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Trudeau expands probe into claims Canadian lawmakers conspired with China, India to sway elections

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Trudeau expands probe into claims Canadian lawmakers conspired with China, India to sway elections

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday ceded to opposition pressure to expand a public investigation into allegations some members of Parliament and senators knowingly conspired with foreign adversaries, including China and India, to influence elections and politics at home. 

After reviewing 4,000 classified documents and 1,000 pieces of evidence, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) released a special report last week claiming unnamed federal-level elected officials have been “in the words of the intelligence services, ‘semi-witting or witting’ participants in the efforts of foreign states to interfere in our politics.” 

Trudeau was asked about the report at a press conference in Quebec City on Monday. 

“Mr. Trudeau, you’ve seen the NSICOP report. Do you think the allegations in it rise to the level of treason?” a reporter said.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a Liberal Party of Canada fundraiser in Ottawa, Ontario, Monday, June 10, 2024. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press via AP)

Trudeau responded: “I think it’s extremely important that we continue to take foreign interference with all the seriousness that it requires, which is why we will be supporting the Bloc Québécois motion to send the report and the concerns raised in it to Commissioner [Marie-Josée] Hogue’s work to make sure there is a clear process whereby Canadians can have confidence in the integrity of the democracy.” 

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre called on Truduea’s Liberal government to name the lawmakers referenced in the redacted report, but Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said doing so would be against the law. LeBlance said he did agree, however, to an expanded public inquiry sought by the Bloc Québécois. 

The Bloc Québécois introduced a motion to broaden the scope of the Hogue Commission, which was already investigating foreign interference and elected meddling since September, “to investigate parliamentarians who may have voluntarily or involuntarily worked for the interests of powers foreign.” Trudeau first tasked Justice Marie-Josée Hogue with leading the commission last fall amid allegations the Chinese government mobilized voters against a Conservative candidate in western Canada and helped elect another candidate as a Liberal in the Toronto area, Politico reported. 

“Certain members of this House acted in the best interest of hostile foreign regimes interfering in Canada’s democracy. This is a disgusting betrayal of Canadians who elected us,” Conservative party legislator Jasraj Singh Hallan told the House of Commons on Monday, according to Reuters. 

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“It is unacceptable that deputies or senators can serve, whether without their knowledge or not, as intermediaries for foreign powers hostile to our democracy,” René Villemure, Bloc Québécois ethics spokesperson, said in a statement. 

Canada Conservative leader

Pierre Poilievre, leader of Canada’s Conservative Party, during the Canada Strong and Free Networking Conference in Ottawa on April 11, 2024. (David Kawai/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

It is unclear, however, if the report will result in criminal charges.

At another point of the press conference Monday, Trudeau took an opportunity instead to condemn conservative and far-right party wins in France and elsewhere following the European Parliament elections. European voters largely rejected socialism and leftist policies at the polls on Sunday. 

“We have seen around the world a rise of populist right-wing forces in just about every democracy that we’ve seen. And it is of concern to see political parties choosing to instrumentalize anger, fear, division, anxiety,” Trudeau said. “My approach has always been to respond to it. To understand it and to look to solve it. Roll up our sleeves, work hard and with ambition for this country and for our future. And I continue to be convinced that Canadians are thoughtful about the challenges we’re facing and ready to see them solved, rather than allow themselves – have their anger amplified without any solutions offered.” 

The special report on “foreign interference in Canada’s democratic processes and institutions” was released by the NSICOP on June 3. Its findings include that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and Communications Security Establishment (CSE) “produced a body of intelligence that showed that foreign actors used deceptive and clandestine methods to cultivate relationships with Canadians who they believed would be useful in advancing their interests – particularly members of Parliament and senators – with a view of having the Canadian act in favour of the foreign actor and against Canada’s interests.” 

