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Bob Mackin

Exactly two years to the hour after Canadian authorities detained Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver International Airport, China’s top diplomat in British Columbia and two subordinates visited the Huawei CFO at her $13.6 million mansion.

Chinese state-affiliated Phoenix Television was there Dec. 1 to capture images of Consul-General Tong Xiaoling emerging from her chauffeured Mercedes Benz to greet Meng and her husband, Xiaozong Liu, with gifts.

Consul-General Tong Xiaoling visiting Meng Wanzhou on Dec. 1. (Phoenix TV)

A statement issued by the consulate said Tong, Deputy Consul General Wang Chengjun, and Consul Hu Qiquan “went to Ms. Meng Wanzhou’s residence to visit and offer condolences.”

The clip aired by Phoenix on its Dec. 2 newscast shows the greeting by the curb of 1603 Matthews Drive in posh Shaughnessy. It does not show where they went next.

“Taking into account the current situation of the new crown epidemic in British Columbia, visits are conducted outdoors, and relevant personnel are strictly in accordance with local epidemic prevention regulations, take personal protective measures and maintain social distance,” said the consulate statement.

However, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, banned residents Nov. 7 from hosting social gatherings of any size at their homes with anyone that does not live in the same dwelling.

“Do not invite friends or extended family to your household, do not host gatherings outdoors,” said the B.C. Ministry of Health website.

Tong’s statement reiterated the Chinese government’s support for Meng’s freedom and repeated the accusation that Canada is an accomplice of the U.S., which concocted an incident “to suppress Chinese high-tech enterprises and obstruct the development of China’s science and technology.” 

The Trudeau Liberal government has not decided whether to join the U.S. and U.K., which have banned Huawei’s 5G technology for national security reasons. Canada’s major telecoms have opted for other suppliers. 

Meng’s mansion is, coincidentally, two doors down from the mansion of the U.S. Consul General to Vancouver.

Consul-General Tong Xiaoling visiting Meng Wanzhou on Dec. 1. (Phoenix TV)

“We will continue to provide you with adequate consular protection. We hope you will strengthen your belief in victory, protect yourself against the epidemic, and maintain your physical and mental health,” Tong said.

On Nov. 30, China’s Ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, phoned Meng to “express cordial condolences,” according to a statement on the embassy website. 

Meanwhile, a small group of protesters sympathetic to the Chinese Communist Party gathered 2.4 kilometres away, outside the office of a Liberal Party of Canada cabinet minister.

The Free Meng Wanzhou rally, co-ordinated by a Surrey neo-Maoist group called Red Braid Alliance for Decolonial Socialism, waved signs at vehicles passing the office of Joyce Murray. Murray, who was not at her office, is the member of parliament for Vancouver-Quadra. Murray maintains a presence on WeChat, where a supporter last May used the platform to raise money to sue a journalist after an expose about the Communist Party manipulating the world’s medical supplies market during the early days of the pandemic.

Meng lives under an 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew with local travel limitations in the Metro Vancouver area and wears an anklet to keep her from fleeing the country. She was released on $10 million bail Dec. 10, 2018. 

Meng’s extradition hearings resume Dec. 7. Her team of defence lawyers is alleging the RCMP and Canadian Border Services Agency infringed on her rights when she was arrested Dec. 1, 2018 at Vancouver International Airport on request of the United States government. U.S. authorities want to try Meng on charges she defrauded HSBC in a bid to subvert sanctions against Iran.

Next week is the second anniversary of the arbitrary arrests of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. China took them hostage in retaliation for Meng’s arrest.

Unlike Tong’s visit to Meng, Canadian media outlets are not invited to the Chinese jails where the Two Michaels are held.

Canada’s Ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, was granted what Global Affairs Canada described as “on-site virtual access” to Spavor on Nov. 10 and Kovrig Nov. 19. China claims they are spies, but they have not appeared before a judge.

