The Week That Was

The Week That Was

May 6 2002
The Week That Was

The Week That Was

May 6 2002

The Week That Was

No ‘place’ for abuse—or for zero tolerance

Roman Catholic cardinals from the United States gathered in Rome, summoned by Pope John Paul II for talks about the sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Church in the United States. The Pope began the two-day meeting with a strong condemnation of child sexual abuse, saying “there is no place in the priesthood and

religious life for those who would harm the young.” But the Pope also implied that priests guilty of abuse might deserve a second chanceleading to fears that the discussions might not lead to the tough policies some critics were hoping for.

In fact, when the talks ended, the cardinals did not recommend a zero tolerance policy. Instead, the final

document said the Church should establish a process for defrocking “a priest who has become guilty of the serial, predatory sexual abuse of minors.”

In other cases considered less serious, local bishops would be left to determine whether a priest should be dismissed. Some critics said even discussing the issue of abuse was a huge step forward.

But others had clearly expected more. “The Pope is saying priests can stay priests until they’re proved to have abused a string of innocent children,” said John Kelly, who leads the 800-member group called Irish Survivors of Child Abuse. “The safety of children is still taking a back seat to the good standing of a priest."

A week after hoisting the ceremonial mace, the symbol of parliamentary authority, over his head to protest Liberal dominance of the House of Commons, the Canadian Alliance’s Keith Martin apologized to MPs and retook his seat in the House. On April 23, parliamentarians voted 173-49 to suspend him for what he admitted was a premeditated act of civil disobedience. Martin, whose punishment lasted one day,

lifted the mace-which according to tradition is not to be touched by anyone except the sergeant-atarms-after the Liberals quashed his private member’s bill to decriminalize marijuana. “Parliament,” he said at the time, “is now a dictatorship and MPs have their hands and legs bound together."

Another murder-suicide

For the second time in seven months Montrealers faced the grim news

that a father had killed his family and then taken his own life. According to police, Martin Brossard, 33, a newspaper distributor, killed his wife, Liliane Demontigny, and then his two children, Claudia, 4, and 18-month-old Béatrice, before hanging himself in the living room of his family’s new home in the suburb of Longueuil.The couple separated last fall, but neighbours said Brossard maintained a strong presence in the home. Last

September, John Bauer killed his wife, three sons, boss and fatherin-law before shooting himself in his West Island home.

Conflicting accounts

The Canadian Alliance accused Heritage Minister Sheila Copps of being in a conflict of interest after Peter Soumalias, the wealthy chairman of a non-profit organization that received money from her department, signed on as her chief fundraiser in

The Week That Was

the undeclared Liberal leadership race. Soumalias, head of the Toronto Walk of Fame, announced that he plans to raise up to $7 million for Copps’s eventual campaign when Jean Chrétien steps down. The Walk of Fame, which honours Canadian entertainment and sports celebrities, has received $1 million from the Heritage department since 1999.

The accusations elicited an angry response from Chrétien, who said there had been no wrongdoing and that Soumalias gained no financial benefit from the federal grant awarded to his organization.

Now you C-42 it...

The Liberal government is planning to drop its controversial anti-terrorism bill and replace it with a watereddown version that does not include many of the broad powers the government sought in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Bill C-42 was criticized because it would have allowed the government to create new regulations without asking Parliament, and given the minister of defence the power to designate any part of the country a military security zone without a province's consent.The government did, however, enact Bill C-36 in December, which will give new powers of investigation and detention to law-enforcement authorities.

Argentina in crisis

In a bid to halt the further collapse of Argentina’s currency, President Eduardo Duhalde may again peg the peso to the U.S. dollar. The peso has lost 70 per cent of Its value since It was decoupled from the greenback In January at the urging of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund. As the peso collapsed in value, riots flared In the country and bank machines ran dry, leaving thousands of Argentinians without any means of purchasing food and other supplies.

