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What happened last week in Canada?

XL Beef Recall Largest in Canadian history

Canadian officials have come under scrutiny over their handling of the largest recall of beef in Canadian history when Albertan beef packer XL Foods continued running its plant for two weeks after the U.S. determined that its meat was unfit to cross the American border.

The beef, which has been traced to cattle slaughtered on Aug. 23, has been recalled due to the detection of E. coli contamination. XL products have been linked to the illness of at least 10 people in three different provinces.

Health concerns regarding the products were raised on Sept. 4, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service identified the contamination and notified the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). However, the CFIA did not suspend the company from producing goods for the Canadian market until Sept. 27.

Pointing to the delay, the NDP has criticized the Conservative government for allowing the meat processing industry too much freedom in self-regulation. Currently, there is a bill before the Canadian Senate that would make it easier to force companies to take action on requests such as those given by the USDA.

Quebec to Shut Down Last Nuclear Reactor

Last Wednesday, Hydro-Québec confirmed that it will close Quebec’s only nuclear reactor by the end of the year.  Although the Gentilly-2 reactor will be deactivated this December, dismantling it will take 50 years and will cost $1.8 billion.

The decision by Hydro-Québec follows plans released four years ago, which revealed that refurbishing the reactor would cost over $2 billion. Hydro-Québec has since announced that upgrading the facility would likely exceed that estimate. The plant cannot continue to operate in its present condition, as its operating license runs out at the end of this year.

The closure may cause Quebec’s provincial deficit to increase to $2.8 billion this year. This estimate includes the cost of decommissioning the plant, as well as the costs that have already been incurred from upgrading the facility.

Animal Rights Protestors Shut Down Show at Marineland

Last Sunday, animal rights protestors gathered at the gates of Marineland to call for an end to the alleged animal abuse at the amusement park in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Several demonstrators entered the park and successfully shut down a dolphin show before police officers dispersed the protest. No arrests were made.

In August, the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums conducted an investigation of Marineland, in response to allegations from former park employees and Zoocheck Canada that the park’s animals face health risks because they are not properly cared for. The investigation, however, found no major concerns in the park’s treatment of animals.

Protesters say they will continue to protest at the park when it reopens next season, and will also lobby the government for a bill that bans the import and export of marine mammals. Protestors said that their ultimate goal is the closure of the park.

Supreme Court Reverses Law on HIV Disclosure

Last Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada reversed a 14-year-old law that declared that HIV carriers must inform their sexual partners of their status. Now, people with HIV may keep this information private without risking prosecution, provided that they only have low levels of the virus, and also use a condom during sexual activity.

In the past, an HIV carrier who failed to abide by this law would risk being charged for aggravated sexual assault—a charge that carries a maximum life sentence. According to a 2010 report funded by the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, 98 people across Canada were charged under this law between 1989 and 2009.

This unanimous decision of the Supreme Court came as a result of medical advancements in treating HIV. According to McGill University AIDS specialist Norbert Gilmore, if an HIV carrier has been responsibly taking anti-retroviral medication, has a “low viral load,” and uses a condom, the risk of transmission to a sexual partner is low.

Friday’s ruling did not ultimately close the door on HIV disclosure and the law. The Supreme Court has left the issue open for discussion, in consideration of potential medical advancements in the future.

“True Patriot Love” expedition Heads to Himalayas

A team of 13 soldiers, 10 civilians, and one doctor will be embarking on a three-week climb in the Himalayas to raise awareness for Canadian soldiers injured in Afghanistan. The expedition, funded by the True Patriot Love Foundation, also aims to inspire anyone suffering from mental and physical trauma as a consequence of war.

Many of the team members themselves suffer from enduring mental or physical injuries. As a result of a suicide bombing in Afghanistan in 2011, team member Corporal François Dupéré of Montreal lost his right eye, while his left arm was left half paralyzed.

The team, which has been training for months both at home and in Alberta, was expected to arrive in Kathmandu on Oct. 7. Their plan is to climb to the Mount Everest base camp, and then continue on to Island Peak, a popular trekking peak. Altogether, the team is expected to climb over 6,000 metres throughout the course of the expedition.

“I hope that [through this expedition] we can … let people know about what Canadian soldiers go through,” Lt. Michelle Quinton-Hickey said. “When war is over and the conflict is over, the injuries are not over.”

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