Guns, drugs, cash seized in organized crime probe of Toronto area tow truck industry

By Liam Casey

THE CANADIAN PRESS

VAUGHAN, Ont. _ Four alleged organized criminal organizations that operated as rival tow truck companies involved in a violent battle for territory in the Toronto area have been dismantled, police said Tuesday.

York regional police said the alleged crimes involved real collisions with jacked-up fees to drivers, staged collisions and extensive insurance fraud.

The turf war on two lucrative highways has led to murders, attempted murders, assaults, arsons and property damage, said Supt. Mike Slack of the force’s organized crime and intelligence services.

“Organized crime begins with an opportunity to make money and a level of greed that leads to criminality and violence,” Slack said in a video statement.

“The towing industry and its lack of regulations have bred exactly that environment.”

York police worked with their Toronto counterparts, Ontario Provincial Police and the Canada Revenue Agency on the investigation, dubbed Project Platinum, that began in February.

After raids and the execution of numerous search warrants, police arrested 20 people who collectively face dozens of counts, including criminal organization related charges, drug-trafficking charges and firearm offences among others.

During the raids, police seized 40 guns, including handguns, shotguns, rifles and a machine gun. Police also seized five kilograms of the deadly opioid fentanyl, 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, 1.25 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine and 1.5 kilograms of cannabis.

Police also seized more than $500,000 cash.

The investigative team also worked with the force’s homicide squad that laid murder charges in March against two men with ties to the towing industry for the death of a man who worked in the same industry.

Slack said the alleged criminal organizations are relatively new and have earned millions of dollars in illicit income.

“And when these profits were not enough, they staged collisions using drivers they recruited they deliberately caused collisions in roadways and parking lots across the GTA,” Slack said.

Police allege Paramount Towing along with other towing companies have been defrauding insurance companies with vehicles involved in collisions and staged collisions.

Slack said the companies would grossly inflate towing bills, move cars from lot to lot to increase storage fees, inflate repair bills and involve physiotherapists, much of it in an effort to defraud insurance companies.

Body shops and car rental companies were in on the schemes, Slack said, and would receive  “profitable cuts for themselves.”

Insurance companies grew wise to the alleged frauds, Slack said, which then hired Carr Law, a firm in Vaughan, Ont., to investigate.

“It too became the target of violence, threats and extortion,” Slack said.

Last fall an employee was threatened by an armed man and shortly thereafter someone fired bullets into the firm’s office, police said.

Slack said investigators also found a cache of computer records that will aid in the prosecution of those charged.

He alleges Paramount Towing, which is owned and operated by Alexander Vinogradsky, controlled a vast territory that included Highways 401, 404 and 400.

Slack said police have made recommendations to the province to implement regulations in the towing industry, including contract towing.

“York regional police has yearly contracts that we sign that we identify trucks we can use at our collisions,” he said. “We do think that has a great effect and something we recommend in all jurisdictions.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2020.

Trudeau seeks 10 days of paid sick leave for workers in bid for NDP support

By Lee Berthiaume

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’ll push the provinces to give workers 10 days of paid sick leave a year as the country deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.

That appears to meet a key demand from NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in exchange for the New Democrats’ support for a motion to limit sittings and votes in the House of Commons through the summer.

Singh laid out the demands on Monday morning, shortly before a small number of members of Parliament returned to the House of Commons to begin debate over the future of parliamentary sittings for as long as several months.

The debate will revolve around a Liberal proposal to waive  “normal” House of Commons sittings in favour of expanding the special COVID-19 committee that has acted as a sort of stand-in for the past month.

Because they hold only a minority of seats, the Liberals need the support of at least one of the main opposition parties to pass this motion.

The Conservatives are expected to oppose the motion as they push for an end to the COVID-19 committee and the resumption of Commons sittings, albeit with no more than 50 MPs in the chamber at any time.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Jean-Yves Blanchet said Monday his party isn’t participating in negotiations around the return of Parliament.

The Bloc previously laid out a set of conditions it wanted met before it would engage in discussions around how Parliament could sit.

Those included more help for businesses to cover their fixed overhead costs and a straightforward plan for how the Liberals would follow through on a promise of financial support for seniors.

Blanchet said the Liberals have followed through on neither, and ensuring they do is his priority.

“Every time we spend five minutes talking about parliamentary rules, we’re spending five minutes less talking about what Quebecers require,” he said.

