By Nancy Macdonald - Monday, January 23, 2012 - 0 Comments
Luke Skipper on independence, whisky, and why Scotland isn’t another Quebec
Scotland has announced that in 2014, it will hold a referendum to decide whether to quit the United Kingdom. It turns out the Scottish National Party’s chief of staff, a man dedicated to tearing the U.K. apart, isn’t Scottish at all, though. He’s Canadian—not even fully Scots-Canadian, but equal parts English, Polish and Scottish—and arrived in Scotland all of six years ago. At first, the Kincardine, Ont., native admits, he felt funny trying to make the case, but he’s grown comfortable in the role, leading the charge for a free and independent Scotland. And yes, he’s acquired a wee Scottish brogue.
Q: So how does a Canadian come to champion Scotland’s independence movement? What was your connection to Scotland before this?
A: My stepdad is Scottish, that was a big influence in terms of Scottishness. And I have other family links to Scotland, including on my dad’s and mother’s side. I grew up in Kincardine, which obviously is named after a Scottish town, and was settled by two Scots; there’s a pipe band every Saturday in summer that marches up and down the street. It was settled quite heavily in the ’60s and ’70s with recent immigrants, sort of the second wave of Scots, and that included people like my stepdad. Edinburgh University has fantastic links with Queen’s University, where I did my undergrad, and I was very much encouraged to take an exchange year abroad. So in my third year, I went to Edinburgh and had a fantastic time. I started studying U.K. and Scottish politics then but I wasn’t involved with the party. For my master’s degree I was looking at continuing to study politics, and I applied to Edinburgh University, and got in.
By Nancy Macdonald - Friday, January 20, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
‘Foreigners’ are not the project’s only obstacle
The business case for Enbridge’s $5.5-billion, twinned Northern Gateway pipeline, which would send Canadian crude bound for Asia to the B.C. coast, seems sound: the project could inject $270 billion into Canada’s GDP while fetching $10 more per barrel than the oil gets when transported south, to the country’s current, lone oil customer. But politics, it became clear as an environmental review launched last week in Kitimat, B.C., may yet derail the pipeline dream—its importance to the country’s financial future notwithstanding.
Ottawa’s smoke-and-mirrors strategy of bashing the project’s foreign critics, which was timed to the hearing’s launch on B.C.’s soggy, northwest coast, allows Canadian politicians to avoid pointing fingers at what really stands in their way: British Columbia First Nations, empowered by a decade and a half of legal victories that have granted them a significant say over land in their traditional territories. The powerful Wet’suwet’en, who vigorously fought a land claim over 13 years, culminating in 1997’s landmark Delgamuukw ruling establishing the existence of Aboriginal title in B.C., are among dozens of bands that oppose the project, and call its proposed, 1,176-km route home. “It’s going to get ugly,” says Terry Teegee, vice-tribal chief of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council. “Battle lines have been drawn.”
Legally, experts say, B.C. bands have more clout than those outside the province, thanks partly to an accident of history. Few entered treaties with the Crown, unlike First Nations elsewhere in the country; and since they never signed away title, courts now require their input when resources are extracted from their traditional lands.
By Nancy Macdonald - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 1:30 PM - 0 Comments
Will this be the last stand for Kony and his vicious Lord’s Resistance Army?
Patrick Chengo remembers waking as a hand tore him from bed. Rebels roped together 10 boys from his tiny village, marching them into the black June night. Clenching his jaw, Chengo, the eldest at 14, refused to cry, hoping to calm the other boys; the youngest, just six, had wet himself from fear. Whips drove the boys far from home, deep into the northern Ugandan forest, where they eventually crossed the Nile into the Democratic Republic of Congo. So began Chengo’s nightmare—six years as a child soldier for Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.
Chengo managed to escape 18 months ago, but freedom has proved bittersweet. His parents didn’t live to see his return. He can no longer read nor do even basic math. His village believes he is a murderer. Chengo, who is haunted by the horrors of the forest, wants Kony captured and tried for what he did to him and tens of thousands of other children. So, apparently, does Barack Obama. In a surprise announcement last fall, President Obama declared the U.S. government was sending combat-ready troops to aid in the hunt for, and fight against, Kony, one of the planet’s most reviled war criminals, and the LRA’s senior leadership.
In the beginning, the LRA was allied with northern Uganda’s Acholi people; it formed in the late ’80s in opposition to the Yoweri Museveni government, which it hoped to replace with one led by northerners, who had ruled Uganda after independence. Political aims, however, were subsumed by Kony’s pseudo-religious imperative: the Christian sociopath claims the Holy Spirit has commanded him to keep killing until Uganda is ruled by the Ten Commandments.
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 6:05 PM - 0 Comments
‘It’s definitely a mental game’
By now, everyone knows about Tuesday’s horrific accident that left Canadian Sarah Burke, one of the planet’s best freeskiers, in a coma in a Utah hospital, her long-term prognosis unknown.
Anyone who has watched Burke’s sport knows what incredible courage it takes to hurtle oneself into the air—particularly knowing what happens when things go terribly wrong, as they did for her longtime friend, fellow skier C.R. Johnson, who died in a horrific crash two years ago. Burke, perhaps more than most, was aware of the potential for harm.
In an eye-opening interview in Aspen last year, she spoke to Maclean’s about how fear had crept into her game. Two years earlier, she’d broken her back at the Winter X Games. That fall, it seems, had done more than just physical damage. Continue…
By Nancy Macdonald - Monday, August 8, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
How the Vancouver tennis star went from near obscurity to the red carpet at Wimbledon
In June, during her ﬁrst appearance at Wimbledon, Rebecca Marino, Canada’s top ranked female player, almost missed the tournament’s gala dinner. An hour before it began, as she was getting ready to hit the gym, she suddenly realized that as a top 50 player she needed to be there, and would be ﬁned if she missed it. The 20-year-old Vancouverite tore through her suitcase, shook out a $10 dress from H&M, jumped in the shower, then into a cab to London’s Intercontinental Hotel. She made it, looking stunning, if a bit wrinkled, and walked the red carpet alongside players decked out in Alexander McQueen.
