SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The role of the Muslim community in Canada in aborting a terror plot to attack a transcontinental passenger train is inviting a shower of praise from government officials and politician for their commitment to protecting their country.
“I’d like to begin by thanking law enforcement officials, as well as a brave religious leader from the Toronto Muslim community who, as we learned yesterday, helped to prevent a potentially devastating attack on Canadian soil,” Tom Mulcair, leader of the opposition New Democratic Party, told parliament, reported National Post.
Canadian police arrested two people of immigrant background on Monday on alleged plot to attack on a rail line between Toronto and New York in the United States.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper thanked the Muslim community for their role in helping the police to abort the terror plot.
“I also want to thank the co-operation we’ve received from our American authorities, from the private sector and from Canada’s Muslim community,” he said.
The two suspects, Raed Jaser of Toronto and Chiheb Esseghaier of Montreal, were arrested after a tip-off from the Muslim community on their plans to attack the rail line.
“Canadian Muslims have – and will continue to – unequivocally denounce this or any other alleged terror plots by individuals who distort and pervert our faith to further their own political goals or personal agendas,” Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, told a press conference on Parliament Hill cited by The Montreal Gazette.
“Our message to anyone who espouses this ideology of violence is this: you have nothing to do with our faith.”
He said that the role of the Muslim community in aborting the plot shows their loyalty to their country.
"This is a clear demonstration that Canadian Muslims, whose welfare is tied to that of our fellow citizens, are in fact partners for peace," Gardee said.
"We think it's an important thing to acknowledge the role that Muslims are playing and regularly play in outreach work. We have regular contact with security agencies,” he said.
He urged the public not to judge the whole Muslim community through the acts of some individuals.
“We fully trust that our fellow citizens will see this for what it is: the alleged criminal and misguided actions of a few who do not reflect or represent Canadian Muslim communities.”
Community leaders said that Canadian Muslims have been in the frontline in defending their own country.
“Since 9/11 the Muslim community has been working very closely with government agencies, including the RCMP and police forces,” Yusuf Badat, an imam and director of religious affairs for the Islamic Foundation of Toronto, told CBC News.
“We share the same concerns that Canadians share in the safety and the prosperity of our beautiful country,” he said.
After all, he added, “we are equally affected by any terrorism threats.”
Gardee agrees, saying the Muslim community was aware of the risks of radicalized youth.
"It's a concern that we take very seriously and it's something we're continuously working to address. Can more be done? More can always be done and that's why we're reaching out to security agencies," he said.
Imam Samy Metwally of the Ottawa Muslim Association reiterated that Islam is against doing harm to others.
“There is no justification in Islam to kill innocent people, like what happened in Boston, or to threaten people’s lives in any way like what we see here in Canada,” he said.
He appealed to all Canadians, including Muslims, to report any criminal activity to the police.
“It’s a religious duty from an Islamic perspective … to speak up against anything that might put people’s lives in danger.”
Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the Roman Catholic country.
A recent survey showed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian, and that they are more educated than the general population.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: On Islam
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Iran has strongly rejected a recent claim by the Canadian government over alleged links between the suspects in a foiled terrorist attack in Canada and Tehran.
Canada said on Monday that its police had arrested two ‘foreign nationals’ who were planning to derail a VIA passenger train traveling between Toronto and New York, claiming that the suspects had links to “al-Qaeda elements inside Iran.”
In his weekly press conference in Tehran on Tuesday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast rejected the unfounded allegation, saying, “Al-Qaeda’s mindset is by no means congruent with [the ideology of] the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Mehmanparast stated.
He also noted that Canada has even failed to provide any reliable evidence on the suspects claimed to have been detained in relation to the case.
The Iranian official said Tehran was opposed to any type of terrorist act that jeopardized the lives of people.
Mehmanparast dismissed Canada’s allegation as part of its Iranophobia campaign.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is the biggest victim of terrorism, but the extremist administration of Canada has put Iranophobia on its agenda over the recent years,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
Mehmanparast also slammed the West’s double standards in dealing with terrorism, calling on the Western countries, particularly Canada, to stop supporting terrorist activities in the world, specifically in Syria.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Canadian authorities say they have arrested and charged two men with an al Qaeda-linked plot to "carry out a terrorist attack" against a passenger train.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Monday named the two accused as Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, from the Montreal and Toronto areas respectively.
