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Canada Environment Environment and WIldlife

Western Canada blazes cause evacuations

Northern Rockies Regional Municipality Mayor Rob Fraser in a TV interview said most of the 3,500 residents in and around Fort Nelson had been evacuated….reports Asian Lite News

The season’s first major wildfires have spread to roughly 10,000 hectares across Western Canada on Sunday as authorities issued an evacuation order for a community in British Columbia and warned of poor air quality across provinces.

In British Columbia, thousands of residents in Northern Rockies Regional Municipality and Fort Nelson First Nations were evacuated as the nearby blaze nearly doubled to 4,136 hectares.

Northern Rockies Regional Municipality Mayor Rob Fraser in a TV interview said most of the 3,500 residents in and around Fort Nelson had been evacuated.

Fort Nelson First Nation, seven kilometers from the town, also issued an evacuation order for Fontas, an Indigenous community.

Across the border in Alberta, residents of Fort McMurray, an oil hub which suffered extensive damage from wildfires in 2016, were asked to prepare to leave.

However, by the end of the day, favorable weather helped by a shower forecast tamed fire growth at Fort McMurray. Authorities said they expected fire activity to remain low with more showers expected on Monday.

Alberta continued to stress the two wildfires were extreme and out of control and recorded 43 active fires, including one located 16km southwest of Fort McMurray. By Sunday, authorities revised the area affected by fire to 6,579 hectares, much larger than what was reported on Friday.

Fraser said the fire was started by a tree blown down by strong winds falling onto a power line.

Six crews of wildland firefighters, 13 helicopters and airtankers were taming the fire on Sunday, said Alberta authorities.

Evacuation alerts were in place for Fort McMurray, Saprae Creek Estates and expanded to Gregoire Lake Estates and Rickards Landing Industrial Park.

Although there is no immediate risk to these communities, the alert ensures residents are prepared to evacuate if conditions change.

Smoke in Fort McMurray on Saturday was coming from fires in northern British Columbia, Alberta said.

Environment Canada issued a special air quality statement that extends from British Columbia to Ontario on Sunday.

Last year, a veil of smoke blanketed the US East Coast, tinging the skies a fluorescent orange as smoke reached parts of Europe as hundreds of forest fires burnt millions of acres of land and forced about 120,000 people to leave their homes.

The federal government has warned Canada faces another “catastrophic” wildfire season as it forecast higher-than-normal spring and summer temperatures across much of the country, boosted by El Nino weather conditions.

Canada experienced one of its warmest winters with low to non-existent snow in many areas, raising fears ahead of a hot summer triggering blazes in forests and wildlands amid an ongoing drought.

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Canada Arrests 3 Accused in Nijjar Murder

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) named the three men, all Indian nationals, and released their photographs, reports Asian Lite News

Canadian police on Saturday released photographs of all three persons arrested in the killing of India-designated terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar last year amid an ongoing probe into alleged connections of the Indian government.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in a statement named the three men, all Indian nationals, as Karanpreet Singh, 28, Kamalpreet Singh, 22 and Karan Brar, 22 and released their photographs. The trio were arrested in Edmonton city in Alberta.

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) of Surrey, RCMP on Friday (local time) said that on the morning of May 3, IHIT investigators, with the assistance of members from the British Columbia and Alberta RCMP and the Edmonton Police Service, arrested the three men for the June 2023 killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey a suburb in Vancouver.

The trio have now been charged with first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in relation to the homicide.

Along with photographs of the three accused, the Canadian police has also released the photographs of the car believed to have been used by the suspects in the time leading up to the homicide, in and around the Surrey area.

Addressing reporters at a news conference on Friday, RCMP Assistant Commissioner David Teboul, who leads the Federal Policing Program in the Pacific Region, emphasised the active nature of the investigation into Nijjar’s murder.

“Three suspects have been arrested and charged for their alleged involvement in the killing of Nijjar…. We are not able to make any comments on the nature of evidence… Nor can we speak behind the motive of murder of Nijjar… However, I will say this matter is very much under active investigation,” he said.

“There are separate and distinct investigations ongoing into these matters, certainly not limited to the involvement of the people arrested today, and these efforts include investigating connections to the government of India,” Teboul also said.

Public Safety Minister Dominic Leblanc refrained from confirming any connection to the Indian government, asserting that such inquiries should be directed to the RCMP, CTV News report.

