Thursday, October 27, 2011

RCI Cyberjournal


The watchdog that monitors Canada's national security agency says it wants new powers that would empower it to monitor other federal security agencies as well. The Security Intelligence Review Committee says almost two dozen federal agencies are involved in national security yet many are not subject to any independent scrutiny. SIRC says in its annual report that it could be given broader powers without major legislative amendments. Four years ago, a federal commission of inquiry into the Maher Arar torture case recommended that step. The agency says in its annual report that its recent inquiry into allegations of torture of Afghan prisoners would have been more sweeping had it had those powers.


The Quebec government says it seems to have been forgotten by the Conservative Party government in Ottawa. The assessment comes from the minister of intergovernmental affairs, Yvon Vallières. The federal government recently named two unilingual anglophones to a seat on the Supreme Court of Canada and to the position of auditor general. Quebec has been shut out of federal shipbuilding contracts. Not only has Ottawa introduced a bill to abolish the long gun registry but has vowed to destroyed its data so that Quebec can't use them. Quebec Public Security Minister Robert Dutil responded on Wednesday that the province will do anything possible to keep the information, including court action.


The Bank of Canada says global pressures have slowed Canadian economic growth to a crawl that is keeping it just ahead of another recession as the year winds down. Expanding on a forecast issued Tuesday, the central bank said the Canadian economy is currently in a near stall and will grow by only 0.9 per cent in the fourth quarter. Some economists had speculated there was a chance Canada would actually suffer a mild technical recession of two negative quarters should the third quarter also come in below the line. But the bank said that won't happen, because the third quarter will record a relatively strong rebound of two per cent growth.


Canada has pledged a total of $350 million over five years to the World Food Program and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda says some of the money, coming on the eve of the WFP's 50th anniversary, will help the UN agency feed people facing natural disaster and humanitarian crisis. The World Food Program is CIDA's largest humanitarian partner. The Canadian Foodgrains Bank, CIDA's largest Canadian food assistance partner, provides food and development assistance through 15 Canadian church-based member agencies.


The Canadian Wheat Board's board of directors is taking legal action against the federal government. Board chairman Allan Oberg says a lawsuit is being filed in Federal Court of Canada. The lawsuit claims the government broke the law when it introduced legislation last week to take away the wheat board's monopoly on Western wheat and barley sales. The directors say the government is obliged under current laws to hold a plebiscite among affected farmers. Almost 40,000 producers took part in a plebiscite run by the board last summer and 62 per cent voted to maintain the monopoly. The federal government has said that the Conservatives, who have long wanted to dismantle the monopoly, were given the mandate to go ahead when they were elected to a majority government last May. The bill is expected to pass through the House of Commons before the end of the year. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has said that Western farmers should have the choice of where they sell their grain.


Statistics Canada reports that Canada's murder rate in 2010 fell to a 44-year low of just 1.62 per 100,000 people. By contrast, the murder rate in the neighboring United States, where gun laws are generally more relaxed, was 4.8 per 100,000 people in 2010. The agency says police reported 554 homicides in 2010, 56 fewer than in 2009. The decline followed a decade of relative stability in Canada. Statscan says the overall drop in murders was driven by fewer incidents in the Western provinces, which had seen several gang-related killings in recent years, and noted a steady decline in murders committed with rifles and shotguns. This could pose awkward questions for the country's Conservative government, which Tuesday said it would press ahead with plans to scrap a registry of rifles and shotguns on the grounds that it was expensive and did not help cut crime.


Statistics Canada finds older workers are increasingly delaying retirement. It says a 50-year-old worker in 2008 could expect to stay in the labour force for another 16 years. That's three and a-half years longer than they would have in the mid-1990's. The report says it reverses the trend of the 1980's and early 1990's, when early retirements were prevalent.


The last of the Polish pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain has died in Canada at age 97. Tadeusz Sawicz died at a nursing home in the city of Toronto last week. He'd lived in Canada since 1957 and is survived by his wife, Jadwiga. Mr. Sawicz was the last surviving pilot among the Poles who served in Polish Air Forces in Britain during World War II. He fought in the 1940 Battle of Britain and served with the air force until 1947. He moved to Canada 10 years later.


A former industry minister in Canada's Northwest Territories cabinet has been chosen as the new premier. Bob McLeod defeated two other candidates in a vote by members of the legislature. The premier is chosen by his fellow members after every general election,the latest of which was held on Oct. 3. The premier then picks his cabinet and the remaining members act as the opposition. Mr. McLeod, who is from Yellowknife, will almost immediately have to deal with a proposed agreement on province-like powers for the territory. The agreement would give the N.W.T. control over its lands and resources, but the deal is opposed by most aboriginal governments, who feel it doesn't give them a large enough role.


