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Bob Mackin

The NDP government has rejected a freedom of information request for the transcripts and recordings of interviews with the subjects of the damning May report about the BC Housing nepotism scandal.

The Ministry of Housing claimed it has no records from meetings or correspondence between Ernst and Young (EY), which the Office of the Comptroller General contracted for the job, and ex-BC Housing CEO Shayne Ramsay and his wife, ex-Atira Women’s Resource Society CEO Janice Abbott.

Ravi Kahlon (left) and David Eby in December 2022 (Flickr/BCGov)

“Prior to responding to your request with the Ministry of Housing, Information Access Operations contacted [the Ministry of] Finance on your behalf to inquire if they would hold the sought records,” wrote Patrick Craib, a manager with the government’s centralized freedom of information office. “However, as the only EY deliverable was the final investigation report, they would not hold records either, the response to the request remains as no records.”

Of the 24 people interviewed, only the names of Ramsay, Abbott and ex-BC Housing CFO Abbas Barodawalla were not censored from the list in the EY report. 

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon did not respond to a text message interview request. 

Despite the Ministry’s response, the template for government services contracts states that the province exclusively owns material produced by contractors and that “the contractor must deliver any material to the province immediately upon the province’s request.”

Additionally, a key 2004 ruling by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner states that records created or acquired by or for a public body, as part of its mandate and functions, are public records under a public body’s control. Therefore, those records are subject to release.  

That case stemmed from the Saanich School Board’s hiring of an investigator to report on a harassment complaint. The employee under investigation unsuccessfully applied to the school board for the investigator’s notes, but an adjudicator later overturned that decision and ruled in favour of disclosure. 

Ramsay (BC Housing)

“The duty to provide access to records under the Act is not defined by the willingness of the public body or its staff, contractors or agents,” wrote adjudicator Celia Francis.

The executive director of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association said the government strategically bypassed the Auditor General and Ombudsperson in favour of hiring one of the big, global accounting brands for political reasons. 

“One of those dynamics where it’s in the government’s interest to outsource these types of reviews to private corporations in order to try and create barriers to people gaining access to the information,” said Jason Woywada. “That is the unintended consequence, or perhaps the intended consequence, of what they’re doing, by doing this.”

Woywada said the public has the right to see background records after ultimately paying for the EY report that the government used to justify its decision-making.

“What were the questions that Ernst and Young asked in these interviews? What is the summary of those interviews?” Woywada said. “All of that is relevant information, to inform the report that then informed [the government’s] decision. Those are relevant pieces of information for the public.”

Atira CEO Janice Abbott with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland (second from left) (Nomodic/CMHC)

The 50-page report was dated March 6 but not released until May 8. It found that Ramsay had subverted conflict of interest rules since 2019 in order to award contracts and funding to the Abbott-run Atira. Atira’s funding outpaced other agencies, culminating in 2022 when it received $35 million more than the next-highest provider. 

The report also said that Ramsay modified meeting minutes and routinely deleted text messages, despite the Office of the Comptroller General’s explicit instructions to preserve records. 

David Eby ordered the EY forensic audit before he resigned as Housing Minister and announced his candidacy last July 19 to replace John Horgan as premier.   

Less than two weeks later, Ramsay announced his retirement from BC Housing after 26 years with the Crown corporation. He went to work in September for Squamish Nation-owned Nch’kay Development as its executive vice-president. 

Nch’kay announced May 12 that Ramsay was no longer employed with the company that is partnered with developer Westbank to build the Senakw residential towers cluster on reserve land beside the Burrard Bridge. 

Abbott resigned the following week from both Atira and the board of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., which is backing Senakw with a $1.4 billion loan.

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Bob Mackin The NDP government has rejected a

Bob Mackin

The botched inspection of an original Expo Line train switch, that should have been replaced more than a year earlier, led to a rare SkyTrain derailment, according to a draft investigation report obtained under freedom of information.

Photo of the derailed SkyTrain car on May 30, 2022 near Scott Road Station (TransLink)

The May 30, 2022 incident near Surrey’s Scott Road station disrupted service for 24 hours. The heavily censored, B.C. Rapid Transit Co. September 2022 report, titled “Derailment Investigation at Switch DC 47,” said the root cause was worn lateral surfaces and elongated bolt holes at a bolt connection, combined with poor bolt installation techniques. 

The internal investigation identified five factors that led to the derailment, including inspections on May 28 and 29, 2022 that “did not record findings” and “did not capture the condition of the bolt.”

