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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.

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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Trans Mountain puts contractors on notice to get ready for pipeline restart

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Trans Mountain Pipeline

OTTAWA — Construction on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is set to restart in the next month, just in time for the official kick-off of the federal election.

Trans Mountain Corp., the federal crown agency that owns and operates the pipeline, said Wednesday that work on the terminals in Burnaby, B.C. is set to restart immediately, while work laying pipe on the route in parts of Alberta are on track to start within the next month. Construction contractors were told they have 30 days to hire workers, prepare detailed construction plans and mobilize equipment.

“This is a major milestone,” said Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi.

Getting construction underway likely leaves many Liberals breathing a sigh of relief, including Sohi, whose riding is just a few kilometres from the Edmonton terminal where the pipeline begins. His already shaky re-election prospects would be even tougher if the pipeline remained stalled.

The federal campaign has to begin no later than Sept. 15 for an Oct. 21 vote, but Sohi said getting shovels in the ground on Trans Mountain has nothing to do with politics.

“I know people want to link this to elections,” he said. “I have never linked it to elections. I always tell that we owe it to Albertans, we owe it to Canadians, energy sector workers and communities who rely on middle class jobs that we get the process right.”

Sohi won in 2015 by less than 100 votes, one of only four Liberals elected in Alberta in the last election. All four seats are considered in play in this election, and anger in Alberta about the struggling oil industry is one of the reasons why.

Sohi visited with pipeline workers on site in Sherwood Park, Alta., on Wednesday. He told them that 4,200 people should be working on the project before the end of the year and the new completion date is in 2022. When the pipeline was initially approved in 2016, construction was supposed to be done by the end of this year.

Sohi also said the construction is going ahead “despite the fearmongering of some Conservative politicians to tell Canadians minutes after we approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that the construction will never happen.”

Edmonton Conservative MP Matt Jeneroux was not impressed with the news.

“Canadians have heard time and time again that Justin Trudeau wants to get pipelines built, yet in four years he has done the exact opposite,” Jeneroux said in an emailed statement.

The Conservatives say the Liberals have killed other pipelines and now have a new environmental assessment process coming in that will ensure no more pipelines are ever approved going forward.

“These decisions are all part of Justin Trudeau’s plan to phase out Canada’s oil and gas sector,” Jeneroux said.

The federal Liberals approved the Trans Mountain expansion in 2016, but the pressure to bring the project to fruition heightened in May 2018 when the government decided to buy the pipeline for $4.5 billion when Kinder Morgan Canada backed away under the uncertainty of numerous legal challenges and political fighting. The Liberals said the government would buy the pipeline, build the expansion and sell it back to a private investor.

The court decision three months later to rip up approval threw all those plans in jeopardy.

After another round of Indigenous consultations and a new review of the project’s impact on marine life off the coast of Vancouver, cabinet green-lighted the expansion for a second time in June.

Six British Columbia First Nations and at least two environment groups have filed new court challenges against the approval.

The Canadian Press


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Huawei executive’s defence team alleges Canadians were ‘agents’ of the FBI

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Huawei Headquarters

VANCOUVER — A defence team for a Chinese telecom executive is alleging Canadian officials acted as “agents” of American law enforcement while she was detained at Vancouver’s airport for three hours ahead of her arrest.

In court documents released this week, defence lawyers for Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou point to handwritten notes by Canadian officers indicating Meng’s electronics were collected in anticipation of a request from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States.

The notes show the RCMP asked the FBI if the U.S. was interested in Meng’s luggage and that a Canada Border Services Agency officer wrote down Meng’s passcodes, while another questioned her about Huawei’s alleged business in Iran.

This happened before she was informed of her arrest, the defence says.

“The RCMP and/or CBSA were acting as agents of the FBI for the purpose of obtaining and preserving evidence,” alleges a memorandum of fact and law filed by the defence.

“The question that remains is to what extent and how the FBI were involved in this scheme.”

The materials collected by the defence were released ahead of an eight-day hearing scheduled for September, in which the defence is expected to argue for access to more documentation ahead of Meng’s extradition trial.

The Attorney General of Canada has yet to file a response and none of the allegations have been tested in court.

Meng’s arrest at Vancouver airport has sparked a diplomatic crisis between Canada and China and drawn international scrutiny of Canadian extradition laws.

She was arrested at the behest of the U.S., which is seeking her extradition on fraud charges in violation of sanctions with Iran.

Both Meng and Huawei have denied any wrongdoing. Meng is free on bail and is living in one of her multimillion-dollar homes in Vancouver.

The RCMP and CBSA did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the documents but have said in a response to a civil claim that border officials only examined Meng and her luggage for immigration and customs purposes.

Meng extradition trial won’t begin until Jan. 20, but the court documents shed light on her defence team’s planned arguments that her arrest was unlawful and for the benefit of the United States.

“These are allegations of a purposeful violation of a court order and the abuse of important Canadian legal norms for improper purposes, namely, to further the objectives of the requesting state,” the defence says.

They plan to argue that the U.S. committed an abuse of process by using the extradition proceedings for political and economic gain. Parts of the defence are comments by U.S. President Donald Trump that he would intervene in Meng’s case “if necessary.”

The seizure of electronics and questioning of Meng by border officials in Canada also follows a pattern of how Huawei employees have been treated at U.S. ports of entry.

“This targeting has included the apparent abuse of customs and immigration powers to search and question Huawei employees at various U.S. ports of entry,” the documents say.

The defence accuses officers of intentionally poor note keeping that obscures what exactly happened, including why the arrest plan apparently changed.

The documents suggest that Canadian officials initially planned to arrest Meng “immediately” after she landed, by boarding the plane before she got off. Instead, three CBSA officers immediately detained Meng when she disembarked the plane while two RCMP officers stood nearby and watched, despite their knowledge of the warrant calling for her “immediate” arrest, the defence says.

The defence argues spotty notes kept by the CBSA officers constitute a “strategic omission.”

“When assessed together, a clear pattern emerges from these materials: the CBSA and the RCMP have strategically drafted these documents to subvert the applicant’s ability to learn the truth regarding her detention,” the defence says.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press


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