Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • Canada's judges fear they could be in the crosshairs when Tories drop election writ

    With a federal election no more than a year away, the Canadian judiciary could find itself a target as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives campaign for a fourth term in power.

    The Harper government has been stymied over elements of its tough-on-crime legislation and other issues.

    The friction flared most visibly in a nasty spat with Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, who Harper and Justice Minister Peter McKay suggested made an inappropriate intervention in the ultimately failed attempt to appoint Federal Court Justice Marc Nadon to the top court.

    Both McLachlin and MacKay have since tried to play down the incident earlier this year as part of the normal “healthy tension” between government and the bench.

    In a recent statement in the House of Commons, MacKay said the government’s relations with the Supreme Court remain “professional and constructive,” and that he respects the court, “as well as all the institutions of the country.”

    MacKay’s office refused a request to

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  • Something's fishy: Canada's fish products often labelled as the wrong species

    Aaron Murray puts out wild salmon at Bruce's Country Market (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)Aaron Murray puts out wild salmon at Bruce's Country Market (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

    Canadians aren’t big fish eaters according to Statistics Canada, averaging less than 10 kilograms per person each year.

    But it’s safe to say when we do tuck into a nice piece of cod or tuna, we want to be certain that’s what we’re actually eating.

    An investigation by Quebec’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food suggests our confidence may be misplaced.

    As reported by CBC News, a five-month study of fish sold at supermarkets, seafood stores and restaurants found that almost a third of the products were labelled as the incorrect species.

    What’s worse, a majority of the incidents were intentional. Out of 121 samples DNA tested between last November and this March, 39 were wrongly identified. Fifteen incidents were attributed to mistranslation from English to French, but the rest were deliberately mislabeled.

    Cheap fish were often misrepresented as more-expensive varieties and sold at the higher price point, increasing profits at the expensive of the consumer.

    [ Related: Fish

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  • Gay seniors fear going into care means going back in the closet: report

    The transition from living independently to living in a care home is hard enough.

    Coping with the fear of discrimination over your sexual orientation can only make it harder, but that’s the issue facing a growing number of seniors in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or queer (LGBTQ) community.

    A new report by Qmunity, a Vancouver-based advocacy group, has found that LGBTQ citizens who lived through the culture war that carved out a place for them in society now worry they’ll have to go back in the closet when they move into care.

    The paper, part of Qmunity’s Aging Out project, found LGBTQ seniors worry they’ll face homophobia from staff and insensitive treatment from health care providers. Many already do, says Dara Parker, Qmunity executive director, ranging from overt homophobic slurs to condemnation of lifestyle choices.

    “Let’s say I’m a butch lesbian woman who’s never worn dresses and then I start to lose the capacity to dress myself and my family members come in and put

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  • Cyberbullying, sexting remain major problems despite heightened awareness

    One chapter in a case that helped trigger an explosion of international concern about cyberbullying ended quietly in a Halifax courtroom Monday, but people who work in the field say kids still are not getting message.

    A 20-year-old man pleaded guilty in youth court to one count of making child pornography and is scheduled to have a sentencing hearing in November. Another young man is still facing a child-porn distribution charge.

    Neither the name of the man, who was 17 at the time of the 2011 offence, nor his then-15-year-old victim can be disclosed now under a statutory publication ban, The Canadian Press reported.

    The teen girl, tormented by the backlash against her after a nude image of her having sex while drunkenly vomiting was circulated, attempted suicide in 2013, eventually dying in hospital. The boys were arrested a few weeks later following a public outcry after police initially refused to act.

    Her death, and the suicide of of Metro Vancouver teen Amanda Todd who experienced

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  • Scottish-Canadians weigh rejection of Scotland independence

    "It’s a victory of fear over hope, and that’s so sad. A thousand years of Scottish kings, martyrs, poets and patriots are turning in their graves."

    Supporters from the "No" Campaign celebrate (Reuters)Supporters from the "No" Campaign celebrate (Reuters)

    A lot of Scottish-Canadians were glued to their TVs or computer screens Thursday as the historic independence referendum played out in their ancestral homeland.

    And like their counterparts in Scotland, the reaction was a mix of heartbreak and relief as a decisive but not overwhelming majority voted to stay a part of the United Kingdom.

    After a campaign that followed a script Canadians would recognize, results reported by BBC News found just over 55 per cent of the more than 3.6 million people who cast ballots opted to say No.

    "I’m absolutely gutted,” Edinburgh-born Martin O’Hanlon, a union leader who lives in the Ottawa area, said via email to Yahoo Canada News.

    “It’s a victory of fear over hope, and that’s so sad. A thousand years of Scottish kings, martyrs, poets and patriots are turning in their graves.

    I hope there will be a United Kingdom as long as the flag flies. I think everybody is better off.
    —Allan MacLeod, ex-pat Scot living in Canada

    "I’m deeply proud of the many

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  • As B.C. teachers vote on deal, government comes out looking like the loser

    BCTF members vote on tentative deal (CBC Photo)BCTF members vote on tentative deal (CBC Photo)

    Students in B.C. could be returning to the classroom as soon as next Monday, if teachers vote to ratify their tentative deal with the government on Thursday.

