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Deceased millionaire’s family sues after DNA test reveals heir isn’t related

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Elis Gosta Hjukstrom was born out of wedlock in a tiny hamlet in northern Sweden. He died in Vancouver a self-made millionaire, bequeathing most of his fortune to the man he called his son.

But a paternity test conducted after Hjukstrom’s death revealed he wasn’t biologically related to his heir.

Now, Hjukstrom’s extended family in Sweden is suing the heir in B.C. Supreme Court, claiming he and his now-deceased mother deceived Hjukstrom for decades in order to benefit financially. 

Hjukstrom, a lifelong bachelor known to many as Gus, moved to Canada from Sweden in his 20s. He died of cancer in 2017 at age 87, leaving behind a Vancouver-based import and distribution business and a family estate in Sweden worth a combined total of about $14 million, of which he bequeathed most to Swedish resident Kenth Lundback. 

In a notice of civil claim filed last May, the family alleges that Lundback and his mother intentionally defrauded Hjukstrom for over 50 years in a “calculated, callous and selfish way” by leading him to believe Lundback was the man’s biological son.

In or around 1994, Hjukstrom, centre, treated some of his Swedish family to a month-long trip to Vancouver. The family says he was very generous during this trip, and rented an apartment for them and paid for all their expenses. “Gosta was very proud to show us around Vancouver and to introduce us to his close friends and staff,” the family said. (Onyx Law)

The family — Hjukstrom’s surviving siblings, nieces and nephews — wants Lundback to be removed from Hjukstrom’s will and the trust.

In his response to the family’s claim, filed in the B.C. court, Lundback denies the allegations and argues instead that Hjukstrom knew it was possible that he wasn’t his biological son. Lundback says he and Hjukstrom enjoyed a “warm, happy and encouraging” rapport in recent years that was “akin to a father/son relationship.”

The case reveals family secrets kept quiet for decades, now exposed as Hjukstrom’s relatives and his heir argue over who should rightfully benefit from the fortune he left behind. 

Impoverished background

According to court documents, Hjukstrom grew up in a small parish in northern Sweden, born to an unwed mother and the eldest of seven children.

Hjukstrom never knew his biological father, and two of his siblings were adopted out because his mother couldn’t afford to care for them. In 1957, he moved to Canada and began what is now a successful business in Vancouver currently worth about $7 million. 

While visiting Sweden in 1960, Hjukstrom had a brief romantic relationship with Ingrid Jonsson, a childhood friend. The family claims that, soon after, Jonsson began a relationship with Nils Joel — listed as Lundback’s father on his birth certificate, and to whom he “always bore a striking physical resemblance.”

The couple split up sometime after 1962. In 1964, Hjukstrom wrote to Jonsson and told her of his entrepreneurial success.

Hjukstrom, centre right, in the black vest, sometimes travelled with his family to northern Sweden, where he had a cabin. (Mikael Nordgren)

In her reply, Jonsson told him she had a young son born a few months after they had been together. 

‘I will of course take responsibility’

“If I am in fact Kenth’s father, I will of course take responsibility,” Hjukstrom wrote in a letter filed as part of an affidavit. 

“Yes, that is the case,” Jonsson later replied. “I don’t think you need to tell anyone about it.” 

Hjukstrom trusted Jonsson, the family says, because they were childhood friends. And he was a stubborn man who wouldn’t be told what to do, despite the family’s concerns that he was being taken advantage of. 

The family says Hjukstrom soon started sending Jonsson money, and he first included her and her son in his will in 1966. Jonsson died in 2008. By 2014, Hjukstrom left the bulk of his estate to Lundback. 

After Hjukstrom died in 2017, the family questioned Lundback’s relationship to him. The executor of Hjukstrom’s estate ordered a DNA test. The results showed there was a no probability of paternity.

In his response filed with the court, Lundback says Hjukstrom always knew it was possible he wasn’t the father.

Established a special bond

Lundback says Hjukstrom wanted him to be his heir, regardless of whether he was his biological son, because the two had established a special bond over the years.

