Transport Safety Board’s Lac-Megantic report due in August

GATINEAU, Que. – The Transportation Safety Board of Canada will release its report on the deadly Lac-Megantic train derailment later this month.

The TSB says it will hold a news conference in the Quebec town on Aug. 19.

BY THE NUMBERS: Lac-Megantic rail disaster

A train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic on July 6, 2013, wiping out dozens of buildings and killing 47 people.

Three employees of the now-insolvent Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, the company at the centre of the disaster, have each been charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death, one for each victim of the crash.

The MMA itself is also facing the same charges.

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©2014The Canadian Press

Wednesday August 6th on The Morning News – Halifax

With BBQ season in full swing, here’s hoping your summer so far has been filled with more good food and few food borne illnesses. It’s a fact that approximately one in eight people will get sick every year in Canada from poor food handling and preparation techniques. At 6:45 we’ll chat with Darren Leyte of Health Canada about tips for storing, cleaning, and grilling raw meat in order to prevent illness.

At 7:15 gardening expert Niki Jabbour will give us a tour of her own personal garden and provide us with some tips on how to keep plants growing throughout the summer months.

It’s a collection that will make sports fans rush to Costco and buy in bulk! Ontario based @PHGsports has set up shop at Costco in Dartmouth Crossing with hundreds of signed jerseys, helmets, and other items from some of the biggest names in sports past and present for sale for the next couple weeks. At 7:45 we’ll meet the man behind the memorabilia, Todd Rewakowski, who promises to bring along a replica of The Stanley Cup for us to check out.

At 8:15 we’ll get an update from Tim Rissesco from the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission who will tell us all about free fitness classes and other highlights planned for the rest of the summer.

Dylan Guthro is in it to win it! The musician just released a hot summertime single with Halifax rapper Quake and will be hosting a secret series of shows over the next eight weeks. Catch up with him while you can- Wednesday at 8:45!

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Could a Canadian family abandon their baby carried by surrogate mom?

TORONTO – Baby Gammy and his surrogate mom are garnering worldwide attention: an Australian couple allegedly abandoned the months-old baby with Down syndrome and a congenital heart condition, separating him from his healthy twin sister who they took back to Australia.

Now, Gammy’s in the care of his 21-year-old surrogate mom in Thailand.

“That could happen pretty much anywhere,” according to Sara Cohen, a fertility lawyer with Toronto’s Fertility Law Canada.

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“It’s a tragedy but it isn’t a widespread phenomenon – at least not in Canada,” Cohen told Global News.

READ MORE: Down syndrome baby boy abandoned by Australian parents in Thailand

Surrogacy involves a woman carrying an implanted embryo in order to give birth. It’s also expensive. There are medical fees, lawyer fees and other expenses you’re on the hook for when you look after a surrogate mom, fertility lawyer Sherry Levitan said.

Paying a woman to carry your child is illegal in Canada, but it is legal if rather than paying her directly, you cover any expenses related to the pregnancy: maternity clothes, multivitamins, health care services, child care, and time off work. Even small details are looked after – if the surrogate needs to drive across town to get to the doctor’s office, her gas mileage is covered too, for example.

“The only reason people go abroad is to save money,” Levitan said.

“It takes a lot of time and effort and there are protocols in place in Canada. If people want to short circuit the system, they’ll go abroad,” she explained.

READ MORE: Thai surrogate mom would be ‘happy’ to get twin back

In Pattaramon Chanbua’s case, reports say she was paid 300,000 Thai baht or $9,300. The entire process could cost couples at least $60,000 if they’re in Canada, Levitan said in comparison.

In the meantime, the 21-year-old food vendor says she didn’t receive the full payment she was promised. She told the Associated Press that she would be happy to have the boy’s healthy sibling returned to her.

“I want her back because she is my baby. She was in my womb,” Chanbua said.

“If she is happy, then I, as a mother, am also happy. I don’t want to bring her back to suffer or anything. A mother would never want her child in trouble,” she said.

Surrogacy involves placing some trust on both ends of the relationship, the experts say.

“I deal with the intended parents all the time and they’re always worried about the surrogate keeping the baby. Statistically, the worry is the other way around – she should worry,” Levitan said.

Under most provincial laws, the surrogate is presumed to be the child’s mother until the intended parents take custody of the baby. It’s a process they must initiate.

In Ontario, and depending on the case, the court can determine that a child was born through surrogacy, isn’t genetically related to the surrogate parent and has intended parents.

