Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • Vancouver homeless camp fight: Neighbours are sympathetic until the homeless are visible

    A woman takes shelter from the rain behind the park sign in Oppenheimer Park. (Canadian Press)A woman takes shelter from the rain behind the park sign in Oppenheimer Park. (Canadian Press)

    Some people call Oppenheimer Park the backyard of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

    The one-block park is a welcome island of green space in a low-income district where grass and trees are at a premium compared with other parts of the city.

    But local residents can’t use their backyard right now. It’s become a legal battleground pitting their rights with those of Vancouver’s homeless, who say they have nowhere else to go.

    Nowhere safe, that is.

    Advocates for the homeless are fighting a City of Vancouver injunction application that would force clearance of a sprawling tent city at Oppenheimer Park for safety reasons. The parties head back to B.C. Supreme Court on Monday.

    A similar case involving homeless in Abbotsford, a city of 140,000 about an hour’s drive east of Vancouver, is expected to go to trial early next year.

    Just like the sex trade, if you create zones where those people, those others, cannot be visible you are de facto insisting they be someplace more dangerous … We’re
    Read More »from Vancouver homeless camp fight: Neighbours are sympathetic until the homeless are visible
  • Canadian air travel may be grim, but at least it's cheap

    Lack of space is one of the major reasons airline passengers are frustrated. Photo: ThinkstockLack of space is one of the major reasons airline passengers are frustrated. Photo: Thinkstock

    Air travel long ago stopped being an exciting adventure for most of us.

    Unless you consider excitement partially disrobing at security, trying to find clear space in the overhead bin for your carry-on bag, then squeezing into a narrow seat to await the dubious delights of extra-cost sandwich or instant ramen noodles.

    Soon to be added to the list of frustrations, a $25 fee for your first checked piece of luggage. WestJet plans to start charging the fee on Oct. 29, with Air Canada following suit Nov. 2, CBC News reports.

    It’s become cliché in the last few years for older travellers to wax nostalgia about those halcyon days when flying meant dressing up in your best clothes, stretching out in a spacious seat and dining – yes, dining – on china plates with real cutlery.

    The perspective is no doubt tinted a little, but there’s no doubt flying in a post 9/11 world with airlines battling to deliver lower-cost travel is a grimmer experience than it used to be, unless you upgrade to business

    Read More »from Canadian air travel may be grim, but at least it's cheap
  • Little research and training being done to combat police suicides, experts say

    Little research is being conducted into police suicide. Photo: Thinkstock.Little research is being conducted into police suicide. Photo: Thinkstock.

    There’s almost no systematic research being done in Canada into the causes of suicide among police officers and other first responders, an expert on the issue says.

    There’s been media-wide coverage of suicides in the military related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the end of the Afghan mission. But far less about cops, paramedics, corrections officers, firefighters and even social workers who kill themselves because what they experience on the job becomes too much to bear.

    “I think this is a huge gap that governments and organizations, and academics even, don’t know the rates of stress that are out there and the number of suicides,” says Dr. Jeff Morley, a retired RCMP psychologist and clinical director of the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, dedicated to providing psychological support for first-responders.

    The problem jumped into sharp focus again on Sunday when a veteran Ottawa police officer committed suicide at police headquarters.

    Staff Sgt. Kal Ghadban, whose

    Read More »from Little research and training being done to combat police suicides, experts say
  • Little research done into first-responder suicides, experts say

    There’s almost no systematic research being done in Canada into the causes of suicide among police officers and other first responders, an expert on the issue says.

    There’s been media-wide coverage of suicides in the military related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the end of the Afghan mission. But far less about cops, paramedics, corrections officers, firefighters and even social workers who kill themselves because what they experience on the job becomes too much to bear.

    “I think this is a huge gap that governments and organizations, and academics even, don’t know the rates of stress that are out there and the number of suicides,” says Dr. Jeff Morley, a retired RCMP psychologist and clinical director of the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, dedicated to providing psychological support for first-responders.

    The problem jumped into sharp focus again on Sunday when a veteran Ottawa police officer committed suicide at police headquarters.

    Staff Sgt. Kal Ghadban, whose

    Read More »from Little research done into first-responder suicides, experts say
  • Canada's judges fear they could be in the crosshairs when Tories drop election writ

    With a federal election no more than a year away, the Canadian judiciary could find itself a target as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives campaign for a fourth term in power.

    The Harper government has been stymied over elements of its tough-on-crime legislation and other issues.

    The friction flared most visibly in a nasty spat with Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, who Harper and Justice Minister Peter McKay suggested made an inappropriate intervention in the ultimately failed attempt to appoint Federal Court Justice Marc Nadon to the top court.

    Both McLachlin and MacKay have since tried to play down the incident earlier this year as part of the normal “healthy tension” between government and the bench.

    In a recent statement in the House of Commons, MacKay said the government’s relations with the Supreme Court remain “professional and constructive,” and that he respects the court, “as well as all the institutions of the country.”

    MacKay’s office refused a request to

    Read More »from Canada's judges fear they could be in the crosshairs when Tories drop election writ
  • Something's fishy: Canada's fish products often labelled as the wrong species

    Aaron Murray puts out wild salmon at Bruce's Country Market (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)Aaron Murray puts out wild salmon at Bruce's Country Market (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

    Canadians aren’t big fish eaters according to Statistics Canada, averaging less than 10 kilograms per person each year.

