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Who benefits from rescuing Rahaf? Questions linger after whirlwind story of Saudi teen’s asylum

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It was a whirlwind affair that began with a Saudi teen barricaded in a Thai hotel room bravely defying the laws of her country and against long odds, refusing to return to her allegedly abusive family.

Just days later, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun was on Canadian soil flanked by smiling officials and local service providers amid the flash of cameras — a swift resolution to a story that could have had a very different ending.

“I believe in lighting a single candle, and where we can save a single person, where we can save a single woman, that is a good thing to do,” Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, the memory of recent mudslinging with Saudi Arabia over detained women’s rights advocate Samar Badawi hanging in the air. 

Now, as al-Qunun begins a new life in a new country, questions are being raised about the reasons for Canada’s speedy decision to grant her asylum, the message it sends and its implications for the future of the country’s already-frosty relationship with Saudi Arabia, where an estimated 17,000 Canadians currently live.

An ‘impossible’ situation

“Canada and Saudi Arabia are in a political battle currently, so because this woman is Saudi, my sense is that there was some political motive in promoting the ‘rescuing’ of a Saudi girl,” said Ryerson University professor Mehrunnisa Ali. 

“Of course, the rescuing of oppressed people is a Western narrative in many different ways but the securing of a Saudi woman being oppressed by her family and her country sharpens this narrative in ways that may not have been possible otherwise.”

Mehrunnisa Ali, a professor specializing in immigration at Ryerson University, said Canada’s speedy decision to grant al-Qunun asylum raises questions. (CBC)

The exact details of the 18-year-old’s plight aren’t known. After her arrival in Canada, al-Qunun was whisked to an undisclosed location out of concerns about what her dissent from the kingdom might mean for her safety.

Speaking to the New York Times before being granted asylum, al-Qunun described life in Saudi Arabia as “a prison.” The country’s highly restrictive guardianship laws require women to be granted permission from a male relative to work, travel, marry and receive certain kinds of medical treatment. It was a life of constant abuse, she told the paper — once she said she was locked in a room for six months over a hair cut to which her family took objection. 

“They can’t even leave the home without the permission of their guardian,” B.C.-based activist Yasmine Mohammed who identifies as an ex-Muslim told CBC News. “Many times, it’s the guardian himself that’s abusing her, so it puts women in an absolutely impossible situation.”

International rights monitors consistently rank Saudi Arabia among the world’s worst nations for women’s rights and gender equality. In its annual report on gender equality in 2018, the World Economic Forum ranked it 141 out of 149 countries. 

Thai immigration police Chief Surachate Hakparn told The Associated Press al-Qunun’s father denies physically abusing her or trying to force her into an arranged marriage, which were among the reasons she gave for wanting asylum. 

An ‘exceptional’ case

So why was it that al- Qunun’s case was processed so speedily?

Lauren La Rose, a spokesperson for the UN’s refugee agency, told CBC News al-Qunun’s case was an “exceptional” situation, a designation determined by the UN on a case-by-case basis. Examples of high priority cases include those where someone is very ill or violence against women or girls. 

“While it may be new information for the public, it is something that UNHCR does in terms of facilitating fast-track resettlements in situations when individuals may be facing immediate life-threatening situations or at risk of being threatened in their home country,” according to an international principle known as non-refoulement. 

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, seen holed up in room in Bangkok, Thailand, on Jan. 6, 2019. (@rahaf84427714/Reuters)

Out of an estimated 25.4 million refugees worldwide, less than one per cent are resettled because the need simply outweighs the number of spaces available globally, said UNHCR senior resettlement officer Michael Casasola.  

But at least one former diplomat said Canada’s privileging of al-Qunun’s case could set a “dangerous precedent.” 

“The Australians were prepared, as I understand it, to accept her as a refugee claimant. What we did is go one step further and accept her not as a claimant but as a refugee. And that’s a process that in Canada typically requires an assessment of the claim, a vetting of the individual and a decision that typically can take as much as two years,” said David Chatterson, Canada’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2009-2011.

“What happens the next time a teenage girl or adult woman from Saudi Arabia flees her family and declares herself to no longer be a Muslim, does that mean automatic sanctuary?” In Saudi Arabia, leaving Islam is treated as a crime punishable by death. 

Watch as Canada’s former ambassador to Saudi Arabia speaks with CBC News:

Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia David Chatterson speaks with CBC News about Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun being granted asylum in Canada 6:58 

Asked on Sunday about how and why al-Qunun’s claim was processed so quickly, Global Affairs Canada was tight-lipped.

“When the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) made a request of us that we grant Ms. Rahaf al-Qunun asylum, we accepted. Out of concern for her safety, we ask that her privacy be respected,” said spokesperson Stefano Maron.

