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Ontario drops vaccine proof, Canada trucker protests persist – Al Jazeera English

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Ontario’s premier announced on Monday that Canada’s most populous province will lift its COVID-19 proof-of-vaccination requirements in two weeks — not because of the protests that have blocked the border and paralysed Ottawa, he said, but because “it is safe to do so.”

The busiest US-Canada border crossing, meanwhile, was open again on Monday after police removed the last of the protesters who had bottled up the Ambassador Bridge for nearly a week in a demonstration against Canada’s virus restrictions. But the larger truck-borne protest in the capital, Ottawa, persisted as city residents seethed over authorities’ inability to reclaim the streets.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that on March 1, the province will drop its requirement that people show proof of vaccination to get into restaurants, gyms and sporting events. A surge of cases caused by the Omicron variant has crested in Canada.

The province will also remove its 50-percent capacity limit on restaurants on Thursday, four days earlier than planned. Ford gave no timetable for dropping the requirement that people wear masks in public places.

“Let me be very clear: We are moving in this direction because it is safe to do so. Today’s announcement is not because of what’s happening in Ottawa or Windsor, but despite it,” Ford said.

Ford said he would support Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government if it proposed further measures to quell the protests.

“We need law and order. Our country is at risk now. It’s not just happening here in Ottawa, but it’s happening in Alberta and British Columbia,” Ford said. “We won’t accept it.”

Trudeau planned to meet virtually with the leaders of Canada’s provinces on Monday morning, as well as with lawmakers.

The prime minister has so far rejected calls to use the military but has said “all options are on the table” to end the protests including invoking emergency measures. Trudeau has called the protesters a “fringe” of Canadian society. Both federal and provincial politicians have said they cannot order police what to do.

Demonstrations against virus restrictions and other issues have bottled up several crossings along the US-Canada border and hurt the economies of both nations. They also inspired similar convoys in France, New Zealand and the Netherlands. US authorities have said that truck convoys may be in the works in the United States.

Police in Windsor arrested about 30 protesters and towed several vehicles Sunday near the Ambassador Bridge, which links Windsor – and numerous Canadian auto plants – with Detroit. The bridge, which carries 25 percent of all trade between the two countries, reopened to traffic late Sunday night.

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After protesters began blocking bridge access February 7, automakers began shutting down or reducing production at a time when the industry is already struggling with pandemic-induced shortages of computer chips and other supply-chain disruptions.

“Today our national economic crisis at the Ambassador Bridge came to an end,” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said on Sunday.

About 750 km (470 miles) northeast of Windsor, the protest in Ottawa has paralyzed downtown, infuriated residents who are fed up with police inaction and turned up pressure on Trudeau.

The city had appeared to have reached a deal in which protesters, who have jammed downtown streets with trucks and other vehicles for more than two weeks, would move out of residential areas and confine their demonstrations to the Parliament Hill area, but those prospects soon faded.

In a letter to the protesters, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said residents are “exhausted” and “on edge” because of the demonstrations, and he warned that some businesses are on the brink of permanent closure.

“It’s stressful. I feel angry at what’s happening. This isn’t Canada. This does not represent us,” said Colleen Sinclair, a counter-protester who lives in Ottawa.

Sinclair said all demonstrators have had their say and need to move on – with police force if necessary.

“They’re occupiers,” she said. “This is domestic terrorism, and we want you out of our city. Go home.”

While the protesters are decrying vaccine mandates for truckers and other COVID-19 restrictions, many of Canada’s public health measures, such as mask rules and vaccine passports for getting into restaurants and theatres, are already falling away as the Omicron surge levels off.

Pandemic restrictions have been far stricter in Canada than in the US, but Canadians have largely supported them. The vast majority of Canadians are vaccinated, and the COVID-19 death rate is one-third that of the United States.

Don Stephens, 65, a retired graphic designer, holds a sign on Parliament Hill to support trucks lined up in protest of COVID-19 vaccine mandates.Don Stephens, 65, a retired graphic designer, holds a sign on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to support truckers protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates. He views them as a “silent majority that had been longing to have their voice heard” [Ted Shaffrey/AP Photo]

A judge on Friday ordered an end to the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge, and Ford declared a state of emergency allowing for fines of $100,000 Canadian and up to a year in jail for anyone blocking roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer welcomed the end of the blockade as “a win for Michigan’s working families who are just trying to do their jobs and for businesses who can get back to shipping their products and produce”. She added: “It’s important to ensure that this does not happen again.”

Michigan officials estimate that 10,000 commercial vehicles cross the bridge each day with $325m of goods, approximately $50m from automotive parts.

