G’day Passengers,

C’est moi, c’est Robert (@robert_hiltz). Welcome to your Thursday — don’t worry, I checked, it’s Thursday — edition of Passage Daily.

In today’s newsletter, we’ve got: recordings made of the Alberta government’s internal COVID discussions; news of Quebec rejecting improvements to Indigenous health care because they mentioned systemic racism; some good news on the west coast, where Vancouver has voted to decriminalize all drugs; a Toronto police officer detailing years of abuse she suffered because she reported her partner for punching her.

Here’s that news:

A Glimpse Inside Alberta’s Pandemic Response Shows Political Pressure To Put The Economy Ahead Of Health

If you had to picture how decisions about the pandemic are being made in Alberta, what would it look like to you?

Perhaps something along the lines of: Health advice is all well and good, but won’t someone think of the economy.

And wouldn’t you know, that’s just how things are going. CBC Edmonton was able to get their hands on recordings of 20 different COVID-19 response meetings of the province’s Emergency Operations Centre. They show how Alberta’s chief medical officer, Deena Hinshaw, has been fighting an “uphill battle” to get the government to accept the bare minimum of restrictions to combat the pandemic.

From the CBC story: “Taken together, [the recordings] reveal how Premier Jason Kenney, [Health Minister Tyler] Shandro and other cabinet ministers often micromanaged the actions of already overwhelmed civil servants; sometimes overruled their expert advice; and pushed an early relaunch strategy that seemed more focused on the economy and avoiding the appearance of curtailing Albertans’ freedoms than enforcing compliance to safeguard public health.”

One source who was present at the meetings told CBC: “There is kind of an understanding that we put our best public health advice forward and that Kenney is really more concerned about the economy and he doesn’t want it shut down again.”

Another source said that cabinet “have tended to basically go with the minimal acceptable recommendation from public health, because I actually think if they went below — if they pushed too far — that [Hinshaw] probably would step down.”

The CBC says that Hinshaw doesn’t want to step down because she fears who might be put in her place.

Kenney has defended his government’s response on ideological grounds, saying it’s important not to impose restrictions on people’s freedoms. What that’s meant in practice is less about freedom, per se, and more about keeping money moving.

During the re-opening phase earlier this year, Shandro’s office pushed back on the idea of health units doing any actual enforcement of the rules. The cabinet “don’t want us to enforce anything. [They] just want us to educate, and no enforcement,” Hinshaw says in the recordings.

This is of a piece with the response in Ontario, where Premier Doug Ford was recently put on blast by the province’s auditor general for sidelining health officials instead of having them lead the policy response to the pandemic.

Quebec Rejects Measures To Improve Health Care For Indigenous People Because It Mentions Systemic Racism

  • In Quebec City yesterday, a motion was put forward by a Quebec Liberal MNA to improve health care for Indigenous people in the province. It was named after Joyce Echaquan, of the Atikamekw Nation, who died in hospital in late September while nurses threw racial abuse at her.
  • Seems straightforward enough, but the motion, developed through consultations in Atikamekw, also had an acknowledgement of systemic racism. This was too much for the CAQ government, who voted against the motion. “We don’t have the same vision,” Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafreniere said. “However, I will assure you that doesn’t prevent us from working together.”
  • Right before Joyce’s Principle was rejected, the legislature gave unanimous consent to a motion calling for the protection of the French language, in case you need to know where the priorities were here.

Vancouver Votes To Decriminalize All Drugs

  • A unanimous vote at Vancouver city hall has approved the decriminalization of all drugs. The policy just needs to be approved by the federal government to go forward.
  • An official exemption by the feds from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act could take months to get approval. In the meantime, the Vancouver government is looking to develop its policies to actually spell out what decriminalization would look like. Will there be fines? Other sanctions? That’s yet to be decided.

ICYMI: Toronto Cop Has Faced Years Of Abuse For Wanting Her Partner To Not Assault A Suspect

A Toronto police officer has filed a human rights complaint after suffering years of abuse at the hands of her colleagues and superiors. Her offence? Trying to get her partner to stop using the door of a police cruiser to squeeze the leg of a Black man in handcuffs, and then getting punched by her partner.

While she never filed charges, she did file an internal complaint. This, she told CBC, has led to years of abuse at the hands of other cops. The officer, who is Iranian Canadian, but whose identity is not being disclosed, has been: taunted for her race and because she’s a woman; passed over for promotion; left without backup when she’s called for it, including one instance when confronted with a man with a knife.

“If you’re not white — it doesn’t matter if you’re a citizen or you’re an employee, you don’t have any rights. It’s systematic abuse,” she said to the CBC.

Her union rep told her not to file any charges against her partner for punching her, because of the damage it would do to her career. After filing a complaint with her superiors, her partner was disciplined — if it can be called that — by being told not to have any contact with her.

Context: Almost 80 Toronto police officers have been accused of participating in, or ignoring, harassment and abuse, in just the three most recent human rights complaints against the force alone. Only six officers accused of sexual harassment have been found guilty of discreditable conduct since 2010, and none since 2015.

Sounds to me like a police force very open to reform!

That’s all for today, folks. We’ll see you all tomorrow.

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