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Bob Mackin Exactly two years to the hour

Bob Mackin

A review of allegations of racism in B.C. healthcare found no evidence of a Price Is Right-style guessing game about the blood alcohol level of Indigenous patients.

But that does not mean First Nations, Metis and Inuit people weren’t losing dignity, and even their lives, in the system.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond (BC Gov)

Former children’s advocate Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s 230-page report, “In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in B.C. Health Care,” was released Nov. 30. On June 19, a complaint about the Price Is Right allegation sparked Health Minister Adrian Dix to order the report.

“If such games did occur in the past, they are not occurring today. There are episodic, anecdotal reports that resemble these allegations, none could be described as prevalent, widespread or targeting only Indigenous patients,” Turpel-Lafond wrote. “Guessing by medical professionals of various patient levels, including blood alcohol, is routine and may be clinically appropriate, although the review does find extensive profiling of Indigenous patients based on stereotypes about addictions.”

However, the review found “clear evidence of a much more widespread and insidious problem” including hundreds of examples of prejudice and racism throughout the B.C. health system. Turpel-Lafond found evidence of denial of service, medical mistakes, abusive interaction, higher infant mortality and even suicide.

“It doesn’t mean every Indigenous person who gets health care will experience direct or indirect racism, but it does mean that any Indigenous person could experience it –anywhere in the system. We have a significant problem that must be urgently addressed.”

Turpel-Lafond was confident in her finding against the headline-grabbing allegation that led to the report.

“We interviewed everyone surrounding that allegation,” she said.

“I am confident in the conclusions that there isn’t an organized game with prizes.”

Cover of the Nov. 30 report (BC Gov)

The review surveyed thousands of Indigenous people and health workers, and interviewed 150 key informants.

An overwhelming amount of Indigenous respondents (84%) reported some form of discrimination in health care and more than half of Indigenous health workers reported experiencing racial prejudice at work, mainly discriminatory comments by colleagues. More than a third of non-Indigenous workers personally witnessed racism or discrimination against Indigenous patients. Surprisingly, 13% of health workers who responded made racist comments in the survey.

“Among top reported reasons why racism persists: employees not willing to speak up; lack of accountability by leadership to stop discriminatory behaviour,” the presentation said.

The report found racism limits access to medical treatment and negatively affects the health and wellness of Indigenous peoples in B.C. and Indigenous women and girls are seriously disproportionately impacted. It included comments from Indigenous patients and their families and from health care workers who contacted the review.

“I have seen the symptoms of an Indigenous patient go untreated for days despite the concerns voiced by our unit physiotherapist, resulting in this patient having a stroke,” said a social worker, whose name was not disclosed in the report.

“I have [an Indigenous] client who went to an emergency department every day for almost two weeks feeling like they were having seizures or passing out,” said a registered nurse. “The client was turned away every day for two weeks. Once they were finally admitted to the hospital, it was found that their ICD [Implantable Cardioverter-defibrillator] was actually completely malfunctioning and was defibrillating them every day, sometimes multiple times in one day. This client was turned away so many times and I have heard people refer to them as a ‘frequent flyer’… This person should have never been turned away from the hospital, even once, let alone multiple times.”

Shortly after her appointment, Turpel-Lafond investigated the case of Canadian Forces member Connor Sutton, a member of the T’Sou-ke Nation who was suffering a hole in his esophagus. Sutton was persistent in seeking medical attention at Cowichan District Hospital, but hospital staff referred him to a homeless shelter, security guards intervened and RCMP eventually arrested him. He wound up in a psychiatric ward, but was later released into the care of Canadian Forces in Esquimalt. 

“Mr. Sutton and his family are worried that if he has similar physical symptoms in the future, he will not seek treatment due to his negative experiences. The family has retained legal counsel and is trying to understand which medical decisions were made and when,” Turpel-Lafond wrote.

“While the family has spoken with [Vancouver Island Health Authority] leadership, they are still struggling to access the case notes, charts and physicians’ orders that led to Mr. Sutton being shuffled out of Cardiac ICU and into Psychiatric ICU. The family notes that the Indigenous liaison they worked with was great, but they felt the liaison had no real power to help them find answers. They feel they were treated as second-class citizens by facility medical staff.”

