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‘I can’t do this alone’: Kids from Northern Quebec still taking medevac flights without parents




Valerie-Lynn Gull wrapped her sweater around her six-year-old son Pelle Jr., who was lying on a stretcher in an air ambulance last August, about to be air lifted from Chibougamau, Que., to Montreal, after doctors suspected he was bleeding internally.

« I walked out of the airplane and I cried, » said Gull, testifying on Thursday at Quebec’s inquiry into government relations with Indigenous people.

Moments before, Gull and her husband Pelle Loon had been told they would not be allowed to accompany Pelle Jr. on the plane, a decision Gull said her son couldn’t understand.

« He said, ‘How come a sick kid can get on a plane without his mom and dad?' » Gull recalled.

They were told by a nurse that neither of them could take the plane with their son.

The family had just driven from Waswanipi, Que., 90 minutes away, after a week of tests and visits at the local clinic for flu-like symptoms.

Before take-off, doctors and nurses tried to soothe him and insist he was a big boy, but Pelle continued to cry.

« He said, ‘No, I’m only six years old, I can’t go on the plane alone. I can’t do this alone' » his mother told the Viens Commission.

8-hour drive

Gull promised her son she’d meet him in Montreal as soon as she could, and the parents began the eight-hour drive toward the Ste-Justine children’s hospital.

As they were driving through the night, a doctor and a social worker called them to ask why they had not accompanied their son on the plane.

Then, her voice echoing through the car on the speaker phone, the doctor said she suspected Pelle’s bleeding was possibly due to a problem in his liver.

Pelle Loon and Valerie-Lynn Gull, testifying before the Viens Commission on Oct. 18, 2018, said they hoped children would no longer be medevaced without their parents. (Commission d’enquête sur les relations entre les Autochtones et certains services publics au Québec)

« To hear that something is wrong with my son’s liver while I’m driving is not a good feeling, » Gull said.

That drive is something many parents from Quebec’s remote communities have experienced.

In January 2018, a group of doctors wrote to the health minister, demanding that the practice of not allowing a parent to accompany their child onboard these flights be stopped.

Then-Health Minister Gaétan Barrette announced in February his government would review the policy.

Nine months later, one of the doctors who first highlighted the problem said he has seen improvements.

Dr. Samir Shaheen-Hussain is a pediatric emergency physician and assistant professor in the faculty of medicine at McGill University.

He said his colleagues estimate around 40 to 50 per cent of kids who are taken on medevac flights on the Challenger air ambulance now arrive with a parent.

Those numbers have even increased in the past few weeks, Shaheen-Hussain told Quebec AM.

« Compared to 100 per cent refusal rate, that’s good. But compared to the rest of Canada or other countries around the world, we’re nowhere near where we need to be, » he said.

Shaheen-Hussain has testified twice at the Viens Commission, including this week, and heard Pelle Jr’s story.

« It was heart-wrenching, » he said.

« Both those parents put into words what we’ve been saying for months — what people have actually been saying for years, if not decades. »

Traumatic effects on child and parent

Shaheen-Hussain said the trauma Pelle and his family experienced on being separated is something doctors aren’t privy to, but was front and centre in Gull and Loon’s testimonies.

Gull said once she reached the hospital, exhausted and disoriented, she was again asked by medical staff why she had not gotten on the plane with her son.

Pelle Jr. would not speak to her at first. When he did, he asked her if he was going to die.

« I can’t imagine what was going through his mind when he got on that airplane alone, » Gull said in tears.

Weeks later, back home in Waswanipi, Pelle Jr. stares blankly at the wall whenever his parents mention the airplane.

« I’ve never seen that look on his face before, » she said.

The Challenger 601 is used to transport patients from remote communities in Northern and Eastern Quebec. (Government of Quebec)

Pelle Jr. reacted well to treatment, but his liver could stop functioning eventually, and he has been put on an organ transplant list.

Gull said the constant worry that the internal bleeding could start again weighs heavily on the family.

« I’m constantly thinking, ‘Do I have enough gas in my car, do I have enough funds to go to Montreal again, » said Gull.

Both parents took time off work following the incident, feeling « physically and emotionally » drained, said Loon.

Gull told the Viens Commission she hoped changes would be made, « not only for my son but also for other children, so they don’t have to be medevaced on an airplane alone. »

We hear from Pelle Loon and Valerie-Lynn Gull, along with pediatrician Dr. Samir Shaheen-Hussain, as they tell the Viens Commission the practice of airlifting young patients unaccompanied from remote has to stop. 13:09

She said she was especially worried for children in her community who only speak Cree, and who can’t communicate in French or English. 

Dr. Shaheen-Hussain said the emotional trauma endured by families like Pelle Jr’s should be enough to convince the new government to continue working toward that goal.

« There’s no cost, no price tag that anyone can put on those things, » he said.

With files from CBC’s Quebec AM.


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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