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A look at some of the victims of the Saskatchewan stabbing attacks

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JAMES SMITH CREE NATION — Ten people were killed in stabbing attacks, and a suspect also died, on the James Smith Cree Nation and in the nearby community of Weldon, northeast of Saskatoon, on Sunday. Police say 18 others were injured.

Here is a look at some of the victims:

Bonnie Burns, 48

Bonnie Burns was a true matriarch who prioritized her family and home, said her brother, Mark Arcand. She had four sons and two foster children, all of whom were home at the time of the attack.

Burns was killed outside her home on the First Nation while trying to shield her children, he said, describing her as a “mama bear” protecting her cubs. Her son Gregory was also killed and another son was stabbed in the neck but survived.

“She’s not a victim, she’s a hero,” Arcand said.

Burns “married into” the community and was always volunteering and helping out, and would make her husband, Brian, come along, Arcand said. She had been working at a school over the last few years to help provide for her family, he said.

She made a big difference in people’s lives, and always put others first, he said. “It didn’t matter what you did in your life, she was proud of you.”

Burns had also been sober for 15 years, her brother said. She and her husband were always joking and laughing together, he added. The couple met in 1990.

Brian Burns said it would have been their wedding anniversary on Sept. 24. They got married on her birthday so they’d never forget their anniversary.

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Gregory Burns, 28

Widely known as “Jonesy,” Gregory Burns was a “great kid” who did whatever he could for his family, and died trying to protect them, his uncle Mark Arcand said.

Burns worked in the community of James Smith Cree Nation, built houses and tried to help his parents take care of his younger brothers, Arcand said. He had two children and a third on the way.

“This young man had opportunities to work, he was fully employable. He had lots of tickets and opportunities,” but his life was taken away, Arcand said.

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Earl Burns, 66

Family said Earl Burns was a loving father and grandfather who died protecting his family.

Garnet Eyahpaise was still trying to comprehend the violent attack that claimed the life of his brother-in-law.

He said they both attended the St. Michael’s Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. Eyahpaise later married a sister of Burns.

Burns was a veteran with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.

“His parents were very proud of the fact that he enlisted, that he chose to serve this country. He never seen battle, but nonetheless he still served this country,” said Eyahpaise.

Burns also followed in his father’s footsteps in the ’70s and participated in the rodeo circuit. He rode both bare and saddle back, Eyahpaise said.

Burns liked to play hockey. Another favourite pastime was fishing. “All his famous catches are mounted on his wall,” said his brother-in-law.

Burns and his wife were parents to two daughters and a son, along with many grandchildren. His wife was also injured in the attacks and remains in hospital.

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Lydia Gloria Burns, 61

Media reports quoted siblings as saying Lydia Burns, who went by Gloria, was a first responder on the reserve. CBC reported that she was killed while responding to a crisis call during the attacks.

“Knowing you, you would do anything for anyone! You’re the most courageous person I know. You’re a hero!” friend Darla Rabesca posted on Facebook. “Heaven has definitely gained a beautiful angel!”

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Thomas Burns, 23

A former co-worker shared memories of working with Thomas Burns in a Facebook post. She said she will miss receiving random messages and video calls from the youngest victim in the fatal stabbing rampage. She wrote: “You were so funny and kind and you didn’t deserve this at all.”

Lana Head, 49

Several media reports have said Head was a mother of two daughters. CBC quoted Head’s former partner, Michael Brett Burns, as saying Head was a security guard at Northern Lights Casino in Prince Albert, Sask.

“Rest In Peace beautiful, you truly were an amazing person and had such a sweet innocent demeanor with such laughter,” friend Anne Day wrote on Head’s Facebook page.

“I will miss our chats and seeing your chipmunk cheek smile,” posted Teresa Stewart. “May you be guided into the spirit world wrapped in comfort, peace and love.”

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Christian Head, 54

A Facebook page for Christian Head shows that he was a golfer and enjoyed going to car shows.

He posted several photos of himself wearing orange shirts to honour children who died at residential schools. He also posted photos of his grandchildren.

