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Mother of Canadian detained in Syria accuses of Ottawa of shirking duty to help

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OTTAWA — The mother of a Canadian man being held in northeastern Syria accuses the federal government of doing “precisely nothing” to secure his release.

Sally Lane urged the Liberal government Tuesday to send a delegate overseas to help free her son Jack Letts and other Canadians detained in atrocious conditions.

Letts, who turned 27 this week, is one of several Canadian citizens 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.

Letts was born in Oxford, England, but the British government stripped him of citizenship three years ago.

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He became a devoted Muslim, went on holiday to Jordan at 18, then studied in Kuwait before winding up in Syria and, his family says, getting captured by Kurdish forces while fleeing the country with a group of refugees in 2017.

His parents say they have seen no evidence that their son became a terrorist fighter, adding that Letts stood against ISIL and was even put on trial for publicly condemning the group.

“Every night when I go to bed, I have to think of Jack lying on a concrete floor, as he has done for the past five-and-a-half years, going to sleep hungry and in despair,” Lane said Tuesday at a news conference in Ottawa.

“I wonder if his kidney stones are giving him excruciating pain, and whether he has managed to persuade the guards to get him medical treatment.”

Lane was flanked by supporters including Green Party MP Elizabeth May and Alex Neve, former secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.

Lane said she was told by Global Affairs Canada almost five years ago the government was doing everything it could to obtain her son’s freedom.

“Since then, the government has done precisely nothing to secure Jack’s release,” Lane said. “They have in fact actively prevented and opposed it.”

In a June message to Canada, United Nations officials who monitor human rights and arbitrary detention said they had “serious concerns” about Letts’s continuing detention “and his rights to life, security, and physical and mental health” due to the dire conditions in the camps.

A handful of women and children have returned to Canada 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.

The federal government has said Canada’s ability to provide consular assistance in Syria is extremely limited given the volatile security situation — a stance that critics have consistently challenged.

“These Canadians must be brought home,” Tim McSorley, national co-ordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, said during the news conference. “There are no clear answers as to why the government isn’t acting. It’s an issue of political will.”

Several families have turned to the Federal Court, saying the government’s refusal to step in breaches the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The federal government says Canada has provided consular assistance to the extent possible, adding there is no legal obligation under the Charter, statute or international law, for Canada to provide such assistance, including the repatriation of its citizens.

In a recent filing with the court, federal lawyers say the duties that the applicants seek to impose “conflict with the principled reasons for taking a restrained approach to the application of the Charter outside of Canada.”

A public Federal Court hearing is slated for early next month.

Last month, Oumaima Chouay and her two children, as well as another Canadian woman, Kimberly Polman, returned from Syria.

Chouay faces several charges, including leaving Canada to participate in the activity of a terrorist group. Polman has been granted bail pending a peace bond hearing.

Lane said these recent returns have shown it is “not too difficult or too impossible, as the government falsely claimed before.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 15, 2022.

 

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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Health Canada reviewing safety of controversial breastfeeding drug – CBC.ca

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Health Canada has launched a safety review of the psychological withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping or reducing use of a drug commonly prescribed to help women breastfeed.

The agency confirmed the review in an email to CBC News.

“A safety review is currently under way for domperidone and drug withdrawal symptoms after stopping or reducing the dose of domperidone used to stimulate lactation,” the statement said. 

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Domperidone is approved in Canada to treat gastrointestinal disorders. Health Canada has never authorized its use as a lactation aid, but it is widely prescribed off-label for this purpose. 

The Health Canada review follows a CBC News investigation into severe psychological effects that can occur when some women stop taking the drug. Women who spoke to CBC described anxiety, lack of sleep and thoughts of self-harm severe enough that in some cases they became incapable of caring for their children or returning to work. One woman described multiple attempts to take her own life. 

CBC’s investigation also found domperidone is prescribed by some doctors to stimulate lactation at doses three to five times higher than what is recommended by both Health Canada and the drug manufacturer. Because this is not an approved use or dosage anywhere in the world, there are no large-scale clinical trials that shed any light on how often these side effects occur. 

This makes it challenging for regulators like Health Canada to evaluate the safety of a drug for an off-label purpose, said Mina Tadrous, an assistant professor at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto who specializes in drug safety.

Toronto pharmacist Mina Tadrous says it is challenging for regulators to evaluate the safety of a drug used for off-label purpose. (CBC)

“The company may not have intended it for that, so the original clinical trials were not designed for that. And so it means that they have to look at different mechanisms to be able to evaluate the safety of these drugs,” he said.

That can include looking at data from other countries with larger populations, according to Tadrous.

Case studies document concerns

There are, however, case studies documenting the withdrawal effects, including three published in November 2022 in the peer-reviewed journal Breastfeeding Medicine. Domperidone blocks dopamine receptors in the brain, which stimulates the release of prolactin. This causes lactation, the authors note, but can also cause domperidone to act as an antipsychotic. The authors also noted withdrawal symptoms are typically less severe when women taper off the drug slowly.

