These are the stories that most resonated with CTV News reporters this year
From a controversial camp in Europe, where some traumatized refugees, including children, are trying to take their own lives, to a terminally ill man who alleges he was offered assisted death by hospital staff, to a golden retriever who provides comfort to the dying, these are just some of the stories that are still reverberating as the year 2018 comes to a close.
CTVNews.ca has rounded up some of the reports from our National News correspondents and provided updates on the stories as they stand today:
A sobering reminder about racial tensions in America
Richard Madan, Washington Bureau Correspondent, CTV National News
WASHINGTON – In a nation with an endless supply of high octane news, political drama, and White House turmoil, there are plenty of stories that stood out for me this year – but I’d like to share one in particular that I often think about:
Back in early November, we were on assignment in the small town of Dawson, Georgia, as part of our mid-term election coverage. The state’s Governor’s race was getting particularly nasty with racist robocalls and explosive accusations of voter suppression.
In a state where the painful struggle for civil rights still lingers, there were growing concerns among African-Americans—not just in Dawson, but across Georgia—that history was repeating itself.
Tamika Williams was one of more than 50,000 voters who mysteriously vanished from voter rolls. She told us she had been living in the same home in Dawson for more than 6 years and registered to vote in every election without incident -- until this year.
The U.S. midterm races are getting nasty with everything from racist robocalls to voter suppression. Our @RichardMadan explains.#ctvpp #cdnpoli— CTV Power Play (@CTV_PowerPlay) November 5, 2018
More at https://t.co/uCQmGSpNgb. pic.twitter.com/mTjHS4vpuW
She told us when she went to the advance polls, she was told her name was not on the list and was denied her right to cast a ballot. She says she was given no explanation and instructed to fill out several forms and then mail it in to get her name restored – a lengthy process that probably wouldn’t be resolved until well after Election Day.
We later met up with Rev. Ezekiel Holley. The civil rights pioneer, now in his late 70s, said he returned to his activist roots to ensure eligible voters in the town could exercise their right he helped fight for back in the 1960s.
He later took us to the local NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) office, where old newspaper clippings from that turbulent era were posted on the wall. Stories about racially motivated church burnings were beside vintage campaign posters warning against equal voting rights. It was a sobering reminder about racial tensions in America.
Down the road, a pastor at a small Baptist Church held a get-out-the-vote rally, reminding the congregation how many of their relatives risked their lives for civil rights and it was their responsibility to uphold that right:
The painful history of the civil rights movement can be felt at this ‘get-out-the-vote’ rally in rural Georgia. Many here are excited at the prospect this state could elect America’s first female African American governor. But accusations of voter suppression has re-energized survivors who fought for the right to vote during the turbulent 1960’s, warning history is repeating itself. #midterms
In the final weekend before Election Day, U.S. President Donald Trump held a last-minute rally in nearby Macon, Georgia, for Republican Brian Kemp. We had a prime spot for this.
President Trump playing defence in Georgia tonight. Democrats in striking distance to flip this deep red state blue with the first African American female Governor in US history. Trump’s high profile visit follows Oprah Winfrey and former President Obama who rallied for the Dems. The Peach State is one downballot race to watch Tuesday #midterms
In the end, Kemp won the election. Democrat Stacey Abrams says she will seek political office once again.
But the most meaningful update for me was from Tamika Williams. After being turned away from advance polls and feeling discouraged, she sent me this photo with her smiling and with a sticker on her shirt – confirming that she voted on Election Day.
'Vulnerability of children is often hardest to ignore'
Daniele Hamamdjian, London Bureau correspondent, CTV National News
LONDON - We usually have to travel long distances to tell stories of human suffering. In this case, we didn’t go halfway across the world, but to another European country: a Greek island called Lesbos, where asylum seekers from nearly 60 different nations are trapped until their application is processed.
They live in Moria Refugee camp, described by the UN and other Ngo’s as unfit for humans.
No matter your position on the European refugee crisis, the vulnerability of children is often hardest to ignore.
