Home-School Hurdles

The Montreal Gazette
Saturday, May 27, 2011

MONTREAL - Christine Gauthier is a home-schooling mom in rural Val des Monts in the Outaouais, but she is anything but isolated.

She and her five kids, ages four to 18, are heavily involved in the region’s home-schooling support group, which has 180 families.

“Home-schooling is growing exponentially,” says Gauthier, a non-practising lawyer.

The families have near-daily get-togethers at each other’s houses for educational and social activities, including workshops on history, geography, theatre and tai chi. They also organize “school field trips” to apple orchards, museums and the science fair. They even hold their own Olympiads.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it,” Gauthier says.

[Read the full story here. View the story at The Gazette's website here.]

Little-Noticed Heroin Revival Hits Close to Home

NATO's presence in Afghanistan has coincided with a sharp rise in opium production, leading to a global revival of heroin use.

by Alex Roslin
The Georgia Straight
May 12, 2011
[See the Georgia Straight site's version of this story here.]

In a nondescript three-storey building on Cambie Street in the Downtown Eastside, Sherry Grant is at ground zero of a little-noticed heroin revival.
She hasn’t seen so many kids doing heroin since the Nexus substance-abuse program, which she runs, started tracking detailed statistics in 2005.
Nearly two times more of the program’s young clients aged 14 to 24 say they’re using heroin—35 percent today compared to 19 percent in 2005. “It’s crazy. We have definitely noticed an increase in heroin use among youth we work with,” said Grant, whose program is part of the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Coast B.C. “It’s cheaper and more accessible.”
The clients are getting younger, too. “It used to be their first time was 18 or 20,” she said. “Now it’s somebody who’s 15.”
After years of declining use, smack is back. A new generation of addicts—many younger than before—are getting hooked on a rising tide of heroin pouring into Canada from strife-ridden Afghanistan.
In Vancouver, the number of heroin-related criminal charges has shot up more than sixfold, from 72 in 2003—the year Canada sent its first large military contingent to Afghanistan—to 445 in 2009, according to Vancouver Police Department figures.
The B.C. Coroner’s Office warned on May 5 that the province saw 20 heroin-related overdose deaths in the first four months of 2011, more than twice the number last year for the same period. The coroner said that unusually potent heroin may be to blame. But other provinces are also seeing more heroin and more ODs. And the story is similar across the U.S., Europe, and Asia.
Canada-wide, police seizures of opium shot up threefold between 2001 and 2008, from 31.5 kilograms to 96.9 kilos, according to Health Canada, which tests seized drugs for police forces. Seizures of heroin, an opium derivative, doubled from 66.6 kilos in 2001 to 133.4 kilos in 2008.
According to UN figures, much of the blame lies with a 15-fold increase in Afghan opium production since 2001, the year Canadian soldiers helped the U.S. overthrow the country’s Taliban government. Afghanistan now supplies 90 percent of the world’s opium.
Increased heroin supply worldwide and falling prices are the little-noticed side effects of the western presence in Afghanistan.
Opium, banned under the Taliban regime, now flourishes in Afghanistan under the noses of Canadian and U.S. personnel—and often directly under the boots of Canadian soldiers, who are occasionally pictured in newspapers walking through poppy fields while on the prowl for Taliban rebels.
Opium generates $1.5 billion to $4 billion for Afghanistan’s economy each year and accounts for 10 to 50 percent of the country’s GDP, depending on harvests, according to reports from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Depending on various factors, the poppy employs between 1.5 million and 3.3 million Afghans at different times of the growing season.
A big part of all those billions goes into the pockets and Dubai bank accounts of Afghan officials and warlords who are our allies. The Taliban rebels, who are widely accused of profiting from the opium trade, take in only two to 12 percent of total opium revenue, mostly by taxing shipments, according to an April 2011 analysis by the journal Foreign Policy.
One of the most conspicuous manifestations of opium’s huge role is the Kabul neighbourhood of Sherpur, the country’s wealthiest enclave. An empty hillside as recently as 2001, Sherpur now boasts extravagant mansions that Afghans dub “poppy palaces” and “narcotecture”.
All this prompted Hillary Clinton to call Afghanistan a “narco state” during the confirmation hearing prior to her appointment as U.S. secretary of state.
