APTN National NewsA couple dozen people also took up the Idle No More cause in Whitehorse.The modest crowd, including local politicians and chiefs, gathered in front of the offices of Yukon’s Conservative MP Ryan Leef.The rally focused on Bill C-45, the government’s omnibus legislation.Demonstrators said the legislation will make amendments to the Indian Act that changes how land is managed on First Nations. They say this will help the federal government take control of First Nation land.“This is just the beginning of the Conservative agenda. This is just the beginning of the changes that are coming and if it is frightening …it’s just going to go on and on and on unless we stand up as a grassroots movement and get it to stop,” said demonstrator Cherish Clarke.
APTN National News The mayor of a small Saskatchewan town issued an apology to the head of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Tuesday for his past prejudices against Indigenous peoples.Rob Hundeby was in Saskatoon on Tuesday afternoon to sign a memorandum of understanding with Cameron and the FSIN.“You can’t have hatred boil up,” Hundeby said. “You have to seek forgiveness, whether you’ve been wronged or you wronged somebody else.”They want to start a new education initiative in the community to help teach youth and elected officials about racial inclusion and move toward reconciliation.Hundeby said when he was growing up, the stereotype of Indigenous people was that they were lazy and didn’t want jobs.Hundeby said the birth of his children and re-examining his Christian faith led to a shift in thinking, and he now knows he was wrong.Chief Bobby Cameron praised the apology saying it took a lot of heart and courage.Cameron said Hundeby approached him after hearing his speech about reconciliation to the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association.Cameron encouraged the mayor to make his apology a public one.While Elbow town council unanimously approved the signing, Hundeby doesn’t know how his constituents will react.“I don’t know how this is going to be perceived,” he said. “It’s a leap of faith.”Elbow is 133 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon.email@example.com— with files from the Canadian Press
I can’t help but look at the city differently. I am left wondering who is being exploited and for whose gain.I ask McDougall what keeps him up at night.“The fear that one of our missing is going to wind up dead again,” he said stone-faced.This is a reoccurring nightmare for him. But he doesn’t stop protecting exploited children and youth, nor his crew.(Bridges in Winnipeg are embellished with red ribbons representing missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Photo: Martha Troian/APTN Investigates)My cameraman, Jared Delorme and I drive to the Alexander Docks on the banks of Winnipeg’s Red River. It’s blocked off now but we come across a worn wreath, adorned with red flowers. We believe it was part of the many memorials to Tina Fontaine.(This wreath sits at the Alexander Docks. Today, the country continues to heal from Tina Fontaine’s death. Photo: Martha Troian/APTN Investigates)The sky is blue with cotton-like clouds, and there are overgrown weeds with bright pink creeping thistles and torn branches everywhere.It makes me think of Indigenous women and girls; some are blossoming while others are not, and it’s not because they don’t want to.They just need some firstname.lastname@example.org@ozhibiiige Martha TroianAPTN InvestigatesHer death shook the nation.The country was told how we failed her, how we all could have done better.The photo struck a jarring blow to Canada’s image: the Winnipeg Police Service Underwater Search and Recovery Unit holding up a blue tarp as they recovered the body of Tina Fontaine from the Red River in Winnipeg on August 17, 2014.(Tina Fontaine’s body was pulled out of Winnipeg’s Red River on August 17, 2014. Photo: APTN News)Sgt. John O’Donovan, a homicide investigator with the Winnipeg Police Service said at the time, Fontaine had been exploited and taken advantage of.She weighed a tiny 33 kilograms (72 pounds) when she was reported missing on August 9. Just one week later, her body was found.A 15-year-old child who obviously didn’t put herself in the river.(Tina Fontaine’s death shocked the country. She was from Sagkeeng First Nation north of Winnipeg, Man.)Fontaine’s death was the impetus for finally addressing the tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. A national inquiry was launched after much previous resistance.(Hundreds of people gathered at the site where Tina Fontaine was found in 2014. Photo: APTN News)Now, four years after her death, the sexual exploitation of Indigenous women and girls has only increased, according to police officials and advocates.For After Tina Fontaine: Exploitation in a Prairie City, APTN Investigates and APTN News went on an exclusive ride-along with the Winnipeg Police Service’s Counter Exploitation and Missing Persons Unit to get a deeper understanding of exploitation in Winnipeg.Hot SpotsIt was a Friday afternoon in mid-June, with temperatures reaching as high as plus 30 degrees Celsius, as we jumped into an unmarked police car with our cameras, phones, and notepads.The Red River Exhibition had just begun, a bustling fair held every year on the outskirts of the city. The “Ex” as it is locally known, is historically a busy time for the counter-exploitation unit.(Winnipeg’s North End is just one place known for exploitation and missing youth. Photo: Martha Troian/APTN Investigates)It is also the day that “Project Return” — a multi-prong unit made up of police detectives and agencies — are working together to protect exploited and missing children and youth. Since 2011, the joint task force has operated street sweeps at various times of the year.Sergeant Rick McDougall, the unit’s leader, looks just like a suburban dad comfortably driving a car to a kid’s soccer game. But today he is driving APTN Investigates producer Holly Moore and myself around to showcase the grim realities of what exploitation can look like in this sometimes dangerous Prairie city.(Sgt. McDougall with the WPS’ Counter Exploitation and Missing Persons Unit takes APTN Investigates for a ride-along on June 15, 2018. Photo: Martha Troian/APTN Investigates)McDougall is part of a team of 12 detectives, three detective sergeants and four missing persons coordinators from the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) that make up Project Return. Some of the detectives formerly worked for Project Devote; a joint task force between the WPS and RCMP that investigates unsolved homicides and disappearances of exploited people.(Under a blue sky, Indigenous women and girls are seen hanging around near these tracks. Photo: Martha Troian/APTN Investigates)As soon as we enter the car, we jump into a conversation and hit the streets. There is no time to waste. We first drive to the city’s North End, a known hot spot for exploitation and missing youth.There we see several young Indigenous girls working the streets. We meet up with two detectives from McDougall’s unit who are doing wellness checks.One young girl sits next to railway tracks alone, with several of her items scattered next to her.(Some Indigenous women and girls are found high or coming down from drugs, making them more vulnerable. Photo: Martha Troian/APTN Investigates)“She’s one of our high risk [and] she openly admits that its meth, [that is] her addiction,” said McDougall. “She’s selling herself to pay for it.”Another young Indigenous girl is nearby. From a distance, we watch McDougall’s crew check in on her, offer her a cigarette and a conversation. They want to make sure no one is forcing her to be out there.These visits are also intended as an opportunity to jot down her description, last known location and the time and date of the interaction, in case she goes missing.(In between parking lots, homes and small buildings, young Indigenous women and girls are found standing around in the north end. Photo: Josh Grummett/APTN Investigates)Shortly after, I make an attempt to talk with her. She looks familiar and I remember her face was previously plastered on a WPS’s missing persons report poster. Her brown eyes look bottomless and sad, an image I still can’t get out of my head. I can tell she’s seen a lot in her short life and I wish I could bring her home.Next, we visit a ‘trap house.’The Trap HouseIt is rush hour and the unit has been tipped off by someone from the Bear Clan Patrol; a grassroots patrol group, that a trap house is operating in the North End.A trap house is usually a place where people go to do drugs. They attract users, buyers and sellers. But it can also be a place to pass out, too, explains McDougall. Most traps operate out of houses but some can be found in apartment buildings.