They sit in tents bored out of their minds. They wait in line for food several hours a day, for every meal. They do nothing and learn nothing and it’s all happening on European soil.
But every afternoon, they rush down the road to a warehouse converted into playground. It might as well be on a different planet; there’s music, a soccer ball or two, a trampoline and a man named Salam Aldeen who’s vowed to allow them to be children, if only for a few hours a day.
In a camp where children have attempted suicide, the sight and sound of their laughter had me turning my back long enough to get rid of the tears.
It’s now December, which means cold weather and rain. When it’s particularly bad, Salam takes them in. Photos show them almost piled up on top of each other, but at least they’re indoors.
Volunteer patrol group ‘relies on goodwill to keep going’
Jill Macyshon, Manitoba Bureau Chief, CTV National News
WINNIPEG - Winnipeg’s Bear Clan Patrol is a volunteer group that started walking the streets after 15 year old Indigenous teenager Tina Fontaine’s body was discovered in the Red River in August 2014.
The teenage girl, exploited on the streets of Winnipeg, was a ward of the province when she was murdered. In an effort to help crack down on the illicit drug and sex trade, the Bear Clan began weekly patrols.
The eyes and ears of Winnipeg’s gritty North End, it soon became the group people turned to with information about illegal activity. Many of the volunteers are from the neighbourhood, they are trusted, and now their name is known across Canada. From Thunder Bay to Smithers, B.C., Bear Clan groups are now patrolling the streets.
Wearing their highly visible vests, they carry backpacks with first aid kits, and sharps containers to carry discarded drug needles. And while they are working to help clean up their neighbourhood, they also carry donated granola bars and potato chips to hand out to children they meet on the streets. A gesture of kindness.
We went on a patrol with the Winnipeg Bear Clan in October. In Winnipeg, where meth has become the drug of choice, Bear Clan members have picked up more than 40,000 needles from streets and back alleys in 2018. Just 4,000 needles were found the year before.
The volunteer group relies on goodwill to keep going. Local businesses have donated food and equipment to the team. One Winnipeg business recently donated puncture–resistant gloves to pick up used needles, after a Bear Clan member was poked by a sharp object.
'A tragic end to a familiar story'
Elizabeth St. Philip, CTV’s medical affairs producer
In January, we reported on a story that was terrifying and tragic.
On January 13, 89-year-old James Pearson went missing from his Whitby, Ont. apartment. He suffered from memory loss and was showing signs of dementia. His desperate family immediately contacted police and launched a massive search.
They combed local parks and the shores of Lake Ontario. Pearson’s daughter Margaret Lam taped his photo to hydro poles throughout his neighbourhood and enlisted the media’s help to locate the frail senior.
He was last seen wearing a red, white and blue “New York Giants’ toque and running shoes. He also had a heavy navy blue, down-filled coat but temperatures had dipped to -15 C and the family knew they were in a race against time.
Sadly James Pearson was found dead more than nine weeks after he went missing. He was identified by his clothes and still had his wallet and keys.
It was a tragic end to a familiar story.
More than half a million people in Canada live with dementia. About 60 per cent of them will wander away at some point and possibly become lost -- a life-threatening situation, especially during winter and in rural areas.
Almost a year later, Lam is still processing her loss and urges families to plan for these situations – before wandering becomes an issue
“The first thing I would tell families is to start preparing as soon as possible for their care….wait lists for some elderly care facilities can be up to 5 years or longer. I would do this when there are continuous signs of forgetfulness that make you concerned. My brothers and I started these discussions 3 years ago, but really did not follow through and you need to. My brother had the paper complete for my father to go on waitlist in December, but at that point it is really too late.
“Secondly, there are options for their safety that we were not aware of. GPS tracking devices are really important, particularly ones that cannot be removed. For example, GPS watches are not necessarily the best, because they may forget to wear the watch.
“Thirdly, have a family sit-down and try to talk reasonably about what is happening and next steps. This may be very difficult and there may be differences of opinion. However, I think everybody needs to understand that there is the possibly if they wander they will not be found. If an elder care facility is not desired, then investigate other options. But have the conversations and be prepared.
