Pt 1: Kyrgyzstan - Amidst violent protests and rioting, an opposition group in Kyrgyzstan has seized power in a coup. We get the latest on the situation in Kyrgyzstan and look at how the coup might alter the geopolitics of the region. (Read More)
Pt 2: Who Owns Genes - A landmark court-case could re-write the law when it comes to patenting human genes. (Read More)
Pt 3: Suing CRA - Meet a couple in British Columbia who are suing the Canada Revenue Agency over a search of their home. They say the Canada Revenue Agency has contravened their Constitutional rights. (Read More)
Whole Show Blow-by-Blow
Today's guest host was Linden MacIntyre.
It's Friday, April 9th.
The BC Supreme Court awarded a man 1.3 million dollars in damages against the Canada Revenue Agency for infringing on his right to privacy.
Currently... that's taxable, right?
This is The Current.
Kyrgyzstan: ReporterFirst we played part of an e-mail we received from a Canadian who is trapped in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Because she fears for her safety, we've agreed to withhold her name and to have someone else read her e-mail. As you may have heard on the news, the opposition has seized control of Bishkek in a violent uprising. At least 75 people have been killed and President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has been run out of the capital. The opposition calls it a democratic revolution. President Bakiyev calls it an illegitimate power grab.
What happens next is unclear at this point but it could have far-reaching consequences. Both the United States and Russia have important interests in Kyrgyzstan.
Ben Judah has been covering the conflict. He's a correspondent for the monthly British Standpoint.
The United States' primary interest in Kyrgyzstan is the Manas Air Base. It's a key transit hub for its military operations in Afghanistan and it sits on land that the United States rents from the Kyrgyz Government. According to Alexander Cooley, that's a contentious issue in Kyrgyzstan and one that has helped fuel the opposition. Alexander Cooley is a Professor of International Relations and Foreign Policy at Barnard College at Columbia University. He's also a Global Fellow with the Open Society Institute and he was in New York City.
As mentioned, this isn't the first time that people in Kyrgyzstan have taken to the streets to oust a President. In 2005, President Askar Akayev was overthrown in what came to be known as the Tulip Revolution and Sally Cummings sees what's happening now as the continuation of what began five years ago. She's a Senior Lecturer at the School of International Relations at St. Andrew's University. She's also the Editor of Domestic and International Perspectives on Kyrgyzstan's Tulip Revolution: Motives, Mobilization and Meanings. Sally Cummings was in Dundee, Scotland.
As you heard at the beginning of the program, The Current has been keeping in touch with a Canadian who is working in Bishkek, the capital of Krygyzstan. Since the violence erupted, she and a number of her co-workers have been living together in a small house, bags packed, unsure what happens next.
Because of the risks involved, we have agreed to not use her name and we've used someone else's voice for her email.
Who Owns Genes?
First we heard a clip from Elizabeth Sariani. She's a breast cancer survivor who might be at an elevated risk for ovarian cancer. She could find out for sure by getting a test that would tell her if she has a mutation on either of two genes - the BRCA 1 or the BRCA 2. Until recently, a biotechnology company called Myriad had total control of the patents for those two genes as well as the legal rights to the testing service used to find mutations on them. That meant that anyone who wanted to find out if they had the mutation had to go through Myriad but Elizabeth Sariani says she couldn't afford to pay what Myriad was asking.
Last week, a judge in the United States ruled that Myriad's patents on the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes are invalid. The decision could set a historic precedent and it has already thrown into question the validity of the patents on about 2,000 other human genes. Myriad is planning to appeal the decision.
The case was brought by a group of patients including Elizabeth Sariani, as well as a group of scientists. They were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation. Sandra Park was one of the attorneys on the case. She's a staff attorney at the ACLU's Women's Rights Project and she was in New York City.
Who Owns Genes: Industry
We requested an interview with a representative from Myriad Genetics but they declined to speak to us, because of the pending appeal.
Who Owns Genes: Scientist
For a sense of how this American lawsuit might affect Canada, we were joined by Tim Caulfield. He's the Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta. He was in Edmonton.
Suing the CRA: Elly Foote
Elly and Nathan Foote live in a log home on a ranch in the northern interior of British Columbia. They settled there after they rode up on horseback from Patagonia in 1973. They cleared the land, built the house themselves and began farming and logging with Belgian Draft Horses. Then, five years ago, the Canada Revenue Agency, or as it commonly called the CRA, began auditing their businesses. The CRA concluded that the Footes owed taxes on 800,000-dollars of undeclared income from their logging operation but the Footes didn't know that. So it came as something of a surprise when CRA agents showed up on their doorstep, told them they were under criminal investigation and began searching their home for documents. That was on March 14th, 2007 and that search is just one aspect of the Footes' battle with the CRA. They have since launched a lawsuit in British Columbia's Supreme Court. Elly Foote joined us from her home in the Uncha Valley in northern B.C.
Suing the CRA: Hal Neumann & Steven Kelliher
The Footes aren't the only ones who have taken on the Canada Revenue Agency over a search of their property. Hal Neumann is a businessman in Victoria and he sued the CRA over the way it conducted a search of his house. The B.C. Supreme Court ruled in his favour and awarded him 1.3 million dollars in damages. The CRA is now appealing the decision. Hal Neumann was in Portland, Oregon. His lawyer Steven Kelliher was in Victoria, B.C.
We requested an interview with a representative from the Canada Revenue Agency. The agency declined our request. But it did send us a statement. It reads in part ...
The CRA has checks and balances in place to ensure that the quality of work and the conduct of its auditors and investigators meets the highest standards of professionalism. The CRA also has a Quality Assurance Division to promote consistent application of standards of quality in all audit programs. While executing searches, investigators are expected to abide by the proper procedures and practices. Everyone participating in the execution of a search warrant must conduct themselves in a professional manner. CRA investigators are advised to remain courteous, tactful and to exercise good judgment and common sense throughout the search.
Performer: Five Stone
Cut: "Strike and Fade"
Label: November Sixteenth Publishing