Archive for: ‘May 2019’

56 people charged in India-based call centre scam that may have targeted Canadians

24/05/2019 Posted by admin

U.S. authorities have charged 56 people and five companies operating call centres in India in a massive telephone scam that swindled people out of $300 million in the U.S. and possibly Canada.

The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that scam artists worked at five call centres in Ahmedabad, in western India, and would pose as officials with the Internal Revenue Service or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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Callers would tell unsuspecting victims they had failed to pay taxes or were at risk of deportation, and quick cash was needed to get out of trouble.

“This is a transnational problem, and demonstrates that modern criminals target Americans both from inside our borders and from abroad,” U.S. Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a statement.

“Only by working tirelessly to gather evidence, build cases and working closely with foreign law enforcement partners to ensure there are no safe havens can we effectively address these threats.”

READ  MORE: 70 arrested in India for targeting Americans in multimillion-dollar tax scam

The indictment, which was unsealed on Thursday, did not mention Canada directly but stated victims were in the “U.S. and elsewhere.”

RCMP Sgt. Penny Hermann said “there might be” a connection to Canada in the investigation.

“Victims have reported that, at times, a caller would identify themselves as an IRS agent to the victim, and then change tactics when he/she realized that in Canada there is no IRS,” Hermann said.

WATCH: How to protect yourself from being scammed

Thursday’s indictments came on the heels of 70 arrests in India earlier this month that targeted telephone scammers.

Hermann said following the arrests there has been a “huge decrease” in the number of complaints to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

“In the nine weeks preceding the arrests, the reported losses were about $26,000 to $190,000 a week,” she said. “But after the arrests the reported losses went down to $2,000 a week.”

READ MORE: Bold tax-scammers asking for iTunes cards

Caldwell said suspects were arrested in multiple U.S. cities Thursday, and the Justice Department is seeking the extradition of defendants still in India. Those charged face offences including wire fraud, money laundering and false impersonation of an officer of the United States.

Investigators allege the suspects scammed more than 15,000 people into shelling out more than $300 million. They also allegedly stole personal identification information from 50,000 people.

The victims included an elderly woman in San Diego who handed over more than $12,000 after she was threatened with arrest if she didn’t pay for fictitious tax violations. A California man also paid $136,000 to resolve alleged tax violations after being called repeatedly over 20 days.

Investigators said in one case, a Colorado man did not respond to repeated demands that he withdraw funds to pay supposed back taxes. Scammers posing as him called 911 saying he was armed and looking to kill police officers, prompting law enforcement officers to surround his home.

U.S. officials commended victims for coming forward and said they hope this type of investigation warns others in the future.

“To potential victims, our message today is simple: U.S. government agencies do not make these types of calls, and if you receive one, contact law enforcement to report the suspected scam before you make a payment,” Peter Edge, executive associate director with Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement.

*With files from Adam Miller and The Associated Press

New project aims to shed light on Africville’s history

24/05/2019 Posted by admin

For over 150 years, hundreds of people called Africville home.

The community was populated almost entirely by African Nova Scotians. In the 1960’s, the city bulldozed the site and expropriated the land for the MacKay Bridge.

An important project is now helping to mark the history of the area. The Africville Heritage Trust mapped out where the original homes once stood in the community. Then, using GPS coordinates, found where the current locations would be and marked it with a sign.

“People say they really appreciate it because now when they walk through, they make it seem more real as a community for people who are visiting and also for the people of Africville,” said Sunday Miller, the Executive Director of the Africville Heritage Trust.

WATCH: Officials call for change to ‘inaccessible’ Africville historic site 

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Miller says one of the goals of the project is to dispel rumours that those who once lived in Africville were squaters.

“It was really nice homes and a good community,” said Miller.

“The only challenge was that they weren’t given running water and sewer and therefore, their homes were deemed substandard.”

Miller says she also wants people to understand how large Africville was and why the land is considered sacred.

“It’s not just because the people who were removed were here. It’s because they were here because their ancestors were willing to shed their blood to get to freedom,” Miller tells Global News.