He said his party will likely go along with whatever consensus is arrived at to govern how the House of Commons sits for the next while. The Bloc won’t argue about who drives that bus or where it’s going, Blanchet said, but when it comes, the Bloc will probably get on board.

That leaves the NDP, with Singh said his party is willing to support Liberals’ motion for a price.

“We are continuing to make it clear that we need a commitment that the government is willing to provide paid sick leave for all Canadians,” Singh said during a news conference on Parliament Hill.

“We’re suggesting the government can use something like the (Canada Emergency Response Benefit) or employment insurance to deliver that program federally immediately. But we want to see something that is long term and that will require working with provinces and employers to deliver a long-term commitment so that forever in our country, everyone who needs paid sick leave will have access to it.”

Singh is also demanding the government make good on a promise to provide more support to Canadians with disabilities who are struggling during the pandemic.

“If the government does not deliver on paid sick leave for all Canadians and real support for Canadians with disabilities, then we will not be supporting the motion,” he said.

Trudeau said it makes sense to support paid leave for all workers if they’re ill, so that people who might be sick with COVID-19 don’t have to choose between going to work sick and sitting at home unpaid. He acknowledged that he’d had discussions with Singh on the issue on Sunday.

The battle over the future of Parliament in the age of COVID-19 has largely coalesced around the limitations and uncertainty associated with virtual House of Commons sittings as they butt up against demands for full parliamentary representation and accountability during the pandemic.

The Liberals on Saturday unveiled their proposed solution, which would see “normal” House of Commons sittings put aside in favour of expanding the special COVID-19 committee.

The motion proposes adding an additional day to the committee’s current schedule of one meeting a week in person, with fewer than three dozen MPs actually present, and twice a week virtually.

The Liberals are now proposing four meetings a week until June 17 with a hybrid of in-person and virtual attendance that would see a small number of MPs in the Commons chamber and others participating via two large video screens set up on either side of the Speaker’s chair.

The motion also proposes four sittings of the House of Commons in July and August, each with a question period that would allow MPs the chance to ask cabinet ministers about issues unrelated to COVID-19 _ a key issue of contention for the Conservatives in recent weeks.

The Conservatives have nonetheless indicated they want to do away with the special COVID-19 committee and bring back House of Commons sittings, which includes opposition days, private members’ business and other activities that cannot occur with the committee format.

The key hangup for both sides of the debate appears to be around representation as the House of Commons’ administration works through the technical limitations on virtual attendance.

Those limitations were highlighted in a report by a Commons committee two weeks ago, including concerns about hacking when it comes to MP votes and procedural questions such as how to handle points of order and privilege.

Some countries plan to welcome tourists next month, but your travel insurance may not cover COVID-19

Wondering when Canadians can start travelling again? Here’s what you need to know

Sophia Harris · CBC News

For many Canadians, their most exciting adventure over the past couple of months has been a weekly trip to the grocery store.

But now that provinces are easing COVID-19 restrictions, some people may be contemplating travel abroad.

Here’s what you need to know about travelling outside Canada while COVID-19 still lingers in our lives.

Can I travel now?

Yes, but with a lot of conditions to consider.

On March 13, the federal government issued an advisory against all non-essential international travel, to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The advisory remains in effect until further notice.

Despite the advisory, Canadians can still travel abroad. However, they may struggle to find flights and their travel insurance likely won’t cover their medical bills if they fall ill with COVID-19.

International travellers will also have to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.

The Canada-U.S. border remains closed to tourists crossing by land until June 21. And that date could be extended if the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. — now totalling more than 1.6 million — remains a concern.

Where can I go?

Due to closed borders and a fear of flying during the pandemic, airlines have slashed their routes.

WestJet has grounded all transborder and international routes until June 25. Air Transat and Sunwing have stopped flying altogether until June 30 and June 25, respectively.

Air Canada is currently flying at about five per cent of its capacity. On Friday, the airline announced an updated summer schedule that offers flights to 97 destinations including Rome, Athens and locations in the Caribbean.

Once travel restrictions are lifted, airlines will start adding more routes, said Allison Wallace, spokesperson for the travel agency Flight Centre.

But she warns it could take up to two years for carriers to resume normal operations.

“The airlines aren’t going to come back and go to 100 per cent,” she said. “There’s sort of a general agreement that international travel will start to come back around 20 per cent by the fall — like September — and then it’ll grow from there.”

