The Epoch Times, a free newspaper typically found in street boxes, is coming under fire for advancing a conspiracy theory about the origin of the coronavirus — and putting it straight into people’s mailboxes unsolicited.
Some Canadians who received it by mail and a postal carrier who says he is forced to deliver it are angry over a special eight-page edition of the paper exploring the idea that the virus that causes COVID-19 was created as a biological weapon and arguing it should be called “the CCP virus,” a reference to the Chinese Communist Party.
People in Oakville, Etobicoke, Markham, and Toronto, Ont. all reported getting copies of a special edition of The Epoch Times, as did residents in North Vancouver and Kelowna, B.C., and Winnipeg. It’s not clear that all those papers were delivered by Canada Post.
Lisa Armstrong in Kelowna found a copy in her rural mailbox.
“That’s when I got annoyed or suspicious. It’s like, why is this in my mailbox? You expect to see those kind of things online on social media,” she said.
“It did seem to allude to conspiracy theories like, you know, maybe it was manufactured, this virus was manufactured in the lab. Well, no. We know scientifically that’s just not true.”
Scientists have repeatedly said the evidence points to the coronavirus having a natural origin.
Jason Kindrachuk, a Canada research chair in emerging viruses at the University of Manitoba, says that through studying the genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, scientists can see it is similar to other bat coronaviruses and that it likely evolved naturally.
“There is an unbelievably high consensus within the scientific community at this point that there is, there is a very close to zero, if not zero, chance that the virus was ever engineered,” Kindrachuk said.
Armstrong was also worried the issue’s anti-Communist Party messaging could inflame racial tensions in Canada during the pandemic.
“It really feels racist and inflammatory,” Armstrong said. “And right now, we’re all scared. We’re all vulnerable. We don’t know what’s going to happen next. Then somebody that starts playing on those fears, [it’s] a very dangerous thing to do at this time.”
Issue sent to ‘specific neighbourhoods’
It’s not clear how many households in Canada received the paper.
Cindy Gu, the publisher of The Epoch Times, declined to say how many copies of that issue were distributed. In an email to CBC News, Gu said the publication had been delivering copies to “specific neighbourhoods.”
“The Epoch Times has recently been ‘sampling’ copies of a special edition on Beijing’s coverup that led to a global pandemic in select areas because we consider that information to be important to Canadians. We regard this sampling as an act of good citizenship,” she wrote.
“This is a standard way of raising brand awareness and recruiting new subscribers.”
WATCH | Social media giants struggle to crack down on COVID-19 misinformation
Gu disagrees that the paper will fuel racism against people of Chinese background.
“Some people may have erroneously conflated criticism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with criticism of the Chinese people,” she wrote.
“Understanding the difference is vital and will eliminate racial tension, as people come to understand that the criticism of the handling of the virus is of the CCP, not the Chinese people.”
Who’s behind The Epoch Times
The Epoch Times, headquartered in New York, is part of a group of organizations under the Epoch Media Group umbrella, which also includes the Shen Yun dance troupe and the New Tang Dynasty TV channel. It says it operates in 23 languages in 35 countries.
A sociology professor says the Epoch Media Group is affiliated with the Falun Gong movement, a religious group that began in China and was declared illegal and a “cult” by the Chinese government in 1999. Its followers say the Chinese government persecutes them and oppresses their religious rights.
“Falun Gong followers started to organize large-scale protest[s] against the Chinese government’s attempt to suppress the practice. So it just evolved into this very antagonistic relationship between the Chinese government and this religious group,” said Xiaoping Li, a professor at Okanagan College who studies media outlets that serve the Chinese-Canadian diaspora.
“There are many stories about how group members were persecuted in China. There could be certain exaggerations but … definitely there is persecution and there are violations of human rights.”
WATCH | Health Canada cracks down on false coronavirus claims
As for The Epoch Times, Li says it’s not clear where the group gets its funding, but it can afford to employ reporters who speak English and Chinese in the many countries where it operates.
“Typically what happens is it’s funded principally by donations, in a Chinese dissident community, in a given local context,” said Stephen Noakes, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland who studies Chinese culture. “The people who staff the paper itself are normally also drawn from that context or are third-party acquaintances of the local Falun Gong community.“
Noakes said that Falun Gong has been “enormously adept” at using its various media platforms “to its advantage to call attention to its own plight as a major human rights issue the world needs to know about.”
“I think the local reporting is generally trustworthy. It does report what’s happening in, for example, in Vancouver, in Toronto or New York,” said Li.
