Canada NOTES

January 16 1995

Canada NOTES

January 16 1995

Canada NOTES


Jury selection in the Paul Bernardo murder trial will begin on May 1 in Toronto. Bernardo, accused in the brutal sex-slayings of two southern Ontario teenage girls, had requested a change of venue from St. Catharines, where he was charged with the two killings in February, 1993. Justice Patrick LeSage of the Ontario Court of Justice agreed that the trial of Bernardo, 30, should be moved in “the interests of all parties and the interests of justice.” Meanwhile, the families of the two slain girls have asked the court to ban the public and the media from viewing videotapes “depicting certain acts against” the two victims. Police found the tapes in the home Bernardo shared with his then-wife, Karla Homolka, 24, now serving a 12-year sentence for manslaughter in connection with the two deaths. The Criminal Code permits a ban on evidence “in the interest of public morals, the maintenance of order or the proper administration of justice.”


Six people died when smoke from a fifthfloor apartment fire swept up a stairwell in a 30-storey building in the Toronto suburb of North York.


The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has entered the debate over reform of the country’s social programs with a blunt message to Ottawa: do not abandon the poor. The bishops say the burden of deficit reduction should not be borne by those who benefit “least from our economic structures.” Instead, they advocate creating more jobs and reducing the gap between the rich and the poor.


A Toronto businessman, widely respected for his community work, was killed in a robbery while on holiday in the Dominican Republic beach resort area of Juan Dolio, 85 km east of Santo Domingo. Jeffrey Secter, 36, originally from Calgary, was shot at close range with a shotgun while jogging.


Federal Health Minister Diane Marleau has given the provinces until Oct. 15 to stop private clinics from charging patients facility fees for essential services, or face an equivalent reduction in transfer payments. In a message clearly directed at Alberta, which has a growing private health-care sector, she said the provinces must assume all essential health-care costs and warned that the alternative would lead to a two-tier system that favors the rich.

A killer goes halfway free

Denis Lortie, the former army corporal who murdered three people and injured 13 others after storming the Quebec National Assembly in May, 1984, was released on day parole to a halfway house in Hull, Que. Lortie, 36, had been undergoing psychiatric treatment in a minimum security prison north of Montreal, where he was serving a life sentence with no eligibility for parole for 10 years. According to National Parole Board officials, Lortie no longer poses a threat to society and will be eligible for full parole in six months.

For his part, in an interview on the CBC’s new French-language all-news network, Lortie said he was “disconnected from reality” at the time of the killings, but that the counselling he has received in prison has helped prepare him for release. “I have the tools,” Lortie claims, “that I didn’t have before.”

Under the release terms, Lortie must spend every night at the halfway house between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. He must also let supervisors know where he is at all times and is restricted to a 40-km radius from the house. But the relatives of some of Lortie’s victims say he is getting off too easily. Indeed, Steve Boyer, whose father was killed by Lortie, says that he should have been executed. And Hélène LeFrancois, whose husband was also murdered in the legislature, adds: “I have tried to forget, but in the last 10 years nothing has eased the grief I felt at the loss of my husband.”

Seeking credibility

In his continuing drive to bolster his Quebec independence campaign, Premier Jacques g Parizeau picked nine new people to head the 15 g commissions that will begin roving the province early next month to solicit opinion on the premier’s draft sovereignty law. But since all five are known to be sympathetic to the sovereignty cause, the appointments are not likely to convince the opposition Liberal party to abandon its boycott on the grounds that the commissions are merely an elaborate—and expensive—propaganda ploy.

Among the new appointments was DanielleMaude Gosselin, president of the 45,000-member Syndicat de la Fonction Publique, Quebec’s largest union of civil servants, which has thrown its support to the separatists. The Liberals accused Gosselin of “bad judgment” in choosing to abandon all pretence of neutrality in the unfolding independence debate. But Gosselin’s union is not alone. The head of the largest teachers’ union in Quebec, the 125,000member Centrale de l’Enseignement du Québec, declared “unflagging support” for separation early last week. And the president of the 450,000-member Quebec Federation of Labour followed suit days later, announcing a massive pro-independence rally in Montreal on Feb. 21.