Canada in Brief, Sept. 24-30

September 30, 2015 Updated: October 1, 2015

CBC CEO disputes Harper comment over funding

WINNIPEG—The head of the CBC is hitting back at Conservative Leader Stephen Harper over comments the national broadcaster is floundering because of low ratings rather than a lack of funding.

CEO Hubert Lacroix says the CBC has healthy ratings, but is crippled by a broken funding model.

It’s about a broken finance model that doesn’t work, that used to be built on advertising revenues supporting a drop in parliamentary appropriations. In this environment, it doesn’t work anymore,” he said after the CBC’s annual general meeting in Winnipeg Nov. 29.

The 2012 federal budget cut CBC’s funding by $115 million over three years. Last year, the broadcaster said it faced a $130-million shortfall—compounded by the loss of broadcast rights to NHL games—and was cutting 657 jobs.

Harper told a private radio station in Quebec that the CBC’s budget crunch isn’t due to government cuts, but because of its low ratings.

“The reason for the difficulties aren’t the cuts,” Harper said. “There aren’t cuts. The reason is the loss of (CBC’s) audience. It’s a problem for the CBC to fix.”

Ex-Quebec lieutenant governor gets 18-month jail term

QUEBEC—Former Quebec lieutenant-governor Lise Thibault was given an 18-month jail term on Nov. 30 and ordered to reimburse a total of $300,000 to Ottawa and Quebec after pleading guilty to fraud and breach of trust charges.

Thibault, 76, was charged after a 2007 report by the federal and provincial auditors general revealed she claimed more than $700,000 in improper expenses when she held the vice-regal post between 1997 and 2007. Her trial heard the money was spent on gifts, trips, parties, meals, and skiing and golf lessons.

The Crown was seeking a four-year prison term and the reimbursement of $430,000.

Her lawyer said last May the maximum the wheelchair-bound Thibault should pay back is $372,000 and
that $272,000 should come from money left in her foundation, which helps the disabled.

Audit won’t decide if Pan Am execs get $5.7 million in bonuses

TORONTO—Ontario’s auditor general will conduct a financial audit of the Pan Am Games in Toronto, but will not determine if executives should split $5.7 million in bonuses.

Deputy Progressive Conservative leader Steve Clark asked for a value-for-money audit, and wanted Pan Am officials to wait for the results before cutting cheques to more than 50 executives with the TO2015 organizing committee.

But Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk told the public accounts committee her financial audit would not determine who should get a bonus, but would provide the facts in order for others to make the decision.

Clark says he’s disappointed the “extravagant” bonuses won’t be dependent on the audit, and says they should not be paid until all the financial details from the summer Games are known.

Canada approves refugee claim of man who fled Somalia after death threat

WINNIPEG—A Somali man who swam across the Red River thinking it was the border between the United States and Canada has had his refugee claim accepted. The Immigration and Refugee Board told 32-year-old Yahya Samatar at a hearing in Winnipeg on Nov. 30 that his claim was accepted.

Samatar, who was a human rights worker in Somalia, was kidnapped and fled after his life was threatened by terrorist group Al Shabab.

It took him a year to reach Canada. First he flew from Somalia to Brazil, then hiked through the jungle to Colombia, then up through Central America and to the United States, where he was detained, then he headed north.

He eventually found himself on the shore of the Red River. Although he wasn’t exactly sure where he was, he believed crossing the river would land him on Canadian soil so he jumped in and swam across through the fast and frigid waters, wondering if he would encounter crocodiles as he would in rivers at home.

Assessment ordered for Alberta man accused of killing father and daughter

LETHBRIDGE, Alta.—A 30-day psychiatric assessment has been ordered for a man accused of killing a two-year-old Alberta girl and her father. The test is to determine if Derek Saretzky is fit to stand trial and what his state of mind was at the time of the alleged offence.

Saretzky is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette and her father, Terry Blanchette, as well as with a separate charge of offering an indignity to the little girl’s body.

The 22-year-old made a brief appearance via video link in the Lethbridge courtroom where the assessment was ordered. He is back behind bars after being taken to hospital last week. Media outlets have quoted sources as saying he tried to commit suicide by hanging himself.

Saretzky was arrested after Blanchette’s body was found in his Blairmore, Alta., home earlier this month.

Defrocked Arctic priest enters more guilty pleas for sex abuse

IQALUIT, Nunavut—A defrocked Arctic priest already serving time for the sexual abuse of Inuit children is awaiting further sentencing on another four counts.

Eric Dejaeger will be sentenced on Oct. 22 after pleading guilty in Iqaluit Tuesday, Nov. 29, to the additional crimes, which were committed in Edmonton and include indecent assault and gross indecency.

Dejaeger lived in Edmonton from 1974 to 1978, when he was studying to be a priest.

The 68-year-old is already serving 19 years in prison for 32 sex offences against Inuit children, committed between 1978 and 1982 in the remote village of Igloolik.