Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • After the post-attack 'kumbaya' moment, when will it be politics as usual in Ottawa?

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper hugs the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada Justin Trudeau. (AP)Prime Minister Stephen Harper hugs the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada Justin Trudeau. (AP)

    The hug fest Thursday in the House of Commons, one day after a lone gunman stormed the Centre Block, probably marked a kumbaya high point in the normally fractious chamber.

    It was a perfectly natural emotional release. The MPs, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, had a close shave the day before as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau ran past their full caucus rooms before being cornered and killed outside the Commons library by Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers. They came together in their relief at being spared.

    But how long will it take before the attack, which claimed the life of a reservist guarding the nearby National War Memorial, becomes fodder for the parties’ campaign machinery heading into next October’s federal election?

    Veterans organizers of past national campaigns tell Yahoo Canada News it’s far too soon for anyone to exploit the incident to score political points.

    “I think everybody’s going to be extremely cautious in dealing with this in an overtly partisan way,” said Brad Zubyk,

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  • Ottawa shootings to prompt security review, fortifications of public buildings

    A soldier, police and paramedics tend to a soldier shot at the National Memorial in Ottawa. (CP)A soldier, police and paramedics tend to a soldier shot at the National Memorial in Ottawa. (CP)

    Regardless of whether Wednesday’s Ottawa shooting rampage was a planned terror attack or the act of one mad man, it’s clear access to public buildings will become harder, maybe much harder.

    A shooter who reportedly began by gunning down an ceremonial guard carrying an inoperable rifle at the National War Memorial, then gained access to Parliament a few hundred metres away before being cornered and killed by the Commons Sergeant-at-Arms.

    Hard questions will undoubtedly be asked about how the gunman was able to get through a lightly guarded door used by MPs and accredited media, among others.

    The larger question is, how far do we go in a free society in turning public buildings into fortresses in the name of security, making the word public more ironic than real?

    “In a democratic society people expect access to democratic sites,” former public safety minister Stockwell Day told Yahoo Canada News. “Having said that, I think generally the public, especially now, are going to be more open to

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  • Police may have overreacted with de Groot shooting, but dangers faced undervalued

    Peter de Groot was shot by RCMP officers after a manhunt near Slocan, B.C.Peter de Groot was shot by RCMP officers after a manhunt near Slocan, B.C.
    It’s likely to be months before we know what happened when members of an RCMP emergency response team (ERT) confronted Peter de Groot in a remote cabin near Slocan, B.C., and shot him dead on Thanksgiving Day.

    A lawyer acting for de Groot’s family said there are striking parallels between his death and that of another mentally troubled man in northern B.C. two years ago, when the Mounties were accused of overreacting.

    But a psychologist experienced in assessing violent threats said Monday-morning quarterbacks often underestimate the danger police face when confronting armed suspects, especially if they’re mentally unstable.

    What we do know is de Groot died in that encounter, four days after fleeing into the bush following an earlier encounter with local Mounties investigating a low-level assault allegation.

    De Groot’s family says the RCMP overreacted, did not take health problems, including the residual effects of a brain aneurysm, into account and rebuffed the family’s offer to help

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  • A Victoria mom who went looking for a firefighter costume for her young daughter says she is outraged by what she found.A Victoria mom who went looking for a firefighter costume for her young daughter says she is outraged by what she found.

    You’d think after decade of consciousness-raising about women’s roles in modern society and the sexualization of children, we wouldn’t see stuff like this.

    Value Village, popular purveyor of second-hand duds, has been blasted by a Victoria, B.C. mother upset over some pre-packaged kids’ Halloween costumes that not only reinforce gender stereotypes but make little girls look sexy.

    Raina Delisle was shopping at her local Value Village for a costume for her four-year-old daughter, whose possible choices included dressing as a firefighter.

    Value Village, which has an advertising blitz every Halloween to pitch its stores as a costume mecca, offered both girls’ and boys’ police and firefighter costumes. But the take is vastly different.

    The boys get tiny replica of a cop’s uniform, while packaging shows the girls in a form-fitting blue mini-dress and cap.

    The differences between girl and boy firefighter costumes is even more striking; the boy is shown wearing an orange turnout coat and helmet

    Read More »from Value Village pulls 'sexy, sexist' Halloween costumes for kids, but they're part of persistent trend
  • Canada wants to jail terrorists, but struggles with how to deal with them once they're out

    A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant holds an ISIL flag and a weapon in Mosul. (Reuters)A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant holds an ISIL flag and a weapon in Mosul. (Reuters)

    Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is prepared to lock up anyone proven to be involved in terrorism, or planning to head abroad to fight. But is it ready for when those erstwhile jihadis eventually are released?

    The short answer is no, it’s not.

    While passing tougher laws to prosecute those who might want to go overseas to join Islamist terror groups, the government has apparently not set up specific programs within the federal prison system to help keep them from rejoining the fight.

    Anyone imprisoned for terror-related offences has access to the same rehabilitation programs available to conventional criminals. But there are no programs aimed specifically at terrorists to wean them away from extremist ideology and reintegrate them into Canadian society.