The switch is one of 124 on the mainline that enables a train to move from one set of tracks to another. It was due for annual inspection on May 18, 2022, but other urgent work took priority. 

Additionally, the 1989-installed switch had been scheduled for replacement in the first quarter of 2021, but COVID-19 restrictions impacted plans and emergency work order changes put other repairs ahead in the queue. 

At the time of the report, there were 3,092 open work orders in the SkyTrain guideway department. 

Deficient quality control, training and resources also contributed to the incident. 

“There was no document provided to verify critical components are installed correctly to the manufacturer specifications and aligned with requirements from the Railway Act,” the report said.

The switch’s last annual inspection was July 9, 2021. Had the May 18, 2022 inspection occurred, technicians would have reassembled the components with new bolts. “This had the potential to have addressed the failed K-plate bolts,” the report said. 

In 2021, there were eight work orders for broken K-plate bolts across the entire SkyTrain system. Three of them were on DC 47, including two that broke at the same time. 

Aerial image of the May 30, 2022 SkyTrain derailment site (TransLink/FOI)

“There were previous incidents at DC 47, but no technical investigation was completed on previous broken bolt incidents.” The next sentence was censored. 

The report said the incident began at 7:40 p.m. on May 30, 2022, when the train operations centre received a fault code from the automated train. Two minutes later, a passenger reported a burning smell via the intercom at Scott Road station. Train operations tried to route the train to Columbia station, but it did not move as commanded. So an attendant was directed to walk out to the track and check the switch.

The attendant reported back that the switch was “disturbed and a ‘big chunk of the train has fallen off’.” The incident was declared a derailment at 8:01 p.m. “Work zone and power isolation were in place to off-load passengers safely to Scott Road station.”

No injuries were reported. 

The four-car, Mark II train had been traveling at approximately 69 kilometres per hour at the time of the incident. Cars 313 and 314 passed through the switch, but the frog turnout failed to remain locked. As a result, both truck sets on car 317 and truck set 1 on car 318 were derailed and made contact with the median parapet structure, travelling approximately 75 metres to the north until coming to rest.

TransLink’s communications department originally downplayed the severity of the derailment and how close it was to calamity, by calling the incident a “track issue” and “stalled train” before settling on the euphemism “partially dislodged.”

The draft report was dated Sept. 23, 2022, five days before the Sept. 28, 2022 TransLink board meeting where operations vice-president Mike Richard used the euphemism “train dislodgement” during his presentation. 

There are previous reports of SkyTrain derailments in 2010 and 2017.

SkyTrain is single-tracking until July 31 between Scott Road and King George stations in order to replace two switches near Gateway station.

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Bob Mackin The botched inspection of an original

Bob Mackin

While Simon Fraser University said publicly on Feb. 1 that the Red Leafs would play football in 2023, it was quietly drawing up the game plan to sack the 58-year-old program. 

The Jan. 30 “confidential: for issues management” document, obtained via freedom of information, was triggered by losing affiliate membership for 2024 in the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference. SFU won one game and lost eight during the 2022 season in the Texas-based conference, which cited travel distance and costs, accessibility and competitive history for dropping SFU.

(SFU Football)

“An update will be provided later this year. This season will unfold as scheduled and we will do all we can to support athletes,” said the key messages portion of the document. The team was scheduled to kick-off Sept. 2 against Linfield University and end Dec. 1 versus the University of B.C. Thunderbirds in the 35th edition of the Shrum Bowl. 

However, the confidential document also suggested that SFU did not have any future in football beyond 2023. 

“It is likely that this decision, combined with the financial review, will lead to eliminating football from SFU’s athletics experience. All communication must be delivered with that potential outcome in mind,” it said. “We must work to ensure we are bringing stakeholders along throughout the process, while at the same time keeping a future decision to a tight group of people.”

President Joy Johnson’s chief of staff, James Beresford, forwarded the document to SFU board chair Angie Lamarsh on Feb. 1. That was also the day of athletic director Theresa Hanson and head coach Mike Rigell’s joint statement that said the 2023 season was on, but the department would review the situation, explore options and provide an update “later this year.”

Just over two months later, on April 4, SFU announced the immediate cancellation of the 1965-founded program. It offered to help players transfer to another football-playing school or allow them to keep their scholarships and study at SFU next year.