“I have full confidence in the security apparatus of the government of Canada and the work of the RCMP, and the work that the (Canadian) Security Intelligence Service does,” Leblanc said.

“The police operation that you see ongoing today confirms that the RCMP take these matters extremely seriously. But questions with respect to particular links or non-links are properly put to the RCMP,” he added, according to CTV News report.

Police personnel have not given any evidence of any link to India as was being speculated in Canadian media. India has repeatedly denied the allegations, terming them “absurd and motivated.”

Hardeep Singh Nijjar

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was designated a terrorist by India’s National Investigation Agency in 2020, was shot and killed as he came out of a Gurdwara in Surrey in June last year.

On June 18, 2023, the Surrey RCMP received a report of a shooting at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey. First responding members located a man, later identified as Hardeep Singh Nijjar, suffering from fatal gunshot wounds inside a vehicle.

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) has been carrying out the investigation. It has continued to work closely with a number of partner agencies and support services across Canada, as far east as Ontario, including the Surrey RCMP, the Alberta RCMP and other Lower Mainland Integrated Teams.

The Canadian police have not given any evidence of any link to India as was being speculated in Canadian media.

Nijjar’s killing triggered diplomatic tensions between Canada and India after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused India of being involved in the killing — a claim which India has rejected as “absurd.”

The video of his killing that reportedly surfaced in March this year showed Nijjar being shot by armed men in what has been described as a “contract killing”. (ANI)

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Taiwan says US aid package will safeguard peace

The announcement also comes days before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits China, hoping to press Beijing to curb wartime support for Russia…reports Asian Lite News

Taiwan will work with the United States to “safeguard peace and freedom” in the region, the island’s premier said on Monday, after Washington approved billions in military aid for Taipei in the face of an increasingly assertive China.

The US House of Representatives on Saturday passed four bills in a $95 billion package, approving military aid to Ukraine and bolstering Israel’s defenses.

Some $8 billion under one bill would be used to counter China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to bring the democratic island under its control.

Taiwan’s defense ministry said Sunday that about $1.9 billion is earmarked for replenishing its military equipment and training and another $2 billion will used for “foreign military financing” for countries in the region including Taiwan.

The announcement also comes days before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits China, hoping to press Beijing to curb wartime support for Russia.

“A peaceful and stable Taiwan Strait is a most important key to peace and prosperity in the world,” Taiwanese Premier Chen Chien-jen said Monday.

“Taiwan will continue to work with like-minded countries including the United States and all countries in the free democratic camp… to safeguard peace and freedom in the Indo-Pacific region and make the Taiwan Strait area more stable,” he added.

The 180-kilometer waterway separates Taiwan from China and is among the world’s busiest shipping routes.

It is also a hotspot of tensions between Beijing and Taipei, as relations have plummeted since 2016 after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen came into power.

She has refused to acknowledge Beijing’s claim over the island, saying instead that Taiwan is “already independent,” and during her two terms has bolstered defense spending for the island’s armed forces.

Her office on Sunday thanked the US Congress for approving the bills, which “shows that the United States’ security commitment to Taiwan has a clear bipartisan consensus,” said Presidential spokeswoman Olivia Lin.

Washington’s top diplomat Blinken’s trip marks a lowering of US-China friction that soared under former president Donald Trump.

High on his agenda will be what US officials say is a major push by China that has helped Russia, in the throes of the Ukraine invasion, carry out its biggest militarization since Soviet times.

But Beijing has regularly expressed anger at international support for Taipei and criticized the US of meddling in its affairs.

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Indian Student Shot Dead in Canada

Chirag Antil, 24, was found dead inside a vehicle in Sunset neighbourhood in Canada’s Vancouver…reports Asian Lite News

A 24-year-old Indian student was shot dead in his car in Sunset neighbourhood in Canada’s Vancouver, police said on Sunday.

Chirag Antil, 24, was found dead inside a vehicle in the area, the Vancouver Police said in a statement.

After hearing the gunshots, residents in the neighbourhood called emergency responders, CBC news reported quoting police spokesperson Tania Visintin.

“Officers were called to East 55th Avenue and Main Street around 11 p.m. on April 12 after residents heard the sound of gun shots. Chirag Antil, 24, was found deceased inside a vehicle in the area,” Vancouver Police said.

