The House

The House: U.S.-China faceoff puts Canada in an awkward position

This week on The House, we talk to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale about national security issues and the threat China poses to Canada because of Meng Wanzhou's extradition. We sit down with Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott and activist Cindy Blackstock to get an update on measures to help Indigenous children in foster care. Finally, we ask the ITK's Natan Obed how he feels about new updates to the Nutrition North food program.
Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou's arrest in B.C. has caused headaches for Canada as China responds. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode49:59

U.S. President Donald Trump's stated willingness to overthrow the extradition of Huawei's CFO to secure a trade deal undermines international relations, according to a legal expert.

Extradition treaties are "time-honoured" agreements, and Canada and the U.S. have an especially "long-standing" extradition arrangement, Mary Fan, a law professor at the University of Washington and a former federal prosecutor, told The House.

Trump recently mused online about intervening in Meng's case. Fan said his actions could have serious blowback.

"This embarrassment may give other nations reason to consider how expeditiously to respond to U.S. requests," she told host Chris Hall.

Meng Wanzhou, an executive with the telecommunications firm Huawei, was arrested in British Columbia because she was wanted in the U.S. for allegedly violating sanctions against Iran in her business dealings.

Security experts have warned Canada about doing business with Huawei, raising concerns about the close relationship between the company and the Chinese government.

She has been released on bail and the U.S. has yet to formally file the paperwork for her extradition.

The U.S. has 60 days from the date of her arrest to file an official request, along with the supporting documents.

Canada has found itself caught in the middle of an escalating dispute between China and the United States after authorities here arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on behalf of the U.S. who is seeking her extradition. We discuss this and other national security issues with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. 13:44

While questions about the extradition linger, Canada is considering whether to join several of its Five Eyes international intelligence partners in banning Huawei from accessing the country's 5G networks.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said no conclusion has been reached on that front, but talks continue with the objective to modernize telecommunications networks while keeping them secure.

The government has yet to decide whether to classify Huawei as a security threat.

Goodale said that decision is "very actively developing," but he is not at liberty to say more at this point.

Michael Kovrig might not be the only Canadian in trouble in China. Kovrig, an employee of Global Affairs Canada who is on leave to work with an NGO, was detained there on Monday. And now the whereabouts of a second Canadian, who recently reported being questioned by Chinese authorities, are unknown. 5:10

"You don't want to embed something in your technology that makes you insecure or unsafe," he said.

Meanwhile, Fan said she wonders if the president's Twitter flippancy could cause a breakdown of extradition norms.

When the justice system is mixed up with other things, like trade and politics, it "certainly undermines the trust and reciprocity," she said.

"It's kind of, frankly, embarrassing."

Meng's next court appearance is Feb. 6.


Frustrations linger around treatment of Indigenous children

Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott will table a new bill in 2019 to help return Indigenous children to their families, instead of throwing them into the foster system. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Both the government and Indigenous activists say it's time to act now to change the way the foster care system operates — but they don't see eye-to-eye on the pace of reform.

The Liberal government has held roundtables, consultations, conferences and meetings to try to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in Canada's foster care system.

Two weeks ago, Ottawa announced legislation, developed with Indigenous leaders, to hand authority over Indigenous children in the foster system to First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities.

More than half of children under 14 in foster care are Indigenous, even though they make up less than eight per cent of children in Canada.

Though there are signs of progress — including that new legislation, which Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott will be championing in the new year — advocates still say things are moving too slow.

"I worry sometimes that governments like talking to avoid doing," Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, told The House.

Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott is here to discuss the work done by her ministry in 2018, including legislation coming in January that aims to reverse a pattern of Indigenous children being snatched from their homes and thrust into the foster care system. 11:36

"I've seen lots of documents written up that look really nice. What I want to make sure is that all those supports are in place so it actually works when children are affected by it."

Those supports should include addressing poverty, trauma and substance use in the communities, Blackstock said. If you put children back into disadvantaged situations, the cycle will continue, she added.

Philpott agreed there's still work to do and acknowledged that the system's default action still isn't to leave children with their families.

New legislation will give control and responsibility to First Nations, Inuit and Métis governments with a goal to reduce the huge number of Indigenous children in foster and group homes. But the announcement is being met with mixed reaction. 2:12

"I would say that the situation is not yet reformed to that extent," the minister said to host Chris Hall. "It is absolutely better for all if you find a way to support that family and keep that family intact."

Philpott vowed the legislation will be law before the 2019 election campaign starts in the summer.

Cindy Blackstock has spent a decade fighting to get equal funding for the health care, education and other services needed by indigenous children. She discusses what the government still has left to do. 5:07

Northern food security program updates were 'never designed' for Inuit, leader says

People across the North weighed in on potential changes to Nutrition North, but there are still unanswered questions even after the government updated the program. (Nick Murray/CBC)

The long-awaited changes to the federal government's food program in the North have missed the mark, says the leader of Canada's largest Inuit organization.

"The government of Canada is telling Inuit what to eat," Natan Obed, the president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, told The House.

On Monday, the Liberals announced an update to the Nutrition North program, which included increased subsidies for certain foods and added more foods to that approved list.

However, few details were provided on how they plan to ensure the full subsidy is being passed on to Northerners. Critics of the program say the subsidies will benefit retailers more than the residents.

Food security in the North has always been a problem policy makers have struggled with, as prices crept up to incredible sums — like $70 for a watermelon and $26 for a jug of orange juice.

The newest changes come after Inuit groups walked away from working group consultations earlier this year, frustrated with the government's approach to reforming Nutrition North. Obed called it "tokenism and optics."

Despite the changes to Nutrition North, Obed said that as long as there's a lack of transparency and accountability, the program will fail.

"No matter how it's tweaked, it's not going to satisfy the interests of the people it's intended to serve," he told host Chris Hall.  

He pointed out benefits of the program, like the fact that it accounts for more traditional foods like caribou, seal and whale, and added he hopes the government eventually will recognize that cooperating with Inuit as the program is revised is critical.

But he said he's concerned about the continuing food challenges, the income gap and clarity on the subsidies.

"This was never designed for Inuit."

ITK President Natan Obed tells us how he feels about the changes announced on Monday to the Nutrition North program. 7:49

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