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Decision to exempt gas turbines from sanctions right thing to do: Freeland

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Canada’s decision last week to send repaired parts of a Russian natural gas pipeline back to Germany was difficult but necessary, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Saturday.

The Liberals are facing heavy criticism from Ukraine for exempting six Siemens Energy turbines, which were serviced in Montreal and help deliver gas to parts of Germany, from sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking to reporters in a teleconference after a meeting of G-20 finance ministers in Bali, Indonesia, Freeland said she understood Ukraine’s response but defended the government’s move as the right one to make under the circumstances.

“That was a very difficult decision for Canada and I understand the concern that Ukraine has about it, but it was the right thing to do,” Freeland said.

“Canada is united and determined in our support of the people of Ukraine, we’ve contributed $3.4 billion in total financial and military support and I’m proud that Canada has led the way in many aspects to support Ukraine and oppose (Russian President) Vladimir Putin.”

But Canada alone cannot provide Ukraine with the support it needs, Freeland said, adding  a united effort on the part of Canada’s fellow G-7 members and the transatlantic alliance is necessary to ensure that support.

Freeland said Germany was clear the pipeline, operated by Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom, could be an issue for its leaders. Russia reduced gas deliveries by 60 per cent last month from its Nord Stream 1 pipeline which runs to northeastern Germany, citing turbine-related technical problems.

“Canada heard very clearly from our German allies that Germany’s ability to sustain its support for Ukraine could be at risk,” Freeland said. The United States has publicly backed Canada’s decision to return the turbines, a position Freeland described as very significant.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, on the other hand, condemned the decision as “absolutely unacceptable” earlier this week.

“The decision on the exception to sanctions will be perceived in Moscow exclusively as a manifestation of weakness. This is their logic,” he said, adding Russia will now try to limit or shut down gas supplies to Europe at the most critical moment.

In Ottawa, opposition MPs demanded Friday that senior Liberal ministers explain the controversial decision during a special meeting of the foreign affairs committee sometime next week.

The Liberals agreed to have Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson take questions.

Conservatives had called on Freeland to appear, alleging that she had disagreed with the decision that Liberals were trying to shield her testimony before her comments on Saturday.

The committee will also invite the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the ambassadors of Ukraine, Germany and the European Union to Canada to provide testimony.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 16, 2022.

 

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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Intelligence report flagged possible ‘violent revenge’ after Ottawa protest shutdown

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OTTAWA — Newly disclosed documents show federal intelligence officials warned decision-makers that the police dispersal of “Freedom Convoy” protesters in Ottawa last winter could prompt an “opportunistic attack” against a politician or symbol of government.

The Feb. 24 “threat highlight,” marked Secret/Canadian Eyes Only, also advised that extremist “influencers” would leverage the outcome of the protests for continued recruitment and propaganda, regardless of whether COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were relaxed.

Ideologically motivated extremists would likely use police enforcement “to encourage violent revenge or as further evidence of government ‘tyranny,’” the four-page assessment said.

The partially redacted memo, obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act, was among several Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre analyses produced before, during and after the protests that paralyzed downtown Ottawa for three weeks beginning in late January.

The centre, overseen by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, brings together security and intelligence professionals from various agencies to draft terrorism threat assessments, based on classified and open-source information, to share with partners at home and abroad.

The aim is to provide senior decision-makers with the latest and most detailed information to assess the overall threat and risk level.

Protesters, many with large trucks, occupied central Ottawa streets to rail against COVID-19 health measures and Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government. The influx, including some participants who had roots in the far-right movement, prompted many businesses to shut their doors and aggravated residents with noise, diesel fumes and harassing behaviour.

On Feb. 14, the government invoked the Emergencies Act, which allowed for temporary measures including regulation and prohibition of public assemblies, the designation of secure places, direction to banks to freeze assets and a ban on support for participants.

Authorities towed away trucks, arrested more than 200 people and laid hundreds of charges.

