APTN National NewsAfter two weeks on the campaign trail, Green Party leader Elizabeth made a stop in Montreal Monday and called for a resurrection of the Kelowna Accord.May said the Green Party would fight to restore the $5.1 billion accord which was created by the Paul Martin Liberals, but cancelled by Stephen Harper’s government.May also said her party was committed to rebuilding Canada’s health care system.She was joined by Holly Dressel, a best-selling author who has written about Canada’s health care system.
APTN National NewsTen months after Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised the dawn of a new day with relations between First Nations and the federal government nothing has been done to back it up says the Assembly of First Nations.In a letter to Harper, AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo laments on the lack of the perceived progress made at a summit in January. The goal of the meeting was to boost the prosperity and independence of First Nation peoples.With the AFN, Harper and members of his cabinet at the table, Atleo said at the time there appeared to be the potential for “real change” but it was agreed then the talks required a sincere follow-through to keep the wheels of progress turning.That hasn’t happened said Atleo.“At this point in time given the rate and pace of the follow up on key items, our January 2013 report will be disappointing,” wrote Atleo in the Oct. 24 letter to Harper. “Regrettably, there has been a loss of momentum and sense of frustration is being felt by the First Nation leadership.”Atleo said Harper promised to address several long-standing issues, including education, the implementation of treaties and economic development.“Actions are needed to build confidence,” he wrote. “Stripping aside blame and denial, the conditions speak for themselves. Families struggling under a myriad of health and social challenges, inadequate housing, youth deeply and disproportionally impacted by addictions and crime, growing statistics of our peoples missing, disposed and murdered.”He said First Nations are overwhelmed by unprecedented pressures on their lands and resources and “utterly lacking the capacity to effectively protect and advance their interests.”Atleo also wrote Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan the same day, in a more detailed letter.He said in despite of the summit “your ministry has continued to proceed with its previous legislative and policy agenda, as if the commitments at the gathering to fully involve, to build genuine partnership, had not taken place.”Atleo said Duncan and Harper have failed to address each area of concern agreed upon at the summit.
Tina House APTN National NewsThe National Energy Board is expected to make a decision on Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline proposal.First Nation communities from both sides of the border who are opposed to the plan to part in a water protection ceremony in Vancouver.firstname.lastname@example.org
APTN National NewsPrime Minister Justin Trudeau will sit down with Indigenous leaders, territorial leaders and premiers on Dec. 9 in Ottawa.According to a release from the Prime Minister’s Office, the meeting will centre around climate change and clean energy, including discussions on a low-carbon economy that creates “good paying, long-term jobs for the middle class and those working hard to join it.”Ahead of the First Minister’s Meeting (FMM), Trudeau will meet with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed and Métis National Council President Clément Chartier.The release states that premiers are invited to take part in the meeting with Indigenous leaders, but Indigenous leaders are not taking part in the meeting between the prime minister and the premiers.The meeting “will serve as an opportunity to discuss the framework and Indigenous perspectives in advance of the FMM. The discussion will inform further partnerships with Indigenous peoples as part of ongoing collaboration to protect Canada’s land, air, and water for future generations and to build our clean growth economy,” said the release.“Indigenous voices and perspectives are of the utmost importance as our country works together to give our kids and grandkids a better, healthier, more prosperous, and more inclusive tomorrow. I look forward to working with Indigenous leaders to make real progress on the important issues affecting their communities and Canada.”The meeting comes at the end of the Assembly of First Nations special chiefs assembly in Gatineau, Que.email@example.com
Willow Fiddler APTN National NewsBarbara Kentner, an Indigenous woman who was seriously injured after being hit by trailer hitch thrown from a passing car in Thunder Bay, has died, according to her sister.Melissa Kentner said Tuesday that her sister Barbara Kentner died this morning shortly after 5 a.m.“I heard her take her last breath,” said Melissa Kentner, who was with her sister when Barbara Kentner was hit by a trailer hitch thrown by a passenger in a moving car on Jan. 28.Thunder Bay police initially charged Brayden Bushby with aggravated assault following the incident.Melissa Kentner, left, with her sister Barbara Kentner on June 27, 2017, St. Joseph’s Hospital, hospice unit. Willow Fiddler, APTNMore to come
