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U.S. concern about convoy blockades meant a ‘dangerous moment for Canada,’ Freeland tells inquiry



As Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tells it, Brian Deese is a hard man to get hold of.

So when U.S. President Joe Biden’s senior economic adviser requested a call with her on Feb. 10 about the ongoing border blockades, Freeland said, she knew the stakes were high.

“That was a dangerous moment for Canada, I felt,” the deputy prime minister testified Thursday before the Emergencies Act inquiry.

“That one conversation was a seminal one for me. And it was a moment when I realized as a country, somehow, we had to find a way to bring this to an end.”

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Freeland described the call with Deese in front of the Public Order Emergency Commission Thursday. The commission is reviewing the federal government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 to clear anti-public health measure protests in Ottawa and deter border blockades.

As part of its work, the commission is probing whether the government met the threshold to trigger the never-before-used legislation.

Tearing up at one point, Freeland defended her government’s actions by arguing economic security is linked to national security.

“I really do believe our security as a country is built on our economic security,” she said.

“And if our economic security is threatened, all of our security is threatened. And I think that’s true for us as a country. And it’s true for individuals.”

Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland appears as a witness at the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa, on Thursday, Nov 24, 2022. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Freeland said that after her call with Deese, director of the U.S. president’s National Economic Council, she knew the blockades had set an “amber light flashing” south of the border regarding supply chain vulnerabilities with Canada.

She said she worried the blockades would tip the balance in favour of Democrats and Republicans who support a protectionist trade stance.

“It wasn’t just the immediate damage, it wasn’t just the immediate harm. It wasn’t, ‘Oh, you know, this plant loses four days of operation,'” Freeland said Thursday.

“The danger was were we in the process, as a country, of doing long-term and possibly irreparable harm to our trading relationship with the United States.”

At various points in early 2022, protesters blockaded border crossings in Windsor, Ont., the small town of Coutts, Alta., Emerson, Man., and the Pacific Highway in Surrey, B.C.

The government cited a threat to Canada’s economic security when it invoked the Emergencies Act last winter.

The definition of what constitutes a public order emergency has been studied closely during the public hearings, with critics arguing the government did not meet the requirements of the legislation.

Under the Emergencies Act, a national emergency is defined as one that “arises from threats to the security of Canada that are so serious as to be a national emergency.”

The act then points back to CSIS’s definition of such threats, which include harm caused for the purpose of achieving a “political, religious or ideological objective,” espionage, foreign interference or the intent to overthrow the government by violence. It doesn’t mention economic security.

Last week, Clerk of the Privy Council Janice Charette testified that she took a wider interpretation of the act that included concerns about the economy when she advised Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to invoke the act.


Deputy prime minister explains text discussions with White House official


Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland tells inquiry she and White House director of economy Brian Deese discussed how trade harm caused by the self-described ‘Freedom Convoy’ wouldn’t just be felt temporarily.

The government has not waived solicitor-client privilege on the legal opinion it received about invoking the act.

CEOs warned Canada was seen as a ‘joke’

In a phone call with Canadian bank CEOs, Freeland was told repeatedly that Canada’s international reputation was at risk.

A readout of the Feb. 13 call was entered into evidence Wednesday.

One person on the call, whose name was redacted in the document provided to the commission, said Canada had been labelled a “joke” by American investors.

“I had one investor say, ‘I won’t invest another red cent in your banana republic in Canada,'” the speaker said. “That adds to an already tough investment perspective.”


U.S. incentives on EVs and batteries would have been ‘a disaster’ for Canada, Freeland says


During testimony at the Emergencies Act inquiry, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland discussed integrated supply chains between Canada and the U.S., saying incentives that encouraged American-built electric vehicles and batteries would have been bad for Canada’s economy.

Another speaker said Canada needed “to show the world proactively that we won’t let this happen again and that our trade corridors will remain open.”

“Canada’s reputation is indeed at risk,” the speaker said.

“We should think about putting the military in place to keep the border crossings moving even after the protesters are removed.”


‘I have to protect Canadians’: Freeland gets emotional in testimony before Emergencies Act inquiry

During her testimony, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland recalled bankers warning her of the effects the self-described ‘Freedom Convoy’ would have on Canada’s economy.

One speaker, whose name was also blacked-out, expressed concerns about how the government would address the blockades.

“I am very concerned about the banking system being seen as a political weapon of the government,” said the business leader, whose name was also redacted.

“We can’t politicize the banks.”

On Thursday, Freeland choked up as she recalled the warning on the call that Canada’s reputation was at risk.

“I had, at that moment, a very profound duty to Canadians to stand up for them,” she said, her voice cracking.

“I’m surprised that I’m getting emotional … when I heard that, I realised I’m the finance minister, I’m the deputy prime minister, I have to protect Canadians. I have to protect their well-being.”

