Metro Vancouver casinos gang destinations for money laundering

VANCOUVER _ Money-laundering operations in casinos have been tied to British Columbia’s opioid overdose crisis and the real-estate market, the attorney general said Wednesday as he released an independent report detailing how organized crime groups used the gaming industry to distribute its profits.

David Eby said the report highlights disturbing issues related to international gangsters discovering Vancouver-area casinos as destinations to launder illegal drug money and then invest it in real estate.

“The fact that we played not just a local role, but an international role in this should be troubling to everybody,” he said.

Eby said the problem surfaced in 2011, but the former Liberal government failed to address “serious crime with serious consequences.”

“It has to stop,” Eby told a news conference. “We can’t let organized crime get ahead of us.”

Eby tasked former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German to conduct a review and make recommendations last September.

German’s report, “Dirty Money,” said B.C.’s gaming industry and the anti-money laundering system was not prepared for the onslaught of illegal cash flowing through the casinos and they failed collectively.

He estimated more than $100 million was funnelled through casinos as part of a scheme dubbed the “Vancouver model.”

German said the model is linked to Chinese crime organizations that would loan money from their proceeds, usually drugs, to borrowers who would gamble at B.C. casinos. The gambler would then receive Canadian dollars from the proceeds to repay the criminal groups.

“The ‘genius’ of the scheme is the ability to achieve two objectives and be paid for, both in the same transaction,” the report says. “The lender is both servicing a drug trafficking organization by laundering its money, and the Chinese gambler by providing him or her with Canadian cash.”

Much of the laundered money ended up being invested in Vancouver-area real estate, German said.

“Why did this occur? Because it could,” he told the news conference.

German’s report says the RCMP viewed real estate as a hiding place for illegal money.

“It has been said that ‘everything in B.C. comes back to real estate,’ “the report says. “It has also been suggested that you can see a ‘rat move through all of it,’ meaning that each component of the industry is vulnerable to criminal actors who tend to operate in more than one discrete area of real estate sales, mortgages, insurance, and so forth.”

German said the amount of suspicious money entering casinos since a high point in 2015 has been greatly reduced due to police and industry actions, but the prevention measures must continue to ensure the problem does not resurface.

He warned organized crime will move on to other sectors of the economy, including luxury vehicles and horse racing.

“We need a strong provincial regulator, which is not currently the situation,” German said.

The report makes 48 recommendations, including the establishment of a gaming regulator and a police unit that specializes in criminal and regulatory investigations in the industry.

Eby said the government accepts all the recommendations.

“We will be moving as quickly as possible to slam the door shut on dirty money,” he said.

He said the former Liberal government turned a blind eye to money laundering in B.C. casinos for years.

“Nobody said No to taking this money and that is inexcusable.”

Liberal jobs critic Jas Johal said he expected the report to include announcements of arrests and crackdowns on organized crime.

Billions of dollars have been invested in B.C.’s real estate market in the last few years so “$100 million is a drop the bucket,” he said in an interview.

Johal said German’s recommendations will strengthen the system, and the Liberal government was moving towards making improvements before the last provincial election in May 2017.

Eby launched an investigation after the government’s gaming enforcement branch showed him surveillance video of gamblers walking into casinos with suitcases and a hockey bag full of $20 bills.

The BC Lottery Corp., which operates casinos, said the report is an important road map for multiple organizations involved in fighting money laundering in the province.

“We are poised to implement the direction set out by Attorney General David Eby to keep dirty money out of casinos alongside our industry, government and law enforcement partners,” corporation president Jim Lightbody said in a news release.

By Dirk Meissner in Victoria.

Canada: 2018 Black History Month stamps celebrate trailblazers

Canada Post is marking upcoming Black History Month with stamps for 2018 celebrating Lincoln M. Alexander and Kathleen (Kay) Livingstone, two prominent Black Canadians who shattered barriers for visible minorities in Canada. The stamps will be available for purchase at postal outlets and canadapost.ca/blackhistory beginning February 1, the start of Black History Month in Canada.

