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Canada to send more firefighters to help battle Australian wildfires – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canada will send 18 more firefighters to Australia to help battle wildfires currently ravaging the country.

“They’re working in operations, aviation, planning, logistics and command,” Kim Connors, executive director of Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) in Winnipeg, told CTV News Channel on Saturday. “Canada’s expertise in command and control of wildland fires is second to none around the world.”

There are currently 52 Canadian firefighters in New South Wales, expected to stay into the new year. The first round went on Dec. 3 while the second deployment travelled to Australia on Dec. 19.

The additional 18 will go to Queensland on Dec. 30.

This is the first time that Canadian firefighters have helped contain fires in Australia, according to Connors.

“It’s quite common for the U.S. and Canada to share these resources, but this is the first time we’ve gone beyond the U.S.,” he said.

Australian firefighters have travelled to Canada four times since 2015 to help battle fires in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Crews travelled to Australia from Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Yukon, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, according to CIFFC.

One person has died in the wildfire in South Australia, the Associated Press reported on Saturday. Two firefighters, identified as Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, died Thursday battling fires southwest of Sydney.

Around 2,000 firefighters are battling 100 wildfires in New South Wales, which is in a seven-day state of emergency.

“Given we have a landscape with so much active fire burning, you have a recipe for very serious concern and a very dangerous day,” Shane Fitzsimmons, New South Wales Rural Fire Services Commissioner, told reporters.

On Dec. 18, Australia recorded its hottest day on record with an average temperature of 40.9 degrees Celsius.

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Muslim family truck attack given farewell with coffins draped in Canadian flags

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Several hundred mourners joined a public funeral service on Saturday to bid farewell to a Canadian Muslim family run over and killed by a man in a pick-up truck last Sunday in an attack the police said was driven by hate.

The hour-long ceremony started after the four coffins draped in Canadian flags rolled into the compound of the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, and ended with prayers and condolences offered by religious and community leaders.

The four victims, spanning three generations, were killed when Nathaniel Veltman, 20, ran into them while they were out for an evening walk near their home in London, Ontario. A fifth family member, a 9-year-old boy, is recovering from his injuries in the hospital.

Police have said the attack was premeditated and allege the family was targeted because of their Islamic faith.

The funeral procession later proceeded for a private burial.

“And the very fact their coffins are draped in the beautiful Canadian flag is an apt testimony of the fact that the entire Canadian nation stands with them,” Raza Bashir Tarar High Commissioner for Pakistan to Canada told the gathering.

The family moved to Canada from Pakistan some 14 years ago.

The attack sparked outrage across Canada, with politicians from all sides condemning the crime, spurring growing calls to take action to curb hate crime and Islamophobia. The city of London, 200 km (120 miles) southwest of Toronto, has seen an outpouring of support in the aftermath of the attack.

That has given some hope to the grieving community to look beyond the tragedy.

“Irrespective of colour and creed, the expressions of raw emotion, the prayers, the quiet tears, the messages of comfort from people we know and from people that are complete strangers, it has been the first step towards finding a way to heal,” Ali Islam, maternal uncle of Madiha Salman, one of the victims, told the gathering.

Veltman, who returns to court on Monday, faces four charges of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the killings a “terrorist attack” and vowed to clamp down on far-right groups and online hate.

“I think we’re emotionally exhausted,” Imam Aarij Anwer told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp before the ceremony. “We’re looking forward to having some closure on Saturday.”

 

(Reporting by Carlos Osorio in London; Writing by Denny Thomas; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Aurora Ellis)

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G7 demand action from Russia on cybercrimes and chemical weapon use

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The Group of Seven (G7) wealthy nations on Sunday demanded Russia take action against those conducting cyber attacks and using ransomware from within its borders.

The rebuke came in a communique issued after a three-day summit of G7 leaders in Britain that also called on Moscow to “stop its destabilising behaviour and malign activities” and conduct an investigation into the use of chemical weapons on Russian soil.

The communique said Russia must “hold to account those within its borders who conduct ransomware attacks, abuse virtual currency to launder ransoms, and other cybercrimes”.

The issue is in the spotlight after a cyber attack on Colonial Pipeline, the largest fuel pipeline in the United States, and another that disrupted the North American and Australian operations of meatpacker JBS USA.

Britain has previously said Russia is a leading proponent of cyber attacks.

The G7 statement called for wider action against ransomware attacks, describing the practice of encrypting victims’ data and demanding payment for its return as an “escalating shared threat”.

“We call on all states to urgently identify and disrupt ransomware criminal networks operating from within their borders, and hold those networks accountable for their actions,” it said.

The call for an investigation into chemical weapon use comes after Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was treated in Germany for what German doctors said was poisoning with a military-grade nerve agent. He accused Putin of ordering the poisoning, which the Kremlin denies.

“We call on Russia to urgently investigate and credibly explain the use of a chemical weapon on its soil,” the G7 document said.

 

(Reporting by William James; editing by Michael Holden)

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G7 chides China on rights, demands COVID origins investigation

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Group of Seven leaders on Sunday scolded China over human rights in its Xinjiang region, called for Hong Kong to keep a high degree of autonomy and demanded a full and thorough investigation of the origins of the coronavirus in China.

After discussing how to come up with a unified position on China, leaders issued a highly critical final communique that delved into what are for China some of the most sensitive issues, including also Taiwan.

The re-emergence of China as a leading global power is considered to be one of the most significant geopolitical events of recent times, alongside the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union that ended the Cold War.

China’s rise has also unnerved the United States: President Joe Biden casts China as the main strategic competitor and has vowed to confront China’s “economic abuses” and push back against human rights violations.

“We will promote our values, including by calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” the G7 said.

The G7 also called for a transparent, expert-led Phase 2 COVID-19 Origins study including in China, to be convened by the World Health Organization (WHO). Reuters earlier reported the finalised version of the draft communique.

“We haven’t had access to the laboratories,” Biden told reporters.

Biden said it was not yet certain whether or not “a bat interfacing with animals and the environment… caused this COVID-19, or whether it was an experiment gone awry in a laboratory”.

Before the G7 criticism emerged, China pointedly cautioned G7 leaders that the days when “small” groups of countries decided the fate of the world were long gone.

The G7 also underscored “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues”.

“We remain seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas and strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo and increase tensions,” they said.

FORCED LABOUR

Biden said democracies were in a global contest with “autocratic governments”, and that the G7 had to deliver viable alternatives.

“We’re in a contest, not with China per se, … with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world, as to whether or not democracies can compete with them in a rapidly changing 21st century,” Biden told reporters.

“As I’ve told (Chinese President) Xi Jinping myself, I’m not looking for conflict. Where we cooperate, we’ll cooperate; where we disagree I’m going to state this frankly, and we are going to respond to actions that are inconsistent.”

The G7 – comprising the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada – said it was concerned about forced labour in global supply chains including in the agricultural, solar, and garment sectors.

Beijing has repeatedly hit back against what it perceives as attempts by Western powers to contain China. It says many major powers are still gripped by an outdated imperial mindset after years of humiliating China.

U.N. experts and rights groups estimate that more than a million people, mainly Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, have been detained in recent years in a vast system of camps in Xinjiang in northwest China.

China denies all accusations of forced labour or abuse. It initially denied the camps existed, but has since said they are vocational centres and are designed to combat extremism. In late 2019, China said all people in the camps had “graduated”.

(Additional reporting by Kate Holton, Elizabeth Piper, William James, Michel Rose and Michael Holden; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Andrew Heavens and Gareth Jones)

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