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The Current Transcript for November 30, 2017
Host: Anna Maria Tremonti
STORIES FROM THIS EPISODE
Listen to the full episode
People are being brought out in body bags on a regular basis Nobody's saying anything because there's an assumption that 'well it must be humane, because it is Canada' and that's not the case.
ANNA MARIA TREMONTI: Brought out in body bags. Lawyer Kevin Egan isn't talking about a place where the authorities can't see but rather a place where the authorities are in charge. Specifically one provincial jail in southwestern Ontario. From surveillance video that shows a beating turned murder and a prisoner dragging the body out of his cell to a suicide, again on surveillance camera, that no one seemed to notice. A detention center where some of those inside have not even gone to trial. In a moment the Fifth Estate's Habiba Nosheen on the questions raised by the pictures that have been exposed. And remember those stories of surveillance cameras in a Moscow hotel that purported to show a pre-presidential Donald Trump compromised?
DONALD TRUMP: It's all fake news. It didn't happen and it was forgotten by opponents of ours. I'm also very much of a journalist by the way. [Laughter] Believe me.
AMT: Journalists Luke Harding says the real issues of compromise when it comes to Mr. Trump and Russia have less to do with a bedroom and more to do with the banks. Hear him in half an hour. And one more controversy that began with what was caught on camera.
How was it?
Absollutely horrendous. It's sickening. Huge [unintelligible] clouds of blood pouring out into the bay.
AMT: You may have seen those pictures of blood colored effluent purportedly from a farmed fish processing plant spewing into Browns Bay, B.C. It's prompted both the federal and provincial governments to start investigating. Against that backdrop we are asking how intensive farming and global supply chains affect the safety and security of our food. That's in an hour. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.
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Why are so many inmates dying in this Ontario jail? Fifth Estate investigates
Guest: Habiba Nosheen
And he is begging for his life begging... begging, and other inmates are begging "Help Adam. Please please help Adam."
AMT: That is Deb Abrams and the Adam to whom she's referring is her son. Four years ago Adam was murdered at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Center the EMDC as it's called. His death at the London, Ontario jail is alarming for a number of reasons including the fact that Adam was murdered inside his own cell. But his is not an isolated case. The EMDC has one of the highest numbers of deaths of inmates inside a Canadian jail. The CBC's The Fifth Estate has been looking into this institution and its host Habiba Nosheen is here to tell us more. Hi Habiba.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Hi Anna Maria.
AMT: Tell us more about this detention center it's a provincial jail right?
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Yes. And it was built initially to house 150 inmates and now it's been reconfigured to house up to 450 inmates. It's a remand facility so that means that along with people who've been convicted of a crime or people who haven't even had their day in court and could very well be innocent.
AMT: And why did you decide to start looking into this?
HABIBA NOSHEEN: You know, Anna Maria, our team had been hearing troubling stories about EDMC for a while and one of the things that happened is we received to us be key in the mail and it contained a 22 minute long video, and this video that was sent to us really captures the last moments of a man's life inside the EMDC as he was committing suicide. His name is Keith Patterson.
AMT: And what have you learned about Keith Patterson who was he?
HABIBA NOSHEEN: So Keith person is 30 years old. He was in and out of foster care he had a history of mental illness and his sister tells us that he actually was bipolar. I met with Keith's Sister Marcia in London and I'll let her tell you a little bit more about Keith.
This is my wall of my brother went from being a baby right up to just before he passed. [Sobs] He liked to make people laugh. He was a joker. People loved him. He had his issues. He never had that strong family relationship. My brother was very well known in there. He would literally go break a law in the wintertime just so he had a roof and food in his mouth. So he could stay warm.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: We do know that this time he was in for drug and assault charges and during his two months and EMDC records show that he was in and out of solitary confinement and he does at many points threaten the guards that if he was put in solitary that there will be trouble.
AMT: So he did have troubles. But how was he able to take his own life in a jail?
HABIBA NOSHEEN: You know what we learned is that he was able to use a tear proof blanket and that's supposed to be a safe blanket. But inmates are not supposed to be able to rip for self-harm or to be able to use it as a weapon. And he was able to do that. Now I spoke to Kevin Egan. He's the lawyer who been representing keeps family and they're suing the province now. And he told me more about what we see on the surveillance video about this blanket.
KEVIN EGAN: As I understand it he turned around and around his neck and then went down, lowered himself and he was choking and passed into unconsciousness. These blankets are wandered with bleach and that weakens the structure of the blanket. They're actually washing it at a higher temperature and it's recommended probably to disinfect it but that weakens it as well. And so we've got all these blankets in the system that really are affected.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: That are deadly It seems.
KEVIN EGAN: Deadly. Yes they're ready made ligatures.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: And so, Anna Maria Kevin Egan believes that these blankets become weapons and when they're weakened then that's essentially how Keith is able to use a piece of this blanket to commit suicide. And Anna Maria Keith's last moments were caught on camera inside this jail and while he's hanging himself we see that a guard brings him a sandwich and he doesn't seem to notice that there is a torn piece of blanket tied to his cell door.
AMT: So these were warning signs and as you say, there are cameras all over. And even though someone goes to the cell door why does no one notice or stop what's going on?
HABIBA NOSHEEN: We know that the guards did see Keith with a torn blanket and it appears that they just let him keep it. It's possible that they just didn't want to engage with him because he was known as one guard called him quote a 'high maintenance inmate'. But in terms of the cameras the guards tell us that it's actually not possible for them to be sitting there watching these cameras in real time. They say that they just don't have the resources to do that. So it's not used as a preventative tool to stop something in real time in fact at this place is just essentially used as an investigative tool. So if something happens they can go back and retrace you know what went down, and then this 20 minutes or so video that we were sent, we do notice that guards do finally notice that Keith is hanging himself and that's when they struggle to open the door. When they do get in Keith is rushed to the hospital and we know that that's where he was pronounced dead.
AMT: What have the authorities said about his death?
HABIBA NOSHEEN: You know there was an investigation because this is this is a questionable death inside a jail so an inquest is mandated by the province. The jury came back with 12 recommendations. The three main things that they essentially said was someone should be really watching these cameras in real time which has been said to us again and again through our reporting. They just people can't understand why you would put these cameras in place and then no one sits there and watches them. The recommendations also looked into the conditions of these blankets. They really should be maintained better and they shouldn't be deteriorated to the point that an inmate can simply rip them in. They also, the recognition identified that the staff just simply did not have the proper training to prevent inmates who might be inclined to do self-harm. In Keith's case we know that a nurse asked him if you was thinking about killing himself and he said "no" and that was the end of that.
AMT: So this specific death was a suicide. You also looked at other deaths at that facility. How many deaths are we talking about?
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Since 2009 we found 10 questionable deaths. And among these are murders, suicide, drug overdoses. And with Keith’s deaths we see the last moments of a man's life caught on tape. But we were actually also able to obtain another video of a death and this one actually is of a brutal murder that happens inside the EMDC. This video was under a publication ban for years. And the Fifth Estate's team actually fought a legal battle to obtain them.
