Une décision retardée pour Trans Mountain?

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L’Office national de l’énergie (ONÉ) dira vendredi à Ottawa s’il estime toujours qu’il devrait y avoir expansion de l’oléoduc controversé Trans Mountain, mais le dernier mot du cabinet Trudeau sur l’avenir du projet ne devrait pas intervenir avant l’été.

L’ONÉ réévalue l’impact du projet sur la vie marine, y compris les épaulards vivant au large de Vancouver — qu’on appelle les épaulards résidents du sud et qui sont en voie de disparition —, après que la Cour d’appel fédérale eut statué l’année dernière que l’approbation de l’ONÉ en 2016 n’avait pas pris en compte de manière appropriée les impacts sur les épaulards de la présence de navires pétroliers additionnels dans les eaux.

Après la livraison du rapport, le cabinet aura 90 jours pour décider si le projet controversé sera mis en oeuvre — un délai qui pourrait déjà être repoussé, selon les responsables.

En plus de l’évaluation de l’ONÉ, le ministre des Ressources naturelles, Amarjeet Sohi, a ordonné une nouvelle série de consultations avec les communautés autochtones. Ces consultations ont commencé en octobre et 70 communautés ont maintenant rencontré des équipes fédérales, mais il reste plus de 60 communautés qui ne l’ont pas encore fait.

Il n’y a aucune date limite pour la tenue de ces consultations, mais des responsables du bureau de M. Sohi ont dit à La Presse canadienne qu’une décision définitive sur le projet ne serait pas prise tant qu’elles ne seront pas finies.

Le gouvernement Trudeau subit des pressions pour conclure ce dossier avant les élections de l’automne. Ottawa est aussi contraint d’agir étant donné qu’il a acheté l’oléoduc pour la somme de 4,5 milliards de dollars en août.

L’impact de l’expansion sur les épaulards résidents du sud — dont seulement 74 espèces subsistent — est au centre des discussions. Les écologistes disent que l’oléoduc rendra leur rétablissement presque impossible.

En 2016, l’Office national de l’énergie a conclu que l’élargissement de l’oléoduc Trans Mountain « entraverait davantage » le rétablissement des épaulards, mais a néanmoins donné son feu vert au projet.

Le Plan de protection des océans, dévoilé en 2016, comprend de nouvelles zones protégées pour les baleines, des mesures pour le rétablissement de leur principale source de nourriture, le saumon quinnat, ainsi que des plans pour réduire le bruit des bateaux qui passent chaque année près des baleines. Le plan n’était pas en place lorsque l’ONÉ a examiné le projet pour la première fois.

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Decision on Trans Mountain pipeline’s fate might not come until summer

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Canada’s energy regulator will tell the federal government this week whether it still thinks the Trans Mountain pipeline should be expanded, but cabinet’s final say on the project’s future is still several months away.

The National Energy Board is reconsidering the project’s impact on marine life, including highly endangered southern resident killer whales, after the Federal Court of Appeal ruled last year that the NEB’s 2016 approval failed to properly take into account how the whales would be affected by having additional oil tankers in their waters.

The report’s delivery will start the clock on a 90-day deadline for cabinet to decide whether the controversial project will proceed, a deadline officials are already signalling could be pushed back.

In addition to the NEB review, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi has ordered a new round of consultations with Indigenous communities to satisfy the court.

A team of 60 people has been assigned to consultation teams that have met with 70 communities since October, but that leaves more than 60 affected communities line still waiting for a meeting.

There is no deadline for those consultations to wrap up, but officials in Sohi’s office have told The Canadian Press a final decision on whether the pipeline proceeds won’t be made until those they are complete.

Meantime, cabinet is under immense pressure to decide the fate of the pipeline before the federal election in the fall.

There is also pressure to get the expansion built because Ottawa bought the existing pipeline from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion last August, after political opposition to the expansion left the company’s shareholders reluctant to proceed.

Impact on killer whales key to discussion

The impact of the expansion on the southern resident killer whales — of which only 74 survive — is key to the discussion. Conservationists say the pipeline will make their recovery nearly impossible.

« The decision really comes down to: Will the federal government say that the economic interests associated with the pipeline outweigh the presence of having southern resident killer whales on the landscape, » said Misty MacDuffee, a biologist with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

The whales started the year on a high note with the birth of a new calf, and two more females in the population are pregnant. But the happy news comes with a major caveat: no southern resident baby has survived more than a year since 2015.

