Horseback riding across the globe one kilometer at a time

Horseback riding across the globe, one kilometer at a time from Annie Claire Bergeron-Oliver on Vimeo.

For more than seven years, 66-year-old Megan Lewis has been travelling the globe by horse power.

Her epic world journey began in 2008 following the Beijing Olympics, ending four years later on the Irish coast.

Now, she’s riding across North America with her sidekick, Lady.

“Ever since I was a young teenager, I’ve known that I was going to do a long ride. It’s just something that has always been a dream for me,” Lewis said.

Lady and Lewis began their trip last year in Newfoundland, with plans to end up on the U.S. west coast sometime next year. Lewis said she wants to dismount in either California or Oregon.

“My children think I’m mad, but they are not surprised,” Lewis said.

The duo travel up to 40 kilometers per day on highways, major roads, and most recently on the Trans Canada train. To make it easier on the horses, and on herself, Lewis rides into chunks. Every three months, Lewis returns to Wales to visit her family.

“I need that time to catch up on stuff at home and to plan. It’s quite a huge venture in the sense that it needs a tremendous amount of planning,” she said.

“It’s not like the old days where you could get on your horse and ride.”

The ride has taken her through more than 10 countries, with memories created in each one.

“When we were riding across China people kept asking us if we were the circus, which I thought was quite funny.”

When asked to pick a favourite country, Lewis couldn’t.

“It’s sort of like saying who is your favourite child. They are all different and I’ve just loved everywhere.”

Out of everywhere she’s been, Lewis said Canada has been the nicest. She said she loves the countryside, the lakes, and most of all, the “nice people.”

“In Canada, everyone has been so friendly. I think it’s the nicest country I’ve been to so far.”

This adventure of a lifetime is expensive. Although Lewis has had some sponsors along the way, she said it’s journey she felt she had to do.

“I think I saw far more of countries than a lot of other people because say, in China, I got to stay in a little farm houses and those sorts of places that people don’t often see.”

Although she has mapped out places to stay, Lewis said she often sleeps in a tent on the road, or in people’s homes.

“I find people are always interested in horses, so they come and talk to me. If they don’t like horses, they are interested to hear why I’m on a horse in the countryside.”

In addition to creating lasting memories, Lewis is raising money for her husband’s charity, Challenge Aid. The charity helps educate disadvantaged children in the developing world.

(Originally aired on CTV Ottawa. All rights reserved. Original video and post can be viewed here: http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/riding-across-the-globe-one-kilometer-at-a-time-1.2366809) 

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Pre-teen runs 134km for kids of Canada’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

Boy walks more than 100 kilometers for the kids of Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women. from Annie Claire Bergeron-Oliver on Vimeo.

12-year-old Theland Kicknosway, of Walpole Island First Nation, completed a 134 kilometer run Saturday to raise funds for the families of Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women.

Theland started his ambitious journey at the Kitigan Zibi Alongquin Community near Maniwaki, QC on Wednesday and finished four days later at the spot in Gatineau Park where a pregnant 27-year-old Kelly Morrisseau was found clinging to life in 2006. Morrisseau died hours later at the hospital leaving behind three children.

“Having to be here and showing our support for women like Kelli is something that will be with me for this entire journey,” said Kicknosway after a prayer for Kelly and the other murdered women.

Kicknosway first floated the idea of a run when he was just nine year’s old. He said he wanted to help the children of Canada’s roughly 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women. In two years Kicknosway has raised about $4,000 for Sisters in Spirit.

‘I asked my mom where the children go of the missing and murdered indigenous women and she said ‘I don’t know’,” he said.

“Running for them is something that has really helped me grow up and grow into the man, that, from what I used to be.”

Kicknosway has planned for each of the next two years and by then he hopes the newly launched inquiry will be complete. He said he hopes his runs will raise awareness and ultimately help bring an end to the violence once and for all.

“Every year and every day and every minute, thinking of them is something that will be with me for the rest of my life,” he said.

The above article and video appeared on CTV Ottawa’s website as well as CTV National News with Sandie Rinaldo. All rights reserved. 

