Probe opened in France over radioactive water rumours

first_imgParis: After the panic, the prosecution: investigators in Paris have opened an inquiry to track down the source of false reports last week that drinking water in the French capital had been contaminated. In a viral message spread on the WhatsApp messaging app last week, a woman presenting herself as a nurse from a hospital in Paris can be heard telling people not to drink water from the tap because of the presence of radioactive “titanium”. Other rumours spread that authorities were asking people to stop drinking from the tap. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USAlarm reached such levels that hospitals and public health bodies were inundated with calls, while the water authority in Paris put out a public message on social media at the weekend reassuring Parisians that “drinking water poses no threat”. “There is no problem with the water, it is excellent for everyone,” the head of the health body for the capital region, Aurelien Rousseau, added on Saturday in an interview with AFP. Investigators in the Paris prosecutor’s office have now opened an investigation into the crime of “publicising, spreading and reproducing false information intended to cause public disorder”, a judicial source told AFP on Monday. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential pollsAnyone found guilty risks a fine of up to 45,000 euros (USD 50,000). Like many rumours spread on the internet or messaging apps, the story contained a kernel of truth that was distorted or deliberately manipulated to raise alarm. Last Wednesday, a small environmental charity called the Association for the Control of Radioactivity in the West (ACRO) published a report claiming low levels of the radioactive isotope tritium had been found in drinking water. The group said in an alarmist statement that “6.4 million people are supplied with water contaminated with tritium”, which is a byproduct of the nuclear power stations that provide the majority of France’s electricity. But the group itself acknowledged that none of the readings it had seen for tritium were above the European guidance level of 100 Becquerels per litre — a Becquerel is a measure of radioactivity. The World Health Organization sets 10,000 Becquerels per litre as a maximum level. The public water provider in the Paris region, SEDIF, said that the average of its readings showed a level of 9 Becquerels per litre. David Boilley, a physicist who heads the ACRO environmental charity, said that his intention was to raise awareness about low levels of tritium pollution which could indicate the presence of other unspecified radioactive pollutants.last_img read more

SC reserves order to refer to Constitution bench the pleas against govt

first_imgNew Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday reserved verdict on whether to refer to a Constitution bench a batch of pleas challenging Centre’s decision to grant 10 pc reservation in jobs and education to economically weaker section (EWS). Attorney General K K Venugopal told a bench headed by Justice Bobde that the Constitution (103 amendment) Act, 2019 granting 10 per cent reservation to EWS is intended to uplift around 200 million people who are still below the poverty line. The bench, also comprising Justices R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai, was hearing a batch of pleas challenging the validity of the Act on the ground that economic criteria cannot be the sole basis for granting reservation.last_img read more

CBDT raises monetary limits for filing appeals

first_imgNew Delhi: The Central Board of Direct Taxes on Thursday revised the monetary limits for filing of Income Tax appeals in various appellate fora. Issuing the new monetary limits, the CBDT said that this is a step towards further management of litigation by the government. The limit for filing appeal before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal has been raised from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 50 lakh; the limit for filing appeal before the High Court has been increased from Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore; and the limit for filing appeal before the Supreme Court has been raised from Rs 1 crore to Rs 2 crore. This will further reduce time, effort and resources presently deployed in litigation to focus on issues involving litigation of substantial value, the CBDT said in a statement.last_img read more

Pesticides overkill in Punjab killing farmfriendly insects

first_imgAmritsar: Amrik Singh, 46, a Bathinda-based farmer, was in despair after the entire cotton crop on his three-acre land was destroyed by whitefly in 2017. He then decided not to sow cotton anymore and switched to cultivate other crops, such as paddy. Amrik wasn’t the only one. Hundreds of other farmers in Punjab bore the brunt of the pest attack. Earlier in 2015, the whitefly attack on cotton fields destroyed over 70 per cent of the standing cotton crop. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’ The increasing frequency of pest attacks on the state’s farmlands, forced the state government to deliberate over the issue. Experts and agricultural scientists have now brought the focus on beneficial insects, whose population has substantially eroded over the past years owing to indiscriminate use of pesticides and chemicals by farmers in the state. State Agriculture Department Joint Director Dr Sukhdev Singh said excessive use of chemicals on farm lands was also killing agriculture-friendly insects useful in controlling the population of pests. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&K He attributed the rise of whitefly attacks to the decline in the population of such friendly insects. Whitefly sucks the sap from leaves, causing poor photosynthesis, and triggers leaf curl virus disease. Alarmed by the situation, the state government formed a contingency plan under which farmers were advised to not use chemicals during the first 60 days of crop sowing. B.D. Sharma, Assistant Plant Protection Officer at Jalandhar’s Central Integrated Pest Management Centre, said indiscriminate use of pesticides had depleted the population of friendly insects, including ladybugs, spiders and chrysoperla. “After sustained efforts, now the population of beneficial insects is improving in fields of Punjab,” he added. The area under cotton cultivation in the state was 5.11 lakh hectares in 2009-10. It declined to 3.39 lakh hectares in 2015-16 and further to 2.57 lakh hectares in 2016-17, according to the state government. This was the time when whitefly attack on the crop sent alarm bells ringing among the farming community. Many farmers in the state’s Malwa region, which is known for its cotton crop, have started growing paddy and Basmati owing to the threats posed by the pests. Amrik Singh said the minimum support price (MSP) of paddy and the low risk of pest attacks has aided his shift from cotton to paddy. Long-term use of pesticides has also made an impact on the fertility of the soil in Punjab and also on the micro-organisms helpful in agriculture. A study by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, noted: “Indiscriminate, long-term and over-application of pesticides have severe effects on soil ecology that may lead to alterations in or the erosion of beneficial or plant probiotic soil microflora. Weathered soils lose their ability to sustain enhanced production of crops/grains on the same land. However, burgeoning concern about environmental pollution and the sustainable use of cropping land have emphasised inculcation of awareness and the wider application of tools, techniques and products that do not pollute the environment at all or have only meagre ecological concerns.” The PAU has been conducting seminars and lectures on the importance of beneficial insects in agriculture for farmers from far off areas of the state. Recently, the Department of Entomology in association with Indian Council of Agricultural Research held a seminar in which techniques of Integrated Pest Management —- an approach to sustainably manage insects —- were explained.last_img read more

