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Trudeau summons Chinese ambassador after Chong threats

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OTTAWA –

The Liberal government is summoning China’s ambassador over allegations by Canada’s spy agency that a Chinese diplomat in Toronto was involved in a plot to intimidate a Conservative MP and his family.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said Thursday she asked her deputy minister to tell Chinese Ambassador Cong Peiwu that Canada will not tolerate any form of foreign interference in its affairs.

Joly confirmed media reports that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service believes a diplomat working out of China’s Toronto consulate had targeted Conservative MP Michael Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong, due to his criticism of Beijing’s human-rights record.

“What has happened is completely unacceptable,” Joly told the House of Commons foreign affairs committee Thursday morning, looking across the room to Chong.

“All options including expulsion of diplomats remains on the table, as we consider the consequences for this behaviour,” Joly said.

The Opposition Conservatives are urging the Liberals to expel the diplomat. Joly said she will make sure all foreign envoys follow the United Nations agreement that sets out acceptable activities.

“All foreign agents in Canada must abide by the Vienna Convention. If they do not, there will be consequences,” she told MPs.

Joly expressed her sympathy for Chong, who glared at Joly asking why the diplomat had not already been sent packing.

“I cannot imagine the shock and concern of learning that your loved ones have been targeted in this way,” Joly said.

Chong appeared unimpressed.

“So why is this diplomat still here?” he asked.

“A diplomat who has more rights and immunities than the Canadians around this table, to go around and conduct his foreign-interference threat activities. He has diplomatic immunity; he cannot be criminally prosecuted.”

The Conservatives insist the federal Liberal government failed to act on the threat that came up two years ago, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week that the security agency made the decision not to notify anyone.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has presented a motion in the House of Commons asking MPs to call on the government to take more aggressive action against threats of foreign interference, including expelling Chinese diplomats.

Trudeau said Wednesday that he had only learned after a Globe and Mail article on Monday, citing top-secret documents, said CSIS had the intelligence. He said he has ordered Canada’s intelligence agencies to immediately inform MPs of any threats against them, regardless of whether those threats are considered credible.

“CSIS made the determination that it wasn’t something that needed to be raised to a higher level because it wasn’t a significant enough concern,” Trudeau said Wednesday.

He said that around the same time, CSIS was asked to brief Chong after China publicly said it would sanction him for criticizing Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province.

But the agency never told Chong about any threats.

Earlier Thursday in Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry played down allegations of China trying to intimidate Chong and his relatives.

“China is opposed to any interference in a country’s internal affairs. We never interfere in Canada’s internal affairs and have no interest whatsoever in doing so,” spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters, according to an official English transcription.

“We are resolute in defending our sovereignty, security and development interests and opposing actions that interfere in China’s internal affairs and harm China’s interests.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2023.

 

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More zebra mussels found in Manitoba, this time in a popular reservoir

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WINNIPEG – The Manitoba government is dealing with another discovery of zebra mussels.

The province says two positive samples have been detected in the St. Malo Reservoir — a popular swimming, kayaking and camping destination in a provincial park south of Winnipeg.

Conservation officers are monitoring the area to make sure boaters clean their watercraft.

Zebra mussels are an invasive aquatic species that can harm fish populations and clog water intake systems.

Last fall, Parks Canada found live zebra mussels in Clear Lake north of Brandon, Man., and later closed the lake to most watercraft.

Earlier this month, Parks Canada found an adult zebra mussel in a cove in Clear Lake, suggesting the mollusks are building a presence in the lake.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2024.

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Tenants offered accommodations and support after surprise mass eviction

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WINNIPEG – Some tenants of an apartment building moved back in Monday, more than a week after they say they were forced out on a few hours’ notice by a new landlord who put some of their belongings on the front lawn.

“(I’ll) start over, I guess,” said Devony Hudson, who picked up a new set of keys Monday morning as police officers, a private security firm and Manitoba government workers kept an eye on the three-storey brick building, built more than a century ago.

Some of the building’s windows were broken or boarded up. A notice on the front door from the Winnipeg Fire Department said the fire alarm and sprinkler system were out of service.

Hudson said a caretaker came to her door two weekends ago, told her she had to leave immediately and offered her a few hundred dollars. Shortly after, her belongings were outside.

“I just went for a walk, just for like 10 minutes, came back and it was … all on the front lawn.”

Hudson has been spending the last few days in a nearby house that does not have working electricity.

