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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    TORONTO - Two Air Canada baggage handlers set to lose their jobs over a video showing bags being dropped several metres into a bin on the ground were working under intense pressure to move the items quickly, their union said Monday.

    Bill Trbovich, a spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said when there's no more room for carry-on luggage inside a plane, handlers are forced to take the rest outside in a rush to be stowed elsewhere so the flight isn't delayed.

    But the stairs up to the plane are so steep, it would be dangerous to hurry down, Trbovich said.

    Meanwhile, "management is pushing them to get the planes out on time," he said.

    The video, taken by a passenger on board a plane at Toronto's Pearson Airport, shows one worker dropping baggage about six metres from the stairs to a luggage bin on the ground while another baggage handler works below.

    Air Canada, which has dealt with backlash since the video was posted on YouTube on April 18, said the two employees have been suspended and will be fired as a result of the incident.

    They have been told "their employment will be terminated pending the outcome of our investigation," spokeswoman Angela Mah said in an email.

    The airline has apologized for what it calls the "totally unacceptable mishandling of our passengers' baggage captured on video."

    The video is titled "How Air Canada Handles Your Baggage" and has prompted some to vow never to fly with Air Canada again.

    Some, however, have come to the airline's defence, saying it shouldn't be judged by one incident.

    Trbovich said it's not yet known whether the union will file a grievance.

    But he stressed the airline could help prevent such incidents by enforcing its own carry-on restrictions.

    Employees are also under increased scrutiny now that everyone can shoot photos and video on their phone, and it's not enough to just do your job safely and to the best of your abilities, he said.

    "You're constantly looking over your shoulder," he said.

    "You go about your business trying to do your job and you've got to be cognizant of where you are to make sure you don't hurt yourself or fall down or something, and to worry about whether somebody's taking your picture through an airplane window."

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    Besides the incredible weather, the laidback lifestyle, and the superb food and wine, California is also where you can spoil yourself with some of the best spa treatments in the world. And don’t you deserve to get pampered and enjoy some R&R while you’re in the Golden State? (Yes, you do.) Be prepared for future trips to California if you try any of these treatments -- they’re so good, you may find yourself making excuses to jet set to the West Coast more often.

    When you need a break from wine tours in Napa Valley, escape to Meadowood where you can still indulge in grapes, but in a different way. Their Grape Seed Harvest Wraps makes use of grape seed’s abundance of vitamins A, C, E, and antioxidants to help make your skin more resilient against environmental stressors such as pollution. It starts with dry brushing and hot towel compresses, and continues with a Cabernet Passion Fruit Scrub. Afterwards, your body is enveloped in a mud mask and blankets as you enjoy a massage. This may be a different way to consume your grapes than you’re used to, but one that’s just as satisfying as drinking a great wine.

    Hotel Healdsburg
    When in Sonoma County, you have to drink some of the area’s wine -- that’s a given. But how about a spa treatment that incorporates vino, too? At the spa at Hotel Healdsburg, get rejuvenated with the Wine and Honey Wrap, in which you get a face, neck and foot massage as you are enveloped in warm blankets. The signature treatment involves the blend of honey, organically farmed sauvignon blanc from Quivera Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley, and a hydrating cream designed to clear pores, get your circulation going, and moisturize your thirsty skin.

    Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
    If stress and achy muscles are troubling you, then the Cedar Enzyme Bath at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Sonoma should be your destination. This spa is one of the few to offer this Japanese heat treatment, in which you soak in a wooden tub containing ground cedar, rice bran and plant enzymes from Japan. It’s the fermentation of these components that creates warmth that is similar to the body’s metabolic process, and you reap the benefits of soothed muscles and joints, refreshed mind and body, and detoxifying.

    Spa Radiance
    If your favorite flowers are roses, then you’ll have to add the Red Rose Treatment at Spa Radiance in San Francisco to your bucket list. The two-hour treatment begins by getting your skin from head to toe baby soft with a body polish. Next, practice your deep breathing during European rose aromatherapy while you hydrate your skin with a steam tent. Finally, enjoy even more roses as a fine rose oil is massaged all over your body.

    Peninsula Beverly Hills
    You know that Beverly Hills, the epitome of Hollywood glamour, is sure to offer spa treatments that are simply beyond luxurious; its well-heeled locals expect the best, after all. And what could be more extravagant than a body scrub that incorporates gems and (yes, a girl’s best friend) diamonds? At the Peninsula Beverly Hills, the oils from diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires are used for their healing powers (diamonds promote harmony, for example) in their one-hour body scrub Gem Stone Revival.

    Hotel Bel-Air
    Bel-Air may immediately make you think of an extravagant lifestyle, so it’s fitting that La Prairie Spa at the Hotel Bel-Air offers one of the most extravagant facials in California. Your skin will be rewarded with the White Caviar Illuminating Facial, which lasts for 90 minutes and is composed of a peel, eye treatment, and caviar eye pads while the rest of your face is treated to the cellular Hydralift Firming Mask. At the same time, your hands, feet, arms, and legs are gently exfoliated, followed by a helping of Skin Caviar Luxe Body Cream.

    Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire
    One method that the Hollywood elite take advantage of to get picture-perfect bodies is the Diamond Magnetic at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire. You, too, could have that same luminescent skin with a relaxing scrub down using a mud composed of crushed diamonds, which is removed from your skin with the use of magnets; this helps rebalance your energy. Finally, any remaining stress is drained from your body with a full body massage.

    Rancho Valencia
    Although you do everything in your power to banish dandelions from your own backyard, this weed plays an important role in a detoxifying hands and feet treatment at the posh Rancho Valencia just outside of San Diego. Leave your tired feet (and hands) under the care of the spa aesthetician as they soak, scrub and spray them back to a healthy, stress-less and purifying state using ingredients such as burdock and licorice roots in addition to dandelion.

    To find more ways to indulge in California, start dreaming here.

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    If you travel around the world, you'll find no shortage of wonderful sights and sounds.

    But after you've had your fill of leaning towers, skyscrapers and enormous man-made monuments, sometimes you've got to return to the basics, and go au naturale when you want to be really wowed.

    So, in honour of Earth Day, here's a small round-up of Mother Nature's greatest wonders to remind you why it's worth taking some time out of your day to make the planet a cleaner place.

    Got a natural wonder that didn't make our list? Tell us in the comment section below or on Twitter @HPCaTravel

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    The North Pacific humpback whale is no longer protected as a "threatened" species after the Canadian government quietly downgraded its classification earlier this month.

    Despite objections from several groups, the Harper government declared the humpback a "species of special concern" under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The whale population off the B.C. coast has increased "significantly" since it was first listed as threatened in 2005, so it is now at a point where it can be reclassified, according to a federal government notice in the Canadian Gazette.

    The change is being made as two major pipeline projects are in the middle of regulatory applications. Approval would increase vessel traffic, which collides with humpbacks about three times a year in B.C. waters.

    Environmental groups have argued against the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, saying potential spills, noise and tanker collisions would pose a major risk to the whales. Similar concerns have been raised over the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline to Burnaby.

    With the reclassification, the humpback whales are no longer subject to "general prohibitions set out in SARA nor would critical habitat be required to be legally protected under SARA." The whales' critical habitat, where they feed and raise their babies, currently includes areas near Kitimat, B.C., the proposed western end of the Northern Gateway.

    The decision "has absolutely no basis in science and is simply a political move to clear the way to approve the [Enbridge] pipeline," Karen Wristen, executive director of the Living Oceans Society, told CBC News.

    The feds sent out 312 consultation letters and received 22 responses, reported The Vancouver Sun. Thirteen were opposed to the new designation, while five — including two B.C. government ministries and a tourism group — supported the change.

    Ottawa is expected to announce a decision on Northern Gateway in June.

    The whale is central to a lawsuit brought by B.C. environmental groups trying to force Ottawa to abide by its own Species At Risk legislation.

    The United States is also considering upgrading the status of Pacific humpback populations after the whales were hunted to near extinction in the early part of the 20th century.

    With files from The Canadian Press

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    We don't live in the Windy City, but when we visit, we're most likely going to make our first stop at the Waffle Cafe on N Broadway St.

    The Wonut (a waffle-doughnut hybird) may just be the best thing to come out of a deep fryer since the Cronut last summer. According to Thrillist, this "glorious" recent creation by the Chicago-based cafe has a variety of flavours, including crunchy red velvet and a Mexican chocolate Wonut with spicy cocoa on the inside. Drool.

    Using a specialty waffle batter, the mini-doughnuts (both circular and square shaped) are fried and glazed to sugared perfection. We do realize this offering is basically a waffle disguised as a doughnut, but frankly, when they look this good, we don't really care.

    And while we can only lick our screens for now, we hope Tim Hortons and Wanda's Waffles teams up to make their own Wonut some time soon.

    Take a look at some of these Wonuts and the incredible selection of photos from Thrillist. Let us know, would you eat one?



    chocolate wonut

    chocolate glazed


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    Mon dieu! New Westminster is on track to get a taste of Paris with the prospect of a new urban beach along its waterfront.

    A city council report identified the project as a high priority, according to CBC News. The initiative is part of the city's continuous redevelopment of its riverfront, called Pier Park.

    The first time I ever saw an urban beach was in Paris, France,” Coun. Lorrie Williams told Royal City Record. “It was wildly popular.”

    The project would also include a public fitness space, a pathway, and landscaping, according to the newspaper.

    While residents and tourists can look forward to sand castles and beach volleyball, they won't be able to take a dip in the Fraser River, reports Global News. Access is restricted because of safety issues and the speed of the river, according to the Royal City Record.

    Beach bums could be suntanning as soon as this summer, reports Curbed Vancouver.

    Wendy Doyle, who lives in New West, told CBC News that she'd definitely take advantage of the beach.

    "I will and so will my little dog Grace," she said. "She's a rescue dog from California. She's a beach dog. She'll be soaking up the sun."

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    When it comes to globe-trotting, experiencing new cultures is one of travel's greatest appeals. Getting into awkward situations over cultural clashes? Not so much.

    Every new adventure into a foreign place always comes with the risk with running a cultural faux-pas. So rather than learning the hard way by first-hand experience, here's a breakdown of some of the odd customs around the globe and why you shouldn't break them when abroad.

