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How an elite family’s decades-old secret sparked a reckoning about sexual abuse in France

A 30-year-old family secret has shaken the elite of France.

And it has nothing to do with the usual money scandals that rock the French establishment.

This is about alleged sexual abuse of a minor and the powerful people accused of staying silent.

The allegation, which was detailed in a bestselling book and is now under investigation by Paris prosecutors, involves an influential political scientist sexually abusing his teenage stepson.

A person holds the book La Familia Grande by Camille Kouchner in a Paris bookstore. The author is the stepdaughter of prominent French political expert Olivier Duhamel, whom she accuses of sexually abusing her twin brother during the late 1980s, when the siblings were teenagers. (Francois Mori/The Associated Press)

Investigators have yet to finish their work, but the case has already touched off a huge national debate on the extent of incest and sexual crimes in families, and the culture of silence that has helped to hide the problem.

The debate is so intense, French President Emmanuel Macron felt obliged to jump in on Jan. 23. He issued a video, telling victims, “We are there, we hear you, we believe you. You will never be alone.”  

He promised tougher laws on sexual crimes. The French parliament is already debating them.

Book reveals dark secret

This began, and stayed for years, a family story. But not just any family. Olivier Duhamel, 70, was a high-flyer in the tight French elite, not a politician in public view but an adviser, a political scientist and constitutional expert. And friend to French presidents.

When the scandal erupted, he was the president of the powerful Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, which runs one of France’s most influential universities, the Paris Institute of Political Studies.

He was also the president of Le Siècle, a club of France’s political and intellectual elite. For good measure, he appeared weekly on radio and television.

That carefully constructed world collapsed in early January with the publication of a book. It’s called La Familia Grande and is written by his stepdaughter, Camille Kouchner, 45. In it, she details the alleged sexual abuse of her twin brother, whom she calls Victor in the book to protect his privacy, by her stepfather, Olivier Duhamel, when Victor was 13 and 14.

Duhamel immediately resigned all his posts and went to ground. He admitted nothing, simply saying he had been the target of personal attacks.

Olivier Duhamel, second from right, used to be an influential political scientist in France, seen here in 2007 with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left. (Philippe Wojazer/Reuters)

Others also resigned, including a former justice minister, Elisabeth Guigou. She was a close friend of Duhamel and his family but, for the record, denied knowing of the allegations. Almost unbelievably, the post she resigned from was as chair of a government commission on incest.

According to Camille Kouchner, Duhamel’s family, and then others close to the family, had known for a dozen years of the alleged sexual abuse, but Victor had not wanted the facts to become public.

Her book unleashed a storm. The social media hashtag #MeTooInceste attracted thousands of testimonies from people saying they had been victims of incest. This reflected the shocking result of an opinion poll from Ipsos in November 2020 that surveyed a random sample of 1,033 French adults. In it, one in 10 people surveyed said they had been victims of incest. (In France, incest is defined more widely, and includes sexual abuse by a family member even if not related by blood.)

Change to the law

Camille Kouchner’s book has already had a print run of more than 300,000 copies. Two weeks after its publication, Victor was interviewed by French police. An investigation 10 years earlier had been dropped because the statute of limitations on incest and sexual aggression against minors was limited to 20 years. 

Two years ago, the statute of limitations was lengthened to 30 years from the age of majority of the minor. 

And, in response to the groundswell of outrage, Macron said, “We will go after the aggressors.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, wearing a protective face mask, has offered his support to victims of sexual abuse within families. (Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters)

On Jan. 26, Victor officially indicated that he considered his stepfather an aggressor. He made a criminal complaint against Olivier Duhamel.

Victor’s brother, Julien Kouchner, was quoted in the newspaper Le Parisien two days earlier saying, “In our circle, many people knew of the behaviour of my stepfather.” That circle was one of the highest in France. The father of Julien, Victor and Camille is Bernard Kouchner, a former French foreign minister and co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). His second wife is Christine Ockrent, a famous television anchor and journalist. 

According to Camille and Julien, Kouchner and Ockrent were horrified when Victor told them of Duhamel’s behaviour in 2008, but Victor didn’t want it made public because his mother, Evelyne Pisier, was still with Duhamel and refused to accept he had raped her son. But Kouchner and Ockrent allegedly told friends.

Bernard Kouchner, former foreign minister of France, is seen during the 2018 Iran Uprising Summit in Manhattan, New York. (Amr Alfiky/Reuters)

Julien told Le Parisien: “Our world then divided into two, those who distanced themselves or even broke with [Duhamel], and others who stayed with him because of disbelief or opportunism…. But I’ve since discovered a third category, that of the accomplices who said things were only rumours which they knew to be exact facts.”

For 12 years, Olivier Duhamel carried on untouched. He lost none of his positions or clout.

Only after Evelyne Pisier died in 2017 did Camille, with Victor’s permission and support, decide to write about what happened.

Social reckoning 

The detonation has been huge, but there was another bomb a year earlier. It, too, took the form of a book, this one called Le Consentement (Consent). The author, Vanessa Springora, told of being sexually pursued and possessed at age 14 in the 1980s by a man more than 30 years older. 

The man was Gabriel Matzneff, 84, a successful author whose works detailed the pursuit and conquest of teenage girls and boys. He was rewarded with editing jobs at a big publishing house and major French literary prizes.

The book Le Consentement by Vanessa Springora is displayed in a bookstore outside Paris. The literary editor alleges that she had a destructive underage sexual relationship with French author Gabriel Matzneff, now in his eighties. (Christophe Ena/The Associated Press)

Springora’s book, which sold more than 200,000 copies, brought about an abrupt change. Matzneff was stripped of his positions and charged with justifying aggravated rape.

