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Canada to supply anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, ban Russian oil imports

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Canada will supply anti-tank weapons and upgraded ammunition to Ukraine to support its fight against a Russian invasion, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday, and it will ban imports of Russian crude oil.

“Canada will continue to deliver support for Ukraine’s heroic defense against the Russian military,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa. “We are announcing our intention to ban all imports of crude oil from Russia, an industry that has benefited President Putin and his oligarchs greatly.”

Canada has already sent weapons and non-lethal support to Ukraine, and has backed a number of sanctions, including supporting the removal of Russia from the SWIFT system for international bank payments.

“We are providing even more lethal aid to Ukraine, and we’ll be sending 100 Carl Gustaf anti-tank weapon systems and 2,000 rockets, which we will be working to deliver as quickly as possible,” Defence Minister Anita Anand said.

Canada imported C$289 million ($228 million) worth of Russian energy products in 2021, according to Statistics Canada.

Canada is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, but the vast majority comes from Alberta, far from eastern Canadian refineries owned by Irving Oil, Suncor Energy, Valero Energy Corp and Cresta Fund Management. Eastern refiners import oil on the spot market when needed, as well as fuels to meet demand during maintenance shutdowns, said David Schick, a vice-president with the Canadian Fuels Association.

The Russian oil ban applies only to crude for now, but the government is looking at oil derivative products next, a government source said.

In 2021, shipments included naphtha and diesel to Valero’s Quebec refinery and deliveries of diesel and gasoline to a refinery in Newfoundland & Labrador, now owned by Cresta Fund Management, said Jim Mitchell, head of Americas Oil Analysts at Refinitiv.

Cresta is repurposing the idled Newfoundland refinery to produce renewable fuel.

Irving said it does not import Russian oil, a spokeswoman said. Suncor, Valero and Cresta did not immediately respond.

Canada also played a role in restricting Russia’s central bank from being able to access its foreign reserves.

Trudeau said his government has asked the independent Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications regulator to drop Russian state-owned broadcaster RT, saying that “it is important that Canadians and people around the world be faced with accurate information.” Canadian cable operators said on Sunday they would voluntarily drop RT.

Earlier on Monday, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said the G7 group of nations would bring more sanctions against Russia.

($1 = 1.2673 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Steve Scherer and Julie Gordon in Ottawa, Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru, Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Nia Williams in Calgary, Editing by Alistair Bell and Rosalba O’Brien)

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A timeline of events since the finding of unmarked graves in Kamloops last May

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VANCOUVER — The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc announced in May last year that the remains of as many as 215 children were found using ground-penetrating radar around the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia’s Interior. Since then, many other First Nations have also searched school sites in their territories.

Here is a timeline surrounding the events:

2021

May 22-23: A specialist using ground-penetrating radar makes preliminary findings that the remains of 215 children were buried around the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

May 27: Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir issues a statement saying she has confirmed “an unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented by the Kamloops Indian Residential School.”

May 30: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces that all Canadian flags in federal buildings are to be lowered to half-mast to honour the 215 and all other Indigenous children who didn’t make it home from residential schools.

June 11: Victoria city councillors vote unanimously to cancel Canada Day celebrations to allow for “thoughtful reflections” about what it means to be Canadian after the discoveries in Kamloops.

June 23: The Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan says as many as 751 unmarked graves have been discovered near the former Marieval Indian Residential School.

June 30: The Lower Kootenay Band in B.C. says a search using ground-penetrating radar has found 182 sets of human remains in unmarked graves outside St. Eugene’s Mission School, a former residential school operated by the Catholic Church.

June 30: Survivors of a former residential school in the community of Lower Post in northern B.C. gather to mark the demolition of the facility.

July 13: The Penelakut Tribe announces in an online newsletter that more than 160 unmarked and undocumented graves have been found at the former Kuper Island Industrial School site near Chemainus, B.C.

July 15: Prof. Sarah Beaulieu of the University of the Fraser Valley says the discovery of a child’s rib bone and a tooth had triggered the use of ground-penetrating radar to search the apple orchard at the former Kamloops residential school site in May.

July 20: The B.C. government says it will provide immediate funding to 21 First Nation communities to help search for human remains at former residential schools or hospitals.

July 22: Vancouver police say there has been a “dramatic increase” in vandalism or mischief incidents against properties owned by churches, coinciding with reports of remains being found near Indigenous residential schools.

Sept. 30: Canada marks its first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Trudeau spent part of the day flying to Tofino, B.C., to join his family.

Oct. 5: The Federal Court approves the settlement of a class-action lawsuit for those who attended residential schools.

Oct. 7: The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation says Trudeau “missed an opportunity” to show his commitment to the survivors of residential schools by not replying to its invitations to take part in an event marking the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Oct. 18: Trudeau is rebuked by Casimir during his visit to the nation. Trudeau apologizes to those gathered, saying he regrets his decision not to spend the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with them.

Nov. 7: The Canadian flag is returned to full mast ahead of Remembrance Day.

Nov. 9: Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario begins a search for unmarked grave sites on the grounds of the former Mohawk Institute.