Extremist ideologues portrayed the police response as “brutality” and the use of the Emergencies Act as further evidence of federal “tyranny,” comparing the government tactics to those of foreign dictatorships, the Feb. 24 assessment noted. It added that several online incitements to violence had surfaced, with some implying that direct action against politicians, police and even their families was the only option left.

“That’s something that typically happens with these sorts of movements,” said Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University.

“When you push back against them, they use that as yet more evidence that they’re the ones under attack, that their assessment is right, that they are being silenced, that they are the ones being marginalized and threatened by that tyrannical state, as they like to call it.”

The “Freedom Convoy” and related protests at government buildings and border crossings fuelled anti-authority sentiments among adherents of ideologically motivated violent extremism, or IMVE, the Feb. 24 assessment said.

“The perceived notion that societal resilience is fragile, or that the government/police response justifies violent resistance, could inspire a lone actor or small group inspired by IMVE to conduct an opportunistic attack against a political figure or symbol of government,” the analysts concluded.

“Supporters of IMVE will continue to encourage, and capitalize on, anti-government sentiments and protest movements, whether related to the pandemic or other issues, in an attempt to degrade public confidence and social cohesion, and to attract vulnerable individuals to their ideological cause.”

The future loosening of public health restrictions might calm the protest movement, but people who embrace violent extremism, particularly those “wanting to accelerate the demise of current social and political orders, are unlikely to be placated,” the assessment said.

“IMVE threats to political figures and government symbols will persist into the foreseeable future.”

The national capital would see followup protests, including a late June procession that included many of the figures involved in the winter events.

“They’ve really set the stage and drawn more people in around a broader distrust of government, science, academics, media — all of those institutions,” Perry said. “So, I think they’ll continue to find ways to exploit those anxieties, exploit those grievances that they’ve helped to create, or at least exacerbate.”

The terrorism assessment centre began tracking the truck convoy headed to Ottawa as early as Jan. 26, producing a secret assessment that flagged the possibility of opportunistic violence on the margins of the protest.

A Feb. 3 analysis said a co-ordinated terrorist attack or a planned storming of Parliament Hill or other federal locations were unlikely.

“The most likely IMVE-related scenario involves an inspired lone actor using available weapons and resources such as knives, firearms, homemade explosives and vehicles in public areas against soft targets, including opposition groups or members of the public.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.

 

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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N.W.T. child-care providers ‘trying to be optimistic’ about $10-a-day deal

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YELLOWKNIFE — Early learning and child-care providers in the Northwest Territories say they are hopeful more support is coming following a rocky initial rollout of federal funding in the territory.

The N.W.T. government signed a $51-million, five-year child-care agreement with the federal government in December with the aim of halving fees and creating 70 new spaces by the end of 2022. The territory plans to reach the $10-a-day mark and create 230 more spaces by 2026.

But after the territory implemented a child-care fee reduction subsidy for parents and guardians in April, several providers expressed concerns about stipulations associated with that funding, such as fee-increase caps. They also said the subsidy failed to address staff shortages and the lack of available spots, which they said should be the priority.

“It made us feel very unheard,” said Yvette Cooper, who operates a day home in Yellowknife.

Cooper said while she supports lowering child-care costs for parents, the way funding has been rolled out has made it harder for daycares and day homes to stay open, and has increased wait lists.

“If there are no spaces, it doesn’t matter how cheap they are,” she said.

“You can’t make it good for families unless you make it good for providers.”

Cooper said operators felt “coerced” into opting into the federal subsidy as it was tied to territorial funding, which they require to operate.

R.J. Simpson, the territory’s minister of education, culture and employment, told the legislature in May that all but three of the 98 organizations that provide child care and charge fees in the N.W.T. had opted in to the subsidy.

The department said so far, 67 new child-care spaces have been created and it is on track to deliver at least 300 new spaces by 2026.

For the first year, the subsidy is delivered, day home and daycare operators in the N.W.T. are prohibited from raising their fees above 2.3 per cent.

Patricia Davidson, chair of the NWT Early Childhood Association, said that is below current inflation and said hiring and retaining staff is the No. 1 challenge for early learning and child-care programs in the territory.

