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On Huawei, Trudeau fails to assert the Canadian values he touts

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He still doesn’t get it.

Either that, or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau does get it, and he’s desperately afraid that the rest of us are going to figure it out. Either way, his evasions, elisions, dodges and deflections in response to the detention of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wangzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant earlier this month betray his preference to cringe and cower rather than stand up to Xi Jinping’s increasingly bellicose police state in Beijing.

Decide for yourself which is worse, but in either case you would be a fool to believe a word Trudeau has been saying. And in all his public statements since President Xi blew a gasket about Meng’s arrest, setting off the nastiest upheaval in nearly half a century of Canada-China diplomacy, the most strenuous effort Trudeau has been making is to the purpose of not saying anything of substance at all.

During a rambling year-end interview with CTV’s Evan Solomon, broadcast on Sunday, Trudeau refused to provide a straight answer to any of these questions:

Were Canadian diplomat-on-leave Michael Kovrig and the eccentric Canadian social entrepreneur and freelance diplomat Michael Spavor arrested in China in retaliation for Meng’s detention? Have you asked for their release? Are you concerned that other Canadians may be in similar danger?

RELATED: Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s arrest: What you need to know

Do you consider Huawei a national security threat? Would you be concerned about Huawei playing a role in the development of Canada’s fifth-generation internet technologies? How do you promote free trade with a country that doesn’t respect the rule of law, like China? Do you think U.S. President Donald Trump has politicized the U.S. Justice Department’s request for Meng’s extradition, now that he’s suggested he might use the case as a bargaining chip in his trade talks with Xi?

Trudeau answered these questions with platitudes, pabulum, boilerplate diplo-babble and the now bog-standard and conveniently self-exculpating whinge that Canada is just suffering the travails of an innocent bystander in a trade-related battle of the titans pitting the beastly President Trump against the belligerent President Xi.

“Stepping back, one of the things that we have to understand is when there is a conflict like this, like there is between the United States and China, where we’re talking about an escalating trade war, we’re talking about significant clashes between the world’s two largest economies. There are going to be unintended consequences all around the world, including in Canada …

“What we need to do is make sure that we continue to stay standing up for Canadians, stay strong in our values, project those values around the world. And yes, stand up for Canadians as we are doing right now.”

For this self-flattering formulation to make sense, however, you would have to ignore quite a few embarrassing facts.

For one thing, the charges Meng faces—that she committed fraud against banks by concealing Huawei’s roaring trade with Iranian telecom firms via a dummy company, Skycomm—began with a U.S Justice Department criminal investigation that started long before Trump was elected. For another thing, the Justice Department’s concern was Huawei’s apparent violation of sanctions against Iran maintained not just by the U.S., but by the European Union and the United Nations.

Then there is the fact of dozens of prosecutions the U.S. Justice Department and the Treasury Department have brought against corporations based in the U.S. and Europe during the Obama administration, for violating sanctions intended to quarantine Iran, Sudan, Libya and other torture states.

RELATED: Freeland responds—very carefully—to Trump’s remarks on the Huawei case

Why should a Chinese telecom giant suddenly get a pass?

Short of war, economic sanctions are among the only levers available to democratic countries in the effort to uphold the “values” Trudeau persists in claiming as his own, the Liberal Party’s, and by extension, of course, Canada’s. Among these: due process, the rule of law, the sanctity of international covenants outlawing war crimes and crimes against humanity, and the primacy of human rights and equality before the law, enshrined in a variety of UN statutes and declarations.

So what to make of the Trudeau government’s persistent crowing about Canada projecting its “values” around the world?

Canada’s primary sanctions law is the Special Economic Measures Act. The number of successful public prosecutions under SEMA since 1992, when the law came into force: one. That was the 2014 case of Lee Specialties Limited, an Alberta firm fined $90,000 for shipping gadgets to Iran with dual uses in the petrochemical and nuclear industries. That’s it.

For years, Ottawa has happily taken advantage of the barriers the U.S. has put up against Huawei—the opaquely-structured behemoth is favoured by Beijing as a “national champion,” it is required by Chinese law to embed a Communist Party committee in its management structure, its founding president is a former People’s Liberation Army officer, and Meng Wanzhou is his daughter.

The federal government and the Ontario and B.C. governments have gone so far as to offer Huawei grants and tax inducements to set up shop in Canada. And now, after repeated in-camera warnings about the national-security implications of embracing Huawei, the directors of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance—Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom—are taking the unusual step of going public with their alarm about the Trudeau government’s dangerously wishy-washy attitude. Their biggest worry is that Huawei will be permitted to join Canada’s fifth-generation internet network development—a liberty Australia, Japan, the European Union and the United States have already denied the company.

