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‘I want to be put back into the air’: The life and death of a BASE jumper

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Mike Racicot kept a letter with one request should he die: “I want to be put back into the air.”

The five-page handwritten missive the elite BASE jumper had left at his home in British Columbia had instructions on what to do with his possessions and his beloved dog, a 10-year-old boxer called Taco.

The 37-year-old — known as “Treehouse Mike” —  died on July 26 while on a wingsuit flight in Switzerland. 

“We were always worried about him, but he was so good about taking care of himself,” said Racicot’s sister, Rachel Polite, who has spent the past few months fulfilling her brother’s wishes. “Now we’re taking care of him.”

‘Treehouse’ Mike Racicot is shown in this undated handout photo. (Adam Myers/Canadian Press)

As per his final wishes, Racicot’s body was cremated and the ashes were sent to family and friends who were to take them on more adventures.

A big “ash jump” was held in Squamish, B.C., in late August when more than two dozen friends jumped off a cliff.

When one opened his parachute, Racicot’s ashes burst forth in a giant plume.

His ashes have also been spread on jumps off the Kuala Lumpur Tower in Malaysia, the massive Balinghe River Bridge in China and Trump Tower in Vancouver, among others.

Another jump will take place in Mexico on New Year’s Eve, and some of his ashes will be taken back to the Swiss mountain where he died.

‘Treehouse Mike’

Racicot earned his “Treehouse” nickname for living off-and-on for years in a secret tree house he built on Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler, B.C.

He became a journeyman carpenter, a beekeeper — you had to donate money to a local charity to get some honey — and worked for a time at Tim Hortons. He hitchhiked across the country several times and rode freight trains for fun. 

He spent his early years in Quebec before moving to Arnprior, Ont., in the Ottawa Valley, when he was four years old.

That’s where he started to skateboard, at age 9, because he felt more comfortable gliding then walking, said his 40-year-old sister. People made fun of his walk due to problems with the arches in his feet. 

“He had a little bounce in his step when he walked,” said Polite, so he skated all over the small town. “He became really good, really quick.”

Adventurous spirit

The family soon moved to Barrhaven, an Ottawa suburb, where, as a teen, Racicot advocated for a skate park that would later become a favourite haunt for the youngster and his friends. 

His father tried putting Racicot in football, but that didn’t take.

“I say to Mike, ‘To be good at this, you have to hit the other guys,”‘ Al Racicot says. “He didn’t have that in him.”

His adventurous spirit couldn’t be contained, his family said. He jumped out of trees and soon began jumping off bridges, some 35 metres high, into the water below. 

“The first time I really met him he was doing flips off the roof of the community centre into the snow,” said Adam Myers, his childhood friend.

Together, Racicot and Myers started a graffiti collective  — called DBS crew —  that left their marks across the city.

“If you’re in Ottawa, Mike is a legend,” Myers said. “All they knew is this guy started DBS, moved out west, lived in a tree fort and became a BASE jumper.” 

Racicot poses in his wingsuit in this undated handout photo. (Rachel Polite/Canadian Press)

On his 18th birthday, Racicot asked his father for a skydiving session. Al Racicot complied. The father, son and Myers drove to Arnprior where Racicot went up in a plane and jumped. 

“He was so stoked, you could see it in his eyes,” said Myers. 

At 20, Racicot dropped out of college. “He wasn’t the greatest one in school,” his father said, “but, boy, could he work.”

Heads west

Most of all, Racicot wanted adventure. So at 23, he packed up everything he owned, including his skateboard, stuffed it onto a small Yamaha scooter and headed west.

The scooter maxed out at 60 km/h through the flats of the Prairies and chugged uphill at 40 km/h through the Rockies, his life’s belongings weighing him down. It took him a month to get to British Columbia. Drivers gave him the finger the entire ride, his sister said.

But rent in Whistler, even when he lived in someone’s closet, was too much. With his burgeoning carpentry skills, Racicot built a tree house on the side of a cliff, attached to trees. 

“He stole all the materials, the wood, the nails, everything” from construction sites in Whistler, said Myers.

Inside, there was room for a double bed and compartments for clothes. Outside, he had a small grill.

He covered the Seussian house with a green tarp for camouflage. He then built an addition for visitors — a platform with a tent — and when Myers visited the home, he asked about the slash marks through the tarp.

“Sometimes bears walk on the roof,” Racicot told him. Myers slept little that week when he stayed with his friend.

