A 19-year-old woman has turned herself in to police, four days after a widely viewed video showed a chair being tossed off a downtown Toronto highrise balcony, sparking huge outrage.
Marcella Zoia, a Toronto resident, walked in to 52 Division around 7 a.m. this morning. She has been charged with mischief endangering life, mischief involving damage to property and common nuisance.
Det. Todd Higo said Zoia was alone when she turned herself in.
She is scheduled to appear in College Park court today in room 505.
Police said in a news release that they started an investigation into the incident that happened 10 a.m. Saturday in the Harbour St and York St. area.
A video of the incident, which was widely shared online, shows a young woman picking up a folding chair and tossing it over the railing hundreds of feet in the air.
The video follows the chair as it hurtles towards the busy Gardiner Expressway and ends just before it hits the ground. Police later said a second chair and other items were tossed as well.
Const. David Hopkinson on Wednesday said detectives are investigating whether the apartment unit was being rented as a short-term rental.
In a short statement, Airbnb spokesperson Ben Brait said the company is investigating whether any of its users were involved in the incident.
“We are outraged by the blatant disregard for community safety on display in the video,” he said.
“We will be suspending any guest accounts that appear to be connected to this incident. Additionally, we have reached out proactively to Toronto police to offer our full support to help them investigate this abhorrent behaviour.”
Ajax woman Tyler Walton told the Star she believed she rented the same unit Saturday night, the same day as the chair-throwing incident, through AirBnB.
She said she saw the broken chairs on the street in front of the condo tower’s Lake Shore Blvd. W. entrance and later noticed the unit did not have the balcony set shown in the online listing. She said she didn’t put two and two together until she saw the video.
“I saw the chairs outside on the street and joked to my boyfriend that they looked like they were thrown,” she said. “He didn’t think anyone was dumb enough to do that.”
The online listing for the unit — Walton said it’s a south-facing apartment on the 45th floor — includes pictures of a patio set that appear to match the chairs in the video.
Walton said she asked the AirBnB host if the unit should have had a balcony set, and was told yes.
Walton said the AirBnB host told her to arrive later than the regular check-in time because the previous guests had left it “a disaster.”
Fairbnb researcher and spokesperson Thorben Wieditz said it’s not unusual to hear residents in downtown highrises in the area complain about problems caused short-term rentals.
“It’s very common for partiers and Airbnb guests to throw stuff off the condos. What we haven’t seen yet is something like those two chairs that could have very well caused death,” he said, noting the group is “desperately” waiting for the city’s regulations on short-term rentals to come into effect.
Hopkinson said Monday that he was “outraged” at the incident.
“Anybody could’ve been walking underneath,” he said, adding if someone was hit, they could have suffered “catastrophic” injuries.
A conviction for mischief endangering life could result in jail time, Hopkinson told the Star earlier.
With files from Gilbert Ngabo
Jack Hauen is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @jackhauen
Alexandra Jones is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @AlexandraMaeJ
Teams of three students were asked to focus on four challenges during the one-day event. Nine teams made presentations on topics such as how to leverage emerging technologies to create a smart city, engaging residents who deal with social isolation and loneliness in long-term care, revitalizing public spaces and reducing carbon emissions.
One group of Queen’s University students — Zoe Mitz, Jesse Mastrangelo and Andrew Farley — pitched and hope to develop an app specifically targeted at seniors dealing with social isolation.
“They can learn about each other, see names and faces and relate them to each other and plan activities, make new friends and connections and actually get out of their rooms and be social,” explained Mitz.
If the group were to win, these young entrepreneurs would engage the help of seniors to make the app user-friendly for its target audience.
“The reason tech, for a long time, hasn’t been the most usable for seniors is the fact that things are not made for them,” said Mastrangelo.
“The fact that we are going to start from scratch, from the ground up and bring seniors onto our team and build it with them, that’s the big differentiating factor for us.”
