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Canada, host of the UN biodiversity summit, is struggling to meet its own targets – CBC News



It was the spring of 2014, and practically everyone and their grandma was dancing to Pharrel William’s catchy upbeat tune Happy, so perhaps then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper could be forgiven for feeling overly optimistic.

His hopeful promise, announced at a May news conference in New Maryland, N.B., was that by 2020 Canada would protect 17 per cent of its land and inland waters, and 10 per cent of marine and coastal areas. At the time, 10.5 per cent of land and only one per cent of marine area was protected.

Fast forward to 2022, federal governments have changed and those pre-pandemic days may feel like a distant memory, but one thing that remains constant is that Canada continues to struggle to meet its own biodiversity goals.

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Biodiversity refers to the variety of different kinds of life that exists in a habitat — all the plants and animals that rely on one other in the delicate balance of an ecosystem.

It’s declining at unprecedented rates globally, which threatens not only wildlife and natural spaces, but also human food security and genetic resources necessary for medicine and science.

When it comes to protecting the land and water that house those natural assets, the latest data show Canada is coming up short. 

This past week, a report submitted by the nonpartisan Office of the Auditor General of Canada called out the federal government’s lack of progress. 

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Jerry DeMarco scrutinized Ottawa’s track record and “failure to take sufficient steps to address the loss of biological diversity” in his remarks

“I would say that Canada has always been a leader — on paper — in terms of biodiversity,” DeMarco said.

“But in terms of results, they have been sorely lacking.”

COP15: A turning point for the world and Canada? 

Despite strides forward, Canada failed to meet its 2020 national Aichi targets set by Harper under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

That’s not to say that the country hasn’t made some progress. By the end of 2021, 13.5 percent of land and freshwater and 13.9 per cent of marine territory was protected — certainly an improvement since 2014, especially in terms of marine conservation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vows his government will be able to surpass those targets to conserve 25 per cent of lands and oceans by 2025, and 30 per cent by 2030.

Southern resident killer whales, seen here swimming off Tofino, B.C., in 2019, are severely endangered with only about 74 individuals left. (John Forde and Jennifer Steven)

Momentum is gaining, according to a senior official with the office of Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault. In a conversation with CBC news, they said that hitting the 2025 goal is still doable — though ambitious — and requires the collaboration of provinces, territories and Indigenous partners. 

That footnote is key: it’s no small feat to negotiate conservation measures for species who are entitled to federal protection, but live on land belonging to provincial, territorial or Indigenous governments.

This December, international delegates will gather in Montreal to negotiate the successor to the UN Aichi targets to protect nature for the next decade. One of the key global targets will be conserving at least 30 per cent of land and oceans by 2030. 

As the country prepares to host the fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity in just a couple of months, the pressure is on for Canada to lead with results and not just rhetoric.

More flora and fauna in peril than ever 

Since 1978 species in Canada considered at risk — flora and fauna — have steadily increased. 

A total of 841 species are designated at risk by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. The list ranges from the timber rattlesnakes, no longer found in the wild in Canada, to the endangered beluga whales of the St. Lawrence Estuary. 

“It’s not all Canada’s fault, obviously,” DeMarco said. 

“Most of our species are shared with the United States and other countries … but it’s a global crisis and Canada needs to do its part.”

Instead, progress has stalled, according to DeMarco’s analysis.

One of the reports published by his office highlights that, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada’s own performance indicators, the number of at-risk species on the road to recovery hasn’t improved since 2014 — hovering at 42 per cent. 

That means Canada is on track to miss yet another biodiversity goal — achieving progress toward the recovery of 60 per cent of species at risk by 2025.

The glass half full argument is that at least species recovery isn’t getting worse. 

But if Canada is serious about addressing the decline in biodiversity and meeting its 25 per cent by 2025 goal, it needs to find a way to move the needle — especially in terms of the amount of land that is protected.

A powerful, little-used tool that could change the game

It’s not that the federal government doesn’t acknowledge there’s more work to do.

“Perhaps it was slower in the earlier years, but now we have those budgets that are actually required to set outside giant swaths of land,” Oliver Anderson, Minister Guilbeault’s director of communications, told CBC News.

Anderson said federal investment, including $2.3 billion promised over five years in the 2021 budget, helped get the ball rolling.

As for why, during the Liberal’s hold on power since 2015, the recovery of at risk species has not improved? 

“I think you’re seeing increased urgency on it,” he answered.

“It does require funding. It does require territorial and provincial will. It does require an [environment] minister who is prepared to actually use [The Species at Risk Act].”

That legislation has several tools in it — rarely used weapons in the country’s arsenal of species protection powers.

The act, known as SARA, allows Ottawa to step in and intervene if it deems a province is not doing enough to protect a species at risk, or if a species faces an imminent threat to survival.

“You see a reluctance on the part of the federal government … to step in and essentially lift up its elbows and make sure that biodiversity is being taken care of,” DeMarco said. 

“It’s been a very hands-off approach and a very bureaucratic approach to what should be legislation that could accomplish its lofty goal of protecting and recovering species at risk.”

