There is a saying in the news industry that “dog bites man” is not a story but “man bites dog” is, because reporting is about telling stories that go beyond the ordinary.
Stolen vehicles are usually an example of “dog bites man” news. If that vehicle is full of milk or Blundstones, though, it’s veering into “man bites dog” territory. Ditto if it’s a food truck or if it left tracks that made it easy to find.
And while break-ins at homes and businesses are unfortunately common, odds are they’ll only get news coverage if the thief makes off with something unusual, such as antique chainsaws or used cooking oil or an entire kitchen.
In that spirit, we’ve put together a look at some of the strangest thefts reported to Canadian police services in 2019.
From a large amount of water to a little bit of sand, the stories on this list prove that solving crime is never a day at the beach.
‘OLD TOWN ROAD’ SIGNS
The song of the summer provided a small community in B.C. with an unexpected bout of entrepreneurship.
Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ climbed the charts in record-breaking fashion, fuelled in part by controversy over its removal from Billboard’s ranking of country songs.
As the song’s popularity grew, so did the rate of disappearance of street signs along an actual Old Town Road in Sicamous, B.C.
Realizing that there was a demand for the signs, community leaders started selling them for $25 apiece. Officials said they sold some to people from as far away as Las Vegas and Belize.
At industrial scales, iceberg water is primarily used to make products such as vodka and cosmetics.
Given that, one can forgive Iceberg Vodka for believing that the water held in tanks at its warehouse in Port Union, N.L. would be safe from bandits.
But that wasn’t the case. One of its tanks was drained over a weekend while the warehouse was closed, and thieves made off with about 30,000 litres of iceberg water – enough to fill a tractor-trailer or to make 150,000 bottles of vodka.
A SNUGGLING GOAT
When a farm on Vancouver Island opened its doors for a baby goat-snuggling event, its owners never suspected that one of the snugglers would turn out to be a smuggler.
But that’s exactly what happened at a farm in Ladysmith, B.C., in April.
As the farm’s owner was packing up from the event, he realized that one of the baby goats was missing. Only 12 days old, the goat was still surviving on milk from its mother.
A FENCING MASK SIGNED BY THE CAST OF ‘THE PRINCESS BRIDE’
The only word to describe this case is “inconceivable.”
Jaspaul Sandhu’s car was stolen in July from a parking lot in Calgary.
The auto theft would have been bad enough on its own, but Sandhu had left a number of rare items inside, including fencing and rock climbing equipment and a priceless possession – a fencing mask signed by cast members from the 1987 movie “The Princess Bride.”
BOB BELL’S BELL
A quiet intersection outside Edmonton has been known as “Bell’s Corner” for decades. It got its name from the Bell family, who have long maintained a farm on one corner.
A large bell was hung at the intersection in 2008 by Bob Bell, as a tribute to his grandparents. Dating back to 1903, the 320-kilogram bell had previously spent half a century at a church and then another 20 years outside Bell’s car dealership.
The bell was swiped from its home in April. Local police said it was the first time they were aware of a bell being stolen in the area.
A LOT OF ALCOHOL
Alcohol thefts aren’t exactly rare. One Alberta liquor store chain estimated that it dealt with more than 18 thefts per day last year. More recently, Ontario’s liquor retail operator has ramped up security at some of its most frequently targeted stores, while its Manitoba counterpart has started naming and shaming people accused of stealing from it.
Some thefts, though, manage to stand out. Take the man who was accused of stealing $58,000 worth of alcohol from stores in Toronto over a little more than a year, or the case of a tractor-trailer full of beer stolen elsewhere in Ontario.
Thieves in Vancouver in June were less lucky. They thought they were stealing 22 bottles of liquor from a bartending school, but soon discovered that it was only coloured water.
THE MAKINGS OF A MEAL
Much like alcohol thefts, heists involving meat aren’t exactly uncommon – but sometimes the scale or circumstances of the crime are weird enough to make it newsworthy.
Lobster is a common target for East Coast thieves; 60 pounds of it was swiped off of a boat in February, and 48 crates – worth an estimated $25,000 – were taken from a P.E.I. storage facility and later recovered.