Five players applied to the B.C. Supreme Court for an injunction aimed at reversing SFU’s decision, but a judge denied their application on May 11. On the same day, Johnson apologized to players, staff and alumni for “the impact and stress” and announced the hiring of a consultant from McLaren Global Sport Solutions. Special advisor Bob Copeland is expected to report in September on whether SFU could resurrect the program, which has produced the most Canadian Football League draft picks.

SFU athletics director Theresa Hanson (SFU)

Hanson’s affidavit against the players’ court application said that SFU made the decision to cancel football “in late March.” While her calendar show does show a March 31 meeting titled “final decision,” she had co-prepared a decision briefing note with vice-provost Rummana Khan Hemani in early March, two days before the team began almost a month of off-season workouts. 

On the final two days of February, Hanson’s calendar shows calls with NCAA, USports and NAIA executives. The following week, on March 6, the briefing note that provided two options: announce immediate discontinuation of football or play through the 2023 season and announce the end of football following the last game. 

Immediate discontinuation was recommended, because the “longer the uncertainty goes on, the more the situation will fester.” 

Hanson and Hemani’s briefing note claimed there were no other avenues in the NCAA, while NAIA and USports rules prevented the Red Leafs from switching. 

“If we are not in a position to say that ‘we will have football’ no matter what, then we must announce the decision sooner than later.”

Next steps included provost Wade Parkhouse meeting with Johnson and development of a full communication plan. 

“A strategic and thoughtful communications approach is required, as there will be numerous implications for football student-athletes, football coaching staff and institutional reputation,” it said. “There will be opposition from football alumni and sports media, and this will be very difficult for many including varsity staff, and other student-athletes with a connection to the football team.”

Hanson also prepared talking points for Johnson to be used at a confidential March 24 board of governors session about football. The document set April 4 as the cancellation announcement day. 

It said the university would uphold financial aid commitments to student-athletes projected at $363,500, with a ceiling of $425,000. SFU would also be on the hook for up to $200,000 in contractual obligations, specifically full-time coaching staff severance ($75,000) and to terminate affiliate membership in Lone Star (US$50,000) and contracts for non-conference games (US$35,000). 

A March 10 version pegged the next fiscal year’s budget to operate the program at $890,000, including $420,000 for coaching staff salary and benefits and $400,000 for travel. The March 24 comprehensive briefing note to chair Lamarsh said SFU teams compete across 19 NCAA varsity sports with approximately 400 student athletes. Of the 99 football players, 66 were projected to return in fall 2023 plus 13 incoming recruits. The coaching staff included four full-timers and 10 to 12 part-time coaches and staff.

Terry Fox Field (SFU Football)

The communications plan included a script of anticipated questions and prepared answers, emphasizing the depleted Red Leafs roster, risk of injury and poor 18-103 record since moving to the NCAA in 2010. SFU’s best season in its NCAA era was 5-6 in 2012.  

The plan included a full “run of show” schedule for April 3 and 4, mapping out who to contact for courtesy calls and anticipating how the announcement would roll out. While it expected the “directly impacted” players and alumni to be “upset/angry/disappointed,” it did not predict legal action nor did it anticipate the Save SFU Football campaign that quickly gained support across the football spectrum and national media attention in April.  

The communications package included a form letter to send athletes and alumni announcing the short-notice postponement to the fall of the April 5 SFU Athletics Awards and Hall of Fame banquet.

“When we gather together to celebrate the best of sports, we will also have time to incorporate a special reflection on SFU’s more than 50 years of history in football,” the form letter said. “We will work with the SFU football community to appropriately commemorate the individuals and teams that made their mark.” 

Videos profiling nominees for the SFU annual athletics awards were published on the SFU Sports YouTube channel beginning June 26. 

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Bob Mackin While Simon Fraser University said publicly

Bob Mackin

Despite lacking the required provincial backing, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) says it is still talking to the International Olympic Committee about hosting the 2030 Winter Olympics in B.C. with four first nations.

During executive board meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland on Wednesday, senior IOC officials said that members would decide the 2030 host no later than July 2024 in Paris.

BC 2030 Olympic bid logo (BC Gov/FOI)

It appeared to be a three-way race early last fall between 2010 host Vancouver, 2002 host Salt Lake City and 1972 host Sapporo, Japan until the NDP government refused in October to underwrite another Olympics. Then the IOC delayed its decision indefinitely, while beginning a feasibility study on rotating the Winter Games between past hosts. 

Chris Dornan, the spokesperson for the COC’s bid partnership with the Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Lil’wat nations, said dialogue continues with the IOC. 

