House of Commons returns and China's 'War on Terror'; In The News for Feb. 18

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Feb. 18.

What we are watching in Canada ...

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau returns to a House of Commons eager to debate his government's policies on the economy, energy, climate change and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples after a week away.

The NDP is asking Commons Speaker Anthony Rota for an emergency debate on anti-pipeline blockades that have shut down swaths of the country's train system and interrupted traffic on highways and bridges for more than a week.

The blockades are in support of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs who oppose a natural gas pipeline that crosses the First Nation's traditional territory in northern British Columbia.

Trudeau's cabinet also has to decide whether to approve a major new oilsands mine called the Teck Frontier project, which a couple of weeks ago seemed to be the government's biggest headache.

The mine would emit megatonnes of climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions over its lifespan, but Alberta Premier Jason Kenney warns that nixing it would raise "roiling western alienation to a boiling point."

A decision on the Teck Frontier project is due by the end of the month.

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Also this ...

The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations is addressing this morning the tensions over a British Columbia pipeline project and the nationwide protests it's spawned.

Chief Perry Bellegarde is speaking to reporters in Ottawa first thing, on what he calls "the current situation and actions relating to the Wet'suwet'en people."

Hereditary chiefs in the Wet'suwet'en First Nation oppose the natural-gas pipeline through their traditional territory, though it's received approval from elected band councils.

Since the RCMP moved in to enforce an injunction and keep the hereditary chiefs and their supporters away from the pipeline worksites, protests by Indigenous people and supporters have shut down the CN rail network in eastern Canada, suspended Via Rail passenger service, and temporarily blocked traffic on streets and bridges and at ports in multiple cities.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under increasing pressure to end the blockades, which he says he wants to do quickly but peacefully.

Indigenous-relations ministers both federally and in B.C. are seeking to meet leaders of British Columbia First Nations in hopes of finding a solution.

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ICYMI (in case you missed it) ...

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says he and his counterparts from countries that lost citizens in last month's Ukrainian jetliner crash pressed Iran for compensation at a meeting in Germany.

The ministers met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the Munich Security Conference, and Champagne told a news conference afterward that they made it clear to Zarif what Iran must do.

"We pressed Iran on the need for swift compensation to be provided to families of the victims in accordance with international standards," he said.

"We will judge Iran by its actions, not by its words, and we will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of the victims of this tragedy until justice is rendered for all."

Champagne added that "the compensation should be equal for everyone," and that the process "should start as soon as possible."

Canada and its allies are also pushing Iran to release the black boxes from the crash so the data can be properly analysed by facilities in France.

Champagne had said earlier that the decision to invite Zarif to the gathering was made after consulting the foreign ministers from Britain, Sweden, Afghanistan and Ukraine, all of whom are attending the Munich conference.

Those countries all lost citizens five weeks ago when Iran's military fired two missiles at a Ukrainian jetliner, killing all 176 people on board, including 57 Canadians.

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What we are watching in the U.S. ...

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is set to campaign in Washington, a state he handily won in the 2016 caucuses.

The Vermont senator's visit comes just three weeks ahead of Democrats casting their ballots in the March 10 presidential primary that the state party will use for the first time to allocate delegates to candidates, with 89 delegates to be awarded based on the results.

Sanders, coming off a win in the New Hampshire primary, will be joined at the Presidents' Day rally at the Tacoma Dome by U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, who is chairing Sanders' Washington state campaign. Actor Tim Robbins will speak at the rally as well, and the band Portugal. The Man will perform.

Thousands of people lined up hours ahead of the evening rally. Cali Randall, an 18-year-old high school senior from Tacoma, arrived with two friends and was carrying a #Babes4Bernie sign. Randall was excited to be voting in her first presidential election, and to start with a vote for Sanders in the presidential primary.

"Bernie has a movement behind him," she said.

Earlier in the day, Sanders spoke at a rally in Richmond, California. The state — which offers more delegates than any other state — is among the more than dozen states where voters will cast their ballots on so-called Super Tuesday, March 3. Two contests come before Super Tuesday — caucuses in Nevada on Saturday and a primary in South Carolina on Feb. 29.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

For decades, the Uighur imam was a bedrock of his farming community in China's far west. On Fridays, he preached Islam as a religion of peace. On Sundays, he treated the sick with free herbal medicine. In the winter, he bought coal for the poor.

But as a Chinese government mass detention campaign engulfed Memtimin Emer's native Xinjiang region three years ago, the elderly imam was swept up and locked away, along with all three of his sons living in China.

Now, a newly revealed database exposes in extraordinary detail the main reasons for the detentions of Emer, his three sons, and hundreds of others in Karakax County: their religion and their family ties.

The database obtained by The Associated Press profiles the internment of 311 individuals with relatives abroad and lists information on more than 2,000 of their relatives, neighbours and friends. Each entry includes the detainee's name, address, national identity number, detention date and location, along with a detailed dossier on their family, religious and neighbourhood background, the reason for detention, and a decision on whether or not to release them. Issued within the past year, the documents do not indicate which government department compiled them or for whom.

Taken as a whole, the information offers the fullest and most personal view yet into how Chinese officials decided who to put into and let out of detention camps, as part of a massive crackdown that has locked away more than a million ethnic minorities, most of them Muslims.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Feb. 18, 2020.

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