- Manitoba paddlers hope banner year sets pace for future
- Professional Lego builder’s life-sized Homer heading to Edmonton Expo
- Terminally ill Alabama dad gets to see son play baseball one last time
- Migrants finding little sympathy in Hungary for their plight
- UPDATE: Testalinden controlled burn still under control
WINNIPEG — Each stroke splashes a smile on Nadya Crossman.
Every one sparking memories of a whirlwind year on the water.
“I couldn’t believe it for a long time,” Crossman said.
The 18-year-old competed at the Canoe Sprint World Championships in Italy this past summer. It was her first international meet as the first Manitoba woman to crack the Canadian crew.
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“It was all the Olympics level athletes,” Crossman said. “Everyone I watched as a little girl was competing right next to me. It was cool to see.”
But Crossman wasn’t the only provincial paddler to make waves this year.
“This summer was crazy,” provincial paddling coach Jerome Seremak said. “Our kids were going all over the world, racing from one weekend to another. It was very busy.”
The Manitoba Paddling Association had one of its most successful seasons ever. It’s athletes not only competed at home and abroad but also won.
“All the years of establishing our programs and facilities, this is almost like the harvest of the work,” Seremak said.
Among those grabbing gold was Maddy Mitchell. The Winnipegger won all twelve events she paddled in at the Western Canada Summer Games. Her profound podium performance set a new record for the most first place finishes at the multi-sport event.
“I’m really proud of it,” Mitchell said. “Years from now, I can look back and my name will still have that record.”
A challenge for other Manitobans to try and match.
“I look up to them a lot,” first year paddler Sandra Page said. “It’s a big inspiration for me to keep paddling and keep trying hard.”
With hopes of one day making it to the ultimate level – the Olympics.
WATCH ABOVE: Eric Maccallum and Jason Bedard join Global Calgary with details on Maker Faire Calgary on September 12 and 13 at the Spark Science Centre.
CALGARY – Like any kid who grew up in the 1980s, Calgarian Eric Maccallum started playing with Lego as soon as he could get his hands on it. But unlike the rest of us, he’s since become a professional Lego builder, turning the hobby into an art form.
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“It was just one of the toys my parents really encouraged me to play with when I was younger,” Maccallum said Wednesday, his 36th birthday. “I really enjoyed it because you can make any kind of toy out of it, and when you’re bored, you can break it back down and rebuild it.”
Maccallum was working part-time at a Lego store in Calgary when he finished up university with plans to go into finance. He visited a grand opening of an Edmonton store, and met a master builder from the U.S. who’d created an eight-foot tall Yoda.
“That really inspired me,” he said. “Once I talked to this master builder and what he found in his career and where it has gone, it really made me do a 90-degree turn and decide, ‘I think I’m going to start using Lego as a medium to do artwork.’ It worked out really well. I’m more excited to be doing this than any other possible job I’d thought about.”
Calgarian Eric Maccallum’s giant Tigger Lego creation. Eric Maccallum
Calgarian Eric Maccallum’s giant Tigger Lego creation.
Maccallum also teaches classroom workshops and parties, teaching Lego building to young and old alike.
His Homer Simpson Lego figure has earned much attention; it will be featured this weekend at Calgary’s Maker Faire (at the TELUS Spark Science Centre) before heading off to the Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo Sept. 25 to 27.
“He travels in a crate in pieces. His head detaches…all models do that.”
Maccallum said Homer took about 200 hours to create from design to completion.
“I’ve made things bigger—but they’ve taken less time—but they’re more flat,” he said. “Only Homer’s head is symmetrical. The rest of the body…is not symmetrical so he took a bit more time to do. Normally a model like Tigger – that took about 120 hours and he’s just a tiny bit shorter.”
The designer said there should be about 100,000 Lego pieces for guests to enjoy this weekend at the Maker Faire, and suggests anyone interested in his future projects check his website or Facebook page here.
