Canada

Canada NOTES

BANFF REPRIEVE

April 28 1997
Canada

Canada NOTES

BANFF REPRIEVE

April 28 1997

Canada NOTES

Canada

BANFF REPRIEVE

Ottawa announced a plan to protect Banff National Park. It includes closing the local airstrip, relocating an army cadet camp and moving horse corrals and a bison paddock that interfere with a wildlife corridor for large carnivores and their prey. The plan would also freeze the boundaries of Banff and nearby Lake Louise.

LIGHTING UP

Two months after adopting the country’s toughest anti-smoking bylaw, Toronto blinked. On March 3, city councillors barred all smoking in bars and restaurants unless they had separately ventilated rooms. That law was openly flaunted. The new bylaw restricts smoking to 10 per cent of seating in establishments with 80 or more seats, and up to 25 per cent of seating in smaller businesses.

REFUGE FOR A BOY

In an unprecedented move, Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board said it had granted asylum to a boy because Britain had failed to protect him from sexual abuse by his father. The board was told that British authorities rebuffed the boy’s mother’s attempts to get help. The board concluded that the boy was denied basic rights guaranteed under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The boy, whose name was not disclosed, now lives in Toronto.

DEADLY EXPLOSION

An explosion in Quesnel, B.C., 400 km northeast of Vancouver, destroyed a commercial building, killing five people and injuring 20. Authorities praised several acts of heroism by civilian rescuers and said that the blast was likely caused by a suspected natural gas leak.

A GOOD NEWS BUDGET

Nova Scotia’s Liberal government tabled a 1997-1998 budget that projects surpluses of $4 million over the next two years, rising to $5.1 million in 1999-2000 and fully $11.2 million in the following year. In 1996, said Finance Minister Bill Gillis, the province enjoyed a surplus of $4.7 million. The good news comes as the Liberals are preparing to choose a successor to outgoing Premier John Savage. An election could be called for as early as this fall.

Questioning Homolka's deal

Can Karla Homolka’s infamous 1993 plea bargain be nullified? No, said Ontario Attorney General Charles Harnick in response to a controversial CBC fifth estate report last week. Currently serving a 12-year « sentence for manslaughter in the sex slayI ings of Kristen French, 15, and Leslie MaI haffy, 14, Homolka is eligible for parole in July. In exchange for leniency, she testified against her former husband,

Paul Bernardo, now serving an indefinite life sentence for the two murders as well as 14 rapes and the 1990 sexual assault and death of Homolka’s 15year-old sister, Tammy. But the deal with Homolka stipulates that it becomes null and void if she perjures herself—and the fifth estate documentary suggested that Homolka indeed lied when questioned about Tammy’s death.

Police interrogation videotapes obtained by the program showed Homolka downplaying her role in rendering her sister unconscious, which was accomplished with a drugsoaked cloth. But a coroner’s report said

Tammy may have been smothered by that cloth—and the fifth estate implied that Homolka played a large part in drugging her sister. Harnick, however, said that a judicial review last year concluded that the plea bargain could not be reopened. And for some, the show was too much. Debbie Mahaffy, Leslie’s mother, said she did not watch. “I don’t need to know any more,” she said. “I know the worst about her.”

Somalia's tangled web

It was an unceremonious ending to something barely under way. Last week, when Conservative and Liberal senators gathered for an organizational meeting of the Senate committee on the Canadian military’s ill-fated 1992-1993 Somalia mission, the Tories stormed out. At issue was a Liberal plan to begin the hearings this week with testimony from such top officials as former deputy defence minister Robert Fowler, now Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, and John Dixon, an aide to former defence minister Kim Campbell. But the Tories wanted to work from the ground up by first reviewing documentation and interviewing minor players connected to allegations that the military tried to cover up the torture-murder of Somali teenager Shidane Arone.

The Tory boycott and an imminent federal election mean that the hearings are unlikely to proceed. Just as well, say the critics. Established by Ottawa after Defence Minister Doug Young ordered the original Somalia inquiry to end its hearings and deliver a report by June 30, the Senate committee was derided as nothing more than an attempt at a whitewash. “The Liberals would bring in the high-profile people, say they’ve had their day in court, call the election, shut down the committee and away we go,” said Tory Senator John Lynch-Staunton. “Well, we won’t be part of that.”

JUSTICE

A vote for Krever

The federal government last week agreed to extend the deadline for Justice Horace Krever’s inquiry into the tainted blood scandal. Krever can now submit his final report eight weeks after the Supreme Court of Canada rules on whether he can lay specific blame on individuals and organizations. Krever’s inquiry—which has taken three years and cost $14 million—is trying to determine why thousands of Canadians were infected with AIDS and hepatitis C through tainted blood products in the 1980s. But the Canadian Red Cross Society and two pharmaceutical companies have launched a Supreme Court challenge to a lower court decision allowing Krever to lay specific blame. The Red Cross is reportedly discussing whether to continue with the appeal. If it goes ahead as originally planned, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case on June 25, which would mean Krever’s report is unlikely to be ready before September.