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Posts tagged ‘Land of the Frozen Wild’

Canada’s PM: We will not apologize to Saudi Arabia

August 10, 2018

The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stressed, Wednesday, his country’s persistence in defending human rights, refusing to apologize to Saudi Arabia for Canada’s opposition to the detention of activists in Saudi prisons.

Trudeau said that although his country appreciates the “importance” of Saudi Arabia in the world, it would continue to speak “clearly and firmly about human rights issues in the country and abroad” whenever needed.

This came in a press statement by Trudeau during his participation in an event held in Montreal, the capital of the province of Quebec, east of the country.

Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Canada last Monday, and declared the ambassador of Canada in Riyadh “persona non grata,” against the backdrop of what Riyadh called “explicit and blatant interference in the country’s internal affairs.”

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has announced “the freezing of all new trade and investment dealings with Canada and retaining its right to take further action.”

This came following the Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland’s call on Riyadh to release the so-called “civil society activists” who were arrested in the Kingdom.

At the same time, Trudeau explained that the diplomatic talks with Riyadh would continue, “but without taking a single step back from the criticism of the Foreign Minister regarding the arrest of Saudi activists.”

The Prime Minister said that Freeland held extensive talks with her Saudi counterpart, Adel Al-Jubeir, on Tuesday, without giving further details.

Trudeau stressed that they were keen to communicate directly with the Saudi government in order to re-establish diplomatic relations between the two countries, and pointed out that “the issue of Canada’s apology for the criticism of human rights violations were not addressed during the talks.”

He added: “Canadians have always expected our government to speak firmly, decisively and politely about the need to respect human rights around the world.”

He went on: “We will continue to defend Canadian values and human rights. This is something that I will always do.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180810-canadas-pm-we-will-not-apologise-to-saudi-arabia/.

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Saudi Arabia orders Canadian envoy to leave over criticism

August 06, 2018

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia on Monday ordered the Canadian ambassador to leave the ultraconservative kingdom within 24 hours after his nation criticized the recent arrest of women’s rights activists.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry also said it would freeze “all new business” between the kingdom and Canada. Some 10 percent of Canadian crude oil imports come from Saudi Arabia. “Any further step from the Canadian side in that direction will be considered as acknowledgment of our right to interfere in the Canadian domestic affairs,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in an extraordinarily aggressive statement. “Canada and all other nations need to know that they can’t claim to be more concerned than the kingdom over its own citizens.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if Ambassador Dennis Horak was in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia said it would recall its ambassador to Canada as well. Marie-Pier Baril, a spokeswoman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, said Canada was “seriously concerned” by Saudi Arabia’s actions.

“Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, very much including women’s rights, and freedom of expression around the world,” she said in a statement. “Our government will never hesitate to promote these values and believes that this dialogue is critical to international diplomacy.”

The dispute appears centered around tweets by Canadian diplomats calling on the kingdom to “immediately release” women’s rights activists recently detained by the kingdom. Among those recently arrested is Samar Badawi, whose brother Raif Badawi was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for criticizing clerics. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, is now living in Canada.

Freeland tweeted about the arrests on Thursday. “Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia,” she wrote. “Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.”

Saudi Arabia ended in June its long practice of not allowing women to drive automobiles in the Sunni kingdom. However, supporters of women’s rights were arrested just weeks before the ban was lifted, signaling that only King Salman and his powerful son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will decide the pace of change.

Saudi women still need permission from male guardians to travel abroad or marry. The diplomatic dispute with Canada may be part of that assertive foreign policy pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed under his father. Germany similarly has found itself targeted by the kingdom in recent months over comments by its officials on the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

It isn’t immediately clear what new business could be affected between the two countries. Bilateral trade between the two nations reached $3 billion in 2016, with tanks and fighting vehicles among the top Canadian exports to the kingdom, according to government statistics.

Saudi Arabia in recent years has expelled Iran’s ambassador over attacks on its diplomatic posts following its 2016 execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.

Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

European leaders, Canada back the airstrikes against Syria

April 14, 2018

Many European leaders and the prime minister of Canada voiced support and understanding Saturday for the U.S.-led air strikes against Syria, but warned against allowing the seven-year conflict to escalate.

“Canada stands with our friends in this necessary response and we condemn in strongest possible terms” the use of chemical weapons in Syria. – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“It has always been Bulgaria’s position that no cause justifies the killing of innocent people, including children; that the use of chemical weapons is a war crime and the strike on Syrian targets was a response to a war crime.” Bulgarian government statement. Bulgaria currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

“Strikes by US, France and UK make it clear that Syrian regime together with Russia & Iran cannot continue this human tragedy, at least not without cost. The EU will stand with our allies on the side of justice.” – Tweet by European Council President Donald Tusk.

“What has occurred in Syria in recent days goes far beyond the constant violation of cease fires. The response to these atrocities is legitimate and proportionate.” – Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

“The people martyred by chemicals is a certain amount but the people martyred by conventional weapons is much, much more.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed support for the airstrikes but added that more must be done to hold the Syrian regime accountable for the hundreds of thousands it has killed using conventional weapons.

“We support the fact that our U.S., UK and French allies took on responsibility in this way as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. The military strike was necessary and appropriate in order to preserve the effectiveness of the international ban on the use of chemical weapons and to warn the Syrian regime against further violations.” – German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“This was a limited and targeted action to strike the capacity of building or diffusing chemical arms. It cannot and should not be the start of an escalation.” – Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni.

“The international community has the responsibility to identify and hold accountable those responsible of any attack with chemical weapons. This was not the first time that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons against civilians but it must be the last.” – European Union Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

“Belgium strongly condemns all use of chemical weapons which are a blatant violation of international law. Belgium therefore understands the military action in Syria of our American, French and British partners who have targeted identified production facilities.” – Belgian government statement.

With focus on Mexico, apprehensions grow at Canadian border

July 24, 2018

DERBY LINE, Vt. (AP) — While the Trump administration fortifies the southern border, there’s growing concern over the number of foreigners entering the country illegally across the porous northern border with Canada.

People crossing the border between Vermont and Quebec have paid smugglers up to $4,000, usually payable when the immigrants reach their U.S. destination, according to officials and court documents. While the number of arrests is tiny compared with the southern border, the human smuggling is just as sophisticated.

“They are very well organized. They have scouted the area. They have scouted us,” said U.S. Border Patrol Agent Richard Ross. “Basically, we are not dealing with the JV team; this is the varsity.” Driving the increase here, officials say, is the ease of entry into Canada, where visas are no longer required for Mexicans, and a border that receives less scrutiny and resources than the southern border, where thousands fleeing violence in Central America are being detained.

In the Border Patrol sector that covers 300 miles (480 kilometers) of border with New York, Vermont and New Hampshire, agents have apprehended 324 people who crossed illegally from Canada so far this fiscal year, compared with 165 in all of 2017. Last month, agents apprehended 85 people across the three states, compared with 17 in June 2017 and 19 in June 2016, statistics show.

So far this fiscal year, there have been at least 267 apprehensions along Canada’s border with Vermont alone, compared with 132 all of last year, according to statistics compiled by federal prosecutors in Vermont.

The statistics show no corresponding spike in illegal immigration or apprehensions elsewhere along the northern frontier. Border Patrol agents speculate it’s because the area that includes Vermont is the first stretch of land border east of the Great Lakes and is a short drive from the population centers of Canada and the U.S. East Coast.

The northern border numbers are still small compared with the southern border. Federal statistics show that in fiscal 2017 there were 303,916 apprehensions on the U.S. border with Mexico, compared with 3,027 on the entire northern border.

Still, there is a growing sense of unease among U.S. law enforcement authorities. “The number of illegal alien apprehensions at the Vermont-Canada border has skyrocketed,” said Christina Nolan, Vermont’s U.S. attorney.