“The surrogate has to trust that no one is going to abandon her and they’ll take care of her. And the intended parents have to trust that she won’t want to keep the baby and will be making good choices all day, every day,” Cohen explained.

But the experts, both with decades of experience in their field, say that intended parents walking out on their child and surrogate mom is an anomaly.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the cases are happy,” Levitan said.

– With files from the Associated Press

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No need for exotic pets in province: N.B. SPCA – New Brunswick

FREDERICTON, N.B. – On the one year anniversary of the shocking deaths of two young boys in Campbellton, N.B., the executive director of the New Brunswick SPCA said he hopes a task force will spark some changes when it comes to keeping exotic animals as pets in the province.

Hilary Howe was asked last month to join the task force meant to review the province’s exotic pet rules and regulations.

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The task force was spurred after an African Rock Python claimed the lives of Noah and Connor Barthe; the brothers were killed when a python escaped its enclosure and asphyxiated the boys while they slept.

“The tragedy just struck home big time,” Howes said. “It was just such a surprise that anything like that could happen in New Brunswick.”

The task force’s mandate will be to review existing legislation in the province, including the Fish and Wildlife Act, to see if amendments are needed.

Howe said he’s looking to make it safer for people to be in a home where an exotic animal is being kept.

“I actually would like to see them all excluded from New Brunswick. There’s really no reason to own venomous snakes and lizards, scorpions and spiders,” he said. “There’s always too great a risk that these things can get out and hurt somebody.”

Liberal MLA Donald Arseneault says he would like to see an external review of the Department of Natural Resources and of everyone involved in the case.

“There’s no doubt in this situation, the owner had a reptile that was not allowed in New Brunswick, and he had it for quite some time,” Areseault said in a telephone interview with Global News. “So something, somewhere has faltered.”

“We owe it to Noah and Connor to make sure it never happens again.”

Since 1992, African rock pythons have been banned in New Brunswick unless a permit is obtained. Only accredited zoos can obtain such a permit.

A total of 23 reptiles banned in New Brunswick were seized from the pet shop after the boys’ deaths. Four American alligators that were also taken from the store were euthanized.

The task force is scheduled to meet for the first time August 21. The investigation into the Campbellton case is now in the hands of the Crown Prosecutor in Edmundston, N.B.

Nova Scotia man hopes rocket company lifts off – Halifax

HALIFAX – A Nova Scotia man is shooting for the stars and trying to develop the country’s first orbital launch vehicles to deliver satellites into outer space.

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On Tuesday, 22-year old Tyler Reyno of Halifax launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for Open Space Orbital, a private company to be based in Halifax — with a manufacturing and engineering hub in Alder Point, Cape Breton — that would send satellites into space, via a rocket, in a cost-effective manner.

“I noticed there was this very large gap in the growing space industry,” said Reyno, who is the founder and CEO of Open Space. “We have all these satellites being developed and plan to be developed and no real rockets to deliver them into space.”

Reyno wants to raise $100,000 to develop and design a prototype of a rocket, which would be called Neutrino 1, conduct market analysis and cover costs related to permits.

He estimates the final price tag on his venture to be approximately $50 million.

Reyno said the company is meant to appeal to anyone interested in sending a satellite to outer space.

“We’re really the transportation that gets [the satellites] there,” he said, adding the functions of the satellites could include taking pictures of Earth, remote sensing, surveillance and communications.

“It’s very, very difficult for universities, small companies private institutions, public institutions to get devices, instruments into space these days at a reasonable cost,” said Tony Goode, an aerospace consultant and board member of Open Space.

“We do have a lot of great academic institutes, great companies developing these satellites but what typically happens is they either can’t afford the costs associated with launching into space or they have to piggy back, so to speak, on another satellite’s launch into space, which doesn’t guarantee it will be placed in the right orbit,” Reyno said.

Tyler Reyno is the founder and CEO of Open Space Orbital Inc.

Julia Wong/Global News

Reyno said he wants Open Space to make space accessible to the public.

“What we’re trying to do is lower the cost of a launch, such that it will be more in reach for people,” he said.

He thinks the company can help fill the void left by government.

“We’re very confident we can do this. We have the expertise it takes to make this happen. We know exactly how we’re supposed to achieve our goal and like most things in the space industry, it really comes down to money,” Reyno said.

“I know more than enough about the industry to understand there is a huge gap at the moment in terms of delivery systems up into space,” said Goode.

“The joy of private enterprise is you can do it efficiently and cost effectively without all the bureaucracy, without all the overhead that goes into having to deal with a government department.”

