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advocates Immigration

Immigration advocates, educators slam new ICE rule restricting foreign college students: ‘It really has no basis’

Zhou Yo has one more year left of his master’s program at Princeton University’s architecture school.

Hailing from Shanghai, he’s been in the U.S. ever since he started his undergraduate work at the University of Illinois almost six years ago, having to renew his student visa each and every year.

Then the coronavirus pandemic struck, and a new rule from the Department of Homeland Security issued this week is warning foreign students they could be deported if their respective institutions are only offering online classes come Fall semester. Experts say the rule is a way to put pressure on colleges and universities to reopen even as coronavirus cases are surging across the U.S.

“If we have to leave, I think compared with students from other countries, like we Chinese international students would face more stressful situations, I couldn’t even say what I’m going to do, I just don’t know,” said Zhou.

The DHS rule states that those students “attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States.”

Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), along with the state of California, have filed a lawsuit over the temporary rule change and immigration advocates and higher education insiders are confident emergency court relief is coming soon.

“I feel the rule is just mean-spirited, for the last semester they allowed these students to continue to remain in the United States and do the same thing American students were doing as far as online classes. So there’s really no rationale for changing it,” explained Allen Orr, the president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, a group representing over 16,000 international students.

Orr said a court will likely issue a temporary restraining order for the new rule as early as next week.

The Trump administration defended the action on Wednesday.

“I think the policy speaks for itself, you don’t get a visa for taking online classes at the University of Phoenix, so why would you if you were just taking online classes generally,” said White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

But now some schools are trying to sidestep the issue. The University of Southern California (USC) announced they would be offering international students the option of enrolling in an in-person class free of cost to thwart the prospect of deportation

Orr said this cosmetic fix only goes so far and shows the illogical nature of the rule itself.

“Why should there be this superficial dance around the rule? If the concern is so great, then why should we just have one class and they can stay? It shows the rule really has no basis,” Orr said.

From an economic bottom-line perspective, the costs could be huge. There are over 1 million international students in the U.S.

‘International students are responsible for something north of $40 billion into the American economy, not in rational self-interest to deprive us of income from these students, they pay rent, they buy pizza, go out to dinner, all the things that young people do,” said Frederick Lawrence, a former president of Brandeis University and current head of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

Zhou says if he were to have to leave, expensive and infrequent flights to and from China could be a major obstacle. He acknowledged he would have no other choice but to stay here illegally if the rule were upheld by the courts.

“Especially for Asian students, say we do go back [to our home countries] and take online classes, you still have like a 12-13 hour time difference, which means you might have your classes after midnight,” said Zhou.

In one instance of the rule taking effect, a Harvard student was recently denied entry to the U.S. just this week.

“The difference is timezones, wifi stream, class participation, all those things are easy if you’re close together, everyone has the same access to tech. In places around the world, those things may not be available and that’s the reason why the students are in the U.S. in the first place, said Orr.

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advocates Worry

Advocates worry blacks, Hispanics falling behind in census

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Halfway through the extended effort to count every U.S. resident, civil rights leaders worry that minority communities are falling behind in responding to the 2020 census.

With outreach efforts to motivate minority responses upended by a global pandemic, both the National Urban League and the NALEO Educational Fund are sounding the alarm that communities with concentrations of blacks and Hispanics have been trailing the rest of the nation in answering the census questionnaire.

The once-each-decade count helps determine where $1.5 trillion in federal funding goes and how many congressional seats each state gets.

“Going into 2020, we knew the census was going to be extremely challenging. We knew the Census Bureau didn’t have sufficient preparations to do all of its tests to make sure it would work out the way it should be … and then COVID-19 hit,” said Arturo Vargas, CEO of NALEO Educational Fund said this week during a virtual town hall with NBCUniversal Telemundo.

The pandemic is disproportionately affecting the Latino population, he said, so “we have to figure out how we break through the real noise affecting their daily lives to do something as ordinary as going through the mail and filling out their forms.”

People can respond either online, by phone or through the mail, but many U.S. residents haven’t taken the initiative.

The nation’s self-response rate was 61.5% this week. Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, New York and Texas — states with large concentrations of Hispanics — were lagging. California, which invested $187 million in outreach efforts, was doing slightly better, with 62.6% of its households responding, he said.