‘A prop for our disputes’ 

For some, including senior research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue Amarnath Amarasingam, it’s concerning how al-Qunun’s case is being celebrated by figures that often push an anti-Islam or anti-immigration message.

The message that we may be giving is that rather than go through the system, reach a powerful person.– Mehrunnisa Ali, Ryerson University professor

“Many on the far-right love ex-Muslims, and many ex-Muslims on the far-right often present themselves as so-called native informants presenting to the mainstream the real ‘truth’ about Muslims,” he said.

“It’s perhaps not surprising that many of these individuals on the far-right encouraged Canada to accept Rahaf after it was rumoured that she had abandoned Islam. To be clear, I’m very happy that Canada let her in but … I’m going to go out on a limb and say there are some ulterior motives there.”

Dennis Horak, who served as Canada’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia until he was expelled from the country last year, said the next few days could make a big impact on diplomatic relations between Canada and the kingdom.

“I would hate to see us use this to keep trotting her out and have meetings with the Prime Minister … various photo-ops things like that [and] that become the mallet with which we bash Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Watch as Dennis Horak discusses the implications for relations with Saudi Arabia:

Dennis Horak, former Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, speaks to CBC’s Wendy Mesley about how Rahaf al-Qunun’s warm welcome in Toronto from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland could further antagonize Canada’s relationship with the Saudis. 3:04 

“Does she become a prop for our disputes and our concerns with Saudi Arabia? I don’t think that’s fair to her and I don’t think it’s valuable in trying to rebuild our relationship.”

Meanwhile Ali, who was herself involved in sponsoring two Syrian refugee families — of which one case took almost two years to process — remains concerned with the message she said this high-profile case sends, including that winning public attention could make a claim more likely to proceed than another.

“That’s the biggest risk of power being exercised in a way the prioritizes some refugees versus others,” she said. 

“The message that we may be giving is that rather than go through the system, reach a powerful person.”

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John Summers: How Ottawa lawyer mocked motherhood and society, reveals new book

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An Ottawa based lawyer from a leading law firm has been entangled in a web of controversy due to his action, which many have described has shocking and inhumane.

Despite claiming to uphold justice, human rights and societal values, John Summers, a lawyer at Bell Baker LLP, is a clear-cut example of just how broken the legal system in Canada is. It appears that Summers and his firm for years now have been exploiting a disturbed senior citizens  with chronic health conditions in his continuous abuse of his wife, for financial gains.

Summers has consistently stood in the way of justice by fabricating numerous lies. Resorting to lies in an attempt to hinder justice is an action that is heavily frowned upon by ethical legal practitioners. But Dezrin continued to suffer domestic abuse due to Summers’ action which had preventing her son, Raymond from seeing his own mother.

Summers’ actions since February 2016 has now resulted in the reported premature death of Dezrin Carby-Samuels who had been an RN who was selflessly dedicated to serving both her family and every community that she had lived.

Raymond and his mother, Dezrin, had sought the intervention of the law courts as a last resort in their quest for justice after Dezrin has been consistently abused by her husband, Horace and her daughter, Marcella. Rather than getting the fair hearing and justice that they expected, they received the direct opposite due to Summers apparently employing every dirty trick in the book. He has resorted to lies and illicit collaboration with judges of him alma mata just to inhibit every effort being made by Dezrin and her son.

In a book titled John Summers: The Untold Story of Corruption, Systemic Racism and Evil at Bell Baker LLP, author Peter Tremblay takes readers on a shocking journey into John Summers’ tactics which lacked ethical properiety and human decency.

Summers is proof that the ethical practices associated with the legal profession is quickly fading and it is a course for concern. In the case against Horace, Summers produced an apparent fraudulent affidavit which claimed that Raymond suffers from a mental condition—an entirely false claim. Lawyers like Summers are willing to go any length in an attempt to hinder justice, even if it leads to the destruction of lives and properties.

Summers falsely claimed that his client, Horace couldn’t file a defence for himself because he was unaware of the adopted court proceedings. However, in the early 1900s, Horace was the same one who showed so much confidence in his legal capabilities that he decided not to hire a legal counsel but represent himself during a lawsuit between his union and the Canadian Government. This act is contradictory to Summers’ claim of his poor legal understanding.

As humans, some certain moral ethics and values set us apart from other living things and one of them is showing respect for elders. Lawyers are respected in the society due to their pledge to always ensure justice prevails but Summers’ apparent greed and love for money have made him violate the human rights of an ailing mother and her son.

Peter Tremblay’s book uncovers untold stories of a corrupt system that accommodates abuse in the most inhumane form.  In Canada’s legal system, empathy and compassion were thrown out the door in exchange for money and an unknown demomic agenda. It begs the question: How then are aggrieved citizens supposed to trust a legal system for justice when a lawyer can tell unending lies against a senior citizen without any consequences or accountability?

