Connect with us

News

U.N. defines Holocaust denial, urges social media firms to fight it

Published

 on

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday agreed on a definition of denial of the Holocaust, when the Nazis killed 6 million Jews during World War Two, and urged social media companies “to take active measures” to combat antisemitism.

“The General Assembly is sending a strong and unambiguous message against the denial or the distortion of these historical facts,” said Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Antje Leendertse. “Ignoring historical facts increases the risk that they will be repeated.”

The 193-member General Assembly adopted the resolution – drafted by Israel and Germany – without a vote. However, Iran disassociated itself.

Speaking to the General Assembly, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan made a veiled reference to Iran.

“Nations with seats in this hall openly deny the Holocaust, casting doubt on its occurrence and praising its perpetrators,” he said. “In fact, those that most blatantly deny that Jews suffered a genocide are the ones now threatening Jews with another genocide.”

Later, an Iranian diplomat, who Iran’s U.N. mission did not identify, accused Israel of exploiting “the sufferings of the Jewish people in the past as a cover for the crimes it has perpetrated” and questioning the resolution for “an awkward approach towards historical studies.”

Israel’s U.N. mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Iran’s statement to the General Assembly.

The General Assembly resolution spelled out that distortion and denial of the Holocaust refers to:

* Intentional efforts to excuse or minimize the impact of the Holocaust or its principal elements, including collaborators and allies of Nazi Germany.

* Gross minimization of the number of the victims of the Holocaust in contradiction to reliable sources.

* Attempts to blame the Jews for causing their own genocide.

* Statements that cast the Holocaust as a positive historical event.

* Attempts to blur the responsibility for the establishment of concentration and death camps devised and operated by Nazi Germany by putting blame on other nations or ethnic groups.

It “urges member states and social media companies to take active measures to combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial or distortion by means of information and communications technologies and to facilitate reporting of such content.”

The General Assembly meeting on Thursday coincided with the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, when the Nazis met to coordinate the “final solution” – their plan to exterminate the Jews.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by David Gregorio)

News

Victims’ families boycotting N.S. mass shooting inquiry over questioning of Mounties

Published

 on

TRURO, N.S. — The relatives of victims of the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting have told their lawyers to boycott the public inquiry investigating the tragedy, after its commissioners decided to prevent cross-examination of key Mountie witnesses.

The law firm representing 14 of 22 families issued a statement saying it was instructed not to attend the hearings on Wednesday and the next three hearings on the schedule. Patterson Law said the families are “disheartened and further traumatized” by the commission’s decision Monday to prevent the law firm’s lawyers from directly questioning Staff Sgt. Brian Rehill and Sgt. Andy O’Brien.

Rehill was the RCMP’s risk manager at its Operational Communications Centre in Truro, N.S., when the rampage that claimed 22 lives over two days began in nearby in Portapique, N.S., on April 18, 2020. When the centre received reports of an active shooter, Rehill assumed command while O’Brien assisted in overseeing the early response.

The federal-provincial commission of inquiry agreed Monday to provide special accommodations for three senior Mounties when they testify about command decisions they made as the tragedy unfolded.

Rehill and O’Brien will face questions from commission lawyers via Zoom calls that will be recorded and broadcast at a later date. Participants and lawyers who wish to observe their testimony must remain off screen with their microphones muted while each Mountie is speaking.

No reasons were given for the special arrangements. The commission has said this information is considered private because it deals with physical or psychological health needs.

Participating lawyers were told to submit questions for Rehill and O’Brien to commission lawyers in advance of the officers’ testimony, which is expected to take place on Monday and Tuesday, beginning with Rehill.

Sandra McCulloch and Rob Pineo, the lawyers for the majority of the families, left their seats at the inquiry unoccupied on Wednesday and held a news conference outside the public library in Truro. Pineo said it’s now unclear whether the family’s representatives will return to the process, adding that he will keep consulting with them.

“This was supposed to be the process that would get the families information and get their questions answered and that is simply not happening,” he said, recalling that they had to hold a public march in Truro and Halifax to pressure the federal and provincial governments to launch a public inquiry instead of the limited review that was originally planned.

