Toronto Star

Mar. 27, 12:51 EDT

Fry feels new opposition heat

Commons told of call to RCMP about Klan

Tim Harper
OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF
The Toronto Star

OTTAWA - A beleaguered Hedy Fry offered more apologies yesterday - but facing new charges, she appeared to be losing Prime Minister Jean Chretien's public support.

The Prime Minister told the Commons yesterday he would look into allegations that his secretary of state for multiculturalism had called the RCMP in British Columbia seeking information to back her claim of Ku Klux Klan cross burnings in Prince George.

Chretien, in response to Nova Scotia New Democrat Peter Stoffer, initially said he saw nothing wrong with Fry checking for something on the public record, then demurred, saying it was the first time he heard of the charge and would ``check that.''

At another point, as Fry looked imploringly at her boss for help during Question Period, Chretien had his back turned on her, speaking to his House leader Don Boudria.

Stoffer told the Commons Fry's calls to the RCMP violated cabinet and ethics codes.

Fry also faced charges that she had referred to crosses burning on the lawns of Kamloops, B.C., in a 1997 newspaper interview.

``The minister's role is to prevent racism, not invent it,'' said the Canadian Alliance MP for the region, Betty Hinton. She called on Fry to apologize and resign.

``It has never been my intent to disparage communities, either in British Columbia or in Canada,'' Fry said. ``I deeply regret the hurt that the statement I made last week in the House caused. I apologized for it and I apologize again for it.''

Fry again bolted from the Commons to a waiting car, repeating a scene of last Thursday. She refused to answer reporters' calls for her to produce a letter from the mayor of Prince George she claimed to have, asking for help to combat racism.

The mayor denied ever writing such a letter.

In Toronto yesterday to attend a conference on race relations, Fry refused to answer questions while she was ushered off the stage by staff members and escorted from the Marriott Hotel.

Fry, who was presenting awards to students in an essay contest, said she didn't want to detract from the event.


With files from Cal Millar

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