Calgary’s Eric Maccallum with his Homer Simpson Lego creation. Eric Maccallum
Calgary’s Eric Maccallum with his Homer Simpson Lego creation.
WATCH ABOVE: A Prattville, Alabama father with stage 4 colon cancer got the chance to see his 11-year-old son play baseball for what may be the last time. Kacey Drescher reports.
A Prattville, Alabama father who has colon cancer is getting the chance to see his son play baseball for what may be the last time.
Gary Parrish was diagnosed with the stage 4 cancer and metastasis to his liver in June. Three months later, Parrish’s doctors stopped his treatments because his body wasn’t responding to the medications.
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The declining health of Parrish has taken its toll on his 11-year-old son, Ryan. Parrish, a baseball enthusiast, went to every one of his son’s games last year.
“When [Ryan] first got out here, he didn’t have a whole lot of focus and I found out why,” said the boy’s baseball coach, Caison Whatley to WSFA News.
“He’s got a whole lot more on his mind than we could ever have,” he added.
That’s when Whatley decided to do something for the Parrish family they’d be able to remember forever – Whatley went to the city and asked for the recreational baseball season to be pushed up by a week in order for Gary Parrish to see his son play one last time.
“We want to give Ryan something to cherish for the rest of his life and this may be it,” said Whatley.
With Ryan wearing number 21 – the same number his dad wore as a young athlete – he stood on top of the pitching mound, hoping to get “just strikes.”
“[My dad] might not be here for all the other games and tonight’s very special because he gets to come,” said Ryan.
“It’s not all about the wins. It’s about what you can do for that child, give him everlasting memories.,” said Whatley to WSFA.
WATCH ABOVE: Hungary’s treatment of Syrian refugees has been called ‘shameful’ and ‘humiliating’ by a international human rights group. Jackson Proskow reports on the struggles refugees are having trying to find a new place to call home.
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BUDAPEST, Hungary — A makeshift camp of thousands from the Middle East, Asia and Africa has been dismantled at Budapest’s Keleti train station, and its inhabitants have left for Germany. But the loathing of them lingers in Hungary, which hopes to build a border fence strong enough to keep out future waves of asylum seekers.
“We need the fence,” said Istvan Szabo, a 43-year-old lathe operator having a beer at a bar next to the station, where hundreds seeking refuge in the European Union still line up daily to buy tickets to Western Europe.
The tent city sprang up last month when the government blocked the asylum seekers from traveling by train to Austria and Germany. Authorities finally gave in last weekend and sent buses to take them to the border with Austria.
Szabo, like many in this socially conservative land of 10 million, says he doesn’t understand why they’ve come.
“If they couldn’t solve their problems back where they live, why do they think they’re going to be able to solve them here?” Szabo said.
Such lack of sympathy is a striking feature of the massive march this summer from Turkey through southeastern Europe. Many of the trekkers interviewed by The Associated Press say their worst experiences have come in Hungary, where farmers hiss at them in disapproval and the government leaves their care mostly up to unpaid volunteers.
READ MORE: Hungarian video journalist trips refugees running from police
WATCH ABOVE: Video journalist caught on camera tripping and kicking fleeing refugees in Hungary
A recent opinion poll sponsored by the Budapest think tank Republikon found that just 19 percent believe Hungary has a duty to take in refugees, while 66 percent deem them a threat and should not be let in. The Ipsos survey of 2,000 people, published Aug. 27 as the Keleti camp was growing, had a margin of error below 3 percentage points.
The findings reflect a country where ethnic minorities barely exist outside Budapest and right-wing beliefs dominate in small towns that strongly support the ultranationalist Jobbik party.
“Many Hungarians are racist. They lack self-confidence and see their identity under threat. And our government exploits these feelings to boost its own popularity,” said Zsuzsanna Zhohar, 36, who has helped lead volunteer efforts to give food, water, medical aid and other help to those passing through Hungary.
“It can be hard to convince Hungarians that these people don’t want to take our jobs, our homes, our women, our dogs,” she said, laughing at the absurdity of the idea.
