True North Initiative: News Scan 05 03 17

TOP STORIES

Manitoba premier defends Gretna reception centre for asylum seekers

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says he understands the concerns some Gretna residents have about asylum seekers staying in their small border community, but the province must uphold its responsibility under international agreements to help those seeking refugee status. Some residents of Gretna, a community of 550 on the U.S. border about 100 kilometres south of Winnipeg, say they were shocked when Manitoba Housing announced it's setting up a reception centre for asylum seekers inside a former seniors' home that is currently vacant. (CBC)

Stéphane Dion weighs in on French election, subtly pans Marine Le Pen

Former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion — the prime minister’s hand-picked special envoy to Europe — has weighed in on France’s fractious election, saying Canada wants the new French leader to keep the country active in the European Union. Asked about the prospects of French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen winning Sunday’s run-off election against the pro-Europe candidate Emmanuel Macron, Dion said Canada prefers the latter. “We prefer to see at the head of a key country like France in Europe a president who is believing like us, that European integration is an asset for the world,” Dion told reporters today. (Toronto Star)

Tom Mulcair wants ethics commissioner to reopen Harjit Sajjan ruling on detainees

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has written to ethics watchdog Mary Dawson asking her to review her earlier decision clearing Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan of violating the Conflict of Interest Act when he refused to hold an inquiry into the treatment of Afghan detainees. (CBC)

'Their sexuality is not put on trial': New guidelines promote informed evaluation of LGBTQ refugee claims

New guidelines from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada will prevent decision makers from putting refugee claimants' sexuality on trial, a Winnipeg immigration lawyer says. On Monday, the IRB released its first-ever guidelines for adjudicators evaluating refugee claims involving individuals with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity. (CBC)

National security committee recommends watering down laws on terrorism peace bonds, propaganda

The committee of MPs reviewing Canada’s national security policies called on the government Tuesday to loosen anti-terrorism laws concerning propaganda and advocacy of violence. The report by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security recommended narrowing the definitions of terrorism propaganda and what constitutes promoting terrorism. (National Post)

MP committee starts the ball rolling on fixing ‘problematic’ bill C-51

A House of Commons committee is calling for repeal of a provision that allows Canada’s spy agency to violate constitutional rights in the name of disrupting threats. In a report today, the Liberal-dominated public safety committee also recommends requiring a judge’s approval for any Canadian Security Intelligence Service disruption operations that break Canadian law. (Global) (Globe and Mail) (Huffington Post)

Spies' use of cellphone surveillance technology suspended in January, pending review

​Canada's spy agency suspended its use of a controversial cellphone surveillance technology in January and placed the investigative technique under review, CBC News has learned. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) confirmed it has used the cellphone identification and tracking technology in recent years, both with and without a warrant. (CBC)

Sajjan to lower expectations for future military purchases

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, under pressure to deliver a new purchasing plan for big-ticket military goods, is preparing to lower expectations for the amount of cash available by blaming the former Conservative government for leaving the Canadian Armed Forces with a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall. (Globe and Mail)

 

OTHER STORIES (Domestic and International) 

Important interview booked for West-Island-sponsored Syrian family

The wait has been so long, even the smallest bit of good news raises the spirits. The West-Island based Summerlea Refugee Support Coalition has been waiting to receive its sponsored Syrian refugee family since October 2015. Last week, the group learned that the family has been booked for an all-important interview at the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 10. (Montreal Gazette)

Canadian branch of far-right group fragments amid infighting

A far-right group that expanded quickly across Canada, to the alarm of anti-racism activists, is now fragmenting amid infighting. The group, Soldiers of Odin, was founded in 2015 by a Finnish white supremacist concerned about the influx of Muslim refugees in that Nordic country. Its Canadian affiliate, Soldiers of Odin Canada, now appears to be divided over whether to follow the group's hardline European leaders. (CBC)