He expressed “regret” for his sexual activities, but, in an interview with the New York Times in February 2020, seemed unrepentant. “Even the silly things I might have done in those euphoric days of freedom, I wasn’t the only one. What hypocrisy.”

“Those days of freedom” refers to the years after what in France are called “the events of 1968.” France was brought to a halt in May 1968 by massive strikes. The call was for revolution, and for sexual freedom in particular. 

For many elites in France, the 1970s and ’80s became an era of open marriages and open sex. The mother of Victor, Evelyne Pisier, after she divorced Bernard Kouchner, embraced this ethos with several lovers, including, for four years in the early ’80s, Fidel Castro, Cuba’s president.

Then she met and married Olivier Duhamel. Even when Victor told her of her husband’s behaviour, she refused to believe it, her children say.

There is now a sad reckoning in France.

“How do you resist the call of the flesh, liberated from all restraints? How do you say no when imposed sexuality is labelled as emancipation?” Malka Marcovich says in her book L’Autre Héritage de 1968: La Face Cachée de la Révolution Sexuelle (The Other Heritage of 1968: The Hidden Face of the Sexual Revolution), published in 2018. “So people, male and female, who were dragged into a premature sexuality, now seen as violent, preferred to keep quiet.”

Emmanuel Pierrat, lawyer of French writer Gabriel Matzneff, leaves Paris’s courthouse on Feb. 12, 2020. The legal woes of the once-celebrated writer, Matzneff, are mounting. (Michel Euler/The Associated Press)

Matzneff pushed the “call of the flesh” even further, drawing up an open letter in 1977 calling for sex with minors under 15 to be decriminalized. Sixty-nine French intellectuals including Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre signed. So did two future cabinet ministers. One of them was Bernard Kouchner, Victor’s father. 

After Springora’s book was published, Kouchner recanted in an interview with the French magazine Le Point in January 2020. “That was idiocy. I didn’t even read it. A friend said I should sign it.”

And in an interview with Le Nouvel Obs, a French magazine, on Jan. 17, author Camille Kouchner offered a harsh verdict on that time, a verdict that, along with her stepfather, finds her mother guilty.

“Liberty, women, the couple, joyous infidelity, intelligent modernity — I was brought up with these ideas. My mother more or less abandoned us. This book let me release my pent-up anger against her, and to love her. I don’t try to excuse her.”

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CBC | World News

FIFA bans Haitian soccer president for life for sexual abuse

Haitian soccer federation president Yves Jean-Bart was banned from the sport for life on Friday following accusations of systematic sexual abuse of female players.

The FIFA ethics committee found Jean-Bart guilty of “having abused his position and sexually harassed and abused various female players, including minors” from 2014 until this year.

He was also fined $ 1.1 million US.

Jean-Bart has denied the allegations, which involve national team players. The accusations were first revealed by British newspaper The Guardian in April.

An appeal will be filed at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, a spokesman for Jean-Bart said in a statement.

“FIFA’s decision is a travesty of justice and purely political move to avoid further controversy and bad press following a series of high-profile scandals,” spokesman Evan Nierman said.

Incidents allegedly took place at ‘The Ranch’

The abuse is said to have happened at the country’s national training centre at Croix-des-Bouquets, which FIFA helped fund. It was known as “The Ranch.”

As the head of Haitian soccer since 2000, Jean-Bart “wielded huge power and has high-level connections into the government, political, and legal systems,” Human Rights Watch said.

Haitian state authorities have been urged by the advocacy group to investigate the allegations and protect the players, who also said they were intimidated and threatened.

“This is not a case of one bad apple,” Human Rights Watch global initiatives director Minky Worden said ahead of the FIFA verdict. “Athletes have testified that many other officials in the Haitian Football Federation — officials responsible for their safety — either participated in sexual abuse or knew and turned a blind eye.”

3 others suspended 

Three more Haitian federation officials have been suspended from work while FIFA investigators gather evidence, technical director Wilner Etienne, national centre girls’ supervisor Nela Joseph, and assistant coach Yvette Felix.

Federation officials are accused of being “principals, accomplices or instigators” in the systematic abuse, FIFA said Friday.

Jean-Bart had been “actually investigated and cleared” by the judicial system in Haiti, his spokesman said.

“FIFA failed to review actual evidence which is why Dr. Jean-Bart expects to be fully exonerated and reinstated after appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” Nierman said.

Since the allegations were revealed, FIFA has pledged to work on safeguarding players in an agreement with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

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CBC | Soccer News

Vatican urges bishops to report more sex abuse allegations to police in new manual

The Vatican told bishops around the world on Thursday they should report cases of clergy sex crimes to police even when not legally bound to do so, in its latest effort to compel church leaders to protect minors from predator priests.

The Vatican issued a long-awaited manual for bishops and religious superiors on conducting in-house investigations into allegations of priests who rape and molest minors and vulnerable adults. While the Vatican has had detailed canonical norms in place for two decades, the laws have been ignored by some bishops who dismiss allegations by victims in favour of protecting their priests.

While the manual doesn’t have the force of a new law, it goes beyond the current Vatican policy about co-operating with law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and police. That policy requires bishops and religious superiors to report allegations of sex crimes with minors only where local laws requires it.

The manual says: “Even in cases where there is no explicit legal obligation to do so, the ecclesiastical authorities should make a report to the competent civil authorities if this is considered necessary to protect the person involved or other minors from the danger of further criminal acts.”

