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American man dedicated life to finding treasure on Nova Scotia’s Oak Island

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HALIFAX — An American who became a famed Nova Scotia treasure hunter is being remembered by friends as a larger-than-life figure.

Dan Blankenship died Sunday at 95.

He was a staple on “The Curse of Oak Island,” a reality TV series on the History channel that was set on the 57-hectare island on Nova Scotia’s south shore.

His son David Blankenship said Tuesday they hoped to have a memorial service on Thursday, likely in Martins Point, N.S.

Charles Barkhouse, an Oak Island historian and family friend, described Blankenship as a “living legend.”

“I mean, how often do you get to meet a treasure hunter?” Barkhouse chuckled. “In truth he was much more than just a treasure hunter. He had a very full life.”

Barkhouse said Blankenship was a U.S. Army veteran who had a successful contracting business in Miami, Fla., when he got hooked on the Oak Island mystery after reading a “Reader’s Digest” story in 1965.

“He’s poured his blood, sweat and tears into that island trying to solve this mystery,” Barkhouse said.

The Oak Island legend began in 1795 when curious teenage boys began digging at the site, thinking they might find a pirate’s buried treasure.

Theories on who may have buried treasure on the island range from pirate Blackbeard to the Knights Templar.

Blankenship described in a 2010 interview how he became engrossed in the legend after reading the “Reader’s Digest” story.

“I handed the article over to my wife and said, ‘Read that’ and so she read it and, in so many words, said, ‘So what?’ I said, ‘Well, No. 1, there’s treasure on Oak Island, and No. 2, I’m going to be instrumental in getting it.’ That was the beginning.”

Blankenship co-owned the island with a group of investors, including brothers Rick and Marty Lagina, who are doing the major work on site now. Their search for treasure has been featured during the reality TV show’s six seasons.

“Dan was known as a pillar of strength to those around him and we will be forever grateful for the time we had with him,” the show’s Los Angeles-based production company, Prometheus Entertainment, said in a tweet.

Previous digs at the so-called money pit site — a circular depression discovered by one of those boys in 1795 — uncovered a layer of stones below the surface and layers of logs every three metres, as well as layers of charcoal, putty and coconut fibres, to a depth of 27 metres.

Barkhouse said Blankenship settled on the island in the 1970s and was driven in ways he imagines most people who are attracted to a mystery are.

“All these treasure hunters even going back to the start — they want to be the ones to solve this thing,” said Barkhouse. “You have to have that belief, that passion that you are going to be the one to solve it, because if you don’t then there is no point in even being there.”

He said Blankenship was a great storyteller with a strong presence.

“At 95 when you shook his hand you knew you were shaking somebody’s hand,” Barkhouse said. “He had a big set of mitts on him because he was a hardworking man all his life. He had a grip on him like a steel vice.”

Rick Lohnes, who runs tours of Oak Island, said he first met Blankenship in the 1980s at the auto repair shop where Lohnes used to work.

“He used to come in and tell me stories, but he’d never go a complete story,” Lohnes said. “He’d always tell me I’d have to wait until the next time he came back.”

Lohnes said Blankenship truly believed there was treasure to be found and it was “just a matter of getting to it.”

“To me Dan is Oak Island. It is a real loss the knowledge that went with him.”

— With files from Alison Auld.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press

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China asks for suspension of Canadian meat, citing forged certificates

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OTTAWA — The Chinese Embassy said Tuesday it has asked Canada to suspended all meat exports, a surprise move that comes amid the diplomatic dispute over the December arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

The latest Chinese move comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to depart Wednesday for a G20 leaders’ summit in Japan, where he is expected to rely on U.S. President Donald Trump to raise the plight of two detained Canadians during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The embassy said in a statement to The Canadian Press on Tuesday that this latest move follows Chinese customs inspectors’ detection of residue from a restricted feed additive, called ractopamine, in a batch of Canadian pork products. The additive has permitted uses in Canada but is banned in China.

“The subsequent investigation revealed that the official veterinary health certificates attached to the batch of pork exported to China were counterfeit and the number of those forgery certificates was up to 188. The Canadian side believes that this incident is criminal offence,” said the embassy statement.

“These forged certificates were sent to the Chinese regulatory authorities through Canadian official certificate notification channel, which reflects that the Canadian meat export supervision system exists obvious safety loopholes.”

China is therefore taking “urgent preventive measures” to protect Chinese customers and has asked the Canadian government to suspend all meat-export certificates, the embassy said.

“We hope the Canadian side would attach great importance to this incident, complete the investigation as soon as possible and take effective measures to ensure the safety of food exported to China in a more responsible manner.”

A spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau did not immediately comment on the report.

A report in the newspaper Journal de Quebec, which first reported the story, quotes a Montreal-based diplomat with the Chinese consulate-general as saying the ban is temporary.

China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor and sentenced another Canadian to death in an apparent attempt to pressure for Meng’s release.

China has also stopped imports of Canadian canola and has suspended import permits for three pork producers.

A senior Canadian government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the dispute, described the matter as a “technical issue.”

The official said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is “seized with the issue and looking into the matter to ensure that all the rules are being followed.”

The CFIA is working with Chinese officials to resolve the matter.

“This is a technical issue related to potentially fraudulent permits,” said the official. “We stand by the quality of Canadian products.”

The Conservatives blamed Trudeau.

“Conservatives know that Canadian farmers produce some of the highest-quality meat in the world. Any assertion by the Chinese government to the contrary is both false and baseless,” said a statement from Tory agriculture critic Luc Berthold. “It is clear that this is not an issue of food safety, but a political issue caused by Justin Trudeau’s incompetence and weakness on the world stage.”

Berthold said Trudeau has to “personally raise this issue” with Xi in at the G20 meeting and demand the trade barriers be lifted.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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Report: China bans all Canadian meat before G20 as Trudeau turns to Trump on detainees

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OTTAWA — A report in a Quebec newspaper says China has suspended all Canadian meat exports in a dramatic escalation of its diplomatic dispute with Canada over the December arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

The latest Chinese move comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to depart Wednesday for the G20 leaders’ summit, where he is expected to rely on U.S. President Donald Trump to raise the plight of two detained Canadians during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

A report in the newspaper Journal de Quebec quotes a Montreal-based diplomat with the Chinese consulate-general as saying the ban is temporary.

The diplomat says the move is being taken because about 100 faked veterinary health certificates have been identified on exported meat products.

A spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has yet to comment on the report.

China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor and sentenced another Canadian to death in an apparent attempt to pressure for Meng’s release.

China has also stopped imports of Canadian canola and has suspended export permits for three pork producers.

The Canadian Press

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