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Iran sanctions, terrorism listing unlikely to pressure regime, experts say

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OTTAWA — As members of Parliament debate how to stop Iran’s violent crackdown on human rights, experts say Canada has limited leverage to pressure the regime.

Large protests have erupted across Iran since Mahsa Amini died in police custody earlier this month. Iran’s morality police had detained the 22-year-old, allegedly because her head scarf was too loose.

In response, women have burned their hijabs during largescale protests across the country that have prompted Iranian security forces to push back with a brutality unseen for years. At the same time, the regime has been beset by a drought and soaring inflation, while its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is bedridden.

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada will sanction senior Iranian officials, including those working for the morality police, but no list had been published as of Tuesday afternoon.

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The Conservatives have repeatedly urged Ottawa to follow through on a motion the House of Commons adopted in 2018 to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is part of the country’s army, a terror group.

But experts argue neither policy will do much to pressure the Iranian regime.

Thomas Juneau, a University of Ottawa international affairs professor specializing in Iran, says the group has undoubtedly committed terrorism in Iran and abroad. But he says the parliamentary motion was unenforceable.

“It’s symbolic politics; it’s not actually getting something done,” he said.

That’s because Iran has conscripted millions into the corps over time. The list would include people such as a man who served as a cook in the corps for two years in the ’90s, Juneau said, explaining that Canada would have no interest in extending a terrorist designation to every person who has been a part of the group.

Trying to limit sanctions to those who have taken part in terrorism would require identifying the individuals and monitoring them, Juneau said. Ottawa would either need to spend vastly more money or let other sanctions go unmonitored.

“The drain on resources would be massive, and the reality is we are nowhere near a point where we can do that,” he said.

He suspects that’s why the Liberals haven’t gone ahead with the terrorism designation. But both Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly refused to provide an explanation when asked multiple times on Monday.

Juneau said Canada could better target visa bans and sanctions to senior members of the Iranian regime who have family or business interests in Canada, some of whom are accused of laundering money.

“That is where Canada could do things that are much more targeted, and we’d have more of an impact,” Juneau said. “We are fairly lax at that level.”

This year, retired Iranian police commander Morteza Talaei confirmed that January social-media photos of him exercising at a Richmond Hill, Ont. gym were genuine. Iranian diaspora groups questioned how he got a Canadian visa after overseeing Tehran’s police force during a time of numerous human-rights abuses.

Jessica Davis, a former analyst for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service who specializes in counterterrorism financing legislation, said she doubts individual sanctions would do much to pressure the regime.

Yet she said those individual sanctions would probably be more effective than putting the revolutionary guard corps on the terrorism list.

“Canada has very a limited enforcement capability,” said Davis, who now leads Insight Threat Intelligence. There are “very few people” doing deep analysis of foreign assets in this country, she said.

NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson said that means Canada needs to think outside the box.

“Let’s make sure it’s not just words, but we are actually following through with concrete things,” said the Edmonton MP.

She noted that Russians have found ways to get around Canada’s sanctions, and meanwhile, Canadian anti-terrorism laws have blocked aid groups from getting help to desperate Afghans living under the Taliban regime.

Last week, she convinced the House subcommittee on international human rights to study violence against women in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. In planned hearings, McPherson said MPs will ask citizens of those countries how Canada can help.

“I need to have that conversation with Iranians,” she said.

Liberal MP Ali Ehsassi, whose Willowdale riding in Toronto has a large Iranian population, said the diaspora wants a multilateral response.

Ehsassi said he’s urged fellow Liberals and American officials to do more, such as convening an emergency United Nations meeting and fact-finding mission about human rights in Iran.

“We have every right to ask for the global community to listen to their plight, and to do as much as we possibly can,” said Ehsassi, who chairs the House foreign affairs committee.

He said that might result in countries pausing negotiations to restore Iran’s nuclear deal until it stops suppressing human-rights protests. The deal seeks to allow Iran to produce energy while limiting its capacity to produce weapons.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government suspended Canada’s diplomatic relations with Iran in 2012, and Joly said this week that there are no plans to change that stance.

In January, 2020, Iranian officials shot down a Ukraine International Airlines flight, killing dozens of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Ottawa says its attempts to seek reparations for families have been futile.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2022.

 

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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Most Canadians think there could be a 2023 recession: survey – CTV News

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Nine out of 10 Canadians believe there could be a recession in 2023, according to a new national survey, with four out of 10 calling it “likely.”

A new survey conducted by Nanos Research on behalf of CTV News asked more than 1,000 Canadians if they believed it was likely Canada would have a recession next year.

The vast majority answered that it was “somewhat likely” (44 per cent) or “likely” (42 per cent).

