‘Always new expenses:’ Lawsuits filed as anniversary of Broncos bus crash nears

By Stephanie Taylor and Bill Graveland


It’s been almost two years since the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash in Saskatchewan and with the solemn anniversary comes a closing legal window that has seen several lawsuits filed in court.

Sixteen people died and 13 others were injured after a transport truck barrelled through a stop sign and into the path of the bus carrying the junior hockey team on April 6, 2018.

The inexperienced driver of the truck, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu of Calgary, was sentenced to eight years in prison.

A proposed class-action lawsuit was filed Friday in Regina Court of Queen’s Bench against Sidhu and his former employer. It also lists the governments of Saskatchewan and Alberta, as well as the federal government.

“The people wanting to go forward aren’t motivated financially so much as these were wrongs by governments,” said lawyer Tony Merchant. He pointed to the trucking industry as a major concern.

Carol and Lyle Brons are listed as the plaintiffs. Their 24-year-old daughter, Dayna, was the team’s athletic therapist and was killed in the crash.

Also listed are all the others who were on the bus, their families, all hockey team staff, billet families and first responders who treated the victims.

At least one family has said it has asked to be removed from the class action, which still needs to be certified by the courts.

Several other lawsuits have also been filed.

Russ and Raelene Herold of Montmartre, Sask., were among the first of the families to file a few months after the collision. They are suing the truck driver, the Calgary-based company that employed him and the bus manufacturer. The lawsuit asks for damages and a court order that all buses carrying sports teams in Saskatchewan be equipped with seatbelts.

The couple’s son, 16-year-old Adam, was the youngest player on the team to be killed.

Their suit has since been joined by the families of three players and an assistant coach who died: Jaxon Joseph, 20, of St. Albert, Alta.; Logan Hunter, 18, also of St. Albert; Jacob Leicht, 19, of Humboldt; and Mark Cross, 27, from Strasbourg, Sask.

No statement of defence has been filed in that lawsuit.

Injured Broncos player Derek Patter, 21, of Edmonton, filed in March against the truck driver and the trucking company. The Alberta government joined as a plaintiff to recoup health-care costs.

Kevin Matechuk of Colonsay, Sask., said his family would also be filing a lawsuit against the trucker and trucking company on behalf of his son Layne, 20, who is still recovering from a traumatic brain injury.

“He will need special care. We don’t know if he will ever be able to live on his own. We’re hoping so. It’s still our hope and dream.”

It’s the same situation for Ryan Straschnitzki, 20, of Airdrie, Alta., who was paralyzed from the chest down. His suit also takes on the Alberta and Saskatchewan governments, as well as the team’s bus driver.

“There’s always new expenses and he’s going to have to be taken care of for the rest of his life,” said his mother, Michelle Straschnitzki.

“We won’t always be here. And people don’t understand … long-term care for people who are in wheelchairs _ the cost is astronomical.”

The Straschnitzkis said they’ve received hateful comments and death threats since their lawsuit was reported in the news last week.

“Ryan never got millions from the GoFundMe like a bunch of these dummies are saying,” said his father Tom Straschnitzki.

A GoFundMe campaign, which raised more than $15 million, paid out $525,000 to each of the families who lost a loved one and $475,000 to each injured player.

Some families have said they plan to give away through charities some of the money they received from donations.

“It’s not our plan to sue,” said Toby Boulet, whose 21-year-old son, Logan, was killed.

The Lethbridge family has used money received to set up a fund for causes that were important to their son, including organ donation.

The Adam Herold Legacy Foundation is a charity that gives Saskatchewan youth a chance to develop their hockey skills and leadership potential.

Others, including Evan Thomas’s family of Saskatoon, have given back through memorial scholarships and other donations.

Evan’s father, Scott Thomas, said the family decided against legal action.

“We just don’t feel its part of something we want to be a part of,” he said.

Thomas said it might have been different if his son had lived.  “I know a lot of people think insurance is going to take care of them, but it’s not.”