But Li says its reporting on China is less reliable. The Epoch Times is “an anti-Chinese government media outlet, so you have to be careful that there could be some exaggerations.”
The head of a non-profit that studies misinformation and disinformation says The Epoch Times is using a well-known technique to sow doubt in people’s minds.
‘Kernel of truth’
“The most effective disinformation is that which has a kernel of truth to it, is that which kind of flies under the radar, doesn’t really break any guidelines,” said Claire Wardle of First Draft, which educates journalists and others about what misinformation is and how to spot it. “It’s much more hyper-partisan. It’s much more misleading than completely outright-false falsehoods.”
The Epoch Times has shared misinformation and conspiracy theories in the past, and was banned from advertising on Facebook for trying to bypass political spending rules — though it is not alone in accusing China of coronavirus coverup.
Wardle says people who read the special edition of The Epoch Times may not be completely convinced about its findings, but will have been left with questions about what their governments are telling them.
“That is a technique of disinformation actors who want people to question as much as possible authoritative sources,” she said. “Ultimately, you’re no longer going to your trusted news site or the WHO or your government even for information. You’re left thinking, ‘I can’t trust anybody.'”
Carrier objects to delivering the paper
It was an article about a possible bioweapons link to coronavirus that set off alarm bells for a Toronto mail carrier when he saw the special edition appear in his mail station on Friday.
CBC News is not naming the carrier because he is concerned he could lose his job with Canada Post.
“They’re saying the coronavirus is part of a bio-warfare agenda by the Chinese people. That’s over the line for me,” he said.
“I saw the headlines on the thing and my heart sank because I thought the world right now is full of fear and confusion and the last thing that people need is, is this kind of this kind of hatred.”
The carrier told CBC News that his supervisors decided that carriers wouldn’t have to deliver it, and that the station superintendent supported the decision. But then, according to the carrier, the superintendent was told Canada Post Communications had deemed the paper a political mailing and that carriers who didn’t deliver it would be disciplined.
“To be honest, it makes me feel like … humanity is facing an existential crisis. And I’m being forced to hand out weapons in a cage fight,” said the carrier.
Canada Post said in an email to CBC News, “We understand the reaction to this publication. However, as Canada’s postal system, we are legally required to deliver it. The content is the sole responsibility of the publisher.”
“Anyone concerned with its contents should contact the publisher, file a complaint against the publication through the appropriate institutions or place the item in the recycling box,” the email continued.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada on May 28 – CBC.ca
As Canada’s total number of COVID-19 cases climbed to more than 88,500 on Thursday, New Brunswick began ramping up testing in a region of the province where it’s feared a new cluster of three cases could grow.
At least 150 people have been exposed to a medical professional in the Campbellton region who has COVID-19 and saw multiple patients over a two-week period following his return to New Brunswick from Quebec. Gilles Lanteigne, head of the Vitalité Health Network, said those exposed include 50 health-care workers at the Campbellton Regional Hospital and 100 people in the community.
“We could see some transmission around the province,” Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, told a briefing on Thursday, adding that two of the three new cases of COVID-19 are health-care workers.
Quebec and Ontario remain the hardest-hit provinces in terms of the number of cases and the daily increases.
Quebec has reported 563 new cases, while Ontario has reported 383 new cases. As of 5:50 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 88,504 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with 46,844 considered resolved or recovered. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial health data, regional information and CBC’s reporting stood at 6,961.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said the country is seeing a “series of regional epidemics” with Quebec and Ontario experiencing the vast majority of cases and severe outbreaks.
Within those provinces, you have to home in on certain areas and offer assistance to hard-hit areas, said Tam, who praised a move by the health officials in Toronto to release more “granular data” about COVID-19 cases.
When asked about a recent decision in New Brunswick to reimpose some restrictions on one region after new cases emerged linked to a returning traveller who didn’t self-isolate, Tam said she thinks every medical officer of health agrees on the need to be “really careful” as activities resume and restrictions are lifted.
WATCH | RCMP to look into new cluster of cases in New Brunswick:
“I think there’s always been the message in different jurisdictions that there’s a flexibility in the public health system to reinstate or pull back on some of the measures as they see fit, based on their own epidemiologic context,” she said at a Thursday briefing.
New Brunswick had gone an extended period with no new cases, but with the new cases, it’s now rolling back the easing of some restrictions in Zone 5, an area that’s home to 25,000 people and includes the Campbellton-Dalhousie Region.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not hold his daily briefing on Thursday because he was opening a UN conference on financing issues around health and development and how they have been affected by COVID-19, including questions about liquidity and debt.
