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Trucker protest rolls into sixth full day – CTV News

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Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino announced late Thursday that the RCMP has approved all requests from the Ottawa Police Service to address the convoy that has taken over the city’s downtown core.

In the statement, Mendicino said that convoy has “caused significant disruption” to local residents and that the people of Ottawa are “entitled to expect that the law is upheld and enforced by police and that public safety is maintained.”

“I am able to confirm that the RCMP has approved all the additional resources that were requested, and they will be ready to assist the Ottawa Police Service, who are the police of jurisdiction,” he tweeted.

“This request is in addition to RCMP resources and support already in place since the arrival of the convoy in Ottawa. It is important to underline that these are operational decisions taken by the police, independent of the government.”

Earlier Thursday, someof the main organizers for the “Freedom Convoy” decried Thursday that they had been painted as “racists, misogynists…and even terrorists,” and that no one from the federal or provincial government had met with them.

Tamara Lich, one of the leaders of the convoy, read a prepared statement “calling on all levels of government to lift all COVID-19 restrictions and mandates,” and vowed to stay on until there is a “solid plan” to see action on their demands.

Speaking at a press conference, Lich said lawyers for the convoy had sent GoFundMe “all the details they had asked for” in regards to the money raised for the truckers’ protest on the platform and how it would be dispersed.

“We want to thank the hundreds of residents of Ottawa who have stepped forward to show us support, provided accommodations, food and just plain friendship to members of our convoy,” she said. “This love of community is what Canada is all about.”

GoFundMe suspended the “Freedom Convoy” fundraiser for the second time on Wednesday and it is now under review, according to a pinned post on the website.

The fundraiser had raised more than $10 million in pledges and $1 million was released to the organizers of the trucker convoy last week.

During an interview with CTVNewsChannel’s Power Play, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said he met with officials at GoFundMe on Thursday and suggested withholding the money until the truckers leave the city.

“They’re doing a full review,” he said. “The whole thing is sketchy. This one woman is getting all money, how’s she distributing it? Where’s that money going to go?”

Also speaking at the press conference was Daniel Bulford, a former RCMP officer who quit over the service’s vaccine mandate. Bulford said he has seen truckers and supporters of the movement feeding the homeless, picking up trash on the streets, shovelling snow at and guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Terry Fox memorial statue.

Bulford said any safety issues brought to their attention have been forwarded to the Ottawa Police Service immediately. 

Convoy lawyer Keith Wilson answered reporters’ questions regarding the suspension of the convoy’s GoFundMe funds, saying the bulk of the money is still held by the fundraising platform, but that the group has taken “appropriate steps” to ensure the legal and accounting boxes are checked, including audit procedures, and that they hope to open the flow of donations again soon.

The group did not answer reporters’ follow-up questions. 

STOCKPILE OF FUEL ‘STUPID,’ MAYOR SAYS

Horns could still be heard ringing through Ottawa’s downtown on Thursday, as some protesters were seen building wooden structures near Ottawa City Hall and stockpiling fuel.

In a tweet, the National Capital Commission, which is responsible for development of Canada’s Capital Region, said it is “aware of the situation” and that “canisters have been removed from the site,” but a CTV News camera from the scene showed that the canisters had only been covered with a tarp.

Watson called the canisters and the structure “stupid” and “dangerous.”

“That structure should be taken down,” he said. 

“These individuals seem to not think beyond their nose. Putting those two volatile products side-by-side does not make any sense.”

Meanwhile, Ottawa is bracing for the upcoming weekend and the possibility of an influx of trucker convoy protesters as the demonstration enters another day in the nation’s capital.

Parts of Ottawa’s downtown core remain inaccessible to the public as a scaled-down, core group of protesters continue to occupy the areas surrounding Parliament Hill, with transport trucks and personal vehicles encamped on the streets.

Ottawa Police Service estimates the remaining group of protesters includes approximately 250 people.

In a statement issued Thursday, police said officers have issued 30 traffic tickets and charged one man criminally in relation to the protest.

“Police laid eight charges for unnecessary noise (honking horns), one for transporting dangerous goods (insecure fuel cans), one for improper muffler, four for disobeying signs, two for driving the wrong way in one way traffic, one unsafe lane change, one distracted driving, six speeding, one running a stop sign and five document offences,” the statement said.

One driver was charged for allegedly driving while criminally prohibited, and had their vehicle impounded for 45 days..

