A pastry shop in Montreal is giving out free treats, but there’s a catch – Montreal


A pastry shop in Montreal is making trekking in the snow a little sweeter — but with a catch.

CRémy Pâtisserie is giving out a free donut to those who show up in skis or snow shoes.

According to the shop, a couple of dozen people have braved the more than 40 centimetres of snow on the ground to claim their free treat.

“Storms are always seen in a negative light and we said, ‘we’ll change that’,” explained Alexandra Pesant-Tremblay who works at the shop.

Pesant-Tremblay says the owner, Rémy Couture, came up with the idea. “He wanted to put joy in people’s hearts, to have fun and sweeten people’s day.”

Watch below: Snow Day Conditions

Some of the  donut treats include bourbon-bacon, cheesecake and Boston creme flavors. “They’re the size of three Tim Horton’s donuts!” Pesant-Tremblay exclaimed proudly.

The shop is located at 2202 avenue Mont-Royal Est. It closes at 6:00 p.m.

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Smoke covers Beauceville as used tires catch fire outside Royal Mat plant


A fire in a used tire yard erupted in Beauceville Saturday night.

Fire departments from Beauceville and surrounding municipalities are still working to extinguish the fire Sunday morning. The fire is now under control, but is expected to continue burning into the afternoon.

Urgence-Environnement and a mobile lab are at the scene to test the air quality as plumes of black smoke cover the city 90 km south of Quebec City.

The fire started around 10:40 p.m. outside the Royal Mat tire recycling plant Saturday but its cause is unknown at this time.

The municipality recommends turning off ventilation systems to prevent potentially toxic fumes from entering their homes.

No evacuations have been ordered at this time.

This is the third fire since 2015 at the plant. The fires used to be much more common a decade ago, said Beauceville city manager Félix Nunez.

« At that time, we counted four or five each year or more, » he said. « Today we have an average of two per year. »

He said that each winter, a large number of tires pile up at the plant. He says he wants to work with RecycQuébec, which supplies the old tires to Royal Mat, to come up with a better plan for tire storage.


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I don’t feel bad. I’m not going to stop. And you will never, ever catch me, says CRA scammer


VANCOUVER—The job is like being an executioner, says the voice on the other end of the phone. It’s just what he’s paid to do.

The man with a light English accent says he’s speaking from an India-based call centre where he and other scam artists work through the night, phoning Canadians and claiming to work for the Canada Revenue Agency. They tell people they owe tax money and will be arrested if they don’t pay. Some panicked victims send thousands of dollars.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reports that it has received about 74,000 complaints about fake CRA calls since 2014, with 4,000 victims reporting more than $15.2 million in losses to the scammers. We received a call, too, and we called back.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reports that it has received about 74,000 complaints about fake CRA calls since 2014, with 4,000 victims reporting more than $15.2 million in losses to the scammers. We received a call, too, and we called back.  (Jesse Winter / StarMetro Vancouver photo illustration)

“It’s like somebody in Texas. He’s an executioner; he has to execute people, he has to kill people. It’s his job. That’s what he’s doing, isn’t it?” he said. “It’s like that. I’m just doing a job right now.”

On Oct. 29, following news of raids against call centres in India, StarMetro received a call to a newsroom phone from someone claiming to be from the CRA. They said we had to contact them immediately to remedy a tax issue.

We called back to see if anyone would share their story. They did.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) reports that it has received about 74,000 complaints about the calls since 2014, with 4,000 victims reporting more than $15.2 million in losses to the scammers.

In late October, Canadian police announced that a joint effort with American and Indian police agencies had shut down three such call centres. Officers arrested several people and seized information related to about 600 Canadians who had fallen for the scam.

In the week following similar arrests in 2016, complaints to the CAFC about the scam dropped by 93 per cent — but they picked up again in the following months.

On Nov. 6, police told the Parliament Hill press gallery they will continue working to root out and shut down the call centres in India.

The man we spoke to gave a name and later provided a photo of an Indian ID, but StarMetro has chosen not to publish the name because of remaining concerns about its veracity. The man would not prove the ID was in his possession.

A LinkedIn page says a man with that name is employed by a company called Sonark Outsourcing Solutions. The company’s Facebook page says it is located in Phoenix, Ariz., but the page is full of photos labelled as being taken in Ludhiana, Punjab, India. The city is in the country’s north, near its border with Pakistan.

StarMetro could not find a phone number for Sonark Outsourcing Solutions. An email address for Sonark found on an Indian company listing site also appears online as the email for a number of different companies. StarMetro sent a message to the email address but did not receive a response.

