Connect with us

News

Pandemic fatigue leaves Canada in 'tricky moment', Freeland says – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

Published

 on


Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Published Friday, February 4, 2022 8:03PM EST


Last Updated Friday, February 4, 2022 9:14PM EST

OTTAWA – Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada is at a “tricky moment” as we near the two-year mark of a global pandemic that has left everyone tired, grouchy and grasping for signs of hope.

Freeland, who is also the deputy prime minister, told Liberals at a weekend virtual convention for the Ontario wing of the federal Liberal party that the party has always done best when it believes in the goodness of Canadians.

“I say that now because I think we’re in a tricky moment right now, as a country,” she said Friday night. “We’re sort of poised between seizing optimism and seizing the future and giving way to frustration and despair.”

Freeland did not reference the convoy of anti-vaccine demonstrators who have occupied downtown Ottawa for the last eight days and have spilled into protests in other cities. But they were heavy on the minds of many who spoke in the opening 90 minutes of the event.

Liberal party president Suzanne Cowan said she wanted to give an extra thank you to those joining the virtual event from Ottawa “and for all those impacted by this convoy.”

“I know that it can be discouraging, makes you angry, frustrated,” she said. “I don’t know, insert your own word to the way you’re feeling about the disturbances and what’s been going on over the last week, but we will not be intimidated.”

Hundreds of demonstrators remain encamped in downtown Ottawa, blocking streets with big rigs and camper vans, blaring horns at all hours of the day and night. Local residents have complained of being harassed and intimidated by convoy members, and the constant noise prompted a class-action lawsuit Friday, suing convoy leaders and truck drivers for $9.8 million.

The convoy leaders have said they will not leave until the government cedes to their demands that all COVID-19 restrictions be lifted, including vaccine mandates. Some have demanded the Liberal government be illegally ousted.

Freeland told the convention that Canadians as a whole have worked so hard throughout the pandemic to prove they are resilient and kind. But without a clear endgame on the table, emotions are running high.

“Two years of COVID, it’s been a lot,” she said. “And it’s frustrating that there’s not an absolutely obvious clear, for sure, finish line. And those things really weigh on people, and so people are tired and grouchy.”

But she said politicians need to avoid the partisan instinct to take advantage of that anger to rile people up even more. Instead, she said, politicians should look to how well Canada has already recovered.

“Yes, there are still people who are vulnerable, of course, yes, there are people who have suffered,” she said.

“But as a country, we actually have dug our way out of that huge hole and that says so much to me about where we can be and about our potential. I would just sort of say to us, you know, as people as Liberals, let’s choose that optimism. Let’s choose that faith in Canadians. Let’s choose that, looking forward and not kind of wallowing in grouchiness.”

Freeland said looking forwards, Liberals and all Canadians need to remember that the pandemic laid bare who the truly essential workers are in Canada, specifically pointing to health-care workers, grocery store clerks, and early childhood educators. She said many of them are themselves the least supported, earn the least money, or have the least amount of control over their working lives.

“COVID, especially that initial shock, it brought to all of us a real appreciation of those workers,” she said.

“And I really, really believe it’s our job as people, as Liberals, not to forget that. And to be sure that as a society, we value and support and lift up the people who we have really (leaned on.)”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2022.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

News

Canada can now seize, sell off Russian assets. What's next? – CBC News

Published

 on


Selling Russian-owned assets to pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction may sound like a logical approach to restitution, but as the Canadian government gains new powers to begin this process, questions remain about how it will work, and whether some issues are headed to court.

C-19, the budget implementation bill, received Royal Assent last Thursday. Among its many measures are new powers to seize and sell off assets owned by individuals and entities on Canada’s sanctions list. While the new powers could be used in any international conflict, the Liberal government’s current priority is helping victims of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Canada’s stepped-up sanctions powers were discussed with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen during her visit to Toronto last week.

“We think it’s really important to extend our legal authorities because it’s going to be really, really important to find the money to rebuild Ukraine,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told Canadian and American reporters. “I can think of no more appropriate source of that funding than confiscated Russian assets.”