“And finally, know you are not alone. Many families are struggling with the similar challenges. There are associations, groups and phone numbers you can call for support and questions. Remember your elderly loved one is going through a really confusing time and they will have moments where they are lucid and moments where they are not. These are the signs of dementia and Alzheimer's and they need support from these organizations as well. I would suggestion, when your elderly loved one is lucid enjoy those moments.”
Case of terminally ill man offered assisted death is 'at an impasse'
Avis Favaro, CTV’s medical affairs specialist
Roger Foley’s story is a memorable one – in fact it remains very much at an impasse. It’s a story that raises questions about home care and whether medically-assisted death is being offered to people who are not able to get appropriate care at home….and whether they feel pressured to acquiesce.
Foley, despite his illness, says he is fighting on behalf of all disabled Canadians who want to live at home with good quality care. The 42 year old is still in hospital in London, Ont., approaching 3 years, and his court case remains deadlocked, with little movement. He launched a landmark lawsuit in the spring against several health agencies, his hospital and the provincial and federal governments.
His request is that he be offered self-directed home care - with a team of the patient’s choosing – instead of caregivers chosen by the agency.
Even more upsetting, Foley alleges hospital staff prodded him to leave hospital even though his home care team wasn’t in place, telling him he would be required to pay the $1,500/day fee.
Foley also says officials asked him to consider a medically assisted death. He sent CTV recordings he made as proof of this accusation.
Foley suffers from cerebellar ataxia, a brain disorder that limits his ability to move his arms and legs, and prevents him from independently performing daily tasks.
In his lawsuit, Foley claims that a government-selected home care provider had previously left him in ill health with injuries and food poisoning. He claims that he has been denied the right to self-directed care, which allows certain patients to take a central role in planning and receiving personal and medical services from the comfort of their own homes.
None of the claims in Foley’s lawsuit have been tested in court.
His lawyer Ken Berger wrote to CTV News mid-December, saying “Roger Foley continues to work ….. on his own case to protect himself and all other Canadian from the ongoing real dangers that have transformed our society to a place that does not value life, and value real choice.”
Making U.S. Senate history: The day Christine Blasey Ford testified
Merella Fernandez, CTV News Channel correspondent
Like millions of others on September 27, 2018, I was compelled to watch Christine Blasey Ford testify at the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. I wanted to hear her story in her own words.
What I saw that day was a terrified woman who would have rather been anywhere else. The expression on her face is fixed in my brain. What I heard that day was a surprisingly detailed account of a sexual assault that happened decades before. Her clearest memory wasn’t an image, it was a sound. The sound of “uproarious laughter” as the assault took place.
It appeared clear to most that Blasey Ford was telling the truth. But truth isn’t often enough. And like so many victims, she had no proof. That cracked open a window of reasonable doubt for Republican senators, allowing them to vote to confirm the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.
A 'memorable' story: Daisy the dog brings comfort to the dying
Avis Favaro, CTV’s medical affairs specialist
In my travels as a health correspondent, it’s rare that I get to profile an animal. That’s why the story of Daisy is so memorable.
She is a golden retriever trained to provide comfort to the dying and their families – part of a new breed of palliative care pets.
We profiled Daisy and her handlers in May of 2018 at a hospice near Barrie, Ont. – where the dog provides a dose of happiness to those moving through life’s final transition.
Daisy, a three-year-old golden Labrador retriever, has been working as a certified service dog at Hospice Simcoe for about a year. Her job is simple: to be there for those who need her most.
On Halloween, the staff dressed Daisy up as a nurse – a costume that was a bit hit, hospice employee Lynda Murta, who is also Daisy’s primary caregiver, told CTV News.
Staff estimate that in 2018 she’s visited roughly 180 families who have had a loved one at the hospice for palliative care.
“Our Daisy continues to amaze us with the work she does,” Murta said recently.
“Just yesterday, after one of our residents died she was so very helpful to the family. Her husband of over 60 years was having a difficult time and Daisy stayed right by him, eventually just lying across his feet. He was grateful for her attention.”