Employees of Sonark Outsourcing Solutions, based in Ludhiana, India, celebrate a birthday. A LinkedIn page under the name a CRA scammer provided to StarMetro lists the company as his place of employment.
Employees of Sonark Outsourcing Solutions, based in Ludhiana, India, celebrate a birthday. A LinkedIn page under the name a CRA scammer provided to StarMetro lists the company as his place of employment.  (Sonark Outsourcing Solutions/Facebook)

In the Facebook photos, employees are seen eating cake, living it up celebrating birthdays and holidays. Videos promote parties being thrown by the company.

However, our caller said he works until 4 a.m., 21 days per month, at a “sh-thole of a job.”

He insists there’s no other option for him. The scam earns him $400 a month — $300 more than he’d make at a legitimate call centre, he said.

There’s inadequate medical coverage in India and life costs money, he said, arguing he must provide for his family. Those who fall for the scam and lose their savings are of no concern to him.

“Right now, they’re in a better situation than I am. They’re in a better country than I am,” he said. “Their government is not going to see them in the street, but my government will see me in the street.”

The man speaks with an English accent and said he was educated in the United Kingdom, though he never went to university there. Despite his background, he said, finding a job that pays enough to support his family hasn’t been easy.

After overstaying his visa, he said going back to the U.K. isn’t an option and that he’s tried many times to get a good job without success. Initially, he worked in legitimate call centres but he said they did not provide enough to live on.

“If I had a genuine job in a genuine call centre, I’d only get paid $100 a month,” he suggested. “I’d have to survive on $100 a month; could you do that?”

Later in the call he says he’d make $150 a month at such a call centre.

It’s the big money that keeps such scammers in operation, said Ryan Duquette, the founder of Hexigent, a cybersecurity firm based in the Greater Toronto Area.

The phone scams are not new, but callers are changing their tactics, Duquette said. In past years, the scams usually relied on greed and promised people fortunes for completing a task, like the now-infamous “Nigerian prince” scam. But scammers are finding that fear is a better motivator, he said, especially for those new to Canada.

“Here in Canada at least, the victims that I’ve seen, a lot of them are immigrants to the country who don’t know how our policing system works,” Duquette said. “They may come from countries where the police will come to your house over an unpaid debt and drag you out.”

Such scams have been running in one way or another for decades, he said. Because they make money and are inexpensive to carry out, they aren’t likely to end any time soon.

Facebook photos from Sonark Outsourcing Solutions show employees having parties, playing foosball and eating cake. A LinkedIn page under the name a CRA scammer provided to StarMetro lists the company as his place of employment.
Facebook photos from Sonark Outsourcing Solutions show employees having parties, playing foosball and eating cake. A LinkedIn page under the name a CRA scammer provided to StarMetro lists the company as his place of employment.  (Sonark Outsourcing Solutions/Facebook)

Duquette said scammers have existed “as long as people” but became more frequent as the internet became more popular.

The caller reached by StarMetro said the CRA scam is not his first breadwinner. He was doing the “Windows scam” more than five years ago, telling Canadians there was a problem with their computer and asking them to send money to fix it.

Though the elderly and immigrants tend to be the most common targets, according to Duquette, the scammer reached by StarMetro insisted he’s mainly taking money from Canadians in their 30s and 40s.

Older people watch television and see news reports, so they know not to fall for the scam, he said.

Despite the arrests made by Indian authorities earlier this month, the con artist says he isn’t concerned about police raiding the office where he works and throwing him in jail. The police only bust up operations in big cities, he said, so there’s nothing for him to worry about.

“Most call centres that get raided are like in Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad,” he said. “Places like that, you know? Proper call-centre locations.”

Back in Ottawa, authorities acknowledged the difficulties with rooting out centres as their operations change. Supt. Peter Payne, director of financial crime with the RCMP, said such call centres have been getting smaller, spread across more locations.

“There’s probably more call centres in place. All I can tell you right now is that we have a good collaboration with Indian authorities,” Payne said during the Nov. 6 press conference. “We’re not stopping at this point. We will do what we can to dismantle and disrupt this process to protect Canadians, and the government is serious about this.”

But the resolve of Canadian authorities doesn’t trouble the man on the other side of the world.

“Where we’re based, no one is ever going to guess that there is a call centre here,” he said.

Jeremy Nuttall is the lead investigative reporter for StarMetro Vancouver. Follow him on Twitter: @Nuttallreports

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Cannabis firms hope their brands catch fire with consumers


So they’re out of the gate. But which brands are going to dominate in the great cannabis race?

