SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- ntario’s elementary teachers are vowing to walk out en masse after the Christmas holidays, shuttering every school, even as the province’s Education Minister warned that any job action taken in the new year will be illegal.
As public-school teachers in eight school boards took to the streets Tuesday in the largest walkout the province has seen in more than 15 years, the head of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario threatened the worst was yet to come. A government-imposed contract that takes effect Jan. 1 would trigger a large-scale political protest by teachers.
“This is not going away,” ETFO president Sam Hammond said in an interview Tuesday.
But Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten said teacher contract terms, legislated under Bill 115, would automatically take effect Jan. 1, which would make any job action illegal.
“With a collective agreement in place, you’re no longer in a legal strike position,” Ms. Broten said. “It is something that causes me great concern, to think that there’s an encouragement by union leadership to ask their members to undertake illegal activity and I would certainly encourage them not to do that.”
Ms. Broten said there were “mechanisms” in place to penalize teachers if they engaged in an illegal strike. Penalties under Ontario’s Labour Relations Act range from suing union leaders to taking disciplinary action against individual members.
Teachers are angry and frustrated with Bill 115, a controversial piece of legislation that dictates the terms of their contract and restricts their ability to strike.
More than half of the province’s elementary school teachers, including those in Toronto, Peel and Durham, staged one-day job actions Tuesday, the largest in a series of rotating strikes across the province. Such a large-scale walkout has not been seen since teachers rebelled against Conservative premier Mike Harris in the 1990s.
On Tuesday, teachers wearing placards and singing strike-themed versions of Christmas carols picketed outside schools and strategic sites, such as the offices of the Ministry of Education, the Toronto District School Board and the Peel District School Board.
“Any teacher you talk to here will tell you this is not about a wage freeze. Every single person agreed to a wage freeze,” Laura Roberts, a teacher at Kensington Public School, said outside the Education Ministry in Toronto. “This is about people’s rights getting taken away and things we’ve worked really hard for over the years that are going to be stripped without our consent.”
Elementary-school teachers voted in favour of a one-day political protest – essentially an illegal, or wildcat strike – when Ms. Broten invokes her powers under Bill 115. High-school teachers are voting on the same plan, and results are expected at the end of the week.
While the walkouts have been an inconvenience, parents and students are more concerned about the loss of extracurriculars. In September, teachers stopped coaching sports teams, overseeing clubs and offering students extra academic support after school.
Mr. Hammond warned that these voluntary services would continue to be withdrawn when school resumes in January.
“I don’t see that stopping in the new year,” Mr. Hammond said. Some leaders have even gone so far as to suggest that these activities could be withheld until the fall of 2014, the duration of the two-year government-imposed contract.
The Ontario Liberals have said that cutting teachers’ paid sick days from 20 to 10, and delaying a pay grid that sees their salaries climb from about $40,000 to $90,000 over 10 years, was necessary in order to tackle a $14-billion provincial deficit while preserving job-generating programs such as caps on primary-class sizes and full-day kindergarten.
In an interview on Tuesday, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath defended the teachers’ ongoing protests, arguing that they have “very few things they have left at their disposal in terms of how to deal with the situation.”
While noting that even some teachers are struggling with the possibility of extending job action into January, Ms. Horwath appeared to suggest they wouldn’t be to blame for further walkouts or curtailing of extracurricular activities. “If we end up there, then it’ll be because the government’s being stubborn, and they’re not prepared to reopen the conversation,” she said.
Ms. Horwath said that a government under her watch would repeal Bill 115, but was non-committal on the extent to which contracts that take effect on Jan. 1 could subsequently be repealed.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The Ontario government is examining ways to loosen the rules that restrict crowdfunding, a popular method of online fundraising for startups, The Globe has learned.
Premier Dalton McGuinty has championed the possibilities crowdfunding offers, according to a source close to Mr. McGuinty, who recently noted the Ontario Securities Commission is contemplating a crowdfunding exemption to the Securities Act.
Such an exemption is necessary because there are concerns about how regulators can protect investors who participate in crowdfunding, which refers to online campaigns that raise awareness about a specific project or business and solicit funds from individual investors. The concept has been made popular by such sites as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Since anyone can solicit funds, it’s tough to verify whether a company that says it will put money it raises toward building a new plant, for example, will actually do so.
