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After months of escalating concerns, Canada is temporarily withdrawing non-essential staff from its embassy in Haiti in response to gang-related violence in the country and a severe fuel shortage.

In a statement, Global Affairs Canada said the security situation in the country is “rapidly deteriorating.” Haiti’s government and police are struggling to control gangs that have blocked fuel distribution terminals for several weeks.

“As a result, Global Affairs Canada is temporarily withdrawing non-essential Canadian employees as well as family members of Canadian embassy staff from Haiti,” the department said.

Global Affairs Canada said that the embassy, located in Port-au-Prince, remains open. But all Canadians are being told to avoid non-essential travel to the country.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. Kristy Kirkup is pitching in today. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

CANADA’S FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER MEETS IN D.C. WITH U.S. COUNTERPART BLINKEN - Mélanie Joly is meeting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in her first stateside visit as the new foreign affairs minister for Canada. The meeting is taking place one week before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to sit down with President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at the White House.

CLIMATE TALKS SOFTEN STANCE ON FOSSIL FUEL PHASEOUT - Negotiators at the United Nations climate talks in Glasgow appeared to be backing away from a call to end all use of coal and phase out fossil fuel subsidies completely. The latest draft proposals from the meeting’s chair, released Friday, call on countries to accelerate “the phaseout of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.”

ENVIRONMENT MINISTER CALLS FOR FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES TO BE ELIMINATED - Canada’s environment minister said that he thinks fossil fuel subsidies should be eliminated, as UN negotiators wrestle over a final text in the closing hours of the Glasgow climate talks. Steven Guilbeault believes that the subsidies should be phased out according to a timeline.

TOP COURT AFFIRMS ‘STARTING-POINT’ APPROACH TO CRIMINAL SENTENCING - The Supreme Court of Canada says it is appropriate for appeal courts to set starting-point benchmarks for sentencing offenders in criminal cases. The high court ruling came Friday in the cases of two men who received stiff penalties when Alberta’s Court of Appeal ruled that convictions for wholesale fentanyl trafficking should carry a prison sentence of at least nine years.

LATEST COVID-19 PROJECTIONS IN ONTARIO SHOW INTENSIVE CARE OCCUPANCY LIKELY TO GO UP BEFORE END OF 2021 - Ontario’s Science Advisory table says that COVID-19 cases are rising in most of the province’s public health units and test positivity is also going up. The advisory table also says the recent pause on the province’s reopening plan was the right decision.

THIS AND THAT

BRIAN PLATT MOVES TO BLOOMBERG - Brian Platt, a reporter for the National Post, announced on Twitter that he will be joining the Ottawa bureau of Bloomberg later this month to report on Canadian politics.

POLITICAL BOOKS - A Q&A with Geoffrey Stevens, co-author, with the late Flora MacDonald, of the new book Flora! A Woman in a Man’s World.

Decades before gender-balanced cabinets, there was Flora MacDonald, the only woman in Prime Minister Joe Clark’s cabinet. Ms. MacDonald was foreign affairs minister – the first woman to hold that post. (She was still in the role when Canada helped rescue six Americans in Iran, as dramatized in the Oscar-winning film Argo.)

Her time in foreign affairs was just one key point in a political career that also included running for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party and serving in Brian Mulroney’s cabinet. Former Globe and Mail managing editor Geoffrey Stevens covers it all in the new book Flora! A Woman in a Man’s World, which he assembled, in Ms. MacDonald’s voice, from interviews with her. The book, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press, was two-thirds done when she died in 2015.

Q: What is the most important thing for younger people who may not have been around for Ms. MacDonald’s run in politics to know about her?

A: A pre-feminist, she inspired a generation of Canadian women to realize that they were as good as men – that they had the ability, as well as the right, to compete on equal terms with men in all walks of life. Flora opened doors, set examples, and broke through glass ceilings at every turn in her career. She was the first woman to run the headquarters of a national political party; the first female student admitted to the all-male National Defence College in Kingston; the only woman in a Tory caucus with 101 men when she was elected to Parliament in 1972; the first woman to run for leader of either of Canada’s major parties; the first female foreign minister in Canadian history; and, as far as is known, the oldest woman to have attempted to climb Mount Everest when she made her attempt. She was 68, and she tried to do it without oxygen.

Q: Why did you commit to working on this book, and what kept you committed to the book over so many years?

