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FIRST READING: You thought regular inflation was bad? Try grocery inflation.


Quebec is now firing teachers for wearing hijabs

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TOP STORIES

The rubber has hit the road on Bill 21, the Quebec law banning government employment for anyone who hopes to show up to work wearing a religious head covering. An elementary school teacher in Chelsea, Que. was removed from her teaching job earlier this month because she attended school wearing a hijab , the Muslim veil meant to cover a woman’s hair. Nobody at the school or within the wider community seemed to have a problem with the headwear , but a representative with the Western Quebec School Board told the Montreal Gazette they were forced to follow provincial law .

A former Canada Space Agency engineer is facing criminal charges for allegedly using his position to secure contracts for a Chinese aerospace company . Wanping Zheng, 61, is appearing in court next month to face breach of trust charges. If this case sounds familiar, it’s because at roughly the same time the RCMP were investigating Zheng, another high-level Canadian scientific agency also had an alleged problem with its people doing unsanctioned work for an outside Chinese actor. That would be the one where researchers Xiangguo Qiu and Keding Cheng were kicked out of Canada’s National Microbiology Lab for allegedly sending unauthorized viral samples to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (the same lab later fingered as a likely source of the COVID-19 pandemic).

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Even after years of posting the worst rates of overdose deaths in Canada, B.C. has still managed to mark another new milestone in drug fatalities. B.C. posted a “record loss of life” due to drug toxicity in October, with 201 fatalities . So far in 2021, B.C. has seen 1,782 overdose deaths, well above the number of COVID-19 deaths posted in the same period.

The Global Health Security Index has just ranked Canada as one of the world’s countries most prepared to deal with the next pandemic . Before you get too excited, though, that’s also what people were saying just before we got completely sidelined by COVID-19.

ECONOMIX

We already knew inflation was going to be hovering around five per cent for quite some time, but Canadians’ dwindling purchasing power is going to be even more noticeable at the grocery store . According to Dalhousie University’s latest Canada’s Food Price Report, grocery costs are expected to rise by up to seven per cent in the coming months. For a family of four, that’s an extra $1,000 in food costs .

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We soon won’t have to listen to young Canadians complain about being unable to afford a home, because according to a new report most of them have lost all hope of ever doing so. A survey commissioned by Sotheby’s International Realty  found that more than half of people aged 18 to 28 in Toronto and Vancouver (52 and 56 per cent, respectively) had completely abandoned hope of ever owning a single-family home. It’s lower in Calgary, but not by much: 39 per cent of young Calgarians are already pretty sure single family ownership is out of reach.

CULTURE WARS

It looks like the City of Vancouver has spent years funding one of their city’s most notorious stolen goods markets . For years, Vancouver has provided funding and official sanction to the Downtown Eastside Street Market , a market officially catered towards the neighbourhood’s homeless and drug user communities. As to where the items were coming from, the position of market organizers was always that sellers had salvaged them from garbage bins. This week, a Vancouver Police investigation found that it was actually just a massive hotspot for shoplifted and stolen goods. Undercover officers “saw people openly selling drugs and stolen property – everything from power tools and electronics still in store packaging, to cosmetics, designer clothing, and sunglasses that still had anti-theft devices attached,” Vancouver Police Inspector Gary Hiar said in a statement .

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And Rex Murphy has thoughts on the Toronto District School Board threatening to censure a Jewish trustee because she called out some official materials as anti-Semitic (the board would end up agreeing about the anti-Semitic part, but recommended censure anyway). After internationally recognized scandals last month in which the TDSB banned students from talks by Nobel Laureate Nadia Murad and lawyer Marie Henein, Murphy suspects they were going for a “hat trick.”

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

China has responded to Canada’s diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics rather predictably: By once again declaring that Canada is the real genocidal human rights violator due to its treatment of Indigenous people. “To this day, systematic racism is still a problem in Canada … Canada is in no position to be a ‘teacher’ on the human rights issues or point fingers at China,” reads a recent editorial in Global Times, the main English-language mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (it also included a cartoon of Justin Trudeau giving a speech on a stage filled with skulls).

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Subtle.
Subtle. Photo by Global Times

The two Michaels were not the first Canadians to be detained in China as political prisoners, and they aren’t the last. Since 2006, Uyghur rights activist Huseyin Celil has been held by Beijing due to his resistance to Chinese assimilation efforts against fellow Uyghurs in the province of Xinjiang . In some instances, Celil’s violations were as simple as broadcasting a call to prayer through a megaphone. In an op-ed for the National Post , Taha Ghayyur, the executive director of Justice for All Canada, wrote that Celil’s case – much like the wider Uyghur genocide – has been mostly ignored by Global Affairs Canada.

Get all of these insights and more into your inbox every weekday at 6 p.m. ET by signing up for the First Reading newsletter here. 

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