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New Zealanders reach out to Muslims in wake of mass shooting

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  • CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — New Zealand’s stricken residents reached out to Muslims in their neighbourhoods and around the country on Saturday, with a fierce determination to show kindness to a community in pain as a 28-year-old white supremacist stood silently before a judge, accused in mass shootings at two mosques that left 49 people dead.

    Brenton Harrison Tarrant appeared in court amid strict security, shackled and wearing all-white prison garb, and showed no emotion when the judge read him one murder charge. The judge said “it was reasonable to assume” more such charges would follow. Tarrant, who posted an anti-immigrant manifesto online and apparently used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live video of the slaughter in the city of Christchurch, appeared to make a hand sign, similar to an OK sign, that is sometimes associated with white nationalists.

    The massacre during Friday prayers prompted a heartfelt response from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who pronounced it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and said the shooter, an Australian native, had chosen to strike in New Zealand “because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion.”

    Her fellow countrymen seemed to want to prove her right by volunteering acts of kindness. Some offered rides to the grocery store or volunteered to walk with their Muslim neighbours if they felt unsafe.

    In online forums, people discussed Muslim food restrictions as they prepared to drop off meals for those affected.

    “Love always wins over hate. Lots of love for our Muslim brothers” read a handwritten card on a wall of flowers in a historic part of the city that stretched a full block.

    Still, Muslims were advised to stay away from mosques while the nation’s security alert remained at the second-highest level a day after the deadliest shooting in modern New Zealand history.

    Ardern said 39 survivors remained hospitalized Saturday with 11 critically wounded. But updates were slow to come, and many families were still waiting for news of their missing loved ones.

    Outside one of the two mosques, 32-year-old Ash Mohammed pushed through police barricades in hopes of finding out what happened to his father and two brothers, whose cellphones rang unanswered. An officer stopped him.

    “We just want to know if they are dead or alive,” Mohammed told the officer.

    Hungry for any news, families and friends of the victims gathered at the city’s Hagley College, near the hospital.

    They included Asif Shaikh, 44, who said he was among more than 100 people at the Al Noor mosque when the attacker came in. He said he survived by played dead, but was desperate to know what happened to his friends who were there with him.

    “It’s been 36 hours, I haven’t heard anything about them,” he said.

    Nearby, Akhtar Khokhur leaned on the shoulders of her friend and cried as she held up her cellphone with an image of her husband.

    “I still don’t know where he is,” she said.

    Khokhur, 58, and husband Mehaboobbhai Khokhur, 65, had travelled from India to spend time with their son Imran, their first visit in the eight years since he moved to New Zealand. The couple was due to fly out Sunday.

    Imran had dropped off his father, an electrical engineer, at the Al Noor mosque on Friday and was looking for a parking space when the shooting began. They have not heard from him since.

    The gunman had posted a jumbled, 74-page manifesto on social media in which he identified himself as an Australian and white supremacist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.

    He livestreamed 17 minutes of the rampage at Al Noor mosque, where, armed with at least two assault rifles and a shotgun, he sprayed worshippers with bullets, killing at least 41 people. More people were killed in an attack on a second mosque a short time later.

    Facebook, Twitter and Google scrambled to take down the gunman’s video, which was widely available on social media for hours after the bloodbath.

    The second attack took place at the Linwood mosque about 5 kilometres (3 miles) away.

    The video showed the killer was carrying a shotgun and two fully automatic military assault rifles, with an extra magazine taped to one of the weapons so that he could reload quickly. He also had more assault weapons in the trunk of his car, along with what appeared to be explosives.

    Two other armed suspects were taken into custody Friday while police tried to determine what role, if any, they played in the cold-blooded attack that stunned New Zealand, a country so peaceful that police officers rarely carry guns.

    Tarrant’s relatives in the Australian town of Grafton, in New South Wales, contacted police after learning of the shooting and were helping with the investigation, local authorities said. Tarrant has spent little time in Australia in the past four years and only had minor traffic infractions on his record.

    Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed Tarrant was involved in both shootings but stopped short of saying he was the sole gunman.

    During the Saturday morning hearing, a man who was not in court was charged with using writings to incite hatred against a race or ethnicity, but it was not clear if his case was related to the mosque attacks.

    “We appear to primarily be dealing with one primary perpetrator, but we want to make sure that we don’t take anything for granted in ensuring New Zealanders’ safety,” Ardern said.

    New Zealand, with a population of 5 million, has relatively loose gun laws and an estimated 1.5 million firearms, or roughly one for every three people. But it has one of the lowest gun homicide rates in the world. In 2015, it had just eight.

    Ardern said Tarrant was a licensed gun owner who bought the five guns used in the crimes legally.

    “I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change,” Ardern said.

    She did not offer too much detail, but said a ban on semi-automatic weapons would be looked at. Neighboring Australia has virtually banned semi-automatic rifles from private ownership since a lone gunman killed 35 people with assault rifles in 1996.

    Before Friday’s attack, New Zealand’s deadliest shooting in modern history took place in 1990 in the small town of Aramoana, where a gunman killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbour.

    ___

    Associated Press writers Kristen Gelineau in Christchurch and Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia contributed to this report.

    Juliet Williams And Nick Perry, The Associated Press
















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    National

    Davie, rivals square off over future of multibillion-dollar shipbuilding plan

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  • OTTAWA — The president of Davie Shipbuilding says he is confident the Quebec-based shipyard will be tapped to build two new ferries included in this week’s federal budget.

