Survivor Aymen Derbali sets out to combat hate, 2 years after Quebec City mosque shooting


Aymen Derbali swivels his wheelchair toward the large windows of his new living room, sparsely furnished with ornate rugs.

He bows his head and closes his eyes, taking a moment for his afternoon prayer, before talking about the turning point in his life — moving into a new home with his family last August, after being apart for nearly 18 months.

« I was able to go back to my home and have a normal life, like before the tragedy, » he said.

Derbali, a father of three, nearly avoided the attack that killed six people and seriously wounded him and four others at Quebec City’s Islamic Cultural Centre on Jan. 29, 2017.

He was debating whether to go his local mosque that evening, but eventually told his wife he was going, and would be home in time to put their eldest son to bed.

Derbali was in his usual corner at the back of the room, when he saw the gunman come in and raise his weapon toward him.

He was hit with seven bullets, including one that struck his spinal cord. In a second, the life he’d set out for himself and his family made an abrupt turn.

Derbali regularly attends the mosque where he was shot on Jan. 29, 2017. (Julia Page/CBC)

Derbali was in a coma for the next two months. His doctors feared he’d lost most of his cerebral capacities, after surviving four heart attacks.

When he woke up, he was told he’d never walk again.

But « being able to recognize my children and my wife, for the rest of my life, that was the main thing for me, » he said.

His coma was especially hard on his then-eight-year-old son, Ayoub, who was convinced his father was dead.

« He was very upset. So when he saw me back at my home he was very, very happy. »

The wide hallways of his new home allow Derbali to move around easily. (Julia Page/CBC)

Outpouring of support

The soft-spoken 42-year-old can now move freely around the house, purchased thanks to a $400,000 fundraising campaign.

People from around the world answered the call from Dawanet, a Muslim charity, to help his family move out of their Sainte-Foy apartment — which was too cramped and ill-equipped for Derbali’s needs.

The wide hallways and door frames in the new home allow him to move around during the day, from his small desk in his bedroom to the sitting room where he can watch television with his children.

He can also watch them play soccer in the backyard in the summer.

« This solidarity has encouraged me to be more positive, and this is the beautiful thing, » he said.

Grateful for the wave of support he’s received, Derbali refuses to dwell on the act of violence he fell victim to that night. « There is much more goodness than evil on this planet, » Derbali said.

Derbali smiles at his two youngest children, Maryem, 2, and Youssouf, 6. (Submitted by Aymen Derbali)

His home still needs a few more modifications to make it fully adapted to his needs, including an adapted shower and an elevated platform to allow him to go straight to the garage from the kitchen.

But he is able to help in planning all this, now that he can type on his keyboard with two fingers and answer calls on his cellphone, lessening the burden he felt he put on his family, just 12 months before.

« I can plan the work around the house, pay the bills and help my son with his homework. »

He is also there every afternoon to greet his children when they return from school, just a few blocks away.

Second life

Derbali has started sending out resumés  in hope of landing a part-time job, to supplement the income provided by the government’s compensation for victims of crimes.

But his daily routine still takes up a lot of his time. He requires three hours of home care every day, and the bullets that exploded inside his body cause him constant pain.

Nonetheless, he is committed to the humanitarian work he began long before the shooting.

Derbali, who worked as an IT specialist, is now able to type on his computer and hopes to go back to work part-time. (Julia Page/CBC)

He continues to be involved in an orphanage he helped set up in Bolivia and now wants to do more within Quebec City, to foster dialogue between groups that may have been on separate paths for too long.

« We woke up after this tragedy and said ‘We have to be more open to all the communities,' » he said.

He is encouraging Muslim youth to get involved and volunteer for homeless shelters, for example.

« In this way we can fight hate crimes and we can fight ignorance. This is the most important thing, to have concrete actions, » he said.

Derbali has also started giving conferences in high schools to show young men and women the mark hatred left in his life, convinced these face-to-face meetings will leave a much deeper impact than any government initiative.