CTV Ottawa

Since July 2014 I’ve been working as an on-air reporter for CTV Ottawa. It’s been a whirlwind, but an overall amazing experience. Every day I meet new people who are kind, generous and willing to share their personal stories with me and the larger community. I just hope I do them justice. Here are a few stories I’m proud of:

CTV Ottawa: Annie’s Disney dream

CTV’s Annie Bergeron-Oliver with a once in a lifetime experience to take to the stage with Disney on Ice. (This was probably THE MOST FUN I’ve ever had on a story.)

CTV Ottawa: The case for a safe injection site

CTV’s Annie Bergeron-Oliver on the rise in deaths from Fentanyl and why advocates say a safe injection site in Ottawa will save lives.

CTV Ottawa: Bruyere in the assisted death debate

CTV’s Annie Bergeron Oliver looks at what the Catholic health care provider is saying.

CTV Ottawa: Five people charged in Najdi homicide

CTV’s Annie Bergeron Oliver reports on five people facing first degree murder charges in Najdi homicide. A sixth person has since been charged in what police believe was a kidnapping gone wrong.

CTV Ottawa: Zika virus’ spread ‘explosive’

CTV’s Annie Bergeron-Oliver on the growing concern over the Zika virus, how travellers, airlines and blood agencies are responding.

CTV Ottawa: Lebreton flats costly soil cleanup

CTV’s Annie Bergeron-Oliver with new details of the cleanup necessary to develop the Lebreton Flats site.

CTV Ottawa: Rocking the Brier

CTV’s Annie Bergeron Oliver wraps up a successful 2016 Tim Hortons Brier in Ottawa. (Aired on CTV Ottawa and CTV National News)

CTV Ottawa: Massive fire in Aylmer

CTV’s Annie Bergeron Oliver reports on a massive fire in Aylmer.

CTV Ottawa: Competitive foosball championships

CTV’s Annie Bergeron Oliver looks at the National Foosball Championships.  (Who knew Canada had a National team?!)

CTV Ottawa: Rugby Retirement for the Books

CTV’s Annie Bergeron-Oliver on the 81-year-old player calling it quits after five decades on the field

CTV Ottawa: Paying tribute

CTV’s Annie Bergeron-Oliver with the nationwide vigils for two Canadian heroes.

Live rants 

CTV Ottawa: Hundreds of buses descend

CTV’s Annie Bergeron-Oliver is on very busy but fluid Scott Street where snow and influx of more buses did not cause too much delay.

CTV Ottawa: Winter makes a comeback

CTV’s Annie Bergeron-Oliver on the City preparing its response to another storm.

CTV Ottawa: Man injured in overnight shooting

CTV’s Annie Bergeron-Oliver reports from Innes Road where Police say a man was shot in the leg while sleeping in his home.=

Welcome to Scarborough-Agincourt, where confusion reigns

By | Published in iPolitics.ca on June 24, 2014

TORONTO – It’s just before dinner time at the advanced polling station in the Scarborough-Agincourt riding, and nobody is around. There are more election workers than voters, and it seems that’s the way it’s been since advanced polling began here three days ago.

“It’s been on and off,” an election worker said when asked if the polling station had been busy.

An elderly couple hand over their voter information cards, passports and a joint electricity bill in exchange for a ballot. There’s no line up.

Byelections are notorious for having lower voter turnout than general elections, and this upcoming vote will almost certainly follow the trend.

Scarborough-Agincourt is one of four federal byelections taking place June 30th. The riding became vacant after long-time Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis resigned, leaving the district without an incumbent for the first time in more than two decades. There are five candidates, but only three appear to be competitive.

With a provincial, mayoral and now federal byelection all within a few months, voters are fatigued. In addition to those factors, the vote itself is happening on the Monday of a long-weekend.

“With three elections in the same year, I think people get confused and distracted,” said Mike Grella, the owner of a Veal shop in Agincourt.

“We don’t know what is what.”

It’s so bad that provincial and federal lawn signs are being mixed up. Signs from both elections are still standing, with posters advertising candidates in the last provincial election alongside those promoting candidates in this campaign.

But it get’s worse.

“Some people actually took down our signs and said when are you coming to pick them up?,” said Ian Perkins, the campaign manager for the federal Liberal candidate, Arnold Chan.

“There’s a lot of confusion out there,” said Perkins.

