Canada on Friday suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong to protest the sweeping new national security law China has enacted in the financial hub.
Canada is also halting exports of sensitive military gear to Hong Kong and updating its travel advisory so Canadians traveling there will know how the law might affect them, the foreign ministry said.
“Canada is a firm believer in the one-country, two-system framework,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, referring to the semi-autonomous model adopted after Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997.
Canada extended its entry ban for most foreigners by another month to July 31 and also prolonged its quarantine requirements in efforts to prevent imported cases of the coronavirus.
The general border closure does not apply to people coming from the United States, who remain restricted to only essential travel to Canada until at least July 21, with visits for tourism or recreation forbidden.
“Border measures prohibiting foreign nationals from entering Canada from any country other than the United States subject to certain limited exceptions… (have) been extended,” Canada’s public health agency said in a statement Tuesday.
Canada has reported more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 8,600 deaths — far less than the US, which has confirmed 2.6 million infections.
Canada’s population of around 37 million is far smaller than the US’ 329 million.
A mandatory two-week quarantine for all arrivals will remain in place until August 31, the public health agency said.
The extension was announced as the European Union agreed to reopen its borders to 15 countries, including Canada, deemed to have brought their domestic outbreaks under control.
China has formally charged two Canadians with spying, officials said Friday, more than 18 months after they were arrested in a spat between Beijing and Ottawa.
The pair were detained shortly after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on a US warrant, in what is widely believed to have been a retaliatory move from China.
The Supreme People’s Procuratorate said Friday it has begun the prosecution of ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, who were “suspected of foreign espionage” and “providing state secrets”.
The move comes just weeks after a key ruling in the Meng case where a Canadian judge ruled that proceedings to extradite her to the United States will go ahead.
The United States wants Meng extradited to face trial on charges related to the Chinese telecom equipment maker’s alleged violations of US sanctions against Iran.
Diplomatic relations between Canada and China have hit rock bottom over the arrests, damaging trade between the countries.
China’s Embassy in Ottawa accused the United States of trying “to bring down Huawei”.
China has also blocked billions of dollars’ worth of Canadian agricultural exports.
The arrests of Kovrig and Spavor nine days after Meng was taken into custody have been widely decried as retribution.
While the eldest daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei has been out on bail and living in a mansion in Vancouver, the two Canadians remain in China’s opaque penal system.
Monthly consular visits for Kovrig and Spavor had been suspended since the coronavirus outbreak started in China, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in April, amid concerns over their well-being.
Beijing confirmed Friday that these were still suspended and would not resume until the virus situation had improved.
China’s foreign ministry has previously insisted the pair are in good health and that their detention facility is “in a region that is not particularly affected by COVID-19”.
However, people familiar with the matter have told AFP the two have endured hours of interrogation and in the first six months of detention were forced to sleep with the lights on.
Chinese human rights lawyer Li Fangping told AFP the pair could expect their trials to be held in secret, with an official lawyer appointed.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Friday that the circumstances surrounding the case were “particularly serious… the facts of the crime are clear and the evidence sufficient.”
Trudeau has insisted on leaving it to the courts to decide Meng’s fate.
He lamented in May that China “doesn’t seem to understand” the meaning of an independent judiciary.
His foreign minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne, said after the May ruling over Meng that Canada would “continue to pursue principled engagement with China to address our bilateral differences”.
Champagne also said Ottawa would continue to press for the release of Kovrig and Spavor, “who have been arbitrarily detained for over 500 days”, and for clemency for a third Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, facing execution.
Meng’s case now continues to a second phase, yet to be scheduled, when the defence will challenge the lawfulness of her arrest, followed by more hearings likely in September.
Any appeals could further drag it out for years.
In contrast, the trial of Kovrig and Spavor would likely happen fairly quickly, experts said.
Li said “under normal circumstances a verdict would take six months.”
Ryan Mitchell, law professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the long period of detention was “probably intended to help coerce a ‘voluntary’ confession out of one or both of the two Canadians”.
“These trials are thus likely to be quite rapidly dealt with, and the verdict and sentence already determined by the (Communist) Party officials overseeing management of the cases,” he said.
The investigation into allegations of corruption and money laundering against Nigeria’s former Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete has taken a new turn with the tracking and grounding of a private jet which was traced to the former minister.