At least one injured player doesn’t want anything to do with a lawsuit.

Myles Shumlanski of Tisdale, Sask., said his 22-year-old son Nick just “wants to move on.” He was the only one on the bus able who walked away without serious injuries.

“We’re going to put in for a little bit of insurance,” said his father.

“He doesn’t even feel comfortable doing that.”

Desjardins continues to support its members and clients, announcing a refund for auto insurance clients

Desjardins Group 

In an effort to support its clients, Desjardins General Insurance is offering refunds on auto insurance premiums for Personal and Business clients who are staying at home. Nearly everyone is driving their vehicles less, and Desjardins General Insurance wants to acknowledge this fact. This refund will be offered to clients whose commuting habits have significantly changed and who are only using their vehicles for essential trips to such places as the pharmacy or grocery store. This refund is open to anyone who has lost their job, for example, or who is now working from home, or otherwise self-isolating. It will be calculated over a 3-month period and will reflect the client’s annual distance travelled, as declared on their insurance contract. Eligible clients who are interested in receiving this rebate should apply at www.desjardinsagents.com (for Desjardins Agent Network clients) or www.desjardinsgeneralinsurance.com (for direct clients) by May 31.

“As a result of the physical distancing and other government measures implemented due to COVID-19, Canadians are using their cars less. It only seems right that we, as a cooperative, give our clients a refund on their auto insurance premiums,” said Guy Cormier, President and Chief Executive Officer of Desjardins Group.

In addition, using a personal or commercial vehicle for delivery purposes will be temporarily covered under auto insurance policies for Desjardins General Insurance clients. No additional insurance premium will be required, whether the driver is making deliveries as a volunteer or as an employee of a restaurant, pharmacy or grocery store. This coverage does not apply to people who offer delivery services through third party apps and services likes UberEats, Skip the Dishes or DoorDash. No action is required; this relief measure automatically applies to all auto insurance policyholders.

Finally, since the current situation is forcing many people to work from home, Desjardins General Insurance has decided to temporarily raise the coverage limit under home insurance contracts for goods used to work from home (e.g., ergonomic chairs, computer equipment) to $10,000. No action is required; this additional coverage automatically applies to all home insurance policyholders.

These relief measures are on top of those previously announced. These measures include adding liability coverage for a borrowed or rented vehicle at no extra charge for auto insurance policyholders returning early from the US in a rental car. Clients who are experiencing financial difficulties because of COVID-19 may continue to have their insurance premiums deferred. Specific measures are also available for Business clients whose operations have been forced to stop temporarily or who have been severely affected by the COVID-19 situation. Each situation will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Desjardins is one of 3 financial institutions in North America recognized by the United Nations as a responsible institution during the COVID-19 pandemic
On April 6, 2020, Desjardins was recognized as a responsible financial institution during the COVID-19 pandemic by UNEP-FI, a sub-group of the United Nations. This group provides principles for banks, insurers and investors that aim to help the global financial sector actively contribute to a more responsible and sustainable economy. UNEP-FI has shared the various relief measures announced by Desjardins for its Personal and Business members and clients since March 16 as an example to be followed. In total, UNEP-FI recognized 3 financial institutions in North America, including 2 Canadian cooperatives. In September 2019, Desjardins affirmed its leadership position by becoming the first financial institution in Canada to sign the Principles for Responsible Banking (PRB) promoted by this organization. To find out more about Desjardins Group’s initiatives, see the 2019 social and cooperative responsibility report.

More than 151,000 members and clients are seeking financial relief from Desjardins
As of April 3, 2020, more than 151,000 members and clients have contacted Desjardins to take advantage of the relief measures announced by the financial institution. Of this number, 81,000 requests are related to payment deferrals on credit cards, Accord D financing or car loans. In terms of loans and lines of credit, a total of 70,000 requests have been received, including 51,000 related to mortgages. As already announced, members and clients who obtain a payment deferral and who have a Desjardins credit card will also benefit from a reduced annual interest rate of 10.9% during the deferral period. Desjardins will review each request individually and work to find the solution that works best for that member or client.