A more detailed analysis of response rates in late May and early June conducted by the Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center showed that neighborhoods with concentrations of black residents had a self-response rate of 51%, compared to 53.8% for Hispanic-concentrated neighborhoods and 65.5% for white-dominant neighborhoods.

Advocates at the National Urban League are particularly worried that the count will miss black immigrants, blacks in rural communities, formerly incarcerated men and women, and children under age 4.

The Census Bureau already plans to send out as many as 500,000 workers this summer and fall to the homes of people who haven’t responded, but the league’s president and CEO, Marc Morial, says it must do more — hiring still more door-knockers, targeting more advertising to minority communities and mailing out another round of paper questionnaires.

“They need to use their bully pulpit,” Morial said. “It’s been quiet.”

The Census Bureau had allotted $500 million for its outreach campaign. Another $160 million was added after the start of the pandemic for advertising and engaging with community partners.

With the new coronavirus spreading, the Census Bureau suspended field operations in mid-March for a month and a half, including efforts to drop off census forms at households in rural areas with no traditional addresses.

The Census Bureau on Thursday said it had finished dropping off the forms to almost all of the 6.8 million mostly rural households. Because of the pandemic, the Census Bureau pushed back the deadline for finishing the 2020 census from the end of July to the end of October, and asked Congress for a delay in handing over apportionment and redistricting numbers.

Getting a higher self-response rate is important because it saves money on door-knocking and makes for a more accurate count. The 2010 census undercounted blacks by 2.1% and Hispanics by 1.5%, according to the bureau.

“We are risking another decreased count in 2020 census,” U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, a Democrat from New York City, said Thursday during a conference call. Her Queens district is one of the most diverse in the nation.

“Any mistake or inaccurate count we make becomes a 10-year mistake and affects our neighborhoods and communities for a very long time,” she said.

___

Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP

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advocates cashless

AGA advocates more cashless gaming options in casinos

The American Gaming Association has issued a seven-point statement of principles on digital payment options designed to develop regulatory flexibility for cashless casino transactions.

The AGA’s “Payments Modernization Policy Principles” were issued early Tuesday following an 18-month collaborative industry effort involving commercial and tribal casinos. The collaboration was in part spurred by the COVID-19 outbreak as the gaming industry has learned that 57 percent of past-year casino visitors want better digital and contactless payments on the casino floor.

AGA researchers found that 59 percent of past casino patrons are less likely to use cash in their everyday lives because of the coronavirus pandemic, and 54 percent would be very likely to use a digital or contactless payment option when they gamble.

The principles come at an ideal time for Nevada gaming regulators who will on June 25 consider amendments to regulations that would enable more

“Advancing opportunities for digital payments has been one of our top priorities since my first day at the AGA. It aligns with gaming’s role as a modern, 21st century industry and bolsters our already rigorous regulatory and responsible gaming measures,” AGA President and CEO Bill Miller said in a release that was issued early Tuesday. “The COVID-19 pandemic made it all the more important to advance our efforts to provide customers with the payment choice they are more comfortable with and have increasingly come to expect in their daily lives.”

Miller said the initiative improves responsible gaming efforts by equipping customers with digital tools to help them monitor their gaming and set limits and provides operators, regulators, and law enforcement increased transparency into matters of anti-money laundering and monitoring of financial transactions.

When the Nevada Gaming Commission meets June 25, it will consider amendments to two regulations addressing intercasino-linked systems, gaming devices, new games, online slot metering systems, cashless wagering systems, mobile gaming systems and interactive gaming systems.

At least three companies are developing “digital wallet” systems that will enable customers to transfer funds from a bank account to a smartphone and the smartphone to a slot machine or table game.

New systems would eliminate an intermediary step of transferring funds from a digital wallet to a kiosk that could print out a ticket that would be accepted by a slot machine or table game.

If the Gaming Commission approves the amendments that have been recommended by the state Gaming Control Board, new cashless systems could be used in casinos immediately.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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advocates police

Advocates push for independent police oversight; current police review board seeks de-escalation policy

San Diego elected officials, including Mayor Kevin Faulconer, recently expressed support for a ballot measure that would establish independent investigations of all officer-involved shootings and officer-related deaths.

However, advocates who have been pushing for independent police oversight for more than a decade say they are not declaring victory yet. Some say they are skeptical.

