Saturday, April 21, 2012

RCI Cyberjournal

Fighter plane cancellation seen hurting Canadian aerospace

The head of aerospace lobby Aero Montreal warns that Canadian companies employing thousands of workers would be hurt if the Harper government abandons the multibillion-dollar purchase of F-35 fighter planes. Gilles Labbé says the aircraft's lead manufacturers, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, could remove work destined to be completed in Canada by various suppliers if the federal government doesn't buy the 65 planes. The Conservative government froze spending on the defence program earlier this month after the auditor general produced a withering report accusing the Department of National Defence of keeping Parliament in the dark about the program's spiralling problems. Mr. Labbé heads Heroux-Devtek, which provides landing gear for all fighter planes produced. He says the company's work will continue in the United States but work done in Canada by itself and other F-35 suppliers could be shifted outside the country if the government's commitment evaporates, speaking at Aero Montreal's annual meeting. Mr. Labbé wouldn't say what he thinks Ottawa and other countries will decide, but he believes the entire program will ultimately go ahead and deliver more than 3,000 aircraft in the long term.

Canada backs UN suggestion on Syria
Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, says a suggestion that the United Nations send more observers to Syria has Canada's support. The UN already has a small number of observers in Syria, but the world body is considering sending hundreds more to help ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid. More than 9,000 people have died in more than a year of attacks by government soldiers to end opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad. It's unclear to what extent a ceasefire announced last week is still in effect because of ongoing clashes between opposition forces and Syria troops.

Afghan interpreters for Canada get a break
Dozens of interpreters who served as Canada's voice during the war in Afghanistan, but then met silence when they tried to immigrate here, are now being allowed in. Over 500 people applied under a special program set up in 2009 by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to recognize "Afghans who face extraordinary personal risk as a result of their work in support of Canada's mission in Kandahar." But two-thirds of those who applied were turned away by the time the program closed last September, because the government said they didn't meet the qualifications. Now, the government is easing the rules, saying they were too restrictive. Interpreters were routinely threatened, harassed and intimidated by the Taliban. But to be allowed into Canada, they had to prove their lives were at risk and many were told their claims weren't believable. Now, those having their files reviewed are being told all they need is a letter of recommendation from a Canadian soldier or government official.

Immigrants need to sharpen language skills
Immigrants hoping to become Canadian citizens may soon have to provide written proof of their language abilities. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says his latest reform will require citizenship applicants to prove they can speak English or French. Changes to citizenship rules would require prospective Canadian citizens to provide what's called objective evidence of their language ability with their application. Expanding on language changes he's already announced for some immigration applicants, Mr. Kenney now says people will also have to provide new documents to become Canadian citizens. They will be asked to submit evidence that they completed secondary or post-secondary education in English or French; they could also provide results of approved third-party tests, or proof of success in government-funded language training programs. Mr. Kenney says language is an important component of the successful integration of immigrants and new citizens. Adequate knowledge of English or French has already been a requirement since the first Citizenship Act of 1947 but these new mechanisms are meant to enforce that requirement.

Familes of missing children to get federal aid
The parents of missing or murdered children will be getting some extra financial help from the federal government. Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Friday in Sherbrooke, QC., that they will be eligible for an income supplement of $350 per week, for more than eight months. Mr. Harper says the families need the extra money to help deal with the loss of a child. He says the supplement follows through on a campaign promise to put the rights of victims ahead of those of criminals. Along with the supplement, Mr. Harper says he will also seek changes to the labour code that would allow certain workers to keep their jobs while taking time off to cope. An estimated 1,000 families will be eligible for the benefit, which will start paying out in 2013.

Quebec students riot
A spring of discontent in Quebec characterized by scenes of red-clad student protesters erupted into something darker in Montreal Friday. Demonstrators hurled projectiles from rocks to flower pots in downtown Montreal, disrupting political events indoors and committing vandalism outdoors. Riot police fought back by swinging batons and firing rubber bullets and tear-gas canisters into the crowd. Provincial police were called in as local officers struggled to handle crowds that disrupted two separate events, including one featuring Premier Jean Charest and another involving federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. The most chaotic scene unfolded at Charest's high-profile event as projectiles and tear gas rained on what was supposed to be the premier's political parade. His speech was delayed by 45 minutes as protesters managed to get into Montreal's Palais des congres convention centre, where he was the headline attraction at a symposium on his highly publicized northern development plan. At least eight people were arrested as police announced over a loudspeaker that the protest was being declared an illegal assembly. Outside, while some protesters hurled objects and built barricades in the street with construction materials they'd found, police fought them off.

