Upskirting victim launches website to flag hidden cameras across Toronto

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Sydney Eatz and her friend, computer programmer Richard Trus, launched a website Monday that allows the public to flag hidden cameras spotted in washrooms and change rooms.

TheySaid.org allows users to submit anonymous tips about peeping Toms, hoping that if there are enough complaints about a particular business, others will be warned to steer clear of the establishment and the police will be forced to investigate.

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It’s a personal mission for Eatz, who said she was a victim of upskirting on the floor at a Google-sponsored event two years ago — and didn’t know it until she found a video of herself online.

“It was really horrible,” said Eatz. “I was really depressed and traumatized.”

Google chose not to comment to Global News on the alleged incident.


READ MORE:
Man wanted for voyeurism after hidden camera found in Scarborough restaurant washroom (May 2018)

Eatz and Trus then began a mission to see how many people across the city may have been victims of upskirting and a quick search online gave them an idea.

“When you search on Google for Toronto hidden camera porn, you will find millions of videos. When you click on the results for Google, it will take you to porn sites and you will see places you recognize in Toronto,” said Trus. “We thought, oh my gosh, these people have no clue that they are basically being assaulted by someone and these repeat offenders are getting away with it.”

“It’s upsetting that a lot of these people can’t go to public washrooms or unisex washrooms and feel safe and have to check for cameras all the time,” said Eatz.

WATCH: Man charged with voyeurism at BCIT in Vancouver (July 2018)






Hans School, president of SpyTech, told Global News that part of the problem is that cameras are getting smaller and record in better quality. It’s easy enough to even purchase cameras that look like wall outlets online, he said, or you can make your own at home, sticking a small camera behind fake wall socket.

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That’s exactly what happened at a Starbucks at the intersection of Yonge and King streets in downtown Toronto. When the coffee company got into hot water after it failed to notify the public right away that a wall-socket camera had been discovered under their bathroom sink, facing the toilet.


READ MORE:
Hidden camera discovered in downtown Toronto Starbucks washroom (May 2018)

Eatz and Trus hope that their website gains enough traction to try and curb secret recordings in public washrooms.

“If nobody stops hidden camera porn, what’s going to happen is that you’re going to start videos of people that you know,” said Trus. “Sisters, mothers, aunts, anyone who has used a public washroom.”

“It’s not until it happens to you,” Eatz said. “Then you realize this is a big issue and needs to be tackled right away.”

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As snowbirds head south a hidden economy rises up

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Larissa Novak’s vacation plans include watering plants, bringing in mail and flushing toilets.

Not hers, mind you. Novak takes care of vacant homes and stay-behind pets while their owners chase the southern sun.

Larissa Novak plays with her 6-year-old Black Labrador Retriever Candy during a walk at Spring Garden Park in Etobicoke. Novak takes care of vacant homes and left-behind pets while their snowbird owners chase the sun.
Larissa Novak plays with her 6-year-old Black Labrador Retriever Candy during a walk at Spring Garden Park in Etobicoke. Novak takes care of vacant homes and left-behind pets while their snowbird owners chase the sun.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

“They have fun, I have work,” said Larissa Novak of Kingsway K9 & Kitty in Etobicoke.

It is peak travel season. Last winter, Air Transat flew 1.7 million travellers from Pearson International Airport between November and April on their way to Mexico and the Caribbean. During the same span, WestJet flies about 130,000 sun vacationers from Pearson each month, while Sunwing had 28,000 Toronto-area vacationers on this past Christmas Day alone.

That’s in addition to the more than one million Canadian retirees who spend at least 31 days in the U.S. each year, according to the Canadian Snowbird Association.

A whole economy of pet sitters and snow shovellers has risen up to serve short- and long-term winter travellers.

Novak does more than feed live crickets to pet iguanas starting at $20 a visit.

“I also sweep off the snow on the parked cars in driveways to make it looked more lived in. A car piled up with snow is a sure sign for a thief,” said Novak, who this holiday season for the first time in decades cut her workload down to five Kingsway mansions with cats.

The owners go to Florida or Mexico, where they have second homes, or to Alberta to visit grandchildren.

Some insurance policies require house checks every 48 to 72 hours while the owners are away. In 30 years of home visits, Novak has encountered downed trees, unlocked doors, open windows, stovetop elements left on and, once, an angry trapped squirrel requiring animal control.

“You’re paying for peace of mind,” said Etobicoke landscaper Murray McConnell, who will care for 10 vacationers’ homes this winter.

