Opening Notes

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS October 13 1997
Opening Notes

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS October 13 1997

Opening Notes


An anchor's right to speak out

As the world’s athletes paraded into the stadium for the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Radio-Canada TV co-hosts Bernard Derome and Marie-Josée Turcotte waded into controversy. They treated viewers of the French network to a series of critical asides about Latin American, African and Arab countries and their people. “Oh la la, the Chileans,” said Derome. “We get a lot of Chilean immigrants and a lot of them are

involved in fraud.” Chimed Turcotte as the Sudanese athletes appeared: “I was there several years ago. There wasn’t even a famine, and all you could get to eat was rice and beans.” Complaints poured into the network. “Their commentary was condescending and insulting,” complained one man, Diego Herrera, as he circulated a petition in Montreal, demanding an apology. “I’m not saying the criticisms weren’t true, but the journalists should have found a better time

to talk about those countries and why they have problems.” But in a report released last week, Radio-Canada ombudsman Mario Cardinal said not only were the journalists’ remarks correct, but they were also appropriate. An investigation of three specific complaints of inaccuracies showed the journalists’ information to be right, said Cardinal. And, he noted, a public broadcaster’s role is not simply to retransmit events: “It also serves to teach and inform the Canadian population.” Even as it annoys.

Greenpeace harpooned

Two of Canada’s best-known environmental organizations are involved in a whale of a dispute. In July, Siberian Yup’ik whalers asked the crew of a Greenpeace ship for help in towing a bowhead whale they had killed to shore on St. Lawrence Island, 200 km off the coast of Alaska. Although it is illegal for non-natives to participate in a whale hunt, Greenpeace supports native whaling—so some of the crew, using two inflatable rafts, helped tow the marine mammal to shore. Then, the anti-whaling Sea Shepherd Conservation Society learned of the incident and requested that the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service investigate. That inquiry is still ongoing. “I don’t care if it was dead or alive,” says special agent Richard Severtson. “It is an endangered species and you should leave it alone, unless you are an Eskimo.” Still, some observers, knowing of the rivalry between the two environmental groups, question whether concern for the whale was really behind the society approaching the authorities. Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson also co-founded Greenpeace, but left on bad terms in 1977. That's irrelevant, says Watson: “Just because they are Greenpeace doesn’t mean they are exempt from whaling laws.”

No Antagonist yet for French Quebec

The Quebec publishing firm that bought the French-language rights last spring to Lawrence Martin’s biography of Lucien Bouchard has decided not to publish the book. In late July—only days before an excerpt about a Toronto psychiatrist’s controversial armchair analysis of the Quebec premier made headlines across Canada—Montrealbased Québec-Amérique changed its mind about publishing The Antagonist.

But company president Jacques Fortin says the firm was under no political pressure: “It was strictly a business decision.”

Fortin says his company wanted time to make the manuscript “more comprehensive,” but Martin was anxious to publish the book right away. Since the Montreal firm did not want its version to come out several months after the English version, it annulled the contract. Martin, though, is confident the book will soon appear in French. “I’ve already had some offers,” he says. “But I think it’s best to wait until the reaction [to the excerpt] in Quebec has cooled down.”

Cape Breton shows off its Celtic pride

In the latest attempt to bring some relief to one of Canada’s most economically depressed regions, the hills of Cape Breton will be alive this month with the sound of music. The first annual Celtic Colours International Festival is set to take place on the island from Oct. 9 to 18, featuring such Cape Breton musical luminaries as Ashley Maclsaac, Natalie MacMaster and the Barra MacNeils, as well as visiting artists like Ireland’s Sharon Shannon and The Chieftains.

The event, which will be staged in 17 small island communities, has a budget of $600,000— nearly half of it coming from the Nova Scotia department of tourism.

Joella Foulds, the festival’s co-artistic director, says promoters are hoping the event will help extend the region’s tourist season into a month when most local operators are usually ready to close for the winter. They are also counting on the burgeoning worldwide interest in Celtic music to draw more visitors to the area. “We have a natural resource here,” she says of the musical talents who have emerged recently from Cape Breton. “It’s an industry, but it’s also a way of life.”

Clarke keeps mum

Bob Clarke, general manager of the Canadian team participating in the 1998 Olympic hockey tournament in Nagano, Japan, plans to wait until just before the Dec.l deadline to name the players who will wear the Maple Leaf. That, however, is not sitting well with the National Hockey League’s marketing executives, who see the Olympics as a rare opportunity to display the NHL game and its stars before a worldwide audience. Sponsors claim that Dec. 1 does not give them sufficient time before the Olympics begin on Feb. 7 to develop and shoot advertising campaigns with the chosen players. Still, Clarke, the tough-minded general manager of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, insists that he and his assistants, Pierre Gauthier of the Ottawa Senators and Bob Gainey of the Dallas Stars, need to evaluate players for their total performances this season, not their reputations. ‘When you go to an international competition,” Clarke told Maclean’s, “you take the best team, not necessarily all the best scorers.”


DIED: Pop art pioneer Roy Lichtenstein, 73; from pneumonia, in a New York City hospital. The artist, known for paintings with their signature bold black outlines and use of photoengraver’s dots, found inspiration in comic-book images. In the early 1960s, critics reacted harshly, calling him one of the worst artists in America, but collectors snapped up his work. By the 1980s, he had earned his place in 20th-century art history, with Andy Warhol, at the forefront of the pop art movement.

NAMED: To the 1997 shortlist for The Giller Prize, a $25,000 award given annually since 1994 for the best Canadian novel or short-story collection in English; Michael Helm, 35, of Toronto, for The Projectionist; Shani Mootoo, 40, of Vancouver, for Cereus Blooms at Night; Nino Ricci, 38, of Toronto, for Where She Has Gone; Mordecai Richler, 66, of Montreal, for Barney’s Version; and Carol Shields, 62, of Winnipeg, for Larry’s Party. The winner will be announced at a ceremony in Toronto on Nov. 4.

APPOINTED: Three new commissioners to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission; chartered accountant David McKendry, 53, of Ottawa, who as head of the Consumers’ Association of Canada in the 1980s attacked Bell Canada and its then-monopoly; Cindy Grauer, 47, a Vancouver broadcast consultant; and Andrew Cardozo, 41, of Ottawa, a consultant and author on multicultural issues; by Heritage Minister Sheila Copps, in Ottawa. They start their three-year posts with the federal regulator on Oct. 27.

FOUND GUILTY: Of voting illegally in a 1995 municipal election, Parti Québécois MNA Monique Simard; in a Montreal court. Simard, who plans to appeal the conviction, faces a fine of up to $1,000 and could lose her seat in the Quebec legislature.

RESIGNED: Reform MP Sharon Hayes,

49, who represents the British Columbia riding of Port Moody/Coquitlam, to care for her husband, Douglas Hayes, 51, who is recovering from a heart attack and stroke; in Ottawa.