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Canada taps female generals amid military misconduct cases

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Canada is putting women generals into some of its most senior military posts, including one to run logistics for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, after a series of misconduct allegations were levied against top male officers.

Critics have complained the armed forces were not doing enough to address systemic problems with sexual harassment, identified in a landmark 2015 report.

Admiral Art McDonald lasted barely six weeks in the job of chief of the defense staff, Canada‘s top soldier, before stepping down in February for what were later revealed to be sexual misconduct allegations. He has not commented on the case.

His predecessor, General Jonathan Vance, is being probed over complaints about inappropriate behavior with two female subordinates. Vance has acknowledged one relationship but denied impropriety.

Late on Friday, the defense ministry announced that Major-General Dany Fortin, who was running the vaccine rollout, had stepped aside pending a probe. Fortin’s lawyer did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters but told the Globe and Mail his client denied the allegations, which have not been revealed.

“This is … not an ideal situation to be in, particularly in this moment of crisis,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters. The furor could damage Trudeau, an avowed feminist, ahead of an election aides say he is likely to call this year. The opposition Conservative Party accuses Ottawa of acting too slowly and covering up allegations.

On Monday, Fortin was replaced by Brigadier-General Krista Brodie, who health officials said had already played a pivotal role in the vaccine rollout.

In March, General Mike Rouleau, vice-chief of the defense staff, was replaced by Lieutenant-General Frances Allen, the first woman to hold the job. On Friday, the armed forces announced promotions for three female generals.

“Part of this is trying to demonstrate that the Canadian armed forces is a place where women can fully serve,” said David Perry, defense analyst at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute think tank, “that no matter what your background is, you do have a chance to succeed.”

The office of Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan did not respond to a request for comment.

Defense ministry data show that as of May 7, women made up just 10% of the top military and naval ranks.

Last month, Ottawa put newly promoted Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan in charge of a team addressing systemic misconduct inside the armed forces. It also asked former supreme court justice Louise Arbour to lead a probe into military harassment and sexual misconduct.

This came too late for a senior female officer who quit in March, sickened by the allegations.

“I am not encouraged that we are ‘investigating our top officers’. I am disgusted that it has taken us so long to do so,” Lieutenant-Colonel Eleanor Taylor wrote in a resignation letter cited by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Former officer Leah West welcomed the Arbour probe but said the 2015 report had already revealed the size of the problem. West said she was assaulted in 2008 by a senior officer but found no support from her immediate superior and ended up staying silent.

“Despite years of clear evidence that sexual misconduct is rampant in our military’s culture, nothing has changed,” she wrote in the Globe and Mail this month.

Perry said the system had clearly failed, noting some allegations stretched back decades.

“What we’ve seen over these past months is that there is a … culture of unacceptable actions in the military that have gone on for far too long,” Trudeau said on Tuesday.

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Initial editing by Steve Scherer and David Gregorio)

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Brazil’s Vale says output begins at Reid Brook nickel deposit in Canada

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Vale’s Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in Northern Labrador has started the production at its Reid Brook deposit, the Brazilian miner said in a securities filing on Tuesday.

Vale said the Canadian Reid Brook and Eastern Deeps mines are likely to produce 40,000 tonnes of nickel by 2025.

 

(Reporting by Carolina Mandl; editing by Jason Neely)

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EU, U.S. agree to talk on carbon border tariff

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The United States and European Union agreed on Tuesday to hold talks on the bloc’s planned carbon border tariff, possibly at the World Trade Organisation, EU chief executive Ursula von der Leyen said.

U.S. President Joe Biden met European Commission President von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday for a summit tackling issues from trade to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The leaders also discussed climate change policy, including the EU’s plan to impose carbon emissions costs on imports of goods, including steel and cement, which the Commission will propose next month.

“I explained the logic of our carbon border adjustment mechanism,” von der Leyen told a news conference after the summit.

“We discussed that we will exchange on it. And that WTO might facilitate this,” she said.

Brussels and Washington are keen to revitalise transatlantic cooperation on climate change, after four fractious years under former president Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, they outlined plans for a transatlantic alliance to develop green technologies and said they will coordinate diplomatic efforts to convince other big emitters to cut CO2 faster.

But the EU border levy could still cause friction. A draft of the proposal said it would apply to some U.S. goods sold into the EU, including steel, aluminium and fertilisers.

Brussels says the policy is needed to put EU firms on an equal footing with competitors in countries with weaker climate policies, and that countries with sufficiently ambitious emissions-cutting policies could be exempted from the fee.

The United States and EU are the world’s second- and third- biggest emitters of CO2, respectively, after China.

A draft of the EU-U.S. summit statement, seen by Reuters, repeated commitments the leaders made at the G7 summit at the weekend to “scale up efforts” to meet an overdue spending pledge of $100 billion a year by rich countries to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming.

It did not include firm promises of cash. Canada and Germany both pledged billions in new climate finance on Sunday, and campaigners had called on Brussels and Washington to do the same.

The draft statement also stopped short of setting a date for the United States and EU to stop burning coal, the most polluting fossil fuel and the single biggest of greenhouse gas emissions.

Brussels and Washington said they will largely eliminate their CO2 emissions from electricity production by the 2030s.

 

(Reporting by Kate Abnett, additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Andrew Heavens and Barbara Lewis)

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U.S. fine Air Canada $25.5 milliom over delayed refunds

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The U.S. Transportation Department said on Tuesday it was seeking a $25.5 million fine from Air Canada over the carrier’s failure to provide timely refunds requested by thousands of customers for flights to or from the United States.

The department said it filed a formal complaint with a U.S. administrative law judge over flights Air Canada canceled or significantly changed. The penalty is “intended to deter Air Canada and other carriers from committing similar violations in the future,” the department said, adding Air Canada continued its no-refund policy in violation of U.S. law for more than a year.

Air Canada said it believes the U.S. government’s position “has no merit.” It said it “will vigorously challenge the proceedings.”

Air Canada obtained a financial aid package this spring that gave the carrier access to up to C$5.9 billion ($4.84 billion) in funds through a loan program.

The carrier said it has been refunding nonrefundable tickets as part of the Canadian government’s financial package. Since April 13 eligible customers have been able to obtain refunds for previously issued nonrefundable tickets, it said.

The Transportation Department disclosed it is also “actively investigating the refund practices of other U.S. and foreign carriers flying to and from the United States” and said it will take “enforcement action” as appropriate.

The administration said the Air Canada penalty sought was over “extreme delays in providing the required refunds.”

Refund requests spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March 2020, the Transportation Department has received over 6,000 complaints against Air Canada from consumers who said they were denied refunds for flights canceled or significantly changed. The department said the airline committed a minimum of 5,110 violations and passengers waited anywhere from five to 13 months to receive refunds.

Last month, a trade group told U.S. lawmakers that 11 U.S. airlines issued $12.84 billion in cash refunds to customers in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic upended the travel industry.

In May, Democratic Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal called on carriers to issue cash refunds whether flights were canceled by the airline or traveler.

($1 = 1.2195 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Shepardson in WashingtonAdditional reporting by Allison Lampert in MontrealEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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