Thursday, October 25, 2012

Telecom complaints rise 35 per cent in 2011-2012

Wireless services topped the list of complaints for fourth straight year

OTTAWA, October 25, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - Canada's Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) reports an increase in telecom consumer complaints in its 2011-2012 Annual Report "We Listen. We Help." "Nearly 11 thousand consumer complaints were filed with us. That represents an increase of 35 per cent over last year," said Commissioner Howard Maker.

For the fourth consecutive year, wireless services topped the list of complaints.

"Once again, we've seen an increase in complaints about wireless services," said Commissioner Maker. "This year 60 per cent of the issues raised in complaints came from wireless service users. Of all the complaints we received, most were related to billing errors or contract disputes."

Billing problems accounted for almost 51 per cent of all the issues raised in complaints. Among the most frequent types of billing complaints were errors regarding customers' monthly plans, issues related to the 30-day notice for cancellation and premium text messaging charges.

Second to billing errors were contract disputes. They accounted for over 27 per cent of all the issues raised in complaints. CCTS often heard from customers who complained they were charged early termination fees and from those who alleged that they were signed up to contracts by their service provider without their consent.

The annual report notes that 90 per cent of the complaints CCTS dealt with were resolved to the customers' satisfaction. It also highlights the large number of complaints that could have been avoided with a little extra diligence on the part of the service provider. In addition, it addresses the Commissioner's view that many of the complaints should have been resolved by the service provider at an early stage, avoiding the need for customer escalation to CCTS.

"We are calling on service providers to increase their level of cooperation with CCTS," said Commissioner Maker. "In particular, we urge service providers to provide more timely and thorough responses to customer complaints filed with CCTS."

Despite processing 10,878 complaints, CCTS was required to issue only 55 Recommendations and 11 Decisions in 2011-12.

"Our focus has been on resolving complaints at the initial stages and this process has really received buy-in from both consumers and providers," said Commissioner Maker.

Since CCTS was established in 2007, it has experienced an impressive growth rate in the number of participating service providers. In its first year, CCTS handled customer complaints for 16 telecommunications service providers. In 2011-2012, CCTS offered its complaint-handling services to customers of 178 service providers and brands across Canada.

In 2011-2012, CCTS put in place a new case management system allowing for more detailed information to be collected and analyzed.

"We are pleased to produce enhanced statistical reporting," said Commissioner Maker. "The highlight is the in-depth statistical detail about the nature of the complaints. We are also providing increased detail about other aspects of our operations, with a view to added transparency and value for customers and service providers."

The 2011-2011 CCTS Annual Report - "We Listen. We help." can be downloaded here:

About the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) CCTS is an independent organization dedicated to working with consumer and small business customers and participating Canadian telecommunication service providers to resolve complaints relating to most deregulated retail telecommunications services. Since July 2007, CCTS has provided consumers with an independent mechanism for resolution of complaints about deregulated local and long distance telephone services, as well as wireless service and internet access. This includes billing errors, compliance with contract terms and commitments, service delivery, credit management and collections issues.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

University of Guelph’s Mars Research In the News

GUELPH Ontario October 23, 2012 - University of Guelph In the News

University of Guelph physics professors and researchers are making headlines again with their research on the Red Planet.

The work by professors Ralf Gellert and Iain Campbell and research associate Nick Boyd was featured on Global National news Monday night during the station’s live broadcast from the University of Guelph. (Watch the video here; scroll to 20:50 in newscast).

Global also issued an online news story about the Mars research.

In addition, Boyd, the operations lead for the mission, is featured today in Metro, a Toronto daily newspaper. The Picton native is a Guelph physics grad, a research associate in the department, and is finishing a master’s degree in the School of Engineering.

Gellert, Campbell and Boyd are part of an international group of scientists that developed the new alpha particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS) that is mounted on the arm of Curiosity, a minivan-sized rover that is roaming around Mars.

The APXS is Canada’s contribution to NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission. About the size of a soda pop can, it will measure exactly which chemical elements — and how much of each type — are in Martian rock or soil. Scientists hope it will tell us about changes in soil and rock on Mars, and provide clues about the planet’s suitability for life.

