Peterborough Examiner: Four dead after storm in Peterborough County and surrounding area

Peterborough Examiner

To mark World News Day on September 28, 2022, the World News Day campaign is sharing stories that have had a significant social impact. This particular story, which was shared by the Peterborough Examiner, was first published on May 22, 2022.

When the May 12 windstorm hit parts of Ontario, the Examiner was the only media outlet in the area able to access electricity and working internet. For the next several days, our regularly updated news let people know where to go for help or support, what services were cancelled or available, and the status of repair and cleanup efforts.

City police reported Monday that a 61-year-old Lakefield man died Saturday after being hit by a falling tree near his home.

It was the fourth death in the area linked to the sudden storm.

Peterborough County OPP are investigating after a woman was struck by a tree in North Kawartha Township.

Emergency crews were called to a home on Highway 28 at about 6 p.m. Saturday.

A 64-year-old woman from Cornwall was pronounced deceased at the scene.

The investigation is continuing. Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call 1-888-310-1122.

OPP also report that a 74-year-old woman was killed by a falling tree in Port Hope Saturday.

Durham police said a man, 30, died after he was hit by a falling tree in the Ganaraska Forest Saturday.

The storm hit shortly after an emergency alert, including a phone text message was issued at 1:20 p.m. Saturday. Environment Canada warned of a “life-threatening” storm and urged people to take cover.

Environment Canada estimates the winds hit 132 kilometres per hour in some areas. The storm swept easterly from Western Ontario into Quebec.

The weather agency is looking into whether a tornado touched down.

Hydro One tracks outages online.

Trees and branches fell all over Peterborough city and county, downing power lines, and most of the city was without power Saturday and Sunday. Many stores had to close on a busy long weekend Saturday.

There are pockets of the city in the south end with electricity, meaning some stores were open Sunday and traffic lights were working.

By later Sunday afternoon, the city reported that power was being restored in some areas, and the city’s water treatment plant had its power restored after operating on a backup since the outage. Water is safe to drink the city advises. The power is back on at the city wastewater plant, too.

Damaged houses and uprooted trees are visible in most city neighbourhoods, with an early estimate from the city indicated that hundreds of trees may have been lost.

Hydro One has stated it may take days to restore electricity.

Peterborough County

The Township of Douro-Dummer declared a state of emergency Sunday, with widespread damage reported and many closed roads.

“All available Public Works and Emergency Services personnel are working to remove trees and mitigate hazards created by downed power lines,” the township stated.

“At this point Hydro One has not determined an ETA to restore power in our area; residents should be prepared for a prolonged period without power. We ask for the public to stay off the roads as much as possible and avoid all downed power lines.”

Power remained working in Bridgenorth, which saw long lines of vehicles outside the village’s gas stations.

Hydro towers along Highway 7 on the western edge of the city were down, and several poles along Highway 7 between Peterborough and Norwood had fallen. Hydro One and city Public Works trucks were out in force Sunday, with crews working to clear trees and branches and replace utility poles.

Tree damage in Norwood was extensive and the village remained without power Sunday midday.

“Members of the public are advised to avoid proximity to any trees that may have been damaged by the storm, even if there is no visible sign of damage,” OPP advise.

Concert cancelled

The Peterborough Memorial Centre postponed the Jann Arden concert scheduled for Sunday night, stating on social media that she’ll now perform June 1: “Due to power outages, and out of an abundance of caution for the safety of everyone in Peterborough, we have made the decision to postpone tonight’s show until June 1. All tickets will be honoured for the new date.”

Neighbouring areas

The storm did significant damage in Uxbridge, about 80 kilometres west of Peterborough in Durham Region, tearing roofs off buildings and flipping vehicles.

The possibility that a tornado touched down there is being looked at.

The township declared a state of emergency and asked people to stay off the roads.

“While the township assesses the damage, the public is asked to stay away from downed power lines and keep children and pets away from downed lines and fallen trees until the hazards can be addressed,” said Uxbridge Mayor Dave Barton in a statement shared on social media. “All available township staff are working as quickly as possible to reopen roads and remove tree hazards. We ask for your patience as work is underway. The public is asked to stay off the roads to help staff focus on the hazards rather than manage traffic congestion.”

There were some power outages in Cobourg and Port Hope but things were back on by Sunday morning.

Peterborough Examiner: Tables turned as Romana Didulo, supporters attempt to ‘arrest’ police

Peterborough Examiner

To mark World News Day on September 28, 2022, the World News Day campaign is sharing stories that have had a significant social impact. This particular story, which was shared by the Peterborough Examiner, was first published on August 13,  2022.

This story involving QAnon “Queen” Romana Didulo made international news after her supporters tried to arrest police and the Peterborough mayor responded with an unusual message that is now available on a T-shirt.

Some of them ended up being taken into custody themselves.

The “queen of Canada” led supporters to Peterborough’s police station on Saturday, calling for the”citizen’s arrest” of local officers. 

Instead, two of her supporters were arrested. 

To read the full story on the Peterborough Examiner’s website, please click here

Peterborough Examiner: Retired Peterborough woman panhandling after CERB benefits clawed back

Peterborough Examiner

To mark World News Day on September 28, 2022, the World News Day campaign is sharing stories that have had a significant social impact. This particular story, which was shared by the Peterborough Examiner, was first published on January 28, 2022.

‘If it’s cold weather, my feet freeze, my fingers freeze. If it’s rainy, I get wet, you must be out there 24/7’.

An elderly Peterborough woman has resorted to panhandling to pay living expenses after her pension and government assistance were clawed back after receiving the Canada Emergency Recovery Benefit. 

Susan Maier, 69, has been living o a little more than $700 a month, for almost a year, after having to repay the government for collecting CERB. 

To read the full story on the Peterborough Examiner’s website, please click here

Peterborough Examiner: Bus stop turned into shelter for homeless should be removed, says worker at Market Plaza in Peterborough

Peterborough Examiner

To mark World News Day on September 28, 2022, the World News Day campaign is sharing stories that have had a significant social impact. This particular story, which was shared by the Peterborough Examinercc, was first published on August 12, 2022.

City has cleared out shelter and says it works empathetically to find emergency shelter, housing services for occupants.

Julie Derrett, who works at the Market Plaza on George Street in Peterborough, wants city council to remove the nearby bus stop shelter, saying it’s regularly being taken over by homeless people.

“The police have been pretty good. But it’s frustrating all the way around, because the police are being told to pass it on to transit, and transit is telling us to call the police,” Derrett said.

Many times she’s witnessed people using drugs and defecating directly in front of the business she works at, she said.

“It’s a festival day, four o’clock in the afternoon, and our street is packed full of tourists,” said Derrett. “And there’s five people in that shelter, all smoking crack.”

Derrett also says that the bus station becomes littered with blankets, garbage and drug paraphernalia. Customers have told her they no longer feel safe parking near the location.

“They’re making it like a house. They put a big piece of plywood in front of the doorway at nighttime. Basically saying, stay the heck out of here, this is our space,” Derrett said.

This has led to the bus shelter no longer being used as intended, she said, and that even when it is cleared out, the fix is only temporary.

“The only solution that I see is to remove the shelter, because it has never been used for what it was erected to be used for,” Derrett said. “And no one in their right mind would walk in there.”

Brendan Wedley, the city’s manager of communication services, said the bus shelter has been recently cleared out again and all items removed. The city has a process in place to deal with such situations, he said.

“When a report is received, trained outreach staff from Social Services engage with those individuals to assess their circumstances and work with them to find appropriate options such as emergency shelter and supportive housing services,” Wedley stated in an email.

“If an empathetic and understanding approach is not successful in the person vacating the bus shelter, then the city will engage its bylaw officers and police.”

Removing the shelter will not eliminate the issue of homelessness, Wedley said, adding the city is actively working to assist those in need find permanent housing.

“In 2021, 251 people exited homelessness and secured housing — 35 per cent were people who had experienced chronic homelessness. So far in 2022, about 100 people have moved into housing from homelessness,” he stated.

The Examiner also reached out to Mayor Diane Therrien for comment but did not receive a response.

The Star: More women are delaying marriage. Here’s why and why it matters

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To mark World News Day on September 28, 2022, the World News Day campaign is sharing stories that have had a significant social impact. This particular story was shared by The Star (Malaysia). 

