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Canadian businesses face retaliatory risk after Huawei arrest: analysts

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OTTAWA — Canada’s arrest of a Chinese telecommunications executive in Vancouver at the request of the United States sparked widespread surprise, but in security and diplomatic circles it was pure deja vu.
Canada did a similar favour for the Americ…


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  • OTTAWA — Canada’s arrest of a Chinese telecommunications executive in Vancouver at the request of the United States sparked widespread surprise, but in security and diplomatic circles it was pure deja vu.

    Canada did a similar favour for the Americans in July 2014 when it arrested a Chinese businessman in British Columbia for hacking the data bases of U.S. defence contractors to steal military secrets.

    In that case, Su Bin — a Chinese national who had permanent residency in Canada — was eventually extradited to the U.S. where he pleaded guilty in 2016 to a criminal conspiracy, years in the making, to steal U.S. military secrets. He was sentenced to 46 months in prison.

    But it’s what happened a month after Su’s initial arrest that now has some spooked: Canadians Julia and Kevin Garratt, who lived three decades in China operating a coffee shop and doing Christian aid work, were arrested and accused of spying and stealing military secrets.

    Now, there are fears of what China may do next.

    The Garratts have since been released after a two-year ordeal, but in light of last Saturday’s arrest of Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, concern is rising that other Canadians in China are at risk of being arrested in retaliation.

    “China will be furious and look for means of punishing us, in part as an example for others,” David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said Thursday.

    “That could include tit-for-tat moves against Canadians, a motive that many, myself included, suspect to have been at the bottom of the 2014 arrest and imprisonment of Canadians Julia and Kevin Garratt.”

    That view is shared by other international security analysts after Canada’s Justice Department said the U.S. is seeking Meng’s extradition. Canada is not providing further details about the case because of a court-ordered publication ban on her pending bail hearing, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday he’s not commenting on an independent legal process.

    “The Chinese are likely to play tit-for-tat on this one and we should be ready for it,” said Fen Hampson, the director of the global security program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation based in southern Ontario.

    Stephanie Carvin, a former Canadian security analyst who teaches at Carleton University, said on Twitter: “In light of the #Huawei arrest, a reminder that China takes innocent Canadians hostage on a whim for its own purposes. Would not want to be a Canadian business leader in China right now.”

    Chinese foreign-ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters Thursday that his government wants Canadian officials to reveal their reasoning. He said Meng’s legal rights must be ensured, adding that neither Canadian nor American officials had so far responded to China’s concerns.

    China’s embassy in Ottawa has also branded Meng’s arrest as a serious violation of human rights.

    But Trudeau said Thursday he hasn’t talked to any international counterparts about the affair, and he made clear he’s staying out of it. He said his office got “a few days’ notice that this was in the works” but he emphasized the actions of law enforcement officials are independent from politics.

    “We are a country of an independent judiciary, and the appropriate authorities took the decisions in this case without any political involvement or interference.”

    Some say Canada’s firm stand against China could have an economic cost as it tries to deepen trade ties. Carvin speculated on Twitter that this could affect the sale of Canadian lobsters, among other things.

    Others say Canada needs to stand firm in the face of Chinese pressure. They say Beijing is trying to press Canada where it might sense vulnerability — Ottawa’s own strained relations with the Trump administration in Washington over tariffs and trade.

    “It’s the bully next door Trudeau and Canadians have the most to worry about, and if the choice is between Beijing or Washington, Washington will always trump Beijing,” said Hampson.

    Mulroney said the Meng case has brought Canada and China to an inevitable reckoning in their relationship.

    “China has entertained hopes that they could split us away from the U.S. in the Trump era,” he said.

    “This reminds the Chinese, and ourselves, that we are part of an international order backed by the U.S.”

    Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press




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    National

    Canadian Press NewsAlert: Canadian citizen killed in Honduras plane crash

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    TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Global Affairs is confirming that a Canadian citizen has been killed in a plane crash in Honduras.
    A spokesperson for the department says the crash happened in the Roatan Islands area.
    Stefano Maron says consular offic…


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  • TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Global Affairs is confirming that a Canadian citizen has been killed in a plane crash in Honduras.

