Canada briefs – August 26

Faced with mounting public pressure, Manitoba’s top justice officials are expected to announce a task force to investigate the disappearance and murder of aboriginal women.

Unit to look into murders of women

WINNIPEG — Faced with mounting public pressure, Manitoba’s top justice officials are expected to announce a task force to investigate the disappearance and murder of aboriginal women.

Winnipeg Police Chief Keith McCaskill, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Bill Robinson and Justice Minister Dave Chomiak are expected to make the announcement as early as Wednesday.

The joint unit will look into the dozens of unsolved cases, a provincial government source told The Canadian Press. The investigative unit is expected to get some additional provincial funding as well.

The province is “very concerned about this issue,” said a government spokeswoman, who asked not to be named in accordance with government policy.

“We’re going to work closely with the RCMP and city police to address the issue and end these tragedies.”

The decision to form such a unit comes as people and groups speak out about the increasing number of unsolved cases, including the discovery last Thursday of the body of another young aboriginal woman on the outskirts of Winnipeg.

B.C. throne speech short on good news

VICTORIA — The B.C. Liberals warned of cuts to government grants, possible layoffs and public-sector wage freezes in a throne speech Tuesday, its first since the party won re-election on a far less dire platform.

Discretionary spending of all kinds and the operations of the boards and authorities that deliver many of B.C.’s services will be carefully examined for cuts as the cash-strapped provincial government tries to take some air out of its ballooning deficit.

“The fiscal cupboard is bare and hangs on a wall of deficit spending,” said the speech, read by Lieut.-Gov. Steven Point.

“It will not happen overnight and it will not be easy, but government will work tirelessly so B.C. comes out of this economic maelstrom stronger.”

Premier Gordon Campbell said the unpredictable economy has nailed the province’s finances and difficult times are ahead as the government makes choices to protect health and education services.

Judge orders man out of the country

OTTAWA — An Ottawa judge gave an American man four hours to leave the country Tuesday after the man was convicted of importing child pornography.

Canadian Border Services agents reported 31-year-old Michael Wallace looked “uneasy” when asked at the Ottawa International Airport on July 14, 2008, whether he had downloads on his laptop.

Border guards searched the computer and found a video file of child pornography.

Wallace pleaded not guilty, but didn’t contest the evidence presented by the Crown, who played a portion of the video for Ontario Court Justice Richard Lajoie.

Wallace was sentenced to time served — 77 days in pre-trial custody before he got out on $100,000 cash bail — and 12 months probation, which was transferred to his home district of Chicago.

Wallace was ordered to immediately report to the nearest border crossing, at Prescott-Ogdensburg, to be registered as a non-desirable in Canada.

Kiss to play Oshawa after all: mayor

OSHAWA, Ont. — It appears Oshawa, Ont., will get its Kiss concert.

Mayor John Gray told CTV News on Tuesday evening he spoke to Kiss manager Doc McGhee and was assured a concert is scheduled for Oshawa on Oct. 7.

Residents were miffed when, after winning an online contest to have the band play Oshawa, the closest venue on Kiss’s tour schedule was Toronto on Oct 2.

Gray told CTV he suspects the band wasn’t prepared for the amount of negative publicity they got for skipping Oshawa.

Gray says his city had 14,000 votes, compared to 5,000 for Toronto, so the promoters could see the citizens really wanted to see a Kiss concert.

A band spokesman had said the band’s show needed a larger venue, but Gray told CTV they could probably put extra seats in the 7,000 seat GM Centre.

Gray said the concert is very important to his city that has been hit hard by the downturn in the auto sector.

“Oshawa’s not about to roll up its sidewalks,” he said. “We’re a strong, vibrant city. I think nothing will get the message out better than a major concert like Kiss.”