The proposed ballot measure would make changes to the city charter and create an independent commission with subpoena powers that would be represented by legal counsel separate from the city.

The new Commission on Police Practices would replace the city’s Community Review Board on Police Practices, which critics say has done little to change how police operate. The city also has a Citizens Advisory Board on Police/Community Relations, which makes recommendations to improve relations between police and community members.

The measure requires a meet-and-confer process, negotiations between the city and the San Diego Police Officers Association because it would impact their members. The City Council in November voted to begin that negotiation process with the union.

Jack Schaeffer, head of the association, said earlier this week that his organization had recently signed off on the proposal for the new commission. It’s not known publicly what changes may have been requested by the union and whether they will be acceptable to backers of the proposal.

Leaders with San Diegans for Justice, the advocacy group behind the measure, noted Thursday that previous attempts to create an independent commission had been unsuccessful. In 2018, Women Occupy San Diego proposed a similar oversight reform measure but failed to get the support of the full City Council.

Because the meet-and-confer process is private, advocates say they don’t know if the new proposal has been changed.

“We have no idea what has happened in the last six months …. Have they gutted our charter amendment?” Andrea St. Julian, co-chair of San Diegans for Justice and author of the charter amendment, said. “Are these elected officials agreeing to something that is completely different than the proposed charter amendment?”

Faulconer announced Monday that he would support the proposed November ballot measure. St. Julian said she had made repeated attempts to meet with the Mayor’s Office before his announcement, but never received a response. She said she first learned of his support for the measure Monday.

The mayor’s announcement comes after days of protests in San Diego and across the country over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer who was arresting Floyd knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.

Meanwhile on Thursday, the Community Review Board on Police Practices, which would be replaced by the new independent oversight commission, held an emergency meeting to discuss the San Diego Police Department’s lack of a de-escalation policy, as well as issues surrounding the ongoing protests in the city.

The issue of de-escalation is not new to the Community Review Board, which sent a letter to police Chief David Nisleit in April 2018 urging the Police Department to adopt a strong de-escalation policy.

During Thursday’s remote meeting, which was streamed on the city’s YouTube channel, board member and former board chair Doug Case said Nisleit was open in 2018 to including de-escalation into the Police Department’s use-of-force policy. But after more than two years of work on the use-of-force policy, when it was finalized earlier this year, Case said he was surprised to see it did not include a requirement that officers use de-escalation techniques in encounters with the public.

“I was profoundly disappointed,” Case told the board.

Another board member, Patrick Anderson, said he too was ” profoundly disappointed” in the lack of mandated de-escalation in the Police Department use-of-force policy.

The board voted Thursday to suggest a change to the department’s use-of-force policy that would add required de-escalation. The amendment would read: “When safe under the totality of the situation and time and circumstances permit, officers shall be required to use de-escalation techniques and tactics in order to reduce any threat or gain compliance to lawful commands without the use of force or with the lowest level of force possible.”

Board members also expressed concern during Thursday evening’s meeting that, given the ongoing protests in the region, there is no publicly available San Diego Police Department policy regarding how police deal with large protests. The board voted to approve a motion for its policy committee to examine the department’s response to large protests, including how and when to use force and the use of military-style equipment.

As for the independent commission that could replace the review board, San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez announced plans to docket the proposed measure for the council’s June 23 meeting.

“I want the public to know that we are advancing the Independent Police Practices Commission measure without delay, and my hope is to bring together everyone on the Council — Democrat, Republican, Independent — for a unanimous vote,” Gómez said in a statement. “The time is now to create real dignity and respect for all our communities, but specifically our Black and Brown communities.”

Geneviéve Jones-Wright, legal director with Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans, said Councilwoman Monica Montgomery and Gómez have made their support clear for the measure, but said to advocates and supporters, “We must remain remain vigilant.”

“When we talk about an independent, community-led Commission on police practices we understand that this is about saving lives, preventing more lives from being taken unlawfully by police officers,” said Jones-Wright. “We are saying we need to ensure accountability and transparency and justice. There has got to be a way that we get justice for victims of police violence.”

The measure needs to qualify for the ballot by August to be voted on in November.

