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In The News for Feb. 16 : How can MPs spot and protect against foreign interference?

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 Feb. 16 ... What we are watching in Canada ...
A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa, Tuesday, May 14, 2013. Some members of Parliament say they have no idea how to spot foreign interference, as Canada's spy agency warns that all elected officials are targets for hostile states. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

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 Feb. 16 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Some members of Parliament say they have no idea how to spot foreign interference, as Canada's spy agency warns that all elected officials are targets for hostile states.

"There is not clarity, quite frankly, around what MPs and their parties can do to protect themselves," NDP MP Rachel Blaney told CSIS officials on Feb. 9.

She was speaking during the House procedure committee's hearings on foreign interference, which is studying allegations of attempts by China to meddle in the 2019 federal election.

The MPs heard from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service about efforts to safeguard against foreign states trying to improperly influence elected representatives and candidates for office.

"All levels of government are susceptible and targeted by foreign-interference actors," CSIS assistant director Cherie Henderson testified.

"That's provincial, federal and municipal — all electoral candidates are."

Henderson added that CSIS must "educate all Canadians, including MPs, in regards to the potential threat that they face from foreign-interference actors."

A year ago, CSIS told media it was offering briefings to some MPs and Senators on foreign influence and interference, and two MPs who frequently speak out against China confirmed getting such training. But it's unclear how many elected officials are offered these briefings.


Also this ...

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discusses the escalating crisis in Haiti with Caribbean leaders this week, some experts are urging him to put the brakes on suggestions of a military intervention. 

Trudeau arrived in the Bahamas Wednesday afternoon to participate in a meeting of the Caribbean Community, where 20 heads of government from the region are gathering through the end of the week. 

He is expected to deliver remarks during a summit plenary and meet with several of the leaders one-on-one Thursday, including de facto Haitian prime minister Ariel Henry, who took power after the assassination of former president Jovenel Moïse but was never elected to that role.

Gangs have taken control of much of the country since the assassination, grinding its economy to a halt and hastening a resurgence of cholera. A United Nations report last week detailed "indiscriminate shootings, executions and rapes." Police have failed to contain the widespread violence.

With the support of the UN, Henry’s unelected government is seeking an external security force to quell the chaos. 

To date, though the United States has been more hawkish about a potential intervention, the Canadian government has been reluctant to commit to one, citing a preference for a Haitian-led solution. 

Some Caribbean countries, including Jamaica and the Bahamas, set the stage for the Nassau meetings by publicly committing to contribute to a force if one is established. In a joint statement last fall, the leaders of the Caribbean Community said they "take note of the appeal" for "short-term assistance."

The International Crisis Group organization argued in a recent report that the collapse of the Haitian state and the severity of the humanitarian emergency increasingly justifies preparations for a mission. 

"But its deployment should hinge on adequate planning to operate in urban areas and support from Haiti's main political forces, including their firm commitment to work together in creating a legitimate transitional government," the December report said.


And this too ...

A funeral will be held today for one of the two young children killed when a bus crashed into a daycare last week in Laval, Que., just north of Montreal.

The ceremony for Jacob Gauthier is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Ste-Rose-de-Lima church, about two kilometres from the site of the tragedy.

A funeral notice published last week said Jacob was four and a half and is survived by his mother, father, sister, as well as grandparents and other extended family.

The alleged bus attack at the Garderie Éducative Ste-Rose left two children dead and sent six to hospital with injuries.

Pierre Ny St-Amand, a 51-year-old driver with the Laval transit corporation, was arrested at the scene and later charged with two counts of first-degree murder and seven other offences, including attempted murder and aggravated assault.

Funeral details for the second child, who was identified by her parents as Maëva David, have not been announced.


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

MEMPHIS, Tenn. _ Two sheriff's deputies who have been suspended for five days for their role in the arrest of Tyre Nichols failed to keep their body cameras activated after they went to the location where Nichols had been beaten by five Memphis police officers, officials said late Wednesday.

Shelby County Sheriff's Office deputies Jeremy Watkins and Johntavious Bowers each violated multiple policies after they reported to the location of Nichols' violent arrest on Jan. 7, Sheriff Floyd Bonner said in a statement.

Nichols had fled a traffic stop but was caught near his home by Memphis Police Department officers who punched him, kicked him and hit him with a baton, police video footage and other documents showed.

Video released by the city showed several law enforcement officers standing around as Nichols struggled with serious injuries while he sat on the ground, propped up against a police car. Nichols was taken to a hospital in an ambulance that left the location of the beating 27 minutes after emergency medical technicians arrived, authorities have said.

Nichols died at a hospital on Jan. 10. Five Memphis officers accused of beating Nichols have been fired and charged with second-degree murder. One other Memphis officer has been fired but not charged criminally for his role in the traffic stop that preceded the beating.

The sheriff's office previously had said two deputies who went to the scene after Nichols was beaten had been disciplined and were under investigation. But the county law enforcement office had not divulged further details, including their names and the actions they took _ or did not take.

Reports released by the sheriff's office late Thursday showed Bowers and Watkins were suspended for five days without pay for failing to keep their body cameras and in-car video turned on while they were at the arrest location.

The deputies also did not notify dispatch or their supervisor, the reports showed. Watkins also did not report on his daily log that he went to the arrest location, according to the reports.

