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Calling for closer Canada-U.S. ties, Biden says ‘our destinies are intertwined and they’re inseparable’

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U.S. President Joe Biden delivered an impassioned speech in the House of Commons Friday, saying the Canada-U.S. relationship has never been stronger while calling for even closer ties to take on the challenges of our times.

Standing in front of the Speaker’s chair as hundreds of MPs, senators and dignitaries looked on, Biden said Canadians and Americans are “two people” that “share one heart” — bound together not only by geography and history but shared democratic values.

In his nearly 40-minute speech, Biden said that, together, the two countries are an unstoppable force that can tackle climate change, a changing economy and an increasingly dangerous world, where authoritarian countries like Russia are bent on defying international norms.

The partnership, he said, extends to space — three Americans and a Canadian will soon be headed for the moon as part of the NASA Artemis program.

“Our destinies are intertwined and they’re inseparable,” Biden said.

“I mean this from the bottom of my heart. There is no more reliable ally, no more steady friend. And today I say to you, you will always be able to count on the United States of America.”

 

We will find ‘no more steady friend’ than Canada: Biden

 

During his address to Parliament, U.S. President Joe Biden says Canadians ‘can always count on the United States of America.’

Together, Biden said, Canada and the U.S. will confront the “scourge” of opioid overdoses.

He vowed to partner with Mexico to tackle the illicit trade in fentanyl, which has wreaked havoc on vulnerable communities throughout North America.


Trudeau, Biden reach agreements during two-day visit

  • Canada and the U.S. will expand the Safe Third Country Agreement to the entire land border — a move designed to halt illegal border crossing by migrants. Canada will instead accept up to 15,000 migrants from the Western Hemisphere through legal channels.
  • Canada will invest $420 million to protect the Great Lakes as part of a binational effort to defend one of the world’s largest sources of freshwater.
  • Canada made a $7.3 billion commitment to air defence to support the continued functioning of NORAD.
  • Canada agreed to provide $100 million to support the Haitian police.
  • The U.S. will commit roughly $250 million to Canadian and U.S. companies that mine and process critical minerals for electric vehicles and stationary storage batteries.
  • Canada and New York-based IBM signed a deal to expand domestic research and development and advanced packaging of semiconductors.
  • Biden expressed support for Canada joining the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework

Referencing a deal on migrants, Biden said Canada and the U.S. will safely resettle asylum seekers through a new, more organized process that discourages illegal immigration.

“We believe to our core that every single person deserves to live in dignity, safety and rise as high as their dreams can carry them,” Biden said.

Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor pictured in the gallery of the House of Commons.
Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor stand as they are recognized before President Joe Biden speaks to the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. (Mandel Ngan/AP Photo)

On semiconductors, critical minerals, advanced manufacturing and a pivot to a cleaner, greener economy, Biden said Canada and the U.S. are up to the challenge — ready to work in concert to challenge the dominance of countries like China in these areas.

“After two years of COVID, people began to even wonder, ‘Can we still do big things?’ I say we sure in hell can,” Biden said to thunderous applause from the assembled crowd.

While there are irritants in any relationship, Biden said, Canada and the U.S. are determined to “solve our differences in friendship and with good will, because we both understand our interests are fundamentally aligned.”

‘I like your teams, except the Leafs’: Biden addresses Parliament

 

In his speech in Parliament during his first official visit as U.S.president to Canada, Joe Biden spoke of the friendly nature of the relationship between the two countries.

Biden joked about the Toronto Maple Leafs (“I like your teams, except the Leafs,” he said to laughter and scattered boos from the crowd) and razzed some MPs who failed to stand and applaud after he praised Canada and the U.S. for having gender equal cabinets.

“Even if you don’t agree guys, I’d stand up,” he said.

He also raised a recent Gallup poll that found Americans have an overwhelmingly positive view of Canadians.

The poll found 88 per cent of U.S. respondents think highly of their neighbours to the north — up from 87 per cent last year. “I take credit for that one point,” Biden said.

In his introductory speech, Trudeau hit many of the same points. He called on Canadians and Americans to come together as storm clouds gather in other parts of the world.

“It has never been clearer that everything is interwoven,” he said. “Economic policy is climate policy is security policy. People need us to think strategically and act with urgency, and that is exactly what brings us together today.”