The Windsor protest began to dwindle Saturday after police persuaded many protesters to remove vehicles blocking the road to the bridge. But in Ottawa, Saturday’s crowd swelled to what police said were 4,000 demonstrators, and a counter-protest of frustrated Ottawa residents attempting to block the convoy of trucks from entering downtown emerged Sunday.

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Prince Charles and Camilla kick off Canadian tour – CTV News

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St. JOHN’S –

Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, arrived Tuesday in St. John’s, N.L., to begin a three-day Canadian tour that will largely focus on reconciliation with Indigenous people.

Under partly cloudy skies, the couple landed at St. John’s International Airport aboard a Canadian government jet. They then headed by motorcade to a welcome ceremony at the provincial legislature with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Gov. Gen. Mary Simon.

The couple were met by an honour guard and various dignitaries before shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries with people in the crowd. On the steps leading to the legislature, about 100 schoolchildren waved small Canadian and provincial flags.

Grade 6 student Anna Jeans said she was thrilled at the possibility she might get a high-five from Charles or Camilla. “I’m very excited,” she said, bouncing on her toes. “It’s a big opportunity for me.”

Nearby, Tara Kelly — wearing a homemade fascinator with a tall plume of green feathers — said she’s long been a fan of the Royal Family. “It’s a fantasy,” she said.

Inside the Confederation Building’s purple-lit foyer, the prince and the duchess looked on as Innu elder Elizabeth Penashue offered a blessing and Inuk soprano Deantha Edmunds sang.

The event began with a land acknowledgment honouring the province’s five Indigenous groups as well as the Beothuk people, who were among the first inhabitants of Newfoundland, their history stretching back 9,000 years.

Simon welcomed Charles and Camilla to Canada in Inuktitut. She asked Charles and Camilla to listen to the Indigenous groups they will meet in Canada and to learn their stories.

“I encourage you to learn the truth of our history — the good and the bad,” she said. “In this way, we will promote healing, understanding and respect. And in this way, we will also promote reconciliation.”

The prince started his speech by noting that the land that became Canada has been cared for by Indigenous people — First Nations, Metis and Inuit — for thousands of years.

“We must find new ways to come to terms with the darker and more difficult aspects of the past, acknowledging, reconciling and striving to do better,” he said. “It is a process that starts with listening.”

The prince said he had spoken with the Governor General about the “vital process” of reconciliation.

“(It’s) not a one-off act, of course, but an ongoing commitment to healing, respect and understanding,” he said. “I know that our visit this week comes at an important moment with Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples across Canada, committing to reflect honestly and openly on the past.”

Charles and Camilla then moved on to Government House, the official residence of Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote, the Queen’s representative in the province.

Outside the residence, they will take part in a reconciliation prayer with Indigenous leaders at the Heart Garden, which was built to honour Indigenous children who attended the province’s residential schools.

Earlier in the day, Trudeau said reconciliation will form part of the discussions Charles and Camilla engage in during their visit. But the prime minister avoided answering when asked if he thinks the Queen should apologize for the legacy of residential schools.

“Reconciliation has been a fundamental priority for this government ever since we got elected, and there are many, many things that we all have to work on together,” he said. “But we know it’s not just about government and Indigenous people. It’s about everyone doing their part, and that’s certainly a reflection that everyone’s going to be having.”

Metis National Council President Cassidy Caron has said she intends to make a request for an apology to the prince and duchess during a reception Wednesday at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

Caron has said residential school survivors have told her an apology from the Queen is important as she is Canada’s head of state and the leader of the Anglican Church. “The Royals have a moral responsibility to participate and contribute and advance reconciliation,” Caron said in Ottawa on Monday.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis apologized for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools when Indigenous leaders and residential school survivors visited the Vatican. He will travel to Canada to deliver the apology this summer.

Leaders from four of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Indigenous groups were expected to attend the prayer ceremony at the lieutenant-governor’s residence in St. John’s. Elders and residential school survivors were also invited to take part in a smudging ceremony, musical performances, a land acknowledgment and a moment of silence.

Charles and Camilla will then tour Quidi Vidi, a former fishing community in the east end of St. John’s.

The couple are expected to arrive in Ottawa tonight. Their tour will also take them to the Northwest Territories.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2022.

— With files from Michael MacDonald in Halifax and Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg

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Sanctioned Russians will be banned from entering Canada, government says – CBC News

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Russians sanctioned by Canada will be barred from entering the country, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) say.

In a statement from CBSA, Mendicino announced he’ll introduce changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) that will prevent those sanctioned individuals from coming into the country.

“These changes will allow the Canada Border Services Agency to deny entry to, and remove, individuals subject to sanctions, and will allow Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officials to deny visas,” the statement reads.

“Once in force, these amendments to IRPA will apply to all foreign nationals subject to sanctions by Canada, and any accompanying family members.”

