May 21, 2009

Pt 1: Death of a GM Salesman - General Motors severed its ties with about 245 of its Canadian dealerships yesterday. In a series of e-mails, the company told the dealerships that it will not be renewing their licenses beyond October, 2010 ... a move that effectively shuts down more than a third of the 709 GM dealerships in Canada and could put 10,000 people out of work.

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Pt 2: Rwandan War Crimes Trial - After two years and more than 1.5 million dollars, Judge André Denis is poised to make judicial history tomorrow. The Quebec Superior Court Judge is expected to hand down his decision in the trial of Desiré Munyaneza, the first person to be charged under Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

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Pt 3: Letters - This is Thursday and our Friday Host Bob McKeown joined Anna Maria in studio for our weekly look at the mail.

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It's Thursday May 21st.

A Quebec woman was fined $100 after a police officer saw her not holding on to a handrail at a subway station in Laval.

Currently, . .. and with that piece of crack police work, Laval is ....officially.... crime free.

This is The Current.

Death of a GM Salesman - CDAD

General Motors severed its ties with about 245 of its Canadian dealerships yesterday. In a series of e-mails, the company told the dealerships that it will not be renewing their licenses beyond October, 2010 ... a move that effectively shuts down more than a third of the 709 GM dealerships in Canada and could put 10,000 people out of work.

GM is refusing to name the dealerships that will be affected. And no one from the company would agree to speak to us this morning. A statement from the company says that the goal is to reduce the number of dealerships - quote - "in an orderly, cost-effective and customer-friendly way" ... and that the result will be "a more competitive dealer network with higher volumes." GM has until June 1st to file a restructuring plan with the U.S. Government. Otherwise, it will likely have to file for bankruptcy protection.

For a sense of how all of this is affecting dealers across Canada, we were joined by Hugh Williams. He is the Head of Government Relations with the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association and he was in Ottawa.

Death of a GM Salesman: Budd

Chris Budd owns Budd's Saturn Saab in Oakville, Ontario and that's where we reached him.

Death of a GM Salesman: Dealers

Dewey Hall and Doug Airey both spent much of yesterday waiting for news about their futures. Dewey Hall owns Gananoque Chevrolet Cadillac in Gananoque, Ontario. And Doug Airey owns Western Pontiac Buick GMC in Edmonton. He's also the President of the Edmonton Motor Dealers Association.

Rwandan War Crimes Trial - Nyilinkwaya

After two years and more than 1.5 million dollars, Judge André Denis is poised to make judicial history tomorrow. The Quebec Superior Court Judge is expected to hand down his decision in the trial of Desiré Munyaneza, the first person to be charged under Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

Mr. Munyaneza is accused of murdering and raping civilians during the 1994 Rwandan genocide and of leading attacks against ethnic Tutsis at the National University of Rwanda. Mr. Munyaneza arrived in Canada as a refugee claimant in 1997. He was denied refugee status and lost two appeals. He was arrested at his home in a Toronto suburb in 2005 and charged with seven counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Over the course of 100 days in the spring and summer of 1994, nearly 800,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were murdered by well-organized militias in Rwanda.

Jean-Paul Nyilinkwaya lost nearly 70 members of his family in the genocide, including his father. He was studying in the United States at the time and has since moved to Montreal. He is now a member of PAGE-Rwanda, an association of friends and family of the victims of the genocide. He also gave the RCMP information about Desiré Munyaneza. Jean-Paul Nyilinkwaya was in our Montreal studio.

Rwandan War Crimes Trial - Broomhall

Regardless of the verdict, this case could set a precedent when it comes to interpreting Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, and the prosecution of those accused of committing war crimes in other countries.

For his thoughts about how that may play out, we were joined by Bruce Broomhall. He's a Professor of International Criminal Law at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

The verdict in the trial of Desiré Munyaneza trial will be handed down tomorrow morning in Montreal.

Letters

This is Thursday and our Friday Host Bob McKeown joined Anna Maria in studio for our weekly look at the mail.