“They were Africans that were forced into slavery in the states and had been given the opportunity – fight for the British and if you live, we’ll give you freedom in British North America or stay enslaved.”

READ MORE: Environmental racism plagues low-income and minority communities across Nova Scotia

Not long after the signs marking the former homesteads went up, the Heritage Trust was dealt a blow – twenty were removed.

“It was discouraging and I was a bit surprised that there would be such a level of disrespect and devaluing the site,” said Miller.

“It’s obvious because it says the name and it says prior to relocation so you can’t be confused about why this is here, but someone was saying I don’t want this to be here and I don’t want to remember this and I don’t want to know it.”

The Heritage Trust is now working with the municipality to try and figure out a more secure way to install the markers so they can continue to move forward with the project and map out Africville.

Foreign buyers 1.3 per cent of Vancouver sales

24/05/2019 Posted by admin

VANCOUVER – The rate of foreign investment in Metro Vancouver housing has fallen to 1.3 per cent since the introduction of a new tax targeting international buyers, according to new data from the British Columbia government.

The drop is dramatic compared with the seven-week period before the tax was introduced when foreign buyers accounted for 13.2 per cent of the residential purchases in the region.

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The province brought in the 15-per-cent property transfer tax on foreign buyers in Metro Vancouver on Aug. 2 in an effort to cool one of the hottest housing markets in North America.

“The number of offshore purchasers has dropped dramatically, and that means the pressure on local purchasers, often first-time purchasers, is much reduced,” said cabinet minister Andrew Wilkinson, speaking on behalf of the finance minister on Friday.

“That’s exactly what our goal was and we’re glad to see the market is calming down.”

Between Aug. 2 and Sept. 30, there were 152 home purchases involving foreign buyers in Metro Vancouver, or 1.3 per cent of all residential transactions. That is slightly less than the provincial average of 1.7 per cent during the same period.

The province received an additional $10.1 million from the new tax.

Wilkinson said the goal of the levy was not to collect more taxes from offshore investors, but to get them to reconsider buying into Metro Vancouver’s market.

“It was never our goal to get to a certain revenue amount with the tax. The goal was to calm down the real estate market.”

But the province cautioned that it’s unclear how many transactions that would have occurred in August or September were rushed through completion in July in order to avoid the tax. Data from the coming months will provide a more accurate picture of how the market is changing, it said.

Wilkinson added that real estate markets are seasonal and more transactions are typically recorded in the spring, so more data is needed before reaching long-term conclusions.

The total value of purchases involving foreign buyers was $318 million, or 1.8 per cent of the overall value of purchases in Metro Vancouver.

The province said auditors have sent 150 letters to buyers to verify their citizenship or permanent residency status. Of the 150 letters, 85 audit files have been opened to investigate if the additional tax should have been paid.

The composite benchmark price, or the representation of a typical residential property, in Metro Vancouver was $931,900 last month, a 28.9 per cent increase from September 2015 but a 0.1 per cent decline from August 2016.

The new data released by the province suggests Victoria has not seen a flood of foreign buyers since the tax was introduced in Metro Vancouver.

In the Capital Regional District, encompassing southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, foreign buyers represented 3.5 per cent of the residential real estate market between Aug. 2 and Sept. 30. In the period before the tax, they represented 3.9 per cent.

Last month, a proposed class-action lawsuit was filed in B.C. Supreme Court arguing the new tax violates over 30 international treaties where Canada has committed to treat foreign nationals as favourably as citizens.

The lead plaintiff is Jing Li, a 29-year-old Chinese student who has been studying in Canada since 2013 and said the tax impeded her purchase of a Langley home.

Premier Christy Clark has said the tax has a solid legal basis.

— Follow @ellekane on 桑拿会所.

U.S. Supreme Court to rule in landmark transgender rights case

24/05/2019 Posted by admin

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed for the first time to rule on transgender rights in a case in which a Virginia public school district is fighting to prevent a female-born transgender high school student from using the boys’ bathroom.

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Related

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    The justices agreed to hear the Gloucester County School Board’s appeal of a lower court’s April 19 ruling that transgender students are protected under U.S. laws barring sex-based discrimination. The case involves a 17-year-old transgender student named Gavin Grimm, who identifies as male and sued to win the right to use the school’s boys’ bathroom.

