Canada Police Arrest Protesters In Bid To Clear Border Bridge

Police look out at protestors against Covid-19 vaccine mandates as they block the entrance to the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, on February 12, 2022. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP)

 

A Canadian mayor Sunday declared the standoff on a key US border bridge over after police moved in and arrested protesters, but the trucker-led movement against Covid-19 restrictions remained defiantly mobilized in the capital Ottawa and elsewhere.

A heavy contingent of officers backed by armored vehicles made their way to the demonstration near Windsor, Ontario, to clear the Ambassador Bridge, a major border crossing to the US city of Detroit, Michigan.

Authorities began their operation Saturday but several demonstrators had remained, extending the protracted standoff and preventing traffic from flowing.

Police took more forceful action Sunday, placing bridge protesters in handcuffs, towing vehicles and reclaiming clogged lanes, saying on Twitter that “there will be zero tolerance for illegal activity.”

The road to the bridge was cleared, but cross-border traffic had yet to be restored by midday.

“Today, our national economic crisis at the Ambassador Bridge came to an end,” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said in a statement, referring to the heavy toll on trade and other business by a blockade that had been in place since Monday.

READ ALSO: Four Missing Afghan Women Activists Released, Says UN

“Border crossings will reopen when it is safe to do so and I defer to police and border agencies to make that determination,” the mayor added.

The demonstrations have inspired copycat protests around the globe, including in France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Australia, and with some US truckers discussing a protest for March.

In Ontario, where authorities have declared a state of emergency, the provincial supreme court had ordered truckers late in the week to end their blockade of the Ambassador Bridge.

The protest has forced major automakers in both countries to halt or scale back production.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who blasted the blockades as “illegal,” promised that “this conflict must end,” but he has faced mounting criticism for failing to act more decisively.

Initially, no arrests were made at the bridge; but drivers were warned that they potentially faced major fines, jail time and loss of their driver’s licenses if they continued blocking traffic.

Mayor Dilkens, apparently mindful of the division caused by the protests, urged tolerance and respect moving forward.

“I strongly urge all provincial and federal leaders to refrain from any divisive political rhetoric and redouble efforts to help all Canadians heal, as we emerge from almost two years of pandemic lockdowns and restrictions,” he said.

– 4,000 protesters –

The Ambassador Bridge is vital to the US and Canadian auto industries, carrying more than 25 percent of merchandise exported by both countries.

Truckers originally converged on Ottawa to press their demand for an end to a vaccination requirement affecting truckers crossing the international border.

But the movement has spread, as the protesters now seek an end to all vaccine mandates, whether imposed by the federal or provincial governments.

Ottawa has been the epicenter of protests. Police on Saturday estimated that some 4,000 demonstrators were still occupying the center city, in the third weekend of the movement.

The atmosphere among protesters has been festive, with music, dancing and constant sounding of air horns — but the noise, obstruction and sometimes rude and aggressive behavior of demonstrators has harmed area businesses and infuriated many locals.

The truckers’ message, however, has resonated more widely than authorities expected.

One opinion survey found that a third of Canadians support the protest movement.

The truckers have also found support among conservatives and vaccine mandate opponents in other countries, even as Covid measures are being rolled back in many places.

In Paris on Saturday, police fired tear gas and arrested nearly 100 people in an effort to break up convoys of vehicles coming from across France.

By Sunday hundreds of them drove their self-proclaimed “freedom convoy” of cars and trucks northward to Lille, en route to Brussels, where Belgian officials have already banned a demonstration called for Monday.

A vehicle convoy in the Netherlands brought The Hague’s city center to a standstill in another Canada-style protest.

In Switzerland, hundreds of protesters marched in Zurich to protest Covid-19 restrictions, while several thousand others rallied against them, Swiss media reported. Police used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.

An estimated 10,000 Australian protesters marched through the capital Canberra to decry vaccine mandates.

Canada PM Trudeau Tests Positive For COVID-19

(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 12, 2022 Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a news conference on the Covid-19 situation in Ottawa, Canada.  (Photo by Dave Chan / AFP)

 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday he had tested positive for Covid-19 but was not experiencing severe symptoms.

The 50-year-old leader — who is vaccinated and boosted — had announced last week he was isolating after being exposed to the coronavirus.

“This morning, I tested positive for Covid-19. I’m feeling fine — and I’ll continue to work remotely this week while following public health guidelines,” the premier wrote on Twitter Monday.

Trudeau, who received his third vaccine dose in January, urged Canadians to get vaccinated and boosted as the nation battles a rise in Covid cases and hospitalizations due to the Omicron variant.

