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Canada's convoy movement waved the Dutch flag. Then conspiracy theories swirled about fertilizer and bugs – CBC.ca

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Over the summer, supporters of the Freedom Convoy movement have continued to hold anti-mandate demonstrations across the country, attracting anywhere from a few dozen to several hundred people in places like Sudbury, Ont., Acheson, Alta., and Regina.

Like the protests in Ottawa last winter, these smaller demonstrations featured big rigs, pickup trucks and honking — though they tended to last only a few hours and kept to parking lots or slow-moving convoys on highways.

But they also featured a new — and perhaps surprising — symbol: The flag of the Netherlands was being waved alongside the more familiar Maple Leaf and F–k Trudeau banners. 

The red, white and blue flag is meant to be a show of solidarity with Dutch farmers protesting their government’s efforts to halve emissions linked to nitrogen-based fertilizers by the end of the decade.

Opposition to the policy in the Netherlands has been fierce and messy. It is one of the most intensively farmed countries in the world and the proposed changes would mean huge reductions in farmland and livestock.

In recent months, farmers in the country have blocked food distribution centres, set bales of hay on fire and spread manure on major roads.

Farmers take part in a blockade of the A67 highway, near Eindhoven, the Netherlands, on July 4 to protest against government plans that may require them to use less fertilizer and reduce livestock. (Rob Engelaar/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

In Canada, many within the convoy movement see the Dutch farmers as allies in a global fight against an array of policies they maintain are too progressive, such as public health mandates or emission targets.

“The far right wants to think of it as a transnational movement,” said Bàrbara Molas, a research fellow at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) in The Hague.

As the convoy movement organized solidarity rallies for the Dutch farmers in July, its leaders warned that Canadian farmers would soon find themselves in a similar position.

“The reason we’re standing in solidarity with [the Dutch farmers] is because these policies are actually coming to Canada as well,” Jerome O’Sullivan, the founder of the group Freedom Fighters Canada, told a podcast last month.

But the convoy movement’s embrace of the Dutch farmers’ cause has been fed by misinformation and deliberate attempts to sow confusion about government policies in Canada and the Netherlands. 

It also threatens to overshadow legitimate concerns that Canadian farmers have about how to grow food while also addressing climate change.

There is a distinction, said Molas, between “what the farmers actually might think and what the far right wants people to see the farmers as.”

How the conspiracy theories went mainstream

Dutch farmers have been protesting since court rulings in 2018 and 2019 forced the country to drastically cut its nitrogen emission levels, which at the time were exceeding commitments made under international climate change agreements.

When the farmers escalated their tactics in late June, convoy-affiliated activists in Canada remarked on the similarities with their own movement, ultimately sparking interest in Ottawa’s efforts to reduce fertilizer emissions here.

“We stand proudly with Dutch farmers in the continued fight against government overreach and the globalist elite. Welcome to the revolution,” said a Facebook post from Live from the Shed, a webcast dedicated to the Canadian convoy movement.

People gather in a parking lot, waving Canadian and Dutch flags.
Activists affiliated with the Freedom Convoy movement gather in an Ottawa parking lot on July 23, before heading to the Dutch embassy in Ottawa to protest in support of Dutch farmers. (Patrick Doyle/Reuters)

The July 2 post received more than 350,000 views and was shared more than 16,000 times, according to Facebook’s analytics tool, CrowdTangle.

Soon after, far-right media outlets in Canada seized on the Dutch protests to promote conspiracy theories that reinforced anti-government ideologies. Many of these sites had already been sowing misinformation about food-supply issues.

The Western Standard, a conservative publication based in Calgary, amplified in early July a conspiracy theory that claimed fires were being deliberately set at farms around the world to make populations more dependent on governments.

The column, which was shared more than 450 times on Facebook to accounts totalling 136,000 followers, suggested that global plot was the real reason behind Ottawa’s decision to help fund a cricket-processing plant in London, Ont., even though the facility mostly produces pet food.

On July 5, the Facebook page belonging to Cheryl Gallant, a Conservative MP who has been criticized in the past for spreading conspiracy theories, posted that “Trudeau wants us to eat crickets” while linking to a story about the Dutch farmers’ protest.

A Facebook post by Cheryl Gallant, Conservative MP for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke. (Facebook)

In the days that followed, Canada’s far-right media pushed more disinformation to their readers. 

Rebel News, for instance, claimed the Dutch government had “pandered to the radical demands of the World Economic Forum,” echoing a popular conspiracy theory that maintains the Swiss think-tank is secretly forcing governments around the world to adopt left-wing policies.

