12 of the week’s best long reads from the Star, July 23 to July 29, 2022

From doctors citing dubious conditions when billing for fitness-to-drive reports to airport chaos, we’ve selected some of the best long reads of the week on thestar.com.

Want to dive into more long features? Sign up for the Weekend Long Reads newsletter to get them delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning.

1. Herpes. Hay Fever. Sexual ‘deviations.’ Doctors cite dubious conditions when billing for patients’ fitness-to-drive reports

The reports streamed into the Ministry of Transportation, day after day, week after week.

In each one, the Ottawa doctor informed the government that a patient had a medical condition that may make it dangerous to drive.

For each report – which can lead to a licence suspension for the patient –– the doctor billed the province $36.25.

The doctor filed more of these reports than any of his colleagues at The Ottawa Hospital and more than any other doctor in his specialty of sleep medicine, according to government data.

He has filed more than any other doctor in Ontario.

The median number of these reports filed by Ontario physicians has been five over nearly a decade. The Ottawa doctor filed more than 4,800 –– billing the province more than $175,000.

2. Renters facing eviction found a memo from their new landlord saying they wanted a new ‘demographic’ of tenant. The company says it was a mistake

It was a memo that seemed to confirm tenants’ worst fears.

A corporate memo posted online laid out the features of various properties held by a Toronto company — including a 1960s midrise at 1570 Lawrence Ave. W. secured after a more than $33-million deal this year. It also outlined its goals in black and white: to vacate all apartments and bring in a new “demographic” of renters.

Numerous tenants on the midrise’s main floor had already received notice of an eviction application against them, with their new landlord stating a need to empty their units for renovations to the building’s plumbing system. To several of those families, the memo and its goal only bolstered their fear of being pushed out.

The company says it was an error — telling the Star the wording was copied, mistakenly, from another document about a project to convert student rentals into longer-term homes. In a statement, it said it would respect ejected tenants’ legal right to return, if desired, at a rate similar to what they’re currently paying. “We have no history of renovictions and have been acting in good faith,” the statement read.

3. Are thousands of uninsured people about to lose health coverage in Ontario? Fears grow about end to COVID-era OHIP rules

Even with her teenage brother in extreme pain, his knee swollen from a bad fall and looking like a melon, Luna Garcia’s family hesitated to take him to hospital.

Instead, they waited a day to see a doctor, acting only when the suffering became excruciating for the 15-year-old — all because the undocumented Toronto family feared hospital staff would ask for their immigration status and demand fees upfront that the family couldn’t afford.

But thanks to the Ontario government’s temporary measure to extend health care to uninsured residents during the pandemic, there was none of that. Garcia’s brother got the medical attention he needed and avoided lasting damage to his knee.

Health-care providers say that during the pandemic they saw first-hand the improvement in the care of the uninsured. They now hope the “milestone changes” will stay.

“As a front-line provider, I have seen many patients access urgent health-care services, life-saving treatments at times, that they would otherwise either have been denied or felt afraid seeking,” said Dr. Ritika Goel, a Toronto family physician.

4. First came the cancer diagnosis, then the news her treatments could leave her infertile

When it came to her health, Rebecca Musgrove had always done everything right. The 32-year-old farm girl and operating room nurse in Calgary had regular Pap smears, received the human papillomavirus vaccine and generally looked after herself.

Sickness was something she cured in others.

Until a woman from the walk-in clinic where she had had an ultrasound for some pesky symptoms called to say her results were back and they weren’t good: she had a five-by-five-centimetre tumour on her cervix. Musgrove knew the plot; she braced herself for what was coming. There were biopsies and then a call from her gynecologist confirming advanced cancer.

“We talked for a minute,” Musgrove said outside a coffee shop as a thunderstorm gathered behind her. “And then he let me go. I had a scream and a good cry. When he called me back, we talked about what it meant and what next steps would be.”

That was the end of April. Over the next several weeks there were a referral to an oncologist, an MRI, a CT scan. And her gynecologist asked: Had she thought about freezing eggs?

5. Toronto’s red-hot real estate market was a feeding frenzy for investors. As the market cools, what will they do now?

Toronto real estate sales are plummeting and home prices are dropping as interest rates continue to climb, pushing buyers and sellers to wait on the sidelines.

But where are the investors?

The pandemic market of the last two years resulted in a feeding frenzy for investors drawn to lower borrowing costs, experts say. For those who decided to sell, they were able to make substantial profit as prices soared. In recent years, those who own multiple properties became the biggest slice of Toronto’s home-purchasing market, overtaking first-time homebuyers, according to Teranet.

