True North Initiative: News Scan 05 05 17

TOP STORIES

Asylum seekers arrive at reception centre in Gretna, Man.

Four asylum seekers are sleeping at a peaceful old seniors' residence in Gretna, Man., for the next few days, after the reception centre quietly opened on Thursday evening. The men were processed and screened at the border earlier in the day. Two of them declined to be interviewed as they stepped out of the building into the evening sunshine, but had big smiles on their faces as they took in the street lined with character homes and tall trees. (CBC)

Canadian passport will have new marker for transgender travellers, justice minister says

Transgender travellers will soon have another option to tick off on their passport other than "male" or "female." Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the government is working to update its gender identity policies right across federal departments, and they will include a revamped travel document. (CBC)

Refugee board creates guidelines for deciding LGBTQ claims

A Nicaraguan man was refused asylum in Canada because he had not pursued gay relationships. A gay man from St. Kitts was denied because a refugee judge said cops in his home country could’ve protected him. A Ugandan lesbian refugee was denied because her story was ruled not credible. Asylum claims based on sexual orientation are hard to verify and validate, as LGBTQ claimants are an invisible minority with no membership or specific physical appearance to prove their identity, presenting a huge challenge for decision-makers at the Immigration and Refugee Board. (Toronto Star)

Refugees Fleeing U.S. for Canada over Open Border, Report Says

In a report by NBC News, foreign refugees are passing through the U.S. to Canada, specifically a small border town of less than 700 people known as Emerson. The vast majority of the refugees are of Somali descent who were originally placed in the U.S. Other refugees passing through the northern border are from Nigeria, Eritrea, and Djibouti. According to NBC, since January, more than 300 foreign refugees have crossed the U.S. border into Emerson. (Breitbart)

Russia, Turkey, Iran sign deal to set up Syria safe zones

Russia, Iran and Turkey on Thursday signed an agreement on setting up four safe zones in Syria that the United Nations described as a promising step to wind down the brutal six-year war. The United States however gave an extremely cautious welcome, citing concerns over Iran's role as a guarantor, even as it expressed hope that the deal could set the stage for a settlement. Several members of the rebel delegation left the room shouting in protest as the signing ceremony got underway in the Kazakh capital Astana, angry at regime ally Iran, an AFP reporter saw. (Yahoo)

ISIS to Jihadists: Use Fake Apartment, Job, Craigslist Ads to Lure Hostage, Murder Victims

The Islamic State magazine that has published tutorials on vehicle, knife and arson attacks as a tool of lone jihad is now encouraging terrorists to acquire guns at shows and shops and take hostages not for ransom but "to create as much carnage and terror as one possibly can." The latest issue of Rumiyah magazine, distributed online in 10 languages including English, offers another installment of the "Just Terror Tactics" series, praising lone jihadists including U.S. terrorists who have "set heroic examples with their operations." (PJ Media)

Eight Latin American Nations Denounce Venezuelan Violence Against Civilians

Eight Latin American nations denounced Venezuelan authorities’ “excessive use of force” against civilian protesters, Mexico’s foreign ministry said on Thursday after the death toll from anti-government unrest in Venezuela rose to 36. The eight nations – Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Paraguay – condemned the increase in violence in the oil-producing nation and urged the Venezuelan government to respect the human rights of its citizens. (The Wire)

 

OTHER STORIES (Domestic and International) 

Canada's Change To Immigration Rule Aims To Get More Kids To University

The Canadian government has raised the age of children who can be included on their family's application to immigrate to Canada. Right now, children 19 years old and younger can apply along with their parents. On Tuesday, the government raised the age limit to 22, a change that will come into effect on Oct. 24. "Raising the age of dependents lets more families stay together. This will bring economic and social gains to our country as it enhances our attractiveness as a destination of choice for immigrants and refugees," said Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen in a release. (Huffington Post)

Police left to 'play catch-up' after mob murders, retired investigator fears

An RCMP-led joint forces unit that once proactively investigated organized crime in Hamilton and Niagara was disbanded several years ago.  And a retired Hamilton police investigator who specialized in organized crime said that means homicide detectives are left to "play catch-up" after events like Tuesday's murder of Angelo Musitano, without such a proactive, collaborative, multi-agency effort targeting organized crime. (CBC)

