Canada NOTES

April 1 1996

Canada NOTES

April 1 1996

Canada NOTES


Armed with search warrants, RCMP officers raided provincial New Democratic Party offices in British Columbia looking for further evidence in a lingering scandal over charity money that was siphoned into NDP coffers in the 1970s and 1980s. The new warrants allege theft, fraud, misuse of charity funds and breach of trust by former party officials. Although no one has been charged, persons named in the warrants include onetime B.C. finance minister Dave Stupich. Premier Glen Clark said he would not let the raids affect the timing of a provincial election, which he must call no later than this fall.


In a precedent-setting judgment, the Supreme Court of Canada lowered the threshold for accused individuals seeking to use drunkenness in their defence. The ruling means that judges and juries need only find reasonable doubt about an accused’s ability to forni an intent to kill someone. Previously, they needed to find a reasonable doubt about a person’s mental capacity to form the intent to kill.


Canada’s 51-year-old international shortwave radio service, which had been scheduled to be taken off the air on March 31, won a last-minute reprieve. Federal Heritage Minister Sheila Copps said that she had found $16 million to keep Radio Canada International running for another year. Copps also said that the layoff notices issued to the agency’s staff of 123 last December will now be rescinded.


Reform party justice critic Art Hanger cancelled a planned trip to Singapore to assess, among other things, the merits of caning criminals. Hanger’s trip had drawn fire from several Reform MPs, who said it made the party appear “extremist.”


In his government’s inaugural throne speech, Newfoundland Premier Brian Tobin promised to introduce a constitutional amendment to rename the province Newfoundland and Labrador “to reflect the reality that it is made up of two equally important parts.” Tobin also vowed to go ahead with reforms to reduce church control over the province’s schools.

Clearing the Homolka deal

The controversial 1993 plea bargain that allowed Karla Homolka to escape firstdegree murder charges for her role in the sex slayings of two Ontario teenagers got a reluctant stamp of approval from Patrick Galligan, a retired appeal court judge who had been asked by the Ontario government to re-

view the deal. While describing the plea bargain as “distasteful,” Galligan said it was the only way the Crown could make its case against Homolka’s ex-husband, Paul Bernardo, who was sentenced to life in prison last year after being convicted of first-degree murder and seven other charges in the abduction, rape and killing of Leslie Mahaffy, 14, and Kristen French, 15. Homolka, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the killings, received a 12-year sentence in exchange for testifying against Bernardo. She will be eligible to apply for parole as early as 1997.

Galligan noted that videotapes depicting the brutal rape and torture of French and Mahaffy did not come into the Crown’s hands until 16 months after they made the plea bargain. (In a separate investigation, police are looking into the actions of Bernardo’s former lawyer, Ken Murray, who came into possession of the videotapes just days before the plea bargain but who did not hand them over to the court until September, 1994.) He also said it would be wrong to lay new charges related to a sexual assault against a victim known only as Jane Doe that Homolka did not mention at the time of the deal. Galligan’s conclusions angered the Ontario-based organizers of a petition who had collected more than 300,000 signatures urging a public inquiry into the plea bargain. But the families of the two teenage victims had a more muted response. Kristen French’s mother, Donna, said she supported the deal because “it was made prior to obtaining the videotapes.”


Mulroney set to testify

Quebec Superior Court Justice André Rochon ruled that former prime minister Brian Mulroney must face questioning in a pretrial hearing over his $50-million libel suit against the RCMP and the federal government.

Mulroney filed the suit in November, arguing that the RCMP and the federal justice department had defamed him by suggesting in internal documents that he was part of a kickback scheme in the $1.8-billion purchase of 34 Airbus jets by Air Canada in 1988. Mulroney will be questioned in a Montreal courtroom by federal lawyers during an “examination for discovery” procedure

on April 17, 19 and 26. In the rest of Canada such sessions are normally held privately. But in Quebec that is no longer the case and Rochon ruled that Mulroney should be questioned in the presence of the news media and the public. Mulroney lawyer Jacques Jeansonne said his client “can’t wait to express himself publicly” about his innocence in the Airbus affair.

Recognition for a hero

Gov. Gen. Roméo LeBlanc awarded British peacekeeper Maj. Toby Bridge, 32, the Medal of Bravery for saving the life of his Canadian colleague, Maj. Bruce Henwood, 38, last September in Croatia. Henwood lost both his legs when the vehicle the two men were driving in hit a land mine. Bridge made sure that the unconscious

Henwood had not swallowed his tongue and bound his injured legs in a makeshift splint. He then broke through the window of the overturned vehicle and ran for help. An emotional Henwood said of Bridge: “I probably would not be here % today if it was not for him.” s