UP 5 injured in clash between two communities on Janmashtami

first_imgBareilly (UP): As many as five people, including a woman, were injured in a clash between two rival communities during a procession being taken out on the occasion of Krishna Janmashthmi in Makri Mavada village here, police said on Saturday. The ‘shobha yatra’ had reached its final destination in the Muslim majority village under Devraniya Police Station area here on Friday afternoon when members of one community started pelting stones at the other leading to commotion, Circle Officer Baheri, Alok Agrahari said. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’ Both the groups brandished weapons including firearms, the CO said, adding that additional force from four police stations and PAC was rushed to the village to control the situation. The timing of the traditional ‘shobha yatra’ was deferred to 3 pm in view of the Friday prayers and the incident took place when it had reached its last destination at the Holi crossing, the CO said. The injured have been admitted to hospital, he added. SP, Rural, Sansar Singh who visited the village said that adequate force has been deployed and strict action will be initiated against those behind attempts to vitiate the atmosphere.last_img read more

Ottawa launches online public consultation on plastic marine waste

first_imgHALIFAX – Environment Minister Catherine McKenna launched a public consultation on plastic garbage Sunday as Ottawa tries to develop a national strategy to cut back on how much plastic Canadians use and toss away.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants to get other G7 nations to sign a zero plastics waste charter at the G7 leaders meeting this June in Charlevoix, Que., but Canada doesn’t yet have a handle on what it wants to do about the problem domestically.Speaking from the seaside community of Eastern Passage, N.S., McKenna used Earth Day on Sunday to announce a public online consultation to help pinpoint ways for the country to eliminate plastic waste and reduce marine litter.“We want to hear from Canadians about how we tackle pollution and waste,” she said, flanked by Nova Scotia Environment Minister Iain Rankin and Nova Scotian MPs Darrell Samson and Andy Fillmore.“It’s not just cleaning up after the fact: it’s actually being thoughtful about how we reduce, how we recycle, how we compost.”The announcement was made shortly before dozens of volunteers flocked to McNabs Island in the Halifax Harbour and McCormacks Beach in Eastern Passage to pick up litter as part of an Earth Day shoreline cleanup event.According to the federal government, more than 150 million tonnes of plastic waste is clogging the oceans worldwide. It’s estimated that plastic could outweigh fish by 2050.Greenpeace Canada also used Earth Day Sunday to kick off a national campaign with a tool kit to help Canadians find ways to reduce their reliance on single-use plastics. The organization says Canadians generate about 3.25 million tonnes of plastic garbage each year, which they say could fill 140,000 garbage trucks. The campaign includes encouraging people to take their complaints about plastic-covered produce and overly wrapped food products to the manager at their local grocery store, write letters to the editor and lobby local politicians to enact anti-plastics policies.Trudeau caught some heat from Greenpeace last week when he wouldn’t agree to a ban on plastic drinking straws, something British Prime Minister Theresa May is enacting in the United Kingdom. The U.K. already saw a drastic drop in the use of plastic grocery bags when it started charging people for them in October 2015.Many other countries, including Taiwan, Kenya, Rwanda, Italy and France, have enacted bans or limits on plastic grocery bags and straws. Even Queen Elizabeth is on board, banning single-use plastics entirely from royal residences and cafes.McKenna, however, told The Canadian Press Sunday that Canada is a federation, and has to work with provinces and municipalities, where the jurisdiction for most garbage-related matters lies.“It’s a very complex issue, and it’s not just about plastic straws,” McKenna said.Monique Breau showed up at McCormacks Beach Sunday morning with her 5-year-old son Jonas to help clean up litter.She said it’s never too early to teach children about the importance of protecting the environment.“I want him to be able to eat fish when he’s an adult,” said Breau. “I want him to be able to play on a beach and not worry about plastic waste everywhere.”Jonas, who was armed with a trash grabber nearly as tall as he was, seemed to have a good idea about how recycling works.“We throw it in the plastic bin and we make it (into) new stuff,” he said.The event was organized by the Nova Scotia-based non-profit Ecology Action Centre, in partnership with Friends of McNabs Island, Oceans North, and Ocean Conservancy.Heather Grant, the centre’s marine communications coordinator, said the event presented an opportunity for Nova Scotians to learn what they can do better to protect the environment.“As a coastal province, Nova Scotia obviously has a huge stake in the health of the marine environment,” said Grant. “So having people come to clean up the beaches is a great way to get local people engaged and invested in the health of the oceans that the province depends on.”Louie Porta, vice-president of operations and projects for Oceans North, said garbage in the ocean can work its way up the food chain as bigger marine animals eat smaller ones that may have eaten plastic.It can also contaminate the water and create health risks for people.“The environment doesn’t know how to process plastic and waste. All of the waste going into the ocean isn’t coming back out,” said Porta. “We need to stem the tide of the waste going into the ocean.”– with files from Mia Rabson in Ottawa.last_img read more

