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Government to use regulation to ban handgun imports in two weeks

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The federal government plans to fast-track a ban on the import of handguns into the country without the approval of Parliament using a regulatory measure that comes into effect in two weeks, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino announced Friday.

The change will last until a permanent freeze is passed in Parliament and comes into force.

The government tabled gun control legislation in May that includes a national freeze on the importation, purchase, sale and transfer of handguns in Canada.

That law did not pass before Parliament took its summer break and is set to be debated again when MPs return to Ottawa in the fall.

In the meantime, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said she has the authority to ban any import or export permit in Canada.

Until now, she said there was no import permit system required for owners and businesses to buy handguns elsewhere in the world and bring them to Canada.

“Working with Marco, we came up with this idea of creating this new system of requiring permits,” Joly said. “But meanwhile, we will deny any permits.”

When the prime minister first announced the proposed legislation in the spring, Canada saw an uptick in gun sales, Joly said, and this temporary ban will prevent stores from stocking up on guns while the bill makes its way through the House of Commons and the Senate.

Government trade data shows Canada imported $26.4 million worth of pistols and revolvers between January and June — a 52 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.

The temporary ban will prevent businesses from importing handguns into Canada, with a few exceptions that mirror those in the legislation tabled in May.

“Given that nearly all our handguns are imported, this means that we’re bringing our national handgun freeze even sooner,” Mendicino said. “From that moment forward, the number of handguns in Canada will only go down.”

Mendicino and Joly announced the change outside of a Catholic elementary school in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke, as children kicked soccer balls around in the field behind them.

The NDP say the government should have foreseen the “frenzy” of gun sales when it tabled the legislation and accounted for it sooner.

“Instead, they failed to implement regulations sooner and let preventable tragedies happen,” said NDP public safety critic Alistair MacGregor in a statement.

But PolySeSouvient, a group that represents survivors and families of victims of gun violence, applauded the government’s approach to freezing imports in a statement released Friday.

“This is a significant and creative measure that will unquestionably slow the expansion of the Canadian handgun market until Bill C-21 is adopted, hopefully this fall,” said Nathalie Provost, a survivor of the École Polytechnique shooting in Montreal in 1989.

Conservative public safety critic Raquel Dancho said the move targets law-abiding citizens and businesses rather than illegal and smuggled guns.

“Instead of addressing the true source of gun crime in Canada, the Liberal government is unilaterally banning imports without parliamentary input, impacting a multi-billion dollar industry and thousands of retailers and small businesses, with very little notice,” Dancho said in a statement after the announcement.

In the announcement, Mendicino accused the Official Opposition of obstructing the passage of the bill and other gun control measures. Dancho, meanwhile, said the Conservatives support addressing illegal gun smuggling and accused the Liberals of creating a wedge issue out of gun control while making communities less safe.

Mendicino said he’s been visiting land borders over the summer to make sure the government has the staff and technology in place to address illegally smuggled weapons as well.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2022.

 

Laura Osman and Jordan Omstead, The Canadian Press

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Canadian parliamentarians 'hoping' to make October visit to Taiwan – CBC News

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Members of Parliament’s standing committee on international trade are planning a trip to Taiwan as early as October, says the group’s chair Liberal MP Judy Sgro.

A potential fall visit to Taiwan by Canadian MPs and senators would come on the heels of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island in early August.

Pelosi’s visit — which she characterized as a mission to show Washington’s support for Taiwan and democracies worldwide — enraged the Chinese government, which considers the self-ruled island a part of its territory. Beijing responded by encircling the island and conducting live-fire military drills close to territorial waters claimed by Taiwan and Japan.

Sgro said eight members of the committee — who are all also members of Parliament’s Canada-Taiwan Friendship Group — plan to go on the trip.

“The trade committee is very anxious to go and to visit Taiwan and see what opportunities there are for deeper trade relations between our two countries,” she said.

While acknowledging the “significant strain” on international relations that followed Pelosi’s trip, Sgro said “we certainly will use diplomacy as we proceed” through what she called a “necessary” trip.

“Democracy is cherished and an important part of what we all live in every day. We need to protect other countries that have fought for their freedom and for their democracy,” she said.

“So, yes, you know, I’m trying to be diplomatic in my comments, but clearly I’m proud that Canada is standing up to China as well. And I think that pushback is very important.”

Sgro said planning for the trip began last spring. Whether the trip takes place, she added, will depend in part on the future of Taiwan’s COVID-19 protocols.

Visiting U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi waves to journalists during her arrival at the Parliament in Taipei on August 3, 2022. (Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images)

Liberal MP John McKay, who has visited Taiwan several times under the banner of the friendship group, said China’s dramatic reaction to Pelosi’s visit should not “in the least” dissuade Canada from following in her footsteps.

“My view is that China is trying to bully Taiwan and indirectly bully the rest of us on a false premise that Taiwan is part of China,” McKay said.

“That is nonsense. The Taiwanese have repeatedly expressed their desire to be an independent country and have behaved in an exemplary fashion.

“Canada should do everything to encourage Taiwan to express its democratic values. This parliamentary trip will encourage that.”

Previous iterations of the Canada-Taiwan Friendship Group have visited the island in the past, as recently as 2014. Individual MPs also have made trips to meet with Taiwanese politicians for many years, drawing the ire of Beijing.

