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10-year-old Calgary boy asks Santa to free friends’ dad from Turkish prison

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A Calgary mom is forwarding her son’s heartbreaking letter to Santa along to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as they might have more sway than Saint Nick in fulfilling her child’s request.

Ten-year-old Douglas Hsu’s letter didn’t focus on the gifts he wants for Christmas. Instead, he asked that the father of two of his friends be released from a Turkish prison.

He used to be classmates with Vedat and Cemil Hanci. The Hanci boys moved to Ontario in 2016, after their father, Calgarian Imam Davud Hanci was detained in Turkey.

Douglas Hsu, 10, said all he wants for Christmas is for Davud Hanci to be reunited with his family. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

He has since been sentenced to 15 years in Turkish prison on allegations he was connected to an attempted coup. Relatives say he was visiting his sick father at the time and was not involved.

The two families have stayed close, and when Douglas started drafting his letter to Santa, his mom Lindsay Connick said he had only one thing on his mind and couldn’t be swayed.

‘I’d like him to free our friend’

“He just said ‘mom, you know what, Santa’s a super magical guy.’ And he said ‘since he’s magical, you know what I’d like to ask for, for Christmas this year?'” Connick said. “And I said, ‘what’s that Douglas?’ And he said ‘I’d like him to free our friend Davud.’ And I was just taken aback and didn’t know how to respond right away.”

Connick said she told him it was a big ask and very noble.

Douglas Hsu, 10, asked for his friend’s dad, Davud Hanci, to be freed from a Turkish prison. 1:07

“Dear Santa, Thank you so much for caring for the world’s families,” Douglas wrote.

“This year, my friend’s dad was sentenced to 15 years in jail after the two years he’s been in this cold Turkish prison. I wondered if you could help me free him …That’s really all I want, I wouldn’t like anything else.”

Lindsay Connick and her son Douglas Hsu, pictured with Rumeysa Hanci and her sons this summer in Toronto. (Submitted by Lindsay Connick)

Douglas said it made him sad that his friends weren’t going to have their dad with them for the holidays.

“I feel kinda sad that he’s in there ’cause he wouldn’t be with his family for Christmas, and then their family wouldn’t be together for a long time,” he told CBC News.

Connick sent her son’s letter to Freeland, Trudeau and local MP Len Webber, along with a letter of her own last week. She said she hasn’t heard back yet.

“My initial response was this was a big ask and Santa’s going to need some help,” Connick said.

It was so touching for me and I couldn’t hold my tears, and we cried on the phone for a long time.– Rumeysa Hanci , Davud  Hanci’s wife

She said she’s hoping government officials take the 10-year-old’s request to heart.

“One of the most important life lessons I feel we can all strive for is to be good to others,” she said.

Connick called Davud’s wife, Rumeysa, to tell her about Douglas’ letter.

“When she told me about Douglas’ letter to Santa, it was so touching for me and I couldn’t hold my tears and we cried on the phone for a long time,” Rumeysa said.

“He has such a warm heart and he has compassion.”

Rumeysa said it has been nearly two-and-a-half years since she and her sons have been separated from Davud.

“I try to be strong for my kids, you know, I am a mom,” she said, her voice breaking.

“We miss him so much.”

She said her husband is being held in solitary confinement. She asked her fellow Canadians to think of him and put themselves in his shoes.

Rumeysa Hanci, wife of Calgary imam Davud Hanci, who is imprisoned in Turkey, said her husband is being kept in solitary confinement. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

In July 2016, more than 75,000 people were arrested in Turkey in a crackdown following an attempted coup against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A state of emergency was instituted in the country that ended this July.

Hanci and many of those arrested were accused of having ties to Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric who was blamed for the attempted government overthrow. Family members have said Hanci has no connections to Gulen.

Before his arrest, he had been living with his wife and children in Calgary, working as an imam for Correctional Service Canada and the Alberta correctional services.

‘I try to keep my hope alive’

Rumeysa said she’s allowed to talk to her husband on the phone for 10 minutes each week at midnight because of the time difference.

“I am losing my hope of course … nothing has changed. But I try to keep my hope alive,” she said.

“I wish for the Canadian government to do something for him to be released.”

Calgarian Davud Hanci was sentenced to 15 years in a Turkish prison on what his family says are false charges. (Selman Durmus)

Brendan Sutton, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said consular officials are providing assistance to Hanci and his family and remain in contact with local authorities, but due to the Privacy Act further details cannot be released.

“We know how hard it is for family and friends when a Canadian is detained outside of the country,” Sutton said.

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Canadian Tech Calling: Moon and Mars and Mobile Phones

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Canadian technological know-how is helping develop reliable mobile communications for next-generation space missions, including manned missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

With many eyes here on Earth now focused on Mars, following the successful journey of ‘Percy’, the roving space exploration vehicle more formally known as Perseverance that is now cruising the Martian landscape, the continued role of Canadian researchers and technologists in space exploration has also drawn more attention.