AMT: And the murder you're talking about there is the murder of Adam whose mother Deb Abrams we heard from in the beginning.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Yes that's right. Adam Kargus, he was 29. He fell into drugs in his late teens and ends up - you know he's a nonviolent petty thief, as people described him. He ends up there on fraud charges this time at the EMDC and he wasn't there long and he was he was expected to be out in less than two months. We spoke to his mother Debbie Abrams when we visited her in Sarnia, Ontario and she remembers the last words that she spoke to her son.
He called about 6:20. He's like "hey momma", he says "I am on the phone to tell you I love you and in 47 days I'm coming home. I'll be home on the 16th." He says "I can't wait". And he was so excited and then there was yelling in the back and he was like “Momma I love you." And that was last I heard from.
AMT: So she never hears from him again. When was that, Habiba?
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Yes that was Halloween 2013. And that was shortly after Adam Kargus is locked in for the night with Anthony George his cell mate, who was actually a well-known EMDC regular who was doing his 22nd stint at this jail. And Anthony George was a violent offender and he was known to brag on Facebook for his propensity for violence.
AMT: Is it normal for someone like Adam, who's not violent, to end up in a cell with a violent offender?
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Yes, Anna Maria people told us that that's not supposed to happen in theory. The system is supposed to vet who an inmate is locked up with. But in reality we know that at EMDC that's just not the case. We spoke to a guard who agreed to talk to us anonymously. He's worked at this jail for 20 years and he says things used to be different. No though we have altered his voice to protect his identity.
At one time there was a classification system within the institution but that's gone out the window. Just because you're just looking for a bed. You know in a perfect world you had somebody that come in and that was charged with something that was relatively minor, they wouldn't be in the range with somebody that you know had a propensity for violence that the other offender didn't.
AMT: So they should not have been house together?
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Yes. Anna Maria speaking to that they believe that Anthony George should not have been in general population at all, let alone in house with Adam Kargus who a nonviolent offender in for petty theft.
AMT: What have you learned about what happened the night he was murdered, then?
HABIBA NOSHEEN: So we know that inmates were drinking for hours. Anthony George one of his specialties was making a jailhouse brew where he used basically inmates would hoard their bread and food and let it ferment in a garbage bag, sometimes for weeks, and then they have the special booze that they would drink. In fact in front of the guards and no one seemed to remove him. We know that the guards knew that day that Anthony George was drinking but nothing was done to remove him from other inmates. And around 7:00 p.m. that night Anthony George and Adam Kargus are locked in a cell together and things get violent. We were actually able to also speak to a former inmate Kyle Duchamp's. He was drinking with Anthony George that night. And I'll let him pick it up.
It sounded like a fight. It's like there was a fight and someone was losing terribly. They were screaming for the cops. There was a couple of guys straight up screaming "help! Key up". And Kargus was screaming for his life. Like he was... he was afraid man. We have no supervision, they are not even doing the rounds. So you can... They are not doing searches. That's the main thing.
AMT: So inmates are not- you're not supposed to be able to be drinking illicit booze and then beating somebody up. It sounds like mayhem, then, right.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Yes Anna Maria, it really does. And you know we see on the surveillance tapes that we obtained that Anthony George continued to beat Adam for over an hour and no one intervened. We also know that for an hour and a half while Adam was being beaten to death no rounds were done, and these rounds are supposed to be done every 30 minutes to ensure that an inmate is there and alive and safe.
AMT: So Adam is screaming. He says the inmates are yelling too. Guards know people are drinking and no one comes to check on them.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Yes. In fact we also learned that for about 32 minutes during this time, a guard who was supposed to be monitoring these inmates is on the phone likely making a personal call. And Anna Maria the next morning, we see on the footage Anthony George, in full view of the camera, is dragging Adam's body. And then with the help of other inmates, cleans it up here is called a sham. Again here is Kyle Dechamps who was there that night.
But I heard him getting dragged off. He just yanked him off the bed and hit the floor boom. They dragged him off into the shower room and propped him up in there. Some of the guys were really shocked. I know I - I didn't take it well. Well it's a it's a man who lost his life and now he's being tried for life luggage and propped up in the corner, in the shower. Everybody was pretty quiet.
AMT: Habiba you have footage of this the body being dragged.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Yes.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: So then you sit down with the man who killed out Adam, Anthony George, tell us about that.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: You know I put in a request months ago to speak to him and I really just assumed that I was never going to hear from him. But he granted the request to meet with me. And you know I went inside the jail where he's been held in segregation. I walk into this room and it's a size essentially of a cell and I am sitting there face to face with this man who is essentially deemed too dangerous to be housed with general population. And I asked him about what happened that night and you know it's funny. He was a lot more soft spoken than I guess than I imagined he would be. Here's part of our conversation.
ANTHONY GEORGE: I don't really recall the incident that much. Like I drank a lot alcohol and there was other substances involved and I don't recall exactly what happened.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: You do admit that you killed Adam, right?
ANTHONY GEORGE: Yes I admit that I killed him.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Why did you kill Adam?
ANTHONY GEORGE: There is no reason behind it. Like I said I was intoxicated. I cannot understand why it happened, myself.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: In the morning when you woke up and you saw that I was dead. We see on the video wrapping his body and dragging it and hiding it in the shower.
ANTHONY GEORGE: That's when I panicked. I didn't know what to do. I knew that I was going to end up in a hole. I really didn't understand what was going on at the time. I was on autopilot, right.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: I bet any people watching would say you are a monster.
I guess so.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: What do you want people to know about you?
ANTHONY GEORGE: I guess they should know that I am sorry for what happened. This never should have happened. I still maintain that I had no intent to kill him at all. Yes I have... I saw other people, but I've never thought in a million years that I was going to kill someone like that.
AMT: He sounds soft spoken as you say; really uncertain as to why he even did this.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: It's hard to know what to make of that. And it was strange you know he doesn't deny that he killed Adam, and pretty much can't deny it because we see him doing that on the video. But his answer is just that I didn't mean it. I was drunk and someone should have noticed that I was drunk and had done drugs and shouldn't have left me alone with him.
AMT: She was charged with killing Adam was he?
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Yes. And finally after four years and endless delays this fall items murder case does go to trial. And initially Anthony George pleaded not guilty and his defense was essentially what he told me which is that 'I was drunk I was doing drugs. Didn't know what I was doing. I didn't mean it.' But in a surprising move on the second day of the trial Anthony George pleaded guilty to second degree murder and he's now serving a life sentence. And throughout this process, this legal process Deb Abrams, Adam's mom, has been sitting in these court proceedings and has had to hear really gruesome details about the last moment of her son's life. And you know she really struggles with those details.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: [sc.
Inmates on the level below said the guard "somebody is getting beat somebody is getting murdered up there." And they ignored them. That's what bothers me the most is that he is begging for his life.
AMT: It's really extraordinary how all this is. Everybody knows about it. So how does she make sense of it, where does she place the blame?
HABIBA NOSHEEN: I think she feels that the system failed him. I mean she says that she says that you know she's out there speaking about what happened because she wants to make sure that there are changes in the system and the procedures that the EMDC change so there isn't another item. What I think makes it really hard for her is to know when she realizes that there have been other deaths at EMDC after Adam. So, to her, nothing has changed and there were no lessons learned from Adam's death and this killing happened over an hour, in front of the cameras as we said. There were plenty of opportunities for guards to intervene and no one was able to stop this. So she did sue the province and they settled. And but you know the details of that are confidential.
