Taiwan navy adds two new warships as China tensions grow

KAOHSIUNG, TAIWAN (AFP) – Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen vowed Thursday (Nov 8) that the island would not “concede one step” in defending itself as she inaugurated two frigates bought from the United States aimed at boosting Taipei’s naval capabilities against China.

Rival China has upped military drills including a live fire exercise in the Taiwan Strait in April, declaring its willingness to confront the island’s “independence forces”.

Beijing still claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the two sides have been ruled separately since 1949 after a civil war.

China has also been incensed by recent warming ties between Washington and Taipei, including the US State Department’s approval of a preliminary licence to sell submarine technology to the island.

The two Perry-class guided missile frigates were officially commissioned in a ceremony at Zuoying base in southern Kaohsiung city.

“We want to send a clear and firm message from Taiwanese people to the international community that we will not concede one step in defending… Taiwan and protecting our free and democratic way of life,” Tsai said after inspecting the ships.

China’s “military actions in the region not only attempt to weaken Taiwan’s sovereignty but will also damage regional peace and stability”, Tsai warned Thursday.

She vowed to continue enhancing the navy’s capabilities as part of the military’s goal to maintain what it calls “solid defence and multi-layered deterrence” to guard the island.

Navy chief of staff Vice Admiral Lee Chung-hsiao had said previously the warships’ anti-submarine capabilities are more advanced than the island’s existing eight Cheng Kung-class frigates and could have “deterrent effects” against China’s submarines.

The ships will be deployed to patrol the Taiwan Strait, the narrow waterway that separates the island and China, according to the navy.

Beijing has stepped up diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan since Tsai took office two years ago, as her government refuses to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of “one China”, unlike the government of her Beijing-friendly predecessor.

In September, Washington irked Beijing when it announced plans to sell Taiwan US$330 million in spare parts for several aircraft.

Washington remains Taipei’s most powerful unofficial ally and its main arms supplier despite switching diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.

Built in the 1980s, the two frigates were originally named USS Taylor and USS Gary and were part of a US$1.8 billion US arms deal to Taiwan announced in 2015 under the administration of US president Barack Obama.

They have been renamed Ming Chuan and Feng Chia.

According to Taiwan’s navy, the warships have “high mobility, high sea resistance and low noise” and are fitted with the SQR-19 sonar system currently used by US navy.

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Lion Air jet crash: Search for bodies extended

Search efforts in the Lion Air jet crash have been extended once more in the hope of recovering victims’ bodies and a second black box, while air crash investigators take a closer look at problematic “angle of attack” readings in a bid to unravel the mystery behind the deadly crash.

Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) chief Muhammad Syaugi told reporters yesterday morning: “We decided to extend our evacuation operation by another three days, specifically for Basarnas.”

The agency’s search for Lion Air Flight JT610 – which crashed on Oct 29 en route to Pangkal Pinang from Jakarta, killing all 189 on board – will go on until Saturday.

A joint team that includes volunteers, officers from the Indonesian military and police have for the past 10 days scoured the Java Sea for victims and plane parts.

Air Marshal Syaugi said: “To the others involved, I would like to express my gratitude and greatest appreciation for the synergy and dedication that have allowed us to, this morning, hand 186 body bags over to the disaster victim investigation team.”

About 220 Basarnas staff, as well as 60 divers, will press on with search efforts over the next few days, he added. They will focus on a 250m radius in the Java Sea where plane parts – including wheels and turbines – have been found.

This is the second time the search operation, initially supposed to end on Sunday, has been extended.

The plane’s flight data recorder showed there were problems with the Boeing 737 Max 8’s airspeed indicator during its final four flights. On a flight from Bali to Jakarta on Oct 28 – the plane’s penultimate journey before it crashed the next morning – there was a difference between angle of attack readings on the side of the pilot and that of the co-pilot, Mr Soerjanto said.

Divers say victims are still buried under debris. The plane’s second black box – its cockpit voice recorder – continues to elude them.

While the flight data recorder was retrieved last week, National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) chief Soerjanto Tjahjono said his team needs the second black box. The cockpit voice recorder could offer crucial clues, he said, noting that besides conversations inside the cockpit, it could also contain other valuable information, such as warning sounds.

The KNKT team, helped by a team from Singapore’s Transport Safety Investigation Bureau, is still looking for the device, said Mr Soerjanto yesterday.

Air Marshal Syaugi said some of his divers have been tasked to continue the search as well.

The plane’s flight data recorder showed there were problems with the Boeing 737 Max 8’s airspeed indicator during its final four flights.

