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Morning Update: Trudeau says Canada will ‘stand up’ for human rights amid escalating dispute with Saudi Arabia

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Trudeau says Canada will ‘stand up’ for human rights amid escalating dispute with Saudi Arabia

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The Prime Minister told journalists on Wednesday that he won’t apologize to Riyadh as the Canada-Saudi Arabia rift continues to escalate, saying his government won’t be deterred from openly decrying transgressions of rights and liberties.

“Canadians have always expected our government to speak strongly, firmly, clearly and politely about the need to respect human rights at home and around the world. ... We will continue to stand up for Canadian values and indeed for universal values and human rights at any occasion,” Trudeau said. His comments landed just hours after Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir ruled out mediation in the continuing dispute and warned of more measures to further punish Canada.

But despite Saudi Arabia’s efforts to make Canada pay for its criticisms, its actions have sent only a mild ripple through Canada’s markets and business community. The thin economic ties between the two countries are expected to limit the damage from the diplomatic spat – although a few prominent companies may find themselves in the crossfire. The Canadian dollar did take a small hit on Wednesday, after a report from the Financial Times revealed that the Saudi government instructed its overseas asset managers to dispose of Canadian equities, bonds and cash holdings “no matter the cost.” The currency did recover by the end of the day, and this suggests that as market participants take a closer look at the Saudi actions, there will be a growing realization that the Canadian economy in general has little exposure to Saudi Arabia.

To get caught up on the Saudi Arabia-Canada dispute, read our primer to find out what we know so far.

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City of Victoria to remove statue of Sir John A. Macdonald

A statue of John A. Macdonald is set to be removed from the steps of Victoria’s city hall this weekend as communities across the country struggle with the fate of monuments to historical figures who, like Canada’s first prime minister, were responsible for abuses against Indigenous people. Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps hopes that the removal of the statue on Saturday will act as a gesture of reconciliation with First Nations. The decision came following a year of discussions between Helps, Councillors Marianne Alto and Charlayne Thorton-Joe, members of the Songhees and Esquimalt nations and other members of the urban Indigenous community. This won’t be the first attempt by communities to scrub the moniker of the prime minister, who once stood in the House of Commons and said Indigenous parents were “savages” who would raise children to be the same. The Canadian Historical Association’s members voted this past May to rename its prestigious Sir John A. Macdonald Prize as the CHA Prize for Best Scholarly Book in Canadian History, while the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario passed a resolution last August recommending the province’s schools rename facilities bearing Macdonald’s name given his role in the “genocide against Indigenous people.”

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B.C. scrutinizes disciplinary process after doctor’s $2.1-million overbilling case

After The Globe and Mail published an investigation on Tuesday that revealed provincial auditors took almost six years to discipline one of B.C.'s top billing doctors with a disturbing record, Health Minister Adrian Dix has expressed concern about why it took so long. He has asked department officials to examine whether the disciplinary process can be accelerated. Winston Tuck Loke Tam, B.C.'s top billing obstetrician-gynecologist, began having his records investigated in 2010 and was later ordered to restitute $2.1-million – one of the highest repayment rulings ever issued to a health practitioner in Canada. During that time, however, Dr. Tam continued to collect millions more in public dollars, and concerns about his clinical care kept mounting, which triggered separate investigations at the health authority where he worked.

Read the original investigation, which details the full record behind one of B.C.’s top billing doctors and the patients who claim they were harmed by the obstetrician-gynecologist.

U.S. to impose new sanctions on Russia for nerve agent attack in Britain

After determining that Russia had used a nerve agent in the attempted assassination of a former Russian agent and his daughter in Britain this past spring, the U.S. State Department announced it would be imposing a fresh set of sanctions on Moscow. Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russia’s military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were found slumped unconscious on a bench in the southern English city of Salisbury in March after a liquid form of the Novichok type of nerve agent was applied to his home’s front door. Russia has fiercely denied the charges that it was behind the attack, but now both British authorities and U.S. State Departments officials have come to the conclusion that it was behind the attempt.

