Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • 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)

    Read More »from Canada wants to jail terrorists, but struggles with how to deal with them once they're out
  • 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

    Read More »from Beyond the Border: How seriously does the U.S. take Canada?
  • 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

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

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

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

    Read More »from Poll shows more Canadians support right to die but courts, not politicians, likely to decide
  • Taxi app Uber's Canadian growth causing battles with cities, cab companies

    Technology has fractured all kinds of established businesses, from music and retail sales to the mail and news media, sweeping away whole sectors that are not able to adapt quickly enough.

    Now an industry many of us love to hate is up against the wall, but the taxi business will not going down without a fight.

    Uber, the San Francisco-based taxi app that’s exploded into hundreds of cities worldwide in just five years is facing stiff resistance in Canada.

    The City of Toronto is embroiled in a legal fight with the company while Vancouver has put off a decision on whether to permit it entry into the city’s under-served cab market.

    Meanwhile in Ottawa, Uber drivers have been targeted by an undercover sting operation and slapped with hefty fines.

    We are witnessing what may be the opening rumbles of a tectonic shift that could fundamentally change the taxi business in the same way Amazon revolutionized consumer retailing and iTunes helped kill the neighbourhood record store.

    What is Uber?

    Read More »from Taxi app Uber's Canadian growth causing battles with cities, cab companies
  • 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

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