From a groundbreaking investigation into the safety of drinking water to Canadians held in ISIS detainee camps in Syria to exposing Canada’s money laundering problem, Global News took an in-depth look at a wide range of issues in 2019 that sparked public conversation and led to government action.
In November, Global News, along with universities and 10 media organizations, began publishing a series of stories that revealed hundreds of thousands of Canadians could be consuming tap water laced with high levels of lead leaching from aging infrastructure and plumbing.
Reporters collected test results that measured exposure to lead in 11 cities across Canada and found out of 12,000 tests since 2014, 33 per cent exceeded the national safety guideline of five parts per billion. The reporting also found the drinking in schools and daycares in several cities were exposed to dangerous lead levels.
News outlets around the world picked up on the Tainted Water investigation and led to changes among municipal and provincial governments.
Return to Syria
Canadian woman detained in Syria says she accepts she could face prosecution
Amid the fall of the so-called Islamic State, Global News returned to Syria this year to continue its reporting on the issue of Canadian foreign fighters.
At the Al-Hawl camp, which houses more than 70,000 women and children captured during the final battles with ISIS, Global spoke with several Canadians who are asking for the government to bring them home to be tried under Canada’s justice system.
Canada has so far not repatriated any of the roughly 40 Canadians held at ISIS detainee camps, according to Kurdish authorities.
Canada’s broken recycling industry
In a months-long investigation for a multi-part series, Global News spoke with dozens of communities, companies and industry leaders across the country about the mounting challenges faced by Canada’s recycling industry.
READ MORE: Is Canada’s recycling industry broken?
The result is dire: with few exceptions, more recycling is being sent to landfills, fewer items are being accepted in the blue bin and the financial toll of running these programs has become a burden for some municipalities.
Reporters also explored how to fix the country’s recycling system by focusing on a system in B.C. that relies on private companies to carry out the province’s residential recycling program.
Following the money, again
On the heels of Global’s months-long investigation into Fentanyl trafficking in 2018, reporters continued to dig into the intersection of drugs and money laundering in B.C., which looked at a then-Liberal MP whose work at a law firm has been linked to financial transactions with an alleged Chinese organized crime figure.
In the series B.C. Casino Diaries, former casino employees who worked for Great Canadian Gaming in Richmond, B.C., revealed how organized crime first infiltrated the gaming industry.
Global also revealed how Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido’s law firm helped facilitate a secretive B.C. real estate deal — known as a “bare trust” deal — that helped an alleged Chinese “drug boss” hide his ownership stake in a $7.8 million condo development.
And in a national look at the problem of money laundering, Global revealed how the provinces largely fail to prosecute these complex crimes with just 321 guilty verdicts in money-laundering cases over a 16-year period.
Following media reports on the money laundering, B.C. announced it would launch a public inquiry that has distorted the province’s real estate market and fuelled the opioid crisis.
Global News compiled a database to track the number of criminal cases thrown out in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s R. v. Jordan decision in 2016, which set trial deadlines of 18 months for provincial court trials and 30 months in superior court.
We found nearly 800 criminal cases — ranging from manslaughter to drug trafficking and even murder — have been stayed because a judge found the defendant’s constitutional right to a timely trial had been violated.
Global Edmonton followed the story with a look at charges being tossed in Alberta over a lack of prosecutors. Data obtained by Global News from Alberta Justice shows that all charges in 47 per cent of cases were withdrawn in the last fiscal year, and that number has been steadily rising since the 2015-2016 fiscal year
Immigration Refugee Board conduct
In 2019, Global reporters continued their in-depth coverage of Canada’s immigration system, exposing the ways in which Canada’s refugee determination system is failing some of the most vulnerable claimants.
This included claims that refugee judges at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) do not always adhere to the guidelines in cases involving allegations of sexual assault and domestic abuse.
Reporting also revealed problems with the board’s process for hiring new judges, including the re-appointment of a former adjudicator who publicly declared that nearly all refugee claimants are liars.
