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.
Statistics Canada to start collecting race-based crime data – CBC.ca
Statistics Canada says it plans to start collecting race-based crime data — a step that comes amid mounting criticism of how law enforcement agencies across Canada police marginalized communities.
The national statistics agency and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police will begin working with partners and stakeholders this year to figure out how to collect sound data when reporting on victims and accused, according to a news release sent Wednesday morning.
The CACP is a non-profit that represents about 1,300 police chiefs from federal, First Nations, provincial, regional, transportation and military police services across the country.
“The need for quality data about the experience of Indigenous peoples and ethno-cultural communities with Canada’s criminal justice system is paramount to understanding the extent to which people from these communities are represented in Canada’s criminal justice system, beginning with their interactions with the police,” said Stu Betts, deputy chief of the London Police Service and co-chair of the CACP’s statistics committee.
The move is something advocates have called for to get a better sense of how crime impacts different communities, though some have cautioned that data collection alone won’t solve the problem of racial profiling.
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and groups such as Canadian Race Relations Foundation have both pushed for this kind of data collection, the release says.
The announcement comes as police forces across Canada face a reckoning about how they police marginalized communities following a number of high-profile deaths.
Anil Arora, the chief statistician of Canada, said this kind of data collection could impact decisions going forward.
“Statistics Canada is committed to working with the CACP to ensure Canada’s official police-reported crime statistics reflect indigenous and ethno-cultural groups,” he said in a statement.
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki committed to working with the federal privacy commissioner on the collection of race-based policing data during a committee meeting on systemic racism in policing last month.
“Providing a clearer picture of police interactions with racialized communities is vital to maintaining the trust and respect of Canadians,” she tweeted Wednesday morning, reacting to the Statistics Canada announcement.
International air travel to Canada continues to rise, despite coronavirus border restrictions – Globalnews.ca
Despite growing concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus abroad, including record-breaking numbers in several U.S. states, the volume of international travellers arriving at Canadian airports each week continues to rise.
Between June 29 and July 12, roughly 91,300 travellers entered Canada by air, according to statistics released by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
Of these, roughly 27,000 passengers arrived on flights from the U.S., while 64,000 came from other countries directly. About 40,000 of the 91,000 passengers were either non-Canadian citizens or non-permanent residents.
The CBSA does not provide a breakdown of which countries people arrive from specifically, other than the U.S., but has previously said any foreign national must meet exemption requirements outlined in the government’s orders banning non-essential travel before they are allowed to enter Canada.
This includes immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, temporary foreign workers, international students or valid work permit holders, and anyone whose work is considered essential.
Coronavirus: Why reopening the Canada-US border too soon could mean a ‘second wave’
As Global News reported last week, the number of air travellers arriving in Canada has increased significantly since late April, when the volume of international passengers was at its lowest during the pandemic.
In late April, the number of passengers arriving in Canada each week averaged roughly 15,000. By mid to late June, this figure increased to roughly 30,000 a week.
During the first two weeks of July it averaged roughly 45,000 a week.
Overall, air travel to Canada is down by about 95 per cent compared to this time last year, when more than 800,000 people a week entered the country on international flights.
The government previously told Global News the recent increase in international air travel is likely due to several factors, including Canadians and permanent residents returning home who previously couldn’t do so due to travel restrictions in other countries, a small number of reuniting family members, and foreign nationals exempt to current border restrictions.
CBSA does not ‘systematically track’ exemptions
There have been concerns in recent weeks that a small number of international travellers could be taking advantage or skirting the rules for who’s allowed to enter Canada.
These concerns are primarily about Americans who crossed the Canada-U.S. land forder using the “Alaska exemption” and were then spotted sightseeing, even though they are required to drive directly from the border to Alaska.
Police have also issued fines to travellers for failing to self-isolate for 14 days after entering Canada, including a Florida couple charged by Ontario Provincial Police.
Meanwhile, the recent spike in air travel has also caused concern.
Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and professor at the University of Toronto, told Global News he was distrubed by the increase in travellers between late April and June. He also said he had a hard time believing the increase was due exclusively to “essential” travel.
“Governments keep on saying people shouldn’t (travel). We’ve got to stop saying shouldn’t and start saying can’t,” Furness said.
Concerns raised over American tourists using ‘Alaskan loophole’ during pandemic
Since May 25, when the CBSA started reporting weekly updates on the number of Canadians and permanent residents entering Canada by air, there have been roughly 108,000 foreign nationals who have arrived in Canada on international flights, including from the U.S.
Global News previously asked the government to provide a breakdown of the exemptions used to allow foreign nationals to enter Canada, plus a breakdown of travellers by nationality, but was told this information is not available.
“The statistics you have requested are not available as we do not systematically track this information,” said CBSA spokesperson Mark Stuart in email from June 25.
