Canada briefs – June 9

The Canadian government will not withdraw a challenge at the World Trade Organization despite a call from the European Union to abandon the fight over a ban on seal products, an official said Wednesday.

European Union urges Canada to end seal-ban challenge

OTTAWA — The Canadian government will not withdraw a challenge at the World Trade Organization despite a call from the European Union to abandon the fight over a ban on seal products, an official said Wednesday.

A spokesman for Trade Minister Ed Fast said Canada will pursue its bid to overturn a European Union ban on the importation of seal products.

Adam Taylor made the comments after the European Parliament issued a resolution Wednesday suggesting the challenge be abandoned before the parliament votes on ratifying a trade agreement with Canada.

“These are completely separate issues and we’re moving ahead with our WTO challange,” he said.

“The trade negotiation with the EU is one issue and our settlement process at the WTO with respect to seal products is a completely separate issue.”

A statement on the European Parliament’s website said that while members praised progress in the talks, they raised concerns about seal products, the Alberta tar sands and intellectual property rights.

It suggested that talks could stall or be derailed if the issues can’t be resolved.

“(Members) voiced their strong hope that Canada would withdraw its WTO challenge before the European Parliament has to vote on ratifying the (trade agreement),” the release stated.

The Humane Society International, which has long opposed Canada’s annual seal hunt, praised the move. In a release, it said the European Parliament could reject the free trade deal and jeopardize up to $12 billion in GDP gains by 2014 for Canada.

Conservative MPs meet with shipyard

lobbyists, despite government ban

Conservative MPs and senators have been meeting with lobbyists for shipyards — even though the government says it wants lobbyists excluded from a massive $35-billion shipbuilding program.

Canada’s shipyards were asked not to use registered lobbyists in their efforts to become one of two winning shipyards in the long-term national shipbuilding procurement strategy, which will construct dozens of vessels for the navy, the coast guard and others.

“Shipyards will be requested to voluntarily agree to NOT engage lobbyists,” says a letter of interest Public Works sent to shipyards on Sept. 20, 2010, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press.

But public records show Conservatives had meetings last fall with lobbyists working for Vancouver Shipyards and for Irving Shipbuilding, two of five shipyards that made the government short list.

The lobbying industry is regulated in Canada, and lobbyists are required to report their activities to the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying.

The official registry of lobbyists lists 60 shipbuilding-related meetings with 65 members of Parliament, senators, political staffers and senior bureaucrats since the government announced its ambitious shipbuilding strategy a year ago.

The registry shows Andrew McArthur of McArthur Consultants lobbied on Irving’s behalf on Oct. 18-19 — days after Public Works announced the shortlisted companies.

Over two days, McArthur lobbied Conservative MPs Phil McColeman, Randy Kamp, Guy Lauzon and Tory Sen. Daniel Lang.

Kamp’s and Lauzon’s offices say the men actually met with the Navy League of Canada — which also held an event in Ottawa Oct. 18-19 — and not McArthur.

They say the shipbuilding contract was not discussed.

Iranian court quashes death sentence

for Canadian man, say published reports

Iran’s supreme court has reportedly quashed the death sentence for a Canadian resident.

Saeed Malekpour, a 35-year-old web programmer, was facing execution on charges of developing and promoting porn websites.

His supporters, including his wife who now lives in Richmond Hill, Ont., said he was arrested in Iran in October 2008 after a trip to visit his ailing father.

Published reports said the death sentence for him now has been quashed.

His wife, Fatima Eftekhari, told Britain’s Guardian newspaper that the court decision is a “sigh of relief” and that she is “very pleased that his life is finally saved.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa says it is aware of reports Malekpour’s sentence has been commuted. “Officials are working to confirm or deny this report,” Foreign Affairs said in a email.

“Unfortunately, there is limited scope for direct intervention in this case since the person involved is not a Canadian citizen.”

Malekpour was born in Iran but became a permanent Canadian resident in 2004.

Defence lawyers said the conviction was quashed after they provided the court with expert evidence, said the Guardian newspaper. He is to remain in jail while a judicial review is held.

Malekpour was convicted of designing and moderating adult materials online although his family said he was a web programmer whose photo uploading software was used by a porn website without his knowledge.