Ongoing political impasse hampering Ivorian peace process – UN envoy

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“This political stalemate is hardly encouraging,” Y. J. Choi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire, told the Security Council as he briefed the 15-member body on the latest developments.“Indeed, during the eight years since the outbreak of the crisis, perennial delays in implementing the various peace agreements have been a source of deep frustration for the Ivorian people as well as the international community,” he stated.“It is all the more so since the elections appeared to be within our grasp until several months ago.”Côte d’Ivoire, which became split by civil war in 2002 into a rebel-held north and Government-controlled south, was making progress toward the holding of elections – which were supposed to have been held as far back as 2005 but have been repeatedly postponed. The country witnessed the publication of the provisional electoral list throughout the country, the launch of the appeals process, and the validation of all major candidates for the presidential election. The political impasse began in early January after the production of the second electoral list. Political tensions began to mount after voter registration was suspended due to violence and President Laurent Gbagbo dissolved the Government and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in February. Despite the establishment of a new Government and Electoral Commission since then, the electoral process remains stalled as the differences on how to address the issue of fraud and resume the interrupted appeals process on the provisional voters list persists.“The events of February and March 2010 have demonstrated that the continuing failure to hold elections in Côte d’Ivoire and materialize the reunification of the country contributes to heightening tensions and hampers constitutional, political, economic and social normalization,” said Mr. Choi.He noted that the reason for the impasse is that the three major protagonists of the crisis are now dealing with their core interest – the presidential camp wants reunification before elections; the opposition wants elections before reunification; and the rebel Forces Nouvelles wants identification before reunification. As agreed by the parties in 2008, a de facto reunification is to be completed two months prior to the presidential election.Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a recent report, noted that the lack of progress in resolving the impasse has led some to start questioning the relevance of the framework of the Ouagadougou Peace Agreements, the 2007 blueprint for political reconciliation forged in the capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso.He warned that any unravelling of the Ouagadougou framework would be a cause for serious concern, noting that there is currently no alternative framework to these agreements. Mr. Ban also recommended maintaining the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) until the end of the year – with the same current total strength of its military and police components – “in order to give Côte d’Ivoire a chance to walk the final mile to the elections with the full support of the United Nations.” If the Council approves such an extension, Mr. Ban also suggested an adjustment of the mission’s mandate to allow it to focus on helping the parties to implement the remaining priority tasks, including those related to elections, disarmament and all aspects of the reunification of the country.Last week the Council extend UNOCI until 30 June, as it continues to consider possible revisions to the mission’s mandate.Mr. Choi noted that, in the meantime, the mission will maintain three priority objectives for the immediate future: maintaining peace and stability in the country, including the protection of civilians; safeguarding past achievements, in both the elections and reunification domains; and helping to establish the definitive electoral list as expeditiously as possible. 3 June 2010The ongoing political impasse in Côte d’Ivoire contributes to heightened tensions and hampers efforts to normalize the situation in the West African nation, which has been trying for eight years to overcome the crisis that split the country, a senior United Nations official said today. read more

UN team calls for end to systematic rights violations by Israel in

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18 June 2010A three-member United Nations body has called for an end to human rights violations by Israel in the occupied territories of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Syrian Golan Heights, after hearing from dozens of witnesses during a recent visit to the region. “The testimonies that we have heard attest to a failure to address the long-standing pattern of serious violations of human rights,” said Ambassador Palitha Kohona of Sri Lanka, who serves as Chairman of the UN Special Committee on Israeli Practices in the Occupied Territories.“Victims of the systematic and often arbitrary restrictions on human rights and basic freedoms have the right to see justice prevail,” he added. “Violations must cease.”Mr. Kohona’s comments came at the end of a 13-day fact-finding visit to Cairo, Amman and Damascus, during which the Committee heard from witnesses from across the occupied Palestinian territory and the occupied Syrian Golan, recounting their first-hand experiences of life under occupation.Witnesses from Gaza stressed the urgency to put an end to the deliberate assaults on the civilian population, according to a news release issued in Damascus.They spoke about not being able to reconstruct homes and schools destroyed during Israel’s 2009 military offensive, due to the three-year-old blockade imposed against Gaza, as well as the alarming situation of the water and sanitation systems, which has serious implications for the health of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents.Testimonies from the West Bank highlighted issues of forced displacement, settler violence, home demolitions and evictions, notably in East Jerusalem, and the targeting of peaceful activists.The Committee also heard about discriminatory policies relating to, among others, the continuing violations of the right to freedom of movement resulting from the Gaza blockade, the separation barrier, checkpoints, roadblocks and other physical obstacles; restricted access to education, health and water resources; and the treatment of prisoners, including over 300 children, held in Israeli jails.Regarding the occupied Syrian Golan, testimonies highlighted settlement building and problems in the fields of education and health, which witnesses and officials said were aimed at altering the Syrian Arab identity of the population under occupation.The Committee also heard about an unequal and discriminatory distribution of water between Israeli settlers and Syrian inhabitants, as well as the ongoing threat resulting from Israel’s failure to clear landmines in the area, and the ill-treatment of prisoners from the Golan held in Israeli jails.Members of the Committee, which also include Ambassador Hamidon Ali of Malaysia and Momar Gueye from the Permanent Mission of Senegal to the UN in Geneva, also met with the Foreign Ministers of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, during their visit.The Committee will present its report to the General Assembly, which set up the body in 1968, in November with its observations and recommendations to improve the human rights situation for those living under the occupation. read more

