Buckingham Palace demanded an apology from a Montreal radio-show prankster who pretended to be Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and tricked the Queen into taking part in the Canadian unity debate. Raymond Brassard of CKOI radio entertains his audience by mimicking the Prime Minister, and recently even managed to get through to Pope John Paul II. During their 17-minute chat, the Queen told Brassard: “If I can help in any way, I will be very happy to do so.”
BENEFITS FOR GAYS
The Nova Scotia government changed its definition of spouse to extend medical and dental benefits to partners of gay and lesbian civil servants. The change will allow homosexual government workers to apply to have their same-sex partners covered by the civil service benefits plan. “It’s wonderful,” said gay activist Jane Kansas of Halifax. “It is very good news.”
TORTURE AND DEATH
Six Ottawa teenagers were arrested after a 17-year-old youth was murdered and three of his friends tortured in a bizarre kidnapping that may have been gangrelated. The body of Sylvain Leduc was found in an apartment in suburban Nepean, along with a boy and two girls who were bound, gagged and blindfolded. Police would not say how Leduc was killed, but all four appeared to have been beaten and tortured with a curling iron.
RICH WILLING TO PAY MORE
Support for universal medical care appears to have slipped in the past year among wealthier Canadians. A national survey of 2,560 people conducted last spring for the Toronto-based Canada Health Monitor, a newsletter that tracks public opinion on health issues, found that people who feel they can afford it are increasingly ready to pay their own way. Earl Berger, managing director of the Monitor, said that three-quarters of those respondents with family incomes over $75,000 a year rated universality as “very important,” while 81 per cent of those earning less than $30,000 did so.
CHAIN GANGS MAY RETURN
Gangs of shackled prisoners could soon be cleaning up ditches along Alberta’s highways if the provincial government adopts a plan to put some offenders in chain gangs. Justice Minister Brian Evans said he wants to use crews of low-risk convicts for manual labor. No other province has chain gangs, but Alabama recently reinstated a similar program.
A new trial for Robert Latimer?
Robert Latimer, the Saskatchewan grain farmer who found himself at the centre of a national debate last year over mercy killing, appeared headed for a new trial following revelations of possible jury tampering. Latimer was convicted in November,
1994, of second-degree murder in what he described as the mercy killing of his 12-year-old daughter, Tracy, who suffered from a severe form of cerebral palsy. He was given a life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 years—a verdict that was upheld by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in July and has been appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. At a news conference in Regina, Sas-katchewan deputy justice minister Brent! Cotter revealed that the RCMP, following a request from the Crown, gathered information from prospective jurors before
Latimer’s original trial about their position a new trial.
on a number of issues, including religion, abortion and mercy killing. Some of those questioned ended up on the jury. The prosecutor was aware of that, added Cotter, but did not inform the defence. “This direct contact creates the perception that Mr. Latimer may not have received a fair trial before an impartial jury,” said Cotter.
Following those revelations, Latimer’s lawyer, Mark Brayford, said he will file an appeal with the Supreme Court of Canada this week, asking for a new trial. The Crown said that it supported Brayford’s bid. The prosecutor in the original trial, Randy Kirkham, has been suspended with pay pending an investigation into his actions ^nd those of the RCMP.
Latimer, meanwhile, remained free on bail at his farm near Wilkie, about 130 km east of Saskatoon. He told reporters that he was optimistic that he would be granted
Taking the heat
British Columbia Premier Mike Harcourt fired his consumer affairs minister, Joan Smallwood, after she publicly criticized his handling of a fund-raising scandal that has dogged the province’s New Democratic Party. Smallwood told reporters that Harcourt was not doing enough to address what she called the “enormous crisis” facing the party since the Oct. 13 release of a forensic auditor’s report that traced how profits from charity bingos ended up helping to fund NDP operations. “He’s the leader,” said Smallwood. “He has to be involved in clearing the name of our party.” Some NDP backbenchers denounced the firing, with Delta North MLA Norman Lortie calling for Harcourt’s resignation. “We seem to be in a state of nonaction—almost denial,” said Lortie. Burnaby MLA Fred Randall said the premier should call a public inquiry—something Harcourt has said he will not do. “It’s dragging on and on and it’s a hell of a mess,” said
Randall. Harcourt defended his right to fire Smallwood, saying that cabinet ministers are obliged to support their premier or risk being dismissed. He also insisted that he is handling the funding scandal in a proper fashion, pointing out that a party commission has been asked to study the affair and report back to the NDP^ annual convention in March. “I’m not resigning,” he said. “I have taken the right decisions.”
Quebec police stormed a motorcycle gang clubhouse and seven homes in the biggest initiative yet by the province’s recently formed anti-gang squad. In raids by 100 officers in several southern Quebec towns, officers arrested 15 people and seized a variety of weapons, including handguns, two assault rifles with bayonets, a sawed-off shotgun and a grenade. The squad is trying to quell a bloody turf war between the Hells Angels and another biker gang, the Rock Machine, that has resulted in 27 deaths over the past 18 months.
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