The Canadian PressALEXIS CREEK, B.C. – The chief of the Tl’etinqox First Nation said RCMP officers told them to leave or risk having their children taken away. Instead, they erected a fire boundary and prepared to fight.“We are generation after generation that continue to live in a fire zone. This is not new to us,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, whose community is about 100 kilometres west of Williams Lake. “We feel this is the safest place for our community members to be.”Emergency officials and police are urging British Columbia residents to respect evacuation orders ahead of fast-moving wildfires, but some First Nations are standing their ground, successfully protecting their homes and property.There are about 1,000 residents on the reserve, but Alphonse said only about 300 stayed to fight the fires.BC Wildfire Service chief information officer Kevin Skrepnek said there had been a slight reprieve in the weather forecast with some rain expected, bringing relief to the windy, hot and dry conditions fuelling nearly 200 fires and displacing more than 14,000 people.Crews took advantage of calmer conditions Wednesday to make progress on fire guards near Williams Lake, where 10,000 people remain on evacuation alert.With improved conditions, Alphonse said he finally had a moment to reflect on the three days of firefighting without the aid of power or telephone service.He said Mounties told them to evacuate last weekend and the conversation quickly became heated.As chief, he said his signature is required to enforce the evacuation order on the reserve, which he chose not to authorize.Robert Turner of Emergency Management BC said Alphonse was correct. First Nations have the authority to issue their own evacuation orders for their territory.“They would hopefully be taking advice from the same experts as a local government,” he said.Alphonse said many in the community wanted to stay behind to fight and they have trained firefighters, access to heavy equipment and emergency plans to evacuate if they lost the battle with the fire.He said an officer threatened to have the Ministry of Children and Family Services “remove all the children.”Tempers flared and Alphonse said he suggested their own roadblocks would keep the Mounties out and if that didn’t work, perhaps warning shots above their heads would.RCMP Staff Sgt. Annie Linteau said in a statement Wednesday, “as far as the comments made by Chief Alphonse, we do not believe the comments made are reflective of the recent and continued meetings and conversations we have had with the chief.”The RCMP’s responsibility is to “advise the public that there has been an order and advise them of the risk associated with staying,” Linteau told reporters on a conference call.“Of course, if the person has the ability to make their own decision and they are over the age of 19, we will not force them to leave the home,” she said.But she said if there are children under 19 at risk, police are required to move them to a safe location. No children have been removed by the RCMP to date, she added.Alphonse disagrees that officers were trying to protect their children.“The safest place for our kids is here with their families under the supervision of the leadership of this community,” he said.The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said Indigenous Peoples have a fundamental right to make decisions about protecting and defending the safety, health and well-being of their community.“If and when houses and band infrastructure are lost to these fires, it will take years to rebuild and we fear in many instances the homes and infrastructure may never be built,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada said in a statement that the department is working with Emergency Management BC and First Nations to make sure the communities are supported.B.C. Forest Minister John Rustad told radio station CHNL that the province was concerned about the situation.“People are staying behind, they want to fight for their homes. That poses a very serious problem. We know these fires can be very, very volatile and can change at a moments notice,” Rustad said.Ultimately, Alphonse said staying was the right decision and it saved at least 10 homes.The chief of the Bonaparte Indian Band north of Ashcroft said they also defied an evacuation order over the weekend and successfully stopped flames from overrunning their reserve.“My community has some really skilled firefighters, like a lot of First Nations reserves, and they came together and they stopped that wildfire from wiping out that whole community,” Chief Ryan Day said.He said 60 of the band’s 280 members stayed to fight the fire.The community doesn’t have a firehall, a new water reservoir hasn’t been connected to their main supply yet and they don’t have a formal emergency response plan in place.But Day said the experience of the trained forest firefighters in his community and access to heavy equipment contributed to their success.“We weren’t prepared for it of course because it happened in a blink of an eye, but we snapped into action and everyone did their part,” he firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom FennarioAPTN NewsIskweu (pronounced “is-kway”) is Cree for “woman.”It’s also the name for an initiative in Montreal that aims to prevent Indigenous homelessness.Tom Fennario has the email@example.com
WASHINGTON – After weeks of quarrels, qualms and then eleventh-hour horse-trading, Republicans revealed the details of their huge national tax rewrite late Friday — along with announcements of support that all but guarantee approval to give President Donald Trump the Christmas legislative triumph he’s been aching for.The legislation would slash tax rates for big business and lower levies on the richest Americans in a massive $1.5 trillion bill that the GOP plans to muscle through Congress next week before its year-end break. Benefits for most other taxpayers would be smaller.