NEW YORK, N.Y. – This week the United Nations is hearing for the first time from a U.S. president who called the organization weak, incompetent, antithetical to freedom, anti-American and hostile to democracy.Donald Trump said all that in one campaign speech.Now the “America First” president is speaking for the first time to the world body at the UN General Assembly, and his first comments suggest he’ll sound a constructive note, rather than an epic nationalist smackdown upon global diplomats.Trump opened his remarks at a panel on UN reform Monday in characteristic fashion — by bragging about his Manhattan skyscraper across the street. But then he did something a little more surprising: he praised the UN.“The United Nations was founded on truly noble goals,” Trump told a roundtable discussion Monday.“The United Nations has helped advance toward these goals in so many ways: feeding the hungry, providing disaster relief, and empowering women and girls in many societies all across the world.”He praised the reform efforts of the new secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, and promised to support them: “(Things at the UN are) changing and changing fast … we pledge to be partners in your work.”More than 128 countries have signed onto the reform initiative, with Canada joining their ranks last week and co-sponsoring the reform event Trump addressed Monday.The new secretary general is aiming at changes in areas ranging from development to peacekeeping.The peacekeeping plans include focusing on where the UN has had success.A report to the secretary general this year heralded UN work in clearly defined conflicts where there are two combatants who want peace — citing Nepal, Sierra Leone and Timor as examples — but lamented failures in more complex battles and in counter-terrorism, citing Mali, Congo and Darfur as cautionary tales.It would avoid counter-terrorism operations, or complex disputes where the UN is under-equipped or ill-equipped to help. It also calls for faster deployment, modernized technology, new regional offices closer to trouble spots and more focus on conflict-prevention.“Someone recently asked what keeps me up at night. My answer was simple: bureaucracy,” Guterres said Monday.“Fragmented structures. Byzantine procedures. Endless red tape. Someone out to undermine the UN could not have come up with a better way to do it than by imposing some of the rules we have created ourselves.”Canada has yet to announce its plans for upcoming peacekeeping missions and will not do so this week, officials say. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives in New York on Tuesday.Trudeau will promote multilateralism in his speech Thursday, including co-operation with international forums and with other countries on efforts like climate change.“We’ve demonstrated a willingness to be more involved in these institutions — to achieve solutions together,” said Trudeau spokesman Cameron Ahmad.“Obviously the prime minister will reiterate Canada’s approach to multilateralism and to working within multilateral institutions.”Last year’s message was in lock-step with the one from Barack Obama. Both urged their fellow leaders to pursue broad-based prosperity, lest the working classes get angry, revolt against the global economy and back nationalist-populist politicians.The events they were referring to were Brexit and the campaign of Trump.On Monday, Trudeau met with British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is leading the U.K.’s departure from the European Union, and they discussed the possibility of a Canada-U.K. trade agreement.North Korea will also loom large.Trump’s UN ambassador has warned that the time for non-military solutions is running out. Nikki Haley applauded the UN for its latest sanctions, but suggested there are few political actions left available.“If (this) doesn’t work, Gen. Mattis will take care of it,” she said of the U.S. secretary of defence in a CNN interview.“If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behaviour, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed…. None of us want that. None of us want war.”