A team of researchers at Simon Fraser University is working to make LTE/4G and Wi-Fi communications systems on the Moon a reality, along with others in the U.S. and Canada, under the umbrella of the Artemis Program at NASA.

That project will see the return of human beings to the Moon by 2024, and then to the surface of Mars after that.

As part of those efforts, NASA selected Nokia Bell Labs to build a test network and communications infrastructure to build interoperability standards among future cellular and Wi-Fi networks, so that all types of devices can be connected and support Artemis.

The network must provide critical communication capabilities for many different data transmission applications, including command and control functions; real-time navigation and remote control of surface rovers; as well as the streaming of high definition video, applications that are all vital to long-term human presence on a lunar or planetary surface.

“It sounds like far-out stuff, building networks on the Moon, Mars and even further out in our solar system,” says Stephen Braham, the director of the PolyLAB for Advanced Collaborative Networking at SFU. “But we’re actually testing Nokia’s technology right now.”

SFU’s PolyLAB for Advanced Collaborative Networking is doing some of that work at its Exploration Wireless Communications testbed at Vancouver’s Harbour Centre, in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

“(This is) what will allow us to build the ladder of technology standards needed to get cellular networks off Earth and into the solar system,” Braham said in a statement.

NASA and the CSA handed that critical testing to Braham and the scientists at PolyLAB, the Canadian component of what’s called the Exploration Wireless Communications (ExWC).

“Before space agencies can adopt these technologies, we need to prove we can operate between multiple vendors and different agencies, which is why NASA and CSA supports the ExWC testbed,” he continued.

The ExWC testbed launched back in 2018, testing high-speed wireless communications systems for space use, including 5G-forward LTE solutions and advanced Wi-Fi.

The SFU radio transmission systems, in the lab and on masts in the mountains in B.C. and the Yukon, are tested with various vendors and leading telecom providers, such including Vancouver-based Star Solutions and Sierra Wireless, another local company, as well as international telecommunications firms like Nokia.

Braham and associate professor Peter Anderson, who directs the SFU Telematics Research Laboratory that includes PolyLAB, both have extensive track records working on communication systems for NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

It includes extensive research on very early cellular and Wi-Fi networks in the Canadian High Arctic, where advanced field communications systems were set up to support the SETI Institute and Mars Institute-lead NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) up on Devon Island. 

That’s where Braham and his team tested the technology (developed in Canada) that became a big part of modern Wi-Fi, LTE, and now 5G technology, in order to meet up-front needs on human lunar missions if not all manned space flights.

From those early beginnings, the SFU team has now worked with other collaborators for the ongoing design and development of Canada’s prototype lunar/Mars surface communication networking systems, specifically the ExoMars rover, including Canadian space technology company MDA and the Canadian Communications Research Centre.

Braham is also an Associate Member on the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS), supporting CSA during discussions and development of international standards for computing, networking, and communications in space. He also worked for many years as a member of the CSA’s nine-member Space Exploration Advisory Committee (SEAC), providing community leadership and representation in aspects of human space exploration in Canada.

But, when space agency officials announced recently that a Canadian will be aboard when NASA returns to the Moon in 2023, well, Braham was not named as that astronaut.

Nevertheless, with his and his team’s help, that astronaut will make Canada the second country in history to have someone travel into deep space and fly around the Moon.

And maybe use a mobile phone to call us and tell us all about it.

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Canadian Consumer Coalition Calls for Affordable Internet on National Day of Action

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Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 16, a national day of action will be staged by Canadian consumer advocates, social justice groups, telecom policy experts, digital activists, and independent ISPs, or Internet Service Providers.

In a series of scheduled virtual events, there will be calls for the federal government and telecom regulators to take action and ensure affordable Internet and wireless services are available to all Canadians.

The free online event is open to the public, and planners and scheduled participants in the Day of Action for Affordable Internet hope consumers themselves will them in urging a range of actions be taken by the federal government, the CRTC and the country’s Competition Bureau.

Advocating for a more affordable Internet will be: ACORN Canada; Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship; activist and author Cory Doctorow; Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law Michael Geist; The Internet Society Canada Chapter; OpenMedia; Public Interest Advocacy Centre; Ryerson Leadership Lab; Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic; and TekSavvy Solutions.

And while a lack of competition has long been cited as a reason for high prices in Canada, the fact that a majority of subscribers stick with the ‘Big Three’ is also a stumbling block to leveling the playing field, at  least price-wise.

Canada’s Competitive Network Operators, a trade organization made up of Internet and telecommunications service providers that own/operate telecommunications networks across the country, is also fighting for a fair Internet pricing and accessibility structure.

Pandemic Pressures

Affordable Internet activists point out that, throughout the current COVID-19 crisis, reliable and affordable connectivity became even more essential. So did many things, in fact: many we had never deemed as so important, relevant or even as noteworthy as high speed Internet.