But that hasn’t stopped Canadian and other western governments from cultivating friendly ties with Afghan officials and warlords known or strongly suspected to be involved in the flourishing opium trade.
One of Canada’s closest allies in Afghanistan is the so-called King of Kandahar—Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half brother of President Harmid Karzai. Often known by his initials, AWK, he is the powerful head of the provincial council in Kandahar province, where Canada’s 2,800 soldiers are headquartered.
He is also widely suspected of being linked to opium trafficking. An October 2009 U.S. diplomatic cable released by the whistle-blowing group WikiLeaks in November 2010 said AWK “is widely understood to be corrupt and a narcotics trafficker”.
Reports about Wali Karzai go back years. A 2006 Newsweek investigation quoted sources saying AWK was a “major figure” in the opium trade. One Afghan Interior Ministry official said he “leads the whole trafficking structure” in the country’s south.
(Wali Karzai has denied the claims of drug involvement, saying there’s no proof.)
He has also been accused of vote-rigging in the 2009 Afghan presidential election and engaging in widespread corruption.
And despite it all, U.S. and Canadian officials have entertained cozy ties with Wali Karzai. He has reportedly received payments from the CIA, the New York Times stated in 2009. He was also said to be renting a large compound outside Kandahar to the CIA and U.S. special forces. “He’s our landlord,” one U.S. official was quoted as telling the newspaper.
Wali Karzai has denied he’s on the CIA payroll, but he acknowledges passing intelligence to coalition forces. “I’m the only one who has the majority of intelligence in this region,” he told the Times last year. “I’m passing tons of information to them.”
That intel seems to have helped shield Wali Karzai from awkward questions about his alleged drug ties. “U.S. and Canadian diplomats have not pressed the matter, in part because Ahmed Wali Karzai has given valuable intelligence to the U.S. military, and he also routinely provides assistance to Canadian forces, according to several officials familiar with the issue,” the Washington Post reported in 2009.
Wali Karzai is far from being the only Karzai with seemingly dirty hands. Another U.S. diplomatic cable, from April 2009, also released by WikiLeaks last November, said that President Karzai has personally intervened in several drug cases. In one, he reportedly pardoned five Afghan policemen convicted of transporting 124 kilos of heroin.
President Karzai also raised eyebrows in 2007 when he appointed a convicted heroin dealer, Izzatullah Wasifi, as his government’s anticorruption chief. “The Kabul government is dependent on opium to sustain its own hold on power,” wrote Thomas Schweich, the former U.S. counternarcotics coordinator in Kabul, in a New York Times Magazine story in 2008.
Canada’s largest development project in Afghanistan may actually be fuelling the opium boom. Ottawa calls it Canada’s “signature project” in the country: a $50-million scheme to rebuild the country’s second-largest dam, the Dahla Dam, and a long-neglected network of irrigation canals in Afghanistan’s main breadbasket region.
This region of fertile farmland also happens to be Kandahar’s main opium-growing belt, according to the UN’s 2010 Afghan Opium Survey.
One of the districts that have benefited from the Canadian irrigation scheme is Zhari, just west of Kandahar City. Since 2008, when the Canadian project began, Zhari has emerged as one of Afghanistan’s key opium-growing areas. Opium cultivation there shot up by 70 percent from 2,923 hectares in 2008 to 4,978 in 2010, according to the UN survey.
The Dahla Dam itself is located in a district called Shah Wali Kot, just northeast of Kandahar City. Opium cultivation there has risen 45 percent since the Canadian project started, from 560 hectares in 2008 to 813 hectares last year.
In Kandahar province as a whole, opium production remained flat from 2005 to 2008, averaging about 14,000 hectares. Then it suddenly shot up to 20,000 hectares in 2009 and almost 26,000 last year.
Findings from the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime show that opium growers are benefiting from the rebuilt irrigation canals and ditches. Its 2007 Afghan Opium Survey reported that 37 percent of villages getting irrigation aid or other external assistance were cultivating opium.
Halfway around the world, more and more of this opium is finding its way to Canada. Our heroin used to come mostly from Southeast Asia’s “golden triangle”: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. That started to change after 2001 when Afghanistan emerged as Canada’s number one supplier, according to the RCMP’s annual drug reports.
