ontario news watch

PARIS (AP) — French unions are seeking to reignite resistance to President Emmanuel Macron’s higher retirement age with what may be a final surge of nationwide protests and scattered strikes Tuesday.

A third of flights were canceled at Paris’ Orly Airport because of strikes, and about 10% of trains around France were disrupted. Some 250 marches, rallies and other actions are planned around the country on the 14th day of national protest since January over the pension reform.

Macron’s move to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 — and force the measure through parliament without a vote — inflamed public emotions and triggered some of France’s biggest demonstrations in years.

But the intensity of anger over the pension reform has ebbed since the last big protests on May 1, and since the measure became law in April. Some see Tuesday’s actions as a last big show of opposition for the movement.

Macron says the reform was needed to finance the pension system as the population ages. Unions and left-wing opponents say the changes hurt poorer workers and have argued for higher taxes on the wealthy and employers instead.

Organizers of Tuesday’s protests hope to rally support ahead of a possible parliamentary debate Thursday on a bill to repeal the new retirement age.

Legislators from centrist opposition group LIOT proposed the bill to put back the retirement age to 62. While Macron’s centrist party doesn’t have a majority in the National Assembly, it has allied with the conservative Republicans party to push back the opposition’s efforts.

The Associated Press

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Hearings open Tuesday at the United Nations’ highest court in a case brought by Ukraine against Russia linked to Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and arming of rebels in eastern Ukraine in the years before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Kyiv wants the International Court of Justice to order Moscow to pay reparations for attacks in the regions, including for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that was shot down by Russia-backed rebels on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew.

Four days of hearings in the court’s ornate, wood-paneled Great Hall of Justice are opening against a backdrop of Europe’s deadliest conflict since World War II raging on in Ukraine. Ukraine on Tuesday accused Russian forces of blowing up a major dam and hydroelectric power station in a part of in a part of the country Moscow controls, threatening a massive flood.

Lawyers for Kyiv will present legal arguments to support their case Tuesday, followed by Russia on Thursday. Each side has another opportunity next week to present evidence. Judges are expected to take months to issue a judgment.

The case is one of several legal proceedings against Russia linked to Ukraine.

In a separate case brought by Ukraine in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s illegal invasion, the world court issued a preliminary order calling on Russia to stop hostilities — a legally binding ruling that Moscow ignored.

In that case, Kyiv is arguing that Russia violated the 1948 Genocide Convention by falsely accusing Ukraine of committing genocide and using that as a pretext for the Feb. 24, 2022, invasion. Moscow argues that the court does not have jurisdiction.

A few kilometers (miles) away at the International Criminal Court, judges have issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on charges of deporting and illegally transferring children from Ukraine. Russia is not a member of the court and does not recognize its jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, a Dutch domestic court last year convicted two Russians and a pro-Moscow Ukrainian for their roles in downing MH17 and sentenced them in their absence to life imprisonment. Ukraine also has another case against Russia at the International Court of Justice over its invasion last year, and the Netherlands and Ukraine are suing Moscow at the European Court of Human Rights over MH17.

Russia has always denied involvement in the downing of the passenger jet that was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down by a Soviet-era missile over eastern Ukraine.

Tuesday’s hearing is in a case Kyiv brough in 2017 related to Russia arming rebels in eastern Ukraine and reining in the rights of ethnic Tatars and other minorities following its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

In a preliminary ruling, the court ordered Russia to stop limiting “the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to conserve its representative institutions.”


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Mike Corder, The Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Voters in Kuwait were casting ballots on Tuesday for a third time in as many years, with little hope of ending a prolonged gridlock between the ruling family and assertive lawmakers after the judiciary dissolved the legislature earlier this year.

Kuwait is alone among Gulf Arab countries in having a democratically elected assembly that exerts some checks on the ruling family. But in recent years, the political system has been paralyzed by infighting and unable to enact even basic reforms.

“People on the ground are not very optimistic right now about change, and that’s why you see this frustration and probably a low voter turnout and low number of people running,” said Dania Thafer, executive director at the Gulf International Forum, a Washington-based think-tank.

The polls will close at 8 p.m. and the results are expected on Wednesday.

The last election, held a mere eight months ago, delivered a mandate for change, bringing 27 new lawmakers into the 50-member assembly, including conservative Islamists and two women. Some had served in earlier parliaments.