The homes, which “range across the board of social status,” McConnell said, belong to longtime clients.

Some travel back and forth between Florida and Ontario for medical appointments or to see grandchildren. Basic services such as snow removal and mail gathering run $100 a month. (Snow birds can forward their mail via Canada Post for about $30 a month.)

One elderly couple head south the first week of November and return in April. For them, McConnell also checks inside the home for water damage and starts their luxury car to maintain its battery, a package worth $200 a month.

Condo dwellers needn’t worry about snow removal while they’re on a beach. Houseplants, though, are another story.

“All the people we used to pay killed our plants. Now we use our daughter, who we don’t have to pay but kill(s) them just the same,” said Brian Gold of Thornhill.

The yearly Caribbean cruiser doesn’t mind “because this way we get new fresh plants at least once a year.”

Vacationers sometimes send their pets on holiday, too. Oakville’s Cat Castle is a feline hotel with sunny rooms and birdfeeders outside the windows to entertain guests.

Business at the boarding kennel spikes during Christmas break, March break, school summer holidays and long weekends, with rates from $27 to $49 a day. A few cats stay for months, such as current guest Lola, whose snowbird owners get a long-term discount. To bridge the distance, owners can rent Cat Cams at $4 a day.

“This way they have 24/7 video access to their kitty as well as they can talk to them,” said manager Kylie Brezden.

After the owners come home, it’s back to normal for everyone — until summer vacations start.

Amy Pataki is a Toronto-based restaurant critic and reporter covering all things hospitality. Follow her on Twitter: @amypataki

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Buyers wary of homicide homes, but a property’s past may stay hidden – National

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TORONTO — It was a “stunning” property in the heart of downtown Toronto, but for broker Caroline Baile it was a tough sell.


READ MORE:
Real estate industry poised for a tech disruption in 2019

That’s because the home had been the site of a recent murder, a domestic dispute turned fatal. Baile would tell potential buyers about the tragic death that took place, but the property’s story was already well known thanks to intense media coverage of the crime.

WATCH: Weighing the costs and benefits of reverse mortgages






“It was challenging to sell it,” she said, not wanting to go into too much detail to protect client privacy. “So we ended up leasing it to cover carrying costs.”

The renters were aware of the property’s history and once the media attention subsided, the property was sold.

But for some people, the knowledge that a murder took place in a home is enough to make them walk away from a purchase — even if it is at a steep discount in a hot market.


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76% of Canada’s national wealth is wrapped up in real estate, and the market is slowing: data

That is, for those who are aware that something happened.

While there are rules requiring disclosure of issues concerning a property such as a defect like a hole in a roof or mould, for non-physical problems such as violent crime, the law largely says “caveat emptor” or buyer beware, said Alan Silverstein, an Ontario-based real estate lawyer.

Quebec does have a law that requires sellers to disclose when a person has died an unnatural death on their property. But in other provinces, the guidelines are blurry.

WATCH: Should you get a fixed mortgage rate or a variable one?






“A murder is more psychological than factual… When you get into the area of murder and suicides, natural causes, we don’t have clear rules,” Silverstein said.

There are also differing guidelines for agents or sellers, he added.

In Ontario, for example, the seller has no legal requirement to disclose a stigma such as murder and the onus is on the buyer and their realtor to find out.

READ MORE: The ranking of Canada’s best and worst cities for homebuyers has changed radically

However, real estate agents in the province have an ethical obligation to disclose the existence of stigmas, according to the Ontario Real Estate Association.

Agents are also required to tell potential buyers about these issues at the earliest possible convenience, said Barry Lebow, a Toronto realtor and expert on stigmatized properties.

“You cannot disclose it at the table once there is an offer…. you don’t wait until the last minute, but that happens,” he said.

WATCH: A vital lesson for Canadian mortgage owners looking to borrow money






If the agent or seller is asked a question, they cannot give a false answer, Silverstein said.

The former owner of a Vancouver mansion learned this lesson after the B.C. Supreme court ordered her to return a $300,000 deposit after a sale fell through because she didn’t tell the buyer about a suspected gang-related murder of her son-in-law at the front gate in 2007.

Feng Yun Shao reneged on her $6.1-million offer on the 9,000-square-foot mansion in 2009 just days after forwarding the deposit. The would-be buyer asked why they were selling and was told the owner had moved back to China and her daughter had moved to a location closer to her child’s school, according to court documents.

