True North Initiative: News Scan 04 27 17

TOP STORIES

Regina man charged in connection with Canada-U.S. human smuggling ring

A Regina man made his first court appearance Wednesday morning in a Grand Forks, N.D., courthouse, charged in connection with a human smuggling ring. Victor Omoruyi is the second person charged in connection with an organization that allegedly transported asylum seekers from the United States into Saskatchewan. On April 14, Omoruyi was arrested after crossing into North Dakota. He has now been charged with harbouring and transporting an alien in the United States. (CBC)

Conservative leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch would pull gas tax cash if Toronto remains Sanctuary City

A Kellie Leitch government won’t pump federal gas tax dollars into Toronto transit and roads as long as the city remains a haven for illegal refugees and immigrants. “If I’m Prime Minister of this country and you have a Sanctuary City, it’s at your own peril,” Leitch told a Toronto Sun editorial board Wednesday. (Toronto Sun)

Trump tells Canada, Mexico, he won't terminate NAFTA treaty yet: White House

U.S. President Donald Trump told the leaders of Canada and Mexico on Wednesday that he will not terminate the NAFTA treaty at this stage, but will move quickly to begin renegotiating it with them, a White House statement said. The announcement came after White House officials disclosed that Trump and his advisers had been considering issuing an executive order to withdraw the United States from the trade pact with Canada and Mexico, one of the world's biggest trading blocs. (Reuters)

Release decision coming for former Ottawa professor jailed in France on terrorism suspicions

A former Ottawa professor being investigated for terrorism in France has been ordered released from prison for a sixth time, because of insufficient evidence. But, despite the April 24 order, his supporters in Ottawa are not convinced he will get out. Hassan Diab, who was a professor at both the University of Ottawa and Carleton, was arrested in Canada in 2008 in connection with a 1980 Paris synagogue bombing. He was extradited to France in 2014 but has not been charged. (Metro)

RCMP allege Mark Norman leaked cabinet secrets to pressure government

The man who was Canada's top naval officer leaked cabinet secrets to a Quebec shipyard in order to pressure the government to move forward on a military procurement project, the RCMP allege in newly unsealed court documents. The documents lay out the Mounties’ case against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, who was suspended from his role as the country's second-highest ranking military officer in January. The RCMP are investigating Norman for breach of trust and two breaches of the Security of Information Act. Norman's lawyer says he has served Canada honorably and is the victim of a bureaucratic crossfire. (CTV)

Kevin O’Leary drops out of Conservative leadership race to back Maxime Bernier

Kevin O’Leary will now campaign to elect Maxime Bernier as the next leader of the Conservative Party after the celebrity businessman’s stunning decision to drop out of race and support his former rival. Mr. O’Leary and Mr. Bernier held a joint news conference at the Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto shortly before the final leadership debate to announce the new partnership, which Mr. O’Leary first revealed during an exclusive interview with The Globe and Mail. (Globe and Mail)

 

OTHER STORIES (Domestic and International)

Refugee sponsors wait a year to discover fate of Syrian family left in limbo

A group trying to sponsor a Syrian refugee family say they spent over a year, and thousands of dollars, waiting for their family to arrive while getting no answers from the much-praised government program that was supposed to streamline the process. When the Toronto group's application to sponsor the refugees had been stalled for nearly a year, they discovered the official sponsorship program had ended and government staffing in charge of processing the applications was slashed, leaving the sponsors and the family in limbo until they were finally connected last month. (CBC)

Cash-strapped B.C. organizations seek to accommodate asylum seekers influx

British Columbia has seen a steady increase in refugee claimants, forcing cash-strapped service providers to find creative solutions to accommodate the influx and issue a public plea for assistance. The province helped settle more than 1,000 refugees since January of last year: 725 in 2016 and 284 in the first quarter of 2017, according to new statistics from five local agencies serving refugee claimants compiled by the Immigrant Services Society of BC’s Welcome Centre. (Globe and Mail)

Increase in 2017 asylum claims sparks Vancouver refugee collaboration

Faced with a "significant" rise in asylum seekers arriving in the Vancouver area, the region's leading refugee agencies are teaming up to find ways of working together to stretch their budgets which remain "essentially the same" as before the global crisis. Chis Friesen, settlement services director with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., estimated that 80 per cent of the nearly 300 refugee claimants his organization has served in just the first three months of 2017, arrived on foot across the border from the U.S. into B.C. (Metro)