Much of the illegal border crossing activity in Vermont appears to be focused on a 30-mile (50-kilometer) segment of the Vermont-Quebec border where Interstate 91 reaches the Canadian border at Derby Line, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Montreal.

From Derby Line, it’s about a six-hour drive to New York and its teeming immigrant communities. Guarding the border here is tricky because Derby Line and the neighboring Quebec town of Stanstead comprise one community where homes and buildings happen to be bisected by an international border.

The community library was purposely built straddling the border to serve people in both communities. Quebecers simply cross an international boundary marked outside the library by pots of petunias. Occasionally, illegal border crossers will walk, or even drive, across near the library.

“This is really a town with an invisible border going through it,” said Stanstead resident Matthew Farfan, who has written a book about life along the border, after he left the library’s Vermont entrance and prepared to cross back into Canada.

As part of a broader recent immigration crackdown, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has set up highway checkpoints in Maine, New Hampshire and upstate New York. One person was apprehended in New York on charges she had picked up four people crossing from Canada.

Visa-less entry into Canada for countries like Mexico and Romania, another nationality noted by Nolan and Border Patrol agents as contributing to a spike in apprehensions, play a role by making the northern border more attractive for people seeking to enter the U.S. illegally, Nolan said. A plane ticket from Mexico City to Montreal or Toronto can cost less than $350.

The Canadian government in late 2016 lifted its requirement that Mexican citizens apply for visas to enter the country as part of broader efforts to strengthen ties with Mexico. A similar requirement for Romanian citizens took effect in late 2017.

Canada views the recent visa changes for Mexico and Romania as having a minimal impact on the border, said Beatrice Fenelon, a spokeswoman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. In the past two months, agents in Vermont have chased border crossers through the woods near Derby Line; there have been car chases and cases in which agents have lost sight of suspects in the woods, only to apprehend them days later.

“They have kind of gone southern-border style where they are taking a hike and they are coming through the tall grass,” Ross said. “It’s something I would have seen years ago when I worked in Harlingen, Texas.”

The agents won’t guess how many make it across. The flow of illegal border crossers goes in both directions. Since around the time President Donald Trump took office, thousands of immigrants in the U.S. have fled north to Canada seeking asylum.

Last October in the largest single case in memory of Border Patrol agents in the Derby Line area, 16 people were apprehended at a hotel after 14 had entered the United States west of Derby Line. The other two were the smugglers.

In another case east of Derby Line, a group of eight Mexican immigrants met at a McDonald’s restaurant in Montreal after flying into Toronto and Montreal, where they hired two taxis to take them to Stanhope, Quebec, not far from where Quebec meets Vermont and New Hampshire.

After the immigrants walked six hours through the forest, they were apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents in Norton, Vermont, while riding in a taxi from Albany, New York, court documents say. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, responsible for border security in Canada, made arrests last month in two human-smuggling cases between Stanstead and Derby Line.

In one case, the suspect, a Mexican who did not have legal status in Canada, has been convicted of bringing immigrants to the Vermont border and was sentenced to six months in jail, after which he will be deported.

The Mounties are aware of the cases and ready to help their U.S. counterparts, said RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Camille Habel. But the RCMP doesn’t appear to view the problem with the same urgency as U.S. officials: “It’s not a trend yet,” Habel said.

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Rob Gillies in Toronto; Michael Hill in Derby Line, Vermont; and David Sharp in Portland, Maine.

Medvedeva dominates, but Canada leads team competition

February 11, 2018

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Not even a record performance by Russian figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva could put much of a crimp in Team Canada’s pursuit of Olympic gold. Medvedeva’s mesmerizing short program Sunday almost made everything else seem ordinary. Her 81.06 score broke her previous world mark as she virtually floated along the ice, nailing every element with a combination of technical skill and artistry that only she has perfected in recent years.

The 18-year-old two-time world champion smiled broadly as a group of her countrymen chanted “well done” in the stands. Her marks actually seemed a bit low for such an overwhelming routine. “I wasn’t nervous. I was focused, maybe too much,” Medvedeva said. “I have to relax a little bit, maybe.”

