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Iran plane crash fundraisers shut down by GoFundMe

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At least two recent GoFundMe campaigns based in Edmonton have been pulled offline, then reinstated without explanation, with organizers concerned that references to Iran or Iranians may have caused the U.S.-based crowdfunding platform to temporarily disable their campaigns.

Both fundraisers aimed to help families and friends of passengers of the downed Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, which crashed outside Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport after it was struck by missiles launched by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on Wednesday.

One campaign, run by the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton, was shut down less than six hours after the organization held a press conference on Friday announcing its fundraising to help subsidize a memorial service for the victims.

 

The IHSE GoFundMe link led to a “not found” page just hours after launch. (Screenshot/gofundme.com)

 

“It was out around six, seven hours, which was terrible for us in terms of capturing all the funds at the peak of the attention,” said Amir Ghahari, treasurer of the IHSE.

Emails provided to CBC News show around midday on Friday, GoFundMe had requested the IHSE provide additional documentation for its fundraiser including “a clear explanation of how you know the intended recipients of your campaign’s donations.”

Everyone’s telling us … if you put the word Iran then you’re going to get blocked.– Amir Ghahari, Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton

The email stated that if a response was not given within seven days, the account would be removed. The IHSE provided CBC with emails showing the organization replied on the same day, within business hours.

Regardless, the campaign was seemingly deleted later that same evening. According to Ghahari, IHSE officials did not receive any alerts from GoFundMe to indicate the campaign was suspended, and were actually alerted that it was not accessible by a local Edmonton media outlet.

Organizers suspected the problem could be that their campaign referenced Iranians, though it was officially titled “In memory of the passengers of Flight PS752.”

“Everyone’s telling us like, if you put the word Iran then you’re going to get blocked. So we’re like, ‘OK what do we do?'” said Ghahari.

“The thing about GoFundMe is for some reason there is no help line, like a phone number that we could reach out to.”

 

 

Several hours after CBC News made inquiries with GoFundMe representatives, the campaign was restored.

An email from GoFundMe on Friday said the U.S.-based company was in touch with the campaign organizers. The Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton said they did not hear from a company representative until early Sunday morning.

In a message timestamped 5:10 PST on Sunday, a GoFundMe “community manager” advised the IHSE that their campaign was “queued for a proactive review, but has since been cleared to raise funds” and added that funds in the account are subject to a precautionary hold until their payment processor completes a review.

Not the first time

Another Iranian-Canadian attempting to fundraise for the community in the wake of the plane crash ran into a nearly identical problem.

Shayesteh Majdnia of Edmonton launched her own GoFundMe, with similar goals to the Heritage Society, before its fundraiser had launched. Her first attempt was pulled down.

“When they took the page down, I tried every single way to put it back, but my account was totally blocked,” said Majdnia.

A former official with the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton herself, Majdnia had included this detail in her biography and description of the fundraiser to lend credibility.

It may have backfired.

“I did not know the real reason, but somehow I know maybe because I mentioned I was the former president of the Iranian society,” she told CBC News.

 

Iran plane crash fundraisers
Shayesteh Majdnia said she was careful with how she referenced Iran in her GoFundMe after being blocked once before. (Screenshot/gofundme.com)

 

Majdnia was able to get her campaign restored by reaching out to GoFundMe media and public relations contacts — an option unavailable to the general public. Since being reactivated, her campaign has raised tens of thousands of dollars.

Is it because of sanctions?

In an email to CBC News, GoFundMe said in some cases — which the company called “rare” — sanctions can be a factor.

“In some rare cases, U.S. or Canadian sanctions will prohibit us from supporting specific campaigns,” wrote a communications manager for GoFundMe. The company also included a link to a help page titled “Raising Funds for a Beneficiary in an Unsupported Country.”

However, both the IHSE and Majdnia’s fundraiser descriptions state the funds would be used for beneficiaries in the Edmonton area.

Majdnia’s GoFundMe specifies that it would fund a memorial service in Edmonton, and an endowment fund at the University of Alberta.

“We’re not reaching outside the Edmonton area. We’re like basically helping all the families, victims, and their related family members in the Edmonton area,” said Iranian Heritage Society treasurer Amir Ghahari.

CBC test found same result

As a test, CBC News created an account on GoFundMe and prepared a fundraiser that included the words Iran, Canada, and referenced raising money for the victims “who are in Canada.” The fundraiser was never published or publicly available and the process was not completed.

