MONTREAL — The French phrase “bain de foule” appears regularly on the agendas of Quebec’s major party leaders during the provincial election campaign.
The term, which directly translates into English as “crowd bath,” is used to describe walkabouts at public places such as markets, regional fairs and busy commercial streets, during which politicians shake voters’ hands, pose for photos and occasionally hold babies.
Politicians bathing in crowds is a sign of the post-pandemic atmosphere of Quebec’s election campaign: masks are rare, candidates are up close with supporters and political rallies are back.
“We are in a completely post-COVID campaign,” Éric Montpetit, a political science professor at Université de Montréal, said in an interview Tuesday.
Quebec’s campaign, which ends election day Oct. 3, is in stark contrast to campaigns conducted during the pandemic in other provinces, such as New Brunswick in 2020, where there were no rallies and where some parties stopped campaigning door-to-door. In Ontario’s spring election, candidates wore masks and the leaders of both the NDP and Green Party were forced to pause their campaigns after testing positive for COVID-19.
For some health experts, however, the scant discussion in Quebec about the pandemic represents a missed opportunity to talk about the lessons learned over the past two years.
“I’m both surprised and disappointed,” said Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist and medical microbiologist at the McGill University Health Centre, in reference to the lack of discussion about the pandemic on the campaign trail.
He said Quebec has not done enough to prepare for a possible future wave. The incumbent Coalition Avenir Québec party, he added, doesn’t want to talk too much about the pandemic because of the high death toll in the province — 16,754 deaths have been attributed to the disease, the highest number in Canada.
The deaths are “a reflection not only of a virulent pathogen and an at-risk population but (they) also tell us that our health-care system is extremely fragile,” Vinh said in an interview Tuesday, adding that Quebec’s health network remains severely understaffed and that the number of vulnerable people is growing as the population ages.
Vinh said Quebec’s political parties aren’t talking about the pandemic because voters are ready to move on. “I think most people don’t want to hear about COVID anymore and that’s why there’s no outcry.”
Daniel Weinstock, a professor at McGill University’s institute for health and social policy, said he agrees that public opinion is likely part of the reason the pandemic isn’t a prominent topic during the campaign. While the vast majority of eligible Canadians got two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, uptake of third and fourth doses has been far lower, a sign, Weinstock said, that people want to live in a post-pandemic world.
“It could be that at the end of the day that is the main reason why everybody in this race, the opposition parties, have decided that, even though there’s a rational reason to question the government’s handling of the pandemic — especially in its earlier phases — this is just not something that the population wants to hear. It’s not a vote-getter,” he said.
Weinstock, however, said he’s disappointed that CAQ Leader François Legault on the campaign trail hasn’t really had to defend his government’s use of emergency powers during the pandemic. “I’ve been disappointed at the lack of bandwidth that’s been occupied by this government’s relatively cavalier manner with liberal democratic rights and freedoms.”
Only Conservative Party of Quebec Leader Éric Duhaime has regularly criticized the way Legault handled the pandemic. But Montpetit said those criticisms are mostly intended to appeal to Duhaime’s base — and they largely came before the election campaign. The Conservative party leader has focused less often on pandemic measures in recent weeks as he looks to broaden his appeal, Montpetit said.
Legault managed to remain popular throughout the pandemic because his health orders followed public opinion, Montpetit said.
During the early waves of the disease, the government’s strict measures were broadly popular. But public sentiment changed in December 2021 and January 2022, when opinion polls began showing that the measures — including the curfew — were losing support. In response, Legault quickly changed course.
“Most people are under the impression that Legault did what he could, that he did a good job, (that) it was a difficult job and someone else wouldn’t have done better than him,” Montpetit said.
“So in this context, it’s clear that François Legault’s adversaries have absolutely no interest in raising this issue and I think that’s why we don’t talk about it during the campaign.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2022.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
More 'police' centres run by China found around world: NGO – CTV News
A human rights organization says it has found dozens of additional overseas Chinese “police service centres” around the world, including at least two more in Canada.
In a new report released Monday called “Patrol and Persuade,” the Spain-based non-governmental organization Safeguard Defenders says it used open source statements from People’s Republic of China authorities, Chinese police and state media to document at least 48 additional stations.
This on top of the 54 stations revealed in September, bringing the total number of documented centres to 102 in 53 countries. Some host countries also have co-operated in setting up these centres, Safeguard Defenders says.
The stations are accused of targeting Chinese nationals living abroad, particularly those who allegedly committed crimes in China, in order to coerce them to return home.
Safeguard Defenders reports that along with the three police “stations” previously confirmed in the Greater Toronto Area, which are operated out of the Chinese city of Fuzhou, it has found newly confirmed centres in Vancouver, operated out of Wenzhou, and another whose location is unknown but operates out of Nantong.
In a statement to CTV National News on Monday, the RCMP said it’s “investigating reports of criminal activity in relation to the so-called ‘police’ stations.” No further details were provided.
A similar statement was given by the police force to CP24 in late October following the previous report of Toronto-area stations.
The consulate general of the People’s Republic of China said at the time that the stations are to help Chinese citizens renew their driver’s licences, given many of them are unable to return to China due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the “local volunteers” facilitating this “are not Chinese police officers.”
However, Safeguard Defenders says the vast majority of the newly documented stations were set up starting in 2016, years before the pandemic began.
In its previous report in September, Safeguard Defenders found that Chinese police “persuaded” 230,000 claimed fugitives to return to China “voluntarily” between April 2021 and July 2022. Among the tactics used, Safeguard Defenders said, included denying suspects’ children in China the right to education and punishing relatives through “guilt by association.”
The U.S. Department of Justice accused seven people in October of a yearslong campaign to harass and intimidate a U.S. resident to return to China.
