Canada: Bodies at Indigenous School Not Isolated Incident

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday it’s not an isolated incident that over 200 children were found buried at a former Indigenous residential school.Trudeau’s comments come as Indigenous leaders are calling for an examination of every former residential school site — institutions that held children taken from families across the nation.Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in British Columbia said the remains of 215 children, some as young as 3 years old, were confirmed this month with the help of ground-penetrating radar. She described the discovery as “an unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented” at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, the largest such school in the country.”As prime minister, I am appalled by the shameful policy that stole Indigenous children from their communities,” Trudeau said.”Sadly, this is not an exception or an isolated incident,” he said. ”We’re not going to hide from that. We have to acknowledge the truth. Residential schools were a reality — a tragedy that existed here, in our country, and we have to own up to it. Kids were taken from their families, returned damaged or not returned at all.”Beatings, abuseFrom the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 First Nations children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools as part of a program to assimilate them into Canadian society. They were forced to convert to Christianity and not allowed to speak their native languages. Many were beaten and verbally abused, and up to 6,000 are said to have died.The Canadian government apologized in Parliament in 2008 and admitted that physical and sexual abuse in the schools was rampant. Many students recalled being beaten for speaking their native languages. They also lost touch with their parents and customs.Indigenous leaders have cited that legacy of abuse and isolation as the root cause of epidemic rates of alcoholism and drug addiction on reservations.Plans are under way to bring in forensics experts to identify and repatriate the remains of the children found buried on the Kamloops site.Trudeau said he’ll be talking to his ministers about further things his government needs to do to support survivors and the community. Flags at all federal buildings are at half-staff.Opposition New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh called Monday for an emergency debate in Parliament.”This is not a surprise. This is a reality of residential schools,” Singh said.”Two hundred fifteen Indigenous kids were found in an unmarked mass grave,” he said. ”Anytime we think about unmarked mass graves, we think about a distant country where a genocide has happened. This is not a distant country.”The Kamloops school operated between 1890 and 1969, when the federal government took over operations from the Catholic Church and operated it as a day school until it closed in 1978.Archbishop apologizesRichard Gagnon, archbishop of Winnipeg and president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he wanted to express “our deepest sorrow for the heartrending loss of the children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.”The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission has records of at least 51 children dying at the school between 1915 and 1963. The commission identified about 3,200 confirmed deaths at schools but noted the schools did not record the cause of death in almost half of them. Some died of tuberculosis. The commission said the practice was not to send the bodies of the students who died at the schools to their communities. The commission also said the government wanted to keep costs down, so adequate regulations were never established.”This discovery is a stain on our country. It is one that needs to be rectified,” opposition Conservative lawmaker Michelle Rempel Garner said.Empty pairs of children’s shoes have been placed at memorials throughout the country.Perry Bellegarde, chief of the Assembly of First Nations, has said that while it is not new to find graves at former residential schools, it’s always crushing to have that chapter’s wounds exposed.The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and the Saskatchewan government said they want Ottawa to help research undocumented deaths and burials at residential schools in the province.Federation Chief Bobby Cameron said finding the children’s remains and giving them proper burials is important to help First Nations communities and families find closure. The federation has compiled a list of initial sites where it hopes to complete radar ground searches.Sol Mamakwa, an opposition lawmaker with the New Democrat party in Ontario, also called on the government to search the grounds of other former residential schools.”It is a great open secret that our children lie on the properties of former schools. It is an open secret that Canadians can no longer look away from,” he said.

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Amid Grief, Manhunt in Miami Continues for Three Gunmen

A manhunt continued into Memorial Day for three masked suspects who opened fire early Sunday morning outside a Miami banquet hall, killing two men and wounding 21 others, in a shooting authorities said had spread terror and grief through their communities.That anguish was reinforced Monday by a grieving father who interrupted a news conference just as the Miami-Dade Police Department’s director, Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez III, was decrying the weekend’s gun violence and appealing for the community’s help in tracking down the shooters.”You killed my kid with no reason,” the distraught man yelled out as he was escorted away from cameras. Police would later confirm that the man, Clayton Dillard, is the father of one of two 26-year-old men who were gunned down outside the banquet hall that was hosting a rap concert.”That is the pain that you see. That is the pain that affects our community right there before you,” Ramirez said.On Monday, police released a snippet from surveillance video that showed a white SUV driving into an alley at the strip mall housing the El Mula Banquet Hall in northwest Miami-Dade, near Hialeah. The video shows three people getting out of the vehicle, one gripping a handgun, while the other two carried what police described as “assault-style rifles.”That’s when the gunmen sprayed bullets indiscriminately into the crowd, even though police said the assailants had specific targets in mind.Ramirez told the Miami Herald that the shooters waited between 20 and 40 minutes before attacking shortly after midnight. Police said some in the crowd returned fire.In all, 23 people were shot. In addition to the two fatalities, three others were in the hospital in critical condition. Because of privacy laws, police were not releasing the names of any of the victims.The SUV used in the shooting was later found Sunday submerged in a canal about 13 kilometers east of the banquet hall. Police said the vehicle was reported stolen two weeks ago.Sunday’s shooting came a little more than a day after a drive-by shooting claimed the life of one person outside another venue about 21 kilometers away in the Wynwood area. Six others were injured. Some witnesses likened the scene to a war zone after a barrage of dozens of bullets sent people scurrying in the night.”This is a weekend when we should be out remembering, enjoying time with loved ones, and instead, we’re here mourning,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at Monday’s press conference.”These despicable shootings in Northwest Miami-Dade and in Wynwood are shameful acts of violence that have left innocent people dead and injured,” Cava said.Police said the two shootings were unrelated.Police said Sunday’s shooting appeared to stem from rivalries between two groups but declined to refer to those groups as gangs.Businessman and TV personality Marcus Lemonis, star of “The Profit,” pledged $100,000 toward a reward fund to help authorities capture the suspects.

