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Trump offers help with Canadian detainees in China in upbeat visit with Trudeau

Trump offers help with Canadian detainees in China in upbeat visit with TrudeauWASHINGTON — It was third-time lucky for Justin Trudeau in Washington on Thursday as President Donald Trump welcomed his "friend" the hard-working Canadian prime minister and offered to help him out of a jam with China.One year after Trump insulted Trudeau after leaving the G7 in Quebec — dishonest, weak, meek, mild is how he described him on Twitter — the president displayed a statesman's grace in welcoming the Canadian leader.Trump signalled Thursday he will raise the issue of two Canadians detained in China when he meets with the Chinese president next week. And even though he held to his tough talk on tariffs, refusing to rule out using them in the future, he praised his North American neighbours for crafting an excellent new trade agreement.The aura of restraint that Trump projected came on a tense morning as his administration was seized with responding to Iran's Revolutionary Guard shooting down a U.S. surveillance drone. The move sparked competing and unverifiable accounts over where the downing occurred and deepened a conflict between the U.S. and Iran but Trump was adamant the plane was in international waters.Trudeau's trip to Washington, including his third Oval Office visit since Trump assumed power in2017, was aimed primarily at pushing the new North American trade agreement over the finish line in both countries."He's been a friend of mine. We've worked hard together. We worked, in particular, on the USMCA," Trump said, using the acronym for his preferred name for the new trade pact, the United States-Mexio-Canada Agreement.After his meeting with Trump, Trudeau announced co-operation on a series of initiatives, include a new push to combat the opioid crisis in both countries. They also agreed to speed up two previous plans to ease the flow of goods and people across the border: a new preclearance plan and a long-planned sharing of information on people entering and exiting the two countries will begin this summer.Speaking to reporters as he and Trudeau sat in the Oval Office, Trump vowed to do whatever he could do to help Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig when he meets China's President Xi Jinping at next week's G20 leaders' summit in Japan, if Trudeau — as expected — asks for his help.The two Canadians have been languishing behind bars in China since shortly after Canada arrested high-tech executive Meng Wanzhou late last year at the behest of U.S. authorities.Canada has been caught in the crossfire after the RCMP arrested Meng last December in Vancouver, where she awaits extradition south of the border to face allegations of fraud in violating Iran sanctions.Trudeau doesn't have a planned meeting with Xi, unlike Trump. The U.S.-China meeting next week is focused on a trade deal."I'll represent him well, I will tell you," Trump said. "We'll see what happens, but anything I can do to help Canada I will be doing . . . I would, at Justin's request, I will actually bring it up."Trudeau said he and Trump had an "extended conversation" about the situation Canada finds itself in with China, which includes blocking imports of Canadian canola and pork. But what Trump will say to Xi isn't clear — all Trudeau would say is that he expects Kovrig and Spavor to be on the agenda for the Trump-Xi meeting.Conservative foreign-affairs critic Erin O'Toole said it is about time someone talks to Xi about the situation."After half a year of inaction and bungling by the Liberals, the crisis will finally be raised directly with the Chinese president, but it will take the United States to make our case. While this is a positive step, it is frustrating Trudeau let the crisis deepen over half a year," said O'Toole. Trump and Trudeau projected genuine enthusiasm for the hard-fought completion of a new North American trade deal.Canada has started the ratification process, with legislation making its way through Parliament. Lawmakers in Mexico voted Wednesday in a landslide to ratify the deal, which Trudeau said he was pleased to see.But now Trump needs to persuade his Democratic opponents in the House of Representatives — in particular Speaker Nancy Pelosi — to allow the actual start of the ratification of the USMCA.Pelosi and her fellow Democrats want stronger enforcement mechanisms for the deal's new labour and environmental provisions.Trump sounded upbeat in the Oval Office."Let's see what happens, but I really believe that Nancy Pelosi and the House will approve it, I think the Senate will approve it rapidly," the president said. "I think Nancy Pelosi is going to do the right thing."Trump also said it was a "terrific thing" that Trudeau was to make the rounds on Capitol Hill with Pelosi and the U.S. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.(The meeting with McConnell, the Senate's top Republican, was cancelled because of the U.S.-Iran situation but his support for the new NAFTA is all but a given. Trudeau spoke with him by phone before leaving Washington on Thursday night.)Speaking on Capitol Hill next to Trudeau, Pelosi said she looked forward to a "lively discussion" on global security issues and the economic relationship between the two countries, particularly regarding trade.Though Trudeau made clear he wants to stay out of U.S. domestic political wrangling, he reaffirmed his view that it is a done deal that can't be reopened because it could lead to "worse outcomes for Canadians and for Canada.""We recognize, however, that the U.S. is going through its process and we remain alert to potential challenges and opportunities that may come through that process."Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


