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‘Little window’: Coal mine supporters hope for change under new Alberta premier

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‘Little window': Coal mine supporters hope for change under new Alberta premier

EDMONTON — Supporters of open-pit coal mining say there’s a chance new mines could be built in Alberta’s Rockies after comments from the province’s new premier.

“We’re hoping with this little window with Danielle (Smith) that we can crack that open,” said Eric Lowther, a southern Alberta resident and president of Citizens Supportive of Crowsnest Coal.

Coal mining in the province’s beloved Rockies was blocked in February 2021 by ministerial order. The order was triggered by a public outcry after thousands of hectares of summits and foothills were permitted for exploration that was previously encouraged by the United Conservative Party government.

That outcry — which united urban environmentalists, ranchers, First Nations and municipalities — resulted in a coal policy panel that recommended no new mines be developed before land use plans are in place. Opponents worried developments would contaminate the headwaters of much of Alberta’s water supply and despoil the landscape.

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However, while campaigning in the party’s recent leadership campaign, Smith visited the southern Alberta communities of Crowsnest Pass and Pincher Creek. She reportedlytold people she would be open to revisiting the idea if she became premier, especially on lands that have been previously disturbed.

Many in Crowsnest Passwere disappointed after a joint federal-provincial review panel turned down an application for the proposed Grassy Mountain coal mine.

“If there was a strong referendum in the area in support of it, (Smith) would be more inclined to help us out,” said Lowther, who was present at both meetings.

Crowsnest Pass Mayor Blair Painter said he asked Smith about coal at the public meeting in his community. He refused to say what she told him, although others at the meeting contacted by The Canadian Press confirmed Lowther’s version of her remarks.

Lowther said Smith repeated them late last month at a meeting in Pincher Creek.

“She said to a number of us if there was a referendum in the area in support of coal, she’d be more willing to bring (the issue) forward.”

Some Albertans have also said on social media that Smith made similar statements to them during the leadership campaign.

Smith was asked during the campaign if she supported new or expanded coal mines in the Rockies. She did not commit either way, telling the Edmonton Journal that she would consult UCP legislature members before making any changes.

Contacted Wednesday, Smith’s spokeswoman Rebecca Polak didn’t address Smith’s purported statements on coal.

“The premier travelled the province throughout her leadership campaign and spoke with Albertans on a variety of issues and topics,” she said in an email.

“Responsible resource development is a top priority for Alberta’s government. Premier Smith continues to be briefed on this important topic and will be meeting with her caucus and future cabinet in the coming weeks, including the minister of environment, to discuss this matter further.”

Smith is expected to announce her new cabinet later this week. A new energy minister could withdraw the ministerial order.

University of Calgary resource law professor Martin Olszynski said if Smith instructed a new energy minister to rescind the moratorium order, any new mines would still have to go through a lengthy environmental review, which would likely include the federal government.

As well, Olszynski said there’s no legal channel Smith could use to revive Grassy Mountain. The decision to deny the proposal a permit has been upheld in two courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, he said.

“There’s basically nothing she can do about the (federal) denial of a permit for Grassy,” he said.

Coal mining opponents decried Smith’s apparent willingness to consider development.

“It shows how out-of-touch she is with mainstream Albertans,” said New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt.

Schmidt pointed to the work of Alberta’s panel on coal policy committee, which received more than 1,000 emailed documents and 170 written submissions, most opposing open-pit coal mines in the Rockies.

The panel, which reported last spring, found 85 per cent of Albertans indicated that they were “not at all confident” that coal exploration and development are properly regulated.

“To even bring this up as a possibility after such extensive consultations … it boggles the mind to think (Smith believes) this is something that would pass muster with Albertans.”

Katie Morrison of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society urged Smith to follow the panel’s recommendations, which suggest comprehensive land use plans should be developed for the region before mines are permitted.

“The majority of Albertans across the province have been very clear that they do not want new coal mines in our headwaters,” she said.

“I would encourage (Smith) to closely examine the documents of the (panel) … for direction on what Albertans want to see with respect to coal.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2022.

— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960

 

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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Immigration in Canada: Refugee's plea for housing answered – CTV News

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 In her past life Aziza Abu Sirdana has only known war, conflict, fear and isolation.

“If you are born in Gaza you don’t know what life is,” she told CTV National News.

The 22-year-old Palestinian refugee fled to Canada after she learned about her father and grandfather’s plans to hunt her down and kill her.

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She arrived in Canada on March 24, 2022 full of hope for a new start in life. Her struggles only continued on Canadian soil.

