Opening Notes

Opening Notes

When religion is no joking matter

Opening Notes

Opening Notes

When religion is no joking matter


Opening Notes


When religion is no joking matter

It was just a little sentence—a half-sentence really—but it caused some big headaches. A May 10 profile in The Globe and Mail by Toronto freelance writer Michael Posner quoted Michael Enright as calling the Roman Catholic Church “the greatest criminal organization outside the Mafia.” Enright’s views on religion were hardly the point of the article. Instead, it focused on the As It Happens host as he deliberated about whether to take another plum CBC Radio assignment, host of Morningside after Peter Gzowski retires on May 30. But, of course, such a provocative statement could not go unnoticed, and both the CBC and the Globe heard from irate Catholics. One Calgary letter writer, for instance, noted that Enright “could not get away with making a similar comment about the World Jewish Congress,” while one from St. John’s, Nfld., demanded an apology. And apologize Enright did. Jeffrey Dvorkin, head of news and current affairs for CBC Radio, said that there had been letters exchanged between Enright and “the

Catholic hierarchy,” and the matter had been laid to rest. And in his own letter to the Globe, Enright—who, as the article noted, was raised Catholic—does not deny making the statement. Instead, he claims it was meant as a joke, however “oafish.” He continues: ‘We all make statements from time to time that, carved in the stonework of print, lose whatever irony or sarcasm they may carry when spoken.”

Wanted: a U.S. ambassador

The post of U.S. ambassador to Canada has been vacant for 14 months—since March 15, 1996, when James Blanchard left Ottawa to work on President Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign. Now, Clinton finally appears to be ready to propose a replacement— someone with unusual credentials. Gordon Giffin, 47, is an Atlanta lawyer who spent most of his first 18 years in Canada. Giffin’s father headed the Canadian operations of the New York Life Insurance Co. and moved his family to Montreal when Gordon was just six weeks old. He was raised there and in Toronto, where he graduated from Richview Collegiate Institute. Giffin returned to the United States to attend Duke University in Durham, N.C., and later got involved in Democratic party politics. In 1992 and 1996, he headed Clinton’s election campaigns in Georgia. Now, according to The Washington Post’s influential “In the Loop” column, which is followed religiously by the city’s insiders, Giffin is the leading candidate to be ambassador. Another prominent southern Democrat, Philip Lader, had been favored— but the Post says he “looks instead to be headed for a plum posting in Europe.”

The remand centre diet

It is not a diet that most people would want to try, but apparently one way to lose weight is to be arrested and sent to the Calgary remand centre. According to some prisoners there, food rations are so meagre that they are constantly hungry and forced to buy fast food from the canteen, where they may spend up to $80 a week. The situation is so bad that some remand centre inmates have even asked their lawyers to plead them guilty so they will be sent to prison where, they believe, the food is better. “You get about as much as you’d feed a small child,” says Steve Hews, 22, who is in the centre waiting to face charges on May 28 of drug cultivating, possession of stolen goods, and break and entering. “For lunch, it’s a sandwich and, maybe, some chopped carrots.” Corrections officials dismiss such criticisms. “All diets in Corrections,” says provincial Justice spokeswoman Lesley Grownow, “meet the requirements of the Canada Food Guide.” Even so, Hews has a bone to pick about the rations and is starting a petition.

Canada boosters—from Quebec

Money often comes with strings attached—as the Quebec government learned with its latest tourism ads for the U.S. market. The print ads, partly funded by the Canadian Tourism Commission, feature the slogan: “The

world needs more Canada.” Although the Quebec tourism ministry would have happily dispensed

with the words, including them was a condition of getting the federal money. “The only alternative

was to deprive our industry of the money,” said

Rita Dionne-Marsolais, Quebec’s tourism minister. Federal money

makes up 28 per cent of the

$8.2 million that Quebec spends to promote itself in the rest of Canada and in the United States. Still, Ottawa agreed that the slogan could run on the bottom left-hand corner of the ads.

Back to tradition?

The Northwest Territories legislative assembly in Yellowknife has the lowest percentage of female representatives of any legislature in the country: just two seats out of 24, or eight per cent, are held by women. That could soon change. Residents of Nunavut—the eastern Arctic territory to be created once the Northwest Territories split in two on April 1,1999—are going to the polls on May 26 for a non-binding plebiscite on whether they should be governed by equal numbers of men and women. The Nunavut Implementation Commission, the body set up to design the structure of the new government, introduced gender parity two years ago, suggesting that each of the region’s constituencies be represented by a man and a woman. The idea hit a snag last February when 10 N.W.T. MLAs—including one female—refused to endorse it. But others say legislated gender parity would reflect what has always been part of Inuit culture. “Men and women in traditional times were always equal,” says Mary Simon, Canada’s circumpolar ambassador. “Neither could survive without the work performed by the other.”

A not-so-green car

With Vancouver-area traffic and smog increasing in recent years, B.C. Transit, the Crown corporation that oversees the province’s public transportation system, has been inviting motorists to “Go green” by taking the bus. But earlier this month, the provincial Liberals revealed that taxpayers were giving Derek Corrigan, the agency’s chairman, $760 a month to lease a luxury car. “The NDP-handpicked chairman of B.C. Transit was so ashamed of the transit system,” complains Liberal MLA Doug Symons, “that he was hiding out in a taxpayer-funded Saab 900.” In response, Joy MacPhail, the minister responsible for B.C. Transit, instructed Corrigan to terminate the car lease as quickly as possible, pointedly adding that he should consider riding buses instead. But at week’s end, Corrigan resigned his position. Although MacPhail insisted the “mutually agreed” departure was a result of her decision to reduce the chairman’s job to part time, rather than the revelations about his wheels, Corrigan drove away with the Saab—and a severance of $66,000. So much for taking the bus.


CONVENED: A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing, into allegations that Doug Collins, 76, a columnist for the North Shore News, exposed Jews to hatred and contempt in a March, 1994, article; in Vancouver. The Canadian Jewish Congress lodged a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Commission four months after the paper, which is distributed free to about 60,000 locations in North and West Vancouver three times a week, published a Collins

piece titled



In it, he claimed the number of Jews murdered during the Holocaust was greatly exaggerated. Collins has denied that he is anti-Semitic.

PAROLE DENIED: To Roger Caron,

59, a prisoner at Joyceville Penitentiary near Kingston, Ont., who won the 1978 Governor General’s non-fiction award for Go-Boy, a gritty account of prison life. Caron, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 15 years ago, argued that he was too sick to rob any more banks. But the parole board ruled that Caron, who has served four years of a 10-year sentence for robbery, remains a risk to society.

RECUPERATING: Retired NDP stalwart Stanley Knowles, 88, who served 38 years in the House of Commons; from pneumonia, in an Ottawa hospital.

FILED: A $5-million lawsuit against comedian Dudley Moore, 62, by his fourth wife, Nicole, 32, who claims he abused her during their two-year marriage; in Los Angeles.

DIED: Former vice-principal of McGill University Leo Yaffe, 80; of natural causes, in Montreal.

DIED: Moose Jaw, Sask.-born scholar Donald J. Greene, 82, a noted authority on 18th-century English literature; of natural causes, at his home in Claremont, Calif.

DIED: Former Toronto Star and Flare fashion writer Jane Mussett, 45, who later headed her own public relations firm; of cancer, at her home in Toronto.