Ottawa to argue against EU ban of seal products at international hearing – National

GENEVA, Switzerland – An international trade organization will hear arguments from Ottawa on Monday in an appeal of a landmark ruling that upheld the European Union’s ban on imported seal products.

Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said she will argue at the three-day World Trade Organization hearing in Geneva what the Tories have steadfastly defended – that the seal hunt is humane, sustainable and well-regulated.

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READ MORE: Newfoundland and Labrador funds campaign to promote seal industry

“Any views to the contrary are based on myths, misinformation and misguided emotion,” said Aglukkaq said in an opinion editorial released Sunday.

“Canadian coastal and northern communities continue to depend upon the humane seal harvest as a vital economic activity and they should have every right to do so.”

A WTO dispute settlement panel upheld the EU’s embargo on imported seal products in November, saying that while it undermines fair trade, those restrictions can be justified on “public moral concerns” for animal welfare.

At issue was a challenge by Canada and Norway of the 28-member EU’s 2010 ban on the import and sale of seal fur, meat, blubber and other products.

Aglukkaq said the ban undercuts the livelihood of sealers who rely on the industry to support their families.

“We will continue to work with Canadian sealers to defend this industry as a healthy, humane and sustainable source of food, clothing and income,” she said.

Animal rights advocates say the commercial hunt is a needless slaughter and have called the trade ruling a major victory that protects aboriginal hunts.

But critics of the decision, including Inuit hunters, said the European ban and others like it all but wipe out major international markets. They also warned of a dangerous precedent that could be used against other commercial animal products such as beef, pork and poultry.

The federal Fisheries Department has said that as of this year, all licence holders taking part in the commercial hunt must complete training on its accepted three-step kill process.

It involves first shooting or striking the animal on the head with a hakapik or club, then ensuring the seal is dead before cutting major arteries and bleeding it for at least a minute before skinning it.

READ MORE: Pamela Anderson gets a frosty reception from Newfoundland sealers 

The commercial seal hunt off Newfoundland last spring landed about 91,000 harp seals, up from 69,000 the year before, but far short of the federal quota of 400,000. About 900,000 seals are hunted around the world each year, according to the European Commission.

Canada, Norway, Greenland and Namibia all have commercial seal hunts. Countries with bans on imported seal products include the U.S., Mexico, Russia and Taiwan.

©2014The Canadian Press

Canada’s Paralympic gold in wheelchair curling marks historic trifecta

SOCHI, Russia – Canada has a historic curling trifecta in Sochi.

Jim Armstrong’s rink showed its class and experience on the sometimes tricky playing surface at the Ice Cube Curling Centre on Saturday to defeat Russia 8-3 and win the gold medal at the Paralympic Winter Games.

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The victory comes on the heels of Canada’s podium-topping performances in both men’s and women’s curling at last month’s Olympics and marks the first time a country has won all three tournaments in the same year.

Meanwhile, Britain defeated China 7-3 to win the bronze.

Canada has dominated wheelchair curling since the sport made its Paralympic debut eight years ago, winning gold at both the 2006 and 2010 Games to go along with triumphs in the 2009, 2011 and 2013 world championships.

Up 5-2 in the sixth end, Canada capitalized on one of a number of miscues by Russia to grab a commanding lead.

Russian skip Andrey Smirnov missed an attempted takeout with the hammer, allowing Canada to steal three and hand the two-time defending gold medallists a commanding 8-2 lead.

Russia got one back in the seventh end to make it 8-3, but decided to shake hands midway through the eighth to seal a Canadian victory that was really never in doubt.

Fans of both countries saluted the players with raucous applause at the end of the match as the Canadians hugged and congratulated each other.

Warm weather throughout the tournament in the city on the shores of the Black Sea wreaked havoc with the ice at times, but Canada managed to navigate the sometimes-volatile conditions to cruise to the Paralympic title.

The Canadian rink of Armstrong, Ina Forrest, Sonja Gaudet, Dennis Thiessen and alternate Mark Ideson found themselves down early after Russia scored two in the first end in front of a boisterous and partisan gathering.

Canada, which downed China 5-4 in a tight semifinal earlier in day, got one back in the second before stealing another in the third to knot the score 2-2.

The Russians, who thumped Britain 13-4 in seven ends in the other semifinal, fell behind 4-2 in the fourth when Smirnov’s couldn’t clear the house and Canada scored two more.

An error by Armstrong in the fifth end opened the door for the Russians but Smirnov couldn’t capitalize as Canada stole another point to take a 5-2 advantage.

Canada, which defeated the hosts 5-4 during round-robin play, was supported by a small gathering of fans scattered amongst the noisy and flag-waving Russian contingent.

The gold medal is Gaudet’s third, Armstrong and Forrest won their second, and Thiessen and Ideson picked up their first.

©2014The Canadian Press

Montreal celebrates St. Patrick’s Day despite freezing temperatures – Montreal

MONTREAL – Montreal’s 191st annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade went off without a hitch this year.

Thousands braved the chilly temperatures to show their Irish pride, decked out in festive green.

The parade started at the corner of Ste-Catherine and Fort streets at noon and ended at Phillips Square at 4 p.m.

WATCH: Like every year the Global Montreal team was out in full gear

Organized by the United Irish Societies of Montreal as a way to highlight Irish people’s contribution to Montreal’s history, the parade will feature 18 floats, 16 marching bands, 130 groups and 2,500 people.

The City of Montreal will contribute $25,000 to the popular event, and City Hall will be lit up in green until March 17 for the occasion.

