Canada in Brief, Feb. 8-14

February 8, 2018 Updated: January 3, 2019

Feds order review of Philippines helicopter deal

International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne is ordering a review of the planned sale of 16 helicopters to the Philippine military amid concerns about the country’s human rights record.

Government officials initially defended the deal, saying the helicopters would be used for search-and-rescue missions and disaster relief.

But Champagne says he ordered a review following comments from a senior member of the Philippine military that the Montreal-made aircraft would be used for internal security operations.

Human rights and arms-control groups have accused the Philippine armed forces of extrajudicial killings and other atrocities in their fight against Islamic militants and communist rebels.

Caroline Mulroney touts major change for party

Caroline Mulroney, the latest addition to Ontario’s Progressive Conservative leadership race, touted a need for major change in the party in her first campaign event.

She told a crowd of supporters in Toronto on Feb. 5 that a last-minute leadership race may be difficult for the party, but also presented an opportunity for the Conservatives to make necessary changes.

Mulroney, the daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, is up against former city councillor Doug Ford and former leadership contender Christine Elliott in the race.

Ottawa pledges co-operation in complaint over mining activist’s slaying

The federal government has pledged to co-operate fully with any investigation into the possible role of Canadian diplomats and a former Calgary mining company in the shooting death of a Mexican activist.

Family and supporters of slain activist Mariano Abarca this week asked the Public Service Integrity Commissioner to investigate his death, filing a notice that accuses Canadian diplomats of turning a blind eye to the human rights violations that ultimately cost him his life.

Abarca, who was gunned down in November 2009, opposed the mining project, saying it harmed the environment and was bad for his community in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

Gilbert Rozon denies sex abuse allegations

Gilbert Rozon, the founder and majority shareholder of Just For Laughs, refuted all allegations of sexual misconduct against him on Feb. 7 in his first public remarks since being accused last October.

Rozon told a reporter for the TVA news agency in Montreal that he apologizes if anyone felt his advances were out of place.

“I never had sex with anyone against their will,” said the businessman, who founded one of the city’s most famous summer festivals. “These stories are … we’ll see what the motivations are.”

The influential entertainment mogul faces allegations from at least 10 women who accuse him of either sexually harassing or sexually assaulting them.

NAFTA deal possible by end of March, says MacNaughton

Canada’s ambassador to the United States says he believes NAFTA negotiators can reach an agreement in principle by the end of March.

David MacNaughton refused to speculate on whether U.S. President Donald Trump is likely to pull out of NAFTA, but he said enough progress has been made on the “wiring and plumbing” of the agreement that all three countries can iron out their differences on the more substantial issues in the next two months.

MacNaughton made the comments after an event in Ottawa with his U.S. counterpart, Kelly Craft.

With files from The Canadian Press