Jun 17, 2013 / 9:04 pm
OTTAWA - Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau remained under fire Monday for taking hefty speaking fees from charitable groups after becoming an MP, despite promising to pay back any organization that was dissatisfied.
The Conservatives maintained Trudeau should never have accepted any money from any charity before or after becoming an MP.
And they expanded the definition of a charity to include all non-profit groups, universities, municipalities and other public sector organizations.
"What is it about the ethical standard of giving money to charities rather than taking money from charities that he does not understand?" queried Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore in the Commons.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair didn't go quite so far.
But he said Trudeau should return "every penny" paid by all charitable and non-profit groups since he was elected in 2008 â€” not just those who ask for their money back.
So far, only one charity, the Grace Foundation in New Brunswick, has asked Trudeau to give back his fee, claiming it lost money on an event aimed at raising funds for a seniors' home last year.
"I think it's a mistake for a sitting member of Parliament to be accepting money from a charity to do what is essentially part of your job, which is to talk to Canadians about your priorities and how you see things unfold," Mulcair said outside the Commons.
The Conservatives circulated documents Monday showing that Trudeau headlined three fundraising events â€” for the University of Guelph, Georgian College in Barrie, Ont,. and a business dinner put on by the Ontario municipality of Chatham Kent â€” that lost money. All three were in 2006 - two years before Trudeau was first elected.
Conservatives insisted there was no distinction between events before and after he became an MP.
"As someone in public life, as he was prior to 2008, that he would take funds off their backs, knowing that they're losing money on an event that he professed to make a success, it just seems wrong," said Tory MP Patrick Brown, who represents Barrie.
Mulcair, however, said what Trudeau did before he was elected is "completely his own private business."
During the Liberal leadership race, Trudeau voluntarily disclosed all sources of personal income, including a $1.2 million inheritance from his late father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
Justin Trudeau revealed that he'd earned more than $1.3 million on the public speaking circuit since 2006, including $277,000 from 17 groups in the four years after winning election as an MP in 2008. He stopped accepting fees in June 2012, once he began seriously contemplating a leadership bid for the Liberal party.
The 17 groups included a mix of educational, professional and charitable groups.
Trudeau reiterated Monday that he intends to contact each of those groups to see if they feel they got their money's worth.
"I will be happy to pay them back personally if they are dissatisfied," he said.
Indeed, he said he's open to reimbursing groups which actually made money from his events but wouldn't mind pocketing the speaking fee all the same.
"I will talk with them about anything that they want to do. I am open. What I am demonstrating here is a level of openness and transparency, accountability that has never been seen before on this Parliament."
Trudeau referred to himself repeatedly as a "professional fundraiser," someone whose high profile helped draw crowds and boost ticket sales for fundraising events. And he suggested the Conservatives don't understand fundraising techniques if they think no one should ever get paid for helping charities raise money.
"I think that might be an interesting conversation to have with the caterers who provide the food to banquet halls who are raising money for charities," he said.
"I mean, the Conservatives are so focused on attack and negativity that perhaps they're not thinking about the consequences in the charitable sector of what they're doing."
A number of Conservative senators are on the public speaking circuit as well, including Jacques Demers, Larry Smith and Nancy Greene Raine. Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, now embroiled in the Senate expenses scandal, also used to be on the circuit.
Indeed, Wallin has admitted to accepting a fee to speak to a municipalities association - a group the Tories would now qualify as a charity - after being appointed to the Senate. She's said that speaking engagement was scheduled before her appointment and she has not accepted fees for speeches since.
Demers and Smith did not respond to questions about what type of groups have paid them to make speeches.
Green Raine said she thinks she's made only one paid speech since becoming a senator. She said she's never accepted a fee for speaking at a fundraising event for a charity.
"If you support the cause, support it by donating your time," she said in an interview.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall last week asked Trudeau to reimburse the $20,000 fee he charged to speak at a literacy conference in Saskatoon last year. However, Global-TV reported Monday that the group doesn't want the money back and that it feels the event was a success.
Jun 17, 2013 / 7:04 pm
MONTREAL - Three Montreal police officers have been suspended amid an RCMP investigation into misbehaviour on the force.
A city police spokesman said Monday that the suspensions were an internal disciplinary matter for the moment, but they stemmed from a Mountie investigation that's ongoing.
It was another bit of grim news for Montreal on a day when 14 criminal charges were laid against the city's interim mayor, Michael Applebaum, who replaced a predecessor felled by scandal.
Cmdr. Ian Lafreniere didn't name the suspended officers because he said no charges had been laid in the ongoing case.
He said the RCMP originally began investigating for "interfering with the justice system," without offering many other details.
"There are five officers in total that were targeted by the investigation," he said.
"This is not over."
He did not deny a report that the investigation was allegedly related to a contract given to a private security firm.
Montreal's La Presse reported that the investigation is related to a contract handed to the now-defunct BCIA firm for surveillance at the city's police headquarters.
That contract was handed out by the force's former administration.
"Is (the probe) in direct link to BCIA?... I'm going to have a hard time to tell you it doesn't," Lafreniere said.
"But is it all because of this (BCIA)?... I don't believe so."
Ex-chief Yvan Delorme, who unexpectedly resigned in 2010, has said there might have been "administrative errors" in the awarding of the contract but that they were committed in good faith.
