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Trudeau taps career diplomat Jennifer May to be Canada’s new ambassador to China

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OTTAWA — A career diplomat with three decades of experience in foreign service was named Canada’s ambassador to China Friday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Jennifer May, who most recently spent three years as the ambassador to Brazil, will fill the job in China that has been vacant now for nine months.

“A dedicated public servant, Ms. May’s many years of diverse experience on international missions, and her deep understanding of Asia, will serve to manage this important bilateral relationship and advance Canadian interests in China,” Trudeau said in a written statement.

May joined the Foreign Affairs Department in 1990, and after learning Mandarin, started four years as a mid-level diplomat in 2000 followed by stints in Hong Kong and Thailand. She has also served overseas in Germany and Austria.

Her appointment comes as Canada is looking to scrape the ice off its chilly relationship with China after the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig one year ago.

But the government is making clear her orders also include “advancing Canada’s work” to stand up for “democratic values, human rights and the rule of law.”

Global Affairs Canada has what it refers to in its current departmental plan, an “evolving China policy framework” that will be set up within the broader development of a total Indo-Pacific strategy.

The departmental plan says Canada will use the framework to advance trade interests, but will “challenge the government of China when values and interests diverge and co-operate where interests align.”

“Canada will continue to speak out against China’s repression of the Uyghur and Tibetan peoples, and of all religious minorities in China,” reads the plan, which was published earlier this year.

The last two ambassadors to China were both considered high-level political appointees. First former cabinet minister John McCallum and then business executive Dominic Barton, the latter tasked by Trudeau with the delicate but critical file to get Spavor and Kovrig freed.

Barton left the post last December, three months after they were released. Spavor, a business consultant who was working in China, and Kovrig, a former diplomat who was working in China for the International Crisis Group, were arrested in December 2019.

Canada believes their arrests were political retaliation because Canadian authorities arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States.

The U.S. accused her and Huawei of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. Kovrig and Spavor were arrested days after Meng was taken into custody in Vancouver. The two men were released as part of a deal when the U.S. agreed to let Meng return to China.

The dispute did serious harm to Canada-China relations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2022.

 

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, explained – CTV News

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The Supreme Court of Canada will take time to weigh arguments about the constitutionality of an 18-year refugee agreement between Ottawa and Washington after hearing a challenge Thursday from claimants and human rights advocates.

The Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) allows Canada to turn away asylum seekers seeking entry from the U.S. at official land border crossings.

However, human rights groups say the U.S. is not a “safe country” for asylum seekers and the pact allows Canada to skirt its international obligations for refugee claimants.

CTVNews.ca breaks down what the agreement entails.

WHAT DOES THE STCA DO?

The Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement was signed in 2002 and came into effect in 2004. Under the agreement, those seeking refugee status in either Canada or the U.S. must make their claim in the first country they enter.

That means most asylum seekers who attempt to cross into Canada at an official crossing are turned away and are told they need to make their asylum claim in the U.S., and vice versa. The only exemptions apply to unaccompanied minors and those with close family members living in Canada.

“If one of those narrow exemptions does not apply, you’re not able to make a claim for refugee protection in Canada. And so what that means is that you’re ordered to be removed or deported, and they contact U.S. authorities,” Amnesty International’s Julia Sande told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday.

But the agreement has one key loophole: it only applies to official land border crossings. That means that asylum seekers who manage to make a refugee claim within Canada while bypassing an official border crossing won’t be sent back to the U.S.

This has prompted tens of thousands of asylum seekers to enter Canada at irregular crossings, such as Roxham Road, a rural road that goes through the border between Quebec and New York State.

HOW MANY ASYLUM SEEKERS HAVE CROSSED IRREGULARLY?

Since February 2017, Canada has seen 67,805 irregular crossers enter the country. Of these, 28,332 (41 per cent) have had their refugee claims approved. In addition, 19,646 refugee claims have been rejected, 13,369 are still pending and the rest have either been withdrawn or abandoned, according to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB).

Irregular crossings into Canada surged after Donald Trump became president of the United States in 2017, as concerns grew over his anti-immigration rhetoric and executive orders limiting the number of refugees admitted.