Filmmaker receives nonbinary birth certificate after legal battle with Ontario

first_imgAn Ontario-born filmmaker has been issued a non-binary birth certificate after a year-long legal battle with the provincial government and says receiving the document marks a victory for the non-binary and transgender community.Joshua M. Ferguson, who identifies as neither a man nor a woman and uses the gender-neutral pronoun “they,” returned home from a trip abroad to find the birth certificate in the mail last week.“I’m feeling good to finally have my birth certificate that correctly displays who I am,” the 35-year-old said over the phone from their home in Vancouver.“This moment not only reaffirms who we are, and our protection under the law in Ontario and in Canada, but it’s a relief because we are counted. That’s quite an incredible feeling, because it makes it clear that we exist.”Ferguson, who was born in Brantford, Ont., applied to a Toronto branch of Service Ontario to change the sex designation on their birth registration to non-binary in May of 2017. When the case was delayed, Ferguson filed a human rights complaint, which eventually prompted a policy change.People can now choose between “M” for male, “F” for female and “X” for non-binary. They can also opt not to display a sex designation on the birth certificate at all.Gender-neutral birth certificates are currently also available in Newfoundland and Labrador and in the Northwest Territories, and Ferguson hopes more provinces will follow suit.“I hope that this inspires other provinces and encourages this kind of legislation to happen across the country,” Ferguson said.Last August, the federal government announced a plan to start offering a gender-neutral option on passports.Ontario previously offered non-binary options for drivers’ licenses and health cards, but not birth certificates. The change is significant, said Ferguson, calling birth certificates “the most vital form of ID for personhood.”Service Ontario said the new policy on birth certificates is in line with the province’s goal to “recognize and respect all transgender and non-binary people in Ontario, and give all Ontarians access to identification that matches their gender identity.”Recognition of that kind has both practical and symbolic benefits for transgender people, Ferguson said.“The ability to change your identification (…) makes a big difference, and can decrease the social isolation, anxiety, depression,” they said.“My family is very proud of me and it means a lot to me to have a supportive family,” Ferguson added. “They see the change in me, just over the last tiny bit of time that I’ve had this birth certificate.”last_img read more

Two Canadians killed in Burkina Faso identified

first_imgOTTAWA – The two Canadians killed in a suspected terrorist attack in Burkina Faso have been identified as Tammy Chen of Ontario and Bilel Diffalah, a volunteer for a Quebec-based anti poverty group.The incident happened late Sunday when suspected Islamic terrorists opened fire at a Turkish restaurant in the country’s capital, killing 18 people in all.Global Affairs Canada identified Chen, a popular former Toronto teacher, in a statement Monday.Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland had confirmed the deaths of the two Canadians earlier in the day.“It is with very great sorrow that I can confirm the deaths of two Canadians in yesterday’s attack in Burkina Faso,” Freeland said.“The heartfelt condolences of our government go out to the loved ones of those targeted and the victims of this tragic attack. Canadian consular officials are working hard to provide assistance to their loved ones.”The Toronto District School Board called Chen “the victim of a senseless act of violence” and said in a statement that she left in 2013 to pursue her PhD at the University of Cambridge.“Tammy is being remembered as a very passionate, charismatic and diligent teacher by her colleagues,” the board said, adding “she was always willing to go the extra mile to help students.”Chen holds degrees from McGill University and Queen’s University and was the president and co-founder of a Canadian NGO called Bright Futures Burkina Faso.Montreal-based non-governmental organization CECI said Diffalah volunteered with the NGO as an adviser for hygiene and biosecurity.“CECI would like to express its most deepest condolences to the family and friends of the volunteer, Bilel Diffalah,” CECI’s Odette McCarthy said Monday in a statement.CECI has been operating in Burkina Faso since 1985.Local authorities say other foreigners killed include two Kuwaitis and one person each from France, Senegal, Nigeria, Lebanon and Turkey.Several Burkina Faso citizens were also killed and authorities said other victims had not yet been identified.There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the violence, which continued into the early hours Monday.At least three members of Burkina Faso’s security forces were wounded during the assault, said Capt. Guy Ye, spokesman of the security forces.The assailants arrived at the restaurant on motorcycles and then began shooting randomly at the crowds dining Sunday evening, he said. Security forces arrived at the scene with armoured vehicles after reports of shots fired near Aziz Istanbul.The attack brought back painful memories of the January 2016 attack at another cafe that left 30 people dead.Burkina Faso, a landlocked nation in West Africa, is one of the poorest countries in the world. It shares a northern border with Mali, which has long battled Islamic extremists.— with files from the Associated Press.last_img read more

Halifax police continue search for mystery infants parents

first_imgHALIFAX – Two days after a healthy baby was found abandoned behind a shop on a busy Halifax street, many questions remain about who the child is and how such a thing could happen.Experts say such cases are extremely rare in Canada. But when it does happen, there can be a multitude of reasons for a parent to give up a child in such a public manner, said Elisa Romano, a psychology professor at the University of Ottawa.Among other things, the child’s mother or father may have mental challenges, or they could be dealing with cultural or religious rules that take a dim view of adoption or abortion.“We can guess that this mom must have been in a lot of distress and must have been feeling quite desperate to give up her baby in such a manner,” said Romano, who has focused some of her studies on child maltreatment. “She could have been overwhelmed at the prospect of caring for a child.”As well, the parents could be young and without family support, but Romano said it’s impossible to draw any conclusions, given the limited information provided by police since the baby was discovered on Sunday.Investigators continued their search for the child’s parents Tuesday. Spokeswoman Const. Dianne Penfound said police are interviewing potential witnesses and seeking surveillance video in the 6000 block of Quinpool Road, which is lined with smaller retail outlets and restaurants.As well, Penfound said police are working with the provincial Community Services Department and local hospitals to identify the baby, described by police as African-Canadian and believed to be about a month old.The infant was found wrapped in a blanket just before 5 p.m., when the temperature was hovering around an unseasonably warm 14 C.Grant Wilson, president of the Canadian Children’s Rights Council, agreed that cases of child abandonment are rare in Canada, and he cautioned against looking to the United States for comparisons.“We have a totally different health-care system that helps tremendously,” he said. “We’ve lifted children out of living in poverty to a great degree, with a few exceptions.”Under the Canadian Criminal Code, it is illegal to abandon a child under the age of 10 if their life or health is likely to be endangered. But charges are rarely laid in such cases.In the United States, most states have so-called safe haven laws, which allow parents to legally abandon infants at sanctioned sites.Wilson said the American model is based on the fact that some low-income women in the United States simply can’t afford to give birth in a hospital, which he said can cost about US$10,000 for those without private health insurance.“We don’t need (safe haven laws) in Canada,” said Wilson, whose non-profit advocacy group has been around since the early 1990s. “We have very few cases (of child abandonment) because we’re not in the same social system.”Still, there are a few Roman Catholic health-care agencies in Canada that provide so-called angel cradle services. There are two hospitals in Edmonton and one in Vancouver that allow parents of newborns to anonymously abandon their infants inside a special receptacle has been built into the wall of the hospital.Aside from mental illness, religious and cultural issues, Wilson said there are other reasons why a parent may abandon a baby.He cited the 2007 case of a Saskatchewan woman who gave birth in a Walmart bathroom stall and left the newborn in a toilet because she believed the baby was dead. The woman later testified that she didn’t even know she was pregnant, and in 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada upheld her acquittal on a charge of child abandonment.“It’s hard to believe, but that actually does happen,” said Wilson.In February 2007, an 18-year-old student living alone in Saskatoon, Sask., said she didn’t know where to turn when she gave birth at home to a baby girl she left on a neighbourhood doorstep hours later. The young woman came forward more than 48 hours after the newborn was found by the homeowners.The woman told police she chose the house because she saw lights on inside, heard a dog barking and felt comfortable that the baby would be found quickly on the frigid morning. The child was wrapped in a towel and comforter in -29 C weather.In November 2004, a baby was abandoned at a Vancouver bus stop, where she was found naked in a plastic bag. Despite extensive publicity, no one came forward to claim Baby Jane Doe, who was later adopted.last_img read more