The report makes 10 recommendations to change the system, nine to change behaviours and four to change beliefs. There is also a recommendation for a task force to implement recommendations. Turpel-Lafond asked for and received an apology to Indigenous people from Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Turpel-Lafond ultimately wants a“speak-up culture” in healthcare and for the government to expand the Public Interest Disclosure Act whistleblower law that it proclaimed in 2019.

“I found incredible fear around talking about even these issues, which were important issues,” she told reporters.

Turpel-Lafond is a former Saskatchewan Provincial Court judge who was B.C.’s first representative for children and youth from 2006 to 2016. She is now a professor at the University of B.C.’s Allard School of Law and director of the UBC Indian Residential School Centre.

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Bob Mackin A review of allegations of racism

For the week of Nov. 29, 2020:

History is repeating, as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

More than a century ago, it was the Spanish flu, which eventually killed as as many as 50 million people.

WSU’s Margaret Andrews and SFU’s Andy Yan look back at the 1918-1919 Spanish flu.

On this edition of Podcast, Margaret Andrews, history professor emerita from Washington State University, and Andy Yan, director of the Simon Fraser University City Program, join host Bob Mackin to compare the 1918-1919 epidemic with today’s COVID-19 crisis. 

“Masks was not a big issue; schools, open or closed, big issue,” Andrews said. “In photographs you will find masks were being worn, they were being manufactured locally, but it wasn’t the issue it is today. At least, not in Vancouver.”

Said Yan: “Look at how COVID has really amplified the kind of gaps on socio-economic lines, on labour. Some very uncomfortable truths that perhaps are as uncomfortable now as they were in 1918.”

Listen to the preview of Andrews and Yan’s Dec. 3 fundraising webinar for the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives. 

Plus Pacific Northwest and Pacific Rim headlines and commentary.

CLICK BELOW to listen or go to TuneIn or Apple Podcasts.

Now on Spotify!

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

Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: What can the Spanish flu tell us about today's pandemic?

For the week of Nov. 29, 2020:

Bob Mackin

A person who works in the same Victoria office building as Dr. Bonnie Henry has been infected by the coronavirus, has learned.

Neither the provincial health officer nor NDP Health Minister Adrian Dix have disclosed the case to the media. A prominent union leader says it is another reason why communication must be improved. 

B.C. Ministry of Health headquarters in Victoria (

A staff memo on Nov. 25 said a person on the second floor of 1515 Blanshard, the six-storey headquarters of the Ministry of Health, tested positive and the ministry was informed late last week.

Henry‘s office is on the fourth floor. The second floor houses the ministry’s finance office.

“Immediate steps were taken, facilities was advised and immediately implemented additional cleaning protocols at the location,“ said the memo, which was leaked to “Public health was notified of the positive result and spoke to the COVID-19 positive individual. Contact tracing was conducted to identify anyone who was in close contact with the employee in the workplace.”

The memo said those in close contact were notified directly and advised to self-isolate. However, there were complaints from staff who were not told that someone in the building had been infected.

Stephanie Smith (BCGEU)

“The reporting of a positive case in our workplace was a new experience for us. There are clear protocols in place from public health and also the public service as an employer, with a need to balance transparency while protecting the identity of the individual. Since this occurrence, we have heard from staff about the impact of notifying only staff located on the second floor,” said the memo.

“This has been a huge learning for us. We appreciate your feedback and we will be taking a broader communication approach should this happen again.“

Stephanie Smith, president of the BC Government and Service Employees Union, said in an interview that she was aware of the case at the ministry headquarters. She did not know whether the ill person is a member of BCGEU or a manager.

Smith said communication must be improved, because one department is informed and another is kept in the dark.

Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix (BC Gov)

“If local occupational health and safety committee members are not being pulled into the loop, there is clearly a lag time in that information,” Smith said. “That lag time where nobody is fully aware of what is happening is a perfect window and a perfect time for the further spread [of the virus].”