Nick Beaton, whose pregnant wife, Kristen Beaton, was killed, said he’s now referring to the mass casualty commission as “a review,” adding that he believes the public inquiry has evolved into a “love triangle” between the commission, the RCMP and the government.

Lawyer Tara Miller said her clients have given her instructions not to attend this week and next week.

“In addition to being fundamentally offside, what this decision does is further erode the confidence of family members who are the most affected,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

“These are individuals who put children to bed alone at night. These are the individuals who celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Days with memories.”

Miller said it has been her clients’ position all along that participating lawyers should be allowed to engage in unfettered but appropriate cross-examination of witnesses.

“That is a fundamental tenet of any kind of a litigation proceeding, and that includes public inquiries,” Miller said.

Miller also said cross-examination of Rehill will be central to the inquiry’s purpose.

“This was the individual who had command of the entire first response,” she said. “The decisions that he made and why he made them, those are all questions that are highly relevant.”

Lawyers for the families of victims Gina Goulet, Lillian Campbell, Aaron Tuck, Jolene Oliver and Emily Tuck said in interviews that they will continue to participate next week despite the restrictions on questioning.

Meanwhile, Staff Sgt. Al Carroll — former district commander for Colchester County — is expected to testify Thursday via a live Zoom call. He will be provided with breaks during his appearance, the commission said Tuesday. He could face direct cross-examination.

The National Police Federation and the federal Department of Justice had requested that O’Brien and Rehill be allowed to provide their information by sworn affidavit and that Carroll testify in person with questions asked only by commission counsel.

Commission chairman Michael MacDonald closed the hearing on Wednesday by describing the absence of the families’ lawyers as “unfortunate.” However, he said earlier in the day he didn’t expect that the accommodations would prevent the gathering of “necessary information” from the Mounties.

Staff Sgt. Bruce Briers took the witness stand Wednesday. He was the risk manager who oversaw the RCMP dispatch in Truro during the second day of the rampage on April 19, 2020. On cross-examination, Briers broke down in tears over not having heard, after he came on shift at 7 a.m., that the killer’s replica police car had a distinctive, black push bar on the front.

He said he now realizes that two officers had mentioned the bar at different points in the morning, adding “I didn’t hear either time. I wish I had; this is one of those regrets.” The bar was also visible in a photo of the replica vehicle that was distributed among some senior officers at about 7:27 a.m.

He said he could have issued a broadcast on police radio about the push bar and it might have “made a big difference.”

“I have to live with that.”

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

— With files from Michael MacDonald in Halifax.

 

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

News

Federal government would join challenge of Quebec’s Bill 21 at Supreme Court

Published

 on

The federal government will join a legal challenge to Quebec’s religious symbols law if it reaches the country’s highest court, Justice Minister David Lametti said Wednesday.

“When it arrives at the Supreme Court of Canada, it is by definition a national issue, and we will be there,” Lametti told reporters in Montreal.

Both the Quebec government and groups opposing the law have appealed an April 2021 Quebec Superior Court decision that upheld most of the law, while striking down provisions that related to English-language school boards and a ban on members of the provincial legislature wearing face coverings.

The case is currently before the Quebec Court of Appeal.

The law, commonly known as Bill 21, bans public sector workers who are deemed to be in positions of authority — including teachers, judges and police officers — from wearing religious symbols on the job.

Quebec Premier François Legault said the comments from the Trudeau government’s justice minister make no sense, given that the Court of Appeal has not ruled on the case.

“It’s a flagrant lack of respect for Quebecers by Justin Trudeau, because we know that the majority of Quebecers agree with Bill 21,” Legault told reporters in Quebec City.

Trudeau responded to Legault’s criticism by saying he is “a proud Quebecer” himself. He said the federal government will be “part of that discussion” in what he called an “almost inevitable” Supreme Court case examining Bill 21. “We will be there to defend the fundamental rights of all Canadians that have been suspended by this law,” the prime minister told reporters in Saskatoon.

