Canada Notes

February 21 2000

Canada Notes

February 21 2000

Canada Notes


A shocking schoolyard shooting in Toronto

One day after three teenage boys were shot and wounded at a Toronto high school, police laid attempted-murder charges against one of the victims— a 17-year-old who was shot in the elbow. The students were leaving Emery Collegiate Institute at 3:30 p.m. when the shooting erupted in the parking lot. Police studied a surveillance video of the area and were still looking for another suspect with a gun. They stressed the incident was not a random shooting, but appeared to be the result of a previous dispute involving two of the victims.

The gloves come off in the House

A blizzard of accusations and countercharges flew in the House of Commons as the storm over the Liberal governments cavalier dispersal of over $ 1 billion in grants moved from a media crossfire to the House of Commons. In some of the most boisterous sessions of this Parliament, opposition MPs demanded the resignation of Human Resources Minister Jane Stewart, whose department—according to an internal audit—handed out the federal funds with little or no supervision. A feisty Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said neither Stewart nor anyone else would resign over the spending controversy. And he batted away suggestions that the Liberals used programs in the human resources department as a political slush fund. Time after time, Chrétien and the beleaguered Stewart pointed out that the Human Resources money was spent in ridings across the

country, regardless of political stripe.

But the opposition persisted with its attacks and managed to turn up more embarrassing revelations. Reform party research showed the Liberals increased their job-creation spending just before the 1997 federal election. And in a bruising three-hour committee hearing, Stewart was unable to explain why the NDPs Libby Davies could not get job-creation grants for her economically troubled Vancouver East riding, despite its high unemployment levels, while $640,000 in grants went into the ministers relatively prosperous Ontario riding of Brant last fall. A clearly exhausted Stewart was forced to rely on her scripted material for the week: that the departments “administrative practices need to be improved,” and that she was implementing a six-point action plan to improve its accounting procedures. Meanwhile, Auditor General Denis Desautels said the fiasco demonstrated “procedural and management problems” that would not have been avoided by better accounting.

Hama in the clear

Against the recommendations of police, prosecutors in British Columbia decided not to lay charges against Nadia Hama, whose 18-month-old handicapped daughter, Kaya, fell from her arms off the Capilano Suspension Bridge last September and miraculously survived a 45-m drop. Hama, who said the incident was an accident, added, “the truth speaks for itself.”

No go for Harris

Ontario Premier Mike Harris categorically ruled out a run for the leadership of the new Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance. Countering ongoing efforts to draff him as a potential candidate, Harris said: “I am ruling that out, and I have ruled that out, and have made that very clear.”

Nursing exodus

According to a study commissioned by the Canadian Nurses Association, one in three nurses are either getting out of the profession or moving to the United States within three years of graduation. Contributing to the exodus are poor working conditions, low wages and a shortage of full-time work. Association president Lynda Kurshnir Pekrul said “the availability of quality nursing care in Canada is seriously threatened.”

Hate crimes on the rise

According to the annual report by the League for Human Rights of B’Nai Brith, anti-Semitic incidents in Canada rose by 11 per cent in 1999, up to 267 from 240. B’Nai Brith spokesmen said those numbers may represent only 10 per cent of all hate crimes because many anti-Semitic incidents go unreported.

Hitler limo not for sale

The Canadian War Museum said it will not sell an armoured Mercedes limousine in its collection that once belonged to Adolf Hitler. Museum director Jack Granatstein had mused that auctioning off the vehicle would be one way to raise badly needed funds for the institution, but acknowledged that the limo could be a powerful symbol if it fell into the hands of neo-Nazis.

Parizeau wades in

Former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau stepped back into the referendum debate, declaring before an allparty committee of the national assembly: “We need to give the power back to Quebec.” The committee is studying the Quebec government’s counter-legislation to the federal government’s socalled clarity bill, which would define the rules of secession. “With Bill 99, we have a way to tell Ottawa they can’t treat us any way they want,” said Parizeau, who also took issue with Premier Lucien Bouchard’s assertion that the timing might not be right to hold another referendum in the remaining three years of the government’s current mandate. But the Bouchard position got a boost from Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe, who mused last week that separatists would likely lose a referendum now.

Pocket money

The recent fund-raising campaign mounted by the Toronto Police Association was controversial—and a bust monetarily, at least for the police. Details of the 32-day fund-raiser, revealed last week, showed that 80 cents out of every dollar collected went to telemarketing firm Xentel DM Inc.—leaving a grand total of $16,364 for the police and $65,456 for Xentel. The fund-raising drive, called Operation True Blue,

solicited donations for, among other things, targeting politicians the union deemed unfriendly to the police. People who opened their pocketbooks received car decals proclaiming the amount they gave to the campaign. Subsequent public outrage, not to mention a new bylaw banning the campaign, led Craig Bromell, the tough-talking president of the police union, to back down.

Military report card

A committee created to monitor reforms in the Canadian military released its final report last week, which stated that changes were proceeding well. Headed by former Commons Speaker John Fraser, the committee

was formed in 1997 to keep tabs on the implementation of recommendations that came out of the Somalia inquiry. Fraser said the military had changed enough that he is confident that events such as the one in Somalia, where Canadian soldiers tortured a prisoner to death in 1993, could never happen again. The biggest challenge, said Fraser, was taking the old military virtues of courage, duty and service, and adding new elements, such as responsibility, accountability and transparency. The committee did find the military deficient in two areas: the lack of education for officers and the unclear role of reserves. Fraser has been retained to continue monitoring progress in these two areas.

CBC downsizes

As part of a continuing effort to accommodate a $26-million budgetary shortfall, the CBC announced that it is letting go of 173 employees. The majority of the positions—145 in TV and 28 in radio—are at the English broadcast centre in Toronto. Harold Redekopp, vice-president of English-language television, called it the first step in CBCTV’s long-term transformation plan. “It’s sad to see talented employees leave,” he said, “but we have little choice but to take this step if we want to ensure the future viability of CBC television.” Redekopp confirmed that there will be future cuts to the workforce.