The province of Ontario, where Trudeau lives in the Canadian capital Ottawa, requires people to isolate after a Covid exposure for 10 days if unvaccinated.

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Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, is expected to start easing Covid restrictions from Monday, allowing restaurants, bars, sports venues and movie theaters to re-open.

Canada has recorded more than 2.9 million cases of Covid-19 and more than 33,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Ottawa was hit over the weekend by mass protests led by Canadian truckers opposed to vaccine mandates for crossing the Canada-US border.

Trudeau defended the vaccination mandate last week, noting that 90 percent of drivers are already vaccinated.

Canada Contracts With Novavax For 76 Mn COVID-19 Vaccine Doses For 2021

(FILES) In this file photo Dr. Nita Patel, Director of Antibody discovery and Vaccine development, lifts a vial with a potential coronavirus, COVID-19, vaccine at Novavax labs in Gaithersburg, Maryland on March 20, 2020, one of the labs developing a vaccine for the coronavirus, COVID-19. – The Canadian government announced on August 31, 2020 a deal with American biotech firm Novavax for 76 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine in development, if it proves to be effective against the new coronavirus. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP.

 

The Canadian government announced Monday a deal with American biotech firm Novavax for 76 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine in development, if it proves to be effective against the new coronavirus.

The NVX-CoV2373 vaccine candidate, which is currently in Phase 2 clinical trials to evaluate its safety and immunogenicity, could be delivered in the second quarter of 2021, Ottawa and the company said in a joint statement.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said the deal “will give Canadians access to a promising COVID-19 vaccine candidate.”

The deal comes as the US government granted Novavax US$1.6 billion to help fund development and manufacture of the vaccine, giving the US priority for the first 100 million doses.

Maryland-based biotech Novavax has already signed partnership or vaccine delivery agreements with Britain, Japan and India.

Canada, meanwhile, has also concluded agreements with Pfizer and Moderna for deliveries of millions of doses of their experimental vaccines, now in Phase 3 trials — among the most advanced.

Early tests showed Novavax’s vaccine candidate was “generally well-tolerated” and elicited a “robust antibody responses,” Novavax said.

“We are moving forward with clinical development of NVX-CoV2373 with a strong sense of urgency in our quest to deliver a vaccine to protect the world,” said company president Stanley Erck.

As of Monday, Canada reported nearly 128,000 cases of Covid-19 and some 9,150 deaths.

AFP

Canadian Platform Spills 3,200 Gallons Of Oil-Mix Into Atlantic

Indigenous Firms Plan To Increase Oil Output

 

An oil platform off the Canadian Island of Newfoundland spilled nearly 3,200 gallons of an oil-water mix into the Atlantic Ocean, and efforts were underway to minimize the environmental impact, ExxonMobil said Thursday.

The spill occurred a day earlier during “routine activities related to removing water” from a platform storage cell, the American oil giant said earlier.

“The estimated volume of oil released from the Hibernia platform was 75 barrels of oil, equivalent to approximately 12,000 liters (3,170 gallons),” according to aerial surveillance, the Hibernia Management and Development Company (HMDC) said in a statement released by ExxonMobil.

That area of the North Atlantic is rich in marine life, including species of whales, but HMDC said “no wildlife has been observed in the area” by specialists who were sent out.

“We’re disappointed the discharge occurred, but we are working diligently to minimize impacts on the environment,” the statement quoted Scott Sandlin, HMDC’s president, as saying.

On Wednesday the company said it temporarily shut the oil platform after discovering the oil-water spill into the ocean.

It was using a range of clean-up measures including a boom-type system deployed over the side of a vessel, assisted by a skimmer.

HMDC said it was monitoring a sheen on the ocean surface with an approximate radius of three nautical miles (3.5 miles, 5.6 kilometers), about 204 miles east of St John’s Newfoundland.

“Vessels have been tasked with monitoring and clean-up of the sheen and requests that all mariners keep a 10 nautical mile berth from this area,” it said.

Hibernia — which opened for production in 1997 and is located about 196 miles east of St John’s — is jointly owned by Chevron, Suncor and Equinor (formerly Statoil) in addition to ExxonMobil, which holds the majority share.

The oil deposit below Hibernia — accessed via underwater drilling — is estimated to contain more than 1.2 billion barrels of oil.

China Sentences Another Canadian To Death For Drug Trafficking

 

A Chinese court sentenced a second Canadian man to death for drug trafficking on Tuesday, eliciting a rebuke from Canada’s foreign minister, amid diplomatic tensions between Ottawa and Beijing.