This time a year ago, few outside the tight-knit Canadian tennis world even knew her name. That changed in a heartbeat last September, at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Marino, then 19, competing in just her second World Tennis Association tour event, came close to knocking off Venus Williams. The Vancouver teen routinely overpowered the two-time U.S. Open champion, then ranked No. 4 in the world, matching Williams’s supersonic boom, hit for hit, with a serve hitting 193 km/h—Venus can hit 195 km/h—and mesmerizing the stunned colour analysts, who’d prepped for a blowout. “I guess I know what it’s like playing myself,” Williams said afterwards—high praise from the female game’s best server.
That steamy summer day at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Marino went from tennis no-name to the game’s next big thing. It also gave the reserved young player a needed conﬁdence boost. “It helped me realize I was good enough to crack the top echelon—that I can actually play with these girls,” she told Maclean’s. “After that, I clicked.”
By Nancy Macdonald - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 10:45 AM - 40 Comments
B.C. residents tune out the spin, and turn to each other for the HST vote
This month, for the first time in B.C. history, every British Columbian has the chance to play finance minister for a day. HST referendum ballots have landed in mailboxes across the province. But not everyone is thrilled with the opportunity. Navigating the complexities of tax policy isn’t easy, and even the referendum question is causing confusion. Voting “no” means you want to retain the HST, which strikes many as counterintuitive. A “yes” vote, meanwhile, is a vote against the new tax. The last poll showed that almost 20 per cent of respondents misunderstood. And that was just the question.
Both sides of the debate—former premier Bill Vander Zalm’s Fight HST campaign, and the government and its allies, calling themselves the Smart Tax Alliance—are fighting hard, deploying TV, print, radio and Internet ads, automated “robo” calls, lawn signs and spin doctors galore in a last-ditch effort to pick up votes. Yet some British Columbians, grown weary of the din, are turning to more trusted sources: their friends, family and colleagues.
Vancouver writer Christine McLaren was so thoroughly confused, she decided to gather her informed friends for a party to try to make sense of the referendum. Despite closely tracking the debate, the self-described news junkie had “no idea” how to vote. A lot of her friends, including her housemates, a shiatsu therapist, and a yoga and meditation teacher, were equally stumped. So the trio invited pals from all walks of life—engineering, finance, the arts, a mix of low- and middle-income families—to their purple house in Strathcona, a gentrifying neighbourhood bordering the Downtown Eastside. By hashing out the arguments, and “picking each’s other’s brains,” McLaren hoped to help make the decision a little less, er, “taxing.”
By Nancy Macdonald - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 8:35 AM - 4 Comments
Cigarettes would only be available with a prescription
When it comes to draconian anti-smoking rules, no country has considered going as far as Iceland. This fall, the country’s parliament will debate a radical new proposal that would outlaw the sale of cigarettes outside of pharmacies, where they would only be available with a prescription. The bill, sponsored by former health minister Siv Fridleifsdottir, aims to “protect children and youngsters,” she says, and to stop them from ever taking up the habit.
Iceland, however, is not alone in throwing up new barriers to smokers. In Australia next year, cigarettes will be sold in plain, brown packaging, prohibiting the use of tobacco industry logos, colours or brand imagery. In Sweden, surgeons refuse to treat smokers; patients are given blood tests to ensure compliance. Finland, meanwhile, is hoping to ban smoking entirely by 2040.
The Icelandic proposal also suggests treating tobacco smoke as a carcinogen, restricting it the same way the country does other known cancer-causing agents. The bill, however, may never see the light of day. A spokesperson for the Icelandic Ministry of Welfare said the proposal, although “very serious” and backed by the Icelandic Medical Association, has little chance of passing.
By Ken MacQueen, Nicholas Kohler, Jason Kirby and Nancy MacDonald - Monday, July 4, 2011 at 9:05 AM - 0 Comments
Michelle Obama visits Soweto, the world’s richest divorcée goes broke, and tennis’s grunting gals get called out
Hollywood’s high rollers
His day job is playing such film roles as Spiderman and Nick Carraway, in the upcoming Great Gatsby adaptation. But incredible as it may seem, Tobey Maguire’s hobby—high-stakes poker—may be even more lucrative than the silver screen. Maguire’s winnings, which could amount to as much as $30 to $40 million over three years, came to light in a lawsuit filed against the 35-year-old actor by a group of investors attempting to recoup money lost to Brad Ruderman, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for operating a $5.2-million Ponzi scheme. Ruderman lost much of the money playing Texas Hold ’em, including over $300,000 to Maguire, in an exclusive poker ring that drew players like Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Now, Ruderman’s investors want some of that cash. DiCaprio, Affleck and Damon aren’t being sued, though. “Matt never won,” a whistle-blower said.
One for the lads
As contingencies go, this one was a doozy. David Hart, a 23-year-old Royal Marine killed by a bomb blast in Afghanistan last year, earmarked $160,000 from his life insurance policy for an all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas for his best friends and their girlfriends—32 people in all. “In a letter, David said he had had a great life and had no regrets about anything,” one friend told a reporter. “He said, ‘Go and have a good time and spend all this money.’ ” He left a second portion to his family, and the rest to charity. Hart, who died a day short of his 24th birthday, had always dreamed of a Vegas weekend. When his pals return to England they will continue training for a 275-km bike ride to raise money for the Royal Marines Charitable Trust.
Stick with a bike
The 911 call to police in Caseville, Mich., went something like this: “Believe it or not, I just passed about a five-, six-year-old flying down the road with a red Pontiac Sunbird.” Actually, Chief Jamie Learman discovered that the driver, who stood on the floorboard of his stepfather’s car to see over the steering wheel, was a pyjama-clad seven-year-old. He hit speeds of 80 kph during a 32-km drive across Huron County, north of Detroit. Police gingerly boxed him in, stopping him without incident. “He was crying, and just kept saying he wanted to go to his dad’s,” Learman said. “That was pretty much it: he just wanted to go to his dad’s.”
