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In today's Morning Brief, we have the story that Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been detained in China for more than two years, are to be tried for espionage over the coming week.

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Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor set to go on trial in China

After more than two years in prison, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are to be tried in China for espionage over the coming week.

"Our embassy in Beijing has been notified that court hearings for Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are scheduled to take place on March 19 and March 22, respectively," Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said yesterday in a media statement. 

"We believe these detentions are arbitrary and remain deeply troubled by the lack of transparency surrounding these proceedings."

Kovrig and Spavor were detained in China on Dec. 10, 2018 — nine days after Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver.

Meng was detained on a U.S. extradition request over allegations she lied to a Hong Kong banker in August 2013 about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The arrests of Kovrig and Spavor are widely seen as an act of retaliation by Beijing for Meng's arrest.

Michael Kovrig's wife, Vina Nadjibulla, said it was an emotional and difficult day for her and her family. "We suspected that this day was coming and that it was coming soon," she said.

Nadjibulla says she still doesn't know if her husband was informed of his upcoming trial. Read more on this story here.

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(Rebecca Blackwell/The Associated Press)

Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime serves during his second-round match against Sebastian Korda of the U.S., at the Mexican Open tennis tournament in Acapulco on Wednesday. Auger-Aliassime prevailed to move on to the quarter-finals.

In brief

The federal government is urging the provinces to use its COVID Alert app properly and more widely after a new report said that only five per cent of those who have tested positive for the virus have been given the information required to register their results. An interim report from a federal advisory council said that while the app has been downloaded more than 6.3 million times, only 20,000 people have entered the one-time key that lets the app know they have the virus. Once someone has tested positive, the provincial public health authority is supposed to issue that person a one-time key. Once the key is entered into the app, it sends notifications to other app users who have been within two metres of the infected person for 15 minutes or more. The report says that once people are given the one-time key, they enter it into the app only 80 per cent of the time. Read more about the use of the COVID Alert app. 

As COVID-19 vaccination appointments book up five days in advance in some parts of Ontario, an estimated one-third of long-term care workers — who have been eligible since December —  have not yet gotten their shots. According to a memo from the Ontario Ministry of Long Term Care dated March 8, an estimated 67 per cent of staff in nursing homes across the province have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, compared to over 95 per cent of residents. It's not clear how many of those workers haven't been vaccinated due to logistical issues, such as not being able to get into a COVID immunization clinic, versus how many are reluctant to get the shot at all. Just like in the broader Canadian population, vaccine hesitancy exists among long-term care workers — and the reasons are varied and complex, experts say. Read more on why some long-term care workers have yet to be vaccinated

Conservative party delegates from across the country begin a three-day virtual policy convention today — likely their last before the next federal election. But some of the most contentious social issues won't be up for debate. The more than 5,000 elected delegates on hand will vote on party policies for everything from national standards for service dogs to small nuclear reactors and the CBC. But efforts by the Campaign Life Coalition — a well-organized anti-abortion group that backed social conservatives like Derek Sloan and Leslyn Lewis in the last leadership race — failed to put at least one anti-abortion policy proposal before delegates. Notably, an effort to dump an established Conservative policy pledge — that a future Tory-led government "will not support any legislation to regulate abortion" — did not make the final cut. Read more here about the party's policy convention.

Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan's, recent interview with Oprah has renewed debate in some countries, including Canada, about the role of the monarchy. The spotlight has also fallen on sentiment in Barbados, as it looks to become the fourth Caribbean island to shed the final vestiges of British rule. With a small population of just under 300,000, Barbados announced last September that it would replace the Queen as head of state and become a republic. Some people on the island nation think Harry and Meghan's explosive interview should spark a discussion around the historical legacy of colonialism and address the topic of reparations. Read more here from CBC's Steven D'Souza.

WATCH | Barbados expected to cut ties with British royals:

Barbados expected to cut ties with British royals

The National

3 months ago

Your taxes might look a little different this year because of the pandemic. With special government assistance like the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) and new deductions for people who work from home, this tax season promises to be unique. The Canada Revenue Agency says it is expecting a flood of queries related to COVID-19 benefits. Personal finance expert Shannon Lee Simmons recently sat down with CBC for a look at what you need to know ahead of filing your tax return. Read more on this story here.

WATCH | Detailed or flat rate: Which filing method for working from home is for me?

Detailed or flat rate: Which filing method for working from home is for me?

CBC News

3 months ago

Now for some good news to start your Thursday: The pandemic has been isolating for many — but one Toronto neighbourhood has found a way to come together while staying safe. Residents on Roxton Road have held a concert outside every night since the beginning of lockdown to celebrate front-line workers and keep spirits up. Check out the video here.

Front Burner: Sarah Everard and a reckoning about violence against women

On the night of March 3, Sarah Everard, 33, was walking home from a friend's house in South London. She never made it.

After days of searching, police announced they had found her remains — and that a London Metropolitan police officer had been charged with her kidnapping and murder. 

This sparked a series of vigils and protests in London and an outpouring of stories from women who identify with Everard's story. Today on Front Burner, Guardian reporter Alexandra Topping on how Everard's killing has spurred a national conversation about violence against women in the U.K.

Today in history: March 18

1869: Pathologist Maude Elizabeth Seymour Abbott is born in St. Andrews East, Que. Denied entry to McGill's medical school because of her gender, she graduated from Bishop's and went on to become one of the first women to practise and teach medicine in Canada.

1929: Ground is broken for the Windsor-Detroit tunnel under the Detroit River.

1965: The first spacewalk takes place as Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov leaves his orbiting spaceship and floats in space. He left the two-man capsule for 10 minutes, secured by a five-metre lifeline. The extension supplied his spacesuit with oxygen and carried communication lines.

2020: U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirm that the border between the two countries would be shuttered to all but essential traffic in both directions in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19.

With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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