And how will they push their branding message while staying in line with the promotional limitations of federal regulations?

For the marketers at Vivo Cannabis, the campfire works as an image for the Fireside brand: it brings people together, and it’s relaxing.
For the marketers at Vivo Cannabis, the campfire works as an image for the Fireside brand: it brings people together, and it’s relaxing.  (Vivo Cannabis)

There’s a misperception that because of federal guidelines, cannabis companies will uniformly hew to a pharmaceutical or antiseptic look and that you, the consumer, won’t see much messaging in the public sphere.

But the billboard advertisement that appeared on Lake Shore Blvd. E., in advance of Oct. 17 sent a clear message that at least one company was thinking differently. The tricoloured billboard was divided vertically into three colours: gold, red and black. Each panel bore the sleek symbol of a flame. Each bore one word: Fireside. And each bore the momentous date: 10 17 18.

Another popped up above the Belfast Love pub on King St. W. Single-colour panels showed up at Jane and Steeles. And in snowy Alberta. And on the 401.

It was classically smart advertising: enticing, anticipatory, curious, attention-getting.

Fireside cannabis is marketed as a premium, small-batch product from Vivo Cannabis Inc., headquartered in Napanee, Ont. Vivo has supply agreements in Ontario and the western provinces. On “Weed-nesday,” Fireside Red (mid-range potency level) and Fireside Black (high THC potency) went on sale on the Ontario Cannabis Stores website in two sizes, the smaller of which, at a single gram priced at $13.15, sold out.

The corporate story of Vivo is multi-faceted: in August it purchased Canna Farms in Hope, B.C. That acquisition brought with it reputation — Canna was the first licensed producer in B.C. — such distinctive strains as Tangerine Dream and Girl Scout Cookies, and a deal with British Columbia Distribution Brands. Vivo was already in the field of medical cannabis, through Beacon Medical, and intends to capitalize on health and wellness applications through its Lumina brand, a future that lies some ways away.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Readying for Oct. 17 was some kind of craziness. “Industries usually evolve in a much more disciplined way where you have an opportunity to come up the learning curve, but in this case it was just a mad rush to the starting line,” says Vivo chief executive officer Barry Fishman, who found himself gluing stickers to product. “I don’t know if the public realizes the phenomenal impact of having an entire market open up on one day.”

So here we are at the beginning. There will be losers. Vivo would prefer not to be one of them. So how to gain an advantage? Marketing is one piece. “We wanted people to be aware of Fireside because of all these brands coming out of nowhere,” Fishman says.

The challenge of creating the messaging around the new brand offering fell to chief marketing officer Sung Kang, who spent more than a decade in food (General Mills), beverage (Labatt) and pharma (Novartis) before arriving at Vivo.

“We worked really hard to create a brand that had a great emotional story to tell, one that people can really relate to and feel in sync with,” Kung says.

The Fireside billboard on Lake Shore Blvd. E., sent a clear message before Oct. 17, 2018.
The Fireside billboard on Lake Shore Blvd. E., sent a clear message before Oct. 17, 2018.  (Vivo Cannabis)

The objective was to sidestep pot smoking clichés while embracing the social connectivity of passing around a joint. The campfire hit the right notes: it brings people together, it’s relaxing and, as Kung says, in the circle glow of flannel-shirted people the stories inevitably start coming out. “You just feel so safe, you just feel so relaxed. And you usually don’t do that with the people you don’t like. You do that with people you like the most.”

So the focus became creating a brand that brings out the same emotion as the campfire. “It’s such an easy communication,” Kung says. “People just instantly get it.”

At the same time, the look of the brand had to strike notes of modernity and urbanity. The modern sans serif font and the simplified flame icon speak to that.

And those limitations on product promotion? “We used to work on billboards for alcohol where you had a really cute headline, you have some sort of image that supported the headline, and the agency had a really tough time making a line that was funny or captivating or breakthrough … It just ends up being a big jumbled mess. They’re ineffective because marketers insist on trying to communicate too much in them.”

“It is so refreshing to say ‘I’m not allowed to do anything but put my brand up there’,” Kung says counterintuitively of the pot challenge.

Here’s a disappointment: Vivo didn’t get Fireside Gold shipped to the OCS on time. In that Vivo is in good company. Even some of the biggest players stumbled with their listings. But this is just the beginning. As Kang says, as the market increases, cannabis companies will slice increasingly distinctive segments. Think of craft beers and what Kang calls the sub-tribes of drinkers who like sours versus IPAs versus stouts.

That’s tomorrow’s story. If Fireside catches on, it presents obvious edibles opportunities. Of course the company has already thought of pot-infused s’mores.

