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Canada Morning Update: How aides plotted to thwart Trump’s NAFTA plans; the B.C. man who became a major fentanyl dealer

Good morning,

These are the top stories:

White House aides plotted how to prevent Trump from pulling out of NAFTA

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“I’ll just take the paper off his desk,” then-chief economic adviser Gary Cohn reportedly told the White House staff secretary after President Donald Trump had ordered a letter authorizing the departure of the U.S. from the trade deal. That revelation comes via a new book from long-time Washington Post reporter and editor Bob Woodward (he played a key role in breaking the Watergate scandal). Among the details included in the book: Cohn removed a similar trade letter on South Korea from Trump’s desk; defence secretary Jim Mattis said Trump had the understanding of a “fifth– or sixth-grader”; Trump wanted the U.S. to assassinate Bashar al-Assad after the Syrian President launched a chemical attack.

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Trudeau says Canada will stand firm on a dispute resolution mechanism in trade talks

The Prime Minister also said Canada won’t sign a NAFTA deal that allows U.S. news giants to buy Canadian media (for subscribers). U.S. negotiators have been pushing to remove cultural exemptions that could allow U.S. outlets such as FOX News to buy stakes in Canadian newspapers, TV and radio stations. Trudeau said allowing that to happen “would be a giving up of our sovereignty and our identity.” And on the thorny issue of Chapter 19, a provision for settling disputes, Trudeau said Canada will “hold firm” on keeping a resolution mechanism in place.

How a B.C. opioid addict became one of North America’s biggest fentanyl dealers

Robert Kiessling, a 40-year-old occasional college instructor from Kelowna, was known online as DougFish44 and DF44 as he used the dark web to rack up the third-most fentanyl transactions on the continent by number of sales. U.S. Department of Justice would describe him as one of the most prolific online fentanyl vendors in the continent; he was arrested at a postal outlet in January when authorities alleged he dropped off an envelope containing 10 grams of fentanyl he had sold over the dark web. Kiessling died by suicide a week later. Read more about how he became addicted to opioids – and how he used the web to sell fentanyl, a substance linked to the overdoses of thousands of Canadians.

Ontario’s largest teachers' union goes to court to fight the repeal of the sex-ed curriculum

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The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario is also calling for the cancellation of a “snitch line” for parents to anonymously report concerns about what is being taught in classrooms. The union is arguing that Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government has infringed on the rights of educators under the Canadian Charter to express themselves freely. Once in office, Ford moved to replace the 2015 curriculum put in place by the previous Liberal government which taught issues such as consent, same-sex relationships and gender identity. Instead, elementary students are set to learn from a “revised, interim curriculum” based on a 1998 document while the government launches consultations on a new one.

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Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad has sparked backlash – and messages of support


In a new ad, Kaepernick can be seen with a quote that reads: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” It’s an apparent nod at the fact that he’s been unable to find work in the National Football League since his decision in 2016 to kneel during the national anthem to protest police shootings of unarmed black men. The ad prompted some consumers to post footage of them burning their Nike shoes. A number of athletes, including LeBron James and Serena Williams, offered their support for the Nike campaign.

While Nike shares closed down 3.2 per cent yesterday, Cathal Kelly argues that any immediate losses are part of a calculated risk: “Alienating customers will cost Nike in the short term, but a company this large with a product this ubiquitous does not survive by being monolithic. It must give off the impression of taking risks, without actually taking many. That’s what keeps the kids interested. Given their choice of front man, Nike is also putting the NFL and its fans in the dork slice of the consumer pie chart. The real revolution happening here is how far football has fallen in public estimation, and how fast.”

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Stocks tumble

A looming deadline in the U.S.-China trade conflict kept the U.S. dollar near two-week highs on Wednesday, inflicting fresh losses on emerging markets and sending world stocks lower for the fourth day in a row. Tokyo’s Nikkei lost 0.5 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 2.6 per cent, and the Shanghai Composite 1.7 per cent. In Europe, London’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were down by between 0.5 and 1.3 per cent by about 6 a.m. ET. New York futures were down. The Canadian dollar was below 76 US cents. Oil extended losses on Wednesday as a tropical storm hitting the U.S. Gulf coast weakened, offsetting support from forecasts of lower U.S. inventories and sanctions against Iran.


Journalists who embarrass the authorities deserve praise, not arrest

“An essential function of journalism is to expose government secrets. Without reporters publishing information that political leaders would prefer to keep hidden, democratic government would scarcely be possible. That is why the conviction of two reporters in Myanmar is so disturbing. Criminalizing journalism is not only a profound injustice for the journalists involved, it is a blow against democracy itself. The long-running persecution of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar came to a head on Monday when they were found guilty of breaking the country’s official secrets law for reporting on the slaughter of Rohingya civilians by state security forces last year. A judge sentenced Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, to seven years in jail – absurd, draconian sentences that speak ill of Myanmar’s judicial system.” – Globe editorial

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Soulpepper’s board needs to step up – or step down – for the theatre company to move past #MeToo

“Soulpepper's board of directors wants to look to the future. The #MeToo-rocked Toronto theatre company settled the four civil lawsuits filed against it in July, hired a starry new executive director last week – and will announce a new artistic director in the fall. Unfortunately, for many audience members and donors and artists, there are still too many questions unanswered about the past to turn the page so easily. Now, the board is running out of time to deal with them before these old problems become an albatross around the neck of the new leaders.” – J. Kelly Nestruck (for subscribers)

The Trans Mountain ruling was a fiasco

“The 'duty to consult' Indigenous groups is enshrined in the Constitution. It is also an area where the courts have created cloudiness instead of clarity. Today the precise meaning of 'duty to consult' is, if anything, more unclear than ever. This uncertainty means that 'yes' is never final. Courts can and do frequently find that this duty wasn’t met. Even if, like the Trudeau government, you think you’ve made good-faith efforts to go above and beyond, some court can always say you haven’t gone far enough.” – Margaret Wente


Itching to get away? Ten fall deals you’ll want to book now

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Fall is typically filled with great travel deals, and this year is no exception. Major airlines like Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat are offering some major sales on flights to Canada, the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe. For Canadians headed to the U.S., there are exclusive deals on trips to Disney parks and the city of Scottsdale, Ariz. Meanwhile, Marriott is offering US$100 food and beverage credits on stays at many of its luxury hotels, from San Diego to Vancouver. Go here for more details on fall deals.


Babe Ruth hits first professional home run at Toronto Islands

Sept. 5, 1914: The thing about legends is that their origins can be murky. Because before they became a legend, they were just a regular person, such as George Herman Ruth Jr., when he came to Toronto on this day 104 years ago. Ruth – who had already acquired his nickname "Babe" – was playing for a minor-league team, the Providence Grays in the International League, when they faced the Toronto Maple Leafs at their stadium on the Toronto Islands. In the top of the sixth inning, Ruth, 19, was up to bat. There were two runners on base and two outs when the slugger crushed the ball thrown by Ellis Walter Johnson over the right field fence. It marked Ruth's first home run as a professional in an official game. He and his team went on to win the game 9 to 0. So whatever happened to the ball? Rumours range from the outlandish (it still sits at the bottom of Lake Ontario) to the likely (it was either thrown back into play or nabbed by a fan). Ultimately, the answer is likely lost to history forever as Ruth was still a nobody at the time. – Madeleine White

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