Quit that racquet!
There are tasks where a grunt or two are justified. Piano moving or childbirth come to mind. But tennis? It’s all a bit much, says Ian Richie, head of the All England Lawn and Tennis Club. “Whether you are watching it on TV or here, people don’t particularly like it,” he told Britain’s Telegraph, with precisely the sort of understatement he’d like to see on Wimbledon’s grass courts. Jimmy Connors was a pioneering grunter back in the 1970s. Women then took it up with great enthusiasm. Maria Sharapova was recorded at 105 decibels in 2009—as loud as a car horn from three feet. Portugal’s Michelle Larcher de Brito and Serena Williams have also employed the tactic as a weapon of mass distraction. Richie has made his concerns known, but certain fans find the sound effects appealing. Former Wimbledon Champ Michael Stich accuses the women of trying to “sell sex.”
Think a weakness for sexy social networking, à la Anthony Weiner, is a purely American failing? Turns out the language of <3 knows no borders. Xie Zhiqiang, a health bureau official in the Chinese city of Liyang, set up an account with Weibo, a Twitter-like service in China, early this year believing it was a private chat tool. “Please marry me if there is a second life, so that we can live in romance until we are 100 years old,” he wrote to a married woman on the site before the pair were able to follow through on a planned tryst. Xie learned of the mistake after a reporter called about the exchange. “How can you view our messages on Weibo? It is impossible, isn’t it?” He has since been suspended from his job.
For more than a half-decade, she has been the face of Canadian women’s soccer—though perhaps never more so than now. Christine Sinclair wrote herself into the country’s sports lore for refusing to leave the field after her nose was broken in the opening game of the women’s World Cup at Berlin’s Olympiastadion. “You can’t play on,” Canada’s team doctor, Pietro Braina told her, trying to corral her onto the bench. But the Canadian captain turned, teary-eyed to Italian-born coach Carolina Morace who shrugged, palms up, and nodded to the field. Sinclair, of course, went on to score Canada’s lone goal, on a beautifully executed free kick in the dying minutes of the gutsy 2-1 loss—the first goal the two-time defending champion Germans have allowed since 2003. Sinclair, after having her nose resculpted by a German doctor, took to Twitter to opine on the new appendage: “amazing,” she wrote—joking, of course.
How to lose a billion dollars
It takes a lot to go from “the wealthiest divorcée in history” to bust in two decades—a lot of waste, that is. Patricia Kluge landed a $1-billion settlement when she split from media mogul John Kluge in 1990, only to blow the lot on parties for royalty, a 120-hectare estate in Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains and a private winery. Kluge and her third husband, William Moses, have racked up $46 million in debt and ﬁled for bankruptcy last week. Her antiques, and her personal jewellery collection have already been auctioned off, and the Kluge winery was sold at auction—to none other than Donald Trump, her old friend, for $6.2 million. But Kluge isn’t the only one exiting the billionaire club. Research in Motion’s co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis lost their status after a sharp drop in RIM’s share price cut their personal net worth to around $800 million each, down from $1.8 billion in March.
The Doc returns
After 12 years on the mound for the Toronto Blue Jays before he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, star pitcher Roy Halladay is set, this week, to make his long-awaited return to the mound at Rogers Centre, where he earned both a reputation and a nickname. The two-time Cy Young winner, Toronto’s first pick at the ’95 draft, was set to pitch against the Jays last year, but security concerns around the G20 summit forced the series to be shifted to Philadelphia instead. “Doc,” as he’s known around the league, was calm before the game: “I feel like it’s any other start.”
Tears of joy
“Alec! Now we can get married!” Steve Martin tweeted to his Oscar co-host, after New York legalized gay marriage in the state. “Ok,” Alec Baldwin responded, “but if you play that efﬁng banjo after eleven o’clock…” Lady Gaga, meanwhile, was a bit more emotional: “I can’t stop crying,” said the staunch gay-rights activist. “We did it kids. The revolution is ours to fight.”
Life out of office
It was a good week for Gordon Campbell, who is off to London as Canada’s high commissioner to the U.K.; the plum posting comes with a chauffeur, a chef and an official residence in swank Mayfair. In London, the former B.C. premier, who always resisted the temptation to bash the feds, will further hone his diplomatic skills among royals and the global elite. Gilles Duceppe, an Ottawa basher par excellence, had a big week too, granting his first televised interview since the Bloc’s stunning collapse in the last federal election. Unless Quebecers choose sovereignty, they’ll be “eating gumbo” in 50 years, he told Radio-Canada. He went on to hint at a return to politics, likely at the helm of the PQ, which appears to be imploding, a mere two months after the Bloc. He may well return to helm a sovereignist party, but the better question may be whether anyone will still be interested in the idea.
No medal for the penguin?
Dozer, a three-year-old goldendoodle from Fulton, Md., now merits his own runner’s page on the Maryland Half Marathon website, after escaping his masters Sunday and running the race. He crossed the finish line at the 2:12:24 mark, limping and exhausted, and received a medal from organizers after they discovered he was running solo. Truth is, Dozer probably slipped into the run several miles into the event. Far more impressive is the emperor penguin who swam an astonishing 4,000 km from Antarctica to New Zealand. Happy Feet, as he was nicknamed, was operated on at the Wellington Zoo to remove the stick and pebbles he’d eaten on Peka Peka beach. A committee has been struck to decide whether he should be returned home.
Building ships, and political futures
After a week in Ottawa spent championing the province’s bid for part of an estimated $35 billion in federal shipbuilding contracts, B.C. premier Christy Clark returned home to announce a major investment in a new marine trade training facility on Vancouver Island, sweetening the pot. If successful, the contract, which could create thousands of new jobs and raise millions in spinoffs, could also help Clark in a possible fall election, which could come as early as September.
