Day: February 26, 2019

Andrew Scheer Responds To Criticism Of Tory Support For ‘United We Roll’

Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer presents an opposition motion in the House of Commons on Feb. 25, 2019 in Ottawa.

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer brushed off concerns this week about associating his party with “Yellow Vests Canada” — a populist group known for stirring up xenophobic sentiments and promoting violence.

The group is associated with the “United We Roll” protest that took place on Parliament Hill last week. Scheer said Monday the event was was organized by “people who have lost their jobs who are facing a tremendous amount of anxiety about what the future will bring.”

“United We Roll” drew a few hundred protesters, including a convoy of truckers who travelled from Red Deer, Alta. to rally against government policies that affect the energy sector.

Watch: “Yellow vest” protesters explain what brought them to Ottawa

When asked if he had any regrets for not distancing himself from anti-immigrant elements expressed at the rally, Scheer sidestepped the question. He focused instead on the protesters angry about Liberal government “roadblocks” thrown in their industry.

“That is what those events were about,” he said. “I know the Liberals would love to distract from their own failures by pointing to other elements that tried to associate themselves with the event.”

Scheer addressed a crowd of “United We Roll” protesters last week and focused his speech on the concerns of oil and energy workers. He also advocated for more support for Canada’s oil industry.

“I am sick and tired of watching people, you know, chaining themselves to trees and laying down in front of bulldozers trying to block Canadian energy from reaching markets,” he said at the time. The Tory leader also called for an end to the import of foreign oil.

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier also appeared at the rally and posed for pictures with attendees.

Conservative Sen. David Tkachuk also attended and sparked controversy when he asked the crowd of truckers to “roll over every Liberal left in the country.”

Tkachuk’s comments earned him a high-profile rebuke from Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council, when he testified before the justice committee on the SNC-Lavalin affair. Wernick accused the senator of inciting violence, noting the van attack that killed 10 people in Toronto last spring.

The Tory senator later defended his words as a “figure of speech” and refused to apologize. He labelled criticism as “manufactured outrage” from the Liberal Party “to distract from the real plight of our oil and gas industry and the harm they are doing.”

Liberal MP Ali Ehsassi represents the riding that was affecting by the Toronto van attack. He issued a statement Monday urging Scheer to boot the senator from his caucus.

“If Mr. Scheer continues to fail to take action, Canadians will have little choice but to assume that Mr. Scheer endorses the politics of hate and the incitement to violence espoused by his caucus member,” Ehsassi wrote.

Not just a pipeline protest

“United We Roll” was not a single-issue protest about the plight of Canada’s oil and energy workers. Those who attended made signs that had common themes opposing Bills C-69 and C-48, the carbon tax, and the United Nations’ global compact for migration.

Bill C-69 is government legislation that proposes to rehaul the pipeline approval process. Bill C-48 proposes introducing an oil tanker ban in northern British Columbia.

Protesters gathered in the capital to voice concerns that the government’s approach to building pipelines and energy projects is hurting their livelihoods.

Organizers of the Ottawa “United We Roll” rally are associated with the “Yellow Vests Canada” group, which has a record of violent, inflammatory, and xenophobic comments on social media.

More from HuffPost Canada:

A common theme at the protest was opposition to Canada being a signatory to the UN’s global compact for migration, which is a non-legally binding framework that reaffirms nations have sovereign rights to set their own migration policies in accordance with international law.

Opposition against the compact has become a rallying point for Conservative Party and People’s Party supporters. At the the “United We Roll” rally, one speaker took to the main stage to say, “You cut that head of the snake off, we get our country back.”

Liberal MP Iqra Khalid likened the Conservative leader’s support for “United We Roll” to fear-mongering. Tory deputy leader Lisa Raitt then accused Khalid’s of being “inflammatory and over the top.”

The group is a spinoff from the yellow vests movement that’s behind months of anti-government protests in France after an outcry over a fuel tax hike. French protesters broadened their asks to include an increase to the minimum wage — whereas the Canadian group has not.

The “United We Roll” convoy was originally named the “Yellow Vets Canada” convoy before organizers rebranded it.

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Crown wants six-year sentence for Toronto man who tried to join ISIL in Syria

TORONTO — Ontario prosecutors want a Toronto man who tried to join Islamic State militants in Syria to be sentenced to six years behind bars.

Pamir Hakimzadah, 29, pleaded guilty in early February to one count of leaving Canada to participate in a terrorist activity.

