Canada news briefs

Published March 1, 1999

Prime minister says sorry

Prime Minister Jean Chretien has sent a letter of apology to Rev. Carolyn Nicholson. The United Church minister alleged she and other Christian clergy were asked to remove references of both Christ and the New Testament from last September’s memorial service for victims of the Swiss Air disaster off Peggy’s Cove.

In his Jan. 14 letter, faxed to ChristianWeek newspaper by an unnamed source, the prime minister denied there were prohibitions made “by any representative of the government of Canada, nor were texts of sermons or speeches vetted by any representative of the Government of Canada.”

The prime minister said “no government official would ever be instructed to, or permitted to, censor religious content in a memorial service.”

A committee planning the service wanted to ensure it was as inclusive as possible. In his letter to Ms. Nicholson, William Bowden, deputy chief of protocol, said confusion may have crept into the planning when three local people who were not clergy were appointed by his office to help plan the memorial.

Mr. Bowden wrote that he was sorry for any misunderstanding and “deeply saddened that the spirit of the committee’s deliberations was not achieved.”

On January 24, David Kilgour, Progressive Conservative MP for Edmonton Southeast, told a meeting of the Christian Council of the Capital area in Ottawa that he discussed the incident with senior protocol officials in the foreign affairs department.

“If Foreign Affairs is involved in another such service in the future, we’ll do everything feasible to avoid a recurrence. I apologize for what happened.”

In the wake of the incident, Senator Lois Wilson, former moderator the United Church, has proposed that communities develop guidelines for similar events in the future.

Ms. Nicholson said she plans to write to Mr. Chretien to thank him for his letter and for the assurance “that our rights and liberties are safe.?”

Third N.S. priest faces sex charges

A third Nova Scotia priest is in trouble with the law over alleged sexual activity with a minor. Rev. Charles Bull, rector of Lockeport, has been charged with sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in 1998.

Although the girl wasn’t a member of the parish, she apparently associated with the parish’s Sunday school.

Fr. Bull came to Nova Scotia in 1995 from Port Perry Ont. A spokesman for the Diocese of Toronto said no complaints of sexual misconduct had ever been filed with that diocese.

Fr. Bull will appear in court on March 10 to enter his plea on the charge.


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