NO PLANS TO CALL THE MILITARY: PM

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Thursday that he has no plans to call in the military to help Ottawa police contain or disperse the protest.

“One has to be very, very cautious before deploying military in situations engaging Canadians,” Trudeau said.

The protest has been a divisive issue on Parliament Hill, where Liberals and the NDP have condemned the demonstration.

In an internal email obtained by CTV News,newly elected interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen told senior members of the party not to tell anyone involved with the trucker convoy to leave.

“I don’t think we should be asking them to go home,” Bergen wrote in the email.

“I understand the mood may shift soon. So we need to turn this into the PMs problem. What will he take the first step to working toward ending this?”

Meanwhile, some Conservative MPs from Saskatchewan posed for a photo with members of the convoy on Wednesday night, which Watson called an “absolute disgrace.”

“To see these elected and appointed officials come and [sic] for the cameras and send out selfies is really the height of irresponsibility,” in an interview with CTVNews Channel’s Power Play on Thursday.

“Our people in Ottawa deserve better, they deserve an apology from these characters that went out there and little regard for the stress and strain for the people in our neighbourhoods.” 

OTHER CONVOYS COMING

A tractor convoy is being planned from Alexandria to Ottawa on Saturday in support of the truckers, according to a Facebook group with more than 1,900 followers.

Similar convoys are allegedly being planned this weekend in Toronto and Quebec City.

“I want to be absolutely clear, I support Toronto police taking necessary action to prepare for this possible protest with a focus on doing everything they can to protect the safety of Toronto residents and businesses,” Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters on Thursday.

Tory is planning a public update on the planned convoy protest in Toronto on Friday.

At a Wednesday briefing, Ottawa Police Service Chief Peter Sloly said the situation is “intolerable” and “unprecedented,” and that “all plans are on the table” to remove the protest: from a court injunction, to calling in the RCMP, and potentially requesting the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

However, in a statement emailed to CTV News late Wednesday, a spokesperson for the minister of national defence said “the Canadian Armed Forces are not involved in this situation, and there are no plans for such CAF involvement.” 

The director of communications for the minister of public safety has said that “the federal government has financial support available for the City of Ottawa in these types of situations through the Nation’s Capital Extraordinary Policing Costs Program.”

The program sets aside $15 million over five years to help cover policing costs incurred in the course of duties specific to Ottawa.

Deputy Chief Steve Bell said the remaining demonstrators were “highly volatile,” signalling a shift away from initial “demonstration-based activities.”

RESIDENTS REPORT HARASSMENT, THREATS

Residents of Ottawa fed up with the disruption have begun counter-protesting, aiming their frustration at the city, the police and the trucker convoy.

More serious reports of residents being harassed and threatened with rape and violence for wearing masks or being physically assaulted while walking in their neighbourhoods have caused uproar on social media and led to tense questions in Wednesday’s briefing between city councillors, the police and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.

The Cornerstone Emergency Shelter for Women released a statement Wednesday outlining the trauma their clients and front-line support staff are facing due to the protest.

“Women and staff are scared to go outside of the shelter, especially women of colour, being able to go outside is the only reprieve many women experiencing homelessness have and they cannot even do that,” the statement reads.

“The incessant honking and noise from the trucks have caused significant anxiety and distress for staff and shelter residents. Women have admitted themselves into hospital due to the increased trauma from the noise and fear.”

INDIGENOUS LEADERS DECRY ‘IGNORANT ACTS’

On Wednesday, Chief Dylan Whiteduck posted a statement on Twitter on behalf of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation and the Kigitgan Zibi Anishinabeg about the convoy and protest taking place in their traditional and unceded territory, calling it “unacceptable.”

“For those who are participating in these actions, the Algonquin Nation does not support the set up of a teepee, the pipe ceremony and a sacred fire in Confederation Park in support of the “Freedom Convoy.” 

There have been several instances of protesters either claiming to be a part of a First Nation, wearing regalia and lending their support to the convoy, or using sacred items like drums and taking part in ceremonies that have caused significant backlash on social media.

The statement said the Algonquin Nation did not give consent for their ceremonial practices to be used and warns those actions could cause more harm to “who we are as First Nations [and] Algonquin People.”

The statement was echoed by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) on Thursday. They said the convoy is “an insult to our Chiefs, our communities and to the hundreds of loved ones we’ve lost through this pandemic.”

Citing the “ignorant acts of cultural appropriation of First Nations culture and spirituality,” the statement decried the disrespect of “traditional drums, pipes and medicines” used by protesters.