A: As a journalist, I had covered Flora for years. I was convinced that her life’s journey was an important and fascinating chapter in the political history of the era. It needed to be told. Flora was not an introspective person, not the sort to muse about her achievements or failures. She was a doer, not a thinker. She was reluctant to do a book. She said she was too busy. She thought no one would be interested. I had to talk her into it. Having done that, I felt committed to seeing it through.

Q: What was the most challenging thing about completing the final third of this book, given that the subject was deceased?

A: The final third covers her four years in Brian Mulroney’s cabinet and the 20 years, post-politics, that she spent as a volunteer doing humanitarian work in Africa, India, Tibet and, latterly, Afghanistan. We had talked about some of these things early on in our interview process, but I really had no sense of the scope, or of the details of her humanitarian work. The challenge was to reconstruct that period. I went back to the interview tapes and to copies of Flora’s letters, memos and speeches from her own records and the archives in Ottawa. Then I sought out people who had traveled and shared experiences with her in those years. I asked them to tell me, as exactly as they could, what Flora had said on various occasions.

Q: What do you think was Ms. MacDonald’s most notable professional accomplishment?

A: Three things. First, her leadership as foreign minister in initiating the exceptional program to bring tens of thousands of “boat people” to Canada following the Vietnam War and successfully resettling them with Canadian families. Second, also as foreign minister, the “Canadian Caper.” She worked with the CIA to “extract” six American diplomats from Tehran, where Canadian diplomats had been hiding them in the wake of the 1979 revolution in Iran. Third, as minister of employment and immigration, the introduction in 1985 of the landmark Employment Equity Act to eliminate systemic workplace discrimination against women, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, and visible minorities in federal departments and federally regulated businesses.

Q: What might Ms. MacDonald have made of the current state of gender equity in federal politics?

A: She would have said it is a long-overdue beginning, with miles to go before she could sleep.

Q: What was Ms. MacDonald like?

A: She was warm, enthusiastic, ethical, a workaholic who was wholly committed to the causes she embraced. She viewed her world of issues, people and politics in black and white – yes or no, with her or against her. Most politicians see the political landscape in shades of grey. Not Flora. Grey was not her colour, not in life or in politics. She was an idealist, not a compromiser. She could be a pain to deal with, but she inspired lifelong loyalty among people who shared her dedication – “Flora Fanatics,” as they called themselves. They said they loved her.

PRIME MINISTER'S DAY

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is conducting private meetings on Friday. He participated virtually in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit in the morning and met with the Premier of Prince Edward Island, Dennis King.

LEADERS

The Conservatives, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois did not release public itineraries for their leaders for Friday.

OPINION

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on the ‘unreal spectacle’ of COP26: “As the United Nations COP26 climate conference hurtled toward its climax this week, it was hard not to get the impression that the 40,000 official participants gathered in Glasgow for what many billed as the last chance to save the planet were playing a game of virtual reality. Over the course of two weeks, the world bore witness to a flurry of declarations followed by prolonged sessions of mutual backslapping among the signatories, and admonishments from climate activists about the utter inadequacy of said commitments.”

John Ivison (The National Post) on why Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s bigger-tent shadow cabinet is a ‘canny move’: “If he loses the consent of caucus by making stupid decisions – such as his post-election disappearing act – then he deserves to be defeated in the leadership review in two years, if not before. But this canny critic shuffle buys him some time to win over the unbelievers.”

Debra Soh (Special to the Globe and Mail) on why more people don’t trust the news: “The only way to restore the public’s faith in the news is to provide a balanced diet of perspectives. When we are exposed to ideas outside our bubble, it’s much harder to demonize the other side.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on why banning pit bulls is ‘necessary risk mitigation’: “Ontario’s imperfect solution – and one also implemented by a handful of countries around the world (including Norway and Denmark) and countless municipalities in the U.S. and elsewhere – is to try to mitigate the risk of public danger by prohibiting a breed implicated in the most violent attacks. Is it fair? Not really. But until we can find a way to ban irresponsible dog owners before they decide to bring a distressed dog into a room of children spinning and jumping and kicking the air, it may be the best option Ontario has at its disposal.”

Michael Taube (Special to the National Post) on why Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s pitch to union workers ‘isn’t crazy and it just might work’: “It will take time, effort and a creative game plan to inject Conservatism with a pro-labour twist. If it ever comes to fruition, a re-established link between Conservatives and the working class would be one of the most important developments in modern political warfare.”

With reports from The Canadian Press

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