 

U.S.-Canada border is a ‘meeting place rather than dividing line’: Trudeau

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada and the U.S. will continue to foster their long-standing relationship and work together for a better future.

As conflict rages in Europe and inflation bears down on working people, Trudeau said the two countries have faced all of this before.

Citing a 1987 address by former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, who called the Canada-U.S. border a “meeting place rather than a dividing line,” Trudeau said the border is “not just a place where we meet each other. It’s a place where we will meet the moment.”

Touting recent investments in a Michelin tire plant in Nova Scotia, and plans to retool the Defasco steel factory in Hamilton, Ont., Trudeau said Canada is ready to work with the U.S. to take on economic competition from “an increasingly assertive China.”

“We must continue to show resilience, perseverance and strength,” Trudeau said, citing the example of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, the two Canadians who suffered arbitrary detention in China for more than 1,000 days.

U.S. President Joe Biden holds a chocolate bar.
U.S. President Joe Biden holds a chocolate bar he received from Green Party Leader Elizabeth May at a welcoming ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, March 24, 2023. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Kovrig and Spavor were on hand in the Commons for Friday’s events. Trudeau thanked Biden for his help in securing their release.

With two of its citizens in captivity, Trudeau said, Canada did “not capitulate, we did not abandon our values — we doubled down. We rallied our allies. The rule of law prevailed and the Michaels came home.”

“God bless ya,” Biden said as he recognized Spavor and Kovrig in the gallery above.

Earlier today, Biden was escorted by Trudeau into the West Block where he briefly greeted dignitaries, including Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, other party leaders, senators, the House of Commons Speaker and parliamentary clerks.

Poilievre introduced himself as the leader of his “His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition,” which prompted Biden to quip, “Loyal, huh?”

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May then handed a bemused Biden a chocolate bar made by a Syrian refugee before he was whisked away for a one-on-one meeting with Trudeau.

U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden pose for members of the media as they arrive to visit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau
U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden pose for members of the media as they arrive to visit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau at Rideau Cottage on March 23, 2023 in Ottawa. (Andrew Harnik/AP Photo)

The busy day followed an intimate gathering last night at Trudeau’s Ottawa home, Rideau Cottage. Trudeau, with his wife Sophie and their three kids, hosted the president and his wife, Jill.

This is the first non-summit overnight visit by a U.S. president in nearly two decades.

First Lady Jill Biden speak with youth about mental health and sports at the Rideau Curling Club
First lady Jill Biden speaks with young people about mental health and sports at the Rideau Curling Club during U.S. President Joe Biden’s official visit to Ottawa on Friday, March 24, 2023. (Spencer Colby/Canadian Press)

It was billed as a chance for Biden and Trudeau to continue their efforts to renew the bilateral relationship, which was marked by some tension in recent years.

The Trump years were a trying time for Canadian officials.

But Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, promote protectionist policies like Buy American and withhold some vaccine supplies were also irritants in the early days of his presidency.

Since then, there’s been meaningful progress on key files: a deal to protect the NEXUS trusted traveller program and a plan to include Canadian-made vehicles in a U.S. electric vehicle tax credit program.

 

Biden arrives in Ottawa as Roxham Road deal reached

 

Joe Biden arrived in Ottawa on Thursday for his first official visit to Canada as U.S. president, and already, sources say the two countries have reached an agreement to allow for the Roxham Road border crossing to close.

And now there is a deal in hand that will allow Canada to close the Roxham Road site, where tens of thousands of refugee claimants have crossed the border irregularly in recent years — a political headache for Trudeau.

The U.S. has been eager to see Canada take a leadership role in efforts to restore order in Haiti, which has descended into chaos in recent months as gangs have tightened their grip on some parts of the Caribbean country.

So far, Canada has resisted pressure to deploy troops.

But after meeting with Biden, Trudeau commited roughly $100 million to the Haitian police.

The funding comes after the UN expressed grave concern for Haiti, saying “extreme violence continues to spiral out of control.”

U.S. President Joe Biden is pictured with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Friday, March 24, 2023, in Ottawa. (Andrew Harnik/AP Photo)

Biden and Trudeau also had the economy on their minds during the visit.

Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — which was really a climate-change bill, despite its name — includes major tax breaks for companies that pursue green-friendly projects.

Canada is racing to compete — and there may be a role for Canadian businesses to play as the U.S. retools its economy to make it cleaner and greener.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference following his address, Biden said the IRA shouldn’t be seen as a threat to Canada.