The court in southern Guangdong province said the Canadian, Fan Wei, and 10 others — including an American and four Mexicans — had been part of an international narcotics syndicate working out of Taishan city between July and November 2012.

The group produced and sold 63.38 kilos (140 pounds) of methamphetamine and 366 grammes of dimethylamylamine, a drug used for attention deficit-hyperactive disorder, weight loss and improving athletic performance, according to the Jiangmen Intermediate People’s Court.

Fan and a Chinese man who played a key role in operations were sentenced to death, the court said in a statement.

“The number of drugs sold and manufactured was extremely large and the crimes were extremely serious,” the statement said.

The other foreigners were given suspended death sentences which would be reduced to life imprisonment after two years while the rest of the men faced prison terms.

They have 10 days to appeal the sentence.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland reacted to the sentencing, saying the Canadian government is “very concerned.”

“Canada stands firmly opposed to the use of the death penalty, everywhere around the world,” she told reporters. “We think that this is a cruel and inhumane punishment, which should not be used in any country.

“We are obviously, particularly concerned when it is applied to Canadians.”

Fan is the second Canadian to face capital punishment this year.

In January, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was handed the death penalty following a one-day retrial after he appealed an earlier 15-year sentence in a separate drug trafficking case.

China says that he was a key member of an international drug trafficking syndicate but Schellenberg claims that he was visiting as a tourist.

The sentence came amid the backdrop of frosty diplomatic relations between China and Canada, with Beijing furious over the Vancouver arrest of a top executive from telecom giant Huawei on a US extradition request related to Iran sanctions violations.

Chinese authorities later detained two Canadian nationals — a former diplomat and a business consultant — on suspicion of endangering national security, a move seen as retaliation over the Huawei executive’s arrest.

Schellenberg has appealed his sentence and Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is fighting extradition.

AFP

Canada Mourns As 18 Citizens Perish In Ethiopian Plane Crash

Canadian Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland.                                                           Credit: AFP

 

Canada’s foreign minister on Sunday deplored the “terrible news” that 18 Canadian nationals were among the 157 people killed in the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jetliner.

“Terrible news from Addis Ababa this morning,” Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Twitter. “My heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost loved ones.”

She said the Ottawa government was in “close contact” with Ethiopian authorities to gather more information.

READ ALSO: Nigerian Ambassador, Abiodun Bashua Aboard Ill-Fated Ethiopian Plane

The Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 crashed minutes after an early-morning takeoff Sunday from Addis Ababa.

People holding passports from more than 30 countries and the UN were on board, but Canadians, with 18 victims, trailed only the 32 Kenyans who died in the crash.

The plane plowed into a field southeast of Addis Ababa, the airline’s CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told journalists in the Ethiopian capital, lamenting the “very sad and tragic day.”

The crash came on the eve of a major assembly in Nairobi of the UN Environment Program, but that agency did not say whether any delegates were on the plane.

State-owned Ethiopian Airline, Africa’s largest carrier, had taken delivery of the Boeing 737-800 MAX plane only on November 15.

The aircraft was of the same type as a plane that crashed in October shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.

AFP

Canadian Arrested In China For $284m Fraud Attempt

 

A Canadian man has been arrested in the gambling hub of Macau for allegedly trying to defraud an entertainment company out of $284 million, police said Monday.

The suspect, a 61-year-old retiree of Chinese descent, was arrested on Friday after allegedly trying to transfer the money from the firm’s bank account using bogus documents earlier in the week.

In an emailed statement Macau’s Judiciary Police told AFP the man, surnamed Liao, tried to use a “fake authorisation document and transfer slip to try to defraud the entertainment company and the bank”.

Police did not identify the company or the bank involved.

The arrest comes as Beijing and Ottawa are locked in a diplomatic row following the December arrest in Canada of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on a US extradition request linked to Iran sanctions violations.

In a move observers see as retaliation over the Meng case, Chinese authorities detained two Canadians soon after, accusing them of activities that “endanger China’s national security”.

The phrase is often used by Beijing when alleging espionage, and few details have been given about their whereabouts or the cases against them.

In contrast, the arrest in Macau was announced by local police in a press conference over the weekend, and they outlined the allegations in some detail.

In its statement the Judiciary Police said the man “tried to transfer 249,000,000 euros”.

Staff at the bank grew suspicious when the man’s signature did not match what they had on record for the account and they alerted police.

The man was then arrested at the border trying to leave Macau on Friday evening.

Canadian officials at the Hong Kong consulate, which oversees Macau, did not respond to requests for comment.