“This is happening. Tax reform under Republican control of Washington is happening,” House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told rank-and-file members in a conference call. “Most critics out there didn’t think it could happen. … And now we’re on the doorstep of something truly historic.”According to the 1,097-page bill released late Friday, today’s 35 per cent rate on corporations would fall to 21 per cent, the crown jewel of the measure for many Republicans. Trump and GOP leaders had set 20 per cent as their goal, but added a point to free money for other tax cuts that won over wavering lawmakers in final talks.The legislation represents the first major legislative achievement for the GOP after nearly a full year in control of Congress and the White House. It’s the widest-ranging reshaping of the tax code in three decades and is expected to add to the nation’s $20 trillion debt. The tax cuts are projected to add $1.46 trillion over a decade.The bill would repeal an important part of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act — the requirement that all Americans have health insurance or face a penalty — as the GOP looks to unravel a law it failed to repeal and replace this past summer.Only on Friday did Republicans cement the needed support for the overhaul, securing endorsements from wavering senators.Marco Rubio of Florida relented in his high-profile opposition after negotiators expanded the tax credit that parents can claim for their children. He said he would vote for the measure next week.Rubio had been holding out for a bigger child credit for low-income families. After he got it, he tweeted that the change was “a solid step toward broader reforms which are both Pro-Growth and Pro-Worker.”Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the only Republican to vote against the Senate version earlier this month, made the surprise announcement that he would back the legislation. Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has repeatedly warned that the nation’s growing debt is the most serious threat to national security.“I realize this is a bet on our country’s enterprising spirit, and that is a bet I am willing to make,” Corker said.The White House said Trump “looks forward to fulfilling the promise he made to the American people to give them a tax cut by the end of the year.”The bill embodies a longstanding Republican philosophy that a substantial tax break for businesses will trigger economic growth and job creation for Americans in a trickle-down economy.Skeptical Democrats are likely to oppose the legislation unanimously.“Under this bill, the working class, middle class and upper middle class get skewered while the rich and wealthy corporations make out like bandits,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. “It is just the opposite of what America needs, and Republicans will rue the day they pass this.”The bill would drop today’s 39.6 per cent top rate on individuals to 37 per cent. The standard deduction — used by around two-thirds of households — would be nearly doubled, to $24,000 for married couples.The $1,000-per-child tax deduction would grow to $2,000, with up to $1,400 available in IRS refunds for families who owe little or no taxes. Parents would have to provide children’s Social Security numbers to receive the child tax credit, a measure intended to deny the credit to people who are in the U.S. illegally.Those who itemize would lose some deductions. The deduction that millions use in connection with state and local income, property and sales taxes would be capped at $10,000. That’s especially important to residents of high-tax states such as New York, New Jersey and California. Deductions for medical expenses that lawmakers once considered eliminating would be retained.The bill would allow homeowners to deduct interest only on the first $750,000 of a new mortgage, down from the current limit of $1 million.People who inherit fortunes would get a big break. The bill would double the exemption, meaning the estate tax would apply only to the portion of an estate over $22 million for married couples.Members of a House-Senate conference committee signed the final version of the legislation Friday, sending it to the two chambers for final passage next week. They have been working to blend the different versions passed by the two houses.Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate, including two ailing senators who have missed votes this past week.John McCain of Arizona, who is 81, is at a Washington-area military hospital being treated for the side effects of brain cancer treatment, and 80-year-old Thad Cochran of Mississippi had a non-melanoma lesion removed from his nose earlier this week. GOP leaders are hopeful they will be available next week.
VANCOUVER – Loblaw Companies Ltd. is offering customers a $25 gift card as a goodwill gesture after admitting the company participated in an industry-wide bread price-fixing arrangement.“This conduct should never have happened,” said Galen G. Weston, CEO, during a conference call with analysts Tuesday.“The gift card is a direct acknowledgment of that to our customers. We hope that they’ll see it as a meaningful amount that demonstrates our commitment to keeping their trust and confidence,” he said in response to how the company arrived at the card’s $25 value.Here’s how to redeem the offer:Customers can visit LoblawCard.ca and enter their email address to be notified once registration opens.The company expects registration to begin on Jan. 8.Full details will follow, but broadly speaking, visitors to the site will have to declare that they are the age of majority or older, said spokesman Kevin Groh, in an email.The age of majority is 18 in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, P.E.I., Quebec and Saskatchewan. It is 19 in B.C., New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and the three territories.They will also have to declare that they bought certain packaged bread products at one of the eligible banner stores in Canada before Mach 1, 2015, he said.Registration closes May 8.The company expects three million to six million people will receive the gift card.Loblaw and George Weston Ltd. revealed Tuesday that they participated in an industry-wide bread price-fixing arrangement from late 2001 to March 2015, but tipped off Canada’s competition watchdog and will receive immunity in the ensuing investigation.
