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Mary Simon pledges to help heal nation

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The first indigenous Canadian to assume the post of governor general addressed the public in her first language, Inuktitut, on Tuesday, and promised to work toward healing the nation at what she described as an “especially reflective time.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the appointment of Mary Simon, a former ambassador, journalist and Inuit community activist, to the largely ceremonial post that serves as the representative in Canada of its head of state, Queen Elizabeth.

“We are honored to have Ms. Simon as Canada’s first indigenous governor general,” Trudeau said. The queen’s Twitter account said she had approved the appointment on the prime minister’s recommendation.

Canada has been grappling with the legacy of its treatment of indigenous people, particularly in recent months. Since May, hundreds of unmarked graves of children have been discovered at former residential schools, run for indigenous children forcibly separated from their families in what a Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called “cultural genocide.”

“My appointment comes at an especially reflective and dynamic time in our shared history,” Simon told reporters. “I will work every day towards promoting healing and wellness across Canadian society.”

After being introduced, she addressed the public first in Inuktitut, the Inuit language she spoke growing up in northern Quebec, adding she was deeply committed to improving her French, one of Canada’s two official languages.

She was appointed more than five months after her predecessor, Julie Payette, quit the role amid allegations of workplace harassment.

The governor general performs functions such as swearing in governments and formally signing legislation, but is also the commander in chief of the military and can summon or dissolve Parliament.

‘TRULY HISTORIC DAY’

Canadian indigenous groups welcomed Simon’s appointment.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada said it was “delighted” to see the first Inuit person become governor general “in a country that has been home to Indigenous people for tens of thousands of years.”

Simon, who was born in 1947, will serve a five-year term. She worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp in the 1970s, and served as Canada’s ambassador to Denmark from 1999 to 2001 and ambassador for circumpolar affairs from 1994 to 2003.

She was also chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), a group representing Inuit from a number of countries, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the country’s main Inuit advocacy group, from 2006 to 2012.

With an Inuk mother and a non-indigenous father who worked for Hudson’s Bay Co, she has spent her life as a “bridge between different lived realities that make up the tapestry of Canada,” while fighting for Indigenous and human rights, she said.

“This is truly a historic day, especially given the heightened discussion around working towards meaningful reconciliation between colonial governments and first peoples,” said Jerry Daniels, grand chief of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, which represents 34 First Nations groups in Manitoba.

The prime minister is expected to ask the new governor general to dissolve Parliament ahead of a snap vote as early as August, but both Trudeau and Simon denied having discussed elections before her appointment.

“We did not discuss elections at all,” Trudeau said.

Opposition Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, Trudeau’s main political rival, wished Simon well, as did left-leaning New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh.

“This is an important day for both our country as a whole and particularly Indigenous peoples,” O’Toole said on Twitter.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Additional reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Peter Graff and Peter Cooney)

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Missing baggage adds to chaos at Canadian airports – CBC News

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Sara Formel’s family vacation last week to Scotland for a friend’s wedding was supposed to be one of those trips of a lifetime. But instead, she said, it turned into “a trip from hell.”

That’s because the family’s luggage — including wedding attire and a car seat for Formel’s nine-month-old — didn’t make it on their June 18 Air Canada flight from Toronto to Edinburgh.

The family spent much of their week-long vacation shopping for necessities and trying to get answers from Air Canada. 

“It’s been horrible,” said Formel, who lives in Conway, Ark. “We were stripped of everything that we had, and I don’t know when we’ll get it back.”

Due to a surge in demand and staffing shortages, some major Canadian airports have recently been plagued with long lineups, delays and flight cancellations.

On top of that, travellers are complaining about another major problem: missing baggage, which sometimes fails to arrive during their trip. 

A man and woman hold an infant.
Sara Formel, her husband Joe and nine-month-old child had to scramble to buy necessities in Scotland after their luggage failed to arrive. (Submitted by Sara Formel)

“It’s frustrating,” said WestJet passenger Joni Hirtle of Calgary. She was reunited with her luggage on Saturday — a week after her nine-day trip to Costa Rica. 

