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To discover, understand and put Canadian realities into perspective.

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To discover, understand and put Canadian realities into perspective.

      China on the UN Human Rights Council raises concern (interview)

      China on the UN Human Rights Council raises concern (interview)

    With China now being appointed to the Human Rights Council and the 'consultative group’ there is concern by several countries that human rights abuses will not be investigated or properly condemned.

    China has itself has regularly been accused of abuse and this could now further increase concerns that the Council has become as politicized and ineffective as its predecessor.

    Colin Robertson is a former Canadian diplomat to China and to the U.N.


    Critics of China’s human rights record accuse the country of efforts to derail human rights resolutions whether directed at them or at others.

    Colin Robertson, now with the Global Affairs Institute, is a former Canadian diplomat to China and to the U.N. (supplied)

    In July last year, 22 western nations signed a letter to the U.N about China’s arrests and incarceration of  Uyghurs, and dissenters. This was followed by a letter from 37 nations, including N. Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia and others, many of whom have human rights abuses of their own people with accusations of the ‘politicization’ of human rights issues and supporting China’s actions.

    Robertson says this latest appointment is part of a systematic programme of the Chinese government to seek influential positions and influence wherever it can. This is to push their global strategy of expanding Chinese interests globally beyond current aspirations in the South and East China sea, limit international criticism, and extend their power.

    Chinese leader Xi Jinping has been aggressively promoting Chinese influence at the U.N. where it can shape policies  (Thomas Peter-Reuters)

    In an email to RCI he also wrote “The UN is the global parliament and it reflects national interests. We had hoped after the fall of the Soviet Union that the liberal international order would become the norm for all but it has not and it was naive to think it would.  Russia and China see global affairs in traditional terms: as a concert of great powers each with their own spheres of influence with tributary and vassel nations within that sphere”.

    He says it is unfortunate that the U.S has backed away as it leaves a vacuum and weakens the international concept of multilateralism and western ideals of ‘rule of law’.

    With China now at the head of four of 15 specialized U.N. committees, there are concerns that China will not move towards a more westernized mindset, but that the world will be influenced more towards a Chinese mindset, which some critics have long said runs counter to western ideals. Germany’s foreign minister once said for example in  February 2018 at the Munich security conference, ““China is developing a comprehensive system alternative to the Western one, which, unlike, our model, is not based on freedom, democracy and individual human rights”.

    Additional information

    The Conversatio: Matthews/ McCuaig-Johnston: China must now shape the future of human rights at the U.N.

    The Diplomat: E.Albert: Apr.8/20: China appointed to influential human rights council panel- concern about agenda

    The Conversation: A. Faiz: Jul.18/19: China is building a global coalition of human rights violators to defend its record in Xinjiang – what is its endgame?

    The Economist: D.Bell: Jun 12/18: China’s political meritocracy vs Western democracy

    CBC; G.Reaume: Nov 27/219: China is on a mission to re-make the world

    • 9 min
    What to do, or not do, in times of financial uncertainty

    What to do, or not do, in times of financial uncertainty

    Stock markets are tumbling, people are losing huge value on their investments as panic selling sets in.

    The drop in value is such that automatic systems have halted trading on at least a couple of stock markets.

    But what should people do in this most unusual situation?

    Jessica Moorhouse (AFCC) is Millennial Money Expert, Financial Counsellor & Podcast Host

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    Several situations have converged in the last many months.

    Jessica Moorhouse, financial consultant (supplied)

    Jessica Moorhouse, financial consultant (supplied)

    We have ongoing conflicts in some areas, trade disputes, notably the U.S and China, as well as China and Canada, there’s the Brexit uncertainty, recently the oil war between the Saudis and Russia which has drastically cut the price of oil, but the latest big uncertainty affecting domestic and global economies is the corona virus pandemic from COVID-19.

    Stock markets took another hit this morning as panic continues.

    The rapid decline in market value triggered and automatic halt to the TSX this morning, other markets also fell in Monday trading. (TSX-twitter)

    Moorhouse says, it is not wise to panic sell, but probably also not the time to take your savings and invest in hopes of making a better return as the stocks eventually rise. She says if you have regular contributions to your investment set up, that is something that you should keep doing.

    As to when the economy and stock values might “eventually” recover, she says that could take months or even a year or more as recovery could be slow once the virus risk fades and that itself is an unknown and might not be for weeks or months. Thus a full recovery might be a couple of years away.