AMT: Well have there been any changes at this jail as a result of his death and his death being caught on camera?
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Six EMDC staff were fired in the aftermath of Adam's death. And what's so remarkable is that three of them got their jobs back partly because they argue that it's not fair for them to lose their jobs because they didn't follow the protocol that night because they said these protocols haven't been followed for years at EMTC. They also argue that actually they can't follow all the rules that are on the books because simply not realistic. They say they just don't have the resources from the ministry to do so.
AMT: Did you try to speak with anyone from the Ontario government about those conditions then?
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Yeah you know we did try and get someone from the interior ministry of Corrections to sit down with us and no one would. So then we decided to go to Ontario's legislature and track down Minister Mary France Lelonde to ask them questions about what's going on inside this jail and here is some of that exchange.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: There are cameras inside that institution. The cameras have shown people committing suicide, people being murdered, nobody is actually watching these cameras.
MARY-FRANCE LALONDE: So. You know, anytime there is an incident or a death in our institutions, I have concerns and this is why I am fully committed and making sure that the Ontario system, our correction system, is the very best in Canada and in the world.
AMT: So you're asking her about a suicide and a murder caught on camera and she says - she talks about making it the very best in the world.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Yeah. You know she said she wouldn't talk to us about any of the details because these are matters before the court. But the frustrating thing is you know the ministry has been, and the province of Ontario has been sued so many times in regards to EMDC that with that excuse, there's probably nothing that they can talk about because that's all matters before the court. You know a report did come out recently that said that the situation in Ontario's jails is so bad that it's not going to require a quick fix. It's actually going to require an entire overhaul of the system. And the minister seems to agree with that. She has stated that she plans to introduce new legislation this fall to rethink the way Ontario does corrections. But as you can imagine those changes will take years to come.
AMT: So in the meantime do we know if things have changed? Are these cameras being watched more closely?
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Yes. We recently spoke to a guard who said that nothing seems of change. No one is still monitoring cameras in real time at the EMDC. And Anna Maria I think a lot of Canadians think that - or they hope that - the Canadian penal system is fair and safe. But lawyer Kevin Egan doesn't see it that way.
People are being brought out in body bags on a regular basis and nobody's saying anything because there's an assumption that 'well it must be humane, this is Canada.' And that's not the case.
AMT: Really interesting. Jail is where you serve time for a crime, not where a crime is committed.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Yes.
AMT: Habiba Nosheen, thank you.
HABIBA NOSHEEN: Thank you, Anna Maria.
AMT: Habiba Nosheen is a host of CBC's The Fifth Estate, death behind bars airs tomorrow night at 9:00 on CBC Television in all time zones. Let us know what you think. As you listen to this you can tweet us we are @TheCurrentCBC, find us on Facebook go to our website cbc.ca/thecurrent and stay with us. In our next half hour right after the news it's been little more than a year since Hillary Clinton accused Donald Trump of being Vladimir Putin's puppet. And our next half hour we're asking how many strings Russia is pulling as the investigation into collusion continues. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.
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Trump-Russia 'scandal bigger than Watergate,' says author and reporter Luke Harding
Guest: Luke Harding
AMT: Hello I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current.
AMT: Still to come: Wild salmon off the coast are swimming meters away from a stream of bloody effluent released into the water, the by-product of farmed salmon being processed in nearby plants. A high profile scientist an activist is raising the alarm about that. We'll hear her concerns for the health of Canada's west coast salmon. But first, Trump under fire.
DONALD TRUMP: For everything I see has no respect for this person.
HILLARY CLINTON: Well that's because he'd rather have a puppet as president of the United States.
DONALD TRUMP: No puppet. No puppet.
HILLARY CLINTON: It's pretty clear.
DONALD TRUMP: No you are the puppet.
HILLARY CLINTON: It's pretty clear you won't admit that the Russians have engaged in cyber attacks against the United States of America, that you encouraged espionage against our people, that you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign Up first wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do and that you continue to get help from him.
AMT: You remember that exchange fireworks between then Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in October of last year during the final U.S. presidential debate. Late in the Trump election campaign a mysterious 35 page document began to circulate in journalistic circles in Washington and the contents were damning. The Steel Dossier, as it has become known, outlined a conspiracy between Russia and those high up within the Trump campaign. And today more than a year after that campaign successfully seated Donald Trump in the White House, alleged Russian interference is the very scandal threatening to unseat him. The Steel Dossier continues to rile Republicans and Democrats as investigations continue into the role that Russian intelligence agencies played during that election. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into allegations of Russian meddling is ongoing, uncovering evidence of contacts between Russians close to the Kremlin and people close to Mr. Trump. My next guest has been digging into Donald Trump's relationship with Russia from the earliest days of that scandal. Luke Harding is a reporter for The Guardian. He is the former Moscow correspondent for The Guardian. His new book is called Collusions: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money and how Russia Helped Trump Win. Luke Harding joins us from London, England. Hello.
LUKE HARDING: Hello.
AMT: The man behind that dossier is a former British spy named Christopher Steele. What do you know about him?
LUKE HARDING: Well he is professional. He's credible. I've met him, I met him in December 2016 about four weeks before his famous dossier was published by Buzz Feed. And I think he's kind of changed history and really the last year has gone some way towards vindicating what he what he writes about which put simply is a conspiracy. It's collusion between Moscow and Donald Trump both during the U.S. presidential election but also as I write in my book, going back many decades before that.
AMT: And why was he doing this dash dossier? What was the purpose of it?
LUKE HARDING: Well he spent 22 years in British intelligence. He worked for MI6 and was stationed there during the Cold War and had a kind of front row seat on history in Moscow when the Soviet Union collapsed. He watched all that happen. And he continues specializing in Russia until in 2009 he set up his own private business intelligence agency called ORBIS. Then he worked for a series of private clients and he was kind of known as sort of Russia specialists and he had a pretty good reputation inside the U.S. intelligence community. And before his famous dossier, he writes a series of memories about the war in Ukraine after 2014 which were read by the U.S. State Department and even sent up to the Secretary of State John Kerry. And the reason that's important is because the sources that he used, the secret sources use for those reports, were the same sources behind the Trump dossier. And he was basically hired in the spring of 2016 by a client. We now know that was the Democratic Party, although Steele himself wasn't aware of who the client was to begin with. And he was asked one simple question which was "what is the relationship between Donald Trump and Russia?" And he sent his query out to his various sources and there were the replies - he tell friends that I spoke to - were quote unquote 'hair raising' and he said that sort of reading this stuff was a life changing experience. Essentially what he stumbled upon was, as he put it in his dossier, a kind of well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between Trump and Russia going back at least five years.
AMT: Donald Trump and his allies say that dossier is discredited.