On Tuesday, organizers announced a partnership with Éduc’alcool to produce a St. Patrick’s Day survival guide that promotes responsible drinking.

READ MORE: Moderation encouraged at this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade

Details of this year’s parade route


Take a look at all of our St. Patrick’s Day videos here:

Montreal’s St. Patrick’s day parade 2014


Montreal’s St. Patrick’s day parade 2014


St.Patrick’s Day survival guide


St. Patrick’s Society Ball


The queen and her court


St. Paddy’s Day ER issues


St. Paddy’s parade moderation

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©2014Shaw Media

Nearly 400 Nova Scotia bridges corroding, crumbling, database says

HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s bridges are corroding and crumbling to the point where 391 of those inspected were listed as having serious damage including missing concrete, says a provincial database.

Chief highway engineer Bruce Fitzner says the decline of bridges has reached the point where the government might consider closing smaller crossings that aren’t frequently used.

Using the freedom-of-information law, The Canadian Press obtained 3,021 inspection reports done on bridges in 2012, the last year where records are complete.

An analysis of the data from those reports shows 13 per cent of the bridges inspected were in poor or worse shape. The database is based on preliminary and advanced inspections of the bridges.

Bridges in poor condition were those that had advanced section loss, pieces of concrete falling off and structure that was worn away by water and sediment, the database says. Those considered in serious shape – a worse ranking than poor – had various forms of erosion and crumbling that affected primary structural components.

Fitzner said smaller bridges could be closed by the Transportation Department.

“We talk about the long-term deficit. It has to be addressed at some point or infrastructure comes out of service,” he said in an interview.

“It’s a huge challenge.”

BELOW: The Canadian Press has prepared an interactive graphic with a map looking at the data from the reports

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The percentage of bridges in poor or worse condition grew gradually from just under 11 per cent in 2010, while those listed in good or better shape fell from 54.6 per cent to 53.3 per cent over three years, the database says.

Just under half of the province’s 4,310 bridges are more than 50 years old, Fitzner said.

He said the bridges remain safe, in part because when they are too deteriorated they are either closed or a new maximum weight is posted. Fifty-three bridges are on a five-year replacement or repair list, he added.

The database does not say how many bridges have been closed.

Fitzner said tight budgets mean many of those listed as poor or worse will have to wait for repairs as the province’s salty air takes its toll.

“You start losing the metal to oxidation,” he said. “If you have a very rigorous painting program you keep that section loss from happening, and in a lot of cases we aren’t doing that as much as we should be doing it.”

Partial results released for last year show that 3,950 bridge inspection reports were done, but 527 of those are incomplete, the database says. Of those that are complete, 344 were ranked poor or worse.

The problems detected affect all sorts of bridges, from those in tiny, out-of-the way areas to busy overpasses in Halifax.

The Prospect Road Overpass on the outskirts of the city was listed in serious condition. Damage to the bridge includes the loss of structure in its steel girders, the main horizontal supports.

Inspection reports in 2012 and 2013 for that overpass also say the bridge bearings, which are sandwiched between beams and the foundations, were deteriorating to the point where pieces had broken off.

The bridge is on schedule for repairs in four years, and there are quarterly inspections to ensure it doesn’t deteriorate further.

Highway 7, located along the province’s windy and scenic Eastern Shore, has a dozen bridges that were in poor or serious condition, the database says.

“Timber abutments are rotten,” says an inspection report dated Aug. 14, 2012, on the Gaetz Brook Bridge, one of the bridges cited along that stretch of road. The Spry Bay Bridge, east of the Gaetz Brook Bridge, was found to have “severe widespread crushing of abutment and pier members” in an inspection report dated April 3, 2012.

“All of them are deteriorating at roughly the same rate and they’re all coming up due for a major rehabilitation or replacement,” Will Crocker, the province’s chief bridge engineer, said in an interview.

On the Trans-Canada Highway between Halifax and Truro, an overpass at Nine Mile River is listed as having “heavy pitting and section loss on girders,” with a note saying, “superstructure needs repairs.”

Crocker said the Transportation Department will keep monitoring the bridges and, in some cases, the work will be timed to coincide with highway upgrades.

In some counties, inspectors occasionally add handwritten notes on the state of decline of the bridges, many of them small and on quiet roads.

“Bad shape,” an inspector says about the Campbell Meadow Bridge in Kings County. “On the project list for last two or three years!”

In Cape Breton, the Crowdis Bridge over the Margaree River was closed due to its deteriorated condition. After pressure from community leaders who were worried about being cut off from emergency services, the Transportation Department agreed to replace it.

However, Fitzner said such agreements to fix one bridge could mean communities have to accept that other small bridges can’t remain open.

“We ultimately need to look at the amount of infrastructure we have,” he said. “At some point in the future does it make sense to have three or four crossings over a river if one or two of them would suffice?”

Fitzner said the province is also hoping that Ottawa’s $14-billion infrastructure program – the Building Canada Fund in last year’s budget – will add to budgets for roads and bridges.

In the meantime, he estimates the province is about $100 million a year short of what’s needed to keep its highways and crossings in good condition.

“It’s going to remain a challenge just because of the financial position of the province,” he said.

©2014The Canadian Press

Real threat of armed conflict in Ukraine, former ambassador to Ukraine, Russia says – National

Above: Canada’s former ambassador to both Ukraine and Russia, Christopher Westdal, joins Tom Clark to discuss what could happen once the Crimea referendum is wrapped, and how Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s upcoming trip to Ukraine could go.

KYIV, Ukraine — The results of this weekend’s Crimea referendum are a foregone conclusion. What countless people around the world are waiting to see, though, is how the world reacts to a vote in favour of the region joining Russia.

