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Canada Morning Update: Freeland orders review of Afghan aid; banks weigh action to block Statscan

Good morning,

These are the top stories:

Chrystia Freeland is ordering an internal review of Canadian aid to Afghanistan

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The Foreign Affairs Minister said she wants to know whether taxpayer money has been lost to waste, corruption and mismanagement. The pledge comes after The Globe and Mail reported on a U.S. watchdog agency’s findings that billions of dollars in Western aid, including from Canada, was not put to proper use in the war-torn country. The agency found that two Western trust funds managed by the World Bank and United Nations had a troubling lack of financial oversight. Money went to projects including medical clinics without electricity or water and schools without children.

Canada’s Department of Global Affairs previously said that the World Bank and UN conduct comprehensive monitoring to ensure funds aren’t wasted. Former Canadian diplomat David Mulroney said Canada was under heavy pressure to cut cheques to the two funds during his time overseeing Afghanistan engagement from 2007 to 2009.

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A Toronto businessman facing fraud charges says Canada’s case was built with coercion in China

Evidence gathered by Chinese police is being used against a Canadian businessman in an Ontario court in a case that will test the ties between law-enforcement agencies in China and Canada. Gong Xiao Hua, also known as Edward Gong, was arrested last December after a joint probe by the Ontario Securities Commission and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in collaboration with China’s Ministry of Public Security and authorities in New Zealand, where some of the alleged proceeds of crime were transferred.

The OSC accuses Gong, 53, of masterminding the fraudulent sale of hundreds of millions of dollars in stock of his health-supplements company, O24, to Chinese citizens and funneling a significant percentage of the money to bank accounts in Canada and New Zealand to use for personal benefit. Chinese authorities have alleged that, from Canada, Gong engineered what they consider an illegal pyramid scheme. Gong and his lawyers say the evidence gathered by Chinese authorities was the result of coercion, and should be thrown out. The case raises questions of due process, international law and China’s notorious criminal justice system.

Banks are weighing legal action to block Statistics Canada’s plan to obtain banking records

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“All options are on the table” for Canada’s banks to ensure Statscan doesn’t obtain client records without consent, their lobby group says. Those are the most forceful words yet from the financial institutions in the wake of backlash over the agency’s plans. Chief statistician Anil Arora now says the plan won’t go ahead until Canada’s privacy commissioner completes an investigation. The privacy office had met with Statscan over the past year to discuss plans to obtain “administrative data.” But privacy head Daniel Therrien said the agency never brought up its intention to compel banks to hand over records of 500,000 Canadian households.

Bombardier is slashing 5,000 jobs

The Montreal-based firm’s decision is a blow to Quebec, where 2,500 workers will lose jobs (for subscribers). And it comes just two years after the provincial government bailed out the company’s C Series airliner program with a US$1-billion investment. The company has already laid off 14,500 over two years and also struck a deal in 2017 to sell a majority stake in the C Series program. Besides the most recent round of layoffs, Bombardier announced it is selling its Q400 turboprop business to Victoria-based Longview Aviation as it focuses more on luxury jets and trains.

Correction note: Yesterday’s newsletter referred to Donald Trump as a prime minister. He is, of course, the President of the United States.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Tony Clement revealed more instances of inappropriate interactions and potential blackmail

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The Ontario MP said he went to the Ontario Provincial Police in the summer after learning someone was seeking information on his dealings with women. But Clement’s pattern of inappropriate behaviour continued, as evidenced by the RCMP’s investigation into an alleged extortion attempt Clement said occurred within the past few weeks. In a letter to his constituents in the Parry Sound-Muskoka riding, the 57-year-old married father acknowledged that he engaged in a series of “inappropriate exchanges that crossed lines that should never have been crossed. These exchanges led to acts of infidelity.” Clement resigned from Conservative caucus on Wednesday.

REMEMBRANCE DAY READS

In the First World War, medical staff saw needlework as a revolutionary way of helping injured soldiers regain dexterity in their hands and calm their rattled nerves. One hundred thirty-eight injured Allied soldiers, including 14 Canadians, worked on a giant floral tapestry for the front of the main altar at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was finished in July, 1919, in time for a special service at St. Paul’s to mark the end of the war. But new information suggests those who worked on it aren’t the tapestry’s only connection to Canada.

The Battle of Hill 70 somehow fell out of much national awareness. Yet today, Roy MacGregor writes, the battle is increasingly being regarded as being pivotal in the birth of Canada as a nation onto its own. While the Battle of Vimy Ridge (April 9-12, 1917) is most often referenced as both a significant turning point in the war and the beginning of Canadian independence, it was only at Hill 70, four months later, that the Canadian Corps came under full Canadian command for the first time. Now, high school students are doing their part to learn about the Canadians who fought and died in the battle as they track down living relatives in search of photos or letters home.

