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Fuir l’Arabie saoudite pour le Canada : l’histoire d’une jeune Saoudienne à Montréal

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C’est au beau milieu de la nuit, en avril 2018, que Salwa Al Zahrani, 24 ans, et sa sœur de 19 ans prennent place dans un avion de la compagnie Lufthansa. Direction : le Canada.

Elles mettent ainsi à exécution un plan minutieux pour s’échapper de leur pays, l’Arabie saoudite, et trouver la liberté.

Pour y arriver, elles ont dérobé leurs propres passeports, cachés chez un de leurs frères, en volant la clé de sa maison lors d’une fête et en en faisant un double. Elles ont attendu à la toute dernière minute pour récupérer leurs documents, afin de ne pas éveiller les soupçons.

Salwa a également falsifié des autorisations de sortie que seul un homme, un gardien, peut signer, en volant le téléphone de son père et en remplissant les documents électroniques avec sa signature.

« Une seule erreur [a été commise] et c’était la fin », explique-t-elle, ajoutant que si elles avaient alors été capturées, elles auraient reçu une peine de prison de six mois, en plus de 80 coups de fouet.

Un vol vers la liberté

Dans l’avion, lors d’une escale à Francfort, Salwa décide de retirer son niqab et son abaya, le vêtement qui recouvre son corps en entier.

Je me [suis sentie] en liberté, légère. Comme un oiseau.

Salwa Al Zahrani, réfugiée saoudienne

C’est en écoutant les nouvelles au sujet des réfugiés syriens qui arrivaient au Canada et l’appel du premier ministre Justin Trudeau qu’elle a choisi de s’établir au Canada.

« C’est un bon choix, dit-elle, parce qu’il y a un bon [système d’éducation] et que les droits humains [sont respectés]. »

À Montréal, Salwa découvre un monde nouveau. Elle est fascinée par la musique, notamment le piano, interdit par l’islam pratiqué en Arabie Saoudite.

À Riyad, sa famille lui avait permis d’étudier à l’université pour devenir technicienne en laboratoire. Mais son père a par la suite refusé qu’elle travaille, de peur qu’elle côtoie des hommes dans le cadre de son emploi dans un hôpital.

Je ne [pouvais] atteindre aucun de mes rêves, je [devais] rester à la maison.

Salwa Al Zahrani, réfugiée saoudienne

Elle se retrouve alors confinée à la maison, pendant deux ans. Pendant cette période, elle décide alors d’élaborer un plan pour s’enfuir avec sa jeune soeur.

Peu d’avancées pour les femmes saoudiennes

L’Occident ne doit pas être dupe, soutient Salwa. Même si les femmes peuvent maintenant conduire une voiture et travailler en Arabie Saoudite, seule une infime minorité de familles accepte ces petits pas vers la modernité.

Les femmes sont comme des esclaves. Certaines acceptent que les hommes soient supérieurs à elles, mais d’autres pensent qu’elles sont égales.

Salwa Al Zahrani, réfugiée saoudienne

L’accueil réservé à sa concitoyenne, Rahaf Mohammed, lui a donné le courage de sortir de l’ombre et de demander son statut de réfugiée.

Elle est convaincue que sa propre famille la tuera si jamais elle retourne en Arabie Saoudite, afin de laver une réputation ternie par sa fuite au Canada.

Avec les informations de Solveig Miller

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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