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Tory leadership contenders spar in French debate: In The News for May 26, 2022

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In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what’s on the radar of our editors for the morning of May 26, 2022 …

What we are watching in Canada …

Front-runner Pierre Poilievre was the main target for most of Wednesday night, as the candidates for the Conservative Party of Canada leadership traded barbs over contentious language laws, inflation and the trucker convoy in the race’s only French-language debate.

The debate took place in Quebec, a crucial region that has proven instrumental in the party’s last two leadership races, despite only 10 of the 119 current Conservative MPs being based in the province.

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Former Quebec premier Jean Charest and Patrick Brown, the mayor of Brampton, Ont., both accused Poilievre, the longtime Ottawa-area MP, of evading clarity when speaking about Quebec’s controversial secularism law, which has widespread support in the province.

On stage, in front of the several hundred Conservatives gathered in Laval, Quebec, Poilievre bluntly said “I am against Bill 21.” The legislation prohibits certain public servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols on the job. The candidates also took the stage one day after a contentious language reform bill passed Quebec’s legislature. Bill 96 seeks to limit the use of English in the courts and public services, grant powers of search and seizure without a warrant to Quebec’s language regulator and cap enrolment at English-language junior colleges.

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Asked after the debate whether he would fight the legislation, Charest told reporters he would “speak to it” if elected prime minister, but held back on denouncing it.

Now, the six candidates have until June 3 to sign up supporters as party members eligible to vote in the leadership contest. The party faithful will then vote for a new leader on September 10, 2022.

Also this …

Canada’s foreign affairs minister says the federal government is set to help investigate sex crimes by Russian troops in Ukraine and will be providing an extra one million dollars to fund the effort.

Melanie Joly says the extra cash will go to the International Criminal Court to help it investigate sexual violence toward women, and also crimes against children. Ten R-C-M-P officers are already involved in the investigation of war crimes in Ukraine, including sexual violence by Russian troops. Joly says it is important that Russian troops who have used sexual violence against Ukrainians be brought to justice.

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The money will help the I-C-C with its investigations, and may also be used to protect witnesses in war crimes cases who have been victims of sexual violence by the Russian military.

At a meeting in Ottawa earlier this month with Ann Linde, Sweden’s foreign minister, Joly discussed the need to treat Russian troops using sexual violence as a weapon as war criminals. Ukraine’s ambassador designate to Canada, Yulia Kovaliv, told the House of Commons foreign affairs committee on May 2 that Ukraine is compiling “horrific documented evidence” of war crimes. Kovaliv claimed that the true horror is that children are victims of these sexual crimes, which are done (before) the eyes of their parents.

What we are watching in the U.S. …

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More details coming to light in the confusion and horror of Tuesday’s Texas elementary school shooting.

Witnesses say frustrated onlookers urged police officers to charge into the building as the gunman rampaged, ultimately killing 19 children and two teachers. The massacre lasted upwards of 40 minutes and ended when the 18-year-old shooter was killed by a Border Patrol team.

Javier Cazares, whose fourth grade daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack, said he raced to the school when he heard about the shooting, arriving while police were still gathered outside the building. Upset that police were not moving in, he raised the idea of charging into the school with several other bystanders.

“Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to,” he said. “More could have been done,” Cazares noted, adding “They were unprepared.”

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Witness Juan Carranza saw the scene develop from outside his house. He says he watched as Salvador Ramos crashed his truck into a ditch outside the school, grabbed his AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle and shot at two people outside a nearby funeral home who ran away uninjured.

Officials say Ramos “encountered” a school district security officer outside the school, though there were conflicting reports from authorities on whether the men exchanged gunfire. After entering the school, Ramos charged into one classroom, barricaded himself by locking the door and began to kill.

Before attacking the school, Ramos shot and wounded his grandmother at the home they shared. He then sent private, one-to-one text messages via Facebook, mentioning what he had done and what he planned to do.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world …

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and a 20-strong delegation arrived in the Solomon Islands Thursday at the start of an eight-nation tour that comes amid growing concerns about Beijing’s military and financial ambitions in the South Pacific region.