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advocates Demand

Advocates demand full benefits for city workers killed by coronavirus

May 3, 2020 | 4: 25pm | Updated May 3, 2020 | 5: 34pm

Advocates for essential city workers are demanding the municipal employees killed by the coronavirus receive full, line-of-duty death benefits — even if it’s unclear whether they contracted the contagion on the clock or on their own.

With at least 245 city workers dead from the global pandemic so far, union leaders and elected officials are teaming up to demand that cops, firefighters and others who put themselves on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 be treated as “line of duty” casualties.

Among those leading the charge has been City Councilman Joe Borelli of Staten Island, who is calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to extend death benefits to the families of city workers who die of coronavirus until the state can hammer out a longer-term solution.

“Health officials made a determination that this disease was so deadly that the general public must stay home and yet we still asked certain essential workers to show up every day,” Borelli told Politico. “If they had to go to work in a dangerous situation, then they contracted it in the course of their duty.”

As of last week, 68 city Department of Education employees, 38 healthcare workers, 37 police officers, 27 social service workers, and 10 firefighters numbered among the city’s coronavirus casualties — in some cases leaving their families scrambling for economic survival.

In addition, the departments of correction and mental health have both lost 10 employees, while the Administration for Children’s Services has bid farewell to seven, city officials said.

The deaths have been particularly difficult for cops and firefighters who passed from the virus short of the 20-year threshold to qualify for a full state pension.

Under current law, the family of a police officer who dies short of 20 years of service is entitled to a lump-sum payment equal to three times the cop’s annual salary. That’s short of the line-of-duty benefit that provides survivors with continued health benefits and an annual percentage of the officer’s salary.

Politico highlighted the case of one NYPD cop killed by the coronavirus one year shy of retirement from the force.

Det. Raymond Abear, who planned on buying a waterfront home in Florida for his wife and two young children, died at age 43 last month, the outlet said.

Abear’s death left his 37-year-old wife, Catherine — a stay-at-home mom — with no income or health insurance.

“We made the decision together that he would work and support our family financially and I would stay home and raise our children,” Catherine Abear told Politico. “Right now I’m in a position where I have to immediately figure out both of those roles.”

Union officials worry that pension boards will not classify deaths like Abear’s as “line of duty” deaths, which would mean families receive far fewer benefits.

PBA President Pat Lynch likened the struggle to the lengthy fight for benefits for workers who lost their lives at Ground Zero in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.

“We just finished an 18-year fight to secure treatment and benefits for all of our 9/11 heroes,” Lynch said. “Our elected leaders absolutely cannot put the heroes of this pandemic through the same ordeal. Police officers could not protect our health by sheltering in place.”

“We had to be out on the streets in every part of the city, interacting with both healthy New Yorkers and sick ones, without adequate protective equipment,” he said. “Those who were made ill by their service to the city — especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice — need to be guaranteed full line of duty benefits.”

In a statement Sunday, de Blasio said the burden of picking up the additional tab should fall on Washington.

“The President left New Yorkers without the tools we needed to protect ourselves; the least he can do now is support families who have suffered unspeakable loss,” the mayor said. “The federal government should provide death benefits to those eligible.”

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advocates COVID-

Why these advocates hope COVID-19 could lead to a more walkable, bikeable Winnipeg

Traffic restrictions from the City of Winnipeg on a handful of streets across the city turned them into physical distancing-friendly pedestrian paths, for residents cooped up thanks to COVID-19.

Wellington Crescent is among the Winnipeg streets that have been turned over to pedestrians and cyclists, with daytime vehicle restrictions in place until at least late May. Motor vehicle traffic has fallen now that Winnipeggers are being urged to avoid non-essential trips. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Strolling down any of Winnipeg’s traffic-free streets over the past several days has been a “beautiful experience,” in the eyes of Patrick Krawec. 

“You’re seeing lots of people, lots of smiles, lots of children, lots of play,” said Krawec, the executive director of the Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub, or WRENCH.

Traffic restrictions from the City of Winnipeg on a handful of streets across the city has turned them into physical distancing-friendly pedestrian and cycling paths for residents cooped up thanks to COVID-19.

Temporary traffic restrictions on four streets were announced in April, with five more set to join on Tuesday, limiting vehicle traffic to one block, so people and families can walk and ride — while distancing — outside. 