In another suite, Kyle Lemke got a knock on the door. He said he was told the locks were being changed, and a man he had never met who said he was the owner told him he had to leave within 24 hours and offered some money.

“I threw out so much stuff,” Lemke recalled while standing outside a hotel where he has been staying.

“I had maybe four garbage bags and a laundry bag, but I wasn’t able to take everything,” said Lemke, who walks with a limp after almost losing a leg months ago to necrotizing fasciitis.

Lemke said he was told everyone had to leave because of an order from the city over fire hazards, but the city never gave an evacuation order.

Attempts by The Canadian Press to reach the building’s owner were unsuccessful.

The Manitoba government moved last week to support the tenants.

The provincial minister for housing, Bernadette Smith, said the actions the tenants described are illegal and an investigation is underway.

The residential tenancies branch issued orders to the landlord, had the locks changed and made arrangements for the tenants to start returning. The province offered tenants emergency accommodations and per diems for food.

But some tenants were not able to be tracked down.

Marion Willis, who runs an outreach program that helps people find housing and other services, said some tenants had previously been in encampments and had nowhere to go when they were told to leave.

“We have tried to find people. There’s people in encampments, there’s people that are couch-surfing in other buildings. There’s people that are just sleeping out on the street,” said Willis, executive director of St. Boniface Street Links.

Some tenants may be reluctant to return for fear that they may simply face a more formal eviction process and end up homeless again.

Lemke said he has no interest in going back, and had a new apartment lined up. He’d like to see someone held accountable.

“I would like to see justice,” he said.

“You can’t just do that to people.”

The provincial government said Monday at least two tenants had returned over the weekend and a probe of the landlord’s actions was ongoing.

“In this situation, the (residential tenancies branch) has a number of options available, but is still working through the investigation,” said a written statement from the government’s central communications office.

“Depending on the outcome of the investigations, these measures could include the imposition of further orders, administrative fines and prosecution for contraventions under the legislation.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2024.



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Manitoba First Nation says members lack health care due to nursing shortage

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WINNIPEG – Members of a northern First Nation looking to get prescriptions refilled, blood work done or access to other basic health-care services are often being turned away because of a nursing shortage in the community.

The nursing station in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation has been open only for medical emergencies for nearly a year because the community has just two nurses to treat its 3,500 citizens.

“We cannot continue with the current state of affairs,” Chief Angela Levasseur said at a press conference on Monday.

“Our people have a right to health care. They have the right to be able to attend the nursing station and be seen by a nurse.

“It is inhumane and an affront to our dignity.”

Levasseur has heard reports of nurses working around the clock while running on two to three hours of sleep. On occasion, a third nurse has been brought in to help alleviate some of the pressure.

The reduction of services has resulted in patients, including infants, elders and people with chronic health conditions, being denied critical medical care, said Levasseur. Many of these patients are being directed to go to the hospital in Thompson, about 90 kilometres away.

Residents without a vehicle are forced to rely on an overburdened medical transportation service or go without help.

“The failure to address this crisis is literally a threat to many people’s lives,” said Levasseur.

The community has sent proposals to the federal government to advocate for an increase in funding to hire more nurses and address the wage gap between what it offers nurses and what private agencies provide.

“It’s really disheartening,” said Lynda Wright, the community’s health director. “It’s really difficult to try and help people when you lack the resources and the funding … it’s difficult seeing your people suffer when the access to care is not there.”

Levasseur is renewing calls to provide funding for an additional three nurses for the Nation.

The office of Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Government data shows that nursing stations in remote First Nations communities in Manitoba were facing a 67 per cent operational vacancy in the last fiscal year.

A document tabled in the House of Commons earlier this year says that over the 2023-24 fiscal year, all Indigenous Services Canada-operated nursing stations in Manitoba have run at a reduced capacity due to staffing shortages.

Pimicikamak Cree Nation has felt the staffing crunch, resulting in the community declaring a state of emergency earlier this year.

The community is supposed to have 13 or 14 nurses available, but most days there are about half of that for the roughly 8,000 who live on-reserve.

“We continue to cry out for help to make sure we can provide health services and medical services for our people,” said Chief David Monias, who was on hand for Monday’s press conference.

Levasseur said the community’s situation has left everyone at their “breaking point.”

“What we’re most worried about with this crisis situation being ignored is that the two or three nurses that we have on a day-to-day basis are going to walk out.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2024.

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