Lundback also claims that he didn’t know Hjukstrom was his father until 2002, when he got a letter from him stating as much. Soon after that, Hjukstrom visited Lundback in Sweden on a few occasions, and the pair exchanged phone calls and letters. 

Lundback also claims he asked Hjukstrom, twice, if they could do a DNA test, but he says Hjukstrom replied it was unnecessary. Lundback says he didn’t know how much Hjukstrom’s estate was worth.

A photo of Hjukstrom, his sister Asta, and his nephew Mikael Nordgren at their house in the 1980s. (Mikael Nordgren)

Hjukstrom’s family in Sweden are the ones trying to take advantage of the millionaire, Lundback says, claiming they only contacted him when they wanted money and gifts. Lundback says the entrepreneur never intended to leave them his fortune.

The family disputes Lundback’s assertions. As evidence, they have submitted photos of family visits over the years, many of which they say Hjukstrom paid for. 

They say Hjukstrom was mindful of family legacies and never would have left his estate to Lundback knowing that he wasn’t his biological son.

One thing both parties do agree on is that Hjukstrom was a generous man who gave freely to family and those he was close to. 

It will be up to a judge to decide whether Hjukstrom left his estate freely to Lundback because he was deceived or because he considered them to be close. 

The court recently ruled that it will hear the suits against both the trust and the estate at the same time. The case is expected to go to trial in 2020. 

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Future of Ottawa: Chefs with Kathryn Ferries

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This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Kat Ferries on the future of chefs, or read posts from Quinn Taylor on bars or Justin Champagne on fine dining.

Kat Ferries is Sous-Chef at Stofa Restaurant and a 2020 San Pellegrino North American Young Chef Social Responsibility Award Winner.

Apt613: What is the current landscape for chefs in Ottawa?

Kat Ferries: There is such great talent in Ottawa with so many chefs either being from here originally or have returned after traveling and have since opened some incredible restaurants. Many chefs have focused menus that really highlight their strengths, their heritage, and their passion for food. Dominique Dufour of Gray Jay, Marc Doiron of Town/Citizen, Steve Wall of Supply & Demand, Daniela Manrique Lucca of The Soca Kitchen, and so many more are all cooking up beautiful and delicious food in this city.

If you care to make a prediction… Where is the food industry in Ottawa going for chefs in 2021?

The industry right now is, unfortunately, in a really tough spot. The pandemic has been so devastating on mental, physical and emotional levels for so many and I know that many of my friends in this industry are burning out. There are many discussions happening on work/life balance and what is healthy for everyone. Some may never return to the long, hard hours we are expected to put in day after day and instead opt for a more flexible schedule or hire more staff to lighten the load on everyone, with some even leaving the industry indefinitely. Some may throw themselves back into this industry 10x as hard and create some of the best restaurants and concepts we’ve yet to see. I think all that will happen after the pandemic though.

For this year, it’s mostly about survival and finding happiness in creating what we can in the spaces we have while following all the laws and guidelines from public health officials. I think we will see more chefs creating experiences for guests that we otherwise wouldn’t have: think pop-ups, virtual dinner clubs, cocktail seminars, collabs, etc.

Where in your wildest dreams could the Ottawa culinary community grow in your lifetime?

I would love to see the Ottawa community support more small, local restaurants so our streets are bustling late into the nights like they are in Montreal, New York, or Europe. Having a local restaurant to frequent should be so much more commonplace, where you can enjoy a night out more often than just Friday or Saturday night. I would also love to see many more of our local chefs highlighted for the amazing food they create!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

Turning all our restaurants into mini-markets for customers to enjoy the food and wine of their favourite places at home. We have bottle shops for all your wine, beer and cocktail needs as well as menus that reflect what each restaurant does best. Some have even pivoted to a point where they are 100% a store and have paused any type of “service-style” dining.

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Future of Ottawa: Fine Dining with Justin Champagne

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This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Justin Champagne on the future of fine dining, or read posts from Kathryn Ferries on chefs or Quinn Taylor on bars.

