Tag Archives: down

Oilers-Canadiens postponed for COVID-19, 1st all-Canadian game to be shut down

The NHL has postponed Monday night’s game in Montreal between the Canadiens and the Edmonton Oilers, making it the first contest in the all-Canadian North Division to be shut down due to COVID-19 concerns.

The league announced the postponement shortly before the scheduled 7 p.m. ET opening faceoff after Montreal forwards Joel Armia and Jesperi Kotkaniemi were placed on the league’s COVID protocol list.

The league said in a statement it will provide more information on Tuesday.

Showing up on the list doesn’t necessarily mean an individual has tested positive. Players can go into protocol for unconfirmed results if they’re deemed a close contact of a positive case or if a quarantine is required.


There was no immediate word on a makeup date for the postponed game. Messages left with both teams weren’t immediately returned.

The Oilers were looking to move into sole possession of first place in the North Division in the opener of a five-game road trip.

They are tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were idle Monday, with 42 points. Toronto has two games in hand on the Oilers.

Edmonton and Montreal are scheduled to play Wednesday at the Bell Centre and again on Friday.

The Oilers have won three straight games and are 18-7-0 in their last 25. Montreal has earned at least a point in eight of its last 10 games.

The Canadiens are five points behind Toronto with a game in hand.

There have been 38 games postponed this season because of protocol. The shortened 56-game campaign began Jan. 13.

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Flight PS752 shot down after being ‘misidentified’ as ‘hostile target,’ Iran’s final report says

Iran’s civil aviation authority says an error by the Iranian military was the cause of Ukrainian Airlines Flight PS752’s destruction in January 2020.

In its long-awaited final report on the incident, released today, Iranian safety investigators conclude that the Boeing 737-800 passenger plane was shot down by accident after being “misidentified” by an air defence unit as a “hostile target.”

All 176 passengers and crew members — including 138 people with ties to Canada — died in the crash.

“The … aircraft was misidentified by the air defence unit in the suburbs of Tehran and, consequently, two missiles were launched toward it,” the report reads. “The operation of the aircraft had not imposed any error to the air defence unit.

“The interference of military activity with civil aviation operations resulted in an accident.”

Investigators identified the immediate cause of the crash as the detonation of a warhead on the first of two surface-to-air missiles fired in close proximity to the plane. The explosion damaged the aircraft’s navigation systems and caused it to crash. The plane exploded on impact.

The report, conducted by Iran’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Board, bolsters the Iranian government’s claim that the plane was shot down as a result of human error — but it leaves unanswered many questions raised by the Canadian government and the families of the victims.

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board said it has received the final report and senior officials will respond at a press conference Thursday morning.

Iran denied shooting down the aircraft for three days after the crash. In response to mounting international pressure and evidence, Iran later admitted a unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “mistakenly” shot down the jet.

The Iranian military was on high alert at the time because of the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani by a U.S. drone strike five days earlier, and a subsequent retaliatory attack by Iran on Iraqi bases where U.S. forces were stationed.

In a video posted to Facebook, Ukraine’s foreign minister blasted the investigation as incomplete and biased.

“What we saw published today is just a cynical attempt to hide true causes of the downing of our passenger aircraft,” Dmytro Kuleba said, according to an English translation.

“This is not a report but a collection of manipulations aimed not at establishing the truth, but acquitting the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Kuleba said the investigation violated standards set out under international law and by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

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Canada and New Zealand both have hot housing markets, but only 1 has plan to cool things down

The idea that Canadian residential real estate prices are rising at an unsustainable pace is no longer just a subject for Twitter rants and COVID-era chats with family. The international media are paying attention.

The New York Times described “a soon-to-burst real estate bubble.” Reuters declared “Canada’s red-hot housing market has become a bonfire.”

But while many Canadians worry, the government of New Zealand — a country often likened to Canada for its soaring home prices — is attempting a solution by making it harder to get a mortgage. There’s little doubt Bank of Canada officials are keeping a close eye on the New Zealand experience. There are some here who say we should follow suit.

