The News Rundown
- One of our very early stories here on Western Context was the influx in illegal asylum seekers coming into Canada or as the government called them, “irregular border crossers”.
- This of course was spurred by Justin Trudeau’s #WelcomeToCanada tweet the weekend after Donald Trump’s Presidential inauguration.
- Over the years since then we have taken in over 58,000 “irregular border crossers” as the government and RCMP call them.
- Of that number 14,420 have been accepted, 11,948 have been rejected, and 29,605 are still pending.
- To date in 2020 3,094 people have been intercepted by the RCMP. Worrying though is that during the pandemic, in April 2020 the statistics list that only 6 were intercepted in the month of April. 21 in May, 32 in June. Down from 955 in March, 980 in February, and 1,100 in January.
- This suggests of course that the government has just stopped caring about people coming in illegally on our southern border.
- Now why are we talking about a story that goes back to the very beginning of Western Context?
- The Safe Third Country Agreement has been ruled unconstitutional here in Canada by the Federal Court of Appeal.
- This could of course be appealed to the Supreme Court but as we all know the courts have a history of making policy.
- The last time they did this in a hugely public manner was with their mandate that the government legalize assisted dying.
- The decision released Wednesday by Justice Ann McDonald ruled that the U.S. is no longer a safe country for refugees sent back from Canada due to risk of imprisonment.
- In particular it is believed that the Safe Third Country Agreement is in violation of the rights guaranteed by section 7 of the charter.
- Section 7 guarantees the right to life, liberty, and security of the person.
- The decision will not take effect for 6 months which means that during that time the government will have to decide whether to appeal the decision or suspend the Safe third Country Agreement.
- As mentioned this isn’t the first time that the courts in Canada have shifted policy.
- And from the look of the numbers coming in post pandemic it already looks as though the Trudeau government has made the decision to ignore the Safe Third Country Agreement.
- Sharry Aiken, an associate professor of law at Queen’s University, said that her “hope is that there won’t be an appeal and our government will do the right thing, which would be to move quickly to suspend the safe country agreement.”
- Of course the hope is also that Donald Trump will be defeated in the fall by Joe Biden and that a new administration will take over in January marking a change in policy.
- The media and government officials have loved beating on President Trump for his inhumane and gross treatment of immigrants as they have called it.
- But in reality, he’s just looking out for the national security of his country by means of strong borders.
- This of course caused our Prime Minister to virtue signal mere days after Trump became President bringing in tens of thousands of illegal border crossers or as the government calls them, irregular.
- Pandemic or not the government and media has always been looking for an excuse to let those coming in from the US into Canada to show just how much better we are than the United States in their view.
- And the Global News article on this subject asks, “Will Canada see an influx of asylum seekers?”
- That answer is yes and is quite honestly a stupid question.
- We already have to the tune of 58,000+!
- This article is quite honestly insulting to Canadians as it’s the usual trope of trying to import American problems and paint the US President as a horrible human being.
- But the sad part about all of this is that it neglects our southern border and puts Canadians at risk so that the media can make the point they have loved to make since 2017.
- As soon as our government and media adopt a Canada First perspective and realize that cheap shots at the US President aren’t helping Canadians, that’s when things will start turning around for the better.
- Much has been made of the failures of the Canadian government's early response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with relying on faulty advice from the WHO, contradictory guidelines by Chief Medical Officer Theresa Tam, flip flopping on the efficacy of masks, and the Prime Minister and several cabinet members openly flouting the health guidelines they set for all Canadians to follow.
- What hasn't been talked about as much is just how early the Canadian government knew that something wrong was happening in China, and how much of an early response they could have had to save lives as well as the economy had action been taken earlier.
- A little-known branch within Canadian Forces Intelligence Command, the medical intelligence unit known as MEDINT briefed Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan about the COVID-19 crisis on January 17, 2020, the government confirmed in a document presented to Parliament this week. The briefing came 17 days after the World Health Organization (WHO) China Country Office was informed of cases of pneumonia with an unknown cause in Wuhan, in China's Hubei province.
- While the minister was briefed in mid-January about the new virus, the government's incident response group — led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and composed of cabinet ministers and other senior government officials — didn't meet to discuss COVID-19 until 10 days later, on January 27. By that date, 82 people had died and more than 2,800 cases had been confirmed in mainland China. More cases were being reported throughout the rest of Asia and around the world.