Bonner said the sheriff's office does not believe that the deputies will face criminal charges.

Bowers and Watkins have been Shelby County deputies since June 2021, Bonner said. Both suspensions began Wednesday.


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

KYIV, Ukraine _ Russia again pummeled Ukraine with a barrage of cruise and other missiles on Thursday, hitting targets from east to west. Ukrainian authorities said one of the strikes killed a 79-year-old woman and injured at least seven other people.

Russian forces used a variety of missile types, firing 36 in all in a two-hour overnight burst, said Ukraine's military chief, Valery Zaluzhnyy. He said Ukrainian air defence batteries shot down 16 of them _ a lower rate of success than against some previous Russian waves.

Ukrainian authorities said targets in the north, west, south, east and centre of the country were struck.

The head of Ukraine's presidential office, Andriy Yermak, said Russian forces "changed their tactics'' for the strike, deploying what he described as "active reconnaissance'' and "false targets.''

He gave no details. But Russian forces may be seeking ways to get past Ukrainian air defences that have been strengthened by Western-supplied weapons systems and have had high rates of success against previous Russian barrages of missiles and killer drones.

One of the overnight strikes caused casualties and destroyed homes in the eastern city of Pavlohrad, the regional governor said. Gov. Serhiy Lysak said a 79-year-old woman was killed and at least seven other people were wounded, including two who were later hospitalized.

The strike destroyed seven homes, damaged 30 others and sparked a fire at an industrial plant that emergency services put out within hours, the governor added.

A regional governor in western Ukraine, Maksym Kozitskyi, said a fire broke out at a "critical'' infrastructure facility in the province of Lviv. He did not immediately offer details.


On this day in 1971 ...

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau mouthed an expression in the Commons he later described as "fuddle-duddle.''


In entertainment ...

NEW YORK _ Raquel Welch, whose emergence from the sea in a skimpy, furry bikini in the film "One Million Years B.C.'' would propel her to international sex symbol status throughout the 1960s and '70s, has died. She was 82.

Welch died early Wednesday after a brief illness, according to her agent, Stephen LaManna of the talent agency Innovative Artists.

Welch's breakthrough came in 1966's campy prehistoric flick "One Million Years B.C.,'' despite having a grand total of three lines. Clad in a brown doeskin bikini, she successfully evaded pterodactyls but not the notice of the public.

"I just thought it was a goofy dinosaur epic we'd be able to sweep under the carpet one day,'' she told The Associated Press in 1981. "Wrong. It turned out that I was the Bo Derek of the season, the lady in the loin cloth about whom everyone said, 'My God, what a bod' and they expected to disappear overnight.''

She did not, playing Lust for the comedy team of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in their film "Bedazzled'' in 1967 and playing a secret agent in the sexy spy spoof "Fathom'' that same year.

Her curves and beauty captured pop culture attention, with Playboy crowning her the "most desired woman'' of the '70s, despite never being completely naked in the magazine. In 2013, she graced the No. 2 spot on Men's Health's "Hottest Women of All Time'' list. In the film "The Shawshank Redemption,'' a poster of Welch covers an escape tunnel _ the last of three that character Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) used after Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe.

Admirers took to Twitter to mourn the star, including TV host Rosie O'Donnell, actor Chris Meloni and writer-director Paul Feig, who worked with Welch on "Sabrina the Teenage Witch'' and called her "Kind, funny and a true superstar whom I was pretty much in love with for most of my childhood. We've lost a true icon.''


Did you see this?

Canada's preeminent ufologist has seen an uptick in reported sightings of unidentified flying objects in recent days suggesting more Canadians are turning their eyes to the sky after U.S. fighter jets shot down three separate objects over the weekend.

Chris Rutkowski, with Ufology Research in Winnipeg, has been collecting and analyzing Canadian data on unidentified flying objects, or unidentified aerial phenomena as it's more recently been referred to as, for nearly 35 years.

Following the U.S. and Canadian governments "unprecedented" decision to take action against the objects, Rutkowski has received a number of sighting descriptions, including one on an Ontario highway near Cambridge where someone said they saw a "black rectangle" move across the highway.

"People are keeping a closer eye to the skies and thankfully are reporting them so that we can get some data on what people are seeing," said Rutkowski.

Reported sightings of unidentified flying object reached an all-time high in Canada in the 2010s but have been on a steady decline since then.

Ufology Research's latest study released earlier this month suggests there were 768 UFO sightings in the country last year — a slight increase of about six per cent from the previous year. Rutkowski found one person in Quebec reported nearly 40 separate sightings, which accounted for the higher number. The number of reported sightings in Canada last year was the fourth-lowest over the past 20 years.

The study said these numbers likely don't show the full picture as individuals are reluctant to report sightings out of fear of being ridiculed or concern for their reputation.

But Rutkowski stresses times have changed in the field. While the mere mention of the term UFO used to conjure images of alien invasions, tin hat wearing conspiracists and pop culture extraterrestrial icons Alf and E.T., research around the phenomena has evolved in government and academic circles.

Canadians are in "good company" if they believe they've seen a UFO as polls conducted suggest that 10 per cent of people in the country believe they've seen an unidentified object in the sky, said Rutkowski.

"When a person reports seeing a UFO, whether you're a pilot or just an average person on the street, you may be seeing something that is quite significant and potentially of value to researchers," he added.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2023.

The Canadian Press