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In today's Morning Brief, we look at the complaints that some counsellors at Kids Help Phone have raised about working conditions at the helpline. We also look at a group's court challenge to stop the use of 'dry cells' in federal penitentiaries

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Calls to Kids Help Phone have surged. Now some counsellors are making a distress call of their own

Kids Help Phone, the charity that offers 24/7 counselling services to young Canadians in distress, needs to listen to the concerns of its stressed staff if it truly wants to help callers, say three current and former counsellors.

Demand for Kids Help Phone's services has been on the rise, with calls and text messages surging since the COVID-19 pandemic began. But the counsellors who spoke with CBC's Go Public say handling the increased demand is even more difficult because of the micromanagement and unreasonable demands of supervisors, which have taken a toll on counsellors' ability to do their job properly — and on their own mental health.

They said the service is being run like a corporate call centre, and counsellors are under pressure to account for how every single minute of their workday is spent via a software tracking system.

"It was like a production line," said one former counsellor. "Like, we need another target, we need to hit three million calls. I mean, we're not in sales. I'm helping people."

WATCH | Counsellors speak out about working conditions at Kids Help Phone:

Counsellors speak out about working conditions at Kids Help Phone

CBC News

2 months agoVideo

CBC News has agreed not to publish the names of the current and former counsellors who were interviewed, as they fear that speaking out against the practices of an organization as well-known and important as Kids Help Phone could harm their future employment prospects.

They revealed how Kids Help Phone measures the performance of counsellors based on what it calls key performance indicators (KPIs). Their job performance is tracked, with percentages, for things like how many calls they failed to answer, how often they weren't ready to answer a call, and what percentage of their time was devoted to self-care.

After Go Public contacted Kids Help Phone to tell them that several counsellors had been in touch, the charity's chief youth officer said changes will be made.

"Our counsellors are courageous, kind and top professionals," said Alisa Simon, who described herself as the executive most in touch with workplace issues at the charity. "If we miss something, we will make it right; including changing guidelines to better meet their needs." Read more on this story here.

At the barricade

(Wason Wanichakorn/The Associated Press)

A pro-democracy protester stands at a police barricade during a street march in Bangkok, Thailand on Sunday. Pro-democracy protesters were confronted by riot police and sprayed by water cannons as they tried to approach Bangkok's Grand Palace to deliver letters about their political grievances addressed to the country's king.

In brief

The number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb in parts of Canada, with multiple provinces on Sunday setting records for single-day increases in new coronavirus infections. Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan all set daily increase records. Ontario reported 1,328 new cases on Sunday and set a single-day record for a second consecutive day. Quebec reported an increase of 1,397, while Saskatchewan reported 159 new cases. Canada's Chief Public Health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement that several regions are "experiencing accelerated growth" and asked Canadians to step up containment efforts. She again urged for a collective effort to reduce cases by limiting close contacts to only those in your household, wearing a mask and adapting events to mitigate COVID-19 risks, such as commemorating Veterans' Week virtually. Read more on this story here.

Advocates for women in prison are heading to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Truro, N.S., on Monday, aiming to end a practice they say "amounts to torture" in federal prisons. The use of "dry cells" involves keeping prisoners in a cell with round-the-clock lighting and without a flushing toilet or running water. They are watched through a glass window by guards, and security cameras are on 24 hours a day, even while prisoners are using the toilet. The cells are used for male and female inmates suspected of ingesting or hiding contraband inside their bodies. Prisoners are watched until the item is removed through the person's bodily waste. The woman at the centre of the case is Lisa Adams, who is almost finished serving a two-year sentence for drug trafficking at the Nova Institution for Women, a federal prison in Truro. She spent more than two weeks in a dry cell in May, before a doctor's examination determined she did not have any foreign objects in her body. Read more about the court case here

LISTEN | Federal inmate speaks about what it was like to spend 16 days in a 'dry cell':

Federal inmate speaks about what it was like to spend 16 days in a 'dry cell'

CBC News Nova Scotia

2 months agoVideo

After decades of silence, a group of men came forward alleging Anglican priest Gordon Dominey sexually assaulted them in the 1980s when they were teen inmates at an Edmonton youth jail. Dominey died in November 2019 before the case could go to trial, leaving the men with an uncertain path to justice. A year later, the men are trying to bring a class-action lawsuit against the Alberta government and the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton. In recent interviews, three of the complainants said they want acknowledgement that they were victims. They want the church and province to take accountability for what they say happened. They also want financial compensation for the suffering they say derailed their lives. Read more on the lawsuit here.