At a sentencing hearing taking place today, Crown lawyer Christopher Walsh says the court has no insight into how Hakimzadah became radicalized and is dubious of a plan from the defence for their client’s de-radicalization.

Court heard Hakimzadah left Toronto in October 2014 and flew to Istanbul with the goal of finding a way into Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

He was turned in to authorities by a taxi driver in Turkey who suspected Hakimzadah wanted to join the terrorist group, and was sent back to Canada where he was later turned in by a family member.

Hakimzadah admitted he viewed Islamic State militant propaganda videos online and became sympathetic to their viewpoint.

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Has a UCP candidate voiced what her party really thinks about two-tier health care?

David J. Climenhaga
Miranda Rosin, the UCP Candidate in Banff-Kannaniskis. (Photo: Screenshot of UCP video).

If you wonder what the United Conservative Party really thinks about how health care ought to be run in Alberta, perhaps you should ask Miranda Rosin instead of Jason Kenney.

Rosin is the UCP’s candidate in the new Banff-Kananaskis riding. Kenney is the party’s leader, of course, and as we now know, its Decider as well.

In a Canadian Taxpayers Federation-style stunt last week, Kenney publicly signed a “Public Health Care Guarantee” on a large sheet of plastic saying his party is committed to “maintain a universally accessible, publicly funded health-care system.”

Taking the pledge resulted in a certain amount of derision, owing to the fact Kenney’s “Grassroots Guarantee,” wherein he promised always to listen to what the grassroots members of his party had to say, became defunct the instant it became inconvenient.

By contrast, Rosin is just one of the troops — who in the UCP are expected to mind their Ps and Qs and do whatever the leader tells them to do.

Her suddenly controversial words were spoken at a UCP nomination-candidates’ meeting in Canmore back on October 17, before what was by definition a friendly crowd. Alas for her, one of those ubiquitous smartphone recorders was running somewhere in the room and her words were duly taken down to be used against her.

This is as it should be. No politician of any party should doubt in the early years of the 21st century that a digital recorder is running somewhere in the room, and not just at public meetings. If you’re going to run for public office, as the old lawyers’ advice goes, you really need to “govern yourself accordingly.”

The key part of what Rosin said about health care was this: … “we need to look at a two-tiered system, so that we can get those who have worked hard for their money to get out of the system if they would like to.” (Emphasis added.)

When the recording started appearing on social media yesterday morning, tweeted by Banff-Cochrane NDP MLA Cameron Westhead, who is a registered nurse and will be running in the new riding in the spring, the reaction was immediate and harsh. Rosin’s remarks and her selection as the UCP’s candidate led to the inevitable conclusion that party insiders do in fact want to allow the wealthy to opt out of our public health-care system. What’s more, it would seem they don’t really put much stock in the idea that not everyone in Alberta who works hard for their money necessarily makes a lot of the stuff.

The second thought may be more offensive, but the policy question is more serious, because as any health-care expert will tell you, that way disaster lies. Whatever Rosin believes, and whatever Kenney really thinks, and whatever the Fraser Institute keeps telling us, the result of allowing the wealthy to opt out or just opt upward for some nice extra fees will result in longer wait times and worse outcomes for the rest of us.

The audio clip in circulation is very short, only seven seconds. However, a longer and more contextual clip of Rosin’s response to her questioners, who went on to choose her as their candidate, is no more reassuring.

In the less tightly edited version, she begins by saying that Alberta has “one of the highest funded health cares in Canada, if not the world, and our service is not up to par, we have long wait times, there’s so many gaps in the system.”

“So,” she continues, “I think that there’s two big things we need to look at. One of them, we are very bureaucracy run. I think we need to look at reducing our administration so we can get more front-line workers out there.”

“But also, I think we need to look at a two-tiered system, so we can get those who work hard for their money to get out of the system if they would like to. To remove* themselves so that we can decrease the wait times for those who are still in the public system. Because this allows those who work for their money and who want to spend it how they can on health care if that’s what they need. And it also hopes those who are in the public system get shorter wait times.”

(The word marked with an asterisk is almost inaudible. It sounds to me like “remove.” Then again, maybe not. Regardless, Rosin’s thought is clear.)

It is a common misconception about public health care to conclude that removing some patients from the public system will shorten wait times for the rest.

Experience in Europe and the United States, however, shows that private hospitals and clinics cherry pick the easiest cases, dumping the more complex ones on the public system — in other words, on taxpayers and the sick themselves.

People who make this argument also act as if physicians are an unlimited resource. As is well understood, however, they are not, and if some of them choose to cherry pick well-off or easy patients, those who remain in the public system will soon be overwhelmed, degrading the public system further. In some cases, fatally so.

