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Corruption Scandal Shakes Canadian Prime Minister

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  • Candian PM Justin Trudeau has been accused of pressuring his justi minister to settle a corruption scandal involving the large Canadian corporation SNC-Lavalin.
  • SNC has been accused of paying millions of dollars in bribes to the Lybian government, including to the regime of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
  • Two ministers and one of Trudeau’s top political advisors have resigned amid the allegations, which Trudeau has denied.

SNC-Lavalin

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has become entangled in a corruption scandal that alleges his office attempted to settle a criminal case against SNC-Lavalin, a multinational engineering and construction firm based in Canada.

The criminal case against SNC claims the company paid millions of dollars in bribes to officials in Lybia in order to secure lucrative contracts, including millions in bribes paid to the regime of Lybian dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.

SNC is a large company. While it is based in Quebec, it boasts more than 50,000 employees worldwide and $10.1 billion in revenue in 2018.

Source: SNC-Lavalin

However, SNC is not new to corruption allegations. The company has been accused of corrupt practices for years in multiple countries, including in Bangladesh, India, Mexico, and it’s home country of Canada.

Just last month, a former SNC CEO Pierre Duhaime pleaded guilty to 15 charges including fraud, conspiracy, and forgery in a Montreal court. The charges against Duhaime came only six years after he was first arrested and accused of bribing public officials.

Nine people were charged in the case involving Duhaime, and one Quebec police investigator called it “The biggest case of corruption fraud in Canadian history.”

Then, in Feb. 2015, Canadian authorities charged SNC with paying 47.7 million Canadian dollars in bribes to officials in Libya, as well as defrauding the Libyan government of 129.8 million Canadian dollars.

If SNC is convicted, it could be banned from federal government contracts for a decade. A move that could seriously hurt its business and eliminate numerous Canadian jobs.

Trudeau’s Involvement

Trudeau’s involvement in the SNC Lybia case started when he took office 2015. Following his inauguration, his justice minister and attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, was given oversight of the case regarding Lybia.

Wilson-Raybould identifies as Indigenous, and her appointment was applauded by many in Canada, who took it as a sign of Trudeau’s commitment to Indigenous people and women.

Then, in Jan. 2019, Trudeau reassigned Wilson-Raybould from to the Veterans Affairs Department– a major demotion.

On Feb. 7, The Globe and Mail published an investigative report that claimed Trudeau and his aides had attempted to direct Wilson-Raybould’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin case.

Wilson-Raybould resigned from her post on Feb. 12, less than a week after the Globe and Mail story was published.

Then, last month, she gave testimony to a parliamentary committee. In that testimony, she claimed that Trudeau and his aides had pressured her to settle the case against SNC by using “political interference” and “veiled threats.”

Wilson-Raybould said that she had 10 meetings, 10 phone calls, and a series of emails regarding the case with 11 government officials.

She also specified that the conversations were “inappropriate” but not illegal. Stating that despite the pressure, no one ever directly told her to order prosecutors to reach a settlement with SNC.

Wilson-Raybould did say she felt that Trudeau and his aides had crossed informal lines that are supposed to keep politics and prosecutions separate, claiming that they did this by repeatedly raising concerns about the possibility of job losses and potential political ramifications of a trial.

She asserted Trudeau specifically said, “There would be many jobs lost and that SNC will move from Montreal,” and asked her to “find a solution here for SNC.”

Wilson-Raybould alleges she resisted that pressure and believes she was removed from the position as a consequence.

Trudeau, for his part, has denied putting pressure on her. In a press conference after her testimony, he stated: “I and my staff always acted appropriately and professionally, therefore I completely disagree with the characterization of the former attorney general of these events.”

Sources: Global News

Resignations

Trudeau’s problems do not just stop with Wilson-Raybould.

On Monday, Treasury Board president Jane Philpott resigned from her post, writing in her resignation letter: “I have been considering the events that have shaken the government in recent weeks and after serious reflection, I have concluded that I must resign as a member of cabinet.”

She then goes on to cite a provision in Canada’s constitution that requires ministers to defend all of the cabinet’s decisions.

“Given this convention and the current circumstances, it is untenable for me to continue to serve as a Cabinet member,” she wrote.

Philpott added that she has, “ lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised,”

There can be a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them,” she continued.

Philpott now marks the second resignation of a minister, and it also comes just weeks after Trudeau’s top political advisor, Gerald Butts, quit in late February.

Although Butts denied the allegations which he has also been implicated in, he still cited them as a reason for his resignation.

What Now?

The unresolved nature of this case has left many wondering what will happen next.

The leader of Canada’s Conservative opposition, Andrew Scheer, called for Trudeau to resign, stating, “Justin Trudeau simply cannot continue to govern this country now that Canadians know what he has done.”

