Norwegian musicians release ‘Moose Truce’ in battle of world’s tallest moose

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Just when you thought the battle of Mac the Moose and Storelgen couldn’t get any more entertaining — Moose Truce was released.


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Mac the Moose weighs in on the battle to reclaim his title as ‘world’s tallest moose’

Composed by VIMARIDA and Ganic and produced by Jonas Holteberg Jensen, the song highlights Moose Jaw’s fight to reclaim the title of the world’s tallest moose and the call for a peaceful solution.

“We wanted to do something funny and we hope that people understand the humor in it,” said Adam Bielek, VIMRIDA guitarist and manager.

“We love Canada and we hope that this case can connect people from Canada and Norway.”

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Linda Otnes Henriksen, deputy mayor of Stor-Elvdal, called for a “moose truce” about two weeks ago.

An article published in Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet on Feb. 1 said Henriksen had reached out to Moose Jaw Mayor Fraser Tolmie about possibly visiting the Canadian town and reaching an agreement on building up Saskatchewan’s Mac the Moose to the same height as Storelgen.


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Norway seeking ‘moose truce’ in battle for world’s tallest moose

The epic battle was sparked by the hosts of YouTube’s the Justin & Greg Show, who pointed out that Mac was dethroned by a mere 30 centimetres.

Canada’s Moosehead Breweries recently donated $25,000 towards the Mac the Moose fund run by the City of Moose Jaw and Tourism Moose Jaw.

A GoFundMe page has also raised close to $13,000.

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Ontario, Toronto release framework for deal to upload city’s subway to Queen’s Park

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It sets the stage for the biggest subway transfer in the history of the Toronto Transit Commission.

Premier Doug Ford’s government on Tuesday released the terms of reference for the deal to “upload” the building and maintenance of new and existing TTC subway lines to the province from the City of Toronto.

Premier Doug Ford has released the terms of reference for the deal to upload the building and maintenance of new and existing TTC subway lines to the province from the City of Toronto.
Premier Doug Ford has released the terms of reference for the deal to upload the building and maintenance of new and existing TTC subway lines to the province from the City of Toronto.  (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press)

The plan, a cornerstone of the Progressive Conservatives’ election platform last June, would leave the TTC responsible for day-to-day operations of the subway while keeping fare box revenues.

Buses and streetcars would continue to be run by the city.

“With an upload, our government can cut through red tape to start new projects and finish construction faster,” Ford promised.

“Necessary maintenance and investment in the subway system has been put off for too long. We’ve also been waiting far too long for subway expansions. New subway construction has been stuck in red tape for years. It’s time to take action and speed things up,” the premier said.

Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek said the “bold action” would speed up construction, making life easier for commuters from across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

“As a government, we are turning priorities into real projects and get the job done. We know that a lack of transit infrastructure and traffic congestion are costing money, jobs and time,” said Yurek as the framework was announced.

Read more:

Law to upload responsibility for Toronto subway to province coming in spring

“The signing of the terms of reference between the province of Ontario and the City of Toronto signals a shared interest to improve subway service, build more transit projects, to expand, and integrate the regional network and get people moving,” he said.

That means a push for more integrated fares and services between the TTC and regional transit systems, including GO.

“As we continue to work with the city and TTC, we will act in an open and transparent manner to get desperately needed transit built sooner and we will make every decision with … taxpayers and transit riders top of mind,” said Yurek.

As part of nine-page accord, Queen’s Park and the city will assess the value of the subway system, which carries 289 million people annually, and the price tag for deferred maintenance.

Sources told the Star that both sides are close to agreeing that the subway is worth between $8 billion and $9 billion, with about $5.6 billion required to maintain and upgrade existing equipment such as signals, tunnels, and track.

That suggests the city would have a one-time net gain on its bottom line of between $2.4 billion and $3.4 billion.

But according to a report published by the TTC last month, the subway network and stations will require roughly $22 billion in capital investment over the next 15 years, a figure that doesn’t include the cost of building the much-anticipated relief line or other expansion projects. More than $16 billion is unfunded.

The required work, which the TTC says is necessary to keep current levels of service and meet future demand, includes capacity improvements on Lines 1 and 2, installing the automatic train control signalling system, buying new trains, and expanding Bloor-Yonge station.