Yet Hungary at times has become a theater of the absurd, with police expending great effort to marshal the migrants to specific spots, only to watch them walk straight out again to snarl traffic.
Government billboards warn the newcomers to respect the country’s laws and culture, but the signs all are in Hungarian, which virtually none of them can read.
Then again, it’s hard to find one intending to stay in Hungary anyway.
“The government says they don’t want immigrants here and they can’t take our jobs away,” said satirist Gergely Kovacs, a 35-year-old graphic designer.
“But the truth is that nobody wants to come here. Every immigrant would spend just three days here if we kept the borders open. There’s no need to hate them because they’re leaving as quickly as possible.”
Kovacs’ tongue-in-cheek political movement, the Two-Tailed Dog Party, has mocked Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s anti-immigrant campaign by erecting similarly designed billboards. One of them, in English, notes the hypocrisy in decrying immigration when hundreds of thousands of Hungarians have sought better-paid employment in Western Europe since the country was admitted to the EU in 2004.
“Come to Hungary,” the billboard advises asylum seekers. “We’ve got jobs in London!”
Many Hungarians struggle to get by, and that helps to sour their outlook on the foreign influx. In 2011, Orban seized the public’s private pension funds worth $13 billion to cover government debt and help the country exit an International Monetary Fund bailout. Its sales tax is 27 percent, the highest in Europe, and Hungary has one of the lowest average wages in Europe, barely $600 a month.
READ MORE: 13,000 migrants reach Austria after Hungary eases train travel
“The volunteers were throwing food and clothes at the migrants, and they wouldn’t give me a stinking sandwich. Why are they so generous with them and not with me?” said Korneliusz Lecz, a former chemical engineer who is homeless. As he sat near Keleti station, he blamed the refugees for an ailment in his left eye, saying they had brought “contagious diseases.”
Near the border with Serbia, farmers express resentment of people running through their fields of corn and sunflowers. They wonder how the migrants could afford to pay smugglers more than $3,000 for the journey.
“They are not poor. I am poor,” said Denes Csonka, 55, sitting next to his small fields of melons, cabbage and sun-scorched corn stalks near the border town of Roszke. “Yet I have seen them almost every night taking food from my fields and trampling my crops. They are taking food from my own mouth, and they do not even ask before they do it.”
Such frustrations find their grass-roots voice in Jobbik (pronounced YOB-ick), which has become the No. 2 party in opinion polls as it assails Orban’s Fidesz party for being too soft on immigrants and minorities, including Gypsies, gays and Jews. On Saturday, Jobbik activists demonstrated for sterner action, waving signs that read, “Deportation, not work permits!” and “Border closures! We don’t want immigrants!”
“Whoever is a liberal is scum,” said Levente Muranyi, a 75-year-old former Jobbik lawmaker at the rally. He called left-wing support for aiding migrants “tantamount to treason.”
He said Germany’s open door for Muslims fleeing war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan would leave Hungary besieged by Islam from both west and east, even worse than when Hungary battled eastern invasion by Ottoman Turks from the 15th to 17th centuries.
In pictures: Hundreds of migrants leave Hungary on foot
Jobbik activists sometimes go to the Serbian border and shout abuse in the face of startled asylum seekers. On Tuesday, a camerawoman for a Jobbik-linked web TV channel took the hostility a step further. Journalists filming scuffles between police and migrants captured Petra Laszlo on video as she kicked a young man and a teenage girl in the knees and tripped a running man carrying a young boy. Her station fired her after the video appeared on social media.
Julia Lakatos, an analyst at the Center for Fair Political Analysis, a Budapest think tank, said Hungary was no more racist or xenophobic than other parts of Eastern Europe; it just has little experience with refugees.
“It’s a gut response to fear the unknown,” Lakatos said. “My personal experience is that people are really frustrated, there have been hard times in Hungary, and they are searching for a scapegoat. But anyone who came into contact with the refugees, that experience changed their minds. Personal experience overrides fears.”
