World & Canadian News

IN THE WORLD

NATO and Russia talk, but remain divided on Ukraine
By Robin Emmott/Reuters/Dec. 19, 2016
NATO and Russia held more than three hours of talks on Monday, discussing ways to reduce military accidents but also underscoring their deep disagreement on the conflict in Ukraine.


Western diplomats said the fact that the NATO-Russia Council, where the Russian ambassador to the North Atlantic alliance sits with member states' envoys, had met at all was significant after an increase in Russian military deployments.
"Without talking, we cannot solve our differences," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after the meeting in Brussels. Russia has alarmed NATO by equipping its Baltic fleet with nuclear-capable missiles and stepping up Cold War-style aerial incursions to probe Western air defenses. In October, it demonstratively sent its sole aircraft carrier close to Europe's shores on its way to Syria.
Russian Ambassador Alexander Grushko gave a detailed briefing on Russian military exercises involving around 120,000 personnel in recent months, NATO diplomats said.
There was also discussion in Brussels of the tactics being used by Russian pilots, which NATO says are unsafe. These include flying barrel rolls over Western aircraft, not sharing flight plans, and flying without the transponders that allow jets to be identified by ground radar.
But Stoltenberg said there continued to be "profound disagreements" on one of the central issues in east-west relations: Ukraine.
He said NATO members would not recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and that the alliance remained deeply concerned about eastern Ukraine, partly controlled since 2014 by rebels whom NATO accuses Moscow of financing.
Despite an internationally-monitored ceasefire, diplomats have cited increasing reports of shelling and civilian casualties.
NATO for its part has responded to increased Russian military activity by planning to deploy troops to the Baltic states and Poland next year. Although it says its plans are defensive, Russia has been irked and sought explanations.
Separately, Ukrainian Europe Minister Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, who met EU officials in Brussels, told Reuters six Ukrainian soldiers had been reported killed on Monday and another 26 wounded in shelling by Russian-backed rebels.
The EU extended economic sanctions against Russia on Monday due to a lack of progress in implementing the Minsk ceasefire deal, under which a cessation of fighting was due to be followed by Kiev agreeing to hold local elections in the region.
"The ball is in the Russian court," Klympush-Tsintsadze told Reuters. "Without security guarantees, without a ceasefire holding ... it will be impossible for Ukraine to move on the political agenda."  u

Russia needs to up its contribution in the fight against terror: Stephane Dion
By Mike Blanchfield/The Canadian Press/Dec. 20, 2016
OTTAWA - A Canadian tourist killed by Islamic extremists in Jordan. The assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey. The multiple killings of peaceful Berliners at a Christmas celebration.
All of this is linked by an “extremely bloody” ideology spouted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, says Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion.
And it is about time Russia starts pulling its weight in fighting it, instead of pursuing its “bitter” victories in Syria, says Canada’s top diplomat.
During a year-end interview, Dion linked this week’s series of terror-related tragedies in Jordan, Turkey and Berlin to relentless recruiting efforts of ISIL.
“It’s always, everywhere, the same ideology - an ideology that convinces young people that if they kill others because they don’t share their beliefs, they will be heroes in this world and will go to heaven in the other world,” said Dion.
“This ideology is extremely bloody and we will need to find a way to de-radicalize these people to make sure no terrorist group is able to have a territorial tyranny anywhere as ISIL has in Iraq and Syria.”
Dion criticized Russia for its ongoing support of the regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria.
Dion also lamented the recent fall of Aleppo - from which convoys of shell-shocked civilians have departed.
Government forces, aided by Russia, crushed the anti-Assad opposition that was entrenched there.
“It must be very bitter,” he said, “if they call it a win. I would call it a big failure for human kind.”
Dion said he was encouraged by Monday’s unanimous approval of the UN Security Council to deploy international monitors to Aleppo, but he said it’s a development that should have occurred weeks ago.
He said Canada pushed for progress at the UN, but “the only ones who can make a difference are the Russians.”
Dion said Canada regularly tells Russia to do more to fight ISIL in Syria instead of targeting anti-Assad rebels. It’s a message he has personally delivered to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
And it is one that Canada’s ambassador to the UN, Marc-Andre Blanchard, delivers to his Russian counterpart in New York on a daily basis, Dion said.
Since October, Canada has been pushing the UN General Assembly to take steps to stop the ongoing civil war in Syria, which has displaced millions and killed hundreds of thousands.
Dion acknowledged the inaction of the Security Council. But he said Canada had to do what it could to pursue action on Syria in the 193-member General Assembly.
Canada recently gathered the support of more than 70 countries to press the General Assembly to address the Syrian crisis.
Dion said despite the ongoing carnage he sees every day, he hasn’t lost faith in the ability of diplomacy to make the world more peaceful.
He said things were worse in the 1970s when he was a university student.
Totalitarianism was rampant in east Europe and most of Asia, while Africa was ruled mostly by military regimes.
“The United States was paralyzed by the Watergate scandal. That was the ’70s,” he said.
That was followed by the “strongest wave of democracy in the history of humanity,” he said.
“The difficulties that remain are huge and big but we should never be discouraged about the world.”

