Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly says it was “unacceptable” that a Canadian representative attended an event hosted at the Russian Embassy, and has vowed it won’t happen again.
As The Globe and Mail first reported, deputy chief of protocol officer Yasemin Heinbecker from Global Affairs Canada (GAC) attended a Russia Day celebration at the embassy in Ottawa on Friday.
The Canadian government has repeatedly condemned Russia for its ongoing invasion of Ukraine – imposing sanctions, sending military equipment to Ukraine, and supporting international efforts to investigate war crimes, in response.
“This is unacceptable. No Canadian representative should have attended the event hosted at the Russian embassy & no Canadian representative will attend this kind of event again. [Canada] continues to stand with [Ukraine] as it fights against Russia’s egregious invasion,” Joly’s tweet reads.
A statement from GAC to CTV News says the decision to send the representative was made by the department and adds that Russian officials will not be invited to Canada Day events.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress called the move “deeply offensive.”
“[It is] an insult to the memory of the brave Ukrainian people, soldiers and civilians, who have been barbarically slaughtered by Russia’s armed forces in an unprovoked invasion of their country,” CEO and Executive Director Ihor Michalchyshyn said.
“The Russian government is committing genocide against the Ukrainian people. One does not break bread with war criminals.”
Ottawa has faced pressure to expel Russia’s ambassador Oleg Stepanov in the wake of the country’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine. Several European countries have begun the process of removing diplomats.
Michalchyshyn doubled down on that call in his Monday statement, as well as a demand to list Russia as a state supporter of terrorism.
“These calls have gone unheeded and unanswered. The failure of [the] government to adequately respond to the threat Russia and its representatives in Canada pose has deleterious effects on the security of all Canadians. We call on the Government of Canada to take these steps immediately,” he said.
Meanwhile, interim Conservative Party Leader Candice Bergen condemned the actions of the GAC official.
“Instead of endorsing the lavish, Kremlin-backed celebration at the Russian embassy, the Liberal government should be working with countries like Egypt, Pakistan and those in Africa to prevent Putin’s illegal war from causing a global food crisis which will hurt developing countries the most,” a statement to CTVNews.ca reads.
NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson rose in the House of Commons on Monday to underscore her party’s concerns with the developments.
“The foreign affairs minister blamed Global Affairs staff for attending a party at the Russian Embassy. She won’t even admit whether she knew or not if they were going,” she said. “Why didn’t the minister tell her staff not to attend events at the Russian Embassy?”
Joly responded, stating she is “as mad” as her colleagues across the aisle.
“Of course, I’m the minister and the buck stops here but what I can tell you is we’ve been showing leadership on the question of Ukraine. Our intent has been the same since before February 24, we need to make sure we send a strong message to Vladimir Putin’s regime. We need to suffocate diplomatically, economically, and politically,” she said.
With files from CTV News’ Kevin Gallagher
A new fake Toonie has emerged in Quebec, Ontario: Here’s how you spot it
An arrest and huge seizure of 26,000 allegedly counterfeit $2 coins in Quebec, and a second smaller seizure of the same dodgy coins in a northern Ontario city a few months later, suggests that a new counterfeit toonie variety is circulating across Canada, a coin expert says.
Global News learned about a new variety of fake toonie while researching the case of the Quebec man who is facing criminal charges for an alleged attempt to import more than 26,000 dodgy toonies from a coin maker in China, paying a nickel a piece for them, plus shipping, court records state.
A Canada Border Services Agency customs officer seized 12,000 alleged fake toonies at a FedEx warehouse at the Montreal-Mirabel International Airport in January.
CBSA investigators later found another 14,000 when they raided the home of the suspect in that case, Jean-Francois Généreux, from Sorel, Que., about 70 kilometres from Montreal.
Last week, the CBSA shared with Global News, for the first time, some digital photos of the 26,000 seized $2 coins that were allegedly ordered from China and circulated in Quebec.
