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Climate change voted Canadian Press’ news story of the year for 2019 – Global News



In late September, hundreds of thousands of Canadians took to the streets across the country to demand more from their governments on climate change.

It was one of the largest mass protests in Canadian history, adding maple flavours to an international climate strike movement founded around Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.

It was also a sign, many in the environment movement believed, of Canada’s climate-change coming of age.

“2019 was like the year of climate awakening for Canada,” says Catherine Abreu, the head of Climate Action Network Canada.

READ MORE: ‘Catastrophic’– Canada set to miss 2030 emissions target by 15%, UN report says

It was a year that saw warnings Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, the imposition of a national price on pollution, a vote in Parliament to declare a climate emergency and a federal election in which climate was one of the few real issues to make its way through the din of nasty politics.

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Climate change was chosen in a survey of reporters and editors across the country as the 2019 Canadian Press News Story of the Year.

U.N. climate summit grinds to a close after talks go into overtime

U.N. climate summit grinds to a close after talks go into overtime

“I don’t think it can be anything but climate change,” said Toronto Star senior editor Julie Carl. “It is gripping our attention, our reality and our imagination.”

A decade ago, climate change was more academic than reality, but in recent years few Canadians haven’t been touched directly by the kind of weather climate change may be causing: floods, fires, major storms, cold snaps, heat waves, longer winters, shorter growing seasons. In June, when Parliament voted to declare that we are facing a climate crisis, it came as parts of eastern Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick were bailing out from the second once-a-century flood in three years.

‘Quick wins’ needed to reduce emissions, keep climate goals within reach: UN report

In the survey, climate change had stiff competition, barely beating out the SNC-Lavalin saga, which itself had to fight its way into second ahead of the Toronto Raptors’ NBA title. In western Canada, many votes were cast for the hunt for two men who murdered a couple and another man in British Columbia before fleeing to the muskeg of northern Manitoba, where they would take their own lives.

But for many editors, the decision to rank climate change No. 1 comes both from the impact it had in 2019 and its expected dominance in our lives in the future.

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“There’s no bigger story than the human-made altering of our own planet — even if you don’t believe it,” said Paul Harvey, senior editor at the Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun.

Climate change protesters demonstrate in Amsterdam airport, dragged out by police

Climate change protesters demonstrate in Amsterdam airport, dragged out by police

Canada’s new environment minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, ran for office in large part because he wanted to do something to address climate change, a problem, he said in a recent interview, that “is a defining issue of our time.”

It is also a defining issue for the Liberal government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ran on a promise to ramp up Canada’s environment policies in 2015, including setting a path to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and fix Canada’s environmental review process for major projects.

Canadians want to stop climate change — but half don’t want to pay an extra cent: Ipsos poll

But the government’s decision first to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, and then spend $4.5 billion to buy the existing pipeline when political opposition threatened to derail the project, left environment advocates disappointed and room for his political critics to pounce.

“You. Bought. A. Pipeline,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh countered in a news release, when Trudeau unveiled his climate plans during the election campaign and promised to lead the way to a greener country.

Greta Thunberg denounces world leaders’ ‘creative PR’ in climate flight at UN summit

Greta Thunberg denounces world leaders’ ‘creative PR’ in climate flight at UN summit

Climate change is also at the heart of the anger driving talk of western alienation _ and in the most extreme cases, separation _ as oilpatch workers, and others who depend on the oilpatch for their jobs, fear for their futures.

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It leaves any government in Canada with a true conundrum: how to reduce emissions drastically without tanking an economy where oil, gas, manufacturing, and transportation are key. Unlike some small European nations, Canadians live far apart, in cities built around the automobile, and in places where heating and electricity needs in the winter months are high.

Is the Liberal climate plan achievable?

The political fight between Ottawa and the provinces over how best to manage climate change is a big part of the story and Canadians seem to want them both to win. Two-thirds of Canadians voted for parties advocating for carbon taxes while an equal number voted for parties that promised to complete the Trans Mountain pipeline.

“The vast majority of Canadians said, ‘We want aggressive action on climate’ but the vast majority of Canadians also are pragmatic in terms of saying, ‘But we want to do this in a frame of doing this in a prosperous economy,’ ” Wilkinson said recently in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Blindfolded Extinction Rebellion demonstrators protest at UN Climate Conference

Blindfolded Extinction Rebellion demonstrators protest at UN Climate Conference

In 2019, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Alberta took Ottawa to court over the federal carbon tax. The first two already lost in their provincial courts of appeal and are appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada. Alberta ‘s case is on this week.

