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EXCLUSIVE: China, Meng Wanzhou and Canada — how Huawei CFO’s arrest is playing out behind the scenes

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Ever since Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou landed at Vancouver’s YVR airport at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 1 to catch a connecting flight to Mexico, Canada has been placed in the middle of a battle between the world’s two greatest powers.

Meng, 46, is at the centre of allegations that Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications giant linked to China’s People’s Liberation Army, has used a Hong Kong shell company known as Skycom to do business with Iran, defying U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Huawei denies the allegations.

The United States alleges Meng has been avoiding travel to the country ever since she learned of investigations into her business dealings. But when Meng landed in Vancouver and tried to pass Canadian customs on Dec. 1, she was flagged for detention and arrested by the RCMP, as the U.S. had filed proceedings for an extradition request with Canada.

Now, a high-stakes game of politics, espionage and covert surveillance operations is playing out in Vancouver, where Meng, one of China’s most powerful executives, was released on bail after a three-day hearing that was followed by media outlets worldwide.

READ MORE: Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou granted bail, will live in Vancouver under electronic surveillance

Sources in law enforcement and government provided accounts of the unfolding events in British Columbia, a case that experts say has triggered a serious international crisis for Canada.

Already, China has apparently retaliated for Meng’s arrest by detaining two Canadians on national security charges, former Canadian ambassadors to China and CSIS employees say. And China has promised further revenge.

However, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland told reporters Friday that China has drawn no connection between the arrests and the extradition of Meng.

WATCH: Who is Michael Spavor, the second Canadian to go missing in China?






Sources in this story could not be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information they provided.

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, while media outlets from around the world prepared to attend a Vancouver court hearing that would decide where Meng should stay during the pending extradition hearing — in one of her two luxurious homes in Vancouver or in jail — some elite RCMP officers already believed they had the answer.

A source told Global News the officers were saying Meng would be released later that day. They were right: Tuesday afternoon, Justice William Ehrcke released Meng on a $10-million security. Later that night, as media cameras crowded around, Meng was escorted in a protective embrace to a black Cadillac Escalade SUV by Scot Filer, a respected former RCMP geographic profiler with business experience in China, and the CEO of Lions Gate Risk Management, the private firm handling Meng’s security while she’s out on bail.

A vehicle is seen outside of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s home in Vancouver on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A source said that while some of Canada’s business leaders have suggested the country was wrong to arrest Meng because of the political and economic consequences as well as the damage China has promised to inflict, it was never an option to let her continue on her travels to Mexico, where she reportedly planned to conduct business for Huawei.


READ MORE:
‘China will take revenge’ if Canada doesn’t free Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou: Global Times editor

Extradition requests from the United States are a standard, daily occurrence to be handled by Department of Justice Canada officials, a law enforcement source familiar with the Meng case and the general process said. As long as the evidence and allegations filed by an extradition treaty partner are in order, a suspect will be detained and enter the hearing process, and there will never be political interference, the source said.


Meng has two Vancouver homes worth $22 million in total. Now that she is living in one of the homes, RCMP officers are conducting covert surveillance operations in the area at night, a source said. This is to make sure that Meng doesn’t attempt to flee Canada and to monitor whether Chinese state agents attempt to contact her, according to a source.

At this time, since Meng has few friends in Vancouver; it is only neighbours attending her home, a source said.

Agents of China’s powerful Ministry of State Security, which protects China’s national interests and conducts intelligence operations in foreign lands, are also believed to be covertly monitoring Meng, a source said. And while crowds of Meng’s supporters protested for her release this week outside a downtown Vancouver court, MSS agents were also believed to be monitoring the events.

“Absolutely, the MSS are here (watching Meng) in Vancouver,” one source said.

Supporters hold signs and a Chinese flag outside B.C. Supreme Court during the third day of a bail hearing for Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The RCMP did not directly answer questions for this story nor deny information provided to Global News.

In a statement, the RCMP said: “Under the terms of a consular agreement between Canada and the People’s Republic of China, the RCMP contacted Chinese consulates in Vancouver and Ottawa within hours of the arrest.”


READ MORE:
Trudeau’s justice minister will make final call on Meng Wanzhou extradition — if court approves it

Stephanie Carvin, a Carleton University professor and former strategic analyst for CSIS who was not involved in tactical operations, said China has “robust” global spy networks, and it would make sense for MSS agents in British Columbia to be conducting operations to protect China’s national interests.

“Huawei is not a normal company in any sense,” Carvin said. “It is wrapped up in Chinese nationality and represents (Chinese President) Xi Jinping’s interests as a national champion company. It doesn’t surprise me the Chinese state is taking a huge interest (in Meng’s case in British Columbia) and retaliating with these two kidnappings of Canadians in China.”