It is also worth remembering, when comparing systems, that health care in the United States, which much more closely approaches the pure market ideal espoused by Kenney and his supporters than does Canada’s public health insurance, costs taxpayers vastly more and yet still, even with Obamacare, leaves millions uninsured and millions more desperately under-insured.

Finally, it turns out it is utterly false to say as Kenney does, apparently taking his cue from the old Wildrose Party, that management at Alberta Health Services is bureaucratic and inefficient. In fact, it has the lowest health service administrative costs in Canada.

But that Rosin’s understanding of health economics is flawed is only a small part of the story here. That her misconceptions pass muster with her constituency association is more troubling, and that they undoubtedly reflect what the party’s leadership would like to do is even more so.

She has done us all a service, though, by leaving us a hint of what her party really thinks — which was certainly not the impression she was aiming for on February 20, when she spoke in a Facebook post about Kenney’s public health-care guarantee. “The NDP’s vitriolic, fear-mongering attacks that a new UCP government will slash health-care spending and privatize the entire system can officially be put to rest,” she said then.

Well, apparently not. Too bad about that old recording!

The UCP all-candidates’ meeting was covered by the Rocky Mountain Outlook, a community news site in the area, but for some reason no mention was made in the story of Rosin’s newsworthy thoughts on public health care.

Jagmeet Singh victorious in Burnaby South

Jagmeet Singh cruised to victory in the Burnaby South byelection last night, which as noted in this space yesterday is about half the battle for the NDP leader. He still needs to show he can lead the party effectively from the floor of the House of Commons, lest the Orange Wave of 2011 go out with the tide in the fall of 2019.

Arguably, that would be a worse fate for the NDP — or at least a bigger disappointment — than seeing a leader falter in a West Coast byelection. And there was a sign last night the tide may indeed be receding, given the Liberal victory in former leader Tom Mulcair’s old Quebec riding, Outremont.

In York-Simcoe, north of Toronto, the Conservative candidate won handily.

But despite that victory, the showing by the far-right People’s Party of Canada in Burnaby South, with about 10 per cent of the vote to the Conservatives’ 22 per cent could be a troubling augury for the Conservatives if Maxime Bernier’s Tea Party North maintains that kind of momentum into the fall.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog,

Photo: Screenshot of UCP video

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Criminal case filed over Bangladesh hijacking attempt

DHAKA, Bangladesh — More details about the attempted weekend hijacking of plane headed from Bangladesh’s capital to Dubai emerged Tuesday after civil aviation authorities filed a criminal case over the attack.

Utpal Barua, head of the Patenga police station in Chittagong, said the case was filed late Monday. The plane, operated by Biman Bangladesh Airlines, was headed to Dubai via Chittagong on Sunday. Officials said the attempted hijacking by a Bangladeshi man occurred shortly after takeoff from Dhaka.

The 24-year-old man, identified by officials as Mohammed Polash Ahmed, was killed by military commandos after the plane made an emergency landing in Chittagong.

There are no other suspects, but the criminal case filing officially names Ahmed as the attacker.

According to the complaint, Ahmed attempted to enter the cockpit 15 minutes after the plane’s takeoff. At one point, Ahmed, who was carrying “bombs-like and arms-like” objects, started shouting, demanding to talk to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The complainant, Debabrata Sarker, a technical assistant at Hazrat Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong, also said Ahmed exploded “two cracker-like objects” inside the plane, creating panic among the passengers and crew.

Police will now see whether any other elements were involved in the hijacking attempt, Mohammed Amanullah, a duty officer at the Patenga police station, said by phone.

There was still confusion over whether Ahmed was armed amid disputing accounts of the incident by officials and passengers.

Officials said Sunday that Ahmed was injured in an exchange of gunfire with special forces, and that he had shot at them first and was armed with a pistol. Some passengers also said they heard gunshot sounds inside the plane.

But civil aviation authorities cast doubt on that account Monday. When asked about reports that Ahmed had a toy gun, Civil Aviation Ministry secretary Mohibul Haque said they didn’t know whether the pistol was a toy.

The incident also highlights security flaws in Bangladesh.

Ishfaq Ilahi Chowdhury, a retired air commodore for Bangladesh’s air force, wrote Tuesday in an article in the Bengali-language Prohtom Alo daily that “it is noticeable there have been serious security lapses.”

“The question is, whether the pistol was fake or real, how did a passenger carry it onto the plane?” he wrote.

