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NITI Aayog’s Health Index 2019 has several takeaways for the country in its bid to strengthen the health sector and coverage. The second edition of ‘Healthy States, Progressive India’ report, recently released by NITI Aayog ranked all states and UTs in three categories for rational comparison of states. Unsurprisingly, Kerala topped the list but was classified as a “not improved” state despite the first position and laudable work in achieving UN sustainable development goals on infant mortality rate and under-five mortality rate way ahead of the deadline – 2030. Tamil Nadu followed on similar lines as Kerala and due to government’s formula for computing performances, both states will be allocated a lesser share of India’s health funding – National Health Mission (NHM). Since the Ministry of Health has linked NHM with the performance of states in this health index, states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, whose performance deteriorated in 2017-18 as compared to 2015-16 are entitled to the lowest share of the Rs 34,000 crore NHM fund. While it is important that such an index is developed to identify areas of improvement and conduct a comprehensive analysis, such gaps where states may end up not benefitting much from the Central fund is a matter of concern. It is not like the poorer states will benefit much either. UP and Bihar have again taken the bottom position and it is important to note how performance in parameters has deteriorated signalling lesser share to them despite in grave need. For a minute, if Kerala can still end up managing health expenditure with little share from NHM, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar can’t. But being tagged as “not improved”, similar to Kerala, means even they will not be getting the major chunk of NHM irrespective of the fact that they really need it. And, this is not only a computation lacuna but rather poor performance on an average. Bihar and UP have abysmal readings of various parameters that NITI Aayog takes into consideration for developing such an index. Consistently appalling performance has led them to where they are in the index. Even so, efforts can be directed to change the ‘not improved’ status and put these needy states in the trajectory of registering positive shift in parameters and entitled for a bigger share of the NHM. The index grossly shows a snapshot of health in Indian states. The Hindi heartland states of UP, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh show a similar trend of poor performance. Interestingly, this is the belt which also houses a higher percentage of children with stunted growth, malnutrition and poor health delivery in general. Bihar is a case in point following the dangerous AES epidemic that has claimed over 100 lives alone this year besides being a persistent problem for over a decade now. While novel governance is required to take these states out of the poverty shadow they reel under, extending government support for identifying and utilising state-sponsored schemes remain necessary. Many a time people are unaware of facilities that they can avail and suffer due to lack of knowledge. Ayushman Bharat, though in effect, is yet to be understood by a large populous of poor people, for whom it is targetted, simply because they cannot understand how to avail it. Such gaps need to be filled at the grassroots for a grand health scheme like Ayushman Bharat to work in full effect. While it is only the beginning year of Ayushman Bharat and much has to be done before it gets reflected in the health index, analysing the gaps will ensure reinforced attention towards implementation hereafter. Also Read – A compounding difficultyNITI Aayog’s health index is a good way to identify poor performing states and accordingly adjust schemes, conduct extensive research and initiate steps to ameliorate the situation. For instance, Bihar now has effectively allowed the entire country, and perhaps the world, to criticise its poor implementation of government measures amidst administration failures which have collectively combined to give rise to AES outbreak. Medical science will take its own path in solving the encephalitis conundrum but administration has nothing to hide from. Likewise, all states will now have to focus on implementation since basic parameters will now define how much funds these states get from the Central fund. In essence, the government’s logic of linking NHM with the health index is not faulty since the only way right now to ensure state commitment in doubling efforts in the health sector is to outrightly award a fitting status – for poorer performers it should be the commitment to rise and for the better ones it should be that to excel. The latter can be role models for the former as a combined effort – shared learning and administrative advice – will ensure the healthy development of all states progressing to achieve the nation’s dream in health coverage and delivery!
London: Andy Murray and Serena Williams will form a mixed doubles dream team at Wimbledon, his management announced Tuesday, as he gradually returns to tennis following career-saving surgery. Murray, who is easing his way back into the sport following a radical hip resurfacing, will join forces with Williams in an all-star partnership when the draw is announced on Wednesday. The Scot is already entered into the men’s doubles at Wimbledon where he is playing alongside France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Also Read – Dhoni, Paes spotted playing football together The two-time Wimbledon champion’s partnership with seven-time winner Williams will make them instant favourites for the title. “We’re a lot alike on the court. I’ve always liked that about him,” Williams said of her fellow former world number one. “His work ethic is just honestly off the charts. That’s something I’ve always respected about him. His fitness, everything. “To do what he’s done in an era where there’s so many other great male tennis players, so much competition, to rise above it, not many people have done it. He’s actually one of the few. There’s so many things to be admired.” Also Read – Andy Murray to make Grand Slam return at Australian Open She added: “Above all, he really stands out, he really speaks up about women’s issues no matter what. You can tell he has a really strong woman in his life. I think above all that is just fantastic.” Murray had been searching for a mixed doubles partner but had complained that he had been turned down by a number of players. “I do want to play,” the 32-year-old said on Saturday at a pre-Wimbledon media day. “We’ve had a number of conversations with a few players. Yeah, the plan’s definitely to play. “Conditions look like it’s supposed to be good for the fortnight, which is a positive thing. “I was speaking to some of the doubles guys, asking them why they don’t play mixed. It was for the reason that they had some years where they’ve been backed up. Sometimes the mixed is not the priority to get on the court.” Murray played mixed doubles at Wimbledon in 2006 where he teamed with Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens and reached the second round. He was also a silver medallist with Laura Robson in the London 2012 Olympics which were played at the All England Club. Serena is a two-time mixed doubles champion at the Slams. In 1998, she partnered with Max Mirnyi to win Wimbledon and the US Open. Some 64 pairings compete in the mixed doubles, which is disputed over the best of three sets.
New Delhi: The initiatives announced by the government for start-ups in the Union Budget would significantly improve flow of funds and encourage budding entrepreneurs, a top official said. Secretary in the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) Ramesh Abhishek said the Budget proposals have also resolved angel tax issues of start-ups. “Major tax reforms have been announced for start-ups that will significantly improve flow of funds to them and address many tax related issues they have been facing,” Abhishek said. Also Read – Maruti cuts production for 8th straight month in SepThe Budget has proposed special administrative arrangements to be made by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) for resolving pending tax assessments of start-ups and redressal of their grievances. The government will ensure that no inquiry or verification in pending cases can be carried out by the assessing officer without obtaining approval of his supervisory officer. These measures, he said, would help budding entrepreneurs focus more on their businesses and not on regulatory matters. “Overall, it is seen that the Budget has addressed important issues such as improving the flow of funds and credit growth,” the secretary said. In February, the DPIIT and the CBDT gave a major relief to budding entrepreneurs by relaxing the definition of start-ups and allowing them to avail full angel tax concession on investments up to Rs 25 crore. Also Read – Ensure strict implementation on ban of import of e-cigarettes: revenue to CustomsThis was done as several start-ups claimed to have received angel tax notices, impacting their businesses. Various start-ups have raised concerns on notices sent to them under the section 56(2)(viib) of Income Tax Act, 1961 to pay taxes on angel funds received by them. Section 56(2)(viib) of the Income Tax Act provides that the amount raised by a start-up in excess of its fair market value would be deemed as income from other sources and would be taxed at 30 per cent.
