• Pope Francis made headlines around the world this week when he announced that priests will be able to offer forgiveness to women who have had abortions.

    In practical terms, though, the announcement means little in Canada, where bishops have long designated that ability to local priests, says Rev. Tom Lynch, a professor of theology at St. Augustine’s Seminary at the University of Toronto.

    “I think here in Canada it’s not as big of news as perhaps in other parts of the world,” says Lynch, the national director of Priests for Life Canada and the pastor St. Mary’s Parish in Lindsay, Ont.

    For four decades, North American bishops have delegated the decision to priests to hear confession and offer forgiveness for this “sin.”

    Forgiveness for only eight of the most grievous sins is reserved for bishops, Lynch says. Abortion is not one of them.

    “This isn’t a change in the teaching on abortion; it isn’t a change in the teaching on confession. It’s just a change in the pastoral practice,” he

    Read More »from Pope’s abortion overtures means little in Canada where priests already can offer forgiveness
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    A new survey by a network of government privacy watchdogs reveals that more than 60 per cent of websites and apps geared towards Canadian children may be collecting personal information and passing it on to a third party.

    The Global Privacy Enforcement Network — an international network of privacy regulators that includes the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada — reviewed 1,494 websites and apps from May 11-15 and found that 67 per cent of them collected personal information from children.

    Focusing on trends among Canadian users, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s sweep team reviewed 118 websites and apps targeted directly at children, as well as 54 that are known to be popular with and used by kids.

    The team’s findings showed that more than 50 per cent of Canadian sites collect personal information from children, including name, address, phone number and photo, audio or video.

    In addition, 62 per cent of sites reviewed acknowledged that they may disclose

    Read More »from Majority of kids’ websites and apps collect and share personal data, survey reveals
  • Canadian Medical Association divests of fossil fuelsCanadian Medical Association divests of fossil fuels

    Last week, the Canadian Medical Association voted to withdraw its investment in fossil fuel-related companies, the latest in a series of divestments by organizations and investors looking to put their money in companies that are ecologically and socially responsible.

    Yellowknife doctor Courtney Howard led the charge for the motion to divest from fossil fuel companies. 

    She says she was inspired by similar moves by the British Medical Association and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in New Zealand and Australia. 

    Dr. Howard, a board member of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, said that doctors are beginning to understand that climate change is a public health issue, not just an environmental issue.

    “It’s beginning to have profound effects on us,” she said. 

    Dr. Howard said the issue is particularly apparent in the Northwest Territories, as warming temperatures have disrupted even basic nutrition as they affect traditional hunting grounds and supply

    Read More »from Physicians group the latest to divest fossil fuel investments
  • Artists share heartbreaking illustrations as the world mourns drowned Syrian boy

    A heartbreaking image of a 3-year-old Syrian boy washed ashore in Turkey.A heartbreaking image of a 3-year-old Syrian boy washed ashore in Turkey.

    The heartbreaking images of a drowned Syrian boy, whose body was discovered face down on a Turkish beach, have cast a tragic spotlight on what is being called the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.

    Aylan Kurdi was only three years old when he and his five-year-old brother, Galip, along with their mother, Rihan, had drowned. The family was aboard a crowded dingy that was attempting to reach the Greek island of Kos. We now know that the family was reportedly planning to emigrating to Canada. Their father, Abdullah, has survived.

    Aylan is photographed with his older brother, Galip. Aylan is photographed with his older brother, Galip.

    The photos quickly captured the world's attention, adding urgency to what is becoming a global crisis. But the photos have also prompted some incredibly moving illustrations, shared by artists and cartoonists the world over using the hashtag #KiyiyaVuranInsanlik, or #HumanityWashedAshore.

    Warning: Graphic images below

    Read More »from Artists share heartbreaking illustrations as the world mourns drowned Syrian boy
  • Migrants arrive at the coast on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey at the southeastern island of Kos, Greece, during the sunrise early Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Greece has become the main gateway to Europe for tens of thousands of refugees and economic migrants, mainly Syrians fleeing war, as fighting in Libya has made the alternative route from north Africa to Italy increasingly dangerous. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)Migrants arrive at the coast on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey at the southeastern island of Kos, Greece, during the sunrise early Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Greece has become the main gateway to Europe for tens of thousands of refugees and economic migrants, mainly Syrians fleeing war, as fighting in Libya has made the alternative route from north Africa to Italy increasingly dangerous. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

    Graphic photos of a boy who drowned and washed ashore near a resort in Turkey have touched a global nerve and brought the issue of the plight of millions of Syrians fleeing a civil war into focus again.

    Three-year-old Alan Kurdi, his five-year-old brother Galip and mother Rehan were aboard a boat ferrying migrants to Greece when they drowned on Wednesday.

    The tragedy hit close to home in Canada after reports said the family was hoping to find refuge in this country.

