Connexions Digest #50 News Briefs

Compiled by Ulli Diemer

News Briefs published in the Connexions Digest #50, December 1989

Postal cuts threaten magazines
The Progressive Conservative government’s spring budget included drastic cuts to the century–old postal subsidy program. Only 12 months earlier it had promised magazine publishers the program would be retained for at least five more years. The budget cuts $45 million from the $220 million subsidy program. According the Canadian Periodical Publishers’ Association (CPPA), Canada Post provides the critical link between publisher and reader for the overwhelming majority of Canadian magazines. Subscriptions are the backbone of nearly all magazines, because newsstands are dominated by American magazines and account for less than 10 per cent of Canadian magazine revenues. The subsidy program makes periodicals of all types available to readers, no matter where they live. Canadian magazines are at a disadvantage when competing with American magazines because they have the same upfront costs, but have a much smaller market and don’t have the economies of scale U.S. publications have. According to CPPA president Lorraine Filyer, postal increases could wipe out the industry’s slim profits; in fact, 60 per cent of CPPA member publications operate with no profit margin at all, even with the postal subsidy.

GST another blow to magazines
The proposed goods and services tax (GST) is expected to have a substantial negative impact on the Canadian magazine industry, according to the Canadian Periodical Publishers’ Association (CPPA) and the Don’t Tax Reading Coalition. The tax will force magazines to raise their prices by 7 per cent, the amount of the tax, but studies have shown that this will mean an inevitable dropping off of subscribers and purchasers because of price resistance, especially since subscriptions to U.S. magazines will not be subject to the tax. The CPPA is urging readers to write to Prime Minister Mulroney ask that the government not tax reading. Meanwhile, Firefly Books has produced sheets of protest stamps, for use on the outside of letters, bearing the inscription “Hi! I Tax Books”, accompanied by pictures of Brian Mulroney and Michael Wilson. Incidentally, the photos of Mulroney and Wilson used on the stamps were provided gratis by their offices. “Any taxpayer can ask a minister’s office for a picture and that’s what I did,”, said Estelle Gee of Firefly. “But I didn’t tell them what I wanted them for.”

Doublespeak award for Wilson, Tory cabinet
The Doublespeak Commission of the Canadian Council of Teachers of English (CCTE) has announced that Finance Minister Michael Wilson and the federal cabinet have won the second annual CCTE Public Doublespeak Award. Wilson won for his statements justifying the government’s refusal to fulfill many of its election promises. Wilson said, “The commitments we made as a government going back to last summer were taken in a context of a program expenditure profile which I think was responsible. I think what we’ve seen since that time is a significant increase in interest rates, which obviously is colouring the fiscal position for the next year and [other] years if we don’t deal with the fiscal problem.”
External Affairs Minister Joe Clark was cited for his response to the disclosure that the Bank of Nova Scotia had made a $600 million loan to a South African–controlled company, despite a ban on such loans. Said Clark, “The loan by the Bank of Nova Scotia is in our judgement in conformity with the language of the Commonwealth ban and consequently the government of Canada’s ban.”
Also sharing the prize was Defense Minister Bill McKnight, who justified the government’s decision to let the U.S. test its advanced stealth cruise missile in Canada. McKnight said that the radar–evading missile “is by no means a ‘stealth’ cruise missile,” just an improved model that “looks very similar to its predecessor.”
Also cited was Trade Minister John Crosbie, who said, after it was revealed that his wife and daughter had been given free trips to Thailand, that “it was – I would presume it was – a gift to my wife.” The next day he said, “My wife went to represent me and to represent Canada in furtherance of good relationships between the country and Thailand. It is not a gift in the ordinary sense of the word.”
The CCTE also gave its George Orwell Plain English Award to Adbusters of Vancouver for the television commercial the group produced. The commercial was designed to give the other side of the story after the Council of Forest Industries televised commercials about its reforestation efforts.
For further information on the awards, or to nominate candidates for next year’s awards, write to Prof Richard Coe, Dept. of English, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C. V5A 1S6.
–Source: Quarterly Review of Doublespeak

Private guards block public street
In the Toronto suburb of North York, controversy has erupted over the fact that a developer has been allowed to post a guard on a public road running through a posh subdivision. Only those with appointments are being allowed past the guardhouse built in the middle of Joel Swirsky Blvd. by the developer, Bramalea Ltd. North York has been allowing the developer to restrict access to the area, over the protests of residents who are angry that a private company can block a public road. According to Bramalea Ltd. spokeswoman Maureen McCauley, the guardhouse is justifiable because the homes in the subdivision contain “very, very expensive furniture”.

Federal budget
The federal budget has been severely criticized by grassroots groups since it was released (after first being leaked) in late April. Among the budget’s provisions are the cancellation of the promised national child care program, unemployment insurance cutbacks and premium increases, a regressive goods and services tax, and cutbacks in many programs which serve the poor, women, and other disadvantaged groups. Among the contentious items are a “claw–back” of old age security and family allowances, a measure which undermines the universality of social programs. Critics contend a fairer approach would be to tax those with higher incomes at a higher rate, but the government is unwilling to do this.

