Evening Update: National-security official explains why they blew the whistle on Chinese interference

Good evening, let’s start with today’s top stories:

Since February, The Globe and Mail has published several breaking news stories revealing the extent of China’s efforts to influence Canadian elections. Today, we’ve published an op-ed by a national-security official whose revelations formed the basis for much of Robert Fife and Steven Chase’s reporting.

In the opinion article, the author explains their decision to reveal secret and top-secret intelligence documents to The Globe and Mail, and why making that choice did not come easily.

As Globe Editor-in-Chief David Walmsley writes in a short note attached to the op-ed, The Globe believes that publishing this piece strikes a balance between providing readers with more insight into our work, and our responsibility to protect the individual’s identity.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today came out swinging against the Conservatives, accusing them of launching “horrific, partisan attacks” on former governor-general David Johnston. Earlier this week, Trudeau named Johnston special rapporteur on foreign interference and opposition parties have challenged the choice, arguing Johnston is too close to Trudeau. In our editorial today, The Globe’s editorial board concurs that Johnson is, indeed, an honourable man, just the wrong choice to head the foreign interference probe.

And if you missed it yesterday, Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim expressed outrage after the disclosure of Canadian intelligence reports that revealed China’s consul-general worked to interfere in the election Mr. Sim won last year. The Globe reported on Thursday that China’s diplomatic mission in Vancouver has actively interfered in the city’s politics, including grooming politicians to run in last fall’s municipal election. This afternoon, B.C. Premier David Eby has asked for a “full briefing” by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service but he hasn’t received it yet.

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International Criminal Court issues warrant for Vladimir Putin

In a first for Ukraine, the International Criminal Court is seeking the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of being responsible for war crimes in Ukraine, including the unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of people from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the ICC arrest warrants “have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view,” adding that Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty underpinning the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal.

Meanwhile, a senior NATO official in Brussels gave a background briefing to several media outlets, including The Globe, and said Russia’s offensive around Bakhmut on Ukraine’s eastern front has bogged down. As Eric Reguly reports, Russian regular and mercenary forces still seem determined to overrun Bakhmut in spite of taking as many as 1,500 casualties a day. Also today, Slovakia is joining Poland in sending MiG-29s fighter jets to Ukraine.

Earlier today, Russia and China confirmed Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Russia next week in an apparent show of support for Putin, even as Beijing continues to tout its plan for ending the war in Ukraine.


Honouring slain Edmonton officers

Canadians paid tribute to two Edmonton police officers who were fatally shot while responding to a domestic violence call. Constables Brett Ryan and Travis Jordan were killed early Thursday morning after entering an apartment building. The alleged shooter was a 16-year-old boy who also shot and wounded his mother, police said. He was found dead from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Edmontonians can pay their respects in person at the Edmonton City Hall south lobby. They are open to the public 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Online fundraisers have started for the families of the officers by the Edmonton Police Association and the Alberta Paramedic Association.


A cafe that has recently been leased by likely followers of John de Ruiter, who is facing four counts of sexual assault, in Fort Assiniboine, Alberta on Monday, February 6, 2023.Amber Bracken/The Globe and Mail

As self-styled spiritual leader John de Ruiter’s followers buy land in rural Alberta, uneasy locals ask why

In the small Alberta hamlet of Fort Assiniboine, longtime residents took note of a spike in newcomers to the area. The new buyers weren’t farmers expanding their land, but people from Spain, Australia, Israel and New York, snatching up properties that had been for sale for years, at prices that were sometimes far over market value.

When locals asked why – why would you move to this isolated area two hours away from Edmonton, with nothing out here, and a town so small it didn’t technically qualify as a town at all – they would say, “peace and quiet.”

But the influx would eventually be traced to numbered companies and individuals connected to John de Ruiter, a self-styled spiritual leader who has long faced questions about his sexual relationships with women in his community, and in January was charged with four counts of sexual assault.

Jana G. Pruden traces the trail of de Ruiter’s followers and speaks with uneasy locals asking what comes next.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Temporary residents: The federal government will allow thousands of foreign nationals with recently expired or expiring post-graduation work permits to extend their stays in Canada by up to 18 months.