Calgary Zoo to relocate elephants
A zoo in the western Canadian city of Calgary, AB, says it plans to relocate its endangered Asian elephants to another animal facility within four or five years. Officials say they have come to understand that elephants do better in a large social group, and the zoo cannot provide that because it has limited space. Calgary's three female elephants will be kept together as a family unit, along with a calf expected next year. Its bull elephant will also be relocated.

No survivors of Pakistan crash
A Pakistani airliner with 127 people on board crashed in bad weather as it came in to land in Islamabad on Friday, scattering wreckage and leaving no sign

of survivors. The Boeing 737, operated by local airline Bhoja Air, was flying to the capital from Pakistan's biggest city and business hub Karachi. It crashed into wheat fields more than 9 km from the airport. Rawal Khan Maitla, director general of Emergency Disaster Management for the Capital Development Authority, said there were no survivors. Rescue workers walked through mud at the crash site with flashlights or with the lights of their cellphones looking for

passengers' remains. Body parts, wallets and eyeglasses lay among wreckage strewn in a small settlement just outside Islamabad.

UN wants more monitors in Syria
The UN says an additional 30 United Nations monitors should arrive in Syria in the coming week to join an advance team of seven observing a fragile week-long ceasefire which has failed to end bloodshed in the country. At least 23 people were killed, 10 of them in a roadside bomb targeting security forces and most of the others in shelling by President Bashar al-Assad's forces on the city of Homs, further undermining the truce. With Friday prayers a weekly flashpoint for unrest, the monitors decided to remain indoors. Peace envoy Kofi Annan's deputy, former Palestinian foreign minister Nasser al-Kidwa, criticized both sides, but particularly government forces, for refusing to stop fighting completely.

Thousands protest in Cairo square
Tens of thousands of protesters packed Cairo's downtown Tahrir Square on Friday in the biggest demonstration in months against the ruling military, aimed at stepping up pressure on the generals to hand over power to civilians and bar ex-regime

members from running in upcoming presidential elections. Both Islamists and liberals turned out in force for the protest, to show the widespread anger at the military over the country's political chaos ahead of the first presidential elections since the fall of Hosni Mubarak more than a year ago. The confusion has raised suspicions the generals ruling since Mubarak's ouster are manipulating the process to preserve their power, ensuring the victory of a pro-military candidate and preventing reform. The participants failed to reach a unified list of demands. Liberals and youth groups called for all factions to agree on an anti-military "revolution" candidate in the presidential vote, but the powerful Muslim Brotherhood refused to take part.

Bahreinis demonstrate for end to auto race
Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters on Friday flooded a major highway in Bahrain demanding a halt to the Formula One race on its first day of practice runs. The Gulf kingdom's crown prince vowed the country's premier prestige sporting

event would go ahead. Bahraini authorities stepped up security around the Formula One circuit after clashes between protesters and security forces intensified ahead of Sunday's Grand Prix race. Last year, a wave of anti-government protests by the island's

Shiite majority and a violent crackdown by the Sunni rulers forced organizers to cancel the 2011 Bahrain GP. At least 50 people have been killed since the start of Bahrain's uprising. Friday's massive rally was organized by Shiite political blocs,

Protesters shouted slogans against the ruling Sunni dynasty, that is the main backer of the F1 race.

EU condemns Argentine energy takeover
The European Union parliament on Friday condemned Argentina's move to seize control of the YPF division of Spanish oil and gas giant Repsol and demanded that EU take action against Buenos Aires at the World Trade Organization. The parliament also called on the EU to look at the possible partial suspension of the unilateral tariff preferences as a way of punishing any country that attempts to nationalize a European company's assets. Argentina says it is making the move, which would take control

of 51 per cent of YPF, leaving Repsol with a 6 per cent stake, because Repsol did not invest enough in the country's oil industry.

Repsol and Spain have slammed Argentina's re-nationalization of YPF as outright "pillaging" and an attack on their interests.

Mexican volcano awakes
The Popocatepetl volcano shot a heavy plume of ash into the sky southeast of Mexico's capital and spewed glowing rock from its crater at dawn on Friday. Webcam images on the site of the National Disaster Prevention Center showed the plume rising from the top of the 5,450-meter peak at dawn, though clouds obscured the volcano for people further away. The Televisa television network broadcast images of red, glowing material rising from the crater and falling on its slopes. Authorities this week raised the alert level due to increasing activity at the volcano, whose most violent eruption in 1,200 years occurred on Dec. 18, 2000. The co-ordinator general for civil protection, Laura Gurza, told Televisa that officials were not yet ready to order any evacuations,

but urged people living near the mountain to be "very, very attentive" to action at the volcano, which is about 65 kilometres from Mexico City. She also urged them to gather important papers and to have their escape routes planned in case they have to leave.