On a flight from Bali to Jakarta on Oct 28 – the plane’s penultimate journey before it crashed the next morning – there was a difference between angle of attack readings on the side of the pilot and that of the co-pilot, Mr Soerjanto said.

Mr Nurcahyo Utomo, KNKT sub-committee head for air accidents, said the angle of attack – the angle at which wind is passing over the wing – affects the calculation of aircraft speed.

One of the plane’s angle of attack sensors was changed before the flight out of Bali, after a pilot flagged issues with the airspeed indicator.

The sensor that was removed then has been brought to the KNKT office, and will be inspected at the manufacturer’s factory in Chicago, said Mr Soerjanto. KNKT plans to do a flight reconstruction, taking into account a faulty angle of attack sensor, at Boeing’s engineering simulator in Seattle.

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North Korean worker seeks Dutch shipbuilder's prosecution over labour abuses

LONDON (REUTERS) – A North Korean labourer has filed a landmark criminal complaint against a Dutch shipbuilding company that allegedly profited from the abuse of workers in its supply chain in Poland and was aware of the”slave-like conditions”, lawyers said on Thursday (Nov 8).

A law firm representing the worker – who has not been named for his safety – has asked the Netherlands’ public prosecutor to file a case against a shipbuilder it says knowingly benefited by buying items that were cheaper due to the use of forced labour.

The legal action – revealed exclusively by the Thomson Reuters Foundation – could pile pressure on other companies in the Netherlands and beyond that profit from modern slavery in their global operations, according to lawyers and activists.

“Dutch law offers a unique provision which criminalises the act of profiting from exploitation,” said Ms Barbara van Straaten, a lawyer with Prakken d’Oliveira, a law firm in the Netherlands that specialises in human rights cases and filed the complaint.

“This opens the possibility to hold companies accountable which are not direct perpetrators in the labour exploitation, but which nonetheless knowingly profit,” Ms Van Straaten said.

The Dutch shipbuilder, which is not being named to avoid undermining a possible prosecution, employed Polish shipyard Crist SA despite knowing it subjected workers to “inhumane, slave-like conditions” to lower costs, the complaint alleged.

The worker behind the complaint said he endured 12-hour working days in unsafe conditions and had much of his earnings seized by the North Korean government, according to his lawyers.

Crist SA said it has never employed North Korean workers directly, but referred to a Polish staffing agency, Armex, which it said had “done some work” for the shipyard prior to 2016.

“We learned there was a possibility of irregularities in regards with employment of Armex workers (some of them were from North Korea), but we do not know the details,” a spokesman said.

“Without the time frame, the name of the ship building firm (the subject of the complaint), or the project name, we cannot give you specific information on the issue,” he said by e-mail.

The North Korean embassy in Warsaw could not be reached for comment, but has previously denied workers are deprived of pay.

LANDMARK COMPLAINT

The complaint marks the first time a case has been sought in the Netherlands over worker exploitation involving a Dutch firm committed outside the country, Ms Van Straaten said.

Under the country’s anti-trafficking law, offenders can be jailed for up to 18 years and fined 83,000 euros (S$130,125.81).

The Netherlands prosecutor’s office said it had received the criminal complaint, but did not disclose any further details.

Poland’s national labour inspectorate told the Thomson Reuters Foundation it found 29 North Koreans working at a Crist shipyard illegally in 2013, who were supplied by Armex, yet had initially been employed by a company registered in North Korea.

The inspectorate did not say whether it took any action.

A search by the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Poland’s online National Court Register found that Armex went into liquidation last year, although the exact date is unclear.

“We allege this is a sham construction (the relationship between Crist and Armex) and that in fact the North Koreans were directly employed and instructed by Crist,” Ms Van Straaten said, adding that the complaint has evidence to support the claim.

Crist did not respond to this specific allegation.

‘STRONG MESSAGE’

Activists say North Korea sends tens of thousands of workers worldwide and takes their pay to earn foreign currency to offset the impact of UN sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme.

Many work in Polish shipyards, construction sites and farms, but face widespread exploitation and send up to 90 per cent of their salaries back to the hermit state, according to the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea (EAHRNK).

Poland issued nearly 3,000 work permits for North Korean workers between 2008 and 2016, according to the LeidenAsiaCentre, a research institution in the Netherlands which has linked dozens of Polish companies to their employment.

As the world strives to meet a UN global goal of ending modern slavery by 2030, businesses face growing regulatory and consumer pressure to ensure their supply chains are slave-free, yet campaigners say companies are rarely penalised for abuses.

