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Freeland leaves D.C. with no tariff deal, despite early optimism from U.S.

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OTTAWA — Close, maybe, but no cigar.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland came and went from Washington on Wednesday, shifting diplomatic gears and jetting to Havana on a day that saw early hope that the end of the Canada-U.S. tariff dispute was …


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  • OTTAWA — Close, maybe, but no cigar.

    Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland came and went from Washington on Wednesday, shifting diplomatic gears and jetting to Havana on a day that saw early hope that the end of the Canada-U.S. tariff dispute was close fizzle in a puff of figurative smoke.

    “I think we are close to an understanding with Mexico and Canada,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had said in Congress, prior to Freeland’s meeting with Trump trade czar Robert Lighthizer.

    Mnuchin was testifying before the U.S. Senate appropriations subcommittee, where he was asked why those two countries continue to face a 25-per-cent duty on steel and 10-per-cent levy on aluminum exports to the United States.

    Freeland had no new developments to report as she emerged in the morning from the headquarters of the United States Trade Representative. She said she had a “good meeting” with Lighthizer.

    “And we made the case, as we have been doing for some time, that the best outcome for both Canadians and Americans would be to lift those tariffs and to have free trade between our two countries,” Freeland said. 

    Freeland met later with the influential Republican chair of the Senate finance committee, Chuck Grassley, who had said earlier this week that the tariffs might soon be lifted.

    After that, she expressed optimism over incremental progress, though she refused to speculate publicly on whether a resolution of Canada’s trade dispute with the U.S. is close at hand.

    “One meeting closer to achieving a great outcome,” Freeland said. And then: “OK, I think we need to leave for Cuba soon.”

    Freeland will be pressing Cuba’s foreign minister over his country’s steadfast support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Canada and its Western Hemisphere allies in the Lima Group, as well as the U.S., view Maduro as a dictator who has impoverished his people and should relinquish power. 

    “My sense is that we’re making progress but there’s obviously more work to be done,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau said of the tariff situation in Ottawa Wednesday.

    Morneau said he brings up the tariffs with Mnuchin every time they talk, including in a telephone call last week and face-to-face meetings last month in Washington at World Bank and G20 finance ministers’ meetings.

    “I’m regularly putting forward the point of view that these tariffs are not only not helpful to the Canadian economy — to either the producers or buyers of steel — but they’re also damaging to the U.S. economy,” said Morneau. 

    President Donald Trump imposed the tariffs during contentious continental trade talks by using a section of U.S. law that allows the president to tax imports on national-security grounds. The three countries’ negotiators ultimately reached a new deal that the Americans call the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

    Mnuchin acknowledged to the senators what business leaders in all three countries, as well as U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the political divide, have been saying: that the tariffs must be lifted for the newly negotiated North American free trade deal to be ratified by legislators.

    “I can assure you that Canada and Mexico are the priority,” Mnuchin said. “The president has instructed us to try to figure out a solution, and this is a very important part of passing USMCA, which is a very important economic agreement for two of our largest trading partners.”

    Freeland’s visit comes after what she described as “a couple of good conversations” between Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in telephone calls on consecutive days late last week.

    She, Trudeau and others in the Canadian government have derided the tariffs as absurd, illegal and insulting.

    Lighthizer planned to meet House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday to discuss the Canada-Mexico tariffs and the broader U.S. tariff war with China.

    Pelosi and fellow Democrats in the House have raised concerns about ratifying the new trade deal because of concerns over labour rights in Mexico, among other things.

    Freeland discussed workers’ rights in her meeting with Lighthizer, and filled him in on her talks on Tuesday in Toronto with two visiting members of the new Mexican government, which is embarking on major labour reforms to meet its obligations under the new trade deal.

    “We discussed ways Canada can support Mexico in this important effort, which is good for workers in Mexico, good for workers across North America,” she said. “Canada is a real supporter of union rights and we’re happy to be discussing that important issue with our Mexican colleagues.”

    Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian 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.

    Mandatory 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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