70-year-old Saint John man suffers heart attack after consuming cannabis lollipop


Two Saint John doctors who treated a 70-year-old patient for a heart attack induced by eating a cannabis lollipop, say they’re worried about the unknown risk posed by marijuana edibles, due to be legalized in Canada by next fall. 

« The dosage could easily be underestimated by the users because it doesn’t give you that immediate hit, » said Dr. Robert Stevenson, who saw the patient shortly after he showed up in the emergency room of the Saint John Regional Hospital just over a year ago.

« He was very paranoid, very upset, thought he was going to die at home and then this crushing chest pain started. »  

Stevenson, a cardiologist, recognized the man as his patient. He was already being treated for coronary artery disease. 

He said the man was not a pot smoker and hadn’t smoked pot since his youth.

However, the patient did quickly disclose that he’d taken the lollipop from a friend, hoping to get some relief for his arthritis pain and a little help to sleep. 

Stevenson called on Dr. Alexandra Saunders to try to figure out how much drug the man had consumed. 

Work to determine dose

She asked the patient where he had gotten it from and after conducting an internet search of the dispensary in the area, she called to ask what was in the candy. 

Saunders explained that she was inquiring on behalf of a patient but because she wasn’t a member of the dispensary, says the person on the phone would not give her the dosing information.  

« So I just went onto their website, where it was available anyway. »

Doctors who treated him say they’re worried about the unknown risks of marijuana edibles. 1:01

Saunders said the lollipop contained about 90 mg of THC, whereas a single joint contains about seven mg of THC.

She said the patient didn’t realized what he’d done until he started hallucinating, and she thinks the psychological stress may have triggered the cardiac event.

She said THC also has an inflammatory impact on the lining of the blood vessels, which also have been a factor. 

When asked what dispensary she contacted, Saunders could not recall the name of the shop but thinks it may have been in uptown  Saint John. 

She couldn’t remember the name brand of the lollipop, and the patient never did provide a wrapper.  

Widespread misunderstanding

Stevenson and Saunders had to work to determine the amount of THC in the marijuana lollipop the man consumed. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

Stevenson said the man did recover from his anxiety and was discharged from the hospital within 24 hours. 

« I’ve seen him a couple of times, » Stevenson said. « So far, so good. »

Still, the doctors view this case as an early warning of problems to come. 

They’ve written an article titled « Marijuana Lollipop-Induced Myocardial Infarction, » which has been published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology. 

« It heightens our awareness of how these marijuana-naive patients, particularly elderly patients, could easily stumble onto this, looking for some form of relief, » Stevenson said of the case.

As chief internal medicine resident, Saunders said she just came off a rotation where she saw a large population of elderly patients with different types of arthritis.

The federal government plans to make cannabis edibles legal by Oct. 17. (Radio Canada)

She was surprised, she said, by how many of them expressed an interest in using recreational marijuana for pain treatment.

« And these are smaller, older ladies that I never would have thought of, before, » said Saunders. 

Both physicians think there is a widespread misunderstanding that marijuana is a kind of cure-all.

In reality, they said, it’s only medically indicated for just a few problems, including nausea related to cancer treatments and certain seizure conditions.

The federal government has pledged to legalize cannabis edibles no later than Oct. 17, 2019.


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Newfoundland woman opens her heart — and her home — to cancer patients


Last January, Laura Elliott took the first steps of the toughest journey of her life.

The native of South Brook, N.L., now living in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., was diagnosed with breast cancer and started down a long road of surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy.

Two weeks later, she got more bad news. Her mom, Judy Jackson, called to say she had cancer too.

« It was pretty difficult for myself and my mom and our whole family, » she said. « As we couldn’t be there in person, we had to be supportive over the phone and FaceTime. To have one person go through it in a family, then have two go through it at the same time, it was pretty difficult. »

Laura Elliott underwent treatment for breast cancer in 2018. (Submitted by Laura Elliott)

The one positive in their experience, she says, was the fact they were going through the treatments together and were able to support each other.

