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Bogus information online, climate change top Canadian fears in latest Pew survey



WASHINGTON — Canadians consider the online disinformation epidemic and climate change as the most serious threats of the modern age, edging out pandemic-era concerns about the global economy and infectious disease, a new survey suggests.

Research released Wednesday by the D.C.-based Pew Research Center found 68 per cent of respondents in Canada classified bogus online information as a major threat, followed by climate change at 65 per cent.

On a worldwide scale, however, it was climate change that emerged as the leading international concern, ranking as a major threat among 75 per cent of respondents in 19 advanced economies across North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, a hot war between Russia and Ukraine ongoing, inflation rates rising globally and heat records being smashed across parts of the world, countries are facing a wide variety of challenges in 2022,” Pew said in a release.

“Among the many threats facing the globe, climate change stands out as an especially strong concern among citizens in advanced economies.”

Despite the ongoing pandemic and the lingering economic, supply-chain and inflationary fallout that has ensued, the world economy and the spread of infectious disease were cited by just 58 and 57 per cent of Canadian participants, respectively.

Concern about climate change — dominant in Europe, with scores as high as 82 per cent — was offset by the western world, where political affiliations tend to determine the extent of concern expressed about environmental issues.

Of the 3,581 American respondents surveyed online, 54 per cent described climate change as a major threat, including just 22 per cent of those on the political right, compared with 85 per cent of those on the left — a spread of 63 percentage points.

In Canada, 46 per cent of those on the political right called climate change a major threat, compared with 80 per cent on the left and 71 per cent who identified themselves as belonging to the political centre.

“Despite these political divisions, concerns about climate change have been rising in recent years, as people react to the climate extremes plaguing their countries,” the survey said.

“Concerns about climate change are at all-time highs in 10 countries,” including the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and Japan. In Canada, the all-time high of 67 per cent came in the 2020 edition of the survey.

The Canadian portion of the survey was conducted by telephone between Feb. 14 and April 24 and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Canada was an outlier when it came to the level of concern about false information online. While a majority of respondents in all 19 countries called it a major threat, only in two other countries — Germany and Malaysia — did those surveyed also make it their top choice.

In Canada, it may be because of the timing of the survey, which began as Ottawa was being roiled by the so-called “Freedom Convoy,” a motley occupation and blockade of the parliamentary precinct, ostensibly to protest COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates, that some experts believe was fuelled in part by foreign disinformation.

Foreign cyberattacks, which registered as the top concern in the United States at 71 per cent, also ranked high north of the border, earning major-threat status from 63 per cent of the 1,324 Canadians surveyed.

Indeed, that’s the highest level of concern expressed among Canadian respondents since Pew began asking the question in 2016 — a likely consequence of this year’s show of force by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Concerns about cyberattacks, possibly heightened by the tensions between Russia and Ukraine and prominent instances of hacking across the world, are at all-time highs in many of the countries surveyed,” the survey said.

“In the last five years, there has been a remarkable increase in the share saying cyberattacks from other countries are a major threat to their country.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 31, 2022.


James McCarten, The Canadian Press


Joly to raise abortion, sexual violence in closing UN speech



OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly is urging countries to uphold women’s rights and abortion access while rooting out sexual violence, as the United Nations General Assembly comes to a close.

In a speech today in New York, Joly will summarize Canada’s priorities and concerns in foreign relations.

That includes being part of “a global coalition in support of equality” that will “defend against the growing attacks on women’s rights and freedoms,” according to drafted remarks in French.

“Sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls are being rolled back or denied in too many countries,” Joly’s drafted remarks say.

“Canada will always stand up for your right to choose.”

Though the drafted section on women’s rights does not mention the United States, Joly’s comments come after months of backlash to the U.S. Supreme Court allowing states to ban abortions, with some seeking to prosecute those who help women end their pregnancies in other jurisdictions.

Joly’s remarks instead mention women targeted by autocratic governments, such as the Taliban preventing Afghan girls from attending school. She calls out Myanmar’s military junta imprisoning female democracy activists and sexually assaulting Rohingya women.