Better national policies are needed to meet the needs of a growing number of women in Malaysia who are opting to marry later or remain single.

Data from the Statistics Department (DOSM) shows that the average age of a woman’s first marriage here has gone up from 23.5 years in 1980 to 28.1 years in 2020.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Critical Media Studies Assoc Prof Dr Jamaluddin Aziz, said the trend could impact birth rates.

What’s needed, he said, are better policies that help women regardless of their choices on personal matters such as marriage and childbearing.

Jamaluddin and other experts said such policies could include those that promoted better social security for both married and single women, while others include stronger measures to stamp out sex and age discrimination at the workplace.

Fertility incentives, gender and age sensitisation efforts, as well as the sharing of wealth and power or decision making in families are also needed.

Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Malaysian Research Institute on Ageing (MyAgeing) research officer Chai Sen Tyng said studies showed that marrying later was a trend that affected both men and women.

Referring to a study on “Correlates and Consequences of Delayed Marriage in Malaysia” by the National Population and Family Development Board (NPFDB), Chai noted that the average age of marriage for men increased from 25.5 in in 1970 to 28.0 in 2010.

“Unless Malaysian males are marrying foreign brides in big numbers, increase in single females should also be in tandem with increase in single males, especially after considering polygamous unions,” he said.

The mean age of a mother at first birth also increased from 25.6 years in 1990 to 28.0 years in 2020, while the total fertility rate (TFR) has dropped from 4.9 children on average for each woman of child-bearing age in 1970 to 1.7 in 2020.

“What is lesser known is that the age-specific fertility rate has declined too, meaning that successive cohort of women are having less children at older ages,” said Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Malaysian Research Institute on Ageing (MyAgeing) research officer Chai Sen Tyng.

He said although DOSM had yet to release its 2020 social statistics, the proportion of females who never married or were single was expected to be higher at all age groups, compared to the past.

Chai said this trend showed that more men and women are not interested in marriage for reasons ranging from prioritising personal freedom and career, to personality or socioeconomic reasons or just missed opportunities.

The increasing opportunities for tertiary education, he said, had resulted in delayed marriages, which naturally led to delayed childbirth and shorter fertility windows.

“Women today have more choices than marrying, and despite it being a powerful societal norm, an increasing number of women are putting their careers ahead of marriage and childbearing,” he said, adding that women’s decisions to put off marriage had something to do with the societal burden that they had to carry once they were married.

He pointed out that more often than not, the responsibilities for housework, childcare, as well as eldercare, fell upon womenfolk.

“If both husband and wife work, then the responsibilities of unpaid work should also be evenly divided between the couple.

“However, even in the United States and Britain, there is a significant gap between the sexes when it comes to housework,” he said, adding that this is more so in Asian households where unpaid work at home went unmeasured and unrecognised.

“In patriarchal societies, when men consider it beneath them to perform routine household chores, is the real reason why most working women suffer from emotional, physical and mental exhaustion,” he said.

Chai said MyAgeing’s survey had shown that while older men expected their spouses to care for them when they became sick or frail, fewer older women could expect the same of their husband and instead had to rely on adult children, who were mostly daughters or daughters-in-law.

“This is due to the fact that women in general marry older men, and with the life expectancy gap, more women are widows than men who are widowers. Women’s duration of widowhood is also longer,” he said.

He added that men are more inclined to suffer socio-emotionally, as the stereotype of carefree old bachelors impedes the development of emotionally sustaining social support.

“Both men and women need support groups, whether from a circle of friends or family members,” he said.

Chai said the world could no longer blindly pursue a high population growth policy at the expense of sustainability.

“We can no longer expect growth on a purely numerical level but by the quality of human resources that we have.

“What is the point of a 100-people labour-intensive farming when we can have one modernised agricultural worker who can operate machinery to increase yield by tenth or a hundredth fold?” he said.

Marriages could happen at different ages after adulthood, and women should not be reduced into reproductive units, said Chai.

“Allow individual women to decide their priorities and ensure that we as a society, are supportive of unmarried or childless women and men.

“That is what the state’s provisions are for, and the government must act accordingly to changing times and norms,” he said.

Jamaluddin said framing women’s reproductive rights within economic and social discourses was unfair to women.

“If economic and social discourses are used, then women’s welfare must be prioritised in the development agenda.

“Women’s protections from all forms of gender-based violence must be made explicit, and not mere rhetoric,” he said.

USM’s Centre for Research on Women and Gender (Kanita) member Professor Dr Noraida Endut encouraged a better programme for the society on marriage and equality.

She said women who delayed marriage or did not marry might be discouraged by divorce rates and domestic violence within the society.

“We should not view marriage as the main goal for people in society.

“It is an important goal to populate the country but it has to be balanced with better policies on how to ensure better quality of marriages and work life for our citizens,” she said.

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The Star: Malaysia’s skewed sex-ratio, what it means and what must be done

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To mark World News Day on September 28, 2022, the World News Day campaign is sharing stories that have had a significant social impact. This particular story was shared by The Star (Malaysia). 

Malaysia is becoming an increasingly ‘male country’, with males increasingly outnumbering females over the decades.

According to the Statistics Department, the country’s population sex ratio in 1970 stood at 102 males to every 100 females.

The gap has since widened to 110 to every 100 females in 2020.

The trend, according to Statistics Department, is being driven by the large number of male foreign workers coming to Malaysia as well as higher male birth rates.

A big influx of foreign workers over the past decade accounts for a large part of the shift.

The sex ratio for Malaysian citizens, for instance, remained unchanged from 2010 to 2020 at 103 males to every 100 females.

The country’s non-citizen male population, on the other hand, grew rapidly over the same period, rising from 149 males to 100 females in 2010 to 229 males per 100 females in 2020.

Higher male birth rates are also a factor.

In 2020, there were 243,617 (51.8%) male newborns compared with 226,578 (48.2%) females.

Chief Statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said the sex ratio at birth is not equal, with males outnumbering females in most countries.

Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Malaysian Research Institute on Ageing (MyAgeing) research officer Chai Sen Tyng said the excess of male births has been widely documented and consistent across populations around the world, with 103 to 107 boys born for every 100 girls.

“But in countries like China and India, the cultural preference for sons and a combination of population policy and use of ultrasound for sex determination have resulted in highly skewed sex ratios.

“The United Nations World Population Database showed that the sex ratio at birth (male births per 100 female births) for China and India in 2020 was 111 and 110 respectively, compared with 106 for Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines and Thailand,” he added.

Mohd Uzir said the working-age population, which includes those between 15 and 64 years old, was also dominated by males at 52.9% as compared with women at 47.1%.

“The sex ratio in each state depends largely on the factors of labour force and socioeconomic status.

“There are many males working in the construction and agriculture sectors,” he said.

The department’s Labour Force Report showed that males largely dominated industries such as construction, manufacturing and agriculture, especially in states such as Johor, Kuala Lumpur, Pahang, Selangor and Melaka.

Others such as Putrajaya showed a higher female population, as more women work as civil servants.

“From the Labour Force Report, the sex ratio for civil servants in Putrajaya in 2020 was 61 males compared with 100 females,” Mohd Uzir said.

Citing research by Schact, R and Kramer, K titled “Too many men? Too many women? Effects of sex ratio imbalance on marriage and family formation”, Mohd Uzir said having a male-biased population may impact social stability.

“From a socio-demographic perspective, male-biased sex ratios leave many men unable to find a partner and so elevate competition among males, disrupt family formation, and negatively affect social stability,” he said.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Critical Media Studies Assoc Prof Dr Jamaluddin Aziz said the influx of foreign workers taking up lower-paying jobs is inevitable as a country’s population becomes better educated.

“For the same reason, we are also experiencing a brain drain with more educated males and females deciding to work abroad,” he added.

He said having more men or women can only be negative if it infringes on the right to equal access to resources and opportunities.

“What we need to work on is improving access for women to quality resources so that they can be more competitive in the face of global challenges,” he said.

MyAgeing deputy director Assoc Prof Dr Rahimah Ibrahim said policies, workplace procedures, and societal norms have generally been orientated to and with intended benefits for males.

“This will continue unless something is done about it,” she said.

She said despite some developments in terms of female empowerment, long-standing macro issues still affect women, including the gender pay gap, the glass ceiling, and pay bias.