In one photo with two toddlers, the caption reads: “Papa Chick’s visitors for the day. Lots of fun teaching them to talk. Understanding them is the cutest and how they all communicate at this age – amazing. Listening is key.”

An older grandchild posted a photo of himself and Head wearing Edmonton Oilers hockey jerseys. “I keep wishing I could see you one last time. May you rest in peace, Papa Chicken.”

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Robert Sanderson, 49

Online tributes and condolences have poured in for Robert Sanderson, who also went by Bobby.

One family member posted a slideshow of photos of Sanderson with throughout his life set to a song from Vancouver-duo Dani and Lizzy. A snippet of their song “Dancing in the Sky” can be heard with the lyrics, “I hope you’re dancing in the sky. And I hope you’re singing in the angel’s choir. And I hope the angels know what they have.”

Sanderson posted about his cooking and catering efforts on his Facebook page. One person thanked him for providing the food for a birthday party.

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Wesley Petterson, 78

All 10 victims were from the James Smith Cree Nation, except for Wesley Petterson, who lived 30 kilometres away in the village of Weldon.

He loved his cats, was proud of his homemade saskatoon berry jam and frequently helped out his neighbours, said resident Ruby Works.

She said she thought of him as an uncle and collapsed when she found out he had been killed.

“He didn’t do anything. He didn’t deserve this. He was a good, kind-hearted man,” said Works.

Resident Robert Rush said Petterson was a widower who lived with his adult grandson. He said the grandson was in the basement of their home when Petterson was attacked.

“He stayed down there until they were gone.”

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The Canadian Press

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Danielle Smith: Facts about Alberta’s new premier, United Conservative Party leader

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CALGARY — Former journalist and business owner Danielle Smith won the United Conservative Party’s leadership race on Thursday and, in doing so, becomes Alberta’s next premier. Here are some facts about Smith:

Born: April 1, 1971 in Calgary.

Family: She is married to David Moretta and has a stepson.

Before politics: Smith graduated with degrees in economics and English from the University of Calgary. She was a trustee for the Calgary Board of Education. She wrote editorials with the Calgary Herald and hosted a current affairs TV show called “Global Sunday.” She was a provincial director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. She and her husband now own and operate The Dining Car restaurant in High River.

Politics: In 2009, she won the leadership of the Wildrose Alliance, later to become the Wildrose Party. In the 2012 provincial election, Smith won a seat in the constituency of Highwood and the party took over official Opposition status from the Liberals, In 2014, she led eight Wildrose members across the floor to join the governing Progressive Conservatives. After much backlash, she lost in the 2015 election.

Quote: “After everything I’ve done in the past to divide the movement, then try to bring it together the wrong way, I feel like I owe it to the conservative movement to do what I can to be a force of unity.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 6, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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Iran flight relatives say Canada a haven for regime officials

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OTTAWA — Relatives of those killed when Iran’s military shot down Flight PS752 in January 2020 say Canada has become a safe haven for regime officials.

“Canada has become a safe haven for the criminals of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Hamed Esmaeilion testified Thursday afternoon to the House justice committee.

Esmaeilion leads a group representing grieving families, many of whom are aware of numerous people who have worked for the regime, or are related to senior officials, moving freely in Canada.

“This is a big concern for Iranian people,” he said.

Amid a brutal crackdown on women’s and human rights protesters across Iran, the federal Liberals are facing mounting pressure to deem a section of Iran’s army as a terrorist group.

That has coincided with the 1,000-day anniversary of the downing of Flight PS752 near Tehran, which killed 176 people, most of whom were headed through Ukraine to Canada.

No one has been held accountable.

Esmaeilion chalked that up to a naive bureaucracy that sees Iran as a normal country.

“It’s mainly the legal teams or the advisers; they still believe in negotiation with Iran because they don’t see Iran, or the Iranian regime, as a Mafia group,” he said.

“If you change your mindset, that you’re not negotiating with Switzerland or a democratic country, then it would solve the problem.”

