Canada’s top diplomat says China is flouting its international obligations with its latest move to quash dissent in Hong Kong.
Earlier this week, China’s central government granted Hong Kong’s government special authority to remove members of its Legislative Council who are deemed insufficiently loyal to Beijing because of their support for Hong Kong independence or their refusal to recognize China’s sovereignty over the region.
Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government, led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, promptly used the new powers to disqualify four pro-democracy legislators who had previously called for foreign governments to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China.
In response to the removal of their colleagues, Hong Kong’s 15 remaining pro-democracy lawmakers said they would resign in protest, effectively giving pro-Beijing forces free reign in the city’s legislature.
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said the removal of the four democratically elected legislators further erodes the autonomy promised to the former British colony when it was handed back to Beijing in 1997.
“This decision further narrows Hong Kong’s autonomy and the space for freedom of expression and public participation in governance in Hong Kong,” Champagne said in a written statement on Wednesday.
“This action clearly demonstrates a concerning disregard for Hong Kong’s Basic Law and the high degree of autonomy promised for Hong Kong under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework.”
Under the Sino-British declaration — signed in 1984 — China promised to allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy for 50 years in exchange for reassuming control of the territory in 1997. But Beijing has in recent months moved to clamp down on opposition voices in Hong Kong with the imposition of a national security law, after months of anti-government protests last year rocked the city.
‘Further assault’ on freedoms
Champagne called China’s move a “further assault” on Hong Kong’s freedoms.
“We are deeply disappointed that China has chosen to break its international obligations,” said Champagne.
“Canada will continue to stand with the people of Hong Kong.”
The issue of Hong Kong’s autonomy has proven to be a thorn in an already chilled relationship between Canada and China. Relations between the two countries have worsened since Canada arrested Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in December 2017 on a U.S. extradition warrant. China arrested two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, shortly after Meng’s arrest.
The two Michaels have now spent over 700 days in prison while Meng fights her extradition in a B.C. court and lives under house arrest in Vancouver.
Canada suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in July in response to the passage of the new national security law — which gave Beijing sweeping powers to crack down on dissent amid anti-government protests and other activities it considers the work of hostile foreign powers.
The Canadian government also amended its export controls to treat sensitive goods, including military equipment, being exported to Hong Kong as if they were being sent to mainland China. Previously, Hong Kong was given preferential status.
The cost of down payments in Canadian cities skyrocketed in 2021, new data shows – CTV News
Skyrocketing housing prices in 2021 are driving up how long it would take for homebuyers to save for a down payment, new data shows.
The National Bank of Canada (NBC)’s latest report found that during the second quarter of 2021, housing affordability has worsened by the widest margin in 27 years. The report examined housing and mortgage trends in 10 cities across the country.
To save up enough for a down payment for an average home in Canada, it would take just short of six years – or 69 months – if you saved at a rate of 10 per cent of their median pre-tax household income.
This marked a notable jump compared to the 57 months of saving at that same rate this time last year.
And, if you live in Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto, it could take decades – assuming you put away 10 per cent of your before-tax household income.
Here’s a breakdown of how much time it would take to save up for a down payment for an average home or condo, if you saved a tenth of your pre-tax income:
- Standing head and shoulders above the other cities, it would take a staggering 34 years – or 411 months – of saving to be able to afford a home here.
- The average home here costs $1.47 million.
- It would take just under five years – 57 months — to save up enough for a down payment on an average condo in Vancouver.
- An estimated 28 years, or 338 months, of saving to make a down payment for a non-condo home, with the total price of a representative home set at $1.03M.
- It would take 47 months of saving to afford a condo down payment.
- To save enough for a down payment for a home here would take 26.5 years – or 318 months.
- The average home here costs approximately $1.2 million.
- To afford a condo down payment here would take just under five years, or 56 months.
- At a 10-per-cent saving rate, you’re looking at 6.5 years of saving up to afford a down payment for a home — and around four years to afford a condo in this city.
- Trying to save up a home down payment in Canada’s capital could take a little over four years.
- Saving up a tenth of your pre-tax earnings for 3.5 years would mean you could afford a down payment on a representative home in Montreal
- The total price tag of a non-condo home sits at $492,777.