LUKE HARDING: Well yes I mean they do and they would sort of saying it's discredited doesn't make it discredited [laughs] and I don't think they've spent much time seeking to investigate it or verify. And I think really what they say has to be taken with a pinch of salt because for a very long period the White House said to be no meetings between Russians and the Trump campaign. We learn of more and more meetings all the time. Famously a year after it happened, it turned out that Donald Trump Jr. had met a Russian lawyer sent from Moscow and that he took this meeting after being promised incriminating material on Hillary Clinton. We've now have three indictments from Robert Mueller and we know that another foreign policy I'd call George Papadopoulos was scurrying around London my hometown, in the spring of 2016 meeting a mysterious professor with Russian intelligence connections he told Papadopoulos and the Trump team that Russia was sitting on tens of thousands of hacked Democratic Party e-mails. This is before Hillary or the people around her had any idea that they had been hacked. And said there's been this multiple kind of interactions. And I really think things are heating up for Donald Trump I'm becoming more and more serious for him.
AMT: And well before we get to that then Let's go back a little bit. How far back does that relationship go between Donald Trump and Russia?
LUKE HARDING: It goes way back. If you remember Donald Trump's first wife, Ivana, was actually a citizen of a communist country she came from Czechoslovakia. She grew up in the Eastern bloc and they married in 1977. Now we know from de-classified files, from old Czechoslovak spy files, that Czech spies kept a very close eye on the trumps in Manhattan. They watched them from time to time. They talked to Ivana's Father, Trump's father in law and had informal chats with him. And what would have happened is that that intelligence product would have been shared with Moscow, with kind of the big brother, with the Soviet Union. And then if you can afford another 10 years, Donald Trump made this visit to Moscow in the summer of 1987 at the invitation of the Soviet government. Now what my sources say is that there was basically a very determined effort to bring Trump over to the USSR. His travel was arranged by a Soviet state agency called [unintelligible] which was basically the KGB and he was wooed by the then Soviet ambassador, someone called Yuri Dobrynin, who flew from Moscow to New York, jumped off the plane, drove to Trump tower, introduce himself to Donald and said "I'm so impressed with the building," you know "come to Moscow" etc.
AMT: And this was the 80s, late 80s?
LUKE HARDING: It was 1987 but what you have to understand is the kind of context this is the cold war. Gorbachev is in power. There's a degree of the tones going on. But at the same time the KGB viewed the United States as its implacable foe, enemy, and moreover that the head of the KGB - someone called General Vladimir Khrushchev - was secretly sending messages to his KGB officers all over the place but in particular and in Washington in New York, saying "comrades, you need to do more to recruit Americans to actually have kind of top level contacts from politics and business.
AMT: So that's the crux. Why would Russian intelligence be interested in Donald Trump as a businessman?
LUKE HARDING: Well because for example they sent around a personality questionnaire of the kind of people that might make good KGB targets and the people they were looking for were narcissistic. They were people who were speaking about anybody who were corruptible, interested in money, who had perhaps affairs on the side and were not necessarily kind of faithful in their marriages, who were not very good analysts. And he kind of [unintelligible] the list, really Donald Trump ticks every single box. So I mean we can say that Donald Trump was recruited by Soviets in in the 1990s that would be going too far. But what we can say was there was a determined effort to bring him to Moscow to engage with him. The other really curious part of this story is that about six or seven weeks after his trip to Moscow, he flies back to the U.S. He takes out adverts in three American newspapers criticizing Ronald Reagan's foreign policy in very blunt terms. And that led to be known that he's interested in running for president.
AMT: Interesting. So you're basically saying they were they were actively trying to find people to get them into that world. And he was like ready made in their in their mind and so it started cozying up to him?
LUKE HARDING: He was perfect. And the thing is that, it's not that this was kind of Russian intelligence knew all those years ago that Don ald Trump would become president of United States of course not. They didn't realize that. But he kind of fitted that target profile and these techniques of cultivation of wooing, of charming, were classic Cold War methods that were used in the 50s the 60s and 70s and the 80s. And I think set the scene for what happened later which is that, according to the steel dossier, which I think is broadly right, there was a kind of a renewed attempt to reengage with Donald Trump beginning five or six years ago; a sort of transactional relationship where Trump allegedly would supply the Russians with information about oligarchs living in the United States, about their business dealings, about that private stuff. And the Russians would feed politically sensitive and useful information some achieved through technical means to Trump. And I think one really intriguing question is When did the Russians first know that Trump was running for president? I suspect they knew pretty early on.
AMT: Okay and again these are this is not proven that he was sharing information back and forth with him. You are saying that this was the intent. This is what the investigation is looking at.
LUKE HARDING: This is not proven. But Donald Trump has denied all contacts with the Russians and it turns out that half of his cabinet were holding secret meetings with the Russians in 2016. His son and indeed his son Jared Kushner it was also meeting high level representatives from Moscow.
AMT: And now one of the most sensational parts of the dossier is the allegation that Donald Trump was compromised while in Moscow for the 2013 Miss Universe competition, allegedly filmed without his knowledge in his hotel suite. Do you think he was filmed when he was in Moscow?
LUKE HARDING: I'm actually certain he was filmed. I mean what he did what the film showed. We don't know and honestly that's hotly disputed including by Donald Trump but I can tell you tell me from my own personal experience. I spent four years as the Guardian's Moscow bureau chief in Russia between 2007 and 2011. When we were there, we had a series of basically [unintelligible] obnoxious and obvious break into our family apartment was living with my wife and two kids. And this was quite sinister stuff. We had family photos deleted from my laptop we had the window of my kid's bedroom which we'd bolted shut forced open with a sort a 25 metre drop to the courtyard below. And we took advice from the British Embassy in Moscow and they said "look it's the FSB", that's the spy agency the successor to the KGB. And they said "regrettably your apartment is bugged." And I said well look "is there anything we can do about it?" And they said "no not really. You're just going to have to live with it". And they indicated that we had video as well including in the bedroom. So we were watched. We have three and a half years of being basically surveilled until I was eventually kicked out of Russia in 2011. There's no doubt at all that the FSB would spy on anyone staying in the penthouse suite of Moscow's most important hotel, it is where Obama stayed, of course they would spy on him. So then then really it's just a question of how you read Donald Trump's behavior, whether after an exciting day in the Miss Universe beauty pageant he went to bed early with it with a novel or whether something more interesting happened. And we don't know, but Trump will know and Putin will know and the FSB will know.
AMT: Okay and let's talk a little bit more about what you found as you went forward with this. Donald Trump of course has been denying that he or his family business have financial ties to Russia. You've already talked a little bit about some of that but you also found issues around loans. What did you find?
LUKE HARDING: Well there are two big things going on here. One is that when Trump traveled to Moscow in 1987, officially he was there to discuss building a hotel in Moscow with sort of Trump Tower. I was kind of extraordinary is that 30 years later he's still discussing the same project. And we know from e-mails that have been disclosed by Congress that his personal lawyer Michael Cohen was e-mailing Dmitry Peskov, who's Vladimir Putin's press guy, as late as early 2016 saying "this project has stalled. Can you help us. We'd appreciate any assistance from the Russian government," which I think is quite astonishing This is the same time that Donald Trump on the campaign trail is saying "wouldn't it be great if we could be friends with Russia." So there's a kind of back channel going on. But additionally and very curiously President Trump owes about 300 million dollars to the Deutsche Bank, which is Germany's biggest bank. Now you'll remember if you go back to the 1990s that Trump had a series of high profile corporate bankruptcies and most lenders and Wall Street wouldn't give him a dollar. I mean that they stopped lending to him. But this German bank would lend. Then in 2008 there was the financial crisis and Trump defaulted on a loan for forty five million dollars to Deutsche Bank. And he even sued the bank for three billion dollars, saying that it created the global financial mess and he wasn't going to pay them anything and I think what's very strange is about a year off with this Deutsche Bank started lending even bigger sums of money to Donald Trump. But at the same time what we know, what I was sort of research in my book is that Deutsche Bank in Moscow was carrying out a massive money laundering scheme for V.I.P Russians. We don't know who they were but loaned about 10 billion dollars. So you have the Moscow division laundering money for Kremlin people. And you have the New York division lending very large sums to Donald Trump.