“While no meeting involving the host first nations, government partners, the COC and the [Canadian Paralympic Committee] has occurred or been scheduled, we remain open to the opportunity for all partners to come together to talk about the vision for the Games, and the lasting impact hosting a Games could have on the host nations, the province and the rest of Canada,” Dornan said by email. “Without the engagement and support of the Province of British Columbia, the project will not progress.”

That marks a change of tone for the COC, which emphasized at the end of March that it was “hopeful.” At the time, Christophe Dubi, the executive director of the Games for the IOC, said he understood that conversations would take place between the COC and local authorities. 

A technical briefing did take place for two hours on April 14, between Neilane Mayhew, the deputy minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport, and representatives of the first nations, to explain the province’s decision, which has not changed. 

“Supporting the proposal would have required dedicated provincial resources across government, which are already committed to planning other near-term international sporting events, as well as expanding on services British Columbians need,” read the government statement. “Our government remains committed to the important work of putting reconciliation into action and continuing to build strong relationships with Indigenous partners.”

Vancouver is co-hosting Prince Harry’s Invictus Games with Whistler in early 2025 and B.C. Place Stadium is one of 16 venues for the FIFA 2026 World Cup. The $67 million PNE Amphitheatre is scheduled to be completed in time to act as a venue for official FIFA watch parties in three years.

The lobbyist registry shows that the most-recent COC communication with B.C. government officials was Oct. 12 when it sought $742 million. On Oct. 27, then-minister Lisa Beare announced the government had rejected the bid.

Vancouver 2030 bid logo

The COC estimated it needed at least $1 billion from taxpayers for the estimated $4 billion project, plus a guarantee that the province would pay for any deficit. It proposed reusing most of the 2010 venues in Vancouver, Richmond and Whistler, with the exception of the Agrodome for curling, Hastings Racecourse for big air skiing and snowboard jumping and Sun Peaks resort near Kamloops for snowboarding and freestyle skiing. Board minutes and financial files about Vancouver 2010 remain hidden from the public at the Vancouver Archives until fall 2025. 

Groups from Sweden and Switzerland have recently expressed interest to the IOC about 2030. On Tuesday, Dubi mentioned a mysterious sixth country that he would not name. 

“But when it comes to who’s interested about which edition, there is only one, and you know this is Salt Lake City that has declared that it is very open,” Dubi said. “They’ve done a lot of work, but their preference would be for 2034, should these Games be awarded in the context of a double allocation.”

Last fall, the IOC had discussed awarding 2030 and 2034 at the same time, but Sapporo, the perceived frontrunner for 2030, paused its bid due to the Tokyo Olympics corruption scandal.

While the Utah legislature and governor have both thrown their support behind hosting in either 2030 or 2034, the U.S. Olympic Committee prefers 2034 in order to avoid sponsorship conflicts with the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Olympics. 

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Bob Mackin Despite lacking the required provincial backing,

Bob Mackin

It took one day for the Washington State Patrol (WSP) to provide the investigation report from a June 18 chase that ended at the Peace Arch Border Crossing.

Peace Arch on the border of Washington and B.C. (Mackin)

A 30-year-old Seattle man was booked on charges of attempting to elude a police vehicle, possession of a stolen vehicle, theft and assault.

WSP responded to a June 21 freedom of information request on June 22 with a copy of the investigating officer’s report. Only the suspect’s driver’s licence number was censored. 

Under Washington State law, public bodies are provided five business days to disclose records or notify the applicant that more time is needed. It could take up to 30 business days for a B.C. municipal police force to respond or 30 calendar days for the RCMP. A police department may refuse access to information if it believes disclosure could harm an investigation. 

WSP Trooper Cameron MacKinnon’s report said the incident began around 5 p.m. with a theft at the T.J. Maxx store in the Cordata Shopping Centre and the BB gun shooting of a loss prevention officer. But Bellingham Police Department (BPD) officers could not find the three suspects or their getaway car, a white Hyundai Santa Fe with Washington State plates that had been stolen from Seattle. 

BPD asked WSP for help. MacKinnon found the car, which pulled into a Dollar Tree store parking lot in the Meridian Village shopping centre. A male passenger fled when he saw MacKinnon, who used the patrol vehicle to block the Hyundai. MacKinnon’s report said he stood 10 feet away from the vehicle, had his gun in the “low ready position,” made direct eye contact with the driver and ordered him to exit the vehicle. 

