Canada’s new computer system finds more, but smaller, cases of possible EI fraud

Update:

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A new computer system designed to root out possible fraud and overpayments in the federal government’s employment insurance program is capturing more cases than its predecessor.

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Employment and Social Development Canada officials will rejig the program, which hasn’t been reeling in as many big cases of fraud as they hoped.

OTTAWA—A new computer system designed to root out possible fraud and overpayments in the federal government’s employment insurance program is capturing more cases than its predecessor.

But the system hasn’t been reeling in as many big fish as officials hoped.

Departmental documents show that on average, the second-generation program was finding more modest overpayments than the earlier version, despite a significant jump in the number of cases identified for review.

The findings led Employment and Social Development Canada officials to rejig the predictive model that considers some 100 variables to calculate the chance that someone has received too much money, either by accident or through fraud.

The details are outlined in documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

Officials now hope the recalibrated system can start finding more lucrative cases of overpayment to allow the department to better focus its resources and get a bigger bang for its investigative buck in one of the country’s largest social programs.

“The newest iteration of the predictive model will provide the department with an additional tool to maintain integrity and prevent payment errors,” said ESDC spokeswoman Evelyne Wildgoose Labrie.

“More specifically, it increases our efficiency at allocating resources to cases representing the highest risk of overpayment.”

Since 2008, the predictive computer model has accounted for about half the overpayments identified.

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Canada lost a surprising 31,200 jobs in July due to a steep decline in full-time work, a worrying setback for a country grappling with the downturn in the energy sector. The unexpected job losses sent the unemployment rate up to 6.9 per cent from 6.8 per cent in June, Statistics Canada said in its monthly labour report released on Friday. From Jan-July, 2016 employers created 12,400 positions, the weakest job creation since the Great Recession.

A January presentation from ESDC officials likened the process to finding needles in a haystack by focusing on the likeliest area where the needles will be found. The presentation said the predictive system not only anticipates where and when errors will occur, but also identifies previously undetected cases to help officials figure out new ways to combat emerging fraud trends.

In 2014, the program received a performance upgrade, both in the number of actual case of overpayment it hit on and an increase in the size of overpayments identified.

Earlier this year, officials found that the second-generation system wasn’t working as originally expected.

The average overpayment identified under the newer model was $861 between May and August 2015, a drop from the $957 average during the same period in 2014. The newer model was, however, finding more cases.

Officials predicted earlier this year that the newer model would find average overpayments of $1,739, up from the $1,047 identified during the first generation of the program. A presentation from February noted the new model would have a lower hit rate than the first generation system, “thus fewer low-value cases will need to be investigated.”

The department said it’s too early to say if the recalibrated system is meeting expectations.

Generally, the later the fraud or overpayment is detected, the less likely it is the government will recoup the funds. If the government can’t collect the money within 72 months of identifying the wrongful payment, it is generally written off.

Debts can be written off for a variety of reasons, including if the debtor dies or declares bankruptcy, or that the debt itself has passed the 72-month statute of limitations for its collection. The 72-month clock starts when the fraud is identified, but could be extended if the debtor goes to court, for example. So even seven years on, debts can be collected.

Winnipeg: New Parking Ticket System won’t Fix Old Problems

Update:

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Group works to expose unfair traffic enforcements in Winnipeg

When it comes to parking tickets some spots in Winnipeg are set up to see driver’s fail, according to the founder of Wise Up Winnipeg.

Todd Dube and his group are working to expose what they call unfair traffic enforcement in the city. He said a new system, starting on Monday, doesn’t fix the root problem of a backlog in traffic tickets.

“What they did was they avoided the actual issue,” Dube said.

“The issue should be … why is there such a tremendous backlog at traffic court? Why are there so many thousands of people suddenly angry and pleading not guilty?”

Dube went on a ride along with a Winnipeg Parking Authority parking-ticket enforcer, who wanted to remain anonymous, on Saturday and checked out some of the spots that continuously rack up tickets.

“He just has had enough [after] five years telling the city, his bosses, his management, this is an unfair spot [and] there is ambiguous or contrary signage,” Dube said of his ride-along with the ticket enforcer.

“The city should be correcting the locations not taking advantage,” he added.

The parking-ticket enforcer is so fed up he is resigning on Monday, Dube said.

