Wednesday, April 23, 2014

More groups opposed to expanding alcohol sales in Ontario

Cancer Care Ontario latest to join the debate
TORONTO, Ontario April 23, 2014 /Canada NewsWire/ - The list of community safety and public health groups opposed to expanding alcohol sales in Ontario continues to grow and highlights the negative consequences of selling alcohol in convenience stores, said Anne Leonard, Executive Director of arrive alive DRIVE SOBER.
"The lobbyists who are pushing for alcohol in corner stores and gas stations want you to believe that the public is on their side, but there's a silent majority that are against this unsafe plan," said Leonard.  "People concerned about community safety, about road safety, and about crime are starting to band together to fight on this issue.  We're concerned about our communities."
Leonard cited the fact that a number of community groups have come out publicly against the scheme in recent weeks, including yesterday's announcement by Cancer Care Ontario requesting that the Wynne government put the brakes on the government's plan to put new LCBO kiosks in grocery stores. "We didn't call for a rolling back of current access, but what we're saying is, let's limit hours of sale and distribution points where alcohol is sold. There's good evidence that with a higher density of alcohol outlets, there's a clear association with the harms of excessive alcohol."  [Dr. Linda Rabeneck, VP of Prevention and Cancer Control (Cancer Care Ontario); Ottawa Citizen, April 22, 2014]
Many community groups are opposed to this plan including two of Ontario's largest and oldest: arrive alive DRIVE SOBER® and Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving (OSAID).
Leonard also cited a recent independent poll done on the issue that showed the Ontario public is split: 48 per cent in favour but 44 per cent opposed.  [link below]  "The more facts that people learn, the more they support the safe position.  We need to ask the right question: what are we willing to lose or risk for convenience? Simply put: Alcohol sales simply should not be expanded to corner stores and gas stations," said Leonard.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Lawsuits Thwarting Democracy, Free Speech, Professor Says in New Book

GUELPH, Ontario April 21, 2014 - University of Guelp New Release - The recent libel action involving Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak is a good example of how SLAPP lawsuits can thwart democracy, according to a University of Guelph professor who has written a new book on the subject.
SLAPPs – Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation – often involve big companies taking legal action to curtail activism, says Prof. Byron Sheldrick, chair of Guelph’s Department of Political Science.
But it’s now becoming increasingly common for politicians to take or threaten legal action against other politicians.
“There seems to be an increasing trend where litigation is becoming part of the political arsenal of our leaders,” he said.
"It’s a new strategy of sorts. Politicians start using SLAPPs, which threatens to undermine political democratic institutions.”
Sheldrick looks at the effect of such lawsuits on public engagement, expression and democratic integrity in Blocking Public Participation: The Use of Strategic Litigation to Silence Political Expression.
SLAPPs have been around for decades, but have recently been catapulted into the public arena due to high-profile situations such as the Wynne-Hudak case, Sheldrick said.
And the variety of such lawsuits is huge. “There are many more cases than we know about or hear about because often they never go to court,” he said.
“This is because most often, winning is not the objective; rather it’s to silence or intimidate the opposition with a legal threat, to put a chill on expression. So it’s hard to know how many cases are out there.”
This is especially the case in “David vs. Goliath” SLAPPs, when a large company sues a small group or NGO to quash opposition.
Recent examples include a Lake Simcoe developer filing almost $100-million worth of lawsuits against a citizen groups; a logging company in British Columbia suing Greenpeace for $7 million; and Marineland filing a $1.5-million lawsuit against an animal rights group.
“The resource imbalance between the parties becomes important -- Goliath can afford to play it out for a long time, to use their resources to really take advantage of their position and use the courts as a vehicle within a political dispute,” Sheldrick said.
Usually, courts will allow a SLAPP case to proceed, hearing all of the evidence before making a decision on the merits of the case. “That is why it might take years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, making SLAPPs an effective political strategy for those with the resources.”
The motivation is slightly different in SLAPPs involving politicians, and Sheldrick dedicates an entire chapter, “SLAPPs Come to Parliament,” to the hows and whys.
A member of Parliament can say anything they wish on the floor in the House of Commons, he explained. “It can be clearly defamatory, clearly false, it can even be a lie, and they are protected against a lawsuit by the rules of parliamentary privilege.
“But the floor of the legislature is not the place where politics takes place now. In this age of the Internet, television, radio, blogs and Twitter, politicians carry out or try to communicate directly with members of the public through various media.”
And this is where things are often said that draw the attention and ire of other politicians, prompting the filing of lawsuits, he said.
Recent examples include Wynne’s threat of legal action against Hudak for alleging that she oversaw and even possibly ordered the destruction of documents to cover up the gas plants scandal.
In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper filed a libel lawsuit against the Liberal Party over statements on the party’s website regarding allegations of bribery made in a book about the life of late MP Chuck Cadman.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was named in a $1.5-million defamation lawsuit filed this month by a former Liberal candidate, alleging a character attack during her campaign run.
No matter the type of SLAPP, there are ripple effects, Sheldrick said.
In “David vs. Goliath” cases, deep-pocketed companies use the law to silence resource-poor groups or individuals. People feel threatened by the prospect of massive legal fees, a disruption of activities or large damage awards, he said. 

