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China expels Canadian consul in Shanghai, one day after Ottawa orders Chinese diplomat out

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China on Tuesday expelled a Canadian diplomat in Shanghai in a tit-for-tat response after Ottawa told a Toronto-based Chinese diplomat to leave the country, escalating already tense bilateral relations amid concerns about Chinese influence in Canada.

Canada on Monday expelled Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei after an intelligence report accused him of trying to target the family of Conservative MP Michael Chong, who has been critical of China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority.

“We will not tolerate any form of foreign interference,” Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on Monday.

In response to Canada’s “unreasonable actions,” China told Jennifer Lynn Lalonde, consul in the Canadian consulate in Shanghai, to leave China by May 13, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry in a statement.

The Canadian Embassy in Beijing had no immediate comment on the expulsion order.

A woman in a dark blazer and white shirt poses in front of a wall, smiling with her arms crossed.
China’s decision to expel Lalonde, pictured here, follows Canada’s decision to expel Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei after an intelligence report accused him of trying to target the family of Conservative MP Michael Chong. (Jennifer Lalonde/Twitter)

China reserves the right to respond further, the Foreign Ministry said.

“In response to the Canadian side’s unreasonable provocation, China has adopted corresponding retaliatory measures,” said Wang Wenbin, spokesperson at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, at a regular news conference. “This was absolutely just and necessary. We urge Canada to immediately stop its unreasonable provocations.”

Wang said that if Canada did not heed Beijing’s warning and continues to “act recklessly,” China will “fight back resolutely and forcefully, and the Canadian side must bear all the consequences.”

Diplomatic tensions running high

Diplomatic tensions have been running high since the detention of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou in 2018 and Beijing’s subsequent arrest of two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, on spying charges. All three were freed in 2021.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) authored a report in 2021 about Chinese influence in Canada that included information about potential threats to Chong and his family.

Details of the CSIS report came to light on May 1, when The Globe and Mail reported that China sought information about Chong and his family in China in a likely effort to “make an example” of him and deter others from taking anti-Chinese government positions.

An unnamed security source reportedly told The Globe that Zhao was allegedly working on efforts to target Chong’s family in China.

 

Canada expels Chinese diplomat

 

Canada has declared Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei ‘persona non grata’ after days of pressure from opposition parties. The diplomat has five days to leave Canada after being accused of targeting Conservative MP Michael Chong’s family living in Hong Kong. 

“It shouldn’t have taken two years for the government to make this decision,” Chong told reporters after the expulsion was announced.

China denies interference

China has said it has never interfered in Canada’s internal affairs and has no interest in doing so. China’s Toronto consul general said the report on Chong has “no factual basis and is purely baseless.”

The Globe, citing an unnamed national security source, said Zhao was involved in gathering information about Chong, who has been a vocal critic of the Chinese government and had voted in favour of a House of Commons motion in 2021 calling Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghur minority in China a genocide.

Chong said he was “profoundly disappointed” to find out about the potential threat to his family in Hong Kong from a newspaper, and criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government for inaction. He has repeatedly called for Zhao’s expulsion since the Globe report.

Trudeau said he found out about the intelligence report from the newspaper, and on Wednesday blamed CSIS for not passing it on to him at the time.

Trudeau has previously said China attempted to meddle in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections, but that the efforts did not change the outcome. He has appointed an independent special investigator to probe the allegations.

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Tenants offered accommodations and support after surprise mass eviction

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WINNIPEG – Some tenants of an apartment building moved back in Monday, more than a week after they say they were forced out on a few hours’ notice by a new landlord who put some of their belongings on the front lawn.

“(I’ll) start over, I guess,” said Devony Hudson, who picked up a new set of keys Monday morning as police officers, a private security firm and Manitoba government workers kept an eye on the three-storey brick building, built more than a century ago.

Some of the building’s windows were broken or boarded up. A notice on the front door from the Winnipeg Fire Department said the fire alarm and sprinkler system were out of service.

Hudson said a caretaker came to her door two weekends ago, told her she had to leave immediately and offered her a few hundred dollars. Shortly after, her belongings were outside.

“I just went for a walk, just for like 10 minutes, came back and it was … all on the front lawn.”

Hudson has been spending the last few days in a nearby house that does not have working electricity.

In another suite, Kyle Lemke got a knock on the door. He said he was told the locks were being changed, and a man he had never met who said he was the owner told him he had to leave within 24 hours and offered some money.

“I threw out so much stuff,” Lemke recalled while standing outside a hotel where he has been staying.

“I had maybe four garbage bags and a laundry bag, but I wasn’t able to take everything,” said Lemke, who walks with a limp after almost losing a leg months ago to necrotizing fasciitis.

Lemke said he was told everyone had to leave because of an order from the city over fire hazards, but the city never gave an evacuation order.

Attempts by The Canadian Press to reach the building’s owner were unsuccessful.

The Manitoba government moved last week to support the tenants.

The provincial minister for housing, Bernadette Smith, said the actions the tenants described are illegal and an investigation is underway.

