Women’s group without government funding

A local group designed to help immigrant women in Halifax has not received government funding since 2009, after its current executive director was accused of mismanaging money from a federal grant the group received in 2008.

AWEDA was founded by Rosamond Luke in 2005. The group was formed to help immigrant women in Halifax find jobs and learn skills to help them in the workforce. Photo Courtesy of aweda.ca

Five years after Rosamond Luke was accused of mismanaging a $142,700 grant from the Status of Women in Canada and a $38,000 grant from the IWK community grants program, the All Women’s Empowerment and Development Association is still working quietly in Halifax. Brenda Saunders-Todd, the former chair of AWEDA, was surprised to learn that the group was still active.

“I am unaware of it (AWEDA) continuing operation, and… can’t imagine who would be providing support?,” said Saunders-Todd in an email.

Looking for money

Not only is the group still running, but Luke is still its executive director, lobbying for funding from government groups to help fund programs within AWEDA to help immigrant women in need gain employment training.

On Aug. 22, 2013, AWEDA renewed its status as a lobbying group for another six months. The group has been registered with the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbyists of Canada since June 25, 2009.

Saunders-Todd was involved with AWEDA in 2008, and her surprise stems from the knowledge that she was one of two people who saw the group close in 2008.

On May 3, 2008 the All Women’s Empowerment and Development Association (AWEDA) was given a $142,700 grant from the Status of Women in Canada. Six months later, problems with AWEDA became public after its executive director, Rosamond Luke, was suspended for not being open about her past history, including charges against her in 2006 for uttering threats. A few days after Luke was suspended, Brenda Saunders-Todd, now former AWEDA Board Chair, discovered that most of the group’s money was gone.

Saunders-Todd and Glazebrook took control of the group in September 2008, and closed the group as a result of lack of money to keep the group running. -Photo courtesy of MetroNews

According to Saunders-Todd, the group closed shortly after she and Dr. Patricia Glazebrook, another former board member, discovered that, after taxes, the group had only $2,300 left.

AWEDA closes

Shortly after Saunders-Todd and Patricia Glazebrook, a former AWEDA director, suspended Luke they began to look at the group’s money and spending records. According to court records, after the two went to Credit Union Atlantic to look into AWEDA’s spending and money owed was paid to Revenue Canada, the group did not have enough money to continue, so Saunders-Todd and Glazebrook made a decision to close the organizations doors.

According to court documents, some of the group’s cheques had been made out to cash and others were paid to Luke.

Luke refused to comment, but in an email she denied the accusations against her. “I am doing great and I am blessed and if those accusations were accurate I wont (sic) be here today,” she said.

Because the group closed, the Registry of Joint Stock companies shows that they defaulted for non-payment on Dec. 4, 2008. The group was re-activated the next day, Dec. 5, 2008.

Two days after the group closed, Dec. 6, 2008, it was active and holding its Annual General meeting. Neither Saunders-Todd nor Glazebrook were present. At the meeting, Luke was re-instated as executive director by a newly appointed board of directors. This action, according to Saunders-Todd, was not legal.

According to the Societies Act, any change in a group’s board of directors must be filed within 14 days of any changes. At the time, no change had been filed when Luke was re-instated. The change of directors was filed Dec. 10, 2008.

Government audit

On January 14, 2009, Saunders-Todd received a letter from the Status of Women in Canada that it was looking into performing an audit on the groups use of the grant money. Luke also received a similar letter.

According to Saunders-Todd, Status of Women determined that the audit would cost too much, and “they would not be able to recover the funds.” Status of Women was not able to comment in time for publication.

Court Cases

In a small claims court case, Luke made claims against Saunders-Todd, Glazebrook and Grant Machum, asking that AWEDA property be returned and claiming for personal items that Luke also claimed had been taken. The first hearing for the case was on February 17, 2009.

On February 18, 2009, the day after the small claims court case was first heard, Luke was accused of stealing from the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC). According to court records, Luke was charged with possession of stolen property on Oct. 28, 2010.

The small claims court judge dismissed the two claims and Luke was ordered to pay Machum for the costs of the case, $848.79.

Despite the initial ruling, Luke tried to appeal the case on October 10, 2009. She claimed that the judge, Judge Walter Thompson, was biased, because he had a connection to Credit Union Atlantic, the bank where AWEDA had its account. Peter Bellworthy, the Credit Union vice president, was a witness in the first court case, and Luke claimed bias because the Judge Thompson and Bellworthy knew each other, and so Thompson had personal interest in the matter.

Luke also tried to appeal for bias, because Thompson said that AWEDA was not a corporation, but, according to the earlier court document, AWEDA was not a corporation, because the guidelines and bylaws of the group were not being followed in September 2008.

