police officers involved in the Floyd death have been charged.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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