Connect with us


With her Ukrainian roots, Russian sanctions are personal for Canada’s Freeland



Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland played a key role in getting sanctions on Russia’s central bank in place, two sources said, and has been a leading voice against Russian aggression as a vocal member of the country’s large Ukrainian community.

Freeland, who is also deputy prime minister and second in power only to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has made impassioned statements in support of Ukraine to G20 colleagues and the Canadian public.

Canada has closed airspace and ports to Russian vessels, is sending lethal military aid to Ukraine, curbed oil imports and asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe alleged war crimes by Russian forces.

The crisis is personal for Freeland. Both of her maternal grandparents were born in Ukraine, and she has said she speaks Ukrainian at home with her children. Her mother, Halyna Chomiak Freeland, helped draft the inaugural Ukrainian constitution, according to her 2007 obituary, and as a university student, Freeland advocated for Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union.

Freeland’s voice cracked as she made an emotional plea to Canada’s 1.4 million-strong Ukrainian community on Thursday, the day Russia invaded.

“Now is the time for us to be strong as we support our friends and family in Ukraine. Now is the time for us to remember,” Freeland said, switching into Ukrainian, “Ukraine is not yet dead.”

Canada, the European Union and United States have imposed sanctions on Russia since the attack, and on the weekend blocked some Russian banks from the SWIFT global payments system.

On Monday, they restricted Russia’s ability to deploy $640 billion of foreign exchange and gold reserves, forcing the central bank to more than double its key policy interest rate and introduce some capital controls as the rouble’s value collapsed.

This was considered an extreme measure by the G7 just over a week ago, and Freeland advocated getting the measure in place quickly to restrict the central bank’s access to foreign reserves before markets opened on Monday, two senior Canadian government sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly, told Reuters.

“We have hamstrung Russia’s central bank, thus depriving (President Vladimir) Putin of access to his war chest,” Freeland told lawmakers in Ottawa on Monday.

Ukrainian Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko, in a Feb. 22 conversation with Freeland two days before the all-out invasion, urged freezing the Russian central bank foreign reserves before they could be moved.

Freeland then “had a number of calls with American counterparts” starting on Feb. 22 that culminated in her sending “something on paper to the United States outlining what it would look like” two days later, on Thursday, one source said.

Officials in Washington said months of work on the measure, announced on Saturday, accelerated over the weekend after European officials indicated Russia was seeking to shift assets back to Russia or other safe havens.

Referring to the coordinated economic sanctions, one senior Biden administration official told reporters on Monday: “We were ready, and that’s what allowed us to act within days, not weeks or months, of Putin’s escalation.”

Adrienne Vaupshas, a spokesperson for Freeland, declined to comment on the minister’s efforts as outlined by sources.

“We will continue to work in lockstep with American and European leaders to sanction President Putin and his hangers-on for their unprovoked and barbaric invasion of Ukraine,” Vaupshas said.

The White House declined to comment on Freeland’s specific role.


Freeland is seen as the leading candidate to succeed Trudeau as Liberal Party leader. Her efforts have been noticed by the politically active Ukrainian Canadian community, which represents almost 4% of the population, and who mostly live in prairie provinces and in Ontario.

“Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is a source of inspiration and pride for all Ukrainian Canadians,” said Orysia Boychuk, an Alberta official with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. “When Freeland spoke in Ukrainian to her community, many of us were moved to tears.”

Last month, Freeland strayed from the G20 finance ministers’ traditional script to give an “impassioned” warning to Russian counterparts not to invade Ukraine.

In 2014, Russia banned Freeland, along with 12 other Canadians, from entry in retaliation for Canadian sanctions after Russia’s invasion of Crimea. She said then it was “an honour” to be on Putin’s sanction list. Freeland worked for Reuters from 2010-2013.

“If Russia continues this barbaric war, the West is united,” Freeland said at Toronto rally on Sunday. “The West is relentless. And we will cut the Russian economy off from contact with our own.”


(Reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington; Editing by Amran Abocar and Lisa Shumaker)


Prince Charles to come face to face with ‘woolly doppelgänger’ on royal tour



The Prince of Wales is set to be greeted by a sheepish figure when he arrives in Canada on Tuesday: his own “woolly doppelgänger.”

