Trudeau government leaks support in wake of SNC-Lavalin, Wilson-Raybould matter: Ipsos poll – National

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The Trudeau government is leaking political support in the wake of the resignation of its former justice minister, making its chances of re-election this fall far less certain than they seemed to be at year’s end, according to a new poll provided exclusively to Global News.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s personal approval ratings are down; a declining number of Canadians think his government deserves re-election; and Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives narrowly lead the Liberals on the ballot box question.

“This is the worst couple of weeks the PM has had since the India trip,” said Darrell Bricker, CEO of polling firm Ipsos. “The biggest problem is that it hits at what gives the Liberal Party its appeal: the prime minister.”


READ MORE:
Charges against SNC-Lavalin explained — and how the PMO allegedly got involved

Ipsos was in the field last week, after revelations surfaced that, last fall, while she was justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould felt that unnamed individuals in the prime minister’s office were pressuring her to intervene in a criminal court case in favour of Quebec-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin. Those allegations were first reported by the Globe and Mail, citing unnamed sources.

If she did feel pressured, she did not act and did not intervene on behalf of SNC-Lavalin. But a few months later, she was shuffled out of her job as justice minister and attorney general and into the job of veterans affairs minister.

Then, last week, as Liberals themselves seemed divided over the optics of seeing the country’s first-ever Indigenous justice minister being shuffled aside for what appeared to be craven political calculations, Wilson-Raybould stepped down from cabinet altogether.

WATCH: Jody Wilson-Raybould quits Trudeau cabinet






Meanwhile, all through the week, Trudeau and other Liberals struggled to explain what had happened while Wilson-Raybould announced she had retained a former Supreme Court justice to provide her with advice about what, if anything, she might say about the whole matter.

Voters took notice.

Ipsos found that, among the 1,002 Canadians it surveyed online from Thursday through to Monday, nearly half or 49 per cent said they were aware of this rapidly shifting story involving SNC Lavalin, Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould.

And it appears many are changing their opinion of the government as a result.


READ MORE:
Justin Trudeau’s top adviser Gerald Butts resigns amid SNC-Lavalin affair

Support for the Trudeau Liberals is now at 34 per cent, down four percentage points, from a poll Ipsos did in December. In the 2015 election, the Trudeau Liberals won their commanding majority with 39 per cent of the vote.

Scheer’s Conservatives appear to have benefited from this slide. That party is now at 36 per cent support, up three points since the end of 2018.

“The big trouble spot is now Ontario, where the Tories have a six point lead over the Liberals,” said Bricker. “The way the vote breaks in Ontario suggests that the Tories are doing well in the 905, where the Liberals won their majority in 2015.”

The NDP and its leader Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, continue to languish, with 17 per cent support right now versus 18 per cent at year-end.

The poll was out of the field before Monday afternoon’s bombshell news that Gerald Butts had quit his post as the prime minister’s principal secretary. Butts, one of Trudeau’s closest friends, had played a critical role in the revival of Liberal fortune and was, along with Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford, central to Trudeau administration. Butts said he had done nothing wrong but was resigning to avoid being a further distraction to the government’s agenda.

WATCH: Justin Trudeau’s top adviser Gerald Butts resigns amid SNC-Lavalin controversy







In any event, Ipsos found that even before that additional turmoil, voter approval of the Trudeau government had dropped nine points since the beginning of the year down to 42 per cent in its most recent pulse-taking.

Trudeau’s own personal approval rating is now two points lower than it was after his disastrous trip to India this time last year.

“Those who strongly disapprove of his performance now outnumber those who strongly approve by a margin of four to one,” Bricker said.


READ MORE:
Halifax artist apologizes for controversial cartoon of Jody Wilson-Raybould

And yet, Trudeau is still doing better than his two main rivals, Scheer and Singh, who continue to have lower approval ratings than Trudeau.

“All is not bad for Trudeau,” Bricker said. “When assessed head to head with his major rivals, Scheer and Singh, he still does well on specific leadership attributes. Although the gap appears to be closing now.”

And just 38 per cent of those surveyed believe the Trudeau Liberals deserve re-election, while 62 per cent agreed that it was time to give another party a chance at governing.