Derbali sits in the dining room of the new home his family was able to purchase thanks to a fundraising campaign that netted more than $400,000. (Julia Page/CBC)

« You know if we have an open-minded teenager, we don’t have to be afraid for his future. »

The two-year anniversary will be an important milestone for Derbali. So will knowing the fate that awaits the young man he crossed paths with in his place of worship, two years ago.

Convicted gunman Alexandre Bissonette will be sentenced just days after the anniversary, on Feb. 8, at the Quebec City courthouse.

Derbali says that will be another chance to turn the page and focus on the good he has seen emerge from that dark night.

« It’s my second life that is starting. »


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Can Man Dan sets record-breaking donation: ‘This is Edmonton’s record’ – Edmonton


‘Can Man Dan’ Johnstone aims to pay it forward, and now he’s breaking records in doing so.

Johnstone set the record for the most toys collected by a single person for 630 CHED Santa’s Anonymous during his four-day camp out outside of Famous Toys Warehouse.

In total, he raised over $50,000 worth of toys — an entire truckload.

The toys will be delivered to children across the city next weekend, and Santa’s Anonymous is nothing short of appreciative.

Can Man Dan’s latest Edmonton campout in support of 630 CHED Santas Anonymous

The charity said in an Instagram post, “your dedication is incredible”.

Though he achieved landmark success in the charitable effort, he simply will not take all of the credit.

“It’s not my record, this is Edmonton’s record,” said Johnstone.

“They’re the ones who donate. They come out in droves and see me. I just stand there like a fool.

“People were coming all hours of the day and night just to donate – whether it was one toy or 10 toys.”

WATCH: Can Man Dan camps out to support Edmonton’s Food Bank

Right now, the anti-poverty activist is on a mission for the city. He’s on his third of five camp outs, and the next is for the Edmonton Food Bank.

“It feels good,” Johnstone remarked, “but I still have a lot of work to do before Christmas.”

When it comes to exactly how he was able to raise over $50,000 in toys for Santa’s Anonymous, he said it comes down to the relationship he has with Edmonton.

“This city and I have this weird relationship where I can ask them for whatever I want,” Johnstone said. “Whether I want to fill a truck full of food, clothes, or toys, they’ll just do it — and that’s why I love Edmonton.”

But it doesn’t happen overnight. Can Man Dan is an initiative that started when Johnstone turned 18, after being on the other side of those donations.

“Growing up poor kick-started this whole initiative,” he said.

“I remember vividly some of the things I got as a kid and I wanted to keep the cycle going.

“We relied on so many different social services like the Food Bank and Santa’s Anonymous- basically every program you could think of.

“So, I turned 18 and started the whole Can Man Dan initiative and since then we’ve raised millions for our city.”

Edmonton families line up for free school supplies, haircuts as kids return to class

Since the initiative started, he’s helped thousands of people and there’s always another project he’s working on.

This is his eighth year of camp outs for local charities, and in total this year, he’s spent 12 days outside in Edmonton’s bitter cold climate.

“It was cold, to be honest,” he said, but he does find a way to stay warm.

“Seeing all those smiles, and getting all those hugs and handshakes, and loading all these toys into the truck, that’s what kept me warm,” Johnstone said.

“The Christmas spirit was alive and well. It was special.”

Johnstone was born and raised in Edmonton, and has a tireless love for the city.

“I love this city. There’s not a thing I wouldn’t do for it.”

He’s able to achieve charitable successes like this one because of Edmonton’s generosity — and Johnstone says it’s chart-topping.

“This is the most generous city in the entire world. I know I might be a bit biased, but I truly believe it,” he said. “I’m so glad we could help thousands of kids this Christmas.

“This victory is for Edmonton specifically.”

You can find Can Man Dan camping outside of the Heritage Safeway at 2304 109th Street from December 13th to 16th, and again at Southbrook Sobeys at 1109 James Mowatt Trail from December 22nd to December 24th.