Lincoln Alexander and Kay Livingstone opened countless doors for Black Canadians and other minorities across the country. They are remarkable role models who fostered Canadian values of diversity, respect and inclusion,” says Canada Post President and CEO Deepak Chopra.

Lincoln Alexander

Born in Toronto, Alexander (1922-2012) was a distinguished public servant who championed racial equality, justice and education in Canada for decades. He was the first Black Canadian to be elected to the House of Commons (1968), appointed to the federal cabinet (1979) and named to a viceregal position in Canada, as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario(1985). He encouraged countless youth to pursue their dreams, often telling them: “I did it. You can. You will.” In recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments, January 21 has been celebrated as Lincoln Alexander Day across Canada since 2015.

Kathleen (Kay) Livingstone

Raised in London, Ont., Livingstone (1918-75) lived most of her adult life in Toronto, where she was a popular radio host and became one of Canada’s most prominent visionaries, activists and humanitarians. She devoted her life to empowering Black women and is credited with coining the term “visible minority.” In the 1950s, she founded the Canadian Negro Women’s Association. In 1973, she organized the first National Congress of Black Women, and in 1975 launched the Congress of Black Women of Canada, a now nationwide organization dedicated to the welfare of Black women and their families. In 2011, she was named a Person of National Historic Significance by the Government of Canada.

Click here for stamp images and Details magazine.

SOURCE Canada Post

Small businesses in B.C. in line for $18,500 relief for losses in wildfires

The British Columbia government is offering eligible small businesses increased relief funds up to a maximum of $18,500 for losses following this summer’s wildfire season.

Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said Wednesday, November 29, 2017 the province is partnering with the Canadian Red Cross to provide the money to small businesses as partial compensation for uninsured losses, insurance deductibles, minor repairs and clean ups.

Donaldson said funding is also available to not-for-profit organizations and Indigenous communities.

Finance Minister Carole James pegged the most recent government estimate of last summer’s wildfire damage costs at almost $660 million.

Donaldson said small businesses and others can apply for the new relief funds through the Red Cross, who will review each funding request on a case-by-case basis.

Auto insurance rates rise in Ontario despite Liberal pledge to cut by 15 per cent

Auto insurance rates are rising in Ontario, moving the Liberal government even further away from a self-imposed target of an average 15-per-cent reduction.

The Liberals promised in 2013 to cut auto insurance premiums an average of 15 per cent by August 2015, but after that deadline came and went, Premier Kathleen Wynne later admitted that was what she called a “stretch goal.”

Approved rates in the third quarter of 2016 increased by an average of 1.5 per cent, according to the Financial Services Commission of Ontario.

That knocks the average decrease since August 2013 – which at one point was over 10 per cent – back down to about 8.35 per cent, or a little over halfway to their goal.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa said programs that will reduce rates further have yet to come into effect, so though reductions are taking time, “they’re happening.”

“Our target to reduce rates doesn’t change,” he said. “Our desire to have a sustained approach over a long period of time, that’s what we’re trying to establish.”

The government still wants to see rates cut by an average of 15 per cent, Sousa said, though there’s no longer a deadline attached to the goal.

Premier Kathleen Wynne called the work on rates so far a “success.”

“We’re going to continue to work with the industry to find other ways to take costs out of the system,” she said.

The promise in 2013 came as part of a deal to get NDP support for that year’s budget when the Liberals were still a minority government. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the government is putting the interests of insurance companies over those of Ontario drivers.

“It’s no doubt that the Liberals have betrayed the discussions that we had during that minority parliament, but more importantly they’re betraying the people of the province yet again,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Sousa noted that the government has lowered the maximum interest rate that an insurer can charge for monthly auto premium payments and prohibited minor at-fault accidents from boosting premiums. As well, it has appointed a special adviser to look at ways to lower costs and further reduce rates.