This time at home is a good time to start teaching young people about finances
With schools and daycares, many parents are at home with their children. This may be a good opportunity to start teaching young people about finances, and the school caisse website has lots of fun activities to help with this. There are activity books that help elementary students to become familiar with saving concepts through fun games like snakes and ladders, quizzes and crossword puzzles.

About Desjardins Group
Desjardins Group is the leading cooperative financial group in Canada and the sixth largest cooperative financial group in the world, with assets of  $313 billion. It has been rated one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers by Mediacorp. To meet the diverse needs of its members and clients, Desjardins offers a full range of products and services to individuals and businesses through its extensive distribution network, online platforms and subsidiaries across Canada. Ranked among the world’s strongest banks according to The Banker magazine, Desjardins has some of the highest capital ratios and credit ratings in the industry.

SOURCE Desjardins Group

For further information: (media inquiries only): Public Relations, 514-281-7000 or 1-866-866-7000, ext. 5553436, media@desjardins.com

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Car insurer Allstate offering customers 15% discounts during COVID-19 lockdown

The excerpted article was written by CBC News ·

Insurance company Allstate is offering its U.S. customers a 15 per cent discount on their bills for April and May as most of the country finds itself in some sort of lockdown due to COVID-19.

The Illinois-based company is calling the initiative the “Shelter-in-Place Payback” and says it is implementing the policy “to help its personal auto insurance customers in these challenging times.”

Allstate, Esurance and Encompass customers in the United States can expect a 15 per cent rebate on their bills for April and May.

Canadian customers don’t qualify for the program, but the company’s Canadian division say they are working on rolling out a similar initiative in the coming days.

“While this particular initiative is for our U.S. based customers, we are working diligently on something similar here in Canada and will be able to provide further details in the next day or two,” Allstate Canada’s Angie Morris told CBC News in a statement.”Given an unprecedented decline in driving, customers will receive a Shelter-in-Place Payback of more than $600 million over the next two months,” CEO Tom Wilson said. “This is fair because less driving means fewer accidents.”

In addition to the rebate, Allstate says it will now allow its personal car insurance customers to still be covered if they use their vehicles for commercial purposes like trips to “deliver food, medicine and other goods.”

The company also says it will provide free identity theft protection to Americans for the rest of the year because so many of them are currently working from home, “which increases our exposure to cybercrime,” the company said.

“U.S. residents can get the free identity protection product through Dec. 31, 2020, regardless of whether they are already Allstate customers, by signing up in April or May,” the company said.

Most actively traded companies on the TSX

Most actively traded companies on the TSX

TORONTO _ Some of the most active companies traded Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange:

Toronto Stock Exchange (12,861.93, down 516.82 points.)

TC Energy Corp. (TSX:TRP). Down $4.69, or 7.5 per cent, to $57.86 on 15.1 million shares.

Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU). Energy. Down 27 cents, or 1.2 per cent, to $22.19 on 14.75 million shares.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (TSX:CNQ). Energy. Down 77 cents, or four per cent, to $18.48 on 12.9 million shares.

Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B). Industrials. Down 2.5 cents, or 5.49 per cent, to 43 cents on 12.1 million shares.

Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE). Energy. Down 12 cents, or 4.23 per cent, to $2.72 on 11.3 million shares.

Aurora Cannabis Inc. (TSX:ACB). Health care. Down 10 cents, or 7.94 per cent, to $1.16 on 10.7 million shares.

Companies in the news:

Dollarama Inc. (TSX:DOL). Down 12 cents to $38.92. Dollarama Inc. declined to provide its annual financial guidance for its 2021 financial year due to COVID-19 pandemic, but said it expects to see some negative impacts. Dollarama anticipates same-store sales to be negative for the rest of the current first quarter thanks to the reduced traffic and mall closures beyond the retailer’s control. Dollarama earned $178.7 million in the fourth quarter, up from $171.0 million in the same period a year earlier.