Two teams will be chosen as winners of the Mayor’s Innovation Challenge. Winners of the competition will receive a paid four-month internship as well as a grant of seed capital for their ideas.
“Ultimately, how do we retain talent? We talk a lot about how do we find jobs and opportunities for young people here so this is exactly the forum where we could be creating new businesses and new startups and new ideas we can run with as a city,” said Paterson.
Based on the ideas presented, the mayor says it won’t be easy to select the winners.
A Toronto man is speaking out after an employee at his car dealership turned off his dashboard video camera twice while working on his vehicle, and now he’s warning others their devices may be tampered with without their knowledge.
Haider Firas, 24, took his car to Parkview BMW this past November. Firas has a camera pointing out to capture video of other vehicles and one pointing inside his car to protect his property.
The mechanic was captured on the video noticing the cameras and turning them both off.
« Well that kind of raises a flag, » Firas told CBC Toronto.
« Why did he do that? Now I don’t know what happened to my car for that time being. It’s under their control now. They could do anything, they could speed off with it, they could have damages done to it, I don’t know. »
Unsatisfied with Parkview BMW’s response after an employee there turned off his dashcam video, Haider Firas went to the media to alert others to what he says could be an industry-wide problem. (Chris Glover/CBC)
Dashcam data deleted on 2nd visit
Firas said he complained to the dealership, but decided to take his car back to the same company a couple of weeks later.
Not only did the employee turn off his recording devices the second time, but that time the employee also deleted the videos on the file, Firas said.
« This is raising a concern with privacy because I have my family in my car and we have conversations. [The employee] actually had to go through footage to find their own footage to delete and this is a 100 per cent no-no, like you can’t access people’s private information to get rid of your own footage. »
Firas also uploads his videos to YouTube, and said they are particularly valuable to him for that reason.
Firas recorded a phone conversation between himself and the dealership’s director of fixed operations.
The director at the dealership said some employees are not comfortable being watched without their knowledge and argued it is common practice in the trade.
« I don’t think it’s ok for you to disconnect the camera without asking the owner’s permission, » Firas tells the director on the recording.
The two dashcam video recorders in Haider Firas’s vehicle were both turned off by an employee at his dealership. He also says they deleted files on the second occasion. (Chris Glover/CBC)
« For example, if I have a house and I hire contractors to come work in my house … and they disconnect my cameras, … you can’t do that, because I’m recording for my safety for my property. It’s the same thing. It’s my car, you’re not allowed to disconnect it without permission. »
Parkview BMW’s general manager did not respond to CBC Toronto’s request for comment.
Other dealerships weigh in: ‘We don’t touch them’
Art Safonov, the parts manager at Volkswagen MidTown Toronto, said at their facility it’s policy not to touch an owner’s property without contacting them first.
« If the technician does decide that they want it off, we would notify the customer that it is going to be turned off … because we are totally transparent, » Safonov said.
« Generally, we don’t touch them; there’s no reason to touch it, » he added.
« But is it standard across the board? I have no idea. From dealer to dealer it may vary. »
Over at Lakeside Motors, owner Mike Colangelo said his shop hasn’t encountered the situation yet, but suggested it would be best to let the owner know.
« I don’t think it’s a bad idea to tell the customer, because if anything happens … they’d say it happened while the camera was off, » he said.
« It’s a bit of a grey area. I don’t know what the logistics are around this. You could go both ways. You’d almost need to be a lawyer. »
Potential privacy violation by employee, not Firas, lawyer says
Privacy lawyer Alice Tseng says in Canada privacy violations pertain to entities such as businesses or governments, not private individuals or consumers.
She doesn’t think it was against the law for Firas to record the employee, or for the employee to stop the recording.
But she says the situation could be problematic for the employee.
« If the employee just stopped it and no more I don’t see a privacy issue, » Tseng said.
« If the employee deleted files, I don’t think it’s a privacy issue, but I do think the consumer could have some sort of recourse, because you can’t just damage other people’s property or delete other people’s property, » she added.
