Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • Ontario police collar head of cult-like church on sex and violence charges

    Frederick King.Judging from his photo, Frederick King hardly looks like a charismatic religious leader who held a Mormon splinter sect in his thrall.

    But the pudgy, moustachioed King apparently controlled the Church of Jesus Christ Restored that dwelled in a former Ontario ski resort and allegedly kept several "church wives" while ruling his congregation allegedly through intimidation and violence.

    King, 55, was arrested in a Hamilton, Ont., hotel room on the weekend and charged with more than 20 criminal counts, including sexual and physical assault, uttering death threats, sexual interference and sexual exploitation, the National Post reports.

    King's brother, Judson William King, was arrested in Oakville, Ont., last week and charged with assault with a weapon, uttering death threats and four counts of assault, QMI Agency reported.

    [ Related: Polygamy, exploitation charges considered in Bountiful case ]

    Frederick King dropped off the radar in 2012 after Ontario Provincial Police began investigating

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  • Privacy watchdog slams Toronto police for sharing suicide-attempt reports with U.S.

    Attempting suicide is not a crime either in Canada or the United States. It's considered a mental health emergency and is treated as such.

    Suicides or attempts are also generally private. News organizations don't report them unless publicity can't be avoided — in the case of a celebrity, say — or it's an incident that directly affects the public.

    So it's disconcerting to learn police forces in Ontario have been sharing data on suicide attempts with U.S. border agents and the FBI via the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), causing some travellers to be barred from entering the United States.

    Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian published a report Monday into her investigation of several cases in which Ontario residents were barred from crossing the border apparently because of their mental-health history.

    She specifically cited the Toronto Police Service as having a policy of automatically recording all incidents of suicide in CPIC's Special Interest Police

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  • Plans for Jim Flaherty’s rare state funeral excite mixed reviews

    I don't know about you, but I was surprised when it was announced former finance minister Jim Flaherty would receive a state funeral.

    Flaherty died suddenly a month after stepping down from the post he'd held ever since Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives were elected in 2006. Though he'd been battling a serious and painful auto-immune skin disease that left him looking tired and bloated, Flaherty, 64, claimed to be in otherwise good health and looking forward to a new life in the private sector.

    So when he died in his Ottawa condo apartment Thursday morning of an apparent heart attack, the entire political establishment reeled in shock. Grief crossed party lines – witness NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair struggling to hold it together before the cameras.

    People from inside politics and out came forward to share their stories about Flaherty, his combativeness but also his personal warmth, generosity and his ability to remain friends with political opponents – traits not normally

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  • New murder charges against Dellen Millard further complicate Bosma case

    The so-called Kijiji killing, one of the most mystifying murder cases in Canada, has gotten even stranger.

    What started out as the inexplicable death of a man trying to sell his truck via online classifieds ad has blossomed into a case involving an alleged staged suicide and the disappearance of a young woman police now believe is dead.

    Police in Ontario announced Thursday they've tied all three deaths to one man but aren't prepared to connect-the-dots publicly, leaving people to speculate.

    The announcement was followed on Friday by the court appearance of a new face in the case, a woman who is reportedly Dellen Millard's girlfriend.

    21-year-old Christine Noudga of Toronto was charged with being an accessory after the fact in Bosma's death. The Crown alleges she helped Millard and Mark Smich, his acquaintance and co-accused, escape after the alleged murder.

    Noudga appeared in court Friday, shackled and biting her lip in nervousness, CBC News reported.

    Millard and  Smich were charged

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  • Change slowly coming to Bangladesh garment industry one year after disaster

    As we approach the first anniversary of the the Rana Plaza building collapse, the deadliest industrial accident since the 1984 Bhopal disaster, it's worth asking if anything has changed much in Bangladesh's garment industry.

    The apparent answer is 'maybe.'

    On April 24, 2013, the eight-storey building housing a number of clothing factories in the Dhaka suburb of Savar crumbled into a pile of concrete and steel rubble, killing more than 1,100 workers and injuring 2,500 more.

    The output from Rana Plaza was destined mostly for western clothing stores and the disaster exposed the the appalling conditions that low-paid garment workers endure so we can buy shirts, pants and dresses at rock-bottom prices.

    The world subsequently learned employees were ordered to continue working in the building the day after dangerous cracks began appearing in the shoddily constructed building. Shops and a bank on the ground floor closed.

    But conditions in Bangladesh's garment and textile industry, its main

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  • CBC job, budget cuts could further hasten public broadcaster’s death

    It'll be a couple of years before we see the full effect of the latest massive downsizing at CBC and Radio-Canada, but clearly the public broadcaster's presence on the media landscape will continue to shrink.