Sheer has also called for the police to launch a criminal probe of Trudeau’s actions. A request which has been joined both other members of opposition parties, some of whom have also called for an independent inquiry.

The ethics commissioner of Canada’s Parliament has started an investigation into the matter. However, by law, the commissioner can look only for conflicts of interest.

Meanwhile, there are still more hearings to come, including testimony from Gerald Butts, who is scheduled to testify about his role in the Lavalin matter before a parliament committee on Wednesday.

Trudeau for his part has continually denied the allegations. Following Philpotts resignation on Monday, Trudeau said he is taking the concerns seriously

Trudeau notably faces a federal election in October, which is just seven months away.

Even if nothing comes of the allegations against him, his opponents have already used this incident to portray him as a leader who directed aides to bully an Indigenous woman to protect a corporation from a criminal conviction in a corruption case.

A move that does not look good for someone who promised government transparency, and is a self-described feminist and supporter of Indigenous rights.

What happens next depends on if Trudeau can save his reputation, as well as what happens with the SNC case.

Many people believe that major job losses at the SNC headquarters in Quebec would hurt Trudeau in a province where votes will be crucial for him.

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (CBC) (NPR)

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English Soccer Players Boycott Social Media for 24 Hours

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  • English soccer players are boycotting social media until 9:00 a.m. local time Saturday.
  • The purpose of the boycott is to take a stand against the racism that players are experiencing during games and online.
  • Teams like Manchester United have expressed support, as well as FIFA and retired player David Beckham.

Soccer Players Log Off Social Media

Professional soccer players in England are taking a stand against racism by boycotting social media for 24 hours.

The boycott began at 9:00 a.m. on Friday and will end on Saturday at 9:00 a.m local time. This boycott is part of a campaign by the Professional Footballer’s Association. The organization is using #Enough in response to recent incidents of racism both on and off the field.

“The boycott is the first step in a longer campaign to tackle racism in football,” the PFA said in a statement on their site. “The PFA will continue to work closely with The FA and government to ensure more is done to tackle racist abuse, while also seeking to put pressure on both FIFA and UEFA through FIFPro.”

Right before going offline, several players, as well as PFA, posted this image on Twitter and Instagram announcing why they would be taking a brief break from the sites. Many reported the caption, “We recognise that our platforms come with responsibility, and so we are using our voice to stand against racist abuse. Together, we are calling on social media platforms and footballing bodies to do more!”

Racism in Soccer

In the past couple of months, players have reported hearing people make racist remarks from the stands and online. Some of the comments include spectators making monkey noises, and being told to “go back” to their country.”

“My teammates and I have been on the receiving end of well documented abuse from a minority of narrow-minded, ignorant people both on social media and on the pitch,” said Troy Deeny, a captain for Watford, who is participating in the boycott. “Any racism in football is too much, and it’s essential that we fight it wherever and whenever we see it.”

Other players participating include Gini Wijnaldum, Jesse Lingard, Hector Bellerin, Lucas Perez, Marcus Rashford, and Alexander Iwobi.

Support for the Movement

FIFA has announced that they are supporting the movement. The organization, which has come under fire itself for not doing enough to combat racism in soccer, gave a statement applauding the players participating.

“We support the initiative of the PFA,” the statement read. “FIFA is fully engaged in combating racism and any form of discrimination not only in football but society in general.”

The organization also said that it is preparing its own campaign against discrimination.

Manchester United is also trying to take strides in fighting discrimination in the sport. While the team’s account is not participating in the boycott, it has retweeted the accounts of its players who are.

The team also posted this video where male and female players outlined instances of discrimination. They are using the phrase #AllRedAllEqual to spread awareness.

“Football is going through a time where we’re still seeing discrimination throughout our game,” the players in the video say. “There’s just no place for that. It’s ignorant.”

David Beckham also posted his support for the boycott. The former soccer superstar shared the “Enough” photo on his Instagram and posted it to his story as well.

See what others are saying: (ESPN) (BBC Sport) (TIME)

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Teen Burned Alive After Accusing Principal of Sexual Harassment

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  • An 18-year-old-girl in Bangladesh accused her principal of sexual harassment.
  • An Officer filmed her accusation without her consent and leaked the video online.
  • After refusing to take back her allegations, supporter’s of the principal murdered her by setting her on fire on campus.
  • Organizations are demanding justice, and for sexual assault laws in the country to change.

Nusrat’s Murder

Several organizations are demanding justice after an 18-year-old victim of sexual harassment was burned alive.

