'Two Michaels' charged in China and policing the police; In The News for June 19

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of June 19 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

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China has charged two detained Canadians with spying, escalating tensions between the two countries following the arrest in Vancouver 18 months ago of a senior Huawei executive wanted on U.S. charges.

Chinese prosecutors said Friday that Michael Kovrig was charged in Beijing on suspicion of spying for state secrets and intelligence.

Michael Spavor was charged in Dandong city near the North Korean border on suspicion of spying for a foreign entity and illegally providing state secrets.

The charges were announced by China's highest prosecutor's office in brief social media posts.

Both men have been held since December 2018 in a move seen as an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng Wanzhou, a top executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei. (The Associated Press)

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Also this ...

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will visit a gourmet cafe in Quebec today to underline his plea to small business owners to use the federal wage subsidy program to rehire workers.

But his visit to Biscotti & cie in the village of Chelsea comes at the same time that the federal government is delaying the start-date for another program that was supposed to help small businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau took to Twitter late Thursday to announce that the promised expansion of the Canada Emergency Business Account to include small owner-operated businesses will not launch today as scheduled.

The CEBA, which provides interest-free, partially forgivable loans of up to $40,000, has been expanded twice to include more businesses.

Several weeks ago, the government announced the program was to be expanded again to include companies with payrolls of less than $20,000 and with non-deferrable expenses, like rent, utilities and property taxes, of between $40,000 and $1.5 million.

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And this ...

A funeral will be held today for Rodney Levi, the 48-year-old Indigenous man from eastern New Brunswick who was shot by an RCMP officer during a barbecue last Friday.

The private family service will be held at the St. Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic Church in Metepenagiag Mi'kmaq Nation, west of Miramichi.

The RCMP say officers were dispatched to a home near the First Nation on June 12 after someone complained about an "unwanted person."

The deadly shooting marked the second time in just over a week that police had killed an Indigenous person in New Brunswick, prompting protests and calls for an inquiry.

Chantel Moore was fatally shot on June 4, after an officer from the Edmundston Police Department was sent to her home to conduct a "wellness check."

Quebec's independent police watchdog agency is investigating the killings because New Brunswick does not have its own police oversight agency.

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On this day in 1914 ...

In Crowsnest Pass, Alta., 188 people died in the Hillcrest mine disaster.

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Who polices the police ...

The majority of independent investigators delving into alleged police misconduct in Canada are white men who are former police officers.

Seven provincial independent investigation units currently look into incidents involving police.

The Canadian Press has found that of the 167 members involved in these units, 111 are former officers or have had a working relationship with police, and 118 of them are men.

Every province but British Columbia also provided the number of investigators in their units who identify as a visible minority or person of colour. There are 20.

"It's again the police investigating their own," says Ghislain Picard, regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations in Quebec and Labrador. "That's totally unacceptable for many people. There is no faith."

Christian Leuprecht, a professor at Queen's University and a member of the Kingston Police board, says he would caution against people assuming more women, Black or Indigenous people in these units would lead to different outcomes.

And in many cases, he says former officers have the best skills to investigate.

"I think we have yet to see a case where somebody challenged the findings of an independent investigation unit on the grounds that the findings were biased," he says.

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DIY keeps building centres bustling ...

An army of Canadian do-it-yourselfers building fences, repairing decks and slapping thousands of litres of paint on weather-beaten siding have helped building centres across Canada escape the worst of the pandemic economic downturn.

"Our contractor sales in the beginning went up, we believe, because people were afraid they were going to be shut down if they couldn't get material so they were just stockpiling everything," said Alex Yakovyshenko, general manager of Haney Builders Supplies Ltd. in the Metro Vancouver city of Maple Ridge.

"Then that subsided quite a bit. But then the retail started coming in."

Statistics Canada reported national retail sales fell by more than 25 per cent in April compared with February.

In comparison, residential renovation sector sales nationally are experiencing a "mild decline," said Peter Norman, chief economist for Altus Group, in an interview.

The real estate software and research company had forecast an increase of about three per cent this year after the home renovation market grew by nearly five per cent to $80.6 billion in 2019.

But it has revised its 2020 number to $74.9 billion, a decline of about 5.2 per cent from last year, in a yet-to-be-published update, Norman said.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 19, 2020.

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