Basketball great Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash

Basketball legend and Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant died in a California helicopter crash on Sunday along with at least one of his daughters and seven others, reports and officials said.

LIVE: Coverage from CBS News

A fire broke out sending his Sikorsky S-76 helicopter spiralling out of an overcast sky above Calabasas and killing all five on board. It has been widely reported that Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna Maria Onore is among the dead.

During a brief initial press conference on Sunday evening, authorities said that there were nine killed in the crash. Police received a call at 9:47 a.m. that a helicopter may have crashed, officials said.

The Bryants were on their way to Mamba Academy for basketball practice, reports say.

Allen Kenitzer, an FAA spokesman, said his agency and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating. Sikorsky says it is cooperating with authorities to find out the cause of the crash.

Photo of the crash scene via Twitter.

Bryant is survived by Vanessa, 37, and their daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 17, Bianka, three, and Capri, sevens months.

The L.A. Lakers star is considered one of greatest basketball players of all time. He spent his entire 20-year National Basketball Association career with the California team.

Bryant, 41, won five championships and was an 18-time all-star. He is known for scoring 81 points in a single game.

The basketball great’s final tweet was sent out on Saturday evening, congratulating LeBron James for taking his position as third on the ladder in overall career points.

Bryant retired from the NBA in 2016 but began a new career in Hollywood. In 2018, he won an Oscar along with director Glen Keane for the animated short film “Dear Basketball”, the L.A. Times reports.

IGNITE Vice President Ryan Stafford, who represents Lakeshore Campus, posted a tribute to the basketball legend on his Instagram Story.


The following obituary was posted by Reuters news agency:

“A transcendent star who went straight from high school to the game’s biggest stage, Bryant won five NBA championship rings with the Los Angeles Lakers and was the face of the franchise during his 20-year career.”

“Bryant, a small forward and shooting guard, averaged 25 points during his career and twice led the NBA in scoring.”

“He was an 18-times NBA All-Star who wore the jersey numbers 24 and 8 – both of which were retired by the Lakers – and continued the ‘Showtime’ tradition of the storied franchise that has been home to the likes of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal.”

U.S. President Donald Trump called the development “terrible news”. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said Bryant “will live forever in the heart of Los Angeles, and will be remembered through the ages as one of our greatest heroes.”

An NBA game taking place at the time the news broke took a moment of silence and soccer superstar Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. made a “24” symbol with his fingers after scoring a goal on Sunday.

1st possible case of coronavirus in Canada hits Toronto

Provincial health officials announced Canada’s first “presumptive” confirmed case of the new coronavirus on Saturday with a male patient in Toronto.

“We’re pretty well 95 per cent sure” that the patient has the virus, said Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams during a press conference. Authorities will give a new update if the patient upgrades to a confirmed case of the virus.

Williams was flanked by provincial officials, including Health Minister Christine Elliott.

The 50-year-old patient had returned back on a plane from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus originated from before being admitted to hospital feeling “quite ill”, an official said.

The patient is being treated at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto and is in stable condition.

“Toronto Public Health is continuing to work closely with provincial and federal health colleagues to actively monitor the situation and respond as appropriate,” Mayor John Tory said in a separate statement.

The Canadian case is just the latest of several confirmations that have sprung up around the world over the last week.

The province has set up an information webpage that will have daily updates.

‘Nothing new’: Panel talks China’s human rights violations


(CUP) — A panel on China’s human rights violations was held in Concordia University’s Faubourg building on Jan. 15.

The experts, who were invited by the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS), expressed concerns about the Uyghur Muslim concentration camps in Xinjiang, an autonomous region in Western China. They also discussed the brutal repression in Hong Kong and Tibet, as well as China’s increasing influence on the Western world and its implication for the future of democracy.

The event took place just days after Human Rights Watch (HRW) executive director Kenneth Roth was denied entry into Hong Kong and HRW’s launch event for its World Report2020 was disrupted by protestors, according to MIGS executive director Kyle Matthews.

Photo by Brittany Clarke via The Concordian.

“Human rights issues in China are nothing new,” said speaker Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, Senior Fellow at both the University of Ottawa’s Institute for Science, Society and Policy and the University of Alberta’s China Institute. She listed historical events such as the Cultural Revolution, the Xidan Democracy Wall, and the Tiananmen Square Massacre which she said “trampled on individual human rights in a myriad of ways.”

