Dec 11, 2013 / 7:50 pm
Vancouver, the host city that introduced "The Pride House" to the Olympics movement, could soon send its gay deputy mayor to Russia to fight against homophobia in sport.
City councillors are expected to endorse a resolution next week sending Coun. Tim Stevenson and two members of his Host City Pride House Mission Team to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Once there, the team will ask officials with the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee to include a non-discrimination clause for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in the Games' charter and require future host cities to endorse pride houses in their bids.
The trip would come about eight months after Russia passed a law that bans "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" and imposes fines on people who stage gay pride rallies.
"This isn't to challenge laws or to challenge the authorities," Stevenson told reporters in Vancouver Wednesday. "I am going to try to convince the IOC that they need to change.
"This isn't about trying to raise international incidents, and there will probably be others that may do that, I don't know, but good luck to them. But I want to go to make sure that we speak to the IOC and get them to understand how important it is to include sexual orientation in their charter and how important it is to have a safe house in every Olympics from here on in."
The resolution also calls on Olympic officials to "ensure the protection" of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered athletes, coaches, officials, spectators and their allies in Sochi.
No one from the International Olympic Committee was available to comment by publication.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he seconded Stevenson's motion and will back it when it comes before council. Stevenson said later that he didn't expect opposition from members of council.
Robertson said the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver featured the first pride house, which he called a safe place and resource centre for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered athletes and spectators.
"We held Games that welcomed the world," he said. "Regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, everyone was included, everyone was welcome here. Sadly, as we are learning, this does not appear to be the case with the 2014 Sochi Winter Games."
Robertson said he is "dismayed" that the progress that was made in Vancouver is being lost in Sochi.
Stevenson said taxpayers won't foot the bill for the trip, adding the city has set up a trust account to pay for the travel expenses of the three-person team. He said it has already raised $50,000 towards its $100,000 goal.
A city document handed out states the team will include Maureen Douglas, who was an Olympic organizer in Vancouver for eight years, and Dean Nelson, the co-founder of the pride house.
Bob Rennie, founder of Rennie Marketing Systems, said he and Peter Wall of the Wall Financial Corporation each donated $25,000 for the mission team's trip.
Rennie said the issue is about human rights, not gay rights.
"I just really believe that if they came for you last night, they're coming for me in the morning, and let's just make sure that these things aren't happening on the earth," he said.
"What I really do like about what's happened in Russia, it has galvanized the rest of the world to stand up and have more of a voice."
In October, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the country's athletes and fans would do their best so participants and guests would feel comfortable at the Olympics, "regardless of their ethnicity, race or sexual orientation."
Dec 11, 2013 / 7:39 am
Canada Post has announced it will stop delivering regular mail door-to-door to homes in urban centres, as part of sweeping cost-cutting measures.
The Crown corporation announced Wednesday that door-to-door delivery will be phased out over the next five years.
Those areas – which account for about one-third of Canadian households -- will transition to community mail boxes. Implementation of the changes will begin in the second half of 2014.
The first neighbourhoods that will stop receiving door-to-door mail delivery have yet to be announced.
The postal service also announced Wednesday that the cost of stamps will be increasing from $0.63 each to $0.85 beginning March 31, 2014.
The changes are part of a five-point action plan aimed at returning Canada Post to “financial sustainability” by 2019.
A think-tank commissioned by Canada Post warned earlier this year that the postal service will be losing $1 billion a year by the end of this decade.
Conference Board of Canada said, in this age of digital communication, the postal service is being hit by a dramatic reduction in the volume of it mail it handles.
It estimated $576 million a year could be saved by eliminating of door-to-door delivery for urban homes.
Dec 11, 2013 / 6:49 am
The province of Alberta is concerned that a multibillion-dollar hydroelectric dam proposed in northeastern British Columbia could increase mercury levels in fish and escalate the risk of floods or drought along the Peace River that flows through its province.
Alberta's Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, which manages lands, forests, fish and wildlife in the province, has filed a 23-page submission setting out its concerns to the panel reviewing the massive project.
Environmental review hearings for the $7.9-billion Site C dam proposal by BC Hydro are underway in Fort St. John.
Two existing dams on the Peace River in BC have already significantly altered the flow of the river into the neighbouring province, the Alberta submission said, and this has both positive and negative impacts in Alberta.
"Alberta is concerned that Site C will further exacerbate the negative impacts," said the document filed Nov. 29.
The Site C dam would flood an 83-kilometre stretch of the Peace River from approximately Fort St. John to just upstream of Hudson's Hope. It would be the third dam on the river, downstream from the W.A.C. Bennett and Peace Canyon dams.
The two existing dams already lower the river's natural flow from May to late July, and increase flow from mid-October to mid-April. There are benefits to the flow regulation from BC Hydro, such as a reduced risk of flooding, but there are also risks, Alberta said.
Among those risks is an expected increase in methylmercury levels in fish during construction of the dam.
"Alberta acknowledges that BC Hydro expects increases in MeHg levels in fish populations downstream of the Alberta-B.C. border to be temporary and within fish consumption guidelines," the submission said.