Australia was scrambling to counter the move by sending its own Foreign Minister Penny Wong to Fiji to shore up support in the Pacific. Wong has been on the job just five days following an Australian election and had just arrived back Wednesday night from a meeting in Tokyo.

“We need to respond to this because this is China seeking to increase its influence in the region of the world where Australia has been the security partner of choice since the Second World War,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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Meanwhile, the Media Association of Solomon Islands was calling on its members to boycott a news conference being held in the capital, Honiara, by Wang and his counterpart from the Solomon Islands, Jeremiah Manele. That’s because only selected media were invited to the event, and the schedule allowed for just a single question to be asked of Wang

by China’s state-owned broadcaster CCTV.

“It’s a tough call to make regarding the media boycott for the press event on Thursday,” wrote association president Georgina Kekea on Twitter. “Our protest is for our govt to see our disappointment. They have failed us & they failed to protect democracy.”

China signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands last month in a move that sent shock waves around the world and raised fears that Beijing could send troops to the

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island nation or even establish a military base there, not far from Australia. The Solomon Islands and China say there are no plans for a base.

On this day in 1940 …

Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of some 338-thousand Allied troops from Dunkirk, France, began during the Second World War.

In entertainment …

Three days after a former radio host for Q107, a popular Toronto FM station, made allegations of workplace harassment, officials with the parent company, Corus Entertainment, have placed their longtime, morning show star on hiatus as an ethics investigation is held.

On Sunday, Jennifer Valentyne posted a 12-minute video to social media in which she described experiencing years of verbal abuse and gender discrimination by an unnamed co-worker. In the days since, several former Corus employees have made similar allegations against the show’s host, John Derringer, with some saying the company turned a blind eye to the conduct.

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The Canadian Press made multiple attempts to contact Derringer for comment, but he did not respond. Corus said Valentyne shared her concerns years ago and the broadcast company took action to review them at the time. It also noted a Canadian Human Rights Commission process related to the allegations is continuing.

The toxic workplace allegations surrounding Corus, however, are not exclusive to gender discrimination. In a 2020 Vice story, a dozen former and current employees described the company as being host to a culture of racist microaggressions.

Supriya Dwivedi, a former Toronto radio host for Global News, whose parent company is also Corus, parted ways with the workplace that same year after she made multiple complaints regarding co-workers spreading racist misinformation that she says went unheard.

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Until this change comes, she says, “I’m really not sure how we’re supposed to encourage other young women and other young racialized journalists to get into the industry.”

Did you see this?

An Ottawa judge has decided that “Freedom Convoy” organizer Tamara Lich will remain released on bail while awaiting trial.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Kevin Phillips says he does not accept that Lich breached her release conditions by agreeing to receive an award, and she can be trusted to respect the conditions of her release. Lich was released with a long list of conditions, including a ban from all social media and an order not to “support anything related to the Freedom Convoy.”

Moiz Karimjee, a Crown prosecutor, said last week that Lich violated one of her bail conditions by agreeing to accept an award for her leadership during the Ottawa protest, and should be sent back behind bars to wait for her trial. But the judge noted that the terms of Lich’s March release were intended to prevent a similar protest from happening in the national capital, adding the court does not seek to control people’s political views.

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Lich’s lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, argued last week her bail conditions should be loosened to allow her to come to Ontario and use social media. Phillips said Wednesday the ban on Lich’s access to social media is warranted. However, he did amend her release conditions to allow her to visit Ottawa. Lich’s motivation for coming to the city cannot be disclosed

because it is under a court-ordered publication ban.

Lich and fellow protest organizer Chris Barber are jointly accused of mischief, obstructing police, counselling others to commit mischief and intimidation. The “Freedom Convoy” protest evolved into a weeks-long demonstration that congested the streets of Ottawa in February.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022

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