Monthly Archives:April 2016

Ashley Madison plaintiffs cannot sue anonymously over hack, judge says

27 Apr 16
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Plaintiffs leading a lawsuit against online dating website Ashley Madison over a security breach that exposed the personal data of customers must publicly identify themselves to proceed with the case, a U.S. judge has ruled.

Forty-two plaintiffs, seeking to represent users of the website who had their information compromised, had proceeded anonymously against Ashley Madison’s Toronto-based parent company Avid Life Media, the ruling released on April 6 shows.

The plaintiffs are suing Ashley Madison, a website that facilitates extramarital affairs, for failing to adequately secure their information, marketing a “Full Delete Removal” service that did not work, and using fake female accounts to lure male customers, according to the ruling.

Their action comes after hackers who claimed to be unhappy with Avid Life’s business practices publicly released Ashley Madison customer data last August.

Reuters has not independently verified the authenticity of the data, e-mails or documents.

A district court judge in Missouri wrote in his ruling that being publicly named as an Ashley Madison user amounts to more than common embarrassment, but noted the 42 plaintiffs have special roles in the case that require identification.

Plaintiffs are “class representatives” and may need to testify or offer evidence, unlike “class members,” those who do not need participate as actively, the judge wrote. The plaintiffs must either identify themselves or proceed as class members, who can remain anonymous.

The “class” for the collective lawsuit has not been certified, the ruling noted. At least 10 plaintiffs have been publicly named.

Avid Media did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Lawyer says hacks like Ashley Madison mark new legal territory
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Sino-Forest sale points to significant value in its disputed forestry assets

27 Apr 16
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The company created to hold the remaining assets of Sino-Forest Corp. has negotiated the sale of the last of the failed company’s holdings for $242-million (U.S.), signalling there was significant remaining value within the company’s disputed forestry assets.

Emerald Plantation Holdings Ltd., which was created to manage the company’s assets after it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2013, said it has entered into a conditional offer to sell subsidiary Emerald Plantation Group Ltd. to New Plantation Ltd., a private forestry company.

Emerald Plantation Holdings, based in Hong Kong, is controlled by former bondholders of Sino-Forest, who took control of the company’s assets under a court-supervised reorganization.

The sale price for the subsidiary includes an initial consideration of $214-million, plus a further $23-million to be deferred and paid within 12 months, as well as $5-million which has been seized and frozen under court orders but is expected to be released.

Emerald Plantation management could not be reached for comment Monday, and the company’s release did not specify which of Sino-Forest’s former holdings are included in the subsidiary being sold to New Plantation.

The sale, which still requires approvals from shareholders, comes after several other smaller assets were sold by Emerald Plantation Holdings last year, including two plantations sold for a total of $13.2-million and shares of subsidiary Greenheart Resources Holdings Ltd., which sold for $111-million. All were sold to unidentified “outside buyers.”

Combined with the current proposed sale, Sino-Forest’s assets have been liquidated over the past year for an anticipated total of almost $366-million, which suggests the company held significant real business assets, but they do not appear to be worth nearly as much as the company claimed in its financial statements prior to its collapse.

In 2010, for example, Sino-Forest reported holding $5.7-billion in total assets, including timber holdings worth $3.1-billion. The company, which traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange, collapsed after a short seller wrote a damning report in 2011 questioning its accounting practices and calling Sino-Forest a “Ponzi scheme.”

The Ontario Securities Commission has accused Sino-Forest founder and chief executive officer Allen Chan and four other senior executives of fraud, alleging management overstated the value of the company’s standing timber business and falsified evidence of ownership for the vast majority of its timber holdings.

The OSC’s long-running hearing in the case continued Monday with closing arguments by the regulator’s staff, which began a week ago.

In his remarks last week, OSC lawyer Hugh Craig repeatedly stressed that senior staff of Sino-Forest have had years to prove the company owned the significant standing timber assets it reported, but have not been able to produce any documents to back the claims.

