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In Paris, a son remembers a father lost to far-right violence | France




At age nine, Said Bouraam knew only the mountains. In the small Moroccan town of Amalou, where he and his younger sister lived, dry, brown peaks roses on every horizon.

At that age, Said had never been to France. It was hard for him to imagine the mighty Seine River coursing through Paris, on another continent, in another world. It was even harder to imagine that the Seine’s waters, swollen and ferocious from flooding, had swallowed up his father.

But that was the news a family member brought to the house that day. And what Said and his family saw on TV confirmed it: Brahim Bouarram, father of two, a Moroccan immigrant to Paris, had been pushed into the Seine. He could not swim. He drowned in its churning currents.

At the centre of this unfolding tragedy was a far-right movement Said’s family had never heard of before: France’s National Front. Its supporters were accused of the violence that killed his father.

“We did not understand. What kind of politics are these? We did not even know what the National Front was,” Said recalls, speaking in French by telephone.

Said, who spells his last name differently than his father’s, says a “great sadness” filled the house that day. But being so young, and being so far away, he had no idea how vast an affect his father’s death would have.

Years would pass before Said realised that his father had become an icon – an enduring symbol of far-right violence in France and the deadly toll it could take.

The National Front

It all started on May 1, 1995, the day France held its annual celebration of workers’ rights. Schools were out. Businesses were closed. And crowds filled the street, both to celebrate and to demonstrate for various political causes.

One political group was set to hold its annual gathering right in the centre of the city, at the foot of a sparkling gold Joan of Arc statue outside the Louvre Museum.

Its name was the National Front, and it was a relatively young party at the time, founded only in 1972. But it had gained momentum as a means of uniting France’s fractured far right, which World War II had left in disarray.

The Joan of Arc statue where members of the National Front had gathered on the day Brahim Bouarram was killed [Allison Griner/Al Jazeera]

Under the leadership of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the National Front drew together populists, fascists, anti-immigration movements, anti-Semites and anti-taxation businessmen. It was a disparate group, one that Le Pen argued was neither right nor left. Rather, they supported a platform of France first, France alone.

In the folk hero Joan of Arc, Le Pen and his followers found a natural mascot: a virtuous, young patriot who sacrificed her life to defend the country from foreign invaders. In their eyes, she had kept France “French”. And that’s what Le Pen’s supporters, by and large, hoped to do too.

They watched as he drowned

As National Front supporters marched nearby, Brahim Bouarram was spending his holiday strolling along the banks of the Seine. At age 29, he was handsome, with high cheekbones, a direct gaze and a mop of black hair. He had come to Paris with his brothers, and together they had once worked in a small grocery store.

The southern wing of the Louvre loomed high above the riverbank. The Carrousel Bridge lay ahead. Bouarram had plans to meet a friend in a little while, plans he would never be able to keep.

Just before midday, a small group splintered away from the National Front parade. Media reports would later describe the four men as skinheads.

They reportedly came to the Carrousel Bridge in search of homosexuals to harass. Instead, they found Bouarram.

What happened next would become the subject of bitter courtroom debate.

Lawyers for 19-year-old Mickael Freminet would argue that Bouarram hurled insults at him. That Bouarram’s death was unintentional. That Freminet was not, in fact, a skinhead.

But what was undeniable was that Freminet gave Bouarram a shove, in full view of passersby. Bouarram fell into the water. Freminet and his companions watched as he drowned.

Freminet ultimately served an eight-year prison sentence for Bouarram’s murder. His three companions each received a lighter prison term for failing to assist a person in danger: one year behind bars, out of a five-year suspended sentence.

A growing acceptance of racism in France?

“One year in prison for the murder of a young man, that’s not a heavy price,” says Renee Le Mignot, co-president of the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples, an NGO better known as MRAP.

She saw the verdict as evidence of the growing acceptance of racism in France.

One year in prison for the murder of a young man, that’s not a heavy price.

Renee Le Mignot, MRAP

Le Mignot had been participating in a different procession on the day of Bouarram’s death, and the news of his murder quickly reached her and other activists.

“On the very same day – May 1, 1995 – we got together,” she recalls. They started to organise a mass demonstration in response, one that ultimately drew  upwards of 12,000 people, including France’s then-president Francois Mitterrand. Protesters waved signs that read, “Racism is a National Affront”.

But the large turnout underscored an uncomfortable fact: Bouarram’s death was not the only fatality credited to the far right that year. In fact, his was one of three high-profile murders to happen in the space of six months, all widely perceived to be hate crimes.

