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MPs meet soldier charged with criticizing vaccine requirements while in uniform

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OTTAWA — A Canadian soldier charged for speaking out against COVID-19 vaccine requirements was warmly welcomed on Wednesday to Parliament Hill, where Conservative MPs posed with him for pictures before sitting through a lecture on the purported dangers of inoculations.

The show of support for James Topp came more than a month after the reservist warrant officer was charged with two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline for comments made while wearing his uniform in February.

It also came as the Afghanistan war veteran and his supporters prepare to finish a four-month march from Vancouver to the National War Memorial in Ottawa that started in February during the height of the “Freedom Convoy.”

Their planned arrival on June 30 has stoked fears of another round of such anti-vaccine and anti-government protests, which snarled the capital for weeks until police used force to end what they and the government described as an illegal occupation.

Such misgivings did not keep one group of Conservative MPs from shaking hands, posing for pictures and expressing their support for Topp during a meeting on Parliament Hill that was streamed online.

Among them were leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis as well as Dean Allison, Ryan Williams and Alex Ruff.

Topp was driven to Ottawa to meet with MPs on Wednesday and was expected to return to the area around Deep River, Ont., to continue his march to the capital in the coming days.

Appearing alongside him was Tom Marazzo, one of the spokesmen of the “Freedom Convoy,” and Paul Alexander, a former adviser to U.S. president Donald Trump who used Wednesday’s meeting to deliver a lecture on what he claims are the dangers of COVID-19 vaccines.

Health Canada says only vaccines that meet strict safety, efficacy and quality standards are approved for use in the country, and the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines continue to outweigh the risks of the disease. About 85 per cent of Canadians have received at least one dose.

Topp told the MPs that he was marching in part to get all vaccine mandates repealed, as well as the reinstatement of anyone who lost their job because of such a requirement and compensation for wages lost.

At the same time, he said his march was about much more than vaccine requirements, which were lifted for most federal civil servants this week but remain in place for members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

“One of the things that has jumped out at me since I’ve started this journey is the number of folks who have come to talk to me (and) their issue is not so much with mandates anymore,” he said.

“It’s their dissatisfaction with the federal government, they see it as intractable and flexible and responsive to their needs.”

The charges against Topp relate to two videos posted online in the winter in which the army reservist appears in uniform criticizing vaccine requirements for military personnel and other federal employees.

Canadian Armed Forces members are severely restricted in the comments they can make while in uniform, particularly when it comes to criticizing government policies, in large part to protect the military from any perception of politicization.

His lawyer has argued such restrictions should not apply to policies that affect Armed Forces members personally.

While Topp sought on Wednesday to describe his mission and message as non-partisan, Marazzo, one of the leaders of a group known as Veterans 4 Freedom that organized a motorcycle convoy in April, told MPs that Canada was “going down a very dark path.”

“It’s getting critical,” Marazzo said. “(Topp) has been to a civil war. I’m not saying that that’s what’s going to happen here. But there’s a lot of similarities.”

Conservative MP Jeremy Patzer noted that only one party was represented at the long boardroom tables around which the group had gathered, telling Topp and the others: “You do have allies. You’ve had allies all along.”

Topp also said he has no plans to lead an occupation of the capital, and invited Ottawa police to work with him to facilitate his planned march through the city to the National War Memorial.

However, an organizer for Veterans 4 Freedom said in a recent video posted to YouTube that the group plans to set up a semi-permanent camp east of Ottawa called “Camp Eagle” and hold events in the city all summer.

Ottawa police have said they are planning a never-before-seen security posture for Canada Day, and that they and Gatineau police are readying further security plans for demonstrations in downtown Ottawa and Parliament Hill.

While Ottawa police will protect everyone’s right to lawfully and peacefully demonstrate, one officer said during a briefing last week, “we will not allow for the conditions that led to the unlawful protests in February to reoccur.”

Several Ottawa community groups are calling for an even stronger response to Topp’s arrival next week and any planned “freedom” demonstrations, which they allege are connected to right-wing extremism.