“It is a very elegant, simple solution,” Krawec said. “No costs, tons of savings and it was led by the people.”

Across the country, other cities have made similar moves, from a ban on cars in Vancouver’s Stanley Park to reduced traffic lanes to make room for cyclists on some Calgary streets.

Around the world, expansive, kilometres-long networks have sprung up in cities like New York, Paris, Lima and Bogota. Those, alongside tanking oil prices, have prompted some observers to wonder if COVID-19 could be a nail in the coffin of the car.

“It was like flicking a switch, and it achieved so many goals of community wellness,” Krawec said of the changes he saw on closed streets in Winnipeg.

“In a time of isolation, it has really brought people together, although they’re staying apart.”

As Manitoba starts reopening Monday and restrictions roll back, Krawec and other advocates are hopeful the change in how Winnipeggers use and view their streets won’t fade away.

‘Reconnecting with nature’

Cities across Canada and around the world have seen drops in traffic since the pandemic began, with wide swaths of the population staying home thanks to shutdowns and physical distancing measures.

In Winnipeg, the traffic measurement company TomTom has recorded a congestion drop of 21 to 34 per cent during peak rush hour every day over the past week.

Two security guards walk through an empty downtown Vancouver intersection on March 23, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Emptied streets combined with the need for physical distancing have thrown a sudden spotlight on decades of traffic-centred urban planning strategies, said Anders Swanson, executive director of the Winnipeg Trails Association.

“You very quickly realize how the space has been allocated, as soon as you’re walking down a 1.5 metre-wide sidewalk towards somebody [and] you’re afraid of having them breathe on you,” said Swanson on the phone from Finland, where he was stuck due to the pandemic. 

“You very quickly realize that you don’t have anywhere to go to, except for this giant, wide street, which is right there and empty.”

WATCH | Winnipeggers take to closed streets to get active during pandemic:

Wolseley residents speak highly of the city’s decision to surrender one of their streets to cyclists and pedestrians to encourage residents to stay apart from each other during the COVID-19 pandemic. 1: 30

Robin Cox, a professor of disaster and emergency management at Royal Roads University in Victoria, says that realization is being accompanied around the world by a greater value placed on getting outside.

“We are witnessing in many areas, particularly urban environments, people … reconnecting with the value of nature to them and to their lives, as other aspects of their lives get more constrained,” said Cox, who is also the director of the Resilience by Design Research Innovation Lab.

The devastating global impacts of the pandemic have exposed or amplified fault lines in many sectors, she said — from social inequities on health outcomes to the fragility of global supply chains for food and medical supplies.

It’s also sparked a greater focus on health, particularly in how underlying conditions can influence the way individuals experience the disease, said Lawrence Frank, a professor in the school of population and public health at the University of British Columbia.

Staying active can help prevent some of those pre-existing conditions, such as heart and lung disease, he said.

“Myself and others have been doing lots of studies showing that active transportation contributes significantly to the reduction of chronic disease, reduces health-care costs,” said Frank, who teaches sustainable transportation and health and runs the school’s health and community design lab.

When it comes to fighting chronic disease in general, and COVID-19 in particular, he said, “we think that investing in active transportation is, really, probably one of the best things we can do in the near- and long-term.”

Building back from crisis

Global drops in traffic and air travel have been accompanied by a reduction in observed emissions. In late February, CO2 emissions in China dropped by 25 per cent after the country locked down entire cities and shut factories, highways and airports.

The pandemic is now expected by some to lead to the biggest single-year CO2 emissions drop since the Second World War, according to the World Meteorological Organization. That group predicted COVID-19 would lead to a global drop of roughly six per cent by the end of this year.

Scientists around the world have been clear these temporary drops won’t make a dent in long-standing climate issues.

“We need to understand that the climate crisis is a health-care crisis that will impact, and has already impacted, health,” Cox said. “And if this isn’t a warning siren for that, then I’m not sure of what is.”

It’s hard to say for sure whether temporary interventions like a few closed streets will translate to long-term policy change, said Cox.

But hallmarks of communities that have faced disaster and come back better include slow, purposeful rebuilding, she said, along with early community engagement. Crises disrupt the “normal,” she said, and should be followed by questions about what wasn’t working.

