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‘Driver knew he was aggressive’: Senior beaten by another passenger while taking transit for elderly, disabled





Hanka Fogelman was left bloodied and bruised after public transportation service for the elderly and disabled put her in a vehicle with a stranger who turned violent — a man Fogelman says the cab driver knew could be dangerous.

The 92-year-old Montreal woman, who is a Holocaust survivor, says as soon as she got into the back seat the driver warned her about the young man sitting next to her.

“The driver knew that he was aggressive … said not to talk to him. [He said] he’s aggressive. He’s a little dangerous,” Fogelman told Go Public.

Laura Tamblyn Watts, an advocate for older Canadians, called the attack a “failure of the entire system,” a system she says often puts costs ahead of safety when it comes to providing services for seniors and the disabled.

When the attack happened on Nov. 11, Fogelman was riding in a cab contracted by Société de transport de Montréal (STM) on her way to visit one of her daughters. The Montreal transit-run service provides rides for people with physical and mental disabilities and mobility issues in private cabs and paratransit buses.

Fogelman is pictured a few weeks after the attack. She spent about a month recovering at a rehabilitation centre. (Submitted by Debbie Rona)

According to a police report, when Fogelman was picked up at her home, a woman was in the front passenger seat and the man who later attacked Fogelman was in the back.

The Quebec senior says minutes into the drive, the man got violent.

“He started hitting me. Punching me,” she recalled.

“The blood started coming out from my nose. I didn’t know what to do.”

In an internal STM report provided to Go Public by Fogelman’s daughter, the driver writes, “the two hadn’t even spoken to each other before this happened. The young man had been writing quietly on a piece of paper, when he suddenly hit the client seated to his right, without any apparent reason.”

Go Public was unable to reach the taxi driver for further comment.

‘Black and blue’

When officers arrived, they found the male passenger still sitting in the back of the cab doing a crossword puzzle, seemingly unaware of what he’d done. Montreal police spokesperson Insp. André Durocher told Go Public the man has an intellectual disability and won’t be charged.

Debbie Rona, Fogelman’s daughter, wants to know why her mother was placed in a vehicle with the a man known to be aggressive. (Louis-Marie Philidor/CBC)

Fogelman was taken to hospital by ambulance. 

“She had a broken nose. Lacerations on her face… Black and blue,” said daughter Debbie Rona, who flew from British Columbia to be by her mother’s side after the attack.

“I feel angry. I feel shocked,” Rona told Go Public. “I look at my mother and she’s so mentally aware, but there’s physical vulnerability there. Why was he even in the taxi? Why would the taxi driver have sat my mother next to him and closed the door and started driving?”

Service ‘won’t acknowledge’ risk

Go Public spoke with another cab driver for STM who said violent incidents are rare, but believes the transit company needs to do a better job of preparing drivers for when they do happen. Driver training doesn’t include how to deal with violent or aggressive passengers.

The man asked not to be identified, concerned he could lose his job for speaking out.

“According to the STM, they are not transporting people who are violent — is it 100 per cent true? Definitely not,” the driver said.

STM spokesperson Philippe Déry said in an email to Go Public, “we can assure you that at the time of the incident, nothing led us to believe that the customer was in danger by being paired with the other customer.”

Déry said the service pairs customers according to the space available and where they are travelling. Go Public asked why a 92-year-old woman would be put into the same vehicle as someone the driver felt he had to issue a warning about.

“The driver simply wanted to ensure a smooth trip,” Déry wrote in response.

“Some customers may be tempted to socialize with others who may exhibit disorganized behaviour in certain situations. Most of our drivers frequently do this simply as a preventative measure.”

STM wasn’t able to tell Go Public how many violent incidents have been reported, saying it doesn’t track them, but Déry says they are “very rare.”

2nd brush with violence for family

Fogelman’s husband was the subject of this newspaper clipping from 1986. A beating by a stranger led to his death. (Submitted by Debbie Rona)

In an unusual coincidence, Fogelman’s husband, Léon Besnos, died not long after being beaten by a stranger in 1986.

