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Toronto Star

Former ambassadors and academics urge China’s president to release Canadian men

Jan 21, 2019 2:11:20 PM

chinese president xi jinping former ambassadors and academics urge chinas president to release canadian men 21 01 2019 federal politics thestar dam content  https:

OTTAWA—More than 100 former ambassadors and prominent academics specializing in China and Asian affairs are appealing directly to Chinese President Xi Jinping for the release of two Canadian men who the Trudeau government says are being “arbitrarily” held by Chinese state security forces.

In an open letter published Monday, a copy of which was sent to the Star, 26 former ambassadors to China and 115 scholars from around the world say they are “deeply concerned” about the detentions and say it sends a chilling message to all who want to build bridges with China.

The letter comes as Beijing moved to soften its tone a week after its ambassador to Canada warned the Trudeau government it would face “repercussions” if it banned Huawei, the Chinese corporate giant that wants to play a key role in developing Canada’s 5G networks, the next generation of high-speed wireless networks.

Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokesperson, told reporters Monday that Ambassador Lu Shaye “did not mean that China intends to interfere in the decision-making of the Canadian government.”

She said Huawei “is a leading supplier in the 5G technology, so losses are inevitable if Huawei is not chosen as a co-operation partner,” later adding “We have been reasoning with the Canadian side, not threatening it.”

Nevertheless, the Chinese spokeswoman talked tough and accused Canada of “irresponsible” remarks and “microphone diplomacy” in its efforts to rally international allies to protest the men’s detention.

She disputed Canada’s claims that the leaders of Germany and Singapore have publicly supported Canada’s position, saying neither made public comments.

Canada’s allies have made varied statements of support.

But the letter published Monday by former diplomats, including five past Canadian envoys, and many others shows more than 140 Western experts on China speaking with one voice. Hua dismissed it Monday, according to a transcript posted on the foreign ministry website.

“I wonder who these western scholars and officials are and how much do they know about the real situation regarding the cases of the two Canadian citizens,” she said, adding foreign citizens are welcome in China. “As long as they abide by Chinese laws and regulations, there is nothing to worry about.”

The former diplomats and academics make no explicit reference to China’s unspecified allegations against former Global Affairs Canada diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, but the letter implicitly refutes the vague allegations.

Chinese state security officials arrested the two separately after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, wanted by the U.S. for allegedly lying to skirt American sanctions on Iran.

The Chinese government is rebuffing Canada’s calls for the men’s release. Beijing says the Canadians are being held on suspicion of “activities endangering China’s national security” but they have not been charged.

“Many of us know Michael Kovrig through his work as a diplomat in Beijing and as the senior expert for northeast Asia at the International Crisis Group, an organization whose mission is to ‘build a more peaceful world’,” the letter reads.

“In both roles, Kovrig regularly and openly met with Chinese officials, researchers, and scholars to better understand China’s positions on a range of important international issues.”

“Michael Spavor has devoted his time to the task of building relationships between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and China, Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere.”

Spavor had co-ordinated sporting and cultural trips into North Korea through his China-based business and made headlines when he worked as a fixer for former NBA superstar Dennis Rodham’s trip to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Read more:

China’s ambassador accuses Canada of ‘backstabbing’ in arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou

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The one-page appeal, in English and Chinese, says that kind of on-the-ground engagement is the foundation of serious research and diplomacy.

It says their detentions “send a message that this kind of constructive work is unwelcome and even risky in China.”

It cautions that people who share “Kovrig and Spavor’s enthusiasm for building genuine, productive, and lasting relationships must now be more cautious about traveling and working in China and engaging our Chinese counterparts.” That leads to less dialogue and greater distrust “and undermine(s) efforts to manage disagreements and identify common ground.”

“Both China and the rest of the world will be worse off as a result,” the signatories wrote.

Among the group are five former ambassadors to China from Canada — Fred, Bild, Joseph Caron, David Mulroney, Guy Saint-Jacques and Rob Wright. It is also signed by former envoys from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Sweden, and Mexico, two former U.S. deputy assistant secretaries of state, and former foreign ministers from the U.K. and Australia.

The letter “respectfully” asks the Chinese president for the “immediate” release of the two Canadian citizens “so that they may be reunited with their families.”

