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Western allies to expel key Russian banks from global system; Ukraine vows to fight on

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Western allies announced sweeping new sanctions against Moscow on Saturday, including kicking key Russian banks off the main global payments system, as a defiant President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukrainian forces were repelling Russian troops advancing on Kyiv.

Seeking to ratchet up economic punishment for Russian President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine, the United States and its European partners also said they would impose restrictions on Russia’s central bank to limit its ability to support the rouble and finance his war effort.

The announcement came as fighting continued across Ukraine. Reuters witnesses in Kyiv reported occasional blasts and gunfire in the city on Saturday evening, but it was not clear exactly where it was coming from. The capital and other cities have been pounded by Russian artillery and cruise missiles.

Putin launched what he called a special military operation on Thursday, ignoring weeks of Western warnings and saying the “neo-Nazis” ruling Ukraine threatened Russia’s security – a charge Kyiv and Western governments say is baseless propaganda.

Russia’s assault is the biggest on a European state since World War Two and threatens to upend the continent’s post-Cold War order.

A U.S. defence official said Ukraine’s forces were putting up “very determined resistance” to the three-pronged Russian advance that has sent hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing westwards, clogging major highways and railway lines.

“As Russian forces unleash their assault on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, we are resolved to continue imposing costs on Russia that will further isolate Russia from the international financial system and our economies,” the Western allies said as they escalated their punitive response.

“We will implement these measures within the coming days,” according to a joint statement from the United States, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Britain and the European Commission.

After initially shying away from such a move largely because of concern about the impact on their own economies, the allies said they committed to “ensuring that selected Russian banks are removed from the SWIFT messaging system.” They did not name the banks that would be expelled but an EU diplomat said some 70% of the Russian banking market would be affected.

The move – which the French finance minister had earlier called a “financial nuclear weapon” because of the damage it would inflict on the Russian economy – deals a blow to Russia’s trade and makes it harder for its companies to do business.

SWIFT, or the “Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication”, is a secure messaging network that facilitates rapid cross-border payments, making it a crucial mechanism for international trade.

Sanctions on Russia’s central bank could limit Putin’s use of his more than $630 billion in international reserves, widely seen as insulating Russia from some economic harm.

The new measures will prevent Russia from “using its war chest,” according to Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the European Union’s executive.

‘THE FIGHTING GOES ON’

Clay Lowery, executive vice president for the Institute of International Finance, said the new sanctions “will most likely exacerbate ongoing bank runs and dollarization, causing a sharp sell-off, and a drain on reserves.”

But because Russia’s large banks are deeply integrated into the global financial system, new sanctions imposed on them, such as cutting them off from SWIFT, could have a spillover effect, hurting trading partners in Europe and elsewhere.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said in a Twitter post early on Sunday: “Thanks to our friends … for the commitment to remove several Russian banks from SWIFT.”

The Kremlin said its troops were advancing again “in all directions” after Putin ordered a pause on Friday. Ukraine’s government said there had been no pause.

“We have withstood and are successfully repelling enemy attacks. The fighting goes on,” Zelenskiy said in a video message from the streets of Kyiv posted on his social media.

The crisis has galvanised the NATO Western military alliance, which has announced a series of moves to reinforce its eastern flank. While NATO has said it will not deploy troops to Ukraine, a string of countries are sending military aid.

U.S. President Joe Biden approved the release of up to $350 million worth of weapons from U.S. stocks, while Germany, in a shift from its long-standing policy of not exporting weapons to war zones, said it would send anti-tank weapons and surface-to-air missiles.

Amid a barrage of cyberattacks blamed on Moscow, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said his government will create an “IT army” to fight back. Kyiv already has quietly called on its hacker underground to help against Russian forces, Reuters exclusively reported.

Fedorov also called on Saturday on SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk to provide Ukraine with the company’s Starlink satellite broadband service. Musk responded on Twitter: “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.”

Ukraine, a democratic nation of 44 million people, won independence from Moscow in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union and wants to join NATO and the EU, goals Russia opposes.

Putin has said he must eliminate what he calls a serious threat to his country from its smaller neighbour, accusing it of genocide against Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine – something Kyiv and its Western allies reject as a lie.

