CANADA

Canada NOTES

September 9 1996
CANADA

Canada NOTES

September 9 1996

Canada NOTES

CANADA

OTTAWA RED FLAGGED

Heritage Minister Sheila Copps defended her campaign to give Canadians free national flags—an effort that, because of its popularity, is expected to cost $20 million. The plan to distribute one million flags was announced on Feb. 15, the 31st anniversary of the introduction of the Maple Leaf, when Ottawa decided to promote Flag Day. Copps says she will find the money to pay for the campaign within her departmental budget.

TENSION IN TEMAGAMI

A bomb wrecked a wooden bridge used by logging trucks over the Temagami River in Northern Ontario, heightening tensions in a region where natives are upset by the provincial government’s decision to expand mining and logging of old-growth pine forests. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.

CALGARY GIRLS GUILTY

Alberta Provincial Court Judge Peter Leveque convicted two 15-year-old girls of manslaughter and robbery in the July, 1995, multiple-stabbing death of Kulwarn Dhiman, 34. “They were out for sex, booze, drugs and country music,” said Leveque of the girls, who had been plotting to hijack a car to get to a party before they flagged down Dhiman. Leveque rejected a defence argument that the girls were resisting a sexual attack.

MURDER OYER PIZZA

Regina police charged Tyler James Ceulemans, 22, with second-degree murder and attempted murder after a man drove over Scott Vance, 22, and Andrew Simon, 19, killing Vance, when a dispute over a pizza led to all three men being ejected from a pub. Outside, a car struck the two as they crossed the street, then the driver backed up and hit Vance again. “Scott just wanted a bite of pizza,” said Simon, who was left cut and bruised.

YUKON ELECTION CALL

Yukon Government Leader John Ostashek, touting his record on fiscal management, called a territorial election for Sept. 30. The governing Yukon Party (formerly the Conservatives) had seven seats in the territorial assembly, compared with six for the NDP and one for the Liberals. There were also three Independents.

A military that keeps its secrets

Col. Geoff Haswell told a federal inquiry into the socalled Somalia affair that a paranoid mistrust of the media permeated National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa.

Haswell, a former director of public affairs with the defence department, said documents were renamed and destroyed after 72 hours to thwart reporters’ requests for access. He testified that he could not say whether Gen. Jean Boyle knew about the scheme, but said “it was openly discussed” among public affairs employees.

Haswell, who faces a court martial on seven counts related to the destruction of military documents, said that while he knew about the plan to rename certain reports, he was “negligent” in failing to detect that the documents had also been edited. Haswell said that even though he did not know of the alterations, he should be held accountable. “I don’t shirk from that,” he said.

Haswell told the inquiry that the tight control over the flow of information came from the offices of both Boyle and then-deputy minister of defence Robert Fowler. He observed that one of his former bosses would not write a note on a document for fear it might fall into a reporter’s hands. Instead, she left her comments on yellow »g sticky notes because |=j they could be removed 11 from the document if ! 1 necessary. “It’s a mentality that has developed over a period of years,” Haswell said.

Before the colonel’s testimony, Boyle wrapped up nine gruelling days on the stand, maintaining throughout that he did not know of the plan to alter documents. After a week’s adjournment, the inquiry will return to its original task—investigating the former Canadian Airborne Regiment’s ill-fated mission to Somalia in 1993, during which Canadian soldiers tortured a Somali teenager to death and shot other Somali civilians.

THE COURTS

A date for Airbus

Justice André Rochon of Quebec Superior Court in Montreal set Jan. 6 as the date when Brian Mulroney’s $50m i I lion libel suit against the federal government will go to trial. The case is expected to last three months. The former prime minister launched the suit after a confidential letter from the federal government to Switzerland alleging he was part of a 1988 kickback scheme involving Air Canada's purchase of 34 Airbus jets became public.

The setting of the court date sparked a number of verbal volleys by lawyers on both sides. Claude-Armand Sheppard, representing Ottawa, said Mulroney received special treatment by getting his case put on a fast track. Mulroney’s lawyer, Gérald Tremblay, accused government lawyers of foot-dragging and said that the “only special treatment Mr. Mulroney got was from the defendants’ side who tried to delay the trial as much as possible.”

Federalists win Round 1

Quebec Superior Court Justice Robert Pidgeon ruled that lawyer Guy Bertrand can continue in his bid to seek a court injunction to prevent any future referendums on Quebec sovereignty. Pidgeon criticized the Quebec government for trying to have the case tossed out instead of arguing its merits. That view was shared by the federal government, which had intervened in the case to argue that Quebec cannot leave Confederation even after a majority win by the Yes side unless Ottawa and the other provinces approve. ‘This case cannot be dismissed summarily,” said federal Justice Minister Allan Rock after the ruling. But Quebec Justice Minister Paul Bégin continued to insist that “only Quebecers have the right to decide their future.” Last spring, Premier Lucien Bouchard threatened to call a snap election if Ottawa tried to set rules for the next referendum.

Pidgeon’s ruling came the same week that public hearings began into Bill 40, which will amend Quebec’s French language charter. The two events exacerbated tensions between hardline separatists and the province’s English-speaking minority. At the core of Bill 40 is a plan to resurrect the Commission de protection de la langue française, a group of inspectors reviled by anglophones as the language police.