 

Iran plane crash fundraisers
CBC News received this email after creating a test fundraiser that included a reference to Iran. (Screenshot)

 

Within an hour, the entire account was suspended. An email was sent from GoFundMe that stated “we are writing to inform you that your GoFundMe account has been removed due to sanctions involving an unsupported country and a violation of our Terms & Conditions.”

GoFundMe hasn’t clarified

GoFundMe did not respond to specific questions about exactly what parts of the terms and conditions were violated for this experiment, or for the other Iranian-Canadian GoFundMe campaigns affected in the Edmonton area.

Under “Prohibited Content” in its terms of service, it includes “activities with, in, or involving countries, regions, governments, persons, or entities that are subject to U.S. and other economic sanctions under applicable law, unless such activities are expressly authorized by the appropriate governmental authority.”

In an email, GoFundMe explicitly stated that Iran “is not a restricted term” on its platform.

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Prince Harry and Meghan's arrival could mean 'new grounds' for Canada's privacy laws – CBC.ca

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British paparazzi may soon come face-to-face with Canada’s privacy laws as the arrival of Prince Harry and Meghan has already prompted a warning to the U.K press to back off or face legal action.

But it’s unclear what legal recourse the royal couple will have to keep news photographers away from their family.

David Fraser, a Halifax-based privacy lawyer, says, when it comes to privacy claims in Canada, he hasn’t found any related to celebrities and paparazzi.

The lawsuits here that relate to invasions of privacy, most recently, deal with large-scale business data breaches, or hidden cameras, he said.

“So this is relatively new grounds that we’re looking at, maybe because we don’t have the same sort of paparazzi culture or the same sort of celebrity culture in Canada. But so far, a claim like this has not been made or at least hasn’t gone to a published decision,” he said. 

“It’s not something that’s really been tested a whole lot in Canada. We don’t have a paparazzi culture.”

Buckingham Palace announced Saturday that the prince and his wife will give up public funding and try to become financially independent. The couple is expected to spend most of their time in Canada while maintaining a home in England near Windsor Castle in an attempt to build a more peaceful life. 

Video from Sky News showed Harry landing at Victoria’s airport late Monday. The prince, Meghan and their eight-month-old son Archie were reportedly staying at at mansion on the island. 

Lawyers for the couple sent a letter to British new outlets, accusing photographers of “harassment,” and claiming that paparazzi have permanently camped outside their Vancouver Island residence, attempting to photograph them at home using long-range lenses.

They also allege that pictures of Meghan — on a hike with Archie and her two dogs, trailed by her security detail, on Vancouver Island on Monday — were taken by photographers hiding in the bushes. 

“There are serious safety concerns about how the paparazzi are driving and the risk to life they pose,” the letter read.

When it comes to privacy issues in Canada, there are a few ways Canadians can take action, says Iain MacKinnon, a Toronto-based lawyer. 

British paparazzi may soon come face-to-face with Canada’s privacy laws as the arrival of Prince Harry and Meghan has already prompted a warning to the U.K press to back off or face legal action. (James Glossop/Reuters/Pool)

One can argue “intentional infliction of mental stress” in which the conduct of the defendant has to be proven to be flagrant and outrageous; calculated to produce harm, and results in visible and provable illness, he said.

There’s also what’s known as “intrusion upon seclusion” in which the defendant’s conduct must be intentional or reckless and have invaded the plaintiff’s private affairs “without lawful reason.” Also, a “reasonable person would regard the invasion as highly offensive causing distress, humiliation or anguish,” MacKinnon said.

And there’s public disclosure of private facts, when one publicizes an aspect of another’s private life — without consent — that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person. The publication also would not be of legitimate concern to the public.

And Meghan Markle walking her dog in a public space … would not fall under any of those,” MacKinnon said.

They may seek recourse under the B.C. Privacy Act which specifically says it’s a violation for somebody to willfully and without a legal basis violate the privacy of someone else, and allows for someone to sue the alleged perpetrator.

In making that determination, a judge is required to take into account the circumstances of the situation, the relationships between the parties and other people’s rights and interests. There is an exemption, however, for journalistic publications and if the matter is of public interest. 

“Up until now, certainly when they’ve been part of the Royal Family and are highly public figures and are paid, their whole and entire lifestyle is paid for by public funds, then that’s certainly one justification for arguing that what they do is a matter of public interest,” MacKinnon said.

“As they may recede from public life and become more private citizens, that argument may be more difficult to make. But certainly today, this is headline news, them leaving England, leaving the Royal Family, moving to Canada. It’s tough to say that this is not a matter of public interest.”

Most people won’t consider it to be highly offensive that someone took a picture of Meghan in public park because there isn’t a reasonable expectation of privacy, MacKinnon said.

