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Politics Briefing: Canada again denied request to attend trial as Michael Kovrig faces a Chinese court – The Globe and Mail

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This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

Canadian Michael Kovrig was subject Monday to a secret trial in Beijing on allegations of espionage, days after Michael Spavor faced similar proceedings.

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Once again, Chinese authorities denied requests by Canada and others to observe the trial, leaving dozens of diplomats to stand outside the courthouse on a sidewalk, while police grabbed and kicked journalists.

Court authorities say a verdict will be announced at a later date.

Nathan VanderKlippe reports on the proceedings here.

In Ottawa, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau denounced the secrecy of the proceedings.

“We are deeply troubled by the total lack of transparency surrounding these hearings and we continue to work towards an immediate end to their arbitrary detention,” Mr. Garneau said in a statement.

He described the situation of the two men as an “unacceptable ordeal,” noting that other nations agree with Canada’s view.

“Many international partners, friends and allies are echoing Canada’s message that these detentions are unacceptable, and their presence outside the courthouses at the trials of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig sends a strong message of solidarity.”

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He noted that access to Mr. Spavor’s hearing was denied to Canadian diplomats and diplomats from eight other countries. Access to Mr. Kovrig’s hearing, he said, was denied to Canadian diplomats and diplomats from 23 other countries.

In a tweet, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary offered his support.

“The UK stands with Canada,” wrote Dominic Raab. “We strongly support efforts to secure the release of Michael Kovrig, facing trial in China today. We call on China to respect the rule of law, uphold its international obligations, and allow consular access under the Vienna Convention.”

Police officers stand outside Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court where Michael Kovrig, a Canadian detained by China in December 2018 on suspicion of espionage, was expected to stand trial, in Beijing, March 22, 2021.

CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS/Reuters

TODAY’S HEADLINES

Canada joined the United States, Britain and the European Union Monday to impose sanctions against China for its brutal treatment of Uyghur Muslims. The co-ordinated campaign is a show of unity against what the United States and Canada’s Parliament have labelled genocide against the Uyghurs in China’s northwest Xinjiang region.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper was briefed that Jonathan Vance had a relationship with a subordinate when the general was the leading candidate for the head of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), a parliamentary committee has heard on Monday.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing criticism for approving a bonus for Jonathan Vance after his office was made aware of sexual misconduct allegations against the Canadian Armed Forces’ former chief of defence staff.

Reporter’s Comment Kristy Kirkup:The news that the Prime Minister approved a bonus for Mr. Vance raises political questions for Mr. Trudeau. His office was aware of allegations about Mr. Vance in March, 2018, but the chief of defence staff received a bonus for the year 2017-2018. Given the allegations, the question is why was this performance pay approved? Conservative MP James Bezan is calling for the Prime Minister to explain this decision.”

The RCMP destroyed records of police communications from the night Colten Boushie died and conducted a parallel internal probe into the handling of the case without notifying the civilian watchdog, according to a report from the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission.

The federal New Democrats are tabling a motion today that seeks the support of the House of Commons in calling on the government to eliminate for-profit long-term care by 2030.

Erin O’Toole delivered a key speech Friday to the Conservative Party policy convention – see John Ibbitson’s column in the Opinion section of this Newsletter. The text of Mr. O’Toole’s remarks, from Maclean’s, is here.

OTTAWA ROUNDUP

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Former federal NDP Leader Ed Broadbent is celebrating his 85th birthday. First elected to Parliament in 1968, the York University political-science professor was NDP leader from 1975 until 1989 when he was succeeded by Audrey McLaughlin. He returned to Parliament in 2004, serving a term as an Ottawa Centre MP. He is the chair of the Broadbent Institute policy

Former federal Liberal cabinet minister Denis Coderre wants to be mayor of Montreal again. After a term as mayor, he was defeated in 2017 by Valérie Plante. Now The Montreal Gazette reports Mr. Coderre will announce a bid to recover the office on March. 28, aiming to win in the Nov. 7 municipal election.

L. Ian MacDonald, in The National Post, on how Mila Mulroney saved Brian Mulroney’s life last year.

Last week, the Newsletter referenced the wedding of Gregor Robertson, the former Vancouver mayor who, in office, was a key ally of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Now, Eileen Park, Mr. Robertson’s bride is speaking out about the anti-Asian backlash that has come as a result of the her wedding being featured in Vogue magazine.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits Trois-Rivières to make an announcement and hold a media availability with Quebec Premier François Legault. He also chairs a cabinet meeting.

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LEADERS

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul delivers a keynote address and participates in a Q&A for the University of Ottawa’s Enviro Day.

