Ontario unveils pension reforms

The Ontario government has unveiled a package of technical changes for pension plans, but has deferred decisions about many high-profile areas of reform, including proposals to create a new supplementary pension system, wrote The Globe and Mail Dec. 10.

The proposals unveiled yesterday respond to many of the recommendations tabled a year ago by an expert commission led by York University President Emeritus Harry Arthurs. He said he is pleased to see action on his report, noting the changes outlined follow his panel’s proposals. “I’ve been quite impressed with the fact they seem to be working away quite straightforwardly – I’ve had other reports which didn’t fare so well,” he added.

  • Ontario’s pension laws have not seen major reforms in more than 20 years and the proposed changes are based on recommendations made by York University President Emeritus Harry Arthurs, wrote Canwest News Service Dec. 9, quoting Dwight Duncan, Ontario finance minister.

The Arthurs Report, released last November, made 142 recommendations, including a new regulator to keep watch over the province’s pension system and an expansion of the Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund.

The report also makes the case for broad changes in the structure and legislation around the pension system to allow a more flexible approach to plans and make them more affordable to employers and provide more security for plan members.

Book of Hours is among York’s archive collection

York University in Toronto has a hand-illuminated Latin copy of the Book of Hours published in 1425 in its special collection, University Archivist Michael Moir, who is also director of special collections, said yesterday, wrote the Montreal Gazette Dec. 10 in a story about a rare, 600-year-old Arabic version of the Christian Book of Prayers, owned by the Farhood family. “At a time when much of the world was not understood, faith and books like the Book of Hours helped people cope with the challenges of life,” he observed.

Moir said he had never heard of a Book of Hours in Arabic from this era, since the language of the church at that time was Latin. The Farhood manuscript would be “very unusual and rare,” but he was unable to speculate about its value.

‘Witch’ charged after lawyer paid her $100,000

Police have flipped to the medieval chapter of the Canadian Criminal Code and charged a woman with posing as a witch, allegedly to defraud a Toronto lawyer of more than $100,000, wrote the Toronto Star and The Hamilton Spectator Dec. 10.

The provision is a remnant from the [Early Middle] Ages, said Alan Young, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “But they wanted to regulate the practice to protect vulnerable people from giving their life savings over to fortune tellers who were basically con artists,” Young said.

The charge, which was part of the code when it was enacted in 1892, has nothing to do with the occult, but with people who fake mystical powers to scam others, Young said.

  • Alan Young, a professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about the use of an old law against witchcraft in a Toronto fraud case, on CBC Radio’s “Here & Now” Dec. 9.

Still on the books

“There’s got to be a couple dozen provisions that absolutely make no sense in the modern era,” wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 10, quoting Professor Alan Young of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in a story about outdated laws still on the statutes.

Section 163 (1b) – It’s illegal to print, publish, distribute, sell or possess a crime comic – those popular 1940s comic books with graphic depictions of violence and illicit doings.

Section 49 (a) – It’s illegal to commit an act with “intent to alarm Her Majesty.” This offence carries a prison sentence that can’t exceed 14 years.

Section 143 – Each time a victim of theft puts up a poster advertising a reward with “no questions asked” for the return of a stolen item, they are breaking a federal law.

Section 339 (1) – Anyone found guilty of “fraudulently” taking driftwood found in a lake or stream can be imprisoned for up to five years.

Sections 32-33 and 64-69 – These provisions require raucous groups to disperse within 30 minutes after being read the declaration commonly known as the Riot Act or else run the risk of facing life in prison.

More medical graduates needed

We commend the federal and provincial governments for seeking solutions for the recognition of foreign credentials for professional immigrants now in Canada, wrote Asiah Habhab, Liat Josovits, Abdohadi Tookhi and Nancy Kelley, students in York’s School of Health Policy & Management in the Faculty of Health, in a letter to the Toronto Star Dec. 10. It is a waste for the country and the immigrants not to use their talents.

However, the World Health Organization is forecasting a global shortage of physicians, so we should consider finding solutions in our own country, such as increasing the number of medical graduates in various health fields.

Sisters sing at Christmas concert

Mississauga’s The Ault Sisters will help celebrate the Christmas season with their third annual Christmas Matinee Concert, happening this Sunday in Toronto, wrote The Mississauga News Dec. 9.

The sisters – Amanda, Alicia and Alanna – will be joined by special guest Tyler Seidenberg for the concert at Hugh’s Room on Dundas Street West. It runs from noon to 4pm. Amanda is a first-year voice student at York University.