A St-Laurent family’s desperate search for missing grandmother – Montreal

MONTREAL — It hasn’t been a typical summer break for three teenagers from St-Laurent.

Seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Giannopoulos, 14-year-old Victoria Giannopoulos and 12-year-old Kosmas Giannopoulos have spent most of their days searching for their missing grandmother.

Sixty-four-year-old Claire Lavoie has not been seen or heard from for close to two weeks.

“If you’re watching Nana Claire, please come home, ” Victoria Giannopoulos told Global News.

“We really miss you and love you a  lot.”

Victoria Giannopoulos, the granddaughter of missing 64-year-old Claire Lavoie, pleads for her grandmother to return home on August 5, 2014.

Sebastien Gagnon-Dorval

Lavoie lives in an apartment complex in St-Laurent.

On July 25, she told a family member she was leaving on a trip; a weekend getaway to Lachute to visit a friend.

“She doesn’t have a friend in Lachute,” said Sophie Belanger, the missing woman’s daughter.

“It’s very strange.”

A week later, Lavoie, a woman with respiratory problems, may have travelled to the Eastern Townships.

She reportedly used her bank debit card at a convenience store in Granby.

Montreal police are asking for the public’s help finding 64-year-old Claire Lavoie.


The alarm bells really went off on Monday, when Lavoie failed to turn up for work.

“We just don’t know what is going on, there’s panic, despair,” said Belanger.

“We just don’t know any more.”

The grandmother requires medication for her health problems, and those close to Lavoie are concerned that she could be in trouble.

Lavoie could be driving a blue 2007 Pontiac G-5 with Quebec licence plate: YCB-316.

In addition to the health issue, the family recently discovered a chilling letter inside the woman’s home.

“It’s a good-bye note,” says Belanger, choking back tears.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call 911.

Montreal police are asking for the public’s help finding 64-year-old Claire Lavoie.


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5 things to know about the experimental Ebola drug

WATCH: A plane carrying the second American aid worker infected with Ebola is now on U.S. Soil. The patient’s arrival comes as another person in New York is being tested for the deadly disease. Omar Villafranca has the story.

TORONTO — As the Ebola crisis unfolded last week, the story of two American aid workers who tested positive with the disease gained worldwide attention. This weekend, both missionary workers were given an experimental drug that allegedly saved their lives.

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Officials were tight-lipped about the drug in question but by Monday, U.S. reports poured in pointing to a therapy called ZMapp.

Here’s what you need to know about the experimental drug:

It has Canadian fingerprints all over it

While the unlicensed treatment is made by California company Mapp Biopharmaceutical, it was produced with the help of Canadian research. Parts of the antibodies in the therapy are the product of years of research done at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg.

“Canada is a world leader in research and we are proud of the advances made at the NML in this area,” a PHAC spokesperson told The Canadian Press via email.

READ MORE: Canadian research at core of experimental Ebola drug

Mapp Pharmaceutical president, Larry Zeitlin, told Global News that ZMapp is a collaboration between Mapp and Toronto-based Defyrus Inc. The U.S. government and the Public Health Agency of Canada were also involved, the company said.

Dr. Frank Plummer, who was head of the Winnipeg lab, said he was delighted to hear that the Canadian work helped pave the way for the ZMapp therapy.

“This is really gratifying to see the work come to fruition,” he told the wire service.

It’s a drug cocktail

ZMapp is made up of three monoclonal antibodies, which are disease-fighting proteins that can target a specific part of an invading pathogen.

While reports refer to the treatment as a serum, Zeitlin clarified to Global:

“Serum is a product derived from blood – human or animal. Monoclonal antibodies are protein drugs that are manufactured.”

The three portions of the antibodies include the components of MB-003 and ZMAb.

