True North Initiative: News Scan 05 09 17

TOP STORIES

Canadian officials make 1st visit to Tehran since embassy closed in 2012

Canadian government officials will be on the ground in Tehran this week for the first time since the Harper government closed the Canadian Embassy there nearly five years ago. The visit by Global Affairs officials comes just days ahead of a crucial presidential election in Iran, a country Canadian diplomats abandoned in 2012 partly due to security concerns. A government source confirmed to CBC News the officials are in Tehran advocating for Canadians entangled in Iran's legal system, as well as for the improvement of Iran's overall human rights record. (CBC)

White House advisors called Ottawa to urge Trudeau to help talk Trump down from scrapping NAFTA

White House staff called the Prime Minister’s Office last month to urge Justin Trudeau to persuade President Donald Trump not to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, according to multiple Canadian government sources. The unconventional diplomatic manoeuvre — approaching the head of a foreign government to influence your own boss — proved decisive, as Trump thereafter abandoned his threat to pull out of NAFTA unilaterally, citing the arguments made by Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto as pivotal. (National Post)

Why Turkish diplomats are pressuring Canada’s Somali diaspora

Early last August, a group of Somali community leaders was invited to the Turkish consulate in Toronto to meet with some Turkish parliamentarians. The meeting was one leg of a Canadian tour for the visiting politicians, which also included trips to Ottawa and Montreal, and the theme of the tour was the July 15 attempted military coup in Turkey. The Turks, armed with a narrative worthy of a John Le Carre novel, laid out the details of how a secretive cult, with tentacles stretching around the world, had, over decades, infiltrated the power centres of the Turkish state, culminating in the violent attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government. (Macleans)

Ukraine seeking Canada's help to set up high-level corruption court

Ukraine is looking for Canada's backing as the embattled eastern European country establishes a special court to deal with anti-corruption cases. Legislation to set up the separate judicial framework is still making its way through the Ukrainian parliament, but the country's deputy Speaker Oksana Syroyid said her government needs other nations to help select independent-minded judges. (CBC)

Real tragedy of Operation Medusa is that Taliban may soon win back ground hard won by Canadian troops

The 2006 operation code named Medusa, and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan's role in it, has transfixed Canada's politicians for the past three weeks, yet no one is talking about how the hard-won gains of the operation stand in danger of being wiped out. Twelve Canadian soldiers lost their lives to drive the Taliban from the Zhari and Panjwaii districts adjacent to Kandahar city. At the time it was the most significant land battle ever undertaken by NATO. (CBC)

Federal government spending tens of thousands at elite private club

Federal Crown corporations and government departments are spending tens of thousands of dollars each year at Ottawa's elite Rideau Club. According to documents tabled in the House of Commons, Crown corporations with business mandates topped the list of big spenders.  Once the place to see and be seen by top Ottawa business leaders and government mandarins, the Rideau Club's popularity declined during Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government as spending by public servants came under more scrutiny. (CBC) (IPolitics)

Canadian attitudes to immigration stay positive

Canadian opinions about immigration are just as positive, if not even more so than they were in October 2016, according new public opinion survey. The Environics Institute decided to get the facts following a hardening of attitudes towards immigrants in the U.S. and the view of some commentators that the same was happening in Canada. This turned out to not be true. (Radio Canada)

U.S. mulls widening electronics carry-on ban to European airports

The U.S. is considering expanding a ban on most carry-on electronic devices larger than a cellphone on U.S.-bound flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa to "likely" include flights departing for the U.S. from Europe and possibly the United Kingdom, sources tell CBS News. (CBS)

 

OTHER STORIES (Domestic and International) 

Supreme Court appeal asks whether refugees are 'equal to all other immigrants'

When do refugees already granted asylum in Canada cease to require our protection? Can they then be booted out of the country even after they have become permanent residents? These questions are at the core of a Supreme Court of Canada appeal of legislative changes made by the former Conservative government in 2012 that allow officials to reopen asylum files under what’s known as a “cessation application” and remove those refugees whose circumstances have changed. Nisreen Ahamed Mohamed Nilam, 36, came to Canada from Sri Lanka for asylum in 2008 and was granted refugee status a year later. He applied and became a permanent resident in January 2011. (Toronto Star)

No Fixed Address: More immigrants 'fleeing to the suburbs' as Toronto housing prices keep rising