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  • Crimeans overwhelmingly vote to leave Ukraine, join Russia

  • Russia’s doing nothing wrong: ambassador

  • Canadians keep close watch as Crimea referendum nears

If Russia gets Crimea, does it stop there, or is this all a prelude to war?

“I think there’s a real danger of armed conflict,” Canada’s former ambassador to both Ukraine and Russia, Christopher Westdal, said in an interview on The West Block with Tom Clark. “These are days of great drama and danger. I think that Crimea is a line in the sand that is being crossed.”

Before the vote took place Sunday, Canada, the United States and the European Union deemed it illegal and said they would not recognize the results.

The vote took place several weeks after Russian-led forces took control of Crimea, a predominantly ethnic Russian region. Its residents say they fear the Ukrainian government that took over when pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted last month will oppress them.

Russia raised the stakes Saturday when its forces, backed by helicopter gunships and armoured vehicles, took control of a village near the border with Crimea, in the first military move outside the peninsula. The forces also took control of a nearby natural gas distribution station, claiming the need to prevent possible acts of terrorism there.

WATCH: Global National’s chief political correspondent Tom Clark gets the very latest in Eastern Ukraine with colleagues Mike Armstrong in Donetsk and Paul Johnson in Crimea, where citizens were casting ballots on whether to join Russia.

“Were there to be a fight between Ukrainians and Russians, effectively a Slavic civil war, that would jolt the security structure of Europe,” Westdal said. “I don’t think, and I pray that’s not in prospect, but these are dangerous times. And all the time we speak, a single shot could lead to extensive violence.”

Russia’s ambassador to Canada last week told Tom Clark, who has brought special coverage of the situation from Ukraine for the past two weeks, there is no way the situation will escalate into full-blown war.

Canada, along with other Western states, has imposed sanctions on Russia. Canada has cut bilateral military activities with Russia and recalled its ambassador from Russia. The United States imposed visa restrictions on opponents of Ukraine’s government in Kyiv and paved the way for upcoming financial sanctions.

But that hasn’t shaken Russian President Vladimir Putin’s conviction that his military’s presence in Crimea, a former Soviet republic, is necessary.

Westdal said that coordinated economic sanctions likely won’t have much of an effect on Putin, and might even signal a misunderstanding of the crisis.

“I think that this is a crisis about security, and I think it needs to be addressed in those terms,” he said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will head to Ukraine later this week, where he will be the first G7 leader to travel there and meet with the interim government amid growing instability and violence between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian activists.

In Ukraine, Harper will meet with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to discuss how Canada and its allies can provide support following Thursday’s announcement from Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird that Canada will contribute $220 million to an international effort to stabilize the Ukrainian government’s finances.

The visit serves to confirm Canada’s recognition of the new government in spite of Moscow’s stance, Westdal said.

“But [Harper] will have a lot of baggage. He will be carrying the hopes, and now the deep fears, of Canadians” he said.

©2014Shaw Media

Marois and Coderre discuss Montreal’s future – Montreal

WATCH ABOVE: Premier Pauline Marois was in Montreal today to meet with Mayor Denis Coderre. Rachel Lau has the story.

MONTREAL – Premier Pauline Marois started her twelfth day of campaigning by taking a stroll – not in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade – but into city hall to speak with Mayor Denis Coderre.

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  • Canadians shouldn’t be afraid of Quebec’s election results: Marois

    If the Parti Quebecois wins, what are the prospects of a referendum?

“Our metropolis is very important for the development, the economic development, cultural development, social development, international development of Quebec,” said Marois.

It was a meeting of Quebec’s two most powerful politicians:

Coderre, a firm federalist who doesn’t believe in the Charter, and Marois, a stout sovereigntist who brought the bill forward.

“We don’t want to talk about an election with a referendum,” said Coderre.

“We are talking about the status of the metropolis. We want to be focused on the future of our metropolis.”

Despite their opposing views, the two say they are ready to work together in placing the focus on transportation, the economy, and Montreal’s status in Quebec.

“My flag is Montreal,” said Coderre.

“I’ve been in politics for 30 years. My role is to make sure that we have some assurance from nevertheless who’s winning will provide us their agenda and it’s related to the priority of Montreal.”

Political analyst Bruce Hicks points out that in meeting with Coderre, Marois may be trying to reach out to Montrealers.

“In the run up to the election with the Values Charter debate, she’s very much sacrificed the urban world in favour of an almost prejudice, rural anti-Islamic Quebec,” he said.

In fact, Marois did not contest when Coderre stated he did not want to speak about a referendum.

“The more independence gets talked about, the more it becomes a front-of-mind issue,” said Hicks.

“The more it becomes a front-of-mind issue, the more it’s going to scare people away from the PQ.”

Coderre insists he will meet with all the party leaders over the next week in order to make sure the future of Montreal – and not just Quebec – stays a priority in the election.

“My priority is to talk about economy and I sent a clear message from the start,” he said.

“I don’t want to hear anything about a referendum election and I think it’s not the issue here.”

©2014Shaw Media

Transcript Episode 28 March 16


Episode 28, Season 3

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Host: Tom Clark

Guest Interviews: Paul Johnson, Mike Armstrong, Christopher Westdal, Deborah Lyons, Graeme Smith, Murray Brewster

Location: Kyiv, Ukraine

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Please check against delivery at thewestblock桑拿按摩

Tom Clark:

On this Sunday morning, Crimean’s are voting on whether to leave Ukraine and join Russia.  It is a vote condemned by most of the world, but Russia’s army is on the move.  We have the latest.