Nusrat Jahan Rafi studied at an Islamic school, called a madrasa, in Feni, Bangladesh. She met with the principal of the madrasa, Siraj Ud Duala, on March 27. Nusrat claimed that he repeatedly touched her inappropriately until she finally was able to leave the room. She reported the incident to police that same day.

The officer she reported the harassment to had recorded a video of her allegations without her consent and posted it online. In the recording, she is crying and tells Officer Moazzem Hossain that this is not the first time Siraj had made unwanted and inappropriate advances on her. According to translations by the Dhaka Tribune, Moazzem tells her these accusations are “nothing major.”

On April 6, Siraj’s supporters attacked Nusrat, and were allegedly encouraged to do so by Siraj. Four unidentified individuals took her to the roof of one of the madrasa’s administrative buildings and set her on fire after she refused to take back her allegations.

About 80 percent of her body was covered in severe burns. After spending four days in Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Nusrat died. According to the BBC, police have arrested 15 people, including Siraj, people potentially related to her murder, and people involved in protests on-campus in support of Siraj. Officer Moazzem has been transferred. There are also reports that he is being sued under the Digital Security Act for posting a video of Nusrat without her consent.

The Fight for Justice

Several organizations are fighting for justice. The Human Rights Campaign has called for a full investigation to be made into Nusrat’s murder. In a statement, they said this crime should “spur the authorities to take concerted action to combat sexual violence in the country.”

Transparency International Bangladesh also released a statement, asking that Officer Moazzem specifically be investigated by the Department of Justice for not doing enough about the case.

“We are scared of the allegation raised over inaction of the respective police officer and his connivance in the incident centering the brutal killing,” the statement read.

Thousands of people attended Nusrat’s funeral, and protests are being held all over the country demanding justice, and for laws regarding sexual assault in the country to change.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, has responded to Nusrat’s murder.

“None of the culprits will be spared from legal action,” she said during a meeting with Nusrat’s family.

Sexual Assault Cases in Bangaldesh

Bangladesh does not have a strong history of punishing sexual abusers. A human rights organization in the country said there were 732 reported cases of rape in 2018, though they say the number is likely much higher, as a culture of blame encourages women to not report. Of those cases, just over 500 had cases filed.

In Bangladesh, there is also a clause in the Evidence Act of 1872 that states: “When a man is prosecuted for rape or an attempt to ravish, it may be shown that the prosecutrix was of generally immoral character.” This allows the defense to use the reputation of the victim against them, and potentially defame them to clear the defendant of charges.

See What Others Are Saying: (Dhaka Tribune) (Daily Star) (BBC)

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North Korea Tests Weapons, Wants Pompeo Out of Nuclear Talks

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  • North Korea conducted its first weapons test since Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump met in February.
  • It is unclear what kind of weapon was tested, but it is not believed to have been nuclear.
  • A Director General in North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced that the country no longer wants to negotiate with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
  • In a statement, the Director General said they wished to work with someone “more mature.”

North Korea Conducts Weapons Test

North Korean state media announced Thursday that the country tested a new weapon, and no longer wants to conduct nuclear talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The Korean Central News Agency announced that Kim Jong Un “supervised and guided a test-fire of a new-type tactical guided weapon conducted by the Academy of Defence Science on Wednesday.” This is the first known test the country has conducted since President Donald Trump met with Kim in February. The two did not reach any deals on nuclear negotiations.

While KCNA did not specifically say the type of weapon that was tested, the New York Times reports that there are no signs it was a nuclear weapon or an intercontinental ballistic missile.

According to their statement, Kim thought the test was “great work.”

“Our scientists, technicians and workers are, indeed, great,” KCNA added. “And there is no weapon impossible to make when they are determined to do.”

The White House reported to multiple news outlets that they are aware of the test, but gave no additional comments.

Pompeo Cut Off From Negotiations

After publishing the news of their test, KCNA also announced that, going forward, they do not want to discuss nuclear negotiations with Pompeo. The news came from a statement from North Korea’s Director General of the Department of American Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kwon Jong Gun.

In his statement, Kwon said that Pompeo made “reckless remarks,” talked “nonsense,” showed his “mean character” and accused him of “fabricating stories.”

“We cannot be aware of Pompeo’s ulterior motive behind his self-indulgence in reckless remarks,” Kwon said. “Whether he is indeed unable to understand words properly or just pretending on purpose.”

At the end of his statement, Kwon concluded that he wants to work with not with Pompeo, but with someone “who is more careful and mature in communicating with us.”

North Korea’s decision on Pompeo follows comments the Secretary of State made during testimony to a Senate subcommittee. When asked if he would consider Kim a “tyrant,” Pompeo responded, “I’m sure I’ve said that.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (BBC) (Fox News)

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