KINGSTON, Ont. — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is defending Canada’s decision to return six turbines for a pipeline that carries natural gas from Russia to Europe, even as the Ukrainian World Congress looks to stop the shipment in Federal Court.
The Liberals’ decision to grant Siemens Canada an exemption to deliver the equipment to Germany while it has sanctions in place against the Russian regime has earned it sharp rebuke from the Ukrainian government and critics at home.
The exemption covers a period of two years and would allow Siemens to send turbines back to Canada for regular repair and maintenance.
The Ukrainian World Congress says it and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress have been urging the federal government to reconsider its decision to return the turbines, which had been in Canada for scheduled repairs.
Trudeau said it was a difficult decision, but one made in response to Russia’s attempts to weaponize access to energy in Europe.
“Remember, those sanctions are aimed not at our allies but at Putin and his cronies,” Trudeau said, speaking at a news conference in Kingston, Ont., where he announced a deal to build a battery part manufacturing plant in the region.
Canada, NATO allies and other nations have rallied around Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February with sanctions aimed at Russian President Vladimir Putin and others in his inner circle.
Now Germany in particular faces a looming energy crisis, as Russia has retaliated against European allies by reducing access to oil and gas supply.
Once returned, the turbines would be used by Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom, which operates the Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline that runs under the Baltic Sea from northwestern Russia to northeastern Germany.
The Kremlin-controlled company reduced natural gas deliveries through Nord Stream 1 to Germany by 60 per cent last month, citing technical problems related to the turbines, which had been sent to Siemens Energy in Montreal for repair.
While European countries attempt to wean themselves off their dependence on Russian oil, Trudeau said it’s important to keep their citizens onside with Ukraine.
“That’s why we took this difficult decision to be there for our allies, to ensure that in Europe not just governments, but their populations, stay steadfast and generous in their support of Ukraine,” he said.
The Ukrainian government says that sets a “dangerous precedent” at a time when the international community needs to show resolve against Russian threats and its invasion.
In a statement, the Ukrainian World Congress says it filed a notice of application for judicial review of the decision with the Federal Court Tuesday.
In the filing, it argues Gazprom’s request for the turbines is a “disingenuous ploy.”
“Russia seeks to undermine the Canadian and global sanctions and is using the turbine issue to blackmail Canada and Europe,” the application reads.
The congress has asked the court to suspend shipment of the turbines and deem Canada’s decision unreasonable, and an illegal use of the governor-in-council’s power.
On Wednesday, Gazprom cast doubt on whether the flow of gas could be restored without the swift return of the turbines.
In a statement on Twitter the company said, “in these circumstances, it appears impossible to reach an objective conclusion on further developments regarding the safe operation” of a compressor station at the Russian end of the pipeline.
Russian gas recently accounted for about 35 per cent of Germany’s total supply. Gas is usually sent onward to other European countries as well.
The congress acknowledged the energy threat Germany faces in its court filing, but said Canada’s decision lacks transparency and begins a slippery slope to weaken international sanctions against Russia.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2022.
— With files from The Associated Press
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
French speakers declines nearly everywhere in Canada: census – CTV News
The proportion of Canadians who mainly speak French at home continues to decline in nearly all provinces and territories, including Quebec, the latest census release shows.
Statistics Canada reported Wednesday that the percentage of Canadians who speak predominantly French at home fell to 19.2 per cent in 2021 from 20 per cent in 2016. All provinces and territories saw a drop other than Yukon, where the figure was up from 2.4 to 2.6 per cent.
In Quebec, the percentage of people who speak French at home has been declining since 2001.
The federal agency also looks at the proportion of people whose first official language is English or French. It found more than three in four Canadians report English as their first official language, a figure that’s increased over the five-year period.
That’s while the proportion of people who report French as their first official language declined.
Eric Caron-Malenfant, deputy head of Statistics Canada’s Centre for Demography, said at a news conference that the latest census report shows a continuation of language trends in the country.
Jean-Pierre Corbeil, an associate professor of sociology at Laval University, said immigration plays a key role in the trends we see with languages in Canada.