Cineplex Inc. (TSX:CGX). Up 21 cents or 1.8 per cent to $11.91. Canada’s largest movie exhibitor will keep its doors closed nationwide into the foreseeable future amid the COVID-19 pandemic. After initially setting an April 2 timeline to consider reopening 165 theatres across the chain, a representative for Cineplex Inc. told The Canadian Press the company will instead turn to government and public health authorities for any further guidance on when it’s safe to reopen.

Sun Life Canada (TSX:SLF). Down $1.96 or 4.3 per cent to $43.31. When COVID-19 started spreading through Canada, the president of one of the country’s largest insurance companies was thinking about mothers who have to tote kids to a waiting room and keep them entertained for hours just to see a doctor. On Tuesday, Sun Life rolled out free access to Lumino Health Virtual Care, a platform that allows Canadians to connect with medical professionals digitally by giving them the ability to find and book an appointment with a psychologist, physiotherapist or other paramedical providers.

Uni-Select Inc. (TSX:UNS). Down 52 cents or 10.2 per cent to $4.59. Uni-Select Inc. says approximately half of its employees are being furloughed and a third of its sites being temporarily closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The automotive parts and paint company has 6,000 employees in Canada, the U.S. and Britain. It says it remains in operation where appropriate and permitted and has reorganized to focus on essential services. Uni-Select says 28 per cent of its sites are operating on reduced hours while seven per cent are operating on a very limited basis.

Insurance companies predict changes to virtual care after COVID 19

Insurance companies predict changes to virtual care after COVID 19

By Tara Deschamps


TORONTO _ When COVID-19 started spreading through Canada, the president of one of the country’s largest insurance companies was thinking about mothers who have to tote kids to a waiting room and keep them entertained for hours just to see a doctor.

Sun Life Canada president Jacques Goulet knew his insurance business had a virtual care program offering online visits with medical professionals to help such people, but saw COVID-19 as an opportunity to do more.

On Tuesday, Sun Life rolled out access to Lumino Health Virtual Care, a platform that allows users to connect with medical professionals digitally by giving them the ability to connect with medical professionals.

It’s being offered free of charge until June to group benefits clients enrolled in extended health care benefits _ just one sign of how Canada’s most prominent insurance companies are ramping up their virtual care offerings, which they expect to be a boon beyond COVID-19.

“What I see changing in a fairly big way is how certain services are rendered,” Goulet told The Canadian Press.  “One thing that’s going to change in a big way going forward is companies essentially incorporating virtual care into their benefits program where it’s not enabled.”

Sun Life’s offering a partnership with Montreal-based Dialogue Technologies joins a referral network the company already runs with Akira, EQ Care and Maple, and is part of a slew of other virtual care services insurance brands are backing.

Manulife works with Akira to offer Healthcare Online, which gives users access to virtual medical consults, and Canada Life Assurance Co. also has virtual care offerings from Dialogue including its Chloe chatbot, which aggregates public health information for patients.

Demand for Dialogue products has been brisk, co-founder and chief executive Cherif Habib said.

“Very early in the crisis it was clear to us that we were going to play a big role in this,” he said.  “We were already planning to grow significantly in 2020, but of course, because of this crisis and because of the central role that we can play in being helpful, we need to grow even faster and hire even more people.”

When COVID-19 first emerged, Dialogue decided to hire 250 employees, including nurse clinicians and practitioners, social workers and psychologists to keep up with a  “sharp” increase in patients. Demand has climbed so high that the platform has since upped its hiring target to bring in more than 600 workers.

Over at Manulife, President and Chief Executive Michael Doughty said the company has been rising to the demands of COVID-19 by reminding customers about its virtual offerings, which includes a digital claims service it has long provided but knows is handy amid a pandemic.

