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Police presence in Jewish communities across Canada to be increased following Pittsburgh shooting – National

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Toronto police will increase its visibility at synagogues, while Jewish advocacy groups say law enforcement will increase its presence across the country in Jewish communities after a gunman killed at least 11 at a synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday.


READ MORE:
11 dead, 6 injured in shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh

A spokesperson for York Regional Police said that it will be “increasing visibility at synagogues in the region.”

“Officers will be attending and will be inside as well,” the official said. “Officers are attending with the goal of trying to give everyone a sense of calm. They’re asking anyone who sees anything suspicious to contact them.”

Toronto police said in a statement that they will “continuously monitor issues and make appropriate adjustments in our plans in order to mitigate potential risks to public safety.”

WATCH: At least 11 dead, 6 injured after Pittsburgh synagogue shooting






“We do not disclose the specifics of our security plans,” the statement read.

Toronto police chief Mark Saunders said his officers have “made adjustments to local security” in a tweet.

In addition, a statement from Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC), a Canadian Jewish human rights foundation, said Vancouver police chief Adam Palmer reported that his department has instituted patrols around Jewish facilities “right away,” and that the Edmonton police department will do the same.


READ MORE:
What we know about Robert Bowers, suspect in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

Martin Sampson, a spokesperson for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), a Jewish advocacy group, said “law enforcement across Canada have, as a precaution, directed front line resources to increase presence around Jewish neighbourhoods and Jewish institutions.”

“We are in touch with all major law enforcement agencies, at all levels,” he said. “They have signaled directly to us [that they have increased their presence.]  Local presence has increased — more visible presence of front line police resources in and around Jewish community institutions and neighbourhoods.”

The presence will “certainly” be extended through the weekend, Sampson said.

WATCH: President Donald Trump reacts synagogue shooting


“Canadian law enforcement has reacted quickly and decisively to this situation, and for that we are grateful,” Sampson said. “Though there is no information to suggest an increased security threat in Canada, we have reminded our community right across the country that it is important to remain vigilant.”

Robert Bowers, 46, has been arrested as a suspect in connection with the shooting in Pittsburgh, Pa. that killed at least 11 at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue. CNN has reported that the gunman made anti-Semitic remarks during the shooting and he shot at police who arrive on the scene.

Anti-Semitism has increased in Canada in the last couple years, according to reports.


READ MORE:
Trump condemns Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, says ‘vile’ anti-Semitism must end

According to a 2016 report from Statistics Canada, hate crimes against Jewish people saw the largest spike from the year before among religious groups, from 178 incidents reported to police in 2015 to 221 reported in 2016. These increases were recorded mainly in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba.

Jewish people were also the targets of the most hate crimes out of any religious group in 2016, according to the report.

According to an audit done by B’nai Brith Canada, a Jewish advocacy group, 2017 was a record-breaking year for anti-Semitism in Canada. The audit found that there were 1,752 recorded incidents of anti-Semitism, and anti-Semitic vandalism more than doubled across the country, breaking the record for number of incidents at 327.

WATCH: Toronto Jewish official reacts to synagogue shooting


The audit ranked Ontario as the number one region in Canada for anti-Semitic incidents, with a total of 808 reported incidents in 2017. Quebec came in second with 474 incidents of harassment and vandalism — the highest number ever recorded in the 36 year history of the audit, according to B’nai Brith’s Quebec regional director, Harvey Levine.

— With files from Rahul Kalvapalle, Monique Scotti and Anne Leclair

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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City to rebuild Maple Leaf Pool – Regina

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Sharp public outcry has turned the tide for the embattled Maple Leaf Pool.

On Tuesday night, Regina city council voted unanimously to replace the 72-year-old facility in the Heritage neighbourhood. It had been scheduled to close in 2019.

“We know that the people of this city want  that pool replaced, and replaced in a hurry,” Councillor Bob Hawkins emphatically remarked.

Councillors cited a slew of emails and phone calls supporting the ageing pool in addition to a weekend protest and more than a dozen delegates presenting at budget.

“There’s a lot of newcomers in our neighbourhood,” Heritage Community Association executive director Shayna Stock said. “About 20 per cent are First Nations or Metis, and it’s a mix of lower income families and working class families, so the pool is really a hub for the community.”


READ MORE:
Regina residents protest closure of Maple Leaf Pool

“We changed our minds. We’ve changed the focus back to a local pool that’s critical- the centerpiece of a community. We understand, we agree,” Mayor Michael Fougere said.

Hawkins pushed to have a new pool open by 2020- though administration felt that was a little too ambitious.

“2020 we would start construction. 2019 we’d do design. You can’t move any quicker than that,” City manager Chris Holden said.

