Canada NOTES

March 27 1995

Canada NOTES

March 27 1995

Canada NOTES

MARTENSVILLE SUIT

Rod and Linda Sterling, acquitted last year of 32 criminal charges in the child sex-abuse case involving their day-care centre in Martensville, Sask., filed a civil lawsuit against the provincial government seeking $11.6 million in damages. The couple, who claim that investigators coerced allegations out of the children involved, also called for a public inquiry into the way the case was handled. Since 1993, their 25-year-old son, Travis, and a woman whose identity is protected by the Young Offenders Act, have been found guilty of several sex-related charges.

WHALE AUTOPSY

Vancouver Aquarium veterinarian David Huff said a preliminary post-mortem suggested that a calf born March 8 to Bjossa, a killer whale, probably died as a result of a premature rupture of the umbilical cord. Huff said it appeared that the 192-kg female calf lost so much blood in its mother’s birth canal that it died soon after it was born.

EDUCATION BATTLE

The Public School Boards Association of Alberta asked the Court of Queen’s Bench to strike down changes to the province’s School Act brought in by Premier Ralph Klein’s Conservative government. The province last year took over property tax collecting and spending powers from the school boards, which they slashed in size and number. The revenue is now being pooled in a general fund to be allocated equally among boards.

QUEBEC CURRENCY

A study sponsored by the Toronto-based C.D. Howe Institute said that a sovereign Quebec could use the Canadian dollar, but a flight of capital from the new country would ultimately force it to create its own currency. But Quebec’s deputy premier, Bernard Landry, attacked the report, saying it ignored the experience of the European Union, whose 15 member states are moving towards a common currency.

SEAL SHOWDOWN

About 100 angry sealers clashed with an anti-sealing group that included American actor Martin Sheen and prominent environmentalist Paul Watson on Quebec’s Magdalen Islands, a remote archipelago in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The conservationists were forced to flee after trying in vain to present a “cruelty-free” alternative to killing seal pups to the hunters, who accused them of trying to destroy their livelihood.

Guilty of negligence

Capt. Michael Sox, the last Canadian soldier tried in a series of courts martial stemming from the March, 1993, beating death of 16-year-old Shidane Arone in Somalia, was found guilty of negligent performance of duty after a trial at the Canadian Forces Base in Petawawa, Ont. The charge carries a maximum penalty of dismissal with disgrace, followed by imprisonment for up to two years less a day. Sox, a 30-year-old former platoon commander with the now-disbanded Canadian Airborne Regiment, however, was found not guilty of the more serious charge of causing bodily harm in the death of the Somali teenager. A charge of committing an act prejudicial to good order and discipline was stayed.

Prosecutor Lt.-Col. Norman Peel, while conceding that Sox was not “the worst offender” in the Somalia incident, called the verdict “fair” and said that he hopes it sig-

nais the “end to a big nightmare for everyone that has been involved.” Defence lawyer Maj. Ken Lindstein, meanwhile, said that Sox is disappointed with the verdict and had hoped for an acquittal.

Pte. Elvin Kyle Brown is serving five years for manslaughter and torture in Arone’s death. Another soldier, Master Cpl. Clayton Matchee, was declared unfit to stand trial on murder and torture charges after an unsuccessful suicide attempt left him with brain damage. With the courts martial over, the armed forces are to hold a public inquiry into the controversial Somalia mission by the Airborne, which will also examine allegations of a coverup by senior officers. The regiment was disbanded on March 5 after videos were made public showing soldiers making violent, racist comments and eating vomit and feces during a hazing ritual.

Medicare debate

During a visit to Saskatoon, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said that keeping costs down is the best way to preserve Canada’s system of universal health care. “We have to hold the line on huge increases on spending on medicare,” Chrétien told 2,200 delegates to the annual meeting of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities. “The provinces are working hard to keep costs under control, while retaining a high level of service.”

In last month’s budget, the federal government said it plans to cut transfer payments to the provinces for health, postsecondary education and welfare. Ottawa also wants the provinces to take on new responsibilities for health budgets under so-called block funding. But not everyone is convinced that the plan is good. About 25 angry demonstrators jeered the Prime Minister as he left the Saskatoon meeting. And at a news conference before Chrétien’s address, former Saskatchewan NDP premier Allan Blakeney and other active supporters of medicare warned of crumbling national standards. Blakeney predicted that budgetary changes will erode health services across Canada. ‘We will find ourselves without

a national program,” he declared. Dr. Frank Cobum, a founder of Saskatchewan’s hospital insurance plan—the country’s first—in 1947, predicted “different levels of medicare in different parts of the country.” Despite the criticism, Chrétien maintained that his government initiated the changes “not to wreck medicare but to save medicare.”

Judge to stay

The judge in the manslaughter trial of two former managers of the Westray coal mine near Plymouth, N.S., dismissed a prosecution motion to remove him from hearing the case and declare a mistrial. The Crown had asked Justice Robert Anderson to step down after he made a March 2 telephone call to a senior prosecutions official during which he questioned the competence of lead prosecutor Herman Felderhof. Anderson, however, insisted that the call was well-intentioned. Former Westray managers Roger Parry and Gerald Phillips and former mine owner Curragh Inc. face charges of criminal negligence causing death and manslaughter. Several family members of the 26 men who died in the May, 1992, explosion expressed disappointment with Anderson’s ruling.