Canadian in custody in Belize as police investigate woman's death

Police in Belize say a Canadian man remains in custody as a "person on interest" in connection with the deaths of a Toronto woman and her American boyfriend this week. Police in the Central American country have said 52-year-old Francesca Matus and her American boyfriend, Drew DeVoursney, died of strangulation. Their bodies were found Monday in a sugar cane field in Belize's Corozal district - six days after they were last seen leaving a bar around 11 p.m. (CTV)

It's crunch time as Conservatives vote now for new leader

Conservatives gather in three weeks to announce the party's new leader at a convention in Toronto that will feature two days of speeches and a tension-building reveal on the Saturday night. But the pressure-packed politicking and the frantic scrounging for support that have been the hallmarks of Conservative conventions in the past are happening right now across the country. (CBC)

Ottawa to pull research chair funding unless diversity issue addressed at universities

The federal granting councils that award the prestigious Canada Research Chairs say universities must offer up more diverse candidates for the honour or they will lose their funds. Directors of the program, which sends out $265-million every year across 1,600 researchers, say new measures unveiled on Thursday would help to address the chronic underrepresentation of women, Indigenous people, those with disabilities and visible minorities among the award’s ranks. For example, only 28 per cent of chairholders at large universities are women, and they are more likely to be in the bottom of the program’s two funding tiers. (Globe and Mail)

McNeil forced to defend top campaign official with domestic assault conviction

Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil is defending a top campaign official who struck a woman in the face three years ago when he was the premier's spokesperson. The story was given juice by federal Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose, who said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that Kyley Harris's appointment as Liberal campaign communications director "sends a terrible" message. (CBC)

Conrad Black defends Donald Trump at parliamentary committee

Conrad Black, urbane business baron and one-time U.S. prison inmate, says the billionaire in the White House is not a “monster,” and that his recent blustering on trade with Canada might be nothing more than “atmospherics” to set the stage for upcoming negotiations. The former publisher and author made the comments Thursday when he appeared by video from Toronto at a parliamentary committee discussing Canada’s foreign policy with the United States. (Toronto Star)

Political activity audits of charities suspended by Liberals

The Liberal government is suspending the few remaining political activity audits of charities after an expert panel report recommended removing a political gag order imposed on them by the Conservatives five years ago. (CBC)

Super Hornets likely cheaper than F-35s, finance officials told minister

Federal officials tried to cut through the fog of war last year when they told Finance Minister Bill Morneau that it would probably be cheaper to replace Canada's aging Air Force fleet with Super Hornet fighter jets rather than F-35s. (Canadian Press)

Trump to Visit Israel, Saudi Arabia and Vatican in First Foreign Trip

President Donald Trump's first foreign trip since entering office will take him to Israel, the Vatican and Saudi Arabia later this month, a senior White House official confirmed to NBC News. Trump will end his trip in Brussels with a visit to NATO on May 25, followed by a meeting at the G7 summit in Sicily. (NBC)

Australia: Budget expected to expand sponsorship program for refugees – at cost of $40,000 each

Refugees will be able to come into Australia for a fee of almost $40,000 under a private sponsorship program for community organisations, individuals and businesses expected to be expanded in next week’s budget. The Turnbull government is planning to double the places in the Community Proposal Pilot to 1,000, with a fee of $19,000 and a “welfare bond” of $20,000. But the places will be taken out of the government quota rather than being added to the total refugee spots, effectively subsidising government settlement costs, SBS reports. (Guardian)

Softening his approach, Trump helps seal a healthcare deal

U.S. President Donald Trump, on his third try at overhauling Obamacare, sent no tweets attacking fellow Republicans, set no deadlines and issued no public ultimatums. Lawmakers who met with him said he spoke with them, not at them. Some lawmakers and aides in the U.S. House of Representatives were hesitant to credit Trump or his softer approach with Thursday's 217-213 vote rolling back President Barack Obama's signature 2010 healthcare overhaul. (Reuters)

