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Trudeau's plea to U.S. to secure detained Canadians' release 'doomed to fail,' China says –



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s appeal to the U.S. to help secure the freedom of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor is “a waste of time” and “doomed to fail,” China’s foreign ministry said Friday.

Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang delivered the remarks at a media briefing one day after Trudeau urged Washington to delay finalizing a trade deal with China until the detained Canadians have been released.

“If you pull chestnuts out of the fire for others, you will end up being the one getting burned,” Geng said. He wouldn’t clarify whether the comment was a direct threat aimed at Canada. 

Trudeau told TVA’s Salut Bonjour program Thursday that his government asked the Trump administration to hit pause on signing a final trade agreement.

The U.S. and China agreed on the first phase of a trade deal on Dec. 13 which includes a reduction in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

Geng was critical of Canada’s move, warning that it was tantamount to “ganging up on China by forming cliques.” 

‘Nothing to add’: PMO

When asked whether the U.S. had made any appeals for Kovrig and Spavor’s release, Geng evaded the question.

“We have said many times before, reaching Phase One serves the interests of China, U.S. and the world,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement Friday that it had “nothing to add” regarding whether Trudeau had received any kind of commitment from the Trump administration.

“You will recall that the U.S., along with other allies, raised the cases of our detainees both publicly and privately,” the statement says.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said that Canada takes instruction from no other country when it comes to foreign policy.

“The only one who [is] going to dictate the foreign policy of Canada is the Government of Canada,” he said in an interview with CBC Radio’s The House, airing Saturday.

‘I hope that Mr. Trump would think twice’: Guy Saint-Jacques

According to former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques, it would be in the Trump administration’s best interest to intervene on Canada’s behalf.

“I think they would run the risk of being alone themselves, because countries would say, ‘Why would we help you after what we have seen what you did to the Canadians?'” Saint-Jacques said. “I hope that Mr. Trump would think twice.”

The former ambassador said Trudeau’s request of the U.S. government is in line with Canada’s actions since relations with China began to fray late last year.

“The campaign that Canada has followed since the start of this crisis to seek support from allies … has had success,” he said.

As for China’s comments, Saint-Jacques said that they “reflect the new Chinese diplomatic style, which is more in your face than trying to save face. It shows that the relationship is not very good.”

Kovrig, Spavor now facing trial

Earlier this month, China transferred Spavor and Kovrig’s cases to prosecutorial authorities for investigation and prosecution. The two will now go to trial on charges connected to national security.

Kovrig’s case is related to allegations of “covertly gathering state secrets and intelligence for foreign sources,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Dec. 10.

Spavor’s case involves allegations of “stealing and illegally providing state secrets to foreign forces.”

Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole has tabled a motion to strike a special committee calling it an “all party approach” to conduct hearings to review the Canada-China relationship. 0:37

Kovrig and Spavor have been detained for more than a year. They were taken by Chinese authorities days after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada at the request of the U.S.

The federal government said the men only have limited access to consular assistance and have not had contact with lawyers or family members.

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Trudeau nominates first judge of colour to sit on Supreme Court



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday made history by nominating the first judge of color to sit on the country’s Supreme Court, which has only ever had white justices in its 146-year existence.

Mahmud Jamal, who has been a judge on Ontario‘s court of appeal since 2019, trained as a lawyer and appeared before the Supreme Court in 35 appeals addressing a range of civil, constitutional, criminal and regulatory issues.

“He’ll be a valuable asset to the Supreme Court – and that’s why, today, I’m announcing his historic nomination to our country’s highest court,” Trudeau said on Twitter.

Trudeau has frequently said there is a need to address systemic racism in Canada.

Jamal, born in Nairobi in 1967, emigrated with his family to Britain in 1969 where he said he was “taunted and harassed because of my name, religion, or the color of my skin.”

In 1981 the family moved to Canada, where his “experiences exposed me to some of the challenges and aspirations of immigrants, religious minorities, and racialized persons,” he said in a document submitted to support his candidacy.

Canada is a multicultural country, with more than 22% of the population comprised of minorities and another 5% aboriginal, according to the latest census.

“We know people are facing systemic discrimination, unconscious bias and anti-black racism every single day,” Trudeau said last year.

Jamal will replace Justice Rosalie Abella, who is due to retire from the nine-person court on July 1.


(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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Donors pledge $1.5 billion for Venezuelan migrants, humanitarian crisis



More than 30 countries and two development banks on Thursday pledged more than $1.5 billion in grants and loans to aid Venezuelan migrants fleeing a humanitarian crisis, as well as their host countries and vulnerable people still in the country.

The $954 million in grants announced at a donors’ conference hosted by Canada – which included pledges of $407 million from the United States and C$115 million Canadian dollars ($93.12 million) from Canada – exceeded the $653 million announced at a similar event last year.

But that fell short of the needs of countries hosting the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have left their country since 2015, as the once-prosperous nation’s economy collapsed into a years-long hyperinflationary recession under socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Most have resettled in developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean who have themselves seen their budgets stretched thin due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Does this cover all needs? Of course not,” Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters. “We will have to continue to encourage donors to support the response.”

At the conference, Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso announced that the country – which hosts some 430,000 Venezuelans – would begin a new process to regularize migrants’ status. That came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the 1.8 million Venezuelans it hosts.

Karina Gould, Canada‘s minister for international development, said the amount pledged showed donors were eager to support such efforts.

“There is that recognition on behalf of the global community that there needs to be support to ensure that that generosity can continue, and can actually deepen, in host countries,” Gould said.

In addition, the World Bank and Inter-American Developmemt Bank pledged $600 million in loans to address the crisis, Gould said.

($1 = 1.2349 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Luc Cohen, Michelle Nichols and David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Aurora Ellis)

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Ecuador to start new ‘normalization process’ for Venezuelan migrants



Ecuador will implement a new “normalization process” for the 430,000 Venezuelan migrants living in the South American country, President Guillermo Lasso said on Thursday, without providing further details of the plan.

Lasso’s announcement, at a conference hosted by Canada intended to raise money to support the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have fled an economic crisis in the South American country, came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the nearly 2 million Venezuelans it hosts.

“I am pleased to announce the beginning of a new regularization process, which in order to be an effective, lasting and permanent policy should be complemented by strategies for economic integration and labor market access,” Lasso said.

Ecuador in late 2019 launched a regularization process for Venezuelans who arrived before July of that year. That included two-year humanitarian visas meant to facilitate access to social services.

Lasso said Ecuador needed outside funding to continue caring for Venezuelan migrants, estimating that more than 100,000 additional migrants were expected to arrive before the end of the year.

“I call on our partners in the international community to be co-responsible and have solidarity with Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and with the countries that receive them,” he said.


(Reporting by Luc Cohen; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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