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Federal unit flags apparent Chinese campaign to sow doubt on return of ‘two Michaels’



OTTAWA — A federal unit that tracks foreign interference has identified what appeared to be a co-ordinated information campaign by Chinese state media outlets to control the domestic narrative around the return of the “two Michaels” to Canada.

Rapid Response Mechanism Canada found the effort also seemed intent on fostering confusion or doubt in Canada and internationally about what Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were doing in China before they were detained in late 2018.

The Canadian Press used the Access to Information Act to obtain the unit’s analysis of the September 2021 events, the latest window into a tense geopolitical drama that played out between Ottawa and Beijing over almost three years.

Several portions of the document, considered too sensitive to release, were blacked out.

Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive of Chinese firm Huawei Technologies, in December 2018 at the request of the United States, where she faced charges related to American sanctions against Iran.

The move clearly angered Beijing, and two Canadians working in China — Kovrig and Spavor — were arrested soon after on accusations of endangering national security, a move widely seen as retaliation against Ottawa.

Kovrig and Spavor were both convicted of spying in 2021 in closed Chinese courts. Canada and many allies said the process amounted to arbitrary detention on bogus charges in an unaccountable justice system.

The U.S. worked out a deferred prosecution agreement in Meng’s case, allowing for her release, and Beijing permitted the two Michaels, as they came to be known, to fly home on Sept. 25.

A wide outpouring of relief from Canadians greeted their return. Typical of the sentiment was a tweet from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service: “CSIS joins all Canadians in welcoming you back to Canada.”

RRM Canada’s Sept. 28 analysis says it identified a narrative from Chinese state media outlets that claimed the two Michaels had “confessed their guilt,” were “granted bail for medical reasons” and that CSIS had inadvertently exposed them as Canadian spies.

The unit, based at Global Affairs Canada, produces open data analysis to chart trends, strategies and tactics in foreign interference. The efforts support the G7 RRM, an initiative to strengthen co-ordination to identify and respond to threats to the leading industrial democracies.

RRM Canada says it first detected the “two Michaels” narrative Sept. 26, when the Global Times, a state-owned media tabloid, published a long English-language article with the headline, “Two Canadians confess guilt, granted bail for medical reasons before leaving China: source.”

The RRM analysis notes the story said the two men were “released on bail,” “confessed to their crimes and wrote confession and repentance letters in their own handwriting,” and left China “in line with legal procedures.”

“The author adds that China’s suspicions are not unfounded and points to a recent tweet from CSIS that welcomed the two Michaels back to Canada.”

Meng walked out of a British Columbia court Sept. 24 after a judge agreed to a discharge order that withdrew the U.S. extradition request against her.

It followed her virtual appearance in a New York court, where she pleaded not guilty to all charges and a judge signed off on the deferred prosecution agreement.

At the time, Nicole Boeckmann, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said that in entering into the deferred prosecution agreement, Meng had taken responsibility for her role in perpetrating a scheme to defraud a global financial institution.

Boeckmann said Meng’s admissions in a statement of facts confirmed that she made multiple material misrepresentations to a senior executive of a financial institution regarding Huawei’s business operations in Iran in an effort to preserve the firm’s banking relationship with the institution.

That same day, news accounts on Chinese social media platform WeChat reported that Meng would appear in U.S. and Canadian courts and could sign a deferred prosecution agreement that would allow her to return to China, the RRM analysis notes.

“Because the full details of the DPA were not clear, Canadian WeChat news accounts reported that she would plead guilty to charges or admit to wrongdoing in misleading a global financial institution,” the analysis says. “Chinese state media did not include any of this discussion or information in their official narratives of Meng’s release.”

In response, the RRM analysis says, most mentions of what Meng had agreed to in the deferred prosecution agreement were taken down.

WeChat users would see an error message from platform developer Tencent saying, “unable to view this content because it violates regulations.”

RRM notes that this sort of message appears only when Tencent or the Cyberspace Administration of China removes content from news accounts. However, it was unable to determine which one had taken the stories down.

The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa did not respond to a request for comment on the RRM Canada report.

The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab says China has an expansive system of censorship that includes restrictions on the internet, applications and media. Internet platforms operating in China must follow local laws and regulations regarding content controls, the research lab says.

Fen Hampson, a professor of international affairs at Carleton University, suggested the Chinese actions concerning the online dialogue about the events of last September indicate a lack of finesse.

