Lisa LaFlamme: Top 10 News Stories of 2014
CTV News: Top 10 news stories of 2014
Published Thursday, December 18, 2014 9:15AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 18, 2014 10:09AM EST
A group of us huddle in a conference room at the end of each year to debate what stories should make our year-end list. It’s always a challenging process and a great debate. But there are certain guidelines we go by to narrow down a mountain of choices into our Top 10. If a 2014 event happened and you don’t see it here, it was likely argued over at great length and trumped by something as equally important. Let me just say, after the year we’ve had in the news business, we could have easily made this a Top 20.
However, if you look down the list we compiled, the impact each story had can be described as no less than significant.
Communities that pulled together after a tragic event is a theme running across more than a few of the stories. Remembrance Day was all the more poignant this year after the deadly incidents in Ottawa and Quebec that shook our country to the core. Another theme is significant change -- in terms of national security and policy in a few cases -- and of people joining together to push for major change when it didn’t look apparent it was coming.
For many of these stories, the discussions continue and the repercussions will reverberate well into 2015. Here are our Top 10 stories of 2014, as chosen by CTV National News.
Click the arrows in the photos below to view the slideshow we prepared for each story.
Protests continued across America weeks after a St. Louis County grand jury decided on Nov. 24 to not indict the police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown.
The protests were expressions of the raw emotion many Americans were feeling. Not just anger over Brown’s death, but a palpable sadness. For a lot of Americans, this decision seemed to expose the deep divide that remains when it comes to race relations. As CTV’s Tom Walters put it, Brown’s death was "a microcosm of a bigger picture of inequities in law enforcement."
"I'm not mad, I'm disappointed," a woman, weary-looking yet somehow smiling, told Walters in the Missouri town of Ferguson, the day after the decision.
The United States will be dealing with the repercussions of Ferguson well into the New Year and likely far beyond. You just need to look at Twitter to see the divided reaction, with one side highlighting the inequitable treatment of African-Americans by police -- see the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. While the other side counters with #AllLivesMatter.
This conversation is far from over. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the Ferguson Police Department for possible misconduct or discrimination, as well as the department’s practices, and whether Officer Darren Wilson, who later resigned from the force, willfully deprived Brown of his civil rights.
There is also a new panel named by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to help the community of Ferguson heal. The panel is expected to make recommendations in a report due out September 2015.
MALAYSIA PLANE MYSTERY
What happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370? It's a question that remains unanswered nine months after the plane vanished without a trace, despite a multinational air-and-sea search effort that was the largest and most expensive of its kind in history.
There are several theories about the jetliner’s disappearance, from an accident to a hijacking to the plane being shot down. But no crash site has been found; not a single piece of debris recovered. Using analysis from satellite communications, the Malaysian government could only declare on March 24 that "Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean."
The flight went missing on March 8 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. On board were 239 people: 227 passengers from 15 countries (including two Canadians) and 12 crew members.
That incident would have made it the deadliest aviation incident involving a Boeing 777 plane.
But astonishingly, four months later, there was an unrelated incident involving another Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777. Flight 17 was shot down in eastern Ukraine on July 17, killing all 298 people on board.
Meanwhile, an Australian-led search for Flight 370 resumed in October after a four-month hold while crews mapped the seabed of a remote patch of Indian Ocean, about 1,800 kilometres west of Australia.
The search zone is 60,000 square kilometres, and Australian officials said the effort could take up to a year. For family members it is a heart-wrenching, unanswered question that leaves only pain and grieving.
The City of Toronto is doing a different sort of healing after another tumultuous year of politics and a storyline that would probably be deemed over-the-top in a script for "The Newsroom."
Rob Ford, if you recall, made it into our Top 10 list last year. But his continuing story, with his refusal to step down in the face of lurid allegations and his eventual denouement as mayor because of cancer, kept him well in the spotlight in 2014.