By happy coincidence, B.C. has been partially buffered from the impacts. Vancouver Coastal Health had already started to ramp up spending on addiction treatment due to a spike in heroin overdoses in the 1990s.
VCH also funds and operates (with the PHS Community Services Society) the Downtown Eastside’s Insite supervised-injection facility, which cut OD deaths in the surrounding area by more than one-third, according to a study published on April 18 in British medical journal the Lancet. (That hasn’t stopped the Harper government from trying to close Insite. The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to rule later this year on whether or not Ottawa can revoke Insite’s permit to operate, which has been upheld in two lower-court decisions.)
Meanwhile, there are signs of a heroin comeback. “Heroin is making a bit of a resurgence,” Sgt. Shinder Kirk of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit–B.C. said by phone from his office in Surrey.
The number of Native people in Vancouver who died of illicit-drug overdoses went up from eight in 2001 to 14 in 2005 (the latest available data), according to a 2007 report for the Canadian Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use.
B.C. students saw a “small but significant increase” in heroin use between 2003 and 2008, the nonprofit McCreary Centre Society’s “Adolescent Health Survey” reported in 2008.
Despite the extra money for addiction services, fewer heroin users are getting treatment. In 2001, only 18 percent of injection-drug users in Vancouver had access to services like detox, a recovery house, counselling, or a treatment centre. That number fell to seven percent in 2007, according to a 2009 report from the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.
The centre’s report also found that more injection-drug users were homeless (13 percent in 2001 versus 24 percent in 2007), and more had HIV (0.6 percent in 2001 compared to 2.4 percent in 2007).
The numbers underscore growing problems for heroin users, said Dave Murray, a volunteer at the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users. Murray himself used heroin for 15 years. “I lost everything I owned. I generally went into a ditch,” he said, speaking over his cellphone as he walked through the Downtown Eastside, where he lives.
He gave up heroin three or four years ago and now advocates for better services for heroin users.
Based on what he sees on the streets, Murray said, he believes that more young people have been doing heroin in Vancouver in recent years. And he said it’s getting harder for them to find help, especially since the closure of the Miracle Valley substance-abuse treatment centre outside Mission last year. “There are not enough treatment spaces, that’s for sure,” he said.
Heroin users typically wait one to three months for a spot in a provincially funded treatment centre, Murray said. “What do we do with the person while they’re waiting?” he asked. A user who has gone through detox should have a “seamless” entry into a residential treatment facility to have any chance of getting clean, he said. “If the person goes back out into the community, chances are he will fail.”
After finishing a treatment program, users can stay at a recovery house—a residence where they can try to get back on their feet, find a job, and get away from old habits. But Murray said many recovery houses in B.C. are “terribly run”, and recovering users there live in “poor conditions”. Instead of closing, Murray said, Insite should be expanded. The centre has room for only 12 injectors at a time—hardly enough for the neighbourhood’s estimated 5,000 injection-drug users.
Murray is also troubled by the fast-rising number of heroin-related arrests by Vancouver police. He thinks it suggests there’s a new generation of heroin users out there who aren’t showing up yet in other data. It also means the city is flouting its Four Pillars drug strategy of prioritizing treatment, prevention, and harm reduction rather than criminalizing users, he said.
“They’re putting more money into enforcement; they’re building more prisons. Vancouver talks about Four Pillars. It’s one pillar and three toothpicks. Three-quarters of the money goes to enforcement,” he said.
Vancouver police didn’t respond to a Straight request for comment.
Other provinces in Canada are also seeing a growing heroin problem. In Toronto, the portion of Grade 7 to 12 students who reported using heroin in the previous year almost doubled, from 0.6 to 1.1 percent, between 2001 and 2007, according to the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
But Canada’s heroin woes pale beside those of Afghanistan itself. It has an estimated one million opiate addicts—eight percent of the population. It’s another way the fates of ordinary Canadians and Afghans have become joined in the past 10 years. After all, a poppy palace doesn’t come cheap.