MONTREAL – While Montreal’s city council has passed a motion looking to ban sugary drinks in municipal buildings, not all borough bosses believe it’s a workable measure.Some veteran councillors who voted against it earlier this month won’t be drafting those types of rules for their own districts, saying they go beyond their competency as municipal politicians and would prove difficult to enforce.“I’m for prevention, I’m for an excise tax where it would help fund the health system like tobacco,” said Luis Miranda, mayor of the eastern Montreal borough of Anjou.“But to start patrolling what goes into my arenas, what goes into my parks in the summertime when there’s a baseball tournament, I don’t agree.”A working group is expected to look at how to phase the ban on sports drinks, energy drinks and flavoured water into the city’s 19 boroughs.Miranda said such restrictions would create problems for different groups — youth sports teams, for example, which often have sponsorships with drink companies.Councillors from the borough of LaSalle also voted against the ban, with Mayor Manon Barbe saying she’d rather see education for citizens instead of having decisions imposed on them.LaSalle introduced a health policy in 2008 that required 30 per cent of menu items in public buildings to reflect healthy choices, but nothing was banned.Snack bars in LaSalle’s two municipal arenas shuttered after operators said the menu requirements made them unprofitable.They’ve since been replaced with vending machines that offer healthy alternatives as well as the usual fare.“I don’t want to have to choose for citizens,” Barbe said. “When I do my groceries, no one tells me what to put in my shopping cart.”The motion presented at Montreal council began as one that called on Ottawa to introduce a national excise tax on sugary drinks — something all Montreal councillors supported.Several public health groups have also pushed the idea of an excise tax.In May, organizations including the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Childhood Obesity Foundation touted the “health and economic benefits of a sugary drink levy” after having commissioned a study by the University of Waterloo.Researchers at the University of Toronto also came out in favour of a tax on sugary drinks in Canada, among other measures, to improve eating habits.The World Health Organization recommended a tax of at least 20 per cent in a 2016 report.In Canada, the Northwest Territories government said this year it was considering a sugar drink tax to help fight obesity.The federal government has looked at the pros and cons of such a tax, but didn’t include it in its 2016 budget, Finance Department briefing documents suggested.But the Canadian Beverage Association has called the Montreal excise tax motion disappointing, noting that studies demonstrate the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverage calories has dropped by at least 30 per cent since 2004 without a tax, even as obesity rates have risen.Barbe said the fact she and some colleagues voted against the motion doesn’t mean they’re against health initiatives — just that they believe it’s a job for the provincial and federal governments.“Where is it going to end? I don’t want to find myself in a position where I’m playing the part of the sugar police,” Barbe said.
CALGARY – Refineries in central and Atlantic Canada could save money on oil costs and produce fewer global greenhouse gas emissions if they bought more Canadian crude oil, according to a study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute released Wednesday.The study finds that substituting Canadian oil wherever possible using space on existing pipelines, railcars and ocean tankers would result in a 47 per cent reduction in foreign oil imports into Eastern Canada, saving the refineries $210 million per year and the equivalent of more than two million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or about 5.7 per cent.It adds that expanding the transportation system through a new pipeline equal to TransCanada Corp.’s cancelled Energy East would allow the eight refineries in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador to replace 57 per cent of imported oil at a savings of $317 million per year, while still cutting GHGs by two million tonnes.“I think there’s an opportunity for the energy sector to do more work together — east to west — to benefit Canada as a whole,” said CERI CEO Allan Fogwill following a presentation in Calgary.“There’s a social benefit in keeping it in the family and an economic benefit for eastern refineries (along with) an environmental benefit internationally.”He said the report, based on 2016 numbers gathered mainly without the refiners’ co-operation, doesn’t answer the question of why they buy from foreign suppliers when it would make sense to buy from within Canada.But he said he hopes its conclusions lead to a discussion about where the refineries source their oil.Peter Boag, CEO of the Canadian Fuels Association, which represents refiners, said operators weigh many factors to maximize the economic efficiency of their refineries, including looking at the composition of different types of crude oil.“Crude cost, the configuration and complexity of the refinery, and anticipated product demand are all factors that influence crude oil choice,” he said.He added that providing eastern Canadian refineries with better pipeline access to western Canadian crude would provide further flexibility in crude selection.The CERI study notes that the eastern refineries process just over one million barrels per day, of which 56 per cent comes from foreign countries led by the United States at 260,000 barrels of oil per day.About 39 per cent comes from Western Canada and five per cent is from eastern Canadian sources such as the offshore oilfields of Newfoundland and Labrador.Follow @HealingSlowly on Twitter.Companies in this story: (TSX:TRP)