Norwegian mass killer testimony shocks
In testimony too graphic for any parent to hear, Norwegian far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik shocked an Oslo courtroom Friday as he calmly described hunting down teenagers on an island summer camp. As his words rolled out, survivors and victims' relatives of the July 22 massacre hugged and sobbed, trying to comfort each other. That testimony was also broadcast to 17 other courtrooms in Norway where others affected by the attacks were gathered, but was not carried live on Norwegian television. The 33-year-old Norwegian left out no detail from his rampage, explaining how he shot panicked youths at point-blank range. Sixty-nine people, mostly teenagers, were killed on Utoya island. Breivik has admitted to setting off a bomb in Oslo, killing eight people, before opening fire to the governing Labor Party's annual youth camp on Utoya island. But he has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges, saying his victims had betrayed Norway by embracing immigration.

Dolphins in strange die-off in Peru
Government officials and scientists in Peru are investigating a mass die-off of dolphins along the country's coast. Almost 900 dolphins have been found dead on the Pacific shore. Peru's deputy environment minister says experts are analyzing whether the animals could have died from a virus. He says they also suspect that they might died as a result of seismic oil exploration, but have found no evidence of that.

EU delays oilsands decision
The Conservative government is welcoming news that the European Commission has put off a decision on controversial fuel-quality guidelines that have drawn criticism from supporters of Canada's oilsands. Reuters news agency quoted an unnamed EU official as saying the commission's decision to do a full study of the proposed fuel-quality guidelines could delay a ruling on oilsands crude until next year. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver says that

Canada has consistently called for such an assessment of the fuel-quality directive. Canada has complained about the separate category for oilsands crude and has even threatened to take the matter up with the World Trade Organization. If the directive is approved, it will go to the full European parliament where it will either be vetoed or passed into law. The document assigns greenhouse-gas emission values to different sources of fuel -- and Canada's key concern is that oilsands crude will be placed in a separate category, with a value that's 23 per cent higher than conventional oil. Canada currently sells very little oil to Europe, but those in the industry fear a "dirty oil" label there could set a dangerous precedent.

Quebec doesn't exclude help for Aveos buyer
Economic Development Minister Sam Hamad says the Quebec government says it's open to providing financial support to potential new owners of the insolvent Aveos aircraft heavy maintenance firm as long as it's a viable business that sustains jobs in Montreal. A Quebec judge approved a two-month sales process on Friday. Potential bidders will have until May 29 to prepare their offers for Aveos Fleet Performance's three business lines. Mr. Hamad wouldn't specify what kind of financial support the Liberal government was considering. But he said the priority is to maintain jobs and ensure a long-term solution is reached. The minister added the government won't replace the private companies that are considering bids. Some 23 potential bidders have expressed an interest in acquiring some or all of the Montreal-based company's assets.

Ottawa hopes for settlement at Air Canada
Canadian Labour Minister Lisa Raitt says the best solution to the labour strife between Air Canada and its pilots would be for the two sides to reach a deal by themselves. Mrs. Raitt's words follow news that the two sides are returning to the bargaining table for 10 days to try to reach a tentative deal under the guidance of a federal arbitrator. Under legislation introduced by Mrs. Raitt and passed last month, both sides were blocked from initiating job action and all unresolved issues were sent to binding arbitration. The move was received angrily by many of Air Canada's 3,000 pilots, and was followed by some pilots calling in sick on more than one occasion, disrupting the airline's schedule and angering passengers. On Thursday the two sides announced they would give negotiations one last shot. In a release Thursday, the Air Canada Pilots Association said if a deal isn't reached then the 90-day arbitration process outlined in the Conservative government's back-to-work legislation will kick in.

The Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday: 12,147.28, down 6. Canadian dollar: US$1.00. Euro: $1.31. Oil: $104.06 + $1.34.


Figure skating's two-time world champion Patrick Chan

says the resignation of his coach Christy Krall will allow him to

focus more on the artistic side of the sport.

Krall resigned the day after Canadian Chan won his second

straight world title in Nice, France, beating Japanese skaters

Daisuke Takahashi and Yuzuru Hanyu.

The 21-year-old from Toronto credited Krall with helping him

master the quadruple jump, allowing him to win the past two world



Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is one of three finalists for the Calder Trophy as the National Hockey League's rookie of the year. The first overall draft pick in 2011 had 52 points last season. Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog and New Jersey's Adam Henrique are also up for the honour. The winner will be named June 20.


The Canadian women's water polo team won't be going to the London Games after dropping a 7-6 decision to Russia at a qualifying event in Italy. Canada needed a win in the quarter-final game to book its ticket for the Olympics. Canada narrowly missed out on an automatic Olympic berth at the Pan Am Games last fall after a shootout loss to the U.S.