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Bob Mackin

ICBC is going no-fault next year.

Under proposed changes announced Feb. 6 by the NDP government, crash victims will be eligible for $7.5 million or more in personal assistance expenses for non-catastrophic injuries under the new model, which is expected to be in place by May 2021, after Legislative approval.

B.C. Premier John Horgan, Nov. 21, 2019 (Mackin)

The current system’s limit for accident benefits is $300,000.

The changes mean ICBC premiums will drop an average $400 per driver. The new system, which the NDP government calls “care-based,” would remove more than $1.5 billion in costs with the end of the litigation-based system in the first year.

The announcement was made five days before the Legislature reopens and less than two weeks before the next provincial budget.

It is the second major attempt at remaking ICBC after previously announced limits on lawsuits failed in B.C. Supreme Court and put the Crown corporation at risk of another $400 million in losses.

The BC Liberal opposition has argued for increased competition and even privatization of the Crown corporation. The NDP, however, have pointed to the debt left behind and the potential for insolvency after ICBC profits were diverted into general revenue by the previous BC Liberal government, which used the cash cow to keep other taxes artificially low.

It will take four to seven years to resolve all existing claims in court against ICBC, officials said.

The next scheduled provincial election is October 2021, but there is heavy speculation that British Columbians could go to the polls this fall, if the Green party’s minority government alliance with the NDP ends under a new Green leader to be chosen in June.

Horgan suggested theBreaker.news was being cynical when he was asked why the NDP waited until political headwinds and whether those suffering under the current system were unlucky to be injured in non-election years.

“What we’re trying to do is correct the system that has lost its way; you can be critical in your journal about our mechanisms and our timing, but we’re doing this in the best interest of British Columbians,” Horgan said.  “I’ve been candid from the beginning, when difficult issues roll our way, we’re not going to run away.”

“I wish that we’d been able to do everything differently, I wish I was six-foot-six and playing in the NBA, but we have to do what we have to do.”

“We’re at the 30-month mark of our government, we’ve accomplished much and we have much more to do,” Horgan continued. “For those who have been injured the last 30 months or even the past 30 years I well understand the challenges of continuing with chronic pain and that’s why we reached out to healthcare providers to help us come up with a care model, not just a low cost model.”

Attorney General David Eby, the minister responsible for ICBC, said B.C.’s insurance rates look outrageous and benefits miserly in comparison with provinces that have public insurers. He said Manitoba and Saskatchewan were models looked at by staff. He said the ICBC application to the B.C. Utilities Commission late this year will offer more information on the business case behind the change. 

“Right now if you’re injured in a crash, the system pushes you to call your lawyer, rather than your doctor,” Eby said.

Eby took issue with the no-fault monicker, because those who cause crashes will still be held accountable.

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Bob Mackin ICBC is going no-fault next year. Under

Has it really been 10 years?

If you’re in British Columbia, you’re likely to hear those six words this month when the 10th anniversary of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics is observed and the legacies pondered.

George Orr, director of Chasing the Dream. (Mackin)

One of the few who followed the Vancouver Olympics organization from bid to dissolution was George Orr, a veteran broadcaster. The product of his years of following the biggest and most-expensive peacetime event in Canadian history is his documentary, Chasing the Dream: The Real Story Behind Vancouver’s 2010 Olympic Games. It premieres Feb. 13 on CHEK TV at 8 p.m. 

Chasing the Dream follows the three men who drove the Games, Premier Gordon Campbell, Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee chair Jack Poole and CEO John Furlong.

“Everything they did was kept pretty well secret,” Orr said. “What they wanted was for people to see the Games at the end, not the process throughout. I was not welcome with my camera, it took me six years to convince Poole to talk to me. Eventually he did sit down, we talked about everything, including his cancer.” (Poole eventually succumbed to pancreatic cancer in a Vancouver hospital, after the Olympic torch relay began in Greece.)

Orr said the trio had good intentions to do a grand event to transform British Columbia. While the Games were a catalyst for a boom in B.C. real estate and tourism, Orr said the overall benefits are debatable. 

“I don’t think it worked,” Orr said. “It did in the moment, in the long run, no.”

Listen to part 1 of Bob Mackin’s two-part interview with George Orr about the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

Also on this edition, commentaries and headlines from the Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest.

Click below to listen or go to Apple Podcasts and subscribe. 