B.C. imposes interim moratorium on resource development to protect caribou

B.C. imposes interim moratorium on resource development to protect caribouVANCOUVER — The British Columbia government announced an interim moratorium on resource development in parts of the south Peace region on Thursday, giving itself more time to sign a long-term strategy to protect dwindling caribou populations.The government said it will close consultation gaps to find harmony within local communities that have been divided over the issue, while one of the area's First Nations called the move a stall tactic.The issue of caribou protection had "inflamed passions," in what Premier John Horgan said in April was a lack of understanding about saving the animals.Blair Lekstrom, a former Liberal MLA who was appointed the province's community liaison in April, said he's confident a balance can be reached."Caribou are everybody's issue," he said. "We need to find the balance so that our families and the workers and the resource industry workers are allowed to go to work and provide for their families. Do I think we can reach that balance? Yes I do."The moratorium is one of 14 recommendations in a report by Lekstrom on caribou recovery released Thursday. It covers new forestry, mining and oil and gas developments.The moratorium applies to the "central herd" area of the southern mountain caribou, which was first listed as threatened in 2003.The government also unveiled a framework for a "bilateral conservation agreement," with the federal government, First Nations, local governments and industry to develop caribou management plans for the southern mountain caribou.The move comes more than one year after federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna determined that 10 southern mountain caribou herds faced an "imminent threat," setting the stage for Ottawa to issue a possible emergency order to protect them.The order would allow the federal government to close off caribou habitat, resulting in lost jobs and billions of dollars in economic losses, the province said in March.In 2017, the B.C. government started negotiations to develop a conservation agreement to avoid an emergency order, focusing on the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations.Horgan said Thursday federal officials have indicated support for B.C.'s plan."I believe the federal government fully understands where we're going on this and they're giving us the latitude as they should to find a way forward that's in the interests of the community and the caribou."The province also expects to wrap up consultations in a shorter time frame than the two-year horizon outlined, hopefully before Christmas, Horgan said.The news was met with skepticism by Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nation.Willson said he was expecting a strategy to be announced by the end of this month, not a two-year grace period for the government to act."I'm upset, I'm confused about what's going on, I thought we were recovering caribou. All of a sudden they're hitting the pause button for two years. How does that get us closer to saving caribou?" Willson said. Development on the nation's traditional hunting grounds has reduced habitat to the point that members can no longer hunt, which he said infringes on the nation's treaty rights."We're losing our culture because of this and they don't seem upset about that," he said.About 217 animals remaining in the West Moberly's territory, he said, and the nation would like to see the population recover to historic levels of "thousands."The issue has created tension in the Peace Region and Willson said their members have been subjected to racist posts online that blame "the Indians" for dwindling herds and threaten violence."There needs to be an investigation because that's called a hate crime. Some of the stuff being said about 'shooting Indians' and all that shouldn't be tolerated," he said.Horgan told reporters that government had been alerted to the "provocative statements that inflame insensitivity," but was unaware of calls for an inquiry or investigation.Horgan said the government responded to the issue but didn't clarify how.Others expressed relief over the pause for dialogue."We didn't have any consultation whatsoever until the partnership agreement was presented to us," said Tumbler Ridge Mayor Keith Bertrand. Bertrand said he has no pressing concerns, except that two draft agreements don't specify an altitude for proposed protected areas that might affect higher elevation backcountry activities like snowmobiling."All the footprints of our existing mines have been carved out of the moratorium so we're fairly safe as far as that goes for the time being," he said.The BC Council of Forest Industries said the extension gives breathing room to the industry as it faces "significant challenges." Timber supply shortages, high log costs and volatile market prices have led to mill closures and curtailments across B.C.'s Interior."Considering these circumstances, it comes as some relief that the province has seen fit to pause to ensure that collectively we strike the right balance between caribou recovery and economic viability," said council CEO Susan Yurkovich in a statement.Amy Smart, The Canadian Press


