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Human rights complaint filed over treatment of Air Canada flight attendants

The Canadian Press | posted Friday, Mar 9th, 2018

The union representing Air Canada flight attendants says it has filed a human rights complaint alleging “systemic discrimination and harassment” of its members.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees says the airline’s policies on uniforms and makeup are discriminatory towards female flight attendants on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and race.

It adds the company’s new onboard service managers, who perform in-flight assessments of flight attendants, have made sexist, racist and homophobic remarks and have engaged in “inappropriate behaviour” towards flight attendants of both sexes.

The union that represents 8,500 flight attendants at Air Canada and Rouge is turning to the Canadian Human Rights Commission because the employer has failed to deal with members’ complaints, says CUPE section vice-president Beth Mahan.

It is asking the commission to order a review of Air Canada policies and eliminate the onboard service managers program.

Last month, WestJet Airlines Ltd. filed an appeal after the Supreme Court of British Columbia refused to throw out a proposed class-action lawsuit that accuses the company of fostering a corporate culture that tolerates harassment against female employees.

Former flight attendant Mandalena Lewis is suing WestJet over allegations of gender-based discrimination, accusing her former employer of breaking its promise to provide a harassment-free workplace for women.

Cases of canine influenza in Ontario linked to imported rescue dogs

Cristina Howorun | posted Friday, Mar 9th, 2018

Canine influenza — a relatively uncommon, yet potentially fatal respiratory disease — has been spreading through Ontario.

The infection is so rare in Ontario that most dogs aren’t vaccinated against it, which makes the recent outbreak even more troubling.

Ontario dogs haven’t been exposed to the strain and aren’t immunized against it, which has enabled it to spread quickly from a handful of dogs in central Ontario to an estimated 100 dogs.

The strain has now been found as far away as Grimsby, and has led to at least one dog’s death.

The source is believed to be mainland China.

Last month, several adult dogs were imported from China through a rescue group. They arrived with their vaccination records, but the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) does not require adult dogs to be quarantined or examined by a veterinarian upon arrival.

“When the dogs arrive at the airport, and I think this is a surprise for a lot of people, they aren’t looked over,” said Nicole Tryon, who picked up the dogs on Feb. 13.

“They come in as cargo, as commercial goods. [Customs checks] to make sure they have rabies vaccinations. They barely look into the kennels, nothing.”

According to the CFIA website and Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) guidelines, in most cases, imported pets do not require veterinary exams upon arrival or mandatory quarantine periods.

“We’ve had concerns about importing for quite a while,” said the Ontario Veterinary College’s Scott Weese, one of the authors of a 2016 report calling for tougher regulations.

“We know that when you move animals across big distances, they bring things with them and that can include a variety of diseases — and the flu has been one of those concerns. We could see this was likely to happen at some point as there are very little restrictions on how you move dogs between countries.”

Based on data collected from rescue groups, Weese believes about 6,200 rescue dogs entered Canada in 2014. But the CFIA doesn’t track all imported dogs; only very specific types require import licences.

Most of the group’s recommendations, including the accurate tracking of imported dogs, do not appear to have been adopted by the agency.

“We don’t have a lot of regulation for the animals that come in,” Weese said. “The main concern is rabies vaccination, and even that is fairly lax.”

Tryon expressed concerns about the dogs’ coughs almost immediately, but was assured by the rescue agency manager that they were suffering from the much less severe kennel cough.

The dogs spent several days in Tryon’s care with her dogs, before she took them into her home and they interacted with several other dogs.

Tryon said her dogs became ill, and oral swabs sent to a lab revealed they had contracted canine influzena. She quickly quarantined the dogs, which received antibiotics and care and are recovering.

“It’s scary,” she said. “It spread so quickly and it forced my dog’s daycare centre to close for the past few weeks to stop it from spreading. It’s costing them lots of money to stay closed and to lose out on boarding clients, but it’s the only responsible thing to do.”

Weese recommends getting your dog vaccinated if you live in or visit affected areas, including Orillia, Bracebridge or Gravenhurst

An H3N2 canine influenza vaccine is available in Canada and efforts are underway to ensure an adequate vaccine supply is present, he said.

Staying in town for March Break? Top 10 things to do

Patricia D'Cunha and Amber LeBlanc | posted Thursday, Mar 8th, 2018

March is a busy month with the start of daylight time, the arrival of spring, saying goodbye to the Toronto Zoo pandas, and the Easter long weekend. And to top it off, March Break kicks off this weekend.

While some families will be heading out of town for March Break, others will be spending the week in the city. If you are looking for something to do, below are 10 suggestions. The City of Toronto is also offering various camps and programs, as well as indoor and outdoor skating, drop-in programs, swimming, and activities at historic sites and museums.

Need-to-know for planning

As you plan your staycation, keep in mind there is a subway closure the next two weekends for TTC work. This weekend, subways won’t be running in Line 1 between St. Clair West and Union stations. Shuttle buses will only be running between St. Clair West and Spadina stations. Then, the weekend of March 17 to 18, service will be shut down on Line 3 from Kennedy to McCowan stations. Shuttle buses will run between Scarborough Centre and Kennedy stations.

And a reminder that clocks spring forward at 2 a.m. Sunday, which means you lose an hour of sleep. But the good news is that spring is around the corner, arriving at 12:15 p.m. on March 20.

Top 10 things to do

Panda farewell at Toronto Zoo
If you haven’t seen the giant pandas yet, the week of March Break will be your last chance to do so before they move to the Calgary Zoo. Da Mao and Er Shun arrived in Canada on a 10-year loan from China in 2013. Two years later, Er Shun gave birth to Panpan and Jia Yueyue. The plan was for the pandas to stay for five years in Toronto and then live in Calgary for the next five. The giant panda exhibit closes at 6 p.m. on March 18, so make sure to say your goodbyes. While you are there, visit the one-horned rhino calf and Aldabra tortoises. If you are not too scared, check out the new Asian Carp exhibit. During March break, you can also get a behind-the-scenes look at what zoo workers do.

A day to be Irish
A week before St. Patrick’s Day, it’s a day for everyone to be Irish in spirit. The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade starts at noon on March 10 from the corner of Bloor and St. George streets. It heads east on Bloor, south on Yonge and west on Queen, ending at Nathan Phillips Square. Spectators are asked to bring a non-perishable food item. The Toronto Paramedic Association and Toronto Paramedic Services will be collecting donations for Daily Bread Food Bank along the parade route.

Kids get their own TIFF
It’s a great March Break event for young film lovers. It’s the 2018 TIFF Kids International Film Festival with films designed for children aged three to 13. Organizers say the 10 days of programming are designed to inspire and empower kids through the discovery of filmmaking and animation. It runs from March 9 to 18 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Beach getaway with paint
If you are not able to head to a warm destination for March Break, not to worry. Your child can have the beach come to them. All they need is paint and some imagination. At Paintlounge, they can paint their favourite things from the beach, like starfish, turtles, palm trees, and footprints in the sand, and incorporate them into one canvas. The young artists will also learn various painting techniques. The cost is $30 (HST not included) per 16-by-20-inch canvas. The paints, supplies and smocks will be provided. The workshop is recommended for children aged five to 12, and they must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Say it with music
Children soak up music everyday — whether we sing them to sleep, teach them nursery rhymes, have the radio or iPod on in the car or at home, or play a tune using wooden spoons in the kitchen. Most kids are inherently drawn to music, which is why the songwriting workshop at Todmorden Mills is right up their alley. The workshops, which start March 11, are tailored to children aged nine and up and are led by a songwriter-in-residence. They can also continue to develop their songwriting skills after March Break. The cost is included with regular admission to Todmorden Mills, and the admission is waived if they return for consecutive sessions. Space is limited, so register by calling 416-396-2819.

Time travel to pioneer days
It’s a time-travel-tastic March Break at Black Creek Pioneer Village. The village is open between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, and between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the weekend. Children under 14 are free all week long (up to four children with the purchase of an adult ticket). Among the fun activities: solving mysteries, delving into the world of maple syrup, and checking out the heritage buildings and artifacts.