A Canadian company's warning forced Colombia's government to send 400 additional police officers to guard Colombia's largest oil field in eastern Meta province. Canada's Pacific Rubiales oil company threatened to suspend operations there unless reinforcements were sent to help end a violent demonstration. The Canadian company was alarmed Tuesday when masked demonstrators set fire to worker's housing units. The arson attack coincided with a strike by some 4,000 Colombian workers who renewed a work stoppage Monday against Pacific Rubiales. Similar protests in September led the company to suspend operations for several days. Colombia is the fourth-largest oil producer in Latin America behind Venezuela, Mexico and Brazil.


Libya's interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil on Wednesday urged NATO to continue its Libya campaign until year's end, saying loyalists of slain despot Moammer Gadhafi still pose a threat to the country. Abdel Jalil's comments, made at a Doha conference of military allies of his National Transitional Council, came a day after Gadhafi's body was buried in secret under cover of darkness after being displayed in public for four days. In New York, Libya's deputy envoy to the United Nations, Ibrahim Dabbashi, said the NTC may formally ask the Security Council to extend the mandate because a national army has yet to be created. However, Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin, whose country said the original mandate was abused to bring down the Kadhafi regime rather than protect civilians, said an extension past October 31 would be "unrealistic." Diplomats in Brussels, meanwhile, said NATO had decided to delay a formal decision to end Libyan air operations until Friday after the NTC's request for an extension and a Russian demand for UN consultations.


The Turkish Red Crescent says 17 aid trucks were looted in quake-hit eastern Turkey. The looting is said to have taken place on Tuesday and Monday in Van city centre and the town of Ercis. Local police sources in Van province also said looting incidents had taken place. People in Ercis, which bore the full brunt of the quake say unidentified individuals had stopped a truck carrying tents.


Thai authorities urged residents in flood-prone areas of Bangkok to evacuate Wednesday, warning them that the arrival of a massive deluge of water was imminent. The UN warned that a huge runoff from the north is expected to reach the capital at the same time as seasonal high tides. The government has ordered a five-day holiday from Thursday for 21 provinces, including Bangkok, to allow the city's residents to prepare for the flood or leave. During the holiday Government offices will be closed and authorities have urged public and private companies to allow their staff the time off, but the central bank said financial markets and banks would not shut.


Hurricane Rina churned toward Cancun and other international tourist resorts Wednesday, with Mexico's Caribbean coast beginning evacuations as it braced for a direct hit. Mexico's Yucatan coast was on alert, with small fishing villages already evacuating ahead of Rina's expected arrival, while Cuba was being urged to prepare for possible hurricane conditions in the coming days. Rina had been forecast to become a major category three storm before making landfall near the resort city of Cancun on Thursday. But the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in its latest bulletin that Rina, currently a category two storm, was forecast to weaken gradually beginning Wednesday.


Construction crews were back on the job at worksites in Montreal Wednesday, following two straight days of illegal, wildcat strikes across Quebec. Some expected workers to continue protesting against legislation the government is trying to pass that's aimed at limiting unions' powers to select which workers are assigned to job sites. But the heads of major unions called on workers to return to construction yards. The issue has set off heated debate in the provincial legislature, and at least two Liberal backbenchers report facing threats and intimidation. The bill being protested would affect 155,000 workers, most of them from the province's biggest union, the Quebec Federation of Labour. With crews walking off the job earlier this week, work on major projects such as Montreal's two superhospitals and the city's new entertainment district were paralysed.


A consumer group has requested permission to file a class-action lawsuit against the Canadian high-tech firm Research In Motion. The company's BlackBerry smartphone failed for several days earlier this month. RIM has offered its 70 million BlackBerry customers $100 worth of software from its BlackBerry App World. But the Consumer Law Group of Montreal wants Quebec Superior Court to force RIM either to provide direct financial compensation or to oblige wireless service providers to provide discounts on customers' bills.



Canada's women's K-4 canoeing team captured a gold medal at the Pan American Games. They beat out Mexico and Cuba in the 500-metre final. That brings Canada's medal count at the Games to 76 so far.


British Columbia on Thursday: mix sun cloud. High C11 Vancouver. Yukon, Nunavut: mix sun cloud. Northwest Territories: mix sun cloud flurries. Whitehorse 5, Yellowknife -1, Iqaluit -4. Alberta: sun. Saskatchewan, Manitoba: mix sun cloud. Edmonton 8, Regina 6, Winnipeg 7. Ontario: mix sun cloud south, rain north. Quebec: mix sun cloud. Toronto 6, Ottawa 4, Montreal 5. Maritimes: mix sun cloud. Newfoundland and Labrador: rain. Fredericton, St .John's 6, Halifax 8, Charlottetown 7.