Some Finnish people living in Canada say they support Finland’s recent historic decision to seek NATO membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Finnish parliament resoundingly rubber-stamped the government’s decision to seek membership on Tuesday. The previously non-aligned Finland was joined by Sweden on Wednesday in submitting their official applications to the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.
Only three months ago, Borje Vahamaki would have opposed the move, but he says his opinion shifted after watching Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
Vahamaki, who is a professor emeritus in Finnish studies at the University of Toronto, says there has been a major change in public opinion among Finns in Canada and Finland following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 with record levels of support for the Nordic country being part of the defensive alliance.
“Virtually everybody I have talked to says we just have to do this. We have to protect ourselves because if we don’t have the entire NATO backing us up then we are extremely vulnerable because of that long border with Russia.”
Finland shares a 1,300-kilometre border with Russia. Vahamaki says Finland has a war history with Russia but in recent decades has maintained an amicable relationship with the country.
“The last 30 years have been very friendly and very co-operative in business and in all kinds of areas but with (Vladimir) Putin’s war it has changed the entire picture,” he said.
“We have come to that realization.”
Joining NATO would be a huge shift for Finland and Sweden. Finland adopted neutrality after being defeated by the Soviet Union in the Second World War, while Sweden has stayed out of military alliances for more than 200 years.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Prime Minister Sanna Marin of Finland on Wednesday to reiterate Canada’s support for the country’s accession to the alliance.
Trudeau assured his counterpart that Canada would support Finland in response to threats to its security between the time of its application for membership and its formal accession to NATO, a statement from his office said.
Earlier in the day, Trudeau also pledged his support to Sweden in seeking NATO membership, saying the two Nordic countries have the sovereign right to choose their own security arrangements.
The move has been welcomed by several other NATO countries, including the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. However, Turkey has objected to the two Nordic countries joining, alleging that they support Kurdish militants.
Pasi Pinta says he wasn’t surprised to hear Finland pushed ahead with its bid to join NATO.
Pinta is the honorary consul of Finland and lives in Thunder Bay.
He says discussions around Finland joining the alliance started after Russia increased rhetoric late last year demanding NATO refuse to accept new members.
“That was the first thing that changed the game for Finland because that limits Finnish sovereignty and Finnish free choice on choosing its own defence partners and its own defence policy.”
Finland is right in seeking to be part of a defensive alliance, says Pinta.
Thunder Bay is home to the largest Finnish community outside of Finland. Pinta has yet to hear of events or demonstrations for or against Finland’s move but suspects much of the local community aligns itself with the decision.
Pinta says for a long time Russian repercussions have overshadowed Finland’s decision-making process.
“That kind of thinking clouded and influenced a lot of Finns. Even up to the end of last year.”
Russia has repeatedly warned its Nordic neighbours that their joining the alliance would have negative consequences.
Salla Carson is bracing herself for an “information war” that may take place on Russia’s part including the spread of disinformation to influence Finnish people, the public and media.
Carson moved from Finland to Calgary in 2014. She was happy to hear what she calls good news that Finland and Sweden presented a united front this week.
“I think it’s the only option,” she said by phone.
“When I realized (an invasion) could happen in Finland … the next obvious thought is why isn’t Finland part of NATO.”
Carson acknowledged there are varied opinions among Finnish people. She says most Finns in North America are in favour of the membership bid but they also, “don’t have the individual risk associated with this.”
— With files from AP
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2022.
Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press
India tells Canada to remove 41 of its 62 diplomats: official
Canada needs diplomats in India to help navigate the “extremely challenging” tensions between the two countries, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday in response to demands that Ottawa repatriate dozens of its envoys.
India reportedly wants 41 of 62 Canadian diplomats out of the country by early next week — a striking, if largely anticipated, deepening of the rift that erupted last month following Trudeau’s explosive allegations in the House of Commons.
The prime minister bluntly spoke of “credible” intelligence linking the Indian government to the shooting death in June of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Sikh leader India has long assailed as a terrorist.
The demand, first reported by the Financial Times, comes less than two weeks after the Indian government first called on Canada to establish “parity in strength and rank equivalence in our diplomatic presence.”
Canada has a much larger diplomatic corps in India, owing in part to the fact it’s a country of 1.4 billion people, compared to 40 million in Canada — about 1.3 million of whom are of Indian origin.
Trudeau would not confirm the reports Tuesday, nor did he sound inclined to acquiesce to India’s request.
“Obviously, we’re going through an extremely challenging time with India right now,” Trudeau said on his way to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill.
“That’s why it’s so important for us to have diplomats on the ground, working with the Indian government, there to support Canadians and Canadian families.”
Canada, he continued, is “taking this extremely seriously, but we’re going to continue to engage responsibly and constructively with the government of India.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said largely the same thing.
“In moments of tension, because indeed there are tensions between both our governments, more than ever it’s important that diplomats be on the ground,” Joly said.
