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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.

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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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Military faces calls to return general to duty after sexual assault acquittal

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The Canadian Armed Forces is facing calls to return Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to duty after the senior officer, who previously oversaw the Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, was acquitted of sexual assault.

The military says it is considering the implications of the ruling, which was handed down by a Quebec civilian judge on Monday following a high-profile trial.

Fortin’s lawyer, Natalia Rodriguez, says her client is ready, willing and able to return to service after being essentially put on paid leave for more than a year.

But Rodriguez also says that Fortin’s career and reputation have suffered as a result of the allegation against him, and the way it was handled by the Liberal government and the military.

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Retired colonel Michel Drapeau, who is now a lawyer specializing in military cases, says the acquittal should pave the way for Fortin should be immediately assigned to a new role with full duties.

But he and others say the government may instead offer a settlement in return for Fortin’s retirement, similar to what happened when the breach of trust case against vice-admiral Mark Norman was dropped in May 2019.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.

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No legal obligation to bring Canadians home from Syria, federal lawyer tells court

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A government lawyer is telling a Federal Court hearing that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not obligate Ottawa to repatriate Canadians held in Syrian camps.

Family members of 23 detained Canadians are asking the court to order the government to arrange for their return, saying that refusing to do so violates the Charter.

Federal lawyer Anne Turley told the court today there is no legal obligation to facilitate repatriation of these Canadians in the Charter, statute or international law.

A handful of women and children have returned from the region in recent years, but Canada has, for the most part, not followed the path of other countries that have successfully repatriated citizens.

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Even so, Global Affairs Canada recently determined that six women and 13 children included in the court case have met a threshold under its policy framework for providing extraordinary assistance — meaning Canada might step in.

The Canadian citizens are among the many foreign nationals in Syrian camps run by Kurdish forces that reclaimed the war-torn region from the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.

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Federal Court of Appeal uphold the rules that bolster compensation for air passengers subjected to delayed flights and damaged luggage

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The Federal Court of Appeal says it will uphold all but one of the rules that bolster compensation for air passengers subjected to delayed flights and damaged luggage.

Air Canada, Porter Airlines and several other parties had argued that the passenger rights charter launched in 2019 violates global standards.

The appellants argued the charter should be rendered invalid for international flights.

But the court has ruled to dismiss the appeal, aside from the regulation that compensates passengers for the temporary loss of baggage.

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