Take hard line on Canada’s digital tax, online laws, tech associations urge Biden
Minister of Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez prepares to appear before the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications on Bill C-11 in the Senate of Canada Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. The bill, also known as the Online Streaming Act, is one of several problematic Canadian initiatives tech leaders in the U.S. want President Joe Biden to raise with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
By James McCarten in Washington
A high-tech industry coalition in the United States is urging President Joe Biden to take a hard line against Canada’s approach to digital services.
The group says the proposed digital services tax unfairly targets U.S. companies and is offside with international efforts to establish a global standard.
In a letter to Biden, they also complain about two controversial federal bills: the Online Streaming Act, known as Bill C-11, and the Online News Act, or Bill C-18.
They warn C-11, which is meant to protect Canadian content providers, could backfire and ultimately increase costs to consumers.
And they fear the Online News Act, which would compensate Canadian news organizations and broadcasters, could violate the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
Biden is meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later this week as part of his first visit to Canada since taking over the White House in 2021.
“We are concerned that Canada is pursuing a number of problematic proposals and actions that could significantly limit the ability of U.S. companies to export their goods and services and fairly compete in the Canadian market,” the letter reads.
“It is critical for the United States to hold Canada accountable to its USMCA commitments to ensure the continued success of this important agreement.”
The letter is signed by 10 different associations in the digital services space, including the Computer and Communications Industry Association, the Information Technology Industry Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
First and foremost in their sights is Canada’s “discriminatory and retroactive” digital services tax, which the group estimates would collect US$4 billion over five years, primarily from U.S. companies.
The tax, designed to ensure tech giants pay their fair share of taxes in countries where they earn revenue without a physical presence, would only take effect next year if a new multilateral tax framework doesn’t take shape by then.
Canada has endorsed that so-called “inclusive framework,” established under the auspices of the G20 and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
“Canada’s pursuit of a DST would set a harmful precedent for other inclusive framework participants to adopt similarly targeted taxes on U.S. digital services.”
Precedent elsewhere is also a concern with the Online Streaming Act, which the associations say smacks of an effort to impose on the internet a regulatory scheme designed for the “traditionally restricted world of broadcasting.”
If passed, the bill “could have disastrous consequences for content production and distribution and could inspire other countries to implement similar content-preference schemes.”
And they say the Online News Act, which is already fuelling mounting tensions between the federal government and tech giants like Google and Meta, appears to exclude digital companies from outside the U.S., a violation of the terms of North America’s trilateral trade agreement.
“It is critical for the United States government to hold Canada to its trade commitments and to underscore the negative global precedent that would be set if Canada implements these measures in their current form.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2023.
New Democrat MP says she is target of foreign interference by China
New Democrat member of Parliament Jenny Kwan says she was briefed by Canada’s spy agency, who informed her that she is an ongoing target by the People’s Republic of China. Kwan speaks during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, May 5, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
New Democrat MP Jenny Kwan said Monday that Canada’s spy agency has confirmed her long-held belief that she is being targeted by the Chinese government over her advocacy for human rights in Hong Kong and for the Uyghur Muslim minority in China.
Kwan said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service spent an hour with her on Friday laying out the intelligence it possesses that she has been targeted by China since before the 2019 federal election.
But Kwan said she can’t divulge the nature of the alleged actions against her, nor has she noticed them happening.
“What CSIS confirmed with me is that I was a target and I continue to be a target,” Kwan said outside the House of Commons. “They use the term ‘evergreen’ meaning that I will forever be targeted.”
The news is further evidence of the need for a full public inquiry on foreign interference, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said. He said the NDP will put a motion to the House of Commons on Tuesday asking MPs to vote in favour of a public inquiry, as well as for the ousting of former governor general David Johnston as the government’s special rapporteur on foreign interference.
Johnston was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March to look at the intelligence collected about attempts by foreign governments, including China, to interfere in the last two Canadian elections, as well as whether the government’s protections against, and response to, such interference are sound.
The Conservatives have accused Johnston of being biased because he has old family connections to Trudeau. Singh said while he has not seen evidence that Johnston was biased, he believes the very appearance of any bias is reason enough for Johnston to be replaced.
