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Angry Beijing isn’t scaring off Canadians. Are we being naïve?

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The travel advisory from Global Affairs Canada is pretty clear: Canadians should “exercise a high degree of caution in China due to a risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.” Emphasis theirs.

The response from many Canadian entities who regularly travel to China for business or education? Keep a close eye on the news, but don’t cancel travel plans just yet.

The Canadian Women’s Hockey League, for example, has no plans to alter anything in their schedule as the Toronto Furies prepare for three games overseas later this month against the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays, a Chinese team who joined the pro league this season.

“We’re moving ahead day-by-day and communicating with the players,” says CWHL commissioner Jayna Hefford. “I think the players trust the league. We have great partners in China and we’re growing the sport globally. We look forward to continuing the relationship with them–but we would never put the safety of our players in jeopardy.”

As Canada’s diplomatic relationship with Beijing continues to spiral in the aftermath of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou being detained in Vancouver for possible extradition to the U.S., the response of Canadians has been surprisingly sanguine. Maclean’s reached numerous individuals and institutions with connections to the country determined to stick to their travel plans, unfazed by the detentions of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor.

RELATED: The five stages of China’s fury towards Canada

Sports teams weren’t the only ones keeping their trust in Beijing. Canadian schools aren’t exactly cancelling programs in the Middle Kingdom en masse because of travel worries

The University of British Columbia, which has partnerships with 17 universities in China, sent 585 students last year and doesn’t foresee major programming changes due to the international discord. “UBC treats the safety and security of its students, faculty and staff abroad very seriously,” wrote Pam Ratner, the school’s vice provost and associate vice-president, enrolment and academic facilities, in a statement. “The university is aware of the Jan. 14 travel advisory for Canadian visitors to China and encourages all students, faculty and staff in that country to follow UBC’s guidance and make use of available resources.”

Research travel and programming for the Ivey Business School at Western University’s international MBA program in China is similarly unaffected, said acting dean Mark Vandenbosch via email, and the limited faculty who travel for this program “are doing so by choice, not by requirement.”

Same goes for B.C.’s Trinity Western University. “I don’t want to suggest we’re blindly moving forward,” says Murray MacTavish, a professor at the university’s school of business, who helped launch the institution’s “Great Wall MBA” in China in 2013. “We want to make sure our faculty and students are safe. A lot of this is above our area—it’s a political level. We’re certainly paying close attention, but we’re still sending faculty over.”

Is this a naïve response?

“I wouldn’t go to China unless I had a really, really good reason to go,” says David Mulroney, Canada’s former ambassador to China. “The safety of your employees ultimately more important than any relationship with a Chinese university.”

RELATED: Canada arrests Huawei exec, sinks markets, angers Beijing. Whoa eh!

Morever, the justifications for Global Affairs Canada’s upgraded travel warning were piling up in the aftermath of Meng’s arrest. With Kovrig and Spavor still in custody and facing interrogations, a Chinese court sentenced Canadian Robert Schellenberg to death for drug smuggling after a one-day re-trial in which Schellenberg was appealing his original 15-year prison sentence. Days later, a Canadian woman was denied from entering China to visit her ailing father, a political prisoner; worse, when she tried to fly home to Toronto from Seoul via a connecting flight in Beijing, Chinese authorities boarded her plane and sent her back to South Korea.

“It sounds like the case of arbitrary implementation of local laws—laws that may seem small that normally wouldn’t get anybody into trouble, but [China] just want to show that they have bargaining chips on their side,” says Lynette Ong, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.

Ong says she agrees with the wording of the new travel advisory for Canadians, but adds that travellers shouldn’t avoid going to China altogether. “It’s mostly the Chinese authorities and the government trying to exercise its power,” Ong says. “As long as you do nothing that will potentially offend the government or violate any law, I think you’ll be fine.”

That is, Ong adds, unless the Canadian traveller in question does NGO work. “It is a grey area to start with because of how cumbersome the rules are [in China],” Ong says. “That would be a lot riskier.”

How can one tell if one works in one of these “grey zones?” Well, if you do, you probably know it already, says Pascale Massot, a political studies professor at the University of Ottawa. “For folks who work in grey areas, like the NGO community, I’d feel a heightened sense of risk.”

RELATED: Ottawa warns: travel to China at your own ‘arbitrary’ risk

And yet, Massot explains how Canadians showing a willingness to still travel to China under the current political climate is an appropriate response. “For the overwhelming majority, I wouldn’t expect there to be any change aside from an extra degree of caution, which you’d always have going abroad,” she says. “All Canadians cannot stop having a relationship with all Chinese people. We can’t put all of our relationships on hold. It’s important we continue to interact. Otherwise, the risk of escalation and misunderstanding is even higher.”

It’s called the engagement argument—something Canada’s former ambassador says he no longer believes in, at least where China’s concerned. “There are other ways to understand China,” says Mulroney, who believes, as things stand, it’s not worth the risk for any Canadian to travel to China unless it’s absolute necessary—say, to visit, a dying relative. Work would not fit into his description of absolutely necessary. “Most people should be able to speak with their [China-based] partners and say: ‘You know there’s this hassle with Canada. We don’t think it’s the right time for us to go. You probably don’t want a high-profile Canadian visitor on your campus. Let’s delay this until things get more stable,’” he says. “That problem is much easier to address than the problem of having someone arrested or detained,”

Hockey is no exception, says Mulroney, wondering aloud: what if there’s an altercation at a game in China? What if a Canadian player parties a little too hard on the town after a win? The chances of her being treated harshly by Chinese authorities are suddenly significantly higher, he argues, and there’s little help from Ottawa when things go awry. “The [Canadian] government can work painstakingly at the diplomatic level, but if you’re detained in China, the options are very limited.

“I wouldn’t say a hockey game is a good enough reason for me [to go to China]. I would hope the team could find some polite, diplomatic reason for deferring the trip. Nothing is that important. ”

MORE ABOUT MENG WANZHOU:

 

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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