Ukraine asks Canada for access to satellite images to monitor Russian, rebel troop movements

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has pressed the Trudeau government to restart a program supplying the Ukrainian military with satellite imagery to monitor Russian and separatist rebel troop movements, and says it is “extremely important” for Canada to be part of a potential UN peacekeeping mission in the war-torn country.

In an exclusive interview with CBC’s Rosemary Barton, Poroshenko said he urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to provide his country with sophisticated imagery of the Ukraine-Russia border from a Canadian satellite.

“Because that can effectively help us effectively implement the Minsk agreement, to have evidence that Russia moved their tanks, artillery systems, multi-rocket launch systems,” Poroshenko said.

It’s not the first time Poroshenko has made a direct appeal to a Canadian prime minister for satellite data. He convinced the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper to provide RADARSAT-2 images for one year, beginning in March 2015, according to documents obtained by CBC News under Access to Information.

The $9.5-million initiative was not renewed in the spring of 2016 by the new Liberal government, which cited the cost and “limitations of the licence requirements” as reasons for ending the program, said the documents.

The images were carefully limited to cover the “internationally recognized territory of Ukraine” only and “any area or point outside this geographic zone” was not allowed to be shared.

That is significant because it blinded the Ukrainians to potential Russian troop movements on the other side of the border.

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko

Poroshenko spoke to the CBC’s Rosemary Barton in Toronto on Sept. 23. (CBC)

In the fall of last year, Canadian officials made it clear to their Ukrainian counterparts the decision to suspend the sharing of information would not be reviewed.

“I have no doubt that we will solve this question,” Poroshenko said, following his meeting with Trudeau last Friday.

Canadian peacekeepers ‘extremely important’

The Ukrainian president said Canada should be involved in the mission to help end a conflict in the embattled eastern European country between government troops and Russia-backed separatists.

Poroshenko called it “extremely important, because Canada has a unique experience,” noting Canada’s historic role in developing the UN’s peacekeeping function.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and Russian-backed separatist fighters subsequently took up arms against Ukrainian government forces in the east of the country. The conflict — now in its fourth year — has killed more than 10,000 people, injured 24,000 and forced 1.6 million to leave their homes, according to the UN.

‘Extremely important’ Canadians take part in Ukraine peacekeeping1:06

Canada has already trained more than 5,000 Ukrainian soldiers to fight Moscow-backed rebels, and Ottawa has given the country $16 million in non-lethal equipment such as helmets, bulletproof vests and winter clothing.

But there is growing push for Ottawa to commit peacekeeping troops in war-torn Ukraine.

Last year, Trudeau promised to deliver 600 soldiers and 150 police officers to UN-mandated peace support operations. The federal government has not yet committed to any specific mission.

“I have a feeling he’s absolutely open,” Poroshenko said of Trudeau’s views about sending Canadian peacekeepers to his country. “I’m fully satisfied with my discussion with Prime Minister Trudeau.”

‘Absolutely impossible’ to have Russian peacekeepers

Earlier this month, Ukraine submitted a draft proposal to the UN for peacekeepers to cover the entire conflict zone and the border with Russia it does not control. Ukraine’s plan would also ban any Russian nationals from taking part in a peacekeeping mission, an idea Moscow has denounced.

“This is absolutely impossible that Russia can be a part of the peacekeeping mission, because Russia is on the side of the conflict,” Poroshenko said. “Russia is an aggressor. We don’t have discussions.”

Kiev and Western countries accuse Russia of providing military backing to the insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Russia denies any direct role in the conflict.

‘Absolutely impossible’ Russia can be part of peacekeeping mission: Ukrainian President1:07

Russia, meanwhile, made its own suggestions earlier this month for UN peacekeepers to be deployed to eastern Ukraine — the first major Kremlin proposal to resolve the three-year conflict.

That proposal is aimed at protecting ceasefire monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

The observers are there to monitor implementation of the Minsk Protocol aimed at ending the war, which has been largely unsuccessful.

“Of course, the Russian proposal is unacceptable,” Poroshenko said of the Russian peacekeeping plan, “because Russia wants to use the peacekeepers as kind of the bodyguard for the observers of the special monitoring mission of the OSCE, which is absolutely against the statute.”

