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In today's Morning Brief, we have the story of victims of a massive investment fraud who are calling on federal politicians to resume an inquiry into Canadian shell companies set up in the Isle of Man.

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Victims of Ponzi scheme call for reopening of probe into offshore money transfers

Victims of a massive investment fraud that operated for years out of Montreal and siphoned more than $500 million offshore are calling on federal politicians to resume an inquiry into Canadian shell companies set up in the Isle of Man, a popular tax haven used by global accounting firms.

"On behalf of the victims, I am asking that the federal government reopen this file," Janet Watson wrote last month to her local MP, Marie-Claude Bibeau, the federal Liberal minister of agriculture.

Watson lost her retirement savings in a fraud engulfing three Montreal companies — Cinar, Norshield and Mount Real — that bilked thousands of average Canadian investors.

The Isle of Man previously attracted attention from parliamentarians after revelations that the accounting firm KPMG had helped set up offshore shell companies for unknown wealthy Canadian clients.

In 2016, the House of Commons finance committee abruptly shut down questioning into offshore shell companies in the Isle of Man after objections were raised by KPMG about the potential impact on ongoing court cases.

The Canada Revenue Agency eventually settled three of the tax cases out of court, but the committee never resumed its inquiry.

Now, documents suggest some of the monies that disappeared offshore may be connected to four shell companies in the Isle of Man that were used to hide money from creditors. 

In her email to Bibeau in early March that was copied to hundreds of fellow investors, Watson said it is time for politicians to probe what happened to their money lost offshore in a Ponzi scheme, a fraud in which the apparent returns are actually paid out using money from new investors. Read more on this story here.

Supermoon over Paris

(Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

A supermoon rises behind the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Tuesday. A supermoon, which happens a few times a year, is a full moon that is slightly closer to Earth than normal.

In brief

Internal government documents obtained by CBC News show few signs that Ontario prepared the long-term care sector for the risks from COVID-19 before the virus began its deadly spread through the province's nursing homes. CBC News asked the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Long-Term Care for all reports, memos and briefing notes concerning the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 and long-term care homes in February, March and April of 2020. Only a handful of documents from the ministries mention protecting long-term care residents in February, even as cases were steadily arriving in Ontario and the devastation from the infections in Italy became apparent. Taken as a whole, the documents add to the evidence suggesting the provincial government devoted far less attention to readying the long-term care sector for the impact of the coronavirus than hospitals. Read more on this story.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland committed in last week's budget to do something anti-corruption crusaders and experts on white-collar crime have been urging for years: create a publicly accessible database of the "beneficial" owners of companies. "To ensure our system is fair, this budget will invest in the fight against tax evasion, shine a light on beneficial ownership arrangements, and ensure that multinational corporations pay their fair share of tax in Canada," Freeland said in French in the House of Commons. But some transparency experts say the change will be toothless without the support of the provinces and territories, which all have their own laws for incorporating and regulating companies. CBC News found they were largely caught by surprise at the federal government's announcement; most haven't committed to taking part. Read more on the database.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is looking to scrub its entrance exam of cultural biases and "outdated criteria" as it tries to confront what's been called its "toxic culture" and the problem of systemic racism in the ranks. The RCMP posted a tender this week looking for a contractor to provide pre-screening exams for applicants. It's part of the RCMP's modernization plan, known as Vision 150, which also includes changes to the criteria for becoming an RCMP officer. "A thorough review of these processes has determined that despite significant changes made to the processes and tools over the past decade, systemic challenges remain," says the tender. RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki has been signalling that changes are coming to the recruitment process. She told a House of Commons committee late last year that the force needs to better reflect the communities it serves. Read more on changing the RCMP's entrance exam

Canada has fully vaccinated just three per cent of its population — a low figure explained in part by the long interval between shots — while 30 per cent have had at least one shot. The United States and the United Kingdom, two countries that have outpaced Canada's vaccination effort, have one thing in common: they have homegrown pharmaceutical companies that make their own products at domestic facilities — a bulwark against the vaccine nationalism that has disrupted global supply chains. Canadians have noticed. CBC News has received hundreds of emails from readers about vaccine production in recent weeks. "Why doesn't Canada have its own vaccine? Are we always to rely on the USA for everything?" Tim Williams asked in an email. "Why has Canada fallen short behind our allies and the rest of the world with research and innovation?" Read more here on what happened to Canada's vaccine manufacturing capability.

Joe Biden's presidency has come as advertised: more calm and less chaos after the roller-coaster presidency of Donald Trump. "Biden is often called boring," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "And my answer to that is, if we ever needed a boring president, it's the one following Donald Trump.... This is precisely what Americans hope they get." But that's only one-half of an improbable dual reality, the near-contradiction that has defined the first 100 days of Biden's presidency. Call it boring radicalism. Biden has an agenda that would transform aspects of American life that's significantly more progressive than the one pursued by the Obama administration he served. In his first presidential speech to Congress today at 9 p.m. ET, he'll reveal the latest of several trillion-dollar plans — in this case family-friendly policies, coupled with tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations. Read more on this from CBC Washington correspondent Alexander Panetta.

Now for some good news to start your Wednesday: Carter Burton of King's Point, N.L., is fulfilling his dream of playing minor hockey, thanks to an engineer who custom-designed a glove for the 11-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. His form of cerebral palsy affects his left hand, meaning he physically cannot put his fingers into the separate dividers of a regular hockey glove. But Burton got an assist from Leonard Lye, a retired Memorial University engineering professor, who created a custom glove for Carter. Lye found a junior hockey glove and converted the five finger holes into a mitt, a project that took him about two weeks. Nick's mom, Charlene Burton, said they're beyond grateful. "It gives him a chance to be like everyone else, all of his friends, and get on the ice and enjoy the game," she said. Read more on how the engineer helped Carter's hockey dream

Front Burner: What led to Alberta's enormous COVID-19 surge?

Alberta has nearly twice the COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people as the next leading province, and is nearing its highest-ever number of active cases. The region of Wood Buffalo, which includes Fort McMurray, declared a state of emergency on Monday, and some doctors are warning that Alberta's ICUs are headed for a crisis similar to Ontario. 

Yet Premier Jason Kenney has declined to impose new health restrictions since he returned the province to "Step 1" measures three weeks ago.

Today on Front Burner, Maclean's Alberta correspondent Jason Markusoff explains why Alberta's third wave response is drawing anger from across the political spectrum, and what's keeping Kenney from either strengthening restrictions or dropping them altogether.

Today in history: April 28

1817: The Rush-Bagot treaty is signed by Canada and the U.S. It limits the number of warships the two countries could maintain on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. In 1871, the Treaty of Washington completed disarmament.

1919: The Covenant of the League of Nations is unanimously accepted by delegates from 42 countries.

1967: Muhammad Ali is stripped of his heavyweight boxing title after refusing induction into the U.S. army on religious grounds.

1996: A hockey era ends as the Winnipeg Jets lose their final game 4-1 to the visiting Detroit Red Wings. The Jets moved to Phoenix for the next season and were renamed the Coyotes. In 2011, the Atlanta Thrashers franchise relocated to Winnipeg and was reborn as the Jets.

With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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