No arrests have been made in the case and an investigation is on, the police said.

Taking to X, Congress NSUI chief Varun Choudhary, tagging the Ministry of External Affairs, requested for assistance to the student’s family.

He posted: “Urgent attention regarding the murder of Chirag Antil, an Indian student in Vancouver, Canada. We urge the Ministry of External Affairs to closely monitor the progress of the investigation and ensure that justice is swiftly served.”

He also requested the ministry to extend all necessary support and assistance to the family of the deceased during this difficult time.

For the repatriation of Chirag’s body, his family is raising money through the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe, local media reported.

Chirag’s brother Romit Antil, a resident of Haryana, told the local media that he used to talk with his sibling every day.

Romit said that he had also spoken to Chirag on the day when the accident happened.

Chirag, who moved to Vancouver in September 2022, had just finished his MBA at University Canada West, and got his work permit recently.

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Canadian ex-minister reveals she was briefed on ‘Chinese interference’

Gould clarified that despite these activities, the integrity of the vote remained intact…reports Asian Lite News

Former minister for Democratic Institutions, Karina Gould, revealed that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) briefed her after the 2019 federal elections on low-level interference by China, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported.

However, Gould clarified that despite these activities, the integrity of the vote remained intact.

Gould, who held the ministerial position from early 2017 to November 2019, testified before the foreign interference inquiry, noting that CSIS had informed her about Beijing’s involvement in the lead-up to the October 2019 elections. She added that such attempts at foreign interference were not uncommon, likening them to historical occurrences dating back to ancient Greece, CBC reported.

“Probably in every election that Canada has ever had, there have been attempts at foreign interference just like in probably every election in a democracy around the world — probably since ancient Greece — there have been attempts at foreign interference,” Gould said.

“Whether they are successful or not is another question,” she added.

On her involvement in addressing potential threats to the federal elections, Gould elaborated on the creation of the Panel of Five, a group of bureaucrats tasked with assessing such risks. She highlighted the panel’s decision not to issue a public alert despite attempts by China and other state actors to meddle with both the 2019 and 2021 elections, citing the panel’s determination that these attempts did not meet the threshold for public disclosure.

Significantly, both elections were won by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In defence of the panel’s high threshold, Gould said, “The very act of making a decision to announce something publicly could be seen as interference itself.”

She added that she abstained from being briefed on foreign interference during the 2019 elections due to her vested interest in the electoral outcome, deeming it inappropriate to receive such intelligence briefings.

The inquiry, overseen by Commissioner Marie-Josee Hogue, aims to evaluate the dissemination of information within the government regarding alleged meddling in the previous two federal elections, according to CBC.

Triggered by media reports and opposition demands, the inquiry delves into various claims, including allegations concerning former Liberal candidate Han Dong’s purported involvement in a Chinese foreign interference network during the 2019 elections.

Jeremy Broadhurst, the Liberals’ national campaign director for the 2019 federal elections, however, refuted these claims, stating that security officials merely provided information without making recommendations or advising specific actions to be taken.

Ahead of her testimony, Gould engaged with commission staff in a classified setting, where she addressed concerns related to the Don Valley North riding and alleged foreign interference during the Toronto-area nomination contest. She clarified that she was not briefed on these matters during or after the election.

Prime Minister Trudeau is also scheduled to testify, marking a significant moment in the inquiry’s proceedings.

While Trudeau’s appearance was initially intended to conclude this stage of the inquiry, Commissioner Hogue agreed to recall CSIS Director David Vigneault to respond to further inquiries about certain documents. Hogue’s interim report is expected in early May, with the inquiry transitioning to broader policy discussions thereafter, aiming for a final report by year-end, CBC reported. (ANI)

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UK and Canada strengthen space collaboration

The signing ceremony took place during the 39th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The event, which is held annually, brings together space leaders from around the world to discuss future space exploration plans and strategies…reports Asian Lite News

To improve their space-related collaboration, the UK Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency have signed an enhanced memorandum of understanding (MoU). The new agreement will build on the initial MoU signed in 2021 and will focus on areas such as space policy, standards, and regulations.

The signing ceremony took place during the 39th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The event, which is held annually, brings together space leaders from around the world to discuss future space exploration plans and strategies.