“As such, women have to work even harder to create awareness and make changes to turn things around,” she said.

She added that male-dominated occupations may affect gender relations, gender bias, and gender equity, but this may depend on the level of masculinity expected or normalised in such work sectors.

“Studies have also found that men in male-dominated industries face greater risks of work-related injuries and deaths and higher rates of suicides,” she said.

She said to a larger extent, the workforce and society are still structured around traditional gender roles.

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The Star: How breastfeeding mothers have been affected by the pandemic

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To mark World News Day on September 28, 2022, the World News Day campaign is sharing stories that have had a significant social impact. This particular story was shared by The Star (Malaysia). 

Women who gave birth since the start of the Covid-19 have faced many difficulties breastfeeding their babies.

With Covid-19 restrictions affecting the income of many households, some women were forced to choose between spending more time at home nursing their babies or going out to work to support their families.

Others who delivered while infected with Covid-19 were not confident about breastfeeding for fear of infecting their babies.

As the initial movement control order restricted people to their homes, many new mothers found it hard to get adequate information and support about breastfeeding.

These difficulties illustrate how the pandemic has affected breastfeeding in Malaysia, said the Health Ministry’s nutrition division director Zalma Abdul Razak.

“Many families’ source of income was affected by the pandemic, which led to a disruption in the mother’s emotions and decision to continue breastfeeding.

“There are mothers who also had to go out to work to help increase the family’s income,” she said in an interview with The Star in conjunction with the World Breastfeeding Week from Aug 1-7.

She added that the mother’s emotions were also affected by the birth management protocols during the Covid-19 pandemic, which limited direct contact with their new-borns for mothers who were confirmed or suspected of having been infected with Covid-19.

“Mothers indirectly feel less confident to start or maintain breastfeeding due to the limited support and care system for mothers during and after delivery,” she said.

The Health Ministry, in its Guidelines for the Implementation of Baby-Friendly (Rakan Bayi) Hospital Practices during the Covid-19 Pandemic, stated that mothers with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 are allowed to room-in with safe spacing between feedings.

However, mothers need to adopt hygiene measures and minimise contact with the baby.

“If the mother cannot carry out all the hygiene measures and the condition of the ward is crowded and not conducive to safe confinement and breastfeeding, the mother and baby will be kept away from each other,” said the guidelines, with the implementation subject to the current policy code and instructions from the hospital director.

Zalma said mothers who lacked knowledge about the importance of breastfeeding would opt for alternatives.

“Mothers may also lack the skills to breastfeed, especially in relation to technique and position, which can lead the mother to feeling uncomfortable or experiencing pain while breastfeeding.

“Babies will be fussy or cry when they are not getting enough milk and this may cause the mother to think that she does not have enough milk for her child,” she said.

Nursing mothers need more support

Zalma said mothers who do not receive adequate support from their husband or partner, family, employer, and the community will often stop breastfeeding before the recommended duration is over.

“Such support is especially important to ensure that the child is given breast milk even when the mother is not with her.

“Inflexible working hours can make it difficult for mothers to express milk,” she said, adding that mothers also need suitable care centres and nursing-friendly workplace facilities.

She encouraged the government to produce policies that support breastfeeding, while employers can ease a mother’s breastfeeding journey by giving them adequate time and flexibility at work.

Babies weaned off earlier due to the pandemic

Fertility specialist and gynaecologist Dr Agilan Arjunan said several studies conducted in Western countries showed many mothers choosing to end breastfeeding earlier than usual during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is due to many uncertainties with Covid -19 infection, such as the severity of the infection, mother-to-baby transmission risk, effectiveness of vaccination and uncertainty on whether vaccines harm the new-born baby.

“New mothers tend to have shortened the breastfeeding duration due to difficulty getting family and social support during the pandemic,” he said.

Other challenges that contributed to the decline in exclusive breastfeeding, Dr Agilan said, were fear and anxiety during the pandemic and difficulty in getting support from healthcare facilities such as government health clinics.

“During the pandemic, especially during the initial stages when we lacked knowledge about the infection, many deliveries were done via caesarean section.

“This further caused difficulty to initiate breastfeeding, especially when there is no further support available for first-time mothers,” he said.

The Health Ministry now advises that indications for a caesarean section for Covid-19 positive mothers should be determined by obstetric indications rather than the diagnosis of Covid-19.

Support from early stage crucial

Dr Agilan said a mother’s breastfeeding journey starts even before delivery, where antenatal sessions can help educate both parents on the importance and benefits of breastfeeding.

“The involvement of the future father is also crucial as he is the pillar of support,” he said.

He added that hospitals should provide baby-friendly and father-friendly settings to initiate early breastfeeding and encouragement for all women during delivery

He said mothers should be given pain and relief support during delivery for them to be able to initiate breastfeeding immediately after delivery.

“Lactation nurses need to support all new mothers after delivery so that the mothers can learn the optimum breastfeeding technique,” he said, adding that paternity leave for fathers was important to allow them to support their wives during the initial stage of breastfeeding.

Other types of support for breastfeeding mothers include helpline and support groups to advocate for breastfeeding, as well as accessibility of nursing rooms at all public areas.

“Details on breastfeeding should be readily available to all mothers so that they may seek immediate help when needed,” he said.

Gynaecologist Dr Milton Lum Siew Wah said breastfeeding is best supported by practices that keep the mother and baby together, in addition to providing quality professional and peer support.

He said many studies had reported decreased face-to-face professional support, in addition to decreased or absent face-to-face peer support during the pandemic.

“Others report the negative impact of maternal postpartum depression on breastfeeding,” he added.

Dr Lum, however, noted that there were no Malaysian studies on the Covid-19 impact on breastfeeding in general.

“A Thai study had reported a switch to bottle and mixed feeding. This was associated with decreased contact with professionals, family support and help,” he said, adding that Malaysia needed to establish a national database on breastfeeding practices.

He advised breastfeeding mothers to consume a balanced and varied diet from preconception for the wellbeing of the mother and new-born baby.

“The risk of inadequate nutrient supply for breastfeeding is increased in certain groups, for example, those on exclusion diets, underweight, overweight, smokers, adolescents, as well as mothers with multiple or close pregnancies,” he said.


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The Star: Back at the office, nursing mums are struggling

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To mark World News Day on September 28, 2022, the World News Day campaign is sharing stories that have had a significant social impact. This particular story was shared by The Star (Malaysia). 

With the return of workers to the office following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, many nursing mothers are struggling to cope.

Working mums who found it convenient to breastfeed their babies while working from home now find it a struggle to express milk while dealing with long hours at the office.

These are among the challenges cited by nursing mothers in a survey done by The Star in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week from Aug 1-7.

A total of 555 breastfeeding mothers took part in the survey.

Commenting on the findings, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (Waba) director Datuk Seri Dr Anwar Fazal urged employers to create Breastfeeding Friendly Workplaces (BFWs).

A BFW is a workplace that provides an appropriate and friendly environment for their breastfeeding employees to express milk.

Anwar said it was important to keep in mind that babies need nursing even when separated from their mothers who are at work.

“Every time a mother is not able to breastfeed her baby, she needs to replace it by expressing her breastmilk.

“It is important for breastfeeding employees to continue to express while away from their baby to ensure the milk supply is maintained,” he said.

He said nursing mothers who continue expressing milk will have a lower risk of experiencing blockages or mastitis, which may result in illness and the employee requiring time off.

Among the survey respondents, 75% are full-time working mothers, 14% are housewives and the remaining 11% work part time.

The majority or 68% of the respondents were between the ages of 30 and 39.

More than half of the respondents said they were involved in expressing breastmilk to feed their child.

Respondents said the biggest problem they faced when breastfeeding were related to physical challenges in breastfeeding (27%).

These include insufficient supply or oversupply, breast inflammation, blocked milk ducts or mastitis, and others.

The next major issues were pumping and storing breastmilk, as well as a lack of lactation rooms and other facilities for breastfeeding.

Nursing mothers also said they faced a lack of support from their family or at the workplace.

Most of the nursing mothers suggested that more baby-friendly facilities be set up in public places to help improve their breastfeeding experience.

They also called for more flexibility at work so they could have time to express milk, as well as longer maternity leave.

The respondents also suggested dedicated facilities be set up at workplaces for nursing mothers to express their breastmilk.

