Saturday, February 18, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Edition 17 February 2012
Canadian International Financial Weather
Canadian

Govt. moves to protect gay unions
The Canadian government is moving to close a legal loophole that could have undermined thousands of gay marriages around the world. The governing Conservatives have introduced amendments to the Civil Marriage Act to ensure the marriages are recognized. The changes are prompted by a divorce case in Ontario involving a gay couple. Legal documents filed by the federal government in the case had argued that even though the couple married in Canada, they couldn't be considered legally married because it wasn't recognized in their U.S. and United Kingdom homes. Therefore, they couldn't get a divorce. Gay-rights activists and opposition politicians had accused the government of trying to rewrite the rules on same-sex marriage to suit their own agenda. But Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says its opinion is that the marriages are valid and it doesn't want to reopen the debate on the definition of marriage. The government said amendments will make all marriages of non-resident couples that were performed in Canada valid under Canadian law, and will also allow these couples to end their marriages if they cannot get a divorce where they live.



High court rules in religion case
The Supreme Court has rejected the arguments of a Quebec couple who wanted to have their children exempted from having to take an ethics and religion course at school. The court unanimously ruled on Friday that the course does not violate freedom of religion. The case centred on a couple from Drummondville who wanted to
have their children exempted from the course, which the Quebec government introduced in 2008. They claimed the class violated their freedom of religion by forcing their children to be exposed to religious beliefs that were
different from the family's. But The Supreme Court ruled that the parents did not prove their rights were infringed or that the school board's refusal to exempt their children violated their constitutional rights. Quebec introduced the ethics and religious culture curriculum to replace the former Protestant and Catholic religious courses for all
students except those in Grade 9.


Inflation up
Consumer prices in Canada rose 2.5 percent in the 12 months to January 2012, led by hikes in energy and food costs, following a 2.3 percent increase in December. Statistics Canada says prices increased in seven of eight major components of its Consumer Price Index in the past year. Energy costs rose 6.5 percent over the past 12 months, after rising 6.0 percent in December, while food prices were up 4.2 percent in the last year, following a 4.4 percent increase last month. Consumers paid more for meat, bread and fresh vegetables,compared with 12 months ago.



Scouts change story on abuse
The head of Scouts Canada says there may have been allegations of sex abuse within the organization in years past which were never reported to authorities. Steve Kent says a third-party review of records relating to abuse is turning up files where it's unclear if police were notified. He says those cases are now being turned over to police as they're being found. The revelation comes two months after Mr. Kent apologized to anyone who may have "suffered harm" at the hands of volunteer leaders and said any information on suspected pedophiles was shared with police. Mr. Kent now says he's surprised at some of what the review is turning up and is ashamed that such alleged abuse took place, but adds he's committed to putting things right. He notes that some of the records being flagged for authorities
right now date back 65 years. The complete findings of the third-party review, being conducted by KPMG group, will be made public later this year.



NB nuclear facility gets green light
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has given NB Power a five-year licence renewal for operation of the reactor at New Brunswick's Point Lepreau nuclear power plant. The commission has given the provincial power utility company permission to begin reloading fuel and restarting the reactor. The decision follows two days of public hearings last fall. Point Lepreau has been out of service since March 2008 for a major refurbishment that's meant to extend the life of the reactor by 25 years. The project is three years behind schedule and $1 billion over the original $1.4-billion budget. Point Lepreau, the only nuclear power plant in Atlantic Canada, is now scheduled to return to service this fall.



Collective responsibility ruled for hockey riot


A judge ruled Thursday that the rioters who participated in the chaos that swept through downtown Vancouver after the Stanley Cup final last year should be punished not just for their own actions, but for the destruction wrought by the entire mob, as he sentenced the first person convicted in the riot to 17 months in jail. Ryan Dickinson, 20, admitted to trashing an unnmarked police car and vandalzing a clothing store, but he claimed he was merely "caught up in the moment" and argued his crimes weren't as serious as other rioters who were on the streets that night. But provincial court Judge Malcolm MacLean rejected that argument, concluding that even though Dickinson didn't assault anyone, set fires or loot stores, his actions nonetheless encouraged others to do so. Dickinson pleaded guilty to participating in a riot, as well as breaching bail conditions from an unrelated assault charge. He admitted to using a road barricade and a newspaper box to damage an unmarked police car, and then later tossing a mannequin and a newspaper box at the window of a clothing store several blocks away.





International

Libya marks anniversary of rebellion
Libyans celebrated on Friday the first anniversary of the uprising that ousted Moamer Kadhafi with fireworks and slogans, even as their new leader vowed to prevent further instability. Thousands gathered in Tahrir Square in Benghazi, the city which first rose against Kadhafi and his 42-year regime, after traditional Muslim prayers, waving Libya's new flag and proclaiming the revolution's "birthday." Thousands more gathered in the capital's Martyrs' Square, as jubilant as their fellow countrymen hundreds of kilometres to the east. Official celebrations were not organized at a national level out of respect for the thousands of people killed in the conflict that saw Kadhafi captured and slain on Oct. 20.


