Another View

Bungee jumping over Victoria Falls

Charles Gordon March 29 1999
Another View

Bungee jumping over Victoria Falls

Charles Gordon March 29 1999

Opening NOTES

Getting a kick out of Canucks


It was a shocking episode that vaulted the seldom watched sport of field hockey into the headlines. The occasion was a 1998 Commonwealth Games men’s qualifying game in Kuala Lumpur between Canada and the host country, Malaysia. After an umpire allowed a controversial home team goal, the Canadians—typically known as good sports on and off the field—started yelling

and jostling the official. The ruckus reached a peak when the Canadian goalie, Mike Mahood, knocked over the Malaysian captain while the Muslim was kneeling in thankful prayer. The crowd of 14,000 angry fans hurled bottles and spat on the Canadian squad as it left the field. But now the Canadians are being welcomed back with open arms. The men’s team will participate in the prestígious Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament from April 3 to

11. The all-expenses-paid invitation to the six-nation competition surprised the Canadian side, though coach Shiaz Viijee thinks he knows the reason why: “The Malaysians are interested in seeing our team play—and lose.” After all, bad blood between the two nations’ field hockey organizations started earlier than the Commonwealth Games. In 1996, the Canadian team accused India of deliberately play-

ing to a tie with Malaysia—an outcome that allowed Malaysia to edge out Canada for a coveted berth in the Atlanta Olympic Games. And what is the official reason for inviting the Canadians? As one Malaysian organizer explains: “We have to consider which country can pull in the crowd.” Bring on the goons.


At what point does a family struggling to get by slip into poverty? Surprisingly, Canada does not have an official answer to that question because there is no government-sanctioned poverty line. Instead, Statistics Canada’s “low-income cutoffs”—a relative figure that tallies up

how many more households than the national average spend 20 per cent more of their income on necessities— has long been used as a sort of proxy poverty line. The lack of an accepted statistic has led to bitter arguments over how many Canadians are truly poor. But anti-poverty groups have long resisted calls

for developing an index—fearing the federal and provincial governments would try to define many of the poor out of existence. Now, Human Resources Development Minister Pierre Pettigrew is wading into the emotional

debate. Indeed, he is expected to meet with provincial social services ministers next month to discuss a new gauge of poverty.

On the table is a so-called market basket measure, developed by Pettigrew’s officials. The MBM, which would vary across the country, estimates how

much a family of four would have to spend on rent, food, clothing and other necessities to live decently. According to a preliminary version released to Maclean’s, a family in a big Ontario or B.C. city had to spend at least $25,194 to avoid poverty in 1996. In rural Alberta or Quebec, it was closer to $18,000. The officials

who designed the trial MBM know it may be attacked as arbitrary, but it could shift Canada’s view of poverty to something closer to real life: the cost of groceries, kids’ shoes and keeping the landlord at bay.

EMPORIUM 1. London.......$170.30 According to 2. Hong Kong .... $160.99 Insignia/ESG, an 3. Moscow......$135.62 international 4. Manhattan____$130.49 commercial real 5. Paris.........$107.30 estate company, 6. Edinburgh......$92.99 the most expensive cities in the world for 7. Tokyo..........$90.53 prime office space (in 8. Birmingham, rent per square foot): England........$87.88 Note: of the 44 cities ranked, none were Canadian

GOLDFARB POLL When 1,400 Canadians were given a list of national icons and institutions and asked which helped define Canada, the most popular answer was the Order of Canada. By percentage of adults: Order of Canada 36 The beaver 24 Canadian Football League 23 Health care 21 Maple syrup 19 Beer 17 Hockey cards 16 Celine Dion 13 DATA COLLECTED IN FEBRUARY, 1998 Coldl'arl) Consultants Limited


Alys Robi

At 76, Quebec songbird Alys Robi knows better than most how quickly life can change. As Canada’s first hugely popular recording artist, she went from international stardom in the 1940s

—including radio appearances on the Jack Benny Show—to re ceiving a lobotomy and spending six years in a mental institution. Even now, she remains passionate about her chosen profession. “I cannot live without singing,” says Robi, who lives in Montreal and still performs in Quebec. “This is my soul food.” Robi began singing in talent contests in her native Quebec City at age 4. Poised and with a rivetting voice, she sang in local variety shows and learned how to tap dance while performing onstage with Sammy Davis Jr. when he passed through town. She moved to Montreal when she was 13 and continued performing. In 1942, she began singing on a Toronto radio show that featured Latin American songs, which became her speciality. Robi soon started appearing on network radio programs in New York City, including a number of performances on the Jack Benny Show. “I was always amazed,” says Robi of her success. “But I had the talent to do it.”

Her career reached its pinnacle during the mid-1940s. Robi landed a recording contract with RCA Records and she also worked in England, performing on BBC Radio. She

socialized with Hollywood stars and called Frank Sinatra a friend. But in 1947, her life began to unravel. Exhausted from a hectic schedule, and upset over a broken love affair, Robi suffered a concussion in a car accident near Las Vegas, and returned to Quebec. There, doctors misdiagnosed her emotional breakdown as a mental illness. At 25, she underwent a lobotomy and spent six years in a mental institution. “It was terrible, I felt like life was over,” recalls Robi. After her release in 1953, she began performing again, but with the stigma of her mental illness, could only find work in secondand third-rate Montreal cabarets. Her career never returned to its previous level of success, but she is still performing in theatres across the province. “I was born to be in show business,” says Robi, “from the day of my birth to the day of death.”