Asked directly at his most recent news conference last month whether Canada would adopt the New Zealand plan, Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem appeared dismissive, implying getting the economy back on track after the pandemic recession was more important.

Economy needs growth

“Do we need measures right now with respect to housing?” said Macklem. “Right now, the economy is weak, we’re just out of the second wave. I think we need the support — we need the growth we can get.”

Just before that news conference, Macklem had told an Alberta audience there were “early signs” of overheating in the residential property market as some people seemed to be buying based on the assumption prices would continue to rise. However, much of the pressure was also due to people looking for more space during COVID-19 lockdown measures, he said.

Monday’s latest data from the Canadian Real Estate Association will offer a fresh reading on whether the property boom is slowing.

Later today, the Bank of Canada is expected to announce it is holding interest rates steady at record lows, something critics here and in New Zealand say has helped inflame house prices, and not just in big cities. With signs the global economy is heating up, those concerns may intensify.


New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern received global kudos for trouncing the spread of COVID-19. Now, the country is trying to avoid the possibility of a property meltdown. (Praveen Menon/Reuters)

It is the fear of speculative investment in housing — based on high demand, low rates and rising prices — that has prompted action from the New Zealand government and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ), the Kiwi equivalent of the Bank of Canada.

After COVID-19, “the availability of affordable housing — that was the No. 2 issue identified as being most important,” national pollster Emanuel Kalafatelis told Radio New Zealand last weekend.

But, for the central bank, a more important concern is the effect on the entire economy if house prices are allowed to continue to soar only to come crashing down once interest rates begin to rise.

“We are now concerned about the risk a sharp correction in the housing market poses for financial stability,” RBNZ deputy governor Geoff Bascand said last month. “There is evidence of a speculative dynamic emerging with many buyers becoming highly leveraged.”

Fear of property ‘fire sales’

In an attempt to prevent a speculative bubble from growing, the RBNZ raised the minimum required for mortgage down payments on March 1, and will raise them again on May 1, including even stricter borrowing requirements for investors.

“A growing number of highly indebted borrowers, especially investors, are now financially vulnerable to house price corrections and disruptions to their ability to service the debt,” said Bascand, who is also in charge of financial stability at the central bank. “Highly leveraged property owners, in particular investors, are more prone to rapid ‘fire sales’ that potentially amplify any downturn.”

As of May, most buyers who plan to live in their home will be required to provide a down payment of 20 per cent. Investors will need to put down 40 per cent.

WATCH | Rising demand for single-family homes during pandemic: 

New numbers for Vancouver-area real estate highlight a trend seen in cities across Canada: an increased demand especially for single-family homes. The conditions created by the pandemic have persuaded some families to redirect their spending toward housing. 1:58

Jordan Dupuis, a New Zealander who came to Canada to complete a master’s degree in political science and stayed here to work, sees many parallels between the two countries, including prohibitive prices for young people who don’t already have a stake in the real estate market. Unlike Canada, New Zealand banned most foreigners from buying in its housing market back in 2018.

Dupuis, who lives in Toronto, said housing affordability seems to have become more of an issue in New Zealand. However, there’s a similar large “gap between average incomes and the average house price,” he said. Here in Canada, Dupuis used to own a house but sold it in favour of renting.

“The prospect for getting back into the market is very difficult right now,” he said.

No easy fix

Garth Turner, a business journalist, financial adviser and former federal cabinet minister who has long been critical of Canada’s heated housing market, says he believes this country will eventually be forced to follow New Zealand’s lead.

“We’re going to have to do something about this because the average family can no longer afford the average house, not just in Toronto and Vancouver, but in Owen Sound and Squamish and Halifax,” said Turner, author of a book and blog titled Greater Fool: The Troubled Future of Real Estate, where he warns about a potential sharp decline in real estate prices.

So far, the great property crash has not happened in Canada, but Turner says with prices and borrowing climbing ever higher, an eventual rise in rates could have the kind of effect the RBNZ is worried about in New Zealand.

“This is a ticking time bomb in Canadian society right now,” Turner said in an interview.

