Nov 16

Canadian military members more likely to attempt suicide – and get help: study

A new study from the University of Manitoba has found that although members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are more likely to attempt suicide than the rest of the population, they are also more likely to seek mental health services.

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The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association journal Tuesday, found that between 2012 and 2013 Canadian military members were 32 per cent more likely to have suicidal thoughts and 64 per cent more likely to plan their suicide than the average person.

However, researchers found that members with suicidal thoughts were not only more likely to get help, they accessed more types of professionals for help than civilians suffering the same mental health issues.

READ MORE: Nearly half of Canadian military personnel exposed to child abuse before joining, researchers say

“This study supports the criticism that the Canadian public health-care system is not universal but has significant inequities, inefficiencies and varying levels of service,” said Dr. Jitender Sareen, co-author of the study.

“It also speaks to potential value of incremental investments in the public system, similar to those made in the CAF.”

The study also reported that suicidal thoughts decreased in women, but not men, over time. Researchers suggest this is because women were more likely to seek help from a mental health professional.

According to the study, the CAF has made greater investments in mental health services over the past decade when compared to the public sector.

Yet, for years, the military has faced backlash over its response to mental health issues among its members.

The results of the 2013 Canadian Armed Forces Mental Health Survey found that one in six members reported experiencing symptoms associated with at least one of  the following mental or alcohol disorders in the previous 12 months:

Major depressive episodePost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)Generalized anxiety disorderPanic disorderAlcohol misuseAlcohol dependence

INVISIBLE WOUNDS: Crisis in Canada’s military

According to a Canadian forces study published in November 2015, members of the army were 3.4 times more likely to kill themselves than non-army members of the CAF and at least 50 per cent more likely to kill themselves than the average Canadian of the same gender and age.

Neither the 2015 study, nor the recent University of Manitoba study, looked at Canadian veterans, despite calls for better mental health services amid what they say is a crisis of under-treated PTSD, depression and anxiety.

Nov 16

Critics urge federal crackdown on money laundering in real estate industry

TORONTO – Ottawa needs to beef up its efforts to combat money laundering in the real estate industry, say critics and housing observers after documents revealed that dozens of companies haven’t shown how they’re trying to detect questionable transactions.

reported this week that at least 85 firms have not fully implemented compliance plans intended to flag questionable transactions – including cases where money laundering is suspected – nearly 15 years after they were legally required to do so.

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“We can have the best rules possible around keeping laundered money out of our real estate market, but if no one is enforcing those rules, what good are they?” said David Eby, the NDP housing critic in British Columbia, where some have said the housing market is particularly susceptible to money laundering.

“The realtors appear not to be taking the rules or the reporting obligations seriously, and Fintrac seems to be not too concerned when they see mass non-compliance.”

READ MORE: Dozens of real estate companies fail to comply with anti-money-laundering laws

Data obtained from Fintrac through an access-to-information request showed that 38 companies had only partially implemented a compliance regime while another 47 had not at all. The names of the companies were not included in the documents.

The data was compiled from 337 compliance assessment reports that were submitted to the federal anti-money laundering agency from roughly 1,000 companies in the real estate sector. It represents only a sliver of the overall industry – there are about 20,000 real estate companies overseen by Fintrac.

“I just wonder how many more audits with dismal results like this have to be returned to Fintrac and the federal government before they decide to really crack down,” Eby said.

A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Bill Morneau, to whom Fintrac reports, directed questions to the federal agency.

Darren Gibb, a spokesman for Fintrac, said compliance assessment reports are only one tool that the agency uses in its enforcement process.

READ MORE: 2 charged in $1.8M Toronto renovation company money laundering scam: police

“They educate our risk-based approach, and that’s essentially all that they’re supposed to do,” Gibb said.

Fintrac has used the data gathered from the compliance reports to significantly boost the number of on-site examinations it is performing in the real estate sector, he said.

It has also invested “significant time and effort” into working with the real estate industry and the Canadian Real Estate Association to help realtors better understand their obligations under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, Gibb added.

But Christine Duhaime, a lawyer specializing in anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing, said most of the realtors she has met have no compliance plan, no compliance officer and don’t know what a suspicious transaction is or how to report one.

“I literally have never met a realtor across the country who really understands or fully complies with AML (anti-money laundering) law,” Duhaime said.

A U.S.-based short seller who has been a vocal critic of the Canadian housing market says it’s clear that policy-makers and law enforcement are not doing their job.

