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Executives dismissed from beleaguered Winnipeg cannabis producer after product recalls

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A Winnipeg-based cannabis producer has been stripped of its senior management team after an internal investigation found the company sold unauthorized product in Saskatchewan.

George Robinson, the contractor hired to oversee the troubled company facing two Health Canada recalls, said the three Bonify executives were also accused of bullying and threatening staff workers who tried to speak up.

“I don’t know what their motivation and driver is, but what they did was not at all remotely close to following the regulations,” said Robinson, CEO of RavenQuest Technologies Inc., decrying the conduct of the executives as “creative entrepreneurialism.”

Robinson said a number of frontline staff tried to speak out about the 200 kilos of illicit cannabis produced at a “non-licensed facility,” but were pressured to look the other way.

“That’s a real, sad position to put really, good quality people in, but sometimes they make the choice to protect their families, their livelihood and we don’t hold them accountable for those forced decisions,” he said. “In fact, we continue to support them.”

Robinson said he was not aware of the source of the cannabis or whether organized crime played any role.

The three executives were terminated with cause and an executive assistant was dismissed, Robinson said, and one member of the board of directors has been suspended.

Bonify may have ‘overpromised’

He said it appears Bonify felt pressure to satisfy its supply agreements with two provinces, which might have contributed to its decision to sell cannabis produced at a “non-licensed facility.”

“I think there was some overpromising happening,” he said.

Health Canada is investigating what went wrong, but Robinson was not aware if police authorities are also probing the company. He said it would be up to federal and provincial regulators to alert police. 

Of the 200 kilograms of product subject to the recall, only 182 grams actually made it to market — all of which were sold by Saskatchewan retailers.

After becoming aware of problems at Bonify, Manitoba’s Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority and the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corp. seized all Bonify cannabis from the province’s retailers last week and delisted them, which follows a recall of two strains issued in Saskatchewan by Health Canada earlier this month over contamination issues. 

Robinson said the initial recall was due to inconsistencies in the product, such as detecting yeast and mould and an unconfirmed presence of E. coli.

Another recall notice on Christmas Eve removed 14 additional lots of Bonify dried cannabis from Manitoba and Saskatchewan as a precaution.

The stock was removed because of “record keeping issues with production documents that may not meet the requirements,” the recall notice said. Nearly 5,900 units of recalled product were sold in Manitoba and at two Saskatchewan retailers — New Leaf Emporium and Spiritleaf.

Eight of the lots also had a labelling error where the cannabinoid values were reversed, Health Canada said.

The mislabelled products in the second recall were not produced at the non-licensed facility, Robinson confirmed.

Retail sales restricted

Robinson said Bonify has voluntarily chosen to suspend all retail sales and is no longer selling medicinal cannabis either as the company tries to restore the confidence of the regulators. 

He acknowledged it will take time for Bonify to restore the trust it lost, but he said he believes they can right the ship. 

RavenQuest will be providing management services for the next three months, Robinson said.

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Students call on University of Ottawa to implement pass/fail grading amid pandemic

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OTTAWA — The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) is calling on the university to introduce optional, one-course-only pass/fail grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 semesters amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The students’ union said nearly 5,000 uOttawa students have signed its petition supporting the grading system.

In a letter to the university, the UOSU said it is asking the school to make changes to the grading structure, including allowing one course per semester to be converted to the “pass” or “satisfactory” designation.

The UOSU also made recommendations regarding a reduction of workload and course delivery.

“The adaptation to online learning during the pandemic for students has created unique challenges and disruptions that could not have been anticipated,” wrote Tim Gulliver, the UOSU’s Advocacy Commissioner. 

“The use of flexible compassionate grading options has been introduced in other universities, such as Carleton University which includes a use of Pass/Fail which we feel could be implemented at the University of Ottawa.”

Carleton University approved the use of flexible and compassionate grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 terms in early November.

The UOSU also called for all grades that constitute a fail to appear as “Not Satisfactory” on their transcript, which would not be included in grade point average calculations. 

The union represents more than 38,000 undergraduate students at the University of Ottawa.

In a response to CTV News, the University of Ottawa said it is aware of the petition.

“Last spring a decision was made by the (University) Senate to allow the Satisfactory/Non Satisfactory mark to be used, given the unique circumstances of the pandemic, which hit us close to the end of the Winter 2020 semester. The University is aware of the petition and is looking into the matter.”

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OPP warn of phone scams in Ottawa Valley

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Upper Ottawa Valley OPP warn residents of a phone scam that’s been making its way through the region recently. 

Police say a scammer pretends to be from a local business and tells the person their credit card didn’t work on a recent purchase before asking the person on the phone to confirm their credit card number. 

The victim may not have even used the card at the store, but police said the scammer creates a sense of urgency. 

Police remind residents to verify the legitimacy of any caller before providing any personal information over the phone. 

Similar scams have been reported recently in the region, according to police, with scammers posing as police officers, Revenue Canada or other government agencies demanding payment for a variety of reasons. A Social Insurance Number scam has also been reported recently, where a victim is asked for their SIN number under threat of being arrested. 
 
If a scam artist contacts you or if you have been defrauded, you’re asked to contact police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or visit their website at www.antifraudcentre.ca.

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The human history of Ottawa Valley is thousands of years old. Archeologists may have found a piece of it on Parliament Hill

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OTTAWA—Archeologists working on Parliament Hill have discovered a relic of Indigenous life that one Algonquin leader sees as a symbol of his people’s long history in what is now the heart of Canadian political power.

The jagged stone point was unearthed last year on the east side of Centre Block, but its discovery was not publicized as officials worked with Algonquin communities to authenticate the object, the Star has learned.

Stephen Jarrett, the lead archeologist for the ongoing renovation of Parliament’s Centre Block, said this week that while such an object is “not an uncommon find,” the stone point joins just a small handful of Indigenous artifacts ever discovered on Parliament Hill.

“It’s about the size of my palm, and it could be used as a knife or a projectile,” Jarrett said this week in response to inquiries from the Star.

He said the point is made of chert, a type of sedimentary stone most often used for implements of this type. And while the point was unearthed in what Jarrett calls “disturbed soil” — earth that has been dug up and moved, most likely during construction of Parliament — the soil it was in “is natural to the site.”

That means “it came from a source nearby, but finding exactly where it came from is impossible,” Jarrett said.

For Douglas Odjick, a band council member responsible for education and culture with the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, this artifact of “an original world” is a testament to the longevity of his Algonquin nation in an area they still claim as unceded and unsurrendered territory. Based on the assessment of Ian Badgley, the top archeologist with the National Capital Commission, Odjick said the stone point is likely 4,000 years old and dates to a time when the confluence of the Ottawa, Gatineau and Rideau Rivers — along with all their tributaries that stretch out into the surrounding area — served as a great hub of regional trade activity.

“It symbolizes who we are and how long we’ve been here,” Odjick said, comparing the area to an ancient version of a busy hub like New York’s busy Grand Central Station.

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