The whales are being harmed by everything from boat noise and the decline in chinook salmon to contaminants in the water from sewage. The National Energy Board in 2016 did conclude the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would « further impede » the recovery of the whales, but still gave the project the go-ahead because it said its mandate was to consider the impacts of the pipeline itself, not from project-related marine shipping.

Southern resident killer whales are pictured off the coast of B.C. (C. Emmons/NOAA Fisheries)

Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said he won’t prejudge what the National Energy Board will say, but he is confident the government has put in place enough new protections for whales and other marine life to mitigate the impact of the pipeline.

« No government has ever taken these kind of steps to try to address a critical species like the southern resident killer whale, » he said.

The Oceans Protection Plan, a $1.5 billion federal policy unveiled in 2016, includes new protected areas for the whales; attempts to recover their main food source, Chinook salmon; new research on water contaminants; and plans to reduce noise from the thousands of boats that travel near the whales each year.

The plan was not in place when the National Energy Board first reviewed the project, and Wilkinson notes the court didn’t take it into account either.

MacDuffee said there is nothing that can currently be done to reduce the effects of boat noise on the whales. She adds that while the government says only six more tankers a week will be added, those six tankers will mean the whales will go from being in the presence of boats about 85 per cent of the time, to more than 95 per cent of the time.

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Top prosecutor defends independence and decision to prosecute SNC-Lavalin

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OTTAWA — Canada’s top public prosecutor is staunchly defending her prosecution of Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin on corruption charges, saying her office must remain independent from political interference and judicial supervision.

As a political storm rages over whether the Prime Minister’s Office pressured former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould to cut SNC-Lavalin some slack, a judicial battle to force the Crown’s hand is also unfolding.

SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and two of its subsidiaries have pleaded not guilty to two criminal charges connected to bribes allegedly paid between 2001 and 2011 to the Libyan regime of Moammar Gadhafi: bribing a foreign public official and fraud.
SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and two of its subsidiaries have pleaded not guilty to two criminal charges connected to bribes allegedly paid between 2001 and 2011 to the Libyan regime of Moammar Gadhafi: bribing a foreign public official and fraud.  (Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO)

The company wants the Federal Court to order Kathleen Roussel, the director of public prosecutions and deputy attorney general, to issue “an invitation to negotiate” a mediation deal — one that would spare it from a trial that could lead to a potentially business-killing corporate criminal conviction.

But Roussel is resisting the high-profile effort to change her mind about prosecuting the Quebec company.

In Federal Court documents obtained by the Star, Roussel responds to SNC-Lavalin, saying that it has no legal right or entitlement to any deal; that prosecutors are independent with broad discretion on how to proceed with charges; and that under the Constitution, prosecutors are free from political or judicial interference.

SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and two of its subsidiaries have pleaded not guilty to two criminal charges connected to bribes allegedly paid between 2001 and 2011 to the Libyan regime of Moammar Gadhafi: bribing a foreign public official and fraud.

It says any wrongdoing was carried out by two former employees without the company’s knowledge or consent.

Read more:

Liberals to block opposition attempt to probe SNC-Lavalin affair

Jody Wilson-Raybould maintains silence on SNC-Lavalin allegations

Here’s your primer on the SNC-Lavalin drama in Canadian politics

The company enlisted legal heavyweight and former Supreme Court of Canada justice Frank Iacobucci of the Torys law firm, along with fellow Torys litigator William McNamara to overturn Roussel’s decision to prosecute the company.

In an Oct. 9 letter to Iacobucci and McNamara, Roussel rejected the company’s written pleas and request for an in-person meeting with them and SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce, saying a remediation agreement “is not appropriate in this case.”

She does not say why in the letter, a copy of which is in the court record.

SNC-Lavalin then went to Federal Court seeking judicial review of her decision.

The company says Roussel is required by law to consider the public interest in a mediated settlement that would spare it a conviction.

It argues Roussel did not provide the company any reasons for her refusal, which it called unreasonable, “incoherent,” and threatening the livelihoods of many thousands of employees, customers and pensioners who did not engage in wrongdoing.

That’s because if found guilty, the company would be barred from bidding on government contracts for a decade.

SNC-Lavalin essentially argues it is too big to fail.

