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Statues of Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth toppled

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Protesters have toppled statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II in of Winnipeg as anger grows over the discovery of the remains of hundreds of children in unmarked graves at former indigenous schools.

A crowd chanted “no pride in genocide” before pulling down the statues of the monarchs.

The action took place on Canada Day on Thursday, when traditionally celebrations take place across the country.

However, many cities scrapped events this year as the scandal over the indigenous children made Canadians confront their colonial history. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the day would be “a time for reflection”.

Almost 1,000 unmarked graves have been found at former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan that were mainly run by the Catholic Church and funded by the government.

For 165 years and as recently as 1996, the schools forcibly separated indigenous children from their families, subjecting them to malnourishment and physical and sexual abuse in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called “cultural genocide” in 2015.

In Winnipeg, a crowd cheered as Queen Victoria’s statue fell outside the Manitoba provincial legislature. Protesters, many of whom wore orange clothing, also kicked the toppled statue and danced around it. The pedestal and statue were daubed in red paint hand marks.

A nearby statue of Queen Elizabeth was also pulled down. She is Canada’s current head of state, while Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901 when Canada was part of the British Empire.

Protests in support of the indigenous children also took place on Thursday in Toronto, Canada’s financial hub, while a #CancelCanadaDay march in the capital Ottawa drew thousands in support of victims and survivors of the residential school system.

Vigils and rallies were held across other parts of the country. Many participants wore orange clothing, which has become the symbol of the movement.

In his Canada Day message, Trudeau said the discoveries of the remains of the children at the former schools “have rightfully pressed us to reflect on our country’s historical failures”. Injustices still exist for indigenous peoples and many others in Canada, he said.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government condemned any defacing of statues of the queen.

“Our thoughts are with Canada’s indigenous community following these tragic discoveries, and we follow these issues closely and continue to engage with the Government of Canada on indigenous matters,” he said.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Some cities rethinking Canada Day parades amid rising costs, funding challenges – CTV News

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MONTREAL –

Canada Day celebrations are making a return after two years of scaled-down festivities because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but some Canadians hoping to catch a traditional parade may be out of luck.

Several cities say the rising cost of security and insurance, in addition to troubles securing funding, is forcing them to rethink their celebrations.

In Montreal, there will be no Canada Day parade for the third year running, and this time COVID-19 is only partly to blame.

Organizer Nicholas Cowen says that while the novel coronavirus is a major concern, the federal Heritage Department offered less funding in a year when inflation is at its highest level in decades.

“The parade receives a grant so it is very much like receiving a check for the same amount every year,” he wrote in an email. “This year the funding was to go back to 2015 levels at 2022 prices.”

The parade’s executive director, Caroline Polcsak, explained in an interview that the price of insurance has increased along with almost everything else — down to the ingredients of the large, traditional cake that is served to the public. She said corporate sponsors are hard to get because parades cannot offer tax receipts.

“For the parade, this means less money, higher prices,” Cowen wrote.

Instead, Canada Day celebrations in Montreal will take place at the Old Port, where events will include face painting, games, cake and a concert.

Heritage Canada did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Montreal is not the only city where Canada Day organizers are blaming the rising cost of insurance and security for cancelled parades.

In Strathcona County, Alta., the Sherwood Park and District Chamber of Commerce announced in May that the Canada Day parade would not take place.

“Unfortunately, our success coupled with the many recent incidents at other parades in Canada and the United States has significantly increased the risks associated with parades and the onus on the event organizers,” executive director Todd Banks wrote in a message.

Banks said, “The costs of physical infrastructure, insurance and security obligations have now grown beyond our capabilities when considering all the monetary and volunteer requirements.”

Last year, six people were killed and dozens injured after a man is alleged to have deliberately driven his SUV into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wis. And in Toronto in 2019, four people were injured after shots rang out at a parade celebrating the Raptors’ NBA championship win.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, which cancelled that city’s Canada Day parade in 2018 over rising prices, announced this year it would neither host a parade nor present a fireworks display, citing “rising costs for safety and security, and across the events industry,” adding that it would instead focus on other events.

