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Why experts say Canada should follow Australia’s lead on China in wake of Huawei crisis

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VANCOUVER—Canada should not be afraid to follow Australia’s lead in standing up to Beijing in policy and practice, say experts who have analyzed foreign relations for decades.

Ottawa has long prioritized economic gain over national security, worrying over the state of its relationship with the global heavyweight rather than voicing and defending its interests, say analysts.

Australian Defense Minister Christopher Pyne visited Beijing for his first time last month, which analysts say suggests that new, hawkish Australian security policy has been taken in stride by its heavyweight neighbour.
Australian Defense Minister Christopher Pyne visited Beijing for his first time last month, which analysts say suggests that new, hawkish Australian security policy has been taken in stride by its heavyweight neighbour.  (Andy Wong / The Associated Press)

The Australian experience shows that, over time, Beijing will make room for firmly drawn boundaries. A case in point is the 2018 overhaul of Australian national security and foreign interference laws that added 38 new crimes to the books. They cover, among other things, engaging in covert activity at the behest of a foreign power to influence politics and a ban on foreign political donations.

Then in February 2019, Australia blocked the citizenship application of billionaire Huang Xiangmo, a prominent political donor and former top lobbyist for Beijing, stranding him, possibly for good, outside the country where he had lived with his family for most of a decade.

Observers in both Australia and Canada said these developments constitute a “clear signal” meant to usher in a new, more muscular era for Australian national security in its response to potential threats from foreign actors, including its largest trading partner.

Despite sharp words from Beijing on the new, more hawkish stance, Beijing invited Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne to visit in November 2018, the first time in nearly three years an Australian holding that office had stepped foot on Chinese soil. Likewise, Australian Defence Minister Christopher Pyne visited China at the end of January 2019, even as reports confirmed that Australian writer Yang Hengjun was being held on suspicion of endangering national security.

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An expert in Asian security and international relations at La Trobe University in Melbourne said this suggests diplomatic relations between Australia and China are being “reset,” despite significant tensions over the new legislation, Huang’s citizenship, and the imprisoned Australian writer.

“To me it proves that if you’re willing to just maintain your continuity of policy, not give in to pressure and don’t feel you have to buckle because of a perceived risk of economic retaliation, China can accommodate that over time in the relationship,” said Euan Graham, executive director of La Trobe Asia, who is charge of the school’s Asia strategy.

Tensions between Western countries and China should be expected, Graham said, and it’s important to accept that reality as part of the narrative so “we don’t just dress things up in terms of ever-closer friendship and partnership, because that has failed to carry the public with it.”

After extensive redrafting, Australia’s new laws passed with bipartisan support in parliament, suggesting heightened vigilance has become a permanent feature of Australia’s stance toward Beijing and other foreign powers.

“Australia’s experience should be an example for us, not just because it is admirably clear-eyed, but because it shows a degree of self-confidence that we should emulate,” David Mulroney, who was Canada’s ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012, wrote in an email.

“China commonly seeks to compel its adversaries to capitulate without a struggle,” said Mulroney, who is now a fellow at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. “We shouldn’t be afraid to stick to our principles because we’ll find that, despite its bluster, China is pragmatic and will seek to protect its own considerable interests in the relationship with Canada.”

Conservative MP Peter Kent said both Canada and China have “learned the hard way,” that the Communist Party of China (CCP) will use the country’s economic might to meet its “imperial objectives” by leaning on both Western countries and developing nations.

Kent, who served as a federal minister and international executive co-chair of the China council under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, pointed to “predatory economic policies” in countries like Panama, where China made several major national investments in order to “leverage” the Panamanian government into cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Kent characterized the move as “loansharking to gain influence” in Beijing’s bid to isolate Taiwan — a self-governing, democratic nation which China considers part of its territory — from international support.

“Increasingly, during our years in government, we learned to be much more cautious about an increasingly aggressive, imperialistic, bullying Chinese government,” he said.

Beijing’s growing economic influence signals a shift in “world order,” he added, which demands a change in Ottawa’s approach to engagement with China.

The issue of foreign influence and interference in the Canadian political sphere is another ongoing, slippery problem that successive governments have grappled with, Kent said.

“I hope the Liberal government is finally realizing that China is not like our democratic partners, that China does not recognize the rule of law or a level playing field or treaties or contracts signed, and it is time to rethink, perhaps, that relationship in the way that Australia has.”

But, he cautioned, with tensions between China and Canada escalating, now may not be the time to attempt redress with new legislation, which could be seen as a direct indictment of Beijing by an already-furious Communist Party.

The Dec. 1 arrest in Vancouver by Canadian authorities of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of star Chinese tech giant Huawei, outraged Chinese officials, who have since lobbed accusations of “backstabbing” and “white supremacy” at the Canadian government. In the following weeks, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained in China in apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest, which observers have called “hostage diplomacy.”

