INTREPID Bi-Weekly Briefing #2
By Hannah Diegle
3 October 2019
Waseem Ramli Debacle
In August 2019, Waseem Ramli was approved by Global Affairs Canada to be an honorary consul for Syria in Montreal. This honorary position is intended to assist the Syrian population in Montreal. The concerning issue about Ramli’s appointment is his open support for Bashar al-Assad. On Monday September 23, Chrystia Freeland issued a formal apology indicating that Ramli was removed from his position. One can’t help but ask – what happened to the vetting process? Ramli’s Facebook page shows two notable pictures: one with Ramli and Assad; and, another image, with Ramli and Trudeau. Further, his personal vehicle, a large hummer, is covered in Syrian flags and displays a picture of Assad on one of the side windows, and Ramli has also publicly stated that the Syrian White Helmets are affiliated with terrorist organizations. Ramli’s views are in stark contrast with the federal government’s stance on Syria, which is why his appointment was met with such criticism.
B.C Mayor Protests CCP
On September 25, the Mayor of Port Coquitlam, Brad West participated in protests against the Chinese government. West was invited to attend a Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) event, hosted by the Chinese Government. Instead of joining the event, which was attended by various other politicians, West attached pictures of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig to boxes of Tim Hortons donuts and placed them in the event space. Spavor and Kovrig are two Canadians who have been detained in China since December 2018. During the protests, West could be seen with other protestors holding signs that read ‘Stop CCP influence’. At the event, West explained that it is not right to take financial help from foreign governments with terrible human rights records, such as China.
Meng Wanzhou Saga Continues
Between September 23 and September 25, Meng Wanzhou appeared in court for a hearing related to her extradition. Essentially, there are still ongoing issues surrounding her arrest at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018. Meng was arrested due to controversial issues involving Huawei, where she was Chief Financial Officer. Meng’s defence team alleges that the Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) may have acted wrongly when they initially detained Meng. Her team alleges that although the CBSA knew that Meng would be arrested, the CBSA still held her in custody for three hours and engaged in questioning, even taking her cellphone and obtaining various passwords – all without informing her of an arrest warrant. Meng’s team suggests these events indicate possible collusion between the U.S. and Canada. Therefore, her defence team is looking for more documentation. More information on the legal ramifications of Meng’s arrest can be found here.
Foreign Involvement in Federal Election
On September 16, CBC News published an article about potential interference in the upcoming federal election. The CBC received this information from anonymous sources within intelligence services who suggested that China, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Venezuela are all countries flagged for potential interference. However, interestingly, the interference that is being monitored is not through online attempts but rather by diaspora communities within Canada. Most concerning for the intelligence services is the potential for these communities to affect the nomination process and the selection of candidates, thereby furthering their own interests. This is not a new concern. In July 2019, The Canadian Press received access to a secret report detailing the ways in which some ethnic communities could be trying to influence elections through the nomination process. These reports indicate that there is an increasing need to be diligent about foreign involvement in the upcoming election.
Canada and the UN Security Council
Every third week in September, the United Nations General Assembly takes place. This year, at the General Assembly, Canada is campaigning for a temporary spot on the UN Security Council. The UN Security Council consists of five permanent members and ten temporary members. With the exception of 1946 and 2010, Canada has always held a spot on the security council. However, Ireland and Norway are both vying for the same spot which could represent a substantial challenge for Canada. The temporary position on the Security Council would be for a two-year term and elections would not take place until June 2020. Due to the ongoing federal election, past Canadian politicians are representing Canada at the General Assembly, including: Jean Chrétien, Joe Clark and Bob Rae, amongst others. Interestingly, Bruce Heyman, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada, recently suggested that Canada needs a more substantial role with the Security Council. Heyman believes that if Trump is re-elected, Canada is needed to balance his anti-democratic antics. If Canada were to gain a temporary spot on the Security Council, this would mean that Canada would be included in key decision-making processes.