Csaba Toth, strategy director of Republikon, the research institute that commissioned the opinion poll, said he didn’t think support for sheltering asylum seekers would ever rise above 30 percent. Most Hungarians “tend to agree with the government view that the migrants are potentially dangerous, they’re certainly unwelcome, and they want them to leave for Germany,” he said.
Toth noted that Orban’s quips that would be deemed racist elsewhere are well- received domestically, such as when he said Hungary’s tiny resident Muslim community could provide all the specialty foods Hungarians crave.
“We are truly glad that there are kebab shops on our avenues. We like buying lamb from Syrian butchers at Easter,” Orban said Monday. “We are going to honor this Muslim community in Hungary, but we don’t want their proportion to grow suddenly.”
Orban is determined to build the 13-foot-high (4-meter-high) fence along the 110-mile (175-kilometer) frontier. But analysts don’t see how Hungary realistically can block the flow.
Kovacs, the satirist, says he has a better idea: Build an overpass above Hungary “so immigrants could just walk right over us in the clouds. We wouldn’t have to see them, and they wouldn’t have to see us.”
OLIVER – Plumes of smoke from a planned controlled burn have alarmed some in the Oliver and Osoyoos areas. However, there is nothing to worry about as B.C. Wildfire Service says the deliberately set fire hasn’t gotten away from them. The B.C. Wildfire Service started a controlled burn earlier today as they continue to fight the Testalinden Wildfire. Ground crews have already started work on that planned burn.
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“The ground crews have what they call drip torches so it is a small type of metal torch that has a mixture of diesel fuel and gasoline in it and the crews actually walk along and light strips of fire in a controlled area within the controlled fire perimeter,” says fire information officer Colette Fauchon.
Fauchon says a helicopter will also be used to ignite the controlled burn in a larger area that is very steep where they can’t get crews on the ground. The method they are using is aimed at creating a low intensity ground fire.
Read More: Testalinden wildfire 80 per cent contained
“We don’t want to burn the trees. So this is one way that we can have a controlled burn and we don’t have to have a candling effect that people often see with high intensity fires,” she says.
The controlled burn is taking place within the fire’s 4506 hectare perimeter.
“The difficulty that we have is that a lot of the fire is on steep terrain. As the fire has been burning trees fall down, they roll down the hill and they just keep spreading the fire within the containment area. So this is one way for us to speed up that process of burning the fuel that the fire is going to burn up anyway over time,” says Fauchon.
The Testalinden Wildfire is currently considered 80 per cent contained. Depending on weather conditions, crews may finish the controlled burn today or continue with the controlled burn tomorrow.
– with files from Angela Jung
WATCH ABOVE: Attorneys for Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane may be in talks with the alleged sex assault victim who claims Kane assaulted her in his home. Marissa Bailey reports.
TORONTO – NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the league will wait for the legal process to play out in the sexual assault investigation involving Patrick Kane before making any decisions about his future.
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The Chicago Blackhawks star is under investigation by police in his hometown of Hamburg, N.Y., over an incident that occurred at his house. He has not been charged.
“Obviously when a player is involved in something like Patrick Kane is subject to right now in terms of the authorities investigating, it’s unfortunate, it’s a terrible thing, but we’re going to have to watch the process play out and at the appropriate time we’ll make whatever decisions have to be made at the time,” Bettman said Tuesday at Air Canada Centre.
READ MORE: Patrick Kane investigation involves woman in her 20s
According to The Associated Press, the Erie County District Attorney has postponed grand jury proceedings into the allegation against Kane.
Evidence was scheduled to be presented to jurors on Tuesday but the hearings were postponed for about two weeks, a source told the AP. The person, who spoke Tuesday on the condition of anonymity, did not provide a reason for the postponement.
Kane is accused of sexually assaulting a woman in her 20s at his off-season home outside Buffalo, a second person familiar with the investigation told AP on the condition of anonymity because police have not revealed the nature of their investigation.