Ottawa’s new environmental-assessment process for major projects makes climate change one of the considerations. It is one of the most hated bills in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where governments believe it will mean no new pipelines ever get built in Canada. For environment leaders, that is not a bad thing. For the energy sector, it’s a death knell.

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Climate change activists block bridges, cause traffic chaos across Canada

Several watchers also think not having a full climate plan helped sink Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s election efforts.

Valerie Casselton, managing editor at the Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province, said it “arguably” cost Scheer the election “in a year when the Liberals faced scandal after scandal but managed to rally by climbing onto their green platform planks.”

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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Council seeks plan to turn Edmonton into Canada's safest city –



“Edmonton is the safest city in Canada” — that’s how the headline might read in 2030 if city council successfully turns the city’s ranking around dramatically in 10 years.

Coun. Sarah Hamilton proposed the lofty goal at the end of a lengthy debate on policing last Monday, which council unanimously supported.

It would be quite the opposite of the current reality and reputation. 

“For most of my life — and I would wager most of the rest of council lives — Edmonton has held the dubious title of one of the most unsafe cities in Canada,” Hamilton said. “Ten years ago, we had the name Stabmonton and our city routinely ranks high on the crime severity index.” 

Hamilton’s motion directs administration to review the goals for a future, healthy city as outlined in the strategy called ConnectEdmonton.

Council agreed Edmonton needs to drop in the ranking of Statistics Canada’s crime severity index. 

In 2018, Edmonton’s CSI was 115, compared to Calgary’s 88, Vancouver’s 84 and Toronto’s 54. 

Among Canadian cities, only Regina at 126 and Winnipeg at 119 were worse than Edmonton that year. 

The crime severity index includes all Criminal Code violations including traffic and drug violations and Federal Statutes, according to Statistics Canada. 

Hamilton listed the numerous areas the city invests in safety-related efforts, such as the plan to end homelessness, countering violent extremism, segregated bike lanes, Vision Zero for traffic, and pedestrian safety and mental health initiatives.

“By putting a target date on it and setting it out plainly that we’re going to be at the top of that list by that point, we’re validating the investments that we have already made,” Hamilton said. 

Worst city for women

Other studies assessing the overall quality of life in Canadian cities also put Edmonton at the bottom. 

In 2014, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives ranked Edmonton the worst city in Canada to be a woman. 

In its 2019 study, the CCPA placed Edmonton second last among 26 cities, one step above Barrie, ON.

Last year, Kingston, St. John’s and Victoria were the top three best places in Canada to live as a woman, the CCPA found.

The study includes safety but also factors in economic security, the number of women in management positions and non-traditional careers — categories in which Edmonton ranks quite low. 

The author of that report and senior researcher at the CCPA, Katherine Scott, said Edmonton hovers around the middle of the 26 cities in relation to general safety. 

Hamilton’s initiative is a positive step, Scott told CBC News in a phone interview Friday. 

“Change doesn’t come unless we identify problems and set goals and you measure your progress,” Scott said.  

Scott said the timing is appropriate, as municipalities “rethink” their approach to security and policing, and lean toward community development and education. 

“A good piece of the answer lies in community resourcing, tackling issues of economic security, ensuring affordable and safe housing,” she said. “These are all key pieces to creating a much safer community.” 

Councillors Jon Dziadyk, Scott McKeen and Sarah Hamilton at a council meeting in 2018. (CBC)

Coun. Bev Esslinger said awareness about safety for women has increased over the past few years, with movements like MeToo driving more conversation. 

“This is something that’s not going to get solved by any one group or any one organization,” she said Friday. “It won’t be resolved until the community comes together to do it.” 

Esslinger said the city has taken steps, involving a variety of groups over the past few years. 

For example, the city hosted the United Nations Women’s Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces in Oct. 2018, she noted.

Esslinger acknowledged it takes time to change behaviour, but that every measure will add up. 

“You need a goal and then you need to have specific actions to get to where you want to go,” Esslinger said. “And what are the outcomes that you’re going to know you get there?”

The motion is aimed at safety for everyone, including seniors, LGBTQ people, BIPOC, cyclists, pedestrians and motorists, Hamilton added.

“Having a safe city is closely tied to having a just city, and having a safe and just city will in turn be a healthy city.”

The motion directs administration to report back in November with specific metrics or targets to improve safety in Edmonton.


