The opioid crisis and record-setting death counts caused by fentanyl flooding into Canada could get worse because of a growing diplomatic dispute with China, sources have informed Global News.
Canadian law enforcement agencies have found that fentanyl and its chemical precursors are mostly produced in southern China factories and sent to North America via shipping containers, and in the mail.
In public, Canada’s federal government claims there is co-operation with China in the fight against fentanyl. It isn’t politically feasible for Ottawa to openly criticize Beijing on the opioid crisis, especially as the two governments pursue deeper trade ties.
But behind the scenes, sources say frustration is growing over China’s inaction.
“This is a very hot issue diplomatically right now,” a source with knowledge of international policing said.
The situation has gone from bad to worse, after Canada recently turned down China’s request to insert a new police liaison officer in China’s Vancouver consulate.
“It’s a huge fight with China right now, and if you anger the Chinese they won’t work with you,” said a source, who could not be identified. “The fentanyl coming into Canada is going to get worse. Nothing will happen because we have to satisfy what they (the Chinese government) want.”
What China wants, is freedom in B.C. to pursue alleged corruption suspects and financial fugitives, including a suspect accused of absconding with about $1 billion from a Beijing company. The suspect is laundering the money in Vancouver real estate, a source said, and using Vancouver as a hub to launder dirty money around the world.
China’s request to send a police liaison to Vancouver was rejected by Canada’s department of Global Affairs because of national security concerns, according to a source.
The concern is the police liaison could have worked for China’s Ministry of State Security, which is the non-military agency responsible for China’s counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence and political security operations.
“There are cases where people come to Canada working for the Ministry of State Security,” a source said.
It is not known what triggered Canada’s suspicion in this case, but reportedly, the so-called Five Eyes intelligence countries, including Canada, Australia, and the U.S., have recently increased information sharing on China’s alleged foreign influence, investment and spying campaigns.
Global News requested interviews with Global Affairs officials regarding the diplomatic dispute but the requests were declined.
A brief prepared statement did not address or refute the alleged case.
“Canadian and Chinese authorities continue to work together on law enforcement and legal-judicial issues, including fentanyl and opioids,” Global Affairs spokesman Guillaume Bérubé wrote.
Global News repeatedly contacted officials in China’s embassies in Ottawa and Vancouver to ask questions for this story, but was unable to obtain responses.
In an interview, Conservative critic for foreign affairs Erin O’Toole said “We have people dying. And if they are slow to crack down on production facilities that are perpetuating this horrible drug … the very fact that China might be dragging its feet on investigating and shutting down production facilities in Mainland China, is deeply concerning. And we should raise it at the highest level.”
And regarding the allegation that China is seeking diplomatic concessions from Canada in order to crack down on fentanyl exports, O’Toole said: “There should be no diplomatic quid pro quo. There are lives at stake here.”
Meanwhile, Senator Vern White, a former Ottawa police chief, said Canada should take punitive trade actions if China will not act to stem fentanyl arriving in North America from state-regulated factories in China.
“China has shown no willingness to stop this,” White said in an interview. White said his colleagues in the United States tell him they are concerned about fentanyl from China flowing south through B.C.
“Imagine if we were producing fentanyl in factories and sending it into the U.S.,” White said.
It is not just China’s lack of action on fentanyl imports that is hindering Canadian efforts to crack down on illicit opioid supply. Police experts interviewed by Global News say that Canada doesn’t have the human resources or aggressive policing strategies needed to mount complicated transnational organized crime investigations.
Veterans in drug-trafficking investigations say that Canadian privacy and court procedure time limits also tend to severely limit pursuit of international criminals in Canada, in comparison to investigations by United States and Australian federal police.
Sources have said that Canadian police must file hundreds of pages of evidence in order to get phone intercepts for suspected drug kingpins approved by judges. But in the U.S., they say, such processes require much less paperwork and a more practical standard of evidence.
Australia and United States federal forces also have anti-drug trafficking policing operations in China that the RCMP lacks, sources said.
As a result of these weaknesses, U.S. investigators and officials are expressing frustration with the limits of Canadian law enforcement, and concern about the growing reach of Chinese organized crime in B.C., an official confirmed to Global News. And the U.S. has established a significant number of federal law and drug enforcement officers in the U.S.’s Vancouver consulate, multiple sources confirmed.
WATCH: Growing calls for public inquiry into deadly fentanyl
Christine Duhaime, an anti-money laundering lawyer in Vancouver, said she recognizes the United States government is increasingly watching Chinese criminal networks in B.C.
“With the fentanyl crisis, and Vancouver being ground zero with imports from China paid with Bitcoin from unregulated exchanges, the U.S. government is concerned about Vancouver,” Duhaime said. “The fact that Vancouver has emerged as a safe haven for proceeds of crime is even more concerning.”
Tension between China and Canada over police agents is not a new phenomenon.
In the most famous case, agents claiming to be Chinese businessmen falsely obtained visas to enter B.C., and conducted covert operations in Richmond in pursuit of China’s most-wanted criminal, Lai Changxing. Lai was a billionaire smuggler and organized crime associate with ties to drug-trafficking and police and military officials in southern China, court records and sources say.
When a bribery and corruption case escalated in China, Lai fled to Hong Kong, and gained entry to Canada under immigrant investor status. He was a prolific VIP gambler in Richmond, associated to notorious loan sharks, and Big Circle Boys associates in British Columbia and Ontario, court records allege.
After a 12-year legal and diplomatic battle over China’s efforts to extradite Lai, a deal was struck in which China promised that Lai would not be executed if he was returned to face prosecution. He was sent to China in 2011 and imprisoned.
There are conflicting reports in China about Lai’s current condition.
“In accordance with the legal terms/parameters of Mr. Lai’s return to China, as outlined in the Federal Court Decision of 2011, as well as diplomatic assurances received at the time, Canadian officials have been monitoring Mr. Lai’s situation, pursuant to the assurances provided and in cooperation with Chinese officials,” Global Affairs stated, in response to questions about Lai’s health.
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA
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.”
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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