READ MORE: Doctor with Ebola gives experimental serum to infected colleague

(PHAC told Global News that it helped to develop ZMapp but it wasn’t involved in any decision-making to administer the treatment. The federal agency developed two of the three components, licensed it to Defyrus, which in turn, sub-licensed it to Mapp. Mapp Pharmaceuticals, for its part, reformulated the treatment with another therapy created by the U.S. Amy Medical Research Institute.)

The antibodies zero in on the Ebola virus, mark any foreign invaders and block out harmful cells. Reports say the drug is derived in part from tobacco plants.

It appears to have helped the two aid workers

The experimental drug was doled out to two people: Samaritan’s Purse physician Dr. Kent Brantly and his colleague Nancy Writebol, who was working with the organization Service in Mission.

Over the weekend, Brantly was admitted to a special isolation treatment and Writebol joined him at Emory University’s hospital in Atlanta.

READ MORE: Why health officials say the Ebola epidemic won’t spread into Canada

Right now, both patients are improving after taking the treatment but we won’t know for sure if it was the experimental therapy that saved them.

They could be recovering on their own, or for other reasons, such as receiving better medical care in the U.S.

A portion of the therapy – the MB-003 – provided 100 per cent protection to monkeys when it was administered right after exposure, according to researchers earlier this year.

The drug hasn’t been evaluated for safety in humans. Brantly and Writebol each had to give consent to using the drug, knowing that it’s only been tested in animals.

(To be clear, Samaritan’s Purse wouldn’t confirm that it was the ZMapp therapy that was administered. Mapp Pharmaceuticals said it couldn’t confirm this detail either.)

It’s only available in limited quantities

Because the drug is in its experimental stages, it’s available only in limited quantities. Zeitlin wouldn’t say how much of the therapy is currently in circulation.

“You can imagine the danger that could potentially put public health workers on the ground in,” Zeitlin told Global.

“We are working as hard as possible with our collaborators to make more as quickly as possible.”

READ MORE: What you need to know about Ebola

There are hundreds of others who have tested positive with Ebola in West Africa, so it’s unclear why the U.S. missionary workers got the drug.

The World Health Organization said it wasn’t involved in the delivery of the therapy, according to CNN. The outlet suggests that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and its “compassionate use” regulation may be at play. Other reports point to assistance from a National Institutes of Health scientist.

Other drugs are in the works

There are several Ebola vaccines making their way through the pipeline. When reports first surfaced that a single vial of the therapy made its way to Liberia, experts guessed that it could have been out of Vancouver’s own Tekmira Pharmaceuticals. There, researchers are working on using small bits of genetic material called RNA to cling onto the virus and target it for destruction.

But right now, it’s on a temporary hold as the drug makers work through safety concerns.

READ MORE: 5 things to know about the Ebola outbreak amid fears of global spread

Another experimental vaccine being designed out of Winnipeg appears to work if given shortly after exposure to the virus, at least in animal testing, The Canadian Press reported. If it can be pushed through the developmental pipeline, it could be the option of choice for researchers who risk getting infected when working on Ebola in laboratories and health-care workers who can become exposed during outbreaks.

– With files from the Canadian Press and the Associated Press

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Settlement can still be reached before the end of summer: B.C. education minister – BC

B.C. education minister Peter Fassbender says he is encouraged by the resumption of bargaining this week.

BCTF President Jim Iker and BCPSEA lead negotiator Peter Cameron agreed last week to resume bargaining on August 8.

Fassbender says Iker and Cameron have held discussions since the end of school year, but the full bargaining teams have not met since that time.

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“It is an encouraging sign to me because it is the first time that the entire teams on both sides have met together. So I am looking forward to seeing negotiations begin in earnest as of this Friday,” says Fassbender. “In saying that, I am also optimistic that we can reach a negotiated settlement.”

Fassbender reiterated the province had no plan to legislate teachers back to work.

“We have been on this treadmill for far too long,” he says. “We need long term stability and legislation does not create that. It just prolongs the very dysfunction that we had.”