But in March, Kuwait’s Constitutional Court annulled the decree dissolving the previous parliament, which was elected in 2020, effectively restoring it. A few weeks later, the ruling Al Sabah family dissolved that parliament for a second time, setting up this week’s vote.

Kristin Diwan, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, says the turmoil partly stems from divisions within the ruling family following the death in 2020 of Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, a veteran diplomat who had ruled the country for nearly 15 years.

The 91-year-old was succeeded by his ailing half-brother, Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, with Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah assuming day to day rule. Both are in their 80s, and the line of succession after Sheikh Meshal is unclear.

Another member of the royal family, Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al Sabah, the current emir’s son, was appointed prime minister in 2022 but has recently emerged as a lightning rod of criticism.

“There’s a lack of clear direction and energy coming from the top,” Diwan said. “There is kind of an overall vacuum where you can see other political institutions and social forces kind of taking advantage and stepping into that gap.”

The emir appoints the prime minister and the Cabinet, and can dissolve parliament at any time. But lawmakers can approve or block legislation, and can question ministers and call for their removal. There are no political parties.

Two former parliamentary speakers are hoping to return to the relatively influential office.

Marzouq al-Ghanim, the scion of an influential family and a prominent member of the country’s powerful business community, led the assembly elected in 2020. He recently unleashed scathing criticism on the prime minister, calling him a “danger to the country” and further undermining his authority.

As speaker, al-Ghanim “was willing to use all the tools that he had within the parliament to really concentrate power … in a way that was more authoritarian,” Diwan said. His harsh criticism of the prime minister, a prominent member of the ruling family, was “really striking,” she added.

He will likely face off against Ahmed al-Saadoun, a veteran politician who managed to unite a broad array of opposition lawmakers in the parliament that convened last year. They have pushed for policies that would more widely disperse the country’s massive oil wealth, including debt relief for consumer loans, which the government views as fiscally irresponsible.

Kuwait has the sixth largest oil reserves and is among the world’s wealthiest countries, with cradle-to-grave welfare for its 1.5 million citizens. But many say the government has not properly invested in education, health care and other services.

Opposition figures have also called for electoral reforms that would bring more women and young people into the assembly, including a return to an earlier system in which people could vote for more than one candidate in their district.

“There’s a feeling that if people have only one vote, it forces political blocs to make a lot of difficult decisions about who to run,” said Courtney Freer, a researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

“It also makes it harder for women candidates, who are already disadvantaged,” she said.

Nick El Hajj, The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Officials were investigating Tuesday whether Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis was behind a flight that picked up asylum-seekers on the Texas border and flew them — apparently without their knowledge — to California’s capital, even as faith-based groups scrambled to find housing and food for them.

About 20 people ranging in age from 21 to 30 were flown by private jet to Sacramento on Monday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta said. It was the second such flight in four days.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and faith-based groups who have been assisting the migrants scheduled a news conference Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom lashed out at DeSantis as a “small, pathetic man” and suggested the state could pursue kidnapping charges.

DeSantis and other Florida state officials were mum, as they were initially last year when they flew 49 Venezuelan migrants to the upscale Massachusetts enclave of Martha’s Vineyard, luring them onto private jets from a shelter in San Antonio.

DeSantis, who is seeking the Republican nomination to run for president, has been a fierce critic of federal immigration policy under President Joe Biden and has heavily publicized Florida’s role in past instances in which migrants were transported to Democratic-led states.

He has made the migrant relocation program one of his signature political priorities, using the state legislative process to direct millions of dollars to it and working with multiple contractors to carry out the flights. Vertol Systems Co., which was paid by Florida to fly migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, appears to be behind the flights to Sacramento on Monday and last Friday, Bonta said, adding that the migrants were carrying “an official document from the state of Florida” that mentions the company. The company didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

Altogether, more than three dozen migrants arrived in Sacramento on flights last Friday and on Monday. Most are from Colombia and Venezuela. California had not been their intended destination and shelters and aid workers were taken by surprise, authorities said.

Friday’s group was dropped off at the Roman Catholic Church diocese’s headquarters in Sacramento. U.S. immigration officials had already processed them in Texas and given them court dates for their asylum cases, and none had planned to arrive in California, said Eddie Carmona, campaign director at PICO California, a faith-based group helping the migrants in Sacramento.

Asylum seekers can change the location of their court appearances, but many are reluctant to try and instead prefer sticking with a firm date, at least for their initial appearances. They figure it is a guarantee, even if horribly inconvenient.