Environmental groups have even tried to challenge the federal government in court, arguing it violated the Species at Risk Act when it approved the Trans Mountain pipeline by increasing the risk of extinction for the severely endangered southern resident orcas. The Supreme Court dismissed the case.

Jerry DeMarco, Canada’s commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, says the federal government has struggled to translate lofty promises into results. (Submitted by Jerry DeMarco)

Canada’s activist-turned-environment minister has signalled more of a willingness to use the legislation than his predecessors. 

In 2021 Guilbault issued an emergency order to stop a development in Longueuil, Que. from encroaching on the habitat of a threatened frog. Then this spring, he threatened to use the act to protect woodland caribou, before backing off when the Quebec government agreed to collaborate. 

Ottawa may soon be forced to use SARA more aggressively if it wants to protect endangered species from further decline and provinces refuse to act. But wading into a federal-provincial jurisdictional battle risks opening a whole can of worms that could cause even further delays. 

The lesson of the passenger pigeon

Observers hope the attention surrounding COP15 will be what’s needed to make the world — and Canada — buckle down on preserving biodiversity 

DeMarco hopes the country will act before more species go the way of the now-extinct passenger pigeon, once abundant across much of southeastern Canada, driven to the brink by hunting and habitat destruction caused by European settlers.

“People were in denial … They thought [the birds] must have gone somewhere else,” DeMarco said. 

“But they weren’t somewhere else. They were disappearing.”

The last passenger pigeon was named Martha. She died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.

The bird is just one of 19 Canadian species known to be extinct — 17 animals including the Great auk, Dawson caribou, the Ungava grizzly bear, and the Labrador duck — as well as a type of mollusc, and a moss.

A female, left, and male passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) on display at the Royal Ontario Museum. The last passenger pigeon died in 1914 after unsuccessful attempts to breed in captivity. (Brian Boyle/ROM)

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More 'police' centres run by China found around world: NGO – CTV News



A human rights organization says it has found dozens of additional overseas Chinese “police service centres” around the world, including at least two more in Canada.

In a new report released Monday called “Patrol and Persuade,” the Spain-based non-governmental organization Safeguard Defenders says it used open source statements from People’s Republic of China authorities, Chinese police and state media to document at least 48 additional stations.

This on top of the 54 stations revealed in September, bringing the total number of documented centres to 102 in 53 countries. Some host countries also have co-operated in setting up these centres, Safeguard Defenders says.

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The stations are accused of targeting Chinese nationals living abroad, particularly those who allegedly committed crimes in China, in order to coerce them to return home.

Safeguard Defenders reports that along with the three police “stations” previously confirmed in the Greater Toronto Area, which are operated out of the Chinese city of Fuzhou, it has found newly confirmed centres in Vancouver, operated out of Wenzhou, and another whose location is unknown but operates out of Nantong.

In a statement to CTV National News on Monday, the RCMP said it’s “investigating reports of criminal activity in relation to the so-called ‘police’ stations.” No further details were provided.

A similar statement was given by the police force to CP24 in late October following the previous report of Toronto-area stations.

The consulate general of the People’s Republic of China said at the time that the stations are to help Chinese citizens renew their driver’s licences, given many of them are unable to return to China due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the “local volunteers” facilitating this “are not Chinese police officers.”

However, Safeguard Defenders says the vast majority of the newly documented stations were set up starting in 2016, years before the pandemic began.

In its previous report in September, Safeguard Defenders found that Chinese police “persuaded” 230,000 claimed fugitives to return to China “voluntarily” between April 2021 and July 2022. Among the tactics used, Safeguard Defenders said, included denying suspects’ children in China the right to education and punishing relatives through “guilt by association.”

The U.S. Department of Justice accused seven people in October of a yearslong campaign to harass and intimidate a U.S. resident to return to China.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the G20 summit in Indonesia in November, his office told reporters that he had raised concerns with Chinese President Xi Jinping of “interference” in Canada.

Asked about what specific interference he referred to, Trudeau later told the House of Commons, “We’ve known for many years that there are consistent engagements by representatives of the Chinese government into Canadian communities, with local media, reports of illicit Chinese police stations.”

With files from CP24 Web Content Writer Joanna Lavoie, CTV National News Vancouver Bureau Chief Melanie Nagy, CTV News Toronto Videojournalist Allison Hurst and The Canadian Press 

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Trudeau 'extremely concerned' about report Canadian parts ended up in Iranian drones – National | – Global News



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is “extremely concerned” over a report Canadian-made parts have been discovered in Iranian drones used by Russia in its war on Ukraine.

Trudeau shared his worries with reporters in Ingersoll, Ont., Monday after the Globe and Mail reported on Sunday the discovery by a non-profit organization, Statewatch. Its “Trap Aggressor” investigation detailed last month that an antenna manufactured by an Ottawa-based Tallysman Wireless was featured in the Iranian Shahed-136 attack drone.