The Stanley Cup-champion Blackhawks are scheduled to open training camp on Sept. 18. With that date looming, Bettman declined to say whether the NHL had to make a decision on Kane by then.
READ MORE: EA Sports drops Blackhawks star from NHL 16 cover
“We will make whatever decision we have to make in the appropriate time frame that we have to make it based on the information that is available to us at the time,” Bettman said. “Beyond that I don’t want to speculate at this point.”
Beyond Kane, a handful of other NHL players have run into legal trouble in recent months.
Free agent Mike Richards was charged with possession of a controlled substance at the Canadian-U.S. border in Emerson, Man.; former Los Angeles Kings teammate Jarret Stoll pleaded guilty to two reduced misdemeanour charges to resolve a felony cocaine case stemming from an arrest at a Las Vegas swimming pool and Buffalo Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly was charged with impaired driving and failing to remain at the scene of an accident in London, Ont.
Kings defenceman Slava Voynov has been taken into custody by U.S. immigration officials two months after pleading no contest to a domestic violence charge. He was originally charged with a felony and pleaded no contest to a misdemeanour charge, and according to the Los Angeles Times, faces possible deportation to his native Russia.
Voynov was suspended last season when he was charged. Richards had his contract terminated by the Kings in late June, and his situation is pending a grievance hearing filed by the NHLPA.
Bettman said the NHL handles each situation on a case-by-case basis “because rarely are two of these circumstances identical.” He also commended the vast majority of NHL players for their behaviour.
“Overwhelmingly our players do the right things,” Bettman said. “We have over 700 players and overwhelmingly they conduct themselves in a magnificent, appropriate way that reflects well on each other, and on their teams, the league and the game.”
*With files from The Associated Press
WATCH ABOVE: Global’s Marieke Walsh caught up with one group from Hubbards which is trying to bring two Syrian families to Nova Scotia.
HALIFAX -A community group in Hubbards is one of dozens across the province that is now hoping to sponsor Syrian refugees.
The group was spurred into action after seeing the picture of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s body being carried off a beach.
“It was the spark for the community,” said Shelly Whitman, one of the organizers.
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“It’s not that people hadn’t been thinking about this issue or seeing the images of other migrants. That certainly has been something that people in the community have talked about. But I think that the political will and the momentum was certainly driven by that image.”
Whitman and a core group of people have started a fundraising campaign to bring two Syrian refugee families to Hubbards. At its first meeting over the Labour Day long weekend, the group had 61 people show up and offer financial and organizational help.
The Immigration Services Association of Nova Scotia says its been inundated with phone calls from groups like the one in Hubbards asking how they can help Syrian refugees.
In the last three days, ISANS says its received 35 phone calls from individuals and groups who want to sponsor Syrian refugees to come to the province. That’s a marked difference from just a week ago when the organization rarely got a call from the general public.
“We’ve had an amazing response from the public. Our phone has been ringing constantly since Thursday,” said Evelyn Jones, refugee sponsorship coordinator for ISANS.
“We’ve had so many people call and say, ‘What can we do to help?’”
Whitman said the group needs to raise $70,000 in order to sponsor two families to come to Nova Scotia. She said the goal is to raise all of the money by January.
Despite the large amount that must be collected, Jones said she’s been impressed by how much money some groups have already raised.
“I’ve been hearing from people in the community that they’re having immediate commitment of donations,” she said.
Sponsoring refugees, and getting them to Canada can be a complicated process. ISANS, helps people who are making the application, navigate the system and helps them prepare for the arrival of the refugees.
“Sponsorship is not an overnight thing, they are making a commitment to be with the family before they get here, and while they’re here,” said Jones.
The federal government is speeding up the process for settling Syrian refugees. However, even with that Jones said she has seen it take anywhere from a couple of months to two years to bring Syrian refugees to Canada.