A margin-of-error could not be calculated for this poll as the sample surveyed was not drawn randomly. That said, Ipsos says the accuracy of its polls can be gauged using a statistical measure known as a credibility interval. Applying this technique to this poll, Ipsos believes this poll would be accurate to within 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, compared to a poll of all Canadian adults

Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.” This poll was conducted between Feb. 14 and Feb. 18, with a sample of 1,002 Canadians from Ipsos’ online panel. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. This poll is accurate to within +/ – 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more:

Global anxiety reflected in Australian outcry over Canadians detained in China

Huawei Night in Canada: Inside tech giant’s push to burnish its brand

Trudeau silent on how Huawei controversy will figure into private talk with Telus exec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is not the case with China.

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

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

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

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

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Senator calls for national bad doctor registry in wake of Star investigation

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For decades, Marilou McPhedran worked to strengthen patient-protection laws in Ontario. The human rights lawyer chaired three task forces to combat sexual abuse of patients by doctors, producing hundreds of pages of reports for government with bold recommendations.

But all McPhedran sees is unfinished business.

“There can be, there should be, there needs to be a national database,” of disciplined physicians, starting with those guilty of sexually abusing patients, says Senator Marilou McPhedran.
“There can be, there should be, there needs to be a national database,” of disciplined physicians, starting with those guilty of sexually abusing patients, says Senator Marilou McPhedran.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star file photo)

She’s now seizing her position as independent senator to make one more aggressive bid to spark a federal review of the issues and solutions that she says medical regulators and health ministries across the country have ignored at the public’s peril.

“There can be, there should be, there needs to be a national database,” she said, that identifies physicians found guilty of serious misconduct, starting with those who sexually exploit and abuse their patients.

McPhedran lauded the Toronto Star’s ongoing “Medical Disorder” investigation as an impetus for her new campaign. The Star tracked more than 150 doctors who have held medical licences on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border and faced regulatory discipline for misconduct or incompetence. The data showed that in 90 per cent of cases, Canada’s medical watchdogs failed to share these doctors’ disciplinary histories with the public, even when they involved charges of rape, murder and child pornography.

Creating a “permanent record” that captures sexual offenders across the country is just a start, McPhedran said. In light of the Star investigation, McPhedran said she’s reviewing the evidence to support broadening the database initiative to include doctors who are disciplined for all forms of misconduct and incompetence.

Read More:

Bad doctors who cross the border can hide their dirty secrets. We dug them up

Canada’s medical watchdogs know more about bad doctors than they are telling you

Regulators expect doctors to tell the truth about their past. Here’s what happens when they don’t

The federal health minister’s office confirmed Ginette Petitpas Taylor has met on several occasions with McPhedran to discuss this issue, most recently in December 2018. McPhedran is submitting a report to Taylor that explains why a national registry is critical to public safety in the hope the proposal will be added to the agenda of a forthcoming federal-provincial health ministers meeting.

“Canadians put their trust in their health professionals and we need to do everything we can to prevent misconduct and abuse,” Minister Petitpas Taylor said in a statement to the Star. “I have raised this matter with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, and will never hesitate to raise it with my counterparts in Provinces and Territories.”

A Canadian study published in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety a month after the Star investigation found that one in eight physicians disciplined by regulators across the country went on to re-offend. These 101 repeat offenders each had up to six disciplinary events between 2000 and 2015. Four of these doctors faced discipline in more than one jurisdiction. The majority were men. The proportion of obstetrician-gynecologists was higher among repeat offenders compared to physicians disciplined only once.

The physician researchers concluded the “distribution of transgression argues for a national disciplinary database which could improve communication between jurisdictional medical boards.”

Many of Canada’s medical regulators have told the Star that what information they share with the public about physician discipline is less important than the fact that they are sharing these details with each other.

“That is a disturbingly self-interested definition of serving the public,” McPhedran said. “All I can deduce from that practice is that they are serving the privilege of their organization. Regulators can’t serve the public interest and demonstrate that they’re keeping the promise that these organizations have made under the law across this country if they are not accountable and transparent. It doesn’t add up.”

Diana Zlomislic is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Email: dzlo@thestar.ca. Twitter: @dzlo

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Trudeau’s Kamloops town hall combative in wake of pipeline protests

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced a combative crowd in Kamloops, B.C. Wednesday night at a public town hall meeting dominated by questions about reconciliation with Indigenous communities and the future of several pipeline projects.