At the same time, police in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., confirmed that they arrested a local person who had a smaller number of the same counterfeit coins in their possession in March, and seized 15 coins.
Counterfeit Canadian coin expert Mike Marshall of Trenton, Ont., who examined images of both sets of seized coins for Global News, said they appear to come from the same manufacturer.
Both the Quebec and Ontario fake coins are stamped 2012.
They both appear to have the same differences that allow experts like Marshall to spot them as counterfeits when compared with authentic $2 coins of that same year.
Marshall said the new $2 fake coins do look real at first glance, but the counterfeits have several distinguishing features that ordinary consumers can spot, including:
- The Queen’s nose is too sharp and long on the fake coin’s head side.
- Above the Queen’s head, a maple leaf-shaped security feature appears on the fake coin that does not appear on genuine toonies from 2012.
- On the polar bear side of the fake coin, a “$” symbol appears between two maple leaf-shaped security features. On the real coin, the numeral “2” actually appears in that spot.
- Also on the polar bear side, on the right side near the bear’s head, the word “CANADA” appears on the fake coin. On the real coin, the word “DOLLAR” appears in that space.
- Lastly, the “2012” year on a real toonie appears in a straight line, while the same numbers appear on a curve or slight arc on the counterfeit coins.
The 26,630 allegedly counterfeit Quebec coins were seized at Mirabel airport on Jan. 9, at Généreux’s home in Sorel on Feb. 1 and inside a storage locker on his property on Feb. 7, the CBSA stated in search warrants filed in Quebec court. Généreux is now facing criminal charges.
Sault Ste. Marie police spokesperson Lincoln Loulitt confirmed in an email that Sault officers also seized 15 of these fake coins in the northern Ontario city on April 13 after a person was arrested.
Loulitt did not reveal further details about that arrest, but said in his email that Sault police have not seen any more dodgy toonies since officers seized those 15 counterfeit $2 coins.
The fake coins circulating in Sault Ste. Marie were first publicly revealed by Mike Turcotte, the co-owner of Vintage Games N Junque, a retailer in the Sault that sells coins and collectibles.
Turcotte said he spotted them himself only because he was an avid coin collector for 20 years.
“It’s a crazy idea to make fake toonies, but it’s such a genius scam because who’s going to waste their time going through their change looking for fakes?” Turcotte added.
Turcotte posted photos of the dodgy coins on a social media account after they landed in his till. He then shared that news with Soo Today, which published a story about them in May.
In an interview with Global News, Turcotte said he has since figured out exactly where his first fake toonie came from. His store received it from a youth who spent it after he had received it from his grandfather, so the fakes are circulating in the community, Turcotte said.
The youth later called back to apologize, not knowing the coin was fake when he spent it, Turcotte said.
Marshall said he doesn’t know if the coins from the Quebec man circulated west and north to the Sault or whether the suspect in Sault Ste. Marie made a small order from China as a trial experiment from the same coin maker in China selling them online.
“If that guy in the Sault bought only 15, it was likely a feeler operation. See if you can pass them, and then if you can, you make a bigger order,” Marshall explained.
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Marshall feels the Chinese coin maker of the new fake made minor changes to a genuine Canadian circulated coin but included features to make it identifiable, almost leaving fingerprints.
“But he’s made it similar enough that secondary buyers can attempt to pass it off as real,” Marshall said. “I can pass them all day long because nobody looks at their change.”
Marshall says this new variety of toonie is different than the so-called “camel-toe toonie,” another fake variety of the $2 coin that has been traced back to the Greater Toronto Area.
In 2022, the RCMP arrested Daixiong He, 68, of Richmond Hill, Ont., after seizing 10,000 counterfeit toonies that were circulating in the Greater Toronto Area. He was charged with uttering and possession of counterfeit money.
Marshall said “camel-toe toonies are easily identifiable because the polar bear’s right toes are far different than the genuine coin’s design.”