One of the problems with the New Zealand plan is that while it may act to calm the soaring market, higher down payments are one more barrier making it difficult for young buyers to get a home of their own.

As Jordan Dupuis observed, whether in New Zealand or in Canada, putting a lid on home prices when interest rates are so low, when everyone wants a little more space and people with money are willing to bid prices up, is not a trivial task.

“If it had an easy fix, we would have fixed it by now,” he said.

Follow Don Pittis on Twitter @don_pittis

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Myanmar official dies in custody as junta cracks down on media

An official from deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) died in custody after he was arrested early on Tuesday — the second party figure to die in detention in two days — as security forces broke up street protests against the military junta.

Police also cracked down on independent media, raiding the offices of two news outlets and detaining two journalists.

Myanmar has been in crisis since the army ousted Suu Kyi’s elected government in a coup on Feb. 1, detained her and other NLD officials, and set up a ruling junta of generals.

The NLD’s Zaw Myat Linn died in custody on Tuesday after he was arrested in Yangon around 1:30 a.m. local time, said Ba Myo Thein, a member of the dissolved upper house of parliament.

“He’s been participating continuously in the protests,” Ba Myo Thein said. The cause of death was not clear.


A protester gets Coca-Cola poured on his face in an attempt to diminish the effects of tear gas during a demonstration in Yangon. (AFP/Getty Images)

In a Facebook live broadcast before he was detained, Zaw Myat Linn urged people to continue fighting the army, “even if it costs our lives.”

“Their power must never last,” he said.

Neither the military nor the police responded to calls for comment.

Tear gas, stun grenades used to disperse protesters

Zaw Myat Linn is the second NLD official to have died in custody in the last two days. Khin Maung Latt, who had worked as a campaign manager for an NLD MP elected in 2020, died after he was arrested on Saturday night.

More than 1,900 people have been arrested across the country since the coup, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said.

Police broke up scattered demonstrations in Yangon — the former capital and still the commercial hub — and other towns across Myanmar with tear gas and stun grenades on Tuesday.


This still image from social media video shows anti-coup demonstrators in Loikaw, Myanmar, fleeing tear gas. (Mizzima Burmese/Reuters)

As night fell, soldiers fired weapons in different districts of the coastal town of Dawei, while at least two people were wounded earlier in the day, one by a gunshot, in the town of Mohnyin in the north, local media said.

Witnesses said two journalists from Kamayut, an independent media company, were arrested, while the military raided the offices of Mizzima News in Yangon.

Live footage posted to social media also showed a raid after nightfall on the offices of the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB).

A day earlier, the junta stripped Mizzima, DVB, and three other outlets of their licences. They had all been active in covering protests against the coup.

At least 35 journalists have been arrested since the Feb. 1 coup, Myanmar Now reported, of which 19 have been released.

The U.S State Department said it “strongly condemned the junta for the … violent crackdowns on those peacefully taking to the streets and on those who are just doing their jobs, including independent journalists who have been swept up.”

Daily protests against the coup are being staged across the country and security forces have cracked down harshly. More than 60 protesters have been killed and more than 1,800 detained, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), an advocacy group, has said.

Ambassador to U.K. recalled

International powers have condemned the takeover, which derailed a slow transition to democracy in a country that has been ruled by the military for long periods since independence from Britain in 1947.

The army has justified the coup by saying that a November election won by the NLD was marred by fraud — a claim rejected by the electoral commission. It has promised a new election, but has not said when that might be held.

The junta said on Tuesday it was recalling its ambassador to the United Kingdom a day after he urged them in a statement to release Suu Kyi, state media reported.


Anti-coup demonstrators in Yangon spray fire extinguishers over a barricade. (Reuters)

The MRTV news channel said Kyaw Swar Min, one of several ambassadors to publicly break from the military line, had released the statement without following orders.

The military has brushed off condemnation of its actions, as it has in past periods of army rule when outbreaks of protest were bloodily repressed.