Another far-right publication, The Counter Signal, recirculated the comments of a former far-right Dutch politician, who falsely claimed the goal of the Dutch climate plan was to confiscate the farmers’ land and then give it to immigrants. 

As interest in the Dutch protests increased in Canada, conservative pundits and politicians began suggesting the Canadian government was also going to force farmers to reduce how much fertilizer they use.

This is not what the government has said it intends to do. While Ottawa has pledged to reduce emissions from fertilizers by 30 per cent, it has also pledged to meet that goal without resorting to a mandatory reduction in nitrogen fertilizer use. 

Nevertheless, the Toronto Sun’s Brian Lilley wrote in a widely shared column, that the plan, which hasn’t yet been finalized, “means reducing fertilizer usage by 30 per cent.” 

In a Facebook post, Devin Dreeshen, a United Conservative MLA in Alberta, referred to it as the “30 per cent fertilizer ban,” while Todd Loewen — another UCP MLA and candidate in the party’s leadership race — said he was standing with the Dutch farmers because they were resisting “the exact same eco-radical policies” advocated by Ottawa. 

Before July, Facebook posts in Canada that mentioned the phrase “fertilizer ban” had received effectively zero interactions, according to CrowdTangle statistics.

In the last week of July, though, the phrase received nearly 10,000 interactions.

Canola blooms in fields near La Salle, Man., on July 28. Canola is among the more fertilizer-intensive crops grown in Canada. (Shannon VanRaes/Reuters)

Farmers Forum, an Ontario-based agriculture newspaper that is sympathetic to the convoy movement, interviewed several farmers earlier this month about the prospect of a Dutch-style fertilizer ban coming to Canada.

Almost all were convinced a ban was in the works, and cited the World Economic Forum (WEF) as the reason why.

“It’s kind of scary, at the WEF, they tell you exactly what they’re doing, and ‘Bang,’ six months later, it’s happening,” Andy Senn, a dairy farmer from St-Bernardin, Ont., told the paper.

Misinformation flourished in information vacuum 

At the same time that social media is flooded with misinformation about Canada’s agricultural policy, the federal government is seeking input from farmers and other industry players about how best to cut fertilizer emissions.

“It’s definitely a challenge for us in terms of communication. We’re working hard on trying to use different ways to communicate,” said Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau. 

The goal of reducing fertilizer emissions by 30 per cent was set as part of the Trudeau government’s plan to lower the country’s overall greenhouse gas emissions by between 40 and 45 per cent by 2030 — in line with the reductions international experts say are necessary to minimize the damage from climate change.

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has said, repeatedly, the government is not seeking to cut fertilizer use, but rather to reduce fertilizer emissions. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

When the fertilizer target was initially announced in December 2020, there was widespread confusion within the agricultural industry about whether it would entail cutting fertilizer use, which would in turn affect crop yield.

Earlier this year, the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada released a discussion paper that outlines its strategy for reducing fertilizer emissions “will focus on improving nitrogen management and optimizing fertilizer use, and not on a mandatory reduction in the use of fertilizers.”

It also cites industry and government research that concluded significant emissions reductions can be achieved by expanding the use of certain techniques, like applying fertilizer in the spring instead of the fall.

The discussion paper has helped ease some fears within the industry.

“Overall, we were really pleased to see these techniques included,” said Cassandra Cotton, vice-president of policy and program at Fertilizer Canada, a lobby group representing the industry. 

The amount of misinformation circulating about fertilizer policy ” hurts and prevents this moving forward in a positive direction,” Cotton said.

But she also echoed a view expressed by others in the industry: that the federal government has been slow to offer specifics about a policy that will ultimately affect what foods Canadians eat every day. 

“Part of this [misinformation] is being driven by the lack of detail as to how the government plans to get to this target,” said Kelvin Heppner, a farmer in southern Manitoba and an editor for RealAgriculture, a respected industry publication.

“And so in that vacuum, there are conclusions that people are reaching — and they’re not necessarily based on what the government has said it will do.”

According to Molas, it is this confluence of confusion and concern that creates an opening for far-right groups to exploit. 

“These are movements that began because of very real grievances that governments didn’t address soon enough,” she said. “The far-right sees that as an opportunity to spread their anti-democratic narrative.”

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Fiona smashes into Atlantic Canada, washing away homes and knocking out power – CBC.ca

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​​​​​​Hundreds of thousands of customers in Eastern Canada are without power as post-tropical storm Fiona brings intense, hurricane-strength winds and torrential rains to swaths of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Quebec’s Magdalen Islands.

