• A Canadian delegation led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper travelled to South Africa to attend memorial services for former South African President Nelson Mandela. The group includes former prime ministers, party leaders and Canadian officials with a variety of personal connections with the revered statesman.

    Mandela died last week at the age of 95 following years of deteriorating health and a battle with a severe lung infection. Mandela fought to end apartheid in South Africa, and spent 27 years in prison before being released and later becoming the country's first black president.

    Mandela had significant connects of Canada, which he called his “home away from home.” That connection was highlighted by those who made up Canada's delegation to his funeral.

    Among those who left for South Africa over the weekend were Prime Minister Stephen Harper and three of his predecessors: Jean Chretien, Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell. Representatives from the NDP and the Liberal Party of Canada joined

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  • Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper waves as he arrives for a luncheon (Reuters)

    You probably already know that Canada is no longer the world's boy scout.

    Whether it's the environment, foreign relations, peacekeeping or refugee policy, Canada seems to be diminished in the eyes of some in the wider world.

    Not all of it can be pinned on Stephen Harper's Conservative government – Canada was fudging its commitment to the Kyoto Accord on climate change long before the Tories took power in 2006.

    But the image of a meaner, less altruistic, more self-interested Canada seems to have sharpened in the last few years. And while some will challenge the perception, the evidence keeps piling up.

    According to a review by Harvard Law School's immigration and refugee clinic, Canada has become a more refugee-unfriendly place in the post-9/11 world, Toronto Star columnist Carol Goar reports.

    “Canada is systematically closing its borders to asylum seekers and failing in its refugee protection obligations under domestic and international law,” the group's report states.

    [ Related: Canada’s

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  • On a day Canadians reflect on the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, we have word of a man urinating on a Vancouver memorial intended to remind us about the effects of racism.

    Last Monday, Pargan Mattu of Surrey, B.C., was showing a visiting friend the memorial to the infamous Komagata Maru incident, which in 1914 saw almost 400 mostly Sikh immigrants from India turned away from Canada after spending two months confined to the Japanese vessel anchored in Vancouver's Coal Harbour.

    The incident is commemorated by a memorial unveiled in 2012 near the harbour in downtown Vancouver. It's a blown-up photograph of Komagata Maru passengers accompanied by an account of what happened.

    As Mattu and his friend took in the memorial and snapped photos, a man approached the monument and threw a soccer ball at it.

    [ Related: Afghan memorial desecration draws high-profile reward offer ]

    When Mattu challenged the man, he went up to the monument and urinated on it, ignoring Mattu's warning that he was taking

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  • Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli.Do you know what is the cost equivalent of buying a $2 cup of coffee? It's buying a pair of really inexpensive socks, or a weekday edition of one of Canada's fine newspapers. Or some fancy gum.

    Sadly for the Ontario Liberals, a billion-dollar boondoggle involving cancelled gas plants is not the same as a cup of coffee. Even if the comparison seems to make for a choice sound bite.

    Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli made the errant comment on Thursday that a pre-election decision to cancel a gas plant in Oakville, Ont., would cost the public about the same as a double-double.

    "It's less than a cup of Tim Horton's coffee a year," Chiarelli told reporters about the eventual per-ratepayer price tag.

    And it was no accident it was Tim Hortons coffee referenced in Chiarelli's comment. Tim Hortons is the classic Canadian reference evoked by politicians of every stripe to appear folksy and down-to-earth. This time, it was a misfire.

    [ Related: Canada adds 21,600 jobs in November ]

    The comment came after

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  • When I read that Saskatoon resident Hugh Lindholm had fired his rifle in the air to warn off a late-night intruder, my first reaction was not "good on ya!"

    I have no objection to a 72-year-old man, who lives with his wife on an acreage in my favourite Saskatchewan city, showing a potential home invader what he's in for if he goes any further.

    No, I expected the cops would be showing up to put old Mr. Lindholm in cuffs, followed by charges of unlawfully discharging a firearm.

    But I needn't have worried. I'd forgotten the landscape has changed when it comes the right to armed self-defence in Canada.

    We're not quite in U.S.-style "stand your ground" territory, or even the so-called "castle doctrine," which asserts a person's home is their castle and they're entitled to defend it. But under Criminal Code changes passed by the Conservative government that took effect this year, it's now clearer when you can use a gun in some circumstances to protect life and property.

