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Report pleads for cash to end domestic violence

VICTORIA – Black eyes, numerous stitches and guns put in her mouth convinced Robin Russell she would be better off taking her chances with death rather than continue living with an abusive husband.

Seven years after leaving her violent and hostage-like marriage, Russell said Wednesday at a news conference she considers herself one of the lucky ones, tearfully offering condolences to family members of the 18 people left dead so far this year because of domestic violence.

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“From hitting me, fracturing my nose, knocking my teeth loose, black eyes, numerous stitches in my face, throwing objects at me, putting guns in my mouth and threatening anyone who tried to help me, I tried to leave many times, but with this kind of fear and isolation it’s harder than most people would understand,” she said.

Russell said she still lives in fear of attack but needed to speak out to ensure other people can get the care and protections she received when she decided to leave her home.

“I’m still afraid,” she said. “When a person tells you that when you finally find someone and become happy, he will be waiting around the corner to throw acid in your face and ruin your life, it sticks with you forever.”

Russell told her story at the release of a report that pleads with British Columbia’s government to invest up to $30 million annually to fight domestic violence which has taken a deadly toll in B.C. so far this year.

The Ending Violence Association of B.C., said a domestic-violence outbreak has left 18 people dead, including 12 women and a child, 11 others were injured.

The report was intentionally released to mark the seven-year anniversary of the murder-suicide of an Oak Bay, B.C., family where estranged husband Peter Lee killed his six-year-old son, Christian, his wife, Sunny, both her parents and then himself.

EVA’s executive director Tracy Porteous said the 2014 deaths — the highest number since the Lee family murders — should register serious concerns.

“I don’t recall since Sunny (Park’s) death, if we’ve ever had a year that’s had this many deaths in the entire year and we’re at the beginning of September,” she said. “It’s very alarming. If I could have brought an alarm bell today, I would have rung it. We are very concerned about women’s safety.”

The report calls for increased spending for existing community-based victim services and funds for new programs that are available to every community in the province. It also recommends early intervention counselling and management for abusive men, and an increase in the number of case-assessment teams that work to keep women and children safe.

Porteous said of this of the 18 deaths this year, not one of the victims was known to have contacted a victim-services organization. She said she couldn’t pinpoint the exact cause of the increase in domestic-violence deaths, but said if they had been able to utilize such services they may be alive today.

B.C.’s independent Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said the government reallocated about $5 million from other budget items this year to fund a domestic violence plan, but what is needed is new funding to ensure other potential victims of family violence have access to safety and protection services.

“I’m concerned we’re stalled,” she said.

She said Alberta has nine domestic-violence courts, while the recently-deceased provincial court judge Josiah Wood ran a similar court in Duncan “off the side of his desk. It is an embarrassment.”

Turpel-Lafond said B.C. women requiring protection orders must pay a $200 court processing fee and then hire a security service to serve the order.

Porteous said of the more than 150 recommendations anti-domestic violence groups have made over the past 20 years only four have been implemented.

Russell said she credited the help she received from community-based victim services and the RCMP to give her the strength and courage to start her life over.

“Community-based victim services were literally everything to me,” she said.

Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux and Attorney General Suzanne Anton released a joint statement saying the government has initiated a $5.5 million domestic violence program this year in addition to the $70 million the government already spends on protection and intervention services.

“This strategy will be our path to creating a province where all women have the supports they need to help prevent violence, escape from violent situations, and recover if they’ve been victims of crime,” said the joint statement.

EPSB’s new assessment policy a ‘tarted up’ version of no-zero approach: Lynden Dorval – Edmonton

WATCH ABOVE: Quinn Ohler tells us about Lynden Dorval’s concerns.

EDMONTON — A former Edmonton Public School Board teacher fired in May 2012 for handing out zeros, is speaking about the district’s new assessment policy.

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Lynden Dorval says it still makes it extremely difficult for teachers to hand out zeros to students who don’t complete their work, despite the school board passing a policy in 2013 saying teachers should be the ones to make decisions on assessment.

“This new policy is, in my view, a tarted up version of the no-zero policy. It does not allow teachers to give zeros initially for work not done,” Dorval said after appearing before the school board on Tuesday.