‘Military crime’

Sending a UN peacekeeping force requires the approval of the UN Security Council. Russia is one of five permanent members of the council and can veto any resolutions assigning peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine.

If that happens, Poroshenko said he would bring the issue before the United Nation’s highest court.

“If Russia will be the only nation who will be against peacekeeping it will be very difficult to explain,” Poroshenko said. “This is occupied territory, occupied by Russian troops, and in that situation it would be a recognition of the occupation by Russia.

“With that situation we will go to the International Court of Justice and Russia will be responsible for the military crime.”

Meet Kevin McCormick, the man who made it his mission to return Canada’s lost military medals

While their achievements in uniform can be found on their service records, the military medals that mark the deeds of Canada’s men and women are sometimes lost as the decades roll one over the other. 

One Canadian, however, has dedicated himself to finding those tangible markers that had gone missing and returning them home. 

Kevin McCormick, president of Huntington University in Sudbury and an honorary lieutenant-colonel in the Irish Regiment, has made it a personal mission to see military medals and other artifacts restored to their rightful owners. 

McCormick’s latest effort saw him Monday give Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan the Memorial Cross that was awarded to a grieving mother 100 years ago after she lost a son at the battle of the Somme.

“You bring a sense of closure to people,” Sajjan told McCormick in a private event held on Parliament Hill, “especially when it comes to the Memorial Cross.

“Family members have given the ultimate sacrifice to us, [which] makes it so important. And even if they can’t be found, it’s actually explaining it to other people, ‘hey this was a sacrifice.'”

Memorial Cross

This Memorial Cross was originally awarded to the mother of Sgt. John Brown, of the Central Ontario Regiment, who was killed Oct. 1, 1916. during the battle for Vimy Ridge. (CBC)

McCormick is adamant that he is not a collector. It’s an odd assessment from a man who devotes much of his time and money to finding and buying Canadian military artifacts.

“I took to searching and finding through auction sites and online opportunities, artifacts, letters and medals and other personal items of soldiers who have given their life in service of our country,  and then [finding] a way to relocate those items with an appropriate home,” McCormick said.

He calls it Project Honour and Preserve. Over the past four years, McCormick has acquired more than 100 items, mounted them in shadow boxes and brought them home. 

“I’ve returned medals to families, and I’ve placed medals in regimental museums that may be worth a lot more to a collector. But their intrinsic value to the family member or to the museum from where he or she came … it transcends a monetary value,” he said.

He added that he doesn’t care how the items ended up on the market in the first place.

Among the dozens of honours McCormick has purchased are a Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, Distinguished Service Cross and a medal for an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

military medal

A First World War service medal that McCormick found and is seeking to return to the family of its rightful owner. (Alison Crawford/CBC)

He has also acquired personal items such as trench art, telegraphs and journals.

McCormick paid for every item out of his own pocket.

“I’m often asked what I pay for something, and I never get into what I pay,” he said. “It’s all personal. It’s all my own money and my own resources. I don’t think you can put a price on sacrifice.”

Sometimes finding the right home for the artifacts is a tough slog, such as the Memorial Cross presented to Sajjan. It originally belonged to the mother of a Sgt. John Brown who served with the Central Ontario Regiment, 20th Battalion and who died Oct. 1, 1916.

McCormick believes he died at Ancre, France, and has yet to find one of Brown’s relatives or decendants to claim the medal.

When he hits such a wall, McCormick calls a friend with the police — the military police.

Lt-Col Mike Motyl

Lt.-Col. Mike Motyl, a military police officer, helps locate the rightful owners of military artifacts acquired by his friend Kevin McCormick. (Alison Crawford/CBC)

Library and Archives Canada has been “a critical place for research,” says Lt.-Col. Mike Motyl.

“At times, we’ve done some searching within our databases to find out if we have any records, and in some cases we may find a fingerprint record or something like that.”

Motyl is currently trying to crack the very cold case of prolific and passionate letter-writer named Eli who served as a gunner during the First World War.

“Tonight darling, I feel very lonely and ‘oh’ to be with you, to tell you everything instead of writing it,” Eli wrote in one letter.  

