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Flooding unites Canadians

Flooding that killed 10 people and caused destruction in the heart of Quebec separatist country is helping to unite Canada.

An outpouring of aid from the rest of Canada has touched the hearts of hardened French Quebeckers seeking independence from English Canada.

"Even though we are one of the most (sovereign) towns, we appreciate the aid," said councilor Reginald Gervais of Jonquiere.

Canadians have donated money, clothing and furniture to the flood-soaked Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean area north of Quebec City where 12,000 people have been forced from their homes.

The Red Cross is raising $2-million (Canadian) to help victims, some of whom lost everything as surging floodwaters from heavy rain washed away houses and apartment buildings when dams overflowed.

Five of the victims died in mudslides, and damage to property was estimated at $450-million. The Canadian and Quebec governments have pledged $200-million in aid.

Gervais, who said he and 75 percent of the area's residents voted to separate from Canada in last fall's failed independence referendum, has second thoughts.

The aid and offers of help from across the land "will definitely have an impact" on how the region's residents view Canada, he said. "You can't help but feel more Canadian and appreciate being a Canadian," Gervais added.

British Columbia

feeling left out

British Columbians are feeling left out of the Canadian union and could be the next to seek separation, Prime Minister Jean Chretien has been warned.

A government report by Jocelyne Bourgon, clerk of the Privy Council, said the separatist sentiment is growing in the West Coast province.

Reasons include increased self-confidence, geographic isolation and frustration at not getting a fair share from Canadian Confederation.

Unlike Quebec, however, "there is no collective cultural sense of separateness based on language or history," the paper said.

"But a fast-growing Asian population, combined with links to the Pacific Rim, promote a sense of distinctiveness," it added.

In brief

Canada's largest casino, with 3,000 slot machines and 130 gaming tables, is to open in December in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The Navegante Group, headed by Larry Woolf, former chairman of the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, was hired by Ontario Casino Corp. to launch Casino Niagara.

Ronald Buick, a leading cancer researcher, drowned at his summer cottage on Ontario's Six Mile Lake. He was 48. Buick, of the Ontario Cancer Institute and a professor at the University of Toronto, slipped on the rocky, steep shoreline, hit his head and fell into the lake, police said.

Ontario is delaying the elimination of Grade 13 from the high-school curriculum by one year, until the fall of 1998. The province, which is the last in Canada to have five years of high school, needs more time to compress the program to four years, said Education Minister John Snobelen.

A California woman with "cabin fever" ended up taking a cab to Victoria, British Columbia, from Pasadena. Pat Fry, 68, a retired hotel worker, wanted to go to Santa Barbara but once there told driver Steve Baird to keep driving. "I must have been insane," said Fry, who is looking at a $3,500 bill for the 2,500-mile round trip.

Facts and figures

Canada's bankers eased the prime lending rate to 6.25 percent after the Bank of Canada key rate was lowered one-quarter percent to 4.75 percent.

Lower interest rates pushed the Canadian dollar down Friday to 72.73 U.S. cents while a U.S. dollar was $1.3749 Canadian (before exchange fees).

Stock markets were lower. Toronto's composite index was 4,933 points Friday while Vancouver was 1,090 points and Montreal 2,424 points.

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