Budget spares banks
While many Canadians will suffer as a result of the Progressive Conservative government’s budget, Canada’s banks had the good fortune to emerge unscathed. Finance Minister Michael Wilson’s budget exempted the banks from the new federal sales tax. The sales tax is to be applied to virtually all transactions, whether they involve products or services. However, banks and shares traded on the stock market are being exempted. (Minor banking services such as the rental of safety deposit boxes will be subject to the tax.) It had been estimated that the new tax would have cost Canada’s banks about $500 million had it been applied to them.
By another stroke of good fortune, the banks were also spared the application of a proposed tax on bank profits. According to Kersi Doodha, a bank analyst at Maison Placements Canada Inc., a tax on bank profits might have collected about $500 million over two years. As a group, Canada’s major domestic banks posted a record of $3.3 billion profit in fiscal 1988. Doodha credited the banking lobby with ensuring that the budget spared them any harsh treatment.

UI benefits to be cut
The federal government is implementing a major overhaul of the Unemployment Insurance system. The changes will cut benefits being paid to unemployed workers. The money being cut is to be used to pay for retraining programs, leading Employment and Immigration Minister Barbara McDougall to deny that Unemployment Insurance was being cut. Critics pointed out, however, that using the funds to pay for a separate program doesn’t change the fact that many people will be facing sharp reductions in what they receive. The changes double the number of weeks required to qualify for UI, meaning that some people would be unable to collect benefits at all. Benefits are also to be slashed from 60% to 50%, and the maximum number of weeks that a person can collect UI is to be reduced from 50 to 35. The changes will place a greater burden on provincial and municipal social assistance budgets, because more people will be forced to turn to welfare and to food banks to survive. Low–income workers will be disproportionately affected by the cutbacks: 80 per cent of those affected will have incomes under $25,000 a year. The Atlantic provinces will be especially hard hit; it is estimated that 12.1 per cent of benefit losses will be in the Atlantic region, which has only 7.7 per cent of Canada’s work force.

VIA shutdown meets opposition
The federal Progressive Conservative government’s decision to slash train service in half (with a possible complete shutdown of passenger rail service to come) has met with widespread opposition. Critics of the VIA system, who have the ear of the government, have said that VIA’s continuing deficit ($600 million in 1988) is an argument for abandoning passenger rail service. However, defenders of rail transportation make a number of strong arguments. They point out that VIA was originally set up by the government in such a way as to guarantee it would lose money. VIA was carved out of CP and CN, but CP and CN were given ownership of all of the system’s track and stations, and VIA has been forced to pay huge sums to ‘rent’ the use of the tracks, while having to put up with its trains being delayed to accommodate freight traffic. VIA was also saddled with outdated rolling stock, and has never been given the capital to invest in modern equipment. VIA’s loss figures are also greatly inflated because the government requires it to service remote locations which are inevitably money–losers. Rail supporters also point out that air and road traffic receive huge hidden subsidies, such as government–financed roads and airports, many of which are already stretched to capacity. And they note that car and truck exhaust fumes are major sources of pollution, including acid rain and ozone layer depletion, while rail is much less polluting.
Critics of the VIA cuts are also challenging the undemocratic way the decision is being implemented. The government made no mention of cuts during the last election campaign, although they were already being secretly planned at the time. Now it is pushing them through by executive order without holding hearings or passing legislation, using a controversial legal manoeuvre to circumvent the due process laid out in the National Transportation Act.
About 2,800 VIA workers will lose their jobs, together with about 5,500 in other companies directly dependent on VIA.

Ontario allows ‘monster’ trucks
The Ontario government has decided to allow extra–long tractor–trailer trucks to operate in the province. Size limits for the trucks are being extended to 25 metres (82 feet) long. Railway spokespeople said that the proposed new regulations will give truckers a boost against railway transportation, although railways are environmentally better because they use less energy. According to CN spokesman Mike Matthews, truckers pay only a tiny fraction of the cost of maintaining provincial highways, while railways spend hundreds of millions of dollars maintaining track with much smaller government subsidies. The decision was also criticized by the Canadian Automobile Association, which said that the larger trucks are responsible for more accidents and deaths on the roads. The trucks are already allowed in the western provinces.

Executive salaries rising
Canadian executives’ salaries increased by an average of 7 per cent in the year ending July 1989. Workers meanwhile received an average increase of 5.8 per cent.
–From a survey by Peat Marwick Stevenson and Kellogg

Free trade to mean higher pay for execs
The salaries of Canadian business executives should rise by about 35 per cent under free trade, according to Douglas Caldwell, the chairman of Caldwell Partners International, an executive search firm. “Free trade makes it much easier for Canadians to move to the U.S.”, said Caldwell. “Canadian companies are upping their salary levels to hang on to their people.”