“I have gone into every every detail, so haven’t had much space for LOVE, but will tell you more of that Sunday when I will write you again. Your own true sweetheart Eli.”

Working alongside Motyl is Lindsay Frei, a civilian employee from the Department of National Defence who has a passion for history.

“It’s incredible. We have medals, we have photos, we have love letters. We have first person accounts of what it was like to fight in the First World War in France,” said Frei, as she gingerly handled an old photograph of Eli’s sweetheart and future wife Inez.

“He’s a joker. He’s got a really great sense of humour. His wife is equally to the task. They had a love. That’s what’s come through this, that they had a lot of love. There’s not difference, I find, between letters between soldiers today writing home versus a hundred years ago.”

Lindsay Frei

Lindsay Frei, a civilian employee from the Department of National Defence, helps the effort to reunite military artifacts with their rightful owners. (Alison Crawford/CBC)

Motyl and Frei have learned that Eli enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Saint John, N.B., in 1917. An old photo album with fragile black pages holds dozens of photos and negatives pictures, including one of his training camp at Valcartier, Que.

There are also journals describing his days in the trenches. Correspondence with friends and family fill five binders. In letters to Inez, Eli often signed off with “your own true sweetheart” followed by a bunch of stars to communicate hugs or kisses. 

McCormick has confidence Motyl will come through again with the name of a distant relative.

“Those are sacred texts in many ways, and you don’t want them just floating around. You want them to go to the right individuals who can respect and honour them,” he said.

A military letter

One of hundreds of letters sent by trench gunner Eli to his future wife Inez that McCormick is seeking to return to the soldier’s surviving family. (Alison Crawford/CBC)

Ottawa tightens rules around using information obtained through torture

The federal government is strengthening safeguards around the use of information derived through torture, but will not issue a blanket ban on sharing or receiving intelligence that may have been obtained from abuse or mistreatment.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the goal of new directives released today is to protect the security of Canadians while ensuring the government is not complicit in torture by foreign states.

“We were guided by the government’s commitment to keep Canadians safe and uphold Canada’s commitments to human rights and the rule of law,” he said in a statement. “The ministerial directions reflect the government’s steadfast commitment to both.”

New rules prohibit the use of information that was likely obtained through mistreatment, except when it is necessary to prevent loss of life or significant personal injury. It is also prohibited if it could lead to further abuse or torture.

Information obtained through torture can no longer be used to prevent risks to property.

Revised rules also come with new reporting requirements, including an annual report and an independent review by the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and other bodies.

Information obtained through torture cannot be used as evidence in criminal proceedings. It can only be used to “deprive a person of their rights or freedoms in exceptional circumstances to prevent loss of life of serious personal injury,” according to government documents on the changes.

Human rights concerns

The new directives replace a 2011 version on information sharing, which had raised serious concerns from human rights groups.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, called the revisions a “welcome advance” on previous rules, but said significant gaps remain.

Assurances from other governments that they will not carry out torture are a “deeply inadequate safeguard,” because promises from officials who already break the law are worthless, he said.

“While the ministerial directions do state that such information will not be used in three circumstances, it is not clear whether there is clear recognition of the need to ban the use of such information, because it plays a central role in encouraging more torture and contributing to a global market for torture-derived intelligence,” Neve said in a statement to CBC News.

Canadians compensated

Amnesty has also raised concerns that certain intelligence could be retained on file, even if not immediately used.

In July, the federal government paid $10.5 million in compensation to Omar Khadr. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled his rights were violated during his detention at Guantanamo Bay U.S. military prison, and that Canadian officials had not done enough to protect him from abuse.

In March, the government announced it had reached a settlement in a civil case involving Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin with compensation for the role Canadian officials played in their torture in Syria and Egypt.

Interest in N.S. liquefied natural gas projects ramp up as producers look east

Two liquefied natural gas megaprojects slated for Canada’s East Coast are steaming ahead, even as investors pull the plug on plans for the West Coast.

Bear Head LNG Corp., a subsidiary of Australia-based Liquefied Natural Gas Ltd., and Goldboro LNG, a Pieridae Energy Canada project, could be the best bet for the country’s first LNG export facility.

