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What happened last week in Canada?

Conservatives introduce controversial omnibus Bill C-45

Last Thursday, the Canadian government introduced another massive budget bill, Bill C-45. Critics, including the New Democratic Party (NDP), have denounced the bill as “covering way too much ground.”

C-45 proposes significant changes to Member of Parliaments’ pension plans, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and tax credits for small businesses, as well as changes to the Environment Assessment Act.

According to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, all of C-45’s stipulations had been presented in the budget published this past spring. He said the changes will save taxpayers $2.6 billion over a period of five years. NDP finance critic Peggy Nash, however, expressed concern for the bill’s overwhelming size.

According to the National Post, the Conservative government took pension reforms out of the omnibus bill on Oct. 19, following pressure from opposition parties. The opposition is also pushing to have other sections, such as those concerning the environment, separated from the bill, arguing that the measures need more in-depth study. The Conservatives have said that they are open to doing so if the opposition agrees to pass those changes quickly.

B.C. universities call for increased government funding 

An Oct. 18 report to the B.C. legislature’s select finance committee called for an increase in post-secondary funding by $180 million. The report was presented on behalf of the Research Universities’ Council, which represents six of B.C.’s major universities.

In 2011, B.C. Premier Christy Clark revealed a jobs plan that predicted the creation of approximately one million jobs in B.C. over the next 10 years. According to Thursday’s report, a large majority of these estimated jobs are expected to require some post-secondary qualification, and the province will face a shortage of educated workers to fill them if the government does not act to make universities more economically accessible to students.

Unlike Ontario, Alberta, and Quebec, B.C. currently lacks a student grant program, and a graduate fellow program. The B.C. government has also already announced a $50 million cut to post-secondary spending over the next two years.

Supreme court limits right to online privacy at work

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Oct. 19 that employees using work-issued computers for personal reasons only have a limited right to privacy.

According to the decision, employees may enjoy a certain amount of privacy when conducting personal business on work computers, as long as their workplace allows them to do so. However, if personal use of computers is not permitted, employers have the right to search and copy the information on the computer’s hard drive.

The Court clarified that the right to search workplace devices does not extend to beyond the office. Law enforcement officers must obtain a warrant in order to search or collect data.

Following the ruling, the Court ordered a new trial for Richard Cole, a high school teacher charged with possession of child pornography in 2006. Sexually explicit photos of a female student were found on Cole’s laptop, which was issued to him by the school. The reopened trial will take the new ruling into consideration.

Eight face charges in London, Ontario bullying case

Last Friday, eight girls were arrested and charged with criminal harassment following an investigation into a bullying case at a high school in London, Ontario.

Police said they received information regarding the case from the school’s anonymous reporting portal, as well as from direct statements. Their investigation revealed that the eight girls physically, emotionally, and cyber-bullied another student at the school.

The police have confirmed the victim in question is safe.

Friday’s arrests follow the recent and tragic suicide of a British Columbia teen, Amanda Todd. Todd endured years of cyber-bullying and was also physical attacked by her high school peers. Her death has sparked a national outcry and debate over how to better prevent bullying and make bullies accountable for their actions.

According to the Vancouver Sun, the girls were released from custody “on a promise to appear in court.” Police have said they are continuing the investigation, and that they may lay additional charges.

Parti Québécois flip-flops over language bill extension

Last Friday, the Parti Québécois (PQ) withdrew its proposal to extend provisions of Bill 101 to Quebec childcare centres.

According to CTV News, PQ Family Minister Nicole Léger presented the idea on Oct. 17, “as legislation that would be introduced in the next few weeks.” Léger argued that young children should be exposed to French at an earlier age. The Liberal opposition quickly expressed its outrage at the proposal.

Diane De Courcy, Quebec minister of language, immigration and cultural communities, confirmed on Oct. 18 that the PQ would not abolish the current freedom-of-choice rules surrounding daycares, calling the move “out of the question.”

Bill 101 is the Charter of the French Language that declares French as the official language of Quebec, and seeks to make French the “normal and everyday language of work, instruction, [and] communication.”

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