City in Brief
by Matthew Guité
→ Ambulance workers strike new round of protests
Ambulance technicians and paramedics have begun a new round of protests across the province to pressure health officials to return to negotiations related to their pay scales and benefits. The union representing the workers has said that their pension plan is unacceptable, and that their 16 levels of pay makes it difficult for new employees to achieve the higher pay levels. “Paramedics have had enough with this attitude,” union official Dany Lacasse told CBC. Ambulance technicians and paramedics protested outside the Urgences-santé’s headquarters in Montreal on Sunday. Under law, ambulance technicians must work despite contract disputes and mandates to strike.
→ Modern languages 101
The Société de transport de Montréal has defended its interpretation of Bill 101 after an access-to-information request filed by The Gazette revealed that no legal council had apparently ever been sought on the use of English by STM employees under the exemption in Bill 101.
“Basically, we have to operate in French unless we can prove an absolute necessity in certain categories,” STM vice-chair Marvin Rotrand told CBC News that the authority had to operate in French unless they could prove “an absolute necessity” for other languages. Julius Grey, a civil rights lawyer, told The Gazette that he believed the STM was misinterpreting Bill 101. The STM has “an implicit obligation to serve their customers and they have to have a sufficient number of people who can do so in English to successfully serve their customers,” he said.
→ No cops allowed
The Saint-Bruno city council is being criticized after a video surfaced online showing police officers in a city council meeting escorting citizens from the room after posing difficult questions to municipal councillors. Resident Martin Guevremont believes that the idea of having police present at meetings is ridiculous. “Having a police presence at municipal council is absurd. You expect citizens to be able to ask questions to elected officials,” he said. In response, Mayor Claude Benjamin said that the video was not a fair representation of their city council meetings, and that citizens are only ever expelled if they are out of line.
→ ERs under pressure
Montreal’s emergency rooms are dangerously overcrowded with patients suffering from gastro-intestinal viruses and the seasonal flu, according to public health officials. Some hospitals are projecting up to 12-hour waiting periods to see a doctor, and many are operating at beyond their maximum capacity. Worst hit was St. Mary’s Hospital, which is operating at 200 per cent capacity. Public health officials have advised that mild flu-related symptoms are best treated at home to avoid the long wait times at emergency rooms.
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Nation in Brief
by Robin Della Corte
→ Stuck in the middle
An 87-year-old woman was stuck in a elevator from the evening of Dec. 23 until 2 a.m. on Christmas morning in a nursing home in Mississauga, Ont. The woman was dropped off at the front doors by her family that fateful evening and when she didn’t arrive on her floor, staff thought she was still with her family. The next day, it was discovered that the woman had indeed been dropped off the night earlier. After police searched her room, the staff finally found the woman in the elevator and was brought to the hospital for evaluation. Three investigations are currently taking place.
→ Absence of service
A mother of a toddler claims she was unfairly treated by an employee of the Toronto Transit Commission when she tried to board an early morning bus. As Jodi Christie boarded at 6:30 a.m. with her one-year-old son in his stroller, she asked the driver to lower the ramp to help her get on the bus. According to Christie, the driver chastised her for not having a smaller stroller and that he didn’t want to help her. He continued and said “Where’s his dad? He should be helping you with this, if he even has a father,” CBC News reported. TTC spokesman Brad Ross confirmed there is an investigation into the situation.
→ Close call
In Alaska, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake was cause for a tsunami warning for the coast of British Columbia. While the earthquake did generate a small tsunami, the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center said the waves didn’t pose a threat, the Canadian Press reported. The Alaska Tsunami Warning Center initially warned that “significant widespread inundation” of land was expected, but the warning was soon called off stating that the small sea level changes posed no danger.
→ Suspicious fires
Two morning fires in Winnipeg were labelled as suspicious due to the proximity and timing of the events. The fire department was called to the scene of the first house at 5:15 a.m. on Victor St. where the fire started in a garage at the back of a house. The flames spread to the home and burned off the roof before reaching another house and car. However, no injures were reported. The damage to all properties was about $400,000. Minutes later, a second fire on the same street occurred in an apartment building where four to five people were taken to the hospital and the damage was estimated to about $30,000.
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World in Brief
by Kalina Laframboise
→ You don’t know meth
A man named Dale Blumer faces a felony charge of producing methamphetamine after police raided his home, also a daycare centre, in Davenport, Iowa. While the drug itself was not found in the residence, several key ingredients were. The 34-year-old admitted to the crimes after he was arrested in the early morning of Dec. 30 saying that he produced meth approximately 20 times during the last few months. Blumer also confessed to selling the drug within his home and daycare centre managed by his girlfriend, Amanda Taylor.
→ The birds and the pigs
In a weird twist of events, a federal appeals court rendered that a New York man who was arrested for giving the middle finger to a police officer can sue for malicious prosecution. In 2006, John Swartz gave officer Richard Insogna the bird for using a radar device while passing by in a car. Although not speeding or breaking the law, Swartz and his wife were pulled over for a traffic stop before Swartz was detained for disorderly conduct, a charge that was later dropped. The court ruled that Swartz’s gesture was not probable reason for him to be accused of committing a traffic violation or for a charge of disorderly conduct.
→ Welcome to the Kremlin
French celebrity and film star Gérard Depardieu has officially traded in his homeland’s passport for Russian citizenship. President Vladimir Putin signed a decree last Thursday granting Depardieu citizenship after the actor was upset with an upcoming tax hike in France and the two met over the weekend. François Hollande, president of France, proposed a new increase tax for millionaires that would see Depardieu hand over 75 per cent of his salary. Russia has a flat tax rate of 13 per cent. France’s current tax rate for high earners is 41 per cent.
→ Ecuador, prepare for baby boomers
Ecuador was deemed the best nation for newly retired Americans and Canadians for the fifth consecutive year by InternationalLiving.com’s annual rankings of the top countries to settle down in. The survey is conducted through retired individuals and is based on several factors. Where beers cost just 85 cents, Ecuador attracts retirees through its low cost of living, warm climate and inexpensive housing prices, making it a desirable place to live. Also, its proximity to North America is a selling point for many retirees. Panama, Malaysia, Mexico and Costa Rica were also in the top five.