Jobs said lost under free trade
The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) has released a report saying that 55,500 jobs were lost in the first nine months of free trade. “We are moving from a branch–plant economy to a warehouse economy,” said CLC president Shirley Carr. “More jobs are moving south every day.”

Canadian magazines worried
The Canadian Periodical Publishers’ Association (CPPA) is concerned that legislation which discourages U.S. publishers from selling their Canadian “overflow” circulation to Canadian advertisers is being circumvented in the wake of the Canada–U.S. Free Trade Agreement. Tariff item 9958 prohibits the importation into Canada of magazines in which more than 5 per cent of advertising is aimed primarily at Canadians. It also specifically prohibits the importation of special, split–run, or “Canadian” editions containing Canadian–directed advertising which does not appear in the main edition from the originating country. This tariff item has helped protect an indigenous Canadian magazine publishing industry. According to the CPPA, some publishers are now exploring loopholes in the legislation (for example, printing their Canadian edition in Canada so they won’t have to import it into the country. Others appear simply to be ignoring the legislation in the belief that penalties are not serious enough to worry about. Since the tariff was first imposed in 1964, some magazines have received repeated warnings, but no magazine has actually been turned back no matter how often it has broken the rules. The CPPA fears that such infractions will now increase.
–CPPA Newsletter #128

Tax breaks only for free traders
Revenue Canada has ruled that corporations which made contributions to the massive pro–free trade campaign will be able to claim their contributions as business expenses eligible for tax deductions, but that businesspeople who opposed free trade, like Edmonton publisher Mel Hurtig, cannot claim the contributions as a business expense. Revenue Canada’s ruling is based on the contention that it was good business for companies to support free trade because free trade would lead to increased income for them, whereas opposing free trade was not justifiable in business terms.
The federal government and the business–backed pro–free trade alliances spent about $60 million supporting free trade. The two main anti–free trade groups, in contrast, spent a total of about $900,000. In addition, the pro–free trade forces received incalculable amounts of free publicity from the news media, almost all of which backed free trade and slanted their coverage accordingly.

We all like to save on our taxes
The Bronfman family is arranging for two of its companies to shift $528 million worth of oil and gas assets, for reasons that may have more to do with tax sheltering than corporate restructuring. Norcen Energy Resources Ltd. will buy most of the energy assets of Westmin Resources Ltd. Both companies are owned by the Bronfman family. At the same time, Westmin will transfer tax writeoffs it has accumulated to Norcen. Westmin has at least $125 million in potential tax credits which it can’t use because its reported income isn’t high enough. Norcen will use the credits it acquires to ‘shelter’ some of its own earnings. Norcen’s director of planning, George Kenda, said that “a critical aspect” of the deal is getting a favourable tax ruling on it from Ottawa. “If we do not get the tax ruling, it would set the deal back,” said Kenda. Kenda said it was too early to tell whether the corporate reshuffling would lead to layoffs.

Tax Facts
In the period 1984–1988, an upper–income family with an annual household income of $122,000 enjoyed a six per cent reduction of its tax burden. During the same period, a middle–income household with an income of $49,000 faced a ten per cent increase in taxes paid. A working poor household with a $24,000 income witnessed a 44 per cent increase in its tax burden.
–Canadian Council on Social Development

Nothing for workers at bankrupt firm
Workers at a bankrupt limousine company in the Toronto area have been told they have no hope of collecting any of the $625,000 in severance and termination pay which is owed to them. At a bankruptcy hearing for Eureka Coach Company, 130 workers received nothing, while the Toronto–Dominion Bank and a Vancouver–based holding company split the firm’s $1.5 million in assets. “The workers get a kick in the teeth any time a company declares bankruptcy,” said Jerry Dias, president of Canadian Auto Workers Local 112, which represented the workers. He urges changes in federal and provincial insolvency laws to ensure that employees receive monies owing to them.

Post Office workers have some rights
An arbitrator has ruled that Canada Post acted wrongfully in disciplining workers who criticized it publicly or who joined information pickets. The policy threatened disciplinary action against workers who wrote letters, spoke publicly, or picketed against Canada Post, and was used on a number of occasions against workers who participated in the campaign against privatization and service cutbacks organized by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. Under the policy, one B.C. letter carrier was suspended for five days for appearing before his municipal council asking it to support continued door–to–door mail delivery.

Unions attack Quebec law
Quebec public sector unions are mounting a campaign against a Quebec law that imposes severe penalties on health–care workers who strike illegally. The law “does not respect fundamental rights. It is repressive and divisive,” said Gerald Larose of the Confederation of National Trade Unions.