Despite a glut of gas around the world, rock-bottom prices and the cancellation of facilities proposed for British Columbia, the two multibillion-dollar Nova Scotia projects appear to be ramping up.

Bear Head’s pitch starts with location.

‘Site that God built for LNG’

When the company was scouting locations in Atlantic Canada for an LNG facility, the upshot on Point Tupper, N.S., was unequivocal.

“It was the site that God built for LNG,” Paul MacLean, the firm’s strategic and regulatory affairs adviser, recalled an industry insider saying about the Cape Breton site.

Perched on the Strait of Canso, it’s the deepest ice-free terminal on the North American Eastern Seaboard. And when Bear Head’s parent company purchased the site for $11 million US, it came with infrastructure: A jetty, roads, water and electricity.

“One of the biggest costs for an LNG facility tends to be infrastructure,” Texas-based CEO and managing director Greg Vesey said in an interview in Halifax. “That makes us more competitive right out of the box.”

Since buying the site in 2014, progress on the proposed $5-billion LNG megaproject has been hog-tied by a wildly competitive energy market, including in its own backyard.

About 100 kilometres southwest of Point Tupper is Goldboro, N.S., the site eyed by Pieridae Energy for an LNG-processing facility, storage tanks and marine works.

Interconnected pipelines

The project, expected to cost $7-10 billion US, aims to tap into the natural gas supply from the existing Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline — without the cost of building pipe to Point Tupper, for example.

“It’s why we chose the Goldboro site,” said Mark Brown, director of project development for Pieridae Energy.

“We’re interconnected with all the other pipeline networks in North America and that gives us supply options from many different supply basins in both Canada and the United States.”

It’s also a different project than what Bear Head has on the table for Point Tupper, he said.

“We’re an integrated project, so we’ll have the capability to invest in upstream reserves and pipeline capacity,” Brown said. “In other words, we’ll become a shipper on pipelines as opposed to Bear Head, which is what’s known as a tolling facility.”

Diamond Cove LNG export facility in Maryland that's expected to come onstream

With federal approval in hand, it’s still up to Malaysian energy giant Petronas’s investors to decide if they want to proceed with the Pacific Northwest LNG project in northern B.C. (Canadian Press)

Goldboro LNG is also the only export facility in North America with a customer, he said.

Uniper SE, a German energy firm, has signed a 20-year off-take agreement for half of Goldboro’s permitted output — a coup for the Nova Scotia project. The contract comes with a German government-backed debt guarantee.

While executives with the two competing Nova Scotia LNG proposals say they hope their competition succeeds, they also quietly one-up each other.

“We have different models, both utilizing an excess of natural gas,” Brown said. “But the fundamentals of the projects are different in that we have a customer taking the gas.”

Vesey, with LNG Ltd., said he respects the efforts by Goldboro LNG, but said “they have a long way to go on permitting, which is expensive and takes time.”

Both blockbuster hydrocarbon-energy projects could face resistance from environmental groups, a tightening regulatory environment and unpredictable market forces.

Still, the cancellation of projects planned for British Columbia could bode well for the East Coast proposals.

B.C. project spiked

Global energy giant Petronas and its partners killed a massive LNG project planned for B.C. in late July, while the Aurora LNG project slated for northwest British Columbia was cancelled earlier this month.

The dimming prospects on the West Coast could slowly shift attention to the Goldboro and Bear Head projects.

As Western Canadian gas producers take stock of their options, what once seemed like a potentially risky venture — signing a long-term deal on a long-shot East Coast terminal — has emerged as an alternative to shipping gas west. 

Vesey assesses the uptick in interest cautiously, noting that producers banking on shipping gas west are still “shell-shocked” at the cancellation of B.C. projects.

Bear Paw pipeline map Nova Scotia

This map shows where the 62.5-kilometre Bear Paw pipeline will run. (CBC)

“The West Coast to Asia is the be-all and end-all,” he said. “You can’t beat that.”

But building pipe over mountains and other difficult terrain to the West Coast, market headwinds and a galvanized opposition have created a tough environment for B.C. projects — and Bear Head is ready to step in as a back up.