Then we take you to Kabul, Afghanistan, to mark the end of Canada’s mission there.  The flag is lowered. The final boot leaves the ground.  What did we accomplish and what lies ahead?  Some tough questions and a reflection on service and sacrifice.

It is Sunday, March the 16th.  I’m Tom Clark with another special edition of The West Block from Kyiv.  Well the people in Independence Square behind me are waiting and watching with the rest of the world to see what the next few hours will bring. All eyes are on Crimea and the referendum that’s under way.    The results of the vote are really a foregone conclusion.  The referendum essentially is rigged to produce the answer that Crimea indeed wants to leave Ukraine and join Russia.  It is why the Russian Army is amassing as many as 10,000 troops along its entire border with Ukraine.  If it takes Crimea, will it stop there?  Is this all just a prelude to war?

We have Global news crews throughout the country today.  In the very volatile Eastern Ukrainian area of Donetsk, we find Global’s Mike Armstrong.  And in Crimea, Global’s Paul Johnson and that’s where we start.  Paul, give a sense this morning of what you’re seeing, what you’re hearing on the ground as this drama is unfolding.

Paul Johnson:

Tom this really feels like the successful conclusion to a carefully orchestrated campaign to obtain a yes vote to join with Russia, despite all of the opposition to this internationally and up in Kyiv.  The referendum got underway this morning at 8 o’clock and from what we’ve been hearing from people who have been out to those polling stations and have voted, it seems to be coming off really without any problems.  There’s fairly heavy turnout.  We’re not hearing about any incidents at any of the polling stations.  And among the people who have voted and have talked to the news media, who are gathered here, so far the result seems to be a yes vote to join Russia.  Most of these people have said they voted yes.  A couple of important things to consider though, this vote as we understand is being boycotted by the Muslim Tatar minority that lives here.  It’s also being boycotted by a lot of the Ukrainian people who live here.  The polls will close at 8 o’clock tonight. We expect we might get a result tonight a couple of hours after that.  And then we’re going to have wait and see how the rest of the world reacts to this.

Tom Clark:

Okay thanks Paul.  That’s Paul Johnson in Crimea.  Well let’s go now to the very volatile Eastern Ukrainian region and the City of Donetsk where we find Global’s Mike Armstrong.  Mike what is your sense this morning in that area?  What are you seeing?  What are you hearing?

Mike Armstrong:
Well Tom I think one of the things I’ve been struck by is the level of distrust in this region.  There’s a lot of finger pointing between the pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian factions here.  It’s been all about demonstrations and counter demonstrations in recent days and they’ve come to blows at times.  What you hear from both sides is that their opponents are not from here, that they’re outsiders bussed in and paid to cause violence.  There’s also a great deal distrust of the media here.  We’ve been called provocateurs at times as well in anger, and the media is a big factor here. People in this region watch mostly Russian news and there is an anti-western slant; stories that have been discredited by major news organizations are reported as fact on television here.  For example, the demonstration Thursday where the pro-Russian group went after the pro-Ukrainian side was reported as a pro-Ukrainian mob attacking peaceful women, children and seniors.  That’s simply not what happened but hearing it over and over is one of the reasons for all the distrust here.

Tom Clark:

Okay Mike, thanks very much.  That’s Global’s Mike Armstrong in the Eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk.

Well one person who has been following this crisis very closely is Canada’s former ambassador to both Ukraine and to Russia, Christopher Westdal.  He’s in Ottawa and I spoke with him earlier today.

Ambassador Westdal good to have you on the show, thanks for being here.  When you take a look at the landscape this morning, just how close are we to armed conflict in this region?

Christopher Westdal:
Well I think there’s a very real danger of armed conflict.  These are days of great drama and danger.  I think that Crimea is a line in the sand that is being crossed and there will be consequences in terms of sanctions, but I think that the mainland of Ukraine is a red line; a blood red line.  You were not in Ottawa Tom when the Ukrainian Ambassador here said that he would fight, and were there to be a fight between Ukrainians and Russians, effectively a Slavic Civil War that would jolt security structure of Europe. I don’t think and I pray that that’s not in prospect but these are dangerous times, and all the time we speak, a single shot could lead to extensive violence.

Tom Clark:

Yeah you hear that too a lot in Kyiv, people saying that they would take up arms if it came to it.  But let’s take a look at the west’s response.  Would coordinated economic sanctions have an impact on Vladimir Putin at this point?

Christopher Westdal:

I don’t think they’d have a decisive effect.  I think they belie a misunderstanding of the crisis.  I think that this is a crisis about security and I think it needs to be addressed in those terms and in the right forms.  I think that the NATO Russia Council should address this issue among other bodies, but the council was created for the purpose.  I think that there is a deal that can be done, although it’s very hard for diplomats to do a deal in the middle of the kind of strife and the sanctions, and the anger, and the rising tempers, and so on.  But that deal essentially has to do with Russia recognizing a legitimate government in Kyiv and giving it peace and quiet and cooperating with it, and giving it a measure of political and economic freedom.  And that is in exchange for the neutrality of Ukraine achieved through the reaffirmation of the 2010 law against military alliances.  And I would think that NATO should want to note that reaffirmation.

Tom Clark:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced that he’s going to be here next week.  What sort of effect do you think that’s going to have?

