Canadian MPs in Europe, new sanctions on Iran : In The News for Feb. 27

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. 27 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Expanding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has become a major focus of Parliament's foreign affairs committee as it tours several European countries to study the impact of the war in Ukraine, the committee chair said in an interview in Warsaw Sunday.

The committee members started their journey in Sweden last week and will end in Finland — two countries that are in the final stages of joining NATO.

"We think that the eastern flank really has to be strengthened," said committee chair Ali Ehsassi.

Canada was the first NATO ally to approve Sweden and Finland's bids to join the organization, doing so through a unanimous vote in Parliament. The countries applied to join the military alliance just months after Russia's invasion of Ukraine one year ago.

Their bids have stalled as they await approval from two holdout countries: Hungary and Turkey.

The committee members made a stop in Brussels to speak with NATO officials there about the importance of extending membership to the two countries and to reiterate Canada's staunch support.


Also this ...

Canada is imposing more sanctions against Iran for what it describes as gross violations of human rights.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced twelve senior Iranian government and law enforcement officials are being sanctioned for participating in "gross and systematic human rights violations," including through repressing demonstrations in the western part of the country.

The listed individuals will have their Canadian assets frozen and be barred from entering the country.

Joly's office says it is working with international partners to respond to the Iranian regime's egregious treatment of its people.

Large protests have been taking place in the country since last September when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died at the hands of the country's morality police, allegedly because her head scarf was too loose.


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

Last-minute technical trouble forced SpaceX to call off Monday's attempt to launch four astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA.

The countdown was halted with just two minutes remaining until liftoff from Kennedy Space Center. With just a split second to blast off, there was no time to deal with the problem, which involved the engine ignition system.

SpaceX did not immediately say when it would try again. The next attempt could come as early as Tuesday, although poor weather was forecast up the East Coast in the emergency recovery area.

Strapped into the capsule atop the Falcon rocket were two NASA astronauts, one Russian cosmonaut and one astronaut from the United Arab Emirates. They had to wait until all the fuel was drained from the rocket _ an hourlong process _ before getting out.

``We'll be sitting here waiting,'' commander Stephen Bowen assured everyone. ``We're all feeling good.''

Bowen and his crew _ including the first astronaut from the United Arab Emirates assigned to a monthslong mission, Sultan al-Neyadi _ will replace four space station residents who have been up there since October.

Officials said the problem involved ground equipment used for loading the engine ignition fluid. The launch team could not be sure there was a full load. A SpaceX engineer likened this critical system to spark plugs for a car.


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

Rescue crews searched by sea and air Monday for the dozens of people believed still missing from a shipwreck off Italy's southern coast that drove home once again the desperate and dangerous crossings of migrants seeking to reach Europe.

At least 80 people survived Sunday's shipwreck off the Calabrian coast, but rescue crews recovered 60 bodies, including those of several children and the corpse of a young man Monday morning.

Dozens more were feared dead given survivor reports that the ship, which set off from Turkey last week, had carried about 170 people.

The beach at Steccato di Cutro, on Calabria's Ionian coast, was littered with the splintered remains of the ship that broke up in stormy seas on the reefs offshore, as well as the belongings the migrants had brought with them, including a toddler's tiny pink sneaker and a yellow plastic pencil case decorated with pandas.

There were only a few life jackets scattered amid the debris.

On Monday, two coast guard vessels searched the seas north to south off Steccato di Cutro while a helicopter flew overhead and a four-wheel vehicle patrolled the beach. A strong wind whipped the seas that still churned up splinters of the ship, gas tanks, food containers and shoes. A pickup truck came to take away the body of the latest victim.

Firefighter Inspector Giuseppe Larosa said what gutted the first rescue crews who arrived on the scene was how many children were killed, and that the bodies of the dead had scratches all over them, as if they had tried to hang onto the ship to save themselves.

``It was a chilling scene. Bodies spread out on the beach, so many bodies, so many children,'' he said on the beach Monday morning. He said he had focused on the recovery efforts, but he was struck by what he found in the survivors.

``What struck me was their silence,'' he said. ``Terror in their eyes, but mute. Silent.''


On this day in 1977 ...

Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones was arrested at the Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto on heroin possession charges. He was eventually found guilty. In lieu of a jail sentence for Richards, The Rolling Stones played two CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) benefit concerts at the civic auditorium in Oshawa, east of Toronto, in April 1979.


In entertainment ...

The Dilbert comic strip distributor Andrews McMeel Universal has announced it will no longer work with the strip's creator, Scott Adams. Andrews McMeel Chairman Hugh Andrews and CEO and President Andy Sareyan say in a joint statement issued Sunday that the syndication company is severing its relationship with Adams because his recent comments on race were not compatible with the company's core values. In the Feb. 22 episode of his YouTube show, Adams described people who are Black as members of ``a hate group'' from which white people should ``get away.'' Various media publishers across the U.S. denounced the comments as racist, hateful and discriminatory while saying they would no longer provide a platform for his work.


Did you see this?

Viacheslav Samsonenko would need at least two years of experience to work as a professional engineer in Canada.

So, like many newcomers, he signed up for a job below his qualifications and is working hard to move up.

Samsonenko, who moved to Canada last May after fleeing the war in Ukraine, knew two decades of work experience in the field wouldn't be relevant in Canada.

But he managed to find work in the same industry within a month of arriving in Canada.

``I'm glad to be here in Canada (and) do my favourite work,'' said Samsonenko, who has been working as an estimator for a British Columbia-based construction company.

He said it wasn't hard finding a job in his preferred industry but it will be a while before he becomes a professional civil engineer in Canada _ requiring him to write a series of tests and continue gaining experience.

Samsonenko's situation isn't unique. People working in immigration say newcomers often struggle to land meaningful jobs that are in line with their qualifications or previous work experience.

``It boils down to the lack of Canadian experience (for many employers),'' said Darrel Pinto, employment director at Jumpstart Refugee Talent, a refugee-led non-profit organization helping newcomers find relevant jobs.

Newcomers often feel they get screened out of opportunities, he said. The lack of soft skills and cultural integration are among the biggest problems when it comes to employers accepting newcomers into professions, he added.

The equivalency of education credentials is another barrier that employers need help understanding.

Pinto said employers fail to recognize that some foreign universities ``far exceed the quality of graduates than our own Canadian universities.''

``Many newcomers tell me that the United States is far more open and welcoming to their differences compared to the Canadian marketplace, which is a little bit more closed,'' he said.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2023.

The Canadian Press