Returning the warm embrace
Michelle Obama was hailed as a queen in her first solo trip to Africa this week. There, the U.S. First Lady spoke passionately to students, danced with African youth, met with Nelson Mandela and even squeezed in a dinner with her gal-pal Oprah Winfrey, a queen in her own right.
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 1:36 PM - 0 Comments
Robert Snelgrove on what prompted his actions, how sorry he is, and what it’s like to be shamed by an Internet mob
During the Vancouver riot, Coquitlam, B.C. native Robert Snelgrove was caught on camera walking out of
The BaySears carrying stolen cosmetics. The next day, he turned himself into police. Snelgrove, 24, a cell phone salesman, has been suspended without pay from his job and may be fired. Below, he tells Maclean’s what prompted his actions, how sorry he is, and what it’s like to be shamed by an Internet mob.
Q: Tell me about Game 7. How did you end up downtown?
A: I’m not really a sports fan. I got involved because all my friends started watching the games. I live on Seymour at Robson, right above Granville Street, and I got caught up in the whole excitement of the city. It was really, really exciting. I was watching Game 7 at a friend’s condo in Coal Harbour.
A: I had heard about it briefly on the news. Then, walking home, I found myself in the middle of it. It was like nothing I’d ever seen in my life before—like WWIII.
Q: At what point did you decide to jump in?
A: I don’t have a criminal record. I’ve never stolen anything in my life. I was standing outside The Bay, watching people breaking windows, smashing things, and lighting things on fire. I didn’t do that at all. When I saw multiple people break the window and walking out with stuff, I got caught up in it… It was a spur of the moment thing. Normally I would never think like that. I’m not trying to defend it, but it was one of those things—everyone’s doing it, so I might as well try it. I was quite intoxicated. I wasn’t in the best state of mind. Continue…
By Nancy Macdonald - Friday, June 3, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Lady Gaga makes an entrance, Mark Zuckerberg learns a new skill and Saudi women are driven to rebel
Laying it down with Beantown
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Twitter plea for help in coming up with a friendly wager with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino prompted some great ideas. “There’s a good one: sushi versus clam chowder, and swapping our best beers from two great beer-drinking cities,” Robertson told reporters in Stanley Park, a few steps from the iron statue of Lord Stanley—which currently sports a Canucks jersey. “One that I really like, that I’m going to campaign for with the mayor of Boston, is that the loser buys season’s tickets for a couple of inner-city kids in the winning city,” he said. Another favourite, he joked, would see the loser “swimming with an Orca” or “wrestling a bear.”
Ending the IMF boys’ club?
The bid by France’s Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to become the first female head of the International Monetary Fund was pushed forward at the G8 meet-up in Deauville. She once famously complained there is “too much testosterone” in high-powered circles, a comment that now looks prescient. French President Nicolas Sarkozy talked her up to Barack Obama; Hillary Clinton hailed her candidacy. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev called her the near-consensus choice, though China and India want a non-European from a developing country.
By Nancy Macdonald - Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 9:05 AM - 4 Comments
What Clark’s by-election win means for the B.C. Liberals
When Christy Clark finally emerged to greet supporters after a razor-thin by-election win in Vancouver last Wednesday, she laughed off suggestions she’d ever been worried. B.C.’s new premier, who has a disarming smile and the upbeat, populist charisma of W.A.C. Bennett, was so confident of the victory she’d ducked every debate during the campaign. Yet for almost the entire night, she trailed the NDP in tony Point Grey, the riding former premier Gordon Campbell had held since 1996. Finally, with just five polls remaining, she pulled ahead—a squeaker of a win, according to everyone but Clark.
The relief among the Liberals packed into the Kitsilano restaurant serving as campaign HQ was palpable. A loss would have been disastrous, not just for the rookie premier, but for the party, which had wagered that, in Clark, it had chosen a fresh face with no HST baggage: someone who could undo the damage Campbell did to the Liberal brand. And maybe they have. A win’s a win, and with a seat in the B.C. legislature, Clark can move on to the real battles: first, next month’s HST referendum, then a general election, expected as early as September.
Clark, a former deputy premier, leapt back into politics in December, announcing her intent to replace Campbell as leader of the B.C. Liberals after a six-year break from the game. She’d left to spend time with her son, then a toddler: “The government is going to find another politician,” she told reporters at the time, “but Hamish isn’t going to find another mother.” A coy caveat, however, bookended those remarks. “In B.C. politics,” she said, “nobody ever really goes away, do they?” No one doubted she’d be back.
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
Premier Ed goes back to the farm, Charles Bronfman divorces in style, and the NDP snags another seat in Quebec
Some supporters are always loyal
Ed Stelmach got choked up as he sat for the last time as premier in the Alberta legislature last Thursday, his 60th birthday. “Steady Eddie” was said to be the salt of the earth, but “he never seemed comfortable or conﬁdent at the head of the table,” the Calgary Sun editorialized. “He picked fights where none were necessary, appeared to see criticism as a threat” and, “painfully,” never found a way to communicate. After a strange showdown with then-finance minister Ted Morton in January, Stelmach chose to exit the bruising realm. He’ll return to the farm in Andrew, Alta., to his family and his beloved dogs. “I’m so grateful for them,” he told reporters last week. “If you have a really bad week and you come home to the farm, they’re always anxious to see you, and never hold anything against you.”
What’s in a name?
Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi travelled to Asbestos, Que., last week. “Does ‘asbestos’ mean something different in French than it does in English?” Mandvi asked Georges Gagné, the town director. “Because in English, it means ‘slow, hacking death.’ ” Mandvi also spoke to Bernard Coulombe, president of Asbestos’s Jeffrey Mine, which received $60 million from Quebec to ramp up sales of the ultra-dangerous mineral in places like India—a country “so open-minded,” said Mandvi sarcastically, “it hasn’t banned the material that causes an estimated 100,000 lung cancer deaths a year.” Indians are “used to pollution,” said Coulombe, apparently suggesting they wouldn’t be bothered by asbestos fibres—“it’s like they have a natural antibiotic.” What, Mandvi wondered aloud, “is the French word for douche bag?”