It is also under pressure from a civil disobedience movement that has crippled government business and from strikes at banks, factories and shops that have shut much of Yangon this week.

The European Union is preparing to widen its sanctions to target army-run businesses, according to diplomats and two internal documents seen by Reuters.

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Police crack down on protesters in the streets of Myanmar after military takeover

Police in Myanmar escalated their crackdown on demonstrators against this month’s military takeover, deploying early and in force on Saturday as protesters sought to assemble in the country’s two biggest cities and elsewhere.

Security forces in some areas appeared to become more aggressive in using force and making arrests, utilizing more plainclothes officers than had previously revealed themselves. Photos posted on social media showed that residents of at least two cities, Yangon and Monywa, resisted by erecting makeshift street barricades to try to hinder the advance of the police.

Myanmar’s crisis took a dramatic turn on the international stage at a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on Friday when the country’s UN ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, declared his loyalty to the ousted civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi and called on the world to pressure the military to cede power by “any means necessary.”

State television reported Saturday that the ambassador had been fired because he had “betrayed the country and spoken for an unofficial organization which doesn’t represent the country and had abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador.”

There were arrests Saturday in Myanmar’s two biggest cities, Yangon and Mandalay, where demonstrators have been hitting the streets daily to peacefully demand the restoration of the government of Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won a landslide election victory in November. Police have increasingly been enforcing an order by the junta banning gatherings of five or more people.

Many other cities and towns have also hosted large protests against the Feb. 1 coup.


A riot police officer fires a teargas canister to disperse pro-democracy protesters taking part in a rally against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, on Saturday. (Reuters)

Police in Dawei, in the southeast, and Monywa, 135 kilometres northwest of Mandalay, used force against protesters. Both cities, with populations of less then 200,000 each, have been seeing large demonstrations.

Social media carried unconfirmed reports of a protester shot dead in Monywa. The reports could not immediately be independently confirmed but appeared credible — with both photos and identification of the victim — though later accounts said the woman had not died. The reports from Monywa also said dozens more people were arrested.

The military takeover reversed years of slow progress toward democracy after five decades of military rule. Suu Kyi’s party would have been installed for a second five-year term in office, but the army blocked parliament from convening and detained her and President Win Myint, as well as other top members of her government.

Ambassador dismissed from post

At the General Assembly in New York, Myanmar’s UN ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, declared in an emotional speech to fellow delegates that he represented Suu Kyi’s “civilian government elected by the people” and supported the fight against military rule.

He drew loud applause from many diplomats in the 193-nation global body, as well as effusive praise from other Burmese on social media, who described him as a hero. The ambassador flashed a three-finger salute that has been adopted by the civil disobedience movement at the end of his speech, in which he addressed people back home in Burmese.

UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said he was overwhelmed as he watched the ambassador’s “act of courage.”

“It’s time for the world to answer that courageous call with action,” Andrews said on Twitter.


Monks prominent at protests

In Yangon on Saturday morning, police began arrests early at the Hledan Center intersection, which has become the gathering point for protesters who then fan out to other parts of the city. Police took similar action in residential neighbourhoods.

Security forces also tried to thwart protests in Mandalay, where roadblocks were set up at several key intersections and the regular venues for rallies were flooded with police.

WATCH | Widespread strikes in Myanmar in protest of military coup:

Protests and strikes in Myanmar against the military government following a coup three weeks ago have become so widespread the regime is using soldiers to try to fill workers’ jobs. People are demanding the elected leaders, including Aung San Su Kyi, be released from detention and their democracy be restored. 2:02

Buddhist monks were prominent in Saturday’s march in Mandalay, as they have been regularly, lending moral authority to the civil disobedience movement that is challenging the military rulers.

Mandalay has been the scene of several violent confrontations and at least four of eight confirmed deaths linked to the protests, according to the independent Assistance Association of Political Prisoners. On Friday, at least three people there were injured, including two who were shot in the chest by rubber bullets and another who suffered what appeared to be a bullet wound to his leg.