« I was about two or three weeks ahead of her. Every appointment, every surgery, just pretty much all of our treatments, we were talking back and forth every day, » she said.

The journey wasn’t exactly the same for the two women, though.

Elliott had only a half-hour drive to receive her radiation therapy in Alberta. Jackson had to travel five hours from South Brook in central Newfoundland to St. John’s for hers.

Judy Jackson of South Brook came to St. John’s for cancer treatment. (Submitted by Laura Elliott)

She was fortunate to have a brother in the city with whom she could stay for free.

She found lots of others, however, who didn’t have it so well.

« We did some research, and there’s a lack of accommodations for people that are dealing with cancer, » Elliott said. « People staying in expensive hotels, and then gas and food on top of that. I’m sure it would have been a nightmare. »

That’s why she and her family decided they needed to do something to help.

On the walls of the Elliotts’ guest room, cancer patients will find inspirational messages. (Submitted by Laura Elliott)

« Dealing with cancer is stressful for any family, » she said. « Me and my husband decided we should take the burden off other families and open up one of the rooms in our home to cancer patients to relieve the stress of finding accommodations, and the cost of accommodations. They’re not cheap. »

They fixed up a room and registered their availability with cancer charities. After attracting a lot of attention on social media, they’re expecting their first patient any day now.

Elliott hopes the people who stay with her family can benefit from more than just a bed.

The Elliotts have prepared a guest room for visiting cancer patients. (Submitted by Laura Elliott)

« To be there for somebody else, to help them through their journey to add a positive vibe to their life, is what brings happiness to us. »

She says all the support she and her mom received through their own cancer journey, from many different sources, has encouraged and inspired them. And she believes it helped their healing.

« My mom is doing very well. She’ll start her reconstructive surgery this year, » she said. « I still have maybe one more surgery to go through. I had some difficulty with my first surgery I had back in April. We’re both cancer-free right now. »

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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DFO investigating critical fish habitat destruction in B.C.’s ‘Heart of the Fraser’


The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has ordered the owners of two islands in B.C.’s Fraser River to take « corrective measures » after they allegedly destroyed fish habitat in a crucial area for the survival of salmon, steelhead, and endangered white sturgeon.

Carey Island and Herrling Island are owned by two B.C. companies that want to develop farmland and grow crops like blueberries on the islands, which are in the middle of the Fraser River between Chilliwack, B.C., and Hope, B.C.

Environmental groups have been railing against the development, saying the companies have already significantly clear cut cottonwood forests that previously covered the islands which they say are crucial to the health of dozens of species of fish that migrate, feed and spawn there.

Watch drone video of clear cuts on Carey Island:

Drone video from BCIT Rivers Institute shows areas recently logged in the ‘Heart of the Fraser.’ 0:53

DFO launched an investigation in late November, but because the case is still active officials won’t share details of the extent of the damage or what measures they are forcing the islands’ owners to take.

« Failure to comply with the corrective measures issued by DFO is a serious matter that may result in further investigation by fishery officers and possible prosecution, » Leri Davies, a spokesperson for DFO, said in a statement emailed to CBC News.

« Fisheries and Oceans Canada regards this occurrence as very serious and will take every measure possible to ensure that non-compliance incidents like this are not repeated. »

Satellite images before and after the clear cutting on the 3-square-kilometre Herrling Island, near Hope, B.C. (Mark Angelo)

‘Heart of the Fraser’

The 80 kilometre stretch of the Fraser River between Mission and Hope, B.C. has become known to conservationists as « the Heart of the Fraser. » It’s a unique ecosystem that’s home to a complex network of gravel bars and a number of large, undiked islands which are naturally flooded with water every spring, becoming a nursery for fish.

« Hundreds of millions of young salmon rear in and around these islands, but in high water the islands actually become habitat themselves, » said Mark Angelo, rivers chair of the 100,000 member Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C. He lead a CBC News crew on a recent hike through Strawberry Island  another spot in the middle of the Fraser River that’s been significantly clear cut over the past two years.

The 67-year-old Angelo, one of B.C’s most celebrated conservationists, is a recipient of the Order of B.C. and Order of Canada in recognition of his work on river issues.

