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Next governor general faces questions on Quebec views

By JIM FOX
Published August 14, 2005


The appointment of Michaelle Jean to be Canada's next governor general has come under fire over reports that she and her husband supported Quebec independence.

Jean, a television journalist, has not commented on an article in a sovereigntist publication that says she and husband, filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond, supported Quebec independence in the 1995 referendum.

It also said Lafond was friendly with former Quebec terrorists. The federalists won the 1995 vote by narrow margin.

The incoming governor general should "come clean," said New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord.

"She should tell Canadians her views since anyone who is representing the queen as head of state should support a unified Canada," Lord said at a premiers meeting in Banff, Alberta.

Gilles Rheaume, president of a Quebec-based organization promoting sovereignty, criticized Prime Minister Paul Martin for not checking Jean's credentials.

Martin spokesman Scott Reid said Jean and Lafond are committed Canadians who are the victims of a smear campaign.

U.S. ambassador listens

"I listened, I heard the concerns," David Wilkins, the new U.S. ambassador to Canada, told the annual meeting of Canadian premiers.

The leaders of Canada's provinces blasted Wilkins for softwood lumber duties and smuggled guns as he pledged to make the concerns known in Washington.

At issue was the decision by the United States to refuse to accept a North American Free Trade Agreement panel's ruling that outlaws penalties now totaling $5-billion collected on Canada's softwood lumber exports.

Wilkins said the United States maintains the only way to end the softwood trade war is through a negotiated settlement.

The premiers also want some action to cut off the illegal transit of guns and weapons into Canada from the United States.

News in brief

The 5,500 unionized workers at the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. are preparing to go on strike Monday as talks on a new contract stalled. As well, the radio and television broadcaster served formal notice of plans to lock out workers. At issue are CBC demands to hire new staff on contract instead of full time.

Canadian-born ABC news anchor Peter Jennings was told days before he died last weekend that he would receive his homeland's highest honor - the Order of Canada. His nomination to the order had been approved in June. Jennings, who was 67 and became a U.S. citizen after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, maintained his Canadian citizenship and returned to Quebec's Gatineau Hills every summer.

Canada's smoking rate has dropped to its lowest level - 20 percent of the population ages 15 and older, or 5.1-million people. A Statistics Canada survey said this is down from 21 percent in 2003 and 24 percent in 2000. Smokers reported puffing fewer cigarettes - an average of 15 a day. Observers say higher taxes, health warnings and laws restricting where people can light up have all helped to lower the rate.

Facts and figures

An improved trade picture and higher oil prices pushed Canada's dollar higher to 83.75 cents U.S. Friday. The U.S. greenback returns $1.1940 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The key interest rate of the Bank of Canada remains at 2.5 percent, while the prime-lending rate is 4.25 percent.

Stock markets are higher, with Toronto's composite index at 10,657 points and the Canadian Venture Exchange 1,906 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 4, 10, 16, 22, 39 and 42; bonus 43. (Aug. 6) 6, 22, 28, 36, 41 and 48; bonus 24.

Regional briefs

The Canadian government is considering taking legal action against Canadian National Railways over an oil spill that fouled the water supply of Wabamun, a popular Alberta resort community. Environment Minister Stephane Dion toured the oil-soaked lake west of Edmonton and walked along a sailing club beach blackened with thick, gooey ooze. He said the railway's response was inadequate after the Aug. 3 spill.

The prime suspect in the 1990 murder of Ontario student Lynda Shaw was a convicted killer who has been dead for more than a decade. Police say DNA evidence analyzed last month linked the unidentified man to the murder of the University of Western Ontario student.

Newfoundland and Labrador fishermen have joined with labor unions to help rebuild fishing villages destroyed by the tsunami that hit south Asia last year. The Fish, Food and Allied Workers union raised $25,000 to help fishermen repair and rebuild boats. The Canadian Auto Workers and Canadian Labor Congress are each contributing $90,000 to pay to repair boats and homes in 14 fishing villages.