Israel must take urgent steps to solve conflict Palestinian leader tells UN

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25 September 2010Israel must stop all settlement activities, dismantle the barrier and end its “policy of blockade and closures” before a lasting Middle East peace agreement can be reached, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told the General Assembly as he pledged to nevertheless exert every effort to achieve such a deal within the next year. Israel must stop all settlement activities, dismantle the barrier and end its “policy of blockade and closures” before a lasting Middle East peace agreement can be reached, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told the General Assembly as he pledged to nevertheless exert every effort to achieve such a deal within the next year.Speaking on the third day of the Assembly’s high-level debate, Mr. Abbas, the President of the Palestinian National Authority, said his people continued to suffer as a result of “the mentality of expansion and domination, which still controls the ideology and policies of Israel, the occupying Power.”Mr. Abbas said Israel was deliberately distorting the religious, spiritual and historical identity of the city of Jerusalem; engaged in “an unjust and unprecedented blockade by land, air and sea” of the Gaza Strip”; imprisoned thousands of Palestinians in jails and detention centres; expanded settlements, particularly in and around East Jerusalem; established “the annexation apartheid wall”; and maintained checkpoints and closures that restricted the daily lives of Palestinians.He said these actions, often in breach of General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, were undermining the basic human rights of the Palestinians.But he said that because of Palestinians’ “genuine desire to realizing a future of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region, we have decided to enter into final status negotiations.”Mr. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu entered direct negotiations earlier this month – after 17 months of proximity talks – when they came together in Washington D.C. under the auspices of the United States.“We will exert every effort to reach an agreement for Palestinian-Israeli peace within one year, in accordance with resolutions of international legitimacy, the Arab Peace Initiative, the Roadmap and the vision of the two-State solution,” Mr. Abbas said.He urged the international community to draw lessons from the failures of past attempts to resolve the Middle East conflict, and said the peace process would only be credible when Israel took key steps, such as stopping all settlement activities and dismantling the barrier.“Our demands for the cessation of settlement activities, the lifting of the siege and an end to all other Israeli policies and practices do not constitute arbitrary pre-conditions in the peace process, but are consistent with the implementation of obligations and previous commitments, compliance with which has been repeatedly reaffirmed in all resolutions adopted since the very start of the political process.” read more

UN antiracism committee urges UK to suspend eviction of Gypsy families

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“We call on the Government to suspend the planned eviction, which would disproportionately affect the lives of the Gypsy and Traveller families, particularly women, children and older people,” said members of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in a statement responding to the decision to evict the families from Dale Farm in Essex. “We urge the authorities to find a peaceful and appropriate solution, including identifying culturally appropriate accommodation, with full respect for the rights of the families involved,” they said. The Dale Farm issue had been extensively discussed with the UK delegation during the course of the Committee’s review of the country’s combined 18th, 19th and 20th reports of compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In March last year, the Committee sent a letter to the UK under its Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure on the matter, expressing its concern, seeking clarification and calling for protection of the human rights of the families. The Committee said the evictions may be in breach of the Convention’s provisions and are inconsistent with the Committee’s General Recommendation No. 27 (2000) on Discrimination against Roma. “Travellers and Gypsies already face considerable discrimination and hostility in wider society and the Committee is deeply concerned that this could be worsened by actions taken by authorities in the current situation and by some media reporting of the issues,” the Committee added. 2 September 2011The United Nations committee tasked with combating racial discrimination today voiced deep regret at the insistence by United Kingdom authorities that Gypsy and Irish Traveller families in the county of Essex will be evicted with no culturally appropriate alternative accommodation provided to them. read more

Home ownership getting less affordable in Canada

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TORONTO — RBC says home ownership was less affordable in most major Canadian cities during the first quarter, although Calgary and Edmonton bucked the trend.The latest RBC Economics report on home affordability says its index deteriorated sharply in Vancouver and to a lesser degree in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa — primarily due to higher real-estate prices.But the bank’s affordability index was unchanged in Calgary and improved in Edmonton compared with the fourth quarter of 2011. [np-related]The report tracks how much of a home owner’s income would be required to pay typical costs associated with owning a standard one-storey detached house.In Vancouver, RBC estimates the combined cost of mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes rose 3.1 percentage points to 88.9%.In Calgary, by contrast, only about 36.7% of pre-tax income would be required to pay for a standard bungalow — unchanged from the previous study — and in Edmonton the index improved by 0.4 percentage point to 32.4%.In Toronto, the index deteriorated by 1.2 percentage points to 53.4%; in Montreal, the cost of ownership increased 1.2 percentage points to 41.4% of income and in Ottawa it was up 0.9% to 41.8%.“It became a little tougher on household budgets to carry the costs of owning a home at market prices at the start of this year,” said Craig Wright, RBC’s chief economist said in a statement Tuesday.“Strong buyer demand was a principal driver of the modest rise in homeownership costs. While the deterioration in affordability was felt to varying degrees across the country, it was mild in most cases.”He said the challenge will likely increase once the Bank of Canada begins raising interest rates.“Exceptionally low interest rates have been the key force in keeping affordability from hitting dangerous levels in Canada in recent years,” Wright said.“Affordability headwinds are likely to increase next year, as interest rates make their way towards more normal levels.”He said RBC expects Canada’s central bank will hike rates gradually, starting in the fourth quarter.“A gradual pace of increases will allow income growth to provide some offset,” he said.Andrew Barr/National Post read more

