Protestors in Perth call for change three decades after report into Aboriginal deaths in custody




Attendees called on governments to do more.

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Officers’ ‘stereotypical ideas’ about gay victims clouded Toronto police investigation into Bruce McArthur serial killings, landmark report says


An independent review launched in the wake of the arrest of serial killer Bruce McArthur has identified “serious flaws” in how missing person cases have been handled by Toronto police.

The disappearance of McArthur’s murder victims “were often given less attention or priority than the cases deserved,” and some officers had “misconceptions or stereotypical ideas” about the LGBTQ communities — “at times, their perceptions impeded the work.”

The report, released Tuesday and prepared by retired Ontario Court of Appeal judge Gloria Epstein, uncovered serious investigative, communication and data management problems with the Toronto police investigation into McArthur’s victims, including Project Houston, a probe into the three men now known to be McArthur’s first victims.

McArthur was brought in for questioning as part of that investigation — an interview Epstein called “deeply flawed, inadequately prepared for and poorly conducted.”

“I cannot say that McArthur would necessarily have been apprehended earlier if the investigative steps outlined in this report had been taken. He was a true psychopath. He disarmed others, including his interviewer, with his calm and ostensibly helpful approach to the interview,” she noted.

“But the Toronto police did lose important opportunities to identify him as the killer.”

Epstein noted that the friends and loved ones, of McArthur’s last victim, Andrew Kinsman, “mobilized in a highly public way” to ensure police gave his sudden disappearance attention.

“Proper missing person investigations, however, should not depend on whose voices are the loudest in sounding the alarm. This observation represents yet another systemic issue identified in this report,” Epstein wrote.

The review provides the most detailed accounting of police actions during McArthur’s seven year killing spree. Epstein notes that, in some instances, this means exposing “serious investigative flaws or a lack of attention that made these cases more difficult to solve. In other instances, an accurate account corrects a narrative that is unfair to investigators.”

“The public is entitled to know the truth; indeed, it must know the truth. So are the loved ones and friends of those who went missing,” Epstein wrote in the report.

The report makes a series of recommendations on how to improve missing persons investigations, noting “we are past the time for conversation only.”

“The public is entitled to insist on transformative change with measurable, sustainable outcomes, timelines for completion, and accountability.”

More to come.

McArthur, 69, was convicted of eight counts of first-degree murder in 2019, after pleading guilty to killing eight men between 2010 and 2017. He was sentenced to life in prison by Ontario Superior Court Justice John McMahon, who called McArthur a sexual predator whose crimes were “pure evil.”

McArthur admitted to killing Andrew Kinsman, 49; Selim Esen, 44; Majeed Kayhan, 58; Soroush Mahmudi, 50; Dean Lisowick, 47; Skandaraj (Skanda) Navaratnam, 40, Abdulbasir Faizi, 42, and Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam, 37.

Most of McArthur’s victims were of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent, and some were homeless, had a precarious immigration status in Canada or struggled with substance abuse.

McArthur’s arrest — and the revelation the killer had twice before been interviewed by police — prompted anger and distrust of police, and concerns their investigations had been tainted by systemic bias or discrimination.

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McArthur, a once-married man who came out as gay later in life, was 58 when he began his killing spree in 2010, an anomaly among serial killers, who are usually much younger. A landscaper, he stored his equipment at a Leaside home where police later located the dismembered bodies of McArthur’s victims, some buried within large planters on the property.

The report is the product of more than two years of work, which included access to internal Toronto police documents, interviews with dozens of police officers and broad community consultation.

McArthur was arrested after “Project Prism,” an exhaustive Toronto police probe into the 2017 disappearances of Esen and Kinsman. Detectives ultimately charged McArthur in eight deaths, including of two men who had never been reported missing.

But during the years men were going missing from the Village, McArthur had twice come onto their radar.

McArthur was first questioned during “Project Houston,” a special 2012-2014 probe into the disappearances of Navaratnam, Faizi and Kayhan, three men now known to be McArthur’s first victims. McArthur was brought in for a voluntary videotaped interview on Nov. 11, 2013, where McArthur offered up information that ultimately linked him to all three missing men.