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

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Chasing the Dream
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Has it really been 10 years? If you’re

Bob Mackin

A Chinese citizen who normally lives in Surrey will plead guilty to a bribery charge in the college admissions scandal, according to court documents filed in Massachusetts.

Xiaoning Sui, 48, was arrested in Spain last summer after paying a $400,000 bribe to have her tennis-playing son recruited to the University of California Los Angeles soccer team so that he could study there. He had no prior competitive soccer experience, but was billed as a top player on two private teams in Canada.

(UCLA)

A Jan. 23 letter from federal prosecutor Andrew Lelling to Sui’s lawyer Martin Weinberg said that “at the earliest practicable date” Sui shall plead guilty to federal programs bribery.

The charge carries up to 10 years jail, three years probation and $250,000 fine, but the deal would mean Sui would be sentenced to the time she has served in Spain while waiting for extradition. She would also be subject to a year’s probation and a fine to be determined by a judge.

Sui was the 52nd person charged, but not the first from British Columbia.

March 2019-arrested-and-bailed David Sidoo pleaded not guilty to paying $200,000 for an imposter to write his sons’ college admissions tests.

Sui was arrested Sept. 16 in Spain. An unsealed March 2019 indictment alleges that the scheme’s ringleader, Rick Singer, a Chinese translator and a recruiter who is not named held a conference call on Oct. 24, 2018 with Sui. Singer allegedly told Sui to wire $100,000 to Singer’s bank account for payment to the coach at UCLA, Jorge Salcedo, in exchange for a recruitment letter.

“The translator translated what Singer said into Chinese, telling Sui: ‘Your son is admitted to this school through UCLA’s soccer team. That $100,000 is directly transferred to that soccer coach. So, although your son is a tennis player, because there is a place in soccer team, so it is the soccer team that takes your son.’ Sui responded, “OK,” according to the indictment.

Sui had sent pictures of her son playing tennis to the recruiter, who forwarded the photographs to Singer. Laura Janke, an assistant women’s soccer coach at the University of Southern California, sent a faked soccer profile of Sui’s son to Singer, that included a photograph of a different person playing competitive soccer.

Sui wired the sum two days after the conference call to a Key Worldwide Foundation account in Massachusetts. On Nov. 5, 2018 UCLA approved her son for admission and also awarded him a 25% scholarship.

Last Feb. 15, Sui wired $300,000 from Canada to a KWF account in Massachusetts as final payment for her son’s admission to UCLA.

Singer pleaded guilty to racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud and obstruction of justice and has agreed to cooperate with investigators.

theBreaker.news previously reported on Sui’s Surrey connection and that British Columbia small claims court records indicate Sui was sued by a Vancouver high-end luxury car subscription service. DK Conquest Luxury Rentals Inc. filed a claim last September for $22,920.11 in repairs and loss of use against Sui and husband Qiran Li. Li allegedly significantly damaged the front end of a 2014 BMW M5. Sui and Li paid a $7,500 damage deposit, but the insurance that Li bought from DK was void “due to reckless use of the vehicle.”

David Sidoo (left) and Justin Trudeau in 2016 (PMO)

Sui and Li are listed on the small claims action at different South Surrey addresses. One property is worth $2.99 million, the other $1.31 million. They do, however, have a common phone number listed on the statement of claim.

Sidoo, a former CFL player who became a wealthy stock market player, tops a list of 19 people named in an April 9, 2019 indictment. He faces charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. A trial has yet to be scheduled.

Sidoo is accused of paying more than $200,000 for Harvard-educated tennis coach Mark Riddell to write college entrance exams for sons Dylan and Jordan Sidoo, neither of whom are charged.

If convicted, David Sidoo could face up to 20 years in prison.

Riddell pleaded guilty on April 12 to fraud and money laundering in the scheme hatched by mastermind Singer, who admitted that he “created a side door that would guarantee families would get in.”

Prosecutors allege Riddell traveled from Tampa, Fla. to Vancouver and used false identification to pose as Dylan Sidoo to write an SAT [Scholastic Aptitude Test] test on Dec. 3, 2011 at a venue that has not been disclosed.

Riddell allegedly traveled to Vancouver again, to write a test on June 9, 2012 that is described in the indictment as a “Canadian high school graduation exam.” The venue for the exam remains undisclosed.

