Month: April 2017
Ontario landlord must pay Muslim couple $12,000 for not removing shoes, giving headsup before visits
TORONTO — It didn’t help his case that he shared a joke about a devout Muslim on his Facebook page.
Now the small landlord who rented out the main floor of his Brampton, Ont., home to an Arab Muslim couple must pay them $12,000 for failing to accommodate their religious practices when showing their apartment to prospective tenants.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario also found that he “harassed them and created a poisoned housing environment.”
His sins? John Alabi refused to remove his shoes when showing the bedroom where the couple prayed and while he always gave them the mandated 24-hour notice before showings, he didn’t always provide the five-minute heads-up they’d requested to ensure the wife was modestly dressed and they weren’t in the midst of their five daily prayers.
“There was absolutely no evidence that the applicants’ requests for additional notice and for the removal of shoes in this case were an attempt by them to impose their way of life on the respondent or anyone else,” ruled vice chair Jo-Anne Pickel. “(They) were merely making simple requests for the accommodation of their religious practices … their requests easily could have been met without any hardship to the respondent, let alone any undue hardship as that term is used in human rights law.”
In December 2014, Walid Madkour and his wife Heba Ismail moved from Montreal into Alabi’s ground-floor apartment. Following several disputes, including the couple allegedly wanting their landlord to be quiet after 10 p.m., they agreed to terminate the lease on Feb. 28, 2015.
In the meantime, Alabi tried to rent out the unit. Madkhour wanted a one-hour notification of any showing in addition to the 24-hour notice.
Alabi told him that by law, only 24 hours was necessary. Madkhour accused him of “racism and violation of our civil rights:” Since his landlord was well aware that Ismail was unemployed and always home, “he considered it harassment for (Alabi) to continue to say that he would enter the premises without permission.”
Alabi texted back: “Welcome to Ontario, Canada.”
The landlord told the hearing that he meant that apartment viewing rules were different in Ontario than in Quebec where the couple had last lived. The human rights tribunal saw it as another example of discrimination.
That same evening, Ismail heard loud pounding on the steps outside their door; Alabi said he was just shovelling the snow; she said it was intimidating and frightening.
The couple called police.
They were told that contrary to their understanding, their landlord had a right to show the apartment when they were home. As a “courtesy,” Alabi agreed to give them five minutes notice in addition to the 24 hours. But that negotiated detente ended two days later after Ismail videotaped Alabi refusing to remove his shoes when entering their bedroom. “She said it was disrespectful and an act of racism.”
Alabi told the hearing that his shoes had never been an issue before and accused his tenants of trying to set up roadblocks to his renting their flat. He also accused them of trying to impose their way of life on him and said “the fact that someone belongs to a religion does not permit them to inconvenience others.”
The tribunal didn’t see it that way — especially after the tenants introduced their landlord’s Facebook page that had a “joke” about a devout Arab Muslim that they found offensive. Alabi told the hearing “he had freedom of speech and could post what he wanted on his Facebook page … He did not share the post to attack anyone. He said he shared it only because it made him laugh.”
Be careful what you post online — Pickel saw it as further evidence of his bias.
“When considered together, I find that the comment ‘welcome to Ontario, Canada,’ the making of loud pounding noises outside the applicants’ door shortly after making that comment, and (Alabi)’s refusal to remove his shoes when entering (their) prayer space amounted to harassment under the Code.”
In addition to paying them $6,000 each for injury to their dignity, feelings and self-respect, Alabi must also take an e-learning course on “Human Rights in Rental Housing.”
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Labor shortage a stress test for Japan’s convenience stores
Japan’s growing labor shortage threatens the nation’s ubiquitous convenience stores, whose business model relies on an army of part-timers packing bento lunch boxes, manning cash registers and delivering goods 24/7.
The big three “combini” operators 7-Eleven, FamilyMart and Lawson, which have expanded through Japan’s long slump, are scrambling to ease the pressure on franchisees by offering a mix of financial aid and labor-saving automation.
But their earnings outlook is the bleakest in years.
Lawson Inc projects its first drop in profit in 15 years this fiscal year, and 7-Eleven Japan, part of Seven & i Holdings, forecasts a meager 0.2% increase.
Japan has around 55,000 convenience stores nationwide – roughly one for every 2,300 people – and each store needs around 20 part-timers to run it.
Some shop owners struggling to fill shifts find themselves working some nights as well as during the day.
“The labor situation is starting to get health-hazardous,” said one store owner who asked not to be identified.
Restaurant chain Royal Host and McDonald’s Japan have begun moving away from 24-hour operations, but so far convenience chains aren’t reducing hours or cutting store numbers.
Indeed, all three of the major chains plan to expand. They fear that if they cut back they will lose market share and dent a reputation for catering to customers’ needs at any time.
“We are part of the social infrastructure,” said Koji Takayanagi, president of FamilyMart UNY Holdings,. “We have a mission we must fulfill.”
