Canada Notes

January 17 2000

Canada Notes

January 17 2000

Canada Notes

A new wave of Chinese migrants

The container ship California Jupiter was supposed to have docked in Seattle. But authorities diverted it to Vancouver, claiming the port was full. There, Canadian officials uncovered an illicit cargo: 25 Chinese stowaways. But U.S. authorities also had their hands full. In Seattle, they apprehended another 26 container stowaways; in Long Beach, Calif., 18 more were taken into custody. Those detentions early last week brought renewed attention to the problem of people smuggling—and highlighted the differences between Canadian and U.S. policies. The United States may deport the new arrivals within weeks if it rejects their asylum claims. In Canada, requests for refugee status are only the beginning of a long claims process.

Of the nearly 600 smuggled Chinese

who arrived off British Columbia last summer, two have filed successful refugee claims, 74 have been rejected, four have withdrawn their claims and some 450 are still being processed. No one has yet been deported (reportedly, some are now claiming they are members of the persecuted Falun Gong sect). In fact, 67 have disappeared—probably to the United States. Police say that was the destination of 10 Chinese girls aged 14 to 18 who were apprehended last week near Wallaceburg, Ont., close to Detroit. Authorities charged a mother and son from the nearby Walpole Island First Nation reserve with smuggling offences.

Manning puts his leadership on the line

Reform party Leader Preston Manning says that if the concept of a United Alternative is voted down in a party referendum this spring, he will call a leadership convention and will not run. In a letter to 65,000 supporters, Manning wrote that if Reformers vote against the UA—a proposed national party, including disaffected Conservatives—and express “a desire to simply consolidate our current base in the West, I would not be interested in or able to lead such a retreat.” The letter was sent three weeks before the party’s convention in Ottawa.

Copps’s hot seat

Heritage Minister Sheila Copps and her husband Austin Thorne found themselves embroiled in a controversy over seating arrangements on an Air Transat flight from St. John’s, Nfld., to Toronto. The mix-up occurred when the airline double-booked the places to Copps—she and her husband had upgraded—and to a wheelchair-bound customer. According to some witnesses

and a post-flight report, Copps and her husband became abusive when asked to change back to economy class. But others said Copps and her husband had acted properly. The minister issued a statement refuting allegations she had refused to vacate her seat for a disabled person. “If we had been told about it, we would have immediately offered to give up our seats,” she said. Air Transat apologized, saying Copps had been in her rightful seat.

Sentencing a killer

It was, at long last, an end of sorts to a case that has haunted the country for three decades. Last week, Larry Fisher was sentenced to life in prison for the 1969 sex slaying of Saskatoon nursing aide Gail Miller. But the event reopened old wounds. Because Fisher was sentenced under the Criminal Code in place in 1969, he could be released on parole in 10 years or less (under current law, people convicted of first-degree murder cannot get parole before serving 25 years, although they can apply for a judicial review after 15 years).

That was a galling prospect for lawyer Hersh Wolch, who represents the man who was wrongly convicted in 1970 of Miller’s murder. David Milgaard, 47, spent 23 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Wolch noted. “The idea of the guy who did it getting less than David is a ridiculous concept.” To date, Fisher, 50, has spent 23 years in prison— but for seven rapes. A jury in Yorkton, Sask., convicted him of Miller’s murder last November after hearing expert testimony that DNA taken from semen found on Miller’s clothing matched Fisher’s. His lawyer said Fisher now intends to appeal the conviction.

A daughter in court

Alberta’s Premier Ralph Klein has always guarded his privacy. But last week the premier’s personal life came under scrutiny when his second child from his first marriage, Angie Klein-Marcia, 34, briefly appeared in court to face charges of obstruction of justice and public mischief. They stem from the fact that Klein-Marcia made an assault complaint several months ago against her husband, 37-year-old Richard Marcia—and then changed her story.

She is scheduled to return to court on Jan. 28 to enter a plea. Because of its high profile, the case has been handed to the special prosecutions branch; Klein has not commented, saying through a spokesman that “he considers this a family matter.” But it has focused attention on troubles in the Klein clan. The premier himself officiated at his daughter’s 1997 wedding—but the groom is now under investigation for bigamy. Marcia also has a history of assaulting Klein-Marcia, and is currently in prison for theft.

Child prostitution

Residents of Saskatchewan were shocked when social workers told an all-party committee that children as young as 7 or 8 were working as prostitutes in the province’s cities. The number of children under 18 selling sex, most of them aboriginals, could be in the hundreds in both Regina and Saskatoon, some experts said. Regina police spokesmen agreed child prostitution did exist, but said social workers had vastly inflated the numbers.

Taber trial on hold

Court proceedings against a Taber, Alta., boy charged with shooting one student to death and wounding another at his high school last April were adjourned until April 5 for medical reasons. The 15-year-old accused has suffered brain damage as a result of a stroke last November, which was brought on by complications following heart surgery for a birth defect.

Nashin suit to proceed

The Superior Court of Ontario ruled that the $27.5-million lawsuit filed against Alexei Yashin of the Ottawa Senators on behalf of season-ticket holders may proceed. Yashin, who was to make almost $5.3 million this year but is demanding more than $12 million, has refused to honour his contract and is currendy in Switzerland.

Hitting a wrong note

Canada Customs officials at Niagara Falls, Ont., refused to let a piano owned by a Belgian pianist into the country because it has ivory keys. The 173-year-old instrument was to be used by Tom Beghin, a Los Angeles university professor, during a Toronto recording session. Ffe had to leave the piano, which customs officers said contravened a ban on the unlicensed export of ivory, in a motel room.

The fight against tobacco

According to reports last week, Ottawa is preparing to force tobacco companies to feature more graphic warnings, such as photos of cancerous lungs, on cigarette packages. Health Minister Allan Rock is expected to announce the measure this month.