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Bob Mackin A Chinese citizen who normally lives

Bob Mackin

Call it Lawyerpalooza.

British Columbia’s public inquiry into money laundering will include a “who’s who” of more than two dozen lawyers representing the 18 parties with standing when it gets underway next month.

Lawyer Marie Henein (HHLLP.ca)

“People lawyer up,” said Attorney General David Eby when asked in June 2018 about the prospects for a public inquiry. Premier John Horgan finally announced one in May of last year. It will cost at least taxpayers at least $15 million.

McMillan LLP’s Shea Coulson is representing BMW at the Cullen Commission. Mark Skwarok and Melanie Harmer of the same firm are the lawyers for Great Canadian Gaming Corp., which owns River Rock Casino Resort, the epicentre of the money laundering epidemic.

Competitor Gateway Casinos has two layers from Lawson Lundell (Laura Bevan and Meg Gaily) and one one from Bennett Jones (David Gruber).

Gruber has a BC Liberal and federal Liberal pedigree. He chairs the Vancouver-Granville federal Liberal riding association and helped Peter Wall put together the controversial pre-election ad campaign for mayoral candidate Hector Bremner in 2018. Bennett Jones is the law firm where former BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark is a senior advisor. 

Bill Smart (Hunter Litigation)

B.C. Lottery Corporation is retaining Hunter Litigation Chambers’ Bill Smart and Shannon Ramsay. Smart is a veteran criminal defence lawyer and former B.C. Supreme Court judge.

The Crown gambling company paid Hunter Litigation (aka Kardahl/Smart/Stephens/Oulton) $1.637 million in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2019. CEO Jim Lightbody is represented by Robin McFee and Jessie Meikle-Kahs of Sudden, McFee and Roos LLP.

As first reported by theBreaker.news in November, fired BCLC vice-president of security Robert Kroeker’s lawyer is Marie Henein, the flamboyant Toronto lawyer who represented Jian Gomeshi and Vice Admiral Mark Norman. Kroeker has a second lawyer from Henein Hutchison, Christine Mainville.

Government of Canada and the B.C. Government each have a trio: Jan Brongers, Judith Hoffman and B.J. Wray for Ottawa and Jacqueline Hughes, Charisse Friesen and Chantelle Rajotte for Victoria. Jitesh Mistry for the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, which represents casino workers.

David Gruber (Bennett Jones)

The inquiry is overseen by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen and has its own nine-person steal team headed by Brock Martland and Patrick McGowan. (Martland was a guest on theBreaker.news Podcast last October.)

The inquiry legal team also includes Tam Boyar, Nicholas Isaac, Alison Latimer, Eileen Patel, Steven Davis, Kyle McCleery and Kelsey Rose.

The inquiry begins Feb. 24-28 with opening statements by participants at the Federal Court of Canada in downtown Vancouver.

It continues May 25-June 26 with overview hearings. The main event is Sept. 8-Dec. 22, when witnesses will be called to testify about gambling, real estate, legal, accounting, banking and a myriad of other topics. Those granted participation status by Cullen will be allowed to cross-examine witnesses.

An interim report is expected Nov. 15, 2020 and a final report in May 2021.

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Bob Mackin Call it Lawyerpalooza. British Columbia’s public

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was back in a court of law Jan. 20-24 to fight the United States’ extradition bid. But what went on outside, in the court of public opinion, overshadowed the proceedings.

theBreaker.news brought you the viral video, viewed more than 100,000 times, of hired protesters who lacked both passion and knowledge of the cause. theBreaker.news also combined with documentary filmmaker Ina Mitchell and CTV News Vancouver’s David Molko to reveal how the private security company trusted by the court to prevent Meng from fleeing is also working for the People’s Republic of China consulate.

On this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, host Bob Mackin recaps the two stories. Hear from two of the hired protesters and Ivy Li, a core member of the Canadian Friends of Hong Kong. 

Plus commentaries and headlines from the Pacific Rim and the Pacific Northwest. 

Click below to listen or go to Apple Podcasts and subscribe. 

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

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Rent-a-crowd pollutes court of public opinion in Meng Wanzhou case
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Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was back in

Bob Mackin

The end of the Chinese Year of the Pig and the start of the Year of the Rat was marked at Aberdeen Centre in Richmond on Jan. 24, with a bevy of politicians.

