Archive for January, 2019

Lightning bolt knocks off piece of Winnipeg church

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

WINNIPEG – A lightning strike Friday morning knocked off a chunk of the stone bell tower atop Winnipeg’s stately Knox United Church, sending it crashing about 25 metres to the street below.

No one was injured, according to the fire department.

The boulder-like chunk, measuring more than one metre in diameter, slammed down onto the front steps of the church, then caromed into the street, narrowly missing vehicles.

The steps of the historic church were badly damaged.

There was no one inside Knox United at the time of the bizarre incident; however, a day care nearby was evacuated as a precaution.

"A spire came crashing down. Apparently it got hit by lightning and came crashing down," said Pastor Bill Millar of Knox United. "In the end, it’s a building . . . nobody was hurt."

Knox United is one of the city’s oldest places of worship and has been designated a Manitoba heritage site. It was constructed between 1914 and 1918.


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Hundreds of Guatemalans flee deadly volcano

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

Guatemala City – Hundreds of Guatemalans were in shelters Friday after a powerful eruption at the southern Pacaya volcano killed one person and forced the international airport to close.

Ash blanketed the region as rocks and lava spewed for about four hours from the volcano 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the capital, injuring dozens of people. Three children aged seven, nine and 10, were also missing in the area, officials said.

On Friday, the volcano was calm and shrouded in thick fog.

President Alvaro Colom late Thursday issued an emergency decree lasting at least 15 days for the three departments nearest the eruption, which began Wednesday night.

La Aurora International Airport was closed to ensure planes were not flying through the volcano’s hazardous ash cloud or landing on the ash-strewn runway, said spokeswoman Monica Monge. Incoming flights were being diverted to airports in other parts of the country, she told reporters.

Some 1,700 people were evacuated from the slopes of the volcano, which rises 2,552 meters (8,372 feet) above sea level in the tropical Central American nation. They were placed in shelters.

The burnt body of television journalist Anibal Archila was found near the volcano by a colleague, who said the reporter had been unable to escape the raining rocks and other projectiles thrown out in the eruption.

Within a 100-kilometer (62-mile) radius of the volcano, locals armed with brooms and shovels scrambled to remove sand and ash from the roofs and courtyards of their homes.

"We’ve only cleaned the backyard so far and we’ve already filled a large garbage bag," Isabel Estevez told AFP. She and her husband began cleaning the sediment dumped by the volcano, up to five centimeters (two inches) thick in some places.

The Education Ministry also suspended classes in the three departments affected by the emergency decree, which facilitates the allocation of resources and funding to the disaster response.

The head of the national seismological institute, Eddy Sanchez, warned that lava would continue to spew out at high altitudes.

There are 288 volcanoes in Guatemala, eight of which are active.


Layoffs cut into wages, retirement income in Canada

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

OTTAWA – More than half of the Canadians who found a job after a layoff have seen a decrease in their hourly wages, "significantly" affecting their retirement income, a new Statistics Canada report released Friday found.

The study found that Canadians who were laid off in the last two decades were about 60 per cent more likely to suffer a loss of earnings than to experience a gain. Between 2002 and 2006, about 42 per cent experienced a wage loss during that period compared with 26 per cent who experienced a gain, while about a third maintained the same earnings. The same figures were observed between 1993 to 1997.

The Statistics Canada study used data from its Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics from 1993 to 2007, analyzing the effects of layoffs after the economic recession in the early ’90s and the decline in the manufacturing sector in the 2000s.

Wage losses and gains were "generally substantial," the report said, with more than half of the changes in wage exceeding 20 per cent.

While the effects of layoffs during the recent recession remains to be seen, the study’s co-author, Diane Galarneau, said there are many similarities between in those two periods of negative job growth that may apply to this downturn.

"Whether we look at the consequences of the layoffs in the 1990s . . . or the year 2000, the consequences were similar in terms of wage loss, pension coverage and unionization."

The study said the wage losses show that layoffs can have "major negative consequences and affect workers’ standard of living" in the short term, but stresses the effects of losing pension plan coverages are even more significant.

"Employer-sponsored private pension plans are an important component of Canadians’ retirement income," Statistics Canada explained. It said a "sizable portion" of all laid-off workers – 20 per cent – lost their pensions by changing jobs.

The study also noted that laid-off workers were just as likely to be unionized before and after the layoff, suggesting that wage losses experienced by laid-off workers cannot be linked to a shift toward non-unionized positions. They noted, however, that unionized jobs are on average better paid and more likely to provide benefits such as insurance and pension plans.