In this image from video, anti-coup protesters shout at police in Yangon, Myanmar, on Saturday. Myanmar police moved to clear protesters from the streets of the country’s biggest city. (The Associated Press)

According to the association, as of Friday, 771 people had been arrested, charged or sentenced at one point in relation to the coup, and 689 were being detained or sought for arrest.

The junta said it took power because last year’s polls were marred by massive irregularities. The election commission before the military seized power had refuted the allegation of widespread fraud. The junta dismissed the old commission’s members and appointed new ones who on Friday annulled the election results.

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Thierry Henry, citing family, steps down as CF Montreal head coach

CF Montreal lost a head coach and Major League Soccer said goodbye to a marquee name with news Thursday that Thierry Henry was stepping down.

Citing family reasons, the 43-year-old former star striker said he was quitting the club after one season at the helm to return to London. Kevin Gilmore, Montreal’s president and CEO, called it a “difficult day” but said Henry was leaving on good terms.

“I’m surprised but given the circumstances it doesn’t shock me that this has happened given what he went through last year,” he told reporters.

Separation from his children plus the prospect of having to spend another season on the road due to pandemic-related travel restrictions contributed to Henry’s decision.

“Last year was very difficult on this club across the board,” said Gilmore. “But especially with those that had to spend the last four months of the season outside of Montreal. And the prospect of starting a season like that again is very difficult. And it’s taken its toll on a lot of people. Obviously it’s taken its toll on Thierry and his children.

“He made a difficult decision — although I keep saying when you make decisions based on family, they’re always good decisions — to stay in London and give up his position as the head coach of the club in order to be close to his family.”

‘Heavy heart’

The announcement comes on the eve of training camp. Players report Monday for a seven-day quarantine period, medicals and COVID-19 testing prior to the start of team training March 8. The MLS regular season kicks off April 17.

Montreal said it will take a committee approach to coaching led by assistant coach Wilfried Nancy until a successor is found. The new head coach will take charge of a roster that has been radically changed since last season with 11 players having left and eight new faces.

Henry spoke to the Montreal players and staff Thursday via video but not the media.

“It is with a heavy heart that I’ve decided to take this decision,” the French native said in a statement. “The last year has been an extremely difficult one for me personally. Due to the worldwide pandemic, I was unable to see my children.

“Unfortunately due to the ongoing restrictions and the fact that we will have to relocate to the U.S. again for several months, [this year] will be no different. The separation is too much of a strain for me and my kids. Therefore, it is with much sadness that I must take the decision to return to London and leave CF Montreal.”


Henry was hired in November 2019, succeeding interim coach Wilmer Cabrera on a two-year contract with an option for the 2022 season.

Henry has been linked to the managerial opening at England’s Bournemouth in recent days. But Montreal officials said there had been no contact with the Championship side, which recently handed the manager’s job to Jonathan Woodgate through the end of the season.

“Bournemouth was nothing more than a rumour,” Gilmore said.

Still, Montreal says it will be entitled to compensation if Henry takes a position with another club in the near future.

Gilmore said Henry was not focused on a job hunt. “Right now his sole and only focus is his children and his family.”

But Montreal sporting director Olivier Renard said he hopes Henry returns to coaching as soon as possible.

“He deserves it. I can say that I was very proud of him last year ΓǪ You could see he was in difficulty about his family, about the players. He was the leader of the team.”


Henry, seen taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, led Montreal (8-13-2) to the playoffs last season, for the first time since 2016. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Henry led Montreal (8-13-2) to the playoffs last season, for the first time since 2016. Montreal, which finished out the 2020 campaign based in Harrison, N.J., exited in the play-in round in November thanks to a 95th-minute goal by New England’s Gustavo Bou.

Gilmore said Henry flew home for the holidays, returning to Montreal the last week of January. After finishing quarantine in early February, he told the club he had to fly home to deal with some personal issues.

“His children were struggling with him having just left,” said Gilmore.

Last Thursday, Henry indicated he was leaning toward not coming back. Gilmore said while the club tried to find ways to ease his burden, Henry told them Monday he was stepping down.