About 25 million people are estimated to be trapped in forced labour, from farms to factories, the United Nations says.

The severity of this case highlights significant gaps in labour protections within the European Union, and the lack of remedies available to exploited workers, the lawyers said.

“This legal action, targeting labour exploitation in supply chains, will send a strong message to multinational corporations,” said Mr Gearoid O Cuinn, head of the Global Legal Action Network, a Britain-based charity backing the complaint.

“Profiting from forced labour entails serious legal risk.”

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How a food crisis led to Delhi’s foul smog

If there was a gold medal for bad air, Delhi would be hard to beat.

Yet, despite high levels of air pollution, more than 30,000 people, many wearing masks, took part in the capital’s half marathon on Sunday. Organisers said they used devices on the route to transmit radio frequency waves to clear the air, but scientists were sceptical of these claims.

Delhi’s marathon, ironically, marked the beginning of the city’s smog season. But it has been creeping up on the capital for a few weeks now.

A fortnight ago, Nagendar Sharma was returning to Delhi from the hill station city of Shimla when he spotted smoke rising from the farms alongside the highway.

It looked like someone had picked up a box of matches and set the earth on fire. Lack of winds meant that the acrid smoke hung in the air.

Mr Sharma, the Delhi-based media adviser to the capital’s chief minister, was driving through Haryana, barely 70km (43 miles) from the capital.

When he stopped his vehicle to investigate he found that the farmers had begun to burn the stubble left over from harvesting rice. They said they had to remove the residue in three weeks to prepare the farms to sow wheat. They were burning the crop stubble as they could not afford the expensive machines that would remove them.

“It’s the same old story. Every year,” Mr Sharma said.

Every year, around this time, residents of Delhi wake up to a blanket of thick, grey smog. Pollution levels reach several times the World Health Organisation’s recommended limit. Last year, doctors declared a state of “medical emergency”; and hospitals were clogged with wheezing men, women and children.

Levels of tiny particulate matter (known as PM 2.5) that enter deep into the lungs reached as high as 700 micrograms per cubic metre in some areas. The WHO recommends that the PM2.5 levels should not be more than 25 micrograms per cubic metre on average in 24 hours.

Last winter Air Quality Index (AQI) recordings consistently hit the maximum of 999 – exposure to such toxic air is akin to smoking more than two packs of cigarettes a day. The city becomes what many call a “gas chamber”.

“This marks the beginning of the Great Smog that goes on to last for about three months, even though the crop residue burning lasts a few weeks. It is during this period that air quality indices hit their maximum possible limits, when visibility drops drastically, when regions even far away – such as Delhi – smell of burning gas,” says Siddharth Singh, energy expert and author of a book soon to be published, The Great Smog of India.

And although there are other reasons – construction dust, factory and vehicular emissions – it’s mainly crop residue that has emerged as one of the main triggers for the smog.

More than two million farmers burn 23 million tonnes of crop residue on some 80,000 sq km of farmland in northern India every winter.

The stubble smoke is a lethal cocktail of particulate matter, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. Using satellite data, Harvard University researchers estimated that nearly half of Delhi’s air pollution between 2012 and 2016 was due to stubble burning. Another study attributed more than 40,000 premature deaths in 2011 to air pollution arising from crop residue burning alone.

But it wasn’t always like this.

In Mr Singh’s telling, the deadly pea-souper is result of the “evolution of the farming operations, government policy and changing labour markets” sparked by the “green revolution” in India in the late 1960s and 1970s.

The “green revolution” allowed a country wracked by famines, hobbled by un-irrigated farms and dependency on food aid to produce enough grain to feed its people. The northern states of Punjab and Haryana turned into breadbaskets, producing enough rice and wheat for the country. Wheat is sown and harvested during winters, and rice to coincide with the monsoon season in July and August.

Price support for crops, high-yielding seeds, expanded irrigation, official farming timetables and the introduction of combine harvesters – which combined the jobs of cutting and threshing the crop in order to produce processed grain in a matter of seconds – were the catalysts of this modern farming revolution.

The “green revolution” was an unqualified success in giving India much-needed food security. It led to vast increases in wheat and rice production, but also ended up polluting air and depleting groundwater.

“That a revolution in agriculture was necessary is by itself not up for debate. What the revolution and the subsequent policies did, however, was contribute to the creation and timing of the air pollution crisis and also to the rapidly depleting groundwater levels; this has been termed as an ‘agro-ecological’ crisis,” says Mr Singh.

