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Canada’s talks with Taliban undercut ban on aid work in Afghanistan, lawyers argue

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OTTAWA — The revelation that Canadian officials have been in frequent talks with the Taliban undercuts Ottawa’s argument that humanitarian groups cannot operate in Afghanistan, constitutional lawyers say.

“We think the fact Canadian diplomats have correctly and appropriately been interacting with the Taliban on humanitarian issues shows that the government’s interpretation needs to be revisited and withdrawn,” said University of Toronto professor Sujit Choudhry.

“Clearly, the Canadian government can figure out how to engage with the Taliban-led government when it chooses to do so,” Choudhry’s colleague Audrey Macklin said in an email.

“It compels one to ask why the Canadian government insists that there is a legal impediment.”

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The pair is among four senior lawyers who signed a letter in May to Justice Minister David Lametti, saying humanitarian groups cannot be prosecuted under anti-terrorism laws for working in Afghanistan.

Aid groups told members of Parliament this spring that Canadian officials warned them that buying supplies or paying a driver to deliver food in the country would incur taxes for the Taliban, which is listed as a terrorist entity.

Several other countries found workarounds in their own anti-terror laws by June, when a parliamentary committee reported on the issue.

Yet Lametti said Wednesday that Canada still hasn’t sorted out how to deal with the issue.

In May, the four lawyers noted that the Taliban is collecting taxes whether or not Canada recognizes it as the government, and the Criminal Code says taxes don’t count as contributions to a terrorist group.

Even if it did, Choudhry said, “the consequence of the government’s argument would be that any Afghan national seeking refuge in Canada would be inadmissible, because they paid taxes to this authority.”

This week, a media report revealed Canada has been in regular talks with the Taliban regime since shortly after it took over Afghanistan in August 2021.

“While the government was telling us it wouldn’t recognize the Taliban as the governing authority of Afghanistan, and therefore wouldn’t deal with it, in fact it was doing so,” Choudhry said, arguing this “blows apart” Ottawa’s logic.

“If the government is intent on maintaining this legally incorrect, we would even say, absurd interpretation of Canadian law, it needs to amend Canadian law immediately to establish a carve-out or exception for humanitarian organizations.”

Lametti said Thursday that the Taliban is indeed the government, despite Ottawa’s refusal to recognize it as such.

“The Taliban is the government, as much as we disagree with virtually all of their policies,” he said.

Lametti had no comment on why Ottawa can liaise with the Taliban while barring humanitarian groups from operating in Afghanistan.

“The aid group question is a complex one,” he said. “We do have to find a way to defend people.”

In recent weeks, Lametti, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan and the office of Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino have all said their colleagues are working on the matter.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said that means Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is at fault for letting this linger.

“I chalk it up to the fact that the government simply doesn’t care,” the Ontario MP said in an interview.

“It has just abandoned these individuals.”

Chong said the aid issue amounts to “a stain on this country’s honour” when combined with the botched airlift of interpreters who helped Canadian forces.

Afghanistan is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis right now; millions of Afghans are facing starvation and hunger this winter.”

NDP critic Heather McPherson argues it’s unacceptable that Ottawa has no plan more than a year since the Taliban took control.

“The Liberal inaction is creating avoidable risk by blocking aid to Afghans who are facing a hunger crisis and who are trying to escape from the Taliban,” she wrote. “They don’t have the luxury of time.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 6, 2022.

— With files from Mia Rabson

 

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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Families of missing women deserve search for their bodies, special interlocutor says

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A Mohawk official tasked with helping Indigenous communities investigate unmarked graves says the refusal by Winnipeg police to search for the remains of missing women whose bodies are believed to have been left in a landfill is a “breach of human dignity.”

Kimberly Murray made the comment at a gathering of Assembly of First Nations chiefs in Ottawa, where chiefs plan to discuss how to respond to the murders and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls.

Murray, a former executive director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, was appointed by the federal government to serve as a special interlocutor to help communities search for the remains of children who were forced to attend residential schools.

She told the assembly one of her office’s guiding principles is that families and communities have a right to know what happened to these children, how they died and where they are buried.

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“And I think about our women, that the Winnipeg police aren’t going to search for those remains, like that is a breach of human dignity,” she said late Tuesday.

“Those families have a right to know,” she said. “International convention says they have a right to know.”

Earlier Tuesday, Cambria and Kera Harris made an emotional plea outside the House of Commons for police in Winnipeg to begin a search for their mother, Morgan Harris, who went missing in May and whose remains are believed to be in a city landfill along with at least one other missing woman.