“The driver immediately placed the Hyundai in reverse to push against the front of my patrol vehicle in an attempt to escape. The driver then drove forward and over the sidewalk, crashing into the front of the Dollar Tree store. This gave the driver additional room to maneuver the Hyundai and he began screeching the tires aggressively. I re-entered my patrol vehicle as the driver now had an imminent means and ability of escape.”

The vehicle got away, in excess of 160 kilometres per hour, northbound on Interstate 5. There was an on-again, off-again pursuit by MacKinnon and BPD officers. He last observed the vehicle at 5:19 p.m., when his supervisor terminated the chase due to extreme speed and moderate traffic conditions. 

Six minutes later, the Hyundai was reported approaching the Peace Arch and being driven recklessly through the grassy median.

“911 callers reported the Hyundai struck several vehicles in the border lineup. I arrived at the Peace Arch Border at 17:31 hours and observed the Hyundai wrecked out in the median. The Hyundai was positioned approximately 100 yards north of the Peace Arch Monument on the Canadian side,” MacKinnon wrote. 

“I was advised the male was last seen running northbound further into Canada. Canadian Customs quickly apprehended the male and took him into custody. The male was immediately handed over to U.S. Customs and brought into the American Peace Arch Crossing station.”

MacKinnon’s report said the male was the same one who occupied the driver’s seat of the stolen car at the Dollar Tree. U.S. Customs officers fingerprinted and photographed the suspect and turned him over to MacKinnon, who handcuffed him, read him his rights and drove him to the BPD. The suspect declined knowledge of the Hyundai or the vehicular pursuit. 

The Hyundai’s ignition had been punched out and sustained moderate damage on the passenger side. The rear was full of stolen merchandise, “making it nearly impossible for there to have been a rear seat passenger. There were no additional pedestrians reported to be running away from the stolen Hyundai at the border crossing.”

There was no reportable damage to the Dollar Tree store. The front bumper of the patrol car sustained damage, but the trooper was not injured.  

As of midday June 23, the Whatcom County jail roster, which is a public database, showed the accused, Jordan Joshua Richardson, was still in custody. 

Richardson’s residential address on the report matches that of a downtown Seattle social service agency. 

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Bob Mackin It took one day for the

Bob Mackin 

The law firm retained to defend ex-Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum in his public mischief trial billed Surrey taxpayers almost $317,000. 

That is according to the statement of financial information for 2022, which was quietly published June 19. 

Doug McCallum on Sept. 4, 2021 (Provincial Court exhibit)

The precise total billed by Peck and Company Barristers is $316,663.50, according to the statutory annual sunshine list. 

Brenda Locke, who defeated McCallum in the Oct. 15 civic election, came to power promising transparency and vowed to pursue repayment.  

A Provincial Court judge ruled McCallum not guilty on Nov. 21 of the charge that he made a false report to police about a Keep the RCMP in Surrey protester driving over his left foot on Labour Day weekend in 2021.

During the five-day trial, McCallum was represented by three lawyers and an assistant, including Richard Peck and Eric Gottardi from the team that defended Huawei executive Meng Wenzhou against extradition to the U.S. 

McCallum did not testify. 

City of Surrey chose to temporarily withhold the total dollar figure paid to Peck and Company for 2022 in response to a March 28 freedom of information application. 

When city hall responded May 11, after the law’s 30-workday deadline, it cited a clause that allows a public body to refuse disclosure of information that must be published under another law. In this case, the Financial Information Act, which requires Surrey city hall to release the list of payments to suppliers and staff in the annual statement of financial information by June 30 every year. 

In a campaign video published last September on Surrey Connect’s Facebook page, Locke warned McCallum. 

“So Doug, you better be very careful with every minute you spend with your lawyer because we are coming after you for every dime you spend,” Locke said on the video, which remains visible. 

Richard Peck (Peck and Co.)

In an interview after her victory speech, Locke reiterated her stance. “We’ll be asking our city legal [department] to figure out a way to get that money back and to make Mr. McCallum pay for his legal bills.”

City of Surrey’s indemnity bylaw still contains a clause that states it will shield municipal officials against payment of costs to defend a prosecution in connection with “the performance or intended performance of the person’s duties.” 

Keep the RCMP in Surrey members were outside the Southpoint Save-on-Foods on Sept. 4, 2021, collecting signatures for a petition they hoped would trigger a referendum on McCallum’s program to replace the RCMP with the Surrey Police Service (SPS). One of the petitioners, who was driving a Mustang convertible, yelled at McCallum to resign the mayoralty and unleashed a barrage of profanity at him. In court, Debi Johnstone denied McCallum’s hit and run allegation. McCallum told reporters after the incident that he was there on a grocery shopping trip.

