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Enterprise Canada pushes back against Nazi flag claim made by convoy lawyer

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The strategic communications firm Enterprise Canada is pushing back against what it says are “irresponsible and reckless” statements made by Brendan Miller — a lawyer representing convoy protest organizers at the Emergencies Act inquiry — about one of the firm’s employees.

On Monday, Miller suggested — citing no evidence — that Brian Fox, a partner at Enterprise, carried a Nazi flag in the thick of the protest crowd in Ottawa last winter so that photos would be taken and the protesters would be discredited.

Enterprise President Jason Lietaer told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics that Fox is getting death threats due to Miller’s “unhinged allegation.”

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” Lietaer told guest host David Cochrane. “It’s having real impacts, I mean the threats … it’s got to stop.”

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Enterprise Canada says convoy lawyer’s allegations are ‘highly defamatory’

 

Jason Lietaer, president at Enterprise Canada, said lawyer Brendan Miller’s comments are “false, they’re defamatory and they’ve got to stop.”

In a letter addressed to Miller Tuesday, Enterprise’s counsel Jeff Galway said Fox was not in Ottawa during the protests earlier this year, and that he recalled last visiting the city in 2019.

The letter also notes that Fox is a longstanding member of the Conservative Party. Miller’s line of questioning at the inquiry attempted to tie Enterprise to the Liberal Party.

Galway then demands Miller cease and desist and correct the record.

“A formal libel notice is forthcoming,” the letter reads.

On Tuesday, Miller doubled down, saying he isn’t worried about any legal action Enterprise might take.

“Guess what? Truth is a full defence,” Miller told reporters. Miller claimed that he has a witness who can identify Fox as the man with the Nazi flag.

But Lietaer said the firm has proof — in the form of receipts and eyewitnesses — that Fox was in Toronto during the protests.

“You can’t fall for this kind of a hoax. It is patently false and we’ve got to fight back on this kind of stuff,” Lieater said.

Miller temporarily kicked out of inquiry

On Monday, Commissioner Paul Rouleau chided Miller for suggesting that CSIS Director David Vigneault knew Fox was the man with the Nazi flag. Rouleau said the comment was “not a fair statement.”

Following another tense exchange Tuesday morning, Rouleau had Miller ejected from the hearing room.

The Public Order Emergency Commission was hearing testimony Tuesday from Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino. As Rouleau was about to announce the usual mid-morning break, Miller interrupted to say he’d been speaking with Alexander Cohen, Mendicino’s director of communications, who Miller said was in the hearing room.

“He has very relevant evidence with respect to the inquiry, as to the circumstances, as to the invocation of the Emergencies Act,” Miller said.

Miller claimed Cohen has unheard evidence regarding “misinformation” about a text message exchange that was key “in building the narrative with respect to the protesters in Ottawa being extremists,” including some having “Nazi symbolism.”

Commissioner Paul Rouleau speaks with Freedom Corp. counsel Brendan Miller before asking security to remove the lawyer on Tuesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Rouleau calls security

Miller then asked Rouleau to allow Cohen, who is not on the commission’s list of witnesses, to testify after Mendicino.

“I’m not going to do this orally right now,” Rouleau replied

“Well sir, we’re given 15 minutes to cross-examine, to elicit relative material evidence, and we have relevant and material witnesses here. The Government of Canada has redacted without lawful authority all of these statements from these staffers, and has suppressed records,” a visibly frustrated Miller argued.

Rouleau replied that the commission had a schedule to stick to, and asked Miller to come to an agreement with commission counsel during the break

“Sir, the schedule’s not as important as getting at the truth,” Miller shot back.

“There’s no question we want to get at the truth, but you know what, it’s a very complex issue and it’s not all about what you want,” Rouleau said.

After the break, Rouleau advised Miller that any application to add a witness must be done in writing. The two had a brief exchange before Rouleau called for another pause.

