Canada NOTES

September 12 1994

Canada NOTES

September 12 1994

Canada NOTES



The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that all Canadians facing criminal charges whose mother tongue is neither English nor French have a right to continuous, accurate interpretation of court proceedings in their first language. The ruling stemmed from a case in which a Vietnamese-born man convicted of sexual assault in Nova Scotia in 1991 received only short summaries of the testimony during a key part of his trial, rather than full and simultaneous translation. The Supreme Court, stating that the man’s constitutional rights had been violated, quashed his conviction and ordered a new trial.


A report commissioned by Imperial Tobacco Ltd. concluded that tobacco-related deaths are an economic benefit because cigarettes kill people before they become a burden to the health care system. “Antismoking groups rarely consider the reduction in health costs resulting from the premature death of certain smokers,” said the report, written by economist Jean-Pierre Vidal. A spokesman for Imperial Tobacco said that the report was never intended to be made public and that the company does not necessarily share Vidal’s views.


In the largest settlement of its kind in Canada, Ottawa agreed to pay $200,000 to an aboriginal civil servant who had filed a complaint of racism after she lost her job as a federal program officer in Regina in 1986. Mary Pitawanakwat, a 44-yearold Ojibwa-Potawatomi, won the settlement two months after the Federal Court ordered that she be reinstated.


British Columbia Reform MP Jim Gouk told a cheering crowd of about 1,000 marijuana activists at Hempfest ’94 in Salmo, B.C., that he favored legalizing the drug—-as long as it was possible to test pot-smoking drivers for impairment. The Reform party, which takes a strong law-and-order stance on most justice issues, has no official position on legalizing marijuana.


NHL training camps opened as scheduled after commissioner Gary Bettman postponed a threatened lockout of NHL players while labor talks between owners and the players’ union continued. It is now expected that Bettman will wait until Oct. 1, the opening day of the NHL season, to proceed with the lockout if the parties still have not agreed on a new contract.

New twists in a spy scandal

It was the latest strange twist in an increasingly bizarre saga. On Friday, Sept. 2,

RCMP officers armed with a warrant under the Official Secrets Act raided the Ottawa offices of CTV News. The police demanded videotapes and notes from an Aug. 25 televised interview with Brian Mclnnis, an aide to former Tory solicitor general Doug Lewis. In that interview, Mclnnis admitted leaking a document to The Toronto Star indicating that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had received information from one of its own informants within the Toronto-based neo-Nazi group the Heritage Front about inquiries by CBC TV into links between the Heritage Front and Canadian soldiers serving in Somalia. The document lent support to earlier reports that CSIS had allegedly paid white supremacist Grant Bristow to spy on the Heritage Front—and that Bristow, in turn, had tried to gather intelligence on everything from the Reform party to at least one of the country’s national Jewish organizations.

Just as earlier RCMP raids on

The Toronto Star and The Toronto Sun had been rebuffed, CTV News refused to hand over any material to the police. At the same time, Reform party Leader Preston Manning said that the authorities seemed more intent on proving that the Official Secrets Act had been breached than in determining whether CSIS did anything wrong: “We’d like to be assured that equal effort is being made to see whether CSIS actually violated our civil rights, or anyone else’s, and whether there were political connections.”

Meanwhile, Solicitor General Herb Gray urged the Toronto police force to immediately investigate allegations that Bristow had been given “wide access” to the confidential national police computer network by sympathetic police officers. And Liberal MP g Derek Lee, chairman of the I House of Commons national se¡5 curity committee, announced I that hearings would begin into I the Bristow affair on Sept. 13— I and that the committee may in| voke rarely used powers to force the alleged informant, who has gone into hiding, to testify.

Uproar on implants

Canadian women who have suffered side-effects from silicone-gel breast implants complained that they were shortchanged after an American judge issued his ruling on the largest single product liability settlement in American history. U.S. District Judge Sam Pointer increased the amount of money available to foreign claimants—including Canadians—to $96.6 million, from $81 million. But that still represents only a fraction of the overall $4.25-billion pact between women and nearly 60 companies that manufactured implants or their component parts. As a result, it is estimated that American women will be eligible for between $100,000 and more than $1 million in compensation, while foreign women can expect a maximum of about $3,000 each. Such amounts are “disgusting and despicable,” said Joyce Attis, a 43-year-old Torontonian who had an implant for 20 years before having it removed in 1992, and who says she has suffered rheumatoid arthritis and symptoms of lupus

and has had a hysterectomy because of the device. “It’s like taking a toothpick from a tree.” Pointer’s ruling opened the way for a courtappointed body to begin determining who is eligible for compensation. More than 90,000 women have so far applied. Claimants have until Oct. 17 to file their medical records. If they display symptoms of the 10 diseases covered by the deal, they will be compensated.

One chagrined cop

Edmonton police Chief Doug McNally paid a $60 speeding fine after being spotted by one of his own force’s photo radar cameras driving 66 km/h in a 50-km/h zone. “I’m a little chagrined and very embarrassed,” said McNally. “I’ve made a mistake and I’ve learned my lesson.” Edmonton police were sharply criticized last year when they followed Calgary’s example and introduced photo radar cameras, which automatically take pictures of the licence plates of speeding cars. The Ontario Provincial Police force began using photo radar on highways near Toronto in August.