The Supreme Court judge dismissed Luke’s appeal, and no other court cases were filed.

Raising concerns

Saunders-Todd is not the only one who questions the group’s status. Colin MacDonald, a former volunteer fundraiser and former patron of the group also did not know the group was still active.

MacDonald was involved with AWEDA when it was in the planning stages. He donated money and encouraged others to as well. Looking back, he regrets his actions.

When the group first began in 2005, it was funded by donations from patrons like Colin MacDonald, a former fundraiser and patron of the group, who was involved with AWEDA during its planning stages.

He distanced himself from the group after he began to disagree with how the group was using money. “There was some things I didn’t agree with which entailed spending money on issues that I just found very difficult to believe that they needed; expensive office space, etc.,” said MacDonald.

MacDonald offers this caution when it comes to AWEDA, “I was stupid enough to give funding to the group to begin with,” he said. He did all he could for AWEDA, before he walked away from the group.

Leading a group

Saunders-Todd is no longer in contact with Luke or AWEDA, but she currently works with Dress for Success Halifax, a community group that helps women in need find clothes for job interviews and tools to help them get jobs. For her, it’s important to know who is leading a charity.

“I think it’s extremely important to know ‘who’ is leading or running these groups,” she said in an email.

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Breeder's animal cruelty conviction overturned

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Few people are dismissed from post-charge alternative diversion program in Nova Scotia

Over the last 18 years, few people have returned to provincial court to be formally charged a second time, after not living up to their agreement to complete adult diversion Continue reading

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Fraud, forgery, pot, and a general practitioner

A Nova Scotia doctor is facing charges of fraud and forgery, but this is not his first brush with the law. Dr. Dinesh Sinha (Sihn-Ha), who was arrested in connection with a pot bust last year, will appear in court on August 27on unrelated charges. He is accused of creating false records and billing the province for work that he did not do.

Sinha’s lawyer did not return phone calls so it is unclear how these charges came about, but the provincial government does do random checks to ensure that doctors are billing the province accurately. When asked about the charges, Sinha said that he had no comment.

Photo from cbc.ca 

College of Physicians and Surgeons lifts suspension

When Sinha was arrested on December 14, 2012, he was charged with selling prescriptions for medical marijuana. His license to practice medicine was temporarily suspended by the board in charge of disciplining doctors in Nova Scotia. In a phone interview, Dr. Douglas Grant, CEO of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia, said, “the suspension was lifted when the committee came to an agreement that the public safety concern had been addressed.” The charge against Sinha for selling medical marijuana prescriptions was eventually dropped.

The college has chosen not to suspend Sinha’s license again in view of these new charges of fraud and forgery. Grant would not comment on the new charges but he did say that the college will wait for the criminal proceedings to play out; then it will determine whether or not further action should be taken. The most serious penalty the college can impose is to revoke or annul a doctor’s license.

Physicians and medical marijuana laws

Sinha is not the first doctor to be nabbed by the long arm of the law in relation to medical marijuana prescriptions. Dr. Rob Kamermans was charged with selling medical marijuana prescriptions and accused of over-prescribing cannabis. He is allowed to practice, but is now restricted from prescribing pot.

In an exclusive interview, Sinha said that he would no longer prescribe medical marijuana despite being a firm believer in its benefits. That interview was conducted before he was confronted about the new charges.

Canada’s medical marijuana laws constantly changing

Canada started offering medical marijuana in 2001. Since then the medical marijuana laws have undergone several changes.

As it stands, patients who are prescribed medical marijuana by a physician have only two options: they can either apply to the government for a license to grow marijuana or they can get their prescribed marijuana from an already licensed grower.

Sinha wonders why the RCMP is so worried about marijuana. He says patients who use drugs like Demerol and morphine are at greater risk of developing addictions than those using marijuana, yet law enforcement does not seem to be concerned with how those drugs are being prescribed or used.

Sinha believes that seeing arrests and charges connected to medical marijuana will discourage doctors like him from prescribing marijuana, even though it may be a safer and more effective treatment for some patients such as those suffering from epilepsy, cancer, anorexia, and other ailments.

However, the number of medical marijuana users actually increased by 104 per cent between January and December 2012 and the number of people licensed to grow it has increased significantly as well.

Data from Statistics Canada

What’s next for marijuana legislation?

Marijuana has been making headlines recently as Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau publicly advocated for  legalizing the drug. Sinha is on the same page: “Alcohol is much more dangerous than marijuana, yet it is openly sold. I do not understand why the government is so picky about it [marijuana].”