Far more valuable than the lobster was the $187,000 cheese shipment that was allegedly picked up by a stranger with fake paperwork.
A DUNK TANK
Ashtin Anderson has the same question about this story as all of us: “Who would steal a dunk tank?”
That’s exactly what happened in Boyle, Alta. in July. The local agricultural society had rented the dunk tank to use in a fundraiser. The event was apparently successful, as organizers didn’t get to bed until 3:30 a.m.
When the first organizer returned at 6 a.m., though, the tank had vanished.
A photo circulated on social media showing people playing in the tank after-hours, seemingly still in the same spot it was during the fundraiser, but that evidence was not enough to solve the mystery.
Giving a key to a trusted neighbour before leaving for vacation is a good way to get peace of mind – except in this case.
A resident of Tillsonburg, Ont. returned home in August after a lengthy absence and discovered an extension cord running from their home into their neighbour’s.
The neighbour was charged with theft of electricity. Stealing or wasting electricity or gas carries the same criminal penalty as any other form of theft.
A PECULIAR PILLOW
It isn’t what was stolen that made a September heist in West Vancouver unusual – it’s what happened next.
Police officers responding to a report of a bag of tools stolen from a construction site decided to search a nearby forest.
Inside the forest, they allegedly found a man sleeping on the ground, with his head resting on the very tools that had been reported stolen.
He was arrested for possession of stolen property and unrelated offences.
SHORTY AND OTHER STATUES
Shorty, a small statue of a sailor caricature, quickly became a popular attraction after it was placed in Peggy’s Cove, N.S. in 2018.
The statue vanished from its home in April – but unlike many of the capers we’re describing, this one had a happy ending.
Students from Dalhousie University contacted Shorty’s owner, telling her they had found the statue in a house in Halifax in what they believed was “a prank gone wrong.”
Shorty was returned to Peggy’s Cove and soon joined by a Mrs. Shorty.
Other prominent statue thefts this year include the head from a statue of St. Vladimir outside a church in Winnipeg, a giant head from a tourist attraction in P.E.I., a sculpture of a nude woman at a Vancouver art gallery, and a large golden egg from a Salvador Dali piece in Vancouver.
A BIG PUMPKIN
A Halloween-season theft at a fruit stand in B.C. was neither a trick nor a treat.
Penticton farmer Parmjeet Dhaliwal said her “masterpiece” 40-kilogram pumpkin was snatched just before she had planned to carve it.
Surveillance camera photos showed two people looking at the pumpkin, but it was not clear if they were responsible for the theft. Dhaliwal said it was the second time she’d been hit by pumpkin thieves.
A pumpkin theft in Calgary a few weeks earlier left a four-year-old girl upset, as the gourd had been growing in her garden all summer. Two waste management workers heard about that theft and responded by hand-delivering two pumpkins to the girl’s home.
Whether a beach is public or private, somebody owns it – and that means nothing there is free for the taking.
That lesson was learned by a beachgoer in Port Stanley, Ont., who was approached by police after they allegedly noticed him filling a bucket with sand.
Police say the man told them he was going to take the sand home and use it to level stones in his garden.
They responded that if he wanted to avoid a theft charge, he should purchase sand legally.
It was the perfect setup for a crime of opportunity: A supermarket in Kingston, Ont. was accidentally left unlocked overnight.
With no employees around, it would have been easy for any would-be thieves to abscond with cartfuls of meat, baby food, razors and other valuable goods.
Although plenty of people had the chance, wandering into the store and realizing nobody could stop them, not a single item was reported stolen.
After reviewing security camera footage, the store’s manager said it was clear the customers all left the supermarket after they realized it wasn’t supposed to be open.
Online claims that Chinese scientists stole coronavirus from Winnipeg lab have 'no factual basis' – CBC.ca
The Public Health Agency of Canada is denying any connection between the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg, two scientists who were escorted out of the building last summer, and the coronavirus outbreak in China.
Baseless stories claiming that the two scientists are Chinese spies and that they smuggled the coronavirus to China’s only Level 4 lab in Wuhan last year have been spreading on all major social media platforms and on conspiracy theorist blogs. One article from a conspiracy blog was shared more than 6,000 times on Facebook on Monday.