Prince Charles will lock eyes with a life-size, hand-needle-felted bust of his own visage as he meets with Canadian wool enthusiasts in St. John’s, N.L., at one of the first stops on his three-day cross-country tour alongside wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

But that’s not even the “piece de resistance” of the prince’s woolly welcome, said Matthew Rowe, CEO of the Campaign for Wool in Canada. The non-profit industry association will also present its royal patron with a wool sculpture of his mother, the Queen.

“He’s going to come face to face with his woolly doppelgänger,” Rowe said. “What we’ll be unveiling for the first time at that event will be a second bust, this time of Her Majesty, in honour of the Platinum Jubilee. So he’ll meet his woolly mother as well.”

Franco-Manitoban fibre artist Rosemarie Péloquin said she had many conversations with the royal busts over the hundreds of hours she spent making each of them, poking and pulling wool with a barbed needle to felt the fine details of their faces.

Now, Péloquin is preparing to speak to the real-life prince Tuesday as she introduces him to his woolen double.

“You spend so much time in the studio with him that I feel like I’ve gotten to know him, really, in the making,” Péloquin said by phone from St-Pierre-Jolys, Man. “I can’t wait to meet him and to see him looking at himself.”

The sculpture of the prince stands 56 centimeters tall, and aside from a wooden base, is made completely of homegrown wool — from the wrinkles on his forehead, to his red, white and blue tie.

Péloquin said she conducts extensive research on her subjects so she can render not only their appearance, but their “essence.” She homed in on what she saw as some of the prince’s defining features, including his “kind eyes” and his ability to connect with others.

“He’s very interested in people, and that’s why I made him leaning forward and listening,” she said. “I hope that that brings us together in a conversation about wool and about art, and about people and the world.”

Péloquin said wool felt like a fitting material to capture both the Queen’s strength as a monarch, and a her warmth as a mother and grandmother.

The artist adorned the bust with the Queen’s signature pearls and a maple leaf brooch. But Péloquin said the sovereign’s personality shines through this stately veneer. The piece shows her smiling with a “twinkle in her eye,” and the long curly wool that Péloquin used gave her iconic coif slightly more volume.

“I feel that that’s not only the the essence of the sheep coming through, but also of her,” she said. “There’s that kind of fun aspect of her that’s there, and we might not see it and she might not show it in public all the time, but it’s there.”

Péloquin said she’ll be disappointed to part ways with the Queen after escorting her on the plane to St. John’s in side-by-side seats. But even as she says goodbye to her creation, Péloquin is excited for the fabric Queen to greet the public.

“Half of the artwork is that reaction that other people have to it,” said Péloquin. “You have to put your baby out in the world and smile and be proud.”

Founded in 2010, the Campaign for Wool was launched in Canada in 2014 during Prince Charles and Camilla’s visit to Pictou, N.S.

Rowe said the prince’s support came at a nadir for the national wool industry as the forces of fast fashion depleted demand for the age-old textile.

In 1941, Canada sold more than 10 million pounds of wool, Statistics Canada data suggest. By 2006, sales had plummeted to roughly 2.8 million pounds.

Rowe said the campaign commissioned Péloquin’s busts in recognition of all the prince has done to bolster a fibre that has been “interwoven in the history of Canada” since French settlers brought the first sheep to the country in the mid-17th century.

“(The campaign) sort of — pardon the pun — knit together the global wool industry,” said Rowe. “It’s a great opportunity to kind of check in to show what we’ve been able to accomplish for Canadian wool.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2022.


Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading


Residents who fled flooded N.W.T town can return; some services might be unavailable



HAY RIVER, N.W.T. — A town in the Northwest Territories says people were being allowed to return to their homes Sunday evening, four days after about 3,500 were ordered to evacuate as flood waters rose.

A reopening plan posted by the Town of Hay River, on the south shore of Great Slave Lake, warns residents that hazard assessments do not include private property.

The plan says it is important that residents understand the specific services available on their properties as they decide when it is appropriate to return.

If residents decide their home is not habitable, the plan says they can return to the host evacuation centers for short term accommodation.