    [ Related: U.S. 'stand your

    Read More »from Prairie justice: Rifle-toting homeowner puts new self-defence laws to the test
  • A Calgary development group has apologized for an article that suggested visible minorities, homosexuals and people with tattoos could not feel comfortable living "in a world of heterosexual suburbanites."

    The Urban Development Institute – Calgary originally posted the article to its website, but it was later removed and apology was issued.

    The original article, titled "'Comfort Capital' and Why We're a World Class City", debates what makes Calgary a premier location to live, and the role comfort plays when choosing a neighbourhood.

    CBC News reports that the original article included the following excerpt:

    It’s not a subject of much discussion, but research suggests residency location choice is strongly linked to how comfortable a person feels in a place where no one is like them.

    And it doesn’t just apply to visible minorities searching out the diaspora. It can be the guy with tattoos, feeling on display every time he shops at the Safeway on the city’s periphery. Or the gay couple in a

    Read More »from Calgary development group sorry it suggested gays, people with tattoos, don’t fit in the suburbs
  • If you want to make an impression on the hearts and minds of Americans, it turns out smoking crack, lying about it, consorting with known and suspected criminals and occasionally acting like the mayor of Canada's largest city is a pretty good way to do it.

    An exclusive poll conducted by Pollara has found that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is the second-most recognized international political figure in the United States.

    He ranks only behind Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Half of the 1,001 respondents to Pollara's online survey saying they are familiar with Ford. This made him more than twice as known as Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

    “This is one of the few times in memory that Americans have taken widespread interest in a Canadian political story,” Pollara vice-president Dan Arnold said in a statement. “Be it CNN or The Daily Show, it’s been impossible for Americans to escape Rob Ford coverage.”

    Here are the most widely recognized international political figures, inside the U.S.:

    • Russian
    Read More »from More Americans know of Rob Ford than they do most world leaders
  • The quotable Nelson Mandela

    Nelson Mandela, addresses a capacity crowd at a rally in Port Elizabeth in 1990.

    Nelson Mandela was incarcerated on Robben Island for 18 of his 27 years in prison. During this time, he contracted tuberculosis and, as a black political prisoner, received the lowest level of treatment from prison workers. In 1990, Mandela was released and immediately urged foreign powers not to reduce pressure on the South African government for constitutional reform.

    Here are some of Mandela's most poignant quotations.

    "I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances."

    "I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended."

    "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

    "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."

    "Man's goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished."

    “As we let our own light shine, we

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  • Timeline: Nelson Mandela

    Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa in 1994. A symbol of global peacemaking, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. Here is a timeline of key events during Mandela's life:

    July 18, 1918 - Born Rolihlahla Mandela at Mvezo in the Transkei

    1925 - Attends primary school near Qunu (receives the name ‘Nelson’ from a teacher)

    1939 - Enrols at the University College of Fort Hare, in Alice

    1940 - Expelled

    1941 - Escapes an arranged marriage; becomes a mine night watchman; Starts articles at the law firm Witkin, Sidelsky & Eidelman

    1942 - Completes BA through the University of South Africa (UNISA); Begins to attend African National Congress (ANC) meetings informally

    1943 - Graduates with BA from Fort Hare; Enrols for an LLB at Wits University

    1944 - Co-founds the ANC Youth League (ANCYL); marries Evelyn Ntoko Mase – they have four children: Thembekile (1945); Makaziwe (1947 – who dies after nine months); Makgatho (1950); Makaziwe (1954)

    1948 - Elected national secretary of the

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  • South Africa will mourn today for Nelson Mandela, the internationally-beloved champion of peace and equality who fought to end racial apartheid. But the world, including Canada, will mourn with them.

    Mandela passed away today at the end of a long battle against his declining health. Before his death, the 95-year-old former South African president gave his life to a struggle for equality in his homeland – a task that saw him branded a criminal and later named South Africa’s first black president.

    The death of Mandela leaves South Africans mourning the loss of a beloved champion, a statesman respected the world over. Mandela was a force of peace. He earned the Nobel Peace Prize, his birthday is celebrated by the United Nations. Monuments and statues stand in his honour in countries the world over.

    Mandela’s loss is felt here in Canada, as well – a country he once called his “home away from home.” In 1990, he chose to mark his release from prison by visiting Canada. He was named a Companion

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