It has launched an all-out effort, lobbying the Trudeau government, Opposition leader Andrew Scheer, and others to plead its case, and now wants a Federal Court judge to weigh in.

But in her reply, Roussel tackles the issue head-on.

She says the law passed last year allowing for what is called “deferred prosecution agreements” (a new regime that was stuffed into an omnibus budget bill) is explicit about what factors prosecutors must not consider in corruption cases:

The director of public prosecutions and deputy attorney general Kathleen Roussel is resisting efforts to change her mind about prosecuting the Quebec company.
The director of public prosecutions and deputy attorney general Kathleen Roussel is resisting efforts to change her mind about prosecuting the Quebec company.  (Sebastien Lavallee file photo)

“The prosecutor must not consider the national economic interest, the potential effect on relations with a state other than Canada or the identity of the organization or individual involved” where an organization is charged under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, as in SNC-Lavalin’s case.

In other words, the the director of public prosecutions is arguing that, while the law sets out other criteria Roussel could consider when weighing the public interest, she’s not allowed by law to consider whether a company is too big to fail.

The company, on the other hand, says it has complied with all the law’s prerequisites for entering into negotiations that could see it pay a heavy fine but avoid a criminal conviction:

It says it has overhauled its ethics and corporate governance regime, under the guidance of independent monitors. It has had a “complete turn-over of the SNC-Lavalin’s senior management and board of directors.”

It says it has fired “senior officers who could be considered as having been even remotely associated with the activities in question,” instituted anti-corruption training of its employees and made “permanent transformative changes” to its business practices.

It says the RCMP has levied criminal charges against only one individual regarding the same allegations, who SNC-Lavalin says left the company seven years ago. The company says it has sued that employee civilly for “a massive related embezzlement.”

Roussel rejected the company's written pleas and request for an in-person meeting with them and SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce, pictured, in an Oct. 9 letter.
Roussel rejected the company’s written pleas and request for an in-person meeting with them and SNC-Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce, pictured, in an Oct. 9 letter.  (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS file photo)

And it refers to the “extremely negative,” “unfair” and “dramatic consequences” on the company and its employees if it were eventually convicted and subsequently forbidden from bidding on contracts, especially in a business environment where its unnamed competitors “can and have availed themselves of deferred prosecution agreements in other jurisdictions.”

SNC-Lavalin notes the alternative to a negotiated agreement (that it says could allow the Crown to directly monitor the company for a “reasonable period”) is “a long, expensive and contentious criminal proceeding” whose outcome is uncertain for both sides.

But Roussel is unswayed.

In a written arguments on her behalf, she says a court may only intervene where there is evidence of “egregious” misconduct by Crown attorneys that amounts to an abuse of process.

Otherwise, she says, it is not up to the court to second-guess whether the decisions made everyday across the country by prosecutors are reasonable because it could lead to “paralysis” of the system.

The written brief also takes a strong stand against any political interference in prosecutorial decisions, saying it “could erode the integrity of our system of prosecution.”

Allegations of political interference made for blockbuster headlines recently when the Globe and Mail reported that former attorney-general Wilson-Raybould was shuffled out of her job after she refused pressure by unnamed senior PMO officials to direct Roussel to cut a deal with SNC-Lavalin.

A political storm is raging over whether former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould was pressured to cut SNC-Lavalin some slack.
A political storm is raging over whether former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould was pressured to cut SNC-Lavalin some slack.  (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS file photo)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denies anyone in his office “directed” Wilson-Raybould “to take any decision whatsoever.” Over the weekend, senior government officials have reportedly defended “robust” discussion on the matter, and denied any pressure was exerted on the former justice minister.

But Roussel makes clear her office must be immune from political pressure.

Her brief says the 2006 law that created her office explicitly states that the director of public prosecutions “is an independent organization, separate from the department of justice, and its objectives are to be carried out in a non-partisan manner.”

The director’s written brief filed by lawyers David Migicovsky and Andrew Lenz says although the attorney-general (formerly Wilson-Raybould, now David Lametti) has power to direct the director of public prosecutions, “in the exercise of these powers he (the attorney general) is not subject to direction by his ministerial colleagues or to control and supervision by the courts.”

Migicovsky said in an interview Sunday that SNC-Lavalin’s challenge of Roussel’s decision was heard by Federal Court judge Catherine Kane on Feb. 1 in Montreal. Kane has not yet rendered her decision.

