Dion tacitly pans Le Pen wants France to have proEurope leader

first_imgOTTAWA – Former Liberal leader Stephane Dion — the prime minister’s hand-picked special envoy to Europe — has weighed in on France’s fractious election, saying Canada wants the new French leader to keep the country active in the European Union.Asked about the prospects of French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen winning Sunday’s run-off election against the pro-Europe candidate Emmanuel Macron, Dion said Canada prefers the latter.“We prefer to see at the head of a key country like France in Europe a president who is believing like us, that European integration is an asset for the world,” Dion told reporters today.“We much prefer to have as the president of a friendly country a person that shares our values regarding openness, respect for diversity.“It’s the great tradition of France and I’m optimistic it will prevail and allow Canada and France to work together with the same values.”Dion’s remarks represent a departure of sorts for the federal government, which has avoided commenting directly on foreign elections — especially those involving institution-bashing, populist candidates.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently deflected a question about the French election when he hosted Italy’s prime minister.And the Trudeau government steadfastly avoided criticizing or commenting on Donald Trump through the bitter U.S. election and his various pronouncements afterwards.Dion offered his assessment following his testimony before the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, where he faced tough questions from Conservative and New Democrat MPs about his new assignment, which comes alongside his posting as ambassador to Germany.Dion defended his new diplomatic appointment as “special envoy” but not ambassador to the European Union.The announcement comes three months after the prime minister put forward Dion’s name to serve as ambassador to both the EU and Germany, an unusual dual assignment.Conservative foreign affairs critic Peter Kent said he saw “seething frustration” within Global Affairs and lots of head scratching in the EU about the double-hatted appointment.New Democratic critic Helene Laverdiere said she heard complaints about Dion’s appointment on a trip to Germany two weeks ago.Dion says he plans to work hard, travel widely and complement the work of senior diplomats by ensuring there is “pan European approach” to Canada’s engagement with the continent.He said his job title might have evolved over time after discussions in Canada and with European officials, but the job as originally envisioned by Trudeau, has remained the same.“This idea never changed. The title changed because it expressed better what the prime minister wanted to do in the beginning.”The Prime Minister’s Office has said that making Dion a special envoy followed consultations with European partners, in which “it was agreed that this appointment will best deliver” on Canada’s commitment to stronger ties.Dion, who was foreign affairs minister until he was shuffled out of cabinet earlier this year, is to take up his new positions later this month.Dion said he would work with the existing mission to the EU and the current ambassador, Daniel Costello.John McCallum, the former immigration minister who now is ambassador to China, also testified Tuesday about his new job. McCallum was moved in the same January cabinet shuffle and has already started his new job.McCallum hosted two senior ministers in Beijing last week, Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, both of whom took part in a new senior economic dialogue with China’s vice-premier.But McCallum made clear Canada isn’t reluctant to raise thorny human rights issues with Beijing as it tries to deepen economic ties.“We disagree on the death penalty. We disagree on some aspects of the rule of law and privately and publicly on how the Chinese government treats human rights advocates.”last_img read more

Scheer says Speer family needs to know Canadians dont back Khadr payment

first_imgOTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated his sympathies for the families of the alleged victims of Omar Khadr Friday, but unlike his prime ministerial predecessor, said he has not reached out to them directly.It’s an omission Opposition Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he intends to rectify, arguing it is important the families know that not all Canadians agree with a decision by the Liberal government to settle Khadr’s multi-million-dollar lawsuit.That message was communicated once already this week; former prime minister Stephen Harper is reported to have called and apologized to the families of both U.S. Sgt. Chris Speer, who died, and fellow Delta Force soldier Layne Morris, who was blinded in one eye, during the 2002 incident that led to Khadr’s imprisonment in Guantanmo Bay and the subsequent interrogation and torture.His treatment at the hands of Canadian officials there, and a later Supreme Court ruling that they’d violated his rights, is what led to Khadr’s lawsuit against the Canadian government that the Liberals settled this month in the form of an apology and a reported $10.5 million pay out.Trudeau repeated Friday that if the government had not settled, the cost would have just been higher.“No one can imagine the anguish that those families have gone through and are going through, this an extremely difficult situation as we all understand and I understand how Canadians are troubled by this, including by the settlement, as am I, that’s why we settled,” Trudeau said during a news conference in Providence, R.I.But Scheer said he finds it difficult to believe Trudeau cares about the money, calling it just a “rounding error” for the government, and accused of him of shifting around the Liberals’ defence of the payment in a bid to ease the public outcry.“Nobody believes that Justin Trudeau is trying to save taxpayers’ money,” Scheer said.“I do think that outrage that’s being expressed by Canadians is certainly more than what the Liberals were expecting. And I think it certainly shows that they are out of touch with Canadians on this one.”At one point, the Liberals had sought to blame the previous Conservative government for the fact they were left dealing with the lawsuit, an accusation which drew a rare public rebuke from Harper, who has refrained from speaking out against the Liberals since the election.Harper appeared to take his own defence a step further when, according to the Toronto Sun, he phoned both the families this week and apologized, a move Trudeau wouldn’t comment on.Scheer said he wants to offer his own regrets.“I think that on behalf of the vast majority of Canadians who don’t appreciate the fact the Liberal government has done this, I want to communicate to Tabitha Speer that not everyone in Canada agrees with this and that our sympathies and our feelings of concern and compassion are with her and her two children,” he said.The Liberals and Conservatives have been duelling for days over who wears the political responsibility for the payout and the standoff has put wind in the Tories’ political sails. They launched a website this week attempting to poke holes in the Liberals’ defence of the payment, they’ve sent letters directly to party supporters condemning it and some MPs have held roundtables in their ridings on that subject alone.Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre is sponsoring an electronic petition on the House of Commons website calling on the government to condemn “Prime Minister Trudeau’s $10.5 million payment to Omar Khadr.” As of late Friday, it had just over 2,000 signatures, meaning it is likely to require an official government response.Among those encouraging people to sign the petition is Harper’s son Ben, who has also been encouraging donations to a crowdfunding site set up to support the Speer family.Scheer said he’s not personally donated to the campaign, but echoes calls from others that Khadr should donate the settlement to it.The Conservatives’ efforts have met with some resistance; letters to the editor and comments on social media have suggested the Tories’ approach isn’t onside with the Charter and raises questions about how a Conservative government would have acted.Trudeau said he hopes the settlement sets a precedent for other governments to follow.“When governments do not protect their citizens’ rights, everyone ends up paying,” he said.Scheer said he accepts that Khadr’s rights were violated, but argues he received his compensation in the form of his repatriation to Canada in 2012.last_img read more