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Trudeau to help law students find internships, but stays firm on Meng

Thursday, June 25, 2020 @ 3:31 PM | By Terry Davidson

Extended opportunities for out-of-work students — including those studying law — and stronger language on why Canada cannot give in to Chinese demands to release Meng Wanzhou were featured in Prime Minister Justice Trudeau’s latest address to the nation.

On June 25, following two days of no updates, Trudeau launched the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG), a program unveiled in April that will use volunteering as income opportunity to post-secondary students and recent graduates struggling to find summer work due to widespread economic shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 health crisis.

The program runs until Oct. 31.

Prime Minister Justice Trudeau

As he did in April, Trudeau said the volunteer aspect of the CSSG could see students receiving between $1,000 and $5,000 for their time.  

According to the program’s webpage, the amount they will be given is contingent on the number of volunteer hours they put in. A student will receive $1,000 for every 100 hours, up to a maximum of 500 hours and $5,000. (Payouts only happen in increments of $1,000, the site notes.)

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) was quick to criticize the CSSG, stating it took too long for the program to start.

“While the program was announced in April, it took two months for the government to announce the details and open the application process,” said the CFS in a statement. “Because of the delay, students looking to receive the $5,000 grant would have to volunteer an average of 27.8 hours per week until October 31 to receive the full amount, which will not be possible for many students. For those who have already been volunteering since April, they will not be able to claim those hours towards the grant. Also, students over 30 and international students are ineligible.”

Also, Trudeau said that as part of his government’s overall $9 billion aid package to students funding is being given to a Canadian not-for-profit that connects university students with internships.

With that money, Mitacs, a research and training organization, will widen its program to include more fields of study, including law.  

“Our government will … invest $40 million to create 5,000 Mitacs internships for post-secondary students as part of our $9 billion plan to help students during this crisis,” said Trudeau. “Mitacs is an [organization] that builds partnerships between universities and industry. … Usually, Mitacs caters to researchers or PhD research students, but with the funding we’re announcing today, they’ll expand their internship opportunities to undergraduate students and students in the professional programs, like law, medicine or business.”

After his address, Trudeau faced inevitable questions about Huawei telecom executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Vancouver in late 2018 on an extradition request by the United States, where she faces fraud charges.

Reporters pointed to a letter recently sent to Trudeau by a group of high-profile Canadians, including senior diplomats and former parliamentarians, who are calling on Justice Minister David Lametti to end Meng’s extradition proceedings as a way of possibly securing China’s release of two Canadians taken into custody there shortly after Meng’s arrest in Vancouver.

The letter reportedly noted a legal opinion from Toronto criminal lawyer Brian Greenspan, who said the federal government is wrong in its claim that it has no legal authority to intervene in Meng’s extradition case.

“I respect the distinguished Canadians who put forward that letter, but I deeply disagree with them,” Trudeau said. “The idea of solving a short-term situation by creating a precedent that demonstrates to China that all they or another country has to do is randomly arrest a handful of Canadians to put political pressure on a government … would endanger the millions of Canadians who live and travel overseas every single year. We cannot allow political pressures, or random arrests of Canadian citizens to influence the functioning of our justice system. So, I respect these individuals, but they are wrong in their approach.”

As he has done before, Trudeau said that the independence of Canada’s justice system must be respected.

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