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The Canadian government can intervene to end Meng’s extradition trial. Should it?

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While seasoned jurists say the Canadian government has every legal right to intervene to free Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou from her extradition trial to the U.S., some experts warn such an action could have significant political ramifications.

“The question isn’t whether the [Canadian government] can, the question is whether they should,” said Toronto-based lawyer Brian Greenspan.

In 1999, the Extradition Act was amended to include a specific provision that provides the federal minister of justice the power to intervene in an extradition at any point during the judicial phase.

“The minister has the right to withdraw the authority to proceed and to end the extradition proceeding, and it’s totally at the discretion of the minister of justice,” Greenspan said.

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Extradition proceedings continue in the case against Meng, who was arrested in 2018 in Vancouver on behalf of American justice officials. The United States wants to prosecute Meng for fraud, alleging she lied to banks about her company’s connections with Iran, which could possibly violate U.S. sanctions.

The issue of the Canadian government intervening in the case of Meng, the daughter of the Chinese technology giant’s founder, was raised recently by the wife of Michael Kovrig, one of two Canadians being held in China on charges of spying.

 

Michael Spavor, left, and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig are in Chinese custody. Both have been charged with spying. (The Associated Press/International Crisis Group/The Canadian Press)

 

The Trudeau government has accused China of detaining Kovrig and Michael Spavor in retaliation for the arrest of Meng. Some have suggested Canada could secure their freedom if it put an end to the extradition proceedings against Meng and allowed her to return to China.

Trudeau has said his government continues to work behind the scenes to secure the release of the two Canadians but has ruled out a prisoner exchange.

Still in custody

The Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, David Lametti, said in a statement Tuesday they are “well aware of the laws and processes governing” the extradition proceedings.

“As Ms. Meng’s case remains before the courts, and the Minister of Justice has a direct role in the extradition process, it would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter,” the statement said.

Former Supreme Court of Canada justice John Major said while Lametti can intervene at any time in the extradition process, it would be unusual — especially if after a prolonged court hearing, it concluded in favour of extradition.

But Major noted there may be reasons to do it, especially as Kovrig and Spavor languish in Chinese detention.

“I would hope before the attorney general intervenes, [he] would have reasons that convince Canadians he should,” Major told CBC News.

“The attorney general has to be very cautious in overruling a trial judge who has conducted a full hearing … You just want [Lametti] to act judiciously, not politically.”

‘Be very cautious’

Major said Canada is stuck in a difficult position, because if the attorney general quashes the judge’s decision in Meng’s case, the U.S. could react. Likewise, if the judge turns down extradition, China could retaliate.

 

Legal experts say Attorney General David Lametti could intervene at any time in Meng’s extradition case. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

 

“It’s a delicate situation where you have the U.S. at odds with China and Canada being caught in the middle,” Major said.

Donald Abelson, director of St. Francis Xavier University’s Brian Mulroney Institute of Government, said he believes it would be “a very dangerous game for Canada to play in terms of succumbing to pressure” to intervene politically in the case.

“I don’t think that’s a game that we want to play,” said Abelson, who was also a founding director of the Canada-U.S. Institute. “It puts us in a very, very precarious position because we don’t want to be seen by the Americans as succumbing to Chinese political pressure.”

Abelson said Canada would be “tempting fate” with the U.S, particularly in the current political climate, where the Chinese government has become the focus of Donald Trump’s ire in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic and the countries’ trade war.

Abelson said Canada doesn’t want to become a “punching bag” for Washington.

Michael Kovrig’s wife (though separated) Vina Nadjibulla speaks for the first time in an exclusive interview with Adrienne Arsenault about his detention, Canada’s diplomacy and her fears for the future. Nadjibulla also shares letters Kovrig has sent during his 560 days in a Chinese prison. 13:23

Diplomatic gloves come off

David Carment, a a professor at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, said he believes Canada’s intervention would prompt the Trump administration to use it as a rallying cry to undermine Trudeau’s leadership and his pursuit for a majority government when he calls an election.

“I think all sort of diplomatic gloves would come off in this case. The United States would come out fighting and work to undermine this current government’s mandate,” he said.

Christopher Sands, director of the Centre for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said that the state department officials who brought the case forward against Meng would be unhappy with Canada’s decision to intervene.

Trump would likely be angry, send off a dismissive tweet or give Trudeau the cold shoulder at the next G7 meeting. But Sands doesn’t believe it would result in major policy ramifications against Canada.