The company’s timber subsidiary, registered in the British Virgin Islands, held most of the company’s reported assets, which Sino-Forest said were located in China. Mr. Craig said “no clear or cogent evidence” had been produced at the OSC’s hearing to show the existence of most of the standing timber in the BVI division, saying there was “very little evidence that Sino-Forest did real business” within the BVI model.

The OSC had no immediate comment Monday on the sale of Emerald Plantation assets.

Mr. Chan’s lawyer, Emily Cole, also said she could not comment on the sale announcement.

Proceeds from asset sales by Emerald Plantation Holdings are being paid out to the company’s note holders, allowing the former bondholders to reap some return on their investments.

In November, for example, Emerald notified investors of a plan to repurchase $39-million of outstanding notes using proceeds from asset sales last year. In July, the company paid out $85-million to repurchase senior notes.

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OSC has failed to prove Sino-Forest founder committed fraud: lawyer

27 Apr 16
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Sino-Forest Corp. founder Allen Chan may have made decisions that appear unusual because of different business practices in China, but he did not commit fraud at the failed forestry company, his lawyer told an Ontario Securities Commission hearing Tuesday.

“Odd is not fraud,” lawyer Emily Cole said in closing remarks at the lengthy Sino-Forest hearing.

The OSC has accused Mr. Chan and four other Sino-Forest senior executives of fraud, alleging the Hong Kong-based management team misled investors by overstating Sino-Forest’s revenue and assets between 2007 and 2010.

Ms. Cole, however, argued Tuesday that the OSC has failed to prove its case against her client, noting the “avalanche” of documents tendered by commission lawyers do not prove the truth of what happened at the company, especially since most are written in Chinese and there is disagreement about their exact translation. Lengthy files of e-mails are little more than “hearsay evidence,” she said, adding there is no proof of wrongdoing just because an e-mail is “suspicious.”

She also said Mr. Chan has a sociology degree and is untrained in business and accounting, and was raised in Hong Kong with no experience doing business in North America. As a result, she said he leaned heavily on Canadian executives and board members who had intimate familiarity with the company’s business decisions and made the key decisions about how Sino-Forest accounted for transactions and reported its financial statements.

Ms. Cole said Mr. Chan was entitled to rely on their accounting “sub-certifications” as the basis for his certifications of Sino-Forest’s financial filings. She also argued it can’t be assumed that Mr. Chan knew of wrongdoing just because another senior officer may have known it.

“It’s not enough for [OSC] staff to point to Mr. Chan and say ‘the buck stops here,’” she said. “That is not the law.”

The long-running Sino-Forest hearing began in September, 2014, and is expected to continue into next week. OSC staff completed their closing remarks earlier Tuesday, allowing Ms. Cole to begin her closing comments. The hearing is also scheduled to hear closing remarks later this week from lawyer Markus Koehnen, who is representing all four of the other accused executives.

In addition to Mr. Chan, the accused in the case are former senior executives Albert Ip, Alfred Hung, George Ho and Simon Yeung.

Sino-Forest was once a $6-billion company trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, but collapsed in 2011 after a short seller wrote a report questioning its accounting practices and calling the company a “Ponzi scheme.” The case has been the largest fraud hearing for the OSC since the Bre-X Minerals Ltd. trial, covering almost 180 hearing days and generating over 22,000 pages of transcripts.

In remarks last week, OSC lawyer Hugh Craig said Sino-Forest executives have been unable to produce maps or contracts proving the company’s claims that it owned more than 500,000 hectares of standing timber assets in China through its British Virgin Islands (BVI) subsidiaries, which were valued at $2.5-billion (U.S.) at the end of 2010.

Mr. Craig said there was “very little evidence that Sino-Forest did real business” within the BVI model.

However, Ms. Cole said it is the OSC’s responsibility to prove its fraud allegations and is not the legal responsibility of Mr. Chan or other executives to find documents proving the existence of the timber holdings. “The burden is on staff to prove its case,” she said.