The Star has not received answers to requests for comment sent to Roussel’s office, or from lawyers for SNC-Lavalin.

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

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McGill to make decision on Redmen name by end of academic term

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McGill University in Montreal will decide whether or not to change the name of its Redmen men’s varsity teams by the end of this academic term.

Suzanne Fortier, the school’s principal and vice-chancellor, will be the one making the decision based on the university’s new principles on commemoration and renaming, following calls to change the name from students and Indigenous members of McGill’s community.

« Everyone in our community is understandably eager for a decision regarding the Redmen name, » wrote Fortier in a notice published on the university’s website Wednesday.

Fortier said she has received a high volume of messages from within and beyond McGill’s community expressing opinions on the name since the university’s Working Group on Principles of Commemoration and Renaming issued its final report in December.

« I believe, though, that it is important for me to read, understand and reflect upon all the comments and points of view that have been expressed, and give them the level of consideration and respect with which they were shared, » wrote Fortier.

A logo with a headdress appeared on the football and hockey teams uniforms during the 1980s. (McGill University)

In making her decision, she said she will also seek advice from students, staff and faculty, as well Indigenous members of the McGill community, student athletes and alumni.

« It is essential that I, and all of us as a community, give this important question the time and space that it clearly deserves. »

An online form is also available for those who would like to share their opinions with McGill on the issue.

Decision not being made soon enough for some students

Since the late 1920s, McGill’s men’s varsity teams have been known as the Redmen. The name is said to stem from colours worn by the team.

Indigenous symbols, connotations, and unofficial nicknames were propagated by the media and fans in many circumstances since.

For Tomas Jirousek, the length of time being taken to make the decision is disappointing.

« I can respect the need to have a adequate process of consultation on changing the name. But I think we’ve demonstrated as a community here at the university [we] want to change the name, » he said.

Tomas Jirousek is from the Kainai First Nation in southern Alberta and has been a varsity athlete on McGill’s rowing team for three years. (Jessica Deer/CBC)

Jirousek, a member of the Kainai First Nation in Alberta, is a third-year political science student on the men’s varsity rowing team. He spearheaded the campaign in the fall to change the name, which included an on-campus demonstration in October and an online petition that garnered more than 10,000 signatures.

McGill’s undergraduate student union also held a non-binding referendum that collected 5,856 votes, with 78.8 per cent in favour of the change.

« The decision to delay the process on the decision on changing the name fails to take into account the need for expediency on the issue, » said Jirousek.

« At this very moment, Indigenous students still feel ostracized on this campus because of the Redmen name and delaying the decision continues to drag out this process of pain for a lot of these students. »

READ MORE FROM CBC INDIGENOUS OR FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK

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Ottawa says it won’t be ‘deterred from making the right decision’ on Huawei 5G networks

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SHERBROOKE, QUE—Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the federal government won’t be “deterred” as it considers whether to allow Huawei access to 5G networks, pushing back on an implied threat from China that Canada would face economic reprisals if the technology firm is blocked.

Goodale said Friday that the government continues to examine the security and technical considerations around 5G networks, the next generation of wireless technology, but offered no timeline when to expect a decision.

Public Security Minister Ralph Goodale says Ottawa will weigh all factors of allowing Huawei access to Canada’s 5G infrastructure. New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. as well as other countries have already banned the tech company’s access.
Public Security Minister Ralph Goodale says Ottawa will weigh all factors of allowing Huawei access to Canada’s 5G infrastructure. New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. as well as other countries have already banned the tech company’s access.  (Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press)

But he said the coming decision would be based on “Canada’s national interest” and not pressure from Beijing.

Read more:

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

Canada Huawei 5G decision said to be months away

The promise of 5G is the problem with Huawei in eyes of critics

“We’ve made it abundantly clear that we will not compromise national security,” Goodale told reporters at the Liberal’s cabinet retreat.

Chinese Ambassador Lu Shaye said Thursday that if Huawei is banned when there is “no evidence” to justify any security concerns, there will be “repercussions” for the bilateral relationship. He said he was unsure what those would be.

Asked Thursday for his reaction, Goodale sought to downplay the warning of economic punishment.

“We understand that those sorts of comments will be made in the process but we will make our judgment based on what’s right for Canada and not be deterred from making the right decision,” he said.