Speed–up at Boeing
An electrical installer at Boeing’s huge Everett plant near Seattle, Washington has gone public with allegations of quality problems at the plant. Les Warby, who holds a degree in electronic engineering technology, cited failings in training and quality control, and regular misuse of tools. He described the examination given to precision workers at the end of their company training course: “During the exam the teacher said feel free to help one another, and then he left the room.” The 20 students then collaborated on the answers to the paper. Only one man, who refused to join in with the others, failed. Routine use of improper tools is rife, according to Mr. Warby. Special crimping tools to connect wires in high–vibration areas such as around engines are regularly ignored in favour of a pair of ordinary pliers. After regular flying these connections could shake themselves apart. “The attitude seems to be we’ve got a hundred customers out there all screaming for their planes. Let’s meet our quota. If we have a problem, don’t worry about it, they’ll catch it somewhere else.” Mr. Warby was one of a number of Boeing employees and ex–employees to go public with similar allegations. Media attention focused on Boeing, the largest manufacturer of civil aircraft in the world, after several Boeing planes suffered serious and unexplained mechanical problems recently.

Falling out of the skies
From all over the planet, it seems, reports are coming in of bizarre failures in jumbo jets and their components: an engine stops working over the Pacific, part of a wing tears off a plane over Manila, nine passengers sucked out over Hawaii. Until lately, Boeing, the maker of most large commercial jetliners, tended to insist that it was up to the individual airlines to make sure their planes were safe. Early in 1989, however, Boeing, realizing that its own image was being tarnished by the publicity around plane failures, set up the Ageing Fleet Evaluation Program, to try to help deal with the problems of aging airplanes. The program has found that of the 1,649 Boeing 727s in service around the world, fully 435 have amassed more flying hours than they were expected to do in their entire working lives. Boeing is now planning to advise airlines about how to deal with metal fatigue and other problems of ageing, and to pressure airlines not to fly planes that ought to be pulled from service. “It’s not these rinky–dink Third World airlines who are to blame,” said a Boeing executive. “They usually have their services and inspections performed in Europe, where work is thorough enough. No, it’s big corporate airlines that push their planes — our planes — to the limits and beyond. Look at the figures. Read the news.” Journalist Simon Winchester, writing in the Manchester Guardian Weekly, points out, “The last three incidents involving jumbo jets — the engine failure, the broken wing, the torn fuselage — had three things in common. All involved older 747s, made by Boeing. All incidents took place over the unimaginable vastness of the Pacific Ocean. And all three incidents occurred on jets owned and operated by United Air Lines.”

Planes disabled for servicing
A former employee of Skylink Airlines of British Columbia has testified that he deliberately disabled aircraft to allow necessary maintenance work to be done. Charles Torrey said Skylink president Rafael Zur told him repeatedly that maintenance work was costing too much. Torrey says Zur wanted to keep airplanes flying and keep maintenance to a minimum. Torry said that he would remove parts from aircraft to ensure they stayed in the hangar until maintenance was done. Seven people died when a Skylink twin turbo–prop crashed in northwestern British Columbia on September 26. The airline’s license has since been revoked.
–Source: Canadian Press, November 12, 1989

Cancer, weed–killers linked
The more weed–killer farmers use, the greater their risk of dying from a cancer of the immune system, a federal study has found. The study examined 70,000 Saskatchewan farmers and found that the risk of death “goes up regularly with acres sprayed”, according to Dr. Donald Wigle, an epidemiologist with Health and Welfare Canada. The study also found that the risk of dying goes up with the amount of gasoline, oil, and other fuel a farmer used. Saskatchewan was chosen for the study because it has the highest rate of use of 2,4–D and other herbicides in Canada. The study’s conclusions are considered preliminary, but coupled with other studies in Sweden and the U.S., they seem to point to a link between pesticide use and cancer risk.

Toxic dumps in Quebec
At least 66 toxic waste dumps in Quebec pose a risk to human health and the environment, according to a provincial agency, GERLED, which has been studying the problem. GERLED has identified 372 toxic waste dumps in the province. It says that Quebec produces more than 350,000 tonnes of toxic waste a year, about one–third of which is dumped directly into the St. Lawrence River.

Great Lakes health danger
Health risks are increasing for the 35 million people living in the Great Lakes basin as toxic chemicals continue to accumulate, according to a report from the Conservation Foundation and from the Institute for Research on Public Policy. The report says that much of the toxic pollution entering the Lakes comes through the air. It also identified the runoff of agricultural chemicals as a particularly serious problem.

Woman fights for pollution information
A Peterborough, Ontario woman is battling to have the provincial environment ministry release information about 11 local polluters. Jeanne Sparling says that both city and ministry staff have refused her request for information about pollution of the Otonabee River by 10 companies and by the city itself. Sparling got a list of the names of the polluters from the ministry through the Ontario Freedom of Information Act, but none of the details contained in the report on the polluters. The city and the 10 companies cited in the report agreed not to release the findings, even though, as Sparling notes, the report “was paid for by taxpayers”.
–Source: Toronto Star, November 21, 1989

Environmental labels
A governmental committee is working on implementing a program to label products that qualify as ‘environmentally friendly’. The program follows the West German Blue Angel label, started in 1978. The idea is to let consumers know which products are not harmful — or less harmful — to the environment. The committee acknowledges that it is difficult to find products that unequivocally qualify. It has decided that the whole production process has to be taken into account, concluding that it would be inappropriate to recognize products as environmentally sensitive if the manufacturer is causing problems upstream. Julia Langer of Friends of the Earth questioned the value of the new logos, saying that “we’re already seeing companies that are marketing supposedly better products using their own logos. But the public has no idea how much better they are.” She says that people must realize that less consumption is ultimately more desirable than switching brands.

