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U.S. wants Canada to join probe of cross-border pollution from B.C. coal mines

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The United States government, including President Joe Biden’s White House, has joined calls for Canada to participate in a probe of cross-border pollution coming from coal mines in southern British Columbia.

In a statement released last week, the U.S. State Department said Biden supports a joint investigation of selenium coming from Teck Resource’s Elk Valley coal mines, which flows into rivers and lakes south of the border.

“The (State) Department reaffirmed the administration’s support for a joint reference to the International Joint Commission under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 for the Kootenai Basin regarding the transboundary impacts of mining,” says the statement issued Wednesday.

Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to a request for a response. On June 2, spokesman Adrien Blanchard said in an email that Canada was “considering a variety of options.”

The U.S. has been concerned about the Teck mines for years. The states of Montana and Idaho, eight American senators, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey and six First Nations from both sides of the border have all said selenium released by the mines threatens fish in their downstream waters.

Several of those groups have requested a reference from the International Joint Commission, which tries to mediate transboundary water disputes. References, an examination of the problem followed by recommendations, have almost always been conducted by both countries together.

The U.S. embassy in Ottawa said the State Department has been “in discussions” with Canada over the issue since September 2021. The U.S. ambassador has brought it up with B.C. Premier John Horgan, as has the U.S. consulate in Vancouver.

“There is an acute and long-standing need to reduce transboundary pollution from mining in the Kootenai Basin,” said a spokesman. “We want to work with our Canadian colleagues to promptly submit a joint reference to the (commission).”

Canada and the U.S., through the commission, have worked jointly on problems in the Great Lakes, Lake Champlain in Quebec and the Souris River basin in Manitoba.

The commission has said it’s willing to look at the matter and has asked Canada to participate. Now, the State Department has echoed that request.

In its release, it says Canada’s participation in an Elk Valley reference would lead to “impartial recommendations and transparent communication, build trust, and forge a common understanding of this issue among local, Indigenous, state, provincial, and federal governments as well as stakeholders and the public in both countries.”

The release emphasizes First Nation concerns, underscoring “the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to strengthening Nation-to-Nation relationships.”

“Support for a joint IJC reference reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to protect public health; conserve our lands, waters, and biodiversity; and deliver environmental justice to communities overburdened by pollution.”

The government release was preceded by a statement from the six Ktunaxa First Nations in the area, which have been asking Canada to join the reference since December.

“We’re demanding meaningful dialogue,” said Nasukin Gravelle of the Tobacco Plains First Nation.

“The missing piece here is Canada’s seeming refusal to participate in a joint reference submission to get the ball rolling on viable, science-based solutions. It’s a disappointment and a sad day for reconciliation when progress on dealing with the pollution of our waterways is blocked by a federal government.”

Teck has acknowledged the problem.

The company has spent $1.2 billion on water treatment and plans to spend a further $750 million. It says about 95 per cent of selenium is now removed from water.

However, it has protested what it calls unreasonably low selenium limits brought in by Montana. It says those limits, which apply to the reservoir shared by both countries, are even lower than natural selenium levels in upstream rivers.

Still, the commission has said that selenium concentrations in some parts of that reservoir — Lake Koocanusa — are more than five times Montana’s limits, although the levels are lower elsewhere.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 14, 2022.

— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960

 

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

 

Note to readers: This is a corrected story; An earlier version had Lake Koocanusa spelled incorrectly.

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Canada first to sign off on Finland, Sweden joining NATO – CTV News

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Canada became the first country to ratify Finland and Sweden’s accession protocols to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday.

The move follows NATO leaders officially inviting the two nations to join the alliance during a summit in Madrid last week, and brings the two countries a step closer to becoming full NATO members.

“Canada has full confidence in Finland and Sweden’s ability to integrate quickly and effectively into NATO and contribute to the Alliance’s collective defence,” Trudeau said in a statement.

“Their membership will make NATO stronger and we call on all NATO members to move swiftly to complete their ratification processes to limit opportunities for interference by adversaries.”

According to The Associated Press, all 30 NATO allies signed off on the accession protocols on Tuesday, sending the membership bids to each nation for legislative approval. Both Canada and Denmark were quick to turn around their ratification documents.

“Thank You Canada! Canada is the first country to deliver its instrument of ratification to the United States Department of State, the depository of the North Atlantic Treaty!” tweeted Sweden’s Ambassador to Canada Urban Ahlin.

In Canada, the federal government made moves domestically to move through the ratification quickly, Trudeau said. This included issuing orders-in-council authorizing Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly to “take the actions necessary to ratify, on behalf of Canada.”