BCIA is now bankrupt, after having been embroiled in several scandals at the provincial level.
A provincial Liberal cabinet minister, Tony Tomassi, had to resign after allegations surfaced that he had been using a credit card supplied to him by the company.
He faces fraud and breach of trust charges in the case.
Delorme was also forced to defend himself recently against an allegation by former Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay.
The ex-mayor testified at a corruption inquiry that the police chief showed no interest in investigating an extortion attempt by a high-ranking local political operative. Delorme disputed the mayor's characterization of their conversations.
Jun 17, 2013 / 1:48 pm
OTTAWA - Public health and the public purse are in danger because of cuts to refugee health funding, doctors and refugee advocates said Monday as they protested the cuts across the country.
The federal government overhauled the health care coverage it provides to refugees and refugee claimants one year ago as part of a cost-cutting measure it also said was designed to make Canada less vulnerable to fake asylum claims by curbing access to free health care.
But the changes have thrown the health care support system for refugees into chaos, creating uncertainty for health care providers and refugees alike, advocates said.
The result has been a patchwork approach to treating refugees and refugee claimants that's hurting some of the most vulnerable people in Canada, said Dr. Doug Gruner of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care.
"If they've got a cough, it could be tuberculosis but we're never going to know because they're not going to the doctor," Gruner said Monday.
"But they are going to the playgrounds, the schoolyards and the shopping centres, putting the rest of us at risk."
Until the changes to the interim health care program last year, all refugees and refugee claimants received the same amount of supplemental health care coverage from the federal government.
The program was meant to bridge the gap between a refugee's arrival in Canada and their ability to qualify for provincial coverage, including for items such as dental, vision and drug costs.
In 2006-2007, coverage cost taxpayers $48.3 million, but in 2011-2012 those costs grew to $82.9 million as the number of refugee claims soared, statistics provided Monday by Citizenship and Immigration show.
Now, coverage is determined by criteria such as where claimants are from and whether their claim is pending, accepted or rejected.
For example, those seeking asylum from one of 37 countries considered safe by the federal government have coverage that's limited to situations that pose a risk to public health or conditions that are of a public safety concern.
Those applying from other countries also have their benefits limited to services deemed essential or urgent.
In both cases, if applications are accepted, claimants receive limited extra benefits â€” but only for situations that pose a risk to public health or conditions that constitute a public safety concern.
That means many refugees are left without coverage for dental or vision care, and no access to prescription drugs until their provincial benefits kick in.
"This is a bad policy. This is bad for the health of refugees, this is bad for the health of Canadians for our own public health and this is bad for the taxpayer," said Gruner.
"This will cost taxpayers dramatically more money."
The changes were billed as saving the government $100 million over five years, but the department said Monday it couldn't provide figures yet for how much was saved in 2012-2013; health care providers have six months to submit claims.
But there have been obvious impacts, said Gruner.
In Ottawa alone, there used to be more than 30 clinics that would accept refugee patients. Only nine remain, and they require payment up front, he said â€” a cost often beyond the means of refugees.
"This is not the way Canadians would imagine welcoming some of its newest citizens and arguably some of the most vulnerable to our society by preventing them from accessing health care," Gruner said.
Rather than seeking primary care, refugees are showing up at emergency rooms, which adds to the burden of provincial medical systems and costs taxpayers even more, he added.
While he couldn't provide exact statistics, Gruner said research continues to document the effect of program changes on hospitals and refugee populations.
The government has no heart, opposition critics cried.
"Only a Conservative minister bereft of emotion would think that children and pregnant women are abusing the health care system," said NDP MP Sadia Groguhe.
"The provinces, hospitals and health care professionals who are already overburdened are bearing the brunt of these consequences from the transfer of responsibilities for care of refugees from the federal government to the provinces."
Some provinces have said they won't be turning down requests for coverage, but have asked the federal government to rethink the changes.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney insisted Monday the policy makes sense.
"If you come here as a visitor, a student, as a worker, as a new resident, you have to pay your own medical fees before becoming a permanent resident," he said.
"Why does the NDP want to force taxpayers to pick up the tab universally for illegal migrants? That makes no sense."
When the program was rolled out last year, the federal government was forced to scramble to figure out exactly to whom it would apply.
Initially, even those refugees who were resettled by the government were to have seen their benefits curtailed, although that was eventually changed.
The new policy is currently being challenged in Federal Court as an affront to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Jun 17, 2013 / 1:32 pm
WINNIPEG - Canada's western premiers say bullying is a serious issue and all provinces and territories need to find ways to tackle the new dimension that the Internet brings to the torment.
Following a brief meeting of Canada's western leaders in Winnipeg, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said they are putting bullying on the agenda when the country's premiers meet in Ontario next month.
"There are real serious incidents occurring out there, including through the social media ... with very negative and tragic consequences," Selinger said Monday.
"We think there is value in us all working together to identify the very best ways we can protect Canadians, wherever they live in the country, and ensure they have environments where they can live and work, where they have a sense of safety and can be who they are and respected for who they are."
Bullying has been thrust into the spotlight following the deaths of two teenage girls in Nova Scotia and British Columbia.
Amanda Todd, a B.C. girl who was tormented online after being sexually exploited, committed suicide last year after posting a heartbreaking video about her treatment at the hands of relentless bullies.