Farmers burn crop residue because the stubble left behind after the combine harvesters have done their job is sharper and taller than it otherwise would be, potentially injurious to farmers and not good fodder for animals. If they do not remove the stubble, straw gets stuck in the machines that plant the rice crop.

So they simply set fire to the farmland to get the soil ready quickly for the next crop, as Mr Sharma saw on the highway to Delhi.

According to Siddharth Singh, there are some 26,000 combine harvesters in use in India, most of them in northern India. They are responsible for a practice that is now a major contributor to air pollution.

The government has tried to solve this with “happy seeders”, which are attachments mounted on tractors that help plant wheat seeds without getting jammed by rice straw stubble from the previous crop. But they are expensive – upwards of 130,000 rupees (£1,363; $1,769) and diesel-guzzlers – and remain out of reach for most farmers, who own small plots of land.

During the smog season last year, according to Mr Singh, there were about 2,150 of these machines in Punjab and Haryana as against an estimated requirement of more than 21,000. Another machine called the “super straw management system” which chops and spreads the stubble evenly is also effective but expensive for the majority of farmers.

Mr Singh reckons if crop stubble burning is to be stopped fully within five years, 12,000 “happy seeders” will need to be purchased every year. India, he believes, needs a second “green revolution which would be a technological one – one that adequately deals with agricultural shock to air quality”. Until that happens, Delhi’s foul air will continue to poison its 18 million people.

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California vote opens the door for British Columbia to stop changing clocks for Daylight Saving Time

Time could be ticking on a long-time tradition in British Columbia. Premier John Horgan says that if California goes ahead with sticking on permanent daylight saving time, B.C. could very well follow suit.

On Tuesday, a majority of California voters, nearly 60 per cent, voted in favour to leave the state in daylight saving time all year round.

“There is a long way to go still but I can’t imagine British Columbia can’t go down that route if California chooses to,” said Horgan on Wednesday to Global News.

In order for the clocks to be fixed all year round two-thirds of the members of the California state legislature would have to vote in favour of the change. There would then have to be the support of a majority of the national congress to change the federal law.

WATCH HERE: A week after saying it wasn’t on the radar, the B.C. government says it may be time to consider abandoning Daylight Saving Time

“A two-thirds vote isn’t easy to do, particularly in the United States, and then they would need approval of Congress,” Horgan said.

“It certainly speaks to how much people care about this issue. I have received tens of thousands of emails from British Columbians who want to stay on Daylight Saving time. I said last week that as long as our neighbours, trading partners are changing their clocks, we should too,” said Horgan.

Horgan seemingly put the time change issue to bed last week when he told reporters the challenge with stopping the practice of changing the clocks was working with other jurisdictions along the west coast. Oregon and Washington had previously indicated a lack of interest in making a change.

Democratic Rep. Kansen Chu of San Jose said last month that he sponsored the California resolution after his dentist called him to complain about springing forward when clocks are moved up an hour every March. That switch takes away an hour’s sleep in the middle of the night as it shifts an hour of sunlight from the morning to the evening.

Chu said he investigated the issue further and learned the original reason for implementing Daylight Saving Time — to save energy during the First World War — no longer seemed relevant.

Chu said he also came across studies showing an increased risk of car accidents and heart attacks following the spring change when people lose an hour of sleep.

“It’s a public safety measure,” Chu said. “And I don’t know anybody who really enjoys doing this adjustment of their schedule twice a year.”

–With files from the Associated Press

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The EU's tariff threats against Asia's autocrats risk backfiring

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – The European Union is threatening to slap tariffs on Asian leaders who abuse their power, a move that risks upending several key garment-producing nations in the region.

Last month, the EU told Cambodia it would start the process of withdrawing tariff-free access for most goods under the “Everything But Arms” initiative, saying its July election was “marked by harassment and intimidation”.

The bloc is threatening to do the same for Myanmar due to genocide allegations, and a Reuters report said Sri Lanka may be next on the list.

If the EU follows through, the moves risk hurting garment sectors that employ nearly two million labourers, most of whom are women. In all three countries, the initiative has made the EU as one of their biggest export markets for garments, generating billions of dollars in revenues annually.

Human rights activists have applauded the EU, which is increasingly taking a leadership role on humanitarian issues from a more inward-looking US under President Donald Trump.

At the same time, some in the business community see the moves as counterproductive, and analysts doubt they will lead to major changes.

