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Canada report

Rolling Stones offer to rock for free after SARS scare

By JIM FOX, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 18, 2003

It's not the WHO but the Rolling Stones who are offering to help in the rescue of Toronto's tourism industry after the repercussions of SARS.

Now that the World Health Organization has dropped Toronto from a list of SARS hot zones, the legendary rock band is offering to headline a free show in July.

The Stones have spent some time together with Torontonians before each tour.

"It's a very time-honored tradition to rehearse (in Toronto) because it's such a great place and everyone treats us really well," Mick Jagger said.

The group would interrupt its European tour to provide assistance to the Canadian city, with the $11-million cost to stage the gig being covered by various levels of government.

It would be held at the former Downsview air base and is expected to attract several hundred thousand people.

Elton John, Billy Joel, Kelly Clarkson, Lisa Marie Presley, Styx and many other celebrities have recently canceled shows in Toronto because of the SARS scare.

Canadian officials lobbied hard to have Toronto removed from the list, crediting the monumental efforts of health care workers to wrestle the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome into submission.

The disease has killed 24 people in the Toronto area while the number of probable cases has dropped to 10.

More Iraq aid offered

Canada is giving another $200-million for humanitarian aid and reconstruction in Iraq.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien also said Canada will reopen its embassy in Baghdad, closed in 1991 before the Gulf War, once the security situation stabilizes.

The new money increases the Canadian commitment to postwar efforts to more than $300-million. This will help Iraqis improve basic services, including access to clean water, proper sanitation and good primary health care.

Canada will also support efforts to build democratic institutions and help reform the country's judicial, police and correctional services.

In brief

Decriminalizing marijuana possession will result in a potential increase in the use of the drug, at least in the short run, says Health Minister Anne McLellan. Canada plans to reform marijuana laws and decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot.

There is an urgent need to create a national database to track sex offenders, says Ontario Public Safety Minister Bob Runciman after the gruesome murder of a 10-year-old Toronto girl. "It frustrates us that the federal registry isn't up and running," Runciman said. Police found the body of Holly Jones off the shores of the Toronto Islands, a day after she failed to return home from a friend's house.

Canada will continue to fight for a longterm solution to the softwood lumber crisis with the United States, Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew says. There is a "new dialogue" aimed at reaching a conclusion to the multibillion dollar dispute that has cost thousands of Canadian jobs because of high import duties, he said. The goal is free trade in softwood lumber in North America.

Facts and figures

The Canadian dollar has soared to a six-year high at 72.62 U.S. cents, while the U.S. dollar returns $1.3770 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The key Bank of Canada interest rate remains at 3.25 percent while the prime lending rate is 5 percent.

Canadian stock exchanges were higher, with the Toronto index higher at 6,742 points and the Canadian Venture Exchange at 1,070 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 7, 32, 37, 38, 44 and 45; bonus 40. (May 10) 5, 13, 15, 20, 24 and 42; bonus 41.

Regional briefs

The engineer and conductor of a Canadian National Railways freight train are missing after a derailment near McBride, British Columbia. The first six cars of the 86-car eastbound train derailed while crossing a trestle bridge and plunged into a ravine in a wilderness area near the Alberta border.

Newfoundland's four Liberal Members of Parliament have pleaded with Prime Minister Chretien, Cabinet ministers and other colleagues for help for the devastated cod fishery. Meanwhile, fishermen upset over the closing of the fishery because of depleted fish stocks were blockading ferries in Port aux Basques harbor.

Lethbridge Mayor Bob Tarleck wants new rules for councilors wanting to leave the city on business. This follows the disappearance of councilor Dar Heatherington while on city business in Great Falls, Mont. She surfaced three days later confused and distraught in Las Vegas, saying she had been kidnapped. Police disputed her story and attorneys are working on a deal to drop mischief charges if she receives psychiatric help.

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