POLLS

338canada.com on the latest national popular vote projections

OPINION

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on China teaching Canada some hard truths about China:Does Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping understand this? His government has spent the past two-plus years apparently operating under the assumption that the way to improve the Canada-China relationship is through hostage takings. China would hurt Canada; Canada would yield; and then Bay Street, the Trudeau government, the universities, and the entire Davos establishment – including the current ambassador to Beijing – would all reattach their blinders, develop amnesia and go back to worrying about how to make money in China.”

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Kelly Cryderman (The Globe and Mail) on the interconnection of everything for Jason Kenney – even a Bigfoot movie: This is outreach to make sure the party is still connecting with key supporters and donors. It’s also why his government this week introduced democratic reform legislation, Bill 51 and 52. They would enact the ability to recall MLAs, municipal officials and school board trustees between elections, and create a mechanism for amending or creating new laws through citizen referendum.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on challenges ahead for Erin O’Toole after the Conservative Party’s policy convention: For the path to electoral victory to remain open, the Conservatives need to release a credible climate-change policy well before the next election, ignoring any objections from the base. Otherwise, suburban Ontario is lost to them. Narrow path. Treacherous path.”

READERS’ POLITICAL NEWSLETTER QUESTIONS

There are none to answer right now, but that can change. Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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Prince Philip took a keen interest in Canada, but stayed above politics, former GGs and PM say

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When former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien met the late Prince Philip for the first time, he told him that for an Englishman, his French was very good.

“He said ‘I’m not English and I’ve spoken French since before you were born,’” Chrétien told the Star Friday, commenting on his many encounters over 50 years with the Duke of Edinburgh.

“He was not dull, let me put it that way,” Chrétien said. “He had some strong views. Sometimes he had to show discipline to not speak up more than he would have wished.”

Philip, born in Greece in 1921 and husband to Queen Elizabeth II for over 73 years, died at the age of 99 on Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he first met Philip when he was a little boy, described him as “a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”

Former prime ministers and governors general spoke of a man who understood his role and knew not to get involved in politics, but who was very knowledgeable about Canada and took a keen interest in the country’s success.

“I was always impressed by their knowledge,” Chrétien said of Philip and the Queen, Canada’s head of state.

He said he can recall Philip asking about the prospect of Quebec separating from the rest of the country. “Not in a very political fashion, just in terms of interest. Of course he was interested to not see Canada break up. He would certainly say that to me.”

 

Statements from former prime ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper highlighted Philip’s devotion to the Canadian armed forces and charitable organizations, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, an international self-development program for young people.

Former governors general David Johnston and Michaëlle Jean, through their role as the Queen’s representative in Canada, were also able to get to know Philip more intimately, particularly at the Queen’s Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland.

Jean recalls being “overwhelmed” by all the protocol recommendations ahead of a Balmoral visit with her husband and six-year-old daughter prior to taking office in 2005, only to find Philip and the Queen greeting them at the door, with Philip paying special attention to her daughter.

“The memory I keep of Prince Philip is that of an affable, caring, elegant and warm man,” Jean told the Star, adding he was a man who was very attentive to detail.

She recalled attending a barbecue on the Balmoral estate, just the four of them, and Philip telling her, “Don’t forget to congratulate Her Majesty for her salad dressing, because she made it herself.”

What Jean also saw was a man sometimes hampered by the limitations of his role, like when he talked about one of his favourite topics, the environment.

“He said ‘I do a lot about it, I raise awareness, I take actions…I feel that whatever I do, no one cares,’” Jean recounted. “What I got from that is how lonely he felt…There was a sense of not feeling appreciated in proportion to his contributions, a feeling of being misunderstood.”

Johnston, who succeeded Jean, said Canada’s constitutional monarchy — where the head of state is politically neutral and separate from elected office — is an “important and precious” form of government, and Philip was key to making it work.

Philip showed leadership as a servant, Johnston said, “not taking centre stage, but by ensuring that the Queen and the monarchy were front row and centre.

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“He played such an important structural role, and did that with great diligence and commitment. He was selfless in that respect,” Johnston said in an interview.

For Matthew Rowe, who works on the Royal Family’s charitable endeavours in Canada, the Duke of Edinburgh’s political value to Canada was precisely that he was not political — that he, along with the rest of the monarchy, provided a stabilizing force outside of the partisan fray.

He was dynamic, irascible, exasperating, intriguing. And he was always three steps behind his wife, Queen Elizabeth, who utterly adored him throughout their 73-year marriage, flaws, faux pas and all.

“His presence, and the role of Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, has been to be able to represent the nation, to represent Canadian interests, and commemorate Canadian achievements without being tied to a particular political ideology or regional faction,” Rowe, who met Philip at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 2010, said in an interview.