This story was done with research support from the Canadian Centre for Investigative Reporting.

The Meat of the Matter

Insiders say Canada's meat-inspection system isn't keeping consumers safe from food-borne illnesses.

by Alex Roslin
The Georgia Straight
October 21, 2010

[This story won the Canadian Association of Journalists award for best investigative reporting in a Canadian magazine in 2010. See the Georgia Straight site's version of the story here.]

At the end of a gravel road 20 kilometres east of Fort St. John, Arlene Laughren’s house used to be her little piece of heaven.
Now it’s like a prison.
Laughren moved here six years ago with her husband, Keith Holmes, to raise horses, llamas, sheep, and chickens and to grow vegetables on a 66-hectare hobby farm amid the picturesque coulees, hills, and ravines by the Peace River.
Now most of the animals are gone and her garden is overgrown with tall weeds. Laughren, 53, is stuck at home while her husband is away at work. She has brain damage, memory loss, and poor balance. She can no longer drive and hasn’t worked in more than two years—ever since she got two brain abscesses after eating a bad ham sandwich.
It was July 2008 when Laughren ate the ham produced by Maple Leaf Foods while at the Fort St. John hospital. She was getting treatment related to Crohn’s disease, which she has had since childhood. Her medication suppressed her immune system and made her more vulnerable to the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria on the ham.
Four days after the fateful meal, violent headaches started and she began to feel dizzy. After two falls, hospital staff gave her a CAT scan and saw something abnormal in her brain. Laughren was flown by air ambulance to Vancouver, where she had brain surgery. Doctors traced the abscesses to the ham, and she was diagnosed with the bacterial infection listeriosis. She remained in a Vancouver hospital for five months of treatment, followed by six weeks of rehabilitation.
Two years later, Laughren says doctors told her she will never work again. She used to counsel youth with difficulties at the Fort St. John high school. “I really miss them,” she says.
Laughren was one of hundreds of Canadians sickened—many with gastroenteritis—in the 2008 Maple Leaf listeria outbreak, which caused 57 confirmed cases of listeriosis. Twenty-three died, including one in B.C., and many, like Laughren, suffered permanent disabilities. A government inquiry into the fiasco placed much of the blame on numerous shortcomings in the government’s food-safety system.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency was especially singled out. The so-called Weatherill inquiry said it didn’t have enough meat inspectors and was poorly managed. For four years, inspectors had failed to do all of the required audits of the Toronto Maple Leaf plant that produced the tainted meat. The inquiry made 57 recommendations for improvements.
But more than a year later, food scientists and the CFIA’s own meat inspectors say that most of the recommendations have yet to be adopted and that Canada’s food supply may not be safer than before.
If anything, they say the level of inspection of deli meats—the kind involved in the Maple Leaf episode—may actually have declined. Meanwhile, the numbers of food poisonings and recalls are rising. And new, controversial methods of producing meat are increasing the risk of food-borne illnesses even more while raising other questions about the meat on our plates.
“The rates of listeria recalls in recent years are amazing. It’s one after the other. The rates are going up; recalls are going up. Something is fundamentally wrong,” says Kevin Allen, an assistant professor of food microbiology at the University of British Columbia.
“It’s safe to say some of the sanitation methods are not working as they should,” he says in a phone interview from his office. “There is a lack of control in the food-production process.”
Since the 2004 fiscal year, Canada has seen a steady rise in the number of meat and poultry recalls each year, according to data provided by the CFIA (which would not grant an interview to the Georgia Straight). The number has more than doubled, from 44 in 2004 to 91 in 2008. B.C. has been especially hard hit by food recalls. It experienced 605 recalls of all types of food, including meat and poultry, between 2004 and 2008—or 26 percent of the national total. Yet B.C. has only 13 percent of Canada’s population.
And because most food-borne illnesses never come to the government’s attention, the reported cases represent just a tiny fraction of all the food poisonings—only one out of every 300 to 350 actual cases, according to the Maple Leaf inquiry. In fact, food-borne illnesses sicken a whopping 11 to 13 million Canadians each year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, and as many as 500 may die as a result.
Why are food poisonings skyrocketing? Bob Kingston has a good idea why: a hobbled meat-inspection system that’s a shadow of its former self and that struggles to keep up with the fast-changing food industry. If anything, he says, meat inspectors are even more taxed now than before the Maple Leaf disaster.
