Tag Archives: meets

Pope Francis meets father of drowned Syrian boy whose death sparked global outrage

Pope Francis has met with the father of Alan Kurdi, a three-year old Syrian boy who drowned crossing the Mediterranean Sea in 2015 and whose image drew global attention to the plight of refugees fleeing to Europe.

Following a Mass on Sunday in the Iraqi city of Erbil, Francis met with Abdullah Kurdi and spent a long time with him, the Vatican said.

Through an interpreter, the Pope listened to Kurdi’s story and expressed sympathy for the loss of his family. Abdullah thanked the pontiff for his words.

The Kurdi family, who hail from Kobane in Syria, took the route of many Syrian and other migrants by sea in a small boat from Turkey heading for Greece. When their boat capsized, Alan Kurdi, one of his brothers and his mother perished.  The image of Alan’s body, washed up on Turkish shores, came to symbolize the perilous journey to Europe and drew international condemnation. The father now runs a charity in Erbil.

The Canadian government came under fire after it emerged the family had been trying to come to Canada with the help of a relative, Tima Kurdi, who lives in British Columbia.

Pontiff visits Mosul

Pope Francis was also in the Iraqi city of Mosul on Sunday, where he listened to Christian and Muslim residents recount their lives under brutal ISIS rule. Fighters of ISIS, a Sunni militant group that tried to establish a caliphate across the region, ravaged northern Iraq from 2014 to 2017, killing Christians as well as Muslims who opposed them.

Francis flew into the northern city by helicopter to encourage the healing of sectarian wounds and to pray for the dead of any religion.

The 84-year-old Pope saw ruins of houses and churches in a square that was the old town’s thriving centre before Mosul was occupied by ISIS from 2014 to 2017. He sat surrounded by skeletons of buildings, dangling concrete staircases and cratered ancient churches, most too dangerous to enter.

The Pope attends a prayer service Sunday for victims of war with the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, Najib Mikhael Moussa, left, at Hosh al-Bieaa Church Square in Mosul, Iraq. (Andrew Medichini/The Associated Press)

“Together we say no to fundamentalism. No to sectarianism and no to corruption,” the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, Najib Mikhael Moussa, told the Pope.

Francis, who is on a historic first trip by a pope to Iraq, was visibly moved by the earthquake-like devastation around him. He prayed for all of Mosul’s dead.

“How cruel it is that this country, the cradle of civilization, should have been afflicted by so barbarous a blow, with ancient places of worship destroyed and many thousands of people — Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and others — forcibly displaced or killed,” he said.

The Pope arrives to hold a minute of silence at what’s left of the centuries-old Al-Tahera (Immaculate Conception) Church near Hosh al-Bieaa Church Square in Mosul on Sunday. (Yara Nardi/Reuters)

“Today, however, we reaffirm our conviction that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace more powerful than war.”

Intense security has surrounded his trip to Iraq. Military pickup trucks mounted with machine guns escorted his motorcade, and plainclothes security men mingled in Mosul with the handles of guns emerging from black backpacks worn on their chests.

In an apparent direct reference to ISIS, Francis said hope could never be “silenced by the blood spilled by those who pervert the name of God to pursue paths of destruction.”

He then read a prayer repeating one of the main themes of his trip, that it is always wrong to hate, kill or wage war in God’s name.

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Ice meets medals: Expect Ivanie Blondin and Canada’s speed skaters to carry on history of Olympic success

For more than three decades Canadian speed skaters from across the country have made their way to the Olympic Oval in Calgary, the mecca of the sport in this country. It’s a place laced with history, prestige and legacy. 

A place that signified you’d made it in the sport in Canada, where Olympic records and gold medals rose from what many call the best ice on the planet. 

Larger than life banners hang from the ceiling, highlighting past giants who have etched themselves into Canadian speed skating lore. Cindy Klassen, Jeremy Wotherspoon, Catriona Le May Doan, Clara Hughes, Kevin Crockett and Susan Auch look down on the ice, a constant reminder of the greatness that has existed in the speed skating program. 

Now, with just one year to go until the Beijing Olympics, the current crop of Canadian speed skaters are hoping to become part of that same elite company, motivated, inspired and pushing themselves to extremes on the backs of those greats who have come before them. 

“Cindy has always been someone I’ve aspired to be. She’s always been someone I’ve looked up to in speed skating,” Ivanie Blondin told CBC Sports. “The history here.”

Blondin talks about Klassen in the most glowing ways. How could she not? Klassen skated to five medals for Canada at the 2006 Olympics — one gold, two silver and two bronze — making her one of only nine Winter Olympians worldwide, and the only Canadian in either summer or winter sport, to win five medals at a single edition of the Games. 

Blondin wants that for herself. She’s a leader on the team now, ready to carry that weight into the next Games. 

Klassen’s unforgettable performance 15 years ago fuels Blondin’s training today. The 30-year-old from Ottawa is a high-powered superstar in the sport who is targeting greatness in Beijing.

Klassen shows off her gold, two silver and two bronze medals at the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Blondin was not happy with her performance at the last Olympics, where she failed to win a medal. And so since then she’s been pushing herself harder than ever to ensure it doesn’t happen again on that big stage. 

But what happens when a pandemic hits and to make matters worse, the ice-making machinery at the Calgary Oval breaks down? That’s exactly what happened this past September. Blondin’s training place, along with the rest of the team trying to build for Beijing, shut down. 

“It’s [lousy] we didn’t have the ice in Calgary. We lost access to all our facilities,” she said. “I guess we should just be grateful this isn’t the Olympic season.”