You can see some of the highlights in the photo slide above, and a more detailed breakdown in our newscast on Christmas Day, when Toronto correspondent John Vennavally-Rao shows us why the former mayor made our list again. Spoiler alert if you haven't been paying attention: before the year was out, as he was about to undergo a fifth round of chemo, he let loose that he's 'plotting' to return to the mayor's chair again in 2018.
"If my health holds up, my name will be on the ballot," he told CP24 host Stephen LeDrew in an interview on Dec. 10.
Jian Ghomeshi's fall from grace was as sudden and sharp as we’ve seen when it comes to a celebrity in Canada.
From his pre-emptive strike on Facebook to charges of sexual assault levelled against him, it was a scandal that resonated well beyond our borders. Not just because of the sordid details of the allegations that turned a popular radio host into a social pariah, but because of the wider discussion the scandal provoked about the culture of harassment and sexual violence that women face -- in all walks of life.
To say the story hit a nerve is an understatement. Just look at the hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported. This case started a national conversation that is far from complete.
Nine women have alleged physical or sexual abuse by Ghomeshi since he was fired by the CBC in October. While Ghomeshi currently faces four counts of sexual assault and one charge of choking, legal experts expect there will be more.
It's hard to believe that this year started with excitement over the Sochi Winter Olympics. Russia was pulling out all the stops to make the Games a memorable success. The goodwill didn't last long when Russian President Vladimir Putin entered a far more dangerous arena.
The crisis in Ukraine escalated so dramatically in 2014 there was no arguing its inclusion in our Top 10 countdown. The tipping point actually happened in November 2013, when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych abandoned an agreement to strengthen ties with the European Union and declared fealty to Moscow instead.
Months of violent, bloody protests followed, with protesters in Kyiv opposing pro-Russian forces loyal to Yanukovich. The movement ultimately grew into the Ukrainian revolution, and in February, Yanukovych was impeached.
Major developments kept coming. Russia refused to recognize the interim government, calling it a "coup d’etat." The country then launched a covert annexing of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and then invaded Eastern Ukraine -- which Russia denies happened.
With larger questions about Putin’s end game on the minds of leaders in the West -- and whether a new Russian imperialism is on the horizon -- the Ukraine crisis isn't just a conflict over a country roughly the size of Texas.
The Ukraine crisis carries echoes of the days of the Cold War. The attitude of Putin can be summed up in the seven words he said defiantly the day after U.S. President Barack Obama condemned Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine: "It’s best not to mess with us."
As the year ended, strict sanctions were imposed by the West and there was a dramatic drop in the price of oil (the commodity Russia is built on); the Russian bank hiked interest rates dramatically and the ruble dropped to a low not seen since their economy collapsed back in 1998. Stay tuned on this one.
MISSING AND MURDERED ABORIGINAL WOMEN
"As a survivor, I respectfully challenge you all to call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women."
These are the words of Rinelle Harper, the 16-year-old girl who spoke publicly and poignantly one month to the day after she was brutally attacked, sexually assaulted and left for dead at the side of the Assiniboine River in Winnipeg.
Rinelle, from the Garden Hill First Nation, was addressing a gathering of several hundred First Nations chiefs. She was issuing a plea to the federal government to do something they have refused to do: launch a national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
Earlier this year, the RCMP released a number that was shocking: 1,181 cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women nationwide are unresolved. It's a number compiled from over 32 years of police reports.
Another troubling statistic: 16 per cent of all female homicides in Canada are aboriginals, when aboriginal women represent just 4 per cent of the population.
But Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt shot down the latest calls for a public inquiry. He says the solution must come from the community level. The federal government favours a roundtable approach which would feature native, provincial and territorial leaders.
This roundtable is expected to happen in February 2015.
Back to Rinelle Harper. Two men are facing charges of sexual assault and attempted murder in her vicious attack. And despite her ordeal, she also managed to offer these poignant words on Dec. 9:
"I ask that everyone here remembers a few simple words -- love, kindness, respect and forgiveness."