Canadian prisoner in China has been reeducated sentence cut party official

first_imgOTTAWA – A Canadian imprisoned in China for more than a decade had his life sentenced reduced because he took part in a re-education program, a top Chinese Communist party official said Tuesday.Huseyin Celil, of southern Ontario, received a life sentence in 2007 for terrorism-related charges after a widely criticized trial that has strained Sino-Canadian relations over the course of two Conservative and Liberal governments.Celil was an advocate for China’s persecuted Uighur community who fled to Canada in 2000 and later became a citizen.He was arrested in Uzbekistan in 2006 on a trip to visit his wife’s relatives and was sent to China, where he was convicted and sentenced a year later.Last year, the sentences given to Celil and 10 other Uighurs were reduced but the Chinese government didn’t specify by how much.Zuo Feng, a visiting Communist party official, said Celil’s life sentence had been reduced to 18 years after he took part in a re-education program.“During his journey in prison he has participated in a lot of speaking and used his own case as educational material and talked to more than 200,000 people,” Zuo said through a translator.“So because of his activities, his sentence has been reduced to 18 years.“Also he has visiting privileges from his family.”Chris MacLeod, the lawyer for Celil’s family, said there is no way he would recommend Celil’s wife travel to China to visit her husband, even though she was never a Chinese citizen. He said such a visit could only be part of “an official invitation sanctioned by both governments.”Celil has been denied visits by Canadian consular officials for the last 11 years, he said.Zuo was part of a delegation of Chinese government officials that had come to Canada to discuss economic, social and cultural developments in the country’s westernmost Xinjiang region at a roundtable discussion with a select group of journalists.That includes China’s massive “One Belt, One Road” project that aims to connect the country to many parts of Asia, Europe and Africa by way of ports, rail lines and roads.But the region has been the scene of a Uighur insurgency that has claimed hundreds of lives in recent years and sparked a hard crackdown by Beijing. A 2014 attack in a public market that killed 31 people was branded as a terrorist attack by Beijing.Members of the visiting delegation defended the need to get tough with what they said were terrorists undermining China’s security.“Extremism is a toxic cancer internationally. Anti-extremism is a shared responsibility internationally,” said Yu Shangping, an associate research fellow at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences.Zuo was reluctant to discuss Celil’s case and chided journalists for focusing on the negative aspects of relations between his country and Canada.He also elaborated on the role of re-education camps in Xinjiang“If it’s a crime, that person will be prosecuted,” he explained.“If that action is not constituted as a crime, however, it is borderline activities, then the action to do is to re-educate for that person, to prevent that person from being further influenced by extremism.”John Kamm, a San Francisco-based activist who has worked with the Canadian government to win Celil’s release, said the disclosure of the new 18-year sentence is relatively good news and could be start of a series of sentence reductions that could lead to his freedom.He says the re-education of prisoners is common practice.“What they want to do is show prisoners, ‘if you behave like so, you too can benefit through shorter sentencing, commutation’.”Celil’s saga raises questions for the Trudeau Liberals as they attempt to deepen economic ties with China, which is also anxious to start talks, said MacLeod.“We can’t forget that if trade relationships are going to work, the rule of law has to be firm. Breaches of commercial agreements are also dealt with in a court of justice. It’s not simply a human rights piece.”Alex Neve, secretary general for Amnesty International Canada, said the government needs to reconsider its strategy for winning Celil’s release, perhaps even appointing another special envoy to pressure China.“The toll this has taken on his wife and four kids, who have essentially grown up without their father, has been immense and we’ve got to find a way to end it,” said Neve.“This continues to play out in a wider context of unrelenting persecution against the Uighurs in western China which, if anything, seems to be deepening and intensifying.”last_img read more