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Less than one per cent believed a recession next year was “not likely,” while around seven per cent said it was “somewhat not likely” and six per cent were unsure.

This survey comes after a Royal Bank of Canada report predicted in October that Canada could be headed for a recession as early as the first quarter of 2023.

That same report found that the average Canadian household could lose $3,000 of buying power next year. A myriad of factors are contributing to this threat of recession, experts say, with cooling housing markets and unemployment levels showing the weakening of our economy.

High inflation has been a recurring issue in 2022, with grocery prices climbing at a pace not seen in decades within the last few months, according to Statistics Canada.

HOW THE CANADIAN OUTLOOK VARIES

Although a strong majority of Canadians are predicting a potential recession, according to this new survey, those results were not even across the board.

Men were slightly more likely to answer that a recession was somewhat likely/likely, at 88 per cent compared to 85 per cent of women, although the same 7.5 per cent of men and women believed it was somewhat unlikely/likely.

When split into age brackets, those aged 35 to 54 were the most likely to believe that a recession was coming in 2023, with 90.4 per cent answering likely/somewhat likely, compared to 88.4 per cent of those aged 18 to 34 years, and 82.6 per cent of those aged 55 plus.

The difference was more stark when it came to the percentage of respondents who believed a recession was somewhat unlikely/unlikely, with the percentages increasing as the ages of respondents did. Just 2.7 per cent of 18- to 34-year-olds thought a 2023 recession was at least somewhat unlikely, compared to 6.5 per cent of 35- to 54-year-olds and 11.3 per cent of those aged 55 plus.

The rates of those who answered that a recession was at least somewhat likely were relatively even across the provinces, with 87 to 88 per cent of the Atlantic provinces, Quebec and Ontario choosing this option.

Around 84 per cent of respondents from the Prairies and 84.9 per cent of respondents from British Columbia answered that they believed a recession in 2023 was at least somewhat likely.

METHODOLOGY

Nanos conducted an RDD dual frame (land- and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1025 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between Nov. 27 and 29, 2022, as part of an omnibus survey. Participants were randomly recruited by telephone using live agents and administered a survey online. The sample included both land- and cell-lines across Canada. The results were statistically checked and weighted by age and gender using the latest Census information and the sample is geographically stratified to be representative of Canada.

Individuals randomly called using random digit dialing with a maximum of five call backs.

The margin of error for this survey is ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

This study was commissioned by CTV News and the research was conducted by Nanos Research.

Note: Charts may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

 

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Nexus applicants can shuffle off to Buffalo as Canada, U.S. expand pilot project

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An experimental bid to rescue the troubled Nexus trusted-traveller program between Canada and the United States has expanded to the Peace Bridge.

Nexus applicants in Canada can now sit down with border agents on opposite sides of the link between Fort Erie, Ont., and Buffalo, N.Y., New York congressman Rep. Brian Higgins said Thursday.

That’s a departure from what used to be the standard practice of being interviewed by U.S. and Canadian agents at the same time — a process that hasn’t taken place on Canadian soil since before the pandemic.

The new procedure at the Peace Bridge crossing is an extension of a pilot project that began in late September at the Thousand Islands crossing between Alexandria Bay, N.Y., and Lansdowne, Ont., just east of Kingston.

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In both locations, Nexus applicants in Canada submit to two separate interviews: first on the Canadian side with a member of the Canada Border Services Agency, then with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials on the American side.

“Border management has gotten more complicated than it has to be,” Higgins said in a statement.

“The U.S. and Canada are longtime friends with interconnected economies. We need to find ways to break down the barriers at our border to better support the flow of people and goods between neighbours.”

The pilot project is considered a partial, short-term solution to the bilateral impasse that has led to U.S. agents refusing to staff Nexus enrolment centres on Canadian soil over what they consider inadequate legal protection.

It’s an “important stopgap,” Higgins said, but the fact it’s needed at all is proof that the two countries have a long way to go before Nexus is back to its pre-pandemic strength.

He called it “a reminder that the U.S. and Canada still need to fulfil the potential of the agreement reached in 2015 to facilitate Nexus application procedures in a seamless way to the benefit of both Canadians and Americans.”

The backlog of Nexus applications in Canada reached as high as 350,000 earlier in the fall, but has been slowly declining since the pilot project began. The Canada Border Services Agency officials did not immediately provide updated numbers.

Higgins said once the project is fully underway at the Peace Bridge, as many as 500 applications could be processed there each week.

It’s a far cry from how Nexus interviews have traditionally been conducted in both countries, with applicants sitting down for an in-person interview that’s jointly conducted by officers from the two agencies in the same room.

