Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • Abbotsford, B.C. homeless group suing city over chicken manure dump

    The City of Abbotsford was forced to remove the manure from the homeless gathering place following public outrage.
    I confess I'd be uncomfortable if homeless people set up camp in a park near my house but I'd draw the line on my city declaring open season on them.

    That appears to be what happened in Abbotsford, a bustling city of 141,000 about 40 minutes east of Vancouver. Residents of the tent camp across the street from a Salvation Army centre say they've been pepper-sprayed, had tents destroyed and, in a final indignity, found chicken poop spread over the site to make it uninhabitable.

    Now the homeless are fighting back the way any red-blooded Canadian would; they're going to court.

    The Canadian Press reports the Pivot Legal Society, which regularly clashes with authorities on behalf of residents of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, is filing claims for compensation for property lost or damaged in the anti-homeless offensive.

    "We've tried to sit around and talk and we've tried to ask and nothing's happening and we're sick and tired of waiting and obviously, they need a kick in the [butt] to get moving

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  • DNA test should prove if B.C. man is Michael Dunahee, who vanished in 1991

    Try to put yourself in the shoes of Crystal and Bruce Dunahee this week as they await results of a DNA test on a young man said to resemble a grownup version of their son, Michael, who disappeared more than two decades ago.

    The Victoria couple have been clinging to hope Michael is alive, 22 years after he vanished from a school playground where the family was taking in a touch football game.

    Crystal Dunahee speaks to media to mark the 20th anniversary of Michael's disappearance at a press conference in Victoria on March 23, 2011Now, according to the Globe and Mail, police are testing the DNA of a Vancouver-area man after receiving tips he bears a "remarkable" resemblance to Michael Dunahee, who disappeared without a trace March 24, 1991.

    Victoria police confirmed the move in a news release Wednesday.

    [ Related: Twenty-two years after Michael Dunahee’s disappearance, parents hold hope he’s still alive ]

    The man, who lives in suburban Surrey, reportedly posted a message on non-hockey form on canucks.com, the NHL club's fan web site.

    “I was contacted by Victoria police at my old work … and obviously I didn’t believe them at

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  • Photos of slaughtered sharks spur DFO investigation in New Brunswick

    The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is investigating possible poaching after CBC News obtained images of slaughtered porbeagle sharks and other marine species at a weir in Grand Manan, N.B.

    According to CBC News, a series of photos and video show fishermen posing on top and alongside of what look like piles of dead porbeagle sharks. The photos also show harbour porpoise and basking shark carcasses.

    In one of the videos, a fisherman is seen straddling a dead porbeagle shark and, holding it by the nose, jerking the head and pretending it's laughing while he announces "Bradford's Cove weir" to the camera.

    In one shot, a fisherman appears to be slicing a dead shark's fins.

    "Shark finning is illegal in Atlantic Canada," DFO conservation officer Ralph MacInnon told CBC News, adding the photo appears to show an illegal activity. "If that is a shark and the fins are being taken off of it in that fashion and it hasn't been landed, it's illegal."

    [ Related: Ontario judge rules Toronto's

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  • Classic Canadian WWII photo to be immortalized in sculpture

    It is one of the most famous Canadian photos of the Second World War and now it will be immortalized in bronze.

    "Wait for Me, Daddy" doesn't show a bloody battle scene or the devastation wrought by conflict. In some ways it's quintessentially Canadian, displaying an epic sweep and touching intimacy at the same time.

    [ Related video: Wartime photo to be recreated in B.C. ]

    The day is Oct. 1, 1940, and Private Jack Bernard of Vancouver is marching off to war with his regiment through the streets of New Westminster, B.C., to board a ship that would take them for training on Vancouver Island. Later they would sail to Europe and take part in the Normandy Invasion.

    Bernard's wife, Bernice and their five-year-old son Warren came along to see him off. But as the long line of troops marched through downtown New Westminster, the boy whose shock of white-blond hair earned him the lifelong nickname "Whitey," slipped his mothers grasp and ran after his dad, hand outstretched.

    [ Related: Surviving vets

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  • Rare coin collection delivery to neo-Nazi group stalled by New Brunswick court

    A Canadian who left his valuable collection of rare coins to a U.S. neo-Nazi group may not get his bequest fulfilled after all.

    Chemist Robert McCorkill's sister, Isabelle, has won a New Brunswick temporary court injunction preventing the transfer of the collection to the National Alliance — a Mill Point, West Virginia, white-supremacist organization.

    According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the group was founded in 1970 by William Pierce, whose dystopian novel The Turner Diaries, served as an inspiration to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

    McCorkill, who also spelled his name McCorkell, apparently joined the National Alliance in the 1990s. When he died in 2004 in St. John, N.B., his will bequeathed his collection of ancient coins to the organization but the estate has remained unsettled.