It’s not clear what further investigation was done after the interview. Project Houston ended up homing in for months on the wrong man, Peterborough’s James Alex Brunton, after police recieved a tip that potentially linked him to Navaratnam.

After his 2013 interview and the closure of Project Houston, McArthur went on to kill five more men.

McArthur was also interviewed in 2016, after a man accused him of strangling him during a sexual encounter in the killer’s van. After the man says he escaped and dialed 911, McArthur turned himself in, where he told police he thought the man wanted it rough.

Police ruled there were no grounds to lay charges against McArthur and he was released unconditionally. Sgt. Paul Gauthier, the officer who conducted the investigation, faces professional misconduct charges in connection to the incident. McArthur went on to kill two more men, Kinsman and Esen.

Epstein’s review is also examining other cases of missing persons connected to the Gay Village, including the death of Alloura Wells, a 27-year-old transgender woman, and the murder of Tess Richey, 22.

Richey was reported missing in November 2017 and her body was later found in a Toronto stairwell by her mother, Christine Hermeston, who has sued Toronto police for their handling of her daughter’s disappearance. Kalen Schlatter was found guilty of first-degree murder by a jury last year for strangling and sexually assaulting Richey in a Church Street alley in 2017.

Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing for the Star. Reach her by email at wgillis@thestar.ca or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis



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President Trump did not profit from market boom in which he created, according to financial report


President Donald Trump gives thumbs up as he steps off Air Force One as he arrives Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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UPDATED 11:00 AM PT – Monday, April 12, 2021

A new financial report confirmed President Trump’s assertion he not only did not profit off the presidency, but actually grew less wealthy as a result of his service to the American people.

This is according to estimates by Forbes, which were published in their annual Billionaires List on Tuesday. It assessed his net worth at $2.4 billion, which is down from $3.5 billion in 2017 at the onset of the Trump administration.

That means despite four years of accusations from the left that President Trump was enriching himself from the White House, his time in office actually cost him about 32 percent of his total wealth. This confirms the truth behind his numerous statements on the matter.

“I think I will, in a combination of loss and opportunity, probably it’ll cost me anywhere from three to $5 billion to be President,” he previously stated. “And the only thing I care about is this country…couldn’t care less, otherwise.”

Moreover, the analysis performed by Forbes and verified by industry experts also projected that had President Trump sold off all his assets and used the proceeds to invest in the stock market, he would have made himself $1.6 billion richer.

This is due to the thriving stock market overseen by the Trump administration and boosted by a business-friendly overhaul of the U.S. tax code, which was spearheaded by President Trump. According to Forbes, he refused to “cash in on a market boom he helped propel.”

While the Constitution mandates the president receive a salary amount decided by Congress and thus a sitting commander-in-chief cannot legally refuse it outright, President Trump still did not profit.  While keeping one of his earliest campaign promises, he donated the totality of his salary, set at $400, 000 a year or $1.6 million over four years, to various government agencies throughout his presidency.

His first quarterly donation was in the amount of $78,333, which Forbes estimated were his post-tax earnings. This was topped off by an “anonymous” donor to a total of $100,000, which was the same amount President Trump donated every other quarter of his presidency. This suggests he was not only not taking in a salary, but dipping into his own private funds to pay taxes on that salary then donating the pre-tax amount back.

Yet, despite all those financial losses, President Trump said on repeated occasions he had no regrets over making that sacrifice for the sake of the American people.

MORE NEWS: Biden military budget tailor-made for lobbyist firm ‘Pine Island Acquisitions Corporation’



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Contractors reminded to report income


The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is reminding businesses that use contractors to report their actual income at all times, revealing that their new Taxable Payments Reporting System (TPRS) will help them ensure that the $172 billion of payments made to contractors annually have been properly declared.

The ATO is utilising the TPRS data to draw attention to income from contracting work so that it can be easily added to tax returns at tax time, as well as to check that businesses are registered for GST (if required) and are using valid Australian Business Numbers.