“It seems to me that their plan is always to sort of protect the parliamentary precinct, but they sort of just leave residential neighbourhoods there to dry,” said Sam Hersh of Horizon Ottawa.

“I want to see an acknowledgment of what this actually is from our city and from the relevant authorities: that this is a far-right movement, and that we should take it seriously. And they’re not welcome in our city.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2022.

 

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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Vinclum cheat investors of $1.5m — with lure of $16m profits

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Alleged Vinclum Corporation fraudsters conned their creditors of more than $1.5m, a sum which was to be used to leverage $16m in an investment scheme that never took place.

Robert Allen, then director of Vinclum Corporation, Toronto, together with Daniel Carrasco, Wojciech Karcinski (often referred to as Peter Karcinski) and several other individuals employed by the Vinclum Group, allegedly persuaded their investors to wire funds for the scheme.

Allen and his associates reportedly convinced one financial services director to part with an initial $250,000.00, which in several stages would eventually generate profits of $16m. A second party, acting on behalf of six clients, invested a further $1.25m in the scheme. The funds would be used for the purchase of DLCs (Documentary Letters of Credit).

A DLC is a frequently used banking instrument in international trade. It instructs an issuing bank to pay a seller, normally in connection with the export of goods, with the bank acting as an intermediary in the transaction. The holder may be able to borrow against a future payment, at a loan-to-value ratio of up to 50%. Allen and the Vinclum Group were said to have connections with international banks that would facilitate a legal scheme to exploit this instrument.

Under the scheme, when a $4m DLC was redeemed, it generated cash of $2m. These funds would be used to purchase a larger DLC of $32m, which would generate $16m in cash, which would then be distributed between the alleged fraudsters and the victims.

The victims wired the funds with the belief that DLCs would be bought and monetized. However no such DLCs were purchased in relation to the agreement, it is claimed.

Despite repeated requests, and assurances by the Vinclum Group that the funds would be returned, no refund has been received.

A motion for injunction has been filed to freeze the assets of the accused while fraud investigations are underway.

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More Charges Dropped Just Days Before Trial Against Activists Who Exposed Animal Cruelty at Excelsior Hog Farm

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ABBOTSFORD, BC – Several criminal charges were dropped by the Crown yesterday against three animal rights activists just days before their four-week trial is set to begin on Monday, June 27. Amy Soranno, Roy Sasano, and Nick Schafer are accused of exposing animal cruelty at Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford, BC in 2019, and still face a combined total of 14 indictable charges of Break and enter and Criminal Mischief. A press conference will be held in front of the BC Supreme Court in Abbotsford on the first day of trial.The Crown gave no explanation when it dropped some of the remaining charges yesterday against the three activists. The Crown similarly dropped all charges last month, without explanation, against a fourth activist, Geoff Regier, after his lawyers argued in a pretrial hearing that police and the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) had engaged in misconduct.Soranno, Sasano, and Schafer, who together with Regier are calling themselves the Excelsior 4. The three activists could each be sentenced to years in prison if convicted.

What: Press conference & start of four-week trial for the Excelsior 4When: Monday, June 27, press conference at 9am, trial at 10amWhere: BC Supreme Court, 32375 Veterans Way, Abbotsford, BC

