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Domestic extremism 'here to stay' in Canada, Trudeau's security advisor says – National | Globalnews.ca – Global News

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Canadians have lived in a “splendid, naïve sort of superiority” that domestic extremism is not an issue in the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security advisor says.

Not only is that “simply not true,” Jody Thomas told an Ottawa security conference Thursday, the issue is also “here, and it is here to stay.”

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“We have a lot to unpack in this country in terms of understanding what’s going on and its impact on democracy, our institutions and our society,” Thomas said during a panel of the Ottawa Conference on Security and Defence.

“This is a problem that is not going away,” Thomas said, and it will require “significant” effort to “try and understand and resolve.”

Thomas, who moved from the Department of National Defence to the National Security and Intelligence Advisor role in January, was responding to questions about the government’s use of emergency powers to address the convoy protests that paralyzed Ottawa and blockaded border crossings in February.

Even if international border crossings — and the billions in cross-border trade that depends on them — were not blocked, Thomas said she believed the Ottawa protest was significant enough to warrant the use of the Emergencies Act.

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While styled as a protest against mandatory vaccinations for cross-border truckers, protest organizers’ overriding goal — stated publicly — was to force democratically elected governments to remove all COVID-19 public health measures or be replaced.

“The people who organized -that protest, and there were several factions there, there’s no doubt (they) came to overthrow the government,” Thomas said.

“Whether their ability to do that was there, whether their intent, an understanding of how to do that was realistic is actually irrelevant to what they wanted to do.”

Online ‘echo chambers’ fueling extremism

Thomas suggested that online “echo chambers” — where people can find whatever information source that suits their existing or desired worldview — partially fueled the events in Ottawa last month.

A strong mistrust — if not outright anger — toward mainstream media was evident among the protesters that occupied downtown for weeks, along with widespread anti-government sentiment. Conspiracy theories, including one about the World Economic Forum think tank “infiltrating” governments around the world, were referenced by some protest organizers.

“If you live in this echo chamber you believe this is true, you believe that the government is restricting your freedom in a way that probably is not quite valid or accurate,” Thomas said.

Global News’ Rachel Gilmore reported this week that some users on the online platforms used to organize the convoy protests and push their message — predominantly encrypted messaging app Telegram — have moved on to push Russian propaganda about the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

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‘Freedom convoy’ forums find new focus: disinformation about Russia-Ukraine war

But while Canadians’ attention has shifted away from the protests to that conflict, the protests — and the Trudeau government’s unprecedented use of emergency powers — is still to face considerable scrutiny in Parliament.

A joint committee of parliamentarians will review Trudeau’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act, and a separate inquiry will examine the circumstances leading up to that decision.

The decision has been criticized by some national security law experts, who have argued the protests did not meet the threshold required to invoke emergency powers – or that the government has not provided sufficient evidence to support that decision.

For her part, Thomas said she believed the emergency declaration “was justified in terms of the threat that was there.”

Thomas also suggested there was a double standard at play in some Canadians’ reaction to the convoy protests.

“I also think that we apply middle-class values to things. And, you know, if there had been a religiously-motivated extremist in that group, our reaction would have been quite different,” Thomas said.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canada Premiers to hold virtual news conference on struggling children’s hospitals

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Canada’s premiers plan to hold a news conference in Winnipeg today as children’s hospitals struggle to deal with a wave of child illnesses.

Hospitals across the country have been cancelling some surgeries and appointments as they redirect staff amid an increase in pediatric patients.

Admissions are surging under a triple-threat of respiratory syncytial virus, influenza and COVID-19 at a time when the health-care system is grappling with record numbers of job vacancies.

In Ottawa, two teams of Canadian Red Cross personnel are working rotating overnight shifts at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in support of its clinical-care team, while some patients have been redirected to adult health-care facilities.

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A pediatric hospice in Calgary has been temporarily closed as staff are diverted to a children’s hospital.

Members of the Alberta Medical Association have sent a letter to the province’s acting chief medical officer of health calling for stronger public health measures to prevent the spread of the illnesses, including increasing public messaging about the safety of vaccines, encouraging flu and COVID-19 vaccines, and temporarily requiring masks in schools.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2022.

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As nature talks unfold, here’s what ’30 by 30′ conservation could mean in Canada

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was unequivocal Wednesday when asked if Canada was going to meet its goal to protect one-quarter of all Canadian land and oceans by 2025.

“I am happy to say that we are going to meet our ’25 by 25′ target,” Trudeau said during a small roundtable interview with journalists on the sidelines of the nature talks taking place in Montreal.