« To the extent that the employee actually had to access or watch any past files, that could be a privacy violation. »
If it wasn’t for Twitter, nobody but a lucky clutch of close family and friends would ever know about Alan Kwan’s astonishingly intricate hooked-rug renderings of classic French paintings and Newfoundland scenes.
« I just thought, ‘This is amazing, people need to see this, » said Nikki Gagnon, Kwan’s daughter-in-law.
So she posted a pic of a rug he made from a picture of the north shore of St. John’s, taken from Signal Hill, to Twitter.
Alan Kwan holds up his masterpiece. (Submitted by Alan Kwan)
« She didn’t tell me, » Kwan said, laughing, adding that he was fine with it.
« But I just do it for a hobby. »
Kwan is remarkably nonchalant about his « hobby, » saying the work ethic, perfectionism, steady hand and excruciating attention to detail each of his works demand all come naturally — he was a surgeon for 35 years, arriving in St. John’s in 1975 after training in New York City and Montreal.
« I guess it fits my personality, » he said.
A hooked-rug rendering of George Seurat’s 1884 classic painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte looks almost like an early Regatta day on the shores of Quidi Vidi Lake. (Submitted by Alan Kwan)
But his inspiration for taking up rug hooking in the first place also has a connection to the medical profession.
A few years before he retired, he visited St. Anthony and saw some of the hooked rugs made during the mission established by Dr. Wilfred T. Grenfell. He even bought a few of the rugs he found in antique shops in the area.
« I thought that I could do it, I could try it. »
Kwan says rug hooking suits his personality. (Submitted by Alan Kwan)
So when he retired in 2010, his wife enrolled him in a few courses at the Anna Templeton Centre in St. John’s.
« It was a retirement project, really, » he said.
Rug hooking is the ideal retirement project, he said, because it doesn’t cost much money — he uses burlap and yarn made of wool — but it keeps him creative and gives him something to do.
Making intricate hooked rugs like this copy of Claude Monet’s The Poppy Field Near Argenteuil is just a hobby for retired surgeon Alan Kwan. (Submitted by Alan Kwan)
He figures he spent about four or five months on the St. John’s hillscape, noting he didn’t work on it every day.
Though rug hooking aligns well with his disposition, he said, he still learns a lot from it.
« When I started … I wasn’t sure I could finish it, I wasn’t sure I could do it. But you keep on plugging at it, and making mistakes and changing it and correcting it and all that stuff that goes on and you’ve finished it, » Kwan said.
« It takes time, that’s all. »
Pitcher plants, rendered in yarn. (Submitted by Alan Kwan)
The ‘yellow vest’ movement has recently seen a series of protests across Canada. The reasons for the protests range from opposition to the carbon tax and delays in pipeline construction to Canada’s signing of the United Nations migration pact.
“All the laws that were made for 150 years to keep me safe and you safe, our children, our grandchildren, have been changed. Those laws have been changed. We’re now bringing in ISIS members,” said one woman, who did not want to be identified.
As speakers representing the ‘yellow vest’ movement expressed their complaints to the crowd, the protesters chanted “Trudeau must go!”
“Our energy allies are laughing at us. They’re robbing us blind and our elected [representatives] in the Supreme Courts, at the elected positions, federally and provincially, are doing nothing but taking a fat paycheque,” said oil and gas worker Mike Wipf.
Similar to previous Edmonton rallies, there were also people in attendance who were wearing jackets with Soldiers of Odin patches on them. The Soldiers of Odin are a far-right group in Canada.
Last weekend, counter-protests at Sir Winston Churchill Square also resulted in a fight, where policed removed at least two people and worked to keep the opposing sides apart.
Police have identified 17-year-old Joshua Leo as the victim of a fatal stabbing near Lime Ridge Mall and say an 18-year-old has been charged with manslaughter after turning himself in.
The Hamilton teen was pronounced dead Friday after being rushed to hospital with a serious chest wound.
