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Canadian military says it has tracked, stopped China surveillance in Arctic waters



Defence Minister Anita Anand said Wednesday that the Canadian federal government is aware of buoys recovered from Arctic waters, and that this type of activity is not new.

Anand’s comments at a news conference in British Columbia followed confirmation from the Defence Department and Canadian Armed Forces earlier Wednesday that they are aware of recent efforts by China to conduct surveillance operations in Canadian airspace and waters.

Spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said in a statement that the armed forces have tracked and stopped attempts to surveil Canadian territory since 2022 under Operation LIMPID.

“To ensure the integrity of operations, we are unable to provide further information at this time,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said in an interview on CNN Wednesday morning that China is an increasingly disruptive power.

She said Canada will work with Norad to protect North American airspace and take a strong stance on Canada’s Arctic sovereignty as more reports of foreign interference emerge.

“When it comes to China, we will challenge China when we ought to, and we will co-operate with China when we need to,” she said.

“When it comes to issues over the Arctic within our maritime borders, or any form of foreign interference, we will be clear, and that’s how we will address this issue.”

Her comments come after the Globe and Mail newspaper reported that the Canadian military had detected Chinese monitoring buoys in the Arctic.

That revelation follows the U.S. decision to shoot down what was confirmed to be a Chinese high-altitude balloon early this month. China’s government denied it was a spy device.

Three other high-altitude objects were shot down over North America in the days that followed, but U.S. President Joe Biden has said that there is nothing to suggest these additional objects were related to what he described as “China’s spy balloon program.”

Recovery efforts to find debris from the objects have stalled, with Anand saying Wednesday that the RCMP has called off the search for an object shot down over Yukon due to rugged conditions.

“It is impossible for me to make a statement of fact relating to the origins of the balloon,” she said.

Adam Lajeunesse, an assistant professor at St. Francis Xavier University who specializes in Canadian Arctic marine security, said it isn’t clear right now what kind of instrumentation would be present in the Chinese buoys.

“It’s some kind of scientific device with potential dual use capability that was almost certainly dropped off by one of the two Chinese icebreakers,” he said, referring to vessels that the country has used to circumnavigate the Arctic.

Questions still remain about whether the buoys drifted into Canadian waters after being deployed in the Arctic Ocean, or if they were deliberately anchored to the sea floor in Canadian territory.

Lajeunesse said that a buoy could be used to chart the sea floor and monitor salinity levels and ice thickness ahead of other deployments.

“This is the necessary scientific work that has to be done before you deploy nuclear submarines into the Arctic,” he said, noting that another fear is the buoy could be tracking American submarines.

He said it is “virtually impossible” to disentangle scientific and academic work in China from the country’s military and government, and Canada must decide whether it will still allow Chinese icebreakers through the Northwest Passage.

“The most significant result of this is going to be a Canadian reconsideration of scientific co-operation with the Chinese,” said Lajeunesse.

“Canada is going to have to do a big review of not only its co-operation with the scientific community within China, but also how it responds to ostensibly civilian work and scientific work within its areas of jurisdiction.”

He said the Chinese have for many years tested unmanned drones, underwater drones known as “wave gliders” and Arctic-specific geo-spatial technology in the region.

“None of this is new. I think we are just starting to notice it and put it within the context of a more confrontational relationship with China,” he said.

The United States changed its laws around marine scientific research in 2020 to require additional authorizations before allowing foreign research activity.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2023.


Manitoba First Nation says members lack health care due to nursing shortage



WINNIPEG – Members of a northern First Nation looking to get prescriptions refilled, blood work done or access to other basic health-care services are often being turned away because of a nursing shortage in the community.

The nursing station in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation has been open only for medical emergencies for nearly a year because the community has just two nurses to treat its 3,500 citizens.

“We cannot continue with the current state of affairs,” Chief Angela Levasseur said at a press conference on Monday.

“Our people have a right to health care. They have the right to be able to attend the nursing station and be seen by a nurse.

“It is inhumane and an affront to our dignity.”

Levasseur has heard reports of nurses working around the clock while running on two to three hours of sleep. On occasion, a third nurse has been brought in to help alleviate some of the pressure.

The reduction of services has resulted in patients, including infants, elders and people with chronic health conditions, being denied critical medical care, said Levasseur. Many of these patients are being directed to go to the hospital in Thompson, about 90 kilometres away.

Residents without a vehicle are forced to rely on an overburdened medical transportation service or go without help.

