• A City of Calgary report suggested that Transit overshot its overtime budget two years in a row.Calgary bus drivers are being encouraged to take better care of themselves, after a recent audit determined that an excess of sick days was responsible for Calgary Transit overshooting their overtime budget by 70 per cent.

    The Calgary Transit Overtime Management Audit reveals that while the city had budgeted to pay operators $5.4 million in overtime in 2011, sick days and absenteeism resulted in a total of $9.3 million being spent.

    The report found the biggest reason for paying overtime was to cover drivers away on vacation. A close second, however, was covering drivers who were absent from work due to poor health.

    "Transit management should explore opportunities to minimize the frequency and duration of these occurrences. Promoting a healthy workforce would increase workforce availability thus minimizing the need to incur overtime costs," the report reads.

    The audit found that there were 29,343 sick days in 2011. This was an average of 93 bus drivers absent from work every day. Not

    Read More »from Calgary’s overly-sick transit drivers asked to get in better shape
  • Vancouver police say they will arrest protesters who are blocking access to Pidgin restaurant after weeks of demonstrations outside the upscale eatery on the Downtown Eastside.
    Vancouver police have added another wrinkle to their uneasy relationship with residents of the city's impoverished Downtown Eastside, where creeping gentrification is dividing the community.

    The VPD has issued warning letters to a handful of the people mounting regular protests outside, Pidgin, an upscale restaurant that overlooks Pigeon Park, a hangout for the neighbourhood's poorest and also its druggies.

    Placard-waving protesters have tried to get convince Pidgin's patrons not to eat there and that's led to confrontations. One protester was pepper sprayed last week, though police don't know who did it or why, according to CBC News.

    The tension has led the police department to issue letters to some of the protesters — less than 10, according to a police spokesman — warning they could face criminal charges if they impede the restaurant's owners or customers.

    The letter spells out a section of the Criminal Code regarding mischief charges for anyone who obstructs or interferes with the

    Read More »from Vancouver protesters warned of arrests if they continue to harass restaurant
  • An imam’s fiery comments on homosexuality are stirring up a political storm in Edmonton.

    In a video posted online, Sheikh Mustafa Khattab of Al Rashid Mosque talks to Junior High Students at the Edmonton Islamic Academy. Filmed last fall, it shows Khattab discussing various issues to do with teens growing up, and was to centre on social interactions between boys and girls.

    The conversation then took a turn towards homosexuality. In January, Khattab uploaded the video to YouTube in which he tells the group of teens that homosexuality is “against everything” and referring to homosexual people as ‘abnormal’. He went as far as likening it to a person suffering from a terminal disease.

    [ Related: Comments about gays taken out of context, imam says ]

    “For me, someone who is homosexual is like someone who has diabetes or someone who has cancer or AIDS,” said Khattab.

    He talked about his discomfort in the presence of gay men, adding ”Personally, I wouldn’t like to be associated with them.”

    The

    Read More »from Imam’s gay comments slammed after talk at Edmonton school
  • These posters in support of the boys, who Rehtaeh's mother says sexually assaulted her daughter, began showing up in neighbourhoods around Halifax this week.
    In the wake of the death of Rehtaeh Parsons earlier this month, everyone it seems has been focused on finding answers to what happened to her – from governments launching inquiries to police re-launching investigations to her parents and the public searching out ways to find peace in her death.

    Now, however, there is also an active group who are looking for answers on behalf of those who have been tied to Parsons’ sexual assault. Posters have appeared around Nova Scotia in support of the boys allegedly involved in the incident that led to the online harassment and, ultimately, suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons.

    The posters read:

    Speak the Truth. There's Two Sides to Every Story, Listen Before you JUDGE. The Truth Will Come Out. Stay Strong Support the Boys!

    CBC News reports that the posters have gone up all over the city, and other nearby communities including the neigbourhood where the Parsons family lives and continues to mourn.

    [ Related: Posters go up supporting boys in Rehtaeh

    Read More »from Are posters supporting boys in Rehtaeh Parsons case harassment?
  • Another isolated, drug-ridden First Nation is trying to cope with a deadly crisis of despair.

    Leaders in Neskantaga, a community of between 300 and 4000 on James Bay about 480 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, Ont., have declared a state of emergency after two suicides in a week.

    Neskantaga, which can be reached only by air, has had seven deaths, including four suicides, and 20 suicide attempts in the last year, according to CBC News. The victims are mostly young.

    The Canadian Press reports that last December the suicide of another young man prompted the community to put its youth on suicide watch.

    [ Related: Suicides prompt First Nation to declare state of emergency ]

    Neskantaga Chief Peter Moonias estimates that more than half the community's adult residents are addicted to OxyContin or other painkillers, CP said.