The Olympics are coming, faster than many of the athletes want to think about.The speed skaters aren’t the only ones scrambling to continue preparations. In the early days of the pandemic, many of the winter athletes felt as though they’d escape its grip with Beijing almost two years away. That grip has tightened and the athletes are feeling the squeeze now, pressured to come up with ways just to keep training. 

After a disappointing Olympics in 2018, Blondin has emerged as a world champion, winnign gold in the women’s mass start last February. (Associated Press)

“We had no weight room. No track. Every week there was something new,” Blondin said. “The main issue was not having ice.”

So the team had to get back to their humble beginnings. 

The story of Canada’s most prolific speed skaters, including Blondin, all have similar and simple starting points — icy, sometimes bumpy, outdoor ovals in cities dotting the frozen tundra. 

Canadian Olympic speed skating heroes would battle the elements in their formative years, zipping around in skinsuits hoping to avoid getting blown over by swirling wind gusts or getting frostbite, striding counter-clockwise in an attempt to cross the line first. 

WATCH | Blondin captures gold in mass start:

The Canadian two-time world champion brought her best to Heerenven and came away with World Cup silver. 2:05

Learning how to battle the elements, be creative and persevere was as much a part of the competition when they first started as learning how to be powerful striders.

“Skating outdoors in a skinsuit in the winter, as small as I am, the wind was pushing me around,” Blondin said, recalling her early days in Ottawa. 

It wasn’t until they had mastered their sport outdoors they could take their skill and strength indoors, to the oval in Calgary, to begin their pursuit of greatness. 

Canada’s long track speed skating program is steeped in history — 37 Olympic medals tallied over the course of all the Games, more than any other Canadian winter sport program. The current team is coming off one of the program’s strongest seasons to date. With 31 World Cup medals, momentum and confidence was at an all-time high. And as they looked ahead to this year, an important year in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics, the goals for what they could achieve seemed limitless. 

I actually really, really enjoyed skating outside. It was cold sometimes but I grew up skating outside in Ottawa. It felt like home to me.– Isabelle Weidemann

Then the pandemic hit. And everything stopped. So they went back outside, taking to the outdoor oval in Red Deer, Alta. as well as Gap Lake, near Calgary, just to get some valuable ice time during the course of a seemingly incessant pandemic. 

“I actually really, really enjoyed skating outside. It was cold sometimes but I grew up skating outside in Ottawa. It felt like home to me,” Isabelle Weidemann said. “We never race outside anymore. So I can take those aspects and then come inside and in some ways it’s making it feel really easy because I’ve been doing this harder work outside.”

WATCH | Training on Gap Lake

Tyson Langelaar posted this video of Team Canada’s training session out at Alberta’s picturesque Gap Lake in late November after maintenance and COVID restrictions put a stop to ice time in Calgary. 0:24

Weidemann, 25, is hoping to make it to her second Olympics. She was one of the younger members of the team in PyeongChang, also disappointed by her performance in 2018.

“I have some unresolved goals from the last Games. I don’t feel I skated to my potential,” she said. “I want to perform at my best and show Canada what I’ve been working on. All the hard training.”

The skaters are sick and tired of training — don’t get it wrong, they understand the value of it, but it’s all they’ve had over the last number of months. Now they want to put it to test. They’re leaning on each other more than ever to get through what has been nothing short of a horrible year.

“It’s been really frustrating for me not to be skating,” Ted-Jan Bloemen said. “For me, the periods where I’m not skating, I bridge those periods knowing I will skate again.”

Nothing that resembled normalcy

But for the last number of months Bloemen and the rest of the Canadian skaters haven’t known when they might skate again. Outside of a two-week stint on the Fort St. John’s oval this past fall, there’s been nothing that’s resembled any normalcy.

“I’ve been through some really difficult times this winter. I’m doing much better now but there were dark times. And I’m not the only one,” Bloemen said. 

It’s been quite the journey for Bloemen. If there’s anyone on the Canadian team who fully understands the prestige and history of speed skating, it’s him. Bloemen was born and raised in the Netherlands, the birthplace of the sport. He’s back there right now with other members of the team, competing in a bubble in Heerenveen about 90 minutes from where he grew up, in Leiderdorp.

Ted-Jan Bloemen celebrates his gold medal in the men’s 10,000 metres at the 2018 Olympics. (Getty Images)

The deep roots of ice skating date back more than 1,000 years to the waterways of Scandinavia and the Netherlands. In those days people laced animal bones to their footwear and glided across frozen lakes and rivers. To be a prolific speed skater adorned in the traditional bright orange Dutch colours is what everyone in Holland dreams of, in the same way many young children in Canada dream of one day hoisting the Stanley Cup. 

Bloemen wanted to be one of those great skaters for his home country but was never able to break through. The pressure to make the team was suffocating. He never felt he got a fair chance in their program. 

I didn’t want to be a Dutch guy skating for another country. I’m a Canadian and I’m really proud to be representing this country.– Ted-Jan Bloemen

So in 2014, Bloemen made the biggest move of his life. His father is Canadian, born in New Brunswick, which allowed Bloemen to obtain dual citizenship, move to Calgary and start skating for a country that for years was only known as his competition.  

“I didn’t want to be a Dutch guy skating for another country. I’m a Canadian and I’m really proud to be representing this country,” he said. 

The move was the turning point he needed. Four years later, aged 31 and at his first Olympics, he skated to silver in the men’s 5,000 metres. It was Canada’s first Olympic medal in the men’s event since Willy Logan won bronze in Lake Placid in 1932.