The Republican governors of Texas and Arizona have previously sent thousands of migrants on buses to New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., but the rare charter flights by DeSantis mark an escalation in tactics. The two groups sent to Sacramento never went through Florida. Instead, they were approached in El Paso by people with Florida-linked paperwork, sent to New Mexico, then put on private flights to California’s capital, California officials and advocates said.

Bonta, who met with some of the migrants who arrived Friday, said they told him they were approached by two women who spoke broken Spanish and promised them jobs. The women traveled with them by land from El Paso to Deming, New Mexico, where two men then accompanied them on the flight to Sacramento. The same men were on the flight Monday, Bonta said.

“To see leaders and governments of other states and the state of Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis, acting with cruelty and inhumanity and moral bankruptcy and being petty and small and hurtful and harmful to those vulnerable asylum seekers is blood-boiling,” Bonta said in a Monday interview.

Some of the migrants who arrived Friday told Bonta they met on their nearly three-month journey to the United States and decided to stick together to keep each other safe as they slept on the streets in several countries, he said.

As the migrants arrived in California Monday, a Texas sheriff’s office announced it has recommended criminal charges over the two flights to Martha’s Vineyard last year.

Johnny Garcia, a spokesman for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, said that at this time the office is not naming suspects. It’s not clear whether the local district attorney will pursue the charges, which include misdemeanor and felony counts of unlawful restraint, according to the sheriff’s office.

The office of New Mexico Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had no specifics as to why the immigrants were taken from Texas to New Mexico before being flown to California.

“Gov. Lujan Grisham stresses, yet again, the urgent need for comprehensive, thoughtful federal immigration reform which is rooted in a humanitarian response that keeps border communities in mind,” the governor’s spokesperson, Caroline Sweeney, said Monday.

Last year, DeSantis directed Republican lawmakers in Florida to create a program in his office dedicated to migrant relocations. It specified that the state could transport migrants from locations anywhere in the country. The law was designed to get around questions about the legality of transporting people on a flight that originated in Texas.

Florida’s alleged role in the arrival of the two groups in Sacramento is sure to escalate the political feud between DeSantis and Newsom, who have offered conflicting visions on immigration, abortion and a host of other issues. ___

Rodriguez reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writers Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee, Fla., Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas, Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed.


Find more AP coverage of immigration: https://apnews.com/hub/immigration

Trân Nguyễn And Olga R. Rodriguez, The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is set to launch his bid for the Republican nomination for president at a town hall in New Hampshire on Tuesday evening.

The campaign will be the second for Christie, who lost to Trump in 2016 and went on to become a close on-and-off adviser before breaking with the former president over his refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election. He has cast himself as the only candidate willing to directly take on former President Donald Trump.

Christie will enter a growing primary field that already includes Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. Former Vice President Mike Pence will be formally launching his own campaign in Iowa on Wednesday.

Christie, who during his time as New Jersey’s governor established a reputation as a fighter with a knack for creating viral moments of confrontation, faces an uphill battle to the nomination in a party that remains closely aligned with the former president, despite Trump’s reelection loss in 2020 and Republicans’ poorer-than-expected showing in the 2022 midterm elections.

Christie has cast himself as the only person with the guts to take on Trump directly and has warned of a repeat of 2016 if candidates fail to confront him.

“I’m not dumb. The way to win is to beat the guy who’s ahead. And so what would a campaign look like? A campaign would look like a direct frontal challenge to Donald Trump trying to return to the presidency,” Christie recently said in a podcast interview.

Anti-Trump Republicans are particularly eager to see Christie spar with Trump on a debate stage — if, of course, Trump agrees to participate in primary debates and Christie meets the stringent fundraising criteria set by the Republican National Committee for participation.

But Christie has also said he would not run as a kamikaze candidate to take down Trump if he didn’t believe there was a viable path to his own victory. “I’m not a paid assassin,” he recently told Politico.

His campaign will test the appetite among Republican voters for someone who has expressed support for many of Trump’s policies but has criticized the former president’s conduct.

Christie has rejected Trump’s lies that the 2020 election was stolen and has urged the party to move on or risk future losses.

Other Republicans with similar views, including former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, have opted against their own campaigns, expressing concerns that having more candidates in the race will only benefit Trump.