Last week Johnston said a public inquiry was not warranted, in part because too much of the information is classified for national security reasons. Opposition parties agree that the elections were not compromised but several still say a public inquiry is the only way for Canadians to feel confident in their electoral system.
Kwan said it is troubling that MPs were not given information about possible threats against them for years. A party official confirmed to The Canadian Press Kwan is not concerned about any physical threats to her safety or that of her family.
Kwan said MPs should be told immediately if CSIS has information about threats or tactics being used against them. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino issued a new directive earlier this month requiring that to happen.
Kwan squirmed as reporters tried to get more information about exactly how she was being targeted, repeating over and over she cannot say because the information is classified.
While she has long suspected she may be fodder for attempted interference by the Chinese government, she was not aware of any actions and those suspicions were only confirmed in the briefing on Friday.
“The short answer is, no, I didn’t know until this moment when I’ve been informed. Did I suspect that there might be something, especially in light of the information that’s coming forward? I did wonder. I can’t help but to wonder, because of my outspokenness.”
Kwan said she has no intention of backing down in her advocacy work, pointing out that in the last week she participated in two rallies including a photo exhibition marking anti-democratic events in Hong Kong and a democracy walk over the weekend.
“Out of this briefing it is more clear to me than ever that I will not be intimidated, that I will not be silenced in any way,” Kwan said. “Whoever is trying to put pressure on me in whatever way that they’re trying to do it, they will not succeed.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2023.
Nun whose body shows little decay since 2019 death draws hundreds to rural Missouri
Hundreds of people flocked to a small town in Missouri this week and last to see a Black nun whose body has barely decomposed since 2019. Some say it’s a sign of holiness in Catholicism, while others say the lack of decomposition may not be as rare as people think.
Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster was exhumed in April, according to a statement from the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, in Gower, Missouri.
The nuns had been preparing for the addition of a St. Joseph shrine, and that involved “the reinterment of the remains of our beloved foundress, Sister Wilhelmina,” the statement said.
When they exhumed Lancaster, they were told to expect only bones, since she had been buried in a simple wooden coffin without any embalming four years ago.
Instead, they discovered an intact body and “a perfectly preserved religious habit,” the statement said. The nuns hadn’t meant to publicize the discovery, but someone posted a private email publicly and “the news began to spread like wildfire.”
Volunteers and local law enforcement have helped to manage the crowds in the town of roughly 1,800 people, as people have visited from all over the country to see and touch Lancaster’s body.
“It was pretty amazing,” said Samuel Dawson, who is Catholic and visited from Kansas City with his son last week. “It was very peaceful. Just very reverent.”
Dawson said there were a few hundred people when he visited and that he saw many out-of-state cars.
Visitors were allowed to touch her, Dawson said, adding that the nuns “wanted to make her accessible to the public … because in real life, she was always accessible to people.”
The monastery said in a statement that Lancaster’s body will be placed in a glass shrine in their church on Monday. Visitors will still be able to see her body and take dirt from her grave, but they won’t be able to touch her.
The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph also released a statement.
“The condition of the remains of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster has understandably generated widespread interest and raised important questions,” the diocese said. “At the same time, it is important to protect the integrity of the mortal remains of Sister Wilhelmina to allow for a thorough investigation.”
“Incorruptibility has been verified in the past, but it is very rare. There is a well-established process to pursue the cause for sainthood, but that has not been initiated in this case yet,” the diocese added.
The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, also said that Lancaster has not yet reached the required minimum of five years since death for the sainthood process to begin.
Rebecca George, an anthropology instructor at Western Carolina University in North Carolina, said the body’s lack of decomposition might not be as rare as people are expecting.
George said the “mummification” of un-embalmed bodies is common at the university’s facility and the bodies could stay preserved for many years, if allowed to.
Coffins and clothing also help to preserve bodies, she said.
“Typically, when we bury people, we don’t exhume them. We don’t get to look at them a couple years out,” George said. “With 100 years, there might be nothing left. But when you’ve got just a few years out, this is not unexpected.”
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