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CBC News journalist Janice Johnston dies at 62

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Janice Johnston, a CBC journalist whose decades-long career shaped justice and crime reporting in Edmonton and Alberta, died Friday. She was 62.

Johnston, who was born in London, Ont., on March 2, 1960, died of cancer after a brief illness.

Johnston covered Alberta courts and crime for more than three decades and her dedication to the beat was unmatched.

She is survived by her husband Scott Johnston, her daughter Samantha Milles, son-in-law Demetri Milles and her granddaughter Calliope (Cali).

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In an interview Friday, Samantha Milles said her mother excelled as a journalist right from the start, and always had an “electric spark” that drove her work.

“She was covering stories just a few months ago that she still had so much passion to talk about and cared so deeply about. It was her calling, I truly feel, to do the job that she did,” Milles said.

A storied career

Johnston found meaning in telling the stories of justice delivered.

She pursued her stories with determination, said Stephanie Coombs, CBC Edmonton’s director of journalism and programming.

“Janice was the kind of journalist who lived and breathed the news,” Coombs said.

“She strongly believed in her role as a crime reporter to tell the public about what went on in the criminal justice system, both in the courts and behind the scenes. If something was secret and in the public interest, Janice wanted to dig into it and bring it into the light.”

Coombs recalled working closely with Johnston on a 2021 investigative series in which a whistleblower police officer leaked unprecedented information to Johnston.

“It was a testament to her reputation as a journalist in Edmonton that she got the story and was able to share it with the public,” she said.

A man in a dark blue winter jacket and tuque shares a laugh with a smiling grey-haired woman wearing a bright green overcoat.
Johnston shares a moment with video producer Trevor Wilson. (CBC)

Johnston was no stranger to the legislature or city hall, but the courthouse was her calling.

Edmonton criminal lawyer Brian Beresh said Johnston leaves a legacy as a deeply trusted reporter who doggedly chased the truth.

“She was the ultimate court reporter,” Beresh said. “She had that great sense to be able to capture the story objectively. And what really struck me about her was her compassion … she was fierce but she was fair.”

Johnston brought the details of significant cases to Edmontonians over the decades: the disappearance of St. Albert seniors Lyle and Marie McCann and the case of the so-called “Dexter killer” Mark Twitchell.

She travelled to North Carolina for a case involving an Alberta man who admitted to killing his wife.

Johnston spent years covering dangerous offender Leo Teskey’s progress through the justice system. After her reports, the provincial government made it illegal for dangerous and long-term offenders to change their names.

In 2016, she won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award for her coverage of the trial of a 13-year-old Alberta boy who was acquitted of killing his abusive father.

She was dogged in holding the justice system accountable through her coverage of Alberta police agencies withholding the names of homicide victims. She broke the story of a sexual assault victim who was jailed while testifying against her attacker.

She was the ultimate court reporter.– Brian Beresh

Albertans have lost a valuable and trusted voice, said Court of King’s Bench Chief Justice Mary Moreau.

“Janice Johnston was deeply knowledgeable, thoughtful and thorough, and always brought these qualities to her reporting,” Moreau said in a statement.

“Her seniority among Alberta reporters, and the respect she earned from her colleagues and from members of the judiciary, also made her an effective advocate for media access to the courts.”

Johnston was generous with her extensive knowledge, working as a mentor to countless young journalists.

A former colleague, CBC correspondent Briar Stewart, said she will always remember Johnston’s confidence in the courtroom, when she would stand up to argue before judges that media outlets should have access to court records or other legal documents.

“She was a force, and always so generous sharing her expertise. I know I learned a great deal from her,” Stewart said.

A man in a blue shirt sits beside a woman in a white top. They are both holding glasses of red wine.
Scott and Janice Johnston enjoying a glass of red in wine country. (Janice Johnston/Twitter)

Meghan Grant, who covers courts and crime for CBC Calgary, met Johnston while they were covering a parole hearing in 2016. They became friends and made a point of catching up whenever they were in each other’s city.

“Most recently, my son and I had lunch with Janice on a sunny Edmonton patio in August which included glasses of rosé,” Grant said Friday.

“She insisted on paying. She also gave me a pillow she’d made. Janice was incredibly generous, thoughtful and crafty in every sense of that word.”

 

Radio Active3:20Remembering Janice Johnston part 1

CBC Crime and Court reporter Janice Johnston has brought Edmontonians stories from across the province for over three decades. First at CTV, when it was known as CFRN-Eyewitness news, and then here at CBC Edmonton. Sadly, on Jan. 13, Janice passed away after a very brief, but courageous battle with Cancer. Janice was an impassioned journalist, a consumate professional, a loving wife to Scott, and recently a doting grandmother to Cali, and loving mother to Sam. It’s hard to put into words, but know everyone at CBC and the many others who working with her, or crossed her path on the job will miss her dearly. Despite being a serious crime reporter, Janice passionately enjoyed sewing and from the CBC Edmonton archives, we have a clip of her telling us all about it.

