Canada’s interests currently pale in comparison to India’s massive strategic importance: BBC cites experts
Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to the stage at the House of Commons and made an explosive announcement by accusing “agents of Indian government” of killing a Canadian citizen – a prominent Sikh separatist whom India has accused of terrorism – on Canadian soil. The accusation, swiftly condemned and denied by New Delhi, has torpedoed the Indo-Canadian diplomatic relationship. Following Trudeau’s public accusations, the diplomatic confrontation between both countries has reached an all-time high. Also read: Intelligence from 'Five Eyes' nations helped Canada link India to Sikh’s killing, US diplomat says As part of the confrontation, the North American country has expelled the “Canadian station chief of India’s intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW),” accusing him of interfering in Ottawa’s “internal affairs.” Meanwhile, in a tit-for-tat move, India has also expelled a senior Canadian diplomat and later suspended all visa services for Canadian nationals. Amid these diplomatic measures, one thing is very significant to note that both India and Canada are allies of the United States, or in other words, the West. India is one of the most significant allies of the US and one of the important frontiers of Washington’s confrontation with Beijing. Also read: How India’s relations with Canada hit rock bottom In the midst of such cold geopolitical realities, one might wonder where Justin Trudeau stands on the world stage. According to the BBC, Trudeau has been facing the cold reality of geopolitics “alone” in the past week. “In the public eye at least, Trudeau has appeared to be left largely on his own as he goes toe to toe with India, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, with a population 35 times bigger than Canada’s,” BBC reports. It is worth noting that Canada has received the intelligence regarding New Delhi’s “spy ops” from Five Eyes intelligence alliance – made up of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Also read: India asks citizens to be careful if traveling to Canada as rift widens over Sikh leader’s death However, according to BBC, Trudeau’s allies in the intelligence network have provided “seemingly boilerplate public statements, all stopping far short of full-throated support.” UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said his country took “very seriously the things that Canada is saying.” Using nearly identical language, Australia said it was “deeply concerned” by the accusations. Also read: Who was Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the Sikh activist whose killing has divided Canada and India? Meanwhile, Ottawa’s southern neighbour, the United States, said it expects Delhi to cooperate with Ottawa in investigating the assassination. Citing experts, BBC noted that Canada’s interests currently pale in comparison to India’s massive strategic importance. “The US, the UK, and all these Western and Indo-Pacific allies have built a strategy that largely focuses on India, to be a bulwark and counterweight to China. That’s something they can’t afford to toss out the window,” Xavier Delgado, a researcher at the Wilson Centre’s Canada Institute told BBC. “The fact that they haven’t come out and rushed to Canada’s defence is indicative of the geopolitical reality,” he added. Also read: Canada expels Indian diplomat as it investigates Sikh activist's killing
The allegation of India's involvement in the killing of a Sikh Canadian is based on surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada, including intelligence provided by a major ally, a Canadian official told The Associated Press on Thursday. The official said the communications involved Indian officials and Indian diplomats in Canada and that some of the intelligence was provided by a member of the "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing alliance, which includes the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand, in addition to Canada. The official did not say which ally provided intelligence or give details of what was contained in the communications or how they were obtained. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Also read: How India’s relations with Canada hit rock bottom The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation first reported the intelligence. The revelation came as India stopped issuing visas to Canadian citizens and told Canada to reduce its diplomatic staff as the rift widened over allegations by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of suspected Indian involvement in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Sikh separatist. Ties between the two countries have plunged to their lowest point in years after Trudeau told Parliament Monday there were "credible allegations" of Indian involvement in the assassination on Canadian soil. Also read: India asks citizens to be careful if traveling to Canada as rift widens over Sikh leader’s death Nijjar, a plumber who was born in India and became a Canadian citizen in 2007, had been wanted by India for years before he was gunned down in June outside the temple he led in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver. Speaking Thursday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Trudeau acknowledged the complicated diplomatic situation. "The decision to share these allegations on the floor of the House of Commons was not done lightly," he said. "There is no question that India is a country of growing importance and a country that we need to continue to work with." "We are not looking to provoke or cause problems but we are unequivocal around the importance of the rule of law and unequivocal about the importance of protecting Canadians." The bombshell allegation set off an international tit-for-tat, with each country expelling a diplomat. India called the allegations "absurd." Also read: India suspends visa services for Canadians amid diplomatic row Canada has yet to provide public evidence to back Trudeau's allegations, and Canada's U.N. ambassador, Bob Rae, indicated that might not come soon. "This is very early days," Rae told reporters Thursday, saying that while facts will emerge, they must "come out in the course of the pursuit of justice." "That's what we call the rule of law in Canada," he said. Meanwhile, the company that processes Indian visas in Canada announced services had been suspended. Canadians are among the top travelers to India, with 277,000 Canadian tourists visiting the country in 2022, according to India's Bureau of Immigration. Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi blamed the visa suspension, which includes visas issued in third countries, on safety issues. Also read: Who was Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the Sikh activist whose killing has divided Canada and India? "Security threats being faced by our High Commission and consulates in Canada have disrupted their normal functioning," Bagchi told reporters. He gave no details on the alleged threats. The announcement quickly rippled across Canada, especially among people with ties to India. Maitreyi Bhatt, a 27-year-old Indian citizen whose partner is Canadian and needs a visa, was distraught because her wedding is scheduled for late October in India, when he was to meet her family for the first time. "I've been crying all day," she said. "It's so difficult. I was just so excited for him to meet my family." She said the venue is booked and the couple has non-refundable flights. She said her partner went to the Indian Consulate in Toronto but was escorted out by security. Also read: What to know about the Sikh movement at the center of the tensions between India and Canada "People like me are just caught up in this and it's just not fair," she said. Sukhwinder Dhillon, a 56-year-old grocery store owner in Montreal, said he had a trip planned to India to see family and sort out his deceased father's estate. Dhillon, who came to Canada in 1998, makes the trip every two or three years and has lost two family members since he was last home. "My father passed, and my brother passed," Dhillon said. "I want to go now. ... Now I don't know when we'll go." Bagchi, the Indian foreign ministry spokesman, also called on Canada to cut its diplomatic corps in India, saying they outnumbered Indian diplomats in Canada. The Canadian High Commission in New Delhi said Thursday that its consulates in India were open and continue to serve clients. It said some of its diplomats had received threats on social media, adding that Canada expects India to provide security for its diplomats and consular officers working there. Also read: Canada expels Indian diplomat as it investigates Sikh activist's killing On Wednesday, India warned its citizens to be careful when traveling to Canada because of "growing anti-India activities and politically condoned hate-crimes." India's security and intelligence branches have long been active in South Asia and are suspected in a number of killings in Pakistan. But arranging the killing of a Canadian citizen in Canada, home to nearly 2 million people of Indian descent, would be unprecedented. India has criticized Canada for years over giving free rein to Sikh separatists, including Nijjar. New Delhi had accused him of links to terrorism, which he denied. Nijjar was a local leader in what remains of a once-strong movement to create an independent Sikh homeland, known as Khalistan. A bloody Sikh insurgency shook north India in the 1970s and 1980s until it was crushed in a government crackdown in which thousands of people were killed, including prominent Sikh leaders. While the active insurgency ended decades ago, the Indian government has warned that Sikh separatists are trying to stage a comeback and pressed countries like Canada, where Sikhs comprise over 2% of the population, to do more to stop them. At the time of his killing, Nijjar was working to organize an unofficial Sikh diaspora referendum on independence from India. New Delhi's anxieties about Sikh separatist groups in Canada have long been a strain on the relationship. In March, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government summoned the Canadian high commissioner in New Delhi, its top diplomat in the country, to complain about Sikh independence protests in Canada. Signs of a broader diplomatic rift emerged at the summit of the Group of 20 leading world economies hosted by India earlier this month. Trudeau had frosty encounters with Modi, and a few days later Canada canceled a trade mission to India planned for the fall. A trade deal between the two is now on pause.
India and Canada are embroiled in their biggest diplomatic spat in living memory, resulting in tit-for-tat moves that saw Canada expel the station chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, or RAW, the Indian intelligence agency. Within hours, the Indian government responded in kind and expelled the Canadian intelligence agency’s station chief in India. “The concerned diplomat has been asked to leave India within the next five days,” said a press release issued by India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), adding, “The decision reflects the Government of India’s growing concern at the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities.” Also read: India asks citizens to be careful if traveling to Canada as rift widens over Sikh leader’s death The language of the press release is not what you usually see between friendly nations. And it has kept getting worse. But how did it all come to this? And could it have been avoided? Roots of the conflict The row exploded into a full-blown international crisis on Monday, when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Parliament that Canadian security agencies were “actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and (Hardeep Singh) Nijjar’s death”. Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, was shot dead outside a Sikh temple on June 18 in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver with a large Sikh population (Canada is home to the world’s largest population of Sikhs outside the Indian state of Punjab). Nijjar was known as an ardent supporter of a separate Sikh homeland, Khalistan, to be carved out of Punjab, and was designated as a “terrorist” by India in July 2020. The Khalistan Tiger Force chief was the fourth Khalistani separatist to be killed on foreign soil in 2023, and fuelled speculation within India itself that RAW was mounting a secret operation to eliminate such elements in the Indian diaspora. Trudeau said any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen was “an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty”, adding he had raised the murder with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi. Also read: Who was Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the Sikh activist whose killing has divided Canada and India? Analysts are of the view that Trudeau’s decision to go public with the accusation in the way that he did was driven at least partly by the torrid time he endured in New Delhi during the G20 summit, held September 9-10. After the summit was over, Trudeau remained stranded in Delhi for two days as his aircraft experienced technical difficulties. By all accounts, he spent those two days holed up in his room at the Lalit Hotel with his son, who was travelling with him. If the Canadian leader spent those two days checking out the Indian media, he would have seen they were full of reports essentially trolling him, on him being rebuked by his counterpart Narendra Modi during the summit itself. The two prime ministers did not hold a formal bilateral meeting at the summit, but in a brief conversation on the sidelines, Trudeau said the pair discussed foreign interference and “respect for the rule of law.” Meanwhile the Indian MEA in a handout said Modi conveyed “strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada. They are promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship." Also read: What to know about the Sikh movement at the center of the tensions between India and Canada "The nexus of such forces with organised crime, drug syndicates and human trafficking should be a concern for Canada as well,” it added. The Khalistan movement in Canada Asked about India's concerns over the increasing activities of Khalistani elements in Canada, Trudeau said at a press conference that his country “will always defend freedom of peaceful protest, freedom of conscience, and freedom of speech” but at the same time asserted that it will always prevent violence and push back against hatred. This did not go down well with his hosts, and drove much of the criticism in the media. For Trudeau, it must have felt like groundhog day all over again. He endured an even more torturous trip in 2018, when he had to wait till the fifth day of a six-day state visit to gain an audience with Modi. Speaking to CNN at the time, Dhruva Jaishankar, a fellow at Delhi-based think tank Brookings India, said that Modi’s apparent cold shouldering of Trudeau was significant. “This is quite clearly a strong signal that India is very unhappy with the Trudeau government for its approach to this (Khalistani separatist) issue,” said Jaishankar. What Canada would describe as ‘political activism’ or protests on its soil by the large Sikh population in the country (numbering 770,000 or 2.1 percent of the population in the latest census) has been a flashpoint between Delhi and Ottawa throughout Trudeau’s time in office. After appointing four Sikhs to his first cabinet in 2015, Trudeau boasted about having more Sikh ministers than Modi, who was elected a year earlier. Soon however, attention turned to his perceived proximity to individuals sympathetic to the Khalistani cause, straining bilateral relations. Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan’s ties to the movement received particular focus. Today he remains part of Trudeau’s cabinet, serving as minister of international development. The current Trudeau administration, following the elections in 2019, is a minority government dependent on the New Democratic Party for its majority in parliament. The NDP is headed by Jagmeet Singh, described in the Indian media as “an arch-Khalistani separatist”. In the wake of Trudeau’s speech in parliament on Monday, Singh has vowed to hold Narendra Modi “accountable”. Also read: Canada expels Indian diplomat as it investigates Sikh activist's killing In a sharply-worded rebuttal on Tuesday, the Indian MEA said the allegations made by Trudeau were “absurd and motivated”. It went on to add: “Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The inaction of the Canadian Government on this matter has been a long-standing and continuing concern.” How serious is the threat? That ‘long-standing’ concern stretches back to at least 1982, when the Indian government asked for the extradition of a Khalistani militant, Talwinder Parmar, wanted for the murder of police officers in Punjab. But the Canadian government, then led by Justin’s father Pierre Trudeau, refused. Stunningly, Parmar, who was the head of Babbar Khalsa, a Khalistani separatist group, would go on to bomb an Air India plane, the Kanishka, in 1985, which blew up midair off the coast of Ireland, killing all 329 people aboard. A commission of inquiry set up under Justice John Major gave a report in 2010, which squarely blamed Canadian police and intelligence for grave negligence. Canadian authorities should have known that Air India Flight 182 was a terrorism target, Major said, adding that the failure of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP, or ‘the Mounties’) and Canada’s spy agency Canadian Security and Intelligence Services (CSIS) to prevent the tragedy was “inexcusable.” Also read: India dismisses allegations of killing Sikh activist in Canada as 'absurd', expels senior Canadian diplomat Some of the evidence presented in the inquiry rings eerily similar to some of the rhetoric Nijjar and his associates were reportedly engaging in recently. Parmar, who was killed by Indian police in 1992 after sneaking into the country, told his followers in 1984 that "Indian planes will fall from the sky." That