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Canada sanctions Haitian officials as MPs told gangs are wreaking ‘civil war’

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OTTAWA — Canada is sanctioning two senior Haitian officials for their alleged support of gangs, which MPs have been told are exploiting children and wreaking havoc akin to a civil war.

“The majority of the victimized population (is) suffering greatly, increasingly deprived of essentials, exposed to increasing violence, and feel abandoned,” said Patrick Auguste, head of a diaspora youth association, at a House of Commons subcommittee meeting on Friday.

Haiti is facing an intractable series of crises that have closed hospitals and schools during a deadly cholera outbreak and widespread power outages.

It’s all made worse by gangs that are blockading the country’s main fuel terminal, leading the government to call for foreign military intervention, despite not holding an election since 2016.

On Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced sanctions in lockstep with the U.S. for two senior Haitian officials who allegedly financed gangs in their country.

The new sanctions include Joseph Lambert, the president of the Haitian Senate, and his predecessor, Youri Latortue, whom Ottawa accuses of giving “illicit financial and operational support to armed gangs.”

The U.S. Treasury Department was more specific, accusing both of leading cocaine trafficking from Colombia and directing people to engage in violence.

Latortue rejected those claims, saying he had spoken out about violence and gangs, and that the decision lacked due process.

“I fought corruption and laundering with numerous public reports,” he tweeted. “I will defend myself with law and truth.”

A spokesperson for Lambertdid not immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press on Friday.

At the House subcommittee on international human rights, non-governmental organizations told MPs on Friday that gangs are paying desperate Haitians to act out at protests and cause chaos in the streets.

“Due to what we can only call a civil war, there are currently over 100,000 internally displaced persons in Haiti,” said Morgan Wienberg, head of the group Little Footprints Big Steps.

Wienberg said “foreign pedophiles” are sexually abusing children with impunity, since Haiti can’t get “illegal orphanages” under control, a problem that’s existed since she moved to the country a decade ago and ramped up in recent months.

She encouraged Canada to work with civil-society groups to stem problems that are leading to gangs recruiting children.

“The Haitian government cannot be the voice that foreign governments are listening to, because it’s very clear the Haitian government is not acting on the interests of the Haitian people,” Wienberg said.

Others testified that Haiti has faced a power vacuum since the Duvalier dictatorship ended in 1971, leading to zero-sum politics with no consensus on how to govern the country.

Chalmers LaRose, a political-science lecturer with the Université du Québec à Montréal and Royal Military College of Canada, said part of the chaos stems from the whims of foreign countries.

LaRose noted that Haiti was economically punished by France for declaring its independence in 1805, followed by an American invasion in 1915.

“It was a state that was completely banished from the rest of the world, for at least a century,” he said in French.

He was skeptical of recent comments by U.S. officials that Canada could be a key player in a military intervention.

“Canada must also find its own voice in this crisis and not simply seek to be the lapdog of the U.S.,” LaRose said.

Other witnesses suggested using drones to fire on gangs, or coming up with an aid package modelled on the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild postwar Europe.

The Associated Press reported that there was gunfire around Haiti’s main fuel terminal in Port-au-Prince, with the Haitian National Police saying it made progress in an ongoing fight against the powerful G9 gang that has been blocking site access for weeks.

Canada and the U.S. have sent armoured military vehicles for that police force.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that Canada must help Haiti in some capacity, even if it doesn’t mean a military intervention.

“We look at the crisis, rapes, the violence, the poverty, and the cholera and health crisis. And then we say to ourselves, we have to intervene in one way or another,” he told reporters in French on Wednesday.

That evening, he was briefed by his former national security adviser, Daniel Jean, who led a four-day assessment mission last week.

An official readout did not indicate how Trudeau will proceed, but said a cabinet committee “explored a range of options … to support a Haitian-led solution.”

Auguste proposed Canada make a public apology on behalf of all Western nations for their centuries of meddling in Haiti, to help end finger-pointing between the government, gangs and foreign countries.

“What’s happening now is everybody passes the buck,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 4, 2022.

—With files from The Associated Press

 

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

 

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version quoted Patrick Auguste as saying the majority of Haitians are suffering greatly.

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Trump, in highly personal speech, will accept GOP nomination again days after assassination attempt

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Just five days after surviving an assassination attempt, a bandaged Donald Trump is set to address the Republican National Convention on Thursday to accept his party’s presidential nomination in a speech designed to unify his party — and the nation — behind his third consecutive White House bid.

The 78-year-old former president, known for his willingness to criticize his political foes in both parties, has promised to offer a softer and more personal message of unity following his brush with death.

Trump’s speech marked the climax and conclusion of a massive four-day Republican pep rally that drew thousands of conservative activists and elected officials to swing-state Wisconsin as voters weigh an election that currently features two deeply unpopular candidates. But with less than four months to go in the contest, major changes in the race are possible, if not likely.