The United Nations says the Syrian refugee crisis is on a scale not seen since the second world war. Since January, Nova Scotia has settled 11 refugees. But, 44 more refugees are still having their paper work processed, said Jones. The province asked the federal government to let it settle more refugees but Ottawa hasn’t responded to the request.
ISANS is holding an information session for Nova Scotians who want to sponsor refugees on September 16.
EDMONTON — Snow removal expenses may be partly to blame for saddling the City of Edmonton with a multi-million dollar shortfall.
The city hasn’t officially started crunching the numbers yet, but Wednesday, council heard it could be more than $10 million in the hole.
Snow removal is one expense that can be difficult to estimate year-to-year, which can then impact the accuracy of the budget.
“As with our budget every year, it all depends on how much it snows,” said Mayor Don Iveson.
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Edmonton expects to be $10M over 2014’s snow removal budget
Edmonton’s snow removal plan
“We are behind $10 million bucks because of snow early in the year.”
The transportation department said Edmonton didn’t get a lot of snow in terms of overall volume, but had small, more frequent weather events that drove up costs.
Pothole expenses, vehicle maintenance and tax appeals also contributed to the projected deficit.
READ MORE: Edmonton expects to be $10M over 2014’s snow removal budget
The mayor hopes a mild winter could help get the city back in black.
“If we have a light winter, we’ll make that back up to Christmas,” he said. “If we have a heavy snowfall, we’ll have to dip into our reserve, which is there for dealing with this from one year to the next.
“It’s a normal seasonal variance. Administration has worked hard to clamp down on expenditures in other areas to offset this, so we’re actually off $15 (million) on snow but only off $10 (million) on the overall budget.
“Overall, it’s a risk to keep an eye on but it’s in the hands of the weather gods.”
Council also heard the city’s planning department is already dipping into its reserves. The branch manager said the department will start looking at staffing levels and vacancies. Scott Mackie said layoffs won’t be necessary right now.
WATCH ABOVE: GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz both said they opposed the Iran nuclear, with Trump saying the agreement will be “renegotiated, or worse”, if elected president. Major Garrett reports.
WASHINGTON – Republican presidential rivals and friends-for-now Donald Trump and Ted Cruz on Wednesday savaged the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran, calling it an incompetently negotiated deal that will cost “countless” American and Israeli lives.
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“We are led by very, very stupid people,” Trump, the Republican front-runner weighed in, at a midday rally on Capitol Hill. He called the deal “incompetent” and poised to fail in the fight against Islamic militants. “We will have so much winning if I get elected, that you may get bored with winning.”
READ MORE: 6 ‘Trumpisms’ that would spell trouble for anyone but Trump
Cruz, who invited Trump to the event, said supporters of the deal will have blood on their hands.
“You cannot wash your hands of that,” he said, naming House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, both Republicans, as two men who could stand in the way.
“Any commander-in-chief worthy of defending this nation should be prepared to stand up on Jan. 20, 2017 and rip to shreds this catastrophic deal.”
The pairing at Wednesday’s rally, sponsored by tea party and pro-Israel activists, is the product of what Trump acknowledged beforehand as “a little bit of a romance” at this early stage of the 2016 presidential race. In fact, the senator and the real estate developer are competing for many of the same anti-establishment, core Republican activists.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, greet each other on stage during a rally organized by Tea Party Patriots in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 9. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, greet each other on stage during a rally organized by Tea Party Patriots in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 9.
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
The two spoke as Congress debated the deal, which is designed to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Republicans and Israel say Iran can’t be trusted because its leaders want to annihilate the Jewish state.
The agreement struck by Iran, the U.S., China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany in July would provide Iran hundreds of billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions in exchange for a decade of constraints on the country’s nuclear program. The deal aims to keep Iran at least a year away from being able to produce enough nuclear material for a weapon.
READ MORE: Trump pledges to back Republican party’s 2016 nominee, not run as independent
Both candidates slammed President Barack Obama’s agreement to the complex deal at without negotiating the release of four Americans who remain in captivity in Iran. Trump added this pledge:
“If I win the presidency I guarantee you that these four prisoners are back in our country before I ever take office.”