    Norway: Don't unwrap flowers before giving them as a gift. There's no clear-cut explanation as to why it's rude to give a Norwegian flowers wrapped in paper or cellophane but Business Insider's explanation is simply because "German's do it."

    Russia: Never give an even number of flowers. In Russia, odd numbers are preferred when gifting flowers as they represent a joyous occasion. An even number of flowers is traditionally the numbers mourners bring to a funeral, according to Stanford University.

    Canada: Don't drink outside. Canada's provinces and cities are responsible for alcohol laws and they typically frown upon drinking outside. But you probably already knew that.

    Singapore: No gum chewing. Don't expect to see any gum on the sidewalk. Singapore has outlawed the import and sale of gum in an effort to keep the city-state clean.

    New Zealand: Don't honk your horn (too much). It's not illegal to honk your car horn, but excessive honking is frowned upon by Kiwis when navigating their roads.

    Brazil: It's not okay to use the A-Ok hand gesture. One traveller's gesture for "everything's great" is another resident's "f*ck off"

    Italy: No ordering of cappuccinos after meals. Italians don't order a milky coffee after a full meal so expect plenty of stares if you're ordering a cappuccino after breakfast.

    America: Don't forget to tip. Like in Canada, tipping is encouraged (though not mandatory) in the States for certain industries as tips make up a portion of an employee's wages.

    Germany: Don't wish someone an early birthday. It's considered bad luck to wish a German happy birthday before their big day. So forget about early gifts, cards or cake, unless you want to be remembered as a jerk.

    China: No clocks or umbrellas for birthday gifts: Like wishing a German an early birthday, giving a clock or an umbrella to someone in China on their cake day is like wishing them bad luck. The Chinese characters for "clock" are very similar for "funeral" which is a bad omen of things to come.

    The characters for "umbrella" are very similar to "break apart", which could be interpreted as you are breaking off your relationship with the gift recipient.

    Hungary: No clinking of glasses when drinking beer. This practice dates back to when Hungarians lost the 1848-49 Revolution and War of Independence to the Austrians. The Austrians executed 13 of Hungary's most senior generals and then reportedly celebrated with a pint of beer and the clinking of their mugs, according to CNN.

    Hungarians, understandably mad, then swore to never clink their glasses for the next 150 years. The tradition continues today, despite the ban officially ending in 1999.

    Vietnam: No receiving gifts with one hand. It's said this tradition comes from Chinese culture who insist gifts are given with both hands as a sign of respect. To show mutual respect, recipients should use both hands to receive the present. Anything else and you come off as rude.

    Netherlands: No sharp objects as gifts. If you want to give someone in the Netherlands a knife, a throwing star or a chainsaw... just stick with a blunt gift card instead. Sharp objects as gifts are seen as a sign of bad luck and increase your chances of stabbing yourself by 100 per cent.

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    A Canadian woman who was injured in a skydiving accident in the U.S. is being flown home, but she owes $500,000 for her American medical care.

    Kenzie Markey was skydiving in Arizona on April 6 when wind turbulence collapsed her parachute, Global News reports.

    She suffered a collapsed lung, plus a fractured femur, toe, pelvis, skull, eye socket, nose, and elbow, according to a fundraising page set up to help Markey and her family pay for the expenses. More than $16,000 has been raised so far.

    Markey, 32, is from Nova Scotia but currently lives in Pemberton, B.C. She's described as an adrenaline junkie, reports The Province. Markey's insurance was declared invalid because her injuries were caused by an extreme sport, according to the newspaper.

    She’s strong,” Markey's mother, Sherry MacKenzie-Jennison, told CTV News. “She’s strong willed, so that’s going to help her get through it."

    Markey is being flown back to Vancouver on Tuesday and will be taken straight to Lions Gate Hospital, according to Global News. The trip alone could cost up to $45,000.

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    Don’t be clothes minded when it comes to getting naked. As Lady Gaga says, “Baby, you were born that way.”

    While snapping selfies in the nude next to Niagara Falls or climbing the Spanish Steps in Rome might not be acceptable, there are plenty of places on the planet where those who choose nude over prude are welcome.

    And while naturist resorts are commonplace, letting it all hang out can happen in some surprising spots where nakedness is secondary to activities, like hiking, biking, and horseback riding. But let's face it: this isn’t exactly earth-shattering news. The ancient Greeks routinely competed in athletic events and trained in the buff.

    Shedding one’s clothes can be linked to many things, with sex often far down the list. Some, naturalists in particular, feel it’s more natural to be naked. For some, it’s about comfort. No more corduroy pants to chaff delicate thighs, or scratchy seams to irritate your back.

    Or it could be able practicality.

    In parts of Africa, tribes go natural just because it is so freaking hot and tradition dictates shunning covering up. Nudity can also be a form of protest. History is rife with incidents. In 1924, mass marches featuring naked participants, organized by an organization called Down With Shame, filled streets in Russia to rebel against bourgeois morality.

    In 1999, anti-nuclear weapons protesters strolled down Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco in the buff. Meanwhile, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has grabbed headlines with its “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign.

    Sometimes nudity is just art. American photographer Spencer Tunick has become notorious for his carefully orchestrated pictures of nude subjects on mass. He’s regularly looking for volunteers to fill his frames, so check out his website for upcoming projects happening worldwide so you can grab a bit of that fame and notoriety for yourself. Just remember to pack light and bring sunscreen.

