Morning Update: Senate passes gender identity bill; Pence hires a lawyer; Russia says it may have killed ISIS leader

(Globe and Mail Update)

Senate passes gender identity bill

Canada’s Senate has passed a bill that protects gender identity and expression. The passage of Bill C-16 comes after years of calls for protections from LGBT advocates. There were a number of failed private-members’ bills, going back to 2005, before the Trudeau government backed this bill. Still, Conservatives fought C-16 in both the House of Commons and the Senate. With its passage, Canada is “once again a global leader in advancing LGBT rights,” John Ibbitson writes. But “as LGBT rights advance in parts of the world,” he writes, “a backlash appears to be developing in other parts.” Just last month, Indonesia publicly caned two gay men caught having sex. And homosexuality is still a crime in more than 70 countries.

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Trudeau rejects proposed Internet tax

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has rejected a tax on Internet providers to help fund Canadian media – a proposal put forth by a Liberal-dominated committee. “We’re not going to be raising taxes on the middle class through an Internet broadband tax. That is not an idea we are taking on,” Trudeau said. The suggestion for a 5-per-cent tax was backed by Liberal and NDP members of the Canadian Heritage Committee, which is examining ways to assist the country’s struggling media industry. Conservatives and a number of experts rejected the idea. “Efforts to turn back the clock to an earlier era are doomed to failure,” Tory MP Peter Van Loan said.

Here are other key recommendations the committee put forward:

Incentives for Canadian media outlets, including a five-year tax credit aimed at encouraging investment in digital platforms. The report also suggests foreign news companies that target Canadians be obligated to pay taxes here.

A new clause in the Competition Act to review mergers such as Postmedia’s 2015 acquisition of Sun Media newspapers.

Measures to help local news survive, including the possibility of drawing on some revenue from an upcoming wireless spectrum auction.

Russia says it may have killed ISIS leader in air strike

Russia’s Defence Ministry said Friday it was checking information that a Russian air strike near the Syrian city of Raqqa may have killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in late May. The air strike was launched after the Russian forces in Syria received intelligence that a meeting of Islamic State leaders was being planned, the ministry said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.

Pence hires outside counsel; Trump calls probe a ‘witch hunt’

As investigations into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign ramp up, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence is turning to outside legal help. Pence has hired lawyer Richard Cullen to respond to inquiries from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Cullen has a history of representing high-profile figures, including former FIFA head Sepp Blatter, amid a corruption probe.

U.S. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, called the probe a “witch hunt” on Twitter. The Washington Post broke a story on Wednesday saying Mueller was investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice. “They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice,” Trump wrote. Mueller is also examining the business dealings of Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner, the Post reported.

BC Liberals warn minority instability could lead to another election

Tensions are heating up in B.C. politics with the legislature set to reopen next Friday. The BC Liberals are expecting to lose a confidence vote that will come after the Throne Speech. That will set in motion a likely scenario where the NDP, thanks to an agreement with the Greens, get a crack at forming government. But the Liberals are warning that with a combined 44 seats to their 43, an NDP government would be unstable, increasing the possibility of another election. A key factor is the Liberals’ refusal to offer up any of their MLAs to serve as Speaker. That would leave the NDP with no choice but to use a member of their own party, who would need to be called on to break any tie votes.

MORNING MARKETS

World stocks steadied on Friday after selling in the tech sector triggered their biggest fall in over a month, while the yen slid to a two-week low as the Bank of Japan signalled its stimulus was staying in place. Tokyo’s Nikkei gained 0.6 per cent, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 0.2 per cent, though the Shanghai composite lost 0.3 per cent. In Europe, London’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were up by between 0.5 and 0.9 per cent by about 5:45 a.m. (ET). New York futures were also up, and the Canadian dollar was at about 75.5 cents (U.S.). Oil was subdued on continued worries over rising U.S. gasoline inventories adding to already elevated global supply.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

Trump is reportedly under investigation. Does that signal his end? Not so fast

“It is possible that the President will fire [special counsel Robert] Mueller, much as he fired James Comey, even though this will be perceived as further admission of guilt and possibly open up yet another obstruction of justice investigation. Pundits who speculate that the optics of this decision will hold Trump back are still mired in the presumption that the President respects democratic norms and rule of law, which he does not. The optics Trump favours are those of an autocrat: blatant demonstrations of power that proclaim, “We know that you know what we did, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” – Sarah Kendzior

Today, trans Canadians celebrate Bill C-16. Tomorrow, the work begins for us all

“In the end, equality prevailed, and trans and gender non-binary Canadians are now recognized as formally equal citizens. But the work of real equality has only just begun. … We need to look at the constant diminishing and loss of trans lives. We need to consider the disproportional rates of incarceration, criminalization and underemployment, as well as the limited access to health care and education, suffered by gender-diverse individuals and communities. We need to confront that these numbers are significantly higher within black and Indigenous communities. We will need to look deeper into the heart of our own legal system if we are really committed to finally addressing the vulnerabilities faced by trans and gender-diverse communities.” – Brenda Cossman, professor of law at the University of Toronto, and Ido Katri, doctoral candidate at U of T

Ottawa was right to unplug the notion of a tax on the Internet

“Given its importance to virtually all aspects of modern-day life, there are few policy goals more essential than ensuring that all Canadians have affordable access to the Internet. That goal would be badly undermined by an Internet tax that would have increased consumer costs and stymied Canadian innovation. With so much on the line, it was good to see the government demonstrate law at Internet speed, killing a terrible proposal before it could even get out of the news conference.” – Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa

HEALTH PRIMER

Why fancy gym words may be sabotaging your workout

“Now, thanks to [the people behind a recent paper], you can know for sure if physical inactivity (‘an insufficient physical activity level to meet present physical activity recommendations’) is the cause of what ails you, or, worse, sedentary behaviour (‘any waking behavior characterized by an energy expenditure equal or less than 1.5 metabolic equivalents, while in a sitting, reclining or lying posture’). The distinction is subtle, but important; physical inactivity means you don’t move enough, sedentary behaviour means you don’t move at all.” – Paul Landini, personal trainer

MOMENT IN TIME

Anthony Weiner resigns from Congress

June 16, 2011: After weeks of pressure from critics and colleagues, Anthony Weiner finally caved. The former U.S. Democratic congressional leader appeared on this day before dozens of cameras – and ultimately millions of viewers around the world – in a seniors centre in his district to announce he was resigning from his position as congressman of New York’s ninth district. After initially denying allegations, Weiner admitted to sending online images, described as “lewd,” to as many as six women. Two years later, Weiner would run for mayor of New York, only to have to withdraw from politics once again after more images surfaced. In May, Weiner pleaded guilty to sending obscene material to a 15-year-old girl. In relation to this third instance, Weiner is facing up to 10 years in prison. He will be sentenced in September. – Kenny Sharpe

Morning Update is written by Arik Ligeti.

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