“It’s a disgrace to see our culturally sacred items being used improperly, without proper protocol, in support of anti-vaccine protests” FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said in the released statement. “The FSIN condemns such open acts of racism and ignorance which are being committed across our traditional Treaty territories.”

Speaking on CTV’s Your Morning Thursday, Liberal MP Greg Fergus decried the hate symbols that have been on display throughout the protest.

“It is totally unacceptable to me, it was shocking, it was frightening to see people who would carry those symbols…we have to go beyond calling it a symbol,” Fergus said. “The swastika and the Confederate flag really represent probably two of the worst eras in human history — how we killed people through state-sponsored terrorism, to really dominate one group of people over another – it’s an unacceptable demonstration of that symbol in a public space and on Parliament Hill.”

Fergus said that while he thinks it is a very small minority of protesters who carry and believe in those symbols, it “disturbed” him that there was “no condemnation of those symbols while they were being carried and proudly displayed on the Hill.”

Fergus said the events left him wondering who would come to his rescue if adherents to those hate symbols decided to “act out” on him.

COUTTS BLOCKADE PARTIALLY LIFTED – ANOTHER APPEARS

Meanwhile in Alberta, the RCMP managed to negotiate a partial lifting of the Canada – U.S. border blockade at Coutts Wednesday night, with many of the protesters remaining in the area, but moving their vehicles to the side of the highway.

After that partial reopening, however, a second blockade was set up 18 kilometres to the north near Milk River.

Cpl. Curtis Peters, RCMP spokesperson, told CTV News Channel late Thursday that only about 10 vehicles were able to get through before the second blockade was established, but it is now also allowing vehicles to pass.

“With the ongoing dialogue with the group, we were able to get that traffic moving again,” he said.  “There’s still a significant backlog there. There’s still ongoing protest activity in two locations now.”

Peters said there are about 60 commercial vehicles near the border and about 200 vehicles — consisting of commercial, passenger and farming vehicles — near Milk River.

“It’s created a very narrow lane of travel, but it is still moving,” he said.

Peters said officers are in “constant communication” with the protesters and are considering several ways to bring an end to the demonstrations near the border.

“We’re constantly considering different options and feel out what’s next,” he said. “There’s no magic solution we can provide that will provide an immediate end to this.”

——

With a file from the Canadian Press and CTVNews.ca writer Alexandra Mae Jones

Correction:

This story has been updated to reflect the correct last name of MP Greg Fergus.

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Indigenous conservation Canada’s way of the future, Guilbeault says

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Tanya Ball began her career as a social worker for the Kaska Dene First Nation. Now she runs a land guardian program, working to monitor and protect a vast stretch of the band’s northern British Columbia wilderness.

But she’s still a social worker, in a way.

“Land guardians can help the land heal,” she said. “And the land can help the guardians heal.”

Ball is at the forefront of the new way Canada protects its remaining healthy rivers, lakes, forests, mountains and plains. Crown governments would once rope off an area deemed particularly scenic or good for outdoor recreation and call it a park.

No longer.

“There’s no future when it comes to conservation where the federal government is involved (and) Indigenous people aren’t involved from the get-go,” said federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault. “This traditional model is a thing of the past.”

Conservation is now something Indigenous people lead instead of something done to them. Most protected areas in Canada are now being proposed by Indigenous groups, who aim to look after those lands themselves.

There are now about 80 protected areas in Canada monitored by the people to whom the lands originally belonged. Some are designated only by the local First Nation and some are part of the national parks system.

But more — many more — are on their way.

The most recent federal budget contains funding for at least another 27 Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas. Ottawa just signed a memorandum of agreement with the Nunatsiavut government in Labrador to develop one with both parties involved from the start.

It’s the only way Canada is going to fulfil its international promise to protect 30 per cent of its land mass, said Sandra Schwartz of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

“Achieving those protection targets for Canada are realistic,” she said. “Many of those opportunities are on Indigenous land.”

Indigenous conservation comes from the historic cultural attachment to the land and the political desire for a land base, said Val Courtois of the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, who has been involved in the movement for years.

“The assertion of rights in Canada has always been about that relationship to place. This is just a new way of describing that responsibility.”

Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas have been created under federal, provincial and band structures and vary widely in how they function and what they do. Some don’t meet international conservation area standards and won’t count toward Canada’s 30 per cent goal.

But they all involve some level of Indigenous co-management, they all involve land-use planning and they all involve guardians — local First Nations people charged and trained with stewarding the land.