He said he’s told officials that Canadians would never play a hockey game with North Korea, and yet Canada’s national men’s soccer team was scheduled to play with Iran back in June, before Canada Soccer cancelled amid political pushback.

Esmaeilion said he’s certain people affiliated with Tehran have been responsible for slashing his tires and making phone calls he found threatening.

The RCMP has previously said it is “aware of reports relating to victims experiencing threats, harassment and intimidation.”

And while the Liberals have said they updated their sanctions list Monday based on impact from Esmaeilion’s group, he said there were many more officials that relatives suggested months ago.

“I’m shocked that I don’t see (Supreme Leader) Ali Khamenei on the list,” he said, adding that President Ebrahim Raisi and former foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif should be listed.

He also called out Iran’s delegate for the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization, saying Farhad Parvaresh should be kicked out of Canada.

This week, a crowd of Iranian Canadians took to Parliament Hill, demanding Ottawa deem the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group.

Experts have said that such a change would be hard to enforce, given that Iran has conscripted millions into the force’s non-combat roles. A terror listing compels Ottawa to freeze assets held inside Canada and deny entry into the country.

Esmaeilion said that is a serious concern, and there may be as many as 15,000 people already living in Canada in that situation. But he said their military documents clearly state whether they had a senior rank and if they had joined the IRGC by choice.

“We can exempt those people. We have talked to several lawyers, and this is a simple solution for putting the IRGC on the list.”

He also reiterated calls to hold responsible those in charge of the downing of the flight that killed his wife and daughter. Esmaeilion’s group wants Canada to refer the case to the ICAO and the International Criminal Court.

“So far, after 1,000 days, we have no road map; we have no time frame,” he said.

In a Wednesday interview, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Canada wants to see justice for the victims of Flight PS752, but must exhaust all avenues with Iran before any international tribunal will take on the case.

“The process is painful, it’s long, it’s cumbersome, it’s complicated,” he said.

“These international bodies are flawed, they’re imperfect, but they are our best way to hold Iran accountable.”

Alghabra said Canada has been helping lead reforms that aim to prevent another catastrophe, such as the Safer Skies initiative. The idea is to have a global body assess when conflict makes it unsafe for civilian flights, and advise companies and states to not take off.

The flight Iran shot down took off hours into a military operation in response to the U.S. assassination of senior Iranian military official Qasem Soleimani.

“PS752 should not have been flying when there was a conflict nearby,” Alghabra said.

– With files from Caitlin Yardley in Montreal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 7, 2022.

 

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, explained – CTV News

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The Supreme Court of Canada will take time to weigh arguments about the constitutionality of an 18-year refugee agreement between Ottawa and Washington after hearing a challenge Thursday from claimants and human rights advocates.

The Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) allows Canada to turn away asylum seekers seeking entry from the U.S. at official land border crossings.

However, human rights groups say the U.S. is not a “safe country” for asylum seekers and the pact allows Canada to skirt its international obligations for refugee claimants.

CTVNews.ca breaks down what the agreement entails.

WHAT DOES THE STCA DO?

The Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement was signed in 2002 and came into effect in 2004. Under the agreement, those seeking refugee status in either Canada or the U.S. must make their claim in the first country they enter.

That means most asylum seekers who attempt to cross into Canada at an official crossing are turned away and are told they need to make their asylum claim in the U.S., and vice versa. The only exemptions apply to unaccompanied minors and those with close family members living in Canada.

“If one of those narrow exemptions does not apply, you’re not able to make a claim for refugee protection in Canada. And so what that means is that you’re ordered to be removed or deported, and they contact U.S. authorities,” Amnesty International’s Julia Sande told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday.

But the agreement has one key loophole: it only applies to official land border crossings. That means that asylum seekers who manage to make a refugee claim within Canada while bypassing an official border crossing won’t be sent back to the U.S.

This has prompted tens of thousands of asylum seekers to enter Canada at irregular crossings, such as Roxham Road, a rural road that goes through the border between Quebec and New York State.

HOW MANY ASYLUM SEEKERS HAVE CROSSED IRREGULARLY?

