Monthly Archives: June 2019

Amnesty International calls for release of Canadian jailed for research on women in Iran

MONTREAL – Amnesty International is calling on Iran to release a Montreal-based university professor who has been in prison since Monday.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, described Homa Hoodfar as a prisoner of conscience.

READ MORE: Feds working to help Canadian academic reported jailed in Iran

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“The arrest of respected and accomplished scholar, Dr. Homa Hoodfar, is the latest attempt by the Iranian authorities at targeting individuals, including academics, for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association,” Neve said in a statement Thursday.

“It is deeply troubling that someone whose research focuses on addressing women’s inequality can find herself arbitrarily arrested and held, possibly in solitary confinement, without access to a lawyer and her family.”

Hoodfar, a professor of anthropology at Concordia University, was arrested Monday after being interrogated by authorities, according to her niece, Amanda Ghahremani.

RELATED: Canadian acquitted in UAE case released from prison

Ghahremani told on Wednesday the 65-year-old is in the notorious Evin prison after conducting academic research on women in the country.

She said her aunt had not been allowed to contact her lawyer or family and that the nature of the charges against her was unclear.

Amnesty also called on Ottawa to take all possible diplomatic measures to ensure her immediate release and safe return to Canada.

Omar Alghabra, the parliamentary secretary for Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, said the government is taking the case “very seriously.”

“We’re very concerned about the well-being of Dr. Hoodfar and we want to do everything we can to get her out of there as soon as possible,” he said Thursday.

Because the Canadian government does not have a diplomatic presence in Iran, officials are reaching out to “like-minded allies” to ask them for help in securing Hoodfar’s release, he noted.

He said he and Dion had both met with Hoodfar’s family and would do whatever they could to have her freed.

The new Liberal government has indicated it will re-establish relations with Iran and reopen the embassy the previous Conservative government closed in Tehran in 2012.


‘We fought like lions,’ Trudeau says of soldiers as newest war monument unveiled

CFB BORDEN, Ont. —; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau helped unveil Canada’s newest war monument on Thursday in a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the country’s largest military base.

Speaking in bright sunshine before hundreds of dignitaries, armed forces personnel and members of the public, Trudeau praised the efforts of veterans, those who have died in battle, and those who currently serve.

Canada and Canadians have earned respect around the world, he said, not just because we are polite or friendly and peaceable.

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READ MORE: Trudeau urged by human rights advocates to launch public inquiry into Afghan detainees

“The reason the world pays heed to Canada is because we fought like lions in the trenches of World War I, on the beaches of World War II, and in theatres and conflicts scattered around the globe,” Trudeau said.

“We showed our ability to stand for our values, and fight and sacrifice for them in faraway places.”

With the pomp and ceremony befitting the occasion, “sacred soil” from the First World War battle of Vimy Ridge brought back to Canada last year was placed in an opening in the new memorial wall to serve as a permanent reminder of, and tribute to, those whose blood drenched the killing fields in France 99 years ago.

“We remember their courage and their sacrifice with a memorial that, like the resolve of Canadians themselves, survived a second world war,” Trudeau said.

“Nearly a century after their loss, Canada remembers and continues to mourn.”

The monument —; a nine-metre polished black and white granite wall along with a bronze statue of a bugler nearby —; forms the ceremonial northern entrance to Canadian Forces Base Borden near, Barrie, Ont.

The project was designed by Canadian artist and sculptor Marlene Hilton Moore. Funds for the monument were largely raised locally.

About two million military personnel have trained at Borden over the past century and about 20,000 more soldiers, sailors and airmen train at the base every year.

Trudeau said the country was in the process of reinvigorating its role as peacekeepers and stepping up its efforts to engage constructively with the rest of the world.

“Canada is committed to playing our part, indeed, to continue to punch well above our weight,” the prime minister said.


Number of accidental drug overdoses rises significantly in 2016: Coroner

Illicit drug-related deaths in B.C. increased by 75 per cent between January and May compared to the same time frame in 2015, according to new statistics released by the BC Coroners Service.

From January through May 2016, there were 308 accidental drug overdose deaths in B.C. and the large majority of those deaths involved the use of fentanyl.

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In April, the significant increase in drug-related overdoses and deaths in B.C. prompted Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall to declare a public health emergency, which was the first time the PHO has served notice under the Public Health Act to exercise emergency powers.

READ MORE: Little if any heroin left in Vancouver, all fentanyl: drug advocates

British Columbia was the first province to take this kind of action in response to a public health crisis from drug overdoses. But so far, the PHO’s declaration of a public-health emergency doesn’t appear to have slowed the number of overdose deaths, according to B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake.

Fentanyl overdoses have been steadily increasing in B.C. over the past five years. According to the PHO, the increase in drug overdose deaths for which fentanyl was present went from five per cent in 2012 to approximately 31 per cent in 2015.

The recent statistics also show that in January 2016, there were 77 drug overdose deaths, which is the largest number of deaths in a single month for an extended period.

To prevent more deaths from overdosing, the BC Centre for Disease Control has distributed 8,000 kits containing the opioid antidote naloxone.