A group of older adults at a local community centre playing bingo had no idea an election campaign was happening. At a Tim Hortons, two men having coffee said they had received automated calls, but they couldn’t name any of the candidates.

And that uncertainty means the parties have to think of new ways to communicate with voters. People are screening their calls, Perkins said, which puts a greater emphasis on the need for door-to-door campaigns and informal meeting with voters at bus stops in the riding.

Although the Liberals are confident they have this election in the bag, the party has a new and largely unfamiliar candidate. The opposition parties have their best chance in years to break through in this important Toronto riding.

A loss for Liberals in a riding they have held since 1988 would be a blow for the credibility of Trudeau, who is depending on Ontario in the next federal election.

“People are ready for a change. You can’t take the vote for granted. It is anyone’s game,” said NDP candidate Elizabeth Long’s campaign manager Andrea Moffat.

“We are definitely hearing some uncertainty about it and some voter fatigue, but for the most part we are getting a really positive response.”

Despite some challenges, Moffat said Long has been able to draw up significant support. A meet and greet last Friday with Long and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair attracted about one hundred people, she said.

“There are a lot of people who know her from representing their immigration issues in the past. As an immigration lawyer, she has represented people who live in the community,” Moffat said.

The NDP hopes to maintain their momentum in Scarborough. Last election they doubled their vote in Scarborough-Agincourt, and picked up a seat in Scarborough—Rouge River and Scarborough Southwest.

Fed Gen Elxn Toronot 2008 & 2011Scarborough-Agincourt, numbered 80 in the map above, is one of the few Liberal islands remaining in what was once called Fortress Toronto.

“I don’t call anything a Liberal riding because we made history just next door in what everybody said was a Liberal riding,” Moffat said, adding that the NDP is the official Opposition this time around.

“I think people maybe vote for what they used to, but I don’t think people say they are voting Liberal because they are particularly excited about it.”

Conservative candidate Trevor Ellis has been relatively silent in the race, skipping an all candidate’s debate Tuesday night. Volunteers at his head office said traffic has been relatively inconsistent.

Between door-to-door visits, Ellis told iPolitics the campaign has been going well. He said he’s been receiving mixed responses from voters about the byelection. Recently, Ellis said he ran into a woman who was taking down his lawn sign thinking the election was over.

“I said oh, excuse me. If you don’t want that lawn sign I’ll take it because I’m the candidate, Trevor Ellis,” he said.

“She said oh, I thought this election was over. And I said no it’s coming up in about a week.”

Ellis said he isn’t worried about low voter turnout or confusion among voters because all the candidates are facing the same challenges. Voters who are best informed and who know what is going on will go vote, he said.

The Conservatives have resorted to sending another campaign attack on Trudeau which might be a rehearsal for the next election. The handout portrays a large photograph of Trudeau next to a quote of him saying “The budget will balance itself.”

CPC Attack Ad Trudeau

The number of homeless veterans in Canada is soaring

By | Published in iPolitics.ca on Jun 30, 2014

The number of homeless people identified by Veterans Affairs Canada has skyrocketed over the last five years, jumping from just 35 in 2009-2010 to 236 last year.

But the true figure could be much higher. Experts suggest there could be thousands of veterans living on the streets yet to be located by government and volunteer organizations. A City of Toronto report released last year revealed that 16 per cent of the 447 people sleeping on Toronto’s streets identified themselves as veterans.

“It’s quite shocking,” said NDP Veterans critic Peter Stoffer. “How many more have not been identified?.

“Either they are couch-surfing, or they just haven’t come forward in that regard, or they walked in and identified themselves as something else because … maybe they had lied, or had been embarrassed to say that they were once in the military.”

The increase represents proactive efforts on the part of organizations like the Royal Canadian Legion, Wounded Warriors and Veterans Emergency Transition Services Canada (V.E.T.S.)  to seek out and identify veterans living on the streets. Although the federal government does have its own programs in place, many have criticized Veterans Affairs for relying too heavily on these types of independent organizations.

Sean Bruyea, a former RCAF intelligence officer and advocate for veterans’ rights, said Veterans Affairs has not adequately responded to the growing homelessness crisis among Canadian veterans.