That goal, which would already mean protecting 1.2 million more square kilometres of land, is just the interim stop on the way to conserving 30 per cent by 2030 — the marquee target Canada is pushing for during the COP15 biodiversity conference.

But what does the conservation of land or waterways actually mean?

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“When we talk about protecting land and water, we’re talking about looking at a whole package of actions across broader landscapes,” said Carole Saint-Laurent, head of forest and lands at the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The group’s definition of “protected area,” which is used by the UN convention on biodiversity, refers to a “clearly defined geographical space” that is managed by laws or regulations with the goal of the long-term protection of nature.

“It can range from areas with very strict protections to areas that are being protected or conserved,” said Saint-Laurent.

“We have to look at that entire suite of protective and restorative action in order to not only save nature, but to do so in a way that is going to help our societies. There is not one magical formula, and context is everything.”

The organization, which keeps its own global “green list” of conserved areas, lists 17 criteria for how areas can fit the definition.

Most of the criteria are centred on how the sites are managed and protected. One allows for resource extraction, hunting, recreation and tourism as long as these are both compatible with and supportive of the conservation goals outlined for the area.

In many cases, industrial activities and resource extraction are not allowed in protected areas. But that’s not always true in Canada, particularly when it involves the rights of Indigenous Peoples on their traditional territory.

In some provincial parks, mining and logging are allowed. In Ontario’s Algonquin Park, for example, logging is permitted in about two-thirds of the park area.

Canada has nearly 10 million square kilometres of terrestrial land, including inland freshwater lakes and rivers, and about 5.8 million square kilometres of marine territory.

As of December 2021, Canada had conserved 13.5 per cent of land and almost 14 per cent of marine territory. The government did it through a combination of national and provincial parks and reserves, wildlife areas, migratory bird sanctuaries, national marine conservation areas, marine protected areas and what are referred to as “other effective areas-based conservation measures.”

These can include private lands that have a management plan to protect and conserve habitats, or public or private lands where conservation isn’t the primary focus but still ends up happening.

Canadian Forces Base Shilo, in Manitoba, includes about 211 square kilometres of natural habitats maintained under an environmental protection plan run by the Department of National Defence.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is a non-profit organization that raises funds to buy plots of land from private owners with a view to long-term conservation.

Mike Hendren, its Ontario regional vice-president, said that on such lands, management plans can include everything from nature trails to hunting — but always with conservation as the priority.

To hit “25 by 25,” Canada must further protect more than 1.2 million square kilometres of land, or approximately the size of Manitoba and Saskatchewan added together. To get to 30 per cent is to add, on top of that, land almost equivalent in size to Alberta.

The federal government would need to protect another 638,000 square kilometres of marine territory and coastlines by 2025, or an area almost three times the size of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. By 2030, another area the size of the gulf would need to be added.

Trudeau said that in a country as big and diverse as Canada, hard and fast rules about what can and can’t happen in protected areas don’t make sense.

He said there should be distinctions between areas that can’t have any activity and places where you can mine, log or hunt, as long as it is done with conservation in mind.

“There’s ability to have sort of management plans that are informed by everyone, informed by science, informed by various communities, that say, ‘yes, we’re going to protect this area and that means, no, there’s not going to be unlimited irresponsible mining going to happen,'” he said.

“But it doesn’t mean that there aren’t certain projects in certain places that could be the right kind of thing, or the right thing to move forward on.”

The draft text of the biodiversity framework being negotiated at COP15 is not yet clear on what kind of land and marine areas would qualify or what conservation of them would specifically mean.

It currently proposes that a substantial portion of the conserved land would need to be “strictly protected” but some areas could respect the right to economic development.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2022.

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UN Mideast refugee chief says Western funding shortfall may abandon hosting countries

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The United Nations refugee chief for the Middle East says countries hosting asylum seekers need more funding, or they’ll feel abandoned by the global community.

Ayman Gharaibeh (ay-MAHN guh-RYE-bah) says countries are pulling back their funding to help places like Lebanon and Jordan host refugees from Syria, and the lack of funds could prevent kids from being educated.

Gharaibeh says Canada is one of the few countries that isn’t pulling back funding, and he hopes Ottawa will encourage its allies to stop lowering their support.

He says the U-N is already struggling to support refugees due to inflation, a drop in donors and new conflicts that have displaced people from Ukraine and Ethiopia.

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Meanwhile, his region has only received eight per cent of the funding it has requested for winter gear, such as fuel and children’s clothing — compared to fifty-eight per cent by this time last year.

Gharaibeh says countries that are left to fend with these costs might stop co-operating in international agreements, which could cause more chaos in refugee flows.

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