The ATO is particularly keen to highlight the fact that businesses that pay contractors in the courier, cleaning, building and construction, road freight, information technology, security, investigation, or surveillance services industries are required to notify the ATO of payments made to these contractors annually.

“More than 158,000 businesses have now reported all payments made to contractors in the 2019-20 year to us,” ATO Assistant Commissioner Peter Holt said. “This data, combined with our sophisticated data and analytics capability, means our field of vision to detect unreported income is better than ever.

“Where we discover a discrepancy, our first step is always to contact the taxpayer or their tax professional to check they have fully reported these payments in their tax return,” Holt added.

The ATO encourages taxpayers who have not declared or under-declared income from contract work to lodge an amendment request or speak to their registered tax professional for assistance. This will help loss of income to the community in revenue through unpaid tax as a result of deliberate non-reporting or under-reporting of income, a figure that last year reached $6.7 billion.

“Honest courier drivers do the right thing: they pay their rego, pay their road tolls, stick to the speed limit, and pay their taxes,” Holt said. “It’s not fair that some dishonest drivers get to skip the ‘toll booth’ and get an advantage over their honest competitors.”



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Biden to Announce Long-Awaited Package of Executive Action Against Gun Violence, Report Says



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Since the start of his administration, US President Joe Biden has faced pressure from House Democrats to fulfill his campaign promises and place federal regulations on assault-style weapons.

Biden is expected to introduce at the White House on Thursday his long-awaited package of executive actions intended to curb skyrocketing gun violence within the US.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, Politico reported that some of the executive actions under consideration would require buyers of devices known as ghost guns – homemade or makeshift firearms without a serial number – to undergo background checks. 

The actions will also most likely include promises from his 2020 campaign to support legislation in closing the so-called “Charleston loophole,” which allows guns to be transferred between licensed gun dealers to interested buyers before a background check is completed.

There is also a consideration for placing a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, as well as repealing gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability. Prohibition of firearm purchases for those convicted of domestic violence against their partners and federal guidance on home storage safety measures are also speculated as being part of the overall plan.

Other executive actions may include a plan by US Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) to reintroduce his universal background check bill. Murphy has boasted of bringing the bill to the US Senate floor, but not without hearing from the White House first. The senator believes that if the government is going to pursue legislation then “our best chance to pass a background checks proposal is this year. I don’t want to have to wait for a mass shooting.”

Due to pressure from officials, there is likely to be a push for gun control legislation in response to deadly US mass shootings. However, it’s worth noting that past shootings, such as those that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School and at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, failed to prompt comprehensive federal measures.


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REUTERS / ALYSON MCCLARAN

Morgan Beltzer, 14, of Broomfield, leaves flowers at the site of a mass shooting at King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, U.S. March 23, 2021

In fact, the late March shooting in Boulder, Colorado, that claimed the lives of 10 individuals reinvigorated calls for stricter gun control measures. Shortly after the shooting, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold told CBSN that stricter gun laws were needed to make sure gun ownership is done in a “reasonable way,” with regulation from the federal government being necessary to execute that effort. 

Additionally, the Senate Judiciary Committee has held multiple hearings to address the US’ gun violence epidemic in response to the shooting, which unfolded only a few days after a mass shooting in Atlanta, Georgia. Lawmakers have called on Senate leaders to take action and implement gun control measures.

In a letter to Biden last week, dozens of congressional lawmakers demanded the president place “concealable assault-style firearms that fire rifle rounds” under the National Firearms Act, which would make the sale and transfer of the specified firearms much more difficult to complete.

“The concealability and ability to use ammunition capable of penetrating body armor make these firearms especially dangerous on our streets and for law enforcement personnel,” the lawmakers wrote, urging Biden “to immediately promulgate regulations to cover these concealable assault firearms under the National Firearms Act.”

The looming Thursday announcement may also include the participation of his nominee for the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who has not yet been named, but will play a key role in any executive branch actions on guns. The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the Biden administration’s lack of a Senate-confirmed US Attorney General and ATF director are considered some of the reasons it has taken time for the administration to follow up on its gun safety campaign promises. 