Administration will report back with funding options early in the new year, though council discussed financing through debt and increasing the mill rate at Tuesday’s meeting.

A proposal from Hawkins to pay for it through a .45 per cent mill rate increase was squashed after much debate.


READ MORE:
Maple Leaf pool the focus of Regina’s budget debate

Council heard there is almost $17 million in debt dedicated to replacing Wascana Pool with a new water park by 2021. While Maple Leaf Pool will be a priority, the proposed destination outdoor aquatic facility is not off the table.

“It may be a modified one, but I don’t think we’re going to be talking about the end of the destination (aquatic facility),”Fougere added. “I think we’re talking about moving forward on both projects.”

While details on construction and a price tag may be hazy, it appears the Maple Leaf Pool has a new lease on life.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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Meng Wanzhou is out on bail — but could be in legal limbo for years

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Meng Wanzhou says she hasn’t read a novel in 25 years.

As the lawyer for Huawei’s chief financial officer told B.C. Supreme Court Justice William Ehrcke Tuesday, the 46-year-old has been too busy raising a family and helping her father grow his company into a global telecommunications giant.

Defence lawyer David Martin said his client practically welcomes the constraints Ehrcke considered before granting her $10 million bail under strict supervision: more time to spend with her daughter, to catch up on her love of literature — and who knows, maybe even to consider getting her PhD?

Meng, who was arrested in Vancouver at the request of U.S. officials, is accused of violating international sanctions against Iran through a « hidden » Huawei subsidiary called Skycom.

U.S. prosecutors claim she put American banks in legal jeopardy by lying about the relationship between the companies, inducing them into « carrying out transactions that they otherwise would not have contemplated. »

Meng Wanzhou left B.C. Supreme Court in downtown Vancouver around 8 p.m. local time, nearly five hours after the judge delivered his decision. (CBC)

The U.S. wants to see her extradited.

But if the legal precedents Ehrcke considered in granting Meng her freedom are anything to go by, she may have time to finish War and Peace, Anna Karenina and the complete works of Marcel Proust before her extradition odyssey is done.

« This has been an unusual case, » the judge said as he wrapped up the day, which drew crowds so large the sheriff had to set up televisions in the lobby. 

The proceedings spoke to a number of Vancouver stereotypes: a part-time yoga instructor, a real estate agent, an insurance salesperson and a homemaker all came together as last minute sureties to guarantee the freedom of a woman whose father with an estimated worth of $3.2 billion US.

And all of this on a day with torrential rain.

Left holding the bag

In considering bail, Ehrcke had to balance Meng’s risk of flight against the guarantees of friends who put their own property on the line as sureties.

He considered the examples of Rakesh Saxena and Lai Changxing, two men who fought long battles against extradition.

It took 13 years before Saxena was deported to Thailand, where he was jailed for fraud.

And Lai — once considered one of China’s most wanted men — fought deportation for more than a decade before being sent back to face charges of bribery and theft.

Both men lived under house arrest and were eventually freed pending the resolution of their cases. Saxena was placed under house arrest again after violating the conditions of his release.

Lai Changxing fought deportation from Canada for years. His case was one of the examples the judge considered in granting bail to Meng. (Chuck Stoody/Canadian Press)

Ehrcke also considered the case of Michael Wilson, an accused fraudster, who — like Meng — was wanted for extradition to the U.S. and who — also like Meng — had multiple sureties step forward.

But Wilson fled to Vietnam with two of those guarantors in a bid to escape justice, leaving the other two holding the bag.

Wilson’s actions cost one of them $200,000. The friends who stepped forward for the Huawei CFO could be on the hook for as much as $3 million if she flees.

‘Myriad’ reasons to avoid the U.S.

Meng was arrested just over a week ago on a provisional arrest warrant as she passed through Vancouver International Airport en route to Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina and France.

Prosecutors claim the fact she hasn’t stepped foot in the United States since 2017 is proof she’s avoiding possible arrest in that country.

But Ehrcke rejected that argument, pointing out that people have « myriad » reasons for avoiding the United States in the past two years.

U.S. President Donald Trump chats with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Tensions between the two countries have been rising. (Andy Wong/Associated Press)

The judge didn’t mention Donald Trump’s name — but the tense relationship between the U.S. president and China’s leadership has simmered in the background from the moment Meng first stepped foot in court.

« There’s a larger macro struggle going on between the United States and China, » Martin told the court during his client’s first appearance — proceedings to which the CBC News has since listened.

Many of the people who packed the courtroom for three days running questioned the timing and motive of the arrest. They applauded Ehrcke’s final decision and some congratulated Meng’s husband as he left the courtroom.

Supporters decried the allegations and one man walked outside the courthouse and shouted, « We love Huawei. »

Patience and time

The arrest of a Canadian in China on the same day that Meng’s release was to be decided increased the air of intrigue.

