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Born with malformed limbs 52 years ago, thalidomide victim still fights for compensation

Noëlla Hébert isn’t scared of anything.

The 52-year-old from Saint-Louis-de-Kent, who was born missing an arm and with malformations in her other limbs, says after a lifetime of fighting for acceptance and compensation, there isn’t anything left for her to be afraid of.

“I fought all my life to be to be looked at as a normal person,” she said. “This has been a battle from the beginning.”

Hébert is one of three New Brunswickers who were rejected from a 2015 federal compensation program for thalidomide victims. They have been arguing even since that they deserve to be recognized, compensated and given assistance for their far-reaching physical disabilities.

‘I took a drug, Noëlla’

Hébert grew up in rural Kent County knowing she was different and knowing her mother carried an enormous burden of guilt.

“I can remember my mom always said, ‘I took a drug, I took a drug, Noëlla, I took a drug.’ But me, I didn’t understand that … you always have in the back of your mind, ‘Why did she take that pill?'”


Hébert, at six, along with her mother, father and two older brothers in a family photo from 1974. Hébert says everyone in her family supported her, no matter what she wanted to do. (Submitted by Noëlla Hébert)

Thalidomide, promoted as a treatment for morning sickness, was approved and arrived in Canada as samples in 1959.

Canada was one of the last countries to pull it from the shelves in 1962, but Hébert and others believe it was still in circulation in rural New Brunswick for years after.

Her mother, Marie, said that’s what the local doctor gave her in 1967.

“She took sick,” said Hébert. “She had a very sore stomach. She had insomnia. She couldn’t sleep. And my grandma had just died. So that was the creation of all that.”

She explained that in the 1960s, when the village doctor gave you a bottle of pills, you didn’t ask questions.

“People were ignorant. They thought that medication were miracle cures,” said Hébert. “Back then, when you had an ailment if you could have the help of a doctor — that was God.”


Hébert was born without a left arm and with severe malformations in her other limbs. Her right leg is very short and attaches directly to her torso with muscles. She has no hips. A surgery was performed to turn her foot to allow her to use her heel as a make shift knee in her prosthetic leg. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

There is no record that proves that the bottle of pills given to Hébert’s mother in 1967 contained thalidomide. There were few pharmacies in rural New Brunswick, and it was common for doctors to give medication directly to their patients. The lack of a prescription kept Hébert and 166 others from being part of a federal compensation program for victims in 2015.

“It was just a bottle of pills that was given from one hand to the other,” she said. “And so I did not have the documents that the government wanted but I still was a thalidomide victim.”

‘We got to push’

A 30-minute drive from Saint-Louis-de-Kent, Paul Richard was born in Rogersville in 1969 with malformed arms.

He believes his shorter-than-normal right arm, twisted hand and malformed left arm are the result of his mother also taking thalidomide.


Paul Richard, seen here after having several surgeries on his right arm, told his parents at the age of seven that he didn’t want to undergo any more operations. He says he ‘made do’ with his deformed right arm and went on to be a heavy equipment operator. (Submitted by Paul Richard)

“She was given a pill to alleviate nausea during her pregnancy and back then, well, they just took whatever doctors gave them and didn’t question anything,” he said.

Richard had three major surgeries on his right arm as a young child and remembers telling his parents when he was seven years old that he wasn’t going to have any more.

“I made do with what I had,” he said. “I played hockey all my life — I wasn’t Wayne Gretzky but I had fun.”

As far as he knows, his legs are fine. Richard jokes he’s always been able to “run from trouble.”

The husband and father of two worked as a heavy equipment operator at his father’s business when he finished school. When he could no longer cope with the physical demands, he changed careers and became a highway maintenance supervisor and now works in an office.


Richard worked for years as a heavy equipment operator until the pain in his good arm sent him to a doctor, and he found out his good arm was also malformed. He considers himself lucky to have been able to change careers twice in his life. (Submitted by Paul Richard)

Richard said he probably would have given up his battle for compensation, but Hébert is his mentor and if she keeps fighting, he will too.

“Thank God for Noëlla. I would give up but she keeps on telling me, ‘We got to push.'”

‘My body is my record’

Hébert, Richard and another New Brunswick man, from Val-Comeau, near Tracadie-Sheila, were among the 167 people who were rejected from the 2015 Thalidomide Survivors Contribution Program, which included a lump sum payment of $ 125,000, ongoing support payments and access to a medical assistance fund.

We’re not fraudsters, we are victims.-Noëlla Hébert

Even though their mothers have both signed affidavits saying they took thalidomide while they were pregnant, and even though genetics reports and doctors all point to thalidomide as the cause of their disabilities, neither Richard nor Hébert qualified.

“They put us all in the same basket that we would all try to fraud the system,” Hébert said of the third-party the government hired to determine who would qualify for the government program.

“But we’re not fraudsters, we are victims. It’s really really clear to see my body is my record — When you see me you can’t unsee me.”


Hébert has a prosthetic leg and has undergone several surgeries on both legs to allow her to walk. She has no hips and explains her legs are held in place with muscles. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

Gesturing to her missing left arm, she points out the tip of a finger that pokes out of her shoulder. Her right arm looks normal, but has four skeletal malformations, including a thumb that is more like a fifth finger.

Her “good leg” does not have a hip and she has required reconstructive surgeries to allow her to walk. On the other side, she has a very short leg that is attached to her torso, again with no hip. She has undergone a surgery to turn her small foot backwards so she can use her heel as a makeshift knee in her prosthetic leg.

Forgotten victims

After 52 years, Hébert explained, her continued fight isn’t about the money.

She wants Canadians to recognize that she and others have lived their entire lives with severe disabilities and discrimination.

Hébert considers herself one of the “lucky” survivors, because she was born with a “firecracker personality” and a family who saw her as normal.

“My mom says that … when she looks at me, yes, I’m deformed. But when she looks aside she pictures me as a normal child. That’s the picture she had to create in her mind to be able to cope with this.”


Hébert uses a scooter to get around her home. She does not have a ramp to get into the house and bought the scooter at a bargain price from a seller on Kijiji. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

Hébert laughs as she remembers her big brother’s reaction when, as a child, she told him she wanted to learn to swim.

“He said, ‘OK, let’s go.’ There was no, ‘How are we going to do that?’ or ‘You can’t do it.'”

Hébert went on to attend university and to become a lawyer. It was one of the most difficult times of her life not because of the academics, but because it was nearly impossible for her to walk from her dorm at the University of Moncton to her classes.