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Criminally convicted doctor practicing in Sydney

Nova Scotia-wide doctor shortage has Steven Hall taking in new patients regularly

Booking photo from Dr. Steven Hall’s May 2009 arrest for the murder of his wife, Isabel. Hall was eventually convicted of second-degree manslaughter in the case.Some residents are outraged convicted felon Dr. Steven Hall has opened a new practice in Sydney, N.S., but with a doctor shortage in the area they have no choice but to seek his expertise.

Some residents are wary of convicted felon Dr. Steven Hall, who opened a new practice in Sydney, N.S. However, with a doctor shortage in the area they have no choice but to seek his expertise.

A Cape Breton woman, who chooses to remain anonymous to protect her job, said she had to call when she found out Hall had openings.

“It’s out of desperation that I’m going there. If there was anything else I could do, I wouldn’t go. It comes down to a trust issue. I wouldn’t trust him knowing his past,” she said.

Hall was released from prison in January 2012 after being convicted for the May 29, 2009 accidental killing of his wife, Isabel Hall, originally from Sydney River, N.S. The incident happened while the couple were living in Kentucky.

His patient knew all about his record when she took the appointment, but did so anyway for her family’s health and well-being.

“I don’t think I should ethically or morally see him, but beggars can’t be choosers … He’s the only doctor in industrial Cape Breton taking patients.”

The appointment is less for her and more for her two children.

“What’s a mom to do? I can’t not have a doctor for my children. Someone put him there and gave him authority, and here I am with no doctor. If he wasn’t there I’d still have no doctor.

While some people are telling the patient she’s made a mistake, she’d given out the practice’s number to three people at the time of the interview.

“We need doctors down here that bad. Your first thought is ‘that is terrible,’ but your second thought is, ‘is he seeing new patients?’”

 Hall returns to roots

Hall has been keeping a busy office since he started back last Monday. He said patients have been “extremely grateful” to see him.

“There’s such a high demand for doctors. There’s a waiting list of 1,000 people, but we have been able to give 500 appointments,” said Hall on Friday.

He said when the Chronicle Herald’s article came out, he was worried how the press would affect patients, but there was actually an increase in bookings.

“Today we had about 50 people call and want to be patients … A lot of people didn’t know that a doctor was available. We have so many people wanted doctors and they don’t care whether I’m a bank robber or whatever.”

Hall came back to Nova Scotia, where he originally went to university, because he wanted to be back with family and those close to him.

“I came to be closer to my wife’s family and her grave. She is buried here,” he said.

Hall comes back to Nova Scotia as the province sits in the midst of a serious doctor shortage.

The 2012 government report Shaping Our Physician Workforce said “while there is planning at the district level, there has been little province-wife planning to determine what types of doctors are needed where.”

In 2011-2012, Nova Scotia had fewer family doctors and more specialists than the national average.

“The current mix is 42 per cent family physicians to 58 per cent specialists, while the national mix is 50-55 per cent family physicians to 45-50 per cent specialists.”

Lorianne MacLean, the coordinator for physician recruitment at the Cape Breton District Health Authority, said in an emailed statement that 31 per cent of family physicians in the area will retire by 2020.

“Family physician shortages means that the demand for non-urgent care increases in emergency departments.  This is a higher cost to the tax payer, and more importantly can lead to fragmented care for the person seeking care,” the statement said.

The statement said the health authority was working on “collaborative care models” with the province to fix the shortage. Hall was hired to replace a retired physician in Sydney.

“With respect to giving him credentials to work in the district, his record came into play.  The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia conducted a comprehensive review of his case, and ruled he was eligible to practice in Nova Scotia under the condition of having a mentor,” the statement said.

He is working under a doctor at the Sydney Family Practice, but had to go through a year-long process of examinations by the board that grants the right to practice first.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia approved his application and did a two-day clinical competency examination, written and oral exams and a 13-hour psychiatric examination. The college didn’t return calls for comment on the exact procedures Hall had to go through.

Hall maintains his innocence, although five witnesses stated in trial they saw Hall accelerate his pontoon boat over his wife after she fell into the water on Herrington Lake, in Kentucky.

“(Tara) Silbersdorf testified that she watched Hall turn his boat toward Isabel and accelerate ten to twenty feet,” the Court of Appeal document stated.

Hall was sentenced August 16, 2010 for 2nd degree (accidental) manslaughter. His appeal was denied Oct 21, 2011, and remained in prison until January 2012, serving 36 months after he was sentenced. However, he was never released on bail between his arrest and the trial.

Doctor putting life back together

Hall is still devastated by the loss of his wife.