By Nancy Macdonald - Friday, May 13, 2011 at 11:15 AM - 0 Comments
Donald Trump gets sued, Rita Chretien is found alive, and Don Cherry is angry about something again
Compassion for bin Laden
Angela Merkel’s remark that she was “glad” Osama bin Laden had been killed sparked a firestorm of controversy in Germany. Hamburg judge Heinz Uthmann even filed a criminal complaint, alleging the German chancellor broke a law barring the “rewarding and approving of crimes”—in this case, bin Laden’s “homicide.” Politicians denounced her, and 64 per cent of Germans agreed: bin Laden’s death was “no reason to rejoice.” In L.A., however, even the Dalai Lama—compassion incarnate—said he had it coming. “If something is serious and it is necessary to take counter-measures, you have to take counter-measures,” said the Tibetan spiritual leader.
Mother’s day miracle
After 49 days alone in a Chevy Astro van on a logging road in remote Nevada, Rita Chretien was found barely conscious, but clinging to life. The 56-year-old Penticton, B.C., native and her husband, Albert, were stranded en route to Las Vegas on March 19; Albert, who left two days later to ﬁnd help, hasn’t been seen since. Rita’s faith, and a bit of trail mix, was all that kept her going until finally she was spotted by hunters on ATVs. “We were praying for a miracle and, boy, did we get one,” her son Raymond told reporters Sunday.
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, May 12, 2011 at 9:15 AM - 1 Comment
A skilled athlete and a fearless cliff diver, he pursued a lifelong dream and moved to British Columbia for a fresh start
David Stewart Arthur Cleverley was born on March 30, 1985, in Prince George, B.C., the fourth child and only son for Donald, a teacher, and Lori, a bank manager. When David was three, the Cleverleys moved to Ontario. The pulp mill in Prince George had set off David’s sister Megan’s allergies, and Don’s entire family settled in Cambridge. The Cleverleys were a tight-knit bunch and spent summers in their white minivan, criss-crossing North America on road trips and singing Hey Jude and Walking on Broken Glass at the top of their lungs.
When he was four, Lori found David on the roof of the house. “It’s okay, mom! I got my Superman shirt on,” he yelled down. After that, he was known as “Superman” to friends and family. He was “absolutely fearless,” says Lori. On instinct, he’d throw himself into any body of water he came across—lakes, quarries, pools. When visiting his cousin Ben in Vancouver, he’d sneak into UBC’s outdoor pool at night to dive off the 10-m board.
School wasn’t really his thing—which was tough, because his sisters were all straight-A students—but sports sure were. Football was his passion. David, who had a vertical that made coaches drool, was tailor-made for the wide-receiver position. He was supremely confident and, with his larger-than-life personality, became a vocal team leader with the Cambridge Lions, the local under-19 team. He’d started attracting interest from schools in the U.S. and Canada, and his final season with the Lions was his moment to shine. But in the second game of the season, while returning a kick, David was dropped by a brutal hit, ruining his shoulder. In that instant his career was ended, leaving a gaping hole in his life.
By Nancy Macdonald - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 10:10 AM - 4 Comments
With bin Laden’s death, the war on terror has lost its purpose, according to al-Qaeda expert Peter Bergen
Peter Bergen began covering the rise of al-Qaeda long before the twin towers fell. One of the few Western journalists to have interviewed Osama bin Laden, Bergen is CNN’s national security analyst, and has written three books about the terrorist organization. In his latest, The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and al-Qaeda, he argues that 9/11 marked the climax of al-Qaeda’s power. Bin Laden’s organization, he writes, has been in decline ever since. Bergen spoke with Maclean’s from Washington.
Q: Al-Qaeda has now lost its best recruiter and fundraiser. Is this the beginning of the end?
A: Yes. When you joined the Nazi party, you didn’t swear an oath of allegiance to Naziism; you swore a personal oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler. When you join al-Qaeda, you swear an oath of allegiance to bin Laden, not to al-Qaeda or al-Qaedism. Similarly, when groups join al-Qaeda in Iraq, they swear a personal fealty to bin Laden. He’s the grand fromage of al-Qaeda and the jihadi movement. No one can replace him.
By Nancy Macdonald - Friday, April 29, 2011 at 8:10 AM - 36 Comments
A young urbanite who’s in favour of gay marriage and arts funding, ‘he actually gets it’
On a cold, dreary Good Friday, James Moore, Conservative candidate for Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam, is standing in the rain; the local Legion turns 80 today, and Moore is out stumping, though it doesn’t look as if he’ll pick up a lot of votes. The crowd is mostly under 18—Boy Scouts and Cadets in awkward, blue uniforms. Moore, who’s built like a linebacker and looks even taller than his six-foot-three frame, towers over them.
Then again, his seat isn’t really in doubt: he won by over 15,000 votes last time. The 34-year-old is already the region’s most powerful political minister. And with the recent retirements of B.C. heavyweights Stockwell Day and Chuck Strahl, “his time has come,” says University of Victoria political scientist Norman Ruff. Gary Lunn, his competitor for senior minister from B.C., faces a fight against Elizabeth May in Saanich-Gulf Islands, and was demoted in cabinet in 2008.
Moore, meanwhile, has deftly handled the heritage portfolio, his rookie ministerial assignment, ensuring Stephen Harper will never again be side-swiped by angry artists. Harper’s comments in the last election that “ordinary people” didn’t care about arts funding backfired spectacularly, particularly in Quebec, and Moore, who is single and unencumbered by a family, has been criss-crossing the country ever since, making nice, spreading cash and the new Harper creed—lately, the Tories have delivered the biggest arts funding budgets in Canadian history.
By Nancy Macdonald - Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 5:50 PM - 2 Comments
Mark Strahl is poised to take over his dad’s seat—amid cries of cronyism. He’s not the only one with an edge.