“It’s a tough decision-making process but you can’t shrink from the challenges,” Goodale said.

Other countries, such as New Zealand and Australia, have banned Huawei from their 5G infrastructure, citing national security concerns that the firm could be exploited for espionage by the Chinese government.

“Other countries have obviously made their views known and their views are important to us. We will weigh all of that very carefully in the decision,” he said.

“Ultimately this decision has to be made in the best interests of Canada,” he said.

A negative decision could further complicate already frosty relations between Canada and China.

Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant has angered Chinese authorities. China has since detained two Canadians and a third Canadian has seen a 15-year jail term for drug smuggling turned into a death sentence.

Lu, the Chinese ambassador, told reporters in Ottawa Thursday that Meng’s detention was a “politically motivated” act in violation of international law norms.

With files from Tonda MacCharles

Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier

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Justin Trudeau visits Canadian troops in Mali, defends decision not to extend mission – National

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GAO, Mali — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is returning from Mali Saturday evening after paying a surprise visit to Canadian peacekeepers at their hot and dusty UN base there only days before Christmas.

The trip was Trudeau’s first — and likely only — visit to the West African nation, where about 250 Canadian peacekeepers have been providing lifesaving medical evacuations and transporting equipment and personnel.


READ MORE:
Canadian Forces in Mali unharmed by bomb, extremists claim responsibility

After watching a mock evacuation and serving the peacekeepers a pre-Christmas dinner, Trudeau told the troops they were continuing the Canadian military’s long tradition of helping around the world.

Yet even as he emphasized the importance of bringing peace to Mali, the prime minister defended his government’s refusal to extend Canada’s mission by several months next summer.


READ MORE:
UN reports sharp deterioration in Mali since Canadian peacekeepers arrived

Romanian peacekeepers will take over in Mali next year, but they aren’t expected to arrive until several months after the Canadians have stopped operations.

Sources say the United Nations wants Canada to extend its mission to prevent a gap.

Trudeau, whose government also has yet to deploy a promised transport aircraft to Uganda and a 200-strong rapid reaction force for the UN, played down the effects of a gap and said Canada and the UN are working to ensure a smooth transition.

WATCH: Exclusive: Inside the lives of Canadian peacekeepers in Mali






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Acting OPP chief asks court to examine ombudsman’s decision not to review Ron Taverner appointment

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The acting head of the Ontario Provincial Police has asked a court to rule whether the provincial ombudsman can review the hiring process that saw Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner named as the next OPP commissioner.

The move came Friday, after Ontario ombudsman Paul Dubé turned down a request earlier in the week from Interim Commissioner Brad Blair to probe “potential political interference” in the appointment.

Taverner, a close friend of Premier Doug Ford, is expected to be sworn in as commissioner on Monday. In his original request to the ombudsman on Tuesday, Blair asked that Taverner’s installation to be delayed pending his requested review of the appointment.

According to a statement from Blair’s lawyer late Friday afternoon, Dubé “refused to exercise his jurisdiction to review Commissioner Blair’s request.”

In response, and in one of his final acts as interim commissioner, Blair filed an application to a divisional court “to determine and enforce the jurisdiction” of the ombudsman to review the OPP commissioner hiring process.

“If the Ombudsman does not review the complaint, the independence of the OPP will continue to operate under a cloud of suspicion,” reads the application.

“This is a serious matter as the independence of the OPP — a body that can be called in to investigate provincial politicians — must be seen as legitimate in the eyes of the citizenry.”

The application is relying on a section of Ontario’s Ombudsman Act, which states that when there is a question about whether the ombudsman has the jurisdiction to investigate any case, a directly affected person — in this case Blair — “may apply to the divisional court for a declaration.”

A spokesperson for the ombudsman’s office could not be immediately reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Earlier Friday, the NDP made a personal appeal to Taverner, urging him to delay the appointment until an investigation has wrapped up — and, in a separate letter, called on the province’s attorney general to “stop his swearing in” if he doesn’t.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says Taverner’s appointment is too fraught with controversy, given his close connection to Ford, and said “officers and leadership of the OPP, as well as the people of Ontario must have absolute confidence there has been no political interference … and that there will be no political interference in policing matters going forward.”

In a letter to Taverner, she said he should “do the right thing.