As for possible travel destinations, IcelandMexico and some Caribbean countries such as Aruba and St. Lucia plan to start welcoming back tourists in June. Greece plans to reopen in July.

But travellers may face stiff entry requirements. For example, St. Lucia and Iceland will require that visitors get a COVID-19 test before flying and provide proof upon arrival that they’re virus-free. If travellers to Iceland can’t get a test beforehand, the country plans to test them when they arrive.

Airline analyst and McGill University Prof. Karl Moore is set to fly to Iceland in August to teach for a couple of days at Reykjavík University.

But if he can’t get tested in Canada beforehand, Moore is unsure he’ll take the trip. That’s because, if he tests positive for COVID-19 upon arrival, he’ll have to foot the bill for a 14-day quarantine in a Reykjavik hotel. Travellers suffering from COVID-19 can’t fly back to Canada until they recover.

“It’s going to cost me thousands of dollars to be quarantined,” said Moore. “I love Reykjavik, but I may end up teaching [instead] on Zoom.”

What about travel insurance?

Insurance broker Martin Firestone believes that when Canada lifts its advisory against international travel, travel insurance providers may continue to exclude coverage for COVID-19-related illnesses — until there’s a vaccine.

“A person who ends up on a ventilator in the U.S., it could be hundreds of thousands of dollars, so [insurance providers] are in no position to take that risk,” said Firestone, president of Travel Secure in Toronto.

READ MORE HERE AT CBC News

 

From Suits To Sweatpants: Employer’s Obligations To Employees Working From Home

The excerpted article was written

Due to COVID-19, many employers have been thrown head-first into working-from-home (WFM) arrangements for some, if not all, of their workforce. It is important that employers ensure they are meeting their obligations in these circumstances, including occupational health & safety (OHS) responsibilities and business cost reimbursement, in order to avoid liability.

Health & Safety

In WFH arrangements, the employee’s home workspace becomes an extension of the workplace and is subject to OHS legislation. An employer cannot delegate its obligation to provide a safe working environment to its employees. If an employee is injured while working at home, then the employer may be held accountable regardless of what the employee has represented about their workspace.

While ideally employers would conduct home safety inspections, alternatives include requiring employees to fill out a hazard assessment checklist and/or conducting an inspection via video conferencing.

An important part of the inspection process is for employers to assess and mitigate risks of musculoskeletal injuries (typically caused by ill-fitted equipment or harmful posture). While mitigation does not mean that employers are required to purchase office equipment for each employee to use at home, employers should provide practical tips on how to set up ergonomic work stations to prevent injuries. However, any employee requests for specialized equipment should be considered by employers on a case-by-case basis as a refusal could potentially result in OHS or human rights issues.

Further, employers are required to have a check-in system for employees who are working alone. Employers must regularly check-in with employees during their shift, including at the end of each shift, and record the results of these check-ins. Employers must also implement a procedure in the event the employee cannot be contacted, including a procedure for handling an emergency situation.

Business Costs

Under BC’s employment standards legislation, employers must not require an employee to pay for business costs. An employee may incur expenses as a result of WFH that they would not have normally incurred in connection with their home – for example, costs of long distance calls, software, or additional internet usage. These are likely business costs which must be borne by the employer to the extent related to employment use. However, a portion of an employee’s rent would not be considered a business cost under most circumstances.

Employers should be cautious about what employees are expected to pay for while working from home, and should consider reimbursement requests received on a case-by-case basis.

Take-aways

WFH arrangements can create additional complications as the employer has far less control over the workplace. Employers whose employees are working from home should consider:

  • Implementing a basic policy for WFH arrangements dealing with health and safety, equipment, and business expenses;
  • Ensuring employees are aware of how they can report work-related injuries;
  • Having employees conduct a risk assessment of their workspace and report any hazards;
  • Providing ergonomic tips for home work stations;
  • Checking in with employees in accordance with OHS guidelines; and
  • Ensuring employees are aware of expense reimbursement policies and procedures.

For further information, please see the following WorkSafeBC resources:


About Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP

Norton Rose Fulbright is a global law firm. We provide the world’s preeminent corporations and financial institutions with a full business law service. We have 3800 lawyers and other legal staff based in more than 50 cities across Europe, the United States, Canada, Latin America, Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

Recognized for our industry focus, we are strong across all the key industry sectors: financial institutions; energy; infrastructure, mining and commodities; transport; technology and innovation; and life sciences and healthcare.

