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Canada loses its bid for seat on UN Security Council

Despite an intense and costly diplomatic push, Canada has lost its bid for a coveted seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Norway and Ireland won the two available temporary seats, with 130 and 128 votes respectively. Canada won 108 votes, falling 20 short of the 128 needed to win a spot at the table.

Countries need the support of at least two-thirds of the General Assembly to get elected to the council.

It’s a heavy blow for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne and other high-level officials who had been reaching out to political leaders around the world in a campaign to secure one of the two available rotating seats.

In a statement, Trudeau said throughout the campaign, federal officials promoted the Canadian values of peace, freedom, democracy and human rights.

“We listened and learned from other countries, which opened new doors for cooperation to address global challenges, and we created new partnerships that increased Canada’s place in the world,” he said in a statement.

“This important engagement has contributed to our broader efforts to tackle the most important challenges of our time, including the COVID-19 pandemic, and has acted as a foundation for further international cooperation on other key issues.”

Strengthening bilateral relationships

During a news conference in New York, Champagne said that while the result was not the one he’d hoped for, Canada had no guarantee of victory in such a tight race. He said the campaign was an opportunity for Canada to renew and strengthen bilateral relationships around the globe.

“Due to that campaign, Canada is more present right around the world,” he said, adding that Canada will play a leadership role in promoting global cooperation and advancing gender equality and sustainable peace.

Watch: Champagne reacts to UN Security Council defeat

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said Canada had no guarantee of victory in a tight race for a UN Security Council seat, but argued the campaign allowed Canada to renew and strengthen its bilateral relationships around the globe. He spoke to reporters from New York. 2:00

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was quick to criticize the Liberal government on Twitter.

“Another foreign affairs failure for Justin Trudeau. Keeps the streak alive! He sold out Canada’s principles for a personal vanity project and still lost. What a waste,” he tweeted.

The federal government has spent more than $ 2.3 million on its quest for a seat.

Canada’s failed 2010 bid for a Security Council seat, under then-prime minister Stephen Harper, saw Germany win 128 votes, Portugal 122 and Canada 114 on the first ballot. The voting went to a second round — Canada received 78 votes and Portugal took 113.

The Security Council holds ten seats for temporary members that join the table for two-year terms. The council has five permanent members — the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China — which have the power to veto resolutions.

Defeat ‘very disappointing’

NDP foreign affairs critic Jack Harris called the defeat “very disappointing” and said Canada’s contributions to developmental assistance, peacekeeping, climate change and Indigenous rights were likely factors.

“What is more, we have been inconsistent in our support for human rights, going so far as to vote against almost every UN resolution upholding Palestinian rights and signing a new arms export agreement with Saudi Arabia, despite their egregious human rights abuses,” he said.

Harris said Canada can still have a positive influence with other countries through its membership in the G7, G20 and other global organizations, but the government must repair the damage and follow through on its commitments.

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who served as special envoy to bolster Canada’s bid, said many countries had already committed their votes by the time Canada entered the race.

Canada put forward its candidacy in 2016, about a decade after Ireland (2005) and Norway (2007) announced they were running.

Charest said Canada put forward a strong bid and strengthened its international ties.

‘Honourable outcome’ for Canada

“This is a tough outcome, but an honourable outcome for Canada,” he told Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos.

Canada’s ambassador to the UN Marc-André Blanchard said he doesn’t think Canada’s loss was a rejection of its global priorities. He said there were “three great countries” engaged in a very tough competition.

“It’s a very difficult choice,” he said.

Pro-Palestinian and other groups point to Canada’s Middle East policies as a factor in the failure to secure a seat. Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) issued a statement saying the defeat “proves that Canada’s failure to demonstrate leadership on human rights and international cooperation has isolated it from world opinion.”