Hirtle’s suitcase disappeared after she boarded the second leg of her flight from Toronto. Its contents included $400 hiking boots and a wad of cash totalling about $400 hidden in a sock.

During a stopover in Toronto on the way home, Hirtle inquired about her luggage at WestJet’s baggage claim counter.

“There were tons of bags sitting there,” she said. “They don’t have enough resources to be addressing these issues.”

When Air Canada passenger Harrison Burton landed in Montreal, en route to Moncton on Friday, he was so overwhelmed by the piles of unclaimed luggage, he posted a video on Facebook.

“It’s chaos,” he says in the video. “It’s insane. They need to fix this.”

Travellers are seen amid unclaimed luggage at an airport.
After landing in Montreal, Harrison Burton took this photo showing piles of unclaimed baggage at the airport. (Submitted by Harrison Burton)

Burton didn’t find his luggage in Montreal, and hoped it would appear when he landed in Moncton, where he lives. However, three days later, it still hadn’t arrived. 

“It [feels] like the face of capitalism basically saying, ‘You know what, we don’t actually care about people. We just want your money and you’ll get your luggage when you get your luggage,'” said Burton in an interview on Monday. 

What’s being done?

The federal government has hired more border officers and security staff at airports to help ease the bottlenecks at airports, though Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has pointed some blame at the airlines, saying last week they must also “do their part.”

Air Canada says most passengers arrive at their destination with their luggage, but acknowledges that the number who don’t has recently increased. 

The airline says many of the reasons behind baggage delays — such as airport backlogs — are outside its control.

“When an aircraft is held at a gate because of a customs backlog inside the terminal, it may not be loaded on time for its next flight,” said spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick in an email. 

“Be assured that avoiding baggage delays is a top priority for us.”

WestJet blamed missing baggage on myriad challenges including resource constraints, flight delays and cancellations. 

The airline is “actively working to resolve” baggage delays, said spokesperson Madison Kruger in an email. 

Carleton University business associate professor Ian Lee said all parties involved — airlines, airports and the government — are to blame for the current chaos, because they failed to properly prepare for the anticipated post-pandemic surge in travel.

“They should have had a contingency plan … you know, ‘How are we going to deal with the training, retraining, hiring of new people?'” he said. “It just seems to me, it’s been a lot of — no pun intended — flying by the seat of their pants.”

WATCH | Travellers complain of lost baggage:

Luggage delays add to Canadian travel woes

13 hours ago

Duration 1:54

Luggage delays are adding to the problems Canadian air travellers face, with some airports seeing mounds of bags piled up and some travellers not getting their luggage during an entire trip.

Alghabra said on Monday the bottlenecks at major airports have improved and that Ottawa is working with airports and airlines to tackle baggage delays and other lingering problems. 

“We’re treating this with the greatest sense of urgency,” he said at a news conference. 

On Tuesday morning, Burton finally got his luggage. Formel is still waiting for hers. 

There is one consolation for travellers with missing bags: under Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations, travellers with lost, damaged or delayed luggage can file a claim for expenses incurred for up to approximately $2,300.

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Prime Minister Trudeau pledges more aid and loans to Ukraine at G7 summit

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SCHLOSS ELMAU, GERMANY — Canada is looking at developing new infrastructure to help other countries transition away from Russian oil and coal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday at the conclusion of the G7 summit in Germany focused on the conflict in Ukraine.

In their final communique for the meeting, the G7 leaders said they are working to make sure Russia does not exploit its position as an energy producer to profit from its aggression at the expense of vulnerable countries.

The conflict has squeezed energy markets in Europe and the security of the supply around the world.

Over the course of the three-day summit, the leaders agreed to consider a cap on the price of crude oil and petroleum from Russia, and even a comprehensive ban on Russian oil and coal.

“Canada obviously as an oil and gas producer is ensuring that in the short term we’re doing what we can to alleviate pressures,” Trudeau said at a news conference at the close of the summit.