Hay River is known as the “Hub of the North” because it is an important transportation and communications centre.

It is the staging point for the shipment of goods further into the territory and heart of the Great Slave Lake commercial fishery.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2022.


The Canadian Press

Continue Reading


Resilient infrastructure, faster disaster recovery needed to adapt to climate change



OTTAWA — Canada is built for a climate that no longer exists and we can either accept that and adapt or face the consequences of inaction, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said Monday, as he kicked off public consultations on a national strategy.

But experts on adaptation say Canada needs to do a lot more, and a lot faster, because those consequences are already upon us.

The strategy, which the Liberals have promised will be ready by this fall, is intended to set goals for Canada to adapt its built and natural environment, with deadlines in both 2030 and 2050.

A consultation paper released Monday lists some of the goals the government is considering adopting for 2030, including reducing the number of people exposed to flood or fire risk, restoring communities faster after a disaster, and providing information so individual Canadians can assess their own risk.

“The national adaptation strategy represents a really important new direction for the country to go beyond climate change mitigation, and tackle in a comprehensive and strategic way how we make our communities safer, and better prepared for the impacts of climate change,” Guilbeault said.

Guilbeault was in the Pierrefonds neighbourhood of Montreal where the Rivière des Prairies spilled over its banks and into homes in both 2017 and 2019, and the conversations are about turning temporary, emergency flood responses into permanent protections.

The climate changes that are flooding Pierrefonds more frequently are happening nationwide. In Manitoba, where spring flooding prompted 33 local emergency declarations, residents of Peguis First Nation were forced to flee their homes for the sixth time in less than two decades.

In Red Lake, Ont., residents threatened by wildfires the last two summers are now cut off by road as floodwaters washed out their highway this spring.

In British Columbia, residents of Lytton still don’t know when they might return home after a wildfire razed their town 10 months ago. A few months after that fire, B.C. suffered massive flooding that threatened multiple communities and washed out parts of the rail and highway connections between the West Coast and the rest of Canada. Repair efforts in Lytton were slowed because the road into the town was among those washed out by the rain.

The Canadian Climate Institute said in a report that between 2010 and 2019, insured losses from extreme weather totalled $18 billion, three times the total of the 1980s.

The effect of each disaster is also bigger, with the average cost of individual weather-related events in the 2010s pegged at $112 million, compared with $8 million in the 1970s.

Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said last week following a visit to Lytton that provinces had requested federal help with wildfires 14 times in the last two years, compared with four requests in the five years before that.

Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo, said the consultation process launched Monday is welcome but is moving too slowly.

“I do not get a sense of the need to act with urgency to put adaptation measures on the ground today, for the perils that are here today that are going to get worse tomorrow,” he said. “There seems to me to be a discussion almost characterized by complacency rather than urgency.”

Feltmate said public education programs to explain the benefits of relatively cheap and easy fixes to reduce the risk of basement flooding, or lower the risk of fire damage to your home, could prompt action at the homeowner level quickly.

He said 60,000 homes are flooded in Canada every year because of overland floods or water backing up into basements, causing $1.2 billion in insured damage.

He added that Canada’s most common response to flooding is the emergency use of sandbags. “That is technically the same technology the Romans used 2,000 years ago.”

Ryan Ness, director of adaptation at the Canadian Climate Institute, said the consultation paper captures the general needs for a Canadian adaptation strategy but must get a lot more specific — and fast. “It’s clear that there’s still a lot of hard work to do to get to a strategy that’s actually going to raise the bar for adaptation in Canada.”

Canada has budgeted more than $3 billion for climate adaptation but Ness said that’s nowhere near enough.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimated in 2020 that it would cost more than $5 billion a year for Canada’s cities and towns to avoid the worst of climate-related effects.

Both Feltmate and Ness were on five expert advisory panels tasked with giving the government guidance on the strategy in specific areas including nature, infrastructure, health, economics and disaster resilience.

The final strategy is expected to set measurable goals in each area, but Guilbeault said it wasn’t yet clear if the government would enshrine those goals into legislation like it did for greenhouse gas emission targets last year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2022.


Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading