True North Initiative: News Scan 05 18 17

TOP STORIES

Border crosser who lost fingers to remain in Canada

An asylum seeker from Ghana who made international headlines when he nearly froze to death walking over the border Dec. 24 has been granted refugee protection in Canada. Seidu Mohammed, 24, learned Wednesday night that the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) ruled he has "a well-founded fear of persecution" if he’s returned to Ghana. (Winnipeg Free Press)

Moving federal immigration processing centre in central Alberta will cost millions extra

The federal government will take on millions of dollars in higher renovation and leasing costs to move an immigration case processing centre from the central Alberta town of Vegreville to Edmonton, according to documents obtained by Global News. The documents directly contradict an assertion made in November by former Immigration Minister John McCallum that the relocation would save money. (Global)

U.S. Embassy official visits Manitoba towns dealing with influx of asylum seekers

The acting head of the U.S. Embassy toured some southern Manitoba towns that have been thrust into the spotlight as asylum seekers illegally cross into Canada near their communities. "She wanted to see first-hand what's emerging, what the issues are, how the small communities are coping," said Don Wiebe, reeve of the Municipality of Rhineland, which includes Gretna, where a refugee reception centre opened earlier this month. (CBC)

Auditor general's complaint leads to cabinet order for release of Finance documents

Michael Ferguson is entering his sixth year as Canada's auditor general and, not surprisingly, his reports during that time have found numerous examples of government waste, excess and neglect. But his most recent batch of audits released this week exposed a significant hurdle to ensuring government programs provide good value for taxpayers' money. (CBC)

Liberals to support Magnitsky-style bill targeting Russia for human rights abuse

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says the Liberal government will support a Senate bill that would establish Magnitsky-style sanctions against human-rights abusers in Russia and around the world, following in the footsteps of the U.S. and Britain. The announcement comes a month after the House of Commons foreign affairs committee urged the Liberal government to expand Canadian sanctions legislation to include human-rights abusers, freezing their assets and denying them visas. U.S.-born financier and anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder has led the international effort to sanction human-rights abusers worldwide, in memory of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was murdered in 2009. Mr. Browder has made many trips to Ottawa in recent years, pressing both the former Conservative and current Liberal government to implement a Magnitsky Act. (Globe and Mail)

Former PCO boss eyes border agency watchdog options for Trudeau Liberals

The Trudeau government has hired a former top public servant to study options for more robust oversight of Canada's border agency — the latest sign the agency could soon have new people looking over its shoulder. Former Privy Council clerk Mel Cappe expects to complete his report by the end of the month on whether enhanced review of the Canada Border Services Agency is needed and, if so, how that could best be accomplished. (Metro News)

Liberals to outline draft plan for national carbon tax Thursday

The federal government is set to release a discussion paper Thursday outlining how it plans to impose a national carbon tax that will include flexibility for provinces who are at least working towards implementing their own plans, CBC News has learned. Provinces that already have a carbon tax, such as British Columbia and Alberta, or plan to impose a carbon price through a cap and trade system, such as Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, will not be affected. (CBC)

 

OTHER STORIES (Domestic and International) 

Canadian Officials Preach Calm Amid Home Capital Worries

Canadian government officials delivered a vote of confidence in the country’s housing sector and banking system, telling lawmakers that Vancouver and Toronto’s real estate markets are supported by fundamentals that leave risks well-contained. Senior officials from Canada’s Finance Department testified Wednesday evening to the Senate finance committee, fielding questions about the stability of the housing market, risks posed by high household debt levels in Canada and the recent downgrade of banks by Moody’s Investors Service Inc. (Bloomberg)

Winning Design for Victims of Communism Memorial Unveiled

A Canadian memorial to those who suffered and died under the yoke of communism came a step closer to fruition with the unveiling of the winning design for the monument on May 17. The winner, titled Arc of Memory, was created by Toronto architect and artist Paul Raff and his team. The $3 million cost of the memorial, whose full name is the Memorial to the Victims of Communism – Canada, a Land of Refuge, will be shared between the federal government and Tribute to Liberty, the charity spearheading the project. (Epoch Times)

Chrystia Freeland: News Of Trump-Russia Bombshell A 'Really Sensitive Area'

Canadian politicians were well within earshot as political bombshells this week exploded all over Washington. Just as news broke that U.S. President Donald Trump had shared classified information with the Russian government, two federal cabinet ministers arrived for dinner at the State Department. Chrystia Freeland and Harjit Sajjan dined with their U.S. counterparts for foreign affairs and defence — Rex Tillerson and James Mattis. They got there just before the news upended Washington, and early enough that it wasn't a hot dinner discussion topic. (Huffington Post)

Sajjan to mark Peacekeepers Day at UN despite government's mission indecision

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is expected to face pointed questions when he travels to the United Nations next week to help commemorate those peacekeepers who have been killed in the line of duty. The minister is scheduled to travel to New York next Wednesday, where he will participate in the UN's annual ceremony for honouring the more than 3,500 blue helmets who have been killed since 1948. The International Day for UN Peacekeepers is May 29, but that falls on Memorial Day in the U.S. this year, so the world body is remembering its fallen peacekeepers the week before. (CTV)

Justin Trudeau meets with tech titans at Microsoft CEO Summit

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Washington state Wednesday to promote Canada’s growing technology industry to major multinational companies, joining top business leaders inside the closed-door Microsoft CEO Summit. Trudeau’s visit comes as U.S. President Donald Trump‘s administration poses both challenges and opportunities for Canada’s high-tech industry. Trump’s “America First” rhetoric and his plans to slash corporate taxes could mean more investment flows south of the border, but his restrictive approach to immigration could draw talent north, experts said. (Global)

Ambrose calls for party unity as many Conservatives fret about a Bernier win

Conservative MPs need to rally around their next leader, Rona Ambrose told her colleagues in her final speech to caucus, opened up to the media Wednesday morning. Some MPs and staffers seem to think that Ambrose’s call for unity might be a tall order. (IPolitics)

O'Leary would play a role in Bernier-led Conservative party

Celebrity businessman Kevin O'Leary dropped out of the Conservative leadership race and pledged to back Quebec MP Maxime Bernier's campaign all the way to decision day, but the duo are also working on a plan for afterwards. Bernier says that if he wins, he'll continue having O'Leary as part of his inner political circle for the next two years and then perhaps persuade him to run for a seat in the House of Commons in 2019, though they've made no deal on that, yet. (CTV)

Immigrant arrests soar under Trump, fewer deported: U.S.

U.S. immigration arrests increased nearly 40 per cent in early 2017 as newly emboldened agents under President Donald Trump detained more than 40,000 people suspected of being in the country illegally -- with a renewed focus on immigrants without criminal convictions. The numbers released by Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan provide a snapshot of how the new president is carrying through on his campaign promises to make immigration enforcement a top priority. (CTV)

Shariah court in Indonesia sentences two gay men to public caning for the first time

An Islamic Shariah court in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province has sentenced two gay men to public caning for the first time, further undermining the country’s moderate image after a top Christian politician was imprisoned for blasphemy. The court, whose sentencing Wednesday coincided with International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, said the men, aged 20 and 23, would each be subjected to 85 lashes for having sexual relations. One of the men wept as his sentence was read out and pleaded for leniency. (Calgary Herald)

U.S. conducts military drill to counter N. Korea's WMDs

U.S. soldiers stationed in South Korea have recently conducted an exercise aimed at destroying North Korea's weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) by practicing a ship-to-shore air assault from a South Korean warship, the infantry division said Thursday. The U.S. Army forces carried out the exercise, called "Warrior Strike 7" at Camp Stanley in Euijeongbu, just north of Seoul, and the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex near the inter-Korean border, it said. (Yonhap News)

Venezuelan President claims his harassed supporters ‘are the new Jews’

The President of Venezuela has referred to himself and his supporters as “the new Jews of the 21st century”, after daily rallies where tens of thousands have protested against the policies of his government. Nicolas Maduro, who assumed control of the country in 2013 after the death of Hugo Chavez, made the comments during a televised cabinet meeting on Tuesday evening, where he was discussing the harassment of government officials. (Jewish Chronicle)

Political prisoners are locked up and forced to eat raw pasta and human excrement as protests against Venezuelan president continue and death toll reaches 43

Prisoners arrested during anti-government protests in Venezuela are being forced to eat raw pasta with human excrement, human rights groups have claimed. The allegation was made by Human Rights Watch and the Venezuelan Penal Forum lobby group. The groups claim that at least 275 activists have been thrown into military prisons since March. (Daily Mail)

Venezuela Rises Up

On April 4, 2017, Venezuelans decided they had had enough. Enough of the shortages. Enough of the interminable store lines. Enough of the hunger, and of the inflation, and of the crime and of the government’s crackdown on the opposition. Enough of everything. (Bloomberg)

 

EDITORIAL AND OPINION PIECES 

Candice Malcolm: Trudeau cozies up to Iran’s brutal regime

Canadian government officials were in Tehran last week, visiting the despotic tyrants that rule over the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. This is a drastic reversal in Canada’s policy towards Iran. In late 2011, the Iranian regime was teetering towards collapse under the weight of global sanctions and internal mismanagement. (Toronto Sun)

Tom Brodbeck: Trudeau sits on hands, undermines border security

It appears the Trudeau government is planning to do nothing at all about the hundreds of illegal border jumpers coming into Manitoba from the U.S., even though it’s making a mockery of Canada’s border security. The federal government released new numbers this week that showed 146 asylum seekers entered Manitoba illegally from the U.S. in the month of April. That’s down slightly from 170 in March, but still higher than the 142 who jumped the border in February and the 19 who did so in January. (Winnipeg Sun)

Toronto Sun: Liberals transparency problems pile up

It’s almost every day now we hear stories about the Liberal government having problems with transparency. So much for sunny ways! The latest one comes from the federal auditor general’s report released Tuesday. The auditor says Bill Morneau’s finance department wouldn’t release info on what the government was doing to meet a promise to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. (Toronto Sun)

John Ivison: Trudeau’s Senate is a Frankenstein’s monster, and it’s out for revenge on its creator

The Liberal government is keen to pass the bill that would make the national anthem gender-neutral before Canada’s 150th birthday on July 1. The legislation, which would change the words from “thy sons” to “of us,” passed through the House of Commons almost one year ago but it is still languishing in the Senate. (National Post)

Mark Bonokoski: Another auditor general’s report for the dust mites

Who gives a damn, right? Canada’s auditor general drops his spring report, the government of the day — this time the Trudeau Liberals — says thank-you-very-much and then continue on as if nothing had happened. This is not a cynic’s view, but one of a realist who has watched decades of auditor general reports get their brief moments in the sun before the majority disappear forever into the darkness. (Toronto Sun)

Martin Patriquin: Too white, too old, too late? Quebec's immigration problem

Attracting immigrants to Canada is, above all, a show of demographic pragmatism. The math is simple: Those of us who have been here longer tend to have fewer babies. Without immigration, the vaunted social safety net designed by young boomers becomes untenable as those very boomers get old and begin to shuffle off to the great Margaritaville in the sky. (IPolitics)

Saeed Rahnema: Iranian elections: For voters, a perpetual choice between Islamist factions

On May 19, for the twelfth time since the 1979 Revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iranians will once again go to the polls to vote for the lesser of two evils. According to the Islamic Republic’s Constitution, only men who believe in the “absolute sovereignty of the jurist (Ayatollah)” can be nominated for the office of the president. The Guardianship Council, a 12-member body of clerics and Islamic lawyers appointed by the Supreme Leader, decides who is eligible to have their name put on the ballot. Of those ratified, one is the regime’s favourite candidate, and the establishment’s “machine” — mosques, religious foundations, Islamic Guards, and Basij militia — are mobilized under the direction of the Office of the Supreme Leader to ensure his victory. (Open Canada)

 

REPORTS, COMMITTEE HEARINGS, LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

-       Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security met yesterday to study Bill C-23, An Act representing the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the US (Public)

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

-       Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development meet later today to study the United States and Canadian Foreign Policy (8:45am EST) (Public)