Christopher Westdal:

Well I think that his visit, the first of the G7 country, certainly confirms that we recognize the new government in Kyiv; whatever Moscow makes of it.  I think that he will arrive and we don’t know what the situation will be Wednesday when he arrives.  There will have been a few days to see what becomes of the result of the referendum.  But he will have a lot of baggage.  He will be carrying the hopes and now the deep fears of Canadians, millions of whom, and not only those with relatives or ancestors in Ukraine.  Millions of whom, including myself who have worked there and left part of my heart and sensibilities there, who are taking this very personally.  So he’ll want to speak and express the solidarity of Canadians, heartfelt and non-partisan.  He will also have the baggage of our harsh rhetoric and hostility toward Russia and the status that we have proudly sustained as the last cold warrior standing and the most stubborn advocate of further NATO growth.  We still think that NATO should be driven further up Russia’s nose.  He will also have the history of the expectations and hopes that we have generated for EU integration which is not our gift to give and for NATO membership; hopes for NATO membership.  And I think that he will have the responsibility to explain what the West and what Canada can and will do, and what it can’t and won’t do.

Tom Clark
Ambassador Westdal awfully good to have your views on this subject this morning.  Thanks very much for being here.

Christopher Westdal:
You’re welcome, thank you.

Tom Clark:

Well still to come on The West Block, we shift our focus to Afghanistan.

After 12 years, Canada’s mission in Afghanistan is now over.  As the last boots leave the ground, what’s our legacy?  That’s next.


Tom Clark:

The Canadian flag is hauled down after flying for more than 12 years at military bases in Afghanistan.  The mission reshaped our forces and redefined who we are as a country.  Now, Canada’s war is over.

Welcome back to Kyiv where we are keeping a standing watch on war.  But a few days ago, we went to Afghanistan where last week, Canada’s military mission came to an end with little fanfare.  And yet for more than a decade, it was a major part of who we were as a country.  So what lies ahead?  Well in a very heavily guarded Canadian embassy in Kabul, I sat down with Canada’s Ambassador, Deb Lyons.

Ambassador thanks very much.  Awfully good having you on the program.

Deborah Lyons:

It’s great to have you Tom.

Tom Clark:

You actually volunteered for this job and a lot of people might say are you out of your mind?

Deborah Lyons:

I think a few people did, yeah.

Tom Clark:

Yeah, yeah, and not only that, but you’ve asked for an extension on this job.

Deborah Lyons:

Indeed, yeah.

Tom Clark:


Deborah Lyons:

Because it’s the right place to be at the right time; it’s very important, the work we’re doing here.  It’s some of the most exciting work I’ve ever done in my career.  It’s important work at an important time and a very important part of the world.

Tom Clark:

Describe to me a little bit though what’s going on.  We’re not talking about the military sphere now; we’re talking about aid and development and building a civil society here and so on.  What is so unique about this place that we haven’t seen anywhere else?

Deborah Lyons:

Well there’s a lot that’s unique about it.  First of all, one thing I remind people about is that this region of the world is probably one of the most important for the 21st century.  Three of the BRICs are neighbours or near neighbours of Afghanistan.  This region is critically important…

Tom Clark:

Now just explain what you mean by the BRICs.

Deborah Lyons:

Sorry, we talk about the most important economies going forward Brazil, China, Russia and India.  Three of those countries are neighbours or near neighbours of Afghanistan.  Of course you’ve got Pakistan and Iran as neighbours; this part of the world is critical from a security perspective and an economic perspective.  If this part of the world can have the peace and prosperity it needs, Canada and other parts of the world will have the peace and prosperity that we’re going to need in the 21st century.

Tom Clark:

So but to achieve that then, this is…is this an experiment then in the 21st century that you’re witnessing?

Deborah Lyons:

I think what we’re witnessing is a very unique experience where the world community, the international community has come together; some 60 countries to work both from a security perspective but also from a development perspective, building institutions, helping with governance, helping with policing, helping to build the economy.  This I think is a model for the 21st century and what is important is that we get it right for the Afghans, but also that we get it right for the world community because we are going to have to be helping one another out.  It is a global neighbourhood now and part of foreign policy, part of trade development, part of aid and development is to make all those countries stronger so that we’re stronger as well as a world community.

Tom Clark:

Now the army has left, how on earth do you continue to convince Canadians to invest money into a place that we’re quickly forgetting?

Deborah Lyons:

This is a country that is trending towards stability, and it’s trending towards stability because of Canadian treasure and Canadian blood that has been sacrificed here and because the Afghan people so badly want it, and so badly deserve it.  There are enormous indicators of success and I’m seeing, on a daily basis, which is not getting reported sadly in the press, the enormous human infrastructure that is here.  Afghans saying we’re staying, we’re not going away.  This is our country, this is our future.  We’re going to make it work.  And the international community has given us that opportunity.

Tom Clark:

Okay I understand that in your job as ambassador here you have to be positive.  You’ve got to have a sunny outlook.

Deborah Lyons:

No, I have to be realistic.

Tom Clark:

Well okay, let’s be realistic for a second.  Surely you’re not saying at this point that this is total victory.  That we have won.

Deborah Lyons:

Absolutely not, no.

Tom Clark:

That the Taliban are going to disappear and that the Taliban in fact are not going to come back into this town and take over again.  You wouldn’t say that.

Deborah Lyons:

No I wouldn’t say that.  What I would say is that we as a world community came in, particularly Canada came in, to the tough battle in the south to help the Afghans. Then we turned around and worked with them; trained them to help them help themselves, particularly in security, as a sovereign country.  It was always intended that they would take over responsibility for their own security.  Canada has trained them and helped them to do that.  We’ve seen great success there.  It is not all a happy picture at all.  There are loads of challenges and loads of problems but this is an infrastructure that is building from a security perspective.  From an economic perspective we’re starting to get some of the legislation in place we need.  We’ve got enormous institution building happening.  We’ve got a human rights commission that is recognized by the rest of the world as having a top “A” rating.  We’ve got kids in school.  We now have kids graduating. As our soldiers leave Afghanistan, we have got kids graduating from high school who started when our soldiers came. They’re building another future.

