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NDP’s Jagmeet Singh steps into the House of Commons, making history

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OTTAWA — Sporting a bright yellow turban, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh entered the House of Commons for the first time as an MP Monday to loud cheers.

Singh is the first racialized leader in the Commons in Canadian history.

The leader of the New Democrats had been left out of the political theatre of question period and he wasn’t able to have an office on Parliament Hill.

Singh won his new Burnaby South seat in a February byelection sparked by the departure of former NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, who ran for mayor of Vancouver.

New Democrats are hoping Singh’s presence in the House of Commons will help the party turn the page on a difficult period, marked by challenges with morale and fundraising.

Singh’s prolonged lack of a seat contributed to internal battles within his own caucus following his leadership win in October 2017.

The Canadian Press

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Lawyers urge Canada to stop Chinese exec’s extradition to U.S. on fraud charges

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VANCOUVER — Defence lawyers for a senior Huawei executive have asked Canada’s foreign affairs minister to stop the extradition process against their client, saying the request made by the United States was for political purposes, not legitimate law enforcement reasons.

Meng Wanzhou’s lawyers say in a statement they decided to deliver written submissions to Chrystia Freeland following former prime minister Jean Chretien’s comments that withdrawing extradition proceedings would improve relations with China and win the release of two Canadians being held there.

Freeland has rejected Chretien’s view, which was reported in the Globe and Mail based on anonymous sources, saying heeding to external pressure in a single case would set a dangerous precedent that could make Canadians less safe around the world.

In the statement released Monday, Meng’s lawyers say Canada is at a “crossroads” regarding the United States’ request to extradite Meng to face a fraud trial for alleged conduct that would not be an offence in Canada.

Meng was arrested at Vancouver’s airport last December and a B.C. Supreme Court judge has accepted her defence team’s plan for the start of an extradition hearing in January, which would conclude in about 16 months.

The U.S. Department of Justice laid charges of conspiracy, fraud and obstruction of justice against Meng and Huawei, alleging they misled a bank about Huawei’s ownership of a subsidiary called Skycom in an effort to circumvent U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Both Meng and Huawei have denied any wrongdoing.

Her defence team says the extradition proceedings are unprecedented.

“What is most glaring about the extradition request is that the conduct alleged against Ms. Meng could never ground a criminal prosecution in Canada,” the lawyers say in the statement.

“Canada does not police the conduct of foreign persons in foreign lands that have nothing to do with Canada.”

They say all the allegations relevant to the extradition request occurred in Hong Kong, involving Meng, a foreign national, and a foreign bank.

“None of the conduct occurred in the United States or Canada. No alleged victim resided in Canada. No aspect of any fact violated any Canadian law.”

The statement from Meng’s legal team says the United States has stood alone since May 2018 in maintaining strict sanction laws against Iran, which neither Canada nor any of its allies support.

Meng remains under house arrest at one of her two Vancouver homes and has filed a separate civil lawsuit against the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency.

Both have denied officers searched her electronic devices at the airport in Vancouver, saying border officials only examined Meng and her luggage for immigration and customs purposes.

Relations between China and Canada have been strained since Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained by Beijing last December for alleged spying after Meng was arrested.

Freeland has maintained Meng’s arrest is lawful and her rights are being protected while rebuffing China’s demands to free her.

The Canadian Press

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Celina Caesar-Chavannes says black civil servants passed over for promotions

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OTTAWA — Independent MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes says qualified black Canadians are being passed over for promotions to senior positions in the federal government due what she says are systemic racial barriers.

Caesar-Chavannes, who is not running for re-election in October, used her final act in the House of Commons last week to shine a light on what she says is discrimination in the civil service.

She says in all of Canada’s history, no black person has been appointed as a federal deputy minister, the bureaucratic head of a department.

Caesar-Chavannes says there has also been a “thinning out” of visible minorities at the assistant-deputy-minister level.

She has heard from current and former civil servants who say they have the qualifications to be promoted to managerial positions, but report being passed over for more senior jobs in favour of candidates they say were sometimes less qualified.

Though it stands almost no chance of becoming law now, Caesar-Chavannes tabled a private member’s bill that would require the Canadian Human Rights Commission to annually report on the progress — or lack thereof — of government’s efforts to promote black Canadians and other visible minorities to more senior positions within the federal ranks.

 

The Canadian Press

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