A Ukrainian presidential adviser said about 3,500 Russian soldiers had been killed or wounded. Western officials have also said intelligence showed Russia suffering higher casualties than expected and its advance slowing.

Russia has not released casualty figures and it was impossible to verify tolls or the precise picture on the ground.

“We know that (Russian forces) have not made the progress that they wanted to make, particularly in the north. They have been frustrated by what they have seen is a very determined resistance,” the U.S. official said, without providing evidence.

Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said there was no major Russian military presence in the capital but that saboteur groups were active. Klitschko, a former world heavyweight boxing champion, later told Germany’s Bild tabloid the city was “nearly encircled”.

Authorities have handed thousands of assault rifles to residents and told citizens to make petrol bombs.

At least 198 Ukrainians, including three children, have been killed and 1,115 people wounded so far, Interfax quoted Ukraine’s Health Ministry as saying.

Interfax later cited the regional administration in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, saying 17 civilians had been killed and 73 wounded by Russian shelling.

Moscow says it is taking care not to hit civilian sites.

U.N. refugee chief Filippo Grandi said more than 150,000 Ukrainian refugees have crossed into neighbouring countries – half to Poland and many to Hungary, Moldova and Romania.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces had captured Melitopol, a city of 150,000 in southeastern Ukraine. Ukrainian officials did not comment and Britain cast doubt on the report.

If confirmed, it would be the first significant population centre the Russians have seized.

Several European countries, including Russia’s Baltic neighbours Lithuania and Latvia, said they were closing their airspace to Russian airliners. Germany said it was preparing to follow suit.

 

(Reporting by Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic, Natalia Zinets and Maria Tsvetkova in Kyiv, Aleksandar Vasovic in Mariupol, Alan Charlish in Medyka, Poland, Fedja Grulovic in Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania and Reuters bureaus; Writing by Robert Birsel, Gareth Jones and Alex Richardson; Editing by William Mallard, David Clarke, Alison Williams and Daniel Wallis)

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Firing Bank of Canada head would spark global ‘shock wave’: ex-budget watchdog – Global News

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If any Canadian government were to fire the head of the Bank of Canada, the result would be a “global financial shock wave,” warned the country’s former budget watchdog.

In an interview with The West Block guest host Eric Sorenson, former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page said the Bank of Canada’s reputation is one as a “strong” and “transparent” institution.

“We’ve gotten used to, over the past three decades, having an independent central bank that is independent — making decisions on these policy interest rates that is divorced from the political environment,” said Page, now president and CEO of the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa.

“It would be quite a shock wave, a global financial shock wave, to have a government literally remove a central banker who, by all intents, seems to be doing a fine job — but is doing a very difficult job.”

Page had been asked what the effects could be if a Canadian government were to fire a central banker.

That comes as Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre has been leading a campaign of criticism centring on the Bank of Canada’s handling of rampant inflation, which sits at 6.7 per cent.

The domestic target is two per cent per year.

Read more:

Canada’s treasury ‘depleted’ as budget weans COVID spending, eyes uncertainty

As part of his criticism of the central bank, Poilievre has vowed that he would fire Tiff Macklem, governor of the Bank of Canada, if elected prime minister. That comment triggered rapid criticism over concerns it signalled an intent by the perceived leadership frontrunner to interfere with the bank.

Long-standing tradition is that the Bank of Canada operates independently of political decisions, with governors appointed on seven-year terms.

Officials have emphasized that those longer terms are what allows them to operate with a “measure of continuity over economic cycles — not electoral cycles — and allows for decision making that considers the long-term economic interests of Canadians.”

The Bank of Canada has opted to keep interest rates at rock-bottom during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is among the factors experts say have fuelled skyrocketing home prices. And as inflation keeps pushing the cost of living higher and higher, critics of the central bank like Poilievre have pointed the finger and argued its low rates are powering domestic inflation.

Canada, however, is far from alone.

Read more:

Conservative leadership hopefuls debate future of party, trade Netflix suggestions

Inflation is rampant around the world right now, with no clear end in sight.