“When you only have one leg and you have to walk in three inches of snow and the leg’s not going — that was my biggest, biggest challenge,” she said. “How many times I fell on the snow, in the snow with my 50 pounds of books on my back and came to my dorm crying and called my dad, my mom.”


Hébert graduated from the University of Moncton law school and has been a practising lawyer for more than 20 years. (Submitted by Noella Hebert)

Again, Hébert’s family encouraged her not to give up when she was ready to quit.

“My dad would say, ‘Well go to bed, pray, put some A535 [medicated cream] and the first thing I want you to do when you open your eyes, call me and tell me how is it going.’ And just on cue the next day it was always going a little bit better.”

Hopes rise and fall

In January 2019, Hébert and Richard were hopeful once again when then minister of health Ginette Petipas-Taylor announced a new compensation program for those turned down in 2015.

We didn’t ask for that pill to be introduced in Canada, but we had to deal with the consequence.– Paul Richard

The Canadian Thalidomide Survivors Support Program promised a one-time payment of $ 250,000, annual payments based on the person’s level of disability and access to a medical assistance fund.

But their hopes were quickly extinguished. This time the hurdle wasn’t missing documents, it was birth dates.

The first step of the preliminary screening for the new program is that you were born within five years of March 2, 1962, when thalidomide was pulled from shelves in Canada.

Noëlla Hébert, a lawyer born with one arm and malformed limbs is one of three New Brunswickers still fighting in court to be recognized as victims of thalidomide. 3:44

“They said, ‘Well if the drug was still on the shelves after five years that we pulled it off the market, it should have been expired.’ And then they added nine months for the birth of the child,” Hébert said.

Anyone born after Dec. 21, 1967, will not be considered for compensation in this latest program. Hébert was born five weeks too late, on Jan. 31, 1968.

“It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen but I’m not surprised,” she said. “We supposedly die about 10 years to 15 years younger of what we are supposed to. They’re just playing with time.”

Quest for closure, compensation

“We always miss the boat,” said Richard.

For him, the compensation would “help immensely,” but more important would be to finally be recognized as a victim.

“I know everyone wants something from the government,” he said. “We didn’t ask for that pill to be introduced in Canada, but we had to deal with the consequence.”

Richard understands the fact that his birthday also falls outside of the eligible dates is a hurdle, but he hopes it won’t be insurmountable.


Richard, seen here with his wife and two daughters, says being recognized as a victim of thalidomide would give him some closure. He says victims have suffered their entire lives because Canada allowed the drug to be sold. (Submitted by Paul Richard)

He is calling on the Canadian government to consider what life was like back in the 1960s in rural New Brunswick. It was a time when doctors handed out medication, and no one threw anything away.

“All those medications could have stayed in a medicine cabinet for a few years and when they needed it, they would take it.”

Like Hébert, he worries his body will continue to deteriorate, and he will need more support as he gets older.

Judge urges government to reconsider

The legal battle for Hébert and Richard continues. This month they appealed a ruling by Federal Court Justice Michael Phelan that would effectively close the door to them ever receiving any compensation.

Lawyer Alyssa Tomkins, a partner with Caza Saikaley, is representing Hébert and Richard, along with another New Brunswicker, pro bono.

She explained the 167 people who were refused government compensation in 2015 had launched a class-action lawsuit, which was settled in May.


Lawyer Alyssa Tomkins is appealing a court ruling that settles a class action lawsuit by thalidomide survivors. The settlement order, which is tied to a 2019 compensation program, would leave Hébert and Richard out. (http://www.plaideurs.ca)

The settlement order applies to all members of the suit, including Hébert and Richard, and means they have to accept the new 2019 program, even though it excludes them and 40 others based on their birth dates.

Tomkins is arguing that based on the negative or “deleterious” effects of the settlement on so many class members, the order should be set aside.

“Effectively, the settlement provides little benefit, we’ve alleged, to class members within the birth date framework. And yet it’s devastating to those outside it,” she said.

Let’s work with integrity and let’s show our hearts. We may have done mistakes in the past but it’s never too late to show compassion.– Noëlla Hébert

Tomkins worries that if the settlement holds up, it will make it “extremely difficult” for victims to ever get the government aid they are entitled to.

In his ruling, Phelan also raised concern about the birth date parameters set by the 2019 compensation program and said there was a “less than clear” explanation from government as to why it was necessary.

“Canada’s explanation for its rigid approach, while coldly scientific, lacked the compassion for the individual which the government espoused,” he wrote.


In his May decision, Justice Michael Phelan encourages the government of Canada to reconsider birth date requirements that exclude at least 42 people from a new compensation program for thalidomide survivors. (Federal Court of Canada)

“Some of the individuals failed to qualify by a matter of a few weeks — their stories were tragic and compelling. Class counsel recognized the problem but on this issue Canada was intractable.”

Phelan said if it was within the power of the court, he would have struck out the date parameters.

“Regrettably, the court is powerless to do anything about this issue, other than to encourage a compassionate reconsideration.”

Phelan goes on to acknowledge that class members are advancing in age and have increasing requirements because of their disabilities.

“Time is not their friend, if not yet their enemy.”

Despite this setback, Hébert is undeterred and ever hopeful that the many politicians she has met with over the years will reconsider and put an end to this “nonsense.”

“It’s never too late. We can say, ‘The past was the past. Let’s talk with integrity now. Let’s work with integrity and let’s show our hearts.’ We may have done mistakes in the past but it’s never too late to show compassion.”

‘I am a hero of history’

Hébert’s sense of humour is still in tact as she talks about some of the accommodations she needs to continue to live in her own home.

“I don’t have a ramp to bring my scooter with me in my truck. I don’t have a ramp outside my door. I don’t have the [modified] steering wheel because my steering wheel is too heavy for me to turn on my SUV.”

“It costs an arm and a leg — which I don’t have,” she jokes.


Compensation would allow Hébert to afford accommodations such as a ramp for her home, a ramp to be able to transport her scooter in her truck and an adaptive device to allow her to continue to drive. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

She knows the body she was born with will never allow her to do what her spirit would like, but she still looks forward to a day with simple accommodations — raised garden beds, for instance, so she can grow plants on her deck.

“It’s about the recognition of being who I am,” she said.

“I am a hero of history. I’ve conquered the world with a not normal body and instead of looking at us with eyes of pity, they should say to us, ‘Oh my God — you’re champions. You should have a medal.'”