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Prosecutors in New York City abandoned part of their sexual assault case against Harvey Weinstein on Thursday after evidence surfaced that a lead police detective coached a witness to keep quiet when she raised doubts about the veracity of one of the allegations.Weinstein, 66, looked on as a judge agreed to dismiss the lone charge related to Lucia Evans, who helped spark the #MeToo movement a year ago when she told The New Yorker that the Hollywood mogul had forced her to perform oral sex in 2004 when she was a college student and fledgling actress.Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, unsuccessfully urged Judge James Burke to deep-six the whole case, telling him: “The integrity of these proceedings has been compromised.”The bulk of the prosecution case remains intact, with Weinstein still facing five charges over allegations that he raped an unidentified woman in his Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and performed a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006. A conviction on the most serious charges could put him in prison for the rest of his life.Weinstein denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex.The turn of events, which had been simmering for weeks in closed-door meetings and sealed court documents, enraged Evans’ lawyer, who took to the courthouse steps to blast Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. for walking away from her client. Evans told the truth and never misled investigators, lawyer Carrie Goldberg said.“Let me be clear: the decision to throw away my client’s sexual assault charges says nothing about Weinstein’s guilt or innocence. Nor does it reflect on Lucia’s consistent allegation that she was sexually assaulted with force by Harvey Weinstein,” Goldberg said outside the courthouse. “It only speaks volumes about the Manhattan DA’s office and its mishandling of my client’s case.”Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon insisted in court that the rest of the case is strong and said the district attorney’s office was looking into the possibility of bringing additional charges.“In short, your honour, we are moving full steam ahead,” she said.Det. Nicholas DiGaudio, who was one of two investigators who escorted Weinstein out of a police station and into court after his May arrest, is now embroiled in an internal police department investigation and has been thrown off the case. Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said Thursday that the department takes seriously the allegations against him.Prosecutors said in a letter unsealed after Thursday’s hearing that they learned weeks ago that a woman who was with Evans the night she first met Weinstein at a restaurant had given DiGaudio a contradictory account of what happened, but that the detective had urged her to keep quiet, telling her “less is more.”The woman, prosecutors said, told the detective in February that Weinstein had offered them money to flash their breasts during the restaurant encounter. They initially declined, but the woman said that Evans later told her she had gone ahead and exposed herself to the film producer in a hallway. Goldberg disputed that.The woman also told the detective that sometime after an office meeting where Evans alleged Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex, she suggested what happened was consensual, according to the letter. Weinstein had promised to get her an acting job if she agreed to perform oral sex, and she agreed, it said.According to the witness, who was not named in the letter, Evans had been drinking and “appeared to be upset, embarrassed and shaking” when she recounted the story.Prosecutors also disclosed that they had discovered a draft email that Evans had written three years ago to a man who is now her husband that “describes details of the sexual assault that differ from the account” she provided to investigators.A message left on a phone DiGaudio used in the past wasn’t returned. The union for New York City police detectives didn’t return a message.Brafman said he believed Evans had lied both to the grand jury and to The New Yorker about her encounter with Weinstein and suggested she be prosecuted for perjury.“This is an attack on the fundamental integrity of the grand jury process,” Brafman said. “If you have a person willing to commit perjury in the grand jury, that is as serious as the crime of sexual assault because it undermines the fairness of the process for all of us.”Goldberg said Evans told the grand jury the truth.“The DA is aware of robust evidence, including witnesses, that seriously undermine the witness’ credibility and recollection of events. Yet, the DA consented to dismissal prior to investigating this evidence,” she wrote on Twitter.The developments in Weinstein’s case on Thursday capped a tough six-day stretch for the #MeToo movement, bookended by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation amid decades-old allegations that he had committed sexual misconduct. But victim advocates didn’t see it as a setback.“This is so much larger than any singular case,” Kristen Houser of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center said. “Weinstein may have been the snowball that started the avalanche, but the ability of any one perpetrator being held accountable or getting away with it doesn’t alter the national outrage.”The New Yorker, in a statement, said it stands by its reporting and fact-checking process and that “any assertion by lawyers for Harvey Weinstein that The New Yorker had information that contradicted Lucia Evans’s account is patently incorrect.”Vance has already been fiercely criticized for declining to prosecute Weinstein when an Italian model accused him of grabbing her breasts in 2015. At the time, Vance cited a lack of supporting evidence, despite the existence of a clandestinely made recording of Weinstein discussing the episode with the woman.In the months after The New York Times and The New Yorker began publishing stories about Weinstein’s interactions with women, activists pressured Vance to bring charges as dozens of people came forward with claims of sexual misconduct against him.DiGaudio and other police officials poured on the pressure, saying publicly that they believed they had gathered ample evidence to make an arrest.The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assaults unless they come forward publicly, as Evans has done.Weinstein is free on $1 million bail and is due back in court Dec. 20.__Follow Sisak at https://twitter.com/mikesisak and Hays at https://twitter.com/APtomhays