Imagine what she might do then. Still, the team gold doesn’t appear in reach for the Russians — officially competing as the “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” The team has 39 points heading into Monday’s free skates in the other three disciplines. Canada’s deep and powerful team has 45 points, and will be favored in free dance after two-time Olympic medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir laid down a superb short dance.

Canada also won the pairs free skate Sunday with Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, while Kaetlyn Osmond was third in the women’s short. “That was kind of what we were looking to do in the team competition, to nail a solid, season-best performance, but to have room to do it better next time,” Duhamel said. “If this was absolutely perfect it would be hard to know what to strive for next week (in the individual event).

“But I think we had a great short and a great long where we have room for improvement in both programs.” While Canada, which has stressed the importance of taking home the team gold for nearly four years after finishing second to host Russia in Sochi, the United States has been hopeful of replicating its third-place finish in 2014. That became more difficult Sunday when Italy surged within a single point, 36-35.

The difference between the two nations could come in the men’s event, where the United States appears stronger with Adam Rippon against Matteo Rizzo. “I think we have some really strong performances to come,” said Rippon, who replaced two-time U.S. champion Nathan Chen in the free skate. “For me, I just love being out here on the Olympic ice.”

Mirai Nagasu will step in for Bradie Tennell in the women’s event. Tennell was fifth in the short program, which cost the Americans some points because Italy’s Carolina Kostner, the 2014 women’s bronze winner, came in second.

Kostner’s graceful performance was highlighted by a series of exquisite spins. Her artistry can be spellbinding — sort of how figure skating used to be before the current focus on technical elements. She would be considered a favorite to finish ahead of Nagasu in the free skate, although Nagasu has a weapon none of the other skaters carries: a triple axel.

“What is going to happen is just going to add to the love I feel for the sport and the love I want to share with the audience,” said Kostner, 30 and in her fourth games. Her teammates, Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek, were sensational in the pairs free skate to place second, two spots in front of American champs Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim. That really tightened up the bronze race.

Marchei was so thrilled at the end of their routine she let out a scream heard over the cheering crowd. When their 138.44 was posted, Marchei screamed again in delight. Even with those Viva Italia moments, though, the day belonged to Canada. And, of course, to Medvedeva, who will step aside Monday for European champion Alina Zagitova — her training partner who snapped Medvedeva’s two-year winning streak at Euros.

“It’s not like I imagined, much calmer,” Medvedeva said of the Olympic environment, adding she won’t celebrate her record too much because “there’s a lot of work to come.”

Royal Canadian Air Force to buy air-to-air missiles from U.S.

by James Laporta

Washington (UPI)

Nov 1, 2017

The State Department announced Wednesday a possible sale of up to 32 AIM-120D Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles to one of America’s “Five Eyes” partner, Canada.

Congress was notified of the possible $140 million sale on Tuesday, which includes the 32 AMRAAMs, as well as 18 AMRAAM Captive Air Training Missiles; four AMRAAM Non-Development Item-Airborne Instrumentation Units, two AMRAAM Instrumented Test Vehicles, seven spare AMRAAM guidance units and four spare AMRAAM control sections for use on their F/A-18 aircrafts.

“Included in the sale are containers; storage and preservation; transportation; aircrew and maintenance training; training aids and equipment, spares and repair parts; warranties; weapon system support and test equipment; publications and technical documentation; software development, integration, and support; system integration and testing; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support; and other related elements of logistics and program support,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a press release.

The missiles will be used on Royal Canadian Air Force fighter aircraft and are said to contribute to the foreign policy and national security objectives of the U.S. by helping to improve the security of a NATO ally.

DSCA says the sale of armament is required to support the Royal Canadian Air Force fighters to “optimally fulfill” both North American Aerospace Defense and NATO missions. The deal also meets the U.S. Northern Command’s goals of combined air operation’s interoperability and standardization between Canadian and U.S. forces, according to the press statement.