“The affordability and accessibility of the [I]nternet has never been more critical,” says Franca Palazzo, one of the event participants and the executive director of the Internet Society, Canada Chapter. “More than ever, we are being asked to work, learn and connect online.”

While it is true that many of our fellow Canadians are struggling to make ends meet during this pandemic, and they struggle, the coalition says, to pay some of the highest telecom bills in the world (while others can’t even get high-quality reliable connections), it is also true that many of us are using our high-speed connections more than ever with no increase in cost or decrease in service as a result of our pandemic-related stay-at-home, work-at-home or school-at-home activities.

The big three providers in Canada – Bell, Rogers and Telus – are among those companies that lifted data caps on cable and fibre-based residential Internet services; it’s a corporate goodwill gesture made as a result of pandemic and public pressures. The caps have been lifted until the end of June, where and when possible. (The Liberal government has directed the country’s largest telecom providers to cut specific cellphone prices in general.)

Not everyone is eligible for the pandemic discounts, however: some folks still using cellular (where, for example, high speed networking is not available) for their Internet connections are unable to get discounts because, the telecoms say, bandwidth and capacity would be threatened if caps were removed from cellular service.

“The digital divide in Canada is sometimes portrayed as exclusively a rural-urban divide,” says Sam Andrey, the director of policy and research at Ryerson Leadership Lab, where research and analysis into Internet usage is conducted. “But even in Canada’s largest cities, there are persistent gaps in access to digital services, devices and affordable [I]nternet at sufficient speeds that map onto other socioeconomic inequities, including income, age, race and ability,” he adds.

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Brim Financial Raises $25M Series B to transform the way people bank and shop

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TORONTO, March 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ – Brim Financial (Brim), a Canadian next-generation Fintech company and certified credit card issuer, today announced the close of a $25M Series B, co-led by Desjardins Group and US-based EPIC Ventures with strong participation from Canadian and US based investors including goeasy Ltd., White Owl and Impression Ventures.

Brim’s state-of-the-art technology stack and credit cards infrastructure leverages the company’s ability to directly access the payment rails as an issuer, enabling Brim to deliver a fundamentally transformative ecosystem of financial products for consumers and businesses.

The Series B financing will bolster Brim’s Platform as a Service (PaaS). Brim’s B2B2C strategy enables any bank, credit union, fintech or large commercial partner to seamlessly roll out Brim’s financial products platform, credit cards and integrated buy-now pay-later solutions, mobile and digital banking, and behavior-driven customer engagement, all embedded with a best-in-class globally open loyalty and rewards ecosystem available in real-time at all merchants worldwide. With Brim’s Platform as a Service, partners have the ability to customize every element of the platform and leverage Brim’s end-to-end services, on a modular and turnkey basis.

Our technology stack powers banking, loyalty and integrated e-commerce on a single platform, with the customer experience at the center of it all” said Rasha Katabi, CEO and Founder of Brim Financial. “Today’s digital environment has brought a new sense of urgency for institutions to assess how they will interact with their customers. We are well positioned to be at the forefront of this transformation that’s shaping the way we live, connect and engage for decades to come, and we’re excited to be working with investors who share the same vision.”

Brim has expanded beyond the direct-to-consumer space enabling large partners to leverage their digital first platform, suite of credit cards and financial products, and a globally open rewards and e-commerce ecosystem. Brim seamlessly integrates buy-now pay-later capabilities in all of its revolving consumer and business credit card products, providing ultimate flexibility for customers with a uniquely and strongly differentiated ecosystem.

“We’re thrilled to be part of Brim’s next chapter. There is tremendous potential in the industry, both in Canada and in the US, and Brim is uniquely positioned to deliver a significant and much needed transformation.” said Ryan Hemingway, Managing Director at EPIC Ventures. “Brim is combining banking and commerce like we haven’t seen in North America.”

Merged with its scalable technology platform, Brim has the largest open loyalty and rewards ecosystem as Brim’s technology stack directly leverages the global payment network. Brim’s Loyalty and Rewards are live at all points of sale globally, both in physical stores and online.  Any merchant can be live and part of the ecosystem in less than 3 minutes.

“Brim’s platform delivers industry-leading payments technology to their customers at an astonishing pace,” Martin Brunelle, Vice-President, Growth, Acquisitions and Development at Desjardins Group.  “Desjardins has earmarked $100 M to invest in technology companies and investment funds who can support our different business units in their digital transformation needs.  We’re very excited to be partnering with Brim.”

With its platform built entirely from the ground up and directly on the global payment network, Brim is positioned to transform the future of the credit card industry and digital banking products with the world’s largest open loyalty and rewards ecosystem. Brim has notably on-boarded hundreds of merchants to its rewards ecosystem since its launch, and rapid expansion will continue to be a key focus for the company going forward.

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