Closing Bell TSX closes lower after World Bank cuts global growth forecast

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TORONTO — The Toronto stock market closed lower Wednesday with traders focusing on global economic conditions in the wake of a cut in the World Bank’s global growth forecast for this year and the latest take on the U.S. economy by the Federal Reserve.Here are the closing numbersTSX — 12,608.82 -33.15 -0.3%S&P 500 — 1,472.63 +0.29 +0.0%Dow — 13,511.23 -23.66 -0.2%Nasdaq — 3,117.54 6.77 +0.2%The S&P/TSX composite index lost 33.15 points to 12,608.82 while the TSX Venture Exchange slipped 1.59 points to 1,230.2.The Canadian dollar was down 0.21 of a cent to 101.41 cents US.U.S. indexes were mixed with the Dow Jones industrials down 23.66 points to 13,511.23 amid more problems for aircraft maker Boeing.Boeing stock fell 3.38% to US$74.34 as Japan’s two biggest airlines grounded all their Boeing 787 aircraft for safety checks after one was forced to make an emergency landing in the latest blow for the new jet.The 787, known as the Dreamliner, is Boeing’s newest and most technologically advanced jet. But since its launch, which came after delays of more than three years, the plane has been plagued by a string of problems, including battery and fuel-leak problems.The Nasdaq edged up 6.76 points to 3,117.54 while the S&P 500 index added 0.29 of a point to 1,472.63.The Fed says 12 of its regional banking districts reported “modest or moderate” growth in the final weeks of 2012.But the Fed also reported that employers in some parts of the country delayed hiring because of uncertainty over the fiscal cliff. Congress and the White House reached a deal on taxes on Jan. 1, but put off decisions on government spending cuts.Now, there is increasing nervousness about a fight brewing in Washington over raising the U.S. debt ceiling so that the government can keep borrowing money to pay its bills. The U.S. Treasury says it will run out of money to pay all the government’s obligations sometime in February or March if Congress doesn’t raise the current $16.4 trillion limit on borrowing.Markets were already lacklustre after the World Bank on Tuesday projected that the global economy will expand by 2.4% in 2013, down from a forecast of 3% growth in June.“Overall, the global economic environment remains fragile and prone to further disappointment, although the balance of risks is now less skewed to the downside than it has been in recent years,” the World Bank said in its twice-yearly report.The base metals component led TSX decliners, down 1.62% as the World Bank report raised demand concerns, pushing March copper on the New York Mercantile Exchange down three cents to US$3.61 a pound.Sid Mokhtari, market technician at CIBC World Markets, noted that the report would not have come as a complete surprise to markets.“We have to assume that the market tends to price a lot of stuff in ahead of time so by the time it gets published by the World Bank, you would think the majority of those assumptions were priced in,” he said.“Having said that, the dominant behaviour of the commodities are still on the weaker side. We have to see better data out of China, which has been the case (recently) and maybe another round of better sentiment out of Europe.”Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) shed 69 cents to C$36.28.Oil prices were off the lows of the morning as data showed an unexpected drop in U.S. inventories last week. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said crude supplies declined by one million barrels last week. Analysts polled by Platts expected a 2.5-million-barrel climb.Energy prices also found lift after Islamist militants attacked and occupied a natural gas complex partly operated by energy company BP in southern Algeria.February crude was up 96 cents at US$94.24 a barrel and the energy sector was down 0.35%. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) gave back 35 cents to C$28.74.The gold sector was off about 0.4% while February bullion declined 70 cents to US$1,683.20 an ounce. Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) faded 34 cents to C$33.69.The TSX tech sector advanced after Research In Motion (TSX:RIM) said the Visa credit card system has approved the smartphone company’s method for handling secure mobile payments. The green light from Visa is a step towards offering global support for any device equipped with the BlackBerry maker’s mobile payments technology and its shares were up 28 cents or 1.96% higher at $14.55.In other corporate news, Canadian autoparts giant Magna International Inc. (TSX:MG) says it expects between US$31.3 billion and US$32.7 billion of sales globally this year. About half of the 2013 total will come from the sale of parts to North American manufacturing operations.Its stock added 96 cents to C$52.14.Meanwhile, there was good news from the American banking sector.JPMorgan Chase, the country’s biggest bank by assets, says its fourth-quarter earnings shot up 55% over the year to US$5.3 billion or $1.40 a share, far above the $1.16 per share expected by analysts. The stock erased early losses and turned up 47 cents to US$46.82.Goldman Sachs ran ahead $5.50 to US$141.09 after the U.S. investment bank reported that fourth-quarter net income nearly tripled to US$2.89 billion or $5.60 a share, much higher than the $3.71 that analysts had expected. Net revenue of $9.24 billion beat expectations of $7.98 billion.Here’s the news investors were watching today:World Bank cuts growth forecasts as developed nations lose steamApple’s iPhone business is going to be dead in the water, say Pacific Crest analystsGoldman earnings almost triple on stock gains, dealmaking and pay cutsRIM jumps after upgrade and Visa mobile approvalON DECK THURSDAYTalisman Energy releases 2013 outlook ECONOMIC NEWSCANADA8:30 a.m.Foreign securities sales (Nov): Economists expect $10-billion in sales, down from last month UNITED STATES8:30 a.m.Housing starts: Economists expect 3.3% rise from month before Building permits: Economists expect 0.5% rise Weekly jobless claims: Economists expect 368,000 new claims, down from last month 10 a.m.Philly Fed index: Economists expect reading of 6, down from last month CORPORATE NEWSUNITED STATESAmerican Express Q4 earnings: Analysts expect US$1.06 a share Bank of America Corp Q4 earnings: Analysts expect 2¢ a share Citigroup Q4 earnings: Analysts expect 97¢ a share Capital One Financial Corp Q4 earnings: Analysts expect US$1.61 a share Intel Corp Q4 earnings: Analysts expect 45¢ a share BlackRock Inc Q4 earnings: Analysts expect US$3.69 a share read more