“The teachers have to go through five intervention steps, which — in my opinion — could take up to two months.”

“They have to give the student multiple chances, then they have to document that. They have to come up with a strategy of getting the work done. They have to try it again. If that doesn’t succeed, they have to call the parent or guardian and come up with another strategy to get the work done. And then finally — after all that fails — only then are they allowed to give a zero.”

READ MORE: Alberta appeal board says EPSB was unfair in suspending and firing Dorval

After he was fired, Dorval was hired by a private school in Edmonton, where the headmaster said he would be free to hand out zeros. He has since retired but hasn’t given up his crusade to make sure the school board eliminates any trace of a no-zero policy. He is hoping school trustees will intervene to change the new standards for evaluation.

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However, the school board says the policy, implemented on August 18, is one that many teachers were doing before it came into effect. And 5,000 teachers were “instrumental” in creating it, according to EPSB director of communications Lisa Austin.

READ MORE: Alberta teachers vote against blanket policies on zeros

“Their professional judgement is the fingerprint all over this regulation,” Austin said. “Many of these steps are steps many and most of our teachers are doing across the district.”

Dorval says that in addition to increasing teachers’ workloads, this policy prevents students from seeing the immediate consequence a zero can have on their mark.

Canada prepared to take on Islamic State but on a budget: Harper – National

ABOVE: Prime Minister Harper says his Conservative government will treat the defence budget as they would any other government expense

LONDON – Stephen Harper pledged further action Wednesday to combat the rising threat of Islamic extremism in the Middle East, but said he would do so on a frugal budget.

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Speaking to a business audience in London, the prime minister joined other world leaders in reacting with horror to the execution of a second U.S. freelance journalist, Steven Sotloff, at the hands of the Islamic State.

Despite the prominence of the killings – both were documented in videos posted online – there have been many other faceless victims of the group’s brutal rampage across a vast swath of northern Iraq and Syria, Harper noted.

“The fact is, this is the tip of an iceberg of literally tens of thousands of people who are being treated in this way,” Harper said, referring to the assault on Christians, Yazidis, Shiite Muslims and others who do not subscribe to IS’s brand of ultraconservative Sunni Islam.

READ MORE: Canada talks tough on Ukraine, but cuts $2.7B from defence in 2015

He once again equated the threat posed by the militants with the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan more than 20 years ago.

“It obviously has the capacity of not just leading regional jihad, but becoming a massive terrorist training base for the globe and I don’t think we can sit still for this.”

Canada is prepared to do its part in concert with allies, but Harper took aim at critics both at home and abroad who say his government is not spending enough on the military.

Both the U.S. and Britain have been clamouring for all allies to commit to a 10-year plan to boost military expenditures to meet the NATO benchmark of two per cent of each nation’s gross domestic product.

Right now, Canada earmarks only one per cent of GDP.

“Our government has done significant investments in the military,” he said during a question-and-answer session with Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, a weekly conservative magazine in Britain.

WATCH: Canada mulling deeper involvement in NATO?

“We acknowledge as a government that we will likely be spending more, but we will only be spending where there is clearly need.”

National Defence has seen its allocation slashed by more than 10 per cent since the end of the Afghan war and recent figures show spending is forecast to decline by $2.7-billion in anticipation of a balanced budget.

The government’s approach has always been to guard the federal treasury, rather than specifying a dollar figure before deciding how to spend it, he said.

READ MORE: Canada mulls role in NATO crisis response brigade

“We go out and figure out what it is we need to do, and then we attempt to get a budget as frugally as possible to achieve those objectives,” Harper said.

“When it comes to spending, we can argue about spending, but the reality is this: Everything NATO has done in recent years, whether it’s been the mission to Afghanistan, the mission to Libya and now the reassurance mission to Eastern Europe, Canada has not only contributed everything that it has (been) asked in those missions, we have contributed disproportionately. So don’t tell me about how much you’re spending, tell me about how much you are doing.”

The final statement at the Wales summit later this week will describe the long-standing NATO benchmark as an “aspirational target” that countries will try to meet.

WATCH: “Sad day for teachers” says Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union

PENTICTON — Today was supposed to be the first day of school, instead, the prolonged labour dispute canceled classes.

