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Trudeau travels to G7, NATO as Canada grapples with Islamophobia, residential schools

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has left Canada for a G7 summit as the country is seized by tragedy and demands for justice for Indigenous Peoples and Muslims.

Trudeau is to arrive in Cornwall, U.K., today for a three-day gathering with G7 leaders and then travel to Brussels for a NATO summit, followed by a meeting between Canada and the European Union.

Ending the pandemic, recovering the global economy — including for international travel — and getting vaccines to less wealthy countries dominates the agenda for the G7.

Recently though, Canada’s economic and health responses to COVID-19 have been eclipsed by an outpouring of grief over the targeted killing of a Muslim family, and a First Nation’s discovery of what are believed to be the remains of 215 Indigenous children at a former residential school.

Trudeau spoke at a vigil two days ago in London, Ont., for the Afzaal family. Four members of the family died when a man drove a truck into them while they were out for a walk Sunday evening. A nine-year-old boy survived.

The prime minister called it a terrorist attack.

His Liberal government has also faced questions over its lack of progress on a promise to implement the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into Canada’s former residential school system.

As well, Trudeau has been urging Pope Francis to apologize for the Catholic Church’s role in operating these facilities, where generations of Indigenous children suffered abuse and isolation from their families and culture.

Heading into the G7, Trudeau’s office says besides the pandemic, he will focus on climate change — a major policy plank for his Liberal government — as well as economic growth and co-ordinating approaches to promote gender equality and human rights.

Canada also joins other countries whose finance ministers signed on to a tax reform that would set a global minimum corporate tax of at least 15 per cent, which has drawn criticism from the Opposition Conservatives who say the country should handle tax policy on its own.

Trudeau’s trip marks a few firsts.

It’s his first travel outside of Canada in more than a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first time all G7 leaders will be in the same room since 2019 — and without former U.S. president Donald Trump.

Current U.S. President Joe Biden will also make his first trip abroad since being elected to the White House last fall to attend the summit, providing the first chance for him and Trudeau to talk face-to-face since he took office.

“This is the most exclusive club in the world,” said John Kirton, director of the G7 Research Group at the University of Toronto.

“Sometimes it’s what I’ve called the lonely hearts club — or group therapy session. Nobody but the fellow leaders of the most powerful democratic countries in the world governing advanced economies can understand how tough that job is.”

Trudeau travels having received one of his two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot. His office said he will quarantine for up to three days at a hotel in Ottawa when he returns next week.

The G7 includes Canada, the U.S. and United Kingdom, Japan, France, Italy and Germany, as well as the European Union.

Summit observers say Trudeau enters being the leader who has served the second-longest, next only to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked countries to come with concrete commitments on how to end the pandemic by the end of 2022.

Experts say Canada will have to decide how it wants to contribute to that effort, for example through financing or donating vaccines.

It hasn’t announced any plans to share its vaccines despite having guaranteed delivery of more than 100 million doses for the year when giving the population its two doses requires 76 million.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2021.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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CP NewsAlert: Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet accused of sexual assault

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Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet is being accused of sexual assault in a class-action lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec.

In court documents introduced today in Superior Court, an unnamed woman accuses the prominent cleric of kissing her at a cocktail reception in 2008 and sliding his hand down her back and touching her buttocks.

More coming.

The Canadian Press

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Energy

Green Canadian hydrogen not an immediate solution to Germany’s energy worries

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OTTAWA — Some energy experts warn a deal to sell Canadian hydrogen to Germany will serve as only a small, far-off and expensive part of the solution to Europe’s energy crisis.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are set to sign a hydrogen agreement in Stephenville, N.L. next week, during Scholz’s official visit to Canada.

A government official speaking on the condition they not be identified confirmed there will be a hydrogen accord signed that is the culmination of months of talks between the two countries.

Stephenville, a port town an hour south of Corner Brook on Newfoundland’s west shore, is the planned home for a zero-emission energy plant where wind power will be used to produce hydrogen and ammonia for export.