The meeting, staged in a packed university gymnasium, came amid a tense standoff between RCMP and First Nations in northern B.C., which has sparked protests across Canada.

Since Monday the Mounties have been enforcing a court injunction granting workers with the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline project access to a road and bridge from which they had been blocked by opponents of the project.

On Monday, the RCMP entered the first of two blockades and arrested 14 people. Hours before Trudeau’s townhall meeting, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and RCMP reached a tentative agreement allowing workers access to the pipeline.

Arnie Jack from the Schuswap nation confronted Trudeau about a standoff between RCMP and First Nations in northern B.C. (CBC)

Arnie Jack from the Shuswap nation in the B.C. Interior confronted Trudeau about RCMP actions in northern B.C., saying that without the consent of the people, the Prime Minister would have to « go through us first. »

« You can stand up all the elected chiefs that you want and say that you have consent, but you do not have consent from the people on the ground, and you said yourself that these major projects would not be approved without community consent, » Jack said.

« What you did to the Wet’suwet’en, that’s a national disgrace. »

Trudeau responded by saying there are a broad range of Indigenous perspectives regarding the project.

« We are going to have to work together, » he said amid heckles from the crowd.

« I understand your frustration. »

Trudeau addressed the issue again in a later question, saying the process of reconciliation should not be rushed.

« We’ve gone from a place where Indigenous people were not listened to, were not consulted, were not included, and we are doing a better job of it, » he said.

« If we choose to determine what the right solution is for Indigenous peoples, we’re — however well-meaning we may be — compounding the mistake that has gone on forever. »

Protestors, jokes

The meeting, attended by over 1,000 people, is part of Trudeau’s annual tour of town halls around the country during January, which he describes as an important exercise in democracy. 

Trudeau came face-to-face with demonstrators even before the packed event. Earlier on Wednesday he was met by more than 100 anti- and pro-pipeline demonstrators as he arrived at a Liberal party fundraising luncheon.

One of the most contested topics in Kamloops remains the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, with some adamantly supporting the pipeline because of the jobs it could create, and others opposing it for environmental reasons.  

Indigenous demonstrators stood in support of the Wet’suwet’en people’s pipeline blockades. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)

The town hall meeting also had lighter moments —Trudeau was grilled on his problem-plagued India trip in 2018 — to which he replied, « it was a trip that happened. »

He was also asked about his favourite part of being Prime Minister, his favourite part of the day, and at one point, was offered a beer if he would « push the U.S. President off a cliff. »  

Trudeau’s next scheduled town hall meeting is in Regina, Sask. 

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Former judge unveils panel tapped to review Toronto police missing-persons probes in wake of McArthur case

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The retired Ontario judge leading an independent examination of Toronto police missing persons investigations has announced an advisory panel to help conduct the wide-ranging review that was struck in the wake of deaths linked to alleged killer Bruce McArthur.

The tasks of the eight-member team — which includes experts in LGBTQ issues, law, policing and more — include outreach, particularly to members of vulnerable and marginalized groups, and generating community feedback on recommendations that will arise from the review.

“They will also assist me in ensuring that everyone who wants to be heard is indeed heard,” said retired Ontario Court of Appeal justice Gloria Epstein in a statement Tuesday.

Epstein was last year tapped by the Toronto police board to perform an external review of how Toronto police conduct missing persons probes — an independent examination struck amidst mounting criticism over police handling of the disappearances of men now alleged to be victims of McArthur.

The 67-year-old landscaper is charged in the deaths of eight men between 2010 to 2017, most of whom had ties to the city’s Gay Village and were from South Asian or Middle Eastern communities.

Three of McArthur’s alleged victims were previously the subjects of a missing person’s probe dubbed Project Houston, an investigation that examined the disappearances of Skandaraj (Skanda) Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, and Majeed Kayhan, who went missing from 2010-2012.

But the probe ended after 18 months, when police could find “no evidence to suggest criminal activity.” It is alleged that McArthur went on to kill five more men after Project Houston wound down.

The review will not examine the police probe into McArthur, in order to not compromise the ongoing criminal trial set for January 2020. But it is looking into how Toronto police investigated the men’s disappearances before McArthur came onto police radar, as well as other disappearances where community concerns have arisen.

