Canada NOTES

February 8 1999

Canada NOTES

February 8 1999

Canada NOTES



A two-year inquiry concluded that Quebec’s provincial police force, the Sûreté du Québec, suffers from feelings of “immunity and impunity,” abuses its power to arrest people and adheres to a profound code of silence. The inquiry was launched after police botched the seizure of 26.5 tonnes of hashish. A judge dismissed the case after four officers were accused of planting evidence.


The Supreme Court of Canada abolished a special rule limiting a railway company’s liability. The case centred on Murray Ryan, 33, of Victoria who was injured when his motorcycle wheel was caught in tracks on a city street in 1987. The common-law rule, dating from the turn of the century, protected railways because of their importance in building the country. The court ruled that the protection from negligence “can no longer be justified.”


The Bloc Québécois hired former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau to examine an independent Quebec’s place in the context of globalization. The move was heralded as a bid to modernize the sovereignty movement and begin laying the groundwork for another referendum.


NDP Premier Glen Clark appointed Gordon Wilson, leader and lone MLA for the Progressive Democratic Alliance, as minister of aboriginal affairs. He will also be in charge of the financially troubled B.C. Ferry Corp. Wilson is the former leader of the B.C. Liberals who had to resign after an extramarital affair with caucus member Judy Tyabji (the two were later married).


Canadian and U.S. officials held discussions on proposed legislation to protect the Canadian magazine industry that is at the centre of a looming trade dispute. Ottawa, in an apparent bid to give the talks a chance, last week considered delaying a third and final reading of Bill C-55, which was set for this week. The bill, if passed, would make it illegal for domestic advertisers to place ads in Canadian editions of U.S. magazines that contain largely American editorial content.

Russian revelations

Hockey star Alexei Yashin of the Ottawa Senators told a packed news conference that his parents never planned to profit from his $ 1-million donation to the National Arts Centre. A public outcry erupted after Yashin announced that he was backing out of his pledge, and the NAC subsequently revealed that the terms of the Russian’s donation required it to pay his parents up to $85,000 a

year for five years. Last week, Yashin, 25, said the money was to cover his parents’ expenses while they tried to recruit Russian artists to come to Ottawa. “My intention, and that of my family, was to be active in helping the NAC build a strong program of Russian performers,” Yashin said.

The Yashin deal—struck with John Cripton, the arts cen! tre’s former director—was an| nounced with much fanfare & last March, but fell through I with the hockey star having I paid only one instalment of \ $200,000. The Senators’ cap! tain said he withdrew from ° the pact—the centre’s largest donation in its 29-year history—because the NAC made him “feel like a criminal.” NAC lawyers have said the deal is illegal. Furthermore, NAC director Elaine Calder alleges that Mark Gandler, Yashin’s agent, called her in December wanting an invoice for Yashin’s parents despite the fact they had done no work. (Gandler last week called the allegation unsubstantiated.) Meanwhile, other donations have poured in to the NAC, among them $400,000 from Starcan Corp. and $200,000 from Michael Potter, founder of the computer firm Cognos Inc.


A battle for funds

As Paul Martin prepares to table the 1999-2000 federal budget on Feb. 16, the Canadian Forces are among those hoping for an infusion of new funding from the finance minister. Without it, Defence Minister Art Eggleton said last week, the Forces will likely have to be trimmed from their current level of 60,000 members—already down from about 85,000 10 years ago because of continuing budget cuts. (According to reports last week, defence department sources say troops may have to be cut by 5,000.) The military, which is committed to a program to improve the pay and standard of life of its personnel, is hoping for an additional $500 million on top of its current $9.3-billion budget. And in an interview with Maclean’s last week, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Maurice Baril said he is confident “the Department of National Defence and the Forces will be helped in taking care of their people by having more resources given to us.”

Suing over prison blood

Canada’s tainted blood scandal took another twist with the launch of a $l-billion class action lawsuit. The legal action was initiated by Ontario hemophiliac Mike McCarthy on behalf of 1,000 other sufferers of the disease, who say they got hepatitis C from tainted blood products made with blood collected in U.S. prisons in the early 1980s. The suit names Health Canada’s Bureau of Biologies, Connaught Laboratories of Toronto, which manufactured the blood products, and Continental Pharma, a Montreal-based blood broker that bought the prison blood and sold it to Connaught. “I can show negligence was done to innocent hemophiliacs in this country,” McCarthy told reporters. “We have the tombstones to prove it.”

The blood at the centre of the suit was collected from prisoners in Arkansas and Louisiana between 1981 and 1984. (The United States stopped using blood from jails in 1982 because many inmates engage in high-risk sex or inject drugs, but some was still sold internationally.) The federal and provincial governments have already offered a $1.1-billion compensation package to people infected with hepatitis C between 1986 and 1990, a period for which Ottawa acknowledges its legal liability. But last week, the Hepatitis C Society of Canada condemned the package, citing, among other reasons, the lack of special provisions for children.