The residential tenancies branch issued orders to the landlord, had the locks changed and made arrangements for the tenants to start returning. The province offered tenants emergency accommodations and per diems for food.

But some tenants were not able to be tracked down.

Marion Willis, who runs an outreach program that helps people find housing and other services, said some tenants had previously been in encampments and had nowhere to go when they were told to leave.

“We have tried to find people. There’s people in encampments, there’s people that are couch-surfing in other buildings. There’s people that are just sleeping out on the street,” said Willis, executive director of St. Boniface Street Links.

Some tenants may be reluctant to return for fear that they may simply face a more formal eviction process and end up homeless again.

Lemke said he has no interest in going back, and had a new apartment lined up. He’d like to see someone held accountable.

“I would like to see justice,” he said.

“You can’t just do that to people.”

The provincial government said Monday at least two tenants had returned over the weekend and a probe of the landlord’s actions was ongoing.

“In this situation, the (residential tenancies branch) has a number of options available, but is still working through the investigation,” said a written statement from the government’s central communications office.

“Depending on the outcome of the investigations, these measures could include the imposition of further orders, administrative fines and prosecution for contraventions under the legislation.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2024.



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Manitoba First Nation says members lack health care due to nursing shortage

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WINNIPEG – Members of a northern First Nation looking to get prescriptions refilled, blood work done or access to other basic health-care services are often being turned away because of a nursing shortage in the community.

The nursing station in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation has been open only for medical emergencies for nearly a year because the community has just two nurses to treat its 3,500 citizens.

“We cannot continue with the current state of affairs,” Chief Angela Levasseur said at a press conference on Monday.

“Our people have a right to health care. They have the right to be able to attend the nursing station and be seen by a nurse.

“It is inhumane and an affront to our dignity.”

Levasseur has heard reports of nurses working around the clock while running on two to three hours of sleep. On occasion, a third nurse has been brought in to help alleviate some of the pressure.

The reduction of services has resulted in patients, including infants, elders and people with chronic health conditions, being denied critical medical care, said Levasseur. Many of these patients are being directed to go to the hospital in Thompson, about 90 kilometres away.

Residents without a vehicle are forced to rely on an overburdened medical transportation service or go without help.

“The failure to address this crisis is literally a threat to many people’s lives,” said Levasseur.

The community has sent proposals to the federal government to advocate for an increase in funding to hire more nurses and address the wage gap between what it offers nurses and what private agencies provide.

“It’s really disheartening,” said Lynda Wright, the community’s health director. “It’s really difficult to try and help people when you lack the resources and the funding … it’s difficult seeing your people suffer when the access to care is not there.”

Levasseur is renewing calls to provide funding for an additional three nurses for the Nation.

The office of Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Government data shows that nursing stations in remote First Nations communities in Manitoba were facing a 67 per cent operational vacancy in the last fiscal year.

A document tabled in the House of Commons earlier this year says that over the 2023-24 fiscal year, all Indigenous Services Canada-operated nursing stations in Manitoba have run at a reduced capacity due to staffing shortages.

Pimicikamak Cree Nation has felt the staffing crunch, resulting in the community declaring a state of emergency earlier this year.

The community is supposed to have 13 or 14 nurses available, but most days there are about half of that for the roughly 8,000 who live on-reserve.

“We continue to cry out for help to make sure we can provide health services and medical services for our people,” said Chief David Monias, who was on hand for Monday’s press conference.

Levasseur said the community’s situation has left everyone at their “breaking point.”

“What we’re most worried about with this crisis situation being ignored is that the two or three nurses that we have on a day-to-day basis are going to walk out.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Cyprus displays jewelry, early Christian icons and Bronze Age antiquities once looted from island

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NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus on Monday put on display artifacts — some of them thousands of years old — that were returned after a Turkish art dealer looted them from the ethnically divided island nation decades ago.

Aydin Dikmen took the artifacts from the country’s breakaway north in the years after Cyprus’ split in 1974, when Turkey invaded following a coup mounted by supporters of union with Greece. The antiquities were kept in Germany after authorities there seized them in 1997, and protracted legal battles secured their repatriation in three batches, the last one this year.

Addressing the unveiling ceremony at Cyprus’ archaeological museum, President Nikos Christodoulides said the destruction of a country’s cultural heritage as evidenced in recent conflicts becomes a “deliberate campaign of cultural and religious cleansing that aims to eliminate identity.”

Among the 60 most recently returned artifacts put on display include jewelry from the Chalcolithic Period between 3500-1500 B.C. and Bronze Age bird-shaped idols.

Antiquities that Dikmen also looted but were returned years ago include 1,500-year-old mosaics of Saints Luke, Mark, Matthew and James. They are among the few examples of early Christian works to survive the Iconoclastic period in the 8th and 9th centuries when most such works were destroyed.

Cyprus’ authorities and the country’s Orthodox Church for decades have been hunting for the island’s looted antiquities and centuries-old relics from as many as 500 churches in open auctions and on the black market.

The museum’s antiquities curator, Eftychia Zachariou, told the ceremony that Cyprus in recent years has benefited from a shift in thinking among authorities in many countries who now opt to repatriate antiquities of dubious provenance.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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