French pension debate: The fierce debate in France over pension reform has intensified with an escalation of street protests and a move by lawmakers to bring down the government of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Imperial Oil spill: The federal Environment Minister wants to set up a new group with the Alberta government and Indigenous communities to monitor contamination problems in the oil sands.

Chief Nursing Officer: Carly Weeks speaks with Leigh Chapman, Canada’s Chief Nursing Officer, whose prime focus is to address the challenges nurses face in the country’s strained health system.

National Newspaper Awards: A little self congratulations is okay once and a while, right? The Globe has received 19 nominations for this year’s NNAs, including one for Project of the Year, recognizing the paper’s series on intimate partner violence, and two for reporting on Hockey Canada and the connection between the organization’s finances and sexual assault allegations.


MARKET WATCH

Markets fall sharply on bank contagion fears

Wall Street closed lower on Friday, marking the end of a tumultuous week dominated by an unfolding crisis in the banking sector and the gathering storm clouds of possible recession. All three U.S. indexes and Toronto ended the session in negative territory, with financial stocks down the most among the major sectors of the S&P 500.

Canada’s S&P/TSX closed down more than 150 points to 19,387.72, and closed out the week down almost two per cent as oil prices tanked. In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 384.57 points, the S&P 500 index was down 43.64 points, and the Nasdaq composite was down 86.76 points.

SVB Financial Group announced it would seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and First Republic Bank plunged after the bank announced it was suspending its dividend, reversing Thursday’s surge that was sparked by an unprecedented $30 billion rescue package from large financial institutions.

Investors now turn their gaze to the Federal Reserve’s two-day monetary policy meeting next week.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop.


TALKING POINTS

It took too long for Canada to allow aid to reach Afghanistan

“… the blanket prohibition in our Criminal Code against providing humanitarian assistance in countries such as Afghanistan where terrorist groups form the government has long needed to be modified.” — Allan Rock and Warda Shazadi Meighen

Euphemistically speaking, the English language risks passing away

“We are all aware of air pollution and water pollution. We are surrounded by them. But I think we are less aware of another pernicious contamination: euphemisms, which are polluting the English language.” — Michael Enright

The backlash against drag artists is unfair – but it’s no mystery why it’s happening

“Make kids the focus of any kind of activism, no matter how well-intentioned, and the deepest lizard-brain fears of parents can get zapped.” — Jen Gerson


LIVING BETTER

It’s a parenting rite of passage to struggle with screen-time limits with kids. But when that battle gets too much, we’ve got you covered: Here are 10 television shows that you’ll actually want your kids to watch, including Ask the StoryBots, an Emmy-award winning show that answers all your kids’ burning questions (bonus: there are three binge-able seasons already streaming on Netflix.) And when you’re ready to enforce some mandated reading time, we’ve gathered up 27 hot new book titles for every type of young reader.


TODAY’S LONG READ

Artificial intelligence is upending the fashion industry

Desert
Artificial intelligence is upending the fashion photography business – and the fallout is just beginning Photo illustration by Chris Nicholls using Midjourney
Chris Nicholls/Chris Nicholls

Canadian fashion photographer Chris Nicholls has been experimenting with a new artificial-intelligence platform called Midjourney, which uses text descriptions to construct AI-generated images that almost look like real photographs.

Similar to ChatGPT, which is capable of generating elaborate written responses on the basis of a few words, Nicholls used prompts such as “dramatic lighting,” “baroque dress,” “white flowers,” “lobster carapace” and “beautiful woman.”

After playing around with Midjourney, Nicholls concluded that the possibilities of the technology are both amazing and threatening. On one hand, he is awed by what this new era of “generative AI” can produce in the blink of an eye. On the other, he is outraged that it creates art standing on the shoulders of unnamed artists and photographers whose work it downloads for free.

Evening Update was written by Michael Snider, Caora McKenna and Lara Pingue. If you’d like to receive this newsletter by e-mail every weekday evening, go here to sign up. If you have any feedback, send us a note.

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