According to news reports at the time, Besnos was beaten by a stranger after his car hit a puddle and splashed a couple. The man opened Besnos’s car door and began to beat him. When Besnos drove off, he suffered a heart attack and collided with two vehicles. The 63-year-old died shortly after arriving at hospital.

“After what happened to my dad, I became sick…. When I found out about my mother … I feel vulnerable,” Rona said.

‘Saddened’ but not ‘shocked’

Passengers’ vulnerabilities should be part of the planning process for public transportation services, said Watts, chief public policy officer for CARP, an organization that advocates for older Canadians. She said a frail 92-year-old should never have been put in a vehicle with someone who posed even a possible risk, calling the attack on Fogelman “unacceptable.”

“I was saddened, but I wasn’t especially shocked,” she said.

Laura Tamblyn Watts, an advocate for older Canadians, calls the attack on Fogelman a ‘failure of the entire system.’ (Tina MacKenzie/CBC)

She says these kinds of transportation services, which exist in all major cities, often make decisions based on cost — how many people fit into a vehicle or where they’re going — instead of planning rides according to a passengers’ needs or vulnerabilities.

“It’s not about dollars. It’s about making sure that people get the care they need and that they’re safe while doing it. Drivers and passengers alike.”

Watts believes the transportation service in Fogelman’s case also failed the driver who had to deal with the attack, as well as the man with the developmental disability by putting him in a situation where he could harm others.

Patchwork system of protections

Go Public contacted public transit services in several other municipalities, asking about policies regarding potentially aggressive passengers.

Fogelman spoke with Go Public about a month after she was attacked. She said she still wasn’t feeling the same as before she was beaten. (Louis-Marie Philidor/CBC)

Some jurisdictions, including Montreal and Vancouver, require a form be completed by a health-care or educational professional, outlining the nature of a person’s disability.

Other jurisdictions — such as Winnipeg — go further, requiring an in-person assessment before a client is accepted into a program.

STM told Go Public that during the admission process, it sometimes contacts a health-care professional to see if behavioural problems could be an issue with certain customers.

Fogelman spent a month in a rehabilitation centre after being beaten. It’s now two months after the attack and she says she’s still not healing.

“I’m still not feeling strong … it’s in my mind. You know, what I went through … I’m thinking, why did it happen? You know. It shouldn’t have happened.”

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Canadian Tech Calling: Moon and Mars and Mobile Phones





Canadian technological know-how is helping develop reliable mobile communications for next-generation space missions, including manned missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

With many eyes here on Earth now focused on Mars, following the successful journey of ‘Percy’, the roving space exploration vehicle more formally known as Perseverance that is now cruising the Martian landscape, the continued role of Canadian researchers and technologists in space exploration has also drawn more attention.

A team of researchers at Simon Fraser University is working to make LTE/4G and Wi-Fi communications systems on the Moon a reality, along with others in the U.S. and Canada, under the umbrella of the Artemis Program at NASA.

That project will see the return of human beings to the Moon by 2024, and then to the surface of Mars after that.

As part of those efforts, NASA selected Nokia Bell Labs to build a test network and communications infrastructure to build interoperability standards among future cellular and Wi-Fi networks, so that all types of devices can be connected and support Artemis.

The network must provide critical communication capabilities for many different data transmission applications, including command and control functions; real-time navigation and remote control of surface rovers; as well as the streaming of high definition video, applications that are all vital to long-term human presence on a lunar or planetary surface.

“It sounds like far-out stuff, building networks on the Moon, Mars and even further out in our solar system,” says Stephen Braham, the director of the PolyLAB for Advanced Collaborative Networking at SFU. “But we’re actually testing Nokia’s technology right now.”

SFU’s PolyLAB for Advanced Collaborative Networking is doing some of that work at its Exploration Wireless Communications testbed at Vancouver’s Harbour Centre, in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

“(This is) what will allow us to build the ladder of technology standards needed to get cellular networks off Earth and into the solar system,” Braham said in a statement.

NASA and the CSA handed that critical testing to Braham and the scientists at PolyLAB, the Canadian component of what’s called the Exploration Wireless Communications (ExWC).