And it says church leaders must comply with “legitimate” subpoena requests.

The manual, issued in a half-dozen languages, appears aimed in part at depriving bishops and religious superiors of their frequent excuses not to carry out preliminary investigations into accused priests or co-operate with law enforcement.

The manual states, for example, that anonymous allegations should not be dismissed outright, and that even hearsay and social media posts can constitute the basis on which to launch a preliminary probe.

In addition, the manual says bishops should not ignore allegations just because they fall outside the church’s statute of limitations, since the Vatican can at any time decide to waive the time limit.

The only justification for dismissing an allegation outright, the manual says, is if the bishop determines the “manifest impossibility of proceeding,” such as if the accuser wasn’t under age 18 at the time or the priest wasn’t physically present when the alleged crimes took place.

A banner reading ‘stop excuses’ carried by sex abuse survivors is shown at a Rome demonstration in February 2019, when Pope Francis hosted a four-day summit on preventing clergy sexual abuse. (Alessandra Tarantino/The Associated Press)

For any bishop not knowing, it makes clear that the type of crimes that fall under sexual abuse is “quite broad” and includes not only sexual relations but any physical contact for sexual gratification.

The manual lists exhibitionism, masturbation, pornography production and “conversations and/or propositions of a sexual nature” that can occur through a variety of means of communication as crimes that must be investigated.

And it warns that bishops can themselves be prosecuted canonically for negligence if they fail to take allegations seriously and investigate them.

Documents follows abuse summit last year

The manual was published by the Vatican office that investigates priestly sex crimes, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and was issued in Italian, French, English, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish, with a German edition expected.

Its origins lie in Pope Francis’s 2019 sex abuse summit, in which the presidents of all the world’s bishops conferences came to the Vatican for a four-day tutorial on abuse.

Francis summoned them after he himself botched a notorious case of abuse and coverup in Chile, and after he realized that many bishops around the world still didn’t understand or take seriously the depth of the abuse problem in the church.

On the first day of the summit, Francis issued 21 points of reflection going forward, with the first point a recommendation that the Vatican issue a handbook to help bishops investigate and prosecute sex crimes.

While the Vatican has issued a variety of abuse-related documents over the years, the new manual provides point-by-point instruction on how to conduct investigations, from start to finish.

The No. 2 at the Vatican office responsible, Monsignor Giacomo Morandi, acknowledged that no new norms are being promulgated.

“The real novelty, however, is that for the first time the procedure is described in an organized way — from the first report of a possible crime to the definitive conclusion of the cause,” he told Vatican Media.

The Vatican has long refused to flat-out require bishops to report abuse allegations to police, arguing that such a universal law could lead to unjust treatment of priests in countries where Catholics are a persecuted minority.

Survivors and advocates have long blasted the position, arguing that the Vatican could make a universal reporting mandate with certain exceptions if needed.

READ l Procedure in treating cases of sexual abuse of minors committed by clerics:

Anne Barrett Doyle, co-founder of bishop-accountability.org, an online resource centre about abuse, said the manual’s non-binding recommendation that bishops should report abuse was “incrementally better” than the Vatican’s past position.

But she stressed: “We’re past the point of ‘should.’ There is nothing stopping the pope from ordering bishops and religious superiors [to report] all allegations to civil authorities,” with exceptions where it’s not safe.

And she insisted that real progress would come when the Vatican institutes a true “zero tolerance” policy, permanently removing from public ministry any cleric who abuses and any bishop who enables him.

“That will be progress. That will be the reform that is needed,” she said.

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CBC | World News

Former U.S. federal judge calls government move to dismiss Flynn case an ‘abuse of power’

A former federal judge appointed to review the U.S. Justice Department’s motion to dismiss criminal charges against President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn said there was evidence of a “gross abuse” of prosecutorial power and that the request should be denied.

Former U.S. district judge John Gleeson said in a filing Wednesday that the government “has engaged in highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the president.” He urged the judge handling the case to deny the motion and argued that Flynn had committed perjury.

Gleeson was appointed by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in a special role to weigh in on the case, but it will ultimately be up to Sullivan and potentially an appeals court whether to accept the Justice Department’s motion to drop the case.

Flynn pleaded guilty, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the presidential transition period.

In January, Flynn filed court papers to withdraw his guilty plea, saying federal prosecutors had acted in “bad faith” and broken their end of the bargain when they sought prison time for him.

Initially, prosecutors said Flynn was entitled to avoid prison time because he had co-operated extensively with the government, but the relationship with the retired army lieutenant-general grew increasingly contentious in the months before he withdrew his plea, particularly after he hired a new set of lawyers who raised misconduct allegations against the government.

But the Justice Department filed a motion last month to dismiss the case, saying the FBI had insufficient basis to question Flynn in the first place and that statements he made during the interview were not material to the broader counterintelligence investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

‘Riddled’ with legal errors

Officials have said they sought to dismiss the case in the interest of justice, upon the recommendation of a U.S. attorney who had been appointed by Attorney General William Barr to review the handling of the Flynn investigation.

Gleeson slammed the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss the case, saying the arguments from prosecutors were “riddled” with legal errors.

“The government’s ostensible grounds for seeking dismissal are conclusively disproven by its own briefs filed earlier in this very proceeding,” Gleeson wrote. “They contradict and ignore this court’s prior orders, which constitute law of the case. They are riddled with inexplicable and elementary errors of law and fact. And they depart from positions that the government has taken in other cases.”

Sullivan also asked Gleeson to explore whether he should hold Flynn in “criminal contempt for perjury.”

