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Toronto man raises privacy concerns after dealership employee turns off his dashcams – twice

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A Toronto man is speaking out after an employee at his car dealership turned off his dashboard video camera twice while working on his vehicle, and now he’s warning others their devices may be tampered with without their knowledge. 

Haider Firas, 24, took his car to Parkview BMW this past November. Firas has a camera pointing out to capture video of other vehicles and one pointing inside his car to protect his property.

The mechanic was captured on the video noticing the cameras and turning them both off.

« Well that kind of raises a flag, » Firas told CBC Toronto. 

« Why did he do that? Now I don’t know what happened to my car for that time being. It’s under their control now. They could do anything, they could speed off with it, they could have damages done to it, I don’t know. »

Unsatisfied with Parkview BMW’s response after an employee there turned off his dashcam video, Haider Firas went to the media to alert others to what he says could be an industry-wide problem. (Chris Glover/CBC)

Dashcam data deleted on 2nd visit

Firas said he complained to the dealership, but decided to take his car back to the same company a couple of weeks later.

Not only did the employee turn off his recording devices the second time, but that time the employee also deleted the videos on the file, Firas said.

« This is raising a concern with privacy because I have my family in my car and we have conversations. [The employee] actually had to go through footage to find their own footage to delete and this is a 100 per cent no-no, like you can’t access people’s private information to get rid of your own footage. »

Firas also uploads his videos to YouTube, and said they are particularly valuable to him for that reason. 

Firas recorded a phone conversation between himself and the dealership’s director of fixed operations.

The director at the dealership said some employees are not comfortable being watched without their knowledge and argued it is common practice in the trade.

« I don’t think it’s ok for you to disconnect the camera without asking the owner’s permission, » Firas tells the director on the recording.

The two dashcam video recorders in Haider Firas’s vehicle were both turned off by an employee at his dealership. He also says they deleted files on the second occasion. (Chris Glover/CBC)

« For example, if I have a house and I hire contractors to come work in my house … and they disconnect my cameras, … you can’t do that, because I’m recording for my safety for my property. It’s the same thing. It’s my car, you’re not allowed to disconnect it without permission. »

Parkview BMW’s general manager did not respond to CBC Toronto’s request for comment.

Other dealerships weigh in: ‘We don’t touch them’ 

Art Safonov, the parts manager at Volkswagen MidTown Toronto, said at their facility it’s policy not to touch an owner’s property without contacting them first.

« If the technician does decide that they want it off, we would notify the customer that it is going to be turned off … because we are totally transparent, » Safonov said.

« Generally, we don’t touch them; there’s no reason to touch it, » he added.

« But is it standard across the board? I have no idea. From dealer to dealer it may vary. »

Over at Lakeside Motors, owner Mike Colangelo said his shop hasn’t encountered the situation yet, but suggested it would be best to let the owner know.

« I don’t think it’s a bad idea to tell the customer, because if anything happens … they’d say it happened while the camera was off, » he said.

« It’s a bit of a grey area. I don’t know what the logistics are around this. You could go both ways. You’d almost need to be a lawyer. »

Potential privacy violation by employee, not Firas, lawyer says 

Privacy lawyer Alice Tseng says in Canada privacy violations pertain to entities such as businesses or governments, not private individuals or consumers.

She doesn’t think it was against the law for Firas to record the employee, or for the employee to stop the recording.

But she says the situation could be problematic for the employee.

« If the employee just stopped it and no more I don’t see a privacy issue, » Tseng said.

« If the employee deleted files, I don’t think it’s a privacy issue, but I do think the consumer could have some sort of recourse, because you can’t just damage other people’s property or delete other people’s property, » she added.

« To the extent that the employee actually had to access or watch any past files, that could be a privacy violation. »



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Personal Injury firm to pay an estimated $4 million to settle class-action with former clients

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A personal injury law firm has agreed to pay an estimated $4 million to settle claims that the firm double-dipped from the settlements of nearly 1,800 accident victims it represented.

The settlement between Neinstein & Associates LLP, a prominent personal injury law firm, and its clients was approved Wednesday by Justice Paul Perell.

Cassie Hodge, one of nearly 1,800 accident victims who joined a class-action lawsuit against Neinstein & Associates LLP. The firm has agreed to pay an estimated $4 million to settle the claims.
Cassie Hodge, one of nearly 1,800 accident victims who joined a class-action lawsuit against Neinstein & Associates LLP. The firm has agreed to pay an estimated $4 million to settle the claims.  (Andrew Lahodynskyj / Toronto Star)

Perell’s sign-off on the settlement effectively ends a class-action lawsuit that was certified in June 2017 but never made it to trial.

At the time the class-action commenced, lawyers working on contingency — “you don’t pay unless we win” — were not allowed to take a sum of money called “costs” in addition to a percentage of the settlement, according to the Solicitor’s Act governing lawyers.

In 2012, the roughly 1,800 class members alleged that Gary Neinstein and the law firm breached provincial law and their “fiduciary duties because they charged an amount for costs” in addition to the fee spelled out in their contingency fee agreement, according to Perell’s settlement approval decision. The firm denied the allegations.

Jeff Neinstein, managing partner of Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers, told the Star in an email his firm is “pleased that this issue has been resolved.”

“We appreciate the trust and confidence that our clients have continued to place in us and we remain dedicated to providing compassionate legal representation for all victims across Ontario.”