According to data from the IRB, the number of irregular crossings peaked between July and September 2017. During this time period, 8,558 asylum seekers irregularly crossed into Canada, corresponding to an average of 2,853 per month.

The average number of irregular crossers per month dipped after that and hovered between 1,200 and 1,400 from late 2018 to early 2020. However, irregular crossings came to a near screeching halt after COVID-19 restrictions at the border were put in place in March 2020 and asylum seekers were sent back to the U.S. unless they met one of the exemptions.

In November 2021, as Canada continued lifting COVID-19 measures at the border, irregular crossers were once again allowed to enter the country and make a claim. Between April and June 2022, 4,512 irregular crossers entered Canada — the most seen since 2019, according to the IRB.

WHAT DO OPPONENTS OF THE STCA SAY?

In 2017, Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees, and the Canadian Council of Churches launched a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Safe Third Country Agreement.

The organizations say the legislation underpinning the STCA violates Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees life, liberty and security of the person, in addition to Section 15, which guarantees equal protection and benefit under the law.

Sande says asylum seekers who are turned back from Canada often face immigration detention in the U.S.

“When people are in detention, they’re subjected to solitary confinement, staggering rates of sexual violence, really inhumane conditions, not given religiously appropriate food,” she said. “The detention in itself is problematic and harmful. But in addition, when you’re in detention, it’s a lot more difficult to access counsel.”

Sande says the increased difficulty accessing legal counsel means asylum seekers have a higher chance of being deported. On top of that, she said crossing the border at irregular crossings can come with serious risks.

Many of these crossers use Roxham Road, where the RCMP have set up a presence to handle the high volume of asylum seekers. But at other parts of the border, some asylum seekers have made long journeys on foot through empty farm fields in the winter, risking frostbite.

“We’ve heard of people losing fingers from frostbite and really putting themselves at risk. And so I would say it’s neither compassionate nor orderly,” Sande said.

Canada is also subject to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which stipulates that states cannot return refugees to dangerous countries. The human rights groups argue the pact lets Canada “contract out” its international obligations to refugee claimants without proper followup the U.S. is doing the job.

In July 2020, the Federal Court agreed, and ruled the Safe Third Country Agreement was unconstitutional. The federal government appealed the ruling and last December, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear the case.

WHAT HAVE FEDERAL PARTIES SAID?

The NDP and the Bloc Quebecois have long called on the federal government to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement, and allow asylum seekers to cross into Canada at official crossings so they won’t have to make potentially dangerous journeys through irregular crossings.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives say the STCA should be strengthened to allow Canada to send irregular crossers back to the U.S.

The three opposition parties recently signed a letter calling for an inquiry looking at how public funds were used to build intake facilities at the border near Roxham Road.

In the House of Commons on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada “works with the U.S. government every day to improve the Safe Third Country Agreement.” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) told CTV’s Your Morning the agreement “has served Canada well” and is necessary to ensure that the border “remains well-managed.”

“Canada believes that the STCA remains a comprehensive means for the compassionate, fair and orderly handling of asylum claims in our two countries,” IRCC said in an email statement.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault has also called on the feds to close the unofficial Roxham Road crossing and said his government does not have the capacity to deal with the influx of people. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said on Thursday the government is working “very carefully with Quebec” to manage the flow of asylum seekers.

“We transfer significant federal funds to that province every year to help with ensuring that there is due process, that there… is a baseline of support for people who are filing claims,” he told reporters before a cabinet meeting in Ottawa.

“We have to reach agreements, with partnerships with the United States, with Quebec, and that’s exactly what the federal government will do,” he added in French.

With files from The Canadian Press

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Hockey Canada: Which sponsors have pulled funding? – CTV News

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Hockey Canada’s board of directors called an emergency meeting Thursday night under mounting pressure from top corporate sponsors, political leaders and provincial organizations stemming from the group’s apparent unwillingness to address its handling of alleged sexual assaults.

Two provincial organizations are calling for resignations, with Hockey Manitoba stating that there needs to be “a change in Hockey Canada’s leadership,” and Hockey Nova Scotia saying it has “lost confidence in Hockey Canada’s senior leadership.”