“In recent months, Trudeau has also been relatively quiet on the threats of Israeli annexation, especially when compared to the vocal and long-standing condemnations from competitors Norway and Ireland,” the group said.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said Canada faced serious challenges in its bid — including the fact that the two other candidates are anchored in the EU and “almost automatically” got support from the European continent, and Canada’s current tensions with Russia and China.

Perceptions that Canada hasn’t been pulling its weight in UN peacekeeping and development aid likely also hurt its bid, he said.

“These contests are complex, and we are concerned with the inaccurate suggestion from anti-Israel groups that Canada’s defeat was a result of its historical pro-Israel policies, a single and irrelevant issue. This distracts from reflection about the campaign and the actual obstacles that prevented a successful outcome,” Fogel said in a statement.

Watch: Freeland on UN Security Council vote result

Asked by Conservative foreign affairs critic Leona Alleslev whether concessions in USMCA trade talks affected the UN Security council seat, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada is the only country with trade agreements with all G7 countries in a protectionist global trade climate. 1:09

Shortly before the results rolled in, Trudeau cited Canada’s record on combating climate change, promoting peace and security and supporting developing countries and women’s rights.

He said no matter what happens, Canada will continue to fight to reduce global conflict and social inequities.

Exporting Canada’s values

“Canada has continued to be a strong voice on the world stage. Because this is what Canada does well and we will continue to do it,” he said.

“Yes, a seat on the UN Security Council will be an additional lever and an extra way that Canada can make sure that our voice and our values are being heard at the highest levels. But we will continue to make a difference in the world and defend multilateralism, not just because it’s good for the world, but because it’s good for Canadians.”

Given its relatively smaller contributions to global peacekeeping and international development assistance, many observers have argued Canada was facing a tough challenge from its competitors, Ireland and Norway.

Watch | Scheer questions Trudeau’s campaign for U.N. Security Council seat

Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer took Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to task in the House of Commons in the hours before the UN vote was to be announced. 2:03

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Majority of Minneapolis city council vows to disband police department

A majority of the members of the Minneapolis City Council said Sunday they support disbanding the city’s police department, an aggressive stance that comes just as the state has launched a civil rights investigation after George Floyd’s death.

Nine of the council’s 12 members appeared with activists at a rally in a city park Sunday afternoon and vowed to end policing as the city currently knows it.

Council member Jeremiah Ellison promised that the council would “dismantle” the department.

“It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,” Lisa Bender, the council president, said. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period.”

Bender went on to say she and the eight other council members that joined the rally are committed to ending the city’s relationship with the police force and “to end policing as we know it and recreate systems that actually keep us safe.”

Demonstrators calling to defund the Minneapolis police department march on University Avenue in Minneapolis on Saturday. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Floyd, a black man in handcuffs, died after a white officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck, ignoring Floyd’s “I can’t breathe” cries and holding it there even after Floyd stopped moving.

Community activists have criticized the department for years for what they say is a racist and brutal culture that resists change.

The state of Minnesota launched a civil rights investigation of the department last week, and the first concrete changes came Friday when the city agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints.

A more complete remaking of the department is likely to unfold in coming months.

Disbanding has precedent

Disbanding an entire department has happened before. In 2012, with crime rampant in Camden, N.J., the city disbanded its police department and replaced it with a new force that covered Camden County. Compton, Calif., took the same step in 2000, shifting its policing to Los Angeles County.

It was a step that then-attorney general Eric Holder said the Justice Department was considering for Ferguson, Mo., after the death of Michael Brown. The city eventually reached an agreement short of that but one that required massive reforms overseen by a court-appointed mediator.

WATCH | What defunding the police might look like:

Calls to defund the police have been growing as people protest police brutality in the U.S., Canada and around the world. Alex Vitale, author of The End of Policing, explains what defunding the police might look like. 7:40

The move to defund or abolish the Minneapolis department is far from assured, with the civil rights investigation likely to unfold over the next several months.

On Saturday, activists for defunding the department staged a protest outside Mayor Jacob Frey’s home. Frey came out to talk with them.

