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Federal Tories to strengthen police checks of candidates following Rick Dykstra case



Federal Tories to strengthen police checks of candidates following Rick Dykstra case


OTTAWA — The Conservative Party of Canada is adding more detailed police checks to its vetting of candidates and creating a specific policy for handling complaints made against MPs and candidates.

The moves are among six recommendations made by lawyer Carol Nielsen, who was hired by the Conservatives in March 2018 to probe how Rick Dykstra was allowed to continue on as a candidate in the 2015 election after the party learned he was accused of assaulting a woman who worked for another MP.

Rick Dykstra allegations prompt Conservatives to review internal policies

Dykstra, who represented the southern Ontario riding of St. Catharines for nearly a decade, denies doing anything wrong. He lost his seat in the election before the allegations were made public.

Nielsen’s report says party officials failed to make the necessary inquiries about the allegations, a failure she blames at least partly on the lack of any protocol for handling such complaints.

WATCH: What and when did Tories know about Rick Dykstra? (Feb. 5, 2018)

“Without guiding principles directing the campaign team’s response to the situation, each member of the campaign team relied upon his or her own common-sense approach to the situation,”Nielsen wrote in her report.

She said the party did ask its lawyer to make inquiries about the matter, which included a chat with Dykstra and another senior political staffer. But the party did not try to get any information from the woman who made the allegations — who had asked for privacy — and Nielsen said the inquiries made of Dykstra were not good enough.

READ MORE: Ex-PM Stephen Harper explains why he let Rick Dykstra run amid sexual misconduct allegations

The party also failed to talk to the police about their investigation. The party relied on Dykstra’s word that the police had decided not to lay charges but police said last year the investigation was closed because the complainant didn’t want to proceed.

Nielsen said it’s unclear whether a better review of the matter would have changed the party’s decision to let Dykstra run. But Ray Novak, then-leader Stephen Harper’s chief of staff at the time, said last year that had additional information about the matter been known, such as why the police investigation was closed, Dykstra would have been fired as a candidate.

WATCH: Former PM Harper knew about allegations against Dykstra (Feb. 3 2018)

Senior officials in the Conservative Party became aware of the complaint against Dykstra during the 2015 campaign and there was significant disagreement about how it should be handled.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper said last year he made the decision to keep Dykstra on the ballot and that he made it based on the information he had at the time.

READ MORE: Rick Dykstra steps down as Ontario PC party president amid major staff shakeup

Guy Giorno, who was the national campaign chair in 2015, thought Dykstra should have been fired during the campaign. Last year Giorno called the Nielsen investigation “a sham” and said he would have no confidence in the results, but he was pleased with the findings released Friday.

“The report confirms my position that Dykstra should have been dropped as a candidate,” he said in an email to The Canadian Press. “I am pleased to see my input reflected in the recommendations and look forward to seeing them implemented.”

WATCH: Andrew Scheer orders probe into why Rick Dykstra was allowed to run despite misconduct allegations (Jan. 31, 2018)

Tory Leader Andrew Scheer has appointed Hartley Lefton, a Toronto lawyer who led the organizing of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives’ leadership race last year, as a compliance officer to ensure the recommendations are implemented.

“I’m confident our campaign team now has the tools they need to ensure that and I look forward to Mr. Lefton leading the implementation of Ms. Nielsen’s strong recommendations,” Scheer said in a news release.

A party spokesman said Scheer would not be commenting beyond what he said in the release.

How do Alberta’s political parties vet their candidates?

All political parties fired multiple candidates throughout the 2015 campaign for various reasons, often due to racist or sexist posts on social media. The Conservatives fired at least seven candidates during the campaign, including Jerry Bance, who was found to have been in a CBC Marketplace video that caught him urinating into a mug in the kitchen of a client’s home where he was repairing an appliance.

The fact that Bance was immediately dropped and Dykstra was not was a point of contention among the top Conservatives in 2015, with campaign manager Jenni Byrne saying in an email that the party had dropped candidates “for a lot less.”

WATCH: Ontario PC Party president Rick Dykstra resigns amid major staff shakeup (Jan. 29, 2018)

The Nielsen report notes that in 2015 the Conservatives required all candidates to submit police record checks from the RCMP or local police in their ridings. But the report notes the party should request broader criminal record and judicial matters checks, including records of absolute and conditional discharges and any outstanding charges.

“This broader criminal record check may help the party to identify relevant concerns in respect of both applicants and candidates before the concerns intensify in the midst of an election campaign,” Nielsen wrote.

The Conservatives are also implementing a complaint procedure and protocol for candidates, instituting stronger vetting procedures and requiring candidates to agree to continually disclose issues that arise after their nominations. The are also implementing a code of conduct and harassment policy for candidates.


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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali



Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu

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Harris accepts VP nomination



Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself



Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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