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Morocco, Spain Trade Accusations of Violating Good ‘Neighborliness’

Morocco and Spain traded new accusations on Monday in a diplomatic row triggered by the Western Sahara territorial issue that led this month to a migration crisis in Spain’s enclave in northern Morocco.Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez described Morocco’s actions in appearing to relax border controls with the enclave of Ceuta as unacceptable and an assault on national borders.Morocco’s Foreign Ministry meanwhile blamed Spain for breaking “mutual trust and respect,” drawing parallels between the issues of Western Sahara and Spain’s Catalonia region, where there is an independence movement.The dispute was sparked by Spain admitting Western Sahara independence movement leader Brahim Ghali for medical treatment without informing Rabat.”It is not acceptable for a government to say that we will attack the borders, that we will open up the borders to let in 10,000 migrants in less than 48 hours … because of foreign policy disagreements,” Sanchez said at a news conference.Most migrants who crossed into Ceuta were immediately returned to Morocco, but hundreds of unaccompanied minors, who cannot be deported under Spanish law, remain.The influx was widely seen as retaliation for Spain’s decision to discreetly take in Ghali.Morocco regards Western Sahara as part of its own territory. The Algeria-backed Polisario seeks an independent state in the territory, where Spain was colonial ruler until 1975.Describing Spain as Morocco’s best ally in the European Union, Sanchez said he wanted to convey a constructive attitude toward Rabat but insisted that border security was paramount.”Remember that neighborliness … must be based on respect and confidence,” he said.Morocco’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Spain violated good neighborliness and mutual trust and that migration was not the problem.Rabat added that it has cooperated with Madrid in curbing migrant flows and in countering terrorism, which it said helped foil 82 militant attacks in Spain.The case of Ghali “revealed the hostile attitudes and harmful strategies of Spain regarding the Moroccan Sahara,” the ministry said in a statement.Spain “cannot combat separatism at home and promote it in its neighbor,” it said, noting Rabat’s support for Madrid against the Catalan independence movement.Separately, Ghali, who has been hospitalized with COVID-19 in Logrono in the Rioja region, will attend a Tuesday high court hearing remotely from the hospital, his lawyer’s office said.Morocco, which has withdrawn its ambassador to Madrid, has said it may sever ties with Spain if Ghali left the country the same way he entered without a trial. 

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At least 55 Killed in Eastern Congo Massacres, UN Says 

At least 55 people were killed overnight in two attacks on villages in eastern Congo, the United Nations said on Monday, in potentially the worst night of violence the area has seen in at least four years.The army and a local civil rights group blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist armed group, for raiding the village of Tchabi and a camp for displaced people near Boga, another village. Both are close to the border of Uganda.Houses were burned and civilians abducted, the U.N. office for humanitarian affairs said in a statement.Albert Basegu, the head of a civil rights group in Boga, told Reuters by telephone that he had been alerted to the attack by the sound of cries at a neighbor’s house.”When I got there I found that the attackers had already killed an Anglican pastor and his daughter was also seriously wounded,” Basegu said.The Kivu Security Tracker (KST), which has mapped unrest in restive eastern Congo since June 2017, said on Twitter the wife of a local chief was among the dead. It did not attribute blame for the killings.”It’s the deadliest day ever recorded by the KST,” said Pierre Boisselet, the research group’s coordinator.The ADF is believed to have killed more than 850 people in 2020, according to the United Nations, in a spate of reprisal attacks on civilians after the army began operations against it the year before.In March, the United States labeled the ADF a foreign terrorist organization. The group has in the past proclaimed allegiance to Islamic State, although the United Nations says evidence linking it to other Islamist militant networks is scant.President Felix Tshisekedi declared a state of siege in Congo’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces on May 1 in an attempt to curb increasing attacks by militant groups.Uganda announced earlier this month that it had agreed to share intelligence and coordinate operations against the rebels but that it would not be deploying troops in Congo. 

