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March 30, 2001

Fry says sorry to another city for remarks

Apologizes to Kamloops: 'I will not make a comment on something I know nothing about'

Sheldon Alberts
National Post

OTTAWA - Hedy Fry, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism, issued yet another apology yesterday over her claims of cross- burnings in British Columbia -- this time to residents of Kamloops.

Dr. Fry, who was forced this week to issue a written apology to citizens of Prince George, said she was sorry for the "distress" she caused by claiming in a 1997 newspaper interview that racists burned crosses outside of Kamloops.

"I am sorry that my remarks in a major daily newspaper in 1997 caused distress to you and the people of Kamloops," Dr. Fry wrote in a letter to Mel Rothenburger, the city's Mayor.

"I know first hand of the good work being done by the people in your city to fight racism and strengthen inclusiveness and diversity."

Mr. Rothenburger had demanded the apology after learning of Dr. Fry's claims. In a statement, he praised her statement as an "unequivocal" retraction and said he was satisfied.

But Dr. Fry continued to face calls in the House of Commons for her resignation over similar comments she made last week about Prince George, where she said "crosses are burning on lawns as we speak."

Though she has expressed regret for the remarks, she has refused to clarify statements in which she claimed Prince George's mayor had notified her of specific incidents.

There has been no evidence either event occurred and police say there have been no cross- burnings in B.C. since 1981.

The Canadian Alliance, however, demanded that Dr. Fry denounce a public cross-burning that occurred on the steps of Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal last year following a parade to celebrate International Women's Day.

Protesters burned crosses and 15 people wearing ski masks spray-painted graffiti with the words "No God, no masters'' on one of the altars.

They stole the missal and destroyed hundreds of hymn and prayer books.

Deborah Grey, the Alliance's deputy leader, asked Dr. Fry to denounce the Montreal cross- burning.

"The junior minister of multiculturalism has scoured the country looking for cross-burning incidents to justify her slander of British Columbia's cities," said Ms. Grey.

"There was one, but it was not done by the KKK or racists."

Ms. Grey initially claimed the protesters were radical feminists supported by Dr. Fry, who endorsed International Women's Day marches, but later said she did not have any evidence of a connection.

For her part, Dr. Fry refused to denounce the cross-burning, saying she had no knowledge of the incident.

"I will not make a comment on something I know nothing about," said Dr. Fry.

The remark prompted howls of laughter from Alliance MPs, who said they wished Dr. Fry had applied the same standard of restraint when commenting about fictitious B.C. cross-burnings.

"She dreams up cross-burnings in one city and she doesn't denounce those that took place in other cities," said Stockwell Day, the Alliance leader.

"Ms. Fry must have been aware [of the Montreal incident] ... It was fairly widely reported and yet we had Ms. Fry saying she didn't know about [it] ...

"It really strains our ability to take her at her word."

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