Specifically, it will review whether the missing persons investigations could have been impacted by systemic bias or discrimination and whether the policies and procedures currently in place within Toronto police provide sufficient protection for members of the LGBTQ community or marginalized groups.

The advisory committee includes: Ron Rosenes, a health researcher and consultant working in the HIV and the LGTBQ community; Haran Vijayanathan, the executive director of the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP); Christa Big Canoe, an Indigenous lawyer with Aboriginal Legal Services; Monica Forrester, program co-ordinator at Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project and a transgender woman of colour; Brian Lennox, former Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice; Michele Lent, a former New York police officer, member of the Gay Officers Action League who has trained of officers on investigative techniques; Andrew Pinto, a lawyer specializing in workplace human rights; and Angela Robertson, the executive director of Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre.

Epstein told the Toronto police board last year that she would launch a “broad consultative process” to include public and private meetings. She and her team have also begun collecting and analyzing documents, according to an update posted on the review’s website.

“In my opinion, the work of the review is of critical importance to our diverse communities within Toronto and specifically to how missing persons investigations are done, and should be done, particularly as affecting marginalized or vulnerable communities,” Epstein told the Toronto police board this summer.

McArthur is due back in court next week.

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

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Toronto police chief acknowledges racial profiling challenges in wake of human rights report

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Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said his officers must be « extra cautious » to ensure that bias does not influence their behaviour in the wake of a report on profiling and discrimination.

An interim report released Monday by the Ontario Human Rights Commission found that black people in Toronto are much more likely to be killed or injured at the hands of police.

In an interview Tuesday on Metro Morning, Saunders acknowledged that profiling and racism exist within the Toronto Police Service, but he argued that the problem is not unique to policing.

« It has to exist, » he said. « But what do you do to minimize it? What do you do to eliminate it? »

The OHRC’s interim report, released on Monday, found that black Torontonians were « grossly overrepresented » in cases launched by the Special Investigations Unit, the province’s police watchdog.

Between 2013 and 2017, the OHRC determined that black people were nearly 20 times more likely to be fatally shot by police. Black civilians were also disproportionately overrepresented in police use-of-force cases and other fatal police interactions.

Saunders did not answer repeated questions about why that discrepancy may exist or acknowledge the findings as accurate. Instead, he said that police need to review the approach and methodology used by the OHRC.

Earlier Monday, Toronto police said they would accept the recommendations laid out by the OHRC, which included a call for police to begin collecting and publicly sharing race-based policing data.

Asked if police would begin to do so, Saunders said, « I have no problems with that. » However, he added that certain legal aspects of that process have to be explored first.

The larger problem, he said, is that segments of Toronto’s black community do not trust police, a situation that the force is actively working to remedy.

« Whatever we can do as an agency to improve on that relationship with the black community, I want that to happen, » Saunders added.

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China cancels meetings with B.C. trade mission in wake of Huawei executive’s arrest

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The detention of an executive of Chinese electronics giant Huawei in Canada is already having repercussions in Canadian-Chinese trade relations.

Bruce Ralston, British Columbia’s minister of jobs, trade and technology, on Sunday issued a statement saying the province has rescheduled the upcoming China meetings of B.C.’s current Forestry Asia Trade Mission.

He said the China leg of the mission, set to take place after talks in Japan wrap on Tuesday, has been suspended « due to the international judicial process underway » relating to a senior official at Huawei Technologies Co.

Ralston said B.C. « values its strong trade relationship with China, one based on mutual respect and close economic and cultural ties that have been established over many decades, » and his government will try to reschedule the talks « at the earliest convenient moment. » 

China summoned the U.S. ambassador to Beijing on Sunday to protest the detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada at Washington’s behest and demanded Washington cancel an order for her arrest.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng « lodged solemn representations and strong protests » with Ambassador Terry Branstad against the detention of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou.

Meng, who is reportedly suspected of trying to evade U.S. trade curbs on Iran, was detained on Dec. 1 while changing planes in Vancouver.

The Xinhua report quoted Le as calling Meng’s detention « extremely egregious » and demanded the U.S. vacate an order for her arrest. It quoted Le as calling for the U.S. to « immediately correct its wrong actions » and said it would take further steps based on Washington’s response.

