TORONTO — An Ontario judge has given Sears Canada the green light to immediately proceed with reaching out to potential buyers while it’s under creditor protection.Ontario Superior Court Justice Glenn Hainey approved the motion for the sale and investor solicitation process Thursday, following hours of discussions between lawyers representing the company, its lenders and retirees and laid-off employees.According to the decision, the national retailer and its court-ordered monitor, FTI Consulting Inc., can select one or more successful bids by Oct. 25.In separate documents filed by Sears Canada’s lawyers prior to Thursday’s hearing, the retailer’s chief financial officer said it’s “crucial” to begin liquidation sales of inventory no later than July 21 and to complete them by Oct. 12. Hainey is expected to hear that motion Tuesday.Sears Canada announced in June that it planned on closing 59 locations across the country and cutting approximately 2,900 jobs as part of a restructuring under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.The department store owner wants to shutter dozens of stores in the coming weeks while it negotiates with potential buyers who might acquire some or all of the company’s remaining assets, pending court approvals.“I’m in total shock this happened,” said Zobedida Maharaj, who was one of dozens of former employees who packed an overflowing Toronto courtroom to hear Thursday’s proceedings.Maharaj, 53, said she had worked at Sears Canada for 28 years before she was laid off at the end of March when her store was closed.The senior manager of operations and merchandise said she was initially told she would get eight weeks of severance and benefits, but was cut off June 22 when the company secured temporary court protection from creditors.“It’s like getting slapped in the face,” Maharaj said.Earlier in the day, Sears Canada struck a deal over benefit and pension payments to retired employees. The retailer had initially asked the court for permission to immediately halt payments for pension, health and dental benefits for laid-off employees, retirees and surviving spouses due to a severe cash crunch, but later agreed to continue payments to retirees until Sept. 30.Many former employees said the company’s compromise on temporarily paying retiree benefits and pension compensation has them cautiously hopeful.Pina Rupa, 58, from Vaughan, Ont., said outside the courthouse that she hoped Sears Canada, where she worked for nearly 40 years, would reinstate her benefits and severance which she said were worth tens of thousands of dollars.“I was such a loyal employee,” said Rupa, who was laid off from the company’s head office.Employment lawyer Susan Ursel, whose firm represents more than 17,000 non-unionized former and current employees, said her law office is filing motions to ask the court to reinstate benefit, severance and pension payments to the workers who were laid off. It is also asking to set up a temporary hardship fund for those who are in dire need of cash and health benefits.Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said her government is paying close attention to the situation but there isn’t a role it can play at this point.Follow @LindaNguyenTO and @DavidPaddon on Twitter.
(Dursey Island, Cork where the walk begins. Image: Shutterstock)A 500 KILOMETRE walkway through 10 counties and four provinces is ready for hiking.The Beara-Breifne Way, Ireland’s longest walking trail, links counties Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, Offaly, Galway, Roscommon, Sligo, Leitrim and Cavan.In local areas, the Way is divided into a series of smaller routes to make the walking trail more accessible and achievable.It was the largest community based project undertaken in the country, involving twelve local walking trails, and with 240 farmers living on the Beara Way alone, the scale of community collaboration becomes clear.O’Sullivan BeareIt retraces the steps of O’Sullivan Beare in 1603 from Beara to Leitrim through farmlands, forest paths, remote bog lands, ancient heritage sites, unique villages and landscapes.The Beara-Breifne Way walk will take you through Portumna and by Lough Derg. (Image: Shutterstock)The story goes that in the aftermath of the Battle of Kinsale, Donal Cam, chieftain of the O’Sullivan Beara clan, and his followers undertook this epic 14-day march. Many clans were involved in both the march and in the skirmishes which took place, and the story lends a historical theme to the route.The Hymany WayOne of the walking trails that joined to form the Beara-Breifne walkway was the Hymany Way in east Galway, which begins in Portumna and runs to Ballygar.Parke’s Castle in Leitrim which will also be passed along the route. (Image: Shutterstock)Pat Glynn, who helped establish The Hymany Way says: “The route is all marked out with plaques, signposts and map-boards that tell walkers all about the surrounding local myths, ruins, various sites, nature and hedgerows.”Anybody can walk the Way at any time as local farmers have given access through their lands.As a general rule, it is best to be “over prepared than underprepared and waterproof clothing and boots are essential,” said Glynn. Depending on how far walkers plan on going, they should carry food and water, as well as a first aid kit.Enda Kenny with Jim O’Sullivan, organising committee of Beara-Breifne Way (left) and Michael Starrett, CEO of Heritage Council at the launch of the Beara-Breifne Way Heritage Stamps and Walking Passport. (Image: MerrionStreet.ie/Flickr)Beara-Breifne Way Heritage Stamps and Walking Passport have also been launched so now all walkers can collect a stamp based on the heritage of each town and the village the pass through.The Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the “development ultimately provides walkers and cyclists, either visiting Ireland or holidaying at home, with a unique experience of our countryside on a route through ten counties from Cork to Leitrim. It is great to see tourism infrastructure like this being delivered in the year of the Gathering 2013 and there is no doubt that projects like this will encourage continued growth for the future.”*We don’t for one second think this walk will be easy – it just made for a good headline.More: 11 more amazing places to visit… if we could put a roof on Ireland>Read: Ireland’s newest stamp features an entire short story>