For the good of the force
In January, Global began publishing an ongoing series of stories exploring the RCMP’s “culture of dysfunction” and the way in which the famous force’s indelible image has shielded it from scandal.
The initial four-part series combed through decades worth of public documents to estimate the cost of the force’s failure to reform at $220 million and counting, revisited the case of the first female Mountie to win a sexual harassment lawsuit against the force, and probed the probable impacts of the City of Surrey’s decision to ditch the Mounties.
Those stories paved the way for additional deep dives exploring racism in the ranks, the force’s alleged campaign to get rid of Mounties with disabilities and its second $100 million sexual harassment settlement.
Beginning in November, Global launched Broken, a series reflecting on how we must provide better, more consistent and nuanced coverage of any woman, trans or non-binary person who has experienced violence, abuse or harassment.
Reporters tackled a multitude of complicated societal issues that aren’t often explored at length. They probed everything from the rehabilitation of domestic abusers to women of colour’s unique experience of violence and the 30-year lag time for a mainstream conversation about feminism after the Ecole Polytechnique massacre.
These stories are just the beginning, having sparked many people to reach out with their own stories of harassment, abuse and injustice, which reporters are now beginning to investigate.
Inside Ontario’s rocky first year of legal weed
Ontario has taken perhaps the clumsiest approach of any province to cannabis legalization; unfortunately, with 40 per cent of Canada’s population, that has an outsized effect on the national cannabis economy. The province still has only one store for more than half a million people and has Canada’s second-lowest per capita cannabis sales.
‘Under the Influence’
In a four-part series, reporters looked at the pharmaceutical industry’s influence on Canada’s health-care system — swaying doctors’ opinions, funding medical schools and, ultimately, affecting the type of drugs we are prescribed.
Global News spent months talking to doctors, opioid experts, pharma reps and Canadians whose lives were forever changed by prescription drugs. Reporters obtained and analyzed documents showing millions of dollars poured into health-care industries by Big Pharma.
Questionable conduct in Ontario real-estate
Ajax property entrepreneur Tarekh Rana haunted by Bangladesh fugitive crime boss doppelganger
An investigation between Global News and Bangladesh’s The Daily Star newspaper has found striking similarities between a Durham developer and an international fugitive accused of leading a criminal organization behind a series of extortions and murders.
The investigation also revealed his business appears to be in disarray and revealed how Rana aligned himself with city council in Ajax, even making a sitting councillor a director of his company.
In April, Global revealed that a company, 1PLUS12, is currently facing two lawsuits totaling $6.4 million that allege fraud or misrepresentation and is linked to an alleged $17-million mortgage fraud involving high-end real estate across Toronto.
One of their consultants, who recently changed his name, is also behind a B.C. company, that according to claims in court documents, lost investors and creditors almost $19 million.
Construction industry safety
During the summer, Global News used unmarked vehicles to film several Halifax-area construction sites, capturing on tape what appeared to be a wide variety of health and safety concerns. Four independent sources with expertise in construction safety reviewed that footage and alleged it contained life-threatening risk to workers, as labourers toiled on balconies and rooftops with no fall protection, among other risks.
When the Nova Scotia Department of Labour received a copy of the tape, it inspected more than 20 construction sites in the region, many of which were featured in Global News’ investigation. Three sites were issued warnings for not operating safely.
In December, Global took an in-depth look at the rise in temporary emergency room closures as Nova Scotia deals with a shortage of doctors and nurses. Most are unscheduled and can come with as little as half a day’s notice.
Between 2014 and the first three months of 2018, just under half of the emergency rooms in the province — 18 of 37 — were forced to temporarily close, often as a result of a lack of doctors or nurses.
And the number of temporary closures is increasing dramatically, according to data collected from reports prepared by the Nova Scotia government.
Abuse at Children’s Aid group homes
Drugs, theft, alcohol and inappropriate relationships alleged at Children’s Aid group home
In January, of this year, Global Kingston reported a story about a woman charged with sexual assaults of two minors and her employment at a Children’s Aid Society in Belleville at the time of the offences.
That story snowballed into an investigation that took six months and expanded into Prince Edward County.