The best, though, was yet to come. Days after that performance, Bloemen won Canada’s first gold in the men’s 10,000 metres. And he did it in an Olympic record time of 12 minutes 39.77 seconds, well ahead of his Dutch rival Sven Kramer.

“I’m just really proud and really lucky. I feel like it’s a really big honour to be the one representing Canada now and being in the spotlight and executing the race,” he said. “I’m very grateful for that. And I know I’m just a link in this great team.”

Young star Graeme Fish

With just one year to go to another Olympics, Bloemen is stressing the importance of team at more than any other time in his career. It’s taken him years to understand that despite the naturally individualistic nature of speed skating, he’s only been able to ascend to greatness because of those who are around him. 

One of the young stars pushing Bloemen is Moose Jaw, Sask., speed skater Graeme Fish. At 23 years old, he’s tracking to be one of the best male skaters this country has ever produced. 

Last February, Fish set the 10,000m world record and captured the world championship title. It’s a nearly unfathomable result considering Fish didn’t move to Calgary to take up speed skating seriously until he was 18. In four years he went from being lapped by Bloemen in that same race distance, to passing him and setting the world record. 

WATCH | Graeme Fish sets world record:

The 22-year-old becomes world champion and new record holder after skating a time of 12:33.867 in Utah. 1:13

“He destroyed me. It was unbelievable,” Fish recalled, remembering a 2017 race. “And then when Ted won in 2018 I was in awe. Now I’m training with him.”

He’s been emulating everything Bloemen has been doing on the ice ever since. And then just three short years later set the world record — a direct reflection of being able to skate with someone who was pushing him every day. 

“We all support each other and every time we step on the ice we want to beat each other. We learn from each other. I’m skating with the Olympic champion,” Fish said. 

Canada’s Graeme Fish celebrates his world record in the 10,000m at the world championships last February. (The Associated Press)

Add Jordan Belchos to this mix, and this trio of speed skating Canadians becomes scary in a hurry as they continue to push each other to the edge. 

It’s a dynamic two-time Olympic champion Catriona Le May Doan knows all about. Born and raised in Saskatoon, Le May Doan also started her career on an outdoor oval. In the early 1990s she burst onto the speed skating scene and was trending toward a medal at the 1994 Lillehammer Games. 

In the lead up to those Olympics, Le May Doan recalls how much skating partner Susan Auch pushed her. 

“We were a tight-knit team. They were all like my family. We used to spend 10 weeks at a time in Europe. We helped each other. We pushed each other,” said Le May Doan, who will serve as Canada’s chef de mission in Beijing, 20 years after winning her second career gold medal at the Salt Lake City Olympics. 

But in 1994, in her specialty race, Le May Doan fell in the 500m. Auch placed second. That silver medal was Canada’s only medal in speed skating during those Games. 

Le May Doan was not going to let that fall define her. And as a team, the Canadian speed skaters spent the next four years relentlessly training, vowing to grab more medals in Nagano. 

Catriona Le May Doan, right, won gold and Susan Auch won silver in the 500m at the 1998 Olympics. Le May Doan attributes their success to how each pushed the other in training and competition. (Canadian Press)

They lived up to their promise. The Canadians put on a memorable show during those 1998 Olympics in Japan, racking up five medals on the long track, the largest single medal haul at the Games to that point. 

Le May Doan won gold in the 500m, doing so with an Olympic record time. She also got bronze in the 1000m. Auch once again got silver in the 500m. Jeremy Wotherspoon and Kevin Overland also brought home medals for Canada. 

Everybody needs to want each other to succeed. You push each other. That’s what we had and that’s what this current team has.– Catriona Le May Doan

“The team needs to believe. You need to believe. You have to get perspective,” Le May Doan said. “Everybody needs to want each other to succeed. You push each other. That’s what we had and that’s what this current team has.”

When Canadian speed skaters have leaned into the weight of all they are collectively, they can be one of the most powerful teams on the planet.

Take for instance that historic 2006 medal haul in Italy. The Canadians skated to eight medals during those Turin Games, thanks largely to the unforgettable performance of Cindy Klassen. 

But she was pushed to that greatness because of teammates like Kristina Groves and Clara Hughes — during those same Games Hughes grabbed gold in the 5000m and Groves silver behind Klassen in the 1500m. There was a high level of competition between them and also an understanding they were making each other better. 

Kristina Groves, left, Clara Hughes, centre, and Klassen all won medals at the 2006 Olympics. (The Canadian Press)

A somewhat similar team followed up that performance with five more Olympic medals in 2010 on home soil in Vancouver. But since those two Games in which speed skaters from Canada produced 13 medals, there has been a steep decline. 

There have been just four medals between the Games in Sochi and Pyeongchang Olympics. And it was Denny Morrison and Bloemen who were responsible for them. 

Many skaters on those teams have talked about how siloed and segregated they were. Because here’s the thing about long track speed skating: there are sprinters. There are the longer distance skaters. There are obviously men’s skaters and women’s skaters. When you start to splinter these groups, things quickly become isolating. And that’s what had happened. 

“You were in groups and there were rivalries. The team didn’t mesh together. But last year, I don’t know what it was. All the groups started meshing together,” Blondin said. “The team was just like a family. It was fun to be around your teammates. We really grew last year as a team and I think that showed in the performances.”

‘Team is so crucial’

They’ve gotten back to those glory days when it was one unified group all wanting the best for one another. 