Earlier this year, Halifax teen Rehtaeh Parsons hanged herself and died when she was taken off life support. Her family alleges she was bullied relentlessly after a digital photo of her being sexually assaulted was passed around her school.
The federal government has committed to look at new criminal laws that could include a ban on distributing intimate images without consent. Selinger suggested there is more work to be done at the provincial level.
"Initiatives on anti-bullying did start within provincial jurisdictions across the country. We're pleased to see the federal government is now showing some interest in that as well," the host premier said.
"The kind of conversation we had today gave us greater insight into how we can do a better job in creating safe environments, safe neighbourhoods, safe schools and respect for all the peoples that live within our provinces."
Different jurisdictions are tackling bullies in various ways. Manitoba is trying to pass a law which would require instances of bullying to be reported to a principal. It would also force schools to allow gay-straight alliances. But the proposed legislation wouldn't require principals to mete out specific penalties or report bullies to parents or authorities.
In British Columbia, the government spent $4 million setting up a website that allows students to anonymously report bullying. The website, in turn, passes on details to emergency responders, if necessary, and school authorities. About 15,000 educators are also being trained on how to deal with bullying.
"We recognize that it's not just the high-profile incidents that are the problem," B.C. Premier Christy Clark said. "There are thousands of children that are bullied every day. It doesn't make the news, but it changes their lives forever."
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said there is a lot to learn from provinces in the East as well. Nova Scotia is close to passing a cyber-safety act which would create a special investigative unit to pursue cyberbullies. It could strip people of their phones, computers and impose significant fines for perpetrators.
That's why bullying should be near the top of the agenda when all the premiers meet in Niagara-on-the-Lake July, Wall said.
"When all premiers get together, there is an exchange and best practices are analysed and we bring them home," he said. "I'm very hopeful that this is now going to be a top priority of the Council of the Federation."
The premiers also touched on immigration, infrastructure and federal disaster assistance in their three-hour meeting.
The West would like to see more emphasis from the federal government on immigration, skills training and improving the visa process to encourage people to settle in Western Canada, Selinger said.
"We think that all of those things will help grow our economy and ensure that we can continue to have more people living in our jurisdictions and employed in our jurisdictions."
While the premiers discussed energy issues, they said the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline that would carry Alberta oilsands bitumen through B.C. to West Coast tankers did not come up. The project put forward by Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. has been a contentious issue between the two provinces.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford said there was some discussion instead about a pipeline going in the opposite direction.
"We think that moving resources West to East is important," she said without going into details. "There is work to be done, no doubt, and of course there will again be an independent process that will allow for final approval of this. But I think that there is a great deal of momentum around this."
TransCanada Corp. is considering whether to convert an existing 3,000-kilometre natural gas pipeline to carry crude oil into Quebec, with the possibility of a 1,400-kilometre extension to Saint John, N.B.
The Calgary-based company's deadline for long-term commitments from oil producers to the development closed Monday.
TransCanada said a review of what it has received and whether it should move forward with the project "will take some time."
Jun 17, 2013 / 10:40 am
Eating behaviours of preschoolers, such as having meals while plunked in front of the TV, can lead to elevated cholesterol levels that could put kids at risk for cardiovascular disease later in life, new research suggests.
The 2008-2011 study of almost 1,100 children aged three to five found those with poor eating behaviours had higher blood-cholesterol readings than children who had healthier eating habits.
"It shows that we should pay attention to how children eat, not just what they eat," said Dr. Nav Persaud, a family physician and researcher at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, who led the study.
"We should be paying close attention to these young children, preschoolers aged three to five, because the early changes that may lead to serious problems later on are occurring in this age group and it's an opportunity for us to intervene early and get kids on the right track," he said.
The study, published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, involved 1,076 preschoolers enrolled in the TARGet Kids! practice-based research network in Toronto.
Researchers looked at the link between eating habits and blood-serum levels of so-called "bad" cholesterol like LDL and triglicerides, which can be markers of later cardiovascular risk.
Parents filled out questionnaires assessing eating behaviours, such as watching television while eating, dietary intake, parental concerns about activity levels and growth, screen time and use of supplements. Researchers measured height and weight of both the children and their parents and took blood samples to determine cholesterol levels.
Researchers found that "the less healthy the eating behaviours, the higher the cholesterol level," said Persaud.
Those behaviours include eating while watching TV, and likely when engaged with other screens, such as computers and tablets, and snacking on fluids like juice that can leave kids feeling full at mealtime.
"The other issue related to (avoiding) the TV is it gets kids to pay attention to what they're eating, which may make them more interested in variety and having a balanced diet," Persaud said. "It also gets kids to focus on internal cues about when they're full.
"(Food) variety isn't valued as much when you're in front of the TV because you're distracted by the TV, so your food doesn't have to be as interesting."
Persaud said previous research has suggested that "responsive feeding," in which kids are presented with a selection of nutritious foods and allowed to choose when and how much they eat, "is healthier."
"The idea (is) to give kids control over when they eat, but to only provide them with the healthy foods, not to give them a choice between the unhealthy and the healthy foods," he said.
Jun 17, 2013 / 8:47 am
Montreal's Mayor Michael Applebaum has been arrested by the province's anti-corruption squad and faces 14 charges related to two real estate projects between 2006 and 2011.