Investigators are awaiting the results of autopsies performed on Apotex founder Barry Sherman and his wife Honey before determining next steps in the ongoing probe into their suspicious deaths, police said Saturday.Const. David Hopkinson said the autopsies were being performed a day after the billionaire and philanthropists were found dead in their north Toronto mansion. Police have described the deaths as suspicious, but offered no other details to date.“Investigators will wait for the results of the post mortem. They will then determine the course of their investigation and only then will they issue a statement,” Hopkinson said in an email.Hopkinson declined to officially identify the victims, but statements from Apotex and politicians across the country on Friday named the Shermans as the deceased.Apotex described their deaths as shocking and tragic, while other statements praised the Shermans’ numerous philanthropic efforts.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau were among those to offer a tribute to the couple through social media.“Sophie and I are saddened by news of the sudden passing of Barry and Honey Sherman,” Trudeau said in a tweet. “Our condolences to their family & friends, and to everyone touched by their vision & spirit.”Police were called to the Shermans’ home in an upscale neighbourhood of north Toronto just before noon on Friday in response to a “medical complaint.”They declined to say whether the bodies showed signs of trauma and did not provide details on the time or cause of death.Police said homicide investigators are involved in the case, though the deaths have not officially been classified as homicides. They previously indicated that there were no signs of forced entry into the home and that they were not seeking any suspects.The Sherman family released a statement Saturday saying: “We urge the Toronto Police Service to conduct a thorough, intensive and objective criminal investigation, and urge the media to refrain from further reporting as to the cause of these tragic deaths until the investigation is completed.”Barry Sherman founded Toronto-based Apotex Inc. in 1974 with two employees and gradually turned it into the largest Canadian-owned pharmaceutical company.Along the way he amassed a vast fortune, recently estimated by Canadian Business magazine at $4.77 billion, making him the 15th richest person in the country.Sherman faced legal action from family members alleging they had been cut out of the company over the years.As a producer of more than 300 generic pharmaceutical products, Apotex has itself seen a number of litigation issues, as companies have pushed back on its efforts to sell cheaper no-name options.Today, the company has more than 10,000 people in research, development, manufacturing and distribution facilities world-wide, with more than 6,000 employees at its Canadian operations. Those include manufacturing and research facilities concentrated in the Toronto area as well as in Winnipeg.Apotex released a statement on Saturday paying tribute to its founder, praising both his philanthropic efforts and what it described as his vision for health care.“Patients around the world live healthier and more fulfilled lives thanks to his life’s work, and his significant impact on healthcare and healthcare sustainability will have an enduring impact for many years to come,” the statement read. “As employees, we are proud of his tremendous accomplishments, honoured to have known him, and vow to carry on with the Apotex purpose in his honour.”Honey Sherman was a member of the board of the Baycrest Foundation and the York University Foundation. She also served on the boards of Mount Sinai’s Women’s Auxiliary, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the International American Joint Distribution Committee.The Shermans were among Canada’s most generous philanthropists and also organized funding of charitable causes through the Apotex Foundation. The couple made numerous multimillion-dollar donations to hospitals, schools and charities and had buildings named in their honour.The address where the bodies were found was recently listed for sale for $6.9 million. Neighbours confirmed that the property was the couple’s home.
MONTREAL – As the frigid winter days set in, homeless people in Montreal are once again being invited to take refuge in the city’s subway stations.Philippe Schnobb, the head of the city’s transit commission, says that while many cities remove homeless people from train and subway stations, the Societe de transport de Montreal takes a different approach.“In Montreal, its a very different situation,” he said in a phone interview Thursday.“Homeless people are allowed in the (subway), and with our partnerships… we have a group of people who can intervene, we have specialists who can take care of them, talk with them, give them some services if they need.”For the last five years, the transit agency has teamed up with social organizations to offer services to the homeless at several subway stations.These include sending social workers to several different stations and offering a shuttle service to local shelters once the transit system shuts down for the night.Community workers, including some who were formerly homeless, can send people to mobile health clinics or work with them on finding a place to stay, Schnobb said.Schnobb says there have been about 3,500 “interventions” with homeless people this year, up from just more than 400 when the program started.He says the approach, which essentially transforms the subway into “the biggest day centre in the city,” goes beyond what many other cities are doing and could serve as a model for others in the future.Representatives from Calgary and Toronto said neither city has specific policies on allowing homeless people to stay in their train or subway stations.Calgary does send peace officers to check on their welfare and “attempt to get them to a care facility within Calgary if needed, especially if the weather is cold,” city spokeswoman Sherri Zickefoose wrote in an email.In Edmonton, there’s a policy of keeping light rail stations open all night long when the temperature dips below a certain temperature in order to give people a warm place to sleep, a cityspokesman said.Schnobb says it’s impossible in Montreal to leave the subway open all night because of construction and maintenance.He says that’s why the shuttle, run by the Old Brewery Mission, ensures homeless people aren’t simply kicked onto the street.“(The shuttle) is sent to pick up the homeless people in the station to make sure they are brought to a shelter, but if they don’t want to go to a shelter, they have everything they need to stay outside in the night,” he said.Last week, the City of Montreal announced it was investing $778,000 to help its homeless population this winter season.Their measures include hiring outreach workers, providing funding to the shuttle service and opening beds at emergency shelters.Despite the outreach efforts, too many homeless people in the subway are still being ticketed for minor infractions, according to the director of a legal clinic that helps them.Bernard St-Jacques says homeless people still regularly get tickets for offences such as loitering, drinking in public or not paying subway fares.While he commends the transit commission for its actions, he says the approach needs to go beyond the homeless to sensitize employees and transit users to the realities facing homeless people.He believes that if more people knew about the outreach efforts, they’d be less likely to call authorities to lodge complaints against the homeless.“They’re saying, ‘We’re accompanying these people rather than legalizing them,’ well, I don’t agree, we’re still legalizing them,” he said in an interview.“But, if we showed people how we are accompanying people, that we’re trying to find other solutions, maybe we’d lower the number of complaints and irritations in a general way.”
