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In today's Morning Brief, we look at how criminals apparently defrauded the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) and Canada emergency business account (CEBA) programs.

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These are the ways organized crime took advantage of Canada's pandemic benefits

The federal government spent billions of dollars on income supports to help Canadians weather the pandemic — but it appears these emergency benefits inadvertently went to criminals as well.

According to a recently obtained financial intelligence report, criminals and organized crime appeared to have "knowingly and actively" defrauded the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) and Canada emergency business account (CEBA) programs.

The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), the country's financial intelligence wing, observed that during the first few months of the CERB program, criminal organizations filed multiple applications using stolen identities.

"They tend to hire groups of individuals to cash the benefit cheques at various locations around town," said the 2020 FINTRAC report, released through an access to information request filed by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin. "In one instance, the reporting entity indicated that social media was used as the means of recruitment of these people."

Launched in March, CERB originally paid $2,000 a month to Canadians whose income took a hit due to the pandemic. The program paid out more than $74 billion before the government transitioned to paying Canadians through employment insurance.

A similar scheme was used by criminal organizations exploiting the Canada emergency business account: applicants transferred the $40,000 subsidy from their business accounts to personal accounts and withdrew the money in cash.

"Why would you not take that? I mean, it's free money in a manner of speaking," Sanaa Ahmed, an assistant professor of law at the University of Calgary, told CBC News.

"I think this is one of those crimes of opportunity. Even at the time that the government announced these emergency relief measures, we knew some of that was bound to happen, because Ottawa has said quite explicitly that, you know, they're not really fussed about interrogating, whoever's applying, so it only stood to reason that some of the applicants would be fraudulent." Read more on this story here.

Tunnel of light

(Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images)

People walk through the Winter Cathedral while visiting Lightscape, a light display at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden on Thursday in Arcadia, Calif. The 1.6-kilometre long pathway though the arboretum features art installations of light, colour and sound immersed in the gardens.

In brief

Mounties in Kelowna, B.C., are investigating after dozens of people protesting vaccine mandates disrupted an informal Remembrance Day gathering at the city's cenotaph on Thursday. RCMP say when officers arrived on the scene at about 10:55 a.m. local time, they found between 75 and 100 protesters interrupting the proceedings. "Kelowna RCMP officers support a person's or groups' right to protest, but when they choose to willfully interrupt the assembly of citizens at a Remembrance Day ceremony, this is a step too far," Insp. Adam MacIntosh said in a news release. He said police will be investigating to determine if offences may have been committed. A formal public Remembrance Day ceremony was not held in the city this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but police say veterans and members of the public had gathered at the cenotaph to pay their respects. Read the full story here

Canada and the United States are urging their citizens to leave Haiti amid deepening insecurity and a lack of fuel. "If you're in Haiti and your presence isn't essential, consider leaving if you can do so safely," the Canadian government cautioned earlier this week. Global Affairs Canada said on Thursday that it is temporarily withdrawing non-essential Canadian employees and family of Canadian Embassy staff in the country. "The safety of Canadians is our highest priority at all times, and to this end our embassy in Port-au-Prince remains open," the statement said. The U.S. State Department has issued similar warnings. They come as the Haitian government and police struggle to control gangs that have blocked fuel distribution terminals. Read more on the warnings to Canadian and U.S. citizens.

WATCH | Haiti paralyzed by fuel shortage, gang violence: 

Haiti paralyzed by fuel shortage, gang violence

2 months ago
Duration 2:05

As world leaders at COP26 in Glasgow hammer out the final details of a new action plan to tackle climate change, the nearby Scottish city of Dundee is already offering a glimpse of what a zero-emission future might look like. Dundee — a city of 150,000 about 125 kilometres northeast of Glasgow — is a former industrial town that has successfully transitioned into a hub for tech startups and medical research. Today, it's already about one-quarter of the way through converting its municipal fleet of 180 vehicles — from garbage trucks and street sweepers, to vans and cars — over to zero-emission vehicles. "We're the vanguard of moving over to e-mobility of any city in Europe," said Fraser Crichton, manager of Dundee's municipal vehicle fleet. Read more on the changes the Scottish city has made