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Global Affairs official says giving Meng Wanzhou CSIS documents could hurt Canada –



The director general for Global Affairs Canada in South Asia says disclosing sensitive information from CSIS to Meng Wanzhou as part of her battle against extradition could risk Canadian lives, further damage Chinese-Canadian relations and even compromise the fight against COVID-19.

David Hartman warned against giving the Huawei executive’s lawyers unredacted copies of documents from Canada’s spy agency in an affidavit sworn as part of a proceeding that will be heard in federal court later this month.

The affidavit was filed in late June in support of the attorney general, who is fighting to keep from public view communication about Meng’s arrest between CSIS and the FBI.

“Generally speaking, such disclosure would inflame tensions between the governments of Canada and China, and would, necessarily, provoke a response harmful to bilateral relations and Canadian interests,” Hartman’s affidavit says.

“Given the consular considerations, disclosure could also risk causing harm to individual Canadian lives.”

Hartman served as Global Affairs’ executive director for greater China until August 2017.

He and CSIS intelligence officer Michel Guay both filed affidavits in the federal court case, which will be heard during four days of hearings at the end of the month.

The first day of proceedings will be held in public on July 27; the remaining three days will be behind closed doors.

The fight centres on six heavily redacted CSIS documents the attorney general disclosed to Meng’s lawyers after an order from the B.C. Supreme Court judge overseeing her extradition case.

The U.S. wants the Huawei chief financial officer sent to New York to face fraud charges in relation to an allegation that she lied to an HSBC executive in August 2013 about her company’s control of a firm accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

Prosecutors claim Meng’s alleged lies put the bank in danger of violating the same sanctions themselves, risking prosecution and loss as a result.

Meng’s lawyers plan to argue that the FBI and Canadian authorities mounted a “covert criminal investigation” against their client, sharing technical information about her electronic devices and conspiring to have Canadian border officers detain and question her without a lawyer for three hours before RCMP placed her under arrest.

CSIS released these heavily redacted documents to lawyers for Meng as part of extradition proceedings. The Huawei executive’s legal team is fighting in federal court to have the redactions lifted. (Jason Proctor/CBC)

‘Perception of influence’

The CSIS documents include an email, operational notes, a report and three so-called “situation reports” written before and after Meng’s arrest at Vancouver’s airport on Dec. 1, 2018.

The situation reports state that CSIS received word from the FBI the day before Meng’s arrest and that the U.S. agency would “not be present in an effort to avoid the perception of influence.”

The reports say the RCMP recognized the “highly political nature of the arrest” and predicted from the outset that Meng’s detention would “be of great consequence internationally and bilaterally.”

Large portions of all the documents have been redacted.

In their affidavits, both Hartman and Guay stress that they have not viewed the unredacted portions of the documents themselves, so that they won’t be at risk of inadvertently disclosing sensitive information during the public proceeding.

Michael Spavor, left, and Michael Kovrig are in Chinese custody, both having been charged with spying. (The Associated Press/International Crisis Group/The Canadian Press)

Hartman describes the damage Meng’s extradition case has already caused Canadian-Chinese relations, including the suspension of canola seed imports and the arbitrary detentions of former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor.

Kovrig and Spavor have been held in Chinese prisons since the days immediately following Meng’s arrest. Last month, the Chinese formally charged them with spying. Canada hasn’t had consular access to either man since January.

Souring public opinions

Hartman says the COVID-19 pandemic has only “underlined the necessity” for Canada to engage in bilateral relations with China.

“China has been an important supplier of personal protective equipment and pharmaceutical products in global supply chains and accounted for a significant portion of medical supplies procured by the Government of Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hartman wrote.

He says “Canadian media coverage and public opinion on China has grown increasingly negative, reflecting public opinion trends globally.”

The affidavit traces the change in sentiment to the introduction of a new national security law in Hong Kong, “reports of Chinese intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders in China as well as in Canada” and a “Chinese disinformation campaign around the origins of COVID-19.”

A still from a video of Meng filed as part of a defence application for access to documents. The video was taken during her first few hours in custody. (Court proceedings)

As a result, Hartman says “it is in Canada’s interest to ensure that the management of our necessary but complex engagement with China is not negatively affected even further by the public disclosure of sensitive information.”

Guay’s concerns about the redacted material are related solely to the impact it might have on national security. He writes about the importance of maintaining confidential sources and of the need CSIS has to share information on the understanding it will be kept confidential.