Investigators got a search warrant for a home on the Hamilton Mountain Saturday and seized a vehicle officials believe to be the get-away car for forensic processing.
Police say the driver of the car was identified and interviewed, but will not face any charges.
Dawson Farr turned himself in around 11 p.m. Saturday, say police. The 18-year-old from Hamilton has been charged with manslaughter and assault with a weapon.
He appeared in court Sunday and is scheduled to return to court Monday morning.
Friend tried to take teens to hospital
Leo’s death marks the city’s ninth homicide of 2018.
Two people, including Leo, were transported from the scene at the plaza at Upper Wentworth and Kingfisher Drive around 4:30 p.m. Friday. The second victim, an 18-year-old, suffered minor stab wounds but was in stable condition.
The stabbing happened on Pinewarbler Drive, inside a white hatchback that belongs to one victim’s mother, according to police.
The two teens met up with two other people near Bruleville Park when investigators say an « altercation » occurred and they were stabbed. A friend of the victims reportedly showed up at the scene as the two assailants ran away.
That friend set out to drive the injured teens to hospital before realizing how serious their injuries were and calling 911, police say.
Leo was pulled from the car with the help of an off-duty firefighter and ex-military paramedic who tried to save this life.
Investigators are continuing to search for one male suspect.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Geoff Burbidge at 905-546-2288.
SAN JOSE—Ask Morgan Rielly why he doesn’t like talking about how good he’s been and he tells you, “because it’s stupid,” but he doesn’t mean that, not really. He’s just kidding. He can be really funny, Morgan. He’s quick on his feet, and he seems so confident, especially now. He seems like he has it all figured out.
“Yeah, but I’ve really never been overly confident,” says Rielly.
Wait, what? On the ice or off?
You’d never know, unless you knew him when. When Rielly was a kid he was athletic, competitive as hell, but shy; he hated going to camp and meeting new kids. His family was close-knit and largely content with that. Rielly still has the same friends that he made in fifth grade playing hockey. They’re the people he’s most comfortable with.
He has changed, sort of. This season, the 24-year-old Rielly has leapt to a new place, a different place. He has 24 points in 19 games; it’s about twice his career-best points per game. He is jumping into the rush at the right time; his decision-making is unhindered by second-guessing. He credits his Leaf teammates mostly. He doesn’t look like he’s nervous.
“Well, around here I’m not like that, because I’m comfortable,” says Rielly. “But when you’re put into a new situation, I get nervous all the time. But I don’t as much anymore when I’m in this environment. When you’re around your teammates and your coaches.”
“Well, he’s a guy who always seems like he’s been comfortable in his own skin, so if he’s finding a new level of comfort then you have to believe that he’s very confident right now,” says backup goaltender Garret Sparks. “You never see the insecure side with him, right? It’s interesting that he said that because I don’t think he gives off that vibe, ever.
“I think it’s a talent that he’s able to suppress that and not show so much of it. And stuff like that takes time. If it’s taken him five years to reach that level of comfort, obviously something like that takes a little bit of time.”
That is about what it took. When Rielly started in the league he wasn’t sure of himself, and part of that was that he didn’t want to be seen as a cocky kid, holding court; he wanted to respect how good the league was, and the process of finding a foothold there. As he says, “you want to be a normal guy.”
“I’ve always been nervous and you know, feeling like I have a ways to go in order to establish myself,” says Rielly. “You want to earn your spot, and it takes time. You’ve got to earn your spot. And then as that happens you earn confidence and you get more comfortable. So it’s a process.
“I mean, take Auston (Matthews) as an example. He came in and he’s a confident guy, knowing how good he was. I wasn’t really like that. It takes time to earn that for some people, and with Auston, with (Connor) McDavid, with almost Mitch (Marner), you come in and you’re confident and you’re comfortable and you know that you’re going to be able to put up points and play well.”
But Rielly doubted himself, and then he was dropped into the Mike Babcock preparatory academy: grinding minutes and defensive assignments. And slowly, day by day and year by year, he earned confidence. Let him tell it.