And Trump’s assertion that he might intervene in the case against Meng if it would help national security interests or close a trade deal with China only helped reinforce the sense that the case may ultimately be decided in Washington and Beijing, not Vancouver.

For now, though, Meng is confined to a strict radius of locations in Vancouver, Richmond and parts of North and West Vancouver.

She’ll pay for round-the-clock shifts of security guards to watch her every movement — sworn to arrest her if she breaches the terms of her parole.

She’ll swap her green prison sweats for an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet.

And she’ll finally get to pick up a book. To paraphrase War and Peace, she may learn that patience and time are the strongest warriors of all.



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My friend Michael Kovrig was arrested in China. Please, pay attention

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VANCOUVER—This morning, when I heard that former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig had been arrested in China, I hoped it was one of those brief detentions officials routinely use to intimidate foreign researchers, charity workers and journalists.

I rushed to the Star’s Vancouver newsroom and got on the phone to see if I could find out anything more about my friend. It was past midnight in Beijing, and none of our mutual friends and acquaintances were getting back to me. I was starting to panic.

Finally, I reached the previous Canadian ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques. He was Michael’s boss when he worked in Canada’s Beijing embassy from 2014 to 2016.

When Saint-Jacques told me he feared Michael could be charged with espionage, my heart sank.

It would not be unprecedented. In 2014, Canadian Christian aid workers Julia and Kevin Garratt were arrested by Chinese officials and accused of spying. Many believed it was retaliation for the arrest in Canada that same year of Chinese citizen Su Bin, who was accused of hacking U.S. military databases.

“In my view, this is part of China’s efforts to put pressure on Canada on the Huawei case,” he said, referencing the Dec. 1 arrest of the telecom company’s CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver, which my newsroom has been busy covering.

In a state of shock, I filed the former ambassador’s quotes to our story as messages started pouring in from friends who had also learned about Michael’s detention. The Canadian government has since confirmed it.

Michael was one of the first people I met in Beijing four years ago when I worked as a foreign correspondent for European news agencies. A group of Western diplomats invited me to join them at a Chinese folk concert in one of the ancient “hutong” alleyways of the capital city.

We were all new to working in mainland China, though some of us (like me and Michael) had worked in Hong Kong. We were excited to explore Beijing’s night life and cultural offerings.

Michael reached out to me to grab lunch because both of us were interested in politics and human rights in China. We wanted to trade notes on these complex and overwhelming subjects.

After that, he always tried to make it to my gatherings, and he invited me to the fabulous bashes he threw in his apartment — including one party where he even hired a swing band and bartender.

Subscribe to the Star to support our team of journalists across Canada

Despite the wonderful friends I made in my years covering human rights in China, it was depressing to write about the arrests or mysterious disappearances of lawyers, writers and activists.

It was exciting to run with Chinese human-rights lawyers down back streets to evade the police watching their every move — but also crushing to hear when yet another advocate had been arrested.

One attorney, Wang Quanzhang, has not been heard from since he was detained in 2015 during a police sweep on hundreds of lawyers and advocates. I sat with his wife as she cried in a restaurant. She, too, had been put under house arrest.

Last summer, I travelled to the northeastern city of Shenyang to try to find pro-democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo as he lay dying of liver cancer. He remained locked away in a hospital and was the first Nobel Peace Prize laureate to die in state custody since the days of Nazi Germany.

I moved back to Vancouver this July, where I soon got a job with the Star.

I last heard from Michael in the spring, when he told me he was loving his job as senior adviser on northeast Asia for the International Crisis Group, an internationally respected NGO that examines ways to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.

The job allowed him to travel widely, speak with many people and write for a wider audience to promote peace.

Michael is emotionally very open. Many in his social circle knew that he struggled with his decision to take a leave of absence from work as a diplomat in 2016. He chose to do so because he didn’t want another posting somewhere else. He wanted to stay in China and keep learning more about the country.

In short, he was a China nerd and eager to keep learning.

“He loved China,” said Saint-Jacques. “I told him you can take a leave of absence from the government and try to find something, and good luck with your plans. And that’s why he decided to stay and enjoy living and working in China.”

Michael could not have foreseen what would happen to him. I am still hopeful that he won’t be detained for long, even though I know that the outcome could be awful.

A foreign passport can provide little protection. Just look at the case of B.C. winery owners John Chang and Allison Lu, who have been detained in Shanghai since 2016, accused of failing to pay sufficient taxes on wine shipments.

Those who track human-rights cases in China worry that people around the world are becoming numb to their concerns.

Please, pay attention to what is happening with Michael’s case.

Joanna Chiu is assistant managing editor of StarMetro Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachiu



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