RIGA, Latvia — The Ukrainian flag can be seen flying almost everywhere in the central neighbourhoods of Riga, the Latvian capital. Across from the Russian embassy, a giant portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin styled as a skull hangs from the side of a building, a striking image on a grey winter’s day.
In Latvia, support for the Ukrainian resistance is unyielding.
“In our case, we still have this historical memory,” said Janis Garisons, state secretary in Latvia’s Ministry of Defence.
He recalled in a recent interview that his country lived through a painful Soviet annexation led by Josef Stalin in 1939. His father and uncle had to take refuge in another home at the time because their parents were deported by the Soviets. Most Latvians have similar stories of pillage, deportation and brutality in their families.
“Here, everybody, the majority have those stories,” Garisons said. That explains the fierce hostility felt in Latvia toward Putin’s Russia, with which it shares a long border.
“We know what it means when the Russians come,” he said. “Therefore, we don’t have any illusions on that.”
From the Russian embassy, in an elegant villa near Riga’s downtown, a dozen Ukrainian flags are visible fluttering in the wind outside the conference centre across the street. Out the other side of the building hangs the sinister image of a skeletal Putin against a blood-red background.
Even the name of the street on which the embassy resides has been changed to Independent Ukraine Street, no doubt a source of irritation for Russian embassy staff with each letter or parcel received.
On a busy street nearby, there is a large canvas with a Christ-like figure of a woman, evoking a Ukrainian martyr, on a backdrop of the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag. The image is walking distance, across a park, from the domed Russian Orthodox cathedral, attended by many Russian speakers.
Latvia was part of the Russian Empire until the end of the First World War, and the country’s Russian minority makes up 34 per cent of the population. The Russian influence is visible everywhere in Riga’s architecture and statues. Russian can be heard frequently in Riga’s streets, and signs, posters and menus are in both Latvian and Russian. It is not on account of Russian tourists, as Latvia has restricted access to Russians.
Asked about the loyalties of the Russian minority, Col. Didzis Nestro of the Latvian army says loyalty is a difficult concept to measure. Russian-speaking Latvians are well integrated and “are loyal,” even if some have “different opinions,” he said in an interview.
The war of attrition taking shape on the Ukrainian front is taking a toll on nearby countries, as energy costs shoot up. But Lt.-Col. Jérémie Gauvreau of the Canadian Army, deputy commander of Task Force Latvia, has confidence in the determination of Latvians — as well as their Baltic neighbours Estonia and Lithuania — who long suffered under the Russian yoke.
Gauvreau, who has been in Latvia for three years, says Baltic countries had been sounding the alarm about Russia for years, adding that they do not want to surrender an inch of territory.
Garisons said Latvians remain unshakable. “Everyone understands that the winter will not be easy and that Putin’s strategy is to freeze Europe,” he said. But it will take a lot more than that for Latvian support to falter.
“Everybody understands the consequences,” he said. “If the Ukrainians lose then we are the next.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2022.
— Patrice Bergeron is a Quebec-based journalist with The Canadian Press. In addition to two decades of political and general news experience, he was a CP war correspondent in Afghanistan in 2009.
Patrice Bergeron, The Canadian Press
In The News for Dec. 1: Canada gains on U.S. in permanent resident race – EverythingGP
Last year, the number of new permanent residents in the U.S. barely budged to 738,199, up slightly from 707,362 in 2020, the year the pandemic began.
But in Canada, the number soared to more than 405,000 — more than twice the number who arrived in 2020, and still nearly 20 per cent more than in 2019.
It’s a record that will likely be beaten more than once in the coming years, as a Canadian federal immigration plan released earlier this month aims to admit 465,000 new permanent residents in 2023 and 500,000 a year by 2025, with a particular focus on bringing in people with needed skills and experience.
Business leaders say the government should be even more focused on attracting skilled migrants than it already is, and do more to ensure their credentials and qualifications are recognized.
Housing is a problem too, with association CEO Jack Jedwab saying Toronto beat out the New York area last year as the most popular destination for new permanent residents.
Also this …
HIV activists are marking World AIDS Day by urging Ottawa to help stop a global backslide in stopping infections and combating stigma.
The World Health Organization has reported a slowing in the decline of new HIV cases, ever since countries focused their limited health care systems on COVID-19.
There is a rising proportion of cases among women and people who inject drugs in Canada, and Indigenous people accounted for nearly one-fifth of new infections in 2020.
Advocates point out that Canada still criminalizes people for not telling sexual partners that they have HIV, even when prescription drugs make it impossible to transmit the virus.
They argue that the risk of prosecution prevents people from accessing testing and treatment.