The resumption of negotiations was announced one day after Finance Minister Mike de Jong promised that parents of children under 13 years old would receive $40 per day per child for childcare should the strike drag on in September.

At the time, BCTF President Jim Iker said the decision striped funding from B.C. students.

“This scheme will not help improve class sizes, increase support for children with special needs, or provide more one-on-one time for all students. It is my hope that the government will redirect its energies into reaching an agreement with BC teachers through mediation this summer,” said Iker.

Today, Fassbender said the childcare subsidy was meant to help offset the burden on parents caught up in the strike.

He would not comment on whether the offer hurt the negotiations.

In July, BCTF asked for mediation, but Fassbender says mediation won’t work until teachers move into the government’s ‘affordability zone.’

Two potential mediators refused to step in to the talks earlier this summer.

Meanwhile, the Vancouver School Board is calling for outside intervention in the dispute, saying an industrial inquiry commissioner, who could issue a public report on necessary solutions, should be brought in.

B.C.’s 40,000 teachers went on strike June 17. The main areas of dispute remain teachers’ wages and learning conditions in the classrooms.

Canadian couple detained in China could be retaliation: expert

WATCH: A Canadian couple have been accused of espionage and are being detained by authorities in China. Jacques Bourbeau reports.

TORONTO – An expert in Canada-China relations is questioning the timing of the arrests of two Canadians in China for stealing military secrets.

Charles Burton, an associate professor of Canada-China relations at Brock University, says he hasn’t seen foreigners charged with crimes involving military secrets since China’s Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960s.

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“This is completely unprecedented,” he said. “The idea that the charges against this couple also relate to defence research secrets is rather coincidental.”

Kevin and Julia Dawn Garratt have been accused of stealing military and intelligence information and were detained by Chinese officials Tuesday. The Garratts were originally from Vancouver, B.C., but have lived in China since the 1980s.

READ MORE: Vancouver couple investigated in China over alleged theft of state secrets

The couple run a popular cafe in Dandong, China called Peter’s Cafe, which serves western food and offers weekly English conversation classes. They also run the charity North Star Aid, a humanitarian aid organization that works in North Korea.

The official Xinhua News Agency said in a report late Monday the Garratts were being investigated by the state security bureau in China’s northeastern city of Dandong that borders North Korea.

Foreign Affairs said in a statement they are aware two Canadians have been detained in China and are offering consular assistance.

Burton believes the charges are “trumped up” and questions the logic of the allegations facing the couple.

“I find it very hard to imagine that this couple that has been residing in China for 30 years are in fact secret agents of a foreign power tasked to obtain very sensitive military information,” said Burton. “This sort of thing is usually done by military attaches of embassies, not by people pretending to be Christian missionaries and English teachers and cafe owners.”

The arrests follow an incident last week where Canada blamed Chinese hackers for infiltrating computers at the National Research Council, a claim that was denied by the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa.

READ MORE: Cyberattack breached system holding personal data says privacy watchdog

In a statement, the federal government said the attack was detected by one of Canada’s spy agencies, the Communications Security Establishment, who confirmed the cyber attack.

It says the intrusion was traced to “a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor.”

“One cannot help but think that it could be retaliation for (Prime Minister Stephen Harper)’s outing of the Chinese intelligence services with regard to the hacking of Canadian government computers,” said Burton.

In an interview with Global News, the Garratts’ son Simeon said he was shocked when he heard the allegations and also questioned the political motivations of the arrests.

“I was caught completely off-guard, and it just seems insane to me to be honest…they’ve only really been involved in things that have benefitted China as a whole,” said Simeon. “Politically I think there’s probably something going on. Foreign Affairs is taking this very seriously, and obviously the allegations are very intense. Nobody really knows exactly what is going on.”

WATCH: How dangerous is missionary work in China?

China is Canada’s second largest trading partner, next to the United States, and in 2012 the total Canada-China was just under $70 billion and $72.9 billion, according to Canadian government figures.

