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Canada report

Chretien offers to send Mounties to Iraq

By JIM FOX
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 13, 2003

Canada is willing to send in the Mounties to help restore order in Iraq, Prime Minister Jean Chretien said.

"We've sent RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) officers to Haiti and elsewhere," he said. "If it is a contribution that we can make, we will do it."

While reiterating he had no regrets about Canada's antiwar stance, Chretien said he was pleased that Saddam Hussein's regime was finished.

Chretien also called on world leaders to unite to help postwar Iraq. Canada has committed $106-million for humanitarian assistance and is offering more for reconstruction.

Although not actively involved in the fighting, a Canadian who joined the U.S. Marines was killed and a second narrowly escaped death in Iraq. In addition, Canadian Red Cross worker Vatche Arsianian, 48, of New Brunswick, was killed by cross-fire in Baghdad.

Canadian ships patrolling the Persian Gulf for terrorists could be diverted to waters near Somalia to help suppress a feared regrouping of terrorist cells in the region, said Commodore Roger Girouard.

SARS progress reported

Public health officials in Toronto, where 10 people have died from the SARS outbreak, said progress in being made in controlling the disease.

"The strategy of isolation and containment has been shown to help us tremendously," said Dr. Colin D'Cunha, chief medical officer of health.

The province has 217 cases of probable and suspected severe acute respiratory syndrome. All have been tied to travel to affected areas in Southeast Asia and to Scarborough Grace Hospital in suburban Toronto, where the first Canadian deaths occurred.

Government officials are trying to allay fears that travel to Canada is unsafe, even though a major medical conference was scrapped, celebrities have put off visits and many Chinese restaurants and malls are nearly deserted.

To show support for the community, Prime Minister Jean Chretien and other Cabinet ministers ate at a Chinese restaurant in Toronto.

In brief

-- Opinion polls show the Liberals under leader Jean Charest should win Monday's Quebec provincial election, ousting the independence-seeking Parti Quebecois government. Regardless of the outcome, Premier Bernard Landry pledged that "sovereignty will be pursued."

-- Prime Minister Jean Chretien's shuffling of his Cabinet sends a signal he's determined to remain in charge of the political agenda for his final months in office before retirement, observers say. He appointed a new minister, Steve Mahoney of Toronto, to be responsible for several government corporations and to increase the stock of affordable housing.

-- More than 1,200 people turned out Thursday for the funeral of Gerald Emmett Cardinal Carter at St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto. Carter, 91, retired in 1990 after leading Canada's largest English-speaking diocese of the Roman Catholic church.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar reached a three-year high of 68.80 cents U.S. on Friday, due to a strong economy and speculation that interest rates will rise in the next week. The U.S. dollar returned $1.4534 Canadian.

The key Bank of Canada interest rate is 3 percent, while the prime lending rate is 4.75 percent.

Canadian stock exchanges were mixed, with the Toronto index higher, at 6,432 points, and the Canadian Venture Exchange lower, at 1,053 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 8, 10, 15, 16, 31 and 46; bonus 25. (April 5) 15, 21, 31, 36, 44 and 49; bonus 5.

Regional briefs

-- Police are cracking down on Vancouver's skid row Downtown Eastside, with 60 officers taking part in round-the-clock patrols on foot, horseback, bikes and in cruisers, looking for drug traffickers.

-- Saskatchewan, Canada's drive-through flatland province, is boosting its highway speed limit. The posted limit will rise to 110 kilometers per hour (66 mph), from 100 kilometers per hour (60 mph) on the Trans-Canada and Yellowhead highways and Highway 11 on June 1.

-- Prince Edward Island's government has boosted cigarette taxes by 94 cents a pack to provide much-needed revenue. A package of cigarettes now costs about $9.50, a move that is also a bid to discourage young smokers. "It's scary how much money it generates," Treasurer Pat Mella said.

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