Canada useful to US hosting North Korea crisis meeting officials say

first_imgOTTAWA – The guest list isn’t firmed up, the date and location are still to be determined.But the government is billing a major international meeting it will host on the North Korea nuclear crisis as an essential, overdue step towards bringing key players together to brainstorm a non-military solution.As to what that solution might be — nothing firm.The meeting will likely occur somewhere in Canada, sometime early next year.Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have been discussing plans for the meeting for months. But they chose to announce it late Tuesday after North Korea carried out its longest-ever missile test.Freeland couldn’t say what Canada’s specific role would be but she said convening the meeting was an important step “in terms of showing the unity of the international community in applying pressure on North Korea.”Canada offers what amounts to a less stressful setting for the talks, a senior government official said Wednesday on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.“It makes sense we could bring together people that may not necessarily feel that they would want to go to the United States,” the source said, adding that holding talks in Japan or South Korea is simply too close to the crisis.Tillerson saw the value in Canada taking the initiative forward, the source said.“We have a lot of strong connections to countries in the region that could potentially be affected and are affected by this threat every day,” said the official.Canada has a history in the region, where it fought in the 1950-53 Korean War, but it is also a non-nuclear power.Freeland said her Chinese counterpart would be among the invitees.The meeting, which will be co-hosted by the United States, will potentially involve the foreign ministers of close to two dozen countries.China and Russia are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, which held an emergency meeting about North Korea on Wednesday, amid wider calls for more sanctions against the country.Canadian officials had no comment on whether Russia would be receiving an invitation. Moscow denounced the latest North Korean test as a provocation that would hurt the chances of finding a political solution.Canada has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, which has raised questions whether it has any meaningful contribution to make.“We’ve not been seen as an interlocutor on North Korea,” said David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China.“One of the problems with diplomatic isolation is we tend to be a long way from understanding or having insights we can bring to the table.”But he added: “It is useful to remind people that we share values and security interests with the United States.”Freeland isn’t travelling with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to China next week, so officials don’t expect the North Korea summit to be a major topic of discussion. However, Freeland said she discussed the planned meeting in great detail with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the recent APEC summit in Vietnam, and has been shopping it around to other key countries.U.S. President Donald Trump spoke Wednesday with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping and “emphasized the need for China to use all available levers to convince North Korea to end its provocations and return to the path of denuclearization,” according to a White House statement.Andrew Leslie, Freeland’s parliamentary secretary, said the countries that fought alongside Canada during the 1950-53 conflict are on the potential guest list.“By presenting a united front, by discussing the various options out on the table, by listening to the wisdom, the local wisdom of the regions and especially who live a bit closer to Korea than we do, you can come up with some better ideas,” Leslie said.A recent analysis by the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations posited one possible scenario that the world community could adopt to curb the nuclear ambitions of Kim Jong Un’s regime. Canada wasn’t mentioned.Five key countries — the U.S., China, South Korea, Japan and Russia — need to strike a “grand bargain” that satisfies their individual interests in the region, wrote Patricia Kim, the council’s Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow in a blog post earlier this month.All countries, especially China, need assurances “that joining Washington to pressure North Korea, even at the risk of the Kim regime’s collapse, will not sway the regional balance of power in a manner that undercuts any one state’s fundamental interests,” she wrote.They also need to send a firm message to North Korea “that it can no longer rely on the strategic gaps between its neighbours” to pursue both nuclear weapons and economic development.last_img read more

Trudeau nominates Theberge Belanger as commissioners for languages and lobbying

first_imgOTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau nominated an official languages commissioner on Thursday as well as a lobbying commissioner.Trudeau’s choice for the languages job was Raymond Theberge, who has been president and vice-chancellor of Universite de Moncton since 2012.The Franco-Manitoban’s name began circulating last week as the likely successor to Graham Fraser.Madeleine Meilleur withdrew her candidacy earlier this year following accusations from the opposition she was too closely linked to the governing Liberals.Trudeau praised Theberge as someone with a passion for the linguistic duality.“I am confident that Mr. Theberge will hold our government to account for the full implementation of the Official Languages Act,” Trudeau said in a statement.The federation representing francophone and Acadian communities across Canada said it was thrilled the new commissioner is not from Ontario or Quebec — something not seen in almost 50 years.“What I see that is positive with the nomination, above all, is that someone was finally chosen — it was about time,” said federation president Jean Johnson. “We are officially happy with the nomination, full stop. Now, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.”For the lobbying position, Trudeau chose Nancy Belanger, who currently has a high-ranking position at the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada.The Prime Minister’s Office said Belanger’s legal career with the federal public service spans more than two decades.Trudeau said Belanger has the legal background and leadership experience to do an outstanding job as lobbying commissioner.Both nominations must be approved by the House of Commons and the Senate.last_img read more

Nova Scotia report calls for reckoning on history of systemic racism

first_imgHALIFAX – A culture of silence and shame allowed the abuse of orphans to persist for decades at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, according to a new report that calls for a province-wide reckoning with the historic legacy of systemic racism.The second report by the public inquiry into abuses at the Halifax-area orphanage said former residents felt abandoned by the systems designed to protect them, allowing the abuse to go unchecked and unreported.“Many residents felt the stigma of being ‘Home children’ followed them at school and in the broader community,” the 17-page report released Friday said. “They believe that teachers and educators who noticed their health or behaviour issues, and police who regularly returned runaways to the Home, also knew to some degree that things were not right at the Home.”Former residents described the trauma of entering care, with police and social workers telling them they were “just going for a drive” or “going to the store” before dropping them off without explanation at the orphanage, the report said.They also said they felt a sense of helplessness at the orphanage, which opened in 1921.Some staff members pitted residents against each other and forced children to fight their friends, damaging bonds and increasing feelings of isolation, the inquiry found.Check-ins from social workers were rare, and almost never conducted without the presence of an orphanage worker, residents told the inquiry.“Residents felt they had no safe outlet to tell anyone what they were experiencing without fear of further harm,” the report said. They felt like the adults in their lives “turned a blind eye toward their suffering.”The report by the restorative inquiry, made up of former residents, community members and the government, was released by inquiry co-chairpersons Tony Smith and Pamela Williams, chief judge of the provincial and family courts.Launched in late 2015, the inquiry has a mandate to examine the experience of former residents of the Halifax orphanage, and systemic discrimination and racism throughout the province.The restorative approach of the inquiry has garnered significant national and international attention, said Jennifer Llewellyn, a professor at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law.“This is a novel approach to a commission of inquiry,” she said, noting it was the first restorative approach to a public inquiry.Rather than subpoena witnesses to testify before a judge, for example, the inquiry invites people to tell their stories using “sharing circles.”“This is a process that is very different,” explained Williams, noting that a traditional public inquiry is more formal and can leave participants feeling uncomfortable and targeted.The restorative approach, however, aims to set participants at ease, she said.“People share the responsibility, come together, talk about the issues, and problem-solve,” Williams said. “That kind of atmosphere invites people to be honest and to be accountable.”The approach does appear to require more time, however. The inquiry has made a request to the province to extend its original mandate from this spring to March 2019, noting that it will require additional time to prepare a comprehensive “plan for action.” Its budget is expected to remain at $5 million.In 2014, Premier Stephen McNeil formally apologized to former residents of the orphanage who say they were subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse over several decades up until the 1980s. Class-action lawsuits launched by former residents against the home and the provincial government ended in settlements totalling $34 million.Smith, a former resident of the home, began telling his story nearly two decades ago.“There was pain, suffering and anxiety, but slowly people started to find their voice,” he said. “No longer do they live in shame or in guilt.“There was a lot of singing, a lot of praying and a lot of crying. We all felt this shame, this guilt, about what we were subjected to, and now we’re releasing it. We are not victims, we are survivors.”The inquiry’s next report is expected to focus on planning and action, including examining the province’s current care system and how issues identified by former residents persist today.“Understanding and addressing historic and ongoing impacts of systemic racism on African Nova Scotians, while necessarily rooted in both past and present experiences, is a critical lens necessary to create meaningful change for the future,” the report said.Indeed, the inquiry found that racism in Nova Scotia continues to breed mistrust and sometimes even fear of public agencies.George Gray, a community representative with the inquiry, said confronting racism in Nova Scotia has been a “long time coming.”“This is a long process. It’s a journey that we have to go through,” he said. “Racism has been here for a long time and we as a race of people have been marginalized, and it’s not going to improve overnight.”last_img read more