The survey revealed that a total of 33% of the respondents said they had breastfed for up to two years or longer.

However, the majority of those who had breastfed for less than 18 months said they intended to stop within the next six months.

When asked whether the Covid-19 pandemic had affected their breastfeeding journey, two-thirds of the respondents said it had not.

However, out of 201 mothers who said the pandemic did have an impact on their breastfeeding journey, almost 70% said the pandemic actually made their breastfeeding journey easier due to being able to work from home.

Others cited experiencing loneliness, lack of support, anxiety and confusion when breastfeeding during the pandemic (17%), as well as receiving insufficient knowledge or guidance from healthcare providers (11%).

Meanwhile, working mothers, especially healthcare workers, who had increased workload and inflexibility at the workplace due to the Covid-19 pandemic, said their milk supply was affected as they did not have time to express milk when at work (2%).

This scenario may become more common as nursing mothers go back to the office.

Anwar said nursing mothers need time, space and support at work so they can continue breastfeeding.

He called for internal work policies that are in line with the National Breastfeeding Policy to be implemented at the workplace to support mothers who wish to breastfeed.

He also suggested that flexible working hours or schedules be made available to allow mothers to take appropriate breaks to express their milk.

“Employees could incorporate extra time such as coming in early, staying late or others to replace time taken for breastfeeding activity.

“Such a flexible and breastfeeding-friendly policy would allow mothers to be more at ease, better focus on their work without added stress or distractions and express more successfully.”

Anwar said workplaces should have a lactation room that is accessible, safe, secure, and clean.

“Mothers should have access at least two to three times daily, at three-hour intervals, for an average of 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

“A clear schedule is essential to enable mothers to plan lactation times, obtain uninterrupted access to the facility, and avoid conflicts with other mothers who need to use the lactation room.”

According to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef), infants who are not exclusively breastfed could be at a substantially greater risk of death from diarrhoea or pneumonia.

“Breastfeeding strengthens infants’ immune systems and may protect them later in life from chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

“Yet despite all the potential benefits, only two fifths of infants 0–5 months of age worldwide are exclusively breastfed and only two in three children aged 12–23 months receive the benefits of breastmilk,” it said on its website.

Toronto Star: The last orca

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To mark World News Day on September 28, 2022, the World News Day campaign is sharing stories that have had a significant social impact. This particular story, which was shared by The Toronto Star, was published on December 11, 2021. 

Marineland’s Kiska is Canada’s lone captive orca. Animal experts are raising  concerns about her welfare. But how do you help a 45-year-old killer whale?

The “world’s loneliest orca” in captivity lives in a theme park near Niagara Falls, a home she has known for more than four decades. For the past 10 years, she has been her tank’s only inhabitant. She has developed ritualistic behaviours that experts call atypical: She floats in one corner of her tank. She circles the tank slowly and repeatedly, often following the same path. She thrashes her body near the tank wall with such force that each movement creates waves that crash high enough to crest over the edge of the enclosure. As abruptly as the thrashing starts, it stops again. Soon, she’s back to swimming in slow, counter-clockwise circles. Sometimes she lingers near the water’s surface, motionless. 

Her name is Kiska and she is Canada’s last captive orca. Her tank is one of three in the park’s Friendship Cove. A few times a day, she interacts with Marineland’s trainers and is watched by the families who visit the park each season to see her swim. In a neighbouring tank, several of the theme park’s belugas swim together, separated from the orca by decorative rocks and metal gates. But everything Kiska does, she does alone. 

Researchers say Kiska is the only captive orca in the world in this predicament, living in total isolation on public display. For years, there has been wide consensus among experts in captive wildlife and wild orca populations that Kiska’s solitary life is unnatural. But over the past several months, videos recorded at Marineland and shared online have gone viral, capturing the attention of people far beyond Canada. Headlines from media around the world have labelled Kiska “the world’s loneliest orca.”

This week, a new assessment of the animals at the park conducted by Ingrid Visser, principal scientist at the New Zealand-based not-for-profit Orca Research Trust, was released. Visser is among the world’s most active researchers studying the effects of captivity on cetaceans. The report, titled “Assessment of Situation of the Cetaceans Held at Marineland of Canada,” was prepared for the France-based organization One Voice and argues Kiska’s situation is “profoundly disturbing” and represents an orca struggling to thrive in her captive environment.

What Kiska should have, most experts agree, is companionship.

She should have another killer whale to keep her company, Lanny Cornell, a marine-mammal veterinarian who has worked with Marineland and SeaWorld, told a Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in May 2017. But a 2015 Ontario law barring bringing new orcas into captivity and applauded by many observers prevents the park from purchasing a companion for Kiska. So does the 2019 federal Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act. Releasing her to the wild, Cornell told the panel, “would be her death sentence,” given a persistent medical issue discovered when Kiska was first captured. Cornell did not respond to interview requests from the Star for this article.

For decades human actions have confined Kiska’s life. Recent progress ensures there won’t be others like Kiska, but it has hardly solved all of Kiska’s problems. The Visser report and viral videos have shone a light on questions surrounding the orca, galvanizing a long-simmering campaign. A growing global chorus of researchers, activists and animal lovers is insisting that we must help Kiska. 

The question now is how.

Kiska was caught off the coast of Iceland in 1979, when she was roughly three years old. She arrived at Marineland the same year. Through the 1960s and into the 1970s, orcas were routinely captured in nets off the west coasts of the U.S. and Canada. After the practice was barred there, captors moved to the coast of Iceland, where they continued through the 1980s.

At 45 years old, Kiska is middle-aged compared to her wild counterparts, but an outlier for captive orcas. During her time at Marineland, 19 other orcas have lived in the park, several birthed by Kiska herself. She had five calves: Kanuck, Athena, Hudson, Nova and one baby who was unnamed. None lived beyond age six, according to data available on Ceta-Base, an organization that tracks cetaceans in captivity around the world.

Marineland’s orca population dwindled through the mid-2000s. Some of Kiska’s tankmates were sold to other parks. Others died. In 2006, Marineland struck a breeding agreement with SeaWorld, trading four belugas for Ikaika, a young orca intended to be a mate for Marineland’s female orcas. Five years later, Ikaika was returned to SeaWorld, the result of a public custody battle between the two parks. By that time, the park’s orca population was down to two. Now, with Ikaika gone, Kiska began a new life on her own. 

Over the years, Kiska has developed ritualistic behaviours. Experts who have studied animals in captivity call these “stereotypies”: abnormal, repetitive and non-functional behaviours that typically signal stress in captive animals. In one interview with the Star, Ingrid Visser, the New Zealand researcher, posited that in her barren tank near the Niagara Falls, Kiska might be experiencing a level of “psychosis.” (Marineland did not speak to the Star for this story but has maintained over the years that its animals are well cared for and healthy.)

The behaviours are detailed in Visser’s report, based on photos and video evidence collected over four trips to Marineland between 2015 and 2021. The report offers renewed insight into the lonely orca’s mental and physical health.

Kiska’s welfare is “severely compromised,” Visser argues in the One Voice report. She cites physical evidence of Kiska’s stereotypic behaviour: raw wounds have been observed on her tail flukes, Visser alleges, which she says are a result of Kiska repeatedly rubbing her fins and tail on rough surfaces of her tank.

The thrashing she describes was captured in October by One Voice representatives as well as during the summer via drone, an effort from animal-rights activists trying to bring attention to the orca’s situation. 

The drone operator shared some of the footage with Phil Demers, a former Marineland trainer turned critic, who has posted prolifically about the theme park since leaving his position in 2012. (Marineland sued him in 2013 for a number of allegations, including trespassing. In response, Demers launched a countersuit.) Demers shared the footage online. The Star has since spoken with the drone operator, one of whose videos shows Kiska’s repetitive counter-clockwise circuit of her enclosure. Another video, recorded in February, shows the killer whale floating in a corner of her tank. 

The Star has agreed not to name the drone operator due to their concern over reprisal for recording the videos. While the floating and circling behaviours may not seem unusual for an orca, they are still repetitive, experts note. Stereotypies are diverse, said Georgia Mason, a behavioural biologist at the University of Guelph who specializes in animal welfare. The behaviour can include head rocking or nodding, body rocking and pacing the same path in their enclosures. 

