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Canada issues China travel alert as tensions escalate | Canada News

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Canada has warned its citizens of the risk of “arbitrary enforcement” of local laws in China after a Canadian man convicted of drug trafficking was suddenly retried and sentenced to death, and Beijing denied another detained Canadian diplomatic immunity.

The Canadian government on Monday updated its travel advisory for China, telling citizens to exercise a high degree of caution while in the country.

The update noted the “risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws” and highlighted the severe penalties for drug offences, including death.

It came hours after a court inin China’s Liaoning province sentenced Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to be executed for drug smuggling following a day-long retrial in which the 36-year-old Canadian had declared his innocence.

“The court completely rejects the accused person’s explanation and defence because it is completely at odds with the facts,” the chief judge said in a courtroom packed with observers, including Canadian embassy officials.

Schellenberg had the right to appeal to Liaoning High Court within 10 days upon receiving the ruling, according to a statement by the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court.






Canada arrests CFO of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei (2:16)

Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, said in Ottawa that he was concerned that China had chosen to “arbitrarily” apply the death penalty to a Canadian citizen.

The Canadian government has said it is following the case “very closely” and has provided Schellenberg with consular assistance.

Schellenberg was detained in 2014 and sentenced to 15 years in prison two years later. But last month, an appeal by prosecutors claiming the sentence was too lenient was suddenly given the go-ahead. Monday’s retrial was scheduled with just four days’ notice.

Analysts and rights groups said retrials were rare in China, especially ones calling for a harsher sentence.

“China is going to face lots of questions about why this particular person, of this particular nationality, had to be retried at this particular time,” Sophie Richardson, the Washington-based China director for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters news agency.

Prosecutors said Schellenberg was the principal suspect in a case involving an international syndicate that planned to send some 222kg of methamphetamine to Australia, hidden in plastic pellets which were concealed in rubber tyres.

Two Chinese men have also been tried. One was given a life sentence and the other a suspended death sentence. 

But Schellenberg’s lawyer, Zhang Dongshuo, said prosecutors had not produced any new evidence to justify a heavier sentence. He said he planned to lodge an appeal.

China has executed other foreigners for drug-related crimes in the past, including a Japanese national in 2014 and a Filipina in 2013. Beijing considers the number of people executed in China each year to be a state secret. International human rights organisations estimate the figure at around 2,000.





The Intermediate People’s Court of Dalian, where Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was suddenly retried on drugs charges and sentenced to death [Reuters]

The death sentence adds to the tension between the two countries following the arrest in Canada last month of a top executive from telecommunications giant Huawei, infuriating Beijing.

Canada detained Meng Wanzhou, the company’s chief financial officer, on a US extradition request related to alleged Iran sanctions violations. Meng, which denies wrongdoing, has been released on bail and extradition proceedings are due to start next month.

Chinese authorities later detained two Canadian nationals – a former diplomat and a business consultant – on suspicion of endangering national security, in what has been seen by analysts as retaliation for Meng’s arrest.

‘Difficult not to see a link’

Further escalating the diplomatic rift between Ottawa and Beijing, a Chinese spokesperson said earlier on Monday that Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat taken into custody the day after Meng’s arrest, was not eligible for diplomatic immunity as Trudeau has maintained.

A senior Canadian government official said Chinese officials have been questioning Kovrig about his diplomatic work in China, which is a major reason why Trudeau is asserting diplomatic immunity.






Huawei CFO’s arrest rattles investors, markets tumble (2:03)

The official, who was not authorised to comment publicly about the case, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Kovrig, a Northeast Asia analyst for the International Crisis Group, was on leave of absence from the Canadian government at the time of his arrest last month.

Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, told reporters that Kovrig is no longer a diplomat and entered China on an ordinary passport and business visa.

“According to the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations and international law, he is not entitled to diplomatic immunity,” Hua said at a daily briefing. “I suggest that the relevant Canadian person carefully study the Vienna Convention … before commenting on the cases, or they would only expose themselves to ridicule with such specious remarks.”

A former Canadian ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, said interrogating Kovrig about his time as a diplomat in China would violate Vienna Convention protections of residual diplomatic immunity that mean a country is not allowed to question someone on the work they did when they were a diplomat.

“It’s difficult not to see a link” between the case and Canada’s arrest of Meng, Saint-Jacques told The Associated Press news agency.

Hua insisted the allegation that China arbitrarily detained Canadian citizens is “totally groundless”.

Canada has embarked on a campaign with allies to win the release of Kovrig and Spavor. The United States, Britain, European Union and Australia have issued statements in support.