Bouarram’s death, however, gained particular traction because it took place smack between the two rounds of voting for France’s 1995 presidential election. Even to this day, presidential candidates still attend the annual ceremony held in Bouarram’s honour, as a means of condemning the far right – and gaining support before the final vote.

Candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, Emmanuel Macron (second to the left) stands next to Said Bouraam (L), as he pays his respects to Brahim Bouarram on May 1, 2017 [EPA]

Rebranding the National Front

But Nonna Mayer, the director emeritus of research for France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), warns that France’s political landscape has shifted dramatically since Bouarram’s murder.

The first time the National Front advanced to the second round of voting, in 2002, more than a million people flooded the streets in protest. The second time, in 2017, the backlash was much more muted. Mayer credits this, in part, to a culture shift within the National Front.

Jean-Marie Le Pen is no longer in charge. Its new leader – his daughter, Marine Le Pen – has taken steps to rebrand the party, notably renaming it Rassemblement National and distancing herself from her father’s legacy of open provocation.

Mayer says the National Front no longer tolerates blatant anti-Semitism, but it continues to push an anti-immigrant agenda, claiming it to be in the name of public safety and economic security.

“She turned over the argument and said, ‘We are not intolerant. Those who are a danger for the republic, it’s the Muslims,'” Mayer explains. “That makes a far more respectable crusade for the party. They present themselves as the barrier against Islamic fundamentalism, but sometimes it slips to just Islam.”

But it’s not just the National Front that is growing stronger. The mainstream political alliances that once served as a bulwark against its expansion are growing weaker.

“There is still the memory of Brahim Bouarram,” says Mayer. “But for some people, it’s disconnected from the new National Front. And for others, they still think the National Front is a danger – the majority of French people do – but they don’t believe enough in [current president Emmanuel] Macron as the shield.”

An anti-fascist demonstration on May 1, 2014 in Paris, held to commemorate the death of Brahim Bouarram [Getty Images]

A son honouring the memory of his father

Bouarram’s memory lives on most visibly in his son Said, who now resides in Paris. When he was a teen, around age 15, Said dreamt of leaving home and moving to France, just as his father had.

While his mother never discouraged him, he could tell she felt wary. “She didn’t want to live through another nightmare,” he recalls.

Said says no one ever contacted him or his family after his father’s murder – no nonprofits, no government officials. That finally changed in 2009, when activists from MRAP and the Paris mayor’s office reached out with an invitation.

They wanted Said to attend the yearly commemoration in Paris, at the site where his father was pushed into the Seine. It would be Said’s first visit to France.

It felt bizarre, he recalls, to see the place where his father’s life was stolen. Journalists asked him questions he didn’t know how to respond to. Because his father had lived far away, Said could only remember seeing him twice in his life, when he returned to Morocco on vacation.

If it happened to our family, it can happen to someone else.

Said Bouraam, son of Brahim Bouarram

In 2010, Said was once again invited to attend the memorial in Paris. Le Mignot, MRAP’s co-president, remembers he expressed a desire to stay in France. So her organisation helped him apply for a residence permit for the following year.

“We felt responsible for him, to welcome him here so justice could be done,” she says.

Now, every year on May 1, Said stands on the Carrousel Bridge overlooking the Seine, a living tribute to his father’s memory. He has his own child now, a two-year-old son. And he admits that he’s afraid for the future. The far right continues to rise. This year’s European parliamentary elections are weighing on his mind.

The racism that claimed his father’s life continues to intrude on his own. Online, Said sometimes stumbles across comments telling him to go back to his own country, taunting him, saying his father should’ve taken swimming lessons.

“It hurts me to see things like that,” he says. But he has no intention of hiding. He already plans to return to the Carrousel Bridge next year, and the year after that. And his message remains just as steadfast: “If it happened to our family, it can happen to someone else.”

Across Europe, the far right is on the rise and it has some of the continent’s most diverse communities in its crosshairs.

To the far right, these neighbourhoods are ‘no-go zones’ that challenge their notion of what it means to be European.

To those who live in them, they are Europe. Watch them tell their stories in This is Europe


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Tiger-Cats claim victory against the Argos to maintain home record on Labour Day




The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were at their devastating best against the Toronto Argonauts when the two locked horns on Labour Day at the Tim Hortons Field.