Immigration minister vows faster processing times for refugees

The problem of long processing times for refugees to Canada will be fixed by 2019, promises Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen. A survey by Christian think tank Citizens For Public Justice reveals that 97 per cent of the agencies who bring privately-sponsored refugees to Canada are concerned about processing times. (Catholic Register)

Express Entry Report Reveals Importance of Provincial Nominee Programs

Canada’s provinces have carved out an increasingly important role in the country’s economic immigration selection system, known as Express Entry. As a result, more candidates are noting that staying up to date on the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) can be a decisive step towards achieving their Canadian immigration goals. (CIC News)

'Forgotten refugees' want to be recognized in Canada without a hearing

It may seem extreme, but advocates want the federal government to fast-track about 5,600 so-called “forgotten refugees” who after five years in Canada have still not been given a hearing.  The refugee claimants, from all over the world, are what are known as “legacy” claimants because they filed for refugee status before the new refugee determination regime came into force in December 2012. While under the new system, a claimant must be given a hearing within 60 days — or in some cases 30 days — the legacy claimants, judged low priority by the Immigration and Refugee Board, have been waiting in limbo for five years. (Montreal Gazette)

Conservatives final leadership debate sees candidates fight to stand out

The remaining 13 candidates in the race to become the next permanent leader of the Conservative Party took the stage in Toronto Wednesday in the last, and sometimes heated, debate before the May leadership vote. Hours before the start of the bilingual debate, reality star and businessman Kevin O'Leary announced he was leaving the race because, he said, he would not be able to win enough seats in Quebec to unseat Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the next election. (CBC)

Canada slips out of Top 20 in press freedom index

Canada has slipped for the second straight year in an index ranking freedom of the media, in part because of police spying on journalists and demanding reporters turn over background materials. The four-place decline to the 22nd spot overall, on top of last year’s 10-spot fall, leaves Canada out of the top 20 countries in terms of media freedom, Reporters Without Borders – or RSF – said Tuesday. In announcing its 2017 World Press Freedom Index, RSF said Canada went through a “series of scandals” last year that highlighted the importance – and fragility – of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources, (IPolitics)

The feds paid private eye to hunt for a journalist's sources

Only a few days into his new job as an executive at Canada’s energy regulator Sylvain Bédard asked for help. A list of six questions from National Observer had arrived in his email inbox. Most of the questions were about botched security arrangements for a National Energy Board (NEB) pipeline hearing in Montreal. One of the questions described a verbal blunder by Bédard​'s new boss, Josée Touchette. The gaffe had occurred during an Aug. 30 town hall meeting at the NEB's Calgary headquarters, staged to brief NEB employees after a protest had disrupted the Montreal hearing. Touchette had joked about tasering environmental activists. (National Observer)

Softwood deal was close, but Canada gambled on better terms from Trump, former U.S. trade rep says

A former U.S. trade representative says the Obama administration was on the verge of signing a new softwood lumber deal with Canada but the pact fell through when someone on the Canadian side felt a better deal could be reached with the incoming Trump administration. Michael Froman made the remarks in an interview on CBC News Network's Power & Politics one day after U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Canada is dumping softwood lumber south of the border. (CBC)

North Korea faces tighter sanctions under Trump strategy

The US is to tighten sanctions on North Korea and step up diplomatic moves aimed at pressuring the country to end its nuclear and missile programmes. President Donald Trump's strategy was announced after a special briefing for all 100 US senators. Earlier, the top US commander in the Pacific defended the deployment of an advanced missile defence system in South Korea. Tensions have risen amid fears the North is planning new weapons tests. (BBC)

Ukraine wants armed peacekeepers after war monitor killed

International monitors are back on patrol in eastern Ukraine, just days after an observer was killed by a suspected landmine. American paramedic Joseph Stone was working with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). On Sunday, his armoured vehicle hit what is believed to have been an anti-tank mine. Two other monitors were injured. (Global)

Syria war: 'Israeli strike' hits military site near Damascus airport

An Israeli missile strike has caused a large explosion and fire at a military site near Damascus international airport, Syrian state media report. A fuel tank and warehouses were damaged, the Sana news agency said. (BBC)

