The Latest: British govt delays vote on Brexit bill

LONDON — The Latest on Britain’s departure from the European Union (all times local):

11:45 a.m.

The British government has delayed plans to hold a vote on its key Brexit bill, as Prime Minister Theresa May faces remorseless pressure from her Conservative Party to step down.

May previously said she planned to publish the withdrawal bill Friday and hold a vote in Parliament the week of June 3. The bill implements the terms of Britain’s departure from the European Union and May says it is the “last chance” to secure an orderly U.K. exit.

But there is no mention of the bill in the schedule of parliamentary business for that week, published Thursday. And Conservative lawmaker Mark Spencer told the House of Commons the bill will not be published this week.

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, who had been due to introduce the bill, quit Wednesday, saying she could not support it.


9:15 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is hunkered down with close allies as she considers whether to give in to relentless pressure to resign, or fight on to save her Brexit plan and her premiership.

May’s fate looked sealed on Thursday after the resignation of Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom, who quit saying she could not support the EU withdrawal bill that May plans to introduce to Parliament.

Conservative lawmakers want May to agree Friday that she will quit. If not, they are likely to try to topple her.

Lawmakers have already rejected May’s divorce deal with EU three times, and Britain’s long-scheduled departure date of March 29 passed with the country still in the bloc.

Many Conservatives blame May for the delay, and believe she is now an obstacle to Brexit.

The Associated Press

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Vast Majority Of Ontarians Oppose Ford’s Cuts To Legal Aid: Poll

Three-quarters of Ontarians are opposed to the province’s cuts to Legal Aid Ontario, a new poll found.

Among those who voted for Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives last year, 44 per cent said they oppose the cuts, according to Environics Research, which surveyed 1,332 people by phone last week.

The poll was commissioned by the Society of United Professionals, a union representing 350 legal aid lawyers across Ontario. It comes after the province announced it was cutting Legal Aid Ontario’s budget by 30 per cent ($133 million), and will further reduce annual funding by $31 million by 2021-2022.

Lawyers and doctors along with members of the community gathered at Queen's Park to protest cuts to the Legal Aid Ontario May 7, 2019. 

Legal Aid Ontario provides legal support and representation for residents with little to no income, at family and criminal court, and to refugee claimants, among other services.

The province said in its recent budget that it’s “streamlining the delivery of legal aid to promote long-term sustainability.”

But the cuts are influencing Ford’s popularity, according to the poll. Fifty-five per cent of Ontarians are strongly opposed to cutting legal aid’s budget, and 62 per cent said the issue makes them less likely to vote PC in the future. Twenty-eight per cent of people who voted PC in 2018 are also less likely to support Ford’s government, while 40 per cent said it makes no difference.

“Premier Ford and Attorney General (Caroline) Mulroney have tried to deflect from their catastrophic legal aid cuts by claiming that they are protecting what matters to Ontarians,” said Dana Fisher, a spokesperson for the Legal Aid Ontario Lawyers’ Local in a statement to HuffPost.

These poll results show that, in fact, legal aid matters to Ontarians. The Society of United Professionals is calling on the Premier and Attorney General to reverse these cruel cuts immediately.”

The poll also found that 75 per cent of Ontarians believe Ford’s government is on the wrong track, including 37 per cent of PC voters.

Six in 10 Ontarians were aware of the funding cuts to legal aid, the poll found, with 33 per cent “very aware” and 26 per cent “somewhat aware.”

These results follow another set of polling data Environics released Tuesday that found the province’s decision to combine 35 public health units into 10 and cut their budgets by $200 million is unpopular. Eighty-three per cent oppose the cuts, including 56 per cent of Tory voters.

The poll’s margin of error is 2.7 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

Also on HuffPost

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This Chinese-Canadian Vet Fought In WWII And Battled Racism On Home Soil

Gordon Quan in London, England in 1945. 

The year was 1939. Germany had launched an attack against Poland; two days later, France and Britain declared war on Germany, spurring the start of the Second World War. 