same year, one of his associates, Ajaib Singh Bagri, told the founding convention of the World Sikh Organization, another entity designated as ‘terrorist’ by India: "Until we kill 50,000 Hindus, we will not rest!" It was the same year that Indian forces stormed the Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest shrine, in Amritsar to flush out separatists who had taken refuge there. The operation killed around 400 people, according to official figures, but Sikh groups say thousands were killed. It was part of a crackdown on an armed insurgency that lasted around a decade. The dead included Sikh militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, whom the Indian government accused of leading the armed insurgency. On Oct. 31, 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who ordered the raid on the Golden Temple, was assassinated by two of her bodyguards, who were Sikh. Her death triggered a series of anti-Sikh riots, in which Hindu mobs went from house to house across northern India, particularly New Delhi, pulling Sikhs from their homes, hacking many to death and burning others alive. There is no active insurgency in Punjab today, but the Khalistan movement still has some supporters in the state, as well as in the sizable Sikh diaspora beyond India. Canadian journalist Terry Milewski, who has tracked the movement since the Air India bombing, told a broadcaster in his country recently that the Khalistan movement had died down everywhere in the world, “except in Canada.” The Indian government has warned repeatedly over the years that Sikh separatists were trying to make a comeback. India has also been asking countries such as Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom to take legal action against Khalistan activists. Earlier this year, Sikh protesters pulled down the Indian flag at the country’s high commission in London and smashed the building’s window in a show of anger against the move to arrest Amritpal Singh, a 30-year-old separatist leader who had revived calls for Khalistan and stirred fears of violence in Punjab. Protesters also smashed windows at the Indian consulate in San Francisco, setting fire to it briefly, and skirmished with embassy workers. The Indian government also accused Khalistan supporters in Canada of vandalising Hindu temples with “anti-India” graffiti and of attacking the offices of the Indian High Commission in Ottawa during a protest in March. For its part, the Canadian government has consistently maintained that their Indian counterparts had failed to present them with the requisite evidence to take action against these elements, many of whom are now Canadian citizens. Against this background, it was seen as almost a matter of time before India started taking matters into its own hands, as part of a more assertive, muscular foreign policy under Modi. Of the four Khalistani leaders killed in 2023, two were gunned down in Pakistan, which India considers an enemy state. In May, Avtar Singh Khanda, who allegedly planned the attack on the Indian High Commission in London, died in the UK. Although he was suspected to have been poisoned, UK authorities said he was suffering from blood cancer. Understandably, none of these deaths had the potential to generate the kind of backlash as the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil, by operatives possibly working for a friendly state. Trudeau on Tuesday said Canada is not trying to provoke India by suggesting it was linked to the murder of Nijjar, but wants New Delhi to address the issue properly. He told reporters that the case had far-reaching consequences in international law. "The government of India needs to take this matter with the utmost seriousness. We are doing that; we are not looking to provoke or escalate," he said. The two countries, meanwhile, issued travel advisories for their respective citizens, with Indians warned by their government to watch out for “politically-condoned hate crimes” in Canada. Nijjar was shot as he was leaving the parking lot of the Sikh temple where he served as president in British Columbia. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds and died at the scene. After the killing, a lawyer and spokesperson for Sikhs For Justice, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, said he had spoken to Nijjar by phone the day before he was killed and that Nijjar had told him that Canadian intelligence had warned him that his life was at risk. Notably Pannun too is designated as a terrorist by the Indian government, and in the wake of Nijjar’s killing, there was talk in the Indian media of him being targeted next, as India’s ‘top priority’. He himself has been issuing dire threats to ‘Indo-Hindus’ to leave Canada The entire affair has also caused talks over a trade deal between the two nations to break down. As things stand, Trudeau will have to come forward and present what evidence he has, if India continues to be dismissive of the allegations he brought. Yet that may only serve to escalate the situation further. Ultimately, he may have to make a very difficult choice between preserving his own credibility, or preserving relations with India. Alternatively, there is a view within India that the Khalistan movement, in its present state, does not merit the kind of attention it has received from the Modi government. Hartosh Singh Bal, executive editor of The Caravan, told Al Jazeera “The Khalistan movement has a long history and during the 1980s, there was a violent military movement on Indian soil. But ever since – at least in India, in the state of Punjab, where the Sikhs are the majority – the Khalistan movement has been virtually non-existent, enjoys no political support and goes up and down depending on the attention the Indian government pays to it.” He went on to add that the kind of activism the movement’s adherents abroad were involved in “could have ideally been easily ignored”. Now however, the entire issue has reached a juncture from where it may well be impossible to ignore. And the fallout will be monitored closely in the days ahead around the world.
