Strident opponent of assisted dying in Canada won’t chair advance request review

OTTAWA – A Toronto doctor who once likened assisted dying to the Holocaust is no longer in charge of a federally mandated process to determine whether Canadians should be able to make advance requests for medical help to end their lives.

Harvey Schipper has stepped aside as chair of a working group of experts who will examine the issue, although he will continue as an active member of the group.

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“While I do believe I would have served in the role of chair impartially, the work of this expert panel is far too important to be burdened with unnecessary distractions,” Schipper said in a statement released by the Council of Canadian Academies.

The council’s appointment of Schipper as chair late last month had raised doubts about the impartiality of the process and the seriousness of the federal government’s commitment to consider expanding its restrictive law on assisted dying.

READ MORE: Ontario creating service to help people seeking medically assisted dying

Advance requests was one of three major issues left unresolved last year when the government passed legislation that restricted medical assistance in dying to those who are already near death.

As part of the legislation, the government promised to conduct independent reviews to determine whether the legislation should eventually be expanded to include advance requests, mature minors and those suffering strictly from mental illnesses.

In December, the government engaged the Council of Canadian Academies to conduct the reviews of the three issues and report back to Parliament by late 2018.

The council last month created a 43-member expert panel on assisted dying, chaired by former Supreme Court of Canada justice Marie Deschamps, and subdivided it into working groups on the three outstanding issues.

READ MORE: Quebec appoints experts to weigh in on expanding assisted-dying law

Schipper, a University of Toronto professor of medicine, was put in charge of the advance request working group despite having been a strident opponent of assisted dying.

In a June 2014 column published in the Globe and Mail, he opined that civilized society always runs into trouble when it makes exceptions to the moral imperative that life is sacred. He then compared arguments used to justify assisted dying with those advanced by Nazi Germany to justify the Holocaust.

“Similar arguments about relieving suffering were used by the Nazis to justify first exterminating the weakened and disabled, then the mentally ill and then non-Aryans on the regime’s hell-bent descent into depravity,” he wrote.

“In order to execute the policy, a cohort of licensed killers was created. This, in a society once considered the world’s most sophisticated and cultured.”

He concluded that “assisted suicide is not a legal matter. It’s a moral one and we can’t legislate morality.”

READ MORE: Feds looking into whether assisted dying appropriate for mentally ill, mature minors

Shanaaz Gokool of Dying with Dignity Canada, called Schipper’s departure as chair of the working group a “promising development.”

“Having Dr. Schipper continue on as chair would have sent a disturbing message and it would have tainted the working group’s findings in the eyes of Canadians,” she said.

That said, Gokool expressed disappointment that Schipper has still not disavowed his “inflammatory past statements” and called on him to clarify his position. She also called on the council to appoint a new chair “who has at least been publicly neutral on the issue of assisted dying.”

VIDEO: 365 people in Ontario ended their lives with medical help since assisted dying became law

“Canadians need to know that their rights and choices will be considered fairly and without prejudice,” she said.

Polls suggest the vast majority of Canadians support the notion that anyone diagnosed with competence-eroding conditions like dementia should have the right to make an advance request for an assisted death while they are still mentally competent to do so, Gokool noted.

READ MORE: Advocates say NB legislation on medically assisted dying will lessen burden on families

Council president Eric Meslin said in the statement that the council’s expert panels are “committed to looking objectively at the evidence” and that the same commitment to objectivity was applied to the selection of panel members and working group chairs for the assisted dying review.

He expressed confidence that Schipper would have been impartial as chair and added: “I am fully confident that Dr. Schipper will continue to bring objectivity and rigour to his role as a member of the working group.”

The federal government has specifically instructed the council not to make recommendations on the three outstanding issues but to simply summarize its findings.

Ottawa working to understand price of pot in fight against illegal marijuana trade

OTTAWA – The federal government is hoping to find strength in numbers as it tries to stamp out the illicit marijuana market.

Government officials are collecting data – everything from the street price of pot to how often people light up – to arm themselves in the fight against organized crime’s presence in the trade, internal Public Safety Canada documents reveal.

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The Liberal government has tabled legislation to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana use, with the aim of keeping pot out of the hands of children while denying criminals the hefty profits.

Officials had already identified 45 specific categories of information they would need to gauge the success of the new policy. Of these, Canada collected data to calculate about seven, some partial information on a further 17 and little to no figures on the remaining 21 categories.

READ MORE: How will marijuana be taxed? Legalization bill doesn’t say

The wide variety of missing data includes a measure of the fire hazard posed by grow-ops, overdose statistics, the scope of crop-eradication efforts and effects of marijuana use on school performance.

