Canada briefs – February 1

Victor Morales’ origins may lie in Chile but, after more than three decades here, his heart has long been in Canada.

Busker facing deportation

MONTREAL — Victor Morales’ origins may lie in Chile but, after more than three decades here, his heart has long been in Canada.

He left Chile as a six-year-old, in 1976, and is about to find out whether he will be deported back there. A decision from Federal Court Judge Yves De Montigny is expected within the next few days.

Morales, a street musician who has long played in Montreal’s transit system and around town, is scheduled to be removed from Canada on Feb. 8.

Morales admits his track record is bumpy: it includes drug and alcohol problems, during which he accumulated a lengthy rap sheet including a list of non-violent, mostly petty crimes.

Morales swears he’s been clean for years.

“I’m a Canadian citizen, I’m a Quebecois, I’m a (permanent) resident who lost his status because of his criminal past,” Morales told reporters at the federal courthouse.

“But that’s in the past. Since 2004, I’ve followed the word of God.”


Study questions cost of jailing refugees

OTTAWA — A new federal study questions the millions of dollars spent locking up many immigrants and refugee claimants, prompting the government to eye fresh options.

The Canada Border Services Agency put more than $45 million toward detaining people in 2008-09 — or over $3,000 per case, the internal evaluation report says.

As a result, the government has agreed to study lower-cost alternatives, including a Toronto bail program that’s much less expensive and could be expanded across the country.

The border agency is developing a “national detentions strategy” — to be completed by September — that could involve options other than jail, the report says.

Under federal immigration law, non-citizens can be held if the border agency believes they pose a danger, they’re considered a flight risk, their identity cannot be confirmed, or they are likely to be barred from Canada for security reasons or human rights violations.

The border agency operates immigration holding centres in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec that are generally reserved for detainees considered a low risk to public safety.


Mom jailed for killing likely to get new trial

TORONTO — A mother who spent more than a decade behind bars for killing her toddler will likely be granted a new trial given the role disgraced pathologist Dr. Charles Smith played in her conviction 15 years ago.

Court documents released Monday show both Crown and defence are urging Ontario’s top court to order a second hearing for Tammy Marquardt, who has always maintained her innocence.

Marquardt, 38, was given a life sentence after her second-degree murder conviction in 1995 in the death of her two-year-old son Kenneth Wynne in Oshawa, Ont.

Her lawyers argue she was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

“Dr. Smith played a vital role in her trial and presented evidence that convinced the jury that Kenneth was a homicide victim, through smothering or strangulation,” their factum states.

At least five experts have since repudiated Smith’s findings, suggesting as well that Kenneth may have died from an epileptic seizure.


Homicide charges filed against hotel staff

CANCUN, Mexico — Prosecutors in Mexico said Monday they have filed charges against five contractors and employees at a Caribbean coast hotel where a Nov. 14 explosion killed five Canadian tourists and two Mexicans.

Rodolfo Garcia Pliego, the assistant attorney general of Quintana Roo state, where the hotel is located, said investigators found an unauthorized extension of a gas line under the hotel lounge where the blast occurred.

Rodolfo Garcia Pliego says the gas line at the 676-room Grand Riviera Princess resort in Playa del Carmen, south of Cancun, was not reported to authorities, and not properly installed or maintained.

The charges against the five announced range from homicide and causing injuries, to professional or technical misconduct, charges that presumably apply to the installers.

Officials had blamed swamp or sewage gas, but later determined the line was the cause.