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Bored and abandoned: Canadians trapped in Wuhan say lockdown is a balance of tedium and anxiety –



Canadians trapped in Wuhan, China, in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak say they’re safe but feeling abandoned by their consular officials.

Wayne Tremblay is one of 168 Canadians stuck in Wuhan.

He says the streets are quiet, but there are no barricades. Stores are open and nobody is in a panic, but they are anxious, bored and frustrated that American and British governments are working hard to get people out, while Canada is not offering much help.

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There was nothing out of the ordinary when the Nanaimo, B.C., man headed to Wuhan Jan. 19, but that had all changed just two days later.

Cabin fever

By Jan. 21, he said, authorities began requiring masks and were reporting the virus was spreading human to human.

The streets of Wuhan are quiet but not abandoned. (Li Mei)

“It was pretty surprising — historically this has never really been done before,” said the 37-year-old branch manager of an insurance adjuster office on Vancouver Island.

Now Tremblay and his spouse are trapped in Wuhan. He said stores are well-stocked and he’s seen no panic.

“It’s fine other than cabin fever because you are stuck inside a house all day. Every day,” he said.

Tremblay said that he is disappointed with the response he got from Canada’s 24-hour consular line.

Tremblay said Canadian authorities made it clear that they are not trying to get citizens out on planes. He said that made him feel uneasy.

“Abandoned. Pretty bluntly, just abandoned,” said Tremblay.

His flight home Feb. 2 is now cancelled.

“Everyone is under the assumption that if other countries [are helping citizens get home] that Canada would be doing that — but they are not.”

Unverified videos circulating on social media show overcrowded hospitals and food shortages.

“That’s not something we are experiencing,” he said.

In China, he says, his wife and friends share inspiring social media videos showing neighbours sharing wine between buildings using their clothes lines — or singing songs to pass the time.

“Everyone is coping well,” he said.

Stricter than SARS controls

The lockdown is unprecedented —- and much more strict than ever experienced even by people from Wuhan who lived through the SARS outbreak years ago.

“My family survived SARS,” said Mei Jie Han, who moved from Wuhan to Vancouver. He was 15 when SARS hit in 2003.

He remembers hanging out with his friends because schools were shut.

“But it wasn’t like this. You could still travel. It wasn’t scary,” said Han, who is in B.C.

He said his parents, Li Mei and Jian Gang Han, feel trapped in their Wuhan home in the district of Jiang-An.

Li Mei, 57, of Delta, B.C., wears a mask in Wuhan. (Li Mei)

Han’s parents travelled from Delta to Wuhan on Jan. 10. They were expected to return by Feb. 8.

Han’s mother, 57, helps care for his four-year-old daughter, and he had been planning to travel to Florida for business.

Han says his parents are anxious.

“She can’t go out anywhere. She says now I know what it feels like to be a dog. To be locked at home for the whole day,” he said. Han says his parents are struggling to find fresh food — and face masks.

“You either stay home and starve or you risk it and go out to get food,” he said.

When trucks arrive at the stores, he says, people buy items before they are shelved. But he said the biggest issue is boredom — and the lack of direction from Canada.

The instructions are to stay home and stay safe and follow instructions from Chinese officials, he said.

“Physically they are OK. They don’t have any symptoms,” said Han, who is eager to get his family home and some normalcy back.

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Conservatives are ‘fearmongering’ over assault-style gun ban: public safety minister



OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino accuses the Conservatives of “whipping up fear” that the Liberal government is outlawing ordinary long guns and hunting rifles.

In an interview, Mendicino says the government only wants to reinforce a regulatory ban on assault-style firearms like the AR-15 by enshrining a definition in legislation, and it is prepared to work with MPs to get it right.

He insists the government has no intention whatsoever of going after everyday long guns and hunting rifles, calling the notion “Conservative fearmongering.”

In May 2020, the Liberal government announced a ban through order-in-council on over 1,500 models and variants of what it considers assault-style firearms, such as the AR-15 and the Ruger Mini-14.

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The Liberals recently proposed including an evergreen definition of a prohibited assault-style firearm in gun-control legislation being studied by a House of Commons committee.

The Conservatives claim the government’s amendment amounts to the most significant hunting rifle ban in the history of Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2022.


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Joly seeks reprimand of Russian ambassador as embassy tweets against LGBTQ community



OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has asked her department to summon Russia’s ambassador over social media postings against LGBTQ people.

In recent days, Russia’s embassy in Ottawa has posted on Twitter and Telegram that the West is imposing on Russia’s family values, and arguing that families can only involve a man, a woman and children.

The embassy has posted images of a crossed-out rainbow flag and Orthodox icons of Adam and Eve.

The tweets came as Russia expanded a ban on exposing children to so-called homosexual propaganda, meaning authorities can now prosecute Russians for doing things they argue might entice adults to be gay or transgender.

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Joly’s office says the posts amount to “hateful propaganda” that must be called out and “an attack on the Canadian values of acceptance and tolerance.”

If Global Affairs Canada follows Joly’s request, it will be the third time the department has summoned ambassador Oleg Stepanov this year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2022.


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Work hard and never give up, Michelle O’Bonsawin says during Supreme Court welcome



OTTAWA — The newest member of the Supreme Court of Canada says her journey has not been an easy one, but it has been meaningful and rewarding.

Members of the legal community and Michelle O’Bonsawin’s fellow judges welcomed her to the bench in a ceremony today.

O’Bonsawin, who replaced the retiring Michael Moldaver on Sept. 1, is a bilingual Franco-Ontarian and an Abenaki member of the Odanak First Nation.

O’Bonsawin says she is a big believer that if a person has a goal, works hard and never gives up, they can achieve their dreams.

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She adds that while she has made mistakes and fallen down, those missteps have been her teacher.

Richard Wagner, the chief justice of Canada, praises O’Bonsawin’s generosity and volunteer activities, noting she shares his passion for open courts, access to justice and education.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2022.


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