    But James Davies says it is time the federal government stop rewarding other shipyards for failing to deliver new vessels to the navy and coast guard, and officially admit his company into the multibillion-dollar national shipbuilding plan.

    The comment came late Wednesday as top officials from Davie and its two bitter rivals, Vancouver-based Seaspan Shipyards and Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding, appeared one after the other before the Senate finance committee.

    Seaspan and Irving were selected through the shipbuilding strategy in 2011 as the two shipyards responsible for building what at the time was estimated to be $35 billion worth of new vessels for the navy and coast guard.

    Davie also competed but was passed over and has since been forced to fight for scraps outside the plan.

    That includes the provision of an interim resupply vessel for the navy and three second-hand icebreakers for the coast guard.

    Davies also told the committee he did not think any other shipyard could provide the two new ferries included in the budget. They will replace two existing ferries, one of which operates between Quebec and Prince Edward Island and the other between Nova Scotia and P.E.I. The budget does not provide any further details, including cost or when they will be built.

    Despite his sunny view of his company’s capability, Davies was clearly focused on getting his shipyard admitted into the national shipbuilding plan. He noted that, seven years after it was launched, both Seaspan and Irving are continuing to get work despite not having delivered a ship, and the plan’s overall costs have doubled.

    “A deal with no consequence of failure is toothless,” Davies said. “Consequence means that in the light of such failure, the government needs the ability to choose an alternative supplier for future contracts.”

    That includes potentially breaking up the work that, under the current arrangement, is almost entirely the purview of the other two yards, he said, and contracts not yet awarded.

    Davies specifically mentioned 10 large coast guard vessels that were promised to Seaspan in 2013 at an estimated cost of $3.3 billion, but construction of which won’t realistically start until sometime in the mid- to late-2020s.

    During his own appearance, Irving Shipbuilding president Kevin McCoy defended his shipyard’s work to date, telling the committee that the first of 21 vessels Irving has been tasked to build, an Arctic patrol ship for the navy, will be delivered this summer.

    Progress is also being made on five others, McCoy said, as well as the navy’s new, $60-billion warship fleet, which will be built in the coming decade.

    The original cost of those warships was estimated at $26.2 billion, while the first Arctic ship was initially expected in 2015, but McCoy nonetheless said there has been a lot of false information and rhetoric about the state of the plan — and of Irving.

    Seaspan chief executive officer Mark Lamarre similarly said a short time later that work is advancing on the West Coast as three fisheries science vessels for the coast guard are near completion after several delays, some of which were caused by faulty welding.

    Steel has also started to be cut on the first of two long-overdue resupply vessels for the navy, he said.

    Lamarre admitted Seaspan has faced challenges, but he said difficulties were inevitable given that it had been a generation since the government and shipbuilding industry launched such a massive project.

    Both sides have learned some hard lessons over the years that are now being applied, he added.

    While they didn’t mention Davie, the Seaspan and Irving officials also both pushed back against any suggestions of opening up or otherwise changing the national shipbuilding strategy, saying a fair competition was held in 2011.

    James Irving, co-chief executive officer of J.D. Irving Ltd., which owns the Halifax yard, said his company invested $450 million of its own money with the “good faith” understanding the strategy would not be changed.

    — Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.

    Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


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    National

    Winnipeg labour leader quits; cites sexist comments, treatment by men

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  • WINNIPEG — A labour leader in Manitoba has resigned from her job over what she says have been sexist remarks and dismissive treatment by some of her male colleagues in the labour movement.

    Basia Sokal surprised about 50 people at a Winnipeg Labour Council meeting Tuesday night when she announced she was resigning as president after two years on the job. The council is an advocate on municipal labour issues in the city and is part of the Canadian Labour Congress.

    “In the last 12 months alone, I have seen and heard and been experiencing some of the worst things that you could ever imagine,” Sokal told the crowd.

    “I’ve got about six pages of things that have been said to my face … and I just want to mention that these were all said by brothers — brothers in the movement, brothers of labour.”

    Some men made comments about her breasts, Sokal said. Others told her to just agree with what she was being told.

    “‘You women are all the same. If you don’t like what is going on, why don’t you just leave?'” she said one man told her.

    She did not mention anyone’s name.

    It became clear, Sokal said, that she was expected to keep her opinions to herself and defer to others.

    In an interview Wednesday, she said she took her concerns to the Canadian Labour Congress last spring and was told there would be some sort of followup. She also spoke to officials at Manitoba NDP headquarters about one man who was on a party committee, she said.

    Sokal was directed to the federal party, she said, which told her in February it was still looking into the matter but had been busy with other things.

    Sokal said she felt she was running out of options.

    “There are several people … higher up in the labour movement, that knew what was going on,” she said.

    “The systems don’t allow for change.”

    Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour, said he was surprised by Sokal’s resignation and suggested that workplaces need to improve.

    “Those are serious issues. They’re unacceptable. They’re wrong in the labour movement. They’re wrong in any kind of work environment.”

    The Canadian Labour Congress did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Sokal said she would like to see changes in the labour movement, starting with a more inclusive environment.

    “I want to see different voices at the table and not just the typical Old Boys club that it actually continues to be.”

    Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press


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    march, 2019

    fri8mar - 30aprmar 85:30 pmapr 30Real Estate Dinner Theatre5:30 pm - (april 30) 10:00 pm

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