Talks between the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and provincial government collapsed over the weekend, affecting the start of the fall semester.

“This is the first time in history that BC teachers that haven’t gone back and welcomed back our kids into our classrooms,” says Leslea Woodward, President of the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union. “So it’s a sad day for teachers.”

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Teachers have been on a full-scale job action since June 17, and they are not getting strike pay for being on the picket line.

“They’ve given up an earning, so that they can be out here fighting for what’s  right,” says Woodward.

Over the weekend, mediator Vince Ready declared an impasse because the BCTF and government are still too far apart on key issues, such as wages and class conditions.

“I’m so disappointed. I find blame on both sides,” says Bruce Johnson, Chair of the Okanagan Skaha School Board. “I know the government has been accused of being a bully, ignoring court orders and taking an unreasonable hard line on the educators.”

Johnson is also critical of the teachers’ demands, calling them unrealistic.

“That’s why I say: take a reasonable raise, take it for a number of years, put the rest into our learning improvement funds and let’s get going!”

Superintendent Wendy Hyer would also like to see schools back in session.

“I’m hoping that common sense prevails,  and the two sides get together and we focus on providing quality education to students,” she says.

It looks like students may not go back to school in the immediate future.

No new talks have been scheduled between the BCTF and government

Squamish student’s Op-ed article about teachers’ strike garners national attention

Students are weighing in and getting active in the dispute between the teachers and province but for one 16-year-old Squamish girl, her activities are garnering national attention.

Callista Ryan wrote an opinion article arguing that the teachers’ strike violates her right to education, according to a UN Treaty on the rights of the child, which Canada signed in 1990.

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The teen’s letter got printed in the local paper, The Squamish Chief, and then was picked up by Huffington Post, which brought in an overwhelmingly huge amount of support.

“Why am I sitting in my room while these adults are fighting over my future?” Ryan told Global News. “It’s not ok, I didn’t want that to happen anymore.”

In her Op-Ed Ryan said, “I have a right to education. And I’m terrified that a group of adults who were elected by other adults think that we don’t deserve that. Why don’t we as students get a say? We are not only the future of B.C.’s economy, but we’re living in the present where we want to change things and take action as well…”

And her fellow Howe Sound Secondary classmates are adding their voices too. Even though they walked out with their teachers back in June, the teens are out front of their school but this time, they’re out there for themselves — not taking either side.

“Adults need to consider children,” says student Asia Mader. “I know they are both fighting for things that need to be fought for [but] it’s like a kid in the middle of a divorce and it’s been going on for 10 years.”

In this case, they’ve decided not to just sit back and watch, instead they’re getting involved. Every day Ryan and her classmates are planning to come back to school until they can attend regular classes.

And since Ryan has been granted a voice due to her taking action, the grade 11 student plans to keep speaking up.

“I can’t be a teacher and fight for them, I can’t get into politics right now but I can be an active citizen and get other students involved,” Ryan says.

~ with files from Elaine Yong

Another school year begins with new technology for students

Watch above: another school year begins with new technology for students

SASKATOON – The days of learning the home row keys and how to type are becoming near extinct like computer classes. Technology is integrated into almost every aspect of life.

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“Most students now-a-days have a device of some sort, whether it be a phone or a smart phone or what have you, so the technology is there now it’s just a matter of taking that technology and using it for their education as well,” said Owen Fortosky, St. Mark School principal.

In February, Fortosky was honoured as one of Canada’s outstanding principals. With the distinction came a $20,000 grant from Samsung to help support 21st century learning.

That money was used to purchase 42 Chromebooks and 18 tablets.

“This is right at the cutting edge of technology and education strategies around the world, if you look at places like Finland and New Zealand and in the States and some places, this is what they’re talking about, this is the kind of learning our kids need to do,” said Connie Davis, a teacher/librarian at St. Mark School.

While the devices will be shared around St. Mark School, they will be mostly used in a classroom where kids need to be on technology all the time.

“Often times people are saying that personalized learning is not effective because we’re not following the provincial curriculum, I feel that we follow the provincial curriculum as well if not better then most of us can do in a classroom because we have more time to fill in the learning gaps for some of those kids,” said Davis.