The OSC also accused Mr. Chan of failing to disclose his hidden ownership interest in Greenheart Resources, a company Sino-Forest acquired through a series of transactions.

Ms. Cole said Mr. Chan fulfilled his duties honestly “and did not conceal anything from the board” and was not the beneficial owner of the companies that sold Greenheart to Sino-Forest.

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Canadian executives less likely to justify unethical behaviour: survey
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Trudeau’s popularity has not dipped since the election: poll

27 Apr 16
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This is The Globe’s daily politics newsletter. to get it by e-mail each morning.

POLITICS BRIEFING

By Chris Hannay ()

It’s been nearly six months since Justin Trudeau was sworn in as prime minister, and so far the challenges of governing haven’t taken a toll on his popularity.

According to , Mr. Trudeau has stayed at the high level of popularity he’s enjoyed since winning the fall election. The Liberals’ brand score has remained constant, well above their rivals, and Mr. Trudeau himself has consistently won the support of half or more respondents on the question of who their preferred prime minister is. (No doubt Mr. Trudeau gets some boost from the fact that the other two largest parties in the House are without permanent leaders.)

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS MORNING

> B.C. Premier Christy Clark is being paid tens of thousands of dollars a year by the B.C. Liberal Party, on top of her legislative salary, .

> The failure of the Catholic Church to raise $25-million for residential-school survivors has in their fundraising efforts.

> Mr. Trudeau categorically denied Canada would pay a ransom for hostages kidnapped by terrorists, which of a Canadian rescue mission in the Philippines.

> The inside story of Canada’s with Saudi Arabia. (for subscribers)

> The Liberals have ruled out a referendum on electoral reform, but could they hold an ?

> The , whose federal funding was famously lost with a Conservative minister’s “not,” is trying to make inroads with the new Liberal government.

> Who is , the rookie Conservative MP who’s already spoken more than 44,000 words in the House?

> And in the U.S., it’s becoming more and more certain that will emerge as the presidential nominees.

SECUREDROP

Did you know you can share information with Globe journalists with much more security and anonymity than traditional means? Read more about and encrypted communication.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

“Terrorist ransoms provide governments with very few good options. If a government decides to facilitate a payment, it risks directly, if also unintentionally, facilitating terrorism and political instability. Cash provides militants with access to weapons and recruits. In this particular case, Abu Sayyaf sought millions of dollars, useful for patching up its faltering insurgency. The associated risk is diplomatic fallout. The Philippine government was unusually blunt. Only last week it “encourage[d] everyone to observe” its “no ransom policy” with local militants. Manila’s strategic objective is to end the insurgency and stabilize the country. Canadian ransom money flowing into Abu Sayyaf’s coffers would be a hard sell.” – .

: “But while [Tony] Clement’s apparent lack of self-awareness is easy to snicker at, it is emblematic of a persistent problem for both the Conservatives and the Liberals in pushing for openness and accountability when they are out of power. And it points to potential opportunity for the NDP, as the third party tries to set itself apart.”

: “Conservatives can howl at the moon, as they did in the last election, and stand pat on the criminalization of marijuana, or they can take a strong, mature, proactive role in dealing with this inevitability.”

: “Unfortunately, indications suggest the Liberals have opted to ignore the obvious focus of the anniversary – Confederation itself, and the astonishing progress Canadians have achieved since then – in favour of four issues that are currently fashionable in “progressive” ranks: the environment, youth, inclusion and diversity, and reconciliation with native people.”

: “As one season turns to another and the planet spins on its axis, the Montreal-based aerospace giant [Bombardier] is pressing its substantial, state-subsidized girth to the trough once again, buttons popping, hands outstretched for another bowl of nosh. It is the people’s duty, we are told, to fork over $1-billion of our collectively borrowed money (because Ottawa is, of course, running at a $30-billion deficit) for the furtherance of the company’s CSeries passenger jet.”