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Iran plane crash: Canada fights for access to investigation as focus turns to black box analysis

While Iran continues to deny evidence cited by Canada and the U.S. that a surface-to-air missile downed Flight PS752, the Ukrainian aircraft’s black boxes could still provide some crucial clues around the cause of the crash.

An aircraft’s black boxes includes two components: the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

Iranian state television showed footage on Friday purportedly of the two black boxes recovered from the crashed Ukrainian airliner, Reuters reported.

The footage, posted online by state TV, showed two devices inside a wooden crate which commentary said were the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder.

Both black boxes are damaged but their memory can be downloaded and examined, the commentary said.

The wooden crate was opened at the Iran Civil Aviation Organization, the commentary said.

WATCH: Iran TV purportedly shows Ukraine airliner’s black boxes

Iranian state television showed footage on Friday purportedly of the two black boxes recovered from the crashed Ukrainian airliner. 0:29

The flight data recorder tracks measurements like air speed, altitude, heading (bearing) and engine thrust, while the cockpit voice recorder records all the communication between crew members, as well as between the crew and air traffic control, and the ambient sound in the cockpit.

“If it’s an operational-type accident — operational meaning pilot issues and so on, nothing wrong with the aircraft — then the flight recorders are very, very good at telling you exactly what happened,” said Mike Poole, a former investigator with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and an expert on flight recorders.

“If it’s a technical problem with the aircraft, then the flight recorder is [also] very good at telling you there’s a technical problem,” he said. “But pinpointing it usually requires the physical wreckage.”

And when it comes to figuring out whether a plane was downed by an outside force, such as a projectile, the recorders can further offer some indirect evidence.

Signature of a perfectly functioning airplane

“If you’re shot down, the signature is typically a perfectly functioning airplane and perfectly normal operations that all of a sudden stops,” Poole said. “That doesn’t necessarily [mean] it was shot down, but it says whatever happened was instantaneous.”

Of the 176 victims killed on board the Ukraine International Airlines flight after it crashed Wednesday shortly after takeoff from Tehran, 63 were Canadian citizens and a total of 138 were ultimately bound for Canada.


Members of Montreal’s Iranian community attend a vigil in downtown Montreal to mourn victims of Flight PS752. (Andrej Ivanov/Canadian Press)

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that intelligence from multiple sources, including Canada, has indicated Flight PS752  was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air-missile, perhaps unintentionally.

Iran has denied the allegations.

If true, it would mean the plane met the same fate as Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which was shot down over territory held by pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine in July 2014, killing 296 people, including one Canadian. 

In its report into that crash, the Dutch Safety Board concluded the plane was downed by the detonation of a warhead launched by a surface-to-air missile system. While forensic chemical analysis on the wreckage helped make that determination, investigators also used some of the evidence gathered from the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

One piece of evidence that came from the cockpit voice recorder was a 2.3 millisecond sound peak — a noise, it was concluded, that originated from outside the airplane.

“Normally when an aircraft is hit by a projectile like that … it can even be heard, because there’s a sudden decompression, and most of that is captured in the cockpit voice recorder,” said Daniel Adjekum, an assistant professor of aviation at the University of North Dakota.

No alerts or warnings

Investigators also found the MH17 data recorders had stopped abruptly — and they confirmed the normal functioning of the airplane’s engines and systems before the crash; no warning failures or discrepancies were recorded.

Nor were there any alerts or warnings of system malfunction heard in MH17’s cockpit voice recorders; communication between flight crew members gave no indication of any malfunction or emergency prior to the crash.

“This will be clues to the investigators that whatever happened was sudden — it was instantaneous in a way that their recordings were abruptly stopped,” Adjekum said. “Those are clues that, most likely, it was hit by a projectile.”


Questions have already been raised over potential access to the black boxes of Flight PS752.

Based on international aviation regulations, Iran has authority over the crash probe since it occurred in their territory.

While representatives of the plane’s manufacturer are often involved in the investigation of the crash and analysis of the flight recorders, in this case, the plane was manufactured by U.S.-based Boeing. But with the ongoing standoff between the U.S. and Iran, the country’s aviation authority has said it would not send the black boxes to the American company. 

(Iran has said that Ukranian officials can be present, however, as well as Canadians, albeit in a limited capacity.)

It is unlikely that Iran has the technology needed to access the information from the black boxes, with officials already saying they may need to outsource the recorders to outside experts.

Adjekum believes the best way forward is to get a third-party country involved — one that has relations with Iran and the U.S., as well as the technical capability to retrieve the data.

“France might be my best bet,” he said. “Send it out to France. [American] NTSB investigators can also travel to France, a third-party country, and they can all be there when the data … is read out.

“And it will satisfy everybody in terms of transparency and openness.”

 WATCH: Ukraine mourns, sends investigators to Iran

A day of mourning was declared in Ukraine as the country sends crash investigators to Iran to determine the cause of the crash. 1:56

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Boris Johnson’s big win may ‘get Brexit done’ but damaging fights loom

Boris Johnson has broken Britain’s deadlock over leaving the European Union with a dramatic election win but the victory could lead to new and potentially damaging confrontations with both Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Johnson, with his trademark floppy white hair and a reputation for making off-colour remarks, was dismissed by opponents — including many in his own party — as untrustworthy and something of a buffoon. But as the results began trickling in early Friday morning, it was clear his victory had dramatically redrawn the U.K.’s electoral map.

“What happens with elections is if you win, all the sins get washed away. He is at the pinnacle of his power,” said conservative commentator Craig Oliver,  who served as communications director for former Conservative prime minister’s David Cameron.

The Conservatives are on track to take at least 364 seats, giving Johnson’s party a healthy majority and handing the Labour Party its worst defeat in more than a generation.

“Just utterly devastating,” tweeted well-known Labour commentator Owen Jones,  “Brexit just smashed us. Keeping together an electoral coalition of “Remainers” and “Leavers” as the country bitterly divided just became impossible.”


Britain’s opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn waits for the General Election results of the Islington North constituency to be announced. His party lost big on Thursday night. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke only briefly after being proclaimed the winner in his riding of Islington North.   

In his speech, Corbyn said while he would be stepping down as leader, it might not happen right away. Corbyn suggested he planned to stick around through what could amount to a long a transition period.

Labour loses big in longtime strongholds

The Conservatives made deep inroads into traditionally Labour seats, especially in northern England,  as the vote appeared to polarize over Brexit.

“I want to thank Boris,” said winning Conservative candidate Ian Levy, whose surprise win in Blyth Valley early in the evening signalled the kind of night it would be for Labour.