Prince Harry addressed the myriad emotions he and his wife, Meghan, are feeling after agreeing with Queen Elizabeth that the couple would step down from official roles. 1:33

“Now, if they’re shooting with telephoto lenses into a house where Harry and Megan are staying and they’re photographing them in their private lives inside a house, that might be a different story.”

Fraser says, under the act, an invasion of privacy can also include surveillance.

“It’s really going to depend upon the exact circumstances of what’s alleged. But it certainly sounds like a group of photographers, paparazzi following them around might fit into the category of surveillance,” he said.

Fraser said even if one is in a public place, there’s still an expectation of privacy.

Being in a public park, there’s a significantly reduced expectation of privacy. But when it comes to a photographer hiding in a bush, a court might say it’s arguable that one has an expectation of privacy if they are in a place, looking around, not seeing other observers and somebody has hidden themselves, Fraser said.

“There would also probably be an element of kind of additional intrusion based on the fact that the person has hidden themselves and is covertly trying to surveil somebody,” Fraser said.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms doesn’t give anybody a particular privacy interest among individuals — only against the state. It does, however, provide a right for freedom of expression, which would be the right that the photographers have, Fraser said.

“So any court considering these issues would have to balance those interests which includes the rights of journalists to collect information, to disseminate that information, against a particular privacy interest.”

Still, Fraser believes Harry and Meghan could find a “level of sympathy” in the courts 

“Given that, it seems that they’re moving from the United Kingdom to Canada, least part time, in order to get away from this glare and get away from these invasions of privacy,” he said. 

It’s unlikely that the royals would see a big cash windfall in the event their legal claims were successful. Privacy damages are relatively low or modest in Canada, Fraser said. 

“But I would expect that an injunction so a court order requiring the paparazzi to stay away might be something that they would seek as well.”

And as MacKinnon noted, Harry and Meghan, through their lawyers, are probably attempting to set new ground rules.

“My guess is that they’re trying to draw a new line in the sand here with both the Canadian media [and], more likely, the Fleet Street tabloids.”

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Iran at odds with Canada’s demands after asking U.S., France to help analyze black boxes – Global News

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Iran said it had asked the U.S. and French authorities for equipment to download information from black boxes on a downed Ukrainian airliner, potentially angering countries which want the recorders analyzed abroad.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Iran did not have the ability to read the data and he demanded the cockpit and flight recorders should be sent to France. Kiev wants the recorders sent to Ukraine. Canadian citizens totalled 57 of the 176 people killed in the crash,

The U.S.-built Boeing 737 flown by Ukraine International Airlines was shot down in error by Iranian forces on Jan. 8 during a period of tit-for-tat military strikes that included the killing by the United States of a senior Iranian general on Jan. 3.


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Tehran, already embroiled in a long-running standoff with the United States over its nuclear program, has given mixed signals about whether it would hand over the recorders.

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An Iranian aviation official had said on Saturday the black boxes would be sent to Ukraine, only to backtrack in comments reported a day later, saying they would be analyzed at home.

A further delay in sending them abroad is likely to increase international pressure on Iran, whose military has said it shot the plane down by mistake while on high alert in the tense hours after Iran fired missiles at U.S. targets in Iraq.

“If the appropriate supplies and equipment are provided, the information can be taken out and reconstructed in a short period of time,” Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization said in its second preliminary report on the disaster released late on Monday.






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1 person repatriated to Canada following Iran plane crash: Champagne


1 person repatriated to Canada following Iran plane crash: Champagne

A list of equipment Iran needs has been sent to French accident agency BEA and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, the Iranian aviation body said.

“Until now, these countries have not given a positive response to sending the equipment to (Iran),” it said. It said two surface-to-air TOR-M1 missiles had been launched minutes after the Ukrainian plane took off from Tehran.

‘MAXIMUM PRESSURE’

Iran’s aviation body says it does not have equipment needed to download information from the model of recorders on the three-year-old Boeing 737.

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General Electric Co has received a license from the U.S. Treasury Department to help in the investigation of the crash, a GE spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday.


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Under U.S. sanctions law, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) must grant approval for U.S. investigators to participate in the probe and potentially travel to Iran.

GE co-owns with France’s Safran SA the French-U.S. firm CFM that made the plane’s engines.

Trudeau said the data should be downloaded immediately.

“There need to be qualified experts doing that but it’s also a question of technology and equipment and that is not available in Iran,” he told a news conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“There has been broad consensus in the international community that France would be the right place to send those boxes (and) we continue to pressure Iran to do just that.”