The story even made its way on Chinese-owned social media app TikTok, where a video pushing these claims was watched more than 350,000 times.
“This is misinformation and there is no factual basis for claims being made on social media,” Eric Morrissette, chief of media relations for Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada said in response to queries by CBC News.
The conspiracy theory seems to be based on a distorted reading of reporting from CBC News published last summer. One of the first mentions occurred Saturday on Twitter, where businessman Kyle Bass claimed that “a husband and wife Chinese spy team were recently removed from a Level 4 Infectious Disease facility in Canada for sending pathogens to the Wuhan facility.”
In the tweet, which was shared over 12,000 times, he linked to a story CBC News broke in July, revealing that a researcher, her husband, and some of their graduate students, were escorted out of the National Microbiology Lab (NML) in Winnipeg amid an RCMP investigation into what’s being described as a possible “policy breach” and “administrative matter.”
The RCMP and Health Canada have both stressed that there was no danger for public safety.
CBC reporting never claimed the two scientists were spies, or that they brought any version of the coronavirus to the lab in Wuhan.
Experts say the disinformation is creating a “social panic” online.
“We’ve seen already on Twitter and Reddit and other platforms that there have been calls to ban travellers from China from entering North American or Europe — that there have been individuals targeted to be supposedly pulled off flights or stopped at the Canadian border or the U.S. border,” says Fuyuki Kurasawa, director of the Global Digital Citizenship Lab at York University.
“The broader damage is that there grows a mistrust toward both government authorities, public health officials, the media, authoritative sources of media, and there there becomes a social media environment where speculation, rumour and conspiracy theories take over and wash out the factual information that is being promoted online.”
Kurasawa is already seeing that spread from the online world to the real world.
“Individuals will take it on themselves to become vigilantes, where they’ll try to spot someone who supposedly is either holding the truth about some hidden truth about the coronavirus or a person who may be a carrier or supposed carrier of the virus because they appear to have certain symptoms, and then they’ll ask the general public to take matters into own hands,” he says.
Kernels of truth in disinformation
Dr. Xiangguo Qiu is a medical doctor and virologist from Tianjin, China, who came to Canada for graduate studies in 1996. Qiu is still affiliated with the university there and has brought in many students over the years to help with her work. She helped develop ZMapp, a treatment for the deadly Ebola virus which killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa between 2014-2016.
Her husband Keding Cheng works at the Winnipeg lab as a biologist. He has published research papers on HIV infections, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), E. coli infections and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
One month later, CBC discovered that scientists at the NML sent live Ebola and Henipah viruses to Beijing on an Air Canada flight March 31. The Public Health Agency of Canada says all federal policies were followed. PHAC will not confirm if the March 31 shipment is part of the RCMP investigation.
Contrary to posts on Twitter, the coronavirus was not part of this shipment. And there is no confirmation Qiu or Cheng were the scientists behind the shipment.
In another followup story using travel documents obtained in Access to Information requests, CBC reported that Qiu made at least five trips to China in 2017-18, including one to train scientists and technicians at China’s newly certified Level 4 lab.
She was invited to visit the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences twice a year for two years, for up to two weeks each time. The lab does research with the most deadly pathogens.
PHAC has denied any connection between the RCMP investigation, Qiu’s visits to Wuhan or any Canadian research, with the coronavirus outbreak.
However, PHAC would not comment on the current status of Qiu and Cheng, citing privacy reasons.
Communicate more effectively
Heidi Tworek, assistant professor in international history at the University of British Columbia, says governments and public health authorities need to do a better job of communicating facts at times like this, including in the languages of the communities impacted.
“It’s incredibly challenging during fast-moving outbreaks of any disease to balance between information to keep the public safe and prevent something from becoming a massive epidemic and also trying to provide truthful information and also providing enough so you don’t end up with a vacuum, which is where disinformation can flourish,” Tworek says.
“We’ve seen in previous outbreaks it’s been difficult to get this right, but I’d emphasize this is actually a crucial element of what we need to be thinking about into the future — how do we actually communicate well and swiftly with general public with all types of health scares? This will not be the last time we face disinformation during a potential epidemic.”