On Remembrance Day, it’s also important to remember the families, writes Canadian Forces College deputy director Adam Chapnick: “when we say, ‘thank you for your service’ to a veteran, an officer or a non-commissioned member, we aren’t quite getting it right. Because when members of the Canadian Armed Forces deploy, they aren’t the only ones putting service before self. Their families are, too.”

MORNING MARKETS

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Stocks fall

Global stocks were heading for their biggest drop in two weeks and emerging market currencies also slipped on Friday as a confident U.S. central bank and weak Chinese data hit demand for risky assets. Tokyo’s Nikkei lost 1.1 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 2.4 per cent, and the Shanghai Composite 1.4 per cent. In Europe, London’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were down by between 0.4 and 0.8 per cent by about 5:45 a.m. ET. New York futures were also down. The Canadian dollar also took it on the chin, sinking from just above the 76 US cent mark.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

Mothers, pundits and the other white women who drive hate in America

“Well before the blackface defence that got her fired, Megyn Kelly had a résumé full of sometimes bizarre racist statements – that black people have a ‘thug mentality,’ that Santa Claus is absolutely white. NBC still offered her millions. Certain white women have a peculiar permission to speak without censure, especially if they’re pretty, or mothers, or both. Take White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was defended as a ‘wife and mother’ in April, after comedian Michelle Wolf joked that she used ‘burnt facts’ as eye makeup. This sort of reaction has allowed Ms. Sanders to keep her job and keep on lying. She just shared an obviously doctored video of CNN reporter Jim Acosta supposedly assaulting an intern, to defend rescinding his press pass. It’s good Wolf didn’t back down – Sanders has since refused to say how she reconciles motherhood with separating migrant families.” – Denise Balkissoon

The culture war has been won, so now we fight about words

“Are you a social justice warrior? Not if you can help it, I bet. You are unlikely to find anyone who will self-identify as an “SJW,” an annoyingly popular internet putdown aimed by angry trolls at the earnest slogans of left-leaning people. In response to such scorn, people have dropped the words “social justice.” Liberal-minded politicians now studiously avoid the phrase. This despite the fact that a large and growing majority of people believe in, well, social justice. The idea has divorced itself from the words. Social justice, the concept – broad equality and opposition to unfair discrimination – is more popular than ever. But “social justice,” the phrase, has become hotly contested and, to many, off-putting and doctrinaire. It joins such polarizing formulations as “systemic racism” and “Islamophobia” – terms that inspire distaste among big segments of a public who otherwise support the concepts behind those phrases.” – Doug Saunders

What a terrible time to be the subject of an alien probe

“The story, as we non-scientists understand it, is that a cigar-shaped object was spotted in our solar system last fall, and that it behaved in strange ways that can’t be explained by existing scientific theory, and therefore it might have been an alien spaceship or probe. Humanity should pray this isn’t true. Otherwise, those aliens caught us at a really bad time…. while it moved through the heavens like a comet, it didn’t have a comet’s tail. Furthermore, after it arrived in our solar system from deep space and spent a little time in the neighbourhood, it abruptly sped away more quickly than the laws of gravity should allow, as if it were in a particular hurry or had seen something that spooked it. … Of course, maybe that’s all for the better. If aliens landed on Earth today, descended their saucer and said, ‘Take us to your most powerful leader,’ most of us would probably respond, ‘Do we really have to?’” – Globe editorial

LIVING BETTER

New films out this weekend

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the latest and laziest adaptation of novelist Stieg Larsson’s blockbuster Millennium franchise, Barry Hertz writes. (1.5 stars)

Kate Taylor says Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch can be described in two words, the first being ‘bah.’ (2 stars)

Sports documentary In Search of Greatness scores off yet another Wayne Gretzky assist, writes Brad Wheeler. (3.5 stars)

MOMENT IN TIME

Gang members kidnap Freddy Heineken

(Peter Dejong/AP)

Peter Dejong/AP

Nov. 9 , 1983: No one really knows why, in 1983, a Dutch gang targeted the chief executive of Heineken International in their notorious kidnapping plot, but their choice may have been an act of revenge against gang leader Willem Holleeder’s father, who allegedly had a stalker-like admiration for his boss, Alfred (Freddy) Heineken. Holleeder and accomplices Cor van Hout, Jan Boellaard, Frans Meijer and Martin Erkamps figured they were ready to progress from small robberies and drug deals to a much bigger score. The kidnapping took place in broad daylight outside the brewery headquarters, where Heineken and his driver, Ab Doderer, were thrown into a van in front of terrified witnesses. For three weeks, the victims were kept chained in cells behind a false wall in an Amsterdam shed, until the kidnappers collected what may be the largest ransom ever paid for a single person – 35 million Dutch guilders (about $24-million). While Boellaard and Erkamps were quickly arrested, Meijer escaped, but surrendered that December. Holleeder and van Hout fled to Paris, but were arrested on Feb. 29, 1984. As for that ransom, some was recovered, but $5.4-million has never been found and is rumoured to be buried somewhere in Paris. – Dianne Nice

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