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The United Nations is warning that a violent conflict in northern Ethiopia is spiralling out of control.

Amnesty International says hundreds of civilians have been killed by knives or machetes in a “massacre” in the country’s Tigray region, where members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front are fighting Ethiopian government forces.

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The TBLF have characterized their actions as an “invasion” against Ethiopia’s central government. They accuse Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018, of purging Tigrayans from positions of power.

Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, says the activities documented by Amnesty amount to war crimes, if confirmed.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay. 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.


The Liberal government says it will table a new bill to fix the rent-subsidy legislation (C-9) that is currently before the Senate. The old bill requires businesses to prepay their rent before requesting federal aid, which businesses said would be difficult to do because of their low cash flow. The Liberals tried to fix that problem with a last-minute amendment, but it was ruled out of order for procedural reasons.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says the provincial government invested US$1.1-billion in the Keystone pipeline project because he thinks the federal Liberals won’t stick with their investments in the Trans Mountain project.

The Department of National Defence is shutting down an initiative for public-affairs officers to target propaganda and influence campaigns on the Canadian public.

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The Ontario Provincial Police’s anti-rackets branch has launched a fraud investigation related to the province’s COVID-19 relief program for families with young children and children with special needs.

Dennis Kwok, one of the Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers who was kicked out of office under China’s national-security law this week, said it was a “sad day” for people who care about democracy. Mr. Kwok was born in Canada, but gave up his Canadian citizenship to enter Hong Kong politics.

And today in the U.S. election aftermath, China finally congratulates president-elect Joe Biden and Donald Trump prepares to face some serious legal challenges once he leaves office.

Ann Fitz-Gerald (The Globe and Mail) on why Canada should step into Ethiopia’s conflict: “Nestled in a difficult area that shares borders with conflict-ridden states such as South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea, Ethopia serves as the main gateway to the African continent’s diplomatic community, making Ethiopia’s complex tensions with the [Tigray People’s Liberation Front] important for its allies – including new ones, such as Canada – to understand.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on the big picture of the Conservative Party: “The Conservatives would seem to occupy a unique position in Canadian political life, combining (as I’ve written before) the commitment to principle of the Liberals with the electoral success of the NDP. The party has taken each new defeat as a signal to reinvent itself yet again, jettisoning policies it had only recently adopted and adopting new ones just in time to toss them aside. It is perpetually dismayed to discover the public does not find this approach terribly persuasive – with the result that the party has neither governed much, historically, nor been particularly influential.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on why the provinces should take over all sales taxes: “And for those who argue the federal government needs to use tax revenue to bend provincial governments to its will for the sake of national unity, the best way to promote unity would be for Ottawa to leave the provinces alone.”

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Aaron Wudrick (Financial Post) on corporate subsidies: “For all the mind-numbing rhetoric and blue-sky economic spinoff factoids, the fundamental purpose of private sector economic activity is supposed to be to create value — to profit society both directly (for shareholders and employees) and indirectly (by generating tax revenue for governments to spend on public services). When businesses consume tax revenue, they become a burden, not a contributor. A housing developer that had to pay its customers to buy its houses would go out of business almost immediately. Yet change the product to ‘cars’ or ‘airplanes’ and far too many people suddenly nod their heads as if self-dealing of this sort is sheer genius.”

Gabrielle Peters (Maclean’s) on the inadequacy of supports for people with disabilities during the pandemic: “It should come as no surprise to anyone, least of all the Prime Minister, that a sudden increase in expenses when you are living well below the poverty line creates an urgent crisis. And yet it would seem no one has responded as if disabled people are even part of this public health crisis, let alone uniquely at risk from it.”

Rita Trichur (The Globe and Mail) on how COVID-19 does not affect every community equally: “We already know that vulnerable citizens, including the elderly, racialized Canadians and the poor, are being unduly affected by COVID-19 in hot spots such as Toronto. This troubling trend underscores the reality that health outcomes aren’t strictly a medical issue because they are also influenced by factors such as job security, poverty, crowded living and stigmatization.”

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