Hurricane Idalia hits Florida with 125 mph winds, flooding streets, snapping trees and cutting power
Hurricane Idalia tore into Florida at the speed of a fast-moving train Wednesday, splitting trees in half, ripping roofs off hotels and turning small cars into boats before sweeping into Georgia and South Carolina as a still-powerful storm that flooded roadways and sent residents running for higher ground. "All hell broke loose," said Belond Thomas of Perry, a mill town located just inland from the Big Bend region where Idalia came ashore. Read : Messi scores early in 1st game outside Florida for Inter Miami at FC Dallas Thomas fled with her family and some friends to a motel, thinking it would be safer than riding out the storm at home. But as Idalia's eye passed over about 8:30 a.m., a loud whistling noise pierced the air and the high winds ripped the building's roof off, sending debris down on her pregnant daughter, who was lying in bed. Fortunately, she was not injured. "It was frightening," Thomas said. "Things were just going so fast. ... Everything was spinning." After coming ashore, Idalia made landfall near Keaton Beach at 7:45 a.m. as a high-end Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 125 mph (205 kph). The system remained a hurricane as it crossed into Georgia with top winds of 90 mph (150 mph). It weakened to a tropical storm by late Wednesday afternoon, and its winds had dropped to 65 mph (100 kph) by Wednesday evening. As the eye moved inland, high winds shredded signs, blew off roofs, sent sheet metal flying and snapped tall trees. One person was killed in Georgia. No hurricane-related deaths were officially confirmed in Florida, but the Florida Highway Patrol reported two people dying in separate weather-related crashes just hours before Idalia made landfall. The storm was bringing strong winds to Savannah, Georgia, Wednesday evening as it made its way toward the Carolinas. It was forecast to pass over Charleston, South Carolina, early Thursday morning before turning east and heading out to the Atlantic Ocean. Idalia spawned a tornado that briefly touched down in the Charleston suburb of Goose Creek, the National Weather Service said. The winds sent a car flying and flipped it over, according to authorities and eyewitness video. Two people received minor injuries. Along South Carolina's coast, North Myrtle Beach, Garden City, and Edisto Island all reported ocean water flowing over sand dunes and spilling onto beachfront streets Wednesday evening. In Charleston, storm surge from Idalia topped the seawall that protects the downtown, sending ankle-deep ocean water into the streets and neighborhoods where horse-drawn carriages pass million-dollar homes and the famous open-air market. Preliminary data showed the Wednesday evening high tide reached just over 9.2 feet (2.8 meters), more than 3 feet (0.9 meters) above normal and the fifth-highest reading in Charleston Harbor since records were first kept in 1899. Florida had feared the worst while still recovering from last year's Hurricane Ian, which hit the heavily populated Fort Myers area, leaving 149 dead in the state. Unlike that storm, Idalia blew into a very lightly inhabited area known as Florida's "nature coast," one of the state's most rural regions that lies far from crowded metropolises or busy tourist areas and features millions of acres of undeveloped land. That doesn't mean that it didn't do major damage. Rushing water covered streets near the coast, unmoored small boats and nearly a half-million customers in Florida and Georgia lost power. In Perry, the wind blew out store windows, tore siding off buildings and overturned a gas station canopy. Heavy rains partially flooded Interstate 275 in Tampa and wind toppled power lines onto the northbound side of Interstate 75 just south of Valdosta, Georgia. Less than 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of where Idalia made landfall, businesses, boat docks and homes in Steinhatchee, Florida, were swallowed up by water surging in from Deadman's Bay. Police officers blocked traffic into the coastal community of more than 500 residents known for fishing and foresting industries. Read : Trump arrives in Florida as history-making court appearance approaches in classified documents case State officials, 5,500 National Guardsman and rescue crews were in search-and-recovery mode, inspecting bridges, clearing toppled trees and looking for anyone in distress. Because of the remoteness of the Big Bend area, search teams may need more time to complete their work compared with past hurricanes in more urban areas, said Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Department of Emergency Management. "You may have two houses on a 5-mile (8-kilometer) road so it's going to take some time," Guthries said. The National Weather Service in Tallahassee called Idalia "an unprecedented event" since no major hurricanes on record have ever passed through the bay abutting the Big Bend. On the island of Cedar Key, downed trees and debris blocked roads, and propane tanks exploded. RJ Wright stayed behind so he could check on elderly neighbors. He hunkered down with friends in a motel and when it was safe, walked outside into chest-high water. It could have been a lot worse for the island, which juts into the Gulf, since it didn't take a direct hit, he said. "It got pretty gnarly for a while, but it was nothing compared to some of the other storms," Wright said. In Tallahassee, the power went out well before the center of the storm arrived, but the city avoided a direct hit. A giant oak tree next to the governor's mansion split in half, covering the yard with debris. In Valdosta, Georgia, Idalia's fierce winds uprooted trees and sent rain flying sideways. Jonathon Wick said he didn't take the approaching hurricane seriously until Wednesday morning, when he awoke to howling winds outside his home. After rescuing his young nephews from a trampoline in their back yard where the water rose to his knees, he brought them to his car and was climbing into the driver's seat when a tree toppled right in front of the vehicle. "If that tree would have fell on the car, I would be dead," said Wick, who ended up getting rescued by another family member. One man was killed in Valdosta when a tree fell on him as he was trying to clear another tree out of the road Wednesday, said Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk. Two others, including