The RCMP are taking a radical look at their recruitment strategy to convince more women and visible minorities to don the red serge.
The Mounties have been plagued by staffing challenges in recent years and are looking at how to make a job in policing more attractive.
An internal document, obtained through access to information, flagged credit checks, the criminal background ban, the two-hour aptitude test and long stints at the training depot as potential barriers during the recruitment process.
The document also flagged hearing and vision tests and long shifts as potential barriers and questioned the value of the aptitude screening assessment — which, among other things, tests memory, logic, judgment and comprehension.
"I can definitely say we are looking at everything really seriously," Charlton said. "These are questions worth asking and thinking, 'Are they still relevant criteria in 2019?'"
I get the impression based on the wording of the article that the issue they're having revolves more around not being able to attract women and visible minorities (whatever the fuck that means)Interesting the RCMP is experiencing such a staffing crunch. One would think it would be an appealing career to many without a university education or trade to rely upon.
With a suitcase no bigger than a carry-on filled with what she describes as "tropical clothes," Elisée Makola says she fled to Canada for safety.
Makola was just 15 when she left Congo, a country wracked by decades of violent conflict that has killed millions of civilians and displaced millions more. Children have been forced into prostitution, slave labour and military service for rebel groups, and she feared for her future.
"Mostly it was just being persecuted, being killed — because I've seen it. I've lived it. So I was like, if there was a chance of me escaping that, I will take that chance."
Refugees arriving in Canada as unaccompanied minors face the dual challenge of adapting to their new environment while also being children missing their parents.
Makola says she was separated from her family amid the unrest and violence in her country. She fled to neighbouring Zambia and from there made her way to Canada.
She landed at Toronto's Pearson International Airport alone — a 17-year-old refugee claimant.
Longtime refugee advocate Anne Woolger says this is a relatively recent problem.
"I don't remember seeing them back 30 years ago, period," she said.
Now, she says, "some of them are coming ... 15-, 16-,17-year-olds by themselves with no parents."
They were coming from the same country, with same stories of persecution, torture, really heartbreaking.- Anne Woolger , founder of Matthew House
According the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, in 2016 Canada received 287 refugee claimants who were unaccompanied minors (under the age of 18 and without a legal guardian). In 2017, that number increased to 492. (There is no reliable data available for previous years.)
Most refugees arrive in Canada under sponsorship by government or private individuals, with a whole set of supports in place starting when they are greeted at the airport. They can get help finding housing, money for food, and guidance on adjusting to life in Canada. But the system isn't set up to help those who arrive at the border unannounced. They have no one to greet them and nowhere to stay. Many end up on the street, helpless, Woolger says.
Matthew House founder Anne Woolger has been helping unaccompanied youth adjust to life alone in a new country by providing them with shelter, guidance and other resources. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
"They were coming from the same country, with same stories of persecution, torture, really heartbreaking... [then] they were literally numbered among the homeless," Woolger said.
That idea of leaving such vulnerable people to potential danger and exploitation led Woolger to found Matthew House in Toronto.
The home, run entirely by a network of volunteers, provides claimants a chance at a fresh start in a loving environment, Woolger says.
"[What] we want to do is create a safe home, a safe place where they could have a deep sense of belonging and a deep sense of community and just kind of like a real family."
Access to shelter, resources
Since the first Matthew House opened in 1998, it has expanded to three houses in Toronto's downtown.
Two of the homes are able to accommodate unaccompanied minors. Depending on how the rooms are arranged, they can take in anywhere between 12 and 14 refugee claimants.
Minors are provided a room in a fully furnished house where they can stay until they are ready to go off on their own.
Lawyers are available to help claimants prepare for their refugee hearings; they even hold mock trials, with translators provided if necessary.
If Matthew House was not there, it could be super hard for me to get where I am right now.- Khalid Sadiqi , former Matthew House resident
They also have guidance from what Woolger refers to as "house parents" — one or two volunteers who live in the home at any given time.
"They're not telling them what to do, but they're being resources for them, kind of helping to steer them in wise directions."