“Most of these veterans are being identified through self-identification, or through partnerships with community organizations. Veterans Affairs itself makes no effort whatsoever to actually proactively find out who these homeless veterans are,” he said.

In 2012, Veterans Affairs gave $1.9 million in cash and $1.8 million in contributions to community groups in London, Victoria, Toronto and Calgary that provided long-term housing for homeless individuals. Cockrell House in Victoria was the only program that catered specifically to veterans. This year, the department gave V.E.T.S. $900,000 to provide 24-hour emergency counselling services to homeless veterans. The department also provides emergency funding to homeless veterans in need.

The pilot projects gave the department good insight into what homeless veterans need, and that’s getting people out of shelters and into permanent housing, said Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs Lt-Gen Walter Semianiw. The department, Semianiw said, relies on partner organizations to act as their “eyes and ears.

“We are just starting to get a real handle on what is the size of the issue,” he said. “We need to get out there, we need to do more for our veterans and we are doing more for our veterans. We can even do more, and I know (Veterans Affairs Minister Julian) Fantino is committed to doing that.”

Bruyea said the department needs to act faster.

“(Veterans Affairs is) moving at a glacier pace, which is just subjecting these veterans to more harm,” Bruyea said.

Former veterans’ ombudsman Pat Strogan first raised the alarm about the homelessness issue in 2008, saying the government needed to do more to track the scope of the problem. That’s when he launched the “Leave Nobody Behind” campaign — aimed, in part, at finding RCMP and military veterans at risk of becoming homeless.

The new veterans’ ombudsman, Guy Parent, has continued his work, making homeless veterans a priority. Parent  said he believes the government should implement a national homelessness strategy that includes a section about veterans. Such a strategy, he said, would raise awareness about the services available to veterans and help link existing initiatives.

“There are mechanisms in place to deal with homelessness in all the municipalities and a lot of different programs in urban areas that are there already … To coordinate all of that, I think you need a national strategy and I think that is where it comes into play,” Parent said in an interview with iPolitics in late April.

Many factors push veterans onto the street, including addictions, family problems and mental health issues. In her research, Western University School of Nursing Professor Cheryl Forchuk found evidence of a 20-year gap between the point  individuals leave the military and when they end up on the streets. That gap, she said, can be attributed to underlying issues like alcoholism.

“Alcoholism is a very big thing. It takes years of drinking before it really takes its toll,” she told iPolitics at the first-ever forum on veterans homelessness at the Royal Ottawa Legion headquarters in April.

Literature in the United States has consistently linked war trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder to homelessness among veterans, who represent roughly one in four homeless people. In Canada, however, Forchuk said the situation is “quite different.”

“It is a much slower trajectory and it has much more to do with drinking,” she said.

There is some disagreement among experts about where the homeless veterans are coming from. Sixty per cent of the more than three dozen people in Forchuk’s study did not serve overseas. But Barry Yhard — national executive director of V.E.T.S. Canada, a volunteer group that works with homeless veterans — said most of the vets his organization deals with have fought abroad.

“I don’t know where they got that data from, but perhaps they should have done a bit more research and investigation,” Yhard said.

“Our client base is very broad, so it covers clients from the Second World War, up until and including Afghanistan. Pretty much every major operation or mission that Canada has been in over the last bunch of years.”

V.E.T.S. helps identify homeless veterans across Canada, provides emergency services and funding and connects veterans to local organizations. The veteran-to-veteran contact helps people feel more comfortable coming forward and sharing their stories, Yhard said.

The organization meets about 10 to 12 veterans a day, and has identified at least 171 homeless veterans in cities across Canada. But for every one veteran the group identifies, Yhard said they miss another seven — which suggests there could be 1,300 veterans living on our streets.

“Homelessness is kind of a strange affliction,” he said. “Most of the people, once they get off of the street they stay off of the street, but there are those that prefer that particular type of lifestyle and they will go back to living on the street after a short period of time, maybe a month, maybe six months or maybe a year.”

That’s why it’s important to provide veterans, and homeless people in general, with respect and a safe place to call home every night, he said. It’s this housing-first principle that has dominated the conversation in the emergency housing community of late.