“I will return in five minutes, if security could deal with counsel,” he said.

Redacted documents

Miller then left the hearing room. Outside, he stopped to speak with reporters, where he again complained about some of the redacted documents presented as evidence before the commission.

“They have redacted these docs claiming they are irrelevant, or they are in fact subject to a cabinet confidence, despite the fact that the law is abundantly clear and undeniably clear that cabinet confidence does not apply to political staffers,” he said.

“The Government of Canada has continuously, and every day, dropped hundreds of docs on the parties, and the parties are frustrated. It is not just myself. They have tried to turn this entire proceeding into an inquiry about the failures of [former Ottawa police] chief Sloly as opposed to actually about the invocation of the Emergencies Act.”

Miller then walked away with convoy organizer Tamara Lich.

When hearings resumed, Rouleau told lawyer Keith Wilson, who also appeared as a witness before the commission, that counsel for the convoy organizers would have a chance to cross-examine Mendicino after the lunch break.

Miller was later allowed to return to the hearing room, and just before 4 p.m. began cross-examining Mendicino. Before he began, he offered Rouleau a brief apology.

“Just before I start, I apologize for talking over you earlier today,” Miller said.

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Available Nexus appointments Canada

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There’s good news for those looking to expedite their border crossing experience.

To mitigate the ongoing backlog issues at Canadian border crossings, border officials have reopened two Nexus and Free and Secure Trade (FAST) enrolment centres in Canada.

It’s the first time any Nexus and FAST offices have been open in Canada since the pandemic began, and federal officials say more offices will be opening in the future.

The Nexus program, which has over 1.7 million members, is designed to speed up the border clearance process for its members, while also freeing up more time for Canadian and U.S. border security agents to tend to unknown or potentially higher-risk travellers and goods.

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The benefit of Nexus is that it allows for those travelling between the two countries to save time, skipping long lineups and using the shorter, dedicated Nexus lanes when crossing the border, as well as designated kiosks and eGates at major airports, and quicker processing at marine crossings.

Reopening these two Canadian centres is the first phase of a larger plan to address the lengthy Nexus and FAST backlog, and will increase availability for applicants to book appointments to interview for Nexus pre-approval, the Canada Border Service Agency said in a statement Monday.

Those looking to get Nexus approval can now schedule interviews, by appointment only, at the Lansdowne, Ont. (Thousand Islands Bridge) and Fort Erie, Ont. (Peace Bridge) enrolment centres, through the trusted traveller programs portal.

Travellers looking to apply will still need to complete a new two-step process, and the Canadian offices don’t mean applicants won’t have to cross the border to finalize the process.

If conditionally approved for Nexus status, travellers can complete the first part of the interview at one of the two reopened Canadian enrolment centres, then complete the second interview portion just across the border at the corresponding U.S. enrolment centres on the other side. For Lansdowne, that’s Alexandria Bay, N.Y., and for Fort Erie, it’s Buffalo, N.Y.

To become conditionally approved, both the CBSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have to grant approval prior to scheduling the interview portion, and interviews need to be conducted on both sides of the border.

“Nexus and FAST are a win-win for Canada and the United States – and we’re working hard to find creative solutions to reduce wait times, address the backlog and help more travellers get Nexus cards,” said Marco Mendicino, minister of public safety, in a press release. “This new, two-step process is further proof of our commitment to it. We’ll keep finding solutions that leverage technology and streamline renewals.”

Applicants also have the option to complete a one-step process and schedule complete interviews at enrolment centres in the U.S., which may be a preferred option for those who don’t live near the two centres currently open in Canada.

And those who are already members of the Nexus program and are awaiting an interview can renew their membership ahead of its expiry date in order to retain their travel benefits for up to five years.

More centres are expected to open at select land border crossings in the future, as this initial phase carries on, CBSA says.