While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the G20 summit in Indonesia in November, his office told reporters that he had raised concerns with Chinese President Xi Jinping of “interference” in Canada.
Asked about what specific interference he referred to, Trudeau later told the House of Commons, “We’ve known for many years that there are consistent engagements by representatives of the Chinese government into Canadian communities, with local media, reports of illicit Chinese police stations.”
With files from CP24 Web Content Writer Joanna Lavoie, CTV National News Vancouver Bureau Chief Melanie Nagy, CTV News Toronto Videojournalist Allison Hurst and The Canadian Press
Trudeau 'extremely concerned' about report Canadian parts ended up in Iranian drones – National | Globalnews.ca – Global News
Trudeau shared his worries with reporters in Ingersoll, Ont., Monday after the Globe and Mail reported on Sunday the discovery by a non-profit organization, Statewatch. Its “Trap Aggressor” investigation detailed last month that an antenna manufactured by an Ottawa-based Tallysman Wireless was featured in the Iranian Shahed-136 attack drone.
Federal government ‘extremely concerned’ about report Canadian-made parts found in Iranian attack drones used in Russia: Trudeau
The drones have been used recently by Russia in Ukraine as Moscow increases its strikes on the country’s energy and civilian infrastructure.
“We’re obviously extremely concerned about those reports because even as Canada is producing extraordinary, technological innovations … we do not want them to participate in Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine, or Iran’s contributions to that,” Trudeau said.
“We have strict export permits in place for sensitive technology that are rigorously enforced, and that’s why we’ve been following up with this company, that’s fully cooperating, to figure out exactly how items that we’re not supposed to get into the hands of anyone like the Iranian government actually ended up there.”
The Shahed-136 is manufactured by Shahed Aviation Industries, one of two Iranian drone makers Ottawa sanctioned last month for reportedly supplying Russia with its lethal drones. After denying reports it was supplying Moscow, Iran acknowledged for the first time on Nov. 5 it had sent Moscow drones before the Feb. 24 war began.
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It denied continuing to supply drones to Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Iran of lying, previously saying Kyiv’s forces were destroying at least 10 of its drones every day.
Aside from its Iranian-made engine, the Shahed-136 consists entirely of foreign components, Statewatch said in its report. It cited Ukrainian intelligence managing to identify more than 30 European and American companies’ components, with most parts coming from the United States.
Drones like the Shahed are packed with explosives and can be preprogrammed with a target’s GPS coordinates. They can nosedive into targets and explode on impact like a missile, hence why they have become known as suicide drones or kamikaze drones.
Shaheds are relatively cheap, costing roughly US$20,000 each — a small fraction of the cost of a full-size missile.
Drones “provide a critical capability” to exploit vulnerabilities in defences, and their use may be a prelude to a new phase in the conflict, U.S. Army Lt.-Col. Paul Lushenko previously told Global News.
Gyles Panther, president at Tallysman, told the Globe the company is not “complicit in this usage” and “is 100-per cent committed” to supporting Ukraine.
Ottawa is working to understand how the parts ended up in the drones, and wants to “ensure” incidents like this don’t “happen again in the future,” Trudeau said.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Available Nexus appointments Canada
There’s good news for those looking to expedite their border crossing experience.
To mitigate the ongoing backlog issues at Canadian border crossings, border officials have reopened two Nexus and Free and Secure Trade (FAST) enrolment centres in Canada.
It’s the first time any Nexus and FAST offices have been open in Canada since the pandemic began, and federal officials say more offices will be opening in the future.
The Nexus program, which has over 1.7 million members, is designed to speed up the border clearance process for its members, while also freeing up more time for Canadian and U.S. border security agents to tend to unknown or potentially higher-risk travellers and goods.
The benefit of Nexus is that it allows for those travelling between the two countries to save time, skipping long lineups and using the shorter, dedicated Nexus lanes when crossing the border, as well as designated kiosks and eGates at major airports, and quicker processing at marine crossings.
Reopening these two Canadian centres is the first phase of a larger plan to address the lengthy Nexus and FAST backlog, and will increase availability for applicants to book appointments to interview for Nexus pre-approval, the Canada Border Service Agency said in a statement Monday.
Those looking to get Nexus approval can now schedule interviews, by appointment only, at the Lansdowne, Ont. (Thousand Islands Bridge) and Fort Erie, Ont. (Peace Bridge) enrolment centres, through the trusted traveller programs portal.
Travellers looking to apply will still need to complete a new two-step process, and the Canadian offices don’t mean applicants won’t have to cross the border to finalize the process.
If conditionally approved for Nexus status, travellers can complete the first part of the interview at one of the two reopened Canadian enrolment centres, then complete the second interview portion just across the border at the corresponding U.S. enrolment centres on the other side. For Lansdowne, that’s Alexandria Bay, N.Y., and for Fort Erie, it’s Buffalo, N.Y.
To become conditionally approved, both the CBSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have to grant approval prior to scheduling the interview portion, and interviews need to be conducted on both sides of the border.
“Nexus and FAST are a win-win for Canada and the United States – and we’re working hard to find creative solutions to reduce wait times, address the backlog and help more travellers get Nexus cards,” said Marco Mendicino, minister of public safety, in a press release. “This new, two-step process is further proof of our commitment to it. We’ll keep finding solutions that leverage technology and streamline renewals.”
Applicants also have the option to complete a one-step process and schedule complete interviews at enrolment centres in the U.S., which may be a preferred option for those who don’t live near the two centres currently open in Canada.
And those who are already members of the Nexus program and are awaiting an interview can renew their membership ahead of its expiry date in order to retain their travel benefits for up to five years.
More centres are expected to open at select land border crossings in the future, as this initial phase carries on, CBSA says.
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