Macau is the world’s largest gambling hub, raking in five times as much as Las Vegas in gaming revenue. The vast majority of gamblers who visit the semi-autonomous city are Chinese nationals.

AFP

Canadian Woman Missing In West Africa Believed To Be Alive – PM

Luca Tacchetto (L) and Edith Blais (R) pose for a selfie picture. Credit:  FACEBOOK / AFP

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that a Canadian woman reported missing along with her Italian partner in Burkina Faso is believed to be alive.

“To the best of my knowledge, yes,” Trudeau said in response to a reporter’s question.

“With all that I know so far, I have not been told anything else other than that she is believed to be alive.”

The Canadian government said earlier it was leaving no stone unturned as it tries to determine what exactly happened to Edith Blais, 34, and her companion Luca Tacchetto, 30.

The pair were last seen on December 15 traveling by car in Burkina Faso between the town of Bobo-Dioulasso and the capital Ouagadougou, for a four- or five-day stay.

Kidnappings have increased in the impoverished Sahel state, which has been battling a rising wave of jihadist attacks over the last three years.

A Canadian travel warning had reported a risk of banditry and kidnapping in the area.

Late Wednesday, a Canadian geologist kidnapped at a remote gold mine in northeast Burkina Faso by suspected jihadists was found dead.

Blais and Tacchetto were working on a reforestation project with aid group Zion’Gaia.

Investigators on the ground have found no clues in their disappearance, but a senior Canadian official told AFP on condition of anonymity that they may have fallen victim to kidnapping or a robbery gone awry.

“All options are being explored,” Canadian International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said after meeting Friday with Blais’ family in Quebec province.

“We are doing everything we can,” she said.

Burkino Faso is in the front line of a jihadist rebellion in the Sahel, a vast, dusty region on the southern rim of the Sahara.

Canada has 250 soldiers and eight army helicopters deployed in neighboring Mali as part of a UN peacekeeping mission.

After chaos engulfed Libya in 2011, an Islamist insurgency gained ground in northern Mali, while Boko Haram rose in northern Nigeria.

Jihadist raids began in northern Burkina Faso in 2015 before spreading to the east, near the border with Togo and Benin.

Most of the attacks have been attributed to Ansarul Islam and the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM).

Smaller groups are also active, with the overall number of fighters estimated to be in the hundreds, according to security sources.

The groups are believed to be responsible for more than 270 deaths since 2015.

Ouagadougou has been hit three times, including a coordinated attack last March that targeted the French embassy and devastated the country’s military headquarters.

Eight foreigners have been abducted in the last four years, according to an AFP tally.

Among them is 84-year-old Australian doctor Kenneth Elliott, who was kidnapped with his wife Jocelyn in April 2015 in Djibo, where the pair ran a clinic for the poor.

Jocelyn Elliott was released after a year. Her husband, whose whereabouts remain unknown, has been declared a citizen of Burkina Faso, under a decree issued last November.

AFP

Canadian Geologist Kidnapped In Burkina Faso Found Dead

Kirk Woodman. Credit: @BoyerMichel

 

A Canadian geologist kidnapped at a goldmine in Burkina Faso by suspected jihadists has been found dead, the security ministry told AFP on Thursday.

 

A body found with gunshot wounds late Wednesday is that of Kirk Woodman, “the Canadian who was kidnapped the day before yesterday,” ministerial spokesman Jean-Paul Badoum said.

Earlier, a security official said the body of a “white man with gunshot wounds” had been found in Siega in Soum province.

The body “is being taken to Dori for identification,” the source said. Another security source said the remains would then be flown by helicopter to Ouagadougou.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said her country was “appalled and deeply saddened” by the killing.

“Canada condemns those responsible for this terrible crime. We are working with the government of Burkina Faso and other international partners to pursue those responsible and bring them to justice,” she said.

Woodman is one of two Canadians who have gone missing in Burkina Faso, an impoverished country in the front line of a jihadist rebellion in the Sahel.

He was vice president of a Canadian company, Progress Minerals, which owns a gold mine at Tiabangou, located in Yagha, a volatile province near the Niger and Mali border.

Hresponsiblye mine when the site came under attack from about 10 armed men, Security Minister Clement Sawadogo said on Wednesday.

The assailants “rounded up the staff. They searched the base camp and made off with some equipment. They took the expatriate with them,” he said.

Woodman had arrived in the country just on January 10, Sawadogo added.

