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Trudeau defends government actions as questions swirl around businessmen indicted in U.S.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is working “very closely with American partners” and the Iranian diaspora in Canada to target people with ties to Iran’s regime.

The PM was responding to a CBC News report about three businessmen active in Canada who are facing felony charges in the U.S. They’re accused of conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.

A U.S. indictment in April 2021 accused Salim Henareh, Khalil Henareh and Saeed Torab Abtahi of playing a role in a scheme with at least seven other people to conceal more than $750 million US worth of transactions on Iran’s behalf to slip past American sanctions.

The businessmen call the allegations baseless and are promoting themselves online as professionals in the world of real estate in Toronto.

Iranian-Canadians accuse the government of doing too little to ensure Canada isn’t a safe haven for the Iranian regime’s business transactions. Trudeau defended the government’s actions on Wednesday, citing the sanctions it has imposed since the fall on Iranian individuals and entities.

“The leadership of Iran and of the Iranian [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] is permanently banned from ever coming to Canada or finding haven here,” said Trudeau. “Obviously, we need to ensure that’s properly enforced, so we’re ensuring the resources to do that.”

Businessmen in Canada wanted by the FBI for allegedly helping Iran

A CBC News investigation has revealed three men wanted by the FBI on felony charges for allegedly helping the Iranian regime are living in Canada.

In October 2022, the government announced it would be spending $76 million to help enforce sanctions on Iran. Some of the money was earmarked for an additional 30 staff members at the RCMP. But the national police force confirmed it’s still working with the Department of Finance on receiving the funds.

“The process is ongoing and its implementation is expected to start during next fiscal year,” wrote Robin Percival, a spokesperson for the RCMP.

Canada’s Department of Justice said these sanctions are not designed to target Canadians or people who ordinarily live here.

A lawyer for the men called his clients “proud Canadians” and the American allegations baseless.

“They have no connection directly or indirectly with the Government of Iran … Our clients look forward to refuting these specious and politically motivated allegations in the appropriate forum at the appropriate time,” their lawyer Gavin Tighe wrote in a statement to CBC News.

The men are not accused of violating any laws in Canada.

It’s not clear if the U.S. has asked Canada to extradite one or all of the three men, since the process is confidential unless it goes to court. There are no extradition proceedings tied to the men in court right now.

The Department of Justice International Assistance Group handles extradition requests by reviewing the evidence and assessing whether the conduct in question is also a criminal offence in Canada, the department said. The group decides whether an extradition request proceeds to the judicial stage.

‘Extradition is a complicated process’: Lametti

Justice Minister David Lametti said he wouldn’t comment on the case Wednesday since matters related to an extradition request “could conceivably” cross his desk.

“Extradition is a complicated process in Canada,” said Lametti.

Michael Nesbitt, a professor at the University of Calgary faculty of law who specializes in sanctions and national security law, said this case involves a number of complications and “undealt-with issues in the Canadian legal realm.”

He said there have been very few Canadian cases tied to U.S. sanctions which “don’t fit perfectly with the Canadian sanctions regime.”

“[It] has to be a crime in Canada for us to extradite,” said Nesbitt. “So we’re not going to extradite a Canadian for something that we would never recognize as a crime.”

While Canada has also imposed sanctions against Iran, the scope of those sanctions could be different, he said.

CBC News asked the Department of Justice if the offences at the heart of the U.S. charges are also considered crimes in Canada.

Department spokesperson Ian McLeod said the department wouldn’t comment “as it would be inappropriate to speculate about the potential for dual criminality in a specific case.”

Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman said Iranian proxies in Canada ‘have gotten rich from the regime itself.’ (Rob Krbavac/CBC)

Conservative MP and deputy party leader Melissa Lantsman said that anyone found by the RCMP to be tied to Iran’s regime and breaking Canadian laws should be stripped of citizenship and “expelled.”