“Interest has ramped up since the cancellation of NorthWest LNG,” Vesey said. “I think there is still more interest growing.”

Bear Head offers access to emerging markets and fast routes to South America, Europe and western Asia through the Suez Canal, he said.

The Point Tupper terminal was originally conceived as a LNG export hub for U.S. shale gas, but Bear Head is now courting Canadian producers.

Western producers have invested billions of dollars in developing the so-called upstream, exploring for and producing natural gas, but getting the gas downstream to energy-hungry customers is a problem, Vesey said.

Producers now send gas through two major hubs — Union Gas’s Dawn hub southeast of Sarnia, Ont., or the AECO-C hub in Alberta’s southeast — both saturated with supply.

“They’re not getting the financial return they envisioned when they invested in these facilities,” Vesey said.

Move to natural gas

The company’s ambitious proposal would see producers in Alberta ship natural gas through TransCanada Corp. pipeline to North Bay, Ont. From there, Bear Head would build a new pipeline to Goldboro, a distance of more than 1,700 kilometres.

Building the greenfield pipeline from Ontario to Nova Scotia would require deals from producers up front, something Vesey said the company hopes to have in place by mid-2018.

Meanwhile, Bear Head’s sister company, Bear Paw Pipeline Corp., has approval to build a 62.5-kilometre pipeline that would run between Goldboro to Point Tupper.

The $235-million pipeline would connect to the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline, which runs from Goldboro to Massachusetts.

liquefied natural gas facility bear head

An artist’s rendering of the Bear Head liquefied natural gas facility for Point Tupper, Richmond County. (Submitted by Bear Paw)

The company plans to get pipe laid and the terminal up and running by 2022 or 2023, a project that would require 1,500 workers during construction and about 150 permanent jobs.

The proposed LNG export facility already has construction and environmental permits as well as federal approval for a licence to export LNG and import natural gas from the United States.

Yet energy analysts have questioned the viability of both East Coast projects.

Toronto-based independent energy consultant Tom Adams has said if the market is not attractive enough to get British Columbia — positioned close to Asian markets — into the LNG business, then “Nova Scotia is just not even worth talking about.”

But Vesey said with natural gas forecasts showing an increase in prices around 2023, producers need to start inking deals now.

“The world is moving away from coal, to natural gas. We need to start building now so we’re ready for when that demand comes.”

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle make first official public appearance together

Prince Harry and his girlfriend Meghan Markle have made their first official public appearance as a couple.

The prince and Markle, a Toronto-based actor in the legal drama Suits, held hands Monday afternoon as they walked toward Toronto’s city hall to take in one of the sporting events for the Invictus Games.

Both were dressed casually in jeans, the prince pairing it with a black polo shirt while his girlfriend wore a pale button-down shirt. They both wore dark sunglasses.

Invictus Games Harry 20170925

The couple have publicly acknowledged their relationship and have been photographed together from afar in the past, but this is the first time they have appeared together at an official event. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Harry is in the city for the Games, a multi-day sporting event for wounded soldiers that he founded in 2014.

He and Markle sat together in the stands to watch wheelchair tennis on Monday, occasionally applauding or leaning in to talk to each other. They later lingered to speak and shake hands with some in the crowd.

They eventually walked away from the event, again holding hands.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle: 1st official public appearance as a couple0:25

Markle had appeared at the Games’ opening ceremony this weekend, cheering athletes from the stands while Harry sat several rows away next to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. first lady Melania Trump.

BRITAIN-ROYALS/INVICTUSGAMES

Rupert Thorpe, a British photographer for the Daily Mail on Sunday tabloid, figured the first photo would be worth somewhere between $60,000 and $123,000 for some of the magazines. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

There had been intense speculation about if and when the couple would make a public appearance together. Dozens of British photographers travelled to Toronto, betting it would happen.

Rupert Thorpe, a photographer for the Daily Mail on Sunday tabloid, told CBC News on Saturday the first appearance photo would sell to magazines for somewhere between $60,000 and $123,000.

They have publicly acknowledged their relationship and have been photographed together from afar in the past, but this is the first time they have appeared together at an official event.

