Sunday, August 1, 2010

How did Mount Pearl's Rick Nolan die — by the hand of friend or foe?

I'm filling in for Bill Rowe as host of VOCM's afternoon radio call-in show, Backtalk, for the month of July, followed by two weeks standing in for Randy Simms as host of Open Line. Each day I'll post the show's monologue, which I prepare in advance.


Good afternoon Newfoundland and Labrador and all the ships at sea.

Let’s begin with an exclusive story that broke last night (Wednesday, July 28th) on CBC TV’s Here and Now.

The story is about Rick Babstock.

Does the name ring a bell?

Rick Babstock is a well-known hockey coach in Newfoundland and Labrador; he ran hockey school for decades.

He’s helped develop some of Newfoundland and Labrador’s most elite young players — Ryan Clowe, Harold Druken, and Ted Purcell.

I’ve seen him around the rink myself, as late as only a few months ago in the Goulds.

I was out there with my son for a try-out camp.

One of the other parents pointed Rick Babstock out to me walking around the rink.

Babstock was in the news earlier this year after he was charged with sexually assaulting a boy in Placentia almost 40 years ago.

The charges were dropped shortly after.

The Crown dropped the charges because they were not "viable."

The Crown would not elaborate.

There was a debate then about whether the charges should have been laid in the first place, because of the public humiliation it caused Rick Babstock, a supposedly upstanding member of the community.

I even took part in a media panel about it.

Then, last night on Here and Now, there was a piece about an Ontario man who alleges he was sexually assaulted by Babstock when he was 11 years old, about 35 years ago.

The Ontario man’s name is Chris Spencer.

Only Rick Babstock wasn’t charged in criminal court in that particular case — he was charged in civil court in 2004.

I have to point out right away that CBC News cannot verify the Ontario man’s allegations of abuse, and Babstock has reportedly denied the allegations.

But in 2005, an out-of-court settlement was reached without finding of fault.

That means neither the hockey school nor the college that held the hockey school nor Babstock admitted to doing anything wrong.

And there was no proof or finding that anything wrong happened.

As part of the settlement, Babstock and the schools gave Spencer money.

To review, Rick Babstock was charged earlier this year with sexually assaulting a boy from Placentia about 40 years ago.

The charges were dropped, the matter was done with.

Now there are more allegations — allegations that Babstock apparently denies — and a civil suit settled out of court.

I have a question — and I ask this as a parent who saw Babstock hanging out at the rink in Gouds this past spring — should I be concerned?

Are you concerned?

There are no charges (well, there were charges, but they were dropped) there are only allegations that have been denied, and an out-of-court settlement.

How should parents of young hockey players take this news?


Moving on to Marine Atlantic, I was forwarded a letter today by Gerry Byrne, Liberal MP for western Newfoundland, who’s been outspoken about the federal Crown corporation.

The letter was apparently forwarded to him by a disgruntled employee of Marine Atlantic

The letter is written by Captain Peter Adams, director of fleet operations, to Marine Atlantic employees.

First, the letter seems to give a clear indication that Marine Atlantic vessels are regularly leaving port partially loaded.

Second, it gives the impression that Marine Atlantic crew members are genuinely trying to assist passengers and truckers who have reservations for later crossings or who are on a waiting list to get aboard earlier.

And third, that the corporation is thwarting those efforts being made by onboard crew in favour of maintaining the integrity of their commercial reservation system, flaws and all, rather then serving its customers.

The letter seems to show that the concerns and schedules of local truckers are secondary to the ferry schedule.


Moving on to Afghanistan, you probably heard in the news recently how thousands of U.S. military documents were recently posted on a website called WikiLeaks.

One of those leaked documents says that four Canadian soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan in 2006 weren’t killed by enemy fire, as the Canadian military had reported.

Rather, the documents indicate the four Canadians weren’t killed by enemy insurgents.

By so-called friendly fire — a bomb dropped by a U.S. plane.

One of the four soldiers who died was Rick Nolan of Mount Pearl.

The Canadian military — including retired general Rick Hillier — denies the four Canadians were killed by friendly fire.

I see that St. John’s East MP Jack Harris is calling on Ottawa to prove that the four Canadian soldiers who died in Afghanistan in 2006 were killed by enemy fire rather than a U.S. bomb.

Harris says the Canadian military must produce evidence to prove its assertion to Canadians that the soldiers were shot by insurgents.

Harris says we deserve to know what happened.

There are two different stories as to what happened in Afghanistan in 2006.

Do you think we deserve to know the truth?