“There are actors from this regime, Canadians who are tied to this regime, who are intimidating, who are raising money, who are organizing and that are getting or have gotten rich from the regime itself,” said Lantsman. “We should use every part of our own authorities to make sure that they’re not.”

She said the sanctions are not broad enough and the Conservatives are calling on the government to list Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp as a terrorist organization under the Criminal Code.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the government will “continue to be vigilant.”

“We’re working very closely with CBSA and the entire public safety apparatus to make sure Canada is not a safe haven in any way to support the regime in Iran,” said Mendicino.

A criminal trial date has not yet been scheduled in California for the case involving Abtahi, Salim and Khalil Henareh.

The latest update in court in March 2022 said all 10 of the defendants remain fugitives abroad.

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Joy in Newfoundland after ‘Lucky 7’ fishers survive harrowing days lost at sea

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NEW-WES-VALLEY, N.L. – There was a powerful word being repeated in the joyful Newfoundland community of New-Wes-Valley on Sunday: “Miracle.”

Over and over, residents out walking or chatting to one another in local stores said the fact that seven fishermen from the area had somehow survived roughly 48 hours in a life raft in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and were found by search and rescue crews was nothing short of miraculous.

“It’s once in a lifetime you’ll see something like this, when all the people survive,” said Frank Granter, who worked for the Canadian Coast Guard for 35 years. He was out walking through the sunny, seaside community on Sunday afternoon, stopping to talk to neighbours about the rescue ahead of an evening parade to celebrate the men’s survival.

Daphne Crocker leaned over her balcony and spread out her hands. “What a mighty God we serve,” she said about the fishermen coming home.

Granter agreed it was a miracle the Lucky 7 returned. “But October, November, it would have been a different story,” he said.

The Elite Navigator fishing boat and its crew seemed to vanish on Wednesday night. The craft was reported missing on Thursday after transmitting its final signal at around 8:30 p.m. the night before, the Canadian Coast Guard said. The vessel had caught fire and sank, forcing the crew to hastily disembark and wait for rescue on the life raft.

A massive search soon followed, involving four coast guard ships, a Cormorant helicopter, a Hercules aircraft and many local fishing vessels.

In New-Wes-Valley, which is an amalgamation of three small fishing communities along Newfoundland’s northeast coast, people braced for the worst. Fishing is among Canada’s deadliest professions, and tragedy is a common thread linking people in fishing communities across Atlantic Canada.

But on Friday night, out on the Atlantic ocean, searchers saw a light from a flare. It brought them to a life raft, where the seven fishermen — the Lucky 7 — were waiting.

Fisher Toby Peddle was among them. He said he was terrified as he jumped off the sinking fishing boat as it was pulled down into the depths. He can’t swim, he said, and he didn’t have a survival suit on.

“It was either jump and risk drowning or stay and be burned,” he said in an interview Sunday. “There was no time to think about it. I just knew I had to jump.”

He said the captain and another crew member, Jordan Lee King, had made a plan to reach him as soon as they hit the water.

“Jordan had said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll catch you before you even get in the water,’” recalled Peddle.

Sure enough, when Peddle jumped, King kept him afloat and quickly brought him to the raft, the fisherman said.

“I was relieved I made it to the raft. I couldn’t swim a stroke to save my life,” he said.

Peddle praised the actions of the captain.

“He did the best job he could have possibly done. He kept everyone calm in the life raft for over 48 hours. He’s a hero.”

“He just kept telling us, ‘We’re going to be fine. They know where we are, they’ll find us,’” he added.

He said it was very hard hearing the sound of helicopters flying overhead and realizing pilots were unable to see the life raft through fog. It was “the worst feeling of all,” he said.

They fired the final smoke flare in the boat at dusk on Friday, and it was spotted by the coast guard, he said. When he saw a helicopter flying overhead, “it was a moment of relief.”