a sheriff's deputy, were injured when the tree fell, Paulk said. Read : 9 injured in shooting near beach in Hollywood, Florida More than 30,000 utility workers in Florida were gathering to make repairs as quickly as possible in the hurricane's wake. Airports in the region, including Tampa International Airport, planned to restart commercial operations either Wednesday afternoon or Thursday. By midday Wednesday, more than 900 flights had been canceled in Florida and Georgia, according to tracking service FlightAware. At 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Tropical Storm Idalia was about 60 miles (95 kilometers) west of Charleston, South Carolina, the National Hurricane Center said. It was moving northeast at 21 mph (33 kph). Officials in Bermuda warned that Idalia could hit the island early next week as a tropical storm. Bermuda on Wednesday was being lashed by the outer bands of Hurricane Franklin, a Category 2 storm that was on track to pass near the island in the north Atlantic Ocean. President Joe Biden called the governors of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina on Wednesday and told them their states had his administration's full support, the White House said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday accused Facebook of putting profits over people’s safety during the emergencies created by Canada’s record wildfire season. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, announced earlier this summer it would keep its promise to block news content from Canada on its platforms because of a new law that requires tech giants to pay publishers for linking to or otherwise repurposing their content online. Fires raging in Canada have pushed tens of thousands of people from their homes and threatened cities such as Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories. About 30,000 people were under evacuation orders in British Columbia. Read: Survivors of Maui's wildfires return home to blackened ruins as death toll rises to 67 “Right now, in an emergency situation where up to date local information is more important than ever, Facebook is putting corporate profits ahead of people's safety,” Trudeau said at a news conference in Cornwall on Prince Edward Island. “It is so inconceivable that a company like Facebook is choosing to put corporate profits ahead of insuring that local news organizations can get up to date information to Canadians,” the prime minister said. Government ministers called on Meta on Friday to lift its Canada news ban, which applies to local outlets as well as national media such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Read: Poor air quality from Canadian wildfires affects people as far as away as North Carolina The company, which is headquartered in Northern California, stood by its decision and said in a statement about the wildfires that people in Canada can continue to use Instagram and Facebook “to connect with their communities and access reputable information, including content from official government agencies, emergency services and non-governmental organizations.” The country's residents and visitors are not able to view or share news on the Meta-owned social networks, including news articles, videos and audio posted by outlets inside or outside of Canada. Meta has not been alone in its action. Google’s owner, Alphabet, also said it planned to remove Canadian news links in response to the new law, although it hasn’t followed through yet. The Online News Act, passed in late June after lengthy debate, is set to take effect later this year. “This is Facebook’s choice," Trudeau said. “In a democracy, quality local journalism matters, and it matters now more than ever before when people are worried about their homes, worried about their communities, worried about the worst summer for extreme events that we’ve had in a very long time.” British Columbia Premier David Eby said it is unacceptable that Meta hasn't reversed its decision to block Canadian news from being shared online. Read: Millions breathing hazardous air as smoke from Canadian wildfires streams south over US “I find it astonishing that we are at this stage of the crisis and the owners of Facebook and Instagram have not come forward and said ‘We’re trying to make a point with the federal government, but it’s more important that people are safe,'" Eby said. He added that many people in British Columbia rely on media shared through Facebook to access information about the wildfires. Meta took similar steps in the past. In 2021, it briefly blocked news from its platform in Australia after the country passed legislation that would compel tech companies to pay publishers for using their news stories. It later struck deals with Australian publishers.
Tropical Storm Hilary inundated streets across Mexico’s arid Baja California Peninunsula with deadly floodwaters Sunday before moving over Southern California, where it swamped roads and downed trees, as concerns mounted that flash floods could strike in places as far north as Idaho that rarely get such torrential rain. Forecasters said Hilary was the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years, bringing flash floods, mudslides, high winds, power outages and the potential for isolated tornadoes. Hilary made landfall along the Mexican coast in a sparsely populated area about 150 miles (250 kilometers) south of Ensenada, then moved through mudslide-prone Tijuana, threatening the improvised homes that cling to hillsides just south of the U.S. border. Read: Powerful Hurricane Hilary heads for Mexico's Baja. Rare tropical storm watch issued for California At least 9 million people were under flash-flood watches and warnings as heavy rain fell across normally sunny Southern California ahead of the brunt of the storm. Desert areas were especially susceptible along with hillsides with wildfire burn scars, forecasters warned. Mud and boulders spilled onto highways, water overwhelmed drainage systems and tree branches fell in neighborhoods from San Diego to Los Angeles. Dozens of cars were trapped in floodwaters in Palm Springs and surrounding desert communities across the the Coachella Valley. Crews pumped floodwaters out of the emergency room at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. The National Weather Service's Los Angeles office reported in the evening via X, formerly known as Twitter, that “very heavy rain” was continuing in much of Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The highest rainfall totals so far were 6.15 inches (15.62 centimeters) at Leona Valley and 5.94 inches (15.1 centimeters) at Lewis Ranch, the agency added, saying there was significant flooding and urging people to stay off the roads. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second largest school system, said all campuses would be closed on Monday. Read: China's Xi calls for measures to mitigate disastrous flooding amid economic slowdown “There is no way we can compromise the safety of a single child or an employee, and our inability to survey buildings, our inability to determine access to schools makes it nearly impossible for us to open schools," Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said at a media briefing. San Diego schools postponed the first day of classes from Monday to Tuesday. Southern California got another surprise in the afternoon as an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 hit near Ojai, about 80 miles (130 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was felt widely and was followed by smaller aftershocks. There were no immediate reports of major damage or injury, according to a dispatcher with the Ventura County Sheriff's Office. Hilary could wallop other Western states with once-in-a-century rains, with a good chance of it becoming the wettest known tropical cyclone to douse Nevada, Oregon and Idaho. Hilary was expected to remain a tropical storm into central Nevada early Monday before dissipating. By Sunday evening, Hilary had moved over San Diego and was headed north into inland desert areas. Around midday, it had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (97 kph). Read: More than 60 Senegalese migrants are feared dead on a monthlong voyage to Spain Hurricane Center Director Michael Brennan said that while Hilary had weakened from a Category 4 hurricane, it’s the water, not the wind, that people should watch out for most — some areas could get as much rain in hours that they typically get in a year. “You do not want to be out driving around, trying to cross flooded roads on vehicle or on foot," Brennan said during a briefing from Miami. “Rainfall flooding has been the biggest killer in tropical storms and hurricanes in the United States in the past 10 years, and you don’t want to become a statistic.” Hilary is just the latest major climate disaster to wreak havoc across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Hawaii’s island of Maui is still reeling from a blaze that killed over 100 people and ravaged the historic town of Lahaina, making it the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century. Firefighters in Canada are battling that nation’s worst fire season on record. The Mexican cities of Ensenada and Tijuana closed all beaches and opened a half-dozen shelters at sports complexes and government offices. One person drowned Saturday in the Mexican town of Santa Rosalia when a vehicle was swept away in an overflowing stream. Rescue workers saved four other people, said Edith Aguilar Villavicencio, the mayor of Mulege township. Mexican army troops fanned out across Mulege, where some of the worst damage occurred Saturday on the eastern side of the Baja Peninsula. Soldiers used bulldozers and dump trucks to help clear tons of boulders and earth clogging streets and roads that were turned into raging torrents a day earlier. Power lines were toppled in many places, and emergency personnel were working to restore power and reach those cut off by the storm. Read: Rescuers recover 33 bodies from a landslide at a Myanmar jade mine, with 3 people still missing Brennan said rainfall could reach between 3 and 6 inches (7 centimeters and 15 centimeters) in many areas. Forecasters warned it could dump up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) — a year’s worth of rain — in some isolated areas. California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it has officials inside California’s emergency preparedness office and teams on standby with food, water and other help. In coastal Carlsbad, just north of San Diego, 19-year-old Jack Johnson and his friends kept an eye on the huge waves, determined to surf them at some point Sunday. “It’s really choppy out there, not really surfable yet, but I think we can find a good break somewhere later,” Johnson said. “I can’t remember a storm like this.” The weather service said tornadoes were possible in eastern San Diego County. Los Angeles authorities scrambled to get homeless people off the streets and into shelters, and officials ordered all state beaches in San Diego and Orange counties closed. Across the region, municipalities ran out of free sandbags and grocery shelves emptied as people stockpiled supplies. California’s Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Preserve and Death Valley National Park were closed. Death Valley's Furnace Creek Visitor Center received more than 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of rain by 1:30 p.m., with up to 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) more possible overnight. “For comparison, Furnace Creek’s average annual rainfall is 2.2 inches (5.6 centimeters),” the park said in a statement, calling the rainfall “unprecedented.” To the north in Nevada, Gov. Joe Lombardo declared a state of emergency and activated 100 National Guard troops to assist with problems from predicted flooding in western Clark and Nye counties and southern Esmeralda County. In Arizona, wind gusts neared 60 mph (97 kph) in Yuma County, where officials gave out thousands of sandbags. “I urge everyone, everyone in the path of this storm, to take precautions and listen to the guidance of state and local officials,” President Joe Biden said. Biden said in a later statement that he was being briefed on the storm and was prepared to provide federal assistance. Meanwhile, one of several budding storm systems in the Atlantic Ocean became Tropical Storm Emily on Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was far from land, moving west in the open ocean. Also, Tropical Storm Franklin formed in the eastern Caribbean. Tropical storm watches were issued for the southern coasts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In Sept. 1939, a tropical storm that roared into California ripped apart train tracks, tore houses from their foundations and capsized many boats, killing nearly 100 people on land and at sea.
Google said Thursday it will remove links to Canadian news on its platforms across Canada over a new law that will require digital giants to compensate media outlets for content they share or otherwise repurpose. The tech giant said it will remove Canadian news links from Google News — a personalized aggregator service available by web or app that highlights local news — and from Google Discover, a feature on mobile phones that helps people find content. Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez accused Google of trying to bully Canadians, but added that “big tech isn’t biggr than Canada.”“Big tech would rather spend money changing their platforms to block news from Canadians instead of paying a small share of the billions they make in advertising dollars,” Rodriguez tweeted. Google said it informed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government of its decision. It did not say exactly when it would begin to remove news, but indicated it would happen before the law takes effect by the end the year. That law was passed last week. Only Canadian news will be blocked, so Canadian users will still be able to see content from outlets like Fox News or BBC, for example. Meta made a similar announcement last week, saying it would remove news from its social media platforms Facebook and Instagram before the law comes into force. It is also ending existing deals with local publishers. Meta is already running a test to block news for up to 5% of its Canadian users. Google ran a similar test earlier this year. Kent Walker, president of global affairs for Google and its parent company, Alphabet, said the law is “unworkable.” Read: Google should break up digital ad business over competition concerns, European regulators say In a blog post published to Google’s website Thursday, Walker said the bill creates a price on links, resulting in an uncapped financial liability “simply for facilitating Canadians’ access to news from Canadian publishers.” “We don’t take this decision or its impacts lightly and believe it’s important to be transparent with Canadian publishers and our users as early as possible,” Walker wrote. The Online News Act requires both Google and Meta to enter into agreements with news publishers to pay them for news content that appears on their sites if it helps them generate money. Google had been seeking assurances about how much that could cost it and how the bargaining process would unfold. Those details are likely to become clear after the bill’s regulatory process is complete. Legacy media and broadcasters have praised the bill, which promises to “enhance fairness” in the digital news marketplace and help bring in more money for shrinking newsrooms. Tech giants including Meta and Google have been blamed in the past for disrupting and dominating advertising, eclipsing smaller, traditional players. Read: Google Pixel 7a Review: Mid-range Smartphone with Enhanced Camera Features Rodriguez had previously expressed hope the government could come to a positive resolution with both companies to prevent them from removing news. He also said the government would continue to support newsrooms if Google and Meta pulled news from their platforms, though he did not say exactly how that would be done. Since 2008, nearly 500 newsrooms have closed across Canada, Rodriguez said. Read more: Google is giving its dominant search engine an artificial-intelligence makeover
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, announced Wednesday that they are separating after 18 years of marriage. The two said in statements posted on Instagram that they made the decision after “many meaningful and difficult conversations.” A statement from the prime minister's office said they both have signed a legal separation agreement. Also read: PM Trudeau fondly recalls travelling to Bangladesh with his father: Canadian Minister Trudeau, the 51-year-old scion of one of Canada’s most famous politicians, was sworn into office in 2015. Sophie Trudeau is a former model and TV host. The couple were married in 2005. Together, they brought star power to the prime minister's office and appeared in the pages of Vogue magazine. They have three children, 15-year-old Xavier, 14-year-old Ella-Grace and 9-year-old Hadrien. The first lady has played a less visible role in recent years, rarely traveling with the prime minister on official trips. The two were seen together publicly at Canada Day events in Ottawa last month. Also read: Canada's government to stop advertising on Facebook and Instagram after Meta says it will block news “They remain a close family, and Sophie and the prime minister are focused on raising their kids in a safe, loving and collaborative environment,” the statement from Trudeau's office said. "The family will be together on vacation, beginning next week.” His office requested respect for their privacy. Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire met as children when she was a classmate of his youngest brother, Michel, and they reconnected as adults when they co-hosted a 2003 charity gala. Trudeau is the second prime minister to announce a separation while in office. Also read: Canada's Trudeau wins 2nd term but loses majority His father, Pierre Trudeau, and mother, Margaret Trudeau, separated in 1979 and divorced in 1984 during the elder Trudeau's final year in the prime minister's office. Justin Trudeau channeled the star power of his Liberal icon father when he first won office in 2015. Scandals, voter fatigue and economic inflation have taken a toll on his popularity after eight years in power.
A Canadian judge declared that the "thumbs-up" emoji is just as acceptable as a signature, noting that courts must adapt to the "new reality" of how people interact as he ordered a farmer to pay C$82,000 ($61,442) for an “unmet” contract. A grain buyer with South West T
Canada's government to stop advertising on Facebook and Instagram after Meta says it will block news
Canada's government said Wednesday it would stop advertising on Facebook and Instagram, in response to Meta's decision to block access to news content on their social platforms as part of a temporary test. Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez announced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government's decision at a news conference. Canada's move is the latest episode in a dispute that started after Trudeau's administration proposed a bill that would require technology companies to pay publishers for linking to or otherwise repurposing their content online. Meta promised at the time to block Canadian news content on its Facebook and Instagram platforms to address Canada’s recently passed Online News Act. Rodriguez said the decision from Meta was “unreasonable” and “irresponsible,” and as a result Canada would stop advertising on their platforms. Read: Toxic gas leak in South Africa has killed 16 people, including 3 children, police say He said the federal government spends about 10 million Canadian dollars (around $7.5 million) a year to advertise on the platforms. This money, he added, will be put into other ad campaigns. Soon after the federal announcement, Quebec Premier Francois Legault tweeted that the province was also suspending advertising on Facebook and Instagram, and Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that the city would stop ads on Facebook. Reacting to the latest Canadian announcement, a Meta spokesperson said the Online News Act is “flawed legislation that ignores the realities of how our platforms work.” He said that the company does not collect links to news content to show on their social platforms and that publishers are the ones deciding to post them on Facebook or Instagram. “Unfortunately, the regulatory process is not equipped to make changes to the fundamental features of the legislation that have always been problematic, and so we plan to comply by ending news availability in Canada in the coming weeks,” the spokesperson said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. Read: New UN survey highlights progress in global trade facilitation despite polycrisis disruptions Google has also promised to start blocking Canadian news when the bill takes effect in six months. Rodriguez said the government is in talks with the company and believes its concerns will be managed by the regulations that will come to implement the bill.