Burton says if the matter isn’t resolved, it could cast a pall over Canada’s relations with China, with Harper expected to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Conference summit in Beijing in November.

With files from Global News reporter Laura Stone

Mammoliti wants councillors to resign after deaths at Veld – Toronto

TORONTO –Giorgio Mammoliti is calling for the resignation of fellow councillors Mike Layton and Gord Perks after the deaths of two people at a weekend music festival.

“With the deaths of two young individuals at this weekend’s Veld Festival it’s time for someone to take responsibility before more tragedies come from these EDM events,” Mammoliti said in a press release Tuesday.

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“Councillors Perks and Layton should resign their seats on Council. If it wasn’t for them pushing for these events and insisting they be held on government lands I don’t believe these kids would be dead today.”

Thirteen others were hospitalized after attending the Veld Music Festival; homicide detectives are investigating the two deaths.

Police said all 15 ingested some sort of party drug – such as MDMA, ecstasy or a form of GHB.

Mammoliti has been railing against Electronic Dance Music (EDM) events from being held on government grounds since April when he was among a handful of Exhibition Place board members who voted against holding the dance parties at the government-owned buildings.

The resolution, which Mammoliti supported, did allow the events to be held at Muzik Nightclub, a private business on exhibition grounds.

City council eventually overturned the ban by a vote of 31 to four.

Councillor Gord Perks was not available to comment on this story Tuesday.

Councillor Mike Layton has not responded to a request for an interview but told reporters at city hall he would not “acknowledge [Mammoliti’s] statements.”

Boonstock overdose victim identified

PENTICTON, B.C. – A day before Lynn Tolocka collapsed from a suspected drug overdose at the Boonstock festival in Penticton, she posted her excitement about traveling to the Okanagan for the event on Facebook.

“Can’t wait til I’m there at boonstock,” is the comment at 10:21 a.m. July 31st to her Facebook post: “Peace out Calgary, always a slice. Now to beautiful BC mountains here we come.”

Her friend responds, “I know! You’ve only been talking about it forevvvvaa.”

Photos on her facebook page show Tolocka, a Leduc, Alberta resident, with friends later that day, costumed in hats in a photo title, “A lil rave with your rock”.

The last photo Lynn Tolocka posted on facebook, July 31st, before her death from a suspected drug overdose while attending Boonstock in Penticton.

facebook/ Global Okanagan

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  • WATCH: Boonstock reviews trickle in

    Leduc woman dies at Boonstock

Tributes now fill the pages since Tolocka’s last post as friends come to terms with the loss.

Family is arranging services for the 24-year-old woman for 1 p.m. Monday, August 11th at St. Michael’s church 5105-45A Street in Leduc.

Tolocka was to celebrate her 25th birthday August 3rd.

The Leduc woman is said to have collapsed in front of a stage at Boonstock Friday evening. When police attended Penticton Hospital, they found two other Boonstock revelers were in critical care from drug overdoses.

Interior Health reports 80 emergency room visits from Boonstock event goers during the three day event, most of them drug and alcohol related.

The B.C. Coroners Service continues to investigate Tolocka’s death.

NDP calls for urgent meeting of Commons committee on charity audits – National

OTTAWA – The New Democrats are pressing for an unusual summer meeting of a parliamentary committee to clear the air over the auditing of charities for their political activities.

New Democrat MP Murray Rankin, the party critic for national revenue, wants the finance committee to convene before Parliament resumes in six weeks, calling the matter urgent.

Rankin has written to James Rajotte, Conservative chair of the committee, saying there are too many allegations that the audits are being used to silence opponents of the Harper government.

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  • Canada Revenue Agency says ‘preventing poverty’ not allowed as goal for charity

  • Calls flooding into snitch line designed to catch Canadian tax evaders

READ MORE: CRA’s auditing of charities under scrutiny

Since the spring of 2012, the Canada Revenue Agency has launched 52 audits of charities for their political activities, after the government ordered the special probe and eventually provided some $13.4 million for the initiative.

