The minority government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau survived a parliamentary vote of no-confidence Wednesday in a face-off over the proposed budget, eliminating the possibility of early elections this summer.
The House of Commons voted 211 to 121 in favor of approving the budget, which was proposed in April and contains a plan to spend CAN$101.4 billion (69 billion euros) over three years.
The conservative opposition voted together against Trudeau, who was able to hang on thanks to the support of three other smaller blocs in the lower chamber.
The 2021-2022 budget, which began April 1, must still be approved by the Senate — a formality expected Friday, ahead of the summer recess.
After clearing this hurdle — and with Canada’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign progressing rapidly — Trudeau, who enjoys a high approval rating, could be tempted to call for snap elections at the end of the summer in an effort to regain a parliamentary majority, which his Liberal party lost after October 2019’s general election.
The budget’s flagship provision is a CAN$30 billion investment over five years to establish a network of low-cost, high-quality public daycares to encourage the participation of women in the labor market.
Some CAN$17.6 billion are earmarked for green initiatives, including helping companies reduce their carbon footprints and supporting public transport projects in large cities.
Federal police said Monday that they were investigating “suspicious” fires that destroyed two Catholic churches built around 1910 in indigenous communities in western Canada.
The Sacred Heart Church on Penticton Indian Band lands and St. Gregory’s Church on Osoyoos Indian Band lands in the Oliver area of British Columbia province, went up in flames at around the same time, between 1 am and 3 am local time.
Their destruction comes weeks after unmarked graves of 215 children were found in nearby Kamloops at one of many boarding schools set up a century ago to forcibly assimilate Canada’s indigenous peoples.
The discovery at the Kamloops Indian Residential School shocked Canadians, and renewed calls for Pope Francis to apologize for abuses at the schools run by the church on behalf of the federal government.
Sergeant Jason Bayda said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is investigating the two fires. “Both churches burned to the ground and police are treating the fires as suspicious,” he said.
Although too early to conclude arson, he added, “We are sensitive to the recent events” in Kamloops.
Earlier, Bob Graham, chief of the volunteer fire department in Oliver, British Columbia, told public broadcaster CBC, “We believe by looking at the scene and the surroundings, that there was a liquid accelerant used.”
“Early indications are that it was set,” he said of the St. Gregory’s Church blaze, adding that the wooden church was completely gutted.
Forty kilometers (25 miles) north, Chief Greg Gabriel of the Penticton Indian Band said investigators were sifting through blackened rubble and reviewing surveillance footage for clues about what sparked the Sacred Heart Church fire.
“It’s hoped that they will find something that they can use to determine the cause and maybe who’s responsible,” he told CBC.
Some 150,000 indigenous, Inuit and Metis youngsters were taken from their communities and enrolled at Canada’s residential schools, where students were physically and sexually abused by headmasters and teachers who stripped them of their culture and language.
Today those experiences are blamed for a high incidence of poverty, alcoholism and domestic violence, as well as high suicide rates, in Canada’s indigenous communities.
“There’s a lot of anger in every indigenous community across Canada after those 215 innocent children’s graves were discovered,” Gabriel commented.
“I’m not saying this may be the cause of our church going up in flames,” he said, “But there’s a lot of anger.”
Britain on Monday said it had joined the United States, Canada and the European Union in imposing fresh sanctions on Belarus after the detention of an opposition journalist.
The government said it had imposed travel bans and asset freezes against “senior-ranking officials” in President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime, as well as oil firm BNK (UK) Ltd.
“The sanctions send a strong signal to the Belarusian authorities that the UK will not tolerate those who repress human rights coming to the UK or using our financial institutions,” the foreign office said in a statement.
Britain said its sanctions were imposed separate to the EU, which it left last year, but in parallel to those announced by Washington, Ottawa and Brussels.
It follows outrage at the diversion in May of a Ryanair flight, which was forced to land in Minsk, upon which Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend were detained.
The British foreign office said the restrictions on BNK (UK) Ltd, which exports Belarusian oil products, would “significantly impact one of the regime’s main revenue streams”.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The Lukashenko regime endangered the lives of airline passengers and crew in a shameful ruse to snatch Roman Protasevich.
