Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • A backlash appears to be building in laid-back British Columbia against a movement of what might be called neo-hippies.

    The Victoria Times Colonist reports the B.C. government and RCMP monitoring the so-called "World Rainbow Gathering" at Raft Cove Provincial Park on northern Vancouver Island, with the possibility of shutting down the month-long event.

    Participants began trickling in this week and estimates of how many will come between now and the scheduled wrap-up Sept. 6 ranges from several hundred to thousands.

    Raft Cove is a remote park near Cape Scott, reachable by only a logging road.

    “B.C. Parks is currently exploring all options to ensure concerns are addressed, up to and including closing the park,” said an Environment Ministry spokesman, according to the Times Colonist.

    The event is organized by something called the Rainbow Family of Living Light, whose roots are in the counterculture of the 1960s.

    [ Related: U.S. counterculture group plans Vancouver Island gathering ]

    "Some say

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  • H&M aboriginal headdress controversy probably won’t hurt fashion retailer

    A faux feather headdress is shown on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, in this handout photo.As you read this story, you might want to keep this old saying from legendary huckster P.T. Barnum in mind: There is no such thing as bad publicity.

    There are of course exceptions to that rule — your favourite celebrity is found with a stash of kiddie porn, a respected company is revealed to be dumping toxic waste. But even then, epic lapses open the door to triumphant public redemption, for those that seize the opportunity.

    Which brings us to H&M, the Swedish-based international clothing retailer that stepped in it by offering what looks like an aboriginal feathered headdress as a fashion accessory.

    It didn't take long for complaints to come in from First Nations people, The Canadian Press reports.

    Kim Wheeler of Winnipeg, who is Ojibwa-Mohawk, was shopping in H&M's downtown Vancouver store with her daughter when she spotted the $15 item last week.

    "My first instinct was to buy all of them and throw them in the garbage," Wheeler, who works in media relations, told CP.

    "It's not honouring

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  • Toronto man to track cycling ‘door prize’ accidents in absence of police stats

    Cyclists ruefully call it the "door prize." It's when a parked motorist suddenly opens a car door just as they're cycling past, creating an unavoidable collision.

    Except it's no longer officially a collision as far as the province of Ontario is concerned. The government revised its definitions in 2012 and no longer tracks collisions involving stationary vehicles.

    The cycling community and even the chair of the Toronto Police Services Board wants the government to revisit the change.

    But CBC News reports a Toronto man is hoping a web app he's developed will do what officials no longer will — provide a statistical picture of the number of cyclists being nailed by opening car doors.

    Justin Bull said he hopes, which isn't quite live yet, will offer a central site for Canadian cyclists who are "doored."

    [ Related: Cycling website to record Toronto 'dooring' accidents ]

    “I think that just because you decide to redefine what a collision means doesn’t mean you should actually stop

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  • Toddler’s death in unlicensed Ontario daycare spurs call for affordable childcare

    When it comes to the care of young children, we've painted ourselves into a corner as a society.

    The days when there was a stay-at-home parent in almost every household (almost always mum) or perhaps a grandparent or relative have passed.

    With two parents working, either by choice or necessity, pre-school kids are often entrusted to strangers. Many families rely on unlicensed daycares because they're less costly or perhaps because they're convenient.

    Sadly, parents' trust is sometimes misplaced.

    [ Related: Parents launch $3.5M lawsuit over two-year-old daughter's daycare death ]

    A couple in Vaughan, Ont., faced a family's worst fear last month when their 21-month-old daughter died at a home daycare. Police are still investigating and have not said killed Eva Ravikovich, though the parents were told her death was "100 per cent preventable, " CTV News said.

    "They are two parents that have gone through an absolute nightmare," said lawyer Patrick Brown, who's filed a $3.5-million lawsuit against

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  • Bogus B.C. dentist’s exposure highlights problem of underground medicine in Canada

    Health officials say Tung Shen Wu — also known as David Wu — was practicing dentistry illegally in the bedroom of his Burnaby, B.C., home.
    Warnings about a Vancouver-area man operating an unlicensed, unsanitary dentistry practice out of an apartment highlight's Canada's problem of underground medical practitioners who prey on the poor and on immigrants.

    Tung Sheng Wu, who also goes by David Wu, is in trouble with health authorities and the B.C. College of Dental Surgeons after being exposed as a bogus dentist for the second time in a decade, CTV News reports.

    The college, supported by RCMP investigators, raided a suburban Burnaby apartment last May and found a clandestine dental office set up in one of the bedrooms, along with files for 1,500 patients, the Vancouver Province said. Some were from as far away as Washington state.

    Those people now are being urged to come forward and be tested for blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B and C and HIV.