“Before space agencies can adopt these technologies, we need to prove we can operate between multiple vendors and different agencies, which is why NASA and CSA supports the ExWC testbed,” he continued.

The ExWC testbed launched back in 2018, testing high-speed wireless communications systems for space use, including 5G-forward LTE solutions and advanced Wi-Fi.

The SFU radio transmission systems, in the lab and on masts in the mountains in B.C. and the Yukon, are tested with various vendors and leading telecom providers, such including Vancouver-based Star Solutions and Sierra Wireless, another local company, as well as international telecommunications firms like Nokia.

Braham and associate professor Peter Anderson, who directs the SFU Telematics Research Laboratory that includes PolyLAB, both have extensive track records working on communication systems for NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

It includes extensive research on very early cellular and Wi-Fi networks in the Canadian High Arctic, where advanced field communications systems were set up to support the SETI Institute and Mars Institute-lead NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) up on Devon Island. 

That’s where Braham and his team tested the technology (developed in Canada) that became a big part of modern Wi-Fi, LTE, and now 5G technology, in order to meet up-front needs on human lunar missions if not all manned space flights.

From those early beginnings, the SFU team has now worked with other collaborators for the ongoing design and development of Canada’s prototype lunar/Mars surface communication networking systems, specifically the ExoMars rover, including Canadian space technology company MDA and the Canadian Communications Research Centre.

Braham is also an Associate Member on the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS), supporting CSA during discussions and development of international standards for computing, networking, and communications in space. He also worked for many years as a member of the CSA’s nine-member Space Exploration Advisory Committee (SEAC), providing community leadership and representation in aspects of human space exploration in Canada.

But, when space agency officials announced recently that a Canadian will be aboard when NASA returns to the Moon in 2023, well, Braham was not named as that astronaut.

Nevertheless, with his and his team’s help, that astronaut will make Canada the second country in history to have someone travel into deep space and fly around the Moon.

And maybe use a mobile phone to call us and tell us all about it.

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Canadian Consumer Coalition Calls for Affordable Internet on National Day of Action





Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 16, a national day of action will be staged by Canadian consumer advocates, social justice groups, telecom policy experts, digital activists, and independent ISPs, or Internet Service Providers.

In a series of scheduled virtual events, there will be calls for the federal government and telecom regulators to take action and ensure affordable Internet and wireless services are available to all Canadians.

The free online event is open to the public, and planners and scheduled participants in the Day of Action for Affordable Internet hope consumers themselves will them in urging a range of actions be taken by the federal government, the CRTC and the country’s Competition Bureau.

Advocating for a more affordable Internet will be: ACORN Canada; Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship; activist and author Cory Doctorow; Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law Michael Geist; The Internet Society Canada Chapter; OpenMedia; Public Interest Advocacy Centre; Ryerson Leadership Lab; Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic; and TekSavvy Solutions.

And while a lack of competition has long been cited as a reason for high prices in Canada, the fact that a majority of subscribers stick with the ‘Big Three’ is also a stumbling block to leveling the playing field, at  least price-wise.

Canada’s Competitive Network Operators, a trade organization made up of Internet and telecommunications service providers that own/operate telecommunications networks across the country, is also fighting for a fair Internet pricing and accessibility structure.

Pandemic Pressures

Affordable Internet activists point out that, throughout the current COVID-19 crisis, reliable and affordable connectivity became even more essential. So did many things, in fact: many we had never deemed as so important, relevant or even as noteworthy as high speed Internet.

“The affordability and accessibility of the [I]nternet has never been more critical,” says Franca Palazzo, one of the event participants and the executive director of the Internet Society, Canada Chapter. “More than ever, we are being asked to work, learn and connect online.”

While it is true that many of our fellow Canadians are struggling to make ends meet during this pandemic, and they struggle, the coalition says, to pay some of the highest telecom bills in the world (while others can’t even get high-quality reliable connections), it is also true that many of us are using our high-speed connections more than ever with no increase in cost or decrease in service as a result of our pandemic-related stay-at-home, work-at-home or school-at-home activities.