AMT: And you make the point there's a conflict of interest in all of those things.
LUKE HARDING: Well as a complex of interest because the Deutsche Bank has now been fined already by the New York regulator about $450 billion, and the Department of Justice is currently investigating this Moscow money laundering scandal. But the Department of Justice of course reports the dole Trump who still has to pay 300 million dollars and of course when I call up Deutsche Bank and say "what's going on here?" that they're not very happy and they don't really want to talk to me.
AMT: When did Western intelligence agencies learn about connections between people connected to the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence?
LUKE HARDING: That's a great question. Earlier than you might imagine because we had an FBI inquiry which morphed into Robert Mueller's pray. And that was really kick started by two things. One was that the dossier of Christopher Steele that we've talked about, but the other thing which I think really alarmed American intelligence, was a series of intercepts that they were getting supplied from European intelligence agencies, European spy agencies. So the British eavesdropping agency which is called GCHQ operates out of out of a provincial town here in England started picking up suspicious interactions between known or suspected Russian intelligence officers that they were looking at anyway. And Trump people said basically they were bugging Russians and suddenly these Russians were talking to people from the Trump campaign. And so this intelligence was fed back to Washington back to the CIA and the French were finding the same thing, my sources telling me the Germans, possibly the Baltic nations of neighbouring Russia rules say feedings stuff back. And my sources in Washington sort of say that the FBI was very slow off the mark. They couldn't kind of put these pieces together to the point the British the Brits were basically saying Guys wake up. There's a pattern here. And it wasn't really until kind of later in 2016 that the FBI began to realize that this conspiracy involving Russia or alleged conspiracy went deeper and further than they perhaps had thought.
AMT: So interesting. Shoot a ahead again. Two people have already been indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller. One is Paul Manafort. You met him. Tell us a little bit but when you met him and what his role was in Ukraine.
LUKE HARDING: Well I did. I remember I remember meeting him in the Ukraine and wrongly spelling his name, M A N I F O R D in my reporter's notepad and I dug up my interview with him because it was kind of quite revealing. He, he of all Americans, he probably has the best connections to Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs and indeed to Moscow. He was working for some local Viktor Yanukovych, at that point Prime Minister but a kind of a wanna-be presidents in Ukraine a pro-Russian figure and essentially a thug. And I think we can say this now a kleptocrat and Manafort was kind of remodelling his image and presenting him as a kind of Western friendly Democrat. So I met Manafort, he didn't speak Russian but he was wearing a very expensive suit and tie immaculately groomed with kind of lustrous brown hair. He was advising this party as to how to get back into power and he did a very good job. Yanukovych won the presidential election of 2010. The first thing he did was to jail his opponents. He literally locked up the woman who'd be standing against him, not Hillary Clinton but someone called Yulia Tymoshenko.
AMT: I remember that, yes.
LUKE HARDING: He enriched his family he basically kind of more or less bribed parliamentarians. And I think precipitated or helped to precipitate what happened in 2014 which is that Vladimir Putin stole in an annex Crimea and kicked off a war in eastern Ukraine. Now we can't lay all of that at Paul Manafort's doorstep. But I mean I do think it is extraordinary that having done the image makeover with Yanukovych he then gets this job advising Donald Trump and becomes his campaign manager. And I talked to one source in Ukraine about Paul Manafort I said "well what do you think about Paul Manafort?" He said simply "he does bastards" [laughs] That is the clowns that he takes on.
AMT: Yes, that the reputation that has now come forward. Watching the clock here, because we got a lot to talk about here. So everybody is expecting something to happen around Michael Flynn, we just learned last night Jared Kushner has met with Robert Mueller to talk about Flynn. What are you watching with Michael Flynn former national security adviser?
LUKE HARDING: Well it was a fascinating story in The New York Times from last week basically saying that he's flipped. He's been under enormous pressure. Beat in mind Flynn was was a senior Iraq spy for Barack Obama. He did these two trips to Moscow; one to get in to round the spy HQ of Russian military intelligence, another to go to a gala party for Russia Today this sort of Kremlin propaganda channel. The second event he was paid for. He didn't declare it and he's in a whole heap of trouble. And also so is his son Michael Flynn Jr. And I think what was interesting about the Flynn case is sort of shows us that Mueller is moving forward very aggressively. And it seems in this instance he's pressuring Flynn by saying "well look you may be happy about going to jail but your son is also in the frame here" and the Times report basically says that Flynn's lawyers have stopped cooperating with the White House. Now Flynn knows an awful lot he knows where some of the skeletons are. And I think he's clearly the most likely candidate to be indicted next. And the big question is: Is he cooperating with Robert Mueller?
AMT: Donald Trump has insulted and pressured a lot of world leaders lately. Latest one is Theresa May in Britain. Never Vladimir Putin. Why do you think that is?
LUKE HARDING: That's the question I ask in the beginning of my book is when he said [unintelligible] about everybody whether it's the New York Times, whether it's the Germans, whether it's players in the NFL, whether it's as of last night Theresa May, and yet Vladimir Putin he praises. He's practically any human being on the planet that Trump apparently likes, apart from his own immediate family and. Well why is that? I think the reason is is in plain sight. It's because as the steel dossier alleges, that the Russians have leverage over Trump. There's a Russian word for it. It's called compromise. It's compromising information. It may be sex, it may be money, it may be sex and money, it maybe something else additionally. But we can say for sure that the Russian intelligence has a huge dossier on Donald Trump, going back several decades, that they know about his financial kind of affairs. They know about other matters. And I think it's the only explanation. I mean I can confidently tell you now that Trump will not during his presidency say anything unkind or nasty about Mr. Putin.
AMT: Any guess on how this scandal ends?
LUKE HARDING: Well [laughs] that's a great question. I you know I mean I kind of describe reality. So we're not there yet but I think it's clear this is the most scandalous presidency any of us can remember. I think this scandal is bigger than Watergate because Watergate, as you know, it was one group of American spurring another group of Americans, versus one group of Americans basically allegedly kind of seeking the help of a traditional enemy of the United States to discredit and chop the legs of political opponents. This is new territory. Trump obviously denies everything and the Republicans it seems are in to impeach him or bring him down. I think the best guess is that he will probably see out his presidential term. I'm doubtful he'll get a second one. But this is the ghost that won't go away. I mean Trump wakes up in the morning and this ghost of Russia and his alleged collusion with Russia is standing there grinning at him.
AMT: And now it's documented in a book by you. Luke Harding we have to leave it there but thank you for your perspective on all of this.