Kingston worked for almost 30 years as a federal quarantine inspector in Burnaby before becoming president of the 9,500-member Agriculture Union, which includes federal meat inspectors. Earlier this year, his union gave Canada’s food-safety system a failing grade for heeding so few of the Maple Leaf inquiry’s recommendations.
“You’re up to five or six plants per inspector. I know inspectors who have told me they are responsible for 10 plants. If they actually want enforcement, it’s way over the top,” he says.
“All you have time to do is glance at the paperwork, see if it’s fine, and race to the next plant. If you have to do an enforcement action, good luck finding time to do it.”
The problem comes down to time. It takes about 800 hours (or 20 weeks of full-time work) to meet inspection requirements for a single processed-meat plant, according to union estimates. That doesn’t include hundreds of additional hours needed for certifying imports and exports, plus leave or vacation time.
“I feel for the inspectors,” says UBC’s Allen. “Many are faced with an unruly workload. They’re really taxed right now.”
According to the Weatherill inquiry, government inspectors assigned to the Toronto Maple Leaf plant “appear to have been stressed due to their responsibilities at other plants”. In September 2009, with a possible federal election looming, Ottawa promised to hire 70 new meat inspectors to fill shortfalls identified in the inquiry. A year later, only 40 of the new positions have been filled. Much of the money for the new hires was simply taken out of other CFIA operations, Kingston says; penny-pinching at the agency is so tight that it has cancelled training initiatives and some offices have no money for pens or paper.
Even our neighbours are taking notice. Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture told Canada it wasn’t meeting U.S. standards for inspecting processed meat destined for export south of the border. It demanded that Canadian meat inspectors check up on exporting plants once every 12 hours, as U.S. standards require.
Canada increased the level of checks to that standard. Meanwhile, plants making processed meat for Canadians are inspected at the far more leisurely pace of only once a week. The CFIA says inspectors spend more time during each of their weekly inspections of the plants with Canadian-destined meat, so the total amount of inspection time is the same as for U.S.–destined meat.
Kingston says this is “highly unlikely”. He notes that the CFIA would have needed the equivalent of 50 extra full-time inspectors to meet the greater frequency of USDA-mandated inspections. If the level of inspection was really the same, he says, no new hires would have been needed.
He also says plants visited more often tend to have better safety records. “If an inspector comes once a day, a plant behaves totally differently than when they know the inspector is coming only once a week,” he says.
Because there is little money for the new hires, the extra USDA-mandated inspections have resulted in astronomical levels of overtime for the CFIA’s existing 260 processed-meat inspectors, Kingston says. The additional burden means many inspectors are now faced with an even greater workload than before 2008, he says.
It wasn’t always like this. The food-safety system and meat industry have both undergone a sea change since 1981, when Kingston became a union rep for federal agriculture department employees, including meat inspectors. (He moved to the CFIA when it was created in 1997.)
In the 1980s, beef was usually butchered by hand in a large number of small meat-processing plants spread across the country. Each one had a federal meat inspector assigned to oversee it full-time. Mechanization of slaughterhouse operations and processing started to transform the industry in the late 1980s and 1990s. Machines run by low-wage operators started to replace trained butchers. The small plants were consolidated into fewer, large operations—some on a massive scale. One plant in Alberta processes 2,000 beef carcasses in a single day. Another in Manitoba goes through 10,000 pigs daily.
The machines might be more efficient, but they’re also less able than a human hand to butcher an animal in a way that avoids contaminating it with bacteria-laden feces, Kingston says. Also, when there was a bacteria outbreak at one of the smaller plants, it was usually pretty limited in scope. “Now if you do half a day’s run [of tainted product] out of one of these big plants, you’ve contaminated half the continent,” Kingston says.
These were also the lean years of Brian Mulroney’s budget cutbacks and deregulation. Ottawa was only too happy to acquiesce to industry demands to reduce the burden of meat inspection. Inspectors now found themselves responsible for several facilities each, as opposed to one, even as the plants ballooned in size.
At the same time, inspectors got go-easy marching orders. Previously, when inspectors saw a problem—like unsanitary conditions—they’d pull the plug on operations or slow production until the issue was fixed.
Starting in 2005, the federal government took the deregulation a step further by quietly implementing a new food-safety system that shifted much of the burden of policing to the meat industry. Instead of shutting down a dirty facility, inspectors were instructed to issue a “corrective action request”. A meat processor would now usually have 14 days to respond with an explanation of how it would deal with the issue—and would, in most cases, have another 60 days to implement changes. Companies can request time extensions past the initial 60 days. They are routinely granted, Kingston says.