“I have been coming to grips with my own responsibility, my own failure in this,” Frey said. When pressed on whether he supported their demands, Frey said: “I do not support the full abolition of the police department.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey leaves a demonstration calling for the police department to be defunded on Saturday in Minneapolis. Frey declined when he was asked if he would fully defund the police and was then asked to leave the protest. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

He left to booing.

At another march Saturday during which leaders called for defunding the department, Verbena Dempster said she supported the idea.

“I think, honestly, we’re too far past” the chance for reform, Dempster told Minnesota Public Radio. “We just have to take down the whole system.”

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UN Security Council hears of ‘unfolding humanitarian catastrophe’ in Syria’s Idlib province

Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing a Russian-backed Syrian offensive are being squeezed into ever smaller areas near Turkey’s border “under horrendous conditions” in freezing temperatures that are killing babies and young children, the UN humanitarian chief said Wednesday.

Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council that “the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe” in northwest Idlib province, which is the last major rebel stronghold, has “overwhelmed” efforts to provide aid.

He said nearly 900,000 people have been displaced since Dec. 1, when the government offensive began — more than 500,000 of them children.

“Many are on foot or on the backs of trucks in below-freezing temperatures, in the rain and snow,” Lowcock said. “They are moving into increasingly crowded areas they think will be safer. But in Idlib, nowhere is safe.”

Lowock, the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said almost 50,000 people have taken shelter under trees and in open spaces.

“I am getting daily reports of babies and other young children dying in the cold,” he said.

‘Tragic suffering’

UN special envoy Geir Pedersen echoed Secretary-General António Guterres’s expression of alarm on Tuesday at the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation “and the tragic suffering of civilians.”

“Hostilities are now approaching densely populated areas such as Idlib city and Bab al-Hawa border crossing, which has among the highest concentration of displaced civilians in northwest Syria and also serves as a humanitarian lifeline,” he said.

This combination of satellite images provided by Maxar Technologies shows an area near Kafaldin in northern Syria’s Idlib province near the Turkish border on Feb. 5, top, and the same area with a large number of refugee tents for internally displaced people on Feb. 16, bottom. The difference illustrates the rapid expansion of refugees as hundreds of thousands of civilians in the area scramble to escape an offensive by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces. (Maxar Technologies via The Associated Press)

Pedersen warned: “The potential for further mass displacement and even more catastrophic human suffering is apparent, as an increasing number of people are hemmed into an ever-shrinking space.”

He said Russia and Turkey, as sponsors of a ceasefire in Idlib, “can and must play a key role in finding a way to de-escalate the situation now,” though meetings between delegations of the two countries in Ankara, Munich and Moscow in recent days and contacts between the two presidents have not produced results.

“To the contrary, public statements from different quarters, Syrian and international, suggest an imminent danger of further escalation,” Pedersen said in a video briefing from Geneva.

‘Spare no effort’

The United States, United Kingdom, Germany and others stressed that three-way talks with Syria supporters Russia and Iran and opposition backer Turkey, which led to a de-escalation zone in Idlib, aren’t working.

German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen said that since the so-called Astana formula isn’t working, it’s now time for the UN to step in and “it’s time also for the secretary-general also to step up to the plate.”

“We have an immense responsibility that we face here as the United Nations, as the Security Council, to stop what is happening,” he said. “We must spare no effort.”

Heusgen also urged Russia to stop supporting Syria.

“If you tell the Syrians that there is no longer military support to the Syrian regime, they will have to stop the onslaught on their own population,” he said.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia responded: “We will not stop supporting the legitimate government of Syria, which is conducting a legitimate fight against international terrorism.”

He defended the Astana process as playing “the key role,” saying that “there’s no other mechanism for a political dialogue.”

Nebenzia supported Pedersen’s efforts to get agreement from Syria’s government and opposition on an agenda so a constitutional committee can start discussing a new charter for the country, which is seen by many as a first step toward elections and formation of a new government.