"However, it is unclear whether Albertans are aware of this increase, the amount of the increase, and the duration of the impact."
The Alberta government requested ongoing information from BC Hydro to enable the province to inform fishermen on the Peace River of changes to methylmercury levels in fish until concentrations return to pre-construction levels.
The impact of the dam on managing ice-related flooding and concern about minimum flow rates during construction were also singled out as concerns. Reduced peak flow affects the aquatic ecosystem on the Peace River, the Peace-Athabaska delta and other riparian wetlands, the document said.
Water fluctuations also cause mortality to fish and eggs by stranding, or indirectly through increased stress on fish, the report said.
There are also concerns about changes Site C will cause in water temperature downstream from the dam and reservoir, making the Peace River slower to warm in spring and slower to cool in summer.
"Such changes to water temperatures, though slight, may impact the current distribution and range of cold and cool water fish species within Alberta causing potential declines in some species and increases in others," the report said. "Temperature changes may also impact the timing of ice freeze-up and break-up events."
That could result in changes to spawning runs, in egg incubation rates and access to spawning habitat, the submission stated.
The province is also concerned about the flow of fish in the river.
"Upstream and downstream movement of fish populations is necessary for gene flow and hence long term resiliency in those populations, as well as to allow access to spawning, rearing, feeding, and overwintering areas," the report said.
BC Hydro has told the neighbouring province that it is exploring options for fish passage, but as yet, "Site C could result in more restrictive fishing opportunities for species Albertans value more highly in the Peace River."
Dec 11, 2013 / 6:43 am
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada is deeply concerned about the political unrest in Ukraine.
In a statement issued early Wednesday, Harper calls the use of riot police against peaceful protesters in the capital Kyiv "undemocratic and excessive."
His comments came as demonstrators faced off with thousands of riot police in Kyiv's central square Wednesday after an overnight confrontation in which several people were injured.
The protests began late last month when President Viktor Yanukovych backed away from a pact that would deepen the former Soviet republic's economic ties with the European Union.
Harper says Canada and the international community expect Ukrainian authorities to respect and protect the rights of its citizens, including the right to express their opinions freely.
Harper, who was in Pretoria, South Africa Wednesday to view the body of former president Nelson Mandela, also warned that Canada and "like-minded allies" will monitor developments closely and consider all options at their disposal.
“Canada stands with the Ukrainian people during this difficult time and will continue to forcefully oppose all efforts to repress their rights and freedoms," said Harper in the statement.
Squadrons of police in helmets and bearing metal shields converged about 1 a.m. local time on Independence Square, where anti-government protesters have been gathering around the clock to demand the resignation of the government.
Thousands of protesters, their ranks swelling through the night, put up fierce resistance for hours, shoved back at police lines to keep them away from key sites at a camp set up in the square.
Although several demonstrators and police were injured, police appeared to be under orders to refrain from using excessive force, unlike the violent beatings of protesters in recent weeks. Some police officers helped injured activists up from the ground and moved them away.
At dawn, some seven hours after the police siege began, police stood almost motionless while speakers from the protest stage denounced the government and tried to raise demonstrators' spirits.
-With files from The Associated Press.
Dec 10, 2013 / 7:00 pm
Two Quebec caregivers face criminal charges after an elderly woman living in a long-term health-care centre was allegedly assaulted and given a noxious substance.
Immacula Eugene, 51, and Marie-Margaret Petime, 46, were each arraigned near Montreal on Tuesday on two charges of drug trafficking, two of conspiracy and two of administering a noxious substance.
Eugene was also charged with armed assault.
The alleged crimes took place last July. The 87-year-old victim died two months later but it was only on Nov. 21 that police received a complaint from someone close to her.
Longueuil police spokesman Mark David said it is unclear whether the woman died directly from the alleged assault. The investigation is continuing.
Police arrested the women on Monday after reviewing video from within the centre.
Dec 10, 2013 / 2:35 pm
The Public Safety Department for Fredericton says a Mountie who publicly complained about not being able to smoke medicinal marijuana while on the job was subdued with a stun gun and charged with assaulting another RCMP officer.
Alycia Morehouse, a spokeswoman for the department, says Cpl. Ron Francis is undergoing a psychiatric assessment at the Restigouche Hospital Centre in northern New Brunswick after he was arrested last week.
Francis is due back in provincial court in Fredericton on Jan. 6.
An RCMP spokeswoman says the Mounties were concerned about Francis's well-being when they found him Friday on a street in downtown Fredericton.
Morehouse says the RCMP called Fredericton police for help because the city is not within RCMP jurisdiction.
She says Francis was hit with a stun gun at one point, but she couldn't offer further details, saying the matter is before the courts.
Francis attracted national attention last month when he spoke out against the RCMP's policy that says its officers can't smoke medicinal marijuana while in uniform.
