Birth control should be free for Canadians, NDP MP says
Prescription birth control should be free in Canada, according to New Democrat MP Irene Mathyssen, who is lobbying the Liberals to adopt her new motion and make it law.
By Tania Kohut

Prescription birth control should be free in Canada, according to New Democrat MP Irene Mathyssen, who is lobbying the Liberals to adopt her new motion and make it law.

Contraceptives are a part of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and should be free, argues Motion M-65. Not only could free contraceptives prevent unwanted pregnancies, it would also save money.

“The government should…recognize individuals’ right to access a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services, including a range of modern methods of contraception, free from barriers.”

The cost of birth control can be prohibitive for many Canadians, while in more than 25 countries birth control is subsidized or free, Mathyssen argues.

Free birth control is key for Canadians being able to make “informed decisions regarding their reproductive choices.”

The motion also pushes for a commitment to improved tracking of sexual health indicators, including contraceptive use, “to inform sound policy decisions relating to sexual and reproductive health.”

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Trudeau names 9 new independent senators
Appointees include 5 women and 4 men from a variety of backgrounds

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named nine new, non-affiliated senators Thursday, bringing him within reach of his goal to transform the discredited Senate into a more reputable, independent chamber of sober second thought.

The five women and four men hail from a wide variety of backgrounds, from an art historian to a renowned human rights lawyer to a conservationist.

They are the first senators to be chosen under an arm’s-length process that saw more than 2,700 Canadians apply to fill the 21 vacancies in the upper house.

After today, there are still 12 vacancies — six each in Ontario and Quebec. Peter Harder, the government’s representative in the Senate, said Thursday that appointments to fill those vacancies would come in the next few days.

When those are announced, independent senators will hold a plurality of 44 seats.

Thursday’s appointees are:

Malaysian-born Yuen Pau Woo, former president of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and currently senior fellow in public policy at the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia.

Manitoba art historian Patricia Bovey, former director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, former member of the board of trustees of the National Gallery of Canada and the board of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Lawyer and human rights activist Marilou McPhedran, co-leader of the Ad Hoc Committee of Canadian Women on the Constitution, a grassroots movement in the early 1980s that successfully campaigned for stronger equality rights provisions in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Former member of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, former chief commissioner of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, currently a professor at the University of Winnipeg Global College.

New Brunswick francophone René Cormier, president of the Société Nationale de l'Acadie, the lead organization for the international strategy for the promotion of Acadian artists. Formerly, president of the Commission internationale du théâtre francophone, director of the Théâtre populaire d'Acadie, president of the Fédération culturelle Canadienne-française and board member of the Canadian Conference of the Arts.

New Brunswick women’s issues expert Nancy Hartling, founder of the non-profit Support to Single Parents Inc. and founder of St. James Court Inc., an affordable housing complex for single parents. Co-chaired the provincial minister’s working group on violence against women.

Winnipeg psychiatrist Harvey Chochinov, internationally recognized expert in palliative care. The previous Harper government appointed Chochinov to chair an external panel that consulted Canadians on possible legislative options following the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling striking down the ban on medically assisted dying. His appointment was controversial because Chochinov had argued in court against legalizing assisted dying.

Nova Scotia social worker and educator Wanda Thomas Bernard, the first African-Canadian to hold a tenure-track position at Dalhousie University and to be promoted to full professor. A founding member of the Association of Black Social Workers, current chair of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

Daniel Christmas, senior adviser for the Mi'kmaw First Nation of Membertou, N.S. He is credited with playing a key role in transforming his home community from a First Nation on the brink of bankruptcy to one of the most successful in Canada. Former director of advisory services for the Union of Nova Scotia Indians.

Prince Edward Island conservationist Diane Griffin, former provincial deputy minister of environmental resources. Recipient of the Governor General’s Conservation award. Currently a councillor on Stratford, P.E.I., town council.

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Despite Trudeau’s Promise, Liberals Haven’t Made a Dent in the First Nations Water Crisis
Last year there were 133 water advisories on reserves; today there are 132.