Mumbai: The rupee on Monday advanced by 15 paise to close at 68.54 against the US currency, tracking gains in domestic equities and weakness in the greenback overseas.At the interbank foreign exchange market, the rupee opened at 68.59 a dollar and advanced to a high of 68.51 during the day. It finally settled at 68.54, up 15 paise against its previous close of 68.69. Forex traders said Indian rupee gained taking cues from the higher Asian currencies. Also Read – Maruti cuts production for 8th straight month in Sep”Asian currencies gained after China’ economic growth data came in line with estimates and factory output and retail sales data for June beat the estimates, hinting at a recovery in the economy,” said V K Sharma, Head PCG and Capital Markets Strategy, HDFC Securities. The dollar index, which gauges the greenback’s strength against a basket of six currencies, slipped 0.01 per cent to 96.80. Rajesh Cheruvu, the Chief Investment Officer of Validus Wealth stated that the US dollar weakened post China’s GDP data for the second quarter. According to analysts, Chinese data confirms slowdown fears which could play a role in tinkering of interest rate by the US Federal Reserve. Meanwhile, the 10-year government bond yield was at 6.43 per cent on Monday.
New Delhi: Raising concern over growing farmers’ suicide in the Lok Sabha, the Congress Tuesday said the government is only paying lip service to their problems and issues and not addressing them.Initiating the debate on Demand for Grants for Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, and Rural Development Ministry, Uttam Kumar Reddy (Cong) said nearly 12,000 peasants commit suicide every year in the country and the average suicide is 30 per day due to compulsion. Also Read – How a psychopath killer hid behind the mask of a devout laity!Low priority meted out to agriculture sector by the present government has pushed them to existential crisis, he said. With regard to doubling farmers’ income scheme, he said, the Economic Survey released in 2018 revealed that income in the last four years in the sector remained flat. In a such a scenario, the government’s promise of doubling farmers’ income by 2022 remains a far cry, he added. He also said the calculation of Minimum Support Price (MSP) is faulty and that the government has failed to ensure Minimum Support Price (MSP) to farmers. Farmers are compelled to sell their crops at less than the MSP announced by the governmen, the Member said. Also Read – Encounter under way in Pulwama, militant killedCiting example of cotton, he said farmers are getting one fourth of the cost. It seems that present government is just paying lip service to the farmers rather than actually attending to it, he said. On PM-KISAN scheme, Reddy said, Rs 6,000 per annum that too in three quarters is too little for a farmer and does not serve any purpose. The cost of farming has gone up significantly and Rs 6,000 per annum to farmers is of no help to them and are not able to save them from going to the money lender, he added. Besides, he said, this is not available for tenant farmers who number about 2.1 crore across the country. With regard to PM Fasal Bima Yojana, Reddy said it is benefiting insurance companies rather than farmers. Claims of farmers are not being attended to, he said, adding, insurance companies have made a profit of Rs 3,000 crore from PM Fasal Bima Yojana as per the IRDAI report 2017- 18.
Islamabad: Pakistan’s jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s special adviser Irfan Siddiqui was granted bail on Sunday, a day after a court sent him to jail on a 14-day judicial remand for violating tenancy laws. Irfan Siddiqui, a noted columnist, was arrested during a late Friday night raid on his residence in the federal capital for not informing police while renting out his house under the tenancy law. Judicial Magistrate Mehreen Baluch approved Siddiqui and his tenant Javed Iqbal’s bail against a sum of Rs 20,000, the Express Tribune reported. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USFollowing the order, the legal team representing the columnist left for Adiala jail to secure his release. The interior ministry has also confirmed that Siddiqui, who served as the special assistant to the prime minister on national affairs during the PML-N government, will soon be released from prison. On Saturday, Siddiqui and Javed Iqbal were presented in the court of judicial magistrate Mehreen Baluch in handcuffs. The former adviser’s counsel contended that Siddiqui was arrested over a house agreement that he never signed, as the house belongs to his son. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential pollsHowever, the magistrate had approved a 14-day judicial remand of both accused and they were consequently transferred to Adiala Jail. A copy of the house lease agreement that the paper has acquired shows that Karak district’s Iqbal and Irfan Siddiqui’s son signed a one-year agreement, renewable for another year. The house was rented on a monthly rent of Rs 170,000 with a security deposit of Rs 340,000. Sharif, 69, has been serving a seven-year prison term at the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore since December 24, 2018 when an accountability court convicted him in one of the three corruption cases.
NEW DELHI: Delhi government would like to spread the happiness curriculum to all the other states of India and if needed then the government would be ready to send the Education Minister along with the teachers to give primary training on the introduction of the happiness class, asserted Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.”I want the miracle that is happening inside Delhi’s classes, to reach every corner of the country. Many Education Ministers and Education Secretaries and Officers have come from different states today. We want to assure you that when you implement this model in your own states, you will have our wholehearted support. We will send our teachers, principals, and in fact, if you need it, we can lend you our Education Minister for a few days,” said the Chief Minister. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murderHe added that Happiness Curriculum is not just another government scheme. It’s a feeling that 8 lakh students of Delhi government schools experience every single day. Every parent is observing this change. “I will not be here tomorrow. Perhaps even the CJI or the LG will not be here tomorrow. But it is from these lakhs of children that a future chief minister of Delhi will emerge, the future CJI and the Lt Governor will emerge. Perhaps, even the Prime Minister will emerge from among these children. The future of our nation is being built in our schools. This is true nation-building. Today, the country’s judiciary is seated inside this hall, the country’s executive is here, and so are legislators (pointing to the MLAs). Today I appeal to the judges of the country, the executives of the country and of Delhi, and the Legislature of Delhi, that we all need to come together in this festival, this effort that is building the nation,” the CM said. Also Read – Two brothers held for snatchingsOn the Happiness Conference, Deputy CM and Education Minister Manish Sisodia also talked about how India is going down in Happiness Index. Sisodia announced that the Delhi government is working on a certificate course for those who want to start the Happiness Curriculum in different parts of the country and the world. “We feel the need for this because India’s position on the World Happiness Index has dropped from 118th to 140th. Our dream is that India should reach Number one on this list,” said the education minister.