Federal support for the battered airline industry will hinge on carriers providing refunds to passengers whose flights were cancelled, the government announced on Sunday. Transport Minister Marc Garneau laid out the requirement as he said that Ottawa is ready to respond to the sector's pleas for help by launching talks later this week. Amid the pandemic, airlines have scaled back their flights and laid off thousands of employees. They've also cancelled numerous pre-booked trips, offering passengers credits or vouchers instead of refunds — a move that has left some travellers demanding their money back. "We are ready to establish a process with major airlines regarding financial assistance, which could include loans and potentially other support to secure important results for Canadians," Garneau said. Read more from Garneau here.

A First Nations woman was knocked unconscious at an RCMP detachment in Thompson, Man., and despite the act being caught on video, no formal investigation was launched and the woman says she was bullied into withdrawing her complaint against the officers involved. The video, which CBC News obtained through a court application, has one former police watchdog calling for a full probe, and has prompted a lawsuit alleging she was discriminated against because she is Indigenous. Genesta Garson was picked up by two community safety officers on Jan. 6, 2018 outside of a hotel on the suspicion of being drunk. She was supposed to spend the night sleeping it off in a holding cell. Instead, she left in an ambulance after a safety officer punched her in the chin, knocking her unconscious. Read why there are calls for independent oversight of community safety officers here.

Canada-U.S. trade irritants could be hard to fix if they're buried under other agenda items of Joe Biden's incoming administration this January. Democratic ambitions to flip the Senate haven't been fulfilled. Not yet, at least. This matters for trade issues. As Canadians learned during the NAFTA negotiations, the U.S. Congress calls the shots on trade files, including treaty ratification. Had there been a massive blue swing, Biden might have reached out to the populist left by nominating a protectionist trade representative. Now, the odds of a deeply split Senate confirming any cabinet secretary who's off-centre seem slim. Read more analysis on the possible implications of the new U.S. administration on Canada-U.S. trade issues.

Now for some good news to start your Monday: The pandemic has already forced many businesses to the brink, and some have shut down. But a 13-year-old in Elliot Lake, Ont., is just getting her business off the ground — with success. Grade 8 student Emlyn Goulding's business is called BookBuds. It's a one-on-one guided reading service. She says the idea is to provide quality tutoring for kids in Grades 1 to 6, through video-call software. The virtual sessions are designed to replicate the Book Buddy program many schools have to help kids' reading skills. Goulding's venture recently won the Millworks Bridges to Better Business pitch competition — earning her $17,000 worth of services and cash prizes. Her plan is to put that money back into her business. Read more about the budding entrepreneur here.

Front Burner: I'll take 'Icons' for 400, Alex

For 36 years, Alex Trebek hosted the trivia show Jeopardy! with gravitas and wit. On Sunday morning, Trebek died of pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old. 

Today, we discuss Trebek's legacy and what he meant to his fans with Andy Saunders, a Jeopardy! superfan and the operator of

Today in history: November 9

1942: Werner Janowski, a German secret agent, is arrested after arriving at the Gaspé town of New Carlisle, Que., by submarine.

1965: The failure of a relay device at Ontario Hydro's Queenston generating station triggers a massive power failure. The outage extends from the Atlantic coast of the United States to Chicago, and from southern Ontario to Florida, lasting up to 12 hours. 

1972: Anik-1, Canada's first domestic communications satellite, soars into orbit atop a Delta rocket.

2009: Gov.-Gen. Michaëlle Jean presides over the first presentations of the new Sacrifice Medal. Of the first 46 Sacrifice Medals, 21 are awarded posthumously to honour Canadian Forces personnel who lost their lives. Most were killed during tours in Afghanistan.

2010: Montreal author Johanna Skibsrud, 30, becomes the youngest recipient of the $50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novel The Sentimentalists.

With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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