Le also told Branstad the U.S. had made an « unreasonable demand » on Canada to detain Meng while she was en route to Mexico from Hong Kong.

« The actions of the U.S. seriously violated the lawful and legitimate rights of the Chinese citizen, and by their nature were extremely nasty, » Le told Branstad, comments similar to those he made to Canada’s ambassador the previous day.

In this courtroom sketch, Meng Wanzhou, right, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, sits beside a translator during a bail hearing at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Friday. Meng was arrested last Saturday while she was travelling through Vancouver airport, after an extradition request from the United States. (Jane Wolsak/Canadian Press)

The move followed the summoning of Canadian Ambassador John McCallum on Saturday over Meng’s detention and a similar protest warning of « grave consequences » if she is not released.

Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies and has been the target of deepening U.S. security concerns over its ties to the Chinese government. The U.S. has pressured European countries and other allies to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft of information.

‘No point’ to political pressure 

Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said that Chinese pressure on the Canada’s government won’t work.

« Perhaps because the Chinese state controls its judicial system, Beijing sometimes has difficulty understanding or believing that courts can be independent in a rule-of-law country. There’s no point in pressuring the Canadian government. Judges will decide, » Paris tweeted in response to the comments from Beijing.

A Canadian prosecutor urged a Vancouver court to deny bail to Meng, whose case is shaking up U.S.-China relations and spooking global financial markets.

Meng, also the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was detained at the request of the U.S. during a layover at the Vancouver airport on the same day that U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed over dinner to a 90-day ceasefire in a trade dispute that threatens to disrupt global commerce.

The U.S. alleges that Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It also says that Meng and Huawei misled American banks about its business dealings in Iran.

The surprise arrest raises doubts about whether the trade truce will hold and whether the world’s two biggest economies can resolve the complicated issues that divide them.

Canadian prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley said in a court hearing Friday that a warrant had been issued for Meng’s arrest in New York on Aug. 22. He said Meng was aware of the investigation and had been avoiding the United States for months, even though her teenage son goes to school in Boston.

Court urged to reject bail request

Gibb-Carsley alleged that Huawei had done business in Iran through a Hong Kong company called Skycom. Meng, he said, had misled U.S. banks into thinking that Huawei and Skycom were separate when, in fact, « Skycom was Huawei. » Meng has contended that Huawei sold Skycom in 2009.

In urging the court to reject Meng’s bail request, Gibb-Carsley said the Huawei executive had vast resources and a strong incentive to bolt: She’s facing fraud charges in the United States that could put her in prison for 30 years.

The hearing will resume Monday.

Huawei, in a brief statement emailed to The Associated Press, said that « we have every confidence that the Canadian and U.S. legal systems will reach the right conclusion. »

Canadian officials have declined to comment on Chinese threats of retaliation over the case, instead emphasizing the independence of Canada’s judiciary along with the importance of Ottawa’s relationship with Beijing.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland said Canada « has assured China that due process is absolutely being followed in Canada, that consular access for China to Ms. Meng will absolutely be provided. »

« We are a rule-of-law country and we will be following our laws as we have thus far in this matter and as we will continue to do, » Freeland said Friday.

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Trudeau to meet federal party leaders to talk support for French Canadians in wake of Ford cuts

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet with the leaders of the four other main federal political parties Wednesday to discuss what can be done to support French Canadians in the wake of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s recent cuts.

The session was mentioned in Trudeau’s daily itinerary report, which said only that the prime minister was meeting to discuss « issues facing the Canadian Francophonie » with the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh, the Green Party’s Elizabeth May, the Conservatives’ Andrew Scheer and the interim leader of the Bloc Québécois, Mario Beaulieu.

A senior government official speaking on background told CBC that the Wednesday afternoon meeting is being held in response to cuts the Ford government made to some French language services in Ontario.

In its fall economic update, Ford’s government announced it would be cancelling a plan to build a long-awaited French-language university in Toronto and would be abolishing the position of the French language services commissioner.

Last week, after widespread criticism, Ford backed down to a degree, sticking to his decision to cancel the French-language university but restoring the position of a French language services commissioner under the province’s ombudsman. 

