In the News

Dec 15, 2021

A draft UN Security Council resolution which would have defined climate change as a threat to peace has been vetoed by Russia Dec. 13. Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia explained Dec. 13 that said Russia saw the proposal as pretext by western powers to justify meddling in other countries’ internal affairs.

Dec 15, 2021

Moving into 2022, NATO is investing in investing in new cyber defence capabilities and refreshing policy, building on lessons from recent exercises such as Cyber Coalition 2021 in Estonia. The alliance’s Assistant Secretary-General for Emergency Security Challenges, David van Weel of the Netherlands, says the cost to member states will be up to €1 billion.

Dec 15, 2021

Australia is planning an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and children after its Senate approved a motion to form a committee to investigate systemic causes of violence. One of the motion’s sponsors, Lidia Thorpe, an indigenous member of the Greens Party who has lost family members, told the Senate that there was never any justice for the victims “because they weren’t important enough for investigations to happen.”

Dec 15, 2021

The Canadian Energy Regulator (formerly the National Energy Board) says in its latest annual supply-and-demand report that domestic crude oil and natural gas production are expected to continue rising, to 2032 and 2040 respectively. Critics say the report effectively ignores an implicit contradiction with the federal government’s plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Dec 14, 2021

Government privacy watchdogs in B.C., Alberta and Quebec have ordered New York-based Clearview AI to stop collecting, using or disclosing images of people without their consent and to delete images and biometric data already collected. This follows their finding last February that the company’s technology had violated provincial and federal laws with its mass surveillance of Canadians. While Clearview has not serviced law enforcement or other clients in Canada since mid-2020, suggestions it could return to the market have prompted the three provinces to tell the company Dec. 14 to keep out.

Dec 14, 2021

Police in Waterloo, Ont. confirmed today that a man has been arrested after a bomb threat aboard a Flair Airlines flight scheduled to depart for Vancouver Dec. 13. “A passenger reported to staff that another passenger threatened that he had a bomb on the plane,” a police spokesperson said. No device was found during a search while Waterloo airport was locked down for several hours.

Dec 14, 2021

Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers say they are committed in principle to education and jobs for girls and women and want “mercy and compassion” from former foes. Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said Dec. 11 that his government wants good relations with all countries, has no issues with the U.S., and wants the West to released billions of dollars in frozen funds. He also said “sanctions against Afghanistan would . . . not have any benefit.”

Dec 14, 2021

It’s no secret in Canada or other northern nations that the Arctic has become a bellwether for global warming. The World Meteorological Organization confirmed today that a record high of 38 degrees Celsius was reported on June 20 last year in Siberia. That was some 18 degrees above the region’s daily average for the month, a situation the UN agency said had contributed to “massive sea ice loss” and evoked the Mediterranean rather than the Arctic.”

Dec 14, 2021

A Belarusian opposition leader who rallied mass protests against his country’s autocratic president, Alexander Lukashenko, has been jailed for 18 years after a trial generally considered a politically-motivated sham. Sergei Tikhanovsky, who had planned to challenge Lukashenko in the 2020 presidential election but was detained before the vote, was charged with, among other things, organising riots.

Dec 14, 2021

The federal government is setting aside $40 billion for First Nations child welfare in a bid to comply with a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal directive as well as deal with two class-action lawsuits. The tribunal ordered the government in 2019 to compensate each child and guardian who was denied services on their reserve or forced to leave to access services.

Dec 14, 2021

Although the B.C. government ended fuel rationing today, it has extended the state of emergency in the province’s southern regions for two more weeks due to lingering issues with widespread flooding.

Dec 14, 2021

Quebec's human rights commission has called on an off-duty police officer to pay a black man and his mother more than $61,000 after a complaint by the officer in 2017 that led to the man being unjustifiably arrested. Malik Spaulding-Smith, 20 at the time, had been sitting in his car smoking but moments after returning home, he was confronted by a pack of armed police, arrested and detained before being released without charge.

Dec 13, 2021

Daimler AG and North American Mercedes-Benz subsidiaries have agreed to pay $243 million to settle a class-action lawsuit with the Canadian owners of 83,000 diesel vehicles sold between 2009 and 2016. The settlement, which must be approved by an Ontario court in February, includes repairs to make some models’ emissions legal, and cash payments for their owners as well as buy-back options.