No Tory had been elected there in almost 80 years. 

Nearby in Sedgefield, the seat of former Labour prime minister Tony Blair swung Conservative in a stunning upset.  And in Bassetlaw, a previously safe Labour seat near Sheffield, the Labour vote utterly collapsed.

“Brexit had been this dividing issue since the referendum was called and it seemed that [Brexit] cut across the traditional Labour-Conservative, left-right divide,” said Tim Durrant, associate director of the Institute for Government in London.

“People voted in terms of the party’s Brexit policy, as opposed to party loyalty.”

Scotland ‘flatly’ rejects Johnson’s plan, SNP leader says

But just as vast swaths of rural England turned Conservative blue, Scotland was painted with the yellow colour of the Scottish National Party. 

The SNP is on track to win to win an unprecedented 48 of Scotland’s 59 seats — a 13-seat increase. The major gains position Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as a major voice of opposition as Johnson moves forward with plans to break away from Europe. 

Scotland strongly backed the bid to remain in the European Union in the 2016 referendum.


Scottish National Party Leader Nicola Sturgeon celebrates as she hears her party has unseated Britain’s Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)

“Boris Johnson’s argument to Scotland has been flatly and completely rejected,”  Sturgeon told the BBC in the early hours of Friday morning.   

“There is no doubt that I have a mandate to offer people that choice.”

Johnson is on the record as saying he will not agree to another referendum so soon after the last vote in 2014, which sets up an epic confrontation between two leaders with large majorities behind them.

The 2014 referendum on Scottish independence saw 55 per cent of voters cast their ballots to stay in the U.K. That vote was sanctioned by Westminster, whereas a future unsanctioned vote would be legally dubious.    

But Johnson, who will face major decisions and negotiations around Brexit even after securing his majority, will be in a difficult position politically if Sturgeon moves toward holding another referendum.

‘Northern Ireland is the one to watch’

The other major upset of the night came in Northern Ireland, where parties that favour strong ties with the rest of Britain were overtaken by those with more nationalist leanings.

“Northern Ireland is the one to watch,” said Durrant, noting that the election of 11 nationalist MPs there marks the first time ever that so-called unionist parties have been in the minority there.

“Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, and there’s been a lot of disappointment in Northern Ireland about the way the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) supported the Conservative government.” 

If Scotland votes for a referendum, Durrant said it will no doubt intensify debate in Northern Ireland about whether its future lies inside or outside of the U.K.

‘We don’t really know him fully,’ analyst says

Johnson — a former journalist who has been in or around politics virtually his entire life — has long faced criticism for adopting and then shedding political positions with little apparent intellectual discomfort.

His hard opposition to Europe during the Brexit campaign surprised many Conservatives, as did his intense push over the last few months to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.    

Durrant said with a comfortable majority behind him and the need to appeal to all those first time Conservative voters,  Johnson’s thinking may yet evolve again.

“The thing with Boris Johnson is that we don’t really know him fully,”  he told CBC News in an interview.   


Voters headed out in dreary weather Thursday to cast their ballots in a rare December election. (Carl Recine/Reuters)

“He was London mayor for a long time and [London] is socially liberal and anti-Brexit.  And he took a different tone as mayor to some of his stances while as a conservative backbencher in Theresa May’s government and now PM.”

In the immediate future, Johnson is expected to assemble his MPs and to have a modest cabinet shuffle as early as Monday. Brexit legislation is expected to go for a vote before the end of January.

While most of London remained a Labour stronghold, Johnson’s win — and the promise of movement on Brexit — was taken as positive in the financial district, with the pound trading higher.

There was no such rejoicing, though, from Labour backers and anti-Brexit campaigners. The Labour supporting Daily Mirror put a big photo of Johnson on the front page with the caption: “The Nightmare before Christmas.”

For conservatives, however, a big majority and clear path ahead for Brexit is nothing short of a dream that only a few months ago seemed unattainable. 

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Foster family fights for pay to raise child who needs 24/7 care

She’s sweet like honey and fierce like a badger, they say. That’s why Trevor and Erin McLellan nicknamed their six-year-old foster daughter “Honey Badger.”

The girl has had thousands of epileptic seizures in her short lifetime and is mentally and physically disabled.

“She fights every day just to stay alive. She is the fiercest, most determined little girl,” Erin said. “I am humbled to be her mother.”

CBC has chosen not to identify the foster girl. She will be referred to as Leah, which is not her real name.

The McLellans decided to go public after a dispute with Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Social Services (MSS) over how much they are compensated to look after Leah. The parents say the government is exploiting their love for their foster daughter, while the ministry says it wouldn’t be fair to other foster parents if they were to receive exceptional payments.

Quit his full-time job

An existing policy already allows the ministry to approve discretionary pay for foster parents, in order to keep their foster children out of institutions.

“Exceptional payments should not exceed half of the cost for comparable institutional care,” states Section 6.4 of the Children’s Services manual.

Institutional care can cost up to $ 21,000 a month, according to MSS. The McLellans are not seeking half of that.

The couple says they want only enough compensation to provide for Leah’s specialized care without seeking outside employment, which they say is nearly impossible for them to maintain.

She doesn’t know anybody’s name, except for us. Except for Mommy and Daddy.– Trevor McLellan, foster parent

Leah’s medical emergencies forced Trevor to miss so much work that he quit his full-time job, giving up his benefits, and moved to two part-time jobs.

Social services had provided the foster parents with $ 1,900 a month for nearly six years. After their application for more compensation, ministry officials granted the couple an additional $ 522 a month.

The couple says they aren’t able to pay the bills or support their family on that.

“The ministry counts on you keeping quiet and doing what you need to do, and struggling, and saving them money,” Trevor said. 

Two days old

Trevor and Erin have always dreamed of a full house and today their home in rural Saskatchewan is a bustling hub for seven children — a mix of biological, adopted and foster — ranging from ages three to 14.

The McLellans brought Leah home from the hospital when she was just two days old. She had her first epileptic seizure five months later and was diagnosed with a rare, life-limiting disease.

“We know this disease will kill her. We don’t know when. She could live 10 years. She could live 10 hours,” Erin said.

The couple pursued adoption for awhile, but had to abandon the idea when they realized Leah needed to remain a ward of the province to cover her expensive care needs.


The McLellans’ foster child has had thousands of epileptic seizures in her short lifetime. (Submitted by Erin McLellan)

Leah is now six years old, but has the cognitive abilities of a toddler. She is fed liquids through a tube in her stomach.