Ordered Oshawa why this city is ranked Canadas most insecure

first_imgOSHAWA, Ont. – Vacant storefronts are a common sight in downtown Oshawa — even a Tim Hortons closed last year amid complaints about loiterers and drug users.Yet, three shops selling comics, toys and games manage to hang on in this city 60 kilometres from Toronto. Why? As the local joke goes: because Oshawans are just that desperate for an escape from their reality.In extensive polling by EKOS Research and The Canadian Press, Oshawa was the city in Canada home to the highest number of respondents with a pessimistic view of the world — a view that’s in lockstep with the attitudes believed to underpin 21st-century populist forces in play globally.All three federal political parties have spoken out about the potential for the economic and cultural discontent fuelling populist politics to come to roost in Canada. The Liberals use it as a reason to justify their progressive trade agenda; some Conservatives echoed it during their recent leadership race and the New Democrats are hoping to capitalize on leftist populism akin to what Bernie Sanders did in the U.S.But a key theme also running through the anti-establishment sentiment around the world is the sense that no one is listening to the voices of those driving it. EKOS and The Canadian Press sought, through a major poll of 12,604 Canadians, to figure out where they were and what they were saying.The polls measured people’s perceptions of their economic outlook, class mobility, ethnic fluency and tolerance. The results were in turn plotted on a spectrum from “open” to “ordered” — a new way of classifying people’s political viewpoints that goes beyond the traditional right-versus-left.The research revealed the complexity of the issue and Oshawa is a reflection. The statistics say it is prospering, at least on paper — a direct contrast to some of the rusted out parts of the United States that voted Donald Trump.But the poll showed that still, 38 per cent of respondents in Oshawa could be considered “ordered” in their viewpoints, compared to 30 per cent nationally.Ordered Canadians are those with a negative perception of their own economic outlook and prospects for the next generation’s, as well as a sense they’re not getting ahead.THE TROUBLEDThe dramatic scale-back of GM blew a hole in the local economy, said Jon Maschke, 43, who works at one of the local comic shops.In the 1980s, General Motors employed 23,000 people here, and now it’s around 3,000.“Unless an employer moves in and hires thousands more people, nothing is going to change,” he said.But a look at some of the other elements at play in Oshawa reveal a more nuanced portrait of what could be behind the pessimism.In the EKOS Research/The Canadian Press study, those who overestimated the number of cultural and ethnic minorities or who thought too many immigrants were white were also classified on the “ordered” side of the index.But when Brian Annan, 40, who works with Maschke, considers the question of immigrants in Oshawa, he doesn’t target ethnicity or race.He points to a local mosque and notes he sees members out and about in the same shops he visits and the same community events he attends.They are part of the community, he says.“Other people come in and take up our jobs and houses and disrupt our lives,” he said.“I don’t see any Syrian refugee causing all this grief.”The “other people” he’s talking about are the commuters.In recent years, Oshawa has seen a massive influx of Torontonians snapping up homes in the city thanks to lower housing prices, improved public transit and better highways that make the city more of a viable commuter option.The city’s population grew by 6.6 per cent between 2011 and 2016, according to the most recent census, with migration from within Ontario the largest driving force.The best sign of the impact they’ve had on Oshawa might be an actual sign: the home of the popular minor hockey team used to be called General Motors Centre. But the company didn’t want to pay for the rights anymore so in 2016, it became Tributes Communities Centre — the name belonging a home building company in the area.Elaine Stewart’s son is one of the Toronto commuters. She moved to Oshawa with his family because of the cost of living.While the 73-year-old finds the city far more welcoming than Toronto, as she watches her son make the trek each day, she worries about the toll it takes as expenses just keep going up. This year for Christmas, all he asked for was money to help with groceries, she said.“I worry they aren’t going to be able to have a house or any kind of security,” Stewart says after a game of bingo at a popular local seniors’ centre.“I don’t see how they are going to have anything to call their own.”THE IMPLICATIONSWhile “ordered” voters may have propelled sweeping political change elsewhere in the world, it’s unclear where the malaise in Oshawa is heading.For two decades, the riding’s MP was Ed Broadbent, the former head of the New Democrats. He reigned during the final years of the auto industry’s grip on the town; local union officials still have his pins in their offices.When he left politics in 1989, he was replaced in a riding by a Liberal — the first time a Grit had held the seat in nearly 50 years. But in 2004, Conservative Colin Carrie eked out a victory and he’s been the MP ever since.Broadbent points out that in recent years, the riding hasn’t been a lock for any of the three parties. The political system has so far addressed the concerns of voters, but it’s a ticking clock, he suggested, because inequality hasn’t improved.“We could still head into the kind of politics of resentment that have characterized other western democracies because it’s absolutely crucial in a democracy that those who are feeling some sense of injustice have a perception that their leaders are trying to deal with it.”DISPARITYA recent study by the Durham Region Health Department shows that disparity in Oshawa.In the city’s Lakeview neighbourhood on the shores of Lake Ontario, 38 per cent of children under the age of six live in low income households.The number drops to 9.8 per cent in the city’s northwest, where most of the new home construction is taking place, an area nicknamed “Poshawa.”It’s the development in the north end of the city that fuels much of the optimism in Oshawa. While over a third of Oshawans have a bleak perspective, 45 per cent fall into the ‘open’ category of the EKOS Research/The Canadian Press study — defined as being future-oriented and welcoming change.In 2015, the median income of households was $85,697 — the highest in Ontario.Around 29,800 net new jobs have been created there since 2011, including 18,000 in 2016, according to data compiled by the Conference Board, which projects its economy among the fastest growing in the province.The growth is driven not just by the housing boom, but also the rapid expansion of the city’s post-secondary education market and health sciences sector.When she first moved to the area 14 years ago, it was homogenous to the extreme, said Monica Swarek, 57, who works at the local library.Now there are local restaurants and events with a far more diverse flavour, she said.“It was too white bread, too dull,” she said. “I think there’s been a lot of positive change, generally speaking.”In 2011, the visible minority population of the city was 9.3 per cent. In 2016, it was 16 per cent.The jobs being created by the expansion of universities and the health sector are giving the community as a whole a boost, said local businessman Lorn Scanlon, 51.If people want change in the city, they have to drive it themselves, he said.The reason he opened the Cork and Bean was to finally be able to get a good cappuccino and set up a place that would lure commuters to spend their time and money in the city itself.“People from Oshawa are their own worst enemy, constantly talking down the city,” Scanlon said.“We have high family incomes and yet looked at as poor and that’s never made sense to me.”Of the remainder captured in the survey by EKOS and The Canadian Press, 17 per cent of Oshawa’s population isn’t certain about the world, earning the definition of having a “mixed” outlook.Count Johnny Milosh among them. The 64-year-old has run a popular diner for two decades. Back when union jobs were a dime a dozen, kids flush with cash used to crowd into his booths.Now it’s mainly retirees, and he said he wonders what will happen when their population dwindles.He’s concerned about the growing disparity between the north and south ends of the city as well, and questions whether the local government is on top of it.“We should be sitting pretty,” he says in between high-fiving his regulars stopping by for breakfast on a frigid winter morning.“All this city needs is a plan.”last_img read more