 

5 things to know on National Aboriginal Day in Canada

By Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca

Tuesday is Canada’s National Aboriginal Day, the annual celebration of the country’s First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples. Here’s what you need to know about the day for recognition, reflection and education.

image

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paddles in a a voyageur canoe on the Ottawa River following the National Aboriginal Day Sunrise Ceremony in Gatineau, Quebec on Tuesday, June 21, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

1. 20th anniversary

Tuesday marks the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day, which was first established in 1996 by the governor general at the time, Romeo LeBlanc. National Aboriginal Day is held every year on June 21 to coincide with the summer solstice, a day that holds cultural significance in many aboriginal cultures.

2. Not a statutory holiday

National Aboriginal Day is not a statutory holiday in most of Canada, although the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has recommended that a statutory holiday be established to acknowledge the historic suffering of Canada’s indigenous peoples. In its recommendation #80, the TRC calls for the federal government to “establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”

The Northwest Territories marks National Aboriginal Day as a territorial statutory holiday, and the Yukon is also considering making it a statutory holiday.

3. Celebrating arts, crafts, dancing and music

Many Aboriginal Canadians mark the day by inviting members of the public to share in their culture at pow wows, parades and festivals held across the country. The federal government has established a reference page for Canadians to look up events being held in their cities on Tuesday and later in the week, as National Aboriginal Month continues.

4. A good day to greet the sun

Aboriginal leaders and politicians from various levels of government gathered Tuesday morning in several cities across the country to mark the sunrise in special traditional ceremonies. In Toronto, for instance, Mayor John Tory joined Cayuga First Nations Elder Cat Criger and others for a sunrise ceremony and flag-raising at City Hall.

5. A good time to brush up on Truth and Reconciliation

National Aboriginal Day is meant not only to acknowledge Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities, but to recognize their shared history – good and bad – with the rest of Canada.

Dr. Nadine Caron, a professor at the University of British Columbia, said all Canadians should be encouraged to review the 94 recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in their report released last July. “The TRC was a massive step forward,” Caron told CTV News Channel on Tuesday morning, adding that all Canadians should try to be “part of the solution the entire way.”

The document outlines many of the historic and present-day challenges facing Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, and recommends ways to improve the way they are treated going forward. “This document was meant for all Canadians,” she said.

CTVNews.ca

With David Bowie’s blessing, astronaut Chris Hadfield’s ‘Space Oddity’ is back on YouTube

“Space Oddity” fans rejoice! Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s impressively awesome cover of the David Bowie classic is now back on the interwebs.

The video was taken down from YouTube after reaching more than 23 million hits. It features Hadfied’s playing and signing the ballad in space — I repeat, in space — aboard the International Space Station. It was reportedly the first music video ever recorded from space.

Hadfield had a one-year agreement with Bowie to leave the video up after it was released in 2013. When that expired, it was gone, for the most part — though like all things, if you’re crafty enough, it could be found.

Now Hadfield has inked a new two-year agreement with Bowie to re-post the historic and well-loved cover.

In a blog post on his Web site, Hadfield noted that the original video was posted in 2013 with Bowie’s permission, and he added that the singer and his representatives were “very gracious” throughout the process. It was removed in May when the first one-year agreement expired.

“Despite countless on-line expressions of frustration and desire, it wasn’t anyone’s ill-will or jealousy that kept this version of Oddity off YouTube,” Hadfield wrote. “It was merely the natural consequence of due process.”

Bowie has actually praised the cover, calling it “possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created” back in 2013.

And after months of negotiation and grappling with the complex legal questions that surround copyright in space, they had a breakthrough.

“The reasons we originally made the video were multifold. It was in response to repeated widespread requests via social media. It was a fun Saturday project with my son, Evan. It was a continuation of the other music that I was playing and recording while on ISS. But maybe most importantly, it was a chance to let people see where we truly are in space exploration. We’re not just probing what lies beyond Earth – we inhabit it,” Hadfield explained.

“We’re proud to have helped bring Bowie’s genius from 1969 into space itself in 2013, and now ever-forward,” he added.

And so now, just because you can, take a listen:

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