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While in some cases, “parliamentarians were unaware they were the target of foreign interference,” the reports noted how “some elected officials, however, began wittingly assisting foreign state actors soon after their election.” The report was redacted to remove “injurious or privileged information,” but indicates there are “examples of members of Parliament who worked to influence their colleagues on India’s behalf and proactively provided confidential information to Indian officials.” 

Without using the lawmaker’s name, the redacted report mentions another “textbook example of foreign interference that saw a foreign state support a witting politician.” 

Canada’s intelligence agency “provided specific intelligence to the secret-cleared representatives of the party shortly before the election and to the Prime Minister shortly after” and Trudeau “discussed this incident with the Committee and the steps he took in response to the intelligence reporting,” the special report says, redacting the specifics. 

Truduea's Liberal politicians

Arif Virani, Canada’s justice minister, left, Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister and finance minister, and Dominic LeBlanc, public safety minister, in Montreal on Jan. 23, 2024. (Allen McInnis/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The People’s Republic of China has remained “the largest foreign interference threat to Canada,” but since 2019, the committee assessed, Russia, which once came in second place, focused its strategic priorities elsewhere, while India emerged as the “second-most significant foreign interference threat to Canada’s democratic institutions and processes.” 

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“The PRC’s foreign interference efforts continue to be sophisticated, persistent and multidimensional, targeting all orders of Canadian government and various facets of society and relying upon a number of methods,” the report says. 

The CSIS assessed that the Chinese government “believes that its relationship with some members of Parliament rests on a quid pro quo that any member’s engagement with the PRC will result in the PRC mobilizing its network in the member’s favour.” The report notes the PRC “would show support for lawmakers in ridings with large numbers of ethnic Chinese voters and who maintain close relationships with the Chinese ethnocultural community, including through Chinese leader and business people.”

“In the period under review, intelligence reporting from CSIS and CSE showed that foreign states attempted to covertly buy influence with candidates and elected officials,” the report says.

The PRC was also said to have used “intermediaries to provide funds likely to support candidates in the 2019 federal election, including two transfers of funds approximating $250,000 through a prominent community leader, a political staffer and then an Ontario member of Provincial Parliament,” but the report said “CSIS could not confirm that the funds reached any candidate.” 

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Also redacted from the report were details about “CSIS information that an Indian proxy claims to have repeatedly transferred funds from India to politicians at all levels of government in return for political favours, including raising issues in Parliament at the proxy’s request.” 

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U.S. bus company Coach files for bankruptcy to sell its business

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U.S. bus company Coach files for bankruptcy to sell its business
Coach USA, the operator of Megabus and other commuter bus lines in the U.S. and Canada, filed for bankruptcy protection in Delaware late Tuesday, seeking to sell its assets and shed debt incurred in an ill-timed 2019 private equity buyout.
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Mexico finds the remains of some of the 63 miners who died 18 years ago

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Mexico finds the remains of some of the 63 miners who died 18 years ago

Mexican authorities announced Wednesday that they found the remains of some of the 63 miners who were trapped 18 years ago in a coal mine in northern Mexico.

The accident occurred at the Pasta de Conchos mine in the state of Coahuila, which borders Texas, on Feb. 19, 2006. Of the 73 miners on duty, eight survived with serious burns, and two bodies were recovered.

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The Interior ministry said Wednesday that after years of searching they were able to locate “the first human remains” in one of the mine’s chambers, but they did not specify when the remains were recovered.

The accident is considered one of the biggest mining tragedies in the country.

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Pedestrians walk by a sculpture of a bright red number 65 that pays homage to the coal miners killed in the 2006 Pasta de Conchos mine accident, in Mexico City. Authorities announced on Wednesday, June 12, 2024, the discovery of the skeletal remains of some of the 63 miners who have remained missing for almost two decades. Sixty-five miners died in the explosion, but authorities only found two of the miners’ bodies.  (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

It wasn’t until 2020 when President Andrés Manuel López Obrador made a promise to recover the bodies that the process began. Three consecutive governments opted not to try for the rest, saying it would be too dangerous and costly, with no guarantee of success. But victims’ relatives continued to press authorities on the issue over the years.