"The RCMP is alleging that Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser were conspiring to carry out an al-Qaeda-supported attack against a VIA passenger train," RCMP official James Malizia said.
"While the RCMP believed that these individuals had the capacity and intent to carry out these criminal acts, there was no imminent threat to the general public, rail employees, train passengers or infrastructure," the police said in a statement.
The police told a news conference the suspects "were receiving support from al-Qaeda elements located in Iran" but added "there's no indication that these attacks were state-sponsored".
The pair, who are not Canadian citizens, were expected to appear in court in Toronto on Tuesday for a bail hearing.
No Boston links
Charges include conspiring to carry out an attack and conspiring in association with a terrorist group to murder individuals.
Officials in Washington and Toronto said there were no connections to last week's bombings at the marathon in Boston.
Canadian police and intelligence agencies said the operation to foil the plot was conducted in co-ordination with the US Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The arrests raised questions about Iran's relationship with al-Qaeda.
Last autumn, the US administration offered up to $12m in rewards for information leading to the capture of two al-Qaeda leaders based in Iran.
The State Department described them as key facilitators in sending fighters to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for the Iranian mission to the United Nations, said the group was not operating in Iran.
"Iran's position against this group is very clear and well known. [Al-Qaeda] has no possibility to do any activity inside Iran or conduct any operation abroad from Iran's territory,'' Miryousefi said in a statement emailed to the Associated Press late on Monday. "We reject strongly and categorically any connection to this story."
A spokeswoman for the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique near Montreal confirmed that Esseghaier was a doctoral student at the research institute and that he had been arrested.
Julie Martineau, the school's director of communications, said Esseghaier arrived at the school in 2010 and was about midway through his degree.
"He is doing a PhD in the field of energy and materials sciences," she told Reuters.
In 2006, Canadian authorities arrested at least 18 suspects reportedly linked to a terror plot, involving attacks on the parliament and a major broadcast company.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –The decision to withdraw from the United Nations Convention on Desertification is the latest but regrettably likely not the last move to distance Canada from the world body. There is a disappearing character to contemporary Canadian multilateral diplomacy. Like Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire cat, soon all that may remain of our country at the UN is a grin or, more accurately, a scowl.
Following the Harper government’s failure in 2010 to win a Canadian seat on the UN Security Council, its disregard of the UN gave way to disdain. Ottawa’s rare appearances at the UN have tended to stress what it regards as Canada’s uniquely “principled” foreign policy, bringing to mind U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s characterization of Canadian foreign policy in the fifties as “the stern voice of the daughter of God,” and cementing Canada’s long-standing reputation as global mother-in-law.
Because of the links between drought, land degradation, desertification and climate change, withdrawal from the Desertification Convention comes with potentially significant costs. Ottawa’s decision reinforces the impression that it does not care about climate change.
Given that the government of Alberta as well as ministers and departments in Ottawa have been going to considerable effort and expense to argue in the U.S. that Canada does care, it is self-harming to hand America’s Keystone opponents a stick to beat the pipeline with.
Also, because the locus of most of the devastation arising from desertification is in Africa, walking away from a treaty whose creation was led by the Mulroney and Chrétien governments reinforces the impression that Ottawa no longer cares about Africa. It is an impression that this government also went to some trouble and expense to try to reverse. Further, because the worst destruction from desertification is happening in the Sahara region, abandoning the treaty sends a mixed signal about the security issues at stake in Mali and the Sahel, and about Canadian mining interests there as well.
There is a larger cost, too, to the UN. The UN is not perfect – it is currently failing the people of Syria, for example – but warts and all it is necessary, and its effectiveness is in our interests. It is the one organization that can convene the whole world (except, these days, Canada) under one roof to deliberate and, when member countries can agree, decide what to do on the major issues of the day (e.g., the Iranian nuclear program and North Korean sanctions).
Further, the member countries of the UN have spawned an extensive body of international law, treaties, norms, practices, innovations and institutions that help members manage most facets of interstate relations. All told, over 500 multilateral treaties have been concluded under UN auspices, making the organization the world’s central operating system, performing the functions accorded to it by its members and generating policy drivers such as the Millennium Development Goals.
None of this neutralizes the exercise of power in international relations but it does constrain and channel power, bringing greater order, predictability and progress to global affairs, and greater modernity, security and dignity to people’s lives.