The building is named for Richard Blanshard, the first colonial governor of Vancouver Island from 1849-1851 and was originally the Vancouver Island headquarters of the B.C. Electric Co.

Henry announced a single-day record of 911 new cases on Nov. 27 and a further 11 deaths in the province. A total 395 people have died in B.C. from the virus and total cases will exceed the 31,000-mark over the weekend. Henry did not disclose how many cases are active. 

Currently, 301 people are hospitalized, including 69 in critical care or intensive care. Another 10,430 people in B.C. have been exposed and are being monitored for symptoms.

A reporter asked Henry generally about the risk to workplaces on Nov. 27, but she did not mention her own.

“Where we see transmission happening is often between staff, staff-to-staff,” she said. “We work with people every day and we forget that we bring that risk that we have in our home, in our community with us to our workplace too.”

Henry said workers should avoid sitting next to each other at lunchtime or gathering in small break rooms without masks. WorkSafeBC is stepping-up inspections and staff at government offices are allowed to work from home until at least the new year.

B.C. was considered a star in North America during the pandemic’s first wave in the spring, but its second wave case rate this fall is among the worst in Canada.

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Bob Mackin A person who works in the

Bob Mackin (Updated Feb. 3, 2021)

The victim of a violent daytime assault in a Surrey cul-de-sac said he needs facial and dental surgery.

Louis Huang, co-founder of the Vancouver Chinese Human Rights Watch Group, was punched and kicked while he was down Nov. 25 by two men who have been involved in ongoing protests on the street since September. 

The protests are linked to an anti-Chinese government campaign launched by a former aide to Donald Trump and a Chinese real estate tycoon living in exile in New York. The attack on Huang was captured on surveillance video. Huang was taken to hospital for his injuries, a broken bone under his right eye and a broken tooth.

Two men arrested after a violent assault Nov. 25 in Surrey.

Surrey RCMP officers were dispatched around 10:45 a.m. Nov. 25 to the 9700-block of 149 St. Officers arrested the two men. A report on the incident is pending for potential charges by Crown counsel, Cpl. Elenore Sturko told

“To see them run over and actually attack my neighbour’s friend, punch him and kick him down on the ground, that’s just scary,” resident Bob Petersen told CTV News Vancouver’s Jon Woodward.

Petersen said the protests have crossed the line into harassment and suggested it is time for Surrey city hall to seek a court order.

The two men were released with orders to stay away from the cul-de-sac, but several of their comrades appeared Nov. 26 on the street wearing box-like plastic coveralls. Mu Bai, 44, and Shiliang Yin, 31, were charged Jan. 29, 2021 with assault causing bodily harm. Bai’s next court date is Feb. 22, while Yin’s is Feb. 26, both in Surrey Provincial Court.

A group that purports to oppose the Chinese Communist Party has protested outside the house of journalist Bingchen “Benson” Gao since September. Gao has denied their claims that he is a spy for the Chinese government.

Huang said he was in the area because Gao asked him to go with him to Surrey city hall and Surrey RCMP headquarters on Nov. 25 “to ask them to pay more attention to the ongoing harassment.”

October group photo of protesters who targeted Bingchen Gao’s Surrey neighbourhood (GNews)

“These two guys came toward me, stood very close. I suddenly realized they had intention to attack me, it was too late,” Huang said.

Huang said he was smoking a cigarette at the time and the two men accused him of blowing smoke at them.

“They pretend to be anti-CCP, but they attack the real anti-CCP, actual pro-democratic activists around the world, so we have to oppose them,” Huang said.

The protesters are part of the New Federal State of China campaign created by Steve Bannon and Guo Wengui, who are also involved in the media startups GNews and GTV. Associates have staged protests against critics in other cities around North America. Gao has been critical of Guo, who is wanted for corruption in China. Guo was the developer of the dragon-shaped Pangu Plaza complex that opened for the Beijing 2008 Olympics. 