With the evolution of technology, what’s new in the classroom today may not be for long.

“It’s exponential the way technology changes, so just when you think you have your head wrapped around it something new comes out, so it’s how can we get on that quick, how can we get that in the hands of kids and in the hands of teachers,” said Jay Salikin, technology coordinator at Saskatoon Public Schools .

Technology in the classroom is preparing students for what they’re going to need in the future.

St. Mark School incorporated personalized learning in the classroom four years ago as a pilot project. The program continues to grow each year.

U.S. Ebola survivor says he’s ‘very close’ to the latest doctor diagnosed – National

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – A U.S. doctor who survived after contracting Ebola while doing missionary work in Liberia is “very close” to the doctor most recently diagnosed with the disease and has spent time in “tearful prayer” for him, according to an interview with NBC News aired Tuesday.

Earlier, officials with the North Carolina-based missionary group Serving In Mission had announced the other doctor, a male obstetrician, had contracted the disease.

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In the interview, Dr. Kent Brantly said he feared his own death, telling a nurse at one point: “I’m sick. I have no reserve and I don’t know how long I can keep this up.”

At one point, Brantly was asked whether he was told he might not survive.

“I don’t think they ever said, ‘Kent, I think you are about to die.’ But I felt like I was about to die,” Brantly said.

NBC News said the interview was conducted in Asheville, North Carolina, where Brantly and his family have been in seclusion since he was released last month from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Brantly and a female missionary from Serving in Mission were evacuated to the United States for treatment after contracting Ebola in Liberia. The two recovered after receiving an experimental drug known as ZMapp. The manufacturer says it has run out of supplies of the drug and it will take months to produce more.

Brantly recalled waking up the morning of July 23 feeling “a little off” with a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). After falling ill, Brantly said he felt grateful his family had returned to the U.S. days earlier.

“I was so thankful that Amber and the kids were not there. That would have been an overwhelming mental burden if I had woken up sick lying in bed next to my wife with one of my children snuggled up next to me,” Brantly said.

NBC News planned to air more portions of the interview on Wednesday and Friday.

©2014The Canadian Press

Sports-related concussion needs action: report – National

TORONTO – Sports-related concussions in children and youth constitute a significant public health issue which requires serious reform in public policy to address the harm associated with them, a new Canadian paper argues.

The article — which appeared Wednesday in “Neurosurgeon,” an online publication of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons — suggests there is an ethical responsibility to take action on the issue.

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“It’s not a sport issue, it’s not just a medical issue, it’s a public health issue which affects the population as a whole and it’s been identified that way — it’s research based, it’s epidemiologically backed and it has facts behind it,” said Dr. Paul Echlin, who runs a sports medicine clinic in Burlington, Ont.

Echlin, who co-authored the article with Dr. Ross Upshur, director of clinical research at Toronto’s Bridgepoint Health, said there’s a need to make an “urgent statement” on sports-related concussions in children and youth, which the World Health Organization classifies as minor traumatic brain injuries.

“We really have to move on this now,” said Echlin. “There’s no helmets or mouth guards or safety devices that can change this, it is about a shift in the way that we allow our youth to play games.”

The article notes that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control labelled sports-related concussions a public health problem in 2003, but youth continue to suffer “often preventable brain injuries” while playing sports.

“If you know what’s going on and you refuse to do anything major or significant about it, then you’re ethically wrong,” said Echlin.

“It shouldn’t be silent anymore, it is an epidemic in our youth culture, in sport. Sport was made to…improve the culture of fitness, and socially, but not to cause long-term impairment, not to promote violence which is the underlying factor of a lot of these head injuries.”

To deal with concussions as a public health issue, the article suggests “dramatic rule changes” be made to games children play to “eliminate all purposeful and intentional head contact” while also minimizing incidental head contact.

It also suggests increasing the size of playing surfaces to lower the chances of collisions in sports, decreasing the number of participants on a field of play and considering the elimination of the use of the head in games like soccer.

The article goes on to suggest enforcing significant suspensions to participants or supervising adults who are involved in games in which head injuries occur. Youth who do suffer concussions must also be given appropriate time to recover, Echlin added.