AIDS has killed roughly 40 million people, including 650,000 in 2021
What we are watching in the U.S. …
WASHINGTON _ Presidents Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron are celebrating the long-standing U.S.-French relationship _ but these are friends with differences. The French president is using his visit to Washington to sharply criticize aspects of the U.S. president’s signature climate law as a bad deal for Europe.
Biden is set to honour Macron with the first state dinner of his presidency on Thursday evening. First, the two leaders will sit down in the Oval Office for morning talks that officials from both sides said were expected to largely centre on the leaders’ efforts to stay united in their response to Russia’s war in Ukraine and to co-ordinate their approach to an increasingly assertive China.
But ahead of Thursday’s meeting, Macron made clear that he and other European leaders remain deeply concerned about the incentives in a sweeping new climate-related law that favour American-made climate technology, including electric vehicles.
Macron on Wednesday criticized the legislation, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, during a luncheon with U.S. lawmakers and again during a speech at the French embassy. The French president said that while the Biden administration’s efforts to curb climate change should be applauded, the subsidies would be an enormous setback for European companies.
“The choices that have been made … are choices that will fragment the West,” Macron said at the French embassy. He added that the legislation “creates such differences between the United States of America and Europe that all those who work in many companies (in the U.S.), they will just think, `We don’t make investments any more on the other side of the Atlantic.”’
Separately, at the luncheon with members of Congress from both parties, along with business leaders and diplomats, Macron said that major industrial nations need to do more to address climate change and promote biodiversity.
He criticized a deal reached at a recent climate summit in Egypt in which the United States and other wealthy nations agreed to help pay for the damage that an overheating world is inflicting on poor countries. The deal includes few details on how it will be paid for, and Macron said a more comprehensive approach is needed _ “not just a new fund we decided which will not be funded and even if it is funded, it will not be rightly allocated.”
Speaking after his prepared remarks and without cameras present, Macron took aim at the Inflation Reduction Act, calling the subsidies harmful to French companies and others in Europe, according to a person in the closed-door meeting. The European Union has expressed concern that tax credits in the climate law, including those aimed at encouraging Americans to buy electric vehicles, would discriminate against European producers and break World Trade Organization rules.
What we are watching in the rest of the world …
BENGALURU, India _ India officially takes up its role as chair of the Group of 20 leading economies for the coming year Thursday and it’s putting climate at the top of the group’s priorities.
Programs to encourage sustainable living and money for countries to transition to clean energy and deal with the effects of a warming world are some of the key areas that India will focus on during its presidency, experts say. Some say India will also use its new position to boost its climate credentials and act as a bridge between the interests of industrialized nations and developing ones.
The country has made considerable moves toward its climate goals in recent years but is currently one of the world’s top emitters of planet-warming gases.
The G-20, made up of the world’s largest economies, has a rolling presidency with a different member state in charge of the group’s agenda and priorities each year. Experts believe India will use the “big stage” of the G-20 presidency to drive forward its climate and development plans.
The country “will focus heavily on responding to the current and future challenges posed by climate change,” said Samir Sarin, president of the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank. The ORF will be anchoring the T-20 _ a group of think tanks from the 20 member countries whose participants meet alongside the G-20.
Sarin said that India will work to ensure that money is flowing from rich industrialized nations to emerging economies to help them combat global warming, such as a promise of $100 billion a year for clean energy and adapting to climate change for poorer nations that has not yet been fulfilled and a recent pledge to vulnerable countries that there will be a fund for the loss and damage caused by extreme weather.
He added that India will also use the presidency to push its flagship “Mission Life” program that encourages more sustainable lifestyles in the country, which is set to soon become most populous in the world.
When outgoing chair Indonesia formally handed the presidency to India in Bali last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the opportunity to promote the program, saying it could make “a big contribution” by turning sustainable living into “a mass movement.”
India has been beefing up its climate credentials, with its recent domestic targets to transition to renewable energy more ambitious than the goals it submitted to the U.N. as part of the Paris Agreement, which requires countries to show how they plan to limit warming to temperature targets set in 2015.
On this day in 201 …
Canada acted on an American request and arrested a top Chinese tech executive in Vancouver. Meng Wanzhou is the CFO of Huawei Technologies and daughter of the company’s founder. The U.S. wanted her to face allegations of fraud as it says Huawei used unofficial subsidiary Skycom to do business with Iranian telecommunications companies between 2009 and 2014 in violation of sanctions. (Wanzhou was released in September 2021 after reaching an agreement with the US Justice Department.)
In entertainment …
LONDON _ They want money _ that’s what they want, that’s what they want. Well, now the Rolling Stones can say they’re also ON money, the face of a new collectible coin issued by Britain’s Royal Mint to celebrate the band’s 60th anniversary.