It is not as though Ottawa has been unaware of Huawei’s potential cyberespionage threat, or its shady dealings in Iran. Five years ago, Reuters was reporting that Skycomm—its company secretary was once Meng Wangzhou—was acting as a Huawei proxy. During Skycomm’s effort to sell Iran more than a billion dollars’ worth of Hewlett Packard gear, Skycomm’s proposals were marked “Huawei confidential,” its officers were handing out business cards with Huawei’s logo on them, and their email addresses were Huawei addresses.

All the while, we’ve been lazily allowing the U.S. to do the heavy lifting of sanctions enforcement on our behalf. “The U.S. is quite literally prosecuting possible Canadian cases in the absence of Canadian enforcement action,” University of Calgary professor Michael Nesbitt wrote in an extensive investigation published in the Ottawa Law Review last year.

Just last week, the U.S, Congress approved a sanctions-type bill to blacklist Chinese officials responsible for shutting diplomats and journalists out of Tibet. With all the frantic talk around Ottawa now about the supposed desirability of “de-escalation” with China, only an idiot would bet that Canada might take similar action.

RELATED: What China hopes to get by detaining Canadians

Earlier this month, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that Canada would follow the lead of France and the United States and use the federal government’s recently-adopted Magnitsky law—named after Sergei Magnitsky, the whistleblower murdered in a Russian prison cell—to impose sanctions on 17 Saudis implicated in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Human rights activists were hoping that Canada’s Magnitsky law could be used to sanction Chinese human rights shredders, targeting particularly the officials directly involved in rounding up perhaps a million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps in Xinjiang. With the Trudeau government now preoccupied with begging Beijing to stop punishing us for merely acting in good faith on a lawful U.S. extradition request in the Meng Wanzhou case, that seems exceedingly unlikely now.

Even U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo didn’t hesitate to say last week that the arrests of Kovrig and Spavor were obviously retaliations, and that they should both be immediately released. But Trudeau couldn’t even bring himself to admit that much.

And Beijing is warning that worse may be yet to come.

This is what Canada has been reduced to. We grovel and whinge. We twist ourselves into contortions rather than say anything that might offend Beijing. We pretend we’re just innocents caught in the middle of a superpower pissing match, and we boast about “Canadian values” we’re too afraid to assert.

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Future of Ottawa: Chefs with Kathryn Ferries

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This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Kat Ferries on the future of chefs, or read posts from Quinn Taylor on bars or Justin Champagne on fine dining.

Kat Ferries is Sous-Chef at Stofa Restaurant and a 2020 San Pellegrino North American Young Chef Social Responsibility Award Winner.

Apt613: What is the current landscape for chefs in Ottawa?

Kat Ferries: There is such great talent in Ottawa with so many chefs either being from here originally or have returned after traveling and have since opened some incredible restaurants. Many chefs have focused menus that really highlight their strengths, their heritage, and their passion for food. Dominique Dufour of Gray Jay, Marc Doiron of Town/Citizen, Steve Wall of Supply & Demand, Daniela Manrique Lucca of The Soca Kitchen, and so many more are all cooking up beautiful and delicious food in this city.

If you care to make a prediction… Where is the food industry in Ottawa going for chefs in 2021?

The industry right now is, unfortunately, in a really tough spot. The pandemic has been so devastating on mental, physical and emotional levels for so many and I know that many of my friends in this industry are burning out. There are many discussions happening on work/life balance and what is healthy for everyone. Some may never return to the long, hard hours we are expected to put in day after day and instead opt for a more flexible schedule or hire more staff to lighten the load on everyone, with some even leaving the industry indefinitely. Some may throw themselves back into this industry 10x as hard and create some of the best restaurants and concepts we’ve yet to see. I think all that will happen after the pandemic though.

For this year, it’s mostly about survival and finding happiness in creating what we can in the spaces we have while following all the laws and guidelines from public health officials. I think we will see more chefs creating experiences for guests that we otherwise wouldn’t have: think pop-ups, virtual dinner clubs, cocktail seminars, collabs, etc.

Where in your wildest dreams could the Ottawa culinary community grow in your lifetime?