B.C. Securities Commission media relations and public affairs advisor Elise Palmer said GTV Media Group Inc., a subsidiary of Saraca Media Group Inc., was added to the provincial investment regulator’s caution list in May 2020, “warning British Columbians that neither GTV nor Saraca Media Group Inc. are registered to sell securities in B.C. and they have not filed a prospectus with the BCSC. B.C. residents are urged to exercise caution when dealing with companies that are not registered to issue shares.”

Guo Wengui (left) and Steve Bannon (GTV/YouTube)

Palmer declined to say whether GTV is under investigation. 

“To protect the integrity of the investigative process, the BCSC does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations, and does not provide details of investigations,” Palmer said.

The GNews website shows a group waving the blue and yellow New Federal State of China flags during an Oct. 6 protest outside the BCSC in downtown Vancouver. They also waved professionally printed signs reading “GTV Rocks”, “SC Show Me The Proof,” and “Take Down CCP.” 

The next day, GNews published a story boasting of the protests against Gao, with a group photo of more than 30 people, including one of Huang’s assailants. 

“For the past 20 days the brothers-in-arms have undertaken a punitive action against Huang Hebian in Vancouver,” the Oct. 7 report states. 

Louis Huang

Guo, who is also known as Miles Guo and Miles Kwork, is seen in a video circulating on social media on Nov. 24 saying that if Gao removes all videos from his channel and apologizes, “our comrades will stop their actions against him.”

“Although we haven’t shut the protest down, there are rights to protest, there are rights to conduct peaceful protests,” said Surrey RCMP Cpl. Elenore Sturko. “However, when see like [Wednesday], when things cross over into the realm of criminality, there will be action taken.” sought comment from Bannon and Guo, but did not receive a reply. 

Bannon was arrested on Guo’s yacht, the Lady May, on Aug. 20. He is denying charges that he defrauded donors to a campaign aimed at building part of Trump’s controversial wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

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Bob Mackin (Updated Feb. 3, 2021) The victim

Bob Mackin

A protest in a Surrey cul-de-sac that has happened almost daily since mid-September boiled over into a violent assault Nov. 25. 

Exclusive surveillance video from a resident of the neighbourhood near Bonaccord elementary school shows two men appearing to tackle a man on the road and then repeatedly kick him in the head.

Two men who were seen on video attacking Louis Huang on Nov. 25 in Surrey (Huang Hebian/Twitter)

The victim is Louis Huang of Vancouver Chinese Human Rights Watch, a harsh critic of the Chinese Communist Party and its United Front foreign influence campaign. Huang needed hospital treatment for his injuries.

Cpl. Elenore Sturko of the Surrey RCMP told that police were called around 10:45 a.m. Nov. 25 to the 9700-block of 149 St. Two men were arrested, but released with orders to stay away from the neighbourhood.

A report is pending for Crown counsel to consider charges. Sturko said police had previously made contact with those on both sides and are working with Surrey city hall to “see what avenues” there are to resolve the issue.

Although we haven’t shut the protest down, there are rights to protest, there are rights to conduct peaceful protests,” Sturko said. “However, when see like today, when things cross over into the realm of criminality, there will be action taken.”

Bing Chen Gao

The protesters purport to oppose the Chinese Communist Party and are affiliated with the New Federal State of China campaign backed by former Donald Trump strategist Steve Bannon and Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui. The target of the protests is journalist Bing Chen “Benson” Gao. The protesters have carried signs accusing Gao of spying on them for the Chinese government.

Gao has emphatically denied their accusation, calling it slanderous. Gao made headlines in 2016 when he was fired from the Global Chinese Press newspaper for a column critical of Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi.  

Update (Feb. 3, 2021): Mu Bai, 44, and Shiliang Yin, 31, were charged Jan. 29, 2021 with assault causing bodily harm. Bai’s next court date is Feb. 22, while Yin’s is Feb. 26, both in Surrey Provincial Court.