If animals start repeating “strange” behaviours, “it’s almost never a good sign,” Mason noted. Stereotypies, she explained, often develop out of an animal’s natural behaviour, which later devolves, becoming an odd repetition of what they would do in the wild. 

Visser has also visually observed Kiska’s teeth, though she has not physically examined them. Coloured a dark yellow and worn in some cases down to the gum, they appear to be “severely” damaged, Visser said in the report. Kiska does not need to forage for her food in a way that would wear down her teeth, she notes. In the centre of the teeth are holes, which could have appeared naturally or could have been drilled by park staff to assist in keeping them clean. The yellow stain, Visser explains, could be the result of an iodine-based antiseptic used to flush debris from the holes in Kiska’s teeth. 

It’s not possible to know exactly how the tooth wear or the holes appeared without access to Kiska’s health records. The Star requested an interview with a veterinarian at Marineland but received no direct response. Marineland has not responded to multiple requests for comment on the allegations about Kiska’s health from the Star, or to requests to be allowed access to the park outside of seasonal hours to observe Kiska in person.

Andrew Burns, a lawyer for the park, responded to the Star through a series of emails over a period of about one month. While he did not answer questions about the behaviours observed in Kiska, he responded to inquiries about Kiska’s teeth: “You provide no facts linking the condition of her teeth to any perceived health issue,” he wrote. “You and the Star make that negative and false assumption without factual basis. You may not like the look of her teeth but that does not establish anything.”

Burns also suggested that the experts who provided comment for this piece could not draw their conclusions from what the video clips showed. “Perhaps the videos are so short and so unclear none of (the experts) can make sufficient observations to provide a remotely credible opinion at all,” he wrote in an email. He questioned whether the videos were manipulated, saying Marineland could not respond to the content of the recordings without knowing who filmed or shared them. “Videos are nothing more than an electronic visual allegation,” Burns wrote.

Allegations of poor welfare for the animals in Marineland’s care have circulated for decades and were the topic of a 2012 whistleblower investigation by the Star. Marineland sued the Star over some of these articles, though the litigation did not progress. In 2016 and early 2017, Marineland was charged with 11 counts of animal cruelty, none of them relating to the park’s marine animals. All were later dropped, with Crown prosecutors saying at the time that there was no reasonable chance of conviction on most of the counts. 

In 2017, Lanny Cornell, who had been tasked with conducting a report into the medical conditions of Marineland’s wildlife, told the Senate committee that in his opinion, all of Marineland’s animals were in good health at the time. He explained that he conducted a visual examination of the animals and reviewed their medical records. In his testimony Cornell said he “didn’t see anything there that would require me to do any kind of physical examination on the animals because they all appeared to be in very good health.”

This year, two complaints about the theme park were levied to Chief Animal Welfare Inspector Paula Milne by Animal Justice Canada (AJC), an animal rights organization. In July, AJC brought forward a complaint calling for Milne’s agency to investigate if Marineland is “unlawfully subjecting Kiska to distress and suffering” given her solitude and an apparent shortage of enrichment activities and toys. The complaint, alongside a second complaint brought forward by AJC in October that questions the legality of ongoing dolphin performances at Marineland, looks to test the park’s practices against the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act (PAWS) and amendments made to the Criminal Code in 2019.

At that time, the federal government passed the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, which also made it an offence to export or import the animals, breed them, or use captive cetaceans for entertainment. (Through an exception, Marineland is allowed to keep the animals it already owns. However, it cannot breed more.)

A spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of the Solicitor General confirmed it has received AJC’s complaints about the welfare of the animals. “Given the ongoing inspection at Marineland, it would be inappropriate to provide further comment,” the spokesperson said. 

In an email Thursday, Niagara Regional Police confirmed they are investigating the park after receiving a complaint from a member of the public in late October. “An investigation has been commenced and is being conducted by detectives of our 2 District Niagara Falls detective office. As the investigation remains ongoing it would not be appropriate to provide further investigative details and potentially jeopardize the investigation,” a police spokesperson said. Marineland did not respond to questions about the police investigation.

In her report, Visser argues Marineland is violating sections of the PAWS Act. The government, she said, should be further enforcing legislation that already exists to protect Kiska’s welfare. “If those regulations were enforced, at least there would be minimum standards (of care) being met,” Visser said.

Marineland has often responded assertively to criticisms of its practices. In October 2017, the park sued the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) seeking $21 million in damages and alleging the charity was targeting Marineland in an attempt to bolster its own funding and harm the park’s reputation.

Marineland did not respond to questions from the Star about the recent complaints or the ongoing inspections. But in an email to the Star, Burns, Marineland’s lawyer, wrote that allegations raised about Kiska’s welfare are “false and made in such a one-sided biased manner they lack any credibility.”

He questioned the integrity of the Star’s journalism and the credentials of those contacted for expert insight. “You state they are ‘independent’ when they are so obviously not it is laughable,” he wrote in an email. “The Star can declare a goat an ‘expert’, it doesn’t make it true.” In another, he writes it is clear the experts have an agenda which fits “the Star’s position on Marineland, and will say anything from one minute to the next.” 

“There is absolutely no pretence of objectivity or reporting of ‘news’ by you or the Star,” Burns wrote in one email to a reporter. In an email sent to the Star’s editor-in-chief, he argued, “This ‘story’ cannot be disguised as a matter of public interest that excuses you from printing the truth.”

“It is manufactured propaganda in agreement with and direct aid of the personal financial interests of animal rights activists.”

Burns clarified in a later email he was not speaking on behalf of Marineland.

Ingrid Visser’s interest in animals like Kiska goes back years. She studied New Zealand orcas for her PhD dissertation, and she has travelled to 46 facilities around the world that keep the mammals in captivity. Three of those trips, in 2015, 2017 and 2018, were to Marineland. There she observed Kiska, as well as the park’s five dolphins and its numerous beluga whales. In 2015, she prepared a report about Kiska’s health that was later presented to the Senate during the debate over Bill S-203.

At 7 a.m. in New Zealand on a recent Sunday, the Star spoke with Visser by video conference at her home in Tutukaka. The morning sun was streaming in her windows, casting a bright light over a work room decorated with several plush orca whales and a replica orca skull. She apologized for the state of the room – the dog had just been in and left its toys behind. 

Representatives from One Voice visited the park in October and approached Visser with their findings for review. She has studied the videos and photos they gathered and her own materials, which she compiled over several visits.

Visser doesn’t agree with the most dramatic responses to the videos of Kiska. In one video shared online by Phil Demers, the former Marineland trainer, Kiska appears to thrash near a glass barrier that offers spectators a view into her tank. It prompted speculation that she intentionally hits her head on the wall, but Visser stresses this may not be the case. In situations where cetaceans have hit their heads in the past, there is typically a loud cracking sound from the force of the blow. There could also be visible bruising or abrasions, which Visser said she hasn’t observed on Kiska. Even so, Visser believes the action is serious. The thrashing is “psychotic,” she said, and added “it’s stress-related. It’s purely from being kept in captivity.”

Kiska’s tank is small, Visser pointed out. Measurements taken on Google Earth show the enclosure to be approximately 40 metres by 20 metres excluding a shallow area that Visser says is not deep enough for the orca to comfortably swim. It’s unknown what the depth of the tank is, but Visser estimates it to be around nine metres. (Requests to confirm the size of Kiska’s tank went unaddressed in emailed responses from Burns.) Another, smaller tank is shared by Kiska and the belugas, but Visser has never documented them in the tank together. That tank measures about 21 metres by 17 metres and is connected to Kiska’s usual enclosure by a gate. Kiska doesn’t always have access to both sections, Visser notes.

Every day, Kiska completes her counter-clockwise circuit of the tank’s perimeter, always circling the same environment. In the wild, pods have been observed travelling between 100 and 220 kilometres each day. One hundred kilometres is the distance of the drive from Marineland to Oakville.

But Kiska’s small quarters aren’t Visser’s only concern. Visser suggests a thought exercise: picture the water drained out of the tank. Now, put a different animal in it, maybe a dog, and leave the tank empty of anything to look at. A few times a day, feed that dog a meal and pat it on the head. Then, leave it alone until the next day. 

“Would anybody think that was OK for any other species?” Visser asks. “I don’t think so.”

