June 23rd, 2024

In the news today: How foreign aid flows, New citizenship bill to be tabled in Ottawa

By The Canadian Press on May 23, 2024.

Royal Canadian Air Force personnel load non-lethal and lethal aid bound for Ukraine via Poland at CFB Trenton, Ont. on Monday, March 7, 2022. While Canada is one of the top contributors to foreign aid among some of the world's richest countries, a fifth of the spending never leaves Canada's borders.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Here is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to
bring you up to speed on what you need to know today…

A fifth of foreign aid goes to refugees in Canada

While Canada is one of the top contributors to foreign aid among some of the world’s richest countries, a fifth of the spending never leaves Canada’s borders.

Some 19 per cent of Canada’s aid reported to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development last year benefited refugees and Ukrainians within Canada.

“Most Canadians would not think that counts, because when we think of foreign aid we think of something happening in other countries, not costs that we have here,” said Elise Legault, Canada director with the One Campaign, an anti-poverty advocacy group.

Canada ranks seventh for dollars spent on foreign aid, according to the OECD, a group of mostly rich countries.

Last month, the organization released its analysis of aid spending in 2023.

It shows Canada spent just over US$8 billion in aid last year, of which $1.5 billion went to supporting refugees, asylum claimants and Ukrainians who fled the Russian invasion, during their first year in Canada.

Immigration minister to table citizenship bill

Immigration Minister Marc Miller is expected to table legislation today that would extend citizenship to some children born outside of the country.

In 2009, the Conservative government changed the law so that Canadian parents who were born abroad could not pass down their citizenship unless their child was born in Canada.

Amendments to the Citizenship Act in 1977 and 2009 also stripped thousands of people who were born abroad of their Canadian citizenship.

Those who’ve not had access to citizenship rights as a result of the amendments are known as “Lost Canadians.”

Last year, the Ontario Superior Court found the current system unconstitutionally creates two classes of Canadians, and gave Ottawa until June 19 to fix the problem.

Grieving families frustrated by cemetery backlog

For more than a year, an urn holding the ashes of Bridget Heffernan’s brother has remained in her Montreal-area home instead of being buried in the plot at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery where her family members have been laid to rest for nearly a century.

With her mother’s death last September, Heffernan now has two sets of remains to bury instead of one.

But months after the end of a lengthy strike that brought operations at one of Canada’s largest cemeteries to a halt, Heffernan says she still can’t get an answer on when the burials can take place, despite repeated efforts to reach management.

While she doesn’t mind having the urns at her home, she’s looking forward to the moment when her mother and brother can be buried in the family plot, with a few family members present and a priest on hand to say a prayer.

One mom’s journey to seek help for autistic son

One Ontario mother has spent several years fighting to get help for her autistic seven-year-old son, and she is astounded that he has been referred to a trial for deep brain stimulation before getting access to publicly funded therapy.

Alexis Wilson’s struggles for access to the Ontario Autism Program are shared by thousands of families across the province.

More than 60,000 children are registered as looking for services but as of the end of last year, about 14,000 had access to core therapy through the program.

Various other services are offered through the program, but the timing of Emmett’s diagnosis has made it difficult for him to access those.

His autism has come in the form of a relatively rare late-stage regression — he developed fairly typically until age four, when he lost many skills, including most of his language.

Voice actors speak out on AI in video games

A recent dispute over the use of a voice similar to Hollywood actor Scarlett Johansson by the maker of ChatGPT is another example of the complexities of generative artificial intelligence and the ethical debate around the technology.

OpenAI has said Sky’s voice — one of several available for its popular chatbot — is not an imitation of the actor and belongs to a different professional who used her natural speaking voice.

Nevertheless, similarities to Johansson were striking, and the Marvel star raised questions about the voice sounding “eerily similar” to hers after she declined an offer to lend her voice to the system.

The company paused the use of Sky earlier this week.

The high-profile case has brought the subject of AI voices to the fore, with several video game voice actors saying they are especially vulnerable to unauthorized AI.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 23, 2024

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