“There is a lot of concern about the democratic deficit and citizen apathy. The possibility of being sued for coming forward or speaking out about genuine public issues is a serious problem.”
SLAPPS involving politicians can affect the effectiveness of our democratic institutions and their processes of accountability, he added.
“Wynne arguably may have a case,” he said. “But the question is whether, in the political context, politicians should step outside and away from the normal mechanism of political accountability to use litigation.”
It also means that, when asked about the gas plant situation, the premier may decline to comment, saying that the matter is a subject of legal action, Sheldrick said.
“It has the effect of chilling our democratic institutions, making them less effective vehicles for political accountability.”
Ontario is considering taking action against SLAPPs. Bill 83, now in second reading, would allow judges to prevent powerful people or companies from using litigation to silence dissent.
The bill was submitted by the attorney general last May following an advisory panel review. Its passage would make Ontario the second Canadian province with anti-SLAPP legislation, Sheldrick said.
“But with a spring election widely anticipated, there is every likelihood that the bill will die.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Health groups urge Premier Wynne to stop medical tourism


TORONTO, Ontario April 16, 2014 /Canada NewsWire/ - Recent remarks by Ontario's Minister of Health indicating unqualified support for medical tourism have prompted five health organizations to urge Premier Kathleen Wynne to step in and end the practice of allowing hospitals to solicit patients from other countries.
According to recent media reports, University Health Network, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Mount Sinai Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children have all provided care on a for-profit basis, to people from outsideCanada. This has prompted the groups – the Association of Ontario Health Centres, the Association of Ontario Midwives, Canadian Doctors for Medicare, the Medical Reform Group and the Registered Nurses' Association ofOntario (RNAO) – to write a letter to Premier Wynne. The letter asks the Premier to protect the province's publicly funded health-care system by closing the door on the practice of medical tourism and focusing on meeting people's care needs, not on their ability to pay.
In the letter, the groups warn that allowing hospitals to go shopping for patients in a bid to raise revenue will redirect already stretched resources and jeopardize the province's ability to provide care for Ontarians. "The public wants, and needs, a clear signal from (the provincial government) that it is not 'open season' on our operating rooms and clinical facilities," the letter states. "Premier, by taking a hands-off approach when public hospitals announce plans to offer fee-based medical services to foreign patients, Ontario risks stepping onto a slippery slope toward a two-tier system of health care, where a parallel for-profit system provides care to those who can afford to pay."
The Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC) is Ontario's voice for community-governed primary health care and represents over 108 community-governed primary health care organizations including Ontario's Community Health Centres, Aboriginal Health Access Centres, Community Family Health Teams and Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinics. The association holds a strong commitment to advance health equity and recognizes that access to the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental human right.
The Association of Ontario Midwives is the professional organization representing midwives and the practice of midwifery in the province of Ontario. It is run by a 12-member Board of Directors.
Canadian Doctors for Medicare provides a voice for Canadian doctors who want to strengthen and improveCanada's universal publicly-funded health care system. We advocate for innovations in treatment and prevention services that are evidence-based and improve access, quality, equity and sustainability.
The Medical Reform Group is a democratic organization of physicians, medical students and others committed to ensuring access to high quality health care for all Canadians. Our goal is to provide a voice for physicians and others who share the MRG principles and beliefs.
The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Heartbleed.ca: why cloud services and online banking sites should bolster security now