The new five-pound coin features a silhouette image of the iconic band performing _ frontman Mick Jagger, guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, and the late drummer Charlie Watts _ as well as the band’s name in what is described as their classic 1973 font. The mint said it was one of the last coins of the year to be released bearing the image of Queen Elizabeth, who died in September at age 96.
The Rolling Stones were back on the road this year with their 2022 European “Sixty” tour, ending in Berlin in August.
“We are delighted to be honoured by way of an official U.K. coin,” the band said in a statement included in the Royal Mint’s announcement. “Even more significant that the release coincides with our 60th anniversary.”
The new coin is the fifth in the mint’s “Music Legends”’ series, which celebrates legendary British artists. Others so honoured have been Queen, Elton John, David Bowie, and The Who.
While the best things in life are free, as the Stones sang in their cover of the Motown hit “Money (That’s What I Want),” the coins will cost something. Similar coins on the mint’s website from the Music Legends series range from 15 pounds to 465 pounds.
Did you see this?
WINNIPEG _ A 101-year-old message has been discovered by workers removing the base of a former statue in front of the Manitoba legislature.
Workers have been removing, piece by piece, the large base that held a statue of Queen Victoria. The statue was toppled last year by protesters. Its head was removed and thrown in the nearby Assiniboine River. The base is being removed to make way for a replacement.
When crews recently removed one section of the base, they found a broken bottle and a note that had been placed inside. The note was an apology of sorts, dated July 30, 1921, _ an era when alcohol was outlawed.
‘It says, on account of the Prohibition, we are unable to adhere to the custom of depositing a bottle of brandy under the stone, for which we are extremely sorry, I believe is what it says,” Reg Helwer, minister responsible for government services, said Wednesday as he tried to make out the wording on the worn dispatch.
The note is signed by a stonecutter, other workers and a bureaucrat _ the province’s deputy minister of public works at the time.
The government is now working out how to best preserve the document and what should be done with it.
Helwer said it’s not the first time an item from Manitoba’s early days as a province has been discovered unexpectedly.
“Apparently there are things of that nature around the legislature. As we move stones, we do discover things like this,” he said.
“To me, it’s a very neat story, especially with the age of the building, just recently celebrating a hundred years not long ago.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2022.
The Canadian Press
5 things to know today: Canada's 'two-faced' winter forecast – CTV News
CTV News travels to Pakistan and finds some Afghans who fled and are now homeless, a new weather forecast predicts a “two-faced” winter for many Canadians, and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith tables the controversial sovereignty act. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.
1. Refugee camp: CTV News visits a refugee camp in Pakistan, where Afghan children live in flimsy tents set up in a park, without basics like running water or ample food, with only their mothers for protection.
2. Winter forecast: Despite warm and mild temperatures stretching on throughout most of the fall season, the wrath of winter may be coming soon, experts say. But frigid temperatures aren’t expected to last.
3. Sovereignty act: Danielle Smith introduces the Sovereignty within a United Canada Act in the provincial legislature while trying to reassure Albertans that it has nothing to do with leaving the country.
4. Canada commutes: A new census release from Statistics Canada Wednesday is expected to shed light on how people got to work last year, and what kind of jobs they were doing.
5. China’s reformer: Former President Jiang Zemin, who led China out of isolation after the army crushed the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989 and supported economic reforms that led to a decade of explosive growth, is dead at 96.
One more thing…
Royal bill: King Charles III’s three-day tour of Canada earlier this year cost taxpayers at least $1.4 million, according to documents obtained by CTVNews.ca.
How to apply for Canada's new rental and dental benefits – CTV News
Starting on Thursday, eligible Canadians can apply through the Canada Revenue Agency to receive funding as part of the first ever federal dental-care program, and as of Dec. 12 applications will open for low-income renters looking to access the one-time top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit.
On Nov. 17 the NDP-backed Liberal affordability bill bringing in both the dental-care benefit and rental boost for lower-income Canadians—known as Bill C-31—became law. At the time, the government committed to having the application process launched before the end of the year.
On Wednesday, the federal financial agency briefed reporters on how the system will work for Canadians looking to apply for these benefits, billing the system as “streamlined and user-friendly.”
The CRA says it will only take a couple of minutes to apply, because there are some upfront verification built into the system, including checking if your 2021 tax return has been filed.
Here’s what you need to know.
WHAT IS THE “CANADA DENTAL BENEFIT”?
For now, the “Canada Dental Benefit” will be offered to children under the age of 12, with an annual family income of less than $90,000, with the amount provided per child per year dependant on family income.
