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‘Be brave like Ukraine’: Stick to sanctions in turbine strife, protesters tell Canada

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OTTAWA — Protesters called on Canada to “be brave like Ukraine” and uphold economic sanctions against Russia on Sunday, just hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered essentially the same message to the Prime Minister.

In a phone call between the leaders, Zelenskyy told Justin Trudeau that his stance on sanctions against Russia “must be principled” at a time when relations between Canada and the embattled country are somewhat strained by Canada’s controversial decision to send parts of a Russian natural gas pipeline back to Germany.

Zelenskyy recapped their conversation in a short statement shared on Twitter, saying he thanked Trudeau for the continued powerful defence support Canada has offered his country but also raised the importance of upholding the sanctions.

“After the terrorist attacks in Vinnytsia, Mykolaiv, Chasiv Yar, etc. the pressure must be increased, not decreased,” he said.

Trudeau reiterated Canada’s support for Ukraine against Russia’s military aggression, according to an official account of the discussion from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The two leaders also talked about maintaining unity among their allies and imposing “severe costs” on Russia, the PMO said.

Canada agreed earlier this month to grant an exemption to the economic sanctions issued against Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

The two-year waiver would allow six Siemens Energy turbines, which were in Montreal for repairs, to be returned to Germany for use in the Russian state-owned Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

Trudeau has previously defended the decision and said Canada’s German ally relies on the natural gas supply from the pipeline.

In a written and video address last week, however, Zelenskyy called the move “absolutely unacceptable.”

Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom reduced gas deliveries from its Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which runs to northeastern Germany, by 60 per cent last month, citing turbine-related technical problems.

The decision has left several Ukrainian supporters who attended a rally in Ottawa Sunday afternoon in a state of disbelief.

Canadian-Ukrainian Yuri Kolomiyets told the crowd of about 150 supporters assembled on the lawn of Parliament Hill that the decision will mean more oil and gas money for Russia to fund its attack on Ukraine.

“I guess it’s okay to supply genocidal maniacs with the technology and the money, as long as it keeps German voters happy,” Kolomiyets told the crowd, eliciting cries of “shame” in response.

“It’s not their children who are dying in the missile strikes.”

Two young protesters, Arsenii Pivtorak and Ladislao Zaichka, have been camped outside of Parliament Hill for days and say they’ve been on a hunger strike since July 9 when the waiver was announced.

“This decision broke our heart. We felt like the German’s pockets were more important than Ukrainian lives,” Pivtorak, 19, said of the decision.

Zaichka said he’s particularly passionate about the decision because he has family in Ukraine.

“What Justin Trudeau did and what the Canadian government has done is upsetting for me as a Canadian but even worse for me as a Ukrainian,” he said.

The Ottawa chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress planned the Parliament Hill protest to urge the government to revoke the waiver.

The protesters called for Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who defended the turbine decision last week, to answer to the Ukrainian community in Canada. They also chanted for the government to “stand with Ukraine.”

Speaking to reporters in a teleconference after a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Bali, Indonesia on Saturday, Freeland said Germany’s ability to sustain its support for Ukraine could be at risk if the turbines were not returned. She said a united G7 effort would be needed to support Ukraine and allowing the repaired parts to return to Germany was “the right thing to do.”  The United States has also spoken up in support of Canada’s decision.

The congress’ parent organization, the Ukrainian World Congress, has petitioned the Federal Court for a judicial review in hopes of stopping the turbines from making it to Germany.

“Both Canada and Germany, we feel, have been manipulated here by the Russians,” said Ukrainian Congress national executive director Ihor Michalchyshyn ahead of the planned protest.

The group contends Canada bowed to Russian blackmail and set a dangerous precedent that will lead to the weakening of the sanctions regime imposed on Russia.

“This is a decision that has angered Canadians and the Ukrainian government as well,” Michalchyshyn said.

He said Ukrainian-Canadians involved in his group initially expressed surprise and disappointment when they learned that Canada would allow the turbines to be returned.

The government has also faced political backlash. In a video posted on Twitter Sunday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney admonished the Liberals for helping to fund Russian oil and gas and allowing the country to continue to dominate the European energy market.

“Why do we have a government in Ottawa that is impeding efforts to export responsible Canadian energy to Europe while helping Vladimir Putin’s Gazprom to continue to dominate European energy markets? It makes no sense,” Kenney said.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress is expected to appear at a Foreign Affairs Committee meeting to discuss the decision, along with the ambassadors of Ukraine, Germany and the European Union to Canada.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson have also been summoned to the committee to answer questions about the exception.

Echoing Zelenskyy’s principled stand on sanctions, protester Oksana Bashuk Hepburn said Canada’s strength is its values. Standing in front of the parliament buildings in a straw hat decorated with a ribbon in Ukraine’s yellow and blue colours, she said Canada should stick to those values and stand by the sanctions.

“You have suasion because you have an honorable reputation. Take it back,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 17, 2022.

 

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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Poll suggests most Canadians view Pope’s apology as step toward reconciliation

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Pope Francis on a six-day penitential pilgrimage to Canada

A poll suggests more than half of Canadians viewed the recent visit by Pope Francis and his apology for abuses at residential schools as a step toward reconciliation.