At 23, Racicot packed up everything he owned, including his skateboard, stuffed it onto a small Yamaha scooter and headed west. (Adam Myers/Canadian Press)

Racicot had friends working in the village’s numerous hotels where he’d go for a shower as the maids cleaned a room, then grabbed grub from the free continental breakfast, and exercised in the gym. 

The tree house — as teens, Myers and Racicot had dreamed about building a treefort hotel that looked like the Ewok Village in the Star Wars movie “Return of the Jedi” — became synonymous with Racicot.

500 jumps at the Chief

About 10 years ago, Racicot got into BASE jumping, which involves jumping with a parachute off buildings, cliffs, or bridges. He moved to Squamish, considered by many to be among the most important areas for BASE jumping in Canada, where he’d often start his day with a jump off the Stawamus Chief, a mountain 700 metres above Howe Sound where BASE jumping is legal.

“He was the chief of the Chief,” said Philip Moessinger, a jumper who also learned under the tutelage of Racicot. “Everyone knows Treehouse in B.C.”

Racicot jumped 969 times in his life, his sister said, with more than 500 jumps at the Chief, as it is known colloquially. 

His peers say Racicot was one of the best all-around BASE jumpers in the world. He could also perform aerials and flew incredible distances with a wingsuit.

‘You’re literally flying’

The sport is intoxicating, his friends say. 

“You’re literally flying,” said Moessinger. “The feeling you get out of it, the joy, the high, is unbelievable. Treehouse felt that too.”

Racicot was among the rarefied air of jumpers who were sponsored.

“He did it all, and did it all well and that made him impressive and unique among his peers,” says Joe Putrino, who works for Apex BASE, a parachute company that sponsored Racicot.

On July 26, Moessinger and Racicot stood at the top of Chaserrugg mountain with the Swiss town of Walenstadt sitting below. The sun shone down that afternoon as wispy clouds rolled by.

The pair had just jumped off the mountain that morning and were back up to fly another line in their wingsuits — Racicot’s suit bearing a giant image of his dog, Taco, on the front. They planned to soon meet three other friends from Canada for a jumping tour around Europe.

Racicot’s final flight

Moessinger jumped first with Racicot in tow. They flew between three-to-10 metres off the steep ground. At one point, Racicot flew underneath his friend and took the lead. 

“It was a great flight,” Moessinger said.  They came out of the flight line, the exit named “Fatal Attraction” where the terrain drops off, and the point at which they would fly toward the landing area where they would pull their parachutes.

Racicot didn’t pull his parachute. 

“He just disappeared in the trees,” Moessinger said as he fell silent.

No one knows what happened to Racicot in that flight.

‘Treehouse’ Mike Racicot shown in this undated handout photo hitchhiked across the country several times and rode freight trains for fun. (Adam Myers/Canadian Press)

His death has left a void in the jumping community around the world and with his family in Ottawa. His father, a devout Baptist, struggles with his son’s loss. Prayer usually helps, but it didn’t that first night without his boy.

“The most difficult time I had was the night I heard Mike had died,” his father said through tears. “I believe that we pray for people while they’re alive and we make our decisions while we live. 

That night, as I was going through the names of our family members and friends and got to Mike, I realized I didn’t have to pray for him anymore.”

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Chris Selley: The blinding incoherence of Ottawa’s hotel-quarantine theatre is becoming obvious

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Canada’s new mandatory hotel quarantine system landed over the weekend like a wet, mildewy towel. You have to book by phone. No one answers. There are multiple reports of Canadian citizens being put on hold for three hours, then cut off seemingly automatically.

“Our trained and specialized travel counsellors are providing around-the-clock service to facilitate hotel bookings,” a spokesperson for American Express Global Business Travel told National Post.

The “regular hours of operation” listed are 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Ottawa time.

Officials have blamed the call backlog on people calling too far in advance of travel. Would you wait until the recommended 48 hours before your flight? The online advice implies you need “proof of having reserved and pre-paid for (hotel) accommodation” even to get on the plane. In fact, help is available for those disembarking without reservations, a Public Health spokesman said.

That might be useful information to put on the internet. But then, so would a reservation system. All the participating hotels already have one of those.

