Canada column for Sunday, Dec. 28/14
THE CANADIAN REPORT
(c) By Jim Fox
Canada’s diverse multi-cultural mix added a record number of new citizens this year.
More than 260,000 people became Canadians during 2014 – more than in any year in Canada’s history and more than double the number last year.
With these new citizens “embracing Canadian values and traditions, we are fulfilling our commitment to reducing backlogs and improving processing times,” said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.
Recent changes to the Citizenship Act streamlined the application process, he said.
Since that time, more than 115,000 people have become Canadian citizens, a 90-percent increase from the same period in 2013.
As well, the citizenship application backlog has been reduced by 17 percent since June to its lowest level in almost three years, Alexander said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called on Canadians to pray for soldiers battling Islamic extremists in northern Iraq.
In his Christmas message, Harper said Canadians are fulfilling the county’s reputation by “protecting the vulnerable, promoting peace and defending the freedom of all people.”
Canada joined the international effort to help Iraq fight the Islamic State militant insurgency by sending troops and six CF-18 fighter jets to the Middle East.
Also in his message, Harper said Canadians have more opportunities and better jobs now than at any time in the country’s history, “despite the difficulties elsewhere in the world.”
Canadians who enjoy life in a “beautiful, compassionate and prosperous country” should show kindness to the less fortunate, he added.
News in brief:
- One of Canada’s best-known criminal lawyers, Edward Greenspan, of Toronto has died in his sleep at age 70 while in Phoenix, Arizona. Among Greenspan’s high-profile clients were media baron Conrad Black, theatre impresario Garth Drabinsky and German financier Karlheinz Schreiber.
- Canada’s economic growth was better than expected in October as the gross domestic product rose by 0.3 percent. Statistics Canada said the growth was broad-based involving several major sectors especially oil and gas extraction, mining and manufacturing. Wholesale trade declined by 0.2 percent while retail trade was flat overall.
- Christmas Day was spring-like in Atlantic Canada with records set for high temperatures and the area was pounded by heavy rain. The high in Greenwood, Nova Scotia was 63F (17C) while it reached 61F (16C) in Moncton, New Brunswick and 55F (13C) in Summerside, Prince Edward Island.
Facts and figures:
Canada’s dollar is slightly higher at 86.07 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.161 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is unchanged at 3 percent.
Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 14,609 points and the TSX Venture index 674 points.
The average price of a liter of gasoline across Canada is down to 98.03 cents (Canadian).
Lotto 6-49: (Dec. 24) 1, 3, 21, 24, 31 and 46; bonus 30. (Dec. 20) 9, 17, 22, 35, 38 and 43; bonus 15. Lotto Max: (Dec. 19) 3, 6, 13, 17, 22, 25 and 43; bonus 47.
- Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne said the government will repay $10,000 billed to taxpayers for the alleged wiping clean of computer hard drives in former premier Dalton McGuinty’s office. This follows news of the payment by police investigating the alleged unlawful deletion of documents concerning canceling two unpopular gas plants in Toronto prior to the last election.
- Luka Magnotta was sentenced to life imprisonment in the killing of Montreal engineering student Jun Lin. Magnotta’s defense was that he was not criminally responsible because he is schizophrenic. He was also convicted of harassing Prime Minister Harper and other politicians, and mailing obscene and indecent materials.
- While much of Canada had a green Christmas, British Columbia’s fresh backcountry snow led to avalanche warnings across a large part of the province through Dec. 30. Avalanche Canada warned there is danger in interior mountain ranges due to “wild swings” in the weather. Last season, 15 people were killed in 13 avalanches. On Unnecessary Mountain north of Vancouver, Erin Moore, 7, of Lions Bay, was killed in a rock slide. Heavy rain was believed to have caused the slide.
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com