Exactly 15 years after he was first elected premier of Quebec, Liberal Leader Robert Bourassa last week announced plans to run again for a national assembly seat. Bourassa, 51, who has been without a seat since he regained the party leadership in October, 1983, plans to contest the Montreal-area riding of Bertrand in one of four byelections called by Premier René Lévesque for June 3. His principal rival for the seat is expected to be Francine Lalonde, who is status of women minister in Lévesque’s cabinet—even though she does not yet have a seat in the assembly. The constituency was previously held by former PQ cabinet minister Denis Lazure, one of seven ministers who resigned following a party decision in December to shelve independence as an issue in the next election —expected later this summer or in the fall.
Curbing the Senate
Two months after he first vowed to curb the powers of the Senate, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s government was expected to introduce a bill this week to restrict the powers of the Upper House—in a move likely to draw criticism from both Tories and opposition politicians. Justice Minister John Crosbie told the Commons last week that the government now has the support of eight provinces—the holdouts are Manitoba and Quebec—for the proposed reform. In return, Ottawa has pledged to consider more fundamental Senate reform at a future constitutional conference. According to The Canadian Press news agency the government measure would allow the Senate to delay money bills—legislation dealing with spending or taxation—for a maximum of 30 days and other bills for no more than 45 days. As a result, some Conservative senators say they are concerned that the proposal might put the Senate’s Liberal majority in a rebellious mood, and Liberal Leader John Turner declared that the bill would “indirectly abolish the Senate” because the Commons would have the option of ignoring changes to legislation proposed by that chamber. Instead, Turner said that senators should be elected—not appointed by the government—although he declined to give details. Mulroney undertook in February to rein in the Senate after the Red Chamber held up a borrowing bill. Opposition critics pointed out that the proposed 30-day time limit for the Senate’s examination of money bills is six days more than the 24 days that the Liberals delayed the government bill earlier this year.
Infant K’s case
Civil rights groups reacted angrily last week after a hysterectomy was performed in Vancouver on a 10-year-old mentally handicapped girl whose parents feared that she would have a hysterical reaction to her first menstrual period. The surgery was carried out secretly following a protracted legal battle —only an hour before the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa was scheduled to hear an application for an order to prevent the surgery. The parents of the girl—identified legally only as Infant K—asked the courts for permission last December to have their daughter sterilized because she had a
phobic reaction to blood and wouid be unable to cope mentally or hygienically with menstruation. In the proceedings that followed, lawyers for the public trustee’s office, acting on behalf of the child, fought to prevent the operation. While the lawyers for Infant K argued that she was too young to be sterilized, Chris Hinkson, acting for the parents, told the Court of Appeal that it was unlikely the girl would ever have a normal reproductive life. “She has a practical right to sterilization,” he argued. “She has an impractical right to reproduce.” After the operation was carried out Jacques Pelletier, executive vice-president of the Canadian Association of the Mentally Retarded, declared that “in a very fascist way these people decided to take the law into their own hands. We call it butchery—an atrocity.”
The preliminary hearing was conducted partly in the Inuit language of Inuktitut. At the end, provincial court Judge James Fontana ordered former Liberal MP Peter Ittinuar last week to stand trial on a charge of using a forged document in 1983 to obtain $5,200 from the government for a boat tour of his Arctic riding that never took place. The Ottawa judge threw out RCMP charges of breach of trust and theft. A trial date will be set on June 7 for Ittinuar, 35, who was Canada’s first Inuk MP. Elected in the 1979 election in the northernmost riding of Nunatsiaq, he was defeated in last September’s federal election. The hearing, which began last November, was disrupted by delays and translation problems. One interpreter came close to tears as she tried to translate legal and banking terms into Inuktitut for two key witnesses from Rankin Inlet, N.W.T.—Ittinuar’s father, Ollie, and family friend Kailitak Manilak. The evidence indicated that the then-MP intended to use the $5,200 travel allowance for a month-long boat tour of Hudson Bay settlements. His father testified that he hired Manilak to act as guide and hunter. The former MP is alleged to have signed Manilak’s name to collect the expense money. When the tour was cancelled, the elder Ittinuar testified, most of the money had been spent to refit a family boat. The former MP, pleased by Fontana’s dismissal of two charges, said later, “Under the circumstances I think he was very, very fair.”
Heading for home
After braving snowstorms and avalanche conditions in the Rocky Mountains and through the Rogers Pass, one-legged runner Steve Fonyo last week entered the final provincial lap of his cross-country run to raise money for cancer education, patient care and research. British Columbia Premier William Bennett greeted the 19u year-old native of Vernon, B.C., as he crossed the border from
Alberta, and movie star Sylvester Stallone telephoned his encouragement when Fonyo, who lost his left leg to cancer at the age of 12, passed through B.C.’s Glacier National Park. Bennett challenged B.C. citizens to match the total of more than $3 million in contributions that Fonyo has raised since he set out 13 months ago from St. John’s, Nfld. Declared a weary Fonyo, who was expected to complete his run at Victoria by the end of May: “I’m just glad it’s almost over.”
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