Lost, leaking H–Bomb ‘no danger’
Twenty–four years later, the United States has finally admitted publicly that it lost a hydrogen bomb off the southern Japanese coast in 1965 in a plane crash. The U.S. has told Japanese authorities the bomb has leaked radioactive material into the ocean. However, according to a U.S. report there is ‘no danger’ of an explosion or of environmental contamination.
According to Greenpeace, this bomb is only one of 48 nuclear weapons and seven nuclear reactors which have been lost by the navies of the Soviet Union and the United States.

Oil dollars
The Exxon Corporation is expected to have to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up its Alaskan oil spill and to pay for related damages. Experts predict that the total bill to Exxon will total some $500 million. Shareholders need not panic, however — $500 million represents about two days’ worth of revenues for the oil giant, whose revenue last year was $88.6 billion, and whose annual profits were $5.3 billion.

Farmers resist foreclosures
An organized campaign of resistance to farm foreclosures is under way in rural Saskatchewan. More than 1,500 farmers have attended meetings this fall to plan farm–gate defenses and to organize a boycott of foreclosed land. Two groups, the Agricultural Action Co–operative, and the Christian Farm Crisis Action Committee, have distributed hundreds of posters and notices to co–ordinate the campaign. “Refuse to buy, rent or lease any land seized by lending institutions,” the notices say. “Refuse to allow lending institutions to conduct successful auction sales to dispose of your neighbour’s assets...Please do not assist them in destroying our rural sector.” Jake Bendal of the Christian Farm Crisis Action Committee estimates that 8,000 to 10,000 farmers in the province are facing a threatened seizure of their land or equipment. “At first they thought it was their fault for being poor managers. But now they realize it’s happening to everybody.”

Meat inspections slashed
Canada’s Agriculture Department has drastically reduced its border inspections of U.S. meat products as a result of the free trade agreement. Only about five per cent of U.S. meat products are now being inspected, compared with 100 per cent before free trade. Under the new system, Canadian inspectors only make spot checks of meat. The National Farmers Union (NFU) has charged that the reductions prove that food quality standards are being lowered to conform to U.S. levels. Wayne Easter, president of the NFU, said that “this is especially critical with regard to chicken imports, because the production lines in many American poultry processing plants are so fast it is virtually impossible to inspect everything that goes through.”

Occupational health centre dumped
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) is to lose all of its federal funding by April 1991, the Progressive Conservative government has announced. The federal Minister of Labour, Jean Corbeil, said that he wants the CCOHS to find independent sources of funding, but this is considered impossible by the Centre, especially given the short time frame. The Centre is an important source of information about workplace health and safety. Among the tasks recently carried out by the Centre have been the development of a national standard for chemicals in the workplace and the drafting of recommendations for national standards for man–made fibres. It recently broadened its electronic data base to include environmental information. Last year it distributed 8,000 compact disks of information, served 1,200 organizations and businesses with its on–line services, and handled 66,000 inquiries. It has sent out over 150,000 technical publications. Most of the data from the centre are available free to workers, unions, the public, and employers. It recovered about $441,000 last year in sales of printed materials and for conducting workshops. According to Dr. Gordon Atherley, the Centre’s president, there is no way the Centre can cover its costs by fee for service. $1.45 million will be slashed from its budget this year, $4.625 million next year, and the entire budget will be eliminated by 1991.
According to David Leitch, the director of the Toronto Workers Health and Safety Legal Clinic, even if the Centre could survive by implementing high user fees, user fees will inevitably discourage inquiries, especially from small employers and workers without unions. Leitch points out that if the Centre is successful in reducing the number of workplace injuries and illnesses by even one per cent, it would be contributing direct savings of $30 million per year to the Canadian economy, several times the cost of its annual budget. And that’s without counting the basic human value of lives saved or injuries prevented.

Logger’s death
A B.C. logger who was killed on the job earlier this year was working for a company that had been under close scrutiny by the Workers Compensation Board for violating provincial safety regulations, a coroner’s inquest has been told. Rodney Tubbs died on July 27 after being struck by a block of cedar logs that had fallen out of a sling on a helicopter. He was employed by G & R Cedar Ltd., an independent contractor working for MacMillan Bloedel. Charles Burrell, a MacMillan Bloedel manager, told the inquest he is not particularly interested in knowing whether companies subcontracted by his firm are violating provincial regulations. He suggested that there may be too many safety regulations in the logging industry. Mr. Tubbs was one of over 150 people to die on the job in B.C.’s logging industry since 1984.

