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Iranian-Canadians in B.C. worry

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Iranian-Canadians in B.C. are watching with concern what the fallout will be for their friends, family, and the world after the U.S. assassination of a top Iranian general.

The U.S. Department of Defence confirmed that President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike near Baghdad’s airport on Friday to target Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

The 62-year-old general had been responsible for fighters backing Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in that country’s ongoing conflict, and for the deaths of U.S. troops in Iraq. Trump ordered the killing because he said Soleimani had been planning attacks on U.S. diplomats and service members.

Some fear the fallout over the assassination could trigger wider war.

According to census data from 2016, there are more than 200,000 people living in Canada with Iranian origins. Many escaped their home country’s authoritarian rule and associated human rights issues.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has been in power since 1989 in Iran, which last year celebrated the 40th anniversary of the revolution that ushered in an Islamic regime.

Siamand Zandi left Tehran as a political refugee in 1984 and went to France. In 2002 he moved to Toronto and since 2006 has called Port Moody, B.C., home. He says he doesn’t condone violence, but isn’t sad about Soleimani’s assassination.

“To be honest, I was happy,” he said about hearing the news. “One of the known terrorists of the world is out of action now.”

Still, he says he is concerned about what the killing will mean for his fellow Iranians in his home country who are living under U.S. sanctions, which target financial assets and oil exports. In November, thousands of people protested a hike in fuel prices in the country.

“Iran is a very rich country, but the people are really, really poor,” said Zandi.

 

Fred Soofi came to Canada from Iran in 1974, but hasn’t been back in more than 30 years. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

 

Fred Soofi came to Canada in 1974 at the age of 22 and flourished in the restaurant business. He now lives in Coquitlam, B.C., and hasn’t been back to Iran in more than 30 years over fears for his safety.

“It worries me,” he said about further instability in the country. “I’m worried about retaliation.”

Zandi and Soofi want Canada to put pressure on Iran to improve the lives of Iranians. Both want a new regime in Iran so that a new generation might flourish rather than live in fear and under poor conditions.

‘Diplomacy is how you avoid war’

Tehran has vowed retaliation against the U.S. There is a move to have U.S. forces leave Iraq and, on Sunday, Iran said it would no longer abide by any of the limits of a 2015 nuclear deal, abandoning key provisions that block Tehran from having enough material to build an atomic weapon.

Michael Byers, who studies international relations at the University of British Columbia, said he is doubtful the conflict will escalate into a shooting war, as the U.S. has superior resources. However, he said Trump’s actions have created what he described as a dangerous situation in the Middle East.

He said Canada has a role in helping to de-escalate tensions.

“Escalation would harm everyone and therefore we do have to pull back and reinitiate diplomacy,” he said. “Diplomacy is how you avoid war. Donald Trump is not a very good diplomat, but some people have to try.”

On Friday, Canada’s foreign affairs minister called on all sides to exercise restraint.

 

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Canada’s athletes began their Olympic journeys from humble beginnings

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Parents, siblings and love of sport, although not necessarily their own Olympic sport at first, is a common origin story of how Canada’s athletes got started in their chosen sport.

A capsule look at some beginnings:

Tammara Thibeault, Shawinigan, Que., boxing

“I got into boxing when I was nine. My dad was a CFL player, a wide receiver with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. During his off-season, he’d go to the boxing club to stay in shape. He dragged his three kids along at the time and I fell in love with the sport.”

Phil (Wizard) Kim, Vancouver, breaking

“I started breaking because there was a local crew called the Now or Never Crew and they were performing in front of the art gallery in Vancouver, which is a very common busking spot. I saw it, it blew my mind. I was like ‘that would totally impress people. I could get girls with that.’ One of them actually came to my school. They were teaching hip-hop choreography, but I went up to him and I asked him if he taught breaking. He said yes and gave me a card.”

Eric Peters, Ottawa, archery

“I was a nerdy kid who played a bunch of video games and read a bunch of books and thought it was really cool. I decided I wanted to do this and then I found out it was in the Olympics. I was like ‘OK, I guess I really want to do this now.'”

