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A week on, vigil held for Christchurch victims in Prince Edward Island

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CHARLOTTETOWN — More than a week after the deadly shooting rampage at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, a vigil was held at the Charlottetown cenotaph in Prince Edward Island on Saturday to show solidarity with the victims.

Sobia Ali-Faisal, a faculty member at the University of Prince Edward Island’s psychology department, said while the temperature was cold the atmosphere at the vigil was warm.

“It was sombre, but the signs that people had were very, very supportive,” she said, adding that the hundreds of people who attended “really wanted to be there.”

Ali-Faisal said it was particularly heartening to see support from outside the Muslim community.

“It’s soothing because you can feel quite vulnerable after something like this happens,” she said.

“It could happen here. You could be a target, and you just kind of become cautious and take a lot more precautions. So it’s nice when you see people come out and support you. It makes you feel safer.”

Vigils can also be a starting point for challenging hate by allowing people of different faiths to connect, she added, but said it’s important to keep up the momentum they create.

Shaukat Khan, the president of the Pakistan Canada Association in Vancouver, said it’s “amazing” to see Canadians standing with the Muslim community, adding that Canadians always come together in hard times and these vigils show that.

There are a number of groups in British Columbia and other parts of the country meeting up and thinking of ways to sustain the dialogue following the attacks, he said.

The gunman killed a total of 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, in the nation’s worst terrorist attack.

Australian national Brenton Tarrant, 28, has been charged with murder in the attacks and is scheduled to make his next court appearance on April 5.

Alhadi Abusneena, the president of the Muslim Society of Prince Edward Island who was also at the Charlottetown vigil, echoed Ali-Faisal’s words.

The people of Charlottetown and P.E.I. support the Muslim community and “we stand as one family,” he said.

“I see in their eyes, I see the love and compassion,” he said.

Such vigils show that in spite of the sorrow, people choose love over hatred, he said.

Although the vigil on Saturday took place more than a week after the shooting, Abusneena said the timing is irrelevant since the victims’ families have to live with a lifetime of pain.

—By Hina Alam in Vancouver, with files from The Associated Press

The Canadian Press

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National

Saskatchewan to continue using ‘birth alerts’ despite calls by inquiry to stop

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REGINA — The Saskatchewan government says it will continue to track or seize babies born to Indigenous mothers despite a call to stop from the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The inquiry’s final report recommends governments and child-welfare agencies immediately abandon what are known as birth or hospital alerts.

Saskatchewan’s Social Services Ministry says the alerts are registered if there is a concern about a mother and the potential safety of her baby.

It says social workers or health professionals can make the reports. 

The alerts allow government officials to be informed when a baby is born so a report can be investigated, which can result in a newborn being seized.

The ministry says 153 newborns were apprehended in Saskatchewan for their own safety as a result of 588 alerts issued from 2015 to 2018.

“We only do that in extreme circumstances,” Social Services Minister Paul Merriman said.

“At the end of the day, if a child is temporarily taken into care — no matter what age they are — our end goal is always reunification with the family to make sure that they have the opportunity to be a family as a whole.”

The ministry says more than 60 per cent of babies taken into care were placed with their extended family while staff worked with the parents.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said the government is unwilling to change its policies when it comes to delivering child welfare.

“When mother and baby are separated, obviously the mother is very distraught. She’s overwhelmed. She’s heartbroken,” said Morley Watson, first vice-chief of the federation, which represents Saskatchewan’s 74 First Nations.

In Manitoba, figures for birth alerts are much higher. A government spokeswoman said that in 2017-18, Manitoba child-welfare agencies issued 558 birth alerts for high-risk mothers, but did not have figures on how many of those resulted in apprehensions.

Cora Morgan, a family advocate for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, has said, on average, a newborn is apprehended every day

In January, social media videos surfaced showing a newborn baby girl being taken from the arms of her Indigenous mother by Manitoba social workers and police. The move prompted outrage and renewed calls for changes to child welfare in the province.

A judge granted guardianship of the baby to the mother’s aunt in March.

Morgan said the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs lobbied the MMIW inquiry to look at child welfare.

“Our elders have said that the most violent act you can commit to a women is to steal or take her children away,” said Morgan.

“It’s torturous for the mother.”

 

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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Protests, legal challenges planned to block Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

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VANCOUVER — Opponents of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion are preparing for a long summer of legal challenges and protests aimed at blocking the project from being built.

Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation says it will file a legal challenge in the Federal Court of Appeal and he is confident the First Nation will be successful after Ottawa approved the project on Tuesday.

Squamish Nation Coun. Khelsilem says his band is also prepared for legal action and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says the city will join any lawsuits that are filed.

Lawyer Eugene Kung says there are a number of legal arguments opponents could advance, including that it was impossible for the federal government to make an unbiased decision as the owner of the pipeline.

But Eric Adams, a law professor at the University of Alberta, says the court may be uncomfortable setting a precedent that governments cannot approve projects they support.

A 20-kilometre march is planned for Sunday from Victoria to the Saanich peninsula in solidarity with First Nations that are opposed to the project.

The Canadian Press

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