“We will hold the regime to account in coordination with our allies including through further banning travel, freezing assets and cutting off oil export revenue streams.”
In September last year, Britain announced sanctions on human rights grounds against Lukashenko himself, his son and senior figures in the Belarusian government.
Canada’s number-two military official, Lieutenant General Mike Rouleau, announced his resignation Monday after playing golf with a retired former Chief of Staff being investigated for alleged sexual misconduct.
The not-so-simple round of golf drew scrutiny amid concerns about potential for perceived conflict of interest by Rouleau — he was hierarchical superior of the head of the military police investigating retired General Jonathan Vance.
Vance, who retired in January, denies any wrongdoing.
In a letter, Rouleau acknowledges having played golf June 2 with the former chief of staff and the commander of the Navy but assures that he did not discuss ongoing investigations.
In addition, he said, “I have never issued any instructions or guidelines to the CFPM in regards to any ongoing military police investigations including those involving sexual misconduct.”
He said he accepts “fully” how his decision to play the round of golf “has intensified recent events and contributed to further erosion of trust” in the military.
Rouleau said he was being reassigned to unspecified duties in the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group, which notably assists injured and sick personnel, the army said.
General Frances Jennifer Allen is due to succeed him as Vice Chief of Staff in coming weeks.
The army has been shaken for several months by a series of investigations into high-ranking officers suspected of “sexual misconduct” toward subordinates.
Vance’s successor, Admiral Art McDonald, had also left office a few weeks after his appointment, after an investigation into similar charges was opened.
At the end of April, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan instructed Louise Arbor, a former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal (ICT), to conduct an independent investigation into the handling of cases of sexual harassment within the army.
Canada is pressing terrorism charges against a man accused of mowing down a Muslim family with a pickup truck, killing four, prosecutors said Monday.
Five members of the Afzaal family were out for a walk in London, Ontario — around 125 miles (200 kilometers) southwest of Toronto — on June 6, when a truck driver struck them on purpose, according to authorities.
Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha, 44, their daughter Yumna, 15, and Salman’s mother Talat, 74, were all killed. The couple’s nine-year-old son Fayez survived, but was seriously injured.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously said the killings were “a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred.”
Prosecutors revealed in a brief hearing Monday that they were adding terrorism charges to the four counts of premeditated murder and one of attempted murder leveled last week against 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman.
“The federal and provincial attorneys general provided their consent to commence terrorism proceedings, alleging that the murders and the attempted murder also constitute terrorist activity,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said in a statement after the hearing.
Veltman, who has no criminal record and no known link to any extremist group, told the court via video link that he does not have a lawyer. He has yet to enter a plea and is set to reappear in court on June 21.
Several Canadian media outlets revealed on Monday that Fayez Afzaal had been able to leave hospital, and was being taken care of by relatives.
He was “expected to recover —- it’s going to be some time,” relative Saboor Khan told CBC News.
“His family’s main priority is to support him through that recovery.”
Last week, during an impassioned speech at the House of Commons, Trudeau said: “This killing was no accident. This was a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred, in the heart of one of our communities.”
“I think it is really important for us to name it as an act of terror,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told a news conference Monday.
“It is important for us to identify this as an act of Islamophobia, and it is important for us to identify the terrible threat that white supremacism poses to Canada, and to Canadians.”
The attack has fueled debate about the prevalence of Islamophobia in Canada, and heightened fears within the Muslim community that outward signs of religious affiliation can make a person a target.
It was the deadliest anti-Muslim attack in Canada since a shooting at a mosque in Quebec City that had killed six people in 2017.
Canadian authorities have charged the suspect behind an attack in which a Muslim family was mowed down by a pick-up truck with terrorism, prosecutors said Monday in court.
Four members of the Afzaal family — a man and his wife, their teenage daughter and his mother — were out for a walk in their London, Ontario neighborhood when a truck driver drove into them on purpose, according to authorities.