Lametti said it’s too early to say what arguments the federal government would make before the Supreme Court, but he referred to concerns about Quebec’s use of the notwithstanding clause to shield the law from legal challenges.

Superior Court Justice Marc-Andre Blanchard found last year that the law has cruel and dehumanizing consequences for those who wear religious symbols, but he ruled that most of the bill must be allowed to stand due to the invocation of the notwithstanding clause.

Lametti made the comments as he addressed another Quebec law — the province’s reform of its French language charter — which also invokes the notwithstanding clause. Lametti said that while he personally opposes that law, Ottawa will decide whether to participate in an eventual court challenge based on how it is implemented.

“The notwithstanding clause was meant to be the last word in what is, in effect, a dialogue between the courts and legislatures,” he said. “It wasn’t meant to be the first word.” Use of the clause cuts off political and legal debate, an “unintended negative consequences in our political system,” he added.

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

 

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

News

Indigenous leaders say Quebec language law damages reconciliation efforts

Published

 on

MONTREAL — Indigenous communities in Quebec say the language law passed Tuesday will harm the education prospects of their youth and undermine reconciliation in the province.

In Kahnawake, south of Montreal, members of the community are meeting daily to discuss ways of contesting the law, said Mike Delisle, a member of the Mohawk Council of Chiefs. Delisle said the Coalition Avenir Québec government did not adequately consult with Indigenous communities about the reform.

“The word ‘reconciliation’ is out of the window at this point,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “Those are just words on paper, it doesn’t mean anything to us, because their words are not true.”

Delisle said that for historic reasons, many people in his community learn English rather than French. He said young people are worried about a requirement that students at English-language junior colleges take three additional French-language classes. On Saturday, a group of Kahnawake students led a protest march, stopping traffic on a major bridge into Montreal.

The impact in colleges is also a concern for Sarah Aloupa, the president of Kativik Ilisarniliriniq, the school board in Quebec’s northern Nunavik region.

“Many of our students go to school in English. There is no French immersion in our schools, so you study either fully in English or in French after Grade 3,” she said in an interview Tuesday.

She said the additional French classes will be another burden for students who already have to travel long distances to pursue post-secondary education outside the region. She said the law may push young people to study outside the province.

The law shows a lack of understanding of the unique language and culture in the North, she said.

“As Inuit people, we’re not even 20,000 people, and we are considered to be endangering the French language,” she said. “I think we will have no choice but to go to court to be heard.”

Delisle said people in Kahnawake are also worried about the effects of the bill on community-run health and social services agencies, as well as the impact it will have on the community’s police service and access to justice.

The language law reform, known as Bill 96, forbids provincial government agencies, municipalities and municipal bodies from making systematic use of languages other than French.

It also requires court decisions to be immediately translated into French, forbids companies from pleading in court in other languages and gives the province’s justice and language ministers the ability to decide which judicial postings require English, a decision that was previously made by the chief justice.

The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador described the bill as a “major step backwards” that puts reconciliation “on hold.”

“To deny the rights of others to assert one’s own, to brutally assert one’s supremacy over other nations that share the same territory is unworthy of a government that respects itself,” Grand Chief Ghislain Picard said in a news release after the bill passed.

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti said Wednesday he’s concerned about the law’s impact on the rights of Indigenous people but said it is too soon to talk about federal involvement in a possible court challenge.

“We will keep all options on the table,” Lametti told reporters in Montreal. “There are ways to implement the bill that would safeguard Quebecers’ constitutional rights.”

Any federal participation in a court challenge would be related to matters of federal jurisdiction, Lametti added, and would only come if a challenge starts in Quebec.

The law invokes the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution to shield it from charter challenges. It also grants language inspectors the power to conduct searches and seizures of businesseswithout a warrant. Lametti said he has concerns that the use of the notwithstanding clause has cut short debate on the law.

“As a citizen of Quebec, I’m concerned about access to health care,” he said. “I am concerned about … the ability to conduct search and seizures and whether that violates charter rights. I’m concerned about the potential impact on immigration.”

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

— With files from Virginie Ann

 

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

Trending