The Law Society of Upper Canada which is supposed to regulate the legal profession in Ontario is a complete joke run by similarly corrupt lawyers who ignore the misdeeds of their colleagues.

Summers’ actions have led to Dezrin being unable to do anything since she lost her ability to walk, talk or even write due to abuse and ultimately her premature death.

Her inability to receive help from even her own son due to Summers’ fraudulent activities resulted in the destruction of Dezrin Carby-Samuels and for that reason Summers should be barred from the further practice of law anywhere in Canada.

In my view, Summers is an abomination to the legal profession and Peter Tremblay’s book documents the activities of John Summers since 2016 against three judges who where not from Summers’ alma mata and who sought justice for Dezrin and her son.

Since 2016, Dezrin had sought obtain freedom from forcible confinement imposed by her abusive husband but was unsuccessful, due to the interference Summers who refused to divulge who was in fact paying him reportedly $300/hr to frustrate justice.

Reports from credible sources allege that Dezrin passed away sometime last year due to Summers’ evil practices and this report has cast a dark cloud over the future of the legal system in Canada which had been ignoring the plight of other black Canadians.

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City staff propose ‘gold belt’ to hem in future Ottawa development

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The City of Ottawa is about to have a second marathon debate about where to allow future suburbs to be built, and this time staff propose hemming in development by creating what’s being dubbed the “gold belt.”

Eight months after city council decided to expand the urban boundary by 1,281 hectares to help house a growing population, senior city planners have released the map of which properties should be developed — and which property owners stand to see values soar if their lands are rezoned. 

They include areas north of Kanata on March Road, near the future Bowesville O-Train station in the south end, and at the southern edge of Orléans.

Scoring rural properties on such things as how close they are to transit and how costly it would be to build pipes and roads proved a challenge over the past several months, however.

“The easy land has been gobbled up in years past, in previous boundary expansions,” said Coun. Scott Moffatt, who belongs to a group of councillors that meets about the new official plan. “So now we’re looking at those leftover pieces and where we can [grow], knowing council was clear we would not be touching agricultural lands.”

270 hectares short of goal

Staff struggled to come up with all 1,281 hectares council approved adding in May 2020 because they had too many issues with “sub-optimal” lands.

Instead, they recommended converting 1,011 hectares of rural land to urban for now to meet provincial requirements, and then spending the next five years studying three options for making up the 270-hectare shortfall.

That opens the door to creating an entirely new suburb. 

For instance, one option involves a huge parcel near the Amazon warehouse southeast of the city where the Algonquins of Ontario envision a community of 35,000 to 45,000 people called Tewin, which they would build with developers Taggart.

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How an Ottawa woman built a majestic snow dragon in her front yard

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OTTAWA — You may sometimes feel winter drag on, but one Ottawa woman is not letting that dim her creativity.

Dr. Mary Naciuk is family doctor and rural emergency room physician. She spent some of her free time this weekend building a majestic snow dragon in front of her south Ottawa home.

“It’s just fun to get outside and do something creative,” she told CTV News on Sunday.

There was plenty of snow to use, after Ottawa saw a record 21 cm of snow on Saturday.

She said that after her husband cleared the driveway, the pile of snow left behind lent itself to being turned into a magnificent dragon, but it takes more than just the right kind of snow to make a sculpture like this.

Naciuk tells CTV News a shovel, a butter knife, a spoon and even a blowtorch were used to give the dragon its sharp edges and defined scales.

“Anything pointy with a small detail is really hard to do with just your fingers or the butter knife and spoon I was using, so (the blowtorch) just makes a fine point,” she said.

Her son tweeted about it on Saturday and Naciuk says many people have stopped to take a look.

My mom has reached the pass me a blowtorch and shovel and watch me make a snow dragon stage of the pandemic

(I was only allowed to shovel piles of snow) pic.twitter.com/aphZotpHiC — Tom Naciuk (@NaciukThomas) January 16, 2021

“A lot of people stop on their way to the ice rink and have a look and take pictures. It’s kind of fun,” she said.

It was a welcome relief to spend some time working on something creative outdoors, Naciuk said.

“Get outside, get some exercise, clear your mind, do something that is not COVID for a few hours. It obeys all the rules. It was great,” she said, adding that the dragon took her about five hours to build.

She’s been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic for months. 

“It’s been a steep learning curve. It’s been exhausting,” she said. “A lot of the time is learning how to deliver care to people and maintain all the precautions that we need to. That’s been hard. A lot of people are not able to work from time to time, so we fill a lot of extra shifts. It’s been a lot more hours of work than it used to be, that’s for sure.”

Naciuk returns to work on Monday after a weekend of respite but says if the conditions are right—a nice mild day, a good snowfall, and some free time—another sculpture may well appear.

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