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Canada Morning Update: ‘Snowden refugees’ land in Canada; PMO knew about prosecutors’ SNC dispute

Good morning,

These are the top stories:

Two ‘Snowden refugees’ have landed in Canada

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Vanessa Rodel and her seven-year-old daughter, Keana Nihinsa, helped shelter whistleblower and U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden in Hong Kong in 2013. Now, the pair have arrived in Canada and are headed for Montreal, where they’ll settle into their new lives with support from the non-profit group that privately sponsored them.

But the federal government is facing calls to help the other five Snowden refugees whose Canadian asylum claims remain in bureaucratic limbo.

Rodel first fled to Hong Kong from her home in the Philippines after allegedly being raped and trafficked by an armed wing of the country’s Communist Party. Her daughter was born in Hong Kong and is considered stateless. The other Snowden refugees, who are of Sri Lankan origin, include those who say they were tortured in their home country, and also have children considered stateless.

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The PMO knew there was a disagreement between prosecutors on SNC-Lavalin

A federal official says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office was told last fall about an internal dispute within the Public Prosecutions Service over whether to proceed with the prosecution of SNC. The information came from someone associated with SNC, not prosecutors, according to the official who was granted anonymity by The Globe. (for subscribers)

Former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould first raised the issue when she testified that two PMO officials told her chief of staff on Sept. 16 that prosecutions director Kathleen Roussel was opposed to a settlement, while a prosecutor on the file wanted to pursue a settlement.

Trudeau’s communications director had previously refused to confirm whether the PMO was aware of the apparent dispute. Yesterday, Trudeau said he’s leaving it to the Ethics Commissioner to determine how his advisers became aware of those details.

And in related news, a Manitoba judge says his name is being used to serve someone’s “agenda” in the SNC spat. Reports in CTV and The Canadian Press suggested Trudeau had doubted Wilson-Raybould’s judgment when she reportedly pushed for Chief Justice Glenn Joyal to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. But Joyal said in a statement that he withdrew his candidacy for personal reasons.

Separately, SNC is facing business troubles in South America as Chile’s state miner cancelled a US$260-million contract. Codelco scrapped the deal over what it called a “serious breach of contractual milestones” by SNC, including “the delay in payments to its subcontractors, delays in the execution of the project and problems in the quality of the works.”

SNC said it was “appalled and surprised” by Codelco’s decision and noted it had reached an agreement “in good faith” last month. (In an interview with The Globe last week, SNC CEO Neil Bruce said: “The Chilean project, we shot ourselves in the foot on that in terms of the outcome. We’re not blaming anybody on that. That is on us.”)

Canada’s corrections service was ordered to pay $20-million for placing mentally ill prisoners in solitary

An Ontario court said the federal prison agency’s treatment of at least 2,000 mentally ill inmates violated two sections of the Charter of Rights. This is the third major legal defeat in just over a year for the agency over the practice of isolating prisoners in tight quarters for 22 or more hours a day.

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The $20-million judgment is earmarked for mental-health resources at prisons. Compensation for the individuals in the class-action lawsuit will be determined at a later date.

Theresa May’s latest setback: MPs are now voting on Brexit alternatives

Parliament passed a motion to take control of the Brexit agenda, setting the stage for a series of non-binding votes today on various options including whether to hold a second referendum or revoking the exit entirely. The “indicative votes” are expected to give a sense of what kind of Brexit plan MPs would approve.

But the clock is also ticking on an April 12 deadline, with the European Union saying it is looking “increasingly likely” that Britain will leave the bloc at that date without a deal.

Alberta election: The latest goings-on

Another Alberta United Conservative Party candidate has stepped down over past social media comments. Eva Kiryakos, who was running in Calgary, said someone was threatening to release her remarks on Muslim refugees and transgender washrooms in schools. Last week, Caylan Ford stepped down over a Facebook post in which she allegedly lamented the “replacement of white peoples in their homelands.”

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Separately, UCP Leader Jason Kenney said if his party wins the election, gay-straight alliances would operate under rules that existed before the NDP implemented further protections for LGBTQ students.

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ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Omar Khadr’s legal saga in Canada is over as an Alberta judge ruled a war crimes sentence has expired. The former Guantanamo Bay inmate is now able to apply for a passport and travel freely. “It’s been a while, but I’m happy it’s here,” said Khadr, who was released on bail in 2015.