Police have charged 35-year-old Jeremy Skibicki with four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Harris, Marcedes Myran and Rebecca Contois, along with an unidentified woman who is known as Buffalo Woman.

Cambria Harris called it “disgusting” police won’t search for her 39-year-old mother, and said she shouldn’t have to beg for officials to act.

“We would ask every Canadian to consider how they would feel if it was their mother or daughter or sister or best friend whose body was lying at the bottom of a landfill. Would they not demand that she be found?” said Carol McBride, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, in a written statement Wednesday.

“We can’t help but wonder if the Winnipeg police would have continued to look for Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran if they had been white.”

McBride added that if police in Winnipeg don’t have the capacity to do this work, they should look to another investigative body.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said the decision not to search sends a “dark message.”

“Human beings deserve the effort, no matter how dismal or difficult the task may seem. It is unnerving that the (Winnipeg Police Service) is creating unmarked graves in these landfill sites,” Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said in a statement Wednesday.

During Question Period Tuesday, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller told members of Parliament it is “very puzzling to hear the news that this landfill will not be searched,” saying he hoped to get clear answers from the city.

“Clearly the federal government needs to play a role in an area where jurisdiction is a poisonous word and continues to kill Indigenous women and children in this country.”

The office of Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, who is set to address the chiefs’ assembly late Wednesday, confirmed it had not received any requests for help searching the landfill.

Winnipeg police chief Danny Smyth also said he hadn’t spoken to anyone in the federal government about the matter.

The force’s head of forensics spoke to the media Tuesday to provide more details about the decision not to carry out a search.

Insp. Cam MacKid said police determined it wouldn’t be feasible given how much time has passed and how much has been dumped at the site, which is regularly compacted using heavy equipment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

— With files from Brittany Hobson and Steve Lambert in Winnipeg

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How does increasing interest rates actually help curb inflation? – CBC.ca

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Once again, the Bank of Canada has raised its benchmark interest rate — this time to 4.25 per cent — reassuring us that its seemingly unending series of hikes are going to eventually help take the bite out of inflation. 

It has a ways to go. Inflation is currently 6.9 per cent and the central bank wants it back at two per cent. 

But for many Canadians, all they’ve seen is gas and food and just about everything else stay more expensive than ever, while mortgage rates soar.

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CBC News readers have asked: So how is increasing interest rates actually supposed to be helping? According to economists, making it tougher to afford things is part of the plan.

Why is the Bank of Canada increasing interest rates so much?

In 1991, the Bank of Canada and the Canadian government decided that low, stable and predictable inflation” would be the best thing for Canadians — and they agreed that a target inflation rate was two per cent

That’s around where it’s been in Canada for the past 25 years. 

But about a year ago, inflation started to rise — and rise, and rise — due to several factors, including supply chain issues that resulted from pandemic lockdowns, the war in Ukraine and climate change.


To get it down, Governor of the Bank of Canada Tiff Macklem says interest rates must go up. 

“It’s a bit counterintuitive for Canadians,” he told CBC’s Peter Armstrong last month. 

“Their rent’s going up, their groceries are more expensive, gasoline is more expensive. And now their borrowing costs are more expensive. So how does that work? Well, that does slow spending. That makes anything you buy on credit more expensive. So you you pull back and that helps get the economy balanced and that’ll relieve those price pressures.”

And that’s the whole point.

The Bank of Canada wants people to buy less stuff and slow the economy down. When the economy slows down, it says, prices will come down. 

At the same time, there is a tacit acknowledgement that it’s going to hurt. 

“Our economy will slow as the central bank continues to step in to tackle inflation,” said Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in October. 

“There will be people whose mortgage payments will rise. Business will no longer be booming in the same way it has been since we left our homes after the COVID lockdowns and went back out into the world. Our unemployment rate will no longer be at its record low.”

WATCH | How far will the Bank of Canada go when it comes to rate hikes? 

Bank of Canada governor explains how far he’s willing to go to get inflation under control

26 days ago

Duration 8:52

In a wide-ranging interview, Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem says Canadians should expect more interest rate hikes, and a mild recession is possible, as the central bank continues its fight against inflation.

How does raising interest rates slow inflation?

Macklem says the economy is still “overheated” — with demand high and supply low. And the difference between the two drives prices up.

So in the central bank’s reasoning, if it can get demand down — get Canadians to want to buy less — that pressure on supply will ease. 

“We do need to slow the economy,” he said. “We don’t want to over-slow it. We don’t want to make this more difficult than it has to be.”