The number highlighted by the government only represents the number of veterans who have been found, a “gross misrepresentation” of the problem, according to Bruyea.

Advocates believe the government needs to act quickly to get veterans off the streets and into existing programs. More than that, experts insist the government needs to do more to address addiction and mental health issues now, so people who are just retiring from the military won’t end up on the streets down the line.

Addictions, mental illness pushing veterans onto the street: experts

By | Published in iPolitics.ca on Jul 23, 2014

It was one of the hardest days of her long career in the military. Just one month before launching a volunteer organization to find and help homeless veterans, Capt. Victoria Ryan learned a former corporal had died on the cold streets of Ottawa.

“This gentlemen, he would have come to me because I was his officer. He knew me pretty well,” she said. “It breaks my heart to think that he froze to death right before we started.”

The veteran died in the capital in February 2013, as Ryan and a group of volunteers were putting the final touches on Soldiers Helping Soldiers.

Ryan said there was no indication the corporal was in need of help. The last time she saw him, he was doing fine.

“You don’t keep track of all your corporals. You give them to another officer, another warrant officer and you move on.

“I had no idea he had ended up on the streets. If I had, I would have found him.”

The number of homeless veterans identified by Veterans Affairs Canada has exploded over the last five years, jumping from just 35 in 2009-2010 to 236 last year.

But the true figure could be much higher. Experts suggest there could be thousands of veterans living on the streets yet to be located by government and volunteer groups. A City of Toronto report released last year revealed that 16 per cent of the 447 people sleeping on Toronto’s streets identified themselves as veterans.

In Ottawa alone, the non-profit Soldiers Helping Soldiers has identified 110 homeless veterans since March 2013. The volunteer group, which is expected to operate in six Canadian cities by Christmas, has found 75 homeless veterans in Calgary and another 50 in both Valcartier, Que. and Montreal.

“I’ve been told by a reputable souce that there could be in one year, just in Ottawa alone, over 1,000 homeless veterans,” Ryan said.

And the numbers are expected to rise. Canada recently wound up its longest war ever, which saw more than 40,000 soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. In the next few decades, experts expect more soldiers to be on the streets.

“We feel that within the next ten years, if we don’t get this issue resolved, especially the mental health issues, that it could explode,” said Royal Canadian Legion Dominion President Gordon Moore.

But the ways in which the agencies working with the homeless define ‘veteran’ varies — something which could affect data collection. Soldiers Helping Soldiers considers anyone who ever served a day in the military to be a veteran, even if they served in the military of another country. Veterans Transitional Emergency Services (VETS Canada) — a grassroots group that receives funding from Veterans Affairs Canada — serves only Canadian veterans. They meet approximately 10 to 12 Canadian veterans across the country every day, and have helped approximately 175 veterans in the last year.

‘Being able to shoot someone at 600 meters is not necessarily in high demand by civilian companies.’

“For every one veteran we find, we’ve missed seven,” said Barry Yard, national executive director of VETS Canada.

Research suggests veterans end up on the streets because of addiction, transition problems and mental health issues. In her research, Western University School of Nursing Professor Cheryl Forchuk found evidence of a 20-year gap between when individuals leave the military and when they end up on the streets.

Here in Ottawa, most of the veterans Capt. Ryan deals with have some type of mental health issue, generally attributed to their time in the military.

“I would say almost 100 per cent of the homeless veterans have some sort of addiction or mental health issue pertaining to their service,” Ryan said, adding that the issues begin affecting the veterans’ lives after they leave the military.

While Veterans Affairs does offer those leaving the military various transitional services,Ryan believes one of the hardest hurdles to jump over is simply adjusting to civilian life. Homeless veterans tend to be sergeant rank and below, and many of their combat skills do not translate well into the civilian world, she pointed out.

“They were infantry, they were armoured, they were artillery. Not things that translate well to civilian life,” she said. “Being able to shoot someone at 600 meters is not necessarily in high demand by civilian companies.”

Many homeless vets miss the familiarity and reassurance of the disciplined military lifestyle, so Soldiers Helping Soldiers operates along military lines. Volunteers wear their uniforms when conducting quarterly searches for homeless veterans, and treat the individuals as members of their squad. Ryan said the veterans wouldn’t give her “the time of day” if she weren’t in uniform. There’s a level of embarrassment and shame, she said, that often stops homeless people from identifying themselves as veterans.

