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The head of Canada’s spy service says an investigation is under way to find those who leaked highly classified information on China’s election interference, and suggested the whistleblowers may have been frustrated by the federal government’s handling of Beijing’s intrusion into the democratic process.

David Vigneault, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, declined to answer questions during a parliamentary hearing about whether the government ignored warnings of China’s influence operations in the 2019 and 2021 elections. He also told MPs investigating the interference that CSIS has internal processes for intelligence officers to air their concerns about how the agency’s investigations of foreign-interference operations have been dealt with by the federal government.

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Canadian Security Intelligence Service director David Vigneault makes his way to the procedure and House affairs committee at Parliament Hill on March 2.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

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CERB audit of high-risk cases finds 65 per cent were ineligible

An internal Canada Revenue Agency audit of more than $5-billion in CERB and other emergency payments to individuals during the pandemic has determined that about 65 per cent went to ineligible recipients who must pay back the money.

The agency says it targeted the audits to focus on high-risk cases and “fully expected” that a high percentage of the payments would be ruled ineligible. The audited amount is a small fraction of the tens of billions of dollars paid to individuals during the pandemic.

Putin’s claims of Ukrainian sabotage at border dismissed as ‘provocation’ by Kyiv

Two videos of men identifying themselves as members of the Russian Volunteer Corps, a group of ethnic Russians who have been fighting on the Ukrainian side, appeared online Thursday. But they looked suspiciously tidy for a sabotage unit, their uniforms spotless despite purportedly having staged a cross-border raid into Russia.

Their daring thrust into the Bryansk region of western Russia could go down in history as a bizarre footnote to this war or the moment Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine finally boomeranged onto his own country’s soil, Mark MacKinnon writes. Or, amid warnings from Ukrainian officials that the attack on Bryansk may have been a false-flag operation, it may be used by Putin to justify whatever he does next.

Meanwhile, in Warsaw, Russian dissidents organized under the group, the People’s Deputies of Russia, have been trying to prepare for Putin’s downfall. They’ve drafted a new constitution and developed plans to hold elections for a newly formed parliament, but it’s far from clear whether the proposals put forward by the People’s Deputies will get much traction, reports Paul Waldie.

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Also on our radar

New Brunswick court reduces sentence for killer of three Mounties in Moncton: Justin Bourque will be eligible for full parole just over 16 years from now, and day parole in 13 years, after the province’s appeal court’s ruling.

Asylum seekers face a long journey to freedom along Roxham Road: For many of the nearly 40,000 refugee claimants intercepted by RCMP entering through the irregular border crossing, the white pillar at Roxham Road can feel like a finish line. But in fact it’s yet another beginning – the long and drawn-out, years-long process of claimants in Canada.

Canada Soccer says interim-funding deal reached with women’s team: Under the deal that’s still being finalized, the team will receive per-game incentives and results-based compensation that match what the men receive, the national governing body says.

One-fifth of CIBC mortgage holders seeing loan balances grow: With rising interest rates making it harder for some mortgage holders to pay off their homes, the bank has allowed these borrowers to stretch out the length of time it takes to pay off the loan.

Nordstrom to exit Canada: After failing to find a path to profitability since it entered the Canadian market, the luxury retailer is shuttering all 13 stores and laying off 2,500 employees.

Morning markets

European stocks rose in early trading on Friday, as investor risk appetite was boosted by signs of an economic recovery in China, even after expectations for European Central Bank rate hikes kept government bond yields at their highest in years. Stock markets rose on Wall Street overnight, in a move analysts attributed to Atlanta Federal Reserve President Raphael Bostic saying on Thursday that the Fed should stick to “steady” quarter-point rate hikes.

Around 6:30 a.m. ET, Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.3 per cent. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 gained 1.01 per cent and 0.71 per cent, respectively. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei closed up 0.26 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 0.68 per cent. The Canadian dollar was up at 73.68 U.S. cents.

What everyone’s talking about

Amid rumblings of a Russian-backed coup, Moldova needs the West’s help

“Now, more than ever, Moldova needs the support of Western partners as it seeks to stay the course. That should include continuing to provide economic support – for example, in the area of energy subsidies and diversifying sources of supply – as well as funding for upgrades to air-defence systems. Russian missiles have violated Moldovan airspace several times since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, and last month, the airspace had to be temporarily closed when a ‘balloon-like object’ was spotted over the north of the country.” - Michael Bociurkiw

The Art Gallery of Ontario’s expansion: A machine for showing art

“The architects explored using mass timber, a proven technology that is increasingly being employed for mid-rise buildings, but went to concrete after the gallery’s insurance company cited concerns about the supposed fire risk. It’s too bad. The visual warmth and technical innovation of a mass-timber structure would have been welcome additions to what seems like – by design – a machine for showing art.” - Alex Bozikovic

Today’s editorial cartoon

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Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable published March 3. YES, THE POLITICAL TIMES ARE DISTURBING BUT AT LEAST WE HAVE A ... 'PLAN B'Illustration by Brian Gable

Living better

Five things to stream this weekend: Women Talking comes home, plus bears and donkeys, oh my

From Geographies of Solitude, a beguiling new Canadian film about self-taught environmentalist Zoe Lucas, to No Bears, Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s new film, Barry Hertz offers up a selection of streaming picks to keep you busy over the weekend.

Moment in time: March 3, 1678

Madeleine de Verchères is born

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Exhibition of artwork at the Musée Provincial in Quebec City: statuette of Madeleine de Verchères by Louis-Philippe Hébert, December 10, 1942. In 1692, Madeleine de Verchères, then only 14 years of age, alone in Fort de Verchères in what was then New France, with her two young brothers, an old servant, and two soldiers, took command and defended the post successfully for eight days against a war-party of Iroquois. In the early 20th century, the Governor General of Canada, Lord Grey, recommended a commemoration project to honour the role Madeleine de Verchères played in defending Fort Verchères. After seeing the statuette of Madeleine de Verchères created by Louis-Philippe Hébert in 1910, the Governor General proposed reproducing the statuette on a larger scale and placing it on the headland of Verchères, facing the St. Lawrence River. The monument was erected in 1913. Credit: Raymond Audet / BAnQ Québec

BAnQ Québec

She was Canada’s Joan of Arc, the girl-warrior on a mission to save a besieged people. The story of Madeleine de Verchères went like this: The 14-year-old was in the garden outside the palisades of her father’s fort in New France. Her parents were away procuring supplies for the winter, so when an Iroquois surprise attack struck, she took charge of the small settlement’s defence, holding off the warriors for eight days. The official account of the conflict made no mention of Madeleine’s role, so she again seized the initiative, writing to a minister’s wife, successfully requesting a state pension. Interest in her story lay dormant for almost two centuries, until a revival in the study of French-Canadian history and the needs of another empire sparked a minor cult: Her exploits were used to encourage Québécois women to participate in the First and Second World Wars. The canonization of Joan of Arc in 1920 drew further attention to her fellow adolescent heroine, and two years later, one of Quebec’s first feature films told the story of Madeleine de Verchères. Contemporary scholars, however, have questioned the veracity of her account, and the heroism of waging war with Indigenous peoples. Eric Andrew-Gee

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