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Canadian troop boost for Latvia and Alberta spawning unrest: In The News for Feb. 23

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Feb. 23, 2022. What we are watching in Canada ...
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a media availability on the situation in Ukraine, in Ottawa, on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Feb. 23, 2022.

What we are watching in Canada ...

Hundreds of additional Canadian troops will soon be headed to eastern Europe as Ottawa moves to respond to the deployment of Russian forces into Ukraine.

During a late-afternoon news conference Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also impose new sanctions against Russia, in line with other Western democracies.

Canada is sending an additional 460 troops to reinforce the NATO military alliance in eastern Europe, Trudeau said.

Trudeau also accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of having ordered an invasion of eastern Ukraine and attacking democracy.

Yet it remained unclear what if anything the new measures announced would do to end the crisis.

Putin on Monday signed a decree recognizing the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine's eastern industrial land as independent republics.

For the past eight years, the two neighbouring regions have been engaged in a bitter conflict, which was sparked just after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.

An estimated 14,000 people have died in the fighting.

Meantime, world leaders continue to slap back with non-military actions in hopes of averting a full-blown war in Europe.

Australia this morning said it would align with the U.S. and Britain by targeting two Russian banks.

It also imposed sanctions and travel bans on eight members of Putin's Security Council. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said these are a first batch of measures in response to Russian aggression toward Ukraine.

Japan also announced sanctions, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida saying Wednesday that his government will ban new issuance and distribution of Russian government bonds in Japan.

And if Putin pushes farther into Ukraine, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg insisted, "there will be even stronger sanctions, even a higher price to pay."


Also this ...

A criminal anthropologist suggests looking to the West to find the heart of protests and blockades that gripped the nation for more than a month. 

Alberta appears to have been the epicentre of unrest that started with truckers over cross-border vaccine mandates, but quickly attracted other groups with their own agendas. 

Most prominent were demands that all pandemic public health measures be lifted, complaints about the federal Liberal government and rallying cries for freedom. 

Two people arrested for leading the noisy three-week standoff in downtown Ottawa call Alberta home, while a third is from Saskatchewan. 

There are 13 people with alleged violent motives facing serious charges in relation to the southern Alberta border blockade at Coutts. 

Four are accused of conspiracy to commit murder of RCMP officers.

Another convoy destined for Ottawa originated in northern Alberta but was turned away at the Manitoba-Ontario boundary in recent days.

Criminal anthropologist and 25-year Calgary police veteran, Cathy Prowse, says Alberta's economy and way of life have been hit hard by COVID-19, which has created a wellspring of dissent.

She said there are three camps participating in what participants are calling "freedom convoys."

The least harmful, she said, are people who see freedom as the right to choose whether to be vaccinated and to bypass restrictions based on faith or personal beliefs.

The second group, often termed extremists, seeks freedom from government and the rule of law.

But, Prowse said, possibly the most dangerous are those who have been socially isolated during the pandemic and are connecting with others through participation in the protests.


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

The Pentagon has approved Tuesday night the deployment of 700 unarmed National Guard troops to the nation's capital as it prepares for trucker convoys that are planning protests against pandemic restrictions beginning next week.

Modelled after recent trucker protests in Canada, separate truck convoys have been planned through online forums with names like the People's Convoy and the American Truckers Freedom Fund -- all with different starting points, departure dates and routes.

A statement from the Pentagon says Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the request Tuesday from the District of Columbia government and the U.S. Capitol Police.

It also noted that the troops would be used to assist with traffic control during demonstrations expected in the city in the coming days -- adding Guard members will not carry firearms or take part in law enforcement or domestic-surveillance activities.

The convoys follow the recent Canadian truckers' protest which shut down the busiest U.S. Canadian border crossing and besieged the streets of the capital, Ottawa, for weeks to protest government pandemic restrictions.

The multiple blockades were broken up by police last week, with more than 100 arrests.


On this day in 2009 ...

David Ahenakew, a former senator with what is now the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan, was found not guilty of wilfully promoting hatred in his second trial on the charge. Ahenakew was charged after making remarks about Jews during a public speech and subsequent interview with a newspaper reporter in 2002. After his first trial, Ahenakew was convicted of wilfully promoting hatred and fined, but in 2006 the Court of Queen's Bench set aside the conviction and ordered a new trial.


In entertainment ...

Mirvish theatres are set to reopen at full capacity this spring with the repeatedly delayed Toronto run of "Room."

The musical based on Canadian author Emma Donoghue's 2010 novel will kick off Mirvish's revised schedule after the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 disrupted its 2021-2022 season.

Mirvish says "Room" is slated to open at the Princess of Wales Theatre on April 5.

Canadian actor-singer Jake Epstein's show business musical "Boy Falls from the Sky" is expected to open on April 19 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.

The show replaces the previously announced "Pressure," which has been pushed to the 2022-2023 season.

Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt are set to return to the Royal Alexandra Theatre for the 25th-anniversary production of "2 Pianos 4 Hands" from June 4 to July 17.

The Canadian première of "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" is expected to open on May 31 as originally scheduled.


Did you see this? 

One of Canada's biggest food manufacturers has halted shipments to the country's largest grocer in an extreme example of how inflation is impacting the food industry and driving a wedge between some retailers and suppliers.

At issue is a dispute over pricing between Frito-Lay Canada and Loblaw Companies Ltd. as the maker of brands like Cheetos, Doritos, Lays, Ruffles and Sunchips tries to recoup higher costs.

The situation has left the chip and snack food aisle of many Loblaw stores less full than usual or stocked with the retailer's house brands, President's Choice and No Name.

Frito-Lay spokeswoman Sheri Morgan confirmed there is a "temporary disruption" with one customer.

"Our business has faced unprecedented pressures from rising costs of items including ingredients, packaging and transportation," she said in an email.

"To help offset these pressures on our Canadian operations ... we have made adjustments to our prices that are consistent across the marketplace."

Loblaw spokeswoman Catherine Thomas said the grocer is "laser-focused" on minimizing retail price increases.

"When suppliers request higher costs, we do a detailed review to ensure they are appropriate," she said in an email. "This can lead to difficult conversations and, in extreme cases, suppliers don’t ship us products."


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2022

The Canadian Press