As Japan’s population shrinks, its workforce has declined to 77.2 million in 2015 from a peak of 87.2 million in 1995. By 2065, it’s expected to drop to just 45.2 million.
The decline has hit labor-intensive sectors such as delivery services, restaurant chains and retailers especially hard.
The worker crunch started last year, said a Lawson franchisee in Tokyo. Foreigners, many of them university students, are taking up some of the slack, but he predicts the shortages will continue “indefinitely.”
Part-time wages, meanwhile, have increased, and some convenience stores have to pay more overtime to fill shifts.
“Labour costs are rising precipitously,” Ryuichi Isaka, president of Seven & i Holdings, told a recent earnings briefing.
To ease the burden on store owners, who bear payroll costs, 7-Eleven said it would, for the first time, cut royalty fees it charges franchisees – a measure that will cost the company around 160 billion yen ($1.47 billion) a year.
“We want to turn this into an opportunity to boost store owners’ management drive, and attract new owners,” Isaka said.
SAVING THE DAY?
The industry hopes technology can overcome the shortfall.
7-Eleven, with 19,423 stores and 390,000 part-timers in Japan, is bringing labor-saving dishwashers to all stores this year, while Lawson is issuing tablet computers to help store management, and installing automatic change counting machines.
The industry also plans to introduce RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags that can track individual items from warehouse to store – hoping this may usher in an era of low-cost distribution networks and unmanned cash registers.
With the government pledging to help roll out the technology by 2025, 7-Eleven estimates RFID tags, which it will trial around August, could save 8 billion yen ($73 million) annually in labor costs.
The increased investment in technology is partly to blame for Lawson’s forecast profit decline.
“Rather than simply focusing on increasing profits, we are critically looking at what shape Lawson should take,” said company president Sadanobu Takemasu. “By making the necessary investments we will reap the rewards.”
The labor-intensive business model is not just in the stores. It extends to a vast network of third-party suppliers and truck crews making deliveries around the clock.
The convenience store industry was built when there were plentiful workers, says Takayuki Suzuki, analyst at Primo Research Japan. But now it “must rationally look again at its excessive and unnecessary services.”
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Japan could send SDF to rescue nationals in Korean crisis: Inada
Japan will prepare to send troops to the Korean peninsula to protect its nationals there if a crisis requires their evacuation, its defence chief reportedly said Tuesday.
The remarks by Defence Minister Tomomi Inada came as fears grow over North Korea, which is believed to be on the verge of a sixth nuclear test and has threatened to launch missile tests “every week”.
But her statement in parliament reported by Jiji Press and public broadcaster NHK is likely to be controversial in South Korea.
There memories of Japan’s brutal colonial occupation from 1910-1945 have hindered relations and the possibility of Japanese troops on its soil would likely cause anger.
Inada, a noted hawk who supports a bigger role for Japan’s military, said that the country would be ready to mobilise its troops if Japanese needed to be evacuated “but have difficulties in leaving via private means of transportation”.
Inada said such a dispatch of troops is allowed under Japanese law, which also requires the consent of the related country.
Japan’s constitution renounces the right to wage war and the country’s military is limited to self defence in the strictest sense.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, is pushing to expand the military’s role and legislation was passed in 2015 that could see troops engage in overseas combat for the first time since the end of World War II.
Inada’s comments came as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Japan after visiting South Korea, the first leg of his Asian tour, and observed the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.
Pence met Abe on Tuesday, reiterating Washington’s commitment to their decades-old alliance.
ROUNDING UP GAYS IN CHECHNYA
Four years ago, when the perpetrators of the Boston bombing were identified as two brothers from Chechnya, the American media, as Daniel Greenfield wrote at the time, went “into ‘Palestinian’ mode insisting that we need to talk about the conflict in Chechnya.”
Yes, Greenfield agreed, we could talk about that conflict. But he added:
There is a conflict in Chechnya and Iraq and Pakistan and Afghanistan and Thailand and Nigeria and the Philippines and India and Israel and France and a hundred other countries.
Where there is a sizable Muslim majority or even sizable minority, there is conflict.
Indeed. And Chechnya, which is a “semi-autonomous republic” within Russia, happens to be 95% Muslim. Its president, Ramnaz Kadyrov, has defended honor killings on the grounds that wives are their husbands’ property. He’s told Chechen women that their primary reason for existing is to bear children. He’s encouraged Chechen men to practice polygamy, even though it’s against Russian law. He’s required all females in Chechnya to wear headscarves in schools and other public buildings. And he’s left no doubt that his fanatical support for all of these positions is rooted in his faith. “No one can tell us not to be Muslims,” he has said. “If anyone says I cannot be a Muslim, he is my enemy.”
It was Chechen Muslims who committed two of the most appalling terrorist acts since 9/11. The first, in 2002, was the gruesome armed seizure of that Moscow movie theater, in which about 130 hostages died. Remember? It’s hardly ever mentioned anymore, and rarely cited when people are making lists of major acts of jihadist terrorism.