In mid-December, 34-year-old Canadian aid worker Edith Blais was reported missing with an Italian friend, Lucas Tacchetto, 30, as they were travelling between the western town of Bobo-Dioulasso and the capital Ouagadougou.

Troubled region 

The vast region on the southern rim of the Sahara is struggling with a bloody Islamist insurgency and a wave of lawlessness.

After chaos engulfed Libya in 2011, an Islamist insurgency gained ground in northern Mali, Burkina’s neighbour, while Boko Haram rose in northern Nigeria.

Jihadist raids began in northern Burkina Faso in 2015 before spreading to the east, near the border with Togo and Benin.

Most of the attacks have been attributed to Ansarul Islam and the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM).

Smaller groups are also active, with the overall number of fighters estimated to be in the hundreds, according to security sources.

The groups are believed to be responsible for more than 270 deaths since 2015. Ouagadougou has been hit three times and almost 60 people have died there.

Eight foreigners have been abducted in the last four years, according to an AFP tally.

Among them is 84-year-old Australian doctor worker, Kenneth Elliott, who was kidnapped with his wife Jocelyn in April 2015 in Djibo, where the pair ran a clinic for the poor.

Jocelyn Elliott was released after a year. Her husband, whose whereabouts remain unknown, has been declared a citizen of Burkina Faso, under a decree issued last November.

Canada has 250 soldiers and eight army helicopters deployed in Mali as part of a UN peacekeeping mission.

AFP

Canadian Woman Reported Missing In Burkina Faso

Edith Blais Credit: @rapida_canada

 

A Canadian woman who traveled to Burkina Faso with an Italian friend as part of a humanitarian aid program has been reported missing, the foreign ministry said Saturday.

Edith Blais, 34, has not been heard from since December 15, according to Canadian media.

“Canadian consular agents in Burkina Faso are in contact with the local authorities to gather information. Consular services have been provided to members of the family in Canada,” a foreign ministry spokesman told AFP.

Local media reports said Blais traveled to the West African country via Europe with a friend, Lucas Tacchetto, a 30-year-old from Venice. The Canadian foreign ministry had no comment on Tacchetto’s status.

The pair were supposed to travel by car to Togo for a humanitarian aid project with Zion’Gaia, an environmentally oriented group that engages in reforestation projects, according to its website.

“They never have crossed the border or applied for a visa from Burkina Faso to Togo or Ghana,” read a statement posted on a Facebook group created by the woman’s family.

It said Blais and Tacchetto were heading to Ouagadougou from Bobo-Diulasso for a four- or five-day stay, noting that a Canadian travel warning had reported a risk of banditry and kidnapping in the area.

Ethnic violence left 48 dead in Burkina Faso this week, and a state of emergency was decreed in several provinces in the wake of recurrent jihadist attacks.

The Canadian foreign ministry cautioned its nationals to avoid non-essential travel in Burkina Faso because of the “terrorist threat.”

AFP

Canadian To Face Drug Charges In China Court

 

A Canadian is to appear before a court in northeastern China on Saturday for drugs charges, a government-run news portal said, amid frosty relations between Beijing and Ottawa. 

The Liaoning People’s High Court identified the man as Robert Lloyd Schellenberg.

In a brief statement published Wednesday, the court said he is appealing a drug smuggling case at 2:00 pm (0600 GMT) on Saturday but gave no further details.

A government news portal, runsky.com, said Schellenberg is Canadian and had smuggled an “enormous amount” of drugs.

China still has the death penalty for drug trafficking.

Canada’s foreign ministry did not immediately comment on the matter.

Ties between Beijing and Ottawa have been strained after China detained two Canadians — former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and China-based businessman Michael Spavor — whom they accuse of engaging in activities that “endanger China’s security”.

Kovrig is a senior advisor at the International Crisis Group think tank, while Spavor facilitates trips to North Korea, including visits by former basketball star Dennis Rodman.

Though no link has been officially made, the arrests seem to be in retaliation to Canada’s December 1 arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a top executive at Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

She was detained on request from the United States, which has accused her of violating sanctions of Iran.

Another Canadian, a woman named Sarah McIver, is also being held pending deportation for working illegally in China.

AFP

China Detains Third Canadian

 

China has arrested a third Canadian amid a diplomatic spat between Beijing and Ottawa over the arrest of a Chinese telecom executive, a Canadian official said Wednesday.

“Global Affairs Canada is aware of a Canadian citizen detained in China,” ministry spokeswoman Maegan Graveline told AFP, without providing further details.

A government source said the detention is not believed to be linked to the arrest of a top Chinese tech executive in Vancouver on a US warrant.

AFP