 

Philip’s role meant he could speak more frankly than the Queen in public, and spoke “quite thoughtfully” about the constitutional monarchy in Canada, said University of Toronto history instructor Carolyn Harris.

At a press conference in Ottawa in 1969, Philip famously said that the monarchy doesn’t exist “in the interests of the monarch…It exists solely in the interest of the people. We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”

Philip had a good, joking relationship with Johnston’s wife, Sharon. He recounted how the two joined the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral in August 2010, prior to Johnston’s swearing-in later that year.

One evening, they were returning to the castle from a barbecue at a renovated shepherd’s hut on the estate — just the four of them, the Queen driving with Johnston in one land rover, and Philip driving with Sharon in the other ahead of them on narrow, highland roads.

“We were coming home at about 10 p.m., as black as could be, he and Sharon were ahead, kind of weaving, and we could hear these gales of laughter coming out. They were cracking jokes at one another,” Johnston said.

“I had a vision of him going over the edge and down half a mile into the valley, and my first thought is: Do the Queen and I rustle down to rescue them?”

Chrétien said “it must be terrible” for the Queen to now find herself alone after a marriage that lasted for more than 70 years. He noted it’s been almost seven months to the day since he lost his wife, Aline.

 

“It’s a big change in life but she’s an extremely courageous person and she will face the situation with the strength that she has been able to show to the world for the almost 70 years she’s been queen,” Chrétien said.

With files from Alex Boutilier and Kieran Leavitt

 

 

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After warning, McConnell softens posture on corporations’ taking political stances

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., softened his stance on corporations’ getting involved in politics Wednesday, a day after he warned companies not to weigh in on hot button issues.

“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are,” McConnell told reporters. “My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill.

“They got intimidated into adopting an interpretation … given by the Georgia Democrats in order to help get their way,” he said.

McConnell was referring to a controversial voting law recently passed in Georgia, which came about in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the election result in the state last fall.

The law led the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola — which are based in Atlanta — to condemn the measure. And last week, Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest. The game will, instead, be played in Colorado.

In recent weeks, McConnell has excoriated corporate America for boycotting states over various GOP-led bills. He said Tuesday that it is “stupid” for corporations to take positions on divisive political issues but noted that his criticism did not extend to their donations.

“So my warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not what you’re designed for. And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates.”

Major League Baseball’s decision drew the most outrage from Republicans, as Trump called for a boycott of baseball and other companies that spoke out against the Georgia law. McConnell said Tuesday that the latest moves are “irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans.”

McConnell, long a champion of big money in politics, however, noted Tuesday that corporations “have a right to participate in a political process” but said they should do so without alienating “an awful lot of people.”

“I’m not talking about political contributions,” he said. “I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state because you don’t like a particular law that passed. I just think it’s stupid.”

Source:- NBC News

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Facebook Removes 1,000 Fake Accounts Seeking to Sway Global Politics

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(Bloomberg) — Facebook Inc. said it removed 14 networks representing more than 1,000 accounts seeking to sway politics around the world, including in Iran and El Salvador, while misleading the public about their identity.

Most of the removed networks were in the early stages of building their audiences, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Tuesday. Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday, part of its monthly reporting on efforts to rid its platforms of fake accounts, represents one of the larger crack downs by the company in recent months.

“We have been growing this program for several years,” said David Agranovich, Facebook’s global threat disruption lead. “I would expect to see this drum beat of take downs to continue.”

In one example, the company removed a network of more than 300 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and the photo-sharing app Instagram that appear to be run by a years-old troll farm located in Albania and operated by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group. The group appeared to target Iran, but also other audiences with content about Iran, according to a report released by Facebook.

The group was most active in 2017, but increased its activity again in the latter half of 2020. It was one of a handful of the influence campaigns that likely used machine learning technologies capable of creating realistic profile photos to the naked eye, Facebook said in the report.

The company also removed 118 accounts, eight pages and 10 Instagram accounts based in Spain and El Salvador for violating the company’s foreign interference policy. The group amplified criticism of Henry Flores, a mayoral candidate in Santa Tecla, El Savador and supportive commentary of his rivals, the company said.

The social media giant also took down a network of 29 Facebook accounts, two pages, one group and 10 Instagram accounts based in Iran that was targeting Israel. The people behind the network posed as locals and posted criticism about Isreali prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Facebook. The company also took down networks based in Argentina, Mexico, Egypt and other nations.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said the company has improved its ability to identify inauthentic accounts, but said bad actors continue to change their strategies to avoid Facebook’s detection.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Source:- BNN

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