February 26, 2022

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Canadian Michael Spavor found guilty of spying, sentenced to 11 years in prison by Chinese court

Canadian Michael Spavor has been found guilty of espionage and sentenced to 11 years in prison by a Chinese court in a verdict that will further test the strained relationship between the Canadian and Chinese governments.

Spavor is also being ordered deported by the court, though it is not immediately clear if that will happen before or after the 11-year prison sentence is served.

Canadian Ambassador Dominic Barton, who attended Spavor’s hearing in Dandong, a coastal city near the border with North Korea, said he believes it will occur after he completes his sentence.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this decision after a legal process that lacked both fairness and transparency,” Barton said in a video address to diplomats and journalists gathered at the Canadian embassy.

Spavor was also convicted of illegally providing state secrets to other countries.

The verdict and sentencing mark a significant new development in Spavor’s journey through the Chinese legal system, which Ottawa and other observers have decried for a perceived lack of transparency.

WATCH | The potential impact of Michael Spavor’s sentence: 

The potential impact of Michael Spavor’s sentence


Ottawa has called repeatedly on the Chinese government to release Spavor and fellow Canadian Michael Kovrig, who were both detained in what is widely seen as an act of retaliation following the arrest of the Chinese business executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in December, 2018

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the sentence “absolutely unacceptable and unjust.”

“Today’s verdict for Mr. Spavor comes after more than two and a half years of arbitrary detention, a lack of transparency in the legal process and a trial that did not satisfy even the minimum standards required by international law,” Trudeau said in a statement early Wednesday. Read more on this story here.

Defending champion Bianca Andreescu advances to 3rd round at National Bank Open

(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Canada’s Bianca Andreescu hits a return to Harriet Dart of the U.K. during second round action at the National Bank Open women’s tennis tournament in Montreal on Tuesday. Andreescu won the match to move on the next round. Read more here from the tournament.

In brief

With COVID-19 cases rising in multiple provinces after a summer lull, more signs point to Canada entering an expected fourth wave of the pandemic — one which could be dramatically different from earlier surges, thanks to rising vaccination rates, but not entirely pain-free. The country’s seven-day average for new daily cases is now close to 1,300 — an increase of nearly 60 per cent over the previous week, with cases ticking back up mainly in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec. “We’re absolutely in the fourth wave,” said Dr. Peter Juni, who is the scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. “There’s no doubt about that.” But unlike previous waves, which overwhelmed various hospital systems and led to catastrophic death in long-term care facilities, there is hope this spike won’t be quite so dire. Read more on the fourth wave here.

WATCH | Unvaccinated adults driving COVID-19 case increase in Canada: 

Unvaccinated adults driving COVID-19 case increase in Canada

Quebec’s health minister says a vaccination passport system will be implemented on Sept. 1 to combat rising COVID-19 cases and an “inevitable” fourth wave. “Taking into account the increase in cases, the fall coming up with the back to school and back to work and the expected prevalence of the delta variant, the conditions are there to deploy the vaccination passport,” Christian Dubé said Tuesday. The vaccine passport will be implemented in places with high capacity and a high rate of contact, such as festivals, bars, restaurants, gyms and training facilities to avoid the widespread closures that marked the first waves of COVID-19 in Quebec. When asked about religious gatherings and weddings, Dubé said the government is still discussing whether they will be included as events that require vaccine passports. Read more on Quebec’s move to bring in vaccination passports

Brian Pallister announced Tuesday he is stepping down as Manitoba’s premier, but the timing of his departure is still being determined. Pallister, a Progressive Conservative, said he won’t run for re-election in 2023. He said he’s making the announcement now so Manitobans can get to know a new leader. He did not say specifically when he plans to leave politics. “By stepping aside at the midpoint in our second mandate, I believe this will provide sufficient time not only for party members to choose a new leader, but for Manitobans to get to know that new leader and new premier as well, so we can keep moving this province forward together,” he told reporters in brief remarks yesterday in Brandon, Man., on the first day of his party’s summer caucus retreat. “I believe that now is the time for a new leader and a new premier to take our province forward.” Read more on Pallister’s decision

WATCH | Manitoba premier not seeking re-election: 

Manitoba premier not seeking re-election

Canada’s military has turned down a former member’s request that RCMP officers be asked to investigate her claim that a senior military leader raped her, CBC News has learned. The move goes against a key recommendation of retired Supreme Court justice Morris Fish’s report urging sweeping changes to the military’s judicial system. In that report, Fish called on the military to surrender control of sexual assault investigations to civilian authorities until it reforms the way it deals with victims’ rights. When Fish’s report was released in late May, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the federal government accepted its recommendations in principle. More than two months later, the military confirms it has yet to hand over a single sexual misconduct investigation to civilian police. Read more on this story here.