But the market has changed drastically — and while some real estate experts believe it’s ripe for investors to scoop up more property, with less competition, rising rental demand and falling prices, others say rising interest rates are also keeping investors on the sidelines, waiting for prices to drop further.

6. Toronto’s airport is now worst in the world for delays. The reason may not be what you think

The security line outside U.S. customs in Terminal One at Toronto Pearson International Airport — the busiest airport in Canada and, according to new data, currently the worst airport for delays in the world — looks, at 4 a.m. on a Saturday, something like a diagram of the small intestine. Tired travellers wind in unruly lines from the closed security doors. They puff out into all available space, from kiosk to exit, shuffling in bulging coils, waiting for something — anything — to happen that will let them move.

Inside the terminal, the mood feels a bit like a nightclub when the lights come on crossed with a packed theatre at a slasher film. Everyone seems tired, wired and anxious. There are people slumped over asleep in chairs, on the floor, on windowsills and even one couple in a hammock. The whole place seems braced for something to go wrong. And no wonder.

For more than three months, Pearson airport, a global economic hub that links a region of more than seven million people to more than 160 destinations around the world and facilitates more than $28 billion in trade every year, has been undergoing an excruciating public meltdown.

The details, by this point, have been so well covered they barely need repeating: overflowing customs halls, delayed flights (more than half of all Pearson departures have been delayed this summer, according to data compiled by FlightAware, making it the worst in the world as measured by delays as a share of scheduled flights), missed connections, lost bags, stranded passengers, stuck planes and, of course, the planes that never leave at all.

More than 8,000 flights have been cancelled at Pearson so far this year, according to data from Cirium, an aviation analytics company, a number so large it almost renders abstract the sheer volume of misery it represents. (Almost every passenger I spoke to for this story used, at some point in the interview, a variation on the phrase “and that’s when I started crying.”)

And things have only been getting worse.

7. This luxury apartment building caters to downsizing seniors. Here’s why Toronto needs more of them

Philipa and Aubrey Caplan, 73 and 83, promised that when they retired they would sell their gracious 2,700-square-foot home in Winnipeg — complete with a pool and garden “to die for” — and join their two sons and their families in Toronto.

They planned to sell last summer but chickened out. In January, their agent called and they sold within 48 hours of the place going on the market. Their sons’ happiness “was off the Richter scale,” said Philipa.

Then came the issue of where to live in Toronto.

The couple wanted to rent so they had the freedom to lock the door and travel without worrying about break-ins or watering the garden. They wanted to be close to friends in the St. Clair Avenue West corridor or Summerhill, walkable neighbourhoods with a mix of housing, not just a collection of towers.

But like many downsizers, the Caplans were caught between small modern apartments with bad layouts in fully vertical neighbourhoods, and older, dreary buildings in need of updating.

8. First jobs. First piercings. First boyfriends. How the mall shaped our lives – and why we get emotional about de-malling

In 2017, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota — the largest mall in the United States —announced a writer in residence. The 5.6 million-square-foot shopping centre encompasses, like the West Edmonton Mall and the Woodbine Centre in Etobicoke, a theme park and a Hard Rock Café, unlikely backdrops for a literary experience. Brian Sonia-Wallace, an L.A. poet, recalled the moment in a piece for the Guardian: “A quick Google search turned up reams of articles skewering the residency as nothing but a shameless publicity stunt for the biggest mall in North America,” he wrote, “deriding the idea that a writer would come and be inspired by a Nordstrom or its customers.” Undeterred, he sent in pictures of himself and his typewriter, along with a writing sample. He won.

By the second day he was running a tally of the number of people who, after reading the custom poems he dutifully produced for them, proceeded to cry, right there, in front of the Nordstrom. Like a first-season Santa, he was confronted with a trip to the mall that was also an emotional experience.

American architecture critic Alexandra Lange would not be surprised. Lange has spent her career writing about the ways design — from corporate campuses to children’s play areas — influences our most intimate selves. Doing the research for her new book, “Meet Me By the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall,” Lange had her own version of the Santa experience. “People told me about their first jobs, their first piercing, their first boyfriend, their first CD.” She also found herself musing on her own relationship with malls. “The mall was our practice city, training wheels for the real world.”

9. 21 victims. $8.9M in compensation. Hockey Canada reveals its history of settling sexual misconduct claims

Millions of dollars have flowed from Hockey Canada to more than 20 victims of sexual misconduct going back to 1989, it emerged Wednesday, as the curtain was at least partly pulled back on how the organization — now under a cloud of suspicion and scandal — has systemically dealt with allegations against its members.

