Local news briefs

Alternative Reading Week announces local partners

Four Winnipeg agencies are partnering with the University of Manitoba Student Life offices and Students’ Union for this year’s Alternative Reading Week.

The program will give students the opportunity to learn about social justice issues affecting Winnipeg, by spending the week volunteering with local non-profit agencies.

Winnipeg Harvest, United Way Winnipeg, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and NEEDS (Newcomers Employment and Education Development Services) are all taking part in the program. Students will spend one day with each agency.

Alternative Reading Week usually takes students overseas to El Salvador to volunteer, but was changed this year due to flooding in the South American country.

Deadline for applications is Jan. 27.

Justice Minister pushes for extension of mandatory minimums

The provincial government is asking for harsher sentencing for offenders who commit premeditated crimes with knives, home invasions and car thefts, the Winnipeg Free Press reported.

“Our government believes that criminals who commit offences such as these need to answer for the consequences of their actions,” said Justice Minister Andrew Swan in a statement.

Swan is planning to take these concerns before other provincial justice ministers at a meeting in P.E.I. next week.

He said harsher sentencing for these crimes will reflect their seriousness, and will help the province “move in the right direction” to build safer communities.

Local synagogue performs first same-sex marriage

What is believed to be the first same-sex marriage performed in a conservative synagogue in Canada took place in Winnipeg last weekend, CBC News reported.

The Shaarey Zedek synagogue hosted the marriage of Arthur Blankstein and Kenneth Ure on Saturday, Jan. 21.

“There’s nothing like being in a room full of family and friends and declaring to everybody that you love another person and that’s the person you want to live with,” Blankstein told CBC News.

The couple had married in a civil ceremony in 2004 but wanted to take part in a religious ceremony with friends and family present.

According to CBC News Blankstein commented that he was “pleased to be making history.”