“The failure to address this crisis is literally a threat to many people’s lives,” said Levasseur.

The community has sent proposals to the federal government to advocate for an increase in funding to hire more nurses and address the wage gap between what it offers nurses and what private agencies provide.

“It’s really disheartening,” said Lynda Wright, the community’s health director. “It’s really difficult to try and help people when you lack the resources and the funding … it’s difficult seeing your people suffer when the access to care is not there.”

Levasseur is renewing calls to provide funding for an additional three nurses for the Nation.

The office of Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Government data shows that nursing stations in remote First Nations communities in Manitoba were facing a 67 per cent operational vacancy in the last fiscal year.

A document tabled in the House of Commons earlier this year says that over the 2023-24 fiscal year, all Indigenous Services Canada-operated nursing stations in Manitoba have run at a reduced capacity due to staffing shortages.

Pimicikamak Cree Nation has felt the staffing crunch, resulting in the community declaring a state of emergency earlier this year.

The community is supposed to have 13 or 14 nurses available, but most days there are about half of that for the roughly 8,000 who live on-reserve.

“We continue to cry out for help to make sure we can provide health services and medical services for our people,” said Chief David Monias, who was on hand for Monday’s press conference.

Levasseur said the community’s situation has left everyone at their “breaking point.”

“What we’re most worried about with this crisis situation being ignored is that the two or three nurses that we have on a day-to-day basis are going to walk out.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Cyprus displays jewelry, early Christian icons and Bronze Age antiquities once looted from island



NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus on Monday put on display artifacts — some of them thousands of years old — that were returned after a Turkish art dealer looted them from the ethnically divided island nation decades ago.

Aydin Dikmen took the artifacts from the country’s breakaway north in the years after Cyprus’ split in 1974, when Turkey invaded following a coup mounted by supporters of union with Greece. The antiquities were kept in Germany after authorities there seized them in 1997, and protracted legal battles secured their repatriation in three batches, the last one this year.

Addressing the unveiling ceremony at Cyprus’ archaeological museum, President Nikos Christodoulides said the destruction of a country’s cultural heritage as evidenced in recent conflicts becomes a “deliberate campaign of cultural and religious cleansing that aims to eliminate identity.”

Among the 60 most recently returned artifacts put on display include jewelry from the Chalcolithic Period between 3500-1500 B.C. and Bronze Age bird-shaped idols.

Antiquities that Dikmen also looted but were returned years ago include 1,500-year-old mosaics of Saints Luke, Mark, Matthew and James. They are among the few examples of early Christian works to survive the Iconoclastic period in the 8th and 9th centuries when most such works were destroyed.

Cyprus’ authorities and the country’s Orthodox Church for decades have been hunting for the island’s looted antiquities and centuries-old relics from as many as 500 churches in open auctions and on the black market.

The museum’s antiquities curator, Eftychia Zachariou, told the ceremony that Cyprus in recent years has benefited from a shift in thinking among authorities in many countries who now opt to repatriate antiquities of dubious provenance.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Smoke from massive wildfires in Alberta comes with silver lining



Massive wildfires in Alberta are coughing up clouds of smoke that are obscuring the sky and are hazardous to health.

However, there’s so much smoke that wildfires are being shaded from the sun and daytime temperature highs in some areas are cooler than forecast, leading to reduced fire activity.

“When smoke clears, we can expect to see increased and significant fire behaviour due to anticipated continuing hot, dry weather,” Alberta Wildfire said in an update Monday.

About 7,500 people in Alberta were under evacuation orders.

The three communities that make up Little Red River Cree Nation — John D’Or Prairie, Fox Lake and Garden River — remain under evacuation order as the out-of-control Semo Wildfire Complex burns nearby. It’s estimated to be more than 960 square kilometres in size.

“The next 48 hours is pretty critical,” Chief Conroy Sewepagaham said in a video update on Facebook.

“The dozer groups are going to be working 24-7. They’re going to do whatever they can to extend Highway 58 towards High Level, and extending the northern portion of the highway going into Garden River.”

Alberta Wildfire said the nearby blaze had reached Highway 58, the only road out of Garden River, and was 13 kilometres northwest of the community itself as of Monday afternoon.

Residents of the northern communities of Chipewyan Lake and Janvier 194 have also been ordered to leave.

More than 160 wildfires are burning across Alberta.

Environment Canada said cooler temperatures were expected to start moving into northwestern parts of the province starting Monday night, though hot conditions may persist through much of the week farther south.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2024.

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