Sarah McIver was arrested in China due to employer’s error, her aunt believes

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DRUMHELLER, Alta. –The aunt of an Alberta woman who has been released from custody in China says she believes it was a mistake by her niece’s employer that resulted in her arrest.

Sarah McIver was detained earlier this month over a work-permit issue related to her teaching job, but her aunt Rhona McIver says Sarah is now on her way back to her hometown of Drumheller, Alta.


READ MORE:
Canadian teacher Sarah McIver who was detained in China has been released

Rhona McIver said she believes her niece arrived in China to learn that the school she’d planned to teach at no longer had a job for her, so officials gave her work at another school.

“That’s where the mistake got made,” McIver said from Drumheller in an interview Saturday.

“She probably didn’t even think about it.”

WATCH: China travellers face new rules






McIver’s arrest followed those of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians living and working in China, on allegations they were harming China’s national security.

China arrested Kovrig and Spavor separately after Canadian authorities detained a Chinese technology executive in Vancouver. Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of electronics giant Huawei Technologies, is wanted in the United States on allegations she lied to American banks as part of an effort to get around sanctions on Iran.

China and Canada both insisted McIver’s case was different from Kovrig’s and Spavor’s.

WATCH: Travel Alberta suspends marketing in China amid the country’s ongoing tensions with Canada






Rhona McIver said Sarah’s mother and sister have driven to B.C. to pick her up. She explained that while in China, McIver adopted a puppy, and even though she was able to fly from China to Canada with the dog, there was a problem flying it to Calgary.

“One morning she was going to school and somebody threw out some pups, so she rescued one,” McIver said, adding they could be back in Drumheller by Saturday evening.

READ MORE: Alberta teacher Sarah McIver detained in China because she was working illegally, spokeswoman says

McIver said her niece like to travel and had been to China before, but only as a tourist.

A spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry said last week that a Canadian woman had received an administrative penalty for illegal employment but did not provide further details.

A spokesman with Global Affairs Canada confirmed Friday that a Canadian citizen who was detained in China this month was released and has returned to Canada, but would not release further information due to provisions under the Privacy Act.

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Sarah McIver’s aunt says she believes school officials in China made error

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The aunt of an Alberta woman who has been released from custody in China says she believes it was a mistake by her niece’s employer that resulted in her arrest.

Sarah McIver was detained earlier this month over a work-permit issue related to her teaching job, but her aunt Rhona McIver says Sarah is now on her way back to her hometown of Drumheller, Alta.

Rhona McIver said she believes her niece arrived in China to learn that the school she’d planned to teach at no longer had a job for her, so officials gave her work at another school.

« That’s where the mistake got made, » McIver said from Drumheller in an interview Saturday.

« She probably didn’t even think about it. »

McIver’s arrest followed those of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians living and working in China, on allegations they were harming China’s national security.

2 Canadian men remain in custody

China arrested Kovrig and Spavor separately after Canadian authorities detained a Chinese technology executive in Vancouver. Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of electronics giant Huawei Technologies, is wanted in the United States on allegations she lied to American banks as part of an effort to get around sanctions on Iran.

China and Canada both insisted McIver’s case was different from Kovrig’s and Spavor’s.

Rhona McIver said Sarah’s mother and sister have driven to B.C. to pick her up. She explained that while in China, McIver adopted a puppy, and even though she was able to fly from China to Canada with the dog, there was a problem flying it to Calgary.

« One morning she was going to school and somebody threw out some pups, so she rescued one, » McIver said, adding they could be back in Drumheller by Saturday evening.

McIver said her niece like to travel and had been to China before, but only as a tourist.

A spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry said last week that a Canadian woman had received an administrative penalty for illegal employment but did not provide further details.

A spokesman with Global Affairs Canada confirmed Friday that a Canadian citizen who was detained in China this month was released and has returned to Canada, but would not release further information due to provisions under the Privacy Act.

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Munk Debates blames ‘technical error’ for wrong results in Bannon-Frum faceoff

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Before it even began, the Munk Debate that pitted former Trump strategist Steve Bannon against conservative commentator David Frum was already steeped in controversy.

Now there’s even more.

Protesters yell at ticket holders outside of Roy Thomson Hall Friday night to protest the appearance of former Trump strategist Steve Bannon at the Munk Debates. Toronto police have laid charges against 12 people in connection with the protests.
Protesters yell at ticket holders outside of Roy Thomson Hall Friday night to protest the appearance of former Trump strategist Steve Bannon at the Munk Debates. Toronto police have laid charges against 12 people in connection with the protests.  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star)

The Munk Debates announced on Saturday morning that they made a “technical error” in delivering the results of Friday night’s faceoff between Bannon and Frum after initially announcing that the latter had lost when it had actually been a draw.

The debate had already faced criticism, with calls to cancel the event amid protests over Bannon’s involvement, including a raucous rally outside Roy Thomson Hall that resulted in the arrest of 12 people.

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The Munk Debates typically begin with a vote asking the audience to choose whether they are for or against the question at hand. They also ask whether the audience members are open to changing their votes after listening to the debate. At the end, a final vote is done with the same initial for-or-against question. The debater who swayed votes to their side wins.

At the end of Friday’s event, they asked the audience whether “the future of western politics is populist, not liberal.” The now-incorrect results showed a clear win for Bannon at 57 per cent in favour and 43 per cent against — a far cry from the corrected tally posted Saturday morning of 28 per cent in favour and 72 per cent opposed, resulting in a draw.

“The system involves various people talking behind the scenes,” said Rudyard Griffiths, chairman of The Munk Debates in an interview with the Star. “There’s one person that’s managing the live poll, that person is communicating with another person who is entering it into a slide, and then another operator is collecting those slides that are displayed on the screen in the hall. So there’s a lot of different moving pieces.”

Instead of presenting the numbers in the final vote at Friday’s debate, the tally from the question about whether or not the person’s opinion could be swayed were shown on stage — incorrectly stating that Bannon had won over Frum.

It was also The Munk Debates’ first time collecting votes electronically, having used paper ballots in the past, Griffiths added. They will conduct an internal report into how the error was made and how a mistake like this could be prevented.

Organizers caught on to the error about five to 10 minutes after the final announcement, but it was too late.

“By the time the error had been identified and brought to my attention, the people who were in the hall had left,” Griffiths said. “Some had remained for a post-debate reception and we were able to communicate the results to those people.”

They posted an update to their Facebook page after the debate. On Saturday morning, they sent an email to their members and posted the correction on Twitter.

While votes tend to sway after debates, draws are not unheard of, Griffiths said.

“You’re also talking about a sample of roughly 2,800 people,” Griffiths said. “Some people may change their mind, but other people on the other side may change their minds also. So even though someone’s changed their vote, the net effect of that on the results is negligible.”

People were also entering the debate late and missed the vote on the initial questions, having been delayed by the protest outside.

J.P. Luisi, who attended the debate, was surprised that the corrected results did not yield a clear winner.

“My wife and a few other people that I spoke to changed their vote at the end, so it seemed odd that statistically there wouldn’t be a change,” Luisi said. “It’s like flipping a coin. Theoretically it could land on its edge, but chances are that it will be heads or tales.”

Luisi said the audience seemed shocked at the now-incorrect results announced onstage, especially considering the unexpectedly large swing.

“There was some murmuring in the crowd briefly and then people afterwords were saying that they were surprised that there was such a change,” Luisi said. “Even people that voted for Bannon were surprised that he would have changed opinion that much.”

David Frum posted The Munk Debates’ correction on Twitter.

Stefanie Marotta is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @StefanieMarotta

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