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Iran admits it shot down Flight PS752

57 Canadians were killed in the crash.

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File photo of Ukrainian International Airlines via Wikimedia Commons.

After repeatedly denying Canadian and allied accusations that it shot down Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752, Iran announced on Saturday morning local time that it had “unintentionally” shot down the passenger jet in a move that killed all 176 aboard, including 57 Canadians, claiming it mistook the Boeing 737 aircraft for a “hostile target”.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Thursday that Canada had gathered intelligence from multiple sources that indicated the “plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile”, a move he said “may well have been intentional”. Trudeau’s assertion followed several media reports earlier in the day that pointed to the United States taking the same position.

After Iran’s admission, Trudeau on Saturday morning said “we will continue working with our partners around the world to ensure a complete and thorough investigations, and the Canadian governments expects full co-operation from Iranian authorities”.

Because Canada does not have formal diplomatic ties to Iran, Ottawa has experienced some struggles in offering consular assistance to families of the 57 Canadian victims, a number that has dropped from the previously reported 63 after Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne updated the total on Saturday.

The plane was shot down early on Wednesday morning just hours after Iran launched ballistic missiles at military bases in Iraq that housed U.S. forces in retaliation for Washington’s strikes near Baghdad that killed Iran’s top commander Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani. No Western troops were harmed in Tehran’s attack, a move that was reportedly intentional.

A statement from Tehran carried by state-run media said Flight PS752 was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned towards a “sensitive military centre” of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, The Associated Press reported on Saturday. Iran’s military was at its “highest level of readiness” the statement read, amid heightened tensions with Washington.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif blamed “US adventurism” for the incident, according to a translation on Twitter. Zarif, however, offered “profound regrets, apologies and condolences” to those impacted while President Hassan Rouhani stated “Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement that the investigation should continue and this responsible should be brought to justice, demanded Iran compensate victims’ families and requested formal apologies. Tehran did say on Saturday that those behind the attack would be prosecuted.

Of the 167 that died, 57 were Canadian but over 100 had Canada as their final destination, Global Affairs Canada said earlier this week. The aircraft was headed for Kiev and also carried citizens of Iran, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Many of the Canadians who were killed hailed from the academic community, with nearly two dozen universities and colleges impacted. Humber College told The Avro Post on Friday that it was unaware of any ties to the flight. ■

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Canada

‘Nothing new’: Panel talks China’s human rights violations

Experts invited to Concordia University give their take.

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File photo of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with China's Li in 2017.

STORY VIA THE CONCORDIAN

(CUP) — A panel on China’s human rights violations was held in Concordia University’s Faubourg building on Jan. 15.

The experts, who were invited by the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS), expressed concerns about the Uyghur Muslim concentration camps in Xinjiang, an autonomous region in Western China. They also discussed the brutal repression in Hong Kong and Tibet, as well as China’s increasing influence on the Western world and its implication for the future of democracy.

The event took place just days after Human Rights Watch (HRW) executive director Kenneth Roth was denied entry into Hong Kong and HRW’s launch event for its World Report2020 was disrupted by protestors, according to MIGS executive director Kyle Matthews.

Photo by Brittany Clarke via The Concordian.

“Human rights issues in China are nothing new,” said speaker Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, Senior Fellow at both the University of Ottawa’s Institute for Science, Society and Policy and the University of Alberta’s China Institute. She listed historical events such as the Cultural Revolution, the Xidan Democracy Wall, and the Tiananmen Square Massacre which she said “trampled on individual human rights in a myriad of ways.”

McCuaig-Johnston continued to explain that although China has lifted more than 800 million people out of poverty since 1978, this is not the same as ensuring individual human rights. She described how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses detention as a pressure tactic against dissidents and the abusive conditions under which they are detained, which were revealed by HRW’s interviews with former prisoners. She also explained the social credit system, in place since 2014, and the CCP’s widespread interference in Western countries.

Both McCuaig-Johnston and Benjamin Fung, a Canada Research Chair in Data Mining for Cybersecurity and an Action Free Hong Kong Montreal activist, highlighted the CCP’s infiltration in Canadian academics and described the pressure on faculty and Chinese students to self-censor criticism of the Chinese government.