The first Canadian babies to be born in 2018 didn’t wait long before making an appearance, as two Toronto hospitals reported delivering newborns right at the stroke of midnight.Both St. Michael’s Hospital and Humber River Hospital announced early Monday that they had welcomed new babies at exactly 12 a.m. on Jan. 1.St. Michael’s spokesman James Wysotski says new mom Hlengiwe Khoza delivered a seven-pound, 11-ounce baby girl as fireworks were going off in nearby Nathan Phillips Square.“At the stroke of midnight, (they) look down, toes just came out, with fireworks going off outside the window,” he said in a phone interview.He says the baby, who has been named Shiloh, is doing well.In a tweet, Humber River Hospital said a baby named Phillip was born at midnight, closely followed by his twin sister Victoria, who arrived seven seconds later.The hospital posted a photo of the twins lying in side-by-side bassinets with the caption, “It doesn’t get better than this.”In Montreal, Miriam Oviedo described the birth of baby Maxine two seconds after midnight as “the best birthday present.”“The baby came out healthy and it’s my birthday on Dec. 31, and the baby is born Jan. 1,” Oviedo said.She said her daughter was due in February, but it became apparent at about 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve that Maxine Kylie Ona was not going to wait.“I’m feeling great,” said Oviedo, who is already mother to two other daughters, ages three and five.In Calgary, Amy and Tyler Muir delivered a baby boy 12 seconds after midnight, Alberta Health Services said in a news release.The B.C. government announced that the province’s first baby, a girl, was delivered in Surrey, B.C. nine seconds into the New Year.All the newest Canadians and their mothers are said to be doing well.Note to readers: CORRECTS first name of Montreal mother Miriam Oviedo in para 8
Highlights from the news file for Monday, Feb. 12———BOUSHIE’S FAMILY MEETS FEDERAL MINISTERS: Much needs to be done to fix the way First Nations people are treated within Canada’s criminal justice system, but it would be “completely inappropriate” to comment on the specifics of the Colten Boushie verdict, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday. Speaking in the House of Commons during question period, Trudeau said First Nations people are underrepresented on juries and overrepresented in the prison population — a situation he said his government is committed to solving. On Friday, a jury found Gerald Stanley, 56, not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2016 killing of Colten Boushie, a member of the Red Pheasant First Nation. In the wake of the Stanley verdict, Wilson-Raybould tweeted Saturday that Canada “can and must do better.” Boushie’s relatives met Monday with federal ministers in Ottawa, where they said they hope to build relationships with people who have the power to change the way Indigenous people are treated in the justice system. The Boushie family is scheduled to sit down Tuesday with Wilson-Raybould and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.———QUEBEC INDIGENOUS INQUIRY SITS IN MONTREAL: An inquiry that has been examining discrimination experienced by Indigenous Quebecers at the hands of the public service began hearings in Montreal on Monday, with a high-profile Saskatchewan court ruling looming large over the proceedings. Sedalia Fazio, a Mohawk elder originally from Kahnawake who presided over the opening prayer, said the timing of the hearings was difficult given the verdict in the Colten Boushie case. A jury deliberated 13 hours before finding Gerald Stanley not guilty last Friday of second-degree murder in Boushie’s slaying. Fazio said the Boushie case made her own presence at Monday’s hearing difficult, “when my people are hurting so bad, when we feel such injustice right now.” The Quebec inquiry, announced in December 2016, was mandated to look into the way Indigenous Peoples are treated by the police, the province’s youth protection agency, the public health department as well as the justice and correctional systems. It came on the heels of allegations of mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples living in northwestern Quebec.