The terms of reference released Tuesday make clear that options on the table include ones that would fall short of a complete transfer of subway assets to the province. The city and province will also examine a model under which Ontario would only assume ownership and responsibilities of new transit expansion projects.

In December, Toronto council voted overwhelmingly to reaffirm its position that the subway should remain in the city’s hands. But at the same meeting of that largely symbolic decision, councillors also voted to enter talks with the province to set terms of reference for discussions about the upload.

Despite Mayor John Tory and the majority of councillors registering their disapproval of the upload proposal, many said they felt they had little choice but to sit down with the province, having received confidential legal advice that the city had no legislative authority to prevent Queen’s Park from taking over the rail network.

“Discussions between city staff and the province will continue now guided by the approved terms of reference and I expect a full report to council at the appropriate time,” Tory said Tuesday.

“I continue to firmly believe that any actions taken with regard to our subway system need to be in the best interests of the people of Toronto, including transit riders and employees, and that Toronto must be completely involved and fully consulted as Premier Ford previously indicated would be the case,” the mayor said.

“It is a good document that has been agreed upon by the two parties to now shape the discussion. The real decision time will come once those discussions have happened and whether or not they produce some kind of a deal or some kind of a change from the status quote that is good for employees, transit riders, taxpayers and anybody else who is a stakeholder from the city of Toronto,” he said.

“I can’t tell you if that’s going to be the case or not.”

At Queen’s Park, the opposition New Democrats said Toronto’s subways are “one step closer to being stolen by Doug Ford.”

“What Toronto’s subways need is the provincial investment they’re owed, not a complicated Doug Ford scheme to break subways apart from the TTC,” said MPP Jessica Bell (University-Rosedale).

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner was also not convinced.

“Centralizing power in the premier’s office is not a silver bullet for fixing transportation delays,” he said in a statement, calling for a downtown relief line as soon as possible.

“Given Ford’s well-documented distaste for above-ground public transit, I am skeptical about the ability of his government to make evidence-based decisions for the TTC,” Schreiner said.

“Putting the relief line on the back burner while Ford builds subways to the suburbs would be disastrous for the TTC and for anyone trying to travel in Toronto.”

The terms of reference released Tuesday lay out objectives that largely reflect council’s stated position from the December meeting that the framework for discussions should give consideration to guiding principles of good governance, fair allocation of financial obligations between the city and province, and an integrated transit system.

They also state the province and city will consult the public on the proposal, which council had also set out as a condition for talks in the December vote.

Under the framework, there would be more private-public partnerships to build infrastructure like the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which is slated to open in 2021.

“The parties jointly recognize the need to pursue alternative approaches to the planning, funding, decision-making and delivery of transit in Toronto, and spanning the broader region,” stated the document signed by the province and the city on Monday.

This means the “accelerated implementation of priority transit projects,” better integration of TTC with Metrolinx and transit agencies in the 905, the “modernization and enhancement” of the existing subway system and a “long-term sustainable, predictable funding model” for transit.

However, there remains a lot of room for the deal to go off the rails.

Josh Matlow, the one member of council who voted against entering into talks with the province, said he took no comfort in the fact the terms state the two parties will consider options under which the city would retain ownership of existing subway assets while ceding new projects to the province.

“I think we’re being suckered,” said Matlow (Ward 12-St. Paul’s).

Citing past statements by the premier and the province’s recently announced strategy of using private development at station sites to fund transit, he charged the Ford government is dead set on taking over Toronto’s subway system wholesale and selling off land and air rights along the lines.

Matlow said councillors would be a “bunch of Pollyannas” to believe otherwise.

“Metaphorically, they’ve already announced that they want to take over your house and all the belongings in it. And to get you to the table to give them your keys and the number for your alarm they’ve said, oh yeah, we’ll also discuss some other options too. Maybe we’ll only take your furniture.”

Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 10- Spadina-Fort York) slammed the upload talks as “a waste of time.”

Cressy said if Ontario was sincere about improving transit, it would increase its spending for the TTC instead of trying to take the subway system from the city.

“If the province truly wants to support the TTC and the movement of people and goods and services in this city, they should invest in it,” he said.

But proponents argue the province, which can borrow more money and run a deficit, will be better positioned to build and repair the subway network.

