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Canadians should be concerned democracy is under threat in Hungary: Ignatieff

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The political machinations that have recently forced an American university to cease operations in Hungary should serve as a warning about the growing global threat of authoritarian regimes, current school president and former Liberal le…


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  • The political machinations that have recently forced an American university to cease operations in Hungary should serve as a warning about the growing global threat of authoritarian regimes, current school president and former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said Monday.

    Ignatieff said that the Central European University, a graduate institution founded by billionaire George Soros in 1991, has been “forced out” of the country by the current far-right government of Victor Orban, who has joined other like-minded politicians in blaming the U.S. philanthropist for Europe’s migrant crisis.

    The university, which serves about 1,400 international students, has decided to move its U.S.-accredited degree programs from Hungary to neighbouring Austria next September after meeting with ongoing resistance from the Orban regime, said Ignatieff, the school’s president and rector since 2016. 

    Ignatieff, who spent a turbulent three-year tenure as leader of Canada’s federal opposition between 2008 and 2011, said the fate of CEU should serve as a warning sign to all democratic countries including Canada.

    “This is a regime that…has gone after the courts, it’s gone after the press, it’s changed the constitution, it’s gerrymandered the political system,” Ignatieff said in a telephone interview. “There’s a clear direction to what it’s doing, and the attack on the university is just another stage in that process. I think Canadians should be concerned that democracy is under threat in Hungary.”

    Ignatieff said fears for CEU’s future in Hungary emerged last year during Orban’s re-election campaign in which the four-time prime minister frequently levied attacks at the Hungarian-born Soros.

    Orban’s government has conducted massive billboard and media campaigns against Soros blaming him for Europe’s migrant crisis, a charge that Soros denies. In June, the parliament approved the “Stop Soros” law, which allows criminal penalties of up to a year in prison for those convicted of aiding asylum-seekers.

    The pro-democracy philanthropist has also been criticized by U.S. President Donald Trump and vilified by right-wing conspiracy theorists.

    Ignatieff said the Orban government imposed a host of new requirements for the university to meet in order to keep operating as an international graduate school in Budapest.

    One new rule, for instance, required CEU to prove it had a campus in place in the U.S. Ignatieff said the school established educational programs with New York’s Bard College to comply with the rule.

    But he said the Orban government would not accept CEU’s moves and ultimately refused to sign an agreement necessary to let it continue as a U.S.-accredited institution in Budapest.

    Ignatieff noted a certain irony in the situation given CEU’s origins as an anti-communist university.

    “This is an institution founded to assist the society transition out of single-party rule. We’re being driven out of Hungary by a government that is consolidating single-party rule,” he said. “This is a story about what happened to the transition from communism. It didn’t go in the direction that anybody expected.”   

    Hungary’s fight with CEU is widely seen as part of a more comprehensive crackdown on academic freedom, including tighter budgetary and research controls over Hungarian universities. In October, for example, the government eliminated gender study programs at public universities.

    Ignatieff said Hungary is not the only country to see many democratic rights swept away by the current regime, saying authoritarian governments in other European countries, including Poland, point to an alarming global trend.

    It’s one he said Canadians should monitor with caution.

    “Canadians take their democracy for granted, but they shouldn’t,” he said. “Democracy is not secure, and it’s not secure in this part of Europe. In the 21st century no place is very far away, and what starts in one place can easily spread to many places.”

    Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called Monday’s announcement “a terrible loss.”

    “This forced move is a blow to academic freedom, which is a fundamental right, and all the more troubling given that Hungary is a NATO and EU member state,” she said.

    Incoming students in CEU’s masters and doctoral programs will start studying at the Vienna campus in the 2019-2020 academic year, while students already enrolled may remain in Budapest to complete their degrees.

    — with files from the Associated Press

    Michelle McQuigge, The Associated Press




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    Environment

    Growing wildfire prompts evacuation of High Level, Alta.

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    HIGH LEVEL, Alta. — A northern Alberta town and a nearby First Nation are being evacuated due to the threat of an encroaching wildfire.
    Thousands of people are being told to leave High Level, as well as the Bushe River Reserve, via Highway 58…


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  • HIGH LEVEL, Alta. — A northern Alberta town and a nearby First Nation are being evacuated due to the threat of an encroaching wildfire.

    Thousands of people are being told to leave High Level, as well as the Bushe River Reserve, via Highway 58 east of the communities since highways south and west have already been closed due to the blaze.

    The Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several days, but grew substantially from Sunday, when it covered about 25,000 hectares, to an estimated 69,000 hectares on Monday.

    At the time the evacuations were ordered, the flames were only about three kilometres from High Level.

    “The winds are pushing the smoke away from the Town of High Level. It looks very scary on the horizon, but in the Town of High Level the skies are blue and sunny and windy,” Mayor Crystal McAteer told a telephone news conference on Monday afternoon.

    Reception centres for evacuees have been set up in High Prairie and Slave Lake, and officials are arranging transportation for residents who can’t get out on their own.