Speaking of WikiLeaks, I got an e-mail about the website this morning.

WikiLeaks is known for leaking secret documents.

It was set up by a group of human-rights activists, technical people and journalists to bring sensitive materials to the attention of the public.

The e-mail reads:

“I am wondering if WikiLeaks would garner information and leak it on the opaque way that Ottawa deals with the fishery that NL passed over to Canada in 1949, especially as it relates to the way Ottawa utilizes the “fish quotas” to build international trade for central Canada?”

Tks Agnes,.


Still with the fishery, my last caller of the day on Wednesday was a lady named Mary who called in about the fishery.

Mary said she’s tired of hearing about fishermen whining about hard times, and what government has to do for them.

I agreed that at a certain point, if there’s no work, a person has to do what they have to do.

If they have to move away for work, so be it — their family needs to be fed.

But what’s happening in other rural areas of the country — in rural Saskatchewan or rural Manitoba — with people moving to larger centres for work, isn’t the cause of what’s going on here in Newfoundland and Labrador, with the ourports emptying out.

It’s the cause of some of it — some young people in the outports will always want to go on to bigger things, although not necessarily better things.

The cause of what’s going on in the outports is the collapse of the fishery.

The Government of Canada has to take a certain level of responsibility for that — Ottawa manages the fishery.

But is that point lost when fishermen always seem to have their hands out for money?

I got an e-mail from Pam Pardy Ghent of Harbour Mille about Mary’s call.

The e-mail reads:

“The fishery ‘crashed’ because of the federal government and its policies, or lack there of. When the U.S. banks ‘crashed’ the government was quick to step in. That is why the fishers call on the government to step in. The inshore fishers did not ‘fish’ their way out of a job.”

Thanks Pam.


Now let’s head to the Lower Battery at the base of Signal Hill in St. John’s.

The Lower Battery, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a piece of outport Newfoundland right in the city, right down on the water.

There are fishing sheds and wharfs there, just like around the bay.

Only much of the infrastructure is in hard shape, it’s falling apart.

So Jack Wells, a resident of the Lower Battery, fixed up his wharf.

Like you would.

Only he didn’t have a permit from the City of St. John’s, and now the city wants to tear down the wharf.

They say it’s not safe.

Local residents have taken exception, one of them even tied themselves to the wharf overnight and slept there.

If the residents of the Lower Battery build all the fishery infrastructure up to city code it would cost them a fortune — a fortune they don’t have.

I heard it put this way: How can you inspect cultural assets and 500-year-old architecture?

Should we tear down the Leaning Tower of Pisa simple because it’s not up to code? The wharves and stages in the Lower Battery are far from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but you get the point right?”

What should be done with the Lower Battery?


Let’s talk about Multiple Sclerosis.

There’s been a fair bit of discussion — both locally and in the national media — about a new treatment for MS payments.

The treatment is based on an unproven theory that blocked veins in the neck or spinal cord are to blame for MS.

But people say it works, and there’s political pressure in Canada to have the treatment provided here.

The big news this week was how Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said he’s ready to help pay for clinical trials.

Sufferers hope the premier’s pledge to finance clinical trials will turn up the heat on other politicians to do the same.

Politicians like Premier Danny Williams.

There’s a column in today Globe and Mail by Margaret Wente, the missus who wrote a few years ago that Newfoundland is a vast and scenic welfare ghetto.

Put that aside for a second.

Wente writes that the MS treatment is giving people “false hope.”

She says the new treatment is the latest in a long list of unproven remedies that include oxygen therapy, magnets, cranberries and snake venom.

I also saw a quote from Paul O’Connor, who directs the MS Clinic at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

He says there’s not a shred of real evidence anywhere that messing around with these veins does anything to help MS patients.

Wente writes that medical funding is too important to be driven by popular demand instead of facts.

I know MS patients are desperate for help, but is this false hope?


I read on VOCM’s website how officials in Terra Nova National Park had to set traps to capture a friendly bear.

People were told not to feed the bear, but they did anyway, often rolling down the windows to feed the animal.

Park officials were concerned about the well-being of people and the bear.

So again, don’t feed the animals.


Finally, for now, and still on the topic of animals, there’s a new Cats and Dogs movie out this weekend called the Revenge of Kitty Galore.

The Warner Brothers film is directed by Brad Peyton of Gander.

If the movie hits No. 1 it will be the first time a Newfoundland and Labrador-born director will have the No. 1-film at the box office.

Wouldn’t that be something?

The Backtalk lines are open.

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