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What happened last week in Canada?

Citizenship oath ruled constitutional 

On Friday, an Ontario Superior Court ruled the Canadian citizenship oath to the Queen constitutional, despite being a violation of the right to free speech. The ruling comes after three permanent residents challenged the law that requires new citizens to take the oath, saying that they oppose the monarchy on religious or moral grounds.

The judge acknowledged that requiring the oath violates freedom of expression, but that section one of the charter allows for it on the grounds that this form of compelled speech is a “reasonable limit” to the right of expression. He said the complainants’ opposition to the oath is based on a literal understanding of the text.

“Once the Queen is understood […] as an equality-protecting Canadian institution rather than as an aristocratic English overlord, the denial of a charter freedom is reasonable,” Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan said in the ruling.

A lawyer representing the complainants told The Globe and Mail that he would urge his clients to appeal the ruling.


Ottawa crash raises concern over black-box rules

A bus crash in Ottawa that killed six last Wednesday has raised concerns over the lack of standard data-recording rules for buses. Unlike trains, which are required by Transport Canada to use a black box to record data, buses are not subject to recording standards.

The discussion stems from conflicting accounts of the events surrounding the crash, which involved the collision of the bus with a Via Rail train. Some eyewitnesses say the bus did not slow down, while others say the driver attempted to brake twice.

The train’s black box has already been retrieved and sent for analysis. In a locomotive, the recorder captures specific data known to specialists. However, the programming and information captured by bus’ black boxes vary by manufacturer and sometimes even by model.

Dr. Robert McElroy, a U.S. transportation safety advocate and accident reconstructionist, told CBC that implementing standards for recording devices on vehicles would give analysts more information to determine the causes of accidents and ways they can be prevented in the future.


Rona Ambrose speaks out against own department’s decision

Health Minister Rona Ambrose has publically criticized her own department’s decision to amend a special access program in order to provide heroin to addicts in exceptional cases.

Ambrose told The Canadian Press that other methods used to treat drug addiction, such as methadone, are effective, and that providing addicts with heroin is contrary to the ‘spirit and intent’ of the program and goes against the federal government’s anti-drug policy.

“The special access program was designed to treat unusual cases and medical emergencies; it was not intended as a way to give illicit drugs to drug addicts,” Ambrose said in a public statement on Friday.

According to The Canadian Press, it is unclear whether Ambrose intends to act against the current decision, or merely to prevent similar decisions from occurring in the future.

New Democratic Party (NDP) MP Libby Davies spoke out in favour of the program.

“Medicalized heroin maintenance has been used very successfully and in places like Europe is seen as part of treatment,” Davies said. “[This is] another example of the Conservative government ignoring sound public policy, driven by expert advice, and instead making decisions based on political dogma.”


B.C. cheese farm causes E. coli outbreak

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is investigating an E. coli outbreak that has been linked to the death of an elderly woman. The outbreak has been traced to Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm in Salmon Arm, B.C.

The CFIA has recalled 15 types of raw-milk cheese products manufactured at Gort’s which were sold online and in locations throughout B.C. and Alberta between May 27 to Sept. 14. In addition to one death, the Public Health Agency of Canada has confirmed that 12 other people have fallen ill—four from B.C. and eight from Alberta.

E. coli is a bacteria that can cause food poisoning, kidney failure, and—in rare cases—death. Kathy Wikkerink, owner of the farm since 2007, apologized for the outbreak in an interview with The Vancouver Sun.

“We are so sorry and we are trying to get to the source of the E. coli, but we don’t know the source and we don’t know what happened,” she said.


Coca-Cola cancels campaign

Coca-Cola’s new Canadian marketing campaign was cancelled following an incident in an Edmonton restaurant where a customer discovered the words “you retard” under his Vitaminwater bottle cap. The campaign paired randomly generated English and French words under bottle caps.

Shannon Denny, Brand Communications Director for Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada, explained that the bottle caps were made with the intention that consumers could collect them and form entertaining sentences. However, the English and French words were approved separately, so in this case “retard” was meant to be understood in its French definition as “late.”

“We were really, really shocked. [We] didn’t know if this were a joke,” said Blake Loates, the wife of the customer who discovered the offensive phrase.

Loates, who has a sister who has cerebral palsy and autism, told The Vancouver Sun that her father was “appalled and hurt” when she told him about the incident, and that he wrote a letter to Coca-Cola explaining Loates’ sister’s story.

Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada will be destroying all bottles of Vitaminwater with words printed on the caps.

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