The charges include fraud, breach of trust, conspiracy, collusion and corruption in municipal affairs, investigators from the Unite permanente anticorruption, or UPAC, said at a press conference Monday morning.
"These were bribes that influenced a decision, approvals or permit distribution," said UPAC commissioner Robert Lafreniere, speaking in French.
Police say the transactions being investigated were worth "several hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Applebaum was arrested at his home in Notre-Dame-de-Grace (NDG) at approximately 6 a.m. Monday.
Two others were also arrested in NDG:
- Saulie Zajdel, who worked in a ministerial office for the federal Tories on ethnic outreach, was charged with breach of trust, fraud and corruption.
- Jean Yves Bisson, a former director of permits who worked in Applebaum's west end borough.
"The message is clear: all actions which compromise the integrity of the state are unacceptable," Lafreniere said, appearing alongside UPAC squad captain Andre Boulanger.
The officers said 20 officers have taken part in the investigation, and it's possible more people will be arrested in the coming days.
Seven months ago, after campaigning on a promise to clean up city hall, Applebaum was elected interim mayor of Montreal.
Applebaum, who is Montreal's first Anglophone mayor in 100 years, has already said he will not run in the upcoming municipal election set for November.
Montreal city hall was raided by UPAC investigators last February, in a sweep that also targeted municipal offices in various boroughs of the city -- including the one Applebaum represented as a councillor for many years.
Now, many of Applebaum's former allies are calling for his immediate resignation.
Gilles Vaillancourt, the former longtime mayor of nearby Laval, was arrested in a sweep last month and charged with fraud and gangsterism.
Jun 17, 2013 / 8:24 am
Canada is joining a group fighting online child sexual abuse around the world, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said Monday.
The Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online, which includes the United States, the European Union and other countries, was started last December to help authorities better identify and assist victims of abuse and prosecute culprits.
The international nature of online abuse requires co-operation between countries to bring criminals to justice and rescue victims, Nicholson said.
Working closely with investigators abroad is a necessity given that child pornography rings often span several countries, he added.
"This is just a recognition of what is taking place on the Internet," the minister said at a news conference in Toronto.
"What this will do is formalize with a whole new range of countries with the intention to share information and to co-operate with each other in these investigations."
The alliance also wants to raise global awareness of the scope of the problem.
Jun 17, 2013 / 6:27 am
A spokeswoman for Quebec's anti-corruption unit says Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum has been arrested.
Anne-Frederick Laurence says Applebaum was arrested at his home this morning, but gave no other details.
A news conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. ET today.
Anti-corruption officials raided Montreal's city hall last February. They also targeted offices in various boroughs, including the one Applebaum represented for many years.
Applebaum is just the latest Quebec mayor to be arrested by the anti-corruption unit.
Gilles Vaillancourt, the former longtime mayor of Laval, was arrested in a sweep last month and charged with fraud and gangsterism.
Applebaum was elected by Montreal's city council to serve as mayor after Gerald Tremblay stepped down last fall amid corruption allegations.
Jun 16, 2013 / 7:47 pm
Three men in their 60s face charges after police cracked an alleged plan to rob at least one armoured truck and had to destroy a possible bomb found in a Montreal apartment.
Police arrested the trio, aged 62, 63 and 65, on Friday and the suspects are expected to appear in court on Monday.
It was the first link of a chain of events that would end with a controlled explosion in a working-class neighbourhood early Sunday.
The device was found in a building where a number of retired and semi-retired tenants reportedly live.
Montreal police spokesman Cst. Daniel Lacoursiere says that robbery squad detectives in the force's Major Crimes Division had been investigating word of a possible heist for the last four months.
The urgency of the probe ramped up recently when they got a tip.
"Detectives got information to suggest that an attack on an armoured truck was imminent," Lacoursiere said.
After the arrests of the three suspects, all of whom are known to police, Lacoursiere said, raids were carried out in Montreal and nearby Repentigny.
In one Montreal raid, detectives made a startling discovery.
"They found inside this apartment what they thought was an explosive device," Lacoursiere said.
About 40 residents of the building in Montreal's Pointe-St-Charles district were ordered to clear out. Fire trucks and ambulances stood by as bomb squad experts examined the device and declared it dangerous.
Many of the building's occupants took shelter on fire department buses as police cordoned off the area and firefighters laid out hoses in case of an explosion.
Police were on the scene for about 10 hours before the device was destroyed in a controlled explosion.
Lacoursiere said the arrested men will face a number of charges when they are arraigned.
He could not say precisely what those charges will be pending their approval by Crown prosecutors.
Montreal, which used to be known as the bank-robbery capital of Canada, has also been famous for spectacular armoured truck heists.
In 1990, $15.9 million was stolen from armed guards on a Brink's aircraft at what was then Dorval airport. The robbery was considered at the time to be the biggest heist from a guarded transport in Canada. The case was solved years later.
One of the most legendary ripoffs happened in 1976 when Brink's guards making a delivery to a bank in the city's financial core found themselves staring into the barrel of a .50-calibre anti-aircraft gun mounted in the back of a van that had blocked them.
Robbers made off with $2.7 million in cash and special coins minted for the Montreal Olympics and the robbery was touted as the crime of the century, passing the famous Brink's heist in Boston in 1950. The robbers have never been caught.