He returned his red serge on orders from his superiors but accused the RCMP and the federal government of not doing enough to support officers with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The RCMP said its officers who are prescribed medicinal marijuana should not be in red serge or regular uniform while taking their medication as it would not portray the right message to the public.
The lawyer for Francis could not be reached for comment.
Dec 10, 2013 / 2:30 pm
A defiant Mayor Rob Ford refused Tuesday to apologize or explain televised comments in which he appeared to accuse a reporter of being a pedophile.
Asked if he would say sorry to Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale or clarify the comments he made during a Vision TV interview with former media baron and convicted felon Conrad Black, Ford was emphatic.
"I stand by my words, what I said with Conrad Black," Ford said at a news conference, his voice rising. "I stand by every word I said."
Black had asked Ford in the Monday night interview about media intrusion on his family's privacy, and Ford singled out Dale for an incident that happened in May 2012.
Dale has said he was writing a story about a plot of public land adjacent to Ford's house that the mayor was looking to buy, so he had gone to take a look at it when the mayor emerged from his home to confront him.
"Daniel Dale is in my backyard taking pictures. I have little kids. He's taking pictures of little kids," Ford said in the interview, taped Friday.
"I don't want to say that word but you start thinking what this guy is all about."
During Tuesday's news conference reporters asked Ford to specify "the word."
"If you watch the interview you'll know what I said," Ford said angrily. "If you watched Conrad Black's interview, actually there was two ... I hope you saw both of them, and I stand by every word I said with Mr. Black in my interview."
Earlier Tuesday, Dale denounced Ford's suggestion as "categorically false."
"It's amazing. I don't know what to say about it," Dale said in an interview.
"In the calmest terms possible, it is unpleasant when the mayor of the biggest city in Canada essentially accuses you, or suggests, you are a pedophile."
Dale, who seemed bemused by Ford's comments, said at no time did he ever take any photographs of the mayor's family, house or even his property — and a police investigation bore that out.
He said the Star's lawyers were pondering next steps.
Neither Black nor Vision TV responded to interview requests Tuesday.
However, Vision's code of ethics warns against misrepresenting or inciting hatred against any individual. It also promises to correct any "significant unfairness."
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who has assumed most of the mayor's powers, denounced Ford's view.
"It's dead wrong," Kelly said.
"It's almost beyond comment. It goes beyond the pale and I think there should be an apology for that."
Toronto Star lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.
However, in a statement in response to Ford's remarks, the paper's editor in chief Michael Cooke slammed Ford.
"Just when you think Mayor Ford has said the most stupid thing, such as letting the whole world know about his sex life at home, he tops himself with another outrage," Cooke said.
Among other things, Ford has garnered national and international attention for his admission to smoking crack cocaine while in office, buying illegal drugs and making an obscene comment about a female aide on national television.
He has frequently denounced the Star, which in May carried the story of a video in which Ford appears to smoke crack cocaine, calling its reporters "pathological liars."
Kelly suggested it was time for journalists to give Ford a wider berth.
"If the media didn't follow the mayor as closely as it has, I think it would take the oxygen out of the room," Kelly said.
Ivor Shapiro, chairman of Ryerson's School of Journalism, said Ford does at times get too much media scrutiny, and journalists can lose their sense of proportion.
"I sympathize with people who think the mayor gets more attention than he deserves and that news media are somewhat obsessed with his every move and his every foible," Shapiro said.
"(But) he is the head of a very large government and to hold the heads of government accountable for their behaviour is part of what of media do."
At the same time, Shapiro said, Ford does give journalists a "lot of reasons" to be interested in his behaviour.
Dec 10, 2013 / 11:39 am
Russian President Vladimir Putin is pawing the snow over Canada's claim to the North Pole.
A day after Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird confirmed Canada is extending its Arctic territorial claim beyond the area mapped by federal scientists, Putin responded with a highly visible message to the Russian military.
In televised comments at a meeting of military officials, Putin said Russia needs to have "every lever" to protect its security and national interests in the high Arctic.
Russia is currently building the world's biggest nuclear icebreaker, to add to its existing five-ship fleet.
The Canadian military, by contrast, struggled last summer to buy its troops enough snowmobiles.
However, Whitney Lackenbauer, a University of Waterloo historian who specializes in Arctic issues, says the military sabre-rattling won't influence international territorial claims and is designed more for domestic political purposes.
Dec 10, 2013 / 9:05 am
Canada's own WestJet airlines is spreading a bit of holiday cheer online this week, thanks to a "Christmas miracle" video that's gone viral.
Unwitting, weary passengers on recent Calgary-bound WestJet flights were part of the heartwarming stunt, which was put on by more than 150 airline staff.
Prior to their departure from Toronto and Hamilton, WestJet passengers were asked by a virtual Santa Claus what they wanted for Christmas, after scanning their boarding passes at kiosks set up by the airline.
While the unsuspecting passengers made their way to Calgary, WestJet staff -- who recorded all the requests -- scrambled to buy, wrap, and deliver the presents to Calgary International Airport.