(James Favel, executive director of the Bear Clan Patrol Inc., said Tina Fontaine’s death was the last straw for him. He now dedicates his life to protecting the vulnerable. Photo: Martha Troian/APTN Investigates)The Bear Clan Patrol is just one of the agencies working in partnership with Project Return. Other agencies include; StreetReach, Winnipeg Outreach Network, Resources Assistance for Youth — all known for working to protect exploited youth and vulnerable populations.We meet up with two detectives in the North End dressed in full protective gear, driving in an unmarked car. They chatter about what they heard and strategize a plan of action.“Even if we just wave the flag and let them know we’re just around,” said McDougall. “Sometimes you just bang on the door and somebody will walk right out.”(McDougall shows us a ladder placed underneath the window of a trap house. Photo: Martha Troian/APTN Investigates)The unit will visit a trap house because it’s a place where missing children and youth may go. Children as young as eight or nine years old have been seen in trap houses, usually because an older sibling is there.“A lot of times we will get kids that will say, ‘Can I get a ride home?’” said McDougall.He tells us trap houses are places where the grooming process for exploitation can begin. For instance, youth could be given drugs or alcohol inside and later told they have a debt to pay.“We see that happen a lot, too,” the detective added.Grooming can be done by anyone: a family member, a friend, a stranger, or even an intimate partner. It can happen through manipulation, buying clothes, gifts and drugs or alcohol.“We get information about them, and then as soon as we find out about them another one will pop up somewhere else,” said McDougall, adding it is unknown how many trap houses are operating in the city.This particular trap house is less than 200 meters away from an elementary school.(McDougall said his unit does not visit a trap house to break up a party, it is only to recover any missing children and youth. Photo: Martha Troian/APTN Investigates)Two detectives enter the house and minutes later a young male quickly comes out of the house. McDougall stops him to be questioned and then shortly joins the detectives inside the house.(APTN Investigates Martha Troian visits a trap house in Winnipeg, Man. Photo: Holly Moore/APTN Investigates)Once back outside, the detectives explain there were several young males and females either crashed out on couches or watching TV in the dark inside the house.McDougall tells us that detectives are not there to arrest anyone on drugs, instead they just want to make sure everyone is there on their own free will and not reported missing.No one inside was on a missing persons list. I can tell this disappoints McDougall.What happens if a child or youth is missing under the age of 18?“The Child and Family Services Act kicks in, we consider a child is in need of protection and we can apprehend them and bring them back to their guardian,” said McDougall.The ExploitedWe drive to the West End of the city and watch from the car as two women sit on a bus bench. They are being circled by cars, trucks in particular. There is definitely some action taking place here today.My producer, Holly Moore and I approach them, offering cigarettes and water.They seem reluctant to talk to us but eventually allow us to ask some questions.(Like the North End, the West End of the city is also a known hot spot for exploitation and missing youth. Photo: Martha Troian/APTN Investigates)One Indigenous woman who appears to be in her 40s is a mother to several children. She tells me she’s in the sex trade because she got high a few weeks ago and needs another hit. Her friend, who is in her early 20s, is Métis and has a long history of sexual abuse and is ostracised by her own family. She is also struggling with addictions. Both deny being forced onto the street by another person.This seems to be a popular spot. A few weeks after, while on a separate trip with just an APTN News cameraman, I spoke to an Indigenous girl at the same corner. She had similar traits to Tina; she was young, pretty and vulnerable.She giggled a lot when I asked her questions and denied being exploited or working the streets for anyone. However, I couldn’t help but notice her nervousness or the large black SUV that had sped up and idled next to us as I was talking with her. The driver was much older than her and well-dressed.While it is not clear if these women were being exploited, Sgt. McDougall and his team are clear on the definition. Exploitation is compelling a person by force, intimidation or control to engage in sexual conduct in exchange for money, drugs and shelter. McDougall emphasizes that it’s all about the exchange.(What may look like any other neighbourhood is actually home to Indigenous women and girls selling themselves, some of them possibly being exploited. Photo: Martha Troian/APTN Investigates)He uses the term “high risk victim,” to describe a young person who has been identified at an elevated risk of exploitation and victimization. The average age for a female to be introduced to sexual exploitation is just 13-years-old in Canada.Indigenous men and boys and two-spirited people can also be exploited.Although there is a distinction between exploitation and sex trade work, the former sex trade workers, officials and advocates that I spoke to, say the two are interconnected.Carrie and Brandi, two survivors of sexual exploitation shared their story with APTN Investigates and APTN News. They only want to be identified by their first names.“I was exploited from seven years up by my mother and my aunties,” said Brandi.“Making us crawl on floors to steal their [men’s] jeans so we can empty their pockets and put the jeans back in the room while they were doing those sexual favours.”(An old makeup brush discarded on a strip where sex trade workers hang out. Photo: Martha Troian/APTN Investigates)Growing up and seeing exploitation, Brandi said it became her lens and she learned from a young age that you can make money from your body.(When she was just 14, Brandi first walked Winnipeg’s King Street. Photo: Josh Grummett/APTN Investigates)Brandi said the first time she stood on a corner was on Winnipeg’s King Street at the age of 14.“I did that a couple of times as a child… then I went into escorting.”Even though Brandi made a lot of money from it, there was a price to pay.(Among the debris found in the North End, was a discarded rubber band used for drug injection. Photo: Martha Troian/APTN Investigates)“Along with the exploitation comes the severe drug addiction,” said Brandi. “The pimps would give us treats, being [the] good guys, not realizing that their intent was to get us hooked and give them all our money.”Pimps, Johns, perpetrators or predators in After Tina Fontaine: Exploitation in a Prairie City are being used to describe people who exploit others or who pay for sex.(When she was a child, Carrie said there was rarely a night when men wouldn’t come to her house from Main Street bars. Photo: Jared Delorme/APTN Investigates)Carrie said she remembers her mother bringing men home from bars on Winnipeg’s notorious Main Street when she was just a young girl.“I remember being violated as a really young child,” said Carrie, who said it happened when she was just six-years-old.In her early teens, she started to hang out with girls who were already entrenched on the streets.(After being exploited as a child, Carrie later hung around near the corner of King and Flora Streets in Winnipeg. Photo: Josh Grummett/APTN Investigates)“My first time being exploited was on King and Flora, they use to call it the ‘kiddie track.’” She started at age 12.Then the drugs came.Carrie remembers using crack cocaine at age 14, and continued to stand on the corners for more drugs.“I use to always say, the only talent I had was f*cking up or s*cking d*ck.”