MOSCOW — The Latest on raised tensions between Russia and Ukraine (all times local):12:30 p.m.Ukraine has released what it says is the exact location near Crimea where its vessels were fired on and seized by Russia over the weekend, showing that they were in international waters.The statement by Ukrainian officials contradicts Russia’s argument that it was chasing the ships because they were violating its territorial waters. Russia considers Crimea, which it annexed in 2014, part of its country.The Ukrainian ministry in charge of occupied territories on Wednesday published what it claimed were the exact co-ordinates of where the military vessels “Berdiansk”, “Nikopol”, and “Yany Kapu” were when they were attacked by Russia, putting them outside the 12-mile zone of territorial waters.Russian border guards have captured the vessels and the crews. Officials say they will try the seamen for violating the Russian border and that they do not consider them prisoners of war.___10:20 a.m.A military official says Russia will boost the defence of the occupied Crimean peninsula with more anti-aircraft missiles.The Interfax news agency on Wednesday quoted Col. Vadim Astafyev, the top Defence Ministry official in Russia’s south, as saying that Russia will add one S-400 anti-aircraft missile system to the three already deployed in the peninsula.The announcement comes three days after Russian border guards fired on three Ukrainian vessels and seized them and their crews. The first overt military confrontation between the two neighbouring countries has raised the spectre of a major conflict.Ukraine said its vessels were operating in line with international maritime rules, while Russia alleged they had failed to get permission to pass.The Associated Press
HOTAN, China — Barbed wire and hundreds of cameras ring a massive compound of more than 30 dormitories, schools, warehouses and workshops in China’s far west. Dozens of armed officers and a growling Doberman stand guard outside.Behind locked gates, men and women are sewing sportswear that can end up on U.S. college campuses and sports teams.This is one of a growing number of internment camps in the Xinjiang region, where by some estimates 1 million Muslims are detained, forced to give up their language and their religion and subject to political indoctrination. Now, the Chinese government is also forcing some detainees to work in manufacturing and food industries. Some of them are within the internment camps; others are privately-owned, state-subsidized factories where detainees are sent once they are released.The Associated Press has tracked recent, ongoing shipments from one such factory inside an internment camp to Badger Sportswear, a leading supplier in Statesville, North Carolina. The shipments show how difficult it is to stop products made with forced labour from getting into the global supply chain, even though such imports are illegal in the U.S. Badger CEO John Anton said Sunday that the company would source sportswear elsewhere while it investigates.Chinese authorities say the camps, which they call training centres, offer free vocational training for Uighurs, Kazakhs and others, mostly Muslims, as part of a plan to bring minorities into “a modern civilized” world and eliminate poverty in Xinjiang. They say that people in the centres have signed agreements to receive vocational training.The Xinjiang Propaganda Department did not respond to a faxed request for comment. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman accused the foreign media Monday of making “many untrue reports” about the training centres, but did not specify when asked for details.“Those reports are completely based on hearsay evidence or made out of thin air,” the spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said at a daily briefing.However, a dozen people who either had been in a camp or had friends or family in one told the AP that detainees they knew were given no choice but to work at the factories. Most of the Uighurs and Kazakhs, who were interviewed in exile, also said that even people with professional jobs were retrained to do menial work.Payment varied according to the factory. Some got paid nothing, while others earned up to several hundred dollars a month, they said — barely above minimum wage for the poorer parts of Xinjiang. A person with firsthand knowledge of the situation in one county estimated that more than 10,000 detainees — or 10 to 20 per cent of the internment population there — are working in factories, with some earning just a tenth of what they used to earn before. The person declined to be named out of fear of retribution.A former reporter for Xinjiang TV in exile said that during his month-long detention last year, young people in his camp were taken away in the mornings to work without compensation in carpentry and a cement factory.“The camp didn’t pay any money, not a single cent,” he said, asking to be identified only by his first name, Elyar, because he has relatives still in Xinjiang. “Even for necessities, such as things to shower with or sleep at night, they would call our families outside to get them to pay for it.”Rushan Abbas, a Uighur in Washington, D.C., said her sister is among those detained. The sister, Dr. Gulshan Abbas, was taken to what the government calls a vocational centre, although she has no specific information on whether her sister is being forced to work.“American companies importing from those places should know those products are made by people being treated like slaves,” she said. “What are they going to do, train a doctor to be a seamstress?”___The predominantly Muslim Uighur and Kazakh ethnic minorities in China live mostly in the Xinjiang region bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan, with a legacy dating back to ancient traders on the Silk Road. In recent decades, violent attacks by Uighur militants have killed hundreds and prompted the Chinese government to blanket Xinjiang with stifling security.About two years ago, authorities launched a vast detention and reeducation campaign. They also use checkpoints, GPS tracking and face-scanning cameras for surveillance of ethnic minorities in the region. The slightest perceived misstep can land someone in the internment camps.Men and women in the complex that has shipped products to Badger Sportswear make clothes for privately-owned Hetian Taida Apparel in a cluster of 10 workshops within the compound walls. Hetian Taida says it is not affiliated with the internment camps, but its workforce includes detainees.As China faced growing international pressure about the detention camps, its state broadcaster aired a 15-minute report in October that featured a “vocational skills education and training centre” in the southern Xinjiang city of Hotan.