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    When the unemployment rate is even uglier than you thought…

    For some uplifting Monday morning news

    The unemployment rate is almost definitely worse than it looks…

    By Claire Porter Robbins

    At this stage in the pandemic, you’ve probably heard a lot about Canada’s unemployment rate, which, as measured by Statistics Canada declined to 9% for September 2020. That’s pretty good, all things considered.

    But here’s the thing: that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    It all comes down to how unemployment is measured by StatsCan, which defines unemployed persons as those without work who have looked for work in the past four weeks. The catch, however, is that you must have actually submitted multiple job applications, and networking and looking online won’t cut it. That skews the figures.

    Another catch is that Statistics Canada will count someone as employed, even if they’re only working for one hour per week. Basically, those who are drastically underemployed distort the statistic.

    As anyone who has struggled to make ends meet knows, only getting one or two shifts a week can be just as tough as unemployment, in part because it can disqualify those seeking government aid from receiving assistance.

    You can see how the traditional unemployment stats can be, um… useless.

    And when it comes to women, StatsCan counts full-time familial caregiving as employment. That sounds accurate, but when you consider that some women have dropped out of the workforce to care for immuno-compromised family members or kids doing online schooling, you can see how the unemployment rate is once again, probably insufficient.

    That’s where ‘True Unemployment’ statistics come in handy, by factoring in underemployment and those that aren’t submitting multiple job applications a week.

    According to academics who adhere to the ‘True Unemployment’ philosophy, the figure would actually be closer to 30%.

    Depressing, we know. But it’s worthwhile to know how these important economic figures are calculated, especially in the middle of *unprecedented times*, so we can have a better idea of what’s actually going on in the ol’ economy.


    Lobster Feud Reaches a Boiling Point

    By Sabrina Dotsch

    This weekend, you might have seen startling pictures of a lobster processing facility in Nova Scotia on fire, or seemingly thousands of lobsters covered in paint thinner. It’s hard to imagine this degree of violence occurring in rural Nova Scotia, but it is – and it’s important to learn about what’s going on there.

    We’re gonna explain what’s happening.

    In late September, Mi’kmaq fisherman created their own self-regulated fishery, without the explicit approval of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), which oversees licensing in the industry. The Mi’kmaq are part of the Sipekne’katik First Nation, one of 13 Indigenous communities in Nova Scotia.

    Since then, there have been violent attacks against the Mi’kmaq fishermen and their catch, such as cutting traps, physically blocking the walkways to prevent them from accessing their boats, and even burning cars and buildings this past week. The tension between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous fisheries has been contentious since the 1999 Supreme Court ruled that Mi’kmaq have a right to fish to provide themselves with a “moderate livelihood.” There has been an ongoing battle of the meaning of ‘moderate livelihood’, leaving significant opportunity for disputes.

    The Mi’kmaq say the government has failed to enforce their ability to sustain their livelihoods for decades now, and the community is now operating outside of the system. Many Indigenous communities have done the same, as there are significant systemic barriers in accessing and acquiring financial resources in Canada.

    We’re gonna need the RCMP to settle this dispute ASAP, so everyone can get back to enjoying this.

    The Sipekne’katik First Nation is operating their own fishery with 11 licences, and hopes to build a long-term model for fishing for years to come.

    Why so much hostility?

    It’s currently illegal for non-Indigenous fishermen to harvest in the off-season, so some see it as unfair that the new Indigenous fishery can harvest year-round. They’re also worried the extra licenses will decimate the lobster population and ruin the ecosystem for future years. This appears largely unfounded as the entire fishery operates 350 traps which is fewer than a single commercial boat, however there are concerns around the growth of this fishery and the precedent it sets.

    The widespread feeling of frustration in the industry is exacerbated, as the pandemic has decimated lobster exports to the lucrative Chinese market. In 2019, Canada shipped $457 million worth of lobster to China alone.

    While both sides agree the DFO needs to do more to protect the sustainability of the lobster trade and consistently enforce regulations, the violence against the Sipekne’katik First Nations is inexcusable.



    Female RCMP officers win pension battle (finally)

    By Taryn Bergin

    On Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) pension plan discriminates against women and violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the bill of rights within the Constitution of Canada).  Three retired female RCMP officers filed the case against the RCMP in 2016, stating they joined a job-sharing program specifically geared towards women, but were not afforded the same buyback program as colleagues working part-time and on unpaid leave. Instead, they were told this job-sharing program did not count as pensionable time.

    The job-sharing program was implemented in the 1990s when part-time jobs were not permitted, and it allowed multiple people to share responsibilities while working fewer hours per week. 140 people joined the program, the majority women. Many of these women cite the ability to look after their child as the main incentive to join.

    Normally, if there is a gap in pension, RCMP officers can make extra contributions to the program to buy back time and ensure they can retire, with full pension and within their original timeline. In 2017, a federal court ruled against the women, the judge presiding over the case saying that the women who chose to do the job-sharing program benefited from “spending more time with their children and less stress in trying to find childcare.”  But on October 16, just this past week, the Supreme Court ruled on the side of the female officers.

    The decision stated the following: “Full-time RCMP members who job-share must sacrifice pension benefits because of a temporary reduction in working hours. This arrangement has a disproportionate impact on women and perpetuates their historical disadvantage.”

    This is a groundbreaking precedent set by the Supreme Court that could have lasting effects on all pensions, including the Public Service Superannuation Act which contains the same discriminating element as the RCMP program.  Pensions have a history of disenfranchising women while perpetuating gender biases and this ruling is an important step towards equality and breaking the stigma of whose responsibility it is to look after children and the home.

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