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A new tragedy has struck in Iran, so far unconnected to the conflict that has led to observers around the world holding their breaths in the last week.

A Ukrainian International Airlines flight – travelling Tehran to Toronto, via Kyiv – went down shortly after takeoff, killing all 176 people aboard. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister said 63 of those passengers were Canadian, though it is possible that number will grow as we learn more about them.

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Many of the Canadians who died appear to be from Edmonton, including a family of four whose parents were professors at the University of Alberta, and a group of young Edmontonians who had gone to Iran to celebrate a wedding.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government would push to make sure the crash is properly investigated. He is expected to give a press conference later today.

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TODAY’S HEADLINES

On the U.S.-Iran conflict, President Donald Trump says no Americans or Iraqis were hurt when Iranian missiles struck Iraqi military bases last night. He said Iran appears to be “standing down” now and that, while the U.S. government could inflict more economic pain on the country, the U.S. military would not be making any immediate retaliations. Mr. Trump also called for NATO to become more involved “in the Middle East process," but didn’t specify in what way.

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest may be working on a possible run for the leadership of the federal Conservative Party, but he’s also been busy advising Chinese telecom giant Huawei on two thorny matters: how to make sure the company can be part of Canada’s 5G mobile network and how to help arrested executive Meng Wanzhou with her extradition case.

And Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary chiefs say they will defy a court injunction concerning a blockade for the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project – and they want the RCMP off their unceded land. “There is no access to Wet’suwet’en territory without our consent,” chief John Ridsdale said.

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John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the character of the U.S. President: “But as [Donald] Trump faces the worst international emergency of his presidency, there is no rallying. For one thing, American society is too polarized. The Republican President’s critics maintain his administration brought on this crisis by killing the Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone attack in Iraq. Supporters believe the action was necessary to prevent an impending attack on American citizens.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on the Conservative leadership race: “Reining in the power of the leader is about more than restoring party democracy. It is also about the kind of party he or she will lead. A great number of Conservatives are yearning for a more principled, ideas-based party, one that will hold to its course rather than trim its sails after every passing poll. But so long as the party is, effectively, an extension of the leader, that cannot happen: It will stand, at any moment, for whatever the leader stands for.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on Liberal gun control measures: “Prohibitions on certain semi-automatic weapons might make it tougher for the next Marc Lépine to legally get his hands on a firearm that can kill or maim dozens in a matter of minutes, and on its own, that might be a worthy endeavour. But the gun violence problem that afflicts Canada daily is not one of mass shootings, and we’d be remiss to believe a ban on certain semi-automatic weapons – “including the AR-15” – will meaningfully temper the spate of gun violence afflicting Canadian cities and towns.”

Derek Burney (National Post) on China-U.S. trade: “There is less to the Phase 1 China–U.S. trade agreement than the initial fanfare in the U.S. would suggest but the negative consequences for the global trading system should be of concern to others, including Canada. Even more ominous perhaps are the dramatic moves China is making to develop Artificial Intelligence (AI), which will likely be the major driver of economic growth and security prowess in the next quarter-century.”

Anne Forster (Ottawa Citizen) on living through the Australian wildfires: “I gave my family face masks for Christmas, and room air purifiers. People in Australia’s cities are worried about the long-term effects of smoke; people in the regions are battling fires and losing their homes. It’s surreal.”

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