Canada Notes

July 17 2000

Canada Notes

July 17 2000

Canada Notes

Relief in a season of storms

A sudden, intense storm flattened crops throughout the Prairies. Hardest hit was the Saskatchewan farming community of Vanguard, 190 km southwest of Regina, where 333 mm of rain—well over a year’s worth— fell in 10 hours. The torrential rains swamped the water treatment plant and backed up sewers. Emergency officials were so concerned about water supply contamination that they ordered Vanguard’s 200 residents not to drink even boiled water. Instead, fresh water was trucked in.

Three days later, parts of Winnipeg were also under water after severe thunderstorms swept through southern Manitoba.

Minimal damage was reported.

The waters flooded the West the same week that federal Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief and his provincial counterparts signed a $5.5-billion agreement to protect farmers from financial ruin in event of natural disasters or price collapses. It is the first nationwide disaster relief program for farmers. Ottawa will provide $3.3 billion and the provinces $2.2 billion in funding over the next three years. The deal will come into effect this year and will offer a variety of safety-net programs, such as

crop insurance, cash advances, an income stabilization account and income disaster protection.

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Dwain Lingenfelter said the damage in Vanguard would have to be assessed to determine whether the farmers could qualify for the new program. But he added: “This framework will add hope and optimism to the farm community in Saskatchewan.”

Court upholds spanking law

Ontario Superior Court judge David McCombs upheld the so-called spanking law, allowing parents and teachers to continue physically disciplining children. A children’s advocacy group had wanted the court to strike down Section 43 of the Criminal Code, which permits the use of force, but McCombs ruled parents and teachers require reasonable latitude in deciding when force is necessary.

Murder-suicide in Kitchener

One of the worst mass domestic killings in Canadian history occurred in Kitchener, Ont. Four small children were murdered by their father, Bill Luft, 42, who also stabbed his wife to death and shot himself fatally. Authorities said Luft had recently sought help for psychiatric problems.

Dispute over genetic data

Following news that the human genome had been mapped, an official with the Royal & Sun Alliance insurance company said if genetic information becomes available, the firm would use it when assessing client risk. But an official with the Independent Life Insurance Brokers of Canada denounced the idea, saying firms could reject people because of risky DNA sequences.

Police guilty m dog shooting

Two Abbotsford, B.C., police officers involved in an abortive drug raid during a children’s birthday party in which the family dog was shot were convicted under the Police Act. Const. Matthew Sekela was found guilty by the B.C. police complaints commission of two counts of discreditable conduct and Const. David Schmirler of improper use of a firearm during the January, 1999, raid. The commission will decide on disciplinary action this week.

Fighting cnme with DNA

The RCMP unveiled a national DNA data bank that will hold samples from criminals convicted of serious crimes and index samples from scenes of unsolved crimes. The bank, considered the best in the world, is housed in the RCMP complex in Ottawa and cost $10.6 million to set up.

Abortion pill tested

A Vancouver physician has begun testing a controversial Frenchdeveloped birth control pill that can induce abortions up to seven weeks after conception. The purpose of the study, which will eventually involve about 1,000 women, is to compare mifepristone—originally known as RU486—and methotrexate, a drug already available in Canada that also

can induce abortions. Dr. Ellen Wiebe, a Vancouver family practitioner who organized the study, began tests last month. Physicians in Toronto, Quebec City and Sherbrooke were expected to follow suit in the next few weeks. Pro-choice groups hope that if the current trials show it is safe and effective, Ottawa will speed up approval of mifepristone. U.S. regulators were expected to give the drug limited approval later this year.