BC rejects copper and gold mine proposal on concerns over salmon

VICTORIA — The B.C. government has rejected plans for a copper and gold mine in the province’s northwest, saying the project could endanger salmon in the Skeena River.Pacific Booker Minerals Inc. had proposed the mine at Morrison Lake, a 15-kilometre-long lake surrounded by Crown land near Smithers.The lake is at the headwaters of the Skeena River, which produces the second-largest amount of sockeye salmon in B.C.[np-related]The government’s environmental assessment of the project found the mine could affect sockeye salmon populations as well as water quality in the lake, and the long-term environmental risks of the mine outweighed the potential benefits to the province.Pacific Booker had planned to dig out 30,000 tonnes of copper and gold ore from the site each day over 21 years.The nearby Babine Lake First Nation had earlier raised concerns about conservation of habitat and fish in the area if the mine was approved.The Canadian Press read more

Deadpool Star Wars help Cineplex set attendance record in first quarter

TORONTO — Canada’s largest chain of movie theatres says it set a record for attendance in the first quarter thanks in part to the continued interest in the “Star Wars” saga and a strong February opening for “Deadpool.”Cineplex Inc. (TSX:CGX) says it hosted 20.6 million patrons during the first three months of this year, a 17.4 per cent increase over the first quarter of 2015.Revenue from all Cineplex business lines totalled $379.9 million, up 30.8 per cent from $289.8 million a year earlier.Cineplex Inc to sell an even pricier and more immersive 4D film ticket‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ helps propel Cineplex to record Q4 resultsBox office sales accounted for $192.6 million of the total revenue, with smaller contributions coming from food, amusement games and other types of leisure activities.Cineplex reaped an average of $9.36 per patron from the box office and $5.44 per patron from concession sales, up about five per cent in both cases.Net income more than doubled to $21.5 million or 34 cents per share from $10.5 million or 17 cents per share and the dividend to Cineplex shareholders will increase by 3.8 per cent to $1.62 per share on an annualized basis.“Deadpool” opened in February and was the top film in the first quarter for Cineplex, followed by “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which opened in the fourth quarter of 2015. read more

Tears for Sears The rise and decline of a Canadian retail giant

TORONTO — For decades, Sears was a quintessential part of the Canadian shopping experience. Its catalogues adorned coffee tables and its Kenmore-branded appliances were staples in homes for generations. But like Eaton’s and Simpsons before it, Sears has encountered a litany of problems.Here’s a look at the history of Sears Canada:1952 — Simpsons-Sears is founded as a national mail-order business, as part of a partnership between the Robert Simpson Company of Toronto and Sears Roebuck Co. of Chicago.September 1953 — Simpsons-Sears opens its first store in Stratford, Ont.1973 — The company opens its first store under the Sears banner.1978 — Hudson’s Bay Company acquires the Simpson Company. The Simpsons-Sears partnership dissolves.1984 — The company formally changes its name to Sears Canada.1995 — Sears opens its first Sears Whole Home furniture store; later renames the store Sears Home.1998 — The company launches its e-commerce website, becoming one of the first retailers to do so in Canada.1999 — Sears buys the bankrupt chain, The T. Eaton Company Ltd., including all of the flagship department stores in coveted locations like the Toronto Eaton Centre.February 2009 — Sears cuts 300 jobs, less than one per cent of its workforce at the time, to prepare for a “tough” year in retail.June 2011 — Calvin McDonald is named president and CEO of Sears Canada and embarks on a three-year turnaround plan as sales decline and thousands of jobs are cut.2012 — Sears begins selling off leases to its stores in prime locations.September 2013 — McDonald abruptly steps down as president and CEO. Former U.S. naval aviator and retail consultant Douglas C. Campbell takes over as CEO.May 2014 — U.S. parent company Sears Holdings Corp. hints that it’s looking to sell the ailing retailer.September 2014 — Campbell steps down as CEO.October 2014 — Ronald Boire steps in as interim CEO.July 2015 — Boire steps down as CEO. Brandon Stranzl is named executive chairman of Sears Canada.November 2015 — Carrie Kirkman becomes Sears Canada president.July 2016 — Kirkman leaves the role.August 2016 — Sears Canada rebrands logo for the first time in 32 years by adding a maple leaf.December 2016 — The retailer announces plans to venture into the grocery business, saying its signed partnerships with two specialty supermarket operators to run food markets at some of its revamped locations.January 2017 — New Brunswick government gives Sears Canada $8.7 million to open business centres in Edmundston and Saint John. The centres are expected to create 540 new jobs in total.June 13, 2017 — Faced with a cash crunch that’s getting worse, the company announces it is exploring strategic alternatives including a sale.June 22, 2017 — Sears Canada is granted court protection from creditors. It announces plans to close 59 locations across the country and cut approximately 2,900 jobs under a court-supervised restructuring. read more