Before this decade is over, China will overtake the United States as the biggest economy in the world and not long after that it will rival the U.S. as the most powerful country. Its role in global governance will expand apace. Now is the time, as Asian intellectual Kishore Mahbubani and others have observed, for Western countries to reinforce the instruments of global governance, especially the UN, inculcating values and imbedding Western interests into their fabric, the better to protect them later.
To put it bluntly, it is a major mistake to simply write off the institutions our parents and grandparents created, as if the current or next generation would have the wit, wisdom and will to do better. While Canada retreats to the United Nations sidelines, other countries, notably India, Brazil, Germany and Japan, seek larger roles in the organization.
The Desertification Convention is intended to be both preventative and restorative, entailing oversight and monitoring. Its cost to Canada is not large – less than some senators spend on travel, or Ottawa will pay to feed the pandas in Toronto.
If other United Nations members agree with Ottawa that the drought convention’s institutions spend too little of their funds on programing and too much on conference diplomacy, the constructive response is to build an alliance with them to fix the problem. Walking away, on the other hand, leaves just the Cheshire Cat’s scowl to protect Canadian interests.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)– The Harper government says it has reduced Canada's immigration backlog by 40 per cent.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says the total wait list at the end of 2012 was down to 616,271 from more than a million the year before.
Kenney says there would have been more than two million people stuck in the queue by 2015 had the government not taken steps to deal with the problem.
Those measures include a moratorium on applications from immigrant investors and entrepreneurs, as well as parents and grandparents of immigrants.
However, the government plans to resume accepting a set number of applications under the family reunification program early next year, Kenney said.
"We will re-open that program for a limited number of new applications based on the new criteria in January of 2014 -- I stress a limited number of new applications, to avoid an explosion of the backlog again," Kenney said.
Focus on start-ups, entrepreneurs
Next month, the federal government will also launch a new program aimed at luring start-up companies and entrepreneurs to Canada.
The government will grant a maximum of 2,750 visas a year for each of the five years of the pilot program. The program replaces two older immigration programs aimed at would-be business owners, which were put on hold after the government decided they weren't luring enough real business to Canada.
A big part of the backlog reduction came after the Conservative government's 2012 budget eliminated some 280,000 applications made before February 2008 by skilled workers and their dependents. However, the move is now being challenged in court.
Meanwhile, Kenney dismissed suggestions that simply accepting more immigrants would reduce the backlog.
He says doing so would still leave more than a million people in the queue by 2015.
"Increasing the immigration targets, increasing the number of people admitted, would not have been a solution to the large and growing backlogs and wait times," Kenney said.
"In fact, they would have continued to deteriorate without our government bringing in the action plan for faster immigration and controls on new applications."
The average time it takes for applications to be processed has also fallen, Kenney said.
"Behind every one of those numbers lies a human life, someone who has the hope and expectation of coming to Canada," Kenney said.
"We were doing wrong by them and wrong for Canada by making people wait for eight or nine years, and it would be even more wrong to force them to wait for 15 or 18 years, which is where we were headed in many of our immigration programs."
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Suzuki Canada Inc. (SCI) today announced in a press release that it will stop selling new automobiles after the 2014 model year. However, all of SCI’s warranties will be honoured. Moreover, automobile parts and service will continue to be provided to customers without interruption through SCI’s warranty and service dealer network.
SCI will realign its business operations to focus on the long-term growth of its Motorcycle, ATV & Marine division in Canada. The transition is expected to take at least 12 months.
South of the border, American Suzuki Motor Corporation (ASMC) made a similar announcement back in November 2012.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Joining millions of people around the world, Canadian Muslims have marked Earth Hour in Toronto with a candlelit dinner and conversation about climate change and the current state of the environment.
“Earth Hour is a global movement that unites individuals in protecting the environment,” Muaz Nasir, Founder of the Think Green Khutbah Campaign and Khaleafa.com, told OnIslam.net.
“The simple action of turning off the lights raises awareness of broader environmental issues that affect us now and have implications on future generations.”
The event, themed Lights OFF – Earth ON, was organized Saturday, March 23, by the up-and-coming civic engagement group, CivicMuslims, and the Muslim Students Association at the University of Toronto and held at the University of Toronto’s Multi-Faith Center.
It featured a showing of the popular short documentary, The Story of Stuff, and presentations by a number of environmental leaders in the Canadian Muslim community.
“To celebrate our organization’s first year we couldn’t have asked for a better event that brings this many people together to celebrate Earth Hour,” Mohamed Awad, Founder of CivicMuslims told OnIslam.net.