    McAteer said the evacuation is being co-ordinated in zones. People should expect to be away for 72 hours.

    She said about 4,000 people from High Level were affected by the order, and another 750 from Bushe River.

    Earlier in the day, the town warned on its website that people should fill up their vehicles and collect important documents in case they were ordered to leave at short notice. Power has also been knocked out because of the fire, but was expected to be restored Monday evening.

    Mandetory evacuation orders for residents south and southeast of the town, and south of Bushe River, were issued early Monday.

    Provincial officials said the evacuation of High Level would take a maximum of eight hours, but since some people had already left, they said it could be completed sooner.

    Alberta Health Services said it had evacuated 20 patients from the Northwest Health Centre in High Level and relocated them to other communities.

    Scott Elliot, an incident commander with Alberta Wildfire, told the news conference that the wildfire was mostly headed away from High Level, but that city officials decided it was best for everyone to leave since the flames were so close.

    “If there was a subtle shift in the wind direction, that would increase the likelihood of rapid fire spread towards the community,” Elliot said.

    Crews are using sprinklers on structures on the edge of the town closest to the fire.

    McAteer said people were complying with the evacuation order.

    “People are of course afraid because they remember the wildfires of Fort McMurray, but we talked to a lot of the residents and reaffirmed that we were being proactive,” she said.

    A 2016 wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alta., destroyed one-tenth of the city and some 88,000 people were forced from their homes.

    Slave Lake, where a reception centre has been set up for residents of High Level, was also evacuated because of a wildfire in 2011 that destroyed parts of the community.

    The Alberta government issued a fire ban and restricted off-highway vehicle use for numerous parts of the province late last week due to forecasts that called for little precipitation and strong winds.

    Highway 16, a major thoroughfare between Edmonton and Prince George B.C., was forced to close in both direction Sunday when a wildfire crossed the roadway west of Edson, Alta., but was reopened early Monday.

    —By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton

    The Canadian Press


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    Health

    Focus on traumatized boys critical to gender equality, new research shows

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    TORONTO — Boys in poor urban areas around the world are suffering even more than girls from violence, abuse and neglect, groundbreaking international research published on Monday suggests.
    The study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, along with …


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  • TORONTO — Boys in poor urban areas around the world are suffering even more than girls from violence, abuse and neglect, groundbreaking international research published on Monday suggests.

    The study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, along with similar new research, suggests an adequate focus on helping boys is critical to achieving gender equality in the longer term.

    “This is the first global study to investigate how a cluster of traumatic childhood experiences known as ACEs, or adverse childhood experiences, work together to cause specific health issues in early adolescence, with terrible life-long consequences,” Dr. Robert Blum, the lead researcher for the global early adolescent study, said in a statement. “While we found young girls often suffer significantly, contrary to common belief, boys reported even greater exposure to violence and neglect, which makes them more likely to be violent in return.”

    The study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health looked at childhood traumas suffered by 1,284 adolescents aged 10 to 14 in more than a dozen low-income urban settings around the world such as the United States, China, the U.K., Egypt and Bolivia.

    Overall, 46 per cent of young adolescents reported experiencing violence, 38 per cent said they suffered emotional neglect and 29 per cent experienced physical neglect. Boys, however, were more likely to report being victims of physical neglect, sexual abuse and violence.

    While higher levels of trauma lead both boys and girls to engage in more violent behaviours, boys are more likely to become violent. Girls tend to show higher levels of depression.

    Separately, a new report to be released next month at an international conference in Vancouver concludes that focusing on boys is critical to achieving gender parity. The report from the Bellagio Working Group on Gender Equality — a global coalition of adolescent health experts — finds boys and men are frequently overlooked in the equality equation.

    “We cannot achieve a gender-equitable world by ignoring half of its occupants,” the report states. “It is crucial that boys and men be included in efforts to promote gender equality and empowerment.”

    For the past six years, a consortium of 15 countries led by the Bloomberg School of Public Health and World Health Organization has been working on the global early adolescent study. The aim is to understand how gender norms are formed in early adolescence and how they predispose young people to sexual and other health risks.

    Evidence gathered by the study indicates boys experience as much disadvantage as girls but are more likely to smoke, drink and suffer injury and death in the second decade of life than their female counterparts.

    The key to achieving gender equality over the next decade or so — as the United Nations aims to do — involves addressing conditions and stereotypes that are harmful to both girls and boys, the researchers say. They also say it’s crucial to intervene as early as age 10. The norm is now age 15.

    “Gender norms, attitudes and beliefs appear to solidify by age 15 or 16,” the working group says. “We must actively engage girls and boys at the onset of adolescence to increase total social inclusion and produce generational change.”

    Leena Augimeri, a child mental-health expert with the Child Development Institute in Toronto, agreed with the need to focus on boys as well as girls. At the same time, she said, the genders do require different approaches.

    “Boys are equally at risk,” said Augimeri, who was not involved in the studies. “When we look at the various issues that impact our children, we have to look at it from different perspectives and lenses and you can’t think there’s a one fit for all.”

     

    Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press


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