In his $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan, Biden proposed $5 billion for community violence prevention programs, which has been praised by some community activists. “With this investment of our federal tax dollars, we have an unprecedented opportunity to build an infrastructure of peace to heal and disrupt cycles of violence,” said Erica Ford, head of a coalition of community groups dubbed Fund Peace. 

The latest developments came after White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki recently reaffirmed that Biden would be expanding gun control measures at the federal level, but that the timing was uncertain as a result of the ongoing review process.



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Navy submarine suffered long-term damage to ballast tank from errant test: report


OTTAWA —
An internal Defence Department report has pulled back the curtain on the damage caused by an errant test on one of Canada’s four submarines last year, suggesting some of the damage is permanent and could continue to pose a risk over the long term.

Obtained by The Canadian Press through Access to Information, the report represents another setback for Canada’s four submarines, which have spent more time in repairs than at sea since being bought second-hand from Britain in 1998.

HMCS Corner Brook has been hit particularly hard, with the vessel docked for extensive repairs and maintenance for the past six years after striking the bottom of the ocean off B.C. in 2011. A fire also broke out while it was docked in Victoria in August 2019.

The report confirms that one of Corner Brook’s main ballast tanks ruptured last March during a test by Babcock Canada, which has been contracted to maintain and repair the sub fleet since 2008. The government recently extended Babcock’s contract to 2023.

“The test consisted of the tank being largely filled by water with air added to apply the required test pressure,” reads the Aug. 6, 2020 report prepared for the deputy minister of the Department of National Defence.

“After the tank successfully met this requirement, the final step was to drain the tank. This was intended to be done by gravity, however members of the test team attempted to accelerate drainage of the tank by re-applying pressure.

“In doing so, they inadvertently over-pressurized the tank and caused it to rupture.”

Defence officials have previously said the incident would delay the Navy’s plans to get the Corner Brook back in the water. The submarine was supposed to return to service last summer, but will now remain docked until at least June.

Yet the report suggests even after repairs are done, some of the damage will be lasting and will need to be monitored by the Navy.

“A full repair of the damage is impractical and would not be economical,” the report reads. “There is the potential that the post-repaired condition will still present undesirable risk, in which case the residual risk will be presented to the Navy for acceptance.”

The report underscores the importance of maintaining the “structural integrity” of main ballast tanks to the safe operation of a submarine. They are used in controlling whether the vessel goes up or down in the water.

“Otherwise the submarine may not be able to surface (including surfacing from depth in an emergency due to flooding) or remain stable on the surface, either of which could lead to loss of the submarine,” the report reads.

Despite the damage, the report said the repairs and upgrades done to the Corner Brook since it was last in the water would see the submarine “in a significantly refreshed and modernized state, ready to operate for nine years.”

Canada’s top military procurement official said in an interview last week that the ballast tank was successfully tested recently and the plan remains to have the Corner Brook back at sea in the summer.

“When it goes to the sea, it will be safe and fit for purpose,” added Troy Crosby, the assistant deputy minister of materiel at the Department of National Defence.

“There’s always an ongoing monitoring happening, but … it’ll be safe, and it’ll be fit for purpose.”

Crosby would not speak to whether the submarine will be limited in what it can do, however. The military has previously imposed limitations or restrictions on other equipment, such as its Cyclone helicopters, after safety concerns were identified.

“The limitation that may be imposed on the submarine will … allow the submarine to do what it needs to do operationally with the Navy,” he said.

“It’s an awkward area simply because of the sensitivity around capabilities. We get into an area of sensitive information around operational capabilities that we just can’t get into the details.”

The report indicates that Babcock planned to “accept liability for the direct repair cost,” but that “indirect costs will be the subject of negotiations between Canada and (Babcock).” Crosby said there was no plan to sue the company for the mistake.

“The contractor is honouring their obligation,” he said. “They were very good about their response to that and we’ll have the submarine, as they say, repaired and we’ll move on from there.”