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Russia’s Navalny Asks Court to End Prison Security Checks

Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny asked a court Monday to halt the hourly nighttime checks he has been subjected to in his penal colony.  Speaking to the court in a video link from prison, Navalny charged that he has done nothing that would warrant the authorities’ decision to designate him as a flight risk, which has resulted in the checks.  “I just want them to stop coming to me and waking me up at nighttime,” he told the judge in remarks that were broadcast by the independent Dozhd TV. “What did I do: Did I climb the fence? Did I dig up an underpass? Or was I wringing a pistol from someone? Just explain why they named me a flight risk!”He argued that the hourly nighttime checks “effectively amount to torture,” telling the judge that “you would go mad in a week” if subjected to such regular wake-ups.The court later adjourned the hearing until Wednesday.Navalny, the most determined political foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin — accusations that Russian officials reject.In February, he was handed a 2 1/2-year sentence for violating terms of a suspended sentence stemming from a 2014 embezzlement conviction, which he says was politically motivated.He went on a 24-day hunger strike in prison to protest the lack of medical treatment for severe back pain and numbness in his legs, ending it last month after getting the medical attention he demanded.While he still was on hunger strike, Navalny was moved from a penal colony east of Moscow, where he was serving his sentence, to the hospital ward of another prison in Vladimir, a city 180 kilometers (110 miles) east of the capital. He remains at that prison, where he said the nighttime checks continued, although they were less intrusive.With Navalny in prison, prosecutors have asked a Moscow court to designate his Foundation for Fighting Corruption and his network of regional offices as extremist groups. A bill, which has sailed quickly through the Kremlin-controlled lower house of Russian parliament, bars members, donors and supporters of extremist groups from seeking public office.The parallel moves have been widely seen as an attempt to keep any of Navalny’s associates from running in September’s parliamentary election. 

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Pakistani TV Talk Show Host Taken Off Air Allegedly for Criticizing Military 

A popular television political talk show host in Pakistan said Monday his employer had removed him from the job for his criticism of the country’s powerful military.  
 
“Nothing new for me. I was banned twice in the past. Lost jobs twice,” Hamid Mir, host of the Capital Talk political show on the private Geo News channel, wrote on Twitter. 
 
The announcement comes just days after Mir delivered a speech, critical of the army, at a rally in Islamabad in support of fellow journalist Asad Ali Toor, who was beaten by unidentified assailants in his apartment in the Pakistani capital last week. 
 
Geo News did not issue any statement in support of Mir’s claims. Officials at the network did not respond to VOA’s query about the issue.  
 
“Survived assassination attempts but cannot stop raising voice for the rights given in the constitution. This time, I am ready for any consequences and ready to go at any extent because they are threatening my family,” Mir alleged in his tweet, without naming any individual or Pakistani institution.  Nothing new for me.I was banned twice in the past.Lost jobs twice.Survived assassination attempts but cannot stop raising voice for the rights given in the constitution.This time I m ready for any consequences and ready to go at any extent because they are threatening my family. https://t.co/82y1WdrP5S— Hamid Mir (@HamidMirPAK) May 31, 2021 
It was not immediately clear whether the television station had banned Mir under pressure from any Pakistani institution. Local journalists’ groups demanded an explanation from the news network’s runners.  
 
Information Minister Fawad Hussain Chaudhry wrote in the Urdu language on Twitter that the government had nothing to do with the working of any broadcast groups, saying all of them are functioning under relevant constitutional clauses and independently decide to air their programs and appoint teams for them. Mir was shot in 2014 in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi and seriously wounded. He and his family at the time had blamed the country’s prime spy agency, ISI, for plotting the attack, charges officials vehemently denied. FILE – Pakistani journalists chant slogans during a protest against the attack on political talk show host Hamid Mir, outside the press club in Karachi, April 20, 2014.
Local and international press freedom advocates often accuse the Pakistani military and its spy agencies of intimidating and orchestrating attacks on journalists, charges army officials and the government reject as unfounded.  
 
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the decision to take Mir off the air after “he spoke fervidly” against curbs on freedom of expression in the country. 
 
“We demand that Mir be allowed to resume his professional duties immediately and the threats against him taken seriously and addressed,” the watchdog wrote on Twitter.  
 
Amnesty International also stressed in a statement that censorship, harassment and physical violence must not be the price journalists pay to do their jobs. It wrote on Twitter that “the punitive action” against Mir “severely undermines the responsibility media outlets and authorities have to protect free speech in an already repressive environment.” 
 
Toor told police his attackers had identified themselves as ISI operatives before assaulting him. Chaudhry and the spy agency rejected the charges as baseless and politically motivated. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, and no arrests have been made. 

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