March 7, 2022

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RCMP conducting ‘character’ checks on staff as former top intelligence official’s trial approaches

It took the arrest of one of its top intelligence officials to make it happen, but the RCMP says it’s now keeping better tabs on the “character” of the people it employs.

Cameron Ortis, who led the force’s National Intelligence Co-ordination Centre (NICC), was arrested in September 2019 in Ottawa. He was accused of revealing secrets to an unidentified  recipient and of planning to give additional classified information to an unspecified foreign entity or terrorist group. He is charged with multiple Security of Information Act violations, breach of trust and a computer-related offence. He also faced internal accusations of “strange and controlling behaviour” that employees say the force ignored.

The force brought in Alphonse MacNeil, a retired RCMP assistant commissioner turned consultant, to review the culture within the intelligence co-ordination unit. Ortis was appointed director general of the NICC in April 2016.

MacNeil’s report pointed to a failure in leadership and a workplace culture that left employees feeling “broken,” according to a redacted copy of the report recently released through an access to information request. “The failure of leadership in this case was noted at many levels and it reveals a need for the RCMP to consider how leaders are selected,” the report says.

MacNeil also wrote that NICC employees felt belittled, humiliated and demeaned in a workplace environment that violated the RCMP’s core values.

In the wake of MacNeil’s report on the NICC, the RCMP said it made some changes, including what it calls “a character leadership approach to its human resources processes.”

WATCH | Who is Cameron Ortis? 


“These new tools allow for the assessment and ongoing development of an individual’s character, with a focus on judgment, inclusiveness and self-awareness,” said RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Caroline Duval in an emailed response to CBC News.

“This approach ensures that employees, regardless of rank or level, have the competencies, commitment and balance of character to make good decisions across a broad range of challenges and contexts.”

The RCMP said it started its “character leadership approach” over the winter.

Ortis is scheduled for an eight-week jury trial starting Sept. 6, 2022. Read more on this story here.

Canada wins 2 bronze medals on 1st day of Tokyo Paralympic Games 

(Prapan Chankaew/Reuters)

Keely Shaw of Saskatoon reacts after winning the bronze medal in the women’s C4 3,000-metre individual pursuit today at the Izu Velodrome on Day 1 of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Later, Aurélie Rivard of Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que., added to her career Paralympics medal haul by claiming the bronze in the women’s 50-metre freestyle S10 event. Read more from the Paralympics here.

In brief

British Columbia is reimposing a mask mandate for indoor public spaces and will require students in Grade 4 and up to wear masks at school this fall. The new mask mandate comes into effect today and applies to people 12 and older. British Columbians will be required to wear masks at grocery stores, restaurants, bars, on public transit, in taxis and in office buildings where services are offered to the public. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday that the mandate, which was lifted in July, would be reimposed. “We now know that there is still a need for certain measures to be taken,” she said, citing rising case counts in the province. “The mask mandate is one of those additional layers that we’re putting in place as we transition through the fall.” Manitoba also announced Tuesday that masks will be required in indoor public settings, including schools. Quebec also said it would require students in nine regions to wear masks at all times when they’re indoors at school this year. Read more on the return of mask mandates

WATCH | Several provinces bring back mask mandates: 

Several provinces bring back mask mandates


The Quebec government is putting into place a vaccine passport system starting Sept. 1 that will effectively bar people who aren’t fully vaccinated from many non-essential activities. The passport — an electronic record of vaccination in the form of a quick response (QR) code — has already been tested out at various establishments across the province, including a restaurant, bar and gym. Click here for a primer on what you need to know about the system, which is the first of its kind in Canada.

Canada will remain in Afghanistan beyond the Aug. 31 date set for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country to help evacuate more Canadians and eligible Afghans if the security situation permits, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday. The prime minister made the comments after attending a virtual meeting of G7 leaders called by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier in the day. “I emphasized that Canada is ready to stay beyond the 31st deadline if it’s at all possible, because we want to save as many people as possible and Canadians are ready to work to try and do that,” Trudeau said. Read more on the Kabul evacuation

WATCH | Trudeau says allies remain committed to getting people out of Afghanistan, despite looming deadline: 

Trudeau says allies remain committed to getting people out of Afghanistan, despite looming deadline

Post-secondary students are telling Elections Canada staff to do “as much as they can” to get out the student vote, after the agency cancelled the Vote on Campus program for the 2021 federal election. “There’s youth voter studies out there that show youth believe voting doesn’t make a difference, and I think these types of actions, and the lack of deployment of special ballot polling stations, exacerbates those negative trends,” said Saad Shoaib, vice-president external for the University of British Columbia’s Alma Mater Society. Elections Canada said it’s not offering the program this September for logistical reasons: the pandemic and a minority government made it too difficult to plan anything on a campus. Vote on Campus was a targeted program that allowed students to vote in their home ridings while away at school. It started as a pilot in 2015, but was expanded to 109 colleges and universities in the 2019 federal election. Read more on students and voting.

