Canadian lugers slide into holidays with belated Olympic medal

Image : CBC


Canada has won its first-ever Olympic luge medal. Four years after the fact.

In Sochi in 2014, the luge relay team of Alex Gough, Sam Edney, Justin Snith and Tristan Walker placed a heart-breaking fourth, just one-tenth of a second off the podium.

But this morning, the International Olympic Committee confirmed the long-rumoured doping violations of two members of the silver medal-winning Russian squad, Albert Demchenko and Tatiana Ivanova.

​The disqualifications — which came along with sanctions against nine other Russian Olympians — mean that Latvia moves up to the silver medal spot behind Germany, and that the Canadians will receive the bronze.

That will bring Canada’s Sochi haul to 26 medals — 10 gold, 10 silver and six bronze — tying Vancouver as the country’s best-ever Winter Games showing.

It’s also a much-delayed measure of redemption for a luge team that was agonizingly close to its big breakthrough at the Sanki Sliding Center in Krasnaya Polyana, turning in three fourth-place finishes and a fifth.

Perhaps it will spur their success in Pyeongchang this coming February. There are already some positive omens.

At a World Cup event in Calgary earlier this month, Gough, Edney, Snith and Walker combined to win three silvers in the men’s, women’s and doubles events.

Now they have even more to celebrate.

Canada’s rising bread rage

When Loblaw’s and its affiliated bakery George Weston Ltd. admitted to their part in an “industry-wide,” 14-year conspiracy to fix the price of bread products in Canada earlier this week, they were surely braced for some bad publicity.

But it’s the grocery chain’s goodwill gesture” that risks blowing up in their faces.

As compensation for their actions, the company has offered a $25 grocery gift card to all “eligible customers.” Loblaw’s estimates that the offer will cost it somewhere between $75 million and $150 million. (By blowing the whistle on the price-fixing scheme and their competitors, the company will escape punishment from Canada’s Competition Bureau.)

But the move has become the focus of an online campaign to teach the chain a lesson, which is encouraging as many Canadians as possible to sign up and then donate the cards to local food banks.

Canada’s current population is 36,708,100, with 28,708,000 people aged 20 and older. If each and every one of those people signed up, it would end up costing Loblaw’s more than $719 million.

That would certainly be a nice bonus for the country’s food banks. The Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society, for example, took in $13.8 million in donations last year. The Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto, received $14 million in cash and goods in 2016. And Moisson Montreal, which collects and distributes food to other charities and is the country’s largest food bank, took in $85 million.

Registration for the cards won’t open until Jan. 8 — although you can sign up for a reminder email at The company hasn’t yet made clear all the terms and conditions, although Kevin Groh, a company spokesman, has indicated that customers will have to declare they are at or above the age of majority and purchased certain packaged bread products at an eligible banner store before March 1, 2015.

Loblaw’s is also dealing with the anger of some its competitors, who accuse the grocery giant of throwing them “under the bus” in its attempts to come clean. Sobey’s Inc. is demanding a public retraction for the “unsubstantiated and quite possibly, defamatory” claim that price fixing was “industry wide.” And Metro Inc. has issued a statement saying it “finds no evidence” that its bread pricing practices violated the Competition Act.

Perhaps another gift card is in order.

Climate refugees

Warming global temperatures could drive a million migrants a year to Europe by the end of this century, says a new study.

The paper, by two American academics and published in the journal Science, cross-referenced 14 years of European Union asylum applications with temperature data from the refugees’ countries of origin. What they found was that when average temperatures increased above 20 C — optimal growing weather for many crops — so did the number of migrants. And the higher the average temperature climbed, the more people left.

The authors predict that this will result in a tripling of asylum claims in Europe over the next eight decades, under the current rate of climate change. And if the world gets hotter, or the weather changes more rapidly, even more people will seek the safety offered by the continent’s more moderate climate and relative prosperity.

They are not alone in sounding the alarm. Earlier this month in London, UK, a group of former generals warned that climate change will soon create a world where mass migrations are the “new normal.”

Major General Munir Muniruzzaman, chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change (GMACCC), predicted that his home country, Bangladesh, will be “ground zero” for the refugee crisis. “With a one metre sea-level rise, Bangladesh will lose about 20 per cent of its land mass. We’re going to see refugee problems on an unimaginable scale, potentially above 30 million people.” Enough to destabilize all of southeast Asia, he said.

Other groups have pointed to the role that weather might have played in the Syrian civil war as an example of what lies in store. While a drought that lasted from 2006 to 2011 was by no means the only factor in the conflict, it contributed to tensions by causing 1.5 million people to migrate from the countryside to Syria’s cities, increasing unemployment and unrest.

Of course, these studies have their critics, who point out that wars occur against all sorts of backdrops, and that people leave their homes for many reasons. Some suggest that the climate change narrative has already evolved beyond such “apocalyptic” refugee predictions.

A paper published this month in the Geographical Journal says migration is now increasingly represented as a “legitimate adaptation strategy,” a positive development that makes climate migrants seem like less of a security threat.

But the authors also worry that the growing acceptance of the idea that millions of people will eventually have to pick up and move somehow “de-politicizes” the entire climate change debate, shifting the focus from governments to individuals.

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