Presumptive Chinese leader reassures on economy
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping said on Friday the Chinese economy would experience stable growth and avoid a hard landing this year, dispelling a scenario economists fear may upset the global economy. The Chinese leader-in-waiting, turning to courting American companies and governors hungry for a slice of his nation's growth, told a business forum in Los Angeles that the world's No. 2 economy will continue to push domestic demand while
directing investment toward the United States. Mr. Xi is almost certain to succeed Hu Jintao as Chinese
president in just over a year, and his tour of the United States has featured commercial deals and reassuring talk intended to blunt American ire about the trade gap between the countries.


Honduras receiving help after prison disaster
Countries are trying to help Honduras after its deadly prison fire, sending medical aid and forensic doctors, with the United States dispatching an investigative team to help find the cause of the blaze. Mexico and Chile are sending forensic experts to help identify the 355 dead, many of whom were burned beyond recognition in the inferno at the Comayagua prison north of Honduras' capital. France and Spain are offering medical aid for survivors of the deadliest prison fire in a century. The fire that began late Tuesday night exposed an underfunded prison system with overcrowded facilities, and insufficient staff. Honduran President Porfirio Lobo issued a plea for international assistance in carrying out a thorough investigation to determine what led to the disaster.



Mexican leader appeals to U.S. to halt weapons flow
President Felipe Calderon on Thursday unveiled a "No More Weapons!" billboard made with crushed firearms
and placed near the U.S. border. He urged the United States to stop the flow of weapons into Mexico. The billboard, which is in English and weighs 3 tons, was placed near an international bridge in Ciudad Juarez and can be seen from the United States. Mr. Calderon said the billboard's letters were made with weapons seized by local, state and federal authorities. Before unveiling the billboard, the president supervised the destruction of more than 7,500 automatic rifles and handguns at a military base in Ciudad Juarez. He says more than 140,000 weapons have been seized since December 2006, when he launched a crackdown against drug traffickers. More than 47,500 people have been killed since then.



German president resigns amidst scandal
Germany's president resigned Friday in a scandal over favours he allegedly received before becoming head of state, creating a major domestic distraction for Chancellor Angela Merkel as she grapples with Europe's debt crisis.
Christian Wulff announced his resignation a day after the slow-burning affair escalated dramatically with a request by prosecutors for Parliament to lift his immunity from prosecution over his relationship with a film producer in his previous job as governor of Lower Saxony. Those benefits allegedly included paying for a luxury hotel stay in 2007.
Mrs. Merkel, who called off a trip to Rome to address the situation in Berlin, voiced "deep regret" at his resignation. She moved quickly to limit the fallout and try to ensure a smooth succession, saying she would seek an agreement with the main opposition parties on the next president.



Syrians as usual demonstrate after Friday prayers
Thousands of Syrians rallied Friday for Bashar al-Assad's ouster, as monitors said the embattled president's forces unleashed their heaviest pounding yet of Homs in a brutal bid to crush dissent. The protesters emerged from mosques after the main weekly Muslim prayers, including in Damascus, following a call by Internet-based activists for a rally for a "new phase of popular resistance." Activists said the scattered protests were among the most widespread in Damascus of the 11-month uprising against the Assad regime.. The protesters turned out after the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly backed an Arab League initiative calling on Assad to step aside, and ahead of a visit by a Chinese envoy pushing for peace. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 26 people were killed on Friday, one of them at a demonstration that was fired upon in the capital.




Financial

Toyota weighs North American expansion
Toyota Motor Corp. is hinting it's interested in expanding production at its North American plants. The president of Toyota's North American division says the company is looking at producing its Prius hybrid models in North
America and boosting production of the Lexus in Canada. Yoshimi Inaba is the second Toyota executive to muse recently about the possibility of expanding North American production. Toyota's executive vice-president Atsushi Niimi said last year that he believes North American plants could build more hybrids. Toyota has plants in Cambridge and Woodstock, ON.



Markets
Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday: 12,459 - 26. Canadian dollar: US$1.00 cents. Euro: $1.30. Oil: $103.53 + $1.22.




Weather

Weather
British Columbia on Saturday: rain, high C9 Vancouver. Yukon, Northwest Territories: mix sun cloud. Nunavut: sun. Whitehorse -4, Yellowknife -11, Iqaluit -23. Prairies: mix sun cloud. Edmonton, Regina 2, Winnipeg -3. Ontario: rain south, mix sun cloud north. Quebec: mix sun cloud. Toronto 4, Ottawa 0, Montreal 1. New Brunswick: mix sun cloud. Nova Scotia: rain. Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador: snow. Fredericton 2, Halifax 3, Charlottetown, St. John's 0.





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