LUKE HARDING: Thank you.
AMT: That's Luke Harding. His book is Collusion: Secret Meetings Dirty Money and how Russia Helped Donald Trump Win. Luke Harding joined us from London, England. Let us know what you think. Tweet us we are @TheCurrentCBC, find us on Facebook. Go to the wevsite cbc.ca/thecurrent. In our next half hour we're talking about affluent samples taken to contain a virus harmful to wild salmon we're looking at food security when we return.
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Blood discharge spewing into B.C. ocean infecting salmon: scientist
Guests: Tavish Campbell, Alexandra Morton, Evan Fraser
AMT: Hello I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current.
VOICE 1: How was it?
[Sound: trickling water]
VOICE 2: Absolutely horrendous. It is sickening, huge [unintelligible] clouds of blood pouring out the bay.
VOICE 3: So this affluent pipe comes down and empties right into Brown's Bay. And Brown's bay sits right on the edge of discovery that's where a huge number of Fraser River sockeye will be out migrating.
AMT: Well that's a video that shocked thousands of people showing blood coloured effluent pouring into Browns Bay off Vancouver Island from a nearby farm salmon processing plant. Young wild Chum and pink salmon are film swimming feet away from the waste cloud. According to tests from the Atlantic Veterinary College the effluent contains a dangerous fish virus known as PRV. The farmed fish processing plant emitting that fish blood is Brown's Bay packing company near Campbell River B.C. It says it disinfects the affluent before releasing it but the federal NBC governments are concerned enough to begin investigating the contents of that waste. And the local First Nations are voicing their fears about the potential ecological effects of the effluent. Chief Willy Moon is an elected chief councillor at the that the Dzawada'enuxw First Nation near Campbell river B.C.
When I saw the video on the blood water I mean it was upsetting. You know My biggest worry is the decline in our salmon. In our last year you know we've had no fishing for the past 30 years. Wild Salmon is all being a part of wildlife but it's also a part of the ecosystem here in our territory. You it feeds the bears, eagles and even for the forest. So when that is gone, you know, we're not going to have what we had.
AMT: That is Chief Willy Moon of a counselor for the Dzawada'enuxw first nation. Tavish Campbell took the video of that fish blood being released into B.C. waters. He's a naturalist an underwater videographer. He's in Victoria, B.C. Hi.
TAVISH CAMPBELL: Yes good morning Anna Maria.
AMT: So what were you expecting to see when you went diving in that area?
TAVISH CAMPBELL: Well we knew this had been going on for quite some time but I don't think I was totally prepared for just how shocking it was going to be to see this blood flowing out, and we actually did a dive on a similar plant in 2010 with the late filmmaker Twyla Rascovich. But at the time you know government reassured us that everything was OK and you know just because of the timing in the video it didn't really take off and I think the visuals of the blood waters really helping with that now.
AMT: So what did it look like?
TAVISH CAMPBELL: It's pretty unbelievable. You know the end of the pipe is quite deep it's about 90 feet under water and it's quite dark at that depth. But as I approach the pike my lights illuminated just this huge billowing cloud of blood being released into the bay and in that blood you could see thousands of shimmering scales kind of flowing up into the water column. It's pretty unbelievable sight.
AMT: Now what was the source?
TAVISH CAMPBELL: So the source was the Brown's Bay Packing Company and the first dive I did there in April of this year and I've since done a number of dives. But that dive that day they were processing Atlantic farmed salmon from a farm in the Discovery Islands and its through that processing and getting ready for market that they released the affluent right into Brown's Bay.
AMT: You also collected samples into Fino Harbor near Lion's Gate fisheries Why did you want to get samples there?
TAVISH CAMPBELL: Yeah well we were so shocked by what we found in Brown's Bay that we wanted to make sure that this wasn't an isolated incident. We wanted to try and illustrate the fact that it wasn't one processing plant that was doing this. It wasn't necessarily you know a rogue plant. So we went over to Fino and did a dive there as well. And that plant was processing Chinook salmon from a farm in Clayoquot Sound owned by creative salmon. And you know unfortunately we found pretty much the exact same thing happening there, the release of this raw effluent into the water.
AMT: And what did you do with the samples you collected in those places?
TAVISH CAMPBELL: Yes. So we took photos. That was kind of the primary reason for going down there. But as well I brought a small little plant in that and collected some blood samples so I simply just held the net over the end of the pipe as all this blood was pouring out. And those samples were were then sent to the east coast and that was coordinated by Alexander Morton. And those were sent to the Atlantic Veterinary College.
AMT: And there was a virus found in the samples you collected. Are you certain that the virus came from what you collected?
TAVISH CAMPBELL: Yes I am certain about that because it was the blood that was sampled. It looks like they were using a fine mesh screen to filter this affluent before it is released but there are still tons of scaled pouring out and small chunks of blood. So, by holding that little [unintelligible] by the end of the pipe, you know in a matter of minutes, there was such a good flow coming out of it, in a matter of minutes I was able to collect a lot of blood and that is what we put into vials and sent out to be tested.
AMT: And was it watery? It sounds like you've collected little chunks of things and put them in the vial is that right? With a net?
TAVISH CAMPBELL: Yes that's right. So it's you know I'm underwater collecting these samples so certainly there is salt water mixed in but there's a lot of small little pieces of blood coming out. And by the time it's in the vials it's kind of this you know red slurry that's that's made up mostly of small little chunks of blood and scales. But inevitably there's some salt water in there as well.
AMT: How deep were you?
TAVISH CAMPBELL: He end of the pipe depending on the height of tide is about 90 feet.
AMT: And how many samples did you collect at those locations?
TAVISH CAMPBELL: Well we sampled a number of times now probably five times.
AMT: Over how long?
TAVISH CAMPBELL: Over probably six month period. The first dive was in April and since then I've dove in June and October and November.
AMT: And all of those samples were sent?
TAVISH CAMPBELL: Yes I believe so yes.
AMT: And you did that with Alexandra Morton?
TAVISH CAMPBELL: Yes so I'm basically you know I'm the one that can go down and get these samples and collect them and then we kind of threw Alexander Morton. They're sent off to the Atlantic Veterinary College.
AMT: Okay. And why - just explain to me a little more about why this issue is so important to you.
TAVISH CAMPBELL: Well I think ultimately it's important to me because I care about our wild salmon. I've grown up and continue to live in the Discovery Islands which is a real hot spot for fish farming and haven't really had a choice but to witness the impact this industry is having on my home. So you know we've been aware of these plants releasing effluent for a while and it was just a natural thing to go down to investigate. The last time we did this dive in 2010 we were pretty patronisingly reassured by government that everything was just fine. And that's a pretty common response when it comes to agriculture management. It seems so. Yes. We get used to try and to just take things into our own hands and actually investigate what's going on.
AMT: Okay. Well Tavish Campbell, thank you for speaking with me.
TAVISH CAMPBELL: Yes, thank you very much.
AMT: Tavish Campbell is a naturalist and an underwater videographer. He joined us from Victoria, B.C. His video drew international attention to how fish plants are disposing of industrial waste. It was the results of the testing samples of that fish blood that moved the federal government to act. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has launched a review into what the effluent contains. Alexandra Morton who we just mentioned is an independent scientist and activist who arrange to have those samples tested and she joins us from Courtney, British Columbia, hello.