Wherever we are, we operate in accordance with our global business principles of quality, unity and integrity. We aim to provide the highest possible standard of legal service in each of our offices and to maintain that level of quality at every point of contact.

For more information about Norton Rose Fulbright, see nortonrosefulbright.com/legal-notices.

Law around the world
nortonrosefulbright.com

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Source: Mondaq

Ontario: Paying Employees For The Victoria Day Holiday During The Pandemic

Monday May 18, is Victoria Day (Journée nationale des patriotes, or National Patriot’s Day, in Quebec); a holiday which most employees are entitled to take off and receive public holiday pay. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in emergency leaves, temporary layoffs and reduced schedules. As a result, some may have lost track of upcoming long weekends and public holiday pay requirements. Below is a refresher on employee entitlement to public holiday pay in Ontario and how to calculate pay for employees who’s employment has been affected by COVID-19.

Public Holiday Pay

Generally, employees qualify for public holiday pay on Victoria Day if they have worked all of their last regularly scheduled workday before the public holiday or all of their first regularly scheduled workday after the public holiday, or have reasonable cause not to have not done so. This means that some employees whose work has been affected by COVID-19, will still be entitled to the public holiday pay for Victoria Day.

For example, an employee might not be scheduled to work the day right before or after the holiday. As long as the employee works all of their last regularly scheduled shift before the holiday and all of the first one after it, or has reasonable cause for not doing so, they will be entitled to public holiday pay.

Employees on Leave or Layoff

Employees may be entitled to public holiday pay while on leave, including a protected leave related to COVID-19, such a declared emergency leave. If the employee worked the last regularly scheduled day of work before the leave, and the first regularly scheduled day of work after the leave, or has reasonable cause for failing to do so, he or she will be entitled to the paid public holiday.

Similarly, an employee on layoff may be entitled to public holiday pay for a public holiday that occurred while they were laid off as long as he or she works their last regularly scheduled day before the lay off began and her first regularly scheduled day after being recalled, or has reasonable cause for failing to do so, they will be paid for the public holiday.

Calculation of Public Holiday Pay

Despite being entitled to public holiday pay, depending on when the employee took leave or was laid off, the calculation may still result in no payment. Holiday pay is calculated using the regular wages earned by the employee in the four work weeks before the week with the public holiday, plus all of the vacation pay payable during those four work weeks before week with the public holiday, divided by 20.

So, if the employee has spent more than four weeks without wages or vacation pay before the week of Victoria day, the amount of holiday pay collected will be $0. Employment Insurance benefits received during a leave or layoff do not count as wages, and thus will not be counted in the calculation of public holiday pay.

Employees with Reduced Hours

Employees who have reduced hours of work due to COVID- 19 are still eligible for public holiday pay. Specifically, if the employer has agreed to or imposed a reduced work schedule, and the employee works the full reduced shift before the holiday, they will qualify. However, as with leaves and layoffs, employees must have earned wages or vacation pay in the four work weeks before the public holiday, otherwise the amount to which they are entitled will be $0.

Victoria Day, this Year

For many, the May long weekend traditionally means getting the yard and garden ready for summer, and/or spending time with family and friends. However, for many, getting together with loved ones, and shopping for summer goods in the stores may be challenging or not possible. As the long weekend approaches, it is important to remember to socially distance and observe all guidance provided by government authorities. On that note, we wish you a safe and healthy long weekend.


About Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP

Norton Rose Fulbright is a global law firm. We provide the world’s preeminent corporations and financial institutions with a full business law service. We have 3800 lawyers and other legal staff based in more than 50 cities across Europe, the United States, Canada, Latin America, Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

Recognized for our industry focus, we are strong across all the key industry sectors: financial institutions; energy; infrastructure, mining and commodities; transport; technology and innovation; and life sciences and healthcare.

Wherever we are, we operate in accordance with our global business principles of quality, unity and integrity. We aim to provide the highest possible standard of legal service in each of our offices and to maintain that level of quality at every point of contact.

For more information about Norton Rose Fulbright, see nortonrosefulbright.com/legal-notices.