On a good day, she giggles, plays with puzzles and watches Dora The Explorer. She can even go to school under the supervision of a continuing care aide.

But on a bad day she is unable to walk, and cries constantly. She bangs her head against the wall, eats her hair and repeatedly suffers violent seizures. 

Someone must watch over Leah at all times, even monitoring her oxygen levels and heart rate when she’s sleeping.

At one point, Erin was so sleep-deprived that she dozed off and missed one of Leah’s seizures. She later broke down sobbing in her doctor’s office. From that point on, a provincial home-care nurse has provided the McLellans with some relief between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

‘She is our world’

Recorded meetings with social services case workers and directors verify that MSS has said that the McLellans do an “amazing” job.

“We couldn’t turn our backs on her anymore than we could our other children,” Erin said. “She is our world.”

Erin admits caring for Leah can be “scary”, but both she and Trevor want to be the primary caregivers, rather than outsourcing to support staff paid by the ministry.

“We feel that shipping her off to other homes and other places of respite just so we can struggle to make ends meet with other jobs, it’s hard on her,” Trevor said. “She doesn’t know anybody’s name, except for us. Except for Mommy and Daddy.

“We’ve often felt that if she were to be removed from our home and just put in an institution … she wouldn’t survive.”


Erin McLellan has spent years learning medical interventions for epileptic seizures in order to save her foster daughter’s life (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

Application denied

Erin applied for the exceptional payments in February.

CBC News reviewed three hours of audio recordings from several meetings between ministry staff and the McLellans.

Initially, case workers told the McLellans that they would likely qualify for more money using a formula for exceptional payments. But in June, a manager informed the McLellans that those workers made a mistake, that a formula wouldn’t be used and that their application was denied.

The executive director of Child and Family Programs, Tobie Eberhardt, stated in a letter to the McLellans that policy 6.4 is “not clear in intent and will be reviewed.”

In a statement to CBC News, Eberhardt said fewer than 10 families in the province receive exceptional pay, and it’s only provided when supports — such as babysitting, meal preparation and house cleaning — are not available in the community.

Fostering isn’t a job

Ministry officials said the government doesn’t pay foster parents enough to support a family, and that exceptional payments aren’t fair to other foster parents. They also said the government won’t compensate foster parents for work that would be performed by others. 

It’s frustrating, says Trevor, that the ministry will pay a house cleaner and nanny but refuses to pay him, as a foster parent, to do the same tasks.

The executive director of the Saskatchewan Foster Families Association, Deb Davies, wouldn’t comment on this case specifically. Davies says the group advocates for “fair and consistent” rates, and she echoes the government’s insistence that foster parents are not expected to give up outside employment.


Trevor McLellan says he believes his foster daughter would die if she was removed from the only parents that she has ever known and put in institutional care. (Submitted by Erin and Trevor McLellan)

“We have many families across the province that care for medically fragile children and the ministry supports them with different services,” Davies said. “If the needs are so great, then we have other community partners that do care for children with medical needs.”

‘It’s deplorable’

A former high-ranking official in the Social Services Ministry disagrees.

Tim Korol served as the assistant deputy minister of social services in Saskatchewan in 2009. He said that if the provincial government is truly committed to keeping children out of institutions, then that demands exceptional payments to foster parents in some cases. 

“The ministry is taking … huge advantage of this family. It’s deplorable. We shouldn’t stand for that,” Korol said.

Korol says there’s precedent for exceptional payments for foster parents.

“They need to put a roof over their head. And when the care becomes such that it is interfering with them earning a living out of the home, then it’s time to compensate them for the service they provide to our province in the home,” Korol said. “There’s a long history of doing that….The system allows for it, but the bureaucrats are blocking it.”

Human rights complaint

The McLellans have filed a complaint to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission alleging that MSS is discriminating on the basis of disability. They argue that the province refused their application because it didn’t want to pay them more to care for a disabled child.

The McLellans received a letter from Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. In it, he said the government takes “complaints of this nature very seriously.” He assured the McLellans that officials will meet with them to try to resolve the matter.

The McLellans have limited options. They won’t stop fostering Leah, even if it means they have to sell their house.

“They’re banking on our love for her,” Trevor said. “They’re calling our bluff. They’re saying we won’t walk away from her. And it’s true. We won’t. We love her. But they count on that. That’s how they exploit foster parents.”

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'We're holding up a floodgate': B.C. fights off superbugs brought home by medical tourists

The risks involved in medical tourism aren't just personal. Having surgery abroad could also mean bringing back a drug-resistant superbug and putting people in this country at risk, B.C. officials warn.

That alert comes after the recent discovery that two patients at New Westminster's Royal Columbian Hospital had been colonized with the multidrug-resistant yeast Candida auris. Though neither is infected with the bug, they join just a handful of cases that have been identified in B.C. since 2017.

Dr. Linda Hoang, the medical co-director for the Provincial Infection Control Network (PICNet), said most of these cases have come from travellers who've had treatment overseas, including medical tourists.

That means patients need to do serious research on the facilities they're considering for surgeries or other treatments abroad, including looking for objective information about the presence of any drug-resistant microorganisms.

"It's not only a problem in India or Southeast Asia. It is endemic in parts of the U.S. and parts of Europe." Hoang told CBC News.

"It [antibiotic resistant superbugs] is a global problem, and the only way to to be aware of them is to make sure that that healthcare professionals are informed and our residents are informed when they're seeking health care outside of British Columbia."

It's a sobering reminder for those who travel abroad for medical treatments, whether it's to skip the surgery waiting list in B.C., access therapies that aren't approved in Canada or save money on cosmetic therapy. Some of the top destinations for medical tourists from around the world include India, Mexico, Southeast Asia, Brazil and Turkey, according to the Medical Tourism Association.

But facilities in other countries can sometimes take a more haphazard approach to prescribing antibiotics, and overuse can trigger the evolution of resistance to these crucial drugs.

India a major source of bug

The two colonized patients at Royal Columbian were isolated after the bug was discovered, and the hospital has been aggressively cleaning all areas they'd visited, using UV light for disinfection, according to Fraser Health.

C. auris was first identified in Japan in 2009, but it's popped up since then in countries around the world.

It acts much like any other yeast species, causing infections in wounds, the bloodstream and the ears, but the real problem is how to treat it.

"The only real reason why we're concerned or interested in monitoring Candida auris is because of that potential resistance profile, making it difficult to treat with the anti-fungal agent that we have," Hoang said.

The biggest risk of infection right now seems to come from Indian facilities, Hoang said.