Colombo: Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday failed to announce the formation of a new broad political alliance for the presidential election later this year amid internal dissension within his United National Party (UNP). The UNP was scheduled to sign MoUs with several other political parties to form the alliance on Monday. However, the signing of MoUs was postponed at the last minute. Wickremesinghe in a statement said the UNP has decided to form the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) before the end of August, as he stressed the need for the grand political alliance to fight the presidential election in order to win it. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USAt the final talks to form the alliance several new ideas came up, so we decided to delay the formation in order to give more time for deliberations,” the UNP leader said. The ceremony which should have been held on Monday was postponed as a faction led by the UNP deputy leader Sajith Premadasa objected to the formation of the alliance before naming the party’s next presidential candidate. We want the party to name the next candidate before announcing the alliance,” Ajith P Perera, a Premadasa loyalist said. The UNP rank and file had also raised concerns about the prominence given to other smaller parties. We should not allow smaller parties to dominate us,” Chaminda Wijesiri, a UNP legislator said. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential pollsArjuna Ranatunga, the legendary world cup winning cricket captain and a key UNP ally said if the UNP party leaders think they could go alone and win it (presidential elections), be it. Wickremesinghe stressed that the victory in the presidential election which must be held before December 8, this year could only be achieved through a broader political alliance of all parties. The UNP’s Tamil and Muslim minority allies have expressed concerns over UNP’s internal disagreements which they say should be resolved before the formation of the alliance.
New York: Serena Williams is trying hard to move past last year’s US Open final meltdown, preferring to forget the umpire she called a “liar” and “thief” and fans booing a controversial ending. Williams humbled Russia’s Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-1 on Monday to reach the second round of the US Open as she seeks a historic seventh New York title and 24th Grand Slam singles crown. Asked if she felt the tournament was hers to win, the eighth seed replied, “I feel like I’m here to do that. We’ll see what happens.” Her domination of Sharapova produced a 19th consecutive triumph over the five-time Slam winner, boosting her record in the rivalry to 20-2. Also Read – Puducherry on top after 8-wkt win over Chandigarh It was the first match for Williams at Ashe since she unleashed her wrath at umpire Carlos Ramos in last year’s US Open final and he awarded a game penalty to eventual winner Naomi Osaka of Japan, this year’s top seed and the reigning Australian Open champion as well. The US Tennis Association decided before the start that Ramos will not officiate any Serena or Venus Williams match at this year’s US Open. When she was asked about Ramos, whose penalty calls had a major impact in her loss to Osaka, she replied, “I don’t know who that is.” It’s doubtful she will want to jog her memory by looking at video of last year’s final, which ended with Williams in tears and Osaka’s moment of glory left “bittersweet” as fans voiced displeasure at the controversial awarding of a game that put Osaka one game from the title. Also Read – Vijender’s next fight on Nov 22, opponent to be announced later Williams, when asked about how much last year’s final entered her mind in her return to Ashe, spoke only about the crowd that was loud and vocal in supporting her over Sharapova. “It was great. The fans, they were so amazing,” Williams said. “I could hear them walking down the hallway. It was such a good feeling. It made me feel unbelievable, really helped me get amped up and pumped up.” She thanked the fans on the court after the match with a nod to past defeats, saying, “I’ve had a lot of tough matches and a lot of tough losses but coming out here tonight makes it all worthwhile.” A celebrity-filled crowd watched her dismantle Sharapova. “Her game really matches up well against mine,” Williams said. “Her ball somehow lands in my strike zone. It’s just perfect for me. “I was able to zone in, especially down breakpoints, not letting her in the match. She’s the kind of player that keeps going. Even towards the end, she just wants to keep fighting.” And as if US wildcard Caty McNally, her next foe, or any other rival needed any more concern, Williams warned she has some new, unrevealed aspects to her game to bring out should the need arise. “I’ve been working on a lot of new things,” she said. “I don’t really talk about what I’ve been working on so much. I definitely have been working on a lot of new stuff to incorporate in my game.”
There is no doubt that the Indian auto industry is on a decline, perhaps worst ever in the last four decades. This is the same industry which last year recorded a turn over of Rs 8.2 lakh crores (USD 119 billion) with a huge export component. Within a year’s time, the same industry is resorting to ‘no production days’, large scale laying off of workers, inventory clearing sales, etc. The pain is still deeper for the supply chain handlers and dealers. A modest estimate reveals more than 3,50,000 job losses in the last few months and if the present trend persists, there will be an unprecedented crisis in the sector like Detroit of 2008. Also Read – A special kind of bondHence, the pertinent question is how come we reached this stage in less than a year. Is it because of the general slowdown attributed to both indigenous and more exogenous factors as the official pundits would like us to believe or is there a credible story behind this? If general slowdown was the only reason, how come in the same period FMCG companies recorded a decent year on year growth with net sales of Dabur and Nestle achieving 11 per cent growth and Hindustan Lever 7 per cent. White goods like air conditioners, washing machines and refrigerators also witnessed 5 per cent, 3 per cent and 11 per cent respectively during April-May 2019. Hence, we need to demystify the myth of omnibus reason called slowdown. Also Read – Insider threat managementA number of factors mostly owing to systemic failure have arisen in the auto sector in a very short span of time. Most vehicle purchases are being financed through banks/NBFCs. No doubt liquidity crunch coupled with the risk-averse approach of banks and high-interest rates have played a big role. But these conditions have been prevailing for quite some time. Then why there is a sudden dip? The real reasons are somewhere else. Most immediate of them probably is bunching together of several regulatory changes announced by the government in a very short span of time without realising their full implications, a classic case of ‘reform for reform sake’. Let me list out a few here – regulatory changes in safety norms; leapfrogging to BS-6 putting enormous stress on the industry to achieve it in the shortest time; front-loading of third party insurance, etc. On top of it, the auto industry got no relief in the new GST regime. Last straw on camel’s back was huge increase in road tax which increased by as much as 13 per cent in case of some state governments. This obviously was too much for a product which is already highly taxed. It is estimated that these so-called big-ticket reforms happening at the same time pushed up the cost of vehicle by 7 to 15 per cent depending on the size and make. Let us not forget that when the BS-6 kicks in coming April, the cost will further go up by 5 to 6 per cent. Fuel prices, which are already high over the last two years, are likely to go up further with BS-6. Interestingly, this high-cost scenario has been further complicated by the extraordinary policy modulation by the government through its leading ‘ Think Tank’ – NITI Ayog. The ‘Tughlaqi Farman’ of NITI Aayog mandating that all two-wheelers will be EV by 2023 and all three-wheelers by 2024, has really taken the cake. Even the recent reassuring statement of PM that there is sufficient space for both EVs and ICEs to coexist has not been able to douse the fire fully. NITI Aayog continues to make outlandish statements which not only demotivate both the manufacturers and consumers but also distort the market. For instance, just the other day, one of the prime movers of NITI Aayog has publicly declared that EVs will attain price parity with petrol/diesel vehicles within 3 to 4 years. I wonder whether this statement is based on hard facts/data or part of NITI’s pipe dreams. Even the