Banff, Alta., made the decision to replace its parade with a day of activities and performances.

On its website, the city mentioned several factors for replacing its parade: a desire for less crowding during the pandemic; the advantage of being able to offer performers staggered time slots; a reduction in the use of fossil fuel-powered vehicles; and staffing challenges that have “affected the town’s ability to move all barriers and planters for a one-hour event.”

Last year, many cities opted to cancel Canada Day events after the discovery of unmarked graves at sites of former residential schools. While most events are resuming this year, some cities, such as Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, have chosen to observe Canada Day with cultural programming rather than celebratory events such as parades and fireworks.

The cancellation of Montreal’s parade came months after the death of Roopnarine Singh, a Trinidad-born doctor who organized the city’s first Canada Day parade in 1978 with just a handful of vehicles after being dismayed there was no celebration to mark his adopted country’s birthday.

In an interview in 2017, Singh recalled years of fighting to secure funding for the event, occasionally becoming a thorn in the side of political leaders who didn’t want to anger the province’s separatist faction in the years surrounding the two referendums.

Cowen said Singh, who died in March, had hoped to be in Montreal this summer for the parade. Polcsak said he undoubtedly would have been “upset” to see the event he fought for so hard cancelled.

Both organizers say they’re working hard to secure the funding they need to bring back the parade next year.

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

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'It's intimidation': Judge faces threats after Freedom Convoy hearings – CBC.ca

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One of the judges who presided over the court hearings of Freedom Convoy organizers is speaking out after receiving threats considered serious enough to require police intervention, according to information obtained by Radio-Canada and CBC.

The judge in question confirmed that supporters of the convoy from Canada and the United States sent several offensive messages, but the message that prompted police to react threatened their physical safety, the judge said.

It’s intimidation. It’s trying to influence a court decision, and that’s serious.– Judge who is not being identified due to safety concerns

CBC has agreed to withhold the judge’s identity to protect their safety.

“I thought, should I tell my children not to come home for a while?” the judge said.

“I changed my alarm system. I was advised not to take the same route every day,” the judge added. “You feel vulnerable in your house, in your own home.”

Police enforce an injunction against protesters on Parliament Hill on Feb. 19, 2022. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The judge believes most Canadians respect the justice system, but said a vocal minority is seeking to undermine it.

“It’s intimidation. It’s trying to influence a court decision, and that’s serious,” the judge said.

Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Richard Wagner expressed similar concerns in a recent speech in Montreal.

“The pandemic has forced many people to live online during lockdowns. And it is at times like these that lies and conspiracies spread like wildfire,” Wagner said in French on June 9.

“As we have seen around the world, disinformation poses a real threat to democratic institutions.”

The demonstrations that took place in Ottawa this winter stemmed in part from this disinformation, Wagner said. He encouraged people to “inform, instruct and educate” their fellow citizens.

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Richard Wagner, pictured here at a news conference in 2021, warned in a recent speech that ‘disinformation poses a real threat to democratic institutions.’ (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Ministry silent on further threats

Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General would not say if any other judges have received threats from Freedom Convoy supporters.

“It would be inappropriate for the ministry to comment on a potential or ongoing police investigation,” wrote ministry spokesperson Brian Gray in an email to Radio-Canada.

He wrote that the ministry “takes court security and the safety of all those in our courthouses … very seriously,” and that local police or Ontario Provincial Police provide security “to ensure the highest level of protection.”

The Ontario Court of Justice and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice both declined to comment, saying it would be inappropriate to do so.

CBC News reached out to a number of key figures of the weeks-long demonstration in Ottawa, but requests for comment were either declined or went unanswered. 

No charges have been laid in this matter. It’s not known whether the investigation is ongoing at this time, and police would not comment.