He’ll be gathering food, toy, and monetary donations for Edmonton’s Food Bank.

LISTEN BELOW: Full Interview with Can Man Dan about his record-setting donation

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


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Fall economic statement sets target of 50 per cent export growth by 2025


Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s Fall Economic Statement puts more money where the Trudeau government’s mouth is on its trade diversification strategy, in an attempt to nudge more businesses into pursuing export markets beyond the United States.

A new export diversification strategy allocates $1.1 billion over the next six fiscal years, starting in 2018-19, to improve infrastructure and provide more resources and services for exporters.

The goal is to boost Canada’s overseas exports by 50 per cent by 2025, particularly in sectors that have demonstrated potential in certain parts of the world.

For example, when Morneau and International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr were in Beijing earlier this month, they set a goal of doubling Canada’s agrifood exports to China by 2025, and growing farm exports globally to $75 billion annually by that same year.

Wednesday’s economic statement noted that agriculture makes up more than six per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product. The government is allocating $25 million over the next five years to « enhance federal capacity to address situations where Canadian agricultural producers may be prevented from selling goods in international markets. »

The Liberal government’s trade agenda touts the economic growth potential of opening up new markets for Canadian goods and services. While Canada has negotiated preferential trade deals with every G7 country, its exports of non-energy goods — which represent about two-thirds of total export volumes — have remained largely unchanged over the last decade.

The economic statement notes that 99 per cent of Canada’s oil is exported to the U.S., creating a « near-total reliance » on the U.S. market. Canada will face pipeline transportation constraints until the TransMountain pipeline extension, now owned by the federal government, is built.

A recent analysis of import and export data for the first months following the implementation of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union found that Canadian exports weren’t significantly up, or weren’t growing as fast as EU exports to Canada, under the terms of the new deal.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s fall economic statement accelerates funding for marine port, rail and highway infrastructure to make it easier for non-energy goods to reach markets beyond the United States. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Canada’s share of goods exported to emerging economies (developing countries) is also lower than the share claimed by the countries it wants to compete with internationally. The Department of Finance attributes this to a reliance on the U.S. market — but given the protectionist measures implemented by Donald Trump’s administration, too much focus on American customers is risky.

Morneau’s statement Wednesday announced that, out of the $597 million collected so far through Canada’s recent retaliatory tariffs (introduced in response to U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs), $250 million will be put into an existing strategic innovation fund to pay for new investments in the sector.

New transportation infrastructure funding

While relying on the American market has drawbacks, taking advantage of new market opportunities presented by American trade policy decisions can be equally difficult. Take soybeans, for example: retaliatory tariffs put in place by the world’s biggest soybean buyer, China, have all but shut U.S. farmers out of a key market as other countries have moved in. But Canadian soybean exporters were prevented by limited rail transport and port capacity from moving significantly more of their crop to Asia.

Morneau’s fall economic statement takes nearly $774 million from infrastructure spending announced in the 2016 budget — intended to be spent over ten years — and moves it up to fund investments in marine ports, rail infrastructure and highways over the next five years.

An additional $13.6 million over the next three years will be spent to improve rail passenger and freight data, to help Canadian supply chains operate more predictably and efficiently.

The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service will get $184 million over the next five years, boosting its ability to provide advice and services in areas like digital technology, e-commerce and intellectual property.

Its Can Export program, which helps Canadian businesses find new markets, will be tripled in size. Its technology accelerator program, which has helped Canadian firms raise capital in Boston, Philadelphia, New York City and Silicon Valley, will receive an additional $17 million to expand to Delhi, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Other measures in the update meant to help Canadian exporters include:

  • An expansion of a program to help small and medium-sized businesses in the steel, aluminum and manufacturing sectors explore new export markets created by recent trade deals with the EU and Pacific Rim trading partners. A $50 million investment was announced last June, and this economic statement provides $100 million more over six years.
  • $13.5 million for a ‘mentors’ program for « high-potential exporting firms. »
  • $10 million for partnerships with other levels of governments and business organizations to help small- and medium-sized businesses compete internationally.

