Proponents defend military's role in Afghanistan

By JIM FOX, Times Correspondent
Published July 29, 2007

Withdrawing Canadian troops while they are in the midst of a rebuilding campaign in Afghanistan would be a "serious mistake," proponents of the controversial military mission say.

With the "insurgency" continuing, Canada and other countries need to remain so conditions in the war-torn country won't slip backward, Mountie Supt. David Fudge said.

He is part of Canada's reconstruction team that includes police officers, soldiers and government officials helping to train Afghan national police recruits to return the country to a civil society.

About 600 recruits have been trained in the last year and an additional 3,200 are needed to "ensure adequate policing and surveillance in Kandahar," he said.

The goal of stabilization won't be completed before the scheduled end of the Canadian mission in February 2009, he added.

Criticism has been mounting about Canada's military role as 66 Canadian soldiers have been killed there since 2002 - a third of them this year.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the mission won't be extended unless there is a consensus to do so from Canada's four major political parties.

Court orders payment

Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's lawyers are contesting a court order that he pay $470,000 to former business associate Karlheinz Schreiber.

The ruling was a default judgment by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in the case that involves Schreiber's claims he gave Mulroney $300,000 for help to establish businesses in Quebec and Ontario.

The suit claimed Mulroney, a lawyer who was no longer in politics at the time, did not follow through on his commitments.

Mulroney's lawyers were surprised by the ruling as they had a motion before the courts that challenged the Ontario court's jurisdiction to hear the case. They are seeking to have the ruling set aside.

In brief

- Mike Colle has resigned as Ontario's minister of Citizenship and Immigration after a report found $32-million was given to ethnic groups without an "open, transparent or accountable" process. Auditor General Jim McCarter said there was no evidence the money went to Liberal-friendly ethnic groups as alleged by opposition politicians. Still, the provincial government handed out the money without adequate accountability, he added.

- A fire that caused $20-million in damage and left 100 people homeless in Edmonton was a case of arson, investigators say. The blaze destroyed 18 townhouses and damaged 76 others that were under construction in the south-side community of MacEwan Green last weekend.

- Focus Wildlife, an animal rescue group, is working in Burnaby, British Columbia, after a oil pipeline burst. It spilled 64,000 gallons of crude oil into Inlet Drive and Burrard Inlet. The group was hired by Kinder-Morgan, owner of the pipeline. Among the oil-soaked birds being rescued are great blue herons that are listed as vulnerable in the province.

Facts and figures

The Canadian dollar had its biggest one-day drop in a year, sagging to 94.38 cents U.S. on Friday while the American greenback was worth $1.0595 in Canadian funds.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is 4.5 percent while the prime lending rate is 6.25 percent.

Canadian markets are lower, with the Toronto Stock Exchange index at 13,848 points and the Canadian Venture Exchange 3,148 points.

Lotto 6-49: Wednesday 8, 11, 12, 18, 40 and 42; bonus 17. (July 21) 9, 10, 22, 29, 38 and 41; bonus 11.

Regional briefs

- Ontario is hiring 200 more police officers to fight gun crimes after another deadly weekend in Toronto. Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the initiative while pressing the federal government to crack down on handguns. Four people were killed in Toronto including Ephraim Brown, 11, caught in a crossfire between rival gangs.

- A redeveloped playground has been opened in Vancouver's Stanley Park as a memorial to the 329 victims of the Air India bombing in 1985. The bombing of Flight 182 has been widely blamed on Sikh separatists who used British Columbia as a base for their independence campaign in northern India. Only one person has been convicted. A related bombing in Japan killed two baggage handlers. A similar memorial was unveiled along Toronto's waterfront last month.

- Work has begun on Newfoundland's first commercial wind farm, which will provide enough power for 6,800 houses. The farm will be in full operation by the end of next year on the Burin Peninsula. It will be able to offset the burning of 165,000 barrels of oil a year at generating stations.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.