Thousands of miles away in Cumberland, B.C., then-teenager Gordon Quan dreamed of joining the Canadian Army. But, there was just one problem: he is Chinese-Canadian.

Up until 1944, those of Chinese ancestry were not allowed to serve in the military. Even folks like Quan, who were born in Canada, were often rejected by local recruitment officers because of their race or ethnic background.

At the time, Chinese-Canadians and Chinese immigrants were considered lower-class citizens, who were not allowed to vote and were subject to a head tax, which had started at $50 in 1885 and by 1903, it had jumped to $500 per person.


Chinese-Canadian head tax documentation. 

The head tax was created to discourage Chinese people from entering Canada, even after many had been brought over by the Canadian government to help build the railroad. Chinese immigrants were also restricted from practising in professions such as law and medicine

After the Second World War broke out, and once war against Japan was declared, Canada and China became allies against the perceived enemy, uniting the two countries, helping to change perceptions of Chinese-Canadians. And so, in 1944, the National Resources Mobilization Act reversed the policy of barring Chinese recruits to the Canadian military. 

At the same time, British Forces sought recruits outside of Europe to infiltrate Japanese-held territories in southeast AsiaQuan, who had recently headed to train with the Canadian Forces in Saskatchewan, was transferred to the British Army for special service in the Southeast Asia Command.



“Everyone around here wanted to join the forces but they would not allow that until 1944. So when that happened, a group of us said, ‘Let’s go and join up,’” 93-year-old Quan told HuffPost Canada from his retirement home in Victoria. “We were then told to volunteer to serve in Southeast Asia because they said we were more adapted to that region than Europeans. So, 150 of us Chinese people all signed up.”

Quan was recruited to Force 136, a secret service branch. Almost all of these Chinese-Canadian recruits were from British Columbia, descendants of those were brought over to help build the railroad. Quan was sent to India to join other Chinese-Canadians serving in the Burma campaign to fight against the Japanese.


Gordan Quan serving as a demolition expert. 

“When I was in the jungle, I was assigned to special Force 136 and took intensive training in demolition work. I became a demolition expert,” said Quan. ”And then I was shipped into the jungle to Malaya area. A bunch of troops, maybe 15 of us were there, some of us, we’re jumping behind lines, some of us were going to another area. I always carry a couple grenades, carry a pistol.”

“I got to do the job as demolition expert, go in there, blow it up. We have to size that area, where the enemies are, make sure that timing is more important, how to get in and how to get out,” said Quan, noting that since they were stationed in the jungle, they didn’t know that the war ended after the Americans dropped the bomb on Japan, ending the mission.

Many of the Chinese-Canadians who volunteered to serve did so with the hopes that their efforts would translate into fostering a better perception of the Chinese in Canada. However, the government still had not granted Chinese-Canadians the right to vote when they returned home from the war, so soldiers from Special Forces 136 banded together to fight for that right, said Quan.

Watch “Force 136: Chinese Canadian Heroes.” Story continues below. 

“At that time, we were always British subjects. We had no rights to go into the profession of our choice, it was only restaurants and laundry for the Chinese people. When we come back, the regiment group went to Ottawa to fight for the right to be Canadian.”

Even before the Second World War had begun, Chinese-Canadians had launched protests and petitions requesting the right for Chinese-Canadians to vote.

After the war, Chinese-Canadian vets led “a coalition of churches, unions, civic groups and veterans’ associations into pressuring the government to end the exclusion of Chinese-Canadians” from voting, according to “Beyond Being Other: Chinese Canadians National History,” a journal written by Lisa Rose Mar. 

And their efforts did serve them as much as it served other countries. The racist Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923, which banned most forms of immigration to Canada for 24 years, was finally repealed in 1947. That same year, for the first time, Chinese-Canadians were allowed to become Canadian citizens and were granted the right to vote in federal elections.

These changes also meant Chinese-Canadians could also now be recognized as doctors, lawyers and engineers.

Quan, who spent 30 years in the reserves stationed in Canada, went on to marry after the war and have five children, who gave him five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. And after a long life well-lived, he wouldn’t change a thing.