The first wave of audits in 2012-2013 targeted environmental groups who have opposed the government’s energy and pipeline policies, but the initiative has since expanded to cover other groups who fight poverty, provide international aid and promote human rights.

Many of the groups say the audits have caused an “advocacy chill,” preventing them from speaking out for fear of aggravating the auditors and potentially losing their coveted charitable status.

©2014The Canadian Press

Federal Court approves class-action settlement for disabled Mounties

OTTAWA – The Federal Court has approved a multimillion-dollar class-action settlement for a group of disabled RCMP veterans whose disability payments were clawed back.

The case involved 1,056 Mounties whose long-term disability payments were reduced by the amount of their monthly disability benefits from the Veterans Affairs Department.

The estimated value of the settlement is $70 million. That includes $30.6 million in retroactive payments, $9.1 million in interest on those payments and $30.3 million in future benefits.

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READ MORE: Proposed disability settlement benefits current and future RCMP vets

The proposed agreement also means the reduction would end for all RCMP veterans now receiving benefits and Mounties who are medically released in the future.

The case was launched in 2008 by Gerard Buote, but was taken over by David White after Buote died from cancer the following year.

One of White’s lawyers said he was pleased with Tuesday’s decision.

READ MORE: RCMP stops plans for program to help officers with PTSD

“It ensures that the members of this class receive what they rightly deserve, and we are grateful to Gerry and David for their dedication to this cause,” Dan Wallace said in a statement.

The case was almost identical to one that a judge deemed harsh and unfair in a class-action lawsuit by military veterans, who were awarded a $887.8-million settlement after a former army sergeant took the government to court in 2007.

©2014The Canadian Press

Wednesday August 6th on The Morning News – Halifax

With BBQ season in full swing, here’s hoping your summer so far has been filled with more good food and few food borne illnesses. It’s a fact that approximately one in eight people will get sick every year in Canada from poor food handling and preparation techniques. At 6:45 we’ll chat with Darren Leyte of Health Canada about tips for storing, cleaning, and grilling raw meat in order to prevent illness.

At 7:15 gardening expert Niki Jabbour will give us a tour of her own personal garden and provide us with some tips on how to keep plants growing throughout the summer months.

It’s a collection that will make sports fans rush to Costco and buy in bulk! Ontario based @PHGsports has set up shop at Costco in Dartmouth Crossing with hundreds of signed jerseys, helmets, and other items from some of the biggest names in sports past and present for sale for the next couple weeks. At 7:45 we’ll meet the man behind the memorabilia, Todd Rewakowski, who promises to bring along a replica of The Stanley Cup for us to check out.

At 8:15 we’ll get an update from Tim Rissesco from the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission who will tell us all about free fitness classes and other highlights planned for the rest of the summer.

Dylan Guthro is in it to win it! The musician just released a hot summertime single with Halifax rapper Quake and will be hosting a secret series of shows over the next eight weeks. Catch up with him while you can- Wednesday at 8:45!

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Transport Safety Board’s Lac-Megantic report due in August

GATINEAU, Que. – The Transportation Safety Board of Canada will release its report on the deadly Lac-Megantic train derailment later this month.

The TSB says it will hold a news conference in the Quebec town on Aug. 19.

BY THE NUMBERS: Lac-Megantic rail disaster

A train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic on July 6, 2013, wiping out dozens of buildings and killing 47 people.

Three employees of the now-insolvent Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, the company at the centre of the disaster, have each been charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death, one for each victim of the crash.

The MMA itself is also facing the same charges.

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  • Lac-Megantic’s ‘train from hell’ goes on the auction block

  • 3 people, rail company face charges in Lac-Megantic railway disaster

  • Montrealers remember Lac-Megantic tragedy

  • Quebec gives more money to help Lac-Megantic

©2014The Canadian Press