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.

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.


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.

High school teachers launch day-long strike

The union representing public high school teachers launched a one-day strike on Wednesday morning after a deadline for a deal was missed, the first strike in 22 years by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation.

This means that classes are cancelled at public and Catholic high schools for the day. The bargaining team for the union had remained in their caucus room since 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning but there was no provincial representation, OSSTF said.

Administrations, unions give varied response to SCI ruling

On Nov. 21, the Ontario Divisional Court deemed the Ford government’s Student Choice Initiative unlawful and the reaction has varied from sending the optional fees website offline to waiting on the Ford government’s response.

On Monday, Nov. 25, the University of Toronto responded by being the first university in Ontario to email its students informing them that they would be freezing the “incidental fees portal” while they took stock.

In an email to students from Vice-Provost Sandy Welsh, University of Toronto students were informed that the school was evaluating the “technical impact” of the court’s decision, and that there would be updates to come.

In a graphic posted on their social media, Sheridan College said “Sheridan is monitoring the situation to see what course of action the government chooses to take. Until we receive a new directive, we’ll continue under the current one, which allows students to opt-out of paying certain fees.”

Few other post-secondary institutions have posted a public update about the new evolution in the implementation of the province of Ontario’s “Tuition Fee Framework and Ancillary Fee Guidelines” document. [hyperlink:]

The University of Guelph has not released a statement yet, but administration has advised its student union, the Central Student Association, that large institutions can take time to implement legal decisions, and that figuring out mechanics with which to reverse the ”Student Choice Initiative” will take some time. 

While the government of Ontario has not yet commented on the releases, there is speculation that they are considering an appeal. In a statement on Friday November 22nd, spokesperson Clara Bryne wrote, “The Ministry of Colleges and Universities is currently reviewing the decision released yesterday. We will have more to say on this at a later date.”

Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario National Executive Representative, and the CFS representative in the legal proceedings, Kayla Weiler, said “we haven’t had any confirmation if there will be an appeal or not, and […] we’re hoping the government will respect the unanimous decision of the panel of judges and respect student democracy”

In its reasons, the Divisional Court said, “The University Guidelines [SCI] … are beyond the scope of the crown’s prerogative power over spending because they are contrary to the statutory autonomy conferred on universities by statute.”

Referring specifically to section seven of the Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Act wherein governments are prevented from interfering with the “normal activities” of student governing bodies – specifically the court ruled that “normal activities” the government is precluded from includes; “reducing or eliminating the funding used by student associations.”

Reporting by Jack Fisher; 
Editing by Eli Ridder.

Ontario high school teachers vote for strike

Ontario high school teachers voted with a strong majority in favour of strike action on Monday as tensions build between the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation and the province.

Teachers and occasional teachers voted 95.5 per cent in favour of strike action, while education workers voted 92 per cent in favour, according to a release by the OSSTF, which is already in a legal strike position.

Outside of the OSSLT, elementary teachers are working to launch a “work-to-rule” campaign on Nov. 26 to target administrators and the ministry but avoid an impact on the classroom. Beyond that, negotiations are continuing between Ontario and French teachers.

Negotiations between the government of Ontario and the union started over the summer break as Premier Doug Ford and his ruling Progressive Conservatives made moves to increase class sizes while cutting raises for public sector workers for three years.

In response to the threat of a strike for school support workers in October, Humber College put out an email to students acknowledging that there could be an impact for those enrolled who have children.

There has not been such a statement yet from the college, however, the OSSTF would have to give five days notice before actually going on strike. If there is a notice, parents would have at least five days to prepare.

Churchill: Lest we forget 2019


Kris Churchill
Columnist, The Avro Post

Our Opinion Policy.

During the first couple of weeks in November, something truly stoic happens. As a country, we come together to pay our respects to the brave men and women of the Canadian Army. Something that is rightfully due for the lives taking in service to our great nation.

For the past few years, we have seen many attempts to challenge what the red poppy is meant to represent. One thing to keep in mind is that the white poppy is not to be in conflict with its counter part, the red poppy, which represented the memory of those who we lost.

The white poppy first made its appearance in England, worn by the women of the Women’s Cooperative Group back in the 1930s. A new alliance named The Peace Pledge Union adopted the white poppy and used it to represent the complete abrogation of war entirely.

Upwards of 80,000 of them were distributed at an alternative memorial day service held at London’s Regent’s park in 1938.

We now start to delve into the controversy we find ourselves in today.

There seems to be an increase in mis-representation of what the poppy was then, and now, meant to stand for. It is meant to pay respects to those that have fallen in the line of duty and to those willing to put their foot forward to defend those that can’t defend themselves.

There has been a new trend that is circulating the web, which too is a poppy. However, it is a poppy that for one doesn’t actually seem to exist–at least in large number and in circulation – the rainbow poppy. Which from my understanding is to represent the LGBTQ members of the military.

While the sentiment was not meant to incite an uproar, it has done just that. Being a member of the LGBTQ community myself, I see what the message was intended to be. With this in mind, the red poppy never discriminated against the LGBTQ members of the military; it is simply saying if you served you will get the respect due.

The only thing left to say to all those that fought and died for us, and are fighting for us today is thank you for your sacrifice.

We will never forget.

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