“We’re spending a candlelit evening together and enjoying dinner but at the same time we’re learning about environmental issues and coming together over this cause.”
Earth Hour is a worldwide event organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and held towards the end of March annually.
It aims to encourage households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour to raise awareness about the need to take action on climate change.
Earth Hour first took place in 2007 and many other cities around the world adopted the event in the following year.
This year, it is estimated that people in more than 7,000 cities and towns around the world turned off lights for an hour from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time.
Toronto’s electricity demand is estimated to have dropped 205 megawatts, or roughly seven percent during Earth Hour.
This is equivalent to removing about 92,000 homes off Toronto's electricity grid.
The evening’s program began with a showing of The Story of Stuff, a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of production and consumption patterns.
Following the documentary, there were a number of short responses by panelists, Dr. Hind Al-Abadleh, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Associate Director of the Center for Women in Science at Wilfrid Laurier University; Afeefa Karim, Assistant Director of The Regenesis Project; and Aasiya Hussain, Founder of Ecohesian Inc. and Site Coordinator of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup at Finch Meander in Rouge Park.
“A consumer-based society, our business as usual activities, are forcing the natural equilibrium to shift in one direction only and that is the direction of depletion and pollution and weakening the whole system from self renewal and self recovery,” said Dr. Hind in response to the documentary.
“In doing so, we’re compromising our health and well-being and also compromising our future generations to meet their needs.”
Afeefa Karim, Assistant Director of the Regenesis Project, asked the audience to be aware of the effects of a consumption based culture.
“One of the most dangerous aspects of consumerism is its ability to create, sustain and impose norms on every aspect of our lives, from norms of how we should dress to norms about how we should work or about how we should feel, norms of social interaction, spending lifestyle etc,” he said.
“Be sure that we remember that it is not the material things, like the actual cell phones or computers that we have that are good or bad, but it is the priority that we have and the role that we accord them that is problematic and we need to be very critical of that.
“The theme of this event was devoted to environmental and social impacts of consumerism and the panel touched upon the importance of re-evaluating our purchasing habits and taking into consideration the entire lifespan of these consumer goods,” said Nasir, the founder of the Think Green Khutbah Campaign.
“There are several references in the Quran that warn us against waste and consuming in excess.
The annual Green Khutbah Campaign was also launched at Saturday’s evening event.
“The goal of the Campaign is to raise awareness of environmental issues within the broader Muslim Community,” said Nasir who founded the Green Khutbah Campaign last year.
“On Friday April 19th, 2013, imams are being requested to deliver a Khutbah on an environmental topic to raise awareness on the challenges facing humanity.
“We look forward to the second year of CivicMuslims and we hope to have more initiatives like these to raise awareness about issues in our community,” added Mohamed Awad, Founder of CivicMuslims.
Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the country.
A recent report from the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life said that Muslims are expected to make up 6.6% of Canada’s total population in 2030.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: On Islam
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – An Air Canada flight with 24 passengers on board was forced to circle in the air for over an hour after one of its engines failed en route to Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto.
Rescue crews faced a tense scene shortly after 4 p.m. as the plane coasted safely onto the Toronto runway with only one propeller spinning.
“It appears that the plane has landed safely, that the emergency procedures that we had put into place were not needed, and that everything went as planned,” Peel police spokesman Thomas Ruttan told CP24.
Everyone on board was safe, Ruttan said.
The plane had apparently suffered hydraulic issues, which appear to be related to the engine malfunction.
The Air Canada Express flight reportedly left from Moncton earlier on Wednesday.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Canada has cut direct foreign aid to China as part of an overhaul of international assistance spending.
It’s one of 14 countries that will see their aid either reduced or eliminated by the end of next year as the Canadian International Development Agency slashes $377-million in aid spending by 2014-2015.
The cuts are part of an overhaul of bilateral aid programming, with CIDA aiming to target funds more precisely and work more with the private sector.
Many have persistently questioned why China received bilateral aid from Canada, given its economic superpower status, military muscle and increasing influence on world affairs, including a growing development budget of its own.
“When you go to the eastern part of China, which is where probably where 99 per cent of Canadians, if they go to China, do go, places like Beijing or Shanghai, they would put to shame almost any Canadian city,” said Bruce Muirhead, associate vice-president of external research at the University of Waterloo, who has studied the issue of Canadian aid to China.