Venezuela to withdraw from OAS as deadly protests continue

Venezuela says it will withdraw from the Organization of American States (OAS), accusing the US-based grouping of meddling in its internal affairs. The government made the announcement after the OAS voted to hold a meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the spiralling crisis in Venezuela. Neighbours have expressed concern at mounting unrest in the country. (BBC)

Isis faces exodus of foreign fighters as its 'caliphate' crumbles

Large numbers of foreign fighters and sympathisers are abandoning Islamic State and trying to enter Turkey, with at least two British nationals and a US citizen joining an exodus that is depleting the ranks of the terror group. Stefan Aristidou, from Enfield in north London, his British wife and Kary Paul Kleman, from Florida, last week surrendered to Turkish border police after more than two years in areas controlled by Isis, sources have confirmed to the Guardian. (Guardian)

Pictured: Moment 'ISIS inspired' student, 20, 'left ball-bearing bomb in a rucksack propped against a seat on a London Tube train before casually walking away to attend a lecture'

Chilling footage shows the moment that an 'ISIS inspired' student from Devon allegedly left a ball bearing bomb on a Tube train in London. Damon Smith, 20, allegedly packed a rucksack with explosives and ball-bearing shrapnel attached to a £2 Tesco clock timed to go off on the Jubilee Line. Smith allegedly left the bomb on a carriage before changing his clothes and going to a university lecture, on October 20 last year, the Old Bailey heard. (Daily Mail)

 

EDITORIAL AND OPINION PIECES

Candice Malcolm: Obama’s nuke deal with Iran was a fraud

The Islamic Republic of Iran is reportedly building a nuclear weapon — capable of killing hundreds of thousands of people — and we have only ourselves to blame for trusting and appeasing the fascists in Tehran. For decades, we’ve known that Iran’s ruling mullahs are determined to enslave their own population and destroy Western powers. This week, we have two new pieces of evidence of why we shouldn’t trust the Islamic Republic of Iran or its sympathizers in the West. (Toronto Sun)

Stephanie Levitz: Could Canada’s border crossers prompt a political shift on immigration?

“Help keep our borders safe,” read a recent fundraising pitch from the federal Conservative party — a plea the official Opposition is linking directly to the increased flow of asylum seekers crossing illegally into Canada. Since January, nearly 1,900 people have been intercepted by the RCMP crossing into Canada. Asylum numbers in general are on the rise, projected to be at historic levels by year’s end. The Conservatives lost the last federal election in part because of a perception they were too tough on the world’s most vulnerable; the Liberals won it with a pledge to open Canada’s doors. (Toronto Star)

John Ibbitson: After O'Leary's withdrawal, Conservatives have some thinking to do

Wednesday’s final Conservative leadership debate unfolded in the wake of entrepreneur Kevin O’Leary’s shocking decision to withdraw from the race and endorse Maxime Bernier. The Quebec MP is now heavily favoured to become the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, unless the other candidates unite to stop him. But instead they used the debate to once again promote their own agendas, while trying to diminish the new, clear front-runner. (Globe and Mail)

Andrew Coyne: How should Canada respond to Trump? By doing things we ought to be doing anyway

The extraordinary thing about Donald Trump’s presidency is this: as low as expectations of him were going in — as ignorant, unstable, and corrupt as he seemed likely to be, in advance — he has still managed to come in under them. It is impossible, indeed, to imagine how his first 100 days could have been worse, short of — well, I was going to say short of starting a war, but stay tuned. (National Post)

Robyn Urback: Bye, Kevin O'Leary! Good luck with your next wearable Bluetooth-umbrella venture

Kevin O'Leary might have found the most illogical, expensive way possible to hawk his line of mid-range wines. That is the only reasonable explanation for his three-month fling with the Canadian political process, which he has now abandoned to return to his normal life in the United States. (CBC)

John Ivison: Kevin O’Leary is out? Mr. Wonderful was barely in

Kevin O’Leary was just visiting after all. The man who plays a successful businessman on television once said that to create wealth, he needed to pair up with people whose strengths compensated for his weaknesses. The same principle apparently applies to electoral success. (National Post)

 

REPORTS, COMMITTEE HEARINGS, LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

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