Sajin Vass further remanded till August 4

Former United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Parliamentarian Sajin Vass Gunawardena was ordered to be further remanded by Court today.The Colombo Fort Magistrate remanded the former Parliamentarian till August 4. Sajin Vass Gunawardena was arrested over allegations he had misused vehicles belonging to the Presidential Secretariat when he was the Monitoring MP of the Foreign Ministry. (Colombo Gazette)

IMF tells Lanka to bolster its economic defenses

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) today emphasized on the urgent need for Sri Lanka to bolster its economic defenses.An IMF staff mission visited Colombo February 1-5 to discuss recent economic developments and policies for the year ahead. The team met with government and central bank officials, as well as representatives of academia, civil society and the private sector. The team issued the following statement today at the conclusion of its visit: “Recent economic performance has been positive in a number of respects. Real GDP growth of 5.2 percent in the first three quarters of 2015 was achieved in the context of continued low inflation. Most sectors have shown positive growth, with particularly robust activity in tourism. Benefiting from low oil prices, the external current account balance has also narrowed to an estimated 2 percent of GDP by end-2015, compared with 2.6 percent in 2014. “However, the government fiscal deficit for 2015 is estimated to have exceeded the original budget target. Based on the budget framework for 2016, IMF staff estimates suggest the fiscal deficit could widen further. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s public debt has risen to over 74 percent of GDP by end-2015. Despite the narrowing of the current account, capital outflows have intensified and the overall balance of payments deteriorated. These outflows were accompanied by downward pressure on the rupee and a decline in central bank gross foreign exchange reserves mainly due to short-term capital outflows as experienced in many emerging markets.“These imbalances are also set against an increasingly less benign external environment. Key risks for emerging market and developing economies relate to a weaker global growth environment, market volatility, declining commodity prices, and tighter external financing conditions in the context of global rebalancing. Set against such risks, the mission emphasized the urgent need for Sri Lanka to bolster its economic defenses. “Several steps have already been taken to move macroeconomic policies toward a more sustainable path. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) has allowed market forces a greater role in determining the level of the exchange in 2015, with the rupee depreciating by over 9 percent. Monetary policy was also tightened at the end of the year in light of rapid money and private credit growth, excess liquidity, and the deterioration in the external position.“The mission has advised the government to urgently make a stronger effort to narrow the fiscal deficit and put the public finances on a sustainable path. While several measures in the budget (such as elimination of several special purpose levies, and the commitment to eliminate tax exemptions and bolster the efficiency of tax administration) are welcome, the mission highlighted the macroeconomic and financial risks of a large deficit and the associated need to borrow from domestic and international markets. The mission urged the authorities to take a growth and investment friendly approach to lowering the size of the 2016 budget deficit—focusing mainly on measures to raise revenues by broadening the tax base, simplifying and making equitable the tax system, and improving tax administration, to lay the groundwork for further consolidation and debt reduction while also allowing for higher public investment.” (Colombo Gazette) read more