latest forecast of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), which is closely followed by NITI Aayog, mentions that EV cars will constitute a mere 6 per cent of all car sales in India in 2030. I have been constantly highlighting for the last two years through my articles in various national dailies (which are available in public domain) that this kind of whimsical flip-flop of policy will destroy a sunrise sector like auto. It is high time that India formulates a well-calibrated, consistent and long-term policy with realistic targets. I may emphatically mention that after the ‘Automotive Mission Plan: 2006-2016’, there has not been any comprehensive holistic auto policy in the country. We have been strategising in bits and pieces. Over the last few years, surprisingly, NITI Aayog has hijacked the sector from line ministries like DHI and Road Transport who at least had some amount of institutional memories. Fly-by-night consultants and dream merchants have emerged from nowhere who have no stake in the system but are busy selling their pipe dreams to the new policy regime. The real stakeholders like manufacturers, investors have relegated to the background as profit-seekers and backwards-looking lobby. Let me illustrate my point with a few examples. Government formulated FAME (I) scheme and engaged a lot of resources to promote electric mobility in the country. It was announced that the government will incentivise a range of technologies which results in low emission and less fuel consumption. The government also levied lower excise duties on such clean technologies. All of a sudden, this strategy was put in the back burner and only EVs became the flavour of the day, surprisingly to the exclusion of all other technologies which have done so well in most other countries. The industry was at a loss on how to retrieve their investment plans. Rightly or wrongly, a decision was taken to leapfrog from BS-4 to BS-6 in around 4 years, primarily to address the environmental concerns. The auto industries and the refiners took up the challenge in right earnest and invested Rs 1,40,000 crores in 18 months to fulfil the government target. In April 2020, India will become the first country to use BS-6 fuel for its two and three-wheelers. Even before this program kicked in, NITI Aayog declared that all two and three-wheelers will be EVs in 4 to 5 years time. With this kind of policy flip-flop, can any industry survive? The industry has invested so much to upgrade the engines to make it BS-6 compatible. What will happen to that investment and who should be held responsible for this national waste. Sometimes I wonder what is the real reason for such an unusual rush for EVs which has not succeeded in any country including China. Moreover, EV is not the ultimate tech. Why are we, as a forward-looking country, not investing in fuel cell technology which probably is the future of energy for mobility? If our main concern is the environment, escalating demand for electricity owing to EVs will result in generating pollution since we produce coal-based electricity. As per the government’s own estimates, the carbon intensity of power generation will continue to increase till the early 2030s. If import of hydrocarbon is the concern, advanced hybrid engines offer a low-cost solution allowing industry the time to transit to EVs in a viable manner. Introduce structural reform in auto taxation by linking GST to fuel efficiency/carbon emission instead of present irrational factors like engine size, fuel type, ground clearance, etc. Also, introduce a scientific auto scrapping policy so that inefficient old engines get replaced by fuel-efficient ones. The present unprecedented crisis which threatens the very base of an industry that accounts for Rs 1,20,000 crore GST (15 per cent of total GST collection) has been mainly precipitated by policy vacillation than any generic factor. Auto is a very complex sector and requires deeper understanding and deft handling at the policy level. No investor, foreign or domestic will be comfortable with such policy flip-flop. I only wish that pipe dreams of few and unrealistic farmans of policymakers do not distort a vital national asset so carefully built over the last two decades. (Dr Surajit Mitra is former Secretary to Government of India & Vice-Chancellor of IIFT. The views expressed are strictly personal)
New Delhi: Taking action against single plastic use, South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) has sealed four godowns situated in non-conforming areas under its jurisdiction. According to SDMC, they have constituted teams at zonal level comprising of assistant commissioners, representatives of Revenue Department, BSES and Delhi Police to take on-the-spot action against godowns wherein plastic has been stored.”The action includes sealing of the godowns immediately after noticing the accumulation of plastic in godowns. The team constituted under the West Zone on Tuesday took a round in the number of localities situated in non-conforming areas coming under the zone,” said SDMC official. Also Read – After eight years, businessman arrested for kidnap & murderThe team visited 83 units and godowns and noticed the accumulation of plastic at four godowns. The godowns were also storing biomedical waste which is also dangerous and harmful to the environment. The team sealed four plastic godowns at Shiv Vihar in Vikas Nagar. Further electricity connection of two godowns has also been disconnected. In an event in South Zone the Mayor, Sunita Kangra exhorted citizens to collect plastic waste lying here and there and hand over the same to the SDMC employees for its proper disposal in a scientific manner. She added that this will inspire others to follow the suit. She further stated that SDMC is mulling over offering a certain incentive on the collection of substantial plastic waste. All 4 zones witnessed awareness programmes and various activities under Swachhta hi Sewa initiatives. A large number of RWA and market association representative roamed into a number of markets, vegetable and fruit markets.
HALIFAX – The Canadian Hurricane Centre is expecting a “near-normal to above-normal” number of storms in the Atlantic Ocean this year.The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its seasonal outlook Thursday, predicting 10 to 16 named storms, with five to nine of them being hurricanes and one to four being major hurricanes.At a briefing Thursday in Halifax, Bob Robichaud, a warning preparedness meteorologist at the Canadian Hurricane Centre, said normally only three to four tropical cyclones cause any concern for Canadian land or offshore waters.“We kind of fared pretty good last year. We only had three storms that came within our response zone compared to the 17 that formed within the Atlantic,” Robichaud said.None of the storms in 2017 made landfall in Canada.Last year, NOAA predicted an above-average season.A trio of devastating hurricanes — Harvey, Irma and Maria — ravaged Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and many Caribbean islands.Those three names, as well as Nate, have been retired because of their size and destruction.The National Hurricane Center said Thursday a mass of low pressure in the western Caribbean is becoming better defined and will likely become a subtropical or tropical depression by late Saturday.They’re putting the chances of formation at 80 per cent over the next five days.The system is currently off the southeastern Yucatan Peninsula but it’s expected to move northward. Heavy rains are likely across western Cuba, much of Florida and the northern Gulf Coast into early next week.If that system becomes a tropical storm, it will get the name Alberto.The Canadian Hurricane Centre is encouraging Canadians to prepare for the 2018 hurricane season. The season officially runs from June 1 to November 30, when the waters of the Atlantic Ocean are warm enough to produce tropical cyclones.“Right now water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic are a little bit lower than average but we expect as we move into the summertime that those waters will heat up and be right around where they should be in terms of average water temperatures by the time we hit well into hurricane season,” Robichaud said.Typically, hurricanes become of more concern in Canadian waters later in the season, however, Robichaud said it’s too early to say how Canada will be impacted this year.“It’s impossible to say two, three or four months ahead of time exactly where these storms are going to go once they do form, because they are so dependant on the weather of the day,” he said.Robichaud said Canadians can prepare for hurricane season by assembling emergency kits and readying their homes and properties.— By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton.