“That is why I am asking you to delay your installation and assuming command of the OPP until a full investigation … has been completed,” Horwath wrote.

She also accused Ford of demonstrating “poor judgment and a lack of transparency.”

In a second letter sent to Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, Deputy NDP Leader Sara Singh said “this appointment cannot go ahead under this growing cloud of suspicion … as Ontario’s attorney general and the chief prosecutor your first duty is to uphold the law … it is incumbent upon you to use your influence and authority as attorney general to intervene in this process and stop the swearing in of Supt. Taverner” for now.

Taverner’s appointment, announced Nov. 29, has dogged by speculation that Ford interfered in the hiring process.

The Star’s Kevin Donovan has revealed that Taverner was previously offered to lead the Ontario Cannabis Store, as well as a deputy minister position in the ministry of community safety with a source saying: “Doug wanted to do something for Taverner. That is what we are hearing.”

Both Ford and Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones have accused critics of slinging mud at the 72-year-old Toronto police superintendent, who has headed divisions in Etobicoke.

Taverner officially resigned from the Toronto police Friday and is set to begin his new job Monday.

Ford recently told reporters he did not recuse himself and signed off on the appointment.

Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones has said she supports Taverner, and that the appointment to the $275,000 position was made by an independent panel.

The NDP is personally appealing to Ron Taverner, urging him to delay taking the top OPP job until an investigation into his appointment has wrapped up — and if he doesn’t, Ontario’s attorney general is being asked to step in to stop his swearing in.

In two letters released Friday afternoon by the NDP, Leader Andrea Horwath says Taverner’s appointment as commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police is too fraught with controversy given his close connection to Premier Doug Ford, and said “officers and leadership of the OPP, as well as the people of Ontario must have absolute confidence there has been no political interference … and that there will be no political interference in policing matters going forward.”

She says Taverner should “do the right thing. That is why I am asking you to delay your installation and assuming command of the OPP until a full investigation … has been completed.”

In a second letter sent to Mulroney, Deputy NDP Leader Sara Singh says “this appointment cannot go ahead under this growing cloud of suspicion … as Ontario’s attorney general and the chief prosecutor your first duty is to uphold the law … it is incumbent upon you to use your influence and authority as attorney general to intervene in this process and stop the swearing in of Supt. Taverner” for now.

Taverner’s appointment, announced Nov. 29, has been lauded by some but heavily criticized by others who alleged Ford interfered in the hiring process.

Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at wgillis@thestar.ca or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

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Brampton MP Raj Grewal rethinking decision to resign, says he repaid gambling debts

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OTTAWA—Brampton East MP Raj Grewal said Friday night that he might not actually resign seat, despite admitting to a gambling addiction that drove him to borrow money from family and friends and prompted him to announce he would step down just last week.

The 33-year-old MP at the centre of a rolling controversy about reported police investigations into his gambling activity broke his silence Friday night in a video posted to his Facebook account.

Eight days after Liberal MP Raj Grewal said on Facebook that he would resign his seat, he said he had changed his mind and hadn’t decide whether to leave politics. He said he would wait to make a decision until Parliament resumes after the winter break in January.
Eight days after Liberal MP Raj Grewal said on Facebook that he would resign his seat, he said he had changed his mind and hadn’t decide whether to leave politics. He said he would wait to make a decision until Parliament resumes after the winter break in January.  (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS file photo)

In the video, Grewal is seen before a curtained window, speaking to the camera about what he calls a “mental health” issue with gambling that took hold after he was elected in 2015.

Eight days after he posted on Facebook that he would resign his seat, Grewal said he had changed his mind and would leave the Liberal caucus, but wouldn’t decide whether to leave politics until Parliament resumes after the winter break in January.

I’ve decided that I will be leaving the Liberal caucus and will be taking a leave of absence to focus on my mental health, and treatment plan,” Grewal said.

He said he accumulated a personal debt in “the millions of dollars” by playing high limit blackjack at the casino across the river from Parliament Hill, and that he fuelled his compulsion with loans from his friends and family. Grewal said all of the loans have been paid back.

“This has nothing to do at all with anything sinister, except to feed my own addiction,” he said.

Grewal apologized to his friends, family, and constituents in Brampton.

