PEREMOHA, Ukraine — The small yellow stakes in the middle of a vast field outside Kyiv appear harmless, but they are not. Three explosions have rocked this field, including a fatal one that destroyed a military vehicle.
Each stake marks a spot where demining teams have found an anti-tank mine. Russian forces reached the village of Peremoha, about an hour’s drive east of downtown Kyiv, before retreating on March 30, leaving behind fields of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines.
The explosive devices served a defensive purpose, but they also prevent the use and occupation of mined land. It is estimated there are millions of buried mines in Ukraine.
The HALO Trust, a non-governmental organization that has received $2 million in funding from the Canadian government, is working metre by metre to clear mines in Peremoha, as well as in Chernihiv and other areas ravaged by the Russian invasion.
On a cold, crystal-clear morning, supervisors walk along a precise route that has been cleared of all mines. Stakes of different colours mark zones that run the length of a trench dug by the Russians at the edge of the village, behind a service station.
Al the work is done by hand and on foot. A first check is done for any sign of small, hidden anti-personnel mines, ready to be triggered by a trip wire. They are cleared before beginning the job of “decontamination” to get rid of anti-tank mines.
To detect anti-tank mines, a team uses a device that resembles a large rectangular frame surrounded by a cable connected to a metal detector. It takes two people to move the frame over the ground, covering a precise area. If the alarm sounds, the spot is investigated with another, more precise detector.
“In the current context, (demining) is probably the job that is most in demand in Ukraine,” said one of the team leaders, Danylo Kudriavtsev, who before the war worked for a glass-making company. “You have to be well prepared psychologically and in good shape to do this work. You have to be very responsible.”
If an anti-tank mine is detected, it has to be delicately unearthed. At that point, the army or other authorities take over the job of detonating or disarming the mine, as that work is not left to an NGO like the HALO Trust.
Ninety-eight per cent of the HALO Trust staff in Ukraine are locals, providing work for more than 600 people in a country where the war has led to high unemployment.
The organization has perfected its methods for identifying minefields, using open-source information and testimonials from citizens. However, the number of minefields is huge, in particular around Kharkiv, a large city in the east recently liberated by Ukrainian forces.
There are mines everywhere where there have been battles, or where fighting continues. Accidents are frequent, sometimes involving children who are intrigued by the metal devices.
HALO has organized 630 events to raise awareness among the public, but even that is not enough.
“Minefields like this, they really affect the lives of civilians who are doing agricultural work, who are just going to another village, or who are trying to go foraging, or who are trying to just go for a walk with their kids,” said HALO spokeswoman Olesia Fesenko. “Threats like this affect the life of every Ukrainian.”
If someone finds a mine in their yard, they can call Ukrainian emergency services, who will intervene. But to comb over large areas, the HALO Trust takes over from a Ukrainian state apparatus that is stretched thin.
At a rate of a few hundred square metres cleared in a day, the HALO Trust has work for many years to come.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2022.
— Patrice Bergeron is a Quebec-based journalist with The Canadian Press. In addition to two decades of political and general news experience, he was a CP war correspondent in Afghanistan in 2009.
Patrice Bergeron, The Canadian Press
The Holocaust strikes our very being
To be a Jew is not something special,
being a human being is normal.
Dealing with prejudice, hatred, and oppressive action,
now that’s something special for the Jewish Nation.
Oppression, hatred, and genocide besides,
is not just a Jewish person’s situation.
Armenian, Cambodian and Jewish Peoples deal,
with a national eradication event.
People of the world unit,
genocide is an international delight.
Oppress your people, crush opposition too.
The elites of the world are making exceptions for you.
Don’t be weak, allowing excuses to be made,
but lift your hands in justice’s cruel wave.
Hatred knows no reasonability, it knows no mercy.
Hatred, oppression, and prejudice need no exception.
Long ago Jews were murdered by the millions,
Cambodians died at the hands of their neighbors.
Palestine still walks within the borders of other nations,
and peace is nowhere to be found, my friend.