For now, this all-too-predictable shambles isn’t a problem for the government. On social media, many are revelling in the misery and stress it’s causing, calling it travellers’ just deserts  — never mind if it’s an expat coming home to take a job, or a grieving family returning from a funeral, and not some fully vaccinated cartoon-villain snowbird. Former Ontario finance minister Rod Phillips and Canada’s other gallivanting politicos created a full-on moral panic overnight, and the feds, hitherto scornful of anyone who suggested international travel was worth worrying about, were happy to provide some red meat.

The populist glee will wear off, though, and the blinding incoherence of this policy will eventually dawn on people. There is evidence right here at home that may illustrate the problem.

Since November, travellers arriving at Calgary’s airport on international flights, or overland  into Alberta from Montana, could take a test upon arrival, and another a week later, and upon receipt of two negative results avoid the 14-days quarantine that has otherwise been demanded of “non-essential” humans entering the country for nearly a year. That “pilot project” was unceremoniously cancelled Sunday night.

At first, participants were allowed out and about, with a few restrictions, as soon as the test-on-arrival came back negative — usually within 48 hours. Upon receipt of the second negative result, they were subject to even fewer restrictions for the remainder of the two weeks. Later, travellers from the U.K. and South Africa were excluded; the federal rule requiring a negative test to board a flight to Canada kicked in; and on January 25, the rules changed such that pilot-project participants had to remain in quarantine until the second negative result after a week.

With the U.K. and South Africa excluded and a negative test required to board, the percentage of travellers testing positive on arrival dropped by half, from 1.47 to 0.75 per cent; the number testing positive a week later dropped by one-third, from 0.74 to 0.5 per cent.

It’s a small sample size. It doesn’t prove anything. But it’s intuitive: if you weed out high-risk travellers, and test before departure, you get fewer initial positives. This hints at one approach Canada could have taken but didn’t: focus more stringent measures on certain countries. Do we really need to treat arrivals from famously COVID-free countries like New Zealand (0.7 new daily cases per million population, on a two-week average), or Taiwan (0.03 cases), the same as those disembarking flights from Israel (384), the United Arab Emirates (296) or the United States (202)?

That one in 200 travellers were still testing positive after a week highlights the central flaw in the government’s plan, however. As I noted two weeks ago, research suggests the probability of a “false negative” PCR test only falls below 50 per cent on the fifth day after infection. If your goal is to prevent international travellers from transmitting COVID-19 to anyone in Canada, you can accomplish it vastly more effectively with a five- or seven-day quarantine, followed by another test, than with three days waiting for the result of a test conducted at the airport.

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Carleton Master’s Sociology Student to Receive Royal Ottawa Award for Mental Health Work

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Charlotte Smith, a Carleton University master’s student in Sociology, has faced overwhelming challenges throughout her life: childhood sexual abuse, homelessness, incarceration, drug dependency.

Undaunted, she has channelled these experiences into her academic, advocacy and activist work, developing research projects to address youth homelessness, creating a bursary to help homeless youth attend Carleton, and delivering food, phones and other essential items to homeless and precariously housed youth who are struggling during the pandemic.

For these actions, and for sharing her story of recovery to help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness, Smith will be awarded the Personal Leader for Mental Health award at the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health’s 2021 Inspiration Awards.

“It can be re-traumatizing, embarrassing and awkward talking so publicly about your mental health and substance use issues, so it’s comforting when someone tells you that you’re not just oversharing, you’re actually making a small difference in other people’s lives,” says Smith, who will be joined on the Inspiration Awards virtual podium by Carleton President Benoit-Antoine Bacon, winner of the Royal’s Transformational Leader award.

“Getting an award like this is fantastic, but there are so many people doing so much important work on mental health and substance use,” says Smith, who last year won a Community Builder Award from the United Way East Ontario for her volunteer efforts in COVID times.

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Shopify Launches Offering of Class A Subordinate Voting Shares

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OTTAWA, Ontario–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Shopify Inc. (NYSE:SHOP)(TSX:SHOP) (“Shopify”) today announced that it has filed a preliminary prospectus supplement (the “Preliminary Supplement”) to its short form base shelf prospectus dated August 6, 2020 (the “Base Shelf Prospectus”). The Preliminary Supplement was filed in connection with a public offering of Shopify’s Class A subordinate voting shares (the “Offering”). The Preliminary Supplement has been filed with the securities regulatory authorities in each of the provinces and territories of Canada, except Québec. The Preliminary Supplement has also been filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) as part of Shopify’s registration statement on Form F-10 (the “Registration Statement”) under the U.S./Canada Multijurisdictional Disclosure System.