In 1981, a man made off with $2.4 million when he hopped into an unlocked armoured truck and brandished a gun at the driver, who had been left alone while two colleagues had gone to lunch. After forcing the driver out, the robber slid behind the wheel and drove off, later abandoning the emptied truck in an alley.
Jun 16, 2013 / 2:24 pm
The shoe, as they say, is now on the other foot.
The Canadian development men’s national team squandered a large first-half lead, then hung-on to defeat Team USA by a score of 95-93 in double overtime at the Four Nations’ International Invitational Tournament in Wuqi, China.
With the victory, the student-athlete team has now swept the three games against their American rivals during the 11-day competition. Canada is a perfect 7-0 in the tournament with two games remaining – the country’s third meetings against China and Latvia.
The game began with furious action from the Canadians as they bolted ahead 32-9 in the game’s first 10 minutes. The Americans seemed lost as Team Canada swarmed them on defence and responded with quick and efficient scoring. Team USA found its legs in the second and matched Canada shot-for-shot as both teams finished with 22 points in the frame. Holland Landing, Ontario’s Kevin Pangos facilitated the offence and paced the squad to its 54-31 advantage at halftime.
The second half opened with a flurry of activity from Team USA. The team’s potent offence took Canada by surprise as the United States opened with a strong run and held Canada without a field goal for several minutes. By the end of the period, Canada’s lead had been cut to 11 with Team USA carrying all the momentum. The American side completed the comeback late in the fourth quarter as Canada desperately tried to hang on for the victory. Canada had a chance to finish the game in regulation, but could not capitalize.
The United States, hoping to avoid a sweep by the Canadians, kept up their strong play in overtime. They made big three-pointers and put back second-chance points, but Canada held its ground and responded well to the American’s push. Toronto, Ont. native Daniel Mullings was a key contributor for Team Canada in the extra frames, knocking down several shots down the stretch to keep his team in the contest. On the last possession of the match, the Canadians pressured the United States into turning the ball over and the Americans were forced to foul. Canada drained 1-of-2 from the line to go ahead by two. Team USA’s attempt to tie the game, and force a third overtime session, rimmed-out and the Red and White triumphed once again.
Head coach Jay Triano appreciates the three-game sweep of Team USA, but views today’s contest as an important learning tool. “It’s always a challenge playing the United States. Winning all three games was difficult, so I’m proud of our guys for that. We still need to focus on playing a complete game with consistent effort. We’re continuing to grow as a team, but there’s still work to be done. With two games to go, we needed a tough test and we got that today.”
Canada will close-out its three-game set with host nation China on Monday morning with tip-off scheduled for 6:30 a.m. (ET). The first two meetings between Team Canada and the host-nation resulted in two victories for the Canadians by scores of 70-66 and 81-62.
Jun 16, 2013 / 2:12 pm
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he has no qualms about a G8 proposal to combat tax havens.
"We have no reservations in principle," Harper said Sunday in Dublin ahead of the G8 summit.
But the prime minister added any tax measures would need the approval of Canada's provinces and territories.
"You know, tax evasion, there's no upside in tax evasion. It's bad policy, it's bad politics and governments lose revenue that governments should be getting," he said.
"Obviously, we believe in low tax rates in Canada. The only reservation we will obviously express is that in terms of implementation in Canada, we're going to have to consult with our provinces."
Among the items on the agenda at the annual meeting of leaders of the world's eight richest countries is a British proposal aimed at tackling hidden company ownership.
"This is a very important initiative by Prime Minister (David) Cameron," Harper said.
"It is important that we do it and we do it together because when we are dealing with tax evasion we are dealing with problems that cross borders, and even the most powerful governments in the world can't deal with these things by themselves.
"So, I look forward to be part of the declaration and making progress on this as we go to the summit."
British Prime Minister David Cameron told Sky News every member of the G8 supports a plan to identify who actually owns companies.
Cameron also wants to create a central registry of company ownership, but tax activists claim Canada and Russia oppose such a move.
The British prime minister says he hopes all countries will adopt public registries.
Harper leaves Dublin on Monday for the G8 summit in Northern Ireland.
On Sunday, he met Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. The two leaders talked about the free-trade negotiations between Canada and the European Union.
"We hope that the discussions that are ongoing will conclude and, of course, the potential and the benefit for both countries, both Europe, Ireland and Canada," Kenny said.
Trade between Canada and Ireland would flourish if a free-trade deal is signed, Harper said.
"Speaking of trade," Harper said, "Ireland, of course, would also benefit from a free-trade agreement between Canada and the European Union."
Jun 16, 2013 / 12:01 pm
The prime minister's national security adviser, federal lawyers who work on terrorism cases and intelligence analysts in the Privy Council Office would be forever forbidden from discussing sensitive aspects of their work under proposed new rules.
The Harper government wants to pull the cloak of eternal secrecy over past and present employees of nine federal agencies and those who used to toil at two now-defunct branches.
They would join the more than 12,000 current and former federal intelligence officials already covered by Security of Information Act provisions forcing them to take the secrets of their most closely held work to the grave.
A group that advocates a more open and accountable federal government called the blanket proposal "dangerously undemocratic."
"Arguably this could affect society in major ways, because it's going to prevent some information from ever coming to light," said Tyler Sommers, co-ordinator of Democracy Watch.
