True North Initiative: News Scan 10 27 17

TOP STORIES

Undercover FBI agent defends role in drawing 3rd man into Via Rail terror investigation

The FBI undercover agent at the centre of a plot by two men planning to derail a VIA Rail train travelling from New York to Toronto stands by a controversial decision to target a third suspect who was living in Quebec City at the time. Ahmed Abassi, originally from Tunisia, was a student attending Laval University in 2012. He was drawn into the investigation by the agent, despite terrorism charges against him that were eventually dropped and criticism that he was "entrapped" by the agent. (CBC)

Morneau to donate millions but says that’s no admission of wrongdoing

Finance minister Bill Morneau surprised the House of Commons by announcing he’ll donate the capital gain on the sale of Morneau Shepell shares to charity. But he tells Vassy Kapelos that should not be taken as an admission he did anything wrong. (Global) (CBC)

Ottawa warned free trade talks with China risk hurting Canada-U.S. relationship

The federal government is being warned that its relationship with the United States could be in jeopardy if Canada engages in free trade talks with China. Former Conservative cabinet minister James Moore, who is also a member of the federal government's hand-picked NAFTA council, says entering into formal free trade discussions with the Chinese would give President Donald Trump ammunition to launch verbal attacks against Canada and NAFTA. (CBC)

Conservatives gain support as controversies plague Liberals: poll

Two years after they were elected, the Liberals are still the most favoured party in Canadian federal politics — but competition is heating up. A survey released Thursday by Abacus Data shows that if an election was held today, Liberals would garner 39 per cent of support, the Conservatives 35 per cent, and the New Democrats would get 15 per cent of votes. Liberals have a narrowing lead over Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives. When the same survey was conducted in July, it found that Liberals would get 43 per cent of support, and the Conservatives would rake in 17 per cent. (Global)

Trudeau opens door to federal intervention on Quebec's face-covering law

Justin Trudeau has opened the door to federal intervention to challenge Quebec's new law on religious neutrality, widely seen as targeting Muslim women who wear face veils. Immediately after Quebec passed Bill 62 last week, the prime minister was hesitant to come out strongly against the legislation. He said the responsibility to challenge the law lay with citizens, not the federal government. (CTV)

Quebec justice minister says face-covering ban 'protects display of religious beliefs'

Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée is defending the province's controversial new face-covering ban against allegations it puts Muslim women in the crosshairs. Bill 62, which passed into law on Wednesday, stipulates that people must uncover their faces while providing or receiving public services in the province. (CBC)

Sabrine Djermane's sister to be charged with obstructing justice

A copy of the summons was recently made public at the Montreal courthouse, while Djermane, 21, is on trial for terror-related offences, along with El Mahdi Jamali, 20. Rania Djermane, Sabrine’s younger sister, is alleged to have “voluntarily attempted to obstruct, deceive or thwart the course of justice, by declaring that she lied during prior statements.” She is scheduled to make her first appearance in court on Nov. 8.  The summons does not make specific reference to the jury trial underway at the Montreal courthouse. But according to court records, the alleged offence occurred on May 14, 2016, while Djermane and Jamali’s preliminary inquiry was underway. (Montreal Gazette)

Trudeau: Canadians should be ‘angered’ by $31.25M settlement

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provided more details of a $31.25 million settlement paid out to three Canadians falsely imprisoned in Syria, adding that people should be “angered” by it. (Global)

 

OTHER STORIES (Domestic and International)

Top Trump official says U.S. isn’t offering ‘anything’ to Canada in exchange for NAFTA demands

The Trump administration is demanding NAFTA concessions from Canada and Mexico but not offering “anything” in exchange, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Wednesday. Ross’s remarkable public statement corroborates the complaints of Canadian and Mexican officials, who have accused the U.S. of taking an unusually and unreasonably hard line in the talks to renegotiate the North American free trade pact. (Toronto Star)

Canada's top cop said it would be 'reckless' to keep using federal government's IT service

