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Newsletter. Issue 2008-12. June 07, 2008
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History In Making


Canadian Government Drops English Exam For New Immigrants

Ottawa has dropped its idea of making all immigrants take a rigorous British-made language test to get into the country. "They realized the ludicrousness of it," Alex Stojicevic, chair of the immigration section of the Canadian Bar Association, said yesterday.

"The optics of it were terrible. Telling Americans they need a language test to come to Canada makes us look silly." Stojicevic wrote to Immigration Minister Diane Finley three times to object to the rule change and Monday night got a call from Leah Olson, Finley's senior policy adviser, with the news the immigration lawyers had won.

The Star published a story Monday about the three-hour International English Language Testing System exam created at the University of Cambridge in England. Immigration officials championed its impartiality and efficiency, but language experts objected to its academic tone and un-Canadian content.

The ministry proposed all immigrants, without exemption, take the three-hour International English Language Testing System exam – or a French equivalent – already used by Britain and Australia to judge how well newcomers speak English. A mandatory test at one of hundreds of testing centres around the world would make the system fairer, quicker and more efficient, the government said when it proposed the changes in April. Immigration lawyers had wanted exemptions for native English speakers or lower pass marks for trades people.


Province Takes Control Of Toronto's Scandal-Plagued Catholic School Board


TORONTO — Toronto Catholic District school trustees, widely criticized for lavish expense account abuses, have lost control of the board's finances and administration to a provincial supervisor, Education Minister Kathleen Wynne announced Wednesday.

Supervisor Norbert Hartman was ordered to immediately take over control of the board after a report by a special investigation team sent in by the province concluded that trustees were still engaged in inappropriate spending.

"Obviously I was concerned, that's why I appointed the investigator," Wynne said. "I was concerned that the financial decisions that needed to be made were not being made. The investigator has confirmed that and that's why I've appointed a supervisor."

Trustees at the Toronto board also came under fire from the province for making questionable decisions in the past week to eliminate a $14-million deficit as required by law. They voted to lay off 85 teachers and 32 support staff, such as secretaries and caretakers, and to cut all school budgets by 10 per cent.

There have been allegations of Toronto Catholic trustee misspending on everything from hotel minibars to a trip to the Dominican Republic at taxpayers' expense. The Toronto Catholic trustees also voted last month to give up medical benefits to which they were not entitled, scrap their monthly car allowances and seek board approval for future business trips.


Seniors Seek Equal Pension Rights
Thursday June 5 2008

A bill seeking to amend pension rights currently before the House of Commons has got seniors from South Asia actively advocating community members lobby their MPs to support the amendment.

The third reading of the seniors pension amendment bill has been fixed for June 20. Liberal MP Colleen Beaumier, Brampton West, had first moved the amendment bill, which has since been actively supported by Ruby Dhalla, MP, Brampton – Springdale. Bill C-362, which seeks to ensure all seniors qualify for pension at the same time, has the support of the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois, but not the Conservatives.

Currently, even seniors of age 65 and more from several parts of the developing world— including the Subcontinent— have to be in Canada for a further 10 years before they qualify for pension payments; those from most parts of the developed world automatically qualify in three years, or less.

Joginder Singh Sidhu, coordinator of the Old Age Benefit Forum, charged this policy is discriminatory. “This is an issue that cuts across all party lines, and must be supported,” he told South Asian Focus.

Forum members also noted the official line suggesting the fault really lay with various governments who refused to sign Canada’s Social Security Agreement as a mere ploy to perpetuate such discrimination.

“How can a person who’s just come in at age 65 be told to wait 10 years before they qualify for a pension, while others get it in far less time?” queried Sidhu. Kuldip Singh Sahi, Forum president, noted seniors had fought for 15 years to have the bill reach the stage it is at currently.

“We have to lobby all MPs over the next three weeks” to June 20, to have it moved to the next stage, he added.


World Bank Studying Food Aid To Ease Crisis: Source

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The World Bank is studying the creation of a special fund to help combat aspects of the global food crisis which is threatening an increasing number of developing nations, a source said Wednesday.

The source, who requested anonymity, but is familiar with the matter, said the issue was to be discussed by the board of the multilateral Washington-based institution on Thursday. Escalating global prices of foodstuffs such as corn, rice and wheat have sparked protests in many countries, particularly less developed states, and raised concerns that many of the world's poor will face increased hunger problems.

The source said the precise amount of aid that could be provided has not yet been finalized, but another source said the fund could amount up to 200 million dollars.

"This is more for things like school feeding programs, food for work programs," said the first source who spoke with AFP, adding that the funds would likely be disbursed quickly if the program is approved. It is envisaged that any funds put together would provide targeted and limited relief rather than trying to tackle or ease the problem of food shortages and spiking commodity prices on a broad basis.

Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)  The FAO's estimate of the number of hungry people in 2002-04 was 862 million, including 830 million in developing countries.

Large food-producing countries such as Brazil have recently moved to halt certain food exports to deal with sharp increases in food prices in their domestic markets. Rising populations, strong demand from developing countries, increased cultivation of crops for biofuels and increasing floods and droughts have sent food prices soaring across the globe. Japan wants to make the global food situation one of the major themes of the Group of Eight summit it will host in July.


$500m Saudi aid for UN food fund
By Masood Haider

UNITED NATIONS, May 23: Saudi Arabia on Friday announced a contribution of $500 million to the United Nations World Food Programme in response to the urgent appeal made by the UN body.

In a statement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed what he called a contribution of “unprecedented size and generosity” which, he said, came not a moment too soon given the needs of the millions of hungry people the world over. Making the announcement on Friday, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe also said the contribution by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz completed the target of raising $755 million in response to the hike in fuel and food prices.

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