Justin Champagne went to culinary school at Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. He got his start in fine dining restaurants at C Restaurant under Chef Robert Clark, then at Hawksworth Restaurant under Chef Eligh. He staged at three-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn under Chef Dominque Crenn before moving to Ottawa and spending five years at Atelier, working his way up to Sous-Chef. He’s now the Head Chef of Bar Lupulus.

Apt613: What is the current landscape of fine dining restaurants in Ottawa?

Justin Champagne: Ottawa punches well above its weight class when it comes to quality restaurants in general. Fine dining is no exception to that—we have some amazing chefs here that are doing really great things. We also have some phenomenal sommeliers in town that are a huge factor when it comes to a guest’s experience in a fine dining restaurant. While there are some fantastic fine dining restaurants in town I do believe there’s room for more, and definitely room for more creativity and unique styles of cooking! I think we’ll see more small fine dining restaurants opening up, “micro-restaurants” where there’s maybe 20 seats. This will be over the next few weeks as the industry did take a big hit financially with COVID-19, but we still have a lot of great young chefs who have the fire inside of them to open their own location!

If you care to make a prediction… Where is fine dining going in Ottawa in 2021?

I’m not sure it’ll be 2021 or 2022 with the way the vaccine rollout and stay-at-home order is going, but I do expect there to be a wave of people looking to go out to fine dining restaurants. We’ve been cooped up cooking for ourselves or ordering takeout for over a year now. People are getting antsy and ready to go out and have fantastic meals again with exceptional wine and not have to worry about doing all the dishes afterwards!

Where in your wildest dreams could fine dining go in Ottawa in your lifetime?

That’s the fun part about “fine dining,” it can go anywhere and it can mean many things. Fine dining is about amazing service and well thought out, unique food that the kitchen spent hours fussing over, being meticulous in execution. Outside of that, you can have a lot of fun and be creative in different ways. My wildest dream I guess is that fine dinning restaurants begin to thrive and are able to charge without backlash the kind of prices that they need to charge in order to keep the lights on and pay their staff a proper living wage!!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

I’m not sure if I would really say there’s been a best “innovation” in my industry during the pandemic, but I will say that seeing the “adaptability” by all the restaurants in Ottawa has been incredibly inspiring. Ottawa’s food scene has always been a tight-knit community, “everyone helping everyone” kind of mentality. And this pandemic has really helped show that—restaurants helping restaurants through all of this!

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Ottawa’s Giant Tiger chain celebrating 60 years in business

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa staple, along with what might be the most famous cat in Canada, are celebrating a milestone Monday.

Giant Tiger is 60 years old.

“It all started with a very simple idea,” says Alison Scarlett, associate VP of communications at Giant Tiger. “Help Canadians save money every single day. Bring them products that they want and need. When you focus on those core principals, it really is quite simple to succeed.”

In 1961, Gordon Reid opened the first Giant Tiger in Ottawa’s ByWard Market. The company now has more than 260 locations across Canada and employs roughly 10,000 people.

“If you were at our store on opening day 60 years ago, the in store experience would be a little bit different from your local Giant Tiger store today. So that’s changed. A lot of our products and offerings have changed or expanded as Canadian consumers wants and needs have changed or expanded,” says Scarlett.

The homegrown department store continues to be a favourite for many shoppers looking to for the best deals on everyday products.

Helen Binda has been shopping here for decades.

“Many years. I can’t remember when. I’ve always loved Giant Tiger. It’s always been a good store for me.”

“I think its amazing and I think that we need more department stores,” says shopper Fay Ball. “And if it’s Canadian, all the better.”

The Canadian-owned family discount store carries everything from clothing to groceries, as well as everyday household needs. They’ve also expanded their online store and like most retailers provide curbside pickup during the pandemic.

“Doing what is right for our customers, associates, and communities. That has enabled us to be so successful for all of these years,” says Scarlett.

To celebrate, Giant Tiger is hosting a virtual birthday party at 7 p.m. Monday with live musical performances from some iconic Canadian artists.

You can visit their Facebook page to tune in. 

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