• Smokers in Victoria, B.C., could soon be pushed from the fringes of society and relegated to private property  if they are lucky enough to own any  should a plan to expand the city's smoking bylaws come to pass.

    British Columbia's capital is considering expanding its laws, which are already among the strictest in the country, and could go so far as to include all public parks as well as seven-metre buffers around every door and window in the city.

    The result would be a nearly-complete patchwork of smoke-free zones that would leave smokers without a legal place to light up, save for the confines of their homes and cars. And those who rent in non-smoking apartments and don't have cars? No cigarettes for them.

    According to the National Post, some councillors are now pushing for the creation of safe zones where Victoria's smokers can "kill themselves in peace."

    That comment comes from a local councillor who sympathizes with the region's approximately 30,000 smokers. Ben Isitt has urged

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  • Fired Up For the Playoffs, via Catholic Church of Montreal

    When they say that hockey is a religion in Canada, it's not entirely hyperbole.

    There is the praying and the cursing. There are those who call on the Lord for an overtime goal and those who use His name in vain with that goal fails to materialize.

    And then there is the act of fandom itself. The ardent support, the willful following of a team  the jersey and logo, really  based almost entirely on faith and tradition.

    And that's just in those cities that saw their teams fall short of the playoffs. In Montreal, cheering for the Canadiens is truly a religious experience.

    Which is why it is not all that surprising that the Catholic Church of Montreal has jumped so heavily onto the bandwagon, even creating an online mosaic where Canadiens fans can light virtual votive candles in support of their team.

    More than 740 candles have been lit and posted to www.laflammedesseries.com, where supporters are urged to, "Cheer for the Habs by lighting a candle."

    [ More Canada News: Former deputy prime

    Read More »from Catholic Church of Montreal rallies Canadiens fans to light virtual votive candles
  • Back in the bad old days of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was run by an elite ruling class known as the nomenklatura.

    This tiny percentage of Soviets — politburo members, military officers and key bureaucrats in every facet of the government, military and industry — had enormous privileges in the Communist Party's so-called workers' paradise.

    Senior members of the nomenklatura had their own traffic lanes, their children got spots at the best universities and first crack at good jobs, and their families were allowed the exclusive right to shop at special stores.

    While their comrades were lining up at state outlets on the rumour there was a fresh supply of toilet paper, the nomenklatura was browsing for displays of Western goods such as colour TVs and blue jeans that were unattainable for their fellow citizens.

    It turned out the Revolution of 1917 may have wiped out the Russian aristocracy but communists managed to reinvent it. The nomenklatura system still exists in North Korea and

    Read More »from Canada’s most exclusive gift store open only to Ottawa's elite
  • You can sort of see the ad: Lonely farmer seeks country girl. Must know her way around a combine harvester and not be put off by the smell of pig manure.

    The advent of the Internet has made finding romance a lot easier and the web now features an increasing array of specialized dating sites.

    When it comes to people who make their living from the land, apparently the big player is FarmersOnly, which claims to have 1.5 million paying members. It's slogan is "City folks just don't get it."

    Founder Jerry Miller, whose headquarters are based in the wonderfully named down of Pepper Pike, Okla., told The Canadian Press he set up the site in 2005 after a divorced female farmer friend had a frustrating time finding suitable men to date on other sites.

    He started by posting flyers in local feed stores and at one point had to redesign the site because most farmers only had dial-up Internet connections. That's changed, he said, and now many farmers browse the site from their cellphones while

    Read More »from Dating site for lonely farmers now targeting Canadian market
  • Those Canadians who are emerging from their Easter reverence or have finally recovered from their chocolate egg overindulgence may be surprised to learn that Monday is a notable day for another reason: it is Queen Elizabeth II's 88th birthday.

    But before you get too excited, you can stow away your Union Jacks. There is no international celebration, no party. No songs and no cake. At least, not publicly. Very little will be done to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's birthday throughout the Commonwealth.

    Interestingly, Queen Elizabeth actually has two birthdays. April 21, 1926, is her actual birthday, but the United Kingdom officially celebrates her existence on June 14. Why?

    The U.K.'s Metro newspaper says that "the sovereign is given two birthdays if their birth date is not in the summer. This is because there will be a better chance of good weather for the birthday parade (otherwise known as Trooping the Colour)."

    Apparently the "summer birthday" tradition is one that has been available to

    Read More »from As Queen Elizabeth turns 88, a look at her relationship with Canada
  • I had to roll my eyes and stifle a snort when I read the reasons why some professors at the University of Toronto were balking at the idea of their faculty association becoming a certified union.