Brace yourself This is how much it will cost you to put

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MONTREAL — The cost of a four-year university degree for a child born in 2013 could rise to more than $140,000 due to tuition inflation, a new study says.But three-quarters of parents with children under 18 haven’t made a detailed estimate of the total cost of post-secondary education, said BMO’s Wealth Institute in a report released on Wednesday.Tuition and other costs for a four-year university degree now can cost more than $60,000, the report said.“I think that for most people if you tell them that tuition has increased two or three times the rate of inflation they will be surprised at that,” said BMO’s Caroline Dabu.This can leave parents unprepared for the costs and students with hefty loans to pay back when they graduate, Dabu said from Toronto.Over the last five years, the average annual inflation rate has been 1.6% while tuition inflation was 3.9%, the bank said.It also noted that at the beginning of the 1990s, average undergraduate tuition fees in Canada were $1,464 and they’ve risen more than three-fold to $5,581.Parents often see college or university as a long way off for their children, said Dabu, vice-president and head of BMO’s wealth planning group.“The top mistake is not starting early enough.”The report also found that 83% of parents expect to pay for their child’s college or university costs, with 44% expecting their child will also contribute.“Let them know you’re saving for their education and have them involved in how you’re saving,” Dabu said.If students have a part-time job, parents could have a portion of earnings go toward post-secondary education to help them understand budgeting, she added.Only half of parents have set up a registered education savings plan (RESP), said the inaugural report by the bank’s newly created Wealth Institute, called: “Student Tuition and Debt on the Rise: RESP’s and Beyond.”The report also found that only 34% of parents were taking full advantage of the available government grant for RESPs.The BMO report also recommends parents consider using tax free savings accounts, trusts, corporate dividends and life insurance policies to help pay for post-secondary education.“The advice we give to clients is very similar as to what we give around retirement, and that is to start saving as soon as possible,” Dabu said. read more