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Human rights groups ask Trudeau to end ‘immoral’ arms deal with Saudi Arabia

27 Apr 16
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A huge coalition of human-rights, development and arms-control groups are urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to rescind the “immoral and unethical” decision to approve export permits for the bulk of a $15-billion sale of combat vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

The coalition wrote an open letter to Mr. Trudeau on Wednesday, saying there is a reasonable risk that the ruling House of Saud will use the vehicles against their own citizens and in the Saudi military mission in neighbouring Yemen.



Amnesty International calls on Justin Trudeau to cancel Saudi arms deal
(CP Video)

Existing export controls policy calls for Ottawa to restrict arms sales to governments that have a “persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens,” and that are “involved in or under imminent threat of hostilities.”

“By any measure there is a very strong risk that these light armoured vehicles in the hands of Saudi security services would be used to violate international human rights,” Alex Neve, secretary-general of Amnesty International Canada, told a news conference. “It is civilians in Yemen or protesters and dissidents in Saudi Arabia who would pay that $15-billion price tag.”

Mr. Neve said the Saudis have used an array of weapons in Yemen, including light-armoured vehicles, that have resulted in the death of 3,000 civilians, 20,000 civilian injuries and the displacement of 2.5 million people.

“We are saying to the Prime Minister we need to honour our human-rights obligations. That is what the world will notice and that requires rescinding this deal,” Mr. Neve said.

The groups said Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion’s decision to greenlight the controversial shipments despite Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human-rights situation makes a mockery of Canada’s arms export control system.

“We believe [its] integrity has been utterly compromised with the government’s decision to proceed with the largest arms sale in Canadian history to one of the world’s worst human-rights violators,” the groups said. “To provide such a large supply of lethal weapons to a regime with such an appalling record of human-rights abuses is immoral and unethical.”

Rideau Institute president Peggy Mason, who helped to write the export control guidelines in 1986, said the rules clearly stipulate that approval should not be granted if there is a “reasonable risk” that the weapons will be used against civilians.

“This is cannot said to be the case with respect to the $15-billion deal for Saudi Arabia,” Ms. Mason said as she countered arguments that the deal will create 3,000 jobs at the General Dynamics plant in London, Ont. ‘It is a pernicious argument to assert that Canadian jobs must depend on the killing, maiming, injuring and repressing of innocent civilians abroad.”

Signatories include Amnesty International, Project Ploughshares and a dozen others, including the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, an umbrella organization for more than 50 groups such as the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, the Canadian Labour Congress, the United Church of Canada and Canadian Lutheran World Relief.

The open letter represents the largest opposition arrayed so far against the sale of weaponized armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a country notorious for its treatment of dissidents, prisoners, women and members of minorities that has been accused by a United Nations panel of massive human- rights violations.

A Saudi-led Arab coalition has been blamed for indiscriminately targeting civilians while fighting a war in Yemen against rebels aligned with Iran.

The rationale for the export permits signed by Mr. Dion includes the expectation the armoured vehicles would be used by Saudi Arabia to prosecute its war in Yemen.

Mr. Dion defends his decision to allow exports by saying the Department of Global Affairs “has no evidence” that Saudi Arabia has used previously exported combat vehicles against civilians.

However, the groups say Ottawa’s own rules call for a higher threshold of due diligence.

“Prime Minister: the decision to proceed with this arms deal undermines not only the public’s trust in our export control system, but also the core values that define Canada’s character as a nation,” the groups write.

The Liberals are on the defensive after court documents released earlier this month revealed that Mr. Dion, not Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, signed the export permits to allow 70 per cent of the transaction to ship to Saudi Arabia.

The decision to issue export permits represents the most vital step in determining whether a weapons shipment to a foreign country can proceed or whether it’s “illegal,” as Ottawa calls it.

The revelation that Mr. Dion greenlighted the bulk of this deal runs contrary to the Liberal claim that the Liberal government’s hands were tied on the Saudi deal.

Many observers had assumed the Conservatives had granted export permits when they signed the deal.