For that reason, crowdfunding in Canada has been more or less limited to donations, outlawing any offerings of equity stakes. If a company that makes watches raises money, it can give the product to each of its investors once they are produced, but it can’t turn donors into investors by offering them stock.
Until recently, crowdfunders in the United States abided by the same rules. But President Barack Obama signed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act in April, and it allows “unaccredited investors,” or regular folks without much money, to invest in a startup’s fundraising campaign. When the bill was being debated, Mr. Obama argued it would help small businesses hire new workers, and put Americans back to work. Given Ontario’s pesky unemployment rate and battered manufacturing sector, the same motivations apply here.
Ontario is now assessing its options to follow the U.S. lead, and a consultation process with regulators is expected to start in the next few weeks.- www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: The global and mail
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Ontario’s teachers unions are taking the province to court, challenging legislation that they say sets a dangerous precedent by taking away their bargaining rights.
Teachers have been cutting back on voluntary services – such as supervising clubs and sports teams – since early September in protest of Bill 115. That legislation took effect one month ago, imposing restrictions on teachers’ ability to strike, reducing their sick days and blocking experience-based pay raises from going through.
The unions had left the bargaining table months earlier, and the province said the legislation was necessary in order to keep teacher salaries from consuming the education budget.
“Bill 115 strips teachers, education workers, support staff and educational professionals of the right to bargain collectively,” reads a news release, circulated Wednesday morning by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario. “It sets a dangerous precedent for similar legislation that is already being proposed for the broader public sector.”
Education Minister Laurel Broten said on Wednesday that the government will defend the legislation.
“We have ensured that we’ve acted in a way that is in accordance with the right to collective bargaining,” Ms. Broten told reporters.
The unions had already threatened to challenge the legislation back in August, before it had passed. School boards are also unhappy with its terms, and the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association has expressed interest in becoming an intervenor in the court case.
Similar court challenges in the past have resulted in rulings that favoured unions and the protection of collective bargaining rights.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The province has reached a last-minute agreement with several thousand educational assistants, making small progress toward their goal of avoiding expensive pay raises for education staff this fall.
The deal involves nearly 3,000 education assistants at Halton, Dufferin-Peel, Waterloo and francophone school boards and promises terms similar to those outlined in legislation that is likely to be passed shortly at Queen’s Park.
They include a wage freeze for two years, and a 0.5 per cent pay cut in the form of one unpaid professional development day in order to preserve experience-based pay raises for newer staff.
The educational assistants will also see cuts to their sick days, something Premier Dalton McGuinty has suggested might also be necessary for police and firefighters.
In July, the province reached an agreement with the English Catholic teachers’ union, but most school boards and other unions have been reluctant to accept the same terms.
With the school year just days away, the minority Liberal government recalled the legislature two weeks early to introduce legislation that would force the monetary terms of the Catholic contract on the rest of the province’s boards, delaying pay raises for young teachers and blocking strikes and lockouts.
The bill, which has the support of Conservatives, has angered teachers. Over 10,000 attended a rally at Queen’s Park this week, and some are considered scaling back on voluntary services such as clubs and coaching in retaliation.—www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: The Global and Mail
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Two women hurled hunks of pig carcasses this week outside a San Bernardino County home where Muslims prayed inside, prompting calls for a federal hate crime investigation and stoking tension within the area’s Muslim community.
In a letter to the U.S. Justice Department, the Council on American-Islamic Relations urged federal prosecutors to launch a probe of the incident at the site of the proposed Al-Nur Islamic Center near Ontario. The letter said two women in a white pickup truck threw the carcass pieces at three different places at the mosque site shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday, the council said.
Muslims are prohibited from eating pork or any pig byproducts. The act was especially offensive because it occurred during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the council’s Greater Los Angeles chapter.
“The intention was to create fear, intimidation and offense of the intended target,” Ayloush, said Friday, Aug. 10. “That’s the nature of a hate incident.”