One Canadian signatory, Joseph Caron, ambassador to China from 2001 to 2005, said he signed the letter “because it was the moral thing to do,” but declined further comment.

David Mulroney, who was Ottawa’s envoy from 2009-2012, said the letter is signed by a list of people “who have spent decades learning about China and trying to understand and interpret it. China has an interest in being better understood.”

He said it should remind people that “this is more than a Canada-China dispute.”

“Many people, from many places, are worried about the extent to which China is closing itself off, and punishing those who have struggled to understand it and explain it to others.

“China typically succeeds by isolating countries and punishing them, while others look on in silence. Sweden has just experienced this, and now we are, too. By broadening the discussion about what’s happening, we make it harder for China to bully smaller states.”

Last week, Beijing’s ambassador in Ottawa Lu Shaye signalled the Chinese government has no intention of intervening in what is now an investigation led by state security forces. He said that as the investigation “deepens and advances” the charges would be made “clear” and “specific.”

Lu insisted China is taking “compulsory measures” under law against the men. He contrasted that with Canada’s detention of Meng which he called “groundless” because she has broken no Canadian law. Meng is out on bail, restricted to remaining in Vancouver where she lives at one of her two mansions pending her extradition hearing. China wants her set free immediately.

On Sunday, newly appointed federal Justice Minister David Lametti said officials in his department, not him, will decide the next step, which is whether to issue the “authority to proceed” to put the U.S. case against Meng before a Canadian judge.

Under a bilateral treaty, the U.S. has until Jan. 30 to produce its documents or “record” of the case to Canada’s justice department’s international assistance group, which then has 30 days to review the package.

If all is in order, the justice department officials would grant the authority to proceed and its lawyers would argue on behalf of the U.S. before a Canadian judge that the U.S. has produced documents that meet the legal threshold to have Meng extradited to face fraud charges. A Canadian court judge will decide if indeed the U.S. has produced enough evidence that would have been sufficient to send Meng to trial if the conduct had occurred here, but doesn’t pronounce on guilt or innocence. Then it’s up to the justice minister to decide whether to surrender Meng to be extradited, taking account of legal and political factors.

“I will only intervene after a court decision to extradite with respect to the execution of that decision,” said Lametti.

“So in terms of the process I will stay away from the process in order to not be tainted if I do have to make a decision one way or the other,” Lametti told reporters Sunday.

The ex-diplomats’ and academics’ letter comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues his efforts to speak to other national leaders about Canada’s concerns in the affair.

Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc

Ford warns that Ottawa’s carbon pricing plan could cause a recession

Jan 21, 2019 12:31:00 PM

doug ford ford warns that ottawas carbon pricing plan could cause a recession 21 01 2019 provincial politics thestar dam content  https:

Premier Doug Ford is warning of a recession if the federal government forces a carbon tax on Ontario.

In a luncheon speech to the Economic Club of Canada, the premier said Monday the tax would be a “disaster” because “there are already warning signs on the horizon.”

“The risk of a carbon tax recession is very, very real,” he added.

Environment Minister Rod Phillips defended Ford’s use of the word recession, saying it is “entirely appropriate.”

“There are negative economic consequences when you start over-taxing Ontarians,” he told reporters.

A recession is typically described as two consecutive quarters of a shrinking economy.

Under the federal plan, the average Ontario household will pay $244 more annually on gasoline, natural gas and home heating oil, but will receive $300 back in rebates for a net gain of $56 a year, bankrolled by big industrial polluters.

Neither Ford nor Phillips specified how the federal plan would trigger a recession.

Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission, an independent economics think tank, said in a statement that Ford’s warning “is not substantiated by credible evidence.”

“Our research…as well as a wide body of literature, shows that economic impacts from carbon pricing and revenue recycling will be very modest.”

Greenpeace said the Ontario government’s plan to fight climate change, introduced in November, is not sufficient to meet the challenges facing the environment.

“Ignoring climate change won’t make it go away or make Ontario immune to the more extreme storms, flooding, smog, droughts and wildfires that can only be avoided by a rapid transition to renewable energy,” Greenpeace spokesman Keith Stewart said in a statement.

“We need a government committed to supporting much-needed jobs building electric vehicles, installing solar panels and other climate solutions rather than trying to boost sales of gasoline.”