———NDP NOT PLANNING PROBE OF STOFFER COMPLAINTS: The federal NDP is not planning to launch an investigation into how the party handled allegations of sexual misconduct against former MP Peter Stoffer — at least not right now. NDP spokeswoman Sarah Andrews says the party is committed to strengthening its anti-harassment policies, and that leader Jagmeet Singh has opened his door to anyone who wants to share their experiences. But while Andrews left the door open to a future investigation, she says the party does not have any current plans to dive into the complaints against Stoffer. Several women who worked for the NDP have come forward over the past week alleging Stoffer acted inappropriately toward them while he was serving as MP for Sackville-Eastern Shore between 1997 and 2015. At least one says the issue was raised with party leaders, but that her concerns were essentially ignored. Stoffer has acknowledged some of his actions may have caused discomfort, but he has denied sexually assaulting or physically abusing anyone.———CABINET STEPS UP REVIEW OF AECON DEAL: The Canadian government is stepping up its national security review of the proposed takeover of Canadian construction company Aecon Group Inc. by a Chinese state-owned business. Toronto-based Aecon said the minister responsible for economic development informed the company that cabinet has ordered a further investigation of the deal under the Investment Canada Act, which will take more time. A spokesman for Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains said cabinet issued the order, which is the next step in the “rigorous” review process. “Based on the advice we have received from national security agencies we believe that there is a potential injury to national security,” said Karl Sasseville, spokesman for Bains. He declined to specify what prompted security agencies to make this recommendation. Chris Murray of AltaCorp Capital Inc. said he believes the government’s primary concern may be Aecon’s telecom infrastructure group, which builds significant core communications networks for several major Canadian carriers. The government’s approval is the last major hurdle that Aecon must clear to close the $1.5 billion deal.———TRUMP THREATENS NEW FOREIGN ‘RECIPROCAL TAX’: U.S. President Donald Trump is complaining about Canadian trade practices while threatening a tax on international imports, indicating Monday that the idea of some form of border fee remains alive. Trump made the remarks at the White House while unveiling a long-awaited infrastructure plan. During a lengthy session with reporters, he complained about countries considered allies of the U.S. He mentioned the one directly to America’s north. “Canada does not treat us right in terms of the farming and the crossing the borders,” said Trump, according to a release from the White House press pool. ”We cannot continue to be taken advantage of by other countries.” It’s unclear what he was referring to, although he has complained in the past about Canada’s dairy controls and softwood lumber. Administration officials have also expressed anger over Canada’s wide-ranging attack at the World Trade Organization on the U.S. system for imposing duties.———WEINSTESIN’S EX-ASSISTANT CHALLENGING PART OF LAWSUIT: A lawyer for a former assistant to Harvey Weinstein is challenging parts of a lawsuit brought by a Toronto woman against his client and the disgraced Hollywood producer. Barbara Schneeweiss worked for Weinstein for approximately 20 years and is named as a defendant in the suit from a Toronto actress who alleges she was sexually assaulted by Weinstein nearly two decades ago. The actress, who cannot be named, alleges Schneeweiss set up a meeting between her and Weinstein despite having some degree of knowledge that it might lead to a sexual assault. Schneeweiss’ lawyer Jonathan Rosenstein is arguing that his client’s alleged acts are subject to a statute of limitations that has expired. Rosenstein also argues that the actress does not specify how much Schneeweiss allegedly knew about Weinstein’s alleged sexual activities.———BABCOCKS ‘LEARNED TO HATE’ AFTER DAUGHTER KILLED: The family of Laura Babcock said they have learned to hate since finding out that their daughter was brutally killed and her body was burned in an animal incinerator. Babcock’s parents and her brother expressed their hatred and heartbreak in a victim impact statement read out Monday at a sentencing hearing for Dellen Millard and Mark Smich, who were found guilty in December of first-degree murder. Millard, 32, of Toronto, and Smich, 30, of Oakville, Ont., were previously found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2013 death of Hamilton man Tim Bosma, whose remains were burned in the same animal incinerator — called The Eliminator — they had used to get rid of Babcock’s body. First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 25 years. The judge presiding over the Babcock case will decide, however, whether to impose consecutive or concurrent periods of parole ineligibility, a provision added by the federal government in 2011 to the Criminal Code for multiple murderers.