The Security of Information Act was quickly passed as part of a package of anti-terrorism measures following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
The law forbids discussion of "special operational information" including past and current confidential sources, targets of intelligence operations, names of spies, military attack plans, and encryption or other means of protecting data.
The penalty for revealing such information is up to 14 years in prison.
The government says individuals "permanently bound to secrecy" through special designation are held to a higher level of accountability than others under the secrecy law.
It means unauthorized disclosures are subject to penalty whether the information is true or not and even if it was obtained after the employee left a sensitive post.
The new officials forever bound to secrecy would include members of the legal services units of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada's domestic spy agency, and the Communications Security Establishment, the electronic eavesdropping service.
It would also cover the little-known Privy Council Office employees of the foreign and defence policy secretariat, the intelligence assessment secretariat, the international assessment staff and the security and intelligence secretariat.
Others bound by the provisions would be the national security group of Justice Department lawyers, the national security program of the RCMP and the office of the national security adviser to the prime minister.
Finally, the rules would extend to two dissolved agencies: the office of the inspector general of CSIS, the watchdog axed last year by the Conservatives, and the office of the security and intelligence co-ordinator of the Privy Council Office.
The recently published federal proposal says the organizations that make up the security and intelligence community need to "ensure secrecy and project to others that they have the ability to protect the information entrusted to them."
The planned additions would allow the government to "provide additional assurances to its international partners and allies that special operational information shared with Canada will be protected."
The measures would not override a designated employee's right to protection under whistleblowing procedures, the federal notice adds.
It says there would be "minimal impact" on the media, "which should not have access to special operational information without authorization."
Sommers questioned the notion of information being secret in perpetuity, saying it becomes less sensitive with time, thereby reducing the need to keep it under wraps.
"Would this information cause harm to the public in five, 10, 20 or 30 years?" he asked.
The database of people bound to secrecy, maintained by CSIS, includes those automatically designated through their employment with a spy service or other listed agency.
Others are hand-picked by supervisors due to their access to "special operational information."
Past and present employees of the RCMP, CSIS, the CSE and Foreign Affairs already top the list of people from more than two dozen agencies bound by the secrecy provisions.
The public has until early next month to comment on the new proposal.
Jun 16, 2013 / 10:54 am
Justin Trudeau is promising to compensate all groups that paid him hefty speaking fees to participate in fundraising events since he became an MP.
The Liberal leader said Sunday he'll either give back the fees or find some other way to "make it right."
He could, for instance, give charitable groups donations equivalent to the fees charged or agree to appear at future fundraisers for them â€” for free this time.
"I'm willing to pay all of the money back, if that's what it comes to," Trudeau told CTV's Question Period. "But I am going to fix this."
Trudeau has been under fire since Friday, when it emerged that he'd refused to reimburse the Grace Foundation, a New Brunswick charity that lost money after paying him $20,000 to speak at a fundraising event in June 2012.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall piled on, demanding that Trudeau repay the $20,000 fee he charged for speaking at a Saskatoon literacy conference last year.
But the issue has been haunting Trudeau more generally since he voluntarily disclosed all his sources of income, including a $1.2 million inheritance from his father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, during the Liberal leadership race.
He revealed that he'd earned more than $1.3 million on the public speaking circuit, including $277,000 in the four years after winning election as an MP in 2008. He said he stopped accepting speaking fees once he began seriously contemplating a leadership bid in the spring of 2012.
Some of the groups from which he accepted speaking fees were charitable or non-profit organizations, including universities, school boards, hospital and health care organizations.
Trudeau stressed Sunday that all his speaking engagements were cleared by the federal ethics commissioner, that he never used any parliamentary resources to get to the events and that none of the money he earned went to finance his leadership bid, as Wall has charged.
"I'm doing this not because I'm worried that I did something wrong, because I didn't. Everything was done exactly according to the rules."
Still, he acknowledged there's been a public backlash to the voluntary disclosure of his personal finances, which he argued "raised the bar" for transparency and openness "way beyond" what's required even for cabinet ministers.
"For me, transparency isn't a slogan or a tactic; it's a way of doing business. I trust Canadians. I value their opinions. And now that I've heard them, I'm going to act," he said in a written statement.
Trudeau said he'll talk to each of the groups from which he accepted a fee since becoming an MP and find a way to "fix this and make it right."
On CTV, Trudeau noted that Sunday was Father's Day. He appeared to choke up as he said his late father taught him about the value of public service and would want him to "live up to Canadians' expectations."
He also said he's proud of the work he's done as a professional public speaker and dismissed a suggestion he was simply making money off his celebrity name.
"One speaking event you can make off of celebrity. The kinds of requests for me that kept coming in ... the past five years were based on the fact I'm pretty good speaker. I'm actually a very good speaker."
Not good enough, apparently, to help the Grace Foundation, which hired Trudeau for an event in June 2012 to raise money for furniture for a seniors' home. Foundation board member Susan Buck wrote Trudeau in March to say the event had been "a huge disappointment and financial loss" and to request that he reimburse his fee.
The letter was circulated by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office on Friday.
Jun 16, 2013 / 8:53 am
It's a muggy afternoon in June and high school students wearing T-shirts stamped with the image of Terry Fox stride past towering high-rises and scooters with honking horns in this small Chinese city that's been coated in haze from the local fiberglass factory for several days.