Hockey Nova Scotia also confirmed it has cut off its funding to Hockey Canada for the 2022-23 season.

Since the news came out that registration fees for Hockey Canada helped to pay for a multimillion-dollar settlement to address sexual assault allegations, the organization has been taking heat.

But Hockey Canada firmly rejected changing the leadership earlier this week, despite calls for action.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested Thursday that if the national hockey governing body continues to resist calls to address its handling of sexual assault claims and funding, the organization could be replaced.

“It is inconceivable that folks at Hockey Canada continue to dig in. It’s not like there’s something extraordinarily special about the people at Hockey Canada, that means they are the only people in the country that can run an organization like this,” Trudeau said. “There needs to be wholesale change. They need to do it. They need to realize that if we have to create an organization—get rid of Hockey Canada and create an organization called ‘Canada Hockey’ instead, people will look at doing that.”

TSN, which will be hosting the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship in Atlantic Canada, is also calling for action.

The sports broadcaster, owned by CTV’s parent company Bell Media, is urging “Hockey Canada to enact meaningful change to deliver a hockey environment built on a culture of respect.”

Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, who said he was subjected to years of sexual abuse by a coach while playing with the Swift Current Broncos, said it’s obvious Hockey Canada can’t continue this way.

“The picture is clear that the organization as a whole and its leadership has lost the trust and support of not just citizens in Canada, but all of its corporate sponsorship,” Kennedy said.

While some sponsors initially halted their support when allegations surfaced this summer, including BDO and Esso Canada, here are the corporate sponsors who have recently confirmed pulling their support or maintaining their pause, as the controversy continues to unfold. Here’s what those sponsors have said about their decisions:

CANADIAN TIRE

“After careful consideration, Canadian Tire Corporation has made the decision to end its partnership with Hockey Canada. In our view, Hockey Canada continues to resist meaningful change and we can no longer confidently move forward together. CTC is proud of our commitment to sport and will continue to invest in our beloved national game by re-directing support to hockey-related organizations that better align with our values. The Respect Group, which is focused on preventing bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination, is one of many organizations where funds will be diverted. We are committed to supporting hockey and sport that is inclusive and safe for all Canadians,” said Canadian Tire Corporation Senior Vice President of Communications Jane Shaw in a statement on Oct. 5.

TIM HORTONS

“We’ve communicated to Hockey Canada on many occasions that the organization needs to take strong and definitive action before it can regain the faith and trust of Canadians. We’re deeply disappointed in the lack of progress that Hockey Canada has made to date. We officially informed Hockey Canada this week that we have pulled out of all men’s hockey programming for the 2022-23 season including the men’s world junior championships. We continue to fund Canada’s women’s and para hockey teams, as well as youth hockey,” said Tim Hortons media relations in a statement on Oct. 5.

CHEVROLET CANADA

“We can confirm that Chevrolet Canada has stepped back from its sponsorship activities with Hockey Canada as we seek more clarity on what specific steps the organization has and will take following the alleged incidents of abuse. We at GM have no tolerance for abuse of any kind and wish to see Hockey Canada return to setting a positive example for all Canadians in all it does,” said GM Canada Executive Director of Communications Jennifer Wright in a statement on Oct. 6.

SCOTIABANK

“Our sponsorship pause of Hockey Canada remains in effect. Principally, this means a continued pause of our support for men’s hockey throughout the entire 2022/2023 season including the upcoming World Junior Championship. In our open letter in June, we publicly called on Hockey Canada to hold the game to a higher standard and we are disappointed with the lack of progress to date. From Hockey Canada, we expect a tangible commitment to transparency with Canadians, strong leadership, accountability with their stakeholders and the hockey community, and improved safety both on and off the ice. Ultimately our position hasn’t wavered: the time for change is long overdue,” said Scotiabank media relations in a statement on Oct. 5.

