OPENING NOTES

OPENING NOTES

BARBARA WICKENS June 12 1995
OPENING NOTES

OPENING NOTES

BARBARA WICKENS June 12 1995

OPENING NOTES

Shedding light on a dark past

Because of its safe, if sometimes pedestrian, image, Canada’s largest city has often been referred to as ‘Toronto the Good.” That clean-cut reputation, however, may be due, in part, to some less-than-savory events in its past that have been swept under the carpet. But now, a documentary film currently being shot in the city’s downtown is bringing to light one such incident: a 1933 race riot. Reports at the time said that the violence began in Christie Pits, a west-end park, after a swastika was displayed at a local baseball game. One thing led to another and, in the end, more than 10,000 people hurled racial epithets and fought one another with fists and baseball bats, in what historians say is the largest race riot in Canadian history. Although no one was killed, hundreds were injured.

Riot at Christie Pits, which will air on Global Television this fall, includes accounts by those who

were at the mêlée, including multicultural-radio personality Johnny Lombardi and award-winning Toronto Star crime reporter Jocko Thomas. The documentary also includes teenagers who live in the area today talking with their elders about racism in the past and the present. “I think that people would probably rather forget that it happened” says Lombardi, “but, unless we bring things like this out into the open, history has too much of a chance of repeating itself.”

Indeed, producer Peter Williamson says he had trouble raising money to produce a movie about a little-remembered episode from Canada’s past until the 1992 riots in downtown Toronto, sparked by the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles. Afterward, the producer raised $300,000, enough to launch the project. Says Williamson: “That race riot made people realize that this was a story that had to be told.”

A partial agreement on Quebec’s destiny

Political rivals Jacques Parizeau and Daniel Johnson may be at odds over whether Quebec should remain within Canada. But according to one influential U.S. periodical, they do agree about one aspect of the province’s future: that Quebec must eventually acquire more self-governing power. Writing in Foreign Policy, a quarterly journal of the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, both Quebec’s Parti Québécois premier and opposition Liberal party leader foresee a more assertive Quebec. In his eight-page essay, “The Case for a Sovereign Quebec,” Parizeau concludes that “Quebec’s quest for independence can be postponed or sidetracked, but at some point it will succeed.” Writes Johnson: “Quebec’s role as a distinct society and senior partner in Confederation must be concretely recognized.” That can only happen, Johnson argues in his 11-page article, “The Case for a United Canada,” by “ensuring that the government of Quebec has the tools and authority necessary to fulfil its role.”

The journal’s cover flags the Parizeau and Johnson essays with, ‘Will China break up? Will Canada?” On the China question, one American academic answers, “Yes,” another argues “No.” On Canada, there are no firm answers. Separating the politicians’ arguments is a full-page cartoon of two colliding hockey players in “Canada” and “Quebec” sweaters. An elusive puck marked with a crown of sovereignty bounces away from them towards the reader. There is no indication which one will win the tussle—nor how long the game will go on.

Honorable mentions

Every year, Canadian universities recognize the contributions that a wide cross-section of citizens make to society by granting them honorary doctorates. The second in a series of Maclean’s samplings of this year’s degree recipients:

Robert Bateman, artist and naturalist who has used his artwork to raise funds for many environmental issues. (McGill University, Montreal.)

Roberta Bondar, the neurobiologist who became Canada’s first female as-

tronaut when she flew on the space shuttle Discovery in January, 1992. (University of Western Ontario, London.)

Fred Penner, the Geminiaward winning children’s entertainer. (University of Winnipeg)

Carol Shields, the Win-

nipeg academic and author who won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her novel The Stone Diaries. (University of Ottawa.)

Donald Sutherland, one of

Canada’s best-known and versatile screen actors, with more than 60 movies to his credit. (Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont.)

Loving the game of baseball, to a fault

Players and management with a minor-league baseball team in Rancho Cucamonga are drawing big crowds as they try to shake things up in the California League. The bedroom community of 115,000 just east of Los Angeles, lies on two major fault lines, and it would likely suffer extensive damage if a major earthquake hit l the area. So when the club moved to Rancho CuI camonga from San Bernardino two years ago, l fans chose the unusual name Quakes in a name\ the-team contest. In keeping with the theme, the = owners of the single-Aball club named its 6,500seat home stadium The Epicenter. As well, the club’s mascot is a “rallysaurus” named Tremor, who wears a jersey with the number 4.8—the number of relatively mild quake on the Richter scale. After taking the California League title in 1994, the Quakes are languishing this year in eighth place out of 10 teams. Despite that lessthan-stellar performance, fans are still buying tickets at an earth-shattering pace: the club ranks fifth in attendance for all minor-league teams in North America, with 201,000 tickets

sold so far this season. Greg Scharlach, public relations director for the Quakes, credits that loyalty to human nature wanting to make light of potential disaster. “It’s true, there are fault lines that go right beneath us,” says Scharlach. “Somehow, that appeals to people.”

Art and

emotion

Arare portrait of Adolf Hitler has surfaced in Vancouver 50 years after the German Führer committed suicide in a Berlin bunker amid the ruins of the Third Reich. Hitler sat for the oilon-canvas painting in 1936, one of several done of leading Nazis by Swiss painter Hugo Lehmann, with copies sold to the German public.

The original 43-by-33-inch painting hung in a chamber of the Reich chancellery in Berlin until Hitler presented it to his foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in 1939 as a reward for negotiating a non-aggression treaty with the Soviet Union (later breached when Hitler’s troops invaded Russia in 1941). By the war’s end, the painting’s whereabouts were unknown. The portrait reappeared in 1952, when workmen made repairs to a castle formerly occupied by German SS Gen. Sepp Dietrich, the commander of Hitler’s personal bodyguard. Now, its present owners, who inherited the painting, are trying to sell the work, which has a value in six figures. But so much emotion still surrounds artifacts from the era that the owners or the Vancouver agent representing them are not willing to be publicly identified. The agent has, however, already turned down one intriguing offer: a payment in emeralds, upon delivery of the painting to Hong Kong. Said the agent: “I didn’t know if I’d be able to make the delivery and get out alive with the emeralds.” Half a century after Hitler’s defeat, his evil genius still holds a grim fascination—even half a world away from Berlin.

BARBARA WICKENS