WATCH | Military won’t ask RCMP to investigate sexual assault allegation: 

Military won’t ask RCMP to investigate sexual assault allegation

Crossing home from the U.S. to Canada in a taxi at the end of July, Saadi Kadhum pulled out his phone to show the border officer the email confirming his negative COVID-19 test. But try as he might, he couldn’t access his email. It was a forgetful moment that cost him more than $6,000. Kadhum, 56, who lives in the Toronto area, said he felt increasingly frazzled as he tried variation after variation, stuck on the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor. Kadhum, who’d gone to the U.S. to attend his daughter’s wedding, said he was eventually locked out of his email account. He was given two options. He could try to go back to the pharmacy to print out his test result, which actually wasn’t possible because he’d need to first show proof of the negative test, now out of reach behind email security, to re-enter the U.S. Or he could go home, but be charged the maximum fine under the Quarantine Act — $5,000 plus “a victim fine surcharge and costs” under the offence: “failure to comply with an order prohibiting or subjecting to any condition the entry into Canada.” The total fine would be $6,255. Read more on Kadhum’s story.  

NHL Hall of Fame netminder Tony Esposito, who played most of his career in Chicago, has died after a brief fight with pancreatic cancer, the club said Tuesday. Esposito was 78. Born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., he played briefly with Montreal before moving to Chicago. There he won three Vezina trophies as the NHL’s top goaltender. He led the team to the Stanley Cup finals twice, and is the team’s career leader with 418 wins and 74 shutouts. “Chicago felt like home from the time Tony first arrived in 1969, thanks to the Wirtz family and those 18,000 Chicago fans who treated him like family every night at the Stadium, win or lose or tie,” the Esposito family said in a statement. Read more on Esposito’s passing.

Now for some good news to start your Wednesday: Fun, professional and a joy to work with are some of the ways film and TV producers describe Joyce and Jacqueline Robbins, but to meet the septuagenarian twin actresses in person is hard to put into words. Onlookers may initially be drawn by their identical appearances, which often include their grey hair placed in buns at the tops of their heads and bright red lipstick. The twins have been acting professionally for more than 40 years. At 71, they seem to have hit their stride. Best known for their roles as the White-Faced Women in the Netflix show A Series of Unfortunate Events, this summer their work has included an episode of CW’s Two Sentence Horror Stories, several episodes of Paramount Television’s Joe Pickett and an appearance on the MGM co-production of Billy the Kid. “Suddenly really an embarrassment of riches has happened for us,” Joyce said, her sister Jacqueline tight by her side. Read more about the acting twins.

Front Burner: The front lines of the Taliban’s offensive in Afghanistan

In the last few days, the Taliban has taken control of at least eight provincial capitals in Afghanistan.

While the U.S is pulling its troops from the country after 20 years of war, it is also carrying out airstrikes in an attempt to help the Afghan government hold onto power. Many civilians have been caught in the middle of the heavy fighting. Meanwhile, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has warned that the Taliban is targeting people connected to the current government for “summary execution.”

Journalist Akhtar Mohammad Makoii brings us the view from Herat, a strategic city in the Taliban’s power struggle with the Afghan government.  

Front Burner18:02The front lines of the Taliban’s offensive in Afghanistan

Today in history: August 11

1908: Canadians Walter Ewing and George Beattie win the gold and silver medals, respectively, in trap shooting at the Olympic Games in London. It would take 90 years for another Canadian one-two finish in an Olympic event — speed skaters Catriona Le May Doan and Susan Auch in the 1998 women’s 500 metres in Nagano, Japan.

1986: More than 150 Tamil refugees are found drifting in two lifeboats off Newfoundland. They were allowed to stay in Canada for at least one year, a move that angered some other immigrants who followed proper procedures.

1994: Federal regulators take control of Confederation Life Insurance Co., one of Canada’s largest insurers, after the company failed to secure a $600-million capital rescue package from the insurance industry. 

1995: Three people are killed and another 30 injured when a Toronto  subway train smashes into the rear of another stopped train.

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