True North Initiative News Scan 01 03 2018

TOP STORIES

Former Afghanistan captive Joshua Boyle charged with sex assault, forcible confinement

Joshua Boyle, rescued along with his family in October after five years in captivity in Afghanistan, is now in an Ottawa jail on charges of sexual assault, forcible confinement and administering a noxious drug. Boyle, 34, spent New Year’s Day at the Innes Road jail after Ottawa police arrested him for a series of disturbing, alleged crimes dating back to October. Boyle was abducted by a Taliban-linked group while on what he described as a backpacking trip. His children were born and raised in captivity until their rescue by Pakistani commandos. (Toronto Sun) (NY Times) (Globe and Mail) (CTV) (Mirror.co.uk)

Quebec companies look to asylum seekers to help fill labour shortages

Quebec is in the midst of a labour shortage brought on by an aging population and economic growth. The province's unemployment rate was 5.4 per cent in November, one of the lowest rates in Canada, and Quebec's lowest in decades. It means employers across several sectors are desperate for both skilled and unskilled workers, and some see an opportunity in the recent wave of asylum seekers like Amisial. (CBC)

Parent sponsorship program still deeply flawed despite changes, immigration lawyers warn

The 2018 sponsorship program for parents and grandparents opened Tuesday. This year, those interested will have to provide more information about who they want to sponsor and whether they meet the program’s income requirements before their names are entered in the lottery. The change is an attempt to winnow out those who aren’t eligible to apply, after thousands of people selected last year failed to follow through with their applications. (National Post)

Iran's leader blames enemies for deadly unrest, U.S. calls that 'nonsense'

Iran’s supreme leader accused the country’s enemies on Tuesday of being behind days of street unrest, as the death toll from anti-government demonstrations rose to 21. Riot police were out in force in several cities on the sixth day of protests, which spread to the northwestern city of Tabriz, according to social media posts, as security forces scrambled to contain the boldest challenge to Iran’s leadership since 2009. (Reuters)

Trudeau's Plan To Renew Ties With Iran In Spotlight Amid Deadly Protests

Several days of deadly protests in Iran are not deterring the Trudeau government from its efforts to restore diplomatic ties with Tehran — at least for now. A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland indicated Tuesday that Canada is not contemplating ending talks with Iran, despite being "deeply troubled'' by the deaths of at least 21 protesters and the arrests of hundreds more. (Huffington Post)

'Sickened by the silence': Western progressives accused of staying mute about Iran protests

As Iranians lose their lives in a wave of unprecedented pro-democracy protests, members of the country’s diaspora are criticizing what they call a “deafening silence” from Western governments and progressive groups who normally tout themselves as champions of equality and human rights. “I think the issue is one that the left should support; I think it’s in fact tailor-made for leftist support,” said Iranian-born human rights campaigner Kaveh Sharooz, a onetime candidate for the Liberal nomination in Richmond Hill, Ont. (National Post)

Iran protests: State TV shows pro-government rallies after days of unrest

According to state TV, the demonstrations took place in at least 10 cities, including Ahvaz, the capital of the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, the Kurdish town of Kermanshah in the country's west and Qom, the religions capital of Shiite Islam in Iran. The rallies come after Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday blamed days of protests across the country on meddling by "enemies of Iran." (NBC)

Young, working-class and fed up: Iran's deadly protests driven by a new crop of dissenters

The 28-year-old university graduate stood in front of a bookstore window in central Tehran, pretending to browse the titles on the shelves. He really was looking out for Iranian security forces sent to quash anti-government protesters. Kambiz, who gave only his first name, earned a physics degree but is among the millions of young Iranians who lack a steady job. For the past several nights, he has joined demonstrators in the side streets near Tehran University, chanting slogans to bring down the theocracy in the most significant unrest in Iran in nearly a decade. (LA Times)

Sajjan outflew colleagues on government jets, racking up more than $670,000 in costs