Light and reflection at AGO
Children will be dazzled with the magic of light at the Art Gallery of Toronto. They can make a lantern of light, play with light and shadow, create a futuristic city, and do other fun activities. The March Break extravaganza runs March 10 to 18 and is free with general admission. If you were planning to get tickets for the Infinity Mirrors exhibit, you may be out of luck since there is a long queue for tickets. But, a new batch of tickets will be released on March 27, so you can try again after March Break. The AGO is warning visitors to be aware of possible ticket scams for the exhibit.

The Last Jedi at Ontario Place
Star Wars lovers are invited to the Cinesphere at Ontario Place this March BreakStar Wars: The Last Jedi is screening on the Cinesphere’s 10-storey screen March 9 to 10. For those not into Star Wars, leave your favourite nerd at the Cinesphere and spend some time exploring the lakeside destination. Not only is there ice skating, but also snacks, an outdoor bonfire and 12 art installations created by local artists.

Vikings descend on the ROM
Travel back in time to the Viking era. Experience Norse life with re-enactments and talk with explorers, warriors, farmers, and artisans about their lives. You can also create your own jewelry like the skilled artisans. The ROM’s March Break programming runs March 10 to 18 and also includes other activities like scavenger hunts and learning to camp. All of the activities and live performances are included with the price of admission.

Casa Loma goes medieval
March Break is getting medieval at Toronto’s only castle. The theme of the week is Imagine Dragons and they’re not joking — visitors will be greeted by a huge, fire-breathing metal dragon sitting on the terrace. You can also travel down the 800-foot underground tunnel to the stables to visit medieval stallions. If the weather doesn’t co-operate, there is an indoor bouncy castle, arts and crafts and face-painting. Standard admission rates apply.

Tory calls for external independent review of missing persons cases

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Mar 8th, 2018

Mayor John Tory is calling for an external independent review of how missing persons cases are handled in Toronto.

Tory says there are “many unanswered questions” and he will be making the formal request at the next Police Services Board meeting in March.

The comments were made at the guns and gangs summit in Ottawa after reports surfaced that alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur was once interviewed and released by Toronto police during an investigation years ago.

Toronto police have come under intense scrutiny over how the case was handled.

“This case is a tragic case. …There are many unanswered questions,” said Tory. “It’s why I’ve called for an external independent review of missing persons cases generally and how they’re handled and how we can do better.”

Tory says the results of the review should be made public as soon as possible and not wait for the McArthur investigation to run its course.

“I think the sooner we have answers to some of these unanswered questions that will be better for everybody.”

Tory adds he will also ask the Province to consider holding a public inquiry at the close of any criminal proceedings.

Police seek suspect in GoodLife gym thefts

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Mar 8th, 2018

Some gym-goers looking to drop a few pounds ended up a little lighter in the wallet after a series of recent thefts at GoodLife Fitness Centres in Toronto.

Toronto police say the first incident took place at the GoodLife at 3280 on Bloor St. W. on Jan. 23 at around 5 p.m.

A 45-year-old man put his belongings in a locker and proceeded to work out. When he returned to the locker room he noticed that his credit cards had been stolen.

A similar incident took place on Feb. 4 at around 4 p.m. at the GoodLife at 185 The West Mall.

Police say a 30-year-old man returned from his workout to find his lock cut and his wallet and keys stolen from his locker.

In both instances, police say the stolen credit cards were used to make purchases at nearby businesses.

Police have released security images of the suspect. If you know anything, contact police.

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Oakville jewelry store robbed at gunpoint, 2 suspects sought

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Mar 8th, 2018

Halton police are searching for two suspects wanted in an armed robbery at Oakville Place, near Trafalgar Road and the QEW.

It happened at the Mariani Jewellers and Watch Boutique store around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Police said one suspect threatened staff with a gun, while the other stole a number of watches. No one was injured during the robbery.

The suspects are described as being about five-foot-10, with an average build, wearing dark clothing, blue toques and white masks.

They were last seen getting into an older model Dodge Caravan.

Police said a third suspect may have been in the vehicle.