    B.C. Premier Christy Clark has hailed the six-year agreement with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation as historic, heralding an era of labour peace. But if history is any guide, this may simply be a truce in a decades-long war.

    The 41,000 member union is recommending that teachers accept the deal, which actually runs only five more years because it’s retroactive to July 2013.

    A press conference held at 9:30 PT will report on the results of the vote.

    There’s been some grumbling on social media about the terms, which reportedly includes a cumulative pay increase of 7.25 per cent, improved benefits and a cash bonus from a topped-up grievance-settlement fund.

    Most significantly, the government dropped a provision known as clause E80, which would have entrenched its control over class size and composition (such as the number of

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  • Scale of enterovirus outbreak still unknown, but there's no need to panic: health officials

    Enterovirus D68: 4 suspected cases in B.C.Enterovirus D68: 4 suspected cases in B.C.

    A nasty respiratory virus that has sickened hundreds of children in the United States has found a firm foothold in Canada, but it’s not yet clear how severe.

    Alberta is the only province to officially confirm cases of enterovirus D-68 thus far. Tests show that at least 18 children, including 10 in Calgary and five in Edmonton, have tested positive.

    There’s also been a sudden increase in the number of young people admitted to Windsor Regional Hospital with breathing problems, but a spokesman for Public Health Ontario said the agency has not confirmed the cause yet as EV-D68.

    Ontario hospitals began testing for the virus following a spike in children being admitted to American hospitals with breathing problems, mostly in Midwestern and southeastern states. The tests are being analyzed by Public Health Ontario’s lab.

    “Within the week we expect to have results,” Dr. Bryna Warshawksy, the agency’s public health physician, told Yahoo Canada News.

    The cluster of potential EV-D68 cases has

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  • Scottish Canadians anxiously awaiting Scotland's independence vote

    Caitlin Tierney chews a YES banner (AP Photo/ Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)Caitlin Tierney chews a YES banner (AP Photo/ Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

    Barring some new outrage in the Middle East or renewed fighting in Ukraine, the eyes of much of the world will be on Scotland on Thursday, as its citizens vote on whether to break away from the United Kingdom.

    Almost everyone who’s eligible to vote, including newly-enfranchised 16-year-olds, has registered to cast a ballot on a simple question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

    Those watching around the world include millions of expatriates and others who trace their roots to Scotland, descendants of people who did much of the heavy lifting to build the British Empire. Around five million Canadians are thought to have a connection to Scotland  almost as many as live in the country itself.

    So what do they think of this historic vote, especially now that polls suggest the Yes side (which favours splitting) has a chance of winning?

    Scotland Votes: Complete coverage from Yahoo Canada News ]

    “There’s a lot of discussion these days about the issue as the vote comes closer,”

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  • Young homebuyer plans redemption for Calgary house of horrors

    Osbourne recently bought 11 Butler Crescent N.W., the house where five people were stabbed to death at a party.Osbourne recently bought 11 Butler Crescent N.W., the house where five people were stabbed to death at a party.

    Would you buy a house where someone had been murdered?

    Kadin Osborne did. The 23-year-old Calgary apprentice plumber recently closed a deal to buy the suburban home where five young people, most of them university students, were murdered by a knife-wielding attacker.

    Jordan Segura, Kaiti Perras, Josh Hunter, Zackariah Rathwell and Lawrence Hong, all in their twenties, were stabbed to death last April at a late night party marking the end of the school year.

    Matthew de Grood, a 22-year-old university student, who’d been invited to the party, and son of a senior Calgary police officer, faces five counts of first-degree murder. He has been declared fit to stand trial but is undergoing another psychiatric assessment to determine if he can be held criminally responsible for the killings.

    Osborne knew all about what happened last spring at 11 Butler Crescent N.W., a sturdy but tired-looking 1962 four-level split in the Brentwood subdivision that served as student rental housing because of its

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  • Proposed tax on sugary drinks gets lukewarm reception

    If you love your sugary soft drinks, you might have felt a spasm of concern when the Heart and Stroke Foundation this week recommended a tax on any drinks with added sweeteners, known as free sugars.

    It’s part of the foundation’s broad position statement on how to reduce Canadians’ unhealthy addiction to sugary foods. The foundation advocates taxing beverages and using that revenue to subsidize the purchase of healthy foods by people with lower incomes.

    But you can rest easy and take a long pull on your super-sized soda. The Conservative government isn’t the least bit interested and the reaction of the opposition parties that hope to displace it in next year’s election is essentially a shrug.

    Sugar, long a part of the nutritional axis of evil among health professionals along with salt and saturated fats, has been targeted for increased attention recently.



    The World Health Organization recommends no more than 10 per cent of daily calories should come from free sugars added to processed

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