Katie Vincent, Mississauga, Ont., sprint canoe

“I got into canoeing at the Mississauga Canoe Club, which is the local canoe club near my house. It was just their summer camp that my parents put my brother and I into when I was around 10. We’ve been members ever since, and it’s gotten me from summer camp to the Olympics.

Aaron Brown, Toronto, track and field

“The common denominator with all the sports that I did was that I was fast. It was a natural progression for me to get into track. I did soccer, I did football, I played basketball, a little bit of volleyball, some tee ball, and then track just for fun. When my club coach in high school Bill Stephens saw me run, he said, ‘hey, I think you should take this seriously and come up from a club team because I think you can go pretty far.'”

Fay De Fazio Ebert, Toronto, skateboarding

“I did track and cross-country when I was in elementary school. There was a March break lesson at Impact Skate Club. We went and we bought a board right after because I felt so connected to it. I don’t remember the exact feeling, but I remember feeling I’ve done it before. People were asking ‘has she done this before?’ and I said ‘No, I haven’t.'”

Sarah Mitton, Brooklyn, N.S., shot put

“I got into shot putting in junior high school. It was kind of the next sport on the docket and I was a super-athletic kid. Went out to a local competition and I ended up doing really well. This coach came up to me and she was like, ‘who are you? we need to get you throwing the shot put.’ I remember having to beg my mom to let me join like this track club after like one day of track and field.”

Felix Dolci, Laval, Que., gymnastics

“I started doing many sports such as hockey, soccer. I had too much energy. My mom said ‘you need something else. Something that is more demanding.’ She put me in gymnastics because she was a gymnast when she was younger. She thought it was a great idea because I was jumping everywhere on the walls.”

Charles Philibert-Thiboutot, Quebec City, track and field

“I tried all sports. The common denominator for all of those was that I was the quick one, or the one that never got tired. Against my will, my phys-ed teacher put me in cross-country and track every year in high school. That’s the sport I hated the most. I would rather run after a ball. By my last year of high school, it was pretty obvious the one sport I had the most talent in was track and field and middle-distance running.”

Olivia Apps, Lindsay, Ont., rugby

“I started playing in Grade 10 at high school. I played soccer all my life. Growing up, I actually wanted to go to the Olympics for soccer or for hockey, and then I found rugby. Anyone who plays rugby would say the same thing, the off-field environment and the passion for the game is pretty addictive.”

Cam Levins, Black Creek, B.C., marathon

“I started running, my parents would say as soon as I could walk. My first actual race was a short cross-country race in second grade. It was a 2k loop in our area and we got to race with the third graders. It’s like their last race of the year, and they let second graders do it. I really just wanted to do every sort of sport I could. I had an older brother, who was also doing it and quite good at it, and so I wanted to do everything he did as well. I ended up joining a local track club in seventh grade.”

Sanoa Dempfle-Olin, Tofino, B.C., surfing

“I went into surfing because of my oldest sister and my mom. My mom, she loved the ocean and she liked surfing when she got out there. My sister got into it. Because she’s almost three years older than me she kind of helped me get out there and anything she was doing, I wanted to keep up and do it as well.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2024.



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10,000 unionized employees return to work, stores to reopen Tuesday: LCBO

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TORONTO – Workers are back on the job today at Ontario’s main liquor retailer, but the Liquor Control Board of Ontario says stores won’t be open for business until Tuesday.

The union representing 10,000 of its workers announced Sunday members had ratified a new deal with the liquor retailer to end a strike that had closed its stores for two weeks.

The ratification came after the deal seemed to be up in the air on Friday.

Both OPSEU and the LCBO had announced a tentative agreement had been reached but the union said the strike would continue after the employer refused to sign a return-to-work protocol.

The retailer said the union had introduced new monetary demands and the employer would file an unfair labour practice complaint.

