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web posted December 13, 1999

Canada ready to invoke War Measures Act for Y2K

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's government will be on full Y2K alert New Year's Eve and ready to invoke an updated War Measures Act if needed.

The Emergencies Act, which was passed in 1988, gives cabinet sweeping powers to issue whatever orders or regulations it believes are necessary to deal with emergencies such as major power outages caused by computer glitches or civil insurrections, major riots and prison revolts.

Depending on the emergency -- such as a nuclear accident -- manpower, vehicles, equipment, food and clothing could be mobilized.

Failure to comply could lead to fines and prison terms of up to five years.

"They can't arrest you just for something they think you've done, but they can arrest you for not obeying the (emergency) regulations they've made," a government insider says.

Chrétien has ordered eight key cabinet ministers to be in Ottawa to handle any crises when the clock strikes midnight December 31.

Senior officials are loath to acknowledge the potential for disaster and say Canada is nearly fully compliant to respond to Y2K problems.

They are even more reluctant to discuss the potential for terrorist threats, mass suicides and crackpots looking to enter the afterlife in a blaze of glory.

"We don't respond to hypothetical situations," said Valerie de Montigny of the Privy Council Office.

Governor General Adrienne Clarkson is responsible for invoking the act, which sets off a chain of events including the recall of Parliament.

At least 10 MPs and 15 senators would have to be in attendance to approve the emergency law.

Four key cabinet ministers -- Treasury Board's Lucienne Robillard, Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy, Industry's John Manley and Defence Minister Art Eggleton -- will run the show.

Sources say senators -- besides the 10 or so who live in the region -- have been warned to be prepared to come to Ottawa.

Smith says he will run again in 2002

Sen. Bob Smith, who changed his party affiliation from Republican to independent and back again during an abortive run for president this year, says he will run for re-election in 2002.

Smith made the announcement at his Manchester headquarters on December 7.

The conservative New Hampshire senator, who barely beat Democrat Dick Swett to secure a second term in 1996, said he has heard of no potential challengers.

"My plan is to seek re-election," Smith said. "I think I've done an outstanding job." He recently became chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Provincial smoking law a pain, say enforcement officials, politicians

City officials and police in Calgary, Alberta say new legislation passed by the province is more of a pain in the butt than a law that will curb teen smoking.

"How much money do we want to waste trying to enforce the unenforceable?" said Ward 8 Ald. Jon Lord.

A controversial private member's bill from Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA LeRoy Johnson -- urging a $100 fine for anyone 18 or younger caught smoking in public -- was passed December 8 in the provincial legislature.

Municipalities will have the choice whether or not to enforce the law.

The law drew swift response from aldermen who doubted it will do much to deter Calgary's youth from lighting up.

Lord said the more people in authority try to force kids to butt out, the more kids are likely to "show independence and rebellion.

"I have been so fed up with the rhetoric of anti-smokers I've been tempted to take up smoking just to show my independence," he said.

Ald. Ray Jones said something should be done to curb teen smoking but doubted this was the way to do it.

"I would like to know how they are going to enforce it. The police have more important things to do," said Jones, adding the responsibility of getting kids to kick the habit should lie with the parents, not the city.

Calgary Police Service Inspector Al Redford says the law has good intentions, but it can't take precedence over other police work.

"It won't be assessed as a high priority. It can't be, because our resource base doesn't allow that."

Anti-smoking groups called the legislation "a good start" but inadequate to deal with a burgeoning teen smoking population.

"We need government action that reflects the problem," said Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health.

More than 8,000 kids start smoking every year in Alberta, bringing the number of youths aged 15-19 who smoke to 29 per cent, said Hagen.

NATO's Clark denounces Russian military tactics against Chechnya

U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark, NATO's military commander, says the Russian military is randomly killing civilians in the breakaway republic of Chechnya, as he said Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic sought to do in Kosovo.

Clark was responding on December 9 to Moscow's claims that the Russian military campaign in Chechnya was no different than NATO operations in Yugoslavia last spring.

Clark told reporters at the Pentagon that Russia's "methodology of unrestricted use of firepower and the apparent actions against civilian targets" differed significantly from NATO's 78-day air campaign over Kosovo and Yugoslavia.

"We (NATO) were extremely careful in our Kosovo (bombing) campaign," Clark said. "We took incredible risks with our pilots, and we were very inhibited in the use of air power to prevent collateral damage."

With all that care, NATO managed to kill more civilians during the bombing than were supposedly massacred in the months up to the air campaign.

Clark said, "I don't see those inhibitions" in Chechnya. "I think they're doing in Chechnya what Milosevic tried to do in Kosovo.

However, NATO's supreme allied military commander stopped short of accusing the Russians of ethnic cleansing in their assault with artillery and bombs against Islamic rebels in Chechnya and its capital of Grozny.

Clark also said that Milosevic himself has been warned not to move against the independence-minded government of Montenegro, one of the two republics that comprise Yugoslavia.

Montenegro, under the leadership of pro-Western President Milo Djukanovic, has threatened to declare independence if Milosevic does not reform their joint federation.

"He (Djukanovic) has declared the deutche mark as an alternative currency," Clark said. "He's taken some other measures to try to help Montenegro develop its economy for the benefit of its people."

Clark added, "We know that there are pressures and intimidations coming from Serbia and Mr. Milosevic. We're watching this very, very closely."

Boris to Bill: We still got the bomb

Reviving chilling memories of the Cold War, President Boris Yeltsin on December 9 issued an indirect nuclear threat to the United States, warning it to keep its nose out of the conflict in Chechnya.

U.S. President Bill Clinton "permitted himself to put pressure on Russia," Yeltsin said while on an official visit to China. "It seems he has for a minute, for a second, for half a minute, forgotten that Russia has a full arsenal of nuclear weapons. He has forgotten about that.

"I want to tell Clinton not to forget . . . what world he lives in, and that he doesn't have the right to dictate to people how to live," he said ahead of talks with Li Peng, China's most conservative and anti-Western leader.

Yeltsin's trip to China was meant to show the increasingly frail leader as robust and decisive. It was also an attempt to create support and solidarity for Russia in its struggle to make a comeback as a superpower, and to subdue its most troublesome province, Chechnya.

Yeltsin's Beijing outburst was played down by Clinton, who said in Washington, "I don't agree with what's going on (in Chechnya) and I think I have an obligation to say so."

Supreme Court ruling ends employment equity fight in Ontario

The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear a case that challenged Ontario's repeal of employment equity legislation introduced by the former New Democratic government.

The court on December 9 denied the application brought by the Alliance for Employment Equity, confirming rulings made by two Ontario lower courts.

As usual, it did not offer reasons for its decision.

"We're terribly disappointed," said Daina Green, the Alliance chairwoman.
"We think that the Charter (of Rights and Freedoms) has often been used to support the claims of corporations but it doesn't seem to work very well in protecting the rights of disadvantaged groups."

Green says job discrimination is still "rampant" in the province and promised her advocacy group will continue to hold accountable Ontario's Conservative government.

But she said the court's decision marks the end of the group's fight in forcing the government to bring back the Employment Equity Act.

The NDP government passed the act in 1992 to help identify visible minorities and the disabled in the workforce and set hiring targets.

The ground-breaking legislation was axed shortly after Premier Mike Harris's government was elected in 1995. The Conservatives dismissed the law as an unfair and divisive quota system that tied the hands of employers and created unnecessary bureaucracy.

Helen Johns, Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, said the court's decision "validates" the government's right to repeal legislation she said amounted to discrimination through job quotas.

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