In total, Surrey paid suppliers $674.6 million in 2022. 

A majority of Surrey city council voted behind closed doors on June 15 to keep the RCMP and shut down the SPS. The NDP government, which has offered $150 million to switch to the SPS, has not yet approved the decision.  

Neither Locke nor McCallum responded to interview requests. 

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Bob Mackin  The law firm retained to defend

For the week of June 25, 2023:

When Justin Trudeau came to power in 2015, he promised disclosure by default. He also promised an ethical Liberal government.

In 2019, the SNC-Lavalin scandal exploded and dominated headlines for months before that year’s federal election. The RCMP started an investigation after former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould blew the whistle.

Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, wanted to know what became of the investigation. In a response to an access to information request, the RCMP told him the investigation continues. Then the RCMP changed its tune and said it closed the investigation and gave Conacher incorrect information.

Conacher is the guest of thePodcast host Bob Mackin. Plus, highlights of The Bureau investigative reporter Sam Cooper’s testimony to a House of Commons committee studying foreign interference by China. 

CLICK BELOW to listen or go to TuneIn, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

Have you missed an edition of Podcast? Go to the archive.

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thePodcast: SNC-Lavalin, RCMP and Canada's broken access to information system

For the week of June 25, 2023: When

Bob Mackin 

Attempts to link the proposed registry of foreign agents with the centennial of a discriminatory law play into the hands of the Chinese government, says a human rights advocate.

Senators Yuen Pau Woo (left) and Victor Oh, with Ontario politicians Michael Chan and Vincent Ke, applauding Trudeau Liberal backbencher Chandra Arya on June 24 at Parliament Hill (CCMedia/YouTube)

Senators Victor Oh (Ontario) and Yuen Pau Woo (B.C.) co-hosted a remembrance ceremony in Ottawa on June 23 for the 1923 Chinese Immigration Act, also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act. With exceptions for students, merchants, diplomats and Canadians born in China, immigration from China was banned until 1947 when the law was repealed. Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized in 2006. 

A rally took place at Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court on June 24.

Ivy Li of the Canadian Friends of Hong Kong said that the senators are using public money and resources, and their official platform, to “serve a foreign dictatorship’s interest.”

“The goal is very obvious,” Li said. “The Exclusion Act, of course, is a terrible, racist history that all Canadians should know and all of us should remember that something like that actually has happened in Canada. Using that to say that what we are doing today can be the repeat of that, and take it totally out of context, is the common strategy of [the Chinese Communist Party’s] racist card and victimhood card.” 

Woo also helped draft the April-launched e-petition against such a registry. Sponsored by backbench Liberal MP Chandra Arya (Nepean), the e-petition’s initiator is Coquitlam activist Ally Wang. With three weeks to go, it has more than 2,400 supporters, exceeding the 500 minimum for presentation to the House of Commons. 

In 2021, Wang co-founded the Stop Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Advocacy Group Association of Canada (SAAHCAG) and the Chinese Canadians Goto Vote Association (CCGVA). During the 2021 federal election, supporters of the latter group helped Liberal Parm Bains upset Kenny Chiu, the Conservative incumbent who originally proposed the foreign agents registry and voted to condemn China for committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims. 

Coquitlam activist Ally Wang (left) and Toronto United Front leader Weng Guoning on Parliament Hill June 24 (CCMedia/YouTube)

At a news conference on March 16, Woo said the 1923 law was the result of “groupthink” and rejected a reporter’s suggestion that he is cozy with the Chinese government. 

“Think about all the other Chinese people who don’t have my privilege or my protections,” Woo said. “Are they going to be accused of being fifth columnists, because of the views they hold? Are we going to have a foreign influence registry, that’s going to use the views that one holds as the litmus test of being a foreign agent?”

Wang was featured in a March 21 report by pro-Beijing Phoenix TV about leaks from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service alleging Tong Xiaoling, China’s former top diplomat in Vancouver, meddled in Canadian elections to help candidates friendly to China. Wang said that memorial activities would help fight systemic racism against not only Chinese, but Indigenous, African and Muslim communities, “because we all face the same white supremacy.”

Li said such a message stokes resentment and fear between ethnic communities. 

“If we want a multicultural society to succeed, we have to be very aware of these kinds of divide and control tactics, from regimes like the CCP, like Russia,” she said.