“This shows that they’re not very sophisticated and can be pretty ham-fisted at the same time,” said Hampson, co-author with Canadian Press reporter Mike Blanchfield of “The Two Michaels: Innocent Canadian Captives and High Stakes Espionage in the US-China Cyber War.”

“This is Chinese state censorship in motion.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2022.


Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press


Canada Day Ottawa: Ottawa police prepare for festivities, possible protests | CTV News – CTV News Ottawa



Police officers in cruisers and on bicycles are patrolling downtown Ottawa and the Parliamentary Precinct today, as the city prepares for Canada Day festivities and possible protests against COVID-19 mandates and the federal government.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to visit downtown Ottawa and the LeBreton Flats area over the next few days to celebrate Canada’s 155th birthday. Canadian Forces veteran James Topp will also complete his cross-country march at the National War Memorial, as he protests the remaining COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

At LeBreton Flats, there was a very strong security presence Friday morning as preparations continued for the Canadian Heritage Canada Day festivities. The Canada Day daytime show begins at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, while the evening show begins at 7:30 p.m. 

Ottawa police interim Chief Steve Bell says the increased police presence will remain in place through the weekend.

“We’ve talked for a number of days about all the planning and preparation we have and the expectation of people attending,” Bell told CTV News Ottawa. “I think what you’re seeing is those plans coming into action and us being out there and vigilant around who’s attending, and trying to make sure people that understand it’s a safe place on Canada Day and you should come down and enjoy the festivities.”

On Wednesday, officers stopped a small convoy of vehicles in the area of Pinecrest Road and Hwy. 417 and several tickets were issued.   Bell defended the actions of officers to stop vehicles in the capital region.

“We actually have good legal grounds for the plans we’ve put in place. We make sure that we stay on legal grounds because that’s very important as a police service,” Bell said. “We’re comfortable with the posture we’re taking and the actions officers are taking, and it’s all in the name that we ensure public safety and we can have a good, festive Canada Day.”


Canadian Forces veteran James Topp will finish his cross-country march to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates this evening at the National War Memorial.

The final leg of his journey began at 1811 Robertson Road at 10 a.m. Topp is scheduled to arrive at Hog’s Back Park at 1:30 p.m. and finish his march at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at 6 p.m.

“We have been in contact with Mr. Topp and his group and have plans in place to ensure that he can safely and lawfully move from the west end of the city down to the Parliament Hill buildings,” interim chief Bell said on Monday.

Speaking in Ottawa last week, Topp said a number of groups that formed out of the Freedom Convoy had come together to protest the federal government.

“What I would like to see with the establishment of C3 – the Canadian Citizens Coalition is for us to have further conversations about the way forward, about the way of the future, of what we see Canada being and becoming,” said Topp.


The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will not be taking part in Canada Day festivities in Ottawa.

The Royal Canadian Air Force announced the Snowbirds fly-past over Ottawa on Friday has been cancelled, following a problem with the aircraft’s emergency ejection parachute that grounded the fleet for nearly a week.


Visitors to Parliament Hill will need to pass through a security checkpoint, and be searched by a Parliamentary Protective Service officer.

A sign on the fence along Wellington Street says several items are restricted, including tables, speakers, barbecues, aerosols, weapons, fireworks and sporting equipment.


A motor vehicle control zone remains in effect around the Parliamentary Precinct, downtown Ottawa and roads near LeBreton Flats.

The zone stretches from Colonel By Drive/Sussex Drive in the east, Booth Street in the west, Laurier Avenue in the south and Wellington Street in the north, along with the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway and Albert Street west of Booth Street.

The roads in the motor vehicle control zone are not closed today; however, motor vehicles taking part in any form of demonstration, event or protest will not be permitted in the area. There will be no on-street parking or stopping on roads in the control zone.

The city of Ottawa says a motor vehicle control zone will be in effect from Wednesday at 8 a.m. until July 4 at 6 a.m. (City of Ottawa/Twitter)


Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services says officers are out ensuring all parking regulations are observed in the motor vehicle control zone.

“All vehicles found failing to observe the no-stopping zones will be ticketed and towed. Parking time limits and no parking zones outside the centre core will also be strictly enforced,” the city said.

Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Ottawa Bylaw says 120 parking tickets were issued and 28 vehicles were towed in the vehicle control zone.

Ottawa Bylaw will also be focusing on the following bylaws to ensure residents and visitors obey the rules over the Canada Day weekend.