He also named Attorney General Caroline Mulroney as a new minister of francophone affairs and said he would hire a senior policy adviser responsible for francophone affairs.

Trudeau’s meeting will also address the concerns of francophones in other provinces – including New Brunswick, Canada’s only official bilingual province, where the new Progressive Conservative government has just one elected francophone member.

Reaching out

Following Ford’s cuts, Scheer himself was accused by some critics of failing to swiftly condemn them or demand that they be reversed.

On Monday morning, Scheer’s office sent Trudeau a letter requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the issue.

The Prime Minister’s Office welcomed the idea, according to the government official, and invited other party leaders to attend as well.

The official also argued that the Trudeau PMO has made a point of reaching out to the opposition in the past — most recently on the renegotiation of NAFTA and the imposition of U.S. tariffs on Canadian goods and resources.

The Green Party’s Elizabeth May said her policy has always been that when a prime minister asks for help she is happy to lend a hand, as she did when she answered a similar call for former prime minister Stephen Harper. 

« I am very concerned about what Ford has threatened to do to the rights of franco-Ontarians, » she said. « I am happy to offer whatever help or advice is called for in the circumstances to protect minority rights. »

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Law society program sees spike in harassment complaints in wake of #MeToo movement

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A Law Society of Ontario service that deals with harassment and discrimination by lawyers and paralegals saw a 50 per cent increase in complaints in the first half of 2018 compared to the last six months of 2017.

“I believe we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg,” said lawyer Lai-King Hum, one of the individuals who serve as discrimination and harassment counsel (DHC). The free service is funded by the legal regulator but operates independently of it.

“I believe there’s now probably going to be a consistent level (of complaints.)”

The service’s mandate is to deal with allegations, both from the public and from members of the legal profession, that are based on the prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Ontario Human Rights Code, including sex, race and sexual orientation.

The service says in its latest report that 125 individuals reached out with a new issue between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2018, averaging about 21 “new contacts” per month.

Of those 125 individuals, 46 complaints fell within the program’s mandate: 45 related to lawyers’ conduct and one related to the conduct of an articling student.

The remaining 79 complaints dealt with matters outside the program’s mandate, such as complaints about individuals other than lawyers and paralegals. A portion of these complaints were related to members of the legal profession but dealt with matters other than human rights code grounds, such as complaints about abusive work environments, many of which were made by articling students.

“The behaviours they reported included not being given legal work; being forced to run personal errands for their articling principal and/or their principal’s family; being subjected to verbal abuse and threats; not being paid; being paid less than minimum wage; verbally abusing and/or humiliating students in front of other lawyers/clients; and bullying,” the report states.

“A disproportionate number of the students reporting abusive employment relationships are students who received their training outside Canada … or racialized students. While these matters fall outside the mandate of the DHC, they are significant enough a trend that they warrant being brought to the law society’s attention.”

The report points to a number of possible reasons for the spike in complaints this year.

“The number of contacts to the DHC office increased noticeably beginning in the fall of 2017 as the #MeToo movement emerged,” the report states. “That higher level of contact has been sustained, with a number of callers citing the #MeToo movement as giving them confidence to come forward to report.”

The report also points to a November 2017 story in the Globe and Mail by Hadiya Roderique, about her experiences as a Black female lawyer, that was widely read in the legal community.

Of the 45 complaints about lawyers that fell within the program’s mandate, 34 were made by members of the legal profession:

Twenty-eight of those 34 complaints, representing 80 per cent, were made by women, more than half of whom identified as racialized and/or a person with a disability.

Six of the 34 complaints were made by men, all but one of whom identified as “being racialized, and/or of a minority religion, gay or a man with a disability,” according to the report.

The remaining 11 complaints about lawyers were made by members of the public.

“I think it’s a very important role that we play,” Hum said. “Even if people are not prepared to take any actual action about harassment or discrimination that they’ve faced, the fact that they provide us with the information will help us to determine how much of a problem there is in the profession. Without the data, it’s hard to say.”

Services provided by the discrimination and harassment counsel program include coaching for individuals who want to handle a harassment situation by themselves, facilitating mediation and advising complainants of other avenues of recourse, including filing a formal complaint of misconduct with the law society against a lawyer or paralegal.

