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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Native protests close borders, rail lines and block entrance to Prime Minister's office

   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 13/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   A week of native protests that temporarily closed several Canada-U.S. border crossings and railway lines escalated with a rally on Parliament Hill.
   Hundreds of protesters marched and blocked the entrance to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office before his meeting Friday with First Nations’ leaders.
   The peaceful protest with singing, dancing, banging of drums and waving flags and placards was similar to rallies last weekend.
   Protesters stopped traffic for several hours at border bridges in Cornwall, Sarnia, Fort Erie and Queenston, Ontario as well as Surrey, British Columbia.
   They also blocked a Canadian National rail line in Sarnia and the main line between Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal for several hours near Belleville disrupting 1,000VIA Rail passengers and freight traffic.
   Protesters say government bills will encroach on their historic treaty rights and the environmental protection of native land.
   “We shared our lands all these years and we never got anything from it – all the benefits are going to Canadian citizens,” said Theresa Spence, chief of the Attawapiskat Reserve in northern Ontario.
   Her comments followed the release of a federal audit showing a “lack of documentation” for $104 million given to aid the reserve from 2005 to 2011.


   They’re having a “heat wave” in southern Ontario, freezing in British Columbia and digging out in Newfoundland and the Prairies.
   A blizzard lashed Newfoundland with about two feet of snow while up to a foot covered the area from Alberta to Saskatchewan on Friday.
   Toronto and southern Ontario have had record-breaking high temperatures the past few days, reaching into the 50sF this weekend and melted what little snow had fallen earlier.
   There’s an “extreme-weather alert” in Metro Vancouver throughout this weekend with homeless shelters making additional beds and heated facilities available to those at risk as temperatures plunged into the mid-20s F at night.


   News in brief:
   - A Toronto man and his wife who spent winters in Florida have been found murdered in their townhouse in Hallandale, Florida. Police said the bodies of  David Pichosky, 71, and Rochelle Wise, 66, were found by a neighbor after they failed to show up for lunch.
   - An anti-corruption unit of 20 investigators has been established in Montreal with “far-reaching powers.” Mayor Michael Applebaum said the office will be “autonomous and independent” and complement Quebec’s own anti-corruption unit. The action follows investigations into widespread corruption in the construction industry that led to the resignations of several mayors including Gerald Tremblay of Montreal and Laval’s Gilles Vaillancourt.


   Facts and figures:
   The Canadian dollar is higher at $1.0168 in U.S. funds while the U.S. dollar returns 98.34 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.
   Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,564 points and the TSX Venture index at 1,239 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Jan. 9) 14, 17, 33, 34, 43 and 44; bonus 5. (Jan. 5) 24, 29, 34, 36, 41 and 42; bonus 45. Lotto Max: (Jan. 4) 3, 6, 16, 23, 27, 28 and 34; bonus22.


   Regional briefs:
   - Calgary hospitals have postponed surgeries due to severe outbreaks of flu and noroviruses. Seasonal viruses are up about 20 percent over normal years in the city and throughout Alberta. Across Canada, there is a similar trend with more flu cases and lingering colds reported this winter.
   - Parents were thrown into disarray when a planned one-day strike by elementary teachers was ruled illegal and schools remained open. The Ontario Labor Relations Board ruled at 4 a.m. Friday the “day of protest” would violate their contract and they could be heavily fined. The teachers are upset over a contract imposed by the provincial government that froze their pay and cut benefits for two years.
   - The chic hangout Waldorf Hotel in East Vancouver built in 1947 won’t be torn down and replaced with a residential high-rise, a developer says. There is a petition circulating urging the city to save the historic hotel. The new owner, condo developer Solterra Group of Companies, said it currently has “no intention” of demolishing it.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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