Law around the world
nortonrosefulbright.com

Source: Mondaq

St. John’s couple with pricey travel insurance now stuck with vouchers for cancelled trip

The Chronicle Harold

ST. JOHN’S — With travelling a few times a year, an annual travel insurance policy once made the best sense, but Tom Gordon is re-evaluating that logic after dealing with his insurer.

Gordon contacted The Telegram after seeing the story of senior Joan Jackson, who said she was threatened with being reported to the credit bureau or taken to small claims court if she stopped her monthly payment on her MEDOC travel insurance even though she can’t go on a trip while the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing.

Gordon and his wife pay $93.69 a month combined for their policy.

They had planned a spring trip to Cuba, which they cancelled with reimbursement in the form of vouchers for future travel from Air Transat. Those vouchers have a 24-month expiry date.

Gordon said he understands completely that MEDOC will not approve a claim if he already received Air Transat vacation vouchers, as that would be double reimbursement.

But the decision made him ask about what his protections were under the policy should it be impossible to redeem the vouchers before they expire.

“The situation of cancelled international travel owing to the pandemic spread is certainly fraught. The decision of the federal government to uphold airlines’ policy to issue vouchers rather than refunds is problematic enough. Consumers are involuntarily in the position of giving long-term interest-free loans to airlines,” Gordon told The Telegram.

When he asked the insurance provider what would happen if Air Transat goes bankrupt or either he or his spouse dies before they can use the vouchers, the answer leaves him on the hook for the $3,000 the couple spent on the trip.


“The premiums continue to be charged despite the fact that nobody can travel.” — Tom Gordon


MEDOC said the claim is closed.

“Federal advisory against travel outside the country; subsequent cancellation of Air Transat flights to Cuba. Air Transat has indicated they will issue a voucher valid for 24 months in lieu of a refund. However, we do not foresee the possibility of utilizing this voucher and need to recoup these costs. We have received full refunds from Air Canada for connecting flights that we had for travel between St. John’s and Toronto before and after the Cuba flights,” Gordon wrote on the online form explaining reasons for filing a claim.

“Regarding scenario 1 (the bankruptcy of the airline), since Air Transat has offered you the travel voucher, it is now their responsibility to honour it. As for scenario 2 (a death of either spouse), we sincerely hope that is not one you will need to face. In both cases, your insurance policy does not provide coverage for a travel voucher,” adjusting agency GlobalExcel responded to his inquiry in an email exchange.

“In short, Global Excel contends that because I now hold a theoretical voucher for travel rather than an actual ticket, I no longer have any right to claim regardless of circumstances,” Gordon told The Telegram.

“These circumstances include the cessation of operation of the airline or the death of myself or my spouse — circumstances that are clearly otherwise covered under my policy with MEDOC. … Global Excel has responded unequivocally: the money I paid for a vacation that I may never take is not insured because it now exists in the form of a voucher rather than a ticket.”

The annual travel insurance they once thought was a great idea given their age and amount of and type of travel they do is now being given more scrutiny by Gordon.

Planned vacations to New Zealand and Norway this year are unlikely to go ahead, but the monthly bill continues.

“The premiums continue to be charged despite the fact that nobody can travel,” Gordon said.

Their policy expires in September and they only took one trip so far, last October.

Given the fact that auto insurance premiums were reduced a little to reflect that people are driving less, Gordon said it would have been nice to see some leniency with travel insurance customers, especially when the annual sums can be more than $1,000 and there’s no place they can go.

In a letter emailed to customers on May 15 — the same day the original Telegram story ran — Johnson Insurance, the broker for MEDOC, reminded clients, similar to information in a statement to The Telegram that week, that thousands of MEDOC customers were helped to get back to Canada and that it continues to provide health insurance coverage for those who could not return to the country.

“The number of travel insurance claims has tripled and our teams are working around the clock to ensure that we serve all members to the standards that they deserve,” the statement said.

“For all customers we understand how this pandemic has impacted your plans. Rest assured that your trip cancellation coverage continues for trips booked prior to the travel advisory. Travel within Canada is also still covered, and your policy is still in force.

“However, we truly understand the concerns of those who are unable to travel and we are reviewing how MEDOC® can continue to provide exceptional value to all our customers now and for years to come.”

In response to the latest story, a spokeswoman for Johnson said the following: “We are not able to comment on individual claims due to privacy. As each customer’s situation is different, they should contact us directly if they have questions regarding their claim.”

Source: The Chronicle Harold

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