Closing Bell TSX closes sharply lower amid falling commodity prices

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TORONTO — The Toronto stock market sold off Friday as concerns about the strength of the world’s biggest economy raised demand worries and helped send oil and metal prices tumbling.The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 143.79 points to 12,337.59.Falling commodities helped push the Canadian dollar down 0.3 of a cent to 98.64 cents US.U.S. indexes recouped most of earlier losses resulting from earnings disappointments from banks and a reading on March retail sales that missed expectations.The Dow Jones industrials dipped 0.08 of a point to 14,865.06 as U.S. retail sales for March were down 0.4%. Economists had expected a flat reading following a 1.1% rise in February.The weak showing indicated that higher taxes and weak hiring have made consumers more cautious about spending.An increase in Social Security taxes, which kicked in on Jan. 1, has lowered take-home pay this year for nearly all workers. Someone earning $50,000 has about $1,000 less to spend in 2013.“I had been a little puzzled as to why the markets haven’t been paying more attention to this story because it’s a very big dollar item,” said Robert Gorman, chief portfolio strategist at TD Waterhouse.“Increased payroll taxes (are) coming off the bottom line for most people, and they’re having to make choices and so, things… that you can defer are being deferred.”The Nasdaq composite index declined 5.21 points to 3,294.95 while the S&P 500 index was down 4.52 points to 1,588.85.Gains this week have pushed the Dow industrials and the S&P 500 index further into record territory. However, traders wonder if the rally, which has gone on non-stop all year, is looking a bit stretched.The TSX is now back in negative territory for the year, down flat for the week and with a decline of 0.77% for the year so far.The Dow industrials finished the week up 2.05%, or about 13% year to date and the S&P is ahead about 11% so far in 2013.But analysts think the TSX faces greater challenges since it is so weighted in favour of energy and mining companies.Those sectors put in a weak showing Friday as prices for commodities further declined in the wake of the weak U.S. retail data.The gold sector led decliners, down about six% as June bullion fell $63.50 to US$1,501.40 an ounce.Gold has fallen this week by almost five% after Goldman Sachs dropped its forecast for 2013 to US$1,545 an ounce, down from a prior forecast of $1,610. Also, minutes of the latest Federal Reserve meeting showed members were at odds about when to stop quantitative easing.The program, involving printing more money to buy bonds, has had a depressive effect on the U.S. dollar in the past and helped hike gold prices since bullion is seen as an inflation hedge.“Without an immediate crisis and with risk of a financial meltdown fading, the haven component of gold pricing continues to erode, while a slow global economy and falling commodity prices reduce the need for an inflation hedge,” said Colin Cieszynski, market analyst at CMC Markets Canada.Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) gave back $1.44 to C$30.77.Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX) faded $2.06 or 8.24% to $22.94. Barrick shares have been under particularly selling pressure this week, tumbling nine% on Wednesday after a Chilean court suspended its Pascua-Lama mine after indigenous communities complained that the project is threatening their water supply and polluting glaciers.The energy sector fell 1.95% as May crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange dropped $2.22 to US$91.29 a barrel.Oil continued to lose traction after the International Energy Agency lowered its forecast for global oil demand in 2013 by 45,000 barrels to 90.6 million barrels a day. Its predictions were similar to those made earlier this week by OPEC and the U.S. Energy Department. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) shed $1.21 to C$31.28 while Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE) fell 51 cents to $30.43.May copper stepped back eight cents to US$3.33 a pound and the base metals sector declined 2.92%. Rio Alto Mining (TSX:RIO) was down 27 cents at C$4.33 and Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) dropped 56 cents to $28.14.Weakness spread across all TSX sectors with the tech sector down one% as CGI Group (TSX:GIB.A) down 95 cents to $26.19.Shares in BlackBerry (TSX:BB) edged three cents higher to $13.85 after the smartphone maker said it will file a formal complaint with Canadian and U.S. securities regulators about a “false and misleading” analyst report that the BlackBerry Z10 touchscreen devices are being returned in unusually high numbers. The Canadian company and U.S. carrier Verizon Wireless are disputing the report.Traders also got their first look at earnings from American banks in the first quarter.Shares in JPMorgan Chase were down 30 cents to US$49.01 as the bank made US$6.1 billion in the quarter, after stripping out payments to preferred shareholders. That was up 34% from a year ago and amounted to $1.59 per share, 20 cents better than forecast.Revenue was down three% from a year ago to $25.8 billion, after stripping out the effect of an accounting charge. That beat analysts’ estimates of $25.7 billion.The TSX Venture Exchange lost 25.92 points to 1,022.61. read more

Many small businesses arent ready for July 1 start to spam regulations

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Most small business owners aren’t ready for a new anti-spam law that will restrict how they communicate electronically with clients and prospects after July 1, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said last week.“I think this is going to be a pretty heavy-handed legislation and it’s going to take a lot of time before many small businesses are even aware that they have some obligations under this legislation and the regulations that go along with it,” CFIB vice-president Corinne Pohlmann said.In three weeks, businesses will be required to obtain consent for sending “commercial electronic messages” to clients or prospective customers. Specific information such as a mailing address and name of the business sending the message will have to be included in many cases, as well as an easy way for the receiver to unsubscribe from an electronic mailing list.The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication’s Commission’s chief compliance and enforcement officer, Manon Bombardier, said last month that the CRTC doesn’t have the resources to police all infractions and it will focus on the most severe violations. The government’s website — http://fightspam.gc.ca — will also have tools for reporting spam.Responses to complaints will range from written warnings to court actions and financial penalties ranging up to $1-million per violation for individuals and up to $10-million for a company.Ms. Pohlmann says an entrepreneur starting a new business or a renovation contractor, for example, would have to take several precautions before sending a customer reference by email and, even if all the required information is included, won’t be allowed to send any more electronic messages unless the prospect gives consent.“We would have liked to have been able to allow them to email more than once, because not everybody reads it the first time,” Ms. Pohlmann said.“I think that’s one of the detrimental side-effects of this entire thing that could eventually drive people to less productive means of reaching out to new potential clients than otherwise would have been.”She said business owners won’t realize they will need the consent even of current clients before sending commercial electronic messages and that they should keep a record of the consents they receive. “The safest thing to do is to get express consent one more time prior to July 1,” she said.What’s now referred to as Canada’s Anti Spam Law, or CASL, was originally announced as a way to deter the most dangerous types of unsolicited electronic messages, such as fraudulent marketing and dangerous software that can be transmitted by email attachments or Internet links contained in the message itself.Although there were months of consultation by the CRTC before it published regulations in 2012 and the agency has provided extensive online documents about how they may be interpreted, Ms. Pohlmann said the CFIB is working with the CRTC to provide simplified explanations appropriate to smaller businesses.“Our concern is those little businesses that probably only email on a sporadic basis don’t even realize that this is something that they’re not supposed to be doing,” she said.It’s still not altogether clear what will be acceptable proof of consent, she added. “I suspect there’s still a lot of blurry edges that will only, over time, become clearer as people challenge what that’s all about.”Emails are one type of commercial electronic messages but the law also covers other forms of communications, such as automated software updates and text messages sent by mobile phone. So it has been a challenge for the federal agencies to come up with regulations that meet intent of the anti-spam law without disrupting electronic commerce.“I suspect for the first year or two, the focus will be on the larger firms. Then, once that’s done, it will be more on the smaller firms,” Ms. Pohlmann said. read more

