Canada Notes

July 1 1999

Canada Notes

July 1 1999

Canada Notes


Insights into the brain of a mental giant

Size matters—at least as far as renowned German-born physicist Albert Einstein’s brain may be concerned. In the June 19 issue of the British medical journal The Lancet, a team of researchers headed by Sandra Witelson, a neuroscientist at Hamilton’s McMaster University, said that the parietal lobes—thought to be related to mathematical reasoning—in Einstein’s brain were 15 per cent wider than normal. (Witelson’s team also found that, contrary to other brains, Einstein’s parietal lobes were not divided.) Einstein’s brain was removed from his body after his death at Princeton University in 1955 and kept for more than 40 years by pathologist Thomas Harvey, who

refused requests by U.S. government officials to turn the brain over to them. In 1995, Harvey transported the brain by car to Canada for study at McMaster.

A disappointment for Marin

Stand down—that was the message given by Defense Minister Art Eggleton to André Marin last week as he finally announced the mandate for the new military ombudsman’s office. Marin received much weaker powers than he originally asked for. Last December, he told Macleans that his office must have the ability “to independendy collect our facts firsthand” when investigating complaints, and Eggleton promised there would be “no restrictions” on what Marin could look into. A month later, Marin delivered his recommendations to Eggleton, asking for investigative powers that bypassed the military

command structure, including the right to investigate any matter he deemed fit and to lay sanctions against anyone lying to or obstructing the work of his investigators.

But last week, Eggleton gave much softer directives. Among other things, Marin is barred from investigating many aspects of the much-maligned military justice system. And the minister also said the aim of the office was to deal only with current complaints—those lodged since June 15, 1998, when Marin’s office was created. As a result, Marin will have to drop many of the 350 backlogged cases before him.

Svend Robinson lashes out

The controversy surrounding New Democrat Svend Robinson deepened with the release of a letter written by the British Columbia MP to the party’s president criticizing leader Alexa McDonough. On June 9, McDonough relegated Robinson to the backbenches after he presented a petition in the House asking that a reference to God be deleted from the Constitution. In his letter, Robinson fought back, saying that “Alexa and the federal caucus have made a major political blunder in their totally inept handling of this matter.”

‘Lord’ Black blocked

Ottawa put the brakes on Britain’s plan to elevate Canadian-born newspaper magnate Conrad Black to the House of Lords. An Ottawa spokesman said the government needed time to check whether the appointment breaks a 1919 ban on Canadians accepting foreign titles. Black, who owns London’s Daily Telegraph as well as Canada’s Southam chain and the National Post, holds both Canadian and British citizenship. He insisted the rule did not apply to his situation.

Abuse and liability

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that organizations can be held liable for sexual abuse committed by their employees or volunteers. Native leaders cheered the ruling, saying it clearly makes Ottawa and the churches that ran the troubled residential school system financially responsible for the abuse that occurred within those institutions.

The youngest offender

Adam Laboucan, 17, of Quesnel, B.C., was declared a dangerous offender—Canada’s youngest. Laboucan, who pleaded guilty to the violent sexual assault of a three-monthold boy he was babysitting, also confessed to the murder of a three-year-old boy and has chewed his own flesh while in detention.

Fuelling a debate

Researchers headed by University of Toronto epidemiologist Lois Green found that children who were exposed to high levels of electromagnetic radiation from power lines appeared to have a higher risk of developing leukemia. The team studied more than 600 children over six years. The issue has stirred strong scientific debate for two decades.

A compensation deal

Details of the $1.1-billion federal-provincial compensation package for people infected with hepatitis C through tainted blood were released in Ontario Superior Court. There will be five levels of claimants, depending on the disease s severity, with a minimum payment of $10,000. The package must be approved by courts in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, and excludes those who contracted the disease before 1986 or after July 1,1990.