After Bassam Mansoob moved to Canada from Australia a year ago, he started hunting for a house in the GTA. The high prices of both housing and insurance in Toronto were a "cultural shock," says the 32-year-old software engineer, who works downtown in Liberty Village. So, despite the lengthy commute, Mansoob and his family — including his wife and five-month-old daughter — wound up settling in Stoney Creek, a suburban community in Hamilton. (CBC)

Federal government reviewing policy that bars passport offices from helping disabled applicants

The federal government says it’s reviewing a policy that forbids staff in Canada’s passport offices from helping disabled applicants fill out their forms. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says it’s looking into revising the policy, which bars staff from filling out applications on someone else’s behalf for fear of potential forgery cases. The policy applies nationwide, and IRCC currently says Canadians requiring help with their documents should have a friend or family member complete the paperwork. (Global)

One of China’s most wanted operating Chilliwack mushroom farm

Hundreds of yellow dandelion heads fill the large, grassy front lawn of a nondescript house on Fairfield Island. Beyond the long gravel driveway, through a metal gate, are barns made of plywood and tin. An otherwise ordinary Chilliwack agriculture property, yet it is the man who runs the mushroom farm on the 2.5 acres and who possibly lives at the house that is of particular interest to authorities. (Abbotsford News)

Winnipeg course offers refugees a chance for a career in construction

The four-month course, developed through the support of various government agencies, the Winnipeg Construction Association and local construction firms, prepares the 21 students for work in masonry, flattop roofing and the wall and ceiling sector. The idea is to help refugees — many of whom are at risk of remaining on government financial assistance otherwise — launch their lives in Canada, says Kerri Caldwell, director of the college's language training centre. (Journal of Commerce)

Nenshi challenges choice of Toronto as home to federal infrastructure bank

Mayor Naheed Nenshi is questioning a federal review that led the Trudeau government to choose Toronto over Calgary as home to its new infrastructure bank.  Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi announced the location Monday as he launched a search for a chairperson, board members and chief executive of the bank, which is expected to be up and running by the end of the year. (Calgary Herald)

Military tribunal ‘disconcerted in the extreme’ at slow appointments process under Liberals

An arm’s-length military committee says it’s being prevented from doing its job because of vacancies that have remained unfilled under the Liberal government. It isn’t the only body waiting for, well, bodies. The government’s behind-the-scenes government-in-council appointment process appears to have lagged. Federal judicial appointments have also been scrutinized heavily as court delays persist across Canada and dozens of vacancies remain. (National Post)

Liberals’ new rescue aircraft could take two days to reach North Pole in disaster operation: documents

Canada’s new search and rescue aircraft could take up to two days to reach survivors of a disaster at the North Pole but the Canadian military doesn’t have a problem with that, according to recently filed court documents. A legal battle is now underway in the Federal Court in Ottawa over the Liberal government’s $4.7-billion fixed-wing search-and-rescue aircraft program. (Ottawa Citizen)

The Latest: Lawsuits begin over Texas 'sanctuary city' law

AUSTIN, Texas — The Latest on Texas' tough new "sanctuary cities" law (Associated Press)

‘Free Iran’: Pro-Trump Iranians, Canadians Rally in Front of White House

On Sunday, dozens of Iranian expats, Americans, American-Iranians, Canadians, and Canadian-Iranians gathered in front of the White House at Lafayette Square Park to vocalize their support for President Donald Trump and urge him to be the leader to help usher in a free Iran. (Breitbart)

North Korea claims plot reveals US state-sponsored terrorism

After arresting two American university instructors and laying out what it says was an elaborate, CIA-backed plot to assassinate Kim Jong Un, North Korea is claiming to be the victim of state-sponsored terrorism – from the White House. (Lethbridge Herald)

Canadian journalist asked to leave 'Kushner family event' in China

After seeing advertisements for what was described as a "Kushner event featuring Jared's sister," a Canadian reporter decided to attend. Then she was asked to leave. At the event, Emily Rauhala, a Beijing-based correspondent for the Washington Post, was seated apart from her colleague, who faced similar resistance from the hosts. (CNN)

Taliban fight: US may send 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan

The US military and state department are recommending sending at least 3,000 more US troops to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, US media report. Military leaders would also regain the authority to target Taliban leaders with air strikes under the proposals. President Donald Trump has not approved the plan, unnamed officials say. It may include a request that other Nato countries send 3,000-5,000 soldiers. (BBC)