That sentiment was shared by Ontario Sen. Ratna Omidvar who proposed her own Senate legislation to enable similar asset seizures two years ago. At the time she was motivated to help the displaced Rohingya population by sanctioning corrupt generals in Myanmar.

“Kleptocrats must pay for their crimes, not through simply being sanctioned and their assets being frozen, but by their assets being repurposed and confiscated,” said Omidvar.

Although C-19 will work a bit differently than her bill, Omidvar still calls it a “good start” and supports the government’s move. 

“The question no longer is ‘if we should confiscate,'” the senator said. “The question is: ‘How should we repurpose? … Who’s involved? How do we provide accountability? How do we protect ourselves?'”

Test cases expected

Although some jurisdictions, notably Switzerland, already confiscate and return certain illicit assets, this move by Canada — and potentially other G7 countries meeting in Germany this week — is unprecedented.

Allies agree on the imperative of cranking up more economic pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin, but it’s still a risky play. Other hostile governments could seize Canadian-owned assets abroad in retaliation. It also may violate customary international law, such as the UN Articles on states responsibility.

The new powers target assets in Canada owned by an individual or entity on the federal government’s sanctions list. Previously, authorities could seize the proceeds of crime. With C-19, they can confiscate the assets of sanctioned individuals whether they’re acquired legally or illegally.

Is that fair? Omidvar anticipates the new powers being challenged in Canadian court. “I keep thinking we need a couple of test cases,” she said.

The senator’s original bill proposed seizing and redistributing assets by court order, with a judge adjudicating concerns.

C-19 puts more power in ministerial hands, something that is “faster and nimbler,” Omidvar acknowledges, but also less transparent.

During debate in the Senate, Omidvar called on the government to take “politics out of the equation” so Canada would not be accused of inappropriate distribution of funds, “or worse, appropriation of funds for its own use.”

When asked about the legality of these new powers earlier this month, Justice Minister David Lametti said “you don’t have an absolute right to own private property in Canada,” and compared it to other processes of government expropriation.

Adrien Blanchard, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly, told CBC News that “necessary checks and balances” are provided in C-19, including a formal judicial process to forfeit any asset.

“Procedural fairness was a key consideration in the development of these measures, and forfeiture proceedings before a judge are not automatic,” Joly’s spokesperson said. 

Privacy rules limit disclosure

Omidvar’s bill would have created a registry with the name of any person or entity associated with a seized asset and its value. There’s no such disclosure requirement in C-19, so this could be a difficult process to track once it starts.

One or more court cases could trigger more public disclosure. 

When the RCMP reported earlier this month that Canadian authorities have frozen the equivalent of $124 million in assets so far, it was unable to reveal what these assets are — cash, bonds, cryptocurrency, corporate shares, real estate or other property — because of the Privacy Act.

The minister of foreign affairs may issue permits on a case-by-case basis to authorize activities or transactions that would otherwise be prohibited, but only to people in Canada or Canadians abroad. When asked if any such permits have been issued related to Canada’s sanctions against Russia, Global Affairs Canada would not comment, again citing privacy concerns.

One of the prominent Russian oligarchs on Canada’s sanctions list, Roman Abramovich, holds around 30 per cent of the shares of Evraz, a global steel manufacturer that employs over 1,800 people at its facilities in Western Canada. 

CBC News asked Evraz North America whether any of its shares or business properties were among assets frozen by Canada so far, but the company did not respond. 

Separate from its powers to seize assets, the budget implementation bill also implements a publicly accessible beneficial ownership registry to make it easier to trace the ownership of anonymous shell companies. That could reveal more about Russian assets in Canada.

However, a business that’s registered provincially instead of incorporated federally would only appear in the national registry if provinces and territories agree to participate — if they don’t agree, there is a potential loophole, Omidvar warned her Senate colleagues during debate.

Who gets the proceeds?

Omidvar’s original bill would have required the recipient of redistributed funds to report back to a court on its use.