“If foreign agencies were to lose faith in the commitment of the service to protect confidential third party information, there would be significant impact on the willingness of those agencies to provide information to the service in the future,” he says.

‘An ongoing role in her arrest’

In federal court documents, Meng’s lawyers say the unredacted portions of the CSIS documents make it plain that “not only was CSIS involved in communicating with the FBI and others regarding the planning of Ms. Meng’s arrest prior to December 1, 2018, but that CSIS had an ongoing role in the arrest.”

As such, they are also seeking emails, texts, telephone logs and briefing notes from CSIS as well as the identity of the authors of the reports.

Meng’s lawyers hope to use that information in upcoming B.C. Supreme Court hearings to argue that she was the victim of abuses of process and breaches of charter rights so egregious that the extradition proceedings should be tossed.

The 48-year-old’s case is predicted to extend well into 2021. Meng has denied all the allegations against her. 

She has been living under a form of house arrest — trailed by security guards and ordered to wear a GPS-monitoring ankle bracelet — in one of two multimillion dollar homes she owns on Vancouver’s west side, since her release on $10 million bail the week after her arrest. 

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Trans woman required to identify as ‘male’ by Immigration Canada: ‘It was agony’ – Global News



The last thing Naomi Chen’s wife said to her before she fled Hong Kong was “don’t cry too much — Canada is the place where you can live as who you are.”

But this, it turns out, was untrue for Chen, a trans woman who says she was persecuted in Hong Kong because of her gender.

Read more:
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After arriving in Toronto Chen made a refugee claim and was then told by Canadian immigration officials she must be identified as “male” on her refugee protection claimant document, her only valid piece of identification in Canada.

Global News has agreed to use a pseudonym for Chen because of fears she could be persecuted if sent back to Hong Kong.

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“I was stunned. I was crying. I was distressed,” Chen said. “This is not something I expected.”

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U.S. Supreme Court decision ‘catalyst’ for change: LGBTQ+ activists

According to government policy, all information on an asylum seeker’s immigration documents “must reflect what is indicated on their foreign passport.”

This is true even in cases such as Chen’s, where a person receives hormone therapy, has undergone sex reassignment surgery, and where their lived gender no longer conforms with the sex they were assigned at birth.

It’s also true for all temporary resident documents issued by the government, including work and study permits.

“It’s discrimination,” Chen said.

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Since coming to Canada, Chen has felt isolated and dreads leaving her apartment because she might be asked to show her ID that says she’s a man, essentially outing her as a trans woman.

She also said being misgendered by the Canadian government makes her feel less valued than other people.

“I’m so afraid to live as a woman here,” she said.

Right to self-identify

The Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on: sex, race, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Ontario Human Rights Code also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex or gender identity.

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“A person’s self-defined gender identity is one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom,” reads an Ontario Human Rights Commission policy on preventing discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

“For legal and social purposes, a person whose gender identity is different from their birth-assigned sex should be treated according to their lived gender.”

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U.S. health agency reverses Obamacare transgender protections

The federal government allows citizens, permanent residents and refugees whose claims are accepted, meaning they’re allowed to stay in Canada permanently, to change their sex or “gender identifier” on official travel documents, such as a passport or permanent resident card, by completing a one-page form.

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Yet for refugee claimants whose cases have not yet been decided — even those whose claims are based solely on alleged persecution due to their status as an intersex or LGBTQ2 person — the only way they can change their documents to reflect their lived gender is if they first change the information on their foreign passport, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s policy.

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But this is impossible in Chen’s case because she fled Hong Kong due to the persecution she experienced there, including the alleged theft of her business by family members after she came out as a trans woman.

Chen married a woman in Hong Kong before she transitioned. And because same-sex marriage is illegal in Hong Kong, even if she were able to change her original passport, which she can’t, she fears this would invalidate her marriage.

“It’s simply unconscionable that the Canadian government would knowingly contribute to a process that discriminates against individuals based on their gender identity and gender expression,” said Chen’s lawyer, Ashley Fisch.

Moka Dawkins on the night that landed her in a men’s prison

Moka Dawkins on the night that landed her in a men’s prison

Fisch also believes the government’s policy violates Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms by failing to provide “equal treatment under the law” for trans and gender diverse refugee claimants and by perpetuating the types of hardships they’re forced to endure in other countries.

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“I just feel sorry for the poor woman,” said Amanda Ryan, outreach committee chair for Gender Mosaic, an Ottawa-based trans support organization.

