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Canada sanctions Iranian police force, university as regime cracks down on protests

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OTTAWA — Canada has added Iran’s national police force and an Iranian international university to its sanctions list, even as Parliament calls for Tehran to be expelled from the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced the sanctions against Iran’s Law Enforcement Forces and Al-Mustafa International University on Monday in response to the Iranian government’s continued crackdown on weeks of protests.

The nationwide protests first erupted over the Sept. 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the country’s morality police. She was detained for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women.

Although the protests first focused on Iran’s mandatory head scarf, or hijab, they have since transformed into one of the greatest challenges to the ruling clerics since the chaotic years following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Joly accused the Law Enforcement Forces of participating in the suppression and detention of Iranian protesters.

Security forces have dispersed gatherings with live ammunition and tear gas over weeks of sustained protests. At least 270 people have been killed and 14,000 arrested, according to the group Human Rights Activists in Iran.

Joly also accused the Iranian government of using Al-Mustafa University, which has branches in several countries, to spread its ideology abroad and recruit foreign fighters.

Canada is also adding four individuals, including the police commander of Tehran, to its sanctions list, which now includes 93 people and 179 entities.

Those listed will have their Canadian-held assets frozen as Ottawa tries to enact a new law to seize those assets and disperse them to victims and human rights defenders.

“The Iranian people, including women and youths, are risking their lives because they have endured for far too long a regime that has repressed and violated their humanity,” Joly said.

“They are demanding that their human rights be respected, and it is our duty to echo and amplify their voices. Canada will continue to support the Iranian people as they courageously demand a better future.”

Hours after the sanctions were revealed, members of Parliament gave unanimous consent to two motions brought forward in the House of Commons in English and French backing Iran’s removal from the UN status of women commission.

The motion echoed a similar call published in an open letter in Sunday’s New York Times that was signed by prominent female politicians from a number of Western countries, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Joly.

Former prime minister Kim Campbell and human rights activist and author Nazanin Afshin-Jam are the other Canadians on a list of “key signatures” to the letter.

The letter says Iran should have been disqualified for its long-standing, systemic oppression of women, as well as its recent brutality towards human-rights protesters.

Iran began a four-year term on the UN status of women commission earlier this year. Canada is not currently a member.

The sanctions and House of Commons’ motions came as Iranian authorities announced they will hold public trials for 1,000 people over the protests that have convulsed the country.

The mass indictments mark the government’s first major legal action aimed at quashing dissent since unrest erupted more than six weeks ago.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted judicial officials as saying that a thousand people who had a central role in the protests would be brought to trial in Tehran alone over their “subversive actions,” including assaulting security guards, setting fire to public property and other accusations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 31, 2022.

— With files from The Associated Press.

 

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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Manitoba First Nation says members lack health care due to nursing shortage

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WINNIPEG – Members of a northern First Nation looking to get prescriptions refilled, blood work done or access to other basic health-care services are often being turned away because of a nursing shortage in the community.

The nursing station in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation has been open only for medical emergencies for nearly a year because the community has just two nurses to treat its 3,500 citizens.

“We cannot continue with the current state of affairs,” Chief Angela Levasseur said at a press conference on Monday.

“Our people have a right to health care. They have the right to be able to attend the nursing station and be seen by a nurse.

“It is inhumane and an affront to our dignity.”

Levasseur has heard reports of nurses working around the clock while running on two to three hours of sleep. On occasion, a third nurse has been brought in to help alleviate some of the pressure.

The reduction of services has resulted in patients, including infants, elders and people with chronic health conditions, being denied critical medical care, said Levasseur. Many of these patients are being directed to go to the hospital in Thompson, about 90 kilometres away.

Residents without a vehicle are forced to rely on an overburdened medical transportation service or go without help.

“The failure to address this crisis is literally a threat to many people’s lives,” said Levasseur.

The community has sent proposals to the federal government to advocate for an increase in funding to hire more nurses and address the wage gap between what it offers nurses and what private agencies provide.

“It’s really disheartening,” said Lynda Wright, the community’s health director. “It’s really difficult to try and help people when you lack the resources and the funding … it’s difficult seeing your people suffer when the access to care is not there.”