“Team is so crucial. And last season was the perfect example of that,” Blondin said. “You need your team around you to motivate you.”

This past week, in the Dutch bubble, in her first competitive race in more than 10 months, Blondin alongside Weidemann and Valérie Maltais captured gold in the team pursuit. She followed it up with a silver in the mass start event. And on Friday, the trio took gold and set a track record in the women’s team pursuit.

Even Blondin was surprised by the performance, having told CBC Sports prior to the race that no one should expect podium finishes having been away from the ice for such a long time. 

It was hard during the summer because in a way we went back to our old ways. You couldn’t train together. As soon as we got back together that all went away– Ivanie Blondin

She brought it back to the team dynamic again. 

“It was hard during the summer because in a way we went back to our old ways. You couldn’t train together,” she said. “As soon as we got back together that all went away.”

A team that was ripped apart by the pandemic. That comfort and support had been taken away from the speed skaters, spending the summer and fall months mostly training alone. 

Most of the team is all together again, cooped up in a Dutch hotel preparing for a number of World Cup and world championship races. It’s familiar. Their own speed skating bubble. 

And while they may not have the performances they’d expect under normal circumstances right now, there’s something calming and reassuring about all being in the same place at the same time together again. 

As a team, they’re trusting the process. And they know they’ll be ready when Beijing arrives — with a reminder from their most recent Olympic champion. 

“I still have that feeling,” Bloemen said. “What’s important is to make the best of what we got. And be confident we can execute at the Olympics.”

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Foreign Minister Champagne meets Belarus’s exiled opposition leader in Lithuania

As he continues a European tour, Canada’s top diplomat has met in Lithuania with the exiled opposition leader of Belarus.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne met today with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who fled her home country after an August election that Champagne has called “fraudulent.”

The U.S. and the European Union have denounced the election as neither free nor fair, and introduced sanctions against the officials they say are responsible for vote-rigging and a subsequent crackdown on protests.

Top European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have also met with Tsikhanouskaya.

This was the first visit to Lithuania by a Canadian foreign minister in 24 years.

Following the meeting in the capital, Vilnius, Champagne told the exiled opposition leader that “Canada will always be on your side.”

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Football pioneer Emmarae Dale meets her moment in history

Emmarae Dale has been part of big games her entire life. She knows what it’s like to have pregame jitters, both as a fan and as a player.

But nothing could have prepared her for the first time she stepped on the field for the first practice as a member of her hometown Saskatoon Hilltops. 

“I was at work and two hours beforehand I was so nervous. This was actually happening. My heart was racing. I was sweating. I had to tell myself to breathe. I knew I was stepping into something big,” said the 22-year-old.

She met the moment. 

On the same field on the east side of Saskatoon, not far from the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, where Dale spent hours as a young girl watching her older brothers practise for the ‘Toppers, she put on her cleats, heaved on her shoulder pads and snapped on her blue-and-gold helmet. 

In that moment, during that first practice in early September, Dale became the first woman on the roster of a Canadian Junior Football team.

WATCH | Dale credits brothers for helping pave path:

The 22-year-old from Saskatoon embraces her role model status as the first woman to play in the Canadian Junior Football League. 5:25

“I realized the responsibility of it after that first practice,” she said. “I just thought I was a kid taking that next step. But then when it started sinking in, I definitely understood I was part of something bigger than myself. It’s going to mean a lot, to a lot of people everywhere.”

Dale is getting the full Hilltops experience so far at practice — being hit and tackled with the full weight of each player. It’s exactly how she wants it. 

“I’ve taken some pretty good shots. Pretty bruised up. No one is taking it easy and they’re showing me what the league is about. That was expected. This is a challenge. A step up. You just have to persevere through it,” she said.

Head coach Tom Sargeant says the five-foot-seven, 185-pound Dale is explosive on the field. 

“She’s always stood out. We scouted her during her time with the Valkyries,” he said, referring to the Saskatoon team of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League. “I have two daughters myself. This needed to happen. I’m just lucky to be a part of it.”

She’s the perfect candidate if there ever was one. This is not a PR stunt.— Hilltop team president Chris Hangen-Braun

Chris Hangen-Braun, team president and a former player on the Hilltops, says the support in the football community for having Dale on the team has been overwhelming.

“She’s the perfect candidate if there ever was one. This is not a PR stunt,” he said. 

And more than anything, Dale knows who’s watching her every move.

“This is going to pave the way for other girls and hopefully inspire girls everywhere that sports just don’t have to be for boys,” she said.

Dale says she doesn’t mind shouldering this responsibility — she has a football family walking alongside her every step of the way. The youngest of six children, including four big brothers, Dale learned how to tackle in the family’s backyard at an early age. They all played sports, running from field to field. 

Trying to keep up with it all are a very busy and proud mom and dad, Wendy and Darren Dale.

Hilltops coach Tom Sargeant says the five-foot-seven Dale, No. 45, is explosive on the field. (@SaskHilltops/Twitter)

“We have a calendar that I started making when the kids were young,” Wendy said. 

“It’s about five feet long. Everyone’s practices and games were on there. Soccer. Hilltops. We were always trying to figure out where we could go to see our children play.”

That calendar became Darren’s lifeline in the early days. 

“The big calendar was a godsend for me balancing work and all the games. To be able to come downstairs and look at the calendar at the end of the day.”

The Dale house was humming with a competitive spirit, they say, from card games to street hockey (Emmarae always had to play goalie) and football games in the backyard that started out as touch football and ended in tackling. The Dale children were constantly trying to find an edge to stand out. 