The challenges of policing drivers impaired by pot use

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Mar 8th, 2018

The use of recreational marijuana is expected to be legalized this summer, but new rules regarding driving while high aren’t expected to come into effect fully until at least December.

In the interim, police forces across the country are scrambling to get officers trained to spot drivers impaired by pot use. The Toronto police service currently has only 15 trained drug recognition experts (DRE).

While more officers are being trained, the program is lengthy, complex and requires learning how to execute a battery of tests, including the collection of toxicology samples.

Const. Clint Stibbe says Toronto police has been preparing for the legalization of marijuana for some time and has trained hundreds of officers on delivering basic, standardized field sobriety tests.

“They do have the tools in order to place a person under arrest based on the criminal code … that may be impaired by a drug, an alcohol or a combination of the two,” he says.

Bill C-46, currently before the senate, aims to give officers more tools to detect drug use. It sets out new thresholds for THC levels — the psychoactive element in pot — while driving. If the bill passes, DREs are expected to be called on more frequently.

Drivers would be tested with oral swabs to detect how much THC is present in their systems. However, THC levels are not an accurate indicator of how impaired a person might be. An individual’s tolerance level, method of consumption and even metabolic rate could impact their actual level of impairment.

“We need to keep in mind that how everybody reacts to that, what they consume and what the officer is faced with will be unique on a case by case basis,” Stibbe says.

MADD Canada says the variable impact of THC levels on impairment is why they aren’t in favour of an ‘absolute zero’ approach.

“You have to allow some margin of error for these instruments to measure against,” says Andrew Murei, CEO, MADD Canada. “If you simply use zero, you might be picking people up that have a drug in their body, but it has no effect on their driving ability”

The senate committee returns to the bill later this May.

Bugs in the grocery aisle: Loblaw adds cricket powder to its PC line

Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Mar 7th, 2018

Canada’s largest grocer believes Canadians are ready to cook with crickets and is bringing the alternative protein ingredient to grocery shelves under its President Choice label.

A number of companies already sell various insect protein products, like mealworm bolognese sauce and honey-mustard flavoured whole crickets. But Loblaw Companies Ltd.’s announcement signifies more Canadians appear to be willing to munch on insects.

Shoppers can now find bags of President’s Choice cricket powder at their local Loblaw stores, the company said Tuesday. It’s the first time Loblaw’s in-house brand is selling insect protein.

President’s Choice is always looking to bring what’s new and next to Canadians, said Kathlyne Ross, Loblaw’s vice-president of product development and innovation.

“We are giving Canadians the option to not only try something new, but to also make a conscious decision on what they eat and how it impacts the environment.”

Proponents of entymophagy, a name for the eating of insects, say it has environmental and health benefits. Insect farming tends to produce less greenhouse gases, and requires less feed, water and land than more traditional livestock. Companies selling insect products tout their high-protein content.

The crickets used for the powder come from Norwood, Ont.-based Entomo Farms.

The farm started in January 2014 and has grown from 464 square metres to 6,100, said co-founder Jarrod Goldin. There’s plans for expanding further, with another 3,700 square metres soon to be built out, he said.

For reference, 2,800 square metres house about 100 million crickets, Goldin said.

Entomo sells cricket and mealworm products, like protein powder and whole-roasted mealworms, under its own brand name on its website and at various grocery stores — though no national chains, he said.

Cricket powder is really malleable, he said, and can be added to most anything people already eat.

Goldin sprinkles some on top of plain yogurt and berries for breakfast, for example. It can be baked into pizza crusts, added to pancake mix or put into a chili recipe.

The only limit is imagination, he said.

The taste varies based on concentration. A small amount won’t add any flavour, Goldin said, otherwise “it has a very lovely, earthy, nutty, mushroom-ey kind of flavour.”

The Loblaw deal has been in the works for years, Goldin said, and he’s hopeful it’s the first of many insect-protein products the national grocer will stock.

Loblaw described the partnership as “its first move into sustainable insect protein.”

It may not be the only large grocery chain to start selling insects.

Metro Inc. doesn’t currently carry any such products, said spokeswoman Sadie Weinstein in an email.

“But we’re always assessing food trends and might look to carry some of these products in the future.”

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