No clear amounts for dairy compensation

Anyone hoping to find specifics about compensation for Canada’s supply-managed agriculture sectors in Wednesday’s statement came away disappointed.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership will take effect on Dec.30, opening up new slices of Canada’s protected dairy, egg and poultry markets to foreign competition. This market access was a concession Canadian negotiators deemed necessary in order for Canada to receive other benefits from the new deal.

At the time the original Trans-Pacific Partnership was negotiated, the former Conservative government proposed a large compensation package for these industries, worth up to several billion dollars. The Trudeau government has not yet committed to any specific measures, but has formed two working groups to discuss the future of these industries generally, and compensation specifically.

A table included in Wednesday’s documents includes a line for « non-announced measures » — which could include whatever the federal cabinet eventually settles on as a compensation package — but it’s not known what percentage of these figures could be spent on compensation.

Scant progress on interprovincial trade barriers

Morneau’s statement also re-tells an old story about how the Canadian economy would be more competitive if internal trade barriers were reduced between jurisdictions in Canada.

Canada has had an internal trade agreement in place since July 1, 2017. Public procurement was opened up across provinces, and discriminatory treatment of businesses from other jurisdictions is now not allowed. A new dispute resolution process is also being implemented.

Premiers like Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and Ontario Premier Doug Ford last met as a group in July. They’ll meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Dec. 7 for talks focused on economic and trade issues. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

But it’s not clear how many regulatory barriers have been addressed in the months since.

It’s an issue Canada’s premiers have been wrestling with for years. The next meeting of Canada’s First Ministers, scheduled for Dec. 7, will revisit the subject again.

Wednesday’s statement includes a list of 23 items in a « work plan, » prioritized in four categories: goods transportation (including trucking), food inspection, construction services and alcohol liberalization.

While the federal government participates in the federal-provincial committee on internal trade, most of these action items fall under provincial jurisdiction. The federal government has addressed just two of them: by eliminating restrictions on organic labelling for aquaculture products and by repealing inspection requirements for some agricultural products.

Wednesday’s statement announced some new funding for the National Research Council to make access to national building codes free — to help small businesses and to provide a boost to the construction sector. Ottawa is working with provinces and territories to encourage them to adopt the national codes, so the industry isn’t dealing with different rules across Canadian provinces.


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Salvation Army sets $160K goal for Christmas kettle campaign in Guelph – Guelph


The Salvation Army has set a goal of raising $160,000 for its annual Christmas kettle campaign in Guelph this year.

It’s the same target as last year’s campaign, but the organization fell short, raising about $135,000.

City of Guelph looking for feedback on pedestrian bridge

“We’re confident we’ll make it this year,” said Beverleigh Broughton, the community and family services co-ordinator with the Salvation Army in Guelph.

The money collected goes toward filling hampers with food for local families in need and Broughton said the goal is based on how many hampers they expect to send out.

“Last year we did 1,045 food hampers and this year we’re doing 1,120,” she said. “That increase is based on the trend we’ve seen through the year and what we feel the need will likely be for this Christmas.”

She added that the number of hampers has been well over 1,000 for several years now.

“We’re seeing more and more people work really hard who just can’t quite make ends meet, especially at Christmas.”

The kettles, which will collect donations until Dec. 24, will be scattered around the city at Stone Road Mall, Walmart on Woodlawn Road and all Zehrs locations.

Canada’s new $10 bill featuring Viola Desmond officially enters circulation

In December, kettles will be set up at all LCBO locations and Costco.

There are also drop-off sites for toys at Stone Road Mall, Walmart, Guelph Toyota, any of the fire stations in Guelph, and the Salvation Army building on Gordon Street.

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


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