Government backs down on safety bill
The Ontario government is backing away from legislation which would let workers shut down work places they consider unsafe. “We had a breakdown in communication”, said Industry and Trade Minister Monte Kwinter. “We were led to believe that there had been consultation [with business] and that they were onside.” Business groups have been lobbying fiercely against the proposed bill, and the government has now indicated that key provisions will be changed or watered down. Most labour unions have been supporting the bill.
Ross Dunsmore, chairman of the Metro Toronto Board of Trade labour relations committee, said that free trade makes it necessary to weaken the legislation. “We have to compare the cost of doing business here with Buffalo or Georgia... The more impositions the government makes... the more it will cost and more companies will be pushed to the United States.”

Man fired for AIDS gets damages
The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) has ruled that it is discriminatory for an employer to fire someone because they have AIDS or have tested positive for the HIV virus. The Commission’s made its ruling in the case of a Canadian Pacific employee who was fired after he revealed that he had tested positive for AIDS. According to Michelle Falardeau–Ramsay, the CHRC’s deputy head, “AIDS is not a moral issue. AIDS is an illness. Would you fire someone if that person had cancer even if that person was able to do the work? AIDS is not contagious except when you are in contact with blood, blood–related products or semen. Education is required: misinformation on AIDS is rampant all over the place.”

Barrie deaths investigated
The Ontario Ministry of Labour is investigating reports of deaths and illness said to be linked to a company that operated tanneries in Barrie, Oshawa, Kitchener, and Coburg. The Simcoe County Injured Workers Association says that it has received reports of appalling working conditions at the plants, and the dumping of hazardous chemicals into city sewers and creeks. The company, Robson Lange Leather Inc. closed in 1986. Dr. Jim Stopps, chief of health studies services for the Ministry of Labour, said that 44 reports of death and illness are being investigated.

Break–ins against activist groups
Several environmental and peace groups have suffered break–ins at their premises this past year. These include the Ontario Environment Network in Toronto, the Canadian Environmental Law Association in Toronto, the Toronto chapter of Science for Peace, the Green Party of British Columbia in Vancouver, and the Ottawa office of NDP MP Jim Fulton. Fulton headed the NDP’s Environmental Task Force which recently held hearings across the country.
The Ontario Environment Network and the Canadian Environmental Law Association both were robbed of information and computer equipment. Nothing was taken from Fulton’s office, but files were gone through, and Fulton believes that materials were photocopied on the office photocopier.
Green party spokesman Murray Gudmundson said party officials believe the break–in at their office was politically motivated. “All the filing cabinets were open and had been rifled through,” he said. “We’re still not sure what’s missing. They left a photocopier and stereo, but stole a computer and hard disk, which held our mailing and membership lists. The office was vandalized as well.”
For the most part, expensive equipment such as computers and fax machines have been ignored, while correspondence, mailing lists, financial records, and strategy papers have been gone after.
Federal Solicitor–General Jean–Jacques Blais has said that he has been assured by the RCMP that there is no connection between any of the break–ins. One man has been charged in connection with a break–in at the Burnaby, B.C. offices of Lifeforce, an animal rights group. Another man has been charged with the break–in at the Ontario Environment Network.

Quebec police monitor TV, radio
Quebec provincial police have been monitoring and recording most public–affairs shows on Quebec television and radio, including open–line shows, for the past 19 years, it has been revealed by Justice Minister Gil Remillard. The information emerged when it was revealed that the Surete du Quebec had complained about radio talk–show host Andre Arthur to the Canadian Radio–Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The force sent a letter to the CRTC, along with recordings of 10 shows in which Mr. Arthur was sharply critical of police operations. The letter complained that among other things in Mr. Arthur’s shows, police officers were referred to as “little local Pinochets”. Mr. Remillard defended the police practice of taping most public–affairs shows. “The air waves are of the public domain; this is not electronic eavesdropping, and everything is done in respect of the guarantees of freedom of speech and information written in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” he said.

RCMP unit disbanded
The special federal inquiries section of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which has brought several Conservative MPs to trial during the past three years, has been disbanded. The investigators in the unit have been transferred to other branches of the RCMP. The RCMP’s senior officer in charge of the division, Rodney Stamler, has taken early retirement. Former Liberal solicitor–general Robert Kaplan has charged that the government deliberately interfered to have the unit disbanded in order to diminish the effectiveness of the special federal inquires section. The government and the RCMP have declined comment.

Security service probes Innu
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) investigated the Labrador Innu community last winter as part of a nation–wide probe into native groups, a senior CSIS official has revealed. According to one man who was interviewed by CSIS, CSIS seemed to be trying to find out if the Innu had been infiltrated by Arab extremists. Raymond Boisvert, a senior CSIS official, said that the investigation was done for the federal Solicitor–General. He said that CSIS was “trying to get the pulse of native communities.”

Ottawa tightens information tap
The federal Conservative government has moved to tighten controls on information being made available to the public. A computerized system has been set up to vet all requests under the Access to Information Act. All departments receiving a request for information are being required to search the system to see if there are parallel requests made to other departments and to follow them up by contacting those other departments. They will also be required to identify any requests that involve “major legal or policy issues.” The new computerized system follows a previous directive from the Prime Minister’s office that all government departments had to contact the PMO before “releasing potentially embarrassing information”.

