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National

Canada ‘disappointed’ terror suspect’s British citizenship revoked

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OTTAWA — The United Kingdom is shirking its share of the international community’s duty to help keep the world safe from terrorism, the federal government suggested Sunday after the British Home Office revoked the citizenship of a dual citizen imprisoned in Syria.

Jack Letts, a British-Canadian man who has been behind bars in a Kurdish prison since 2017, has been stripped of his British citizenship, the office of Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed in a sternly worded statement.

“Canada is disappointed that the United Kingdom has taken this unilateral action to off-load their responsibilities,” the statement said. “Terrorism knows no borders, so countries need to work together to keep each other safe.”

Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the British media, has been detained for about two years after he travelled to Syria in 2014 to support the Islamic State group.

A statement from the Home Office said revoking British citizenships is one way it counters terrorist threats. It said it does not comment on individual cases.

“Decisions on depriving a dual national of citizenship are based on substantial advice from officials, lawyers and the intelligence agencies and all available information,” the statement said.

Letts’ parents, John Letts and Sally Lane, were found guilty in June for funding terrorism when they tried to send him money. The couple, from Oxford, England, received suspended sentences of 12 months in prison.

John Letts wrote a letter to Canadian MPs last year that said his son is not a terrorist and deserves Canada’s protection. In his letter, Letts wrote that the money was to pay “people smugglers,”which he described as his son’s “only way out” of Syria.

Goodale’s office said it is aware of multiple Canadian citizens detained in Syria, referring to Public Safety Canada’s latest report on terrorism threats to Canada.

The federal government is aware of about 190 “extremist travellers with a nexus to Canada” abroad, with about a half of those located in Syria, Turkey or Iraq, according to the 2018 report.

Goodale’s office said there is no legal obligation to facilitate their return to Canada and that Canadians involved in terrorism or violent extremism must be held accountable for their actions.

John Letts said last year that Global Affairs Canada told the family for months that it was working to get their son released, but that the department eventually decided it was too dangerous.

Goodale’s office says consular services will not be provided “to undue risk in this dangerous part of the world.”

— with files from the Associated Press

The Canadian Press

Education

School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar

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A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.

Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.

The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.

The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.

The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.

“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.

Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.

The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.

The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.

The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.

Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.

“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.

Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.

“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”

 

 

 

 

 

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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Health

Ottawa paid $75M for veterans’ cannabis last year, could pay $100M this year

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OTTAWA — The federal government shelled out a record $75 million to cover the cost of medical marijuana for veterans in the last fiscal year — and it is on track to spend nearly $100 million this year.

The figures from Veterans Affairs Canada come despite the government having cited rising costs and a lack of scientific evidence about the drug’s medical benefits for cutting how much cannabis it would cover for veterans.

Unless a veteran gets a special medical exemption, the government will reimburse veterans for a maximum three grams of medical marijuana per day, which is down from a previous maximum of 10 grams.

While the change in November 2016 reduced the government’s costs the following year, those savings were shortlived as more and more veterans turned to the government to pay for their medical marijuana.

Yet even as more veterans are using medical marijuana, Jason Busse of the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medical Cannabis Research at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., says its medical benefits remain unclear.

The federal government is putting money into more research, but Busse says it is concerning that more and more veterans and non-veterans are turning to the drug when there are so many unanswered questions about it.

The Canadian Press

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