Dec. 7: A trip to the Vatican by Indigenous leaders and residential school survivors to meet Pope Francis is cancelled because of a new wave of COVID-19.

2022

Jan. 20: Canada’s Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller announces an agreement with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to hand over more records on residential schools that Ottawa had been holding back.

March 23: Indigenous organizations in Manitoba, officials from the City of Winnipeg and the provincial and federal governments form a council to support searches for burial sites of children who attended residential schools.

March 30: Trudeau visits Williams Lake First Nation in B.C.’s Cariboo region, saying “all of Canada grieves” with the community after 93 “reflections” were found in January that could indicate the burial sites of children around the former St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School.

April 1: Pope Francis issues an apology for the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the harm caused to generations of Indigenous people by residential schools. “I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry,” he says.

May 16: Miller says the searches on the grounds of former residential schools to date are just the beginning, with 140 former residential school sites in Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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Unmarked graves finding triggered Canada’s year of reckoning over residential schools

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KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Percy Casper, 73, spent 10 years as a child at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

He has spent the past year grieving.

A member of the Bonaparte Indian Band near Cache Creek, B.C., Casper said he was deeply distraught when he heard the news last May, when Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation chief, announced that a war graves expert using ground-penetrating radar had located 215 suspected unmarked graves at the site of the former school.

So, Casper grieved, for lost classmates, and for himself. His emotions twisted into a painful knot when Indigenous leaders later visited the Vatican to meet the Pope, who represents the church that he says abused him.

But his spirits have been lifted by strangers, he said.

“Families have walked up to me and literally put their hands out and said they were ashamed of who they were on account of what we went through,” he said.

Casper’s emotional journey echoes a year of reckoning for Canada as it confronts the legacy of its residential school system for Indigenous children. The findings in an old apple orchard would reverberate from British Columbia’s Interior to Ottawa, the Vatican and beyond.

The discovery represented what Casimir called at the time, an “unthinkable loss.” The existence of unmarked graves had been a “knowing” among school survivors and elders, but the high-tech survey represented confirmation for Canada, she said.

The detection of hundreds more suspected graves connected to residential schools across the country would follow.

“When I look back and reflect with having to share with the world the findings of the unmarked graves, it was something that was devastating personally as a mother and a grandmother and as a leader,” Casimir said Wednesday at a news conference.

She described the past year as “very traumatic.”

A daylong cultural ceremony is set for Monday at the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Pow Wow Arbor to mark the anniversary of findings, which Casimir said “confirmed the children that didn’t come home.”

Prof. Geoff Bird, an anthropologist at the school of communication and culture at Victoria’s Royal Roads University, said the unmarked graves represent a profound moment in the nation’s history.

“The discovery of children buried in residential schools across the country was perhaps, I would say, the most traumatic event in recent Canadian history in terms of defining who we are,” Bird said.

“When you actually have a discovery such as this, it can’t do anything but impact the nation and its perception of itself,” he said.

Bird, an expert on cultural memory and war heritage, said Canada could not ignore the harsh realities of the residential school experience, even as it grappled with other issues, like climate change or the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The whole field of cultural memory is what we remember, what we forget, what we silence,” he said. “We can’t be blind to our own history.”

There have been previous attempts to face that history. A 4,000-page report in 2015 by the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission detailed harsh mistreatment at residential schools, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children, and at least 4,100 deaths at the institutions.

The report cited records of at least 51 children dying at the Kamloops school between 1914 and 1963. Officials in 1918 believed children at the school were not being adequately fed, leading to malnutrition, the report noted.

But the findings last May would transfix the national gaze in a way that a written report, no matter how grim, could not.

The Kamloops residential school operated between 1890 and 1969, when the federal government took over operations from the Catholic Church and operated it as a day school until it closed in 1978.

“When you look at other nations around the world that have gone through their efforts toward truth and reconciliation, these are difficult things to come to terms within a nation’s past,” Bird said.

The moment of reckoning has extended abroad. China, for example, has said Canada should not criticize other nations on human rights while unmarked graves of missing children were being discovered on its own soil.

“I think those kinds of situations with, say, China are just examples to dilute the focus on their lack of human rights internally,” Bird said.

On the other hand, a visit to Canada this summer by Pope Francis “will be a powerful and symbolic act,” said Bird. Indigenous leaders visited Francis at the Vatican last month, prompting him to issue an apology for the harm caused by the church at residential schools.

“For the deplorable conduct of these members of the Catholic Church, I ask for God’s forgiveness, and I want to say to you with all my heart, I am very sorry,” Francis said.

Kamloops school survivor Garry Gottfriedson, 69, an internationally known poet, said people from outside Canada often ask him about the Kamloops burial site.

At a recent international book fair in Bogota, Colombia, where he was a keynote speaker, Gottfriedson said many asked about Indigenous issues in Canada.

“The questions were related to this very topic and why isn’t Canada doing anything about it,” he said. “The people from abroad know what’s going on here.”