Jill Colvin, The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York writer who won a $5 million jury verdict against ex-President Donald Trump can’t win a pending defamation lawsuit against him because the jury agreed with Trump that he never raped her, his lawyers told a judge Monday.

The lawyers urged Judge Lewis A. Kaplan to reject columnist E. Jean Carroll’s bid to win $10 million or more in a second judgment by rewriting the 4-year-old lawsuit against Trump to conform with the findings of the jury that last month concluded Trump sexually abused Carroll but did not rape her.

The lawsuit was filed after Carroll said in a 2019 memoir for the first time publicly that Trump attacked her in the dressing room of a midtown Manhattan Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in the mid-1990s.

The lawsuit has been stalled because the U.S. Justice Department wants to substitute the United States for Trump as the defendant on the grounds that he was acting in his capacity as a president when he spoke on the issue in response to questions by reporters in 2019.

After the civil jury concluded Trump had sexually abused and defamed Carroll with comments last fall and awarded $5 million in damages, lawyers for Carroll, 79, asked Kaplan to amend the original defamation lawsuit to seek $10 million in compensatory damages and “very substantial” punitive damages.

They also sought to add defamation claims to the original lawsuit, citing comments Trump, 76, made at a CNN town hall shortly after the jury verdict.

Trump’s lawyers wrote that the jury verdict favors Trump’s position in the pending lawsuit that he never defamed Carroll by claiming that he never raped her because the jury rejected the rape claim at trial. Trump, who never attended the trial, is appealing the jury verdict.

Kaplan must decide whether to accept the rewrite of the original defamation claim and Carroll’s assertion that the pending defamation case could go straight to the penalty phase of a trial because a jury had already concluded that Trump sexually abused Carroll. He also must decide whether the United States can be substituted as the defendant in place of Trump, which would effectively nullify the action.

Attorney Roberta Kaplan, who is not related to the judge, said in a statement Monday in response to the filing by Trump’s attorneys that the jury verdict supported the claims in the pending lawsuit.

“A unanimous jury found that Donald Trump inserted his fingers into E. Jean Carroll’s vagina against her will and then defamed her when he said that he did not know who E. Jean Carroll was, that he had never met her at Bergdorf Goodman, and that she had made the whole story up as part of a ‘con job’ or ‘hoax,’” Kaplan said.

“Contrary to Donald Trump’s latest arguments, the jury’s verdict makes complete sense — because the jury believed E. Jean Carroll when she testified that Trump had sexually abused her, it concluded that Trump knowingly lied about Ms. Carroll when he later claimed otherwise,” she added.

Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City’s reliance on the tactic known as “stop and frisk” as part of a new initiative to combat gun violence is harming communities of color and running afoul of the law, a court-appointed federal monitor reported Monday.

Monitor Mylan Denerstein said the NYPD ‘s Neighborhood Safety Teams — special units deployed in the past 14 months to seize guns in high-crime areas — were engaging in “unconstitutional policing” by stopping and frisking too many people without justification.

In one police precinct, Denerstein said, only 41 percent of stops, 32 percent of frisks and 26 percent of searches were lawful.

The Neighborhood Safety Teams, a replacement for the anti-crime units that the NYPD disbanded in 2021, operate in 34 areas that account for 80% of the city’s violent crime — largely communities of color. Of the people the teams have stopped, Denerstein said, 97% are Black or Hispanic.

A spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams said city officials “have serious concerns” with Denerstein’s methodology and that they only learned of her findings after news outlets reported on them.

The spokesperson, Fabien Levy, said shootings have fallen since the Neighborhood Safety Teams were created.

Officers assigned to the units “have enhanced training and oversight to ensure we are not only keeping New Yorkers safe, but protecting their civil liberties as well,” Levy said, adding that “any unconstitutional stop is unacceptable, and we will strive to do better for New Yorkers every day.”

Denerstein said she began her review after Adams announced in March 2022 that the NYPD was deploying Neighborhood Safety Teams in some precincts to combat gun violence. Team members, wearing modified uniforms and driving unmarked cars, conduct stops, frisks and searches in their assigned neighborhoods.

“Unfortunately, the results are disappointing,” Denerstein wrote.

Despite their training and experience, officers assigned to Neighborhood Safety Teams “overall appear to be stopping, frisking, and searching individuals at an unsatisfactory level of compliance. Too many people are stopped, frisked, and searched unlawfully.”