For Conservative candidates who aren't fully bilingual, running to be prime minister won't be easy – CBC.ca
It’s 2020, and it seems we’re in a place in Canadian politics again where the question of leadership is also a question of language.
Should the leader of a federal party in Canada be required to speak both of Canada’s official languages? Just how bilingual is bilingual enough? How does a candidate’s facility in both languages affect the ability to win?
Maybe we should be asking a different question: Why would anyone who doesn’t speak both languages well even bother applying for the job?
We’re talking about this now, of course, because the Conservative Party of Canada is choosing a new leader in June. The three declared candidates running to be chosen leader (and eventually, they hope, prime minister) — Peter MacKay, Erin O’Toole and Marilyn Gladu — are all able to speak French with varying degrees of success. But we’d be hard-pressed to call any of them fluent.
When MacKay launched his campaign this past weekend in Nova Scotia, he read his French lines off a Teleprompter. In spite of the visual aid, he still made grammatical errors and struggled with pronunciation.
Good luck, Mr. MacKay
His efforts were rewarded with a snarky front page in Le Journal de Quebec (the headline: “Good Luck Mister!”). MacKay took no questions in either official language, so it’s hard to know how he’d handle answering them in a campaign setting. It’s fair to say, though, that French does not come easily to this son of the Maritimes.
When asked directly about his ability to speak French, MacKay told columnist John Ivison in the National Post that he knows he needs to improve, but his life since leaving federal politics in 2015 hasn’t afforded him as many opportunities to speak French.
O’Toole, meanwhile, launched his campaign on Monday with two videos. In the French version, O’Toole clearly is struggling with a strong accent and poor pronunciation.
Now, some of you are asking, “So what? Where does anyone get off criticizing a politician’s language skills?”
Like a lot of Canadians, I grew up in a unilingual home — but I’ve spent my entire life pursuing fluency in French. My home province of Manitoba gave me a few advantages the candidates may not share: a broad push toward French immersion, a strong Francophone community. But learning to be comfortable in a second language isn’t something you do in childhood and then set aside. Every opportunity I had to immerse myself in the language, I took.
Bilingualism has served me well. I still make mistakes, of course. (Listen in to Radio-Canada’s Midi-Info with Michel C. Auger, who has to listen to my occasional flubs every second Friday of the month when I do a political panel.) But this isn’t about me.
It isn’t even about the candidates themselves — who may indeed speak French competently enough to communicate directly with Canadian francophones across the country.
It’s not about the politicians. It’s about the people they want to represent.
In 2011, according to Statistics Canada, some 7.3 million Canadians cited French as their mother tongue; even more said they speak French at home. And in 2016, the agency reported that bilingualism had increased in most provinces and territories and had reached its highest proportion ever nationally: 17.9 per cent.
The vast majority of French-speaking Canadians are, of course, living in Quebec, but there are strong pockets of francophones across the country. Canada declared French and English its official languages in 1969 — which means that every federal institution is required to offer services in both languages, if asked.
A 2016 poll commissioned by the Official Languages Commission found that a vast majority of Canadians support official bilingualism — and a full 86 per cent of Canadians think the prime minister should be bilingual.
Language and elections
So that’s the statistical argument: French is a fact of life in Canada, not just in Quebec, and Canadians expect their leaders to be fluent. But there are crass political factors at play as well.
Quebec holds 78 federal seats. That’s more than Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta combined. It’s not impossible to form a majority government without Quebec: Stephen Harper managed it in 2011 with only five MPs from the province. But doing well in Quebec makes it a lot easier.
Maybe that’s not the point. Maybe we should expect our leaders to communicate well in both official languages because it’s part of the job — not because it makes it easier to win and hold power. Choosing to represent people in public life should include working hard to understand them on their own terms, to recognize their importance as individuals and as members of a living culture. That’s leadership.
Final point: there are roughly 90 different living Indigenous languages in Canada — three out of four of them are considered endangered. Last year, in an attempt to save at least some of them, the government passed the Indigenous Languages Act. The legislation doesn’t give any Indigenous language official status, but it does allow for federal documents to be translated into Indigenous tongues and also launched a commissioner’s office tasked with trying to protect some of these endangered languages.