TORONTO, Ontario April 11, 2014 /Canada NewsWire/ - From the first reports of the Heartbleed OpenSSL bug earlier this week, IT departments have scrambled to reduce their exposure to the risk and notify concerned users about the safety of their personal information. But access to sensitive websites still needs to be more secure, according to Canadian security experts:
  • once servers are patched and verifiably secure, companies should not rely on users to reset their own passwords:passwords should be reset by the company
  • cloud-based services must responsibly notify their users of all the impacted 3rd party sites that may have played a part in the user experience, not just their own
  • online banking systems should take the opportunity to introduce better security using two-factor authentication, ensuring that access doesn't just depend on user passwords
"It's time Canadian banks offered the added security of a one-time code or token to better protect all their online customers" said Claudiu Popa, security auditor and author of two books on data protection. "It should be available on all sites that handle sensitive personal information, not just those that have been impacted by this latest issue".
Multi-factor authentication vastly reduces breach impact with the need for another code that can only be used for a single visit so stolen passwords cannot be reused in the future.
Many global banks, along with sites like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Dropbox, Paypal, Microsoft, iTunes and LinkedIn offer optional two-factor authentication.
Canadian companies should take the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage with multi-factor authentication (MFA) and perfect forward secrecy (PFS), technologies that have been available for a long time.
About the company:
Established in 1989, Informatica is Canada's first security assurance-as-a-service company, specializing in standards-based IT audits, independent privacy and vulnerability assessments across all industry sectors.
Informatica's respected Statement of Trust™ and Verify™ seal are available to organizations that test their security with privacy audits and standardized risk assessments. Reviews of policies, employee awareness and website availability/stress-testing demonstrate compliance, leadership and due care.
Pre-audits for PIPEDA, CASL, PCI-DSS(3.0), ISO 31000/27000, PHIPA, Bill198, etc are conducted by certified security professionals and trusted Risk Advisors.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Minister Bergen Applauds World-leading Homelessness Study and Officially Launches Housing First Approach in Canada

OTTAWA, Ontario April 8, 2014 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Honourable Candice Bergen, Minister of State (Social Development) took part today in the official launch of the final report on the At Home/Chez Soi project, which demonstrates that the Housing First approach rapidly reduces homelessness while alleviating pressure on shelter, health, police and judicial services.
The Government of Canada has invested $110 million over five years (2008–2013) in the Mental Health Commission ofCanada's At Home/Chez Soi project, the most comprehensive study of homelessness ever undertaken. Over the course of the two-year study, an average of 73 percent of participants in the Housing First group remained in stable housing, compared to 32 percent for the group receiving usual care. Additionally, for participants who were the highest users of emergency and social services when they entered the study, every $10 invested led to an average savings to government of $21.72
Through Economic Action Plan 2013, the Government of Canada committed nearly $600 million over five years to renew the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) using a Housing First approach. Implementation of the Housing First approach began on April 1, 2014.
Quick Facts
  • Traditional approaches to reducing homelessness rely heavily on short-term emergency, crisis-based responses.
  • The Housing First approach helps stabilize the lives of homeless people for the long term by first moving them into permanent housing and then providing additional support for underlying issues, such as addiction and mental health. The ultimate goal is to assist people in becoming self-sufficient, fully participating members of society. 
  • Since the launch of the HPS in April 2007, nearly 25,000 Canadians who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless have benefitted from education and training opportunities; over 27,000 have received help to find work; and more than 4,800 new shelter beds have been created.
Quotes
"Canada led the way with the At Home/Chez Soi project, the largest study of its kind.  We now have strong evidence that Housing First is an effective way to reduce homelessness. I am proud to celebrate this achievement along with our partners at the Mental Health Commission of Canada as we officially launch the Housing First approach inCanada."
– The Honourable Candice Bergen, Minister of State (Social Development)
"The value of having a home is hard to quantify, but that is exactly what the Mental Health Commission of Canadahas done with our ground-breaking At Home/Chez Soi project. We have taken on this complex issue with both vision and leadership. Bold solutions like this one are the hallmark of our mandate and the Government of Canada is right to feel incredibly proud of its investment."
– Louise Bradley, President and CEO, Mental Health Commission of Canada
"The national implementation of Housing First will house thousands of Canada's most vulnerable homeless people. It also has the potential to transform the way Canada responds to homelessness. It's a great start." – Tim Richter, President and CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Helping children in foster care succeed makes social and economic sense