“We tend to be a reactive culture, whether it’s health care or economics or whatever. And what we’re seeing [about] that reactive culture is that it doesn’t serve us well.”

‘Dipping one toe in the water’

In Winnipeg, Swanson said he wants to see leaders do more for cyclists and pedestrians. Across Canada, he characterizes the policy moves made so far as focused on recreation, rather than transportation.

“Most of the cities I’ve seen in Canada kind of made that same mistake, of only dipping one toe in the water — and Winnipeg, too,” he said.

Opening only a few streets at a time creates a destination, making it harder for people to stay distanced, he said.

The drop in vehicle traffic is a break in a ‘vicious circle’ that keeps many people from biking, says Anders Swanson, seen here in a 2018 file photo. (CBC)

The Winnipeg Trails Association he heads is calling on the city to create an emergency cycling network and curbside lane dedications in its OpenStreets 2020 plan, to give more Winnipeggers access to trails to give commuters options as the economy reopens.

Winnipeg Transit is reducing bus service and laying off 253 full- and part-time drivers because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and city officials said last month ridership dropped 72 per cent compared to the same timeframe in 2019.

“When you have an entire transportation system shut down in the middle of an emergency … you would think that you’d want to have some kind of serious backup plan in place,” Swanson said.

A spokesperson for the City of Winnipeg said in an emailed statement the city is collecting data on the current routes to track usage.

“The city will re-evaluate at the end of May to determine if the designations need to be extended,” he wrote.

Like Krawec, he’s hopeful the pandemic will leave a long-lasting shift in how Winnipeggers see their streets.

“We’ve known that people want to walk and bike a lot more than they can, but they just feel concerned about traffic, basically,” he said.

“It becomes a kind of a vicious circle, and all of a sudden, that vicious circle got broken.”

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'assault-style' advocates

Advocates say ‘assault-style’ firearms ban a good first step in larger battle

The federal government billed its new ban on “assault-style” firearms as an important move to reduce violence against women. Gender advocates believe it’s merely a first step in a larger battle.

RCMP said the deadly rampage that left 22 people dead in Nova Scotia started after a gunman assaulted his girlfriend in Portapique. She managed to escape, hide in the woods overnight and survived. (Liam Hennessey/The Canadian Press)

When the federal government unveiled its ban on 1,500 kinds of “assault-style” firearms on Friday, it was billed as an important move to reduce violence against women.

“On average, one woman dies of domestic violence in Canada every three days,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who drew links between assault weapons and gender violence.

“These guns make it easier to commit mass murder. The culture around their fetishization makes our country inherently more dangerous for the most vulnerable: women and girls. It is unacceptable in 2020 that gender is still a factor in how safe you feel.”

Certainly, women’s groups have long pushed for stricter gun control in Canada. Those calls intensified after police revealed the recent rampage in Nova Scotia that killed 22 people started with a domestic violence incident at a home in Portapique.

For Nathalie Provost, the assault-rifle ban was a longtime coming. Provost was shot four times by a gunman at Montreal’s École Polytechnique in 1989. The ban includes the weapon used in that shooting: a Ruger Mini-14 rifle.

Nathalie Provost, who survived Montreal’s École Polytechnique massacre in 1989, says the government’s assault-rifle ban was a longtime coming. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

“I’m not sure we will be able to erase the possibility of having those kinds of awful massacres like they had in Nova Scotia … but if we can decrease the risk of death and injuries by gun, I think we will have succeeded in something very important for all Canadians,” she told CBC Radio’s Cross Country Checkup.

Still, if the goal is to reduce the killing of women and girls in Canada, also known as femicide, gender advocates believe the assault-style rifle ban is merely a first step in a larger battle.

‘An important milestone’

Amanda Dale calls the ban on assault weapons “an important milestone,” arguing the Nova Scotia mass killings were rooted in misogyny reminiscent of the Montreal massacre and the van attack in Toronto.

She’s a longtime member of the advisory panel for the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (CFOJA) and head of a Toronto legal clinic dedicated to fighting violence against women.

“These guns were used in mass murders in which women were often the target, so it’s a very important step forward,” she said.

Mass shooters like Alexandre Bissonnette or Marc Lépine were law-abiding citizens until they did something awful.– Nathalie Provost, who was shot four times during École Polytechnique massacre

Yet as sensational as mass shootings are, they account for a small fraction of homicides in Canada. When it comes to femicide, the larger problem is intimate partner violence. 