“Would it be ‘Canadians are no longer allowed to cross the border?’ No. The relationship between us and Canada is too big and complex for that,” he said. “I can’t see any lasting damage.”

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Canadian assessment team deployed to Turkey after earthquake

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Canadian assessment team deployed to Turkey

A senior government official says a Canadian assessment team is on its way to Turkey to determine how Canada can contribute to earthquake relief efforts.

International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan was expected to formally announce the deployment of the Canadian Disaster Assessment Team this evening.

The senior official, who spoke on background pending Sajjan’s official confirmation, said the team consists of a handful of military and Global Affairs officials.

The official underscored that the deployment of the team does not automatically guarantee a further deployment of Canadian resources to the country.

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The earthquake, which razed thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria on Monday, is one of the deadliest quakes worldwide in more than a decade and the federal government is facing criticism that the window to help with rescue efforts is closing.

Search teams from more than two dozen countries have joined tens of thousands of local emergency personnel and Canadian humanitarian aid workers with charitable organizations were arriving Wednesday

Defence Minister Anita Anand said late Tuesday that the federal government had not ruled out sending a Disaster Assistance Response Team, to help with the recovery effort, but that it was working to figure out what would be most useful.

The assessment team would recommend whether to send additional support, such as a DART.

Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government would match funds donated to Canadian Red Cross relief efforts up to $10 million on top of an initial aid package of $10 million.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.

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Canadian soccer player describes the horror of the earthquake in Turkey

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Canadian soccer player

Canadian soccer player Sam Adekugbe is one of the lucky ones. He managed to escape earthquake-ravaged Antakya in Turkey.

Some of his teammates and staff at his club Hatayspor are still missing.

The 28-year-old from Calgary is now safe in Istanbul with Canada captain Atiba Hutchinson, who plays in the Turkish Super Lig for Besiktas. But in a Zoom call Wednesday sitting next to Hutchinson, a sombre Adekugbe told a harrowing tale of being caught in the quake — and the horror of what he saw in the aftermath.

“Unfathomable. Something you never really expect,” said Adekugbe, who looked shell-shocked.

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Adekugbe was relaxing at home with some teammates after a 1-0 win over visiting Kasimpasa in a Turkish league game Sunday evening. The quake began as he started cleaning up his home when they left.

He started shaking, which initially made him think he was having a panic attack. Then the furniture and TV began to tip over and cups and dishes smashed in the kitchen.

He went outside to find the road split and people yelling amid freezing rain and lighting strikes. After witnessing the damage around his home, he drove the 20 minutes to the team training ground, seeing the devastation along the way.

“It just felt like a movie. You’re seeing collapsed buildings, fires. People yelling, people crying,” he said. “People digging through the rubble. Broken pieces of houses. Just things you never really expect.”

It got worse the closer he got to the centre of the city, which is located 1,100 kilometres southeast of Istanbul in a region bordered by the Mediterranean and Syria.

“Roads split. Bridges broken. Twelve-storey highrises just completely collapsed. Families looking for loved ones. Parents looking for their kids. Kids looking for their parents. It was just something unfathomable. Something you never really expect.”

Adekugbe says people are still missing, including the team’s sporting director, Taner Savut. There is confusion over the whereabouts of Ghana international Christian Atsu, who was at Adekugbe’s home that night.

Reports of Atsu being rescued are now in doubt, said Adekugbe, who joined the search for survivors after getting to the training ground.

“It’s also people who work around the team,” Adekugbe said.

He says one of the team’s equipment men died in the quake. So did the daughters and mother of a woman who works in the team kitchen.

The wife of another equipment man needs urgent medical attention, facing having her arm amputated if she doesn’t get it.

“Of course I’m thankful that a lot of my teammates have been found. But the people that do help the team, the people who work around the club, they still have loved ones that are missing and unaccounted for. Really it starts to hit home when you just see the agony, the desperation on their faces,” he said.

In the light of day, the horror grew.

“You’re looking through rubble trying to find your teammates. You’re trying to yell for them in like darkened spaces of apartments that used to be standing,” Adekugbe said. “It’s just something you never find yourself doing. People coming back with broken bones. People still missing to this day. It’s something you can’t really explain.”

Adekugbe and some of his teammates managed to get out thanks to his coach, Volkan Demirel, who used to play for Fenerbahce, another Turkish club based in Istanbul. He called the Fenerbahce president who organized a plane departing from a city about a 150-minute drive away.

