Overture The Week That Was

Overture The Week That Was

October 22 2001
Overture The Week That Was

Overture The Week That Was

October 22 2001

Overture The Week That Was

Palestinian police killed two Arab demonstrators in the Gaza Strip in an attempt to quell growing protests against the bombing of Afghanistan. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has declared his support for the American-led attack on international terrorism, but militant Palestinians, some belonging to the terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, staged massive demonstrations that threatened to undermine his leadership. Arafat, under intense American pressure to arrest suspected terrorists in Palestinian-controlled areas, is walking a tightrope: he must distance himself from terrorism while keeping alive the Palestinian cause in the face of growing violence from Arab radicals who vow never to accept peace with Israel. “There is an internal struggle,” said Azmi Bishara, an Arab member of the Israeli parliament, “over who is the law among the Palestinians.”

Arafat’s desperate struggle

As protests against the bombing continued, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met with two senior Arafat aides in Jerusalem in an attempt to enforce the ceasefire both sides agreed to on Sept. 26. President George W. Bush has attempted to help Arafat by calling for a new round of peace negotiations and reiterating his support for a Palestinian state. But Israel’s hardline Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has added to the uncertainty surrounding the Palestinian leader by refusing to restart full peace talks until all violence against Israel stopssomething that is increasingly beyond Arafat’s control.

Hate does not pay

Prosecutors had asked for only a two-or three-month jail term for a Moncton, N.B., youth who burned a gasoline-soaked cross on a black family’s lawn in July. Instead, an angry provincial court Judge Sylvio Savoie sentenced James Hanley, 19, to four months in jail, to be followed by two years of probation, a curfew and racial sensitivity training. During his trial for wilfully promoting hatred, Hanley argued that the cross burning was just a prank that had been blown out of proportion by the media. Savoie flady rejected the argument, saying that to a black person, burning crosses means only one thing: the hatred and violence of the Ku Klux Klan. “This crime,” the judge added, “offends the very fabric of our Canadian society.”

Embassy gunman

A 31-year-old man jumped over a fence surrounding the Canadian Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, held the staff hostage and threatened to kill himself unless he was granted asylum in Canada. Embassy guards negotiated with him until he surrendered. Police said the gunman was an employee of state-owned Serbian Radioand-Television.

Throwing out an 'emotional’ case

An Ontario Superior Court judge denied certification of a $2.3billion class-action lawsuit that would have allowed First Nations people to sue a church group and the federal government. Justice Roland Haines of London, Ont., said he saw some merit in some of the individual claims filed on behalf of 800 children who attended the Mohawk Residential School in Brantford, Ont., between 1920 and 1970, and 10,000 of their relatives. The judge ruled, however, they had “failed to establish there is an identifiable class and have failed to demonstrate their claims raise common issues.”

The plaintiffs—who were seeking to sue an Anglican missionary group and Canada’s attorney generalalleged they were subjected to a “sustained, systematic program of physical, emotional, spiritual and cultural abuse” at the school. But Haines noted that many of the alleged common elements in the claim are “moving targets” because attitudes, education, discipline, nutrition and health standards have all changed over the years.

Many groups across Canada awaited the precedent-setting decision because it could affect similar suits filed against the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and United churches. They have been lobbying the federal government to initiate out-of-court compensation for residential school students who were victims of abuse because the court proceedings are bankrupting the churches and haven’t helped the former students much. A lawyer for the plaintiffs said his clients are considering an appeal.

Kursk raised

The twisted hulk of the Kursk, the Russian submarine that sank on Aug. 12,2000, taking its 118-man crew to the bottom of the Barents Sea, was slowly raised to the surface and hauled gingerly to dry dock in Murmansk. Throughout the salvage operation, technicians also monitored the Kursk’s two 190-megawatt nuclear reactors and missile arsenal for radiation leaks, but found none. Shordy after the sinking, Norwegian divers recovered 12 bodies. They also found letters indicating that at least 23 crew members survived for several hours in compartments in the stern. Russian officials say they hope to find a further 30 to 40 bodies; remains of the others were likely vaporized by the powerful explosions that sank the sub.

Clark’s day in court

The trial of Glen Clark for breach of public trust and accepting a benefit got under way with the former B.C. premier electing to be tried by judge alone. Clark, NDP premier from 1996 to 1999, was charged after his friend and neighbour Dimitrios Pilarinos helped build decks on Clarks Vancouver home and his cottage in Penticton, B.C. Pilarinos was later awarded approval in principle for a casino licence. Police searched Clarks house in March, 1999; he resigned over the allegations five months later.