B.C.’s Yuen Pau Woo named leader of Independent senators, soon to be Senate’s largest bloc

One of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first picks for the Senate has been named leader of the growing bloc of Independent senators.

Yuen Pau Woo, the only candidate in the race to replace outgoing “facilitator” Elaine McCoy of Alberta, was elected to the position by members of the Independent Senators Group (ISG) Monday. He ran on a joint ticket with Quebec Independent Sen. Raymonde Saint-Germain, who will serve as a his deputy facilitator.

“I am honoured to be entrusted with this responsibility and delighted to be working in tandem with Sen. Saint-Germain,” Woo said in a statement Monday. “We believe that a strong, coherent and unified group will enhance the ability of members to be effective independent senators, especially on our core function of legislative review.”

QUEBEC OMBUDSMAN 20100930

Raymonde Saint-Germain, a former ombudsman in Quebec, has been elected “deputy facilitator” of the Independent Senators Group (ISG). (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Woo sponsored the government’s budget bill in the Senate last spring, steering it through a chamber that has become increasingly unpredictable. Some senators sought to split off the government’s proposed infrastructure bank, and stop the Liberal government from levying an automatic yearly increase to the alcohol excise duty. Both efforts failed.

Prior to joining the Senate, Woo was a senior fellow in public policy at the Asian Institute of Research at the University of British Columbia, and is the former president of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.

He has long been a supporter of closer trade ties between Canada and China.

But his opposition to a motion that would have condemned China for its incursions in the South China Sea prompted some Conservatives to brand him an apologist for the authoritarian regime. Woo strenuously denied those accusations in an interview with CBC News last week.

Voted with government 100% of the time

In addition to his vocal support for the budget, Woo has been friendly to government legislation on the whole. Woo voted with the government’s representative in the Senate, Peter Harder, 100 per cent of the time during the last sitting, according to an analysis compiled by CBC News.

Saint-Germain, appointed alongside Woo to the Senate last November, is a former senior public servant and ombudsperson for Quebec. She voted with Harder 95.8 per cent of the time.

The ISG — composed of recently named Trudeau appointees and others who left the Liberal and Conservative caucuses — is poised to become the largest bloc of senators this fall, when it leapfrogs over the opposition Conservatives.

The current make up of the Senate is 36 Conservatives, 35 members of the ISG, 16 Liberals and eight non-affiliated members who sit outside of all Senate groups. After a series of retirements and high-profile resignations,10 new senators will be named this fall.

Despite being appointed by a Liberal prime minister, those new senators are expected to join the ranks of the ISG. Trudeau booted Liberals from the national Liberal caucus at the height of the Senate expenses scandal in 2014.

Woo has said, as leader, he will fight for space on Senate committees for Independent senators. He will also push for more money to help staff the ISG secretariat, a group of staff that support the work of Independent senators.

‘Rude and disrespectful’: Federal food inspection agency executive abused, harassed staff

An executive at Canada’s food inspection agency mistreated and harassed staff, abused her authority and made inappropriate comments to employees on an ongoing basis, an investigation by the public sector integrity watchdog has concluded.

A case report from Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Joe Friday tabled today in the House of Commons found that Geneviève Desjardins, vice-president of communications and public affairs for the CFIA, also solicited personal information about employees from their colleagues, including about their health, and would “speak ill” about employees in their absence.

Witnesses said Desjardins targeted certain employees, especially those who challenged or questioned her authority. 

“Her overall unacceptable dealings with employees, intrusions into their personal matters and her rude and disrespectful comments about others were deliberate and frequent, and they had an impact on the wellness of many employees at various levels,” Friday said in his report.

Friday said while he doesn’t think the type of behaviour is systemic in the federal public sector, it is his hope that his findings of unprofessional and unacceptable actions will send a strong message that such behaviour is not acceptable or tolerated.

Joe Friday, Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada

Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada Joe Friday found that an executive with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency bullied and harassed employees. (PSICC)

The commissioner’s office does not investigate individual harassment complaints, but systemic instances of behaviour that can have a negative effect on employees and the workplace.