During the mission, the Guelph team will support the APXS operations and send instructions for operating the device on the rover. The team will work in a specially equipped room in the MacNaughton Building.

Gellert headed the international team that developed the APXS. Since 2005, he has been the lead scientist for the APXS systems that were mounted on NASA’s twin Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) that landed on the red planet in 2004 and later detected evidence of water.

Besides Gellert, Campbell and Boyd the team includes graduate students Glynis Perrett and Scott van Bommel, and post-doc Irina Pradler.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Health Perils in Paradise?

No. 1 in a series of handy travel tips from

Some of the world's most spectacular destinations are also home to some of the world's nastiest bugs. Yellow fever, malaria, and even polio can strike international travelers. Protect yourself by learning which vaccines or health precautions are advised for your destination. To give vaccines time to take effect, see your doctor or travel clinic four to six weeks before your trip.

Polio Booster

If you're planning an African safari, you may need a polio booster. This debilitating disease is still active in many parts of Africa and Asia. The germs can be spread through food, water, and contact with an infected person. Even if you received a polio vaccine as a child, you may need a booster to make sure you're protected against all three types of the virus.

Yellow Fever Vaccine

Along the border of Argentina and Brazil, Iguazu Falls attracts visitors from all over the world. Unfortunately, it also attracts mosquitoes that carry the yellow fever virus. Yellow fever occurs in parts of South and Central America, as well as tropical Africa, and it can be life-threatening. Vaccination is required to visit certain countries, with a booster shot needed after 10 years. Avoiding mosquito bites is important, too.

Malaria Precautions

Malaria is a life-threatening disease carried by mosquitoes. It is most common in sub-Saharan Africa, but also occurs in parts of South Asia and South America. Travelers should ask their doctor about the pros and cons of preventive antimalarial medications. Other strategies include using mosquito repellents (30% - 50% DEET for adults), wearing long sleeves and pants outdoors, and sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

Bedbug Detection

Bedbugs are not choosy about their accommodations -- they check into hostels and five-star resorts across the globe. They cause itchy red bites on the face, neck, arms, hands, or other body parts -- but these marks can take up to 14 days to appear. To detect an infestation more quickly, look for tiny bugs in the folds of mattresses or sheets, rust-colored spots on the mattress, and a sweet musty odor.

Water Purification

"Don't drink the water" may be a mantra of international travelers, but there are actually several ways to make local water safe. The most reliable method is to boil it vigorously for a minute. When this isn't possible, you can disinfect water with iodine tablets, but this may not kill all types of parasites. You can also use a portable water filter. If you choose to buy bottled water, make sure the bottles come from a trusted source.

Dehydration Precautions

Adventures in extremely hot and humid climates can put travelers at risk for dehydration. The risk is even greater if you develop traveler's diarrhea. Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, dry mucous membranes, and urinating less. Sports drinks can help you stay hydrated if you're well, but they are not suitable when you have diarrhea. In that case, you should sip an oral rehydration solution.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cutting through the breast cancer confusion

Canadian Cancer Society finds majority of Ontario women
are still confused about breast cancer screening: Ipsos Reid poll

TORONTO, October 3, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - A recent Canadian Cancer Society Ipsos Reid poll found that the majority of Ontario women are confused about what age they should start screening for breast cancer and the best way to get screened.

Of the women surveyed, nearly half (46%) didn't know that mammograms are the best way to check for breast cancer. While 68% of women didn't know that the recommended age to get screened is 50 to 69.

"The results are alarming because there's so much being done to raise awareness," says Rowena Pinto, Vice President, Public Affairs and Strategic Initiatives, Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division. "Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women, so not only do we want to bring attention to this critical issue, we want to empower women and stop the confusion."

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, the Society is urging women 50 to 69 to get a mammogram every two years. Regular mammography is the most reliable way to find breast cancer early when it's most treatable - it can find a lump that's about the size of an apple seed.

Interestingly, 84% of the women polled in the recommended age group for screening (50 to 69) said that nothing would prevent them from going for a mammogram.