    Alternatively, check out this barely there list of global spots where you can flaunt your stuff with like-minded new friends

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    Spring is here, and it's time to get out and play. Here are three trips to think about now:

    1. Fun, Food and History in Colonial Williamsburg

    Spring is the right time to be in Colonial Williamsburg. You'll skip the summer crowds and the climate is perfect for being out in the historic Williamsburg-Jamestown-York triangle.


    Driving in from Richmond Airport, stop for Virginia barbecue at Pierce's Pitt, where their smokehouses can each produce a ton of hickory smoked pork butt a day. Hee haw!

    Catch a ride at Busch Gardens, the long-reigning beauty queen of U.S. amusement parks, then dial up the tone at the award-winning Williamsburg Winery. Go even if you don't drink wine: the Café Provencal there is worth the visit. Chef Ika Zaken, who apprenticed at Le Chateau de La Chevre d'Or and had a Michelin-rated restaurant in Belgium, turns out stellar French cuisine. The rack of lamb? Sensational.

    Stroll through the Williamsburg Farmer's Market Saturday morning and you'll see why Virginia peanuts can't be beat. Around the corner at MAD About Chocolate, snack on savoury cheesecake and the best brownies ever from Marcel Desaulniers, who wrote the book on Death By Chocolate.


    For the marquee event, travel back in time to 17th century Virginia on the scenic Colonial Parkway. Take a walking tour of the original Jamestown Colony, with its impressive archaearium and ongoing dig, and nearby Jamestown Settlement, where actors interpret life on tall ships, a fort and Powhatan village. Costumed interpreters never break character, making for interesting one-on-ones and street theatre that breathes life into history; nowhere is this more palpable than in the 1774 rebuild of Colonial Williamsburg, where George Washington gives impassioned speeches and patriots talk revolution in the streets.

    Before you go, take a sail down the York aboard the schooner Alliance past the site of the most important victory of the Revolutionary War, and you might decide to come back again in 2016, when the new American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is complete.

    2. Bespoke Kayaking in Vancouver's Big Backyard


    Adventure travel is one of those things that's tough to put together on your own; with a few interesting exceptions, it's almost always done with a group and a guide. Since its start-up a few years ago, Dam Good Trips has been changing all that. Would-be adventure travelers who want to go without the group and the guide can be soaking up the west coast's clean air and OMG views without hours of prep time and endless arrangements. And they can do it with the panache of British Columbia insiders who gave up the day job long ago.

    Outdoorswoman, writer and adventure filmmaker Christina Chowaniec is one of those savvy people. The 33-year-old Vancouverite, who has "traveled, hiked, paddled, skied, taken anything with wheels and ridden most things with legs" all over the world, uses her know-how and resources to design bespoke guided tours without the guide. She puts together made-to-order wilderness trips that take the guesswork, grunt work and anxieties out of the adventure.

    Based on clients' individual preferences and needs, she does all the groundwork for self-guided kayak, hiking, or kayak/hiking/biking combo trips, including detailed itineraries and route descriptions, maps, gear, transportation and accommodation or camping logistics, menu planning, food and pre-trip training if required. In short, she does everything but go along for the ride.

    A trip like this can pick up even the most winter-weary urbanite and put them back pumped up for summer. For details and contact information: check here.

    3. Spring Tune-Up at a Country Spa

    Those who prefer their adventure served soft know that feeling healthier doesn't have to be hard work. Taking time out to sync up body and soul is a smart thing to do any time of year. Whether it's a wellness week at a deluxe resort (think St Lucia's The Body Holiday ) or a day trip to a Scandinavian-style spa (le Nordik, near Ottawa, is North America's largest), who wouldn't be happy to get away for a system reboot right about now?

    Ste. Anne's Spa has been voted SpaFinder's Favourite Spa in Canada for eight years in a row. It's just 130 km east of Toronto but seems like worlds away. In a heritage house on 500 rolling acres, this full-service spa has a bakery, stables, gym, culinary centre, and 50 shades of peace and quiet. Your shoulders drop the minute you walk through the door.


    Time revolves around eating, sleeping and fabulous treatments like the oily-spoily, out-of-this-world aroma stone massage. When not lounging around on squishy sofas or soaking in the hot tub, there's yoga or pilates, walking on neatly tended trails, or horsing around in the stables, learning to muck, groom or ride. Sounds uneventful? Mmmm, that's the idea.

    Guests can choose from the à la carte treatment menu or a prix-fixe bundle that targets specific needs, like detoxify, strengthen and renew, or couples (who knew spas could be romantic?) There's no dress code -- everyone just pads around in white terry robes. Ste. Anne's raises its own beef, lamb and pork; the field-to-fork cuisine is delicious and gluten-free, and the desserts are divine. You bring your own wine and there are no corkage fees. For more information: see here.


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    So much for the friendly skies.

    Air Canada has placed second in an unscientific poll ranking airlines based on the rudeness of their flight attendants. The informal poll comes from the site Airfarewatchdog and asked 3,400 readers to choose from 14 carriers. Air Canada was the only Canadian airline on the list but took second the spot with 14 per cent of the vote.