    A spokesperson for the department says the crash happened in the Roatan Islands area.

    Stefano Maron says consular officials in the capital, Tegucigalpa, are in contact with local authorities and providing consular assistance to the victim’s family.

    Local media report that all five people who died in yesterday’s crash were foreigners.

    More coming.

    The Canadian Press


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    Environment

    ‘Rope-a-dope’: Environmentalists say Alberta war room threat won’t distract them

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    EDMONTON — Environmental groups targeted by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are shrugging off the new government’s promised $30-million “war room” to fight criticisms of the province’s energy industry.
    “The war room makes for good theatre, but the people …


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  • EDMONTON — Environmental groups targeted by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are shrugging off the new government’s promised $30-million “war room” to fight criticisms of the province’s energy industry.

    “The war room makes for good theatre, but the people who follow this closely are going to look at this as amateur hour,” said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace.

    “Chasing environmentalists might play well politically, but it’s not actually relevant to the discussion that Alberta and Canada need to be having,” added Simon Dyer of the clean-energy think tank Pembina Institute.

    Both groups have been singled out by Kenney as examples of ones distorting the truth about the impact of the oilsands. The premier has said government staff will be tasked with responding quickly to what he calls myths and lies.

    Kenney has also promised to fund lawsuits against offending environmentalists and to call a public inquiry into the role of money from U.S. foundations.

    “Stay tuned,” Energy Minister Sonya Savage said Tuesday. “We’ll have something to talk about next week.”

    Environmental groups have already been discussing informally what the United Conservative government might have in mind and how they should react.

    “We’ve been contacted,” said Devon Page of Ecojustice, an environmental law firm. “We’ve been saying to the groups, ‘We’re here. We’ll respond and represent you as we have in the past.’

    “What we’re trying hard not to do is to do what I think the Kenney government wants, which is to get distracted.”

    Dyer and Stewart said their groups are about 85 per cent funded by Canadians. The Pembina Institute was founded in Drayton Valley, Alta., and its headquarters remain in Calgary.

    Both called the war room political posturing aimed at the party’s base.

    “A lot of the rhetoric around our work and our contribution to Alberta has been based on complete misinformation,” said Dyer, who pointed out Pembina has worked with virtually every major energy company in the province.

    Stewart called the threats a rerun of the 2012 campaign against environmental groups fuelled by the right-wing The Rebel media group and led by Stephen Harper’s federal Conservatives.

    “We learned to play rope-a-dope,” said Stewart. “Stephen Harper was our best recruiter.

    “We had people contacting us saying, ‘How do I lie down in front of a bulldozer?’ We don’t usually get a lot of those calls but we were getting a lot of those calls.”

    Each group is confident in the accuracy of the facts it cites. Dyer said Pembina research has been used by investors, academics and governments.

    Stewart said the issue isn’t facts, but how they are understood. 

    “Often what it is is a disagreement over which fact is important. Industry will say, ‘We’re reducing emissions per barrel.’ We’ll say, ‘Emissions are going up.’ Both statements are true and it depends which you think is more important.”

    Cara Zwibel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the Kenney government must tread carefully. It’s OK to defend your position, but not to threaten, she said.

    “If we’re talking about initiating lawsuits against individuals or organizations on the basis of speaking out on issues of public importance, then that raises serious problems,” she said. “Then we have a much more obvious impact and potential violation on freedom of expression.”

    The province could possibly expose itself to legal action if its statements harm a group or individual — say, by putting them at the centre of a Twitter firestorm, said an Edmonton lawyer.

    “There’s certainly some kind of moral responsibility in terms of understanding that kind of highly charged rhetoric,” said Sean Ward, who practises media law. “You have to understand the consequences that are likely to follow.”

    Ward said any cases the government funds would also be tough to win. 

    “There are a lot of available defences. It’s difficult to see that this sort of general debate they’re going to be able to shut down with defamation law.”

    Environmentalists say their response will be to avoid distraction and carry on.

    “The vast majority active in this place don’t want to go back to a high conflict, polarizing environment,” Dyer said. “We’re not interested in polarizing this debate.”

    Bob Weber, The Canadian Press




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