At the surface, Kiska’s tank is decorated with large rocks and lined by a red concrete ledge around the perimeter. Underwater, though, it’s a different story. It does not appear there are always toys for Kiska to play with, Visser writes in her report, or interesting parts of her enclosure that would offer extra enrichment to her daily routine. A few times a day, trainers come to Kiska and brush her, clean her teeth and pat her. Sometimes they practise “targeting,” a training technique that helps hold Kiska’s attention in one spot so they can guide her to certain areas when needed.

Neither Marineland nor Burns have addressed questions about the enclosure or enrichment activities provided to Kiska.

When animals in captivity live in “impoverished” environments without interesting physical or sensory stimulation, their well-being can suffer, said Mason, the biologist from the University of Guelph. Recently, Mason conducted research into parrots, which examined why some species were more prone to stereotypic behaviours in captivity. Though the team didn’t find that a change in the animal’s natural social structure was a risk factor, a parrot’s intelligence level seems to be – something they inferred from the size of the animal’s brain. 

The research by Mason and her team offers some evidence that intelligent animals experience something humans already know: Solving problems feels pretty good. Wild animals are constantly faced with complicated decisions and measuring risk, Mason said. Bringing those same animals into captivity means there’s no need to make decisions at all. 

At Marineland, Kiska probably doesn’t have to think, Mason said.

Killer whales have evolved to be highly intelligent animals who form lasting relationships among their own species, explained Deborah Giles, science and research director for Wild Orca, a not-for-profit organization that studies the southern resident killer whales which reside on the pacific coast near Washington, U.S. The mammals have long lives, with some female orcas observed living well into their 80s, Giles said.

In the wild, killer whales usually live in tight-knit matrilineal pods. In fish-eating populations, some groups of orcas can be found in pods of 20 or more. Except for rare cases such as that of Luna, a young orca who became separated from his mother and lived alone off the coast of Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island, orcas typically stay in the company of others throughout their lives.

Kiska’s solitary environment, Giles said, is the “antithesis of what these animals have evolved to experience.” Visser agreed, calling the solitary confinement Kiska experiences “one of the cruelest things they can do to her.”

When Kiska is observed hovering near the surface of her tank, she’s doing something you’d rarely see in wild orcas: staying still. Lingering in the same area for extended periods isn’t normal, Giles said. If they did, she adds, they could be susceptible to mosquito bites or sunburns. “A wild killer whale isn’t going to stay in one place long enough to get bitten by a mosquito,” she added.

In fact, Giles said, the cetaceans are almost always moving. This changes when they rest, she explained, when the orcas enter a “synchronized dive profile” and group close to one another near the water’s surface so they can rest more effectively. 

Unlike humans, orca brains don’t enter a full REM cycle. Instead, Giles explained, half of their brain enters a deep sleep, while the other stays alert. When they sleep in a group, a more alert “sentinel” orca helps the pod come up to the surface to breathe. The result, researchers believe, is a deeper sleep. “A solitary killer whale does not get that benefit,” Giles said. Isolation, then, could affect even an orca’s ability to sleep deeply.

On social media, the movement to “#FreeKiska” is gaining steam. Demers, the critic, said the difference this time is the accessibility of smartphones which allow anyone to record the animals in the park’s care. It’s not unusual, he said, for people to send him videos they’ve taken. This year, Demers decided to share some of them.

Demers said in a phone interview in October that the footage has gained “huge” traction. As of the time of this article’s publication, the footage of Kiska Demers posted on Twitter in September has been viewed almost 800,000 times. On YouTube, the videos have amassed close to 200,000 views. The message, Demers added, is clear: “They want her removed.” 

But is it feasible to #FreeKiska? Marineland has publicly opposed moving the orca, arguing that doing so could kill her. So what do you do with a 45-year-old killer whale?

Right now, a debate rages, with advocates for Kiska arguing she should be moved to a coastal sanctuary. One group fighting for the release of captive cetaceans has put forward plans for a seaside sanctuary and hopes to one day care for her in her natural habitat, but there is a long road ahead before it’s completed and fully approved. Burns, Marineland’s lawyer, argues that no such facility currently exists anywhere in the world. Certainly, at the moment there is no sanctuary in Canada that is ready to accommodate her.

Organizations such as the Whale Sanctuary Project (WSP) are looking to change that. Lori Marino, a neuroscientist who studies the brains of cetaceans and appeared in the documentary “Blackfish,” is a co-founder and president of the project. The sanctuary, she said, could offer a safe haven for Kiska. While the project is still in the permitting process and faces funding hurdles, several experts interviewed by the Star agreed it would be a best-case scenario for her if it can be completed.

On its website, a blog post authored by WSP executive director Charles Vinick says the organization is “confident that (by) working with Marineland or with the government or both, we can find a solution so that she can begin a new life in a natural environment.”

The project would see 100 acres sectioned off the coast of Nova Scotia for formerly captive cetaceans, with room for up to eight beluga whales and two or three orcas, Marino said. Whales at the sanctuary would not be reintegrated with the wild but cared for by an on-site veterinary team who would conduct health checks of the animals. The space would add an enrichment that captive cetaceans don’t currently have, she added: access to their natural habitat.

When asked to comment about a possible dialogue between Marineland and the WSP, the park did not respond. Marineland has previously expressed fear about moving Kiska, writing in a 2015 press release that moving her to a “substandard facility run by well-meaning but grossly unqualified extremists, is simply cruel to her, disorienting, and will, no doubt, kill her.” Marineland also flagged as a risk the presence of pathogens in the sea water and her “elderly” age. 

Proponents of the project have called for an independent and objective panel of scientists, veterinarians and animal welfare experts who can assess Kiska and see if she could endure a move to the coast. Marineland and other parks often move their animals around the world successfully, Giles, the wild orca researcher, points out. “What’s best for Kiska is still unknown, because a proper assessment and determination of what’s best for her has to be made by professionals outside of Marineland,” Demers said.

The Whale Sanctuary Project hopes to see the facility operational by the end of 2022 or in early 2023. A visitor’s centre for the future site opened in October.

In a perfect world, Visser said, Kiska should head to the sanctuary. There’s a problem, she added. This isn’t a perfect world.

Toronto Star: Rights wronged

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To mark World News Day on September 28, 2022, the World News Day campaign is sharing stories that have had a significant social impact. This particular story, which was shared by The Toronto Star, was published on June 11, 2022. 

Police officers across Canada are violating people’s Charter rights with alarming frequency, leading to guilty people walking free and the trampling of rights of the innocent. 

In courtrooms across the country, judges are denouncing police officers for serious violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – the bedrock of Canadian democracy that sets the boundaries of the state’s powers.

The officers’ flouting of the law is so serious that judges warn it threatens public confidence in the justice system. They’ve been forced to toss out key gun and drug evidence. Sometimes they throw out prosecutions altogether.

Guilty people are walking free. The rights of innocent people are being trampled. And these scathing rulings are coming down at least twice a week.

In Brantford, a small army of officers and a K-9 unit illegally detained and searched a suspect for drugs. The reason the officers gave for the pursuit and takedown? The cyclist was riding on the sidewalk without a light. The judge called the ruse “serious police misconduct” and tossed the drug evidence.

Toronto officers stood in a hospital operating room, without a warrant, while a doctor removed heroin from the rectum of an unconscious stabbing victim so they could seize it. Again, the judge threw out the drug evidence.

In Calgary, police trailed a 24-year-old suspect to a convenience store in 2019. Latef Tag El Din, who had a criminal record, was violating a house arrest order and had a loaded handgun hidden in his vest. As he made a break for the exit, an officer unleashed a police dog and tackled him to the floor. For hours after his arrest, officers ignored and mocked his repeated requests for medical treatment and one sang a song ridiculing his pleas for help. As blood seeped through the bandages covering the bite wounds on Tag El Din’s arm, officers taunted him with “laughter, sarcasm, song and judgment,” the judge said.

This “shocking” display, which was caught on audio and video, led the judge to stay charges that even the accused himself acknowledges would have otherwise likely resulted in his conviction.

“If they (the officers) would have followed the rules, I would probably still be in jail right now,” Tag El Din told Torstar.

From Vancouver to Iqaluit to St. John’s, N.L., a Torstar investigation has identified cases of police brutality, callousness and ignorance among officers who don’t appear to understand suspects’ rights. In multiple cities, after serious breaches were repeated by officers in successive cases, judges are upbraiding entire police forces for “systemic” Charter violations within their ranks.

