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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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Two charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance in Regina

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REGINA — Two people accused of killing a Mountie by hitting him with a truck in rural Saskatchewan made their first appearance in court Monday.

Alphonse Stanley Traverse, 41, and Marlene Velma Louise Pagee, 42, have been charged with manslaughter in the weekend death of Const. Shelby Patton.

RCMP have said the 26-year-old officer died Saturday after he stopped a suspected stolen truck in the small town of Wolseley, 95 kilometres east of Regina.

Patton was hit by the truck before it sped off. The officer died at the scene.

Pagee and Traverse were arrested two hours later in a field outside Francis, a town about 80 kilometres southwest of where the officer was killed.

They also face charges of failing to stop after an accident resulting in death as well as of theft of a motor vehicle. Pagee is also charged with possession of a controlled substance.

They appeared in a Regina court in person. Pagee is to be back in court Friday, while Traverse is scheduled for a video appearance on Monday.

Both are from Winnipeg and RCMP have said the truck was stolen in Manitoba. Winnipeg police said they could not provide any information about the investigation.

“The tragic, senseless death of Const. Shelby Patton is being investigated by Saskatchewan RCMP,” Winnipeg police Const. Rob Carver wrote in an email.

Manitoba court records show Traverse and Pagee have been in and out of jail for multiple convictions, including theft and break and enter. In 2006, Pagee was found guilty for operating a motor vehicle while being pursued by police.

Both face outstanding charges in Manitoba for unrelated offences.

Meanwhile, a memorial of flowers continued to grow at the Indian Head detachment where Patton was posted.

He had been a Mountie for just over six years and worked at the detachment since 2015. Before that, he was briefly on assignment at Parliament Hill.

Saskatchewan RCMP Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore said officers have appreciated the outpouring of support and condolence messages.

“These messages help us through this difficult time. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to let us know they share our grief,” Blackmore said in a statement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 14, 2021.

— By Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg

The Canadian Press

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Putin likens Russian crackdown to arresting Capitol rioters

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is to meet President Joe Biden at a summit Wednesday, has suggested that the hundreds of people arrested for rioting at the U.S. Capitol are being subjected to “persecution for political opinions.”

Putin is likely to come under strong criticism from Biden at their meeting in Geneva for moves against his political opponents in Russia, particularly the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the detention of thousands of demonstrators protesting his arrest, and the outlawing of Navalny’s organizations as extremist.

“You are presenting it as dissent and intolerance toward dissent in Russia. We view it completely differently,” he said in an interview with NBC News broadcast Monday. He then pointed to the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington when protesters barged into the Capitol to try to halt the count of electoral votes to certify Biden’s election victory over Donald Trump.

“Do you know that 450 individuals were arrested after entering the Congress? … They came there with political demands,” he said.

Although the protests that erupted across Russia after Navalny’s arrest in January were unsanctioned, demonstrators were largely peaceful and did not enter government buildings or cause significant property damage, unlike the Capitol riot.

Putin also reiterated denials that the Kremlin was behind last year’s poisoning of Navalny with a nerve agent that nearly killed him.

“We don’t have this kind of habit, of assassinating anybody,” Putin said.

“Did you order the assassination of the woman who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman?” Putin said, referring to Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, who was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to climb through a window that led to the House floor.

At a news conference after a NATO summit Monday in Brussels, Biden declined to assess how he’ll measure the success of his meeting with Putin because “the last thing anyone would do is negotiate in front of the world press.”

Biden described Putin as “bright,” “tough” and a “worthy adversary.” But he indicated he would remain wary of any commitments coming out of their meeting, saying he would “verify first and then trust” the Russian leader.

He also suggested he’d be looking for areas of agreement with the Russian president, while also warning him against continued aggression towards the U.S.

“I’m gonna make clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate, if he chooses, and if he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past relative to cybersecurity and other activities, then we will respond, we will respond in kind,” he said.

In his NBC interview, Putin sharply dismissed the cyberattack allegations against the U.S. as baseless.

“Where is the evidence? Where is proof? It’s becoming farcical,” Putin said. “We have been accused of all kinds of things — election interference, cyberattacks and so on and so forth — and not once, not once, not one time, did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof, just unfounded accusations.”

In April, the United States announced the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats and new sanctions connected to the so-called SolarWinds cyberattack in which several U.S. government branches experienced data breaches. U.S. officials blamed the Russian foreign intelligence service.

In May, Microsoft officials said the foreign intelligence service appeared to be linked to an attack on a company providing services to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

At the summit, Biden also is expected to raise the case of two Americans imprisoned in Russia: Paul Whelan, who was convicted of espionage, and Trevor Reed, convicted of assaulting police while drunk. U.S. officials say both were convicted in biased trials on flimsy evidence.

Putin said of Reed, a 29-year-old former Marine: “He’s just a drunk and a troublemaker.”

Putin brushed off one possible source of tension in the upcoming summit: Biden’s claim that he once told Putin he considered the Russian leader soulless.

“I do not remember this particular part of our conversations,” Putin said.

—-

Associated Press writer Alexandra Jaffe in Washington contributed.

The Associated Press

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