McCuaig-Johnston continued to explain that although China has lifted more than 800 million people out of poverty since 1978, this is not the same as ensuring individual human rights. She described how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses detention as a pressure tactic against dissidents and the abusive conditions under which they are detained, which were revealed by HRW’s interviews with former prisoners. She also explained the social credit system, in place since 2014, and the CCP’s widespread interference in Western countries.

Both McCuaig-Johnston and Benjamin Fung, a Canada Research Chair in Data Mining for Cybersecurity and an Action Free Hong Kong Montreal activist, highlighted the CCP’s infiltration in Canadian academics and described the pressure on faculty and Chinese students to self-censor criticism of the Chinese government.

The CCP’s use of technology, such as facial and voice recognition for repression, was also extensively discussed by both experts. Fung additionally focused on Chinese companies’ goal to expand the 5G network––he explained that the CCP controls every large corporation in China and that technology companies are obligated to cooperate with Chinese intelligence units.

“It’s about trust, you trust Apple to update your iPhone because it is a private company,” Fung explained, adding that we cannot trust Chinese companies who would introduce malware into the 5G network if the CCP asked them to.

Fung also spoke in detail about China’s one country, two systems policy and the CCP’s broken promise: its decision to maintain control over Hong Kong’s government instead of allowing universal suffrage, which Fung asserts was promised in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. He described what he called an ongoing humanitarian crisis and a system of police brutality, lengthy prison sentences, sexual assault, and white terror––attacks on pro-democracy activists.

The situation in Tibet was discussed by Sherap Therchin, executive director of the Canada-Tibet Committee, who explained it has been 70 years since China illegally invaded Tibet, and the Western world seems to have forgotten about it. He described the CCP’s reflexive control strategy: how they have been feeding manufactured information about Tibet to target groups so consistently that the Western world now believes their narrative that Tibet was historically part of China.

Therchin continued to explain that in the Western world’s eyes, control over Tibet is now an internal issue––a problem for China to deal with without Western influence.

Finally, Dilmurat Mahmut, a Ph.D. candidate at McGill University’s Faculty of Education, talked about the Uyghur re-education camps in place since 2017. According to documents obtained through an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, an estimated 1 million Uyghur Muslims are detained in these camps, but Mahmut said these numbers could be as high as 3 million. He explained the history of the region of Xinjiang, originally East Turkistan, and the CCP’s labeling of all Turkic Muslims in the region as potential terrorists or pre-criminals.

Mahmut described the conditions in what the CCP calls vocational training centres, and explained that Uyghur children are being forcibly detained and sent to state-run orphanages where they are forbidden from learning the Uyghur language and, instead, only learn the Chinese culture—he called this cultural genocide. Mahmut finished his presentation with a warning from Roth on the dangers of not challenging Chinese human rights abuses and worldwide interference.

Syndicated via the Canadian University Press from The Concordian.

Trudeau outlines plan to pass trade deal

After the new North American free trade deal approved by U.S. Senate, the Canadian government plans to ratify the deal next week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke Tuesday in a news conference after a three-day cabinet retreat in Winnipeg, saying that it’s the government’s utmost priority to push forward with the Canadian-U.S.-Mexico agreement, known domestically as CUSMA, as millions of jobs depend on the new trade pact.

“On Monday, we will present a ways and means motion, and on Wednesday we will table legislations to ratify the deal,” said Trudeau, describing what will take place next week.

In order for the Liberals to pass this legislation in a minority government, they will neeed the support of another party in the House of Commons. Trudeau had expressed is hopes that all parties will negotiate and cone on ratification together.

“What we are doing is reminding everyone in the House and across the country of how important it is to secure the most important trading relationship for future generations.”

CUSMA has been on the top of the list of government priorities that were discussed during the cabinet meetings in Winnipeg.

The cabinet ministers also listened to expert guest speakers, who discussed other important matters including the fight against climate change, the current state of the country’s economy and pressing global affairs, among other critical matters facing the new minority government.

The trade deal, a result of a year of sometimes rocky negotiations with with the Trump administration, has been passed in the U.S. Senate and is awaiting the president’s signature. It has also been approved in Mexico.

Justin Trudeau said in Winnipeg “we are going to make sure we move forward in the right way and that means ratifying this new NAFTA as quickly as possible.”

