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NB Power ‘paternalistic,’ not negotiating fairly on dam project: Wolastoqey Nation

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FREDERICTON — The Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick says negotiations with the province’s energy utility have broken down regarding a multibillion-dollar plan to upgrade the Mactaquac dam and generating station west of Fredericton.

NB Power has reneged on certain terms that had been agreed upon by both sides, the First Nation said Wednesday, involving issues such as community interests, cultural protection and economic opportunities.

Chief Gabriel Atwin of the Kingsclear First Nation — a member of the Wolastoqey Nation — says the Crown corporation is not negotiating in good faith because the government is upset about their title claim to large swaths of the province.

“It’s a paternalistic approach,” Atwin said in an interview. “I believe that the unfortunate part is the premier is upset with the Wolastoqey people because of the title claim and basically trying to block every step of negotiation in any field — not just Mactaquac dam.”

Last year, six Wolastoqey chiefs filed a title claim in court for 60 per cent of New Brunswick’s territory and targeted corporations such as NB Power and forestry giant J.D. Irving, which exploit resources on their traditional lands. The chiefs want the land returned, they want compensation for the use of that land for the last 200 years, and they want title to the entire area.

A news release by the Wolastoqey Nation said NB Power and the chiefs spent several years negotiating terms for the Mactaquac dam, which the province wants to keep operational until 2068 at a cost of up to $3.6 billion. The dam is located 20 kilometres west of the New Brunswick capital.

Documents shared by the First Nation said NB Power made a first offer in March 2021 with six terms, involving issues such as employment and education, environment, community interests and cultural protection measures, with money set aside for each.

The Wolastoqey responded with a counter offer in September 2021, which included environmental protections and a proposal for a 200-megawatt renewable energy project that would cover the First Nation’s energy needs and allow it to sell surplus power at a competitive rate, the documents show.

In a letter sent to the Wolastoqey in May, Charlie Ryan, NB Power’s project director for the dam project, said the utility would like to continue negotiations focusing solely on employment and education, environmental concerns, and procurement and contracts.

Completed in 1968, the dam, Atwin said, has destroyed a number of cultural traditions such as salmon fishing because there’s no passage for the animals.

“That’s how we feel as people,” Atwin said. “We’re an afterthought.”

NB Power said in a statement that the utility has discussions with First Nations communities as part of its “duty to consult.”

“NB Power remains committed to working with the Wolastoqey Nation as the utility continues to explore a path forward for the Mactaquac life achievement project,” it said.

Atwin said the chiefs are hoping NB Power will come back to the table to resume talks and that negotiations will result in something that is “economically sustainable for their community.”

The Wolastoqey Nation had no say in the construction of the dam, Atwin said, adding that the project has created noise and light pollution and environmental contamination and reduced food security.

“I just want to reiterate that the chiefs are not asking for anything unreasonable,” he said. “We just want to share in the benefits of this dam.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2022.

 

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press

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Flight 752 families want Ottawa to get tougher on Iran

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OTTAWA — The families of those killed when Iran’s military shot down Flight 752 in January 2020 are demanding the Canadian government take a harder line against the regime.

Iranian-Canadians gathered on Parliament Hill Tuesday to mark 1,000 days of mourning their relatives, and the crowd made clear their displeasure at the federal government’s actions to date.

“I already lost all my life, all my future, said Maral Gorginpour whose husband Fareed Arasteh died in the crash.

The two got married in Iran, three days before he boarded the flight.

“I need justice; I need the truth and until that day I won’t stop,” said Gorginpour, who joined hundreds in front of the Supreme Court before marching through the parliamentary precinct.

In her speech the crowd, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland promised Ottawa would take more action but did not say specifically what that would be.

“We will use all the tools at our disposal, to isolate and punish the brutal dictatorship,” Freeland said.

Her remarks were interrupted multiple times, as demonstrators called on the Liberals to kick Iranians with ties to the regime out of Canada.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre revved up the crowd by saying the Trudeau government has refused to deem the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of Iran’s army, as a terror group.

Poilievre endorsed a formal request last month by the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims to have the International Criminal Court launch a war-crime investigation. So far, Canada has helped Ukraine pursue its own criminal case, in recognition that the airliner was registered in Ukraine.

