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Quebec City Muslim worshippers condemn fatal New Zealand mosque attacks

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QUEBEC — A little more than two years after their own community came under attack, Muslims in Quebec City said they were in shock over the mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques Friday that claimed at least 50 lives.
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  • QUEBEC — A little more than two years after their own community came under attack, Muslims in Quebec City said they were in shock over the mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques Friday that claimed at least 50 lives.

    Their horror was echoed by members of other Muslim communities across the country as they offered condolences to the grieving families and spoke out against extremism.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned as “absolutely appalling” the attack on worshippers attending Friday prayers in Christchurch.

    “Hate has no place anywhere,” Trudeau said in a statement. “We must all confront Islamophobia and work to create a world in which all people — no matter their faith, where they live, or where they were born — can feel safe and secure.”

    Boufeldja Benabdallah, the head of the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre, said a feeling of “indescribable pain” was apparent in his own community. He extended condolences to the New Zealand victims and expressed concern for families in Quebec City being forced to relive the Jan. 29, 2017 attack that left six men dead.

    “I’m convinced they are feeling a terrible pain. Imagine the children of those families here in Quebec who are hearing it on the radio and will watch their mothers cry and ask, ‘Why are you crying?’ ” Benabdallah said.

    “The mothers will remember the 29th, when they ran to get husbands who were killed by Alexandre Bissonnette.”

    Benabdallah added that amid the mourning, it is time for people to speak out against extremism and for lawmakers to legislate against it.

    “We must get back to work once again to explain, to tell these extremists of all stripes who politicize religion, like extremists who use race as a basis for discrimination, that we must change,” Benabdallah said. “The world cannot continue like this.”

    During a vigil in Toronto, federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said it’s important for people around the world to say no to hatred.

    “We have to work every single day to eradicate this hatred in our midst,” Hussen told the crowd at Nathan Phillips Square, many of whom carried signs bearing slogans such as United Against Islamophobia.

    “And we have to tell those who peddle in this kind of hatred — whether they be ordinary citizens or whether they be politicians — that this is the logical extension of that hatred.”

    Police in many cities across the country said they were stepping up patrols around places of worship on Friday and communicating with local Muslim communities about their security concerns.

    “We will have a heightened police presence in the community, focusing on places of worship — especially mosques. We have done this to ensure the city is as safe and secure as possible,” said Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook, a Toronto police spokeswoman.

    In Halifax, Imam Abdallah Yousri of the Umma Mosque said no special precautions were being taken, but he confirmed that the site, with a capacity of 2,000, already has a good security system.

    “We will have discussions about that to see how we can enhance our security systems to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen in the future,” he said in an interview.

    He said some members called to see whether prayers would go ahead as scheduled on Friday, and he assured them the mosque would be open. “It’s always a special day on Fridays,” he said. “We pray every Friday.”

    Rabia Khedr, executive director of the Muslim Council of Peel, said the early news about Christchurch immediately brought to mind the Quebec City shooting.

    “I didn’t sleep all night,” Khedr said. “I cannot believe the number of people that have been killed, the number of people that have been injured.”

    She said an attack on Muslims in a Western nation hits harder.

    “When it hits a Muslim majority country we feel sad, we feel sorrow, however that feeling is a little different in a western democracy where we are minorities,” she said. “Because it’s pure and utter hatred. It’s Islamophobia in its ugliest form.”

    The Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, based in Calgary, also spoke out against the attack.

    “This is nothing but terrorism against Muslims. This is nothing but hate against Muslims. This is nothing but Islamophobia,” Imam Syed Soharwardy said in a statement.

    Trudeau said Canadians join New Zealanders and Muslim communities around the world in grieving and condemning the attack and work to act against violent extremism.

    “Far too often, Muslims suffer unimaginable loss and pain in the places where they should feel safest,” Trudeau said. “Canada remembers too well the sorrow we felt when a senseless attack on the Centre culturel islamique de Quebec in Ste-Foy claimed the lives of many innocent people gathered in prayer.”

    Mohamed Labidi, a past president of the Quebec City mosque, told reporters Friday he regretted that humanity had not learned its lesson after the attack on his community.

    A fellow mosque member said the question remains why these attacks continue to happen.

    “The reaction is the same as what we experienced already,” said Alpha Barry. “We have been affected, our population is affected and we keeping asking why? Why is this happening every day?”

    Parliament lowered the flag on Centre Block to half-mast in honour of the victims — a move followed in other provinces and cities. Vigils were also planned in various Canadian cities in memory of the victims.

    One man was arrested and charged with murder in what appears to have been a carefully planned racist attack in New Zealand.

    There are unconfirmed reports that the shooter was influenced by Bissonnette, the former Universite Laval student convicted of killing six worshippers in 2017.

    A now-deleted Twitter account that is believed to be linked to the accused shooter shows what appear to be three assault-rifle magazines, one of which has Bissonnette’s name on it.

    Aymen Derbali, a survivor of the Quebec City attack who was left paralyzed, said he was devastated when he saw video of the New Zealand attack.

    “Certainly for me, when I saw the video this morning, it brought back what we experienced here,” he said outside the mosque.

    “The hardest thing is that he was inspired by what happened here. He had the killer at the mosque here as an idol. It was written on his weapons.”

    Bissonnette was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for 40 years, but the Crown and his lawyers both recently announced they are appealing the sentence.

    Through his lawyers, Bissonnette, who is seeking a reduction of his sentence, issued a statement Friday saying he was “very affected” that his name was linked to the New Zealand attack. His lawyers said in the statement that Bissonnette’s decision to appeal wasn’t meant to minimize his actions.

    — Written by Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal with files from Michelle McQuigge in Toronto; Michael MacDonald in Halifax and Caroline Plante in Quebec City.

    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.

    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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