Dr. Paul Bate, UK Space Agency CEO, emphasized the importance of the partnership, stating, “The renewal of the MoU with our Canadian colleagues will bring further significant benefits to the thriving space industries of the UK and Canada, allowing us to continue achieving our goals in space through collaborative efforts in research and innovation.”

Bate added that Canada is a key partner for the UK in space exploration, and he expressed confidence that the bilateral relationship between the two nations will continue to strengthen their space sectors.

The enhanced MoU will provide a more comprehensive framework for collaboration in a number of areas, including space policy and regulations. It will also facilitate the exchange of information and technology on space-related topics. In addition, the agreement aims to promote free and fair access to space for all.

The signing of the enhanced MoU is a significant milestone for the UK Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, and it is expected to further strengthen their space collaboration in the years to come. This new agreement will pave the way for future joint projects and collaborations in areas such as lunar exploration and space science.

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Trudeau: China Tried to Meddle in Canadian Elections Twice

The Chinese Embassy in Canada denied any interference in Canadian affairs….reports Asian Lite News

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said China tried to meddle in the election process in his country twice –2019 and 2021, but asserted that it was fair.

The elections were decided by Candians, Trudeau said on Wednesday in his testimony before a commission probing alleged foreign interference in the polls.

The commission was set up last year after media reports about China’s interference in the polls.

However, the Chinese Embassy in Canada denied any interference in Canadian affairs.

The commission is set to complete its initial report by May 3 and final report by 2024 end, The Guardian reported.

Earlier, India was accused of meddling in the polls and later the allegation was ruled out by Canada.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) on Monday said that China has “clandestinely and deceptively” interfered in the Canadian elections.

“We know that the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) clandestinely and deceptively interfered in both the 2019 and 2021 elections,” CSIS said during a briefing to the commission.

Trudeau’s Liberal Party had won both the elections.

The Conservatives lead campaigner, during the 2021 election, Erin O’Toole, estimated Chinese “interference” cost his party up to nine seats.

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Embarrass, Shame PM Modi: Pannun

Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun termed the general elections, that begins on April 19 a time when people can “embarrass Modi” by “show shoes” and “shame” him….reports Asian Lite News

Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun has released a video in which he is purportedly heard saying that his group will challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and the former Research and Analysis Wing chief Samant Goel, “right in their own backyard.”

Pannun accuses the Modi regime of “transnational terrorism” and says his outfit, the banned Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) will continue to campaign for the so-called Khalistan referendum. He termed the general elections, that begins on April 19 a time when people can “embarrass Modi” by “show shoes” and “shame” him.

The close to 3-minute-long video shows clips from Rajnath Singh’s recent interview to a TV channel in which the Defence minister says that the government will give a befitting reply to any terrorist who tries to disturb the peace of India. The video also shows a clip of the PM at a rally stating that “aaj ka bharat ghar mein ghus kar maarta hai.”

During his public rally in Jamui on April 4, PM Modi had launched a scathing attack on the Congress and claimed that during the UPA rule, India was considered a weak country.

“Terrorists from small countries, used to launch attacks in India and Congress used to complain about it to other countries. But today India can strike inside enemy’s home,” said PM Modi ahead of Lok Sabha election. He further said, “You remember 10 years ago, what was the opinion of India in the world? During the rule of Congress, India was considered a weak and poor country. Terrorists from small countries, used to launch attacks in India and Congress used to complain about it to other countries. But today India can strike inside enemy’s home.”

Meanwhile, the designated terrorist Pannun urges pro-Khalistan terrorists to shame Prime Minister Narendra Modi by “showing shoes”.

In the video, Pannun also urged the governments of the US, Canada and Pakistan to follow ‘LexTalionis’ which implies an equal punishment approach.

It is not the first time that Pannun has released a video on social media. He is known to routinely release such videos on social media in the past.

In November last year, designated terrorist Pannun , released a new video asking Sikhs not to fly in Air India aircraft after November 19, as their lives can be under threat. He claimed that Air India would not be allowed to operate on November 19.

Pannun claimed that Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport would remain shut on November 19 and that its name would be changed. Earlier in September, he urged Hindu Canadians to leave Canada amid a diplomatic row between India and Canada over the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

In a video that circulated on social media, Pannun said pro-Khalistan Sikhs have consistently shown loyalty to Canada. He then went on to threaten Indo-Canadian Hindus, urging them to leave the country. (ANI)

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Canada halts arms exports to Israel

Israel has historically been a top receiver of Canadian arms exports, with CAN$21 million worth of military materiel exported to Israel in 2022, according to Radio Canada, following CAN$26 million in shipments in 2021…reports Asian Lite News

Canada will halt all arms shipments to Israel, a government official said, a decision that has drawn the ire of Israel as it faces growing international scrutiny over its war in the Gaza Strip.