Among his last moves as RCMP commissioner, Bob Paulson told the head of the federal government's vexed tech support agency it would be "reckless and arguably criminal" to renew its contract with Shared Services Canada. The correspondence, obtained by CBC News under Access to Information legislation, appears to be the culmination of a long-standing complaint from the RCMP that SSC offers a one-size-fits-all government-wide service package that does not recognize the unique needs of a national police force. (CBC)

If province wants immigrants, it has to take big steps, advocate says

As the number of immigrants settling in other parts of Canada continues to climb, New Brunswick needs to take "leaps" to catch up and attract newcomers, the province's multicultural council says. The 2016 census numbers show that immigrants in Canada have reached their highest level in almost a century, making up 21.9 per cent of the population. (CBC)

Reduced mandate of Quebec's racism inquiry 'very political' and 'unacceptable,' community groups say

Community organizations are distancing themselves from the Quebec government's consultations on systemic racism after the hearings were rebranded last week to focus on economic concerns. Some are ignoring the province's new stated mandate and proceeding with the hearings they had originally planned, while others are dropping out of the process altogether. (CBC)

Closing the immigrant wage gap: is speaking English important?

Statistics Canada has released new data from the 2016 census that shows more than any other G8 country, Canada is a nation of immigrants. One in five Canadians (21.9 per cent to be exact) were born in another country.  Immigration is a significant component of Canada’s population growth and evolving demographic composition. The census data shows more than 1.2 million new immigrants came to Canada between 2011-16. Immigrants are also typically younger and more educated than the average Canadian. (Canadian Immigrant)

Cuban officials defend against sonic attack accusations in television special

Cuba on Thursday presented its most detailed defence to date against U.S. accusations that American diplomats in Havana were subjected to mysterious sonic attacks that left them with a variety of ailments including headaches, hearing problems and concussions. In a half-hour, prime-time special titled “Alleged Sonic Attacks,” Cuban officials attempted to undermine the Trump administration’s assertion that 24 U.S. officials or their relatives had been subjected to deliberate attacks by a still-undetermined culprit. (Global)

UK tourists warned of possible ISIS attacks in T&T

The UK Government has warned citizens travelling to Trinidad and Tobago of the possibility of indiscriminate terrorist attacks on the twin island state. In updated travel advice from the UK government, visitors were warned that the threat exists from individuals who may have been inspired by terrorist groups, including Daesh (ISIS) and al Qaeda, to carry out so-called ‘lone actor’ attacks targeting public events or places. (Loop)

Pentagon chief Mattis stresses diplomacy in Korean crisis

On his first visit to the tense but eerily quiet frontier between North and South Korea as U.S. secretary of defence, Jim Mattis conveyed the message he hopes will win the day: Diplomacy is the answer to ending the nuclear crisis with the North, not war. He made the point over and over – at the Panmunjom “truce village” where North literally meets South; at a military observation post inside the Demilitarized Zone, and in off-the cuff comments to U.S. and South Korean troops. (National Post)

JFK assassination: Thousands of files released

The US government has released 2,800 previously classified files on the assassination of President John F Kennedy in 1963. President Donald Trump said the public deserved to be "fully informed" about the event, which has been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories. (BBC)

Ellen DeGeneres gets slammed on Twitter over sexist tweet to Katy Perry

Comedian and daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres is receiving some backlash from fans after a joke about Katy Perry was taken as sexist. The star courted outrage on Wednesday after dedicating a tweet to the “Roar” singer on her birthday. (FOX)

Saudi Arabia becomes first country to grant citizenship to a robot

A humanoid robot took the stage at the Future Investment Initiative yesterday and had an amusing exchange with the host to the delight of hundreds of delegates. Smartphones were held aloft as Sophia, a robot designed by Hong Kong company Hanson Robotics, gave a presentation that demonstrated her capacity for human expression. (Arab News)

 

EDITORIAL AND OPINION PIECES 

Candice Malcolm: Refugee system even worse than I thought

The Canadian government is knowingly letting criminals into our country. That’s not an opinion – it’s a fact, and one that the Trudeau government openly admits. Last week, I wrote a column about Canada’s biometric security system, and how it failed to stop a Somali national with an outstanding U.S. deportation order from entering Canada. The Somali man, Abdullahi Hassan Sharif, entered Canada illegally on foot, just as he’d entered the U.S. illegally from Tijuana, Mexico. (Toronto Sun)

