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Ottawa boosts matching donations for Pakistan flooding to $7.5M

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OTTAWA — The federal government has more than doubled the amount of donations it will match to help the people of Pakistan recover from disastrous flooding.

Three weeks ago, the government pledged to match up to $3 million donated by Canadians to the Humanitarian Coalition. Last week, International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan said he would boost that to $5 million, in the hopes of drumming up more public support.

On Thursday, he increased that to $7.5 million, matching what Canadians had now donated.

Canada has donated another $30 million to aid Pakistan separately from the donor matching funds to the Humanitarian Coalition, a group of 12 major Canadian aid agencies, including Save The Children, Islamic Relief and Oxfam Canada.

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“It was just really gratifying to see the extraordinary response from Canadians, I would say particularly Canadians from the Pakistani diaspora and the Muslim community who really stepped up,” said the coalition’s director, Richard Morgan.

Severe monsoon rains this summer left one-third of Pakistan underwater, ruining grain and killing cattle. Morgan said 21 million people are in need of help, including 9 million in immediate need.

“When you have that many millions of displaced people congregating in new spaces, the most basic needs (are) shelter, food, water and immediate, basic health care,” Morgan said.

The funding has gone to things like tents and tarps, kitchen sets, fuel, drinking water and latrines. It has helped set up schools for children to learn and deal with trauma, he said.

In areas with functioning markets, the groups have given stipends to people to buy what they need, which Morgan says helps get the local economy back on its feet.

“It helps rebuilds community resilience,” he said.

The Humanitarian Coalition is still accepting donations, but those won’t be matched by Ottawa.

Pakistan also experienced massive floods in 2010, and the former Harper government pledged $71.8 million for relief efforts, including $46.8 million from donations Ottawa matched.

Morgan and Sajjan say Canadian aid from that crisis helped create the early-warning system that prevented deaths this year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 6, 2022.

 

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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Immigration in Canada: Refugee's plea for housing answered – CTV News

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 In her past life Aziza Abu Sirdana has only known war, conflict, fear and isolation.

“If you are born in Gaza you don’t know what life is,” she told CTV National News.

The 22-year-old Palestinian refugee fled to Canada after she learned about her father and grandfather’s plans to hunt her down and kill her.

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She arrived in Canada on March 24, 2022 full of hope for a new start in life. Her struggles only continued on Canadian soil.

CTV National News first sat down with Abu Sirdana at the beginning of November, after she stabbed herself in the stomach with a knife just below the ribcage while in a meeting with federal government officials with Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). She said she took the dangerous step in a desperate plea to find safe housing.

For more than seven months Abu Sirdana has been stuck living in a refugee hotel west of Toronto. While staying there she, and other refugees, say they were segregated and degraded by staff working for a taxpayer-funded resettlement agency. Strangers would also arrive at the hotel and prey on Abu Sidana and others, while trying to lure them into the sex trade, she said.

Sitting on a park bench a day after being released from hospital, Abu Sirdana told CTV National News: “I put a knife in my body because no one cares. Seriously no one cares.”

But it turns out there are Canadians who do care. After the 22-year-old shared her story with CTV National News, a family reached out to refugee advocate Mona Elshayal.

“A very kind woman reached out to me who was very concerned because she has a daughter around the same age. She felt bad because she thought, what would happen if this was my daughter? She just wanted to do what she could to help her out,” shares Elshayal. 

Just last week, Abu Sirdana moved into a two-bedroom condo with the family’s daughter in Ottawa. All the young refugee says she ever wanted was a space where she felt safe. An apartment with her own bathroom and washroom. She now has that and a sense of humanity and self worth that she’s never experienced. 

 

She can’t help but smile when talking about her new surrogate mother. “She gave me a chance at life. She said I’m here for you, if you need anything call me, if you’re sick I’ll be here the next day. Can you imagine anyone being so kind?” 

Abu Sirdana’s new Canadian family have asked to remain anonymous, but the mother shares that she just wanted “to give Aziza a safe place to live, in our Canada, the Canada my daughter lives in. I want Aziza to achieve her dreams.” 

Abu Sirdana is quick to share that she’s Muslim, and the family who’ve welcomed her as one of her own is Jewish. An unthinkable act of kindness amid the conflict back home is now a reality here on this side of the world. 

Abu Sirdana said she previously couldn’t “imagine that there’s a Jewish family, that would say ‘welcome’ (and open their doors to a Muslim from Gaza) but this is Canada. This is life in Canada.

“Here in this country you have all these people from different places all living together. You can walk where you want, speak to who you want, be friends with who you want,” she said.

Elshayal, who helped facilitate the life-changing move, said: “my hope is that she feels she’s in a safe place, that she has a family, that she has people that care about her and that she has every opportunity as she should when coming to Canada.” 

Abu Sirdana had to put her university education on hold and now hopes to continue her studies, and her life.

“I feel reborn,” she said, adding that previously, “I didn’t know what love is, I didn’t know what life is.

Thanks to the generosity of one Canadian family she can now look forward to experiencing it.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, here are some resources that are available.

Canada Suicide Prevention Helpline (1-833-456-4566)

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (1 800 463-2338)

Crisis Services Canada (1-833-456-4566 or text 45645)

Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868)

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Conservatives are ‘fearmongering’ over assault-style gun ban: public safety minister

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OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino accuses the Conservatives of “whipping up fear” that the Liberal government is outlawing ordinary long guns and hunting rifles.

In an interview, Mendicino says the government only wants to reinforce a regulatory ban on assault-style firearms like the AR-15 by enshrining a definition in legislation, and it is prepared to work with MPs to get it right.

He insists the government has no intention whatsoever of going after everyday long guns and hunting rifles, calling the notion “Conservative fearmongering.”

In May 2020, the Liberal government announced a ban through order-in-council on over 1,500 models and variants of what it considers assault-style firearms, such as the AR-15 and the Ruger Mini-14.

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The Liberals recently proposed including an evergreen definition of a prohibited assault-style firearm in gun-control legislation being studied by a House of Commons committee.

The Conservatives claim the government’s amendment amounts to the most significant hunting rifle ban in the history of Canada.

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

 

The Canadian Press

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Joly seeks reprimand of Russian ambassador as embassy tweets against LGBTQ community

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OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has asked her department to summon Russia’s ambassador over social media postings against LGBTQ people.

In recent days, Russia’s embassy in Ottawa has posted on Twitter and Telegram that the West is imposing on Russia’s family values, and arguing that families can only involve a man, a woman and children.

The embassy has posted images of a crossed-out rainbow flag and Orthodox icons of Adam and Eve.

The tweets came as Russia expanded a ban on exposing children to so-called homosexual propaganda, meaning authorities can now prosecute Russians for doing things they argue might entice adults to be gay or transgender.

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Joly’s office says the posts amount to “hateful propaganda” that must be called out and “an attack on the Canadian values of acceptance and tolerance.”

If Global Affairs Canada follows Joly’s request, it will be the third time the department has summoned ambassador Oleg Stepanov this year.

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

 

The Canadian Press

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