    I didn't know that the U of T was one of the last in Canada where faculty don't belong to a certified trade union, as the Globe and Mail reports.

    The current faculty association does bargain for its members under what's termed a memorandum of agreement.

    "The MoA dates to the late 1970s and was developed explicitly as an alternative to union certification, though the latter is an option that remains open to faculty and librarians should they choose to exercise it," the association says on its website.

    "The MoA features a limited scope collective bargaining process that deals with minimum salary, benefit and pension provisions together with workload."

    The association does not have the right to strike under the current bargaining structure, the Globe noted.

    [ Related: UNB and striking faculty

    Read More »from While U of T faculty mulls union certification, some profs are opposed
  • A video posted online apparently showing an Air Canada baggage handler dropping luggage from the top of a staircase into a bin some 20 feet below resulted in public outrage and also, potentially, the impending firing of two airline employees.

    Air Canada spokesperson Angela Mah told Yahoo Canada News on Monday that an internal investigation has identified two employees recorded carelessly unloading luggage from a Vancouver-bound flight departing from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

    “The employees involved have been suspended and advised that their employment will be terminated pending the outcome of our investigation,” Mah said. “We are now addressing the matter as appropriate internally and we have no further details to provide at this point.

    “We apologize for the totally unacceptable mishandling of our passengers' baggage captured on video. We take matters involving the protection of our customers' personal possessions very seriously. The actions of these individuals are not

    Read More »from Employees suspended as Air Canada investigates ‘unacceptable’ baggage handling
  • As the families of four young men and one woman killed in a tragic Calgary stabbing in last week prepare to remember their loved ones at a series of funerals in the coming days, one family is breaking their silence and speaking out about the loss of their son, and how they are managing to cope in the face of tragedy.

    Zackariah Rathwell, Josh Hunter, Jordan Segura, Lawrence Hong and Kaiti Perras were killed last Tuesday morning after being stabbed while attending an end-of-year house party near the University of Calgary campus.

    Three funerals are to be held on Monday. And while the families have all asked for privacy and respect, one family has shared their thoughts following the death of their son.

    The family of Zackariah Rathwell released a personal statement through the Calgary Police Service over the weekend, calling the young musician an amazing person who bettered the lives of his family and friends.

    "We are devastated by what happened. It is a struggle every day to understand

    Read More »from Family of Zackariah Rathwell shares grief publicly as private funerals begin for five Calgary stabbing victims
  • The government's decision to deploy six RCAF CF-18 fighters to Poland as part of NATO's response to the crisis in Ukraine seems to have caused barely a ripple in Canada.

    There's been surprisingly little discussion, considering the worst case scenario could find them going, in the immortal words of Dr. Strangelove's Major 'King' Kong, "toe to toe with the Rooskies."

    The announcement Thursday by Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the latest Canadian response to what the government sees as Russian meddling in Ukraine, from its support of armed pro-Russian separatists in Crimea and eastern Ukraine to the buildup of Russian troops on the border.

    An agreement this week between Russia and Ukraine was supposed to ease tensions, but was being ignored by pro-Russian militias on the ground.

    “Canada continues to strongly condemn Russia’s illegal occupation of Ukraine and its ongoing aggressive military provocation," Harper said in a news release.

    “Along with our NATO allies, we recognize the need

    Read More »from What does the Ukraine crisis mean for Canada’s military?
  • Toronto's municipal election is still six months away and it's already spawned its first attack ad against infamous incumbent Mayor Rob Ford.

    The campaign for Olivia Chow, the former New Democrat MP who's seen as the front-runner to unseat Ford, released the ad this week attacking one of the keystone elements of his popularity, the belief he's in personal touch with citizens and their concerns.

    Ford, who formally launched his re-election bid Thursday night, likes to boast that he spends much of his time on the phone dealing with people's complaints.

    But in the minute-long video, a woman identified only as Laura claims Ford never returned any of the roughly 20 calls she's made to the mayor's office to complain about the city's transit service.

    “Rob Ford is always bragging that he’s too busy to do this or he’s too busy to do that because he’s calling people back. Well, he didn’t call me back,” Laura says in the video.

    "I have Rob Ford programmed into my phone and he's never called me

    Read More »from As Toronto Mayor Rob Ford kicks off re-election campaign, rival Olivia Chow releases first attack ad


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