Wang, who traveled to Ottawa, said she was unavailable for an interview, but referred a reporter to Ivan Pak, who co-founded the two associations and is also in Ottawa. Pak, who ran for the People’s Party of Canada in Richmond Centre in 2019, said he supports Wang’s petition because he does not want the Chinese-Canadian community to “become collateral damage.” 

“I personally doubt about whether this registry is going to help,” Pak said. 

Pak describes himself as “pretty much anti-CCP,” but admits some of the groups involved in commemorating the centennial and opposing the foreign agents registry have deep ties to the Chinese government and businessmen in Mainland China.

WeChat ad for the May 3 lecture by Ally Wang, who is behind an e-petition against a foreign agents registry.

“Some of them, they are not pro-CCP, but pro-China,” Pak said. “They want a strong China, they feel proud to have a strong China.”

However, a WeChat notice from the organizing committee of the rally tried to distance the event from the e-petition campaign. It asked participants not to raise the Chinese national flag, sing the Chinese national anthem or shout pro-China slogans.

Pak said SAAHCAG raised around $17,000 in January at a Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel banquet in memory of the 1923 law. He also said SAAHCAG paid for his and Wang’s airfare to Ottawa, but not accommodation. 

The organization is the recipient of federal and B.C. government grants that he Pak says are separate from the petition. The $24,400 from Employment and Social Development Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program is a year-long project to promote volunteerism, mentoring, social participation and inclusion, and expand awareness of elder abuse, including financial abuse. 

In April, the B.C. government announced $5,000 for SAAHCAG’s 123 Anti-Discrimination Exhibition, which is billed as “in memory of those affected by the Chinese Immigration Act.”

SAAHCAG now counts 15 directors, including unsuccessful 2022 Vancouver city council candidates May He of Progress Vancouver and Morning Lee of the NPA. During last fall’s campaign, Lee was in damage control after a so-called Chinese blessing video starring impoverished African children was found on the YouTube account for Lee’s real estate company.

SAAHCAG and CCGV supporters include Richmond’s Wenzhou Friendship Society, which is under an RCMP national security investigation for allegedly hosting an illegal Chinese police station.

Wang’s promotional campaign for the e-petition included a lecture via Zoom for seniors involved in the Mississauga, Ont.-based Chinese Age-well Research and Education (CARE). An ad for the May 3 event featuring Wag said “this project is supported by the Government of Canada.” 

However, two departments that granted funds to CARE said it wasn’t. 

Department of Canadian Heritage said it provided CARE $4,000 last September to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II. The $25,000 from ESDC’s New Horizons for Seniors program ended March 27, more than a month before the presentation. 

“Given this, the organization is not able to claim that this event is related to funding received through the New Horizons for Seniors Program,” said Natalie Huneault, a communications manager with ESDC. “Of note, an event of this nature would not be allowable under the terms and conditions of the NHSP, and is not an eligible activity.”

CARE founder Weiguo Zhang, a University of Toronto sociology professor, did not explain why the ad said the May 3 lecture was federally sponsored. An April 23 hybrid symposium, that also included Wang, was supported by ESDC, he said by email.

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Bob Mackin  Attempts to link the proposed registry


New PNE logo by Cossette (

Bob Mackin

The PNE calls its new, June 22-unveiled logo an evolution of the familiar pinwheel symbol.  

The non-profit board behind the annual summer and Christmastime fairs at Hastings Park is no longer calling it the Pacific National Exhibition. They say the PNE is not national but it is more than an exhibition.  

The shape of the new red, blue, green and purple logo is more international, however, because it is already exhibited by companies on at least two other continents. 

An online search found the same design, with different colours, was used to promote last November’s Energy Cultural Festival in Irkutsk, Russia. Likewise for a digital ad agency based in Brazil, called Top Creative. 

The icon may have originated on the stock graphics and photos website, where it appears under the heading “coloured spin gradient element.” 

“Although we entertain over three million guests to our site annually, we focus our marketing in B.C. and Canada, and so there was never an intention to register the logo outside of Canada, so I can’t comment on similar logos from other countries,” said PNE spokesperson Laura Ballance.

She said the PNE paid national marketing and communications agency Cossette $17,500 and the organization is in the final stages of registering the new logo.

“They reviewed similar logos across Canada and in our sector specifically throughout North America, and didn’t find a conflict,” Ballance said. “To be transparent though, since this is a refresh of an iconic logo that goes back to our very inception, we likely would have proceeded even if something was close, as many in B.C. would first attribute the pinwheel to the PNE.”