He calls this part of the Fraser » … the most productive stretch of river in our entire country and one of the most productive on our planet. »

Mark Angelo is the founder of World Rivers Day and a recipient of the Orders of B.C. and Canada. (Chris Corday/CBC)

As Angelo trudged in rubber boots through a muddy zone of the remaining forest on Strawberry Island, he pointed out its grassy ponds and quiet channels that become a safe refuge for fish during the spring.

Most of the banks of the lower Fraser River have been permanently diked to prevent flooding in the spring, so conservationists say these islands are particularly rare and important habitat for marine life.

Angelo worried clear cuts on the three islands have become so massive they could destabilize the land and cause sloughing into the main river. He warned any more of this kind of development could ruin the Fraser River’s immense environmental value.

« When you look at the extent of the damage being done right here… that qualifies this is the most urgent river issue in our country, » said Angelo, overlooking the vast part of Strawberry Island that’s already been logged.

Strawberry Island near Mission, B.C., was largely clear cut by its owner in 2016. (Western Watershed Design, Inc.)

Bridge proposals to islands under review

The most significant islands in this part of the Fraser River, Herrling and Carey near Chilliwack, B.C., and Strawberry Island, near Mission, B.C., have all been heavily logged and cleared over the past few years.

The islands were at one point tree plantations owned by Kruger Pulp and Paper. They were logged to produce toilet paper and other products and then replanted.

The two farm developers purchased the islands from Kruger, but since they are within B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve, special permission wasn’t needed to clear cut and convert them to farmland.

But it’s another kind of proposal that’s again raised the ire of people opposing the development. Two companies, Klaasen Farms Ltd. which owns Herrling Island, and Carey Island Farms Ltd. are each asking for permission to build private bridges across the Fraser so they can grow crops like blueberries and corn on the islands and have year-round permanent access to them.

Groups like the B.C. Wildlife Federation say bridge construction would further damage already-threatened fish habitats and species. They’ve been pushing the provincial government for a full environmental review.

In an email, the B.C. government told CBC News it’s still reviewing the bridge proposals, and it will consider the concerns over potential impacts on marine life.

Carey Island often floods during the spring. (BCIT Rivers Institute)

‘Do we want all our food coming from California or China?’

Cornelis Guliker, the director of Carey Island Farms Ltd., defends his small company’s move to develop a farm on the 472-hectare island that it owns. 

In a note to CBC, Guliker said the land is important for agriculture because it’s some of the most fertile in the region, and one of the best climates in Canada to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables.

« There is no more land being made and the good land we have is being taken up by industry, » wrote Guliker, who cited the recent construction of a large Molson Coors brewery in Chilliwack as an example.

« Local food is important. Do we want all our food coming from California or China? »

Guliker said there are already hundreds of hectares of unprotected land along the Fraser that flood during the spring freshet and are currently being farmed.

« We can protect fish habitat and farm, » he wrote. 

The owner of Klaasen Farms did not return calls from CBC. 

Klaasen Farms Ltd., a Chilliwack, B.C., company, owns Herrling Island and wants to convert it to a blueberry and corn farm. (Chris Corday/CBC)

‘There is nothing more sacred to me than this entire river’

People who rely on the river for food and work say the cost of converting these islands into farms is too high.

As fishing guide Dean Werk leads a crew of journalists up a stretch of river he’s known for 50 years, he shook his head at what he calls the degradation of habitat on this part of the Fraser.

« I’m astounded that the world is not listening or watching or Canadians are not in outrage in regards to how much destruction we’ve done in these critical spawning areas, » said Werk.

« There is nothing more sacred to me than this entire river and all its habitat. » 

Dean Werk stands in a small remaining area of forest and natural wetland on Strawberry Island that becomes prime fish habitat in the spring. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Werk, who’s also President of the Fraser Valley Salmon Society, is hopeful the public will get behind the campaign to preserve and restore the « Heart of the Fraser. »

The group leading the effort, including Mark Angelo, is planning to meet with provincial and federal ministers in January to express what they call the « urgency » of the issue.