“Terrorism and extremism are the common enemy of human civilization,” the China Central Television program began. In response, the report said, the Xinjiang government was using vocational training to solve this “global issue.”Wu Hongbo, the chairman of Hetian Taida, confirmed that the company has a factory inside the same compound as the training centre featured in the China Central Television report. Hetian Taida provides employment to those trainees who were deemed by the government to be “unproblematic,” he said, adding that the centre is government-operated.“We’re making our contribution to eradicating poverty,” Wu told the AP over the phone.The 20 to 30 trainees at the factory are treated like regular employees and make up a small fraction of the hundreds of people in its workforce, he said.Trainees featured in the state television report praised the Communist Party for saving them from a criminal path.“I don’t dare to imagine what would have happened to me if I didn’t come here,” one Uighur student said. “The party and government found me in time and saved me. They gave me a chance to reinvent myself.”The segment said that in addition to law and Mandarin-language classes, the training centre collaborated with companies to give trainees practical experience. Trainees were shown hunched over sewing machines in a factory whose interior matches that of Hetian Taida’s main Hotan branch, as seen in prior Chinese media reports.Police told the AP journalists who approached the compound earlier this month that they could not take photos or film in the area because it was part of a “military facility.” Yet the entrance was marked only by a tall gate that said it was an “apparel employment training base.”Posters line the barbed-wire perimeter, bearing messages such as “Learn to be grateful, learn to be an upright person” and “No need to pay tuition, find a job easily.”Nathan Ruser, a cyber-policy researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), analyzed satellite images for the AP and found that in Hetian Taida’s case, the apparel factory and the government-run training camp are connected by a fenced path.“There are watchtowers throughout,” Ruser said. “There are clear fences between the buildings and walls that limit movement. Detainees can only access the factories area through walkways, and the entire facility is closed.”The AP could not independently determine if any workers were allowed to come and go, or how much if anything they were paid.At least 10 times this year shipping containers filled with thousands of men’s, women’s and youth polyester knitted T-shirts and pants were sent to Badger Sportswear, a 47-year-old athletic gear seller. The company mostly manufactures in Nicaragua and the U.S., and there is no way to tell where the products from Xinjiang specifically end up. But experts say supply chains are considered tainted by forced labour and modern slavery if even one item was produced by someone forced to work.Sprinkled on the Internet are clues that repeatedly tie the company to the detention camp’s sewing factory floor.Shawn Zhang, a researcher at the University of British Columbia, noted an overlooked Hotan city social media post from February about the first batch of some 1.5 million pieces of clothing worth $400,000 heading overseas from the Hetian Taida Factory. In the middle of a photo of young women flashing the peace sign is Badger Sportswear’s marketing director Ginny Gasswint, who is quoted as saying she’s surprised the workers are “friendly, beautiful, enthusiastic and hardworking.”Badger Sportswear goes to sports teams large and small, ranging from ranging from Charlotte Country Day School Squash team in Charlotte, North Carolina, to Rhode Island’s Coventry Little League and Hansberry College Prep in Chicago, according to its website and advertisements. The AP also found dozens of college bookstores advertising their gear printed on Badger Sportswear, including Texas A&M, University of Pennsylvania, Appalachian State University, University of Northern Iowa, University of Evansville and Bates College. However, it’s impossible to say if any particular shirt is made with forced labour.Badger chief executive Anton said Sunday that his company has sourced products from an affiliate of Hetian Taida for many years. He said about a year ago, the affiliate opened a new factory in western China. Anton confirmed Badger Sportswear officials visited the factory and have a certificate that the factory is certified by social compliance experts.“We will voluntarily halt sourcing and will move production elsewhere while we investigate the matters raised,” he said.Badger Sportswear was acquired by New York investment firm CCMP Capital Advisor in August 2016. Since then, CCMP has acquired three more team sportswear companies, which they are managing under the umbrella of Founder Sport Group.In recent years, Badger imported sportswear — jerseys, T-shirts, workout pants and more — from Nicaragua and Pakistan. But in April this year, it began importing 100 per cent polyester T-shirts and pants from Hetian Taida Apparel, according to U.S. customs data provided by ImportGenius, which analyzes consumer shipments. The address on the shipping records is the same as for the detention camp.The U.S. and United Nations say forced labour is a type of modern slavery, and that items made by people being exploited and coerced to work are banned from import to the U.S.It’s unclear whether other companies also export products made by forced labour in Xinjiang to the U.S., Europe and Asia. The AP found two companies exporting to the U.S. that share approximately the same co-ordinates as places experts have identified as internment camps, and Chinese media reports mention “training” there. But the AP could not confirm whether the companies use forced labour.