In 2018, guns were the most commonly used weapon when women were killed by an intimate partner, accounting for approximately one-third of cases, according to analysis by the CFOJA.

However, it’s less clear exactly what types of guns were used in those homicides.

“Information on the type of gun used in shootings was available in only 40 per cent of the cases, but where information was known, handguns and long guns were almost equally represented,” wrote the authors of #CallItFemicide, which reviewed 148 killings of women and girls in Canada in 2018.

Hunting rifles and handguns

The report suggests intimacy and rurality increase the risk of femicide for women and girls, which raises questions about licensed long guns.

“In the murder of women, we most often see hunting rifles used, because they are ready [at] hand in an escalating situation often,” said Dale.

“Additionally, we see the rates of domestic violence much higher in rural areas … and that’s where we see those guns.”

Amanda Dale is a longtime member of the advisory panel for the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability. She says the firearms ban is merely part of a ‘suite of protections’ required to protect women from violence. (Submitted by Amanda Dale)

Dale argues the assault rifle ban is merely part of a “suite of protections” required to protect women from violence.

Provost, meanwhile, says banning assault rifles “is just a beginning,” suggesting that “this government has to do something at a [federal] level on handguns.”

During the 2019 election campaign, Justin Trudeau said a Liberal government would leave it to cities to restrict or ban handguns. Provost doesn’t believe that will work.

“It will be a real cacophony. It will be a patchwork of inapplicable laws,” said Provost. “If it’s tough to do gun control at the Canadian level, imagine it at the city level.”

‘Also taking guns away from women’

Gun lobbyists, on the other hand, are furious about the new ban, saying it misses the mark if it’s intended to protect women from domestic violence.

Tracey Wilson of the Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights argues that the focus should be on providing resources to women living with abusive spouses.

“If it’s really about protecting women, let’s not forget that they are also taking guns away from women when they’re doing that,” said Wilson.

“[The government] coming to my home and taking my firearm away from me now doesn’t do anything to help women out there who are suffering right now.”

Provost expects the gun debate to remain heated in Canada, but disagrees gun control is unfair to law-abiding citizens with legally owned firearms.

“There are too many very dangerous weapons legally owned,” said Provost.

“Mass shooters like Alexandre Bissonnette or Marc Lépine were law-abiding citizens until they did something awful and incredible.… I’m still having that wound in my flesh, 30 years after. And if you ask all the families who lost their daughters, they’re still crying today.”


Interviews by Kirthana Sasitharan and Kate Cornick

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advocates startup

Startup advocates worry venture-backed companies that got money under the $670 billion small-business loan program are going to have to give it back

  • Advocates of startups are worried that new guidelines issued by Small Business Administration may have retroactively disqualified many businesses from the small-business loan program Congress enacted as part of its $2 trillion coronavirus aid package.
  • Many startups applied for the loans, which the SBA has promised to forgive if the money is used for payroll, rent, and other basic expenses.
  • The revised rules advise companies that when certifying they need the loans, they need to consider whether they have access to other sources of cash, potentially including money from their venture or other investors; previously, companies only had to certify they needed the funds due to the “current economic uncertainty.”
  • Some startups are already giving back the money they received under the program, and attorneys that represent venture firms and venture-backed companies say many more may do so.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Startup founders and venture capitalists have a new reason to worry about the small business loans the federal government is handing out as part of its coronavirus relief effort.

Over the last two weeks, the Small Business Administration, which is overseeing the program, has issued new rules and guidelines governing it, which may effectively retroactively disqualify some startups from participating in the program, startup advocates told Business Insider.

Some companies are already giving back money they received under the program in response to the new rules after applying for them, thinking they were eligible under the then-current guidelines and after being encouraged to do so by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, said Ed Zimmerman, chair of the tech group at the law firm Lowenstein Sandler.

The SBA and the Treasury Department, under which it operates, have “really muddied the water” with the new rules, Zimmerman said. “They said, ‘Come and get it while it’s hot.’ And then right after you were bringing your plates to the sink, they said, ‘By the way, there might have been a little poison in that hot dog.'”

“So what are you supposed to do now?” Zimmerman continued. “Stick your finger down your throat?”