Nathaniel Veltman, 20, had already been charged last week with four counts of premeditated murder and one of attempted murder.
The attack was denounced as a “terrorist” act by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Several hundred people gathered in London, Ontario on Saturday to pay homage to a Muslim family deliberately mowed down by the driver of a pick-up truck, in an attack that has shocked Canadians and which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced as “terrorist.”
Four members of the Afzaal family — a man and his wife, their teenage daughter and his mother — were out for a walk in their London neighborhood Sunday when a 20-year-old man in a black pickup truck drove into them on purpose, according to authorities.
A fifth family member, a nine-year-old boy, was seriously injured.
On Saturday, hundreds of people filled a large parking lot and a football field next to the London Islamic center, where a private ceremony was held, to join in a public remembrance around the family’s four caskets, each covered with a Canadian flag.
“The very fact that their coffins are draped in the beautiful Canadian flag is a testimony of the fact that the entire Canadian nation stands with them,” Pakistan’s ambassador to Canada, Raza Bashir Tarar, told the crowd.
The ceremony, with brief remarks and prayers, was broadcast live on major Canadian networks.
“We are not alone in our grief,” said Ali Islam, an uncle of Madiha Salman, one of the victims. He stressed that the outpouring of support “has been the first step towards finding a way to heal.”
“We realized that our extended family was much larger than we could have ever imagined.”
Another speaker at the event, Sajid Ali Mohamed, noted that the attack on the Muslim family has been described as terrorism, instead of being blamed on mental illness.
“If it’s not a turning point, at least it’s a nudge in the right direction,” he said.
The funeral cortege then headed to a cemetery — as people lined the route in a show of solidarity — for the private burial of Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha, 44, their daughter Yumna, 15 and Salman’s mother Talat, 74.
Many people wore either green ribbons, in support of the Muslim community, or mauve ones, Yumna’s favorite color.
– ‘Hate kills’ –
The attack has badly shaken the Muslim community and other Canadians as well.
Numerous vigils and solemn commemorations have taken place across Canada in recent days.
On Friday, several thousand people joined in an ecumenical walk through the streets of London, which is home to some 30,000 Muslims.
Many bore posters reading “We are all human” or “Hate kills.”
People also paid homage Friday in Quebec City, where a January 2017 mosque shooting claimed six lives.
The latest attack has fueled debate about the prevalence of Islamophobia in Canada and, within the Muslim community heightened fears that outward signs of religious affiliation can make a person a target.
In an interview with the CBC network, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said the attack had shocked people across Pakistan.
He called on the international community to take action against “hate websites which create hatred amongst human beings.”
“Some international leaders, or leaders in the Western countries, actually don’t understand this phenomenon,” he added in excerpts of the interview released ahead of its broadcast on Sunday.
Twenty-year-old Nathaniel Veltman, who has no criminal record and no known link to any extremist group, has been charged in the attack with four counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.
Police say the attack was planned and motivated by hatred, and have not ruled out adding terrorism-related charges.
Trudeau has promised to step up the fight against extremist groups.
Following the attack, Canadian deputies adopted a nonbinding resolution, introduced by the left-leaning New Democratic Party, calling for a national summit on Islamophobia this summer — as many Canadian Muslim organizations have demanded.
Prominent diplomatic missions to Nigeria, including Canada, the US, the UK and the EU, on Saturday said they were let down by the decision to suspend Twitter operations in Nigeria.
The Federal Government suspended the social network’s operations on Friday after Twitter deleted tweets from the official account of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The tweets, which Twitter said ran afoul of its policies, had referenced the country’s infamous civil war.
By early Saturday, users across the country started to experience difficulties in accessing the service and many resorted to using Virtual Private Networks (VPN).
“The diplomatic missions of Canada, the European Union (Delegation to Nigeria), the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America convey our disappointment over the Government of Nigeria’s announcement suspending #Twitter and proposing registration requirements for other social media,” a joint statement from the missions said.
“We strongly support the fundamental human right of free expression and access to information as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria as around the world and these rights apply online as well as offline.