But at the same time, he said, if they do it in a half-hearted way, it will just prolong the pain.

Won’t it just make it harder to pay my mortgage or utilities and buy necessities like food and gas?

For now, yes. And Sheila Block, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, points out that inflation has a really different impact depending on a person’s income level.

“The cost of food, rent, gas — all of those have paced above the overall [consumer price index] rate,” she told Power and Politics.

“And that is really going to have a tough impact on those lower-income people who spend a larger share of their income on those essentials. And also people who don’t have that kind of cushion to ride this out.”

WATCH | Should this be the last interest-rate hike?  

Could this be the final rate hike from the Bank of Canada?

18 hours ago

Duration 7:54

Sheila Block, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Jean-François Perrault, chief economist at Scotiabank, joined Power & Politics Wednesday to discuss the Bank of Canada’s seventh rate hike of the year.

Is hiking interest rates the only way to get inflation down? 

Not according to economist Jim Stanford. The director of the Centre for Future Work told CBC News that a broader mix of policies is needed. 

“I think that our tool-kit itself needs a more diverse set of tools.”

Stanford says the government needs to introduce longer-term structural policies to address what he calls “the true causes of this inflation” which he says include “supply chains, energy price shocks, and the housing crisis in most parts of Canada.”

WATCH | Jim Stanford says there are better ways to tackle inflation:

Rate hikes have had ‘zero impact’ on inflation, says economist

17 hours ago

Duration 4:29

Jim Stanford, director of the Centre for Future Work says raising interest rates is not the only way to tackle inflation in Canada.

He says raising interest rates will do nothing to help global supply chains.

“In fact, they’ll probably make things a little bit worse because they discourage investment in new capacity and infrastructure by businesses,” he said on the CBC podcast Front Burner.

“What they will do, though, is basically throw a giant bucket of ice water over the entire economy. And we’re already seeing the signs are that we’ve seen a dramatic slowdown in employment growth. We’ve seen a dramatic slowdown in GDP growth. And this is just the beginning.

He says it would be more effective to try and cool off “the least productive sort of froth in the economy,” such as the housing market. He suggests making better use of rules on mortgage insurance and stress tests “to cool off the property bubble without having to hammer the whole economy with higher interest rates.”

I’m hearing this slowing of the economy could send Canada into recession. 

Some economists are indeed suggesting that Canada could be headed for a recession in 2023. 

“I think a recession is both likely globally and most probable in Canada,” said former Bank of Canada and Bank of England governor Mark Carney in October.

The good news is, he also thinks it won’t be deep or long, citing the country’s strong labour market and low unemployment as reasons why Canada will do better than other countries.

WATCH | Everything you want to know but about a recession but were afraid to ask: 


Macklem is optimistic, too. 

“This is the biggest test we’ve ever had. But monetary policy works. It takes time to work. And we do have to go through a difficult adjustment.”

But he insists Canada will come out of it. 

“Growth will pick up. We’ll have solid employment growth and we’ll have low inflation.”

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Air Canada facing pressure to retain Sask. to Calgary route – CTV News Regina

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Saskatchewan businesses and political leaders are expressing their disappointment over the cancellation of Air Canada flights from Regina and Saskatoon to Calgary.

The service will end in mid January but efforts are underway to convince Air Canada to maintain the crucial route.

“You know it’s disappointing any time that any of our two major airports lose direct air services to other major cities,” Minister of Highways and Transportation Jeremy Cockrill said.

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Air Canada has been flying between Saskatchewan and Calgary in competition with WestJet. The NDP opposition is concerned about the potential impact of having only one carrier remaining.

“I think there are [negative] impacts, you think of the last week we’ve had Agribition and Grey Cup here. That is very concerning,” NDP leader Carla Beck said.

Economic Development Regina (EDR) has sent a letter to Air Canada asking it to reconsider.

“We know as a city we need to be as competitive as possible and that also means as connected as possible, so losing connection to another hub in Western Canada is a bit of a challenge for us and we want to work together to restore that service,” CEO Chris Lane said.

Member of Parliament Michael Kram thinks the province is being shortchanged by Air Canada.

“Well it’s certainly very frustrating especially since Air Canada received about $500 million from the federal Liberal government during the pandemic in the form of the wage subsidy, so it’s very fretting that Air Canada has chosen to take the money and run,” Kram said.

There are several new low-cost air carriers in Canada that are now establishing a route system. Air Canada’s decision to focus on Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver could give the new players an opportunity to enter the Saskatchewan market.

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