Ahead of Parliament adjourning for the summer, the House of Commons debated and voted on a motion signalling their support for Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

In May, the House Public Safety and National Security Committee adopted a motion expressing “strong support” for the two Scandanavian countries’ membership in the alliance. The motion also called on all NATO members to approve their applications as quickly as possible.

A debate was held on this motion on June 1, and it passed unanimously when put to a vote the following day.

“Russia’s war in Ukraine has actualized something that was once only theoretical. An authoritarian state led by an autocrat has attacked a democracy: It has demonstrated that it is willing and able to attack a democracy. It has made clear that democracies that stand alone and are not part of military alliances are most vulnerable,” said Conservative MP and foreign affairs critic Michael Chong during the House debate. “That is why it has become necessary to bring both Sweden and Finland into the NATO alliance. This is an urgent matter.”

Also taking part in the debate, NDP MP and foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson said she supports Finland and Sweden doing all they can to prevent their countries from being threatened further by Russia.

“Prior to the further invasion of Ukraine, support for NATO membership was around 20 to 30 per cent in Sweden and Finland. Now, 76 per cent of Finnish people support joining NATO. Very simply, Vladimir Putin and the aggression of the Russian Federation are responsible for escalating tensions in the region and leading Sweden and Finland to seek NATO membership,” McPherson said.

With NATO member countries having different processes for completing ratification, it could be some time still before the two nations formally become a part of the longstanding intergovernmental military alliance.

With files from Senior Political Correspondent for CTV News Channel Mike Le Couteur

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Canada Day Ottawa: 12 arrested, 50 charges laid – CTV News Ottawa

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Ottawa police say 50 criminal charges were laid over the Canada Day long weekend and 12 people were arrested.

Last Friday marked the first Canada Day in Ottawa with major in-person events since 2019. Thousands of tourists and residents came downtown to celebrate the holiday. In the mix were several hundred protesters associated with the “Freedom Convoy” movement that paralyzed downtown Ottawa in February.

Ottawa police were out in force starting June 29 with the implementation of the downtown vehicle control zone, which was meant to prevent another vehicle-based occupation of the city.

Police said they arrested a dozen people in downtown Ottawa between June 29 and July 3, including people who were not involved in Canada Day events or protests. On top of the 50 criminal charges, four charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act were also laid.

One man was arrested on Parliament Hill June 29 for causing a disturbance. He was taken back to Toronto on an outstanding warrant.

On June 30, police charged one person with breach of release orders and Highway Traffic Act offences after a traffic stop on Highway 417 at Anderson Road.

Later that day, three people were arrested following an incident at the National War Memorial in which a police officer was allegedly choked. Charges include assaulting police, resisting arrest, causing a disturbance, and assault by choking. This incident came shortly after Canadian soldier James Topp, who is facing a court martial for criticizing the government’s COVID-19 vaccine rules in uniform, completed his cross-country walk protesting vaccine mandates. Hundreds of people had gathered at the War Memorial to hear Topp speak.

On Canada Day, one man was arrested and charged for allegedly pulling a knife on RCMP officers near LeBreton Flats after officers broke up a fight. Two more people were arrested and face several assault charges after an attack in the ByWard Market.

On July 2, police arrested two people in a vehicle and seized a handgun. Several gun and drug charges were laid. Patrol officers also seized a gun in Sandy Hill that afternoon and charged a man with drug and gun offences.

On July 3, police arrested a woman for public intoxication who allegedly spit in an officer’s face. She now also faces an assault charge.

Ottawa police did not name any of the accused.

Police are also investigating paint on public property in Strathcona Park and on Wellington Street. Protesters painted messages about convoy organizers Pat King and Tamara Lich on Wellington Street on Canada Day. Police also said earlier they laid 19 impaired driving charges over the long weekend.

Ottawa Bylaw towed 121 vehicles from the vehicle control zone between June 29 and July 3 and issued 513 parking tickets. 

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Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly to take part in G20 despite Russia’s presence

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OTTAWA — Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly will take part in a G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, this week, even though Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is also expected to attend.

In March, Joly joined many others in walking out of a United Nations meeting in Geneva when Lavrov, whom Canada had brought sanctions against days earlier, began speaking.

In April, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland joined a walkout of a G20 meeting for finance ministers and central bank governors in Washington to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In May, International Trade Minister Mary Ng joined her counterparts from the United States, Australia, Japan and New Zealand in leaving an APEC meeting in Bangkok when the Russian representative began to speak.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would take part in the G20 leaders’ meeting in November, even if President Vladimir Putin goes too, saying it is important to counteract the voice that Russia will have at that table.

Joly, who recently said it was unacceptable for a Canadian official to attend a reception hosted by the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, is expected to join other foreign ministers at the G20 meeting in opposing the ongoing war in Ukraine.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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