Just like with previous Labour Day fixtures, the Ticats produced a stellar performance with Dane Evans throwing two touchdown passes while Frankie Williams scored on a 67-yard punt return as they claimed a 32-19 victory on Monday. With this vital win, the Ticats extended their Labour Day home record to 7-0.

For players and fans of the Tiger-Cats, games on Labour Day are a lot more special and losing is something the Ticats aren’t used to.

“We know the fans are going to be behind us, we know Toronto is going to be chippy, we know it’s going to be sunny; we know it’s going to be windy. Everything that happened (Monday) we prepared for. There is something extremely special about Tim Hortons Field on Labour Day . . . you can feel it in the air, I can’t put it into words,” said Evans.

After the COVID-19 induced hiatus, the CFL is back in full action and fans can now bet on their favourite teams and just like with online slots Canada, real money can be won. Hamilton (2-2) recorded its second straight win to move into a tie atop the CFL East Division standings with Montreal Alouettes (2-2). Also, the Ticats lead the overall Labour Day series with Toronto 36-13-1.

In the sun-drenched gathering of 15,000—the maximum allowed under Ontario government COVID-19 protocols—the fans loved every minute of this feisty game. After all, this was the Ticats first home game in 659 days, since their 36-16 East Division final win over Edmonton in November 2019.

The contest between the Ticats and Argos was certainly not bereft of emotions, typical of a Labour Day fixture, as it ended with an on-field melee. But the Argos often found themselves on the wrong end of the decisions with several penalty calls and most of the game’s explosive plays.

Hamilton quarterback Evans completed 21-of-29 passing for 248 yards and the two touchdowns while Toronto’s make-shift quarterback Arbuckle completed 18-of-32 attempts for 207 yards. Arbuckle also made a touchdown and two interceptions before eventually being substituted by McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Bethel-Thompson made an eight-yard TD pass to wide receiver Eric Rogers late in the final quarter of the game.

“They got after us a bit . . . we didn’t block, or pass protect well,” said Ryan Dinwiddie, rookie head coach of the Argos in a post-match interview. “They just kicked our butts; we’ve got to come back and be a better team next week.”

The Labour Day contest was the first of four fixtures this year between Toronto and Hamilton. The two teams would face off again on Friday at BMO Field. Afterwards, the Tim Hortons Field will play host to the Argonauts again on Oct. 11 with the regular-season finale scheduled for Nov. 12 in Toronto.

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Roughriders looking to bounce back after Labor Day defeat




In what an unusual feeling for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they would now need to dust themselves up after a 23-8 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in what was a Labor Day Classic showdown in front of a full capacity crowd at Mosaic stadium.

Craig Dickenson, head coach of the Riders, witnessed his team with an unbeaten record get utterly dominated by a more superior team from Winnipeg. Now, he has got a lot of work on his hands getting his team back to winning ways as they visit the Banjo Bowl next.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of now…the jury’s out,” said Dickenson.

Dan Clark, who played centre for the Riders expressed his disappointment in losing what was “the biggest game of the year”.

 “If you lose every other game, you don’t want to lose that one. We’ve just got to take the next step,” said Clark in a report. “There are 12 steps to the Grey Cup left and it’s just about taking that next step and focusing on what Saturday will bring.”

With their first defeat to Winnipeg, the Riders (3-1) now rank second place in the CFL’s West Division, trailing the Bombers by one victory (4-1). However, the Riders will have the chance to even the season series during their trip to Winnipeg this Saturday. With the CFL heating up, fans can now enjoy online sports betting Canada as they look forward to their team’s victory.

The Rider’s offensive line will once again have a busy time dealing with the Blue Bombers’ defence.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo, who played one of the best games of his career two weeks earlier, had quite a stinker against the Bombers in the Labour Day Classic—which is the most anticipated game for Rider fans.

Fajardo had a 59 per cent completion percentage which wasn’t quite indicative of what the actual figure was considering he was at 50 per cent before going on a late drive in the final quarter with the Bombers already becoming laid back just to protect the win.

Fajardo also registered a personal worst when he threw three interceptions, but in all fairness, he was always swarmed by the Bomber’s defence.

While Fajardo has claimed responsibility for the loss and letting his teammates down, many would be curious to see how the team fares in their next game and with less than a week of preparation.

Dickenson is confident that his team would improve during their rematch in the 17th edition of the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg. The only challenge now would be the loss of home advantage and dealing with the noisy home crowd, he added.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic




TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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