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In The News for Feb. 1: Will an updated Ontario Disability Support Program help?

Terrie Meehan, a former activist and a person with disability who is currently on ODSP, is shown in Ottawa, on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Some days, Terrie Meehan goes long stretches eating just one meal a day to stretch out her food supply.

The $1,100 a month she receives from the Ontario Disability Support Program just doesn't stretch that far.

That won't change for Meehan — or the vast majority of the Ontarians who receive aid under the program — when the Ontario government today starts allowing recipients to earn more money from working before clawing back their benefits.

The new rule will allow ODSP recipients to earn $1,000 from working, up from $200 previously. For each dollar earned above the $1000 exemption, the person with a disability would keep 25 cents.

But like Meehan, 95 per cent of ODSP recipients will see no change to their monthly income as a result. She said many of her friends are in the same boat as her and she isn't sure how she feels about the government making the change.

In addition to her ODSP benefit, she earns a few hundred dollars a month picking up gig work when she can, like using her wheelchair to deliver Uber Eats.

After paying her monthly bills, and for medication and food she said most months she maybe has $200 left. Sometimes it's less.

Trevor Manson, a co-chair with the ODSP Action Coalition and an ODSP recipient, said the exemption will help those who work, but it doesn't come close to solving the issue that many ODSP recipients are facing. He called their situation "legislated poverty."


Also this ...

Mike Parkhill remembers receiving a call from a community leader in a northern Ontario First Nation about three years ago asking if he had a tool that might help students learn Ojibwe. 

Parkhill, who runs a company that creates programs to help revitalize Indigenous languages, didn't have such a tool at the time but the idea to create one took root. 

A year and a half later, Parkhill and his team began developing a digital program to help teach Ojibwe, eventually launching it in September 2022. Use of the tool has been growing – nearly 3,000 people, including 1,800 students largely from northern Ontario, are taking lessons from it – and the program could soon expand to hundreds of students in southern Ontario.

The web and app-based tool – called Anishinaabemowin – was conceived by Parkhill and his company, SayItFirst, which received funding to develop it from the Indigenous-operated post-secondary Seven Generation Educational Institute and the Rainy River District School Board. The board has been using the program and providing feedback.

The goal of the tool is to help revive Ojibwe, an Indigenous language spoken in parts of Canada and the U.S.

The York Region District School Board is currently experimenting with the platform as part of a pilot project and could soon implement it widely, said Jodi Johnston, the Ojibwe language co-ordinator at the board. 


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

The family of Tyre Nichols planned to lay him to rest today, three weeks after he was beaten to death by Memphis police after a traffic stop.

In those three weeks, five police officers have been fired and charged with murder, and their specialized unit was disbanded. Two more officers have been suspended. Also fired: two Memphis Fire Department emergency medical workers and a lieutenant. And more discipline could be coming.

But today will be about Nichols, 29-year-old skateboarder and amateur photographer who worked making boxes at FedEx, made friends during morning visits to Starbucks, and always greeted his mother and step-father when he returned home with a sunny, “Hello, parents!”

Friends at a memorial service last week described him as joyful and kind, quick with a smile, often silly.

Nichols’ funeral will be held at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, beginning at 10:30 a.m. CST. The Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network, will deliver the eulogy. Ben Crump, a national civil rights attorney who represents the Nichols family, will deliver a call to action.


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

The prospects for peace in Myanmar, much less a return to democracy, seem dimmer than ever two years after the army seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, experts say.

On Wednesday, legions of opponents of military rule heeded a call by protest organizers to stay home in what they call a “silent strike” to show their strength and solidarity.

The opposition’s General Strike Coordination Body, formed soon after the 2021 takeover, urged people to stay inside in their homes or workplaces from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Photos posted on social media showed empty streets in the normally bustling downtown area of Yangon, the country’s largest city, with just a few vehicles on the roads, and there were reports of similar scenes elsewhere.

Small peaceful protests are an almost-daily occurrence throughout the country, but on the anniversary of the Feb. 1, 2021, seizure of power by the army, two points stand out: The level of violence, especially in the countryside, has reached the level of civil war; and the grassroots movement opposing military rule has defied expectations by largely holding off the ruling generals.

The violence extends beyond the rural battlefields where the army is burning and bombing villages, displacing hundreds of thousands of people in what is a largely neglected humanitarian crisis. It also occurs in the cities, where activists are arrested and tortured and urban guerrillas retaliate with bombings and assassinations of targets linked to the military. The military, after closed trials, have also executed by hanging activists accused of “terrorism.”


On this day in 1920 ...

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police was formed by the merger of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police and the Dominion Police. The Northwest force was formed in the 1870s to administer the vast unsettled territories. The Dominion Police was a federal force that guarded government buildings and enforced federal statutes since 1868.


In entertainment ...

Las Vegas police have arrested former actor Nathan Chasing Horse at his home after uncovering what they describe as two decades of sexual assault and human trafficking allegations. 

Chasing Horse is known for his role in the Oscar-winning Kevin Costner film "Dances With Wolves." Police say he built a reputation for himself among tribes across the United States and Canada as a so-called medicine man and used his position to abuse young Native American girls. 

Chasing Horse is accused of sexually assaulting girls as young as 13 and taking wives as young as 15. Police say the assaults occurred in multiple states, including Nevada, and in Canada. 

No lawyer was immediately listed for him Tuesday in court records.


Did you see this?

Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge says ending abuse in sport will require complaints processes that include provincial-level athletes, not just national ones.

St-Onge and provincial sport ministers will meet during the Canada Games in mid-February where their agenda will include the ongoing effort to address widespread allegations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in sport.

She says she asked the provincial ministers at an August meeting to look at joining the new federal sport integrity process or creating their own.

The national sports integrity commissioner can only investigate allegations of abuse from athletes at the national level.

But St-Onge says the vast majority of athletes aren't in that category and only Quebec has its own sports integrity office capable of receiving and investigating complaints.

The national sport integrity office officially began its work last June and has since received 48 complaints from athletes.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2023

The Canadian Press

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