Canadian journalist called FBI informant
Journalist Peter Worthington worked as an informant for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the 1960’s, according to Southam News. According to Southam, Worthington gave the FBI a list of 282 people, including 80 Canadians, who were active in opposing the war in Vietnam. A document obtained by Southam identifies Worthington as an “informant”. Worthington has denied that he “consciously” gave information to the FBI.

FBI claims world–wide powers
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has announced that it has been given the authority to seize “fugitives” living in other countries without the consent of the governments of those countries. It claims that it has the right to seize foreign citizens as well as U.S. citizens. The policy would give the FBI the “right”, for example, to seize a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil and take him back to the U.S., in a situation where the Canadian courts were refusing an extradition request. Washington observers think that the impetus for the FBI’s claim arises out of the U.S. government’s desire to lay their hands on Panamanian ruler General Manuel Noreiga, formerly on the CIA payroll, but now on the outs with Washington.

Newspaper boycotted for honesty
Canada’s 13 largest travel tour operators have been boycotting The Toronto Star newspaper, refusing to place ads in the newspaper until the paper agrees to stop publishing what they call “negative” travel stories. The protest began December 31, 1988, after The Star published an article which related complaints by vacationers about food and accommodations in the Dominican Republic, and another article which focussed on the humorous experiences of a Star editor in hurricane–struck Cancun, Mexico.

Gay activist’s slaying commemorated
When gay activist Joe Rose was murdered on a Montreal bus by a group of youths who taunted him about being gay, McGill University’s CKUT radio devoted a 15–hour day of programming to discussions about what it means to be gay or lesbian in a homophobic society. The program included taped interviews, radio plays, profiles of homosexuals in history and panel discussions with parents of gays and lesbians.

Temagami ruling dangerous precedent
The Ontario Court of Appeal has rejected the land claim case brought to it by the Bear Island Indian band of the Temagami region of Ontario. The court ruled that the band has no claim to ownership of the 10,360 square kilometres of land it was claiming. The court said that the band’s rights to the land had been ceded to the crown for the equivalent of $25 by virtue of an 1850 treaty. Lawyers and activists in the Native rights field were stunned by the decision, which sets a number of dramatic precedents. The court ruling says that in law, aboriginal land rights are extinguishable at will by governments, whether all the requirements of a formal treaty surrendering those lands were followed or not, and that a Native group can be deemed to have given up its historic lands simply by accepting cash payments and other treaty benefits, whether or not it actually agreed to such a land deal. The ruling also says that a Native group can lose its historic lands and be bound to a treaty by the actions of an individual who may not even belong to that group. The ruling overturns the notion that Canadian governments were and still are obliged to follow a 226–year–old British directive known as the Royal Proclamation, which required British colonies to negotiate and reach agreement with Native groups before taking their lands for European settlement. The Temagami ruling clears the way for Ontario’s Liberal government to permit logging roads into the wilderness which Natives and environmentalists have been striving to preserve from logging. The band will seek permission to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada, and if necessary to the World Court.

Innu acquittals overturned
The Newfoundland Court of Appeal has overturned the acquittal of four Innu who had been charged for protesting against low–level military flights over their territory. The Innu were acquitted of mischief in April by Judge James Igloliorte, who said that the Natives reasonably believed the Canadian forces base Goose Bay was on their land. Ruling that the judge made a procedural error, the Court of Appeal declared the trial null and void. The Crown must now decided whether to apply for a new trial, and how to proceed against about 200 other Innu who have been arrested in similar protests.

Crees fine government
A Native court has found the Government of Canada guilty of tax evasion and has ordered the government to pay $50 million to the Ouje–Bougoumou band in Northern Quebec. The Native judges heard testimony that forestry and mining on lands belonging to the Crees had produced at least $4 billion worth of revenue. The band has been forced to relocate several times since the 1920s by resource companies working on the land with government authorization. The federal government refused to attend the hearing, and has said that it will refuse to pay the $50 million.

Native land claims make lawyers rich
Ottawa is spending a small fortune paying private law firms to fight native land claims, according to the October issue of Canadian Lawyer magazine. “Native land claims pushed fallout from bank failures, ureaformaldehyde lawsuits and even free trade out of the spending spotlight for outside legal services”, says the magazine. As an example, it cites Calgary lawyer Brian Malone, who represents the federal government in the Lubicon land dispute. Malone billed the government more than $442,000 between April 1, 1988 and March 31, 1989. The Vancouver firm of Koenigsberg and Russell charge Ottawa $621,546 during the same period for handling three native land claims.
“These are your tax dollars at work,” said Lubicon spokesman Fred Lennarson, who maintains the billings are “the tip of the iceberg” in Ottawa’s costly efforts to avoid settling native claims. Lennarson noted that in the dispute over the Lubicon’s claim, Ottawa is also paying federal spokesman Ken Colby and the Calgary law firm of Walsh Young.
–Source: Canadian Lawyer, October 1989; Calgary Herald, October 26, 1989

Indian bands join defence alliance
Eighteen Indian bands have joined together in a mutual defense agreement called the Treaty Alliance of Aboriginal Nations. The pact commits the banks to defend and support each other in the case of outside attack — for example, from the government.