Trudeau called US President Donald Trump about the detentions last week and the White House called the arrests “unlawful”.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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Canada: Significant Changes To Canada’s Federal Environmental Protection Regime Proposed

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On April 13, 2021, the government of Canada proposed significant changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”)1 through the introduction of Bill C-28, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act (the “Amendments“).2

With these Amendments, the government hopes to modernize Canada’s environmental regime which has not undergone significant change in over 20 years. CEPA is the primary statute through which the federal government regulates and protects the environment. CEPA and its accompanying regulations regulate among other things the treatment and disposal of chemicals and hazardous waste, vehicle and engine emissions, equipment and other sources of pollution, and the prevention and impact of environmental emergencies such as oil and chemical spills.

This bulletin provides an overview of the major changes to CEPA that have been proposed.

The Right to a Healthy Environment and Certain Soft Rights

Significantly, the Preamble under the Amendments will officially recognize Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. Section 2 of CEPA will require the government to protect that right when making decisions relating to the environment.3

The Amendments set out specific obligations the government must undertake to safeguard this right, including developing an implementation framework to set out how this right will be considered in the administration of CEPA as well as conducting research, studies and monitoring activities to support this goal.

In addition, the Preamble will recognize some additional considerations, including confirming the government’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as recognizing the importance of considering vulnerable persons, reducing or replacing the use of animal testing, and the right of Canadians to have access to information on product labels.

Project Impact Assessment

With respect to risk assessments under CEPA, under the new provisions the federal government must consider impacts on vulnerable populations and possible cumulative effects of the proposed conduct. Vulnerable populations will include groups of people with elevated biological susceptibility, such as children, and groups with elevated exposure risks, such an indigenous communities. Consideration of cumulative effects of proposed conduct takes a holistic approach to substance management by considering the compounding risks of exposure to various chemicals during daily life rather than looking at substances on their own.

Chemicals Management

The federal government has identified the management of chemicals as a key target area under the new CEPA.

The Amendments thus propose to overhaul this regime in order to better protect Canadians from the evolving risks of harmful chemicals and pollution. To accomplish this, the government has proposed wide ranging changes relating to risk assessment, public accountability, management of toxic substances and new substances, which are discussed in turn below.

Risk Assessment

The government must consult, develop and publish a Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities which will set out an integrated plan for the risk assessment of various chemical substances currently being used in Canada. The Plan will establish priorities for the management of substances, taking into account a number of factors including among others the views of stakeholders and partners, public comments, the effects on vulnerable populations, the toxicity of the substance, the ability to disrupt biological reproduction or endocrine systems, and whether there are safer and more sustainable alternatives.4 The government will also be empowered to make geographically targeted regulations to address pollution “hot spots”.

Additionally, the Amendments will establish a mechanism through which any person can submit a request to the Minister to assess a substance to determine its toxicity and risk to the environment. The Minister must provide a response within 90 days, indicating whether they intend to assess the substances and their reasons for their decision.

Public Accountability Framework

The Amendments intend to increase transparency and public participation in risk assessments by the government for the categorization and management of potentially toxic chemicals. Currently, CEPA contains a public accountability framework under section 77 and provides time limits for the government to assess substances under sections 91 and 92. However, these provisions only apply to certain risk assessments being conducted by the government such as substances placed on the Domestic Substances List that in the opinion of the Minister present the greatest potential for exposure to Canadians or are persistent or bio-accumulative. The proposed Amendments plan to amend section 77 to expand these transparency and accountability measures to all substance risk assessments for toxic or capable of being toxic substances, with the exception of assessments for new substances.5

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Scientists, Homalco First Nation team up to probe massive B.C. landslide — and its impact on salmon

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When the side of a B.C. mountain gave way on Nov. 28, 2020, crashing into a glacier fed lake and creating a 100-metre high tsunami, no one was around to see the destruction or hear the sound of rocks and trees tearing through the valley below. 

But scientists say the force, which was picked up by seismographs across North America, was the equivalent of a 4.9-magnitude earthquake. 

Fortunately, no one was in the slide’s path, but experts believe that a melting glacier likely contributed by making the slope less stable — and climate change means it is a growing risk. 

As more of Canada’s glaciers recede, scientists say there is great interest in finding out what exactly triggered this slide, and how the rocks and sediment have impacted the salmon population of nearby Elliot Creek and Southgate River. 

The mountain, which is located about 220 km north west of Vancouver, is on the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation. 

It’s an area of remote wilderness, only accessible by air or by boating 80 km up Bute Inlet.

When the slide hit last year, more than 18 million cubic meters of rock barrelled down the slope hitting the lake within 30 seconds. 

“That is the equivalent of all of the cars in Canada coming down the hill at once,” said Marten Geertsema, a geomorphologist who works with the B.C. government studying landslides. 

He is one of several scientists, along with members from the Homalco First Nation, who have been studying the landslide and its cascading environmental impact on the watershed and salmon habitat. 

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