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MPs opt not to study allegation of ‘obstruction of justice’ against Mendicino

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MPs opt not to study allegation of ‘obstruction of justice’ against Mendicino

OTTAWA — Members of the House of Commons immigration committee voted Wednesday not to investigate allegations of obstruction of justice against Marco Mendicino, who was formerly in charge of the file.

The immigration department’s deputy minister says human error led to a mistake in court filings about the coming into force of legislation creating a new college to regulate immigration consultants.

The Governor General signed an order in council to bring the law into effect on Nov. 20, 2020, the same day as a trademark infringement hearing involving the new college.

Government lawyers told a Federal Court judge in the case that the legislation came into force on that day. And the immigration department issued a press release a few days later, in which Mendicino declared the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act had come into force.

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But it didn’t really come into force until more than two weeks later when the order in council was formally registered.

A report by independent media outlet Blacklock’s Reporter last week suggested Mendicino backdated government documents in an “apparent bid to mislead a federal judge.”

Mendicino, who became the public safety minister in October 2021, denied the allegations Sunday in a statement from his director of communications, Alex Cohen.

The deputy minister told the immigration committee that it was a simple case of human error that was quickly corrected.

Staff at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada mistakenly thought that the day the order was made was the date when the law actually came into effect, deputy minister Christiane Fox explained in a letter to the committee chair.

The courts were informed of the error on Dec. 9, 2020, she wrote, and the press release was corrected.

“I sincerely hope this provides you with the necessary assurance that all appropriate steps were taken in order to correct the error of the coming into force date once it had been discovered,” Fox wrote.

Members of the committee convened an urgent meeting following the media report and debated whether they should investigate the error, but the idea was defeated in a five to six vote.

Conservative members of the committee argued for the investigation, saying they were concerned about whether government lawyers were given the go-ahead to say that the act had come into force before the Governor General actually signed the document.

“We have not one, but actually multiple different … cases of wrongdoing or multiple overlapping errors here,” said Conservative MP Garnett Genuis.

Liberal MPs described the error as an honest mistake and voted against the investigation.

“We know that civil servants are humans. We are all human. We all can err, despite trying our best,” Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi told the committee.

The Blacklock’s report was based on emails obtained through access-to-information legislation. Mendicino’s office released the 730-page package that the report cited to members of the committee prior to the meeting.

The package includes several messages between department officials and communications staff in which they repeatedly confirm the incorrect date the legislation would come into force.

The week after the press release was published, exchanges show the department’s legal team flagged the error and, on Dec. 1, 2020, department officials discussed whether “remedial measures” were needed.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 12, 2022.

 

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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COVID vaccines: Canada fell short at limiting wastage, AG says – CTV News

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While the federal government was successful in procuring COVID-19 vaccines amid an urgent pandemic situation, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) fell short when it came to minimizing the number of doses wasted, according to Canada’s auditor general.

In an audit of the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine procurement, tabled in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Karen Hogan found that while federal departments “secured COVID-19 vaccine doses so that everyone in Canada who chose to be vaccinated could be,” once the vaccines arrived the systems to keep track of them were lacking.

Hogan’s performance audit focused on assessing the job Public Services and Procurement Canada did in procuring vaccines, and how the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada did in keeping track of the inventory as well as seeing the vaccines delivered across the country and later donated globally.

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The audit found that PSPC’s “efficient” work—led by then-procurement minister Anita Anand—and the decision to sign advance purchase agreements with seven COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers ensured that Canada would have enough doses to meet the demand. However, Hogan noted that this approach came with the risk of Canada having a surplus of doses.

As this played out in realtime, and six of the seven potential vaccines were authorized for use in Canada, the federal government paid for 169 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines between December 2020—when Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine authorization and immunization rollout began—and May 2022.

Of those, the federal government administered more than 84 million doses across the country.

That left 85 million COVID-19 vaccine doses unused, 50.6 million of which the audit found were deemed surplus and offered for donation. However, just 15.3 million doses have been given to other countries while 13.6 million expired before they could be donated.

That meant that as of the end of May, Canada had 32.5 million doses—worth an estimated $1 billion—sitting in inventories across the country. The report flags that the majority of these shots are set to expire by the end of the year, resulting in more wastage if they are not used or donated soon. In addition to these shots, the government has gone on to procure doses of newly-developed bivalent booster shots.

The auditor general said that while PHAC “equitably allocated” COVID-19 vaccine doses to the provinces and territories and oversaw their delivery in a “timely way,” efforts to cut down on wasted doses was “unsuccessful.”

This was in part due to delays in the agency developing and implementing an information technology planning system called “VaccineConnect,” meant to help track and manage vaccine usage. By the end of the audit, the report states that even still “not all of the system’s functionalities were being used.”

Another factor that contributed to more doses potentially going to waste than necessary was that the agency did not have in place finalized data-sharing agreements with the provinces and territories, a long-standing issue the AG’s office has brought up repeatedly with this and previous governments, most recently in the 2021 audit on pandemic preparedness.

“This meant that the agency relied on voluntary reporting by the provinces and territories. Although some provinces and territories consistently reported to the agency, the agency was unable to obtain complete data from most,” the audit said. “This meant that the status of these doses was unknown and reduced the agency’s ability to predict supply needs and plan for donations.”

