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Beijing digs in: Canada’s complaints are met with ‘death-threat diplomacy’ from China





The cases are piling up.

Canadian Robert Schellenberg faces execution on drug charges after an unusually abrupt, accelerated and public retrial this week in a Chinese court. Two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, are being held by China for espionage — not yet charged, deprived of sleep and interrogated daily for more than a month now, according to Canadian diplomats. 

Other Canadians in China have complained of surprisingly harsh treatment for minor infractions.

None of this violates Chinese law, which bends easily to Beijing’s political objectives. But observers say it signals a new level of aggressiveness for a rising power quite prepared to throw its weight around when other nations’ actions don’t match its world view. 

“Death-threat diplomacy” is what Donald Clarke called it on his blog. He’s a professor of law at George Washington University Law School and an expert on the Chinese legal system.  

Clarke said Beijing’s actions against the three Canadians, underlined by Schellenberg’s sentence, reinforce the message that “China views the holding of human hostages as an acceptable way to conduct diplomacy.” 

Clarke followed the Schellenberg case closely and found many aspects out of the Chinese norm, from the speed of the retrial to the high-profile way it was covered by foreign and Chinese media, to the way a 15-year jail sentence suddenly turned into the threat of execution — something he says happens in fewer than two per cent of cases in China.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is escorted by a member of her private security detail while arriving at a parole office in Vancouver on Dec. 12. Neither Beijing nor Ottawa has drawn a public link between her case and the death sentence for Robert Schellenberg. but many experts say there is no doubt. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

China’s aim seems clear: to pressure Canada into releasing Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver last month on an extradition request from Washington. Legal action against Canadians in China ramped up soon after. Beijing insists she has been “unjustifiably detained,” according to official statements.

Neither Beijing nor Ottawa has drawn a public link between the cases, but many experts, including Clarke, say there is no doubt. Indeed, China’s ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye wrote a column in the Hill Times, an Ottawa publication, comparing the cases

“It’s understandable that these Canadians are concerned about their own citizens. But have they shown any concern or sympathy for Meng after she was illegally detained and deprived of freedom?” asks Lu. He says they have not, because of “white supremacy.”

There has been outrage in China as well, in both English- and Chinese-language statements.

The state-run tabloid Global Times, which sometimes reflects official thinking but always shows indignation, called Canada “rude” for its efforts to enlist international allies to push back against China. 

“Unreasonable pressure from outside public opinion means nothing to China,” an opinion piece said this week.

In this image taken from a video footage run by China’s CCTV, Schellenberg attends his retrial in China’s Liaoning province on Jan. 14. Schellenberg’s death sentence on drug charges is an example of ‘death-threat diplomacy,’ says Donald Clarke, a professor of law at George Washington University Law School. (CCTV via Associated Press)

The official reaction has also been unyielding.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying rejected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s complaints about China’s “arbitrary” application of its laws as the reason for the Schellenberg death penalty verdict and for Canada’s increasing the level of warnings to travellers. She called the remarks “irresponsible.”

She also said Trudeau was “making himself a laughingstock with specious statements.”

Personal attacks like these against leaders of countries China normally considers friendly are unusual. But the indignant tone has been increasingly common under the leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

His message has been strongly nationalistic, firing up feelings that China doesn’t get the respect it deserves and that the Western world is out to get China. 

The reaction has often been swift and unyielding to comments by U.S. President Donald Trump on trade, to international courts when they rule against China on issues of sovereignty or to other countries when they criticize Beijing for its harsh anti-Muslim policies against Uighurs in the province of Xinjian. 

In a case that the authorities deem sufficiently important, the courts will do as they are told.— Prof.  Donald Clarke

“It’s a clear demonstration of what I call the New China,” said former Canadian ambassador Guy Saint-Jacques, who spent four years in Beijing. He said this is a China that is “a lot more assertive and aggressive, that acts in many ways as a bully.”

In the case of Meng, China has chosen not to direct its anger at the United States, which initiated her arrest, likely because it doesn’t want to risk upsetting Washington during sensitive trade negotiations.

Throughout the current dispute with Canada and the apparent crackdown on Canadians in China, Beijing has insisted that no such political motivation was possible. Its judiciary, said the Foreign Ministry, is independent and “free from any interference” from politicians.

Many experts disagree.

“Judicial independence is not even an ideal, let alone a reality” in China, said George Washington University’s Clarke. “In a case that the authorities deem sufficiently important, the courts will do as they are told.”

Will Canada’s public complaints, and its efforts to enlist foreign allies, including the U.S., have an impact in Beijing?

Probably not, says Saint-Jacques.

High-level talks suggested

He suggests trying to arrange talks with a high-level body called the National Security and Rule of Law Dialogue, with officials from Canada and China. The group was set up in 2016 and helped influence the release of Canadian Christian Aid worker Kevin Garrett, who was also being held for political reasons.

Saint-Jacques also says if the strategy of enlisting allies to help Canada pressure China doesn’t work, Ottawa may have to consider more severe moves — anything from cancelling training for Chinese athletes who may be in Canada to prepare for Beijing’s 2022 Winter Olympics to, ultimately, recalling Canada’s ambassador to China or expelling China’s ambassador in Ottawa “if things go very badly.”

But if Ottawa takes any of those measures, he warned, Beijing will respond in kind.

“We have to keep our eyes wide open when we deal with China, and I’m not sure that people understand all that it implies,” he said.


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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa





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





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





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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