“Is it perfect timing? Absolutely not. But like I said there is no deadline or prescription date on personal decisions and we fully understand where he’s coming from,” Gilmore said.

“Of course it’s a loss when you lose a person like Thierry Henry, who’s a football legend known worldwide and is associated with your club,” he added. “The thing is he’ll always be associated with this club.”

Gilmore said the team is in the process of finalizing where in the U.S. it will play home matches this season while the border restrictions continue. A return to New Jersey or Florida are possibilities.

Toronto FC is also looking at Florida, with Orlando and Tampa possible venues. Vancouver is reportedly looking at Utah.

Henry was an elite forward whose playing resume includes Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal, Barcelona, the New York Red Bulls and France. He retired in December 2014 after a 20-year career that saw him score 411 goals in 917 matches.

Henry was an academy coach at Arsenal and an assistant coach with the Belgian national team before taking charge of AS Monaco and then Montreal.

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Capitol police failed to properly lock down Congress Jan. 6: acting chief

Police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection did not properly lock down the building and were unsure of the rules for using deadly force against the rioters, according to the acting chief of the Capitol Police.

In a statement submitted for a House hearing Thursday, Yogananda Pittman provides new details about the law enforcement response to the Capitol riot and the problems that hobbled the police’s response. The statement fills in crucial new details as lawmakers begin investigating what went wrong the day of the attack.

Pittman emphasizes the heroism of officers during the “ugly battle” on Jan. 6 and states that Capitol Police had compiled an internal intelligence assessment ahead of the insurrection, when thousands of pro-Trump rioters stormed Congress as lawmakers were certifying Joe Biden’s presidential win.

That assessment, she wrote, warned that militia members, white supremacists and members of other extremist groups were likely to participate, that demonstrators would be armed and that it was possible they would come to the Capitol to try to disrupt the vote.

“Based on the assessment, the Department understood that this demonstration would be unlike the previous demonstrations held by protesters with similar ideologies in November and December 2020,” Pittman states in her prepared remarks.


Acting U.S. Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman pays respects to officer Brian Sicknick who died as a result of the Jan. 6 riot. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via The Associated Press)

Pittman to detail police department’s ‘internal challenges’ 

The department also took additional measures to beef up security because of the threat, including calling in additional officers and stepping up protection for key members of Congress.

Pittman details additional steps taken for Jan. 6 by the specialized dignitary protection unit, which protects congressional leaders. She said those agents had been assigned assault-style rifles for Jan. 6. The department also deployed “counter surveillance agents” to observe locations around Washington, including the Ellipse downtown where a rally supporting Trump was held.

Capitol Police had also intercepted radio frequencies being used by some of the more organized rioters who brought walkie-talkies to communicate with each other. Pittman says the police had been monitoring their communication.

But Pittman also says the department faced “internal challenges” as it responded to the riot. Officers didn’t properly lock down the Capitol complex, even after an order had been given over the radio to do so.

She also says officers didn’t understand when they were allowed to use deadly force, and that the less-than-lethal weapons that officers had were also not as successful as they believed they would be.

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Toronto FC set to join Raptors, Jays down south to open season

Toronto FC will open the 2021 regular season in Florida due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Tampa has been mentioned as a possible home. The MLS club also has ties to Orlando, having held training camp there in the past.

“We are preparing to open the MLS regular season in Florida, just finalizing our location,” team president Bill Manning said in a text to The Canadian Press.

“Reality is we are preparing to open in Florida as it seems unrealistic we’ll be able to host at home in April. If the government opens things up for us we would immediately pivot back to BMO [Field] but for now we’re preparing to start down south.”

The regular season is scheduled to kick off April 17.

TFC won’t be the only Toronto team in Florida. The Raptors are set to play the entire NBA season in Tampa while the Blue Jays announced this week they will play their first two homestands of the season in their spring-training home of Dunedin, just west of Tampa.

The Jays will review the situation after that, with a return to Buffalo, N.Y. (where they played most of their home games in 2020) a possible next step if coming back to Toronto remains out of the question.

