Canada briefs – May 8

The Speaker of the House of Commons has rejected a complaint that government ministers misled Parliament on the costs of the F-35 fighter-jet program. Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae had argued a month ago that ministers didn’t give accurate information to MPs about the true price tag for the jets.

Speaker rejects complaint that government misled Commons on F-35s

OTTAWA — The Speaker of the House of Commons has rejected a complaint that government ministers misled Parliament on the costs of the F-35 fighter-jet program.

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae had argued a month ago that ministers didn’t give accurate information to MPs about the true price tag for the jets.

The auditor general said in a report last month that Parliament didn’t get the full picture on the costs of the jets, which are closer to $25 billion rather than the $16 billion the Tories publicized.

Michael Ferguson said members of cabinet would have known about those higher costs.

The parliamentary budget officer has also said he believes the government kept two sets of books on the cost of the fighter jets.

But Speaker Andrew Scheer says there isn’t enough evidence that the ministers intentionally misled the Commons, and so rejected Rae’s question of privilege.


Air Canada sued for $20 million after groggy pilot sends jet plunging

TORONTO — Passengers who went through a terrifying ordeal when a groggy co-pilot on a transatlantic flight mistakenly sent a plane plunging toward the ocean launched a class-action suit against Air Canada on Monday.

The statement of claim obtained by The Canadian Press shows the passengers are looking for $20 million in general and punitive damages.

At the heart of the punitive damages claim is what the suit alleges was a coverup by Air Canada, which blamed turbulence for the incident that left 16 people hurt on the Toronto to Zurich overnight flight in January last year.

“The passengers are pissed off that they appear to have been lied to by Air Canada,” said lawyer Darcy Merkur.

“They were told that this was turbulence and now they find out it wasn’t turbulence at all.”

Among other things, the suit filed with Ontario Superior Court alleges Air Canada “actively covered up the true cause of the terrifying episode.”

It also accuses Air Canada of various failures in regard to identifying and dealing with tired crew and of pressing indemnity waivers on passengers without telling them what had happened.

None of the claims has been tested in court and the suit has yet to be certified.

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said he was not yet aware of the suit.


Pilot in hang glider accident that killed woman remorseful, says lawyer

CHILLIWACK, B.C. — The lawyer for a B.C. pilot accused in the death of a 27-year-old woman who plunged from a hang glider says his client has expressed remorse for the tragedy.

Laird Cruickshank says William (Jon) Orders is also co-operating with police, including talking to them about allegations he swallowed a camera memory card.

The disk is considered potential key evidence by RCMP investigators, who are now examining whether it contains footage that could explain the death of Lenami Godinez-Avila.

She was in a tandem glider flight with Oders on April 28 when she slipped out of her gear 30 seconds into takeoff, plummeting 300 metres into the Fraser Valley.

Orders was arrested a week ago on a charge of attempting to obstruct justice for swallowing the memory card.

He was granted bail on Friday after police confirmed the card had passed through his system, but remained in custody over the weekend until he handed over his passports.

Orders’ next court appearance is expected on June 18.


Signs point to student dispute continuing in Quebec

MONTREAL — Talk of peace in Quebec’s three-month student conflict appears to be premature.

At least nine student associations have voted to reject the agreement between the provincial government and student leaders — some of them by massive majorities, of up to 94 per cent.

Those details are being provided by protest leaders; there was word of one student assembly in the Gaspe region agreed to the deal, while many others rejected it.

Also, at least seven protests are planned throughout the province today.

While student associations are voting this week on the arrangement, some of the principal actors are sounding less than enthusiastic.

One student website has even published what was purports to be an insider’s account of a marathon 24-hour negotiating session that led to the arrangement over the weekend.

That blow-by-blow description accuses the government of using sleep deprivation to get students, in the morning after all-night negotiations, to agree to what was put before them.

It says a few significant details were changed and that the final agreement isn’t exactly what the students thought they had agreed to.

Now some student leaders are asking that the agreement be revised.


Father pulls son from school at centre of Jesus T-shirt controversy

CHESTER BASIN, N.S. — William Swinimer returned to school Monday wearing the same T-shirt that led to his suspension and aroused a debate on religious freedom, but was abruptly pulled from class by his Bible-waving father who said his son would not take part in a discussion on tolerance.

“I walk in love, but today I am angry,” John Swinimer said outside Forest Heights Community School in Chester Basin.

“The flower of Christianity can never bloom here.”

His 19-year-old son was suspended last week after he refused to abide by a principal’s request to stop wearing a bright yellow shirt bearing the message, “Life is wasted without Jesus.”

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