Conservatives who are the main opposition, are generally supportive of the deal, but have vowed to grill the Liberals over its specifics when the House of Commons resumes sitting on Monday.

Anti-abortion group loses club status at University of Ottawa


(CUP) — An anti-abortion group on campus has lost its club status after months of heated controversy and debate, blocking them from accessing resources and funding through the University of Ottawa Students’ Union, or UOSU.

University of Ottawa Students for Life UOSFL first received preliminary club status back in October 2019 from Campus Vibez uOttawa, the body that coordinates clubs under the UOSU. The school’s former student government, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), had previously stripped UOSFL of its club status in 2017.  

Anger and backlash from students quickly followed and the status of the club was called into question a few weeks later when a petition with 500 signatures was sent to the undergraduate student union calling for its removal. 

In a series of meetings in October and November 2019, the UOSU adopted a pro-choice stance on abortion and then amended its club code to block any group that advocates against access to legal abortion from union funding. A General Assembly was held in early December where students could vote on the club status of UOSFL, but the meeting failed to reach quorum and became a town hall discussion instead. 

The decision on the club status of UOSFL was then moved to a meeting of the UOSU’s student life committee, where representatives from UOSFL and pro-choice supporters who launched the petition against the club were invited to attend and voice their arguments. The meeting was held on Dec. 20, with the committee eventually voting to remove the club status of UOSFL, which was announced earlier this month. 

UOSFL has the option of challenging the committee’s decision at the union’s upcoming board meeting this Sunday. Under the current ruling, the group can still remain active on campus but does not have access to funds, promotion, or room rentals through the UOSU.

Bridget Dueck, administrator of the Defenders of Our Campus pro-choice group, and Garfilia Milousis, co-president of UOSFL, attended the student life committee meeting. Both said they have experienced harassment and threats in the midst of the debate over UOSFL’s status. 

Dueck said a delayed decision from the UOSU has caused her unneeded stress and anxiety. She said she expects there will be an appeal by the UOSFL and encouraged students to attend the appeal meeting to voice their concerns. 

“I’ve played a more active role and spoke out more, but it’s really a group,” said Dueck. “This whole movement is kind of an organism of its own. It’s not just one person that’s spearheading the movement anymore. It’s more of a group of students that are all working together.”

Dueck said that along with the resources official UOSU clubs receive, it’s also about the title that comes with it. 

“It is a monumental privilege that not every group is going to be eligible for,” said Dueck. ”That title carries a lot of weight to the students and, to me, because they are recognized, they carry around the community, they represent the community.” 

Milousis said the UOSU’s process has been much more transparent than the previous decision from the school’s former undergraduate student union, the SFUO, but said that flaws still exist in the new system. 

Both Milousis and Dueck agreed that the final meeting held on Dec. 20 and the General Assembly on Dec. 7 were unfair to students who were studying for finals and headed home for the holidays. Milousis called it a learning experience for the UOSU, and the union says it will no longer allow meetings to happen in the middle of exam season. 

Other student unions across the country have also taken pro-choice stances and blocked anti-abortion clubs from their funding or resources, but Milousis argued that while principals and examples of other cases may be referred to, they should not be used to influence a decision as the circumstances and details may vary. 

“What I would say is different from those cases and the situation at the U of O is recently the Ontario government has put forward a free speech policy that’s supposed to regulate universities and require them to uphold free speech on campus,” said Milousis. 

While Milousis commends the student union for listening to both sides of the arguments, she said she believes there was bias in the decision from the start, since the UOSU took a pro-choice stance on abortion at an October 2019 board meeting. 

Milousis said she thinks the decision on her club’s status was made even before the General Assembly in December took place. 

“By nature of the UOSU taking the pro-choice stance, they’ve already positioned themselves as closer to (the pro-choice) side,” she said. “So not only do I have to address the concerns, but I somehow have to win them over.” 

Milousis and Dueck said members of their groups have not engaged in harassment online, but both reported received threats from anonymous and third-party sources. 

“I’ve had a number of death threats,” said Milousis.

“I have experienced harassment from fake profiles online,” said Dueck, “I had a message from a profile that felt very threatening, saying that I was going to burn in hell. I don’t want that on campus.” 

The UOSU’s next board meeting is scheduled for Sunday at 12 p.m. in the Tabaret Hall Senate Chamber, where UOSFL has the option of appealing the student life committee’s decision.