- In response to an order paper question from Conservative MP James Bezan, the Department of National Defence (DND) confirmed that MEDINT shared its briefing documents about COVID-19 widely with other government departments and agencies.
- "All relevant information and analysis was briefed to senior officials in a timely manner ... The minister of National Defence receives regular briefings to ensure the safety and security of Canadians as well as Canadian Armed Forces members at home and abroad," DND said in its response to Bezan. While the actual contents of that military intelligence briefing are unknown, it is clear that the machinery of government was aware of COVID-19 and its spread well before the Public Health Agency of Canada coordinated an almost complete shutdown of economic and social life two months later, in mid-March.
- Wesley Wark, a University of Ottawa professor and one of the country's top intelligence experts, said the delay between the January 17 military briefing and the first meeting of the incident response group shows "there weren't a lot of alarm bells ringing anywhere in government" in the early days of this pandemic. Wark said the January 17 briefing to Sajjan on the threat posed by COVID-19 to Canada "wasn't particularly early," given China was already in the planning stages for the full lockdown of Hubei province that took place less than a week later. By the time cabinet and officials met on January 27, Wark said, Western intelligence agencies had already known for weeks that there was a new virus ripping through Hubei province and beyond.
- Wark said: "Canada, for reasons that go unexplained, missed the opportunity to do proper risk assessments, to seize the opportunity of early warning and to get the response planning into gear. We lost a crucial period of time to take preparations before COVID-19 seriously struck in Canada. I think we have to assume that the wasted time cost Canada enormously in terms of lives and the economy."
- What is known is that the contents of the January briefing to Sajjan did not lead the federal government to close borders or restrict flights — or to alter its public messaging on the risk the virus posed to Canadians. Thousands of travellers were still coming in through Canadian airports, none of whom were directed to quarantine, and nobody in government was raising any eyebrows.
- At the time, much of the government's focus in the early days of the pandemic was on repatriating Canadians from Hubei province and cruise ships while international borders remained open with minimal screening. As late as March 10, a department-drafted briefing note prepared for Health Minister Patty Hajdu ahead of question period was saying that — with just 12 cases being reported nationwide at that point (even though publicly available numbers already had climbed higher) — "the risk of spread of this virus within Canada remains low at this time." The note also said the public health system is "well-equipped to contain cases coming from abroad, limiting the spread in Canada." A month later, Canada would have more than 21,000 cases, many of them linked to China, Europe and U.S. travel.
- As government documents show, as of Jan. 28 the World Health Organization (WHO) was describing the risk of COVID-19 transmission as "very high" in China and "high at the global level." It would be weeks before Canadian public health officials changed their risk assessment.
- Wark says: "There's a lot of explaining that I think the Canadian government needs to do as to why it held on to a low risk judgment for so long until suddenly, on a Sunday in mid-March, we got all these cascading, desperate measures and societal restrictions."
- In other military news, Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces Jonathan Vance is announcing his retirement. This comes just one day after a new report released by Canada’s access-to-information watchdog that says that she alerted Attorney General David Lametti last February that evidence uncovered in a “systemic” investigation into the Department of National Defence’s information disclosure practices led her to believe the military possibly broke the law while processing a request related to vice-admiral Mark Norman.
- The decision also comes after the Liberal government declined to nominate Vance for the position of chairman of the Military Committee of NATO, which is the alliance’s top military officer. While everyone in the media is praising Vance for his years of military service, it's clear that something wasn't right within the military command of Canada's Armed Forces.
- In Sept 2019, Vance was asked in an interview if he would continue as Chief of the Defence Staff if asked by the government to stay on, to which he replied “I will. I still have a few things to get into the end zone. So yes, I will serve at the pleasure of the government. That’s what I do. Until I can’t.”
- Vance said he wanted to “flesh out the growth” that the military is to see in the future and he believes there is more work to be done on Operation Honour, the operation he initiated nicknamed by some in uniform as Operation Hop-On-Her after it was discovered there was widespread sexual assault and misconduct in the Canadian Forces.
- It's hard to know what spurred on his sudden retirement, but it's possible that there will be more revelations about the Mark Norman case that still haven't been uncovered yet.