The CCP’s use of technology, such as facial and voice recognition for repression, was also extensively discussed by both experts. Fung additionally focused on Chinese companies’ goal to expand the 5G network––he explained that the CCP controls every large corporation in China and that technology companies are obligated to cooperate with Chinese intelligence units.

“It’s about trust, you trust Apple to update your iPhone because it is a private company,” Fung explained, adding that we cannot trust Chinese companies who would introduce malware into the 5G network if the CCP asked them to.

Fung also spoke in detail about China’s one country, two systems policy and the CCP’s broken promise: its decision to maintain control over Hong Kong’s government instead of allowing universal suffrage, which Fung asserts was promised in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. He described what he called an ongoing humanitarian crisis and a system of police brutality, lengthy prison sentences, sexual assault, and white terror––attacks on pro-democracy activists.

The situation in Tibet was discussed by Sherap Therchin, executive director of the Canada-Tibet Committee, who explained it has been 70 years since China illegally invaded Tibet, and the Western world seems to have forgotten about it. He described the CCP’s reflexive control strategy: how they have been feeding manufactured information about Tibet to target groups so consistently that the Western world now believes their narrative that Tibet was historically part of China.

Therchin continued to explain that in the Western world’s eyes, control over Tibet is now an internal issue––a problem for China to deal with without Western influence.

Finally, Dilmurat Mahmut, a Ph.D. candidate at McGill University’s Faculty of Education, talked about the Uyghur re-education camps in place since 2017. According to documents obtained through an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, an estimated 1 million Uyghur Muslims are detained in these camps, but Mahmut said these numbers could be as high as 3 million. He explained the history of the region of Xinjiang, originally East Turkistan, and the CCP’s labeling of all Turkic Muslims in the region as potential terrorists or pre-criminals.

Mahmut described the conditions in what the CCP calls vocational training centres, and explained that Uyghur children are being forcibly detained and sent to state-run orphanages where they are forbidden from learning the Uyghur language and, instead, only learn the Chinese culture—he called this cultural genocide. Mahmut finished his presentation with a warning from Roth on the dangers of not challenging Chinese human rights abuses and worldwide interference.

Syndicated via the Canadian University Press from The Concordian. ■

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Trudeau outlines plan to pass trade deal

CUSMA will come before parliament.

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File photo.

After the new North American free trade deal approved by U.S. Senate, the Canadian government plans to ratify the deal next week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke Tuesday in a news conference after a three-day cabinet retreat in Winnipeg, saying that it’s the government’s utmost priority to push forward with the Canadian-U.S.-Mexico agreement, known domestically as CUSMA, as millions of jobs depend on the new trade pact.

“On Monday, we will present a ways and means motion, and on Wednesday we will table legislations to ratify the deal,” said Trudeau, describing what will take place next week.

In order for the Liberals to pass this legislation in a minority government, they will neeed the support of another party in the House of Commons. Trudeau had expressed is hopes that all parties will negotiate and cone on ratification together.

“What we are doing is reminding everyone in the House and across the country of how important it is to secure the most important trading relationship for future generations.”

CUSMA has been on the top of the list of government priorities that were discussed during the cabinet meetings in Winnipeg.

The cabinet ministers also listened to expert guest speakers, who discussed other important matters including the fight against climate change, the current state of the country’s economy and pressing global affairs, among other critical matters facing the new minority government.

The trade deal, a result of a year of sometimes rocky negotiations with with the Trump administration, has been passed in the U.S. Senate and is awaiting the president’s signature. It has also been approved in Mexico.

Justin Trudeau said in Winnipeg “we are going to make sure we move forward in the right way and that means ratifying this new NAFTA as quickly as possible.”

Conservatives who are the main opposition, are generally supportive of the deal, but have vowed to grill the Liberals over its specifics when the House of Commons resumes sitting on Monday. ■

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Anti-abortion group loses club status at University of Ottawa

A petition had over 500 signatures.