While Richmond Coun. Bill McNulty was in his traditional God of Fortune costume, what came out of the mouths of other politicians there is of note.

Vancouver Quadra Liberal MP Joyce Murray, the Minister of Digital Government (who WeChats despite parliamentary security warnings) gave greetings on behalf of Prime Minister Just Trudeau.

She almost didn’t get the chance, after the emcee tried to keep the program moving along.

Also attending: Tourism Minister Lisa Beare.

In late August, Beare presided over a photo op at the World Champion Gym in Richmond. The venue’s general manager is Paul King Jin, the accused loan shark and money launder who is the defendant in the government’s civil forfeiture action.

Beare is still not explaining after the bad optics of last August. She didn’t want to stop and comment at Aberdeen because she said she was en route to the women’s room. She went past the restroom and took a back door out of the mall.

Meanwhile, BC Liberal MLA for Richmond-Steveston, John Yap, said he misspoke when he toasted the 20th anniversary of the Macau handover to China.

Yap, standing beside Chinese consul-general Tong Xiaoling at the Four Seasons Hotel, spoke of “two countries, one system.”

Since 1997 in Hong Kong and 1999 in Macau, the semi-autonomous government promise has been “one country, two systems.”

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Bob Mackin The end of the Chinese Year

Bob Mackin

The court-approved security company that monitors Meng Wanzhou has also been working for the People’s Republic of China consulate, theBreaker.news has learned.

That is “very unsettling,” according to Ivy Li, a member of a pro-Hong Kong group which has protested outside the Granville Street consular mansion.

Uniformed staff from Lions Gate Risk Management working outside the Chinese consulate in Vancouver. (Ina Mitchell/@inamitchellfilm)

Video, shot Sept. 28, 2019 by documentary filmmaker Ina Mitchell and aired on CTV News Vancouver, shows two Lions Gate Risk Management Group Ltd. employees standing outside the mansion during an anti-government. One of them is the same bodyguard who regularly escorts Meng to her B.C. Supreme Court dates.

Both Lions Gate staffers wore high visibility vests and jackets with the company’s name, lion’s mane logo and “scene security” emblazoned on front and back. They were spotted on-duty at the same location numerous times throughout October, even when there were no protests.

“They’re hiring the same people that are supposed to be watching to ensure that Meng Wanzhou is not going to flee, but they hire the same people to observe the protesters,” said Li, a core member of the Canadian Friends of Hong Kong. “This is worth looking into. What kind of potential conflict of interest is there? Why the security company and the same persons are playing different roles and how are they going to balance those roles and what is the reason for doing it?”

In December 2018, as part of Meng’s bail conditions, Justice William Ehrcke agreed to her lawyers’ recommendation and appointed Lions Gate as Meng’s round-the-clock security detail. Lions Gate’s job is to ensure Meng does not go home to China and report to court while awaiting extradition to face fraud charges in the United States. Meng is responsible for paying Lions Gate.

Meng Wanzhou and her Lions Gate security bodyguard (Bob Mackin)

When theBreaker.news began asking questions last fall, Lions Gate CEO Scot Filer did not deny his company was working for an arm of the Chinese government, but he cited client confidentiality. The company’s COO, Doug Maynard, responded this week to CTV News Vancouver reporter David Molko along the same lines.

“Lions Gate is hired by clients because of our experience and expertise in providing protective and risk management services,” Maynard wrote in an email. “All services are provided on an apolitical basis in accordance with security programs regulations and the laws of British Columbia and Canada. We do not comment on our clients or the services provided to them.”

Leo Knight, former COO of Paladin Security, said he had no problem with Lions Gate working both jobs: “A professional is a professional, whatever the assignment.” However, a retired RCMP superintendent, who is now a security consultant and private investigator in Ontario, said it “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

“If it was running it, it’s a conflict of interest. I would think that they would have to get clearance from the court,” Garry Clement of Clement Advisory Group told CTV. “The objectivity around ensuring she remains in the country, ensuring she appears in court, that, in my view, has to have an arm’s length from China.”

Lawyers for the Attorney General of Canada, which is handling the extradition case on behalf of the U.S. government, originally opposed Meng’s release after her Dec. 1, 2018 arrest at Vancouver International Airport.