They’re also looking into the potential of working with donors to purchase the islands back from the developers, and restore the clearcut areas to their original status.

It’s an idea the owner of Carey Island said he is still open to considering.

« If we can find a way to protect this area, that will be one of the great conservation milestones in the history of our country, » said Angelo.

« If we fail, that would be like a shot to the heart of this great river. » 

Mark Angelo with a white sturgeon in a catch and release-only fishery in the Fraser River. It’s a threatened species that Angelo says is being jeopardized by development in the ‘Heart of the Fraser.’ (Danny Catt)


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Ontario woman hopes to meet recipient of son’s heart more than year after his death


BRAMPTON, Ont. – A Brampton, Ont. woman is hoping to meet the recipient of her son’s heart as she seeks closure more than a year after he died of an accidental fentanyl overdose.

Sharon Vandrish said her 23-year-old son, Keerin John Reid, was taken off life support in September 2017 after he was declared brain dead.

She and her son’s father decided to donate four of their son’s organs, including his heart, through the Trillium Gift of Life Network, Ontario’s organ and tissue donation and transplantation service.

“I just knew that (Keerin) would have wanted something good to have come out of this tragedy,” said Vandrish.

Six months after the organs were donated, Vandrish wrote a letter to the heart recipient and the two have been corresponding ever since. She also wrote to the other three organ recipients, but they have not replied.

“It’s not like I’m trying to hold on to a piece of my son. I know he’s gone,” she said. “To me, this would just close a loop.”

Letters sent between donor and recipient families are reviewed by Trillium to ensure they abide by a series of guidelines, such as not including identifying information, according to agency’s website. However, approximate age and gender can be included. While the agency allows donor and recipient families to communicate anonymously, it does not connect them to meet in person.

Nearly 100K register to donate organs after Humboldt Broncos crash

Representatives from Trillium did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vandrish said she was feeling sad on Christmas, because of the loss of her son and because she didn’t know the identity of the man who now has his heart. She then wrote a post on Reddit to see if she could make contact with the man.

“I was just frustrated at this process I guess,” said Vandrish. “I just wanted to reach out and see.”

Keerin John Reid is seen in a handout photo provided by his mother Sharon Vandrish.

Sharon Vandrish / The Canadian Press

Alberta medical students want more done to increase organ donations

But Vandrish said she hasn’t had any luck yet, and for now, she copes with her son’s death by going to a support group. She also has her son’s thumbprint on a bracelet charm, and she said she plans to get a tattoo to remember his “gift of life.” She said the heart recipient sent her an electrocardiogram of his heart about a week ago so she could get it tattooed along with her son’s heartbeat from when he was still alive.

“Those are just little things to keep him close and just keep those memories alive,” said Vandrish.

She said she also learned through corresponding with the heart recipient that he is a middle-aged father of two, whose brother died about seven years ago of a heart disease similar to the one the recipient was diagnosed with.

Father of special needs children overwhelmed by response to organ donation plea

She said her son was an avid soccer player and gardener, who eventually took over her backyard to plant flowers, fruits and vegetables.

Vandrish said she received a letter from the recipient that said he had recently taken up gardening shortly after the heart transplant.


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Brampton, Ont. woman searching for the recipient of her son’s heart


A Brampton woman is on a mission to find the man who received the gift of her son’s heart earlier this year.

Sharon Vandrish’s journey began back in September 2017, when doctors told her that they were going to unplug her son, Keerin Reid, from life support. He was 23 years old.

Keerin had been in hospital for three days after suffering from an accidental fentanyl overdose before doctors declared him brain dead. 

His mother said she immediately wanted to « find something positive out of the tragedy. »

« At least we could save the lives of others through his passing, » she said in an interview.

« That gave me some level of comfort. »

Vandrish donated her son’s organs — including his heart — to four people through the Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN).

The network, which is the provincial body responsible for organ donation in Ontario, facilitates communication between recipients and a donor’s family six months after the operation takes place.

Sharon Vandrish describes her late son as ‘very supportive’ and ‘loyal.’ (Submitted) 

Vandrish took the first step.