EU MARGINALISED

China, in particular, could step in to offset any export losses from nations hit with new EU tariffs, according to Mr Murray Hiebert, a senior associate of the South-east Asia Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“Putting pressure on governments to respect human rights is very important, but to use sanctions as one size fits all will risk marginalising the EU in giant swaths of Asia,” Mr Hiebert said.

“The best the EU can hope for is that it will feel better about punishing gross violations of human rights.”

Sri Lanka has also suddenly come under scrutiny after the President abruptly fired the prime minister, triggering a political crisis that has yet to be resolved. The country’s garment sector employs some 600,000 people and accounts for about a third of manufacturing employment.

Mr Tung-Lai Margue, the EU ambassador to Sri Lanka, told Reuters last week the bloc would consider withdrawing duty-free tariff benefits if the government wasn’t meeting its commitments. The embassy declined to comment when contacted.

AFRICAN ALTERNATIVE

The situation is more worrying for Cambodia and Myanmar.

In Myanmar in particular, the news is a setback for many foreign companies that moved in after the country transitioned to democracy from military rule over the past decade. EuroCham Myanmar said the move may put as many as 450,000 of the country’s garment workers out of a job within four years.

Some European companies have indicated they would move their operations to Africa or other nations if the EU puts tariffs on Myanmar goods, according to Mr Filip Lauwerysen, the executive director at Eurocham Myanmar and Secretary-General of the European Business Organisations Network.

The bloc has “completely lost any sense on how to address these issues”, Mr Lauwerysen said. “Myanmar is heavily backed by China and Russia and there is not much we in Europe can do with our current status in the global landscape of things.”

Preferential exports to the EU from Myanmar have more than doubled in recent years to US$1.48 billion (S$2.03 billion) in 2017, according to EU data.

Mr Aung Ko Ko, an independent economist who also sits on the ruling NLD party’s economic committee, said that Myanmar had not done anything wrong and was confident the EU wouldn’t stop preferential treatment.

“Myanmar isn’t doing any harmful actions to EU members,” he said, noting the government has invited European officials to see the “true story”.

‘STIFF COMPETITION’

In Cambodia, the garment sector is by far its biggest export, a US$5 billion industry that employs about 750,000 Cambodians.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose party won every seat in a July election boycotted by the main opposition party, has struck a defiant tone toward the EU and failed to win a reprieve from the bloc in talks last month.

In an Oct 20 letter to the trade commissioner of the European Commission, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia said a suspension of duty-free access or unilateral sanctions would hurt garment workers and their families.

“All the progress that Cambodia has achieved over the past two decades through the efforts of all stakeholders, including development partners like the EU, could be destroyed very quickly,” it said.

Mr Eric Tavernier, the chief executive officer of textile firm We Group Ltd. which has a factory that employs about 700 workers in the Cambodian coastal town of Sihanoukville, said the subsequent EU tax burden would likely mean the end of his business there.

“Cambodia is going to face some stiff competition from elsewhere now that they are no longer the cheapest option,” he said.

Still, he understands why they acted.

“Why should we keep helping countries if they don’t follow basic democratic rules?”

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Ikea rules out new Irish stores as digital grows

Ikea has no plans to open further stores in Ireland, despite strong growth in sales.

Sales in Ireland grew 7.4pc in the company’s last financial year to €181.5m.

Ireland market manager Claudia Marshall said it is focused on investing in its so-called multi-channel approach – ie online sales as well as physical store sales.

“We have no plans to open additional stores in Ireland at present,” she said.

Ikea has recently introduced online shopping here and said that helped to boost Irish revenues.

Ms Marshall said the move to online “has been a great success and has performed strongly in its first 10 months in operation, giving customers all over Ireland the opportunity to shop with Ikea whenever and wherever they want”.

The sales figure covers the year to the end of August last.

The company also said it had been boosted by investment in its two outlets here – the full-sized store in Ballymun and its order and collection point in Carrickmines, South Dublin.

It said price reductions and the hot summer had also helped.

“Ikea’s seasonal sales saw a bumper boost and, as a result, outdoor furniture was the biggest area of growth in Ikea Ireland this year, with a total sales increase of 29pc,” the company said.

The Swedish chain has enjoyed decades of rapid growth as shoppers flocked to its out-of-town warehouses to pick up cheap furniture to assemble at home.

But with the rise of online rivals such as Amazon, alongside signs of waning consumer enthusiasm for DIY home improvements, Ikea is now investing in ecommerce, city-centre showrooms and more home delivery and assembly services.