The government plans to monitor patterns related to cannabis use, especially among young people, on an annual basis through the Canadian Cannabis Survey. In March, Health Canada began the two-month survey, involving some 10,000 Canadians, said a department spokeswoman.

VIDEO: Trudeau says government hasn’t focused on taxing marijuana

The planned questions most relevant to organized crime were related to the type, quantity and frequency of pot consumed, where it is being obtained, the purchase price and contact between users and police, say March notes released by Public Safety through the Access to Information Act.

“In a regime of legal recreational cannabis, price data in the illicit market is still important,” say the notes. “This is because the behaviour of consumers of cannabis, such as switching between markets, will be influenced by price.”

READ MORE: Federal legislation on legalizing marijuana unveiled

Some research results are already trickling in.

A study commissioned by the department pegged the cost of high-quality black-market cannabis in the 2011 to 2015 period at $7.69 a gram. Research also found that a 10-per-cent drop in the price of pot could cause a four-to-six per cent increase in the amount consumed.

Officials want accurate figures on the sheer amount of marijuana Canadians use to help with basic supply-and-demand modelling that will paint a fuller picture. They note such data exists in studies of legal and contraband tobacco, allowing criminologists and economists to build solid models.

Another key to understanding the price of pot is information about law-enforcement efforts, the notes say.

READ MORE: Marijuana researchers face red tape as legalization looms: Western prof

“For example, if more resources are dedicated to combatting grow-ops in one particular area, it would be expected that the enforcement would affect the price of marijuana in that area, as well as the areas surrounding it.”

Federal agencies have also begun studying seizures of illicit marijuana, seeing the data as a window into the cross-border movement of cannabis, pot sent through the mail, the potency of strains and the involvement of organized crime.

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Edmonton Oilers’ 2017 playoff run ends with 2-1 loss to Ducks in Game 7 of Western Conference semifinal

The Edmonton Oilers were taught a harsh lesson, one the Anaheim Ducks had learned too many times in recent years. Finish off a playoff series when you get the chance, or you will almost certainly regret not doing so.

Nick Ritchie scored the winning goal 3:21 into the third period as the Ducks defeated the Oilers 2-1 in Game 7 on Wednesday night to win their second-round series.

Anaheim will host the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of the Western Conference final on Friday.

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    Andrew Cogliano also scored and John Gibson made 23 saves for the Ducks, who had lost five consecutive Game 7s. That misery had been compounded by the fact that Anaheim held 3-2 series leads in each of the last four years, only to squander them every time and lose Game 7 at home.

    READ MORE: Sports psychologists think youthful Oilers are ready for pressure of Game 7

    This time, however, they passed any regret on to the young Oilers, who were left thinking about the three-goal lead they gave away in the final 3:16 of regulation of Game 5 among the critical turning points.

    “Disappointing, especially it shouldn’t have even got to a Game 7 so, you know, it sucks to lose that one,” Oilers forward Milan Lucic said.

    “Got to find a way to get over it.”

    The Ducks hadn’t led at home in regulation since Mark Letestu tied up Game 1 at 1-1 by scoring 6:22 into the first, but Ritchie changed that early in the third by firing a wrist shot under Cam Talbot’s right arm.

    Talbot made 28 saves for Edmonton before being pulled with 2:06 remaining.

    Drake Caggiula had put the Oilers out in front early with his third goal in the last four games, challenged defenceman Shea Theodore as he took the puck out from behind the Ducks’ net. Caggiula’s stick struck the puck to put it over Gibson’s right leg and trickling in 3:31 into the first period.

    While Caggiula’s opportunistic score had Anaheim playing from behind inside the opening 6:19 for the fourth year in a row, the Oilers could not come up with a second goal in the first 20 minutes to bring back memories of previous home-ice flameouts at Honda Center. The Ducks were inches away from tying the game late in the period, as the officials correctly saw that the puck barely crossed over the blue line to go offsides before Cam Fowler retrieved it and fired a shot past Talbot.’

    View photos from Game 7 between the Oilers and the Ducks below:

    Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid leaves the ice after the Oilers’ 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Edmonton Oilers centre Leon Draisaitl reacts after the team’s 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom reacts after the team’s 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Edmonton Oilers centre Connor McDavid reacts after the Oilers’ 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Edmonton Oilers left wing Patrick Maroon, middle watches during final second of the Oilers’ 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    The Anaheim Ducks celebrate a 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot, left, blocks a shot by Anaheim Ducks left wing Nick Ritchie during the second period in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Anaheim Ducks left wing Nick Ritchie celebrates after scoring during the third period in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series against the Edmonton Oilers in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson, left, blocks a shot by Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid during the second period in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Anaheim Ducks centre Andrew Cogliano celebrates after scoring during the second period in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series against the Edmonton Oilers in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Anaheim Ducks centre Andrew Cogliano, left, celebrates after scoring past Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot during the second period in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Anaheim Ducks centre Andrew Cogliano, right, scores past Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot during the second period in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Edmonton Oilers centre Drake Caggiula, second from left, celebrates with Patrick Maroon, left, and Connor McDavid after scoring past Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson, right, during the first period in Game 7 of a second-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