Of the people who were permanently laid off between 2002 and 2006, about 85 per cent found a new job within a year, compared with about 80 per cent from 1993 to 1997.

The country’s layoff rate for full-time workers declined almost steadily during that same period, dropping to 2.4 per cent in 2007 from 5.5 per cent in the early ’90s.

"This low rate was observed despite the difficulties in the manufacturing sector during the 2000s," it wrote.

Factors including sex, age and education level were "significantly associated" with the probability of being laid off, the report said. In general, men have higher layoff rates than women, they said. Both in 1993 and 2007, men were one and a half times more likely to be laid off.

About 80 per cent of people who were laid off in 2007 were a result of a lack of work, 15 per cent was because their firm went out of business, while 5 per cent of the firms moved.


Aga Khan to launch $300M Islamic centre in Toronto

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

TORONTO – Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Aga Khan will break ground on Friday at the future site of a $300-million cultural centre for Ismaili Muslims.

By 2013, the seven-acre expanse in Toronto’s north end will be home to a world-class museum, a multi-purpose building and parklands.

The museum – to be devoted entirely to Islamic art – will be the first of its kind.

Farid Damji, a member of the Ismaili Council for Canada, said the Aga Khan chose to build the centre in Toronto because of its "cosmopolitan cultural outlook."

Almost half of Canada’s 70,000 Ismailis live in Toronto.

The Aga Khan Museum will be a white-stone building with a low dome by prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki. Directly south, the larger Ismaili Centre Toronto by Mumbai-based architect Charles Correa will strike a similar, modern pose, with a multi-faceted glass roof and a limestone exterior. It will contain meeting rooms, a prayer room, youth lounge and a library. Surrounding these buildings will be a network of geometric ponds, fountains, gardens and pathways.

A billionaire, intellectual, diplomat and tycoon, Shah Karim al-Hussayni – the Aga Khan IV – is revered by Ismaili Muslims as a direct descendant of the prophet Muhammad.

He is perhaps best known for his vast array of philanthropic projects, and as chair of the private Aga Khan Development Network, the Aga Khan directs about 70,000 employees at hundreds of institutions on four continents.

Once a trusted friend of the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau, the Aga Khan has a soft spot for Canada, which he has called "the most pluralistic country on the face of the Earth" and "a beacon to the world."

His project in Toronto will complete a trio of architectural projects in the country, including the Ismaili Centre in Burnaby, B.C., and the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa, inaugurated by Harper and the Aga Khan in 2008.

Ismailism – a branch of Shia Islam – first prospered during the 10th to 12th centuries. Today, the group counts an estimated 15 million members around the globe and is comprised of at least three distinct sects.


Court backs tenants but payment in doubt

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

After winning their two-year legal fight, low-income former tenants of an East Vancouver apartment building doubt they’ll ever get the landlord to pay the 170,000 in damages he owes them.

Tenants at 2131 Pandora St. were given only a few hours to move out after heavy rains caused floods in mid-October 2007.

On Wednesday, a B.C. Supreme Court judge upheld the Residential Tenancy Branch decision last year to compensate 36 tenants.

The three-storey woodframe building is owned by landlord Gurdyal Sahota, who also owns a number of Downtown Eastside hotels, such as the Astoria, Balmoral and Cobalt.

“I would like them to do the right thing and pay us what they owe us,” said Roberta Dixon, a Pandora tenant for 10 years, who had water leaking into her suite for six of them.

Dixon lost all her belongings when she had to evacuate the building.

“It was a disaster,” said her longtime roommate Frank Sowers.

The leak started with a hole in the ceiling the size of a finger, he said.

“At the end, it was coming through the chandeliers.”

They’re both now living in a B.C. Housing complex.

“They should be man enough to pay their debts,” said Sowers.

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The tenants’ lawyer, Sarah Khan of the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said the judge found Sahota showed

reckless disregard” for the tenants.

“It’s the largest damage award that has been ordered for a group of tenants in these circumstances,” said Khan, speaking Thursday at the centre’s Vancouver office.

“This sends a really good, loud-and-clear message to landlords to take care of their buildings and not let them fall into such a state of disrepair.”

Sahota’s lawyer, Derek Creighton, said he’s disappointed with the ruling and doesn’t yet know if it will be appealed.

“They haven’t advised me as to whether they intend to appeal it,” he said.

“The Sahotas will abide by the orders of the lower court, if they don’t appeal.”

Sahota is currently suing an insurance company for nonpayment of the repair costs, estimated at $1 million. The building remains closed.

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