Canada briefs – April 29

The head of an inquiry into helicopter safety off Newfoundland says recent improvements are a good start, but urgently needed changes will take time.

Inquiry head praises chopper changes

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The head of an inquiry into helicopter safety off Newfoundland says recent improvements are a good start, but urgently needed changes will take time.

“Progress may not be as fast as some people might like — and perhaps I might like,” said commissioner Robert Wells in an interview.

“But you know, in fairness, they are making progress.”

Wells heard evidence over five months starting in October as part of the probe called after Cougar Flight 491 crashed in March 2009, killing 17 of 18 people aboard.

The inquiry’s aim is to make helicopter travel as safe as possible for workers at offshore oil sites more than 300 kilometres southeast of St. John’s. About 700 people work offshore, often in three-week shifts, at any given time.

Wells could not wait to act until his first report is due in September.


Polygamy case goes ahead with Bountiful leader

VANCOUVER — Admitted polygamist Winston Blackmore won’t participate in a British Columbia court case testing Canada’s law against polygamy, says his lawyer.

Blackmore, one of the leaders of the controversial community of Bountiful, B.C., can’t afford to take part after a judge refused his request for hundreds of thousands of dollars in government money, Joseph Arvay said.

Blackmore had asked the province’s Supreme Court for special status and funding to take part in the case, expected to be heard in the fall.

Last week, the judge denied the application, ruling that he can have no greater role than other interveners and would have to pay his own way.

Blackmore and James Oler, the leader of a separate faction within Bountiful, were charged early last year with practising polygamy in a case that has dogged the B.C. government and RCMP for decades.

A judge later quashed the charges because the province had appointed a second special prosecutor after the first recommended against laying charges.

Rather than appealing that decision, the B.C. government asked the court to decide whether Canada’s polygamy laws violate religious protections guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


Scrapping gun registry a health risk: groups

OTTAWA — A group of emergency doctors, nurses and suicide prevention workers are calling on members of Parliament to vote against a bill that seeks to quash the long-gun registry.

The group says the significant drop in gun-related suicide proves the registry works and scrapping it would set them back years in suicide prevention.

The majority of firearm deaths are suicides and the guns most often used are rifles and shotguns — not handguns — the group writes in an open letter to MPs.

The group says gun-related suicide attempts are far more lethal than other methods. Gun users stand a 96 per cent chance of dying, while the lethality rate of drug overdose is six per cent.


Toronto tops in tardy tax filers

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — It’s income tax time. Guess who has the worst reputation for procrastination?

That’s right: Toronto.

Canada’s biggest city had the most returns filed electronically through the QuickTax Online service on April 29-30, 2009, according to Intuit Canada,

Intuit, which sells numerous tax-preparation products, says Toronto was also Canada’s tardiest tax filing city in 2008 and 2007.

The usual deadline for Canadians to file their income tax returns is April 30, which is Friday.

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