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Canada report

By JIM FOX
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 28, 2002


Court: Canadians tuning in illegally

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that up to 1-million Canadians are watching U.S. television programs illegally.

The court's main concern is businesses, many of them unlicensed, selling decoders for foreign-based satellite signals such as DirecTV who are breaking a federal broadcasting law.

In overturning lower court rulings, the high court said the act prohibits the decoding in Canada of any encrypted subscription-programming signal unless authorized by "the person holding the necessary lawful rights under Canadian law."

As such, this would mean either Bell ExpressVu or StarChoice, the only licensed direct-to-home satellite providers who offer a mix of Canadian content with approved U.S. services.

The ruling left it up to the "gray-market" satellite providers to proceed with their argument in court that federal law violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Lower court rulings have said broadcasting legislation applies only to signals that originate in Canada.

But Supreme Court Judge Frank Iacobucci called programming "a public service essential to the maintenance and enhancement of national identity and cultural sovereignty."

Antiterror bill to be withdrawn, amended

The Canadian government plans to withdraw its proposed antiterrorism bill in the Commons on Monday.

Another attempt will be made to draft legislation to protect against terrorism after the first document was highly criticized.

Civil libertarians, including many within the Liberal government, opposed such powers as allowing the defense minister to unilaterally set up temporary security zones. They argued this could have been used to seal off legitimate protests.

The bill also granted extraordinary interim powers to a number of government ministers.

Names in the news

Mario Pepin, a businessman from Shawinigan, Quebec, was sentenced to two years in prison for defrauding federally funded agencies of about $290,000 in Prime Minister Jean Chretien's hometown. His attorney filed an immediate appeal and Pepin was released from custody.

Peter Gzowski, 67, former host of CBC Radio's Morningside who died in January, will appear on a TV show tonight delivering a message about the evils of smoking. He died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease brought on by 50 years of heavy smoking. Just before his death, he helped make a TV program about the disease called With Every Breath.

Ernie Eves, Ontario's new Conservative premier, said the government will move ahead with the $5-billion sale of the province's electricity system. Carrying on with the plan set in place by retired Premier Mike Harris, Eves said the province would appeal a recent court ruling blocking the sale. The legislation on which the ruling was based will be rewritten and the province will hold "meaningful" public hearings, he said.

Facts and figures

Bullish economic predictions that indicate higher interest rates pushed Canada's dollar higher to 64.0 cents U.S. on Friday. The U.S. dollar returns $1.5625 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rates remains at 2.25 percent while the prime-lending rate is 4 percent.

Stock markets were mixed, with the Toronto exchange index lower at 7,656 points and the Canadian Venture Exchange up slightly at 1,163 points from a week ago.

Lotto 6/46: (Wednesday) 7, 22, 35, 36, 41, 49; bonus 40. (April 20) 18, 20, 27, 32, 34, 36; bonus 3.

Regional briefs

Nova Scotia is restricting the places where people can smoke while making it illegal for anyone younger than 19 to possess tobacco. Smoking is being banned at all schools, shopping malls, workplaces, taxicabs, theatres and recreation centers in the province, which has the higher number of smokers per capita in Canada.

Steve Letts, former head of British Columbia's gaming investigation office, said there were serious concerns about a casino application involving one of the former premier's friends. He was testifying at the trial of Glen Clark, accused of breach of trust and accepting a benefit -- $10,000 in renovations to his home and cottage.

Some residents of Winnipeg's St. Boniface area were forced from their homes for about three hours early Friday when a Canadian National Railway freight train derailed. Eight cars carrying chemicals in an 85-car train left the tracks in the residential neighborhood.

Toronto's public transit system, the largest in the country carrying 420-million passengers a year, is getting $76-million from the federal government. The money will be used to improve the heavily used subway and streetcar system. The money will match that expected to be given by the Ontario government this year.

-- Jim Fox can be reached at jfox@waterloo.ca.

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