The deal between Canada and Germany is expected to make fuel-hungry Germany the first big customer for a first-of-its-kind project in Canada.

Germany was already looking to hydrogen as an energy solution in its climate plan before Russia invaded Ukraine last February. But since that invasion, as Russia attempts to push back against punishing economic sanctions, it has repeatedly threatened Germany’s energy supply.

Germany typically gets about half of its natural gas from Russia and is looking for both short and long-term solutions to wean itself from Russian exports.

Proponents say the hydrogen deal comes at a pivotal time for Canada’s green hydrogen industry, which is still in its infancy.

But some experts also say the fledgling product carries a big price tag and won’t be able to help Germany in the near term. Canada doesn’t yet have the infrastructure to produce large quantities of green hydrogen, or export it great distances.

“The key is you need a lot of associated infrastructure to be built before we can do a large scale export of hydrogen into other countries,” said Amit Kumar, the industrial research chair of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

In order to be shipped, the hydrogen would likely need to be cooled into a liquid, loaded into a specially adapted pipeline or tanker, and warmed again when it reached its destination.

The process and infrastructure is expensive, and so is production.

Most hydrogen production globally comes from converting natural gas to hydrogen and carbon dioxide. If the latter is emitted into the atmosphere, the hydrogen is referred to as “grey.” In Canada, the goal is to capture those emissions with carbon capture and storage, which would make the hydrogen “blue.”

Canada has to date been talking up plans to help Germany with new natural gas projects in Atlantic Canada that could one day be converted to blue hydrogen facilities.

But Germany is looking mainly for “green hydrogen,” which is made through splitting water molecules using renewable energy like wind or solar power. That comes at a much higher price.

“You’re looking at anywhere between three to four fold increase in costs,” said Kumar, a faculty of engineering professor at University of Alberta, who was consulted on the drafting of Alberta’s hydrogen strategy.

He said the technology needs to improve and more investment needs to be made before the cost is even relatively comparable with it’s natural-gas derived alternative.

The company behind the Newfoundland project, World Energy GH2, said the first phase of its Newfoundland project should see up to 164 onshore wind turbines built to power a hydrogen production facility. Long-term plans call for tripling the size of the project.

In its proposal, World Energy GH2 said it is on the cutting edge of a new, green industry.

Construction on the first wind farm is supposed to begin next year. That means hydrogen production is still far off, said Paul Martin, chemical engineer and co-founder of the Hydrogen Science Coalition.

“It’ll take years and years and years,” he said. “And then you’ve got the infrastructure problem.”

Martin says the infrastructure costs of producing and transporting green hydrogen don’t add up.

“Honestly looking at it the green hydrogen pitch in Canada for export, it’s disingenuous,” he said.

That’s partially why Canada’s hydrogen strategy involves moving toward “blue hydrogen” before eventually converting to green, Kumar said.

Germany’s strategy, however, clearly favours green hydrogen while the role of blue hydrogen is uncertain, an analysis by Centre for Strategic and International Studies fellow Isabelle Huber shows.

Trudeau and Scholz, who became Germany’s chancellor in December, first discussed hydrogen and Canadian energy exports when Trudeau visited Berlin in March.

At the G7 leaders’ summit in the Bavarian Alps in June, Trudeau spoke at length with other world leaders about how Canada could offer alternatives to nations dependent on Russian oil and gas.

At a press conference at the conclusion of the summit, Trudeau suggested infrastructure used to carry liquefied natural gas could be adapted to carry hydrogen, as one example of how Canada could help.

“We’re also looking medium term at expanding some infrastructure,” Trudeau said, “but in a way that hits that medium-term and long-term goal of accelerating transition — not just off Russian oil and gas — but off of our own dependence on fossil fuels.”

Canadian hydrogen might be just one piece of Germany’s plan to transition off of German gas in a very difficult situation, said Sara Hastings-Simon, who directs the masters of science in sustainable energy development at the University of Calgary.

“It’s not the be all end all, it’s neither going to fix it completely or be the single answer,” she said in an interview.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 16, 2022.

— With files from Mia Rabson

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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