  • No unnecessary motor-vehicle or other noise, including speakers or shouting
  • No unnecessary motor-vehicle idling
  • No encumbering a sidewalk or roadway by any means, including setting up tents or other illegal structures
  • No public urination and defecation
  • No open air fires
  • No littering
  • Discharging of fireworks – contravening any regulations under Fireworks By-Law.


Ottawa City Hall and the underground municipal parking facility will be closed all weekend.

City Hall and the parking structure will be closed from 5 p.m. Thursday until 6 a.m. on Monday.

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Tips for starting online betting safely



Sports betting has been part of the entertainment world for a long time now, but it has become even more popular now. This is because of the internet and especially online betting. It has increased the number of opportunities for betting and now people don’t need to leave their homes to have fun.


The internet has some of the most popular options such as NFL Week 1 odds and more rare possibilities. Because of this diversity, you can be sure that you can find an option fitting your taste. But if you have never bet on sports online before, you need to know how to do so safely. This article will help you with this.

There are many different interesting sports to follow

The world is full of different types of sports, which means that there will be one that will entertain you. Even if you are only looking for Canadian sports, there are still many different fantastic possibilities. This obviously means that there are also plenty of different possibilities regarding betting as well.


Even though there are many exciting opportunities for betting, you need to only bet on sports that you are familiar with. If you know everything there is to know about the sport, it will be easier for you to place your bets. Therefore it’s a much safer way to bet. If you are interested in specifically betting on a game that you don’t know too well yet, you should do some research.

Choose a safe betting site

Not only do you need to bet in a safe way, but you also need to choose a safe betting site. There are many different options when it comes to different betting sites, so you have a lot of options to choose from.


If you don’t know how to recognize safe betting sites, you don’t have to worry. There are plenty of different guidebooks specifically about this online. You can also use different websites that introduce popular and safe betting sites for the players. This will make the search process much easier.

What is the best betting site for you?

As we said, there are many different betting sites. Not only do you need to choose a safe option, but you also need to find one that is the best for you. And how can you know which is the best for you?


Simply by thinking about what you are looking for. It doesn’t matter what type of betting site you choose, as long as it fits you and it’s safe, it’s a good choice.

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Spouse of gunman to testify at N.S. shooting hearings but won’t be cross-examined



HALIFAX — The spouse of the gunman in the Nova Scotia mass shooting will testify mid-July before a public inquiry, but she won’t face direct questions from lawyers representing victims’ families.

Lisa Banfield, on the advice of her lawyers, had initially refused to speak under oath at the hearings into the 22 killings carried out by her spouse on April 18-19, 2020.

However, she changed her stance after a criminal charge laid against her for supplying ammunition to the killer was referred to restorative justice.

The public inquiry said today in a news release that due to Banfield’s status as a “survivor of the perpetrator’s violence,” only the inquiry’s lawyer will be asking her questions during her July 15 appearance.

Josh Bryson, a lawyer for the family of victims Peter and Joy Bond, says his clients are losing faith in the credibility of the inquiry.

Bryson says the families’ lawyers have been polite and respectful throughout the hearings, adding that it is frustrating to be denied the opportunity to pose direct questions to key witnesses.

“Cross-examination can make or break a witness’s evidence … You test the evidence in a meaningful and trauma-informed way,” he said in an interview today.

The inquiry has also refused to allow cross-examination of Staff Sgt. Brian Rehill and Staff Sgt. Andy O’Brien, who were the first RCMP managers overseeing the response to the shootings.

Emily Hill, senior commission counsel, says participatinglawyers can submit their questions in advance and can provide follow-up questions to the inquiry’s lawyer to ask during the single day set aside to hear Banfield.

Banfield’s evidence could provide further information about the killer’s personal history and state of mind and may also be key to the commission’s mandate to examine the “role of gender-based and intimate-partner violence” in the killer’s actions.

The inquiry has heard she was the last person with the gunman before he went on his rampage. The killer allegedly assaulted her and confined her in a car, but she managed to escape. She fled into the woods and hid before emerging the next morning and telling police the killer was driving a replica RCMP vehicle.

The RCMP have said from the outset that Banfield wasn’t aware of her spouse’s intentions when she provided him with ammunition, but they proceeded with charges alleging she, her brother and her brother-in-law had illegally transferred ammunition to the killer.

During a briefing this morning, the commission confirmed that senior RCMP officers, including Supt. Darren Campbell, Chief Supt. Chris Leather, assistant commissioner Lee Bergerman and Commissioner Brenda Lucki will testify in July and August — under oath and subject to cross-examination.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2022.


The Canadian Press

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