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Google to pay $100M a year to Canadian news publishers in deal with Ottawa
Ottawa has agreed to set a $100-million yearly cap on payments that Google will be required to make to media companies when the government’s controversial online news legislation takes effect at the end of the year.
The announcement Wednesday has the Liberals bending to the tech giant’s demands after Google threatened back in February to remove news from its platform.
The Online News Act compels tech giants to enter into compensation agreements with news publishers for content that appears on Google sites and contributes to the company’s revenues.
A formula in the government’s draft regulations to implement the bill would have seen Google contribute up to $172 million to news organizations. Google balked, saying it was expecting a figure closer to $100 million, based on what it said was a previous estimate from Canadian Heritage officials.
The company appears to have gotten what it wanted after an extended period of negotiation.
Still, Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge called it a “historic development,” insisting Wednesday that the agreement was ultimately a win for the government and for the local news publishers it is seeking to support.
“We have found a path forward to answer Google’s questions about the process and the act. Google wanted certainty about the amount of compensation it would have to pay to Canadian news outlets,” she said on Parliament Hill.
“Canada reserves the right to reopen our regulations if there are better agreements struck elsewhere in the world,” she added.
Google’s president of global affairs, Kent Walker, thanked the minister for “acknowledging our concerns and deeply engaging in a series of productive meetings about how they might be addressed.”
He said in a statement that the “extensive discussions” addressed the company’s “core issues” with the bill.
“While we work with the government through the exemption process based on the regulations that will be published shortly, we will continue sending valuable traffic to Canadian publishers,” Walker said.
The deal will allow Google to comply with the legislation by paying into a single collective bargaining group that will serve as a media fund.
Meta, on the other hand, complied simply by blocking all news content from Canadian users of its largest platforms, Instagram and Facebook. A statement from the company Wednesday suggested that hardline approach hasn’t changed.
“Unlike search engines, we do not proactively pull news from the internet to place in our users’ feeds and we have long been clear that the only way we can reasonably comply with the Online News Act is by ending news availability for people in Canada.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was satisfied with the agreement with Google and held out hope that Meta would eventually come around.
“Unfortunately, Meta continues to completely abdicate any responsibility towards democratic institutions and even stability,” he said, “but we’re going to continue to work positively in those areas.”
Last month, News Media Canada — a lobby group for hundreds of Canadian newspapers and magazines — said it agreed with many of the issues Google raised during the back-and-forth over how the bill would be implemented.
The group said there should be a cap on how much the search giant would have to pay under the law.
But Friends, an advocacy group for Canadian broadcasters, said the deal doesn’t deliver the kind of support for journalism that it had been hoping to see.
“We will be looking to the regulations to ensure that smaller, independent, and equity-seeking media groups are assured access to funding,” executive director Marla Boltman said in a statement.
An official with the Canadian Heritage Department said the final regulations for the law, which are due by mid-December, will also address Google’s other concern that the law establishes linking to news sites as the basis for payment.
The official said final regulations will clarify that Google’s payment is to help news publishers and broadcasters, and not for news links.
CBC and Radio-Canada will also get a portion of the $100 million, but that will be determined once regulations are finalized.
In addition to its financial contribution, Canadian Heritage said Google will continue to make programs available for Canadian news businesses, such as training, tools and resources for business development and support for non-profit journalism projects.
Google said Wednesday that the deal means there will be immediate changes to existing agreements it has with publishers in Canada under its Google News Showcase agreements, which were part of a $1-billion global investment.
The company said it will review its ongoing investments in Canada when the final regulations are published.
Google wouldn’t say how much it is already paying publishers under existing contracts, saying such agreements are confidential commercial arrangements.
Companies that fall under the Online News Act must have total global revenue of $1 billion or more in a calendar year, “operate in a search engine or social-media market distributing and providing access to news content in Canada” and have 20 million or more Canadian average monthly unique visitors or average monthly active users.
For now, Google and Meta are the only companies that meet those criteria.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2023.
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