Dec 13, 2021

With some studies suggesting that as many as half of civilian first responders such as firefighters and paramedics suffer from psychological trauma linked to their jobs, Wounded Warriors Canada is collaborating with First Responder Health Services in B.C. on a new digital mental health platform. The partnership is taking its training Canada-wide.

Dec 13, 2021

Inger Stoejberg, Denmark’s immigration minister from 2015 to 2019, was sentenced today to 60 days in jail for ordering the separation of young asylum-seeking couples, ostensibly to address a perceived problem with child brides. Stoejberg professed surprise at the sentence but said she had no regrets.

Dec 13, 2021

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan hosted Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett today in the first public meeting between the United Arab Emirates’ de facto ruler and an Israeli leader. Bennett’s trip this week to the Gulf Arab federation is taking place against the backdrop of nuclear talks between world powers and Iran.

Dec 13, 2021

Matthew Martin says he has never received so much as a parking ticket, yet his application to join the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners was rejected because he did not pass a “security clearance check.” As President of Black Lives Matter New Brunswick who has “never had any negative interaction with police”, he already sat on the chief’s advisory committee. While he was not given an explanation, Martin suspects that it was because some family members had criminal records.

Dec 13, 2021

With cybersecurity experts saying "the internet’s on fire", the federal government is warning all organizations to be on guard against a “critical internet vulnerability” that could be exploited by organized crime. A number of government departments took some services offline over the weekend to assess the threat posed by software used by an estimated two-thirds of web servers worldwide.

Dec 12, 2021

The Canada Revenue Agency confirmed Dec. 11 that it has taken down its online services as a precaution against a “security vulnerability affecting organizations around the world” and that “services will be available as soon as possible.” There was no indication that systems had been compromised or that there had been unauthorized access to taxpayers’ information.

Dec 12, 2021

Responding to international criticism, Canada has abandoned a requirement that Canadians could not use South African COVID-19 test results when returning but should be tested in third countries. The World Health Organization and others saw the measures as a snub of laboratory science in southern Africa.

Dec 12, 2021

The U.S. has won the latest fight in a long-running legal battle to have Wikileaks founder Julian Assange extradited for trial under the Espionage Act for publishing classified material but the latest ruling is subject to further appeal. A British judge ruled last January that the Australian citizen should not be extradited due to concern about his potential treatment but two senior British judges overturned that decision Dec. 10.

Dec 12, 2021

The U.S. is being pressed by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Trade Minister Mary Ng to back away from a proposed tax credit for electric vehicles made exclusively in the U.S. They say in a letter to Senators considering the draft legislation that it poses “a significant threat” to Canadian automakers and Canada is prepared to impose countermeasures on imports from the U.S.

Dec 12, 2021

Britain’s International Trade Secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, has warned the U.S. that it risks retaliation if it does not lift tariffs on imports of British steel. “We had a very frank conversation,” she said after talks in Washington with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. “I was very clear that the pressures we are under to use countervailing measures if we can't solve the problem are becoming more acute.”

Dec 12, 2021

Mohammed Khalifa, 38, a Saudi-born Canadian citizen who traveled to Syria to join Daesh in 2013 pleaded guilty in a U.S. court Dec. 10 to conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, resulting in death. He had narrated propaganda videos designed to recruit Westerners to Daesh or to kill them as part of an international jihad.

Dec 10, 2021

Russian President Vladimir Putin is ramping up the rhetoric about growing tensions in and around Ukraine, as his country masses troops and authorities in Kyiv say Moscow could be planning an offensive at the end of January. Reaching out to Russian-speakers outside his country, many of whom live in the Donbas region of Ukraine where there has been conflict, he said Dec. 9 that “what is happening . . . certainly look like genocide.”

Dec 09, 2021

In what's believed to be an unprecedented civil case, Shelly Glover, a defeated candidate for the Manitoba Progressive Conservative Party’s leadership, wants a provincial court to throw out results which showed that she lost by 363 votes Oct. 30 to Heather Stefanson. “It's very unusual for a court to be reviewing the internal affairs of a party like this,” Gerard Kennedy, a University of Manitoba assistant law professor, commented Dec. 10.

Dec 09, 2021

Only about 10 per cent of the 40,000 Afghan refugees the federal government promised to bring into the country have arrived and it could take up to two years to resettle everyone. “When you're trying to move 40,000 people out of the most challenging environments imaginable, one of the most dangerous places in the world today, it's not easy,” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser said after seven weeks on the job. “What I'm really encouraged by is that we're starting to see a regular pace.”