Gottfriedson, who provides counsel and curriculum advice to Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops on Secwepemc Nation protocols and cultural practices, said any act of recognition would help because Canada had so far to go in coming to terms with residential school history.

Over the past year, many Canadians sent messages of support and understanding, said Gottfriedson, adding much of the correspondence came from immigrants to Canada.

“The Sikh people in Surrey, I got invited to a feast,” he said. “I am a poet. They read my work. It was beautiful. The message was: ‘You are not alone.’”

Any acts of recognition and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, big or small, were steps toward national healing, said Bird.

“It’s about addressing, in an open and transparent way, what’s happened over the decades and not silencing it and not forgetting it,” said Bird. “It’s about symbolic action right now. Acts of remembrance, acts of reconciliation that are very visible and very powerful.”

Prof. Nicole Schabus, an Indigenous and environmental law expert at Thompson Rivers University, said the discovery of unmarked graves had resulted in many school survivors pursuing a deeper sense of healing.

The graves also left the chilling question of genocide on Canadian soil.

“You need international oversight,” she said. “Canada can’t investigate itself. The forceful removal of children from their families with that intention of taking their culture away is genocide.”

The outpouring of shock and emotion by many Canadians could signal a new understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, said Bird, calling it a breakthrough moment.

“Little shoes on the steps of the legislature are powerful images,” said Bird, referring to how protesters used children’s shoes to represent lives lost at residential schools. “When we think of children, we can all understand the terror and the trauma of that. It cuts across every culture.”

Casper said he was grateful for the acknowledgment of his experiences, and the shared grief of strangers.

“They showed some remorse and I really appreciate it,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2022.

 

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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‘It’s the only option’: Some Finnish people in Canada in favour of NATO bid

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Some Finnish people living in Canada say they support Finland’s recent historic decision to seek NATO membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Finnish parliament resoundingly rubber-stamped the government’s decision to seek membership on Tuesday. The previously non-aligned Finland was joined by Sweden on Wednesday in submitting their official applications to the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.

Only three months ago, Borje Vahamaki would have opposed the move, but he says his opinion shifted after watching Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Vahamaki, who is a professor emeritus in Finnish studies at the University of Toronto, says there has been a major change in public opinion among Finns in Canada and Finland following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 with record levels of support for the Nordic country being part of the defensive alliance.

“Virtually everybody I have talked to says we just have to do this. We have to protect ourselves because if we don’t have the entire NATO backing us up then we are extremely vulnerable because of that long border with Russia.”

Finland shares a 1,300-kilometre border with Russia. Vahamaki says Finland has a war history with Russia but in recent decades has maintained an amicable relationship with the country.

“The last 30 years have been very friendly and very co-operative in business and in all kinds of areas but with (Vladimir) Putin’s war it has changed the entire picture,” he said.

“We have come to that realization.”

Joining NATO would be a huge shift for Finland and Sweden. Finland adopted neutrality after being defeated by the Soviet Union in the Second World War, while Sweden has stayed out of military alliances for more than 200 years.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Prime Minister Sanna Marin of Finland on Wednesday to reiterate Canada’s support for the country’s accession to the alliance.

Trudeau assured his counterpart that Canada would support Finland in response to threats to its security between the time of its application for membership and its formal accession to NATO, a statement from his office said.

Earlier in the day, Trudeau also pledged his support to Sweden in seeking NATO membership, saying the two Nordic countries have the sovereign right to choose their own security arrangements.

The move has been welcomed by several other NATO countries, including the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. However, Turkey has objected to the two Nordic countries joining, alleging that they support Kurdish militants.

Pasi Pinta says he wasn’t surprised to hear Finland pushed ahead with its bid to join NATO.

Pinta is the honorary consul of Finland and lives in Thunder Bay.

He says discussions around Finland joining the alliance started after Russia increased rhetoric late last year demanding NATO refuse to accept new members.

“That was the first thing that changed the game for Finland because that limits Finnish sovereignty and Finnish free choice on choosing its own defence partners and its own defence policy.”

Finland is right in seeking to be part of a defensive alliance, says Pinta.

Thunder Bay is home to the largest Finnish community outside of Finland. Pinta has yet to hear of events or demonstrations for or against Finland’s move but suspects much of the local community aligns itself with the decision.

Pinta says for a long time Russian repercussions have overshadowed Finland’s decision-making process.

“That kind of thinking clouded and influenced a lot of Finns. Even up to the end of last year.”

Russia has repeatedly warned its Nordic neighbours that their joining the alliance would have negative consequences.

Salla Carson is bracing herself for an “information war” that may take place on Russia’s part including the spread of disinformation to influence Finnish people, the public and media.

Carson moved from Finland to Calgary in 2014. She was happy to hear what she calls good news that Finland and Sweden presented a united front this week.

“I think it’s the only option,” she said by phone.

“When I realized (an invasion) could happen in Finland … the next obvious thought is why isn’t Finland part of NATO.”

Carson acknowledged there are varied opinions among Finnish people. She says most Finns in North America are in favour of the membership bid but they also, “don’t have the individual risk associated with this.”

— With files from AP

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2022.

 

Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

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