High consumer spending amid the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions has combined with supply chain shocks worsened both by factory closures caused by the reality that the virus is still circulating in high numbers, as well as the sharp shortages in supplies caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


Click to play video: 'Bank of Canada forecasts nearly 6% average inflation outlook in 1st half of 2022'



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Bank of Canada forecasts nearly 6% average inflation outlook in 1st half of 2022


Bank of Canada forecasts nearly 6% average inflation outlook in 1st half of 2022 – Apr 25, 2022

“I think it’s a very simplification to assume that if we just change the leader, that somehow this sort of global environment — and inflation truly is a global issue — just somehow disappears,” Page said.

Sorenson asked: “Can the Bank or the Canadian government on their own bring inflation down in this country?”

Page said: “No.”

“This is a global phenomenon. A lot of it is supply-related, and it’s because of those very strong supports that went in 2020 to help during the lockdown,” he added.

“The economy’s come back really fast and eventually markets will adjust.”

So when might Canadians expect to see inflation back in a more normal range?

Page said the Bank of Canada’s moves to raise interest rates will play a role in helping slow the economy.

“I think over the next couple of years we could see inflation back maybe in that three per cent range.”


Click to play video: 'Sticker Shock: Coping with the rising cost of inflation in Canada'



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Sticker Shock: Coping with the rising cost of inflation in Canada


Sticker Shock: Coping with the rising cost of inflation in Canada

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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David Milgaard, who advocated for justice after he was wrongfully convicted of murder, has died

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David Milgaard, who was wrongfully convicted of murder and spent more than 23 years in prison, has died. Milgaard was only 17 when he was arrested for the rape and murder of Gail Miller in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He was released from prison in 1992 after DNA evidence proved his innocence. In 1999, Milgaard was awarded $10 million in a wrongful conviction lawsuit against the Canadian government. Milgaard and two friends had been on a road trip, driving through the city when the murder happened.

Milgaard, who was born in Winnipeg, had been living in Calgary with his son and daughter.

Milgaard maintained his innocence throughout his time in prison. His mother Joyce Milgaard, who died in 2020, tirelessly advocated on her son’s behalf. In the decades since his release, Milgaard had spoken publicly, calling for changes in how Canadian courts review convictions.

His picture is now included in the Canadian Journey’s gallery at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Isha Khan, the museum’s CEO, said Milgaard was a human rights defender.

“He is someone we know, and the reason we know is that he was able to tell his story, and it takes a special kind of person to continue to try to connect with people,” she said, adding his work is not over.

“There are people across this country in correctional institutions who have been wrongfully convicted, who need a voice and don’t have a voice that David Milgaard did for whatever reason it may be, and it is our job to listen and to look for those stories.”

Milgaard had recently been pushing for an independent review board to prevent miscarriages of justice.

“David was a marvellous advocate for the wrongly convicted, for all the years he’s been out since 1992. We’re going to miss him a lot. He was a lovely man,” James Lockyer, a Toronto-based lawyer, told CTV News Channel on Sunday.

Lockyer, a founding director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, joined Milgaard’s case following his release in 1992 and helped him through the process to get DNA testing done. Lockyer said as a result of the DNA evidence, a man named Larry Fisher was arrested, and charged with the rape and murder. Fisher died while serving a life sentence.

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Ontario international students, families making 'massive sacrifices' for the Canadian dream – CBC.ca

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The death of an Indian student in Toronto last month made international headlines, but while Kartik Vasudev’s story ended in tragedy, his parents’ sacrifices offer a glimpse into the hardships that many international students and their families face to achieve the dream of a future in Canada.

Vasudev’s father, Jitesh Vasudev, told CBC News he and his wife spent their entire life savings and mortgaged their house to take out a loan of $50,000, just to afford the first year of his son’s education in Canada, before he was shot and killed. 

“The only mistake of my innocent child was that he dreamt big of studying in a foreign country, and he wanted to make a name of himself while representing India,” said Vasudev’s mother, Pooja Vasudev, in a video posted to Instagram. “We had a lot of dreams and expectations with our child, he was going to be our support in our old age.”

