Opening Notes

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS November 17 1997
Opening Notes

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS November 17 1997

Opening Notes


A rash of other abuse complaints

As a politician, Pam Barrett might have preferred a different kind of publicity. But in this case, the Alberta leader of the New Democrats didn’t have much choice. When word got out that police had charged Barrett’s former live-in partner, Stephen Douglas Edwards, 33, of Edmonton, with assault, Barrett found herself making news as the alleged victim in a domestic assault. According to police, Edwards threw Barrett, 43, against a glass table and a fireplace in August. Barrett denies police suggestions that she did not want them to pursue charges. “I did not ask them to drop the issue,” she says. “Absolutely not.” For Barrett, one of two NDP MLAs in the 83-seat Alberta legislature, the story might still have a positive side. Since the charges against Edwards, o whose trial is scheduled for Feb. 28, became public, phone lines at women’s | shelters in Edmonton have been busier than ever as more women have found the courage to come forward with complaints. ‘When there’s a high-profile case,” says lone Challborn, executive director of Edmonton Women’s Shelters,

“we receive a lot of phone calls on the day it happens and the days following.”

His fascination for things fishy

They call him the salmon professor. Rick Cunjak has been studying the prince of the Atlantic fishery since 1980, first as a graduate student, then as a research scientist with the department of fisheries and oceans. These days, he is the first holder of the Meighen-Molson Professorship in Atlantic Salmon Research at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. Cunjak,

took up the position this fall, just in time to participate in one of his favorite activities— monitoring the fish during the icebound months of winter. Most salmon researchers, he explains, naturally prefer to work during the more pleasant conditions from spring to fall. “But it’s always struck me that we need to understand what they are doing all year long,” says Cunjak. Working in the chilly off-season also has its advantages: “For one thing, you don’t have to contend with the black flies.” Cunjak is excited by the research opportunities presented by the

professorship, which resulted from a $500,000 endowment from Senator Michael Meighen and Hartland Molson, both avid anglers. But Cunjak is also clearly delighted by the chance to indulge in a personal passion for salmon. In addition to his studies, he enjoys fishing for them, swimming with them and taking his children and others snorkeling to view them in their natural habitat. “This is absolutely wonderful for me,” Cunjak says.

“I still have to pinch myself to know that I’m doing this.”

Choosing Quebec's creepy-crawly emblem

Each province has its own official flag, its own motto, even its own flower. Now, entomologists in Quebec are hoping their province will be distinct by being the first to declare its own official bug. So far, 23 U.S. states have official insects. In Quebec, the campaign for a new provincial symbol is being spearheaded by the Montreal Insectarium. The insect museum will be asking Quebecers to cast their votes by mail or via the Internet starting in April for one of five candidates. The contenders, all indigenous to Quebec: the twelve-spotted lady beetle, the white admiral butterfly, the ebony jewel-wing dragonfly, the six-spotted tiger beetle and the frisky bumblebee. Marjolaine Giroux, an entomologist at the Insectarium, that which in-

elude three entomologist associations, may first have to overcome bugs’ bad image. “People are afraid of insects mostly because they don’t know them,” she insists. “We want to make people aware of the services that they render us.” Among insects’ stellar qualities are the fact that they pol-

linate plants and help recycle organic material by eating old food, leaves and the carcasses of dead animals. Bugs, she adds, also serve as food for birds, fish . and other animals. Giroux is hoping for a close race before the winner is announced next November, one based on the bug’s behavior and not just looks alone. Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder.

Artifacts may be going, going, gone

When the military medals of Dr. John McCrae, author of the classic First World War poem “In Flanders Fields,” sold for $400,000, it set off a chain of events. The price astounded many experts, who had expected the medals to fetch about $30,000 at the Oct. 25 auction. It also convinced Scott Renwick that an artifact he owns could be equally valuable. The Dundalk, Ont., car mechanic has an 1860s-vintage, .32-calibre Smith and Wesson model 2 revolver, which he claims was used in the 1868 assassination of Thomas D’arcy McGee, one of the Fathers of Confederation. A gun expert who examined the revolver agrees, saying it is the murder weapon described in the old court records. Renwick— who got it from his grandfather, who got it from the nephew of the original investigating policeman—has been trying since 1995 to sell it to the federal government. But he has been frustrated by his talks with officials at the Museum of Civilization in Hull, Que., who offered him the standard tax discount, a bronze plaque and a handshake. Now, he may put the gun up for auction. “It’s quite a significant piece,” he says. “I’ve only got one shot at this.” Therein lies a problem. Harry Needham, director of programs at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, says he is concerned the example of the McCrae medals means cash-strapped museums may lose out on other artifacts. They may be rushed to auction, only to disappear into private collections, or perhaps, leave the country. Going once, going twice...

It's 'Mush!' after a brush with cancer

It will be the longest dogsled trek ever completed in a single winter. This week, Wendy Smith, a 36-year-old cancer survivor, will set out on a six-month, 10,000-km expedition,

mushing a team of 20 Alaskan huskies from Maine to Alaska. “There is a parallel with a cancer journey,” says the adventurer from Hereford, England, who hopes to promote the work of the International Association of Cancer Victors and Friends, a nonprofit organization that provides patients with information on treatments for the disease. “It will be difficult, there will be trials and tribulations, but we have a goal.” The itinerary will take her through towns and cities in

Northern Canada en route to the Alaskan coast, which she plans to reach by next May, with support from a four-man crew, trucks and Ski-Doos. Smith became interested in

mushing after seeing it on television. In 1994, she left her job as an Outward Bound instructor and moved to Alaska, where she spent the past three winters training dogs. Now, Smith, who ran a half-marathon only a month after lengthy chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s disease a decade ago, says she is ready for the challenge. “I had always had dreams,” she recalls. “But when I came out of the hospital, it was like now—now is the time to do your dream, not later.”