- Trying to afford a condo here could take you just a little more than two and a half years of saving.
- You’d need to save up for just under three years – or 34 months – to afford a home here, or about half that time to afford a condo.
- Potential homebuyers were looking at 2.5 years – or 30 months – of saving if you’re looking to make a down payment on a non-condo home.
- The average total cost of a non-condo home was $428,600.
- Affording a down payment on a $370,000 home could take homebuyers about 2.3 years worth of saving.
- Home buyers needed 18 months to save up a down payment on a condo.
- The price of a representative home in Quebec’s capital is $330 742 and it would take the average Canadian household just over two years – or 28 months — to save up a down payment.
Researchers also found mortgage payments now make up 45 per cent of the income for a representative household, slightly above the average amount (43 per cent of income) needed in 1980.
NBC noted that during most of the past two years, income growth and lower interest rates have been conducive to improving affordability.
But 2021 has been a stark contrast, the bank said, with home price increases outpacing income growth and mortgage interest rates also rising.
Countries making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory
A sharp upturn in new coronavirus infections due to the highly contagious Delta variant and a slowdown in vaccination rates have pushed governments to make COVID-19 shots mandatory for health workers and other high-risk groups.
A growing number of countries also stipulate that a shot, or a negative test, will be needed for dining out, among other activities.
Here are some countries’ vaccine mandates:
Australia decided in late June to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for high-risk aged-care workers and employees in quarantine hotels.
It has also made vaccinations obligatory for Paralympic athletes heading to Tokyo because unvaccinated members on the team could pose a health risk.
It will be mandatory for care home workers in England to have coronavirus vaccinations from October.
English nightclubs and other venues with large crowds will require patrons to present proof of full vaccination from the end of September.
Canada‘s Treasury Board Secretariat said on July 20 it was considering whether COVID-19 vaccines should be required for certain roles and positions in the federal government, according to CBC News.
The French parliament on Aug. 2 approved a bill which will make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for health workers as well as require a bolstered health pass in many social venues.
The government said on July 19 that the planned 45,000 euro ($53,456) fine for businesses that do not check that clients have a health pass will be much lower, starting at up to 1,500 euros and increasing progressively for repeat offenders. Fines will not be imposed immediately.
Greece on July 12 made vaccinations mandatory for nursing home staff with immediate effect and healthcare workers from September. As part of new measures, only vaccinated customers are allowed indoors in bars, cinemas, theatres and other closed spaces.
Indonesia made COVID-19 inoculations mandatory in February, with the capital Jakarta threatening fines of up to 5 million rupiah ($357) for refusing.
A decree approved by the Italian government in March mandates that health workers, including pharmacists, get vaccinated. Those who refuse could be suspended without pay for the rest of the year.
Hungary’s government has decided to make vaccinations mandatory for healthcare workers, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told public radio on July 23.
Kazakhstan will introduce mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly testing for people working in groups of more than 20, the health ministry said on June 23.
Lebanon is to limit entry to restaurants, cafes, pubs and beaches to people holding vaccine certificates or those who have taken antibodies tests, the tourism ministry said on July 30. Non-vaccinated employees of these establishments would be required to conduct a PCR test every 72 hours.
Malta banned visitors from entering the country from July 14 unless they are fully vaccinated.
Poland could make vaccinations obligatory for some people at high risk from COVID-19 from August.
The Russian capital has unveiled a plan https://bit.ly/2TWsroN requiring 60% of all service sector workers to be fully vaccinated by Aug. 15, according to the Moscow Times.
Moscow residents no longer have to present a QR code demonstrating they have been vaccinated or have immunity in order to sit in cafes, restaurants and bars from July 19.
In May, Saudi Arabia mandated all public and private sector workers wishing to attend a workplace get vaccinated, without specifying when this would be implemented.
Vaccination will also be required to enter any governmental, private, or educational establishments and to use public transportation as of Aug. 1.
Saudi citizens will need two vaccine doses before they can travel outside the kingdom from Aug. 9, state news agency SPA reported on July 19, citing the ministry of interior.