The Liberal signature on the export permits means that the Liberal government has taken full ownership of a decision to sell arms to a country notorious for human-rights abuses.

Federal arms-control officials drive the same point home in e-mails obtained and published by The Globe and Mail last year, where they tell Global Affairs colleagues that there were no assurances the $15-billion transaction was approved until export permits were processed.

In 2014, the department undertook an initial review of the deal to check for “red flags.” It found none, but Debbie Gowling, a senior official in the export controls division, reminded the department that there was no guarantee the sale was officially approved by Ottawa until permit applications were scrutinized.

It’s these export-permit applications that Mr. Dion approved.


Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Garneau plans broad talks on Canada’s transportation future

27 Apr 16
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Transport Minister Marc Garneau is launching wide-ranging consultations on the future of Canadian transportation to build upon a comprehensive and sweeping analysis that was part of a statutory review last year.

“I will begin holding round tables this spring and early summer with transportation experts, system users and big thinkers across Canada,” Mr. Garneau said in a speech to the Economic Club in Toronto. “We will hold discussions around the themes of trade corridors, green and innovative transportation, the traveller, waterways, coasts, [the] North, as well as safety.”



Garneau: C Series is the best plane in its class
(BNN Video)

Mr. Garneau said he wants input to expand on an independent report by former cabinet minister David Emerson, who examined the country’s transportation network and put forward 60 recommendations for improvements.

“I see transportation in Canada as a single, interconnected system that drives the Canadian economy,” Mr. Garneau said.

Mr. Emerson’s , submitted to the government in December but not tabled until February, looked at air, marine, road and rail, including grain transportation. It found the transportation network needed to be revamped to keep Canada competitive.

“Our global infrastructure and related rankings have been declining and Canada continues to compare less favourably to other developed nations on a number of measures – disturbing trend for a small, open economy in which prosperity depends on success in global trade,” the report said.

Mr. Garneau acknowledged the goal of any future policy is to eliminate bottlenecks that block the free movement of people and goods to market. He noted there has been a doubling of goods travelling by rail and this has meant longer trains and, in some cases, double-stack containers to handle the demand.

“The question is whether our rail system can handle even more traffic in the future,” he said. “And in the marine mode, with traffic having grown by 50 per cent in the past three decades … are Canadian ports operating efficiently enough to face these growing demands?”

Mr. Garneau said Ottawa would like to see a world-class passenger rail system, which is why the government funded a study of VIA Rail’s proposal for a high-frequency rail service in the Windsor-to-Quebec City corridor.

Mr. Emerson’s review of the Canada Transportation Act also dealt with rail safety and urged the government to support the relocation of rail lines outside of dense urban centres.

The March 22 budget announced $143-million over three years to boost rail safety in areas such as inspection and money for municipalities to improve rail crossings.

Other new rail-safety measures will include better testing and mapping of dangerous goods and more funding for first responders to deal with train derailment.

Mr. Garneau said the consultations will delve into the challenge of unlocking the North’s vast economic potential without damaging the fragile environment and respecting the ways of the northern indigenous communities.

Mr. Emerson’s report was fast-tracked by the former Conservative government in response to the 2013-14 grain crisis, which cost Western Canada an estimated $6.5-billion.

In his report, Mr. Emerson recommended the limits on what the railways can earn shipping regulated Prairie grain should be eliminated within seven years.


Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Aboriginal youth press Trudeau for action on ‘Third World conditions’

27 Apr 16
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is used to adoring welcomes and requests for selfies, on Wednesday had a tougher public encounter when aboriginal students pressed him on their poor living conditions.

Trudeau’s Liberal Party came to power last November promising to rebuild ties with Canada’s 1.4 million aboriginals, or First Nations, many of whom are mired in poverty and crime and suffer from bad health.

“Why do you allow the first people of this land to endure and live in Third World conditions?” asked one female student, referring to “the acts of genocide” aboriginals had been subjected to for centuries at the hands of settlers.