TFC opened camp under the bubble Wednesday at its north Toronto training centre. The league granted TFC permission to start early to prepare for the Canadian Championship final against Hamilton’s Forge FC, a matchup whose date has yet to be announced.

The winner will advance to play Mexico’s Club Leon on April 7 in the first leg of a round-of-16 series in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, CONCACAF’s flagship club competition.

TFC played just four games at BMO Field last year, finishing out the season in East Hartford, Conn. Pandemic-related border restrictions also forced Vancouver and Montreal to move, to Portland and Harrison, N.J, respectively.

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How a 22-year-old woman helped bring down the Tokyo Olympics chief

When a 22-year-old Japanese college student launched an online campaign against the powerful Tokyo Olympics chief and the sexist remarks he made, she was not sure it would go very far.

But in less than two weeks, Momoko Nojo’s #DontBeSilent campaign organized with other activists and gathered more than 150,000 signatures, galvanizing global outrage against Yoshiro Mori, the president of Tokyo 2020.

He quit last week and has been replaced by Seiko Hashimoto, a woman who has competed in seven Olympic Games.

The hashtag was coined in response to remarks by Mori, an octogenarian former prime minister, that women talk too much. Nojo used it on Twitter and other social media platforms to gather support for a petition calling for action against him.

“Few petitions have got 150,000 signatures before. I thought it was really great. People take this personally too, not seeing this as only Mori’s problem,” said a smiling Nojo in a Zoom interview.

Her activism, born from a year studying in Denmark, is the latest example of women outside mainstream politics in Japan taking to keyboards to bring social change in the world’s third-largest economy, where gender discrimination, pay gaps and stereotyping are rampant.


Japan’s Olympic Minister, Seiko Hashimoto, right, talks with Yoshiro Mori at a meeting in December. Hashimoto has been named Mori’s replacement as president of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee. (Associated Press)

‘Good opportunity to push for gender equality in Japan’

“It made me realize that this is a good opportunity to push for gender equality in Japan,” said Nojo, a fourth-year economics student at Keio University in Tokyo.

She said her activism was motivated by questions she has often heard from male peers like, “You’re a girl, so you have to go to a high school that has pretty school uniforms, don’t you?” or “Even if you don’t have a job after graduating from college, you can be a housewife, no?”

Nojo started her nonprofit “NO YOUTH NO JAPAN” in 2019, while she was in Denmark, where she saw how the country chose Mette Frederiksen, a woman in her early forties, as prime minister.

The time in Denmark, she said, made her realize how much Japanese politics was dominated by older men.

Keiko Ikeda, a professor of education at Hokkaido University, said it was important for young, worldly people to raise their voice in Japan, where decisions tend to be made by a uniform group of like-minded people. But change will come agonizingly slowly, she said.

“If you have a homogeneous group, it’s impossibly difficult to move the compass because the people in it don’t realize it when their decision is off-centre,” Ikeda said.

Proposal dismissed as PR stunt

Nojo dismissed a proposal this week by Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party to allow more women in meetings, but only as silent observers, as a poorly-executed PR stunt.

“I’m not sure if they have the willingness to fundamentally improve the gender issue,” she said, adding that the party needed to have more women in key posts, rather than having them as observers.

In reality, Nojo’s win is only a small step in a long fight.

Japan is ranked 121st out of 153 countries on the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Index — the worst ranking among advanced countries — scoring poorly on women’s economic participation and political empowerment.

Activists and many ordinary women say drastic change is needed in the workplace, and in politics.

“In Japan, when there’s an issue related to gender equality, not many voices are heard, and even if there are some voices to improve the situation, they run out of steam and nothing changes,” Nojo said.

“I don’t want our next generation to spend their time over this issue.” 

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Myanmar generals shut down internet as thousands protest coup

Myanmar’s junta shut down the internet in the country on Saturday as thousands of people took to the streets of Yangon to denounce this week’s coup and demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

In the first such demonstration since the generals seized power on Monday, activists in the country’s largest city chanted, “Military dictator, fail, fail; Democracy, win, win” and held banners reading “Against military dictatorship.” Bystanders offered them food and water.