Todd Dube
Todd Dube and his group, Wise Up Winnipeg, are working to expose unfair traffic enforcements in the city. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Right now, drivers who want to challenge a parking ticket go to court at the provincial Highway Traffic Matters building.

If the presiding judicial justice of the peace agrees with the gripe, the wrongly ticketed driver doesn’t pay; if the justice of the peace disagrees, the driver must pay the ticket at the Winnipeg Parking Authority building.

Starting Monday, drivers will see a city traffic screening officer at the parking authority building, who will decide whether there’s any weight to the complaint. That officer will decide if there’s a reduction or if the ticket will be dismissed.

If the city official decides the parking ticket was warranted after all, the driver can then appeal to a provincially appointed adjudicator for a fee of $25, which will be waived if the adjudicator ends up siding with the driver, city officials said Friday.

That completely misses the point, Dube said. The problem is with poorly marked and confusing signs and tree limbs getting in the way, he added.

“These [parking-ticket enforcers] round their bend on their beat, and they know there is going to be a car parked there, like there is every hour, and they keep issuing tickets,” he said about hot spots in the city.

Wise Up Winnipeg

Wise Up Winnipeg held signs at Grant Avenue and Wilton Street warning people of photo enforcement. (Travis Golby/CBC)

On the tour, Dube said they stopped at five hot spots, but there are more than 40 around the city. The worst ones are downtown near the University of Winnipeg.

“They are locations where you can stand and look at the tower of signs for 20 minutes …. And everybody will have a different opinion on whether you can park or not,” Dube said.

It’s not the only battle that Dube and his group are fighting. On Sunday they held signs at Grant Avenue and Wilton Street warning people of photo enforcement.

More than 1,000 Canada Post workers protest in front of Trudeau’s Montreal office

Update:

The union wants higher wages, particularly for rural workers.
The union wants higher wages, particularly for rural workers. (Raffy Boudjikanian/CBC)

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More than 1,000 Canada Post workers protested Saturday in front of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Papineau riding office in Montreal in an effort to kick start stalled negotiations over a new collective agreement.

Deepak Chopra, CEO of Canada Post Corporation.
Deepak Chopra, CEO of Canada Post Corporation.

The protest began around 1 p.m. at Saint-Alphonse Park, near the intersection St. Denis Street and Crémazie Boulevard, before making its way to Trudeau’s office.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) is accusing the Crown corporation of dragging its heels in the negotiations.

“It’s moving forward very slowly, and there has been no response on the important issues,” Lise-Lyne Gélineau, president of the union’s Montreal chapter. “That’s why we’re addressing the prime minister.”

Federal mediators trying to assist 

The federal government said Saturday it supports a fair and balanced collective bargaining process, and that it is trying to bring the two sides closer together.

“We believe workers have the right to express their points of view through various peaceful means, such as this rally,” a government spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“Federal mediators have been assisting the parties throughout their negotiations, and continue to do.”

The union wants higher wages, particularly for rural workers, and is opposed to proposed changes to the pension plan. Workers are also looking for an expansion of services in package delivery and banking.

Management has warned the union its demands could cost as much as $1 billion. Union members argue that Canada Post has been the source of more than $1 billion in government revenues over the past 20 years.

canada post protest

Management has warned the union’s demands could cost as much as $1 billion. (Raffy Boudjikanian/CBC)

Lockout threat

In July, Canada Post issued a lockout notice to workers, which was later withdrawn when the two sides returned to the bargaining table.

But since then little progress has been made on keys issues like pension plans and pay equity, Gélineau said.

She said the Trudeau government advocates for gender equality and pension plan improvements and should hold Canada Post to the same standard.

The CUPW says the Crown corporation refuses to enforce laws on pay equity and instead wants to increase precarious employment.

They fear the lockout threat could resurface if no agreement is reached by late August.

1st recorded Canadian fatality from airbag inflator rupture under investigation

Update:

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Transport Canada says it is investigating the first recorded case in the country of a fatality involving a ruptured driver-side airbag inflator.

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Driver killed July 8 in Newfoundland and Labrador after metal shrapnel exploded into the car

Transport Canada says it is investigating the first recorded case in the country of a fatality involving a ruptured driver-side airbag inflator.

Authorities say the driver of a 2009 Hyundai Elantra in Newfoundland and Labrador involved in a two-vehicle collision was killed on July 8 when the airbag inflator exploded and fired metal shrapnel into the passenger compartment of the car.

