Canada's response to Iran crash a '180-degree shift' from Air India disaster - Canada News Media
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Canada’s response to Iran crash a ‘180-degree shift’ from Air India disaster

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Canada’s response to the Ukrainian air crash tragedy is very different from the way Canadians reacted to the Air India disaster 35 years ago, experts say.

News of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752’s destruction and the deaths of all 176 people on board — including 57 Canadians, a number revised downward from 63 on Friday — touched off a nationwide period of public mourning.

On Parliament Hill, provincial legislatures and municipal sites across the country, the Canadian flag was lowered to half-mast. Vigils and memorials are being planned in communities from coast to coast.

That collective outpouring of grief is quite unlike the public’s reaction to the Air India disaster 35 years ago, when Flight 182, carrying 329 people — most of them Canadian citizens or permanent residents — was brought down by a bomb attack on June 23, 1985.

Chandrima Chakraborty, a cultural studies professor at McMaster University, said the Air India crash was dismissed as a “foreign tragedy” and met with widespread indifference by the Canadian public. Despite the scale of the tragedy — 82 children were killed — the event did not resonate as deeply with Canadians as PS752’s crash in Iran seems to be now, she said.

“It was an Air India plane, (thought to be) primarily Indians, so it must be an Indian tragedy,” she said. “That hasn’t happened this time.”

Chakraborty said this week’s crash is being framed as a Canadian tragedy in the media and by the federal government, and Canadians themselves are mourning the victims as fellow citizens.

Brian Mulroney, prime minister at the time of the Air India crash, was criticized for offering condolences to the Indian government rather than to the Canadian families of victims after the disaster.

“Once the government has that kind of gut response, it pushed the bombing to the margins of Canadian public consciousness. It did not result in the outpouring of grief or public mourning that we’re seeing now,” Chakraborty said.

“Canada’s lack of acknowledgement of the Air India loss as Canadian, I think, exacerbated the family’s grief of losing family members.”

Public understanding ‘hazy’

Today, scholarly research on the Air India tragedy remains relatively scarce and public understanding of the event is “hazy” in the minds of most Canadians, she said.

The Air India disaster led to a public inquiry and lengthy criminal trials. In 2010, a quarter century after the disaster, then-prime minister Stephen Harper delivered a formal apology to the families of the victims for Canada’s failure to prevent the tragedy and for mistreating the families in the aftermath.

“Your pain is our pain. As you grieve, so we grieve. And, as the years have deepened your grief, so has the understanding of our country grown,” he said on June 23, 2010.

“Canadians who sadly did not at first accept that this outrage was made in Canada accept it now. Let me just speak directly to this perception, for it is wrong and it must be laid to rest. This was not an act of foreign violence. This atrocity was conceived in Canada, executed in Canada, by Canadian citizens, and its victims were themselves mostly citizens of Canada.”

Jack Major, a former Supreme Court justice who presided over the Air India public inquiry, said the circumstances of that disaster are vastly different from those of the PS752 crash. The recent event, he said, drew immediate global attention due to the increasing volatility of the security climate in the Middle East and what he called the “world fright” about what might happen next in the U.S-Iran conflict.

 

Former Supreme Court Justice Jack Major led the public inquiry into the 1985 Air India disaster. (CBC)

 

The news cycle and the media landscape also have changed in the decades since Air India, he said.

“It became an international story immediately because of the relationships in the Middle East, which had absolutely nothing to do with Air India,” he said. “I don’t know you can draw much of a parallel.”

Major said there’s “no doubt” the Air India victims were treated differently because they were considered Indian, or “late-come Canadians,” but he said Canada’s mishandling of the disaster had more to do with government authorities passing the buck.

‘India’s problem’

“Their first reaction was that it’s India’s problem, not ours,” he said.

Sociologist Sherene Razack, who provided expert testimony during the Air India inquiry on whether racism played a role in the government’s response to the bombing, said it was a “positive moment” to hear the federal government claim those who died in this week’s crash as Canada’s own.

“Few in the media even did the usual hyphenation and simply said Canadians died in the crash,” said Razack, now a professor at UCLA. “This was a remarkable difference from the response to Air India and I can only hope that it signals some progress on the racism front …

“Is it possible that the nation has begun to change? I can only hope so.”