AMT: Good morning. So when you saw that video what did you think?
ALEXANDRA MORTON: I was shocked at the carelessness of government to allow this amount of blood from farmed salmon which we know are infected with several viruses to pour into the major migration route of all of Canada.
AMT: So you got the samples that he took. What did you do with them? You looked at them first yourself did you not under your microscope?
ALEXANDRA MORTON: Yes that's right. So first he came up with the footage and sent it to me and I said "oh Tavish, could you give me a sample of that?" And so he did. And I think part of what he got was the kidney which is this red gelatinous blood line along the spine of the fish. And so I spread that out on a Petri dish and looked at it under a microscope because the first question was 'Is there anything alive in this blood? Had it been treated enough to kill everything or were there living sea lice or other things?' And indeed there were a lot of live wiggling intestinal worms. So that told us that the sample was containing life material, and then I took some of those gelatinous blobs and they were put into the vials of a substance called RNA later that preserves viruses and shipped it off to the Atlantic Veterinary College. We do a lot of work together. Dr. Kibenge lab. And he came back with very high levels of the Piscine Reovirus in all of these samples.
AMT: Okay so Dr. Frederick Kibenge is with The Atlantic veterinary college at the University of Prince Edward Island. So what is this virus? What does it do?
ALEXANDRA MORTON: It's called Piscine Reovirus and it infects the red blood cells of salmon. In fact it uses the red blood cells to replicate itself and loads up these cells. And we know that in farmed salmon if they become stressed then it shoots at the heart and starts to destroy the layers of heart muscle and also the skeletal muscle that the salmon used to swim. So it basically renders the fish motionless and in the farms they can survive that and they will often recover. But in the wild, wild salmon don't have this opportunity to lie on the surface because there's so many predators hunting them. And furthermore while it's in their red blood cells there's a big concern that the fish just won't be able to take oxygen to you know runaway from a killer whale or catch a salmon or go up a river.
AMT: Now to be clear that there's no known human health risk associated with eating fish containing PRV.
ALEXANDRA MORTON: I haven't seen any research on that so I'm hoping that's the case but I haven't seen anybody actually look into that.
AMT: The B.C. salmon farmers association says PRV is common in the ocean in wild and farmed fish and it's not a virus known to cause illness in fish.
ALEXANDRA MORTON: Really?
AMT: What do you believe that? Yes.
ALEXANDRA MORTON: Oh well it's pretty shocking statement. Oh it's definitely known to cause illness in fish. In fact fisheries and ocean scientist Dr. Christy Miller found it in a farm causing disease right near where the blood pipe is. Furthermore it's widely known in Norway to cause disease. But it's a difficult virus for the fish farmers because, as Tavish mentioned over 80 percent of them - of the farmed salmon in B.C. are infected and Minister Dominique LeBlanc doesn't want to prohibit the transfer of infected fish into these farms. That's how it's getting into the blood pipe is that the farmed salmon are infected with it and then they're taken to processing and ends up in the pipe. And we have we have laws in Canada that say you cannot put diseased fish into the ocean but I'm actually in court for the second time with Minister Leblond trying to prevent him from allowing the salmon farming industry to put these fish into the waters. And so far he resists because the problem is so many of these farmed salmon are infected with the virus that if they're prohibited from using these fish they just won't be able to arm legally in British Columbia.
AMT: Again I don't want to just have you speak to what the association is saying to us about all of this. Jeremy Dunn the executive director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association says Canada has no prohibition against fish blood going directly into the water he says in this case the red liquid in the Brown's Bay video had been treated above and beyond regulatory requirements.
It's important that people understand that what they're seeing in that video is a treated affluent from a provincially permitted fish plant, not unlike many affluence that would be permitted to be released into the marine environment under strict regulations. This isn't a raw product being distributed but one that's being treated. And I think it's unfortunate that our numbers being somewhat vilified here by actually going about what's required by law. Salmon farmers are committed to the highest level of treatment and health of their animals and will continue to work to get better.
AMT: Alexander Morton How do you respond to that?
ALEXANDRA MORTON: Well so this is the big concern. So if they are going above and beyond the regulations and there's living intestinal worms in this sample then it has been treated very thoroughly.And it's the government who is putting us at risk here. The industry apparently is just following the rules but the government isn't putting enough rules on to protect wild salmon. I mean to allow basically what looks like a firehose of blood carrying living intestinal worms and viruses into the biggest wild salmon migration route of all of Canada and the wild salmon passing this pipe are in collapse. I mean fisheries in British Columbia are cut back enormously, run sizes are diminishing even though people aren't fishing them. So we know there's something very serious going on with wild salmon.
AMT: I have another clip that I want you to speak to then, and that is from the B.C. minister of environment and climate change strategy and that is George Heyman. This is a clip on when he says the government is going to do.
I have asked for an inspection of that particular processing plant. And the other one that Mr. Campbell videoed and tested. We're going to see if they're out of compliance with their permit, if they are we'll take appropriate action. We're also going to review the samples as opposed to testing protocol. He says that there is Piscine Reovirus present which is a danger. The company says it's not. So we need to be sure. And if we can't be sure from those samples we'll do our own testing. Bottom line for us is we're going to protect these wild salmon the nearly 10,000 jobs, and indigenous people that depend on the fishery.
AMT: Alexander Morton do you take any comfort in that?
ALEXANDRA MORTON: Well he hasn't contacted me to look at the samples so hopefully it's going to take his own. I don't think there are 10,000 people in the industry. They say there's about 4000. But what people need to do is draw back and look at how is this virus getting into the blood. It's not just the processing plants. It's almost 100 salmon farms on the East Coast. And and I don't believe they are out of regulation. It's the regulations themselves that they need to really look at. And so people were pretty unaware by this. But I'm very hopeful that we have governments that will respond to the actual science that has been done on this virus and in the samples.
AMT: So you are arguing is that the federal government or the provincial government there needs to tighten the regulations?
TAVISH CAMPBELL: Well it sounds like both of them as if George Heyman our provincial minister environment is involved. He apparently feels that he has a responsibility to this. And so he needs to look at this. But wild salmon in British Columbia are in collapse and you cannot just allow blood laden with virus to pour into the major migration routes and think that everything is going to be okay. So I really hope these people thoroughly look into this and how did this virus get into the blood and what is it doing to our coast.
AMT: Alexandra Morton thank you for your time today.
ALEXANDRA MORTON: Thank you so much for the interview.
AMT: Alexandra Morton an independent scientist and activist she's in Courtney, B.C. We did ask for an interview with Dominique Leblanc the Federal Minister of fisheries oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. He was not available. There are concerns about diseases that may affect the animals we eat go fish and they go beyond viruses. What threatens the health of livestock can affect the very security of our food systems. And with the global reach of food and the diseases that affect crops and animals, scientists are looking at new ways to address such threats. Evan Fraser is the Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security. He's the director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph. He joins us from Guelph. Hello.
EVAN FRASER: Hi Anna Maria, nice to hear your voice.
AMT: Well nice to talk to you. The video that we that we are talking about in the discussion around the possibility of a viruses in the blood and getting a lot of attention. How concerned should we be about viruses and disease affecting the animals we eat?