When asked, the Department of Justice originally had no comment about Lions Gate doing double duty, saying that it was not responsible for foreign nations’ diplomatic security. But it now says it is “aware” that privately owned Lions Gate is “providing security and facilitating situational awareness as part of Ms. Meng’s bail conditions.”

The department did not directly address the issue of Meng’s bodyguard also working at the consulate.

theBreaker.news sought comment from the People’s Republic of China consulate, but did not receive a reply.

Huawei’s Canadian vice-president Benjamin Howes said that Meng’s security firm was assigned by the court and the company was unfamiliar with any of their other business.

Private security companies in B.C. are provincially regulated and the court is also under the auspices of the province. A query to the Ministry of the Attorney General and Ministry of Solicitor General yielded a reply stating the B.C. government “takes no position on a court-ordered bail arrangement.” There have been no complaints noted against Lions Gate under the Security Service Act during the past three years.

The Sept. 28 anti-government protest featured a mock funeral for the Chinese Communist Party, just days before China’s government celebrated the 70th anniversary of Communist Party rule. Protesters also waved signs urging the Chinese government to free Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the Canadians who were arrested in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Meng on the U.S. warrant.

Around the same time that Lions Gate staff donned uniforms and began working outside the consulate last fall, a white and red barricade appeared on the driveway, just outside the compound’s gate. Lions Gate staff also began parking a black SUV on the driveway, to block any protesters from accessing the area, which is under video surveillance from multiple cameras.

Meanwhile, arguments wrapped up Jan. 23 in the first four-day hearing to determine whether Meng should be extradited to face fraud charges in the U.S. Assoc. Chief Justice Heather Holmes has reserved judgement.

Canadian government lawyers, on behalf of the U.S., say there is ample evidence that Meng lied to HSBC in 2013 to hide the fact of a Huawei subsidiary doing business in Iran, in defiance of international sanctions. Meng’s lawyers say she should be freed because the Canadian fraud law is different from the U.S. and that the case is really about sanctions that no longer apply between Canada and Iran.

Meng Wanzhou’s bodyguard also at work at the People’s Republic of China consulate (Ina Mitchell/@inamitchellfilm)

Among the observers in the gallery at the Law Courts on Jan. 23 was Tong Xiaoling, the consul general in Vancouver, and Hu Qiquan, the local head of the Communist Party’s United Front foreign influence program.

The hearings, which began Jan. 20, were overshadowed by a bizarre display outside the Law Courts by a group of hired protesters.

theBreaker.news reported that two of the protesters admitted they were lured with the promise of $100 to what they thought was a video shoot. Upon arrival, they were given signs that said “Free Ms. Meng. Bring Michael home. Trump stop bullying us. Equal justice.”

The protesters approached by theBreaker.news were dispassionate and lacked knowledge of the case. Actress Julia Hackstaff later told theBreaker.news she fled without being paid after reporters started asking her questions she was unable to answer. She realized that it was not a film production, but a protest. A Twitter video of the protest has been viewed almost 100,000 times.

Who organized them is still a mystery.

CCTV reporter Zhang Sen denied reports by the Wenxuecity.com Chinese news website that claimed the state-owned broadcaster was involved.

To be the chief journalist dispatched by China Central Television, I can confirm you that I have never known those protesters. I have nothing to do with this farce,” Zhang said by email to theBreaker.news.

There were as many as four people involved in helping recruit the small crowd on short notice. theBreaker.news understands a woman named Helen with a Saskatchewan phone number was actively involved. She has not replied to phone messages. 

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Bob Mackin The court-approved security company that monitors

Bob Mackin

The case in favour of Meng Wanzhou’s extradition to the United States is so simple that the Department of Justice’s most senior lawyer said he could have finished his arguments and sat down within the first hour of the Jan. 22 Vancouver hearing.

Robert Frater (Government of Canada)

As it was, Department of Justice chief general counsel Robert Frater kept standing in B.C. Supreme Court and talked for another hour. When he was finished, Assoc. Chief Justice Heather Holmes agreed the afternoon session was not necessary.

“Ours is not a complex theory of this case,” Frater told B.C. Supreme Court. “Lying to a bank in order to get banking services that creates a risk of economic prejudice is fraud. Fraud, not sanctions violations, is at the heart of this case.”

