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Shadow's war: A Canadian veteran describes weeks under fire in Ukraine – CBC News



It happened in a split-second.

About 10 days ago, a Russian tank that Shadow and a fellow Canadian — the sniper known as Wali — had been quietly stalking in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine turned and fired on them.

Two Ukrainian soldiers who were with them had ignored Wali’s advice a moment before by stepping outside the cover of their observation post — nothing more than a trench — for a cigarette.


Shadow — the nom de guerre of a former Canadian soldier from Sherbrooke, a member of the Royal 22nd Regiment who later served as a meteorological technician with the navy — had been about to join his Ukrainian friends when the tank opened up, landing a shell right between the two Ukrainians.

Shadow was blown back to the trench, his ears ringing from the explosion. He crawled up, poked his head outside and was greeted by a scene of utter carnage.

Ukrainian rescue workers carry an elderly woman under a destroyed bridge in Irpin, Ukraine, on April 1. Shadow’s first combat experience occurred in the suburb west of Kyiv as Russian forces tried to advance on the capital. (Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press)

One of the men had died instantly. The second Ukrainian soldier was still alive, but barely.

“He was, like, just a couple of feet from me and still breathing, but no legs,” Shadow told CBC News Thursday in an interview in Lviv in western Ukraine. “And then we made eye contact. I looked at him; he looked at me.”

It took a couple of moments for the soldier to die.

“So, he just, like, passed away in front of my eyes,” he said. “So I was like, alright, so yeah, just two of my friends died in front of my eyes.”

WATCH | The ‘hell’ of battle in Donbas region:

Donbas is ‘hell,’ says Canadian fighting in Ukraine

4 hours ago

Duration 0:44

A former Canadian soldier who joined the fight in Ukraine has one word to describe the Donbas region: hell. 0:44

The brutal, capricious nature of war — the way ordinary moments can suddenly turn lethal — seems to have settled on Shadow in the days since he left the front in the embattled Donbas region, where Ukraine is holding back the weight of the Russian army.

Two among the thousands of volunteers who flocked to Ukraine after President Voldomyr Zelensky’s appeal for foreign fighters, Shadow and Wali were paired up almost from the start.

On that day in late April, they had been helping to hunt a Russian tank regiment that had clawed itself into one side of a scorched valley.

‘We need to get out of here’

Wali, a fellow Van Doo and sniper with combat experience in Afghanistan, was manoeuvring around to get a clean shot at one of the Russian iron monsters with an American-made Javelin anti-armour missile.

The tank had been tantalizingly out of reach before it turned on them and struck.

Wali, who was interviewed by CBC News in early March, wasn’t prepared to give up even after the Ukrainian soldiers were killed. Shadow said that as Wali was looking for the best firing position, he knew they were outmatched.

WATCH | Shadow describes coming under fire in Irpin:

‘Bullets flying everywhere’ in Irpin firefight

4 hours ago

Duration 2:24

‘Shadow,’ a former Canadian soldier, describes his first Russian firefight in Irpin, Ukraine. 2:24

“And I was like, bro, we need to get the hell out of here … there’s nothing we can do. We need to get out of here,” he said.

They slipped away with the tank firing after them.

“So yeah, that was my last patrol on the eastern front,” he said. “I have one word to describe [it], and it’s just hell.”

The last two months for Shadow have been a mad kaleidoscope of firefights and near-misses — nothing like the somewhat tame life he experienced over a dozen years in a Canadian uniform.

His first time in combat — ever — saw him thrown into the pitched battle for Irpin, a once-pleasant tree-lined community 20 kilometres west of Kyiv that proved to be the high-water mark for the Russian advance on the capital.

WATCH | A close call in a Donbas trench:

A Canadian’s close call in a Donbas trench

4 hours ago

Duration 3:37

A former Canadian soldier now fighting in Ukraine survived a Russian tank attack in the Donbas, but his friends didn’t. 3:37

Shadow was tasked with assisting Wali by carrying ammunition and watching his friend’s back. During one Russian assault, the two men were blown out of their sniper’s nest by a shell.

