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Quebec Opposition leader looks for Constitution deal

Twenty-five years ago, Canada got its own Constitution, but Quebec was a holdout and never agreed to become part of the charter. Now, Mario Dumont, the new Opposition leader in the Quebec National Assembly, says "the error of 1982," when provinci...

Twenty-five years ago, Canada got its own Constitution, but Quebec was a holdout and never agreed to become part of the charter.

Now, Mario Dumont, the new Opposition leader in the Quebec National Assembly, says "the error of 1982," when provincial leaders refused to sign the Constitution, must be corrected.

Dumont, head of the Action democratique du Quebec, said he wants new talks to be called to enable the province to sign.

That is, providing the federal government is ready to discuss the sharing of powers and spending - the major issues that helped caused the initial rift.

The Quebec government, led by then-premier Rene Levesque, who advocated the separation of the mainly French-language province from Canada, refused to sign the document.

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Since then, his position has been defended by both federalist and sovereigntist Quebec governments, largely over the sharing of powers.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms was the brainchild of the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau. First, though, he had to strike a deal with provincial leaders to repatriate the Constitution from Great Britain as well as getting the approval of Queen Elizabeth II.

Canadian victim

Canadian professor Joceyln Couture-Nowak, who moved to the U.S. to teach French, was one of the victims in the killings at Virginia Tech.

Couture-Nowak, in her late 40s, had tried to barricade the classroom door when she was shot by gunman Cho Seung-Hui, who killed 33 people last Tuesday.

Originally from the Montreal region, Couture-Nowak graduated from Nova Scotia Teachers College. She moved to Virginia Tech eight years ago, where her husband, Jerzy Nowak, is a professor of horticulture.

While living in Truro, Nova Scotia, she was instrumental in the push to create the town's first French school called the Ecole acadienne de Truro in 1997. She had two daughters.

In brief

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-- Liberal Leader Stephane Dion says there is nothing improper about a so-called nonaggressive pact struck with Green Party leader Elizabeth May. Dion agreed not to run a Liberal candidate in May's Nova Scotia district now represented by Conservative Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay. In exchange, May will endorse Dion as the best candidate to become prime minister in the next federal election.

-- June Callwood, social activist, journalist, broadcaster and writer, has died in Toronto at age 82 of cancer. A native of Chatham, Ont., and raised in Belle River, Ont., Callwood was a prominent activist for people with AIDS. She founded the hospice Casey House in Toronto in 1988 and named it after her son, Casey Frayne, who was killed in 1982 in a motorcycle accident.

Facts and figures

-- A 12.5 percent jump in gasoline prices helped push Canada's annual inflation rate to 2.3 percent in March, from 2.0 percent a month earlier. Gasoline now sells for about $1.079 a liter ($3.62 U.S. a gallon) on average nationally.

-- The Canadian dollar gained to 88.53 cents U.S., while the U.S. dollar is $1.1295 in Canadian funds before bank exchange fees.

-- The Bank of Canada's key interest rate remains at 4.25 percent, while the prime lending rate is 6 percent.

-- The Toronto Stock Exchange index is higher at 13,574 points, while the Canadian Venture Exchange dropped to 3,296 points.

-- Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 14, 22, 25, 30, 44 and 48; bonus 1. (April 14) 6, 15, 22, 26, 41 and 49; bonus 9.

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Regional briefs

-- There's concern in Western Canada about rising floodwater as there is a near-record snowpack in the Rockies that's melting quickly in the warm spring sunshine. There have been high-water warnings from British Columbia to Manitoba. As well, there are warnings of potential ice jams that cause major rivers to spill over their banks. Cool, wet weather in the past month has delayed some of the gradual melting.

-- Landslides have destroyed one home and left four others in danger of falling over a cliff into the Gulf of St. Lawrence at Daniel's Harbor, Newfoundland. The slides have permanently altered the picturesque coastline of the town. Bruce Biggin fled from his house just before it slid down a 100-foot bluff. Officials are trying to determine whether coastal erosion or something else is causing the slides, which began last fall.

-- It's costing the Canadian Navy about $4 million to prepare the retired HMCS Huron destroyer for sinking in a West Coast naval exercise next month. That's because of new strict environmental regulations. The 35-year-old ship will be attacked in a military exercise and sunk off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Fox is a Canadian journalist who writes this weekly roundup and news and travel features from Canada. Reach him at canadareport@hotmail.com .

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