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Question of black boxes hangs over Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 investigation


Question of black boxes hangs over Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 investigation

Trudeau also said Tehran’s refusal to acknowledge dual citizenship was posing a challenge when it came to helping support the families of the Canadian victims, many of whom had close ties to Iran.

Iran, which took several days to acknowledge its role in bringing down the plane and faced street protests at home as a result, fired its missiles at U.S. targets in response to a U.S. drone strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq on Jan. 3.

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Iran has for years faced U.S. sanctions that limited its ability to purchase modern planes and buy products with U.S. technology. Many passenger planes used in Iran are decades old.

Under Tehran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, Iran received sanctions relief in return for curbing its nuclear work. But Washington reimposed U.S. sanctions after withdrawing from the pact in 2018, a move that led to the steady escalation of tension in recent months between the United States and Iran.


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European governments say they want to save the deal but have also suggested it may be time for a broader pact, in line with Trump’s call for a deal that would go beyond Iran’s nuclear work and include its missile program and activities in the region.

Iran says it will not negotiate with sanctions in place.

Since the plane disaster, Iran’s judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi has said compensation should be paid to families of the victims, many of whom were Iranians or dual nationals.

Canada, Ukraine, Britain, Afghanistan and Sweden, which all lost citizens, have demanded Iran make the payouts

© 2020 Reuters

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Canada’s prison watchdog disturbed by ‘Indigenization’ of correctional system – Global News

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The proportion of Indigenous people in federal custody has hit a record high of more than 30 per cent due to disturbing and entrenched imbalances, Canada’s prison ombudsman warned Tuesday.

The numbers are even more troubling for Indigenous women, who account for 42 per cent of the female prison population, correctional investigator Ivan Zinger said.

The system seems unresponsive to the needs, histories and social realities behind high rates of Indigenous offending, Zinger said in a statement calling for the Correctional Service of Canada to do more to resolve the spiralling problem.


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At the current pace, within three years one in every three federal inmates will be Indigenous, even though Indigenous people comprise only five per cent of the Canadian population, Zinger said.

“The Indigenization of Canada’s prison population is nothing short of a national travesty.”

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Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, the cabinet member responsible for federal corrections, said he was “very concerned” about the numbers and stressed the Liberal government was “absolutely committed” to dealing with the underlying causes.






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The federal prison service says decisions with respect to sentencing of offenders are beyond its control.

The service does, however, try to influence the time Indigenous inmates spend in custody by providing culturally responsive programs and other efforts aimed at rehabilitation and a successful return to society.

It says effective and culturally appropriate correctional and reintegration support for Indigenous offenders has been a priority for more than a decade.

Zinger said that’s not good enough.


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The federal prison service needs to accept its share of responsibility, recognizing that tweaks around the edges of the system simply won’t do, he said.

Indigenous inmates are disproportionately classified and placed in maximum-security institutions, overrepresented in incidents involving use of force and self-harm, and historically have been more likely to be placed in solitary-confinement units, he noted.

Compared to others in the system, Indigenous offenders serve a higher proportion of their sentences behind bars before they are granted parole, Zinger said. Finally, a recent study showed that Indigenous people reoffend, or are returned to custody, at much higher levels.

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The ombudsman says the Correctional Service needs to make dramatic changes to stop the revolving door, better prepare Indigenous offenders to meet the earliest parole eligibility dates and more safely return them to their home communities.

“Reforms of this nature will require a significant and proportional realignment of CSC priorities and resources. The government of Canada needs to lead and direct these efforts,” he said.

No government of any stripe has managed to reverse the trend of Indigenous overrepresentation in Canadian jails and prisons despite many inquiries, judicial interventions, and political promises and commitments, Zinger said.

The correctional investigator, federal commissions and parliamentary committees have called on the government to take steps including:

— Transfer of resources and responsibility to Indigenous groups and communities for the care and supervision of Indigenous offenders;

— Appointment of a deputy commissioner for Indigenous corrections;

— More readily available, culturally relevant correctional programming;

— A clearer and more robust role for Indigenous elders.

Marie-Claude Landry, chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, called Indigenous incarceration rates a national disgrace.


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“We strongly agree with the correctional investigator that bold and urgent action is required to address this persistent and pressing human rights issue,” she said in a statement Tuesday.

At the conclusion of a Liberal caucus retreat in Winnipeg, Blair said the correctional system, police, courts and society in general all have roles to play in helping reduce the proportion of Indigenous offenders in prison.

The “well-known and challenging” social conditions that give rise to the problem, including generational trauma, substance abuse and lack of access to services must be addressed, he said.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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