With files from David Rider

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at bspurr@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr

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

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U.S. ambassador to Canada calls on China to release Canadians from ‘unlawful’ detention

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The U.S. ambassador to Canada said Saturday her country is « deeply concerned » about China’s « unlawful » detention of two Canadians.

Ambassador Kelly Craft said in a statement to The Associated Press the arrests of ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor are « unacceptable » and urged China to end the arbitrary detentions. It is her first public comments on the cases.

China detained the two on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested Dec. 1 at the request of U.S. authorities.

Meng is the chief financial officer of the Chinese tech giant Huawei and the daughter of its founder.

The U.S. wants her extradited to face charges that she committed fraud by misleading banks about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.

Craft said the U.S. Department of Justice’s criminal case against Meng is based solely on the evidence and the law.

« The United States appreciates Canada’s steadfast commitment to the rule of law, » she said.

Michael Spavor, left, and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig were taken into custody in December. (Associated Press/International Crisis Group/Canadian Press)

Some analysts have said the U.S. response to China’s arrests of the two Canadians has been muted. President Donald Trump has not commented on the Canadians. But U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has, saying China ought to release them. The State Department has also issued statements of support.

Craft made no mention of China’s planned execution of a third Canadian. China re-sentenced a convicted Canadian drug smuggler to death last month as part of an apparent determined campaign of intimidation and retribution against Canada.

Beijing threatened grave consequences for Canada after Meng was arrested.

Watch: How can Canada, China mend relationship following Meng arrest?

Canada-China relations are at their worst since the 1970s, according to some analysts. What can be done to mend the fences, and what’s the state of Canada’s broader foreign policy strategy? Our At Issue Panel is here to discuss. 12:17

Canada has embarked on a campaign with allies to win the release of Kovrig and Spavor and many countries have issued statements in support.

The two were detained on vague allegations of « engaging in activities that endanger the national security » of China. They remain locked up without access to lawyers.

Meng is out on bail in Canada and living in one of her two Vancouver mansions awaiting extradition proceedings.

Despite the escalating frictions resulting from the detentions, trade talks between Beijing and the Trump administration remain ongoing. The U.S. has taken pains to emphasize that their trade talks are entirely separate from the U.S. case against Meng.

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Trudeau sought U.S. help to release two Canadians after Trump hinted he might use Meng’s extradition as a bargaining chip, official says

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OTTAWA—The Trudeau government asked the Trump administration to ensure China releases two detained Canadian men if — as U.S. President Donald Trump suggested last month — the U.S. drops Meng Wanzhou’s extradition request as part of negotiations for a trade deal with China, the Star has learned.

A senior Canadian official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Star that the Trudeau government approached the Americans after Trump said in December he wouldn’t hesitate to intervene in the Meng affair if he could secure a better trade or security deal with China.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who spoke directly with Trump, and other officials in their dealings with the Americans, made it clear that if the U.S. was indeed going to use Meng’s extradition as a bargaining chip, the U.S. needed to make sure that the two Canadians who were taken in retaliation by China are released, according to the senior official who had knowledge of the talks.

The insider said the American side agreed the two detained Canadians should be released, but no one in the administration admitted Meng is a pawn in a larger dispute, and the Canadian government still does not know for sure whether Trump was serious or was just trying to put the Chinese off-guard, the source said.

In fact, “some kind of deal with China” was one of the possible outcomes to the uproar over Meng’s arrest that Canada’s Ambassador to China John McCallum laid bare in an extraordinary news conference on Tuesday.

McCallum did not misspeak when he said “some kind of deal with China” might be an option.

McCallum told Chinese-language media Tuesday there were three “options” or ways in which the Meng affair could end. Meng, a Huawei executive, was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1.

He said one, Meng could be extradited as the U.S. has requested to face fraud charges, which he said would “not be a happy outcome; two, the U.S. might offer a resolution in the context of its own negotiations with China, or three, she could be released by a Canadian court.

McCallum said: “The second option would be that the United States made some kind of a deal with China, and part of the deal would be that they would no longer seek her extradition. And we would hope, if the U.S. made such a deal, part of the deal would also be to release the two Canadians. So that is an option, but that is more under the control of the United States than it is under the control of Canada.”

It’s that second option that the Canadian official confirmed to the Star was actively pursued by the Trudeau government.

