Liberals move to write off $178 million in unpaid federal student loans

For the second year in a row the federal government is writing off millions in student loans it will never collect, this time to the tune of $178.4 million.

The money represents 32,554 loans that federal officials believe they will never be able to collect, either because a debtor may have filed for bankruptcy, the debt itself has passed a six-year legal limit on collection, or the debtor can’t be found.

Last year, the government wrote off 33,967 loans totalling $176 million.

Federal officials have increased their efforts in recent years to collect outstanding student loans after watching write-offs hit $312 million in 2012 and $295 million in 2015.

The previous Conservative government ordered officials to ramp up collection efforts in order to bring the write-offs under control.

The Liberals’ first budget offered a new tool for the Canada Revenue Agency in its collection efforts: legal changes allowing it to use tax information for the purpose of collecting debts from the student loan program overseen by Employment and Social Development Canada. The CRA had expected to receive that power last year, but the federal election delayed political approval.

Figures provided by the CRA late last year showed the agency collected $208.8 million in unpaid loans, a three per cent increase in collections between 2015 and 2016.

The CRA is responsible for collecting loans in default and can do so by withholding income tax refunds to cover the outstanding amount, or by referring cases to the attorney general for legal action — which could lead to garnisheeing wages or seizing assets.

Ruling in favour of Sixties Scoop survivors should be just the beginning, Ontario survivor says

An Ontario judge has ruled in favour of survivors of the Sixties Scoop, but a First Nations man in Thunder Bay, Ont., says that should be just the beginning.

On Tuesday, a judge ruled that Canada failed to take reasonable steps to prevent thousands of on-reserve children who were placed with non-Indigenous families from losing their Indigenous heritage during the Sixties Scoop.

The ruling in the long-running and bitterly fought class action paves the way for an assessment of damages the government would have to pay.

“Like the residential schools settlement, there has to be some sort of recommendations. There’s definitely more work to be done,” said William Campbell, one of the more than 16,000 Indigenous people across the province who were scooped up by child welfare agencies in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

“I don’t want it to end at, ‘OK, here’s your money, see you later.’ It can’t be that.”

‘Great news’

Campbell was adopted three times and said it took him 38 years to find his family at Beaverhouse First Nation, near Kirkland Lake, Ont.

By the time he made it back home, his parents had died but he was able to connect with other members of his family.

He calls the judge’s ruling great news.

“I’m trying to find a way to get involved,” he said. “Because I was adopted three times.”

But he’s also trying to find more information about what the ruling actually means and what could be coming next.

“They need to explain it to people in lay terms, what the process is,” Campbell said.

‘Problem is still there’

While Campbell expects this ruling to come with some sort of compensation for individuals, he hopes a larger process begins — a process that should be similar to the apology and Truth and Reconciliation Commission that followed the residential schools settlement.

“Even today there are more First Nations kids in care than ever before. Obviously, the problem is still there,” Campbell said.

1 in 6 Canadians aged 55 or older hasn’t started retirement saving yet, RBC survey suggests

Almost half of Canadians 55 years and older say they are not on track with their retirement planning, a new poll commissioned by the Royal Bank of Canada suggests.

In an online survey of 2,033 adult Canadians commissioned by the bank and conducted by Ipsos, 46 per cent of poll respondents said their No. 1 concern was whether or not they will have enough money to retire on.

Having enough money to cover health-care costs was also a major fear, cited by 34 per cent of respondents.

With longevity increasing, many Canadians who retire at the usual time could be facing a retirement that lasts three decades or more. While that’s a good thing, the numbers suggest few people are planning on financing their lives that long without working income.

“Thirty years in retirement should be a huge gift of time, when you can do what you want, when you want — but you need to connect the dots between living longer in retirement and preparing for those additional years,” RBC’s Yasmin Musani said in a statement.

According to the survey, roughly one-sixth of Canadians aged 55 or older haven’t started to plan for their retirements.

And the numbers suggest that financial concerns aren’t  the only worries that Canadians have about their retirement. Among the concerns of those in the poll who had yet to retire, a major one was being alone, which was listed as a worry by 15 per cent of people.

Additionally, the study found that:

  • 13 per cent of respondent said they would miss the sense of purpose they feel when working.
  • 12 per cent said they didn’t know how they would pass the time.
  • four per cent worried that people wouldn’t see them as a productive member of society.