“What needs to stop is protection of fighters, insurgents,” he said.

Britain’s ambassador, Karen Pierce, said Russia and Syria need to stop “indiscriminate and inhumane attacks” in the northwest that are killing and injuring innocent civilians.

During closed consultations after the open meeting, French Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere said he proposed that the Security Council issue a statement on the escalating situation, but Russia blocked it.

According to council diplomats, the proposed statement called for a cessation of hostilities in northwestern Syria, but Russia insisted on an additional line that would have allowed the fight against “terrorists” to continue. That was unacceptable to the vast majority of council members, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the consultations were private.

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UN Human Rights Council votes to probe Philippines drug war deaths

The UN Human Rights Council voted on Thursday to set up an investigation into mass killings during Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called war on drugs, a step activists said was long overdue.

Duterte’s government says police have killed about 6,600 people in shootouts with suspected drug dealers since he was elected in 2016 on a platform of crushing crime. Activists say the death toll is at least 27,000.

The first resolution on the Philippines, led by Iceland, was adopted by a vote of 18 countries in favour and 14 against, including China. Fifteen countries abstained from the vote, including Japan.

“This is not just a step towards paying justice for the thousands of families of victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, but it is also a message that we collectively send out to those who have praised President Duterte,” said Ellecer “Budit” Carlos of the Manila-based rights group iDEFEND.

“This war on drugs, as we have repeatedly said, it’s a sham war.”

Philippine activists say tens of thousands of people are being killed as police terrorize poor communities, using cursory drug “watch lists” to identify suspected users or dealers, and executing many in the guise of sting operations.

Police deny that, saying all the killings were in self-defence.

Myca Ulpina, a three-year-old girl killed on June 29 near Manila, was among the latest and youngest known victims. Police say her father, Renato, used his daughter as a human shield.

‘Maliciously partisan’

Duterte’s spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, questioned the validity of a resolution not backed by the majority of council members, saying Filipinos overwhelmingly backed the president’s unique leadership approach.

“The resolution is grotesquely one-sided, outrageously narrow, and maliciously partisan,” Panelo said in a lengthy statement.

“It reeks of nauseating politics completely devoid of respect for the sovereignty of our country, even as it is bereft of the gruesome realities of the drug menace.”

Asked by reporters in Manila whether he would allow UN rights officials access to investigate, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said, ‘Let them state their purpose and I will review it.’ (Bullit Marquez/The Associated Press)

The delegation from the Philippines, which is among the council’s 47 members, had lobbied hard against the resolution, which asks national authorities to prevent extrajudicial killings and co-operate with UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, who is expected to report her findings in June 2020.

Philippines Ambassador Evan Garcia said the Duterte administration was committed to upholding justice, adding, “We will not tolerate any form of disrespect or acts of bad faith. There will be consequences, far-reaching consequences.”

Laila Matar of New York-based Human Rights Watch criticized his comments.

“It was quite clear that they threatened consequences for those who had supported the resolution, which in turn makes us concerned for the many human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists on the ground,” she told the briefing.

Duterte, asked by reporters in Manila whether he would allow UN rights officials access to investigate, said, “Let them state their purpose and I will review it.”

If Duterte allows the investigation and it proceeds impartially, Panelo said, “We are certain its result will only lead to the humiliation of the investigators, as well as of Iceland and the 17 other nations.”

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Sudan military council, opposition reach power-sharing agreement

Sudan’s ruling transitional military council and a coalition of opposition and protest groups reached an agreement to share power during a transition period leading to elections, setting off street celebrations by thousands of people.

The two sides, which have held talks in the capital, Khartoum, for the past two days, agreed to “establish a council of sovereignty by rotation between the military and civilians for a period of three years or slightly more,” African Union mediator Mohamed Hassan Lebatt said at a news conference.

They also agreed to form an independent technocratic government and to launch a transparent, independent investigation into violent events that took place in recent weeks.