But the LCBO issued a statement on Saturday saying reopening plans were back underway, and a return-to-work protocol signed by both parties does not include any “new monetary items.”

OPSEU had said they believed Premier Doug Ford’s plan to expand alcohol sales to convenience and grocery stores would threaten union jobs and the public revenue the LCBO provides to the province.

Ford has sped up those plans since the strike began on July 5, allowing grocery stores already licensed to sell beer and wine to also sell ready-to-drink cocktail beverages as of Thursday.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Markets bet on second Bank of Canada interest rate cut coming this week

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Economists and market watchers are betting the Bank of Canada will deliver another interest rate cut this week amid mounting evidence that inflation issustainably easing.

Expectations that the bank will lower its overnight lending rate when it makes its scheduled announcement Wednesday have been high since last week’s release of the latest Statistics Canada inflation report, which showed annual inflation cooled to 2.7 per cent in June.

The inflation reading was less than the 2.8 per cent that markets had been expecting and has helped to build market confidence that the Bank of Canada may be poised for a second rate cut, on top of the 25-basis-point cut it announced last month.

“I think it’s very likely the Bank of Canada cuts rates again next week. It wouldn’t really make sense from a strategic point of view to only cut rates 25 basis points and then leave them there and see how the economy responds, because that wouldn’t really cause a lot of change in the trajectory of the economy or inflation,” said Royce Mendes, managing director and head of macro strategy at Desjardins.

“So it always made sense that the Bank of Canada was likely going to do at least two rate cuts in a row before pausing. And now recent data has reinforced that view.”

Last month’s interest rate cut, which reduced the central bank’s key rate from five to 4.75 per cent, was the first in more than four years.

In addition to the latest inflation report, Mendes said, recent data showing rising unemployment as well as subdued expectations for growth by Canadian businesses all support the prospect of another cut.

While inflation remains higher than the Bank of Canada’s two per cent target, Mendes said he believes delaying any longer could have negative repercussions.

“The interest rates at the levels they are (currently) are actually very restrictive. You can see it in consumer spending trends. You can see it in the housing market,” Mendes said.

“I would say if (the Bank of Canada) didn’t cut next week, it would signal a much greater willingness to tip the economy into recession, just for the sake of getting inflation down a few tenths of a percentage point more.”

The latest Statistics Canada report on retail sales Friday showed Canadians reined in their spending in May as retail sales dropped 0.8 per cent to $66.1 billion.

Sales were lower in eight of the nine subsectors tracked, the agency said.

“What the Bank of Canada is trying to do is just reduce the amount of restraint it is placing on the economy. It’s not trying to stimulate the economy, it’s just trying to reduce the amount of headwinds it’s providing,” Mendes said, adding a second rate cut could make Canadian consumers begin to feel more confident about spending again.

The most recent data on the Canadian job market shows the economy stalling in June, losing 1,400 jobs while the unemployment rate rose to 6.4 per cent, from 6.2 per cent in May.

The June result was the highest reading for the unemployment rate since January 2022, another indication that raises the odds of the Bank of Canada lowering rates this week.

But while most market watchers believe an interest rate cut will come this week and be followed by additional cuts later in the year, that view is not unanimous.

Clay Jarvis, mortgage and real estate expert for NerdWallet Canada, said this week’s decision could go either way.

“Considering how cautious the bank is, reducing the overnight rate when inflation is still well over two per cent would be fairly uncharacteristic,” Jarvis said in a note.

If the cut does happen, shaving 25 basis points off of variable interest rates is unlikely to be enough to shake up Canada’s housing market significantly, Jarvis added, as buyers grapple with the prospect of higher mortgage payments.

A survey conducted by CPA Canada (an organization which represents professional accountants) and BDO Debt Solutions conducted shortly after the June rate cut found half of Canadians say interest rate hikes have negatively impacted their debt loads, with seven out of 10 saying the June cut had no impact on their financial outlook.

The survey also found 52 per cent of respondents believe continued interest rate cuts won’t go far enough to reduce the financial strain.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2024.



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