The second, and even worse, atrocity was the 2004 school siege in Beslan, in which 330 hostages, including no fewer than 186 children, were murdered. For all the horror of that incident, you don’t hear much about it these days, either.
As with the Boston Marathon bombings, the American media were quick to link both of these actions to the cause of Chechen separatism. But the Moscow atrocity was, in fact, committed by three groups of Chechen jihadists: the Riyad-us Saliheen Brigade of Martyrs (formerly known as the Islamic Brigade of Shaheeds), the Islamic International Brigade, and the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment. The Beslan massacre was committed solely by the first-named of these organizations.
Now Chechnya is again making headlines in the West. In recent weeks, hundreds of gay Chechen men have been rounded up and placed in newly built concentration camps constructed precisely for the detention of homosexuals. Most of these men have been – and are still being – cruelly tortured; some (it’s not yet clear how many) have been killed. Igor Kochetkov, a gay-rights activist based in St. Petersburg, Russia, told the Guardian that the scale of this action is “unprecedented not only in Russia but in recent world history.” Near the top of its long, grimly detailed, and deeply disturbing piece, the Guardian informed its readers – and it repeated these points later, too – that Chechnya is an “ultra-conservative Russian republic” and that “Chechen society is extremely conservative and homophobic.” What the Guardian mentioned only en passant, many paragraphs into the article – in fact, the detail was tucked away as expertly as possible – was that Chechnya is Islamic.
And as with the massacres at the Boston Marathon and the Beslan school and the Moscow theater, that’s the key fact here: Islam. Yes, gay rights in the rest of Russia are nothing to write home about, either. They’ve been the subject of international outrage, and rightly so. But the very fact that there are gay activists like Kochetkov operating openly in St. Petersburg, and that the members of the pro-gay protest group Pussy Riot are still alive and on the loose, shows that there’s a real difference between Chechnya and the rest of Russia when it comes to gay rights. In Russia proper, homosexuality is legal, even though it’s widely viewed as highly unacceptable and police, in particularly, tend not to be too gay-friendly; in Chechnya, however – as under sharia law – being gay is officially punishable by death, period.
Those familiar with Islamic societies will not be surprised by some of the details reported by the Guardian – for instance, that “some gay men” in Chechnya “may have been killed by their families after being outed by authorities.” After police had their way with one young gay man, they released him to his parents, saying (according to him): “Your son is a faggot. Do what you need to with him.” The kid was savvy enough to get out of Dodge pronto. That’s Islam, folks. And then there’s President Kadyrov’s own public statement about the whole matter, which recalled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s famous remark that there are no gays in Iran: no gays, insisted Kadyrov, had been harassed by officials in Chechnya, because “[y]ou cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic.” And if there were gays in Chechnya, he maintained, “the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”
A report by the Daily Mail takes the dark picture painted by the Guardian and makes it even darker. According to the Mail, Chechnyans are actually “being ordered to murder their gay relatives after they are released” from the concentration camps. One survivor of the camps, who was lucky enough to escape to Europe immediately after his release, told the Mail about a not-so-lucky friend, aged 20 or 21, who was let go from one of the camps “on the condition that his family would kill him.” They did. Another gay man, who so far has avoided incarceration, told the Mail that gay acquaintances of his who were taken to the camps “were half dead after the beatings” they suffered there “and were returned to relatives like a bag with bones.” Whether their parents were devout enough Muslims to finish them off was unclear.
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Gov’t to take emperor abdication bill to Diet on May 19
The government is preparing to submit a special bill to the Diet as early as May 19 to enable Emperor Akihito to abdicate, aiming to have it passed by the end of the current parliamentary session through June 18, sources close to the matter said Monday.
The bill is expected to call for one-off legislation applying only to the present emperor, reflecting an agreement reached last month by Diet members and the final proposals a government advisory panel is scheduled to compile on Friday.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government will outline the bill later this month and present it to political parties in the Diet to hear their views, before it seeks approval at a Cabinet meeting, according to the sources.
In accepting the parliament’s proposals in March, Abe expressed willingness to enact the legislation, saying, “I solemnly accept it and will immediately get to work on crafting the bill.”
The government plans to allow the 83-year-old emperor to abdicate on the day the law enters into force, within three years after it is promulgated, the sources said. Crown Prince Naruhito, 57, will succeed to the Chrysanthemum throne.
As the Japanese Constitution stipulates the emperor’s status derives from “the will of the people,” the Diet is seeking to realize the wishes of the emperor to retire on a unanimous vote or a vote close to it.
The government is expected to compile the draft bill after Japan’s Golden Week holidays end in early May and share it with political parties and groups in the Diet.
It is rare for the government to present the contents of a bill to opposition parties in advance, mirroring the government’s aim to have the bill passed in a smooth manner by forming a prior consensus.
The Imperial House Law that sets out rules for imperial affairs currently only allows succession following the death of an emperor.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has been mulling the legal changes following the emperor’s rare video message last summer indicating his desire to step down due to his advanced age.
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