Johnston studied radio and television arts at then-Ryerson University (now Toronto Metropolitan University), and got her first job working in Wingham, Ont.

She moved to Edmonton in the 1980s, first working at radio station CISN as a reporter and later as a news director. She moved on to work at CFRN-TV as a reporter. She started at CBC in the early 2000s.

‘A best friend in your partner’

Johnston and her husband Scott, a fellow journalist, were together for 36 years and marked their 20th anniversary by renewing their vows on a Caribbean beach. Scott Johnston now works with the Alberta government.

Johnston recently wrote on social media that she was lucky she and her partner still looked at each other like they did when they first fell in love.

Milles said her parents’ relationship was an inspiration to her.

“I think it’s so cool that they both got to do the same job together and we would sit down at the dinner table and hear about their days,” she said. “They taught me such a great example of how to have a best friend in your partner.”

The newsroom’s fashionista

Despite the serious nature of Johnston’s work, she loved to have fun. She had many passions and hobbies that kept her busy and spent lots of quality time with her family.

“She would cover courts and crime during the day, then we would watch The Bachelor and drink wine and go out for lunch every weekend and catch up. And she was just so loving and caring in that way too,” Milles said.

Her mother was an Earth, Wind and Fire superfan who also loved Bruno Mars. If there was music on at a party, Johnston was dancing.

She was also the CBC newsroom fashionista, known for her impressive collection of designer shoes.

A woman stands in a newsroom, looking down at papers in her hand. In the foreground is a television camera.
CBC reporter Janice Johnston studies her script while preparing to go on camera. (CBC)

Johnston was adept with a needle and thread as she was with her pen.

When she wasn’t covering crime from the Edmonton law courts, she used crafting — and sometimes canning — to help her unwind.

She took great pride in her creations — crocheted pillows, brightly-coloured quilts and tiny onesies and Halloween costumes carefully crafted for her beloved granddaughter.

Becoming a Gigi was a point of pride for Johnston and hugs from granddaughter Cali were the highlight of any family gathering.

In 2020, hours before her 60th birthday, Johnston wrote on Facebook about what she had learned from her life.

She spoke of her affection for her late mother, the love she shared with her husband, and the pride she had in her family and her career.

“I’m grateful I have a career I love [and] the ability to tell people’s stories.”

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New job as head baker helps Ukrainian newcomer find familiarity in Winnipeg – CBC.ca

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Life in Canada is off to a sweet start for a Ukrainian baker who has found a new home for her creations in Winnipeg.

Hanna Tokar, who has only been in Canada for just over a month, is now the head baker at the Winnipeg location of the Butter Tart Lady.

Michelle Wierda, the owner of the bakery, offered her a job after seeing a Facebook post Tokar made where she shared her struggles finding employment in Winnipeg.

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“I saw her pictures and I thought, ‘I have to interview her,'” Wierda told host Marcy Markusa in a Tuesday interview with CBC’s Information Radio.

“I saw her attention to detail. Her work is just spectacular. It looked very delicious.”

Before coming to Canada, Tokar owned a bakery she operated by herself in her hometown of Kherson, a port city in southern Ukraine.

She was forced to permanently close its doors when she came to Canada, fleeing Kherson after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A woman with her dark hair pulled away from her face rolls dough on a crowded wooden surface.
Tokar says she was surprised to get the offer to work in the Winnipeg bakery. ‘It was actually my dream to have that job here,’ she says. ‘So it was amazing for me.’ (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Tokar said she was shocked to get the offer to work at the Winnipeg bakery.

“I didn’t expect [to] … have an offer to work in a bakery, because it was actually my dream to have that job here. So it was amazing for me,” she told Information Radio.

Missing home

Feb. 24 will mark the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine.

Since then, more than 800,000 Ukrainian nationals and their family members have applied for special temporary resident visas to come to Canada, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. The ministry said as of late December, more than 132,000 Ukrainian nationals had entered Canada since the start of 2022.

While Tokar’s parents are safe elsewhere in Europe, she says she prays for her grandparents who stayed in Kherson, which has experienced heavy damage due to shelling. 

“I actually miss Ukraine. I actually miss my friends and my life — my previous life,” Tokar said.

“I really want  them to really be proud of me, so that’s why when I have a job I called them and my grandparents really cried.”

As she settles into her new role as head baker at the Butter Tart Lady’s Winnipeg location, the return to what has been a lifelong passion provides Tokar with familiarity in a new place. 