Part of the town of Port aux Basques, N.L., has been placed under an evacuation order after storm surge swept away multiple homes and structures to sea. It’s unclear if there are any casualties. The town has also declared a state of emergency. 

Fiona made landfall in Nova Scotia shortly after 4 a.m. AT between Canso and Guysborough.

The Canso Causeway, which links Cape Breton to mainland Nova Scotia, is closed to high-sided vehicles.

As of 10:45 a.m. AT, more than 405,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were without electricity. The company says it has more than 525,000 customers. It said people can go the utility’s outage map for estimated restoration times.

  • CBC Radio is providing live updates on Hurricane Fiona around the clock. Listeners are invited to call in to share their storm experiences and any emergency updates from their communities at 1-800-565-5550. Listen online via CBC Lite, which uses less data, or over the air (90.5 FM in Halifax, 92.1 FM in Sydney, 96.1 FM in Charlottetown or check your local frequency here).

P.E.I.’s Maritime Electric said more than 82,000 out of a possible 86,000 customers were without power.

N.B. Power was reporting more than 55,000 outages, concentrated in the province’s southeast. The outages are mostly in areas the company groups as “Shediac Cap Pelé,” “Moncton Riverview Dieppe” and “Sackville Port Elgin.”

Newfoundland Power was reporting 1,133 customers without power, and Hydro Quebec reported 4,232 without power in the Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine region and1,684 in the Magdalen Islands.

Hurricane or tropical storm warnings are in place throughout most of Atlantic Canada and southern Quebec.

State of emergency declared in Cape Breton

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality and neighbouring Victoria County have declared a local state of emergency and are asking residents to stay at home.

The Canadian Red Cross has opened a shelter at Centre 200 in Sydney, N.S., however it was without power on Saturday morning. The municipality is planning to open additional comfort centres when local travel is safe.

North Sydney fire Chief Lloyd MacIntosh spoke with CBC News as he was transporting a woman from her home to a safe location after the roof blew off her house.

“We pulled up, well, literally half of the roof was gone,” MacIntosh said. “It’s been an adventurous night to say the least.”

A wide shot of the home in the process of falling into an angry ocean.
Multiple homes in Port aux Basques, N.L., have been destroyed due to storm surge. (Rene Roy/Wreckhouse Press)

MacIntosh said there’s been a lot of damage in North Sydney.

“Every intersection, every block of North Sydney is filled with trees. Trees have come down on homes, trees have come down on cars, there’s buildings that have collapsed and there’s quite a bit of damages,” he said.

“The daylight will bring quite a few surprises for a few people.”

Part of a steeple came down from St. Joseph Church in Cape Breton Regional Municipality, a building that’s more than 100 years old.

Cellular networks spotty

Cellular networks were spotty across Nova Scotia and P.E.I. Saturday. Many were unable to get a cell signal to make calls or access internet. 

Bell Aliant acknowledged the outages in a tweet posted Saturday morning. The telecom company they were working with utility companies to restore full power to their cellular sites as soon as possible. 

“Numerous wireline and cell sites in Atlantic are impacted by power outages across the provinces. As battery back up power will begin to deplete, our teams will be activating generators to keep sites up and running,” the company tweeted.

Rogers also tweeted they are aware of the outages and their local crews will work to get services up and running. 

CBC News has contacted Bell Aliant and Rogers for an update on restoration times. 

Tree fell on fire truck with crew inside

Erica Fleck, the assistant chief of Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, said a tree fell on a fire truck that had a crew inside. There were live wires.

She said the fire crew stayed in the truck as Nova Scotia Power technicians worked to get the crew out safely.

“The power lines are down everywhere,” she said. “It’s not safe to be on the roads.”

A contractor uses a chainsaw to clear a downed tree on a residential street in North Sydney, N.S., on Saturday. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Fleck cautioned that response times will be longer because fire crews will have to remove downed trees that are in their way.

In a tweet, Environment and Climate Change Canada said the highest wind gust reported in Nova Scotia has been 179 km/h in Arisaig, north of Antigonish on Nova Scotia’s coast.

CBC meteorologist Tina Simpkin said wind gusts of 100 km/h were recorded in Moncton, N.B., shortly after 6 a.m.

Wind gusts of up to 100 km/h are expected in some areas of the province over the next 24 hours, with sustained winds clocking in at 65 km/h.

‘Like nothing we’ve ever seen’: Charlottetown police

In a tweet, Charlottetown police said they are logging reports of downed trees and wires but are only responding to emergency calls.

