French prosecutors have opened an investigation into four fashion retailers suspected of concealing “crimes against humanity” in China’s Xinjiang region, a judicial source said on Thursday.
The procedure is linked to accusations against China over its treatment of minority Muslim Uyghurs in the region, including the use of forced labour, the source said.
China denies all accusations of abuse in the region.
The source told Reuters Uniqlo France, a unit of Japan’s Fast Retailing, Zara owner Inditex, France’s SMCP and Skechers were the subject of the investigation, confirming a report by French media website Mediapart.
“An investigation has been opened by the crimes against humanity unit within the antiterrorism prosecutor’s office following the filing of a complaint,” the source said.
France has a Central Office to Fight Crimes against Humanity, Genocide and War Crimes, founded in 2013.
Inditex said it rejected the claims in the legal complaint, adding that it conducted rigorous traceability controls and would fully cooperate with the French investigation.
“At Inditex, we have zero tolerance for all forms of forced labour and have established policies and procedures to ensure this practice does not take place in our supply chain,” the company said in a statement.
SMCP said it would cooperate with the French authorities to prove the allegations false.
“SMCP works with suppliers located all over the world and maintains that it does not have direct suppliers in the region mentioned in the press,” SMCP said, adding that it regularly audited its suppliers.
Fast Retailing said in a statement from Tokyo that it had not been contacted by French authorities and that none of its production partners are located in Xinjiang.
“If and when notified, we will cooperate fully with the investigation to reaffirm there is no forced labour in our supply chains,” it said.
The company lost an appeal with United States Customs in May after a shipment of Uniqlo men’s shirts were impounded because of suspected violations of a ban on Xinjiang cotton.
Skechers said it does not comment on pending litigation. It referred Reuters to a March 2021 statement in which it said it maintained a strict supplier code of conduct.
Two nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) filed a complaint in France in early April against multinationals for concealment of forced labour and crimes against humanity.
United Nations experts and rights groups estimate over a million people, mainly Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, have been detained in recent years in a vast system of camps in China’s western Xinjiang region.
Many former inmates have said they were subject to ideological training and abuse. Rights groups say the camps have been used as a source of low-paid and coercive labour.
China initially denied the camps existed, but has since said they are vocational centres designed to combat extremism. In late 2019, China said all people in the camps had “graduated.”
Several Western brands including H&M, Burberry and Nike have been hit by consumer boycotts in China after raising concerns about reports of forced labour in Xinjiang.
In March, the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada imposed sanctions on Chinese officials, citing human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Beijing retaliated immediately with its own punitive measures.
Human Rights Watch this year documented what it said could constitute crimes against humanity being committed in Xinjiang.
(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten in ParisAdditional reporting by Richard Lough in Paris, Jesus Aguado in Madrid and Rocky Swift in Tokyo.Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Matthew Lewis)
Canada’s government can’t be ‘neutral umpire’ in fight against Islamophobia: experts – Global News
In light of an emergency summit on Islamophobia Thursday, Islamic scholars and Imams are saying that the federal government is going to need to tackle its own discriminatory policies before it can properly address the issue of anti-Muslim hate in Canada.
Speaking with Global News on Thursday, Anver M. Emon, director of University of Toronto’s Institute of Islamic Studies, said that the federal government has in itself “explicit policies” that are discriminatory against Muslims and that the government can’t be looked at as a “neutral umpire” in the conversation.
“…those policies do have a trickle-down effect in terms of the culture of bureaucratic practices that infect the body politic, sort of like the virus we’re fighting — all of us are fighting in this pandemic, but Islamophobia is a virus as well,” said Emon.
“That’s taking shape in a variety of ways at the formal governmental level and also infects our culture and our public discourse.”
Trudeau says governments, society have ‘roles to play’ in combatting Islamophobia and discrimination
The summit, which was called in response to a recent string of violent attacks that have injured or killed Muslim Canadians, was hosted by the federal government.
Diversity Minister Bardish Chagger said that the event would be an opportunity for Muslim Canadians to give insight into how the government could stop such attacks and introduce policies to protect their communities.
Speaking at the summit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Canadians should all be fighting for a country that they “all want to see.”
Trudeau also called out the federal security and tax agencies among the government public services that he says should be doing more to put an end to Islamophobia in Canada.
“From the (Canada Revenue Agency) to security agencies, institutions should support people, not target them,” said Trudeau.
While Trudeau pointed a finger at these institutions as well as other levels of government and businesses to do more, his speech did not respond to a call from nearly 100 Muslim organizations for the Liberal government to reform the Canada Revenue Agency’s practices in auditing Muslim charities.
It’s those same exact practices Emon and his team at U of T identified, alongside the National Council of Canadian Muslims, in a report looking specifically into how governments audit charities that are Muslim-led.