Families impacted by Flight PS752 to receive $25K

Canadian families of those that died on Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752 earlier this month will receive $25,000 in financial compensation from the federal government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.

Ottawa will supply the funds for the loved ones 57 Canadians left behind when the Boeing passenger jet crashed outside Tehran on Jan. 8 “to assist with their immediate needs, such as funeral arrangements and travel.”

Ahead of the announcement, Trudeau had met with the country’s Incident Response Group over how to respond to the crash and regarding an ongoing international investigation into the incident, caused by an Iran-launched surface-to-air missile.

Humber College held two community gatherings on Thursday over the victims. Many of those killed among the 167 were involved in Canadian academia, including several post-secondary students from Ontario. No Humber students or faculty were onboard, according to the college.

Sussex royals to split time between UK, Canada

Following crisis talks in Sandringham on Monday, Queen Elizabeth said she gave her blessing for Prince Harry and his wife Meghan to embark on a more independent future, announcing that the Sussex royals will split their time between Canada and the United Kingdom.

“Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family,” the queen said.

The Sussex couple made a shock announcement last Wednesday that they would be stepping back from royal duties and spend more time in North America. Harry and Meghan spent six weeks in Vancouver at the end of 2019.

Iran admits it shot down Flight PS752

After repeatedly denying Canadian and allied accusations that it shot down Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752, Iran announced on Saturday morning local time that it had “unintentionally” shot down the passenger jet in a move that killed all 176 aboard, including 57 Canadians, claiming it mistook the Boeing 737 aircraft for a “hostile target”.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Thursday that Canada had gathered intelligence from multiple sources that indicated the “plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile”, a move he said “may well have been intentional”. Trudeau’s assertion followed several media reports earlier in the day that pointed to the United States taking the same position.

After Iran’s admission, Trudeau on Saturday morning said “we will continue working with our partners around the world to ensure a complete and thorough investigations, and the Canadian governments expects full co-operation from Iranian authorities”.

Because Canada does not have formal diplomatic ties to Iran, Ottawa has experienced some struggles in offering consular assistance to families of the 57 Canadian victims, a number that has dropped from the previously reported 63 after Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne updated the total on Saturday.

The plane was shot down early on Wednesday morning just hours after Iran launched ballistic missiles at military bases in Iraq that housed U.S. forces in retaliation for Washington’s strikes near Baghdad that killed Iran’s top commander Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani. No Western troops were harmed in Tehran’s attack, a move that was reportedly intentional.

A statement from Tehran carried by state-run media said Flight PS752 was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned towards a “sensitive military centre” of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, The Associated Press reported on Saturday. Iran’s military was at its “highest level of readiness” the statement read, amid heightened tensions with Washington.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif blamed “US adventurism” for the incident, according to a translation on Twitter. Zarif, however, offered “profound regrets, apologies and condolences” to those impacted while President Hassan Rouhani stated “Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement that the investigation should continue and this responsible should be brought to justice, demanded Iran compensate victims’ families and requested formal apologies. Tehran did say on Saturday that those behind the attack would be prosecuted.

Of the 167 that died, 57 were Canadian but over 100 had Canada as their final destination, Global Affairs Canada said earlier this week. The aircraft was headed for Kiev and also carried citizens of Iran, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Many of the Canadians who were killed hailed from the academic community, with nearly two dozen universities and colleges impacted. Humber College told The Avro Post on Friday that it was unaware of any ties to the flight.

No Humber students, faculty onboard Iran plane crash

A Humber College spokesperson confirmed to The Avro Post on Thursday that there were no students or faculty “as far as we know” on board Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752 that crashed in Iran and killed all onboard.

“As far as we know, none of the individuals involved in the crash are Humber students or faculty,” media spokesman Andrew Leopold said in response to an inquiry from The Post.

Many of those onboard the Boeing 737-800 passenger jet were Canadian students and faculty from across Toronto and the country. All 176 passengers were killed.

Shortly after Leopold’s response to The Avro Post’s inquiry, Humber published a public statement from President Chris Whitaker saying “our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to the families, friends and colleagues of the individuals who died in the crash.”

Whitaker’s statement noted that Ontario post-secondary students featured prominently among those killed in the crash on Wednesday morning Iran time.

“Our province’s postsecondary institutions are shaped by teachers and learners who foster global citizenship and bring the world closer together through education and scholarship,” Humber’s president wrote.