Trudeau told heads of state and government that “our citizens need to have confidence in international institutions that leave no one behind and are capable of overcoming global challenges.”
Read on for a look at what’s happening in your region, and to get the latest details on how provinces are handling the pandemic and the tentative process of lifting restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the novel virus.
Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories
British Columbia reported nine new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Thursday — including one new outbreak at Nicola Lodge, a long-term care home in Port Coquitlam — for a total of 2,558 cases in the province. There have been 164 COVID-19-related deaths in B.C., including two more in long-term care homes in the Fraser Health region.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s health officer, announced the outbreak of COVID-19 at Mission Institution, where dozens of inmates had fallen ill, has now ended. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
Alberta reported 29 new coronavirus cases on Thursday and two new deaths. That brings the province’s total number of confirmed cases to 6,955 with 143 deaths.
On Wednesday, the province reported its lowest number of active cases since the end of March, at 679. That number was down to 652 on Thursday. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta, where health officials are investigating a possible case of Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), an inflammatory syndrome associated with the novel coronavirus.
Saskatchewan announced two new cases of COVID-19, one in the province’s northern region and one in the Saskatoon area. There are now 61 active cases out of 639 cases and 568 recoveries, with four people in hospital for treatment of the disease. Ten people in the province have died of the illness. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
Manitoba is on track to enter the next phase of its reopening on Monday, when it will allow restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses shuttered by COVID-19 restrictions to open with stepped-up public health measures in place.
There were two new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba on Thursday, bringing the province’s total to 294. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
WATCH | Brian Pallister talks about moving Manitoba into the next phase of reopening:
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford said Thursday that he’s sick of “taking bullets” for unionized government inspectors who, he said, refused to go into the province’s long-term care homes to carry out inspections in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic because of safety concerns.
WATCH | Release of COVID-19 hot spot data in Toronto can help prevent spread of coronavirus, says epidemiologist:
On Wednesday, the province announced it’s taking over the management four of the five long-term care homes that were the subject of a Canadian Armed Forces report alleging “horrific” conditions, including poor hygiene and aggressive behaviour toward residents. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
In Quebec, Premier François Legault talked more about plans to recruit and train 10,000 support staff, or orderlies, to work in long-term care homes. He said they would be full-time positions with pensions and benefits.
Provincial Justice Minister Sonia LeBel confirmed that courthouses in Quebec would reopen on June 1. She said there will be a limited number of people allowed inside, physical distancing rules and Plexiglas barriers for judges.
Many long-term care homes in Quebec are in desperate need of medical personnel and continue to struggle to bring down the number of COVID-19 infections, a military report on its mission inside the province’s seniors’ residences says. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec, which has had 49,702 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
WATCH | Military reports staffing, PPE issues in Quebec long-term care homes:
In New Brunswick, officials say they expect hundreds of people to be tested within the next couple of days after a new cluster of COVID-19 cases in the Campbellton region. Premier Blaine Higgs on Thursday said the development is “very concerning,” but he remains optimistic that with contact tracing, the province will be able to curb the spread of the respiratory illness. Read more about what’s happening in N.B., where the legislature, which just reopened on Monday, has been adjourned until June 9 in a bid to ensure MLAs don’t contribute to spreading the virus.
New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, both with low numbers of COVID-19, were considering a proposed interprovincial bubble that would see travel resume across the Confederation Bridge in late June or early July. Higgs, New Brunswick’s premier, told CBC News such a plan now depends on what health officials learn about the new cluster of cases in northern New Brunswick in the next couple of weeks.
Nova Scotia is set to allow more businesses to reopen next week, saying everything from restaurants and bars to gyms and personal services like hair salons can open on June 5 under enhanced public health protocols. “We are still moving slowly, but this is a good first step,” Premier Stephen McNeil said Wednesday. Read more about what’s happening in N.S., which reported two new coronavirus cases on Thursday.
Prince Edward Island’s state of emergency has been extended until June 14. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I., which has no active cases of COVID-19.