« I remember saying that if the size of my son’s heart was measured by how much he loved me, then it wouldn’t fit in the recipient, » she said.

She and the recipient of her son’s heart struck up a correspondence.

« I just wanted to get him to know Keerin, to make it more humane than just an organ. He was a person. »

Through their letters, Vandrish learned that the recipient was a 54-year-old father of a boy and a girl. She also found out that shortly after the transplant, he picked up hobbies that were dear to her late son.

Keerin was an avid gardener, which she explained in one of her letters. The recipient broke down in his reply, confessing that he had recently taken it up. 

« Its a roller-coaster of emotion because you want to know that person is OK … and you want to know that your son’s memory lives on, » she said. 

Confidentiality laws

After exchanging three powerful letters, Vandrish wants to meet the man himself.

« It just seems like a natural progression to me, » she said. « I just think it would close the loop on this whole process. »

But according to Ontario law, organ donations must be kept strictly confidential. Even the letters exchanged between the pair pass through the foundation to be vetted first to ensure they do not breach the rules.

« Personal information is protected to safeguard both the donors’ families and recipients, ensuring that neither is subject to an undesired relationship, » TGLN said in an email. 

« Organ and tissue donation is an emotional process, and the feelings of both donor families and recipients are difficult to predict or assume. »

Sharon Vandrish carries a charm with her late son’s thumbprint and his initials on her bracelet. (Yanjun Li/CBC)

Vandrish doesn’t agree.

« If we’ve both said yes, I don’t understand why you’d want to prevent that, » she said. She has reached out to the foundation directly, but they advised her to lobby her MPP.

« I don’t know how to lobby my legislature, nor do I imagine they’d care about my little situation, » she said. « It’s probably a drop in the bucket compared to bigger issues. »

She took to Reddit instead.

Vandrish’s appeal comes just months after a Newfoundland woman, Jodi Loder, was able to feel her brother’s heartbeat after a similar search.

Loder’s brother died in 2016 in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador. The recipient, Robert Buttle, lived over a thousand kilometres, away in Battersea Ont. But after two years — thanks to social media, a CBC interview and sheer determination — Loder was able to connect with him. 

« It was amazing, just to put my head on Rob’s chest and listen to it the same way I listened to Jeff’s. It was beating the exact same beat, » she said of the experience. 

« It felt like home. »

This is the same type of heartfelt connection that Vandrish is looking for. 

Her message to the stranger out there with her son’s heart?

« No pressure but if this is something that interests you. I’m sure there are many ways that you can get ahold of me. I would welcome the opportunity. »


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Baby Amira was born with a broken heart — her mother is praying for a miracle to fix it


She is fighting for time to love her daughter.

Ideally years. But she’ll take months. Hours even.

Because Jaiden Cowley knows that every moment with Amira is a gift. It has been since she was born 10 months ago with a broken heart.

Amira is waiting for a tiny, strong new one.

“We didn’t know if Amira would make it to Christmas,” says Jaiden, herself just 19. “I live every day like it could be her last.”

A life-time ago, on her first day working at a call centre in Hamilton (she was saving for college to become a nurse), Jaiden learned she was pregnant. Nineteen weeks into the pregnancy, she got more news: there was something drastically wrong with the baby’s heart. It was a congenital defect.

Some of the doctors suggested an abortion. Or said Jaiden should have the child, take it home and let it die quietly in the first few days.

But Jaiden chose another option — to do whatever she could to keep her baby alive. The baby’s father decided not to be involved.

On February 12, at 39-weeks gestation, Jaiden was induced at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. A team was ready to whisk the newborn away.

“I pushed her out and she was gone,” says Jaiden, her voice catching. The new mom didn’t get to hold her baby. Or even see her.

Amira — it means princess in Arabic — has Heterotaxy Syndrome. Her heart is on the wrong side of her body. And it doesn’t have all the right parts.

She was 44 hours old when she had her first surgery. Two days after that, she went into cardiac arrest.

“She died right in front of me,” says Jaiden.