Report shows significant earnings gap for former foster children
OTTAWA, Ontario April 7, 2014 /Canada NewsWire/ - Improving support for children in foster care would increase their lifetime earnings by hundreds of thousands of dollars, and save governments in social assistance payments and spending on other public services, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report released today.
The report, Success For All: Investing in the Future of Canadian Children in Care, estimates that former foster children will earn about $326,000 less income over their lifespan compared with children not involved in the child welfare system in Canada. This disparity is largely due to less education -- primarily lower levels of high-school graduation. Over a 10 year period, the cost to the economy of not changing this situation could total an estimated $8 billionthrough lost productivity.
HIGHLIGHTS
  • Most youth leaving the child welfare system fail to graduate from high school, and many live with poorly treated mental health problems.

  • A child exiting the child welfare system at the age of 19 will earn about $326,000 less income over his or her lifespan, compared with the average Canadian.

  • The number of children in care in Canada, relative to its population, is far higher than in the U.S. and the gap has widened over time.

In addition, as a consequence of higher rates of unemployment and lower earnings than the national average, governments in Canada make higher social assistance payments and collect lower tax revenues, totaling a cumulative$126,000 per former foster child. If governments were to invest that money in initiatives to help improve the education and mental health of children in care, the long term social and economic benefits could ultimately outweigh that initial cost.
"There is a compelling humanitarian and economic case for tackling this issue. We know that most youth leaving the child welfare system fail to graduate from high school, and many live with poorly treated mental health problems," said Louis Thériault, Executive Director, Economic Initiatives.
"While these issues have been identified in the past, we've now been able to pinpoint the actual financial costs. Taking on these issues not only has the potential to benefit the overall Canadian economy; even more importantly, many foster children could have a better chance at participating more fully in society."
A report by the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies, for example, found that only 44 per cent of former foster children graduate from high school compared with 81 per cent for the general population. Former foster children also enroll in post-secondary institutions at around half the rate of the general population. In addition, children in care have a much greater prevalence of mental health problems. 
Success For All: Investing in the Future of Canadian Children in Care identifies the serious economic ramifications of not tackling these problem and suggests that  governments, businesses, and the general public all have a role to play in helping children in foster care lead more productive lives.
Currently, Canada's welfare system is fragmented. One solution proposed is to undertake a coordinated effort among provinces, led by the federal government. Governments could help implement a comprehensive and cohesive strategy, including targeted investments in improving education and mental health. In addition, there is a need for comparable and consistent national data on children both while in care and after they leave the system. This would also require the cooperation of all levels of government.
Businesses could facilitate the integration of former foster children into the labour market by offering children in care greater opportunities for skills training and employment. This could be achieved by working with child welfare agencies or through public-private partnerships. 
The general public could play a role in helping children in foster care by being aware of the special needs of children in care, support ideas to improve their circumstances, and generally assist in integrating foster children into the community.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

International Students Rank University of Guelph No. 1

GUELPH, Ontario - March 31, 2014 - University of Guelph at Guelph - For the third year in a row, the University of Guelph received top marks among Canadian universities for its living and learning environment for international students, says a new survey.
U of G ranked No. 1 for overall learning, living and student support, and had the highest overall average in the 2013 International Student Barometer.
Conducted by the International Graduate Insight Group, it’s the largest annual survey of international university students in the world. The survey included numerous questions in four categories: learning, living, support and arrival. Schools were ranked “overall” in each category and in various subcategories for an average category score.
“I think it’s a credit to everyone at Guelph that we’re No. 1 for the third year in a row,” says Lynne Mitchell, director of the Centre for International Programs. “It reflects the commitment and hard work of the staff in our office and in the Office of Intercultural Affairs.”
The survey included more than 143,952 international students from 178 institutions in 13 countries, including six Canadian universities. About 425 of the international students who participated in the survey were from U of G, representing all seven colleges and levels of study. Guelph currently has 1,049 international students.
The survey was funded by Ontario’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.