NetflixCRTC standoff is chance to open Canadian TV system finds Fraser Institute

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VANCOUVER — A new Fraser Institute paper suggests that the recent stand-off between Netflix and the CRTC provides an opportunity for the government to dismantle barriers that prevent open competition in Canadian television broadcasting.A senior fellow with the Fraser Institute, Steven Globerman, says existing regulatory and legal barriers could be dismantled to relieve conventional broadcasters, cable and satellite companies of their Canadian content obligations.He also advocates lifting restrictions on foreign ownership of Canadian broadcasters to allow for takeovers by more efficient businesses and suggests that Canadian cultural programming requirements should be left to the CBC-Radio Canada.CRTC vs. Netflix: The disruptive power of the InternetCRTC to ignore Netflix, Google submissions after both companies defy order to hand over informationHow the CRTC is interfering with its own mandate in its Netflix battleThe Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications is in the final stages of a major review of its policy framework for the television industry.Netflix and Google refused to release some information demanded by the CRTC last month during two weeks of hearings on the future of television and the commission responded by saying it would remove their presentations from the public record.The regulator had ordered Netflix to provide confidential information related to its business operations in Canada, including the number of Canadian subscribers and how much money it spent producing Canadian video content.It had also asked Google to spell out the amount of content uploaded by Canadian users of its service, by how much it expected its advertising to grow and what advertising revenues it generated in Canada.Both Netflix and Google had appeared voluntarily before the commission but said they had concerns about whether the information could be kept secret.Netflix also questioned the authority of the regulator to impose demands on it, suggesting that the video streaming service did not fall under the Broadcasting Act since it is not a conventional broadcaster.Globerman writes that it could be up to the courts to decide whether the Broadcasting Act applies to Netflix but suggests that “serious consideration” be given to the option of of dismantling the existing regulatory and legal barriers to open competition.Globerman writes in his analysis for the Fraser Institute that Canada’s conventional broadcasts “have a legitimate complaint that meeting the regulation imposed on them, but not imposed on Internet broadcasters, puts them at a competitive disadvantage, and the asymmetry invites the possibility of inefficient competition.”“The preferred policy option in this context is to deregulate the conventional broadcasting sector,” Globerman writes.“In particular, Canadian content rules should be eliminated along with requirements that cable and satellite distributors carry a preponderance of Canadian programs. Foreign ownership restrictions in broadcasting should be eliminated, which would expose existing broadcast distributors to the threat of unwanted takeovers by more efficient foreign companies. The latter initiative would further increase de facto competition in the broadcast industry.”Globerman is a business professor at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., about 90 kilometres south of Vancouver, where the Fraser Institute has its headquarters. The think-tank describes itself as an independent, non-partisan policy group but frequently publishes articles that advocate reduced government regulation and increased competition. read more

Canadian dollar is sinking before Janet Yellen even takes the stand

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TORONTO — The Canadian dollar was lower Tuesday as the American currency strengthened ahead of the first of two days of testimony from U.S. Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen. The loonie declined 0.4 of a U.S. cent 79.12 cents US.Yellen will update Congress on the economy and monetary policy. Traders also looked for any indication of when the central bank might move on raising interest rates. There has been much speculation the bank could move on rates as early as June.Stephen Poloz will also speak today at 2 p.m. and if trader perceive a dovish tone from the Bank of Canada Governor it could push the loonie down further.Has the Canadian dollar’s unprecedented crash hit bottom? David Rosenberg thinks soTumbling Canadian dollar? Blame the economy, not the Bank of Canada, says Stephen PolozOn the economic calendar, investors were set to digest the latest reading on American consumer confidence. The U.S. Conference Board’s index is expected to step back to 99 versus 102.9 last month.Oil prices ticked higher after four days of losses triggered by data last week showing significant buildups in U.S. crude inventories to 80-year highs. On Tuesday, the April crude contract gained 21 cents to US$49.66 a barrel.Metals were mixed with March copper up three cents to US$2.63 a pound while April gold faded $1.90 to Us$1,198.90 an ounce.Meanwhile, Greece’s left-wing government will deliver a list of reforms Tuesday to debt inspectors for final approval of extended rescue loans. Greece and its bailout creditors reached a tentative agreement last week to extend a rescue loan program by four months to avoid the risk of a Greek default and exit from the euro currency. The reforms are expected to include tax evasion curbs, corruption, smuggling and excessive bureaucracy as well as poverty caused by a six-year recession. read more