The Angus Reid Institute released the findings from its latest online poll in which nearly 60 percent of participants said they saw the Pope’s apology as a meaningful step toward reconciliation, while 32 percent said it did nothing to move reconciliation forward.

Respondents who self-identified as Indigenous were less likely to say the apology contributed to reconciliation, at 54 percent, and 36 percent said the gesture made no difference.

Francis spent six days last month visiting Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut for what he called a “penitential pilgrimage” and he apologized for the evils some members of the Roman Catholic Church inflicted on Indigenous Peoples during the residential school era.

The research institute said two-thirds of respondents whofollowed the Pope’s trip and his speeches viewed his apology as sincere.

Half the participants said the federal government, Christian churches and society hold equal responsibility for creating the residential school system and allowing it to persist.

An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools in Canada, where neglect and physical and sexual abuse were rampant. More than 60 per cent of the schools were run by the Catholic Church.

Francis met with Indigenous groups and residential school survivors during his stops in Canada, where he repeated his apology. Following his visit, he called what happened in residential schools a form of genocide.

The poll suggests respondents’ prior views on the relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples was a significant driver of whether they viewed the Pope’s trip and apology as something that represented a step toward reconciliation.

“If you’re of the view that it’s worsening, then you’re also more likely to think that the papal visit made no difference towards reconciliation,” said Shachi Kurl, president of the institute.

“If you’re somebody who thinks that that is a relationship that is improving, people express more optimism or a sense that yes, the trip did represent a meaningful step toward reconciliation.”

More than half of respondents said there needs to be more investigations into residential schools before the country can move forward. There was a generational and gender divide on the issue, as younger respondents and women said more work is needed.

The institute polled 2,279 Canadians, with 117 of those self-identifying as Indigenous from Aug. 8-10. The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2022.

 

Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

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Alberta government members should resign over prize for sexist, racist essay: NDP

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EDMONTON — Alberta’s Opposition is calling for the two top legislature leaders on women’s issues to quit for giving a prize for an essay that urges women to forgo careers and focus on baby-making so the province doesn’t have to bring in more foreigners.

NDP critic Rakhi Pancholi said Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, the United Conservative Party government’s associate minister for the Status of Women, and Jackie Lovely, the department’s parliamentary secretary, have lost all credibility to advance the cause of women and must resign.

“I don’t know how (they) can continue in these roles,” Pancholi said at a news conference in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., on Thursday.

“I don’t know what work they were doing. They won’t even stand up before cameras and take questions.

“They have no credibility … they are undermining — actively undermining — women’s interests in this province.”

Armstrong-Homeniuk is the member of the legislature for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville.

Public pressure had been growing on Armstrong-Homeniuk’s office to divulge the names of the judges. Some United Conservative female legislature members had begun issuing statements stating they were not on the panel.

Late Wednesday night, Lovely, the member for Camrose, issued a statement saying, “I can confirm that I was the only other MLA on the essay judging panel.”

“I regret that this essay was chosen, and I apologize for my role in that,” her statement said. “As a single mother who has pursued a wide variety of traditionally male-dominated careers, I deeply understand the strength and ability of women.

“Also, as a former ESL (English as a second language) teacher who has hosted 56 international students, I value and appreciate the role of newcomers in our province and will continue working to remove barriers to equity and prosperity for all.”

The essays were pulled from the legislative assembly website shortly after criticism of the contest emerged on social media Monday night.

Armstrong-Homeniuk has since declined interviews, but instead issued two statements saying she doesn’t support the sentiments in the essay.

“It’s clear that the process failed, and I apologize for my role in that,” Armstrong-Homeniuk wrote Tuesday. “The selection of this particular essay and awarding it with third prize was a failure on my part as the head of the judging panel.”

Pancholi said that prompts the question — if the two judges say the essay should not have won, why did they pick it?

“We still do not have a clear explanation as to what and why this happened,” Pancholi said.

The essay was part of the legislative contest, titled “Her Vision Inspires,” which asked young women to explore ways to make Alberta a better place.

The top two essays suggest ways to get more women, and the public in general, involved in public life.

The third-place winner – identified only as S. Silver — won a $200 prize to be spent at the legislature gift shop.

Silver’s essay posits that the governing mission of humanity is to reproduce itself, but that Alberta has lost its way to instead pursue “selfish and hedonistic goals.”

The solution, she argues, is to acknowledge that “women are not exactly equal to men.”

Society, she writes, should celebrate and embrace the birthing role of women and stop pushing them to put off prime procreation years while they “break into careers that men traditionally dominate.”

She says the idea that Alberta can put off procreation and instead “import foreigners to replace ourselves … is a sickly mentality that amounts to a drive for cultural suicide.”

Pancholi and other critics have likened that reference to 1930s Nazi Germany, when women were urged to be baby vessels to propagate the Aryan race.

Three female candidates in the United Conservative race to replace Premier Jason Kenney as party leader and premier have also taken to Twitter to criticize the award.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2022.

