Chinese torture fret
Asian New Year festivities took an unexpected political turn last week when Falun Gong practitioners urged fellow Chinese not to attend celebrations sponsored by Chinese government-run China Central Television (CCTV) at the Rogers Centre Sunday (January 15).
A concert program dubbed The Same Song sparked the boycott call. The Same Song is also the title of a popular Madarin song which owes much of its notoriety to the fact that it's played to dissidents in Chinese labour camps.
"It is like a demented victory song. It haunts me to this day," says Cindy Li, a Falun Gong practitioner who says she was made to sing the song at a camp where she was detained for two years.
A Chinese Consulate spokesperson insists there was no attempt at subliminal messaging. Yan Sun points out that The Same Song is also the name of a popular CCTV show.
But Joel Chipkar of the Falun Dafa Association of Canada isn't so sure. He points out that the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council has cited CCTV for its Chinese government bias in the past.
And he says Chinese-language television shows piped in by cable companies often have a pro-Chinese-government slant.
Rogers TV, which declined to be drawn into the boycott controversy (Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey called it an attempt at censorship), added the Phoenix North America Chinese channel, run by the Chinese government, to its digital offerings in November.
David Purdy, Rogers VP and general manager of television services, says there's no way to get around Chinese government influence on programming.
"Our Cantonese- and Mandarin-speaking customers have told us they would like more channels, but to do that, ultimately you have to go to Hong Kong or mainland China, where programming will be affiliated with the government."
Reservoir dog doo
St. Paul's Councillor Michael Walker has been in deep doo-doo with some constituents ever since a few parks in his riding were declared off-limits to dogs, leaving them with less space to romp and do their business.
Walker wants the city to create off-leash areas in two different parks, Sir Winston Churchill and David Balfour, and the economic development committee agreed to study his proposal last week.
But some city staffers say it poses a health hazard because nearby reservoirs might be contaminated by dog urine and feces. Others in the city bureaucracy downplay the risk.
Harm to the environment or water table "should be fairly limited," says public health spokesperson Gil Hardy. "Even with an off-leash area, the stoop-and-scoop law still applies."
Toronto Water says a filtering system is in place for reservoirs and ravines. Notes spokesperson Paulette den Elzen, "The reservoirs [catch water in] underground tanks, so I don't believe anything could get in from outside."
The Toronto Environmental Alliance says dogs don't poop and pee in quantities that would pose a health hazard, but toxics campaigner Katrina Miller warns against setting up off-leash zones in "ecologically sensitive areas."