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Video: D8 wins the KDSL Indoor Men’s League championship

By Saifullah Muhammad,

Source: Spoke News

After a competitive season, the D8 soccer club became the 2019 Indoor Men’s League champions of the Kitchener and District Soccer League (KDSL) on Tuesday night.

The KDSL has been in operation since 1975. Historically, the league has operated with a first or premier division and a second division.

Most teams are located within or around Kitchener, Ont., as well as other nearby cities, such as Stratford, Cambridge, Guelph and other smaller towns from the area.

Blog News

Audio: Scores of recent immigrants attend Global Skills Conference

By Saifullah Muhammad,

More than 150 internationally trained professionals and other immigrants participated in the 11th annual Global Skills Conference in Kitchener on March 6, where employers from across Waterloo Region provided information and were looking for skilled workers.

The theme of the conference this year was “Making Connections.”

The conference was an opportunity for participants to grow in confidence in networking with employers and to learn about businesses in Waterloo Region.

The conference was held at the Kitchener Crowne Plaza hotel.

For more information and job opportunities, visit Canada Immigration Partnership website.

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Video: Commemoration marks second anniversary of Quebec shooting

By Saifullah Muhammad,

This week marked the second anniversary of the horrific attack on the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec (CCIQ). The Coalition of Muslim Women K-W and people from diverse communities honoured the memory of the six Muslim men brutally murdered and 19 others injured on Jan. 29, 2017, when a gunman entered the mosque and opened fire on worshipers after evening prayers.

Source: Spoke News

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Local environmental groups call on citizens to speak up against Bill 66

By Saifullah Muhammad,

Ontario Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe challenged hundreds of concerned residences in Kitchener to speak up about the climate crisis and to protect their children and their future.

“Climate change is here now — and it is going to get worse,” Saxe said at an event on Jan. 15 titled, “Steward of Our Future: Protecting What We Love” at the Kitchener city hall. The event was organized by Divest Waterloo, in partnership with Faith and the Common Good, the Centre for Public Ethics at Martin Luther University College, and the Grand River Environmental Network (GREN).

There has been a lot of controversies recently regarding Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s proposed Bill 66, also called An Act to Restore Ontario’s Competitiveness, which includes a proposal to close the office of Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO).

This office was created by an all-party committee in 1994 as an independent office to hold ministries accountable for their decisions that affect the environment.

If the bill is passed in its present form, it will amend several of Ontario’s workplace laws, including legislation put in place to protect Ontario’s waters and green spaces.

“Cancellation of green programs hurt 752 clean energy contracts. We need an international lawsuit because we do not own our laws…. Ripping up energy contracts significantly impacts many Indigenous communities in Ontario. We are also actively subsidizing fossil fuel use,” said Saxe.

“This is about defending what we love. You do not have to be in a faith community to see that,” said Lucy Cummings, executive director of Faith and the Common Good.

Kevin Thomason, vice-chair of GREN, asked the audience to play a role in creating a safer environment and talk to local and provincial officials about the bill and how it could affect them.

“We need to stand up and come together now.

Local municipalities that have passed a resolution opposing the Bill 66 are the City of Cambridge, the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, the City of Kitchener, the Township of Wellesley and Wilmot Township. Two more municipalities — the Township of Woolwich and the Township of North Dumfries — must still deal with the issue.

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Foreign affairs minister underlines importance of journalism to democracy

By Saifullah Muhammad,

OTTAWA — Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told a conference here yesterday that the protection of journalists and the functions they perform are key to the proper function of civil society.

A free media, Freeland said, is critical to holding politicians to account.

“Democracy is about a much broader set of institutions, including a vibrant and vocal civil society and very much including journalists,” she said. “I am absolutely convinced, not only by the theory but by lived experience, that knowing that we have to face the questions of journalists — that we’re not going to be allowed as politicians, as a government, to grade our own work — it keeps us honest.”

Freeland made the comments to an audience of community-based representatives, media, government officials and diplomats on Wednesday at the National Arts Centre, where she moderated a panel discussion.

The event was hosted by office of Human Rights, Freedom, and Inclusion (OHRFI), in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The gathering came just one day after Time magazine named a group of journalists who have been targeted for their work as Person of the Year. They included the slain Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince who was killed two months ago at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Besides Khashoggi, Time’s honorees include the staff of the Capital Gazette newspapers in Maryland, where five people were shot dead in June; Maria Ressa, the founder of Rappler, a news start-up under attack by the authoritarian president of the Philippines; and U Wa Lone and U Kyaw Soe Oo, two Reuters journalists imprisoned in Myanmar after reporting the massacre of Rohingya people.

At least 52 journalists were killed globally this year, according to Rachel Pulfer, one of the four panelists, and executive director of Journalists for Human Rights.

“The press is the custodian of the social contract between state and society. Increasing attacks on journalist force society to ask a critical question,” Pulfer told the crowd.

Freeland was also joined by Brendan de Caires, executive director for PEN Canada, Raheel Raza, the president of Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and Rachel Vincent, the director of advocacy and media for Nobel Women’s Initiative. All four panelists focused on freedom of expression and the protection of journalists.


Canada’s immigration system benefits international students, says federal minister

By Saifullah Muhammad, Spoke News

Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, says Canada is one of the most generous countries for international students and the new immigration system benefits them in several ways.

During a talk in Waterloo last Thursday night, Hussen also addressed the important economic and social benefits of retaining international students.

“We allow international students to work while the classes are open for up to 20 hours a week and when the school is [on] breaks in the school system, like summer and Christmas, they are allowed to work full time.

“We allow them to access the post graduate work permit which allows them to work up to three years after graduation, which incidentally qualifies them to apply for the permanent residency. So we are very facilitated to international students,” Hussen said while speaking at the event, hosted by the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, in partnership with Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo.

International students are statistically proven to be among the best candidates for immigration due to their high levels of quality education and language skills in Canada.

“We are the first government in Canadian history to look at potential international students around the world to tell them not only come and stay in Canada, we tell them… ‘we want you to stay’, because they make great Canadian citizens.

“They are eager, they are young, they speak English and French or both and they are educated in Canada. So why wouldn’t we want to hang on to them?” Hussen said.

According to Hussen, the challenges announced by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada also reduced the time required for a permanent resident to physically be in Canada prior to applying for citizenship from four years out of six to three years out of five.

When asked about the struggle of international students to find housing and that some complained they felt stretched by the high cost of transit, Hussen referred to the national housing strategy on housing targets and outcomes and how it promised that 100,000 new affordable housing units would be built and another 300,000 existing affordable housing units repaired.

“It will invest tens of billions of dollars in the next few years for all forms of housing, from temporary housing to affordable housing and [it will add] $25 billion in transit, which will hopefully enable access to some of the services,” he added.

Currently there are 7,000 international students studying this fall across all Conestoga campuses in a variety of programs, both full-time and part-time.


Redraft Rohingya return deal

HRW asks Bangladesh, Myanmar to involve UN in the process

UNB Dhaka

Terming Rohingya return deal a bad one, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said Bangladesh and Myanmar should invite UNHCR to join the drafting of a new tripartite agreement.

“After the widespread atrocities, safe and voluntary return of Rohingyas will require international monitors on the ground in Burma,” said Bill Frelick, refugee rights director at HRW.

This means, Frelick said, a central role for the UNHCR, the only UN agency with a statutory mandate to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of refugees.

“This should include some existing provisions, such as encouraging refugees to return voluntarily and safely to their own households and original places of residence or to a safe and secure place nearest to it or their choice,” the global watchdog body said given the “critical flaws” in the agreement.

Headquartered in New York, HRW is an international non-governmental organisation that conducts research and advocacy on human rights.

The agreement by Bangladesh and Myanmar to send back Rohingyas to Myanmar by January 23, 2018, creates an “impossible timetable” for safe and voluntary returns and should be shelved, HRW said in a letter to the two governments.

International donors, who would be needed to fund the massive repatriation effort, should insist that Bangladesh and Myanmar invite the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to join in drafting a new tripartite agreement that ensures adherence to international standards, it said.

Since late August 25, more than 645,000 Rohingyas have fled a campaign of ethnic cleansing by Myanmar’s security forces and sought refuge in Bangladesh.

HRW has interviewed more than 200 of the refugees. Many said that they wish to eventually return home, but they do not believe it is safe to return to Myanmar for the foreseeable future and until their security, land, and livelihoods can be ensured.

“Burma has yet to end its military abuses against the Rohingya, let alone create conditions that would allow them to return home safely,” said Frelick.

“This agreement looks more like a public relations effort by Burma to quickly close this ugly chapter than a serious effort to restore the rights of Rohingya and allow them to voluntarily return in safety and dignity.”

On November 23, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an “Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State” on behalf of “residents of Rakhine State” who crossed Myanmar to Bangladesh after October 9, 2016 and August 25, 2017.

The agreement makes no reference to the cause of most of the forced displacement: a campaign for killings, widespread rape, and mass arson carried out by Myanmar security forces that amounted to crimes against humanity.

The HRW said the agreement also fails to identify the displaced either as Rohingya or as refugees.

It said voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity as required by international law will not be feasible until the Myanmar government demonstrates its willingness and ability to ensure full respect for returnees’ human rights, equal access to nationality, and security.

The agreement also makes no direct reference to non-refoulement, the principle of international refugee law that prohibits the forcible return of refugees to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened.

And the agreement restricts returnees’ freedom of movement to Rakhine State in “conformity with existing laws and regulations,” many of which discriminate against the Rohingyas.

Several Myanmar officials have spoken about putting Rohingyas in “camps”. This would be an unacceptable approach to their return as camps set up after previous anti-Rohingya violence have led to de facto detention and segregation.

While the agreement says that Bangladesh will immediately seek assistance from UNHCR to carry out safe and voluntary returns, Myanmar agrees only “that the services of the UNHCR could be drawn upon as needed and at the appropriate time.”


Rohingya rape survivors tell their harrowing stories

December 7, 2017
Mumtaz Begum, 30. She fled to Bangladesh shortly after the Aug. 25 attack from Tula Toli village in Myanmar. She says that one night the military attacked her village and burned homes. Everyone ran and hid but the military found them. They shot her husband in front of her, and as he lay dying she told him, “I have lived many years with you, if I made any mistakes, please forgive me.”  
The military took her and 5 other women to a house, with some of their children. They started raping her and the other women and when the children screamed, they hit them in the head with machetes. They hit one of her sons, splitting his skull open, and he died. They also hit her daughter, but she survived and escaped the house. When the military was done raping her and the other women, they lit the house on fire. Mumtaz crawled through the flames as her clothes caught fire and the roof caved in, and was the only woman who managed to escape. The other 5 women burned to death. She hid in the forest until a group of people found her and carried her to the border and into Bangladesh.
“I want justice and I want to tell the world all the things the military did,” she said. “They raped and killed us. We want justice.”
December 7, 2017
 Minwara Begum, 17. One morning she was cooking when she heard shooting. Her mom went out to see what was happening and saw the military throwing petrol bombs on all the houses. “All of us started running and the military shot us in the back. They shot me, my mom, sister, sister in law, nephew, 2 of my brothers. I lost 6 members of my family. I just kept on running. The military found us where we were hiding and took me, my sister and cousin and other women to a house. They tied our eyes and legs and hands with a black cloth and started to rape me. I don’t know how many men raped me. There were 6 of us in the room and they killed 3 of the women. When they were finished they left the house and threw a petrol bomb on it. The whole house caught fire and I used the fire to burn the cloth off that was keeping my legs and hands tied.”
She says she hid in the paddy field and forest until a group of other people came through and helped her. She spent days walking with them to the Bangladesh border, where she took a boat across to Bangladesh. She spent a week in a hospital in Bangladesh until she recovered.
“Here in Bangladesh, I feel so restless and worried,” she said. “People say they’re going to send us back to Myanmar, and once again they’ll shoot and beat us there. I’m so worried.”  
December 7, 2017
Roshida Begum, 22, shows where the Myanmar military slit her throat. One day the military came to her village and threw petrol bombs and set houses on fire. They randomly shot anyone they saw. She fled and hid on a riverbank, where the military found her and other people. Her husband swam across and escaped. They shot the young boys and stole the jewelry the women had. They took little children and babies and threw them into the river. Then they took us to a pond and made us kneel up to our necks in the water.”
She shows a head wound she received during the Aug. 25 attack. “My baby was 25 days old. They grabbed him from my arms and smashed him on the ground so hard, he died. The military took me and 5 other women into a house and raped us. After they were done, they slit our necks with machetes. They thought I was dead and they left and set the house on fire. I was the only one who escaped.”
She says she hid in a paddy field and in a forest until she came across another woman and her daughter, and together they crossed into Bangladesh. For 8 days they walked, surviving by drinking water from the paddy fields. They took a boat into Bangladesh and she went to the MSF clinic, where she spent 18 days recovering. Her husband found her there, and when she was discharged they moved into a camp. In the attack, she lost her mother, father, brother, all together she lost 17 members of her family.
December 7, 2017
Sunuara, 25. She says before the Aug. 25 attack, she had a good life in Myanmar. She was wealthy, she had 42 cows, 2 cars, and rice paddy fields. One day the military attacked her village and soldiers came to her home. Her husband was staying in another village with relatives and her other children were staying with her parents. Only her 16-year-old son was home with her, and in front of her eyes the military shot him in the stomach and then cut off his head with a machete. Then they tied her wrists and ankles with rope to her bedposts and 9 men took turns raping her for 6 hours.
She was 8 months pregnant at the time, and the military punched and kicked her stomach. She lost consciousness and when she woke up, her husband and brother found her. For 6 days they carried her to the border while she drifted in and out of consciousness. They crossed into Bangladesh where she gave birth at a hospital, but the baby died a day later.
December 7, 2017
Dildar Begum, 30. She says that one day the military came and opened fired on her village and stormed into her house. They took her husband out of the house and to the riverbank and shot him. Then they came back into her house and grabbed her baby from her arms and stabbed him in the head
They killed another one of her children by cutting his throat, and another by beating her over the head with a rifle. Two soldiers held her arms while another raped her. They then beat her and she pretended to be dead. When they left, they set her house on fire. Her 10 year old daughter, Nurkalima, was severely injured when the military beat her over the head with the blades of machetes, but she helped her mom crawl past the burning bodies of her children and out of the burning house. 
For 5 days she hid in the hills and when the military left, she went back to Tula Toli on her way to the Bangladesh border. All that was left of her village was smoke and ask where houses used to be. There were bodies everywhere, so many that they were uncountable. She came across some men who carried her for two days to the border, where they were able to cross into Bangladesh by boat. “I don’t see any future for me here in Bangladesh. My husband is dead, who will earn money for me and my daughter? I want justice. My kids were killed, I want justice for them,” she says.
Source: NY Post

