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In The News for May 26 : Are Canadian homeowners covered in cases of flooding?

Last Updated May 26, 2023 at 2:29 am MDT

Local residents make their way to dry land following flooding in the Gatineau region of Quebec on Thursday, May 4, 2023. The Insurance Bureau of Canada says more than 1.5 million households in Canada are “highly exposed” to flood risk. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby

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 May 26 …

What we are watching in Canada …

As the spring season brings higher flood risk to Canadians, as seen in British Columbia recently, experts say many homeowners remain without adequate insurance to cover extreme weather’s damage to their homes.

“I would say that Canadians in general are not truly aware of the risks that their homes are exposed to, and the exposure they have to extreme weather events and the potential losses they could experience,” said Michelle Laidlaw, associate vice-president of The Co-operators Group Ltd.’s national product portfolio.

Flooding is the biggest under-insured climate risk in Canada, said Victor Adesanya, vice-president of insurance at DBRS Morningstar, especially during the spring thaw.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada said more than 1.5 million households in Canada are “highly exposed” to flood risk. 

In comparison, as wildfires in Alberta have forced evacuations and filled the skies with smoke, the IBC said standard homeowner’s insurance covers fire damage as well as the costs of mass evacuations. 

Storm surge is another big under-insured risk, said Nadja Dreff, senior vice-president and head of Canadian insurance also at DBRS Morningstar. The Atlantic is at particularly high risk of storm surge, which tends to be in the aftermath of hurricanes or other such storms, said Adesanya.

The risks for these two events are only growing with climate change, said Dreff. 

“There is very much a need for this coverage. And yet, we still haven’t gotten to that level where we can say the insurance sector completely is able to cover all the risks,” she said. 

IBC has said overland flood coverage for damage from overflowing bodies of water is generally only covered with an add-on to insurance plans. It may not even be available if you live in a known flood plain, it said. 

Home and business insurance policies also don’t normally cover coastal flooding or storm surge flooding, IBC said, which means damage from rising water levels and waves caused by storms is generally not covered. 

Also this …

Almost a year before the closure of 24 Sussex Drive due to disrepair and an infestation of rodents, the chairman of the National Capital Commission’s board of directors warned that further delaying a cabinet decision on the fate of the residence would put the whole structure at risk.

The mansion, which sits on a prime riverfront property a few kilometres from Parliament Hill, served as the home for Canada’s prime ministers between 1950 and 2015.

Concerns about the deteriorating state of the building prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family move into a different official residence after he was elected. For nearly eight years, they have lived at Rideau Cottage, which is on the grounds of nearby Rideau Hall.

Since then, the federal Liberal cabinet has continually deferred making a decision about whether to restore the heritage property.

In January 2022, the NCC board’s chairman Marc Seaman wrote to Filomena Tassi, the then-public services and procurement minister, “expressing concern around the delay of a cabinet decision beyond December 2021 on the future of 24 Sussex Drive.”

The concerns are detailed in a briefing note from the Privy Council Office, the administrative arm of the federal cabinet. It was obtained by The Canadian Press under access-to-information laws.

In the letter itself — sections of which have been redacted — Seaman said he wants to convey “the board’s strong view that continued deferment … carries real risks to both the physical integrity of the building itself and our ability to execute our fiduciary responsibility as stewards of this most important classified heritage building on behalf of all Canadians.”

The property had been used for outdoor receptions in the years since 2015, and staff were still using some rooms.

But in July, Seaman informed the government of the commission’s plans to close the residence entirely, saying the work that needed to happen “by no means pre-empts any future decisions by the federal government regarding the use and purpose of the residence.” 

Last fall, a rodent infestation, worries that electrical issues could start a fire and outstanding water damage, among other issues, led the commission to determine that 24 Sussex now posed a health and safety risk to the remaining staff who worked there. The building was officially shuttered to remove aged systems and asbestos. 

It will remain closed for at least the next year, after contractors moved in last week to begin that work, according to commission spokeswoman Valérie Dufour. 

And this too …

Allergies and asthma are on the rise — and experts say climate change is largely to blame. 

Dr. Melissa Lem, a family physician in Vancouver and president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) said research has shown that over the last few decades in North America, the average pollen season has extended about three weeks and that now plants release about 20 per cent more pollen than they used to.

That’s consistent with data gathered by Aerobiology, a Canadian company that monitors airborne allergens such as pollen and mould spores.

“We are seeing a lot more pollen and higher concentrations of pollen overall in the air year over year,” said Aerobiology spokesperson Daniel Coates.

“Pollen reacts to warmer weather. The more warmer weather you have, the more pollen you’re generally going to have in the air. And so there seems to be a correlation between the amount of pollen that we see in the air and the warmer weather that we’re having due to climate change.”

Allergies in both children and adults have definitely been on the rise over the last several years, said Dr. Susan Waserman, division director of clinical immunology and allergy at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

“We’ve been seeing this now for decades,” Waserman said. “It’s eczema. It’s allergic rhinitis. It’s asthma. It’s food allergy. It’s really everything.”

What we are watching in the U.S. …

PHOENIX _ Members of a small polygamous group accused of child sex abuse of underage girls who the group’s leader claimed as brides are expected to appear in federal court on Friday.

Sam Bateman and the three women followers scheduled to appear for their arraignment were arrested last year and charged with kidnapping and impeding a federal investigation. Prosecutors earlier this month expanded the group’s charges.