As part of his plea, Flynn had to admit in court, under oath, that he lied to the FBI and violated federal law. It is a crime to lie under oath in court.

Clear Flynn committed perjury: former judge

In the filing, Gleeson said it was clear that Flynn had committed perjury and should be punished, but that it should be a factor considered at his sentencing, as opposed to additional charges being brought against him.

“This approach — rather than a separate prosecution for perjury or contempt — aligns with the court’s intent to treat this case, and this defendant, in the same way it would any other,” Gleeson wrote.

Gleeson was a federal judge in New York for more than two decades. Before becoming a judge, he had been a federal prosecutor and handled numerous high-profile cases, including the case against late Gambino crime family boss John Gotti. He’s been in private practice since 2016.

A federal appeals court is set to hear arguments Friday about Sullivan’s refusal to immediately dismiss the case. Flynn’s attorneys have asked the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to step in and force Sullivan to end to the case. They have also accused the judge of being biased, arguing he overstepped his authority when he did not immediately grant the Justice Department’s request to dismiss the case.

Sullivan has separately scheduled arguments on the dismissal motion for July 16.

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CBC | World News

Exploitation, abuse, health hazards rise for migrant workers during COVID-19, group says

A group representing migrant workers in Canada is demanding better protections after two men died from COVID-19, hundreds more have been infected and complaints mount over dangerous work and housing conditions.

A new report paints a grim snapshot of workers who fear for their health and livelihoods after arriving in Canada to perform work the federal government has described as vital to the country’s food supply.

The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change heard complaints from more than a thousand workers on a variety of issues, including a lack of access to protective equipment, crowded conditions that don’t allow physical distancing, poor access to proper food during quarantine and unfair gouging on wages and meal costs.

The group’s executive director, Syed Hussan, said dismal housing and working conditions have been reported for years, but during the pandemic, they’re even more dangerous.

“Two workers are already dead, hundreds are sick, at least two are in ICU. And we don’t know what tomorrow will bring,” he told CBC News.

Hussan said most migrant workers don’t report conditions out of fear of reprisal, or because they don’t have the ability to do so. They want the federal government to give them permanent resident status so they can assert their right to a safe workplace.

“If you leave a job right now, or you refuse unsafe work, you face termination, homelessness, deportation and you can’t come back in the future. Permanent residence status takes away those limitations on you so you can keep yourself safe,” Hussan said.

$ 50M to help cover costs

Each year about 60,000 foreign workers come to Canada.

In April, the federal government announced $ 50 million to help farmers and fish processors who are bringing in temporary foreign workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

Under that program, employers are eligible for up to $ 1,500 per foreign worker to help cover the costs of complying with a mandatory two-week quarantine upon their arrival in Canada.

Employers must provide accommodation for the employees during the self-isolation period and pay the workers during the 14-day period.

At the time, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the funds were to help employers carry out the “vital” work of feeding the nation while protecting the health and safety of Canadians.

“The men and women who work in our food supply chain are essential to ensuring Canadians have access to a variety of high quality food at a reasonable price. In many regions in the country the production of food, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, relies on the contribution of experienced temporary foreign workers right from planting season to harvest,” she said at the time.

A spokesperson for Agriculture Canada said If an employer is found to not have been compliant with requirements under the Quarantine Act or the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, they would no longer be eligible for the $ 1,500. If they have already received reimbursement, they are required to repay the funding.

‘Crisis from within a crisis’

The alliance will officially release its report, called “Unheeded Warnings: COVID-19 and Migrant Workers,” at a noon ET news conference today with foreign workers speaking out about their experiences.

Calling the heightened dangers “a crisis from within a crisis,” the report calls for immediate action to address the “fundamental discrimination and exploitation built into Canada’s temporary immigration programs.” 

“Until then, there will always be more abuses to expose, indignities to denounce and demands for change to be made,” it reads. 

The report says the workload for many foreign hires has intensified during COVID-19, and that some employers are forcing workers to go at “breakneck speed.”

“As fewer workers are coming in, or workers’ arrivals are delayed, migrant workers already here have seen dramatic work intensification: 128 workers reported working for weeks without a day off, being forced to work long hours, and suffering increased strains, injuries and sickness due to increased pace of work,” the report says.

As employment and labour laws often exclude migrant workers, there are no rights to minimum wage, overtime pay, hours of work, breaks, days off, or collective bargaining, the report states.

Farms are ‘rigorously’ inspected

Bill George, chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association, said he is not aware of any unsafe conditions or inappropriate pay issues described in the report. He said bunkhouses are “rigorously” inspected twice a year by local health units and are also subject to inspections by provincial and federal authorities.

“If there were problems, I’m sure they were corrected. But I haven’t seen, to my knowledge, any fines being levied against any grower for violating the new rules as far as housing is concerned.”

George said during the pandemic, challenges are not limited to foreign workers.

“It’s not just the migrant workers. It’s any workplace in Ontario that’s going to have challenges with outbreaks going forward this year until we have a vaccine. I think it’s just important that the employer as well as employees follow the best safety protocols in place and limit the spread of COVID-19.”

Workers cited in the report also alleged increased acts of racism from employers, local shops and some community members who treated them like they were “disease carriers.”

The report says 209 migrant workers reported increased intimidation, surveillance and threats from employers, “often under the guise of COVID-19 protocols.”

Reports of anti-Black racism

The report also noted a higher number of complaints from Caribbean workers, who are mostly Black men.

“Racism, and specifically anti-Black racism, underpins workers’ experience,” the report states.