“Isabel was the love of my life. We were married 21 years, we never fought and we were both faithful to each other. Isabel’s loss is tremendous. She was the mother of my children,” said Hall.

Her sister, Susan MacVicar stated her family was “dealing privately with the matter.”

She called Isabel an amazing woman and said the family holds no ill will toward Hall for the incident that caused his wife’s death.

As for the meantime, Hall is looking forward and trying to put things back together.

“I’m trying to put the interests of my boys first. I have my medical career on track and I finally have the chance to be a productive citizen after doing nothing for four-and-a-half years.

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Target keeps expanding despite disappointing first quarter

The company blamed soft sales in seasonal clothing for decline

Retail company Target continues to open Canadian stores despite a 28.5 per cent drop in profits during this year’s first quarter.

The company blames softer-than-expected sales in “seasonal and weather-related categories” for the dip, which saw after-tax profits fall from $697 million to $498 million.

The company refused requests for an interview and wouldn’t discuss first quarter results. It wanted to wait until the Aug. 21 unveiling of the second quarter results to discuss financials.

The March 2013 sale of their customer credit card receivables to TD Bank Group allowed for a pre-tax gain of $391 million within the company. However, the company paid off debts of $445 million. They declined to specify who they paid back, but the payment combined with the softer sales in the U.S. accounted for the striking change in finances last quarter.

Target could see long-term gains due to expansion

While the loss of profit could be a warning sign, Dalhousie’s economics department chair and professor Kuan Xu says the company’s financials could see large long-term gains.

“Zellers was bought by Target. They (Target) closed down profitable stores and suspended service. But they’re starting to inject their new format and product in hopes of gaining more revenue,” said Xu.

He says any new investment will “generate some additional revenue as well as profit,” but those gains may not be seen in the short-term.

In Canada, costs incurred from opening and renovating stores left the Canadian segment of the company with a $205 loss in earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT).

But Target made clear it was happy with the performance of its stores north of the border.

“We saw a surge in sales in Canada soon after opening our initial stores, especially in home and apparel,” Target said in an emailed response.

They said sales in Canada have recently leveled off, but say their guests are “responding positively to the brands and products that differentiate us in the marketplace.”

To date 68 stores have opened in Canada, including 44 since the end of the first quarter.

Target plans to open their first stores in Atlantic Canada and Quebec in the fall, and in the end should have 124 stores by the end of the year, according to their emailed statement.

“There’s a disconnect between what you read in the quarterly report, and what can come in the future,” said Xu. “With any new investment you won’t expect profits to turn around quickly.”

He says the replacement of Zellers with Target is something “most Canadians are looking forward to.”

“There are upsides to taking over companies or expanding and some Canadians will be happy to see the competition and products with a low price.”

But he warns the Target will have to differentiate itself from competitors like Wal-Mart to be successful.

“You can’t differentiate much in products and merchandise. But you can differentiate in service, layout and attracting the consumer.”

Going forward, Target will have to find a way to set itself apart in a new market.

“They will have to diversify … The big U.S. companies cannot rely on the domestic market alone to continue to grow,” he said.

“The retail space is crowded. Canada is certainly a new market to get into for Target.”

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Tiffany & Co. hopes to polish tarnished silver sales in 2013

Increasing silver sales is the focus for jewelry giant Tiffany & Co. this year. According to the company’s quarterly report, overall sales are up 9 per cent but silver sales are lagging.

Source: Tiffany & Co. annual report

High-end jewelry sells well, silver lags

Tiffany’s more expensive products, which are mostly necklaces and rings made of rare coloured diamonds encased in platinum, are meeting sales goals. On the other hand, silver jewelry, which makes up most of Tiffany’s cheaper products in the form of rings, necklaces and pendants, is selling poorly compared to a few years ago, according to Mark Aaron, Tiffany’s Vice-President of Investor Relations.

In an attempt to improve silver sales, the company is creating and promoting new, elaborate silver items. Some of the new products that landed on shelves this spring include the Ziegfeld collection, which contains several silver items made with freshwater pearls and onyx. Aaron says that these new products have a higher price tag than previous silver pieces. He hopes that when the second quarter report comes out later this month, it will show an increase in profit from silver sales.

Aaron noted that in the past, silver jewelry accounted for a quarter of Tiffany’s sales. He says the company would like to get back to meeting that target. In 2012, silver sales accounted for 21 per cent of the company’s total sales.

Is counterfeiting a contributing factor?