“Emmarae was always there playing. She was always much smaller than us but she still played to compete,” Anthony, one of her brothers, said. “That’s where the edge comes from. We all hate to lose.”

Dale was good at a number of sports growing up. The youngest of six children, including four big brothers, she learned how to tackle in the family’s backyard at an early age. (Submitted by the Dale family)

That feeling is shared by another brother, Donovan.

“Brothers aren’t allowed to fight sisters,” he said, laughing. “But scrappy touch football always turned into tackle football and she was fierce.”

The two both won championships with the Hilltops. Emmarae was their biggest fan, even going on one epic cross-country train trip with her mom to watch them compete in one of the title games.

“I made Emmarae come on the train with me to Hamilton,” Wendy said. “We left on a Thursday, we arrived one hour before the game. Three-day trip. The boys won and we got back on the train and headed home. That was a special time with Emmarae.

One of Emmarae’s favourite traditions after wins was a sweaty celebration picture with her brothers towering over her. 

“They were my heroes. I idolized them. And I have countless memories of them just sitting on me. Squishing me. So when I first got hit by one of these big [offensive] linemen out here, I was like, ‘This is not an unfamiliar position to be in,'” she said. 

Dale’s brothers Anthony and Donovan also played for the Hilltops, and she says one of her fondest memories are the celebration hugs. (Submitted by the Dale family)

Looking back on it all, Dale is in awe of how her parents juggled six kids and their work and made it all seem smooth and flawless.

“Growing up you don’t realize what they do for you. I don’t know how they did it and how they got through it. I can’t thank them enough for everything they gave us. The love and support they gave us was incredible,” she said.

And now the Dale family is back for one more push at a national title for the Hilltops. Emmarae has one year of eligibility left, because of age restrictions, pushed over to next season because of the pandemic. 

When Anthony and Donovan’s careers ended they say they never thought they’d be back at the field on game day. 

Now it’s Emmarae’s turn.

“She had to come watch us. Now we get to say to our kids, ‘Let’s go watch Emmarae play football today,'” Anthony said. “It’s just so surreal to think we can even say that. Aunty Emmarae plays for the Hilltops and the kids know that’s where we played. It’s just a really special thing.”

Wendy, the football mom, says she couldn’t be happier to be back. 

“When I came to watch Emmarae’s first practice I had that sense of, I’m home again,” she said. “The coaches were calling out to me by name. We’re just so, so proud of her.”

And for Darren, the entire journey has been something he could have never imagined — overrun with emotion when he talks about it.

“Emmarae is my youngest daughter. My baby girl. And probably the last person I thought would be on the Hilltops football team,” he said. “As she always says it is surreal. It’s so humbling. I think she’s going to do us proud.” 

Standing together on a football field with her family — Emmarae says she’s unafraid of being the first and ready to challenge any naysayers who might question her ability. 

“Just watch me play and you’ll see,” she said. “It’s not a joke and not something I’m taking lightly. Come watch me.”

Dale and her family have always been involved in sports. (Don Somers/CBC)

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Proud Grandfather Meets His New Grandson Through a Window Due to Social Distancing

Proud Grandfather Meets His New Grandson Through a Window Due to Social Distancing | Entertainment Tonight

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Win and they’re in: Canada’s women’s soccer team meets Costa Rica with spot on Olympics on the line

For the Canadian women’s soccer team, only Costa Rica stands in the way of a fourth straight Olympic appearance.

Canada plays the Central American nation in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament Friday at 7 p.m. ET in Carson, Calif. The world champion United States play Mexico in the other semifinal (10 p.m. ET). 

The scenario is simple: win and you’ve punched your ticket to Tokyo. Lose and … well, let’s not dwell on that possibility. Canada, the two-time defending Olympic bronze medallists, have every intention of being one of the 12 teams in Japan this July. 

How they got here:

Canada, ranked No. 8 in the world, stomped through their group with three breezy clean-sheet victories. Along the way, they scored an eye-popping 22 goals, Canada’s highest total in a CONCACAF group stage since scoring 23 goals in 2002.  

Captain Christine Sinclair scored three of those goals, including the 185th of her legendary career to become international soccer’s all-time leading scorer  — check out her sweet new boots to commemorate the milestone.

It’s also worth noting the 36-year-old played in just two of the games in order to rest her legs for the crucial semifinal match on the horizon.  

Goal scoring was not an issue for Canada in the group stage. Nine different goal scorers featured on the scoresheets, including teenager Jordyn Huitema’s tournament-leading six, Adriana Leon’s four and Janine Beckie’s three.  

Canada has yet to face a real challenge in the tournament. While the Mexicans, ranked No. 26, had them on their toes in the opening 25 minutes of their final group-stage game, they never posed a real threat with the Canadians winning 2-0. 

If you trust history, it would appear Canada has the Olympic berth locked up. After all, Canada holds a perfect 13-0-0 record against Costa Rica. 

But sport doesn’t always follow history, something head coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller is aware of. 

“Every match has its own story, and the match we’re playing against them (in the semis) is totally different,” Heiner-Møller said after the Mexico win.  

“We know what’s at stake,” he said. “Ninety minutes, I know we’ll have butterflies in our stomachs, all of us. But that’s what we live for.”

Next up: Costa Rica, Friday, 7 pm ET

Costa Rica, ranked No. 37, finished second in their group to the Americans, winning two games over Panama (6-1) and Haiti (2-0) before falling to U.S. 6-0. 

Costa Rica has never qualified for the Olympics. They qualified for one FIFA Women’s World Cup back in 2015 when Canada hosted. They had a respectable tournament, drawing Spain 1-1 and South Korea 2-2 before losing to Brazil 1-0 and not advancing out of the group stage.

After the devastation of failing to qualify for last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, they’ve put all their energy into this tournament, hoping to play spoiler. 

Costa Rica plays a similar style to Mexico. A physical team, comfortable with the ball and willing to press and push players forward. However, they don’t come close to having the experience or the depth of the Canadian side. 

Heiner-Møller has used different systems of play over the course of the tournament, 4-3-3 and variations of the traditional 4-4-2, for example. In a winner-takes-all game, every detail counts. They know Costa Rica’s strengths — and stars — inhabit the middle of the pitch.  

Speaking of, captain Shirley Cruz has been Costa Rica’s best player for the past 15 years. The 34-year-old midfielder honed her craft battling against her seven brothers in the capital of San Jose before enjoying a 12-year career playing for the top professional clubs in France, Olympique Lyonnais and Paris Saint-Germain. She now plays domestically. She wears No. 10, often reserved for the best players and is a threat anywhere on the pitch. Check out this goal from earlier in the tournament:

Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez has three goals so far in the tournament. She’s the only member of the Costa Rican team playing in the NWSL. The midfielder was dealt to the Portland Thorns (Sinclair’s pro team) in January from Sky Blue FC. She’s been a fixture on the international scene since she was a teenager and is a former winner of the Mac Hermann Trophy, awarded to the top female player in the NCAA. 

Other notable players include midfielder Katherine Alvarado (Espanyol, Spain) and striker Melissa Herrera (Reims, France).

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Royal Family meets for crisis talks at Sandringham

Queen Elizabeth is set to hold face-to-face talks Monday with Prince Harry for the first time since he and his wife, Meghan, unveiled their controversial plan to walk away from royal roles — holding a dramatic family summit meant to chart a future course for the couple.

The meeting reflects the Queen’s desire to contain the fallout from Harry and Meghan’s decision to “step back” as senior royals, work to become financially independent, and split their time between Britain and North America. The couple, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, made the announcement Wednesday without telling the Queen or other senior royals first.

Before the extraordinary session, Princes William and Harry took the equally unusual step of issuing a statement challenging the accuracy of a newspaper report that there was a severe strain on the relationship between the brothers.

“For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful,” the statement said.

The meeting at the monarch’s private Sandringham estate in eastern England will include William as well as the brothers’ father, Prince Charles. It comes after days of intense news coverage in which supporters of the Royal Family’s feuding factions used the British media to paint conflicting pictures of who was to blame for the rift.

William is expected to travel to Sandringham from London and Harry from his home in Windsor, west of the British capital. Charles has flown back from the Gulf nation of Oman, where he attended a condolence ceremony Sunday following the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

Meghan, who is in Canada with the couple’s baby son Archie, is likely to join the meeting by phone.

Prince Harry arrives with his best man, Prince William, ahead of Harry and Meghan’s wedding. The pair issued a rare statement Monday denouncing reporting about the state of their relationship. (Ben Stansall/Reuters)

Buckingham Palace said “a range of possibilities” would be discussed, but the Queen was determined to resolve the situation within “days, not weeks.” The goal was to agree on next steps at Monday’s gathering, which follows days of talks among royal courtiers and officials from the U.K. and Canada. Buckingham Palace stressed, however, that “any decision will take time to be implemented.”

One of the more fraught questions that needs to be worked out is precisely what it means for a royal to be financially independent and what activities can be undertaken to make money. Other royals who have ventured into the world of commerce have found it complicated.

Prince Andrew, for example, has faced heated questions about his relationship with the late convicted sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew, the Queen’s second son, has relinquished royal duties and patronages after being accused by a woman who says she was an Epstein trafficking victim who slept with the prince.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex also face questions on paying for taxpayer-funded security. Home Secretary Priti Patel refused to comment, but said safety was a priority.

“I’m not going to provide any detailed information on the security arrangements for either them or any members of the royal family or for any protected individuals — that’s thoroughly inappropriate for me to do so,” she told the BBC. “At this moment in time, right now, the royal family themselves need some time and space for them to work through the current issues that they’re dealing with.”

Queen Elizabeth, seen in this photo from last November, is hosting Monday’s meeting of senior royals at her Sandringham estate in England. (Tolga Akmen/Getty Images)

There have been days of discussions about the future of the monarchy following Harry and Meghan’s surprise announcement. Senior royals were said to be hurt. The couple’s friends have told British media that Harry and Meghan were being pushed aside because of the desire of the Windsors to concentrate on the core of the Royal Family and focus on those in the line of succession — Prince Charles, William and William’s son George.

Tom Bradby, a TV journalist who is close to Harry and Meghan, warned in the Sunday Times that the Royal Family badly needed a peace deal to prevent “a protracted war” that could damage the monarchy.

With much at stake, the talks could be a step toward a changed monarchy.

“This is a seismic moment in royal history and British society,” Kate Williams, a historian at the University of Reading, wrote in the Observer. “It tells historians of the future much about our society, its self-perceptions, prejudices and fears. And most of all, it should mark our realization — as we didn’t learn after Diana [Princess of Wales] — that those who marry into the Royal Family are not our dolls to attack and throw around as we please.”

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Trump’s conduct meets definition of ‘high crimes and misdemeanours’: legal experts

Four law school professors gave lessons on American history and presidential politics before the House judiciary committee Wednesday, with all but one arguing that President Donald Trump’s conduct with Ukraine meets the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanours” required in the U.S. Constitution for impeachable offences.

The judiciary committee heard from legal experts to determine whether Trump’s actions involving Ukraine, including a July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, meet the tests for impeachment and possible removal from office.

A 300-page report compiled by Democrats on the House intelligence committee laid out evidence of Trump’s efforts to seek foreign intervention in the U.S. election.

The session Wednesday with legal scholars was delving into possible impeachable offences, but the panel, led by chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, quickly revealed the sharply partisan divisions on the committee.

“President Trump welcomed foreign interference in the 2016 election,” said Nadler in his opening statement.

“He demanded it for the 2020 election. In both cases, he got caught. And in both cases, he did everything in his power to prevent the American people from learning the truth about his conduct.”

“If we do not act to hold him in check, now, President Trump will almost certainly try again to solicit interference in the [upcoming] election for his personal political gain,” he added.

WATCH: Prof. Noah Feldman explains how Trump is obstructing the hearings

Constitutional law professor Noah Feldman says U.S. President Donald Trump attempted to put himself above the law, making it an impeachable offence. 1:31

Republican witness Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said the Democrats are bringing a “slipshod impeachment” case against the president based on second-hand information. Still, Turley didn’t excuse the president’s behaviour.

He called Trump’s call with Ukraine “anything but ‘perfect,” as the president claims. “A case for impeachment could be made, but it cannot be made on this record.”

Turley said that moving ahead with impeachment would set a “dangerous precedent” for curtailing the actions of future presidents.

The remaining three witnesses, all called by Democrats, said there was a case to be made for impeachment.

Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill argued: “If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning.”

If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning.– Michael Gerhardt, witness

Harvard University law professor Noah Feldman said “the president’s conduct described by the testimony embodies the [constitution’s] framers’ concern that a sitting president would corruptly abuse the powers of office to distort the outcome of a presidential election in his favour,”

Pamela Karlan, of Stanford University law school, said Trump abused his power by demanding foreign involvement in a U.S. election.

“What has happened in the case today is something I do not think we have ever seen before: a president who has doubled down on violating his oath to faithfully execute the laws and to protect and defend the constitution,” said Karlan.

Article II, Section IV of the U.S. Constitution stipulates that the president and other officers of government “shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours.” 

White House declined to take part

Democrats leading the effort said they may look beyond Trump’s relations with Ukraine as they draw up articles of impeachment in the coming days, to include his earlier efforts to impede former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of his campaign’s relations with Russia.

A judiciary committee vote is expected next week. The full House could vote by Christmas. Then the matter would move to the Republican-controlled Senate for a trial in 2020.

“If you want to know what’s really driving this — it’s called the clock and the calendar,” said ranking Republican committee member Doug Collins, in an opening statement dismissive of the hearing.

U.S. House judiciary committee chair Jerry Nadler gives his introductory remarks at Wednesday’s hearing. (Saul Loeb/Reuters)

The White House, which declined an invitation to participate in Wednesday’s session, has stymied efforts by Democrats in various House committees to question administration officials or obtain documents. Some have appeared after being issued subpoenas, while others have defied the subpoenas, including Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

“In this situation, the full-scale obstruction of those subpoenas I think torpedoes separation of powers, and therefore your only recourse is to in a sense protect your institutional prerogatives, and that would include impeachment,” argued Gerhardt.

Possible grounds for impeachment are focused on whether Trump abused his office as he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open investigations into Trump’s political rivals, as has been alleged Trump did. At the time, Trump was withholding $ 400 million US in military aid, jeopardizing key support as Ukraine faces an aggressive Russia at its border.

The report did not render a judgment on whether Trump’s actions stemming from a July 25 phone call with Zelensky rose to the constitutional level of “high crimes and misdemeanours” warranting impeachment. That is for the full House to decide. But its findings involving Trump’s efforts to seek foreign intervention in the American election process provide the basis for a House vote on impeachment and a Senate trial carrying the penalty of removal from office.

Republicans defended the president in a 123-page rebuttal claiming Trump never intended to pressure Ukraine when he asked for a “favour” — investigations of Joe Biden, whose son served on a Ukraine energy board, and a probe of a discredited theory involving the cyberintrusions of the Democratic National Committee. They say the military aid the White House was withholding was not being used as leverage and that the aid was ultimately released.

The Democrats have countered that the aid was only released when it was apparent that Congress would investigate.

Most of the legal scholars said that it didn’t matter that the aid was eventually disbursed.

“Soliciting itself is the impeachable offence,” said Karlan.

Trump comments ‘struck a kind of horror’

Feldman agreed, drawing an analogy to President Richard Nixon not being successful in his coverup of the Watergate break-in. Nixon nonetheless had committed an impeachable offence, he said.

When reminded that Trump claimed at a July event two days before the Zelenksy call that Article 2 of the constitution gave him “the right to do whatever I want as president,” Feldman said those comments “struck a kind of horror in me.”

Even Turley agreed the president’s view was misguided.

But, Turley argued, Trump has every right to go to outside courts to rule on whether the subpoenas are valid.

Turley also said he didn’t believe the evidence against Trump is strong enough to meet the threshold of an impeachable offence. He says the president’s conduct doesn’t rise to any reasonable interpretation of crimes such as bribery, and especially not obstruction.

WATCH: Prof. Jonathan Turley explains why he doesn’t think the evidence is strong enough to impeach 

Testifying at the impeachment hearing, Prof. Jonathan Turley said the case against U.S. President Donald Trump lacks clear and convincing evidence. 2:04

Based on two months of investigation sparked by a government whistleblower’s complaint, the intelligence committee report relies heavily on testimony from current and former U.S. officials who defied White House orders not to appear.

The inquiry found Trump “solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his re-election,” House intelligence chair Adam Schiff wrote in the report’s preface.

In doing so, the president “sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security,” the report said.

Along with revelations from earlier testimony, the report included previously unreleased cellphone records raising fresh questions about Giuliani’s interactions with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget as well as the top Republican on the intelligence panel, Devin Nunes of California. Nunes declined to comment. 

Trump, who has called the impeachment inquiry “unpatriotic,” said Wednesday in London at the NATO summit that he didn’t know why Giuliani was speaking with the OMB.

Trump encouraged reporters to ask Giuliani about the calls, but claimed they are “no big deal.”

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Trudeau meets with Prince Charles ahead of date with Trump on NATO sidelines

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hit the ground running on Tuesday with a series of courtesy calls in London ahead of the NATO summit with other world leaders.

Trudeau met with Prince Charles at Clarence House, the royal residence that had been home to Queen Mother. There have been reports in Britain that the prince will be stepping up more often to assume public duties normally carried out by Queen Elizabeth, who turns 94 in the spring.

The reports come as the Royal Family tries to contain the damage from a BBC interview Prince Andrew gave over his friendship with convicted American sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. On Monday, an American woman who says she was forced to have sex with the prince when she was a teenager told her story to the BBC.

Earlier Tuesday morning, Trudeau also met with Latvian President English Levitis. The two discussed the deployment of nearly 600 Canadian troops in the Baltic State, a NATO mission meant to deter Russian aggression.

Some NATO leaders have openly questioned the future of the 70-year-old military alliance, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying it is suffering a “brain death.”

“This alliance at 70 is extremely important to Canada and to people around the world, and we’re going to continue to be dedicated to it,” said Trudeau.

Levitis was even more determined to shore up the alliance in the face of criticism.

“For Latvia, I can say the transatlantic bond — that means Europe and Canada and the U.S. — are the cornerstones of our defence politics and of our foreign politics,” he said.

“Because NATO is comprised of member states which share the same values: rule of law, democracy. And these values are to be defended. And we both, Canada and Latvia, are ready and willing to do so.”

Later Tuesday, Trudeau will sit down with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the NATO summit.

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Protesters in Hong Kong plan new demonstrations as G20 meets this week

Protesters fearing an erosion of Hong Kong’s legal autonomy blocked access to a government office building for nearly two hours Monday and plan more demonstrations to draw the attention of leaders attending the G20 summit this week.

About 100 demonstrators jammed the entryway and lobby of the Inland Revenue Tower, a skyscraper in the Wan Chai district in the city centre.

Earlier, one of the main protest groups announced a demonstration planned on Wednesday to try to draw the attention of world leaders attending the Group of 20 summit in Japan.

The leaders of the Civil Human Rights Front said they hope the world leaders meeting in Osaka will hear the protesters’ concerns over the weakening of the city’s legal autonomy by mainland China.

China says it ‘will not allow’ Hong Kong discussion

Hundreds of thousands of people have filled the streets and sidewalks in recent weeks to oppose legislation seen as increasing Beijing’s control and police treatment of the protesters. The activists spoke on Monday near the city government headquarters, where a few protesters remained though the offices in the building had reopened.

Kelvin Ho, one of the group’s several leaders, said the protest was meant to “urge the international community to give stress on Beijing that we need democracy.”

China has rejected foreign commentary over the protests and the extradition issue as interference in its internal affairs.

At a briefing in Beijing, Zhang Jun, an assistant foreign minister, said “I can tell you that for sure the G20 will not discuss the issue of Hong Kong and we will not allow the G20 to discuss the issue of Hong Kong.”

‘The central government supports these measures’

Hong Kong’s government “has taken a series of measures to safeguard fairness and justice of society and to block loopholes in the legal system. We believe what they have done is completely necessary and the central government supports these measures,” he said.

Joshua Wong, another activist who helped galvanize mass pro-democracy protests in 2014, said on Twitter that he was urging his followers to join the protest on Wednesday.

Hong Kong has been rocked by major protests for the past two weeks over legislative proposals that many view as eroding the territory’s judicial independence. (Kin Cheung/Associated Press)

Pro-democracy activists and legislators and others critical of the extradition bill have insisted they are not satisfied with apologies from the authorities over the handling of the unpopular legislation and over police moves during protests that many Hong Kong residents considered overly aggressive.

Hong Kong has a separate legal system from the rest of China under an agreement struck before Beijing took control of the former British colony in 1997. The extradition legislation would enable some suspects to be sent from Hong Kong to stand trial in mainland Chinese courts.

Protests about values, not power, activist says

The opponents’ concern is that suspects might be pursued for corrupt or political reasons and be unable to get fair trials in courts dominated by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Bonnie Leung, another leader in the Civil Human Rights Front, said the extradition bill, which has been indefinitely shelved for now, would affect not just Hong Kong residents but potentially anyone visiting the city.

“The whole world who have connection with HK would be stakeholders,” she said. “This is not about a power struggle. This is about the values that make the world a better place, such as the rule of law.”

“If you also treasure these values please speak up and do speak up before it is too late,” she said.

Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, who has apologized over the controversy but refused calls to step down, said the legislation was needed to ensure criminals would not use the territory to evade capture and to meet international standards such as rules against money laundering.

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