“When I was in the army, no discrimation I face. I was the first Chinese person who worked for the city of Victoria,” said Quan. “If I wasn’t a veteran, I’d never get that job back then.”

“Today, I speak at schools and tell young people to join the army. You get your education paid for, you learn many things and now, today, because of what we went through, the Chinese have the right to enjoy life in Canada.

“To be Canadian citizens, to be equal now.”  

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Rejecting taboos, Palestinian businessman welcomes US plan

JERUSALEM — A Palestinian businessman who flouts political taboos by working with Israeli settlers in the West Bank could soon have a role in President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan.

While Palestinian officials have swiftly rejected next month’s planned Mideast conference in Bahrain, Ashraf Jabari says he will be thrilled to attend.

Jabari has forged close ties with U.S. diplomats but is viewed with deep suspicion by his fellow Palestinians. That has raised questions about U.S. attempts to cultivate him and other businessmen as alternatives to the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority.

The U.S. has not yet released an official list of attendees at the June 25-26 conference, which seeks to use economic development to lure the Palestinians to the negotiating table. U.S. officials have said it would convene individual business leaders, including some Palestinians who live outside the Palestinian territories.

“Our economic plan is an ambitious but achievable vision; it presents an alternative path with the potential to unlock a prosperous future for the Palestinian people if they choose to follow it,” said Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Mideast envoy.

The Palestinian Authority has said that any plan focusing on economic development at the expense of people’s political aspirations is unacceptable. Well-known Palestinian business magnate Bashar Masri, for one, has declined his invitation, vowing not to attend anything that flies in the face of the “Palestinian national consensus.”

The Palestinians seek an independent state on territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, including the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and the international community overwhelmingly still supports the two-state solution.

But Jabari said it is time for some different thinking, noting a quarter-century of failed negotiations.

“No Israeli prime minister will ever meet Palestinian demands or vice versa,” Jabari told The Associated Press. “We can’t keep waiting for a state. We have to think about this area as one entity, not two entities and two realities.”

Jabari’s vision effectively erases Israel’s pre-1967 boundary with the West Bank. It is a vision that is shared by Israeli settlers, who reject a pullout from the West Bank on a combination of religious and security grounds.

He says the West Bank’s more than 2 million Palestinians should be granted full citizenship rights — a scenario that would threaten Israel’s status as a Jewish-majority democracy.

For now, Jabari’s partnership with the settlers, called the “Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce,” referring to the West Bank by its biblical name, claims not to have a political agenda.

It says it seeks to bring Palestinians and Israeli settlers together, joined by a desire to make money and a shared resentment of the Palestinian Authority and disillusionment over failed peace talks. Its members talk of business ventures springing from unexpected personal relationships and gush about benefits of free trade.

“We’re talking about business-to-business relationships, unfolding on a sub-sovereign level to achieve greater regional stability,” said Avi Zimmerman, the chamber’s co-founder and a spokesman for the settlement of Ariel.

It’s a lofty ambition that squares with what Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior Middle East adviser, has revealed about his “fresh approach” to the still mysterious U.S. proposal to settle the conflict: it will start out as a business deal more than a political one, focusing heavily on attracting large-scale investment and infrastructure work to the Palestinian territories.

The deal faces major questions. Without an official Palestinian partner in the West Bank, it remains unclear how the U.S. will carry out such large-scale projects there. The Gaza Strip is ruled by Hamas, which Israel and the U.S. consider a terrorist group. And it is hard to imagine donors lining up billions of dollars without an accompanying political plan.

On the Israeli side, newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the process of forming a coalition that is expected to be dominated by hard-liners who oppose even minimal concessions to the Palestinians.

Like the architects of the peace plan, the chamber has offered only scant outlines of its projects. It promotes Palestinian-Israeli business partnerships, including plans for a few jointly owned shopping centres along the West Bank’s main highway. More broadly, it seeks foreign investment for large-scale infrastructure projects connecting Israeli settlements with Palestinian cities, mutually accessible medical centres and tourism initiatives.