The complaints about lawyers that fell within the program’s mandate include sexual harassment, such as “predatory texting, persistent unwanted contact outside of work, including late night phone calls; sexual advances and persistent pressuring of complainant(s) for sexual relationships; disparaging women in front of colleagues.”

There were also complaints from female members of the profession about being pressured to return early from maternity leave, as well as reprisals for having taken it in the first place.

Others complained of racial harassment, including verbal and physical threats, and systemic racism “in which racialized lawyers and students were denied opportunities for mentorship; denied access to desirable work, and assigned work that was non-legal work or work below their level.”

Hum said the program is reviewing its mandate to become more proactive, “such as providing education to law firms, going in and explaining what discrimination and harassment is, and what steps they can take.”

Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering legal affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant

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‘We share that pain’: Muslims form rings of peace at GTA synagogues in wake of U.S. shooting

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In the wake of a deadly attack on a U.S. synagogue last week, people of faith from across the Greater Toronto Area gathered at Jewish places of worship throughout the city Saturday in an act of defiant solidarity. 

More than 200 attendees from various religious backgrounds formed « rings of peace » around 10 synagogues throughout the region on the Sabbath, a weekly day of observance in the Jewish faith.

The events were organized by several Muslim community groups and included prayers, hymns, statements of support and an opportunity to meet neighbours. 

« It is our faith that keeps us together. When one person is hurt in our community, through our moral and religious obligation, we are supposed to help, » said Osman Khan, spokesperson for the Imdadul Islamic Centre, one of the groups behind the show of solidarity. 

Last Saturday, a gunman opened fire in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 Jewish people, many of them elderly.

Six people were also injured in the attack, including four police officers.

The accused shooter, Robert Bowers, allegedly made anti-Semitic remarks during the attack, according to police. 

It was just the latest of a series of a high-profile shootings at places of worship on both sides of the border. 

Joanna Sadowski said she was a ‘little bit overwhelmed’ by the show of solidarity at seven GTA synagogues Saturday morning. (Keith Burgess/CBC)

Khan said it only made sense for his community to express its condolences and support for Toronto’s Jewry. In February 2017, some 300 Jewish people from across the GTA, along with many from other faiths, formed rings of peace around local mosques in the wake of a deadly attack inside a Quebec City mosque. 

« It gave consolation to us in that difficult time, and now are doing the same, » Khan said. 

« Not because we feel we have to reciprocate, but because we feel a need to be with our brothers and sisters to ease the pain that they feel, because we share that pain. »

Joanna Sadowski, a member of the Holy Blossom Temple on Bathurst Street in York, said the public display of compassion was deeply emotional for her.

« It was very moving and very, very beautiful. I think I felt a little bit overwhelmed by the support of all the people who came out to show their solidarity, » she said. 

Muslim community leaders recite an opening prayer and a welcome to all those who showed up at Holy Blossom Temple. The assembled group spoke about the kinds of violence that various religious groups face. (Keith Burgess/CBC)

« I think the message is that people want to feel safe in prayer and in community, no matter your religion, no matter your background. That’s a value that we share as Canadians, as Torontonians — that we care and respect each other’s differences. »

Phyllis Denaburg, also a congregate at Holy Blossom, took part in the circles of peace around GTA mosques last year. She said that beyond offering support, the events help connect people who might otherwise not have a chance to meet. 

« It’s definitely a message of solidarity and that we aren’t alone. It’s a shame that these things still continue to happen, because it’s not something new. But it does warm our hearts, » she said. 

Holy Blossom Temple’s rabbi, Yael Splansky, has said that Toronto native Joyce Fienberg, who was killed in the Pittsburgh shooting, was a member of Holy Blossom Temple.

Fienberg spent most of her career as a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, retiring in 2008 from her job studying learning in the classroom and in museums. Before that she was a member of the Holy Blossom Temple community, which is one of Toronto’s oldest Jewish congregations.

Splansky said Fienberg was a « very special person » who was married at the temple and whose confirmation photo is on its wall of honour.

« I know there’s a whole generation of Holy Blossom members who grew up here with her, who went to school with her and celebrated her wedding day here at Holy Blossom, » said Splansky, who said she didn’t know Fienberg personally.

With files from The Canadian Press

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