The $2 trillion stimulus package Congress passed in March earmarked $349 billion for the SBA to hand out in loans to small businesses that were struggling to make ends meet due to the coronavirus crisis. If the companies used the loans to pay their payrolls and things like rent and utilities, the SBA promised to forgive them. After the initiative, dubbed the Paycheck Protection Program, ran out of money, Congress last month refilled it with another $320 billion.

Numerous startups applied for and received loans under the program. Of Bullpen Capital’s 60 portfolio companies, for example, more than half applied for PPP loans, partner Duncan Davidson told Business Insider.

Shake Shack drew criticism for getting a loan

The program has already run into controversy, especially after the initial allocation started to run out, and many small businesses weren’t able to get any aid. Critics raised objections when big or prominent companies including Shake Shack, Sweetgreen, the parent company of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, and the Los Angeles Lakers all acknowledged getting loans under the initiative. Many such companies have since promised to return the money.

Ostensibly in response to those reports, and in response to what it called “misunderstandings” about which borrowers were could take part in the program, the SBA updated its guidance and rules. Previously, companies with 500 or fewer employees were generally eligible for the program if they could certify that they needed the loans to help support their ongoing operations due to the “current economic uncertainty.”

But under the new guidelines, which the SBA started putting in place on April 23 — several weeks after the program launched — the agency added some crucial new terms.

When companies determined whether they need the loans, they now need to consider, as part of the new rules, whether they have access to other sources of capital, including from their investors or owners or the public stock markets and can use that money to support their operations in a way “that is not significantly detrimental to the business.” The agency further clarified its rules earlier this week to specify that among the companies that need to consider whether they have access to other sources of money are those owned by private companies or backed by private equity funds.

Although the guidance doesn’t specifically mention startups or venture funds, venture capital is generally considered to be a kind of private equity. And venture advisors and advocates are worried that venture-back startups could be forced to give back their loans if they had substantial cash on hand already or have investors with ready funds.

The SBA “inserted a new standard changing the rules of the game after the players have left the field, and then everyone was sort of scrambling to figure out what does that mean and how do I reassess,” Zimmerman said.

Startups are already returning the SBA money

Under the new rules, companies that return the money they received under the program by May 7 won’t be held liable for making a false certification about their need for the loans. Some startups are already refunding the money or are being advised to do so.

One of Byron Dailey’s clients is a venture fund that recently invested in three different startups, each of which had applied for loans under the SBA program. All three are probably going to have to give those loans back now, because of concerns that they may be ineligible under the new guidelines about access to other sources of capital, said Dailey, who leads Fenwick & West’s private investment funds practice.

“We’re in the process of trying tell some of these companies they need to give it back,” he said.

Zimmerman is advising his startup clients and venture firms to hold board meetings to reexamine whether their companies qualify for the loans. Directors need to now consider the issue of whether the startups have access to other sources of cash, he said. Investors and founders also need to be thinking, in the wake of the news about Shake Shack, about whether the reputation of the venture firm or their startup will take a hit when news that they participated in the program becomes public, he said.

Companies could face criminal charges

And that’s not all. Companies could face criminal liability under the program that could shadow them for years afterward, he said. The SBA said this week it would audit all loans under the program that were larger than $2 million as well as other, smaller loans. Those whom the department believes to have made false certifications of need could be criminally prosecuted, Mnuchin said this week.

The problem for startups that took the loans is that many of them have already spent some of the money they received, said Zimmerman. Many have also made assurances to employees that they won’t be laid off or to landlords that they’ll be paid, thanks to those loans, he said.

“I am constantly in board meetings and constantly talking to founders and board members about whether they should feel shitty about what they’ve just done,” Zimmerman said. “And I kind of think that’s unforgivable on the part of Treasury. They could have and should have articulated a better standard.”

The controversy is only the latest problem startups have run into with the loan program. When the program was first passed, many startups and venture capitalists were concerned that venture-backed companies would be ineligible because of other SBA rules that seemed to imply that startups would have to count as their employees not just their own workforces but those of other companies owned by their venture backers. However, the agency soon issued guidance that made it clear that startups generally wouldn’t have to apply that rule.

Got a tip about a startup or the venture industry? Contact this reporter via email at twolverton@businessinsider.com, message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

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