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Bob Mackin A protest in a Surrey cul-de-sac

For the week of Nov. 22, 2020:

Canadian Football League fans will have to wait another year for the 108th Grey Cup, because Canada’s beloved three-down tradition was sacked by the coronavirus pandemic.

Jim Mullin of Football Canada and TSN

But that did not stop CFL fans from gathering virtually on the Grey Cup Unite series of webcasts. On this week’s edition, listen to highlights of commissioner Randy Ambrosie on 2021 restart plans, BC Lions president Rick Lalecheur on keeping the business going after the passing of longtime owner David Braley. and reunions by the 2000 and 2011 Grey Cup-winning Lions, featuring Lui Passaglia and Geroy Simon.

Also hear Football Canada president Jim Mullin chime-in with his view from Bowen Island, B.C.

Plus Premier John Horgan and Dr. Bonnie Henry and Pacific Northwest and Pacific Rim headlines and commentary.

CLICK BELOW to listen or go to TuneIn or Apple Podcasts.

Now on Spotify!

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

Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: Grey Cup week went virtual, with optimism for a 2021 kickoff

For the week of Nov. 22, 2020:

Bob Mackin

British Columbia’s Legislature has finally admitted what reported last week: it was hacked.

Parliament Buildings, Victoria, on Aug. 13, 2020 (Mackin)

In a statement posted to the Legislative Assembly’s Twitter account before 9 a.m. Nov. 19, it confirmed there had been “unauthorized access to a small number of servers.”

It claimed the information technology staff contained the situation after noticing suspicious activity and took down the network on Nov. 10. But it does not explain why the website and email system remain down almost a week-and-a-half later.

“At this time there is no evidence of unauthorized access to or loss of Legislative Assembly or personal data as a result of this incident,” the statement said.

Clerk Assistant Artour Sogomonian told on Nov. 19 that contact had been made with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner on Nov. 11 and RCMP on Nov. 13. He said Microsoft found no indication that information had been accessed or personal data breached.

“As part of our secure resumption, our information technology team is planning a migration to a new web and email presence,” Sogomonian said. “The priority is to do this gradually in a secure manner. At this time, I cannot provide a definitive date for the full resumption of all services. The Legislative Assembly does have backup systems, but in situations such as this, time is required to fully recover securely.”

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth was Government House Leader until Sept. 21 when Premier John Horgan called the snap Oct. 24 election. Farnworth said the incident did not affect government operations.

Will the website and email system be back in service by Nov. 24, when MLAs are sworn-in? 

“That I am not able to answer at this point,” Farnworth said. “The IT experts are busy working to ensure that everything can be brought on when it is appropriate and safe.” 

It took almost three days for the Legislature to make its first public statement on Nov. 13, after sought comment from officials. The Legislature initially used the words “unscheduled maintenance” on a placeholder page. Several MLAs took to their own social media accounts to tell citizens that there was no email service for the time being. Some even complained they could not access their phone systems.


The official silence continued. Sergeant-at-Arms Greg Nelson referred queries to Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd, who did not respond. Sogomonian was designated the media lead but did not provide additional information until Nov. 19. also contacted the Legislature’s IT director David Derby, the government’s chief security officer Paul Stanley, spokespeople for the Office of the Premier, the Information and Privacy Commissioner and Attorney General David Eby.

They either did not reply or did not comment. The B.C. RCMP media relations office on Nov. 13 claimed it was unaware. 

On Nov. 18, Premier John Horgan set Nov. 24 as the date for a virtual swearing-in of MLAs and Nov. 26 for his new cabinet.

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Bob Mackin British Columbia’s Legislature has finally admitted

For the week of Nov. 15, 2020:

On this edition, host Bob Mackin is joined by Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith, author of Monsters of River and Rock: My Life As Iron Maiden’s Compulsive Angler.

Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith on a Fraser River catch-and-release sturgeon trip in 2008.

