British Columbia Becomes One Step Easier to Immigrate to Canada

April 29, 2010
British Columbia & Canada Flag

British Columbia & Canada Flag

Recently Dr. Alice Wong, Parliamentary Secretary to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, and Moira Stilwell, B.C. Minister of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development, signed the new Canada-British Columbia Immigration Agreement.

Immigation Minister Kenney had the following to say:

“The signing of today’s agreement with British Columbia will support the integration of newcomers, helping to ensure that they’re able to contribute to our economy and succeed in Canada.” He also went on to say “I am also pleased to announce the first temporary foreign worker annex to this agreement today. This will facilitate the entry of these workers to help British Columbia fill critical labour shortages.”

Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development had the following to say:

“The agreement will help Canada attract the skilled international workers it needs to meet the needs of the Canadian economy as we emerge from the global economic recession.” Minister Finley went on to say “It will certainly strengthen British Columbia’s ability to meet its labour market needs both today and in the future.”

Minister Stilwell had the following to say:

“The renewal of this agreement strengthens our partnership with the federal government and our commitment to providing welcoming and inclusive communities and workplaces in B.C. for newcomers.” Minister Stilwell went onto say; “Immigrants coming to our province not only enrich the social fabric of B.C., they also bring economic advantages, generate innovation, attract industries and workers, and spur economic growth.”

It is the intention that the agreement will lead to improved collaboration between Canada Immigration and British Columbia on immigration matters. The immigration agreement involves community partners, including local governments, service providers and the private sector to help welcome and integrate immigrants into Canadian society. The Canadian Government will be transferring $114 million to British Columbia for immigration and settlement services and for welcoming communities initiatives.

It is hoped that the immigration agreement will result in more immigration intoto British Columbia and will encourage existing immigrants to say. This will help immigrants integrate and help meet British Columbia’s economic and social needs.

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Vulcan (Alta.) rolls out grand homecoming for Spock

April 27, 2010


VULCAN, Alta. — Despite a spell of unwelcoming hail, rain and snow, Mr. Spock finally arrived in the small Alberta town of Vulcan on Friday, ending what some say has been a 10-year quest to bring the half-human, half-Vulcan home.

Dressed casually in a grey sweater and black pants, a beaming Leonard Nimoy arrived without his trademark Vulcan ears to hundreds of cheering fans Friday afternoon outside the Vulcan Tourism Centre before joining a parade down the town’s main drag to help celebrate the town’s new status as the Star Trek capital of Canada.

By the time the 79-year-old actor offered his “live-long-and-prosper” handprint and unveiled a bronze bust of his most famous character, the sun was shining and the crowd had surged to an estimated 2,500 people.

“Wait until Bill Shatner hears about this,” said Nimoy. “I have been a Vulcan for 44 years. It’s about time I came home.”

For town officials, it was the end to a long, weird and exhilarating quest to bring Spock home.

In town for only a couple of hours, the actor is scheduled to be a guest at The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo this weekend. Vulcan is about 100 kilometres southeast of Calgary.

Nimoy’s appearance caps off a decade-plus campaign to use Gene Roddenberry’s popular Star Trek phenomenon to boost tourism for the town, which was actually named after the Roman god of fire.

“I think this is going to go down as one of the biggest days in Vulcan history,” says Dayna Dickens, the town’s tourism co-ordinator. “You know, certainly there’s be some controversy with the town having its traditional Prairie roots. But I think the town has come together to welcome Mr. Nimoy here.”

Certainly there was no sign of dissent along Vulcan’s quaint main drag. A pharmacy, an insurance office, the local tavern and even one abandoned building had been turned into makeshift shrines to Spock. New T-shirts had been designed, and a limited edition poster was produced that pictured a Andy Warhol-like portrait of the pointy-eared first officer of the Enterprise with the caption “Welcome Home.”

Star Trek movie marathons and the original series’ score blasted from the windows of local businesses and the liquor store was enjoying brisk sales of Romulan ale. Vulcan jerky was being sold at the grocery shop and two high school students were dressed up as “sehlats” — bear-like creatures native to Vulcan. Town officials, including Mayor Tom Grant, were decked out in full Star Trek garb.

Nimoy lent a pair of his Vulcan ears and a poster signed by the original cast to the town to display for a year.

Nimoy, who recently announced his retirement from acting, was clearly touched by the attention.

“I’ve never had an experience quite as touching as I’m having here today and I appreciate it,” he said. “I’m just sorry it took me so long to get here.”

For some of the town’s older residents, the visit was indeed a long time coming.

“People thought they were crazy when (officials) started talking about Star Trek and they thought they were really crazy when they built the Trek centre but it’s really been wonderful,” says Betty McFadden, 75, referring to the town’s Starship Enterprise-styled tourism building.