Candice Malcolm: A Strange Captivity

Their story has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle were idealistic adventurers, a newlywed couple who loved to explore unusual destinations and travel off the beaten path. The North American pair married in 2011, and after spending a few months in Guatemala, they set off for Central Asia, trekking through Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Afghanistan was not part of their original plan, the couple’s friends and family say, but they met other travelers on their journey who raved about the country and its unique beauty, and, just like that, the carefree duo decided to explore the Wardak Province of central Afghanistan. Within weeks, Coleman and Boyle were abducted by the Haqqani network, a fierce and ruthless faction of the Taliban. (Weekly Standard)

Farzana Hassan: Quebec’s niqab ban is a chance for women to embrace Western freedom

Bill 62 was passed last week, in effect denying public services to people in face masks. While the ban includes all face coverings, this has predictably turned into an Islam versus the West issue. The familiar rivalries have resurfaced. Politicians have condemned the “burka ban”, saying it marginalizes Muslim women. (Toronto Sun)

Mark Bonokoski: Never settle for less than $10 million, it’s unCanadian

It would appear the Trudeau Liberals’ magic number for surrender is $10 million, give or take a few hundred thousand. For Omar Khadr, convicted terrorist, bomb maker, and former Guantanamo detainee who later denied wrongdoing, the payout in July was $10.5 million for Canada’s purported role in violating his rights as a Canadian citizen.For Maher Arar, a Syrian-Canadian arrested in the United States in the wake of 9/11, and deported to a torturous time in Syria for wrongly being linked to al-Qaeda, the payout by Canadian taxpayers for his detention and torture was � $10.5 million. (Toronto Sun)

Goldstein: PM's budget will never balance itself

Defenders of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau always bristle when his critics bring up his infamous 2014 claim that “the budget will balance itself”. They point out the full quote from Trudeau, then Liberal leader, was: “The commitment needs to be a commitment to grow the economy and the budget will balance itself.” (Toronto Sun)

Toronto Sun: Editorial: Canada's misadventures in progressive budgeting

The finance department’s economic update press release issued Tuesday highlighted all of the things they wanted to brag about. It talked about economic growth clocking in at 3.1%. It showcased earlier-than-expected increases coming for the Canada child benefit. And it drew attention to the Working Income Tax Benefit gains. (Toronto Sun)

Toronto Sun: Only Bill Morneau can make right his hypocrisy

The stink surrounding Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s finances is getting worse. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ran interference earlier in the week, personally fielding reporter questions directed at Morneau, but sooner or later the finance minister himself will have to clear the air. (Toronto Sun)

John Ivison: With Bombardier intervention, Trudeau scorns his own 'Think China' message

A curious but apparently well-sourced Reuters report appeared Thursday, saying the Canadian government facilitated a deal between Bombardier and European plane-maker Airbus for the CSeries jet in order to thwart a potential investment by a state-owned Chinese company. (National Post)

Paul Evans: Xi’s China a source of worry and wonder for Canadians

The 19th Party Congress that just concluded in Beijing has made things a whole lot more interesting for the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in charting the next steps in its China policy. This is now unmistakably Xi Jinping's China. His 'thought' has been elevated to sacred status, and his power more centralized than under even Deng Xiaoping. The Party is in command, and Mr. Xi is in command of a party that is likely to be even more repressive and more resistant to Western influences, at least in the short run. (Globe and Mail)

Shuvaloy Majumdar: The Trudeau government overlooks China’s dangerous duplicities just to land a trade deal

A Chinese economy still overwhelmingly run through politicized structures is portrayed as a hub of free enterprise. A state ruled by a despotic clique is sold as a forward-thinking global leader. A regime bent on deploying technology to control its populace and wage cyber warfare abroad, is featured as a bastion of technological marvels. A country that holds little genuine affinity for Canada, beyond what will serve its own interests, is presented as a loyal, unambiguous friend. (Financial Post)

 

REPORTS, COMMITTEE HEARINGS, LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

 

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