Nepotism, cronyism, coronations—B.C. Conservatives, long used to attacking the Liberals with these charges, now find themselves in the curious position of attacking their own the same way.
The issue has cropped up in the old Reform heartland, where MPs like Chuck Strahl and Stockwell Day used to make hay tackling the patronage and privilege infecting Ottawa. On March 12, Transport Minister Strahl announced his retirement from politics. Barely a week later, his son Mark snagged the nomination in Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, his dad’s Bible belt riding, hardly hurting for fresh Tory blood. Yet Strahl faced a single opponent. “A number of very prominent, very interesting people” were keen to run, says Chilliwack deputy mayor Sue Attrill. But the abbreviated process barred “80 per cent” of them, says Casey Langbroek, an accountant who served for 16 years on council. Langbroek, who was stranded in Ontario on business when he learned of the race, calls the process a “gross injustice.”
It’s the same story in the riding next door, long held by Treasury Board President Stockwell Day, who announced his retirement the same day as Strahl. In Okanagan-Coquihalla, only three candidates, all associates of Day’s—his former parliamentary secretary and two members of his constituency board—were able to get their nomination papers in on time.
By Nancy Macdonald and Maclean's staff - Friday, April 15, 2011 at 12:50 PM - 0 Comments
Hugh Grant’s revenge on the tabloids, the granny who killed the Internet, and Mark Zuckerberg wins again
On screen, Hugh Grant has always excelled at playing the befuddled. But in real life, he’s awfully sharp. Last week, the long-time victim of Britain’s tabloid press turned the tables in an exposé for the New Statesman. After a chance encounter with a former News of the World journalist, Grant secretly taped a pub conversation where the man revealed that executives at the paper, including Andy Coulson, who went on to become David Cameron’s press secretary, knew all about the rampant hacking of celebrities’ voice mails. So did honchos at News Corp., the paper’s Rupert Murdoch-owned parent company, which subsequently issued a grovelling public apology. But the best part might have been the headline on Grant’s article: “The bugger, bugged.”
He feels for himself
Giving up a dictatorship is apparently not all roses and unicorns. Hosni Mubarak has issued his first, unrelentingly self-pitying statement since being forced from office two months ago. “I have been pained, and am still in pain because of what I have been subjected to,” the deposed Egyptian president begins, “from unjust campaigns and false allegations aimed at hurting my reputation and questioning my integrity, stances and military and political history . . . ” Mubarak, who went on to deny stashing money in foreign countries—a fortune rumoured to be in the billions—taped the five-minute remarks from his weekend home on the Red Sea, where he reportedly suffered a heart attack Tuesday before facing questioning by prosecutors over allegations of corruption and abuse.
Know when to fold ’em
Sometimes a backup goalie just gets bored, and Marty Turco broke up the monotony last week by wagering with a fan seated next to him in Montreal’s Bell Centre, as Turco’s Chicago Blackhawks took on the Canadiens. Season ticketholder Robert Walter says he egged Turco into taking a $5 bet that the Hawks wouldn’t score on the Canadiens. When they did, Walter wrote “Habs Rule” on a fin and dutifully passed it through the glass separating them while a friend photographed the transaction for posterity. Later, in the third, Walter persuaded the Hawks netminder to take 5-1 odds on the Habs winning in overtime and—wouldn’t you know it—the Canadiens came through. Turco reportedly sent several fives back through the barrier, but not before editing the original note to read: “Turco Rules.” Alas, the only “rules” that matter are NHL ones forbidding players from wagering on games. The league is investigating.
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 7:50 AM - 5 Comments
She was born in a Thai refugee camp after her family escaped from Burma, and survived some of the worst hospitals in the world
Htoo K’Bru Paw—”Bright Flower”—was born on March 19, 2000, at Mae Rama Luang refugee camp in western Thailand. Htoo, pronounced “Too,” was one of 13 children born to Say Ler Moo and Poe Gay, rice farmers from Burma’s persecuted Karen minority. Her parents had fled Burma just before Htoo’s birth. For years, the family had been on the run in the jungle, surviving on rice broth and bamboo shoots, never speaking above a whisper, hiding from the military, who’d razed their village, and slaughtered their relatives.
Although Mae Rama was a dirty, tightly packed refugee camp with no electricity or plumbing, it was paradise, says Poe Gay. The family was safe at last. They lived in a one-room bamboo hut, two metres above the ground. Sometimes, the bamboo would rot and you’d fall through the floor, Poe Wah, Htoo’s eldest brother, explains—far better, he adds with a smile, than falling into the outhouse. They ate rice, though there was never enough. Over time, Poe Gay acquired eight chickens, which she sold to supplement their rice rations; it was the first time she had ever seen money. The kids had no shoes, and were often sick. At any given time, 40 per cent of the camp’s children were ill with malaria, TB, or chronic diarrhea. Death was all around them.
Htoo’s world ended at the grey fence surrounding the camp. She didn’t have any toys: her prized possession was a collection of stones she’d amassed over the years. School, her great love, was an infrequent luxury. Once, she misplaced a textbook, and was inconsolable. Htoo, wise and funny and a whiz with her younger siblings, always kept the family laughing and happy. That was her role, her brother explains. She was their warm soul.
When Htoo was eight, Canada offered to take the family in. Each underwent medical testing. That’s when Htoo’s parents learned she had thalassemia, a genetic blood disease. She’d worked so hard caring for everyone, no one had realized she herself had been hurting. She immediately began blood transfusions. The camp hospital was grotesque. The sick were squeezed into one room, some screaming in pain. Drips were hooked to rotting thatched walls. Infections were constant. Once, Htoo awoke to find the woman lying next to her had died in her sleep. But soon, she would leave all this behind.
The journey to the Bangkok airport took five days. The only food Htoo’s parents could afford for the trip was a bag of chips. Inside, there were 12 chips: one for each child. On June 27, 2008, Htoo’s family landed in Langley, B.C., with no English, or any experience with the world outside of a refugee camp. Htoo entered Grade 4 at Nicomekl Elementary. Every afternoon, she and her sisters studied together, memorizing vocabulary lists, grammar rules and reciting Scripture. No one worked harder than Htoo, who always placed first at the Karen Heritage School, where she took weekend classes.