“The sector is really in a tight position right now,” she said. “What’s happening now is a sector where staff are not paid well.”

The territorial government has been in discussions with early learning and child-care providers and has pledged to make improvements. While they still have concerns, both Cooper and Davidson said they are hopeful support for staff is coming.

“We’re trying to be optimistic,” Davidson said. “But that needs to come soon. If it doesn’t come soon, more programs are going to close.”

The territorial government said it would introduce a retention incentive for early childhood educators in the fall. It plans to implement a wage grid and certification process by 2024-2025.

Karina Gould, the federal minister of families, children and social development, was recently in Yellowknife where she spoke with Simpson and local child-care providers. She said while there are “going to be some bumps in the road,” she’s encouraged by the ongoing communication.

“I think a little bit of patience on everybody’s part is a good thing,” she said.

“I think it’s a really exciting time in the Northwest Territories.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Emily Blake, The Canadian Press

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Nova Scotia Has Launched an Online Casino after Years of Trying

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Nova Scotia Has Launched an Online Casino after Years of Trying

The new site, which is operated by the province, has been in development for the past two years and will allow players to play from their homes on computers, tablets, and smartphones. It also includes a social gaming feature that allows players to talk with each other while playing.

The launch comes after a year of testing in which the province worked with a number of different partners to test the system. Nova Scotia is hoping that this will help them reach out to more customers as well as attract tourists. The province has run into a number of problems, including financial concerns and the difficulty of getting approval from other governments. The government has hoped to open its own online casino a decision they reversed due to concerns about online security. Now that Nova Scotia’s first online casino in Canada, is open and in action, their dream has come true. Now Nova Scotians can have fun, make extra money and stay safe playing in their own regulated online casino.

Nova Scotia’s move comes as other Canadian provinces are considering opening up their own online casinos. The federal government is also working on legalizing and regulating online gambling, but no firm date has been set for when it will happen. The move is a sign that the province is eager to expand its gaming options, which include land-based casinos and video lottery terminals. Nova Scotia has been playing a game of catch-up with other provinces in recent years as they’ve added more gaming options, such as bingo and slots.

Finance Minister McMaster’s statement on the Launch of an Online Casino in Nova Scotia was released by the Department of Finance. The Minister refrained from marketing the online casino but recognised the need to have one of their own. MacMaster also explained that stringent measures had to be followed to ensure that the citizens don’t fall into the wrong hands considering the high rates of addiction to online gambling in Canada and the rest of the world. In his statement, he mentioned that having a world-class online casino in their backyard would help retain the wealth going to other regions and bring in more from other regions, while ensuring that their gambling population has a safe option.

This is a significant step forward for Nova Scotia’s gaming industry,” said Finance Minister Allan MacMaster in a statement on the launch. “We’ve always been committed to increasing revenues and creating jobs in our province, so we’re delighted that this project will bring us closer to those goals.”

The decision comes as Nova Scotia struggles with declining revenues from traditional forms of gambling like horse racing tracks and land-based casinos. There are currently only 15 operational casinos in Canada across all provinces (and none are located in Nova Scotia), which means that there is a lot of room for growth when it comes to this industry—especially if you’re looking at other provinces like Ontario.

The Atlantic Lottery Corporation’s website launched the Nova Scotia Online Casino with a 3D-style reel spin, where players can choose from hundreds of slot games, as well as table games including blackjack and roulette. Players can also play their favourite Caribbean casino games from Canada, including baccarat and poker. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALCO) is responsible for providing lottery products and services throughout Atlantic Canada. Its website will offer both slots-based games and other games such as poker and bingo. Nova Scotia’s online casino can be accessed through the Atlantic Lottery Corporation’s website, and offers gamblers tools for safe playing to assist with managing and avoiding gaming addiction.

The ALC hopes that by launching this online casino it will bring more tourists into Nova Scotia and help promote economic growth throughout the region. The company also plans on using the profits from this venture to help fund other projects within Nova Scotia, including education programs for children living in low-income households and youth employment initiatives aimed at helping young people find jobs after graduation from high school or university.

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