Will the brand catch fire? “We won’t know the answer to that until the dust settles and we see which brands resonate and which fall by the wayside,” Kang says. “I might be a brand guy, but at the end of the day brands are only as good as the products that are under it. We have a big belief in that product quality.”

The branding itself proves that even in a tightly regulated market, a clever marketer can create a distinctive esthetic.

Jennifer Wells is a business columnist based in Toronto. Reach her on email: jenwells@thestar.ca


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Lawyers catch a whiff of trouble for K9 drug units adapting to new pot laws


As legalization looms, K9 units across the country are facing a problem: their dogs are outdated.

Drug-sniffing dogs undergo training from a very young age to be able to detect a wide variety of drugs, including cannabis, which will be legal in Canada on Oct. 17.

And while some have been forced into early retirement, many will remain in their jobs, raising questions for legal experts concerned that law-abiding citizens might be stopped and searched by police based on an alert for a perfectly legal substance.

Some organizations said they’ll be totally unaffected by legalization. Since crossing the border with cannabis will remain illegal without a permit, the Canadian Border Services Agency said all their drug-sniffing dogs will remain in the same role.

“Through its programs and services, the CBSA will continue to uphold laws governing the illegal cross-border movement of cannabis, while facilitating the free flow of legitimate people and goods,” spokesperson Jayden Robertson said in a statement.

Even in forces that are adapting to legalization, change will come slowly.

In January, the Winnipeg Police Service’s (WPS) K9 unit added Ivy, a 20-month-old Belgian Malinois, to its roster. Ivy got all the regular training except cannabis odour detection. But all 14 WPS canines, all of whom except Ivy are trained to detect cannabis, will continue working until the end of their careers, the WPS said — instead, change will be grandfathered in as new dogs won’t undergo cannabis training.

Since the Calgary Police Service (CPS) said “nearly all” of their searches initiated by drug-sniffing dogs involve a previously obtained warrant, they’ll be keeping theirs too. Drug-sniffing dogs are also used at traffic stops, the CPS said, albeit rarely.

Sometime this fall, the CPS Canine Unit will employ dogs both with and without cannabis training.

“This will allow flexibility in a variety of investigative needs,” the CPS said.

The RCMP said it has prepared for legalization by training a new crop of drug-sniffing dogs over the summer who only detect illegal drugs, to be used for traffic stops and interdiction work.

The current crop of 14 dogs in those roles, spread out across British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador, will all enjoy early retirements.

But those dogs only make up 12 per cent of the RCMP’s total canine force. The vast majority of “general duty” dogs will remain in place with their current training.

“There will still be offences related to cannabis, such as the unlawful sale or distribution of cannabis, including its sale or distribution to young persons, and the unlawful possession, production, importation and exportation of cannabis,” the RCMP said in a statement.

This is where the law could get fuzzy, experts say.

Toronto cannabis lawyer Paul Lewin said it was “ridiculous” that police forces plan to keep their cannabis-trained dogs.

“It’s absolutely pointless. It’d be like a tomato-detecting dog,” he said. “[The dogs] aren’t going to tell us if it’s illicit cannabis. The dogs aren’t trained that well. The dog won’t know how much cannabis is there. I’m baffled.”

When cannabis was illegal, police had reasonable grounds to search a person if a dog smelled cannabis on them. Now, Lewin said, though cannabis-related offences will still exist, the waters are muddied.

Since dogs don’t distinguish their alerts based on specific drugs, police won’t know whether a dog is alerting them to the presence of fentanyl or a joint.

Toronto cannabis lawyer Harrison Jordan said he expects to see court challenges where dogs alert their handler for the presence of a drug that turns out to be legal cannabis, and the cop finds a different illegal item, like a handgun — will that charge hold up in court, since the initial search was for a legal substance?

“It really depends on the reasonable grounds that they have,” Jordan said.

For instance, most provinces will allow police to search a vehicle if they believe the driver is carrying cannabis in an open container — similar to open container laws with alcohol — but police generally can’t just search every car at a RIDE stop checking for impaired driving, Jordan said.

In any case, Lewin said he expects to see many cases where “false positives” are tested in court.

“The Charter frowns on searches for no good reason,” he said. “There’s really some serious rights at stake here.”

To make sure you stay on the right side of the law as much as possible, make sure your cannabis stays fair away from airports and border crossings, Jordan said.

“Don’t try to take your stuff out of the country, or into the country, because that’s where you’re most likely to encounter a sniffer dog,” he said.

-With files from The Canadian Press

Jack Hauen is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @jackhauen


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