- The period in time from 2009 to 2015 saw a huge increase in the number of terror attacks sponsored and carried out by those part of and like the islamic state.
- This week it was announced that a Calgary man, Hussein Sobhe Borhot, was charged with terrorism offences for travelling to Syria and joining ISIS.
- He is said to have taken part in kidnappings on the behalf of ISIS.
- The RCMP files suggest that the criminal was in ISIS between May 2013 and June 2014. While there the RCMP said, “[he] enlisted with IS, received training for the purpose of enhancing the ability of IS, knowingly participated or contributed to the activities of the group and knowingly committed the offence of kidnapping at the direction of, or in association with the terrorist group.”
- The RCMP then believe he left Syria on May 30th 2014 through the Azzaz border crossing heading into Lebanon.
- From that point he was freely able to return to Canada. This highlights the lack of security screening on those heading to and from the Middle East.
- Calgary Imam Syed Soharwardy, founder of Muslims Against Terrorism and the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada has long advocated Canada investigate those who travel abroad to join terrorist groups and estimates there are probably about 200 Canadians that fit that bill.
- Imam Syed Soharwardy called it a slow and tiring process to only have one person be charged after 7 years.
- The imam spoke a great deal of sense and all Canadians should listen to him.
- First he called those who have gone to ISIS to fight and return “walking time bombs” and he was aware of the fact that we shouldn’t let them walk freely on Canadian soil.
- But he also cautioned about the charges potentially backfiring in the Muslim commenting, giving those who hold Islamophobic views “an opportunity to spew out hate.”
- Premier Jason Kenney said, “It’s important that law enforcement send a message that there is no immunity for Canadians who go abroad to commit acts of terrorism, to victimize the innocent and, in some cases, to also attack Canadian military personnel.”
- And he ended with saying, “I hope there are other ongoing investigations because we do know that there were … dozens of Canadian, so-called foreign fighters who went abroad to join ISIS and similar deeply hateful terrorist organizations.”
- This is the entire point of this story. The fact there have been a handful of charges in 5-7 years should be a question all Canadians are asking about.
- Some questions the media could start with to the RCMP include:
- How many foreign fighters who went to fight for ISIS have returned?
- How many of them are under investigation?
- And are there any concerns that this might taint the perception of justice in Canada?
- Thankfully the influence of ISIS abroad is on the downswing and we haven’t seen any major attacks recently. Their geographical region has been defeated of course but defeating an ideology takes time and we aren’t there yet.
- It’s because of that we should be asking the hard questions while being aware the threat from ISIS or similar groups could flare up again in the future.
- 2 weeks ago we first detailed the WE Scandal, and almost as a footnote, we mentioned journalist Brian Lilley of the Toronto Sun, who was contacted by WE Charity's defamation lawyer in response to questions about WE's vast Canadian real estate holdings, and how he felt that it was odd he was hearing from a lawyer to standard media questions. Now we know why WE's response to Lilley was so harsh and defensive, like a cornered wolf.
- Both a government and charity official confirmed the controversial Canada Student Service Grant contract was not with WE Charity, as Prime Minister Trudeau had earlier announced. Rather, Trudeau’s government had awarded the contract to run the $912-million student volunteer program to the WE Charity Foundation, which is a distinct charity from WE Charity, little more than a shell corporation with no assets, no history, no record of charitable work. It was described by WE as inactive in August 2018 and only received federal charity status in April 2019 and whose stated purpose was to hold tens of millions worth of WE Charity real estate.
- How it became the vehicle for the government’s sole-source contract for the student volunteer program, which has embroiled the prime minister in an ethics scandal and triggered committee hearings, has raised lots of questions over the past few weeks. This immediately attracted attention as it was unclear why the civil service could not perform the task allocated to the charity.
- Almost every day there is new information uncovered, and it's likely we haven't finished seeing the end of the level of corruption engaged by the Liberals and WE Charity.
- In his statements on the Canada Student Service Grant, Trudeau said it was to be “administered by WE Charity.” But late Tuesday, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth Minister Bardish Chagger’s office confirmed the government had actually contracted the WE Charity Foundation.
- To reiterate, WE Charity and WE Charity Foundation are in fact different charities. In Canada Revenue Agency documents, WE Charity Foundation said it was not a branch, section or division of any other charity. But the two organizations have the same Toronto address and phone number.