WATCH | Dundee, Scotland, leads the EV charge as the world tries to catch up: 

Dundee, Scotland, leads the EV charge as the world tries to catch up

2 months ago
Duration 2:12

You probably wouldn't eat a chocolate bar on your way to work, but depending on your morning beverage of choice, you could be getting a similar amount of sugar in your favourite drinks from Starbucks, Tim Hortons and McDonald's McCafe. To learn more about how much of the sweet stuff Canadians are sipping on, Marketplace reviewed online nutrition information for some popular drinks available at coffee shop chains across the country and found some contain a surprising amount of sugar. Read more on this story from CBC Marketplace

WATCH | Shocking amount of sugar found in some McCafé, Starbucks, Tim Hortons beverages: 

Shocking amount of sugar found in some McCafé, Starbucks, Tim Hortons beverages

2 months ago
Duration 2:06

The decision by Rogers Communications Inc. to not appeal a court decision last week handed company chair Edward Rogers a decisive victory in his battle for control of the telecom company that bears his family name. Long-simmering tensions at the family-run company spilled out into the open last month, giving ordinary Canadians an unprecedented glimpse into the behind-the-scenes details at play with the powerful family. While the ruling handed the keys of the castle to Edward Rogers for the foreseeable future, the costs associated with his win may make for a pyrrhic victory — making it even harder for him to fix the mismanagement and stock underperformance that he says has plagued the company for years. Read more on this story here.

Now for some good news to start your Friday: If Dolly did it, so can I. That's what Eva Hilborn, a 95-year-old resident of Qualicum Beach, B.C., told herself when she launched her foundation, the Wonderful World of Books. It delivers a book a month, for free, to families with children two to three years old living in nearby Bowser, B.C. A lifetime reader who strongly believes having access to books at a young age is critical to child development, Hilborn says the idea came to her after reading a newspaper article about country singer Dolly Parton, whose own foundation, Imagination Library, has gifted over 150 million books to children under five around the world since 1995. Hilborn started in August, delivering 25 books to 25 youngsters in the Bowser Elementary School catchment area. She's hoping to expand the program to 100 children born in 2019 in other communities in the district. Read more about Hilborn's book foundation.

Opinion: Dictionary update shows how changing climate changes everything, including language

No dictionary can capture the language of climate change. There simply aren't enough words to convey the enormity of what we confront as a species, writes Donald Wright. Read the column here.

Front Burner: The next phase of COVID-19 in Ontario

On Thursday, Ontario reported 642 new COVID-19 cases, a 46 per cent jump from a week earlier. But Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti says that in COVID-19's former epicentre of Toronto and Peel Region, the case counts may obscure some good reasons for optimism about the future of the pandemic.

Chakrabarti is an infectious diseases specialist at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont., which was once one of COVID-19's most vicious hot spots. He believes that in the Greater Toronto Area — with its mix of high vaccination rates and repeated exposure to the virus — COVID-19 is on the path to acting less like a pandemic and more like an endemic disease. 

Today in history: November 12

1884: Calgary incorporates as a town. Less than a month later, George Murdoch is elected as its first mayor.

1939: Dr. Norman Bethune dies of blood poisoning in northern China. The Canadian-born surgeon joined the Communist Party in 1935 and devoted his life to the anti-fascist cause — first in the Spanish Civil War, where he developed the first ever mobile blood transfusion unit, and then in China, where he's revered as a hero. 

1951: The National Ballet of Canada gives its first performance at the Eaton Auditorium in Toronto. Founded by Celia Franca, it is the country's largest professional dance company.

1992: Canada's Inuit accept a $580-million federal land claim settlement giving them control over a large part of the eastern Arctic, paving the way for the creation of a third northern territory called Nunavut on April 1, 1999.

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

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