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Trudeau says Liberals will win in B.C. byelection where Singh seeks seat

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  • BURNABY, B.C. — Justin Trudeau said the Liberal candidate in Burnaby South will be a strong voice for the community, as he campaigned on Sunday in the riding where New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh is seeking a seat.

    The prime minister told a crowd of supporters that Richard T. Lee served Burnaby, B.C., for 16 years as a provincial legislator and continues to work hard every day to put the best face forward for the city.

    “We need strong local voices standing up for you, fighting for you in Ottawa, and that’s exactly what Richard is going to be,” Trudeau said.

    “Nobody make any mistake: The Liberal party is going to win this riding of Burnaby South.”

    Lee is a former provincial legislator who replaced the Liberals’ first candidate, Karen Wang, after she resigned following an online post in which she contrasted herself, the “only” Chinese candidate, with Singh, who she called “of Indian descent.”

    Singh is seeking his first seat in Parliament in the byelection, scheduled for Feb. 25, and earlier Sunday he attended the annual Chinese New Year parade in Vancouver.

    After the parade, Singh called on Trudeau to waive solicitor-client privilege to allow former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to speak about allegations the prime minister’s office pressured her to tell federal attorneys to drop the SNC-Lavalin prosecution in favour of a remediation agreement. Trudeau has denied his office “directed” her.

    While the Green Party of Canada has extended a “leader’s courtesy” to Singh by not running a candidate against him, other parties have not. Conservative Jay Shin and People’s Party of Canada candidate Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson are also vying for a seat.

    The New Democrats narrowly beat the Liberals in the riding in the 2015 election by about 550 votes. The Conservatives placed third, losing by about 3,600 votes.

    Lee said he’s proud to be part of “Team Trudeau” because he believes in transparent, better politics and a strong, multicultural Canada.

    “In Burnaby South, we need a committed, local champion for our community,” he said, adding he has lived in the Metro Vancouver city for 32 years.

    Singh is a former Ontario legislator who has been campaigning in the riding since last summer.

    Trudeau was met by protesters on both sides of the political spectrum at the Burnaby event. Outside, demonstrators clad in yellow vests spoke out against his government’s policies on migration.

    While Trudeau and Lee spoke inside the event, a small group of people began shouting anti-pipeline slogans. Burnaby is the terminus of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which Trudeau’s government has purchased and plans to expand.

    “I think we also hear a reminder tonight that there are going to be people out there who choose the politics of anger, of fear and of division, and try to shout people out,” Trudeau said.

    “But Liberals will stay focused on serving Canadians, on bringing people together and building a better future for us all.”

    A number of Liberal MPs stood behind Trudeau at the event, including Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr and Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson. But absent was Wilson-Raybould, who represents Vancouver Granville and earlier attended the city’s Chinese New Year Parade.

    Trudeau later attended a Chinese New Year celebration gala at a restaurant in Vancouver’s Chinatown. He told the packed gala that the Chinese-Canadian community has contributed greatly to the country over generations.

    He also said racist, xenophobic policies such as the Chinese head tax or the exploitation of Chinese labour during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway constituted some of the most shameful chapters in the country’s history.

    “We cannot forget, for they remind us of our collective responsibility to stand up to discrimination and persecution in all its forms,” he said.

    Trudeau did not take questions from reporters at either event. He is set to make an affordable housing announcement and hold a media availability at a rental housing development in Vancouver on Monday before meeting with Telus CEO Darren Entwistle.

    — Follow @ellekane on Twitter.

    Laura Kane, The Canadian Press


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    Three instances when SNC-case was discussed with Wilson-Raybould, clerk says

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  • OTTAWA — Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council, appeared at the House of Commons justice committee Thursday, to answer questions about his knowledge on the SNC-Lavalin affair and whether former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould was pressured not to prosecute the company.

    Wernick predicted Wilson-Raybould will express concerns about three meetings when she appears at the committee next week, two of which he attended and all of which he maintained did not cross the line into improper pressure on Wilson-Raybould.

    Here is Wernick’s version of those events:

    Sept. 17, 2018

    A meeting involving Wilson-Raybould, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Wernick, two weeks after the director of public prosecutions decided not to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin.

    Wernick said Trudeau called the meeting to discuss the Indigenous rights recognition framework which had bogged down due to “a very serious policy difference” between Wilson-Raybould and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, and other colleagues, about how to proceed on the framework.