Reyno said the venture could make Canada more competitive in space.

“When a nation has this sort of capability, I find it really demonstrates dominance. It’s indicative of technological advancement, indicative of innovation and it’s definitely a sign that country is willing to take risks,” he said.

James Drummond, a physics professor at Dalhousie University and Canada Research Char in Remote Sounding of Atmospheres, has two satellites in orbit right now.

Drummond, who is in the research, not commercial, side of the space business, worked on the MOPITT and SCISAT satellites. Both were launched with the help of NASA.

He said a company like Open Space may draw interest from academics.

“It would be nice if we had our own capability,” Drummond said. “It’s certainly an exciting possibility to launch satellites from Canada.”

“Launches are extremely expensive and only come around occasionally. If launches were plentiful and satellites were easier to get into orbit then…if you did lose a satellite then you could quickly replace it with something that worked.”

But he said launching a satellite is just one part of a large equation.

“The launch comes at the end of a long development sequence. You have to construct something that will actually fly in space,” Drummond said, adding maintenance is also something that must be considered.

Open Space expects to be ready for launch by 2018.

Quebec’s municipal employees ready to go to Supreme Court – Montreal

WATCH ABOVE: As pension protests heat up, Quebec’s municipal workers said on Tuesday they have no plans to back down on pension protests. Rachel Lau reports.

MONTREAL – Quebec’s municipal workers said on Tuesday that they have no plans to back down and are committed to amping up pressure tactics against Quebec’s controversial pension reform bill.

READ MORE: Unions slam Liberals’ pension plan bill

“The target is our pension funds,” said Marc Ranger, spokesperson for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“We are disgusted by this. People are angry like I’ve never seen before.”

Watch: Full interview with Marc Ranger on union position

Bill 3 would see city employees across the province take on more responsibility for helping to pay off a nearly $4 billion deficit.

“Right now, it’s going too far,” said Ranger.

“Maybe our pressure tactics are going too far but the government right now is going way too far.”

Watch: Pension proposal has city workers up-in-arms

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Blue-and-white-collar workers have not been shy to show their opposition.

“They need to be as visible as they can — and be creative,” he said.

“That’s what they’re doing, and I will certainly not condemn them.”

READ MORE: Police union to pay for mass sick day tactic, says Denis Coderre

The City of Montreal said that it is standing by the provincial government.

For now, officials told Global News that they are going to stay silent and let city workers say what they have to.

Yet, as protests go on, some municipal employees are getting a little more creative.

Charles Ledoux took a video of several Laval police officers racing their vehicles through the mud in order to dirty their cars.

The coalition said that they did not sanction this type of pressure tactic.

Watch: Quebec City wonders why Montreal didn’t crack down on city workers protest

“Our word was stickers: be visible, disturb the administration, not the citizens,” said Ranger.

The coalition said it won’t back down, and is ready to take the battle to the Supreme Court if they have to.

Don Cherry blasts auction house claiming he lived in Mississauga mansion – Toronto

TORONTO – An auction house is apologizing to Don Cherry for erroneously promoting a mansion as having belonged to the hockey commentator.

Ritchies Auctioneers says in a statement the “trusted” owner had told them Cherry previously owned the home in Mississauga, Ont.

Cherry took to 桑拿会所 Tuesday to say he never lived there, calling the auction house “liars” and saying it was “pretty low” to use his name to sell a home.

The television personality called it “ridiculous” for anyone to think he would live in a 975-square-metre (10,500-square-foot) home.

Ritchies issued a retraction and removed any mention of Cherry from the listing for the mansion – up for bid Aug. 17.

The home is described as having five plus three bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, a tennis court and a pool on a hectare (2.5-acre) lot overlooking the Credit River ravine.

Watch: A virtual tour of the Mississauga mansion. 

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©2014The Canadian Press

Gunman shoots, pistol-whips man; five people step over bleeding body – National

ABOVE: Five people calmly walked over a victim lying on the ground after a gunman shot him repeatedly in a Bronx convenience store. WARNING: Discretion is advised. 

Graphic surveillance video released by the New York Police Department (NYPD) shows an unidentified man shooting a victim multiple times before pistol whipping him as he lay on the ground of a Bronx convenience store Saturday.

When the man’s attack has subsided, five people then step over the twitching body without stopping to help.

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The NYPD released the video on Monday with hopes of identifying the shooter, but Detective Kelly Ann Ort said Tuesday afternoon police were still looking.

The New York Daily News quoted the store owner as explaining the violence was spurred by a music video film shoot.