Russian Energy Festival in Irkutsk (En+)

Ballance explained the PNE is promoting itself as a year-round entertainment destination where play happens every day. 

Lindsay Meredith, professor emeritus of marketing at Simon Fraser University, said the PNE doesn’t have deep pockets to invest in branding like Apple or Nike. He said second-tier companies with smaller budgets have to be careful how much they borrow and how accurately they borrow the look of another. Otherwise, they could be accused of violating trademark law.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys have got access to other forms or have simply gone on the web and pirated other other formats that look easy to copy, changed the colour and away we go,” Meredith said. 

Meredith said the new PNE logo would be just as effective on the corner of a smartphone screen as it would in giant form on the side of a building at the PNE or a billboard around the city. It conveys a fresher message about the 113-year-old organization, which boasts something to entertain every member of the family.

Brazil digital ad agency Top Creative

“They’ve got a feel for the importance of marketing and what’s going on there and how they have to go about it and, what they had to do in terms of creating brand choice under that one umbrella,” Meredith said. 

The PNE and its previous logo were both registered in December 1990 by agent Gowling WLG (Canada) LLP in Toronto. The trademarks, which expire in 2030, cover a list of categories, including souvenir items, exhibitions, fairs, sporting events, restaurants and concessions.

The 2023 PNE Fair runs Aug. 19 to Sept. 4, with events around the site year-round.

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  [caption id="attachment_13323" align="alignright" width="384"] New PNE logo

Bob Mackin 

Canada’s spy agency issued an extraordinary warning June 20 that the Chinese government is targeting Canadians, on the same day that the Federal Court published a previously secret ruling that allows deployment of a surveillance technology without warrant. 

But the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) said the two are unrelated.

In a series of Tweets, CSIS explained how China’s intelligence services are targeting Canadians inside and outside China. 

“Be careful who you connect with on LinkedIn, and all other online platforms,” said one of the Tweets. 

The thread described the scheme in four steps. First, agents for the Chinese government identify recruitment targets by using proxies or “targeters.”

“They identify people who are actively looking for jobs in strategic sectors or who have high-value credentials,” the thread said.

They approach their target by posing as a human resources recruiter or security consultant via LinkedIn and then move the communication to a secondary platform, such as WeChat, WhatsApp or email, at the earliest opportunity. The targets are asked to write reports for client consultants, in exchange for payment. They may also be invited to meetings with people they are led to believe to be clients.

“Both the consultant and the client are in fact intelligence officers,” CSIS said.

In the fourth and final step, CSIS said the new recruits start receiving payment in exchange for providing confidential, privileged information that is of interest to the Chinese government. 

In its May 4-released annual public report, CSIS said China relies on “non-traditional collectors” to help transfer knowledge and technology from Canada to China. The non-traditional collectors are individuals without formal intelligence training, but include scientists and businesspeople who have relevant subject matter expertise.

The Tweets coincided with the publication of an October 2022 ruling from Federal Court Chief Justice Paul Crampton that allows CSIS to employ a certain type of technology inside and outside Canada without a warrant. 

The ruling had previously been marked “top secret,” but specifics about the technology and targets remain redacted for national security reasons. 

CSIS had applied in late 2021 for warrant powers to deploy a new tool against existing targets of an investigation, Crampton explained. His ruling mentions the technology was used in a 2018 pilot project without a warrant against both Canadian and non-Canadian subjects of an investigation in Canada and abroad. 

A hint about the type of technology appears to be contained in Crampton’s reference to the National Security and Intelligence Review Committee and its 2019 report to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, “Review of CSIS’s Use of [censored] – a Geolocation Data Collection Tool.”

Crampton ruled that the four CSIS-proposed uses of the technology within Canada would not require a warrant and that use of the technology outside Canada would not contravene any principle of international law and would not require a warrant. 

Information collected outside Canada, intended for use in a criminal proceeding, would be subject to admissibility tests under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Crampton wrote.

Meanwhile, a jury in a U.S. federal court on June 20, convicted three men for acting as illegal agents of the Chinese government and stalking across state lines. 

One of them, Michael McMahon, 55, is a retired New York Police Department sergeant who harassed and intimidated a man in an effort to coerce him to return to China during the “Operation Fox Hunt” anti-corruption campaign. McMahon could face up to 20 years in prison. 

Unlike Canada, the U.S. has a law requiring agents of foreign governments to register with the Department of Justice. 

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Bob Mackin  Canada’s spy agency issued an extraordinary