“Conditions are like nothing we’ve ever seen,” the force said in a post on Twitter.

A street in downtown Charlottetown is flooded on Saturday morning. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

CBC meteorologist Ryan Snoddon said the storm approached Nova Scotia at 64 km/h but slowed significantly as it arrived in the province. This will be a long-duration event for P.E.I. and eastern Nova Scotia, he said.

By 9 a.m., the centre of the storm will be moving to the western side of Cape Breton and it will slowly depart Nova Scotia.

Winds will ease in mid-to-late morning for central Nova Scotia and late afternoon or evening for eastern Nova Scotia, he said.

Nova Scotia Power’s efforts to restore electricity are being hampered by strong winds.

“We’re still seeing significant wind gusts, specifically Cape Breton,” said Peter Gregg, company president and CEO. “Until those wind gusts come down, we won’t be able to get crews out there. But we’re making progress in Halifax.”

There is some flooding in Shediac, N.B., on Saturday. (Margaud Castadère-Ayçoberry/CBC)

Environment Canada said Fiona will reach the Quebec Lower North Shore and southeastern Labrador by late Saturday night.

The agency said severe winds and rainfall, large waves and storm surges were all occurring.

Environment Canada said rainfall will be significant, particularly north and west of Fiona’s track, where it could lead to flooding. Some areas could see as much as 200 millimetres of rain. About 120 millimetres had already been reported in some weather stations in eastern Nova Scotia by 3 a.m.

Vehicles parked at Camping Parasol, an RV and tenting campground in Shediac, N.B., are surrounded by water. (Margaud Castadère-Ayçoberry/CBC)

Some waves along Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore could build to be more than 10 metres, with waves along southern Newfoundland on Saturday morning reaching higher heights.

“Waves over eastern portions of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Cabot Strait could be higher than 12 metres,” Environment Canada said.

It said the western Gulf will see waves from the north up to eight metres in some places, “which will probably cause significant erosion for north-facing beaches of Prince Edward Island.”

The forecaster said the Magdalen Islands will also see some coastal erosion from waves.

Most of Atlantic Canada is under a combination of weather warnings due to the size and strength of post-tropical storm Fiona. (Canadian Hurricane Centre)

Coastal flooding is a big concern for Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, the Magdalen Islands, eastern New Brunswick and southwest Newfoundland.

“The highest risk for coastal flooding will be a combination of storm surge with large waves moving onshore,” Environment Canada said.

Uprooted trees, downed power lines in Halifax

2 hours ago

Duration 1:28

Hurricane Fiona arrived in Nova Scotia as a post-tropical storm Saturday morning. In Halifax, the largest community impacted, as CBC’s Ellen Mauro reports, there were widespread power outages and downed trees throughout the city.

“This is is definitely going to be one of, if not the most powerful tropical cyclones to affect our part of the country,” said Ian Hubbard, meteorologist for the Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth, N.S. “It’s going to be definitely as severe and as bad as any I’ve seen.”

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Canada has picked a new ambassador to China – CTV News

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tapped Jennifer May to be Canada’s new ambassador to China, filling a nearly year-long vacancy in the key diplomatic post.

The government announced May’s appointment on Friday, after sources told CTV News and other outlets on Thursday that May—who speaks Mandarin— had been selected to take on the position and that China had signed off on Canada’s pick.

“I am deeply honoured to take up this important post on behalf of Canada and Canadians,” May tweeted on Friday.

In taking on this new role, she’ll become Canada’s lead on stickhandling a fraught relationship with China and will be responsible for advancing business and economic ties between the two countries, as well as “standing up for democratic values, human rights, and the rule of law,” according to the release from Trudeau’s office.

May, who until August was Canada’s ambassador to Brazil, joined Canada’s foreign affairs department more than 30 years ago. Over her career, May has held a series of positions, including executive director of defence and security relations, director of Eastern Europe and Eurasia relations, and has she served in Bonn, Hong Kong, Beijing, Vienna, Bangkok and Berlin.

“A dedicated public servant, Ms. May’s many years of diverse experience on international missions, and her deep understanding of Asia, will serve to manage this important bilateral relationship and advance Canadian interests in China,” Trudeau said in the statement.

Canada has been without an ambassador to China since the end of 2021, when Dominic Barton moved out of the Beijing offices.

Canada has an embassy in Beijing, as well as consulates general in Chongqing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. 