    The results were adjusted based on the number of passengers travelling from January and October of 2013 in order to not skew the results based on the size of the airline, wrote George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog .

    Air Canada wouldn't comment on the poll's mechanics but pointed out Air Canada has been recognized for various awards, specially for their flight attendant service from organizations around the globe.

    The airline's most recent recognition related to its flight attendants was in 2013 when it won the title for "best flight attendants in North America" in Premier Traveler’s "Best Of" awards.

    In addition, our monthly customer satisfaction surveys done by an independent organization shows in-flight service satisfaction continue trending upwards,” Air Canada spokesperson Angela Mah told CTV News.

    Topping Air Canada in flight attendant rudeness was Spirit Airlines, a U.S. carrier that came out on top with 26 per cent of voters saying the low-budget airline had the least courteous attendants.

    Following in third place was Frontier Airlines with 11 per cent of the vote. Meanwhile, Alaska and Southwest airlines were voted as the airlines with the friendliest stewards, each clocking in with one per cent of the vote.

    Air Canada carried an average of 115,000 customers a day and more than 35 million people a year. From 2012 to 2013, the airline received 150 of all 301 official complaints filed against Canada's eight major airlines, according to the Canadian Press.

    "While we strive for zero complaints, in this context, 150 complaints is a minute fraction relative to the number of interactions we have with all our customers," spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said in an email.

    To see how other airlines stacked up in terms of flight attendant rudeness, check out the gallery below.

    Got a flight attendant horror story? Share it with us in the comment section or on Twitter at @HPCaTravel

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    By Misty MacDuffee and Chris Genovali

    In the middle of the Easter long weekend, the federal government published a notice in the Canada Gazette that they intend to down-list the status of North Pacific humpback whales.

    Although the status of humpback whales is one of the few obstacles muddling Prime Minister Stephen Harper's forthcoming June decision on Northern Gateway, the June 2011 re-assessment by COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada), released in the middle of the pipeline proposal's Joint Review Panel hearings, led to this announcement.

    There are outstanding questions about the scientific reliability and sufficiency of the information COSEWIC used to make the determination to down-list these animals. The proposed change in status would strip humpback whales of their legal right to critical habitat, thus making it acceptable to displace them from feeding grounds, degrade their waters with increased noise, dismiss mortality from ship strikes and increase the exposure risk to oil spills -- all threats that accompany both the Enbridge Northern Gateway and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain tanker routes.

    Most scientists would agree that humpbacks are "recovering," but few would agree they are "recovered." It is this issue that is causing the disagreement over whether the decision to down-list the B.C. population via Species at Risk Act (SARA) and COSEWIC was premature, and not based on enough evidence of recovery within B.C.

    Typically, threatened or endangered species have population targets that are established so that progress toward a recovery goal can be measured. In the case of humpback whales, no such recovery target existed. The stated recovery goal was to "maintain the current abundance of humpbacks and observe their continued growth and expansion into suitable habitats."

    The importance of numbers and the reliance on evidence is an important weakness in COSEWIC's decision. It is assumed, based on whaling records from the early 20th century, that the population of whales in B.C. waters is likely 50 per cent of what it was a century ago. By scientific standards, the return of 50 per cent of a population does not meet the definition of recovered.

    Although the estimated 2,000 or so whales present in B.C. is a remarkable comeback story from what was likely a few hundred years ago, we do not have adequate systematic studies within B.C. to document population growth or decline.

    All of the population studies of humpback whales carried out within B.C. have some form of inadequacy, which limits their usefulness to make broad and reliable science supported statements about the recovery of the population over time -- a critical and essential component when measuring recovery of a threatened species.

    Two populations?

    A second important weakness in COSEWIC's decision is their rejection of information suggesting that the B.C. humpback population could actually be two populations, not just one. Humpback whales have a remarkable site fidelity to their breeding grounds and their feeding grounds, information that is handed down from mother to calf over the years and through generations.

    The work of Dr. Scott Baker, a marine scientist who has spent years characterizing the structure of the North Pacific humpback population, supports the recognition of multiple distinct populations. Baker states, "They differ based on geographic distribution and with genetic differentiations as well, and they have strong fidelity to their own breeding and feeding areas."

    Baker's work suggests that the B.C. humpback population is made up of two units. It is likely the northern grouping is doing much better than the southern group. Critical habitat for the southern group lies off southwestern Vancouver Island, and includes the shipping lanes entering the Juan de Fuca.

    With the down-listing, no money will be made available to do population assessments. The southern population is small and if it were being adversely affected by ship strikes or fishing gear entanglement, we would never know. With the decrease in funding for research, we are blindfolding ourselves -- we will be unable assess future or existing problems with recovery.

    Quiet waters

    A hydrophone array between Kitimat and Caamano Sound show these waters to be among the quietest in B.C. These waters are currently identified as critical to humpback survival. They are also the same waters that will see daily oil tanker traffic as part of the Northern Gateway project.

    One of COSEWIC's responsibilities is to identify and monitor the threats to listed species. COSEWIC rightly identifies threats associated with shipping, noise, vessel strikes, and oil spills. Down-listing assumes that the threats have been considered and addressed. On the contrary, COSEWIC's down-listing comes at a time when we know that the risks are potentially about to get much more severe.