___The detention camp system is part of China’s increasingly stringent state security under President Xi Jinping. Some detainees told AP earlier this year about beating, solitary confinement and other punishments if they do not recite political songs, names and phrases. The AP has not been given access to these facilities despite repeated attempts to get permission to visit.Not all the camps have forced labour. Many former detainees say they were held in facilities that didn’t have any manufacturing equipment and focused solely on political indoctrination.“They didn’t teach me anything. They were brainwashing me, trying to make us believe how great China is, how powerful it is, how developed its economy is,” said Kairat Samarkan, a Kazakh citizen who said he was tortured with a metal contraption that contorts your body before being released in February after he tried to kill himself.Interviewees described a wave of factory openings earlier this year. Ex-detainee Orynbek Koksebek said that shortly before his release in April, the director strode into his class and announced that a factory would be built in the camp. Koksebek, who cannot speak Mandarin, listened to a policeman as he translated the director’s words into Kazakh for the roughly 90 women and 15 men in the room.“We’re going to open a factory, you’re going to work,” Koksebek recalled him as saying. “We’ll teach you how to cook, how to sew clothes, how to fix cars.”This fall, months after Koksebek’s release, news began trickling into Kazakhstan that the Chinese government was starting forced labour in internment camps and would transfer some detainees out into gated, guarded factories. The workers must live in dormitories on factory grounds. Contact with family ranges from phone calls or in-person visits, to weekends at home under police surveillance.In October, Chinese authorities acknowledged the existence of what they called vocational training centres. State media published an interview with Shohret Zahir, the governor of Xinjiang, saying that “some trainees” were nearly done with their “courses.”“We will try to achieve a seamless connection between school teaching and social employment, so that after finishing their courses, the trainees will be able to find jobs and earn a well-off life,” Zahir said.The forced labour program goes along with a massive government initiative to develop Xinjiang’s economy by constructing enormous factory parks. Another internment camp the AP visited was inside a factory compound called Kunshan Industrial Park, opened under the national anti-poverty push. A local propaganda official, Chen Fang, said workers inside made food and clothes.A hospital, a police station, smokestacks, dormitories and a building with a sign that read “House of Workers” could be seen from outside the surrounding barbed wire fencing. Another section resembled a prison, with guard towers and high walls. The AP did not track any exports from Kunshan to the U.S.Many of those with relatives in such camps said their loved ones were well-educated with high-paying jobs before their arrest, and did not need a poverty alleviation program. Nurbakyt Kaliaskar, a sheepherder’s wife in Kazakhstan, said her daughter, Rezila Nulale, 25, was a college graduate with a well-paid advertising job in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, where she lived a typical urban lifestyle with a computer, a washing machine and an apartment in the city centre.Then last August, after returning from a visit to her family across the border in Kazakhstan, Nulale vanished. She didn’t answer phone calls and stopped showing up to work.Four months later a stranger contacted Kaliaskar online and confirmed her fear: her daughter had been detained for “political training.” The next spring, she said she fainted when two cases of her daughter’s clothes were delivered to her home in Kazakhstan.Last month, Kaliaskar got word via a friend who knows the family that Nulale was working in a factory next to the camp where she had been detained. The friend had heard from Kaliaskar’s brother, who had visited Nulale, bringing medicine for an injured hand.Kaliaskar learned her daughter wasn’t being paid and had to meet a daily quota of three articles of clothing. She couldn’t leave. Her uncle thought she looked pale and thin.“They say they’re teaching her to weave clothes. But the thing is, she’s well educated and had a job,” said Kaliaskar. “What’s the point of this training?”A former detainee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect himself and his family members, said other detainees from his camp also had been forced into jobs at factories far away. They were taken to a government office and handed labour contracts for six months to five years in a distant factory, which they were required to sign.If they ran from the factories, they were warned, they’d be taken straight back to the camps for “further education.”Farmers, herders and manual labourers with little Mandarin and no higher education say they appreciated Beijing’s past initiatives to help the poor, including subsidized housing and the installation of electricity and running water. But the camps, the forced education, and the factories, they say, go too far.“I never asked the government to find work for my husband,” said Mainur Medetbek, whose husband did odd repair jobs before vanishing into a camp in February during a visit to China from their home in Kazakhstan.She has been able to glean a sense of his conditions from monitored exchanges with relatives and from the husband of a woman who is in the same camp. He works in an apparel factory and is allowed to leave and spend the night with relatives every other Saturday. Though she’s not certain how much her husband makes, the woman in his camp earns 600 yuan (about $87) a month, less than half the local minimum wage and far less than what Medetbek’s husband used to earn.Since her husband was detained, Medetbek and her children have had no reliable source of income and sometimes go hungry. The ordeal has driven her to occasionally contemplate suicide.“They say it’s a factory, but it’s an excuse for detention. They don’t have freedom, there’s no time for him to talk with me,” she said. “They say they found a job for him. I think it’s a concentration camp.”___Martha Mendoza reported from Santa Cruz, California.Dake Kang, Martha Mendoza And Yanan Wang, The Associated Press