Their report, Emon said, found that Muslim charities were brought into the “crosshairs” of either the anti-terrorism financing policies led by the Ministry of Finance or the anti-radicalization policies led by the Public Safety Ministry.
Green Party leader Paul comments on not being invited to Feds’ summit on antisemitism
“The minute you bring a Muslim charity into the crosshairs of either one of those two government policies, audits start looking like a very different beast,” Emon said.
“There’s not a lot of transparency. There’s not a lot of communication. There’s a lot of questions. There’s a lot of digging in ways that seem inappropriate.”
Kamal Gurgi, an Imam whose family was targeted in an attack in Hamilton, Ont., last week, told Global News that it’s now time to “demand actions rather than talks of condemnation.”
“We want concrete actions, we want practical actions to combat this hate,” said Gurgi.
Gurgi’s wife and daughter were nearly hit by a driver who was yelling threats and anti-Muslim racial slurs, according to investigators. That incident has drawn outrage across the country, including from the prime minister.
The incident comes just a month after four members of a London, Ont., family were killed in what police have called a targeted attack on the Muslim community.
Gurgi hopes that the summit will provide not just the Muslim community but all communities some concrete steps to stop discrimination.
“So this is the demand of most Canadians that we should act rather than talk about it,” said Gurgi.
“We should act upon stopping this kind of hate, this kind of bigotry, this kind of discrimination.”
— With files from the Canadian Press and Mike Drolet
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Unmarked grave findings in Canada prompt reckoning among U.S. churches – CBC.ca
WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find distressing.
The discoveries of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential schools for Indigenous children in Canada have prompted renewed calls for a reckoning over the traumatic legacy of similar schools in the United States — and in particular by the churches that operated many of them.
U.S. Catholic and Protestant denominations operated more than 150 boarding schools between the 19th and 20th centuries. Native American and Alaskan Native children were regularly severed from their tribal families, customs, language and religion and brought to the schools in a push to assimilate and Christianize them.
Some U.S. churches have been reckoning with this activity for years through ceremonies, apologies and archival investigations, while others are just getting started.
Discoveries in Canada a ‘wakeup call’
Some advocates say churches have more work to do in opening their archives, educating the public about what was done in the name of their faith and helping former students and their relatives tell their stories of family trauma.
“We all need to work together on this,” said the Rev. Bradley Hauff, a Minnesota-based Episcopal priest and missioner for Indigenous Ministries with the Episcopal Church.
“What’s happening in Canada, that’s a wakeup call to us,” said Hauff, who is enrolled with the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
This painful history has drawn relatively little attention in the United States compared with Canada, where the recent discoveries of graves underscored what a 2015 government commission called a “cultural genocide.”
That’s beginning to change.
This month top officials with the U.S. Episcopal Church acknowledged the denomination’s own need to reckon with its
involvement with such boarding schools.
“We have heard with sorrow stories of how this history has harmed the families of many Indigenous Episcopalians,” read a July 12 statement from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the denomination’s House of Deputies.
“We must come to a full understanding of the legacies of these schools,” they added, calling for the denomination’s next
legislative session in 2022 to earmark funds for independent research into church archives and to educate church members.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve as a U.S. cabinet secretary, announced last month that her department would investigate “the loss of human life and the lasting consequences of residential Indian boarding schools.”
That would include seeking to identify the schools and their burial sites. Soon afterward, she spoke at a long-planned ceremony at the former Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, where the remains of nine children who died at the school more than a century earlier were returned to Rosebud Sioux tribal representatives for reburial in South Dakota.
U.S. religious groups were affiliated at least 156 such schools, according to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, formed in 2012 to raise awareness and address the traumas of the institutions.
That’s more than 40 per cent of the 367 schools documented so far by the coalition.
Eighty-four were affiliated with the Catholic Church or its religious orders, such as the Jesuits. The other 72 were affiliated with various Protestant groups, including Presbyterians (21), Quakers (15) and Methodists (12).
Most have been closed for decades. Samuel Torres, director of research and programs for the coalition, said church apologies can be a good start but “there is a lot more to be done” on engaging Indigenous community members and
educating the public.
Such information is crucial given how little most Americans know about the schools, both in their impact on Indigenous communities and their role “as an armament toward acquisition of Native lands,” he said.
“Without that truth, then there’s really very limited possibilities of healing,” Torres said.
Hauff noted that the experiences of former students, such as his own parents, ranged widely.
Some said that even amid austerity, loneliness and family separation, they received a good education, made friends, learned skills and freely spoke tribal languages with peers. But others talked of “unspeakable, cruel abuse,” including
physical and sexual assault, malnourishment and being punished for speaking Native languages.
