Canada

Canada Notes

January 1 2000
Canada

Canada Notes

January 1 2000

Canada Notes

Canada

A surgeon resigns

Renowned heart surgeon Dr. Wilbert Keon resigned as chief of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. In a statement, Keon said he had been caught in “a compromising situation” during the evening of Nov. 25 when, while driving home, he had talked to an undercover policewoman posing as a prostitute. Keon, also a Conservative senator, was not charged with an offence. But he said he had agreed to participate in “john school,” a program dealing with the effects of prostitution.

National ‘disgrace’

According to a military board of inquiry, the Canadian Forces’ treatment of soldiers who complained of a variety of ailments after serving in Croatia was “a disgrace.” Col. Joe Sharpe, who headed the inquiry, concluded: “We don’t take as good care of our soldiers as we do of our airplanes.” The military often dismissed soldiers’ complaints of such disorders as blurred vision, sleeplessness and jaundice. But while Sharpe acknowledged that no reason for those ailments has yet been discovered, troops “went over healthy and came back sick. Canada has an obligation to provide for their support.”

Money for the homeless

Labour Minister Claudette Bradshaw, who is also the federal co-ordinator on homelessness, promised $753 million over three years to help the homeless. The funding is part of a program called the Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative, which also involves provincial and municipal governments. Bradshaw made the announcement in Toronto, where the homelessness problem is particularly acute.

Clearing a police chief

An RCMP investigation cleared Edmonton police Chief John Lindsay of allegations that he had improperly handled reports of police links to biker gangs and organized crime. Edmonton police detectives Ken Montgomery and Ron Robertson had both claimed Lindsay ignored evidence that senior members of the force had leaked information to criminals and derailed investigations. Last week, they said they do not accept the RCMP’s findings.

The referendum battle heats up

It was a week of duelling legislation between Ottawa and Quebec City. First, the federal Liberals introduced their much-anticipated bill setting out terms for a Quebec sovereignty referendum. Premier Lucien Bouchard declared that the initiative, under which the federal government would only negotiate sovereignty with Quebec if there was a clear referendum question and a clear majority, trampled the “fundamental rights” of his province. Bouchard vowed to introduce legislation of his own—and did so later in the week when the Parti Québécois tabled its “self-determination bill.”

That legislation said “the Quebec people alone have the right to decide the political regime and legal status of Quebec.” According to the PQ bill, a referendum majority of 50 per cent plus one—the federal legislation failed to define the concept of clear majority—would be enough for a sovereigntist victory. “I invite you to show your support so that all together we can, with a single voice, tell Ottawa that we alone can determine our future,” the premier said in a televised speech.

If Bouchard was hoping for unanimity in the national assembly, it was not to be. Jean Charest said his opposition Liberals would not support the PQ’s legislation. Charest complained

that the initiative failed to commit the Quebec government to a clear referendum question (Bouchard later said he would be willing to amend the bill in that regard). And Charest took aim at both Ottawa and Quebec: “We are witnessing a new maxim of politics: eye for eye, law for law.”

In Ottawa, the federal government also faced condemnation—and not just from the Bloc Québécois. Conservative Leader Joe Clark declared his opposition to the federal bill, saying it could “lead Quebec and the rest of Canada into a confrontation from which there would be no way out.” Others within his party disagreed: deputy leader Elsie Wayne supported the hard line, and called for a free vote among Tory MPs.

A good place to be

The majority of Quebecers think Canada is a fine place. That, at least, was the finding of a millennium-issue poll done for LActualité, Macleans sister publication in Quebec, by the Montreal-based polling firm CROP Inc. According to the results, 67 per cent of Quebecers said Canada was the best country in the world. That response was lower than the findings outside of Quebec, where fully 82 per cent of respondents gave the country an enthu-

siastic thumbs-up. But Quebecers lagged behind the rest of the country in other respects as well.

For example, 79 per cent of respondents outside of Quebec were optimistic about their financial future, compared with 72 per cent of Quebecers. Respondents in that province also appeared to be more pessimistic about possible improvements in their quality of life over the next decade: only 54 per cent thought things would get better, compared with 61 per cent of other Canadians.