- A WE Charity statement said it decided to make the Foundation the “contracting party” with the government on the advice of its lawyers due to concerns about legal liabilities stemming from the federal student program.
- “The use of multiple corporate entities to isolate liabilities for particular projects is not uncommon. This action was done with the advice of legal counsel and with the consent of the board of directors. WE Charity counsel proposed that WE Charity Foundation be the party to the funding agreement in part to protect WE Charity’s pre-existing charitable assets, which are needed to continue to deliver WE Charity’s longstanding charitable programs. The WE Charity Board of Directors is structured to provide governance and legal oversight over the WE Charity Foundation.”
- In essence, they were trying to cover their own asses. But what of the government's acquiescence? Charity lawyer Mark Blumberg said it was “shocking” the Trudeau government provided the $912-million student service grant to the WE Charity Foundation and not WE Charity. He said if WE Charity Foundation had been unable to complete the student volunteer program the government would have had little recourse to recover any funds: “It is close to useless to obtain an indemnity from a charity with no assets. I can understand why WE Charity would want this agreement with any potential exposure to be in the name of WE Charity Foundation, but I cannot understand, if the government was protecting the interests of Canadian taxpayers or citizens, why the government would either agree to this or incorrectly state who the correct party is to this very important agreement.”
- The WE Charity has also been accused by a witness in the House of Commons Finance Committee of transferring personal data to the Liberal Party before the 2015 election.
- Speaking in the Finance Committee, journalist Vivian Krause accused the WE organization of engaging in data mining for corporate partners, some of which was later given to the Liberal Party in 2015, who ended up winning a majority.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's mother and brother have earned a combined $300,000 in speaking fees from WE. The ties between the Trudeau government and WE Charity don't just stop at speaking fees given to members of Trudeau's family though. Finance Minister Bill Morneau, for instance, had two children who either worked for the charity or were promoted by it. Katie Telford (who works as Trudeau's chief of staff) created a charity that raised funds on behalf of WE. Minister O'Regan served as that charity's honorary head.
- Neither Trudeau, O'Regan, Morneau or Telford recused themselves from the decision to award the charity this contract which would have seen WE receive more than $43.5 million to oversee the program. This has led to an investigation by the Ethics Commissioner. If Trudeau is found guilty, this would be his third ethics violation.
- On Tuesday, Clerk of the Privy Council Ian Shugart said he couldn't see not having the finance minister and prime minister involved in discussions about a program as big in scope and price as the Canada Student Service Grant.
- Morneau is also in hot water and facing calls to resign after telling MPs that he cut a cheque for over $41,000 to repay travel expenses incurred by the WE organization related to two 2017 trips his family took with the organization that he "forgot to repay".
- Morneau said that after conducting a review of his family's finances in recent days, he found documentation confirming that he already had repaid $52,000 in expenses for hotels and flights related to the trips to Ecuador and Kenya to view the organization's humanitarian work — but failed to locate receipts related to the WE programming he and his family members participated in during the trips.
- Morneau also said his family has made two donations totalling $100,000 to the We Charity — one in April 2018 and one in June of this year — to support the charitable organization's work with students in Canada and for COVID-19 relief in Kenya, respectively.
- NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus says the ethics commissioner should investigate Bill Morneau again, after the new travel expenses revelations. Ethics commissioner Mario Dion had already launched an investigation into Morneau for not recusing himself from the government's decision to award a $900-million contract to WE to administer a summer student grants program, as his daughter works for the charity.
- Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said Canadians will find it hard to believe that Morneau didn't know about thousands of dollars of travel expenses the organization covered — particularly since he's a cabinet minister forbidden from accepting such a benefit.
- Poilievre referring to the decision on the student grant program said: "We know that this is illegal. We know that you ought to have recused yourself. Minister, you've lost the moral authority to hold your office."
- At this stage of the WE scandal it might be more efficient if we were to ask which leading members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet are not in some relationship with the founders of WE Charity, Marc and Craig Kielburger, have not been speakers at WE events, did not receive a complimentary vacation at WE’s hideously expensive ($4,000 per night) luxury resort in Kenya. Or do not have family members working for WE, or who have not forgotten they owe a woeful chunk of change to some arm of WE’s ever-so-numerous enterprises.