Since February 2017, Canada has seen 67,805 irregular crossers enter the country. Of these, 28,332 (41 per cent) have had their refugee claims approved. In addition, 19,646 refugee claims have been rejected, 13,369 are still pending and the rest have either been withdrawn or abandoned, according to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB).

Irregular crossings into Canada surged after Donald Trump became president of the United States in 2017, as concerns grew over his anti-immigration rhetoric and executive orders limiting the number of refugees admitted.

According to data from the IRB, the number of irregular crossings peaked between July and September 2017. During this time period, 8,558 asylum seekers irregularly crossed into Canada, corresponding to an average of 2,853 per month.

The average number of irregular crossers per month dipped after that and hovered between 1,200 and 1,400 from late 2018 to early 2020. However, irregular crossings came to a near screeching halt after COVID-19 restrictions at the border were put in place in March 2020 and asylum seekers were sent back to the U.S. unless they met one of the exemptions.

In November 2021, as Canada continued lifting COVID-19 measures at the border, irregular crossers were once again allowed to enter the country and make a claim. Between April and June 2022, 4,512 irregular crossers entered Canada — the most seen since 2019, according to the IRB.

WHAT DO OPPONENTS OF THE STCA SAY?

In 2017, Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees, and the Canadian Council of Churches launched a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Safe Third Country Agreement.

The organizations say the legislation underpinning the STCA violates Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees life, liberty and security of the person, in addition to Section 15, which guarantees equal protection and benefit under the law.

Sande says asylum seekers who are turned back from Canada often face immigration detention in the U.S.

“When people are in detention, they’re subjected to solitary confinement, staggering rates of sexual violence, really inhumane conditions, not given religiously appropriate food,” she said. “The detention in itself is problematic and harmful. But in addition, when you’re in detention, it’s a lot more difficult to access counsel.”

Sande says the increased difficulty accessing legal counsel means asylum seekers have a higher chance of being deported. On top of that, she said crossing the border at irregular crossings can come with serious risks.

Many of these crossers use Roxham Road, where the RCMP have set up a presence to handle the high volume of asylum seekers. But at other parts of the border, some asylum seekers have made long journeys on foot through empty farm fields in the winter, risking frostbite.

“We’ve heard of people losing fingers from frostbite and really putting themselves at risk. And so I would say it’s neither compassionate nor orderly,” Sande said.

Canada is also subject to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which stipulates that states cannot return refugees to dangerous countries. The human rights groups argue the pact lets Canada “contract out” its international obligations to refugee claimants without proper followup the U.S. is doing the job.

In July 2020, the Federal Court agreed, and ruled the Safe Third Country Agreement was unconstitutional. The federal government appealed the ruling and last December, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear the case.

WHAT HAVE FEDERAL PARTIES SAID?

The NDP and the Bloc Quebecois have long called on the federal government to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement, and allow asylum seekers to cross into Canada at official crossings so they won’t have to make potentially dangerous journeys through irregular crossings.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives say the STCA should be strengthened to allow Canada to send irregular crossers back to the U.S.

The three opposition parties recently signed a letter calling for an inquiry looking at how public funds were used to build intake facilities at the border near Roxham Road.

In the House of Commons on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada “works with the U.S. government every day to improve the Safe Third Country Agreement.” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) told CTV’s Your Morning the agreement “has served Canada well” and is necessary to ensure that the border “remains well-managed.”

“Canada believes that the STCA remains a comprehensive means for the compassionate, fair and orderly handling of asylum claims in our two countries,” IRCC said in an email statement.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault has also called on the feds to close the unofficial Roxham Road crossing and said his government does not have the capacity to deal with the influx of people. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said on Thursday the government is working “very carefully with Quebec” to manage the flow of asylum seekers.

“We transfer significant federal funds to that province every year to help with ensuring that there is due process, that there… is a baseline of support for people who are filing claims,” he told reporters before a cabinet meeting in Ottawa.

“We have to reach agreements, with partnerships with the United States, with Quebec, and that’s exactly what the federal government will do,” he added in French.

With files from The Canadian Press

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