Connect with us


‘Welcome home, Mary’: Gov. Gen. Mary Simon begins tour of Nunavik



KUUJJUAQ, Que. — Mary Simon faced some tough questions in three languages Monday from students at the Jaanimmarik School in Kuujjuaq, a community in northern Quebec.

They asked about her favourite memories growing up in Nunavik (fishing, hunting and being on the land with her family), what she had to do to become Governor General (work hard), and what made her accept the position as the Queen’s representative in Canada.

To that, Simon said she hopes to use the non-political office to encourage Canadians to work together.

“We call it reconciliation right now,” she said. “Because there needs to be a lot more work done between Indigenous people and other Canadians.”

She said equality in education is part of that work.

The elementary-to-secondary school has about 350 students and classes are offered in English, French and Inuktitut.

“I used to go to school right next to this big school. We had a one-classroom school next door,” Simon told the children.

She and her siblings went to federal day school in Kuujjuaq, then called Fort Chimo. She was home-schooled by her father after Grade 6.

Simon was born near Kangiqsualujjuaq, an Inuit village in Nunavik, in 1947. Her mother Nancy May, whose family surname was Angnatuk-Askew, was Inuk and her father, Bob Mardon May, had moved to the Arctic to work for the Hudson’s Bay Co. and stayed.

Simon only spoke Inuktitut as a child and had to learn English when she got to school.

Her appointment as Governor General in July 2021 sparked anger among some francophones, because she isn’t fluent in French. More than 1,000 complaints were sent to the official languages watchdog, who launched an investigation.

The CBC reported in March that the investigation, which examined the nomination process followed by the Privy Council Office, found it did not break any federal government rules about bilingualism. It also noted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not subject to the Official Languages Act or bound to choose any of the candidates recommended by the Privy Council Office.

Simon has said she didn’t have an opportunity to learn French growing up in Nunavik, and has committed to learning while on the job. Quebec Premier François Legault told media after meeting Simon last week that she still has work to do.

Simon made self-deprecating comments about her French proficiency several times on Monday, during the town hall session at the school and earlier in the day at a meeting with Inuit leaders.

“I tried my best to speak French, I’m still not quite there yet, but he did say to the media that I need to improve my French,” she said with a chuckle.

Makivik president Pita Aatami, the president of Makivik Corp., which represents Inuit in northern Quebec, said Monday that Simon’s appointment has given exposure to the region and to Inuit that they never would have received.

But he also noted that negotiations with the Quebec government have nonetheless stalled.

“At this time, there’s really no movement,” Aatami said.

“Canada is on board and things are happening, but Quebec has talked about bringing an observer for the self-determination process … I said we don’t need an observer, we need a negotiator that’s going to work with us.”

Simon told the group Legault is “on record” saying he will appoint a negotiator.

Simon was a lead negotiator on the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

Regarded as Canada’s first modern treaty, the 1975 deal affirmed Inuit and Cree hunting and trapping rights in Nunavik and established $225 million in compensation over 20 years in exchange for construction of hydroelectric dams.

The deal also created the Kativik Ilisarniliriniq (school board), which oversees elementary, high school and adult education in 14 communities in Nunavik, including Kuujjuaq.

The board’s teaching language is Inuktitut. It opened up a French-language stream so students who move onto post-secondary school can continue their studies in a French school, college or university elsewhere in Quebec.

Simon encouraged the students to continue speaking Inuktitut.

“Being Inuk and being able to speak my language is really important,” she said.

“Even if you’re doing great things at the national level or international level, you will always be able to come back home and speak your language.”

Simon describes herself as someone who rarely gets excited, but this week is different.

“I was thinking of my early childhood, when I was a young teenager especially, after we were at the camp on the George River. We would be coming here and we would be so excited we were almost squealing,” she said Monday morning.

“I kind of felt like that yesterday.”

She’s not alone. People in Kuujjuaq have been anxiously awaiting her arrival for days, including her childhood best friend and sister-in-law, Louisa Berthe May.

“I was like, I wonder if I’ll be able to hug her,” May said. “So she came and hugged me, and wow, that was something.”

Simon spent time with the excited crowd gathered outside Kuujjuaq Town Hall on an unusually warm spring day. Several people called out “Welcome home, Mary,” a far cry from the usual formalities of the viceregal office.

Here in Nunavik, the woman holding Canada’s highest office is known by her first name. Everyone seems to know her, and many call her a friend.

Local Inuit leaders laughed that there’s no Inuktitut translation for her title “Your Excellency.”

“She’s my role model,” said Kuujjuaq resident Jennifer Watkins.

“Mary’s been advocating for Inuit people our entire lives, so for her to have that moment to become Her Excellency, Governor General of Canada, was well deserved. And it means a lot for Inuit people across the Arctic.”