Andrew Griffith, a former senior immigration official who now researches diversity and multiculturalism, said he regards Canada’s current response as an “encouraging reminder” of how Canadians have evolved in terms of how they see, accept and embrace fellow citizens who are immigrants or members of visible minorities.

“What really struck me, as these horrific stories came out, was the reference is ‘Canadian.’ It wasn’t even Iranian-Canadian. It was simply these are Canadians, this is a Canadian issue and tragedy,” he said.

“I don’t think any of that really happened in the early years following Air India.”

Griffith suggested one possible reason for the change is the fact that Canada is now far more diverse than it was at the time of Air India, when visible minorities represented a smaller, newer share of the population.

“Now it is part of the Canadian reality,” he said. “That’s a sea-change, in my view.”

 

Iran crash
A man looks for the name of a victim at a memorial for Air India Flight 182. All 329 passengers and crew members on board were killed in the 1985 bombing attack, most of them Canadian. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

 

After Air India, the Indo-Canadian community was bitterly resentful of the authorities they believed failed to take the investigation seriously.

Canadians’ reaction to the Ukrainian airline crash represents a “180-degree shift,” Griffith said.

“It means that Iranian-Canadians will feel more accepted, more welcome, more integrated, more part of society, whereas with Indo-Canadians it dragged on and on,” he said.

For the family members of Air India victims, the pain remains fresh.

Eisha Marjara, who lost her mother and sister in the bombing, said she sees a difference in the response to the two disasters.

“The response for the Air India tragedy was disappointing and heartbreaking,” she said. “We were left in the dark for a long time.

“So seeing the way the prime minister and the media [have] swiftly and transparently handled the crash and prioritized the well being of the families of the victims is very encouraging.”

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Canada's policy time bomb: Rising home prices and homelessness – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
When you watch the news or read the latest macroeconomic data, things in Canada seem good. Unemployment remains near historic lows, interest rates are under control and Canada is back on the list of the top 10 largest economies in the world. Sounds pretty good.

How is it that even with all this good news Canadians remain anxious about our economic state of affairs? Research suggests that there is a fundamental disconnect between the macroeconomic data and how people feel. Only a little more than 15 per cent of Canadians, according to the Bloomberg Nanos Canadian Confidence Index remain upbeat about the coming year and a significant number of Canadians are outright worried about a recession in 2020.

Views on real estate are a double-edged sword. Canadians who are homeowners feel better when they see housing prices in their neighbourhood rise but the other side of that sword is that for those Canadians that are not homeowners, rising prices make both homeownership more difficult to attain and affordable rentals more elusive to find.

In a new eye-popping national study on homelessness for the Ottawa Mission, a majority of Canadians reported that someone they cared about was at risk of being homeless. Only 35 per cent of respondents reported no one they cared for was at risk of being homeless (43 per cent reported a small risk, 15 per cent a medium risk, and five per cent a high risk). When you walk down the street in your neighbourhood, one in five of your neighbours have someone they care about and think that person may have a high or medium risk of being homeless.

The same study suggests that a majority of Canadians believe that the issue of homelessness will have a serious or somewhat serious impact on Canada as a country. If you live in the hot real estate market of British Columbia or you are a woman, this sentiment rises to eight in ten.

When you factor the current problem of homelessness and overlay population growth in Canada one should become even more concerned. Canada is among the fastest growing countries in the G7 and StatCan projects that Canada could have a population of 48.8 million people by 2050. The forces of population growth and lack of affordable housing will collide with inaction.

The good news is that Canadians do not lay finding a solution at the feet of one level of government. Asked who should be responsible for dealing with homelessness no clear player or level of government comes out way ahead. Twenty-three per cent cite the federal government, 18 per cent municipal and provincial governments, 14 per cent family and friends of the homeless and 16 per cent say everyone should be responsible. This speaks to the need to organize a common sense of purpose.

The unspoken truth is that Canadians are worried that someone they care about is at risk of being homeless. Everyone should take note of this policy time bomb.

Nik Nanos is the Chief Data Scientist for Nanos Research and the Official Pollster for CTV News

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B.C. woman calls for Canada to help extract daughter from quarantined Chinese city – CTV News

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VANCOUVER —
An instructor at a Metro Vancouver university says her daughter is stranded in the quarantined Chinese city of Wuhan, and she’s asking the Canadian government to join France and the United States in their efforts to evacuate their citizens from the area.