That process has been going on as normal in the U.S. since April, when the 13 Nexus centres south of the border reopened for joint interviews after a two-year pandemic-driven hiatus.

Customs and Border Protection, however, won’t send agents to staff centres in Canada without being guaranteed the same legal protections they enjoy on U.S. soil — a condition the federal government in Canada considers a non-starter.

Officials with CBP have so far refused to comment publicly on the dispute.

The impasse turned into a full-blown diplomatic row in October when Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s U.S. envoy, said the program was being “held hostage” to a unilateral attempt to renegotiate the bilateral preclearance agreement under which Nexus was established.

Business leaders and elected officials in both countries have been pressing the two sides to find a solution, describing Nexus as a critical component of the cross-border trade and commercial ties between Canada and the U.S.

That includes a coalition of U.S. lawmakers — Higgins, Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) — who wrote to their Canadian counterparts earlier this month.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2022.

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Inquiry into Emergencies Act urged to recommend greater oversight of police

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Lawmakers should define how to maintain government oversight of law enforcement while ensuring police independence more clearly, experts told a public inquiry Thursday, arguing that the understanding of where to draw the line has long been too vague.

The concepts of police oversight and independence came up time and again over six weeks of fact-finding testimony at the Public Order Emergency Commission, which is investigating the federal Liberal government’s use of the Emergencies Act last winter.

Throughout the inquiry hearings, police and politicians described a separation between police operations and policy, and said politicians and police boards should never direct operations.

The line was often described as a separation between church and state.

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“For me, it’s pretty clear. Anything operational, we’re advising what’s happening, but we’re not taking direction on how to do things,” RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki testified on Nov. 15. She suggested the federal government should use legislation to more clearly define the line that politicians should not cross.

While an expert panel of witnesses agreed Thursday that the line should be more clearly defined, Guelph University political science professor Kate Puddister said such a stark distinction is unhelpful.

“My perspective is that this distinction, in an attempt to draw a clear line between the two, does a disservice,” she said. “This formulation allows governments to shirk responsibilities with respect to policing, perhaps as a method of political strategy.”

The commission is looking at the events that led up to the government’s emergency declaration in response to the weeks-long “Freedom Convoy” protest in Ottawa and similar protests at border crossings across Canada.

Beyond assessing whether the move was appropriate, the inquiry also has a mandate to make recommendations about how to modernize the law and suggest areas where further study could be warranted.

After hours of testimony from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau concluded the first phase of the inquiry last Friday, the commission has turned to a second phase of expert testimony on a range of issues related to the protests.

The police governance experts who testified Thursday reaffirmed the importance of police services being independent of political interference. Otherwise, they risk being seen as “a tool of the government of the day,” as Ryan Teschner, the executive director of the Toronto Police Services Board, said in his testimony.

But all agreed that police need more oversight over some elements of their operations.

“We have for too long had a rather vague and sometimes often overblown conception of police independence from government,” Teschner said.

Michael Kempa, a criminologist with the University of Ottawa, suggested legislators “simply jettison the term ‘operations’ altogether,” and define police independence “in terms of the exercise of their powers of investigation, arrest and the laying of charges.”

The experts also said that all police services in Canada should have some kind of civilian oversight body, such as a police commission or board.

Most urban police services in Canada are watched by such entities, but provincial police and RCMP are not. The RCMP commissioner reports directly to the federal minister of public safety.

Creating a board would mean that any political direction to police would be public and documented, and it would ensure that “ministerial direction is appropriate and given when necessary,” Puddister said.

Commissioner Paul Rouleau said some of the panel’s recommendations may make their way into his final report, though he wouldn’t say which.

During a second afternoon session, experts discussed the ways that different levels of government, including First Nations governments, work together in an emergency.

Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, recommended that the Emergencies Act be ammended to require consultation with First Nations in addition to provincial and municipal governments.

“Neither the Emergencies Act or the Emergency Management Act mentions First Nations as governments. Everyone else gets notice,” Sayers said.

“Yet when emergencies happen, it is First Nations lives at stake, their lands, resources and their ability to carry out their section 35 protected rights.”

The specifics about which First Nations should be consulted could vary depending on the emergency at hand, she said.

Cal Corley, CEO of the Community Safety Knowledge Alliance, said more consultation between levels of government could prevent the need to invoke an emergency in the first place.

He said if there are “intentional proactive measures” between federal, provincial, territorial, First Nations and municipal governments to address large-scale protests and emergencies, “it should, in most cases and circumstances, establish conditions that negate the need for governments to even consider invoking the federal Emergencies Act.”

Rouleau and his team must deliver their findings by Feb. 6, with the commission’s final report to be made public by Feb. 20.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2022.

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