The government has sanctioned over 1,000 individuals and entities from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus in retaliation for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to Global Affairs Canada.

Among those sanctioned are senior Russian government officials such as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, billionaire oligarch Roman Abramovich, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adult daughters Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova, and Putin himself.

The sanctions prevent them from receiving financial and property services in Canada or from Canadians outside of Canada.

“In the face of the Putin regime’s brutal attack, Canada stands with Ukraine. Banning close associates and key supporters of Putin’s regime, including those responsible for this unprovoked aggression, from entering our country is one of the many ways in which we’re holding Russia accountable for its crimes,” Mendicino said in the statement. 

“We will continue to exhaust all options to uphold freedom and democracy, punish Russia and support Ukraine.” 

Russia has sanctioned Canadians in retaliation for Canada’s sanctions — including premiers, military officials and journalists.

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UFOs: More Canadian politicians briefed – CTV News

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Canadian members of Parliament are urging the government to pay more attention to recent U.S. news about “unidentified aerial phenomena,” or UAP: a term used for what are more commonly known as unidentified flying objects and UFOs.

According to Conservative MP Larry Maguire and a Texas-based researcher, at least three Canadian politicians have now sought UAP briefings from former Pentagon officials.

“When you see the information that’s come out of the United States, you’d have to take it seriously,” Maguire told CTV News from his Ottawa office. “We need to have a parallel program to what the United States already has.”

On Tuesday, a pair of senior U.S. military officials testified during the first public congressional hearing on UFOs in more than 50 years.

“We know that our service members have encountered unidentified aerial phenomena,” Ronald Moultrie, who oversees the Pentagon’s current UFO research office, said during the hearing. “We’re open to any conclusions that we may encounter.”

Earlier this month, CTVNews.ca revealed former Canadian defence minister Harjit Sajjan also received a UFO briefing ahead of the June 2021 release of an unclassified U.S. intelligence report on recent military sightings, which have included UAP that appeared to “maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernable means of propulsion.” Military personnel, police and pilots have also filed reports in Canada.

“We need to identify the origins and the intent of these UAPs, and that certainly can’t hurt anything,” Maguire said Tuesday.

Maguire’s office states it arranged a Feb. 16, 2021 briefing for the Manitoba MP and another Conservative parliamentarian with Luis Elizondo, a former U.S. Army counterintelligence officer who reportedly ran a UAP research program before resigning from the Pentagon in 2017.

“Mr. Maguire is absolutely correct in his concern, because he knows that these reports do occur,” Elizondo told CTV News from Wyoming on Tuesday. “I think the time has come for us to have an open and honest dialogue about this topic without fear of retribution, without stigma and associated taboo.”

Maguire has penned a recent op-ed on the subject and has even used his committee work to raise questions about UAP sightings in Canada. Earlier this year, Maguire’s office arranged another briefing with members of the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU), an international think tank dedicated to applying scientific methods to UAP research.

Engineer and founding SCU board member Robert Powell was part of that Jan. 28 meeting and says he also participated in an Oct. 20, 2021 briefing for a Liberal member of Parliament.

“Both MPs were very interested in the subject,” Powell told CTVNews.ca from Austin, Texas. “The main thing I try to get across in these types of meetings is basically to give them as good an understanding as I can of the history and the current status of the UAP subject.”

According to Powell, the Oct. 2021 UAP briefing with the Liberal MP included former Pentagon intelligence official Christopher Mellon.

“We have no idea where they’re coming from or what their capabilities are, or what their intent is,” Mellon told CTV News in a June 2021 interview. Mellon did not respond to a request to comment on this story.

Internal briefing documents obtained by CTVNews.ca state the Canadian Armed Forces “does not typically investigate sightings of unexplained phenomena outside the context of investigating potential threats or distress.”

Meanwhile in the U.S., Pentagon UFO programs have operated under various acronyms for years. Questions about the national security implications of sightings have even sparked rare cooperation between Democrats and Republicans, which was evident during Tuesday’s congressional hearing and with a late 2021 Senate initiative to establish a new UAP research office.

“One of the interesting and noteworthy points about the study of UAPs is that everything I have seen both in Canada and the United States is that there is no partisanship on this question,” Powell said. “All parties seem to be interested in this subject, and it’s not a political issue.”

“If there’s any issue that we can be nonpartisan on in Canada, it should be this one,” Maguire added.

Ontario NDP MP Matthew Green agrees, saying Canada has nothing to lose by investigating UAP.

“If the testimony coming out of the States provides the public with a glimpse into the seriousness in which they’re taking it, then I think it would be well-advised for us to follow in the same pursuit,” Green told CTVNews.ca on Tuesday from Ottawa. “If they’re having public hearings of this nature, I can only begin to imagine what they already privately know.”

With files from CTV National News field producer William Dugan

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