Ball said her staff of eight takes water samples, makes maps, monitors hunting, delineates archeological sites, keeps track of visitor impacts, watches animal movements, assists conservation officers and runs research projects.

“They’re very busy,” she said.

One thing they don’t do is put up fences. Indigenous Protected Areas aren’t meant to keep anyone out, Courtois said.

“I would fall off my chair if I heard of an Indigenous group that is saying ‘let’s exclude everybody,’” she said. “There may be small portions that are particularly sacred, but the idea of exclusion of people is an antithesis of how we understand these places.”

Decisions on local development are made locally, she said.

Tara Shea of the Mining Association of Canada said her group generally supports Indigenous protection — as long as the process is transparent and potential mineral tenures are considered in advance.

“We strongly believe mineral development and biodiversity conservation can go hand-in-hand.”

There are challenges. While the federal government has set aside more than $300 million since 2018 for Indigenous conservation, Guilbeault acknowledges a source of permanent funding for such programs is still being sought.

“We don’t do permanent programs. The philanthropic world has played a huge role in conservation and will continue to. We welcome their involvement.”

Ottawa, the Northwest Territories, area First Nations and the U.S.-based Pew Charitable Trusts are currently negotiating a way for Pew money to finance the guardian program at the Edehzhie National Park and Indigenous Protected Area.

Another obstacle is the varying degrees of support from provincial governments, which control most of Canada’s Crown land.

“The level of enthusiasm varies,” said Guilbeault, who declined specifics. “Some provincial governments don’t believe in the government-to-government relationship.”

Courtois agrees.

“It’s tough for provinces,” she said. “They’re used to being in the driver’s seat.”

Ball believes Indigenous conservation is important for the whole country as a crucial component of reconciliation. She sees what happens if people from her First Nation go out on the land they once again help manage.

“Sometimes people want to come out just for the day. I just see a difference in people by the end of the day. Their behaviour changes, their mood has lifted,” Ball said.

“I think that’ll really help with social issues, too.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2022.

— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960

 

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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Russia is 'weaponizing' food, Joly tells Commonwealth partners – CBC News

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Commonwealth leaders, meeting for the first time in four years, discussed food security and the risk of starvation as Canada’s foreign affairs minister sought to lay the blame for the impending crisis at the feet of Russia.

“What is clear to us is that Russia is weaponizing food, and putting a toll on many countries around the world, and putting 50 million lives at risk,” Mélanie Joly told reporters late Friday, while giving a recap of the first day of the Commonwealth meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.

Ukraine is the world’s fourth-largest grain exporter and reportedly has more 30 million tonnes of grain in storage, waiting for export. Farmers are said to be building temporary silos and are worried because the summer harvest is only weeks away.

The country’s Black Sea ports of Odesa, Pivdennyi, and Mykolaiv and Chornomorsk serve as major terminals — shipping about 4.5 million tonnes of grain per month, but a Russian naval blockade is preventing movement.

A recent report from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) concluded that Russia is taking advantage of transportation bottlenecks to attack Ukraine’s food storage facilities.

Russian forces have attacked grain silos across the country and stolen an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 tonnes of grain from occupied regions, according to Ukraine’s Defence Ministry.

The CSIS report, posted online on June 15, noted “Russia destroyed one of Europe’s largest food storage facilities in Brovary, roughly 19 kilometres northeast of Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv.”

Journalists walk inside a destroyed warehouse for storing food, after an attack by Russia 12 days prior in Brovary, on the outskirts of Kyiv on March 29. (Rodrigo Abd/The Associated Press)

The subject of the Russian blockade of Ukraine grain exports will also be at the centre of the G7 leaders meeting, beginning Sunday in Germany.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last week delivered a scathing critique of the crisis, blaming the U.S. and not the Russian military actions in Ukraine for endangering food security, and rising inflation and fuel prices.

He reinforced the message in a phone call last week with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was one of the Commonwealth leaders to skip this week’s meeting.

Africa is heavily reliant on Ukrainian and — to a lesser extent — Russian grain.

For those leaders who did show up in Rwanda, Joly said Canada has been clear in assigning blame for the crisis. 

Sanctions not to blame, Joly says

“This is not the fault of the Western sanctions,” she said. “This is really Putin’s war of choice that is affecting food security around the world.”

Ten members of the Commonwealth abstained from condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in a United Nations resolution last spring.

Joly said she believes Canada made “headway” at the conference in convincing some of those nations to stand more firmly with Ukraine, but she wasn’t specific.