(Discarded condom wrappers are found in an area known for the sex trade. Photo: Martha Troian/APTN Investigates)Like McDougall, Carrie and Brandi said they can see exploitation is on the rise in the city. Today Carrie works with exploited youth.Carrie believes many of the children and youth in care are vulnerable and at risk for exploitation. Given the high rate of Indigenous children and youth in the child welfare system, Carrie would like to see more supports for them.Just 12 hours before Tina Fontaine was reported missing, she was in contact with police, security officers, child welfare officials and hospital staff.Sgt. McDougall is aware of the high number of Indigenous children and youth in the child welfare system.“One of the recurring themes that we get when we find them is they don’t like the placement that they’re in, it’s not home,” said McDougall.The PerpetratorsCarrie and Brandi, two survivors of sexual exploitation said perpetrators know when it is an opportune time to prey on vulnerable Indigenous women and girls.“They catch you at a time when you’re hurting, homeless and things like this so what’s a package of cigarettes for their entertainment?” said Carrie.They said most of the perpetrators preying or picking up Indigenous women and girls are Caucasian men.She said she could pick them out right away while she was working on the street.“You know who they are right away and they’re driving around and around.”(Several trucks and SUVs circled the women the day we went out for a ride-along with the WPS. Photo: Josh Grummett/APTN Investigates)Carrie said her customers drove pick up trucks, rental cars and even work vehicles.Many of the men were also well-established in their careers and included prominent citizens or married men, the pair said.Brandi remembers going to a man’s home who worked in the medical profession when his wife was out of the house.(Both Brandi and Carrie said most of their clients were Caucasian and married men. Photo: Josh Grummett/APTN Investigates)Although no occupational analysis has been done before on Johns by the Winnipeg Police Service, Sgt. McDougall said the majority of men who buy sex in Winnipeg are between the ages of 40-60 years old.And, they have money.McDougall said in his experience, Johns are upfront with who they are, what they want and what they’re willing to give in exchange.“Whether it’s money, drugs, alcohol [or] sometimes it’s a place to stay,” said McDougall.Then there are the pedophiles, said Carrie and Brandi.“I remember first going on ride-alongs,” said Carrie about joining experienced sex trade workers in a vehicle. “At that time the Johns would be asking ‘Can I touch you for extra money?’”Carrie was 12-years-old at the time.Brandi recalls a girlfriend who looked younger than she was while working in the sex trade.(Brandi and Carrie said some men asked them to get girls as young as 12 years-old for sex. Photo: Jared Delorme/APTN Investigates)“A lot of her clients would mention they had just came from watching children from the schoolyards.”Both Brandi and Carrie said there were also times when they were asked to get a younger girl for men, and in return they would be paid ‘a finder’s fee’.Trap houses, massage parlours, hotels, or a John’s home — are all places where these exchanges occur.Sex for sale is also arranged online. Backpage – the once go-to website for exploitation and sexual services – was shut down in early April 2018 by U.S law enforcement agencies.But hydra-like, another site just popped up in its place. Now, the demand for female escorts is satisfied by LeoList, a similar service and dozens of ads for female escorts including those who look quite young, can be found in its ‘Personals’ section.(A site similar to Backpage, known for exploitation and sexual services before it was shut down. Photo: LeoList/online)Family members have also been known to exploit their very own children, as in the case of Brandi.Candace, an Inuk woman told APTN Investigates that she was exploited by her own mother from the time she was a toddler up to the age of 13-years-old. We are protecting her identity and we will bring you her story tomorrow.Sgt. McDougall said that regardless of who is doing the pimping of a person under 18, harbouring charges and “material benefit” charges can be applied. They could also be subject to procurement charges. Identity document charges can be applied if a victim’s I.D. is being withheld or destroyed.Project Return was a good night for the team — they found a number of missing youth and made contacts with those in the sex trade.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke after receiving the MMIWG National Inquiry’s final report Monday in Gatineau but did not acknowledge the Inquiry’s finding of genocide. Photo: Justin Brake/APTN.Justin BrakeAPTN NewsDespite cries from the audience in the middle of his speech, Justin Trudeau did not utter the word genocide after being handed a copy of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ final report.On Monday in Gatineau, Que. the inquiry made its case for Canada’s treatment of Indigenous peoples — and the disproportionate violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA peoples — as genocide.“This is genocide,” inquiry Chief Commissioner Marion Buller said during the ceremony, adding an “absolute paradigm shift is required to dismantle colonialism” in Canada.In its final report, Reclaiming Power and Place, the inquiry “draws a conclusion on the responsibility of Canada as a state for genocide under international law,” the 1,200-page document reads, explaining that “the definition of genocide in international law, as it stands, encompasses the past and current actions and omissions of Canada towards Indigenous Peoples.“Targeting victims in a gender-oriented manner destroys the very foundations of the group as a social unit and leaves long-lasting scars within a group’s social fabric. It is inherent to its destruction,” the report continues.“Unlike the traditional paradigms of genocide, such as the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and the Rwandan Genocide… colonial destruction of Indigenous peoples has taken place insidiously and over centuries.”The report was leaked to media on Friday, and the case for “colonial genocide” made international headlines.But in his short speech to survivors, family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA peoples, and Indigenous leaders, Trudeau only went as far as to call the report’s findings “challenging and uncomfortable.”As he uttered those words, one woman in the packed Museum of History’s Grand Hall yelled “genocide!” in an effort to prompt Trudeau to say the word.“This is an uncomfortable day for Canada. It is an essential day,” Trudeau continued in his speech. “We need to recognize the truths presented here, the truths you carry, the future you have reached out your hands to build alongside all Canadians.”Trudeau promised to “conduct a thorough review” of the report, “and we will conduct and implement a national action plan to address violence against Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ and 2-spirit people,” he added.“We will work with Indigenous partners to determine next steps.”Sarah Ponniuk, an Inuk elder from Nunatsiavut, said she was disappointed Trudeau didn’t acknowledge genocide against Indigenous peoples.Nunatsiavut Elder Sarah Ponniuk says it’s important that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledge the epidemic of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA peoples as genocide. Justin Brake/APTN.“To me personally it was important he say that,” said Ponniuk, who flew to Ottawa from Happy Valley-Goose Bay for the event. “It would have been very powerful for him to acknowledge it.”Asked if he thinks Trudeau should say the word genocide, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said, “I think everybody in Canada should accept the truth.”“Education awareness leads to understanding, leads to action,” Bellegarde said. “So we’ve got to keep pushing because really, that’s what it was.”Indigenous leaders were swift to respond to the report’s findings and its 231 “Calls for Justice”.“First Nations women’s voices must be centred in the decolonization of the nation to nation relationship and lead the national action plan to address the crisis,” Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said in a statement.“AMC will work side by side with the families and First Nations women leaders to work on a more just relationship with the federal, provincial and municipal governments moving forward.”Inquiry Commissioner Qajaq Robinson said that non-Indigenous people in Canada will have to confront the evidence now before them.