For most, it's their first time making the fundraising trek that's annual tradition half-a-world away in a country where they yearn to attend university.
Teachers at Grand Canadian Academy, a private school certified to award British Columbia diplomas, hope the early Terry Fox run will ease cultural integration for students who have perhaps only visited Canada once before.
Yet the teenagers don't hesitate to draw contrast between how the hero from their prospective new country might have fared in their rapidly-developing homeland.
"If Terry Fox ran on the road (in China), the traffic jam would stop him," says Gr. 12 student Vera Zhang, 19, in newly-acquired English.
"I think maybe he would have died more early, because of the dirty environment," adds her classmate Sally Zhou, also 19.
Zhang has been accepted into the business management program at the University of B.C. (Okanagan campus), while Zhou, who designed the T-shirts her peers are wearing, will attend Toronto's York University to take fine arts.
The pair are among a graduating class of 27 students in the school of 124 who next year will also attend institutions including the University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo, the University of Western Ontario, the University of P.E.I. and St. Mary's in Halifax.
But while these soon-to-be international students from mostly affluent Chinese families have put in vast hours of not only academic study but preparatory efforts for a smoother transition to life in the West, statistically it's expected most from this school will return home again with their highly-regarded Canadian degrees.
"It's about success and it's about progress," says principal Bill Ironside, noting English is the second language of business in Asia.
"They are well-positioned to get hired by good companies and do good work in back in China."
Grade 11 student Miya Xu's fondest memory from a school-run camp during which she visited several Canadian cities last summer is Vancouver's "tall, lofty trees" and "very fresh" air.
"Not like here, it's very dirty and polluted," she says.
The 18-year-old plans to apply to Montreal's McGill University, where she hopes to study management so she may become a "businesswoman" who will most likely return to China to take the reigns running her parents' sweater factory. That would free them up for other possible ventures, such as opening a hotel.
"I want to learn in Canada but not move (there)," she says. "My parents and I think Canada has an advanced education system and a different way to educate. They pay attention to practice, but in China it's too many theories."
The mandate of Grand Canadian Academy is to prepare its students for that Western style of learning. The curriculum is taught by six qualified Canadian expats.
Although they offer a well-rounded lesson plan, they all recognize they must instruct as English-as-a-Second-Language (E.S.L.) teachers first, says Ironside, who is a former high school vice-principal from Collingwood, Ont.
The school is housed in two floors of the 3,445-student high school campus of Mao Dun Zhong Xue, located about a 30-minute bullet train ride southwest of Shanghai, on China's central east coast. It is among 41 off-shore B.C. schools, 32 of which are in China.
The academy was opened in 2005 by a private Chinese businessman who lives in Mainland B.C. The company is based in Hong Kong and teaches grades 10 to 12. Currently, students earn B.C.'s Dogwood Diploma by studying Canadian curriculum during the day and their Chinese diploma via more classes after a dinner break. The school day starts at 7:15 a.m. and ends at 9:40 p.m. All students must pass a rigorous application process and pay tuition to attend.
Jun 15, 2013 / 3:25 pm
TORONTO - The lawyer for a man arrested in this week's massive police raids in Toronto says he's concerned that media reports linking his client to the scandal surrounding Mayor Rob Ford may compromise the man's right to a fair trial.
Reports published in the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail say two of the suspects arrested in Thursday's operation targeting suspected drug and gun traffickers also appear with Ford in a widely publicized photograph connected to the scandal swirling around Ford and an alleged crack video.
The Toronto Star has reported that the same person who showed its reporters an alleged video of the mayor smoking what appears to be crack cocaine provided them with the picture.
It shows Ford posing with three men, one of whom reports have said is Anthony Smith, 21, who was fatally shot at the end of March, and another who was injured in the same shooting.
The newspapers reported the remaining two people in the picture are Monir Kassim, 20, and Muhammad Khattak, 19. The Globe cited sources "with knowledge of the people in the photograph."
Police Chief Bill Blair suggested this week two of the men in the photograph with Ford were somehow connected to the investigation, but would not elaborate when pressed.
Ford has said he poses for photos with "everybody." He has also said publicly that he does not use crack cocaine and suggested the video does not exist.
Khattak's lawyer Nathan Gorham confirmed Saturday that his client was arrested and charged with trafficking marijuana as part of the investigation dubbed Project Traveller.
But he stressed he has no firsthand information about the photo or who it features.
"I don't have any information one way or another whether it's him. It's not something that's come up in the course of my representation of him," he said in a phone interview.
The alleged connection to the photo is troubling, however, because of how it could influence Khattak's trial, Gorham said.
"As a lawyer, you always are concerned that the notoriety of a case or the attention or the mood of hysteria that surrounds these sort of large gang prosecutions might somehow affect the outcome of the case or the fairness of the proceedings against your client," he said.
"And when there's an additional level of notoriety, as in this case with the picture involving Mr. Ford, the concern is even more pronounced."
He noted Khattak, a young man with no prior record facing non-violent charges, has been denied bail, a decision he deemed "very unusual" under the circumstances and which he plans to challenge.
Kassim's brother Samir told the Toronto Star Friday all his brother told him was that he had seen the mayor and wanted a picture, but didn't know anything else about the circumstances of the now famous photo.