The paper further underlines the importance of publicly funded education on concussions for the next generation of athletes, parents and educators, highlighting an example in Ontario, where the province’s education ministry has mandated publicly funded schools to institute concussion curriculum education from all students Grade One to 12.

“You’re going to educate the 10-year-old to say ‘yes there is a big problem here’ and to give them the ability to advocate for themselves and others to say ‘I got hit, I don’t feel well, I’m going to take myself off the field,’” said Echlin.

“Handing out pamphlets and stuff, it doesn’t work. But what does work is getting the kids involved and getting them to make their own decisions, and also continuing dialogue with parents.”

Alison Macpherson, an assistant professor of kinesiology and health sciences at York University in Toronto, agreed that sports-related concussion in children and youth requires action, but urged parents not to pull their children from sports altogether.

“We need to protect kids, we also have to be very careful not to scare parents and kids away from sports,” she said. “Learning how to play sports is also part of healthy child development.”

Macpherson drew a parallel to smoking, saying it often takes a long time to alter people’s perceptions about the risk of certain activities.

“Health behaviours take a long time to change but I think we have the obligation as professionals to continue to work at this in every setting.”

Host families offer home base for Goldeyes – Winnipeg

WINNIPEG – For Tyler Kuhn, success at home plate starts at his home away from home. “It’s made me relaxed this whole season,” said the Winnipeg Goldeyes’ shortstop.

It’s a place where Julie Bubnick rolled out the welcome mat. Kuhn is one of 37 Goldeyes Bubnick has billeted over 21 seasons. It all started when she needed someone to take care of her home while she was on vacation.

“This light bulb came on,” said Bubnick. “Maybe I can help somebody out and I can get my house sitter.”

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Bubnick often hosts one player and his family or two Goldeyes per season. In 2011, she invited three players to crash at her place.

“Three was interesting,” said Bubnick. “Things were a little busy around here. But they worked it out.”

With Bubnick opening up her home, it’s allowed Kuhn to open up at the plate. The 27-year-old was named a league all-star after finishing the season with a team leading .360 batting average.

“To be able to have a warm home to come to following a road trip, there’s a lot to that,” said Kuhn.

But it’s not just players who benefit from the Goldeyes’ host family program.

“Young kids can put athletes up on a pedestal,” said Bubnick. “But they’ve got to see that they’re people like everyone else. This is a job that they enjoy, they’re good at it but they work their butts off.”

Bubnick’s home is one of nine housing a Goldeye this season for little more than tickets to a few games. The program has become so popular, the team has had to turn some families away.

“They open their home for these guys and treat them like one of their own,” said Andrew Collier, Goldeyes general manager. It’s not just the one summer. If players come back, they stay with the same family year after year.”

Helping to spark life-long friendships between batters and billets.

“We maintain some kind of communication,” said Bubnick. “There’s been visits and weddings.”

“She’s my host mom,” said Kuhn. “She’s a great friend.”

Officials in Montreal promise traffic relief – Montreal

MONTREAL — Provincial and municipal officials insist there’s light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to traffic headaches.

Back to school traffic led to commuter frustrations Tuesday as people returned to class and work after the holiday.

“We sympathize,” said Montreal mayor Denis Coderre.

At a news conference held Tuesday, officials laid out a list of efforts they will make to help ease traffic:

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Better communication: Officials will meet four times a year to discuss construction and traffic issues and Transport Quebec will communicate more often with North and South shore mayors.

The decision was particularly welcomed by Longueuil mayor Caroline St-Hilaire. “I often didn’t find out about construction work until it had already started,” she said.

Public Transit: Extra parking spaces will be added to several train stations to encourage commuters to leave their cars and take public transit.

An additional $33 million will be spent by the province to encourage public transit use. Also, commuters who buy an annual pass will get a discount for 2015.

New Technology: By the end of 2014 users will be able to get specific traffic alerts from Transport Quebec by using 511.

Transport Minister Robert Poeti explained how it would work: “Let’s say you live on the West Island, you can put the route in your wife’s phone and get real-time traffic warnings that might help you save time.”

Officials hope all these efforts will ease the traffic headaches. Until then, Montreal commuters are asked to be patient.