Homesick for Texas

One of George W. Bush’s top advisers resigned her post to move back to Texas. Karen Hughes, called the most powerful woman everto serve as a White House adviser, chalked up her sudden announcement to homesickness and a desire to spend more time with her 15-year-old son Robert and husband Jerry, 63. Hughes, 45, who was responsible for cultivating the president’s public image and oversaw communications, speech writing and media affairs at the White House, helped Bush launch his political career during his campaign to become Texas governor in 1994. She attended every important meeting and would often rewrite the President’s public statements.

Bitter medicine

B.C.’s Liberal government announced health-care cuts “to fix the system,” according to Health Services Minister Colin Hansen. Three rural hospitals will close, hundreds of beds will disappear, while thousands of health-care workers will lose their jobs over the next three years. Among other changes: some emergency wards will be staffed only by nurses at night; a number of residential-care facilities for seniors will close as the government places new emphasis on assisted living in the community; and the government will begin charging for some services. Critics said the reforms marked the beginning of the privatization of B.C. health care.

Mideast negotiations

As Israeli soldiers continued to search for suspected terrorists in Palestinian towns across the West Bank, UN investigators were preparing to travel to the Jenin refugee camp to begin a fact-finding mission. Palestinians claim that hundreds of civilians died during eight days of fighting there. After a series of meetings and an Israeli bid to postpone the visit, the UN team was expected to arrive on the weekend. Meanwhile, negotiations continued at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, built over what Is believed to be the site of Christ’s birth, where more than 200 Palestinians, including about 30 militiamen, have been trapped by Israeli forces since April 2.

Dishing it out

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that unlicenced satellite signal providers breach the Radiocommunication Act, which outlaws the unauthorized decoding of encrypted television signals.The decision could mean hefty fines for those who provide subscribers unauthorized satellite TV from U.S. or other foreign sources. The court left it open for those so-called grey market providers to challenge the federal law under the Charter.

High school horror

A 19-year-old student who had been expelled several weeks ago went on a shooting rampage in his former school in Erfurt in eastern Germany, killing at least 18 people and wounding some six others. According to police, most of those who died were teachers, but at least two youths were killed in the attack. Also dead was a policeman who had been among the first to charge into the building after authorities received a call for help from a school janitor. Witnesses said the student, who killed himself as police commandos finally closed in on him,

had a handgun and shotgun and was dressed entirely in black as he roamed the corridors looking for victims. “I heard shooting and thought it was a joke," said one tearful 13-year-old. “But then I saw a teacher dead in the hallway.”

A ‘thunderbolt’ from the extreme right

iven the French tradition of indulging in protest ballots during the first round of presidential elections, some degree of strangeness was expected. But the outcome shocked the nation. Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, widely expected to emerge from the April 21 balloting as the contender in the final round runoff against right-wing President Jacques Chirac, was swept from the fray-by extreme-right, ultra-nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen. Le Pen won 16.7 per cent of the vote, only three percentage points behind Chirac’s 19.9, edging out Jospin (at 16.2 per cent) in a result that the prime minister called a “thunderbolt" as he announced his resignation from politics.

In the wake of the upset, the focus turned to explanations. The conflict in the Middle East, and the rise of anti-Israeli sentiment and outright anti-semitism in France, was touted as one reason

for Le Pen’s success (the leader of the National Front once dismissed Nazi death camps as “a detail in the history of the Second World War”). Fear of crime and social chaos may also have been a factor. According to one poll,

74 per cent of Le Pen’s supporters in the election voted for him because of “insecurity” (Le Pen, 73, has promised to end immigration, much of it Arab, and crack down on crime).

Le Pen is not expected to beat Chirac in the May 5 runoff, with French leftists, many of whom voted for fringe candidates in the first round of balloting, pledging to support Chirac. But he was certainly enjoying the limelight. “We are witnessing the end of a cycle in which a decadent, corrupt and sclerotic political system is sinking,” he declared. “It’s the combat of David against Goliath, and even so, David has brought him down.”