Friday said he is satisfied with CFIA’s response to his recommendations, including one that called for disciplinary action against Desjardins, but her employment status is not immediately known.

A statement provided to CBC News said CFIA has already intitiated action, but said details are considered confidential.

“Fostering a respectful and harassment-free workplace is a key priority for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency,” the statement reads. “Real or perceived wrongdoing on the part of the agency’s senior management team must be and will be treated seriously and with the rigour and attention that is warranted.”

According to the report, CFIA president Paul Glover said that “appropriate action is being taken, bearing in mind the findings of this report, and CFIA and government of Canada policies.”

The CFIA has about 6,555 employees and is in charge of safeguarding food safety, animal and plant health.

Derogatory remarks

According to Friday’s report, witnesses heard Desjardins describe another executive in the branch as “not normal,” “menopausal,” “not right,” “moody” and “incompetent.”

One executive testified that in his last few months working for Desjardins, he was responsible for more than 50 employees, six managers and two directors.

“Not a day went by, not one, where someone wasn’t in my office either crying, upset, alarmed, complaining or shocked by the behaviour of our VP … employees were being reduced to what could only be described as employees that were being bullied or harassed. It had become a terrible place to work,” the executive said.

The commissioner’s report is a followup to a February report that found the former president of the CFIA and its vice-president of human resources failed to take appropriate action to deal fairly and thoroughly with serious harassment complaints.

That investigation found that Bruce Archibald and Gérard Étienne committed “gross mismanagement” in response to three harassment complaints made against Desjardins dating back to 2014, finding the two officials did not adequately investigate the complaints.

Remedial steps

Friday said the behaviour flies in the face of the government’s “clear priorities” to promote mental health in the workplace.

In response to his recommendations, the CFIA president agreed to take measures to foster a healthy workplace and to address the needs of those affected by Desjardins’ actions.

“I would once again reassure you that I am committed to the well‐being of all CFIA employees and that I intend to take the steps necessary to continue to promote and foster a healthy, positive and productive work environment for all staff,” Glover said in the report. 

Groom takes plunge, rescues boy from lake during wedding photos

Brittany Ross Cook was smiling for her wedding photographer when she looked over to a pond at Victoria Park in Kitchener, Ont., and noticed her husband pulling a boy from the water.

Three children had been following the couple around Friday evening after their small ceremony, and Clay Cook was keeping an eye on them, because they were near the water, she said.

He turned to look at them as he waited for the photographer to need him for more photos and noticed one of the children missing.

“They were by the river and looking into the river, so Clay headed over there to check it out, and the kid was in the river, and the kids were pointing at him like, ‘he can’t swim,'” Ross Cook recalled.

“Clay jumped down and said, ‘Reach for my hand,’ and the kid just reached and Clay was just able to grab him and pull him right out.”

Kids were playing

Ross Cook said she guessed the children to be between six and eight years old.

They were just having fun, she said, following the newlywed couple around and cheering for them.

“They were playing — they thought it was a game, and the girl pushing him into the water,” she said. “I don’t think they realized the severity of it.”

The boy was soaked, but Cook was able to stay mostly dry because there was a ledge beside the water where he was able to stand to reach the boy.

An older girl came over after the boy was pulled out of the water and took him away, but Ross Cook said they didn’t speak to any parents or adults. 

‘What a super guy’

Cook’s heroic act gained attention on the weekend after London photographer Darren Hatt posted a photo of the rescue to his Facebook page.

Hatt said when it happened, he was taking photos of Ross Cook and had his back to the water.

“The groom was just waiting patiently until he was called back in …. All of a sudden, the bride had shouted out,” Hatt said.

He turned and, realizing what was happening, snapped a couple of quick shots.

Hatt has been a photographer for five years and said taking a photo like this one “is definitely a first.”

More than 400 people have shared Hatt’s post on Facebook and many commented on Cook’s quick thinking.

“That makes for a truly special day. You’ve made a few parents somewhere incredibly grateful,” one person wrote under the post.

“What a super guy. Stories to talk about on your 25th wedding anniversary,” another person wrote.

Surprised by attention

“I do call him my hero husband now,” Ross Cook said of Cook’s actions.