“Even if some of the children did say they had a positive experience, it did come at a price,” Hauff said. “Our church
worked hand in hand with the government to assimilate these children … We need to acknowledge it happened.”
In Canada, where more than 150,000 Indigenous children attended residential schools over more than a century, a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 3,201 deaths amid poor conditions.
The United Church of Canada, which operated 15 such schools, has apologized for its role, opened its archives and helped identify burial sites.
The Rev. Richard Bott, moderator of the United Church, lamented that “we were perpetrators in this” and that the church “put the national goal of assimilation ahead of our responsibility as Christians.”
The Catholic Church’s response in Canada remains controversial. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in June that he was “deeply disappointed” the Vatican has not offered a formal apology.
Pope Francis expressed “sorrow” following the discovery of the graves and has agreed to meet at the Vatican in December with school survivors and other Indigenous leaders.
Canada’s Catholic bishops said in a joint statement this month that they are “saddened by the Residential Schools legacy.”
In Saskatchewan, bishops have launched a fundraising campaign to benefit survivors and other reconciliation efforts.
U.S. churches address legacy to varying degrees
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, meanwhile, said it would “look for ways to be of assistance” in the Interior Department’s inquiry.
“We cannot even begin to imagine the deep sorrow these discoveries are causing in Native communities across North
America,” spokeswoman Chieko Noguchi said.
Influential voices such as the Jesuit-affiliated America Magazine are urging U.S. Catholic bishops not to repeat their mishandling of cases of child sex abuse by priests and other religious leaders.
“For decades the people of God were anguished by the obfuscation on the part of those church leaders who allowed only a trickle of incomplete document releases from diocesan and provincial archives while investigators struggled to get to the truth,” the magazine said in an editorial.
“The church in the United States must demonstrate that it has learned from … such failures.”
Individual efforts are underway, however, such as at the Red Cloud Indian School in South Dakota, which has formed a Truth and Healing Advisory Committee to reckon with the years it was managed by Catholic orders.
Other churches have addressed their legacy to varying degrees.
Early in 2017, leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) traveled to Utqiagvik, on Alaska’s North Slope, to deliver a
sweeping apology before a packed school auditorium for the treatment of Indigenous persons in general, and specifically for how it operated the boarding schools.
The Rev. Gradye Parsons, former stated clerk for the denomination, told the gathering that the church had been “in
contempt of its own proclaimed faith” in suppressing Native spiritual traditions amid its zeal to spread Christianity, and “the church judged when it should have listened.”
“It has taken us too long to get to this apology,” Parsons said. “Many of your people who deserved the apology the most are gone.”
The United Methodist Church held a ceremony of repentance in 2012 for historic injustices against Native peoples, and in 2016 it acknowledged its role in the boarding schools in tandem with a government effort to “intentionally” destroy traditional cultures and belief systems.
Still, the Native American International Caucus of the United Methodist Church recently urged the church to do more “to uncover the truth about our denomination’s role and responsibility in this reprehensible history.”
Support is available for anyone affected by the effects of residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.
The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
The NWT Help Line offers free support to residents of the Northwest Territories, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is 100% free and confidential. The NWT Help Line also has an option for follow-up calls. Residents can call the help line at 1-800-661-0844.
In Nunavut, the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line is open 24 hours a day at 1-800-265-3333. People are invited to call for any reason.
In Yukon, mental health services are available to those in both Whitehorse and in rural Yukon communities through Mental Wellness and Substance Use Services. Yukoners can schedule Rapid Access Counselling supports in Whitehorse and all MWSU community hubs by calling 1-867-456-3838.
Global Affairs Canada 'engaging' with staff in Austria following reports of 'Havana syndrome' symptoms – CTV News
Global Affairs Canada said it is “engaging” with Canadian officials in Austria following reports that American representatives in Vienna have been experiencing symptoms similar to the mysterious “Havana syndrome.”
Earlier this week, U.S. diplomats, intelligence officials and government staff reported about two dozen cases of symptoms similar to the Havana syndrome, which include nausea, dizziness, headaches and trouble concentrating.
CNN reported earlier this week that the mysterious incidents have forced a handful of American personnel in Vienna to be medically evacuated back to the U.S.
In a statement, Ciara Trudeau, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said that there have been no reports of similar cases among Canadians, but that the agency is “engaging” with staff and other governments on the matter.
“Global Affairs Canada maintains a strict security protocol to respond immediately to any unusual events affecting Canadian diplomats or their families posted abroad,” Trudeau said in the statement.
“We continue to stay in contact with our staff and all other relevant governments in Vienna.”
American diplomats in Cuba first reported unexplained health effects in November 2016. Fourteen Canadians stationed therealso reported symptoms as well.
A report from December 2020 found that the mysterious injuries were likely caused by an attack of “directed” radio energy, though Cuba has denied the report.
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