The question prompted loud applause at the high school for indigenous students in Saskatoon, in the western province of Saskatchewan. The 20-minute question-and-answer session was shown in a live webcast.

Trudeau, who sounded more defensive than he has been in other Q&A sessions across Canada, responded that the federal government could not fix the problem alone and needed to work with First Nations.

“Quite frankly … this is a stain and a scar upon, not just our sense of who we are and our morality as Canadians, but on the kind of country we need to be building,” he said.

Increased militancy and unhappiness among the aboriginal population has prompted protests against a number of pipeline projects that would cross First Nations territory.

Some of the students expressed impatience, pressing Trudeau on what improvements they would see this year.

“Why are the promises you made when you got elected prime minister taking so long?” one student asked.

Trudeau replied that the government was like a big ocean liner and turning it around would take some time.

In a federal budget this March, Ottawa said it would spend an extra C$8.37 billion ($6.64 billion) over five years to help tackle the worst of the problems facing aboriginals.

Earlier this month a cabinet minister said Ottawa was working on a plan to help address a wave of suicides in remote indigenous communities.

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Justin Trudeau vows to work with indigenous organizations
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Sino-Forest founder committed ‘gross breach of trust,’ OSC says

26 Apr 16
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Sino-Forest Corp. founder Allen Chan committed a “gross breach of trust” when he misled investors about the value of the company’s business deals and revenues for years prior to its collapse, an Ontario Securities Commission lawyer said Monday.

The Sino-Forest case is entering its final phase as lawyers began closing arguments Monday, more than 19 months after the complex fraud hearing began before an OSC hearing panel in September, 2014. Closing remarks are scheduled to continue for 10 days, including four days scheduled for OSC staff to detail their case.

OSC lawyer Hugh Craig led off Monday, alleging that Sino-Forest founder and chief executive officer Allen Chan was responsible for decisions that led to fraud and false reporting of the company’s financial statements and “abused the trust” placed in him by shareholders.

“Mr. Chan was the ultimate directing mind of the standing timber fraud,” he said.

“This destroyed shareholder value. It was a gross breach of trust.”

Mr. Craig said Sino-Forest’s executives had years to find evidence to prove Sino-Forest owned more than 500,000 hectares of standing timber assets through its British Virgin Islands (BVI) companies, which generated the bulk of Sino-Forest’s revenue and were valued at $2.5-billion (U.S.) at the end of 2010.

Yet they have been unable to produce maps pinpointing the assets or contracts showing clear proof of ownership, he argued.

An independent committee of Sino-Forest’s board spent over $50-million (Canadian) investigating allegations of wrongdoing, he said, yet “couldn’t find the trees” and nor could the company that took control of the BVI timber business after Sino-Forest’s collapse, which later reported the value of the assets at zero.

“If you cannot find the trees, you can’t prove existence let alone ownership and value,” Mr. Craig said.

By the time the evidence portion of the OSC hearing wrapped up last December, Mr. Craig said “no clear or cogent evidence” had been produced at the hearing to show the existence of the standing timber held within the BVI companies, and said there was “very little evidence that Sino-Forest did real business” within the BVI model.

The OSC alleges five senior executives of Sino-Forest, all based in Hong Kong, committed fraud and materially misled investors by significantly overstating Sino-Forest’s revenues and assets between 2007 and 2010.

The OSC also alleges that Mr. Chan failed to disclose his ownership interest in Greenheart Resources, a company Sino-Forest acquired through a series of transactions.

In addition to Mr. Chan, the accused in the case are former senior executives Albert Ip, Alfred Hung, George Ho and Simon Yeung. None attended the hearing Monday and are represented before the OSC by Canadian lawyers. Sino-Forest itself was also named in the case, but went into bankruptcy and wound up its operations, so opted not to present a defence in the case.

The Sino-Forest hearing, covering 173 hearing days and generating more than 22,000 pages of transcripts, has been the largest fraud case for the OSC since the Bre-X Minerals Ltd. trial ended almost a decade ago. The hearing panel, led by OSC commissioner James Carnwath, has heard from 22 witnesses and perused more than 2,050 exhibits in the case.