“The incident was a low-speed collision, which was expected to be survivable,” a Transport Canada spokesman said in an emailed statement.

The ruptured inflator was manufactured by ARC Automotive Inc., a company based in Knoxville, Tenn., and is not related to recent Takata airbag inflator failures, Transport Canada said in a news release Thursday.

The cause of the ARC inflator rupture has not been determined, the federal government department said.

“Should a safety defect be found, owners will be notified,” Transport Canada said.

Two previous incidents involving ARC inflator ruptures occurred in the United States, both causing serious injuries.

Transport Canada said ARC is co-operating with investigators, and that Ottawa is working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the United States on the issue.

The Associated Press reported that about eight million inflators built by ARC are under scrutiny, mainly in older vehicles made by GM, Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai and Kia.

U.S. government investigators started looking at ARC inflators in July 2015, following reports that an Ohio woman was injured when her 2002 Chrysler Town & Country minivan crashed and the inflator ruptured. Separately, another person was reported injured in an inflator rupture involving a 2004 Kia Optima.

NHTSA said the Elantra involved in the crash in Newfoundland and Labrador had an ARC inflator made in China.

The probe of ARC inflators differs from the larger recall of 69 million inflators in the U.S. produced by Takata Corp. Several automakers in Canada have announced recalls of vehicles equipped with Takata inflators.

In the Takata case, explosive ammonium nitrate is used to inflate the airbags. However, over time the chemical can degrade, burn too quickly and blow up metal inflator cannisters.

Ammonium nitrate is also used in ARC inflators, but investigators are looking into whether a blocked vent can leave the gas with no place to go, leading to a pressure buildup and a rupture of the inflator assembly.

Whitby Judge Dismisses Charges After Racial Profiling by Police

Update: see previous posts – July 26, 2016 Lack of Interpreter Leads to Dismissal of Impaired Driving Charge

Courtroom. The officers were called to testify and “vehemently denied the allegations under oath and were unshaken in their denials,” says the statement of claim. They deny assaulting the accused, Randy Maharaj or Neil Singh. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Justice Robert Charney ruled in R. v Ferguson-Cadore and O’Grady, 2016 ONSC 4872 (CanLII) that a Durham Police Officer violated sections 8&9 of the Charter and section 216.1 of the Highway Traffic Act by pulling over a motorist after presuming the passenger was a pimp and the driver was a hooker. Charges stemming from drugs that were found in the car pulled over were dismissed, pursuant to section 24(2) of the Charter as a result of the Charter breaches.

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Drug charges dismissed against young white female driver and her black boyfriend, but woman calls experience depressing and says her boyfriend’s basketball career is ruined.

Pulled over by a Durham Regional Police officer on a September afternoon, her nearly 7-foot-tall boyfriend in the passenger seat, Beverly O’Grady instantly suspected the real reason for the traffic stop.

She wasn’t speeding, she wasn’t driving erratically, there were no road safety concerns that would justify a stop under the Highway Traffic Act — all of which the officer, Const. John MacKinnon, later acknowledged in court.

The reason for the traffic stop, O’Grady believed, was because she has light skin, and her boyfriend — Jeffrey Ferguson-Cadore, a past member of Canada’s national basketball team — is black.

“I knew right away,” said O’Grady, 32, in an exclusive interview Wednesday. “Right away.”

Justice Charney ruled “PC MacKinnon did not have lawful authority to stop the motor vehicle. Accordingly, I conclude that the applicants’ right not to be arbitrarily detained under s. 9 of the Charter was infringed in this case, and the search incident to the unlawful detention and arrest was a violation of Charter s. 8.

In a straight-shooting ruling tossing the drug charges laid against O’Grady and Ferguson-Cadore that resulted from the traffic stop, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Charney came to the same conclusion, finding MacKinnon had no legitimate reason to pull the car over and was instead racially profiling the occupants.

“The police officer’s initial suspicions and concerns for the safety of the young white female were based on the fact that she was seen in the company of a black male,” Charney wrote. “There was really nothing more to it than that.”

O’Grady is relieved after Charney’s ruling, but said it doesn’t take away the depressing result of the experience.

“Now, I don’t even feel comfortable driving with a black man in my car. It’s sad,” she said.

In an email Wednesday, Durham Regional Police spokesperson Dave Selby said the service is aware of Charney’s ruling and is reviewing it. MacKinnon could not immediately be reached for comment.