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Read more:

Canada sanctions Iranian drone makers amid Russian strikes in Ukraine

Click to play video: 'Federal government ‘extremely concerned’ about report Canadian-made parts found in Iranian attack drones used in Russia: Trudeau'

Federal government ‘extremely concerned’ about report Canadian-made parts found in Iranian attack drones used in Russia: Trudeau

The drones have been used recently by Russia in Ukraine as Moscow increases its strikes on the country’s energy and civilian infrastructure.

“We’re obviously extremely concerned about those reports because even as Canada is producing extraordinary, technological innovations … we do not want them to participate in Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine, or Iran’s contributions to that,” Trudeau said.

“We have strict export permits in place for sensitive technology that are rigorously enforced, and that’s why we’ve been following up with this company, that’s fully cooperating, to figure out exactly how items that we’re not supposed to get into the hands of anyone like the Iranian government actually ended up there.”

The Shahed-136 is manufactured by Shahed Aviation Industries, one of two Iranian drone makers Ottawa sanctioned last month for reportedly supplying Russia with its lethal drones. After denying reports it was supplying Moscow, Iran acknowledged for the first time on Nov. 5 it had sent Moscow drones before the Feb. 24 war began.

Click to play video: 'Russian missiles smash apartment block in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv: mayor'

Russian missiles smash apartment block in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv: mayor

It denied continuing to supply drones to Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Iran of lying, previously saying Kyiv’s forces were destroying at least 10 of its drones every day.

Aside from its Iranian-made engine, the Shahed-136 consists entirely of foreign components, Statewatch said in its report. It cited Ukrainian intelligence managing to identify more than 30 European and American companies’ components, with most parts coming from the United States.

A drone is seen in the sky seconds before it fired on buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Oct. 17.

Efrem Lukatsky/AP

Drones like the Shahed are packed with explosives and can be preprogrammed with a target’s GPS coordinates. They can nosedive into targets and explode on impact like a missile, hence why they have become known as suicide drones or kamikaze drones.

Shaheds are relatively cheap, costing roughly US$20,000 each — a small fraction of the cost of a full-size missile.

Read more:

‘Game-changing’ drone warfare in Ukraine may tee up new phase of conflict: official

Drones “provide a critical capability” to exploit vulnerabilities in defences, and their use may be a prelude to a new phase in the conflict, U.S. Army Lt.-Col. Paul Lushenko previously told Global News.

Gyles Panther, president at Tallysman, told the Globe the company is not “complicit in this usage” and “is 100-per cent committed” to supporting Ukraine.

Ottawa is working to understand how the parts ended up in the drones, and wants to “ensure” incidents like this don’t “happen again in the future,” Trudeau said.

&copy 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Available Nexus appointments Canada



There’s good news for those looking to expedite their border crossing experience.

To mitigate the ongoing backlog issues at Canadian border crossings, border officials have reopened two Nexus and Free and Secure Trade (FAST) enrolment centres in Canada.

It’s the first time any Nexus and FAST offices have been open in Canada since the pandemic began, and federal officials say more offices will be opening in the future.

The Nexus program, which has over 1.7 million members, is designed to speed up the border clearance process for its members, while also freeing up more time for Canadian and U.S. border security agents to tend to unknown or potentially higher-risk travellers and goods.

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The benefit of Nexus is that it allows for those travelling between the two countries to save time, skipping long lineups and using the shorter, dedicated Nexus lanes when crossing the border, as well as designated kiosks and eGates at major airports, and quicker processing at marine crossings.

Reopening these two Canadian centres is the first phase of a larger plan to address the lengthy Nexus and FAST backlog, and will increase availability for applicants to book appointments to interview for Nexus pre-approval, the Canada Border Service Agency said in a statement Monday.

Those looking to get Nexus approval can now schedule interviews, by appointment only, at the Lansdowne, Ont. (Thousand Islands Bridge) and Fort Erie, Ont. (Peace Bridge) enrolment centres, through the trusted traveller programs portal.

Travellers looking to apply will still need to complete a new two-step process, and the Canadian offices don’t mean applicants won’t have to cross the border to finalize the process.

If conditionally approved for Nexus status, travellers can complete the first part of the interview at one of the two reopened Canadian enrolment centres, then complete the second interview portion just across the border at the corresponding U.S. enrolment centres on the other side. For Lansdowne, that’s Alexandria Bay, N.Y., and for Fort Erie, it’s Buffalo, N.Y.

To become conditionally approved, both the CBSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have to grant approval prior to scheduling the interview portion, and interviews need to be conducted on both sides of the border.

“Nexus and FAST are a win-win for Canada and the United States – and we’re working hard to find creative solutions to reduce wait times, address the backlog and help more travellers get Nexus cards,” said Marco Mendicino, minister of public safety, in a press release. “This new, two-step process is further proof of our commitment to it. We’ll keep finding solutions that leverage technology and streamline renewals.”

Applicants also have the option to complete a one-step process and schedule complete interviews at enrolment centres in the U.S., which may be a preferred option for those who don’t live near the two centres currently open in Canada.

And those who are already members of the Nexus program and are awaiting an interview can renew their membership ahead of its expiry date in order to retain their travel benefits for up to five years.

More centres are expected to open at select land border crossings in the future, as this initial phase carries on, CBSA says.

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