On Tuesday, Ahmed was buried in his village outside Dhaka. His father said Ahmed was married to an actress but was divorced a few months ago.

Mufti Mahmud Khan, director of the law and media wing of Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion security agency, said Monday that the suspect was listed in its database as Md. Polash Ahmed, and had been arrested in 2012 in a kidnapping case. Khan declined to provide details about the kidnapping case.

Civil Aviation Junior Minister Mahbub Ali told reporters Monday that Ahmed had booked a seat on the flight as a domestic passenger heading from Dhaka to Chittagong, and that airport surveillance video showed him going through security with other passengers.

“There was no signal that he had something” when he boarded Sunday’s flight, Ali said.

Khan said when the agency’s bomb-disposal unit reached the scene, they found that Ahmed had fake “bomb-like material.”

Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim nation of 162 million people, has had periodic terrorist attacks in recent years, including an assault on an upscale cafe in Dhaka’s diplomatic enclave in 2016 that resulted in the deaths of 22 people, including 17 foreigners.

Julhas Alam, The Associated Press

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EDMONTON — A woman in Alberta says she feels like she’s not Canadian enough after her daughters were denied citizenship.

Victoria Maruyama was born in Hong Kong and, because her father was Canadian, has been a Canadian citizen since she was a baby. When she was a year old, the family moved to Edmonton where she grew up.

At the age of 22, she went to Japan to teach English.

“I met my kids’ dad,” Maruyama said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “The plan was just to teach English throughout Asia, move around from one country to the next, but he kind of scotched my plans.”

She was seven months pregnant with their first daughter, Akari, in 2009 when Conservative government amendments to the citizenship laws took away her right to pass on citizenship to her children unless they were born in Canada.

By that time, it was too late in her pregnancy to fly back to Canada. Her second daughter, Arisa, was also born in Japan.

The girls are now seven and nine years old and, despite moving back to Edmonton almost two years ago, Maruyama is still fighting for them to become Canadian.

“We had to struggle to get my kids in school. We had to fight to get them health care. They had no health care for months. Then they had it for six months and then they were stripped of it again,” she said.

“It should be my right to come home with my children and for them to be educated and … have health care and vaccinations and all those basic things.”

A January letter from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada notes Akari and Arisa were rejected because “they are not stateless, will not face special and unusual hardship if you are not granted Canadian citizenship and you have not provided services of exceptional value to Canada.”

Officials with the federal department said in a statement that decision-makers determined that criteria for citizenship have not been met.

“As part of the determination, the best interests of the child were considered,” they said in an email. “However, sufficient evidence was not provided to demonstrate that the children have been denied access to basic services in Canada.”

Maruyama’s lawyer, Charles Gibson, has filed an application for a judicial review in Federal Court. He argues that the rejection is unlawful and that the Citizenship Act is discriminatory.

“It creates two classes of Canadian citizens,” he says in court documents. “One class that can perpetually pass on or inherit Canadian citizenship and one that cannot. The Citizenship Act precludes the applicant’s mother from passing … on her Canadian citizenship to the applicant.

“As a result, the applicant has suffered a great deal of hardship.”

Don Chapman, an advocate for “lost” Canadians, said the law also goes against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Canada signed in 1990.

“You have the right to live in the country with your parents. You have the right to an education. You have a right to medical. You have a right to seek legal guidance if the country won’t do this,” he said.

Chapman said there are many expat Canadians who could find themselves in the same situation.

“It’s a problem that’s going to explode.”

When Justin Trudeau was citizenship and immigration critic, he promised in a March 2011 news release to change the “anachronistic” law.

But Chapman said the Liberal government still hasn’t addressed the loophole for second-generation Canadians born abroad.

“It means there’s only one group of Canadian citizens that have a litmus test to get their kids in,” he said. “If the kids had been abandoned, the kids would be Canadian. If you or me or any other Canadian adopts the children, they have a right of citizenship. If Vicki had been an immigrant Canadian and then naturalized, her kids would be Canadian.”

He said the Maruyama family is caught in the middle of the 2009 legal changes.

“There’s Trudeau going a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, and no, no and no,” said Chapman, who noted the Conservative Opposition has also been silent on the issue. “They all talk about refugees and immigrants, but no one is talking about this.”

Maruyama said if they aren’t able to get citizenship, her girls could apply for permanent residence status as immigrants — a possibility confirmed by the federal Immigration Department.

“They would have a higher level of citizenship than me because they (could) … pass on citizenship to their children,” she said. “But me living here 20-some years is not enough.

“Not Canadian enough.”

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