World & Canada News - June 15, 2017

In the World…

Anti-Kremlin protesters fill Russian streets, Putin critic Navalny jailed

Reuters/June 13, 2017/By Svetlana Reiter and Andrew Osborn

Baton-wielding riot police broke up anti-corruption protests and detained hundreds of demonstrators in Moscow and other Russian cities on Monday, before a court sentenced opposition leader Alexei Navalny to his second prison term this year.

The protests, called by Navalny, a strong critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, drew thousands of people and were some of the biggest in Russia since 2012.

"Russia without Putin" and "Russia will be free" chanted the demonstrators, including many young people, who crowded into central Moscow on a public holiday.

Navalny, who is mounting a long-shot bid to unseat Putin in an election next year, had called for mass protests in Moscow and other cities against official corruption.

The Kremlin has dismissed Navalny's graft allegations, accusing him of irresponsibly trying to whip up unrest.

The scale of Monday's protests in Moscow and smaller ones in St. Petersburg and scores of other cities suggests Navalny has maintained his campaign's momentum despite more than 1,000 people being arrested after the last such protest in March.

That is likely to embolden him to call for more protests and keep Putin, who is expected to run for and win re-election next year, under rare domestic pressure.

"Neither mass detentions nor criminal cases after March 26 (the last protest) worked," wrote Lyubov Sobol, a Navalny ally, on social media. "People are not afraid."

The OVD-Info monitoring group, a non-profit organization, said preliminary figures showed 730 people had been detained in Moscow. The Interior Ministry said 500 people were detained in St Petersburg.

Navalny's wife, Yulia, said her husband was detained as he tried to leave their home. Reuters witnesses saw a police car leaving his apartment compound at high speed, followed a few minutes later by a minibus carrying about 10 policemen.

Electricity in his office was cut at around the same time as he was detained, briefly bringing down a live feed of the protests, Navalny's spokeswoman said.

At a midnight court hearing, a Russian judge later found Navalny guilty of repeatedly violating the law on organizing public meetings and sentenced him to 30 days in prison. Navalny served a 15-day jail term after the protest in March.

CHANGES
Authorities in Moscow said Monday's protest was illegal and drafted in riot police who fired pepper spray and used batons to break it up, detaining people and bundling them onto buses.

Roman, a 19-year-old student, said Navalny's campaign against official corruption had struck a chord.

"I'm sick of the Putin system," he said. "It's been unchanged for the last 17 years. There is so much evidence that our officials are stealing with impunity."

Dima, an 18-year-old florist, said he wanted Prime Minister Medvedev to return what he said were the politician's ill-gotten gains. Medvedev, a close Putin ally, flatly denies wrongdoing.

"I'm not afraid if I get detained," Dima said.

The Interior Ministry said the turnout at the Moscow protest was about 4,500 - significantly fewer than the numbers estimated by Reuters reporters, who put the turnout in the low tens of thousands.

State media ignored the demonstrations, broadcasting Soviet-style coverage of Putin handing out state awards instead.

Navalny brought thousands onto the streets across Russia in March, the largest such protests since a wave of anti-Kremlin demonstrations in 2012. Navalny was fined and jailed for 15 days for his role in those protests.

Moscow authorities had initially authorized a venue for Monday's protest away from the city center. But Navalny switched it to Tverskaya Street, Moscow's main avenue near the Kremlin. The General Prosecutor's Office had warned that a protest there would be illegal.

The area of Tverskaya Street near where Navalny's supporters congregated was hosting an officially organized festival, with actors re-enacting periods of Russian history.

Video footage showed a protester clambering onto a mock-up of a wartime sandbag fortification holding a poster calling Putin a liar, before being pulled to the ground by a cast member dressed as a World War Two Soviet soldier.

For now, polls suggest Navalny has scant chance of unseating Putin, who enjoys high ratings. It is unclear too if the Kremlin will even let Navalny run for the presidency.

But the 41-year-old lawyer turned political street campaigner hopes anger over corruption may boost his support.

A video he made accusing Medvedev of living far beyond his means has garnered over 22 million online views to date.

Navalny, who had a green liquid thrown in his face in April, robbing him of some of his sight, said hundreds of people had also attended demonstrations in Russia's Far East on Monday morning.

"I want changes," wrote Navalny in a blog post last week. "I want to live in a modern democratic state and I want our taxes to be converted into roads, schools and hospitals, not into yachts, palaces and vineyards."