The most recent case studies are from the United States, where domperidone is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for any purpose. CBC’s investigation found some American women get the drug from doctors in Canada.

Health Canada will review “all relevant domestic and foreign case reports,” the statement said.

Reviews can result in Health Canada requesting more information, studies or monitoring by the manufacturer. They can also result in warnings to patients and health care providers, changes to how a drug is labelled or, if necessary, the withdrawal of a drug from the market “if the benefits no longer outweigh the risks of the product,” according to the statement released by the department.

“The decision to take action, including issuing a warning, is not based solely on the number of case reports, but on a comprehensive assessment of the information contained in these case reports,” Health Canada’s statement said. 

“Should new safety risks be confirmed, Health Canada will take appropriate action and continue to keep Canadians informed.”

WATCH | Women report alarming withrawal effects after taking domperidone as a lactation aid:

Women report alarming withdrawal effects from drug prescribed for breastfeeding

2 months ago

Duration 7:08

WARNING: This story contains distressing details about suicidal thoughts and attempts. Correction: A previous version of this video included inaccurate Health Canada data about the number of domperidone prescriptions that were filled in 2020. That publicly available data has since been updated to show that 1.7 million prescriptions were filled that year.

The distinction between quantity and quality of reports is important, Tadrous said, because large numbers of reports, especially from non-clinicians, may only indicate people believe there’s a connection between a drug and a reaction. 

“That’s the lesson we’ve learned with vaccines, for example, where these adverse event systems are flooded,” he said.

“And so if you base something just on the number of reports without doing a thorough investigation and a different type of study design that reduces bias … you might reach a false conclusion.”

Health Canada has conducted multiple safety reviews of domperidone, most recently in 2021. Previous reviews confirmed the risk of serious abnormal heart rhythms and sudden cardiac death related to domperidone use. These reviews resulted in Health Canada introducing a maximum daily dose recommendation of 30 mg and restricting its use in patients with certain cardiac conditions or taking other drugs.

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The Holocaust strikes our very being

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Holocaust

To be a Jew is not something special,
being a human being is normal.
Dealing with prejudice, hatred, and oppressive action,
now that’s something special for the Jewish Nation.

Oppression, hatred, and genocide besides,
is not just a Jewish person’s situation.
Armenian, Cambodian and Jewish Peoples deal,
with a national eradication event.

People of the world unit,
genocide is an international delight.
Oppress your people, crush opposition too.
The elites of the world are making exceptions for you.

Don’t be weak, allowing excuses to be made,
but lift your hands in justice’s cruel wave.
Hatred knows no reasonability, it knows no mercy.
Hatred, oppression, and prejudice need no exception.

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Long ago Jews were murdered by the millions,
Cambodians died at the hands of their neighbors.
Palestine still walks within the borders of other nations,
and peace is nowhere to be found, my friend.

If your arms are in righteous ways demand justice for all,
for the people who hate will not see our peaceful ways.
A gun, a bayonet, and a saber be brought,
for the right to justice begins today,
and ends with blood if the opposition has any say.

Gandhi spoke of peaceful ways,
while Martin Luther Jr surrendered his life. to the cause.
Young blacks die each and every day,
while the power of prejudice wins the day.

My first lifts in anger that is for sure,
while the average person just shrugs this day.
But the goose-stepping troops may one day march on,
and the ignorance that prevails will let them carry on.

Open our eyes to the wrongs before us,
clear our minds and accept what bothers us.
Injustice is a prevailing horrid thing,
and ONLY YOU CAN BRING IT TO AN END.

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca

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Parliamentarians kick off return to House of Commons with debate on child care

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Parliamentarians kick off return

The economy was top of mind for members of Parliament as they returned to the House of Commons Monday, with the Liberal government kicking off the new sitting with a debate on child care.

Families Minister Karina Gould tabled Bill C-35 last December, which seeks to enshrine the Liberals’ national daycare plan into law — and commit Ottawa to maintaining long-term funding.

The federal government has inked deals with provinces and territories in an effort to cut fees down to an average of $10 per day by 2026.

During a debate today, Gould said all parties should support the bill, and the national plan has begun saving families money.

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But Conservative MP Michelle Ferreri said the plan is “subsidizing the wealthy” while failing to reduce wait times for child-care spaces and address labour shortages in the sector.

Ferreri told MPs that the Conservatives would be presenting “strong amendments” to the legislation.

The debate comes amid concerns about a possible recession this year, with both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre saying their focus will be on the cost of living.

But Poilievre’s Tories may have little room to manoeuvre in the legislature.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters upon his return to the House of Commons that he does not believe there is any room to work with the Conservatives during the upcoming sitting.

Instead, the NDP says it plans to push the Liberals to fulfil the terms of the parties’ confidence-and-supply agreement, such as the planned expansion of federal dental care.

Under the deal signed last March, the NDP agreed to support the minority government on key House of Commons votes in exchange for the Liberals moving ahead on New Democrat policy priorities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.

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