Markets update at midmorning

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On the markets at midmorning (ET):The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 120.35 points to 15,153.73, after 90 minutes of trading.In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 154.13 points to 22,012.45. The S&P 500 index was up 25.93 points to 2,467.25 and the Nasdaq composite index was up 78.78 points to 6,335.34.The Canadian dollar was trading at 78.76 cents US, down from Friday’s average price of 78.83 cents US.The September crude contract was up 26 cents to US$49.08 per barrel and the September natural gas contract was down four cents to US$2.94 per mmBTU.The December gold contract was down $6.30 to US$1,281.40 an ounce and the September copper contract was down one cent to US$2.91 a pound. read more

SLFP admits party split as some back the UNP

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However he noted that there are now several SLFP-UNPers in the Government as they are backing UNP policies. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) today admitted that there is a split in the party as some members are now supporting the United National Party (UNP).SLFP member and United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Parliamentarian Dullas Alahapperuma said that those who are supporting former President Mahinda Rajapaksa are not attempting to divide the SLFP. Addressing a media briefing in Colombo today, Alahapperuma said that a mass rally held in Matara last week was not held with the intention of creating a split in the SLFP. Dullas Alahapperuma also accused former President Chandrika Kumaratunga of attempting to split the SLFP and UPFA.He said that her actions in recent times have made clear she will do anything to ensure the SLFP is destroyed despite being an SLFP member herself.The UPFA MP, meanwhile said that the joint opposition will push for the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to be debated in Parliament soon. He said that the purpose of the rally was to draw attention on the Government and ensure it is defeated at the next election.He also questioned as to why some media had not reported on the Matara rally and also accused the Government of attempting to disrupt the rally through various means. He said that if any opposition member who signed the no-confidence motion decides at the last moment to vote against it or abstain, then that would be one of the greatest betrayals they would be committing in Sri Lanka’s recent political history. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Deputy Ministers to push President to abolish FCID

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Several Deputy Ministers from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) have decided to push President Maithripala Sirisena to abolish the police Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID).The Deputy Ministers visited Yoshitha Rajapaksa, the son of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, at the Welikada remand prison today. The Deputy Ministers said that if the President fails to agree to their demand they are prepared to resign from their Ministry posts. Later speaking to the media, the Deputy Ministers said that they will demand from the President that he abolish the FCID saying it is illegal. Sumedha G. Jayasena, Susantha Punchinilame, Nimal Lansa, Anuradha Jayaratne and Nishantha Muttuhettigama are among the Deputy Ministers who visited Yoshitha Rajapaksa today.Yoshitha Rajapaksa was arrested by the FCID and produced in court on Saturday and remanded over alleged financial irregularities at the CSN television station which is owned by him. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Remittance to Sri Lanka saw drop in 2015 says World Bank

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India retained its top spot in 2015, attracting about USD 69 billion in remittances, down from USD 70 billion in 2014.Other large remittance recipients in 2015 were China, with USD 64 billion, the Philippines (USD 28 billion), Mexico (USD 25 billion) and Nigeria (USD 21 billion). Remittance to Sri Lanka saw a drop in 2015 according to a World Bank report released in Washington.The World Bank’s annual report ‘Migration and Development Brief’ found that remittance to Sri Lanka dropped from 9.6 per cent in 2014 to 0.5 per cent in 2015. India was the world’s largest remittance recipient in 2015 despite experiencing a USD 1 billion drop from the previous year, the first decline in its remittances since 2009, the World Bank said today. Remittances are extremely important to several countries in the region: remittances to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh exceeded 6 percent of GDP in 2014. Officially recorded remittances to developing countries amounted to USD 431.6 billion in 2015, an increase of 0.4 per cent over USD 430 billion in 2014. The growth pace in 2015 was the slowest since the global financial crisis, the report said.Global remittances, which include those to high-income countries, contracted by 1.7 per cent to USD 581.6 billion in 2015, from USD 592 billion in 2014, the World Bank said. (Colombo Gazette) read more

US to encourage reconciliation and justice in Sri Lanka

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Also speaking at the event, Us Secretary of State John Kerry said that the world has seen important democratic gains in such countries as Tunisia, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Burma, though in each there are challenges that still need to be overcome. The collective result of these measures has led to the silencing of independent voices, a growing impoverishment of political discourse, and diminishing avenues for peaceful expression and change. (Colombo Gazette) “But we are working closely with each of those countries in efforts to help meet those challenges,” Kerry said. The United States will be encouraging reconciliation and justice in Sri Lanka in keeping with the joint resolution the Government co-sponsored with the US at the UN Human Rights Council, US Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski said.He said this after releasing the 2015 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices compiled by the US State Department. The 2015 Reports highlight the intensified global crackdown by an increasing number of states on members of civil society.Government efforts to stifle civil society were achieved through overt or direct means including through harassment, intimidation, detention, and restrictions on their ability to operate; through the implementation of overly broad counterterrorism or national security laws to control the freedom to assemble and to suppress dissent; and through more nuanced yet burdensome bureaucratic procedures such as the passage of NGO legislation that restricts the operating space for human rights organizations. read more