C-19 puts the minister of foreign affairs in charge of who gets the money and what happens to it.

“Operationalizing this is going to be a little bit of a challenge,” said fellow senator and former G7 sherpa Peter Boehm. “This is all very, very new.”

The former senior Global Affairs official suggests the government needs to get safeguards in place.

“What is the mechanism? To whom should these assets go? Do they go to individuals? Do they go to state actors?” Boehm said, noting that Canada may want to coordinate with other like-minded countries and UN agencies, like the World Food Program. “There are a lot of questions there… we need to know and the Canadian people would want to know where this money is going and if it’s being properly spent.”

The yacht Amore Vero shown here docked in the Mediterranean resort of La Ciotat, in March, was seized by French authorities after being linked to Igor Sechin, a Putin ally who runs Russian oil giant Rosnef. (Bishr Eltoni/The Associated Press)

The G7 considered asset seizures previously, Boehm said. He expects they could feature in at least behind-the-scenes conversations this week, if not the final communiqué.

“The leaders meetings internationally are timed, I think, very well,” he said.

“Ukraine, historically… has struggled with corruption issues,” said Rachel Ziemba, an adjunct senior fellow with the Centre for a New American Security who advises companies and countries on sanctions policy.  “There have been a lot of strides made… but it’s still not at the level of a developed economy.”

Working through the International Monetary Fund, or setting up a trust fund that would vet recipients and add more reporting to the process could add more certainty, she suggested.

Russian central bank has reserves in Canada

Taxpayers in Canada, the U.S. or other countries don’t want to bear the full cost of this war, Ziemba said, but as governments embark on asset seizures they also have to be concerned about the message it sends on what jurisdictions are safe for foreign investment.

“There are a lot of legal questions ahead,” she said.

According to recent reporting on Russian Central Bank reserves, about $20 billion might be held in Canada — a far more significant sum in the context of Ukrainian reconstruction than the $124 million in frozen assets disclosed so far.

“The Russian Central Bank and some of its investment funds over the last decade [were] really focused on trying to reduce its exposure to U.S. dollars,” Ziemba explains. Canadian reserve assets and government bonds were attractive because they were both stable and got more yield than comparable investments in Japan or the European Union.

In other words: a small slice of Canada’s debt is held by Russia. “The only saving grace is that the amount they have is not so much they can hold much leverage,” Ziemba said.

Russia’s central bank is on Canada’s sanctions list. Should these reserves be seized and handed over to Ukraine too?

Yellen’s argued against doing this in the U.S., even though it could provide more funds to rebuild Ukraine.

“That might send a message to other countries that are investing in [international currency and bond] markets,” Ziemba said — think of China’s buying power, for example. “That, I think, is why the [U.S.] treasury department and even the [U.S. federal reserve] are wary of these moves.”

Are asset sales imminent?

Earlier this month, CBC News asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau whether Canada intended to sell the full amount of assets frozen so far. He declined to answer, saying “there are lots of conversations going on” and Canada was “a long way” from deciding how proceeds would be spent.

But when the Senate foreign affairs committee pre-studied C-19 in May, officials said the government will move quickly.

“The intent is definitely to start identifying assets to pursue and to freeze and forfeit them shortly after Royal Assent is received for Bill C-19,” said Alexandre Lévêque, the assistant deputy minister for strategic policy at Global Affairs Canada.

In its report, that Senate committee said the government needs “to monitor on an ongoing basis the ways in which repurposed funds are used and to learn from the early examples of the new powers being implemented.”

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

News

Rodeo group in Alberta sorry for float that critics say was racist

Published

 on

SUNDRE, Alta. — Organizers of a rodeo in southern Alberta are apologizing for a parade float with a turban-wearing man in a fake beard seated on a manure spreader with the words “The Liberal” painted on the side.

Photos of the float from Saturday’s event in Sundre, Alta., about 80 kilometres northwest of Calgary, circulated on social media. It drew condemnation from a Sikh group in Calgary, which said the float was racist, as well as from some Alberta MPs.