“I think it just happens over time,” says Rielly. “You go to the world championships and you play big minutes, that’s a big step. The World Cup, you play well, you’re in a leadership role, that’s a big step. You come here, you play for a good team, a good coach and a good group, and you just get comfortable. You just become kind of in a good situation and you feel like you’re able to thrive.
“I mean, I think I don’t really make as many mistakes. You know, people used to tell me if you’re a good player, all you have to worry about is limiting mistakes, because the other 90 per cent of the time if you do the right thing — which if you’re a good player you will — then you’re not making pointless mistakes that are just lazy or, for lack of a better word, just dumb. And you’re going to be fine.
“I think that I don’t have a lot of limitations when it comes to ability. Like, strength and speed, I think I train hard enough in the off-season that I’m always ready to go. And the more comfortable you get and the smarter you get — because a lot of playing defence is just brain power, learning from previous mistakes and just getting better. You know what I mean? Just understanding the game more. The more you learn, the more comfortable you get in that position. There’s no excuse not to get better. Until your body starts to give out on you a little bit, you get to an age, it happens to everyone, your legs start to go.
“At a certain point you want the expectations to be raised, and when you’re playing at a high level the questions aren’t ‘How does it feel to be playing at a high level?’ It’s ‘How’s the body feeling?’ because you’re playing normally. Because that’s your standard, and that’s the level you want to get to.”
He wants this to be his normal. He wants it to be what’s expected. Watching Rielly this season is like seeing wheels catch after wading through the mud, and he’s his most confident self now. He’s at home. Before the San Jose game Thursday, Rielly was standing there in his sharp grey suit and teammate Connor Brown wandered by, lost in a cinder-block maze full of unlabelled grey doors. “That way, legend,” said Rielly, pointing to the right one. Nazem Kadri followed and Rielly sent him in the right direction, too. He knew where to go. He was sure of it.
Bruce Arthur is a Toronto-based sports columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @bruce_arthur
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Two days before her 99th birthday, Cecilia Chiang is holding court with a dozen or so friends and family members at a long blond wooden table. Everyone is gathered for dinner at the Greenwich Village outpost of the fast-casual bing and noodle joint, Junzi Kitchen. The space is minimalist and plant-filled, the lighting is a little harsh, and the table is outlined by young customers wearing Adidas sneakers and white baseball caps who keep strolling in to pick up take-out orders, unaware they’re in the presence of restaurant royalty.
The setting feels appropriate for Chiang’s birthday party in a way. Without her, Junzi Kitchen—launched in 2015 by a couple of Yale students—likely would not exist. In fact, any of your favorite regional Chinese restaurants owe their presence at least partially to Chiang. Her San Francisco restaurant, The Mandarin, opened in 1961 amid a sea of stereotypical, chop suey–slinging spots and forever changed the makeup of Chinese restaurants in the U.S.
At 99 (technically 98, since the party is happening just before her birthday), Chiang certainly does not look her age, or like someone who spent multiple decades in the rough-and-tumble of the restaurant industry. Dressed in a striped black shirt and tailored black pants, her short hair neatly combed back, and large lustrous pearls dangling from her neck and ears (plus two dazzling rings on her fingers), she is a vision of poise. She walks delicately but purposefully, talks slowly but eloquently, and has a jubilant, full-bellied laugh.
If you’ve read anything on Cecilia Chiang, you’re probably familiar with her legendary origin story: how she escaped the Japanese invasion of China in 1942 and walked six months to a relative’s place in Chongqing, then fled China for Japan during the communist revolution, went to visit her widowed sister in San Francisco in 1960, tried to lend some money to two friends for a restaurant while there, and then was forced to take over the lease and move to the Bay Area permanently after the friends backed out and the landlord refused to return her money. She would reluctantly turn that tiny space into The Mandarin—a beautiful banquet-style restaurant serving the sophisticated Mandarin and Sichuan food (beggar’s chicken, smoked tea duck) from her upbringing with excellent service, a far cry from the homogeneous spots that suffused Chinatown. “I wanted high-end,” she says. “When I looked at Chinatown, I was really embarrassed. It was mostly chop suey and dragons and gold—so gaudy. And no tablecloths, no service, no carpets.” The Mandarin was an impeccably designed space, with bamboo, perfectly ironed white tablecloths, and elegant-looking artwork hanging from the walls.