Yet, in many of these cases, what happens in the courtroom never reaches the police station.

Const. Salomon Gutierrez sat in the witness box in October 2020, as the defence lawyer tore apart the prosecution’s case.

Seventeen months before, Gutierrez had arrested the accused during a traffic stop. He found cocaine, methamphetamine and cash. But it was becoming clear the officer didn’t have grounds to search the vehicle, a critical test that police must meet under the law to justify invading the privacy of suspects.

Now, the court was about to hear, it was not the first time the officer had disregarded the law and gutted the prosecution’s case.

The defence lawyer read aloud from a ruling in another case, stemming from an arrest in 2016, in which the judge had found Gutierrez and other officers arbitrarily detained the accused and failed to immediately inform him of his right to counsel.

This was also news to Gutierrez. He told the court it was the first he had heard of the 2018 ruling. He said that when he testified in that case, no one ever told him which way it went after he left the witness stand. No one told him his conduct concerned the judge and led to key evidence being excluded.

“I’m never told anything after I’m done testifying,” Gutierrez testified.

“So that if a judge finds that there’s been a violation of Charter rights, you aren’t notified?” the defence lawyer asked.

“That’s correct.”

Torstar, with the assistance of Western University’s law school, has identified more than 600 court rulings in the past decade where judges found that officers committed serious Charter violations. These rulings came down at a rate of two per week from 2017 to present.

Yet in most provinces and territories, there are no formal systems in place to ensure that police forces – or the officers themselves – are notified of these rulings. Even in the most egregious cases, consequences for the officers involved appear to be vanishingly rare.

Across the country, police forces say they trust that Crown attorneys will tell them when judges have found their officers have committed serious Charter violations. And when they hear of such cases, they say they investigate, and, if warranted, discipline the officers or provide additional training. A few weeks after a judge denounced Brantford police for the unlawful arrest of a cyclist for riding on the sidewalk, the courts notified the chief, prompting the service to conduct a “thorough review of the incident,” a spokesperson said, adding that no further action was taken.

However, in many instances, these informal lines of communication between the courts and police forces have broken or are non-existent. In the last seven years, judges have criticized nine police forces across Canada for displaying a pattern of Charter violating conduct. These serious breaches, repeated by officers in successive cases, include: performing unwarranted strip searches (Toronto, RCMP); storming into houses without good enough reasons (Prince Albert, Sask.); and filming partially naked female prisoners while they used the toilet (Edmonton).

The Toronto Police Service said it was unaware of 94 cases where judges found officers committed serious Charter breaches until Torstar told the force about the rulings. That is more than two-thirds of the cases the reporters identified where judges found Toronto cops violated the Charter.

Toronto is one of the few police services that disclosed whether they knew about the judgments. Most others refused to say.

The lack of information flowing to police services raises the question: “How could any action be taken? How could there be any accountability?” said Sunil Gurmukh, a human rights lawyer and adjunct professor at Western University’s faculty of law, who shared his case law research with the Star for this investigation. “It’s disturbing and alarming.”

Many police forces also refused to say what action, if any, they took to address the Charter-violating conduct of the officers. In some jurisdictions, police said strict privacy laws keep all disciplinary information secret. One lawyer who represents officers facing discipline said cases involving Charter violations are often handled informally – an internal process reserved for disciplinary matters that are considered not serious. Informal discipline cases are not made public.

Citing provincial privacy legislation, Calgary police said it could not provide any information on individual cases, nor could say whether the officers the judge called out for their “cruel” treatment of Tag El Din – including Det. Jennifer Doolan, who oversaw the arrest and transportation and displayed “utter indifference to the safety and well-being of the accused” – faced consequences. Reached by phone at the force’s guns and gangs unit, Doolan declined to comment.

Ottawa police did not respond to questions about  Gutierrez’s repeated Charter violations or whether the force was aware of the outcome in the 2020 drug case. Gutierrez also did not respond. A few weeks after Gutierrez took the stand, the prosecutor told the judge he had reviewed the officer’s testimony and acknowledged Gutierrez’s search of the vehicle, where the drugs were found, was illegal. He asked the court to toss the case.

The justice system’s failure to monitor and understand the scope of officers’ Charter violations alarms legal scholars, lawyers and judges. Torstar’s findings, they say, demonstrate the need for a formal notification system to alert police forces when their officers are found to have violated Charter rights – a critical first step in making them accountable to the public they serve.

Recently retired Ontario Court judge Melvyn Green said this information must reach police forces because officers are “the first line of constitutional protection in the area of legal rights.”

Of the more than 40 police forces whose officers’ Charter-violating conduct Torstar reviewed, 11 told Torstar they would support the creation of such a system. The forces in Toronto, Peel and Victoria were among them.

Waterloo chief Bryan Larkin, who is also president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, said the lack of information flowing from the courts to police forces about Charter violations is “a national issue.”

“I fundamentally support a system where police leaders are informed,” Larkin said. “We want to instill trust and confidence. We also want to put forth very strong criminal cases … We don’t want evidence excluded. We don’t want charges acquitted, because we have a responsibility to the victim. We have a responsibility to the community.”

Enshrined in 1982 under Pierre Trudeau’s government, the Charter protects the basic rights and freedoms considered essential to preserving our democracy. The Charter makes it unlawful for police to use brutality against us, randomly search our homes and detain us for no good reason.

Former prime minister Jean Chrétien, who helped draft the Charter as justice minister, has called it “the most profoundly democratic declaration in our history.”

Crucially, the Charter gave the courts the power to toss evidence or stay charges in cases where police seriously violate a suspect’s constitutional rights – a remedy intended to guard against undue state interference.

Charter breaches have a corrosive effect, particularly in Black and Indigenous communities where systemic racism has led to overrepresentation in the criminal justice system.

Gurmukh, who is leading research at Western University on hidden racial profiling in policing, said rights violations “negatively impact the physical and mental health of the victims” and “undermine public trust in policing – and ultimately public safety.”

“Frayed community relationships reduce the likelihood of civilians reporting crime, co-operating with police investigations and providing evidence in court,” he said.

Ontario Court Justice Marion Cohen, appointed to the bench in 1993, has spent most of her career as a judge in youth court in Toronto. She said police violations of young people’s rights are particularly serious because of their “vulnerability and the difficulties they would have in pursuing any sort of complaints process.”

“These are things that can affect their whole lives,” she said.

The cases Torstar identified represent only the tip of the iceberg of the serious Charter breaches that police commit, experts say.

Some possible serious Charter violations are never tested in court. This can be because the police don’t end up arresting the suspect or the accused accepts a plea deal or the Crown recognizes there was a significant violation and abandons the prosecution. These cases do not lead to a judge’s decision, so Torstar is unable to track them.

There are many more cases where the rulings are not reported.

Torstar only learned about the case of Emmanuel Awai through his lawyer, who provided a transcript of the judge’s oral ruling.

Awai, an unarmed Black man, was charged with impaired driving, failing to provide a breath sample, resisting police and failing to stop for police in August 2014. A civilian witness had seen Awai’s car parked a few feet away from train tracks, called police and said he was worried that Awai, who appeared to be asleep at the wheel, was impaired. When the officers first approached the car, Awai drove away, before stopping again.

At his 2016 trial, the court saw the police dash cam video. Officers swarm Awai’s car, smash his windows, and drag him out the passenger’s side, while hitting and kicking him. The judge said the officers “had valid concerns” and “were right to be cautious” of Awai because of his past offences and because he initially drove away. But the judge found the officers used excessive force against Awai, and that some tried to “embellish” his conduct in their testimony, which was inconsistent with the video, and that they didn’t get him adequate medical attention.

Awai was acquitted of all but one charge – refusing to submit a breath sample – which the judge stayed.

“The fact that there were grounds to arrest Mr. Awai does not absolve the police,” the judge concluded. “Their power, even at that point, is not unfettered.”

London police refused to say whether they knew about the rulings Torstar identified or say how, if at all, they addressed the conduct of the officers involved. Const. Angus Campbell, who was first on the scene and was among the officers that struck Awai, declined to comment. The other officers who were found to have violated Awai’s rights – Christopher Thomas, Marty Lessick, Matthew Haylor, Mark Mayea and Blair Corsaut – did not respond to questions from Torstar. In a statement of defence they filed in a civil case related to this incident, the officers said they “had reasonable grounds” to believe public safety was at risk, and acted reasonably based on what they knew at the time, including that Awai had “a previous history of violence and weapons offences.”