Emotional first day in trial of farmer accused of killing Indigenous man

first_imgBATTLEFORD, Sask. – People are bracing for another emotional day at the trial of a Saskatchewan farmer accused of killing an Indigenous man on his property.There were tears in a Battleford courtroom Tuesday as Gerald Stanley’s trial got underway.Stanley, 56, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the shooting death of Colten Boushie, 22.Boushie, who was from the Red Pheasant First Nation, died from a single gunshot wound to the back of his head on Stanley’s farm near Biggar on Aug. 9, 2016.Court heard that Boushie was behind the wheel of an SUV that was trying to leave the farm when he was shot.Jurors were warned in advance that some of the evidence would be graphic.Pictures of the disabled vehicle with Boushie’s lifeless body laying on the ground, along with blood stains on the seat and dashboard, were upsetting to members of his family.“The trial’s begun and it’s been hard on us to sit there,” said his cousin Jade Tootoosis outside court.“I just want to encourage people to come out for themselves to come and bear witness and hear for yourselves as everything unfolds.”Boushie’s uncle, Alvin Baptiste, brought an eagle feather with him to the trial.“This is for truth and justice,” he said during a break. “This is a symbolic symbol of First Nations people.”He said Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, had to leave the courtroom.“She’s not sitting in the courtroom to see those graphic pictures,” he said. “The pictures are pretty graphic to see my nephew laying there and the blood splatter all over the vehicle like that and it’s reopening the wounds again.”Some of the people attending the trial were wearing T-shirts that said ‘Justice for Colten’.The trial is scheduled to last three weeks.Follow @BillGraveland on Twitterlast_img read more

Father of missing 10yearold wants to meet woman who might have seen

first_imgMONTREAL – A man whose son has been missing for more than a week desperately wants to meet the woman who told Montreal police she saw a boy matching his description.Frederic Kouakou says he and his wife have a right to speak to her if she is the last person to have seen 10-year-old Ariel Jeffrey Kouakou.“We haven’t met that woman yet and we would really like to so she can tell us what he was wearing, how he was,” Kouakou told a news conference Tuesday outside a shopping mall Ariel used to frequent.“She is the last person to have seen our son and we have the right to know what happened with her.”The boy left his home in the city’s north end to visit a friend’s house on March 12.After an Amber Alert was issued a day later, the woman came forward and said she had seen him at a park not far from his home.Kouakou also said his wife, Akouena Noella Bibie, is shattered by their son’s disappearance.“She’s down, she’s destroyed,” said Kouakou, who also urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to do whatever he can to help Ariel be found.“She is destroyed.”Earlier on Tuesday, Montreal police divers stopped their search for the boy after a total of six dives in Riviere des Prairies over a day and a half.They said the investigation will continue but that divers will return to the river only if they receive information they believe warrants further forays into the water.The father again discounted the notion his son could have fallen into the river.“Since the very beginning we’ve thought it was a kidnapping because we’re convinced our son would never go near the water,’ Kouakou said.“And we have no evidence he went near the water…so we’re still going with the theory of abduction.”He said video footage clearly shows Ariel walking to his friend’s house.Besides the diving, police have gone door to door in the neighbourhood and used horses, the canine unit, all-terrain vehicles and a helicopter to search the area.Police say they have received some 700 tips but that the trail is still cold.“At this moment, no hypothesis is any more plausible than others,” said spokesman Jean-Pierre Brabant. “No tips have come forward to help investigators move on.”Meanwhile, a reward for information leading to the boy being found has climbed to $100,000 after a Montreal-area businessman contributed $50,000.last_img read more