When the planes touched down, passengers waiting for their luggage were in disbelief when instead of bags, they saw the wrapped presents they had asked for coming down the carousel – from socks and underwear, to an android tablet and a big-screen TV.
In a video explaining the “Christmas miracle” stunt, WestJet vice-president of communications Richard Bartrem said the company will donate flights to the Ronald McDonald Charities once it cracks its goal of 200,000 views.
That feat was easily reached, as the video has so far amassed nearly 1 million views.
In a similar stunt last year, WestJet organized its first “Christmas miracle” by surprising passengers going from Calgary to Toronto with a flash mob of dancing and singing elves.
Dec 10, 2013 / 8:30 am
The federal public safety minister has announced the creation of an RCMP unit that will work closely with law-enforcement partners in Quebec to fight human-trafficking in Canada and abroad.
Steven Blaney says significant progress has been made over the past year but that much work remains to be done on what he calls the despicable crime of modern-day slavery in Canada.
"Sometimes it can be a young girl who falls in love with an individual and who is then pushed into prostitution -- it can be as horrible as that," Blaney said in an interview Monday after making the announcement at a news conference.
The RCMP announces a new unit that will help combat human trafficking, Monday, Dec. 9, 2013.
"So that's why it's so important to deal with this huge challenge as a Canadian society."
The RCMP has also developed an information and awareness campaign aimed at youth and the aboriginal population entitled: "I'm Not for Sale", which the federal minister says is providing good results.
"It is encouraging victims to come out and reach out to non-governmental organizations and actually seek help and then we can prosecute traffickers," he added.
A few hours after Blaney met reporters in Montreal, the RCMP announced the arrest of four more erotic massage parlour operators.
The Mounties said in a news release that they, the Montreal police and the Canada Border Services Agency conducted a second police operation last Friday in a case of sexual exploitation of young Romanian women.
An arrest warrant was also issued for another operator. One week earlier, three erotic massage parlour operators were arrested as part of the same investigation.
Those arrested last Friday appeared in court a day later to face charges including keeping a common bawdy house, aiding or abetting a person to engage in or carry on prostitution, and living wholly or in part on the avails of prostitution.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre recently served notice that illegal massage parlours -- havens for prostitution and human-trafficking -- will be the target of a police crackdown and possible legislation that will include hefty fines.
The RCMP has pointed out in the past that such parlours are a gateway for moving human-trafficking victims into prostitution. The Mounties estimate there are nearly 350 illicit massage parlours in Montreal and many more in its suburbs.
Coderre has the backing of the federal minister in his crackdown on erotic massage parlours that are masquerading as legitimate businesses.
"Mayor Coderre can count on our support to track down human-traffickers," Blaney said. "So, wherever they are, whether in a massage parlour or anywhere else, where there's human-trafficking, our joint forces will intervene."
At his Montreal news conference, Blaney also released the 2012-2013 annual report on progress of a national action plan to combat human-trafficking.
The plan involves 18 federal departments.
It includes a partnership with the National Association of Friendship Centres, which is aimed at aboriginal populations. There's also been an increase in information that specifically targets foreign nationals and temporary foreign workers who may be vulnerable to human-trafficking.
Dec 10, 2013 / 7:19 am
Toronto's embattled mayor claimed in an interview aired Monday evening that some of his recent controversies are rooted in political differences with police Chief Bill Blair over budget cuts he had once requested of all city departments .
”He (Blair) wasn‘t happy when I told people to find efficiencies. I think he was quite upset at that,” Ford said in an interview recorded last week with ex-media mogul Conrad Black which aired Monday evening on Vision TV.
"I definitely think this is political. I think that they use (Sandro) Lisi as a prop to get to me,‘‘ Ford said.
Blair has previously denied such allegations by stating that his job is to investigate "without fear or favour."
Lisi, 35, who is Ford's friend and occasional driver, was charged in October with trafficking in marijuana, possession of proceeds of crime, possession of marijuana and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.
Lisi's two criminal cases are both set for Jan. 14 judicial pre-trials, which are case conferences between the lawyers and a judge behind closed doors.
Those charges were laid as the result of a Toronto police investigation that was initially launched to look into reports of a video appearing to show Ford smoking crack cocaine.
Ford also added a new chapter to a long-running feud with the Toronto Star in the interview by claiming reporter Daniel Dale was taking pictures of his children at his home in west-end Toronto in May 2012.
He has alleged Dale was spying on him, while Dale contended he was on public property doing research for a story. Dale alleged he was physically threatened by the mayor, a claim which Ford later denied.
”I have little kids. When a guy’s taking pictures of little kids, I don’t want to say that word, but you starting thinking you know, what’s this guy all about.”
Toronto Star editor Michael Cooke told The Canadian Press in an email following the program that this is the latest outrageous statement made by Ford.
”Just when you think Mayor Ford has said the most stupid thing, such as letting the whole world know about his sex life at home, he tops himself with another outrage,” wrote Cooke.
”Mr. Ford calling reporter Daniel Dale a pedophile tells you all you need to know about our mayor's brain.”`
Ford claimed in the interview that while Dale was on city property, he was standing on cinder blocks peering over his fence to take pictures.