    Almost the entire meeting was devoted to that subject, he said, but Trudeau did also reassure Wilson-Raybould that any decision on whether to instruct the public prosecutor to drop the SNC-Lavalin prosecution was hers alone.

    Dec. 18, 2018

    A meeting between the prime minister’s staff and Wilson-Raybould’s chief of staff. Wernick, who wasn’t involved, did not provide any details.

    Dec. 19, 2018

    A conversation between Wilson-Raybould and Wernick.

    Wernick said he was trying to get a handle on the issues that might confront the government when Parliament resumed sitting in January. He wanted to know, among other things, whether a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin was still an option and said he “conveyed to her that a lot of her colleagues and the prime minister were quite anxious about what they were hearing and reading in the business press … about the company moving or closing” if the prosecution continued. There were fears it would have consequences for innocent employees, shareholders, pensioners, third-party suppliers and affected communities.

    Wernick said he’s confident the conversation was “within the boundaries of what’s lawful and appropriate. I was informing the minister of context. She may have another view of the conversation but that’s something that the ethics commissioner could sort out.”

    The Canadian Press


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    Canadian shares story of abuse with church officials ahead of Vatican summit

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  • One by one, a dozen survivors shared their shattering tales of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy with high-ranking church officials gathered to listen to the stories they’d declined to hear for years.

    Leona Huggins, the only Canadian in the gathering that took place ahead of a historic summit at the Vatican this week, said the energy built “like a tsunami” as victims hailing from Spain to Jamaica urged clergy to take concrete action to begin a new chapter for the church.

    But she said the tide ebbed quickly as soon as the harrowing accounts were presented.

    Huggins said one archbishop reacted by saying “I guess we’ll have to get to work,” prompting her to ask why such work had not already begun. That question was answered with a demand to be respectful, she said, eroding hope that this week’s summit meant to tackle sexual abuse in clerical ranks would result in true change.

    “We were truth-tellers in that room,” the Vancouver-based school teacher said in a telephone interview from Rome. “It’s really hard for me to think how anyone could hear those stories and not take courageous action.”

    Huggins, 56, had limited hopes for the international meeting, called by Pope Francis in a bid to quell a scandal that has dogged his tenure as head of the Catholic Church.

    The pontiff himself was not at the gathering of survivors held a day before the official summit got underway Thursday, a point that did not sit well with those who shared their stories.

    Huggins, who has gone public with her story of abuse, said her experience played out like so many others. She said she was groomed and ultimately abused by a Catholic priest who worked in her British Columbia parish in the early 1970s.

    He was ultimately convicted in 1991 of sexual offences against two women, including Huggins, but continued working as a priest in communities ranging from Lethbridge, Alta., to Ottawa until his death in 2018.

    Huggins, who used some of her time at the closed-door gathering to call for recognition of Canadian Indigenous victims of abuse, said the Pope’s presence would have been an important sign that the church was serious about addressing past wrongs and preventing new ones from unfolding.

    Pope Francis expressed many high-minded intentions at the summit’s official opening on Thursday, acknowledging the need for concrete action and significant, internal change.

    “Listen to the cry of the young, who want justice,” he told the gathering. “The holy people of God are watching and expect not just simple and obvious condemnations, but efficient and concrete measures to be established.”

    People from five continents shared their stories of abuse, including an unnamed woman from Africa who told the gathering of the three abortions her former priest forced her to have during the decades in which he raped her.

    The Pope, for his part, handed out a list of 21 proposals for the church to consider, including specific protocols to handle accusations against bishops.

    One idea called for raising the minimum age for marriage to 16 while another suggested a basic handbook showing bishops how to investigate cases.

    But for Huggins, the specifics of the 21 points did even more than Wednesday’s gathering to chip away at what little optimism remains, lamenting the newly raised minimum age is still wildly out of step with societal norms and criticizing the church for not having a handbook in circulation long ago.

    Huggins said she feels she still has to “hold out hope” that leaders will make good on their promises of reform. If they don’t, she said, she fears an entirely new generation would be at risk.

    “I don’t see how anyone can continue to bring their child to a church that will not promise their child’s safety,” she said.

    — with Files from the Associated Press.

    Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press


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