Rashid Ahmed, the chairman of the mosque, said the live-in caretaker of the four-bedroom home where the mosque members were praying is worried for his safety — as are worshippers. On the other hand, he said he has received more than 200 emails supporting the mosque since the incident, including emails from Christians, Jews and Hindus.
About 20 members of the congregation were gathered for a late-evening Ramadan prayer when the carcass pieces were tossed onto the property, Ahmed said. A security guard witnessed the act, he said.
The Justice Department is aware of the incident and looking into the matter, spokesman Thom Mrozek said. He said he could not confirm whether a formal investigation is under way. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is investigating, spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said.
Deputies were called to the property Wednesday morning and took a report for the alleged crime of vandalizing a place of worship, Bachman said. No arrests had been made.
The Islamic center was founded in 2000. About 70 people, mostly Bangladeshi, worship on Fridays at a temporary location in a Montclair office park. Ahmed said the congregation hopes to begin construction of the new, 7,000-square-foot building in 2013.
The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved the project earlier this year, but opponents of the mosque have filed a lawsuit seeking to block it.
Victor Otten, a Torrance attorney who represents the opponents, said most of the plaintiffs are people who live near the mosque site.
They oppose it not because the congregants are Muslim, but because they believe the septic system in the area is inadequate for the proposed mosque and because the building would destroy the rural, single-family character of the neighborhood, Otten said.
Ayloush said such issues often veil religious-based opposition to mosques. Some of the opponents have vocalized their fears about Islam, he said. According to the letter sent to the Justice Department, members of the congregation recently have seen people parked near the site taking photos.
“There is no doubt that many people opposing this mosque are driven by ignorance and fear and bigotry,” he said.
A proposed mosque in Temecula also faced opposition, including protests and anti-Muslim epithets.
The City Council gave final approval to the project last year, and the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley announced this week that groundbreaking on the new building will begin in September.
The vandalism in Ontario is the latest in a string of perceived anti-Muslim acts around the country in recent days and weeks, Ayloush noted.
A Missouri mosque was destroyed in a fire that news reports say was suspicious; four teenagers were arrested Saturday for pelting worshippers at a Bay Area mosque with oranges and lemons; and a Rhode Island mosque was vandalized, he said.
Ayloush said the incidents may be related to an uptick in anti-Muslim rhetoric in recent weeks in the wake of allegations by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn, of Muslim infiltration of the U.S. government.
“Every time a public official engages in a national process of demonization and dehumanization of Muslims, immediately afterward there is always an increase in hate incidents and hate crimes,” he said.—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Never mind a house of horrors, this was a house of honey.
A homeowner in southern Ontario says she knew she had a “sweet mess” on her hands when a crack in the ceiling started oozing honey.
Loretta Yates soon discovered the 1 1/2-storey house she shares with her husband and 22-month-old son was also home to about 80,000 bees nesting in the first-floor ceiling.
She says her insurance company wouldn’t cover the damage to her house in Varney, just outside Mount Forest, and a pest control company couldn’t promise to get the bugs out for good.—www.shafaqna.com/english
Source: National Post
SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association)— Joining millions of Muslims worldwide, Canadian Muslims look forward to the holy fasting month of Ramadan to share the feeling of the poor and disadvantaged for thirty days.
"When Ramadan falls in the summer and the fast will be longer, the reward will be bigger, too," Jamal Taled, London Mosque imam, told Ifp press on Friday, July 20.
"This is a great opportunity for our people to seek even more devotion to God and to devote themselves in this blessed month to read the Qur'an and volunteer their efforts."
Ramadan 1433… With Hardships Comes Ease
Spiritual Ramadan on OnIslam.net
Ramadan is the holiest month in Islamic calendar.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
Fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur’an and good deeds.
Canadian Muslims celebrate the start of the holy fasting month on Friday, July 20, making it the first time for Ramadan in 30 years to come in mid July.
Magda Elkholy, 21, sees the holy month of Ramadan beginning Friday as a time of reflection on her faith and the world, giving her a good opportunity to reflect on how those without luxuries live.
"I used to fast for half-days when I was young, just to feel included," said Elkholy, who will blog about her fasting experience all month on lfpress.com.