“Banning systems of expression is not the answer. These measures inhibit access to information and commerce at precisely the moment when Nigeria needs to foster inclusive dialogue and expression of opinions, as well as share vital information in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The path to a more secure Nigeria lies in more, not less, communication to accompany the concerted efforts of Nigeria’s citizens in fulsome dialogue toward unity, peace and prosperity. As Nigeria’s partners, we stand ready to assist in achieving these goals.”
Bad for Business
Earlier the United States had chided the Nigerian government’s over its decision.
“Nigeria’s constitution provides for freedom of expression,” a statement from the US Mission in Nigeria said.
“The Government’s recent #Twitterban undermines Nigerians’ ability to exercise this fundamental freedom and sends a poor message to its citizens, investors and businesses.
“Banning social media and curbing every citizen’s ability to seek, receive, and impart information undermines fundamental freedoms.
“As President Biden has stated, our need for individual expression, open public conversation, and accountability has never been greater.
“The path to a more secure Nigeria lies in more, not less communication, alongside concerted efforts toward unity, peace, and prosperity.”
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, has called for stronger diplomatic relationships between Nigeria and Canada.
Gbajabiamila, who expressed appreciation for the existing relationships between the two countries which led to a significant rise in trade, education, and technology over the years, however, emphasized the need for Canada to explore areas of security, cybersecurity, biosafety, energy as well as parliamentary diplomacy to the benefit of both countries.
Speaking while hosting the Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Nicolas Simard, in his office on Friday, Gbajabiamila said, “This is important because Nigeria and Canada go back a long way in terms of symbiotic and beneficial relationships.
“It is important that we sustain and continue these engagements to the benefit of our countries. As we know, the world is a global village now, and everybody feeds off everybody and we are all interdependent one way or the other,” he said.
According to the Speaker, the National Assembly prioritizes certain issues, not only for the development of the country but also in conformity with global demands.
He said the issue of security, gender parity, violence against persons, rape, in addition to the economy are well articulated in the 9th House Legislative Agenda to help drive the attainment of the set goals of the Green Chamber.
Noting that the House has taken bold steps to address the gender issue through legislative means, including the ongoing constitutional review exercise, the Speaker said: “Gender parity is an area that this 9th National Assembly, I think more than any past Assembly, focuses seriously on. We are not just talking, we are walking the talk”.
The Speaker, who noted that Nigeria is facing serious security challenges like other countries, said the assistance of Canada towards addressing it would be of benefit to both countries.
Earlier, the Canadian High Commissioner, Simard, informed the Speaker that the strong bilateral relationship between the two countries had resulted in more than $1 billion trade exchange between the two nations last year, while about $150 million per year in form of assistance from Canada to Nigeria to several sectors has been given.
To underscore the importance of the relationships between the two countries, the Canadian Prime Minister and Governor-General visited Nigeria in 2018, while a diplomatic delegation is expected in Nigeria very soon, he added.
Simard also revealed that Canada is in the process of expanding its diplomatic presence in Nigeria for more robust engagement, while he inquired about how Nigeria is dealing with issues of women empowerment and inclusion as well as human rights situation and what steps the House was taking towards the issues.
The diplomat, however, congratulated the country on the adoption of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act and its domestication by several states.
While hoping that a bilateral bi-national commission between the two would soon be established, he also expressed the readiness of Canada to offer assistance in the area of security, biosafety and cybersecurity.
Present at the meeting were the Chairman, House Committee on Defence, Rep. Babajimi Benson; the Chairman Committee of Legislative Agenda Monitoring and Implementation, Rep. Henry Nwawuba; the Chairman, Committee on Women Affairs and Social Development, Rep. Wunmi Onanuga, and the Chairman, Committee on Maritime Safety and Education, Rep. Lynda Ikpeazu.
The remains of 215 children have been discovered on the grounds of a former boarding school set up more than a century ago to assimilate Canada’s indigenous peoples, according to a local tribe.
A specialist used ground-penetrating radar to confirm the remains of the students who attended the school near Kamloops, British Columbia, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc tribe said in a statement late Thursday.