    The case, due to be argued and decided before the end of June, will be one of the biggest of the court’s term.

    READ MORE: Federal court overturns Virginia school’s transgender bathroom rule, calls it discriminatory

    The court remains one justice short following the February death of Antonin Scalia, which left it with four conservatives and four liberals. That raises the possibility of a 4-4 ruling that would leave in place the decision favoring Grimm by the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A 4-4 ruling would set no nationwide legal precedent.

    The court until now had generally steered clear of taking up potentially divisive cases such as this one while it remained shorthanded. The court already has issued 4-4 rulings on four occasions since Scalia’s death.

    The Supreme Court has not directly ruled on transgender rights before. But in 1994 the court did rule in favor of a male-born transgender prison inmate identifying as a woman who was held with male prisoners and said she was beaten and raped by another inmate.

    READ MORE: US judge blocks Obama transgender school bathroom policy

    The issue of allowing transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity rather than their birth gender has become the latest flashpoint in the long U.S. battle over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

    The matter heated up after North Carolina passed a Republican-backed law in March that required people to use bathrooms that corresponded to their gender at birth in government buildings and public schools. The North Carolina law also blocked local measures protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination.

    In the Virginia case, the Supreme Court in July voted 5-3 to temporarily block the appeals court decision from going into effect, a move that prevented Grimm from using the boys’ bathroom when the new school year began in September while the case remained under appeal by the school district.

    READ MORE: A more tolerant country? Most Canadians support transgender rights, poll suggests

    Grimm told his parents he was transgender during his first year in high school in 2014 and began attending school as a boy in September 2014. With the school’s permission, Grimm used the boys’ bathroom for about seven weeks without incident. But after complaints from parents, the county school board adopted a new policy in December 2014 that required students to use the bathroom that corresponded to their gender at birth.

    Since then, Grimm has had to use a separate restroom. Grimm, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued in 2015. A federal judge ruled in favor of the school district in September 2015, prompting Grimm to the 4th Circuit.

5th girl commits suicide on a northern Saskatchewan First Nation

24/05/2019 Posted by admin

Another young girl has committed suicide in northern Saskatchewan, the fifth indigenous girl to take her life this month.

A grief counselor for the school on the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation, near Loon Lake, said the 13-year-old committed suicide on Tuesday.

Her funeral was held on Friday.

READ MORE: Victim’s family says suicide a problem across northern Saskatchewan for years

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Related

  • Brad Wall says more needs to be done after rash of suicides in northern Sask.

  • Northern Saskatchewan communities in mourning after 3 youth suicides

  • Fourth suicide involving young girl in northern Saskatchewan rocks communities

    Grief counsellors were brought in to help students cope.

    A letter has also been sent out to parents encouraging them to watch for signs of suicide in their children.

    “Due to the circumstances of this loss, our school and education team has mobilized an immediate crisis response team that has been actively working with our students both directly and indirectly connected to the loss,” reads the letter dated Oct. 25 and sent out by the First Nation’s school.

    “Parents are encouraged to speak to our counselling department in the event that students show unusual signs during this time.”

    The Makwa Sahgaiehcan band office said support staff is available for those who need someone to talk to, and are encouraging everyone in the community to seek support.

    Earlier this month, two girls from Stanley Mission, one from La Ronge and a girl from Deschambault Lake committed suicide.

    All were between the ages of 10 and 14.

    Both the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation declared a state of crisis following the suicides.

    READ MORE: State of crisis declared in 2 Sask. First Nations following youth suicides

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said his government is prepared to work with indigenous communities to deal with “this ever-occurring tragedy” across the country.

    Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has said that his government is working to support communities and that a meeting will be held with northern leaders.

    READ MORE: NDP says Ottawa not funding enough mental-health workers after youth suicides

    Health Canada has stated it is providing support to allow seven mental health therapists to travel weekly to Stanley Mission to provide counselling to at-risk youth, six days a week, until the end of December.

    With files from , MBC