New information on seasonal residents. How they will be screened and when they might arrive on PEI. The province will only be processing 500 applications per week for instance. Details tonight on Compass.<br>Long term care home visits can begin, outdoors, on June 1st. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/PEICOVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#PEICOVID19</a>
Newfoundland on Thursday reported one new case of COVID-19, ending the province’s 20-day streak of zero new cases. The Department of Health says the new case, affecting a man between 40 and 49 years old, is related to travel. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
The chief public health officer of the Northwest Territories said she “wholeheartedly” supports the idea of people taking staycations this summer, including visits to regional hubs. But Dr. Kami Kandola said people in the territory need to “stay on our game,” as the risk associated with COVID-19 has not passed. Meanwhile, in Nunavut, the public health emergency has been extended until June 11. Nunavut is the only jurisdiction in Canada that has not had a confirmed coronavirus case. Read more about what’s happening across the North.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
The novel coronavirus, which causes an illness called COVID-19, causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. The virus labelled SARS-CoV-2 first emerged in China in late 2019, before spreading around the world.
WATCH | Why Iceland has been so successful at contact tracing:
According to a Johns Hopkins University case tracking tool, as of Thursday afternoon there were more than 5.9 million coronavirus cases worldwide, with nearly 358,000 deaths reported.
The U.S. accounts for almost 1.7 million of the cases and more than 100,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.
WATCH | COVID-19: What parts of the world are big concerns right now?
WATCH | COVID-19: What parts of the world are big concerns right now?
Canada sees fewer than 1,000 new coronavirus cases for 3rd consecutive day – Globalnews.ca
For the third day in a row, the number of new coronavirus infections in Canada remained below 1,000.
But every province except for Prince Edward Island reported at least one new case on Thursday, with New Brunswick reporting a cluster of cases linked to a health-care worker who failed to self-isolate after returning from Quebec.
Canada reported 994 new cases of COVID-19 — slightly more than Wednesday’s 872 — and 112 new deaths, for a total of 88,501 cases and 6,877 deaths.
Nearly 47,000 people across the country are deemed recovered, and more than 1.6 million tests have taken place, the majority of them in Ontario and Quebec.
The two provinces together account for more than 86 per cent of Canada’s cases, and 94 per cent of the national death toll.
With the exception of PEI, all the Atlantic provinces reported new cases on Thursday.
Saskatchewan company creates coronavirus decontamination unit using ozone gas
New Brunswick saw three new cases linked to a health-care worker, casting a pall on provincial reopening plans and bringing the total number of cases to 126. Zero deaths have been reported so far.
Premier Blaine Higgs has said the “irresponsible” health-care worker had been in contact with “multiple patients” over two weeks. The worker could be charged with violating public health orders, he added.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case, for a total of 261, including three deaths and 255 recoveries.
Nova Scotia saw two new cases, bringing its figures to 1,055 cases. Fifty-nine people have died so far, many of them linked to a long-term care home in Halifax. More than 970 people have recovered.
Quebec saw 563 new cases and 74 new deaths. The province has seen nearly 48,000 cases, with more than 15,000 recoveries, and 4,302 deaths. Premier Francois Legault has asked the Canadian military to remain in long-term care homes till the fall.
Coronavirus: Toronto wants ability to reopen at its own speed amid COVID-19 pandemic
Ontario announced 383 new cases — nearly 100 more than the previous day’s report — and 34 new deaths, bringing its figures to almost 26,900 cases and 2,189 deaths. More than 20,600 people are considered recovered from the virus.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba reported two new cases each. Saskatchewan has seen 10 deaths so far and 639 cases, including nearly 570 recoveries. Seven people have died in Manitoba, which has 283 cases.
Alberta reported two new deaths and 29 new cases on Thursday. One hundred Albertans over the age of 80 have died of COVID-19 so far, out of 143 fatalities.
The province has seen close to 7,000 cases overall, including more than 6,000 recoveries.
British Columbia reported nine new cases and two new deaths. The province also declared a major outbreak in a prison was officially over. B.C. has seen 2,558 cases — 84 per cent of them recovered — along with 164 deaths.
All cases resolved
Prince Edward Island is currently the only province without any active cases, after it declared all 27 of its cases resolved weeks ago.
The Northwest Territories and the Yukon also have no active cases, with all cases resolved for weeks now.
City of Toronto map shows COVID-19 hotspots across city
Nunavut remains the only region in Canada that hasn’t seen a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Globally, there are more than 5.8 million cases of COVID-19 around the world as of Thursday evening, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 360,000 people have died.
The U.S. accounts for the majority of cases and deaths, with more than 1.7 million infections and more than 100,000 deaths.
— With files by The Canadian Press
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada, allies condemn China on Hong Kong law after contentious Meng ruling – CBC.ca
Canada joined with its major allies Thursday in condemning China for imposing a new national security law on Hong Kong, one day after a contentious B.C. court ruling in the Meng Wanzhou affair.