“As a non-Indigenous person I have struggled to come to terms with my role in Canada’s genocide,” she said. “I have sat with feelings that I’m sure many of you non-Indigenous people in the room or watching may be feeling and sitting with right now: Shame. Guilt. Denial. That urge to say, ‘No, that’s not what this is. This is not who I am. I didn’t play a part in this. My ancestors didn’t play a part in this. We’re good people. No.’“But it’s the truth. It’s our truth. It’s my truth, it’s your truth,” Robinson continued.“It might challenge who we think we are, who we hope to be, but who we will be and who are are is ultimately defined by how we respond now that we know.”B.C. Premier John Horgan said in a statement Monday that the report “brings to the forefront the magnitude of the gendered impacts of colonial violence, one so severe the inquiry has called it a ‘Canadian genocide.’Horgan said his government “will be reviewing the report and recommendations in detail and considering them along with historic recommendations from survivors, families and communities, and the work currently underway in B.C.,” where the province has put into action a plan to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.The report is clear: thousands of Indigenous women, girls & 2SLGBTQQIA ppl were murdered or went missing in a Canadian genocide. We cannot deny this horrific suffering.Too many Indigenous women & girls suffered unconscionable violence & for too many, this continues. #MMIWG 2/3— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) June 3, 2019During the ceremonies Conservative leader Andrew Scheer tweeted about immigration and firearms legislation.Monday afternoon he issued a statement saying the Conservative “support the process of reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples,” and that under his leadership “a Conservative government will develop and implement a National Action Plan, in partnership with Indigenous peoples, to advance reconciliation, address violence and achieve measurable improvements in the day-to-day lives of Indigenous women and girls.”He did not address the allegation of genocide.NDP leader Jagmeet Singh had originally planned an environment and jobs news conference Monday in Ottawa but cancelled it and attended the MMIWG ceremony instead.“The report is clear: thousands of Indigenous women, girls & 2SLGBTQQIA ppl were murdered or went missing in a Canadian genocide,” Singh tweeted Monday.“We cannot deny this horrific suffering.”Speaking to reporters after the event Monday, federal Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti the government will “leave the discussion of the actual use of the term genocide to academics and experts.Federal Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti said Canada will leave the discussion of genocide “to academics and experts.” Justin Brake/APTN.“What we have said today is we have a responsibility to the people, the families of survivors and the families of the women and girls who have gone missing. We have a responsibility to fixing this problem,” he said.National Inquiry Chief Commissioner told reporters after the ceremony, “We don’t need to hear the word genocide come out of the prime minister’s mouth, because the families, the survivors, have told us their truths.”Buller said she’s “glad people are having a conversation about genocide.”Marlene Thomas of Lennox Island First Nation, who is vice president of the Aboriginal Women’s Association of PEI, told APTN after Monday’s ceremony it was “disappointing” Trudeau did not directly address the allegation of genocide in his speech.“Being the prime minister, he needs to listen to the people,” she said, adding an acknowledgement “has got to come from the Canadian government.”email@example.com@justinbrakenews
WASHINGTON – The House on Thursday passed a $4.1 trillion budget plan that promises deep cuts to social programs while paving the way for Republicans to rewrite the tax code later this year.The 2018 House GOP budget reprises a controversial plan to turn Medicare into a voucher-like program for future retirees as well as the party’s efforts to repeal the “Obamacare” health law. Republicans controlling Congress have no plans to actually implement those cuts while they pursue their tax overhaul.That’s especially so in the Senate, where the Budget Committee on Thursday gave party-line approval to a companion plan.Instead, the nonbinding budget’s chief purpose is to set the stage for a tax overhaul plan that is the party’s top political priority as well as a longtime policy dream of key leaders like Speaker Paul Ryan.The White House issued a statement saying the House plan is a key step toward “Making America Great Again.”The House measure, passed by a near party-line vote of 219-206, calls for more than $5 trillion in spending cuts over the coming decade, promising to slash Medicaid by about $1 trillion over the next 10 years, cutting other health care costs, and forcing huge cuts to domestic programs funded in future years by Congress.“It’s a budget that will help grow our economy, and it’s a budget that will help rein in our debt,” said Ryan, R-Wis. “It reforms Medicaid. It strengthens Medicare.”But Republicans are not actually planning to impose any of those cuts with follow-up legislation that would be required under Washington’s Byzantine budget rules. Instead, those GOP proposals for spending cuts are limited to nonbinding promises, and even a token 10-year, $200 billion spending cut package demanded by tea party House Republicans appears likely to be scrapped in upcoming talks with the Senate.Instead, the motivating force behind the budget measures is the Republicans’ party-defining drive to cut corporate and individual tax rates and rid the tax code of loopholes. They promise this tax “reform” measure will put the economy in overdrive, driving economic growth to the 3 per cent range, and adding a surge of new tax revenues.“In order to pay for these huge tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, this Republican budget makes savage cuts to the life and death programs that mean so much to ordinary Americans,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.Passing the measure in the House and Senate would provide key procedural help for the tax measure because it sets the stage for follow-on legislation that can’t be filibustered by Senate Democrats. Republicans used the same so-called reconciliation procedure in their failed attempt to kill “Obamacare,” including its tax surcharges on wealthy people.“Through reconciliation, our budget specifically paves the way for pro-growth tax reform that will reduce taxes for middle-class Americans and free up American businesses to grow and hire,” said Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., who chairs the House Budget Committee.Eighteen Republicans opposed the measure, including several from high-tax states like New York and New Jersey who are concerned that the upcoming tax effort would repeal the deductions for state and local taxes.Democrats blasted the sweeping spending cuts proposed by Republicans — more than $5 trillion over 10 years in the House plan and somewhat less in the Senate GOP measure — as an assault on middle-class families and the poor.“Is it a statement of our values to take a half-trillion dollars out of Medicare to give a tax cut to the wealthiest people in our country?” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.The Senate Budget Committee’s companion plan approved Thursday differs in key details — but would still result in a deficit of $424 billion in 2027, according to the Congressional Budget Office.The House measure assumes the upcoming tax bill won’t add to the deficit; the Senate version, however, would permit the measure to add $1.5 trillion to the $20 trillion-plus national debt over the coming 10 years. The final version is likely to stick closely to the Senate measure in key respects. A final House-Senate agreement won’t come until November, Black said, but she anticipated conflict over the Senate plans.“That is certainly going to be a very lively discussion,” Black said of House-Senate talks. “Our members are concerned about (budget) balance and they’re also concerned about the debt and deficits.”The real-world trajectory of Washington, however, is for higher deficits as Republicans focus on tax cuts, a huge hike in the defence budget, and a growing disaster aid tally that is about to hit $45 billion.“The train’s left the station, and if you’re a budget hawk, you were left at the station,” said Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C.___This story has been corrected to change the amount in the first paragraph to $4.1 trillion, not billion.
