Connect with us
[bsa_pro_ad_space id=12]


What is going on in Belarus?


4 minute read

Political upheaval continues in Belarus 12 days after the results of the August 9 presidential election led to mass protests calling for constitutional reform and new leadership.  

On August 9, long-standing leader Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected president of Belarus for his sixth consecutive term, allegedly winning by a landslide with 80% of the vote. These results were quickly contested by the public and widely denounced by a number of international governments who believe the election was fraudulent. 

Often referred to as “Europe’s last dictator”, Alexander Lukashenko has been the president of Belarus for 26 years, since his original election in 1994. For over two decades, a number of undemocratic practices and human rights violations have been reported under his authoritarian rule. These include arbitrary arrests and detentions, life-threatening prison conditions, unlawful restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, restrictions to free speech, the press and Internet, and interference with free and fair elections (1). 

According to the Atlantic Council, “For the past two-and-a-half decades, the Lukashenko regime has routinely rigged every election taking place in the country and imprisoned an entire generation of opposition figures.” 

For many, this year’s election in Belarus looked to be different than previous years under Lukashenko, with strong support building around opposing candidate Svetlana G. Tikhanovskaya. Tikhanovskaya became Lukashenko’s main opposition leading up to the election when her husband, the original opposition candidate, was jailed. According to the New York Times, Tikhanovskaya had significant public support, “Tens of thousands of people participated in rallies to support Ms. Tikhanovskaya before the election, the largest antigovernment demonstration in decades.” 

Under this context, Lukashenko’s ‘landslide victory’ has led to severe political unrest across the country as Belarusians demand a legitimate, free and fair election for the first time in over 20 years. The protests, which erupted in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, population 1.97 million, have spread throughout the country and are being increasingly met with violent suppression from law enforcement. According to CBS News on August 19, “Riot police in Belarus have violently suppressed protestors, pelting them with rubber bullets, water cannons, and in some cases even live ammunition. At least 3 people have been killed and thousands were swept up in a wave of mass arrests.” 

As tensions continue to build in Belarus, they are also rising across the world between Western Allies who have denounced Lukashenko’s election as fraudulent, and countries such as China and Russia, who have “endorsed the election results unequivocally” (2).

For those continuing to take to the streets and remain on strike in Belarus, hope remains that a democratically elected leader will take their place at the head of the country. Following the announcement of the election results on August 9, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya reportedly fled to the neighboring country of Lithuania, where she then came forward to publicly denounce the results of the election. She has since released a public address calling for reform in Belarus. In the video, Tikhanovskaya expressed her willingness to step in as a national leader to restore order to the country and aid in the implementation of a legitimate, transparent transition of power and the unification of a democratic Belarus. 

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.


‘It kind of clicks:’ Text4Hope program helps with depression, anxiety during pandemic

Published on

EDMONTON — Kiara Robillard says she was in a really bad place.

During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, after she was struck by a truck and her spine broke in two places, she moved home to Alberta from California.

“That put a real damper on my life for quite awhile,” says the 25-year-old, who’s unemployed and living in Edmonton.

“I was depressed, anxious, losing touch with reality, and I was desperate for help.”

A few months ago, she says her doctor recommended she subscribe to an Alberta Health Service text-messaging program designed to provide mental-health support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s called Text4Hope.

Participants receive one text message every morning for three months. After that, they can subscribe for a further six months.

Robillard selects a message of hope on her cellphone. “This one’s my favourite: ‘We often think that motivation leads to behaviour. The opposite is also true. Engaging in activities can increase your motivation.’

“I struggle with motivation so just seeing it written out in plain English … it kind of clicks.”

Vincent Agyapong, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, founded the program.

“Text4Hope is a program that allows individuals to subscribe to receive daily supportive text messages to help people deal with stress, anxiety and depression during the COVID pandemic,” he says.

“When people are feeling stressed, anxious and depressed, they become preoccupied with doom and gloom.

“Once you are in this mental state you receive this positive message of hope, which momentarily disrupts your negative pattern of thinking.”

Agyapong says the messages are crafted by psychologists, therapists and psychiatrists.

Another example of a message sent to subscribers: “When bad things happen that we can’t control, we often focus on the things we can’t change. Focus on what you can control; what can you do to help yourself (or someone else) today?”

The idea for Text4Hope came from a similar texting service Agyapong created after a wildfire tore through Fort McMurray, Alta., in 2016. Text4Mood, which was also promoted by Alberta Health Services, sent similar messages of hope to that community’s residents.

Over six weeks with Text4Hope, Agyapong says users reported a 10 per cent reduction in depressive thoughts in comparison to those who didn’t get messages.

“When people switch from being preoccupied with the doom and gloom to thinking more of the positive contents of the messages, which changes their thinking pattern, (it) results in reduced stress, anxiety and depression,” he says.

More than 52,000 people have subscribed to the program since it started nearly a year ago. It is planning to continue for at least two years.

Agyapong says he has also set up a program that will send similar text messages in Arabic for newcomers, starting in April.

Last month, he started a text service for first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and he launched one in British Columbia for residents in Indigenous communities who have had multiple traumas. “They had wildfires, then they have flooding and now they have the pandemic,” says Agyapong.

Robillard says she is getting therapy and on medication, but Text4Hope comes in handy on days when she feels down.

“It’s something that’s like a good addition to whatever regimen you have for taking care of your mental health,” she says.

“It’s there to help me … having a different voice, a different stream of consciousness around me helps.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading


Alberta Energy Regulator suspends licences of oil and gas producer that owes $67M

Published on

CALGARY — The Alberta Energy Regulator says it is suspending licences for thousands of wells and pipelines after an oil and gas producer failed to bring its operations into regulatory compliance.

The regulator says it has ordered private SanLing Energy Ltd. to suspend its 2,266 wells, 227 facilities and 2,170 pipelines and ensure they are left in a state that’s safe for the public and the environment.

It adds the company currently owes $67 million in security to the AER for its assets’ end-of-life obligations.

The company has been producing about 4,200 barrels of oil equivalent per day, primarily dry natural gas, said AER spokeswoman Cara Tobin.

It is being asked by the AER to comply with past orders to clean up historic spills and contamination, ensure its emergency response number is working and provide a detailed plan to maintain its assets while they are suspended.

The AER says it issued an order to SanLing in September because of a poor compliance record and its outstanding security issues.

It says it met with the company several times over the past five months to request a plan to come back into compliance but the company’s responses proved to be inadequate.

“If SanLing, or any company, wants to do business in Alberta, they must follow our rules,” said Blair Reilly, AEB director of enforcement and emergency management, in a news release.

“We cannot allow a company that has ignored the rules continue to operate — that’s not in Alberta’s interest.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Continue Reading