Ryan believes recent changes to federal human rights law could be a basis for extending the right to self-identify to refugee claimants and temporary residents. She said education — both in and outside government — is key to expanding protections for the trans community.

Read more:
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“When you start talking to people and they start learning about trans issues, there’s an awful lot of sympathy and understanding for us,” Ryan said.

“People that don’t have to deal with a trans person simply don’t have that information. That’s ignorance in the true sense of the word.”

Trans and intersex refugees at greater risk

After arriving in Canada and undergoing initial screening to determine if they are eligible to make an asylum claim, would-be refugees are given their refugee ID, which must conform with their foreign passport.

Claimants must then submit their formal claim to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB).

The required paperwork asks claimants what sex appears on their foreign passport. However, contrary to Immigration Canada’s policy, claimants are told they can self-identify on IRB documents if their passport does not conform with their lived gender.

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IRB adjudicators are instructed to refer to claimants by their preferred pronouns, including in written decisions, even if this does not match their foreign passport. The Board’s guidelines also acknowledge that not recognizing a person’s lived gender can lead to serious consequences.

“Trans and intersex individuals may be particularly vulnerable to systemic discrimination and acts of violence due to their non-conformity with socially accepted norms,” the guidelines say.

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Dr. June Lam, a psychiatrist at the adult gender identity clinic at Toronto’s Centre of Addiction and Mental Health, said misgendering trans and gender diverse people can contribute to negative mental health outcomes, including increased suicidal thoughts and actions.

“It’s like we’re recreating the systemic oppression that they’re trying to escape by coming to Canada,” Lam said.

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“These barriers really reinforce that even our society views their life, their identity as less valuable.”

While Lam believes Canada is generally a much safer place for LGBTQ2 people than many other countries around the world, he said being forced to use an ID that outs someone as having a different birth-assigned sex than their lived gender puts them at greater risk of physical and psychological harm.

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He also cites research that found having a government-issued ID that reflects a person’s lived gender significantly reduces the likelihood of suicidal thoughts and actions among trans and gender diverse people.

“It’s almost like transgender folks have to proove themselves over and over again before our government and our society believes they are who they are,” he said.

Policy sometimes ignored

When Chen was first issued her refugee ID she was told in person by the Canada Border Services Agency that it must conform with her Hong Kong passport, in accordance with government policy.

Chen’s lawyer then sent a letter to the government requesting the ID be reissued with her correct gender, but the request was denied.

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“We regret to inform you that refugee claimants are not able to request a change in gender,” a manager from Immigration Canada wrote.

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Toronto police hire first openly transgender member

But nearly identical requests have been accepted in the past, said Adrienne Smith, a Toronto immigration lawyer who specializes in LGBTQ2 refugee claims.

Smith knows this because the letter Chen’s lawyer sent the government was based on a template she wrote several years ago. Smith said she’s used this letter on multiple occasions to persuade immigration officials to issue documents in a claimant’s lived gender.

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Smith said. “A trans refugee claimant shouldn’t need to have a lawyer that understands trans-specific issues in order to get access to a basic right.”

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Global News asked the government to explain why refugee claimants’ documents must reflect the information on their foreign passports and whether this policy systemically discriminates against trans and non-binary asylum seekers. The government did not answer either of these questions.

The government also did not say whether it believes that insisting that non- Canadian citizens and temporary residents be issued documents that don’t align with their lived gender violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Everyone should be free to lead happy and authentic lives in Canada, regardless of how they identify, or who they love,” said Kevin Lemkay, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

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What it’s like having an X on your birth certificate

Lemkay said the minister has made reviewing gender identity requirements for government-issued documents a priority. This includes the refugee protection claimant document.

The government has also passed legislation, including changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act, that make it illegal to discriminate based on gender identity and expression, while introducing the “X” gender marker on passports and permanent resident cards.

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“We remain steadfast in our dedication to inclusion and equality,” Lemkay said.

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Despite being misgendered by the government, Chen is determined to remain in Canada. She believes Canada is a place where she can live a life free from the type of persecution she experienced in Hong Kong.

She also hopes that one day she’ll be reunited with her wife — who was denied an entry visa to Canada because of questions about the purpose of her visit, and who does not have a Hong Kong passport, which would exempt her from visa requirements — and that they’ll be able to live together in a same-sex marriage.

“I came to Canada for the freedom of my soul,” Chen said.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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