All of the accused except for Mr. Chan testified during the case, as did independent directors from Sino-Forest’s board and other employees of the company in Canada and China.

Sino-Forest was once a $6-billion company trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, but collapsed after a short seller wrote a damning report in 2011 questioning its accounting practices and calling Sino-Forest a “Ponzi scheme.” Regulators began to investigate and halted trading in the company’s stock.

In his final remarks, Mr. Craig said the accused did not do enough to assist Sino-Forest’s independent committee in its efforts to find documentation to prove ownership of the forestry assets. He said Mr. Ip testified at the hearing that he was “bemused” when independent director William Ardell begged Mr. Ip to help him find documentation to prove ownership of the assets.

“One would think Mr. Ardell would not have to get down on his knees to ask a man to help prove those assets exist,” Mr. Craig said.

Mr. Craig also urged the hearing panel not to accept arguments from Mr. Chan and other executives that they relied on inaccurate certifications from others lower down in the company when they certified Sino-Forest’s financial filings.

He said Mr. Chan and other executives gave inaccurate information about transactions to others within the company, including Canadian-based chief financial officer David Horsley, so they were to blame for the inaccurate certifications by others.

“You can’t certify disclosure when you know it’s wrong, very simply,” Mr. Craig said.


Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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Liberals table controversial assisted death bill

14 Apr 16
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Canadian adults suffering from a serious and incurable illness who are on a “course toward the end of life” will be eligible for medical assistance in dying under the Liberal government’s new bill.

The legislation, tabled in the House of Commons on Thursday morning, says adults over 18 with grievous and irremediable medical conditions whose “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable” will be eligible to end their lives.

Patients would have to make a written request for the procedure and have it signed by two independent witnesses and two independent doctors or nurses would be required to evaluate the request.

The bill says there should be a mandatory period of 15 days reflection and the patient would be able to withdraw at any time.

The Liberals initially said they were going to whip the vote on the assisted dying legislation because it is a Charter of Rights issue, but late Wednesday the Prime Minister’s Office said MPs will now be allowed to vote their conscience.

In February, 2015, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down the Criminal Code ban on assisted dying, as it applies to competent adults with grievous and irremediable medical conditions who experience enduring suffering and clearly consent to ending their own lives.

The court initially gave the government a year to come up with a new law, but then granted the Liberals a four-month extension to draft legislation by June 6.

A special Parliamentary committee studied the issue for two months this winter. The committee recommended the government’s bill include provisions for advance consent, a request to end one’s life in the future, for patients with degenerative conditions such as dementia. It also recommended the government study and introduce legislation applying to mature youths within three years.

It also said those with psychiatric conditions should not be excluded.

The government’s bill also proposes to appoint one or more independent bodies to study the issues of mature minors, people with mental illness and advance requests.

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‘We were stuck following the system’: One family’s tragic end-of-life story
(The Globe and Mail)

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Newfoundland and Labrador budget seeks to cut deficit with steep tax hikes

14 Apr 16
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Taxpayers in Newfoundland and Labrador will bear the brunt of a budget that hikes HST and gas taxes, cuts jobs and imposes income-based levies to fight a deficit that will still reach almost $2-billion.

It’s the first budget for the new Liberal government that won power last fall after 12 years of Progressive Conservative rule.

Finance Minister Cathy Bennett says the Tories mortgaged the province’s future with spending increases and tax cuts hinged on oil prices that have since crashed.

Gas taxes are going up by 16.5 cents per litre starting June 2 and will be reviewed next fall.

The HST rate will increase by two percentage points to 15 per cent as of July 1 – reversing a rollback Premier Dwight Ball campaigned on.

Measures to cut government spending and raise cash are expected to cost average families $3,000 in new taxes while cutting about 650 public-sector and 2,000 private jobs.

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Woman survives plunge in car off Newfoundland’s Signal Hill
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