OTTAWA – Canada’s top accountant is calling on the federal government to kick start much-needed improvements to airports in Canada’s remote north.In his spring report to Parliament, auditor general Michael Ferguson says the government is well aware of deficiencies at the airports, including flickering runway lighting and outdated navigation systems.But he says Transport Canada has failed to take the lead in fixing the problems and making necessary upgrades.Many northern communities rely on air transportation as their only means of getting fresh food, medicine and other supplies.While Transport Canada’s Airports Capital Assistance Program has an annual budget of $38 million available for airport safety-related projects, auditors say only about $15 million was spent on remote northern airports over the past three years.Their report identified $101 million in needed upgrades at 41 of the 117 remote airports they examined.“Transport Canada had the information it needed to assess the infrastructure challenges remote northern airports face,” the report concluded.“However, the department did not take the lead by working with others to address these infrastructure challenges.”Transport Canada announced late last year that it would step up transportation infrastructure spending in the north.But the auditor general says the department has yet to provide details of planned projects.
HALIFAX – Construction workers in Halifax created a stir on social media when they uncovered a piece of infrastructure dating back to the 1800s, stoking speculation they had finally found a fabled underground tunnel network.Archaeologist Laura de Boer and her crew were working on a downtown streetscape project when someone unearthed the structure, took a photo of it and said it was part of a tunnel.The discovery on Argyle Street fuelled excited conversation online that it was the entrance to a fabled underground tunnel network, an idea that has tantalized Nova Scotians for decades.In the end, the structure turned out to be a manhole estimated to be built in the late 19th century and used to access storm water and a sewer line.An excavator dredged up the line and tiny pieces of artifacts were discovered, including a Wedgewood saucer thought to be made sometime between 1854 and 1860.All of those items are being donated to the Nova Scotia Museum.“It’s a very cool story. We would love to find a tunnel, as a student I was very hopeful,” de Boer said.“It looks very much like a tunnel entrance from away but as soon as you walk closer to it and you look in, you can clearly see that it’s just providing access to a tunnel,” de Boer said.De Boer said smaller hatchways have been discovered in the city that were used by businesses for the delivery of goods.“We do have some short length tunnels that certain businesses would have used historically to get goods in. There would be like a hatch in the sidewalk to bring it in underground,” de Boer said.(Global News)
MONTREAL – When Philippe Couillard was aspiring to be Quebec Liberal leader, he and Kathleen Weil met with members of the province’s main English-speaking advocacy group to discuss its wish for a secretariat of anglophone affairs.Six years later, the Quebec Community Groups Network has what it wanted.“From our perspective we have been listened to and this is a reality,” James Shea, the organization’s president, said Wednesday after Couillard named Weil as the secretariat’s first minister as part of a major cabinet shuffle.Couillard, elected premier in 2014, first announced the creation of the bureau in June.For now, Weil is a minister without a full department, as many details of the new secretariat have yet to be worked out, let alone announced.“I haven’t had briefings on the work that’s been done,” she said in an interview. “We still have to select the senior civil servant who will be running the secretariat.”Weil said a secretariat is like a department, but smaller.“It’s very historic,” she said. “It’s the first time there will be a secretariat with actual civil servants working specifically on the file for the English-speaking community.”Weil, who has worked for years inside and outside government on issues important to the province’s anglophones, said she doesn’t know what her budget will be or how many employees will be hired.“It wouldn’t be a large (office),” she said.For years, successive governments have named ministers responsible for liaising between the government and Quebec’s English-speaking minority.When the Parti Quebecois was briefly in power after the 2012 election, Jean-Francois Lisee — now party leader — held the post.Anglophone community groups have often complained about being taken for granted or ignored by the Quebec government, regardless of the party in power.Shea said the new office will ensure a dedicated bureaucracy inside the civil service working on behalf of Anglo-Quebecers.The secretariat will collect and analyze data about the English community to be of service to other departments when policy is developed. The new bureau will also be a “clearing house” where English speakers can go directly with questions about government services, he said.Sylvia Martin-Laforge, general director of the Quebec Community Groups Network, said she hopes a “couple dozen” employees are hired to work in the office.“The model we proposed is inspired by the secretariat for native affairs in Quebec City, and the secretariats in other provinces for their French-language minority,” she said.Helena Burke, head of the Council for Anglophone Magdalen Islanders, represents the roughly 700-strong English-speaking community on the islands between Newfoundland and New Brunswick.She said the secretariat will be important for her community, up to 75 per cent of whom are unilingual.“Sometimes we feel like people only think there are anglophones in Montreal and that anglophones don’t exist in any part of the province, but in fact they do,” Burke said.“I would hope that the decision to implement such a structure would be there to increase support to our community, to listen to our needs and challenges and to work with us to offer more support and adaptive programs and services.”Couillard made other significant changes to his cabinet ahead of next year’s provincial election, although the main players in the finance (Carlos Leitao), health (Gaetan Barrette) and education (Sebastien Proulx) portfolios stayed in place.The most important departments to change hands were Transport, Immigration and Environment.A surprise in the shuffle was the appointment of 35-year-old backbencher Andre Fortin to head Transport, which is a challenging file due to the department’s large bureaucracy and past accusations of corruption.Couillard also boasted women now make up 47 per cent of his new cabinet.The general election is set for next October.