Hogan found that while the federal health bodies were timely in responding to the trio of confirmed vaccine safety signals, the data-sharing gap “affected the agency’s ability to effectively share detailed case-level safety surveillance data with Health Canada, the World Health Organization, and vaccine companies,” as it pertained to incidents of adverse reactions in Canada. 

She is now calling for this gap to be addressed immediately, “because the sharing of health data is a cornerstone of effective surveillance to keep Canadians safe.”

Federal officials and opposition critics will be responding to Hogan’s findings this afternoon.

This is a breaking news story, more to come…

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Inflation in Canada: Grocery execs on profiteering claims – CTV News

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OTTAWA –

Grocery executives are disputing an accusation that grocery giants are taking advantage of inflation to drive up their own profits.

Executives from Loblaw and Empire testified at the House of Commons agriculture committee Monday as part of its study of food inflation.

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“Empire does not like inflation,” said Pierre St-Laurent, chief operating officer of Empire, the parent company of Sobeys.

Jodat Hussain, Loblaw’s senior vice-president of retail finance, told MPs Loblaw has been raising prices because suppliers are charging more, and that the company’s gross margins on food have remained stable.

“Fundamentally, grocery prices are up because the costs of products that grocers buy from suppliers have gone up,” Hussain said.

The executive said Loblaw pushes back on suppliers when they do propose raising prices, citing its disagreement with Frito-Lay over the price of potato chips, which led to empty shelves during the dispute.

The rapidly rising cost of groceries has become a hot-button issue in politics, with food prices up 11 per cent in October compared with a year earlier.

And relief isn’t expected to come any time soon.

According to the 13th edition of Canada’s Food Price Report released Monday, the total cost of groceries for a family of four is expected to be $1,065 more than it was this year.

The study into food inflation by the House of Commons committee was called for by NDP agriculture critic Alistair MacGregor.

The New Democrats have accused companies like Loblaw of profiting off of inflation by unfairly raising prices on consumers.

MPs heard testimony from others in the grocery industry, including the Retail Council of Canada; Food, Health and Consumer Products of Canada; and Fruit and Vegetable Growers of Canada.

“We are experiencing a unique confluence of events — war, extreme weather and soaring fuel prices, all piling on top of supply chain disruptions and labour shortages,” said Karl Little, Retail Council of Canada’s senior vice-president of public affairs.

Sylvain Charlebois, a Dalhousie University professor of food distribution and policy, also appeared before MPs. The food researcher raised concerns about a lack of competition oversight that he says is feeding into distrust between consumers and grocers.

“The Competition Bureau is constantly failing the Canadian public by not providing forceful support to lawmakers in Canada when it simply endorses acquisitions and oversees investigations with little or no vigour,” Charlebois said.

The Competition Bureau announced in October it is launching a study to examine whether the highly concentrated grocery sector is contributing to rising food costs.

The competition watchdog is expected to provide a set of recommendations for the government in its final report, which it plans to publish in June.

The committee will also hold another meeting on food inflation on Dec. 12.

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

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More 'police' centres run by China found around world: NGO – CTV News

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A human rights organization says it has found dozens of additional overseas Chinese “police service centres” around the world, including at least two more in Canada.

In a new report released Monday called “Patrol and Persuade,” the Spain-based non-governmental organization Safeguard Defenders says it used open source statements from People’s Republic of China authorities, Chinese police and state media to document at least 48 additional stations.

This on top of the 54 stations revealed in September, bringing the total number of documented centres to 102 in 53 countries. Some host countries also have co-operated in setting up these centres, Safeguard Defenders says.

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The stations are accused of targeting Chinese nationals living abroad, particularly those who allegedly committed crimes in China, in order to coerce them to return home.

Safeguard Defenders reports that along with the three police “stations” previously confirmed in the Greater Toronto Area, which are operated out of the Chinese city of Fuzhou, it has found newly confirmed centres in Vancouver, operated out of Wenzhou, and another whose location is unknown but operates out of Nantong.

In a statement to CTV National News on Monday, the RCMP said it’s “investigating reports of criminal activity in relation to the so-called ‘police’ stations.” No further details were provided.

A similar statement was given by the police force to CP24 in late October following the previous report of Toronto-area stations.

The consulate general of the People’s Republic of China said at the time that the stations are to help Chinese citizens renew their driver’s licences, given many of them are unable to return to China due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the “local volunteers” facilitating this “are not Chinese police officers.”

However, Safeguard Defenders says the vast majority of the newly documented stations were set up starting in 2016, years before the pandemic began.

In its previous report in September, Safeguard Defenders found that Chinese police “persuaded” 230,000 claimed fugitives to return to China “voluntarily” between April 2021 and July 2022. Among the tactics used, Safeguard Defenders said, included denying suspects’ children in China the right to education and punishing relatives through “guilt by association.”

The U.S. Department of Justice accused seven people in October of a yearslong campaign to harass and intimidate a U.S. resident to return to China.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the G20 summit in Indonesia in November, his office told reporters that he had raised concerns with Chinese President Xi Jinping of “interference” in Canada.

Asked about what specific interference he referred to, Trudeau later told the House of Commons, “We’ve known for many years that there are consistent engagements by representatives of the Chinese government into Canadian communities, with local media, reports of illicit Chinese police stations.”

With files from CP24 Web Content Writer Joanna Lavoie, CTV National News Vancouver Bureau Chief Melanie Nagy, CTV News Toronto Videojournalist Allison Hurst and The Canadian Press 

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