Udayanga meets Mahinda insists he will not return to Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador to Russia, Udayanga Weeratunga, who is wanted in Sri Lanka over allegations he sold arms to rebels in Ukraine, has met former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Thailand.Weeratunga said in a statement today that he met Rajapaksa when the former President visited Thailand this week. The Government had removed him from diplomatic service and has sought to question him over the allegations that he sold arms to the rebels in Ukraine. Weeratunga also said that he will gather support among Sri Lankans living in Russia and Ukraine against the Government. (Colombo Gazette) Weeratunga however denied the allegations and added that he now lives in Ukraine and if such claims are true the Ukraine Government would have arrested him.He said that the Government has frozen his accounts over false claims and he hopes to raise the issue with the Russian and Ukraine Governments. The former Ambassador said that he has no intention of returning to Sri Lanka since “baseless” allegation have been raised against him by the Government. read more

Paranagama panel suggests domestic accountable amnesty

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However, since that resolution was passed, the leaders of the government of Sri Lanka have been repeatedly assuring the Sinhalese majority that foreign involvement will be limited to getting foreign technical expertise in investigations. President Sirisena has said times without number that the Judicial Mechanism will be a local one and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera has said that foreign participation can be of various kinds and that Sri Lanka has options to explore in this regards.Given the friendly relations the present regime in Colombo has with Washington and the West, the latter are unlikely to press the Sri Lankan government to go for an international Judicial Mechanism. High level visitors from the State Department have said that the nature of the Judicial Mechanism will be left to be decided by Sri Lankans themselves. They have also hinted that US interests lie in the survival of the present regime and in the promotion of US-Sri Lanka economic and business relations and not in the pursuit of human rights goals. (Colombo Gazette) The Sirisena-Wickremsinghe government is yet to accept the Paranagama Commission’s report, but it is most likely to accept it as there is a strong feeling in Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese community that the heroic armed forces which defeated the dreaded Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) must not be pilloried, and that foreign judges and investigators with preconceived notions and anti-Sri Lankan agendas should not be allowed to conduct investigations and sit in judgment.But the Tamil minority is unlikely to be happy with Justice Paranagama’s prescriptions because it has been vociferously demanding an International Judicial Mechanism with foreign judges and investigators on the grounds that Sri Lankan judges and investigators will be biased against them. A resolution jointly moved by the US and Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on October 1, 2015 also envisaged an international Judicial Mechanism. “The T and R commission could then consider giving some of those who pleaded guilty an accountable amnesty. They will not be allowed to go scot free but will be given an appropriate punishment,” Paranagama said. The Justice Maxwell Paranagama Commission which went into the issue of missing persons and violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in the last brutal phase of Eelam War IV, has recommended the establishment of a domestic, all Sri Lankan, Judicial Mechanism to investigate and try cases of violation, and also a Truth and Reconciliation Commission which could give “accountable amnesty” to those who pleaded guilty and expressed remorse, the New Indian Express reported.Speaking to Express on Sunday, Justice Paranagama said that if anyone is charged for violations of Human Rights or International Humanitarian Law, he should be tried by a Special High Court. Cases should be conducted by Sri Lanka’s Attorney General; heard by Sri Lankan judges and investigated by Sri Lankan investigators, he said.“Of course, if the investigators need foreign expertise they could acquire them and the Special High Court could allow foreign observers,” Paranagama said. As regards the Truth and Reconciliation Commission he said that it is meant to allow people to speak out about their experiences and give vent to their grievances. And perpetrators of atrocities could own up, express regret and seek amnesty. read more

UN to maintain push for accountability on rights abuses

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The United Nations is maintaining its status quo on Sri Lanka with regards to the investigations on incidents related to the war.The Government had said recently there was no pressure on Sri Lanka with regards to the accountability process. There is also a feeling the policy on Sri Lanka may change with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stepping down next year. Farhan Haq, the Deputy Spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told The Sunday Leader that the priorities for Sri Lanka have not changed. “I can’t really say what a new person may or may not do. But our priorities for Sri Lanka have not changed,” he said.In light of the UN Committee Against Torture saying “white van” abductions took place even last year after the new government took office there are calls for the government to show more intent to investigate these incidents. “The UN has made clear the need for such investigations,” Farhan Haq said.Recently the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that a Toronto man who was allegedly imprisoned and tortured while visiting Sri Lanka must be compensated for the abuses he suffered.The decision calls for Sri Lanka to prosecute those responsible and “provide adequate compensation” to Roy Samathanam, a Canadian who had filed a complaint with the committee three years ago.Samathanam traveled to Colombo during a 2007 lull in the country’s civil war to marry. But police raided his home and seized 600 mobile phones he had helped import from Singapore for a friend’s business. He said after he refused to pay a bribe to police he was taken to a Terrorism Investigation Division detention centre, where he was branded a “Canadian Tiger” and subjected to abuses. read more