After his remarks in his former riding were revealed to a broad Canadian audience, a storm of criticism erupted, primarily over McCallum’s opining that Meng had “quite good” and “strong arguments” to win her fight against extradition.

He suggested Trump had politicized her arrest, and listed what he saw “strong arguments” for her lawyers to make.

“One, political involvement by comments from Donald Trump in her case; two, there’s an extraterritorial aspect to her case; and three, there’s the issue of Iran sanctions, which are involved in her case, and Canada does not sign onto these Iran sanctions.”

Late Thursday, McCallum apologized in a clear attempt at damage control.

“I regret that my comments with respect to the legal proceedings of Ms. Meng have created confusion. I misspoke.

“These comments do not accurately represent my position on this issue. As the government has consistently made clear, there has been no political involvement in this process.”

He did not, however, offer to resign his position as ambassador and for the second day, Trudeau stood by his envoy when asked if McCallum would be sanctioned or fired.

“Making a change would not help release those Canadians a day sooner,” Trudeau said in New Brunswick.

Trudeau said that remains his government’s priority.

“We will always stay grounded in defence of the rule of law and the integrity of our justice system, which of course includes the capacity for people to defend themselves enthusiastically which will be fully afforded to Ms. Meng and in her rights within the Canadian justice system.”

“Our focus remains making sure that the Canadians arbitrarily detained in China have their rights respected and, indeed, that they have an opportunity to get home as soon as possible.”

The rest of McCallum’s statement reverted to the same message, an indication that in spite of initial claims by government officials that he hadn’t strayed too far off-message, his remarks had become a problem.

His predecessors in the job said he never should have spoken the way he did.

Former ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques said he believed McCallum had stumbled, not shown the restraint a trained diplomat should, and even as a former politician McCallum should have known not to comment on anything before the courts.

“The result of what Mr. McCallum has said, on the one hand, undermines the legal process; it complicates the job of the minster of justice; it could be perceived as an interference in the legal process and it will confirm the Chinese in their thinking that all this is political and they just have to increase the pressure on Canada and Canada will buckle at some point and just put Mrs. Meng on an aircraft and get rid of the problem.”

Yet Saint-Jacques said McCallum should not be fired because “it would be very difficult to replace him at this stage given the poor state of the relationship.”

“We need someone in place, and it would be too risky to start a process to find a replacement. This could take months. And you need someone.”

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a daily press briefing that China had taken note of McCallum’s remarks.

“We believe that anyone with normal judgment could see through the nature of this case,” said Hua, in translated remarks posted to the government’s website.

“We hope that the Canadian side will make the right choice instead of risking endangering itself for other’s gains.”

Trump told Reuters on Dec. 11 that “If I think it’s good for the country, if I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made — which is a very important thing — what’s good for national security — I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary,” Trump

U.S. justice officials testifying at a U.S. senate committee denied the Meng case was being used for any political, diplomatic or other ends.

“We follow the facts and we indicate violations of U.S. law. That’s what we’re doing when we bring those cases, and I think it’s very important for other countries to understand that,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney General John Demers.

“We are not a tool of trade when we bring the cases; that’s what we do when we see them through to their conclusion.”

The U.S. Justice Department stated this week it is proceeding with the request and would meet the Jan. 30 deadline to send supporting documents to the Canadian justice department.

Prosecutors in New York want Meng to face fraud charges for allegedly misleading banks in an effort to skirt U.S. sanctions on doing business in Iran.

Her arrest in Canada infuriated China, and was followed days later by the arrests of diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, who remain detained on unspecified allegations of endangering China’s national security.

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

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‘I want to see justice’: Plecas speaks out after release of bombshell report into B.C. Legislature expenses

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Speaker of the House Darryl Plecas, who authored the 76-page bombshell report into the expenses of two suspended B.C. legislature officials, broke his silence on Wednesday, speaking to reporters outside an unrelated event he was attending in Abbotsford.

The report was released on Monday after it was reviewed by members of the legislature’s management committee.

It alleged fraudulent and flagrant overspending, « lavish » trips overseas, inappropriate expense claims and cash payouts, as well as unjustified termination of employees. 

Clerk of the House Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were both suspended Nov. 20 and escorted out of the legislature by police. They have not been charged with any crime, and have denied all wrongdoing.

Plecas said he hopes his report will bring « meaningful oversight and meaningful transparency » to the legislature, which previously had a culture where « it was difficult for people to do everything right.

