Alex Don, left, a student at Burlington, Ont.’s Assumption High School, with CAW president Ken Lewenza at Queen’s Park for the first reading of Bill-161.TORONTO - Although some teens may not like the idea of being labelled a new driver, at least one believes a special plate to indicate a car’s driver has a provisional licence would make the roads safer.

Alex Don, an 18-year-old student at Burlington, Ont.’s Assumption High School, proposed such an idea to provincial politicians, which has led to Bill-161, the Novice Driver “P” Plate Act, that was introduced in the Ontario Legislature and passed first reading March 10.  

“It’s difficult to get the G2 (graduated licence) and start driving on the highway,” said Don whose idea sparked the private member’s bill for the “P” licence plate.   

“There have been some naysayers who say they’re a great driver and don’t need to be branded,” said Don, but a majority of the teens he’s spoken with agree with the idea of a “P” plate.  

Good Shepherd Brothers on frontline for half a century

The Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd and their volunteers have been helping the needy in Hamilton, Ont., for 50 years.It has been 50 years of feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and clothing the naked for the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd in Hamilton, Ont.

“We’re the largest provider of community social services and health services in the Hamilton community — particularly in the area of mental health,” Br. Richard MacPhee, executive director of Good Shepherd Centres, told The Catholic Register.

Among the celebrations marking the milestone is a 50th anniversary breakfast at Liuna Station in Hamilton on April 19 with featured speaker Br. Justin Howson, superior general of the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd. And on June 18, Bishop Douglas Crosby will celebrate an anniversary Mass at Christ the King Cathedral.

Advance polls fall on Easter


You could vote on Good Friday, Holy Saturday or even Easter Monday, but you don’t have to and nobody should take offence that Elections Canada has chosen dates for advance polling that coincide with Easter, said Philip Horgan.

“Let’s not get too bogged down in minutia when there are bigger issues at stake here,” said Horgan, president of the Canadian Catholic Civil Rights League.

The bigger issues for the league include documenting the voting records of MPs on issues such as euthanasia and appealing an Ontario judge’s decision that would decriminalize street prostitution and bawdy houses. So their noses should not be out of joint over a voluntary advance polling date.

Canadian government falls after non-confidence vote


Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has been defeated in the House of Commons on a non-confidence motion.OTTAWA - The House of Commons has found the Conservative government in contempt of Parliament in a non-confidence motion that has triggered a May election.

A Liberal motion passed by a vote of 156-145 Friday afternoon. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will now ask Gov. Gen. David Johnston to dissolve Parliament, sending Canadians to the polls for the fourth time in seven years.

The non-confidence vote derails a voter-friendly federal budget tabled on Mar. 22 that had proposed millions of dollars in new spending. It also kills more than 30 pieces of pending legislation, including Bill C-393 that is supported by Canadian bishops and aims to make affordable generic drugs available to the world's poor to treat illnesses such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

Harper said he was disappointed by the defeat of his government because it heralds an election he maintains Canadians do not want. A federal election will cost taxpayers upwards of $300 million. Canada now faces its fifth election in little more than 10 years.

Budget lacks vision for helping the poor or young families

Prime Minister Stephen HarperOTTAWA - The reaction to the March 22 federal budget was muted among groups concerned about the family and the poor, with one group describing it as “ho hum."

But the reaction may be moot, as all three Opposition parties have signaled they will not support it, which would trigger a spring election, likely in May.

“It was a pretty quick read,” said Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) executive director Joe Gunn, who also chairs the Dignity for All Campaign for a Poverty-free Canada. “It looks like pretty thin gruel.”

Gunn was disappointed that concerns raised in a recent interfaith declaration by church leaders on making poverty reduction and social housing a priority were not tackled in the budget.

Alberta bishops' boycott of local March for Life could have national repercussions


The annual March for Life in Ottawa on May 12 could be affected by the Alberta bishops’ decision to not take part in the Edmonton version of the march the same day. (Photo by Deborah Gyapong)

OTTAWA - Campaign Life Coalition has expressed disappointment at the Alberta bishops’ decision to forgo participation in the Edmonton March for Life.

The march takes place May 12, the same day of the Campaign Life-run National March for Life in Ottawa.  