    Authorities said Wu, who has no connection with a legitimate Burnaby dentist named David Wu who retired in 2010, had been operating out of the apartment for 10 years but may have

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  • No one rushing to emulate Nova Scotia’s cyberbullying law

    Canada's first law specifically outlawing cyberbullying has taken effect in Nova Scotia, just four months after the suicide of teenager Rahtaeh Parsons.

    The 17-year-old Cole Harbour, N.S., girl hanged herself after a photo of her allegedly being sexually assaulted during a drunken party made the rounds of her school.

    Just three weeks after her death last April, the Nova Scotia government introduced the Cyber-Safety Act, which aims to protect not just children but adults.

    "Too many young people and their families are being hurt by cyberbullies," Justice Minister Ross Landry said in a statement, according to CBC News.

    "I committed to families that the province would work with them to better protect our children and young people. Court orders, and the ability to sue, are more tools that help put a stop to this destructive behaviour.

    "This sends a clear message, cyberbullying is a serious act with serious consequences. Think before you text."

    [ Related: N.S. cyberbullying legislation allows

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  • U.S. envoy post to Canada in limbo as politicians duke it out over Keystone XL project

    Former U.S. ambassador to Canada David Jacobson delivers a speech on December 4, 2012 in Montreal.How much should we take it to heart that the Americans can't be bothered to replace their departing ambassador to Canada?

    David Jacobson left Ottawa last month after serving four years as the Barack Obama administration's top envoy to the United States' closest ally and biggest trading partner, with no word who the new ambassador might be.

    The U.S. Department of State has dispatched a temp; career diplomat Richard Sanders arrived last month to act as chargé d’affaires until the president appoints a new ambassador and his choice is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, CBC News reports.

    So what's the holdup? In a word, politics. Specifically, the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project, expert Colin Robertson suggests.

    Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat now vice-president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, told CBC News Obama may be delaying the nomination to avoid having opponents in the Senate "hold that candidate hostage."

    [ Related: U.S. ambassador to Canada leaving

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  • Stephen Fry’s bid to yank Olympics from Russia likely to fall on deaf ears

    Stephen Fry arrives at the BAFTA Brits to Watch event in Los Angeles, California July 9, 2011.
    Stephen Fry's call to yank the 2014 Winter Olympic Games out of Russia will almost certainly fall on deaf ears at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and participating nations.

    The openly gay British writer and actor, best know for his star turn as Jeeves, and the Black Adder series with longtime collaborator Hugh Laurie, published an open letter on his web site Wednesday urging the IOC to take away the Games because of the Russian government's crackdown against homosexuals.

    The message has also gone out to Fry's six million followers on Twitter.

    The Putin-controlled Duma (a legislative assembly) passed a law forbidding "propaganda" supporting "non-traditional" sexual orientation — gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered (LGBT). The legislation, which essentially makes it illegal to be openly gay or to advocate for rights for LGBT people, threatens jail terms for violators.

    Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has warned anyone attending the Olympics near the Black Sea resort town of

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  • Cleanup jobs: The dubious silver lining beneath the dark cloud of disaster

    The jet fuel spill into Lemon Creek late last week has sparked fears that food from the Slocan Valley, is contaminated.Efforts to clean up a sizeable jet-fuel spill in B.C.'s Kootenay region are stepping up with plans for a hiring fair in Castlegar on Wednesday, The Canadian Press reports.

    The event at a Castlegar hotel is being laid on to augment the crew of 50 workers already trying to remove what's left of the 35,000 litres of fuel released when a tanker truck tipped into Lemon Creek and ruptured on July 26.

    The fuel also found its way into the larger Slocan and Kootenay rivers, a key source of drinking water for surrounding communities now relying on fresh water trucked into the area.

    [ Related: Jet fuel spill into B.C. creek could result in charges ]

    Like it or not, disasters provide a temporary, if unwelcome boon for companies and workers involved in the cleanup.

    The floods that devastated southern Alberta communities in June drew thousands of volunteers to help residents deal with the the immediate impact of the destruction. But the longer-term work of removing toxic material and restoring damaged

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  • Made-in-Canada military drones could cost defence contractors millions

    A U.S. Air Force Predator unmanned aerial vehicle flies near the Southern California Logistics Airport in this January 7, 2012 handout photo.One of the main objectives of Canada's defence spending over the years, besides equipping the military with the gear they need, is to ensure taxpayers get the maximum economic bang for their buck.

    That policy has cut across party lines over the years regardless of which party was in power, though the execution has not always been smooth.

    Now, The Canadian Press reports the Conservative government's budget-cutting program in National Defence could end up biting Canada's defence industries.

    The government last year announced it was pulling out of two NATO-led aerial surveillance programs in hopes of saving up to $90 million a year. It aims to slash the defence budget by $2.5 billion by next year.

    But documents obtained by CP under access-to-information legislation, reveal Canada's participation in the Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) drone program and the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) had resulted in millions of dollars in contracts to Canadian high-tech firms.

    The AGS program

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