Sri Lanka: Well, the biggest story on The Current over the past week has been the conflict in Sri Lanka, and how it has been felt in Canada. The civil war in Sri Lanka appears to be over, now that government forces have crushed the rebel LTTE, or Tamil Tigers, and reportedly killed their leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran.

On April 23rd, The Current spoke with Doctor Thangamuttu Sathiyamorthi, a Tamil doctor running a makeshift hospital in the so-called no-fire zone. He said the injuries he was treating were caused by artillery shells, cluster bombs, and phosphorous bombs fired by the Sri Lankan military. There were no media or NGO personnel within the no-fire zone, so we could not confirm this. We aired a clip of him describing the make shift hospital, which was actually in a school.

Since that interview, Doctor Sathiyamorthi continued to send the media dispatches about what was going on inside the no-fire zone. On May 13th, The Current received an emailed series of videos and photos from him that documented the situation at his hospital. In the photos, the injured lay on the bloodied ground around the hospital building, with only stretched cloths and tarps to protect them. He wrote that a shell had hit the front of the admission ward and that 26 people died immediately.

We aired some audio from one of the videos of patients trying to escape the hospital during an artillery attack.

A few days after Dr. Sathiyamorthi sent out that video, The Sri Lankan government detained him and two other Tamil doctors who had spoken to the media for allegedly giving false information about civilian casualty figures. Human rights groups, including Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International, are calling for their release.

Those kinds of reports about the casualties and misery suffered by Tamil civilians caught up in the fighting have helped fuel ongoing protests by Tamil Canadians -- who say they will continue to demonstrate, despite the reported death of the Tamil Tiger's leader. Last Friday on The Current, we examined the reactions of some people who have dealt with the inconvenience and traffic tie-ups resulting from the protests. We received a range of reaction. And read some of your letters.

Oliphant Inquiry: Whether you're following the Oliphant Inquiry into former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's financial dealings or the sensational scandal over the expense claims by British members of parliament ... distrust of politicians seems to be scaling new heights.

Tuesday on the program, we asked two political insiders, Michael Bliss, a historian and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and Heather MacIvor, a professor of political science at the University of Windsor whether the very nature of politics and politicians makes corruption inevitable. Both of them went on to defend the honour of politicians, saying that the majority are hard-working people motivated by a sincere belief in public service. But most people who wrote in weren't buying that. We shared some thoughts from our mail bag.

But even if a lot of Canadians are jaundiced about the level of honesty and honour in Ottawa and our provincial capitals, things look a bit different in a global context. Berlin-based Transparency International tracks several key indicators of corruption and good governance around the world. And Canada comes out looking pretty good, ranked best in the world -- along with Belgium -- on the Bribe Payers Index, and in the top 10 on the Corruption Perceptions Index.

And for more on what that means, we were joined by Christiaan Poortman, the director of global programs at Transparency International. We reached him Washington, D.C. this morning.

And just in case you're still not convinced of the rectitude and wisdom of Canadian politicians ... if you think they need to be sent to political boot camp ... the folks at the Content Factory put together a helpful guide for any would-be politician in this country.

Hubble: Last Thursday, we looked at the Hubble as an example of curiosity-driven research ... scientific research done purely for the sake of discovery, as opposed to research with obvious economic payoffs. It's at the heart of a debate in science circles in Canada, and last Thursday, Gwyn Morgan, the founding CEO of the energy company Encana, weighed in with this opinion. He is now a columnist with the Globe and Mail's Report on Business. And many of you put his comments under the microscope.

Mexico Water Shortage: As part of our Watershed series on yesterday's program, we brought you a story about water shortages in Mexico City, a megacity beset by high water consumption, leaky infrastructure, drought and a falling water table. We heard from Jorge Villalón, director of Mexico's Basin Water Commission, describing the situation.

As Mr. Villalon mentioned, 70 percent of Mexico City's water comes from underground. And if you look a few hundred kilometres north of Mexico's border with the United States, you'll find one of the greatest networks of underground water anywhere ... the Ogallala Aquifer ... which has made states like Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas abundant agricultural powerhouses. But it, too, is running perilously dry in places. For more on that, we were joined by Andrew Stone, the executive director of the American Groundwater Trust. He was in Concord, New Hampshire.

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