    In May, a New Brunswick judge gave his executor, who is also tied to the alliance, the power to deliver McCorkill's assets to the group.

    The collection has an estimated value of $250,000,

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  • Proposed class-action lawsuit aims to help ‘lost Canadians’ reclaim citizenship

    Canadian Passports are shown in Montreal, Thursday, February 02, 2012.THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Sheila Boardman.They call themselves the "lost Canadians," citizens in their hearts but not, apparently, in the eyes of the federal government.

    They may number in the thousands and we may get a better idea of how many there are if a B.C. woman is successful in launching a class-action court case over their status.

    Jackie Scott discovered 10 years ago that she wasn't officially Canadian because of a legislative anomaly. The 68-year-old woman was born in Britain to a Canadian soldier and British mother during the Second World War.

    But Canada didn't pass its first citizenship law until 1947, which meant apparently that her father was technically a British subject and her birth outside Canada meant she wasn't entitled to citizenship.

    Scott was raised by her father in Ontario but only learned of her stateless situation while living in the United States with her husband, CBC News said. She applied for a citizenship certificate and to her surprise was turned down.

    [ Related: 'Lost Canadian' hopes to overhaul

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  • 20 years after tainted-blood inquiry, new blood donation rules take effect

    A man gives blood in Montreal, on November 29, 2012.The long shadow of Canada's tainted blood scandal receded a little further Monday as new rules governing blood donations by gay men took effect.

    The former lifetime ban on men who'd had sex with other men anytime since the late 1970s has been lifted in favour of rule barring those who've had sex in the last five years.

    The rules covering donations via Canadian Blood Services and HEMA-Quebec were announced earlier this year to some controversy.

    The lifetime ban on sexually active gay men was imposed more than 20 years ago after the Canadian blood system, then administered by the Red Cross, was rocked by revelations that at least 2,000 people had been infected with HIV and perhaps 30,000 with hepatitis C from transfusions of tainted blood and blood products.

    The AIDS epidemic mushroomed in the 1980s, but the Red Cross did not begin testing for HIV until 1985 and hepatitis C until 1990 (there was no effective test before then). By then, Canada and other countries were reporting disease

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  • Race is on for commercial medical pot business under new rules

    Sam Mellace tends some of his nearly 300 marijuana plants at a legal grow-op.We are going to witness over the next year or so the emergence of a potentially big and lucrative new commercial industry — medical marijuana.

    At the same time it's been growling about illicit drug use and sales, the Conservative government has been moving to clamp down on legally sanctioned medical marijuana production.

    The old system of allowing home grow-ops for those licensed to use medical pot, along with some commercial production, is being replaced with a system where only licensed, regulated commercial operations will be allowed.

    Health Canada statistics as of the end of last year revealed 28,115 people were authorized to possess dried marijuana, with roughly 18,000 licensed to produce it for personal use. About 5,300 received seeds from Health Canada.

    The current system was open to abuse, with some licensees caught growing way more pot than the amount authorized for personal medical use.

    Some grow-ops also drew complaints from neighbours because of the stench and there have been

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  • Union drive by Halifax baristas being closely watched elsewhere in Canada

    Baristas of the world unite!

    Union activists are keeping a close eye on a drive to organize workers at some Halifax coffee bars, The Canadian Press reports.

    "We're seeing a real phenomenon in Halifax of coffee shop workers coming together and organizing," Tony Tracy, Atlantic representative for the Canadian Labour Congress, told CP. "In terms of the coffee shop industry, Halifax has been a bit of an anomaly."

    The restaurant and food services sector traditionally has been one of the hardest to unionize. Many eateries are small businesses with a history of low wages, where tipping is considered part of an employees' overall income.

    According to CP, staff at Just Us!, a local fair-trade coffee chain in Halifax, successfully joined Local 2 of the Service Employees International Union. That was followed by word that employees at two Second Cup outlets in the city had voted to join the union, though CP said the results have not been released.

    The union said this was the first time Canadian

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  • After Trayvon Martin, can Canadians be smug about racial profiling?


    Canadians might have listened with detached interest to U.S. President Barack Obama's personal observations about experiencing racial profiling last week in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case.

    But I don't think we have any reason to be smug about our own track record on racial profiling in Canada. It may not reach the extreme levels alleged in Martin's shooting death at the hands of neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. But should we doubt it exists here?

    Obama recalled that as a young black man, he was often viewed with suspicion and mistrust, asserting few African-American men have escaped the the experience of hearing car doors lock as they approached, or having a woman clutch her purse nervously when a black man stepped into an elevator with her.

    [ Related: Obama tells of his own experiences being racially profiled ]

    Douglas Todd, who writes about religion, spirituality and ethics for the Vancouver Sun, printed a letter on his blog Sunday from an African-Canadian man who

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