    With the phase-out last year of crushable OxyContin pills in favour of a version of the drug that's harder for addicts to misuse, a predicted move to other painkillers

    Read More »from Crisis of suicide, drug addiction deepens among northern Ontario First Nations
  • Britain's Queen Elizabeth II smiles as she walks past Yeoman of the Guard, after attending the Maundy service, at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, England, Thursday, March 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, Pool)
    Every new Canadian is required to pledge an oath of citizenship in which they swear allegiance to the Queen, and through her, Canada. But, in a debate that seems to flare every couple of years, one MP says it is time to cut out the middle man, er, middle woman.

    The Ottawa Citizen reports that NDP MP Pat Martin introduced a motion on Wednesday that would amend the citizenship ceremony so that new Canadians swear their oath to the country, rather than the 86-year-old head of the British monarchy.

    “It’s just so fundamentally wrong. These people are from all over the world — Paraguay and the Congo and the Philippines and Vietnam. Why are they swearing loyalty to some colonial vestigial appendage from the House of Windsor? It’s bizarre really,” Martin said, according to Postmedia News.

    “I honestly do believe that the time has come to thank her majesty for her 60 years of services and use the transition between monarchs… to revisit the issue.”

    Here is the oath taken during the citizenship

    Read More »from Monarchists, republicans feud over Canada’s citizenship oath to the Queen
  • A young child playing soccer in a turban, a practice currently banned by Quebec.Quebec and Canada seems to be at odds over whether to allow soccer players wearing turbans onto the pitch and, oh brother, can we just cut to the end where all parties concede the point and let the headgear into the game?

    The Montreal Gazette reports that tempers are flaring over whether international soccer guidelines allow players to wear turbans during a game. While the Canadian Soccer Association has indicated that turbans should be allowed, Quebec’s soccer federation is not prepared to permit them.

    The hullabaloo comes in the wake of a very similar debate involving Muslim women wearing hijabs during the game. FIFA, the international body that governs the game of soccer, decided last year to allow Muslim women to wear headscarves, and the ruling trickled down to just about everywhere.

    [ Related: Turbans banned on Quebec soccer fields ]

    So far, the world hasn’t ended. In a memo to provincial organizers last week, The Canadian Soccer Association reportedly urged that the ruling be

    Read More »from Quebec’s ban on turbans in soccer echoes past equality battle
  • Canada's been fighting a rural doctor shortage for years but nothing demonstrates it better than the way a remote northwestern B.C. community went literally to the ends of the earth to recruit a new physician.

    According to Postmedia News, the village of Tatla Lake has poached a doctor who was working in Antarctica.

    The ranching community about 500 kilometres northwest of Kamloops, B.C., had one doctor who was planning to retire.

    Dr. Michal Smialowski spent a year looking for someone to take over his practice. He got no interest from anyone — except Dr. Rob Coetzee, who works at the South African National Antarctic Expedition base.

    In an job interview with Smialowski conducted via email, Coetzee said he'd be honoured to work out of the doctor's trailer office, Postmedia said.

    "I’ve always been drawn to remote settings," Coetzee wrote. "I enjoy working by myself, and I think the position . . . will fit me like a glove — remote, rural, need for emergency medicine skills, breathtaking

    Read More »from Hard search to replace only doctor in remote B.C. town ends in Antarctica
  • Canopy's pull-out follows the withdrawal of Greenpeace last December.The truce between the environmental movement and Canada's forest industry appears to be breaking down.

    The Vancouver-based group Canopy announced Tuesday it was pulling out of the three-year-old Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, complaining "not one hectare of Canada's boreal forest has been protected."

    The boreal forest that runs coast to coast across northern Canada below the tree line encompasses about one-third of all the boreal-forest ring around the globe's northern hemisphere.

    The agreement originally between nine environmental groups and the Canadian Forest Products Association, representing 21 companies, was intended to protect almost 76 million hectares of boreal forest.

    “This collaboration with the logging industry was supposed to be a game-changer for the protection of species and conservation in Canada’s threatened Boreal forest,” Canopy founder and executive director Nicole Rycroft said, according to the Globe and Mail.

    “The disappointing reality is that not one hectare

    Read More »from Truce disintegrates between environmental groups and Canada’s forest industry
  • Lakehead confessions page (Image courtesy Facebook)Be careful what you post.

    CBC reports that Lakehead District Public School Board wants Facebook to take down an anonymous confession page used by its students. These kinds of pages urge members to message their confessions to the page’s inbox, after which they are posted anonymously on the timeline.

    The board is concerned that these confessions, which range from drunken adventures to publicly bashing teachers, are harmful to students and teachers alike. The concept is becoming wildly popular of late, with pages like these popping up all over Facebook, representing different schools.

    [ Related: Newfoundland politician removed from house over Facebook threats ]

    There are ethical concerns when it comes to the content of these confessions. In a time when bullying is in the public’s attention, as well as the Rehtaeh Parsons case, parents should be extra cautious about their child’s internet activity.

    Then, of course, there is the Humber Epic Hookup Fails story. On the Humber College page,

    Read More »from Ontario school board wants Facebook to remove anonymous ‘confessions’ page

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