World & Canada News - April 12, 2018 issue

In the World . . . 

Vanuatu denies it will host China military base

BBC News/April 10, 2018

Vanuatu has denied holding talks with Beijing to establish a Chinese military base on its soil.

Australia's Fairfax Media reported on Tuesday that China had approached Vanuatu to establish a permanent military presence in the South Pacific.

The report said China had not made an official proposal, but its possibility had been discussed at "the highest levels" in the US and Australia.

Vanuatu said it was not interested in hosting foreign military bases

"No-one in the Vanuatu government has ever talked about a Chinese military base in Vanuatu of any sort," Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 

"We are a non-aligned country. We are not interested in militarisation."

The newspaper report has sparked discussion in Australia, which sits 2,000km (1,240 miles) from Vanuatu, about possible efforts by China to exert influence in the South Pacific.

China has not commented on the report. It set up its only overseas military base in Djibouti last year.

What is China's relationship with Vanuatu?

Vanuatu, a string of more than 80 islands sitting between Fiji and New Caledonia, has previously backed Beijing's position on the South China Sea.

Home to about 250,000 people, the South Pacific nation has faced challenges including poverty and extreme weather events.

Fairfax Media reported that Beijing had given the nation "hundreds of millions of dollars in development money", and has vowed to build or upgrade three Vanuatu government buildings.

What did the report say?

The newspaper said that China was likely to seek an initial access agreement that would allow its ships to be serviced and restocked in Vanuatu.

Beijing could then expand its presence over time, Fairfax Media said, attributing its information to multiple anonymous sources.

The report said officials in Washington and Canberra had discussed the issue, but it did not give details.

What did Vanuatu say?

In rejecting the report, Mr Regenvanu said he was "not very happy about the standard of reporting in the Australian media".

"I would hope the upsurge in the paranoia about China in Australia is not used to destroy or denigrate the good relationship Vanuatu has with Australia," he said.

How have other nations responded?

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she was confident that her nation remained "Vanuatu's strategic partner of choice".

However, she acknowledged that Beijing appeared to be increasing its activity in the Pacific.

"Chinese vessels visited Vanuatu last year as part of a broader visit to the region, but these sorts of visits are normal for many neighbours around the world," she said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her nation was "opposed to the militarisation of the South Pacific generally".

Who has raised concerns?

Despite Vanuatu's denial, security experts say it is feasible that China could attempt to build a military base in a nation such as Vanuatu.

Such a move would challenge the influence of the US and its allies Australia and New Zealand, according to Asia-Pacific expert Bates Gill.

"Those relationships as well as the US Navy itself has been the most dominant military and security power in the region for some 70 years," Prof Gill, from Sydney's Macquarie University, told the BBC.

"[China] is beginning to shift this long-standing regional dynamic in ways that are causing concern in Canberra and in other regional capitals."


And in Canada . . . 

National security oversight committee to probe events surrounding Trudeau's India trip

Committee to probe alleged foreign political interference, security risks to PM and misuse of intelligence

Peter Zimonjic/CBC News/April 9, 2018 

The federal government's national security oversight committee has agreed to conduct a special review of the incidents surrounding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's trip to India.

Conservative senators introduced a motion calling on Trudeau's national security adviser, Daniel Jean, to appear before the Senate defence and security committee to answer questions about the trip.

That motion was amended in late March to instead ask the oversight committee to review the matter behind closed doors. The committee considered the request and decided it was appropriate.

"The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) is conducting a special review of the allegations that have been raised in the context of the prime minister's trip to India," a statement from the committee said Monday.

"Specifically those [allegations] relating to foreign interference in Canadian political affairs, risks to the security of the prime minister, and inappropriate use of intelligence."

The committee will provide a classified report on its findings to the prime minister in late May. An unclassified version of the report will be tabled in both the House of Commons and the Senate.

The Liberal government has been fending off a series of attacks on its credibility since the prime minister travelled to India in February.

While on that trip, CBC News reported that Jaspal Atwal, a Canadian convicted of attempted murder for trying to assassinate Indian cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu on Vancouver Island in 1986, had been invited to a formal event hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner Thursday in Delhi.

Atwal had also appeared at an Indian film industry event in Mumbai, where he was photographed with Liberal cabinet minister Amarjeet Sohi and Trudeau's wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.

Weathering the storm

As the story of the security lapse began to consume the news cycle, Jean offered journalists in the Parliamentary Press Gallery an off-the-record briefing about how the security lapse was allowed to occur, and whether political elements in India may have been involved.

Since the media coverage of that briefing first emerged, the Conservatives have pressured the government to have Jean provide the same briefing to MPs.

Conservative MPs carried out some procedural trickery two weeks ago - including a marathon voting session on a series of motions in the House that lasted the better part of 24 hours - to protest efforts by the Liberal government to kill a motion that would have demanded Jean appear before the committee to answer questions about the Atwal invite.

Trudeau offered instead to have Jean give Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer a classified briefing. Scheer agreed, on the condition that Jean gives the House of Commons national security and defence committee an unclassified version of the briefing first.

Jean has agreed to the appearance and could testify before the committee, which is scheduled to take place on Monday, April 16 at 12:00 p.m.

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One set of luggage was donated 13 times and raised over $6,000 for the Humboldt Broncos

By Kate Kozar/Global News/April 10, 2018

A set of luggage shouldn’t have reached such a large price tag, but after 13 good Samaritans were done the luggage was worth over $6,000. 

Ducks Unlimited Canada held their annual banquet in Maple Creek, Sask. on April 7, just one day after the devastating crash between the Humboldt Broncos team bus and a semi-truck that tragically left 15 dead.

The banquet is held annually, in addition to many other events put forth by Ducks Unlimited Canada to interact with the community. There’s generally a lot of merchandise: games, raffles and auctions.

But this year’s banquet was a little different.

Alan Smith, the manager of events and volunteer relations for Ducks Unlimited Canada wanted to do something special to support the Humboldt Broncos, and shed some light on the tragedy and on the connection it brings to many across the province and the world.

They planned to sell tickets for $10 to raise money for the Broncos. The result? 156 people purchased the tickets bringing in a total $1,560.00.

“These teams have been integrated into the community. There’s something special about Junior A. It is volunteer and community run, these kids are a part of our community,” said Alan.

“I play hockey for the Western Canadians Fan Club in Saskatoon. My half-brother has known Xavier Labelle since peewee hockey. This could happen to any community. We’re rural folk, we’re all on the highways, we need to take care of our community.”

When the event began, Alan made a speech that connected with many people in attendance.

“What I had done off the start of the evening, is I made a bit of a speech about my connection. I refereed in Sask. Junior League, and there’s just so many connections [to the tragedy]. I know that corner. That’s the way I take to go to Nipawin. It could have been anybody.