International students who spoke to CBC News say those kinds of sacrifices are common, and can take a major toll. 

They say international students can pay almost four times more in tuition fees than domestic students, and are calling for change.

An Ontario Auditor General’s report from last year highlighted the reliance of Ontario colleges on international student tuition.

The report showed that while international students represented only 30 per cent of the total enrolment in public colleges, they accounted for 68 per cent of tuition fee revenue at a total of $1.7 billion. A majority of students — 62 per cent — were from India.

According to a 2020 report from Global Affairs Canada, international students contributed $16.2 billion and $19.7 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2017 and 2018.

A better future in Canada

Students and advocates told CBC News that many international students from India come to Canada to become permanent residents and build a better future for themselves as well as their families.

They say there are limited employment opportunities in India compared to Canada, leading their parents to go to great lengths to send them abroad.

Jobanpreet Singh knows that struggle firsthand.

Jobanpreet Singh, left, says his family spent all their savings, took out massive loans and also sold assets just to pay for his first year of college. (Submitted by Jobanpreet Singh)

“[Vasudev’s family] sacrificed a lot to send their child to Canada for a brighter future,” the 22-year-old international student said. “I can’t imagine how painful it must have been for them.”

Born and raised in a farmer’s family in Punjab, India, Singh came to Canada as an international student in August 2021, where he is studying at the Academy of Learning Career College in Toronto. 

For his first year in Canada, his family spent around $30,000 on his tuition and living expenses.

Singh said his family spent all their savings, took out massive loans and sold assets just to be able to pay for his first year of college.

“[International students] have work stress, school stress, and we have extremely high tuition fees, which is topped off with the fact that we can only work 20 hours a week,” he said.

Singh said it is very difficult to handle expenses and living costs in Toronto while working those limited hours.

According to a statement from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), “limiting off-campus work to 20 hours per week reflect the fact that the focus for international students in Canada is on their studies.”

Tuition gap between domestic and international students

Sarom Rho from advocacy group Migrant Students United says international students who come to Canada also face rising costs of tuition fees, which are already three to four times more than domestic tuition.

“The majority of current and former international students and their families have made massive sacrifices for them, for example by selling lands, taking out massive educational loans, selling assets, just to pay for these extremely high tuition fees,” said Rho.

Rho added that because of these financial burdens, international students also face significant mental health issues.

Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities said in a statement that it understands that as newcomers to Canada and Ontario, international students can face unique challenges. 

“Student wellbeing is paramount, and we support the steps taken by Ontario’s colleges and universities to ensure that international students are well supported before and after their arrival in Ontario,” said James Tinajero, spokesperson for the ministry.

Gurpreet Singh, a 22-year-old Seneca College student, came to Canada in September 2020. His parents mortgaged their entire agricultural farmland to send him to Canada.

Gurpreet Singh has completed half of his education and the remaining two semesters of his studies will cost him about $16,000. He says he is paying for the rest of his studies on his own. (Submitted by Gurpreet Singh)

He said because of his international student status in Canada, he can’t apply for scholarships and bursaries at his college.

“That’s a huge drawback for us,” said Gurpreet. “If we’re not getting anything extra [over] the domestic students and we pay the same taxes, then why do we pay this huge amount for our tuition?”

The ministry says college and university boards of governors have the full authority to set tuition fees for international students.

“Colleges and universities are allowed the discretion to establish tuition fees for international students at levels the institutions deem appropriate,” said Tinajero.

Gurpreet has completed half of his education, and the remaining two semesters of his studies will cost him about $16,000. But instead of asking for help from his family, Gurpreet is taking the responsibility on himself.

According to the IRCC, international students can work full-time when they are on a scheduled break, like during winter and summer holidays, or during a fall or spring reading week. 

Gurpreet is currently on a summer break from his college. He says this is his last chance to work full-time before he begins his third semester in the fall.

For the next four months of summer break, Gurpreet says he’ll be working in two different warehouses doing long days of general labour.

“Right now I’ve [got] to concentrate on my work to pay off my fees, so I’m willing to compromise for the next four months,” he said.

“I know this is going to be hard, but these hardships are temporary, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

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