Opening Notes

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS April 21 1997
Opening Notes

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS April 21 1997

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS

Weather at its Canadian worst

It is not just their imaginations. Depending upon where in the country they live, Canadians really have been experiencing some of the most extreme weather on record. After 234 mm of rain in Vancouver made March that city’s wettest ever, residents of Atlantic Canada and Manitoba were digging themselves out of some of April’s severest snow storms. And now, Winnipeggers are bracing for what some fear could become the “flood

of the century.” In all, David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada in Toronto, says in the past 15 months the nation has been dealt the greatest spate of extremes he has seen in his 30 years on the job. While those conditions have some sei-

entists debating whether global warming is finally starting to affect the world’s weather systems, Phillips is not yet ready to say. “In 10 years, we may be able to look back and say whether it was just natural variability or the start of a long-term, abused climate.”

Have van, will lawyer

Clients do not have to let their fingers do the walking to find Roy Buchan. The 42-year-old diesel mechanic-turned-lawyer advertises his services on the sides of his “mobile law office”—which he says is the first law practice in North America to offer legal advice from a van. The three-quarter-ton roving office may not have glass doors or marble floors, but Toronto-based Buchan has customized the white GMC van with a U-shaped couch, a shelf of law books, a television, a VCR and a Hi-8 camera for recording his clients’ accident scenes. After graduating from Toronto’s Osgoode Hall in 1991, Buchan handled driving offences for the Crown before striking out on his own as a traffic law expert two years ago. Buchan acknowledges that if he advertised his services like the rest of Canada’s 66,906 lawyers, he probably would not attract as much attention. “There are 87 pages of lawyer ads in the yellow pages,” he says. “My way is pretty effective.” And besides, it keeps him close to the action.

Lessons in loving and living

In most quarters, marriage is still a serious business. At North Vancouver’s Carson Graham Secondary School, it is considered so serious that it rates its own semester-long course. To gain credit for “Love, life and family strife,” one of four segments of a family management program, students in grades 11 and 12 plan and enact a mock wedding. For this year’s nuptials, held at the school gym last week, the students arranged for a minister, rented tuxedos and gowns for two grooms, two brides and six bridesmaids, and even had a bouncer on hand at the reception. Counsellor AÍ Klatt, 51, who teaches the seven-year-old program, says it is far more difficult than one might think. Says Klatt: “The program teaches them the importance of compatibility, how to negotiate and compromise, and helps them to see that marriage is a lot like life— sometimes it takes hard work.”

Unsinkably fine cuisine

It sank off the shores of Newfoundland 85 years ago this week, and has captivated imaginations ever since.

Now, the Titanic is about to sail into the limelight again—in a Broadway play premièring later this month, a Hollywood movie opening in July, and an unusual new book that invites readers to recreate part of the voyage with the luxury liner’s 1,513 passengers. Co-authored by Toronto writers Rick Archbold and Dana McCauley, Last Dinner on the Titanic provides a culinary compendium of meals served on board. As well, it includes biographies of such passengers as multimillionaire John Jacob Astor and actress Dorothy Gibson, should guests wish to assume their personae. Along with detailed recipes for such dishes as rosewater and mint sorbet or quail eggs in aspic with caviar,

the book also gives complete instructions on what to wear (evening clothes for men, floorlength, close-fitting gowns for women), which flowers to buy (American Beauty roses), what music to play (Offenbach’s The

Tales of Hoffman), and how to announce that dinner is served (with a gong). As for the intricate, richly illustrated recipes, McCauley, a professional chef, says they are a tribute to the dead— and the living. “It takes a lot of work to have the perfect Titanic party,” she says. “But anyone invited to a meal like this should feel very honored.” All aboard for a night to remember.

Liberals, females— but not candidates

Not just a few people thought Prime Minister Jean Chrétien had really put his foot in it when he declared that he wanted 75 of the 301 candidates in the coming federal election to be women—and that he was prepared to nominate them if necessary. Even those who agree there should be more women in the House of Commons were not sure that circumventing the democratic process at the constituency level was the best way of achieving that goal. But against the backdrop of Chretien’s female-friendly initiative, two of the current 37 women MPs have fared so poorly that they have lost their candidacies. On March 22, Liberal backbencher Roseanne Skoke lost out to fellow MP Francis LeBlanc in the new Nova Scotia riding of Pictou/Antigonish/Guysborough. The outspoken Skoke had alienated many traditional Liberals with her controversial views on “family values,” and when the new riding’s boundaries were drawn incorporating part of her and her rival’s constituencies, the party establishment backed LeBlanc. Then there is the case of Newfoundland MP Jean Payne, who in the 1993 election won the St. John’s West riding that retired Tory John Crosbie had held for 17 years. But a high-profile personal bankruptcy and an ongoing investigation by the RCMP’s economic crime section tarnished Payne, and last week former Newfoundland energy minister Rex Gibbons got the nod to run in the riding. Clearly, at least some of the party faithful are putting other concerns over Chretien’s feminist agenda.

A fort where friendship is in order

Micmac entrepreneur Joe Gray has big plans. On July 13, he will officially open Fort Listuguj, a 5,400-square-metre cedar-log fort in Restigouche, a Quebec Micmac reserve on the north shore of the Restigouche River opposite Campbellton, N.B. A recreation of the original outpost from which the French, Acadian and Micmac fought against English and Iroquois invaders in the 1750s, the new Fort Listuguj (the Micmac name for Restigouche) will offer tourists a chance to eat and sleep in 18th-century fashion. The site includes army barracks and 24 teepees, which together will accommodate up to 150 visitors. But Gray, 56, who believes the issue of Quebec independence has soured historically friendly relations between French Quebecers and the province’s 11 First Nations, hopes the fort will be more than a popular tourist destination. He wants the $l-million project to bring people back together. “This fort represents a beautiful time in our history,” says Gray, who raised most of the money privately. “Everything is going to be the way it was when we were all friends.”