TELUS

“We are deeply disheartened by the lack of action and commitment from Hockey Canada to drive necessary cultural change. TELUS will not be sponsoring Hockey Canada’s men’s hockey programs for the 2022-23 season, including the upcoming World Juniors tournament. We remain passionate fans and supporters of the sport of hockey and stand committed to enabling systemic change to make hockey safe for all,” said Telus media relations in a statement on Oct. 6.

SKIP THE DISHES

“Like many Canadians, we have been deeply troubled by recent allegations, and as such have since terminated our partnership with Hockey Canada,” said a Skip The Dishes spokesperson in an email to CTV News on Oct. 6.

SOBEYS

“Empire has been a proud sponsor of the Women’s National Hockey team for a number of years. When our contract with Hockey Canada expired at the end of June, we chose not to renew our sponsorship because we were disgusted by all of the allegations and, as importantly, Hockey Canada’s unwillingness to make meaningful change to earn back the trust of Canadians and ensure everyone feels welcome and safe when playing the sport. We fully intend to continue to support the Women’s National Hockey team and are currently exploring options that will allow us to do that directly, without any connection to Hockey Canada,” said Sobeys media relations in an email to CTV News on Oct. 6.

With files from CTV News’ Kevin Gallagher

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Saskatchewan RCMP say one suspect killed 11 in rampage, including brother

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REGINA — A member of James Smith Cree Nation was wrongfully accused by RCMP of killing an individual during the stabbing attacks last month in the community and in the nearby village of Weldon, Sask.

Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore said evidence shows Damien Sanderson did not kill anyone during the rampage and was killed by his own brother.

Blackmore said Myles Sanderson killed Damien Sanderson and 10 others on Sept. 4. Eighteen people were injured.

“Myles Sanderson committed all of the homicides alone,” Blackmore said Thursday.

Blackmore said there is evidence to suggest Damien Sanderson was involved in the planning and preparation of the attacks, although the extent of that involvement is still being investigated.

A day after the stabbings, as police searched for the brothers across the province, RCMP charged them with first-degree murder.

Damien Sanderson faced one count of first-degree murder, attempted murder and break and enter, but the charges were dropped after his body was found near one of the crime scenes on the First Nation on Sept. 5. At the time, police said he died from non-self-inflicted wounds.

On Sept. 7, police chased and stopped Myles Sanderson in a stolen vehicle near Rosthern, Sask. A short time later, he went into medical distress and died.

“The Saskatchewan RCMP believes it is important to clarify Damien’s involvement,” Blackmore said.

“Our investigators continue to corroborate witness statements with physical evidence and exhibits to create an accurate picture of the motives behind these crimes and why some of the victims were targeted.”

The new information was part of a timeline RCMP released that outlined what the brothers were up to in the day days before the attack.

Blackmore said the brothers were selling drugs in the community on Sept. 3 and had violently assaulted three people that day.

“It is unknown at this point whether any weapons were involved,” Blackmore said, adding that the assaults were not reported to police.

Mounties had been on the First Nation earlier that morning looking for Damien Sanderson. Someone had anonymously reported that he had stolen their vehicle a day earlier, and he was wanted on a warrant for a previous assault charge.

Officers had an outdated photo of Damien Sanderson from eight years ago, Blackmore said.

Two officers found the stolen vehicle and entered a nearby home to see if he was one of the seven people inside. But no one identified themselves by that name.

“We later confirmed Damien provided a false name to responding officers during the search of the residence,” Blackmore said. “He had been at the residence and verbally provided the officers the name of another — a real person in the community.”

RCMP said they had no information or indication that would suggest there would be violence in the community the next morning.

“The events that were going to unfold the next day were unknown to police at that time,” Blackmore said, noting that when police responded to the First Nation on Sept. 3, there was no mention of Myles Sanderson.

Blackmore said the idea that RCMP could have prevented the massacre because of their presence on the First Nation a day before the attacks is “pure speculation.”

“We had no indication that there had been violence committed (on Sept. 3). The assaults that occurred were not reported to police before the mass casualty events that occurred on Sept. 4, and we had no reason to believe that they were going to commit these events.”

Blackmore said it will likely take months for investigators to compile a full timeline of what happened.

“The reality is we may never really know exactly why,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 6, 2022.

 

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

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