“This tragic loss is felt by all members of the college community.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with other Western allies, said on Thursday that the crash appeared to have been caused by an Iran-launched anti-aircraft missile that was sent amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the United States.

Students and faculty from several universities and colleges, including from Ryerson University, George Brown College and the University of Guelph, were killed in the crash.

Iran mistakenly took out Ukraine aircraft, officials say

Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752, that crashed outside the Iranian capital killing all 176 people onboard including 63 Canadians, was struck by an anti-aircraft missile system launched mistakenly by Iran, multiple news reports said on Thursday.

The Boeing 737-800, a plane model with a reliable record according to experts featured on news networks, took off from Tehran Khomeini International Airport en route to Kiev, Ukraine and stopped transmitting data just minutes after takeoff. It followed Iran missile strikes targeting U.S. forces.

The aircraft is believed to have been struck by a Russia-built Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile system known by Western allies as Gauntlet, a Pentagon source, a senior U.S. intelligence official and an Iraqi intelligence agent told Newsweek.

The Pentagon’s assessment is that it was an accidental strike.

CBC reported early on Thursday afternoon that United States intelligence officials informed Ottawa about the development.

A U.S. official said U.S. satellites had detected the launch of two missiles shortly before the plane crashed, followed by an explosion, CBC reported.

Ukraine’s top security official said later that its passenger airliner may have been downed by a Russian-made missile, confirming very early reports that there were pieces of such a Tor air defence projectile among the debris.

Other U.S. reports indicate that the plane was not shot down.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will address reporters at 2 p.m.

Canadian authorities have requested immediate access to the crash site outside Tehran.

Students prominent amongst dead in Iran plane crash

Post-secondary students and professors from across the country have featured prominently amongst those killed when Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 crashed just minutes after taking off from the main airport in Iran’s capital.

University of Alberta professors Mojgan Daneshmand and her husband Dr. Pedram Mousavi, along with their daughters Daria and Dorina, have been confirmed among the dead. They were on the flight with other Edmonton residents, CBC reports.

The University of Guelph said in a statement that the community is mourning the deaths of two PhD students: Ghanimat Azhdari and Milad Ghasemi Ariani.

Carleton University says a PhD student was among the dead in the Tehran-area plane crash. CTV

The school says Fareed Arasteh was studying biology.

A family member confirms he was just married in Iran on Sunday and was on his way back to Canada to continue his studies. CTV,ca

McMaster universtity students Iman Aghabali and Mehdi Eshaghian, both engineering students at the McMaster’s automotive resource centre, were also among the dead. The McMaster Iranian Graduate Student Society is planning to host a vigil for these two engineering students.

Mehdi Eshaghian and Iman Aghabali, both PhD students in the engineering at McMaster University are believed to have been on board the deadly Ukrainian International Airlines plane that crashed in Iran. (LinkedIn)

Four U of T students have also been identified as victims of the crash.  

Mojtaba Abbasnezhad, a first-year international PhD student at U of T, was among those killed.

Pooya Poolad told CBC News that Abbasnezhad, his close friend and classmate, was an Iranian citizen and was living in Toronto while studying electrical engineering.

Poolad was supposed to be on the trip to Iran with his friend but had to cancel. He says he was in Toronto texting with Abbasnezhad, who also went by Soroush, at the airport before his flight home. 

Mohammad Salehe, Zeynab Asadi-Lari and Mohammad Hossein Asadi-Lari were also among those killed. All were studying at U of T. 

The university issued a statement saying it was deeply saddened to see its students’ names on the plane’s manifest, but that it hasn’t been able to confirm they were killed.

The university’s three campuses are united in mourning the loss of the victims and offering sympathy and condolences to their families and friends,” it said, noting it would provide more information in the coming days.

Ottawa shooting causes several injuries

Three people are in hospital following a shooting on Wednesday morning in Ottawa in a location a kilometre south of Parliament and police said that it is not considered an “active” incident after an earlier warning of an “active shooter” from the parliament security service.

Emergency services were called at 7:35 a.m. to the area of Gilmour and Kent streets. Ottawa Police said at 7:52 a.m. that police were responding to a shooting in the 400 block of Gilmour St. with many injuries reported.

The Parliament of Canada Protective Service then gave a “situation advisory” at 8:06 a.m. saying the “shooter is still at large” but that no further action was required.