López Obrador put the Federal Electricity Commission, the nation’s public utility known as the CFE, in charge of the dig – mining and burning coal to reach the long-buried miners.

In the chamber where remains were found there were 13 miners working the day of the accident, according to the Interior ministry.

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The government indicated it has not yet determined if an explosion caused the mine’s collapse.

The Coahuila state prosecutor’s office, in collaboration with the National Search Commission and the National Institute of Genomics Medicine, will begin analyzing the remains for identification and try to determine the cause of the accident.

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Significant part of Gaza facing ‘famine-like conditions’, WHO says

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Significant part of Gaza facing ‘famine-like conditions’, WHO says

Thousands of Palestinian children in Gaza have been diagnosed with malnutrition, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said, as Israel continues to severely restrict supplies of food, water, medicine and fuel to the territory.

“A significant proportion of Gaza’s population is now facing catastrophic hunger and famine-like conditions,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Wednesday.

“Despite reports of increased delivery of food, there is currently no evidence that those who need it most are receiving sufficient quantity and quality of food.”

Tedros said 8,000 children under five years old have been diagnosed and treated for acute malnutrition in Gaza.

“However, due to insecurity and lack of access, only two stabilisation centres for severely malnourished patients can operate,” the WHO chief added.

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Tedros said 32 deaths in the besieged Palestinian enclave have been attributed to malnutrition.

United Nations officials have warned of the risk of famine as Israel continues its war on Gaza. In January, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to “ensure the delivery of basic services and essential humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza”.

The UN’s top court reasserted that ruling in March, demanding that Israel take “all necessary and effective measures to ensure, without delay… the unhindered provision at scale by all concerned of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance”.

Some of Israel’s closest allies, including the United States, have also called for more aid to enter Gaza and reach people in need.

Last month, Israel seized and shut down the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, which had served as a major gateway for aid and humanitarian workers.

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Last month, International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan requested arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on charges of alleged war crimes, including using “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare”.

A UN-backed independent commission also accused Israel of inflicting hunger on Palestinians.

“In relation to Israeli military operations and attacks in Gaza, the Commission found that Israeli authorities are responsible for the war crimes of starvation as a method of warfare, murder or wilful killing, intentionally directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects, forcible transfer, sexual violence, torture and inhuman or cruel treatment, arbitrary detention and outrages upon personal dignity,” the panel said in a report on Wednesday.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this week that Israel has taken “important steps” in recent months to remove obstacles to aid delivery in Gaza, but he acknowledged that it “can and must do more”.

“It is crucial to speed up the inspection of trucks and reduce backlogs; to provide greater clarity on – and shorten the list of – prohibited goods; to increase visas for aid workers and to process them more quickly,” he said at a Gaza aid conference in Jordan on Tuesday.

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Blinken, who announced $404m in new assistance to Palestinians, also called for “clearer, more effective channels” to protect humanitarian workers from military operations.

Israeli attacks have killed at least 270 aid workers in Gaza, including seven World Central Kitchen employees in April – an incident that sparked global outrage.

Aid organisations have been stressing that even the inadequate aid that gets into Gaza often fails to reach people who need it most because of the Israeli offensive.

“The US’s latest humanitarian package for Gaza is a welcome step,” the International Rescue Committee said on Wednesday. “However, the effective delivery of any financial package depends wholly on unfettered access for aid and the ability for aid workers to operate seamlessly.”

Beyond Gaza, the WHO’s Tedros highlighted a growing health crisis in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces have killed hundreds of people since the outbreak of the war.

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“WHO has documented 480 attacks on healthcare in the West Bank since the seventh of October last year, resulting in 16 deaths and 95 injuries,” he said.

In one major incident, undercover Israeli forces raided a hospital in Jenin and killed three people inside the medical centre.

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