Asked by CTV News a few months back what the holdup was when Canada hit the six-month mark without an ambassador, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly’s office had pledged a representative would be named in “due course,” saying officials continued to engage with China at the “highest levels.”

At the time, former ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques said that the notable absence was an indication that the federal government “does not understand” the value of a strong diplomatic presence on the ground.

“Having an ambassador gives you intelligence… because here’s a person who can have access to high-level [information] that other people at the embassy can’t,” he said. “You are depriving yourself from all that useful information.”

Barton publicly announced his resignation on Dec. 6, 2021, just months after helping to secure the release of former diplomat and entrepreneur Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

The two men were arbitrarily detained and held in a Chinese jail for more than 1,000 days. Their arrests are widely seen as retaliation for the Vancouver arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition request.

Those events launched what would become nearly three years of icy relations between Canada and China.

May’s appointment comes just ahead of Canada marking the one-year anniversary of the two Michael’s release.

It was late on the night of Sept. 24, 2021 when Trudeau made a national address, announcing that Kovrig and Spavor had boarded a plane in China with Barton, and “they’re on the way home.”

With files from CTV National News Ottawa Bureau Chief Joyce Napier, CTV National News Producer Mackenzie Gray and CTVNews.ca Producer Sarah Turnbull

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RCMP ‘did their best’ in response to N.S. mass shooting: federal Justice Department

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HALIFAX — The RCMP’s response to the 2020 shooting rampage that left 22 Nova Scotians dead was far from perfect, but police did their best, the federal Justice Department said Friday.

During the final day of public proceedings at the federal-provincial inquiry into the mass shooting, Lori Ward, general counsel for the federal Department of Justice, said there’s always room for improvement for all policing agencies.

“No response to a critical incident of this magnitude could be perfect, but when this crisis hit, the RCMP showed up, did their best and acted with courage, determination and dedication,” Ward said.

It’s difficult, she added, to separate what was known when the killer was at large on April 18-19, 2020, from what has been uncovered in the years since the tragedy. While hindsight is a valuable tool when used to learn lessons and make changes, it “can also impede a fair and objective evaluation of decisions made in real time.”

On the night of April 18, 2020, a man disguised as a Mountie and driving a car that looked exactly like an RCMP cruiser started killing neighbours and strangers in rural Portapique, N.S.

Ward said she is aware of the criticism levelled at the RCMP for allegedly dismissing witness accounts of the marked police car that the gunman was driving during the 13-hour rampage. She said the idea that the killer could have built such a car himself was beyond reasonable comprehension and was unlike anything police had seen before.

When the RCMP were sent photos of gunman Gabriel Wortman’s replica police cruiser the morning of April 19, 2020, it was initially viewed with “disbelief and incomprehension” by all members, Ward said.

“To assert that (RCMP) should have continued to search for a car identical to their own as opposed to turning their minds to alternatives like decommissioned cars is to view the events through the lens of someone who has now been familiar with the existence of the replica car for more than two years,” she said.

Ward, who at times before the inquiry had tears in her eyes, highlighted that among the “problems and failings” of the RCMP in the aftermath of the shootings was the delay in discovering some of the killer’s 22 victims.

Harry and Cory Bond, the sons of Peter and Joy Bond — a couple murdered in Portapique, N.S., the night of April 18, 2020 — started hearing from acquaintances the next morning about shootings near Cobequid Court, the road where their parents lived.

The summary from the inquiry into the mass shooting says it was about 18 hours after the killings started before an RCMP officer found the Bonds’ bodies inside their home.

“The anguish felt by the families of those victims at the thought of that lapse of time is unimaginable,” Ward said, adding that the delay is among the things the RCMP “wishes it could go back and change.”

To close out the final day of public inquiry proceedings, the three commissioners thanked all those who participated for their contributions and the public for its engagement.

A final report detailing recommendations from the inquiry will be released March 31, 2023.

Commissioner Leanne Fitch said that the inquiry has heard commitments from RCMP leaders and other “institutional representatives” that they will be open to the recommendations and are prepared to receive them.

“We are encouraged by these commitments and call on policymakers, institutions, community groups and members of the public to take action based on the coming recommendations,” Fitch said.

The commission of inquiry said it has conducted interviews with more than 230 people, including 80 RCMP officers, and has released 31 summaries of evidence — known as foundational documents — alongside more than 3,800 supporting materials and exhibits. As well, more than 900 members of the public shared their experiences of the mass shooting through the commission’s online survey.

Members of the public may submit suggestions for recommendations through email, mail or over the phone until Sept. 30.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Lyndsay Armstrong, The Canadian Press

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