He said the U.S. plan to spend billions through the IRA and CHIPS Act, which offers tax breaks to semiconductor companies that manufacture in the U.S., will have spillover effects for Canada.

“We each have what the other needs,” Biden said. “I’m a little confused on why this is a disadvantage for Canada.”

He said U.S. businesses need to tap Canada’s abundance of critical minerals — an industry that currently is dominated by China, an increasingly unreliable business partner.

“We don’t have the minerals to mine, you can mine them. You don’t want to produce, I mean, turn them into product,” Biden said.

 

U.S. President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to media in Ottawa

 

During his first official visit to Canada since his election, U.S President Joe Biden held a press conference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in which they discussed the long-standing relationship between the two countries.

Canada would dispute Biden’s characterization of the critical minerals file.

The federal government has raced to sign multi-billion dollar contracts with major car companies like Stellantis and Volkswagen, which will use Canadian natural resources to manufacture components for electric vehicles.

The economist Harold Innis once described Canadians as “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” a reference to Canada’s long economic dependence on resources.

Trudeau said Friday Canada doesn’t just extract minerals and ship them off.

“The world is understanding they can no longer rely on places like China or Russia,” he said. “They can rely on Canada to not just be a purveyor of ores, but of finished materials.”

 

When U.S. Presidents Came to Parliament

 

From U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower to Barack Obama, take a journey back through the archives: Dwight D. Eisenhower in July 8-9 1958; John F. Kennedy, May 16, 1961; Richard Nixon, April 14, 1972; Ronald Reagan, April 6, 1987; George H.W. Bush, February 10, 1989; Bill Clinton, February 23, 1995; George W. Bush, November 11, 2004; and Barack Obama, February 19, 2009.

The Biden trip comes just after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited with another authoritarian leader in Moscow — Russian President Vladimir Putin.

While China cozies up to Russia, Biden framed his trip as a way to bolster relations with a close ally and friend, a democratic Canada.

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Joy in Newfoundland after ‘Lucky 7’ fishers survive harrowing days lost at sea

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NEW-WES-VALLEY, N.L. – There was a powerful word being repeated in the joyful Newfoundland community of New-Wes-Valley on Sunday: “Miracle.”

Over and over, residents out walking or chatting to one another in local stores said the fact that seven fishermen from the area had somehow survived roughly 48 hours in a life raft in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and were found by search and rescue crews was nothing short of miraculous.

“It’s once in a lifetime you’ll see something like this, when all the people survive,” said Frank Granter, who worked for the Canadian Coast Guard for 35 years. He was out walking through the sunny, seaside community on Sunday afternoon, stopping to talk to neighbours about the rescue ahead of an evening parade to celebrate the men’s survival.

Daphne Crocker leaned over her balcony and spread out her hands. “What a mighty God we serve,” she said about the fishermen coming home.

Granter agreed it was a miracle the Lucky 7 returned. “But October, November, it would have been a different story,” he said.

The Elite Navigator fishing boat and its crew seemed to vanish on Wednesday night. The craft was reported missing on Thursday after transmitting its final signal at around 8:30 p.m. the night before, the Canadian Coast Guard said. The vessel had caught fire and sank, forcing the crew to hastily disembark and wait for rescue on the life raft.

A massive search soon followed, involving four coast guard ships, a Cormorant helicopter, a Hercules aircraft and many local fishing vessels.

In New-Wes-Valley, which is an amalgamation of three small fishing communities along Newfoundland’s northeast coast, people braced for the worst. Fishing is among Canada’s deadliest professions, and tragedy is a common thread linking people in fishing communities across Atlantic Canada.

But on Friday night, out on the Atlantic ocean, searchers saw a light from a flare. It brought them to a life raft, where the seven fishermen — the Lucky 7 — were waiting.

Fisher Toby Peddle was among them. He said he was terrified as he jumped off the sinking fishing boat as it was pulled down into the depths. He can’t swim, he said, and he didn’t have a survival suit on.

“It was either jump and risk drowning or stay and be burned,” he said in an interview Sunday. “There was no time to think about it. I just knew I had to jump.”

He said the captain and another crew member, Jordan Lee King, had made a plan to reach him as soon as they hit the water.

“Jordan had said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll catch you before you even get in the water,’” recalled Peddle.