Woman with long curly blonde hair smiles in front of an array of baked goods.
The Butter Tart Lady owner Michelle Wierda says she instantly knew when she saw Ukrainian newcomer Tokar’s work on Facebook that she wanted the young baker to come in for an interview. (Submitted by Michelle Wierda)

Although she is still new to the position, Tokar is already infusing the menu with traditional Ukrainian treats, something Wierda is excited about. 

Of these treats is pampushky, a Ukrainian garlic bread that is traditionally served with borscht, Tokar explained.

On the two days she made pampushky, it sold out immediately, said Wierda.

As they look toward to the future, the two women are excited for their partnership.

“I love to be so creative and imaginative, and that’s what I’ve seen in Hanna, is that she’s very determined,” Wierda said. “She has a strong ambition to excellence and she’s always researching, looking for new ideas, new things.”

For Tokar, this experience provides hope for what life in Canada can be. 

“You know, I never expect that, like, some foreign people can support me like that,” she said.

“And I really like appreciate the kindness of people.”

Information Radio – MB6:15Baker from Ukraine is frosting cupcakes while connecting with a new community in Winnipeg

Marcy Markusa speaks with local bakery owner Michelle Wierda, a.k.a. “The Butter Tart Lady,” and her new head baker, Hanna Tokar, who is settling in Winnipeg after leaving Ukraine.

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Canadian team discovers power-draining flaw in most laptop and phone batteries – CBC.ca

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The phone, tablet or laptop you’re reading this on is likely having its battery slowly drained because of a surprising and widespread manufacturing flaw, according to researchers in Halifax.

“This is something that is totally unexpected and something that probably no one thought of,” said Michael Metzger, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. 

The problem? Tiny pieces of tape that hold the battery components together are made from the wrong type of plastic.

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Batteries release power because of a chemical reaction. Inside each battery cell, there are two types of metal. One acts as a positive electrode and one as a negative electrode. 

These electrodes are held in an electrolyte fluid or paste that is often a form of lithium. 

When you connect cables to each end of the battery, electrons flow through the cables — providing power to light bulbs, laptops, or whatever else is on the circuit — and return to the battery. 

Trouble starts if those electrons don’t follow the cables.

When electrons move from one charged side of the battery to the other through the electrolyte fluid, it’s called self-discharge. The battery is being depleted internally without sending out electrical current.

This is the reason why devices that are fully charged can slowly lose their charge while they’re turned off.

“These days, batteries are very good,” Metzger said. “But, like with any product, you want it perfected. And you want to eliminate even small rates of self-discharge.”

Stress-testing batteries

In the search for the perfect battery, researchers have to watch how each one performs over its full lifespan.

“We do a lot of our tests at elevated temperatures these days. We want to be able to do testing in reasonable time frames,” Metzger said. Heat makes a battery degrade more quickly, he explained.

Different number readings are seen on a battery testing device that's a black box with six dials.
Some of the testing equipment used to regulate the temperature of each experiment. The coloured numbers indicate the temperature of each heated compartment in which battery cells are being tested. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

At Dalhousie University’s battery lab, dozens of experimental battery cells are being charged and discharged again and again, in environments as hot as 85 C. 

For comparison, eggs fry at around 70 C. 

If researchers can learn why a battery eventually fails, they can tweak the positive electrode, negative electrode, or electrolyte fluid.

Seeing red

During one of these tests, the clear electrolyte fluid turned bright red. The team was puzzled.

It isn’t supposed to do that, according to Metzger. “A battery’s a closed system,” he said.

Something new had been created inside the battery.

They did a chemical analysis of the red substance and found it was dimethyl terephthalate (DMT). It’s a substance that shuttles electrons within the battery, rather than having them flow outside through cables and generate electricity. 

Shuttling electrons internally depletes the battery’s charge, even if it isn’t connected to a circuit or electrical device.

But if a battery is sealed by the manufacturer, where did the DMT come from?

Through the chemical analysis, the team realized that DMT has a similar structure to another molecule: polyethylene terephthalate (PET). 

PET is a type of plastic used in household items like water bottles, food containers and synthetic carpets. But what was plastic doing inside the battery? 

Tale of the tape 

Piece by piece, the team analyzed the battery components. They realized that the thin strips of metal and insulation coiled tightly inside the casing were held together with tape.

Those small segments of tape were made of PET — the type of plastic that had been causing the electrolyte fluid to turn red, and self-discharge the battery. 

A piece of metallic tape sits on a wooden table.
One of the metallic sheets removed from a coil inside a cylindrical battery. Each layer of the coil is held in place by plastic tape, shown here as the greenish strips. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

“A lot of companies use PET tape,” said Metzger. “That’s why it was a quite important discovery, this realization that this tape is actually not inert.”