    The Canadian government says it has committed more than $700 million in humanitarian, development and security assistance in response to the Syrian crisis, which began in March 2011 and promised to settle 10,000 Syrians with the help of churches and private groups earlier this year.

    While details unfold on how the federal government will address the refugee crisis, Canadians can help by donating to one of the following charities:

    • Canadian Red Cross says it has established a Syria Crisis Fund to provide “life-saving
    Read More »from Syrian refugees: how Canadians can help
  •  

    A suspected case of Lyme disease in Newfoundland and Labrador, if confirmed, would be the first one contracted in the province, and highlights how factors like increased travel and a warming climate are reducing the protection from common health concerns that comes with the province’s isolated location.

    Four-year-old Kimmy Boland in Brigus is being tested for Lyme disease after her grandmother noticed a telltale bull’s-eye rash on the girl’s arm last month. Previous cases of Lyme diagnosed in the province were contracted from tick bites received elsewhere, but Kimmy has never left the island of Newfoundland, CBC News reported.

    That means if she does have Lyme disease, she must have contracted it in the province, which has never before had a confirmed case of Lyme disease transmission, Dr. Hugh Whitney, the province’s chief veterinary officer, tells Yahoo Canada News.

    Unlike other Atlantic provinces, such as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador has the distinction

    Read More »from N.L.’s isolation not always a protection against disease
  • Don Iveson visits Edmonton AM for mayor's phone-inDon Iveson visits Edmonton AM for mayor's phone-in

    God may soon be gone for good from Edmonton city council.

    The city’s executive committee voted this week to recommend prayers be permanently abolished from council meetings, to be replaced with a moment of silent reflection.

    City council will vote next week on the committee recommendation.

    The Alberta capital had already suspended prayers following an April ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada involving the city of Saguenay, Que.

    Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson was not immediately available for comment. He told CBC News that the court’s decision clearly prohibits prayers in a government setting.

    “I don’t see us having much of a choice here,” Iveson says.

    The high court decision concerning Saguenay brought to an end a nine-year legal battle.

    Each city council meeting in Saguenay began with the mayor reciting a prayer with the sign of the cross, accompanied by the words, “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

    City resident Alain Simoneau, an atheist who regularly attended

    Read More »from Edmonton likely joining other cities purging prayers from council meetings
  • If parents in the Peel District School Board were planning on asking for “religious accommodation” to excuse their children from sex education lessons they find unpalatable, they’re in for a big surprise.

    Tony Pontes, director of education for Peel, the second-largest school board in Ontario, said Wednesday that when a lesson touches on issues of inclusiveness, parents won’t be able to ask for an accommodation to excuse their kids from class.

    “We cannot — we will not — by action or inaction endorse discrimination,” said Pontes, who cited Ontario’s Human Rights Code as applying to people of all sexual orientation and gender identity. “Supported by legal opinion, bolstered by our core values, I would no more say yes to someone wanting a child excluded because of a discussion about LGBTQ than I would a discussion about race or gender.”

    Peel will still allow accommodations in instances where the lesson itself may contrast with a family’s religious leanings. But when the lesson deals

    Read More »from Ontario school board says “religious accommodation” isn’t an excuse to discriminate
  •  Attempting the longest, toughest horse race on earth is not an effort to be taken lightly. The Mongol Derby is a 1,000-kilometre race starting east of Ulaanbaatar and ending near Lake Hovsgol in Siberia – at least that was the route this year - aboard semi-wild horses. Each year around 40 international riders gather in Mongolia to try their skills and luck at the event. Up to 40 per cent won’t finish due to injury and exhaustion. I was one of the lucky ones, crossing the finish line after riding 28 different horses for nine straight days.

    My journey began 12 months previous, when I came to the conclusion I needed an adventure to break the tedium in my life (working as a copy editor, I’m more desk jockey, then, well, real jockey). For the next year I dedicated my life to training for the race and raising the funds to pay the $17,000 entry fee. I grew up on a farm and have been riding since I was five years old, so I figured I had enough horse knowledge to see me through the

    Read More »from The Hunger Games on horseback: Five ways to survive the Mongol Derby
  • Ashley Burnham of Canada reacts as she wins the Mrs. Universe 2015 contest in Minsk, Belarus, August 29, 2015.  REUTERS/Vasily FedosenkoAshley Burnham of Canada reacts as she wins the Mrs. Universe 2015 contest in Minsk, Belarus, August 29, 2015. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
    Ashley Burnham is taking a lot of flak for speaking up against the Harper Government this week, but the newly-crowned Mrs. Universe says she won’t be quieting down any time soon.

    Burnham is from the Enoch Cree Nation, west of Edmonton. She is the first Canadian and aboriginal woman to win the coveted title, and she didn’t miss a beat urging First Nations people to vote against Harper.

    That stance earned some backlash in social media.

    But Burnham (who’s

    Read More »from Mrs. Universe won't back down on Harper criticism

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