Seven-thousand mourners filled a Moncton hockey arena on June 10 for a regimental funeral for the three Mounties killed in a shooting rampage that left the city under siege for over 24 hours.
It was an openly emotional moment seeing three caskets draped in Canadian flags with photos and mementos of the officers placed beside them.
Const. David Joseph Ross, only 32, was one of the Mountie's dog handlers, and he was pictured with his German Shepherd, Danny, who stood beside his casket and whimpered during the service. Constable Ross was a husband and father; a man who loved the outdoors who had a passion for hunting and tracking. “It was these passions that led Dave into police work,” reads his obituary.
Const. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, a trained diver, was pictured in his diving gear. "He expressed himself largely through his physical being," reads his obituary, which said he was also a runner and a strong advocate of women's rights.
Const. Douglas James Larche, 40, had on a pair of running shoes and a Montreal Canadiens baseball cap in his photo. The father of three girls once saved a newborn’s life, having rushed to the rescue of a mother whose baby fell unconscious and stopped breathing.
Among those mourning the deaths of these men was Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"Together, we struggle for answers," he said. "We ask what in God’s name happened here and why. We may never know."
Over six months later, his words remain true. To try to make 'sense' of this tragedy is an exercise in futility. Video evidence, part of sentencing exhibits that were made public a few weeks ago, showed there was no sense to be made of the motives of the confused young man who reached his "breaking point" on the day he killed the three constables and injured two more.
The justice system sentenced the killer to life with no eligibility for parole for 75 years -- the most stringent sentence handed down in Canada since the last execution in 1962.
"We do not need a verdict to know that what happened here is an outrage," Harper said.
"I know that this grief is shared by all Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
"And in the future, be reminded, of the caring, the committed, and dedicated individuals that these three members were."
The Ebola epidemic in West Africa began in Guinea in December 2013, and quickly spread in 2014 into one of the most widespread epidemics of its kind in history, infecting several countries and causing thousands of deaths.
In our Ebola coverage, I vividly recall medical correspondent Avis Favaro's story on April 11. She interviewed Dr. Tim Jagatic, a Canadian doctor working on the front lines in West Africa with Doctors Without Borders.
Jagatic spoke to us from Conakry, Guinea's capital of 2 million people and an Ebola hot zone. In the face of one of the most challenging outbreaks he's likely ever encountered, Jagatic's positivity and hopefulness stood out. Even though six of the 18 Ebola patients he had treated at the time of the story died, seven were successfully treated -- and discharged.
There was hope, after all, that about half of the patients who are seeking treatment -- when the disease is in its early stages -- are able to survive.
"You're really able to change their lives and make things better," he told us. Dr. Jagatic and people like him are the reason Time Magazine named Ebola health-care workers as their 2014 'Person of the Year.'
As the months went by, however, there seemed to be no stopping the spread. The World Health Organization in September declared Ebola to be "the most severe acute public health emergency seen in modern times. Never before in recorded history has a biosafety level four pathogen infected so many people so quickly, over such a broad geographical area, for so long."
The outbreak is still far from over, and the WHO admits it didn't respond quickly enough to stem the tide of Ebola, and failed in the early stages to recognize how bad things would get in the world's poorest countries.
At the time of Avis's story there were just 160 cases of Ebola. At the time of this writing, there are over 18,200 cases, with nearly 7,000 deaths.
ISIS AND TERROR
Born in the chaos of the Syrian civil war and Iraq's unending sectarian violence, the world was astonished at how fast the Islamic State spread its barbaric rule in 2014.
In a period of about 18 months, ISIS has supplanted al Qaeda as the most powerful extremist jihadi organization in the world. Its mysterious leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared himself the caliph -- a successor of the Prophet – ruling over a caliphate. It's an ancient word traced back to the first successors, and mirrors the group's ancient form of violence to tighten its grip.