“We’re also looking medium term at expanding some infrastructure, but in a way that hits that medium -term and -long-term goal of accelerating transition, not just off Russian oil and gas, but off of all our dependence on fossil fuels.”

The leaders agreed compromising on climate and biodiversity goals was not on the table to address the growing energy crisis.

The idea to ban Russian oil is still only in discussions, and would need to be implemented careful to mitigate the potential fallout for vulnerable countries that rely on Russia for power.

Trudeau said Canada remains determined to support Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“It’s important that the world doesn’t lose its attention and focus over what’s happening in Ukraine, we must and we will remain committed until Ukraine and democracy prevail,” Trudeau told a news conference.

He announced more money for Ukraine on Tuesday, including a $200-million loan through the International Monetary Fund.

In addition to the loan to the Ukrainian government, Canada is giving $75 million in humanitarian assistance to help with operations in Ukraine and in the neighbouring countries. The aid will include the provision of in-kind food assistance, emergency cash and vouchers, protection, shelter and health services.

Earlier in the summit, Trudeau announced $52 million in agricultural aid including mobile grain storage equipment to increase grain storage capacity as well as help to provide speedy diagnostic testing and monitoring of animal diseases to allow for export certification.

“Our farmers typically face big challenges and have been proven to be inventive and creative. So we’ll bring this expertise to Ukraine to help as much as we can,” Trudeau said.

Canada is also contributing $15 million to help fund demining efforts and $9.7 million for those tracking human rights violations in Ukraine.

The leaders have also agreed to intensify their efforts to mitigate rising food prices and scarcity, which have been exacerbated as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

They plan to expand their resettlement programs to accommodate the millions of Ukrainian refugees who have been displaced by the conflict.

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

 

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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More than half of Canadians oppose Oath of Allegiance to the Queen

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OTTAWA — Most people in Canada do not think people should have to swear an Oath of Allegiance to the Queen, according to a poll ahead of Canada Day.

A Leger poll for the Association of Canadian Studies found that 56 per cent of respondents did not agree with swearing allegiance to the Queen.

New Canadians have to swear an oath to the monarchy at citizenship ceremonies including a pledge to “be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors.”

Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, said most people born in Canada were probably unaware that new Canadians had to swear an oath to be faithful to the Royal Family.

“If you ask Canadians about their identity, few would mention the monarchy,” he said.

The poll of 2,118 people earlier this month cannot be assigned a margin of error because online panels are not considered truly random samples.

While 58 per cent of those who responded are positively disposed toward the Queen, with only 28 per cent negatively disposed, Canadians are evenly divided — 40 per cent positively and 40 per cent negatively — in their view of the monarchy overall.

The poll asked whether, “as a Canadian, we should all agree to be faithful and bear true allegiance” to the Queen and her heirs.

Those who are very favourable toward the monarchy were more likely to approve of pledging allegiance.

Sixty per cent of men and 52 per cent of women who did the survey answered no. Opposition was stronger among Canadians aged 18-34 than those over the age of 55.

Almost three-quarters of people living in Quebec opposed the oath, compared to only 47 per cent in Alberta.

A large proportion of those polled — including 20 per cent of women — said they had no view or did not want to answer.

Canada is a constitutional monarchy, with the Queen as the head of state. She is represented federally by Gov. Gen. Mary Simon, and at a provincial level by lieutenant-governors.

Any change to the position of the Queen or her representatives in Canada would need the unanimous consent of the House of Commons, the Senate and provincial legislatures.

Taking an oath of citizenship is the final step in becoming a Canadian citizen. Ceremonies take place across the country, with special ceremonies on Canada Day.

New Canadians must also promise to faithfully observe the laws of Canada.

Earlier this month, the Queen celebrated her platinum jubilee with celebrations in Canada, the U.K. and across the Commonwealth. She ascended the throne at age 27 in 1952 and is England’s longest-serving monarch.

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

 

Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

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