Archive for May, 2019

Francophones may be lying about English abilities on census

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

OTTAWA – Thousands of francophones across Canada are believed to have lied about their ability to speak English in a seemingly co-ordinated attempt to manipulate the 2006 Census in order to guarantee federal funding of programs for French speakers.

Statistics Canada has taken the unusual step of posting a warning on its website to caution users that the data on bilingualism rates for francophones outside Quebec may not be reliable. The suspected cause is an anonymous French-language e-mail that circulated widely across Canada prior to the census encouraging francophones to say they could not speak English even if they could. The e-mail went on to say that this would ensure that the federal government would not cut services to francophones.

The resulting statistics showed for the first time an inexplicable decrease in the number of francophones outside Quebec who said they could speak English, reversing a long trend of increasing rates of bilingualism for francophones outside Quebec.

The number of bilingual francophones in Ontario, for example, has been on the rise by between one and three per cent in every census since 1991. However, in 2006 the number fell to 88.4 per cent from 89.4 per cent in 2001 – an unexpected drop of one percentage point.

Jean Pierre Corbeil, a chief specialist in the language statistics section, said they have studied the trend reversal and the e-mail appears to be the only factor that may have produced this aberration to the trend.

“How can you explain people living in a minority situation, even in really strong minority situations, that they would become less bilingual? This is almost impossible,” said Corbeil.

Even if the actual number of bilingual francophones had risen by only one per cent, confirming the long-standing trend, the number of Franco-Ontarians who may have lied in the census would be about 10,000.

It wasn’t just Ontario bucking the trend. Fewer francophones said they could speak English in 2006 in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The percentage of francophones outside Quebec who said they could speak English dropped 2.5 percentage points to 83.6 in 2006. The rate of bilingualism for francophones also dropped in Quebec.

The Statistics Act says anyone who lies when participating in a Statistics Canada survey is liable for a $500 fine, but Marc Hamel, manager of the 2011 census, said efforts are never made to track the liars down.

“We rely on Canadians to provide accurate information, but we have no means of verifying,” said Hamel.

Hamel said when his organization heard about the e-mail in 2006, Statistics Canada officials made public statements reminding people to answer the census truthfully. He said the source of the e-mail was never investigated.

Nelson Wiseman, an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto, said francophones who may have lied about their English skills in order to protect government funding are misguided.

He said he has studied francophone minorities, particularly in Manitoba, and says government support for francophone culture has not had an appreciable impact on the sustainability of the French language there. He said a language’s survival is mostly affected by changes in society such as intermarriage, urbanization, developments in communications and transportation and the effects of mass media such as television that expose otherwise “insular” francophone communities to other cultures and languages.

This is not the first time a concerted effort has affected official government statistics. For example, in the early 1990s, Corbeil said, a media organization led a campaign to convince Canadians to declare their ethnic origin as Canadian rather than Polish-Canadian or German-Canadian. Corbeil said the campaign was so successful that researchers stopped using data on ethnic origin because it became too unreliable.

The unreliability of data concerning the number of bilingual francophones in Ontario comes on the heels of a controversial decision last year by Ottawa-based provincial politician Madeleine Meilleur, Ontario’s minister responsible for francophone affairs, to change the provincial definition. Previously, a francophone was someone whose mother tongue was French. Now, it can be anyone whose mother tongue is neither English nor French, but who at least understands French. Statistics Canada says this will artificially increase the number of French speakers in the province, likely by about 50,000, and include some people who may not even be able to speak French.

Ontario has the largest population of francophones outside Quebec – 500,000 – but they comprise less than five per cent of all Ontarians and the number has been steadily declining for many years. Just over half of them say French is the language they use at home.

Ottawa Citizen

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Canadian commander in Afghanistan fired for alleged relationship

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard, commander of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, was sacked Saturday for alleged conduct unbecoming an officer.

The decision by Lt.-Gen. Marc Lessard, who commands all Canadian troops overseas, was made following allegations made earlier in the day, that Menard had had an inappropriate intimate relationship with someone in Task Force Kandahar. This had “caused Commander CEFCOM to lose confidence in Brig.-Gen Menard’s capacity to command,” officials said in a statement that was released just before dawn on Sunday in Kandahar.

An investigation is being conducted into the allegations and Menard, who was to command the biggest NATO campaign of the war in Kandahar in the next few weeks, is to return to Canada immediately, a military spokesman at Kandahar Airfield said.

Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan and civilian employees, including journalists embedded alongside them, must follow very strict rules governing behaviour with each other. No intimate personal relationships are allowed in theatre, including those involving married couples deployed at the same time.

“Sexual activity or any other form of intimate contact in any context with another individual is prohibited anywhere in the Joint Task Force Afghanistan Area of Operations,” according to theatre standing orders governing personal relationships.