“But if you go a little bit into the interior, it’s a completely different situation. ... It’s not the urban areas where CIDA puts its money, it’s in the rural areas. Those people really need help.”
In 2010-2011, Canadian taxpayers contributed close to $30-million to China, via both bilateral and multilateral channels.
Most was funnelled to capacity-building programs that worked on helping the Chinese reform their legal and environmental policy.
Aid will continue through international groups and humanitarian channels, if required, but CIDA Minister Julian Fantino says the end of the China program is recognition of the country’s emergence as the world’s second-largest economy.
“CIDA has and will continue to evaluate and adjust international development investments so that they can deliver tangible results for those most in need around the world and contribute to Canada’s values and interests,” Fantino said in an email.
“We look forward to continuing to build a partnership with China that advances our common interests, Canadian values and the friendship between the peoples of our two countries.”
Other countries seeing bilateral aid budgets eliminated are Cambodia, Malawi, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, for a total of $39-million in savings.
Budgets for aid to Bolivia, Pakistan, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Tanzania and South Africa are being reduced to save $76-million.
Of the six countries seeing their budgets pared back, five belonged to the so-called “countries of focus,” a select group of 20 nations who together received 80 per cent of Canada’s international aid.
The program was started in 2009 by the Conservatives after criticisms aid was too scattershot and not reaping enough rewards either for taxpayers or for the countries in need.
But now the concept of “focus” countries seems to be falling out of favour.
Security problems and accountability issues have made many countries less attractive for direct support than they were in the past.
Meanwhile, the idea of the program is seen by the Conservatives as potentially restricting their desire to align aid spending with their declared policy priorities.
That includes focusing on helping specific industries grow in the developing world.
“We will continue to seek out innovative ways to partner with the private sector, such as the agriculture industry, so that we can achieve greater development results which are more sustainable over the long-term,” Fantino said.
The New Democrat critic for international development said her concern is that aid budgets seem to shift on a whim.
“CIDA is not the minister’s pet toy to do with what he wants to do with it,” said Helene Laverdiere.
The non-governmental organization sector says while it would obviously like to see more international assistance spending, the real issue now is a lack of clarity on where — and how — the government wants to spend what scarce dollars remain.
It’s been two years since CIDA actively solicited program ideas from the not-for-profit sector.
All eyes are on Thursday’s budget to see whether aid funding is further reduced or whether a new program direction is clearly laid out.
“Suddenly, there are no more funds available and no direction whatsoever on what to expect, and how and why,” said Chantal Havard, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Council for International Co-operation.
She said some hints can be gleaned for which countries remain on the focus list — Columbia, Peru, Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh, all trading partners for Canada.
“The trend that we see is that there is more and more an alignment of Canada’s commercial interests, foreign policy and the international development agenda,” Havard said.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Canada has introduced a bill strongly resembling the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA), prompting speculation that authorities were prepared to ratify the notorious legislation. The US encouraged Canada to adopt the bill.
According to Ottawa, Bill C-56 or Combating Counterfeit Products Act, is aimed at countering harmful counterfeiting activities, much like the international ACTA treaty.
If passed, the document would mainly concern copyright issues; border guards would be forced to serve as copyright experts without court oversight, and new criminal penalties would be introduced for counterfeiting commercial trademarks.
Under the law, imports of any works copyrighted in Canada but made outside the country would be suspended by the Canada Border Services Agency, if the copyright owner in Canada submits a written request.
The bill has raised fears that Canada may be preparing to ratify ACTA. Washington has recently encouraged Ottawa to comply with the notorious agreement.
In the recently published 2013 Trade Policy Agenda and 2012 Trade Policy Report, the Office of the United States Trade Representative has encouraged Canada to “meet its Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA) obligations by providing its customs officials with ex officio authority to stop the transit of counterfeit and pirated products through its territory.”
ACTA was intended to become a global treaty; it has been signed by 31 nations, including the US, Canada, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and 22 EU member-states. However, to come into force, it must be signed by at least 6 countries.
ACTA aims to protect copyrights in many industries, from software engineering to agriculture. Critics have said that governments would have to make draconian invasions of online privacy to implement provisions of the treaty.
The EU has already blocked the document, but it was ratified by Japan; the other signatories have yet to decide.
Critics of ACTA have also argued the treaty seeks to protect copyright at the expense of freedom of speech. Numerous mass protests were staged in the US and Europe against the controversial agreement.-www.shfaqna.com/English