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Canadians hope for answers from Trudeau towards Ukrainian Airlines shot down by an Iranians

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Political leaders can’t change the cards they are dealt but they can control how they play their hand.

The bombshell revelation by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752 was in all likelihood shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile was an important moment in his political leadership.

He has been caught in the turmoil of the Mideast showdown between America and Iran, as we all have. But his reaction does not instil confidence that the families of the 63 Canadians who perished will see any kind of justice.

To give Trudeau credit, he has been visible, holding press conferences two days in a row. But on Thursday, he stuck rigidly to the line that we need a thorough investigation into the tragedy before discussing next steps.

“The families want answers. I want answers – closure, transparency, accountability and justice,” he said. “This government will not rest until we get that.”

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference in Ottawa on January 9, 2020. REUTERS/Blair Gable

There was no anger about the tyranny of the Iranian regime; no unease about its duplicity, even as a researcher for the investigative website Bellingcat said he found it “very distressing” that bulldozers are being used to clear the crash site, potentially a mass murder scene.

Instead, the prime minister expressed a bizarre solidarity with Iran. The tragedy “binds us together in our grief”, he said.

The Iranian people are undoubtedly grief-stricken – their citizens made up the majority of the victims – which is precisely why the Ayatollahs will never admit that its trigger-happy military is responsible.

Trudeau was grilled about the investigation being compromised but clung to the line that such questions made it all the more important that Canada and its international partners be included in the investigation. “The Iranians have indicated they understand this,” he said.

The desire to collect evidence is understandable. After Iran Air flight 655 was mistakenly shot down by the U.S. Navy in 1988, with the death of all 290 people on board, Iran took the U.S. to the International Court of Justice. The case was dropped in 1996 and reparations of US$62 million paid by the Americans.

But anyone who has followed Iranian politics for more than five minutes knows there will be no transparency or accountability.

 
If Canadians were looking for their prime minister to express their fury and the anguish, they were sorely disappointed. All those young families, students, brilliant academics and newly weds; all those lives unfulfilled. The number of dead Canadians is officially listed as 63 but it was likely that many more of the 138 people who were due to fly into Toronto from Kyiv lived here too. Of the eight Ottawa residents who died, only two held Canadian passports.

This wasn’t an act of God, it was an act of man.

The thought that their deaths were the result of a blunder – likely air defences on high alert after the Iranians bombed a military base in Iraq (where Canadian troops were stationed, incidentally) is exasperating and it demands a tougher response.

In truth, it’s not clear what Canada can do. We don’t have diplomatic relations with Iran, so we can’t withdraw our ambassador. American sanctions already apply to 80 per cent of the Iranian economy, so making Iran’s isolation absolute would be hard.

There have been calls from people like former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler to use the Magnitsky Act against Iran’s leaders

The Conservatives urged the Liberals to act on a motion passed by Parliament in 2018 that named Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. But the Qods Force, the armed wing of the IRGC, is already listed and that has had a limited impact in curbing the excesses of this brutal regime.

There have been calls from people like former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler to use the Magnitsky Act against Iran’s leaders. It authorizes the government to impose sanctions such as travel bans and assets freezes on individuals deemed responsible for human rights violations. “It is a novel, necessary and just foreign policy option that has not yet been exercised,” he said last year.

Yet it’s not clear that many of the despots who run Iran have bank accounts or other assets in Canada.

Trudeau’s line, even before the plane came down, has been to encourage a de-escalation of tension in the region. But if the families are to have closure and justice for the loss of their loved ones, Ottawa has to find a point of leverage and exploit it.

The Trudeau government’s position since it was elected in 2015 has been to re-engage with countries like Iran and Russia, after the Conservatives severed ties. “Our world is highly imperfect and to improve it we must engage with it with our eyes open, not withdraw from it,” said then foreign affairs minister, Stéphane Dion in his infamous “responsible conviction” speech in 2016.

But the mullahs support terror organizations, threaten to blow Israel off the map with ballistic missiles and prop up the murderous Assad regime in Syria.

This is not a regime that wants to “engage”. This is not a regime that is going to admit its mistakes.

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Queen Elizabeth back home after first night in hospital in years

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Britain’s 95-year-old  Queen Elizabeth spent a night in hospital for the first time in years for what royal officials termed ‘preliminary investigations’ but was in good spirits and back at work at her Windsor Castle home on Thursday.

The world’s oldest and longest-reigning monarch cancelled an official trip to Northern Ireland on Wednesday. The palace said the queen had been told to rest by her medical staff, and that her ailment was not related to COVID-19.

“Following medical advice to rest for a few days, the queen attended hospital on Wednesday afternoon for some preliminary investigations, returning to Windsor Castle at lunchtime today, and remains in good spirits,” the palace said in a statement on Thursday.

A royal source said the queen had stayed at the King Edward VII hospital in central London for practical reasons and that her medical team had taken a cautious approach.

Elizabeth, who is queen of 15 other realms including Australia, Canada and New Zealand, returned to her desk for work on Thursday afternoon and was undertaking some light duties, the source said.

She had spent Tuesday night hosting a drinks reception at Windsor for billionaire business leaders such as Bill Gates after Prime Minister Boris Johnson convened a green investment conference ahead of the COP26 climate summit.

The queen had appeared in good health then, smiling happily as she met the guests.

The head of state, who next year celebrates 70 years on the throne, is known for her robust health. The last time she is thought to have spent a night in hospital was in 2013 when she was suffering from symptoms of gastroenteritis.

She had a successful surgery to treat an eye cataract in 2018, and also had a knee operation in 2003. However, royal officials are loathe to discuss health issues in general, saying medical matters are private.

Earlier this year, Prince Philip, her 99-year-old husband of more than seven decades, died at Windsor Castle.