Cook, who was at work Monday and unavailable for an interview, is a little surprised by the attention, she said.

“Clay’s so humble to begin with that he didn’t see it as a big deal,” she said.

“Clay said he didn’t even think about it, he just jumped into action. The kid’s in the water, what are you going to do? You’re going to pull him out.”

Jagmeet Singh leads in NDP leadership fundraising but momentum slowing

NDP leadership candidate Jagmeet Singh has raised more money than his rivals through the summer, according to new fundraising data published on Monday.

According to the Ontario MPP’s interim campaign return, which includes donations received by the candidate up to Sept. 14, Singh has raised $618,779.62 since his entry into the race, more than either Ontario MP Charlie Angus or Manitoba MP Niki Ashton.

The numbers for Quebec MP Guy Caron have yet to be posted on Elections Canada’s website. At the end of the second quarter, Caron had raised the least, at just over $100,000, including the $25,000 he had donated to his own campaign.

Singh’s fundraising was drawn from 6,204 contributions. After removing duplicates, this totals about 5,475 unique contributors.

Angus has raised $374,146.88 from 4,526 contributions (or about 3,460 individuals), though his filing runs up to donations received by Sept. 7.

Ashton, whose filing includes donations received by Sept. 14, has raised $250,937.11 from 4,125 contributions, or about 3,160 unique contributors.

The previous filings with Elections Canada showed donations received in the second quarter of 2017, and indicated Singh had raised more money than all his rivals combined in that three month period ended June 30. Since then, however, Singh has raised about $262,000, compared to $140,000 for Angus and $126,000 for Ashton, suggesting his momentum might have tailed off.

He still raised the most money over the summer, but not more than the rest of his opponents combined.

Singh raised about $454,000, or about 73 per cent, of his fundraising in Ontario alone. More than two-thirds of that came from the Greater Toronto Area, where Singh holds a seat in the Ontario Legislature.

Fundraising for Angus was similarly concentrated in his home province. He raised just under 75 per cent of his donations from Ontario, though it was dispersed more evenly across the province.

The results of the first round of voting for the NDP leadership will be announced on Oct. 1 in Toronto. If none of the four candidates in the running gets a majority of ballots cast, the candidate finishing last will be eliminated and a new week-long round of voting will begin.

Alibaba expands payment processing service Alipay in Canada

Alipay, the mobile payment processing service that emerged from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, is expanding its Canadian presence.

The company is partnering with mobile payment app SnapPay in a move that will allow Alipay’s 520 million global users to use their Alipay mobile wallets to pay for products and services at participating Canadian merchants that accept SnapPay both in-store and online.

“By partnering with SnapPay, we are connecting sought-after Canadian retailers and brands with Chinese consumers who want to be able to pay with a familiar payment method,” Alipay North America president Souheil Badran said. “We are thrilled to expand our reach in Canada with SnapPay.”

Alipay launched in Canada last year, but Monday’s announcement will see the service expand significantly. Monday’s pact will make it easy for Chinese shoppers to use their Alipay mobile wallets to purchase items from Canada and elsewhere online, and then ask them if they want to pay in either U.S. dollars or Chinese yuan.

Canadian businesses exported more than $19 billion worth of goods to China last year, the largest amount to any single nation aside from the United States. 

In addition to making it easier for merchants who accept Alipay to sell goods to the Chinese market, the service may also boost in-person business, as Canada is becoming a major tourism destination for Chinese travellers.

“We want to continue offering Chinese consumers visiting Canada the ability to pay as they would in China,” Alipay North Badran said. “But we also want to offer Canadian merchants the opportunity to access the Chinese market.”

Alibaba founder Jack Ma was on hand at the event, urging Canadian small businesses to think big. “If you are not globalized, you will never be able to survive,” he said. “Think globally.”

Alibaba was launched in 1999 and Alipay came a few years later in 2004. Within a decade, the service had grown enough to eclipse PayPal as the world’s largest online payment platform.

Currently, the service has more than 520 million active users.

More than 700 Canadian merchants, including Arcteryx, Canada Goose, Lululemon, Viva Naturals, Aldo and SunRype, already accept Alipay, but Monday’s announcement should expand that presence.