    (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Staying within striking distance gave Anaheim the confidence to respond. The Ducks finally succeeded in tying the game up 8:55 into the second. Talbot got turned around as Ryan Kesler was attacking the crease before ending up face down on the ice and in no position to stop Cogliano’s soft backhand swat of a loose puck.

    “We held tight there,” Ritchie said. “We were down 1-0 for a little bit, and we didn’t panic. We actually started to play better once they scored.”

    Cogliano’s first goal of the playoffs energized the home team and fans, forcing Kris Russell to block Antoine Vermette’s shot from sailing into an open net less than 30 seconds later. The Ducks kept the pressure on, with Ritchie and Rickard Rakell each getting great looks. Edmonton only seemed to recover in the closing minute, creating two chances before returning to the dressing room.

    The response was too little too late, Caggiula said.

    “We couldn’t really recover in the second, but we came back in the third with a good push,” Caggiula said.

    “We just came up short.”

    It should prove to be a valuable experience for the Oilers. They now understand how a team built on speed in the regular season must bring physicality in the playoffs and how any letdown can give an opponent new life. Connor McDavid hoped no one in the dressing room would forget what happened in the series and how it felt.

    “Obviously it’s going to take some time to get over it. But I think there are a lot of positives we can take from this year,” McDavid said. “We won’t have to answer that experience question anymore, which is nice. Come next season we’ll find ourselves in a similar spot and be able to look back on this and feel that disappointment and know what that’s like.”

    Still, even pushing the five-time defending division champion Ducks to a Game 7 was a victory as far as Talbot was concerned.

    READ MORE: Edmonton Oilers to play first Game 7 in over a decade

    “I don’t think anyone gave us a shot that we’d be here right now, one period away from the conference finals, when we started this season,” Talbot said. “Proud to be a part of this group right now and looking forward to the future of this team.”

    The Ducks acknowledged that the young Oilers led by McDavid and Leon Draisaitl should be a force in the Pacific Division for years to come. It will simply be a question of how quickly Edmonton learns the lessons of this series.

    “They’re going to be a good team for a long time,” Cogliano said.

    “(McDavid) and Draisaitl are as good as you’re going to get. They’re always going to get their looks, but I like to think we clamped down tonight when it really mattered.”

    Oilers head coach Todd McLellan echoed the disappointment of his team before pointing to how well they had performed against two of the most experienced and tested teams in the Western Conference.

    “We basically got a college degree in a month when it comes to the playoffs,” McLellan said.

    Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ coverage of the Edmonton Oilers’ 2017 playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks.

    Oilers versus Ducks: The countdown is on to puck drop

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    Oilers versus Ducks: The countdown is on to puck drop

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Edmonton hockey fans cheer on Oilers in Anaheim

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Edmonton Oilers prepare for Game 7 against Ducks: ‘This is what you dream of growing up’

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Edmonton Oilers and their fans await Game 7 adventures in Anaheim

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Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid on airport fan picture: ‘That picture was a little bit weird’

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Vancouver Park Board will ‘leave cetaceans to die a death on the beach’: Aquarium

The future of the Vancouver Aquarium’s cetacean program depends on the wording of amendments to a bylaw that the Vancouver Park Board will vote on next Monday.

“The bylaw change talks about no more cetaceans that would be brought into the Vancouver Aquarium and that the current cetaceans would be grandfathered in,” Vancouver Park Board Chair Mark Wiebe said.

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That means Chester, Helen and Daisy — rescued cetaceans that can’t be released into the wild — can stay. But future rescued whales, dolphins, and porpoises may no longer come to the aquarium.

READ MORE:
Proposed park board bylaw could be ‘death sentence’ for injured mammals: Vancouver Aquarium

“We couldn’t believe that commissioners in Vancouver would turn their backs on animals who need help and that’s exactly what they’ve done,” Vancouver Aquarium CEO John Nightingale said.

The aquarium is concerned the Department of Fisheries and Oceans may not rescue injured cetaceans if there is no place for them to go.

“You rescue harbour seals, go ahead and do that, but no, no you’ve got to leave cetaceans to die a death on the beach or have a federal officer put a bullet in them,” Nightingale said.

