May 28 2001



May 28 2001



Colleen Thorpe, Global TVs national correspondent in Quebec for the past five years, was fired nine days after telling her bosses she was expecting twins in August. Thorpe, who already has two children aged 1 and 6, has covered such stories as the ice storm that devastated the province in 1998 and former prime minister Pierre Trudeaus funeral last year. Thorpe, 34, has approached the Canadian

Human Rights Commission about filing a complaint against her bosses.

A high-stakes muddle

Pawel and Beata Sklarzyk and their four children—two born in Canada—faced deportation to Poland over a procedural dispute that included a $50 mistake. In Canada since 1994 on visitors’ visas, the Sklarzyks were denied refugee status in August. The Mississauga, Ont., family applied to stay on humanitarian grounds with a supporting cheque for $1,150. But the required fee

was $1,200. After Immigration and Citizenship Minister Elinor Caplan denied Sklarzyks story—amid accusations of attempted queuejumping—officials conceded receipt of the cheque but said the deportation stands.

Mr. Black, all British

Transatlantic media mogul Conrad Black, in high dudgeon because first the Prime Minister and now jurists of his native land sidelined his bid for a British peerage, is renouncing his Canadian citizenship. It means London

would no longer need Ottawa’s approval to elevate Black, a British citizen since 1999. At that time, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien refused to approve the proffered peerage—a rebuff that cued the satirical press to dub Black “Lord Almost.” The publisher announced his plans after the Ontario Court of Appeal refused to review Chrétiens decision. On another front, Black urged a de-escalation of a newspaper circulation war involving his National Post, which is losing money— recently at a rate of $ 1.75 million a week.

Teen to mark time

After 14 hours of deliberation, a Florida jury convicted 14year-old Nathaniel Brazill of second-degree murder for shooting his English teacher, Barry Grunow, a year ago. Brazill, who had been suspended for throwing a water balloon, returned to his West Palm Beach school with a .25-calibre pistol and shot Grunow in the face. An honour student with no previous criminal record, Brazill must serve a minimum of 25 years to life in prison.

It wasn’t cream pie

Evan Brown has learned the hard way what it’s like to take one in the face. The 24-yearold actor and playwright is serving 30 days in a Charlottetown jail for assaulting Prime Minister Jean Chrétien last August with a cream pie. But last week, another prisoner punched Brown in the face— with his fist. Jail officials placed Brown in isolation for his protection until they complete their investigation into the incident.

FAREWELL TO JESSICA A s the casket-covered in white and draped with pink flowers-was carried through the doors of St. Martha's Catholic Church in Leth bridge, Alta., the hundreds of people who had come to say goodbye to Jessica Koopmans fell silent. The five-year-old vanished from her home on May 4, and people in the city of 70,000 had been desperately searching for her. But all hope was lost a week later when

Wilma Beaudry, a geriatric-nursing assistant, discovered the little girl's naked and bruised body in a brush pile near Fort Macleod, 50 km to the west. Last week, police would not comment on re ports that a 31-year-old man, the boyfriend of a longtime friend of Jessica's mother, Sylvia, is a suspect in the murder. The man, who was ar rested on May 12 on an unrelated charge, is currently being held under the Mental Health Act at Calgary's Peter Lougheed Hospital.

A stay for McVeigh

FBI director Louis Freeh admitted that the bureau made a “serious error” when it didn’t turn over more than 3,000 documents to Timothy McVeigh’s lawyers before his 1997 trial in Denver. McVeigh, who was to be executed on May 16, was convicted of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, in which 168 people died and 500 were injured. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft postponed the execution until June 11, giving McVeigh’s lawyers time to decide whether they will appeal his conviction.

Labour’s Raging Bull

In a TV poll, Britain’s voters awarded hero status to their punch-throwing deputy prime minister, John Prescott, after he brawled with a protester. Prescott, 62, who was campaigning in Wales, punched protester Craig

Evans in the jaw after Evans hit him in the face with an egg. Polls predict a landslide victory for Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour Party on June 7, and the incident appeared to jolt the quiet election campaign to life.

Big-box battles

In the midst of cross-Canada combat among four big-box home improvement centres, Revy Home Centres Inc., based in Surrey, B.C., became the first casualty. Rona Inc. of Boucherville, Que., bought Revy, which markets under the names Revy, Revelstoke and Lansing Buildall. The $220-million deal will create the largest of the big-box

chains. It leaves Europeancontrolled Réno-Dépôt Inc. of Montreal, which operates as the Building Box outside Quebec, as the other major rival to U.S.-owned Home Depot Canada.

A word for the elders

Ontario Human Rights commissioner Keith Norton wants to abolish the province’s mandatory retirement law. At present in Ontario, employers are permitted to require anyone 65 or older to retire. The federal government allows employees to work until they turn 70, while four provinces have eliminated the legal retirement age altogether.


So, is it over? Investors certainly seemed to think so, as North American stocks rallied and analysts argued the bear market was behind them. Economists were more cautious, but Finance Minister Paul Martin—master of the lowered expectation— gave a rosy view of Canadas prospects, even in the face of a sudden rise in inflation.

Buoyed by the U.S. Federal Reserve Boards latest interestrate cut, the Dow Jones industrial average soared past 11,000 for the first time since September. Fed chairman Alan Greenspan and his board brought the key U.S. rate down by half a percentage point for the fifth time this year, to four per cent, and hinted at another cut by June. While the Fed warned that the worst of the current downturn may not be over, the market optimists believi rate earnings would recover by the end of the year.

As for Martin, the Great Hedger said Canadas finances could weather any downturn, and still predicted growth of 2.4 per cent this year. The current surplus of $15 billion would go to paying down the $564-billion national debt, he said, pledging to maintain his planned tax cuts. He shrugged off the sudden spike in inflation, to 3.6 per cent in April. Martin said it was largely due to rising energy prices, rather than economywide. But banks were more pessimistic: some raised longterm mortgage charges, which, unlike short-term rates, reflect the markets’ thoughts about fixture inflation.


Canadian energy producers were delighted. Environmentalists were appalled. Ottawa diplomats were wary. All thanks to U.S. President George W. Bush’s long-awaited energy plan, which called for loosened regulations on oil and gas exploration, new drilling on public lands and more support for nuclear power. The Canadian delight was understandable: Bush singled out Canada and Mexico as key suppliers to an energy-starved United States, and promised to make crossborder business easier. Canada already makes more than $30 billion a year from U.S. energy sales, boosted lately by emergency

power channelled to blackout-plagued California. Bush also said he wanted to speed construction of a long-discussed natural gas pipeline from Alaska via Canada.

Canadian diplomats may have to clear their throats over Bush’s controversial plan to allow energy exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, on the Yukon border, which Ottawa opposes. Political analysts, though, believe the proposal will be slapped down by the U.S. Congress. Bush also promoted energy conservation, pledging help for fuel-efficient vehicles such as gaselectric hybrids. But many environmentalists saw the overall plan as bad news for efforts to fight global warming.