Tom Clark:

Ambassador Lyons awfully good talking to you.  Thank you so much.

Deborah Lyons:

Come on back in a couple of months Tom.

Tom Clark;

I will.

Deborah Lyons:


Tom Clark:

Still to come, the ceremony that closed an important chapter in the history of the Canadian forces.  We’ll bring you that moment and reflect on what the mission meant when we return.  Stay with us.


Tom Clark:

Welcome back to The West Block here in Kyiv.  Well as this crisis unfolds literally by the hour, we want to just take you back to Afghanistan for a moment and the end of Canada’s military mission.

For more than 12 years we had soldiers in harm’s way try to bring peace to that very troubled land.  While they were there, politicians were reluctant to say much about the mission but now that the flag has been lowered, it is time to ask the tough questions.

Well joining me now, two veteran observers of Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan:  Murray Brewster of Canadian Press, you’re eighth tour of duty over here Murray, and Graeme Smith formerly of The Globe and Mail, the author of The Dogs Are Eating Them Now, currently with the International Crisis Group living in Kabul.  Welcome to you both.

Let me start just by quickly getting your thoughts on Canada’s departure.

Graeme Smith:

Well it’s a sad moment in some ways.  This is the moment when the lights switch off and everyone goes home, and the Afghans are left to fight this out amongst themselves.   And the war is growing, you know the number of women and children dying every single month rises.  We’re leaving behind a vicious, vicious war, and hopefully Canada can still help the Afghans survive that war and prevent this state from collapsing.  But we’ll see, whether or not after these lights turn off if anyone’s still paying attention.

Murray Brewster:

What struck me about the ending yesterday was the fact that there was no member of the Harper government that was present at the final ceremony.  It was all military and it struck me as very strange because this was a government that tightly embraced this war in the beginning and yet nobody was around for the end.

Tom Clark:

We by no means had the biggest force here but in many respects just being here with the military gave us a place at the international table.  Did we leave too soon?

Graeme Smith:

Well Canada was a really big deal when it arrived.  I mean when Canada sent a battle group south to Kandahar, we doubled the number of international forces in the entire southern region so it was a massive military shift.  But you’re right, over the years we sort of got lost in the maelstrom of troop surges so that by the time the Canadians pulled out, it was a tiny little drop in the bucket.  And so militarily did we leave too soon?  Do we not leave too soon?  In some ways it doesn’t matter because it’s a tiny, tiny fraction of the overall international forces.  But like Murray said, when you have a complete absence of major Canadian figures here for the final ceremony, that doesn’t really leave me with a whole lot of hope that we’re going to keep paying attention.

Tom Clark:

I want to get Murray to the question of Afghanistan in a minute but just conclude for me the thoughts on the Canadian military here because this is the end of an extraordinary deployment for our country.  It’s hard to see this sort of thing happening again.

Murray Brewster:

Oh it’s very, very unlikely.  I think that we’re going to see anything like this happen again within our lifetimes, the experience of Afghanistan was absolutely politically searing for the Harper government and I honestly do not see them deploying troops anywhere; boots on the ground.  I mean perhaps they’ll contribute aircraft, perhaps they’ll contribute ships the way previous governments have.  It was the taking of casualties but I think it was also the enormous expense of the war because you see that the government is driving towards a balanced budget for 2015, and a good significant chunk of that is coming out of National Defence.  And I think that the Harper government despite many of its pronouncements about how much it loves the military has recognized that National Defence in the biggest discretionary line item in the federal budget.  And it can be very helpful if you want to be able to balance the budget for I don’t know, things like income splitting.

Graeme Smith:

Canada’s literally cutting up its armoured vehicles and selling them for scrap.  Which you know, strongly suggests they’re not going to go do one of these things ever again.

Tom Clark:

What have we learned from this experience?  I mean in many ways this was sort of the Petri dish for how the international community comes together and works.  Was it a success overall Graeme?  What did we learn from this?  What’s the takeaway?

Graeme Smith:

Well this whole idea of intervening militarily in countries that are deeply messed up and trying to make things better with boots on the ground is still a nascent science.  Nobody really knows how to do it.  I think Afghanistan will probably go down in the history books as an example how not to do it.  Libya maybe was an example of how you can have a temporary benefit but then things can still end up getting pretty messy in the medium term and you know the international community is still learning.  I’m afraid that Afghanistan casts a really long shadow on our policy internationally because if you look at Syria, probably a big reason why we’re incredibly gun-shy around Syria is we do not want to go do one of these things again.

Tom Clark:

And Murray, it seems to me that places like Afghanistan are going to lose out because of all the competing interests out there.  I’m thinking right now the world’s eyes are more on Kyiv and Ukraine than they are on Afghanistan.

Murray Brewster:

Well in coming over here for the final haul down of the flag, I had a friend e-mail me and say where are you going?  Are you going to the Ukraine?   And I said, well no I’m going back to Kabul for the flag lowering.  Oh Afghanistan, that’s your grandfather’s war.  And that just sort of sums up I think the attitude of the public and the attitude of policy makers.  And I, like Graeme, share his very deep concern about whether or not the policy makers are going to stay focused on this country because it is still on the knife’s edge.