The three individuals taken to hospital had serious injuries, paramedics told local reporters. No further information on their age and genders were not immediately available.

Police have asked the public to avoid the area.

63 Canadians dead in Iran plane crash

Ukraine’s foreign minister said on Wednesday morning that 63 Canadians are among those killed when a passenger plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Iran’s capital, with the Ukrainian Embassy backing away from an initial conclusion that the incident was an accident.

Debris from the wreckage of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 were scattered around the farmland outside Tehran, with all 167 passengers and nine crew aboard killed. The flight was headed to Kiev.

Though early comments from Ukraine suggested that the crash could have been accidental, a further statement from its embassy said those comments were not official, omitting the mention of mechanical failure as the cause in the latest update.

The Ukrainian airline company said on Wednesday that the Boeing 737-800 that crashed was one of the best aircraft in its fleet and that the pilots were very experienced. Its last inspection was two days prior to the crash, officials said at a press conference in Kiev.

Airline industry expert John Cox told CBC News that it was important to note that the plane model has a reliable track record. It is also reportedly the airline’s first crash since its founding in 1992.

Both black boxes have been found in the wreckage of the crash and could reveal more details behind what occurred, however, the Iranian government said it will not give the records to Boeing.

Canada’s foreign affairs minister gave the government’s first formal response Wednesday morning, calling the crash “tragic news”. Minister François-Philippe Champagne added in his tweet that he has been in contact with the Ukrainian government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau followed up several hours later with an official statement giving his condolences to the families of those on board PS752 and vowing to enforce a “thorough investigation”.

Ukrainian, Iranian, Swedish, British, Afghan and German nationals were also on board the aircraft, Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Vadym Prystaiko said. President Volodymyr Zelensky extended condolences to those impacted by the deaths.

Ukraine International Airlines has halted flights to Iran.

Two Canadian students were among the dead, according to Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency. Marzieh Foroutan was a student at the University of Waterloo and Delaram Dadashnejad studied in British Columbia, according to images of their ID cards posted to social media.

CBC also reported that married professors from the University of Alberta and their two daughters were also killed in the crash, among 27 other residents of Edmonton believed to be on board.

The Avro Post has reached out for comment from the University of Waterloo.

Iran fires missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq

The plane crash came in the hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases that house United States military personnel in the latest tit-for-tat action following a U.S. airstrike that killed Iran’s top commander Qasem Soleimani Friday last week.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, addressing a gathering of Iranians chanting “Death to America”, said the Wednesday morning airstrikes were a “slap on the face” of the United States and U.S. troops should leave the region, reported Reuters news agency.

Tehran’s foreign minister made it clear that the strikes were “proportionate measures” in an act of self-defence just hours after Soleimani’s funeral in Iran and that the country did not seek to escalate the confrontation with Washington.

Though officials were quick to assure that there were no casualties, Canadian troops may have been at one of the two bases targeted by Iranian ballistic missiles early on Wednesday local time.

An airbase in Erbil has been the hub of Canadian military operations against so-called Islamic State for several years now as part of the United States-led operation IMPACT.

NATO confirmed that there were no casualties from Iran’s strikes among their forces serving with the alliance in Iraq. The alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned the attack and called for Tehran to refrain from further violence.

U.S. President Donald Trump said he would be making a statement on Wednesday morning in response to the overnight Iranian strikes.

Canadian troops out

Canada, who plays both a role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition presence in Iraq, started a withdraw of “some of our people” to Kuwait, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance said on Tuesday.

It came after the Iraqi parliament and prime minister has called for Western militaries to leave the country and as other Western allies carry out a similar partial withdraw.

Western troops in Iraq have been on high alert since the weekend killing of a top Iranian military general by a U.S. drone, the Canadian Press reported.

Vance says the decision to withdraw an unspecified number of troops was made alongside NATO and Canada’s allies to ensure their safety and security.

Weinstein charged with rape, sexual assault

A Los Angeles district attorney on Monday charged disgraced media mogul Harvey Weinstein with raping a woman and sexually assaulting another in separate incidents over a two-day period in 2013.

If Weinstein is convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 28 years in prison.

“We believe the evidence will show that the defendant used his power and influence to gain access to his victims and then commit violent crimes against them,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement, reported Reuters.

It comes the same day that Weinstein is on trial for a separate but similar case in New York.