But a fall visit by the friendship group would come at a time of heightened tensions between the Canadian and Chinese governments.

Defence Minister Anita Anand said China’s decision to conduct military drills following Pelosi’s visit was an “unnecessary escalation.”

“There is no justification to use a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait,” Anand said.

China’s vice foreign minister urged Canada to “immediately correct its mistakes” after the G7 issued a condemnation of China’s actions.

Friendship groups represent only informal relations

The Canada-Taiwan Friendship Group is one of dozens of so-called “friendship groups” on Parliament Hill. There were 89 members of the group in 2021, according to a statement released by the Taiwanese government.

The informal nature of friendship groups allows MPs and senators to maintain relations with a variety of governments and communities outside the scope of official government activities.

Under the One China policy adopted by the vast majority of the international community, Canada has only informal diplomatic relations with the Taiwanese government.

Other active friendship groups include the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group and the Canada-Uyghur Parliamentary Friendship Group.

Friendship groups do not receive administrative or financial support from the Parliament of Canada.

A delegation of German parliamentarians is also set to visit Taiwan in the first week of October.

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Taliban celebrate one year anniversary of taking over Afghanistan

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Kabul, Afghanistan- The Taliban took to the streets on Monday to celebrate their one-year anniversary since they took over the country last year.

Just over a month after the official announcement that the United States (US) army would withdraw from Afghanistan, the Taliban took over the capital city, Kabul, on August 15, 2021.

The Afghan army’s swift collapse took the world by surprise, precipitating the fall of Kabul and sending tens of thousands of Afghan soldiers and their families into exile.

However, Afghanistan is in the midst of a medical crisis that is worsening by the day, exacerbated by an economy in freefall, the freezing of the country’s assets, and the drying up of hundreds of millions of dollars of aid that flowed into the country for two decades, because the Taliban has taken control.

To make matters worse, the White House on Monday ruled out releasing US$3.5 billion in funds held in the US back to Afghanistan’s Central Bank anytime soon, citing that Al Qaeda’s leadership had taken refuge in the heart of Kabul apparently with the protection of the Taliban government.

“Right now, we are looking at mechanisms that could be put in place to see to it that these US$3.5 billion in preserved assets make their way efficiently and effectively to the people of Afghanistan in a way that doesn’t make them ripe for diversion to terrorist groups or elsewhere,” said Ned Price, the State Department’s spokesperson.

The issue of the frozen money remains one of the most sensitive questions a year after US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw the last American troops from Afghanistan, leading to the fall of the Western-backed government and the Taliban’s return to power. The White House has been acutely sensitive to the approach of the anniversary, anticipating that it would renew criticism of the chaotic American withdrawal and the restoration of a draconian regime of repression, especially targeting women and girls.

Meanwhile, Thomas West, the American government’s special representative for Afghanistan, said that American officials have engaged for months now with the Central Bank about how to shore up Afghanistan’s economy but have not secured persuasive guarantees that the money would not fall into terrorist hands.

“We do not have confidence that that institution has the safeguards and monitoring in place to manage assets responsibly, and needless to say, the Taliban’s sheltering of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri reinforces deep concerns we have regarding diversion of funds to terrorist groups,” said West.

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Aung San Suu Kyi Former Myanmar leader gets six more years added to her prison sentence

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Naypyidaw, Myanmar- Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s former leader who was toppled in a military coup last year February, has had her prison sentence extended by six more years.

The latest verdict in the series of secretive trials against the Nobel laureate takes her total prison term to 17 years.

On Monday, she was found guilty of misusing funds from a charity and leasing government-owned land at discounted prices.

“The Myanmar military junta’s unjust conviction and sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi is part of its methodical assault on human rights around the country. The military’s willingness to forcibly disappear the country’s high-profile civilian leader reveals the brutality that lesser-known political prisoners face,” said Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Prior to Monday’s sentence, the Nobel laureate had already been sentenced to 11 years in prison for corruption, incitement against the military, breaching COVID-19 rules and breaking a telecommunications law.

The 77-year-old has since been hit with a series of charges, including violating the official secrets act, corruption and electoral fraud and faces decades in prison if convicted on all counts.

In June, Suu Kyi was transferred from house arrest to a prison in the capital Naypyidaw, where her trial continues in a Courthouse inside the prison compound.

Many of her political allies have also been arrested since the coup, with one Minister sentenced to 75 years in prison.

Life for Suu Kyi has now been restricted to a prison cell measuring about 200 square feet (18.5 square metres). Daytime temperatures can surpass 100 degrees Fahrenheit, (37.7 degrees) but there is no air conditioning. When it rains, which is often, water splashes in through windows that have no coverings.

Allies bring her food as well as white-and-brown clothing so she doesn’t have to wear the louse-infested uniforms given to prisoners. Female staff come to her cell and taste her prison food to show her it isn’t poisoned.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, Suu Kyi is one of more than 15 000 people arrested for opposing military rule, and of these, 12 000 remain in detention.

Many have been tortured in interrogation centers and sentenced by military Courts after brief trials where defence attorneys and the public are barred. Convicted prisoners are often transferred to remote prisons, creating additional hardship for them and their families.

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