The Supreme Court of Canada has acknowledged that policing is dangerous, dynamic work. In a 2010 case involving the search of a suspected drug house, the judges stressed that in weighing the significance of Charter breaches, the court must strike a balance between protecting suspects’ rights and keeping the public safe. The role of the court is “not to become a Monday morning quarterback,” the ruling said.

However, as former judge Green observed, at least the “quarterback knows he lost the game.”

Without a system to alert police forces about their Charter-violating behaviour, “The officer may not have any idea, or may not know that it was because of him or her that the game was lost,” Green told Torstar in an interview.

While disciplining an officer is warranted in some cases, in many others forces should at least use these rulings “as a learning opportunity” for the officers, he said, so that mistakes aren’t repeated.

The 600 serious Charter breach violations Torstar analyzed are the most visible – almost all of them led to court rulings that were published online. The violations resulted in tossing evidence, a stay, acquittal or reduction in sentence. In some cases, officers’ failure to follow procedure compromised prosecutions. In others, the conduct was found to be in bad faith.

In Toronto, where the police service said it was unaware of 94 serious Charter breach cases Torstar brought to the force’s attention, Chief James Ramer said Torstar’s findings are “causing us to look introspectively, and go, ‘Are we missing something here?’”

In an interview, Ramer said he believes police are notified in the most egregious Charter breach cases through the processes currently in place. But he acknowledged that more can be done to keep these rulings from slipping through the cracks.

“If there’s a process that can be put in place that helps identify potential misconduct, so we’re all aware of it … I’m certainly open to that,” he said. “That’s the only way that we’re going to correct it, and it’s so essential to public trust and accountability.”

In Ontario, prosecutors must notify the Crown attorney’s office if they believe an officer has lied under oath or “engaged in criminal misconduct,” such as excessive use of force, a spokesperson for the ministry said. However, none of the provincial or  territorial justice ministries has a formal system in place to notify police services when officers have violated the Charter.

The informal approaches vary. In Saskatchewan, it’s “standard practice” for trial prosecutors to communicate judicial findings to police, a ministry spokesperson said. In Newfoundland and Labrador, courts are not expected to report such serious findings to police.

In Edmonton, no one seems eager to track the problem.

In 2020, a judge tossed key evidence against a drunk driver after finding Edmonton police officers unlawfully searched the suspect’s home and then failed to properly inform him of his right to a lawyer.

A few weeks after the ruling, defence lawyer Tom Engel, who was not involved in the case, sent the judgment to the police chief. An Edmonton police official told Engel the prosecutor hadn’t reached out to inform the chief of the decision.

Engel followed up with the police official a year later. Engel asked whether a formal policy requiring prosecutors to notify the police in such cases would be created.

“There is no policy,” the police official answered. “Nor do I believe one will be generated.”

A spokesperson for the Edmonton Police Service did not directly address questions about Engel’s exchange with the force’s lawyer, and refused to comment on 31 serious Charter breach cases involving its officers.

The spokesperson said the force has created “a feedback process” with prosecutors to notify the force of Charter violations. Edmonton is among a handful of police services that told Torstar they are informed when judges find their officers breached Charter rights through systems they have developed with the courts.

Engel said too many cases like the 2020 drunk driving ruling are going undetected.

“I shouldn’t be the gatekeeper.”

In Ottawa, defence lawyer Lawrence Greenspon also feels like a lone sentry, watching as Charter violations mount and go unaddressed.

When his clients sue police and its oversight board, his firm adds a clause to their statements of claim, alleging negligence for failing to implement policies to prevent further Charter violations and for failing to identify and fix “systemic” problems within the police service.

Torstar identified several rulings, stretching back to 2015, where judges have described the repeated failure of Ottawa police to properly inform suspects of their right to a lawyer as “systemic.” Most recently, in an impaired driving case in Ottawa in 2020, a judge threw out the breathalyzer evidence after the defence lawyer presented 15 previous decisions in which judges found that Ottawa police officers violated this Charter right.

Greenspon represented the driver in the 2020 drug trial in Ottawa where  Gutierrez told the court that he wasn’t notified about a prior Charter violation he’d committed. When Greenspon questioned Gutierrez, he was not surprised the officer was unaware of the outcome in the earlier Charter case.

“That is a serious gap in our justice system, and (it) shows both the judiciary and the Charter disrespect,” Greenspon said.

A spokesperson for the Ottawa Police Service said the local prosecutor’s office is supposed to alert them when the courts find officers’ conduct was egregious and may result in Charter violations. The spokesperson also said that the force monitors databases that publish court cases online.

“When the Service becomes aware of these matters, we review the case, determine the cause of the breach and take rectifying measures,” the spokesperson said, adding  they could not provide this information for any of the 22 cases Torstar identified.

In the 600 Charter cases Torstar reviewed, reporters found evidence that only a handful of officers faced serious professional consequences. They include four Peel officers – Const. Richard Rerrie, Const. Damian Savino, Const. Mihai Muresan and Sgt. Emanuel Pinheiro – who pleaded guilty to attempting to obstruct justice and resigned in 2019 for conduct a judge described as “shocking.” The officers were caught on tape stealing a statue of “Scarface” character Tony Montana from a storage locker belonging to an alleged drug dealer, and then lied about it on the stand.

Last year, a Toronto police disciplinary tribunal ordered that Const. Matthew Brewer resign or be fired. Brewer was found to have used “excessive force” against a suspect in a 2016 arrest. It was one of several incidents of “egregious” conduct that led to the rare dismissal, including a 2019 impaired driving conviction.

Brewer is suspended with pay while he appeals his firing. His lawyer David Butt said Brewer could not comment while the matter is before the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, where he argued that Brewer was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol abuse disorder at the time of the misconduct and has since been successfully rehabilitated.

Toronto police said officers had been informally disciplined in 15 unidentified cases. Thunder Bay also confirmed informal discipline in one case.

Those who seek to hold the police accountable for trampling their Charter rights can face a long and difficult road.

Ashton Boodoo’s chilling screams can be heard in a cellphone video of his 2015 arrest.

Montreal police said that concerns about Boodoo’s driving prompted them to tail him to the driveway of his home – a motive the judge would dismiss, concluding instead the officers “must have been after something else, or were simply fishing.” In the poorly lit driveway outside of Boodoo’s building, officers shattered his car window, repeatedly pepper-sprayed him in the face and struck his leg with a metal baton, the judge found.

“I was going to die – that was my feeling,” Boodoo said in an interview. 

“I’m embarrassed every time that video plays, because that was my scream for dear life.”

The officers charged him with impaired driving and obstructing a peace officer, among other alleged offences.

In 2018, a judge found the officers used excessive force, unlawfully detained Boodoo for nearly six hours and never gave him a chance to call a lawyer.

Instead of admitting their mistakes, the officers “attempted to mislead the court by giving testimony that, in the end, was rejected,” the judge wrote. A stay of proceedings, he concluded, “is the only remedy that sends a clear message that the kind of brutality used by police against Mr. Boodoo is unacceptable and will not be condoned by our courts.”

Boodoo is suing the Montreal police and two officers who violently arrested him – Steve Crevier and Olivier Lapointe – as well as a third officer who was supervising the jail where Boodoo was kept in an isolation cell. The police service said it and its officers declined to comment on the case citing ongoing litigation.

In a statement of defence filed in that litigation, a lawyer for the officers said Boodoo’s “suspicious if not dangerous” driving gave them reasonable grounds to arrest him. They allege Boodoo was “the architect of his own misfortune” and they struck him in the thigh with their hand and pepper sprayed him because he “resisted so much.”

The officers denied Boodoo’s allegations that he was racially profiled.

Montreal police would not say what it did to address the Charter-violating behaviour the judge documented in his scathing decision, or how it dealt with the Charter-violating conduct of officers in 10 other cases.

Six years after Boodoo’s arrest, Quebec’s independent police oversight commission laid professional misconduct charges against officers Crevier and Lapointe, alleging they abused their authority and flouted the law by repeatedly violating Boodoo’s rights.

A hearing is scheduled for January 2023.