"I just lost it when my neighbour called me."
"I don’t know what he was taking pictures. We never, ever saw these pictures, but I have many witnesses. I was upset ... that’s just crossing the line,” Ford added.
Ford also claimed that the controversies that have been swirling around him are ‘‘ripping our family apart.‘‘
The embattled mayor also told Black he’s willing to submit to a urine test to prove he has no drugs or alcohol in his system.
"If they want me to do a drug test, a urine test, I’ll do one right now,” said Ford.
”If there’s any drugs in my system, any alcohol in my system, I have no problem doing that test. I’m feeling better than I ever have, I’m training two hours a day.”
Ford added that he is successfully avoiding alcohol because of how his drinking has caused him past embarrassments.
”I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in five weeks. I was never an alcoholic. A couple of times I made a fool of myself, if you want to be frank ... and enough‘s enough.‘‘
Ford has been under scrutiny since May, when two media outlets reported that a video showed the mayor smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine.
After a string of denials, Ford stunned observers last month by admitting he had smoked crack in one of his “drunken stupors.”
The mayor is also facing allegations he offered purported gang members money and a car in exchange for a video _ unproven claims contained in police documents that are part of a guns and gangs investigation.
Black _ who served 37 months in a Florida prison after being convicted in the U.S. for fraud and obstruction of justice _ says Ford should be accorded a full presumption of innocence unless he is justly convicted and “beyond that his accusers should put up or shut up.”
In the interview, Black asserted that Ford doesn’t have a legal problem and there is no possible criminal prosecution on the horizon, and Ford agreed.
‘‘If I‘ve done something illegal, I‘ve told the police to arrest me,” Ford said.
Ford also reiterated in the interview that he has nothing else to hide.
”There‘s nothing else ... maybe I didn‘t do my homework in Grade 3. I’m not quite sure.”
Dec 9, 2013 / 8:31 pm
A freelance journalist who wrote an article alleging former Vancouver Olympic CEO John Furlong verbally and physically abused British Columbia students in the 1960s and '70s asked a judge Monday to force Furlong to put up $100,000 to prove he can pay legal costs if he loses.
The procedural application, which relied on a rarely used section of law that has only been used twice in more than a century, largely focused instead on what Robinson's lawyer described as the "bitter" feud between the pair.
Laura Robinson wrote an article for the Georgia Straight newspaper published in September 2012, quoting several people who claimed to have been taught by Furlong in Burns Lake, B.C., and Prince George, B.C., in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The former students were quoted alleging Furlong verbally and physically abused them.
Furlong immediately denied any wrongdoing and subsequently sued Robinson and the newspaper for libel. He recently dropped the Georgia Straight as a defendant and has promised to "escalate" his legal action against the reporter.
Robinson's lawyer argued Furlong should be forced to put up the $100,000 security because he has not demonstrated he could pay her legal costs if he eventually loses the case. Furlong's lawyer, in turn, argued Robinson had failed to satisfy the criteria for such an order, set out in a 122-year-old provision of B.C.'s defamation law.
The judge is expected to rule on the application on Tuesday morning.
Among the criteria for such an order is that the defendant acted in "good faith." Furlong's lawyer, John Hunter, argued Robinson did not.
"Mr. Furlong has been severely defamed, everyone in British Columbia knows that," Hunter told the court.
"Mr. Furlong is of the view that this was all done in bad faith. It was all done maliciously."
Furlong revealed he was dropping the newspaper from the lawsuit during a series of media interviews in late October, though he didn't fully explain why he was no longer targeting the newspaper.
On Monday, Hunter suggested the Straight was dropped because the newspaper could likely rely on a relatively new defence known as responsible communication, in which defendants can fend off defamation allegations if they can prove they acted responsibly and satisfied a list of criteria. The Supreme Court of Canada has said the defence is not open to defendants who acted maliciously.
"With respect to the Georgia Straight, one could see how that could be a legitimate defence — they only published this one article," said Hunter.
"But with Ms. Robinson, there is a pattern of harassment that fully supports Mr. Furlong's view that she's engaging in a vendetta against him."
Hunter noted Robinson has included more explosive allegations, including abuse involving former wives, in her court filings. He categorized those new allegations as an abuse of the court system, since the contents of court documents are considered privileged and immune from libel lawsuits.
None of the allegations against either Furlong or Robinson have been proven in court.
Robinson's lawyer, Jeremy Shragge, suggested Robinson will primarily rely on the defence of responsible communication, though she also plans to argue other defences, such as fair comment
"It is the responsible journalism defence that I think is quite possibly the strongest," he said.
"This was an article that she published after six months of research, dozens of interviews."
Shragge said Robinson doesn't intend to argue in her defence that the allegations contained in the original article were actually true, telling the court: "I don't understand Ms. Robinson to have pled truth."
However, Robinson's statement of defence argues she was justified in publishing the article because the allegations were "true in substance and in fact."