Think about that — ninety different languages, most of them fading away. Under the circumstances, asking our leaders to talk to us in just two languages doesn’t seem unreasonable.
Embattled Venezuelan president thanks Canada for support, asks world for more help restoring democracy – National Post
OTTAWA – Venezuela’s embattled President Juan Guaidó said Canada’s support has been essential as he tries to take control of his country, but said more still needs to be done to restore democracy in his homeland.
Guaidó is recognized by the international community and by some elected officials inside Venezuela, but he doesn’t have the support of the country’s armed forces or courts, who remain loyal to Nicolás Maduro.
Guaidó arrived in Ottawa on Monday after stops in both London and Paris trying to garner more support from the international community. Speaking through a translator, he acknowledged he could face difficulties returning to his country
“Everything is a risk in Venezuela,” he said.
He said many of his staff were in hiding as they fear arrest, but it was important to keep fighting for change.
Venezuela has been in an economic and humanitarian crisis for several years, with Maduro’s socialist government leading to hyperinflation, price spikes and shortages of basic goods. Maduro took over from former president Hugo Chavez after his death in 2013. Maduro’s election in 2018 was seen as illegitimate, with opposition leaders jailed during the vote.
Millions of people have fled the country and thousands have been injured or killed in protests.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne continued to call for free and fair elections and for Maduro to step down.
“Make no mistake, the situation has gone from bad to worse, as a direct result of the actions of the Maduro regime,” Champagne said after a meeting with Guaidó on Monday. “We wish to see a peaceful transition to democracy in Venezuela.”
Guaidó also met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau late in the afternoon and was recognized in the House of Commons after Question Period.
Following the flawed election in 2018, Maduro was encouraged by the international community to hold a new vote, but he refused. The country’s congress elected Guaidó president, using a provision in the nation’s constitution that allows for the president to be replaced. Maduro was also sworn in as president and his government doesn’t recognize Guaidó’s authority as legitimate.
Canada partnered with several South American countries in a new international body called the Lima Group that recognized Guaidó as president and has continued to push for Maduro to step down. Canada is the only G7 member of the Lima Group and has helped drive the effort. Canada also partnered with several of the countries in the Lima Group to call for an investigation of the Maduro regime from the International Criminal Court.
Maduro has said all of the international pressures are an attempt by the United States to instigate a coup in Venezuela. The U.S. is not a member of the Lima Group, but has said it supports its efforts.
Guaidó said Canada’s support has been invaluable to bringing about change.
“We thank the members of the Lima Group deeply. We thank Canada deeply.”
Despite the risk, he said he was travelling to western countries so the people of Venezuela would be heard.
“I am here to speak on behalf of the people of Venezuela who don’t have a voice.”
We thank Canada deeply
He said people inside Venezuela rely on media from outside the country, because there is so much censorship inside the nation’s borders.
Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world and the country was previously prosperous. Guaidó said that has all changed, he said people are starving due to food and water shortages. He said there have also been severe crackdowns on protesters speaking out against the regime and violence has become widespread.
“There have been 18,000 extrajudicial murders in our country.”
Canada’ official travel advisory recommends against any travel to the country.
The federal government has used Magnitsky Act sanctions against 113 members of Maduro’s regime, banning their travel and freezing assets they have in Canada.
Guaidó said they would like to see more sanctions to people who have aided the regime around the world.
“We want to sanction corrupt human rights abusers that have left Venezuela.”
Last summer, former foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland met with Cuban officials in an attempt to get them to put pressure on the Maduro regime. Champagne said he hopes to continue those efforts, but also plans to keep finding ways to push for change.
“We are going to be engaging not only as the Lima Group, but with others around the world,” he said. “You have to look at the humanitarian crisis going on, we think there will be six million people displaced by the end of the year.”
Champagne said a true settlement to the problem will have to come from the people of Venezuela, but said Canada would continue to be an ally to Guaidó.
“I would like to commend the president for his leadership and his courage.”
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