- Waterloo MP and Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth Bardish Chagger says she takes responsibility for the now dissolved contract between the government and WE Charity...I mean, WE Charity Foundation. The junior minister in Justin Trudeau’s government has been called out by both backbench MPs and Finance Minister Bill Morneau as the person behind the problematic WE contract.
- Morneau told members of the finance committee Wednesday that he "was not the minister responsible. As I outlined in my prepared remarks, that was Minister Chagger.”
- It’s yet another example of Trudeau’s ultra-woke feminist government throwing another minority woman under the bus just to keep wealthy white guys happy. It looks like a repeat of what they did with Jody Wilson-Raybould.
- “I feel badly for Minister Chagger. It is disgusting the way she is being treated” Poilievre said Thursday.
- He’s not wrong. Chagger is the minister for diversity, youth and inclusion, a ministry without a department and technically, Chagger reports to Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault.
- The program that would have seen WE get this $912 million contract was out of the employment and social development department which is under two ministers – Carla Qualtrough and Ahmed Hussen. There is very little Chagger could have done on this file without the ministers above her, including Morneau, giving direction.
- Poilievre says it's clear who to blame for the WE Charity mess: “The men responsible for this are Bill Morneau and Justin Trudeau. For them to try and blame a junior minister who had no authority to do any of this is absolutely disgusting.”
- It should also be noted that WE’s headquarters are in Morneau’s riding, and no contribution or contract of this size would go to an organization in this senior minister’s riding without their knowledge and approval.
- Morneau’s daughter was working for WE at the time he voted on and signed the contract. He supported this contract despite deep family ties that include taking trips, as well as his wife and another daughter being deeply involved. Taking free trips is a direct violation of the conflict of interest act, which means he broke the law.
- While Morneau tried to convince the committee — and the Canadian public — that not paying for the trip was an oversight, WE has confirmed in a statement that the trip was a complimentary one, the kind they give to big donors.
- If there were any ministerial accountability left, Morneau would have tabled his resignation already. Sadly there is not, and the Liberals appear to be circling the wagons around their finance minister, with several making supportive statements on Thursday.
- They shouldn’t be publicly backing Morneau, they should be calling the PM and telling Trudeau he needs a new finance minister, and if Trudeau is guilty of a third ethics violation, he should resign as well. That is what would happen in an ethical government. It doesn’t look like we have one of those.
- “What were they thinking?” is the question everyone is asking. How could they be so obtuse, so blind and so careless.
- It has a lot to do with distance. The distance between those who rule, who have lived with power and money all their lives, and those who are ruled — everyday citizens who keep this country running and have never breathed in the altitudes of the rich and powerful. Between those who have never or rarely faced challenges and those whose lives are in the most part defined by challenges.
- The rich and powerful reside on a different plane, or to add a single letter, a different planet. Those long-possessed of great fortunes have lived a different life, one that has absolved them from the messy imperatives and daily humiliations faced by the ever-so-numerous people who are “just getting by.”
- These are the types of people who would just "forget" to repay a $41,000 vacation, and then just casually cut a cheque to repay it right away. $41,000 is the retirement fund of a lot of people. Normal people can't just do that. Real people worry about the end of the month. There are still people in this country who worry about the light bill, the heating bill, the phone bill, rent, mortgages, car payments — the monthly reminders of living close to the margin. Normal people ration their phone calls or data, seek the bargain items in the supermarket, keep the thermostat low, save scrupulously so that they have a place to live at the end of the month. These are normal people's problems. Trudeau and Morneau don't worry about these problems. They don't know what normal people like us have to deal with. They are out of touch, and have been for a long time. We're only just scratching the surface of just how much they don't represent Canada and Canadians.
Word of the Week
Recuse - to excuse oneself from a case because of a potential conflict of interest or lack of impartiality.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Recusal Refusal
Teaser: The Safe Third Country Agreement is ruled unconstitutional, the military warned the government about Covid-19 on Jan 17th, and only one returning ISIS fighter is subject to criminal charges. Also, Bill Morneau forgets to pay for a $41,000 WE Charity vacation.
Recorded Date: July 24, 2020
Release Date: July 26, 2020
Edit Notes: Charlie Angus
Podcast Summary Notes