A microscopic image, at left, shows cells of Candida auris cells. At right is a culture of the yeast in a petri dish. (The Journal of Infection in Developing Countries)

The bug was confirmed for the first time in B.C. in July 2017 in a patient who'd been treated in India. As it turned out, that traveller also came back with infections from multiple other drug-resistant organisms.

B.C. doesn't track whether infected people travelled abroad as medical tourists or simply required medical treatment because of an emergency during their voyages.

But patients who've had medical treatment outside of B.C. for any reason are a major source of these superbugs, Hoang said.

That includes so-called CPOs — carbapenemase-producing organisms like Klebsiella, E. coli and Pseudomonas that have become resistant to broad-spectrum antibiotics that Hoang describes as the "last resort" for treatment.

In 2017/18, PICNet recorded more CPO cases than ever before, and more than half of them came from people who'd accessed health care overseas, Hoang said.

'There's only so much we can do'

The key for anyone who chooses to have surgery abroad —​ and anyone who needs medical attention while travelling —​ is to let your B.C. doctor know when you return. That way, he or she can check you for any drug-resistant bugs you picked up, and give you the appropriate medication if you get sick.

Being open with that information protects everyone around you.

"If you require health care in British Columbia, you are running the risk of spreading that into our facilities. And that's not a good thing for your neighbouring patients, who might be very sick and vulnerable," Hoang said.

She said B.C. is aggressively monitoring returning travellers for drug-resistant superbugs, but the real key to stopping their spread will be eliminating the excessive use of antibiotics that allows these microorganisms to evolve resistance.

"We're basically holding up a floodgate, and unless the problems are addressed in these countries where antibiotics are used with minimal regulation and control, there's only so much we can do," Hoang said.

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'Kids are hurting. Adults are hurting': Gay former player fights homophobia in hockey

It's easy to tell male teenage hockey players not to use homophobic slurs. It's more difficult to actually persuade them to change the vocabulary they use in the private confines of their dressing room.

But when the voice they hear is one of their own, the message becomes more convincing.

"When they see me, they see a hockey guy," said 35-year-old Brock McGillis.

"I'm built like a hockey guy. I speak 'hockey.' I can go in there and talk to them like I'm one of their buddies."

McGillis, a gay former semi-professional hockey player, has spent the last two years sharing his story at elementary schools and high schools, and with junior hockey teams across Canada. He wants young players to understand the pain their homophobic language can cause.

"When they realize that those [homophobic] words made me want to kill myself every day, they realize their language can be impacting their best friends. It can be impacting their teammates," he said.

Brock McGillis speaks to high school students at École Secondaire Catholique Champlain in his hometown of Sudbury, Ont. (Submitted by Brock McGillis)

The Sudbury, Ont., native played in the Ontario Hockey League in the early 2000s, and had stints in the Dutch Professional League and with the Concordia University men's team in Montreal.

Throughout his career, McGillis adopted a hyper-masculine attitude in order to fit in. He hid his sexual orientation from his teammates by dating women and using the same homophobic and sexist language he now advocates against.

While everything might have seemed okay from the outside, McGillis was going through hell internally. He dealt with crippling depression and contemplated suicide on a number of occasions.

In November 2016, Yahoo Sports Canada published a first-person piece written by McGillis in which he opened up about his sexual orientation and discussed the turmoil he went through as a closeted gay player. 

Players struggling with mental health issues

In January 2017, just two months after going public with his story, McGillis began travelling across Canada to share his story, speaking to more than 200,000 people across the country.

He says many young players, regardless of their sexual orientation, have reached out to him for help after his talks because they know he's dealt with depression in the past.

McGillis hid his sexual orientation during his hockey career. (Submitted by Brock McGillis)

"I think they're afraid to reach out to their team because of the stigma around mental health that still exists," McGillis said.

According to McGillis, one of the problems is many young hockey players feel the need to exude a certain type of persona to fit in.

"That hyper-masculine bro macho [man] really isn't who they are. They've conformed," he said.

"Who they really are is how they talk to their mom, or their girlfriend, not the act they're putting on in these public settings."

The last time he visited an OHL team, McGillis had all the players reveal something about themselves their teammates didn't know.

"I had kids telling me they like writing poetry," he remembered. "One kid said he loved watching animal documentaries. … They're hiding this from their teammates. They want to fit in, just like I hid my sexuality to fit in. And they're unhappy doing it."

Homophobic language rife in minor hockey

Despite his best efforts, McGillis knows homophobic language is still rampant in minor hockey today.

He recalled the experience of a player he worked with that had just moved away from home to join a junior hockey team.

"Their pre-game huddle was, 'Those guys are f–king fags. Let's beat the shit out of them.' It was his first day with the team. He just looked around and went 'Where am I?'"

Hockey is incredibly insular … the language used for the last 50 years hasn't shifted.– Brock McGillis

McGillis knows plenty of talented gay hockey players that haven't reached their potential as a result of discrimination.

A friend of his was a captain of one of the top teams in the Greater Toronto Hockey League, and a fourth-round draft pick in the OHL. He quit hockey after his minor midget year.

Another friend of his turned down a spot on a Junior B team because he had a boyfriend at the university he didn't want anyone to find out about.

"He went and played Junior C at a smaller community 45 minutes away," McGillis said, "just so he could play hockey and hide who he was."

According to McGillis, hockey's secluded nature has enabled homophobic and sexist language to be passed down from generation to generation without reprieve.

"Hockey is incredibly insular … most parents of hockey players played the game at some level, and hockey coaches are former players," he said. "The language used for the last 50 years hasn't shifted."

OHL's diversity policy

Ted Baker, vice president of the OHL, says the league will discipline anyone who utters a homophobic slur.

"It's an automatic minimum five-game suspension," says Baker. "It's pretty tough for the league to scrutinize, and oversee conversation in the dressing room.  We entrust our officials to scrutinize what is said on the ice.

"We have a diversity policy. It's all-inclusive to include homophobic language, and includes any type of language that deals with a person's race, creed, gender, or sexuality." 

Baker also says education is the best way to push diversity.

"Prior to this season and during the early part of this season, all of our players, coaching staffs and training staff were required to view a diversity chat video, which talked about inclusivity within our sport.  It's not only about catching kids in terms of saying things.  It's about educating players as to the proper way that you engage with others."  

McGillis, centre, hopes junior hockey players heed his message of acceptance. (Submitted by Brock McGillis)

'Kids are hurting. Adults are hurting'

After an extremely hectic two years, McGillis is trying to cut down his travel.

