Toronto Star

Mar. 27, 07:10 EDT

Fry's written apology not enough, mayor says

Says minister should clarify error of Prince George cross burning claims

The Toronto Star

OTTAWA (CP) - A written apology sent by junior cabinet minister Hedy Fry to Prince George, B.C., over her false claim that crosses were burning there is not good enough, says the city's mayor.

Colin Kinsley said in a statement today that Fry should clarify exactly how she made the error.

Fry, secretary of state for multiculturalism, sent a letter to Kinsley this week apologizing for ''the distress'' her comments may have caused him and the city.

But she does not explain her original claim that Kinsley had sent her a letter alerting her to cross burnings. He says he did not send her a letter.

''Sadly, in my opinion, rather than clear up the issue and present the truth, it merely clouds it further,'' Kinsley wrote.

Kinsley told the Prince George Citizen that Fry said in a telephone conversation that she couldn't include a mention of the letter because then she would have to disclose what community it was from.

Fry said publicly in the Commons last week that ''crosses are being burned on lawns as we speak'' in Prince George.

That statement set off a firestorm of criticism from the opposition, who are calling for her resignation.

She made a similar public comment about Kamloops, B.C., in 1997.

The province's hate crimes office and national observers of racist activities have said they have no records of cross burnings in either community.

Fry's press secretary Pascal Charron would offer no further information and refused to say whether a letter ever existed from any mayor or any city in Canada.

Alliance MP Dick Harris, whose riding includes Prince George, said Fry could face a lawsuit for her comments.

''Stay tuned on that one,'' Harris told reporters Tuesday.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien has defended Fry throughout the controversy, saying her apology should be sufficient.

He said reports that Fry contacted the RCMP in B.C. after her remarks to find out if there had been any recent cross burnings were erroneous.

Cpl. Mike Labossiere, of the B.C. Attorney General's hate crimes unit, said Tuesday that somebody called for information during the weekend, but he couldn't be sure if it was Fry's office.

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