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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

Mammoliti wants councillors to resign after deaths at Veld – Toronto

TORONTO –Giorgio Mammoliti is calling for the resignation of fellow councillors Mike Layton and Gord Perks after the deaths of two people at a weekend music festival.

“With the deaths of two young individuals at this weekend’s Veld Festival it’s time for someone to take responsibility before more tragedies come from these EDM events,” Mammoliti said in a press release Tuesday.

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“Councillors Perks and Layton should resign their seats on Council. If it wasn’t for them pushing for these events and insisting they be held on government lands I don’t believe these kids would be dead today.”

Thirteen others were hospitalized after attending the Veld Music Festival; homicide detectives are investigating the two deaths.

Police said all 15 ingested some sort of party drug – such as MDMA, ecstasy or a form of GHB.

Mammoliti has been railing against Electronic Dance Music (EDM) events from being held on government grounds since April when he was among a handful of Exhibition Place board members who voted against holding the dance parties at the government-owned buildings.

The resolution, which Mammoliti supported, did allow the events to be held at Muzik Nightclub, a private business on exhibition grounds.

City council eventually overturned the ban by a vote of 31 to four.

Councillor Gord Perks was not available to comment on this story Tuesday.

Councillor Mike Layton has not responded to a request for an interview but told reporters at city hall he would not “acknowledge [Mammoliti’s] statements.”

Boonstock overdose victim identified

PENTICTON, B.C. – A day before Lynn Tolocka collapsed from a suspected drug overdose at the Boonstock festival in Penticton, she posted her excitement about traveling to the Okanagan for the event on Facebook.

“Can’t wait til I’m there at boonstock,” is the comment at 10:21 a.m. July 31st to her Facebook post: “Peace out Calgary, always a slice. Now to beautiful BC mountains here we come.”

Her friend responds, “I know! You’ve only been talking about it forevvvvaa.”

Photos on her facebook page show Tolocka, a Leduc, Alberta resident, with friends later that day, costumed in hats in a photo title, “A lil rave with your rock”.

The last photo Lynn Tolocka posted on facebook, July 31st, before her death from a suspected drug overdose while attending Boonstock in Penticton.

facebook/ Global Okanagan

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  • WATCH: Boonstock reviews trickle in

    Leduc woman dies at Boonstock

Tributes now fill the pages since Tolocka’s last post as friends come to terms with the loss.

Family is arranging services for the 24-year-old woman for 1 p.m. Monday, August 11th at St. Michael’s church 5105-45A Street in Leduc.

Tolocka was to celebrate her 25th birthday August 3rd.

The Leduc woman is said to have collapsed in front of a stage at Boonstock Friday evening. When police attended Penticton Hospital, they found two other Boonstock revelers were in critical care from drug overdoses.

Interior Health reports 80 emergency room visits from Boonstock event goers during the three day event, most of them drug and alcohol related.

The B.C. Coroners Service continues to investigate Tolocka’s death.

NDP calls for urgent meeting of Commons committee on charity audits – National

OTTAWA – The New Democrats are pressing for an unusual summer meeting of a parliamentary committee to clear the air over the auditing of charities for their political activities.

New Democrat MP Murray Rankin, the party critic for national revenue, wants the finance committee to convene before Parliament resumes in six weeks, calling the matter urgent.

Rankin has written to James Rajotte, Conservative chair of the committee, saying there are too many allegations that the audits are being used to silence opponents of the Harper government.

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  • Canada Revenue Agency says ‘preventing poverty’ not allowed as goal for charity

  • Calls flooding into snitch line designed to catch Canadian tax evaders

READ MORE: CRA’s auditing of charities under scrutiny

Since the spring of 2012, the Canada Revenue Agency has launched 52 audits of charities for their political activities, after the government ordered the special probe and eventually provided some $13.4 million for the initiative.

The first wave of audits in 2012-2013 targeted environmental groups who have opposed the government’s energy and pipeline policies, but the initiative has since expanded to cover other groups who fight poverty, provide international aid and promote human rights.

Many of the groups say the audits have caused an “advocacy chill,” preventing them from speaking out for fear of aggravating the auditors and potentially losing their coveted charitable status.

©2014The Canadian Press

Federal Court approves class-action settlement for disabled Mounties

OTTAWA – The Federal Court has approved a multimillion-dollar class-action settlement for a group of disabled RCMP veterans whose disability payments were clawed back.

The case involved 1,056 Mounties whose long-term disability payments were reduced by the amount of their monthly disability benefits from the Veterans Affairs Department.

The estimated value of the settlement is $70 million. That includes $30.6 million in retroactive payments, $9.1 million in interest on those payments and $30.3 million in future benefits.

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READ MORE: Proposed disability settlement benefits current and future RCMP vets

The proposed agreement also means the reduction would end for all RCMP veterans now receiving benefits and Mounties who are medically released in the future.