"We are taught to think of the poor when fasting. We can feel the hunger pains that poor people feel. In my family, that's not something we experienced, except during Ramadan."
"This will be challenging. It's harder to concentrate on things because you're deprived of food and your energy is low," Elkholy said.
"For me, one of the most challenging things is keeping my energy level up."
For many Canadian Muslims, the holy fasting month is mainly about sharing the good spirits with the whole society.
"My family has dinner together every day but at iftar, it's extra special,” Elkholy said.
“We break our fast and say our prayer together.”
Following iftar meal, the family; including Elkholy, her grandparents, mom, dad, sister, 16, and brother, 23, gets united in night prayers together.
“We always say what we're thankful for,” Elkholy said.
“The prophet (Mohammed) said that we should reserve one-third of our stomachs for food, one-third for water and one-third for air."
The sharing spirit is spread all over the community with the mosque on Oxford St. West open to people of all faiths for daily Ramadan prayers.
"Ramadan is for the entire humanity, not just Muslims," Taled said.
"I think everyone should try fasting during this time, even if it's just a couple of hours a day . . . To devote yourself like that, it will teach us to know the feelings of others who do not have clean water to drink or food to eat.
“Ask, how can we all work together to eliminate poverty?"
London is home to an estimated 30,000 Muslims.
Canadian Muslims make 1.9 percent of Canada's some 32.8 million people.
The number of Canadian Muslims has increased over the past few years making Islam the number one non-Christian faith in the country.
A survey has showed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian.—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association)— Opponents of industrial wind turbine developments in Ontario are celebrating a court ruling that will force the province’s chief medical officer of health to testify about the known noise and health risks of wind power developments.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Mary Sanderson issued an order Wednesday that requires Dr. Arlene King to testify in the case of Shawn and Trisha Drennan of Ashfield Township by Lake Huron in southwestern Ontario.
The couple is fighting the proposed Kingsbridge II project by Capital Power Corp. to install 150 wind turbines, one of which will be within 650 metres of their farm north of Goderich.
Based on reports of residents near other wind developments in Ontario who complain of vertigo, tinnitus, and sleep disorders stemming from the turbines, the Drennans have gone to court demanding that private gag orders on a number of landowners in neighbouring communities be lifted.
Those people complained of turbine noise and health issues, yet agreed to sell their properties back to power companies in exchange for agreeing to keep quiet.
In their fight, the Drennans want to challenge King on her 2010 review of international literature on wind turbine science, which has been used by the government of Ontario to defend its major expansion into wind power. The government claimed in a news release that King determined “there is no direct causal link between wind turbines and adverse health effects.”
Gaps in research
But residents and groups opposed to the installation of large industrial wind farms near peoples’ homes have long criticized King's report, pointing out she didn't conduct an empirical study within Ontario, and she didn't talk to residents now living close to turbines.
What’s more, they complain the government has oversimplified her findings, failing to point out King’s own conclusions that there are gaps within the scientific research around how to measure the health impact of turbine noise.
Provincial lawyers tried to overturn a summons for King to testify. However, in Wednesday’s ruling, Sanderson rejected the government’s argument that the Drennans' request for her testimony was an abuse of process.
Sanderson pointed out that Dr. King had indeed found limits to the science on wind power.
"Dr. King identified two data gaps in her report," the judge wrote.
One of the data gaps involved "sound measurements at residential areas around wind turbines and comparisons with sound levels around other rural and urban areas, to assess actual ambient noise levels prevalent in Ontario.”
The other gap identified by King was making noise level assessments to “mak[e] an informed decision on whether epidemiological studies looking at health outcomes will be useful.”
A CBC News investigation last fall found scores of residents who complain that wind turbine installations have made them sick and made their homes unlivable.
The province has changed the regulations requiring all new turbines to be set back a distance of no less than 550 metres. However, the Environmental Review Tribunal, a provincial regulator concluded last summer that there is evidence that turbines can cause harm.
Last week, Health Canada waded in, acknowledging there are gaps in the science and has committed to conduct a two-year study of the health of 2,000 residents at eight to 12 wind farms across Canada. The study will examine what affect wind turbine noise is having on their lives.—www.shafaqna.com/english