“We got hit by a tank,” Shadow said. “He shelled the building and missed us by, like, three metres. After that, we started to get more small arms fire, and then we got out of the building, and then after that … a huge firefight.

“I haven’t … that was my first firefight. The Russians, they were like 50 metres from us, bullets flying everywhere, everywhere. We couldn’t do anything, and they actually tried to surround us.”

One of the other soldiers with them responded with a rocket-propelled grenade, giving all of them enough cover to withdraw, leap into a van and speed away before being overrun.

Bodies in the streets

In late March and early April, Shadow and Wali participated in the liberation of Irpin as Russian forces withdrew from north of Kyiv and concentrated their forces in the eastern Donbas region.

There’s a hint of bitterness in Shadow’s voice as he reflects on what he saw and the toll the war has had on civilians.

“We are talking about civilians dying every day,” he said. “I was fighting in Irpin, and then mass graves were found in Bucha, right? …

“If NATO had stepped in, the war would have been done in like less than a week, but because everyone sat back and watched, well, we are seeing all those civilians dying.”

WATCH | Answering Zelensky’s appeal for help:

‘I couldn’t stay home,’ says Canadian soldier in Ukraine

4 hours ago

Duration 2:13

When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked for help, ‘Shadow,’ a former Canadian soldier, boarded a plane. 2:13

He said he’s equally skeptical of the West’s approach going forward. What Ukraine needs, he said, are boots on the ground.

“That’s what we need,” he said. “Prayers? I’m sorry, but it doesn’t do anything. Money? Yes, it helps. Armaments? Yes, it helps, but at the end of the day, the Ukrainians are left alone to fight against Russia.

“We let the Ukrainians fight alone against Russia, and it’s … I cannot, like, I don’t have any words for this. That’s why I had to come here to help them because I feel that the world has let down the Ukrainians.”

After too many close calls, he said, he won’t be returning to the eastern front.

“I did my time there. For now, I will do humanitarian aid. I’ll just stay here in Lviv and be as useful as I can be.”

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India tells Canada to remove 41 of its 62 diplomats: official




Canada needs diplomats in India to help navigate the “extremely challenging” tensions between the two countries, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday in response to demands that Ottawa repatriate dozens of its envoys.

India reportedly wants 41 of 62 Canadian diplomats out of the country by early next week — a striking, if largely anticipated, deepening of the rift that erupted last month following Trudeau’s explosive allegations in the House of Commons.

The prime minister bluntly spoke of “credible” intelligence linking the Indian government to the shooting death in June of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Sikh leader India has long assailed as a terrorist.


The demand, first reported by the Financial Times, comes less than two weeks after the Indian government first called on Canada to establish “parity in strength and rank equivalence in our diplomatic presence.”

Canada has a much larger diplomatic corps in India, owing in part to the fact it’s a country of 1.4 billion people, compared to 40 million in Canada — about 1.3 million of whom are of Indian origin.

Trudeau would not confirm the reports Tuesday, nor did he sound inclined to acquiesce to India’s request.

“Obviously, we’re going through an extremely challenging time with India right now,” Trudeau said on his way to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill.

“That’s why it’s so important for us to have diplomats on the ground, working with the Indian government, there to support Canadians and Canadian families.”

Canada, he continued, is “taking this extremely seriously, but we’re going to continue to engage responsibly and constructively with the government of India.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said largely the same thing.

“In moments of tension, because indeed there are tensions between both our governments, more than ever it’s important that diplomats be on the ground,” Joly said.

“That’s why we believe in the importance of having a strong diplomatic footprint in India. That being said, we are in ongoing conversations with the Indian government.”

During Tuesday’s daily briefing at the State Department, deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel was at pains to avoid exacerbating tensions any further.

“We are — and continue to be — deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau and we remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners,” Patel said, a message the U.S. has had on repeat for weeks.

“It’s critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice. We also have … publicly and privately urged the Indian government to co-operate in the Canadian investigation and co-operate in those efforts.”

Patel also demurred on the potential impact of an escalating tit-for-tat exchange of diplomatic staff on the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, a key element of U.S. efforts to mitigate China’s growing geopolitical influence.