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Canada's role uncertain as NATO begins major overhaul – CTV News

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MADRID –

Canada found itself under the spotlight on Wednesday as the head of the NATO military alliance said he expects Canada to fulfil its commitment to other members and increase its defence spending to meet the needs of an increasingly dangerous world.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made the comments at a news conference on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Spain after the first of several meetings with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other leaders of the 30-member transatlantic alliance.

NATO leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have gathered in Madrid for the landmark summit to discuss how they will respond to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Among the numerous decisions that Stoltenberg said had been taken by leaders was a recommitment for all members to spend at least two per cent of the national gross domestic product on defence, a target first agreed to in 2014.

“Two per cent is increasingly seen as the floor, not as the ceiling,” he said.

Yet while the vast majority of allies already meet the threshold or have laid out specific plans to reach it by 2024, Stoltenberg said a handful have made “concrete commitments” without a specific timetable.

Canada is almost certainly in the last group as the Liberal government has refused to publicly commit to the two per cent target, let alone lay out a schedule for meeting it.

In fact, a report released by Stoltenberg on Monday projected Canadian defence spending will actually fall as a share of GDP to 1.27 per cent this year. That compares to 1.32 per cent last year and 1.42 per cent in 2020.

The parliamentary budget office has estimated it would cost $75 billion over five years to reach the NATO target.

Asked about Canadian defence spending, Stoltenberg told reporters that he understands the desire to spend taxpayer dollars on health care, education and infrastructure. But he said members need to invest in defence as the world grows more dangerous.

“I expect all allies to meet the guidelines that we have set,” he said. “So of course, this is a message to all allies, including Canada.”

Stoltenberg nevertheless praised Canada for leading a 2,000-soldier battlegroup in Latvia, one of eight that alliance leaders agreed to strengthen in eastern Europe in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He also said leaders had formally agreed to double the size of those battlegroups by adding more troops and capabilities, while also increasing the number of soldiers on high-readiness from 40,000 to 300,000.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said, when pressed by reporters on defence spending, that Canadians can be proud of the country’s work within NATO and in the Ukrainian conflict in general.

Canada has played a “leadership role” in training more than 30,000 Ukrainian troops through its mission Operation Unifier and providing heavy weapons to the country, she said.

“We are leaving a very important presence, military presence, in Latvia,” she added.

Joly emphasized the role of diplomacy in responding to Russia’s aggression. She announced Canada will open embassies and appoint ambassadors in Estonia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Armenia, and reinforce its diplomatic presence in Latvia.

Canada must push back against Russian influence, including its soft power, disinformation campaigns and brute force, she said.

“We believe that diplomacy remains one of the most effective ways to support security and stability and also to respond to challenges in a world experiencing a profound geopolitical shift,” Joly said.

The question for Canada aside from whether it will increase its defence spending is whether it will contribute additional troops to the cause, including in Latvia.

“It sure seems like the alliance is looking to make some concrete announcements about increased actual capabilities, on higher readiness for the alliance, and I’m interested to see whether or not we have any more gas left in that particular tank,” said David Perry, defence and foreign policy analyst for the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Trudeau said that’s what he’ll be speaking about with other leaders.

NATO has steadily stepped up its presence since the first inklings of a potential invasion in January, effectively flexing its muscle to deter Russia from picking a fight with an allied nation.

If Russia were to cross into NATO territory it would trigger an all-out international war between dozens of countries, as an attack on one allied nation is considered an attack on all 30.

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO as one of the justifications for the invasion.

Stoltenberg said leaders had approved a new strategic concept that will guide the defence of the alliance for the next decade, which identifies Russia as a serious threat to NATO.

The paper adds members “cannot discount the possibility of an attack against allies’ sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

NATO leaders also extended a formal invitation for Finland and Sweden to join the alliance, and promised a new package of assistance for Ukraine, including secure communications, body armour, anti-drone weapons.

Russia has launched fresh attacks on civilians in the country — most recently with a missile strike on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk in central Ukraine Monday that killed at least 18 people.

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

— With files from Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa

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