The statement of “deep concern” with the United States, Australia and Britain comes as experts warn that two Canadians imprisoned in China could face retaliation because Wednesday’s court ruling in the Meng case didn’t go the way the People’s Republic would have liked.
The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa angrily denounced the decision by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Heather Holmes in the extradition case of the Huawei executive, who is wanted on fraud charges in the U.S., as it once more called for her immediate release.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday, to reporters after an online UN conference, that Canada’s independent judicial system “rendered a judgment without any political interference.” He noted Meng would “undoubtedly avail herself of” further legal moves to fight the extradition request.
The Meng dispute — which has plunged Sino-Canadian relations to an all-time low — did not dissuade Canada from signing on to the statement that criticizes China for imposing a national-security law on Hong Kong.
Watch: Trudeau comments on B.C. court decision on Meng Wanzhou:
The Chinese territory is supposed to have autonomy under a “one country-two systems” agreement.
The statement said the law is “in direct conflict” with China’s “international obligations under the principles of the legally binding” agreement that saw Britain hand over its administration of Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997.
“Hong Kong has flourished as a bastion of freedom. The international community has a significant and longstanding stake in Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability,” the statement said.
“Direct imposition of national-security legislation on Hong Kong by the Beijing authorities … would curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode the autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wouldn’t say if the security law violated the agreement between China and Britain when asked about it during a virtual press conference with Trudeau on Thursday afternoon.
The sharp criticism comes as the Trudeau government has been dealing with its own China crisis since December 2018.
Michael Kovrig, an ex-diplomat working for the International Crisis Group, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who did business in North Korea, have been in Chinese prisons with no access to lawyers or their families since they were detained nine days after Meng’s arrest by the RCMP on Dec. 1, 2018.
They are accused of violating China’s national security interests, and they have been denied regular monthly visits by Canadian diplomats since January because of COVID-19 restrictions on Chinese prisons.
“We will continue to advocate for the two Canadians arbitrarily detained in China and I take this opportunity to thank the international community for standing by so strongly with Canada in this situation,” Trudeau said.
Some analysts say their treatment could get a lot worse, especially based on Chinese government statements leading up to the ruling.
The fate of Michael Spavor, Michael Kovrig
“The PRC authorities’ statement of consequences of ‘continuous harm’ to Canada if Ms. Meng is not returned to China forthwith suggests that there will be further retaliation,” said Charles Burton, a China expert with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, who has been a diplomat in Beijing.
“I am concerned that Kovrig and Spavor may be forced to make false confessions on Chinese TV followed by a sham secret trial and possible sentences of death, usually suspended for two years before commutation to life imprisonment.”
David Mulroney, the Canadian ambassador to China between 2009 and 2012, said China is furious over the Meng case.
“Unfortunately, two innocent Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, will bear the brunt of that anger. It is likely that the detentions will be extended until China has some clarity as to Ms. Meng’s eventual fate. Unfortunately, that could take some time,” said Mulroney.
“China will also seek to lash out at Canada.”
‘Delaying the inevitable’
Fen Hampson, a global security expert with the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, said Canada should rethink whether it needs to intervene politically to end the case rather than let it play out in the courts for years.
“You’ve got two Canadians who are in jail under fairly perilous circumstance, given COVID-19, and broader considerations at play in terms of Canada’s trade and investment relations with China,” said Hampson.
“Whatever happens, it will end up on the desk of the justice minister — he’s the one who has to decide whether she gets extradited or not. In some ways, you’re delaying the inevitable. The government is still going to have to make that decision.”
The roots of Canada’s current problems with China predate the Meng-Kovrig-Spavor affairs, said Wendy Dobson, an author and China expert who is co-director of the Institute for International Business at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
The government’s current preoccupation with “diversifying” its trade relations with other Asian countries reflects a long-standing inability to do just that, she said. “We’ve been saying this to ourselves for years, but we haven’t gotten very far,” Dobson said.
“We have not done a very good job of educating Canadians and deepening their understanding of who this partner is, where this partner comes from, and how to contribute in a way that is useful to both of us in the long term.”
The president of Canada Hong Kong Link said her group and others planned to launch a comprehensive lobbying and educational effort aimed at different parties, and especially members of key Commons and Senate committees to influence Canada’s foreign policy towards China.
Gloria Fung said a minority Parliament gives her group and other greater leverage to affect change.
“It is very important for Canadian voters, civil society, to realize the kind of power we have towards our government,” she said. “I think, so far, the Liberal government has been very weak, as far as the foreign policy towards China is concerned.”
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