“I certainly don’t want to get into hypotheticals,” he said. “As it relates to our Indo-Pacific strategy and the focus that we continue to place on the region, that effort and that line of work is going to continue.”

David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, has already confirmed that the allegations were buttressed in part on intelligence gathered by a key ally from the Five Eyes security alliance, which includes the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, along with Canada.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s external affairs minister, confirmed last week that the subject came up in his meetings in Washington, D.C., with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser.

Trudeau’s allegation “was not consistent with our policy,” Jaishankar told a panel discussion Friday hosted by the Hudson Institute.

“If his government had anything relevant and specific they would like us to look into, we were open to looking at it. That’s where that conversation is at this point of time.”

Jaishankar went on to note that the issue of Sikh separatists living in Canada had long been “an issue of great friction,” notably after the 1985 bombing of Air India flight 182, the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history.

“In the last few years, it has come back very much into play, because of what we consider to be a very permissive Canadian attitude towards terrorists, extremists, people who openly advocate violence,” Jaishankar said.

“They have been given operating space in Canada because of the compulsions of Canadian politics.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.

With files from Mickey Djuric in Ottawa.


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In the news today: Regimental funeral today for B.C. Mountie, NDP victory in Manitoba – National Post



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All Flesh Redux



Director’s Notes, Stacey Christodoulou

MONTREAL October, 2023 – Combining polyphonic singing, dance, and theatre, All Flesh REDUX is a poetic journey through time and space. Part sing-a-long, Dadaist performance piece as well as a love letter to our planet, the work enfolds the public in an intimate theatre-in-the-round setting where humour, music, storytelling and movement reign. Bringing together the worlds of medieval composers Guillaume de MachautHildegard von Bingen and modern composer John Cage, the company’s creation contemplates the unknowable past and the unimaginable future, and asks what acts of faith are possible in an uncertain world. October 13-22, seating is limited.

Director Stacey Christodoulou: “We could never imagine that the themes we spoke about in 2019 would become reality. In a certain way the show was prophetic. However, I believe that the message of creating beauty as a form of resistance is even more important now. The weaving of medieval song, contemporary dance and text continues our company’s interdisciplinary approach and reminds us that throughout history people have responded to turmoil with innovation and art.”

With: ENSEMBLE ALKEMIA (Jean-François Daignault, Dorothéa Ventura and Leah Weitzner), Stéphanie Fromentin, Erin Lindsay, Vanessa Schmit-Craan, Lael  Stellick

Musical direction by Jean-François Daignault; scenograpy by Amy Keith; sound by Debbie Doe; costumes by Cathia Pagotto; lighting by David Perreault Ninacs and technical stage coordination by Birdie Gregor.


All Flesh REDUX

Studio Jean Valcourt du Conservatoire

4750, avenue Henri-Julien

Dates: Friday, Oct., 13, Saturday, Oct. 14 at 8pm; Sunday Oct. 14 at 3pm

Wednesday, October 18-Saturday, Oct. 21 at 8pm; Sunday, Oct. 22 at 3pm

Tickets/514 873-4032: $20, Students/Seniors: $15

Seating is limited

Website:  Instagram: @othertheatremtl  Facebook: othertheatre


Formed in 1991 by Artistic Director Stacey Christodoulou, The Other Theatre is devoted to contemporary creation. Working bilingually, their award-wining work has included adaptations, installations, theatre texts, and collectively written material performed in numerous venues in Montreal and abroad, including theatres, galleries, as well as a moving elevator.

Drawing inspiration from art forms other than theatre – dance, cinema, science, architecture, and the visual arts – the company presents evocative performances, grounded by thought-provoking texts.  From a creole Macbeth, to sci-fi with polyphonic singing, to the horror of H.P. Lovecraft, their original creations are thrilling and visually striking. They have also presented the work of International and Canadian writers, giving them their French-language premieres in Quebec. Exploring the large existential issues of the time, The Other Theatre aims to move audiences to greater emotional connection and reflection, bridging communities and languages to create a hybrid theatre that is reflective of the cultural richness of Montreal. They value and foster artistic exchange, both locally and internationally and share their artistic process in Canada, the US, Europe and Mexico, through mentorships, workshops and cultural mediation in local communities and schools.

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