Questions about the benefits and costs of Canada’s submarines have circulated since Ottawa purchased the vessels second hand from Britain. The fleet was recently docked for more than a year, and the Defence Department says they cost $300 million a year to maintain.

Military officials, however, have called them critical to monitoring the waters off Canada’s coasts for potential adversaries. The Defence Department says HMCS Windsor and HMCS Victoria are now in the water undergoing tests after extended upgrades and repairs.

The government promised in 2017 to extend the lives of the submarines, with sources pegging the cost at more than $2 billion to keep them operating for the next decade. Crosby said work on those upgrades is underway and will be implemented over the next few years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 5, 2021.



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Men receive ‘oversized’ benefit from major tax concessions, report says | Tax


Men capture more than two-thirds of the benefit of four tax concessions that cost the federal budget a total of $60bn a year, according to new research by The Australia Institute.

A report by the progressive thinktank, released on Monday, found that the tax treatment of superannuation in particular is turbo-charging wealth inequality in favour of men.

Men receive 71.6% of the $41.2bn given each year through superannuation tax concessions compared with 28.4% for women, meaning for every dollar of super tax concession going to women, men get $2.52.

Similarly, men received more than 70% of the $4.3bn a year benefit of negative gearing tax deductions and of the $5.2bn in franking credit refunds.

The $9.4bn a year given in capital gains tax discounts was slightly more evenly distributed, with 60.6% flowing to men and 39.4% to women.

The analysis comes as the Morrison government attempts to reconsider the gendered impact of its policies, dumping a controversial bid to allow domestic violence victims early access to superannuation and appointing Jane Hume minister for women’s economic security.

The November budget copped criticism for its small investment in women’s economic security and the issue has become more critical to the government as it struggles to contain the fallout over its management of allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

The Australia Institute report, based on Centre for Social Research and Methods modelling, found that men pay about two-thirds of all income tax, compared with one-third by women.

“This is because men earn more income and have on average a higher income than women,” the report by senior economist Matt Grudnoff and researcher Eliza Littleton said.

“But even accounting for this, men get an oversized benefit from these tax concessions.”

“That is, they pay 65% of the tax but get 70% of the concessions. For women, it is the opposite: they pay 35% of the tax but only receive 30% of the concessions.”

The report argued it was “counterintuitive” to give greater super tax concessions to men because women on average have less super at retirement.

“A well-thought-through retirement incomes policy would give larger concession to those who were less likely to be able to fund their own retirement,” it argued.

The report also found that the four tax concessions help the rich get richer, with about 39% of the benefit flowing to the top 10% of income earners, or 41% to the top 10% of wealth owners.

It found the top 20% of households by income received 64% of the benefit of franking credit rebates but the top 20% of households by wealth received 83%.

That gap points to a high-wealth middle-income cohort of retirees who benefit from these rebates. At the 2019 election, Scott Morrison was re-elected in part due to backlash at Labor’s attempts to trim the franking credit concession.

The Australia Institute report concluded that the four tax concessions are contributing to economic and gender inequality.

Scrapping or curtailing the tax concessions would reduce inequality and raise billions to spend on further programs including childcare, crisis accommodation, and boosting retirement incomes for those in poverty, it said.

Anthony Albanese has confirmed Labor will not end cash rebates for excess franking credits but has remained tight-lipped about negative gearing and capital gains tax reform.

Superannuation is a hot political topic as Labor pressures the government to recommit to increase compulsory retirement savings from 9.5% to 12%, but neither party has proposed a fresh attempt to reduce tax concessional treatment of super.

The Coalition trimmed back superannuation tax concessions in 2016 when Scott Morrison was treasurer, but was forced to ditch its proposed lifetime non-concessional contributions cap of $500,000 to pass the reform after fierce internal backlash.

Instead, Australians are now allowed to make annual non-concessional contributions worth up to $100,000 a year until their super balance reaches $1.6m.

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Black senior adviser quits UK government in wake of racism report


The most senior black adviser to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resigned, the day after a report on racial disparities concluded that Britain does not have a systemic problem with racism.

Samuel Kasumu will leave his job as a special adviser for civil society and communities next month.