Turkmenistan’s healthcare ministry said on July 7 it was making vaccination mandatory for all residents aged 18 and over.
U.S. President Joe Biden announced on July 29 that all civilian federal workers will need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and travel limits, a source familiar with the matter said.
New York City will become the first major U.S. city to require, from Sept. 13, proof of vaccination for customers and staff at restaurants, gyms and other indoor businesses as the country enters a new phase of battling the Delta variant.
New York will require state employees to be vaccinated or get tested weekly, a mandate that will go into effect on Sept. 6, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will require their workers to get the vaccine or get tested weekly, Cuomo said on Aug. 2.
New Jersey state health care workers and employees who work in jails must by vaccinated by Sept. 7 or face testing twice a week.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said that all state employees would be ordered to get vaccinated starting Aug. 2 or undergo COVID-19 testing at least once a week.
Denver municipal employees and people working in high-risk settings in the city will be required to get vaccinated, Mayor Michael Hancock said on Aug. 2.
($1 = 0.8418 euros)
(Compiled by Paulina Cwikowska, Dagmarah Mackos and Oben Mumcuoglu; editing by Milla Nissi, Steve Orlofsky, Joe Bavier and Nick Macfie)
U.S. to outfit border agents with body cameras in major oversight move
The United States will require thousands of border agents to wear body cameras, according to three officials and government documents, a major operational change that could increase oversight of agents and also help capture criminal activity.
The cameras are expected to be rolled out in parts of Texas and New Mexico during the summer and expanded in the fall and winter to Arizona, California, and Texas’ busy Rio Grande Valley, which all border Mexico, according to a recent government assessment of how the devices could impact privacy. Agents in Vermont along the U.S. border with Canada will also be equipped with cameras, the assessment said.
U.S. border authorities plan to deploy a total of 7,500 body-worn cameras, with 6,000 in the field by the end of the year, a border agency official told Reuters.
Pro-immigrant activists will likely welcome the increased oversight that cameras could bring to an agency some have criticized for excessive use of force and institutional racism. But a union for border patrol agents also supports cameras, saying they could assist criminal investigations and help show that agents act professionally.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have called on border patrol agents to use the cameras to improve accountability in the wake of several high-profile fatal shootings by law enforcement over the past decade.
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, stressed that agents should have access to the footage, including when an agent is accused of wrongdoing.
Border Patrol’s parent agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is the largest law enforcement agency in the United States, which presents a unique challenge for video footage collection and storage.
Recordings of illegal activity, use of force or agent misconduct could be used as evidence in investigations or prosecutions, the privacy assessment said.
The cameras could offer new insight into the policing of the southern border, where migrant arrests have risen to 20-year highs in recent months and encounters sometimes take place in remote areas.
In cases where footage could be used as evidence in a criminal case, it could be retained for up to 75 years, according to the privacy assessment. Footage that does not have value as evidence would be destroyed within 180 days.
After a bipartisan group of lawmakers spearheaded efforts to secure funding for bodycams, CBP awarded a total of about $21 million to Axon Enterprises Inc [AXON.O] for body cameras and to connect the cameras to a cloud-based storage system, according to the agency official.
The devices are the size of a deck of playing cards and will be affixed to the front of agents’ uniforms, the official said.
Axon declined to comment on the rollout.
CBP conducted a small pilot of body cameras in 2015, but ultimately opted not to deploy them then.
An agency assessment at the time said the cameras would likely reduce the use of physical force on the job, but cited a number of reasons not to adopt the devices, including cost and agent morale.
Gil Kerlikowske, who was CBP commissioner at the time, said another consideration was that the cameras “did not hold up particularly well” in the field, where they could be knocked off in the brush or mucked up with dust and dirt.
Body cameras have become more commonplace since the 2015 effort. The U.S. Department of Justice said in June that its agents would be required to wear cameras when serving search and arrest warrants.
Kerlikowske said many law enforcement officers support the idea, too.
“There are now police officers who won’t go on the street without their body camera,” he said. “They want that video image.”
(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington, editing by Ross Colvin, Aurora Ellis, Mica Rosenberg and Diane Craft)
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