Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • 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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  • Issues with Magnotta trial highlight history of Canadian jury troubles

    Lawyers are having issues selecting a jury for Luka Magnotta's murder trial. Lawyers are having issues selecting a jury for Luka Magnotta's murder trial.
    Picking a jury for one of the most sensational murder trials in recent Canadian history is proving to be a little complicated.

    It seems a lot of Montrealers are not keen to sit in judgment of Luka Rocco Magnotta, the 32-year-old former male model, stripper and porn actor accused of killing and dismembering Chinese engineering student Jun Lin in 2012.

    Dozens of potential jurors from a pool of 1,600 have, so far, begged off for a variety of reasons, ranging from lack of fluency in English – the main language of this trial – to anxiety over the evidence or simple antipathy towards Magnotta.

    Jury selection will probably take a while as the Crown and defence lawyers also exercise their challenges. There’s little doubt they’ll eventually find their panel of 12 impartial jurors and two alternates, but this case is an extreme example of the pressures facing Canada’s jury system.

    [ Related: Luka Magnotta jury selection underway in Montreal court ]

    Magnotta, originally from suburban Toronto, is

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  • 'People of Winnipeg' Facebook page shows city, warts and all

    Photos from the 'People of Winnipeg' Facebook group, accused of racism by activists.Photos from the 'People of Winnipeg' Facebook group, accused of racism by activists.

    A popular Facebook page showing Winnipeggers in a not always flattering light is drawing fire from some who work with the city’s poor and homeless.

    People of Winnipeg (POW) has more than 17,000 members who post everything from eye-catching urban scenery to photos of people’s bad parking jobs and sometimes questionable fashion choices.

    But what’s got some critics up in arms are a number of shots of people, some aboriginal, who appear passed out on the sidewalk or a bus shelter, or rolling around with a shopping cart.

    Althea Guiboche, who hands out food to the homeless every week, told CBC News the page should be taken down because it makes fun of people who are obviously struggling. She said she couldn’t believe Winnipeggers were even doing this.

    "I would hope all those people try to find something inside themselves to not post stuff like that," she told CBC News.

    There’s little doubt no one would want their friends and family to see them in the condition depicted in the POW’s photos

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  • Ferguson: Lessons for Canada from a police debacle

    A small group of protesters marches down West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo. on Wednesday.A small group of protesters marches down West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo. on Wednesday.

    Things appear to be calming down in Ferguson, Mo., the suburb of St. Louis after two weeks of unrest following the police shooting of an unarmed black teen.

    The crisis is far from over, as residents and civil rights advocates continue to demand answers in the Aug. 9 killing of Michael Brown. But Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has called off the national guard, deployed earlier this week, and police report the streets have been pretty quiet the last couple of days.

    "This is truly the community of Ferguson," Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, the black officer Nixon put in command after local police botch their initial response to protests about Brown's death, said according to Reuters. "We are headed toward a sense of peace for our community."

    Brown's funeral is scheduled for Monday, though a local church planned a memorial service Friday evening, Reuters reported.

    The post-mortem on how police dealt with the situation is likely to go on for months. Ferguson will join a long

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  • What can you do about a drone peeking in your window?

    We've been fretting for decades about Big Brother poking into our private lives, so it's ironic to discover that Big Brother could turn out to be everyday people like you and me.

    Case in point: Conner Galway was having dinner on his patio and enjoying the view from his 37th-floor apartment in downtown Vancouver when he spotted something with blinking red and green lights flitting around near his building.

    A closer look revealed a drone that Galway said was hovering only metres away from him.

    “I didn’t want to be out there when I had no idea what this thing was, so we went back inside,” Galway told CTV News. “Forty-five minutes later it was still buzzing around going next to other apartments, different people, different patios.”

    The quadcopter drone appeared to be equipped with a camera, he said.

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  • New efforts to curb Canada’s painkiller addiction not enough: expert

    Prescription pills containing oxycodone and acetaminophen  (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)Prescription pills containing oxycodone and acetaminophen (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)

    Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced new rules on Monday aimed at reducing what is arguably Canada's most serious drug scourge, but a policy expert says it's probably too little, too late.

    Health Canada has revised the labelling standards for more than three dozen long-acting opioid drugs used as painkillers, raising the threshold for when they can be prescribed and strengthening warnings about the risk of addiction.

    The Health Canada advisory posted Monday says doctors will no longer be able to prescribe opioid drugs – morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl – for moderate pain, only to manage pain that's severe enough to require "daily, continuous, long-term treatment...and for which alternative treatment options are not adequate."

    "The label changes seek to reduce these risks, which include addiction, misuse and abuse, while preserving access for those who need them most," the advisory says.

    Ambrose announced the changes at the Canadian Medical Association's annual conference in

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  • Beer battles: Craft brews eating into market share for mainstream brewery brands

    The market for beer in Canada is, if you'll excuse the expression, in a ferment.

    Canadian beer consumption has declined over the last decade, according to Statistics Canada data, in favour of wine. But the bright spot is the continuing surge of interest in so-called craft beers (aka micro brews) produced in small batches mostly by local independent breweries.

    From being largely non-existent in the 1980s, craft beer now takes up an estimated six per cent of the Canadian market. Its growth has come at the cost of established domestic brands sold by the country's three beer giants, who account for close to 90 per cent of beer sales.

    The phenomenon is most noticeable in British Columbia, Canada's craft-beer hotbed, where recent figures from the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch show small-volume breweries (15,000 hectolitres or less) saw year-over-year sales increases of more than 37 per cent between June 2013 and June 2014 while the bigger domestic breweries were essentially flat.

    A

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  • Media coverage of death of Robin Williams brings questions on reporting suicide

    The British media is under fire from one of the country's mental health advocacy organizations over how explicitly they've covered the suicide of actor/comedian Robin Williams.

    The Huffington Post UK is reporting that Mind plans to take the issue to Britain's Press Complaints Commission.

    “Mind issued a briefing to all newsdesks twice yesterday with information on how to report suicide in a responsible way as there is clear evidence that media coverage of suicide, particularly graphic language illustrating the method used, can lead to copycat deaths," the mental health charity's chief executive, Paul Farmer, said in a news release Wednesday.

    Mind had recommended journalists avoid explicit details and sensationalist reporting but as the Post noted, the information that Williams hanged himself with a belt in his bedroom after unsuccessfully trying to cut his wrists was revealed by a coroner live on U.S. television. It was out there, and in a wired world there was little to prevent it

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Pagination

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