About 10 per cent of respondents said one of their major retirement worries would be not having enough time with their spouse. But four per cent of respondents worried about the opposite problem — having too much time with their spouse.

“You’ll likely find your priorities — and their related financial implications — shifting as you approach and then enter retirement,” said Bill Hill, national retirement planning consultant for RBC, in a release.

“That’s why it’s so important to have a conversation about your retirement thoughts with the key people in your life.”

Massive 5-alarm fire shuts down Toronto intersection

Police have closed a major intersection in the city due to a massive six-alarm fire at a commercial building in midtown Toronto.

No one has reported injured in the blaze, which has sent plumes of smoke billowing into the air.

The building near Yonge Street and St. Clair has been evacuated. Portions of the building are beginning to collapse, according to Toronto police.

Capt. David Eckerman, public information officer for Toronto Fire Service, said firefighters received a call about the fire at 25 St. Clair Avenue W. at about 9:20 a.m. from people who were leaving the building. The fire is now a 6-alarm fire.

“The building was evacuated prior to our arrival,” he said.

He said when fire crews arrived, smoke was pouring from the building. Flames are visible at the southeast corner of the building and it appears the roof has collapsed in that area, he said.

Toronto police and paramedics have been notified.

About 60 firefighters are involved in fighting the fire. 

A ballroom inside the building has been evacuated as well, he said.

The cause of the fire is not known but it is believed to have started in a mechanical room.

Massive 6-alarm fire shuts down intersection of Yonge and St. Clair

Police have closed a major intersection in the city due to a massive six-alarm fire at a commercial building in midtown Toronto.

No one has reported injured in the blaze, which has sent plumes of smoke billowing into the air.

The building near Yonge Street and St. Clair has been evacuated. Portions of the building are beginning to collapse, according to Toronto police.

Capt. David Eckerman, public information officer for Toronto Fire Service, said firefighters received a call about the fire at 25 St. Clair Avenue W. at about 9:20 a.m. from people who were leaving the building. The fire is now a 6-alarm fire.

“The building was evacuated prior to our arrival,” he said.

He said when fire crews arrived, smoke was pouring from the building. Flames are visible at the southeast corner of the building and it appears the roof has collapsed in that area, he said.

Toronto police and paramedics have been notified.

About 60 firefighters are involved in fighting the fire. 

A ballroom inside the building has been evacuated as well, he said.

The cause of the fire is not known but it is believed to have started in a mechanical room.

Judge rules in favour of Indigenous survivors of Sixties Scoop

Canada failed to take reasonable steps to prevent thousands of on-reserve children who were placed with non-Indigenous families from losing their Indigenous heritage during the Sixties Scoop, an Ontario judge ruled Tuesday.

The ruling in the long-running and bitterly fought class action paves the way for an assessment of damages the government will now have to pay.

In siding with the plaintiffs, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba found Canada had breached its “duty of care” to the children.

The lead plaintiff, Marcia Brown Martel, and her lawyer, Jeffery Wilson, were scheduled to address the media at 1 p.m. ET. CBCNews.ca will be carrying the press conference live.

The lawsuit launched eight years ago sought $1.3 billion on behalf of about 16,000 Indigenous children in Ontario who claimed they were harmed by being placed in non-Indigenous homes from 1965 to 1984 under terms of a federal-provincial agreement.

The plaintiffs argued — and Belobaba agreed — that Ottawa breached part of the agreement that required consultation with First Nations bands about the child welfare program.

Belobaba was scathing in commenting on the government’s contention that consultation with the bands would not have made any difference to the children.

“This is an odd and, frankly, insulting submission,” Belobaba wrote. “Canada appears to be saying that even if the extension of child welfare services to their reserves had been fully explained to the Indian bands and, if each band had been genuinely consulted about their concerns in this regard, that no meaningful advice or ideas would have been forthcoming.”

Sixties Scoop survivor

Attendees embrace at a Sixties Scoop apology ceremony at the Manitoba Legislature in June 2015. Starting in the 1960s, child-welfare authorities placed thousands of on-reserve indigenous children in non-indigenous homes. (Karen Pauls/CBC)

Ottawa ‘misses the point’

Belobaba also took issue with the government’s argument that the 1960s were different times and that it acted with good intentions in line with prevailing standards. As a result, the government had tried to argue, it could not have known the harm that might have been done to the children.

