Canada Notes

August 21 2000

Canada Notes

August 21 2000

Canada Notes

A Quebec deity and the Hells Angels

Revered Quebec singer Ginette Reno, an officer of the Order of Canada, apologized last week for singing at the Aug. 5 wedding reception of René (Baloune) Ouellet-Charlebois, a senior member of the Hells Angels biker gang. The French crime weekly Allô Police had published five pages of stories and photographs focusing on the event, held at the estate of Maurice (Mom) Boucher, reputed to be head of the Angels’ Nomad chapter. Reno initially defended her presence at the reception, saying she sang as a favour to a friend, and that “Jesus hung around with bad people.”

Premiers agree on a health-care position

After two days of heated discussion, Canada’s premiers reached a consensus on health-care renewal, but their accord makes no provision for an expanded federal role and sets no limits on privatization. They were preparing for a critical September meeting with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who is willing to pump billions of dollars into health care, but only if Ottawa is allowed a say in the future direction of the system. The premiers of British Columbia, Saskatchewan and New-

foundland agree to that condition, but others, notably Quebec’s Lucien Bouchard, denounced any attempt to involve Ottawa in what they say is purely a provincial matter.

Meanwhile, the country’s healthcare system continues to show signs of stress. In British Columbia, rural doctors agreed to a temporary truce in their ongoing job action—but only after operating rooms were closed for days in the central and northern parts of the province. And in the Arctic, a shortage of nurses has forced the closure of dozens of hospital beds, and officials have asked people with first aid skills to fill in.

For Joe Clark, if it doesn’t rain, it pours

Even as Conservative leader Joe Clark accepted the nomination for the Sept. 11 byelection in the Nova Scotia riding of Kings-Hants, the fortunes of his party continued to ebb. Nearly a score of backroom Tories in Quebec bolted en masse to the rival Canadian Alliance Party. Then, in a break with normal byelection protocol, Alliance leader Stockwell Day announced he will slip away from his own byelection in British Columbia—the Tories are not running a candidate against him—to campaign against Clark in Kings-Hants.

Lobster standoff

The Mi’kmaq band that sparked last year’s lobster battle on the East Coast is once again refusing to knuckle under to federal fisheries authorities. The 1,000-member Burnt Church reserve in northeastern New Brunswick voted overwhelmingly to set its own limits on lobster catches. All but a few of the 34 Mi’kmaq and Maliseet reserves in Atlantic Canada have signed fishing plans or agreements with Ottawa for financial assistance—including new boats—and additional licences.

Bad burgers

One of Alberta’s largest meat packers recalled 65,000 kilograms of ground beef after a sample was found to contain the same strain of E. coli bacteria that killed six people in Walkerton, Ont. No illnesses were linked to the hamburger. It was the second large E. cö/z-related recall in seven weeks for Lakeside Packers. Meanwhile, the National Research Council intends to test a potential vaccine on cattle, to kill the infection at its primary source.

More costly water

The Ontario government has introduced tough new standards for the treatment of municipal drinking water. But the changes are also expected to pass along higher costs to consumers. With fines as high as $2 million, the long-promised rules follow the contaminated water scandal in Walkerton, now the subject of a judicial inquiry.

Big Tobacco wins again

Ontario’s attempt to sue the large North American tobacco companies for $60 billion for smoking-related health costs has been tossed out by a U.S. judge in Washington, D.C. Last month, a different judge rejected Ottawa’s attempt to sue RJR-Macdonald Inc. for $ 1 billion in American courts.

Anglican layoffs

The national arm of the Anglican Church of Canada will begin laying off staff, and cutting national programs, as legal bills pile up from 1,600 allegations of abuse at church-run residential schools for natives. The church may also apply for bankruptcy protection.