Paul Zurbrigg is a longtime volunteer and fill-in 'house parent' at Matthew House. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
It's something they might not otherwise get as asylum-seekers, says longtime volunteer and fill-in house parent Paul Zurbrigg.
"Some night it might be sitting helping a kid with biology homework. Some night it might be talking over an issue that's happening in somebody's life. Some night it might be watching a movie together or playing PlayStation. It's just hanging with these kids."
The retired teacher of 31 years knows connecting with the kids is key and has seen the difference Matthew House is making in their lives.
"Now they are going on to higher education, they are contributing members of society," Zurbrigg says.
'It was not safe'
Matthew House and its residents are the only family that Khalid Sadiqi has known for the past three years.
Sadiqi says he was 17 when he left Afghanistan in 2015, as the Taliban began to make significant territorial gains across the country.
"For a guy like me back home in Afghanistan, in Kabul," he says, "it was not safe to stay there at all."
Sadiqi says he flew to the U.S., then took a bus from New York City to Buffalo and walked across the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls into Canada.
As the youngest of eight, Sadiqi says it was a tough decision to leave.
"It can be so challenging getting out from your country. It can be your language, the culture, how people live…. If Matthew House was not there, it could be super hard for me to get where I am right now."
Now 20, Sadiqi has graduated high school, secured a full-time job at a restaurant and has plans to go back to study technology in college. He's also transitioned out of Matthew House into an apartment with roommates.
Khalid Sadiqi came to Canada from Afghanistan when he was 17. He considers the residents at Matthew House family. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
The years without his family have been difficult, but the shared experience with people he met at Matthew House help fill the emptiness he sometimes feels, he says.
"It's something like kind of you're related. Like, back home you would visit your cousins' place. Here, it feels like you have someone to visit, and that's a great thing," he said.
Woolger says Matthew House has built a support network over time.
"Over the years more and more Canadians have been volunteering with us and getting involved…. Sometimes we can even send someone temporarily to someone's house … so there is kind of a growing network."
The chores board at Matthew House. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
Woolger says she doesn't like to turn people away. "Whenever possible, we have an extra sofa bed in our main shelter where anyone that comes to our door that is desperate uses."
When Makola arrived from Congo, there wasn't room for her at Matthew House. If Woolger hadn't cleared out the office space for her, Makola would have had to spend a third night in detention.
Makola, now 23, studies construction engineering technology at George Brown College in Toronto. She says the security and support Matthew House provided her has given her a chance she otherwise wouldn't have had.
"I think I was in a dark place and then I see a light, a little bit of light — and that was Matthew house."
Apparently this guy was born in Canada.Paul Whelan, a former U.S. marine arrested in Russia on espionage charges, was visiting Moscow over the holidays to attend a wedding when he suddenly disappeared, his brother said Tuesday.
Whelan, 48, who is head of global security for a Michigan-based auto parts supplier, was arrested on Friday. In announcing the arrest three days later, the Russian Federal Security Service said he was caught "during an espionage operation," but gave no details.
The Russian spying charges carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
Paul's twin brother, David Whelan, who lives in Newmarket, Ont., told CBC News the allegations don't ring true to him.
"He has a background in law enforcement and is a marine and travels regularly ... he's not the sort of person who stumbles into a strange environment or makes poor choices that could cause him risks," David Whelan said.
The morning of his arrest, Paul Whelan — who had been to Russia several times previously — took a group of wedding guests on a tour of the Kremlin museums, his brother said. David Whelan said the last time anyone heard from the ex-marine was at about 5 p.m. and then he failed to show up that evening for the wedding.
David Whelan would not comment on why he thought Russia had taken his brother into custody.
"I think it's too complicated to come up with a simple answer. I think there are many reasons and it could be completely arbitrary. Our goal is to get him home," he said.
No contact with family
David Whelan said his family has been in contact with U.S. Embassy officials, but there is little information on his brother's status until a 72-hour blackout period lapses and they can have access to him.
He said the family intends to contact U.S. officials in Paul's home state of Michigan.