Myanmar forces may be guilty of genocide against Rohingya, U.N. says

GENEVA (Reuters) – Myanmar’s security forces may be guilty of genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority and more of them are fleeing despite a deal between Myanmar and Bangladesh to send them home, the top U.N. human rights official said on Tuesday.

The United Nations defines genocide as acts meant to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group in whole or in part. Such a designation is rare under international law, but has been used in contexts including Bosnia, Sudan and an Islamic State campaign against the Yazidi communities in Iraq and Syria.

Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, was addressing a special session of the Human Rights Council which later adopted a resolution condemning “the very likely commission of crimes against humanity” by security forces and others against Rohingya.

Myanmar’s ambassador Htin Lynn said his government “disassociated” itself from the text and denounced what he called “politicization and partiality”.

Zeid, who has described the campaign in the past as a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing”, said that none of the 626,000 Rohingya who have fled violence to Bangladesh since August should be repatriated to Myanmar unless there was robust monitoring on the ground.

He described reports of “acts of appalling barbarity committed against the Rohingya, including deliberately burning people to death inside their homes, murders of children and adults; indiscriminate shooting of fleeing civilians; widespread rapes of women and girls, and the burning and destruction of houses, schools, markets and mosques”.

“Can anyone – can anyone – rule out that elements of genocide may be present?” he told the 47-member state forum.

Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh’s junior foreign affairs minister, told the session in Geneva that his country was hosting nearly one million “Myanmar nationals” following executions and rapes.

Mainly Buddhist Myanmar denies the Muslim Rohingya are its citizens and considers them foreigners.

These crimes had been “perpetrated by Myanmar security forces and extremist Buddhist vigilantes”, Alam said, calling for an end to what he called “xenophobic rhetoric..including from higher echelons of the government and the military”.


Prosecutions for the violence and rapes against Rohingya by security forces and civilians “appear extremely rare”, Zeid said.

Marzuki Darusman, head of an independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar, said by video from Malaysia: “We will go where the evidence leads us.”

His team has interviewed Rohingya refugees, including children in the Bangladeshi port city of Cox’s Bazar, who recounted “acts of extreme brutality” and “displayed signs of severe trauma”.

Myanmar has not granted the investigators access to Rakhine, the northern state from which the Rohingya have fled, Darusman said. “We maintain hope that it will be granted early in 2018.”

Pramila Patten, special envoy of the U.N. Secretary-General on sexual violence in conflict, who interviewed survivors in Bangladesh in November, said: “I heard the most heart-breaking and horrific accounts of sexual atrocities reportedly committed in cold blood out of a lethal hatred of these people solely on the basis of their ethnicity and religion”.


Canada pledges $35M to help Bangladesh aid women, girls amid Rohingya refugee influx

Canada will spend $35 million over five years to help Bangladesh address the needs of women and girls as the country deals with a massive influx of Rohingya Muslimsfrom Myanmar.

READ MORE: ‘Ethnic cleansing’ against Rohingya in Myanmar should be classified genocide: scholar

International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced the new spending – to be directed through United Nations agencies – from Bangladesh, where she was getting a first-hand look at the crisis that has seen more than 620,000 Rohingya flee Myanmar since August.

The new Canadian spending comes as Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement earlier today that would allow for the return of the Rohingya.

However, the government of Myanmar announced no details of the plan, which was immediately criticized by Amnesty International.

READ MORE: Trudeau has ‘very direct’ talk with Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi on Rohingya crisis

Bibeau visited women and children in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, currently the epicentre of the world’s most pressing humanitarian crisis.

It started when the Myanmar army began what it calls clearance operations in response to an attack by a group of Rohingya insurgents, an offensive that many have said amounts to ethnic cleansing.

Source: Global News