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Trudeau pledges to defend abortion rights around the world amid ‘devastating setback’

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to defend abortion rights in Canada and around the world on Friday after what he called a “devastating setback” in the United States.

“Quite frankly, it’s an attack on everyone’s freedoms and rights,” Trudeau said of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that guaranteed the right to abortion.

“It shows how much standing up and fighting for rights matters every day, that we can’t take anything for granted,” Trudeau said from the Commonwealth summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, who joined Trudeau in Kigali, called it a “dark day” and warned the decision will have “a domino effect on other rights,” adding that no country is immune and accusing Conservatives of “shopping for anti-abortion votes.”

Trudeau did not take questions from reporters after making his statement.

Conservative interim leader Candice Bergen accused the Liberals of politicizing the abortion issue to create division.

She said in a written statement that her party’s position on abortion has not changed and the Conservatives “will not introduce legislation or reopen the abortion debate.”

Jean Charest, a candidate in the Tory leadership race, tweeted on Friday he was “disturbed” by the news. He said while he recognizes there are strongly held beliefs on the issue, “reproductive rights in Canada are non-negotiable.”

Leslyn Lewis, another candidate who describes herself as “pro-life,” tweeted on Friday that “Canada is not the U.S.” She said she expects Canadians to be able to have adult conversations about the topic.

She said her position is that coercive and sex-selective abortions are wrong, and a Conservative party under her leadership would allow free votes for issues of conscience in the House of Commons.

A majority of Conservatives voted in favour of a private member’s bill last year to outlaw sex-selective abortions, but the bill was defeated.

The party’s other leadership candidates have either said that they support the right to choose an abortion or that they would not introduce legislation restricting it.

The Campaign Life Coalition, which holds an annual anti-abortion rally on Parliament Hill that attracts thousands and has supported Lewis’s candidacy, put out a statement praising the court: “We thank God and heartily applaud this decision.”

Reacting to the news on Friday morning, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement that “dangerous policies that threaten women’s health and women’s lives must not be allowed to take root in Canada.”

He said the government needs to work harder to improve abortion access for women, especially in rural communities. “The Liberals say the right things about being pro-choice but that isn’t enough,” he added.

The right to an abortion doesn’t exist in Canada in the same way it was enshrined in Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that served as a rock-ribbed legal scaffold for reproductive rights champions around the world.

Abortion is decriminalized in Canada because of a 1988 Supreme Court decision, but no bill has ever been passed to enshrine access into law.

Though the decision is sending “shock waves” everywhere, the legal ability to have an abortion in Canada is not under threat, said Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.

But her organization is concerned about Americans coming north for abortion care and is advocating for federal and provincial governments to help clinics with more funding because, as Arthur puts it, “even a small number of Americans can overwhelm our system.”

Later on Friday, Joly was asked whether the government would require provinces to provide access to late-term abortions, and if American women could have their abortions funded by Canada. She said they want to take “strong measures” towards better access.

“We will work with women’s organizations across the country to listen to their needs and also work with provinces and territories,” she said in Kigali.

Cara Zwibel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association noted that while most Canadians have access to abortion services through provincial health care, that is not true in New Brunswick. Publicly funded abortion services in that province have been restricted to three hospitals in two cities. The CCLA filed a case against the N.B. government that is making its way through courts.

Oxfam Canada executive director Lauren Ravon likewise reacted to the decision with concerns about the “enormous challenges” in abortion access for Canadian women who live in rural and remote areas, are in precarious housing situations or face intimate partner violence.

Social media was replete Friday with criticisms of the court’s decision from Liberal and like-minded politicians, including a tweeted statement from Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland that said she was “shocked and horrified” and “abortion is a fundamental right.”

But advocates such as Arthur have been hoping the government will start “putting their money where their mouth is.”

In May, after a leaked copy of the U.S. Supreme Court’s draft decision was obtained and published by Politico, the Liberal government announced it was spending $3.5 million on two projects to improve abortion access — part of a $45 million pot of money for sexual and reproductive health services they had announced in 2021.

At the time, Trudeau said his government was discussing how to make sure progress on reproductive rights is not reversed by future governments or court decisions, and that enshrining access to abortion with legislation could be one way to do that.

Liberals have made no major strides toward doing that, however, nor have they followed through on an election promise last fall to create Canada Health Act regulations that would penalize provinces for failing to provide access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told reporters in May such mechanisms already exist, but his officials were looking at reinforcing them in the coming months.

Last year, the Liberal government confirmed it had withheld about $140,000 of New Brunswick’s share of the federal health transfer because it does not fund abortions provided at a clinic in Fredericton.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 24, 2022.

— With files from Laura Osman in Kigali, Rwanda.

 

Marie-Danielle Smith, The Canadian Press

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Stable weather allows fire crews to focus on containment of B.C. wildfires

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Crews battling the wildfire that has forced the evacuation of more than 500 properties in British Columbia’s southern Okanagan are taking advantage of calm winds and stable conditions to bolster fire lines.

The BC Wildfire Service says the the wildfire covers 68 square kilometres southwest of Penticton, with most of the recent growth due to planned ignitions needed to create the control lines.

An update from the wildfire service says newly created control lines are “holding well.”

It says a key objective is to continue mop-up work along Highway 3A in an effort to reopen the route connecting Keremeos and the evacuated community of Olalla with towns further north.