“One of the things that SHS focuses on is reminding them that they were soldiers. And the abilities and the dignity they had performing that job, they can have again,” she said.

Of the 110 soldiers that Soldiers Helping Soldiers has helped, less than two dozen have stayed off the street. Capt. Mark Eldridge works with Ryan — conducting foot patrols with soldiers to find homeless veterans — and volunteers at local homeless shelters. He said sometimes veterans don’t want help or are unwilling to hand over the personal information required to complete paperwork for Veterans Affairs or the Legion. A big part of the group’s job is to inform veterans about the variety of services available to them.

“Sometimes they just want to share a coffee with us. They just want to share a story with us,” he said.

Eldridge, who has been working with the organization since its inception, said it’s “painful” to find these veterans on the streets. There is no “golden rule” or average length of time needed to get people off the streets. Sometimes, he said, there isn’t much anyone can do.

“There is a sadness is that you can see pretty quickly how any one of us, absent a couple supporting factors in our lives, would be one of them,” he said.

Craigslist: Increasingly, a marketplace for dodgy prescription drugs

Prescription drugs
Courtesy Canadian Press

Read the full article here 

Most people turn to websites like Craigslist for used cars, apartments and even illicit liaisons. Increasingly, however, Canadians are turning to the Internet to buy prescription medication.

The volume of counterfeit and substandard drugs being sold online is so great, law enforcement is stretched to the limit trying crack down on it.

“The movement of counterfeit medications via the Internet is a growing problem and a key challenge for Canadian law enforcement,” said RCMP Deputy Commissioner Mike Cabana in a recent Senate committee meeting.

“Counterfeit drugs can easily be acquired online from mainly offshore, unscrupulous operations where unapproved and illegal medications are available for a fraction of the legitimate pharmacy cost.”

An analysis conducted by iPolitics shows dozens of advertisements for prescription drugs including Viagra, testosterone cream, Ritalin, and other medications on Craigslist sites. Often, they are hidden under the tag of used cars, perhaps because some of the popular drugs sold online are aimed at male consumers.

One advertisement on Craigslist in Montreal urges consumers to “stay hard,” offering what they term an ”Impeccable/Turbo Viagra Booster.”

“Don’t get ripped off by others. Email me with your contact details,” the advertisement reads.

Another ad on Craigslist in Vancouver offers consumers a money back guarantee, but says there have been many “returning happy customers.”

Almost all suppliers are offering Viagra for a fraction of the cost charged at Canadian pharmacies. Prices range from $10 to $20 for one pill, or $60 for a package of “brand name” tablets.

Phil Emberley, a director at the Canadian Pharmacists Association, has serious concerns about the trend. Although the drugs could be harmless or ineffective, Emberley says they could also have dangerous side effects.

“It may look like Viagra and it may come in a box that looks like the original packaging of Viagra, but if that is counterfeit, you have absolutely no way of knowing what it is.”

The Internet is full of counterfeit drugs, says Maysa Razavi, external relations co-ordinator at the International Trademark Association.

“It’s hard to keep track of where the drugs are going,” she says.

The number of RCMP investigations into counterfeit medications making their way into Canada more than doubled from 24 cases in 2008 to 60 cases in 2011. The majority of counterfeit drugs seized by the RCMP are “lifestyle drugs” such as Viagra and Cialis, another drug for erectile dysfunction.

Craigslist did not respond for a request from iPolitics about why it permits advertisements selling restricted drugs without a medical prescription.

Some industry experts fear people are relying on the Internet to purchase drugs they have been prescribed for serious medical conditions.

“If you are dealing with a potentially life-saving medication that somebody has to be on, and they take something that is not what it says it is, it could be potentially life threatening,” Emberley says.

Conservative Senator Kelvin Ogilvie is chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, which is completing a study on prescription drugs. He says the government can do little to prevent people from buying their drugs online.

“If people are going to try to get things that are counterfeit or buy them from totally unreliable sources, there is absolutely no way to prevent them from doing that in this day and age,” he told iPolitics.

