Opening Notes

Opening Notes

Tanya Davies,Susan McClelland November 29 1999
Opening Notes

Opening Notes

Tanya Davies,Susan McClelland November 29 1999

Opening Notes

Fighting on for Kristen and Leslie

Tanya Davies

Recently granted legal aid, convicted sex-killer Paul Bernardo has hired four lawyers and launched a bid for freedom. His argument: that the judge at his 1995 trial failed to instruct the jury that his former wife, Karla Homolka, may have been the one to actually kill the abducted and tortured teenagers Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. A minor point, some may say. A seminal bit of law, his lawyers will argue. But for the families of the two victims and their lawyer, Tim Danson, this is nothing less than a massive affront to human dignity. “For reasons I can’t explain, there is a personal bond between myself and Kristen and Leslie,” says Danson. “I will defend them like I would my own children.”

Suddenly, there are three sets of lawyers interested in the videotapes of the assaults in the defence of their clients: Bernardo’s team and those for writer Stephen Williams (who is accused of violating the ban on seeing the tapes to write his book) and for former Bernardo solicitor Ken Murray (who will be tried for withholding them for 17 months). For the victims’ families, “it is like being right back in 1995 again,” says Danson. “You can feel the intensity of their pain.” Adding to the pain is the cost of the legal barrage.

Danson is a rare bird: the son of former Liberal cabinet minister Barney Danson, he is a corporate lawyer who likes to tilt

at the occasional windmill. In the 1980s, his cause was Sunday shopping in Ontario; in the 1990s, he has championed two high-profile cases of victims of violent crime: French and Mahafîy, and 11-year-old Christopher Stephenson, who was killed by a violent pedophile on parole. Danson says he has told the Frenches and the Mahaffys “not to worry about the money. But it’s bothering them. They’re such decent people.” Danson can’t see why the courts might turn over the sequestered tapes—there is plenty of graphic testimony available. But he doesn’t want to take chances. His clients want to meet Justice Minister Anne McLellan to seek the legislated destruction of the tapes. If there is going to be a fight, they want it also in the court of public opinion.


A low-frying machine

Others have tried and failed to make a go of french-fry vending machines, but a German manufacturer thinks it has the recipe for success. Premium Food Systems says its 24-YOU Snacks Around the Clock vending equipment dispenses hot french fries as well as deep-fried snacks such as doughnuts and chicken nuggets. The machine is divided into two parts: the top is a freezer and the bottom houses a vegetable-oil fryer heated five centimetres from the base, which keeps the oil clean because the burned particles sink. The vendor was launched last month at a German trade fair, and its maker is talking to Swiss and Austrian clients. One Israeli buyer has ordered 300 machines. The frying vendor may cross the ocean: in December the company meets food producers in the United States.

Gates’s new vision

It used to be that what Bill Gates said quickly became the standard for the computer industry. Not these days. Yet even with a negative ruling in an antitrust case and a horde of powerful competitors at his heels, the

Microsoft Corp. chairmans word still rallies interest. Last week, as many as 13,000 visitors came to hear him open Comdex, the world’s biggest computer trade show, held in Las Vegas. Gates outlined a vision of the future that includes trying to breathe new life into Windows CE, a computer operating system for a range of communications, entertainment and mobile-computing devices. The system was first used in handheld PCs in 1996. Gates sees Windows CE running what he now calls Web companions, low-cost machines to access e-mail and surf the Web that resemble small laptops. To date, however, Windows CE has not done well, says David Card, a senior analyst at Jupiter Communications Inc. of New York City. Nor, he says, is there a guarantee that Gates will see his vision embraced anytime soon.

A New dear’s precaution

Only a year ago, during a six-month hospital stay following several surgeries for a rare degenerative muscle disease, Use Laukat thought she would never return home. But when she was able to move back to her east Toronto apartment, Laukat thought she would be healthy into the next century. Then last month, the 60-year-old started to wonder whether she would survive New Years Eve. If a Y2K computer glitch causes an extended power failure, it could prove fatal for Laukat, who requires a ventilator to breath when she sleeps. (It has a battery that only runs for one hour.)

While Ontario Hydro doesn’t foresee New Year’s power outages, Laukat can’t take any chances and has devised an emergency plan to get to a hospital that has a generator. But the scheme is not foolproof. Neither she nor her sister, Rene, who is spending New Year’s Eve at Laukat’s place, owns a car, and they would have to take a taxi or an ambulance.

Laukat’s situation is not unique. A recent report by Statistics Canada found that 1.4 million Canadians who live outside institutions are receiving assistance for long-term health problems. And more than half are over the age of 65. Like Laukat, most are dependent on home care and Meals on Wheels agencies, many of which have developed Y2K emergency plans for clients.

Still, there are some areas that have neglected to plan care for the frail who will be at home over the New Year’s period, says Victor Ince, Y2K coordinator for the Okanagan Similkameen area of British Columbia. Ince, whose area boasts one of the country’s highest concentrations of seniors, has about 3,500 clients receiving home-care support.

“We have some municipalities

which have strategies to care for the sick living at home,” he says. “And then we have some that have been spotty, not even designating a place to get coffee in the event of an emergency.”

Though Canada’s Association for the Fifty-Plus (formerly the Canadian Association of Retired Persons) is optimistic there will be few problems over New Year’s, its staff does recommend that anyone using community health services ask what emergency procedures will be in place. “If it’s home care or a nurse, make sure they will still be coming,” says Judy Cuder, the association’s director of public relations. “And identify a friend, a family member, someone who can check in periodically and make sure things are fine.”

Susan McClelland

The Y2K kit

Governments and heath-care organizations recommend the following in case of computer problems at midnight of Jan. I :

• If using an electronic medical device, check with a supplier or a doctor to ensure it is Y2K compliant.

• Stock up on candles, matches, water, canned food, crackers or bread, batteries, flashlights and blankets.

• Make sure prescriptions are filled.

• Have enough cash to cover a few days to a week. (But for security, don’t keep a lot of cash at home.)