She learned to skate and play soccer, and flourished. Her health improved so much that doctors suggested a bone marrow transplant to cure her, thus ending monthly blood transfusions and visits to hospital. Poe Wah, it turned out, was a perfect match, and in June, Htoo underwent surgery.
By mid-July, she’d regained her strength, and doctors were set to release her when she caught an infection. By August, she was near death, but fought it and won. But constant infections meant her siblings couldn’t visit. Nurses hooked up a webcam; back in Langley, her family scrambled to borrow a matching set-up. The day the cameras went live, Htoo’s siblings rushed to take turns speaking to their favourite sister. As the novelty wore off, they resumed their routines. But no one turned off the camera. For hours, Htoo sat hugging the laptop to her chest, listening as her sisters recited their vocabulary lists and her brothers chattered away.
At Christmastime, she took a turn for the worse, and in January was admitted to the ICU. Htoo, wise beyond her years, understood how sick she really was. Only at the very end did she finally allow herself to cry. “I just want to see my brothers and sisters,” she told her dad, her voice barely a whisper. “I don’t want to die yet.” But she just didn’t have any fight left. Her family gathered round her bed; when Htoo could no longer open her eyes, she would squeeze her siblings’ hands. On Feb. 3, Htoo, who’d survived infection and disease in some of the ugliest hospitals in the world, died in Canada, of an infection, at one of the world’s best. She was 11 years old.
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 12 Comments
Elizabeth May’s third election could well be her last—and a critical moment for the Greens
Elizabeth May’s campaign headquarters are located on what could be called Sidney, B.C.’s main drag, Beacon Street. That description, truth be told, suggests a degree of excitement absent from the sleepy Vancouver Island town. Nearby speed limits top out at 30 km/h; and odd is the business that doesn’t keep a dish of water for thirsty dogs. Fittingly, the scene inside the HQ feels more like a United Church basement after Sunday services than the campaign war room of a federal party leader. Green party volunteers scoop sunflower seeds into campaign door-hangers, which May will take with her when she knocks on doors on the even sleepier Pender Island the next day. Politicos in the backroom sip herbal tea. May, an “empty nester with dog,” as she describes herself, sits on a comfy couch facing the front door, presiding over the room. “Hi Jean!” she suddenly shouts, flashing a huge smile at a fiftysomething former Tory, interrupting the interview for the umpteenth time for a friendly chat. Dozens more supporters, and their dogs, stroll in on this sunny Saturday, one week into the campaign.
Sidney locals will see a lot more of May in the next month. The party’s strategy, this time, is simple: get May a seat, or bust. The Green party leader is planning to spend all but 10 days in the riding, in stark contrast to the last campaign, which she launched in Guelph, Ont., before flying to Vancouver to catch a cross-Canada election train that deposited her, eventually, in Central Nova, N.S., her home riding; there, she took on Peter MacKay. Although May sees the last campaign as a “watershed” for the party—the former activist muscled into the leaders’ debates, established the Greens as Canada’s fourth party, and upped electoral support by 41 per cent—analysts largely saw it as a fail, because she wasn’t able to unseat MacKay, the defence minister. “I remember an interesting meeting right after the 2008 election,” she explains. “A council member said: ‘I get so sick of hearing, “You didn’t even elect your leader.” ‘ Well, we weren’t even trying to elect the leader. But it kind of hung in mid-air, like a thought bubble: ‘We didn’t even try to elect the leader…’ Then, we started thinking: maybe we should have.”
By Nancy Macdonald - Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 3:50 PM - 7 Comments
Selling books for $40,000, and books for a dollar, MacLeod’s is a used bookstore quite unlike any other
For new visitors, the reaction rarely differs. After pushing through the front door, they stop, momentarily, in their tracks. On this rainy winter Sunday, an American tourist, dressed in purple Gore-Tex, lets out a gasp. “My God,” she says, to no one in particular, “I’ve never seen so many books in my life.” At MacLeod’s Books in downtown Vancouver, packed bookshelves stretch almost to the cathedral ceilings. Books are piled all over a worn, red Persian rug. “Please find the Faulkner paperback collection on the floor,” a note helpfully directs. A ladder leans haphazardly against a stuffed shelf. More books are stacked on its steps. “Is there any semblance of order at all?” asks a middle-aged man with tight black curls and John Lennon glasses. There is, of course; the finely ordered chaos is one of the marvels of MacLeod’s. There isn’t a computer in sight, but staff know exactly what they own, and where to find it. Within seconds, the churlish customer has the Tolkien he was after.
Behind him, a MacLeod’s regular, his wiry brown hair standing on end, rushes in and out, lugging suitcases filled with books into the store, adding to a pile stacked near the front. “He’s been buying books from us for years,” says the shopkeeper, as the man hurriedly retreats backwards, spilling out apologies, a farewell, a promise to return. “Now he’s leaving for Spain, and he wants us to buy them all back. I haven’t even agreed,” Don Stewart, the legendary—at least in the tight circle of Vancouver bibliophiles—owner of the bookshop adds with a shrug.
By Nancy Macdonald with Nicholas Köhler. - Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 3:35 PM - 2 Comments
Devastation, loss, and the aftermath: a shocking catastrophe and a heroic struggle
At exactly 15 minutes to three in the afternoon, on Friday, March 11, 2011, Japanese time, in the moments just preceding the 9-magnitude earthquake that in the space of three minutes would wreak more havoc on Japan than that country has experienced since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Natsuko Komura was riding a horse along the Paciﬁc coast in the northeastern city of Sendai. Rie Wakabayashi, 36, sat in a bus in Tokyo bound for a business meeting in the high-end Roppongi Hills complex. Chris Nixon, a 35-year-old American employed in the ﬁnancial services sector, was working from his home in Chiba prefecture, next to Tokyo, his new wife, Aya, nearby.