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

— With files from Brittany Hobson in Winnipeg


Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press


Canada’s transport minister detects ‘shift’ in U.S. outlook after meetings in D.C.



WASHINGTON — The latest federal cabinet minister to press Canada’s case with President Joe Biden’s administration says he is detecting a positive “shift” in U.S. thinking when it comes to the question of tax incentives for electric vehicles.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra spent Tuesday in Washington, D.C., for meetings with officials including U.S. counterpart Pete Buttigieg and senior White House adviser Mitch Landrieu.

It was just the latest in a series of cabinet-level visits — Defence Minister Anita Anand, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Trade Minister Mary Ng have been in town in recent weeks — where the ministerial marching orders included voicing opposition to the tax-credit scheme.

Biden’s original vision was a sliding scale of tax incentives, with the richest ones reserved for electric vehicles assembled in the U.S. with union labour — a proposal Ottawa feared would be devastating for Canada’s auto sector.

It died back in December when West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a vital vote in the evenly divided Senate, refused to support Biden’s $2-trillion environmental and social spending package, known as Build Back Better. 

Ever since, Canada has maintained a strict defensive footing against the tax credits coming back to life.

“I don’t know if the old incarnation is going to come back exactly as it was or not. But I can say that what I am sensing today is that there is now a shift in strategic outlook,” Alghabra said.

The war in Ukraine, and the way NATO members and allies have made common cause with each other in pushing back against Russia, is putting a “new frame” around how the U.S. deals with its allies, he noted.

The world, including the U.S., better understands that trustworthy trading partners and consistent, reliable supply chains that are impervious to unexpected geopolitical shocks have long been taken for granted.

“There is, I think, a new frame for the conversations that are taking place in the U.S. And while I don’t know what the future of the previous EV tax credit is, I am hopeful that I think now we’re entering into a new type of discussion.”

The White House has acknowledged that it’s working on a scaled-down version of Build Back Better, but has so far refused to say publicly whether the tax credits would return in their original form.

Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., said discussions are underway for legislation that would resurrect some of the environmental provisions of Build Back Better, including its “energy transition-related elements.”

Canada would welcome and support any effort on the part of the U.S. to fight climate change, she said.

“But we never miss an opportunity to re-emphasize with them that, in so doing, it’s imperative that as the staunchest of environmental allies, we do it together in a way that supports each other and doesn’t make this path that we’re on together harder for either of us,” Hillman said.

“That message is heard loud and clear by lawmakers on the Hill, by the White House, and they have expressed an understanding of our concerns, and more than that, a desire to make sure that it works for us in our partnership.”

Manchin, the mercurial moderate Democrat whose support has become essential for any White House measure on Capitol Hill, recently suggested he would not support any proposal that would harm Canada’s auto industry.

Manchin, who heads the Senate’s energy and natural resources committee, hosted Jason Kenney when the Alberta premier testified in person on Capitol Hill earlier this month.

The pair have become cross-border allies as the U.S. looks for ways to both combat inflation while reducing its dependence on fossil fuels from hostile regimes, while Kenney continues to prod the Biden administration to depend more on Canada for its short-term energy needs.

After the May 17 hearing, Manchin said he expects the White House is still working on some sort of a program to encourage American consumers to buy more electric vehicles and ease U.S. dependence on gasoline.

But he insisted that he wouldn’t support any measure that would hurt automakers north of the border.

“There’s no way in the world that we’re going to put that type of harm and allow that to happen,” Manchin said. “My vote would never support that at all.”

It was not abundantly clear whether Manchin was talking specifically about the tax credits or more broadly about Canada’s own efforts to develop its reserves of critical minerals, a key component in the production of electric vehicles.

That ambiguity is part of why Canada remains so guarded on the subject, Hillman said.

“Until we see what is actually on the table and how it’s going to be implemented, we cannot rest.”

Manchin and Kenney both voiced support for the idea of a more closely integrated Canada-U.S. energy “alliance.” It would focus on the need for traditional energy in the short term, as well as reliable bilateral supply chains for critical minerals.

Alghabra said the role Canada could play in buttressing U.S. supply chains for those minerals is also generating increased interest south of the border.

“We have more of those critical minerals, and some types of the critical minerals that the U.S. doesn’t have,” he said. “There’s a new sense of interest and intrigue about this new frame that I think maybe did not exist last year.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.


James McCarten, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading


‘Extremely serious’: Calgary man involved in terrorism activity sentenced to 12 years



CALGARY — A man who admitted to terrorism-related acts with the militant group Islamic State has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Hussein Borhot, 36, appeared Thursday before Court of Queen’s Bench Justice David Labrenz for a sentencing hearing in Calgary.

“Quite clearly, you intended to assist or facilitate the activities of a terrorist group. You carried that plan into action,” Labrenz told Borhot as the judge accepted a joint sentencing recommendation from the Crown and the defence.