    They are a special breed. They are not like your regular criminal so they need particular intervention.
    —Dr. Wagdy Loza, former chief psychologist at Kingston Penitentiary

    No one at the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC)

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  • Beyond the Border: How seriously does the U.S. take Canada?

    Canadian border guards are silhouetted as they replace each other at an inspection booth (Darryl Dyck)Canadian border guards are silhouetted as they replace each other at an inspection booth (Darryl Dyck)

    It’s indicative of how lopsided our relationship still is with the United States that a missed Canadian deadline on a bilateral border security plan is being treated as a big deal north of the 49th parallel but largely shrugged off in Washington.

    Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney found himself forced to underscore that Canada is still committed to a plan for the two countries to share foreign-travel data of their residents  a system that was supposed to be operating by last June.

    The program is part of the perimeter-security element of the 2011 Beyond the Border initiative, a sprawling agreement aimed at smoothing the flow of people and goods between Canada and the United States, countering the border’s post-9/11 thickening and eliminating costly delays.

    The arrangement already allows both countries to share entry and exit information about foreigners and permanent residents, but the second phase was to expand the system to cover citizens as well.

    The information-sharing

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  • Earthquake-prone Canadians refuse to buy insurance doubting they'll be hit, new poll reveals

     

    Canadians are unprepared for an increasingly likely earthquake. Photo: ThinkstockCanadians are unprepared for an increasingly likely earthquake. Photo: Thinkstock

    There is something about our psyches that makes us ignore evident risks to our lives and property because the danger is not right before our eyes.

    We don’t ignore an advancing forest fire. Most of us high-tail it when told flood waters are headed our way.

    But most Canadians living in the country’s two main earthquake zones seem happy to pretend the threat beneath their feet is not something to worry about and prepare for.

    A new poll commissioned by the Insurance Bureau of Canada has found residents in British Columbia and the seismically active Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec corridor believe a damaging earthquake is not imminent and probably won’t take place for at least 50 years.

    The poll, conducted last spring by Pollara Strategic Insights, surveyed more than 2,000 people in the two regions about their attitudes towards an impending quake and, not surprisingly, whether it prompted them to buy earthquake insurance.

    Respondents in British Columbia, who regularly hear about or feel minor

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  • Fire-sparked power outage in Calgary spotlights risk to city's key infrastructure

    Workers continue to try and restore power to areas of downtown Calgary. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntoshWorkers continue to try and restore power to areas of downtown Calgary. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

    After enduring the devastating flood of 2013, Calgarians hardly needed another lesson on coping with disaster. They got one just the same on Thanksgiving weekend.

    An electrical transformer in an underground utility vault caught fire, wrecking power and communications equipment and crippling a major chunk of downtown Calgary.

    ENMAX Power Corp. said electricity won’t be restored until Thursday, meaning thousands of downtown residents remain displaced and thousands more who work in the Canada’s oil and gas hub will be shut out of their offices.

    "However, this is if all goes according to plan," the company said on its website, referring to the planned power restoration. “There may be damaged equipment we can’t see and we will not know this until we energize the system.”

    The outage, covering about 16 blocks on the west side of downtown, affected customers in 112 residential and commercial buildings.

    Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi told Yahoo Canada News about 5,000 residents and 2,100 businesses

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  • What will Canada's combat mission in Iraq be, and how dangerous is it?

    A Canadian CF-18 gets the go-ahead for takeoff at dusk at the military base in Dohar, Qatar on December 3, 1990. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul ChiassonA Canadian CF-18 gets the go-ahead for takeoff at dusk at the military base in Dohar, Qatar on December 3, 1990. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

    A lot of rhetoric has been fired back and forth over the Canadian Armed Forces new mission in northern Iraq, their fourth combat deployment in 15 years following the 1999 Kosovo and 2011 Libyan air campaigns and the extended Afghan mission.

    But if Canadians were looking for clarity, they didn’t get it during Parliament’s debate this week. Not from the Harper government’s scaremongering about the existential threat of the Islamic State, nor Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair’s warnings of an impending quagmire, or Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s glib phallic allusion.

    What exactly are our warriors going to be doing over there and how much danger will they be in from the ruthless IS killers?

    Public details are skimpy. The Department of National Defence’s web page for Operation Impact, as the mission has been dubbed, provides only press-release levels of information.

    The air component comprises of up to six CF-18 fighter-bombers, two four-engine Aurora surveillance aircraft, a Polaris

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  • Poll shows more Canadians support right to die but courts, not politicians, likely to decide

    A new poll suggests more Canadians than ever support the right to physician-assisted death, but that the results are unlikely to move the political yardsticks.

    The Ipsos Public Affairs poll was conducted in August for Dying With Dignity, which supports decriminalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

    The survey of 2,515 people, more than double the sample for a normal national poll, found 84 per cent of respondents agreed with this statement:

    “A doctor should be able to help someone end their life if the person is a competent adult who is terminally ill, suffering unbearably and repeatedly asks for assistance to die.”

    The poll results were released on the eve of a landmark case scheduled to be heard next week by the Supreme Court of Canada that holds the potential to overturn the two-decade-old Rodriguez decision upholding the existing criminal prohibition against assisted suicide.


    The case involves two B.C. residents who’ve since died but wanted an end to their suffering from

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Pagination

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