Before boarding a plane bound for Canada all passengers must undergo a temperature check. They’re also asked if they are ill or have symptoms associated with COVID-19.
Upon arriving in Canada, passengers are asked by border officials if they have a fever, cough or if they feel sick. Those who say yes, and those who say no but appear to be sick, are referred to officials from the Public Health Agency of Canada for additional screening. Passengers are also observed for signs of illness by border officials at different locations throughout the airport, including baggage and arrivals areas.
B.C. government closing popular Peace Arch Park at Canada-U.S. border
Anyone entering Canada is also required to self-isolate for 14 days — unless they’re an essential worker, in which case they’re exempt from this requirement — and must complete a contact tracing form so health officials can connect.
Global News asked the government for comment about the most recent weekly statistics. A spokesperson for CBSA said no new information was available.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
How the Hong Kong protests led to the downfall of a renowned Canadian jeweller – CBC.ca
The company that mines Alberta’s official gemstone is on the verge of collapse after pro-democracy protests and the pandemic have combined to wipe out its biggest markets.
Ammolite is a rare iridescent gem found almost exclusively in Alberta, and Korite International, headquartered in Calgary, now produces about 90 per cent of the world’s supply. It was recently a rising star in the world of precious stones, with demand surging in 2017. But the company’s fortunes began to crumble when the unrest began in Hong Kong. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated its mounting financial losses, and Korite obtained creditor protection on June 30.
Ammolite is regarded as a Canadian national treasure, meaning the federal government must approve all applications to export it.
Ammolite comes from the shells of fossilized sea creatures called ammonites. It can be found in several places around the globe, but those found in a southern Alberta river basin are unique because of a thick layer of colour and iridescence, which are ideal for manufacturing gems.
“All the colours are on top of each other, the same as a rainbow — and it’s all natural. So that makes it one of the rarest gemstones in the world,” Rene Trudel, Korite’s operation field manager, told CBC News in 2017.
“In this sediment, the preservation is incredible … you cannot find anywhere else the full spectrum [of colours].”
In 2015, a group of Calgary investors, including former company president Jay Maull, took over Korite with ambitious plans to grow the business, scaling up mining operations and partnering with a distributor in Asia as they tried to raise the gem’s profile.
When they took over, the Korite mine, located south of Lethbridge, was expanded from less than one hectare to more than three hectares as the company said it was scrambling to keep up with surging demand. Executives had also reached a deal with a Chinese distributor to boost sales of ammolite jewelry in that country.
China has a unique interest in ammolite because Feng Shui experts are said to believe the gems can enhance health, wealth and wisdom.
In efforts to boost its domestic profile, the company signed a deal to sponsor the Calgary Stampede Royalty and was the official jewelry licensee for Canada 150, the year-long celebration in 2017 that marked the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
The financial hardships began last year. A large portion of the company’s sales in Asia were at trade shows in Hong Kong, but those events were cancelled amid ongoing massive and sometimes violent protests, resulting in the loss of over $2.4 million in anticipated sales, according to insolvency documents filed by the company.
“Hong Kong people appreciate precious gems — the rarer, the better,” said Gordon Houlden, a former diplomat who has worked in Beijing and Hong Kong and is now director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta. He was in Hong Kong last year when Korite was at an exhibition showcasing its product to Chinese buyers.
“The demonstrations created an unusual situation: Transport was disrupted, occasional disruptions to the airport. I thought overall it was manageable, but it was having an effect on the local economy,” he said. COVID-19 has been far more challenging for Canadian companies who operate in Asia because of the travel restrictions, he said.
Korite was unable to recover this year as the situation in Hong Kong persists and revenues elsewhere in the world began to dry up amid the pandemic.
The company also sells ammonite in places like tourist shops in Banff, on cruise ships and in Caribbean holiday ports. Those business lines were all hit hard as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the near total shutdown of the travel industry.
Three years ago, Korite had 280 employees worldwide. According to documents, the company currently has 12 staff members and an additional 31 employees who have been temporarily laid-off because of the pandemic.
Since early March, Korite has not recorded any new sales in the retail and cruise sectors, according to the documents, with a loss of over $6.1 million in anticipated sales.
At the end of April, the company had liabilities of $16.4 million and listed assets of about $20 million, including more than $6 million in property, equipment and mineral rights.
As with so many companies right now, the financial outlook for Korite is difficult to assess as Hong Kong remains volatile for an indefinite period and the global tourism sector is expected to take several years to recover. Even as some retail shops have reopened, there have not yet been any new orders for jewelry.
The company can’t sustain itself and must restructure its balance sheet and operating costs, according to documents.
Calls and emails requesting interviews with company officials were not returned.
The process is underway to find investors or sell either the company or assets, according to court documents, to help pay creditors.
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