 

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Customers cry foul as Air Canada, WestJet continue to deny certain compensation claims despite new directive – CBC News

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A recent Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) decision was supposed to help clear the air on flight compensation. 

When issuing a decision in a WestJet case on July 8, the transport regulator clarified that, in general, airlines can’t deny passengers compensation for flight disruptions caused by crew shortages. 

However, the clarification has only ignited fury for some passengers, including Frank Michel, who have since been denied compensation — due to crew shortages.

“It’s insulting,” said Michel, of Marquis, Sask.

He and his wife, Leigh, flew with Air Canada in June. The couple’s flight from Regina to Victoria was delayed by more than five hours. Then, the second leg of their return flight was cancelled, so the couple wound up spending the night at the Vancouver airport. 

“I’ve got arthritis, I’m aching and sore; I’m sleeping on a frigging concrete floor,” said Michel, who is 67.

After Air Canada cancelled his flight, Michel, 67, wound up spending the night on the floor of the Vancouver airport. (Frank Michel)

The couple applied for compensation, which would total $2,800 if they qualified. But in late July, Air Canada rejected the Michels’ claim. In two separate emails seen by CBC News, the airline said each flight disruption was “due to crew constraints” linked to COVID-19 and was “safety-related.” 

Under federal rules, airlines only have to pay compensation — up to $1,000 per passenger — if the flight disruption is within the airline’s control and not safety-related. 

Michel argues Air Canada isn’t playing by the rules.

“CTA has already made it clear that crew constraints is not an acceptable excuse,” he said. “It’s not a safety issue. It’s a management issue. You have to manage your resources.”

‘This decision doesn’t seem to mean anything’

The CTA issued its clarification last month based on a case where WestJet denied a customer compensation, claiming his flight had been cancelled for safety reasons due to a crew shortage. 

In its ruling, the CTA emphasized that staffing issues typically warrant compensation because, in general, they are an airline’s responsibility and can’t be categorized as a safety matter. Thus, the agency ordered WestJet to pay the passenger $1,000. 

“Training and staffing are within airline control and therefore crew shortages are within airline control, unless there’s compelling evidence” to the contrary, said CTA spokesperson Tom Oommen in an interview. “It’s a high threshold.”

WATCH | Air passengers say they’ve been unfairly denied compensation:

Travellers say they’re being unfairly denied compensation for Air Canada flight cancellations

3 days ago

Duration 2:01

Some travellers say they’re being denied compensation for cancelled Air Canada flights as the airline claims the flight disruptions were ‘due to crew constraints’ and beyond their control.

Oommen said the CTA’s decision will help ensure airlines follow the rules. But some passengers remain skeptical. 

“This decision doesn’t seem to mean anything,” said Jennifer Peach, of Langley, B.C., who, along with her husband, had booked a trip with WestJet to attend a wedding last month in St. John’s.

They almost didn’t make it. WestJet cancelled their connecting flight and Peach said the airline then offered to rebook them on a flight one day later — which would mean they’d miss the wedding. 

Fortunately, Peach found a Porter Airlines flight that would get the couple to St. John’s about five hours later than originally scheduled, but still in time for the wedding. WestJet told her to book the flight and file for compensation, she said.

Peach asked WestJet for the $773 total she paid for the Porter flight, plus compensation for the couple’s delayed trip. On Aug. 2, WestJet turned down both requests. 

In an email seen by CBC News, the airline stated that the flight cancellation “was due to crew member availability and was required for safety purposes.” 

That didn’t sit well with Peach, especially in light of the recent CTA decision.

“I don’t know what’s going on here,” she said. “I would assume that if there’s a decision like this made by the Canadian Transportation Agency that it would be the sort of the benchmark for all of these [claims].”

Enforcement options ‘could include fines’: CTA

WestJet and Air Canada each declined to comment on individual cases, but both said they abide by federal air passenger regulations. WestJet said that safety is its top priority. Air Canada said airlines shouldn’t be penalized for cancelling flights for safety reasons. 

Air passenger rights expert Ian Jack said the CTA needs to threaten airlines with harsh penalties, such as public shaming and stiff fines, if they fail to comply with compensation regulations. 

“The major concern is that the regulator is not exactly striking fear into the hearts of the carriers to make them follow the rules,” said Jack, a spokesperson with the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), a non-profit travel agency. 

“They need to know that they might get caught, embarrassed and called to task by the regulator.” 

This graphic shows the compensation air travellers could be entitled to depending on the length of their flight delay. (CBC)

CTA’s Oommen suggested that tough penalties may be coming for non-compliant airlines. “We are indeed looking at all the enforcement options … which could include fines.”

Meanwhile, both Michel and Peach have filed complaints with the CTA. However, they may be in for a long wait. The agency is currently dealing with a backlog of more than 15,000 complaints, Oommen said.

He said the CTA recently made changes to streamline the complaints process and is trying to hire more staff.

But Jack said he’s concerned the backlog may encourage airlines to flout the rules, because any repercussions will be far down the road. 

“They don’t have to pay out today, and who knows, maybe in 2025, they might have to pay money.”

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