McFadden, who has been in Vulcan since 1952, wandered the main drag with her friend Betty Smith, 80, both wearing the old-school red Star Trek shirts. Both said they hope the town embraces its new Trek-heavy theme.

For Jesse Zelisko, the 15-year-old who donned the elaborate sehlat costume, Star Trek has always been a part of living in Vulcan.

“If you say southern Alberta, people know Vulcan,” says Zelisko. “It’s always been that Star Trek town.”

But while the connection is hardly new, Vulcan got a major push in that direction last year. That was when Nimoy famously got behind the town’s failed bid to hold the premiere of J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek film series reboot. Nimoy, who was the only original cast member to star in the film, read a Calgary Herald news report online that the town had been denied the premiere and decided to lend his support.

“We made some phone calls and one thing led to another,” said Nimoy, in an interview with the Herald prior to the event. “When Paramount got to thinking about it they thought they would show it in Calgary and bus 300 people in Vulcan, which I thought was great. But it just touched me as a very interesting problem that Vulcan couldn’t get a screening of the movie.”

Vulcan has already felt the benefits of Nimoy’s plug. In 2009, it had 23,400 visitors come through town looking for Trekkie adventures. That’s up from 16,800 in 2008. Now endorsed by CBS Television, which owns the licensing rights to Star Trek memorabilia, the town has been able to offer a new line of items at its tourism centre.

It’s working. Eric Anderson, a 28-year-old Trekkie from Regina, said he spent “way too much” money there Friday morning.

“I bought this shirt, and it was cool because they had these limited-edition posters,” he enthused, showing off a new T-shirt design with the words “Spock Beamed Down to Vulcan.”

“I think there’s only 500 available. I bought a Spock bobble-head doll and some knick-knacks . . . I sound like such a dweeb right now.”

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Nepal adoption suspension riles Canadians

April 26, 2010
Nepal Adoption

Nepal Adoption

A group of Canadian couples hopes to convince the federal government to overturn a recommendation last month to suspend all adoptions from Nepal.
Ottawa resident Adrian Gollner and his wife are among 11 couples who had started the process of adopting children in Nepal in the hopes of bringing them to Canada in 2009.
But a February report from the Hague Conference on Private International Law raised concerns of fraudulent adoptions and child trafficking in Nepal. In response, federal agencies called on provinces to suspend adoptions from the South Asian country. The report followed visits from international monitors in the fall of 2009 that found widespread evidence of falsification of records.
That decision left Gollner’s family plans in limbo. He and his wife have a four-year-old biological son, but were hoping to add another child to the family and had tried adopting from China.
But faced with an eight-year wait to go through China’s adoption process, they decided to try Nepal, which in 2008 signed on to the Hague Convention, allowing for international adoptions to fellow convention signatories such as Canada.
Gollner said he and his wife had no intention of obtaining a child illegally, but they were hoping that there might a more nuanced solution than simply banning all adoptions from the country.
“There has been some corruption, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t fully legitimate orphans there who need families and who are indeed very poor,” he said.
Issues involving international adoptions are complex, however, because while the provinces oversee the process, they often take their lead from several federal agencies. Other couples with Gollner’s group are from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec.
It makes it difficult, said Gollner, to know which agency to deal with to get answers, he said.
Verify outstanding adoptions, father asks
Some of the families represented by immigration lawyer  Sas had already been given information about the children they were set to adopt before delays and finally the suspension of the process happened. But Gollner said his family had not advanced that far in the process due to frequent delays.
He said he fears the suspension will become an outright ban, leaving his family with no recourse.
Gollner said he would like to see agents on the ground in Nepal who can determine which of the outstanding adoptions are legitimate or not.
Sas said the government should put in an approval mechanism for families who have already begun the adoption process so that none of their efforts is wasted.
Sas said other countries such as the U.K. and Sweden have done what Gollner suggests and put agents in Nepal to verify the process.
“Other countries have clearly demonstrated that there is a solution available, let’s follow that lead and use that solution to resolve the cases that have already been approved for these families in Canada for 2009,” she said.

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Canadian ePassports to launch in 2012

April 21, 2010


Passport Canada plans to launch an ePassport in 2012, and in the meantime it wants to hear Canadians’ thoughts on the issue  including revised fees.

The new passport will be little changed in appearance but will contain an electronic chip encoded with the bearer’s name, gender, and date and place of birth, as well as a digital portrait of the traveller’s face.

“The use of ePassports will allow Canada to follow international standards in the field of passport security to protect our borders and maintain the ease of international travel that Canadians currently enjoy,” Passport Canada said in a release.

With the launch of the new passport, Canadians will also be able to choose whether they want a passport valid for 10 years or for the current five-year period. Along with the changes will come new fees  a development that requires consultation with Canadians, under the User Fees Act, according to the agency.