Brig.-Gen Jon Vance, who preceded Menard as commander in Afghanistan, is being rushed to Kandahar to take over for Menard. Vance will command the Canadian task force again until September when Menard’s nine-month tour had been scheduled to end. Vance is to be replaced by Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner, who was also to have replaced Menard.

Task Force Kandahar will be commanded for the next few days by Col. Simon Hetherington, the current deputy commander of Canada’s 2,800 soldiers in Afghanistan.

“As soon as Gen. Lessard became aware of the allegations on May 29, he made the assessment and the decision,” Hetherington said in confirming that Menard had been relieved of command at 2:20 p.m. ET.

“I am not happy to bring you this news,” Hetherington told a small gathering of reporters at 4:30 a.m. Kandahar time.

“It is what it is.”

“I can’t discuss any details of anything that is under investigation. Nor can I go into information on the identity of the alleged other person . . .

“The allegations against Gen. Menard are just that, allegations against Gen. Menard.”

Menard joined the Royal 22nd Regiment as an infantry officer in 1984. Being only 42 years old and already a flag officer, he was considered one of the army’s top young commanders.

Only last Tuesday, Menard pleaded guilty at a court martial in Gatineau, Que., to negligently discharging his rifle. That incident, which took place in March, involved Menard inadvertently firing his rifle as he was about to board a U.S. army helicopter in Kandahar with Canada’s top soldier, Gen. Walt Natynczyk.

Menard was fined $3,500 for the negligent discharge and had only returned to Kandahar on Thursday evening after three weeks of leave in Canada.

“This will be very interesting weeks and months. We are looking forward to it,” Menard said when encountered in a cafeteria hours after he returning here from Canada. The general was referring to a major campaign against the Taliban that he was expected to lead this summer that many believe is the most critical of the eight-year war against the Taliban.

Soldiers waking up to the news in Kandahar on Sunday morning expressed shock and disbelief at the allegations against Menard, but declined to discuss their thoughts on the record.

Asked whether it might effect the military’s standing among the public, Hetherington said: “I don’t see it as a mark against the Canadian military, at all.”

Menard’s emergency replacement, Vance, left Afghanistan on Nov. 25 after a nine-month tour in which the Canadian task force began, for the first time, to live among the Afghan population in small communities to the southwest of Kandahar City. It was a counter-insurgency tactic that was later applauded by U.S army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, who personally visited Vance three times to discuss ways the program could be implemented across Afghanistan.

“It is an administrative and logistics matter to get Gen. Vance here,” Hetherington said. “Gen. Vance is likely to arrive here in five to seven days; call it a week . . .

“It can be assumed that he was selected because of his recent Afghan experience. His reputation with the allies is sound. He is a proven, professional officer.”

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Hot, dry weather keeps fires raging in Quebec

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

MONTREAL – The forest fires that have forced 2,500 from their homes continued to rage through Quebec Sunday, bolstered by wind, sun and dry conditions.

None of the nearby villages in the north and central regions of the province are at risk, said Marcel Trudel, a spokesman with Sopfeu, Quebec’s forest fire protection agency.

The majority of fires are burning near La Tuque, Que., about 300 kilometres northwest of Montreal.

Residents have complained of heavy smoke turning the skies yellow and the sun red and ash floating down onto their city, but Trudel said there was no cause for alarm.

The wind is starting to carry smoke and ash toward the Quebec-Montreal corridor, alarming residents.

But Trudel repeated his call not to worry, and asked residents to stop calling Sopfeu officials because they’re jamming emergency lines.

As of Sunday afternoon, 52 fires ranging in size from one to 40,000 hectares were burning in the province, bringing to 128 the number of fires Sopfeu has fought in the last week. So far, 90,000 hectares have been hit.

“We put some out, and new ones start all the time,” Trudel said. “That’s how it works.”

Of the 52 fires, eight are burning out of control, which is down from nine on Saturday but only because two of the major fires have combined to form one.

“It’s normal that we have fires out of control,” Trudel said. “That’s nature. If nature helps, it would get better.”

Rain is forecast for Monday night.

Thick smoke and dangerous conditions have forced the evacuation of four communities, three of them native reserves.

Only a few residents have been able to return.

More than 1,200 firefighters from Quebec, New Brunswick, New Hampshire and Maine are fighting the fires, a number Trudel said was sufficient for the task.

So far this year, 345 fires mostly started by lightning strikes and stoked by an unusually dry April and May, have been reported in Quebec, far above the 10-year average of 216 normally seen by this time, said Melanie Morin of Sopfeu.

It remains to be seen whether this year will surpass 2007, the most prolific of the last decade, when 892 fires burned through 278,000 hectares of forest.