The two sides agreed to postpone the establishment of a legislative council. They had previously agreed that the Forces for Freedom and Change coalition would take two-thirds of a legislative council’s seats before talks collapsed and security forces crushed a sit-in protest on June 3, killing dozens.

The streets of Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city across the Nile River, erupted in celebration when the news broke, a Reuters witness said. Thousands of people of all ages took to the streets, chanting “Civilian! Civilian! Civilian!”

Young men banged drums, people honked car horns, and women carrying Sudanese flags cheered in jubilation.

“This agreement opens the way for the formation of the institutions of the transitional authority, and we hope that this is the beginning of a new era,” said Omar al-Degair, a leader of the coalition.

The head of Sudan’s transitional military council, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, described the agreement as “comprehensive,” adding that it “does not exclude anyone.”

“We thank the African and Ethiopian mediators for their efforts and patience. We also thank our brothers in the Forces for Freedom and Change for the good spirit,” said Dagalo, who heads the Rapid Support Forces accused by the coalition of crushing the sit-in.

Opposition medics say more than 100 people were killed in the dispersal and subsequent violence. The government put the death toll at 62.

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Advisory council to release final report on Canadian pharmacare plan

The Liberal government’s advisory council on national pharmacare will release its final report today, setting the stage for an election campaign debate over prescription drug coverage in Canada.

Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s former health minister and chair of the advisory council, will release recommendations at a news conference in Ottawa starting at 11 a.m. ET. CBCNews.ca will carry it live.   

In March, the council’s interim report recommended creating a new national arm’s-length agency to manage prescription medications, including negotiating prices and creating a formulary of approved, covered drugs.

It’s not clear what shape a proposed national pharmacare program might take under the Liberals.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said last February a new national program would be “fiscally responsible” and designed to fill in gaps, not provide prescription drugs for Canadians already covered by existing plans.

Speaking at the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa after the budget was released, Morneau said there’s a bulk of Canadians, including those who are self-employed, who don’t have drug coverage. Some parts of the system are working well, but others are not, he said.

“We need a strategy to deal with the fact not everyone has access, and we need to do it in a way that’s responsible, that deals with the gaps, but doesn’t throw out the system that we currently have.”

The NDP has said if it wins the October federal election, it will bring in a universal and comprehensive national pharmacare program in 2020. 

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says his plan would cover every Canadian and save families an average of $ 500 a year. It would also save $ 4.2 billion a year in lower drug costs, he said.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer released a report in 2017 forecasting a similar savings estimate.

Eric Hoskins, chair of the advisory council on national pharmacare, and vice-chair Vincent Dumez release final report and recommendations to federal government 0:00

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Sudan’s defence minister says President al-Bashir arrested, military council takes over

Sudan’s military has detained President Omar al-Bashir, 75, “in a safe place,” the country’s defence minister announced Thursday on state TV.

Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf, appearing in military fatigues, said a military council will take charge of running the country for a two-year transitional period. He also announced that the constitution has been suspended, borders and airspace had been closed and a three-month state of emergency has been imposed.

Ibn Auf said after the two-year transitional period, “free and fair elections” will take place. He also said the government and the presidency have been dissolved, and imposed a night curfew.

Pan-Arab TV networks aired footage of masses heading toward the presidential palace in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, waving the national flag, chanting and clapping.

Al-Bashir, the president for 30 years who is a pariah in many countries, is also wanted by the international war crimes tribunal for atrocities in Darfur.

Eyewitnesses in Khartoum said the military had been deployed at key sites in the city to secure several installations since the morning hours.

Armoured vehicles and tanks are parked in the streets and near bridges over the Nile River, they said, as well as in the vicinity of the military headquarters, where thousands were anxiously awaiting the army statement. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals.

Protest organizers reject statement

The main organizer of protests against al-Bashir rejected the defence minister’s statement, a senior source from the group said Thursday.