“They were fighting over who’s the star, who’s better. They were drunk. They spit at each other then one guy pulled out a gun and shot the other guy five times,” owner Ali Abdul reportedly said.

Ort had no comment on the owner’s account of the incident.

Emergency workers arrived shortly after the six men left the store, according to the Daily News, and the victim was rushed to Lincoln Hospital. Ort said the victim remained in critical condition in hospital Tuesday afternoon, “as far as I know.”

Police urge anyone with information to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline at (800) 577-TIPS.

Investigation into missing Calgary family moves to Mexico

CALGARY- The investigation into the disappearance of a Calgary family has made its way to Mexico.

Calgary Police confirm to Global News that investigators are following up on leads in that country,  into the disappearance of Alvin and Kathryn Liknes, and their five-year-old grandson Nathan O’Brien.

The trio hasn’t been seen since the end of June, and police believe they were murdered. Douglas Garland, 54, has since been charged with three counts of murder in connection with the case.

The Liknes’ had purchased a home in Mazatlan, where they planned to live for part of the year. Neighbours say furniture was moved out of their Parkhill home recently.

“The moving truck was here and I came over to talk to the man, and he said ‘would you like to see the inside of the house?’” says Al, who didn’t want to give his last name. “He showed me around, and I noticed that rug was picked up and there was a lot of cleaning on the wall.

“The reason he was here, in his words, were the sale didn’t go that well and he was moving this stuff out.”

Police aren’t saying when the investigators left, or where they went. However, they did confirm that there were ongoing searches in the Calgary area over the long weekend.

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A St-Laurent family’s desperate search for missing grandmother – Montreal

MONTREAL — It hasn’t been a typical summer break for three teenagers from St-Laurent.

Seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Giannopoulos, 14-year-old Victoria Giannopoulos and 12-year-old Kosmas Giannopoulos have spent most of their days searching for their missing grandmother.

Sixty-four-year-old Claire Lavoie has not been seen or heard from for close to two weeks.

“If you’re watching Nana Claire, please come home, ” Victoria Giannopoulos told Global News.

“We really miss you and love you a  lot.”

Victoria Giannopoulos, the granddaughter of missing 64-year-old Claire Lavoie, pleads for her grandmother to return home on August 5, 2014.

Sebastien Gagnon-Dorval

Lavoie lives in an apartment complex in St-Laurent.

On July 25, she told a family member she was leaving on a trip; a weekend getaway to Lachute to visit a friend.

“She doesn’t have a friend in Lachute,” said Sophie Belanger, the missing woman’s daughter.

“It’s very strange.”

A week later, Lavoie, a woman with respiratory problems, may have travelled to the Eastern Townships.

She reportedly used her bank debit card at a convenience store in Granby.

Montreal police are asking for the public’s help finding 64-year-old Claire Lavoie.

Handout/Family

The alarm bells really went off on Monday, when Lavoie failed to turn up for work.

“We just don’t know what is going on, there’s panic, despair,” said Belanger.

“We just don’t know any more.”

The grandmother requires medication for her health problems, and those close to Lavoie are concerned that she could be in trouble.

Lavoie could be driving a blue 2007 Pontiac G-5 with Quebec licence plate: YCB-316.

In addition to the health issue, the family recently discovered a chilling letter inside the woman’s home.

“It’s a good-bye note,” says Belanger, choking back tears.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call 911.

Montreal police are asking for the public’s help finding 64-year-old Claire Lavoie.

Handout/Family

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5 things to know about the experimental Ebola drug

WATCH: A plane carrying the second American aid worker infected with Ebola is now on U.S. Soil. The patient’s arrival comes as another person in New York is being tested for the deadly disease. Omar Villafranca has the story.

TORONTO — As the Ebola crisis unfolded last week, the story of two American aid workers who tested positive with the disease gained worldwide attention. This weekend, both missionary workers were given an experimental drug that allegedly saved their lives.

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Officials were tight-lipped about the drug in question but by Monday, U.S. reports poured in pointing to a therapy called ZMapp.

Here’s what you need to know about the experimental drug:

It has Canadian fingerprints all over it

While the unlicensed treatment is made by California company Mapp Biopharmaceutical, it was produced with the help of Canadian research. Parts of the antibodies in the therapy are the product of years of research done at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg.

“Canada is a world leader in research and we are proud of the advances made at the NML in this area,” a PHAC spokesperson told The Canadian Press via email.