Tom Clark:

Murray Brewster of Canadian Press, Graeme Smith of the International Crisis Group and author of the excellent book on Afghanistan: The Dogs Are Eating Them Now.  Thank you very much for being here and I’m glad we could do this final chat; Canadian chat here.

Graeme Smith:

Nice to see you.

Murray Brewster:

Nice to see you too Tom.

Tom Clark:

Well as one war ends another one threatens to start right here.  The next move is Russia’s, and everybody’s watching.  We leave you though today with some images of the end of an era in Afghanistan.  From Kyiv, I’m Tom Clark.  Thanks for being with us.  See you next Sunday.

Visuals and clips from the flag lowering ceremony in Afghanistan:

Deborah Lyons:

The Government of Afghanistan can now take responsibility for its own security.

Canadian Forces Padre:

A red field, a white square and an eleven pointed red maple leaf; the Canadian flag probably one of the most easily recognizable flags in the world.

Gen. Tom Lawson:

Our flag was in the region early; in the air, on the ground and at sea.  And since then, our experiences in Afghanistan have been woven into the very fabric of the Canadian Armed Forces.

ISAF Deputy Commander John Lorimer:

We here will regret that we will no longer see the famous maple leaf adorn our bases and on the uniforms of troops.

Gen. Tom Lawson:

The passage of time will afford all of us a more fulsome perspective and appreciation of the mission but for now, ladies and gentleman, it is clear that this mission mattered much. It cost us much.  And it will be remembered deeply.

Deborah Lyons:

You have left a legacy here; one that you can look back on with pride as you depart for your most highly deserved journey back home to Canada.

In memory of those who served and the 158 who died.

©2014Shaw Media

PHOTOS: Irish eyes were smiling at St. Patrick’s Day Parade – Toronto

TORONTO — Thousands of people lined downtown Toronto streets on Sunday afternoon for the 27th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The celebration of Monday’s Irish holiday travelled east along Bloor Street from St. George Street, south on Yonge Street and then west on Queen Street to University Avenue.

The parade grand marshal was boxer Katie Taylor, who won a gold medal for Ireland at the 2012 London Olympics in the women’s lightweight division.

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  • St. Patrick’s playlist: 17 songs for getting your Irish on

The 27-year-old athlete, who also has four world championships and five European championships, was accompanied by her father and trainer Peter Taylor.

The parade, organized by the St. Patrick’s Parade Society of Toronto, included colourful floats honouring various Irish counties as well as marching bands, clowns, live animals and leprechauns.

Many spectators along the route — who braved temperatures of -21 with the windchill — donned green hats and waved Irish flags.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, councillor Doug Ford, walked most of the parade route handing out strings of green beads. The embattled mayor got a warm reception from many, including dozens who rushed to pose for photos with him.

Just south of Bloor Street, though, Ford was greeted with a loud chorus of boos.

WATCH: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford participates in this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade by handing out green beads to onlookers

In Montreal, the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in Canada also took place Sunday. The 191th edition rolled along Ste. Catherine Street as thousands of people lined the route.

BELOW: See photos from the 27th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto

Spectators at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

Irish Olympic gold medalist Katie Taylor, grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

The Toronto Fire pipe band in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

Spectators at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

Irish-built DeLoreans in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

Spectators at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

Participants in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

Toronto Firefighters participate in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

A marching band in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

The GO Transit entry in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

A participant in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

A veteran participant, dressed as a leprechaun, at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

Participants in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

A pipe band in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford takes part in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

Toronto EMS showcases old ambulances at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

Spectators keep warm at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

A participant in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

A patriotic spectator at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

A canine spectator at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

Musicians from the York Lions Steel Band in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

Pageant participants wave to spectators at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

Spectators at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

Boxers pay tribute to grand marshal Katie Taylor at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

A canine spectator at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Toronto on March 16, 2014.

John R. Kennedy / Global News

The Embassy of Ireland in Ottawa estimates there are about 100,000 Irish living in Canada and, according to Statistics Canada, a little more than 4.5 million Canadians claim Irish ancestry.

“Today is a special day for all those Irish communities great and small across the world that come together in a spirit of pride and joy to celebrate their identity and their links of affinity and affection with their homeland of origin,” said Michael D. Higgins, president of Ireland, in his annual St. Patrick’s Day message.

“To Irish people by birth or descent wherever they may be in the world and to those who simply consider themselves to be friends of Ireland, I wish each and every one of you a happy, peaceful and authentically Irish St. Patrick’s Day.”

©2014Shaw Media

First Nations weigh in Quebec sovereignty debate – Montreal

MONTREAL – First Nations members are weighing in on the debate over Quebec independence — a hot topic so far in the provincial election campaign.

The head of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador says his people have the right to determine their own future and aren’t bound to the result of another referendum vote.

Ghislain Picard says it’s useless to talk about Quebec sovereignty while there’s still uncertainty about the place of aboriginal peoples.

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Similar concerns were raised in the lead up to the last referendum in 1995.

Sovereignty has been a major focus of the election since media baron Pierre Karl Peladeau joined the Parti Quebecois last Sunday and declared he wants to help make Quebec a country.

PQ Leader Pauline Marois has, however, steered away from the issue in recent days.

If the PQ succeeds in getting a majority in the April 7 vote and works toward calling another referendum, Picard says First Nations will take steps to protect the interests of their members.

“We have the right to self-determination and this right is not negotiable,” Picard said in a statement released late Friday.

“Let us be even more clear: Quebec can decide what it wants in terms of its culture, its identity and its development, but it cannot claim sovereignty over a territory which is still, fundamentally, First Nation.”