TORONTO – Playtex-branded plastic plates and bowls for children are being recalled after the distributor received four reports of choking in Canada.No serious injury has been reported but Health Canada and Edgewell Personal Care Canada say consumers should stop using the products and return them for a refund.They say the choking risk comes from a clear plastic coating that can peel or bubble from the surface of the plates or bowls.The products feature brightly coloured designs and are sold separately or in sets with plastic cups and cutlery.Further information is available through Health Canada at http://bit.ly/2yIDZeHThe products had been on the market in Canada since January 2010, with about 1.9 million units sold here and 3.6 million units distributed in the United States.No incidents or injuries in the United States have been reported
PARIS – French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud, the maker of Mirage fighter jets and oil giant Total SA are among high-profile French names defending themselves after leaked documents showed they used tax havens.As part of the “Paradise Papers” global investigative reporting, French media reported Wednesday that Annaud used accounts in the Cayman Islands and Hong Kong. Annaud’s directing credits include “The Name of the Rose” and “Seven Years in Tibet.”Annaud’s lawyer, Eric Delloye, told Radio France that the filmmaker informed French tax authorities last month about his offshore holdings as a result of the investigation.Dassault Aviation, maker of Mirage and Rafale fighter jets, acknowledged financial activities in the Isle of Man but insisted that it’s not evading taxes. Energy company Total SA denied hiding money from tax authorities.
OTTAWA – The Liberal government has done its part with measures to bolster diversity on corporate boards at publicly traded companies, and now is the time for business leaders to pick up the torch, says Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains.“This is really a call to action for corporate Canada to step up,” Bains said in an interview Tuesday after the government’s changes to the Canadian Business Corporations Act received royal assent from Governor General Julie Payette.That means publicly traded companies are now required, among other things, to disclose the number of women and others from equity-seeking groups, such as visible minorities, on their boards and in senior management.They will also now have to share their policies on diversity — or explain themselves to their shareholders.The act affects nearly 270,000 companies, but Tuesday’s amendments would only affect those that also issue shares and report to a securities commission, including about 600 companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange.The Conservatives, who began consultations on the possibility of bringing in such legislation when they were in power, supported it.Bains said he wants Canada to lead the world on the issue.“We want Canada to be that jurisdiction globally for governance, for board diversity, that go-to place, where Canada plays a leadership role in not only talking a big game on diversity, but actually promoting in the most senior levels in corporate Canada,” he said.Now that it is the law of the land, Bains said the Liberals will be turning to the corporate world to encourage them to carry through — and to convince them that having more diversity at the top of a company can also translate into a healthier bottom line.There is still a long way to go, he added.“I’ve been in too many boardrooms where I’m the only minority. I’ve been in too many boardrooms where it’s all men, and that has to change.”Bains said the Liberals will be stepping up efforts to raise awareness of the changes — and to change stubborn minds.“I was asked recently if there is a strong enough pipeline of people of diverse backgrounds, particularly women, to sit in board positions,” he said. “And I was very clear about what I felt about that comment, because I felt that the talent is there.“The excuses of talent no longer apply. We have the people with the right set of experiences, people that can make a meaningful contribution, people that can play a leadership role. We have to change the culture and make sure they are provided and afforded the opportunity to do so.”— Follow @smithjoanna on Twitter
OTTAWA – Canada’s pace of economic growth slowed in the first quarter to its lowest rate in nearly two years, but the weaker-than-expected data did little to tamp down economists’ predictions of an interest rate hike later this year.Statistics Canada said Thursday the economy grew at an annualized pace of 1.3 per cent for the first three months of the year, slower than the annual pace of 1.7 per cent in the final three months of 2017. Economists had expected growth to come in at an annualized rate of 1.8 per cent for the first quarter of 2018, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.The slow start to the year was largely attributed to a pull back in the real estate market amid new mortgage stress test rules and a cooling housing market. The 1.9 per cent drop in housing investment was the largest decline since the first quarter of 2009.However, economists pointed to the strong growth in March to end the quarter and suggested the report did little to change expectations for an interest rate hike by the Bank of Canada as early as July.“While the headline quarterly GDP result was a bit disappointing, even to those of us who were on the low side of consensus, the recent robust monthly readings and the strength in business investment provide a nice counterweight,” Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter wrote in a report.“The main point is that growth for the full year still looks on track to come in around two per cent, which is very much in line with what the Bank of Canada has been expecting.”Porter noted that the economy posted growth of 0.3 per cent in March, the final month of the quarter, helped by the mining and oil and gas sector and gains in both wholesale and retail trade.“The sturdy March result provides a nice hand-off for Q2,” he said.The growth rate of 1.3 per cent for the first quarter matched the Bank of Canada’s forecast in its April monetary policy report.The central bank elected to keep its key interest rate on hold Wednesday, but raised expectations that rate hikes are coming when it dropped a reference to remaining “cautious.”Economists interpreted the change as a signal that the next rate increase would be sooner rather than later.Their rate-hike expectations largely remained in tact even as Thursday’s report showed the rate of growth for real gross domestic product in the first quarter was the slowest since the economy contracted in the second quarter of 2016.Growth in that quarter was affected by forest fires that destroyed parts of Fort McMurray, Alta., and forced the shutdown of several oilsands operations in the region.The most recent GDP report showed household spending increased 0.3 per cent, the slowest pace since the first quarter of 2015, while household spending on services increased 0.5 per cent and spending on goods was unchanged.Growth in export volumes slowed to 0.4 per cent compared with one per cent in the fourth quarter of 2017. The gains were mainly contributed by crude oil and bitumen and the export of services. Imports rose 1.2 per cent in the quarter.Business investment in machinery and equipment rose 4.2 per cent, while intellectual property products rose 3.3 per cent.Beneath the weaker-than-expected first-quarter growth figures, the report included “some relatively encouraging details,” said TD Bank senior economist Brian DePratto.“Business investment continued to climb, partially offsetting the more modest pace of consumer spending. Income gains also remained solid,” DePratto wrote in a report.“Plus, March’s solid monthly performance indicates that momentum continued to build through the quarter, setting the Canadian economy up for an acceleration in output in Q2.”DePratto said the Canadian economy “clearly still has some gas left in the tank” and that he expected conditions will stay supportive of a Bank of Canada hike at its next meeting.Looking back at 2017, Statistics Canada revised its real GDP numbers upward for the second and third quarters.For the second quarter of 2017, the estimate for the annualized growth rate was increased to 4.6 per cent compared with a March estimate of 4.4 per cent, while the estimate for the third quarter was increased to 1.7 per cent from 1.5 per cent.
