Canada in Brief, Mar. 17-23

March 23, 2016 Updated: March 23, 2016

Feds to spend $500,000 to gather data on foreign homebuyers

OTTAWA—Ottawa is spending $500,000 to help understand the role of foreign homebuyers in the country’s housing market. The money is going to Statistics Canada to help develop methods for gathering data on home purchases by foreign buyers.

The government says comprehensive and reliable data on the number of homes sold to foreign buyers does not exist right now.

The plan may involve collaboration with the provinces, including British Columbia. Many believe the Vancouver housing market has charged ahead in recent years due to an influx of wealthy foreign buyers.

Tributes from politicians, public pour in for Rob Ford

TORONTO—The death of Toronto’s controversial former mayor Rob Ford sent shock waves throughout the city and beyond March 22, with supporters and detractors alike voicing their grief and sympathy at the loss of one of Canada’s most colourful and notorious public figures.

Politicians of all stripes praised the passion and fierce determination that made Ford a political powerhouse for years and endeared him to throngs of devoted followers despite the cloud of scandal that hung over him.

The brash politician whose populist ideals drew unwavering loyalty from the so-called “Ford Nation” was also remembered on social media, where a flood of condolences made him a trending topic on March 22.

Canada’s sponsorship of refugees a model for the world: UN refugee chief

OTTAWA—Canada’s use of both government and private sponsors to help Syrian refugees resettle is a model that should be exported around the world, the head of the United Nations refugee agency said during his visit to Canada March 21.

Canada was the first of what’s still only a handful of countries that allow private groups to take on the costs and obligations associated with refugee resettlement, and it’s an approach that ought to be tried elsewhere, Filippo Grandi said.

“It adds more places for resettlement, but it also contributes to create this sense in civil society that it is a positive thing to do,” Grandi said.

Leaders pay tribute to Alberta MP Jim Hillyer after his death

OTTAWA—A day that normally would have seen parliamentarians pulling out their sharpest partisan darts was instead replaced March 23 by a rare coming together of MPs after the sudden death of Alberta Conservative MP Jim Hillyer.

The 41-year-old died in his office after returning to Ottawa this week following surgery to treat an infection in his leg. He came back for the Liberal budget, but what should have been the first day of debate on it was instead deferred to honour Hillyer’s life and work.

Among those who paid tribute to Hillyer were Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, Conservative MP James Bezan, and NDP leader Tom Mulcair.

Hillyer leaves a wife and four children.

Cross-Canada vigils to bring home B.C. children from war-torn Iraq

VICTORIA—Vigils were held across Canada on March 21 urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to bring home four young Canadian children from northern Iraq, where they are believed to be with their fugitive father, a noted British Columbia doctor.

Lorraine McKendry, who joined a small crowd holding candles and placards during a vigil outside the B.C. legislature, said Alison Azer’s four children, who range in age from eleven to three, have been located in an area of northern Iraq that has become the focus of bombing and increasing violence.

The children’s father, Saren Azer, took the children on a holiday seven months ago and never returned. Vigils were also held in Ottawa, Calgary, and Courtenay, B.C., on Vancouver Island where the children live.

Senators pressure border agency officials about recent deaths in custody

OTTAWA—Senators grilled Canada Border Services Agency officials on March 21 about oversight following the deaths of two people in agency custody in the span of a week.

Sen. Grant Mitchell says refugees can be held by the border agency for years, which seems inconsistent with human rights and the rule of law. The agency detains people who are considered a flight risk or a danger to the public, and those whose identities cannot be confirmed.

Caroline Xavier, vice-president of the border agency’s operations branch, told the Senate defence and security committee that since the agency was established in 2003, 11 people have died in custody—two in federal holding centres and nine in provincial facilities.

With files from The Canadian Press