Lily Liu, who teaches at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, told CTV News Vancouver her daughter Fiona Dong left for China on Jan. 10 to visit her father and grandparents in Wuhan.

She was planning to stay through the Lunar New Year and leave China on Feb. 10, but changed her departing flight to Jan. 27 as the outbreak of a novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan began to spread, Liu said.

Then, on Wednesday, China cut off all travel into and out of Wuhan, and Dong’s airline cancelled her departing flight, leaving her stranded in the city.

“She is my only daughter,” Liu said. “I’m worried every day. Also, all my family members who are in North America, we are so worried about her.”

She said she has been speaking to Fiona daily since the city was quarantined. She said media reports her daughter has seen in China have suggested the city will be closed “at least eight weeks.”

“The longer she stays there, the more dangerous,” Liu said. “She’s healthy now, but we don’t know, you know, what will happen to her … If she can’t get out now, every day her life is being threatened.”

Liu spent much of Saturday morning on the phone, talking to relatives and trying to get assistance from the Canadian government.

Since cutting off trains, planes and other links to Wuhan, as well as public transportation within the city, China has steadily expanded the lockdown to 16 surrounding cities with a combined population of more than 50 million. That’s a greater total population than that of New York, London, Paris and Moscow combined.

On Friday, France confirmed three cases of the coronavirus within its borders, the first three cases reported in Europe. Cases have also been recorded in the United States, Japan, Australia, Malaysia and elsewhere.

French automaker PSA Group says it will evacuate its employees from Wuhan, quarantine them and then bring them to France. The Foreign Ministry said it was working on “eventual options” to evacuate French citizens from Wuhan “who want to leave.” It didn’t elaborate.

U.S media sources, including CNN, have reported that the United States is working on chartering a flight to get Americans out of the country, but the U.S. State Department had not confirmed those efforts Saturday.

Liu said she hoped Canada would make similar plans, but her calls so far have not been fruitful. She said the Canadian government’s advice to travellers so far has been to follow the instructions of the local government in China.

“I’m so frustrated, because if the government doesn’t take any action to help, for us, personally, we have no way to get out of the city,” she said.

Global Affairs Canada has warned Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel to Hubei Province, where Wuhan is located and the novel coronavirus was first discovered.

CTV News reached out to Global Affairs to ask about what plans, if any, Canada has for evacuating its citizens from affected areas of China, as well as how many Canadians are currently in the country.

In a statement, the federal agency said it is “closely monitoring the situation.”

“GAC is closely working with Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada to provide guidance to our diplomats serving abroad and their families for staying healthy and safe,” the agency said.

“Canadians in need of emergency consular assistance can contact the Embassy of Canada in Beijing at 86 (10) 5139-4000,” the statement continued. “Canadians can also call the department’s 24/7 Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at +1 613-996-8885 or email sos@international.gc.ca.”

Global Affairs Canada said it is aware of multiple Canadians who are currently in Hubei province, but it couldn’t provide a concrete number.

With files from the Associated Press and CNN 

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Canada's first 'presumptive positive' case of coronavirus found in Ontario – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Ontario’s chief medical officer has confirmed Canada’s first ‘presumptive positive’ case of coronavirus.

In a news conference Saturday, officials said the man in his 50s fell ill after travelling to Wuhan, the Chinese city at the heart of the outbreak. The patient is in stable condition at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Officials in Ontario have been in contact with Canada’s public health agency and are working in collaboration with Toronto Public Health to “prevent any spread” of the virus.

Dr. Eileen De Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, said officials are focused on finding out who the patient may have come into contact with and what types of settings they may have been exposed to.

“It is understandable that people may be concerned with today’s news of our first case and that people may worry,”” de Villa said in a press release.

“But I assure you that based on the lessons we learned from SARS now 17 years ago, and given our experiences during the flu pandemic of 2009 and more recently, with Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, we have learned, shared knowledge and built a stronger public health system that is ready to respond, as needed.”

So far, two coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the U.S. Australia and Malaysia reported their first cases of the virus Saturday, while Japan confirmed a third case. France confirmed three cases Friday, the first in Europe.

China’s National Health Commission confirmed Saturday that the death toll from the new virus had climbed to 41, with the number of people infected rising to 1,287.

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