Dec 09, 2021

Cong Peiwu, China’s Ambassador to Canada, says that any move to block Huawei Technologies from Canada’s 5G wireless network would be a “very wrong signal” to his Chinese companies. He suggested the discussion is being politicized “to try to abuse and overstretch the concept of national security, and that is not conducive for people doing business here in Canada.”

Dec 09, 2021

Government forces in Myanmar are reported to have burned alive a number of villagers in apparent retribution for an IED attack on a military convoy. “This incident is quite brazen, and it happened in an area that was meant to be found, and seen, to scare people,” a Human Rights Watch researcher said, adding that it was similar to other recent attacks. “Our contacts are saying these were just boys and young people who were villagers who were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Dec 09, 2021

Newfoundland & Labrador RCMP have arrested a local man for threatening the Health Minister John Haggie at his home over pandemic mask rules. The man faces charges of uttering threats.

Dec 09, 2021

Wanping Zheng, an engineer at the Canadian Space Agency, has been charged with breach of trust for allegedly using his status to negotiate satellite station installation agreements with Iceland on behalf of a Chinese company. The RCMP began investigating in 2019 in response to information from the CSA’s security department.

Dec 09, 2021

A government offer to set up a committee which would have access to documents pertaining to the firing of two scientists last January by the Public Health Agency of Canada has been rejected by the Conservatives. House leader Gerard Deltell said Dec. 8 that the proposal is “months late” and he faulted PHAC leadership for ignoring demands to produce unredacted documents.

Dec 08, 2021

Draft legislation which would scrap mandatory minimum jail or prison sentences for some crimes has been introduced by the federal government. Bill C-5 would permit judges to exercise discretion and include greater use of conditional sentences, including house arrest coupled with counselling or treatment, and police and prosecutors would be required to consider alternatives.

Dec 08, 2021

As the U.S. prepared to begin hosting some 100 countries for a virtual Summit for Democracy, China, which wasn’t invited, derided the Dec. 9-10 event as an “exercise in hypocrisy” designed to promote U.S. hegemony by permitting Taiwan to participate. It also hosted its own summit, stepping up propaganda designed to promote its own model of “democracy” to fit its authoritarian one-party system.

Dec 08, 2021

Former Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz formally succeeded Angela Merkel today as Germany’s Chancellor. Merkel, who had held the position for 16 years, advised her Social Democratic Party successor to approach the role “with joy.”

Dec 08, 2021

Taking its cue from the U.S., Britain and Australia, the federal government announced today that no Canadian diplomats or other officials will attend next February’s Winter Olympics in China. “We are extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, adding that athletes are free to compete.

Dec 08, 2021

Matthew Philbert, 31, of Ottawa faces three cybercrime charges after being identified by Canadian and U.S. authorities as responsible for a series of cyberattacks, including at least one against an Alaskan government network. He was arrested by Ontario Provincial Police Nov. 30 after a 23-month international investigation.

Dec 08, 2021

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced today that Australia will send only athletes and no diplomatic or official representatives to next February’s Winter Olympics in China. He said Wednesday’s decision came because of Australia’s struggles to reopen diplomatic channels with China to discuss alleged human rights abuses.

Dec 08, 2021

Newly-confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Cohen said Dec. 7 that he has “a high level of confidence” that Canada will “align” with the U.S. diplomatic and official boycott of next February’s Winter Olympics China. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in mid-November that his government was “looking for a way” for Canadian athletes to participate “continuing to demonstrate our real concerns with the way the Chinese government has behaved.”

Dec 07, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden used a two-hour video link today with Russian President Vladimir Putin to reiterate a threat of “strong economic and other measures” from the U.S. and its European allies if military tensions with Ukraine escalates. Tens of thousands of Russian troops have been massing along Russia’s border with Ukraine, prompting rising fears in Kyiv that an invasion was imminent. The Kremlin said on the eve of the Biden-Putin link that relations were “lamentable.”

Dec 07, 2021

The World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe said today that while it is unclear whether the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is more transmissible or causes more severe illness than others, Delta surges in Europe and Central Asia are the orgnization’s current priority. “However we succeed against Delta today is a win over Omicron tomorrow before it eventually surges,” Hans Kluge said.

Dec 07, 2021

Canadian Security Intelligence Service has told the government that China's efforts to distort and influence the news in Canada “have become normalized.” The warning by CSIS Director David Vigneault is included in briefing notes prepared for a meeting with the Prime Minister earlier this year. “Chinese-language media outlets operating in Canada and members of the Chinese-Canadian community are primary targets of PRC-directed foreign influenced activities.”