David Whelan also said his brother, a U.S. citizen, previously held Canadian citizenship, but he was unaware whether he remains a citizen of Canada. He said the family has not been contacted by the Canadian government.
Paul Whelan was born in Ottawa in 1970, but moved to the United States in the early '70s and has lived there ever since, his brother said.
He did multiple tours in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps, his brother said. He now lives in Novi, Mich., and is director of global security for BorgWarner, where he has worked since early 2017.
"He is responsible for overseeing security at our facilities in Auburn Hills, Mich., and at other company locations around the world," BorgWarner spokesperson Kathy Graham said in a statement. She said the company does not have any facilities in Russia.
Paul Whelan previously worked for Kelly Services, which does maintain offices in Russia, his brother said.
'His innocence is undoubted'
In a statement posted to David Whelan's Twitter account, the family said they were worried about Paul.
"We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being," the statement said.
"His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected."
It said the family last heard from Paul on Friday, "which was very much out of character for him, even when he was travelling."
The Russian spying charges carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
The U.S. State Department said Monday it had received formal notification from the Russian Foreign Ministry of the arrest and was pushing for consular access. The department did not identify Whelan at the time or provide any information about the case, citing "privacy considerations."
The arrest comes as U.S.-Russian ties are severely strained, in part over Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
A Russian gun-rights activist, Maria Butina, is in U.S. custody after admitting she acted as a secret agent for the Kremlin in trying to infiltrate conservative U.S. political groups as Donald Trump was seeking the presidency.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed the case is fabricated and Butina entered the guilty plea because of the threat of a long prison sentence.
Seven years of rejection wasn't enough to stop Uzma Jalal from trying again to bring her parents to Canada from Bangladesh.
The young mother, now a Canadian citizen and federal government employee in Ottawa, first submitted an immigration sponsorship application in 2011. The responses came in one rejection letter after another — in 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Now, the family reunification system that frustrated her for years is being blown up by Ottawa. The Trudeau government announced in August that it would be dropping a contentious lottery system in favour of quotas and admit up to 20,500 parents and grandparents in 2019, up from 17,000 in 2017.
The application period is set to reopen at the end of the month. A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said the department issued a social media post on the last day of 2018 saying that applications would be accepted again soon.
On Thursday, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen weighed in on the program switch, saying a negative reaction from Canadians was part of the reason the lottery system was scrapped.
He vowed the government will give applicants ample warning before opening the applications again.
"We're not going to surprise anybody."
Jalal's application for sponsorship was accepted in early 2018, but she's still collecting supporting documents and her parents don't yet have permission to come to Canada.
Jalal's rejections, she said, had nothing to do with her family members' eligibility for immigration to Canada — and everything to do with a backlog of applications, and annual application quotas that were met before her relatives reached the head of the line.
In 2015, she applied on the very first day the federal government was accepting applications, only to be told that the annual quota had been filled within hours. In 2017, she applied under the lottery program — a controversial system that randomly chose individuals and gave them permission to apply to sponsor family members as immigrants — and failed again to make the cut.
"I didn't find that fair," she said.
She didn't apply in 2012 or 2013 because the program was closed to new applicants at the time.
During the 2017 lottery period, more than 95,000 people filled out forms online to bring their relations to Canada. In the end, only 10,000 potential sponsors were selected to submit full applications.
The backlash from opposition parties over the lottery system was fierce. Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel called it a "total abdication of responsibility." The NDP's Jenny Kwan described it as a "fiasco right from the get-go."
'The system itself is unfair'
Even though Ottawa has moved back to the former system, one lawyer calls it a temporary fix at best.
"The system itself is unfair. It's not the means," Rezaur Rahman told CBC News.
"A lot of people are interested to come to Canada legitimately because they're parents, grandparents. But if we try to stop them under the quota system, what would be the ramifications?"
He called Canada's current immigration arrangements a "stopgap," saying the quota system was introduced to take the pressure off short-staffed IRCC offices. The lottery, he said, only made things worse.
"The fairness is gone," he said. "Why should I be penalized for the failure of the IRCC to process this application?"