“You can’t prevent Canadians from having access to a fraudulent website. If that’s what they are looking for, they are going to find it.”

Image

So, what can be done?

 

Consumers, Razavi says, need to be educated about the risks associated with buying drugs online. It’s about raising awareness of the potential risks involved with getting medication on the internet.

But it’s also about cracking down on the amount of counterfeit and substandard pharmaceuticals getting into the country. Experts suggest additional powers and resources need to be given to border officials to search packages suspected of containing counterfeit drugs.

With over 137,000 postal shipments and over 100,000 courier shipments being processed every day, the Canadian Border Services Agency says intercepting a counterfeit pharmaceutical shipment is almost impossible.

“It is like trying to find a needle in a haystack because of the way that the Internet has increased shopping and the use of the postal stream,” Martin Bolduc, the Vice President of Operations at CBSA, said at a recent Senate committee meeting.

“It makes it challenging for our officers to be able to pick up those parcels and the counterfeit pharmaceuticals.”

Last fiscal year, CBSA intercepted nearly 12,000 shipments of counterfeit drugs.

One insider at Industry Canada said that the problem has become so widespread that it’s not worth the RCMP’s time and effort to go after small operators selling prescription drugs on Craigslist.

Thus far, it is believed that no Canadian has been charged with selling prescription drugs via classified ads, although charges have been laid in the United States by American law enforcement.

Hockey Gear: More Harm than Help?

Hockey Gear: More Harm than Help?

New York – Underwear, jock strap, shin pads, socks, skates, shoulder pads, elbow pads, jersey, helmet and gloves—it can take pro hockey players 15 minutes or more to put on all their gear. That’s a far cry from the equipment worn 70 years ago when the original six national Hockey League teams took to the ice. Back then, athletes didn’t wear protective equipment so every puck or slapshot had the potential to leave a bruise. Helmets were made of soft leather instead of plastic and foam, primarily protecting against heat loss rather than injury. Since then, companies have added layers of plastic and even bulletproof kevlar to the equipment. Elbow pads, once made of leather and strapped on the outside of a player’s sweater, are now made of dense pipe-like plastic. 

Click the hyperlink above to read the full article published in the Winter edition of the Coaches of Canada Magazine. 

Hockey Gear: More Harm than Help?

CTV News Channel hits

For the last few months I’ve been a somewhat regular political commentator for CTV News Channel. It’s been a great opportunity to jump back into the television world, and to share my love and knowledge of Canadian politics.

Here are a few of my hits:

CTV News Straight Talk panel – May 12, 2014.

Annie on CTV News Channel

Click here to see more 

CTV News Straight Talk panel – November 20th, 2013.

Panelist
Panelist

Final hours of the Quebec provincial Election – April 6th, 2014.

Annie on CTV News Channel

Senate scandal is far from over  – November 9th, 2013.

Senate will vote to suspend members on all or none principle – November 6th, 2013.

 

Political wrap-up with Scott Laurie

Click here for other videos, courtesy of TheLoop.ca

CTV News Channel: Straight Talk Panel

Here’s a link to my most recent hit on CTV News Channel’s Straight Talk panel:

Annie on CTV

And another in which I talk about what’s going on in federal politics.

 

Annie on CTV News Channel

 

My first ever LIVE on air experience was a bit nerve-wrecking, but a lot of fun.

Here‘s a link to the first of many CTV News Channel’s Straight Talk panel: http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=912183

LIVE politics hit on CTV News Channel's Straight Talk Panel
LIVE politics hit on CTV News Channel’s Straight Talk Panel

CTV News Channel: Toronto Center byelections

Appearance on CTV News Channel talking about the Toronto Center byelections, and the federal government’s response to the PQ’s proposed ‘charter of values’.

Here’s a link to the full video: http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1004024

Crossing the Israeli border is never predictable

Originally posted on the Huffington Post. 

JERUSALEM – The commute from Jerusalem to Ramallah is unpredictable at best.

Big white commuter buses with green or blue stripes with Arabic script are parked just a few blocks away from the Damascus Gate, the main entry into Jerusalem’s old city. It’s 7:00 am, but the side streets leading to the outdoor bus stop are already packed with people. This crowded, noisy parking lot is the heart for commuters making the hour long trek between Jerusalem and Ramallah. The West Bank city is the seat of power of the Palestinian Authority.