« I never want to see a situation where a single employee is harmed by anything that happens at the legislature, so I want to see justice for those people, and I want to feel vindicated when I see that happen, » said Plecas.

« The other thing of course is the impact that this has had on taxpayers, and I want us to get to a place where we get our money back. »

Culture of transparency

James and Lenz said on Monday that they were « shocked » by the allegations listed in Plecas’ report, and that they were confident that with time they would be found to be « completely false and untrue. »

In November, the pair told reporters they were humiliated after being placed on administrative leave and that they want their jobs back and their reputations restored.

Plecas said he would not have done one single thing differently in November, saying he was « very thoughtful and very careful » and was acting on legal advice.

Responding to questions about why he approved expenses listed in the report in the first place, Plecas said the situation was « very complicated, » and that he needed time to observe a pattern of behaviour.

From left, Speaker Darryl Plecas, Clerk Craig James, and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz. (Gregor Craigie/CBC)

 « You never want to be in a place where you say ‘Oh, I’ve seen a single instance of wrongdoing.’ You have to be able to construct a pattern of activity and it’s not always easy to get to the end zone unless you have the confidence of people, » he said.

Plecas said he hoped people would « cut him some slack, » saying « I think if I was standing next to the average British Columbian, they would have said exactly what I felt. »

Forensic audit coming

On Monday, members of the legislature’s management committee agreed to launch an audit of legislature finances, conduct a workplace review and submit that report to an auditor from outside of B.C.

The RCMP has said it is investigating staff at the legislature, but it has not said who is the subject of the probe or described the investigation as criminal in nature.

Plecas concluded that this story is far from over.

« I’m sure if we go back we’re going to find that what I saw in 18 months is simply the tip of the iceberg. »

With files by Jesse Johnston

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

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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.”

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

Chinese police prevent Canadian woman from returning home on connecting flight through Beijing

Trudeau enlists Trump to seek release of Canadians detained by China

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 six former ambassadors to China from Canada — Fred Bild, Joseph Caron, David Mulroney, Earl Drake, 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

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SIU clears two Toronto police officers in death of Danforth gunman, release more details on what happened on night of mass shooting

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The Special Investigations Unit has ruled that there are no reasonable grounds to lay criminal charges against two Toronto police officers in connection to the death of the Danforth gunman in July, 2018.

The police watchdog found that Faisal Hussain died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on July 22, after he opened fire on a busy stretch of Danforth Ave., killing two people and leaving 13 others injured.

The rear window of a police cruiser was shattered when it was struck by a bullet during an exchange of gunfire between the police and Faisal Hussain after the Danforth shooting in 2018.
The rear window of a police cruiser was shattered when it was struck by a bullet during an exchange of gunfire between the police and Faisal Hussain after the Danforth shooting in 2018.  (Special Investigations Unit)

The report, released Wednesday, not only cleared the officers but gave graphic new details on what happened that night, as well as providing evidence photos.

A person first called 911 at 10 p.m. to report that “someone had been shot on the Danforth” at Pappas Grill.

Read more:

Police found AK-47 ammunition in Danforth shooter’s apartment, court documents say

More coverage of Danforth shooting

“The 911 communications centre was immediately flooded with other callers reporting a shooting on Danforth Ave. and that people were running or injured,” the report found. “One caller indicated that the shooter, Mr. Hussain, had stood on top of a woman and shot her multiple times in the back. At 10:05 p.m., another caller reported that Mr. Hussain was heading westbound on Danforth Ave. and was in possession of a black handgun.”

Two officers in a cruiser encountered Hussain on the west sidewalk of Bowden St. and approached him. Hussain fired at them multiple times and “fearing for their lives,” the two officers fired back, the report found.

One officer “moved to take cover behind the police vehicle and discharged his firearm, hitting the police cruiser’s rear passenger window, causing the glass to shatter and a projectile to become lodged in the window’s frame,” the report found.

“Mr. Hussain fled northbound on Bowden St. and then westbound on Danforth Ave.”

A few minutes later, Toronto police officers found Hussain’s body on Danforth Ave., in front of the Danforth Church, at 60 Bowden St. A black Smith and Wesson .40 calibre handgun and two fully loaded handgun magazines were found near his body.

