Volume 92, Issue 76

Thursday, February 11, 1999


Tuition effects to be surveyed

Nurse shortage due to decrease in health care funding

Weldon academy's exit could aid campus space problem

Apologies not only outcome for Canada

Knighthood bestowed on French professor

Pressure mounts to boot spanking

Caught on campus

Apologies not only outcome for Canada

By Becky Somerville
Gazette Staff

Prime Minister Jean Chretien has recently gone under attack for failing to attend the state funeral of King Hussein. The Western community, however, has mixed feelings on the issue.

While most world leaders attended the Monday funeral in Jordan for the long-time monarch and advocate for peace in the Middle East, Chretien remained on the slopes in Whistler, British Columbia.

According to Sophie Galarneau, press officer for the prime minister, Chretien had every intention of going to the funeral but the logistics of the situation kept him from flying in on time.

"Logistically it was impossible for the prime minister to get there," Galarneau said. "Every scenario would get him there at least an hour late."

Galarneau said Chretien expressed his condolences to the Jordanian ambassador on two occasions for missing the funeral. "[Chretien] said he was very sorry he couldn't go."

Michael Southern, a lecturer in the political science department at Western, said Chretien's absence at Hussein's funeral has the potential to reflect poorly on Canada. "He's snubbing Jordan and the whole Arab community.

"It's representative of an insensitivity that has been demonstrated in the past," Southern said. He cited an example of Chretien's recent visit to the concentration camps in Poland when he neglected to bring along anyone from the Canadian Polish community.

"It's unconscionable that the prime minister, as a leader of the country, did not attend," Southern said.

Southern also said Chretien's insensitivity could threaten Canada's current role as president of the United Nations Security Council. Since it is a rotating position, Southern said, Canada may lose its seat without the support of the Arab population.

Political science professor Erika Simpson had a different take on the issue and attributed Chretien's absence to problems with staff at the Prime Minister's Office.

"There are many more important international issues that Canadians need to debate than whether or not Jean Chretien is a salesman or a statesman and whether or not he could have gotten there in time," Simpson said.

She added Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy is an excellent representative for Canada who likely would have used his time in Jordan as an opportunity to press for new Canadian initiatives.

Samer Abou-Sweid, president of the Arab Students' Association at Western, said the media hype surrounding the issue is extreme and more attention should be paid to the fact Hussein passed away, not that Chretien did not attend the funeral.

"I don't think a huge deal should be made out of it," Abou-Sweid said. "I would be paying more attention to Chretien for joining forces with the U.S. to bomb Iraq, not the fact he didn't go to the funeral."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999