Neither the owner, her daughter or the realtor told Shao about the unsolved slaying, and the judge said she was the victim of a “fraudulent misrepresentation.”

READ MORE: Will it crash? Here’s what to expect from the Canadian housing market in 2019

Still, as homes change hands over the years, a property’s dark secrets don’t always get passed on.

“If the seller doesn’t know about something, it’s hard to hold them liable,” Silverstein said.

Also, it’s unclear how far back in a property’s history must be disclosed. Some jurisdictions, such as California, stipulate the seller is obligated to disclose a death on a property if it occurred within the three years prior to the sale.

“We need some hard and fast rules,” Silverstein said.

WATCH: 2019 real estate trends






Buyers who are uncomfortable with living in a home where a violent crime took place should do extensive research on any property that catches their eye. In addition to the obvious online address searches, potential buyers should also ask their would-be neighbours for information about the home, said Silverstein.

Another thing to look for is a line in the listing that asks potential buyers to call the listing agent before preparing an offer, said Toronto realtor David Fleming.

READ MORE: More homeowners are turning to private lenders. Here are the risks

“It could mean something big or it could mean something small… When you see something like that, it usually means that there is a catch and they don’t want to put it in a listing,” he said.

Buyers can also add a clause that the sellers acknowledge that to the best of their knowledge there hasn’t been a murder or suicide in the home.

Sandra Pike, a realtor based in Halifax, said most agents in the region add in this caveat stipulating that the property has not been stigmatized by things such as murder, suicide or illegal drug cultivation.

“You wouldn’t want to be dishonest and not bring that up… If it comes back and bites you, it’s not worth it,” she said.

Some homes may never shake off the stigma, no matter how much time passes. The St. Catharines, Ont. home where convicted killer Paul Bernardo and his former wife Karla Homolka raped and murdered two teen girls was torn down in 1995.

WATCH: Analysis on new report suggesting B.C.’s housing market is in the midst of a recession






Even in high-profile cases, there are some people who aren’t deterred, said Barry Cohen, a Toronto-based luxury property realtor.

The unsolved murders of Apotex Inc. founder Barry Sherman and his wife Honey at their mansion in northern Toronto has not hurt the sale prospects for nearby homes that he is representing, as most see it as an isolated incident and not a reflection of the neighbourhood, Cohen said.

As well, while the Shermans’ home is not currently on the market, Cohen said there is buyer interest.

“The client would buy it as is.”

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‘Hidden form of prejudice’: Diversity trainers say solving police racism has no quick fix

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Against the backdrop of smoldering tensions over race and policing in Toronto and Thunder Bay, Ont., trainers and educators who specialize in anti-racism efforts caution that cultural sensitivity training for police officers is no quick fix.

« Our use of stereotypes is an unconscious habit. Like any habit, it’s hard to break, » said Shakil Choudhury, a Toronto-based consultant who has lead diversity training for about 25 years.

« You’re not going to break the habit after one training [session], »

Police in Thunder Bay are under intense scrutiny over their interactions with Indigenous people, after two separate reports released this week suggested the police service in the northern Ontario city is rife with institutional racism.

The reports advised that both police officers and the civilian board, which oversees the police service, undertake cultural sensitivity training about Indigenous peoples.

Toronto police already conduct mandatory training on diversity and bias avoidance, but they are also under fire after the Ontario Human Rights Commission released statistics on Monday showing black people are « grossly overrepresented » in violent interactions with police.

The reports didn’t surprise Choudhury, who has conducted diversity training for several police forces in Ontario and Alberta.

In a report released Wednesday, Ontario’s independent police watchdog Gerry McNeilly said that there’s a ‘crisis of trust’ between police and Thunder Bay’s Indigenous community. (Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

He says systemic racism is « pervasive » in policing and the criminal justice system in Canada, and it takes time and commitment from leadership to root it out.

« Like any other lesson we learned in school — whether it was math, learning to read, or write — it took repetition … It took a teacher to help us work through our mistakes, » he said.

« Equally, that’s how you’re going to undo unconscious bias. »

However, some anti-racism educators question the effectiveness of unconscious bias training.

According to Carl James, a York University professor who has published several reports about anti-black racism in education, research suggests that unconscious bias training hasn’t produced desired results.

« We have heard over and over again that the police have had training. So the question is, why hasn’t it produced anything different? »

‘A hidden form of prejudice’

The problem, according to James, is a resistance to mandatory training.