———ACCUSED EDMONTON ATTACKER TO ENTER PLEA IN MARCH: A man accused of attempted murder in a knife attack on an Edmonton police officer will enter a plea at his next court date in mid-March. Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, 30, was in provincial court to face 11 charges related to a Sept. 30 attack on a police officer outside a football game. Some of the charges also stem from a speeding cube van that hit and injured four pedestrians in downtown Edmonton hours after the police officer was attacked. Court heard an assessment on whether Sharif could be found not criminally responsible was still not complete. Chief Crown prosecutor Shelley Bykewich told Judge Donna Rae Valgardson that some next steps should occur in the case. “The initial mental health assessment was ordered on Nov. 14,” she said in court. “There’s been a second order that occurred in January.” Bykewich said she spoke to the doctor conducting the assessment and he has indicated he needed more time, partly because of a lack of resources and partly due to the need to arrange an interpreter for another interview with Sharif. Defence lawyer Karanpal Aujla said the case is proceeding slowly, but said they need all the information before his client enters a plea.———LCBO PARTNERS WITH SHOPIFY FOR POT SALES: The Ontario government has inked a deal to use Shopify Inc.’s e-commerce platform for cannabis sales online and in stores as part of its plan to be the province’s sole distributor of legal recreational marijuana. The Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC), a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, will use the Ottawa-based company’s online store software for its online and mobile sales portal Shopify’s technology will also be used inside brick-and-mortar stores to process transactions on iPads and for digital screens displaying product and health information. The OCRC said Ontarians will have access to the same product information, usage guidelines and social responsibility information — which adhere to federal marketing provisions — both in-store and online. The public consultation for Health Canada’s proposed guidelines for cannabis regulation — which include limits on branding elements on packaging, as well as restrictions on marketing similar to tobacco — finished on Jan. 20, with a finalized version yet to be delivered.———CROWDFUNDED ‘BLACK PANTHER’ SCREENINGS A HIT: Organizers of free screenings for young black people across Canada to see the upcoming “Black Panther” superhero movie say they’re elated that fundraising goals have been shattered. Community groups in several Canadian cities have already raised enough money to give hundreds of young African-Canadians free tickets to Marvel’s first film featuring a predominantly black cast. A crowdfunding page for a Toronto-area screening backed by the Black Business and Professionals Association said the campaign has raised upward of $15,000, which is more than double its original goal. The additional funds are being earmarked to create programs for black youth who want to work in the film industry. The screening will be followed by a discussion to help young people identify real-life heroes within the black community, as well as within themselves, he said. The Edmonton chapter of Black Lives Matter tweeted on Feb. 1 that it had exceeded its roughly $2,700 fundraising goal in one day, and that number continues to climb on the event’s crowdfunding page.
HAIDA GWAII, B.C. – A small earthquake has been detected off of British Columbia’s coast.Earthquakes Canada says the 4.2-magnitude quake struck Saturday afternoon, 94 kilometres west of the village of Masset, B.C., in the Haida Gwaii archipelago.The agency says the rumbling was “lightly felt” in Masset and the Village of Queen Charlotte.There were no reports of damage and none were expected.The U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center says the earthquake is not expected to create a tsunami.Haida Gwaii has seen a number of historic quakes, including an 8.1-magnitude shake in 1949 that Earthquakes Canada says knocked cows off their feet and bounced cars around on the mainland.