Three pieces came from that investigation, one about a Children’s Aid group home that might have led to the death of a young man, another about a foster home in Prince Edward County named by the children who lived there as a ‘sexual cult’ and a third about a victim who came forward about her abuse as a child in a foster home, only to be ignored.
Soldiers aid commission
The Ontario Soldiers’ Aid Commission, the province’s emergency grant program for veterans, turns away veterans of recent conflicts while returning most of its budget unspent every year to the government, documents released under access-to-information laws show.
The provincial law it works under was last updated in 1970 and doesn’t let it give money to veterans of any conflict more recent than Korea. So while veterans of more recent wars often ask the volunteer board for help, they must be turned away. (The documents show that this happens, but the government won’t tell us how often.)
Blood Tribe opioid crisis
Amid Canada’s opioid crisis which has killed more than 14,000, Global Lethbridge took a deeper look at the effect the deadly painkiller were having in a southern Alberta community and
The Blood Tribe is the largest reserve in Canada, but carfentanil – a drug 100 times more potent than fentanyl – is killing people in record numbers and the community has made repeated, desperate calls for help that have gone unanswered.
Questionable spending at Sagkeeng FN
Sagkeeng First Nation health care centre investigation
Global Winnipeg revealed in June that Employees at a Manitoba health centre received more than a million dollars in questionable payouts – including thousands in cash advances and extensive entertainment costs – over the course of 18 months.
An internal audit, which reporters obtained exclusively, found that
Between Apr. 1, 2016 through Oct. 31, 2017, employees at the Fort Alexander Health Centre received more than $1.3 million above their salaries. The audit also revealed instances of $1,000 cash advances, extensive travel entertainment costs (including escape rooms, movie theatres and toy stores), and tens of thousands of dollars in “finders fees” for writing grant proposals.
Calcium chloride in water
Through Freedom of Information requests, Global News uncovered documents regarding Edmonton’s calcium chloride program that were previously undisclosed to city councillors. The documents revealed that the anti-icing agent was more detrimental to concrete and asphalt than sodium chloride and was classified as a hazardous waste after a test from the water utility.
The stories prompted hours of debate as councillors discussed the new information and the future of the anti-icing program. Ultimately, the city paused the program for one year to assess other snow-clearing options.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Heat warning still in place for large swaths of central and eastern Canada
Five provinces across central and eastern Canada continued to swelter in unseasonably hot conditions on Sunday, Environment Canada said as it extended a widespread heat warning into a second day.
The warning from the national weather agency covered broad swaths of southern Ontario, southern Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Monica Vaswani, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, says the size of the heat wave, while notable, is not unprecedented.
“When we do get heat events it’s basically due to warm air advections, or essentially an area of warm or hot air that’s moving up from the south into northern parts — the Canadian provinces,” she said in a telephone interview. “It’s not uncommon to see large swaths of that hot, moist air mass.”
Environment Canada says maximum temperatures are expected to reach or surpass 30 C and hit the low forties when combined with humidity.
Humid conditions are expected to be even more prevalent in the Atlantic provinces, Vaswani said.
“It would definitely be more humid in the maritime provinces because of the additional moisture provided by the ocean,” she said.
Sunday’s forecast from Environment Canada called for overnight temperatures in the low to mid-twenties, offering little relief from the daytime heat.
Cooler temperatures are forecast for Monday, although parts of Nova Scotia could continue to feel the overwhelming heat well into the day.
On the other side of the country, part of the British Columbia interior is also in the midst of a hot stretch that is expected to last until Tuesday.
And this is likely not the last of the heat events, at least not for Ontario, Vaswani noted.
“Some indications are suggesting that temperatures throughout the remainder of the month of August, aside from the coming week, may be slightly above normal, so that would indicate the potential for additional heat events to occur before the summer’s over,” she said.
During these extremely hot and humid periods, residents are advised to watch for signs of heat illness such as swelling, cramps and fainting, and to drink plenty of water, stay in a cool place and check on older family, friends and neighbours.