“We know that the composition of the population over time has an impact on … the numbers of people speak French or English or, if you will, a non-official language,” Corbeil said.
The sociologist said the rise in temporary immigration might be having an impact on French in Quebec, given that temporary immigrants are less likely to speak the language.
A recent study by the Institut du Quebec found that while non-permanent residents represented nine per cent of international immigration to the province from 2012 to 2016, that number had climbed to 64 per cent by 2019.
In Quebec, the number of Canadians who reported English as their first official language topped one million, while one in 10 Quebecers report speaking predominantly English at home.
As the country becomes more linguistically diverse, the percentage of Canadians who reported English or French as their mother tongue has also declined.
The agency defines mother tongue as a citizen’s first language learned at home in childhood and still understood by the individual.
Corbeil said that while some people put a lot of emphasis on French losing ground in Quebec, that phenomenon has already played for the English language in regions like Toronto, where nearly half of residents’ mother tongues are not English.
Outside of Quebec, the number of people who speak predominantly French at home declined by 36,000.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced in 2019 its plan to boost francophone immigration to areas in Canada outside of Quebec. It’s hoping to increase the share of francophone immigrants to 4.4 per cent by 2023.
In 2021, 3.6 per cent of arrivals outside of Quebec were French-speaking immigrants.
It would be more effective to direct French-speaking immigrants to Quebec, given the limited influence of the language outside of the province, said Charles Castonguay, a retired mathematics professor from the University of Ottawa who specializes in the language landscape of Canada.
“That will do much more to stabilize the weight of French in Canada than scattering these immigrants,” he said.
English-French bilingualism remained unchanged over the five-year period, with 18 per cent of Canadians reporting they can conduct a conversation in both languages.
However, a closer look at the numbers shows the rate of bilingualism is up in Quebec but down in the rest of Canada.
The census release comes after Quebec introduced a new language law this year that restricts access to government services in English. In June, Quebec Premier Francois Legault drew criticism for sounding the alarm over a decline in the number of people who speak French at home.
Legault declared that “nobody could deny” French is in decline, saying fewer Quebecers were speaking the language at home as well as at work.
Corbeil said the impact of Bill 96 would not be reflected in the data given it was passed this year.
“It’s really the immigration policy and immigration measures (where) I think the focus should be put, because it’s difficult actually to see ΓÇª what are the measures that will have an impact on the language dynamics,” Corbeil said.
Statistics Canada will publish a census report on workplaces later this year that will shed light on languages spoken in work environments.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.
Passport delays: Canada opens new service sites – CTV News
The federal government is adding new passport service locations across Canada as a backlog in processing applications continues.
Social Development Minister Karina Gould announced Wednesday that people can now apply for and pick up passports at Service Canada centres in Red Deer, Alta., Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Trois-Rivieres, Que., and Charlottetown, P.E.I.
That’s on top of five new locations added in July, and Gould expects to bring another seven to nine locations into the program soon.
“I think this is a really important and long-overdue change,” she said in an interview. “Those of us who live in more urban areas, we don’t realize that we’re so lucky to be close to a passport office.”
The additions should make it easier for people outside large centres to access services and ease stress on offices in regional hubs, she added.
No new federal money was required to make the change, Gould said. Resources come out of a revolving fund made up of passport fees.
Gould said the current crisis and complaints over long wait times have accelerated the work but she was already looking at bringing passport services to more locations before the backlog.
She visited Sault Ste. Marie in April, before media began reporting on complaints over wait times. The local Liberal MP, Terry Sheehan, told Gould that people in the Sault had to drive seven or eight hours to Thunder Bay or Toronto to visit a passport office in person.
Until Wednesday, there was no passport office on Prince Edward Island.
“So I was starting to already look at who is not close, and how can we fix this,” she said. “And then it became that much more acute.”
Nearly 1.1 million applications for new and renewed passports have been filed since April as pandemic restrictions loosen and Canadians resume travelling.
More than one-quarter of those hadn’t yet been processed as of early August.
