A Nova Scotia tribunal awarded 117 Westray coal miners a total of more than $1.2 million in severance pay. The miners lost their jobs after an explosion killed 26 in 1992. Last month, an inquiry concluded that the mine’s operator, now-defunct Curragh Inc. of Toronto, ignored safety procedures.
END OF A HOCKEY STREAK
Canada failed to win a sixth consecutive world junior hockey championship in Finland after losing 2-1 to Russia in overtime. The loss, coupled with two others, eliminated Canada from medal contention. The pivotal game began badly when the Canadian juniors were forced to play the first period wearing white sweaters belonging to the local Finnish team. Team Canada officials had failed to bring the team’s own white sweaters to the rink.
PUBLIC AID FOR BERNARDO
The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that Paul Bernardo is entitled to a publicly funded lawyer to appeal his murder convictions. In 1995, Bernardo was found guilty of sexually assaulting, torturing and killing two Ontario teenage girls. He was later designated a dangerous offender and, unless that ruling is overturned, is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison. The appeal could cost as much as $60,000.
RCMP BLOOD PROBE
The RCMP announced the creation of an eight-member task force to investigate whether criminal charges are warranted as a result of the tainted blood scandal. Thousands of Canadians who received tainted blood and blood products between 1980 and 1985 were infected with the AIDS virus and hepatitis C. Last November, Justice Horace Krever ended an exhaustive and controversial public inquiry by concluding that many of the infections were avoidable.
Eurocopter SA, a French and German consortium, warned the federal government that it intends to sue if Ottawa buys 15 Cormorant search-and-rescue helicopters from rivals GKN Westland and Agusta SpA. Eurocopter, which makes a smaller, less costly product, has alleged that the bidding process was biased in favor of larger aircraft like the Cormorant.
MENINGITIS SCARE: Matin Biyoukz, 17,preferred not to watch as nurse Sonia Martin (right) prepared to inoculate her with a vaccine to combat a deadly meningitis outbreak in the southern Ontario region of Kitchener-Waterloo. Health officials hoped to inoculate about 87,000 residents between the ages of two and 22, following the sudden deaths of two Kitchener residents. On Dec. 4, Michelle Risi, 16, died from the fast-acting bacterial infection, and on New Year’s Eve Melissa Maharaj, 18, succumbed. Four others between the ages of 12 and 22 also contracted the disease.The early signs of meningitis include flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache and malaise and, less frequently, a rash.Within hours, the neck may stiffen and headaches grow worse. Since meningitis is passed through saliva, doctors warn area residents to avoid kissing, sharing cigarettes, drinks or food.
Faced with strong opposition from his own cabinet, Health Minister Allan Rock appears to have lost his campaign to reduce the powers of companies that make brandname drugs. Rock had been trying to introduce changes aimed at bringing less expensive generic drugs to the marketplace sooner. Currently, Health Canada must withhold approval of a generic drug for up to 30 months in the event a brand-name pharmaceutical company claims a patent infringement. Rock wanted to end that law. But according to Liberal insiders, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien took the matter out of Rock’s hands at a cabinet meeting last month. Instead, the responsibility for new drug legislation will go to Industry Minister John Manley, who favors less dramatic changes.
The debate over drugs dates back to the former Conservative government of Brian Mulroney, which introduced controversial legislation granting brand-name firms 20 years of patent protection. In exchange for that protection, brand-name firms must give their formulas to companies in time for them to have generic, generally cheaper, drugs ready as soon as the 20-year limit expires. Brand-name companies argued that Rock’s plan would have made it too difficult to enforce patents, the key, they say, to recouping development costs. Changes are being considered by Manley, however, including reduction of the 30 months it can take to resolve patent disputes, as well as new ways of curbing groundless patent claims.
Rethinking air safety
Fallout continues from the crash of an Air Canada regional jet that slid into trees at the Fredericton airport on Dec. 16. The mishap, which injured 35 people but killed no one, occurred 10 minutes before the ground safety crew was due to leave for the night. A flight delay of only 15 minutes could have left the victims without immediate assistance. As a result, Air Canada announced it will now pay overtime to keep emergency crews on duty until all its flights have landed. Meanwhile, Transport Minister David Collenette told his ministry officials to hasten their review of airport fire safety, following sharp criticism of safety standards by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs. Collenette expects a report by month’s end.
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