“They should be there, supporting, participating and leading,” said Mary Ellen Douglas. 

But she noted that the fact the Alberta bishops were also involved in organizing the march might have been part of the problem. A pro-life march is not a Catholic event, as such, so it should not be run by bishops, she said.

REAL Women to intervene in appeal of ‘safe’ drug injection site

REAL Women national vice-president Gwen LandoltOTTAWA - REAL Women of Canada has been granted leave to intervene before the Supreme Court of Canada in the Vancouver safe drug injection site case to be argued May 11.

The pro-family, pro-life women’s organization is the only group among nine interveners that will argue on behalf of the federal government’s position that Ottawa has jurisdiction to control illegal drugs and that those laws should have a moral basis.

The federal government is appealing a 2010 B.C. Court of Appeal ruling, which dismissed an earlier government appeal, to close InSite, the supervised safe-injection site in Vancouver. InSite opened in 2003 under a temporary exemption from national drug laws and offers drug addicts a place  to inject drugs while connecting to health services. When the temporary exemption was set to expire, InSite went to the B.C. Supreme Court and won a permanent exemption.

Antigonish abuse settlement going as expected

Antigonish Bishop Brian DunnANTIGONISH, N.S. - The settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed against the diocese of Antigonish on behalf of victims of sexual abuse remains on track and is meeting its timelines.

“It is going the way we anticipated it going,” said diocesan spokesman Fr. Paul Abbass.

“The response of the parish and the generosity of the parishes in this pooling, albeit very difficult for them, has been very good.”

In August 2009, the diocese agreed to pay $13 million relating to sexual abuse cases dating back several decades. Then-Bishop Raymond Lahey announced the deal, shortly before being charged himself with importing and possessing child pornography. Lahey will be in court to face these charges next month.  

Ontario’s equity policy on tap at annual OCSTA conference

Ontario Minister of Education Leona DombrowskyTORONTO - The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association conference takes place April 28 to 30 at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto.

Ontario Minister of Education Leona Dombrowksy will be a keynote speaker at the conference on the opening day of the annual conference.

Among the topics conference speakers and participants will discuss will be the Ontario government’s equity and inclusive education strategy and how it applies to Catholic schools and how the strategy will be implemented in Catholic schools. The issue has caused controversy as Catholic school boards try to implement the strategy while staying true to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Baby Joseph gets his tracheotomy

Moe Maraachli and his 14-month-old son, Joseph, are pictured in a St. Louis hospital room. Doctors performed a tracheotomy on the infant last night. (CNS photo/courtesy of SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center)Doctors at a St. Louis hospital performed a tracheotomy March 21 on Baby Joseph, the seriously ill 14-month-old who has been at the centre of an international tug-of-war over end-of-life care.

It's a procedure the Maraachli family has fought for ever since the Ontario Superior Court ordered them to give their consent to remove their child's breathing tube on Feb. 18. He has a neurodegenerative disease and needs a breathing and feeding tube to survive.The family defied the legal order and the advice of London Health Sciences Centre doctors who said his condition would not improve with the procedure, would be "invasive" and futile.

“Following a thorough examination by a multi-disciplinary medical team of specialists from SSM Cardinal Glennon and Saint Louis University School of Medicine, along with extensive consultations with Joseph's parents and the SSM Cardinal Glennon ethics committee, we concluded that a tracheotomy was medically appropriate,” said the SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Centre in a statement.

KAIROS still seeks truth behind funding cut


KAIROSOTTAWA - The apparent disconnect between the Conservative government and CIDA public servants over funding of the ecumenical social justice group KAIROS may expose a much deeper underlying issue about overseas development.

“It would be helpful if the real reasons were put on the table,” said KAIROS executive director Mary Corkery March 18 after she testified before the House of Commons procedure and house affairs committee.

Corkery’s testimony followed a two-hour grilling of CIDA Minister Bev Oda on whether she had deliberately misled the House of Commons. Oda changed the recommendation to grant funding to KAIROS after CIDA officials had given their approval.

One of the key signals of an ideological shift is the government’s criticism of KAIROS for funding advocacy. Corkery said the Latin roots of the word “advocacy” mean the bringing forward of “the voices of the poor and the marginalized and those who are suffering human rights abuses from our point of view.”