Other complaints outlined in the report include:

  • Workers who could not physically distance during the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Canada.
  • Lack of access to health care and information.
  • Unfair wage and meal cost clawbacks.
  • Crowded housing conditions after quarantine without essential sanitization.
  • Lost income becaue of border closures and extended travel times.
  • Lack of ability to send remittances (payments) to family at home.

CBC News has not verified the complaints in the report.

NDP MP Jenny Kwan says the government must do more to protect foreign workers.

“We say we value them and we need them for our economy, and yes we do. But we also need to ensure that we follow on that when they come to Canada. They should be able to return home safe and sound,” she said.

NDP calls for pathway to residency

Kwan said the federal government must also offer a pathway to permanent resident status under the principle of “good enough to work, good enough to stay.”

Kwan also said the government needs to step up enforcement to make sure employers are treating workers safely and humanely.

Service Canada can carry out inspections, with or without notice, to verify and employer’s compliance with the program, including within the first 14 days of the temporary foreign worker’s arrival.

Between March 1 and May 29, there were 585 inspections, according to a spokesperson for Carla Qualtrough, the minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion.

Penalties for not complying with the new conditions include fines of up to a $ 1 million and bans on hiring foreign workers up to a permanent ban.

The government has not yet responded to a request for information on what penalties, if any, have been imposed to date.

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CBC | Health News

Military alleges horrific conditions, abuse in pandemic-hit Ontario nursing homes

The Canadian military has drawn the curtain back on horrific allegations of elder abuse in five Ontario long-term care homes, with precise, graphic reports of residents being bullied, drugged, improperly fed and in some cases left for hours and days in soiled bedding.

Within the military’s shocking catalogue of abuse, neglect and cruelty is an accusation that delinquent care led to the death of a resident.

Soldiers were called into the facilities as part of an effort to backstop the provincial system, which has been overwhelmed by novel coronavirus cases.

What they found has been recorded in assessments of each of the homes — in Pickering, Scarborough, Etobicoke, North York and Brampton — and presented in a report to the Ontario government.

“It’s gut-wrenching,” said a grim-faced Premier Doug Ford Tuesday. “Reading this report is the hardest thing I have done as premier.”

According to the report, conditions in two of the seniors homes — Orchard Villa in Pickering and Eatonville Care Centre in Etobicoke — appeared to be nothing short of horrid and inhumane as ill-trained, burned-out and, in some cases, neglectful staff coped with the growing care needs of elderly residents.

It was in Orchard Villa that troops observed the choking death of one senior, who was lying down while being fed.

“Staff were unable to dislodge food or revive the resident,” said the report, which went on to conclude that the practice of not having patients sit up “appeared to have contributed” to the patient’s death.

In the same centre, according to the report, troops had to send a senior to hospital after the resident fractured a hip and was not cared for by staff. Other patients were “left in beds soiled, in diapers, rather than being ambulated to the toilets.”

‘Cockroaches and flies present’

“Cockroaches and flies present,” one assessment said. “Rotten food smell noted in the hallway outside. CAF members found multiple old food trays stacked inside the bed table.”

Staff members were overwhelmed and burned out, the report said.

“Respecting the dignity of patients is not always a priority,” it said. 

The report details conditions at five facilities where troops have been helping out:

  • Orchard Villa in Pickering.
  • Altamont Care Community in Scarborough.
  • Eatonville in Etobicoke.
  • Hawthorne Place in North York.
  • Holland Christian Homes Grace Manor in Brampton.

At the Eatonville Care Centre, soldiers reported “witnessing aggressive behaviour” by staff — reports that prompted an investigation by facility management.

It was there that troops also reported seeing the drugging of patients whom staff claimed were “difficult or agitated.”

“But when you talk to them they just say they’re ‘scared and feeling alone like they’re in jail’ — no agitation or sedation required,” the report said.

At the Altamont Care Community in Scarborough, said the report, residents faced “inadequate nutrition” because most of them were not getting three meals a day — and when they did, “underfeeding was reported.”

It was also there that a “non-verbal resident wrote a disturbing letter alleging neglect and abuse” by a personal support worker. The letter was given to the military medic by the senior and the allegations were reported to the facility’s management.

PM calls findings ‘deeply disturbing’

Several of the assessments noted unsafe conditions that could help spread COVID-19, including instances where patients who had tested positive for the virus “were allowed to wander” and staff members left with inadequate personal protective equipment.

In his daily media briefing today, the prime minister said he was aware of the assessments and was saddened, shocked, disappointed and angered by what he’d heard.

“It is deeply disturbing,” Justin Trudeau said.

The allegations were first reported in an online story Tuesday morning by Global News.

The military compiles daily situation reports on the deployment and the allegations first surfaced in those assessments in early May, within two weeks of troops beginning the deployment.

Watch: Ontario premier calls military report on long-term care homes ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘gut-wrenching’

Doug Ford promises accountability and justice after the report describes ‘extremely troubling’ conditions in the homes. 1:26

Troops are obliged to report cases of abuse and mistreatment to the military chain of command or, if they are a nurse or a doctor, to their own health certification bodies.

The overall assessment, dated May 14, was compiled by the commander of the 4th Canadian Division, Brig.-Gen. Conrad Mialkowski, and forwarded on to National Defence Headquarters.

It did not arrive on Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s desk until a week later later, at which point other federal ministers were notified.

The Ontario government wasn’t formally notified until Sunday and the premier said he learned about the situation Monday night.

The report notes that the military’s concerns were raised with the management of each of the homes in “collegial manner” in a series of teleconferences, starting on May 4.