CTV National News first sat down with Abu Sirdana at the beginning of November, after she stabbed herself in the stomach with a knife just below the ribcage while in a meeting with federal government officials with Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). She said she took the dangerous step in a desperate plea to find safe housing.

For more than seven months Abu Sirdana has been stuck living in a refugee hotel west of Toronto. While staying there she, and other refugees, say they were segregated and degraded by staff working for a taxpayer-funded resettlement agency. Strangers would also arrive at the hotel and prey on Abu Sidana and others, while trying to lure them into the sex trade, she said.

Sitting on a park bench a day after being released from hospital, Abu Sirdana told CTV National News: “I put a knife in my body because no one cares. Seriously no one cares.”

But it turns out there are Canadians who do care. After the 22-year-old shared her story with CTV National News, a family reached out to refugee advocate Mona Elshayal.

“A very kind woman reached out to me who was very concerned because she has a daughter around the same age. She felt bad because she thought, what would happen if this was my daughter? She just wanted to do what she could to help her out,” shares Elshayal. 

Just last week, Abu Sirdana moved into a two-bedroom condo with the family’s daughter in Ottawa. All the young refugee says she ever wanted was a space where she felt safe. An apartment with her own bathroom and washroom. She now has that and a sense of humanity and self worth that she’s never experienced. 

 

She can’t help but smile when talking about her new surrogate mother. “She gave me a chance at life. She said I’m here for you, if you need anything call me, if you’re sick I’ll be here the next day. Can you imagine anyone being so kind?” 

Abu Sirdana’s new Canadian family have asked to remain anonymous, but the mother shares that she just wanted “to give Aziza a safe place to live, in our Canada, the Canada my daughter lives in. I want Aziza to achieve her dreams.” 

Abu Sirdana is quick to share that she’s Muslim, and the family who’ve welcomed her as one of her own is Jewish. An unthinkable act of kindness amid the conflict back home is now a reality here on this side of the world. 

Abu Sirdana said she previously couldn’t “imagine that there’s a Jewish family, that would say ‘welcome’ (and open their doors to a Muslim from Gaza) but this is Canada. This is life in Canada.

“Here in this country you have all these people from different places all living together. You can walk where you want, speak to who you want, be friends with who you want,” she said.

Elshayal, who helped facilitate the life-changing move, said: “my hope is that she feels she’s in a safe place, that she has a family, that she has people that care about her and that she has every opportunity as she should when coming to Canada.” 

Abu Sirdana had to put her university education on hold and now hopes to continue her studies, and her life.

“I feel reborn,” she said, adding that previously, “I didn’t know what love is, I didn’t know what life is.

Thanks to the generosity of one Canadian family she can now look forward to experiencing it.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, here are some resources that are available.

Canada Suicide Prevention Helpline (1-833-456-4566)

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (1 800 463-2338)

Crisis Services Canada (1-833-456-4566 or text 45645)

Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868)

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Conservatives are ‘fearmongering’ over assault-style gun ban: public safety minister

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OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino accuses the Conservatives of “whipping up fear” that the Liberal government is outlawing ordinary long guns and hunting rifles.

In an interview, Mendicino says the government only wants to reinforce a regulatory ban on assault-style firearms like the AR-15 by enshrining a definition in legislation, and it is prepared to work with MPs to get it right.

He insists the government has no intention whatsoever of going after everyday long guns and hunting rifles, calling the notion “Conservative fearmongering.”

In May 2020, the Liberal government announced a ban through order-in-council on over 1,500 models and variants of what it considers assault-style firearms, such as the AR-15 and the Ruger Mini-14.

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The Liberals recently proposed including an evergreen definition of a prohibited assault-style firearm in gun-control legislation being studied by a House of Commons committee.

The Conservatives claim the government’s amendment amounts to the most significant hunting rifle ban in the history of Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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Joly seeks reprimand of Russian ambassador as embassy tweets against LGBTQ community

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OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has asked her department to summon Russia’s ambassador over social media postings against LGBTQ people.

In recent days, Russia’s embassy in Ottawa has posted on Twitter and Telegram that the West is imposing on Russia’s family values, and arguing that families can only involve a man, a woman and children.

The embassy has posted images of a crossed-out rainbow flag and Orthodox icons of Adam and Eve.

The tweets came as Russia expanded a ban on exposing children to so-called homosexual propaganda, meaning authorities can now prosecute Russians for doing things they argue might entice adults to be gay or transgender.

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Joly’s office says the posts amount to “hateful propaganda” that must be called out and “an attack on the Canadian values of acceptance and tolerance.”

If Global Affairs Canada follows Joly’s request, it will be the third time the department has summoned ambassador Oleg Stepanov this year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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