Trump did not explain how he would accomplish that goal.
The event highlights the unique relationship between Trump and Cruz, a tea party hero who helped shut the federal government in 2013 and ultimately needs the same frustrated voters who have pushed Trump to a surprising lead in early polls. As Republican competitors turn against Trump, Cruz has offered only praise. The strategy could pay dividends for Cruz in the coming months, if Trump drops out of the race.
Still, Trump assured the group: “I’m not dropping out of anything. I never drop out.”
Some protesters carried Israeli flags, but more carried American flags. A few carried posters that said, “Jewish lives matter.”
The day gave Trump an opportunity to address foreign policy less than a week after he struggled to answer basic questions about key players in the Middle East during a radio interview.
The protest won’t change the ultimate approval of the international agreement, which has been clear for days: Even if a disapproval resolution should pass the House and Senate this week, President Barack Obama would veto it, and Democrats have the votes in hand to sustain his veto.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s campaign released an Instagram video clip on the eve of the rally, using Trump’s words against him. Asked in a past CNN interview who he’d like to represent the U.S. in a deal with Iran, Trump responds, “I think Hillary would do a good job.”
WATCH ABOVE: Two years ago, Saint Mary’s University has its reputation tarnished after the discovery of a frosh chant condoning rape and sexual assault, now the university and students are working together to make the campus a safer place. Global’s Julia Wong reports.
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HALIFAX – Two years after the discovery of a frosh chant condoning rape and sexual assault, Saint Mary’s University and its students are taking steps towards changing the culture that allowed the chant in the first place.
RELATED: ‘It was never meant to be offensive’: Frosh leader speaks out about SMU chant
A seminar called Safe at SMU where students discussed sexual consent was held Wednesday for more than 600 first-year students. This is the first time the sessions have been held. The university is making the interactive discussions mandatory.
RELATED: Man charged with sexual assault of woman at Acadia University
“[It’s] all about understanding what it is to have consent,” said Heidi Weigand, the director of the Centre for the Study of Sport and Health who oversaw the seminar.
“The idea that consent is having the ‘yes’ and so we want to make sure students are aware, coming into university, what are the different types of situations that come up, where can the complexities be and making sure they’re keeping themselves safe and keeping their peers safe.”
READ MORE: Saint Mary’s University changes frosh week, a year after ‘rape chant’
The seminars are led by students like Jean Legault, who ran the workshop on sexual consent.
“It’s something students are still unsure about. It’s something we want to make very clear and make sure students are safe in situations where that becomes an issue,” he said.
“What we’re trying to do is get students thinking about what constitutes consent and get them to label situations as being either safe or unsafe. In many cases, what happens is the grey area disappears.”
READ MORE: Former frosh leader says complaint about SMU frosh chant went unheard
Dr. Esther Enns is the chair of the President’s Council Action Team, which was enacted at SMU after the scandal. She said the seminars are a direct result of recommendations to make the campus a safer place.
RELATED: 2 students face disciplinary action over frosh chant, SMU student pres. quits
“We have undertaken a lot of initiatives and there’s a lot of enthusiasm across all sectors of the campus for the initiatives,” she said.
Students say conversations are critical
Matthew Laustsen, 18, was in high school when the frosh chant scandal came to light. He said discussions about consent are much needed.
EXTERNAL LINK: Safe at SMU videos
“It is an issue around places like this,” the first year student said. “It is something we need to address and having something like dialogue going on just keeps that relevant.”
Scott Kilmer, 17, from Edmundston, NB agrees that the discussions are pertinent.
“It’s a great idea that they’re making a big deal about sexual consent, especially since some people don’t care for it and [this] makes them care for it,” he said.
Robyn Chapman of Halifax said dialogue about the issue needs to persist.
“I think it’s a good idea that we should be learning about it,” she said.
“I feel it’s important for everybody to know and understand, especially with the things that have been happening in Halifax.”