Summer-like conditions will likely linger into the fall season, Vaswani said.
“Given the trend that we’ve seen over the last couple of years, it does seem that our summers are generally starting a little bit later and lingering into at least September, even mid- to late-September, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see something similar this year,” she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 7, 2022.
The Canadian Press
Many federal government employees balking at returning to offices – CBC News
The federal government is facing pushback from employees reluctant to return to government offices after more than two years working from home.
Online forums for public servants have exploded in recent weeks with comments about the prospect of returning to offices, with employees comparing notes on the hybrid work plans each department is planning to adopt.
One comment by a Health Canada manager urging employees to return to the office, in part, to provide employees at a nearby Subway restaurant with more hours, blew up into a series of sarcastic memes online.
Public service unions say that while some employees want to return to working in government offices or are happy with a hybrid arrangement, a majority want to keep working from home as Canada experiences a seventh wave of COVID-19.
“We have done studies of our membership that show that 60 per cent of our members would prefer to stay in a work from home situation, 25 per cent would like to do a hybrid and 10 per cent would like to come back to the office full time,” said Jennifer Carr, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), which represents about 70,000 workers, including scientists and computer specialists.
Union wants remote work included in collective agreements
Carr said the union has been flooded with messages from concerned members.
“I would say that our inbox is now 90 per cent about return to the office, how people are not feeling comfortable, how they have questions about masking requirements, about the need and the necessity to come into the office when they can work in the safety of their own home and do the work efficiently.”
Greg Phillips, president of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE), which has called for a suspension of the return to the office, said his members have long favoured hybrid work. They feel the return to the office is being rushed and that their concerns aren’t being addressed, he said.
CAPE has more than 20,000 members including economists, translators, employees of the Library of Parliament and civilian members of the RCMP.
“By and large, the people that don’t want to go back into the office have been fairly vocal about it,” said Phillips.
“They haven’t even addressed … in a lot of cases, accommodation needs.”
The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) — the largest federal government union, with nearly 230,000 members — is calling on the government to be flexible about bringing employees back into the office and to address their anxieties.
“We know that most of our members are still working remotely, and many want to continue having that flexibility,” the union said in a statement. “Remote work has become a part of everyday life for many workers and we’ll continue to fight to enshrine it in our collective agreements during this round of bargaining with Treasury Board and agencies.”
‘Hybrid work is here to stay’: Treasury Board
In an interview with CBC News, Treasury Board president Mona Fortier said hybrid work is the future of the federal public service. She said it is up to each department or agency to figure out how to make it work while keeping employees safe and getting the job done.
“Hybrid work is here to stay,” said Fortier. “So we need to really understand that hybrid work will be part of how we deliver programs and services to Canadians. I know that a lot of people believe that COVID is gone, but we’re still in a COVID space.”
The latest debate over where public servants should work was sparked by a memo from Privy Council Clerk Janice Charette on June 29, urging public service managers to develop hybrid models of work that meet the operational requirements of their departments.
“Now is the time for us to test new models with a view to full implementation in the fall, subject to public health conditions,” she wrote.
Charette said hybrid work models offer “meaningful opportunities” such a more nationally distributed workforce and more flexibility for employees while bringing people back together in an office has benefits such as enhanced generation of ideas, knowledge transfer and building a strong public service culture.
Different plans for different federal departments
That memo prompted managers to start ramping up plans for employees to start to return to government offices after Labour Day and contacting employees to formalize how many days they would be expected to work from the office.
Union leaders say the result has been a patchwork quilt with some departments telling employees to return to the office several days a week while others are more flexible.
They say the wide range of policies is also resulting in some departments trying to poach the best and the brightest talent from other departments by offering more work from home flexibility and employees seeking transfers to departments more open to working from home.
Still others are considering leaving the federal public service, rather than return to government offices.
In online forums such as Canada’s Federal Public Service on Reddit, public servants have been comparing information about return-to-office plans. While a handful support the move, many are sharply critical of the plan to bring employees back into offices, the way it is being rolled out or who is being selected to return to the office.