“We’ve had 1,000 days of words; we need action,” Poilievre said, drawing cheers.

“The time has come for deeds, and I want you to know you have friends in the Conservative Party who will fight tooth-and-nail.”

Sanctions experts have said it would be challenging to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization without barring entry to Canada and freezing assets for thousands of people who had been conscripted into brief, low-ranking positions such as a cook.

But Liberal MP Ali Ehsassi, who has also been pushing his own government to step up its response, said recently Ottawa should work to find a way to deem the revolutionary guard a terrorist group without punishing those who were drafted into non-combat roles.

On Monday Canada sanctioned 25 Iranian officials and nine entities including the head of the revolutionary guard. Ehsassi, whose Willowdale riding in Toronto has a large Iranian-Canadian population, said on Twitter the sanctions are “not sufficient.”

In Halifax Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is working with other countries to get justice.

“All Canadians, this government and all political parties stand with the people of Iran as we stand up for women’s rights and human rights,” he said.

Iranian police have violently cracked down on protests across Iran following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in mid-September, two days after she was arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab too loosely.

Gorginpour said Ottawa needs to take a tougher line against the regime, or it will continue to beat protesters, down flights and torture political prisoners.

“While they keep silent, the regime kills more people, and they are not accountable.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2022.

 

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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Judicial review sought of fire order to remove tents off Vancouver street

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VANCOUVER — Two women who were sheltering in tents on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside have launched a court challenge of an order to dismantle the street encampment.

A petition for judicial review filed to the B.C. Supreme Court argues the city’s fire chief made the order without procedural fairness to those living on Hastings Street.

The city’s fire chief issued the order July 25, saying the tents posed an extreme fire and safety risk.

The petition, filed last week by law firm Arvay Finlay on behalf of the women, argues the fire chief did not properly weigh the consequences or consider alternatives.

It says the Charter recognizes the right to shelter in public spaces and argues the process leading up to the order was unfair because residents had no notice of it, nor opportunity to address concerns with the fire chief.

No one from Vancouver Fire Rescue Services could immediately be reached for comment. The City of Vancouver, also named as a defendant for having jurisdiction over the fire department, declined to comment as the matter is before the courts.

“Residents of Hastings tent city and their supporters remain hopeful that the court will recognize that fire safety cannot be considered in isolation from the harms and safety risks that people face while sheltering outside,” Pivot Legal Society says in a news release announcing the petition.

“Mass displacement, whether through street sweeps or enforcement of fire orders, is not a reasonable response that respects the rights of unhoused people.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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Trudeau rejects Russia referendum, again promises sanctions

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned votes in occupied parts of Ukraine to join Russia, but gave no timeline for sanctions Canada promised a week ago.

Trudeau says the referendums are an attempt by Russia to redraw the map as it loses territory in the war it started in February.

Moscow claims people in the four regions it occupies voted upwards of 87 per cent to join Russia, but western governments say the process was rigged.

Trudeau says Russia is trying to justify its war by claiming territory so that it can paint Ukraine as the aggressor.

The prime minister also phoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday to pledge his support for the country.

Yet Trudeau had no timeline for when Canada would sanction more Russians.

“We are going to have stronger sanctions; those will be announced very soon,” Trudeau said, arguing Canada is among the countries that has sanctioned Russia the most.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced more sanctions were coming last Thursday.

Ottawa has similarly provided no details since announcing Monday that it would sanction Iranian officials for the human-rights crackdown that followed the death of Mahsa Amini, after she was arrested by the country’s morality police.

Trudeau said he promised Zelensky that Canada will do what it can to make sure the “sham referendums” aren’t endorsed by other countries.

“We’re also going to continue working with the world to recognize that what Putin is trying to do is completely illegitimate,” Trudeau told reporters Thursday afternoon.

He was visiting Quebec’s Iles-de-la-Madeleine to tour damage caused by post-tropical storm Fiona last weekend.

Earlier Thursday, Defence Minister Anita Anand said Russia’s votes violate the international rules-based order that has been in place since the end of the Second World War.

“Canada condemns these actions and I personally am disgusted by them, as they are reprehensible,” she said.

“Ukraine’s territory will always remain Ukraine’s territory.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.

— With files from Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa and Émilie Bergeron in Iles-de-la-Madeleine

 

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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