    But it’s safe to say when we do tuck into a nice piece of cod or tuna, we want to be certain that’s what we’re actually eating.

    An investigation by Quebec’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food suggests our confidence may be misplaced.

    As reported by CBC News, a five-month study of fish sold at supermarkets, seafood stores and restaurants found that almost a third of the products were labelled as the incorrect species.

    What’s worse, a majority of the incidents were intentional. Out of 121 samples DNA tested between last November and this March, 39 were wrongly identified. Fifteen incidents were attributed to mistranslation from English to French, but the rest were deliberately mislabeled.

    Cheap fish were often misrepresented as more-expensive varieties and sold at the higher price point, increasing profits at the expensive of the consumer.

    [ Related: Fish

    Read More »from Something's fishy: Canada's fish products often labelled as the wrong species
  • Gay seniors fear going into care means going back in the closet: report

    The transition from living independently to living in a care home is hard enough.

    Coping with the fear of discrimination over your sexual orientation can only make it harder, but that’s the issue facing a growing number of seniors in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or queer (LGBTQ) community.

    A new report by Qmunity, a Vancouver-based advocacy group, has found that LGBTQ citizens who lived through the culture war that carved out a place for them in society now worry they’ll have to go back in the closet when they move into care.

    The paper, part of Qmunity’s Aging Out project, found LGBTQ seniors worry they’ll face homophobia from staff and insensitive treatment from health care providers. Many already do, says Dara Parker, Qmunity executive director, ranging from overt homophobic slurs to condemnation of lifestyle choices.

    “Let’s say I’m a butch lesbian woman who’s never worn dresses and then I start to lose the capacity to dress myself and my family members come in and put

    Read More »from Gay seniors fear going into care means going back in the closet: report
  • Cyberbullying, sexting remain major problems despite heightened awareness

    One chapter in a case that helped trigger an explosion of international concern about cyberbullying ended quietly in a Halifax courtroom Monday, but people who work in the field say kids still are not getting message.

    A 20-year-old man pleaded guilty in youth court to one count of making child pornography and is scheduled to have a sentencing hearing in November. Another young man is still facing a child-porn distribution charge.

    Neither the name of the man, who was 17 at the time of the 2011 offence, nor his then-15-year-old victim can be disclosed now under a statutory publication ban, The Canadian Press reported.

    The teen girl, tormented by the backlash against her after a nude image of her having sex while drunkenly vomiting was circulated, attempted suicide in 2013, eventually dying in hospital. The boys were arrested a few weeks later following a public outcry after police initially refused to act.

    Her death, and the suicide of of Metro Vancouver teen Amanda Todd who experienced

    Read More »from Cyberbullying, sexting remain major problems despite heightened awareness
  • Scottish-Canadians weigh rejection of Scotland independence

    "It’s a victory of fear over hope, and that’s so sad. A thousand years of Scottish kings, martyrs, poets and patriots are turning in their graves."

    Supporters from the "No" Campaign celebrate (Reuters)Supporters from the "No" Campaign celebrate (Reuters)

    A lot of Scottish-Canadians were glued to their TVs or computer screens Thursday as the historic independence referendum played out in their ancestral homeland.

    And like their counterparts in Scotland, the reaction was a mix of heartbreak and relief as a decisive but not overwhelming majority voted to stay a part of the United Kingdom.

    After a campaign that followed a script Canadians would recognize, results reported by BBC News found just over 55 per cent of the more than 3.6 million people who cast ballots opted to say No.

    "I’m absolutely gutted,” Edinburgh-born Martin O’Hanlon, a union leader who lives in the Ottawa area, said via email to Yahoo Canada News.

    “It’s a victory of fear over hope, and that’s so sad. A thousand years of Scottish kings, martyrs, poets and patriots are turning in their graves.

    I hope there will be a United Kingdom as long as the flag flies. I think everybody is better off.
    —Allan MacLeod, ex-pat Scot living in Canada

    "I’m deeply proud of the many

    Read More »from Scottish-Canadians weigh rejection of Scotland independence
  • As B.C. teachers vote on deal, government comes out looking like the loser

    BCTF members vote on tentative deal (CBC Photo)BCTF members vote on tentative deal (CBC Photo)

    Students in B.C. could be returning to the classroom as soon as next Monday, if teachers vote to ratify their tentative deal with the government on Thursday.

    B.C. Premier Christy Clark has hailed the six-year agreement with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation as historic, heralding an era of labour peace. But if history is any guide, this may simply be a truce in a decades-long war.

    The 41,000 member union is recommending that teachers accept the deal, which actually runs only five more years because it’s retroactive to July 2013.

    A press conference held at 9:30 PT will report on the results of the vote.

    There’s been some grumbling on social media about the terms, which reportedly includes a cumulative pay increase of 7.25 per cent, improved benefits and a cash bonus from a topped-up grievance-settlement fund.

    Most significantly, the government dropped a provision known as clause E80, which would have entrenched its control over class size and composition (such as the number of

    Read More »from As B.C. teachers vote on deal, government comes out looking like the loser

Pagination

(1,748 Stories)