“This was an extremely serious and grave crime.”

Borhot pleaded guilty last month to one count of participating in terrorism group activity between May 9, 2013, and June 7, 2014, as well as to kidnapping for a terrorist group while in Syria.

The joint submission recommended eight years on the first count and another four years for the kidnapping.

Labrenz also imposed a lifetime firearms ban and ordered Borhot’s DNA be submitted to a national database.

RCMP arrested Borhot in July 2020 after a seven-year investigation.

An agreed statement of facts read in court in April said he travelled to Syria through Turkey to join the Islamic State.

The statement said he signed up as a fighter, received substantial training and excelled as a sniper, but did not tell his wife or father before the trip.

Court heard that Borhot revealed much of the information to an undercover officer after he returned to Canada.

Before the judge’s decision, Crown prosecutor Kent Brown said it was important to keep in mind that Borhot participated in acts of terrorism.

“Once he decided to join up with ISIS, virtually all his activities were terrorist activities,” he told Labrenz.

Borhot’s lawyer, Rame Katrib, said he and his client agreed to the sentence after lengthy discussions with the Crown.

“Mr. Borhot has tendered a plea of guilty, when there were a lot of issues that could have been litigated, but he has taken responsibility,” Katrib said.

Twelve years in prison isn’t a lenient sentence, the defence lawyer said.

“He’s been back in Canada since these offences occurred,” he said. “He’s been here many years and in that time period he has built a family, he’s worked, he’s led a quiet life.”

Borhot, he noted, was free on bail with strict conditions that included wearing an ankle-tracking device, complying with all laws and checking in regularly with authorities.

“When he goes to jail, he is leaving behind a family. He has four children.”

Katrib said the prison term not only takes into account a fit sentence but rehabilitation as a possibility.

“Mr. Borhot left the organization of his own volition and returned to Canada,” he said.

“The entirety of the family was never supportive of this type of thing and even now are very ashamed of what’s happened, as is Mr. Borhot.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 26, 2022.


Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading


The Gender War amongst Us



The United Nations define gender-based violence as any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women and other persons, including threats of acts of violence, coercion and arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.

Gender-Based Violence is a global public health problem that challenges and affects the morbidity and mortality of women and the LGBTQ Community. It is estimated that 30% of women and 85% of The LGBTQ have experienced at least one form of GBV in their lifetime since the age of 15. The United Nations study among Women of reproductive age revealed that Intimate Partner Violence(IVP) ranged from 15% in Urban Regions(ie Japan) to 71% in Rural Regions (ie Ethiopia)Evidence reveals that this problem is most prominent in developing nations where socioeconomic status is low and education limited, especially in sub-Saharan Africa countries.
Gender Prejudice and Violence directed towards Women and The LGBTQ Community is globally widespread, even within the well-educated populations of the developed world.

Gender-Based Violence is a common practice in Africa, Asia and developing nations in Latin America. Most African Cultural beliefs and traditions promote men’s hierarchical roles in sexual relationships and especially in marriage. Almost two-thirds (63%) of the African population live in rural settings which increases the difficulty to access basic amenities and communities are isolated from the influence of central governments or the laws that prohibit GBV. Despite legislative advances, GBV remains pervasive and a daily reality for Women, Girls and THE LGBTQ Communities. Within Rwanda, many Women and Girls experience multiple and intersecting forms of violence and oppression including intimate partner violence, sexual violence, early and forced marriages, genital mutilation and human trafficking.

Gender Biased Violence directed towards The LGBTQ Community is high within African society, where their lifestyle may appear as a challenge to other males’ masculinity or gender understanding. Within the Latin Community, such violence exists but is far less felt than in areas within Africa. The Latin Worlds’ understanding of masculinity seems to vary, appearing to be more accepting of “the different”. Many Latin Males have multiple gender partners even within marriage. African attitudes are far more conservative and unyielding.

Gender Politics have shaped our world, moving from ancient acceptance of the power and influence of Womanhood to a place where religion became the excuse to oppress Women and other elements of society like the LGBTQ Community. Humanities’ move toward freedom and self-expression has been squashed by the manipulative, powerful masculinity of Mankind. Impressions of a controlling, protective society show us what we are to believe and how we are to live our lives.

Equality, self-determination and self-expression for Women and the LGBTQ Community still remain important aspects of the developed world’s policymaking and implementation. Within the continents of Africa, Central and Latin America, and some Asian nations government policymakers attempt to legally establish the necessary laws to protect their populations, but cultural, political and societal traditions and prejudices have entangled themselves within these nations’ evolutionary movement towards equal rights and gender democracy. A Gender War remains among us, within us, allowing prejudice, fear and hate to shape our society. Like all wars, there are many casualties, but with education, determination and the hand of justice applied, this war can be won.

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario

Continue Reading