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Canada needs to keep Kovrig, Spavor at forefront of China relations, former detainee says – National



Canada needs to keep Kovrig Spavor at forefront of China relations former detainee says National


A Canadian man detained in China for two years says the government should keep the detention Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig top of mind when it comes to interactions with Chinese officials.

Canadian couple detained in China know what ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig might be going through

“At every meeting with Chinese officials, at every opportunity, even internationally, they have to keep it in the forefront,” Kevin Garratt told Mercedes Stephenson on The West Block.

“I didn’t know, really, what was going on for those two years. I was told oh, the government’s treating it very important. They’re trying to raise it at the highest levels, but I never really knew what was going on.

“But I would hope in this case, with the two Michaels, they are keeping it in the forefront, keeping it in the news and keeping it in front of every Chinese delegation or Chinese official that they meet.”

WATCH: Canadians once detained in China speak about their horrifying ordeal

Kevin Garratt and his wife Julia Garratt were detained by Chinese officials in August 2014 on spying allegations after living in the country for more than 30 years. Julia would spend six months in detention while Kevin wouldn’t be free for many months later.

Kovrig and Spavor were detained on Dec. 10, shortly after Chinese tech company Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver on an extradition request from the United States. She was later granted bail and is now awaiting further court proceedings.

China formally arrests Canadians detained amid Huawei spat

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said Thursday that Kovrig and Spavor have now been officially arrested on suspicion of gathering and stealing state secrets for “foreign forces.”

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government is “deeply concerned” about China’s latest move.

“It’s part of the process,” Garratt said of the official charges being laid against Kovrig and Spavor. “They’re not in more jeopardy. They’re in a different location, still being detained, still can’t do anything. But now they should be able to see a lawyer. But for me, I didn’t see a lawyer ‘till almost one year into our ordeal. So, it still might be some time before they can actually get access to a lawyer.”

WATCH: ‘We are so, so grateful’: Kevin Garratt thanks PM, government on safe return to Canada (2016) 

He went on to explain that while things were a little easier for him because he spoke Chinese, though he was still left in the dark about what would happen to him for several months.

“There’s still so many uncertainties and that’s really the biggest problem is you don’t know what’s going to happen and you’ll be waiting months and months and months and not knowing anything,” Garratt said.

Canada has ‘very few options’ to secure release of Canadians being held in China: experts

He explained that he spent his first six months of detention in residential surveillance, during which time guards monitored him 24/7. Afterwards, he was moved to a prison where he shared a cell with a rotating cast of 14 strangers for almost 19 months.

Other than the embassy visit once a month, Garratt never left his cell.

“There’s absolutely no privacy and you get very little space to move around,” he said.

WATCH: China formally arrests Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor for ‘spying’

“You basically have your little wooden bed that you’re on, a very thin cotton pad and it’s incredibly uncomfortable, and you don’t really know what’s going on with the other people around you. Some would be murderers, some would be petty thieves. There’d be drug addicts, there’d be policemen, there’d be all sorts of people that will pass through that cell and, you know, some of them are just not nice.”

He went on to stress the importance of regular consular visits for the detainees.

“So, if they can bring messages from their family, that’s incredibly good, incredibly important, but, you know, one thing that one of the consular officials said to me each time she left was, I hope I don’t see you again. And that just spoke to me like I hope so, too, because that just instilled hope in me.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali



Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu

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Harris accepts VP nomination



Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself



Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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