In the House of Commons today, the Conservatives accused the Liberal government of foot-dragging. The federal NDP, meanwhile, called for a thorough investigation of every allegation “and criminal charges where appropriate.”

‘Anger, sadness, frustration’

The Department of National Defence refused to comment, saying that the Ontario government is responsible for the institutions.

“On reading the deeply disturbing report, I had obviously a range of emotions of anger, of sadness, of frustration, of grief,” Trudeau said. “It is extremely troubling, and as I’ve said from the very beginning of this, we need to do a better job of supporting our seniors in long-term care right across the country, through this pandemic and beyond.”

Watch: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on ‘deeply disturbing’ reports out of long-term care homes

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with reporters including the CBC’s Tom Parry on Tuesday. 3:02

Trudeau said the report underscores the need to improve standards of care for seniors in long-term care homes across the country, and said the federal government will support the provinces’ efforts to do that going forward. Long-term care falls under provincial jurisdiction.

“We need to do a better job of caring for the people who built this country,” Trudeau said. “The greatest generation saw us through World War Two. We need to be there to support them properly through this global crisis.” 

Over 1,675 troops have been brought in to backstop five long-term care homes in Ontario and a further 25 in Quebec. Their duties include helping residents with day-to-day needs, cleaning the facilities and meal distribution.

It is unclear whether similar abuse allegations have been levelled at long-term care facilities in Quebec. The federal Public Safety department has said a similar assessment is being prepared for that much larger operation.

Class action suit filed against Pickering home

Trudeau said Ontario and Quebec have asked that the deployment of troops in long-term care homes be extended until the end of June.

A Department of National Defence slide deck presentation, released along with the assessments, shows the Ontario government has a total of 27 seniors homes “critically affected” by the pandemic and provincial authorities want the military to move to different facilities as existing ones are stabilized.

A class action lawsuit was filed on Monday against the Orchard Villa, alleging the spread of COVID-19 in the home was “a needless tragedy which has now caused 77 deaths and over 200 infections of residents.”

A copy of the statement of claim was obtained by CBC News. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

“Orchard Villa was not prepared for the outbreak of COVID-19 and did not have adequate policies and procedures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said lawyer Gary Will, who filed the class action suit.

“The results of this incompetence were devastating to the residents of Orchard Villa.”

Sylvia Lyon, of Pickering, Ont., lost her mother Ursula Drehlich, a resident of the home, on April 23 and will act as the lead plaintiff in the case.

The suit alleges Orchard Villa continued to allow residents to sit together for meals after the Ontario government had issued strict guidelines on physical distancing in late March.

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Health workers say Sask. system failing to protect elders, vulnerable adults from neglect and abuse

A Saskatchewan patient — unable to care for themselves due to cognitive impairment — was kicked and punched down the stairs at home. Another was left on the floor for several days with no food or medication. 

These are real situations described by Saskatchewan health care workers who say they are powerless to help when legal caregivers are abusing or neglecting people with intellectual disabilities.

“People in the community would be highly shocked,” said Dr. Lilian Thorpe, a geriatric psychiatrist in Saskatoon. 

“Abuse is the far end … the more common thing is more neglect and a care provider just not being able to respond.”

Dr. Thorpe said that although a legal avenue exists for authorities to intervene, those steps are not necessarily being taken. 

‘Terrible situations’ 

In 2018 a Joint Ethics Committee for the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) called for better legislated protections for vulnerable adults, such as people with cognitive impairment from brain injury, intellectual impairment and conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease.

Under the current system, an individual can appoint a “proxy” person to make healthcare decisions on their behalf when they can no longer do so themselves. If a proxy has not been appointed, that responsibility will lie with a next of kin. 

But Dr. Thorpe said that when health care workers see that person making decisions that lead to perceived harm, neglect or abuse, there is no effective mechanism for a public body to take over guardianship of the patient.

“It’s really traumatizing for staff because the staff … there would be social workers and nurses that are seeing somebody coming in and out in really, really terrible situations and they are stuck,” said Dr. Thorpe. 

Dr. Lilian Thorpe says better protections are becoming increasingly important as more vulnerable people are living at home rather than in care. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

The 2018 report said several incidents of this nature occurred every year. 

“It’s easy to blame the care provider, the family member, but often those people are in really difficult situations themselves so they might have addictions or mental health issues of their own,” said Dr. Thorpe. 

“They’re trying to do the right thing but they eventually may lose it and do something that’s not in that person’s interest.” 

The SHA said the report was a working document. 

“This report has not been presented to [SHA] leadership for discussion yet nor have its recommendations been endorsed by SHA. Once SHA leadership has a chance to review the report, a decision will be made whether to pursue its recommendation.”

Other provinces, such as Ontario, have independent boards set up to consider complaints about family members caring for vulnerable patients. The board in Ontario has the authority to hold hearings to review a substitute decision maker’s compliance with the rules. 

Dr. Thorpe said Saskatchewan needs a similar system with an independent board — a system purpose-built to handle these types of situations. 

The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee in Saskatchewan said any interested party, including the Public Trustee, can apply to the Court of Queen’s Bench for a new decision maker to be appointed for the patient. 

They can’t protect themselves, they don’t recognize they are being abused, they can’t get away from it.– Elliot Paus-Jensen, Saskatoon Council on Aging

CBC requested an interview with the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) but received a written statement. 

“Typically, another family member or the health authority are in the best position to bring such a Court application as they have the necessary medical information and/or knowledge of the person’s wishes,” said the statement.