The besieged Palestinian territory is facing a mounting humanitarian crisis, and months of war have pushed hundreds of thousands of Gazans to the brink of famine. Canada, a key ally of the United States, which provides Israel with billions of dollars a year in military aid, had already reduced its weapons shipments to Israel to non-lethal equipment such as radios following the October 7 Hamas attack.

“The situation on the ground makes it so that we can’t” export any kind of military equipment, the Canadian official said. Canada’s foreign minister Melanie Joly told the Toronto Star newspaper on Tuesday that Ottawa would stop future arms exports to Israel.

Israel slammed the decision, with foreign minister Israel Katz saying it “undermines Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas terrorists.” “History will judge Canada’s current action harshly,” he said in a post on social media platform X.

Senator Bernie Sanders welcomed the move, saying in a post on X: “Given the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, including widespread and growing starvation, the US should not provide another nickel for Netanyahu’s war machine.”

Israel has historically been a top receiver of Canadian arms exports, with CAN$21 million worth of military materiel exported to Israel in 2022, according to Radio Canada, following CAN$26 million in shipments in 2021.

Ottawa has only exported “non-lethal” shipments such as communications equipment to Israel since the deadly October 7 attacks by Hamas against Israel triggered a war in the Gaza Strip. No exports had been sent since January, the government official added.

While affirming Israel’s right to defend itself, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken an increasingly critical stance toward Israel as civilian deaths have mounted in Gaza. On Monday, the Canadian Parliament passed a nonbinding resolution calling for the international community to work toward a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

The issue of arms deliveries to Israel has triggered legal proceedings in several countries around the world.

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Indian-Origin Couple, Daughter Killed in ‘Suspicious Fire’ in Ontario

An India-origin couple and their 16-year-old daughter have died in a “suspicious” fire at their home in Canada’s Ontario province.

The incident happened on March 7, however, the police said that they identified the victims on Friday, whose remains were discovered at the site, reported CTV News.

The victims have been identified as Rajiv Warikoo, 51, Shilpa Kotha, 47, and Mahek Warikoo, 16.

“All three of the deceased persons resided at the address prior to the fire,” Peel Police said in a press release.

On March 7, at 1:30 pm, police were called to the area of Big Sky Way and Van Kirk Drive in Brampton at a residential home that was fully engulfed in flames.

In the video captured on a neighbour’s doorbell camera, large flames shoot out of the roof, and black smoke billows into the sky as a fire truck shows up, as reported by CTV News.

“Following the initial efforts of first responders to put the fire out, the fire Marshall’s office was called in to help determine the cause of the fire. While examining the scene, investigators made an unfortunate discovery when they located what was believed to be human remains within the destroyed house,” Peel Police added.

Moreover, the detectives from the Peel Regional Police Homicide Bureau have been working closely with the Office of the Chief Coroner.

Peel police Constable Taryn Young said that the fire has been deemed suspicious, as reported by CTV News.

Speaking with CP24 Friday, Peel police Constable Taryn Young said the fire had been deemed suspicious.

“At this time we are investigating this with our homicide bureau and we are deeming this as suspicious as the Ontario Fire Marshal has deemed that this fire was not accidental,” Young said.

“There’s not much left to it,” Young said when asked about the possible cause of the fire.

“Looking into something like that as a fire marshal, I’m sure it’s very tough when there is not much left to look at. But we are exhausting all avenues,” she added.

She further said that the coroner is also working to determine exactly how the three family members died, reported CTV News.

Young also acknowledged that the deadly fire has “devastated” the local community in Brampton, adding that the investigators are working “around the clock” to determine the cause.

One of the neighbours described the three people who died as “a good family” who greeted their neighbours, CTV reported.

The neighbour further said that they were seen riding bikes around the area frequently.

“That is so, so tragic. My neighbour’s daughter and their daughter were about the same age and we saw them playing all the time and it was very sad to hear that news,” neighbour Kenneth Yousaf said. (ANI)

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