Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS August 19 1996

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS August 19 1996

Opening Notes

Edited by BARBARA WICKENS

Saskatchewan's crime woes

Top cops in Saskatoon and Regina are perplexed by Statistics Canada’s revelation that their cities are suddenly hotbeds of crime. Bucking a trend that has seen the crime rate drop on a national basis for the past four years, the two Saskatchewan cities have been seeing their numbers go up. In Saskatoon, crime overall was up 11.8 per cent from the previous year, while violent crime such as homicide, attempted murder, robbery, assaults and sexual assaults increased 11.2 per cent in the area; in Regina, overall crime rose by 11.2 per cent. That compares with national figures that are down 4.2 per cent for violent crime, and one per cent for all crime. Senior officers in the two cities said several factors could have contributed to the numbers: a stubbornly high unemployment rate in Saskatchewan, judges who are too lenient with offenders, or simply questionable number-gathering that skewed statistics. As for addressing the situation, they pled for stiffer sentences for repeat offenders. “The maximum penalty for a break-in to a dwelling is life in jail,” says Saskatoon deputy chief Norm Doell, “yet it seems to have been minimized to a misdemeanor.” In Regina, Supt.

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Larry Toupin says bad guys are just not getting the message. He points to the example of nine people who were responsible for 66 per cent of auto thefts in a three-month period. One individual was charged with 60 thefts. “Police have managed to catch one person 60 times,” said Toupin, “but the sentence hasn’t changed the behavior.”

A four-legged friend in need

For a llama, it is quite a career shift from its traditional roles— source of wool or beast of burden. Now, psychotherapists are using the tranquil beasts to treat clients. When The Llama Therapeutic Group in White Rock,

B.C., opens in September, it will pair the South American camelid with people involved in programs to alleviate trauma and stress. For one week at the group’s ranch, a person learns how to live with one of the 350-lb. llamas, care for it, pack it, and then they go Llama: ‘a very on a oneor two-day strong aura ’ trek. Not all llamas are suitable, but they usually work out better than other animals. They are quiet, do not bite or kick, and are highly intelligent. Explains group founder Michael Loynes: “Llamas are animals that bond very easily and quickly with humans, and research in the United States has found that they help lower stress levels and are highly beneficial in dealing with trauma.” Studies in U.S. prisons, for instance, have shown that assigning new inmates to care for llamas lowers the incidence of violent behavior during their first three weeks of incarceration. Loynes’s program will initially be aimed at such high-stress public sector employees as firefighters and police officers, before branching out to the corporate world. “Llamas have a very strong aura that people take to,” he says. “The emotional connection can help ground people.” A new way to unburden.

Rejection letters from royalty

WORD

When Kingston, Ont, Mayor Gary Bennett wrote to seven members of the British Royal Family inviting them to portray themselves in the annual Kingston Summer Festival's production of the popular English play The Queen and I, nobody associated with the festival really expected any of the royals to accept. The play, which runs until Sept. 1, is a satire about royalty living on a housing estate after a republican government abolished the monarchy. Still, exec-

utive producer Nancy Helwig says the responses were notable for their goodwill. While Buckingham Palace wrote on behalf of all those invited—including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Diana and Prince William—

Prince Charles, Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother also sent their own replies. Some excerpts:

From Buckingham Palace:

“I write to acknowledge your letters to various members of the Royal Family. Your suggestion was a kind one—and an unusual one—but I am afraid it has to be declined."

From the equerry to Prince Charles:

“Unfortunately, His Royal Highness’s diary for the first eight months of 1996 has already been decided and he simply will not have time to visit Kingston. He is so sorry.”

From the private secretary to the Queen Mother:

“The Queen Mother appreciated your invitation to take part in Sue Townsend’s play The Queen and I, but Her Majesty fears she must decline.

“Queen Elizabeth has so many memories of her visits to Canada and Her Majesty wishes the Kingston Summer Festival every success.”

Murder most feline

The shooting death last week of Moochie the cat caused a storm of protest—from those who love felines and those who have had enough of them. There were no denials from Charles Sinclair, whose home is near Moochie’s in Kanata, Ont., 20 km west of Ottawa, that he was responsible for suddenly ending all of the cat’s nine lives. He caught the white-furred feline digging in his garden and, tired of destructive kitties leaving their litter among his lilies, took out a .22calibre rifle and resolved the problem— permanently. Sinclair now faces Humane Society charges of causing distress to an animal and could face as much as a $2,000 fine or six months in jail. Police are looking into laying firearms charges as well.

But the fur really started flying when local newspaper letter-writers and callers to radio phone-in shows disagreed over whether Sinclair should be praised or vilified. One Kanata resident wrote to The Ottawa Citizen, “Bravo Charles Sinclair.” The letter continued: “Although the method is regrettable, at least now the pest is gone. No sympathy here for the whining owners.” Kanata Mayor Merle Nicholds also weighed in on the topic—with a politician’s usual concern for voters. “It shocked me and shocked most residents,” she said, “that someone would use a firearm in the middle of an urban area.” For Moochie’s owners, Eric and Suzanne Forgrave, who cared for the cat since she wandered into their lives six years ago, the shooting has caused a lasting wound. Moochie’s death, says Suzanne Forgrave, has left a hole in their lives.

Now playing at weddings everywhere

The Macarena, the catchy Latin linedance phenomenon, owes a part of its huge international success to vacationing Canadians.

The song—which has displaced the perennial favorite, The Chicken Dance, at countless weddings, bar mitzvahs and clubs across North America this summer— hit a pinnacle of sorts during the Olympic Games, when the U.S. women’s gymnastic team choreographed its gala floor routine to the tune. It all started in 1993 in Spain, where Los Del Rio, a Latin-guitar duo that has been together for 33 years, recorded its 31st album, A Mi Me Gusta. It included a song about a neighborhood in Seville named after a revered virgin,

Macarena. Its combined salsa-merengue beat soon made it popular in Latin America. There, holidaying Canadians heard the song at dance clubs and returned home with copies of the album. BMG Music Canada spotted the trend a year ago and issued a remix of the Los Del Rio version. And before anyone could say olé, the Macarena—ma-ca-RAYna but routinely mispronounced as the macaroni or the maroon song—was taking off. Other non-Latino countries picked up on the Canadian success and it has now sold 2.6 million albums worldwide. There are also more than 15 cover versions worldwide, including ones in English, French and Polish.