Smith’s book contains two chapters about rod and reel adventures in British Columbia: catch-and-release sturgeon fishing on the Fraser River in Chilliwack (the morning after falling off stage) and trout fishing at Skitchine Lodge near Kamloops.

Smith tells the story about his first floatplane ride, encounters with a bear and a moose, and rolling down the highway, with Kim Mitchell on the stereo.

“I just had the best couple weeks of my life, just fishing every day,” Smith said.

Also, hear highlights of a Nov. 9 media freedom web forum exploring disinformation and attacks on reporters’ credibility.

University of B.C. journalism professor Peter Klein cautioned that the end of Donald Trump’s presidency may not be the end of tough times for reporters in the U.S.

President-elect Joe Biden served under Barack Obama, whose administration routinely targeted whistleblowers and blocked freedom of information disclosures.

Plus Pacific Northwest and Pacific Rim headlines and commentary.

CLICK BELOW to listen or go to TuneIn or Apple Podcasts.

Now on Spotify!

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

Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: When the River Runs Deep

For the week of Nov. 15, 2020:

Bob Mackin (updated Nov. 15)

The British Columbia Legislative Assembly website and email system have been out of service since Nov. 10 due to a security incident, has learned. 

There is also no publicly announced target date for resumption of service. Officials are refusing to explain what happened and they are not commenting on whether the personal information of British Columbians has been compromised.

For the firs two days, the website showed only a photograph of the Parliament Buildings and this one liner: “We are currently performing unscheduled maintenance. We will be back soon.” 

What the B.C. Legislature website looked like on Nov. 13 (

For almost three days, the Legislative Assembly had not mentioned anything about the outage on its Twitter or Facebook accounts.

That changed just before 1 p.m. Nov. 13.

The B.C. Legislature account Tweeted that information technology staff took the website and network services down “late in the evening” Nov. 10. No reason was given.

“Our information technology team is working to securely restore services as soon as possible,” said the statement. “At this time, it is anticipated that the outage will continue through the weekend.”

On Nov. 16, the Legislature Tweeted another statement, at the same time Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Office Dr. Bonnie Henry were disclosing new record case numbers of coronavirus. 

“We are in the process of confirming information regarding the circumstances that led to the outage,” said a statement issued at 3:26 p.m. Nov. 16. “Further details will be provided once that work is complete.” sought comment from the Premier’s office. Spokesman George Smith declined.

Legislature staff is currently looking into this and the premier’s office will refrain from commenting as their work is ongoing,” Smith said.

Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd did not respond to a phone message on Nov. 13, after an email to her bounced back on a 24-hour delay.

Clerk Assistant Artour Sogomonian said, via the Legislature’s alternate, March 13-registered email account, that he “could not provide any further information beyond that contained in the statement.”

(Twitter) asked Sogomonian whether the RCMP or Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) were involved and whether the Legislature’s website and email system had been hacked. Sogomonian refused to answer and repeated his statement. Sogomonian also would not say whether the personal information of British Columbians was safe.

David Derby, the Legislative Assembly’s IT director, did not respond. 

OIPC Commissioner Michael McEvoy did not respond. His spokeswoman, Michelle Mitchell, said legislation prohibits McEvoy from discussing any information obtained while performing official duties. “Therefore, we cannot confirm or deny whether we have received a file,” Mitchell said.

Paul Stanley, the government’s chief security officer, said he was informed of the “unscheduled maintenance,” but his office is not investigating. “It apparently does not affect the main public service network at this time,” Stanley said by email.

Neither Attorney General David Eby nor Solicitor General Mike Farnworth replied to messages from Farnworth was the NDP government house leader when the Legislature was dissolved on Sept. 21 for the snap election.

The Legislature’s website contains debate transcripts and videos, committee reports, MLA profiles, financial reports and links to MLA offices. The outage also affects MLA office email systems, which contain communication with citizens. 

The B.C. election period formally ends Nov. 16, but no date has been announced for swearing-in of MLAs or a new cabinet. 

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Bob Mackin (updated Nov. 15) The British Columbia