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is a frequent flier on government jets, racking up more than $670,000 in costs in a 17-month period and far surpassing cabinet colleagues, travel records show. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and recently retired governor-general David Johnston flew the most on Defence Department aircraft over the past two years, but they are not allowed to travel on commercial aircraft for security reasons. (Globe and Mail)

Nikki Haley confirms U.S. holding back $255M in aid for Pakistan

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif dismissed Donald Trump's Twitter outburst about Pakistan earlier this week, but U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the administration is withholding $255 million US that had been earmarked for Pakistan. In a withering attack, Trump on Monday said the United States had "foolishly" handed Pakistan more than $33 billion US in aid in the last 15 years and had been rewarded with "nothing but lies and deceit." (CBC)

 

OTHER STORIES (Domestic and International)

Trudeau Embraces the Economy Just as It Begins to Gear Down

The Canadian prime minister spent the end of 2017 on the defensive over tax changes, his finance chief and an ethics reprimand. He often parried the attacks by saying his political opponents were only slinging mud because they didn’t want to talk about the economy, which led the Group of Seven in growth last year. Trudeau’s defense is about to weaken, with Canada’s economy poised to fall back to Earth this year from an expected 3 percent gain in 2017. The country will expand at a still solid pace of 2.2 percent in 2018, behind the U.S. and tied with Germany for second in the G-7, Bloomberg survey estimates show. Canadian growth is then forecast to slow again to 1.8 percent in 2019. (Bloomberg)

Minimum wage hikes could cost Canada's economy 60,000 jobs this year

Minimum wage hikes across Canada this year could cost about 60,000 jobs, despite the benefits they would bring, the Bank of Canada says in a new report. The central bank published a report over the winter break, attempting to calculate what sort of economic impact a series of minimum wage hikes set to come into force this year will have on Canada's economy. (CBC)

Proposed Canada border security watchdog will ‘not enhance’ accountability: experts

A federally commissioned blueprint for a new watchdog to review Canada’s border agency has some worried it lacks the necessary bite to ensure true accountability. A report produced for Public Safety Canada says the government should establish an independent body to handle public complaints about the Canada Border Services Agency. (Global)

As multi-ethnic population in Canada rises, complications arise for families

Navigating the many complications that come with a mixed identity, which range from political to sociological to health-related, is becoming more common across the country as an increasing swath of residents are reporting multiple ethnicities, according to data from the 2016 census. In the last 20 years in Canada, the multi-ethnic population has grown by almost 4 million people – almost double the overall population growth rate – to make up 41 per cent of the country's total population. (Globe and Mail)

Canadian ambassador praises ‘pleasing’ beach in Myanmar — where military accused of ethnic cleansing

The Canadian ambassador to Indonesia welcomed 2018 by tweeting about great snorkelling from a beach in Myanmar, the same country whose military is leading a ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people there. In a tweet posted Jan. 1 — and quickly deleted — Ambassador Peter MacArthur said that his “first day of 2018 unfolded on a Myanmar beach where the great surf is pleasingly turquoise coloured, warm, clean and clear — perfect for snorkelling to visit with nature and the fish.” (Global)

More than 100,000 Turks who lost jobs after 2016 coup attempt await rulings

Nearly 18 months after the Turkish government survived a violent coup attempt and responded with mass arrests and firings, the fate of more than 100,000 Turkish citizens rests with an opaque government-appointed commission that will decide whether they get their jobs back. (Globe and Mail)

Trump to Kim: My nuclear button is 'bigger and more powerful'

US President Donald Trump has boasted that his nuclear button is "much bigger" and "more powerful" than North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's. Mr Trump's tweet is the latest contribution to an increasingly personalised feud between the nuclear-armed leaders. (BBC) (The Hill)

Oil-Rich Venezuela Is Out Of Gasoline

Venezuela’s oil production has fallen to levels not seeing since the late-1980s. According to the latest OPEC report, which is based on information provided by the Nicolás Maduro government, the country is producing about 2.3 million barrels of oil per day. In October, it experienced the steepest fall in production of 2017, as only 1.9 million barrels were extracted, 130,000 barrels less than the previous month. The oil industry, however, is still the major source of income as it generates about 96 per cent of the foreign exchange. (Zero Hedge)