    She also suggests that If you don’t have a high interest savings account, that is something you should set up as an emergency fund to cover such things as job loss, or a cut back in hours.

    additional information

    NY Times: Mar 16.20: Wall Street Plummets Despite the Fed’s Support: Live Updates

    • 6 min
    Coping with Covid, federal government pledges $1 Billion

    Coping with Covid, federal government pledges $1 Billion

    With the declaration of a Covid-19 pandemic, and the first recorded death from the virus in Canada, the federal government pledged a billion dollars to both fight the virus and mitigate the effects on society.

    Ian Culbert, is the executive-director of the Canadian Public Health Association. He explains how the money will be used, and the unique aspects of this ‘new’ virus.


    The government plan includes money sent to the provinces to purchase medical supplies and cope with increased needs in hospitals and other institutions.

    Ian Culbert, executive-director of the Canadian Public Health Association

    Some $275 million has been earmarked for research into such things as anti-virals to combat COVID-19.

    Culbert points out that although there are many types of corona virus, such as the ones causing the common cold, they are nonetheless distinct. As such an anti-viral that may work to fight one virus, may very likely not work to combat another.

    He notes that this virus which originated in an animal source and has jumped to humans is an entirely new virus of the corona family.

    • 8 min
    Recording vanishing history in Manitoba

    Recording vanishing history in Manitoba

    For a biology professor in Winnipeg, an interest in history has become almost equivalent to a full-time passion.

    Gordon Goldsborough (PhD) is a professor of biological sciences at the University of Manitoba, and president of the Manitoba Historical Society.

    Away from the university he’s usually on the road to obscure places in the western province to record vestiges or 'ghosts' of the past. Either that or he's in the archives somewhere trying to discover more about a once important or popular place, a place now abandoned and often in ruins or with mere vestiges left of what once was there.


    Manitoba like most Canadian provinces is huge, in this case bigger than all of France. As settlers moved in and development began, buildings and institutions sprang up across the province. But times and needs and culture change and places are left to the elements.

    Gordon Goldsborough (PhD), University of Manitoba biology, and amateur historian (supplied)

    Goldsborough’s goal is to record such places with photos and GPS both as a permanent record of what was, and as a way for like minded historians and history buffs to locate them for themselves.

    The giant dredge of Port Nelson on Hudson Bay. Built in 1913 it arrived on site the next year in an ambitious project to create a northern shipping port.  After WWI, the government decided Churchill was a better location for a port. In 1924 a vicious storm pushed the dredge up onto the artificial island it had created from dredging, where it has remained since a remnant of a grand and expensive idea (Gord Goldsborough)

    His work has been recorded in two books already with a third on the way.

    He doesn’t merely record images of the place and the remnants but in his books delves into the history of the place, what it was, why it was where it is, and its fate.

    Gordon Goldsborough's first book. The second book More Abandoned Manitoba is out with a third in the works (McNally-Robertson Publishing)

    He says many communities sprang up along rail lines, once the main, if not the only means of travel for any distance in the huge province. As road building took over it became easier to move about and many of the feeder rail lines become unprofitabale and were shut down and  communities slowly died out.

    Ghost of another era. "Crabby Steve's Dance Hall". With great distances to travel, rural residence had few places to go for entertainment so dance halls (barn dances) sprang up to serve the need. Crabby Steve's was built only in 1947, but was a very popular locale for a few decades until times changed and it was abandoned in the 1980's. (Gord Goldsborough)

    Some places only existed until the resource ran out, or the major construction project completed or abandoned, while in other cases, there might be a sadder story of a failed enterprise or farm.

    Lake of the Woods grain elevator, believed to be the oldest in the province dating from approximately 1897. (Gordon Goldsborough)

    But with so many places to choose from, he said the places chosen for his books are the ones with more interesting stories about them.

    With an insulated floor and standing on piles above shifting permafrost is the abandoned remains of a Cold War surveillance post near Churchill (Gordon Goldsborough)

    His hobby has led to him becoming a popular public speaker with dozens of presentations every year and a weekly appearance on the public broadcaster CBC weekend morning show.

    Additional information

    Winnipeg Free Press: D. Speirs: Mar 6/20: Mapmaker for memories

    CBC: Oct 23/16: New book uncovers places left behind in Manitoba's past

    McNally-Robinson Publishing: (books)Abandoned Manitoba; More Abandoned Manitobabr...