The big three providers in Canada – Bell, Rogers and Telus – are among those companies that lifted data caps on cable and fibre-based residential Internet services; it’s a corporate goodwill gesture made as a result of pandemic and public pressures. The caps have been lifted until the end of June, where and when possible. (The Liberal government has directed the country’s largest telecom providers to cut specific cellphone prices in general.)

Not everyone is eligible for the pandemic discounts, however: some folks still using cellular (where, for example, high speed networking is not available) for their Internet connections are unable to get discounts because, the telecoms say, bandwidth and capacity would be threatened if caps were removed from cellular service.

“The digital divide in Canada is sometimes portrayed as exclusively a rural-urban divide,” says Sam Andrey, the director of policy and research at Ryerson Leadership Lab, where research and analysis into Internet usage is conducted. “But even in Canada’s largest cities, there are persistent gaps in access to digital services, devices and affordable [I]nternet at sufficient speeds that map onto other socioeconomic inequities, including income, age, race and ability,” he adds.

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Brim Financial Raises $25M Series B to transform the way people bank and shop





TORONTO, March 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ – Brim Financial (Brim), a Canadian next-generation Fintech company and certified credit card issuer, today announced the close of a $25M Series B, co-led by Desjardins Group and US-based EPIC Ventures with strong participation from Canadian and US based investors including goeasy Ltd., White Owl and Impression Ventures.

Brim’s state-of-the-art technology stack and credit cards infrastructure leverages the company’s ability to directly access the payment rails as an issuer, enabling Brim to deliver a fundamentally transformative ecosystem of financial products for consumers and businesses.

The Series B financing will bolster Brim’s Platform as a Service (PaaS). Brim’s B2B2C strategy enables any bank, credit union, fintech or large commercial partner to seamlessly roll out Brim’s financial products platform, credit cards and integrated buy-now pay-later solutions, mobile and digital banking, and behavior-driven customer engagement, all embedded with a best-in-class globally open loyalty and rewards ecosystem available in real-time at all merchants worldwide. With Brim’s Platform as a Service, partners have the ability to customize every element of the platform and leverage Brim’s end-to-end services, on a modular and turnkey basis.

Our technology stack powers banking, loyalty and integrated e-commerce on a single platform, with the customer experience at the center of it all” said Rasha Katabi, CEO and Founder of Brim Financial. “Today’s digital environment has brought a new sense of urgency for institutions to assess how they will interact with their customers. We are well positioned to be at the forefront of this transformation that’s shaping the way we live, connect and engage for decades to come, and we’re excited to be working with investors who share the same vision.”

Brim has expanded beyond the direct-to-consumer space enabling large partners to leverage their digital first platform, suite of credit cards and financial products, and a globally open rewards and e-commerce ecosystem. Brim seamlessly integrates buy-now pay-later capabilities in all of its revolving consumer and business credit card products, providing ultimate flexibility for customers with a uniquely and strongly differentiated ecosystem.

“We’re thrilled to be part of Brim’s next chapter. There is tremendous potential in the industry, both in Canada and in the US, and Brim is uniquely positioned to deliver a significant and much needed transformation.” said Ryan Hemingway, Managing Director at EPIC Ventures. “Brim is combining banking and commerce like we haven’t seen in North America.”

Merged with its scalable technology platform, Brim has the largest open loyalty and rewards ecosystem as Brim’s technology stack directly leverages the global payment network. Brim’s Loyalty and Rewards are live at all points of sale globally, both in physical stores and online.  Any merchant can be live and part of the ecosystem in less than 3 minutes.

“Brim’s platform delivers industry-leading payments technology to their customers at an astonishing pace,” Martin Brunelle, Vice-President, Growth, Acquisitions and Development at Desjardins Group.  “Desjardins has earmarked $100 M to invest in technology companies and investment funds who can support our different business units in their digital transformation needs.  We’re very excited to be partnering with Brim.”

With its platform built entirely from the ground up and directly on the global payment network, Brim is positioned to transform the future of the credit card industry and digital banking products with the world’s largest open loyalty and rewards ecosystem. Brim has notably on-boarded hundreds of merchants to its rewards ecosystem since its launch, and rapid expansion will continue to be a key focus for the company going forward.

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