But that has not stopped her from carrying out her official engagements, although her age has meant she has handed more duties to her son and heir Prince Charles, and to other members of the royal family.

Earlier this month, she was seen using a walking stick for support in public for the first time, apart from after her knee operation.

TURBULENT TIMES

Her long reign has seen some turbulent times and the last couple of years have been particularly difficult from her family and for Elizabeth personally.

Not only has she lost her husband, who she described as her “strength and stay”, but her second son Prince Andrew has had to quit royal duties over his links to the late U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein and allegations of sex crimes.

Her grandson Prince Harry and his American wife Meghan have also stepped away from royal duties to move to Los Angeles from where they delivered some barbed attacks on Buckingham Palace.

Despite the setbacks, polls show Elizabeth, who acceded to the throne in 1952 when Britain was shedding its imperial power, remains popular and highly regarded in Britain, symbolising stability for generations.

Her quiet and uncomplaining dedication to the duty of queenship, even in old age, has earned her widespread respect, even from republicans who are eager to abolish the institution.

Her next major engagement is at the end of the month when she is due to welcome world leaders at the opening of the United Nations climate change summit in Glasgow.

 

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge, Daniel Wallis and Rosalba O’Brien)

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Factbox-Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch

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Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, spent a night in hospital but returned to Windsor Castle on Thursday.

Here are some facts about the 95-year-old queen:

PRINCESS:

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born at 17 Bruton St, London W1, on April 21, 1926, and christened on May 29, 1926, in the private chapel at Buckingham Palace.

After her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936 for the love of a divorced American woman, the queen’s father, George VI, inherited the throne.

Two years after World War Two, she married navy Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, a Greek prince, whom she had fallen for during a visit to a naval college when she was just 13.

QUEEN

She was just 25 when she became Queen Elizabeth II on Feb. 6, 1952, on the death of her father, while she was on tour in Kenya with Prince Philip.

She was crowned monarch on June 2, 1953, in a ceremony at London’s Westminster Abbey that was televised live.

MOTHER AND WIFE

Philip was said to be shattered when his wife became queen so soon.

Her marriage to Philip, whom she wed when she was 21, stayed solid for 74 years until his death in April 2021.

Their children are Charles, born in 1948, Anne, born in 1950, Andrew in 1960 and Edward in 1964.

MONARCH

Winston Churchill was the first of her 14 British prime ministers.

As head of state, the queen remains neutral on political matters. The queen does not vote.

SOVEREIGN

Elizabeth, who acceded to the throne as Britain was shedding its imperial power, has symbolised stability. Her nearly 70-year reign is the longest of any British monarch.

A quiet and uncomplaining dedication to the duty of queenship, even in old age, has earned her widespread respect both in Britain and abroad, even from republicans who are eager for abolition of the monarchy.

OFFICIAL TITLE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

Her Majesty Elizabeth II, By the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her Other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

COMMONWEALTH

The Queen is head of state of 15 Commonwealth countries in addition to the United Kingdom. She is also head of the Commonwealth itself, a voluntary association of 54 independent countries.

DIFFICULT TIMES

The 40th anniversary of her accession, in 1992, was a year she famously described as an “annus horribilis” after three of her four children’s marriages failed and there was a fire at her Windsor Castle royal residence.

The death of Princess Diana, the divorced wife of Elizabeth’s son and heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, in 1997, damaged the family’s public prestige.

Charles’ younger son, Harry, and wife Meghan said in an explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey earlier this year that one unidentified royal had made a racist remark about their first-born child. The couple had stepped back from royal duties in early 2020 and moved to the United States.

 

(Writing by Michael Holden and Kate Holton; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Peter Cooney)

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At United Nations, Afghan women appeal: don’t let Taliban in

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A group of  Afghan women urged the United Nations to block the Taliban from gaining a seat at the world body, calling for better representation for their country during a visit to the organisation’s New York headquarters on Thursday.

“It’s very simple,” former Afghan politician and peace negotiator Fawzia Koofi told reporters outside the UN Security Council in New York. “The UN needs to give that seat to somebody who respects the rights of everyone in Afghanistan.”

“We are talked a lot about, but we are not listened to,” she said of Afghan women. “Aid, money, recognition – they are all leverage that the world should use for inclusion, for respect to the rights of women, for respect to the rights of everybody.”

Koofi was joined by former politician, Naheed Fareed, former diplomat Asila Wardak and journalist Anisa Shaheed.

“When the Taliban took Afghanistan … they said that they will give permission to women to resume their jobs, to go back to the school, but they didn’t keep that promise,” said Fareed.

Since seizing power in mid-August, Taliban leaders have vowed to respect women’s rights in accordance with sharia, or Islamic law. But under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, women could not work and girls were banned from school. Women had to cover their faces and be accompanied by a male relative when they left home.

The United Nations is considering rival claims on who should represent Afghanistan. The Taliban nominated their Doha-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen as UN ambassador, while Ghulam Isaczai – the UN envoy representing the government ousted by the Taliban – is seeking to remain in the country’s seat.

UN member states are expected to make a decision by the end of the year.

Wardak urged countries to pressure the Taliban “to put their words in action” when it comes to women’s rights, adding: “If you’re going to give them a seat, there should be conditions.”

The women spoke to reporters before addressing a UN event on support for Afghan women and girls, organized by Britain, Qatar, Canada, UN Women and the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.

The UN Security Council also met separately on Thursday to discuss women, peace and security.

“Women and girls in Afghanistan are pinning their hopes and dreams on this very council and world body to help them recover their rights to work, travel and go to school,” Isaczai told the 15-member council. “It would be morally reprehensible if we do nothing and let them down.”

 

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Karishma Singh)

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