Levasseur is renewing calls to provide funding for an additional three nurses for the Nation.

The office of Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Government data shows that nursing stations in remote First Nations communities in Manitoba were facing a 67 per cent operational vacancy in the last fiscal year.

A document tabled in the House of Commons earlier this year says that over the 2023-24 fiscal year, all Indigenous Services Canada-operated nursing stations in Manitoba have run at a reduced capacity due to staffing shortages.

Pimicikamak Cree Nation has felt the staffing crunch, resulting in the community declaring a state of emergency earlier this year.

The community is supposed to have 13 or 14 nurses available, but most days there are about half of that for the roughly 8,000 who live on-reserve.

“We continue to cry out for help to make sure we can provide health services and medical services for our people,” said Chief David Monias, who was on hand for Monday’s press conference.

Levasseur said the community’s situation has left everyone at their “breaking point.”

“What we’re most worried about with this crisis situation being ignored is that the two or three nurses that we have on a day-to-day basis are going to walk out.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Cyprus displays jewelry, early Christian icons and Bronze Age antiquities once looted from island

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NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus on Monday put on display artifacts — some of them thousands of years old — that were returned after a Turkish art dealer looted them from the ethnically divided island nation decades ago.

Aydin Dikmen took the artifacts from the country’s breakaway north in the years after Cyprus’ split in 1974, when Turkey invaded following a coup mounted by supporters of union with Greece. The antiquities were kept in Germany after authorities there seized them in 1997, and protracted legal battles secured their repatriation in three batches, the last one this year.

Addressing the unveiling ceremony at Cyprus’ archaeological museum, President Nikos Christodoulides said the destruction of a country’s cultural heritage as evidenced in recent conflicts becomes a “deliberate campaign of cultural and religious cleansing that aims to eliminate identity.”

Among the 60 most recently returned artifacts put on display include jewelry from the Chalcolithic Period between 3500-1500 B.C. and Bronze Age bird-shaped idols.

Antiquities that Dikmen also looted but were returned years ago include 1,500-year-old mosaics of Saints Luke, Mark, Matthew and James. They are among the few examples of early Christian works to survive the Iconoclastic period in the 8th and 9th centuries when most such works were destroyed.

Cyprus’ authorities and the country’s Orthodox Church for decades have been hunting for the island’s looted antiquities and centuries-old relics from as many as 500 churches in open auctions and on the black market.

The museum’s antiquities curator, Eftychia Zachariou, told the ceremony that Cyprus in recent years has benefited from a shift in thinking among authorities in many countries who now opt to repatriate antiquities of dubious provenance.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Smoke from massive wildfires in Alberta comes with silver lining

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Massive wildfires in Alberta are coughing up clouds of smoke that are obscuring the sky and are hazardous to health.

However, there’s so much smoke that wildfires are being shaded from the sun and daytime temperature highs in some areas are cooler than forecast, leading to reduced fire activity.

“When smoke clears, we can expect to see increased and significant fire behaviour due to anticipated continuing hot, dry weather,” Alberta Wildfire said in an update Monday.

About 7,500 people in Alberta were under evacuation orders.

The three communities that make up Little Red River Cree Nation — John D’Or Prairie, Fox Lake and Garden River — remain under evacuation order as the out-of-control Semo Wildfire Complex burns nearby. It’s estimated to be more than 960 square kilometres in size.

“The next 48 hours is pretty critical,” Chief Conroy Sewepagaham said in a video update on Facebook.

“The dozer groups are going to be working 24-7. They’re going to do whatever they can to extend Highway 58 towards High Level, and extending the northern portion of the highway going into Garden River.”

Alberta Wildfire said the nearby blaze had reached Highway 58, the only road out of Garden River, and was 13 kilometres northwest of the community itself as of Monday afternoon.

Residents of the northern communities of Chipewyan Lake and Janvier 194 have also been ordered to leave.

More than 160 wildfires are burning across Alberta.

Environment Canada said cooler temperatures were expected to start moving into northwestern parts of the province starting Monday night, though hot conditions may persist through much of the week farther south.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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