I would love to see the Ottawa community support more small, local restaurants so our streets are bustling late into the nights like they are in Montreal, New York, or Europe. Having a local restaurant to frequent should be so much more commonplace, where you can enjoy a night out more often than just Friday or Saturday night. I would also love to see many more of our local chefs highlighted for the amazing food they create!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

Turning all our restaurants into mini-markets for customers to enjoy the food and wine of their favourite places at home. We have bottle shops for all your wine, beer and cocktail needs as well as menus that reflect what each restaurant does best. Some have even pivoted to a point where they are 100% a store and have paused any type of “service-style” dining.

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Future of Ottawa: Fine Dining with Justin Champagne

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This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Justin Champagne on the future of fine dining, or read posts from Kathryn Ferries on chefs or Quinn Taylor on bars.

Justin Champagne went to culinary school at Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. He got his start in fine dining restaurants at C Restaurant under Chef Robert Clark, then at Hawksworth Restaurant under Chef Eligh. He staged at three-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn under Chef Dominque Crenn before moving to Ottawa and spending five years at Atelier, working his way up to Sous-Chef. He’s now the Head Chef of Bar Lupulus.

Apt613: What is the current landscape of fine dining restaurants in Ottawa?

Justin Champagne: Ottawa punches well above its weight class when it comes to quality restaurants in general. Fine dining is no exception to that—we have some amazing chefs here that are doing really great things. We also have some phenomenal sommeliers in town that are a huge factor when it comes to a guest’s experience in a fine dining restaurant. While there are some fantastic fine dining restaurants in town I do believe there’s room for more, and definitely room for more creativity and unique styles of cooking! I think we’ll see more small fine dining restaurants opening up, “micro-restaurants” where there’s maybe 20 seats. This will be over the next few weeks as the industry did take a big hit financially with COVID-19, but we still have a lot of great young chefs who have the fire inside of them to open their own location!

If you care to make a prediction… Where is fine dining going in Ottawa in 2021?

I’m not sure it’ll be 2021 or 2022 with the way the vaccine rollout and stay-at-home order is going, but I do expect there to be a wave of people looking to go out to fine dining restaurants. We’ve been cooped up cooking for ourselves or ordering takeout for over a year now. People are getting antsy and ready to go out and have fantastic meals again with exceptional wine and not have to worry about doing all the dishes afterwards!

Where in your wildest dreams could fine dining go in Ottawa in your lifetime?

That’s the fun part about “fine dining,” it can go anywhere and it can mean many things. Fine dining is about amazing service and well thought out, unique food that the kitchen spent hours fussing over, being meticulous in execution. Outside of that, you can have a lot of fun and be creative in different ways. My wildest dream I guess is that fine dinning restaurants begin to thrive and are able to charge without backlash the kind of prices that they need to charge in order to keep the lights on and pay their staff a proper living wage!!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

I’m not sure if I would really say there’s been a best “innovation” in my industry during the pandemic, but I will say that seeing the “adaptability” by all the restaurants in Ottawa has been incredibly inspiring. Ottawa’s food scene has always been a tight-knit community, “everyone helping everyone” kind of mentality. And this pandemic has really helped show that—restaurants helping restaurants through all of this!

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Ottawa’s Giant Tiger chain celebrating 60 years in business

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa staple, along with what might be the most famous cat in Canada, are celebrating a milestone Monday.

Giant Tiger is 60 years old.

“It all started with a very simple idea,” says Alison Scarlett, associate VP of communications at Giant Tiger. “Help Canadians save money every single day. Bring them products that they want and need. When you focus on those core principals, it really is quite simple to succeed.”

In 1961, Gordon Reid opened the first Giant Tiger in Ottawa’s ByWard Market. The company now has more than 260 locations across Canada and employs roughly 10,000 people.

“If you were at our store on opening day 60 years ago, the in store experience would be a little bit different from your local Giant Tiger store today. So that’s changed. A lot of our products and offerings have changed or expanded as Canadian consumers wants and needs have changed or expanded,” says Scarlett.

The homegrown department store continues to be a favourite for many shoppers looking to for the best deals on everyday products.

Helen Binda has been shopping here for decades.

“Many years. I can’t remember when. I’ve always loved Giant Tiger. It’s always been a good store for me.”

“I think its amazing and I think that we need more department stores,” says shopper Fay Ball. “And if it’s Canadian, all the better.”

The Canadian-owned family discount store carries everything from clothing to groceries, as well as everyday household needs. They’ve also expanded their online store and like most retailers provide curbside pickup during the pandemic.

“Doing what is right for our customers, associates, and communities. That has enabled us to be so successful for all of these years,” says Scarlett.

To celebrate, Giant Tiger is hosting a virtual birthday party at 7 p.m. Monday with live musical performances from some iconic Canadian artists.

You can visit their Facebook page to tune in. 

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