Lawyers for Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, are contesting the application to send Meng to New York for a trial. They told Holmes that because Canada discontinued sanctions against Iran in 2016, the U.S. fraud charges should not apply. Meng is accused of fraud for misleading HSBC in 2013 to think that Huawei subsidiary SkyCom was a separate company, so that Huawei could do business with Iran. She is living in her Vancouver mansion on $10 million bail and curfew conditions. 

Frater said the extradition hearing requires that the court consider whether there is some evidence on all the elements of the offence. He said there is plenty. 

“There was a misrepresentation about the relationship between Huawei and SkyCom,” Frater said. “Can there be any doubt about the [knowledge] of the misrepresentation?

“The meeting between Ms. Meng and the HSBC official was arranged to quell fears about the Huawei/SkyCom relationship after the Reuters news articles occurred. A deliberate misrepresentation on any understanding of the facts.”

Meng Wanzhou in Stanley Park (B.C. Supreme Court exhibits)

That meeting, on Aug. 22, 2013 in a Hong Kong restaurant, occurred the same day HSBC agreed to finance Huawei to the tune of $150 million.

While Meng’s lawyers earlier argued that HSBC suffered no risk or loss, Frater emphasized their failure to mention the risk to HSBC’s reputation.

“HSBC concerns were not just regulatory concerns,” he said. “The bank was also concerned with reputational risk, if you are the banker of choice for an Iranian business. HSBC was already under a deferred prosecution agreement for dealing with Libya, Sudan and Burma.”

Frater said the risk to reputation from fraud is enough to satisfy the elements of the offence and pave the way for Meng to be extradited. Frater said HSBC could not make an accurate assessment of its financial risk, because of Meng. Every business, he said, has to be concerned about its reputation.

“That is enough on preliminary inquiry. They’ve ignored that,” he said. “You have to be in a position to know who you are dealing with because you’re already behind the 8-ball, reputation-wise, from having entered into that deferred prosecution agreement.”

The hearing will resume on Jan. 23 at 10 a.m. Holmes is expected to reserve her decision. 

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Bob Mackin The case in favour of Meng

Bob Mackin

A local actress said she would never have gone to the Law Courts in Vancouver on the morning of Jan. 20 had she known she would wind up in a manufactured protest seeking freedom for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Julia Hackstaff told theBreaker.news and CTV News Vancouver that she thought she was going to be an extra in a film shoot when she was contacted the night before by a Facebook acquaintance. She found herself among about two dozen young people holding signs that read: “Free Ms. Meng. Bring Michael home. Trump stop bullying us. Equal justice.”

Actress Julia Hackstaff said she was duped into protesting in favour of Meng Wanzhou on Jan. 20 (Mackin)

B.C. Supreme Court has gained the attention of worldwide media outlets while it hears the extradition case against Meng, who the United States wants to try on fraud charges. Oddly, the signs Hackstaff and others held referred to Meng as “Ms. Meng” and mentioned “Michael,” in the singular. China arrested not one, but two Canadian men named Michael — diplomat Kovrig and businessman Spavor — in apparent retaliation for Meng’s detention in December 2018. 

Hackstaff believes there were multiple layers of organization and wants to know who was ultimately in charge, “so that person gets called out.”

“At the end of the day, it’s really unfair that I was there for only a few minutes and I’m the only name and face being singled out,” Hackstaff told theBreaker.news in a Jan. 21 interview.

Hackstaff said she was contacted Sunday night by a Facebook acquaintance about a possible background performer gig on Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. that was going to pay her $100.

When she arrived outside the courthouse, she was told the group would be meeting at the Holiday Inn. By the time she arrived at the nearby hotel, everyone had departed. She was then told to return to the courthouse entrance on Smithe Street where the group had assembled.

Actress Julia Hackstaff on the set of a real production (Instagram)

Hackstaff, who was accompanied by her roommate, suddenly began to see TV cameras. Reporters were approaching her with questions that she was unable to answer.

“It made no sense, we were never given any information on anything and normally even if you’re an extra or background performer there’s always someone telling you where to go or what to do or what you’re supposed to say,” she said.

Hackstaff realized that no one called “action!” It was not a film production, but a protest. So Hackstaff and her roommate left in a panic without collecting any payment. She said she informed the person who had recruited her, but she said he was equally surprised.

The organizers, whoever they were, “could’ve done a better job at lying to us,” Hackstaff said.

“I had read a few headlines about the case in the last few weeks, but I don’t really know about the case,” she said.