WATCH | Young voters share big priorities for 2021 election: 

Young voters share big priorities for 2021 election

Reasonable housing costs were once a selling point for living in Nova Scotia, but prices have spiked in recent years amid a housing stock that hasn’t kept up with population growth. Advocates and tenants have been sounding alarm bells over the state of the housing market, including during the August provincial election, and the issue captured more public attention last week when Halifax police pepper sprayed and arrested protesters in the city’s downtown as officials cleared dozens of tents and temporary shelters from encampments in local parks and green spaces. With a federal election underway, focus has shifted to what the main federal parties will do to help with Nova Scotia’s affordable housing crisis, which is now reaching beyond low-income households. Read more on the housing situation in the province

WATCH | Halifax housing shortage prompts calls for action during election: 

Halifax housing shortage prompts calls for action during election

If you have a question about the federal election, send us an email at [email protected]. We’re answering as many as we can leading up to election day. Today: How secure is mail-in voting? 

WATCH | What stops people from voting twice: 

What stops people from voting twice

The number of people crossing the land border into Canada more than doubled in the first week fully vaccinated Americans were once again allowed to enter the country for non-essential travel. According to Canadian government statistics, 218,732 non-commercial travellers entered Canada by land from Aug. 9-15. The number, which includes both Canadians and Americans, was a 111 per cent increase from 103,344 travellers the week before, when the border was still closed to Americans, and a nearly 200 per cent increase over the 74,562 people who crossed during that same week in 2020. It pales, however, in comparison to the 1.4 million travellers who entered Canada that week in 2019, before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more on the numbers of people entering Canada from the U.S

This week, Starbucks took a new step in the return to pre-pandemic life: it’s once again offering to serve customers coffee in their reusable mug. Meanwhile, major competitors Tim Hortons and McDonald’s say they have no immediate plans to accept reusable mugs, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic first hit in March 2020, many quick-service restaurants — including large chains Starbucks, McDonald’s and Tim Hortons — declined to accept reusable mugs because of health concerns. That meant customers had no choice but to get their takeout coffee in a disposable cup. To allay COVID-19 health concerns, Starbucks has introduced a “contactless” method for handling reusable cups. Some environmentally conscious coffee drinkers are asking why the other major chains aren’t following suit. “A lot of environmental things went on the back burner during COVID-19,” said Brenya Green of Toronto, who’s eager to once again be served coffee in her reusable mug. “It’s been a bit too long now, especially now that Starbucks has shown a solution.” Read more on the return of reusable mugs.

Now for some good news to start your Wednesday: When Adrianne Hart got married recently, she knew the residents of the Gander, N.L., retirement home where she works wouldn’t be able to attend the wedding itself. Instead, she decided to bring a taste of the big day to them. Hart and her new husband, Joey, left the ceremony, still in their wedding attire, and went straight to Oram’s Bethesda Manor to visit the residents. “It was so amazing, I don’t even know if I can put it into words,” Hart said. “As soon as I walked in, I stepped into the lounge and I had a full house, which I wasn’t expecting. Everybody was clapping and smiling and just, oh, just really warmed my heart.” Hart said she has been working at the home since before it opened, and knows all the residents on an intimate level. She said it was important to both her and her husband to see the seniors on their wedding day. Read more on how the couple shared their wedding with the seniors.

Front Burner: ‘I feel very hopeless that I’m stuck here’

Canadian rescue efforts are underway in Afghanistan after the fall of the country to the Taliban. As of late Tuesday, Canada has evacuated more than 1,600 people from the country. But many more are desperately trying to make their way out.

Today, the story of an Afghan doctor who’s hiding from the Taliban, and his Canadian wife, on their desperate efforts to leave Afghanistan, and what they’re calling on the Canadian government to do to help.

Front Burner20:31‘I feel very hopeless that I’m stuck here’

Today in history: August 25

1878: The Saskatchewan Herald, the province’s first newspaper, put out its first issue in Battleford. Because the paper predated any railway in Saskatchewan, then the Northwest Territories, founder Patrick Gammie Laurie transported his first printing press by ox cart on a 72-day trek from Fort Garry.

1943: Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes the first U.S. president to visit Ottawa. Roosevelt and prime ministers William Lyon Mackenzie King of Canada and Winston Churchill of Britain had earlier attended the Quebec Conference in Quebec City.

1984: Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Mulroney slams Liberal Leader and Prime Minister John Turner on the issue of patronage during a televised election debate. Mulroney charges Turner had a choice when presented with a list of patronage appointments from former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. The Conservatives went on to a landslide election victory.

1986: Wheelchair athlete Rick Hansen begins the cross-Canada portion of his round-the-world Man in Motion fundraising tour for spinal cord research, starting at Cape Spear, Newfoundland.

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