Wiebe said there are alternatives.

“If they are deemed unreleasable, they would either go to a different facility or they’d go to a sea pen or they would stay at the marine mammal centre down at Crab Park,” he said.

READ MORE:
Investigation finds two Vancouver Aquarium beluga whales died of unknown toxins

Nightingale argues that making injured cetaceans someone else’s responsibility is problematic since there are no other facilities in Canada that could take them.

As for keeping them at the marine mammal centre, it’s a small hospital facility that doesn’t have room to permanently house a marine mammal.

Wiebe said keeping the cetaceans in sea pens would be paid for by either DFO or the aquarium.

The Vancouver Aquarium will hold a rally at Ceperly Park in Stanley Park at 6:30 p.m. Monday, just ahead of the park board’s vote.

— With files from Linda Aylesworth

Is the home you’re buying at risk of flooding? It can be hard to find out

The home-buying season is in full swing in North America — and flood season is still on.

After overflowing rivers ravaged communities in Newfoundland and British Columbia, the Town of Banff, Alta., received its own flood alert on Tuesday. And flash flooding turned the streets of Maryland’s historic Ellicott City into rapids on Sunday.

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READ MORE: Maryland flash flooding – Incredible images show historic Ellicott City ravaged by floodwaters

So how can homebuyers reduce the risk that the biggest investment of their lives will at some point end up under water?

You wouldn’t necessarily know it from the headlines. With extreme weather events now happening with alarming frequency, flooding is becoming increasingly common, even for homes that are nowhere close to waterways. And a basement flooded by sewer backup after a torrential downpour wouldn’t make the news.

READ MORE: Flooding, flooding everywhere – do Canadians have insurance for it?

Flooding has overtaken fire as the No. 1 cause of home insurance payouts, with claims for flooded basements averaging $43,000 in major cities. And yet, there isn’t much in Canada that would help homebuyers assess that risk, says Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo.

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Home inspectors aren’t trained to spot flood risks

A home inspection, for example, will likely tell you little about whether you should waterproof the basement or regrade the perimeter of your future home so that the water flows away from the foundations.

“Home inspectors receive virtually zero training on flood risk assessment,” Feltmate told Global News.

And the process of changing that is just getting underway. Feltmate’s own Intact Centre is developing a flood-risk crash course for home inspectors that will be rolled out in Ontario this September and throughout Canada at the beginning of next year.

READ MORE: ‘This is a huge shock to us’ — What climate change means for home insurance

Municipal flood plain maps are usually outdated

Large municipalities and conservation authorities across Canada generally have maps that prospective homebuyers can ask to see to check whether a property lies in a known floodplain.

But those drawings are often 25 to 30 years old and woefully out of date, Feltmate said.

The Trudeau government just released guidelines to harmonize flood maps across Canada last year.

WATCH: Here’s why cities flood more easily than rural areas

Homesellers don’t necessarily have to tell you about past flooding

Don’t think your homeseller will let you know about past floods. Often, the onus of finding that out lies squarely with the homebuyer.

In general, homesellers have an obligation to disclose so-called patent defects, including those that “wouldn’t be readily identifiable by a reasonable person doing an inspection of the property,” said Michael Abrams, an Ottawa-based lawyer at Kelly Santini.

“If [a home] floods every spring and [homebuyers] are looking at the property in July, it might not be readily apparent that there is a flooding issue. But if the seller is aware of it and it happens on a regular basis, then that’s something they’d have an obligation to disclose,” Abrams said.

And homesellers can’t lie if you ask them direct questions, he added.

“There’s a duty of good faith that exists that you have to provide complete and truthful answers to those questions.”

READ MORE: Here’s how much climate change can cost homeowners in damages

But homeowners don’t have to volunteer information about properties that are located in a known floodplain or an instance of flooding, whether it was from overland water seeping in through doors and windows or old city regurgitating sewage into the basement.

Those, at least, are the common-law principles that apply throughout Canada, Abrams said. Each province has its own regulations on the matter, and private law in Quebec is governed by French-inspired civil law.

What homebuyers can do

Canada is catching up when it comes to flood insurance, with a growing number of insurers now providing both sewer-backup and overland insurance, which are generally treated as additional coverage.

But buying flood insurance is no substitute for doing your due diligence before signing on the dotted line. A growing number of homes throughout Canada are becoming uninsurable due to repeated instances of flooding, Feltmate said. And even a single instance of water seeping through your basement drains could lead to drastically higher insurance premiums or denial of further coverage, as Global News has previously reported.

Your best bet? Asking pointed questions of homesellers and their neighbours.

“Spend time in the community,” Feltmate said. The extra legwork could really pay off in the long term.

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