“Canada’s submission misses the point,” Belobaba said. “The issue is not what was known in the 1960s about the harm of trans-racial adoption or the risk of abuse in the foster home.”

‘A great weight has been lifted from my heart.’ — Lead plaintiff Marcia Brown Martel

Instead, the justice said, there can be “no doubt” that what was well known even then was the importance to First Nations peoples of protecting and preserving their distinctive cultures and traditions, including their concept of the extended family.

Martel, 53, the lead plaintiff in the Ontario action, is a member of the Temagami First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont. She was adopted by a non-Indigenous couple in 1972 at age nine and later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.

“I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my heart,” Brown Martel said in a statement. “Our voices were finally heard and listened to. Our pain was acknowledged. I hope no one sees this as a loss for our government. It is a gain for all of us — a step forward and a step closer to reconciliation.”

The government did not immediately comment on the decision.

Belobaba said that while the 1965 agreement, strictly speaking, applied to the bands and not the children, he hoped the government would not now try to make such a “formalistic argument” given the First Nations context.

The Liberal government indicated last week it was going to try to block Belobaba from releasing his ruling after Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett announced an intention to negotiate with Sixties Scoop survivors across the country. The government relented amid outrage by the plaintiffs and critics, who called the attempt to stop the ruling an unprecedented political interference.

Similar legal actions in several provinces other than Ontario are pending but none has been certified.

Brown vs. Attorney-General of Canada

CBC is not responsible for 3rd party content

Judge sides with indigenous survivors of Sixties Scoop

Canada failed to take reasonable steps to prevent thousands of on-reserve children who were placed with non-indigenous families from losing their indigenous heritage during the Sixties Scoop, an Ontario judge ruled Tuesday.

The ruling in the long-running and bitterly fought class action paves the way for an assessment of damages the government will now have to pay.

In siding with the plaintiffs, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba found Canada had breached its “duty of care” to the children.

The lawsuit launched eight years ago sought $1.3 billion on behalf of about 16,000 indigenous children in Ontario who claimed they were harmed by being placed in non-indigenous homes from 1965 to 1984 under terms of a federal-provincial agreement.

The plaintiffs argued — and Belobaba agreed — that Ottawa breached part of the agreement that required consultation with First Nations bands about the child welfare program.

Belobaba was scathing in commenting on the government’s contention that consultation with the bands would not have made any difference to the children.

“This is an odd and, frankly, insulting submission,” Belobaba wrote. “Canada appears to be saying that even if the extension of child welfare services to their reserves had been fully explained to the Indian bands and, if each band had been genuinely consulted about their concerns in this regard, that no meaningful advice or ideas would have been forthcoming.”

Sixties Scoop, Adopt Indian Metis program

Old newspaper clippings promote adoption of First Nations children. Survivors of the program blamed the loss of their cultural identity on federal government negligence. (Karen Pauls/Twitter)

Ottawa ‘misses the point’

Belobaba also took issue with the government’s argument that the 1960s were different times and that it acted with good intentions in line with prevailing standards. As a result, the government had tried to argue, it could not have known the harm that might have been done to the children.

“Canada’s submission misses the point,” Belobaba said. “The issue is not what was known in the 1960s about the harm of trans-racial adoption or the risk of abuse in the foster home.”

‘A great weight has been lifted from my heart.’ — Lead plaintiff Marcia Brown Martel

Instead, the justice said, there can be “no doubt” that what was well known even then was the importance to First Nations peoples of protecting and preserving their distinctive cultures and traditions, including their concept of the extended family.

The lead plaintiff in the Ontario action, Marcia Brown Martel, 53, is a member of the Temagami First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont. She was adopted by a non-indigenous couple in 1972 at age nine and later discovered the Canadian government had declared her original identity dead.

“I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my heart,” Brown Martel said in a statement. “Our voices were finally heard and listened to. Our pain was acknowledged.”

The government did not immediately comment on the decision.

Belobaba said that while the 1965 agreement, strictly speaking, applied to the bands and not the children, he hoped the government would not now try to make such a “formalistic argument” given the First Nations context.