Trump’s appearance comes as 81-year-old Democratic President Joe Biden clings to his party’s nomination in the face of unrelenting pressure from key congressional allies, donors and even former President Barack Obama, who fear he may be unable to win reelection after his disastrous debate.

Long pressed by allies to campaign more vigorously, Biden is instead in isolation at his beach home in Delaware after having been diagnosed with COVID-19.

While the often bombastic Trump was seeking to project a more gentle tone on Thursday night, the speaking program of the convention’s final day was also designed to project strength in an implicit rebuke of Biden. The program was decidedly more masculine than it has been for much of the week.

The most prominent speakers included wrestling icon Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White, and former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Kid Rock was also set to perform.

Like many speakers during the convention, Carlson suggested that recent events were divinely inspired and that he wondered “if something bigger is going on.”

“I think it changed him,” Carlson said of the shooting, praising Trump for not lashing out in anger afterward.

“He did his best to bring the country together,” Carlson added. “This is the most responsible, unifying behavior from a leader I’ve ever seen.”

Former first lady Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump, the president’s elder daughter and former senior adviser, were expected to be inside the convention hall for the first time all week, but neither was scheduled to speak.

Attorney Alina Habba, who represented Trump in some of the legal cases against him, also addressed the convention.

Trump was convicted in May of 34 felony counts related to a criminal hush money scheme in New York. But his allies largely avoided his legal baggage this week, which was focused instead on Trump’s near-assassination.

Trump entered the hall about two hours before he was scheduled to speak, wearing a large white bandage on his right ear, as he has all week, to cover a wound he sustained in the Saturday shooting. Some of his supporters were sporting American flag-themed bandages on the convention floor Thursday.

Speakers and delegates, gathered in Wisconsin from every state in the nation, have repeatedly chanted “Fight, fight, fight!” in homage to Trump’s words in the moments after the shooting when he rose and pumped his fist after Secret Service agents killed the gunman.

While Republicans were set to emerge from their convention more united than in recent memory, Democrats are bitterly divided about whether Biden should continue to lead the ticket. Biden, following his disastrous debate performance against Trump last month, has resisted increasing pressure to drop out, with Democrats’ own party convention scheduled for next month in Chicago.

Hours before the balloons were scheduled to rain down on Trump and his family inside the convention hall, Biden deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks appeared nearby in Milwaukee and insisted over and over that Biden would not step aside.

“I do not want to be rude, but I don’t know how many more times I can answer that,” Fulks told reporters. “There are no plans being made to replace Biden on the ballot.”

Nearly two-thirds of Democrats nationally say Biden should step aside and let his party nominate a different candidate, according to an AP-NORC poll released Wednesday.

The convention has showcased a Republican Party reshaped by Trump since he shocked the GOP establishment and won over the party’s grassroots on his way to the party’s 2016 nomination. Rivals Trump has vanquished — including Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — put aside their past criticisms and gave him their unqualified support.

Even his vice presidential pick, Ohio Sen. JD Vance, Trump’s choice to carry his movement into the next generation, was once a fierce critic who suggested in a private message since made public that Trump could be “America’s Hitler.”

Security was a major focus in Milwaukee in the wake of Trump’s near-assassination. But after nearly four full days, there were no serious incidents inside the convention hall or the large security perimeter that surrounded it.

The Secret Service, backed by hundreds of law enforcement officers from across the nation, had a large and visible presence. And during Trump’s appearances each night, he was surrounded by a wall of protective agents wherever he went.

Meanwhile, Trump and his campaign have not released information about his injury or the treatment he received.

___

Associated Press reporters Michelle L. Price in Milwaukee and Emily Swanson in Washington contributed to this report.

___

Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.



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‘Instant action plan’: More than 100 evacuated from nursing home amid flood

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As floodwaters poured into a Mississauga long-term care home –submerging much of the ground floor – rescue crews worked to rapidly get residents into inflatable rafts to evacuate the property while others worked on stopping the water from rising further.

The operation that unfolded over the course of 12 hours on Tuesday following torrential rains eventually saw more than 100 residents safely moved out of the nursing home, some by raft and others on foot once the water receded.

Mississauga Fire Captain Dan Herd said the evacuation of the Tyndall Seniors Village, which saw multiple emergency services from across the Greater Toronto Area come together, was on a scale he hadn’t seen before.

“There was water inside the building, the first floor – in between probably three to four feet high on the walls – and some windows were broken, damaged,” Herd said, adding that the parking lot was inundated by water at one point.

“We set up an instant action plan, and we started to move thousands of litres of water at a time … the water rescue team was using their rescue boats to assist the removal of ambulatory patients and occupants.”

The flooding began after incredibly heavy rains on Tuesday caused the nearby Etobicoke Creek to overflow, Herd said.

Once enough floodwater had been pumped out of the home, some residents were able to walk out of the building, he said. Those who were unable to walk were carried down stairs and out of the building by first responders using lifting equipment, Herd said.

“This is my first personal experience of something to this size,” he said of the operation.

