Canada briefs – November 26

Canada will not attend a United Nations conference on racism next year, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Thursday.

Canada to skip racism conference

OTTAWA — Canada will not attend a United Nations conference on racism next year, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Thursday.

“Our government has lost faith in the Durban process,” Kenney told a news conference. “Canada will not participate in this charade. We will not lend our good name to this Durban hatefest.

“Canada is clearly committed to the fight against racism, but the Durban process commemorates an agenda that actually promotes racism rather than combats it.”

The New York conference next September, dubbed “Durban III,” is intended to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2001 meeting in South Africa aimed at defeating racism.

Canada walked out of that conference after Iran and several countries began ganging up on Israel.


Ottawa, Quebec close to deal on HST

OTTAWA — The federal government and Quebec City are closing in on a deal to compensate the province for harmonizing its sales tax a decade ago, The Canadian Press has learned.

An agreement that would potentially send billions to Quebec would make voting down the next federal budget extremely difficult for the Bloc Quebecois, thus helping Stephen Harper’s government stay afloat longer.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty would only say that he had made good progress in talks with his Quebec counterpart Raymond Bachand.

Bachand’s office also said talks are progressing, but said the minister wasn’t ready to make an announcement yet.

Ottawa gave Ontario $4.3 billion and British Columbia $1.6 billion to help their transitions to a harmonized sales tax this year.

Quebec has demanded up to $2.6 billion in compensation for harmonizing its sales taxes in the 1990s.

But Ottawa has argued that the taxes were never fully harmonized, with Quebec operating an independent tax system. A deal would see Ottawa collect the taxes and send Quebec back its share.


Refugees can be sent home: top court

OTTAWA — Refugee status doesn’t necessarily last forever and, in some cases, refugees can be extradited back to the countries from which they fled, the Supreme Court of Canada said Thursday.

People can be sent back to countries which have reformed and which no longer persecute people on racial, religious or other grounds, it ruled.

The court granted reprieves to a Hungarian couple and a Romanian man from extradition orders against them. But the cases were sent back to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson for reconsideration.

The individuals are of Roma extraction, who fled to Canada and were granted refugee status because of a well-founded fear of persecution in their homelands due to their ethnic origin.

Joszef and Joszefne Nemeth came to Canada in 2001. Tiberiu Gavrila arrived in 2004.

Later, the Hungarian government sought extradition of the Nemeths to face a fraud charge. The Romanians asked that Gavrila be sent back to serve time on a fraud conviction.

International law generally holds that refugees cannot be sent back to countries where they were persecuted.

But there are exceptions, one involving serious, non-political crimes.

The Quebec Superior Court cleared the way for all three extraditions and the minister ordered the removals, saying the people involved had not shown they were at risk of persecution if they were sent back.

But the Nemeths and Gavrila appealed, in two separate cases which were heard together at the Supreme Court.

They argued they couldn’t be extradited unless their refugee status was formally revoked.


Former commander quits military

OTTAWA — A general facing court martial over an alleged sexual affair while commanding Canadian forces in Afghanistan is quitting the military.

Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard tendered his resignation Nov. 17 and will be leaving the army ranks on Dec. 17.

The married father of two still must face a court martial over an alleged sexual affair with a subordinate while in the theatre of war — and charges he tried to persuade her to change her story.

“This decision is a personal decision,” said navy Cmdr. Hubert Genest, a defence spokesman.

“Last week, he officially submitted his voluntary release from the Canadian Forces after 26 years of service. He now wishes to focus on his family.”

Menard’s subordinate, Master Cpl. Bianka Langlois, was convicted in a summary trial Sept. 28 of one count of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline. She was reprimanded and fined $700.

Military regulations bar soldiers, even married couples, from having intimate relations on deployment.

Court documents allege a sexual affair took place between the two at Kandahar airfield beginning Nov. 15, 2009, and ending April 27, 2010.

The director of military prosecutions said this week that Menard will be tried on two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline and four counts of obstructing justice. No date has been set.

According to the charge sheet, Menard made repeated attempts to thwart the investigation last May by asking Langlois to “withdraw her statement that she had engaged in sexual activity in theatre with him.”

On May 28 and 29, the charge sheet says, the general twice asked the corporal “to delete emails exchanged between the two.”

Menard was Canada’s task force commander in Afghanistan at the time. He was summarily removed from his post in June and ordered home in disgrace.

“He still has to face his charges in court martial,” said Genest.

“He will do so as a retired brigadier-general, understanding that the outcome of the court martial may eventually have an impact on a series of administrative actions that the Canadian Forces may have to take afterwards . . . . We have to let the court do its thing.”

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