An autopsy later confirmed the cause of death, the SIU said.

“I believe that (the officers) are credible and their accounts of the incident quite reliable because their statements were overwhelmingly consistent with the remainder of the evidence, including the statements of multiple civilian witnesses who witnessed or heard the exchange of gunfire,” SIU Director Tony Loparco wrote.

The SIU is an agency that investigates incidents involving police in which someone is killed, injured or accused of sexual assault.

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Rhianna Jackson-Kelso is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @RhiannaJK

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Trudeau enlists Trump to seek release of Canadians detained by China

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OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office says U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to “continue” to seek the release of two Canadians believed to be arbitrarily detained in China.

According to his office, Trudeau spoke to Trump Monday about a handful of bilateral issues including steel and aluminum tariffs, the closure of GM plants in both countries, and Canada’s arrest of a Huawei executive in response to a U.S. extradition request that enraged China.

The Dec. 1 arrest in Vancouver of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, wanted on fraud-related charges tied to Iran sanctions, was followed days later by China’s arrest of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor on unspecified national security allegations.

A more-detailed-than-usual PMO readout of the Trudeau-Trump phone call suggests Trudeau made a case to Trump of the necessity of refraining from public comments that cast the Huawei case in a political framework.

It said the two leaders discussed “an extradition request made of Canada by the United States.”

It went on to say Trudeau thanked Trump “for the strong statements of support by the United States in response to the arbitrary detention of two Canadians in China.”

To date, Trump has not personally made any statement calling for the release of the Canadians.

Only Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lent his voice to Canada’s concerns last month.

A senior government official speaking on background said Trudeau initiated the call to Trump Monday afternoon, and was pleased to be able to “count on the U.S. for their help.

“It’s helpful to have a commitment from the president to be on the same page” when it comes to seeking the men’s release,” the official said. While public statements of support for the detained Canadians by Canada’s allies are important, he said, “a lot of work happens behind the scenes.”

Governments in France, Australia, Britain and the European Union have backed Canada’s concern the men’s detention is in retaliation for the arrest of the Huawei executive.

In contrast, Trump told Reuters news agency he would intervene to block the extradition request of Meng if he thought it would help strike a better deal with China.

Now, Trudeau’s office says the release of the two detained Canadians is a shared goal: “The two leaders agreed to continue to seek their release.”

It is not clear if Trump did in fact agree to make the release of the Canadians a priority. Trump made no mention of it in two exchanges with reporters on Monday.

The Canada-U.S. call comes as talks to resolve the ongoing bitter trade dispute and tariff war between the U.S. and China got underway Monday in Beijing.

However, Trump told reporters Sunday he believed the Chinese “want to make a deal” with his administration because “their economy is not doing well.”

Trump said the U.S. tariffs he imposed on Chinese imports “have absolutely hurt China very badly” while the U.S. is taking in “a lot of money through tariffs.”

“My relationship with President Xi is as good as any relationship that a president here has had with a president or leader in China. And I think good things are going to happen.”

Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole said in an interview the PMO release is a clear attempt to show that Canada was obliged under extradition law to act on the U.S. request, and to suggest the comments by Trump were damaging and unfortunate.

“I think a call with the president on all these things is always good,” said O’Toole. “But the fact that he hasn’t made that leader-to-leader call with the Chinese president (Xi Jinping) causes concern, because we’ve been asking for that since mid-December.”

“And he (Trudeau) is treating this as a consular case when it isn’t a consular situation at all. This is a state-to-state dispute. It’s clearly not going well and if he called President Trump on it, he should call President Xi as well.”

In addition to speaking about the detained Canadians and the arrest of Meng, the PMO said Trudeau and Trump discussed “the importance of trade and jobs, building upon the successful renegotiation of the new North American Free Trade Agreement. They reaffirmed their support for workers affected by the closure of General Motors plants in Canada and the United States, and discussed next steps in addressing steel and aluminum tariffs.”

But there was no clear indication that the U.S. tariffs that were imposed in June on Canadian steel and aluminum tariffs — which Trump has slapped on global imports including China’s — would be lifted anytime soon.

Meanwhile, a Canadian delegation of senators and MPs was in China Monday on a business and education trip. Conservative MP Michael Cooper told CBC the delegation made clear to their counterparts there can be no business as usual in Canada-China relations as long as the two Canadians remain detained.