Apple’s new plan to counteract slowing iPhone sales? Subscriptions. The tech giant is expanding its paid services to video, news and gaming in its most significant strategic shift since debuting the smartphone money-maker more than a decade ago.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

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In PEI, a single letter separates the names of two candidates

When voters in District 20 head to the polls in an upcoming election, two of their ballot options will look nearly identical: Green Party newcomer Matthew J. Mackay and Progressive Conservative incumbent Matthew Mackay are both vying for the provincial seat.

But don’t worry about any mix-up: “Everybody knows Matthew. Everybody knows Matthew J.,” said Matthew J. Mackay, the Green candidate in the district with fewer than 4,000 voters.

“If we were in downtown Toronto and the district were [thousands of] people, I could see where there would be confusion … but in our district, everybody pretty well knows everybody. Nobody is going to mistake young Matthew for old Matthew," he said. (For the record, “J.” is the older one.)

MORNING MARKETS

Stocks rise

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Calm returned to global markets on Tuesday as a steadier day for Europe and Asia’s bourses and a tick higher in benchmark bond yields helped ease nerves after a jarring few days dominated by recession worries. Tokyo’s Nikkei shot up by 2.2 per cent, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.2 per cent, while the Shanghai Composite lost 1.5 per cent. In Europe, London’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were up by between 0.1 and 0.5 per cent by about 6:40 a.m. ET. New York futures were up. The Canadian dollar was at about 74.5 US cents. Brent crude rose further above $67 a barrel as OPEC supply cuts and expectations of lower U.S. inventories outweighed concern about weaker demand due to an economic slowdown.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

The Mueller investigation won’t settle Donald Trump’s fate. Voters will

Globe editorial: “For President Donald Trump, Sunday, March 24, was his best day in office. For his opponents, it was their worst day since his election. And for everyone else? Call it a small victory for American democracy. Whether Mr. Trump is to be a one-term president or a two-term president has been remanded to what the U.S. Constitution calls ‘We the People’ – the voters.”

To humanize Muslims, let’s start in the classroom

Zulfikar Hirji: “What messages are we sending to our future generations by continuing to exclude knowledge of a rich and diverse 1,400-year old faith whose adherents continue to shape the modern world? With such omissions, are school curriculums not unwittingly contributing to the dehumanization of Muslims and negating Islam’s place in world history?” Zulfikar Hirji is an associate professor at York University and co-author of Islam: An Illustrated Journey.

After deaths at U of T and Concordia, the silence about suicide on campus has to end

André Picard: “Traditionally, the response to the suicide of a student on a college or university campus has been to hush it up, to release as little information as possible and act like every death is an isolated incident. Students, to their credit, are saying loud and clear that this silence is no longer acceptable. The type of protest that occurred at the University of Toronto, one born of frustration, has occurred at dozens of campuses around the country. It is time we started listening to these cries for transparency – and help.” (for subscribers)

TODAY’S EDITORIAL CARTOON

(Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)

TGAM

LIVING BETTER

Worried about outliving your money in retirement? Ottawa may have a solution

Buried in the federal budget, writes Ian McGugan, “is a promise to revise rules to allow what are known as variable payment life annuities, or VPLAs. Forget the unlovely name: Think of these plans as a way for members of defined-contribution plans to efficiently convert the savings they have built up within the plan into an actual pension – one that would last for life, be professionally managed at low cost and pool risks across a large number of people.”

MOMENT IN TIME

I am Canadian airs during Oscar broadcast

(Molson Coors Brewing Co.)

Molson Coors Brewing Company

March 26, 2000: For such a famously agreeable people, Canadians can be surprisingly oppositional. Take “The Rant,” Molson Canadian’s paean to national pride, featuring a regular Joe named Joe, backed by a fluttering Canadian flag, quietly offering up a description of what he isn’t. “I’m not a lumberjack or a fur trader, and I don’t live in an igloo, or eat blubber, or own a dog sled.” Although it begins as a pointed mockery of Canadian stereotypes held by Americans (which the ad’s writer, Glen Hunt, says he’d heard while working in the United States), Joe’s plainspoken anthem soon pivots to the positive, albeit with tongue a little in cheek: “I can proudly sew my country’s flag on my backpack … The beaver is a truly proud and noble animal … Canada is the second-largest land mass, the first nation in hockey and the best part of North America!” The ad capitalized on new market research, which had discovered that younger Canadians didn’t share their parents’ reticence over demonstrations of patriotism. In the months that followed its premiere, the 60-second spot became one of the internet’s earliest viral videos, and actor Jeff Douglas, who played Joe, travelled the country, leading arena and stadium crowds in the chest-swelling rant. The beer’s market share swelled, too. Five years later, Molson merged with U.S. giant Coors Brewing Co. – Simon Houpt

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If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

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