Counsellors help students at B.C. school after student dies during field trip

Counsellors help students at B.C. school after student dies during field tripSOOKE, B.C. — The Greater Victoria School District says counsellors will be at a local middle school to help students and staff deal with the death of a fellow student.Superintendent Shelley Green posted a letter on the district's website Wednesday, advising that the district has deployed its critical incident response team to Lansdowne Middle School after a student died during a field trip.Officials with the Otter Point Volunteer Fire Department, near the west coast Vancouver Island community of Sooke, say they responded to Camp Barnard on Wednesday afternoon for a report that a boy was trapped under a fallen tree.RCMP say in a news release the 13-year-old boy was unconscious and not breathing when emergency responders arrived.Camp personnel and first responders performed life-saving measures but they were unsuccessful and the boy was pronounced dead at the scene.A second youth was taken to hospital in critical condition but the RCMP say his injuries are not believed to be life threatening.Premier John Horgan offered his "heartfelt sorrow" for the loss of life of the "youngster," who died in his constituency."I just want to offer my sincere condolences to the family and to those kids at Lansdowne who are grieving the loss of a friend at what was supposed to be a joyous end to the school year," Horgan said Thursday."Nobody wants to ever hear of events like this and now we have families living it in Victoria."Green's letter says the death of the unnamed youth "may raise certain emotions, concerns and questions for our entire school district, especially our students."At Lansdowne Middle School, we have counsellors available for any students and staff who may need and want help or any type of assistance surrounding this loss," Green writes.More than 600 students in Grades 6 to 8 attend the school.The Camp Barnard website says the roughly one-square-kilometre camp at Otter Point, just west of Sooke, offers wilderness camping and other programs for youths and adults.(The Canadian Press, CTV)The Canadian Press


Trudeau says he will defend minority rights in face of Quebec religious-symbol law

Trudeau says he will defend minority rights in face of Quebec religious-symbol lawMONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added his voice Thursday to the growing opposition to Quebec's new law prohibiting teachers, police officers and other public servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols.Speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., Trudeau said he and his government will defend minority rights everywhere in Canada. "We do not feel that it is a government's responsibility, or in a government's interest, to legislate on what people should be wearing," he said.Commenting for the first time since the law was adopted Sunday, Trudeau did not specify what action his government would take to protect minority rights. Critics say the Quebec law unfairly targets Muslims, Sikhs and other religious minorities."We have a strong Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and we will certainly ensure that our views are well known and continue to defend Canadians' rights," he said.A legal challenge of Bill 21 scheduled to be heard Thursday in a Montreal courtroom was pushed back to July 9 after Quebec government lawyers requested more time. The plaintiffs are seeking an immediate judicial stay on the sections of the law that restrict religious symbols at work and require that state services be given and received with the face uncovered.Trudeau's comments came as Quebec's largest school board voted to delay application of the secularism law for at least a year to allow for consultations with parents, unions and other stakeholders on how to enforce it.That move prompted a rebuke from the provincial government, which insists that the law takes effect immediately.Premier Francois Legault told reporters in Quebec City on Thursday he is confident the school board will fall in line. "The law was adopted legitimately, and we will apply the law," he said, noting that those who held their jobs before the bill was tabled are protected by a grandfather clause.Opposition to the secularism law has grown since the Coalition Avenir Quebec government invoked closure to pass it before the end of the legislative session. On Wednesday, McGill University's faculty of education issued a statement saying the law goes against the faculty's inclusive values."Bill 21 suggests to a portion of our students that they are not welcome in public schools because of their religious cultural practices," faculty dean Dilson E. Rassier wrote. "McGill University’s faculty of education is a place that upholds fundamental academic freedoms and represents a richly diverse community. As such, we will continue to support our students in their pursuits to become the best teachers and educators they can be."In a motion passed Wednesday, the Commission scolaire de Montreal outlined plans for consultations with governing boards, parents' committees, unions and various associations to determine what changes need to be made to board policies to respect the law.Catherine Harel-Bourdon, the board chairwoman and an outspoken critic of the new law, told reporters Thursday it is clear the law will need to be applied, but the board is hoping the government understands the issues with application.The board has 191 schools and nearly 17,000 employees and will need to train hundreds of managers to enforce the law and avoid having it applied unevenly in different schools, she said.Shortly before Sunday's vote, the government made amendments to the bill providing for inspectors to ensure the new law is applied and specifying that employees who flout the law risk disciplinary measures. The amendments led one Liberal critic to accuse the government of creating a "secularism police."The school board said the system puts a "tremendous burden" on managers who, according to the amendments, risk reprisals if they do not comply with the law adequately and consistently.The English Montreal School Board voted not to implement the planned restrictions on religious symbols before the bill was even tabled, and a spokesman said Thursday the issue will likely come up for further discussion at a meeting next week.Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press