The Prime Minister’s office said Mr Kasumu’s departure had “been his plan for several months”.

Downing Street denied the resignation was related to Wednesday’s publication of a report by the government-appointed Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which concluded that Britain is not a systemically racist country.

But Simon Woolley, a former government equalities adviser and a member of the UK House of Lords, said Mr Kasumu’s exit was connected to the “grubby” and “divisive” report.

He said there was a “crisis at Number 10 when it comes to acknowledging and dealing with persistent race inequality”.

Mr Kasumu considered quitting in February.

He wrote a resignation letter, obtained by the BBC, that accused Mr Johnson’s Conservative Party of pursuing “a politics steeped in division.” He was persuaded to stay in his job temporarily.

Report finds UK not ‘institutionally racist’ or ‘rigged’ 

The Conservative government launched the commission’s inquiry into racial disparities in the wake of anti-racism protests last year.

The panel of experts concluded that while “outright racism” exists in Britain, the country is not “institutionally racist” or “rigged” against ethnic minorities.

Citing strides to close gaps between ethnic groups in educational and economic achievement, the report said race was becoming “less important” as a factor in creating disparities that also are fuelled by class and family backgrounds.

Many anti-racism activists were sceptical of the findings, saying the commission ignored barriers to equality.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted racial fault lines, with Britons from Black African and Black Caribbean backgrounds dying from COVID-19 at more than twice the rate as their white compatriots.

Black people in Britain are three times as likely as white people to be arrested and twice as likely to die in police custody.

A crowd lowers a statue into a harbour
Demonstrators tipped a statue of slave trader Edward Colston into Bristol’s harbour during Black Lives Matter protests last year.(

AP: Ben Birchall/PA

)

Like other countries, Britain has faced an uncomfortable reckoning with race since the death of George Floyd, a Black American, at the knee of a US policeman in May 2020 sparked anti-racism protests around the world.

Large crowds at Black Lives Matter protests across the UK last summer called on the government and institutions to face up to the legacy of the British Empire and the country’s extensive profits from the slave trade.

The toppling of a statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston in the city of Bristol in June prompted a pointed debate about how to deal with Britain’s past.

Many felt such statues extol racism and are an affront to Black Britons.

Others, including the Prime Minister, argued that removing them was erasing a piece of history.

AP

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US, 13 Other Nations Concerned About WHO COVID Origins Report


The United States and 13 other nations issued a statement Tuesday raising “shared concerns” about the newly released World Health Organization report on the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The statement, released on the U.S. State Department website, as well as the other signatories, said it was essential to express concerns that the international expert study on the source of the virus was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples.

The WHO formally released its report earlier Tuesday, saying while the report presents a comprehensive review of available data, “we have not yet found the source of the virus.” The team reported difficulties in accessing raw data, among other issues, during its visit to the city of Wuhan, China, earlier this year.

The researchers also had been forced to wait days before receiving final permission by the Chinese government to enter Wuhan.

The joint statement by the U.S. and others went on to say, “scientific missions like these should be able to do their work under conditions that produce independent and objective recommendations and findings.” The nations expressed their concerns in the hope of laying “a pathway to a timely, transparent, evidence-based process for the next phase of this study as well as for the next health crises.”

Along with the U.S., the statement was signed by the governments of Australia, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, South Korea, and Slovenia.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday further study and more data are needed to confirm if the virus was spread to humans through the food chain or through wild or farmed animals.

Tedros said that while the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, the matter requires further investigation.

WHO team leader Peter Ben Embarek told reporters Tuesday that it is “perfectly possible” COVID-19 cases were circulating as far back as November or October 2019 around Wuhan, earlier than has been documented regarding the spread of the virus.

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Indigenous patients anonymously report racism in health care with new online tool


SASKATOON —
Hundreds of Indigenous patients in B.C. have been using a new online tool to anonymously report the racism they’ve experienced within the health-care system. The initial demand for the tool has been so high that creators are aiming to expand the platform across the country next year.