HALIFAX – They are young. They are women. And they are racialized.Young women of colour are at the vanguard of Halifax’s social justice movement, part of a new generation of social activists.Kati George-Jim is a 21-year-old Indigenous student and member of Dalhousie University’s board of governors.Masuma Khan is a 22-year-old Muslim student leader at the Halifax university.Rebecca Thomas is a 31-year-old Dalhousie graduate and Mi’kmaq poet laureate.Together, they are unapologetically standing up for social justice and refusing to back down in the face of controversy.They are harnessing an ethos of social unrest emanating across the country and beyond, impatiently working to dismantle white privilege, patriarchy and heterosexism.And they are not going away.“Racialized women have always been at the forefront of civil rights movements,” said Margaret Robinson, Dalhousie University assistant professor of sociology and social anthropology. “What’s changed is the broader society’s ability to recognize them for their leadership and work.”Social media and growing up with a black president in the United States has also shifted the social justice movement, she said.“The new wave of activists grew up seeing a black president for eight years,” Robinson said. “They’ve had access to instantaneous online information and communication that I couldn’t have dreamed of as a child. That changes everything.”Rebecca Thomas, Halifax’s aboriginal poet laureate, said young women are being empowered by higher education.“The more you start to understand and learn, the more you want to do something,” she said. “Education is very empowering. We’re being told that our voices matter, and we’re standing up to be heard.”Thomas, originally from New Brunswick, said women of colour have always had strong voices, and that civil rights movements in the past have helped pave the way for the new generation.Young women are now starting to “punch through power structures” once reserved for white men, Thomas said.“We’re recognizing the strength we have, and it’s really great when you get the community’s backing,” said Thomas, who has a master’s degree in social anthropology from Dalhousie.Last spring, she appeared before Halifax council with a poem chiding councillors for shutting down debate last year over how the city commemorates its controversial founder.Edward Cornwallis issued a bounty on the scalps of Thomas’s Mi’kmaq ancestors but is still honoured with a park, statue, and even a street within a stone’s throw of the city’s Mi’kmaq friendship centre.Moved by her poem, a rookie councillor decided council needed to revisit the issue, and the city has since created a panel to examine how Halifax should pay tribute to Cornwallis.Thomas said her official role with the city allows her to work for change from the inside, but at times she feels the need to self-censor.“I find myself in this torn and unfortunate position to make my arguments palatable, so I keep getting invited back, so I can still continue to poke and prod,” she said. “I have a duty and responsibility to keep access to these people in power.”While Thomas may take a more poetic and amicable approach to social activism, she applauds the more militant actions of others.Masuma Khan, a Dalhousie Student Union executive, stood firmly in solidarity with Indigenous protests against Canada 150 celebrations.She refused to back down, even under threat of sanctions as the university investigated her for a profane Facebook post that criticized “white fragility.”Dalhousie dropped the complaint against Khan last week, in part due to mounting concerns about violent and hateful messages she was receiving.“It’s a matter of life and death. Standing up against white supremacy is not an easy thing,” said Khan, who wears a hijab and was born and raised in Halifax.“There are times I get frustrated. But I don’t have a choice,” the fourth-year international development studies student said. “People shoving supremacist ideologies in my face make me want to dismantle those structures even more.”Khan added: “Our existence is our resistance. I’m going to exist, I’m going to keep going. It doesn’t stop here.”That sense of urgency is shared by Kati George-Jim of the T’Sou-ke First Nation in British Columbia.“Racialized women are taking control of the conversation,” the fourth-year political science student said. “With my identity comes responsibility. As an Indigenous woman, I have a responsibility to speak up and use my voice.”George-Jim took on Dalhousie’s board of governors for what she called institutionalized racism, prompting an apology from the board’s chairman who insisted Dalhousie is not led by racists.“To me, it just feels like everyday life. It doesn’t feel like social activism,” she said.It’s a sentiment all three share.“We don’t stop being women of colour at the end of the day when it’s comfortable and time to relax,” Thomas said. “We don’t get to take a break from our own oppressions.”
Highlights from the news file for Tuesday, Nov. 28———TRUDEAU APOLOGIZES TO LGBTQ COMMUNITY: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is apologizing on behalf of the federal government for perpetrating decades of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. Dozens of people — including two of Trudeau’s own kids, Xavier and Ella-Grace — were crammed into the various House of Commons galleries, many of them sporting rainbow ribbons, to witness the historic occasion, which the prime minister says he hopes will finally allow the healing process to begin for those affected. Earlier Tuesday, the government introduced legislation which, if passed, will allow the expungement of criminal records belonging to people convicted of consensual sexual activity with same-sex partners. It has also earmarked more than $100 million to compensate members of the military and other federal agencies whose careers were sidelined or ended due to their sexual orientation, part of a class-action settlement with employees who were investigated, sanctioned and sometimes fired as part of the so-called “gay purge.”———FINANCE MINISTER FIRES BACK AT TORIES: Finance Minister Bill Morneau is threatening to take the Conservatives to court after the official Opposition peppered him with questions about a stock sale that occurred before he introduced pension legislation in the House of Commons. Morneau calls the insinuations by Tory finance critic Pierre Poilievre “absurd” and says they have “no basis in any sort of fact.” Poilievre says a motion introduced by Morneau in December 2015 to raise income taxes on the highest earners caused the entire stock market to drop — including the price of Morneau Shepell shares, 680,000 of which the minister sold off a week before the announcement. If Poilievre and others want to make such claims outside the Commons, where MPs enjoy the legal protection afforded by parliamentary privilege, they will be hearing from the minister’s lawyers, Morneau suggested Tuesday in a hastily called news conference on Parliament Hill. Morneau has been at the centre of an ethics controversy for weeks. The ethics commissioner has launched a formal examination to determine if he was in a conflict of interest related to his work to introduce pension-reform legislation, which critics have insisted would benefit Morneau Shepell — a company in which, until recently, Morneau owned about $21 million worth of shares.———GUN RALLY PLANNED AT POLYTECHNIQUE MEMORIAL: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Montreal’s mayor and several Quebec cabinet ministers have denounced a plan by a pro-gun lobby group to hold a rally at a memorial site for the 14 women who were killed at Ecole polytechnique in 1989. The event at Place du 6 decembre this Saturday comes four days before the 28th anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history. Word of the weekend event sparked outrage from various people, including Trudeau, Mayor Valerie Plante and Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux. “A needless and cruel provocation,” Trudeau tweeted Tuesday. “No matter the debate, no matter the argument, the families of Polytechnique victims should come first. May we always honour their memory.” But Guy Morin, vice-president of Tous contre un registre quebecois des armes a feu (All Against a Quebec Gun Registry), defended the event as a way of reaching out to the gun control lobby and groups like PolySeSouvient, an organization comprised of survivors of the Polytechnique massacre and members of victims’ families. That group and its members have been targeted by gun lobby members online, but Morin said he wants dialogue.