« When people reluctantly sit in the place and are … given training, one would wonder how willing are they to really engage, in a deep way of thinking, through what ought to be dealt with, » said James.

Choudhury, who has also trained teachers and health professionals, acknowledges participants in anti-racism workshops often feel defensive, « because they’re basically waiting to be told that they’re bad, they’re wrong and they’re racist, » he said.

[Unconscious bias] is part of the human condition, and you can be trained to uncover it.– Shakil Choudhury

Choudhury tries to avoid the blame-game by explaining unconscious bias, which he describes as « a hidden form of prejudice. »

« You don’t have bias because you’re a bad person, » he said. « We’ve all been socialized in a system in which criminality and danger has been associated with the darkness of one’s skin. That is an incorrect assumption, yet it is pervasive, » said Choudhury.

Unconscious bias training programs, which are designed to expose people to deeply ingrained stereotypes they hold about everything from race to gender, have been rolled out to police forces across Canada and the United States.

Toronto Police came under scrutiny this week when a report from the Ontario Human Rights Commission found that a black person in Toronto is 20 times more likely than a white person to be shot by police. (Christopher Langenzarde/CBC)

Choudhury believes it’s also important to teach emotional intelligence skills to police.

« Police officers very much feel highly criticized, and rightfully so … But this [unconscious bias] is part of the human condition, and you can be trained to uncover it, » says Choudhury.

But training for individual officers won’t work, James suggests, unless the entire culture of an organization is examined for bias.

« One of the benefits might be a nice conversation — but a conversation toward what? Is it going to produce the changes necessary to provide a more effective organization that works with the community in less discriminatory ways? »

Policing solutions in Saskatoon

Métis entrepreneur and journalist John Lagimodiere believes police forces can change.

Lagimodiere led Indigenous awareness training for Saskatoon police in 2002 and 2003, after the practice of « starlight tours » — where officers would abandon Indigenous men, perceived as troublemakers, on the outskirts of town in the dead of winter — was exposed.

John Lagimodiere is the publisher/editor of Eagle Feather News. (Submitted by John Lagimodiere)

Police were taught Indigenous history, treaties, the Indian Act, and residential schools. Elders were invited to offer cultural teachings.

« All of Canada got robbed of the proper education about Aboriginal people, » said Lagimodiere.

« It’s not their [police officer’s] fault they don’t know. It’s not their fault it’s those perceptions and biases are in there, because they’re born into them. »

Lagimodiere recalls police responding positively, including one memorable follow-up with a long-serving sergeant.

« He said, ‘That two days I spent with you changed the entire way I police,' » said Lagimodiere.

In the past decade, Saskatoon police have hired more Indigenous members and offered compulsory diversity training. The Saskatoon police chief began holding annual meetings with Indigenous elders. Police also helped erect a memorial to missing and murdered Indigenous women in front of police headquarters.

But Lagimodiere says the key changes need to be on the street.

« A lot of these guys [police officers] don’t know where this pain in the community comes from, » said Lagimodiere, who teaches police officers to approach Indigenous people they’re investigating differently.

« If you can talk to them in a good way, without blaming these dudes … once they have a better perspective on it, things get better relationship-wise. »

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

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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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Hidden camera reveals how bank employees mislead and upsell on pricey credit card insurance

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A Marketplace hidden camera investigation is raising questions about how bank employees are selling a pricey and controversial product marketed to help with credit card payments if you lose your job or get sick.

It’s called credit card balance insurance, or balance protection insurance — and if you’ve signed up for a credit card, chances are you’ve been asked to buy it.

But many experts say the insurance comes with high fees — typically a percentage of a cardholder’s outstanding balance — and so many exclusions it can be hard to make a successful claim.

« If it mostly disappears from the market, that’s a good thing, » said John Lawford, a consumer rights lawyer and executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC).

« It’s expensive, it doesn’t cover a lot of situations, and it pays out a very small amount most of the time, » he said. « It really is garbage. »

Marketplace took a hidden camera inside some of Canada’s biggest banks — visiting Bank of Montreal, CIBC, Royal Bank and Scotiabank branches in the Toronto area — to investigate how bank employees marketed balance protection insurance when a customer signed up for a new credit card.

It revealed employees using questionable tactics or confusing and inaccurate information to sell the insurance at all banks but one.

RBC was the only bank where Marketplace was not offered the product during the hidden camera investigation.