Moscow sells photos of Canadian base
Another indication of the fact that Canadian authorities haven’t quite caught up with the changes happening in the world: There are no photos allowed at Canadian Forces Station Alert, a ‘top–secret’ communications and listening post on Ellesmere Island. The Toronto Star newspaper asked for but was refused permission to send a reporter to the base this summer. So the Star bought a photograph of the base taken by a Soviet satellite, instead. The Soviets are selling satellite photos through an American company with which it has a marketing arrangement. They have decided that the currency value outweighs the questionable benefits of secrecy. Canada has yet to catch up to the new way of thinking.

Deaf Canadians march
Deaf Canadians marched in a dozen cities across Canada earlier this year to demand changes in the education they receive. One of their major demands was that American Sign Language (ASL) be used in schools for the deaf. The preference for ASL is widespread among the deaf in North America, who have had to do battle with the educational bureaucracies, which have tended to want to make the deaf concentrate on oral communication and on Signed English. Signed English is a literal translation of English which deaf representatives say does not meet their needs. According to Jim Roots, the executive director of the Canadian Association for the Deaf, “the word butterfly is a perfect example [of the difference between the systems]. In American Sign Language, it is a single sign that copies the fluttering motion of a butterfly’s wings. In Signed Exact English, it is two separate signs, one for butter and one for fly. Does that make sense? Does that convey the impression of a butterfly? I think not.” Concern is also being expressed about government moves to shut down special schools for the deaf in order to integrate them into regular classrooms. They say that while the desire to integrate them has value, this approach to integration often harms the deaf because they can learn better in classes which are specifically set up to meet their needs.

U.S. hate groups attacked
A southern U.S. anti–racism organization has been finding success in its battles against hate groups by hitting them in the pocketbook. Danny Welch, chief investigator for Klanwatch, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Centre of Alabama, told a conference of the Council of Foundations in Toronto that there are currently 22,000 hard–core members of about 100 organized hate groups in the United States, ranging from the Ku Klux Klan to the emerging neo–Nazi skinhead movement. Klanwatch was formed to keep track of hate groups and to take civil action against them. The decision to attack the Klan and other groups through civil litigation was in response to the realization that there was only scattered prosecution of Klan activities in various police jurisdictions. Among the group’s victories is a $7–million settlement won recently on behalf of the mother of a Mobile, Alabama man who was murdered by the Klan.

Elgin Blair
Elgin Blair, a long–time member of the Connexions collective, and an activist in many other causes, died on May 13, 1989. When Elgin joined Connexions, he was already “retired”, although Elgin in retirement devoted more time to social justice work and environmentalism than many full–time activists. Elgin liked to describe himself as an “information freak”. He believed that information and ideas were crucial if society was to change, and he also took immense pleasure in ferreting out and sharing new publications and new sources of information. He was active in supporting gay liberation, co–founded the alternative book distributor Books Eh?, and in the last few years was very active in the Green Party. At Connexions, his contribution included his solicitous concern for the well–being of others. The time and energy he contributed were important factors in developing the project and in energizing others. He will be missed.
Elizabeth Wall writes: We fondly remember Elgin Blair who passed away this year. Elgin was a faithful member of Connexions for a number of years. He give himself generously to all aspects of Connexions whether taking part in decisions, writing abstracts, contributing information on new groups, or envisioning further projects for Connexions. A prodigious reader of periodicals, he had an eagle eye for connections unifying our diverse social change community. He rekindled our enthusiasm in tough times by sharing his hopeful vision with us.
We are most grateful, however, for having known Elgin as a person. He was patient and caring with everyone and believed in tapping people’s essential goodness. He cheerfully did his utmost, inspiring us with his hope and faith. I don’t think there is anyone he encountered — even briefly — who was not the better for it. I am sure anyone who knew him misses him, as we at Connexions do, but the spirit he nurtured in us flourishes still.

George Manuel
George Manuel, who was the first president of the National Indian Brotherhood, died this November at the age of 68. A Shuswap Indian, Mr. Manuel led efforts to gain non–governmental status for Native peoples at the United Nations and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He served as president of the National Indian Brotherhood (later the Assembly of First Nations) from 1970 to 1976, and also served as president of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples.

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News Briefs from the Connexions Digest #51

News Briefs from the Connexions Digest #52

News Briefs from the Connexions Digest #53

News Briefs from the Connexions Digest #54

Connexions Digest Collected News Briefs 1989 – 1992
Compiled news summaries published in the Connexions Digest, issues 50 – 54.

Health News Briefs 1987 – 1991

Health News Briefs 1992 – 1994

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