Government statistics show the system is starting to catch up with demand, as the gulf between the number of passport applications each month versus the number of passports issued is getting smaller.
Call centre wait times have gone down significantly and “triage measures” were implemented at 17 passport offices to mitigate in-person headaches.
Gould said 442 new employees were hired so far this summer and 300 are already trained and working.
But a large backlog remains.
In the first week of August, the number of passports issued within 40 business days of an application fell to 72 per cent from 81 per cent the week before.
That is largely because of mailed applications.
During the first week of August, passports from in-person applications were issued within the government’s 10-day service standard 95 per cent of the time, a rate that has remained steady throughout the summer.
For mailed applications the service standard of 20 days was met only 40 per cent of the time in early August, down from 53 per cent in late July. The government also warns it can take more than 13 weeks to get your passport by mail.
The overall numbers aren’t materially better than in June, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to respond to growing complaints and called the system’s performance “unacceptable.”
The week of June 20, 76 per cent of passports were issued within 40 business days.
The processing times also don’t take into account the wait to get an in-person appointment and there are only a limited number of walk-ins available.
Proof of upcoming travel is required to get service within two months at offices with 10-day processing times, including those announced Wednesday.
Urgent services for people who can prove they need a passport within 48 hours are only available in bigger urban centres — Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Gatineau, Que., and Quebec City.
As the backlash over the wait times continues, some reports suggest Canadians are making “fake” travel plans to show to passport officers, then cancelling their flights once their application is in the queue.
Gould said she’s not aware of this being a “widespread issue” but she has heard about it anecdotally. “I strongly discourage Canadians to do that. It’s unfair, it’s unkind and it’s unnecessary,” she said.
Gould said at the morning press conference that the government failed to predict to what extent demand would sharply spike earlier this year. She insisted an unexpected glut of mailed-in applications is the main culprit in the passport delays.
Although she wouldn’t comment on the specifics of its deliberations, she said a cabinet committee stood up earlier this year — the Task Force on Services to Canadians — is looking at how to make sure that services under federal jurisdiction are being delivered in “a timely and effective way” that takes the toll of the pandemic into account.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.
UK: Inflation hits 40-year high
London, United Kingdom (UK)- According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) has risen to 10.1 percent in the 12 months to July, up from 9.4 percent in June and remaining at the highest level since February 1982.
Food price inflation hit 12.7 percent in July, the highest rate in the category for more than 20 years.
The biggest increases came from bakery products, dairy, meat and vegetables, which were also reflected in higher costs for takeaways. Price rises for other staple items such as pet food, toilet rolls, toothbrushes and deodorants also sent inflation soaring to the highest rate in four decades.
Driven by a summer rush, with travellers flocking to packed airports across the UK, prices for package holidays also rose, while airfares increased.
“A wide range of price rises drove inflation up again this month. Food prices rose notably, particularly bakery products, dairy, meat and vegetables, which was also reflected in higher takeaway prices.
Price rises in other staple items, such as pet food, toilet rolls, toothbrushes and deodorants also pushed up inflation in July.
Driven by higher demand, the price for package holidays rose, after falling at the same time last year, while airfares also increased.
The cost of both raw materials and goods leaving factories continued to rise, driven by the price of metals and food respectively,” said ONS’ chief economist, Grant Fitzner.
Separate ONS analysis showed that poorer households were facing greater rates of inflation than those with higher incomes because they spent a bigger proportion of their budgets on energy and food, which are rising fastest in price.
While all advanced economies have seen a rise in inflation, it has been stronger in the UK than in other G7 countries and most European nations.
This reflects the country’s greater use of gas, the underlying strong growth in spending last year, pay growth in the private sector rising above five percent and the ease with which companies expect to pass on higher costs to customers.
Many economists on Wednesday said the upward surge in inflation along with robust wage growth in the second quarter would stiffen the Bank of England’s resolve, encouraging the Central Bank to raise interest rates further and faster.
Households are expected to come under further pressure this autumn from a fresh rise in energy bills, which the Bank of England forecasts will drive inflation above 13 percent and trigger a long recession as families rein in their spending.
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