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

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Getting China to release Kovrig and Spavor is a top priority for ‘the entire government,’ Freeland says

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It’s a top priority for Canada to get Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor released from custody in China as soon as possible, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Saturday.

“This is a focus for the Prime Minister,” Freeland told reporters in a conference call. “This is a focus for the entire government.”

“We’re working hard on a number of fronts,” Freeland said.

Freeland’s comments come a day after she formally demanded that Kovrig and Spavor be let go.

China arrested Kovrig and Spavor on security grounds just days after Canadian authorities in Vancouver arrested Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive with Chinese firm Huawei Technologies, so she can be extradited to the U.S. to face fraud charges.

Meng has since been released on $10-million bail.

Freeland said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a meeting of senior cabinet ministers and officials on Friday morning to stress that the release of Kovrig and Spavor is a top priority, Freeland said.

“The prime minister is deeply engaged in the issue,” Freeland said.

“It’s very personal,” Freeland said.

“The prime minister is very involved and the prime minister has been extremely involved in the issue from Day 1,” Freeland said.

She added that she had been speaking with Chinese authorities, stressing that Canada has the utmost respect for the rule of law.

“This has not been a political decision by Canada,” Freeland said. “This is about the rule of law.”

Freeland said she continues to be in discussions with Allies over the arrests of the Canadians, and that she’s very gratified by their response.

“We do believe that Canada is most effective and strongest when we are able to work together with our allies and partners,” Freeland said.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said this week that he’s “deeply concerned by suggestions of a political motivation for the detention of two Canadian citizens by the Chinese government. I call for them to be treated in a fair, unbiased and transparent manner.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for Kovrig and Spavor to be freed but the State Department repeated the sentiment Friday.

“We share Canada’s commitment to the rule of law as fundamental to all free societies, and we will defend and uphold this principle. We also express our deep concern for the Chinese government’s detention of two Canadians earlier this month and call for their immediate release,” spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement titled “Canada’s Legitimate Arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.”

In yet another statement this week, the directors of several European policy institutions in Berlin expressed “deep concern” about the detained Canadians.

“Developments such as these increase uncertainty and distrust among foreign scholars who regularly conduct research within China, as they fear for their safety,” the statement said. “This will clearly undermine efforts to better understand developments in China and to further constructive relations between China and other countries.”

The bodies include the European Council on Foreign Relations, the Mercator Institute for China Studies and the Global Public Policy Institute.

With files from Canadian Press

Peter Edwards is a Toronto-based reporter primarily covering crime. Reach him by email at pedwards@thestar.ca

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Canada’s ambassadors urging allies to push for release of Canadians detained in China: Freeland – National

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Canada’s ambassadors around the world are launching a concerted campaign to pressure allies to push for the release of two Canadians detained in China, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Saturday.

In a teleconference call with reporters, Freeland said Canadian ambassadors would reach out to their counterparts to discuss the “arbitrary detention” of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, which she said set a “worrying precedent.”

“I will continue in the coming days, along with Canada‘s ambassadors around the world, to be speaking with foreign counterparts about this issue,” Freeland said. “Our ambassadors… will be speaking directly in an organized effort with their counterparts.”

READ MORE: Chinese official slams Huawei exec’s arrest in response to question about Canadian detentions

The United States, United Kingdom and European Union have expressed their support for Canada, but some countries are yet to comment publicly.

Kovrig and Spavor were detained in the wake of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou‘s arrest in Vancouver earlier this month. Meng was arrested at the behest of U.S. authorities, who want her extradited there to face charges of fraud.

Freeland reiterated that Meng, who has been granted bail in Vancouver, has been given “full access to due process” in her legal proceedings.

WATCH: How tension between Canada and China will impact Canadians







Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was personally involved in the situation, Freeland said, although she declined to say if or when Trudeau would pick up the phone and call Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“We continue to be in discussion with China,” Freeland said. “This is clearly a difficult moment in our relationship with China. It’s important to keep on talking and raising the issues directly with them.”

WATCH: China questions Canada’s treatment of ‘illegally detained’ Meng Wanzhou







Freeland’s remarks came a day after the Canadian government issued a written statement saying it was “deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities” of Kovrig and Spavor, and formally demanded their release.

— With files from Reuters

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

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