He's seeking out ways to get his message across to a larger audience at one time. He's in the process of creating a YouTube channel. He's thinking about writing a book. He's working on a television show idea to try and give role models to LGBTQ youth.

Most importantly, he knows how much work remains to be done to change the discriminatory language used in dressing rooms, as well as the way people in hockey think about mental health.

"We always use terms like, 'Well, it's 2019. Things have changed,' But kids are hurting," McGillis said. "Adults are hurting. And we haven't done enough to fix that."

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Olivia Newton-John's Family Denies Reports She Only Has Weeks to Live as She Fights Cancer for Third Time

Olivia Newton-John’s loved ones are setting the record straight about her health.

After recent tabloid reports claimed that her body is “shutting down” and that she has only weeks to live amid her third battle with cancer, her niece, Tottie Goldsmith, took to Instagram on Wednesday to address the alarming reports that the beloved Grease star is near death.

“Just giving you the heads up that Livvy is in good health, so let’s leave that distressing rumor where it belongs,” Goldsmith wrote alongside a red carpet photo of the two, adding a butterfly emoji.

“You can rest assured she is going nowhere and in really good health. A sick rumor,” she also told Australia’s Seven Network, sharing that her famous aunt gave her permission to speak publicly.

Meanwhile, Newton-John’s manager, Michael Caprio, denied the reports to The Daily Mail, calling them “hilarious.”

ET has reached out to Newton-John’s rep.

Last September, the 70-year-old singer revealed she’s battling cancer for the third time after doctors discovered a tumor at the base of her spine. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. She beat the disease after months of chemotherapy treatments and a partial mastectomy but revealed in May 2017 that the breast cancer had returned, spreading to her shoulder.

“I’m one of millions in this fight, in this journey,” Newton-John told Australian news program Sunday Night in September. “A lot of people see it as a fight and wherever you choose to see it, that’s your prerogative. … I see it as part of my mission, maybe.”

“There are other people out there doing much, much worse than me,” she continued. “And I’m a very privileged person and I’m very aware of that. I have nothing to really complain about.”

She also credited her husband, John Easterling, for being a huge support when she feels fear.

“I’d be lying if it said I never go there — there are moments, I’m human,” she admitted. “So if I allow myself to go there, I could easily create a big fear, but my husband’s always there, and he’s always there to support me and I believe I will win over it, and that’s my goal.”

ET spoke to Newton-John last February at a benefit concert hosted by Kevin Costner to help those affected by wildfires in Santa Barbara, California, before she revealed her third battle with cancer.

“I’ve been great,” she said about her health. “Yeah, I feel really good.”

“I feel so fortunate to have had the success I’ve had, and to do the wonderful things I do,” she added about taking the time to perform at the benefit amid her health struggles. “And to give back — I’d love to be able to do that.”

For more, watch the video below:

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As Manitoba fights highest tuberculosis rates in the country, researchers say better data offers an antidote

In a province with the highest rates of active tuberculosis in Canada, Manitoba researchers say more data and better tracking of the potentially deadly disease could help stem the spread.

University of Manitoba researchers partnered with First Nations to analyze all reported cases of tuberculosis in Manitoba from 1999-2014.

Their study, Exploring Tuberculosis Treatment, Management, and Prevention in Manitoba's Administrative Health Data, looked at patient data from the provincial TB registry and information from the Manitoba Population Research Data Repository.

"The data tells us a lot about who in Manitoba has TB and what health services these people receive. However, there's still room for improvement," lead author Lisa Lix, U of M Canada Research Chair in methods for electronic health data quality, said in a statement Tuesday.

"There is no way to count the total number of patients with latent TB infections in the province, but the repository can tell us how many of these patients are receiving treatment."

Two of the main findings were that Manitoba has to do a better job of identifying and diagnosing tuberculosis early on, and more funding is needed for research and to help bolster disease monitoring technology in the province.

The research also showed higher rates of tuberculosis in northern communities and First Nations people.

"TB is a disease of poverty, and there must be changes," said Chief Sheldon Kent, chair of the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba, in a statement. 

That includes changes, he said, in "First Nation people's living conditions, especially housing and clean water, and First Nations leadership in decision-making regarding the design and delivery of health services to our people."

Active versus sleeping TB

Active tuberculosis is a contagious lung disease born out of an infectious bacteria that can be spread when a person coughs or sneezes.

There's also the "sleeping," or latent, kind of tuberculosis. Those living with this form of the disease don't necessarily feel ill and aren't contagious, though the disease can progress into a life-threatening infection without treatment.

The latent form of tuberculosis can progress if untreated to a point where it becomes active and contagious. (University of Manitoba)

The World Health Organization has called on jurisdictions around the world to eliminate tuberculosis by 2035.

More than 80 per cent of patients with the latent disease need to finish treatment to effectively stop the spread, the WHO says.

The problem is that only 70 per cent of Manitobans with the dormant form completed treatment during the 15-year study period.

A closer look at the population showed only about 60 per cent of Manitobans older than 45 reported completing a 180-day treatment course for latent TB, compared to over 70 per cent for those under that age.

And a longer, 270-day course of medication saw less than 70 per cent of Manitobans aged 19-44 complete treatment — a higher success rate than those below the age of 18 or older than 45.

First Nations, elderly less likely to finish treatment

The research also showed First Nations people diagnosed with latent TB were less likely to finish treatment than the general population, and the gulf widened depending on the prescribed length of treatment.

More than 75 per cent of patients in the general population diagnosed with latent TV completed a 180-day course of medication, compared to just over 65 per cent of First Nations patients.

For a longer, 270-day course of medication, less than half of First Nation patients with latent TB completed a 270-day supply of medication, compared to nearly three-quarters of patients from the general population.

We can make better use of the data we have to identify active and latent TB patients across Manitoba and how they use the health-care system. This will make it less likely that the diagnosis of TB will be missed or delayed.– Lead author Lisa Lix

"This is why it's important that people with both active and latent TB infections get the right medications to wipe out the bacteria," study co-author Dr. Pierre Plourde, integrated tuberculosis services medical director and medical officer of health for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, said in a statement.

"People with latent TB need to be on medication for several months to completely get rid of their infection, even while they don't feel sick. It can be difficult to stick with the treatment for that long, especially when the side effects may cause the person to feel unwell."

Lix said the study shows comprehensive patient databases are "essential" surveillance tools that will help inform local health-care strategies and help to end tuberculosis.