Trump impeached by U.S. House

The U.S. House of Representatives late on Wednesday impeached Republican President Donald Trump with a vote largely along party lines, passing at two articles of impeachment put forward by the majority Democrats claiming abuse of power and obstruction of justice, handing the fate of the president over to a trial in the GOP-held Senate.

The ballots marked by lawmakers in the House came after a day of debate that saw Democrats calling Trump a threat to democracy as Republicans fought back, claiming the proceedings were a partisan coup with Rep. Kevin McCarthy calling it the “least credible impeachment in American history.”

Democrats in the House, led by Nancy Pelosi, accuse the 73-year-old president of abusing his power by asking Ukraine to investigate former Vice President and current presidential hopeful Joe Biden in return for military aid. Trump is also charged with obstructing congressional probes by directing officials and departments to ignore legal summons.

Impeachment is an extraordinary check on presidential power written into the United States Constitution by the founders that allows for the removal of presidents by Congress over the vague “high crimes and misdemeanours” — and Trump is the third president to be impeached after Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.

As the House made history, Trump, who denies any wrongdoing, rallied supporters from Battle Creek, Michigan. 

Article One was supported by 230 Democrats while two Democrats voted against the article, which accuses Trump of abuse of power over his dealings with Ukraine. Democrats lost one ballot when voting in favour of Article Two, which alleges abuse of power.

Sole Independent Justin Amash, who left the Republican Party earlier this year, voted with Democrats on both articles. None of the 195 Republicans in the House supported the articles, as expected by political analysts, while Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard voted only “present”.

UK Tories set to win majority, confirming Brexit

The future of Brexit was practically confirmed as key exit polls from British broadcasters on Thursday showed that the United Kingdom voted in a Conservative Party majority government under Prime Minister Boris Johnson, decimating liberal parties and handing London a clear mandate to depart the European Union.

The Tories have been projected to win 368 ridings, giving Johnson a majority of 86 seats, a comfortable lead in the 650-seat parliament that will allow his government to pass legislation with ease, including leaving the EU by Jan. 31.

The exit polls are considered reliable and Johnson’s win is outside the margin of error. The prime minister called the snap election, the first during the December holiday season in nearly a century, so that he could solidify political support for the Brexit movement. 

The exit poll was produced by three broadcasters – the BBC, ITV and Sky – who teamed up to jointly produce similar surveys in the last three elections, held in 2010, 2015 and 2017. They predicted the correct election outcome with the exception of 2015, when 14 seats gave the Tories a majority instead of a hung parliament.

Quebec’s religious symbols ban survives ruling

Quebec’s contentious law banning religious symbols for public employees survived a key ruling on Thursday by the province’s Court of Appeal, however, it is not the final say on Bill 21 as more legal challenges await.

The court refused a motion by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the National Council of Canadian Muslims to suspend the law. The CCLA and NCCM argued the law was outside Quebec’s jurisdiction, was vague and violated rights guaranteed in the constitution. 

Quebec’s government claims the law aims to preserve secularism in the Francophone-dominated province. It specifically bans civil workers such as teachers and government service workers from wearing crosses, hijabs and other religious attire while working.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the bill claiming discrimination and that it is unconstitutional. Thursday’s 2-1 decision does not legally impact four separate lawsuits filed on a similar basis.

New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh came under fire during the federal election campaign for refusing to say he would intervene on the legislation. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was not certain either, and said his government “might” intervene.

All three of the justices wrote in their decision that the law is causing “irreparable harm” to those impacted, particularly women, CBC reported.


Greta Thunberg Time Person of the Year

Climate activist Greta Thunberg was announced as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019 on Wednesday after gaining global fame for her environmental advocacy and high-level meetings with premiers from around the world.

At age 16, Thunberg is the youngest ever to be bestowed with the prestigious title. Time’s editor-in-chief told NBC’s Today show that the Swede “became the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet this year”.

Thunberg launched her advocacy alone and without fame when she protested with a sign reading “school strike for the climate” outside the Swedish parliament during school hours on Fridays at the age of 15.

Her efforts grew into a movement that spread across Europe and quickly the world as well under the “Fridays For Future” movement. Millions in 150 countries were stirred to action and still now protests continue globally and in Canadian cities.

Notably, Thunberg arrived in New York earlier this year by boat and addressed the United Nations General Assembly, chastising world leaders for inaction on climate change and declaring “how dare you”.