“The Public Guardian and Trustee could also bring such an application under Section 22 of the Act and may request to be appointed as personal guardian under The Adult Guardianship and Co-decision-making Act with authority to make the health care decision.”

Dr. Thorpe said PGT staff told her that although they would like to assist, they do not have the resources to handle non-financial cases. 

She said SHA is reluctant to take these matters to court because the process can take years.

“Then if one was to override it, who then looks after that person?” said Dr. Thorpe. 

Saskatchewan legislation does allow two health care workers to take over guardianship in cases where there is no next of kin.  

Dr. Thorpe said the need for change is becoming more urgent as more people receive care at home rather than in facilities. 

She pointed to the closure of the Valley View Centre for people with intellectual disabilities in Moose Jaw, Sask. The province said 36 new group homes were opened to house former residents of the home. 

Dr. Thorpe said an increasing number of people are choosing not to have children, adding that dealing with these situations can be more complicated in rural areas.

The 2018 report recommends a new system to facilitate further evaluation of complaints and advocacy for changes to the legislation. 

Dr. Lilian Thorpe says the system is failing to protect vulnerable adults in Saskatchewan. (Matthew Garand/CBC News)

Dr. Thorpe said a change in the Saskatchewan legislation should coincide with the creation of an independent board to consider complaints and decide if intervention is really needed. 

“The decisions are difficult because oftentimes a person has been living in a difficult situation but may choose to go back there,” said Dr. Thorpe. 

“So where do we balance their safety versus their autonomy?”

Elliot Paus-Jensen, a former geriatric social worker and a volunteer for the Saskatoon Council on Aging, was part of an elder abuse task force formed in 2005. She said the PGT told her office at the time they did not have the resources to take action in non-financial cases.

Paus-Jensen said she personally witnessed a case of elder neglect. A mother who had been looking after her son, who suffered a brain injury, became unable to care for herself when she developed dementia.

The son in turn became the mother’s carer. 

“He would give her his [benzodiazepines] and he didn’t understand — it calmed him down, why wouldn’t it calm her down?” Paus-Jensen said.

“He did other things that really put her at risk and she at one point almost died.”

Fortunately the woman had a medical assessment and health workers were able to intervene.

Incidents not being tracked

Paus-Jensen said there is no way of knowing how many cases of abuse or neglect are occurring under these circumstances because it is not being tracked. 

“One of the big things in abuse is isolation, physical isolation, social isolation,” she said.

“So we don’t know that it’s happening and it’s only found out if somebody is in really bad shape and they end up in emergency or somehow come to the attention of someone.”

Paus-Jensen pointed to the case of New Brunswick woman Kathleen Grant, whose 45-year-old daughter was convicted of failing without lawful excuse to provide the necessaries of life.

Kathleen, who was in her daughter’s care, died days after she was found with gangrene and rotting flesh and wounds from sitting in a chair in urine and feces for what could have been months. She was only found after her daughter called 911 saying her mother was not feeling well.

Paus-Jensen said she has no doubt there are people in Saskatchewan who are currently being abused or neglected by their carer.

Elliot Paus-Jensen is a former social worker in geriatrics and a volunteer for the Saskatoon Council on Aging. (Alicia Bridges/CBC)

The province has introduced new measures to protect vulnerable adults in recent years, Paus-Jensen said.

In 2013, the Health Care Directives and Substitute Health Care Decision Makers Amendment Act allowed caregivers to make decisions on specific day-to-day treatments on behalf of patients who can’t. 

In 2019, the Saskatchewan government made amendments to The Marriage Act to nullify marriages where one person was deemed to not have the capacity to consent to the nuptials.

Paus-Jensen said better protections for vulnerable adults should be the next step.

“They can’t protect themselves, they don’t recognize they are being abused, they can’t get away from it,” she said. 

“They need third parties to say, ‘hey, you were pushed down the stairs because of your injuries … it’s not right, you’ve got bed sores galore.'”

In the meantime, Dr. Thorpe said she is finding ways to assist as best she can. She said getting the PGT to take over financial control — in cases where that is appropriate — is one way of getting better access to help the vulnerable person. She said a family member who has been relying on that money for income will often back off once that happens.

“Then we’re able to deal with that person, have that person placed appropriately now,” she said.

“That’s better than nothing, but it still means there’s nobody overseeing the health care of that person.”

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GOG Launches Expansive New Refund Policy, Asks Customers Not to Abuse It

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Up until the launch of the Epic Game Store, there was only one real competitor to Steam: GOG. The digital distribution platform (formerly Good Old Games) began life as a shop for older titles explicitly shipped without DRM. The platform no longer focuses strictly on making older titles available, but the DRM rule has never changed.

GOG has just announced a new refund policy that’s strikingly more generous than anything else on the market, and they’ve taken a rather novel approach to enforcement. Starting today, GOG will allow you to refund any game you’ve played within 30 days. Given that all GOG games are DRM-free, this is an obvious risk — there’s nothing intrinsically stopping someone from buying a game and then returning it after either beating it or playing it through to completion.


GoG’s current bestseller list.

According to GOG’s new FAQ, it’s dealing with this risk in two ways. First, the company is going to monitor individual accounts to make sure nobody tries to use the policy to rip developers off en masse. Second, it’s basically asking users not to. The page notes that “We reserve the right to refuse refunds in individual cases,” adding:

Please respect all the time and hard work put into making the games you play and remember that refunds are not reviews. If you finished the game and didn’t like it, please consider sharing your opinion instead. Also, please don’t take advantage of our trust by asking for an unreasonable amount of games to be refunded. Don’t be that person. No one likes that person.

