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

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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  • Lac-Megantic’s ‘train from hell’ goes on the auction block

  • 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

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

[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

Paralympic champion Valerie Grand’Maison retires from swimming – Montreal

MONTREAL – Canadian swimmer Valerie Grand’Maison has announced her retirement after winning nine Paralympic medals, including four gold.

The 25-year-old from Montreal also earned three gold medals and a silver medal at last year’s International Paralympic Committee world swim championships in her hometown.

She retires holding world records in the 200-metre individual medley and 400-metre freestyle for the S13 classification, which is for visually-impaired athletes.

Canada’s Valerie Grand Maison celebrates her gold medal in the Women’s 100m Freestyle S13 final at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games in Beijing Wednesday Sept 10, 2008.

Greg Baker/The Canadian Press

“After much soul searching, I am confident that my swimming career has come to an end,” Grand’Maison said Tuesday in a statement from Swimming Canada.

Grand’Maison struggled through a shoulder injury prior to the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, yet she won gold in the 200 I.M. in world-record time. She also collected silver in both the 100-metre and 50-metre freestyle.

She led a Canadian sweep of the 100-metre butterfly at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. She also won the 100-metre and 400-metre freestyle.

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©2014The Canadian Press