The ruling stems from a September 2014 traffic stop, when MacKinnon was nearing the end of his shift and noticed a silver sedan leaving the parking lot of a Whitby motel.

Formerly with the vice squad, MacKinnon later testified that he knew the motel was frequented by escorts and their pimps, and noted the “young-looking white female” in the front with a black male. He said he was concerned for her safety, believing it was possible she was a prostitute in the company of her pimp.

Durham Regional Police cruiser. Durham Const. James Ebdon, left, was caught on video in 2011 outside a house in Oshawa threatening to beat up Bradley Cox, far right, and plant cocaine on him during a one-sided, expletive-filled confrontation.
PC MacKinnon ran the vehicle’s plate through the PARIS (Police Automated Registration Information System ) system – to see if he could find some legitimate basis to stop the car. Vehicle and driver information has been made available by the Ministry of Transportation to Category I Police Services through the Ancillary Databank to CPIC for investigative purposes only. The owner of the information has the authority to restrict both access and further dissemination. PARIS must not be queried for any level of police record checks.

MacKinnon began following the car and ran the licence plate information, finding the car was registered to a woman born in 1965. He turned the sirens on and pulled over the vehicle.

In his arrest report, the officer provided two reasons for the stop: he was suspicious because the occupants of the car didn’t align with the age of the registered owner, and he had concerns for the young female driver exiting an area known for prostitution.

According to the judge’s version of events, after pulling over the car, MacKinnon asked O’Grady to step out of the car then asked her if she was an escort — and whether he would find her photo in “Backpage,” a website that has ads for escorts.

“I’m like, what? What is Backpage?” O’Grady told the Star Wednesday, recalling MacKinnon’s question. “I was shocked. I was confused.”

The officer asked her why she was coming out of the motel, and she explained that she and her boyfriend — her passenger — were planning a party and were checking out the motel as a place for out-of-town friends to stay. When asked whose car she was driving, O’Grady explained that it belonged to her mother.

According the judge’s summary of facts, MacKinnon commented that he could smell marijuana coming from the car, called for backup, then police searched the vehicle, ultimately finding a digital scale with white residue believed to be cocaine, 10 tabs of Oxycocet, seven grams of powder cocaine, 4.3 grams of crack cocaine and 25.2 grams of marijuana.

Both O’Grady and Ferguson-Cadore were arrested and jointly charged with four counts of possessing controlled substances for the purposes of trafficking.

The couple mounted a charter challenge to exclude the drug evidence found against them, arguing their rights were violated because they were arbitrarily detained and the officer did not have reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence was being committed.

Charney agreed, finding there were “serious” charter violations by police, with significant negative impacts on O’Grady and Ferguson-Cadore. Calling it a “selective” stop, Charney found there was no legitimate reason to stop the car.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, commonly referred to as "the Charter". In this case (R. v. Khandal, 2016 ONCJ 446) the court reviewed section 10(b) of the Charter "10. Everyone has the right on arrest or detention b) to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right" and found a breach serious enough to exlude the breath sample evidence under s.24(2) of the Charter and to dismiss the impaired driving charge.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (aka the “Charter“). The courts have maintained that if the violations of the Charter are serious enough, evidence flowing from the violation is excluded and resulting charges are dismissed. This happens to be one of those cases.

The judge questioned why MacKinnon would have found it suspicious that the driver of the car was likely not the same person registered as the owner, since family members frequently share the same car.

“There is nothing illegal, unusual or suspicious about a driver not matching the description of a registered owner,” Charney wrote.

Charney excluded the drug evidence obtained from the search of the vehicle, and the charges against O’Grady and Ferguson-Cadore were dismissed.

In an email to the Star, Jonathan Pyzer, O’Grady’s lawyer, called the judge’s ruling significant, since court findings of racial profiling are historically rare — “despite our clients reporting them as commonplace.”

“It is also significant that as a white woman, Ms. O’Grady was found to be the victim of racial profiling as part of a biracial couple. It is an important statement that racial profiling very much exists in our society today, whether consciously or subconsciously, and that neither will be tolerated by our Courts.”

O’Grady said the case has negatively affected her boyfriend’s future in basketball. Once a player for professional teams in Japan and Iran, she said the charges against him prevented him from travelling. “This whole case ruined his career,” she said.

Ferguson-Cadore could not be reached for comment Wednesday. His lawyer, Paul Aubin, could also not be reached.