Iris on the rampage

Packing winds of 230 km/h, hurricane Iris swept across southern Belize. The storm wiped out entire villages, leaving 13,000 homeless, and destroyed banana crops, the mainstay of the country’s economy. Twenty-one people died when the Wave Dancer, a U.S. boat with 28 passengers and crew aboard, was overturned while moored in a relatively protected port 130 km south of Belize City.

Hunter hunted

And down (south) goes another one. Natural gas producer Canadian Hunter Exploration Ltd. of Calgary became the latest Canadian-owned energy firm to be sold to a U.S. buyer. Chairman and founder Jim Gray, a longtime Canadian nationalist, agreed to a $3.3billion cash offer from Houston-based Burlington Resources Inc., North America’s biggest natural gas firm. The deal follows the recent acquisitions by American firms of Canadian-owned Westcoast Energy Inc., Anderson Exploration Ltd. and Gulf Canada Resources Ltd. for a total of more than $20 billion.

Troubled printer

Quebecor World Inc. said it would lay off about 2,400 of its 40,000 employees and close seven of 160 printing plants worldwide due to the U.S. economic slowdown. The company, which also issued a profit warning, has long been seen as the stable earner among properties owned by Montreal-based Quebecor Inc. The parent company has suffered from shrinking revenues at its newspaper holdings, including the tabloid Sun Media group, and took on heavy debt to buy Quebec’s Groupe Vidéotron Ltée cable system.

Bjossa makes her final curtain call

Staff at the Vancouver Aquarium cried when they learned Bjossa, the beloved killer whale, had died following a long illness. The 25-year-old orea had entertained thousands at the aquarium since her capture in 1980, but since 1997 she had been the only killer whale at the facility. To ease her loneliness, officials shipped Bjossa last April to SeaWorld in San Diego, where she died.

Pink slips and jazzy purple tails

Air Canada is launching a brandnew discount carrier, with white and purple airplanes and the jazzy name of Tango-at the same time that it grapples with its unions to slash jobs. New cuts-1,280 pink slips last week on top of 12,500 layoffs announced since last December-were nullified the next day by the Canadian Industrial Relations Board. The latest round was deemed a clear contravention of one of Air Canada’s collective agreements, which promised no more layoffs before 2004. The airline, which was in rough shape before Sept. 11, is now reeling from the steep drop in passenger travel since the U.S. terror attacks. President and CEO Robert Milton anticipates the carrier will lose “billions” of revenue dollars over the next 15 months. In addition to its efforts to slash labour costs, the company will shave capacity by 20 per cent in a bid to send planes

down the runway with fewer empty seats. The cut-rate Tango, with prices well below Air Canada’s full fares (Toronto to Vancouver on Tango: $398 return), is set to take off on Nov. 1. It will fly to Canada’s major cities and, later this year, to tourist destinations in Rorida. A second discount carrier, which may carry the brand name Zip, is also in the works for short hauls in Western Canada to challenge rival WestJet. That is, if it gets off the ground. Some analysts predict Air Canada could run out of cash next year.

Montcalm joins his soldiers at last

For 242 years, the gravesite of Louis-Joseph Marquis de Montcalm lay within the isolated confines of a Quebec City convent. But now, the lieutenant-general has been reunited with the men he led in the most pivotal battle in Canada’s history. On Sept. 13,1759, Montcalm was wounded in the losing struggle with the British under Gen. James Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham. He died the next day. Last week, Montcalm’s casket, covered with a whiteand-gold Fleur de lis, was borne on a carriage drawn by four horses through historic Old Quebec. The two-block-long procession was accompanied by a military honour guard in period uniforms and carrying regimental flags for each of the units Montcalm had commanded. The remains-described as only a skull and leg bone-were placed in a grey stone crypt in a small cemetery in the Lower Town.

The ceremony drew hundreds of dignitaries, historians and even some of Montcalm’s descendants. Among them were Guy Bertrand Marquis de Montcalm and his wife, who flew from France for the occasion. “We're enchanted and proud to come and commemorate this,” he said. “But what's extraordinary is that we're commemorating the memory of a loser. It was Wolfe who won. I think we should do the same for him.” Wolfe, who died on the battlefield, is buried in Greenwich, England.

Montcalm, who was born in Candiac, France, in 1712, joined the army at age 9. In 1756, he was named commander of the French troops in North America, and in 1758 was appointed lieutenantgeneral, the second-highest rank in the French army. By then, France and Britain were embroiled in what became known as the Seven Years’ War. After an initial string of losses in the New World, the tide turned for the British. A series of errors by the French enabled Wolfe to scale the banks of the St. Lawrence River and land some 4,500 British troops on the Plains of Abraham. Montcalm rushed his men into battle-and the rest, as they say, is history.