The case was launched in 2008 by Gerard Buote, but was taken over by David White after Buote died from cancer the following year.

One of White’s lawyers said he was pleased with Tuesday’s decision.

READ MORE: RCMP stops plans for program to help officers with PTSD

“It ensures that the members of this class receive what they rightly deserve, and we are grateful to Gerry and David for their dedication to this cause,” Dan Wallace said in a statement.

The case was almost identical to one that a judge deemed harsh and unfair in a class-action lawsuit by military veterans, who were awarded a $887.8-million settlement after a former army sergeant took the government to court in 2007.

©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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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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  • 3 people, rail company face charges in Lac-Megantic railway disaster

  • Montrealers remember Lac-Megantic tragedy

  • Quebec gives more money to help Lac-Megantic

©2014The Canadian Press

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

[email protected]桑拿按摩
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Alberta’s household debt skyrocketing: BMO report

WATCH ABOVE: Household debt in Alberta is tens of thousands above the national average. Kendra Slugoski looks into why that is.

EDMONTON — A BMO report shows household debt in Alberta has exploded over the past year.

According to the report, Alberta’s household debt increased to $124,838 in 2014, up 40 percent from the previous year, and the highest in the country.

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“Albertans are facing serious consequences if they continue to increase their reliance on debt,” said Jeff Schwartz of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.

“We have all seen the roller coaster economy in Alberta. A sudden job loss or reduction in income could seriously impact their ability to service their debts.”

The study also shows 50 per cent of Albertans carry credit-card debt; 53 per cent have mortgage debt; and 17 per cent have student loan debt.

“These statistics take into account homeowners and those people who don’t own a home,” said Schwartz. “Also, we must consider that these are just averages. So, that means there are a lot of Albertans who are dealing with a lot more than $125,000 in debt.”

Those nearing retirement age are in particularly danger, he said, because their incomes will soon decline, but debt-servicing costs  will remain the same.

Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada offers several tips:

Use automatic payments: Taking the thought process out of paying your bills will allow you to stay on track and avoid missed payments.If you can afford to, increase payments to help pay down debt. It will help get you out of debt faster, and lower overall interest charges.Make a plan to get out of debt by creating a detailed budget. Track every nickel you spend and be frugal. Look for deals and discounts and refuse to purchase items you don’t need. Make budgeting and saving money a hobby and a habit.Change your lifestyle: Downsizing your home, selling your second car or even reducing your cable package will allow you to direct more money towards paying off debts.Avoid acquiring new debt.

Average Household Debt:

Province                                     2013                  2014            % change

Alberta                                      $89,026          $124,838            40.2
British Columbia                      $79,089          $99,834              26.2
Manitoba/Saskatchewan           $82,100          $68,437             -16.6
Ontario                                      $76,970          $67,507             -12.3
Quebec                                      $56,860          $59,805               5.2
Atlantic Canada                        $47,237          $64,120              35.7
National average                       $72,045           $76,140               5.7

Danish tourists say they are ‘horrified’ by Canadian car culture

Watch: The Morning Show discussion on an open letter by a Danish tourist saying Canadians are dependent on cars.

TORONTO – Two Danish tourists are honking mad with Canada over what they perceive as a dependence on motor vehicles and what they describe as “unfulfilled communities.”

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English-born Holly Chabowski, 30, and her Danish girlfriend Nanna Sorensen, 23, are calling out Canadians after a recent trip left them “horrified to see great oceans of car parks deserting the landscape and 12 lane high ways (sic), rammed packed with huge SUVs, with people going nowhere.”

Chabowski sent an open letter to the Ottawa Citizen and several politicians –including Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt – after a recent trip to Canada left them with memories of traffic congestion, concrete landscapes and choking, smoggy air.

INTERACTIVE: Why College Street is Toronto cyclists’ ‘dooring zone’

Chabowski said she was inspired to write the letter because she feels strongly on the issues of sustainability and sustainable transportation.

“It is not just a car thing. I think it was more the lack of options that kind of struck me,” Chabowski told Global News, via Skype. “We did rent a car to go to the parks, but there didn’t seem to be any other options that were safe, convenient, or cheap.”

Chabowski and her girlfriend, who live in Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city, said she hopes her letter inspires others to speak out on issues they care about.

“I think people should stand up for the things, where or not you disagree. I hope people channel those energies into speaking with politicians,” she said.

The duo visited Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Halifax during their five-week vacation.

Although Chabowski  says the trip was an “incredible adventure” where they met “the most wonderful Canadians” the couple were left with the impression they were “treated like second class citizens compared to cars.”

Along their journey they also compiled a few testimonials to back up their observations.

“Trying to solve traffic problems by building more roads is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger trousers,” said one unnamed Ottawa source.