EVAN FRASER: So that's a wonderful question and I have to preface my comments. This isn't the area of expertise that I personally have but I have the privilege of working at the University of Guelph where we've got great people working on this and in preparing for this interview I reached out to them and what I learned was there's sort of three kinds of diseases we ought to be worried about in our food system. The first our animal to animal diseases and the most common one is that hoof and mouth disease that doesn't make people sick but it can be devastating for the industry. And these are sort of production limiting diseases like mastitis and whatnot. Then there's those zoonotic diseases that actually make people sick, avian influenza, HIV. And so that's important to sort of distinguish between these two different kinds of diseases that affect the animals and it requires different policy approaches for each of those different kinds of diseases.
AMT: So how big of a threat is all of that to our food security?
EVAN FRASER: Well speaking historically we've got lots of examples going back throughout agricultural history of diseases having massive impacts on our food system. The Irish potato blight for instance was a disease of the potato crop that caused a famine in the 1850s. The Spanish influenza - the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918 killed tens of millions and probably emerged from chickens or ducks or. Then there's the cattle plague rinderpest which actually has been eradicated but was such a devastating disease amongst cows that it completely changed Africa's ecosystem in the late 1800s and early 1900s. So we've got lots of examples of diseases playing major roles in shaping the food we eat.
AMT: And we don't have to go that far back. Didn't you spend time in the UK during the outbreak of hoof and mouth disease 15 years ago?
EVAN FRASER: Exactly. So hoof and mouth disease completely reshaped the nature of Britain's Britain's livestock industry. And no one can who was around in the in the early 2000s can forget the images of these huge piles of other animals that were being burned. And again that was that was a disease that doesn't make any people sick. That was animal to animal transmitted disease.
AMT: Well and then we've got issues around bovine spongiform - say the word for me?
EVAN FRASER: Mad cow [laughs]
AMT: Yes mad cow disease, thank you, mad cow disease.
EVAN FRASER: It caused billions of dollars’ worth of damage when international partners of Canada decided to stop importing our beef as a result of I believe one instance of one cow.
AMT: And it also affects people's ability to give blood to this day if they were living in certain parts of the world when that broke out.
EVAN FRASER: Absolutely. My wife and I lived in Britain at that time and we will never be blood donors in Canada again.
AMT: Same with me. So is our food under more threat from disease than it has been in the past? Or is it more sophisticated disease? Or does it just move faster?
ALEXANDRA MORTON: Well any of these questions are complicated. Right. So on one hand whenever you've got a lot of organisms being produced intensively in one place it generally theoretically have the opportunity for disease to become established. Equally though with intensive production especially in a country like Canada, we've got a lot of a lot of really good science and a lot of really good processes to manage those diseases. So I was going to give you three very quick examples that friends of mine are working on. I've got a colleague named Bonnie Millard who works to help breed dairy cows that are better and have more enhanced immune systems. So that those cows are just bred to be inherently stronger and more robust. Another good friend of mine Shane Shereef he is developing a probiotic supplement to feed the chickens that boost their micro biomes of the intestinal bacteria in their guts which will help those chickens fight off avian influenza. And from a very different perspective, another colleague of mine, his name is Bob Hanner, he uses genomic tools like DNA barcoding which essentially allows for very quick rapid tracking of problems whether it's a pest or whether it's food fraud or things like that. And Bob works with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. So I mean those are just three quick examples that illustrate how we're working on these issues. And I think Canadians in general can be on one hand concerned that diseases are definitely a problem, and we actually are living at a period of time in history when our food system is about as safe as it's ever been. No system will be completely safe. But we have pretty good regulatory systems that that mean that the problems are relatively few and far between. Thank goodness.
AMT: And what about some other countries and the food that Canada might import or the crops or the materials?
EVAN FRASER: So this is this is an issue now where myself and my colleagues grow sometimes concerned. We don't really know exactly the kinds of food that come into our country and how it's being produced. Do we really trust all of the shrimp farms to be adhering to high sanitary standards and whatnot? And I get a little concerned about things like that. And I know that's a concern for many of my colleagues as well. But let's flip that around. That actually becomes an opportunity for Canada and I know that the Canadian government and the Canadian industry is interested in trying to develop our brand Canada to establish our food as the most safe sustainable in the world. And maybe we can benefit by marketing our food in that way.
AMT: So when you hear about a call for tougher standards and restrictions and in the case that we just heard is that what it depends on? It depends on strict regulatory control on the Canadian government and provincial government ends?
EVAN FRASER: So I'm going to say yes and I mean to add to other things. We need we need really good research specifically research that applies cutting edge tech technologies so that we can maintain good quality standards, maintain good quality animal health and very very good tracking systems. We're also going to need close partnerships with the producers in the industry and really you need the academic groups, the scientists, the industry and the regulatory bodies working together. And we all need our feet to be held to the fire by the activists and the advocates that make sure that we don't get lazy.
AMT: Okay, Evan Fraser thanks for your time.
EVAN FRASER: Oh my pleasure.
AMT: Evan Fraser is the Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security and the director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph. That's where we reached him Guelph, Ontario. Well now we want to take some time to take a nod to the team that brought you our program this week.
KAREN MARLEY: Hi Iam Karen Marley one of the producers here at The Current. This week the show was produced by: Idella Sturino, Howard Goldenthal, Ines Colabrese, Amra Pashitch, Susana Ferreira, Samira Mohyeddin, Pacinthe Mattar, Yamri Taddese, Julian Uzielli, Kristin Nelson, Willow Smith, John Chipman and Ashley Mak. And thanks to our network producers: Anne Penman in Vancouver, Michael O'Halloran in Calgary, Suzanne Dufresne in Winnipeg, Susan McKenzie in Montreal and Mary-Catherine McIntosh in Halifax. And a special thanks this week to Haydn Watters from CBC online. The Current's writer is Peter Mitton. Our web producer are Lisa Ayuso [ay- you-sew] and Sarah Claydon. Ruby Buiza is our interactive producer. Transcriptions are provided by Rasha Shehata. Our technical producers are Gary Francis and Jennifer Rowley. Our presentation producer is Lara O'Brien. And our documentary editor is Liz Hoath. Our senior producers are Richard Goddard in Toronto and Cathy Simon in Vancouver. The executive producer of The Current is Kathleen Goldhar.
AMT: And that is our program for today all those people you just heard about are busy working on the next one by the way. Stay with Radio 1 for Q. Tom POWERS GUEST Is Canadian country music legend Shania Twain. Shania Twain is a former guest host of The Current. After a 15 year break one of the country's and the world's most treasured musical icons is back with a new record. Shania Twain will talk to Tom about her life and career and the personal loss that led to her long hiatus. Remember you can always take The Current with you to go on your CBC Radio app. It is free from Google Play or the App Store. Now we were just talking about B.C.'s wild salmon the same salmon that will one day migrate up tributaries to the freshwater creeks where they were born. In Chilliwack, the Fraser River First Nations perform a ceremony for the first salmon that arrived home. So we're going to leave you with the sounds of one of their first salmon ceremonies. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. Thank you for listening to The Current.
[Sound: Drums and chanting]
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