The jet is believed to have been purchased for 57 million dollars in 2011 as part of the alleged proceeds of the $1.3 billion oil deal in which the prospecting rights to the opl 245 block was awarded to a company, Malabu Oil and Gas, which he secretly controlled.
Asset recovery lawyers acting for the Federal Government swooped after the bombardier 6,000 jet touched down at Montréal-Trudeau International airport in Canada.
The seizure was confirmed to Channels TV’s London correspondent on Saturday by Babatunde Olabode Johnson, one of the lawyers involved in Nigeria’s asset recovery cases.
The order for the seizure according to Mr. Johnson was served on the jet’s owner, a company called Tibit Limited, which has until June 9, to file court papers opposing the seizure.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared at a loss for words Tuesday, pausing for 20 seconds when pressed for his thoughts on US President Donald Trump’s threat of military mobilization against violent US protests.
“We all watch in horror and consternation what’s going on in the United States,” he said finally.
Now “is a time to listen, it is a time to pull people together and a time to learn what injustices continue despite progress over years and decades,” he added.
Trudeau was responding to a CBC reporter who also asked the prime minister for his views on police using tear gas to clear protesters from outside the White House so Trump could pose for photographs at a nearby church damaged during civil unrest, and why Trudeau at times seemed reluctant to criticize Trump.
Usually quick on his feet, Trudeau’s pregnant pause during his daily COVID-19 briefing, televised live nationwide, spoke loudly.
The two leaders have had a rocky relationship since Trump walked out of a G7 summit in Quebec in June 2018, but they appeared to have mended fences last year at the conclusion of North American free trade negotiations.
As he has done in recent days, Trudeau chose to focus on Canada in his answer and reaffirmed that there was still a lot to do to fight racism in this country.
He also cautioned against drawing comparisons between Canada and the United States, or concluding “that we are much better here.”
“Canadians (must) recognize that we too have our challenges, that black Canadians and racialized Canadians face discrimination as a lived reality every single day,” he said.
“We need to see that not just as a government and take action, but we need to see that as Canadians. We need to be allies in the fight against discrimination.”
Canada announced Tuesday a one-time payment of up to Can$500 (US$360) for seniors — who as a group have suffered the most COVID-19 sickness and fatalities — to help defray added pandemic costs of living.
An estimated seven million elderly Canadians qualify for the aid.
“The last few weeks have been particularly tough for our seniors and their families,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a daily briefing.
“Our parents and our grandparents are most at risk of catching the COVID-19 virus and of suffering the most serious consequences right across the country,” he said.
The pandemic, he said, exposed shortfalls in care at nursing homes, where roughly 80 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Canada occurred. The crisis led to the military being sent in to help feed and care for residents.
A lockdown has also left many elderly Canadians isolated, and facing additional costs for prescription drugs or grocery deliveries, for example, “which means they can’t take advantage of sales in stores,” Trudeau said.
“It’s hard on their morale, as well as on their finances,” he said.
Despite keeping its borders open for goods shipments during the coronavirus pandemic, Canadian trade fell in March while its trade deficit widened to Can$1.4 billion (US$1 billion), according to data released Tuesday.
The figure, up from a Can$894 million deficit in February, beat analyst forecasts. Year over year, trade fell 10 percent.
But with a full month of physical distancing policies in place in April, trade values are expected to “decrease more severely” in that month, warned Statistics Canada.
Total exports fell 4.7 percent to Can$46.3 billion in March while imports declined 3.5 percent to Can$47.7 billion, the government agency said.
Automakers and several auto engine and parts suppliers in North America notably began to cease production or shifted production to medical masks and ventilators, with the introduction of physical distancing measures.
This had “a significant impact” on trade, according to Statistics Canada.
Energy imports and exports were also down in the month, reflecting weaker global demand for oil, with the collapse in oil prices likely to be felt “more severely in future months,” it said.
The double drop in car and oil sales resulted in “a sharp decline in trade” with the United States, while Canada’s trade surplus with its largest trading partner narrowed slightly from Can$4.0 billion in February to Can$3.9 billion in March.
The month also saw lower exports of aircraft, but higher exports of farm, fishing and intermediate food products, with the end of rail blockades by indigenous rights activists allowing a grain backlog to be cleared.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday announced an immediate ban on military-grade assault weapons, responding to a mass shooting and arson spree that left 22 people dead earlier this month.