Canadian Muslim preacher banned from entering Denmark for two years

A Canadian Muslim preacher is among six foreign clerics who are banned from entering Denmark for two years due to their “anti-democratic” views. Denmark’s Integration Minister Inger Stoejberg says the government “won’t accept that hate preachers ... preach hatred against Danish society.” According to the list – published on Tuesday – Canadian cleric Bilal Philips was in Denmark in 2011. It is unclear whether the others have been in the Scandinavian country. Stoejberg said that five of the men “indoctrinate” others to “commit violence against women and children (and) spread ideas about a caliphate.” The sixth is Christian American preacher Terry Dale Jones. (Globe and Mail)

Senate ethics committee recommends Don Meredith be expelled

The Senate's ethics committee is recommending Senator Don Meredith be expelled from the Red Chamber and his seat be declared vacant. The five-member committee, composed of former judges and some of the country's top lawyers, has been reviewing an explosive report by Senate ethics watchdog Lyse Ricard for weeks. The report documents the Toronto-area senator's nearly two-year sexual relationship with a teenage girl known as "Ms. M." (CBC)

Liberals abruptly shut down House Affairs Committee filibuster after more than 80 hours of stalling tactics, Conservative MP Reid yells ‘that’s bullshit!’

The Liberals shut down the more than 80-hour filibuster at the Procedure and House Affairs Committee on Tuesday morning which was launched a few weeks ago in reaction to the government’s attempts to speed up a study on proposed changes to the House rules and opposition MPs reacted angrily to the move. (Hill Times)

Refugees Are Fleeing Trump’s America for This Tiny Canadian Town

The mayor, one of three patrons in this small town bar on a Monday night, lights his cigarette. He knows it's illegal to smoke in here. "I don't give a s--t," says the honorable Greg Janzen. The town is Emerson, Manitoba. The bar is a literal two minute walk to the United States border. For the past few months, it has become a hotbed for people illegally crossing the border into Canada. And Janzen is angry. (NBC)

ISIS defendant to remain in jail after watching terrorism show

A young man convicted of trying to join the Islamic State group will remain in custody until a judge decides whether he violated probation by watching a documentary on terrorism. Abdullahi Yusuf is one of nine men from Minnesota who were convicted and sentenced last year for trying to join the militant group in Syria. (News 1130)

5 detained, weapons seized in French anti-terrorism raids

Five men were detained and weapons seized in anti-terrorist operations across France on Tuesday as the country prepares for a tense presidential runoff, the Paris prosecutor’s office said. The suspects are between 18 and 24 years old. The prosecutor’s office said they were picked up in three locations: near the Normandy city of Rouen, in Villeneuve d’Ascq near Lille in northern France, and in Roanne in central France. The Paris prosecutor oversees anti-terrorism investigations. (570 News)

FBI woman went to Syria to wed IS recruiter she investigated

The FBI has confirmed one of its translators travelled to Syria and secretly wed an Islamic State recruiter whom she had been investigating. The FBI "took several steps in a variety of areas to identify and reduce security vulnerabilities" after the incident, the agency told BBC News. Daniela Greene lied to her employers about her 2014 trip, reports CNN, which broke the story. (BBC)

North Korea Speeds Up Missile Tests to Send Message to Trump

North Korea is "throwing" missiles up — some still experimental — to show the Trump administration the country is a "serious" international player, multiple U.S. officials told NBC News. Two officials said it doesn't seem to matter to the Kim Jong Un regime whether the tests succeed or fail, and most have failed. (NBC)

Hillary Clinton Thinks Misogyny Caused Her Loss

Amid laughter, Hillary Clinton said she thinks that misogyny was a cause behind her election loss. She's probably alluding to her loss to President Trump, but one must wonder if she also blames misogyny for her primary loss to Barack Obama. All the male dominance! (PJ Media)

Kabul bomb attack targeting Nato convoy kills eight

A suicide attack on a convoy belonging to the Nato mission in Afghanistan has killed at least eight people in Kabul, officials say. The victims were all civilians, a government spokesman said. About 25 other people were injured, including three US service members. The attack on the group of military vehicles happened next to the US embassy during the morning rush hour. (BBC)

