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B.C. MLA slams Leonardo DiCaprio for ‘misinformed’ support of pipeline opposition

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In a series of tweets, Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross called out Hollywood heavyweight Leonardo DiCaprio for his allegedly “misinformed” comment in support of the Wet’sutwet’en Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline opposition.

“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” Ross told DiCaprio on Twitter. “Give me a call. I’ll tell you the other side of the story as an Aboriginal leader who was on the front of this project from day one.”

Ross’s comments were a response to the American actor’s own tweet in which he highlighted the pipeline opposition in northwest B.C. to his 19.4 million followers on Twitter and shared a video of the RCMP raid posted by the Gidimt’en Checkpoint group.

“After setting up a blockade to protect their land, community, and sacred headwaters Wedzin Kwa from Coastal GasLink’s planned fracked gas pipeline, the Wet’suwet’en Nation has faced militarized raids from the RCMP. We must protect the rights of land defenders,” read DiCaprio’s Nov. 22 tweet.

This is not the first time DiCaprio has been vocal about environmental issues in B.C. Back in June, he joined a list of celebrities and tweeted in support of protecting old-growth forests in the province in wake of the Fairy Creek blockades on Vancouver Island.

The CGL pipeline opposition gained worldwide attention after videos of RCMP arresting people who had set up blockades near Houston mid-November went viral on the internet.

Pipeline opponents have repeatedly stressed on the environmental concerns of the pipeline being built under the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River), without consent from hereditary chiefs. The 670-kilometre-long CGL pipeline in northwestern B.C. by TC Energy is being built to deliver natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to the LNG Canada facility in Kitimat.

Ross, who was the former chief councillor for the Haisla Nation on whose territory the LNG Canada terminal is being built, has been vocal about his support for resource development economies for First Nations.

The BC Liberal Leadership candidate used this opportunity to speak out in support of the $40 billion LNG Canada project.

Since his initial Twitter response, Ross penned an open letter to Leonardo DiCaprio published in the National Post where he further elucidated on the many reasons why the actor is “wrong.”

“By encouraging illegal activity in the name of “conservation” you [DiCaprio] are, in reality, harming the hard-working people — Indigenous and non-Indigenous — who are leading the way on providing environmentally sustainable solutions for my province,” read a statement from the letter.

Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Terrace Standard

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National

Crowd gathers north of Toronto to cheer on trucker convoy heading to Ottawa

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TORONTO — A large crowd gathered outside a mall north of Toronto on Thursday as a group of local truckers prepared to join a convoy to Ottawa in protest of the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for cross-border drivers.

Some in the crowd threw cash and food up to truckers in their vehicles at the Vaughan Mills mall while others hoisted Canadian flags and signs protesting the government as the truckers gradually rolled out.

Mike Fabinski, a truck driver from Barrie, Ont., said the vaccine mandate means he won’t be able to work cross-border routes any more.

“You want to be vaccinated, go ahead, your choice. I don’t want to be vaccinated, that’s my choice,” he said.

Fabinski said he’s been a truck driver for 20 years but has not been able to travel to the U.S. since the federal mandate came to effect on Jan 15.

“I was going non-stop until they started last Saturday,” he said. “Now I cannot go. I cannot work no more.”

The federal government ended truckers’ exemption to the vaccine mandate two weeks ago meaning Canadian truck drivers need to be fully vaccinated if they want to avoid a two-week quarantine when they cross into Canada from the U.S.

Some with extreme, far-right views have latched onto the protest against the mandate. One online video includes a man expressing hope the rally will turn into the Canadian equivalent of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former president Donald Trump.

On Thursday, some in the crowd that came out to support the truckers said they planned to join the convoy and make the trek to Ottawa as well.

Dean Brown said he supported peaceful protest intended by the convoy and rejected suggestions that it could lead to violence.

“The people who are in charge of this (convoy) are blocking people who are insisting or suggesting violence,” the 57-year-old Toronto man said.

“It’s all about peace. It’s all about freedom. It’s all about getting the Canadian way of life back. We are not here to turn it to violence.”

Ontario Provincial Police were urging drivers to be patient as several groups of truckers planned to drive across the province to Ottawa before a so-called “freedom rally” on Parliament Hill planned for Saturday.

Police spokesman Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said drivers should prepare for delays on Toronto-area highways, including Highway 401, Highway 400 and the Queen Elizabeth Way.

Police in Ottawa have said they are planning for as many as 2,000 demonstrators, and while protest leaders have been co-operative, there are concerns that far-right extremist groups that have attached themselves to the convoy could spark violence.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance, which has denounced the convoy protest, estimates that roughly 15 per cent of truckers — up to 16,000 — are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2022.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

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Justice

Bodies of family from India trying to cross into U.S. by foot identified

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Officials in Ottawa say they have confirmed the identities of four Indian nationals whose bodies were found frozen in Manitoba near the Canada-U. S. border last week.

The High Commission of India has released a notice saying the four who died were Jagdish Baldevbhai Patel, a 39-year-old man, Vaishaliben Jagdishkumar Patel, a 37-year-old woman, Vihangi Jagdishkumar Patel, an 11-year-old girl, and Dharmik Jagdishkumar Patel, a three-year-old boy.

Investigators believe the family of four was attempting to cross over the border by foot on Jan. 19 during severe winter weather and died from exposure.

The family’s immediate relatives have been informed, says the release.

“The Consulate General of India in Toronto is in touch with the family of the deceased and is providing all consular support. The High Commission offers its sincere condolences to the family and friends of the victims.”

The release says a special team, led by a senior consular officer from the Consulate General of India, is in Manitoba to help with investigations on the Canadian side and to offer services for the victims.

Manitoba RCMP found the four bodies near Emerson, Man., after U.S. border patrol agents advised them they had picked up a group of Indian nationals on the U.S. side.

One of the individuals was found with a backpack full of items for an infant. He told investigators he was carrying the backpack for a group that got separated from his.

Investigators have said they believe the deaths are linked to a human smuggling scheme.

Steve Shand of Deltona, Fla., faces counts of transporting or attempting to transport illegal aliens. He was released from custody on Monday.

Police in the western state of Gujarat in India have begun delving deeper into the deaths of four Indian migrants.

Ashish Bhatia, director general of police in Gujarat, says investigators are trying to determine whether there was a travel agent in India who helped the group.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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