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

Commuters continue to face delays as extreme cold weather impacts transit service across Toronto

Jan 21, 2019 5:49:44 AM

afwcoldweather04 extreme cold warning for toronto starts off chilly snowy week 21 01 2019 starweather news thestar dam content  https:

Passengers are bracing for more delays on the ride home after the bitterly cold weather was blamed for the longer-than-usual commute Monday morning on the TTC and GO Transit.

Service was disrupted on the TTC subway lines because of the extreme cold in the GTA. Buses were added to the 501 Queen streetcar service in the morning, while the 506 Carlton was entirely replaced by buses.

“We don’t anticipate there being the same issues this afternoon but we will monitor,” Stuart Green, the TTC media relations and issues management specialist, said in an email.

“We’re deploying additional track and signal crews throughout the day and into tomorrow morning to check and de-ice any switches still experiencing issues. These extra steps we’re taking should mitigate only those weather-related issues we experienced this morning.”

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Most GO Trains going into Union Station in the morning ran 15-to-20 minutes late.

“This morning overall, just from a system-wide perspective, we found there weren’t any extreme service disruptions for our trains and buses,” Metrolinx spokesperson Scott Money said. “There were a variety of weather-related issues that did cause service to be slower than normal.”

According to Money, most of the delays on the GO trains were caused by icy snow infiltrating the doors and the entire mechanism, resulting in doors either unable to close or unable to open.

Money added that for the afternoon rush hour, “we’ll have extra crews on hand again and throughout the day now they’re working to make sure all the switches are working properly, de-icing all the doors to minimize any delays for the afternoon.”

Coming out of an icy spell this past weekend, Torontonians face more frigid temperatures with Environment Canada issuing an extreme cold warning on the first day of the week.

While the agency forecasted a temperature of -12 C during the day, a wind chill made it feel like -30 C to -38 C in the morning.

Several school boards cancelled bus service in light of the weather conditions, but schools remain open. Bus service for the Toronto District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board, Durham Region, York Catholic and York Region District, and Simcoe County school boards was cancelled. Peel District School Board buses were running.

According to TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird, the school bus cancellations were over concerns about the engines.

“Based on past experience, we know that a number of buses will not be able to start their engines,” Bird said. “What we don't want is students waiting for a bus that would be extremely late or may never come. So that's why the decision was made to cancel buses today.”

Due to the inclement weather, Toronto schools have also had issues with heat, Bird said.

“We have had a number of reports of issues with heat and water particularly, so if there was a water issue, the boilers are not necessarily working and then that impacts heat,” Bird told the Star. “We have teams spread out across the city fixing those now.”

Torontonians are advised to cover up, wrap around those scarfs and uncuff those pants, as Environment Canada says there’s a risk of frostbite given the conditions. Winds will gust from 20 km/h up to 40 km/h and frostbite can develop “within minutes” when skin is exposed, they said.

The weather agency is also calling for the temperature to sit at -20 C, with wind chill expected to fall between -25 C to -30 C tonight.

The agency is also warning that if it’s too cold for you, it might be too cold for your pet as well.

Things will get considerably warmer after Monday. On Tuesday, Environment Canada is calling for -4 C during the day with a 30 per cent chance of flurries. The temperature will stay the same into the night, but there will be flurries and periods of snow. It might still feel really cold though — with the wind chill it’s forecasted to feel like -21 C in the morning and -9 C in the afternoon.

Wednesday will bring rain and temperatures that will feel tropical in comparison. Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 3 C with a chance of showers. But the warmer weather will be short-lived, with temperatures dropping back below freezing to -5 C in the night. There’s also a 30 per cent chance of flurries so prepare for a wet, even slushy day.

For the rest of the week, plan on leaving your house with considerable layers and a good pair of boots. Thursday will see a high of -2 C with a 40 per cent chance of flurries. There’ll be some sunnier periods throughout the day as well. In the night, the weather will drop down to -8 C with some more snow expected.

Not much will change on Friday — Environment Canada is calling for a high of -8 C during the day with a 60 per cent chance of flurries. The night will bring more cold and more snow with the temperature dropping to a frosty -13 C.

Premila D’Sa is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @premila_dsa

Ilya Bañares is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star's radio room in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @ilyaoverseas

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