“Obviously risk is part of our DNA and we have put a lot of time and effort into preparing ourselves to be able to operate in environments like this,” he said. “Not that we look forward to them, but we’re ready for them.”

Manulife, he said, has recently experienced fewer calls about dental and massage claims and more from customers with travel insurance and retirement queries, causing the company to bring in reinforcement.

“We’ve gone back to Manulife alumni that have left us in recent years, and said, `would you be interested in coming back to help our customers at a time where we’re experiencing heightened volumes?’ and we’ve had actually great success there,” Doughty said.

“We put out a call to people who can help with some of our customer contacts, like people that are in a sales role that understand the products really well at a time where…sales are down.”

Telehealth services across the country have been seeing demand surge since the start of COVID-19. Telehealth Ontario, for example, had to add 1,300 phone lines and 130 nurses to keep up.

“The big thing that we see right now is a very fast acceleration of virtual care,” said Goulet.

He believes Canadians who experience the convenience of such services amid COVID-19 will be more likely to turn to them in the future when the pandemic is over.

He’s used such services when he had an infection or when caring for his son and chalks them up as “fabulous.”

“It usually takes no more than a few minutes, you’re connected with a health care provider, you’re seeing each other on the screen and if you need a prescription they just email it directly to the pharmacy or they can even deliver it at your home,” he said.

“It’s a game-changer.”

Unemployed during COVID 19? Here’s how to navigate federal programs

Unemployed during COVID 19? Here’s how to navigate federal programs

A quick look at some of the federal COVID-19 benefit programs and who qualifies for assistance:

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

The CERB pays a monthly $2,000 payment to workers who wouldn’t otherwise be eligible for employment insurance.

That includes wage earners, contract workers, or self-employed individuals; those who’ve had to stay home without pay to self-isolate or care for loved ones; and anyone else who hasn’t been permanently laid off, but has stopped receiving paycheques.

Any Canadian who has stopped working for a 14-day period due to COVID-19 can qualify for the new benefit, which cover a period of up to 16 weeks.

Applications open online and by phone on Monday, April 6, with payments to arrive within five days for direct deposits and within 10 days for cheques by mail.

More information is available at www.canada.ca/coronavirus-CERB

Employment insurance

Any of the 1.3 million Canadians who have applied for EI benefits within the last two weeks and been approved will be moved over to the new emergency benefit when it becomes available. (Some recent EI applicants are slated to start receiving CERB payments within a week, according to Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough.)

Benefits for workers who applied for EI on or after March 15 will mirror CERB payments for the first 16 weeks.

That means Canadians who would have received EI benefits below the $2,000-per-month threshold will now be bumped up to the maximum payment. Those who would normally qualify for more than $500 per week in employment insurance (the maximum benefit is $573 per week) will instead receive the CERB payment of $2,000.

EI-eligible workers will still qualify for their usual benefits, whether lower or higher than $2000-per-month, after the four-month CERB period

Canadians who were already receiving EI will continue to do so and need not apply to the CERB, but can switch to the program if their EI benefits end before October if they remain jobless due to COVID-19.

The government says EI-eligible workers should apply for EI now rather than wait for the CERB application to come online on April 6.

Wage subsidies

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy is a federal benefit that will pay 75 per cent of struggling companies’ wages _ up to $847 per week for each worker _ to keep their employees on payroll.

The $71-billion program includes organizations from bars and restaurants to charities, small businesses and large corporations, and is expected to last three months.

Employees receiving the benefit, which asks employers to cover the remaining 25 per cent of a worker’s wage if possible, cannot apply for other unemployment benefits.

The subsidy program will be available in six weeks, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Wednesday.

Business loans

Ottawa has also launched the Canada Emergency Business Account, which mandates government-guaranteed bank loans of up to $40,000 for small businesses. The loans will be interest-free for the first year and up to $10,000 can be waived for repayment.

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