Crews are keeping a close eye on weather conditions as a storm approaches from Washington state, bringing showers later this week and possible lightning strikes on Wednesday.

The wildfire service has recorded 564 blazes since the season began, 58 of them in the last seven days, and lists the fire danger rating as high to extreme on Vancouver Island, the entire B.C. coast and across the southern quarter of the province.

Of the eight wildfires of note currently burning in the Kamloops and Southeast fire centres, only the blaze near Penticton continues to keep residents out of their homes.

None of the other seven have grown significantly in recent days and the wildfire service website says the roughly three-square-kilometre fire in grasslands northwest of Kamloops is now listed as “being held,” allowing crews to finish building control lines.

Wildfires of note are either highly visible or pose a threat to people or properties.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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Warrant issued for man in Amber Alert, Saskatchewan children believed to be in U.S.

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REGINA — Saskatchewan RCMP say an arrest warrant has been issued for a convicted sex offender at the centre of an Amber Alert for two children.

Police say seven-year-old Luna Potts and eight-year-old Hunter Potts, along with their mother, are believed to be in South Dakota with 50-year-old Benjamin Martin Moore.

“We are very concerned about the well-being of those children,” RCMP Chief Supt. Tyler Bates said Tuesday.

“We feel they are in danger.”

Bates said Moore has a history of sexual offences against children and was previously convicted of sexual interference with a minor.

Moore now faces a charge of failing to report information within seven days of changing his address, which is required for convicted sex offenders.

RCMP said Moore was being investigated by social services when he left with the children and their mother.

Officers went last week to their home in Eastend, southwest of Regina, to question Moore but found it abandoned.

Police issued the Amber Alert on Monday evening for the girl and boy. Bates said RCMP enacted the alert after social services received an apprehension order for the children.

Bates did not say why police believe Moore crossed the border into the United States, but said RCMP were looking to extend the Amber Alert into South Dakota.

Moore is described as being five feet 10 inches tall and weighing 200 pounds with black hair.

Police also said Moore, the children and their mother may be travelling in a 2015 dark blue Chevrolet Equinox with the Alberta licence plate CGC 2492.

Police have received a slew of tips in the case.

Bates said officers have also been contacted by a person who is believed to be a victim and encouraged any others to come forward.

Court records show Moore was convicted in 2009 for sexual interference of a minor. He was sentenced in Regina provincial court to two years and two months in prison.

Records also say he served another three months in jail in 2011 after he was convicted of breaching a recognizance order.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.

 

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

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Senegalese diplomat arrested by Quebec police owed former landlord more than $45,000

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MONTREAL — The detention and alleged beating of a Senegalese diplomat by Quebec police last week occurred while a bailiff was attempting to seize property at her residence in connection with a court judgment against her.

Quebec’s rental board in June ordered Oumou Kalsoum Sall to pay a former landlord more than $45,000 for damage to a furnished home she occupied from Nov. 1, 2018, to Oct. 31, 2020. The tribunal found that she caused flooding that led to structural damage and that her use of the property forced its owner, Michel Lemay, to replace most of his furniture.

“The pictures speak for themselves,” Anne A. Laverdure, an administrative judge, wrote in her ruling. “The furniture is full of cockroaches. Pieces of furniture are scratched and scuffed. Some are missing. Everything is dirty.”

Laverdure awarded Lemay almost $13,500 for structural damage to the home and $23,000 to replace furniture. The administrative judge awarded Lemay another several thousand dollars for other damages.

Court records show that the debt was not paid and that a bailiff went to Kalsoum Sall’s residence in Gatineau, Que., across the river from Ottawa, on Aug. 2 to seize property in connection with the debt.

Kalsoum Sall is a first counsellor at the embassy of the Republic of Senegal in Ottawa, according to a federal government database of foreign delegations. The Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has claimed that the diplomat had to be hospitalized after being handcuffed and beaten by police.

Quebec’s independent police watchdog said Monday it opened an investigation into the incident. Gatineau police have said that they were called to the residence to assist a bailiff and that they arrested a woman with diplomatic status after she allegedly hit a police officer in the face, adding that she was tackled to the ground after allegedly biting another officer.

Global Affairs Canada has described the incident as “unacceptable,” adding that the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations — which Canada has signed — gives diplomats immunity from any form of detention or arrest.

Gilles Rivard, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations and to Haiti, said that while he doesn’t know exactly what happened during the Aug. 2 incident, some diplomats can be aggressive because they believe there will be no consequences for their actions.

“They can be aggressive because they know that they have immunity, so they believe that they can do whatever they want,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

While police are not officially supposed to arrest a diplomat, Rivard said, it’s possible a police officer might handcuff an individual while they wait to confirm the person’s diplomatic status.

“But if after that, that person shows that she is a diplomat, or he is a diplomat, normally they have to be released,” he said.

In 2001, a Russian diplomat struck and killed a woman while driving in Ottawa. The Canadian government asked Russia to waive the diplomat’s immunity so he could be charged in Canada, but Russia refused, Rivard said, adding that Canada’s only option in that case was to expel the diplomat.

Rivard said he doesn’t think the Aug. 2 incident is serious enough to damage Canada’s very good relationship with Senegal.

The Senegalese Embassy in Ottawa did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Tuesday afternoon. A call to the embassy was not answered.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.

 

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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