- $650 would be provided per child if the family’s adjusted net income is under $70,000;
- $390 would be provided per child if the family’s adjusted net income is between $70,000 and $79,999; and
- $260 would be provided per child if the family’s adjusted net income is between $80,000 and $89,999.
The amount offered is the government’s “best calibration” of how much funding is needed to cover basic dental care—exams, cleanings, X-rays, and fillings— without much left over, according to government officials who briefed reporters on the program in September.
The first phase of dental care will provide eligible parents or guardians with “direct, up-front tax-free payments to cover dental expenses.”
This interim dental benefit is only available for two periods, and parents or caregivers can receive a maximum of two payments for each eligible child.
The first period covers expenses retroactive to Oct. 1, 2022, through to June 30, 2023. The second period will cover dental services the child received between July 1, 2023, and June 30, 2024.
If a child’s dental care costs more than $650 and the parent or guardian has only applied for one benefit period, they may meet the criteria for an additional payment.
HOW TO APPLY FOR DENTAL COVERAGE
Applicants will have two options to access the online portal: either through their CRA “My Account” or through their Service Canada account. For those without access to the online systems, the CRA is setting up a dedicated dental benefit phone line to receive applications.
Either way, those applying will have to make a series of attestations in order to determine eligibility, as well as answer security questions to verify their identity.
For example, parents or guardians making the application will have to confirm:
- Their child was born on or after Dec. 2, 2010, making them 12 years old as of Dec. 1, 2022;
- They are currently receiving the Canada Child Benefit as of Dec. 1, 2022;
- Their child does not have access to private dental care coverage nor are their costs fully covered by another dental program provided by any other level of government;
- They will have out-of-pocket dental care expenses for which they will use the benefit; and
- They have filed their 2021 income tax and benefit return.
Applicants can submit to receive this financial support ahead of appointments, but will have to provide proof of eligibility such as contact information for the dental service provider, date of the appointment, and information related to their employer and spouse or partner related to their benefit coverage.
The CRA is highly recommending signing up for direct deposit as the fastest and easiest way to receive this funding, noting that the estimated wait time for payments is five business days if signed up for direct deposit, whereas it could take 10 business days to receive a cheque by mail.
The law has also set up a process for bureaucrats to check eligibility information—including contacting employers—and there could be penalties for those who submit fraudulent claims. The CRA is encouraging those who apply to print and save a copy of their applications as well as any relevant documentation such as receipts, in case verification is needed down the line.
For example, if for some reason a parent or guardian applies for funding in the first period but does not end up having dental care expenses during that timeframe, they will be required to repay that amount and reapply for the second eligibility period.
While only those under 12 years old will get access for now, the government says it remains committed to following through on seeing this stop-gap measure become a fully-fledged national dental care plan by 2025.
WHAT ABOUT THE “CANADA HOUSING BENEFIT” TOP-UP?
A for sale sign outside a home indicates that it has been rented, in Ottawa, on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
The other form of federal funding that eligible Canadians can soon access is the one-time $500 top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit. The application process for this funding will launch on Monday, Dec. 12, according to the CRA.
This is a program for low-income renters with adjusted net incomes below $35,000 for families, or $20,000 for individuals who pay at least 30 per cent of their adjusted net income on rent and are paying rent for their own primary residence in Canada.
In order to receive this $500 payment to help cover rent, applicants need to confirm they:
- Have filed their 2021 income tax and benefit return;
- Are at least 15 years of age as of Dec. 1, 2022;
- Are a resident in Canada for tax purposes in 2022;
- Have their principal residence in Canada as of Dec. 1, 2022;
- Have paid rent for their own shelter in 2022; and
- Have paid at least 30 per cent of their 2021 adjusted net family income on rent in the 2022 calendar year.
Applicants need to be ready to provide some basic information such as their address, who they paid rent to and how to contact that person, as well as how many months spent at certain residences if they’ve moved throughout the year.
Same as with the dental benefit, the CRA is suggesting direct deposit as the fastest and easiest way to receive this funding. The estimated wait time for payments is five business days if signed up for direct deposit, whereas it could take 10 business days to receive a cheque by mail.
Here too, applicants will have to keep any relevant documentation to back up their application in case the CRA comes calling in the next six years to validate their eligibility. This includes tax slips, rental property receipts, and landlord contact information.
Applicants found to be ineligible will be required to repay the benefit.
In The News for Dec. 1: Canada gains on U.S. in permanent resident race – EverythingGP
Canada coach John Herdman disputes Croatian counterpart's account of skipped post-match handshake – The Globe and Mail
DoorDash laying off 1,250 people, about 6% of its workforce – CBC News
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