WINNIPEG – Winnipeg police say their homicide unit is investigating the discovery of a woman’s body at a recycling depot.Police say in a news release that the body of the middle-aged woman was found Friday evening, mixed in with recycling materials.Investigators believe the remains arrived at the facility from another location.They’re calling it a suspicious death.Police say they’re still trying to identify the woman and notify her next of kin.They’re asking anyone with information that could help investigators to call them.
Five stories in the news for Tuesday, Oct. 30———FEDS REWORK APOLOGY FOR HOLOCAUST INCIDENTThe killings of 11 worshippers inside a Pittsburgh synagogue on the weekend has reframed the prime minister’s plan for an apology on Canada’s decision to close its doors to Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is to deliver the apology next week for a federal decision in 1939 to reject an asylum request from more than 900 German Jews aboard an ocean liner that was nearing Halifax. Five survivors from the boat, the MS St. Louis, are scheduled to be in the House of Commons next week to hear an apology 79 years in the making.———HUNDREDS TURN OUT FOR SYNAGOGUE SHOOTING VIGILSHundreds of people in Montreal and Toronto paid tribute to the 11 Jews shot and killed over the weekend in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Surrounded by a heavy presence of police cruisers and security guards, members of Montreal’s Jewish community, politicians and other mourners gathered at Beth Israel Beth Aaron synagogue for the vigil. At the vigil in Toronto’s Mel Lastman Square, 20 family members of Joyce Fienberg, a 75-year-old who died in the shooting and had previously lived in Toronto, were among those gathered.———SARAH HENSTRA WINS GOVERNOR GENERAL’S FICTION PRIZEToronto author Sarah Henstra says she thinks her win at this year’s Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language fiction signals that Canadian readers are hungry for literature that tackles thorny cultural issues. Henstra is among the winners announced today for her first foray into adult fiction, “The Red Word,” set at the epicentre of the polarized debate about sexual assault on university campuses. The novel follows 19-year-old Karen Huls, a Canadian student at a prominent U.S. college in the 1990s, who is awakened to the ambiguities of gender politics after moving in with a group of radical feminist activists while dating a member of a fraternity notorious for drug-fuelled misogyny.———AIRLINES CUT SEAWORLD TIES AMID WHALE BIDAir Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd. are joining a growing wave of companies that have cut ties to SeaWorld, in sync with the spirit of a federal bill to ban whale and dolphin captivity and in the wake of concerns raised by animal rights advocates. The Senate passed legislation last Tuesday that would make captivity and breeding of cetaceans such as dolphins and whales a criminal offence. Air Canada says it stopped offering SeaWorld tickets for purchase on its website last week, calling the move a “commercial decision.” WestJet dropped the tickets — previously available as part of vacation packages — last August.———CHAMBER OF COMMERCE CALLS FOR PINE BEETLE FUNDINGThe Canadian Chamber of Commerce has asked for immediate federal funding to stop the spread of the destructive mountain pine beetle. CEO Perrin Beatty says in a letter sent to Natural Resource Minister Amarjeet Sohi that warmer winters have allowed the beetle to spread east and that the threat is at a critical juncture. The pine beetle will have a clear path to spread across the rest of Canada if it breaches the forests that border Alberta and Saskatchewan, says Beatty. He calls on the federal government to provide $100 million to help fund Alberta’s efforts.