READ MORE: Canadian research at core of experimental Ebola drug

Mapp Pharmaceutical president, Larry Zeitlin, told Global News that ZMapp is a collaboration between Mapp and Toronto-based Defyrus Inc. The U.S. government and the Public Health Agency of Canada were also involved, the company said.

Dr. Frank Plummer, who was head of the Winnipeg lab, said he was delighted to hear that the Canadian work helped pave the way for the ZMapp therapy.

“This is really gratifying to see the work come to fruition,” he told the wire service.

It’s a drug cocktail

ZMapp is made up of three monoclonal antibodies, which are disease-fighting proteins that can target a specific part of an invading pathogen.

While reports refer to the treatment as a serum, Zeitlin clarified to Global:

“Serum is a product derived from blood – human or animal. Monoclonal antibodies are protein drugs that are manufactured.”

The three portions of the antibodies include the components of MB-003 and ZMAb.

READ MORE: Doctor with Ebola gives experimental serum to infected colleague

(PHAC told Global News that it helped to develop ZMapp but it wasn’t involved in any decision-making to administer the treatment. The federal agency developed two of the three components, licensed it to Defyrus, which in turn, sub-licensed it to Mapp. Mapp Pharmaceuticals, for its part, reformulated the treatment with another therapy created by the U.S. Amy Medical Research Institute.)

The antibodies zero in on the Ebola virus, mark any foreign invaders and block out harmful cells. Reports say the drug is derived in part from tobacco plants.

It appears to have helped the two aid workers

The experimental drug was doled out to two people: Samaritan’s Purse physician Dr. Kent Brantly and his colleague Nancy Writebol, who was working with the organization Service in Mission.

Over the weekend, Brantly was admitted to a special isolation treatment and Writebol joined him at Emory University’s hospital in Atlanta.

READ MORE: Why health officials say the Ebola epidemic won’t spread into Canada

Right now, both patients are improving after taking the treatment but we won’t know for sure if it was the experimental therapy that saved them.

They could be recovering on their own, or for other reasons, such as receiving better medical care in the U.S.

A portion of the therapy – the MB-003 – provided 100 per cent protection to monkeys when it was administered right after exposure, according to researchers earlier this year.

The drug hasn’t been evaluated for safety in humans. Brantly and Writebol each had to give consent to using the drug, knowing that it’s only been tested in animals.

(To be clear, Samaritan’s Purse wouldn’t confirm that it was the ZMapp therapy that was administered. Mapp Pharmaceuticals said it couldn’t confirm this detail either.)

It’s only available in limited quantities

Because the drug is in its experimental stages, it’s available only in limited quantities. Zeitlin wouldn’t say how much of the therapy is currently in circulation.

“You can imagine the danger that could potentially put public health workers on the ground in,” Zeitlin told Global.

“We are working as hard as possible with our collaborators to make more as quickly as possible.”

READ MORE: What you need to know about Ebola

There are hundreds of others who have tested positive with Ebola in West Africa, so it’s unclear why the U.S. missionary workers got the drug.

The World Health Organization said it wasn’t involved in the delivery of the therapy, according to CNN. The outlet suggests that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and its “compassionate use” regulation may be at play. Other reports point to assistance from a National Institutes of Health scientist.

Other drugs are in the works

There are several Ebola vaccines making their way through the pipeline. When reports first surfaced that a single vial of the therapy made its way to Liberia, experts guessed that it could have been out of Vancouver’s own Tekmira Pharmaceuticals. There, researchers are working on using small bits of genetic material called RNA to cling onto the virus and target it for destruction.

But right now, it’s on a temporary hold as the drug makers work through safety concerns.

READ MORE: 5 things to know about the Ebola outbreak amid fears of global spread

Another experimental vaccine being designed out of Winnipeg appears to work if given shortly after exposure to the virus, at least in animal testing, The Canadian Press reported. If it can be pushed through the developmental pipeline, it could be the option of choice for researchers who risk getting infected when working on Ebola in laboratories and health-care workers who can become exposed during outbreaks.

– With files from the Canadian Press and the Associated Press

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Settlement can still be reached before the end of summer: B.C. education minister – BC

B.C. education minister Peter Fassbender says he is encouraged by the resumption of bargaining this week.

BCTF President Jim Iker and BCPSEA lead negotiator Peter Cameron agreed last week to resume bargaining on August 8.

Fassbender says Iker and Cameron have held discussions since the end of school year, but the full bargaining teams have not met since that time.