Freeland feared Canada would be ‘discredited’ as an ally of Ukraine

Later that night, cabinet would meet to discuss invoking the Emergencies Act. Freeland said that between the call with bank officials and the cabinet meeting, she had a meeting to discuss intelligence suggesting Russia intended to invade Ukraine. Russian troops moved in on Feb. 24.

In an interview with commission lawyers in September, Freeland said she feared the protest would affect Canada’s response to the war. A summary of that interview was entered into evidence Thursday.

Office of the Prime Minister staff John Brodhead, Policy Advisor, Katie Telford, Chief of Staff and Brian Clow, Deputy Chief of Staff, appear as witnesses at the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa, on Thursday, Nov 24, 2022. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

“Freeland also pointed out that if Canada’s capital had still been occupied when Russia invaded Ukraine, in her view, such a situation would have completely discredited Canada as an ally in support of Ukraine,” said the summary document.

“Russian media would have been focused 24/7 on what was occurring in Canada, which would have made Canada appear very weak at a time it needed to be strong. Further, it would have made it very difficult to take action after the invasion.”

Minister faces questions about frozen accounts

Freeland also fielded questions about the decision to give authorities emergency powers to freeze the finances of those connected to the protests.

Data presented to the inquiry last week suggested that approximately 280 bank accounts with approximately $8 million in assets were frozen due to the emergency measures.

Freeland defended the move, saying the government wanted the protests to end peacefully and the economic measures acted as an incentive to leave the protest zones.

“I was sort of saying, ‘We really have to act, something has to be done.’ And I remember a colleague saying to me, ‘My nightmare is blood on the face of a child.’ And I remember that very clearly. Because I was worried about that,” she said.

Last week, Brendan Miller — a lawyer for some of the protest organizers — argued under cross-examination that the order to freeze accounts was an act of overreach and halting fundraising on crowdfunding platforms breached Canadians’ right to freedom of expression.

Three members of Trudeau’s staff were also set to testify Thursday, including his chief of staff Katie Telford. She will be joined by deputy chief of staff Brian Clow and Trudeau’s director of policy John Brodhead.

The three staff members also spoke to commission staff before their appearance and a summary of that conversation was tabled.

“[The staff members] asked the Commission to comment on threats to the economic security of Canada, which carry with them a threat of tangible physical harm and violence,” said the summary.

Trudeau will make his highly-anticipated appearance tomorrow as the commission finishes the public hearing portion of its work.

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Canada commits $800 million to support Indigenous-led conservation projects



Ottawa will spend up to $800 million to support four major Indigenous-led conservation projects across the country covering nearly one million square kilometres of land and water, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday.

Trudeau made the announcement at the Biosphere environment museum in Montreal accompanied by Indigenous leaders and federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault as a UN meeting on global biodiversity, known as COP15, takes place in the city.

Trudeau said the four projects — which will be located in British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, northern Ontario and Nunavut — will be developed in partnership with the communities in question.

“Each of these projects is different because each of these projects is being designed by communities, for communities,” he said.

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Chief Jackson Lafferty, of the Tlicho government in the Northwest Territories, said Indigenous groups have long been working to protect their lands and water but have lacked the resources and tools to fully do so.

Lafferty, who attended the announcement, called the funding “a significant step forward on a path to reconciliation across Canada.”

Among the projects to be funded is a marine conservation and sustainability initiative in the Great Bear Sea along British Columbia’s north coast, championed by 17 First Nations in the area.

Another project includes protection for boreal forests, rivers and lands across the Northwest Territories, spearheaded by 30 Indigenous governments.

Funds will also go to an Inuit-led project involving waters and land in Nunavut’s Qikiqtani region and to a project in western James Bay to protect the world’s third largest wetland, led by the Omushkego Cree in Ontario.

Trudeau told reporters that the exact details of the agreements have yet to be worked out — including which portions of the lands will be shielded from resource extraction.

The Indigenous partners, he said, will be able to decide which lands need to be completely protected and where there can be “responsible, targeted development.”

“We know we need jobs, we know we need protected areas, we know we need economic development,” he said. “And nobody knows that, and the importance of that balance, better than Indigenous communities themselves that have been left out of this equation, not just in Canada but around the world, for too long.”

Dallas Smith, president of Nanwakolas Council, said the B.C. funding to help protect the Great Bear Sea would allow Indigenous groups to build on previous agreements to protect the terrestrial lands of Great Bear Rainforest, which were announced about 15 years ago.

“I did media all over the world, and I got home and my elder said, ‘Don’t sprain your arm patting yourself on the back, because until you do the marine component, it doesn’t mean anything,'” he said.

Grand Chief Alison Linklater of the Mushkegowuk Council, which represents seven Cree communities in northern Ontario, said their traditional territory includes ancient peatlands that store “billions of tons” of carbon, as well as wetlands that are home to many migratory birds and fish, and 1,200 kilometres of coastline.