Venezuelan opposition blocks streets to protest Maduro power shakeup

Venezuela's opposition blocked streets in Caracas on Tuesday to denounce a decision by leftist President Nicolas Maduro to create a "constituent assembly," a move critics said was a veiled attempt to cling to power by avoiding elections. (Reuters)

The Revolution in Venezuela Won’t be Televised, Except on the Internet

Venezuela’s government is broadcasting an alternate reality to its citizens’ mobile phones. Television is mostly silent about deadly protests as President Nicolas Maduro pushes for a new constitution. Instead, people are turning to visual forms of social media barely available to Venezuelans three years ago—Instagram and Snapchat stories, live videos on Facebook and Twitter, and WhatsApp chat rooms—to transmit and consume information. (Bloomberg)

US has deep concerns about Venezuela

The United States is criticising Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's intent to create a new super-body known as a "constituent assembly", saying it is an attempt to cling to power. "We have deep concerns about the motivation for this constituent assembly which overrides the will of the Venezuelan people and further erodes Venezuelan democracy," said Michael Fitzpatrick, the deputy assistant secretary of state for the Western hemisphere, in a phone call with reporters on Tuesday. (Yahoo)

  

EDITORIAL AND OPINION PIECES 

Anthony Furey: Harjit Sajjan was supposed to be one of the good ones

A sigh of relief. That was the collective feeling among political watchers of all stripes back in November of 2015 when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his first cabinet. And the appointment of Harjit Sajjan as defence minister played a big role in that. (Toronto Sun)

Tarek Fatah: Why don’t anti-fascists fight Islamofascism?

Seventy-two years ago this Friday, on May 5, 1945, Hitler’s fascist dream of a “Thousand Year Reich” lay in ruins, as Berlin fell to the Red Army, only to find the ashes of the “Fuhrer” who had shot himself five days earlier. (Toronto Sun)

Stewart Beck: The Trump effect is changing Canadian views on China

Thank you President Donald Trump. Your hard talk and the consequent uncertainty in our trading relationships is motivating Canadians to reconsider how we view Asia, particularly China. We thought it was important to poll Canadians about their views on China and a China free-trade agreement (FTA) after the U.S. inauguration to see if there were any changes in attitudes towards China. The poll was conducted in the last two weeks in March, so the results discussed below do not capture Canadian sentiments after the recent Trump decision on softwood lumber, nor his comments on our supply-management regime for dairy. (Globe and Mail)

Christie Blatchford: Disgraced Senator Don Meredith should be expelled, and swiftly

In the modern world, an allegation of sexual harassment has morphed into a broad charge, in that it is sometimes levelled in what surely appears to cynical old eyes to have been ill-advised but consensual relationships among relative equals. This was not the case with the “Hon. Rev. Dr. Don Meredith-Senator Ontario,” as he once modestly signed a reference letter, and the young woman known only as Ms. M. (National Post)

Edward Gabriel: Lebanon is the first line of defense for America's interests in the Middle East

Lebanon is a country of 4.5 million people hosting 1.5 million Syrian refugees—the equivalent, percentage-wise, of all of Canada and half of Mexico flowing into the U.S. in about four years. In meetings I had last week in Beirut, the country’s Minister of Refugees told me that Lebanon is the “sandbag” against a rising flood that keeps this problem from overflowing to Europe and the West. And after speaking with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and other top government officials, I fear that Lebanon may not be able to cope much longer. (The Hill)

 

REPORTS, COMMITTEE HEARINGS, LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

-       Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs met yesterday for the Order in Council Appointments of Stephane Dion and John McCallum (8:45am) (Public)

-       Standing Committee on National Defence meet today for Main Estimates 2017-2018 (3:30pm) (In Camera)

-       Standing Committee on Citizenship meet later today to begin study on the 2011 LGBTQ Refugee Pilot Project (3:30pm EST) (Public