Catalan independence bid dealt new blow as Puigdemont texts caught on video
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- Catalonia's bid for independence dealt a blow by Carles Puigdemont's texts
- Halifax to "temporarily remove" a controversial statue of Edward Cornwallis from a downtown park
- Trump to keep Guantanamo Bay prison open
Catalan's fading separatist dream
The fight for Catalan independence is over. At least for now.
Carles Puigdemont, the would-be president of the breakaway Spanish region, made the frank admission is a series of texts sent to one of his former cabinet members — all of them captured by a TV camera at a political rally in Belgium.
Another referenced "the last days of republican Catalonia."
"The Moncloa [office of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy] has triumphed," wrote the separatist leader.
Although he suggested that there was a bright side, because "everyone can get out of jail."
Then yesterday, the speaker of the Catalan parliament postponed the session over fears of Spanish interference.
Some pro-independence politicians are already calling for Catalan to move on. "What's essential is that we have a government. If we have to sacrifice President Puigdemont, we'll have to sacrifice him," Joan Tardà of the Catalan Republican Left party told the newspaper La Vanguardia.
"I am a journalist and I have always understood that there are limits, such as privacy, which should never be violated," he wrote. "I am human and there are times that I also doubt. We continue!"
Still, there is irony in the unmasking of his innermost thoughts. TV cameras were at the rally for the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) party in Leuven last night because Puigdemont was scheduled to address a local "New Year's" celebration. The Catalonian has received moral and material support from the party — fellow separatists — since arriving in Belgium.
However, Puigdemont cancelled his speech at the last moment and sent Comín instead.
Owning up to history
The City of Halifax has opted to sideline a piece of its past in hopes of avoiding problems in the future.
In a 12-to-4 vote yesterday, regional councillors adopted a motion to "temporarily remove" a controversial statue of Edward Cornwallis from an eponymous downtown park.
The decision came after 90 minutes of often fractious debate in which councillors accused each other of being on the wrong side of history.
During his short tenure as Nova Scotia's governor between 1749 and 1752, Cornwallis issued a bounty for the scalps of local Mi'kmaq. The Indigenous community's longstanding concerns about his place in the province's history crystallized around the statue in recent months.
Workers began erecting scaffolding around the statue this morning, and will reportedly remove it Thursday.
Work crew has just arrived to put up scaffolding around Cornwallis statue. <a href="https://t.co/r8rSw8vVed">pic.twitter.com/r8rSw8vVed</a>—@cbc_craig
The question of what to do with outdated, inappropriate or even outright racist monuments, place names and sports mascots has become a preoccupation for many governments and municipalities — at home and abroad.
Here are just a few recent Canadian examples:
- A new campaign by African Canadians in New Brunswick to remove several place names, including Negro Point Breakwater in Saint John and Negro Head in Lorneville, that are reminders, they say, of the province's racist heritage.
- A bid by a London Ont., women's group to rename Paul Haggis park, after the locally born Hollywood screenwriter was accused of sexual assault and harassment.
- Last summer's demand from Ryerson University's Student Association to change the name of the institution and remove a statue of its founder, Egerton Ryerson, whose ideas on Indigenous education helped shaped the residential school system.
- A complaint in Regina over the naming of one of the city's main thoroughfares, Dewdney Avenue. Edgar Dewdney, a former lieutenant governor and Indian Commissioner in the then Northwest Territories, was instrumental in setting up Canada's reserve system.
Some controversies seem to be easier to resolve.
- After the publication of a 2014 biography alleging that the late Quebec filmmaker Claude Jutras had sex with boys as young as 13, his name was quickly stripped from a park, and the province's movie and TV awards.
- In 2015, Quebec's Toponymy Commission ordered names changes for 11 sites in the province that contained the N-word -- six in English and five in French.
- The renaming the Langevin Block, the Parliament Hill building that houses the Prime Minister's Office. Last summer, Justin Trudeau said it was no longer appropriate to honour Sir Hector-Louis Langevin, a Father of Confederation who is associated with Canada's reserve system.
Others have stretched on for years, with no end in sight.
Montreal continues to honour the priest/historian Lionel Groulx with a street and metro station, despite long-standing concerns about his virulent anti-semitism. The debate reached its peak 25 years ago with the publication of Mordecai Richler's screed, Oh Canada! Oh Quebec! But a 2008 attempt to rename the stop after the late jazz pianist Oscar Peterson went nowhere.
Sometimes it just comes down to business.
Earlier this month, the owner of Sir John's Public House, a downtown Kingston, Ont., pub that occupies the site of the former Prime Minister's law offices, shortened its name to remove the reference to Canada's first leader.
Paul Fortier, the proprietor, told CBC News that he made the decision following a protest by members of the group Idle No More, which drew attention to treatment of Aboriginal Canadians under Macdonald's rule.
"Unfortunately, Sir John A. Macdonald has been tarred with that brush," said Fortier. "We don't want to create a feeling of alienation to any customers."
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Guantanamo's high price
Donald Trump's decision to keep open the U.S. military's prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, shouldn't come as a surprise.
"I am asking Congress to ensure that, in the fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda, we continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists, wherever we chase them down, wherever we find them. And in many cases, for them, it will now be Guantanamo Bay," the U.S. president said during his State of the Union speech to Congress last night.
"The United States may transport additional detainees to U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay when lawful and necessary to protect the Nation," it reads, pledging to ensure that the jail's operations are "legal, safe, humane, and conducted consistent with United States and international law."
Barack Obama ordered the closure of the facility back in 2009, but was never able to deliver. And 16 years after George W. Bush created the prison as an offshore, out-of-reach-of-the-courts holding pen for terrorism suspects, 41 people remain incarcerated there.
Who that might be is an open question, since the U.S. is no longer fighting large-scale ground wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the places where it gathered most of the 779 suspects who have gone through the naval prison since its 2002 opening.
Which is technically true, but obscures the fact that Baghdadi — now the world's most wanted man — was released from Camp Bucca in Iraq in 2004 by the U.S. military, who didn't think he was enough of a threat to merit a trip to Cuba.
At present, Guantanamo Bay is costing American taxpayers $440 million a year — or $10.7 million US per prisoner.
Obama shipped out 18 suspects to Saudi Arabia and Oman in the final weeks of his presidency. Four more who have been cleared for release remain in indefinite custody.
Quote of the moment
- Wikie, a 14-year-old killer whale who was born in captivity at a Marineland Aquarium, in Antibes, France, and has learned to imitate some human words. A paper, published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B Journal, says the sounds are clear enough that multiple people have been able to decipher their meaning in blind tests.
What The National is reading
- Parents of Quebec mosque gunman break their silence (CBC)
- Australian government sells two filing cabinets filled with top secret docs (ABC)
- U.K. capital hits annual air pollution 'limit' in just one month (Sky News)
- Skier Erik Guay to miss Olympics due to ruptured disc (CBC)
- Super Bowl fights super flu (Fox News)
- Sur la glace avec Crosby (La Presse)
- Older man befuddled, regrets error (Globe and Mail)
- An oral history of the world's worst song; Toto's Africa (Guardian)
Today in history
Jan. 31, 1960: CBC monopolizes Canada's intellectuals, debates dirty jokes
An exceptionally tweedy half-hour of CBC TV's Fighting Words pits not one, but two Canadian poets — Irving Layton and Miriam Waddington — against plummy author Douglas Grant and political analyst Anne Francis. Come for the discussion of ivory towers and Canadian intellectualism, but stay for the frank talk about ribaldry. "You laugh at the animal side," Grant proclaims. "Your body does produce certain antics which, viewed coldly, are amusing."
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