"We can make better use of the data we have to identify active and latent TB patients across Manitoba and how they use the health-care system," she said in a statement. 

"This will make it less likely that the diagnosis of TB will be missed or delayed, and care for TB patients can be provided quickly."

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​U.K. PM May fights for survival after Brexit deal sparks crisis

British Prime Minister Theresa May was fighting for survival on Friday after a draft divorce deal with the European Union provoked the resignations of senior ministers and mutiny in her party.

More than two years after the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, it is still unclear how, on what terms or even if it will leave the EU as planned on March 29, 2019.

May, who won the top job in the turmoil that followed the 2016 referendum, has sought to negotiate a Brexit deal that ensures that the United Kingdom leaves in the smoothest way possible.

But Brexit minister Dominic Raab resigned on Thursday over her deal, sending the pound tumbling. Mutinous lawmakers in her own party openly sought to challenge her leadership and bluntly told her that the Brexit deal would not pass parliament.

May, who has vowed to stay on as prime minister, was asked by a caller on an LBC radio phone-in show on Friday to "respectfully stand down." She did not immediately address that part of the caller's question.

Gove as new Brexit minister?

"I haven't appointed a new Brexit secretary yet but of course I will be doing that over the course of the next day or so," May said when asked if she had offered it to Michael Gove, the most prominent Brexit-supporting minister in her government.

Gove, the current environment minister who torpedoed former foreign minister Boris Johnson's leadership bid in 2016 at the last minute, would remain in May's cabinet despite the resignations of his colleagues, according to media reports.

The British pound, which has see-sawed on Brexit news since the referendum, was flat at $ 1.2783 US on Friday, down almost three cents since a deal was struck on Tuesday.

Britain's Environment Minister, Michael Gove, decided Friday not to follow two other Cabinet ministers who resigned over May's Brexit deal with the European Union, according to multiple media reports. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

Many fear Brexit will divide the West as it grapples with both the unconventional U.S. presidency of Donald Trump and growing assertiveness from Russia and China.

Possible leadership challenge

Amid the political turmoil, the ultimate outcome remains uncertain. Scenarios include May's deal ultimately winning approval, May losing her job, Britain leaving the bloc with no agreement, or even another referendum.

To leave the EU on the terms of her deal, May would need to get the backing of about 320 of parliament's 650 lawmakers. The deal is due to be discussed at an EU summit on Nov. 25.

Some lawmakers in May's Conservative Party have said they have submitted letters of no confidence. When 48 letters are submitted to the party's so-called 1922 committee, she will face a leadership challenge.

British MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is among the most prominent Brexiteers in May's party, was one of several Conservative lawmakers to call for a vote of no confidence on the prime minister's leadership on Thursday. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

Politicians, officials and diplomats in London openly questioned how long May had left as speculation swirled around London that a leadership challenge could come soon.

Sky said government whips, who enforce discipline in the party, had been summoned to parliament as a challenge was close. If a confidence vote is called among her lawmakers, May would need a simple majority of the total votes in order to win.

By seeking to preserve the closest possible ties with the EU, May has upset her party's many advocates of a clean break, and Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that the DUP had demanded May be replaced as prime minister.

"Oh I haven't had a testy exchange with Arlene," May said, referring to DUP Leader Arlene Foster. "They've raised some questions with us, they've raised some concerns with us and yes we are looking at those. We are still working with the DUP," she said.

Bracing for business impact

The EU and Britain need an agreement to keep trade flowing between the world's biggest trading bloc and the United Kingdom, home to the biggest international financial centre.

May said she felt the threat of a no deal Brexit personally as she was Type 1 diabetic: "I depend on insulin every day. My insulin is produced by a country elsewhere in the European Union."

British aero-engine maker Rolls-Royce said it was continuing with its contingency plans.

The plans include "buffer stocks so that we have all the logistical capacity that we need to carry on running our business," said Chief Executive Warren East.

Supporters of Brexit say that while the divorce might bring some short-term instability, in the longer term it will allow the United Kingdom to thrive and also enable deeper EU integration without such a powerful reluctant member.

Meanwhile, proponents of closer relations with the EU in her own party and the Labour opposition say the deal squanders the advantages of membership for little gain.

"It is … mathematically impossible to get this deal through the House of Commons. The stark reality is that it was dead on arrival," said Conservative MP and Brexit supporter Mark Francois.

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Gigi Hadid Fights Back Against Fans Shaming Her Weight Loss

Gigi Hadid is getting candid. 

The 23-year-old model recently opened up about her weight loss at Vogue’s Forces of Fashion Conference, admitting that while she “wants an a**,” she’s still hurt by fans’ criticism of her body. 

“I loved my body when I was curvier,” Hadid told Vogue Runway Director Nicole Phelps during the panel with Kendall Jenner, Ashley Graham and Paloma Elsesser. “Then as I lost [the weight], people were still mean.”

“Yeah, I know I’m skinny. I’m looking in the mirror. I’m trying to eat burgers and do squats,” she continued. “I want an a** too. I get it. I got it. Thank you!”

Hadid discussed her changing physique in the May issue of Harper’s Bazaar, attributing her fluctuating weight to Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease. 

“Most of it is just nonsense. But it can still hurt,” she said. “Nowadays, people are quick to say, ‘I used to love Gigi’s body, and now she just gave in.’ But I’m not skinny because I gave in to the industry. When I had a more athletic figure, I was proud of my body because I was an amazing volleyball player and horseback rider. But after discovering that I have Hashimoto’s, I needed to eat healthy and work out. It was weird as a teenager, dealing with this when all of my friends could eat McDonald’s and it wouldn’t affect them.”

“If I could choose, I would have my a** back and I would have the tits I had a few years ago,” she added. “But, honestly, we can’t look back with regret. I loved my body then, and I love my body now. Whoever is reading this, I want you to realize that three years from now you will look back at a picture from this time period and be like, ‘Wow, I was so hot. Why did I feel so bad about myself because of some stupid thing someone said?'”

During her Vogue panel, Hadid also shared her thoughts on how the #MeToo movement had affected the modeling industry and shared her thoughts on posing nude for photo shoots. 

“Some people are empowered and excited to be naked and that is amazing. And I wish I was one of those people and I am not one of those people. And I’ve accepted that about myself and that is okay,” Hadid said.

“There are times where I feel like I am excited about a photographer or a creative situation where I will do this or will do that. But there’s also times where I can be — even though I am so excited for everyone and feel so happy with their empowerment being naked themselves — it’s OK that I feel differently.”

See more on Hadid in the video below. 

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