Journalists file police complaint against SLPA chairman

A group of journalists today filed a police complaint against the chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) Dhammika Ranatunga.The journalists claimed that he had threatened them when they were doing their duty outside the Colombo High Court. Th journalists were taking visuals of Dhammika Ranatunga at the court premises when he had arrived to attend a court hearing into the arrest of his brother Nishantha Ranatunga.Dhammika Ranatunga was seen intimidating one journalist at the court premises before he went inside the building. The journalists filed a complaint with the Keselwatta police over the incident. (Colombo Gazette) read more

UN child rights committee in Geneva to review Sri Lanka

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is meeting in Geneva from 15 January to 2 February to review children’s rights in Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Panama, Seychelles, Spain, Solomon Islands, Palau and Marshall Islands.The Committee, which is composed of 18 independent experts, monitors how States that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) are complying with their obligations. The Government also notes in its report that the matter of children as victims and witnesses of crime has been addressed in the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act, No. 4 of 2015, which was enacted by the new Government in 2015.The Government also says it has taken significant efforts to eliminate child labour. This includes adoption of a list of 51 hazardous occupations and/or working conditions in which the employment of children is prohibited. (Colombo Gazette) During the meetings in Geneva, Committee members will hold question and answer sessions with the respective Government delegations. The sessions will be held at Palais Wilson, Ground Floor Conference Room, in Geneva and the review on Sri Lanka will be on January 15th and 16th. In its report submitted to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child head of the review, Sri Lanka says the present Government has made a policy decision to strengthen its engagement with the United Nations (UN) and other multilateral bodies, including UN treaty bodies. This policy decision also characterises Sri Lanka’s continuing engagement with the Committee on the Rights of the Child.The Government says with the end of the war in May 2009, Sri Lanka faced new challenges of development and national reconciliation that needed to be addressed.These challenges included the rehabilitation of former LTTE recruits, particularly former child soldiers, reuniting them with their families, addressing educational needs, providing vocational training and reintegrating them into civilian life. The Committee’s final evaluation will be based on the written report and replies submitted by the State party, and the information provided supplied by the delegation as well as by other UN bodies and NGOs. Other serious challenges included resettlement of displaced persons, de-mining, restoration of infrastructure throughout the country, particularly in the North and East, and advancing reconciliation among communities. read more

US human rights report notes sexual abuse by Sri Lankan authorities

Excessive use of force against civilians by police and security officials also remained a concern, the report said.The Executive Summery of the report notes that human rights issues reported in Sri Lanka included unlawful killings; torture, notably sexual abuse; arbitrary detention by government forces; website blocking; violence against lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons and criminalization of same-sex sexual activity; and corruption. Although same-sex sexual conduct was prohibited by law, it was rarely prosecuted.Police reportedly harassed civilians with impunity, and the Government had yet to implement a mechanism to hold accountable government security personnel accused of crimes during the civil war. During the year, however, the Government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish some officials who committed human rights abuses. (Colombo Gazette) A US human rights report has noted allegations of sexual abuse committed by Sri Lankan authorities last year.The ‘2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices’ released by the US State Department notes that there were reports of sexual abuse committed by Government and security sector officials against wives who came forward seeking information about their missing husbands or against war widows who attempted to claim Government benefits based on their deceased husbands’ military service. It stated that many reports of torture referred to police officers allegedly “roughing up” suspects to extract a confession or otherwise elicit evidence to use against the accused. The report states that interviews by human rights organizations found that torture by police remained endemic throughout the country.As in previous years, suspects arrested under the PTA since the civil war ended in 2009 gave accounts of torture and mistreatment, forced confessions, and denial of basic rights such as access to lawyers or family members. Some released former combatants reported torture or mistreatment, including sexual abuse by state officials while in rehabilitation centers and after their release. The report released by US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo notes that according to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) torture committed by Police forces was routine and continued throughout the country, and it received 193 allegations of physical and mental torture by state actors as of June last year. read more