Canada

Canada NOTES

August 3 1998
Canada

Canada NOTES

August 3 1998

Canada NOTES

ASSAULT ON WAR CRIMES

Ottawa announced it will spend $46.8 million over the next three years to prosecute and deport suspected war criminals involved in the Second World War and modern-day conflicts. Of that, $11 million will go towards the start of deportation proceedings in more than a dozen new Second World War cases.

IN THE RED

Ontario Court Judge Robert Blair granted the Red Cross temporary bankruptcy protection. The agency, which is insolvent, faces lawsuits totalling more than $5 billion filed by those who contracted hepatitis C from tainted blood. The Red Cross intends to sell its blood transfusion facilities for about $132.9 million to the new Canadian Blood Services agency. After paying its debts, the Red Cross plans to establish a fund of up to $100 million to compensate people infected with hepatitis C.

VIOLENT GIRLS

Statistics Canada reported that the overall rate of violent crimes continued to fall—except among girls. In 1997, the agency said, violence among 12to 17-year-old girls increased five per cent over 1996, climbing to 472 offences per 100,000 population. For boys the same age, violent crimes dropped four per cent, to 1,328 per 100,000.

THE MAERSK DUBAI SAGA

Lawyer Lee Cohen submitted a lastditch plea on behalf of four Filipino seamen hoping to stay in Canada, telling the Halifax immigration office that the men’s lives are at risk if they are forced to return home. The sailors have expressed fear of retribution for their allegations of murders aboard the container ship Maersk Dubai two years ago. Last November, an immigration panel found the men could not be considered refugees because they were not being persecuted for political reasons.

RACING TORIES

Former prime minister Joe Clark became the third official candidate to seek the leadership of the federal Progressive Conservatives when he filed his nomination papers. Saskatchewan farmer David Orchard, who also filed his papers last week, and party strategist Hugh Segal are, so far, the other official candidates.

Attack on the Nisga'a treaty

The battle over the historic Nisga’a treaty intensified when British Columbia’s Liberal Opposition embarrassed the provincial government by leaking details of the controversial deal. As a result, Premier Glen Clark was forced to release the 500-page treaty two weeks ahead of an initialling ceremony in the Nisga’a homeland of northwestern British Columbia’s Nass Valley.

When the treaty was announced on July 15, the province said the settlement, granting the Nisga’a some self-government and almost 2,000 square kilometres of land, would cost $190 million. But the province acknowledged last week that the figure has since skyrocketed to $311 million, which includes $190 million cash and funding for various social programs, while other estimates put the total as high as $488 million.

Nisga’a Chief Joe Gosnell, the First Nation’s main negotiator, said that pales in comparison to the billions of dollars worth of timber, fish and mineral resources taken from his people’s territory over many years. “It’s a drop in the bucket,” Gosnell declared. But the B.C. Liberals stepped up demands for a provincewide referendum on whether the legislature should ratify

the deal. (The federal government and the Nisga’a themselves must also approve the treaty.) As well, Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell condemned the agreement because it prohibits nonNisga’a from voting for the Nisga’a central government. But Clark dismissed those concerns. “Any non-Nisga’a people in Nisga’a land will not be paying taxes to the Nisga’a,” the premier said. “They’ll be paying taxes to the provincial government There is no taxation without representation.” The treaty, meanwhile, faces ongoing legal hurdles as well, with two aboriginal bands who claim territory covered by the deal launching legal challenges to the agreement.

Air India breakthrough?

The RCMP in British Columbia gave Crown lawyers an initial summary of their 13-year investigation into the 1985 terrorist bombing of Air India Flight 182—a sign that police are close to concluding their task and possibly laying charges. The Air India Boeing 747 jet exploded just off the Atlantic coast of Ireland, killing 329 people, 278 of whom were Canadians. The flight had left Montreal and was on its way to New Delhi and Bombay. Crown lawyers will examine the preliminary summary by the RCMP’s 20 full-time investigators assigned to the case, but will wait until the Mounties submit their final brief before deciding whether enough evidence exists to lay charges. “No time frame has been set for the approval of charges—if any—by Crown counsel,” RCMP Sgt. Russ Grabb said. “The charge approval process will only commence once the comprehensive court brief has been submitted.”

No timetable has been set for that step either, Grabb said. Police have linked the 1985 Air India attack to radical Sikhs in British Columbia fighting to establish an independent Sikh homeland. The bombing has also been connected to a 1985 explosion that killed two baggage handlers at Tokyo’s Narita airport. Indeijit Singh Reyat, 45, of Duncan, B.C., was convicted in the Narita incident and is considered a suspect in the Air India bombing.

POLITICS

Stepping down

Taras Sokolyk, chief of staff for Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon, resigned amid allegations that members of the ruling Conservatives tried to rig votes during the 1995 provincial election. Sokolyk cited personal reasons for his resignation, which comes just as the province prepares for an inquiry into the alleged electoral tampering, while his lawyer, George Orle, denied any wrongdoing on the part of his client.

During the 1995 election, Sokolyk was the Tories’ campaign manager. Shortly before the April 25 vote, allegations arose that the contests in some ridings had been rigged. After an investigation, Elections Manitoba said there had been no improprieties. But in June, two new witnesses came forward. At issue are claims that Sokolyk and other key Tories discussed paying natives to run as independents in three ridings so they could derail NDP campaigns by splitting the vote. The Tories won 31 of 57 seats.