Now 11 members of Bateman’s group face 51 felony counts for transporting children across state lines to facilitate sexual activity, recording it, destroying evidence and witness tampering.

The group’s appearance in court is the latest development in a sprawling federal investigation spanning at least five states that became public last fall after authorities raided Bateman’s compound in Colorado City, Arizona. The site was long home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, known by its acronym FLDS.

Colorado City and Hildale _ an adjoining town across the Utah border _ have changed dramatically since the group’s prophet, Warren Jeffs, was arrested more than a decade ago. But the case against Bateman serves as a reminder that its legacy remains and continues to evolve.

In court filings, investigators have alleged that Bateman, 47, persuaded followers to break off from the FLDS Church, convincing them that he was a prophet who succeeded Jeffs and was “doing `Uncle Warren’s’ will.”

Bateman has been accused of taking at least 20 wives, including many minors as young as eight and nine years old. But charges have mostly pertained to the decision by him and his adult followers to take the minors across state lines _ including at one point breaking them out of Arizona foster care _ and impeding the investigation.

The FLDS, from which Bateman originated, is itself a breakaway sect of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon Church. Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of the mainstream church, but it abandoned the practice in 1890 and now strictly prohibits it.

What we are watching in the rest of the world …

ISLAMABAD _ Two top rights groups on Friday slammed the severe restrictions imposed on women and girls by the Taliban in Afghanistan as gender-based persecution, which is a crime against humanity.

In a new report, Amnesty International and the International Commission for Jurists, or ICJ, underscored how the Taliban crackdown on Afghan women’s rights, coupled with “imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment,” could constitute gender persecution under the International Criminal Court.

The report by Amnesty and ICJ, titled, “The Taliban’s war on women: The crime against humanity of gender persecution in Afghanistan,” cited the ICC statute, which lists gender-based persecution as a crime against humanity.

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 as U.S. and NATO troops were in the final weeks of their withdrawal from the country after two decades of war.

Despite initial promises of a more moderate rule, the Taliban started to enforce restrictions on women and girls soon after their takeover, barring them from public spaces and most jobs, and banning education for girls beyond the sixth grade. The measures harked back to the previous Taliban rule of Afghanistan in the late 1990s, when they also imposed their strict interpretation of Islamic law, or Shariah.

The harsh edicts prompted an international outcry against the already ostracized Taliban, whose administration has not been officially recognized by the United Nations and the international community.

In the report, Santiago A. Canton, the ICJ secretary-general, said the Taliban’s actions are of such “magnitude, gravity and of such a systematic nature,” that they qualify “as a crime against humanity of gender persecution.”

Both organizations called on the International Criminal Court to include this crime in their ongoing investigation into what is happening in Afghanistan and take legal action. They also called on countries “to exercise universal jurisdiction” and hold the Taliban accountable under international law.

On this day in 2008 …

Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier was forced to resign over a security breach involving classified documents left in his former girlfriend’s Montreal apartment.

In entertainment …

Movie star Keanu Reeves, singer Jully Black and retired professional wrestler Bret Hart are among the famous Canadians expected to be immortalized on Canada’s Walk of Fame today.

The special ceremony for the new sidewalk stars is also set to recognize actor Graham Greene, entrepreneur Ajay Virmani, singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn, track and field athlete Damian Warner and retired senator Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire. 

Posthumous Walk of Fame stars are also planned for Canada’s “first lady of blues” Salome Bey, media mogul Allan Slaight and members of the team that discovered insulin a century ago: Frederick Banting, Charles Best, John Macleod and James Collip. 

Black, Hart, Virmani and Greene were scheduled to attend the ceremony in Toronto’s Entertainment District.

Bey’s family members, along with descendants of Banting and Best, were also set to attend. 

They are all inductees from the Walk of Fame’s class of 2020/2021.

Canada’s Walk of Fame, which celebrates the impact of Canadians’ accomplishments, has inducted more than 200 people over the past 25 years. 

Did you see this?

BOSTON _ Ten lighthouses that for generations have stood like sentinels along America’s shorelines protecting mariners from peril and guiding them to safety are being given away at no cost or sold at auction by the federal government.

The aim of the program run by the U.S. General Services Administration is to preserve the properties, most of which are more than a century old.

The development of modern technology, including GPS, means lighthouses are no longer essential for navigation, said John Kelly of the GSA’s office of real property disposition. And while the Coast Guard often maintains aids to navigation at or near lighthouses, the structures themselves are often no longer mission critical.

Yet the public remains fascinated by the beacons, which are popular tourist attractions and the subject of countless photographers and artists.

“People really appreciate the heroic role of the solitary lighthouse keeper,” he said, explaining their allure. “They were really the instruments to provide safe passage into some of these perilous harbours which afforded communities great opportunities for commerce, and they’re often located in prominent locations that offer breathtaking views.”

The GSA has been transferring ownership of lighthouses since Congress passed the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act in 2000. About 150 lighthouses have been transferred, 80 or so given away and another 70 auctioned, raising more than $10 million.

This year, six lighthouses are being offered at no cost to federal, state or local government agencies, non-profits, educational organizations or other entities that are willing to maintain and preserve them and make them publicly available for educational, recreational or cultural purposes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2023.

The Canadian Press