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“It is an encouraging sign to me because it is the first time that the entire teams on both sides have met together. So I am looking forward to seeing negotiations begin in earnest as of this Friday,” says Fassbender. “In saying that, I am also optimistic that we can reach a negotiated settlement.”

Fassbender reiterated the province had no plan to legislate teachers back to work.

“We have been on this treadmill for far too long,” he says. “We need long term stability and legislation does not create that. It just prolongs the very dysfunction that we had.”

The resumption of negotiations was announced one day after Finance Minister Mike de Jong promised that parents of children under 13 years old would receive $40 per day per child for childcare should the strike drag on in September.

At the time, BCTF President Jim Iker said the decision striped funding from B.C. students.

“This scheme will not help improve class sizes, increase support for children with special needs, or provide more one-on-one time for all students. It is my hope that the government will redirect its energies into reaching an agreement with BC teachers through mediation this summer,” said Iker.

Today, Fassbender said the childcare subsidy was meant to help offset the burden on parents caught up in the strike.

He would not comment on whether the offer hurt the negotiations.

In July, BCTF asked for mediation, but Fassbender says mediation won’t work until teachers move into the government’s ‘affordability zone.’

Two potential mediators refused to step in to the talks earlier this summer.

Meanwhile, the Vancouver School Board is calling for outside intervention in the dispute, saying an industrial inquiry commissioner, who could issue a public report on necessary solutions, should be brought in.

B.C.’s 40,000 teachers went on strike June 17. The main areas of dispute remain teachers’ wages and learning conditions in the classrooms.

Canadian couple detained in China could be retaliation: expert

WATCH: A Canadian couple have been accused of espionage and are being detained by authorities in China. Jacques Bourbeau reports.

TORONTO – An expert in Canada-China relations is questioning the timing of the arrests of two Canadians in China for stealing military secrets.

Charles Burton, an associate professor of Canada-China relations at Brock University, says he hasn’t seen foreigners charged with crimes involving military secrets since China’s Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960s.

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“This is completely unprecedented,” he said. “The idea that the charges against this couple also relate to defence research secrets is rather coincidental.”

Kevin and Julia Dawn Garratt have been accused of stealing military and intelligence information and were detained by Chinese officials Tuesday. The Garratts were originally from Vancouver, B.C., but have lived in China since the 1980s.

READ MORE: Vancouver couple investigated in China over alleged theft of state secrets

The couple run a popular cafe in Dandong, China called Peter’s Cafe, which serves western food and offers weekly English conversation classes. They also run the charity North Star Aid, a humanitarian aid organization that works in North Korea.

The official Xinhua News Agency said in a report late Monday the Garratts were being investigated by the state security bureau in China’s northeastern city of Dandong that borders North Korea.

Foreign Affairs said in a statement they are aware two Canadians have been detained in China and are offering consular assistance.

Burton believes the charges are “trumped up” and questions the logic of the allegations facing the couple.

“I find it very hard to imagine that this couple that has been residing in China for 30 years are in fact secret agents of a foreign power tasked to obtain very sensitive military information,” said Burton. “This sort of thing is usually done by military attaches of embassies, not by people pretending to be Christian missionaries and English teachers and cafe owners.”

The arrests follow an incident last week where Canada blamed Chinese hackers for infiltrating computers at the National Research Council, a claim that was denied by the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa.

READ MORE: Cyberattack breached system holding personal data says privacy watchdog

In a statement, the federal government said the attack was detected by one of Canada’s spy agencies, the Communications Security Establishment, who confirmed the cyber attack.

It says the intrusion was traced to “a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor.”

“One cannot help but think that it could be retaliation for (Prime Minister Stephen Harper)’s outing of the Chinese intelligence services with regard to the hacking of Canadian government computers,” said Burton.

In an interview with Global News, the Garratts’ son Simeon said he was shocked when he heard the allegations and also questioned the political motivations of the arrests.

“I was caught completely off-guard, and it just seems insane to me to be honest…they’ve only really been involved in things that have benefitted China as a whole,” said Simeon. “Politically I think there’s probably something going on. Foreign Affairs is taking this very seriously, and obviously the allegations are very intense. Nobody really knows exactly what is going on.”

WATCH: How dangerous is missionary work in China?

China is Canada’s second largest trading partner, next to the United States, and in 2012 the total Canada-China was just under $70 billion and $72.9 billion, according to Canadian government figures.

Burton says if the matter isn’t resolved, it could cast a pall over Canada’s relations with China, with Harper expected to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Conference summit in Beijing in November.

With files from Global News reporter Laura Stone