China's Ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye is one of several Communist Party officials to take aim at Canada over its arrest of a top Chinese tech executive in December. Experts say threats are par for the course in dealings with Beijing, and Australia's example shows boundaries can earn respect from the Chinese state.
China’s Ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye is one of several Communist Party officials to take aim at Canada over its arrest of a top Chinese tech executive in December. Experts say threats are par for the course in dealings with Beijing, and Australia’s example shows boundaries can earn respect from the Chinese state.  (The Canadian Press)

Meanwhile, a federal review of the potential security risks posed by Huawei equipment in Canada’s forthcoming 5G infrastructure is underway. Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye has warned of “repercussions” should Canada follow the example of New Zealand, the U.S. and Australia in banning the company from such projects.

But allowing national security to be overshadowed by the quest to appease an increasingly belligerent foreign power is what brought Canada to its current diplomatic impasse to begin with, argued Alex Joske, a researcher working with the International Cyber Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra.

“This is really something that to some extent the West has brought on itself by tolerating misbehaviour and non-compliance to international agreements and public statements and promises from China for many decades now,” said Joske, an expert in CCP influence, overseas Chinese communities and Chinese military technology.

“Because countries have historically taken this quite simple approach to engagement, where engagement itself was seen as a good, that’s just led to a lot of countries downplaying — or not really looking closely enough at — cases where engagement is actually not contributing to their national interest.”

But Paul Evans, director of the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia, said while he believes some areas of Canadian law need reform to address the challenges that face a modern nation-state, Australia is not the example to follow.

“What I don’t support is the Australian national legislation,” he said, pointing to civil rights groups in the country who argue the new laws could be exploited by Australian officials looking to clamp down on domestic dissent by criminalizing protests or silencing opinions critical of government.

In particular, Evans worries Australia’s legislation risks blurring the line between citizens whose perspectives align with the Chinese government and those actively seeking to undermine the Canadian political process for the benefit of the Communist Party.

“I think (such laws are) unnecessary in Canada, because we have certain antibodies, or antidotes, to Chinese influence activities here that are not perfect, but that generally (work) fairly well.”

He pointed to numerous Chinese-Canadian communities that are finely attuned to identifying local players in organizations that work to realize Communist Party goals globally. They include the United Front, an offshoot of the CCP which works to influence local politics, the Chinese diaspora and foreign elites.

Huang Xiangmo, the Chinese national whose permanent residency was recently revoked in Australia, was chairman of the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China, which Australian analysts confirmed is “the number one United Front organization within Australia.”

The United Front is likewise active in Canada, according to Charles Burton, an expert on the foreign policies of Western nations toward China.

He said conversations around the limits and potential overreach of a Canadian legislation modelled on the Australian example would be challenging if not arduous.

But, he argued, difficult conversations are necessary given the charged and increasingly perilous nature of global relations, where the balance of economic power is shifting from the U.S. to China.

In the past, Canadian policy has been geared toward securing greater access to the Chinese market to “promote Canadian prosperity and to reduce our dependence on the United States,” said Burton, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Centre for Advancing Canada’s Interests Abroad. Meanwhile, the concerns of Canadians over issues such as China’s human rights violations and pugnacious international conduct have been seen as secondary to the pursuit of expanding trade, he added.

The current conflict between countries does suggest that strengthening foreign policy now would not be “politically prudent,” Burton said. But once the Kovrig and Spavor cases are resolved, that would be the time to revise Canada’s plan on how it should engage China.

The Australian Embassy in Beijing. Experts say Australia's relationship with China provides proof a balance can be struck between clear-eyed engagement and clearly articulated, firmly defended national security policy.
The Australian Embassy in Beijing. Experts say Australia’s relationship with China provides proof a balance can be struck between clear-eyed engagement and clearly articulated, firmly defended national security policy.  (The Associated Press)

Australia’s example also provides lessons in terms of how intelligence services can most effectively track, monitor and address foreign interference, said Wesley Wark, a security and intelligence expert who served two terms on the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council on National Security from 2005 to 2009.

“One of the real problems for Canada is for the last 17, 18 years, we’ve been obsessively focused with the question of terrorism, at home and globally,” he said in an interview.

“And because of that focus, we’ve paid much less attention, given much fewer resources, to dealing with both foreign intelligence on major state actors and foreign interference in terms of intelligence and espionage activities,” said Wark, who is currently director of the Security and Policy Institute for Professional Development at the University of Ottawa.

Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former senior manager and senior intelligence officer with CSIS, said competing perspectives on what form new Canadian foreign policy laws should take is exactly the reason legislation is needed.

From a national security perspective, he said the “Achilles heel” of democracy is that governments constantly pursue reelection. Because political winds may shift every several years, policy can be overturned when leaders change.

This is not the case with China.

“The Chinese government is there to stay. This allows them, with the central committee, to plan not only years ahead, but generations ahead … So agents of influence can be planted which will bear fruit only years from now. They have the capability to be patient.”

It’s a competitive advantage that short-sighted Western governments are hard-pressed to address through policy alone, he said.

The value of a law is that it survives regime changes. And while thrashing out new, potentially controversial legislation can take years, it’s a challenge that can — and must — be resolved, said Juneau-Katsuya.

Perrin Grauer is a Vancouver-based reporter covering community issues and Canada’s drug policies. Follow him on Twitter: @perringrauer

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Anglais

Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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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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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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