Canada NOTES

September 22 1997

Canada NOTES

September 22 1997

Canada NOTES


Ottawa and the provinces settled a dispute over who will bear the cost of setting up a new national blood agency. Under the agreement reached last week during a meeting of health ministers, the federal government agreed to pay $81 million of the setup costs, estimated to be between $100 million and $150 million. The provinces will assume the operating budget for the new agency, which will replace the Canadian Red Cross Society and be in place no later than next September.


The trial of Terry Driver, 32, charged with being the so-called Abbotsford killer, opened in New Westminster, B.C. In her testimony, Misty Cockerill, the friend of slain teen Tanya Smith, identified Driver as the man who had attacked them with a baseball bat in the early hours of Oct. 14, 1995. Smith’s naked body was found in the Vedder River, about 15 km from Abbotsford, after she had been beaten and sexually assaulted. Cockerill was beaten unconscious in the attack.


About three dozen angry postal workers stormed federal Public Works Minister Alfonso Gagliano’s office after contract talks between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers broke down. CUPW claims that Gagliano intends to quickly enact back-to-work legislation in the event of a strike-possible at month’s end-and that as a result Canada Post has not been negotiating in good faith. But Canada Post says it has a new offer to table if talks start up again.


Proceedings in the case of the woman known as Jane Doe opened in Ontario Court in Toronto. In August, 1986, she became the fifth and last victim of Paul Douglas Callow, the so-called balcony rapist who is now serving a 20-year prison sentence. Doe. contends that Metropolitan Toronto police knew a serial rapist was at large in her downtown neighborhood, but failed to issue warnings to women who might be at risk-effectively using her as human bait. She is seeking $1.2 million in negligence damages from the police department.

Court martial ruled unfair

After four years of protesting his innocence—including two hunger strikes— Lt.-Cmdr. Dean Marsaw, 41, has won a battle in his ongoing war with navy brass. Last week, a military appeal court overturned his 1995 conviction on five charges of physically and verbally abusing his submarine crew and ruled that he is entitled to a new trial. The judges found that Marsaw’s court martial was unfair because prosecutors used prejudicial techniques to impugn his character, such as repeatedly asking in court why dozens of witnesses would testify against him. Among other allegations, he was accused of inserting a cigar tube between the buttocks of a drunken British officer. Military officials are currently reviewing the ruling before deciding on further action.

Marsaw, one of the navy’s most respected officers prior to the 1993 charges, welcomed the judgment from his home in Dartmouth, N.S., but pointed out that he has yet to be acquitted. “I think it’s an important step forward,” he said. “But I’m still under a tremendous amount of stress and strain. This ordeal has left indelible scars on my family, both psychologically and financially.” His parents, who spent about $100,000 on his defence, are

demanding compensation from the department of national defence. “At our age, we were comfortable,” said Marsaw’s father, Roy Marsaw, a naval officer for 37 years. “We had to mortgage our house. Right now, our pension is keeping us going—we’re living month to month.”


Marsaw: ‘a tremendous amount of stress’


The No side gains

Slipping away—that, for now, seems to be the case with Quebecers’ support for sovereignty. According to a SOM Inc. poll published in the magazine L'actualité last week, about 42 per cent of the province’s voters would give their government “a mandate to bring about sovereignty” (in the 1995 referendum, 49.4 per cent voted for the Yes side, compared with 50.6 per cent who voted against sovereignty). The poll also found that 60 per cent of Quebecers think that federalist areas of the province should have the right to stay in Canada in the event of a Yes referendum victory, compared with only 26 per cent who said that Quebec is indivisible. Meanwhile, another opinion survey, done by CROP Inc., said that up to onethird of Quebecers who currently support sovereignty would vote No if Quebec were formally recognized in the Constitution or if all of the provinces received more powers.

Firing at gun control

Among the crowd in the packed Edmonton courtroom were lawyers for Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and two territories, all determined to convince the Alberta Court of Appeal that Ottawa’s plans to establish a national gun registry next year are unconstitutional. Their opposition was just as strong: the federal government, the cities of Toronto and Montreal, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and various interest groups. The opening salvos went to Alberta, which initiated the court case. Provincial lawyers argued that rifles and shotguns are private property. As such, they said, their regulation falls within provincial jurisdiction. And in any case, they added, the registration of long-barrelled guns—common in rural areas across the country—does nothing to prevent crime. The Ontario government also weighed in, arguing that handgun registration has not reduced crime and will be equally ineffective for rifles and shotguns.

But lawyers for the federal government countered that striking down the new legislation could jeopardize the country’s entire gun control system. If firearm regulation is a provincial matter, they said, existing federal laws such as those against carrying a concealed weapon could be invalidated. The hearings concluded last week, but a decision is not expected for several months.