Opening Notes

Opening Notes

Dissing Zimbabwe?

BARBARA WICKENS March 24 1997
Opening Notes

Opening Notes

Dissing Zimbabwe?

BARBARA WICKENS March 24 1997

Opening Notes

Dissing Zimbabwe?

BARBARA WICKENS

The headline was bold: “Canada launches antiZimbabwe campaign.” So was its source—the front page of a February edition of The People’s Voice, published weekly in the capital of Harare by President Robert Mugabe’s political party. The accompanying story claimed that the department of foreign affairs in Ottawa is trying to scare tourists away from Zimbabwe through its travel information reports for Canadian sightseers. While the travel advisory cautions visitors about such things as potential health and crime risks—especially in tourist areas such as Victoria Falls—officials at Foreign Affairs insist that there is no

plan to deter investors and travellers from visiting Zimbabwe. In fact, the department distributes similar reports on 150 countries, including such G-7 giants as France, Japan and the United Kingdom. Although Ian McKinley, a spokesman for the Canadian High Commission in Zimbabwe, does admit that a 1995 report incorrectly stated that yellow fever was prevalent in Zimbabwe, he notes the error has since been corrected. “The strange thing about the whole business is that we get our information from the World Health Organization, and they get all their information from the government of Zimbabwe,” says McKinley. ‘The story could well have been ‘Zimbabwe attacks Zimbabwe.’ ”

A fox and her fur

In 1994, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals scored a publicity coup when five top models, including Naomi Campbell, posed nude for the organization’s “We’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign. Since then, other supermodels, including Cindy Crawford, Tyra Banks and Claudia Schiffer, have also donated their images and time—worth as much as $20,000 a day—to the anti-fur campaign. But in the meantime, according to the Ottawabased Fur Institute of Canada, onceweak global fur sales have been making a comeback. The latest sign of that turnaround was the Fendi fashion show in Milan, which Campbell opened on March 7 wearing a fur coat. Executives at Norfolk, Va.-based PETA were not amused, and last week sent a letter to Campbell calling her “a disgrace to the many animal-friendly fashion leaders who have both hearts and spines.” The letter also informed her she was “fired” as a spokeswoman. The fur is flying.

School of litigation

A case before the B.C. Supreme Court is taking student-teacher conflict to a new level. Vancouver lawyer Nathan Ganapathi has filed a suit on behalf of his 12-year-old son, also named Nathan, against school principal Patricia Crossley, accusing her of gross negligence and malicious or wilful conduct. The unusual case arose after the younger Ganapathi, a Grade 7 student at L’Ecole bilingue in Vancouver, told a fellow student in late February, “You incested

your sister.” Crossley who interpreted the statement as sexual harassment, expelled Ganapathi for two days and put a letter in his file. The Ganapathis filed the suit after the principal turned down their request that she set aside the suspension and remove the letter. In their statement of claim, they say that Crossley “erred in law in equating uttering a profanity with sexual harassment.” The letter, it claims, constitutes libel. The statement also says that, in addition to wrongfully denying the younger Ganapathi the right to attend

school, Crossley has exceeded her jurisdiction. As well, Ganapathi asserts that the whole experience has had “a traumatic psychological impact” upon his son (who has since returned to school). As a result, they are also seeking an injunction against Crossley—who they claim is harassing the boy—as well as damages for pain and suffering, punitive damages, exemplary damages and costs. Neither side has commented since the statement was filed on March 3. But the halls of academe are bound to echo with the suit’s repercussions.

Missing a Bowell

It is not everyday that a form letter becomes part of a prized collection. But when Barry Wilson received just such a letter, personally signed, from Prime Minister Lester Pearson in 1964, it set Wilson on a quest to gather original signatures of all 20 Canadian leaders. Today, the Ottawa-based journalist, 48, is missing only one: that of Sir Mackenzie Bowell, a Tory prime minister from 1894 to 1896. Bowell was also grand master of the Orange Lodge in Canada and owner of the Belleville Intelligencer, an Ontario daily. Yet Bowell’s signature remains elusive. “It really is bizarre,” says Wilson. “He must have signed thousands of documents.” Still, Wilson is proud of his collection, which includes a Sir John A. Macdonald autograph that the future prime minister dashed off while in Quebec City preparing for the historic 1864 Charlottetown conference. Wilson also has an 1896 letter from Sir Wilfrid Laurier to a Liberal MP warning him not to miss a vote in the House of Commons. E-mail will never be so collectible.

A huff and a puff

He has a quaint, bureaucratic way of putting things. “A minority of bar and restaurant owners are resistant to the bylaw,” says Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. David McKeown, who is charged with enforcing the city’s new smoking ban in eating and drinking establishments. “But we intend to work with them.” By that, he means that up to 25 bylaw enforcement officers will visit all 4,500 bars and restaurants in the city over the next eight weeks to ensure that owners are informed of the bylaw’s provisions and penalties—fines of up to $5,000 against establishments and up to $205 for patrons. Although the bylaw is not yet being strictly enforced, a Metro Toronto police officer laid the first two charges last week. That may lead to cleaner air in some places. But not everywhere. Robbie Walton, co-owner of Shakey’s Bar & Grill, says smokers help keep his business afloat. “Drinking and smoking go hand in hand,” he says. ‘What am I going to do, kick out my customers?”