VICTORIA — British Columbia’s top court has quashed a bylaw prohibiting single-use plastic bags in Victoria, saying the city failed to get the approval of the province’s environment minister.The B.C. Court of Appeal says in its written ruling that the bylaw is intended to regulate businesses from providing plastic checkout bags but its aim was to protect the environment, and the effects of the bylaw are felt by businesses.The Canadian Plastic Bag Association, which represents manufacturers and distributors of plastic bags, fought the bylaw, arguing municipalities in B.C. don’t have the authority to regulate the environment or the right to block a product and financially impact manufacturers.Under the year-old bylaw businesses are prohibited from offering or selling plastic bags to consumers and must charge at least 15 cents for paper bags and at least $1 for reusable bags.In an earlier decision, a B.C. Supreme Court judge upheld the bylaw, ruling that cities have the power to regulate business transactions as part of their responsibility to manage waste.The Appeal Court ruling says the environment minister’s approval will “now presumably be sought” by the city.“One can understand that the province might wish to have the right to approve, or withhold approval of, municipal bylaws relating to environmental protection in order to ensure that a patchwork of different municipal laws does not hamper provincial environmental programs,” Justice Mary Newbury said in the ruling.Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and a spokesperson for the Canadian Plastic Bag Association were not immediately available for comment.Other municipalities are considering following Victoria’s lead in banning single-use plastic bags. Montreal also banned plastic bags last year while other cities including Vancouver and Halifax have been mulling similar bylaws. The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — More than seven years after Raif Badawi was thrown in prison, lawyers and allies of the Saudi blogger are increasingly lobbying foreign governments in an effort to secure his release as Saudi Arabia prepares to host next year’s G-20 meeting.Irwin Cotler, a human rights lawyer and former federal justice minister who represents the family internationally, says advocates for Badawi have recently been meeting with foreign governments, UN representatives and others to encourage them to call for the release of Badawi, his sister Samar, their former lawyer Waleed Abulkhair and other imprisoned human rights defenders.Cotler sat down with The Canadian Press to discuss the intensifying effort to free the 35-year-old Badawi, who was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his online criticism of Saudi clerics.Cotler said it is urgent “to both internationalize and intensify our advocacy” as Saudi Arabia chairs the G-20 ahead of the meeting in Riyadh in November 2020.That effort appeared to yield results last month when U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence called on Saudi Arabia to free Badawi as well as three other jailed dissidents.The four dissidents, Pence said, “have stood in defence of religious liberty and the exercise of their faith despite unimaginable pressure, and the American people stand with them.”Pence’s statement followed one by European Parliament Vice-President Heidi Hautala in June, which describes Badawi’s sentence as “unjust, disproportionate and arbitrary” and urged the Saudi government to free him. The European Union awarded Badawi the Sakharov prize, its top human rights award, in 2015.Cotler sees significant progress in the year since Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s tweet calling for the release of Raif and Samar Badawi sparked a diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia. (While neither prisoner is a Canadian citizen, Raif Badawi’s wife and three children live in Sherbrooke, Que., and were granted citizenship last year.)The fallout from the tweet saw Saudi Arabia suspend diplomatic ties, halt investment and Canadian imports and threaten to shut down scholarships for its citizens studying in Canada. “Not one democracy came to Canada’s defence,” Cotler said.He said that while he disagreed with Saudi Arabia being awarded G-20 host duties, he believes the Riyadh summit could be an opportunity to increase the pressure to free the prisoners — and give Saudi Arabia the chance to prove it can be a “credible” host.“If the Crown Prince wants to be taken seriously, if Saudi Arabia wants to be seen seriously as chair of the G20, he can’t call for reforms — which we support — regarding women, such as the right to drive, then imprison the same women who called for the reforms.”He said Pence’s statement came after he and Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, travelled to Washington earlier this year to meet with lawmakers and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, which has contacts with the vice-president.Cotler believes the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, was a “wake-up call” for democracies that had previously hesitated to speak up against the Saudi regime.More than eight months after Khashoggi’s death, a UN special rapporteur released a report saying there was “credible evidence” to warrant further investigation and financial sanctions against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.Efforts by Badawi’s advocates in the coming weeks and months include a renewed application for clemency, which argues that a pardon would be in line with Saudi law.Canada, too, has a part to play, says Cotler, who was Liberal justice minister from 2003-06. He plans to once again call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to grant Canadian citizenship to Badawi, which would ensure he could receive visits and has “diplomatic protection that is not now authorized.”Badawi’s advocates say that while he hasn’t received any more corporal punishment, his health has declined and he continues to suffer psychologically from the threat of lashings and the separation from his wife and children.And while some believe his prison conditions may have improved since the international pressure escalated, Cotler said his situation remains dire.“There’s a sense of urgency,” he said. “You meet with his children, and every day the children can’t be with their father is a loss for him and a loss for them.”Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press