———COMMUNITIES DECRY NEWSPAPER CLOSURES: The closure of more than 30 newspapers across Canada deprive members of a key source of information while threatening to hobble local businesses, residents said Tuesday. Small towns across Ontario were still reeling from word of a blockbuster deal between Torstar Corp. and Postmedia Network Inc., which would see the two media conglomerates swap a total of 41 papers and then immediately close all but five of them. The closures, which include such publications as the Barrie Examiner, the Orilia Packet and Times and the Thorold Niagara News, cost 291 people their jobs according to the companies. The deal is currently under review by the federal Competition Bureau and has renewed calls for the government to take action on saving the media industry, which has been decimated by dwindling advertising revenue in recent years. Tony Vandermaas, who’s lived in the southwestern Ontario town of Thorold for 33 years and has written columns for previous iterations of the now-shuttered community’s paper, said the business sense of the decision doesn’t make the closure easier to stomach. “I’m afraid that we’re going to get less coverage up here in Thorold than we ever had before, and we didn’t have much to start with.”———EXPOSURE TO HIGH DEBT, HOUSING HAS EASED, CENTRAL BANK SAYS: The Bank of Canada is flagging the steady climb of household debt and still-hot housing markets as the financial system’s top vulnerabilities — but it’s also seeing some early signs of improvement. In a report Tuesday, the bank said there’s some evidence Canada’s exposure to these persistent trouble spots has begun to ease, thanks to healthy job creation, tightening housing policies and higher mortgages rates. The assessment is part of the bank’s semi-annual review, which explores key vulnerabilities and risks surrounding the stability of the financial system. It describes vulnerabilities as pre-existing conditions that could amplify or propagate economic shocks. The report said indebtedness, especially the number of highly indebted households, remains high. Household debt relative to income has reached historically lofty levels and continues to grow, the bank said. But it noted there’s already some green shoots that suggest stricter lending rules have started to reduce the country’s exposure to hefty debtloads.———GREENS’ WIN IN P.E.I. ‘ABSOLUTELY ASTOUNDING’: The Green party has pulled off an unprecedented electoral victory in P.E.I., doubling its standings in the legislature and potentially signalling a surprising shift in the political landscape of Canada’s smallest province. The upstart party increased the number of its MLAs on the Island to two from one in a byelection Monday following the resignation of a Liberal cabinet minister last month. Hannah Bell, the 48-year-old head of a businesswomen’s association in Charlottetown, easily defeated the Liberal, NDP and Conservative candidates, suggesting a breakthrough for the party that elected its first MLA just two years ago. “Against the odds, we totally knocked it out of the park,” Bell said in an interview the morning after a late night of celebrating her win. “It’s absolutely astounding and shows the real appetite for change.” Bell captured 35.3 per cent of the vote in the Charlottetown-Parkdale byelection, according to unofficial results from Elections PEI. Liberal Bob Doiron took second place with 28.5 per cent, Melissa Hilton of the PCs came in third with 26.9 per cent of the vote and New Democrat Mike Redmond captured 9.3 per cent.———COPS WHO MOCKED WOMAN WITH DOWN SYNDROME PLEAD GUILTY: Two Toronto police constables who were recorded mocking a 29-year-old woman with Down syndrome last year have learned a “valuable yet shameful lesson,” a police prosecutor told a disciplinary hearing Tuesday as the officers pleaded guilty to misconduct. Const. Sasa Sljivo and Const. Matthew Saris have taken responsibility for their actions and apologized in writing to Francie Munoz and her relatives, Insp. Domenic Sinopoli told a room packed with the family’s supporters. And while the Munoz family had requested a public, in-person apology, “the act of contrition need not be a public spectacle of shame,” Sinopoli said. The prosecution and defence jointly proposed that Sljivo, who was the senior officer and the one who made the comments, face five days of unpaid work, and Saris two. Both officers would have to volunteer at least 20 hours with the Special Olympics and undergo an extra hour of sensitivity training. The hearing officer reserved his decision and no date has been set for its release. Sljivo pleaded guilty to misconduct related to the use of profane, abusive or insulting language, while Saris pleaded guilty to misconduct related to the failure to report Sljivo’s comments, which contravened the Ontario Human Rights Code.———GRASSY NARROWS SEEKS MERCURY TREATMENT CENTRE: Leaders from a Northern Ontario First Nation urged the federal and Ontario governments to commit to building and funding a mercury treatment centre in their community ahead of a meeting with them Wednesday. Mercury contamination has plagued the English-Wabigoon River system in northwestern Ontario for half a century, since a paper mill in Dryden, Ont., dumped 9,000 kilograms of the substance into the river systems in the 1960s. Researchers have reported that more than 90 per cent of the people in the nearby Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nation show signs of mercury poisoning. Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister, who suffers from mercury poisoning himself, is frustrated that there hasn’t been a firm commitment to the treatment centre itself, saying his years-long efforts to push for one feel like a dog chasing its tail. Grassy Narrows leaders are set to meet Wednesday with Ontario Indigenous Relations Minister David Zimmer and federal Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott, who has so far committed to a feasibility study for a mercury treatment centre. Zimmer said Tuesday that Ottawa would make a commitment to fund the centre at Wednesday’s meeting, but his office later said he misspoke and had been referring to the feasibility study.———ELEPHANT TROPHIES LEGAL TO IMPORT IN CANADA: In the last decade, Canadians have legally imported more than 2,600 trophy animals that are on an international list of endangered species. The imports also include thousands of animal skins, skulls, feet, ears, tusks, horns and tails of everything from antelope to zebras from all corners of the earth. Earlier this month, the United States made waves when the Fish and Wildlife Service suddenly reversed a 2014 ban on elephant imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia. U.S. President Donald Trump stepped in to halt that reversal, tweeting earlier this month that he considers elephant hunting a “horror show” and that it was unlikely anyone could convince him hunting the animals was good for conservation. Canada, on the other hand, never banned the imports in the first place. The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, tracks animals on three lists based on the level of protection needed and requires permits to be issued before these animals or any parts of them can be traded across international borders. That database shows that between 2007 and 2016, Canada allowed the legal importation of 2,647 mammals as hunting trophies, including 83 elephants, 256 lions, 134 zebras, 76 hippos and 19 rhinoceroses.———ARGOS CELEBRATE GREY CUP WIN AT RALLY: Cheering fans and jubilant members of the Argonauts packed Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square on Tuesday as the team celebrated its CFL-record 17th Grey Cup win. Veteran quarterback Ricky Ray carried the Cup through an excited crowd, with many fans clamouring to get photos of the iconic trophy. The 38-year-old Ray, who set his own CFL record by winning his fourth Grey Cup as a starting quarterback, is still determining his football future, but he was treated to chants of “one more year” by fans and teammates while addressing the rally. The Argos — who missed the playoffs in 2016 and finished the 2017 season 9-9 — pulled off a surprising 27-24 comeback victory over the Calgary Stampeders in Sunday’s snowy championship game in Ottawa. Also taking the stage at the rally was Toronto Mayor John Tory — himself a former CFL commissioner — who couldn’t resist taking a playful dig at Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. The two mayors placed a Grey Cup wager on the game, and after losing the bet Nenshi had to wear an Argonauts jersey at a Calgary city council meeting Monday while reciting a poem extolling the virtues of the CFL champions.———
