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Criticism over failure to mention Muslims ‘completely baseless,’ says Scheer

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OTTAWA — Andrew Scheer says criticism over his initial failure to mention that Muslims were targeted in the recent mass murder in New Zealand is “completely baseless” and driven by “disgusting” Liberal efforts to score political points from the tragedy.

But in answering a question Saturday about how he deals with that criticism, the federal Conservative leader once again initially made no reference to Muslims.

“I deal with it by pointing out that the criticisms are completely baseless,” Scheer told the Manning Networking Conference, an annual gathering of this country’s conservative thinkers, strategists and politicians.

“When you look at statements I’ve made condemning hateful ideologies, those who would promote any type of superiority of one race or religion over the others, I condemn that unequivocally.”

Scheer noted that the second statement he issued on the day of the New Zealand shootings “absolutely did include the reference to the faith community that was attacked,” although he did not at first identify that faith community.

On March 15, an avowed white supremacist shot and killed 50 Muslim worshippers at two New Zealand mosques. In a statement posted that day on Twitter, Scheer condemned the attacks as “a despicable act of evil” against “peaceful worshippers,” without specifically mentioning where they occurred or who was targeted.

A few hours later — after the initial statement drew criticism — Scheer issued a second statement, which he referred to Saturday as his “official statement.” It specifically referred to the horrific “terror attack on two New Zealand mosques” and voiced his “profound condemnation of this cowardly and hateful attack on the Muslim community.”

On Saturday, Scheer blamed the Liberals for stirring up the controversy, accusing them of attempting “to score cheap political points in a very disgusting manner.” Moreover, he argued that initial tweets by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Governor General Julie Payette also didn’t specifically mention mosques or Muslims.

Later, as he took questions from members of the audience, Scheer was asked why he’s never said the word “Islamophobia.” 

“I don’t believe that’s true,” he responded, noting that all parties supported a motion last week in the House of Commons. That motion, which he didn’t describe, condemned the mosque attacks and affirmed the need to “confront hatred, Islamophobia, and white supremacy, in all their forms.”

“I reject anyone who would speak out based on Islamophobic principles, whether or not that’s somebody who is trying to lump all people of the Muslim faith in together or whether it’s people who are trying to antagonize elements of society to have a more negative reaction to those who practice that faith,” Scheer added.

“To me the important thing is to speak out against those who in any way give oxygen or space to those who are trying to promote one group of people over the other.”

Scheer also used his appearance at the Manning conference to promise that a Conservative government would balance the federal budget — but he didn’t say when.

He said the Liberals have made such increases to government spending that a Conservative government could get most of the way to balance simply by holding annual spending increases to the rate of inflation and population growth. As well, he said billions could be saved by scrapping “some big-ticket items” introduced by the Liberals such as the federal infrastructure bank.

The longer Prime Minister Justin Trudeau goes racking up large annual deficits, the harder it will be return to balance, Scheer suggested. But he said Canadians have “a window” in this fall’s federal election to “limit the damage and get back to balanced budgets over a shorter period of time.”

Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s latest budget forecasts deficits of almost $20 billion in each of the next two years, declining to just under $10 billion in five years. It makes no attempt to forecast when the budget might be balanced.

 

Joan Bryden, 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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