“The Excelsior 4 case started three years ago with a total of 21 charges hanging over us,” said Amy Soranno, one of the Excelsior 4 defendants going to trial on Monday. “But before the jury has even been selected, the Crown has dropped all charges against one of us and reduced the number of charges against the rest of us.”Until last month, Regier had faced similar charges for his role in blowing the whistle on Excelsior. In July 2019, Regier made contact with the BCSPCA—the only animal abuse enforcement agency in BC—and provided the private charity with video evidence of criminal animal cruelty at the hog farm. However, instead of recommending charges against Excelsior, the BCSPCA violated its own confidentiality policy in order to turn Regier over to police. The trial comes more than three years after the exposure of animal cruelty at Excelsior, yet the hog farm has never had to answer for the video footage clearly depicting animal abuse. A short video was recently published about the Excelsior 4 case, with an incisive look at how industry has avoided accountability, how the police mishandled evidence, and how the Crown is criminalizing activists. View the 7-minute video here: https://youtu.be/FJGAI02SWzw. “The fact that we still face prison time while Excelsior Hog Farm is free to continue its abusive practices is a mockery of justice,” said Soranno. “This case further illustrates the clear bias against animals and activists by the animal agriculture industry, BCSPCA, and police. Our trial will shine a light on the criminal animal abuse taking place at Excelsior, and the failure to hold them and other animal farms accountable.” The trial also comes more than a year after a Freedom of Information disclosure revealed that the BCSPCA has no capacity to enforce anti-cruelty laws at animal farms in BC. Activists point to the abuse carried out at Excelsior as just one example of the BCSPCA’s failure to take enforcement action despite ample evidence of criminal animal cruelty. “BC needs an enforcement agency that is accountable to the public, not a private charity that is unfit for the role and only answerable to its board of directors,” said Soranno. In addition to demanding that the hog farm be held accountable, the Excelsior 4 and animal rights activists across the province are calling on BC Agriculture Minster Lana Popham to replace the private charity BCSPCA with a more accountable government agency to enforce against animal cruelty in BC. In the interest of transparency and accountability, activists are also demanding the installation of Closed-Circuit TV cameras at all animal agriculture facilities in BC. “With no national regulations governing animal welfare on farms and virtually no government oversight on farms, one of the only ways abuse and mistreatment of farmed animals comes to light is through whistleblower and hidden camera exposés,” said Animal Justice in a recent statement. “Preventing journalists and animal advocates from exposing animal abuse restricts freedom of expression, one of the most important human rights in Canada.” For more information about the Excelsior 4, the story behind their charges, and how to take action against animal cruelty: www.excelsior4.org/.
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Is The Canadian Online Gambling Industry Regulated?

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Like in many western countries, gambling is a popular pastime for many Canadians. Throughout Canada’s evolution, it has strived to give its citizens the freedom of gambling across the provinces. Thanks to this, casinos in the country have grown and thrived over the years, from land-based casinos to the more modern online gambling sites.

Interestingly, government-sponsored sites have also joined the online trend. While other nations globally move from one extreme to the other in terms of their stand on gambling, Canadian lawmakers have generally used an even-handed approach despite the attraction of quick and easy money.

Generally, the country’s laws are flexible while simultaneously protecting the public’s welfare.

 

History of Canada’s Gambling Laws

The ‘90s marked a new age for the gambling industry in Canada because of the computer and internet boom. The first online casinos also launched during this era, and you no longer had to risk gambling in unlicensed casinos in Sweden if you could not access legal casinos. Avid gamblers could simply go online, although they were much fewer in number.

The first reason for this was only a few people owned computers. There was also a concern about the absence of online casino regulations. As the industry expanded, governments began establishing rules to control the sector. Today, traditional and online gambling is prevalent in the country since accessing casinos is much simpler now than before.

 

Is the gambling sector legal in Canada?

Online gambling had been illegal for years in Canada until quite recently. Now, it is legal in Canada in different forms. All the ten provinces and the three territories have the premise to set their own rules. The minimum legal gambling age in Canada is 19, apart from Alberta and Quebec, where players are only allowed to gamble upon turning 18.

All casinos, lotteries, racetracks as well as other gaming establishments must abide by the rules stipulated by their territory or province of operation. As previously mentioned, some forms of gambling are legal in parts of Canada and illegal in others. The country has two gambling laws; the First Nations Law and the Provincial Law.

The latter accords each territory or province control over gambling activities within its jurisdiction. Subsequently, some provincial laws are stricter than the federal regulations.

 

Take away

Today, many Canadians enjoy gambling online, from sports betting and live tables to traditional games like slots. Now that it is legal, you can safely access any reputable and legal casino online and physically.

 

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