“Some were as young as three years old,” said chief Rosanne Casimir, calling it “an unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented” by school administrators.
Its preliminary findings are expected to be released in a report next month, she said.
In the meantime, the tribe is working with the coroner and museums to try to shed further light on the horrific discovery and find any records of these deaths.
It is also reaching out to the students’ home communities across British Columbia and beyond.
The “distressing” discovery of the remains “breaks my heart,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a Twitter message.
“It is a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country’s history,” he said.
– Pupils stripped of culture and language – His comments were echoed by Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett who also offered government support to the families and indigenous communities for their “healing as we honour loved ones lost.”
The Kamloops Indian Residential School was the largest of 139 boarding schools set up in the late 19th century, with up to 500 students registered and attending at any one time.
It was operated by the Catholic church on behalf of the Canadian government from 1890 to 1969.
Some 150,000 Indian, Inuit and Metis youngsters in total were forcibly enrolled in these schools, where students were physically and sexually abused by headmasters and teachers who stripped them of their culture and language.
Today those experiences are blamed for a high incidence of poverty, alcoholism and domestic violence, as well as high suicide rates, in their communities.
A truth and reconciliation commission identified the names of, or information about, at least 3,200 children who died from abuse or neglect while attending a residential school. The exact number remains unknown.
At the Kamloops school, the principle in 1910 had raised concerns that federal funding was insufficient to properly feed the students, according to the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc statement.
Ottawa formally apologized in 2008 for what the commission later termed a “cultural genocide” as part of a Can$1.9 billion (US$1.6 billion) settlement with former students.
The general in charge of coordinating Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign has left his post in the Public Health Agency as he is being investigated by the military, the Department of National Defence said Friday.
Formerly, commander of the NATO mission in Iraq, Major-General Dany Fortin has left his public health assignment “pending the results of a military investigation,” authorities said in a brief statement, without elaborating.
Fortin was appointed last November by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to coordinate the logistics of the largest vaccination campaign in Canadian history.
The Canadian military is responsible, in collaboration with the public health agency, for distributing the vaccine in remote communities of this vast country.
The military has been shaken in recent months by a series of investigations into high-ranking officers accused of sexual misconduct.
They include retired general Jonathan Vance, a former chief of the defense staff, who has denied the allegations against him.
His successor, Admiral Art McDonald, left office a few weeks after his appointment, following the opening of an investigation into similar charges.
Last month, the Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan instructed Louise Arbour, a prosecutor before the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and for the former Yugoslavia, to conduct an independent investigation into the handling of sexual harassment cases within the military.
Canada’s Quebec province on Thursday unveiled sweeping legislation aimed at curbing the decline of the French language in the former French colony, particularly in Montreal where businesses are using English more and more.
The bill is a revamp of a 1977 law, reaffirming French as Quebec’s main language and promoting its use locally on signage, in education and in workplaces.
“The French language is in decline across parts of our society,” Simon Jolin-Barrette, Quebec minister responsible for the French language, said at the bill’s unveiling.
The updated law, he said, “affirms that French is the only official language in Quebec and the common language of the Quebec nation.”
Quebec, settled by French explorers in the 16th century, remains a bastion of the language of Moliere in majority anglophone Canada and the United States.
“For centuries, the defense of French has been essential for the survival and the development of our nation,” Quebec Premier Francois Legault said.
“The government of Quebec is the only one in North America that represents a majority of francophones and that comes with duties,” he said.
The more than 200 reforms in the bill include a cap on the number of English students in post-secondary education, increased access to French language training, making French predominant on commercial signage, and requiring most businesses to serve customers and file paperwork in French.
If passed, the bill would also create a Ministry of the French language and a French Language Commissioner.
The Office quebecois de la langue francaise found greetings of people in French in Montreal stores fell from 84.2 percent in 2010 to 74.6 percent in 2017.
French is also in slight decline in homes, with 71.2 percent of Quebecers saying they speak French with their family and friends, down from 72.8 percent five years earlier, according to Statistics Canada.