Health Canada removed the prescription status on naloxone in March to improve accessibility.

The kits are now available at over 100 establishments across the province and 1,200 kits have already been used to reverse overdoses, said Dr. Mark Tyndall, executive director of the Centre for Disease Control.

“The option to get it out of pharmacies has also been very helpful and we need to make sure people are aware they can pick it up,” he said.

Tyndall said the kits have a larger dose of the antidote than what was previously prescribed for opioids in order to be effective on the more dangerous substance fentanyl.

The coroner’s report shows fentanyl was involved in 56 per cent of deaths in the first four months of this year compared with just five per cent of drug-related deaths in 2012.

Tyndall said more services are needed, including rapid access to detox programs, to help people with addictions.

The health minister acknowledged there is a gap and said the government is investing in new services and centres for mental health and substance abuse.

However, Lake said “you can’t flip a switch” and it will take time for new services to have an effect.

~ with files from Canadian Press


Crown drops Alberta assault charges against daredevil wrestler Teddy Hart

The Crown has dropped criminal charges against Teddy Hart, a member of Canada’s legendary Hart wrestling family and known for his daredevil antics both inside and outside the ring as well as for his breeding of Persian cats.

Hart, whose legal name is Edward Annis, was charged with assault, unlawful confinement and sexual assault against two women in Sherwood Park, just east of Edmonton, in 2013 and 2014.

The charges were withdrawn at the start of a preliminary hearing May 26.

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A spokeswoman with Alberta Justice says the Crown determined after a review that the case did not meet the criteria needed to proceed.

Lawyer Kent Teskey says his client had always maintained his innocence.

“Teddy has had this fog of charges over him for a year-and-a-half,” Teskey said Thursday.

“He’s relieved and looks forward to getting back to work.”

The same day the charges were withdrawn, Hart signed a peace bond agreeing not to contact the two women for two years. Teskey said Hart has no interest in contacting the complainants.

Hart, 36, is the grandson of Stu Hart, founder of Calgary’s Stampede Wrestling, and nephew of famed wrestler Bret (The Hitman) Hart.

At 18, he became the youngest wrestler to sign with what is now World Wrestling Entertainment. He later worked on other wrestling circuits in the United States, Mexico and Europe.

A March profile in Rolling Stone magazine detailed his eclectic lifestyle. He also has a side-career breeding Persian cats.

A pilot for a reality show about Hart, titled “Hart Attack,” was filmed but never aired. A description of the show says Hart “lived in a mansion filled with models, bikers and 50 Persian show cats.”

A producer of the show, Kurt Spenrath, is making a short documentary about Hart called “Hart of Darkness.”

Spenrath said that since the charges were withdrawn, Hart has received more wrestling offers. There are also plans for him to open a wrestling school in Los Angeles.

“He certainly seems to be reinvigorated in his career, strangely enough,” Spenrath said. “Promoters from all over North America have been scrambling for him.”

Teskey said Hart lived in Sherwood Park during the time of the women’s allegations.

Hart was in Texas when he was charged by RCMP in late 2014 and returned to Canada to turn himself in.


Pay your taxes with iTunes gift cards? Edmonton police warn it’s a scam

Over the past few months, Edmonton police have received several reports of a scam involving people posing as Canada Revenue Agency officials to swindle people out of money.

Police said telephone scammers claiming to be from the CRA will call people and tell them they have not filed their taxes properly and they owe the government money. The scammers then instruct people to pay up with pre-purchased iTunes gift cards.

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  • Tax season brings tax scams, warns CRA

  • CRA telephone scam making the rounds again

    Millions lost in Canada Revenue Agency call scam

    “These individuals are persistent and will use virtually any scare tactic they believe will allow them to get into people’s wallets,” Det. Bill Allen with the EPS said. “Scammers will go as far as telling you that police will show up at your door and arrest you – which is absolutely untrue.”

    READ MORE: Ontario woman defrauded of more than $12K in iTunes gift cards in CRA scam: police

    Allen said retailers should be on the lookout for this scam, citing one instance in particular.

    “We are currently investigating a file where a woman was convinced she owed the CRA $22,000. The woman visited two grocery stores and purchased $10,000 worth of iTunes gift cards at the first location and then purchased and additional $12,000 in iTunes gift cards at the second location. The woman then sent photos of the cards to the scammers.”

    READ MORE: Canada Revenue Agency scam dupes Edmonton-area senior out of more than $20K

    The CRA said it will never request payment by gift cards and urges people to verify the call before handing over any money. Randy Westerman, communications manager with CRA’s Prairie Region, said the organization does not conduct business in the following ways:

    Ask for personal information of any kind by email or text messageRequest payments by prepaid credit/gift cardsGive taxpayer information to another person, unless formal authorization is provided by the taxpayerSend an email with a link and ask you to divulge personal or financial informationLeave personal information on an answering machine

    Anyone who may have fallen victim to the scam is asked to visit a local police detachment to file a complaint or contact the EPS at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile phone.

    For more information on how to protect yourself against scammers, visit the CRA’s website.