At the wharf in New-Wes-Valley on Sunday afternoon, Peter Barfoot’s phone was pinging relentlessly in his pocket. He is good friends with David Tiller, one of the rescued fishermen, and he’d just launched a fundraising campaign to buy Tiller a new guitar.

The instrument went down with the Elite Navigator and Barfoot said it was “a no-brainer” to mount an effort to buy him a new one. He’d raised about $1,600 by Sunday afternoon.

“They’re heroes,” Barfoot said, shaking his head in disbelief. “How often do you hear this? It was a dire situation that turned into what it is now … They’re alive. They got a second chance at their life.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2024.

— With files from Michael Tutton in Halifax

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Second B.C. university issues trespass notice to pro-Palestinian protesters

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VICTORIA – The University of Victoria in British Columbia says it has begun the process of removing the pro-Palestinian encampment on campus, telling protesters they are trespassing on school property.

The school says in its latest encampment update that it has “taken a calm, measured and reasoned approach” to the protest since it was set up on May 1, but administrators “see no further prospect for a successful dialogue.”

On its social media page, protesters naming themselves “People’s Park UVIC” confirm the school has issued them a trespass notice, adding the administration has told them to “vacate by 8 a.m. Monday.”

The group did not specify their plans while asking the public to “stay tuned for updates from camp and plans going forward.”

Protesters at the university have been demanding the school cut financial and academic ties with Israeli entities due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, and the latest development comes about a week after Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, B.C. launched legal action against protesters there for allegedly ignoring a deadline to leave their camp.

Vancouver Island University says it had issued its trespass notice to protesters on July 11.

University of Victoria says in its update that the school had been working toward “a peaceful conclusion of the encampment” since June through facilitated discussions with protesters.

“Unfortunately, we have not successfully achieved agreement on the process and timeline for decampment,” the school update says. ”The university was disappointed to learn of this impasse through social media posts from People’s Park UVic.”

The protest group says on its social media page that protesters “have negotiated in good faith” but described the school’s last proposed resolution as having “no concrete commitments” and containing “ineffective policy” that fails to address what they are calling a genocide in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The group also reposted a statement from July 19, saying it is “unfortunately no surprise to once again witness our administration betraying the integrity of this process and emphasizing that these negotiations have been and always will be on their terms.”

A camp at the University of British Columbia was vacated by protesters voluntarily on July 7.

The recent developments come after an Ontario court granted the University of Toronto an injunction on July 2 that ordered protesters there to dismantle their encampment on the grounds that it is a violation of the school’s property rights.

Legal experts have said the decision sets a powerful precedent and creates a road map for other schools to follow in seeking legal recourse in removing protest encampments on campus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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With AI, jets and police squadrons, Paris is securing the Olympics – and worrying critics

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PARIS (AP) — A year ago, the head of the Paris Olympics boldly declared that France’s capital would be “ the safest place in the world ” when the Games open this Friday. Tony Estanguet’s confident forecast looks less far-fetched now with squadrons of police patrolling Paris’ streets, fighter jets and soldiers primed to scramble, and imposing metal-fence security barriers erected like an iron curtain on both sides of the River Seine that will star in the opening show.

France’s vast police and military operation is in large part because the July 26-Aug. 11 Games face unprecedented security challenges. The city has repeatedly suffered deadly extremist attacks and international tensions are high because of the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

Rather than build an Olympic park with venues grouped together outside of the city center, like Rio de Janeiro in 2016 or London in 2012, Paris has chosen to host many of the events in the heart of the bustling capital of 2 million inhabitants, with others dotted around suburbs that house millions more. Putting temporary sports arenas in public spaces and the unprecedented choice to stage a river-borne opening ceremony stretching for kilometers (miles) along the Seine, makes safeguarding them more complex.

Olympic organizers also have cyberattack concerns, while rights campaigners and Games critics are worried about Paris’ use of AI-equipped surveillance technology and the broad scope and scale of Olympic security.

Paris, in short, has a lot riding on keeping 10,500 athletes and millions of visitors safe. Here’s how it aims to do it.