Five Things to know after PM meets Trump, congressional leaders in Washington

Five Things to know after PM meets Trump, congressional leaders in WashingtonWASHINGTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent Thursday in Washington, meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House and getting face time with the top Democrat on Capitol Hill, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Here are five things to take away from the day:1\. Working towards certainty on continental trade uncertaintyTrump foisted an acrimonious renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement on Canada and Mexico, and after more than a year of hard bargaining, everyone survived. The leaders of the three countries signed the deal late last year but final legal ratification remains a significant hurdle — especially in the United States. Trump has insulted Pelosi, who essentially holds the cards on ratification because she controls the agenda in one house of Congress. Still, Trump sounded upbeat in a meeting in the Oval Office, figuring that Pelosi and the Democrats would ultimately back the deal, and made a point to highlight Trudeau's meeting with her after their confab, calling it "a terrific thing." We likely won't know for weeks how successful Trudeau was in persuading Pelosi. One test will be whether the matter moves through Congress before the end of July, when it adjourns for the summer. Trudeau signalled at the end of the day that reopening the deal to meet any new demands is a non-starter for the Liberals.2\. Helping two Canadians in big trouble in ChinaTwo Canadian men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, have been languishing behind bars in China for more than six months. Their arrests are widely viewed as retaliation for Canada's arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on an American extradition warrant. Chinese leaders have snubbed Trudeau and his cabinet ministers but Trump has been playing hardball with the People's Republic in an escalating trade war that is rocking the global economy. Trade will be the subject of a meeting Trump has next week with China's President Xi Jinping at the G20 leaders' summit in Japan and he promised the prime minister he will raise the detainees. Trudeau said he and Trump had an "extended conversation" in private about the situation Canada finds itself in with China, which includes blocking imports of Canadian canola and pork. But what Trump will say to Xi isn't clear — all Trudeau would say is that he expects Kovrig and Spavor to be on the agenda for the meeting.3\. Winning in the eyes of CanadiansManaging relations with the United States — Canada's largest trading partner, neighbour, close friend and ally — is arguably one of the most important duties of a prime minister. Trudeau has had a rough time with Trump, to put it mildly. Trump insulted him over Twitter after leaving the G7 in Quebec last year and he imposed punishing steel and aluminum tariffs on Canadian exports as a bargaining chip in the NAFTA talks. All of that would seem to be history. Trump gave Trudeau a warm welcome at the White House, calling the prime minister "a friend of mine" and touting how the two have worked together on the new trade pact. Trudeau dismissed the past tiff, saying it was focused on what matters in the relationship between the two countries, such as the flow of goods and people across the border. What may matter more for Trudeau — and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer — is how Canadians interpret the interaction between Trump and the prime minister when voters go to the polls in October.4\. Huawei, or not HuaweiThe Trump administration is clear: the Chinese telecom giant is a national-security threat and won't be supplying any of the equipment for America's next-generation 5G wireless network. The Trump administration doesn't want Canada or its allies using Huawei products either. The Trudeau government is taking its time deciding. Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale have repeatedly said they will make an evidence-based decision on the advice of their security experts. That likely won't come before the October election, however. Trump was expected to push the issue with Trudeau when they talked in private. In public, nothing appeared to change.5\. That's the way the basketball bouncesIn addition to trying to salvage the North American economy, protect jobs and bring certainty back to big-business planning, Trudeau had the opportunity to gloat to Pelosi over winning his bet on the NBA Finals that saw the Toronto Raptors defeat her home-state Golden State Warriors. Pelosi paid up on the bet the two made late in the series by handing over California wine, chocolate and nuts. Trudeau didn't go emptyhanded, giving the U.S. House Speaker some Raptors swag and chocolate made by Peace by Chocolate, a company created by a family of Syrian refugees in Nova Scotia. But there was no slam-dunk about whether the champions will get an invite to the White House, in keeping with what is now an often-controversial tradition. All Trump said is that he would think about it.Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


Wednesday 26th of June 2019 07:45:33

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