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STORY VIA THE FULCRUM

(CUP) — An anti-abortion group on campus has lost its club status after months of heated controversy and debate, blocking them from accessing resources and funding through the University of Ottawa Students’ Union, or UOSU.

University of Ottawa Students for Life UOSFL first received preliminary club status back in October 2019 from Campus Vibez uOttawa, the body that coordinates clubs under the UOSU. The school’s former student government, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), had previously stripped UOSFL of its club status in 2017.  

Anger and backlash from students quickly followed and the status of the club was called into question a few weeks later when a petition with 500 signatures was sent to the undergraduate student union calling for its removal. 

In a series of meetings in October and November 2019, the UOSU adopted a pro-choice stance on abortion and then amended its club code to block any group that advocates against access to legal abortion from union funding. A General Assembly was held in early December where students could vote on the club status of UOSFL, but the meeting failed to reach quorum and became a town hall discussion instead. 

The decision on the club status of UOSFL was then moved to a meeting of the UOSU’s student life committee, where representatives from UOSFL and pro-choice supporters who launched the petition against the club were invited to attend and voice their arguments. The meeting was held on Dec. 20, with the committee eventually voting to remove the club status of UOSFL, which was announced earlier this month. 

UOSFL has the option of challenging the committee’s decision at the union’s upcoming board meeting this Sunday. Under the current ruling, the group can still remain active on campus but does not have access to funds, promotion, or room rentals through the UOSU.

Bridget Dueck, administrator of the Defenders of Our Campus pro-choice group, and Garfilia Milousis, co-president of UOSFL, attended the student life committee meeting. Both said they have experienced harassment and threats in the midst of the debate over UOSFL’s status. 

Dueck said a delayed decision from the UOSU has caused her unneeded stress and anxiety. She said she expects there will be an appeal by the UOSFL and encouraged students to attend the appeal meeting to voice their concerns. 

“I’ve played a more active role and spoke out more, but it’s really a group,” said Dueck. “This whole movement is kind of an organism of its own. It’s not just one person that’s spearheading the movement anymore. It’s more of a group of students that are all working together.”

Dueck said that along with the resources official UOSU clubs receive, it’s also about the title that comes with it. 

“It is a monumental privilege that not every group is going to be eligible for,” said Dueck. ”That title carries a lot of weight to the students and, to me, because they are recognized, they carry around the community, they represent the community.” 

Milousis said the UOSU’s process has been much more transparent than the previous decision from the school’s former undergraduate student union, the SFUO, but said that flaws still exist in the new system. 

Both Milousis and Dueck agreed that the final meeting held on Dec. 20 and the General Assembly on Dec. 7 were unfair to students who were studying for finals and headed home for the holidays. Milousis called it a learning experience for the UOSU, and the union says it will no longer allow meetings to happen in the middle of exam season. 

Other student unions across the country have also taken pro-choice stances and blocked anti-abortion clubs from their funding or resources, but Milousis argued that while principals and examples of other cases may be referred to, they should not be used to influence a decision as the circumstances and details may vary. 

“What I would say is different from those cases and the situation at the U of O is recently the Ontario government has put forward a free speech policy that’s supposed to regulate universities and require them to uphold free speech on campus,” said Milousis. 

While Milousis commends the student union for listening to both sides of the arguments, she said she believes there was bias in the decision from the start, since the UOSU took a pro-choice stance on abortion at an October 2019 board meeting. 

Milousis said she thinks the decision on her club’s status was made even before the General Assembly in December took place. 

“By nature of the UOSU taking the pro-choice stance, they’ve already positioned themselves as closer to (the pro-choice) side,” she said. “So not only do I have to address the concerns, but I somehow have to win them over.” 

Milousis and Dueck said members of their groups have not engaged in harassment online, but both reported received threats from anonymous and third-party sources. 

“I’ve had a number of death threats,” said Milousis.

“I have experienced harassment from fake profiles online,” said Dueck, “I had a message from a profile that felt very threatening, saying that I was going to burn in hell. I don’t want that on campus.” 

The UOSU’s next board meeting is scheduled for Sunday at 12 p.m. in the Tabaret Hall Senate Chamber, where UOSFL has the option of appealing the student life committee’s decision. ■

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