She said caring for the lands is one of her sacred duties as grand chief and one of the main concerns of the people she represents.

“Without our lands and waters we do not exist,” she told the news conference.

In a statement, the federal government said the program would employ a “unique funding model” bringing together government, Indigenous Peoples, philanthropic partners and other investors to secure long-term financing for community-led conservation projects.

The government did not specify how much of the funding would be allocated for each project.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

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B.C. Premier David Eby unveils his new cabinet



B.C. Premier David Eby to reveal new cabinet with health, safety, housing priorities

Here is a list of British Columbia Premier David Eby‘s ministers following his first major cabinet shuffle since taking over as leader:

Agriculture and Food — Pam Alexis (new to cabinet)

Attorney General — Niki Sharma (new to cabinet)

Children and Family Development — Mitzi Dean (unchanged)

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Citizens’ Services — Lisa Beare

Education and Child Care — Rachna Singh (new to cabinet)

Minister of state for child care — Grace Lore (new to cabinet)

Emergency Management and Climate Readiness — Bowinn Ma

Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation — Josie Osborne

Environment and Climate Change Strategy — George Heyman (unchanged)

Finance (includes Columbia River Treaty) — Katrine Conroy

Forests and minister responsible for consular corps. — Bruce Ralston

Health and minister responsible for Francophone affairs — Adrian Dix (unchanged)

Housing and government house leader — Ravi Kahlon

Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation — Murray Rankin

Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation — Brenda Bailey (new to cabinet)

Minister of state for trade — Jagrup Brar (new to cabinet)

Labour — Harry Bains (unchanged)

Mental Health and Addictions — Jennifer Whiteside

Municipal Affairs — Anne Kang

Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills (includes immigration/foreign credentials) — Selina Robinson

Minister of state for workforce development — Andrew Mercier (new to cabinet)

Public Safety and Solicitor General (ICBC) — Mike Farnworth (unchanged)

Social Development and Poverty Reduction — Sheila Malcolmson

Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport — Lana Popham

Transportation and Infrastructure (BC Transit and Translink) — Rob Fleming (unchanged)

Minister of state for infrastructure and transit — Dan Coulter (new to cabinet)

Water, Land and Resource Stewardship — Nathan Cullen

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022

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Tick-borne germs increasingly widespread in Canada: study



Researchers from Quebec and Ontario are calling for better testing to track the spread of tick-borne germs as disease-causing bacteria gain new ground in Canada.

Ticks are blood-sucking arachnids that can carry pathogens – bacteria, viruses and parasites – like those that cause Lyme disease. Now, McGill University PhD candidate Kirsten Crandall says pathogens that are local to other regions are beginning to show up across central Canada.

“While the bacteria that causes Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne pathogen in Canada, other tick-borne pathogens are moving in,” she said in a media release published on Nov. 17.

In a study published in the medical journal Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases on Nov. 9, Crandall and her co-authors from McGill and the University of Ottawa warned that two pathogens, Babesia odocoilei and Rickettsia rickettsii, had been detected in Canada outside of their historic geographic range.

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Babesia odocoilei causes a malaria-like parasitic disease called babesiosis. Babesiosis can be asymptomatic or it can cause flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, sweats, headache, body aches, loss of appetite, nausea or fatigue.

Rickettsia rickettsii causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever and anaplasmosis, and is normally found in the United States, Western Canada, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Bolivia.

Both bacteria can infect animals and humans, and both were found in ticks and small mammals in Quebec. According to the study, climate change, habitat fragmentation and changes in the abundance of tick populations and their hosts are all driving the spread of emerging tick-borne pathogens like these across Canada.

“The presence of these pathogens changes the risk of disease for Canadians and animals in some densely populated areas of Canada,” Crandall said.

Crandall and her team made the detections using methods that went beyond those normally used in tick monitoring studies. By testing ticks at all life cycle stages, they discovered that female ticks can actually pass pathogens to their larval young. They also tested for pathogens not already listed as nationally notifiable diseases in Canada.

She said the findings demonstrate the need for better testing and tracking to detect the spread and potential risk of tick-borne pathogens to humans and animals throughout the country.

“Only two tick-borne pathogens are listed as nationally notifiable diseases in Canada: Lyme disease and tularemia,” she said. “However, we are seeing increased cases of diseases like anaplasmosis and babesiosis in humans in Canada.”

Jeremy Kerr, a professor and research chair at the University of Ottawa’s department of biology, said the study highlights the importance of funding more research into tick-borne diseases that haven’t historically been common in Canada.

“If we don’t know that pathogens are present, we can’t equip Canadians with the information they need to protect themselves,” he said in a statement released on Nov. 17. “COVID has diverted public health resources away from challenges like this one, and we need to remember that these tick-borne diseases are on the move too.”

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