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China slams U.S. Inflation Reduction Act for ‘disrupting international trade, investment’

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The Chinese Ministry of Commerce on Thursday criticized the U.S. for disrupting international trade and investment by adopting the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), urging the U.S. to fulfill its obligations under WTO rules.

The criticism came after the Chinese delegation attending a meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Council for Trade in Goods expressed serious concern over the ‘discriminatory and distorted subsidy provisions’ of the U.S. IRA, as well as its series of policies that disrupt the global semiconductor industry chain and supply chain.

The meeting of the WTO Council for Trade in Goods was held in Geneva between November 24 and 25.

Speaking at a press conference in Beijing, Ministry of Commerce Spokeswoman Shu Jueting said that China’s response is an exercise of its rights as a WTO member to challenge the trade measures of another member and their impact on such an occasion.

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“In its speech, the Chinese side expounded on the suspected violations of WTO rules by the relevant provisions of the U.S. law from a professional perspective, noted that the U.S. approach has seriously disrupted international trade and investment while undermining the stability of the global industrial and supply chains, and expressed grave concern over the U.S. application of double standards and acts of bullying regarding international trade rules,” Shu said.

“China urges the U.S. to strictly fulfill its obligations under WTO rules and earnestly safeguard the authority and effectiveness of the multilateral trading system,” she said.

Stressing that the world today is facing multiple challenges including setbacks in economic globalization and a sluggish economic recovery, Shu reiterated China’s commitment to opposing unilateralism and stabilizing global industrial and supply chains.

“China is ready to work with other members to follow through on the outcomes of the WTO 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), engage fully and deeply in the reform of the WTO, stand against unilateralism and protectionism, and support the WTO in better playing its role, so as to contribute to stability of the global industrial and supply chains and recovery of the global economy at an early date,” said the spokeswoman.

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Civil rights group says Vancouver has at least one secret Chinese police station

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A Spanish civil rights group says Vancouver has at least one secret police station operated by Chinese authorities.

The group Safeguard Defenders said in a report in September that there were Chinese police operations around the world, including three in Toronto, and the updated report names another 48 locations.

Safeguard Defenders, a not-for-profit human rights group, said two of the new locations are in Canada: one in Vancouver and the second unknown.

The group’s previous investigation looked into the expansion of “long-arm policing” and transnational repression imposed by the Chinese government.

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Its latest report, titled “Patrol and Persuade,” gathered more evidence on how these police station function and their “persuasions of return” strategies, the group said in its report.

“Patrol and Persuade also documents the silent complicity of a number of host countries, instilling a further sense of fear into targeted communities and severely undermining the international rules-based order,” Safeguard Defenders said in an online statement.

Its previous report alleged employees from the overseas police system use intimidation and threats to enforce the “involuntary” return of immigrants back to China for persecution.

The group claimed that between April 2021 and July 2022, Chinese police “persuaded” 230,000 claimed fugitives to return to China.

No one from the Chinese Embassy was immediately available for comment on the new information, but it has previously described the offices as volunteer-run service stations to process things like driver’s licences.

The report said the newly documented Vancouver-based police station is being operated by authorities from Wenzhou, a port and industrial city in China’s Zhejiang province.

It said most of the newly documented stations were set up starting in 2016, directly refuting the government of China’s previous statements that the operations were started in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“New information shows at least one illegal ‘persuasion to return’ operation run through the Wenzhou station in Paris, France; and at least 80 cases where the Nantong overseas police system assisted in the capture and/or persuasion to return operation,” the report said.

The group claimed their work prompted at least 12 countries, including Canada, to launch investigations into local police stations.

A series of recommendations have been listed by Safeguard Defenders for all governments to consider, such as educating local law enforcement on the methods used by the operators and imposing costs on entities and individuals involved in the repression efforts.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month he raised the issue of interference directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Indonesia.

Xi later berated him for informing the media about their conversation.

The RCMP said in early November that it is investigating the issue, and officials told MPs in early October that they were aware of the claims by the group.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2022.

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

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