Gas masks, wooden shields, gardening gloves: How Venezuela’s protesters are protecting themselves

After six hard-fought weeks in the streets, the standoff between anti-government protesters and security forces is growing scarier and more lethal. To protect themselves, demonstrators here in the capital and in other cities have started outfitting themselves in homemade armor and other improvised combat gear. (Washington Post)

Venezuela: Opposition Claims Discontent Among Soldiers as Leopoldo López Calls for Desertions

The socialist government of Venezuela has denied claims by opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski that police have arrested 85 soldiers for refusing to follow orders from dictator Nicolás Maduro. The claim precedes a call to arms from Leopoldo López, the nation’s most prominent political dissident, who has called for soldiers to cease attacks on unarmed protesters. (Breitbart)

 

EDITORIAL AND OPINION PIECES

Mac Margolis: After years of slow decline, Venezuela now stands on the brink of actual revolution and collapse

An economy in shambles, lethal street crime, dungeons packed with political prisoners, and South America’s worst refugee crisis — it’s hard to find a misery that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government hasn’t visited on his compatriots in his four years in office. But by calling for a new constitution (Venezuela has had 26) as he did this week, Latin America’s ranking strongman may well have trumped his own dismal record. (National Post)

Mark Bonokoski: Harjit Sajjan up for more embarrassment

If Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan were still on the battlefields of Afghanistan, he’d be radioing for air cover as he continues to hunker down against a relentless assault trying to take him out. But he is not there, and when he was first being hammered in the Commons by opposition forces last week for intentionally exaggerating his architect’s role in Operation Medusa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was all but absent, basically sitting back in mid-political firefight and providing little cover for Sajjan. (Toronto Sun)

Sam Westrop: Calling for The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah to pull out of Toronto event supporting Islamist intolerance

Our organization is calling on Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, to withdraw from a troubling fundraiser to benefit “Islamic Relief” scheduled for Toronto on May 20th. Here’s why: Muslims in North America are being forced to live under the thumb of extremists. Some of western Islam’s most prominent clerics might publicly praise and practice interfaith dialogue, but we have seen how, behind closed doors, many of them promote hatred and incite violence. To the dismay of moderates, these extremists have gained control over much of the Muslim community, partly because they have been legitimized as representative voices by government, the media and prominent public figures who fail to note the Islamists’ bigoted rhetoric once the microphones are switched off. (National Post)

Paul Wells: Why the Conservative Party should remain optimistic

In the last week of April, 13 people took turns on a stage in the Bluma Appel Theatre, in Toronto’s St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, to talk about the future of the country. The participants were candidates to lead the Conservative Party of Canada. This would be the last time they would meet for a debate organized by the party before members would begin voting by mail-in ballot to pick a new leader, whose name will be announced on May 27. (Macleans)

CBC: Refugees once again have full health benefits, but some practitioners still don't know that

It's been over a year since Canada's government reversed cuts to the health care program for refugees and asylum-seekers. The move reinstated basic health care and supplemental services — such as dental and vision services — for newcomers who aren't yet eligible for provincial health coverage. Liberals patted themselves on the back for the move, while refugees and their advocates celebrated the reinstatement. Great stuff, right? (CBC)

John Geddes: What happened to Justin Trudeau’s all-star Cabinet?

A single episode, no matter how demoralizing, shouldn’t be inflated into the story of a whole government. Still, the pummelling Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan took in question period and beyond—after he had to apologize for untruthful boasting about his role in a military operation more than a decade ago in Afghanistan—highlighted a problem far broader than Sajjan’s troubles: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau badly needs a few Cabinet ministers to start looking like stars. (Macleans)

Daphne Bramham: How do secular societies strike a balance between religious and other rights?

Where religious freedom begins and ends is increasingly bedevilling secular, pluralistic societies, including ours. Despite constitutions and charters of rights, no single freedom is absolute. Rights frequently overlap, and then jostle for supremacy. Determining which is more deserving falls to judges, who weigh the harms of one against the harms of another. (Vancouver Sun)

 

REPORTS, COMMITTEE HEARINGS, LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

-       Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs meet today for committee business (8:45AM EST) (Public)

-       Standing Committee on National Defence meet today to continue study on Canada and the Defence of North America (3:30PM EST) (In Camera)

-       Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration met yesterday to meet with Immigration Consultants (3:30PM EST) (Public