    Ultimately, the timing to down-list humpback whales is a sleight of hand approach designed to remove environmental obstacles that interfere with the federal government's agenda to export tar sands oil. This translates into risking the recovery of humpback whales in order to construct the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline and oil tanker projects at seemingly any cost.

    We may never know the degree to which political pressure influenced the timing of COSEWIC's re-assessment and the fast-tracking of the SARA down-listing. What we do know is that politics has been the prime driver behind the federal government's ongoing dismantling of environmental legislation and species protection.


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    It's the breaded rivalry that's lasted for half a century, and now it's come down to this — Montreal bagels are being sold in New York, and Manhattanites can't get enough.

    Montreal-style bagels are known for their smaller size (read: larger hole) and sweeter taste, thanks to the honey-water in which they are boiled and the wood-fired ovens in which they're baked. They've long been going head-to-head with New York bagels which are, in contrast, made with salt and malt and made in standard ovens. Both come primarily in poppy seed (known as black seed in Montreal) and sesame seed varieties, and each type has its opponents and detractors.

    Earlier this week, Noah Bernamoff, a native Montrealer and Matt Kliegman, a native Manhattanite, have opened Black Seed Bakery, New York City's first hybrid Montreal-New York bagel shop. And though they may have expected opposition to their alternative style, the store found itself completely sold out of stock by 2:30 p.m.

    Of course, as they told GrubStreet in February, "We think there are benefits to each city's bagel-making process and are trying to capture that." Black Seed's bagels are not, they claim, made with honey, but instead hand-rolled, poached using alkalized water, and then baked in a wood-burning oven.

    The opening of the shop even prompted the creation of a Great Bagel Treaty, published by the Jewish Forward, which includes such provisions as "We vow to schlep bagels with us on trips to visit our friends who live outside of these bagel capitals [of New York and Montreal]" and "we agree to acknowledge that the bagel of our sister capital is a respectable (but still, inferior) alternative to our own."

    But we'll be honest — for a guy who used to get his friends to drive a delivery of Montreal bagels to New York every weekend, we don't believe Bernamoff's giving up the fight that easily.

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    (Relaxnews) - From February 2015, the luxury hotel group will become the first in the industry to offer its clients exclusive and unique itineraries aboard its own private jet.

    The Four Seasons Jet, emblazoned with the hotel group's logo, will be able to accommodate up to 52 passengers for customized travel experiences.

    In the jet's cabin, passengers will settle into reclining leather seats, where they will enjoy gourmet meals and complementary WiFi.
    The aircraft will fly between destinations where Four Seasons hotels are located. An in-flight concierge will be available to listen to clients' requests (for spa bookings, excursions, etc) and relay them to his colleagues on the ground.

    Several itineraries have already been scheduled, and clients can now reserve their passage. A world tour in 24 days (nine destinations) will take passengers from Los Angeles to London with stops in various locations, including in India to visit the Taj Mahal. The luxury trip is priced at $119,000 per person. In April of next year, the jet will set off for a 16-day tour of six European capitals of art and culture, including Milan, Prague and St. Petersburg.

    The following August, another journey around the globe will take passengers to three newly opened Four Seasons hotels as well as to the group's very first safari lodge, located in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Like the first world tour, this 24-day trip is priced at $119,000 per person and will include stops in nine destinations altogether. Beijing, Marrakesh, New York and the Maldives are all on the itinerary.

    Each trip includes airfare, ground transportation, day trips, all meals and lodging in the Four Seasons' luxurious properties.

    For more information and to make reservations:

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    (Relaxnews) - From luxurious, destination hotels set in some of the most remote far-flung corners of the world to hotels designed with the food lover in mind, editors at Condé Nast Traveler have curated a list of the best new hotels for 2014 -- a list they call their most selective ever.

    For the 18th edition of the awards, the US publication looked at a pool of 510 new hotels in 400 cities across 93 countries before whittling their final list down to 33 properties.

    The list is divided into seven categories, designed to respond to the needs of the modern traveller: beach, design, food, family, bargain, over-the-top and way-out-there hotels.

    To make the final cut, properties had to give a sense of place, defined as “a place that celebrates where it is in the world,” and a sense of personality.

    Instead of cookie cutter décor, for example, editors favoured hotels designed with character and individual style.

    Likewise, hotels that anticipated guests' needs were also heavily weighted in the category of “sense of intuition.”

    A few standouts include a trio of properties in the category of ‘way-out-there’ hotels that span the north easternmost reaches of the Canadian Maritimes (Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland); the Kenyan wilderness (Segera Retreat, Kenya); and a national park on the east coast of Vietnam (Amanoi, Vietnam) -- all of which promise seclusion and isolation.

    In the category of ‘over-the-top,’ it comes as no surprise that the latest hotel from the luxury group LVMH, the Cheval Blanc Randheli in the tropical Maldives, should make the cut.

    Set amidst coconut palms, the collection of 45 villas come with private infinity pools, hammocks, Guerlain spa services, five restaurants, three bars, and a diving and water sports centre.

    Prices start at $1,950 a night.