I have no idea if an approach like this will matter. I like to think it could, even if GOG has to crack down on a lot of “individual cases” to get things to that point. GOG’s new policy is markedly more generous than anything Steam offers — Valve restricts refunds to two hours of playtime over a 14-day period. GOG has no playtime restriction at all and pushes that window out to 30 days, which is nice if you sometimes buy titles on sale but don’t necessarily start them immediately. (Epic matches Steam’s return policy, so the two are identical in that way).

One of the reasons users hate DRM is that they hate being treated like thieves for being willing to buy a product, while those who are willing to steal and crack it face no such restriction. GOG is basically taking a bet that this is a viable business strategy and offering gamers a chance to put their money where their mouth is and not be “that person.” We’ll have to wait for data on how well the strategy works, but it’s good to see a company actually willing to test it.

The only real restriction in GOG’s policy is if you give a game as a gift to someone else. If the person you gift a game to wishes to request a refund, the refund has to be initiated by the buyer, not the recipient. As anyone who has tried to return software in the past 30 years or so can tell you, that’s not a particularly high bar to clear.

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Fired Dallas Stars coach Jim Montgomery in rehab for alcohol abuse

Former Dallas Stars head coach Jim Montgomery said Friday he is receiving professional help for alcohol abuse in the wake of his abrupt firing last month.

In a statement, Montgomery revealed no details about what led to his dismissal on Dec. 10, but said it was the “appropriate call.” He said he has admitted himself to a rehab program.

“The team’s decision to end my role forced me to look into the mirror and decide whether I wanted to continue living a damaging lifestyle or get help. I decided to get help,” Montgomery, 50, said in the statement.

Montgomery, in his second year as the Stars head coach, was fired for what Dallas general manager Jim Nill described as “unprofessional conduct” after an unspecified incident. Nill said it was not a criminal act, and had no connection to present or past players.

After Montgomery released his statement, Nill told that the Dallas Morning News that the organization is “supportive of this decision by Jim.”

“We hope that by pursuing this help, he and his family will be stronger for it,” Nill told the newspaper.

Assistant coach Rick Bowness, who was brought aboard a month after Montgomery’s hiring, was named interim coach.

Montgomery had about a year and a half left on a four-year, $ 6.4-million US contract. He guided the Stars to their first Stanley Cup playoff berth in three seasons last spring, and watched the team lose Game 7 of a second-round series to the eventual Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

Before his hiring in Dallas, Montgomery was 125-57-26 the previous five seasons at the University of Denver, including a national title in 2016-17. As a player, he was part of a national championship at Maine in 1993.

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Racial abuse overshadows Chelsea’s London Derby win over Tottenham

FIFA’s protocol for dealing with discrimination at soccer games was implemented for the first time in the Premier League on Sunday with three stadium announcements during a London derby between Tottenham and Chelsea, following apparent racist abuse toward Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger.

The announcements came in the second half, after Rudiger was kicked in the chest by Son Heung-min in an incident that led to the 62nd-minute sending-off of Tottenham’s South Korea forward.

Rudiger, who is black, was seen putting his hands under his armpits – seemingly mimicking a monkey gesture – in the 63rd minute.

The third announcement came in injury time, by which stage – according to FIFA protocol – the game should have been abandoned.

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta said Rudiger had told him he heard “monkey noises” toward him in the crowd, and therefore reported it to referee Anthony Taylor.

Racial abuse overshadows win

“We are very concerned and aware of this behaviour,” Azpilicueta said.

“All together, we need to make it stop. I hope everything gets clear and we eradicate it as soon as possible. It`s an issue not just in football but in life.”

According to FIFA protocol, the second step of the protocol should be an announcement leading to the suspension of the match and the players returning to the locker room for a specific period. If the discrimination continues, the third step should the abandonment of the match.

It was not immediately clear if there had been repeated incidents of racism, or if the announcements were referring to the first incident reported by Rudiger.

“I saw the referee follow the protocol,” Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho said. “He came to Andre Marriner [the fourth official], he came to me and [Chelsea manager] Frank Lampard and told us what was happening.”

The racist abuse overshadowed an accomplished performance by Chelsea in a 2-0 win that cemented its fourth place in the Premier League.

Lampard gets one over Mourinho

Earlier, Manchester United lost 2-0 at last-place Watford, with a goalkeeper howler by David De Gea – for the second weekend running – leading to the first goal at Vicarage Road.

Chelsea is four points clear of fifth-place Sheffield United, while the gap is six points to Tottenham in seventh place and seven points to United in eighth with nearly half the season gone.

Chelsea’s win saw Lampard get one over Mourinho, his one-time coach and mentor at Stamford Bridge, in their first managerial head-to-head in the Premier League.

Mourinho will point to a pair of rash moments by his players, first goalkeeper Paolo Gazzaniga and then Son.

Tottenham was already trailing 1-0 to a goal from Willian following a quickly taken corner, when Gazzaniga came flying out of his goal and pole-axed Marcos Alonso with a studs-first, chest-high lunge to concede a penalty in first-half injury time. Referee Taylor originally awarded a free kick against Alonso, somewhat bizarrely, only to reverse the decision after an invention by the video assistant referee.

Willian converted the penalty for his second goal of the game.

Son’s red card came after he was tackled by Rudiger near the touchline. Son was unhappy at the challenge and, while on his back, flicked his right foot into the chest of Rudiger, who fell backward to the ground.

“Does Rudiger have broken ribs going to the hospital?” Mourinho said. “Other people call it intelligent by Rudiger.”

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