Many in the crowd wore red, the color of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) which won Nov. 8 elections in a landslide, a result the generals have refused to recognize claiming fraud.

The protesters largely dispersed in the afternoon, but several hundred remained sitting on the road in a standoff with police, residents said. Another group of around 100 were blocked by police from reaching the main demonstration.

As the protest swelled and activists issued calls on social media for people to join the march, the country’s internet crashed.

Monitoring group NetBlocks Internet Observatory reported a “national-scale internet blackout,” saying on Twitter that connectivity had fallen to 54 per cent of ordinary levels. Witnesses reported a shutdown of mobile data services and wifi.


Members of the crowd shouted ‘Military dictatorship should fall’ and ‘Down with dictatorship.’ (Ye Aung Thu/AFP via Getty Images)

The junta did not respond to requests for comment. It extended a social media crackdown to Twitter and Instagram after seeking to silence dissent by temporarily blocking Facebook, which counts half of the population as users.

Norwegian mobile network provider Telenor ASA said authorities had ordered all mobile operators to temporarily shut down the data network, although voice and SMS services remained open.

Many activists had sidestepped the Facebook ban by using virtual private networks to conceal their locations, but the more general internet disruption will severely limit their ability to organize and access independent news and information.


Many wore red, the colour of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which won Nov. 8 elections in a landslide, a result the generals have refused to recognize, claiming fraud. (The Associated Press)

Myanmar civil society organizations appealed to internet providers and mobile networks to resist the junta’s orders, saying in joint statement they were “essentially legitimizing the military’s authority.”

Telenor said it had stressed to the authorities that access to telecom services should be maintained. However it added it was bound by local law and its first priority was the safety of its local workers.

“We deeply regret the impact the shutdown has on the people in Myanmar,” it said in a statement.

Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for campaigns, Ming Yu Hah, said shutting down the internet amid a coup and the COVID-19 pandemic was a “heinous and reckless decision.”

International fallout

Army chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power alleging fraud, although the electoral commission says it has found no evidence of widespread irregularities in the November vote.

The junta announced a one-year state of emergency and has promised to hand over power after new elections, without giving a timeframe.

Suu Kyi, 75, has been charged with illegally importing six walkie-talkies, while ousted President Win Myint is accused of flouting coronavirus restrictions. Neither has been seen since the coup, although their lawyer said they were being held in their homes.

Sean Turnell, an Australian economic adviser to Suu Kyi, said in a message to Reuters on Saturday he was being detained.

Without naming Turnell, Australia said it had summoned the Myanmar ambassador to register “deep concern” over the arbitrary detention of Australian and other foreign nationals in Myanmar.

“In particular, we have serious concerns about an Australian who has been detained at a police station,” Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement.

Saturday’s protest is the first sign of street unrest in a country with a history of bloody military crackdowns on protesters. There were also anti-coup protests in Melbourne, Australia, and the Taiwanese capital Taipei on Saturday.

A civil disobedience movement has been building in Myanmar all week, with doctors and teachers among those refusing to work, and every night people bang pots and pans in a show of anger.


Police blocked the main roads into the city centre in Yangon. (The Associated Press)

The coup has sparked international outrage, with the United States considering sanctions against the generals and the United Nations Security Council calling for the release of all detainees.

It has also deepened tensions between the United States and China, which has close links to Myanmar’s military. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi in a phone call on Friday to condemn the coup, the State Department said.

The generals have few overseas interests that would be vulnerable to international sanctions, but the military’s extensive business investments could suffer if foreign partners leave — as Japanese drinks company Kirin Holdings said it would on Friday.

Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi spent 15 years under house arrest after leading pro-democracy protests against the long-ruling military junta in 1988.

After sharing power with a civilian government, the army began democratic reforms in 2011. That led to the election of the NLD in a landslide victory four years later.

The November election was meant to solidify a troubled democratic transition after the generals agreed to share power under a constitution guaranteeing the army a major role in government.

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