The Sudanese Professionals Association also called on protesters to maintain a sit-in outside the Defence Ministry that started on Saturday, the source said.

Demonstrators attend a protest rally demanding Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir step down outside the Defence Ministry in Khartoum on Thursday. (Reuters)

Sudanese activists behind months-long protests against al-Bashir said hundreds who were detained over the demonstrations have already been freed.

Thousands of protesters, including women carrying their children, were making their way toward the military headquarters, clapping and ululating, many flashing “V” for victory. There were also unconfirmed reports that the airport in the Sudanese capital had been closed.

Ahead of Thursday’s statement on state TV, Sudanese radio played military marches and patriotic music. State TV ceased regular broadcasts, with only the brief announcement saying that there will be an “important statement from the armed forces after a while, wait for it.”

Months of protests

The development followed deadly clashes between Sudanese security forces and protesters holding a large anti-government sit-in outside the military’s headquarters in Khartoum, which also include a presidential residence. There were several attempts to break up the sit-in, leaving 22 dead since Saturday.

The months of protests have plunged Sudan into its worst crisis in years. The demonstrations initially erupted last December with rallies against a spiralling economy, but quickly escalated into calls for an end to embattled al-Bashir’s rule.

The Sudanese president addressed parliament in the capital Khartoum on April 1. It was his first such speech since he imposed a state of emergency across the country in February. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images)

Security forces have responded to the protest movement with a fierce crackdown, killing dozens. Al-Bashir banned unauthorized public gatherings and granted sweeping powers to the police since imposing a state of emergency last month. Security forces have used tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition and batons against demonstrators

The protests gained momentum last week after Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power for 20 years, resigned in response to weeks of similar protests.

On Saturday, marches in Khartoum marked the 34th anniversary of the overthrow of former President Jaafar al-Nimeiri in a bloodless coup. It was one of the largest turnouts in the current wave of unrest.

The military removed al-Nimeiri after a popular uprising in 1985. It quickly handed over power to an elected government. The dysfunctional administration lasted only a few years until al-Bashir — a career army officer — allied with Islamist hardliners and toppled it in a coup in 1989.

Since the current protests began Dec. 19, the military has stated its support for the country’s “leadership” and pledged to protect the people’s “achievements” — without mentioning al-Bashir by name.

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FIFA Council approves exploring expanded World Cup field for Qatar 2022

The FIFA Council on Friday approved working with Qatar to explore expanding the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams by adding at least one more country in the Persian Gulf to host matches.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino wants to enlarge the tournament from 32 to 48 teams, which a FIFA feasibility study said would require at least one additional country to be used among five nations identified as possibilities.

FIFA will work with Qatar to produce a proposal for consideration in June when the council and congress meet in Paris ahead of the Women's World Cup. FIFA decided in January 2017 that the 2026 World Cup will be 48 teams when it is co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The Associated Press on Monday revealed details of a FIFA feasibility study that said Qatar would not be forced to share games with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates unless those countries restore diplomatic and travel ties with Doha.

Because of their neutrality in the situation, Kuwait and Oman are indicated to be the current possible options to host games in 2022, but their stadium infrastructure is only briefly assessed in a FIFA report.

Club World Cup

The FIFA Council agreed to introduce a pilot tournament of an enlarged 24-team Club World Cup in 2021 despite European opposition.

"We hope all the greatest teams will participate," Infantino said. "The best teams should have this world platform. … We will continue our discussions."

A quadrennial version would launch in June-July 2021 to replace the current Club World Cup, a seven-team event played each December.

Ahead of the meeting, the European Club Association wrote to FIFA saying none of its teams would participate in 2021. The ECA had no immediate comment after the decision.

The letter, viewed by the AP, was signed by top executives from 14 leading European clubs, including ECA head Andrea Agnelli of Juventus.

The ECA executive board letter said it was "against any potential approval of a revised CWC at this point in time and confirm that no ECA Clubs would take part to such competition."