Shragge did not explain the apparent discrepancy on Monday.
It's not clear when the case could make it to trial. Robinson's lawyers have suggested Furlong is stalling the case, accusing him of not taking any meaningful steps to bring it to trial.
Shragge told the court the case would likely require a jury trial that could take as long as 20 days.
Dec 9, 2013 / 9:59 am
A Toronto police officer convicted of assaulting a protester during the G20 summit has been sentenced to 45 days in prison.
Const. Babak Andalib-Goortani was convicted in September of assault with a weapon for using excessive force during the arrest of a protester on June 26, 2010.
The Crown had called for a "short, sharp sentence of imprisonment" to send a message that those who abuse their positions of public trust and authority "will be dealt with severely."
Andalib-Goortani's lawyer, Harry Black, had asked for the officer to receive an absolute discharge.
Black said his client had suffered enough already, adding he has post-traumatic stress disorder, his psychological state is fragile and his marriage has fallen apart.
More than 1,000 people were detained by police during the G20 protests — most of them were released without charge within 24 hours.
Andalib-Goortani was one of two officers to face criminal charges stemming from the arrests, but earlier this year Const. Glenn Weddell was acquitted.
Dec 9, 2013 / 7:25 am
Ontario schools should allow students with asthma to carry puffers with them in case of emergencies, says the mother of a 12-year-old boy who died when no one could get his inhaler in time because it was locked in the principal's office.
Ryan Gibbons died Oct. 9, 2012 when he suffered a severe asthma attack during recess at school in the village of Straffordville, in southwestern Ontario.
Sandra Gibbons says her son told his friends he wasn't feeling well and probably started panicking when they had to carry him to the office where the inhaler was kept.
"So as he was going to the office to get his inhaler, he kind of was having a hard time and had to be carried into the office, and by the time he got there he had blacked out," she said. "To this day I really don't know how exactly the whole day unfolded for him."
School policy was to keep the inhalers under lock and key and staff repeatedly confiscated spare inhalers from Ryan, added Gibbons.
"I received many a phone call stating Ryan had taken an inhaler to school and they found it in his bag and would like me to come pick it up because he wasn't even allowed to bring it home with him," she said. "There's supposed to be one in the office and that's the only one he can have. I didn't understand why."
After her son's death, Gibbons, 40, started a petition asking the government to force school boards to adopt standardized asthma management plans, and urged all three parties to pass a private member's bill from Progressive Conservative Jeff Yurek.
"Unfortunately, I stand here today trying to get this bill -- Ryan's law -- in place so that nobody else has to feel how I feel every day, and that's missing my son."
Yurek said his bill would allow students with asthma to have a puffer in their pocket or backpack and force every school board to develop a comprehensive asthma policy.
"Provided the doctor said it's fine for them to have the puffer they will have a spare puffer somewhere in the school, probably the principal's office, but they will have (another) puffer in their pocket or in their bag, however they feel comfortable having it, but it will be on them at all times throughout the day," said Yurek.
"Hopefully we can take an important step toward ensuring a tragedy like this never happens again."
Most school boards have some type of asthma policy, but they vary greatly in terms of scale and scope, added Yurek.
"In some schools, students are not allowed to have them outside of the principal's office, some have medical stations where teachers have pictures of students who need inhalers but still don't have it on hand, and in other schools it has to be in the teacher's desk, which doesn't help them when they go in the playground," he said.
Education Minister Liz Sandals expressed support for the idea behind Ryan's law during second reading debate in the legislature, but said there may need to be a more comprehensive bill covering other medical conditions such as anaphylaxis.
"There really does seem to be good evidence that, as soon as the child is able to manage their own medication, it's important that they have the puffer or the EpiPen on their person," said Sandals. "Staff should know how to recognize and manage worsening symptoms and asthma attacks."
Gibbons also expressed frustration that the school Ryan attended his entire life, and was well aware of his condition, assigned him the trombone in music class, which she felt made him more vulnerable to the fatal asthma attack.
"He should have been on something other than a wind instrument," she said.
The Ontario Lung Association, which is backing Yurek's bill, said there are 1.9 million people in the province with asthma, including 500,000 children.
"Bill 135 will ensure that all schools in Ontario are safe for our children, especially the one in five with asthma," said Lung Association spokeswoman Andrea Stevens.
Dec 8, 2013 / 7:35 pm
It's one of the world's most poisonous snakes, and researchers hope the venom of the viper dubbed the "hundred pacer" can provide a medication to help prevent one of the world's leading killers.
A team of researchers has purified a protein from the snake's venom to develop an experimental drug aimed at preventing blood clots that can cause a heart attack or stroke.
The venom from the Southeast Asia pit viper is so potent that it is referred to by local residents as a hundred pacer — based on the belief that someone who is bitten will be able to walk no more than 100 steps before dying.
Scientifically known as Deinagkistrodon acutus, the 1.5-metre patterned snake is also called the sharp-nosed viper or Chinese moccasin and is indigenous to China, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Using venom milked from the snake, researchers filtered out all but one protein to create a drug called Anfibatide, which in human testing prevented blood clots from forming but didn't prolong bleeding as is the case with some clot-busting drugs.
