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Two dozen Vietnamese Montagnards go to Finland as refugees – UN

The 27 refugees, who were flying from the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, to the coastal Finnish city of Oulu, were the first group to go from the 72 Montagnards recently accepted for resettlement in Finland.”There were a lot of smiles and some laughter during our orientation briefing. Overall, they seemed a bit nervous but excited about their new future,” said a protection officer from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).A second group of the Montagnards is scheduled to fly to Finland in early June after taking a Finnish orientation course this week.The mainly Christian Montagnards fled Viet Nam’s Central Highlands after the Government cracked down on protests against land confiscation and religious persecution in April of last year. They followed an earlier group of more than 1,000 who fled to Cambodia after similar protests in February 2001.Most Montagnard refugees who reach Cambodia, which has declined to accept them, have preferred to resettle in the United States, where there already is a large Montagnard community and connections with Americans who fought in Viet Nam.Others have gone to Sweden. Canada is also now accepting Montagnards for resettlement.A major breakthrough was made in January when Viet Nam initiated tripartite consultations with Cambodia and UNHCR, leading to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that institutionalized temporary protection for Montagnards in Cambodia and gave them the options of return or resettlement.The agreed mechanism includes a commitment from Viet Nam that any returnees will not be prosecuted or discriminated against on the basis of their illegal departure. read more

University participates in Earth Hour

A man and woman hold candles at Niagara Falls, Canada during Earth Hour 2009. Photo: earthhour.orgBrock will power down on Saturday as the energy conscious worldwide celebrate Earth Hour.The University will shut off lights in parking lots T, U and V for Earth Hour on Saturday, which is 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. It will also turn off the light to the roadside Brock sign, said Scott Johnstone, manager of Electrical Services in Facilities Management.“In a lot of other areas on campus, we are unable to turn off the lights due to health and safety concerns,” he said.Facilities Management invites staff, faculty and students to switch off unnecessary lights in their own areas, he said.Earth Hour is an international effort to turn off lights to conserve energy and make a statement against climate change. It began in Sydney, Australia in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses turned off their lights for one hour. It has since grown to more than 4,000 cities in 88 countries.The effort is organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The local WWF Earth Hour ambassador is Audrey le Goff, who contacted St. Catharines businesses to encourage them to participate in Earth Hour. She also distributed tool kits at St. Catharines malls containing posters, fundraising tips and other information, she said.“Climate change is the biggest environmental threat to our planet and the No. 1 concern for Canadians,” she said. “Participating in Earth Hour is a very simple way to show that you want to be a part of the solution.” read more