Canada in Brief, Dec. 10-16

December 16, 2015 Updated: December 16, 2015
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Vancouver coast guard base shuttered by Conservative government to re-open

VANCOUVER—A Vancouver coast guard base shuttered amid controversy by the former Conservative government will be re-opening.

Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo announced the news alongside B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson while outside the former Kitsilano coast guard base.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark says the closure of the station was a mistake and she is delighted that the new federal government has reversed the decision for the safety of those who use the harbour.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an election campaign promise to re-open the base, which he reaffirmed in a mandate letter to Tootoo last month.

The closure of the station in 2013 as a cost-cutting measure was loudly criticized at the time and again when a grain ship spilled 2,800 litres of bunker fuel into Vancouver’s harbour last April.

The coast guard faced heavy criticism for its response to the incident after it took 12 hours to install an oil-absorbing boom around the ship and to notify the city.

Federal government drops controversial lawsuit over refugee health care cuts

OTTAWA—The Liberals have formally dropped the previous government’s appeal of a Federal Court decision that found the Conservatives’ cuts to health coverage for some refugees and refugee claimants were unconstitutional.

The 2014 decision had said the Tories’ move to curtail coverage was cruel and put lives at risk.

The case stemmed from the 2012 overhaul of the Interim Federal Health Care program, which covers the health costs for refugees and refugee claimants.

The Tories had argued the benefits were too generous and some people were making fake refugee claims just to access them. They were forced to reinstate some benefits after the Federal Court decision, but they were still appealing.

While the Liberals say they won’t pursue the appeal, they still have not reversed the cuts themselves, except for carving out an exemption for the 25,000 Syrians currently being resettled to Canada.

Energy company fights order over chemically tainted Alberta dairy farm

An Alberta energy company is fighting an order to truck water to a family farm the company admits it has contaminated with chemicals from its gas plant.

Bonavista Energy is asking the Alberta Court of Appeal to overturn the ruling from the Alberta Energy Regulator. The regulator ordered Bonavista to provide water to a dairy farm near Edson where ground water has been badly contaminated by a leaching solvent.

Bonavista acknowledges the chemical is from its plant, but it says it has done enough by drilling two new water wells on the farm, even though those wells produced water that was unfit for use.

Lonni Saken, who owns the farm with her husband Ron, said Bonavista’s move came days before a scheduled meeting with the company.

“I am absolutely shocked that Bonavista would bring a court case against the regulator,” she said.

The Sakens’ lawyer calls Bonavista’s challenge of the order an attack on the regulator’s ability to use environmental legislation.

Trudeau says he can’t compel Pope to apologize for church’s residential schools

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confesses he can’t compel an apology from the Pope for the role of the Catholic Church in Canada’s residential school system. But he says he looks forward to raising the matter with the pontiff.

Trudeau met for more than two hours on Dec. 16 with leaders from five indigenous organizations, capping a week that saw the Truth and Reconciliation Commission deliver its final report on the legacy of residential schools.

The commission made 94 “calls to action” toward reconciliation in a preliminary report last June—including an apology from the Pope—and the Liberals pledged to implement the entire report.

About 60 percent of Canada’s residential schools were run by the Catholic Church between the 1840s and 1996, when the last school closed.

The six-year commission found that the government-funded, church-run schools were the key to a policy of cultural genocide designed to “kill the Indian in the child”—something for which the head of the Catholic Church has not formally apologized.

Family attempted to claim $50 million prize anonymously before stepping up

VANCOUVER—It’s been a $50-million dollar question across Canada for the last 21 months: who owns the lone winning ticket from the March 14, 2014 Lotto Max draw.

Friedrich Mayrhofer, who described his family as shy and private, stepped forward to make the claim in Vancouver on behalf of himself, his wife, Annand, and their son, Eric.

A lawyer for the family made the lottery claim earlier this year, just days before the ticket was to expire, on behalf of a trust, but the B.C. Lottery Corp. ruled that only an individual can claim the prize.

Mayrhofer says they tried to remain anonymous out of concern that they wouldn’t be able to handle such an enormous prize, but now they’ve set up a group of advisers to help them handle the money.

In hindsight, Mayrhofer says he wishes he would have come in earlier because it was much easier than he thought and the family lost about $500,000 in interest.

Mayrhofer says the family plans to do some renovations on their home in Langley, B.C., and his wife wants to buy some new furniture, a cost that he joked he “hoped” they could afford.