The restaurant industry was especially tough back in the ’60s for a woman, she says, especially a Chinese one. “People were very rude to me,” she says. “They gave me a hard time because I didn’t speak the language; because I was a woman, I had to pay cash every time.” People thought Chinese restaurants were “greasy and dirty,” she says, so distributors were hesitant to work with her. Even more isolating was the fact that because of her education and upbringing, she spoke a different dialect and didn’t dress like most other Chinese restaurateurs in the area, making it hard to find a community.
But thanks to the ingenuity of The Mandarin and Chiang’s bubbly demeanor, community soon found her. The restaurant earned a fan base that included heavy hitters like James Beard (“So tall and…,” she puffs up her cheeks to indicate Beard’s largesse), Williams-Sonoma founder Chuck Williams, and Julia Child. One day a young chef named Alice Waters walked into the restaurant, adored the food, and convinced Chiang to launch cooking classes, where Waters, Child, and Jeremiah Tower all came to learn about Chinese cuisine early in their careers.
That was Chiang’s first taste of mentorship, something that would become a central theme of her career, for both chefs like Waters and young Chinese-American restaurateurs who sought to follow in her footsteps.
One of Chiang’s early mentees was her son, Philip, who, inspired by The Mandarin’s success, co-founded P.F. Chang’s, a destination for more casual, affordable Chinese cuisine in 1993. Later on she helped pastry chef Belinda Leong with her celebrated San Francisco bakery, B. Patisserie, and then eventually Ming Bai, Yong Zhao, and Wanting Zhang, who, with Junzi Kitchen, envisioned bringing unfussy, regional Chinese cuisine to the fast-casual realm.
At the start of dinner, the 25-year-old Junzi Kitchen chef, Lucas Sin, nervously tells Chiang how he consulted his own mother about what to cook for her that night, and then a parade of dishes arrives: tomatoes glazed in pat chun vinegar with shiso and watercress; smashed cucumbers with sesame and red amaranth; chun bing, skinny pancakes served with sides of chili-spiked beef shank, braised pork hock, garlic chives, and soy-scrambled eggs and leeks; and a comforting noodle soup of tomatoes and scrambled eggs. It’s simple food, more Chinese home cooking than Chinese banquet, and Chiang absolutely loves it.
She lifts up a few of the garlic chives with her chopsticks. “See?” she points. “Simple food, little oil, no MSG.” She opens up the basket of chun bing, and gingerly picks one up. “This one has texture, it is hand-rolled,” she says of the soft, bouncy crepe. “This is very good.”
She discusses a few of the restaurants she has visited on her trip to New York: the Park Slope trattoria, Al Di La, which she enjoyed; the Jean-Georges restaurant, JoJo, where she found the decor very tasteful; and Eleven Madison Park where “the food is good,” she says of the hallowed restaurant, “but I think people exaggerate too much.” Apparently, as soon as she walked in, one of the chefs saw her and gestured to the entire staff to come meet her. “That was kind of exciting,” she admits.
Chinese-American restaurateurs have it a lot easier now, she says. “They are well-educated,” so it is easier for them to navigate the industry; they understand the importance of investing in good design, quality ingredients, and smart team members. She shows off her hands, which are quite wrinkled and crooked from arthritis—badges of honor, she says, from all the cooking, scrubbing, and dishwashing she did by herself for years.