TORONTO – One of America’s most controversial clothing brands is making a comeback, but ditching some of its signature traits.American Apparel will return to the Canadian market with an online store on Nov 1., a year after its bankruptcy and closure.This time the brand will be Canadian-owned and for now, won’t have any physical stores in the country, said American Apparel’s brand marketing director Sabina Weber, who indicated the company was taking a careful approach to its relaunch as it measured how its customers have changed.“It is kind of like putting yourself back out in the dating world. You don’t know if someone will be interested or not,” she said. “We know Canada is a huge market for us. They have always been so supportive of the brand.”American Apparel was founded in 1989 with a “Made in America” ethos and a proclivity for using its clothing to champion immigration, LGBTQ rights and diversity — values that are sticking around. It was known for selling basics, including its popular unisex hoodies, bodysuits, tights and leggings, but caught criticism with its provocative advertising that often featured scantily clad women in suggestive poses.The comeback is being staged in the Me Too era, where companies across the globe have faced an onslaught of sexual misconduct allegations similar to those that dogged American Apparel founder Dov Charney for years.Montreal-born Charney was ousted from his president-CEO role in 2014 amid “an investigation into alleged misconduct” and a series of lawsuits alleging his misbehaviour. He has denied many of the allegations, but admitted to having sexual relations with some employees, though he said they were consensual. He has not rejoined the brand, American Apparel confirmed.Me Too and the conversations around misconduct and sexualized advertising that marred the company in the past are why American Apparel is being careful about its portrayal of women and unabashed in its support of diversity, Weber said.“There was a lot of concerted efforts to make sure that we looked at the history of the brand and acknowledged the mistakes of the past,” said Weber. “There was that moment in time where things went too far.”The brand still aims to be “sexy,” but gone are the ads that may have made women feel “vulnerable,” “uncomfortable” or “like the camera is looking down at that them,” she said.“The interesting thing about Me Too is that the evolved thought is that a woman is allowed to dress the way she wants to dress. It is really holding men accountable for their actions,” she said. “A woman being demure does not mean she is empowered. What is empowered is seeing yourself and being free to be yourself.”The re-emergence of American Apparel comes at the hands of Gildan Activewear Inc., a Montreal-based manufacturer that won an auction to buy American Apparel, after it entered bankruptcy protection.Gildan nabbed American Apparel’s intellectual property rights and some manufacturing equipment from its Los Angeles facilities — but not the leases for the manufacturing or distribution centres— for US$88 million, some US$22 million more than a stalking horse offer it made months earlier.American Apparel relaunched in the U.S. in August 2017, but stayed away from Gildan’s home turf until now.It also avoided opening brick-and-mortar locations by instead operating a test store in Los Angeles that it will use to study the brand’s traction and potentially pave the way for a return to physical retail, said Weber.Since American Apparel’s exit, the retail sector has changed with e-commerce growing and competitors like Frank and Oak expanding into women’s wear.To stay competitive, American Apparel will standardize and expand its sizing to include extra extra large pieces, lower its prices by up to 23 per cent and offer its previous, beloved hits, including disco pants, high-waisted jeans and bodysuits.Follow @Tara_Deschamps on Twitter.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s new government has detailed plans to build an oil refinery in the home state of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and to renovate six others as the oil-producing country attempts to lower its dependence on imported fuel.Energy Minister Rocio Nahle said Sunday that Mexico will import 80 per cent of its gasoline needs this year because existing refineries work on average at 38 per cent of capacity due to a lack of maintenance and investment. She says the national oil company Pemex should be able to meet 70 per cent of Mexico’s gasoline needs.Lopez Obrador has said his government will spend an additional 75 billion pesos ($3.65 billion) next year on Pemex, which has seen its crude extraction plummet to levels not seen in years.The Associated Press
METAIRIE, La. — Severe storms caused a New Orleans area Trader Joe’s store to lose power, prompting the chain to donate more than 10,000 pounds (4,500 kilograms) of perishable groceries to a food bank.News outlets report the Metairie store lost power for most of the day Thursday and contacted Second Harvest Food Bank about donating the food.Food bank spokesman Jay Vise says the donation included refrigerated and frozen items and will be distributed across 23 parishes. The food bank’s chief impact officer, Melanie McGuire, says it’s often hard to come by highly nutritious and perishable food donations.The Associated Press
Jammu: An Army soldier was killed when Pakistan violated the ceasefire by heavily shelling forward areas and posts along the Line of Control with mortar bombs in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district Thursday, officials said. Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire in Keri belt of Sunderbani sector this morning, they said. One soldier was was killed in Pakistani firing, they added. Pakistani troops have violated the ceasefire over 110 times along the LoC since January.
New Delhi: Stealing a march over the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress on Tuesday released its poll manifesto for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. Through its poll manifesto, the Congress has made an attempt to woo every section of society by promising ‘something’ for all.In its manifesto, the Congress has promised to give Rs 72,000 each to five crore poor families under the ‘Nyay’ scheme, create employment opportunities, including filling up 22 lakh government vacancies, better education & health, re-examination of Rafael deal, amendment in the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), changes in the Press Council of India Act and fixing a single moderate GST rate, passage of contentious Women Reservation Bill in its first sitting, etc. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss bank a/c detailsFor farmers, the Congress has promised to put them on the path from ‘Karz Maafi’ (loan waiver), to ‘Karz Mukti’ (freedom from loans) and bringing a separate budget for farmers. The 55-page document titled ‘Hum Nibhayenge’ (We will deliver) focused on addressing the issues of joblessness, farm distress, the safety of women and boosting the rural economy, with stress on building a narrative on ‘real issues’ faced by people. The manifesto was released by party president Rahul Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and senior leader P Chidambaram among others. Speaking on the occasion, the Congress president said that the party would allocate 6 per cent of GDP to education, strengthen government hospitals and give high-quality healthcare access to poor if voted to power. Also Read – Tourists to be allowed in J&K from ThursdayThe party also promised to remove the law on sedition from the statute if voted to power. The party promised to enact the Right to Healthcare Act and guarantee every citizen free diagnostics, out-patient care, free medicines and hospitalisation, through a network of public hospitals and enlisted private hospitals. Congress pledged to make jobs its top priority for the youth of the country, saying it will ensure 34 lakh jobs in the public sector by filling all 4 lakh central government vacancies before March 2020, persuading the state governments to fill 20 lakh vacancies and creating an estimated 10 lakh new Seva Mitra positions in every gram panchayat and urban local bodies. The party said it will also provide a fillip to the private sector by incentivising businesses for jobs creation and employing more women. On GST tax, Congress said that it will radically simplify the GST regime with a single moderate rate of tax, zero-rating of exports, and exemption for essential goods and services. See inside
Shimla: Himachal Pradesh power minister Anil Sharma seems to be on his way out from the state cabinet.Sharma is the son of former telecom minister Sukh Ram, who had joined the Congress along with grandson Ashray Sharma, Anil Sharma’s elder son recently. In a quick move, the Congress has also fielded Ashray from Mandi Parliamentary constituency for which he had earlier been asking for a ticket from the BJP. Put in a piquant situation over Anil Sharma’s status as a cabinet minister—whose son is fighting the BJP, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Sunday served a clear ultimatum to Anil Sharma to make his position clear on campaigning for the son. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’Sharma last week had announced that he will not campaign against his son in Mandi parliamentary constituency though being a sitting MLA from Mandi assembly seat. “Well, if you can’t campaign against your son, the BJP can’t sit back. We have fielded sitting MP Ram Swaroop Sharma from Mandi. It’s the duty of every BJP leader to work for the victory of the BJP candidate. Defiance of the party discipline can attract action. Better Anil Sharma quit the BJP, and the cabinet and opt to go with the son,” Chief Minister said. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KOnly some days back, the Chief Minister had held a meeting with senior BJP leaders in Delhi and updated them on Anil Sharma’s position. “It’s very clear that Sukh Ram had dented his own credibility by joining the Congress with grandson. He has also created a serious problem for Anil Sharma – who was brought to the BJP by Sukh Ram in 2017. We gave him a ticket and made a cabinet minister. What else Sukh Ram wanted more than this? he asked. Thakur accused Sukh Ram of changing the parties for his son’s political career but now he has chosen to defect for the grandson. “Next, Sukh Ram will take a jump somewhere else to get a ticket for daughter-in-law or grand-daughter-in-law. This is very serious,” he warned. Meanwhile, the Congress has cleared the name of five-time MLA Ram Lal Thakur for Hamirpur to fight the poll against three-time MP Anurag Thakur.