READ MORE: Foreign buyers to blame for housing crisis: study

Marc Cohodes, who once ran a hedge fund called Copper River Management, says he believes it’s illegal activity such as money laundering – and not local demand – that’s driving house prices in the red-hot market of Vancouver higher, given that price growth has outpaced wages.

“It’s just not real and it’s not sustainable and it won’t last,” he says. “Unless people do something and do something quickly, it’s going to blow the place up.”

The federal NDP consumer affairs critic says it’s troubling that Ottawa has been ignoring its responsibility to ensure that companies are complying with anti-money laundering laws.

“The government should not be taking a lax approach to these practices,” Brian Masse said in an email.

“Instead it needs to ensure that real estate markets aren’t being used for money laundering – and that money laundering isn’t helping to drive rising real estate costs for Canadians.”

The Real Estate Council of Ontario said it will remind its members of their legal obligations as a result of report.

Nov 16

Marner and Tkachuk power London Knights to Memorial Cup final berth

RED DEER, Alta. – It’s been 54 days since the London Knights last suffered a loss. They will attempt to run their win streak to 17 games when they play in the Memorial Cup final.

Matthew Tkachuk scored twice and Mitch Marner had four assists as London downed the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 5-2 on Tuesday to earn their spot in the tournament’s championship game.

The Knights last dropped a decision in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs on April 1 and have gone undefeated through round-robin play at the Memorial Cup.

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“We”re one win away from capping off one of the best seasons in junior hockey history,” said Tkachuk.

“Feels good, kids really worked hard….deserved to win,” said London coach Dale Hunter.

JJ Piccinich, Christian Dvorak and Max Jones also scored for the Knights (3-0).

Marner’s four assists gives him a tournament-best 13 points in three games and leaves him three points off the Memorial Cup record set in 1982 by Jeff Larmer and matched in 1986 by Guy Rouleau.

Timo Meier scored twice for the Huskies (1-2), who won’t know their tournament fate until after the host Red Deer Rebels (1-1) play the WHL champion Brandon Wheat Kings (0-2) in the final preliminary-round game on Wednesday.

Tyler Parsons made 30 saves for the win. Chase Marchand stopped 20-of-24 shots in a losing cause.

London went 3 for 7 on the power play while Rouyn-Noranda scored twice on 10 chances with the man advantage. The Knights have nine power-play goals at the tournament. The other three teams have combined for just eight.

Antoine Waked gifted the OHL champions a scoring opportunity just nine seconds into the game when he took a roughing minor while trying to get under the skin of a Knights skater after the whistle.

Jeremy Lauzon took another penalty minutes later and this time London made the QMJHL champions pay. Piccinich scored at 13:54, taking a feed out front of the net from Dvorak to make it 1-0.

Tkachuk doubled London’s lead with another power-play goal with 2:17 left in the first. Tkachuk, the son of former NHLer Keith Tkachuk, was standing at the top of the crease and deflected an Olli Juolevi shot past Marchand.

“(He) definitely has some (Keith in him)…that’s why he’s a great player,” said Hunter.

Zachary Lauzon had to be helped off after being run into the end boards by Chandler Yakimowicz less than four minutes into the second period. Yakimowicz was handed a major and a game misconduct for checking from behind.

Gabriel Fontaine had the best scoring chance for Rouyn-Noranda on the power play, but Parsons got his right pad down to keep it 2-0 London.

Meier finally put the Huskies on the board at the midway point of the period while on the power play after snapping the puck through traffic over Parsons’ glove hand.

Marner was patient as he set up London’s third goal at 17:28, while shorthanded. Marner got Marchand to commit before sliding the puck cross crease to Jones, who had a wide-open net for the finish.

Tkachuk landed awkwardly late in the second and hobbled to the bench with what appeared to be a leg issue, but was back on his regular line to start the third period.

“(I) can’t comment on that,” Tkachuk said when asked if he was playing hurt.

Dvorak made it 4-1 with London’s third power-play goal of the evening at 6:26 of the third, chipping in a rebound from the side of the net after Tkachuk put the puck on goal from between the circles.

“A lot of them weren’t very good penalties but it was both ways,” said Parsons. “Our penalty kill was great tonight, everyone blocking shots, getting the puck out.”

Meier made it a 4-2 score with his second goal of the game at 7:59 while on the power play. The goal needed a video review before it was confirmed.