"The concept that we can harness something potentially poisonous in nature and turn it into a beneficial therapy is very exciting," said Dr. Heyu Ni, a scientist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto involved in the drug's development.
Anfibatide is designed to target a specific receptor on the surface of platelets in the blood that is instrumental in the formation of clots.
When a blood vessel's wall is injured — typically as a result of plaque build-up — platelets clump together to stop the bleeding. However, platelets sometimes come together even after the bleeding has stopped, forming clots in blood vessels and preventing blood flow. In the coronary artery, these blockages cause heart attacks; when the clots form in the brain, they lead to strokes.
The drug works by attaching to platelets near the injured wall and controlling their response. Fewer platelets are drawn to the injury but a plug to stop bleeding is still formed.
In Ni's state-of-the-art lab in Toronto, blood from healthy volunteers was mixed with the snake venom to evaluate under a microscope how it affected the blood's properties.
"We saw that this snake venom is able to inhibit platelets from bonding one to another and to the vessel wall," Ni said in an interview.
"What's most promising is that this reaction works best when the blood is flowing very fast — exactly the conditions when there is a major blockage," said Ni, who is also a scientist with Canadian Blood Services.
The drug was tested in 94 healthy volunteers in China and was found to prevent platelets from clotting, while not prolonging bleeding. The compound appears to be safe — there were no obvious side-effects, although two volunteers withdrew from the trial because of an allergic reaction to the drug during an initial skin test.Results from the initial safety trial will be presented Monday at the American Society of Hematology annual meeting in New Orleans.
Dec 8, 2013 / 7:34 pm
The founder of the social media management tool HootSuite started two businesses as a teenager, and now he wants to help other young Canadian entrepreneurs make it big for themselves.
Ryan Holmes began his rise into the business world by opening a pizza restaurant and a paintball company when he was in his mid-teens.
He's now offering a total of $100,000 in grants to 10 youth between 17 and 22 as part of his recently launched non-profit foundation The Next Big Thing.
"About 100 kids have applied from all over the world," he said of the competition, which is open until Dec. 15.
Winners will get the kind of hands-on training that junior entrepreneurs need but can't access through the typical education route, Holmes said.
"I think there's a bit of a disconnect between traditional education programs and entrepreneurs," he said at HootSuite's headquarters in Vancouver. "Often you hear about amazing entrepreneurs who ultimately are college dropouts."
"A lot of entrepreneurs are very experiential and hands on learners and they need to just go and get into things. The goal of TNBT is to just get people into things, help accelerate them into a successful venture as soon as possible."
Holmes launched the foundation with fashion and film entrepreneur Meredith Powell, who also forged a business path at a young age.
"We're really looking for teens who might have started a business or have an idea to start a business," she said.
Along with $10,000 in grants, each innovator will learn skills from "top names" in the business world and get six months of education at HootSuite's headquarters, where they'll learn about investing and understanding how to start a business, Powell said.
"We're bringing in incredible mentors, doing one-on-one sessions with them."
HootSuite, known as a "dashboard," allows users to send messages to various social networking sites or groups — such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin — at the same time and also attach images or documents.
This week, HootSuite, which boasts seven million users around the world, was named the only Canadian company on technology blog Mashable's list of top tech companies in 2013.
In August, HootSuite announced it had raised $165 million, making it one of the biggest venture capital financings in Canadian history.
Dec 8, 2013 / 4:24 pm
Brazilian media reports say a Canadian businessman has been killed in an attempted car-jacking in Sao Paulo.
Globo media and other outlets say the man was fatally shot on Saturday on a highway outside the city.
Globo identified the man as Dean Tiessen and reported he is from Leamington, Ont., southeast of Windsor.
They're reporting he had been in Brazil since last month on a business trip for his agricultural company, New Energy Farms.
Foreign Affairs has confirmed a Canadian died in Brazil but is providing no other details, only saying consular officials are in touch with the family.
Tiessen's second cousin describes Dean Tiessen as a "very nice guy" with deep ties to the community.
Tiessen’s uncle, Victor Tiessen, told the Windsor Star his nephew was in Brazil on business and was supposed to return to Leamington Thursday.
"The family is just in shock, total shock," Victor Tiessen told the Windsor Star. "We still don't know what actually happened."
Victor told the Star he believes this was only the first or second trip his nephew made to Brazil to expand business ties. He said he was a family man and his wife and four kids are devastated by the loss.
Dec 8, 2013 / 12:51 pm
Bahrain, Algeria and Iraq, countries with dubious human rights records or a history of violent internal conflict, have recently become new buyers of Canadian-made guns and ammunition, an analysis of federal government data shows.
The analysis by The Canadian Press found that Canadian exports to those countries swelled by 100 per cent from 2011 to 2012, the most recent figures publicly available.