©2014The Canadian Press

How do you lose a plane? Flight MH370 exposes gaps in aviation operations – National

NEW YORK – The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has exposed wide gaps in how the world’s airlines — and their regulators — operate. But experts warn this isn’t likely to be one of those defining moments that lead to fundamental changes.

For financial and technological reasons, and because of issues tied to national sovereignty, the status quo is expected to prevail in the way passports are checked, aircraft are tracked at sea and searches are co-ordinated.

Flight tracking

Authorities believe Malaysia airlines flight 370 was deliberately diverted


Authorities believe Malaysia airlines flight 370 was deliberately diverted


Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 still missing one week after disappearing


New questions arise as search expands for Malaysian airliner


A new theory into disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight

In an age of constant connectedness, it’s almost inconceivable to lose a 209-foot-long airplane for more than a week, or be in the dark about what happened onboard around the time it went missing.

The reality is that large portions of the globe don’t have radar coverage. Over oceans, pilots fill in those gaps by radioing air traffic controllers at routine intervals with position updates. And while planes record sounds in the cockpit as well as speed, altitude, fuel flow and the positions of flaps, that information isn’t shared with anyone on the ground. Crash investigators only get access to the data on the recorders after combing through the wreckage.

Numerous experts have said it is time to update tracking abilities and use satellite links to provide real-time feeds on the operation of planes and conversations within the cockpit.

However, transmitting data by satellite from all 80,000 daily flights worldwide wouldn’t be cheap.

Airlines made an average of $4.13 in profits per passenger last year and $2.05 in 2012, according to International Air Transport Association, the industry’s trade group. Any additional costs would eat into those slim profit margins. Some experts say planes don’t crash frequently enough — let alone disappear — to justify the cost.

If such information were to be streamed live, there would be major concerns about privacy says Robert Clifford, a personal injury lawyer in Chicago who has been involved in several aviation lawsuits.

“Once it’s broadcast, the data from a plane would essentially be considered public access material – something that aircraft manufacturers, pilot unions, operators and even accident investigators don’t want,” Clifford says.

There’s also a question of who would receive and control that data. There are concerns that an airline, plane maker or government worried about its reputation could meddle with the information.

“You can’t assume that there would not be strong economic interests to tamper with information,” says James E. Hall, former chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

A compromise solution is to create deployable black boxes – data recorders similar to the voice and data recorders currently in planes. During a catastrophic event, they would break away from the tail, have their own homing devices and ideally be found quickly. But given the confusion over the Malaysia Airlines jet’s flight path, it’s unclear if these boxes could help.

Search effort coordination

Malaysian PM confirms reports of deliberate acts involved in plane’s disappearance


Malaysian PM confirms reports of deliberate acts involved in plane’s disappearance


Malaysia Airlines: Six days, few clues in search


Looking for missing Malaysian Airlines flight


Malaysian military backtracks on possible location of missing plane

Then there’s the search: The Malaysian government has been widely criticized for how long the search has taken and for its release of contradictory information.

So why aren’t American investigators, who have a long history of dealing with plane crashes, taking charge? NTSB investigators and experts from Boeing are on the scene providing technical assistance. So are U.S. military ships and planes. But politics and customs dictate that everybody takes a back seat to the local government.

WATCH: Former head of NTSB believes that the investigation should now switch from the accident to a possible crime

The practice dates back to a December 1944 convention on international civil aviation in Chicago. Many of today’s rules of the sky were formed at that meeting, including one that puts the country where a crash occurs in charge of the search and investigation. If the airplane is registered in another country — which isn’t the case here — that government is entitled to appoint observers to be present at the inquiry.

Hall, the former NTSB chairman who now heads the law firm Hall & Associates, says it is time for the International Civil Aviation Organization – part of the United Nations – to set up an international team of investigation professionals.

“We can’t permit a situation to continue where we don’t have competent, independent people in charge of an investigation from day one,” Hall says.

However, Kenneth J. Button, director of the Center for Transportation, Policy, Operations and Logistics at George Mason University, notes that even U.S. investigators have made mistakes in past disasters. Further, he can’t imagine countries such as the U.S. ceding the investigatory powers they currently have to some international group.

“I think the Malaysian authorities may be unfairly blamed for a little of this,” Button says. “They’re getting a lot of information in and are handling it as best they can. Similar issues have arisen in most other countries.”

False and stolen passports

New details about men with stolen passports aboard missing Malaysian Airlines flight


New details about men with stolen passports aboard missing Malaysian Airlines flight


Passenger with stolen passport identified by Malaysian police


Malaysia Airlines: Stolen passports concerns


New clues may explain what happened to missing Malaysian flight

Flight 370’s disappearance also uncovered another lapse: passenger passports were not checked against Interpol’s database of 40 million stolen or lost travel documents. The fact is, most countries don’t run passports through the international policy agency’s computer system.

“It is not extremely unusual,” says Rafi Ron, a former chief of security at Tel Aviv’s airport and now head of New Age Security Solutions. To run the checks, countries would have to update software and link computer systems. “We’ve left a substantial loophole. There is only one thing behind it: cost.”

Without a computer link, it is hard to tell if a passport is stolen or a counterfeit. Ticket and gate agents don’t have much training is spotting fakes.

“Airline personnel only glance at the name to see that it matches the boarding pass and that the person presenting the passport looks similar to the person in front of them,” says Douglas R. Laird, former director of security at Northwest Airlines and now head of Laird & Associates, Inc. “With a long line of folks this becomes a real issue. They need to board the plane as soon as possible.”

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©2014The Associated Press