Canadians are asked to fill out an online questionnaire on Passport Canada’s website by May 7. The comments will be considered in the development of the new passport and its fees.

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March with no snow first on record

April 16, 2010
no snow vancouver

no snow vancouver

There has never been a March in history when there haven’t been any flakes of snow. Until now.

“There no snow in downtown this March – not even a trace amount recorded,” said David Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada, since record keeping began in 1845. “It’s really astounding!”

This lack of snow beats the previous record of 1898 when trace amounts of snow – less than 0.2 centimetres – were seen downtown at the University of Toronto downtown campus. Normally, March in Toronto means an average of 22 centimetres of snow spread over nine to 10 days.

What makes this particular winter even more astounding, says Phillips, is a snowless November and March. “It seems like winter has been confined to three months instead of the normal six months,” he said, adding that it has snowed only between Dec.1 and Feb. 27 so far.

“Winter came in like a lamb, and went out like a lamb,” Phillips said. “We really didn’t see any lion-like weather.”

There is a chance that some more records will be broken. Toronto has only seen 46.2 centimetres of snow this season compared to the existing record of 47.1 centimetres in the winter of 1952 to 1953. On average, Toronto gets over 127.1 centimetres of snow every year.

This pattern of snowlessness has been echoed across the province. “The snowiest country in the world has got almost no snow in comparison,” Phillips said.

The record breaking pattern is expected to continue into the long weekend. Environment Canada is predicting 23 degrees Celsius on Friday, which would beat the current warmest temperate for April 2 set in 1967 at 20.6 degrees.

“We’ve got many indignant people telling us its to early for an April fool’s day joke, but it really isn’t,” Phillips said. “It’s going to be a spectacular summer-like weekend.”

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Small army to protect Toronto during G20 summit

April 14, 2010

Police forces have entered into an alliance to deal with the threat of violent protest at Toronto’s G20 summit with as many as 10,000 uniformed officers and 1,000 private security guards teaming up to protect world leaders.

Federal contract tenders obtained by The Globe indicate a small army will descend on Canada’s largest city this June, exceeding the estimated 6,000-police-officer presence at Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics [] .

The police security will come at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, although police officials would not confirm deployment numbers. Yet federal contract tenders posted online indicate how things are shaping up.

“For the G8 Summit [in Deerhurst, Ont.] the RCMP/OPP will require approximately 4,000 personnel with duty-related belongings to be transported at different dates, times and locations,” reads a contract tendered for shuttle buses. “For the G20 Summit, the RCMP will require approximately 5,600 personnel with duty-related belongings to be transported at different dates, times and locations.”

Spokeswoman RCMP Sergeant Michele Paradis said yesterday “we won’t ever give out the number,” of police assigned to the Group of 20 meetings, set to be held inside downtown’s Metro Convention Centre on the June 25 weekend, and the Group of Eight meeting that immediately precedes it at the Deerhurst Resort north of the city.

The RCMP-led Integrated Security Unit, to be buttressed by non-Mountie police officers seconded to the ISU, has the responsibility of protecting VIPs. And several specialized police units — SWAT teams, intelligence analysts, motorcade escorts — are expected to fly down from Deerhurst for the Toronto summit.

On top of all that, a new federal “letter of interest” seeks to hire a contractor who can provide airport-style security at various checkpoints.

“The contractor will be required to provide approximately 1,030 security screening personnel to perform pedestrian screening in designated areas,” the letter reads.

The tender doesn’t say where the guards will be stationed, but they are to be outfitted with “Magnetometers,” “walk-through metal detectors,” “X-Ray belt driven scanners” and “hand-held metal detectors.”

Sgt. Paradis, who handles communications for federal police, said “we are going to use private security, and this will be used to augment the security process.” Stressing she would not speak to numbers, she did add that no numbers are set in stone and that the force levels will vary depending on what circumstances and threat levels dictate.

In Pittsburgh, which hosted the G20 last September, 6,000 police and National Guard were called in the assist city police.

In June the overall ranks of security forces could even rival the estimated 15,000 dignitaries and journalists anticipated for the G8/G20 summits. The Toronto Police Service is expected to have much or most of its 5,500-member uniformed force on duty to protect the metropolis that weekend — officers were warned not to book any vacation months ago. “I cannot comment on TPS deployment beyond telling you that … all hands are expected to be on deck to police the entire city,” said City Councillor Adam Vaughan, a member of the police board.

And unspecified numbers of Canadian soldiers and spies will also work behind the scenes to help thousands of police safeguard the meetings. Meanwhile, world leaders like U.S. PresidentBarack Obama [] will also bring added layers of guards of their own.

Publicly available contract tenders for police transport, private security, and communications systems are currently available on the website for those who search the term “G20.”

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