The security operation, by the numbers

A Games-time force of up to 45,000 police and gendarmes is also backed up by a 10,000-strong contingent of soldiers that has set up the largest military camp in Paris since World War II, from which soldiers should be able to reach any of the city’s Olympic venues within 30 minutes.

Armed military patrols aboard vehicles and on foot have become common in crowded places in France since gunmen and suicide bombers acting in the names of al-Qaida and the Islamic State group repeatedly struck Paris in 2015. They don’t have police powers of arrest but can tackle attackers and restrain them until police arrive. For visitors from countries where armed street patrols aren’t the norm, the sight of soldiers with assault rifles might be jarring, just as it was initially for people in France.

“At the beginning, it was very strange for them to see us and they were always avoiding our presence, making a detour,” said Gen. Éric Chasboeuf, deputy commander of the counter-terror military force, called Sentinelle.

“Now, it’s in the landscape,” he said.

Rafale fighter jets, airspace-monitoring AWACS surveillance flights, Reaper surveillance drones, helicopters that can carry sharpshooters, and equipment to disable drones will police Paris skies, which will be closed during the opening ceremony by a no-fly zone extending for 150 kilometers (93 miles) around the capital. Cameras twinned with artificial intelligence software — authorized by a law that expands the state’s surveillance powers for the Games — will flag potential security risks, such as abandoned packages or crowd surges,

France is also getting help from more than 40 countries that, together, have sent at least 1,900 police reinforcements.

Trump assassination attempt highlights Olympic risks

Attacks by lone individuals are major concern, a risk driven home most recently to French officials by the assassination attempt against Donald Trump.

Some involved in the Olympic security operation were stunned that the gunman armed with an AR-style rifle got within range of the former U.S. president.

“No one can guarantee that there won’t be mistakes. There, however, it was quite glaring,” said Gen. Philippe Pourqué, who oversaw the construction of a temporary camp in southeast Paris housing 4,500 soldiers from the Sentinelle force.

In France, in the last 13 months alone, men acting alone have carried out knife attacks that targeted tourists in Paris, and children in a park in an Alpine town, among others. A man who stabbed a teacher to death at his former high school in northern France in October had been under surveillance by French security services for suspected Islamic radicalization.

With long and bitter experience of deadly extremist attacks, France has armed itself with a dense network of police units, intelligence services and investigators who specialize in fighting terrorism, and suspects in terrorism cases can be held longer for questioning.

Hundreds of thousands of background checks have scrutinized Olympic ticket-holders, workers and others involved in the Games and applicants for passes to enter Paris’ most tightly controlled security zone, along the Seine’s banks. The checks blocked more than 3,900 people from attending, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said. He said some were flagged for suspected Islamic radicalization, left- or right-wing political extremism, significant criminal records and other security concerns.

“We’re particularly attentive to Russian and Belorussian citizens,” Darmanin added, although he stopped short of linking exclusions to Russia’s war in Ukraine and Belarus’ role as an ally of Moscow.

Darmanin said 155 people considered to be “very dangerous” potential terror threats are also being kept away from the opening ceremony and the Games, with police searching their homes for weapons and computers in some cases.

He said intelligence services haven’t identified any proven terror plots against the Games “but we are being extremely attentive.”

Critics fear intrusive Olympic security will stay after the Games

Campaigners for digital rights worry that Olympic surveillance cameras and AI systems could erode privacy and other freedoms, and zero in on people without fixed homes who spend a lot of time in public spaces.

Saccage 2024, a group that has campaigned for months against the Paris Games, took aim at the scope of the Olympic security, describing it as a “repressive arsenal” in a statement to The Associated Press.

“And this is not a French exception, far from it, but a systematic occurrence in host countries,” it said. “Is it reasonable to offer one month of ‘festivities’ to the most well-off tourists at the cost of a long-term securitization legacy for all residents of the city and the country?”

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