The couple did note as they explored more of the country it appeared some cities were “making an effort to make life livable” through bike lanes, small businesses, and more accessible streets for pedestrians.

“It felt like a token gesture rather than a genuine effort to make Canada a healthy, happy and sustainable country,” Chabowski wrote. “We heard that the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, is actually tearing up bicycle lanes to make way for more cars!”

READ MORE: ‘I flew over his door and hit my head’: Your dooring horror stories

Chabowski will perhaps be encouraged to learn Toronto has recently launched a pilot project adding bike lanes to the Richmond-Adelaide area.

Denmark is well-known for its cycling culture with roughly 10,000 kilometres of national biking routes according to a Danish government website.

And while Canada may not have a comparable national cycling strategy, Quebec has “La Route Verte” a network of over 5,000 km of bike paths across the province.

Chabowski’s letter also makes no mention of western Canada, where Calgary, for example, has unveiled plans for more cycling infrastructure. Vancouver already has a series of separated bike lanes.

The letter ends by encouraging Canada to take “radical steps” to turn itself into “the healthy, happy and sustainable country we were expecting.”

“When tourists visit Canada make sure they remember it for for its parks rather than parking,” she said.

But Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson suggested it’s impossible to compare Canada to Copenhagen.

“We’re 32 times the land mass of Copenhagen. So a lot of us use cars and we need parking spots and you can’t put public transit in every square inch of a city as large as Ottawa,” Watson said.

*With files from Global’s Jackson Proskow

Below is the full text of the open letter:

An open letter to the people who hold power and responsibility in Canada,

My girlfriend and I (Danish) were tourists in your country for 5 weeks this summer. We had the most incredible adventure and met the most wonderful Canadians, who welcomed us warmly into their homes.

Apart from these people, who sincerely do your nation credit, our overwhelming memory of Canada is one of cars, traffic, parking and the related obesity and unfulfilled communities. It is an impression that we have since shared with other tourists who have visited Canada.

Before arriving in Canada we had a genuine impression of a clean, healthy and sustainable first world country. Upon arrival in Toronto we were horrified to see great oceans of car parks deserting the landscape and 12 lane high ways, rammed packed with huge SUVs, with people going no where. A greater shock came when we discovered that this kind of infrastructure is not reserved just for the sprawl surrounding towns and cities but that highways actually run through city centres too. As humans trying to enjoy Canada’s major cities (Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and Halifax) we were treated like second class citizens compared to cars. The air was dirty, and the constant noise from horns and engines was unpleasant.

An observation that was especially noticeable in Halifax was the sheer amount of land in the city centre given to parking. Ginormous swaths of prime locations for living (parks, shops, cafés, market squares, theatres, playing fields etc – human activities which are key to quality of life) concreted over as homes for an ever increasing number of SUVs (most trucks and SUVs we saw contained only one person. The most SUVs we saw in a row were full of singular people driving through Tim Hortens). We asked the Canadians that we met how they felt living in such a car culture, here are a few of their responses:

‘Trying to solve traffic problems by building more roads is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger trousers.’ Ottawa

‘It’s only 10km to my work place. I would love to cycle, it would only take 30 minutes but it is simply not possible. I don’t feel safe. Instead I park and sweat, meaning after 25 minutes stuck in traffic I drive my car to the gym and waste another 25 minutes of time I could spend with my family.’ Quebec City

‘I hate cars in the city so much that I actually find myself slowing down as I cross the road, in a tiny effort to exert my authority as a human being over all that metal.’ Toronto

‘It seems to me that birds fly, fish swim and humans walk. Except in North America where you are expected to drive-everywhere. You wouldn’t put a fish in a submarine!’ Montreal

‘I am obese. My children are overweight and most of the people who live around here. I am surrounded by fast food chains, car parks and highways. I would love to ditch the car. My neighbourhood doesn’t even have sidewalks.’ Levis

As we explored more of the country we tried to console ourselves that at least a few cities were making an effort to make life liveable for humans – small local businesses, cycle infrastructure and pedestrianised streets. However, it felt like a token gesture rather than a genuine effort to make Canada a healthy, happy and sustainable country. Pedestrians were squeezed onto narrow pavements and forced to stop every 100m to cross the road, bike lanes were little more than paint on the ground for the cyclists to help protect the parked cars lining every street. We heard that the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, is actually tearing up bicycle lanes to make way for more cars!

Walking and cycling are human activities that bring great life, health and economy to communities. Streets that prioritise cars over humans are bad for business, bad for health (mental, social and physical), unsafe and break down communities.

I write this letter to appeal to you to take radical steps to transform Canada into the healthy, happy and sustainable country we were expecting. You are a nation of the most fantastic people, we know because we met them everywhere! As citizens they deserve much, much better.

Come on Canada! When tourists visit Canada make sure they remember it for for its parks rather than parking.

Sincerely yours,
Holly Chabowski
Denmark