Read more:

Brampton MP Raj Grewal still has not resigned his seat

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Supreme Court decision on Vice Media a major ‘setback’ for investigative reporting in Canada: experts – New Brunswick

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The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to compel a Vice Media reporter to hand over material about an accused terrorist will have a damaging effect on investigative reporting across the country and weaken Canadian democracy, say experts and press freedom advocates.

On Friday, Canada’s highest court ruled in a 9-0 decision that Vice reporter Ben Makuch will have to turn over any communications with Farah Mohamed Shirdon, a Calgary man who left Canada to join the so-called Islamic State.

Jeffrey Dvorkin, director of the journalism program at the University of Toronto Scarborough, said the decision is a major “setback for journalists in Canada” as it could leave them open to being perceived as operating as “police agents.”

“Anytime a journalist says to a confidential source, ‘I promise keep your name out of the story,’ now journalists can’t give that guarantee,” Dvorkin said. “We are going to see more intimidation from organizations that are going to prevent journalists from doing their jobs.”

READ MORE: Canadian jihadi Farah Mohamed Shirdon killed in Iraq airstrike in 2015

Dvorkin said that confidential sources, like whistleblowers, might think twice about speaking with a journalist if security agencies can compel journalists to reveal information.

“This is going to be the detriment of journalism and our democracy in general,” he said.

The Supreme Court decision centers on several articles written by Makuch in 2014 based on interviews he had with Shirdon, an outspoken Canadian ISIS member who was infamously featured in a propaganda video that showed him ripping up his Canadian passport and throwing it in a fire.

Shirdon was charged by RCMP with six terror-related offences and investigators obtained a production order in 2015 for Makuch to hand over any communications with the suspected terrorist in order to build their case.

Global News first reported in September 2017 that U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees U.S. military operations in Syria and Iraq, found that Farah Mohamed Shirdon was killed in the city of Mosul on July 13, 2015.

VICE Media and Makuch had fought to have that production order overturned in three lower courts, but the decision was upheld by the Supreme Court on Friday. Several civil liberties groups and media outlets, including Global News, acted as intervenors in the case.

READ MORE: Vice Media challenges RCMP demand for reporter materials in top Ontario court

Writing on behalf of the majority, Justice Michael Moldaver said the production order for Makuch’s materials should stand because disclosure of the materials would not reveal a confidential source as Shirdon used the media to publicize extremist views.

“Mr. Makuch’s own conduct shows that the relationship was not confidential in any way,” Moldaver wrote. “It was Mr. Makuch, not the police, who identified Mr. Shirdon to the public, by publishing the articles that linked Abu Usamah to Farah Shirdon and the YouTube video.”

“The production order strikes a proportionate balance between the rights and interests at stake,” the court ruled. “The order is narrowly tailored, targeting only the journalist’s communications with the source, and those communications are not available from any other source.”

Vice media said the court’s decision “has failed to recognize the importance of a free, and independent press.”

“Today’s decision will no doubt have a chilling effect on both sources, who may be reluctant to talk to reporters, and on journalists themselves, who could be less inclined to report on sensitive issues,” Vice said in a statement. “We strongly believe that the journalism — which is already under attack across the globe — needs to be free from state intervention.”

Karyn Pugliese, with the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, said the ruling is a “dark day” for Canada and reporters will now have to reevaluate when to offer sources anonymity.

“It’s not just about media rights, it’s about the public interest,” she said. “If people are afraid to come forward because they see us as agents of the police — that’s concerning — people won’t come forward.”

WATCH: Canadian terrorism researcher comments on death of Canadian foreign fighter






In its ruling, the Court avoided the Journalistic Sources Protection Act that the Trudeau government enacted in 2017, which aims to shield sources from police investigation.

“Going forward, this new regime will govern production orders relating to ‘journalists,’ even where no confidential source is involved, the facts in this case arose before the JSPA was brought into force,” the court said

Dvorkin said the JSPA is still “very murky” and has yet to be tested in court and it does not put journalists’ sources entirely beyond the reach of a court orders.

A spokesperson for Public Safety Canada said in an email that the ministry is reviewing the decision, which they said attempted to “strike a balance between” the priorities of security agencies and the rights of a free press.

“The intersection between the two is crucial to our democracy. That’s why a unanimous ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada is ‎so significant,” said Scott Bardsley in an email. “We all need to examine and understand the Court’s analysis.”

*With a file from Mike Armstrong

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

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