Tkachuk added another into an empty net for London in the final minute.

Hunter plans to give his team the day off on Wednesday, with the championship game set for Sunday. The semifinal is Friday while, if needed, a tiebreaker game will be played Thursday. The outcome of the Red Deer-Brandon game will determine both.

Nov 16

Provincial medical regulators set detailed guidelines for doctor-assisted dying

OTTAWA – Medical regulators in every province have issued detailed guidelines doctors must follow to help suffering patients end their lives once Canada’s ban on medically assisted dying is formally lifted next month.

And most of those guidelines impose safeguards similar to – or even more stringent than – those included in the federal government’s proposed new law on assisted death.

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The existence of guidelines in every province undercuts federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s contention that there’ll be a dangerous legal void if the government’s controversial new law on assisted dying isn’t enacted by June 6.

READ MORE: Will Canadian doctors grant assisted death without a new law?

That’s the date on which the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling last year, striking down the ban on medically assisted dying, goes into effect. The court suspended the ruling for 16 months to give the federal government time to enact a new law that allows assisted dying for clearly consenting adults with “grievous and irremediable” medical conditions who are enduring suffering that is intolerable to them.

Wilson-Raybould and Health Minister Jane Philpott have issued seemingly contradictory warnings about the dire consequences that will unfold if the proposed legislation isn’t in force by June 6 – a feat that seems increasingly unlikely.

VIDEO: Expect medically assisted dying available to all Canadians if bill becomes law: Philpott

They maintain assisted death will be readily available without any safeguards to protect the vulnerable. At the same time, they contend many doctors will refuse to provide assistance in dying because of uncertainty about who is eligible.

Their arguments are “false,” says Josh Paterson, executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, a plaintiff in the case that led to the Supreme Court striking down the ban on assisted dying.

“Nobody should be concerned we’re going to be in a Wild West situation after June 6. Furthest thing from the truth,” Paterson said in an interview.

“Nobody is going to be left wondering what they’re going to do on June 6. Everything in terms of the medical profession is ready to go … We’re not jumping into a void here, we’re not on the edge of a cliff.”

Like the proposed federal law, most of the various guidelines produced by provincial colleges of physicians and surgeons require that at least two doctors must agree that a patient meets the eligibility criteria for an assisted death, that a patient must submit a written request signed by witnesses, that there be a waiting period between the request and the provision of an assisted death, that a patient must be competent to give free, informed consent throughout the process, up to the time of dying.

READ MORE: Palliative care needed along with assisted death: experts

Some impose more stringent safeguards, for instance putting the age of consent at 19 rather than the federally proposed 18, and requiring a psychiatric assessment in cases where depression or mental illness might impair a patient’s ability to give consent.

The one big difference, said Paterson, is that the provincial guidelines rely on the relatively permissive eligibility criteria spelled out by the Supreme Court whereas the federal government is proposing more restrictive conditions.

The legislation would allow assisted death only for consenting adults who are in “an advanced stage of irreversible decline” from a serious and incurable disease, illness or disability and for whom a natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”

The Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada has expressed concern that “reasonably foreseeable” death is “legal language that is far too vague” to enable doctors to confidently determine who is eligible for a medically assisted death.

READ MORE: Doctors worry assisted death will become legal without a law

“What does that mean exactly?… For all of us, death is reasonably foreseeable,” Dr. Trevor Theman, registrar of the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons and past president of FMRAC, said in an interview.

While they struggle to interpret aspects of the Supreme Court’s ruling as well, Theman said the court’s eligibility criteria is more manageable for regulators.

Yet the federal government has all but ignored the wishes of medical regulators and the guidelines they’ve produced, citing instead approval of its proposed law by the Canadian Medical Association, which lobbies on behalf of doctors but does not regulate, license or discipline them.

“I’m not sure that the federal government generally … has a good understanding about the role of medical regulators and our powers and our authority and our ability to regulate our professions,” said Theman.

“So it may be that they see a void (if the legislation isn’t enacted by June 6) because they’re not used to dealing with us and they’re less aware of what we’re capable of.”

READ MORE: Senate doesn’t expect to pass assisted dying bill before court deadline

The three territories do not have independent medical regulatory authorities. However, the Yukon government has issued guidelines for doctors similar to those produced in the provinces and the Northwest Territories government has promised to do the same by June 6.