Amira was placed on life support in the Cardiac Critical Care Unit, her chest left open so doctors could peer in.

“I saw her little heart,” says her mom. “It was only the size of a grape.”

Amira spent 180 days in hospital. During that time, doctors told Jaiden her daughter would need a heart transplant.

Jaiden was crushed yet again.

“Why is the heart that I gave her not working?” she agonized.

On June 11, Amira was placed on the transplant list, through the Trillium Gift of Hope Registry.

Amira is a strong princess and in August, she moved in with her mom at the Ronald McDonald House near Sick Kids. They have been there ever since, seeing specialists and waiting to dash to the hospital should a pediatric donor heart become available.

Jaiden’s mom and other family from Hamilton visit on weekends.

Amira is abeautiful girl. She is plump and smiley, often sporting a sparkly cloth headband with a big cheerful bow. She says “Mama” and her laugh is music.

Christmas day will be spent at Ronald McDonald House. Jaiden has to isolate herself and the baby from other guests because she can’t risk infection.

Right now, Amira is a Status 3 on the Trillium transplant registry. Only Status 4 recipients are more critical, being on the verge of death.

Another child whom Jaiden met at Ronald McDonald House just got her new heart. She spent 500 days on the wait list.

Pediatric organ donations are a rare commodity. Children just don’t die at the rate of adults and those who do are less likely to have their parents’ consent to be donors. This is why Jaiden is sharing her story. She wants grieving parents to know their donations could save other children. And that a bit of their child can live on.

Over the past five years, 65 patients under the age of one have received an organ transplant in Ontario, according to Trillium. There have been nine organ donors under the age of one.

Organs are matched by size, blood type and other factors, but not age. Therefore donors under the age of one don’t necessarily correspond with the 65 patients under one that received an organ transplant.

As of Dec. 17 there are 11 patients under the age of one on the transplant waiting list.

If Amira gets a heart, she has a good chance of living until she is 10. After that, she will need another heart transplant, doctors say.

That is a lot of agony to go through. There are great risks of complications and Amira will be on anti-rejection drugs forever.

So why do it?

It only takes Jaiden a heartbeat.

“I want to know who she is. I want her to know love.”

A Go Fund Me account called Help Heal Amiras Broken Heart has been set-up to pay for some of her medical supplies that are not covered by OHIP. The goal is $5,000, with about $1,300 being raised so far.

Susan Clairmont’s commentary appears regularly in The Spectator. sclairmont@thespec.com905-526-3539 | @susanclairmont


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The hidden history of the German POW camp in the heart of Amherst


A Nova Scotia member of Parliament is highlighting a little-known part of Amherst’s First World War history — a prisoner-of-war camp that operated right in the middle of town.

A century ago, the Amherst internment camp held more than 850 Germans, making it the largest POW camp in Canada at the time.

The camp is long gone, but artifacts from the people who lived and died there were passed through the generations and can still be found in local homes.

One of those homes belongs to Bill Casey, the MP for Cumberland-Colchester. His father lived across the street from the camp when it operated from 1914-1919, and somehow ended up with a carefully carved wooden ship made by a prisoner.

The wooden ship made by a prisoner during the First World War is one of two artifacts that have ended up with Casey’s family. (Submitted by Bill Casey)

« It’s beautiful. It’s a work of art in every way, » Casey told CBC Radio’s Information Morning.

Casey’s long fascination with the camp and the prisoners who lived there inspired him this week to stand up in the House of Commons and acknowledge its history.

A ‘very dilapidated’ camp

Some of the best detail of what life was like in the camp comes from an unlikely source, Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. He was arrested in Halifax while en route to Russia and thrown in the camp.

In his autobiography, My Life, he writes about the « very dilapidated iron foundry that had been confiscated from its German owner. »

This week, Bill Casey, MP for Cumberland-Colchester, acknowledged the history of the camp in the House of Commons. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

« The sleeping bunks were arranged in three tiers, two deep, on each side of the hall. About eight hundred of us lived in these conditions. The air in this improvised dormitory at night can be imagined, » wrote Trotsky.

