Opening Notes

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS October 14 1996
Opening Notes

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS October 14 1996

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS

So good it had to be used twice

Bob Rae, Ontario’s first NDP premier, has written a book about his life in politics, the aptly titled From Protest to Power.

It is a major fall release from Toronto-based Penguin Books Canada Ltd. There is just one hitch: there is already a book with that title. In 1992, York University political scientist Norman Penner published his From Protest to Power, about Canada’s political left since 1900. Penner says Rae knew about it, because he had his publisher send a copy to the then-premier. “I know Bob Rae,” said Penner, “and I thought he was a good guy.” Penguin publisher Cynthia Good says her company only learned of the Penner book when Rae’s was already at the printer. “We would never have done this intentionally,” she said. Nor does she anticipate confusion in bookstores, saying: “I expect most people will simply ask for ‘the Rae book.’ ”

The business of disasters

Disasters—natural and conflict-related—affect the lives of about 300 million people each year. That makes disaster relief big business: not counting peacekeeping and bulk food purchases, governments and humanitarian agencies spend $2.7 billion each year on international relief. But it is also an industry rife with waste and incoherent procurement practices. To stimulate competition among suppliers and promote cost-and time-saving innovations (such as bar coding on inventories), volunteer agencies conceived the notion of an international trade fair. Last week, the first World Aid fair opened its doors in Geneva to 260 companies and 45 humanitarian organizations. Among the vendors, pitching everything from artificial limbs to sleeping bags made from donated clothing too shabby to wear, were five Canadian companies. Most, like John Matchung’s small tent company, Design Shelter Systems of Mississauga, Ont., had done business with humanitarian agencies before.

He was surprised by the number of agents, or middlemen. Said Matchung: “I thought there would be just the nongovernmental organizations and the big hitters like the Red Cross here.” There was an even more cynical side of the aid business on display: parked outside the fair entrance was a massive, $4-million machine designed to churn up and detonate land mines. Its manufacturer? Bofors, the Swedish company that has also made millions of land mines.

A second look at murder

Whether fact or fiction, the murder mystery has always been able to attract attention. And now, 600 unsolved murders in British Columbia are getting the undivided attention of what has unofficially been dubbed the Historic Homicide Squad. In a first for the RCMP, the Mounties have formed a joint venture with the Vancouver police to look into unsolved murders dating as far back as 20 years ago. While the 20 officers assigned to the Unsolved Homicide Unit, as it is officially known, will use the latest in high-tech forensics, such as DNA testing, they will also set up an 800 telephone number in case some people finally want to talk. And, says Staff Sgt. Doug Henderson, who heads the squad, they will use good old-fashioned investigative techniques such as interviewing and reinterviewing suspects and witnesses. Adds Henderson: “We are going through all of the cases, case by case.” And hoping to discover whodunit.

Montreal through a lens darkly

Ted Wright was not angry. But after living in Montreal since 1972, he was deeply concerned by the venomous anti-English graffiti that began appearing in the downtown core of the city following the Quebec sovereignty referendum last October. So Wright, who was born and grew up in the Toronto area, pedalled his bike around Montreal and took pictures of the most extreme examples—more

than 300 of them. “I wanted the graffiti to be recorded because, if they aren’t, people will say they don’t exist,” says Wright, a coordinator for legal clinics and 47year-old father of one. Because of the similarity in writing styles, Wright believes that no more than 35 people are responsible for the hundreds of anti-English graffiti slogans throughout Montreal. Now, with the funding of a pro-

Some spare change

Who says Canadian money is a secondrate cousin of the Yankee dollar? On Nov. 15, someone is expected to pay upwards of $200,000 (U.S.) for a Canadian coin with a face value of $20. The pre-Confederation British Columbia gold coin, minted in 1862 in New Westminster, is only one of five known to exist and will be a sought-after item at an auction in Baltimore. The $20 gold piece once belonged to Virgil Brand, a turn-of-the-century Chicago beer baron. It will be auctioned as part of a collection of Canadian coins owned by the late Henry Norweb, a U.S. diplomat. Also up for auction, and expected to fetch at least $25,000 (U.S.), will be a small worn copper coin. Dated 1670, it is the first French colonial coin that specifically refers to North America. Says Bill Cross, the owner of Charlton, a Toronto estate jewelry and coin dealership: “I think they’re being conservative when they say that the B.C. gold will bring only $200,000.”

federalist group called the Quebec Committee for Canada, 13 of Wright’s snapshots have been printed on a full-size poster. The committee has mailed “Walls of Shame,” as the poster is called, to more than 7,000 media outlets, tourist agencies and politicians in North America and Europe. “The poster is a mechanism to alert people about racism and intolerance within the Parti Québécois,” says Montreal businessman and committee spokesman David Black. But so far, the poster campaign has had little effect on the home front. A

spokesman for Serge Ménard, the Quebec minister responsible for the Montreal region, condemned the project as “dishonest” and potentially harmful to the image of the city and all French Quebecers. While Wright shares that last concern, he believes that distributing the poster is a necessary evil. “The graffiti in no way represent the opinions of the majority of francophones,” says the bilingual Wright. “But they are disturbing and they needed to be recorded for everyone to see how pervasive the problem really is here.”