New Delhi: The central zone of South Delhi Municipal Corporation on Sunday undertook massive clean-up operations near Nizamuddin Dargah and Humayun Tomb area in an attempt to remove illegal encroachments that were causing major traffic congestion problems in the area. This action from the municipality comes after the Delhi High Court demanded that substantive measures be taken to this effect based on a plea filed by the Jamia Arabia Nizamia Welfare Educational Society (JANWES). Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murderDuring the clearing operation, SDMC stated that they demolished 42 temporary sheds and ‘tripals’ and removed several petty articles including iron grills, benches, and refrigerators. Officers from the Licensing and Health and Veterinary departments along with Delhi Police staffers carried out the clearance operations in what SDMC said was an attempt to ease traffic congestion in the streets leading towards the Dargah. The SDMC said that they also issued notices to two kiosks in the area, asking occupiers to remove them, failing which central zone officials will take necessary steps. However, this comes on the back of repeated orders from the High Court regarding clearing up the area, according to an observation made by a bench last week. While hearing the JANWES plea, the court had noted that SDMC and police officials were busy blaming each other and thus delaying clearance operations. It had asked SDMC Commissioner and DCP Traffic to appear before it on April 16.
New Delhi: Launching a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera on Tuesday questioned the prime minister’s assets and raised doubts over “alleged irregularities” in the property declared by the Prime Minister himself in an affidavit.The Congress has urged the Election Commission to take action against Narendra Modi’s past affidavit. A delegation of Congress party also submitted a memorandum to EC in this regard. The Congress accused the Prime Minister of furnishing contradictory information regarding his assets in Gandhinagar. According to the party, PM Modi has submitted differing details of the same property in different affidavits. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’The Congress allegation came after public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the Supreme Court seeking a court-monitored probe into the “irregularities” in the affidavits submitted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The PIL was filed by Maharashtra-based journalist Saket Gokhale. In his petition, Gokhale has claimed that PM Modi had previously mentioned a plot of land in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar that was allocated to the former Gujarat CM by the state government in his 2007 affidavit for the Gujarat Assembly elections. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KAs per Congress spokesperson, in an election affidavit in 2007, Modi declared that he was the sole owner of Plot 411 in Sector 1, prime property in Gandhinagar. “Modi listed the area of the plot as 326.22 square metres and the cost of its purchase as Rs 1.3 lakh. Based on the market rates prevailing in Gandhinagar, this plot is presently worth about Rs 1.18 crore. Modi was the then CM of Gujarat and had also declared in his affidavit that he had spent Rs 30,363 to construct on the piece of the same land,” Khera told reporters while addressing a Press conference. However, the property did not find mention in the prime minister’s affidavit for the 2012 state elections or the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Instead, PM Modi declared 1/4th ownership of another property in the same area. The former plot of land was missing in PM Modi’s 2016 and 2017 asset declarations as well. According to Gokhale, the land records still indicate PM Modi’s name. The petition has been filed under Article 19(1)(a) (freedom of speech and expression) of the Indian Constitution.
The much-publicised sexual harassment allegation by a sacked employee of the Supreme Court against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and the charge made by the young lawyer on affidavit that ‘fixers’ in league with disgruntled and dismissed SC employees had ‘ganged together to frame the CJI and defame him,’ have shaken the Hornet’s nest. It seems, ruthless enemies within the country, with their demoniacal designs, are all out to atrophy the forward-thinking Supreme Court when the country is elated with several of its recent judgements. ‘No CJI had the courage to take the action against certain elements. This has been happening in the past as well. CJI Gogoi wanted to clean the system. When someone tries to correct wrongs, he is killed or maligned,’ observed Justice Arun Mishra, who was heading the three-member bench that took suo moto cognisance of the ‘matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of judiciary.’ Also Read – A special kind of bondWhile the in-house committee of three judges, including two female judges, would look into the allegation against the CJI, the issue that takes prominence is bench-fixing with the help of SC registry. Assisted by CBI, IB and Delhi Police, former SC Judge, Justice AK Patnaik, would go into the roots of this matter. Although such things have been in the air, it was Justice Kurian Joseph who, after retirement, said that he felt the then CJI Justice Deepak Mishra was remote-controlled. Now, Justice Arun Mishra said, ‘The way this institution is being treated for the last three-four years, this institution is going to die. There is a systematic attack, systematic game to malign this great institution,’ while at the same time warned, ‘rich and powerful people thought they could bludgeon and blackmail the court into submission, but little did they know that they were playing with fire.’ And to begin with, the SC sought a report from its registry on how the DND flyway matter, which involves hundreds of crores of rupees, gets listed for hearing contrary to the court’s order. Also Read – Insider threat managementAs such, every institution in the country has been captured by the political establishment. Already, bureaucracy has been subdued; more so in the present regime; rules and procedures are dictated by the political executive. For the lack of organic relationship with the bureaucrats, many IAS officers in the PMO have even sought a shift out, if Modi is re-elected. In demonetisation, etc., RBI was bulldozed into submission, against all the norms. Suppressing the real fraud, CAG trivialises the Rafale matter. Even the EC has no courage to pull up the BJP leadership for violations; minor actions taken only after the reprimand of the SC reminding them of their powers. Poor CBI, IT, ED, CVC, etc., have been acting only in compliance with the whims and fancies of those in power. Media is also made to dance to their tune. Having already sabotaged all the important institutions, it seems, the sight of these powerful people is now set on the Supreme Court, whose reformatory approach is not palatable to them. In the presence of PM Modi, Justice Thakur had burst into tears on a public platform while pleading for support of the government to reform the laggard judicial process. Justice KM Joseph had to face the ire of the government with their hurdles for his elevation to the SC for having quashed the President’s rule in Uttarakhand to uphold Constitution. The country is aware that Justice Khehar had favoured Modi in the Birla-Sahara diary matter, apparently as a quid pro quo in lieu of his own elevation as CJI in spite of the allegation of corruption as revealed in the suicide note of Kalikho Pul, the former CM of Arunachal Pradesh. An upright judge Loya had to pay with his life for his strict legal approach in the Sohrabuddin case that involves Amit Shah, and with remote control in the SC, an enquiry into his death was thwarted and the issue was buried. It