An inspector who shuts down a meat plant today “would probably be disciplined unless he has approval from five levels of management. He would be accused of being overzealous,” Kingston says.
The new meat-inspection regimen was slammed in the Maple Leaf inquiry, which said it was plagued by a shortage of inspectors, poor planning, mismanagement, and lack of training for supervisors. The Weatherill inquiry called on the CFIA to audit its new system; it is not clear if that audit is still under way.
At the same time as Canada deregulated meat production, other innovations were altering the very composition of the meat we eat and creating new challenges for food safety. One of the greatest changes was finding a profitable new use for fatty layers at the outer surfaces of a cow carcass, known in the industry as “bench trim”.
Once used mostly for pet food and cooking oil, the fatty trimmings are now widely used in hamburger in Canada and the U.S. The trimmings are combined with leaner cuts from many different cows, frequently from various countries, the New York Times reported in an October 2009 investigation. Author Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) wrote in Rolling Stone back in 1998 that one U.S. fast-food burger patty may contain meat from 40 to 100 different cows raised in as many as six different countries.
The low-grade cuts are more susceptible to E. coli bacterial contamination because they come from parts of the cow that are more likely to come into contact with feces. Trimmings were at the centre of controversy in the U.S. last year after illness outbreaks linked to tainted hamburger. The outbreaks prompted U.S. authorities to tighten inspection of bench trim.
More controversy has surrounded “meat glue”. The “glue” is a natural protein derived from cow or pig blood. It allows meat processors to stick together various lumps of meat into a regular-looking steak, roast, or kebab. In the meat business, it’s known as “restructured beef”.
Canada allows the product to be sold here, but the European parliament rejected it for sale in the EU in May because of concerns that artificial steaks could mislead the public. “Consumers in Europe should be able to trust that they are buying a real steak or ham, not pieces of meat that have been glued together,” Jo Lienen, chair of the parliament’s environment committee, said during debate on the issue.
The glue also raises food-safety issues, says Keith Warriner, an associate professor of food science at the University of Guelph, in a phone interview from his office. If there is a bacteria outbreak, it’s much harder to figure out the source when chunks of meat from multiple cows were combined.
Also, the products need to be fully cooked, like ground beef, to kill bacteria. A regular steak is safe to eat medium-rare because only its surface has bacteria. But when different cuts of meat are blended together, the product may have contaminated surfaces on the inside, and it has to be cooked to an internal temperature of 71 ° C (160 ° F). This, Warriner says, could lead to confusion among consumers used to cooking their steaks medium-rare (63 ° C, or 145 ° F).
Yet another innovation is “modified atmosphere packaging”, the widespread practice of filling meat packaging with adjusted levels of oxygen and other gases. The gases can keep meat from losing its fresh-looking red hue. Shiv Chopra, an Ottawa food-safety expert and retired Health Canada scientist, said in an e-mail that the technique is “dangerous” because it may prevent shoppers from seeing when meat has gone bad. UBC’s Allen agreed: “This can be misleading to consumers.”
It all adds up to huge challenges for a tattered food-safety system. Kingston predicts more Maple Leaf–type incidents. “It’s inevitable that more of this comes along if nothing changes.”
Back at her home outside Fort St. John, Laughren is disheartened. “The one thing I thought would come from this is they would improve food safety. But I don’t think there has been much of anything done.”
She gazes longingly at the horse saddle hanging on a saddle rack in her living room. She used to ride in amateur competitions, but now she doesn’t have enough coordination to ride a horse. She is still waiting to receive part of a $27-million payout that Maple Leaf agreed to make last year to settle several class-action lawsuits related to the listeria outbreak. With thousands of claimants expected, the processing of claims has been a time-consuming task.
Meanwhile, the Canada Revenue Agency is hounding her husband for writing off his stay in Vancouver while he helped Laughren recover from her brain surgery. Despite a doctor’s letter saying her husband’s presence “was imperative for her treatment”, the taxman nixed the write-off and is demanding back taxes.
“You just expect the government to be watching our backs. But that’s silly,” Laughren says.
Her memory loss means she sometimes forgets things like friends’ names and her phone number, but there’s one thing she always remembers: her decision to never eat processed meat again.