    • 7 min
    Efforts to bring female voices to journalism in Africa and the Middle East

    Efforts to bring female voices to journalism in Africa and the Middle East

    For too long, women’s voices and perspectives have been silent in much of world.

    The Canadian group Journalists for Human Rights is changing that. The group is launching an ambitious multi-year programme in several African countries to train female journalists and to get their voices heard in editorial decision making.

    Rachel Pulfer in Toronto is the Executive Director of Journalists for Human Rights.


    The programme is called ' Canada World: Voice for Women and Girls'. The current effort is to empower women in journalism in Syria, Jordan, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    Rachel Pulfer, Executive-Director in Toronto for the NGO Journalists for Human Rights (supplied)

    Helped by over $11 Million in federal government funding, the programme is currently in a set-up phase to establish infrastructure and settle other needs, with the first of the Canadian media experts to be sent in June.

    Editor at the Juba Monitor in South Sudan, Anna Nimiriano in the newsroom (JHR)

    The programme is expected to run from this year for the next four years.

    Pulfer says it’s important for 50 per cent of these populations to hear voices similar to theirs and report on topics of importance to them and to society that are often not covered, or to cover them from a new and different perspective.

    Journalist Sarafina Paul interviewing a female divorce lawyer in South Sudan (JHR)

    Additional information

    Journalists for human rights

    Global News: May 3/19: Ottawa announces $11.7M in funding for Journalists for Human Rights

    Globe and Mail: R. Pulfer: May 3/19: How Syrian journalists took on sexist violence – and won change, through a fatwa

    • 9 min
    Air pollution- a silent pandemic

    Air pollution- a silent pandemic

    As the world fights a battle with the Covid-19 virus, researchers point out that deaths from air pollution constitute a lesser realised but very serious chronic threat worse than most diseases.

    Researchers estimate that some 8.8 million premature deaths annually are due to air pollution. The study says the loss of life expectancy (LLE) exceeds that of tobacco smoking.

    Breaking it down further, they say that about 75 per cent of that figure is due to human-generated pollution, or some 5.5 million deaths.

    Dr Courtney Howard (M.D.)  is president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment


    A study in Lancet in April 2011 showed that some 20 per cent of new cases of asthma in children in the big urban centre of Toronto was related to air pollution from vehicle traffic

    The studies suggest air pollution can shorten lifespans by up to three years.

    Dr. Courtney Howard (MD, CCFP-EM) is president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, and an emergency room doctor in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. She notes that climate change is bringing new animals and insects into the north where they've never been seen before, along with their new pathogens, some of which have the possibility of transfer to humans ( Pat Kane)

    Dr Howard notes that not only is air pollution a worldwide health issue for individuals, but negatively affects the economy through increased hospital visits and medical resource requirements and through loss of workdays as adults are off work, or have to take time off to care for children who are ill.

    Haze in the city of Montreal under a smog alert Dec. 2019. Residents of Canadian cities are not exempt from air pollution, with Toronto often registering as having one of the higher rates of childhood asthma (CBC)

    She points out that as these tiny particulates are so small they cross over into the bloodstream where the can influence inflammation with resultant issues of heart disease, lung infections, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

    She says the news of the direct health affects of air pollution should help raise awareness of situation she says we as humans have the ability to control and add to the concern about air pollution’s affect on climate.

    Additional information-sources

    The Lancet: Apr. 2019: Global, national, and urban burdens of paediatric asthma incidence attributable to ambient NO2 pollution: estimates from global datasets

    Fast Company: Mar 2/20: K/. Toussaint: The world is facing an air pollution pandemic

    Science Alert: C. Cassella: Mar 7/20:The World's Facing a Silent 'Pandemic' More Dangerous Than Most Viruses: Air Pollution

    National Observer: D Carrington: Apr 11/19: Canada has third highest global rate of new childhood asthma cases from traffic pollution

    Toxicology.org: R. Burnett et al Global Exposure Mortality Model, GEMM: Application of a new risk estimator for health impact assessment of air pollution

    NOTE: updated March 10: the original article said the data was from the World Health Organisation, In fact it came from a study based on WHO information. The study was published in the science journal Cardiovascular Research March 3. 2020 entitled "Loss of life expectancy from air pollution compared to other risk factors: a worldwide perspective" Jos Lelieveld et al. 

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