    CBC president Hubert Lacroix revealed on Thursday that the corporation will cut 657 full-time positions, pull out of competition to broadcast pro sports (NHL hockey is already on its way out), cut amateur sports coverage and cancel planned expansions, including a new station in London, Ont.

    The belt-tightening is part of an effort to cope with $130 million in budget cuts as a result of declining support from the federal government with no meaningful increase in advertising revenue.

    Although CBC has more than 8,000 full-time, contract and temporary employees, the job cuts are significant, and bound to crater the already poor morale among the corporation's employees.

    As the Toronto Star points out, this is the third round of job cuts in five years. CBC axed 800 jobs in 2009 to try

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  • Canadians drinking more wine, less beer, StatsCan report shows

    Canada has always been a nation of elbow-benders, but what we drink is changing.

    The latest Statistics Canada report on alcohol sales has found sales from beer and liquor stores rose 2.2 per cent in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013. We spent $21.4 billion on booze that year. However, the rate of growth in sales has slowed.

    We are still a nation of beer drinkers, but wine is increasingly popular. StatsCan data shows wine sales grew by 4.9 per cent, while beer declined by 0.1 per cent. Hard liquor sales also went up by 2.9 per cent.

    Governments made out very well from our penchant for drink. Net income for provincial and territorial liquor authorities, as well as revenue from liquor licences and permits, was $6.3 billion, up 3.2 per cent.

    [ Related: Canadians drink 50 per cent more booze than the rest of the world ]

    Beer's market share has been declining for a decade. In 2003, it had 50 per cent of the alcohol market in dollar terms, while wine held 24 per cent. By 2013, beer's

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  • Quebec court says big retailers don't have to translate their names into French

    You can probably anticipate the reaction from Quebec nationalists to a court decision allowing big multinational retailers to continue using their English-language names on signage and advertising.

    The Quebec Superior Court has ruled big retail chains — such as Best Buy, Costco, Gap, Old Navy, Walmart, and Toys R' Us — that use their trademark names in a language other than French are not violating the Charter of the French Language, also known as Bill 101, The Canadian Press reports.

    Eight companies took the Office québécois de la langue française, the province's language watchdog, to court in 2012. They argued they should not be required to modify their internationally recognized trademark names to conform with Section 63 of the charter that says the name of a business enterprise must be in French.

    [ Related: Walmart to take Quebec to court over need for bilingual signs ]

    The office had suggested, for instance, that Walmart could become "Le Magasin Walmart" – which in my opinion

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  • Coroner closes file on last Lac-Megantic victims as Canada looks to future of rail transport

    It's been less than a year since the Lac-Megantic rail disaster, but the fiery train wreck that took 47 lives and incinerated the centre of a picturesque Quebec town seems to already be receding from  memory.

    We're left with process stories about the push to strengthen regulations for carrying volatile types of crude oil in rail tank cars. There's the lingering concern that dangerous goods must still be taken through population centres because rerouting them would be costly and inefficient.

    But the disaster itself has been consigned to history, except of course for those who lost family, friends and property when an unattended train loaded with explosive Bakken crude derailed July 6. Tank cars cracked open like eggs and the ensuing inferno killed dozens of Lac-Megantic residents.

    The incident was little more than a footnote in the recent Quebec election, as Quebec writer Nora Loreto observed this week in a post on rabble.ca.

    "[Premier Pauline] Marois stopped in Lac-Mégantic twice

    Read More »from Coroner closes file on last Lac-Megantic victims as Canada looks to future of rail transport
  • Serial rent-skippers prompts calls for a bad-tenants registry

    A lot of people may have trouble summoning much sympathy for landlords, what with all the horror stories about renters living in ill-maintained, bug-infested homes or being subjected to "renovictions" so the owner could jack up the rent.

    But there are, of course, an equal number of bad tenants who trash homes and skip out on the rent.

    One particularly egregious example has B.C. landlords calling for a bad-tenants registry after a couple stiffed five different landlords over a two-year period, CBC News reports.

    British Columbia's Residential Tenancy Branch is supposed to deal with disputes between renters and their landlords, but apparently it's powerless when it comes to concerted scammers.

    "The Residential Tenancy Act should have had their names on there so we could call in and say, 'I would like to rent to these people' and what they could say to me would be 'I would not recommend that,'" landlord Kim Gouws told CBC News.

    Gouws is one of the five landlords owed thousands of dollars

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