North Korea claims CIA plot to kill Kim Jong-un

US and South Korean agents are plotting to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, state media report. A statement by the ministry of state security said a terrorist group backed by the CIA and South Korea's intelligence agency had entered the country to attack with a bio-chemical substance. (BBC)

Obamacare v Republican plan compared

Republican politicians have campaigned on repealing President Barack Obama's healthcare reforms pretty much since they were enacted in 2010. Now, with a governing majority, they've had to come up with a replacement plan - a task that has proved much more challenging than they may have imagined. (BBC)

French election: Macron and Le Pen wrap up tense campaign

The two candidates hoping to be France's next president are making a final push for votes on the last day of campaigning before Sunday's election. Centrist Emmanuel Macron - who has a substantial lead in opinion polls - is visiting the southern city of Rodez. His far-right rival, Marine Le Pen, met representatives of a police trade union in the morning. (BBC)

VENEZUELA PROTESTS RAGE AS WIFE OF JAILED OPPOSITION LEADER LOPEZ DEMANDS TO SEE HIM

Supporters of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez held a vigil outside his prison demanding to see him on Thursday after rumors about his health rattled the protest-hit country where the death toll from anti-government unrest rose to 36. Lopez's wife and mother rushed to a military hospital in Caracas and then the hilltop Ramo Verde jail overnight, after a journalist tweeted Lopez had been taken to a medical center without vital signs. (News Week)

 

EDITORIAL AND OPINION PIECES 

Geoffrey Johnston: Copts have security concerns

Last month, just a week before Easter, two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt were targeted by Islamic State suicide bombers, killing scores of churchgoers and injuring another 120 innocents. Tragically, the co-ordinated Palm Sunday strikes did not mark the first time that Copts have come under attack by Islamists. In February 2015, 21 Coptic Christian migrant workers in Libya were abducted by the Islamic State and beheaded in a gruesome propaganda video. (Whig)

Paul Wells: Why military funding in Canada is in such a lousy state

That state of affairs is lousy—”in some ways, worse than realized by most observers”—and Sajjan is careful to refer to governments in plural, and to timelines going back before 2006, as he diagnoses the problem. “Canada’s naval capabilities are at a 40-year low.” “In over 25 years as a Reservist, I saw firsthand the ways that Canada’s government [singular, sic] have [plural, sic] failed to properly equip our Reserve force.” (Macleans)

Laurin Liu: Ottawa can't fix human rights violations against detainees with a survey

Canada has, unequivocally, violated international law on immigration detention. The UN Human Rights Committee has pointed out practices contrary to Canada's human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in its last report and advocacy groups have pointed this out in other instances. In the past few years, several significant human rights abuses relating to immigration detention have come to light. (National Observer)

Lorrie Goldstein: Carbon schemes doomed to fail: Report

Canada’s carbon pricing schemes are doomed to fail because their primary purpose isn’t to lower greenhouse gas emissions, but to increase government revenues and control of the economy, the Fraser Institute says in a report released Thursday. (Toronto Sun)

John Ivison: Late in the CPC leadership race, Chong remains a stranger among his own people

Michael Chong is remarkably clear-eyed about his chances of winning the Conservative leadership. “We don’t have a broad path, but we do have a path to victory,” he said this week. Even that is a more optimistic take than many of those handicapping the race would give him. One manager of another campaign said at this stage it would take a “blockbuster” deal between Chong, Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole to stop Maxime Bernier from winning the leadership. (National Post)

Christie Blatchford: Why did the Crown waste resources prosecuting woman who gave water to pigs?

These days, you can hardly pick up a paper or click on a news site without reading another story about the woes of the Canadian criminal courts. They’re chronically short of judges! There aren’t enough Crown prosecutors! Legal aid is a mess and no one qualifies to get a lawyer any more! The buildings are old and crumbling! And delay: Such a hue and cry about delay in the courts. (National Post)

 

REPORTS, COMMITTEE HEARINGS, LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

-       Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs met yesterday to study United States and Canadian Foreign Policy (Public)

-       Standing Committee on National Defence met yesterday to continue study on Canada and the Defence of North America (In Camera)