During the same time period, exports of Canadian weapons also increased to Pakistan (98 per cent), Mexico (93 per cent) and Egypt (83 per cent), where, respectively, al-Qaida terrorists, a deadly government war on drug cartels and seismic political upheaval have sparked violence.
Though Canada's arms trade is legal and regulated, analysts say the increases raise questions about the government's foreign policy commitment to human rights, and its regulatory regime for arms exports.
"Diversification is a principle of business in this globalized economy. As we see western militaries decrease their defence budgets, military industries will be looking for new markets," said Walter Dorn, the chair of international affairs studies at the Canadian Forces College.
"The danger is that the almighty dollar may become the predominant motivator in trade deals and therefore weapons are more easily shipped."
The Canadian Press provided a list of questions to the offices of International Trade Minister Ed Fast and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, but an emailed reply from Foreign Affairs left many of them unanswered.
Foreign Affairs carefully reviews all export of weapons to ensure they "do not contribute to national or regional conflicts or instability" or "are not used to commit human rights violations," the statement said.
The analysis examined 10 years of Industry Canada data on a class of exports that is made up of military weapons, guns and ammunition, along with howitzers, mortars, flame throwers, grenades and torpedoes. It does not include other big military equipment such as vehicles, aircraft and other advanced technology, which balloons Canada's overall arms trade into the billions of dollars.
Last month, Fast announced that Canada would be putting economic interests at the centre of foreign policy. The shift to "economic diplomacy" is designed to increase trade and investment in emerging markets.
In 2012, Canadian weapons manufacturers found some new customers, which offset a decline in sales to some major democratic allies.
Canada's average annual exports in the sector averaged $257 million from 2003 to 2012, reaching $251 million in 2012, an increase of four per cent over 2011 figures.
That modest 2012 increase came despite a noticeable decline in exports to traditional allies such as the United Kingdom (down 10 per cent), Italy (37 per cent), Netherlands (40 per cent), Belgium (87 per cent) and Spain (132 per cent).
Canada's leading customer by a massive margin is the United States, where annual exports have averaged $190 million over the last decade. They climbed nine per cent from 2011 to 2012, to $178 million, but that marked a drop from a high of $294.5 million in 2007, when fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan was at its peak.
The numbers in question may be relatively small compared with Canada's overall arms trade and the massive global industry, but they still raise a "red flag," Dorn said.
Canada's sales to Bahrain shot from zero in 2011 to $250,000 in 2012, while Algeria's skyrocketed from $29 to $242,000 that same year — a period during which both countries suppressed pro-democracy democratic protests.
"It is really strange timing that Canada would be increasing a sale of arms or military equipment, let's say, at this moment when Bahrain has been involved in violently repressing its own peaceful democracy demonstrators," said Roland Paris, director of the Centre of International Policy Studies at the University of Ottawa.
Bahrain violently suppressed pro-democracy demonstrators in 2011 with the help of Saudi Arabian forces. Earlier this year in Algeria, a terrorist attack on a desert gas plant — two Canadians were among the militants — resulted in the deaths of 29 attackers and 37 hostages. Meanwhile, in Iraq, thousands have been killed this year in continuing violence.
Baird visited all three countries earlier this year, noting that Canada is seeking to make economic inroads with each.
Paris said Baird's relative silence on the Bahrain crackdown in particular "raises questions about the consistency of our policy and it suggests hypocrisy."
Dorn said it is fair to ask — but harder to answer — whether weapons from Canada may have found their way into the hands of rights abusers, be they despotic governments, rebels or criminals.
"It would be shocking if Canada supplied arms to suppress a democratic movement," he said. "The Industry Canada data table doesn't list the types of weapons that are sold. It doesn't give any details so we are left to wonder what the weapons are."
Foreign Affairs said in its statement that "the declared end-use and end user of a proposed export are important factors in our review."
Dorn said Canada does what it can to prevent its arms from being diverted into the wrong hands by insisting that its customers sign end-user certificates that bar transfers.
But Dorn said the documents have been abused in the past, especially by some African countries.
"If people want to find a way, they will always find a way. You can't have a foolproof system where no arms are diverted," Angela Kane, the UN's high representative for disarmament affairs, said in an interview.
"It's just insane . . . I also think about the humanitarian consequences. What are the arms used for?"
Dorn and Kane suggested Canada should stop its foot-dragging and sign the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), an attempt to regulate the multi-billion dollar industry.
Dorn said the treaty would force Canada to tighten its export control regime on weapons.
"Our national controls used to be the best in the world, and we've seen a dilution of those national controls so that in some cases our controls won't even meet the new international standard of the ATT."
Paris said that fact that Canada has yet to sign the treaty "raises questions about whether Canada is drifting from being a leader to a laggard in arms control."
Baird has said Canada wants to study whether the treaty would infringe the rights of domestic gun owners.
Kane said it would not affect domestic gun ownership anywhere.
Last month, when he announced Canada's foreign policy shift, Fast said that he personally raises human rights concerns with his counterparts, but he declined to give specifics.
"Whenever we travel abroad, we raise issues of human rights wherever they may be appropriate."
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