One year after the election that swept Justin Trudeau to power, the new Liberal government has failed to make a dent in the prime minister’s promise to end boil water advisories on First Nation reserves across the country within five years.

In July 2015, there were a total of 133 drinking water advisories on 93 reserves. As of the end of August this year, the situation was largely unchanged, with 132 advisories on 89 reserves.

The agency responsible for the issue, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, claims progress has been made, and provided VICE News with a list of 15 water advisories on 11 reserves it says have been resolved since the Liberals took power.

Of the 11 reserves on the agency’s list, six are still considered by Health Canada to have undrinkable water. Of the eight reserves who responded to request for comment, four said the water remains undrinkable.

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Mental illness afflicts about 20% of Canadians, gets 7% of health funding
Mental health advocates are urging the federal government to make mental illness a priority in a new health accord with the provinces and territories.

The Trudeau government is being urged to make mental health a top priority as it negotiates a new health accord with the provinces and territories.

Dr. Catherine Zahn, president of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, says mental illness afflicts some 6.7 million Canadians — roughly 20 per cent of the population — and costs the economy an estimated $51 billion each year.

That’s a bigger burden than is caused by cancer or infectious diseases, and yet Zahn says only about 7 per cent of the billions spent on health care in Canada goes to mental illness.

Zahn wants the health accord to explicitly earmark funds for research aimed at determining the biological origins of conditions like addiction, depression, schizophrenia, autism and dementia.

She says it should also commit to national public wait time standards for access to mental health treatments and commit to meaningful reductions in those wait times over the next decade.

As well, Zahn wants federal and provincial governments to commit to improving access to “structured psychotherapy” — which has proven effective in the treatment of anxiety and depression — and to list it as a medically necessary, publicly funded service within “a reasonable time frame.”

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Racism in policing is about outcomes, not intentions: Cole
Police need to justify their disproportionate, systemic violence against racialized people because they have no intention of stopping it.

A two-year study of police traffic stops in Ottawa has revealed — to no one’s surprise — that cops in the nation’s capital disproportionately pull over Middle Eastern and black drivers. Since police across Canada are being exposed for similar practices, their hollow excuses about a few bad apples are becoming less effective. Instead, our police increasingly argue that prejudiced police behaviour is well-intentioned, and therefore cannot be labelled as racist.

Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau is using this strategy to shield his officers from accountability. Bordeleau has explained the targeting of Middle Eastern and black drivers by saying, “residents want us to be visible and active in areas with high crime or social disorder issues and to respond to violent crimes, shootings and gang activity.” Someone should tell the chief that “racism” refers to systemic, unfair outcomes for racialized people — whatever police may believe about good intentions and colour-blindness, they are still abusing us.

If a colleague at the Star steps on my foot every time he passes me in the hallway, it hurts. It doesn’t matter if my colleague insists he never sees me standing there, or argues that he has to pass my desk to reach his own. What matters is that my toes are broken. Bordeleau is asking Middle Eastern and black residents not only to accept the damage of racist profiling, but to forgive the officers who repeatedly trample their Charter rights, particularly the right to drive Ottawa’s streets without being pulled over for the non-offense of being in a “high crime or social disorder” zone.

Middle Eastern people in Ottawa are less than 4 per cent of the driving population, but they accounted for 12.3 per cent of the total stops by police in the York University study. Police stopped black motorists, who also represent less than 4 per cent of all drivers, 8.8 per cent of the time. Contrary to Bordeleau’s fear-mongering about high criminal activity, police themselves recorded “provincial and municipal offences” as the reason for 97 per cent of all stops.

Bordeleau’s argument — and that of police forces across Canada who engage in racist profiling — is that police should stop drivers, especially racialized drivers, for non-criminal offences because they might uncover crime in the process. This explains why police forces have been so reluctant to abandon carding, the practice of stopping and documenting civilians who are not suspected of a crime. Bordeleau says local residents expect police to pull people over, but stops short of the obvious: white residents expect police to target poor and racialized people, and their chief is listening.

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