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In The News for Dec. 5: Can Ottawa be compelled to repatriate 19 Canadians from Syria

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 Monday, Dec. 5, 2022 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
People walk in the marketplace at al-Hol camp that houses some 60,000 refugees, including families and supporters of the Islamic State group, many of them foreign nationals, in Hasakeh province, Syria, Saturday, May 1, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Baderkhan Ahmad

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 Monday, Dec. 5, 2022 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

A Federal Court is slated to begin two days of hearings today into the Liberal government’s refusal to repatriate 19 Canadian women and children who are being held in northeastern Syria.

Family members for the six women and 13 children are expected to argue that the government’s refusal to help them, as well as some Canadian men, amounts to a breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The court hearings come as a document filed in the case last week said Global Affairs Canada had determined the 19 Canadians have met a threshold for providing extraordinary assistance.

Global Affairs says in the document that it has begun assessments to determine whether to provide that assistance.

A handful of women and children have returned to Canada from the region in recent years, but for the most part, Canada has not followed the path of other countries that have successfully repatriated citizens.


Also this ...

A major UN conference on biodiversity will get underway in Montreal Tuesday with a lofty goal to get every country to agree to protect almost one-third of the world's land and oceans before the end of this decade. 

But the environment may be the easy part of a meeting that is being co-hosted by Canada and China amid growing diplomatic tensions between the two, and without the political heft of world leaders, who weren't invited to attend.

"I would say that it will be very interesting and very important to watch how the COP15 unfolds," said Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China.

China is the president of this year's biodiversity meeting, which means it helps set the agenda and guides the negotiations. It would normally play host, too, and delayed the meeting four times because of COVID-19.

Because China still hasn't opened its borders to international travellers, the Chinese government agreed in June that the meeting could be moved to Montreal, which is home to the offices of the UN biodiversity secretariat.


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

Raphael Warnock is the first Black U.S. senator from Georgia, having broken the colour barrier with a special election victory in January 2021. 

Now Warnock can add another distinction by winning a full six-year term in a Tuesday runoff. 

Standing in the way is another Black man, Republican challenger Herschel Walker. 

The two men have cut different paths and offer clearly opposing visions for the country, including on race and racism, despite their common upbringings in the wake of the civil rights movement and the guarantee of a historical first from their Senate matchup. 

The senator's campaign has said since then that he'd have to assemble a multiracial coalition, including many moderate white voters, to win reelection in a midterm election year. But they've not disputed that a strong Black turnout would be necessary regardless.

The Republican National Committee has answered with its own uptick in Black voter outreach, opening community centers in several heavily Black areas of the state. But the general election results raise questions about the effectiveness, at least for Walker.

Black voters in this Deep South state say the choice is stark.


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

China is easing some of the world's most stringent anti-COVID controls and authorities say new variants are weaker. 

But they have yet to say when they might end a "zero-COVID" strategy that confines millions of people to their homes and set off protests and demands for President Xi Jinping to resign. 

Commuters in Beijing and at least 16 other cities are allowed to board buses and subways without a virus test in the previous 48 hours for the first time in months. 

The government announced plans to vaccinate millions of elderly people. That spurred hopes for quick reopening of the country. But health experts and economists warn it will be mid-2023 and possibly 2024 before "zero COVID" ends.


On this day in 1837 ...

Lower Canada (now Quebec) was placed under martial law during a rebellion that had broken out largely over constitutional issues. The unrest was sparked in part by the control exercised by the largely English-speaking executive government over the elected -- and predominantly French-speaking -- legislative assembly.


In entertainment ...

Actor, musician and children's author widely known for his portrayal of one of the first regular characters on the children's show "Sesame Street," Bob McGrath, has died at the age of 90. 

McGrath's passing was confirmed by his family who posted on his Facebook page on Sunday. 

Sesame Workshop tweeted Sunday evening that it "mourns the passing of Bob McGrath, a beloved member of the Sesame Street family for over 50 years." McGrath was a founding cast member of "Sesame Street" when the show premiered in 1969. 

He is survived by his wife, Ann Logan Sperry, and their five children.


Did you see this?

After nearly two weeks of voting, the union representing more than 50-thousand Ontario education workers will announce this morning whether its members have ratified a tentative deal it struck with the province.

The results could see the Canadian Union of Public Employees head back to the bargaining table with the Ontario government in what has been a tense dispute.

CUPE is slated to announce the results during a news conference this morning at 10 a.m.

Education workers walked off the job for two days last month after the government passed -- and then later repealed -- legislation that imposed a contract on them and banned them from striking.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022

The Canadian Press