Considering the future
Rahman said it's time for politicians to look forward at how the quota system will affect families in the future. In the short term, he said, IRCC should admit it doesn't employ enough people to process the applications in a timely manner.
Massive application backlogs have swamped the family reunification system for years; the backlog ran to 167,000 applications in 2011. That number was reduced to about 26,000 people in June, according to IRCC statistics.
The department also pointed out that processing times have been significantly shortened, with most applications being processed in two years — down from eight years just three years ago.
IRCC rejected the suggestion that a lack of manpower dictates the application quotas, saying the number of immigrants Canada accepts each year is based on the annual Immigration Levels Plan.
While Rahman said the quota increase signals some positive change, some families are still struggling with red tape.
Jalal said she is determined to prove that her parents' arrival will be good for Canada.
"They're not going to come here and be dependent on the social welfare system. Rather, they're going to be investing here," she said. "Not all parents will come here and be a burden."
Rahman argued that having grandparents around to help new Canadian families look after young children has an economic value of its own.
"It's not only the money. Their presence means a lot."
"At some point we might like to think about a space force," Matthew Overton, executive director of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, said in an interview. "Thinking about space as a separate entity in itself that deserves attention and expertise, I think is a good idea."
But it is not something that needs to be done immediately, he added, suggesting Canada should first develop a centre of excellence on space knowledge.
Last month, Trump took a first step toward a space force when he signed an order to create a U.S. Space Command, which pulls together space-related units from across military services into a co-ordinated, independent organization.
The move comes amid growing concerns that China and Russia are working on ways to disrupt, disable or even destroy U.S. satellites.
The U.S. air force has operated a space command since 1982, and its mission is "to provide resilient, defendable and affordable space capabilities for the air force." It also operates the mysterious X-37B space plane, known simply as its orbital test vehicle. The unmanned plane has already completed four clandestine missions, carrying classified payloads on long-duration flights.
Overton, who served in the Canadian Forces for 39 years, noted that Canada's Air Force already has a space component. It is led by Brigadier General Kevin Whale, Director General Space. Its mission, a spokesman said by email, is "to maintain space domain awareness, and to develop, deliver and assure space-based capabilities."
Overton said Trump's space force makes a lot of sense, but he expects there will be tension as the new entity gets down to work with other branches of the military. He gave the example of the GPS network, which is crucial for land, air and sea forces, but could become a space force responsibility.
"What is the relationship with other forces? How do you work out that dynamic?""
Should be part of Norad discussion: Conservative critic
Wayne Ellis, who served in the Canadian military for 20 years, agrees that a U.S. space force is a good idea.
"I think there's enough activity and potential activity to concentrate resources in that domain, which probably merits a separation from the air force," Ellis, a past president of the Canadian Space Society, said in an interview.
"Perhaps now is a good opportunity to look at a totally separate branch — at least for the U.S."
He noted that Canadian military personnel have worked side by side with the U.S. military for decades. "A lot of these positions are actually space positions at various bases so, at some point, our posted personnel are going to be interacting with the U.S. space force as it gets set up," he added.
James Bezan, the Conservative defence critic, said he wants to see more details about the space capabilities Americans envision.
"For Canada, my sense is that we need to watch this and see how it evolves," he said. Before Canada considers creating its own space force, Bezan added, it should focus on making Norad — the bilateral North American Aerospace Defence Command — more effective.
"I would think that any co-operation that we do with the States as it relates to North American defence, as it relates to aerospace, should be part of the Norad discussions," he said.
Randall Garrison, the NDP defence critic, criticized Trump's plan to launch a sixth branch of the U.S. military.
"New Democrats are fundamentally opposed to the militarization of space and believe that space should only be used by all of humanity for peaceful purposes," he wrote in an email.
"New Democrats urge the government of Canada to uphold the principles of peaceful space exploration and to engage with our allies on a renewed call for the drafting of an international treaty aimed at the prevention of an arms race in space."
Overton pointed out that space has long been exploited for military purposes, and there's no way it can be avoided.