The State Department assesses that the proposed sale of equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region, in addition to having no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of the sale.

Raytheon Missile Systems, out of Tucson, Ariz., will provide the equipment and support for the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Royal_Canadian_Air_Force_to_buy_air-to-air_missiles_from_US_999.html.

Canadian gold company suspends investments in Greek mines

September 11, 2017

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Canadian mining company Eldorado Gold, one of Greece’s largest foreign investors, said Monday it planned to suspend investment at its mines in Greece following what it said are government delays in the issuing of permits and licenses.

Eldorado, which runs Greek subsidiary Hellas Gold, operates mines in northern Greece that have faced vehement opposition from parts of local communities on environmental grounds, with protests often turning violent.

Eldorado said in an announcement it would continue maintenance and environmental safeguards, but would make no further investment in three mines in the Halkidiki area of northern Greece and two projects in the northeastern province of Thrace.

“Delays continue in issuing routine permits and licences for the construction and development of the Skouries and Olympias projects in Halkidiki, northern Greece,” the company said. “These permitting delays have negatively impacted Eldorado’s project schedules and costs, ultimately hindering the company’s ability to effectively advance development and operation of these assets.”

The company, which employs more than 2,000 people in Greece, said the “suspension and termination of contractors and employees” would be done according to Greek law. On Sunday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras insisted his left-led coalition government was friendly towards business and investments.

“This government is friendly towards entrepreneurship and investments,” Tsipras said during his annual news conference at a trade fair in the northern city of Thessaloniki. But he stressed that “we want investments, we want a healthy business environment, but we want to protect labor relations and the environment.”

Reacting to Eldorado’s announcement, Interior Minister Panos Skourletis said that according to the contract signed between the company and the Greek state, differences would be resolved through arbitration.

“This is the phase we are at now,” he said, adding that the company’s stance “shows intolerance towards Greek legality.” “It might be a move of political pressure towards the government at a crucial time,” Skourletis said, noting the announcement came during the Thessaloniki trade fair where the prime minister traditionally lays out his economic policy.

He insisted Greece was friendly towards foreign investments, but that the Canadian project, being a mining operation, was a special case. “Such kinds of investments no longer exist in the rest of Europe. They’re not allowed due to the great environmental cost they have,” Skourletis said. “So it’s wrong to connect this particular case with the general picture in the area of investments (in Greece).”

The company said it was still awaiting details from the government regarding pending arbitration, and pointed out that Greece’s Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, had issued 18 decisions in its favor in various permit disputes.

Greece has been struggling to emerge from a deep financial crisis that has wiped out more than a quarter of its economy and left the country reliant on three international bailouts. Attracting foreign investment has been seen as a key in standing on its own feet again.

But the Halkidiki mines have been mired in controversy for decades, with Eldorado’s predecessors facing similar protests. Many in the local communities are vehemently opposed to the development of the mines on environmental grounds, saying local forests would be decimated and groundwater could be contaminated. The company has countered that it’s carrying out environmental cleanup work even of its predecessors and rejects accusations of pollution.

When first elected on an anti-bailout platform in 2015, Tsipras’ government initially moved to suspend some of the permits that had been granted to the mining company. Eldorado said the Skoures and Olympias projects and Stratoni mine would start being placed “on care and maintenance” starting Sept. 22, at an estimated cost of $30 million, while environmental protection work would continue. It said sustaining maintenance costs would be roughly $25 million per year.

“It is extremely unfortunate to find ourselves at this impasse when we should be advancing an important commercial project in partnership with Greece and adding another 1,200 jobs to our current workforce of approximately 2,400 people,” Eldorado Gold President George Burns said.

The company bought the old Kassandra Mines for nearly $2 billion in 2012. Burns said it had since invested a further $1 billion in Greece, a figure which would double if the company could fully develop its assets in Greece.

“However, as a result of the delay in issuing permits by the Greek government, Eldorado is unable to continue investing in the country,” Burns said. The company president has scheduled a news conference in Athens later Monday morning.

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