The sanctions will come into effect on or around Aug. 22 and the biggest hit will come from the initial sanctions, which will require that export licences for anything with a potential national security purpose – engines, electronics, circuits and testing equipment – will be automatically denied.

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Endangered orca that sparked international rescue plan spotted in B.C. waters

The young female orca, who scientists feared could be dead, was spotted late on Tuesday afternoon off the coast of Port Renfrew, B.C. Due to foggy weather conditions, researchers were unable to assess the endangered killer whale’s condition. An international rescue effort from Canadian and American scientists, however, is already underway. They have developed a novel plan to feed her salmon medicated with antibiotics, but are still waiting on approval from Canadian officials.

MORNING MARKETS

Markets mixed

European stock markets struggled on Thursday with trade war worries, Russia’s ruble tumbled after the United States imposed fresh sanctions on the country and Turkey’s lira dropped to a new low. Tokyo’s Nikkei was down 0.20 per cent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 0.88 per cent and the Shanghai Composite 1.83 per cent at 6 a.m. ET. In Europe, London’s FTSE 100 was down 0.60 per cent while Germany’s Dax was slightly higher. The Paris CAC 40 was down 0.26 per cent. New York futures were flat. The Canadian dollar was at 76.79 US cents. Oil inched up, paring some of the previous day’s steep price slide.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

The Saudis deliver a sobering lesson: In diplomacy, words do matter

Although the attention paid to precise language in diplomacy can seem excessive, words do matter when one state tries to communicate with another. Insecure regimes, as with insecure people, react badly to highly directive words such as “immediately,” which was the timeline we urged the Saudis to adopt in freeing the detainees. - David Mulroney, Canada’s ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012

The U.S. media’s toxic Trump romance

The spectacle certain U.S. journalists have made of themselves in decrying Mr. Trump’s attacks on the media has not won them any sympathy among the President’s supporters. Rather, it has played right in to Mr. Trump’s hands. Public distrust of the media, especially among less-educated Americans, existed long before Mr. Trump came along. He’s merely milked it. - Konrad Yakabuski

Jagmeet Singh takes a necessary risk

The NDP leader’s announcement Wednesday that he will contest an upcoming by-election in the B.C. riding of Burnaby South is welcome news for anyone who values the party’s contribution to Canadian political discourse. The fact is, that contribution has been missing. - Globe editorial

LIVING BETTER

Will my EpiPen work past its expiry date?

Paul Taylor answers your questions about how long EpiPens, which are reported to be in short supply, will work once they pass their best before date. Typically, he writes, the expiration dates for most drugs are set at two or three years from the time of manufacture. EpiPens, however, have an even shorter shelf life – about 18 months. In one study, researchers found the dose available 50 months after the expiration date would still provide a beneficial pharmacologic response. Karen Lam, a pharmacist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, also said that in emergency situations – like the current EpiPen shortage – patients can still use their expired EpiPen because some medication is better than none, especially in life-saving situations.

MOMENT IN TIME

If you were to isolate the moment when the fires of passion were lit for Canadian women’s soccer, you could probably point to a match at the City of Coventry Stadium on Aug. 9, 2012. It was there, at the London Summer Olympics, that the national team, against the odds, won a bronze medal that felt like gold. It had been a roller-coaster Games for the women. They stunned world soccer watchers by beating the British to advance to the semi-final match, but then lost an extra-time heart-breaker to the United States. Relegated to the bronze-medal match, the Canadians were drained emotionally and physically. France carried the play and a few timely saves by the Canadian goalkeeper kept the game within reach. And then, in the 92nd minute, midfielder Diana Matheson found a loose ball and calmly footed it past French ‘keeper Sarah Bouhaddi. The women won 1-0 with their only shot on goal to capture the hearts of the country. The victory gave Canada its first Olympic soccer medal in more than a century. The Canadian women had been outperforming their male counterparts for years on the world stage and finally had the hardware to prove it. - Philip King

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