Carvin said that while the RCMP is not usually the lead agency in Canada’s counter-intelligence operations, it would make sense that the RCMP “wants to keep track of who is coming and going from Meng’s residence.”

WATCH: Supporters of Huawei and Meng Wanzhou protest for her release outside a Vancouver court house.






Meanwhile, according to B.C. political sources, there was high-level interest within the provincial government about Meng’s detention conditions.

State media in China have charged that Meng’s arrest was an affront to her dignity and human rights. In an editorial titled “Canada’s treatment of Meng Wanzhou in violation of human rights,” the Global Times claimed that Meng was “immediately handcuffed at the airport and taken to a detention facility…subjected to rude and degrading treatment…put into restraining devices used on felons.”

A source claimed that while Meng’s initial detention and bail proceedings played out, B.C. Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff Geoff Meggs allegedly took an interest in where and how Meng was detained. The source said Meggs reportedly had a call made to the office of B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth “expressing concern that they could not hold Meng in a Canada Border Services facility…(and saying Farnworth) needs to make sure she is extended courtesies.”

Meng was detained before her release at B.C.’s Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge. The CBSA did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the case.

The reported contact from the premier’s office to Farnworth was seen as “odd,” according to a source with knowledge of the case.

WATCH : Ralph Goodale says rumoured ban on Huawei is ‘speculation’






Meggs was not available for an interview. However, in response to requests for comment from Global News, a spokeswoman from the premier’s office said it was “our communications director (that) made an informational request about what had been reported in media about Ms. Meng.”

In an emailed response, a spokeswoman for Farnworth said: “The premier’s communications director contacted the solicitor general’s office to simply gain clarity on what was being reported on this investigation. This is standard procedure. This was a request for information only — there was no request for any change in circumstances.”

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of China’s detention of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, a source with knowledge of Canadian relations with China said that Canada should expect China to carry out threats of revenge. It has been reported that China’s MSS is handling the cases of both Kovrig and Spavor.

“The Chinese don’t just say threats,” a source said. “This would be all planned out from Beijing beforehand. If they say they will do something, they are going to do it.”

Canada is currently considering whether to take further action, such as issuing travel advisories for China, a source said. A B.C. trade mission to China has already been cancelled, and on Friday, federal Tourism Minister Melanie Joly reversed her position from Thursday, deciding to postpone a trip to China.

The situation is so volatile, a source said, that the RCMP is also considering cancelling an international police training mission to China’s mainland that is scheduled for early 2019.

sam.cooper@globalnews.ca

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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Anglais

Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar is the Latest to Hatch in West Island’s Bubbling Restaurant Scene

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Wings are the thing at the latest restaurant to make its mark on Montreal’s West Island: Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar.

At the buzzy new Dollard-Des Ormeaux eatery, the bird limbs come aplenty, with a menu listing eleven “wet & messy” wings, including smoked apple habanero, sriracha lime, and cherry cola BBQ; and four — cacio e pepe, ketchups chip, Nashville hot, and the garlicky, lemon pepper “vampire slayer” — dry rub flavours. They come 10 for $18 or 20 for $34, plus the option of ranch, parmesan, or blue cheese dipping sauce.

Tacos, nachos, poutines (one made with bone marrow, another with tater tots), smashed burgers, salads, and a classic buttermilk fried chicken dinner are just sampling of the other dishes that round out the offering. On the drinks side, there are cocktails, sangrias, and spiked milkshakes in popular chocolate bar flavours: After Eight, Skor, Bounty, or Reeses.

Opened on July 5, Birdhouse is among a recent influx of restaurants to grace the island’s western end, including birria taco slinger Tacos Don Rigo and barbecue joint Smoke Box — a double whammy in the same Pierrefonds area strip mall. That comes in addition to plans for Fairview Pointe Claire’s incoming “District Gourmand” (slated to usher in Tommy Café), and, of course, a number of the area’s longer-standing stalwarts — from southern belle Bistro Nolah to old-school casse-croûte Smoked Meat Pete — that have helped bolster the West Island’s culinary credentials.

The brand-new Brunswick Boulevard restaurant is the brainchild of Montreal entrepreneur Lorne Schwartz, restaurateur George Massouras (of Madisons and Arahova Souvlaki), and among the other partners involved, Brahm Mauer, son of the founder of beloved buffalo hot wings expert Wings ‘n’ Things. Mauer has tried his hand at reviving the original Wings ‘n’ Things recipe — the restaurant originally opened in 1986 — over the years, including with a Royalmount Avenue location in 2012, then as a roaming summertime food truck and NDG pop-up. That same truck has now been made over with a Birdhouse-branded livery to be deployed for private events.

A likely draw to many, Birdhouse is reprising the “famous flavours, untouched” of the once-upon-a-time NDG staple, represented on its menu as “The Legendary WNT Buffalo” chicken wing.

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