A man told documentary filmmaker Ina Mitchell outside the courthouse on Jan. 20 that he had been tricked to appear at the protest. The man, who declined to provide his name, said he was recruited to appear in a music video for $100.

“When there was all these cameras, for a long time I believed it was filming a scene where someone was coming out of a car,” he said. “So I was genuinely like, OK, fine to do this. Then reporters start showing up and, I don’t feel great about this anymore. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

He said he started asking questions, but was faced with a “merry-go-round of non-answers.”

Information obtained by theBreaker.news indicates there were as many as four layers of people involved, either actively or passively. A local producer, who asked that his name not be published said he was contacted on Sunday while at a family function by a woman who needed a group of people to hold signs on Monday morning. The producer said he was provided no details. theBreaker.news understands a woman named Helen with a Saskatchewan phone number was actively involved. She has not replied to phone messages. 

theBreaker.news asked executives from Hill and Knowlton, which represents Huawei, whether the lobbying and public relations firm had any involvement whatsoever in the bizarre protest. Western Canada general manager Stephen Smart and vice-president Meaghan Campbell did not respond to an email query.

Mainland Chinese student protests last August in Vancouver were similarly manufactured. theBreaker.news reported that a website for an arm of the Communist Party’s Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese revealed that the organizer was the Canadian Vancouver Shanxi Natives Society, which has links to the local consulate.

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Bob Mackin A local actress said she would

Bob Mackin

One of the protesters outside the Law Courts who was urging freedom for Meng Wanzhou on Jan. 20 said he was promised $100.

The man, who refused to provide his name or appear on camera, spoke with documentary filmmaker Ina Mitchell. [Click below to hear exclusive audio.]

Students protested in favour of freeing Meng Wanzhou. (Mackin)

The man said he was told he was going to be in a music video. But he ended up outside the Law Courts on the opening day of the extradition hearing for the chief financial officer of Huawei. He held a letter-size paper sign with “Equal Justice” written on it.

“That was the promise [$100 to be in a music video], and then it was like, when there was all these cameras, for a long time I believed it was filming a scene where someone was coming out of a car,” he said. “So I was genuinely like, OK, fine to do this. Then reporters start showing up and, I don’t feel great about this anymore. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

He said he started asking questions, but was faced with a “merry-go-round of non-answers.”

Outside the Smithe Street entrance, where Meng would arrive with her court-appointed security guards, the group of two-dozen students carried similar signs urging an end to the extradition hearings. Their signs said “Free Ms. Meng. Bring Michael home. Trump stop bullying us. Equal justice.”

 

Oddly, the signs referred to Meng as “Ms. Meng” and mentioned “Michael,” in the singular.

China arrested two Canadian men named Michael, diplomat Kovrig and businessman Spavor, in apparent retaliation for Meng’s detention in December 2018. They languish in jail in China, cut-off from their families and lawyers. Meanwhile, Meng lives under a curfew as part of her $10 million bail conditions in her Shaughnessy mansion which, coincidentally, is mortgaged by HSBC. The same bank she is accused by the U.S. government of defrauding.

Actress Julia Hackstaff protesting in favour of Meng Wanzhou on Jan. 20 (Mackin)

theBreaker.news asked some of those who were holding signs who they were, how they were affiliated and whether they were paid. None co-operated. One of the protesters said he was unaware of the extradition treaty between Canada and the U.S. and did not know the facts of the case. Another would not deny that the group was paid to appear outside the courthouse on the rainy Monday morning. 

Keean Bexte of The Rebel News reported that one of the protesters was actress Julia Hackstaff. Her social media accounts show no explicit evidence of prior social activism.

Hackstaff’s IMDB bio credits include an appearance as a cult member in a 2019 video short called Monogamy, directed by Kick Chen.

The message on the signs echoed a Globe and Mail guest commentary last week by Eddie Goldenberg, a lawyer with the Bennett Jones law firm who was the chief of staff to former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Chretien is now a lawyer with Dentons, an international law firm with offices throughout China. Goldenberg is the latest Liberal Party member to advocate for the Trudeau Liberal government to set a precedent and meddle in the case.

CLICK BELOW: hear man tell Ina Mitchell that he was tricked into protesting in favour of Meng Wanzhou.

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Bob Mackin One of the protesters outside the