Sure enough, when Peddle jumped, King kept him afloat and quickly brought him to the raft, the fisherman said.

“I was relieved I made it to the raft. I couldn’t swim a stroke to save my life,” he said.

Peddle praised the actions of the captain.

“He did the best job he could have possibly done. He kept everyone calm in the life raft for over 48 hours. He’s a hero.”

“He just kept telling us, ‘We’re going to be fine. They know where we are, they’ll find us,’” he added.

He said it was very hard hearing the sound of helicopters flying overhead and realizing pilots were unable to see the life raft through fog. It was “the worst feeling of all,” he said.

They fired the final smoke flare in the boat at dusk on Friday, and it was spotted by the coast guard, he said. When he saw a helicopter flying overhead, “it was a moment of relief.”

At the wharf in New-Wes-Valley on Sunday afternoon, Peter Barfoot’s phone was pinging relentlessly in his pocket. He is good friends with David Tiller, one of the rescued fishermen, and he’d just launched a fundraising campaign to buy Tiller a new guitar.

The instrument went down with the Elite Navigator and Barfoot said it was “a no-brainer” to mount an effort to buy him a new one. He’d raised about $1,600 by Sunday afternoon.

“They’re heroes,” Barfoot said, shaking his head in disbelief. “How often do you hear this? It was a dire situation that turned into what it is now … They’re alive. They got a second chance at their life.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2024.

— With files from Michael Tutton in Halifax

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Second B.C. university issues trespass notice to pro-Palestinian protesters

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VICTORIA – The University of Victoria in British Columbia says it has begun the process of removing the pro-Palestinian encampment on campus, telling protesters they are trespassing on school property.

The school says in its latest encampment update that it has “taken a calm, measured and reasoned approach” to the protest since it was set up on May 1, but administrators “see no further prospect for a successful dialogue.”

On its social media page, protesters naming themselves “People’s Park UVIC” confirm the school has issued them a trespass notice, adding the administration has told them to “vacate by 8 a.m. Monday.”

The group did not specify their plans while asking the public to “stay tuned for updates from camp and plans going forward.”

Protesters at the university have been demanding the school cut financial and academic ties with Israeli entities due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, and the latest development comes about a week after Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, B.C. launched legal action against protesters there for allegedly ignoring a deadline to leave their camp.

Vancouver Island University says it had issued its trespass notice to protesters on July 11.

University of Victoria says in its update that the school had been working toward “a peaceful conclusion of the encampment” since June through facilitated discussions with protesters.

“Unfortunately, we have not successfully achieved agreement on the process and timeline for decampment,” the school update says. ”The university was disappointed to learn of this impasse through social media posts from People’s Park UVic.”

The protest group says on its social media page that protesters “have negotiated in good faith” but described the school’s last proposed resolution as having “no concrete commitments” and containing “ineffective policy” that fails to address what they are calling a genocide in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The group also reposted a statement from July 19, saying it is “unfortunately no surprise to once again witness our administration betraying the integrity of this process and emphasizing that these negotiations have been and always will be on their terms.”

A camp at the University of British Columbia was vacated by protesters voluntarily on July 7.

The recent developments come after an Ontario court granted the University of Toronto an injunction on July 2 that ordered protesters there to dismantle their encampment on the grounds that it is a violation of the school’s property rights.

Legal experts have said the decision sets a powerful precedent and creates a road map for other schools to follow in seeking legal recourse in removing protest encampments on campus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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With AI, jets and police squadrons, Paris is securing the Olympics – and worrying critics

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PARIS (AP) — A year ago, the head of the Paris Olympics boldly declared that France’s capital would be “ the safest place in the world ” when the Games open this Friday. Tony Estanguet’s confident forecast looks less far-fetched now with squadrons of police patrolling Paris’ streets, fighter jets and soldiers primed to scramble, and imposing metal-fence security barriers erected like an iron curtain on both sides of the River Seine that will star in the opening show.

France’s vast police and military operation is in large part because the July 26-Aug. 11 Games face unprecedented security challenges. The city has repeatedly suffered deadly extremist attacks and international tensions are high because of the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

Rather than build an Olympic park with venues grouped together outside of the city center, like Rio de Janeiro in 2016 or London in 2012, Paris has chosen to host many of the events in the heart of the bustling capital of 2 million inhabitants, with others dotted around suburbs that house millions more. Putting temporary sports arenas in public spaces and the unprecedented choice to stage a river-borne opening ceremony stretching for kilometers (miles) along the Seine, makes safeguarding them more complex.

