Canada NOTES

October 5 1998

Canada NOTES

October 5 1998

Canada NOTES

THE SWISSAIR TRAGEDY

The search for human remains and wreckage from Swissair Flight 111 was scaled back as about 200 army personnel returned to Canadian Forces bases. Searchers, however, recovered an electronic engine control unit whose computer-chip memory may reveal data about the engines prior to the jet crashing in the Atlantic Ocean off Peggys Cove, N.S., on Sept. 2.

TAR PONDS MYSTERY

According to a Health Canada study, the mortality rate in Cape Breton County, including the area around the notorious Sydney tar ponds, was 16 per cent higher than the national average between 1951 and 1994. Researchers cautioned Nova Scotians not to jump to conclusions, saying their study is preliminary. More research is expected in the coming months, including a closer look at lethal and non-lethal cancer cases and a study of the health of newborns and their mothers.

IN SEARCH OF SILENCE

Ten male and female Carmelite hermits in southwestern Nova Scotia gave up their two-year-long battle with forestry giant J. D. Irving Ltd. The recluses, who live much of their lives in silence at their Nova Nada monastery, say they are temporarily leaving for sister houses in Colorado and Ireland to escape the noise of Irving loggers cutting timber in the woods surrounding their property.

BACK TO SCHOOL

Education Minister Dave Johnson vowed to bring in back-to-work legislation to force Ontario teachers to return to class. The legislation will target eight school boards where teachers have been on strike or locked out for up to four weeks. Ontario wants teachers to spend an extra 25 minutes a day in the classroom.

ICE BABIES

Last January’s ice storm, which cut power to thousands of homes in eastern Ontario and Quebec, may be about to result in a mini-baby boom. Healthcare workers in Kingston, Ont., say increasing demand has led to extra prenatal classes, while midwives are fully booked in September and October. “I just figured it out,” said Pam Stuart of Childbirth Kingston. The time since the storm “coincides with their 40 weeks of pregnancy.”

Quebec's growing sense of anger

Anger and resentment reverberated throughout Quebec as former Parti Québécois leader Jacques Parizeau ridiculed Premier Lucien Bouchard’s latest referendum strategy and language tensions spilled into Montreal’s streets. The catalyst for Parizeau’s attack was Bouchard’s recent success in convincing a PQ convention to adopt a resolution freeing the party from having to hold a referendum if it is reelected. Now, Bouchard is committed to calling a vote on separation only if “winning conditions” exist.

(The premier said these conditions include eliminating Quebec’s deficit and a stronger economy.) Bouchard’s new tactic, Parizeau argued, amounted to political suicide for the coming election, expected by next spring. “The position in the next election can’t be Vote for us and there might be a referendum,’ ” Parizeau said. “This must absolutely be avoided because it causes confusion in public opinion.”

Another confrontation, meanwhile, took place in front of the Eaton department store in downtown Montreal, where 300 supporters of the Englishrights group Alliance Quebec faced off against about 50 sovereigntists. Led by hardline leader William Johnson, Alliance demonstrators called for a boycott of Eaton because of its refusal to post bilingual signs. (Under Quebec law, bilingual signs are permitted as long as French predominates.) “English is not scum,” Johnson told cheering supporters. “It’s not a social disease.” The counterdemonstration by francophone nationalists attracted former FLQ terrorist Raymond Villeneuve and members of his group, the Mouvement de libération nationale du Québec, some of whom hurled eggs at Johnson supporters. Police arrested one nationalist as the demonstration broke up. “William Johnson is a provocateur,” Villeneuve said. “He is bringing us towards confrontation.”

JUSTICE

A second chance

Citing fresh evidence, federal Justice Minister Anne McLellan ordered a new hearing at the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal for convicted murderer Clayton Johnson of Shelburne, N.S. In 1993, Johnson, 52, was found guilty of the first-degree murder of his wife, Janice Johnson, who died of multiple head wounds after a neighbor found her unconscious at the foot of her basement stairs. Crown lawyers successfully argued that Johnson bludgeoned his wife to death to collect insurance money and carry on a new relationship with another woman. But lawyers with the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted say they now have forensic evidence showing that Janice Johnson fell down the stairs. “I just want to go home,” Johnson said as he was supported by a daughter on each arm after being released on bail. Johnson’s two daughters, Darla, 21, and Dawn 18, have stood behind him from the time of their mother’s death.

The Tory gloves come off

The lethargic Conservative leadership race, marked by sleepy debates and elaborate politeness between opposing camps, developed some bite last week after two candidates’ organizations were fined by the party for violating campaign rules. The camp of longtime backroom adviser Hugh Segal was fined $10,000 and Montreal lawyer Michael Fortier’s organization $2,000 after their supporters wore campaign T-shirts, scarves and hats at a Drummondville, Que., debate. Segal organizers accused Joe Clark supporters of turning them in to party officials—who in turn, they claimed, were ignoring rules infractions by the former prime minister’s people. Segal advisers said the Clark campaign had missed a deadline for filing financial information but received no penalty. “How about a level playing field here?” one complained.

The increasing tension among Tory opponents surfaced just before a crucial date in the race. The five candidates—Saskatchewan anti-free-trade crusader David Orchard and former Manitoba cabinet minister Brian Pallister are also running—had until Sept. 25 to sell $10 party memberships to potential supporters. All members are eligible to cast a ballot on Oct. 24. Orchard’s success—recruiting an estimated 7,000 new members to a party that had only 23,000 paid-up supporters in July—has rattled the campaigns of the more prominent candidates.