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Politics Politics Briefing: Freeland says Canadians detained in China ‘never far from our thoughts’

Good morning,

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland met with Britain’s new Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, in Toronto this morning.

Mr. Raab crossed the pond to make Canada his first bilateral visit, even as his country plans to exit the European Union this fall.

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But in a news conference with reporters after the meeting, Ms. Freeland received multiple questions about another meeting she’s had recently – the one last week with China’s Foreign Minister.

Ms. Freeland said that Canada-China relations remain “challenging.” That’s been the case since last December, when Canadian police arrested high-profile Chinese businesswoman Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on the request of U.S. authorities, who want her extradited to the United States to face charges of fraud.

In the months since that arrest, China has made a number of moves deemed to be in retaliation for Ms. Meng’s arrest, including the detention of two Canadians and the banning of imports of some Canadian agricultural products.

Ms. Freeland said the plight of the two Canadian detainees – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – is “never far from our thoughts,” but that, while she raised the issue with her Chinese counterpart, she was not going to say anything more about what they talked about.

“What we really learned as a country – and I certainly learned as a minister – from the NAFTA negotiations, are when you are conducting a challenging negotiation, negotiating in public is not the best path to a positive result," Ms. Freeland told reporters.

"This is certainly a challenging relationship, so I think it’s really important for us to be able to have these conversations in private.”

The Global Affairs department said on Monday that it conducted a 10th consular visit to Mr. Kovrig. The two men have continued to face harsh conditions in Chinese prisons.

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TODAY’S HEADLINES

The United States was shaken over the weekend by two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio. The 31 deaths renewed calls for more stringent laws to address the epidemic of shootings in the country, though, as usual, the issue of whether to control guns themselves was politically divisive. President Donald Trump, a Republican, vowed in a televised address to address domestic terrorism, mental illness and online hate crimes. But Democrats said mass shootings could be tackled more directly by controlling the public’s access to guns. “When [Mr. Trump] can’t talk about guns when he talks about gun violence, it shows the President remains prisoner to the gun lobby,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said.

Canada is not immune to gun violence: 15 people were injured in shootings across Toronto on the long weekend. “This is not a normal weekend in the city of Toronto,” Police Chief Mark Saunders said.

Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker Alvin Yeung, a former Canadian citizen, says Canada’s government should be paying close attention to the protests rocking his country. “We share the same values. Hong Kong is a place that cherishes the rule of law, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and all kinds of freedoms that Canadians uphold … and Hong Kong is where we are standing at the front lines for our own freedom, fighting against an authoritarian state,” Mr. Yeung said, referring to China. The Canadian government estimates 300,000 Canadian citizens live in Hong Kong.

As Canada-China relations enter a ninth month of difficulty, representatives of Taiwan – a country that has its own long-running struggles with China – say it’s time for closer ties between Canada and Taiwan.

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Canadian farmers have been left hurting by Chinese bans on importing some agricultural products, including canola, beef and pork. “This is by far the most challenging disruption this industry has ever seen,” said Brian Innes, vice-president of public affairs at the Canola Council of Canada.

Much of the money the federal government collected from retaliatory steel and aluminum tariffs has gone unspent.

Pension fund giant Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the biggest investor in SNC-Lavalin, says the Quebec construction company must make some big changes to turn itself around. SNC-Lavalin’s stock price has fallen dramatically over the past year, with Caisse suggesting its 20-per-cent stake in the company has lost $700-million in value since the beginning of the year. The construction company was involved in a political scandal earlier this year over the efforts of the Prime Minister’s Office to get a deal cut for the company so it could avoid prosecution on bribery charges.

SNC-Lavalin’s handling of the City of Ottawa’s light-rail transit is drawing renewed scrutiny from city councillors now that city staff have revealed that the company scored low on technical standards when it made its original bid for the project. Ottawa’s LRT line was supposed to open last fall, but has been hit by numerous delays.

The number of visa applications from India that are being rejected is soaring.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister, is accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of making Albertans want to separate from the rest of Canada.

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Equal Voice, a multipartisan non-profit that aims to get more women elected across the country and which receives most of its funds from the federal government, is facing accusations from former staff members that it cannot properly represent women of colour. The organization said it won’t speak publicly about internal staff matters.

And two active Canadian political figures lost their lives to cancer this past Friday. New Brunswick lieutenant-governor Jocelyne Roy Vienneau died at the age of 63. The former engineer and educator was the first Acadian woman to hold the position. And Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai, 69, died in the midst of campaigning for an eighth term representing eastern Calgary. He is remembered by parliamentary colleagues as a fun-loving politician who championed inclusion in his party.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, in The Globe and Mail, on post-Brexit relations: “I am confident that after the U.K. leaves the European Union, we will be able to do even more together. If you read anything about Brexit being evidence of the U.K. turning inwards or walking away from our global role, please don’t buy it. Look at the U.K.’s commitment to overseas aid, our role in countless multilateral organizations, the opening of new U.K. diplomatic missions throughout the world and know that our vision is of a more energetic and active global Britain.”

David Shribman (The Globe and Mail) on Democrats and Barack Obama’s legacy: “This year, several of the 2020 candidates have been willing to question whether Mr. Obama did too little (to win single-payer health care rather than settle on the private-based plan known as Obamacare) or was too late (in embracing same-sex marriage). With Joe Biden running as the natural legatee of the Obama years, criticism of the front-runner has taken the form of questioning his loyalty to Obama policies that, in the view of left-leaning contenders, didn’t go far enough. The result is a fresh debate on the Obama years − and a fierce reaction from those, such as Mr. Biden, associated with Mr. Obama.”

Allison Hanes (Montreal Gazette) on a spate of hate crimes in Montreal: “All the altercations seem to have several aspects in common: The victims were all targeted due to their identity; the attacks were unprovoked; and the perpetrators all indicated in one way or another that they were motivated by hate. So let’s hope the police investigate these matters from that perspective.”

Patrick Visintini and Mark Dance (The Globe and Mail) on creating a new Bill of Rights: “Despite the wide net cast by the Constitution’s political framers, plenty of now-pertinent rights never made it into the Charter: environmental rights, victims rights, housing rights and the rights of Indigenous peoples to self-determination and self-government. The Bill of Rights could act as a sort of testing pool, where these new rights are developed and brought to life.”

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Ottawa Sun editorial board on Ottawa’s light-rail transit: “Everyone wants light rail to succeed, but the city should find a way to be more transparent when legitimate questions are asked, and before councillors are expected to vote on big projects. Remember, we citizens are the ones who will decide whether we trust the LRT enough to ride it.”

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