And yet ISIS is technologically savvy. The group threatened the West using a series of online propaganda videos which showed executions of the very people who had travelled to Syria to spread peace and expose the violence endured by those caught in the conflict: aid workers and journalists.
The videos spread across the Internet, where the group recruits members from all over the world – including Canadians like John Maguire. Our Laurie Graham reported how Maguire became an extremist known as Abu Anwar Al-Canadi in his own propaganda video, urging lone-wolf attacks on Canadian targets.
Islamic communities have condemned ISIS as being un-Islamic, while Imams across the country have spoken out, hoping to spread a message of peace to youth before they're radicalized.
And in the fall, the Canadian military brought the fight directly to ISIS. Canadian CF-18s have engaged in bombing missions as part of a U.S.-led coalition which began in June to stop the terrorist group from extending its reach into Iraq. Not surprisingly, Canada has now become the subject of threats from ISIS, a group our own Defence Minister Rob Nicholson described as a "real and growing threat to civilization itself."
How long the fight against ISIS will go on is a big question mark as we head into 2015. Canada's Parliament approved a six-month campaign, while American officials predict it could take a few years. However, the coalition isn't committing any ground troops in Iraq or Syria -- which experts say is really the only way to root out militants who hide amongst civilians, and have so far survived four months of airstrikes.
It was just before 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 22 when we heard the first reports of gunshots echoing in the halls of Parliament. The initial chaos was confirmed by a number of frantic tweets by members of government themselves, including this one by Tony Clement.
Shots fired during caucus meeting. at least 30 shots. MPs piled out. I'm safe with 2 colleagues but we're still at risk...— Tony Clement (@TonyclementCPC) October 22, 2014
Liberal MP John McKay told CTV News Channel he was just taking off his jacket to go into caucus when he heard a "pop, pop, pop -- possibly 10 shots, I don't really know -- and thought it was dynamite or construction rather than something else."
He wasn't the only one who didn’t realize -- how could he, really? -- that the noise in the hallowed halls of Centre Block was something far worse.
"At first we just assumed it was construction noises,” echoed Karl Belanger, principal secretary to NDP Thomas Mulcair. "But then security came running by and told us to lock our doors. And by 'telling us,' I mean yelling at us to lock our doors and get back inside," he told CTV News Channel.
It was journalist Josh Wingrove who recorded the video on his phone that would capture the horror and chaos of the scene, and was broadcast on news specials across the country that morning and newscasts worldwide.
We will never forget images from that day -- of bystanders working frantically to save Cpl. Nathan Cirillo as he lay dying in front of the National War Memorial; of MPs barricading themselves in a meeting room on Parliament Hill with stacks of green upholstered chairs and tables; of the faces of grief and disbelief on those we regularly report on, and report with.
The question of how a gunman could walk right into Canada's Parliament is one we are still struggling with. The symbolic damage is hard to fathom, and the repercussions are likely to be long-lasting.
The fact it happened just two days after a man used his car to run over two Canadian soldiers in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., killing Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, raised troubling questions about the security on our own soil of our men and women in uniform and our government institutions.
And as the year wound down there was another major incident, over 15,000 kilometres away but with an uncomfortable similarity to the attacks on Parliament Hill. The hostage crisis in Sydney, Australia, carried out by another so-called ‘lone wolf’ attacker who was inspired by jihadist ideology.
The New York Times drew a parallel, describing the men behind the Sydney and Ottawa incidents as troubled men who share a similar dangerous mix of "personal disaffection and jihadist zealotry."
We spoke with global security analyst Alan Bell in a recent newscast, who offered his advice on how security must step up to stop people like Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who walk among us but quietly plot against us. Here it is in case you missed it.
Experts say be prepared for more conversations like this one, as groups like ISIS continue to recruit, guide, radicalize and encourage people to carry out attacks on their own.