is in this context that four senior judges of the SC, including Justice Gogoi, had voiced their concern in public about Justice Deepak Mishra, CJI, usurping all the powers in deciding benches, when bench-fixing has become a norm. Since the time of his elevation as CJI, Justice Rajan Gogoi has set upon the task of making course corrections. The judgements in the recent past themselves speak about their openness. In an extraordinary kind of mea culpa, the SC reversed its verdict on six death row prisoners, not only freeing them but ordering compensation and pulling up the Maharashtra police. It was the crime of rape and murder of a woman and her teen-aged daughter. In yet another judgment, they stayed an SC order to evict more than a million forest-dwelling people. Such pro-activity cannot be digested by those in power, especially when several politically sensitive issues are pending in the SC. Already, to the detriment of BJP, Ram Mandir issue has been quietened. Raking up Rafale matter is worrisome. Also, the chances of over-ruling the earlier order of the SC in 1998, giving immunity to MPs and MLAs from criminal and civil proceedings for their actions while discharging their legislative duties, including for taking bribes to vote in Parliament or an Assembly, are giving sleepless nights to all those who indulge in horse-trading of legislators. The ruling party is more worried for other reasons too. As the election process is on, the writing on the wall is getting strikingly clear. Promises and illusions are no longer mesmerising people. The surgical strike has not cut any ice with them. The pain of demonetisation and loss of businesses and jobs are not forgotten. The patience of farmers and unemployed has been tested enough. The economy is in debt-trap but whitewashed with fudged figures. The environment has been ignored. Thus, people have begun thinking. There is no Modi-wave. Instead, South is anti-Modi. Political arithmetic is also not so favourable in the Hindi belt, including UP, and Bengal, and other states. Under these circumstances, they are not able to swallow the fact that SC reprimands the EC for not exercising their powers. Further, the recent verdict in the case of Bilkis Bano tarnishes the image of Modi since it was he who shielded all those who mattered from communal outfits in the post-Godhra pogrom of 2002. Bilkis Bano was gang-raped in broad daylight by a baying communal mob. She was also the witness to 14 of her family members being killed; heads of children being smashed on the ground. Yet, police, under Modi and Shah, found no evidence to charge anyone. On the order of the SC in 2003, it was the CBI that arrested the accused. It was only after the SC’s directions this March that the police officials, including an IPS officer, found guilty by Bombay High Court for destroying evidence, were punished. Now, to the discomfiture of Modi and BJP, SC ordered that the Gujarat government pay her compensation of Rs 50 lakhs, and give her a job and a house to live in. The country has been witnessing the way bigots of BJP are being protected with their remote control mechanisms. In the Malegaon case of 2008, even the Mumbai-based special public prosecutor Rohini Salian had publicly claimed in 2015 that the NIA in Delhi was leaning hard on her to go easy on the accused in the case. Like how the ‘fixers’ issue has been taken up by the SC, this shocking matter, too, demands judicial intervention. What is strikingly noticeable is that after the change of government at the Centre in 2014, practically all accused began to be set free in cases wherein Muslims were the victims, and the persons charged had affiliation with the RSS and kindred outfits – be it the Ajmer Sharif Dargah, Mecca Masjid, or Samjhauta Express incident. In the Samjhauta Express blast case of 2007, recently, Nabakumar Sarkar, a radical Hindutva monk, and others were acquitted. In spite of the fact that it was his 2010’s confession – which he later retracted – that had led the investigators to a whole network of people who were alleged to have been involved with other high-profile cases in which the victims were all Muslims, the court simply pronounced that NIA could not produce evidence to connect the accused. It also appears to be a case of remote control, unless the higher courts decide otherwise. With the present trend in the SC, BJP camp appears to be apprehensive that their dubious methods might not work any longer. The nomination of Pragya Thakur, a prime accused in Malegaon terror case, to contest elections only proves how desperate they are to promote their Hindutva agenda to cover up all their failures. In addition to splashing money, it is a gift of the gab of these yogis, sanyasis, and sannyasins, and the aura of their ochre robes that are being tapped. Such people can even ‘curse’ someone to death, like what Pragya claims! Unfortunately, as against the provisions of only representative democracy in the Constitution, India has been reduced to a ‘choiceless electoral party democracy’, with a deadly cocktail of caste, religion, liquor, and money trying to influence the elections. A virtuous common man who lacks monetary resources cannot even dream of contesting elections. People are anguished; feel that there is no redemption. Yet, the wise among them think that an independent Supreme Court is the only resort to put things in order and to bring back the glory of all other institutions. Since ruthless people are on the job to atrophy the apex court, the country has to stand united in its support, to maintain its independence; to bring about a change. Otherwise, the loss is of the people; of the country. (Dr. N Dilip Kumar is a retired IPS officer and a former member of Public Grievances Commission, Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)
New Delhi: With the polls in Delhi approaching and just a few days remaining for the candidates to campaign, Congress’ Chandni Chowk candidate JP Agarwal on Saturday intensified his efforts to reach voters in his constituency.While greeting voters on morning walks in parks across Pashchim Vihar and Shakoor Basti, Agarwal said that the Narendra Modi government’s days are numbered. He said that the results, which are due on May 23 will confirm this once and for all for everyone to see. Also Read – Odd-Even: CM seeks transport dept’s views on exemption to women, two wheelers, CNG vehiclesWith several residents receiving the four time MP heartwarmingly, Agarwal said if he wins the upcoming election, he will make sure that he is available for his electorate and listens to their problems. Talking to people Mr Agarwal said, “You should come out in good numbers to exercise your franchise and vote this government out of power. Every vote counts and therefore every single vote is necessary to teach the BJP a lesson. The public has made up its mind to vote the ‘jumlebaz’ and misleading government out of power.” Also Read – More good air days in Delhi due to Centre’s steps: JavadekarAgarwal is going up against sitting MP and Cabinet Minister Harsh Vardhan of the BJP and Pankaj Gupta of AAP. While Vardhan seems to be the strongest opponent for a heavyweight like Agarwal, it remains to be seen which way the people of Chandni Chowk will go. Agarwal’s campaign has been focused on reaching out to voters in the forms of padyatras, two of which were held on Saturday in Gandhi Market and Lal Kuan. He met voters and urged people to vote for him and his party to form the government at Centre. Agarwal thanked his supporters and party workers and said that their support gives him hope for the nation. During his Padyatras he said, “Looking at the people’s attachment for the Congress party during my Padyatra, I am convinced that Congress-led government is going to be formed after May 23. I am very happy to see the positive response of people of all sections towards our public outreach campaigns.”