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Canada briefs — December 19

Auditor general should be bilingual: PM

OTTAWA — Canada’s auditor general ought to be able to speak both English and French, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.

Naming the otherwise qualified, English-only Michael Ferguson to the post last year was — while unavoidable — less than ideal, the prime minister acknowledged in a year-end interview with French broadcaster TVA.

“There was a process, and at the end of that process, I had one name really qualified for the position: I decided to name Mr. Ferguson with his commitment under the circumstances,” Harper said.

“But I admit it’s my responsibility to avoid this type of situation in the future. I hope that francophones, Quebecers, don’t doubt my commitment to the French language and our two official languages.”

Agents of Parliament should be bilingual because they are in charge of offices that are expected to function in English and in French, Harper said in the interview.

Judges, on the other hand, need not be bilingual, except in the case of the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, he said.

Mother reunited with children says times can be hard

WINNIPEG — A woman who was reunited with her children after her estranged husband took them to Mexico for several years says she’s thrilled to have them home but admits there have been hardships.

Emily Cablek hasn’t spoken publicly since getting her son, Dominic, and her daughter, Abby, back in May.

The children vanished in 2008 after their father failed to return them from a visit.

Officials found them this spring in Guadalajara in a cluttered, messy apartment in which they reportedly were being kept, with little exposure to the outside world.

Their father, Kevin Maryk, has been charged with abducting them and will next appear in court in January.

Cablek says the transition to living in Winnipeg has been difficult for the children sometimes.

“I think it’s difficult for anyone to really understand,” she says. “The kids are home, problem solved — that kind of thing, and it’s not that simple.”

Opposition calls on PM end hunger strike

OTTAWA — The opposition parties and head of the Assembly of First Nations are calling on the prime minister to end the hunger strike by a prominent aboriginal leader, before it’s too late.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has written to Stephen Harper, suggesting that he and the Governor General meet with aboriginal leaders to end the protest.

Chief Theresa Spence of the remote Attawapiskat First Nation in Northern Ontario stopped eating a week ago, vowing to die unless the government started showing more respect for aboriginal treaties.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan had proposed a meeting with her last week to discuss issues affecting Attawapiskat, but there was no response to the offer.

The Liberals and the Assembly of First Nations have also issued letters to Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston, calling for an urgent meeting to discuss Spence’s demands.

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