In Tiffany’s 2012 annual report, shareholders were advised that the company has been involved in lawsuits with groups and companies who have been making and selling counterfeit Tiffany products. Most counterfeit Tiffany products are made of silver. Coincidentally, this is also the area where Tiffany is lagging in sales. In the 2012 annual report, Tiffany voiced concerns about the impact counterfeiting could have on the company:

“In recent years, there has been an increase in the availability of counterfeit goods, predominantly silver jewelry, in various markets by street vendors and small retailers, as well as on the Internet. The continued sale of counterfeit merchandise could have an adverse effect on the TIFFANY & CO. brand by undermining Tiffany’s reputation for quality goods and making such goods appear less desirable to consumers of luxury goods. Damage to the Brand would result in lost sales and profits.”

 Wayne Edwards, Chair of the Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network, says a lot of companies don’t want to talk about counterfeit goods. He says companies don’t want consumers to associate their products with counterfeiting because they may choose to go elsewhere out of fear of not knowing whether they are buying real or counterfeit items.

Edwards also adds that it is difficult for companies like Tiffany to give statistics about counterfeiting. He says everyone knows counterfeit products exist, but that it is difficult to say how prevalent they are or how much they affect sales. The network released a report last year, which states “counterfeiting is responsible for billions of dollars in losses to the Canadian economy.” The federal government introduced new anti-counterfeiting legislation earlier this year, but Edwards says more changes are necessary to deter those making and selling counterfeit products.

Fighting counterfeiting

Groups like the Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network, based in Toronto, focus on raising awareness about counterfeit goods. They hold seminars and also offer training to groups like the RCMP about identifying counterfeit products.

Edwards offers some simple advice to consumers, “If the price of something, whether it’s a designer ring or an electrical part, seems too good to be true, it probably is.”


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Suncor loses money in the second quarter due international conflicts and the flooding in southern Alberta

Unpredictable weather events force Suncor to reduce oil production in Alberta. Its third quarter may also be affected by conflicts in Northern Africa and Western Asia Continue reading
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Indigo, Chapters loses profits

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Widows get full compensation after years of struggle

Betty Bauman’s phone bill nearly doubled in April, but it was worth every penny to hear the joy and surprise in the voices of widows across Nova Scotia, she said in a phone interview.

Bauman’s first husband had only been working for six weeks at a coal mine when he died as the result of a rock fall over fifty years ago. As a 26-year old widow with three young daughters to raise, Bauman simply did not have time to grieve. She moved to Ontario where she focused on working and raising her family. She was also re-married briefly. It was only  when she moved back to Nova Scotia twenty-one years later that she finally got her first chance to really mourn her loss.

Satisfaction for widows across the province

For years, a group of widows has been fighting to change the provincial law governing widow’s workers compensation for those who lost their husbands in workplace accidents. That is why it was so satisfying for Bauman to call the other women to tell them they would be getting around $110,000 in back pay. Bauman says they were all thrilled, but many of them were filled with disbelief. “I said: ‘Well, it’s happening, believe it!’” said Bauman matter-of-factly.

Betty Bauman speaking at the Nova Scotia Legislature on April 19, 2013 when she and the other widows were told that they would receive their compensation. Photo courtesy of the Nova Scotia Government.

A long battle

Before 1999, widows who remarried no longer received their survivor’s pensions. In the 1990s, several widows protested that this law violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically, the section based on equality, which prohibits discrimination.

In 1999, the law was changed because it discriminated based on marital status. While the change was encouraging, there was a catch; women who remarried before 1985, when the section on equality was added to the constitution, were excluded. This meant that widows like Bauman would only receive compensation from 1999 onwards. She did not think it was fair for them not to be compensated simply because they had remarried.

In the following years, Bauman led the other widows in a campaign to change the law–writing letters, calling politicians, and pleading with community leaders. In 2000, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruled in favour of compensating the widows. However, the government at the time, led by former premier John Hamm, appealed and the decision was overturned. It was a big letdown for the widows who had been granted their wish, only to have it snatched away.

Support and a new bill

Bauman finally found a supporter in Frank Corbett, the Minister of Labour and Advancement Education in Nova Scotia.  She received a call from Corbett the second week of April asking if she and some of the other widows could make a trip to Halifax on the 19th. He told her not to let on to anyone except the widows she was bringing with her that there would be an announcement. Bauman called a few of the other women. “I said, ‘Look, we’ve got to go to the legislature on the 19th, but you’ve got to promise me that you won’t say a word to anybody. If you do, I’ll kill you!’” she recalled, with a chuckle. Seven widows made it to Halifax to hear an emotional Corbett announce that they would be getting the compensation. A week later the bill was officially passed. The women were thrilled.

Bauman, who will turn 80 next year, says that her late husband often told her that she was too strong and independent. But she’s pretty sure that he would be proud of how she used her strength and independence to tirelessly fight for her cause.

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