Thunberg is currently attending a U.N. climate change summit in Spain’s Madrid where world leaders are discussing the implementation of the 2015 Paris climate accords. Canada is a signatory on the agreement but Thunberg has been critical of Ottawa over fossil fuels.

Province appealing to restore Student Choice Initiative

The provincial government under the Progressive Conservatives is applying for leave to file an appeal against a ruling from the Divisional Court of Ontario that overturned the Student Choice Initiative.

A leave for appeal is a procedural measure that must be taken before an appeal is heard by the Court. Thus, the ruling of the Court stands and the SCI continues to be deemed unlawful.

The initiative, known as the SCI, was introduced earlier this year and came into play this fall semester. It allowed students to opt-out of paying certain “non-essential” ancillary fees that fund student unions, campus publication and other post-secondary organizations across the province.

The mandate came from the university and colleges ministry and was not passed through Queen’s Park. PC Party officials insisted to The Avro Post that it allowed for freedom of choice, allowing students to pay only for services that they felt was worth their financial support.

In response, the provincial division of the Canadian Federation of Students and York University’s student union filed a legal challenge against the SCI, stating that they failed to consult with students and should not have interfered with the autonomy of student unions.

Judges ruled unanimously in November to throw out the SCI, an unexpected victory for student allies. They found that the government has “no legal power to control the universities even if it wished to”.

A brief filed by the province on Monday evening states that the ruling restricts the authority to attach conditions to the funding given to public colleges and universities, according to reports by student newspapers.

“Attaching conditions to government grants in no way interferes with university autonomy and independence,” the brief reads, adding that post-secondary institutions “remain free” to accept taxpayer dollars, subject to the conditions that come along with the funding.

Over $5 billion comes from provincial coffers to the province’s 21 publicly assisted universities and 24 funded colleges. The Progressive Conservatives argue that the introducing optional student fees is an attempt to allow students to save more financially.

The court ruling, however, pointed out that the optional ancillary fees are a small portion of what students pay in tuition and other fees. For students at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber, there was only a charge of $55.95 compared to hundreds in overall fees.

The Winter 2020 semester starts in January and fees are due shortly. Some campuses are currently considering their legal options for removing the opt-out option for ancillary fees, The Globe and Mail reported.

IGNITE did not participate in the lawsuit against the province and did not offer support. The student union also refused to respond to the November ruling against the SCI until the government gave a statement.

Democrats unveil articles of impeachment against Trump

U.S. Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Tuesday, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress as part of a major step forward in a process that is likely to end in a dramatic trial in the Republican-run Senate.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the impeachment charges next week, according to congressional reporters. With a Democrat majority, the House is nearly certain to impeach Trump, which acts as an indictment for the crimes outlined in the articles.

The process will then move to a trial in the Senate where Trump will either be acquitted or removed from office in a two-thirds majority. GOP senators have shown little appetite to remove Trump from office but with public support for such a move growing, there could be surprises ahead.

Trump is the third president in U.S. history to face impeachment.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Chairmen Jerrold Nadler and Adam Schiff gave a brief press conference announcing the two articles of impeachment that, though expected was historic, as charges of “high crimes and misdemeanours” were laid against the U.S. president.

The impeachment charges stem from an investigation launched on Sept. 24 that probed allegations that Trump carried out a so-called “quid pro quo” arrangement with Ukraine during which he withheld military aid until Kiev would investigate political rival and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Republicans insist that the Democrat-led effort is an attempt to undo the results of the 2016 federal election as part of a so-called “witch hunt” against Trump. The president denies any wrongdoing in the Ukraine case as well as in the special counsel probe that dominated the beginning of his presidency.

An hour later, Pelosi stood before reporters for a second time to announce that Democrats had reached a revised North American free trade agreement deal in what allies of the president view as a victory, fulfilling a policy goal of the Trump administration.

‘Endangered the U.S. Constituition’

In a statement to reporters, House Judiciary Committee Chairman and point man for the impeachment inquiry Jerrold Nadler said that the Democrats were forced to take action due to Trump endangering the U.S. Constitution, undermining the next election and putting national security at jeopardy.

“No one, not even the president, is above the law,” Nadler said, flanked by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other chairpersons involved in the impeachment probe, adding that “our elections are a cornerstone of democracy”.

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