The speech cites Iran’s crackdown on protesters seeking accountability after the death of Mahsa Amini, when morality police arrested her for “unsuitable attire” in allegedly wearing a hijab improperly. Joly also notes Ukrainian women have been subjected to sexual violence by occupying Russian forces.

Joly argues deliberate policy choices are resulting in rising violence against women, who are excluded from “the negotiating table, the boardroom, the classroom.”

The speech is likely to take place around noon local time, and will include some of the themes raised last week in New York by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. His remarks surrounded climate change and international development.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.


Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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Military en route to assist with recovery efforts



Residents of Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec are coming to terms with the full scope of the damage left behind after post-tropical storm Fiona tore through the region over the weekend as one of the strongest storms Canada’s East Coast has ever faced.

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are being deployed to help with recovery efforts, with federal Defence Minister Anita Anand saying Sunday that about 100 troops a piece were either in place or en route to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. to provide assistance with the cleanup effort.

Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said the immediate need is to provide food and shelter for those displaced by the storm, which is why the federal government is matching donations to the Canadian Red Cross.

However, he added that Ottawa will work with provinces to determine what is needed for recovery from a financial perspective, especially for Canadians who have lost everything. He said the first priority is the restoration of power and utilities, as well as clearing roadways to get essential supplies to those who need them.

At Fiona’s peak on Saturday, more than 500,000 customers across Atlantic Canada were without power, but by early Monday morning that number had been lowered to less than 300,000, with the vast majority in Nova Scotia. But even as crews workaround the clock to repair downed lines, some utility companies warned it could be days before the power is back on for everyone.

Authorities in western Newfoundland confirmed Fiona’s first Canadian fatality on Sunday. RCMP said a 73-year-old woman’s body was recovered from the water more than 24 hours after a massive wave struck her home, tearing away part of the basement. Her name was not immediately released.

The cause of death of a second person on P.E.I. has yet to be determined, but the Island’s acting director of public safety told a news conference that preliminary findings pointed towards “generator use.” No further details were provided.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.


The Canadian Press

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Industry minister to represent Canada at former Japanese PM’s funeral



OTTAWA — Federal Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne will represent Canada at former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s state funeral this week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was scheduled to visit Japan and attend Tuesday’s funeral, but cancelled those plans to oversee recovery efforts after post-tropical storm Fiona ravaged much of eastern Canada and parts of Quebec.

Describing Abe as a friend and ally of Canada, Champagne says the former Japanese prime minister played an important role bringing the two countries closer together.

Trudeau was slated to meet current Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as Japan prepares to take over as president of the G7 and the Liberal government finalizes its new Indo-Pacific strategy.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Champagne says he doesn’t know if he will meet Kishida on behalf of Trudeau.

But he says in addition to paying respects to Abe, he expects to meet Japanese officials to discuss the bilateral relationship and areas of mutual co-operation.

“Certainly, I think Prime Minister Kishida knows how deeply engaged we have been, certainly on the industrial, commercial and economic front,” he said.

“And we’ll be meeting with a number of people. I just don’t know if the meeting with the prime minister will still be happening.”

Champagne was in Japan delivering a speech to business representatives in Tokyo when Abe was assassinated by a gunman in July.

The industry minister says it was a surreal moment when he learned the former Japanese prime minister had been killed.

“I was literally giving a speech,” Champagne said. “I was like three-quarters into it and suddenly I started to see people looking at their phones. And someone came to the podium and advised me that something very tragic had happened.”

Abe’s state funeral is a sensitive topic in Japan, where such memorials are uncommon and the late leader’s legacy remains disputed.

Abe, a conservative nationalist in a country that embraced pacifism after the Second World War, was assassinated with a homemade firearm nearly three months ago.

In a reflection of deep divisions, an elderly man reportedly set himself on fire to protest the funeral, and more demonstrations are expected in the coming days.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2022.

⁠— With files from The Associated Press.


Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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