(Additional reporting by Christian Lowe, Jack Stubbs, Maria Tsvetkova, Dmitry Solovyov, Gleb Stolyarov, and Anton Zverev in Moscow and Natasha Shurmina in Ekaterinburg; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Angus MacSwan and James Dalgleish) 


And in Canada…

B.C. ‘Creep Hunters’ group receives society status

By Michelle Morton/Global News/June 13, 2017

A B.C. group that tracks alleged pedophiles online has been registered as a non-profit organization.

The Creep Hunters Canada Society is one of a number of groups active in the province attempting to disrupt online child luring.

But President Brendon Brady says his organization, which recently applied for society status, works differently than vigilante groups like the Surrey Creep Catchers.

Rather than confronting their targets or attempting a citizen’s arrest, Brady said the Creep Hunters submit the evidence they collect to police who then nab the suspects.

“They are more than happy to take our information in the way that we give it to them,” Brady said.

Brady said the move to incorporate as a society came after continued positive interactions with authorities.

“We felt that we had come to a point where we have enough positive feedback from the different police departments and agencies throughout Canada and the U.S.,” Brady said.

“That’s when we decided to go for our non-profit and in our legal description. We put exactly what we do and then it was approved.”

Registering as a society confers certain rights on non-profit organizations such as the ability to open a bank account or bring legal action in its own name.

It does not automatically confer charitable, tax-free status.

Police in the Lower Mainland have maintained that they do not condone vigilante action of any kind.

But Brady contrasts his group’s approach to groups like the Surrey Creep Catchers, who have attracted media attention with recent high-profile stings and legal trouble.

“We don’t publicly shame people, we don’t sell merchandise, although we are going to be selling merchandise because we have a non-profit status now, which is going to allow us to continue doing our events,” he said.

“We do events once a month in different provinces across Canada where we actually have guest speakers.”

Brady says the Creep Hunters are currently working across Canada and in some areas of the U.S. 


Sears Canada raises 'significant doubt' about future

by Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press/June 13, 2017

TORONTO - Sears Canada, known for its catalogues that were a household staple for generations, said Tuesday there is "significant doubt" about its future and it could sell or restructure itself.

The struggling retailer, which tried to reinvent itself last year with a new corporate logo, said it doesn't expect to have enough cash flow over the next 12 months to meet its obligations. It's the latest sign of how the retail sector is being upended by numerous factors, including the rise of online shopping.

"The company continues to face a very challenging environment with recurring operating losses and negative cash flows from operating activities in the last five fiscal years, with net losses beginning in 2014," Sears Canada (TSX:SCC) said in a statement.

"While the company's plans have demonstrated early successes, notably in same-store sales, the ability of the company to continue as a going concern is dependent on the company's ability to obtain additional sources of liquidity in order to implement its business plan."

Its shares tanked, down 22 per cent to 89 cents in midday trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

In a retail world dominated by the likes of Amazon, Sears Canada has floundered, a relic of a bygone shopping era where the department store was king.

The company's executive leadership has been a veritable revolving door, having gone through several changes over the last four years.

Despite its recent efforts to turn itself around, the writing has been on the wall for Sears Canada for about a decade, said Mandeep Malik, an assistant professor at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University.

"It was a too-little, too-late kind of story," he said.

Malik said Sears Canada has failed to meet customer expectations when it comes to service, choice and price, and it now finds itself trying to play catch-up in a hyper-competitive marketplace. Its decline is symptomatic of a broader trend in retail, he added.

"The mid-line department stores are getting squeezed out."

Last week, rival Hudson's Bay Co. (TSX:HBC) said it is cutting about 2,000 jobs across North America in an effort to help it compete in an increasingly tough retail environment, partly due to the rise of e-commerce.

Sears Canada's announcement came as it reported a first-quarter loss of $144.4 million, more than double what it was a year ago. Its revenue slipped by about $90 million to $505.5 million, a decline of 15.2 per cent.

The company said it had expected to be able to borrow $175 million for additional liquidity, but that has been reduced to about $109 million. It said it also lacks other assets, such as real estate, that can be monetized in a timely manner.

"Accordingly, such conditions raise significant doubt as to the company's ability to continue as a going concern," it said.

Spokesman Vincent Power said in an email it's not clear yet whether there will be any layoffs at the company, which had about 16,000 employees as of the quarter ending April 29.

Still, Sears Canada maintained some positivity about its outlook, pointing to a 2.9 per cent increase in same-store sales, a key metric in retail that measures sales at locations open for at least a year. That came, however, as the number of its stores dropped. Sears Canada has 94 department stores, 23 Sears Home stores and 10 outlets.

The department store chain also postponed its annual meeting, which had been scheduled for Wednesday, until an unspecified date.