Canada briefs – July 8

Some Quebecers are planning to protest a controversial verdict in the case of a cardiologist who admitted to killing his two children.

Quebecers call for peaceful protest against double-murder verdict

MONTREAL — Some Quebecers are planning to protest a controversial verdict in the case of a cardiologist who admitted to killing his two children.

A jury earlier this week found Guy Turcotte not criminally responsible by way of mental illness in the stabbing deaths.

Several Facebook groups have emerged calling for peaceful protests in front of Quebec courthouses during the first weekend in August.

A number of protests are planned, including ones in Quebec City and Montreal.

More than 500 people have signed up for the Montreal event alone.

The protests are scheduled for Aug. 6 — one month and one day after the verdict was handed down in Turcotte’s first-degree murder trial.

Turcotte stabbed his son Olivier, 5, and daughter Anne-Sophie, 3, a total of 46 times in their beds in February 2009.

The trial heard extensively about the rocky relationship between Turcotte, 39, and his ex-wife, Isabelle Gaston.

Turcotte was suffering from depression and testified that he felt increasingly marginalized as Gaston’s new boyfriend became more present in her life and the children’s.

Canada’s top soldier says he will stay on as long as government wants him

CALGARY — Canada’s top soldier says he doesn’t see himself going anywhere any time soon.

Gen. Walter Natynczyk was named chief of defence staff by Prime Minister Stephen Harper three years ago. The appointment usually lasts about three years and Natynczyk has just recently celebrated his third anniversary.

“The mandate of the chief of defence staff isn’t codified,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “As I look through the rogue’s gallery for chiefs of defence, one went nine years and another went five. Rick Hillier went 3 1/2.

“I will go as long as the government of Canada asks me to serve.”

Natynczyk said one of his goals right now, with the end of Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan, is to make sure he continues to improve conditions for soldiers under his command.

There has been speculation that Natynczyk could be in line to become NATO’s top military commander.

There will be a vacancy next year when Italian Admiral Giampaolo di Paolo steps down as chairman of the NATO Military Committee.

“My name’s not in the hat. I know that some of my colleagues have tried to recruit me to throw my name in the hat, but, again, I serve at the pleasure of the country,” Natynczyk said.

As well as overseeing Canada’s war in Afghanistan, Natynczyk also served as deputy commanding general of U.S. III Corps in Iraq and has been close friends with Gen. David Petraeus, the outgoing NATO commander in Afghanistan.

Natynczyk said Canada has made a lasting difference in Afghanistan and has helped stabilize the war-torn country — but not without the loss of 157 Canadian Forces personnel, who died during the mission.

Their deaths have Natynczyk look ahead to Nov. 11.

“That will be the last service at our monument in Kandahar,” he said.

“We will also participate in memorials across the country to recognize the sacrifice of the over 110,000 Canadians who have died in battle.

“Not one has died in Canada, but all of them have kept Canada safe and secure.”

The Canadian compound at Kandahar Airfield has a marble cenotaph inscribed with the names and likenesses of the soldiers who died in Afghanistan.

Funding denial for Pickton inquiry ‘height of unfairness’: commissioner

VANCOUVER — It is unfair to expect non-profit groups representing sex workers, First Nations and residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to pay for lawyers to appear at the public inquiry into the investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton, says the commissioner overseeing the hearings.

Wally Oppal, a former judge and one-time attorney general, has written an eight-page letter to Attorney General Barry Penner asking him to reverse a decision denying funding for a dozen participants at the inquiry, expected to begin later this year.

The provincial government announced in May that it would only cover the legal costs for families of Pickton’s victims, despite an earlier recommendation from Oppal that 13 participants receive government funding.

“While I appreciate that the government is working with limited resources, this decision has a serious and negative impact on the commission’s work,” Oppal wrote in the June 30 letter.

“Failure to fund the participant organizations would leave disenfranchised women and victims in a clearly unfair position at the hearing.”

Oppal will oversee hearings examining why the Vancouver police and the RCMP failed to catch Pickton as he spent years preying on sex workers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, until his arrest in 2002.

Pickton was eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder, although the DNA from 33 women were found on his farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C. He told police that he had killed 49 women.

Oppal will also conduct a less-formal study commission into broader issues of missing and murdered women in the province, including in the north along a stretch of road known as the Highway of Tears.

A range of groups applied for standing, and Oppal granted participant status to 18 of them. Of those, he recommended 13 receive government funding to pay for lawyers.

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