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‘In harm’s way’: Passport dispute strands Canadian children who fled war-torn Ethiopia




For the past few months, Hassan Mursal’s daughters have been on the run.

Now the Edmonton father is fighting to bring his children to Canada after they fled a war zone in Ethiopia, but a bizarre foul-up in one daughter’s passport application is making it difficult.

Mursal says he fears for the safety of his daughters — Saabiriin, 14, and Zuhur, 9 — who are stranded in Nairobi after recently fleeing the war-torn Ethiopian region where they had been living.

To bring the girls to Canada, Mursal must first replace his older daughter’s lost Canadian passport — but that process has been stalled due to a disputed photo.

« The situation is very bad now for them, » said Mursal in an interview with CBC News Wednesday. « The kids have no parent over there. »

Although the girls are Canadian citizens, as is their father, they’ve never lived in Canada. Mursal came as a refugee from Ethiopia to Canada in 1988. He married an Ethiopian woman during one of his many extended visits back to his homeland.

Two weeks after the birth of their second daughter in 2009, Mursal’s wife died from a heart attack. The sisters were left in the care of their aunt so that Mursal, who drove a taxi in Fort McMurray, could continue to work and provide for them.

In 2015, Mursal applied for a replacement passport in the hopes of bringing both daughters to Canada. Their aunt had just died and protests in the region were turning deadly.

« Sometimes you see dead bodies on the road and sometimes, like two or three weeks, you can’t come out from the home, » Mursal said, recalling time he’d spent in Ethiopia during that period.

Edmonton father issues plea to federal government to act quickly to bring his Canadian children to Canada after they fled a war zone. 0:50

Late last year, Mursal’s daughters were among thousands of people who fled the region amid prolonged violence and deadly clashes that escalated following October’s presidential election.

An Edmonton human rights group that has taken up his case met earlier this week with staff from the office of federal cabinet minister Amarjeet Sohi, MP for Edmonton Mill Woods.

Mark Cherrington, a volunteer with the Coalition of Human Rights and Justice, is concerned about the lack of response from the Canadian government.

We have a situation where we have two small children, Canadian children, that are in harm’s way, that were in a war zone and fled this war zone– Mark Cherrington, human rights advocate

« We have a situation where we have two small children, Canadian children, that are in harm’s way, that were in a war zone and fled this war zone, » said Cherrington.

« We’re asking that the Canadian government act intrusively and quickly and make sure that these two children are  kept safe and returned home to Canada with their father. »

The well-being of the children should be made the priority regardless of the issue with the passport photo, Cherrington added.

Impostor photo

The issue with the disputed photo on the passport application is that the photo is not Mursal’s daughter — a troubling situation that isn’t able to be clearly explained.

Officials with Immigration, Refugee Citizenship Canada (IRCC) say the « impostor » photo was submitted fraudulently. Mursal vehemently denies the allegation.

Mursal learned about the problem in a letter from the Passport Investigations Division on Dec. 20, 2016 — one of many documents he provided to CBC, including copies of his daughters’ expired Canadian passports.

The letter, signed by an investigator who provided an unreadable signature and no name, acknowledges his custodial duty as the only surviving parent and references the police report of his daughter’s lost passport.

However, it also informs Mursal he is under investigation for allegedly « providing false or misleading information in support of the application submitted in the name of Saabiriin Hassan Mursal. »

The document explained that facial recognition software, which compared the photo to a previous passport photo of Saabiriin, showed « a minimal resemblance. »

Canadian authorities says a photo of an unknown female (right) was submitted instead of Hassan Mursal’s daughter (left). (IRCC)

Further, Canadian government officials told CBC News that embassy staff said Mursal was accompanied by the impostor when he initially made the application at the Canadian embassy in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

Mursal said that is not the case and that he was with his daughter that day.

He acknowledges the female in the photo is not his daughter, but insists it is not the photo he submitted.

« I never seen that picture before that time, » Mursal said.


Mursal suggested the photo was switched, perhaps in response to his request to speak to someone higher up, a request he believes may have offended a staff member. 

« He is the one who replaced another photo in my daughter’s application due to what I was asking for, » Mursal wrote in a letter on Feb. 2, 2017, in response to the allegations.

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Mursal denied knowing the person in the other photo and described it as an act of revenge. « I swear that I submitted my daughter’s real photo, » he wrote.

Mursal alleged he was indirectly asked to pay a bribe, which he refused to do.

But IRCC stood firm and informed him in January 2018 that his passport privileges were revoked until 2022.

Hassan Mursal pictured with his late wife and older daughter in 2004. (Hassan Mursal)

Mursal says that on May 30, 2018, he sent to the Canadian Embassy in Addis Ababa an application for a limited « travel document in special circumstances under urgent, compelling and compassionate » grounds. In it, he said his children hadn’t been able to attend school in months.

In July, Mursal travelled back to Edmonton alone on an emergency travel document to plead his case on Canadian soil. He said he was told the document he travelled on could not be issued for his daughters.

« We are alarmed at how the response has been by the Canadian government to make sure that these Canadian children are returned home safely and kept safe in the interim, » said Cherrington.

Cherrington called for an investigation into the allegations against embassy officials but IRCC said it has confidence in the integrity and professionalism of its employees.

Sohi’s office, which Cherrington said has been helpful, declined to comment.

Global Affairs, which provides emergency assistance to Canadians overseas, has not provided comment.


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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