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IN CANADA

Alberta judge who was criticized for ruling in sex assault case taking early retirement
By Bill Graveland/The Canadian Press/Dec. 20
A judge who came under fire from Alberta’s appeal court for ruling a rape complainant in a sexual assault case consented after tiring from fighting off her attacker has decided to take early retirement.
The Alberta Court of Appeal criticized Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Kirk Sisson in 2014 for acquitting a suspect in a 2013 sexual assault case.
Court heard the woman told the suspect on numerous occasions that she did not want to engage in any sexual activity.
He persisted despite her protests. After struggling and resisting his advances for 20 minutes, she realized he was not going to take no for an answer.
“She testified that she gave in because of his persistence, and to get it over with. In other words, she finally decided that she had enough and gave into him,” wrote Sisson in his ruling.
“Consequently, the Crown has failed to prove an essential element of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt, that’s lack of consent.”
But the appeal court set aside Sisson’s ruling and substituted the acquittal with a conviction saying he “erred in his narrow definition of the charge of sexual assault” and by “inferring consent from submission.”
“The trial judge considered only the sexual intercourse that took place after these protests. This is an error. Sexual assault is not confined to intercourse,” wrote the three-judge panel.
“The Criminal Code makes clear that acquiescence or submission is not consent. Moreover, the law requires that reasonable steps be taken to ensure consent after the rejection of sexual advances.”
Sisson, 65, was appointed to the bench in 2006 and will take early retirement beginning Jan. 3. He could have remained on the job for another 10 years.
He will receive an annual pension payout of $142,000.
Danielle Aubry, executive director of Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse, said she doesn’t think the age of a judge is the issue.
She said the problem is with judges who have biases that reflect rape culture myths.
“They’re the ones who should be retiring,” she said.
“Let’s just make sure anyone who is sitting on the bench is doing it responsibly and with good information and good education.”
The Sisson case is just one of a number of high-profile cases that has put the Alberta judiciary in the spotlight.
A Canadian Judicial Council panel recommended last month that Justice Robin Camp should lose his job for his handling of a 2014 sexual assault trial.
Camp called the complainant, an indigenous woman who was 19 years old and homeless at the time of the alleged assault, “the accused” throughout the trial - a phrase he repeated during a judicial council disciplinary hearing before quickly correcting himself.
He also told the young woman “pain and sex sometimes go together” and asked why she couldn’t just “keep her knees together.”
Camp acquitted Alexander Wagar, but the verdict was overturned on appeal and a new trial was ordered. Testimony in the retrial wrapped up in November.
Provincial Chief Judge Terrence Matchett is also reviewing how two other Alberta provincial judges handled recent sexual assault cases.
In June 2015, Judge Pat McIlhargey acquitted a 16-year-old boy accused of raping a 13-year-old girl in a park because the girl “did not scream, she did not run for help.”
In the other case, Judge Michael Savaryn acquitted a 15-year-old boy who grabbed the breasts and buttocks of a girl, also 15, in a high school hallway and tried to kiss her.
Savaryn wrote the complainant “tried so hard to laugh it all off that I do not believe she was successful in communicating her discomfort.”
The acquittal was overturned by a higher court judge and the boy was convicted.
The public is more aware now about problems in the justice system thanks to cases like Camp’s, Aubry said.
“The fact it was a sexual assault case did bring a lot of attention to it and I think it is just the beginning,” she said. “Daily in court we are experiencing judges who have lots of biases and lots of myths that they still hold.”