In 2013, a federal judge ruled that the NYPD had violated the civil rights of Black and Hispanic New Yorkers with stop and frisk, which was part of an effort to get guns and drugs off the street by frequently stopping and searching people on the street.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled the stops were a form of indirect racial profiling. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, once a champion of the tactic, has since apologized for its use.

Since the ruling, the department claimed a sharp drop in stops, reporting an average of around 11,730 per year from 2016 to 2022, compared with a high of nearly 686,000 stops in 2011.

Black and Hispanic people continue to be the targets of the vast majority of stops, accounting for 89% of all stops in 2022, according to NYPD data compiled by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s attorney general announced Monday she has begun investigating the board of directors of Fox Corp. for breaching its fiduciary duties by allowing Fox News to broadcast false claims about the 2020 presidential election — claims that cost the broadcaster almost $800 million in a lawsuit.

Also joining the investigation is Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read, who oversees the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund, which owns more than 250,000 shares of Fox stock. Both Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Read are Democrats.

“Treasurer Read and I believe that Fox’s board of directors breached its fiduciary duties by allowing Fox News to broadcast false claims that Dominion and Smartmatic rigged the 2020 presidential election,” Rosenblum said. “We hope to hold the board accountable and protect the long-term value of Oregon’s investment in Fox Corp.”

The head of Fox’s corporate communications did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the announcement.

In April, Fox News agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems $787.5 million to avert a trial in the voting machine company’s lawsuit that would have exposed how the network promoted lies about the 2020 presidential election.

Dominion had argued that the news outlet owned by Fox Corp. damaged Dominion’s reputation by peddling phony conspiracy theories that claimed its equipment switched votes from former President Donald Trump to Democrat Joe Biden.

Lachlan Murdoch, chair and CEO of Fox Corp., said when the settlement was announced that it avoids “the acrimony of a divisive trial and a multiyear appeal process, a decision clearly in the best interests of the company and its shareholders.”

The Oregon Department of Justice said the investigation will explore leading a lawsuit against Fox’s management on behalf of the company’s harmed investors, which include Oregon’s public employees.

“Fox directors and senior officers manage the company on behalf of its investors,” the department said in a statement. “They have a duty to manage the company competently, honestly, and in a manner that prevents foreseeable and catastrophic financial harm like that inflicted upon company’s shareholders by the Dominion and Smartmatic suits.”

“We invest for Oregon’s public servants and we aim to hold Fox’s board of directors, including Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, accountable for their decisions,” said Read, who is a member of the Oregon Investment Council, which sets state investment policy. “Investigating Fox’s books and records is a necessary and significant step in fulfilling our obligation to our beneficiaries.”

As of May 26, the Oregon pension fund owned 168,075 Class A common stock shares and 92,850 Class B shares of Fox stock, said Roy Kaufmann, Rosenblum’s spokesperson.

Another voting machine company, Smartmatic USA, has also sued Fox News over Fox News’ bogus election claims. Dominion had sued Fox for $1.6 billion.

Andrew Selsky, The Associated Press

REGINA — Clint Blyth continues to see his stream banks erode each year. 

The southeastern Saskatchewan rancher says the degradation is caused by those upstream who illegally drain water, as every year huge gushes take chunks out of the banks.  

This year, it has forced him to move his fence line by about one metre.

“In a lot of places, (the stream banks) are twice as wide as they were in 2010,” Blyth told reporters Monday at Regina’s McKell Wascana Conservation Park, an area lush with grasses and wetlands. 

“We don’t have stream banks that look like this,” he said, pointing to the park.

“(Ours) get saturated, then the water drops, then they cave in.”

Blyth joined representatives from various Saskatchewan environmental groups to raise concerns over a new drainage policy that they argue is not adequately protecting the province’s ecosystems. 

The groups, which include the Saskatchewan Alliance for Water Sustainability, the Calling Lakes Ecomuseum and Last Mountain Stewardship Group, said the province’s Agricultural Water Management Policy would allow farms to drain more wetlands and in effect put habitats, people and infrastructure at risk downstream.  

The groups said losing more wetlands would also result in water quality to degrade, as there would be fewer of the areas to filter out contaminants. 

Over time, as the climate changes, they said wetlands would become increasingly crucial to sustain communities, farms and industry.  

“We support a growing Saskatchewan and we need wetlands in order to grow,” said Aura Lee MacPherson, chair of the Calling Lakes Ecomuseum.