Venezuela Misses Another Debt Payment, Raising Stakes for Bondholders

Venezuela has defaulted on another debt obligation, according to S&P Global Ratings, intensifying investor fears about the country’s ability to make more than $9 billion in bond payments due in 2018. The ratings firm said Tuesday that Venezuela failed to make $35 million in coupon payments for its bonds due in 2018 within a 30-day grace period. The government and the state-owned oil company are now behind on $1.28 billion in payments, according to investment firm Caracas Capital. (WSJ)

 

EDITORIAL AND OPINION PIECES

Anthony Furey: Trudeau needs to support the protesters, say Iranian-Canadians

Just weeks before the current people’s uprising in Iran began a Canadian senator stood up in the Red Chamber and urged his colleagues to take a tough stand against the dictatorial regime. Talk about timing. Conservative Sen. David Wells received zero press back when he spoke on Dec. 5. Now we can read his words in a whole new light. (Toronto Sun)

Lorne Gunter: What the Dawson report reveals about Trudeau's mentality

Dawson determined that Trudeau broke federal ethics law in at least four different ways when he accepted a holiday at the Aga Khan’s Bahamian retreat, when he flew on the Aga Khan’s private helicopter and when he refused to recuse himself from meetings at which tax-funded contributions to the Aga Khan’s Global Centre for Pluralism were discussed. But the parts of Dawson’s report that are truly fascinating are those that indirectly provide insights into the mentality and habits of the PM and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau. (Toronto Sun)

Matthew Lau: Politicians act like they’re 'solving' Canada’s housing problems while continually making them worse

There has emerged in recent months a near consensus in Canada that more government intervention is required to ensure housing affordability. Suggestions for government fixes for housing markets are coming even from the market-friendly Macdonald-Laurier Institute (which called for government support for down payments) and conservative economist Herbert Grubel (who argues for reducing immigration to relieve housing pressures). (Financial Post)

Tarek Fatah: Iran reminds us of the dangers of Islamism

On the day after Iran erupted into yet another revolt against the dictatorship of “Supreme Leader” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, much of the mainstream media in the West acted as if nothing had happened. As Iranian women tore off their hijabs in protest on Thursday, the Friday edition of one Toronto paper carried a large photograph of two women in hijabs on the cover of its “insight” section, with the title #ACTIVISM. (Toronto Sun)

Rita Smith: Why I support the protesters in Iran

Every person of Iranian origin I have ever met, taught, or worked with, has been a smart, industrious and impressive individual. Possibly it’s because many of Iran’s best and brightest got out of Iran when the going was good, decades ago. Possibly it’s just baked into Persian culture. (Toronto Sun)

Danny Eisen: Why Canadians Should Care About The Body Of A Kidnapped Israeli Soldier

This low-cost, high-yield tactic does not require the operational sophistication necessary for more complex assaults like assassinations, simultaneous bombings and hijackings. Yet it generates a drama uniquely effective in communicating terror to the public over prolonged periods of time, garnering media coverage and inflicting significant psychological damage on adversaries. It is an ideal instrument for asymmetrical warfare against a Western enemy particularly sensitive to the value of the individual lives of its citizenry. (Huffington Post)

Leonid Bershidsky: Is democracy coming to Iran? The demographics say yes

In a country as repressive as Iran, it’s difficult to gauge where the current countrywide protests are leading. But a bold theory that predicted the recent transition to democracy in Tunisia may offer some clues. In 2008, U.S. demographer Richard Cincotta predicted that Tunisia — then under a well-established authoritarian regime — would probably democratize before 2020 based on the age structure of its population. When Cincotta aired the forecast at a meeting of Middle East experts sponsored by the U.S. State Department, the audience burst into laughter. (National Post)

 

REPORTS, COMMITTEE HEARINGS, LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

 

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