Terrorists, Tamils and teen stars


Two Canadian navy tugboats guide MV Sun Sea, suspected of carrying 492 Tamil migrants, into dock at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt in British Columbia on August 13, 2010


Keith Vass

Top News: Canada has become one of the latest fronts in the war on terror with the arrest of three Ontario men. Hiva Mohammad Alizadeh, 30, and Misbahuddin Ahmed, 26, of Ottawa and Hurram Syed Sher, 28, of London were arrested as part of Operation Samosa. They appeared in court on Sept. 1, accused of conspiring to facilitate terrorism with others in Canada, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Dubai over the past two years.

Alizadeh faces additional charges of possessing an explosive substance and providing property or financial services to benefit a terrorist group.

A news report linked one of the men to Pakistan’s Taliban, the Tehrik-e-Taliban, which the U.S. government has designated as a terrorist group. Intelligence experts believe the men were plotting to attack Canadian targets such as Parliament or Montreal’s subway system.

A fourth man, Awso Peshdary, 20, of Ottawa, has been arrested on non-terrorism related charges which came to light during the investigation.

Concerns over the possibility of terrorists infiltrating Canada contributed to the government’s decision to intercept the MV Sun Sea, a ship loaded with Tamil migrants that was headed for British Columbia. The 492 passengers, including pregnant women, have claimed refugee status but are being kept in detention until the government can confirm their identities and ensure none are members of the Tamil Tigers terrorist group.

The government is also concerned that the ship is part of a human smuggling operation and that other ships could head for Canada.

The governing Conservatives and opposition parties are taking shots at each other over Canada’s controversial long gun registry in the lead up to a critical vote this fall on whether to scrap the registry. In a fight that risks exacerbating Canada’s urban/rural divide, the Conservatives are urging Liberal and NDP MPs from rural ridings to vote with them to eliminate the registry, saying it is expensive and unnecessary. However, doctors and Canada’s police chiefs are urging Parliament to keep the registry, saying it saves lives.

While Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff worked to shake off his Harvard professor image with a cross-Canada bus tour, Prime Minister Stephen Harper headed north. As climate change makes the Northwest Passage more navigable and oil and gas exploration more feasible, Harper has headed to the arctic every summer in a bid to assert Canada’s sovereignty over the region.

Along with announcing a research station and a sanctuary for beluga whales, Harper danced with Inuit performers.

Canadian researchers made significant breakthroughs on the medical front. University of Ottawa scientist May Griffith has developed artificial corneas which have had promising results in early trials. While more testing is needed, the artificial corneas could become a sight-saving alternative to long waits for donated corneas. Vancouver researchers have developed a new drug for advanced prostate cancer which can extend life expectancy.

Money: Forestry giant AbitibiBowater will be $130 million richer after the Canadian government agreed to compensate it for pulp and paper assets expropriated by the provincial Newfoundland and Labrador government in 2008. The company, which had been seeking $500 million, is currently operating under bankruptcy court protection while it restructures. Auto parts tycoon Frank Stronach has the green light for the billion dollar buyout of his controlling interest in Magna International. Pension plans that had opposed the deal backed down after a court approved the deal.

Opposition critics are calling on the government to introduce new economic stimulus measures after Canada’s GDP posted a lower than expected increase of 2 percent in the second quarter. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the government’s plan is on track and additional measures aren’t necessary.

Elsewhere: Is your Blackberry or your iPhone acting up? Instead of cursing it, why not bless it. Rev. Lisa Vaughn of St. Timothy’s Anglican Church outside Halifax, Nova Scotia, will be blessing Blackberries, mobile phones, laptops and other electronic devices Sunday. The service is a twist on the traditional Plough Monday blessing of tools and farm equipment.

Singing star Hilary Duff has married millionaire Canadian hockey player Mike Comrie in a ceremony in Santa Barbara. Comrie’s family built a furniture fortune with their chain of Brick stores across Canada.

Legions of teenage girls may swoon over Canadian singer Justin Bieber but the 16-year-old says it’s harder now to find a girlfriend than it was back in Stratford, Ontario, before he was famous. While Bieber is worth millions, he complains that he hates school and still gets grounded for bad behavior.