In those same moments, 125 km off Japan’s east coast and 10 km beneath the ocean surface, the Paciﬁc plate abruptly dove under its tectonic neighbour—the North American plate atop which northern Japan sits. That geological event, the consequence of eons’ worth of pent up energy, tore a gap into the Earth’s crust 400 km long and 160 km wide and pushed Honshu, Japan’s long main island, almost three metres. So gargantuan was the shift, scientists later calculated, that it rejigged the position of Earth’s axis by 16 cm and sped the planet’s rotation up by 1.6 microseconds, imperceptibly shortening our days. It was the largest quake in Japan’s history and tied for fourth largest in the world since 1900.
Just as Wakabayashi felt the ground move, then begin to shudder violently for more than two minutes, her transit bus had rolled under a Tokyo overpass; so intense was the quake that she feared it would collapse and crush her. Around 370 km north of her, in Sendai, Komura jumped off her horse, ran to her car and sped away from the coast. “The trafﬁc lights had stopped working and there was massive congestion—rows and rows of cars,” she later told the BBC. In Chiba, Nixon and Aya stepped outside their home and held onto an outer wall.
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 1:20 PM - 0 Comments
When the Bay announced it would spiff up Winnipeg’s Paddlewheel restaurant, thousands in the Prairie city reacted in horror
When the Bay announced plans last month to bring in high-end restaurateurs Oliver & Bonacini to spiff up its department store dining rooms across the country, including Winnipeg’s Paddlewheel restaurant, thousands in the Prairie city reacted in horror. To deal with the backlash, a Toronto-based P.R. firm was promptly called in and the Bay appeared to change its tune: the Paddlewheel “brand” would remain anchored in the ‘Peg, the company promised. A reno, however, may still be in the cards—one, they carefully added, which will “honour the history and tradition” of the downtown hot spot, whose menu still includes cubed Jell-O and whipped cream.
Since the 1950s, generations of Winnipeg women have dined with their mothers and grandmothers at the restaurant on the sixth floor of the Portage Avenue Bay. “It’s part of Winnipeg’s fabric,” says Jino Distasio, director of the Institute for Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg. “It harkens back to a time when downtown was the place to be, and the Paddlewheel was the place people would gather.”
In the ’60s, the country’s rock luminaries—including Neil Young—were regulars, says rock historian John Einarson. In the hopes of catching a glimpse, “you’d nickel nurse a Coke and a plate of chips,” he says; some young men would turn up with an empty guitar case (“chick magnet”). On Friday nights bands in town signed off saying: “See you tomorrow at the Paddlewheel.”
More recently, filmmaker Guy Maddin made it the setting for homoerotic “Golden Boy pageants” in his docu-fantasy My Winnipeg; in his revisionist history, the eatery became, by night, the “Paddlewheel Nightclub,” purveyor of gambling, booze and orange Jell-O. The place has history and cachet. Winnipeggers can only hope CEO Bonnie Brooks will see it.
By Nancy Macdonald - Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 11:03 AM - 0 Comments
The X Games’ high-octane mix of risk and thrill may be headed for the Olympics—and Sarah Burke is ready for it
Sarah Burke died on January 19 of the injuries she suffered in a training accident. Below is the profile of Burke Maclean’s published last spring.
Sarah Burke is among the planet’s best skiers. She has chops enough to also have been named one of the most influential of the past 35 years by Powder magazine—and sex appeal enough to have made Teen Vogue and the men’s magazine FHM, where she appeared au naturel, with just a pair of crossed skis for cover. But in Canada, the Midland, Ont., native is an unknown. Burke, dubbed the “female Shaun White” after the snowboarding god, was nowhere to be seen at the Olympics. Her sport, halfpipe skiing, is a bit much for the International Olympic Committee—she hits the pipe the same way snowboarders do, spinning and flipping above its 22-foot walls, but on skis—and for much of her career, the 28-year-old has not only been shut out of the Olympics, she’s had few women’s events to compete in at all.
In Aspen, Colo., late last month, however, she was in her element. There was huge buzz about Canada’s queen of the slopes at the Winter X Games, the one weekend a year the posh resort town gets mobbed by gravity junkies and party-hearty snowboarders—the kind of people who think nothing of jumping 300-foot gaps on snowmobiles, or triple-flipping face-first off the lip of an icy halfpipe. This is where the sport’s counterculture gets the major league treatment, and its heroes their 15 minutes of fame. “It’s the biggest event of the year,” says Burke. “The most people and energy and the biggest party.”
In 15 years, the X Games, the brainchild of an ESPN exec looking to create an outlet for skateboarding and snowboarding, has become the world’s pre-eminent action-sports festival. Like the Olympics, it boasts summer and winter versions, and stirs up its share of nationalist tub-thumping, Aussie face paint and inflatable Boxing Roos. These alternative games, however, target a younger, faster crowd—the Olympics, but with a hip-hop soundtrack and jaw-dropping aerial moves.
By Nancy Macdonald - Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 10:29 AM - 11 Comments
The B.C. premier on right and wrong politics, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his worst day in office
Later this month, three-term B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell—a three-term Vancouver mayor before that—will retire from public life. In 2010, he introduced the widely despised Harmonized Sales Tax. In November, after months of vicious public debate over the new tax, Canada’s longest-serving premier announced that he was stepping down.
Q: When you were first elected premier back in 2001, your peers included Mike Harris in Ontario and Bernard Landry in Quebec. Those seem like names from a bygone era. Does it feel like a long time to you?
A: Things change a lot less in 10 years than you’d think. It seems like a long time ago when I think about the things that were taking place. We came in with a major personal income tax cut, then we were confronted with a tech meltdown; 9/11; Afghanistan in October; SARS in November; there was a war in Iraq the next year; floods. All that stuff really grabs you right at the time you’re trying to work through a whole bunch of other things—we’d said we were going to balance our budget by 2003. So, it’s a very intense experience. But does it seem like a long time ago? Not really.