Hop on Bus 18 and you’re transported into a different culture. The driver speaks only Arabic, many passengers are reading Arabic books, and traditional Arabic music is playing on the radio. The 25km trip costing the equivalent of $2.50 Cdn, is the simplest way in and out of the West Bank and hundreds of travellers make the trek every day.

The traffic intensifies as the bus inches towards the Kalandia border, the largest and most frequented checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank. Graffiti covered grey concrete walls tower over one side of the road, extending as far as the eye can see. A military watch tower dominates the traffic circle leading to a small checkpoint guarded by Israeli soldiers. Within a few minutes, the commuter bus is waved through.

Going into the West Bank is usually a breeze. Getting into Israel again is a completely different story, especially for Palestinians.

The bus returning to Jerusalem stops near the border and several passengers, including young children and the elderly, grab their belongings and hop off to go through the checkpoint on foot. At the second and final stop, Israeli troops with weapons strapped across their chest, board the bus. Only a few international passport holders, and people with a blue Israeli identification cards are permitted to remain on board. The soldiers are making sure unauthorized travelers, including Palestinians without a permit, are not granted entry to Israel. The highly militarized Kalandia checkpoint acts as a deterrent from entering Israel.

The border crossing demonstrates how Palestinians are viewed and treated by many Israeli authorities. More than 300,000 Israeli citizens live in controversial Jewish settlements in the West Bank, according to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. They are permitted to stay on the air conditioned buses, while most Palestinians are required to spend hours in the heat waiting at the checkpoints. The unpredictability of the checkpoint makes holding a job or an appointment in Israel quite challenging.

On this trip, however, three of us with foreign passports were pulled off. A young IDF soldier took our passports and visas and shouted at us in Hebrew to go through the checkpoint on foot. When I asked why we were being targeted, the soldier would only respond in Hebrew until finally one who spoke English told us flatly that it was the rule. That’s the only explanation we were given.

It is probably worth reminding ourselves, that Israel faces serious security threats daily in this area. In these circumstances overzealous conduct may be forgivable.

Israel’s military says checkpoints like Kalandia are needed to protect Israeli citizens living in the occupied territories. The checkpoint and the separation wall are often cited by fovernment officials and members of the IDF as one factor that has reduced suicide bombings in Israel.

 

Vendors selling fruit, water and even pillows stop us as we make the 400 metre journey from the bus to the barb-wiredpedestrian checkpoint.

Once inside, travellers are corralled along a winding, metal railing that organizes them into tightly packed lines as they inch toward the checkpoint for foot traffic. Sometimes this area can be crowded with upwards of 1,000 people.

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Three long metal chutes about seven feet high and four feet wide, with barbed-wire roofs open to the sky, herd travellers towards turnstiles, controlled by Israeli military, towards the metal detector.

Most of those waiting resting their arms or backs against the cold, iron rails are men, but there is little chatter. The sound of a small child and his mother seems incongruous. The atmosphere is eerily prison-like but it is routine for so many people.

After about 20 minutes, the light on the turnstile switches from red to green and we being to move forward. The light goes back to red and the line stops moving. A few minutes later a women 

dressed in a floor-length maroon coat, with bright red lipstick and a colorful hijab walks towards us. The IDF had rejected her entry into Israel. The woman and her companion were forced to walk back through the turnstile at the end of the metal cage, past the dozens of people waiting in line. The humiliation and frustration on the woman’s face was heartbreaking. One could tell she was holding back tears.

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A woman with large pearl earrings sipping a can of coke is waiting for us at the security desk once we finally get through the turnstile and the metal detector. The soldier, speaking into a microphone from a room with bulletproof windows, instructs us to press our passports against the dirty glass window as thousands have done before.

The solider visually scans my passport, then shifts her focus to the computer and begins typing away. A couple minutes later, she looks back and asks to see my Israeli visa. Having spent an hour in the process, I am through on to Israeli soil.

In retrospect, despite the nervousness that hit me after being ordered off the bus, the experience was worth it. It opened my eyes to the drudgery and humiliation endured by so many Palestinians.