"Knowing that fear or lack of time isn't what's stopping women from getting screened is great news," says Pinto. "That's why we're urging women 50 to 69 to talk to their doctor or contact the Ontario Breast Screening Program to book their mammogram. If more women know when and how to get screened for breast cancer, more lives will be saved."

Women under 50 who have concerns about their breast health should talk to their doctor.

In 2012, in Ontario, an estimated 9,100 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and an estimated 2,000 women will die from it.

Currently in Ontario, 66.8% of women are getting screened for breast cancer. The Canadian Breast Cancer Screening Initiative aims to reach 70%, and the Society hopes to exceed that goal.

Women looking for trustworthy information about breast health or other support services can call the Canadian Cancer Society's confidential Cancer Information Service (1 888 939-3333) and speak to a trained cancer information specialist. The specialist can also provide information about the Society's following services:

...a volunteer-provided transportation program that helps patients get to and from their cancer-related treatment appointments when they have no way of getting there on their own over-the-phone and in-person support program that connects patients and caregivers with trained volunteers who've had cancer or cared for someone with cancer online community ( for patients, survivors and caregivers where they can share support, ideas and advice

...a self-management program for cancer survivors and caregivers that empowers them to acquire the tools they need to make the best of their lives while living with and beyond cancer

...referrals to cancer services in communities throughout Canada

To access information around the clock about breast cancer or the Society's support services, visit

Other findings from the poll conducted by Ipsos Reid among Ontario women ages 18 to 69:

...54% believe that a mammogram is the best way to check for breast cancer
...34% believe checking one's own breast is the best way to check for breast cancer
...42% believe that the recommended age for breast cancer screening is between the age of 40 to 49.
...Only 6% of women say that fear prevents them from getting screened

How women can get screened in Ontario

In Ontario, there are two ways of getting a mammogram. The Society recommends that women 50 to 69 can get a referral from their healthcare professional, or call the Ontario Breast Screening Program at 1 800 668-9304 to make an appointment.

Canadian Cancer Society breast cancer screening guidelines

Whatever your age, you should know what is normal for your breasts. Many women are alive and well today because their breast cancer was detected and treated early.

It's important to know that no screening test for cancer is 100% accurate. For example, a screening test can sometimes show cancer when there isn't, or not show cancer when there is. But overall, screening mammography is the most reliable method of finding breast cancer.

Breast cancer screening guidelines

If you are: 40 to 49 You should talk to your doctor about your risk of breast cancer, along with the benefits and risks of mammography.

If you are: 50 to 69 You should have a mammogram every 2 years.

Innovative New Defibrillator Offers Alternative for Regulating Heart beat

OTTAWA, October 3, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - A new ground-breaking technology was recently used at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI) where two cardiologists, Dr. David Birnie and Dr. Pablo Nery, implanted a new innovative leadless defibrillator, the subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator (S-ICD), to an 18 year-old patient. Under Health Canada's special access program, this was only the third time this new type of ICD had been implanted in Canada.

Conventional defibrillators, known as transvenous defibrillators, are implanted with wires, called the leads, that snake through veins into the heart. When the defibrillator identifies any dangerous heartbeat, it delivers a shock through the wires to return the heart to its normal rhythm and allows it to get back to pumping blood steadily throughout the body.

Not all patients are suitable for a conventional defibrillator. In some with congenital heart problems, there is no way to advance the leads into the heart through the veins. Also, those wires may pose a danger due to the risk of blood clots or infection. Patients often have to undergo a more complex and invasive surgery to attach the leads to the outer layer of the heart muscle in order to benefit from the use of a defibrillator.

Conventional ICDs use leads that run from the device through major veins to an anchor point in the heart. These transvenous leads can cause problems in the long term. Despite decades of design improvements, leads can malfunction, break or stop working. Known as lead failure, this results in either inappropriate shocks or lack of proper regulation of the heartbeat. What's worse is that failed leads often must be removed, which poses serious risks to the patient.

What makes the new device special is that it is entirely subcutaneous. No part of it actually touches the heart. Instead, an electrode is implanted just under the skin near the heart. The defibrillator is connected to the electrode, and monitors the heartbeat at all times. If needed, it delivers a shock to the heart muscle to restore its normal rhythm.