If your arms are in righteous ways demand justice for all,
for the people who hate will not see our peaceful ways.
A gun, a bayonet, and a saber be brought,
for the right to justice begins today,
and ends with blood if the opposition has any say.
Gandhi spoke of peaceful ways,
while Martin Luther Jr surrendered his life. to the cause.
Young blacks die each and every day,
while the power of prejudice wins the day.
My first lifts in anger that is for sure,
while the average person just shrugs this day.
But the goose-stepping troops may one day march on,
and the ignorance that prevails will let them carry on.
Open our eyes to the wrongs before us,
clear our minds and accept what bothers us.
Injustice is a prevailing horrid thing,
and ONLY YOU CAN BRING IT TO AN END.
Parliamentarians kick off return to House of Commons with debate on child care
The economy was top of mind for members of Parliament as they returned to the House of Commons Monday, with the Liberal government kicking off the new sitting with a debate on child care.
Families Minister Karina Gould tabled Bill C-35 last December, which seeks to enshrine the Liberals’ national daycare plan into law — and commit Ottawa to maintaining long-term funding.
The federal government has inked deals with provinces and territories in an effort to cut fees down to an average of $10 per day by 2026.
During a debate today, Gould said all parties should support the bill, and the national plan has begun saving families money.
But Conservative MP Michelle Ferreri said the plan is “subsidizing the wealthy” while failing to reduce wait times for child-care spaces and address labour shortages in the sector.
Ferreri told MPs that the Conservatives would be presenting “strong amendments” to the legislation.
The debate comes amid concerns about a possible recession this year, with both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre saying their focus will be on the cost of living.
But Poilievre’s Tories may have little room to manoeuvre in the legislature.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters upon his return to the House of Commons that he does not believe there is any room to work with the Conservatives during the upcoming sitting.
Instead, the NDP says it plans to push the Liberals to fulfil the terms of the parties’ confidence-and-supply agreement, such as the planned expansion of federal dental care.
Under the deal signed last March, the NDP agreed to support the minority government on key House of Commons votes in exchange for the Liberals moving ahead on New Democrat policy priorities.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.
Singh meeting with Trudeau about private health care ahead of sit-down with premiers
Trudeau is expected to meet with provincial and territorial leaders in Ottawa next Tuesday to discuss a new health-care funding deal.
“The deal will be a failure if it doesn’t include major commitments to hire more health-care workers,” Singh said Monday, adding that the funding should be kept within the public system.
The last time Trudeau and Singh met one-on-one, as outlined in the confidence-and-supply agreement between the Liberals and the NDP, was in December.
Singh said now is the time for the Liberal government to make clear that funding private health-care facilities will not improve the shortage of health-care workers Canada is facing.
While health care falls under provincial jurisdiction, Singh believes the federal government could be using the Canada Health Act more aggressively to challenge for-profit care.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government announced earlier this month that it’s moving some procedures to publicly funded, private facilities to address a growing surgery wait-list, which worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan have already made similar moves.
“We think the federal government should be making it very clear that the solution to the current health-care crisis will not come from a privatization, for-profit delivery of care. It’ll only come by making sure we hire, recruit, retain and respect health-care,” Singh said.
“Health care is already dramatically understaffed, and for-profit facilities will poach doctors and nurses — cannibalizing hospitals, forcing people to wait longer in pain and racked with anxiety.”
The New Democrats say they’re also concerned that private facilities will upsell patients for brands and services not covered by the province, and tack on extra fees and services.
On Saturday, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said his Liberal government will ensure people don’t use their credit cards for health-care services and health care will remain universally public.
Singh is also expected to request an emergency House of Commons debate on the privatization of health care Monday afternoon.
If the request is granted, the debate could go ahead as early as Monday evening.
Health care is a top priority for the leader as members of Parliament return to the House Monday following a holiday break.
Singh spent some of that time away holding roundtable discussions on health care in British Columbia to discuss emergency room overcrowding and worker shortages.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.
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