    Carnivores may also be interested in the Vines Resort & Spa at Uco Valley in Argentina which made the editors' food category, where chef Francis Mallmann uses traditional open-flame cooking to highlight the flavours of locally raised beef in dishes like asado steak, served with mascarpone, yam chips, tomato and avocado. Food and wine lovers can even purchase a plot of vineyard on the property estate.

    The May Hot List issue of Condé Nast Traveler hits newsstands April 29 in the US.

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    Mariah Carey supposedly spent $130,000 on a one-way ticket.

    The 44-year-old singer has an estimated net worth of $550 million, and she reportedly splashed a fat stack of cash on a flight to France for the Cannes Film Festival next month.

    Mariah apparently rented out an entire first-class cabin on a British Airways flight because she doesn't want to be disturbed by fans as she flies from New York to Europe for eight hours.

    "Over the years Mariah has grown accustomed to travelling in ultimate style so she doesn't think twice about paying such a crazy amount to ensure her privacy," a source told British newspaper The Sun.

    Apparently the gorgeous diva is planning on relaxing while she’s in the air.

    It is claimed Mariah will be pampering herself throughout the flight.

    "At least she’ll be able to stock up on the missing passengers' complimentary eye masks and hot towels," the insider said.

    "Let's hope she doesn't demand that British Airways lays out fluffy carpets for her, kits out the upper deck with puppies and paints the interiors cream. To be honest, it would be cheaper for Mariah to just hire her own private jet."

    The songstress has been active in the music business since 1988.

    Mariah has confessed to throwing diva strops before, but she says this was done so she could establish professional autonomy.

    "I never had a mental breakdown, I had a diva fit and it was [because] no one wanted to let me have a say. When you start so young in the industry people are used to controlling you and then they realise, 'Oh this person has an opinion... OK it's different now,'" she said of the early nature of her career while conducting an interview on New York's Power 105.1 The Breakfast Club show.

    © Cover Media


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    Visiting exotic places as a photographer can sometimes pose challenges for their non-photographer accomplices. For example, a photographer's backpack is always going to be a few pounds heavier. Walking through a market, or down any interesting street for that matter will take double the amount of time than it should. And I know you're hungry, but dinner will have to wait until after sunset is captured.

    I've always been aware that these habits probably get on the nerves of anyone who has been on a trip with me, but the hard-copy memories are always worth it. When I heard about Photographers Without Borders -- an opportunity to travel with other photographers while using our talents for good -- I knew this was something I had to pursue.

    The journey took me to Pistishi, Ecuador. It's a small community that was once the third poorest in the country. Recently, the government opened a train station close to the community giving the village an opportunity to attract tourists and create jobs. I travelled with two other photographers and our mission was to capture images and video that the village could use as tourism material. I couldn't imagine a more perfect way to travel and experience a country.


    I was greeted in Pistishi by a young boy proudly showing me a beetle the size of my hand. This wasn't your average volunteer experience. The village wasn't equipped to host volunteers, we would truly be living within the community for the next couple of weeks. It was an incredible feeling knowing that I wasn't just taking photos for myself, but photos that would hopefully convey the beauty that surrounds these wonderful people and the village and help them in the long run.


    Travelling with photographers can sometimes result in very ridiculous conversations like this one:

    "I love laundry."
    "Me too. My favourite laundry shot was in Naples."
    "Mine was in Ghana."
    "I love when laundry is backlit."


    Aside from being excused from having nerdy conversations about dirty clothes, there are a few other benefits that come with travelling alongside two talented photographers. The three of us had distinctly different styles. My photos have never been technically perfect, but more so focused on capturing a moment or a feeling. I was in awe of the equipment the other photographers used and their abundance of knowledge.

    If it wasn't for them suggesting we wake up at the crack of dawn to take landscape photos before the fog rolled in, I wouldn't have taken some of my favourite shots. I was inspired by their talent and drive the entire time we worked together, and I think in turn that made me a little better at my craft.

    The time was well spent getting to know the people in the village, eating delicious fresh food and playing with the school kids. The process of capturing Pistishi left me with beautiful memories. One day when visiting the kindergarten class, I managed to line up a few kids against a wall basically communicating in charades and broken Spanish that I was taking their photo. They took my instructions very well. So well, in fact, that as I crouched down to take the photo at eye level they all crouched down with me thinking this was still all a part of the instruction. That photo did the trick anyway.


    Towards the end of the trip my camera was filthy, my legs were covered in bed bug(?) bites and my arm injury was throbbing. (I may or may not have fallen off a horse and into a barbwire fence.) I had reached a little bit of what one of the other photographers calls a 'cultural dip' and was ready to explore a bit more of the country before heading back to Canada.


    As we got on the bus I felt a bit of relief and comfort knowing I was heading to a new destination and a clean bed. We got on the highway and my eyes wandered from unfamiliar face to unfamiliar face, but there was a family that caught my eye. A mother, father and small girl sat together excitedly looking out the window.

    The father had his wife and child wrapped up in a magenta blanket with a lovely Ecuadorian pattern spread across it. You could tell they were very poor, but they seemed so happy to be on this bus. I started making up stories in my mind about where they were going and why they were so happy. Perhaps they were visiting family they hadn't seen in a while, or maybe seeing Cuenca was a special trip.