They urged FIFA "to postpone any decision relating to the CWC until such moment when the legitimate concerns and interests of the European Clubs have been properly addressed."

Those concerns centre on not wanting FIFA to add new competitions until there is an agreement on a new international match calendar from 2024.

The ECA represents 232 clubs in Europe.

"We have to take care of the footballers," Barcelona President Josep Bartomeu told the AP ahead of council meeting. "We have to take care about the way of training and the vacation they need to recover every season that they do. If the calendar is not modified, of course we cannot agree."


The Club World Cup fills the slot previously reserved for the Confederations Cup, which had served as a test event in a host nation a year before the World Cup.

In 2021, FIFA envisages the window for international matches — likely to include 2022 World Cup qualifiers — from May 31 to June 8. The Club World Cup would be held from June 17 to July 4, while the African Cup of Nations and CONCACAF Gold Cup could be played from July 5-31. European club seasons typically start around mid-August.

According to a FIFA document seen by the AP, South America would have six slots in the first edition. Three each would go to teams from Africa, Asia and CONCACAF, which represents North and Central America and the Caribbean. Oceania would get one. The confederations would decide their own qualification process. Winners of the eight three-team groups would advance to the quarterfinals. Teams would play two to five matches over a maximum of 18 days.

Women's World Cup

Video review has been approved for the Women's World Cup, which runs from June 7 to July 7.

VAR made its World Cup debut at the men's tournament in Russia last year. Video assistant referees likely will include men helping advise all-female teams of referees and assistants. No domestic women's competition uses video review.

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Pharmacare advisory council calls for national drug agency, but no guidance yet on universal coverage

Canada should create a new national arm's-length agency to manage prescription medications, including negotiating prices and creating a formulary of approved, covered drugs, says an interim report from the Liberal government's advisory council on the implementation of national pharmacare. 

Dr. Eric Hoskins, former Ontario health minister and chair of the advisory council, formally presented the eight-page report on Wednesday morning in Toronto, alongside federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor and Finance Minister Bill Morneau.   

"The current system of prescription drug coverage in Canada is inadequate, unsustainable and leaves too many Canadians behind," Hoskins said. "Simply maintaining the status quo is not an option."

The interim report findings, he said, are based on "many months" of research and "eye-opening" consultations his seven-member council has held with stakeholders across the country, including patients, employers, organized labour, the insurance sector, pharmacists, governments, Indigenous leaders and academics.

Hoskins said the council, which was formed in June 2018 to advise the federal government on how to implement national pharmacare, has also received more than 150 written submissions and 15,000 online questionnaire responses.

"There's one sort of absolutely consistent point among everyone that we've engaged … that too many people are falling through the cracks … when you think of the uninsured and the underinsured," he said. 

Canadians are currently covered by a patchwork of public and private drug plans, but an estimated 20 per cent (as many as 7.5 million people) report they pay out of pocket for their prescriptions. 

Dr Eric Hoskins, who is leading the federal government's study on pharmacare, says that the main thing they've learned so far is that too many people are unable to afford their medications, and that the current system is inadequate. 1:40

Hoskins also said many Canadians are concerned about coverage for prescription drugs for rare diseases, which are often extremely costly.  

Petitpas Taylor said every year more than one million Canadians give up "basic necessities such as food or heat to afford the medication that they so need."

Pharmacare is a "missing piece" in Canada's universal health-care system, Petitpas Taylor said, referring to an idea in which "we ask for your health card and not your credit card" when patients buy drugs. 

Morneau also called pharmacare a "critical piece of the Canadian health-care system … that we know we need to get right for Canadians."

The finance minister said the costs of pharmaceuticals in Canada is "staggering" — pegging the "collective" price paid across the country at $ 34 billion in 2018. 

But the interim report did not provide guidance on how the federal government should ensure that all Canadians have access to prescription drug coverage — notably whether it should adopt a universal, single-payer pharmacare plan, or whether it would simply fill the gaps for those who don't have coverage under other insurance plans.