Dec 07, 2021

The U.S. decision to have its diplomats and officials boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in China as a protest against human rights abuses has prompted the country’s foreign ministry spokesman to threaten unspecified “resolute counter-measures.” Zhao Lijian accused the U.S. of “violating "political neutrality in sport” and said the planned boycott is “based on lies and rumours.”

Dec 06, 2021

The explicit reasons for the eventual dismissal of Drs. Qiu and Cheng from the National Microbiology Laboratory were immediately shrouded in secrecy. Was it legitimate or was it an ignorant reaction during a pandemic? The executive suite revolving door at PHAC in recent years may be contributing to the lack of transparency.

Dec 06, 2021

The U.S. administration announced today that it would not send diplomatic or other official representatives to the 2022 Winter Olympics which are scheduled Feb. 4-20 in China. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said it was a “clear message” that China’s human rights record meant that there could not be “business as usual.”

Dec 06, 2021

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance’s political leaders will endorse its latest Strategic Concept at a summit set for Spain next June. He says it will cover’s NATO’s relationship with China and give more prominence to technology and climate “reaffirming the centrality of the trans-Atlantic bond to our security and defense” during “turbulent times.”

Dec 06, 2021

The Trans Mountain pipeline shut down in B.C. in mid-November due to the potential of landslides caused by heavy rains was restarted Dec. 6 but the province said it was not ready to lift a fuel-rationing order. The line transports some 300,000 barrels daily from Alberta.

Dec 06, 2021

Eight days after Canada banned visitors from southern Africa countries due to their outbreaks of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, the government announced temporary exceptions Dec. 5 for travellers who can provide a negative PCR test from a South African lab within 48 hours of their departure.

Dec 06, 2021

Myanmar opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to four years in prison, the first in a series of verdicts which eventually mean life in prison. Detained since a military coup in February which toppled her civilian government, she was convicted on charges of inciting dissent and breaking pandemic rules, as was former President and ally Win Myint. Suu Kyui became one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners when she was detained for 21 years by a pevious junta.

Dec 03, 2021

A year-end shutdown of the U.S. government was averted Dec. 2 when Congress passed stopgap legislation to fund federal agencies until Feb. 18. The Senate voted 69-28, (the minority were Republicans who disliked the administration’s mandatory vaccine program for employees of large companies) in favour of a measure approved earlier by the House of Representatives.

Dec 03, 2021

The World Health Organization's chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, said today that while the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is highly transmissible, a new vaccine may not be needed. “How worried should we be,” she rhetorized. “We need to be prepared and cautious, not panic, because we're in a different situation to a year ago. . . . The vaccines are still providing protection and we would hope that they would continue to provide protection.”

Dec 03, 2021

The U.S. administration announced Dec. 2 that effective next Monday, Canadians and other foreign air passengers must have a negative COVID-19 test result within 24 hours of their departure, regardless of their vaccination status. Canadians entering by land evidently will not be affected.

Dec 03, 2021

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, scheduled to unveil the government’s Fall economic and fiscal update Dec. 1, faces a struggle to get her draft legislation to extend pandemic support programs approved before Parliament’s year-end recess. Introduced last week, Bill C-2 includes more than $7 billion in benefits but the Conservatives and NDP say they would not fast-track it.

Dec 03, 2021

As world leaders explore solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, defence communities are stepping up efforts to ensure better preparedness for climate change, including by revising combat doctrines, altering training, adapting infrastructure, equipment, personnel, and procurement protocols, and designing climate scenarios.

Dec 03, 2021

Although the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has not been allowed to inspect all areas of Syria, it has not uncovered any chemical weapons arsenals. Syria denies the accusation but Israeli intelligence alleges that Syria continues to keep a stockpile of different chemical weapons.

Dec 02, 2021

Two Montreal-area men have been charged after the seizure in Ontario of 59 restricted weapons and 110 large-capacity magazines. The RCMP, which worked with Ontario and Quebec provincial police and Akwesasne Mohawk Police, have confirmed that a boat, which was seen Nov. 26 with large sacks, had offloaded its cargo to a vehicle in Cornwall and was intercepted by the RCMP.