    I couldn't take my eyes off of them. I was mesmerized by how much love was present in that moment and between the family members cuddling up. It was a familiar feeling because it was the same type of interaction that resonated within the village of Pistishi. This was the first time in a while I observed a moment without capturing it. But I realized that although I was leaving the village, the love received from the people of Pistishi will remain with me for a long time.

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    Anyone who flies knows not all boarding process are created equally, but they might not know there's data suggesting airlines still use one of the most inefficient methods out there.

    Historically, airlines have stuck with a back-to-front system to allow passengers with seats in the rear to board first, eventually filling up to the front of the plane. It's a method that makes sense on paper but it doesn't guarantee passengers already seated won't have to get up and enter the aisle to allow someone else to enter the row.

    Factor in passengers' needs to store carry-on luggage at the same time, crowding in the aisle in the process, and the process quickly becomes time-consuming, according to Vox Media.

    You can watch the process here:

    For airlines, not only is the boarding process an inconvenience for customers but it's also a money-costing inefficiency. A study from Boeing analyzing data from 1970 to 1998 shows boarding times have slowed down by 50 per cent, meaning airlines spend more time moving people on and off planes when they could be making money flying more passengers in the air.

    As a result, airlines have toyed with alternative methods to boarding passengers. U.S. Airways has adopted a random method where priority members are seated first, followed by everyone else based on their check-in time. While there's still some crowding in the aisles, the crowding for bins is mitigated.

    Last June, United Airlines adopted a more efficient means that seated people closest to the window first, followed by those in the middle seat, followed by those closest to the aisle. Not only does the process look more orderly, it avoids the issues of people standing up and in the aisle but also means one person is using an overhead bin at a time.

    Finally, there's the fastest method in use by Southwest Airlines, which allows passengers to board based on their order of check-in but doesn't use assigned seating in economy class.

    The system means if the person ahead of you is taking too long to get out of your way, you could, theoretically, sit down in the row you're standing in. A 2012 episode of "Mythbusters'" confirmed it was the fastest method in use, though it did leave passengers upset they couldn't sit with friends or family by default.

    Then there are theoretical methods to speed up seating. Back in February, R. John Milne, an associate professor in engineering management at Clarkson University School of Business in New York, suggested airlines board passengers based on their number of carry-on luggage. Passengers would still be seated from back to front and in rows, but rows would be made up of a passenger carrying only two bags, one only bag and one passenger carrying no bags.

    Milne says the process would cut down on delays of people cramming aisles trying to jam their luggage into bins, he told the Sydney Morning Herald. According to Milne's simulations, his process clocked in three per cent faster than the back-to-front method.

    Then there's the "Steffen method". Created by physicist Jason Steffen, his procedure involves sending in passengers seated in the window seat first but staggers them to maximize overhead bin access. Passengers with even seat numbers by the window would make up the first wave while passengers with odd seat numbers by the window would make up the second. The process would then repeat, working towards filling the seats closest to the aisle and looks like this.

    While there are better alternatives to boarding planes, there's little reason for airlines to change the status quo since it means they can monetize long boarding times. Some airlines have begun by offering small perks like priority seating or charging to board early, according to Bloomberg Newsweek.

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    robson street vancouver

    A winding sculpture that allows people to eat, sit, and lounge will be installed on Vancouver's Robson Street as the winner of a design competition that attracted entries from around the world.

    The sweet design by a Vancouver team of architects, designers and carpenters (Kaz Bemner, Jeremiah Deutscher, Michael Siy and Kenneth Navarra) includes ledges where you can enjoy street food, south-facing lounge areas to catch the sun, and sections to watch street performances.

    Called "Urban Reef," the snake-like bench sections that morph into one another create a "dynamic form that sparks curiosity and invites exploration," explained a news release from the City of Vancouver.

    For the past three summers, the 800-block of Robson has been closed to traffic and transformed with public installations to encourage people to slow down and connect with each other.

    Past projects included landscaped picnic areas, and giant bean bag chairs.

    This year's Robson Redux competition, as part of the city's VIVA Vancouver program, required designs to feature the theme of "connection." Submissions included an oversized hopscotch game and a giant swing set.

    "Urban Reef" designers receive an honorarium and up to $40,000 for costs and materials. You can check it out starting from Canada Day until the Labour Day long weekend.

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    St. John's, N.L. is often seen as one of the world's most colourful cities, but a street in Halifax is giving it a run for its money.

    Reddit user acantrad posted this photo of some pretty rowhouses on Agricola Street in Halifax on Friday:

    Purdy houses

    The photo drew over 100 comments and topped the Canada sub-reddit with over 700 upvotes.

    That had us thinking: what are some other cities around the country that stand out with eye-popping colours on their buildings?

    St. John's, N.L.

    st johns newfoundland

    st johns newfoundland

    st johns newfoundland

    st johns newfoundland

    st johns newfoundland

    st johns newfoundland

    Lunenberg, N.S.

    mahone bay waterfront

    mahone bay waterfront

    mahone bay waterfront

    lunenberg nova scotia

    lunenberg nova scotia

    lunenberg nova scotia

    lunenberg nova scotia

    Victoria, B.C.

    johnson street victoria

    johnson street victoria

    Inuvik, N.W.T.

    inuvik smartie



    Whitehorse, Yukon

    whitehorse yukon

    whitehorse yukon

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