Many farmers in Saskatchewan have been illegally draining water from wetlands over the years so they can grow more crops, helping them pay for land and increasingly expensive equipment.

The Water Security Agency is developing the policy and has said it’s working to bring unpermitted drainage into compliance. 

The agency has indicated the policy would retain current drainage and allow further development if done responsibly. It’s also working on a strategy for wetlands that would ensure habitats are supported.  

It did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the concerns. 

Blyth said the agency hasn’t been enforcing the rules to stop people from draining. 

He also said the agency has not done any work to slow down current drainage, resulting in continued erosion. 

“We have an opportunity to fix and look after our wetlands, our streamflow and our water quality,” he said. “We’ve got to get past the short-sightedness of what we’re doing.”

MacPherson said Saskatchewan needs to develop a wetland policy that addresses people’s concerns while ensuring businesses aren’t affected. 

“It would be making sure that what’s coming downstream is good water quality for everybody,” she said. “It would be creating neighbourliness and it would need regulation. It absolutely has to have regulation.”

Erika Ritchie, the Opposition NDP critic for the Water Security Agency, said the Saskatchewan Party government could look to Alberta and Manitoba for solutions in developing a wetland policy. The neighbouring provinces ensure protection for some wetlands. 

Ritchie said the agency needs to be enforcing the rules so people aren’t illegally draining. 

She also said the current approach of allowing drainage but in a slowed-down fashion is “not science-based.”

“They talked about creating larger wetlands, but they don’t function the same way. You may be having the same quantity of water in some cases, but they’re not part of the natural ecosystem in the same way in providing the same eco-services,” she said. 

“I would like to see this government put partisanship aside and actually look at the science, listen to the experts … and put in a more balanced approach that’s going to take all these factors into consideration.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2023. 

Jeremy Simes, The Canadian Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Republican members of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources are raising concerns about ties between Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and an Indigenous group from her home state that advocates for halting oil and gas production on public lands.

The members on Monday sent a letter to Haaland requesting documents related to her interactions with Pueblo Action Alliance as well as those of her daughter, Somah, who has worked with the group and has rallied against fossil fuel development.

The request comes just days after Haaland decided to withdraw hundreds of square miles in New Mexico from oil and gas production for the next 20 years on the outskirts of Chaco Culture National Historical Park — an area considered sacred by some Native American communities.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, the Arkansas Republican who chairs the committee, said Congress has a duty to oversee federal agencies and the cabinet secretaries who lead them and that what he called Haaland’s “alliances” present potential conflicts of interest.

“The committee is calling on Secretary Haaland to shed light on these ties between her family and this extremist group so we can determine the potentially unethical way these types of decisions are being made throughout the federal bureaucracy,” Westerman said in a statement.

The Interior Department had no comment on the letter, agency spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said.

Haaland — who is from the Laguna Pueblo and is the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency — has said the work to protect land around Chaco has been ongoing for decades and that numerous public meetings and consultations with tribal leaders were a part of the process.

Julia Bernal, executive director of Pueblo Action Alliance, called the Chaco decision a compromise because the group has been pushing for more expansive protections.

“The Alliance has urged the Biden administration to protect ancestral lands and address the climate emergency by phasing out fossil fuel extraction on public lands,” Bernal told The Associated Press in an email. “Chairman Westerman’s allegations are a misguided attempt to deflect attention from the fossil fuel industry’s role in the climate crisis and the destruction of ancestral lands.”

Industry groups have suggested that Pueblo Action Alliance, Somah Haaland and others have influenced Haaland, who as secretary oversees an agency that manages more than 380,000 square miles (984,196 square kilometers) of public lands.

The Western Energy Alliance says that Haaland and her senior officials have granted special access to Pueblo Action Alliance and its allies and have helped the group lobby members of Congress and the Interior Department on issues before the agency, including oil and gas leasing.

“Secretary Haaland has conflicts of interest that simply wouldn’t be tolerated if they were on behalf of oil and natural gas companies and should not be tolerated when they’re on behalf of environmental special interests,” Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma said Monday.

Among the documents the House panel is requesting are copies of the ethical pledges signed by Haaland and any waivers that have been granted to her.

The request also calls for communications between the secretary and Somah Haaland related to oil and gas leasing on federal lands, Pueblo Action Alliance, efforts to lobby members of Congress or other government officials about withdrawing federal land from development and a protest at the agency’s headquarters in October 2021.

Susan Montoya Bryan, The Associated Press