Highlights from the news files for Monday, March 6th
NEW TRUMP TRAVEL BAN PROMPTS NEW QUESTIONS: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is skirting demands to speak out against the U.S. government’s newly revised ban on immigration from specific countries. U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled a new iteration of the controversial ban Monday, prompting renewed calls for Trudeau to denounce it and suspend the Canada-U.S. agreement on asylum claims. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair called the travel ban “racist” and pushed Trudeau to say whether he considers the U.S. is a safe country for refugees, but the prime minister would only say that Canada is open and welcoming to all. The travel ban, and the Safe Third Country agreement, have been cited as the reason for so many people crossing into Canada in recent weeks to seek asylum. The source of those claims and what to do about them will be a hot topic at this week’s Liberal cabinet meeting. Cabinet will also have a chance to grill the U.S. homeland security secretary on the issue when he visits Ottawa later this week.
NEW U.S. TRAVEL BAN SIGNED; IRAQ NOT INCLUDED: U.S. President Donald Trump signed a reworked version of his controversial travel ban Monday, aiming to withstand court challenges while still barring new visas for citizens from six Muslim-majority countries and temporarily shutting down America’s refugee program. The revised travel order leaves Iraq off the list of banned countries, but still affects would-be visitors and immigrants from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya. Trump privately signed the new order Monday while Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally unveiled the new edict. They did not take questions from reporters. The low-key rollout was in contrast to the first version of the order, which Trump signed a week after his inauguration in a high-profile ceremony at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes as Secretary of Defence James Mattis stood by.
ORGANIZER SAYS KHIZR KHAN CANCELS TORONTO TALK: The organizer of a luncheon featuring a speech by the father of an American Muslim soldier killed in Iraq says the event has been cancelled because the man’s “travel privileges are being reviewed.” Ramsay Talks says Khizr Khan, who has publicly criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for his anti-Muslim rhetoric, was scheduled to talk about tolerance, understanding and unity in Toronto on Tuesday. Khan’s son, Humayun Khan, was one of 14 American Muslims who died serving the United States in the 10 years after 9/11. Ramsay Talks says Khizr Khan was notified late Sunday night that his travel privileges were being reviewed. Neither Khan nor Ramsay Talks say who is reviewing his travel privileges and why. On Monday, Trump unveiled a revised travel ban that temporarily halts entry to the U.S. for people from six Muslim-majority nations who are seeking new visas and suspends the country’s refugee program.
CANADIAN WOMAN BARRED FROM ENTERING U.S.: A Montreal woman who is a Canadian citizen says she was barred from entering the United States and told to get a visa. Manpreet Kooner says she was turned away at a crossing along the Quebec-Vermont border on Sunday and informed she needed a valid visa. Kooner, 30, is of Indian descent and was born in Montreal to parents who came to Canada from India in the 1960s. She says she’s perplexed given she was travelling on a Canadian passport and has no criminal record. Kooner says she was travelling with two friends — both white — who were not questioned by border officials. Kooner is the latest person to be turned away at the border in recent months for various reasons. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman said Monday the department can’t comment on individual admissibility inspections, but noted that possession of a valid travel document does not guarantee entry to the United States.
WHITE HOUSE AIDES DEFEND TRUMP’S WIRETAP CLAIM: White House officials on Monday defended U.S. President Donald Trump’s explosive claim that Barack Obama tapped Trump’s telephones during last year’s election, although they won’t say exactly where that information came from and left open the possibility that it isn’t true. The comments came even as FBI Director James Comey privately asked the Justice Department to dispute the claim because he believed the allegations were false. When asked whether Trump accepted Comey’s view, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told ABC’s “Good Morning America”: “I don’t think he does.” Sanders and Kellyanne Conway, another top adviser, said the president still firmly believes the allegations he made on Twitter over the weekend. The aides said any ambiguity surrounding the issue is all the more reason for Congress to investigate the matter. The House and Senate intelligence committees, and the FBI, are investigating contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, as well as whether Moscow tried to influence the 2016 election. On Sunday, Trump demanded that they broaden the scope of their inquiries to include Obama’s potential abuse of executive powers.