Dec 02, 2021

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Dec. 1 that Russia faces “severe costs” if it invades neighbouring Ukraine and that NATO is ready to increase its presence. “We must prepare for all contingencies,” Blinken said after an alliance ministerial meeting in Riga ahead of a planned meeting in Sweden today with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Dec 02, 2021

Working with the U.S., Britain and the European Union, Canada imposed new sanctions today on Belarusian officials over human rights violations, saying President Alexander Lukashenko’s government “must answer for its acts, which affect those both inside and outside its borders.” Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said “we will not allow the Lukashenko regime to continue to violate its international obligations with impunity.”

Dec 02, 2021

A UN resolution urging maritime operators to use clear fuels in the Arctic is being widely hailed for its potential to reduce carbon black emissions in the region. The fine particulates from incomplete fossil fuel combustion land on snow and ice, increasing melt rates by reducing the surface’s albedo or reflectivity.

Dec 02, 2021

A United States Space Priorities Framework issued Dec. 1 by the White House is designed to “transition to a more resilient national security space posture and strengthen its ability to detect and attribute hostile acts in space.” It also, among other things, commits to space-based observation to “support action on climate change” and to protect “space-related critical infrastructure.”

Dec 02, 2021

The UN says the global need for humanitarian aid is rocketing toward an all-time high in 2022 as COVID-19, climate change and regional conflicts exacerbate the prospect of widespread famine. Accordingly, its humanitarian relief arm appealed today for a record US$41 billion in funding to help people it says are most in need, up from $35 billion in 2021 and double what it sought four years ago.

Dec 02, 2021

President Vladimir Putin said Dec. 1 that he wants “legal guarantees” that NATO would stop deployments near Ukraine’s borders with Russia. “Any agreements must take interests of Russia and all Euro-Atlantic countries into account,” he told newly-accredited foreign diplomats. “A calm and stable situation must be ensured for all.”

Dec 02, 2021

An idled Newfoundland oil refinery has new owners who plan to produce renewable diesel fuel and sustainable aviation fuel. The provincial government confirmed an agreement to sell a majority stake in the Come-by-Chance refinery to a Texas-based equity firm. Newfoundland & Labrador Premier Andrew Furey called it “a positive step as the province itself looks to transition into a greener economy.”

Dec 02, 2021

Ontario’s Ombudsman reported Dec. 1 that businesses which were ineligible for pandemic relief programs received support from the $11.2-billion initiative while others were over-compensated or excluded. “The absence of better controls or assessment processes is troubling,” AG Bonnie Lysyk said. “Even in a crisis, systems should be in place to make sure that only eligible businesses receive taxpayer dollars, and program funds reach those who need it most.”

Dec 02, 2021

Members of Parliament kicked off December with a rare display of unanimity in giving third reading to Bill C-4 only two days after the government introduced it in the House of Commons. Now referred to the Senate, it would amend the Criminal Code to ban widely-discredited “conversion therapy” which attempts to change individuals’ sexual orientation or gender identity.

Dec 01, 2021

The only full-time general practice physician in a small northern Ontario town plans to close her practice earlier than planned next March, feeling personally attacked after a town councillor spread COVID-19 misinformation and anti-vaccination views, including a claim that the doctor was not seeing unvaccinated patients. On the contrary, says Dr. Gretchen Roedde, explaining that she had in fact accommodated unvaccinated patients. The councillor has apologized.

Dec 01, 2021

The U.S. administration said Nov. 29 that there is no immediate plan to tighten the border with Canada as more cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant are confirmed. “The president's decisions related to travel restrictions will be based on the recommendations of his health and medical team,” White House Press Secretary Psaki said. “They have not advised that to this point . . . but we will continue to assess what steps we need to take to keep the American people safe.”

Dec 01, 2021

A growing global trend toward blanket travel bans to deal with the Omicron COVID-19 are being urged by the World Health Organization to apply “an evidence-informed and risk-based approach”, saying that blanket bans don’t prevent its spread. It also said Nov. 30 that bans could ultimately make countries reluctant to share critical data.

Dec 01, 2021

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said today that the challenge posed by the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is a “race against time” as many countries “prepare for the worst.” She cited scientific advice that full vaccination and a booster is the most effective protection.

Dec 01, 2021

Safeguard Defenders, a Madrid-based human rights group, reported Nov. 30 that more 600 Taiwanese arrested overseas have been deported to China in recent years, a practice it said is “used as a tool to undermine Taiwan's sovereignty.” It also said some countries, including Spain, which have extradition treaties with China, are violating international human rights laws.

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