In a policy session held before the meeting of Commonwealth leaders, there was a call for African countries to be more self-sufficient in food supplies to offset imports.

Agnes Kalibata, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), told the conference said that the agriculture sector in developing countries of the Commonwealth is “heavily underinvested.” She called for adequate funding to boost “the sector productivity, strengthen its resilience and deal with climate change, as well as create jobs, according to local media reports.

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Immigration Minister: Applicants can soon expect normal service standards – Canada Immigration News

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Published on June 25th, 2022 at 08:00am EDT
Updated on June 25th, 2022 at 08:29am EDT

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Canada’s Immigration Minister Sean Fraser believes meaningful steps are being taken to get the immigration system back on track.

Fraser acknowledged ongoing application processing and client experience challenges when he sat down with CIC News for an exclusive interview in Toronto earlier this week.

Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Minister expects things to return to normal by the end of 2022

“The COVID-19 pandemic hampered our immigration system in two main ways. It shut down a lot of our offices around the world…we lost a lot of our horsepower as a department.”

The second way, he explained, was Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) needed to pivot to transitioning those in Canada to permanent residence since travel restrictions limited the ability of those abroad to enter the country. This was happening as new applications continued to flow in, leading to an accumulation of inventory. Then in August 2021, Canada made the commitment to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees following the Taliban reclaiming power of Afghanistan and since February 2022, Canada has been looking to assist those impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The good news is I see light at the end of the tunnel…we’re on track right now to restore our pre-pandemic service standard by the end of this calendar year for virtually every line of business.”

Minister Fraser added the caveat that the service standard for Canadian citizenship applications may continue to lag a bit due to the inventory growing significantly at the start of the pandemic when in-person citizenship ceremonies were not an option.

Fraser: Three solutions to improve client experience and address backlogs

The minister believes the three solutions to improve the immigration system are “resources, policy, and tech.”

“On the resources side, we’ve added 500 more staff.” He also pointed out the additional $85 million and another $385 million allocated in recent federal budget announcements that will go towards improving application processing.

Meanwhile, Fraser believes Canada will need even higher levels of immigration to meet growing demand to gain Canadian permanent residence.

“The number one policy is our Immigration Levels Plan. We’re not going to chip away at the number of cases in the inventory if we don’t expand the numbers.”

In February, Fraser announced Canada would welcome over 430,000 immigrants annually beginning this year, by far the highest levels in Canadian history. He is set to announce the Immigration Levels Plan 2023-2025 by November 1st of this year, which may result in another increase in Canada’s targets.

With respect to the third solution, technology, the minister said that “digital platform modernization is going to greatly increase the reliability and pace of our system.”

“These measures are starting to have an impact…a couple of weeks ago we passed 200,000 permanent residents landed in Canada.” The minister noted this has broken the previous record by 1.5 months.

Work permits have almost 250% increased compared to last year.”

IRCC’s backlog has surged to 2.4 million persons during the pandemic and the department has struggled to achieve its own targets on the length of time it aims to process applications. Since the start of this year, it has made major announcements and changes as it seeks to reduce the backlog, processing times, and give its clients more certainty. In late January, minister Fraser held a press conference summarizing IRCC’s processing goals including the steps it was taking to increase staff capacity and modernize its processes and technology.

One of the benefits has been the reduction in the Express Entry backlog. The minister told CIC News that all-program Express Entry draws are tentatively set to resume on July 6. In addition, IRCC aims to get back to its pre-pandemic service standard of processing Express Entry applications within six months beginning in July.

Another benefit is that IRCC has introduced and is in the process of introducing more case trackers to allow applicants to review the status of their files. The minister says 17 lines of business will have case trackers by the end of this summer allowing applicants to digitally monitor their status.

While challenges remain, the minister expressed great optimism to CIC News.

“My sense is by the end of this calendar year, new applications coming in will have the kind of certainty that we’ll be able to meet our service standard and people will be dealing with 60 days or 6 months or 12 months, not an undetermined period of time.”

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Special interview series with Minister Fraser

CIC News sat down with the minister on June 21, 2022 to discuss the future of Canadian immigration.

Over the coming weeks, CIC News is releasing a special series of articles elaborating on the interview with Minister Fraser on topics including:

Minister Fraser was in Toronto to speak at Collision, one of the world’s largest technology conferences.

Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration

© CIC News All Rights Reserved. Visit CanadaVisa.com to discover your Canadian immigration options.

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