The platform Safespace, currently run through the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres website, allows people to share their experiences at a health-care facility and rate it on a five-point scale.

“I’ve experienced racism personally in the health system. I’ve observed it. I’ve been there with family members… who’ve gone through the same situations,” Canadian Medical Association president-elect Dr. Alika Lafontaine, who created the tool, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Since the app launched in November, it has recorded approximately 1,500 complaints and stories from Indigenous patients and their family members.

A lot of people “didn’t feel safe sharing them with the health system,” Lafontaine said, adding that those who did report incidents were ultimately disappointed with how things ended up.

This discontent could be because a health-care provider wasn’t disciplined or because there wasn’t any change in a facility’s methods overall. And Lafontaine explained that for many patients, complaining publicly has only served to strain their relationships with their doctors, leaving them in “worse place than if they’d said nothing at all.”

The app was launched on the heels of an investigative report released in November 2020, which found troubling, widespread racism against Indigenous patients in the B.C. health-care system. Another report in the province found Indigenous people also have less access to primary care doctors, less access to primary care providers for seniors and lower rates of cancer screening than non-Indigenous people.

Similar disparities are being seen across Canada, highlighted by high-profile incidents such as the case of Joyce Echaquan, an Indigenous woman in Quebec who recorded herself being insulted by health-care workers before she later died.

B.C. FRIENDSHIP CENTRES ARE EARLY PARTNERS

Lafontaine, an Alberta-based anesthesiologist of Anishinaabe, Cree, Metis and Pacific Islander descent, said the idea was partially sparked by his brother and Safespace co-founder who was subjected to racism.

“He said, ‘it doesn’t matter what type of privilege I accumulate — whether I’m a business leader or highly educated, or contribute to the community –when I put on that [hospital] gown, I’m just another Indian.”

Lafontaine chose to partner with the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres for the first phase of Safespace rollout because those centres are places people already trust when it comes to patient advocacy and emotional and social support.

The group has 25 facilities across British Columbia and during the first half of this year, workers will be offering workshops to help familiarize the community with the Safespace tool.

Leslie Varley, executive director at the BCAAFC and member of the Nisga’a Nation, told CTVNews.ca over the phone that “to one extent or another, we all experience racism.” She said this can involve health-care providers in emergency rooms falsely assuming patients are drunk or them being disregarded or roughly treated during hospice care.

Without collecting personalized data, Safespace anonymously catalogues incidents to flag potential issues in the future, and identify patterns or prevalent issues in certain facilities or across the province — and lobby them to change.

“Our hope and intention is… to take that data and use it very specifically at one hospital or clinic, or health-care clinic or [address] systemic racism overall,” Varley said, adding she encourages health-care providers themselves to report things they witness, since they might not do so out of fear of putting their job at stake.

Varley said a lot of the complaints so far are from Indigenous doctors and health-care workers who say “they’re not feeling safe at all.”

Next year, she said the National Association of Friendship Centres, which boasts a network of more than 120 facilities, will be further expanding the program.

Dr. Alika Lafontaine

APP HELPS PATIENTS MAKE INFORMED DECISIONS

Lafontaine said one of the short-term goals will be to “help patients to make more informed decisions about where they access care.”

“For example, if they realize racialization is an issue within emergency departments in and around a certain place in B.C., they can choose to move to a different place of care or if they have to go there… they can at least go and be prepared.”

But he said this data should force health-care providers to look inwards.

Lafontaine explained doctors, nurses or other health-care providers may have inadvertently learned racist ideas in school, which have been reinforced in the field. “But once you become aware of the harm you do have a responsibility to stop it.”

“We can create that normalcy of being an anti-racist… where we have to go to create change in the system but that’s going to take stories,” he said, hoping that the app helps in “creating the opportunity of a new narrative in health care.”

Lafontaine hopes Safespace prevents people from feeling alone and baring the “the weight of history on their shoulders.”



Thank you for dropping in to My Local Pages and reading this story about International and Canadian Political updates named “Indigenous patients anonymously report racism in health care with new online tool”. This news release is presented by My Local Pages Australia as part of our news aggregator services.

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