“These weapons were designed for one purpose, and one purpose only: to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time,” Trudeau told a news briefing.
He said his government has approved a decree banning the sale, purchase, use, transport and import of 1,500 models of military-grade assault weapons and variants of them.
“There is no use, and no place for such weapons in Canada,” Trudeau said.
The killing spree, the worst in Canadian history, began on the night of April 18 in Nova Scotia and led to a 13-hour manhunt for the shooter, who was eventually shot dead by police.
Authorities have said the assailant – identified as 51-year-old denturist Gabriel Wortman – was wearing a police uniform, driving a mock police car, and had several guns with him including at least one assault-style weapon.
Trudeau said there will be a two-year amnesty for people who currently own assault-style weapons to protect them from liability, and parliament will eventually pass legislation to compensate them for turning in their guns.
“For many families, including indigenous people, firearms are part of traditions passed down through generations, and the vast majority of gun owners use them safely, responsibly, and in accordance with the law, whether it be for work, sports shooting for collecting or for hunting,” Trudeau said.
“But you don’t need an AR-15 to bring down a deer,” he added.
Mass shootings are less common in Canada than in the US “but the heartbreaking truth is, they’re happening more often than they once did,” the prime minister said.
He mentioned for instance, a shooting at a mosque in Quebec City in 2017 that left six dead and 19 wounded.
Trudeau made banning assault weapons part of his campaign for elections that brought him to power in 2015. He repeated it in the campaign for the October 2019 elections in which he won another term.
Nearly four of five Canadians back such a ban, according to an Angus Reid poll released Friday.
The Canadian government said Friday that one million KN95 masks imported from China did not meet its strict standards and so could not be distributed to frontline health workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Public Health Agency of Canada “has identified approximately one million KN95 masks as non-compliant with specifications for healthcare settings,” a spokesman told AFP.
“These items were not distributed to provinces and territories for frontline health care response, and are being subsequently assessed for use in non-healthcare settings,” he said.
Chinese model KN95 masks are similar to N95 masks, as well as the FFP2 model used in Europe.
“Much of the world’s supply is manufactured in China and moving materials out of that country is highly complex,” said Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand.
The relationship between Ottawa and Beijing has been on the rocks ever since the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, an executive at Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, in December 2018 in Vancouver.
Millions of other respirators and N95 masks are currently being scrutinized by the agency, Anand said.
Meanwhile domestic production of masks and other medical supplies “is ramping up,” with contracts signed with three more Canadian companies this week to produce 16 million “medical face shields.”
General Motors said in a statement it would start producing one million masks per month for the Canadian government at its Oshawa assembly plant, which had been shuttered in December 2019.
The head of its union, Jerry Dias, said he was “thrilled” that 50 employees “will be recalled” to make the masks. Some 2,000 auto workers lost their jobs when the plant was closed.
In early April, Canada received deliveries of more than 10 million masks and announced total orders for more than 60 million more N95 masks.
He added that “If you’ve lost your job – whether you worked full time, on contract, or were self-employed – you qualify for the benefit.
“If you lost income because you’re sick or quarantined, if you’re looking after someone who’s sick, or if you’re home taking care of the kids – you qualify. And if you’re still employed but not receiving income because of COVID-19 – you qualify too. We won’t leave anyone behind”.
Canada lawmakers recently passed the coronavirus aid package after an all-night session
The lawmakers on Wednesday morning approved a more than Can$100 billion aid package to help individuals and businesses through the pandemic, after all-night negotiations on what emergency powers to grant the minority government.
Following approval by the House of Commons, they were adopted by the Senate.
The total aid package of Can$107 billion will allow for a new emergency fund that will dispense Can$2,000 per month for four months to Canadian workers who find themselves without an income due to the new coronavirus.
Nearly one million have been laid off following temporary closure orders given to many businesses in an effort to slow the virus’s spread.
The government expects to enact the emergency measure from April 6, according to Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
He said he was pleased with obtaining “unanimous consent with the other parties to move forward” with the response plan.
To respect “social distancing” measures during the pandemic, only 32 members of Parliament, proportionally representing each party instead of the full 338, had gathered in Ottawa for a vote Tuesday on the emergency measures.