Adekugbe and other Hatayspor players and staff were bused to the waiting plane, which took them to Istanbul.

“We were very lucky,” Adekugbe said.

“I just grabbed what I could … I have three suitcases and my dog.”

Hutchinson was waiting to take him in. Adekugbe had called him in the aftermath of the quake, showing him the damage via FaceTime.

He called his parents when he got to the training ground.

Antakya is renowned for its cuisine, which has many Middle Eastern influences. UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has designated Antakya as a “city of gastronomy.”

Adekugbe, who joined Hatayspor in June 2021 from Norway’s Valerenga Fotball, has won 37 caps for Canada and saw action in all three of Canada’s games at the World Cup in Qatar.

Born in London, England, he was three when his family moved to Manchester and 10 when it came to Calgary.

At 16, he moved to Vancouver to join the Whitecaps residency program. He signed a homegrown contract with the MLS team in 2013 but made just 16 appearances for the team over the next four seasons, spending much of the time out on loan.

Adekugbe had loans stints with Brighton in the English Championship and Sweden’s IFK Goteborg before joining Valerenga in January 2018.

While Istanbul escaped quake damage, Hutchinson’s concern for Adekugbe grew when internet connection was lost and a second quake hit.

Both players urged Canadians to donate to relief organizations to help the region and its people.

“There’s a lot of people that are still under the rubble,” Hutchinson said.

“People are just really in bad conditions right now,” he added. “It’s really cold here. Just making it through the day and the night, it’s extremely difficult.”

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.

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How much money is needed to retire in Canada

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Canadians now believe they need $1.7 million in savings in order to retire, a 20 per cent increase from 2020, according to a new BMO survey.

The eye-watering figure is the largest sum since BMO first started surveying Canadians about their retirement expectations 13 years ago. It’s also a drastic increase from the $1.4 million in savings Canadians expected to need for their nest eggs just two years ago.

The results reflect Canadians’ concerns about current economic conditions, particularly inflation and higher prices, said Caroline Dabu, head of wealth distribution and advisory services for BMO Financial Group.

“If you look at the average Canadian, they’re feeling the rising inflation costs,” said Dabu.

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“And so, not surprisingly, we are seeing that Canadians are feeling they absolutely will need more to retire.”

Canada’s annual inflation rate hit a four-decade high of 8.1 per cent in the summer of 2022 and has since fallen to 6.3 per cent as of December 2022. BMO Economics expects the country’s CPI to decline to around three per cent by the end of the year.

The sharp increase to Canada’s inflation rate in 2022 exceeded wage gains, eroding purchasing power for most families and heightening fears about the future. The BMO survey found that just 44 per cent of Canadians are confident they will have enough money to retire as planned — a 10 per cent decrease from 2020.

But while the $1.7 million figure may sound overwhelming to working-age Canadians, Dabu said the number says more about the economic mood of the country than it does about real-life retirement necessities.

“Certainly when we’re working with clients, we find that many overestimate the number that they need to retire,” she said.

“It really does have to be taken at an individual level, because circumstances are very different … But $1.7 million, I would say, is high.”

While rising inflation may require tweaks to a retirement plan — such as contributing slightly more to savings each month if you’re a young worker, or making cash flow adjustments if you’re nearing the end of your working career — Dabu said these changes don’t necessarily have to be drastic.

When it comes to retirement planning, Dabu said, knowledge is power. By working with a professional financial advisor and making a plan that encompasses individual circumstances and goals, Canadians can come up with their own retirement savings number.

“In the survey, we note that 53 per cent of Canadians didn’t know how much they will need to retire,” Dabu said.

“That increased confidence comes from knowing the exact number that I need to save for, and how I’m going to get there.”

The BMO survey also found that approximately 22 per cent of Canadians plan to retire between the ages of 60 and 69, with an average age of 62.

Millennial and generation z Canadians are the most nervous about their ability to save and invest right now, the survey found. However, all age groups — 74 per cent of survey respondents — said they are concerned about how current economic conditions will affect their financial situation, and 59 per cent said economic conditions have affected their confidence in meeting their retirement goals.

The BMO survey was conducted between Nov. 4 and 7, 2022 by Pollara Strategic Insights via an online survey of 1,500. The survey’s margin of error is plus/minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2023.

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