The goal of the subcutaneous ICD is to potentially reduce or eliminate these problems.

"The subcutaneous ICD provides effective therapy for patients who are either not eligible for or are at high risk with a traditional ICD. Such patients may now be able to receive protection from a subcutaneous ICD without the risks associated with the standard leads," explained Dr. Nery.

That made the 18-year-old recipient of the S-ICD at the Heart Institute a perfect candidate.

"The S-ICD offers advantages for particular patient sub-groups," said Dr. Nery. "This technology is now an alternative for young patients, in part because lead extraction can be avoided down the road."

Another advantage is more aesthetic in nature but, nonetheless, important for young people. A conventional transvenous defibrillator sits on the front on the chest, just under the collarbone, and is easy to see. The S-ICD, in comparison, is implanted to the side, under the patient's arm, and with a much smaller incision than with the transvenous defibrillator. That, said Dr. Nery, is an important consideration for many patients in terms of body image and quality of life.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Affordable Housing a Growing But Invisible Problem: World Habitat Day Survey

photo credit: Imagine Canada via Flickr

TORONTO, October 1, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - Today, on World Habitat Day, Habitat for Humanity Canada's National Leadership Council released survey results showing that while 64 percent of Canadians believe housing will be less affordable in the future, few feel affordable housing is a problem in their community.

According to Brett Marchand, National Leadership Council Chair, these results highlight the fact that although Canadians see the warning signs, few appreciate the extent of housing need across the country.

"When housing costs are unmanageable, families are forced to make impossible choices to get by, such as whether they can afford to feed their children breakfast before school or keep the heat on at night," said Marchand. "A lack of affordable housing also restricts low-income families' ability to break the cycle of poverty, which increases the likelihood of long-term reliance on social services."

Affordable housing is defined as a situation where housing costs - rent or mortgage payments and property taxes, and electricity, water, fuel and other municipal services - amount to less than 30 percent of a household's total before-tax income1. The survey found that households in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario were most at risk of exceeding this limit - provinces where Habitat for Humanity expects to cumulatively build upwards of 180 homes this year.

Across Canada, Habitat for Humanity Canada has achieved significant milestones this year. In addition to it shaping up to be a record-breaking year when it comes to the number of affordable homes built nationwide, one of these projects was the organization's first on First Nations settlement land. As part of a five-year goal, the organization is determined to build 1,800 homes by 2016 - the same number it originally took 25 years to achieve.

Among the survey's other findings:

...35 per cent of Canadians bought fewer groceries due to sky-high housing costs - a figure that jumps to 46 percent in the Atlantic provinces.

...More than 1 in 4 Canadians have put off paying bills in order to make rent.

...84 per cent of Canadians believe that the government should do more to address the issue of affordable housing.

"It's important that Canadians understand that housing must stay affordable," Marchand continued. "We can't afford to believe that it's someone else's problem. The problem exists all around us, in every city and in every neighbourhood. Sometimes, it's right next door."

About Habitat for Humanity Canada's National Leadership Council

Habitat for Humanity Canada's National Leadership Council is a group of influential Canadians brought together by their belief that safe, decent, affordable housing is key to building stronger communities and therefore a stronger Canada. Together they are working to raise the profile of the affordable housing issue by acting as Habitat ambassadors locally and globally.

Habitat for Humanity Canada welcomes these new members to the National Leadership Council:

...Dave Tuccaro, President, Tuccaro Inc. Group of Companies

...Dave Perkins, President & CEO, Molson Coors Canada

...Vi Konkle, President & CEO, The Brick Group

...Avi Kahn, President & General Manager, Hilti (Canada) Corporation

A full list of Council members can be viewed at

About Habitat for Humanity Canada

Founded in 1985, Habitat for Humanity Canada is a national, non-profit organization working towards a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. With the help of over 50,000 volunteers every year and 69 affiliate organizations from coast to coast, their mission is to mobilize volunteers and community partners in building affordable housing and promoting homeownership as a means to break the cycle of poverty in Canada and around the world. For more information on Habitat for Humanity Canada, please visit