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Iran indicts 10 over Ukraine plane crash, prosecutor says; Canada demands justice

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran has indicted 10 officials over the shooting-down of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January 2020 that killed all 176 people on board, a military prosecutor said on Tuesday.

In a report published last month, Iran’s civil aviation body blamed the crash on a misaligned radar and an error by an air defence operator. Ukraine and Canada, home to many of those who died, criticised the report as insufficient.

“Indictments have been issued for 10 officials involved in the crash of the Ukrainian plane…and necessary decisions will be taken in court,” Gholam Abbas Torki, the outgoing military prosecutor for Tehran province, was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency ISNA. He did not elaborate.

In Ottawa, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “tremendously concerned about the lack of accountability” from Iran about the disaster.

Canada, along with its partners, will continue to press Tehran to deliver justice and compensation for families of the victims, he told a briefing when asked about the indictments.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight on Jan. 8, 2020, shortly after it took off from Tehran Airport.

The Iranian government later said the shooting-down was a “disastrous mistake” by its forces at a time when they were on high alert in a regional confrontation with the United States.

Iran was on edge about possible attacks after it fired missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for the killing days before of its most powerful military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in a U.S. missile strike at Baghdad airport.

 

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Gareth Jones and Mark Heinrich)

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Canadian retail titan W. Galen Weston dies at 80

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(Corrects April 13 story to remove references to Primark in paragraph 3 and what had been paragraph 6, to reflect that Primark is actually owned by a different Weston family)

By Moira Warburton

(Reuters) -W. Galen Weston, patriarch of one of Canada‘s wealthiest families and retail titan, has died at age 80, according to a statement by the family on Tuesday.

Weston was the third generation of his family to lead George Weston Limited, an already-prosperous retail empire founded by his grandfather, which he expanded significantly.

The family company, now run by his son, Galen Weston, owns Selfridges in the United Kingdom, as well as the Canadian grocery chain Loblaw Co Ltd, pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart, and real estate company Choice Properties.

Weston passed away peacefully at home after a long illness, the statement said.

He was born in Buckinghamshire, England, and moved to Dublin at 21 to escape a domineering father, the Irish Times reported in 2014, where he met his wife, Irish model Hilary Frayne. They married in 1966.

In the 1970s Weston returned to his family’s base of operations, Canada, to revive the family’s struggling Loblaws supermarket chain, and helped turn it into one of the largest food distributors in the country.

“In our business and in his life he built a legacy of extraordinary accomplishment and joy,” Galen Weston, chairman and CEO of George Weston Ltd, said in a statement.

“The luxury retail industry has lost a great visionary,” Alannah Weston, Weston Sr.’s daughter and chairman of Selfridges Group, said.

The Weston family is among the wealthiest in Canada, with Forbes estimating their total wealth at $8.7 billion.

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in VancouverEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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Canada’s migrant farmworkers remain at risk a year into pandemic

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By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Pedro, a Mexican migrant worker, knew he had to leave the Ontario cannabis operation where he worked when so many of his coworkers caught COVID-19 that his employer began to house them in a 16-person bunk house alongside the uninfected.

Pedro moved in with friends in the nearby farming town of Leamington, Ontario, at the end of October. He asked to be identified under a pseudonym because he fears that speaking out will affect his chances of employment.

“I didn’t know where to go, where to get help. So I was left behind, hopeless,” he said, speaking through a translator. About a week later, Pedro landed another job, working with peppers in a greenhouse. Conditions are better, he said.

But he added: “To be honest, I don’t think all employers are taking precautions.”

Pedro is one of about 60,000 migrant farmworkers – many from Central America and the Caribbean – who come to Canada as part of an annual migration of people that ramps up in spring. They grow and harvest the country’s food supply and have continued to work in the midst of a pandemic.

They feed the country and are a crucial part of a C$68.8 billion ($54.8 billion) sector, making up about one-fifth of the country’s agricultural workforce, according to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

As the pandemic crippled travel last year, agricultural employers were unable to fill one-fifth of the temporary foreign worker positions they needed, costing Canadian farmers C$2.9 billion due to labour shortages, according to research commissioned by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council.

These workers are also uniquely at risk. They live and work in crowded settings, and language barriers coupled with precarious immigration status tied to their employment prevent them from speaking out about unsafe conditions.

Last year they were hit hard by COVID-19, with 8.7% of migrants in Ontario testing positive. This year they are returning as Canada is in the grip of a third wave. While governments and employers say they are taking steps to keep these workers safe, advocates and workers contacted by Reuters say the dangers remain – except that now, those dangers are known.

Graphic on COVID-19 global tracker: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/

SAME CRISIS

Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, argues the same factors that made workers more vulnerable to COVID-19 last year – crowded workplaces, congregate living, visas that tie them to an employer and make them fearful of speaking out – still exist.

“We are walking into the same crisis yet again, the only difference being that we already know how bad it is.”

Keith Currie, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, said employers are doing their best, but some transmission of the virus will occur.

“Because they’re living on the farm, they’re in contact with each other when they’re working … despite all our efforts, it spreads. Just like it does elsewhere in society.”

Some 760 farmworkers have been infected so far this year in Ontario, Canada‘s most populous province, according to provincial data. Ontario put agriculture workers in Phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccinations, which begins this month, and has set up a clinic at Toronto’s airport offering vaccines to migrants on arrival.

But advocates worry migrant workers might lack requisite identification, especially if they are undocumented.

Advocates argue not enough is being done to keep these workers safe from the pandemic. They say rules such as the requirement to get – and pay for – a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of coming to Canada place an undue logistical and financial burden on migrants.

Last month the federal government announced new measures meant to protect migrant agricultural workers, including beefed-up inspections.

But the migrants interviewed by Reuters argued what will protect them is more stable status that does not tie them to an employer.

“Hopefully this year, the government of Canada gives us status,” said Teresa, a migrant worker from Baja California.

($1 = 1.2559 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Editing by Denny Thomas and Matthew Lewis)

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Canadian crude imports fall 20% in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic

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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – Imports of crude oil into Canada dropped 20% year-on-year in 2020 due to weak demand as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canada Energy Regulator said in an analysis released Wednesday.

Canada imported 555,000 barrels per day (bpd) last year, the lowest level in at least 10 years, down from 693,000 bpd in 2019 and more than 800,000 bpd in 2010.

The total cost of imported oil in 2020 fell 40% from the previous year to C$11.5 billion ($9.18 billion), reflecting the lower volumes and a slump in global crude prices.

Canada is the world’s fourth-largest crude producer and exports around 3.7 million bpd but the vast majority of its production comes from the western province of Alberta.

The country still imports some crude to serve refineries in eastern Canada because of a lack of pipeline access to western supplies, the specific product requirements of different refineries, and because it can be cheaper to import.

“Refineries in the main importing regions of Quebec and Atlantic Canada have been slower to recover from the pandemic impacts compared to refineries in the rest of Canada,” the CER said in its analysis.

The CER said that was because of tighter COVID-19 travel restrictions in Quebec and Atlantic Canada than in western provinces, and weak demand from other countries for refined product exports from Atlantic Canada refineries.

The percentage of barrels imported from the United States rose to 77%, up from 72% the year before. Another 13% came from Saudi Arabia, 4% from Nigeria, 3% from Norway, and the remainder from several other countries.

($1 = 1.2534 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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