The Liberal government indicated last week it was going to try to block Belobaba from releasing his ruling after Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett announced an intention to negotiate with Sixties Scoop survivors across the country. The government relented amid outrage by the plaintiffs and critics, who called the attempt to stop the ruling an unprecedented political interference.

Similar legal actions in several provinces other than Ontario are pending but none has been certified.

Judge sides with Sixties Scoop survivors

Breaking

Damages to be decided; plaintiffs sued for $1.3B

The Canadian Press Posted: Feb 14, 2017 9:40 AM ET Last Updated: Feb 14, 2017 9:48 AM ET

An Ontario judge has decided the Sixties Scoop class-action lawsuit in favour of the plaintiffs.

The court will now determine how much the federal government must pay in damages.

The plaintiffs had sued for $1.3 billion.

Starting in the 1960s, child-welfare authorities placed thousands of on-reserve aboriginal children in non-aboriginal homes.

They blamed the loss of their cultural identity on federal government negligence.

The judge said the federal government owed it to the children to help protect their indigenous identities.

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Victims identified in plane crash that killed 2 MRU aviation instructors near Calgary

The two Mount Royal University aviation instructors killed in a plane crash near Waiparous have been identified as Jeffrey Bird and Reynold Johnson.

Bird was formerly a pilot instructor with the Royal Canadian Air Force, stationed in Moose Jaw, Sask., said MRU president David Docherty, and before that, Bird was a helicopter pilot with the 408 Squadron in Edmonton.

A graduate of the University of Lethbridge, Johnson spent 35 years with Air Canada and Jazz before joining the MRU program.

“Today has been an extremely difficult day,”  Docherty told reporters, choking back tears. “It is very, very, tragic because these are individuals who, flying is their life and they wanted to teach others to fly and fulfil their dreams.”

Bird was married and joined MRU aviation program in January, according to his LinkedIn profile. ​

The pair were piloting a twin-engine Tecnam owned by the university when it went down in the Waiparous area, 100 kilometres northwest of Calgary, just before 6 p.m. Monday.

It was being flown in the usual flight path by the two experienced faculty members, Docherty said.

MRU has ground planes in its aviation program and suspended classes until at least the end of the week as the school mourns the loss of the two flight instructors. 

flags mru

Flags at Mount Royal University were lowered to half mast Tuesday as the school mourns the loss of two flight instructors. (Allison Dempster/CBC)

“The program will continue,” said Docherty. “What we will do is make sure the students and instructors will get back in the planes when the students and instructors are ready to fly. We’ve cancelled classes until the end of the week and the planes have been grounded until at least the end of the week, until we’re better able to assess when people are able to get back.” 

RCMP were alerted about the crash by the crew of another plane. 

Several emergency crews searched the area shortly after the plane went down, including the STARS air ambulance service.

The plane was located near the junction of Highway 40 and Highway 579, said Cpl. Curtis Peters. 

“Investigators from the RCMP as well as STARS, and military and civilian aircraft, made attempts to find the scene,” he said.

“They did locate the crash site. There were two people on board at the time of the crash, and unfortunately there were no survivors in this.”

The plane was on a routine training flight from the Springbank Airport and in designated training airspace, Mount Royal wrote in a statement. The Tecnam is one three twin-engines owned by Mount Royal. It also has five single-engine Cessna 172s in its fleet. 

‘They become like family’ 

Luc Sinal, president of the aviation students’ association, said the instructors who died were extraordinary teachers and he offered his condolences to their families.

“These instructors helped [us] discover the love of flying,” he said.  

He said the aviation program at MRU is a tight-knit group, with about 60 students working with just 12 instructors.

“They become like family to us,” he said. 

mru aviation student leader Luke Sinal

Luc Sinal, who head the aviation students’ organization, said the students are deeply saddened by the loss of their two flight instructors. (CBC)

Transportation Safety Board (TSB) officials have begun to investigate the cause of the crash. Docherty said the school will cooperate and offer any assistance it can. 

Investigators are taking pictures and measurements of the crash site before moving the wreckage to Edmonton, where it will be examined, said TSB western regional manager Jon Lee.

They are also arranging to retrieve radar information from Nav Canada.

“That will show, hopefully, what the aircraft was doing in terms of its speed, altitude and position,” Lee said.