Tech industry takes notice

Metzger and the team began sharing their discovery publicly in November 2022, in publications and at seminars.

Some of the world’s largest computer-hardware companies and electric-vehicle manufacturers were very interested.

“A lot of the companies made clear that this is very relevant to them,” Metzger said. “They want to make changes to these components in their battery cells because, of course, they want to avoid self-discharge.”

The team even proposed a solution to the problem: use a slightly more expensive, but also more stable, plastic compound.

A man in a plaid shirt walks through a room full of battery technology.
Metzger walks through one of the battery-testing laboratories at Dalhousie University. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

One option is polypropylene, which is typically used to make more durable plastic items like outdoor furniture or reusable water bottles. 

“We realized that it [polypropylene] doesn’t easily decompose like PET, and doesn’t form these unwanted molecules,” Metzger said. “So currently, we have very encouraging results that the self-discharges are truly eliminated by moving away from this PET tape.”

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U.S. escalates trade concerns over Canada's online news and streaming bills – The Globe and Mail

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U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrive for a joint news conference at the conclusion of the North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico City, Mexico on Jan. 10.KEVIN LAMARQUE/Reuters

Washington has escalated its concerns about the trade implications of Ottawa’s online streaming and online news bills, prompting a legal expert to predict the issue will be raised during President Joe Biden’s planned visit to Canada in March.

Deputy United States trade representative Jayme White stressed “ongoing concerns” about the two Canadian bills at a meeting last week with Rob Stewart, Canada’s deputy minister for international trade.

Senior Democrat and Republican senators on the influential U.S. Senate finance committee also weighed in last week, writing a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai about Canada’s “troubling policies,” which they said target U.S technology companies.

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Both bills are making their way through Canada’s Parliament. Bill C-11 reached a third-reading debate in the Senate on Tuesday.

The U.S. is concerned that the two bills unfairly single out American firms, including Google, Facebook and Netflix.

Bill C-11 would update Canada’s broadcast laws, giving the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) the power to regulate streaming platforms such as Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime and Spotify.

The streaming platforms would have to promote Canadian content – including films, TV shows, music and music videos – and fund its creation.

Bill C-18 would force Google and Facebook to strike deals with news organizations, including broadcasters, to compensate them for using their work. The CRTC would have a role in overseeing the process.

Two sources told The Globe and Mail that the CRTC’s lack of experience regulating print media and digital platforms was raised by Ms. Tai and her team in previous talks with Canada’s Trade Minister, Mary Ng. The Globe is not naming the sources because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

A U.S. readout of Mr. White’s meeting with Mr. Stewart said the American official had “expressed the United States’ ongoing concerns with … pending legislation in the Canadian Parliament that could impact digital streaming services and online news sharing and discriminate against U.S. businesses.”

Shanti Cosentino, a spokeswoman for Ms. Ng, said the Minister “has reiterated to Ambassador Tai that both Bill C-11 and C-18 are in line with our trade obligations and do not discriminate against U.S. businesses.”

Last week, Democrat Ron Wyden, chairman of the U.S. Senate committee on finance, and Republican Michael Crapo, a senior member of the committee, raised concerns in a letter to Ms. Tai that the bills could breach the terms of the United-States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA).

Michael Geist, the University of Ottawa’s Canada Research Chair in internet law, said the intervention from both parties means it is now likely the issue will be on the agenda when Mr. Biden visits Canada.

“To see this raised in a bipartisan manner by two U.S. Senators from the powerful finance committee suggests that the issue is gaining traction in Congress,” he said.

The senators urged Ms. Tai to take enforcement action if Canada fails to meet its trade obligations.

Their letter said the online streaming bill would “mandate preferential treatment for Canadian content and deprive U.S. creatives of the North American market, access they were promised under USMCA.”

It added that Bill C-18 “targets U.S. companies for the benefit of Canadian news producers and raises national treatment concerns under USMCA.”

But Toronto-based trade lawyer and former diplomat Lawrence Herman, founder of Herman and Associates, said the U.S. politicians’ intervention is “a reflection of a well-orchestrated lobbying effort by the major digital platforms.”

He said there is no evidence that either bill discriminates against American companies.

“Canada is well armed to defend any trade complaint,” he said.

On Thursday, as Canada’s Senate debated Bill C-11 at third reading, Senator Dennis Dawson, sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said the legislation has been thoroughly scrutinized and should now be passed.

The Senate was due to begin debating C-18 this week. But that could now be delayed because of an error in the printed text of the bill sent over from the Commons, the Speaker of the Senate said.

The incorrect text included a sub-amendment that had not actually passed in a Commons committee. It will now have to be pulped and reprinted.

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