Hockey Canada has settled 21 sexual misconduct claims, paying out $8.9 million in compensation, executives with the organization revealed before a committee of MPs in Ottawa.

The admission to the standing committee on Canadian heritage was accompanied by calls from some of those MPs for Hockey Canada president Scott Smith’s resignation, even as he sat before them.

Smith told the committee that should the board of Hockey Canada or the governance review launched recently recommend it, he would step aside.

“Canadians have been clear, they expect those representing our national sport to do better,” Smith said.

“We own it.”

10. A day in the life of Brooke Henderson — Canada’s only two-time major winner

Brooke Henderson and her sister Brittany were sitting in office chairs, laughing, while hundreds of fans lined up outside a golf retail store for a chance to meet their hero. It’s not surprising they had fallen into a deep chuckle. That’s what they do. The memories they’ve made over the last decade or so, together, usually result in funny moments.

This time they were debating if the key to the city Brooke Henderson was going to get from Ottawa mayor Jim Watson later that day would be a real key. It’s her third. Sometimes you lose track of these things. Calgary and Smiths Falls, Ont. – their hometown – also gave Brooke one.

“I’m racking them up,” she says.

In Calgary it’s not a key at all, though, it’s a white cowboy hat. The size was a little off, so it ended up just sitting on top of Brooke’s head. They keep having trouble with hats. When she won the CP Women’s Open in 2018 her father, Dave, took a hat from a Mountie and tried putting it on his daughter. No real luck there, either.

The crowd outside was growing. Some kids had skipped school. A middle-aged woman brought a lawn chair to make her wait outside more comfortable. A father stood with his two girls, aged eight and 11, who always watch Henderson on TV. “She’s a huge inspiration,” he says. Teenage boys tried to keep their cool. Star-struck young girls who want to be like her (they want to be her) were there. A guy with a long red beard and a Harley-Davidson cap and a shirt with ‘Wicked Crowes Outaouais’ on the back was all smiles. He was in a motorcycle club. It might have been a gang.

Everyone loves Brooke Henderson.

11. Why did Chadd die? 15 months after a ‘struggle’ with off-duty Toronto cops, his mom needs answers

Chadd Facey’s grave lies near a pond just off Highway 50, a five-minute drive from the Brampton house where he grew up. Nearly every day for the past 15 months, even after a draining shift at the long-term care home where she works, Fay Fagan stops in to visit her son.

She washes away any dirt that’s gathered on his gravesite. She sometimes brings flowers, ideally blue, the bright hue of her son’s bedroom walls. Most days she wears an item of Chadd’s clothing, his extra-small shirts now fitting since she shed 52 pounds after his death, when she had no appetite for the food brought over by friends.

She closes her eyes and pictures her youngest child, trying to set aside for a moment the questions that hang over his death.

For over a year, Fagan and her family have lived a nightmarish reality: Chadd is gone and they don’t know why. On April 26, 2021, the 19-year-old with a love of hip-hop and sneakers skipped a dentist appointment and went out. He returned home at dinner, obviously unwell: inside his friends’ car, Fagan found him confused, going in and out of consciousness, and with a bruise on his forehead — which Fagan, a registered practical nurse, and paramedics described as a “hematoma.”

Hours later, he was dead.

12. Pope Francis, we don’t accept your hollow apology. Here’s why

The apology we heard from Pope Francis in Maskwacis this week was indeed historic, but predictably lacking in substance, writes contributor Pamela Palmater.

In what sounded like a very carefully worded apology, the Pope skipped over the Catholic Church’s complicity and cover-up of the sexual abuse of thousands of Indigenous children over many generations. His failure to acknowledge the church’s role — both at the individual level and as an institution and governing body — not only deflects responsibility, but also serves to put more children at risk. His failure to also recognize its role in genocide was a glaring omission that hurt many Indigenous Peoples.

The Pope’s “penitential pilgrimage” to Canada and his apology meant a great deal to some Indian residential school survivors and their families. These survivors — who have experienced horrific acts of violence, racism and oppression at the hands of Catholic priests, nuns, clergy and staff, deserve to have whatever they need for their own personal healing journeys. This papal visit is a very painful and triggering time for Indigenous Peoples and we must continue to support them.

At the same time, it is important that we acknowledge that many other survivors, families and communities want more than an apology — they want justice. Indigenous Peoples have said countless times that true reconciliation must include substantive actions by the church to end the ongoing abuse and make reparations for the harms done.


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *