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Ottawa should be doing more to defend political prisoners in Russia as President Vladimir Putin's regime accelerates its crackdown on dissent, says an international coalition of human rights activists. The number of political prisoners held in Russia has since risen to 296, former federal justice minister Irwin Cotler told the House of Commons' foreign affairs committee today. Cotler, president of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. Cotler's orgnization, along with some of the other NGOs that make up the coalition, commissioned a human rights-focused consulting firm called Perseus Strategies to write the 280-page report. Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian pro-democracy activist, told the committee. The report only counted those who meet the Council of Europe's strict definition of political prisoner — so the actual number could be higher, Kara-Murza said. Just last week, police in Moscow arrested Ivan Golunov, an investigative journalist for the online news outlet Meduza, on drug charges.
His friends and colleagues say the charges are bogus and are connected to his anti-corruption journalism. In a show of defiance on Monday, three major Russian newspapers published nearly identical front pages featuring the headline "I am/We are Ivan Golunov" and called for a transparent investigation into the case. Kara-Murza said Western governments, including Canada's, used to regularly raise the plight of political prisoners with Kremlin officials during the Soviet era, but have since stopped doing so. International pressure, Kara-Murza said, often led to prisoners being released. He encouraged Canada and other nations to step up their support for the prisoners by raising their cases at bilateral meetings with Russian officials and targeting those responsible with sanctions. Beyond that, the activists called for actions to hold Russian officials accountable. The report identifies 16 "perpetrators" allegedly responsible for the persecution of dissidents, either through the decisions they've taken or through their willing participation in the arrest, prosecution or imprisonment of dissidents. The list includes judges, prosecutors, police investigators, two ministers and Putin himself. The legislation was inspired by Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in 2009 in a Moscow prison after accusing Russian officials of a massive tax fraud scheme. As of March 2019, Canada had in place sanctions against 435 Russian individuals and entities. The sanctions were imposed for a number of reasons, including Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula and its arrest of Ukrainian sailors in the Black Sea.
Games during the week, for many fans, were a right reserved for the sanctity of the playoffs. Sunday nights were for the imagination. NHL games were on CBC radio. Even Sunday night broadcasts showed an attempt to hang on to the past because before television all NHL games were on the radio. But, the sense of purity remained. You knew everybody's name. Even the journeyman, up for a cup of coffee, was worthy of discussion and dissection around the stove. Life in the big city was simpler. It wasn't a big city. Weston, Mount Dennis, Leaside, Long Branch, New Toronto, each with its own particular feel, but all with the comfort and security that comes with familiarity. Today, single buildings hold populations equal, but the sense of community is long gone. Because of direction of society, we don't talk to strangers. This is tragic, because even the best of friends were strangers once. The local arena was the meeting point for towns during the winter. Even if you didn't have a child playing, you knew someone's parents.
It was a social event, not a necessity. You huddled together in galvanized tin barns, sipping your coffees, bundled up against a cold that settled in early and stayed the entire night, and only dissipated when you ventured back outside. It was a chance to catch up, to plan and to interact. It was community. You met your neighbours and made new friends. You got to know each other. There was a commonality with a future. You talked about your kids and what you hoped and dreamed for them. Visions were shared, discussed and decided. You walked away a richer person for your interaction with others. The link was the game. It was always the game. Road hockey, once the stalwart of Canadian society and the producer of dreams in all who were young, is now a rarity. Road hockey was the best reflection of Canadian society. It instilled the love for the game, and the basic tenets of team work, fair play and dispute resolution.