What hasn’t changed, though, she adds, is the issue of harassment. She has been following the #MeToo movement’s impact on the industry, and asserts that when she was growing up in China, “this happened all the time in show business, but Chinese ladies didn’t say anything,” she says. “It is good that women are speaking out now.” She remembers being a younger woman trying to go to the bathroom and being grabbed by a man from behind. “They really are a bunch of monsters!” she says, recounting a few of the men who have been brought down by harassment allegations. She shakes her head in dismay.
As she continues to taste the various dishes at her birthday dinner, her famously sharp palate is still as on point as ever. She can identify the exact herbs in the tomato salad, and the ingredients in the noodle broth. She inspects the julienned pieces of ginger for uniformity. She breezily sips her Chenin Blanc and leans across the table to toast with her friends. “People always say, ‘You probably don’t eat much,’” she says. “But I tell them that I eat three meals a day regularly. Also, I drink! I have Champagne, and I enjoy it!”
As the party begins to wind down and the last course comes out (a bowl of red fruits, to symbolize prosperity), Chiang, unprompted, tells everyone that she is a Buddhist and therefore she is frequently asked whether she believes in a second life (she does). So, someone asks: What would she want to be in her next existence?
She pauses for a brief but weighty moment, as if to reflect on the 99-year scope of her life, and then laughs.
She loves people, and she revels in hard work, so the answer seems obvious to her: “I think I would still like to be in the restaurant business.”
An investigation into a report that barrels of the toxic defoliant Agent Orange may have been surreptitiously buried at a New Brunswick military base has apparently come up empty.
National Defence looked into a claim made by a former military police officer, retired sergeant Al White, that he witnessed the disposal of chemical barrels in 1985 at a location near the training range at Base Gagetown.
He led senior members of the department’s environment branch in late June to the precise spot off one of the base’s main roads.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the department said it conducted an aerial survey and followed up with ground sensors and a limited dig. It detected nothing metallic.
« There was no indication of a potential barrel disposal site in the area indicated by Mr. White during his visit, » said spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier in an email response. « No drums were found. »
The findings are preliminary and a final report is expected in November.
An ‘exhaustive search’
Officials said they took the former police officer’s claims seriously.
« To ensure an exhaustive search is completed, the ground survey was expanded by several hundred metres beyond the area identified by Mr. White, and included several target digs on areas flagged for subsurface target investigation, » said Le Bouthillier.
« Precautionary hand digging continued on other targets beyond the area identified by Mr. White, but there has, to date, been no drums found at the sites searched. »
Investigators did find a discarded ammunition box, a metal spike and other debris.
White claims he escorted a flatbed truck loaded with chemical barrels to a point near the base’s tank training range 33-years ago and that the barrels were buried in a large hole near an area known as the Shirley Road dump.
It all happened before sunrise and White said he’d always found the incident suspicious. He kept silent, however, until he lost three friends — all former Gagetown soldiers — to cancer.
While DND officials said they were confident in White’s recollection, they disputed the core of his claim — that barrels buried at the site may have contained Agent Orange.
The base was used by the U.S. military in two separate sets of aerial Agent Orange spraying tests in the late 1960s. Concerns over potential health effects prompted the federal government to initiate a compensation program about a dozen years ago.
The defoliant, which was widely used during the Vietnam war, has been linked to various cancers by health experts.
There are four known burial sites at Gagetown containing drums of various chemicals, even asbestos waste. Those sites — some near wetlands — are capped with fresh soil and monitored for contaminated runoff.
Including White’s allegation, National Defence has investigated a dozen suspected, unregistered burial sites over the years. None of them have turned up signs of barrels or contamination.
White said he’s disappointed by the findings and he stands by his recollection.
During White’s to the base to locate the site, officials noted that vegetation growth was stunted in the area he identified.
« Who knows what could have happened in the last 30 years? » White said Tuesday. « I feel I did my duty by coming forward. I know what I saw. »
The investigation served to remind the public about the legacy of herbicide spraying, which has for decades been a major environmental issue in New Brunswick.