“This is not about Palestinians working in Israeli factories,” Zimmerman said of the Israeli-run industrial zones that have long employed low-wage Palestinian labourers near the settlements. “This is about a shared market, what can be gained from doing business with your neighbour.”

Its idealistic mission is enough to satisfy David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel and a long-time supporter of Israeli settlements. Friedman has nurtured ties between the council and the Trump administration.

Friedman has lashed out repeatedly at the Palestinian Authority since it severed most ties with the U.S. after Trump recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.

“To hold the Palestinian people hostage to a political solution to the conflict when business efforts are ripe in front of us is a grave mistake,” Friedman said in a speech at the chamber’s first international forum in February, drawing fervent applause from an audience of West Bank settlement mayors, ministers and a handful of Palestinian businessmen.

At the forum, Jabari hailed Friedman as his “dearest friend,” saying, “We are not afraid. We’re ready to accept Jews in our houses and in our factory plants.”

Jabari often hosts Israeli settlers at his home in the West Bank city of Hebron. At a recent “iftar” dinner during Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, Jabari served kosher food for his Jewish guests.

While welcomed by the settlers, Jabari is seen much differently by fellow Palestinians. His embrace of the settlers has confined him to the political fringe, reviled by fellow Palestinians who regularly tar him as a “collaborator” — an insult that bears threats of violence.

His iftar meal drew harsh criticism and even death threats on Palestinian social media. Prominent Palestinian activist Issa Amro called Jabari “notorious” for befriending Hebron’s ultranationalist settler community.

And Ahmed Majdalani, a senior Palestinian official, declared that any Palestinian who participates in the Bahrain conference “is no more than a collaborator.”

Jabari responded: “The Palestinian Authority is the only collaborator, working with the Israeli government since the Oslo accords.”

He believes ordinary Palestinians would support his pragmatic approach to profit from their shared geography with Israel if it weren’t for the authority’s “brainwashing,” crackdown on dissent and adherence to a two-state doctrine he says is increasingly divorced from reality.

“What have we gained from bloodshed and separation? Nothing,” he said. “We need to look at what went wrong and do something different so we can make it right.”

Isabel Debre, The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law May 22, 2019 Off

Oral arguments to occur in Trump fight over bank subpoenas

NEW YORK — A judge is poised to hear oral arguments Wednesday over President Donald Trump’s effort to block congressional subpoenas seeking financial records from two banks.

The hearing occurs after congressional Democrats sought the information from Deutsche Bank and Capital One.

Trump, his family and his company contend in a Manhattan federal court lawsuit that the subpoenas are unlawful and unenforceable.

Lawyers for the congressional Democrats responded by saying a ruling in Trump’s favour would undermine the constitutional separation of powers and impede congressional probes.

Deutsche Bank has lent Trump’s real estate company millions of dollars over the years.

Prior to the hearing before Judge Edgardo Ramos, Trump’s lawyers say the judge should temporarily block Congress from obtaining the records. They say they want enough time to fully litigate the subpoenas’ legality.

The hearing falls two days after a federal judge in Washington ruled against Trump, finding that the president cannot block a House subpoena for information from a financial services firm that had done accounting work for him and the Trump Organization.

And it comes a day after Trump blocked his former White House lawyer, Don McGahn, from testifying before the House Judiciary Committee.

In a written submission prior to Wednesday’s hearing, lawyers for two congressional committees wrote that Trump’s effort to block the subpoenas was “flatly inconsistent with nearly a century of Supreme Court precedent.”

The lawyers said the House’s Committee on Financial Services and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence sought the information as they investigate “serious and urgent questions concerning the safety of banking practices, money laundering in the financial sector, foreign influence in the U.S. political process, and the threat of foreign financial leverage, including over the president, his family and his business.”

Lawyers for Trump responded in writing that accepting the view of the committees would mean “Congress can issue a subpoena on any matter, at any time, for any reason, to any person, and there is basically nothing a federal court can do about it.”

The banks took no position in the dispute.

Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press

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