In some cases, commenters reported being told to return to the office only to spend their time in video conference meetings.
“Commuting an hour a day to see no one I work with and communicate almost exclusively with (MS) Teams and email is utterly pointless,” wrote one.
“There’s the email from our ESDC DM — expected in the office at least some of the time,” wrote another. “Excuse me while I scream obscenities into the void.”
Some complained their department announced one plan – only to change it.
“We were asked to sign telework agreements, in which full time telework was one of the options,” said one commenter who said they worked at the Justice Department. “And now, suddenly, full time telework is off the table and it’s a two day in office minimum.”
Risk of contracting COVID-19 a concern for some
“They pretty much told us we wouldn’t be forced back if we didn’t want to,” responded one commenter who said they worked at Statistics Canada. “Now minimum two days starting Sept. 12.”
For others, the concern is the risk of catching COVID-19 from a co-worker or the working conditions in some government office.
Leaders such as Phillips say the comments on forums like Reddit are in line with what they are hearing from their members.
“You see all sorts of government employees comparing notes between what one department is doing and another department is doing and it’s creating mass confusion.”
A secret no more: Canada's 1st codebreaking unit comes out of the shadows – CBC.ca
For years, Sylvia Gellman’s loved ones were left in the dark about what she did for a living in the early 1940s.
But in a mansion that once sat along Laurier Avenue East, Gellman and her colleagues — many of whom were women — worked to assist a top secret mission: cracking codes and ciphers used in secret and diplomatic communications during the Second World War.
“No one outside knew what we were doing,” the 101-year-old told CBC Ottawa on Saturday.
“You were so aware of it being a secret mission. And you didn’t tell anybody. And I followed that very closely. I didn’t even tell my family.”
On Saturday morning, a plaque honouring the Examination Unit, Canada’s first cryptographic bureau, was unveiled at the Laurier House National Historic Site, next door to where Gellman once worked.
The house was also the residence of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s prime minister during the Second World War.
Gellman said while her loved ones knew she had a top-secret job, they hardly understood the breadth of her work. Those duties included typing out decoded Japanese messages before they were rushed to what was then called the Department of External Affairs.
Intelligence was also shared with the British government’s Bletchley Park, a centre of Allied code-breaking where names like Alan Turing walked the halls.
Having the unit’s contributions to Canada officially marked with a plaque was something of a pandemic project for Diana Pepall, who’s researched the bureau since 2014.
It’s no surprise that so few people know about the efforts of Gellman and her coworkers, Pepall said.
“When they left, they all got a memo saying, ‘Just because war is over and you’re no longer working here, you’re not allowed to talk about this for the rest of your life.'” she said. “I’ve seen the actual memo.”
One woman Pepall found during her research said that two years of her mother’s life had always been unaccounted for — until they were filled in by the researcher’s efforts.
“The mother was right there, and then gave a 20-minute speech that nobody had ever heard before on her work at the Examination Unit,” Pepall said.
Helped strengthen Canada’s independence
The unit’s success also marked an important milestone in Canada’s independence within the intelligence community.
In some ways, the Examination Unit grew into the Communications Security Establishment (CSE): the national cryptologic agency that provides the federal government with information technology security and foreign signals intelligence. Many employees went from one secretive organization to another, said Erik Waddell, who also works for CSE.
“The codebreaking work they did during the war proved, not only to our allies, but to Canadian government officials and ministers and the prime minister, that there was in fact a value in Canada having its own independent intelligence gathering ability,” he said.
“[It also proved] that it was worth preserving that capacity after the war.”
The work of Gellman and others, Waddell said, also “helped build, foster and maintain” partnerships with its allies, something that’s been crucial to the establishment of Five Eyes, a key intelligence-sharing alliance on today’s world stage.
For Gellman, the Examination Unit was more than just her place of work: it was a second home where she met two lifelong friends.
Having lost a brother in the war, Gellman said she understood her job’s importance and was proud to work at the cryptographic bureau.
“I felt the whole thing was amazing, what was going on,” she said. “I really did.”
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