Evening Brief: A ‘major milestone’ for LGBTQ2+ communities

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Good evening to you.

We begin in the Red Chamber today, where senators have unanimously agreed to pass the conversion therapy ban. The bill now goes to Gov. Gen. Mary Simon for royal assent. “A major milestone just passed for the rights of LGBTQ2+ communities in this country and I am beyond proud,” Sen. René Cormier, a member of the Independent Senators Group and the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, said on Twitter.

Conservative Sen. Leo Housakas asked for unanimous consent late this afternoon. He said that the upper chamber already has a number of other bills to deal with and that passing this bill using unanimous consent, before the Senate rises for Christmas, was in the national interest. “I think we have to get to the reflex in this institution that when something is in the universal interest, the public interest, that we should not create unnecessary duplication and engage in unnecessary debates,” he said.

The bill was also fast-tracked through the House of Commons after Conservative Justice critic Rob Moore sought unanimous consent on Dec.1. When House Speaker Antony Rota deemed it passed, MPs of all stripes applauded, shook hands — even danced. Aidan Chamandy reports.

The Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa pictured on Oct. 23, 2014 (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Over on the House side, preventing the abuse of proposed pandemic benefits dominated discussions on the second day of an all-party committee reviewing the federal government’s new pandemic-aid bill. Bill C-2, an Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19, is currently under review and could undergo changes before it heads back to the House and Senate for final approval.

The Liberals are hoping to pass it before Dec. 17, when MPs are scheduled to break for the holidays. Today was the committee’s first opportunity to question government officials about the proposed programs. Conservative MP Adam Chambers said he was concerned that the government was adding only a few safeguards to prevent unqualified people from receiving pandemic payments. “At least 400,000 ineligible people” got the previous Canada Recovery Benefit, he said. “That mistake or confusion cost taxpayers at least $50 million,” More on that from Jeff Labine.

Still on the Hill, in a move seen as “turning the page on the policy of the former government,” the Liberals have introduced legislation to do away with mandatory sentences for 14 of the 67 offences in the Criminal Code that carry them, including for several related to drugs, firearms and tobacco. Bill C-5 replaces similar legislation that died when Parliament dissolved ahead of the election. As CBC News reports, mandatory minimums will still be in place for crimes like murder and sexual offences.

Opposition critics want to know why two cabinet committees have the identical mandate of fighting climate change. Cabinet committees are where ministers convene to set priorities and work on the government’s agenda. There are currently eight such committees, two of which are called “Economy, Inclusion and Climate.” More on that from Aidan Chamandy.

A Royal Canadian AIr Force flight evacuates 506 people from Afghanistan on August 23. (Harjit Sajjan / Twitter)

Still with committees, the Conservatives are pushing for one to look at Canada’s response to the situation in Afghanistan when it fell back in the hands of the Taliban earlier this year, as well as to the humanitarian crisis that’s now unfolding. Ahead of a vote on the motion, the government insists a new committee isn’t necessary.

Canada has committed to welcoming 40,000 Afghan refugees, including interpreters and contractors who aided the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), but so far, only 3,500 have arrived. The government has yet to announce a timeline or plan on bringing over the remaining evacuees and answers are needed, Conservative MP Tim Uppal said in the House today. “Any further delays in bringing Afghan refugees can have grave consequences for those whose help we once needed, and now, desperately need our help,” Uppal said. Rachel Emmanuel has that story.

Meanwhile a trip that Indigenous leaders were supposed to take to Rome later this month for a meeting with the Pope has been postponed because of the pandemic, said RoseAnne Archibald, National Chief for the Assembly of First Nations, on Tuesday.

Leaders with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) were scheduled to meet with Pope Francis on Dec. 20 to seek an apology for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in running residential schools. The Métis and Inuit were supposed to meet the Pope earlier that week. Archibald also spoke on next steps for the AFN on holding the government to account on residential schools.  Janet Silver has more.

Minister Rod Phillips, pictured in the Ontario Legislature on Nov. 5, 2020. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

In Ontario, a government bill to reform parts of Ontario’s long-term care system was passed by MPPs today. The Tories have been promising for months to pass legislation to improve the lives of nursing-home residents. More than 4,400 have died since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Changes made by Bill 37 include: annual targets set by the minister annually that lead to every resident receiving four hours of personal care per day by 2024-25, more power for provincial inspectors and directors, fines of up to $1 million and bans for operators of unsafe or neglectful homes. As Charlie Pinkerton reports, the legislation has proven to be divisive.

Comings and Goings: Carlene Variyan joins Summa

The Sprout: When can we resume spud exports? asks P.E.I. premier

Net Zero: Coastal GasLink didn’t fix violations: B.C. officials

In Other Headlines:

Military’s former head of HR charged with sexual assault, indecent acts (CBC)
Feds to expand COVID-19 vaccine mandate to cover banks, telecoms sectors (Reuters)
O’Toole mum on vaccination status of four absent Conservative MPs (CP)
MPP Belinda Karahalios ejected from Ontario legislature for not being vaccinated (Global)
Canadian-made, plant-based COVID-19 vaccine sees positive Phase 3 results (CTV)
Indigenous delegates postponing Vatican trip over pandemic worries (CBC)
Six weeks after swearing-in, ministers haven’t been issued mandate letters (CTV)
Ontario extends pause on reopening plan indefinitely as COVID-19 situation worsens (CTV)
Ontario to extend paid sick day program until the end of July 2022 (CTV)
Chinese envoy urges Canada to approve Huawei for 5G, says concerns are U.S. ploy (CP)
Inside the emotional flight that brought the ‘two Michaels’ home (The Star)
Freeland makes Forbes’ 100 Powerful Women list (CTV)


As expected, President Joe Biden has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin the price to pay for invading Ukraine will be economic pain. Their two-hour video call comes as Russia builds up troops on the Ukrainian border. In a statement released after the call, the White House said Biden “voiced the deep concern” of the United States and its European allies “about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine” and made clear they “would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation.”

“President Biden reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy,” the readout continued.

President Joe Biden meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, June 16, 2021. Photo: @joncoopertweets / Twitter

After the call, the Kremlin said the two presidents agreed to further talks. “It’s hard to expect any sudden breakthroughs, but the presidents demonstrated their willingness to continue practical work and begin discussing sensitive issues that seriously concern Moscow,” Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said.

Meanwhile, there are reports that Germany said agreed to shut down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Russia does invade Ukraine. Reuters reports.

In Other International Headlines:

France detains one of the suspected killers of Jamal Khashoggi, sources say (Reuters)
Same-sex marriage law overwhelmingly approved in Chile (BBC)
Foreign Office chaotic during Kabul evacuation – whistleblower (BBC)
UAE announces 4.5-day workweek, Saturday-Sunday weekend (Al Jazeera)
Judge blocks Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors (AP)

In Opinion:

Andrew Fleming: Paid sick days are here at last (in B.C., anyway)

: Our mismanagement of health data is threatening our safety

The Kicker:

As cases counts rise and we head into our second pandemic Christmas, the internet’s favourite dad took to Twitter with one good thing that’s come out of it all.

So there’s that.

Have a good night.

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