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Commons committee hears UN appeal to extend Mali mission




Canada is facing renewed pressure to keep its military helicopters in Mali until a relief force of Romanian aircraft arrives in October.

Last week, members of the all-party House of Commons defence committee heard the appeals directly from a senior United Nations representative and government officials in the troubled west African country.

The committee conducted a week-long fact-finding mission in both Mali and neighbouring Senegal — a high-security visit that was carried out under a media blackout.

New Democrat MP Randall Garrison told CBC News on Tuesday that the committee met with Mahamat Saleh Annadif, who heads the UN stabilization mission in Mali.

Peacekeeping gap

Annadif warned the MPs that the peacekeeping mission would have to drastically scale back operations during the gap between the Canadians leaving and the Romanians arriving.

The issue first surfaced last fall, when the UN made quiet overtures to Canada to keep two CH-147F Chinooks and four CH-146 Griffon armed helicopters temporarily in place.

The Canadian aircraft are slated to cease operations at the end of July, even though their Romanian replacements won’t arrive in Gao — the principal UN base in the north of the country — for three months.

The notion of an extension was dismissed during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s whirlwind trip in December to visit aircrew taking part in the mission.

The Liberal government has not budged from that position. The Opposition Conservatives have long argued that Mali, the UN’s deadliest ongoing peacekeeping deployment, is the wrong mission for Canada.

“Both the Liberals and Conservatives [on the committee] heard quite clearly what people were saying,” Garrison said. “It reduces MINUSMA operations and risks lives to have such a big gap.”

Military and government officials travelling with the prime minister in December pointed out that the UN has the option to contract private helicopter support and noted there was a month-long gap in operations when the Canadians replaced the Germans last summer.

“Everybody was pretty clear, [private contractors] provide less service and they don’t go when there is active fire. So it’s not quite the same,” said Garrison, who added he intends to introduce a motion before the defence committee calling on the Liberal government to remain in Mali until Sept. 15, when the gap will be more manageable for the UN.

UN and Malian officials also expressed concerns about the Liberal government’s unfulfilled commitment, made last summer, to deploy 20 police officers to bolster the UN and European Union training missions.

The police mission

Two Canadian police officers are currently on the ground in Mali, while an additional three will join them sometime this month, he said.

When the deployment was announced last July, senior government officials speaking on background did not give a timeline because planning had only just gotten started. They did, however, emphasize the important role female police officers have played in past peacekeeping missions by advising on local gender-related matters.

Adding police — particularly female officers — to the mission would help meet one of the Liberal government’s signature goals: putting women at the centre of a renewed international peacekeeping effort, which is also a stated aim of the UN Security Council.

Garrison said MPs heard praise for the example Canada has set on gender parity.

“Women have a prominent role and there was lots of acknowledgement that that is something that needs to be seen.”


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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa




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




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




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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