BOB PAULSON LEAVING AS RCMP COMMISSIONER: The top Mountie has decided the time has come for him to retire. In a message to the force on Monday, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said he will leave at the end of June to focus on his family more after spending 32 years with the force, the last five as commissioner. Two separate insiders with direct knowledge of Paulson’s decision, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the commissioner began planning his departure last October and that he was not pushed out the door. The sources, who were not authorized to speak on the record due to the sensitivity of the matter, said Paulson felt it was the right time for him to take his leave. Ultimately, Paulson’s tenure may be judged on his degree of success at rooting out what he called dark-hearted behaviour from the force upon assuming command in 2011. In his statement Monday, he pointed to a multitude of issues the RCMP continues to wrestle with, including historical, yet persistent, claims of sexual harassment and lingering mental health concerns for employees.
CANADA EXTENDS MISSION IN UKRAINE TO 2019: The Liberal government is extending Canada’s military mission in Ukraine for another two years as it attempts to send a signal of continued solidarity with the eastern European country. “Canada’s support for Ukraine is unwavering,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said during a news conference Monday with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. “We will continue to provide critical military assistance to the end of March 2019. This assistance is crucial to ensure a sovereign, secure and stable Ukraine.” Canada first deployed about 200 troops to Ukraine in the summer of 2015 to help train government forces after Russia annexed Crimea and began supporting separatist forces in Ukraine’s Donbass region. But the mission, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau toured during a visit to the country in July, had been set to expire at the end of March.
COMPANY ‘HIGHLY REGRETS’ B.C. FISH FARM FUEL SPILL: The owner of a British Columbia salmon farm where hundreds of litres of fuel spilled on the weekend says it “highly regrets” the incident and will review its procedures. Cermaq Canada says coast guard staff performed a fuel reconciliation and determined the spill was closer to 600 litres and not the 1,500 litres the company reported earlier. It says spill pads and booms were immediately deployed at the farm off the north coast of Vancouver Island and quick actions by staff helped reduce the impact on the environment. The leader of a nearby First Nation has said he’s worried about the impact the spill will have on a major food source for his community, as the area is critical for clam digging. Bob Chamberlin says there will be a need for his First Nation and other groups to monitor how far the spill reached and evaluate how it affects the area.
REFUND OFFER MAY WEED OUT TORY CANDIDATES, TROST SAYS: Conservative party leadership candidate Brad Trost wants his party to offer partial refunds to his rivals to encourage some of them to drop out of the race. Trost says the field of 14 contenders would benefit from some paring down, but concedes that won’t likely happen without some sort of an incentive. He says offering a partial refund would be an inducement for some of them to leave, though he says he personally intends to stay in the race until ballots are cast May 27. Once candidates hit the March 28 deadline for signing up new members, Trost notes, many will take stock of their chances and may decide at that point they want to drop out. Candidates currently pay a non-refundable fee of $50,000 to enter and another $50,000 as a deposit they can get back in full at the end if they break no rules. Trost says the field is too crowded and too confusing for party members and everyone would benefit from fewer candidates on the ballot.
LAWSUIT SAYS FOREIGN-BUYERS’ TAX UNCONSTITUTIONAL: A proposed class-action lawsuit says British Columbia’s 15 per cent tax on foreign nationals who buy homes in the Vancouver area is unfairly prejudiced against people from Asia, who have historically faced discrimination in the province. Amended documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court last week argue the so-called foreign-buyers’ tax is unconstitutional because it violates equality rights by making an “arbitrary” distinction between those who are citizens and permanent residents of Canada and those who are not. The lawsuit, which was originally filed in September, says the tax unfairly assumes foreign nationals are wealthier than Canadians, and argues it violates dozens of international treaties guaranteeing equal treatment to non-Canadian citizens and permanent residents. The B.C. government introduced the foreign-buyers’ tax last summer in an effort to quell Metro Vancouver’s overheated real-estate market, which saw July prices for detached homes soar 38 per cent over a single year.