"Communications satellites, GPS and intelligence communications, you name it — all that is there," he said.
The office of the Minister of National Defence noted in a statement that "space-based capabilities have become essential to Canada's operations at home and abroad.
"That is why Canada's defence policy ... commits to investing in a range of space capabilities such as satellite communications, to help achieve global coverage, including the Arctic."
The statement goes on to say that "Canada will continue to promote the peaceful use of space and provide leadership in shaping international norms for responsible behaviour in space."
The RCMP have entered a fortified checkpoint on a forest service road in northern B.C. where people at the Gidimt'en camp were barring a pipeline company from access.
The Mounties announced Monday they were going to enforce a court injunction to allow Coastal GasLink access to the road and bridge near Houston, B.C.
The Coastal GasLink pipeline is meant to transport natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the coast where an LNG Canada facility is scheduled for construction.
Members of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation have been preventing company workers from getting through their checkpoints, asserting they can only pass if they have consent from hereditary leaders.
An injunction was issued last month ordering people to stop preventing the company from gaining access to the area.
Coastal GasLink calls the camps along the route blockades. The Gidimt'en group says they are checkpoints where people can get through, if they have consent.
People at the camp have been anticipating the arrival of the RCMP since December's injunction.
The RCMP broke down a gate at the checkpoint and stopped a few metres past it, standing face to face with the Gidimt'en camp and their supporters on a bridge, according to CBC's Chantelle Bellrichard, who is at the scene.
Five women from the camp were standing on a mound on the bridge overlooking the police with their arms linked, singing, Bellrichard told CBC Radio.
In a news release Monday, B.C. RCMP said in enforcing the injunction, temporary exclusion zones and road closures would be established "for police and public safety reasons." The RCMP said no one would be allowed to enter the exclusion zones.
The release said residents would notice an increased police presence in the Houston area.
"We are very hopeful that there will not be violence or disorder as we enforce the court order; however, the safety of the public and our officers is paramount when policing demonstrations, particularly due to the remote area in which the bridge is located," the release said
TransCanada has said it signed agreements with all First Nations along the proposed pipeline route to LNG Canada's $40-billion liquefied natural gas project on the coast. But the hereditary leaders say those agreements don't apply to the traditional territories.
"We want them right off Wet'suwet'en territory," Chief Madeek said Sunday, referring to the proposed Coastal GasLink project.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Coastal GasLink said the injunction was "a last resort and a necessary action in our efforts to safely gain access to the Morice River Bridge, after years of attempting to engage the camp to work through a solution.
"As we have done in the past, we will continue to keep the lines of communications open to find a mutually agreeable solution."
On Sunday, police said their main concerns in enforcing the injunction are "public safety, police officer safety, and preservation of the right to peaceful, lawful and safe protest, within the terms set by the Supreme Court in the injunction."
The B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General said in a statement the police enforcement of the injunction "is an operational matter for the RCMP and is entirely at arms length from government.
"We recognize the right for people to engage in peaceful protest. In any situation such as this, we hope all parties find a safe and mutually respectful resolution."
Yeah, it’s baffling. We should have Canada’s greatest and brightest minds drop everything to ponder it.Interesting the RCMP is experiencing such a staffing crunch. One would think it would be an appealing career to many without a university education or trade to rely upon.
Short-staffed RCMP looking at 'everything' to attract new recruits
Still better than being unemployed or labouring on a construction site.Yeah, it’s baffling. We should have Canada’s greatest and brightest minds drop everything to ponder it.
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Labouring on a construction site is surprisingly an effective way of obtaining an apprenticeship. A lack of an apprenticeship would drive someone to settle with the RCMP, according to you.
This.This may come as a shock to you, but some people would rather work manual labour than be an RCMP officer.
Labouring on a construction site with out the ability or means to complete trade school is not an effective way of obtaining an apprenticeship.Labouring on a construction site is surprisingly an effective way of obtaining an apprenticeship. A lack of an apprenticeship would drive someone to settle with the RCMP, according to you.
(This is typically the point where you would deny the contradiction in your logic)