I want to use my voice to help others Manitoba politician reveals

first_imgWINNIPEG – After decades of silence and frequent self-blame, Manitoba’s minister for the status of women has come forward about being a survivor of sexual assault so she can help others realize there is a way to heal.Rochelle Squires, 47, told The Canadian Press she was raped when she was 13 and felt she couldn’t tell anyone.“In the 34 years since then, every day of my life has been a journey — sometimes a journey towards recovery; sometimes a journey back into darkness,” Squires said after making a statement in the legislature to mark Sexual Assault Awareness Month Tuesday.“I have gone back in my mind … hundreds of thousands of times and talked to that 13-year-old girl and said to her: ‘It’s not your fault and you’re going to be OK,’” she said, her voice quavering.“And now that work is done. I don’t need to tell that 13-year-old girl anymore, and so I want to use my voice to help others.”Squires said she never went to police and stayed silent until she was well into her 30s and discussed it with a therapist.“I felt overwhelmingly at fault, even at that age,” she said. “It’s a question I still have unanswered in my own mind. Why did I feel to blame?”Squires did not identify the perpetrator, but said it was someone she had to continue to deal with on occasion.After her teenage years, she had several careers, including journalism, before becoming a politician. She was elected as a Progressive Conservative in 2016 and now, with a seat at the provincial cabinet table, she feels she can make a difference for victims of sexual assault.She favours third-party reporting that allows complainants to tell their stories to a community victim-services group, which deals with police without revealing identities.British Columbia already offers that option and the Manitoba government has been looking at following suit.“I believe that will make a strong difference in so many lives if we have a place for people to go and share their testimony … and yet not have to immediately go to a police station and fill out (a) report.”Squires also said societal attitudes have to change.“As victims, we know intrinsically that something bad happened to us and it’s not our fault. But then we look for cues in society — whether it be friends, social circles, judges, historic cases, the media — and … the message we hear over and over and over again is: ‘It kind of is your fault.’“And then we internalize that trauma. And we bury it.”last_img read more

Daycare workers in Montreal and Laval set to begin indefinite strike

first_imgMONTREAL – Workers at 57 public daycare centres in Montreal and Laval are expected to begin an indefinite strike this morning.The employers’ association asked the union representing the workers to delay the strike since it made an offer on Monday night and was still waiting for a response.Employers’ spokeswoman Chantal Bellavance says several concessions have been made and calls the planned walkout “a little hasty.”But Nathalie Fontaine, a negotiator with the CSN-affiliated union, argues there has been no significant progress in the negotiations so the strike will proceed.Fontaine says both sides remain far apart on key issues and the strike would begin even if negotiations were to continue.Bellavance says the wage issue has been settled but working conditions and seniority remain unresolved.Quebec has 993 public daycare centres.last_img read more

Thai soccer players can return home after two weeks trapped in flooded

first_imgMembers of a Thai youth soccer team who were trapped in a cave have left the hospital where they have been treated since their rescue, and held news conference before they return to their homes.The 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach had been pronounced generally healthy by doctors, aside from some minor infections.Entering to applause from the media and classmates, the team appeared to be in good spirits.The boys put on a quick demonstration of their ball-handling skills in a special miniature soccer field set up in the hall where they met the media on Wednesday.They then hugged their friends before taking seats up front with doctors and others who helped them during their ordeal.Doctors took the first two questions, and said the 13 were healthy in body and mind. Doctors said the boys gained around 3 kilograms on average since they were rescued from the cave last week. They were said to have lost an average of 4 kilograms during the more than two weeks they were trapped in the cave.The boys described the terrifying moment they realized they were trapped all the way into the cave and described how when they tried to make their way back they faced a sea of water.Officials reviewed reporters’ questions in advance to make sure they wouldn’t cause damaging psychological effects.last_img read more

Former BC premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual assault British newspaper

first_imgLONDON — A British newspaper says police in London are investigating an allegation of sexual assault made against former British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell.The Daily Telegraph says Scotland Yard is investigating a complaint from a woman who was an employee at the Canadian High Commission when Campbell was high commissioner.The newspaper says in a story published online on Friday that the complainant alleges she was groped in 2013 and filed a complaint with police in January.The woman is named by the newspaper, but The Canadian Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault without their active consent.The Metropolitan Police in London could not be reached for comment on Friday.Campbell also could not be reached for comment but the Daily Telegraph says a spokesman for him says the alleged incident was investigated and dismissed.“This complaint was transparently disclosed and became the subject of a full due diligence investigation at the time by the government of Canada and was found to be without merit,” the newspaper quotes the unnamed spokesman as saying.The newspaper says Scotland Yard issued a statement confirming it is investigating an allegation of sexual assault that occurred in 2013 after it was contacted by a 54-year-old woman on Jan. 3. The statement says the woman alleges she was sexually assaulted at an address in Grosvenor Square and that no arrests have been made as it continues its investigation.The Canadian Press was not able to contact the woman quoted by the Daily Telegraph.The Daily Telegraph says the woman alleges a “hand went up my backside” as she climbed the main staircase at Canada House on her way to a meeting.Global Affairs Canada could not be reached for comment.Campbell was premier of British Columbia from 2001 until 2011. He was appointed high commissioner in 2011 and left the diplomatic post in 2016.The Canadian Presslast_img read more