Casey says Amherst was likely chosen as the camp’s location because it provided much-needed space. The German factory had several large buildings and was close to the rail line. Today, the site is home to a concrete plant.

Intricate workmanship

The prisoners handiwork can still be seen around town in the number of buildings they helped construct, said Casey.

But their real legacy is the intricate handcrafts they made from wood and bone, he said. His family happens to have two — the wooden ship and an army tank that at one time was used as a jewelry box by Casey’s grandmother.

When Casey posted about his family’s heirlooms on social media recently, he was surprised to learn how few people know about the camp. He said it’s time Canadians remember the prisoners who were there. 

« These were just sailors doing what they were supposed to do, » he said. 

Casey doesn’t know the name of the prisoner, or prisoners, who crafted his ship but he’s learned it’s a replica of the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, which was defeated by the British early in the war.  

While he works to restore it, he’s also diligently doing his research to find out who built it. 

« It may have been a number of prisoners made it, but I don’t know how they did it with no tools, » said Casey. « Everything about it is intricate. Everything is accurate. Everything’s to scale. »


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‘It hits the heart’: Trio of female air force veterans honoured at Vancouver ceremony


It was a special Remembrance Day weekend for three veterans in Vancouver on Friday.

Geraldine Grimway, 97, Colleen DeSerres, 86 and Penny Stirling, 94, all served in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The three are also clients of Holy Family Hospital in Vancouver, where they were honoured at a special Remembrance Day ceremony on Friday.

B.C. remembers: Watch the 2018 Remembrance Day Ceremony live in Vancouver

The trio were each presented with a special pin and white carnation to recognize their service.

None of the women knew each other before coming to Holy Family, but have since become friends.

The three women share one thing in common alongside their service records: a love of flying.

Colleen DeSerres, 86, served in France during the Korean war.

Global News

Flying is a family tradition for DeSerres. Her great uncle Douglas McCurdy flew the first powered flight in the British Empire in 1909.

Decades later, DeSerres took up the tradition during the Korean War. She learned to fly in France, where she’d been deployed because she was bilingual, she said.

READ MORE: How Global News is marking Remembrance Day 2018

“I flew a Tiger Moth in France. It’s a single-engine aircraft. It was exciting, going down the runway and then taking off. I couldn’t believe it when I took off an looked out the window and the earth was way down beneath me,” she told Global News.

“Then, one of [the] jet pilots, they were in training for the Korean conflict, took me up in a jet. A T-33 jet. That was exciting, he let me take the controls.”

Penny Stirling, 94, said she joined the air force because she’d loved the idea of flying since she was a child.

Global News

Stirling, a World War II veteran, recalled her time in the air force as “a grand old time.”

“I was what they called the watchkeeper. That meant that every operation that was going on that day I had to report it all, and make sure it all ran smoothly,” she said.

Stirling, too, was driven to join the service because of a love of aviation.

As a child, she grew up near an airfield that fueled her dreams of flight — dreams she could turn into a reality by spending time around the runway.

Historic instrument from WWI to be played in Edmonton for Remembrance Day

“I was always hoping to get my first ride in an airplane,” she said.

“I noticed there was a lot of flying, take-offs and landing, so I thought surely I could get one of them to take off and land me, so when he landed, I ran over to the pilot’s cockpit and he knew what I wanted, he said OK, get in, and that’s how I got my first flight.”

Stirling said Remembrance Day always holds a special place for her, and for her family, including her son.

“He’s very proud of having his mother in the forces. It has been a great experience for me,” she said.

Geraldine Grimway, 97, said Remembrance Day is always a somber occasion for her because she remembers the friends she’s lost.

Global News

Grimway, another World War II veteran, served in Ottawa and in Vulcan, Alta. “where the boys got their wings” in flight school.

Remembrance Day brings back a flood of memories.

“It is just a very sad day for me, I’ve lost so many friends,” she said.

Grimway thinks of the friends she served with and her husband, who also served in the war during the annual ceremonies.

“So it’s not a very happy day,” she said. “It hits the heart.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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