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From vaccines to climate, G7 hopes to show the West is not over yet

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The Group of Seven rich democracies will try to show the world at a summit this week that the West can still act in concert to tackle major crises by donating hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries and pledging to slow climate change.

U.S. President Joe Biden, on his first foreign trip since winning power, will try to use the summit in the English seaside village of Carbis Bay to burnish his multilateral credentials after the tumult of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Whether on COVID-19 or climate change, the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States want to illustrate that the West can compete with the power of China and the assertiveness of Russia.

“This is a defining question of our time: Can democracies come together to deliver real results for our people in a rapidly changing world?” Biden, 78, asked in a June 5 opinion piece in The Washington Post.

“Will the democratic alliances and institutions that shaped so much of the last century prove their capacity against modern-day threats and adversaries? I believe the answer is yes.”

At the weekend, the G7’s finance ministers agreed a deal on a minimum corporate tax rate, which U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said reflected a desire to work together.

“It shows that multilateral collaboration can be successful,” she said.

Biden meets British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, chair of the summit, on Thursday, the day before the start of the leaders’ three-day meeting. On Sunday, Biden will become the 13th serving U.S. President to meet Queen Elizabeth II, 95, who will receive him at Windsor Castle.

He then travels to Brussels for a NATO summit and a European Union summit before he meets Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin in Geneva on June 16.

The G7 was founded in 1975 as a forum for the richest nations to discuss crises such as the OPEC oil embargo. Its countries have a combined annual GDP of $40 trillion, or just under half of the global economy.

The West, though, feels insecure. The coronavirus ravaged the United States and Europe and climate change has challenged the assumptions of many of its economic models. It faces a truculent Kremlin in Moscow and the spectacular re-emergence of China as a great power.

The G7 summit in Carbis Bay, 300 miles west of London, will be the first for Biden, Italy’s Mario Draghi and Japan’s Yoshihide Suga, and the first post-Brexit G7 for Johnson.

It will be Angela Merkel’s last G7 before she steps down as German Chancellor after an election in September, and Emmanuel Macron’s last before a 2022 election in France. The leaders of Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa were invited, though Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have to miss the meeting due to the COVID-19 situation at home.

Behind the public pronouncements, diplomats say, G7 leaders will talk about how to deal with China and Russia, how to win back the trillions of dollars in wealth wiped out by COVID-19 and how to ensure free trade in a world tilting towards China.

China, the world’s second largest economy, has never been a member of the G7. Russia, admitted as a G8 member six years after the fall of the Soviet Union, was suspended in 2014 after it annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine.

Moscow and Beijing have both told the G7 to stop meddling in their affairs.

After many rich powers hoarded COVID-19 vaccines, Johnson wants the G7 to donate hundreds of millions of doses to poorer countries, many of which are far behind the West in vaccinating their populations.

“Vaccinating the world by the end of next year would be the single greatest feat in medical history,” Johnson said.

Beyond the security that will cocoon world leaders, thousands of protesters will try to disrupt the summit over concerns ranging from climate change to a draft bill that would give British police more powers to curb demonstrations.

“Our rights weren’t won through quiet polite protest. Our rights were won through being noisy, disruptive and annoying,” said the Kill The Bill group – one of about 20 activist organisations to have joined a ‘Resist G7 Coalition’.

 

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Peter Graff)

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Hundreds more unmarked graves found at erstwhile Saskatchewan residential school

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An indigenous group in Saskatchewan on Thursday said it had found the unmarked graves of an estimated 751 people at a now-defunct Catholic residential school, just weeks after a similar, smaller discovery rocked the country.

The latest discovery, the biggest to date, is a grim reminder of the years of abuse and discrimination indigenous communities have suffered in Canada even as they continue to fight for justice and better living conditions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “terribly saddened” by the discovery at Marieval Indian Residential School about 87 miles (140 km) from the provincial capital Regina. He told indigenous people that “the hurt and the trauma that you feel is Canada’s responsibility to bear.”

It is not clear how many of the remains detected belong to children, Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme told reporters, adding that oral stories mentioned adults being buried at the site.

Delorme later told Reuters some of the graves belong to non-indigenous people who may have belonged to the church. He said the First Nation hopes to find the gravestones that once marked these graves, after which they may involve police.

Delorme said the church that ran the school removed the headstones.

“We didn’t remove the headstones. Removing headstones is a crime in this country. We are treating this like a crime scene,” he said.

The residential school system, which operated between 1831 and 1996, removed about 150,000 indigenous children from their families and brought them to Christian residential schools, mostly Catholic, run on behalf of the federal government.

“Canada will be known as a nation who tried to exterminate the First Nations,” said Bobby Cameron, Chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan. “This is just the beginning.”

OLD WOUNDS

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which published a report that found the residential school system amounted to cultural genocide, has said a cemetery was left on the Marieval site after the school building was demolished.

The local Catholic archdiocese gave Cowessess First Nation C$70,000 ($56,813) in 2019 to help restore the site and identify unmarked graves, said spokesperson Eric Gurash. He said the archdiocese gave Cowessess all its death records for the period Catholic parties were running the school.

In a letter to Delorme on Thursday, Archbishop Don Bolen reiterated an earlier apology for the “failures and sins of Church leaders and staff” and pledged to help identify the remains.

Heather Bear, who went to Marieval as a day student in the 1970s and is also vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, recalled a small cemetery at the school but not of the size revealed on Thursday.

“You just didn’t want to be walking around alone in (the school),” she recalled. There was a “sadness that moves. And I think every residential school has that sadness looming.”

The Cowessess First Nation began a ground-penetrating radar search on June 2, after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia outraged the country. Radar at Marieval found 751 “hits” as of Wednesday with a 10% margin of error, meaning at least 600 graves on the site.

The Kamloops discovery reopened old wounds in Canada about the lack of information and accountability around the residential school system, which forcibly separated indigenous children from their families and subjected them to malnutrition and physical and sexual abuse.

Pope Francis said in early June that he was pained by the Kamloops revelation and called for respect for the rights and cultures of native peoples. But he stopped short of the direct apology some Canadians had demanded.

Thursday was a difficult day, Delorme told Reuters. But he wants his young children to know “we will get the reconciliation one day with action like today.”

($1 = 1.2321 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto and Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Alistair Bell, Grant McCool and Daniel Wallis)

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Teamsters votes to fund and support Amazon workers

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The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a labor union in the United States and Canada, said on Thursday it has voted to formalize a resolution to support and fund employees of Amazon.com Inc in their unionization efforts.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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Citigroup names new sales head for Treasury and Trade Solutions unit

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Citigroup Inc has named Steve Elms as the new sales head for the bank’s Treasury and Trade Solutions (TTS) unit effective immediately, according to an internal memo shared by a company spokesperson.

Elms, who will oversee the management of the global sales teams, has been involved with the bank’s TTS division for over 10 years, according to his LinkedIn profile.

TTS is a division of the bank’s Institutional Clients group. The segment offers cash management and trade services and finance to multinational corporations, financial institutions and public sector organizations around the world.

(Reporting by Niket Nishant in Bengaluru and David Henry in New York; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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