During a brief hearing in a second-floor courtroom at downtown Toronto’s Osgoode Hall, Perell additionally approved $1 million in legal fees and assorted charges incurred during the litigation for plaintiff lawyers Peter Waldmann and Andrew Stein, plus a $10,000 honorarium to accident victim Cassie Hodge, the 46-year-old mother of two at the heart of the case.

Waldmann, who represented Hodge and the other class members, said the settlement is “a compromise,” but he is pleased the accident victims are getting some remedy.

A Star investigation that began in 2016 found personal injury lawyers in Ontario had routinely taken their fees then also taken the “costs,” which a Divisional Court judge had called “double dipping.” As a result, the Star story said, many Ontario residents had been overcharged thousands of dollars and likely did not know it.

On the heels of the Star’s findings, the Law Society of Ontario decided to make changes to the way personal injury lawyers can advertise their services, bill their clients and charge and collect referral fees.

“When this issue was first raised, it became clear that there was confusion regarding the interpretation of the Solicitors Act,” Jeff Neinstein said Wednesday. “We took these concerns very seriously. We worked collaboratively to ensure that these issues were responsibly addressed. We are proud of the work that we do and continue to promote access to justice.”

In his settlement approval order, Justice Perell said negotiations between both sides were “intensive.” He said the settlement is “a good result for the class particularly having regard to the litigation risks and the long litigation road that would await them.”

As part of the settlement, a class member could get 30 per cent of what Neinstein referred to on his accounts as costs, the court said, provided she or he signed or amended a contingency fee agreement with the firm after October 1, 2004 and paid their fees before December 9, 2015.

Their cases must also have settled for at least $40,000 and their bills included at least $15,000 for an amount the firm called “party and party costs,” “partial indemnity costs” or another term using equivalent language.

Perell said that he awarded Hodge the honorarium to pay her personal expenses during the case and “to acknowledge her extraordinary contribution.”

Hodge’s battle against Neinstein began in 2010 after the law firm settled her car accident case for $150,000, sending her a final account that included charges for “legal fees” of $30,326 and “costs” of $30,000. She was also charged for $48,924 of “disbursements,” charges incurred by the lawyer in the course of litigation, which included $4,008 for photocopies, $2,791 for “laser copies,” and $1,372 for “interest recovery,” according to an earlier appeal court ruling that upheld the certification of the class.

Hodge alleges she was left with a fraction of her settlement.

Hodge had retained the Neinstein firm after a 2002 accident that left her with a concussion, whiplash, a retinal tear, soft tissue injures and chronic pain.

“Justice is served,” Hodge said outside the courtroom after the hearing. “Now people are aware of what was happening at law firms, and they know that they do have recourse.”

Michele Henry is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow her on Twitter: @michelehenry

Kenyon Wallace is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @KenyonWallace or reach him via email: kwallace@thestar.ca



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Westmount Park Elementary School students to be temporarily relocated to 2 separate buildings – Montreal

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A contentious plan to split Westmount Park Elementary School students up during a two-year renovation blitz is officially moving forward.

The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) announced at a special meeting on Wednesday that students will be temporarily transferred to two different buildings for the duration of the project.

READ MORE: English Montreal School Board parents weigh in on disputed school moves

Students will be relocated to Marymount Academy in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and the former St. John Bosco Elementary School in Ville Émard for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years.

Both locations will house kindergarten to Grade 6 students in order not to split up siblings, according to the school board.

The $12.5-million overhaul of the elementary school, which was built in 1913, will fix major structural issues.

READ MORE: Parents voice concerns over relocation of students at Westmount Park School

The plan has been met with both praise and concern from parents at school board meetings. Some said they were worried about where their kids will be transferred and separated from their friends.

At a consultation meeting last week, parents of Marymount students also voiced concerns over taking in hundreds of Westmount Park students.

WATCH: Westmount Park Elementary School students will have to move out of their school for two years






New French immersion school delayed

After announcing last October it would open a new French immersion school in NDG in September 2019, the school board says those plans have now been pushed back.

The elementary school was slated to open at 4850 Coronation Ave. — but now that building could instead house students from three other EMSB schools that are currently overcrowded.

READ MORE: English Montreal School Board plans to open new French immersion school in NDG

The EMSB says it is considering its options and that it will consult with the schools and their committees.

A decision is expected to be made by the school board’s council of commissioners on Feb. 20.

— With files from Global’s Elysia Bryan Baynes

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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RCMP seek help finding Canadian actress and nephew ‘considered missing’ from Kamloops since Sunday

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Kamloops RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance locating a six-year-old boy and his 28-year-old aunt, actress Roseanne Supernault

RCMP say they received a report on Sunday to check on the well-being of Nikaeo Supernault who was being looked after by his aunt.

They say the boy and his aunt have not been in contact with the boy’s mother since Jan. 13, and the pair is « considered missing. »

Police say they believe the boy is with his aunt.

Roseanne Supernault, a Métis/Cree actress, has starred in several TV series, including Blackstone, Strange Empire and The Drive, as well as the independent film, Neither Wolf Nor Dog.

Metis/Cree actress Rosanne Supernault in the film Neither Wolf nor Dog that played in select theatres across Canada in 2017. (InYo Entertainment)

Police describe six-year-old Nikaeo as three feet six inches tall, 45 pounds with light brown hair, brown eyes and wearing a blue jacket, black pants and tan boots.

His aunt, Roseanne, is five feet seven inches tall, 190 pounds, dyed blonde hair, brown eyes, wearing a black jacket with white fur on the hood, jeans and black boots.

The Kamloops RCMP is asking anyone with information on their whereabouts to contact them at 1-250-828-3000 or make an anonymous report to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.



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