“That’s why we believe in the importance of having a strong diplomatic footprint in India. That being said, we are in ongoing conversations with the Indian government.”
During Tuesday’s daily briefing at the State Department, deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel was at pains to avoid exacerbating tensions any further.
“We are — and continue to be — deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau and we remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners,” Patel said, a message the U.S. has had on repeat for weeks.
“It’s critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice. We also have … publicly and privately urged the Indian government to co-operate in the Canadian investigation and co-operate in those efforts.”
Patel also demurred on the potential impact of an escalating tit-for-tat exchange of diplomatic staff on the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, a key element of U.S. efforts to mitigate China’s growing geopolitical influence.
“I certainly don’t want to get into hypotheticals,” he said. “As it relates to our Indo-Pacific strategy and the focus that we continue to place on the region, that effort and that line of work is going to continue.”
David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, has already confirmed that the allegations were buttressed in part on intelligence gathered by a key ally from the Five Eyes security alliance, which includes the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, along with Canada.
Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s external affairs minister, confirmed last week that the subject came up in his meetings in Washington, D.C., with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser.
Trudeau’s allegation “was not consistent with our policy,” Jaishankar told a panel discussion Friday hosted by the Hudson Institute.
“If his government had anything relevant and specific they would like us to look into, we were open to looking at it. That’s where that conversation is at this point of time.”
Jaishankar went on to note that the issue of Sikh separatists living in Canada had long been “an issue of great friction,” notably after the 1985 bombing of Air India flight 182, the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history.
“In the last few years, it has come back very much into play, because of what we consider to be a very permissive Canadian attitude towards terrorists, extremists, people who openly advocate violence,” Jaishankar said.
“They have been given operating space in Canada because of the compulsions of Canadian politics.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.
With files from Mickey Djuric in Ottawa.
In the news today: Regimental funeral today for B.C. Mountie, NDP victory in Manitoba – National Post
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All Flesh Redux
Director’s Notes, Stacey Christodoulou
MONTREAL October, 2023 – Combining polyphonic singing, dance, and theatre, All Flesh REDUX is a poetic journey through time and space. Part sing-a-long, Dadaist performance piece as well as a love letter to our planet, the work enfolds the public in an intimate theatre-in-the-round setting where humour, music, storytelling and movement reign. Bringing together the worlds of medieval composers Guillaume de Machaut, Hildegard von Bingen and modern composer John Cage, the company’s creation contemplates the unknowable past and the unimaginable future, and asks what acts of faith are possible in an uncertain world. October 13-22, seating is limited.
Director Stacey Christodoulou: “We could never imagine that the themes we spoke about in 2019 would become reality. In a certain way the show was prophetic. However, I believe that the message of creating beauty as a form of resistance is even more important now. The weaving of medieval song, contemporary dance and text continues our company’s interdisciplinary approach and reminds us that throughout history people have responded to turmoil with innovation and art.”
With: ENSEMBLE ALKEMIA (Jean-François Daignault, Dorothéa Ventura and Leah Weitzner), Stéphanie Fromentin, Erin Lindsay, Vanessa Schmit-Craan, Lael Stellick
Musical direction by Jean-François Daignault; scenograpy by Amy Keith; sound by Debbie Doe; costumes by Cathia Pagotto; lighting by David Perreault Ninacs and technical stage coordination by Birdie Gregor.
All Flesh REDUX
Studio Jean Valcourt du Conservatoire
4750, avenue Henri-Julien
Dates: Friday, Oct., 13, Saturday, Oct. 14 at 8pm; Sunday Oct. 14 at 3pm
Wednesday, October 18-Saturday, Oct. 21 at 8pm; Sunday, Oct. 22 at 3pm
Tickets/514 873-4032: $20, Students/Seniors: $15
Seating is limited
About THE OTHER THEATRE
Formed in 1991 by Artistic Director Stacey Christodoulou, The Other Theatre is devoted to contemporary creation. Working bilingually, their award-wining work has included adaptations, installations, theatre texts, and collectively written material performed in numerous venues in Montreal and abroad, including theatres, galleries, as well as a moving elevator.
Drawing inspiration from art forms other than theatre – dance, cinema, science, architecture, and the visual arts – the company presents evocative performances, grounded by thought-provoking texts. From a creole Macbeth, to sci-fi with polyphonic singing, to the horror of H.P. Lovecraft, their original creations are thrilling and visually striking. They have also presented the work of International and Canadian writers, giving them their French-language premieres in Quebec. Exploring the large existential issues of the time, The Other Theatre aims to move audiences to greater emotional connection and reflection, bridging communities and languages to create a hybrid theatre that is reflective of the cultural richness of Montreal. They value and foster artistic exchange, both locally and internationally and share their artistic process in Canada, the US, Europe and Mexico, through mentorships, workshops and cultural mediation in local communities and schools.
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