CIBC: Added insurance without permission

In a confusing exchange, the employee at CIBC had already added the insurance to a credit card before there was a chance to decline the balance protection.

« You can delete it any time you want, » she said. « It’s easy. You just have to pick up the phone and call. That’s it. »

A look at why balance protection insurance is called ‘high risk’ for consumers:​

It’s expensive, doesn’t cover a lot of situations, and it pays out a very small amount most of the time. So why are banks selling it? CBC Marketplace goes undercover to find out. 2:09

After she was told to delete it, the employee acknowledged she should have asked first before adding the product to the credit card.

In a statement to Marketplace, CIBC wrote that the interaction « does not reflect our expectations or practices. If an issue is identified, we investigate immediately and take appropriate action to address the situation. »

BMO: No knowledge of product

At BMO, an employee seemed to have little grasp of the insurance product she was selling, struggling to explain balance protection insurance when asked to describe what it was.

« It’s an insurance … balance, » said the employee, before grabbing a brochure about the product and reading aloud from it.

BMO told Marketplace it takes any concerns from customers « seriously » and has « processes in place to review and address them when they are raised. »

Many financial experts say credit card balance insurance comes with high fees and so many exclusions it can be hard to make a successful claim. (CBC)

Scotiabank: Misinforms about coverage

At Scotiabank, an employee provided inaccurate information about what the insurance covered, claiming that the bank would pay off an entire credit card balance if someone lost their job.

Scotiabank’s balance insurance only pays 10 per cent of an outstanding balance — up to $5,000.

In a statement to Marketplace, Scotiabank wrote that its « employees receive ongoing training on our available creditor insurance solutions. »

‘We are misleading the client’

Multiple customer service representatives from Canada’s big banks have described the aggressive and questionable tactics used to get people to sign up for the insurance.

« We are misleading the client, » one employee at a big bank told Marketplace. Marketplace is not naming the employee, who fears he could lose his job for speaking out.

  • Watch the hidden camera investigation on Marketplace at 8 p.m. Friday on CBC TV and online.

The bank employee said he and his colleagues are under pressure to meet sales targets by trying to sell credit card balance insurance to every customer who takes out a credit card.

« Balance protection is something that’s a scam, » he said. « It’s just something to take clients’ money. »

It’s estimated that millions of Canadians pay for insurance on their credit cards. (CBC)

He and his colleagues would sometimes sign customers up for products like credit card balance insurance without their knowledge, the employee said.

Other times at his bank, he said, they wouldn’t tell customers the insurance was optional — even though they are legally required to do so. « So for example, we’d say … ‘This credit card comes with insurance,' » he said.

Sales reps often also don’t have a full understanding of the product they’re selling and are told to stick to a script, the employee said.

One example from that script involved citing examples of people who signed up for balance protection and were covered by the insurer after making a claim, he said.

But he said he’s witnessed many clients come into the branch to make a claim and get denied.

‘High risk for consumers’

Marketplace also spoke to a number of unhappy customers with Canada’s big banks who said employees signed them up for balance protection without their knowledge or misrepresented the product.

In one case, TD refunded a customer more than $6,000 after he said he had been unknowingly signed up for the insurance and had been paying a premium for years.

PIAC executive director John Lawford says credit card balance insurance isn’t worth it for consumers, calling it ‘pure profit’ for the banks. (CBC)

Last year, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) conducted a six-month review of sales practices inside the big banks — an investigation prompted after more than 3,000 current and former employees from all the major banks wrote to CBC’s Go Public about the pressure to push products to meet sales targets.

In May, the consumer watchdog warned a parliamentary committee that it had found credit card balance protection « problematic, » saying the tactics used to sell the product were a « high risk » to consumers and that the insurance was « often sold without the appropriate explanation of how it works. »

Despite FCAC finding some evidence of misleading sales tactics, none of Canada’s financial institutions have been fined.

Advocate wants credit card insurance gone

After reviewing the findings of Marketplace’s hidden camera investigation, Lawford said he was struck by how the bank employees really didn’t seem to understand the product they were selling.

He said he hopes Canada’s financial institutions will follow the lead of other major banks around the world that have stopped selling the balance protection insurance, such as the Bank of America and Australia’s Commonwealth Bank.

Regulators in the U.S., Australia and the U.K. have collectively fined banks billions for misleading consumers, including similar practices.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government has tabled new legislation that, if passed, would create a more robust consumer protection framework, similar to ones that have existed for years in both the U.S. and the European Union.

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