But previously, Monir Kassim told the newspaper it wasn't him in the photo.
The Globe cited court documents that indicated Kassim was one of those arrested in the raids.
Thursday's raids unfolded in various locations around the Greater Toronto Area, including an apartment complex where reports have said the alleged video of the mayor took place.
Investigators said 19 people were arrested in Toronto and nine in Windsor, adding that to date 43 people have been arrested in the investigation.
Police said it would take until at least Monday to release a list of people charged.
They would not say whether there was any link with the mayor.
Jun 15, 2013 / 12:42 pm
Quebec's soccer federation is ending its much-criticized turban ban, a day after soccer's world body said such headwear is acceptable on the pitch.
The organization made the announcement Saturday morning, saying it was relieved to receive clear instructions from FIFA on what has become a contentious issue.
"It has been our intention from the onset to get a confirmation that the FIFA allowed wearing of turbans, patkas or keskis," said the Quebec federation's executive director, Brigitte Frot.
"We are very happy that the FIFA has responded to our request and by the same token dispelled the ambiguities created by a lack of clarification."
The ban prompted the Canadian Soccer Association to suspend the Quebec Soccer Federation earlier this week.
Frot said her organization has sent a letter to the national body informing it that the ban has been lifted, thus meeting the conditions that would end the suspension.
The Canadian association quickly confirmed the suspension was over, adding it was "pleased that both organisations could come to a timely resolution on this important matter."
"As the governing body of soccer in Canada we will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the integrity of our game, our membership, and players. Our commitment to the growth of our game in a unified fashion will not waiver," the association's president, Victor Montagliani, said in a statement.
The Quebec organization had cited safety issues for its controversial move as well as the fact the garments were not endorsed by FIFA.
The ban had become a political football. The Parti Quebecois government supported the federation's position, while many federal politicians slammed it as exclusionary.
The federation "unwillingly" found itself the focus of a polarizing debate, Frot said in a statement Saturday.
"Our intervention was solely from a technical point of view and had absolutely nothing to do with religious matters or political views," she said in defending the federation's actions.
"We sometimes had difficulty communicating our intentions over the last few days. If we have offended or appalled some people, please know that it was not intentional nor voluntary and we are deeply sorry."
Jun 15, 2013 / 12:38 pm
Escalating tensions, sparked by American claims that the regime of Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against opposition forces and the subsequent U.S. move to arm the rebels, have moved Syria to the top of the agenda for the coming G8 meeting.
U.S. President Barack Obama held an hour-long video conference Friday evening with four of the G8 leaders who will be at the summit in Northern Ireland: British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in Europe ahead of the G8 summit, did not participate in that discussion.
Ending the two-year bloodshed in Syria, which has killed at least 93,000 people, has assumed a new sense of urgency at the annual meeting of the leaders of the world's eight wealthiest countries now that the United States is getting more involved in the conflict.
It is expected Obama and other G8 leaders will press Russian President Vladimir Putin to relent on his country's persistent blocking of proposed UN sanctions against the Assad regime.
Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and others in Putin's inner circle have questioned claims by the United States that it has proof Assad's forces used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, against the rebels.
Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a telephone call Friday that the "accusations put forth by the United States to Damascus about the use of chemical weapons are not supported by trustworthy facts," according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement.
Lavrov also cautioned that the deepening U.S. involvement would be "fraught with escalation in the region," the statement said.
Speaking on Friday in Paris, Harper said he accepts the U.S. claims.
"We share the view of our allies, I think, based on the evidence before us, that there have been uses of chemical weapons in Syria by the regime," Harper said.
"And as you know, the position of Canada on the regime is clear: we want to see Assad depart power and we want to see a regime that is representative of the entire population of Syria, which the Assad regime in its present form can never be."
Hollande, who spoke alongside Harper, said the rebels must be held accountable for how they use the arms and ammunition supplied by the U.S.
"We must exert some military pressure," Hollande said Friday.
"This is the reason why France, on a number of occasions, has set some principles while asking the Syrian opposition to be particularly clear as to its approach and the use of chemical weapons."
Harper, meanwhile, has other items on his to-do list ahead of the G8.
He arrived in Ireland on Saturday as he continues his European trip. While in Dublin, Harper will meet with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore.
Talks are expected to focus on trade, specifically the free-trade pact Canada is trying to broker with the European Union.
It's believed Ireland and France are pushing back against Canadian demands for more duty-free access to European markets. Harper has stopped in both countries on the pre-G8 leg of his trip.
He'll stay in Dublin until Monday, when he heads to Northern Ireland for the G8 summit.
Jun 14, 2013 / 9:11 pm
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says he won't apologize for saying federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau should return $20,000 he charged for speaking at a literacy conference in Saskatoon.
Wall says it's inappropriate for an elected official to accept a fee to talk at such an event, so Trudeau should pay back the money.
"I just think in terms of an example of leadership that that's the right thing to do at this point," Wall said Friday.
"He's now an aspirant to be the prime minister of the country. I think it's wrong for MPs or MLAs, for those to elected office, to take money for speeches that we ought to be giving because we're already paid our wage and so, because these are charities in the main, I think an offer of reimbursement is the right thing to do."
The Saskatchewan premier says the conference, held in April 2012, was left with only a $7,000 surplus for its next event.
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