Olympic organizers also have cyberattack concerns, while rights campaigners and Games critics are worried about Paris’ use of AI-equipped surveillance technology and the broad scope and scale of Olympic security.

Paris, in short, has a lot riding on keeping 10,500 athletes and millions of visitors safe. Here’s how it aims to do it.

The security operation, by the numbers

A Games-time force of up to 45,000 police and gendarmes is also backed up by a 10,000-strong contingent of soldiers that has set up the largest military camp in Paris since World War II, from which soldiers should be able to reach any of the city’s Olympic venues within 30 minutes.

Armed military patrols aboard vehicles and on foot have become common in crowded places in France since gunmen and suicide bombers acting in the names of al-Qaida and the Islamic State group repeatedly struck Paris in 2015. They don’t have police powers of arrest but can tackle attackers and restrain them until police arrive. For visitors from countries where armed street patrols aren’t the norm, the sight of soldiers with assault rifles might be jarring, just as it was initially for people in France.

“At the beginning, it was very strange for them to see us and they were always avoiding our presence, making a detour,” said Gen. Éric Chasboeuf, deputy commander of the counter-terror military force, called Sentinelle.

“Now, it’s in the landscape,” he said.

Rafale fighter jets, airspace-monitoring AWACS surveillance flights, Reaper surveillance drones, helicopters that can carry sharpshooters, and equipment to disable drones will police Paris skies, which will be closed during the opening ceremony by a no-fly zone extending for 150 kilometers (93 miles) around the capital. Cameras twinned with artificial intelligence software — authorized by a law that expands the state’s surveillance powers for the Games — will flag potential security risks, such as abandoned packages or crowd surges,

France is also getting help from more than 40 countries that, together, have sent at least 1,900 police reinforcements.

Trump assassination attempt highlights Olympic risks

Attacks by lone individuals are major concern, a risk driven home most recently to French officials by the assassination attempt against Donald Trump.

Some involved in the Olympic security operation were stunned that the gunman armed with an AR-style rifle got within range of the former U.S. president.

“No one can guarantee that there won’t be mistakes. There, however, it was quite glaring,” said Gen. Philippe Pourqué, who oversaw the construction of a temporary camp in southeast Paris housing 4,500 soldiers from the Sentinelle force.

In France, in the last 13 months alone, men acting alone have carried out knife attacks that targeted tourists in Paris, and children in a park in an Alpine town, among others. A man who stabbed a teacher to death at his former high school in northern France in October had been under surveillance by French security services for suspected Islamic radicalization.

With long and bitter experience of deadly extremist attacks, France has armed itself with a dense network of police units, intelligence services and investigators who specialize in fighting terrorism, and suspects in terrorism cases can be held longer for questioning.

Hundreds of thousands of background checks have scrutinized Olympic ticket-holders, workers and others involved in the Games and applicants for passes to enter Paris’ most tightly controlled security zone, along the Seine’s banks. The checks blocked more than 3,900 people from attending, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said. He said some were flagged for suspected Islamic radicalization, left- or right-wing political extremism, significant criminal records and other security concerns.

“We’re particularly attentive to Russian and Belorussian citizens,” Darmanin added, although he stopped short of linking exclusions to Russia’s war in Ukraine and Belarus’ role as an ally of Moscow.

Darmanin said 155 people considered to be “very dangerous” potential terror threats are also being kept away from the opening ceremony and the Games, with police searching their homes for weapons and computers in some cases.

He said intelligence services haven’t identified any proven terror plots against the Games “but we are being extremely attentive.”

Critics fear intrusive Olympic security will stay after the Games

Campaigners for digital rights worry that Olympic surveillance cameras and AI systems could erode privacy and other freedoms, and zero in on people without fixed homes who spend a lot of time in public spaces.

Saccage 2024, a group that has campaigned for months against the Paris Games, took aim at the scope of the Olympic security, describing it as a “repressive arsenal” in a statement to The Associated Press.

“And this is not a French exception, far from it, but a systematic occurrence in host countries,” it said. “Is it reasonable to offer one month of ‘festivities’ to the most well-off tourists at the cost of a long-term securitization legacy for all residents of the city and the country?”

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