Montreal Gazette

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Man dead after being struck, dragged

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

The man, in his early 40s, was jaywalking across 118th Avenue at 50th Street around 11:20 p.m. Saturday when a Dodge Dakota hit him, Staff Sgt. Bill Kerr said.

The Dakota driver stopped, but the pedestrian’s clothing caught underneath a Ford pickup truck that pulled around the Dakota to pass the scene of the collision.

The pedestrian was dragged almost 30 blocks by the Ford before another motorist alerted the driver at 120th Avenue and 76th Street that someone was trapped under his vehicle.

The Ford driver was arrested and remains in custody while police conduct an impaired driving investigation, Kerr said. The pedestrian was alive when firefighters pulled him from under the pickup and he was taken to the Royal Alexandra Hospital, but he later died from his injuries.

The man’s name has not been released.

Ken Stus watched firefighters and paramedics give the man CPR and treat him for head wounds from his home near the spot where the truck finally stopped.

The driver should have realized what had happened, Stus said.

"That’s a long ways away," Stus said. "How the hell did that guy not know he hit someone?"

Neighbour Frank Bagi said he saw fire trucks, police cars and ambulances pull up outside his home. He looked outside after he heard yelling and sirens.

"A lot of people are shook up," Bagi said. "It’s disturbing and really tragic."

This is Edmonton’s 15th traffic fatality of the year and the fifth involving a pedestrian.

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Man charged in Winnipeg shootings has deadly history

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

WINNIPEG – A young man charged in connection with two tragic shootings in Winnipeg this week – shootings that left one teenager dead and two young girls injured – was also involved in the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy in February 2008.

The newly revealed information offers a glimpse into the past of the 19-year-old gang member who is among those at the centre of shootings that have shaken the city and its West End neighbourhood this past week.

At the time of the earlier shooting, the then-17-year-old had broken into a garage with a 13-year-old named Cody Shuya.

After the two fought over a loaded pellet gun left there, the gun fired and shot Shuya’s eye, fatally damaging his brain.

The older teen pleaded guilty in 2008 to careless use of a firearm.

Now 19, the man is not being identified because the Youth Criminal Justice Act forbids identifying a person when their criminal record as a youth is reported.

He’s charged in connection with the aftermath of a shooting this week that killed a 16-year-old boy and a shooting that hurt the other children. Police say the two incidents are related.

On Tuesday afternoon, two gunmen firing at least 15 bullets hit Kyle Earl, 16, and Byron Cook, 13, as they sat on a porch in the West End.

Earl died and Cook was injured.

The 19-year-old, who was apparently nearby, allegedly ran on foot after Earl’s two killers – who have yet to be arrested -and fired several shots that struck two vehicles.

The vehicles were apparently not involved in the shooting and no occupants were injured, police said.

The 19-year-old is now charged with attempted murder for firing at the vehicles, say police.

A little more than 24 hours later, on Wednesday evening, three shots were fired into the front window of the same neighbourhood.

A 10-year-old girl was hit in the leg and an eight-year-old girl was grazed in the head by flying debris. Police say the girls were not the intended targets. The 19-year-old is now charged with attempted murder in that incident.

"Thank God these kids weren’t killed. That could easily have happened," said Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill

At the time of the two shootings this week, the 19-year-old man was out on bail for a previous break-and-enter. He’s also been convicted several times for breaching his sentence in relation to Shuya’s death and was under a court-ordered weapons ban.

Police have arrested a 14-year-old boy who is alleged to have been with the 19-year-old during Wednesday’s shooting.

The tall, angular 19-year-old appeared briefly in court Friday. He is connected to West End gangs and has posted online messages praising gang life.

Also Friday, Manitoba’s Opposition Conservatives said the governing NDP needs to make good on a promise to fund 130 new police officers in light of the deadly week of gun violence on the streets of Winnipeg.

The NDP promised during the 2007 provincial election campaign to increase the number of police officers in Manitoba by 100, including 50 in Winnipeg. A couple of years ago, the federal government sent Manitoba a $14.4-million cheque to add 15 city officers and the same number outside of Winnipeg.

Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen said so far, the government has delivered only 64 new officers – 66 less than promised.

"We’re calling on the NDP to move forward and keep their promise to hire the 130 additional officers in order to restore a sense of safety in our communities," McFadyen told reporters Friday.

"Broken promises aren’t keeping our streets safe," he said. "We need those new officers now."

Premier Greg Selinger defended his government’s record, saying the province is funding an additional 13 city officers this year plus the operating costs of a new police helicopter, which is expected to take to the sky several months from now. As well, it has announced funding for 30 police cadets, who will free regular officers from some of their more mundane tasks.

– with files from Larry Kusch, Winnipeg Free Press

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