Barbara Martin Coppola, chief digital officer at Ikea Group, the owner of most Ikea stores, said tests underway ranged from connecting staff with customers via video to artificial intelligence tools to help people furnish their homes.

“It’s fantastic to see human interaction through technology when the consumer might need help or advice on where to place furniture,” she told Reuters last month in an interview at a new Ikea city-centre store in Madrid dedicated to living room furniture.

Ikea, whose stores are owned by 11 different franchisees, opened 19 new outlets last year, taking the total to 422 in more than 50 markets.

The largest franchisee is Ikea Group, with 367 stores.

The brand, which does most of its sales in Europe, opened its first store in India this year and announced plans to enter Latin America, starting with Chile in 2020 followed by Colombia and Peru.

It said last month that it was also looking at entering Mexico, Estonia, Ukraine, Puerto Rico, Oman, Luxembourg, Macau and the Philippines over the coming years.

Additional reporting Reuters

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B.C. social worker accused of stealing from kids in Ministry care

A civil lawsuit that has been filed in Kelowna claims a social worker stole money from teens in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

The court papers claim that in early 2016, Robert Riley Saunders had a First Nations youth placed in an independent living arrangement under Ministry care.

The teen was then eligible for financial benefits from the Ministry.

The documents allege Saunders opened a joint bank account with the youth and took some of the money for his own purposes.

The financial institution where Saunders did his banking is also being named a defendant in the case for failing to recognize Saunders’ banking irregularities.

The teen eventually found himself in a transient and sometimes homeless living situation.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development and the Director of Child Welfare were also named as defendants in the case for not adequately overseeing Saunders’ actions, and is facing some serious questions.

“My response is there’s a publication ban on this case. I’ve been advised that I can’t speak to it, which, I’m sure, is as frustrating for me as it is for you,” Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development said outside of the B.C. legislature on Wednesday. “As soon as it is lifted, and our lawyers are working on that, I will be able to share as much information as I can.”

The notice of claim also alleges Saunders engaged in the same and similar activities in respect of dozens of other minors in his care, most of whom are Aboriginal children.

A proposed class action lawsuit has also been launched in Vancouver court.

Attempts by Global News to contact Robert Riley Saunders were unsuccessful. His profiles have been removed from social media sites.

Saunders has three weeks to respond to the notice of civil claim.

None of the accusations made against Robert Riley Saunders have been proven in court.

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YMCA sounding alarm on rising homelessness rates in Moncton

With the number of homeless people on the rise in Greater Moncton, the YMCA is sounding the alarm with the colder months right around the corner.

“We’re trying to come up with new initiatives to make sure that these individuals don’t get harmed during the winter months, they don’t experience things like frostbite or even death,”says Lisa Ryan, director of Outreach & Employment Services.

“We’re worried that this could be the first winter that we could see some of those things increase.”

Ryan says they’re aware of approximately 120 people who are homeless, using their services, which include visiting tents in the area. She says there’s still the “hidden homeless,” referring to those who are couch surfing or using shelters. She says they were working with roughly half that number last year.

“I think all of the organizations that are on the ground that see this rise in numbers of individuals who are experiencing states of homelessness are very concerned.”

Lisa Ryan of the YMCA says they’re aware of roughly 120 people who are currently homeless in Greater Moncton

Lack of affordable housing is one of her concerns, in part due to rooming homes shutting down in recent years.

“(It’s) very difficult to house people, which keeps them in shelters longer, and the longer somebody’s taking up a bed in a shelter, the longer somebody else has to wait,” says Ryan. “That’s kind of what we’re seeing. That’s what’s alarming to us.”

Cal Maskery, who is executive director and founder of the Moncton shelter Harvest House Atlantic, says they’ve been over capacity during the warmer summer months, with as many as 57 visitors using the shelter designed for 32.

It’s a viscous cycle when some people can’t rent their own place due to mental health and addictions concerns. Ryan says they hope to offer more services in the form of supportive housing programs, including assisting someone trying to rent following those concerns.

Ronald Straight says he was living on his own until injury about six weeks ago forced him to leave work and turn to the shelter.

“(There are) a lot of obstacles for a lot of people,” he says. “People are on social services and on very, very limited income. Again, it’s just a blessing to have a place like this for people to come to.”

Maskery says they saw the need for more affordable housing, and they hope to double their ”step-up housing” rooms to 72 over the next two or three years. The rooms are made for someone starting a job or education, who can prove themselves to be “stable,” to 72 over the next two or three years.

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