Only Nunavut is waiting to see the final shape of the federal law. Even there, Paterson noted the eligibility criteria laid down by the Supreme Court will still apply, as in the rest of the country.

Notwithstanding Wilson-Raybould’s dire warnings, it seems well nigh impossible for the proposed legislation to be enacted by June 6. Even should the House of Commons pass the bill Monday, the first day back after a break week, that would leave less than a week for the bill to go through all stages of the legislative process in the Senate – a rush few senators appear inclined to accommodate.

Nov 16

Netanyahu shifts Israel further right, appoints ultranationalist defence minister

JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached a deal to expand his coalition government on Wednesday by bringing in the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party and appointing its leader Avigdor Lieberman as his new defence minister.

The development caps a tumultuous political week that began with Netanyahu negotiating with the moderate Labor Party against a backdrop of international pressure to relaunch peace efforts with the Palestinians, before choosing Lieberman’s hawkish party instead.

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READ MORE: US VP Joe Biden has ‘overwhelming frustration’ with Israeli government

Lieberman is one of Israel’s most polarizing politicians and has a reputation for making inflammatory statements. The Palestinian president’s adviser promptly denounced the appointment, saying Lieberman was a “fascist minister” who will promote settlements.

In a joint signing ceremony in Jerusalem, Netanyahu and Lieberman insisted they have put their past differences behind them and sought to soothe fears over their new alliance by making calming statements in both Hebrew and, with an eye toward the world, in English as well.

READ MORE: Soldier’s shooting of Palestinian sets off uproar in Israel

“I am committed to promoting the peace process. I am committed to make every effort to reach an agreement,” Netanyahu said, noting that developments in the region have created new opportunities for peace.

“I intend to seize those opportunities. A broader government, a more stable government will make it easier to do so,” he added.

With the deal, Netanyahu expands his coalition to 66 of parliament’s 120 members. He previously only had 61, the slimmest of majorities, which made it difficult to govern and legislate and opened him to potential extortion of any single lawmaker.

Netanyahu also made another feeble plea for Labor to join his government. But it will almost certainly be rejected by a party that is deeply distrustful of Netanyahu’s motives and currently engaged in bitter infighting over even negotiating with him in the first place.

READ MORE: Israeli PM says he has good relationship with Justin Trudeau

Lieberman will take over as defence chief in place for former military chief Moshe Yaalon, who resigned earlier this week following the political shakeup.

Yaalon, like Netanyahu, is a security hawk who was deeply skeptical of peace prospects with the Palestinians and led the military through a 50-day war against Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip in 2014. At times, he angered the U.S. by criticizing American peace initiatives in the region as naive or messianic. But he was one of the Cabinet’s more moderate voices and was fiercely protective of the military when it came under fire from ideologically-driven hardliners.

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His departure leaves the Cabinet dominated by religious and ultranationalist ministers who oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state and have close ties to the West Bank settler movement. Lieberman himself is a West Bank settler.

In a three-decade political career, Lieberman has at times been Netanyahu’s closest ally and at other times a fierce rival. While he is an experienced politician who has been foreign minister and held other top jobs, his security experience is limited.

Over the years, Lieberman has made headlines for a series of incendiary comments. At one point, he called for bombing Egypt’s Aswan Dam and suggested toppling the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Just a few weeks ago, he threatened to kill a Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip. He has repeatedly voiced skepticism about pursuing peace with the Palestinians.

Those close to Lieberman, though, say he is far more pragmatic and level-headed in person than he appears in public and he seemed to be trying to convey that Wednesday.

“My commitment first of all is to responsible, reasonable policy,” Lieberman said in English.

“All of us have commitments to peace, to the final status agreement, to understanding between us and our neighbours.”

Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Gaza’s Islamic Hamas rulers, said all Israelis leaders are “criminals and killers” and that appointing Lieberman signalled “the increasing extremism and racism in the Israeli occupation.”

Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, encouraged all other Palestinian faction to reject any “illusion” of normalization with Israel.

Mohammed Shtayyeh, a political adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Lieberman’s addition to the government reflected an overall rightward tilt in Israeli society.

“I think that bringing a fascist minister who lives in a settlement, this is actually a manifestation of the settlement program,” he said.

“All what this Israeli government is interested in is to have more settlers, more settlements and totally shun away from the international effort to end occupation and conflict in the Palestinian territory,” Shtayyeh added.