A total of 1,180,000 Class A subordinate voting shares will be offered by Shopify for sale under the Offering, which will be led by Citigroup, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC (the “Underwriters”).Shopify will grant the Underwriters an over-allotment option to purchase up to an additional 15% of the Class A subordinate voting shares to be sold pursuant to the Offering (the “Over-Allotment Option”). The Over-Allotment Option will be exercisable for a period of 30 days from the date of the final prospectus supplement relating to the Offering. Allen & Company LLC is acting as special advisor to the Company with respect to the Offering.

Shopify expects to use the net proceeds from the Offering to strengthen its balance sheet, providing flexibility to fund its growth strategies.

Closing of the Offering will be subject to a number of closing conditions, including the listing of the Class A subordinate voting shares to be issued under the Offering on the NYSE and the TSX.

No securities regulatory authority has either approved or disapproved the contents of this news release. This news release shall not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy, nor shall there be any sale of these securities in any province, state or jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to the registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such province, state or jurisdiction. The Preliminary Supplement, the Base Shelf Prospectus and the Registration Statement contain important detailed information about the Offering. A copy of the Preliminary Supplement and Base Shelf Prospectus can be found on SEDAR at www.sedar.com and EDGAR at www.sec.gov, and a copy of the Registration Statement can be found on EDGAR at www.sec.gov. Copies of these documents may also be obtained from Citigroup, c/o Broadridge Financial Solutions, 1155 Long Island Avenue, Edgewood, NY 11717, Telephone: 1-800-831-9146; Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, Attention: Prospectus Department, Eleven Madison Avenue, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10010, Telephone: 1-800-221-1037 or e-mail: usa.prospectus@credit-suisse.com; Credit Suisse Securities (Canada), Inc., Attention: Olivier Demet, 1 First Canadian Place, Suite 2900, Toronto, Ontario M5X 1C9, Telephone: 416-352-4749 or e-mail: olivier.demet@credit-suisse.com; or Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC, Attn: Prospectus Department, 200 West Street, New York, NY 10282, telephone: 866-471-2526, facsimile: 212-902-9316 or email: prospectusny@ny.email.gs.com. Prospective investors should read the Preliminary Supplement, the Base Shelf Prospectus and the Registration Statement before making an investment decision.

About Shopify

Shopify is a leading global commerce company, providing trusted tools to start, grow, market, and manage a retail business of any size. Shopify makes commerce better for everyone with a platform and services that are engineered for reliability, while delivering a better shopping experience for consumers everywhere. Shopify powers over 1.7 million businesses in more than 175 countries and is trusted by brands such as Allbirds, Gymshark, Heinz, Staples Canada and many more.

We were proudly founded in Ottawa, Canada, but prefer to think of the company location as Internet, Everywhere. Shopify is a company of and by the internet, and we have physical outposts around the world. The archaic newswire system doesn’t allow us to acknowledge this fact, so we will henceforth keep this paragraph in our press releases until technology improves.

Forward-looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking information and forward-looking statements within the meaning of applicable securities laws (“forward-looking statements”) including statements regarding the proposed Offering, the terms of the Offering and the proposed use of proceeds. Words such as “expects”, “continue”, “will”, “plans”, “anticipates” and “intends” or similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements.

These forward-looking statements are based on Shopify’s current expectations about future events and financial trends that management believes might affect its financial condition, results of operations, business strategy and financial needs, and on certain assumptions and analysis made by Shopify in light of the experience and perception of historical trends, current conditions and expected future developments and other factors management believes are appropriate. These projections, expectations, assumptions and analyses are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties, assumptions and other factors that could cause actual results, performance, events and achievements to differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements. Although Shopify believes that the assumptions underlying these forward-looking statements are reasonable, they may prove to be incorrect, and readers cannot be assured that the Offering discussed above will be completed on the terms described above. Completion of the proposed Offering is subject to numerous factors, many of which are beyond Shopify’s control, including but not limited to, the failure of customary closing conditions and other important factors disclosed previously and from time to time in Shopify’s filings with the SEC and the securities commissions or similar securities regulatory authorities in each of the provinces or territories of Canada. The forward-looking statements contained in this news release represent Shopify’s expectations as of the date of this news release, or as of the date they are otherwise stated to be made, and subsequent events may cause these expectations to change. Shopify undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as may be required by law.

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