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‘Time to leave’ Lebanon as violence escalates, Joly urges Canadians

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The federal government is urging Canadians in Lebanon to get out of the country while they still can, warning the security situation is becoming “increasingly volatile and unpredictable” as violence escalates between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said Tuesday the situation could further deteriorate without warning, leaving Canadians unable to leave the Middle East country or access consular services.

“My message to Canadians has been clear since the beginning of the crisis in the Middle East: it is not the time to travel to Lebanon,” Joly said in a statement. “And for Canadians currently in Lebanon, it is time to leave, while commercial flights remain available.”

Joly said Canada is not currently offering assisted departures or evacuations from Lebanon, “and these are not guaranteed.”

Canadians in Lebanon should register with Global Affairs Canada and ensure their travel documents are up to date, she added.

Tuesday’s warning comes as the prospect of a full-scale war between Israel and Hezbollah has grown more acute.


This is a locator map for Lebanon with its capital, Beirut. (AP Photo).

 

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah began striking Israel almost immediately after Hamas’s Oct. 7 cross-border attack that triggered Israel’s military offensive in Gaza. Israel and Hezbollah have been exchanging fire nearly every day since then, but the fighting has escalated in recent weeks.

Hezbollah has more advanced military capabilities than Hamas, and opening a new front would raise the risk of a larger, region-wide war involving other Iranian proxies and perhaps Iran itself that could cause heavy damage and mass casualties on both sides of the border.

Hezbollah has said it will continue battling Israel until a ceasefire is reached in Gaza. The group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, warned Israel last week against launching a war, saying Hezbollah has new weapons and intelligence capabilities that could help it target more critical positions deeper inside Israel.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he won’t accept any deal that ends the Gaza conflict before Hamas is “eliminated,” jeopardizing a ceasefire proposal backed by the U.S. and the United Nations Security Council.

Netanyahu said Sunday in a lengthy TV interview with Israel’s Channel 14, a pro-Netanyahu TV channel, that Israel was winding down the current phase of fighting in Gaza, allowing more troops to reposition to the north to confront Hezbollah.

“We will have the possibility of transferring some of our forces north, and we will do that,” he said. “First and foremost, for defence,” he added, but also to allow tens of thousands of displaced Israelis to return home.

Netanyahu said he hoped a diplomatic solution to the crisis could be found but vowed to solve the problem “in a different way” if needed.

“We can fight on several fronts and we are prepared to do that,” he said.

White House envoy Amos Hochstein was in the region last week meeting with officials in Israel and Lebanon in an effort to lower tensions. But the fighting has continued.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday at the start of his meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at the Pentagon that the U.S. will continue to pursue a diplomatic solution to the hostilities, warning a war between Hezbollah and Israel would be catastrophic.

“Hezbollah’s provocations threaten to drag the Israeli and Lebanese people into a war that they do not want. Such a war would be a catastrophe for Lebanon and it would be devastating for innocent Israeli and Lebanese civilians,” Austin said.

“Diplomacy is by far the best way to prevent more escalation. So we’re urgently seeking a diplomatic agreement that restores lasting calm to Israel’s northern border and enables civilians to return safely to their homes on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border.”

Austin said more than 60,000 Israelis have been displaced from their homes by Hezbollah rocket attacks.

Asked about the Canadian warning Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the travel advice for Americans in Lebanon remains the same.

The department’s current advisory, which was last updated in January, says U.S. citizens are “strongly urged” to avoid travel to southern Lebanon “due to the potential for armed conflict.”

“It’s always something we always review and update based on matters on the ground, but (the advice) has not changed,” Miller told a briefing with reporters.

— with files from The Associated Press and Reuters

 

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Canadian Food Inspection Agency investigating after parasite found in P.E.I. oysters

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SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – A “worrisome” parasite has been confirmed in at least one area on Prince Edward Island, and samples from several oyster farms have been sent for testing, says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Danielle Williams, disease technical specialist at the federal agency, said the parasite called multinucleate sphere X — or MSX — has been confirmed in Bedeque Bay on the province’s south shore.

“We haven’t determined the amount of spread yet, but it is worrisome. It is very worrisome,” she said in an interview Monday.

Several other sites are considered “under suspicion” of having the parasite and have been placed under quarantine as investigation continues to confirm whether it is present, including a location on Malpeque Bay on the province’s north shore, she added.

“We have found another location in Malpeque area and so we have a few places under quarantine right now,” she said. “What we did was that if a place was under suspicion, we placed it under quarantine until the testing results were finished.”

She said the parasite likes to stay in “little pockets of areas,” and if scientists are able to quickly identify and stop it from moving further, they can limit damage to the industry.

The parasite affects the growth of oysters and increases mortality, but there is no human health risk. Typically, cultivated oysters take about three years to reach market size, and the inspection agency said mortality rates from the disease can reach 90 to 95 per cent in older oysters.

The agency said MSX has previously been found in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, but this is the first time it has been detected in Prince Edward Island waters. Testing confirmed the presence of the parasite earlier this month after P.E.I. reported a “significant” oyster mortality in Bedeque Bay this spring.

Cory Deagle, fisheries minister for Prince Edward Island, called the presence of MSX in oysters in Bedeque Bay “devastating news.”

“It isn’t just about the impact on our oyster industry, it is about the livelihood of Islanders, their families and our communities,” he said in a statement last week.

“This is the first time we have had to deal with MSX in our province, and while MSX has been heavily researched over the years, scientists, researchers, and fishers around the globe still do not understand how the disease spreads. It will take time before we know the full extent of the impact on our industry.”

A provincial government study said that in 2019 Prince Edward Island accounted for 32 per cent of the national economic value of oysters — about $54 million.

Peter Warris, executive director of the P.E.I. Aquaculture Alliance, said oyster growers are “very concerned” about the presence of MSX, something they have been dreading for years. “So it’s bad news that it’s finally arrived,” he said.

Harvesters have not yet seen significant mortalities, he said, noting that the situation is evolving. “I think everyone’s taking a bit of a pause in terms of their activities … waiting to see the results from the testing, to see where it has spread to,” he said.

A publication from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture said MSX caused massive oyster mortalities in Delaware Bay in 1957 and two years later in Chesapeake Bay. While the parasite has been found in the United States from Florida to Maine, not all areas have been associated with oyster deaths, it said.

Warris said it is possible to have a thriving oyster industry in spite of MSX. “The industry will adapt to the new circumstances,” he said.

Rod Beresford, an associate professor at Cape Breton University’s biology department, said one of the challenges with the parasite is that in spite of it being around since the 1950s, there is not much known about its life cycle.

Scientists have tried to determine if the parasite uses a separate animal from the oyster to complete its life cycle. What they do know is that the infection is first seen in the oyster’s gills — which is where oysters get their food — and replicates, eventually leading to the death of the host.

“For something that’s been around for 60 years and caused this much economic and ecological damage, it’s really, really surprising that we’ve not figured out its life cycle,” Beresford said. “It’s really a mystery.”

In many diseases, proximity to an infected animal increases the likelihood of infection, but that is not always the case for MSX, said Beresford, who has been studying the parasite.

It is also not known exactly what temperatures, salinity or conditions result in this parasite eventually causing infection and disease. In the past, he said, researchers have put infected and non-infected oysters together in tanks and there was no spread. As well, oysters free from MSX were injected with tissue from a diseased animal but did not get infected, he added.

“We’re missing a piece of the life cycle here,” he said. “We know so little about this organism, it’s shocking. … We’re really stymied by this. It’s a real challenge.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.



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One of Canada’s new navy ships stopped in Hawaii after taking on water

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OTTAWA – One of the country’s newest navy ships is tied up in a U.S. port after it took on 20,000 litres of water because of a leak.

HMCS Max Bernays is one of Canada’s new Arctic and offshore patrol ships, built in Halifax by Irving Shipyards.

It was taking part in an international exercise called the Rim of the Pacific Exercise when the incident happened July 12.

A Defence Department spokesperson said a valve and pump in one of the ship’s seawater cooling systems was leaking for about half an hour.

It’s not clear how long the repairs will take, and the navy is still trying to determine if the other seawater cooling system is affected.

The ship, delivered to the navy in late 2022, is one of three vessels sent to support Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy this spring.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Trudeau’s hand-picked candidate for Montreal byelection riles aspiring contenders

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OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to hand-pick a candidate for a riding in an upcoming Montreal byelection isn’t being well-received by three aspiring contenders who spent months campaigning only to be shunted aside.

The Liberals announced Montreal city Coun. Laura Palestini last Friday as the party’s candidate in a byelection whose date has yet to be announced for the riding of LaSalle—Émard—Verdun. The byelection must be called by July 30.

Three aspiring candidates — local school commissioner Lori Morrison; entrepreneur Christopher Baenninger; and former Quebec Liberal party organizer Eddy Kara — denounced the decision, with Morrison calling it “anti-democratic, 100 per cent.”

Morrison said she couldn’t believe the party let her knock on doors and sign up memberships only to ultimately abandon plans for a nomination meeting.

The nomination to become candidate in LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, Morrison said, was hotly contested because the riding “has been a Liberal stronghold for a very, very long time.”

Liberal campaign co-chair Soraya Martinez Ferrada has said it was Trudeau’s decision to prevent party members from choosing the candidate and to instead select Palestini, who represents the LaSalle borough on Montreal city council. Ferrada was on vacation and unavailable for comment Monday, her office said. The party declined to make anyone else available and instead provided a statement.

The Liberals have won the riding in all three elections since it was created, with former justice minister David Lametti re-elected with 42.9 per cent of the vote in 2021. The Bloc Québécois candidate received almost half as many votes — 22.1 per cent — while the New Democratic Party and the Conservatives picked up 19.4 per cent and 7.5 per cent of the vote, respectively.

Lametti resigned on Jan. 31, after he was excluded from Trudeau’s cabinet in last summer’s reshuffle.

Baenninger said he was “in shock” at Trudeau’s decision to forgo the nomination process and hand-pick a candidate, saying it was “not right” and “demotivating.”

Morrison refused to say whether the party is respecting its values by disregarding a nomination vote; Baenninger, meanwhile, said the decision falls within the rules. The party’s vetting committee, he explained, can reject any candidates in the best interest of the party.

However, Baenninger said, the party didn’t do itself any favours by pushing three candidates aside in favour of Palestini. “I’m going to be shrewd: we didn’t improve our chances. I’ll leave it at that.”

Trudeau’s leadership has been under scrutiny since the party failed to retain the riding of Toronto—St. Paul’s, a longtime Liberal bastion for more than three decades, that was won by the Conservatives on June 24. Nationally, the Liberals have been polling roughly 20 points behind the Tories led by Pierre Poilievre for more than one year.

Both Baenninger and Morrison said that before Palestini was announced by the party, they had never heard her name before.

Kara, a filmmaker and former provincial Liberal organizer, had the support of former Quebec finance minister Carlos Leitão and ex-MP Jean-Claude Poissant. He said it’s “really shocking” that Trudeau interrupted the nomination process, adding that the party sent signals that members would choose the candidate, including by publishing a nomination kit.

He said he learned that the Liberals wanted someone of Italian origin to “ensure we get the Italian vote.” Kara said three members of the Liberal Party executive confirmed to him that they were also considering appointing Daniela Romano, another municipal councillor in LaSalle.

According to 2016 census data, 8.2 per cent of the riding’s residents are of Italian origin.

Palestini will face another municipal councillor in the byelection, as the NDP have named Craig Sauvé, who represents the nearby Sud-Ouest borough on city council. The Conservatives will run Louis Ialenti, who the party describes as “a common-sense small business owner.” The Bloc has not revealed its candidate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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