Sundre Pro Rodeo posted a statement from its parade committee on Facebook saying the float had not been approved and had joined the parade without passing through any registration.

The rodeo further offered its deepest apologies, noting the float had been entered as a tractor.

Some people who commented on the apology questioned the accusation of racism, noting the man in the turban and beard, who was not in blackface, was meant to depict federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh as a Liberal lapdog.

Sundre Pro Rodeo said in its posts that it “is committed to ensuring that entries will be reviewed in any future events” to prevent a similar incident from happening again.

“The Sundre Pro Rodeo does not approve the floats for the parade. That is entirely up to the parade committee! If we knew about that float, we would have NEVER approved it!” the organization’s Facebook post read.

“Nobody had a clue that it had such profanity. So we are sorry.”

George Chahal, a Liberal MP representing Calgary Skyview, condemned those responsible for what he called a “despicable display of racism.”

“The Sikh community in Canada, of which I am a proud member, has a wide diversity of political perspectives,” said a post on Chahal’s Twitter account.

“More importantly, Sikhs have been a steadfast force for good in Alberta and across the country.”

Jasraj Singh Hallan, a Conservative MP representing Calgary Forest Lawn, posted the float “should be condemned in strongest terms by all.”

“This is absolutely disgusting. These kinds of acts have no place in Canada,” he said in a Twitter post.

The Dashmesh Culture Centre, a Sikh community group in Calgary, said in a Twitter post that it welcomed representatives from the rodeo and parade committee to visit and learn about Sikhs.

“We need to have serious conversations and actions to stop these forms of racism,” the centre wrote in a social media post.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 26, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

News

G7 leaders hear from Ukrainian President, Russia-allied India at summit

Published

 on

SCHLOSS ELMAU, GERMANY — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed G7 leaders virtually at their summit in Germany on Monday as they discussed the threat to global stability posed by Russia’s invasion of his country.

The leaders met in a bright and beautiful meeting room in Schloss Elmau, Germany, a veritable mountaintop castle surrounded by blooming meadows and stunning vistas.

Zelenskyy appeared on a small monitor looking down on the group, stone-faced, in front of a grey background.

The conflict has been a running theme through Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s meetings with world leaders in Germany, as well as last week at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda.

Trudeau spoke to Zelenskyy on the first day of the G7 summit to inquire what he needs from the leaders. According to Zelenskyy’s Twitter account, the two spoke about increasing defence support for the embattled country.

The heads of the world’s most developed economies dedicatedtheir first session of the day to discussing the war and listening to Zelenskyy’s pleas for more aid.

Before the meeting, Trudeau and summit host Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke during a walk from the manor building, or schloss in German, down to one of the meadows, nestled between the building and the mountain view.

“We are … cautious that we will help the Ukraine as much as is possible, but that we also avoid that there will be a big conflict between Russia and NATO,” Scholz told the media during a photo op with Trudeau.

The night before in Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv, weeks of general calm were shattered by Russian missile strikes. The missiles hit a kindergarten and a residential building, killing one man and injuring a woman and child, the city’s mayor said.

While G7 leaders have been united in their condemnation of Russia, they are also expected to meet with Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, who has been invited to the summit but who also tightened economic and diplomatic ties with Russia in recent months.

Trudeau will meet with Modi one-on-one in a private meeting as well.

On Sunday, the United Kingdom announced new sanctions against Russia which would ban the import of Russian gold, the country’s biggest non-energy export.

The U.K. government says the same will apply to Canada, the United States and Japan, which, as a combined effort, would shut Russia out of formal markets. The idea is to “ratchet up pressure on Russia’s war machine,” squeezing the country out of funds to finance the conflict.

Russia was poised to default on its foreign debt for the first time since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution on Sunday, further alienating the country from the global financial system.

Russia calls any default artificial because it has the money to pay its debts but says sanctions have frozen its foreign currency reserves held abroad.

— With files from The Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 27, 2022.

 

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

Trending