Canada NOTES

June 19 1995

Canada NOTES

June 19 1995

Canada NOTES


Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau, Bloc Québécois Leader Lucien Bouchard and Mario Dumont, leader of the Parti action démocratique du Québec, announced a new pro-sovereignty alliance in Montreal. Their joint position calls for a common parliament between an independent Quebec and the rest of Canada that would deal with areas of shared concern such as defence, fiscal policy and the environment. The three leaders said they would also offer Canada economic association if Quebecers vote in favor of independence in the referendum, which is expected this fall. But if no agreement is reached within one year, they added, Quebec would issue a unilateral declaration of independence.


The federal Liberals used their majority in the House of Commons to limit further debate on three contentious bills: gun control, protection of homosexuals against hate crimes and reform of MPs’ pension plans. While the Bloc Québécois agreed to the limits, Reform party Leader Preston Manning angrily called the move “despicable, antidemocratic and anti-Canadian.” The Commons was expected to vote on the gun-control and hate-crimes measures this week.


The Liberal government attempted to strip Wanen Allmand of his chairmanship of the House of Commons justice committee after the veteran Liberal MP voted against the Feb. 27 federal budget—a document that he says jeopardizes Canada’s social safety net. But the government was thwarted—at least temporarily—after the Reform party refused to consent to the process. The Liberals are expected to try to remove Allmand again—although not perhaps until the fall.


After 15 months of deliberations, a Senate committee split 4 to 3 in favor of retaining criminal sanctions against euthanasia and assisted suicide. But the committee agreed unanimously that there should be lighter sentences for murders that are deemed to be mercy killings.


The New Brunswick government agreed to pay up to $7 million in compensation to more than 50 men who were sexually abused at provincial reform schools. Most of the victims were young boys at the Kingsclear reform school, where former guard Karl Toft molested and tormented students from 1965 until 1986.

A child’s horrible death

The case put forward during the twoweek trial by New Brunswick Crown prosecutor Fred Ferguson was horrific. Cpl. Steven Turner and his wife, Lorelei, were charged with manslaughter in the May, 1994, death of their son, John Ryan, at the family home on Canadian Forces Base

Chatham in northern New Brunswick. The court heard how John Ryan, who was almost four years old when he died, weighed only 21 pounds—which one doctor described as the weight of a normal 11-month-old baby. According to the testimony of various experts, the boy had not eaten in weeks, his frail body was covered with self-inflicted bruises and bite marks, and he had likely

spent his last days bound to his bed in a darkened room and gagged with a man’s tube sock to muffle his cries. An autopsy report entered as evidence also showed that he had suffered two broken arms several months before his death, probably as a result of being violently shaken.

Hie Crown alleged that John Ryan’s fate was sealed after his severely depressed mother rejected him and his once affectionate father ignored him in a plan to force the boy to bond with his mother. Crown witness David Meek, a pediatric neurologist, testified that, unable to endure any more physi^ cal and emotional abuse from I his parents, the boy lost the z will to live. “If his world was impossible to live with or live 1 in, then nature took over and I said, We cannot survive, we’ll j stop eating and waste away,’ ” g said Meek. The lawyers representing the parents called no witnesses, arguing that the Crown had failed to prove its case, that much of the case was speculation and that no one ever saw John Ryan restrained, gagged or abused. ‘What was withheld was emotional support,” said Barry Whynot, lawyer for Steven Turner. “Is that a necessity of life? Hiere would be an awful lot of parents indicted on that charge.” Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Thomas Riordan reserved his decision until June 14.

Halting the Westray trial

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Robert Anderson ordered a stay in the trial of two former managers, Gerald Phillips and Roger Parry, at the Westray coal mine in Plymouth, N.S., where 26 men died in an explosion in May, 1992. Anderson agreed with defence lawyers, who argued that the accused—who had been charged with manslaughter and criminal negligence related to the deaths—had been denied the right to a fair trial by the Crown’s failure to disclose all the evidence in the three-year-old case. He ordered that Phillips, who financed his own defence, be paid $150,000 in court costs. (Parry’s defence was financed by legal aid.) While Phillips and

Parry listened to the verdict without showing emotion, Parry’s lawyer, Anne Malick, said her client “is quite relieved and happy to put this behind him.”

Hie relatives of the dead miners had a very different reaction. Ken Teasdale, whose son-inlaw died in the explosion, said he was devastated. “We wonder if this complex is appropriately named—the Justice Complex,” he said outside the courtroom. “Disclosure hasn’t been perfect It could never be perfect We’re not in a perfect world. There were flaws but they were not irreparable flaws.” Following the verdict, lead prosecutor lierman Felderhof said the Crown had not decided whether to launch an appeal.