He noted that twin-engine aircraft are not required to have flight data recorders or cockpit voice recorders.

“But, in this day and age with the advances in electronics and avionics … there are lots of devices that could be in that aircraft that could record a lot of information,” Lee said.

Mount Royal’s aviation program to train commercial pilots began in 1970. This is the first time the school has experienced a fatality in its aviation program.

plane crash map mru

The plane crashed near the junction of Highway 40 and Highway 579. (Google Maps )

Jeffrey Bird identified as victim in plane crash that killed 2 MRU aviation instructors near Calgary

Mount Royal University aviation instructor Jeffrey Bird has been identified as one of two people killed in a single plane crash west of Calgary on Monday night. 

Bird was a Class 3 instructor in the MRU aviation program, said Mount Royal University president David Docherty.

Prior to this, he was a pilot instructor with the Royal Canadian Air Force, stationed in Moose Jaw, Sask., and before that, a helicopter pilot with the 408th Squadron in Edmonton, said Docherty.

“Today has been an extremely difficult day,”  Docherty said, choking back tears. “We’ve spoken to [Bird’s] family and they are understandably heartbroken. It is very, very, tragic because these are individuals who, flying is their life and they wanted to teach others to fly and fulfil their dreams.”

Bird was married and joined MRU aviation program in January, according to his LinkedIn profile. ​

He was one of two instructors piloting a twin-engine Tecnam owned by the university which went down in the Waiparous area, 100 kilometres northwest of Calgary, just before 6 p.m. Monday.

It was being flown in the usual flight path by the two experienced faculty members, Docherty said at an earlier news conference Tuesday.

The name of the second pilot has not been released.

MRU has ground planes in its aviation program and suspended classes until at least the end of the week as the school mourns the loss of the two flight instructors. 

flags mru

Flags at Mount Royal University were lowered to half mast Tuesday as the school mourns the loss of two flight instructors. (Allison Dempster/CBC)

“The program will continue,” said Docherty. “What we will do is make sure the students and instructors will get back in the planes when the students and instructors are ready to fly. We’ve cancelled classes until the end of the week and the planes have been grounded until at least the end of the week, until we’re better able to assess when people are able to get back.” 

RCMP were alerted about the crash by the crew of another plane. 

Several emergency crews searched the area shortly after the plane went down, including the STARS air ambulance service.

The plane was located near the junction of Highway 40 and Highway 579, said Cpl. Curtis Peters. 

“Investigators from the RCMP as well as STARS, and military and civilian aircraft, made attempts to find the scene,” he said.

“They did locate the crash site. There were two people on board at the time of the crash, and unfortunately there were no survivors in this.”

The plane was on a routine training flight from the Springbank Airport and in designated training airspace, Mount Royal wrote in a statement. The Tecnam is one three twin-engines owned by Mount Royal. It also has five single-engine Cessna 172s in its fleet. 

‘They become like family’ 

Luc Sinal, president of the aviation students’ association, said the instructors who died were extraordinary teachers and he offered his condolences to their families.

“These instructors helped [us] discover the love of flying,” he said.  

He said the aviation program at MRU is a tight-knit group, with about 60 students working with just 12 instructors.

“They become like family to us,” he said. 

mru aviation student leader Luke Sinal

Luc Sinal, who head the aviation students’ organization, said the students are deeply saddened by the loss of their two flight instructors. (CBC)

Transportation Safety Board (TSB) officials have begun to investigate the cause of the crash. Docherty said the school will cooperate and offer any assistance it can. 

Investigators are taking pictures and measurements of the crash site before moving the wreckage to Edmonton, where it will be examined, said TSB western regional manager Jon Lee.

They are also arranging to retrieve radar information from Nav Canada.

“That will show, hopefully, what the aircraft was doing in terms of its speed, altitude and position,” Lee said.

He noted that twin-engine aircraft are not required to have flight data recorders or cockpit voice recorders.

“But, in this day and age with the advances in electronics and avionics … there are lots of devices that could be in that aircraft that could record a lot of information,” Lee said.

Mount Royal’s aviation program to train commercial pilots began in 1970. This is the first time the school has experienced a fatality in its aviation program.

plane crash map mru

The plane crashed near the junction of Highway 40 and Highway 579. (Google Maps )