The council's final report is expected in June.  

Morneau also would not say whether pharmacare would figure into his upcoming federal budget on March 19. 

There was also no mention in the interim report of how much money would be needed to set up the national drug agency the council is recommending.   

That agency "would act as a steward of national pharmacare and provide guidance and advice to governments," the report said.

"Even in the absence of national pharmacare, we discovered that there would be significant benefit to consolidating many of the prescription drug-related functions currently being undertaken at various levels of government and in different entities," it said. 

That agency would negotiate prices with drug manufacturers. Advocates for pharmacare have long said that consolidating Canada's buying power would result in better prices.

The development of a national formulary — a list of prescription drugs that would be covered across the country — would be another "key responsibility" of the agency, and medications would be evaluated by experts based on clinical evidence and value for money. 

"Special consideration" would be given to drugs for rare diseases, the report said.  

A deflection from scandal?

The fact the interim report did not answer some key questions and was released on Wednesday — about an hour before Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's former top aide, began his testimony before the House of Commons justice committee to deny allegations he had inappropriately pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould in the SNC-Lavalin affair — prompted questions about whether it was presented to deflect media attention from the scandal. 

Both ministers, as well as Hoskins, denied that was the case. 

"We had planned this news conference a while back," said Petitpas Taylor. "The past few weeks have been difficult, but we also have to recognize that as a party, as a governing party, we must continue to govern in this country."

"Pharmacare is a priority for Canadians," she said.

Hoskins also said the release of the interim report had been planned in advance and that although people were "anxious to see the final report," the recommendations presented in Wednesday's announcement were "important." 

Morneau echoed those responses, saying "this is a critically important step" for finding the right approach to pharmacare. 

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Calgary city council to weigh fluoride study

If at first you don't succeed, Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart says — try, try again.

In 2016, the veteran Calgary city councillor failed to convince her colleagues to take a look at the impacts of the city's decision to stop water fluoridation.

During Monday's council meeting, she will bring forward the exact same motion to see if her colleagues want to revisit the fluoride issue.

Officials at the University of Calgary's O'Brien Institute for Public Health are willing to voluntarily do an assessment on the impacts of ceasing fluoridation.

Colley-Urquhart is tamping down any pro- or anti-fluoride expectations even before this debate is held.

"Before people start putting their hair on fire and me getting all kinds of emails from all around the world that this is bad idea, we are just going to try to see if council will support getting the research done," said Colley-Urquhart.

Polarizing issue

In 2011, the city stopping fluoridating its drinking water.

Those who support fluoridation say it can help prevent tooth decay, especially among children, the elderly and low-income people.

Opponents of fluoridation question the safety of adding it to drinking water and suggest that people should have a choice whether they're exposed to it.

There's no doubt where Colley-Urquhart stands on the issue.

"There's more and more evidence now that perhaps we have caused harm, especially to children, by removing fluoride from the city's drinking water supply," she said.

She wants her colleagues to put what she calls their "personal bias" aside and be willing to read scientific evidence before deciding whether to reopen the fluoride debate.

"You have to have an open mind. You have to be open to persuasion. If the evidence is there, then make the best decision you can for Calgarians," she said. 

If the motion is approved, the medical experts would submit a report back to council no later than June.

Another sign fluoride debate may resume

This is the latest fluoride related matter to be explored by a council member.

Last month, Coun. Jeromy Farkas asked city administration to put together a briefing for city council on the issue. He also wants information on the potential cost of bringing back fluoridation.

When it was scrapped in 2011, adding fluoride to the city's drinking water was estimated to cost about $ 750,000 a year. 

The city was also looking at a $ 6 million upgrade of equipment at its water treatment plants for fluoridation.

Farkas said he wasn't happy that after Calgarians voted in favour of fluoridation in two past plebiscites that council decided in 2011, without consulting voters, to stop the practice.

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