None of the residents were injured, said Tom Kukolic, acting deputy chief for Peel Region’s paramedics service.

Once first responders determined that none of the 116 residents needed emergency care, efforts then shifted to a “safe extrication and relocation” operation, Kukolic said, with residents eventually taken to two long-term care homes and two hotels.

“Once the paramedics and firefighters were able to bring the residents out of the home and move them to the triage area, we then had assistance from Peel Wheel-Trans, Toronto TTC Wheel-Trans, and Mississauga Transit,” Kukolic said.

The relocation effort was “a seamless transition” thanks to the collaboration of several emergency response teams, including York Region and Toronto paramedics, he said.

“Extricating people, it’s very difficult. It is very laborious work … however, what we do from a paramedic practice perspective, is ensure that we have enough people to safely move residents,” Kukolic said.

Tuesday’s massive downpour caused chaos across Toronto and its surrounding communities, with flooding shutting down several major routes and terminals and knocking out power to thousands.

Mississauga Fire Chief Deryn Rizzi called the response at the nursing home “a great example” of how multiple agencies across the Greater Toronto Area can work together.

“We are there to work collaboratively together, to address the incident to achieve a common goal, which in this case, it was to evacuate the residents safely,” he said.

For Kukolic, the full-day operation showed how preparation can help first responders deal with large-scale responses triggered by sudden events such as Tuesday’s flooding.

“I was proud to be a member of paramedic services and a first responder,” he said.

“It was really great to see how everybody came together to ensure that our most vulnerable were taken care of.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Alberta law society clears former cabinet minister Tyler Shandro of misconduct

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EDMONTON – The Law Society of Alberta has cleared Tyler Shandro of professional misconduct after he confronted a physician at the edge of his driveway four years ago over a social media post, when Shandro was the province’s health minister.

In a decision released Thursday, the law society panel found Shandro not guilty on three citations surrounding his conduct.

Regarding the citation over the driveway dispute, two of the three society panel members said Shandro’s actions that day were as a family man and did not reflect his role as a lawyer. Shandro was not practising law at the time.

“It is clear that Mr. Shandro attended at the home of (Dr. Mukarram Zaidi) as a father and husband, and not principally as the minister of health,” wrote committee members Bud Melnyk and Grant Vogeli.

On that committee member Edith Kloberdanz dissented.

In the report, she said she would find Shandro guilty for his behaviour during the confrontation, saying he didn’t need to visit the doctor’s home uninvited in an emotional state to resolve his concerns.

“The public’s trust and confidence in lawyers is based on the ability of lawyers to manage their behaviour in highly stressful situations and circumstances,” she wrote.

Kloberdanz said the impact on Zaidi and his family “was not given sufficient weight” by the majority, and that she was troubled Zaidi’s children were present for at least some of the incident.

The incident dates back to March 21, 2020. It was a turbulent time. The province had just invalidated its master working agreement with physicians, and COVID-19 was taking hold around the world.

Shandro told the committee that he and his family had been facing serious threats.

The incident began after Zaidi posted on social media a message critical of Shandro while referencing his wife’s company.

That day, Shandro, a Calgary legislature member at the time, went to the Calgary home of Zaidi, asking two boys playing basketball on the driveway to get their father.

Zaidi told the committee that Shandro was crying and “emotionally charged” during a conversation that lasted less than two minutes.

“(It) was a very intimidating experience, seeing the Crown’s representative and a lawyer attending at my house to tell me to delete a post,” Zaidi said, describing Shandro as “his ultimate boss.”

Shandro remembered the incident differently.

The social media post was personal, since it referenced his wife’s business, and the conversation came out of a concern for the safety of his wife, Shandro said, adding he was not yelling or crying.

Shandro testified that Zaidi looked “embarrassed” and asked, “What do I do? Delete the post?”

Shandro said he replied: “You have to decide that for yourself.”

Then-premier Jason Kenney defended his minister at the time, saying it’s understandable that a husband or wife will get passionate when their spouse is being attacked, threatened or defamed.

The committee also looked into Shandro’s decision around that time to phone two other doctors who had been critical of government policy, and to use his government email to respond to a member of the public who had sent his wife’s company a complaint email.

Law society lawyers argued the incidents were examples of inappropriate and intimidating behaviour by Shandro meant to muzzle public dissent.

On those two counts the panel unanimously ruled that while Shandro’s behaviour was at times inappropriate, it did not rise to the level of sanction.

Shandro lost his seat in the legislature in last year’s general election and has returned to practising law. He has been a law society member since 2005.

In January, he was appointed to the board of directors of Covenant Health, a publicly funded provincial health provider.

In an emailed statement to The Canadian Press, Shandro said he was pleased to be exonerated.

“These complaints were the culmination of years of politically fuelled personal attacks on me and my family,” he wrote.

“These complaints were also based on false allegations, and I have maintained the allegations were baseless and frivolous.

“I look forward to continuing to serve my community.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2024.



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