TORONTO – WestJet says it is reviewing its baggage policy after a customer complained that it discriminated against travellers from certain countries.The airline currently has a policy that prevents travellers to Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago from checking in more than two bags, unless the extra luggage is “a golf bag containing golf clubs.”Jared Walker tweeted about the policy after his 62-year-old mother was prevented from bringing an oversized bag on a trip to Jamaica to attend a funeral.Walker, 30, said the policy is “absurd” and shows preferential treatment to tourists, as opposed to travellers returning to their country of origin.WestJet told The Canadian Press in a statement that the baggage policy was in place for Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago “due to the amount of excess checked baggage brought by guests travelling to these particular destinations.”The company said it’s reviewing the aspect of the baggage policy related to golf bags, recognizing “the optics are poor.”It further said that travellers who want to bring more than two bags to Jamaica or Trinidad and Tobago can do so through WestJet Cargo, its air shipping service.The airline said it apologized to Walker and reached out to him in an attempt to resolve the issue. “It was never our intention to be discriminatory in this specific baggage policy,” said Lauren Stewart, a spokeswoman for WestJet.Walker said he received an apology and other messages from the company Wednesday afternoon but it was too late to help his mother, who was already in Jamaica.He said he booked tickets for his mother, Nellrene Walker, so she could attend her sister’s funeral in Jamaica. After paying for the tickets, he saw WestJet’s baggage policy, and called customer service, he said.“They let me know that no exceptions were allowed,” said Jared Walker, who wanted to pay for his mother to bring a third oversized bag.“It seems really ridiculous that this policy…only applies to two countries which happens to be tourist destinations, and that there’s a golf club exemption.”In immigrant communities, it’s common to take goods back to their country of origin, especially when a family member has died, he said.His mother is originally from Jamaica, and Walker was born in the United States after she moved to Florida. They both came to Canada in 1995.He said when he originally asked why golf clubs are allowed, WestJet told him it was due to “weight distribution” and “baggage trends”.Walker tweeted about the policy Tuesday night and said he received a message from the company around 1 a.m. saying it would allow his mother to pay to take the oversized bag.But he said he saw the messages too late, and his mother flew out Wednesday morning.
QUEBEC – The 10 members elected Oct. 1 for the sovereigntist left-wing party Quebec solidaire refused to swear allegiance to the Queen publicly Wednesday as they made their entry into the provincial legislature.Instead, they chose to swear the obligatory oath behind closed doors, away from the view of family and friends attending the ceremony.In public, they declared their loyalty to the Quebec people, the second part of the oath required of all members of the national assembly.Manon Masse, Quebec solidaire’s co-spokesperson, called the oath to the Queen “an archaic and, frankly, unpleasant ritual.”She said making the declaration out of public view was a matter of respect for members’ sovereigntist convictions. Sol Zanetti, who represents a Quebec City riding for the party, said it was “humiliating” to swear an oath that clashed with his personal convictions.The opposition party plans to table legislation to get rid of the oath to the Queen.
OTTAWA – Canada should invoke the new Magnitsky Act to sanction those responsible for the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the official Opposition said Monday.Conservative justice critic Tony Clement says that Saudi Arabia has already identified some individuals who were partially responsible for Khashoggi’s death, adding that the Magnitsky law is a next step the government should consider.“This may be a prime case for applying the Magnitsky law,” said Clement.Last year, Canada passed the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, known as the Magnitsky Act, which gives the government the authority to freeze Canadian assets of foreign individuals who are found to have violated human rights.Clement’s comments follow the same urging by NDP foreign affairs critic Helene Laverdiere, as well as a similar bipartisan demand in the U.S. Congress.Laverdiere said the NDP hopes there will be a United Nations investigation into Khashoggi’s death.“When those responsible are identified, will the government be prepared to enforce the Magnitsky law?” Laverdiere said in question period last week.Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the murder of Khashoggi on Monday, saying the various Saudi explanations for his death lacked credibility and consistency.The government has not yet offered a concrete response on whether it will consider using the Magnitsky law in this case, saying it’s consulting Canada’s allies on this issue.Canada’s version of the Magnitsky law is based on the Global Magnitsky Act, a bill passed in 2016 that allows the U.S. to sanction foreign human rights violators.Two weeks ago, long before Saudi Arabia acknowledged its role in Khashoggi’s death, a bipartisan group of Democratic and Republican senators from the Committee on Foreign Relations wrote to President Donald Trump calling for sanctions under the act, automatically triggering a requirement that the president launch an investigation and decide within 120 days whether to take action.“The recent disappearance of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi suggests that he could be a victim of a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights,” reads the letter, signed by a number of prominent Republican and Democratic U.S. lawmakers, including Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker and South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham, a close congressional ally of the president.“We request that you make a determination on the imposition of sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act with respect to any foreign person responsible for such a violation related to Mr. Khashoggi.”Named for whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, who was beaten and denied medical care before his death in Russian custody in 2009, the 2016 law expanded on an earlier version designed exclusively to target Russian officials.Freeland said she has spoken with her counterparts from Germany and Turkey in recent days, and is actively engaged with Canada’s allies in a crafting a joint response.“We are working together to press for a transparent and credible investigation and we are very clear that there must be an accounting for this murder; those responsible must be brought to justice and must face the consequences,” Freeland told reporters Monday in Ottawa.Clement acknowledged Freeland’s position, which also came in a written statement on Saturday, and said the government needs to do its “diligence on this.”“If you want a next step that has been sanctioned by Parliament, our Parliament, the Magnitsky law…could be something that should be looked at,” said Clement.During a press conference with a visiting Mexican delegation, Freeland declined to answer questions about whether the government is considering scrapping the lucrative $15-billion contract to provide Ontario-made light armoured vehicles Saudi Arabia.“We have frozen export permits before when we had concerns about their potential misuse, and we will not hesitate to do so again,” Trudeau said later in the House of Commons.Trudeau also convened a meeting of the government’s new the Incident Response Group, which includes cabinet ministers and senior government officials, to discuss the Khashoggi affair.Khashoggi disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get paperwork he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee.Turkish officials say he was tortured, killed and dismembered at the diplomatic outpost.“Canada is very mindful of the fact that this murder occurred in Turkey and it’s very important for Turkey to be a part of the conversation,” said Freeland.— with files from James McCarten in Washington