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Calgary anaesthesiologist suspended until drugging and rape allegations dealt with in court

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A Calgary anaesthesiologist who continued to work after he was accused of drugging and raping a woman has been ordered to surrender his practising permit, after CBC News contacted the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA).

Dr. Barry Wollach faces a charge of sexual assault. He first appeared in court last week and a trial date has not yet been set.

“The CPSA does not feel it is appropriate for Dr. Wollach to continue practising medicine, given the seriousness of the allegations against him,” reads a press release sent out six hours after CBC News asked why Wollach was allowed to continue his work.

The association says if Wollach does not agree to stop working, pending the resolution of his criminal charges, it will suspend the doctor in the interest of public safety, which can be done under the Health Professions Act.

CBC News learned of the details of the alleged rape through court documents, including the search warrant application, also known as an ITO (information to obtain). None of the details contained in the ITO have been proven in court. 

“Dr. Wollach absolutely denies the allegations made against him and we will vigorously defend this charge,” said defence lawyer Balfour Der.

The dinner date

The 59-year-old doctor works in both Calgary and Lethbridge, administering sedatives to nervous, anxious and special needs dental patients.

In November 2016, Wollach met a woman on dating app Bumble. A publication ban protects the identity of Wollach’s alleged victim. CBC News will call her Leah.

Dr. Barry Wollach, 59, faces a charge of sexual assault. (Facebook)

After messaging back and forth for a few days, Wollach and Leah agreed to go on a dinner date on Nov. 4, 2016.

The two met at Ox and Angela restaurant on 17th Avenue S.W. in Calgary. During dinner he told Leah he gives his patients drugs to relax.

Leah began to feel woozy during the dinner date, according to her initial statement to police.

At the end of the date, Leah stood up to say goodbye, but said she felt “very unusual.” Wollach told her she was a bit wobbly so he walked her to his home just a couple of blocks away, according to the ITO. 

Leah told the officer Wollach said to her “sometimes he would get in trouble with girls and it would cost him money.”

The alleged rape

At Wollach’s townhouse, Leah used the washroom and when she came out she says Wollach began to take her clothes off and fondle her on the sofa.

He took her to his bedroom where she says he removed his clothes and hers. Leah told the detective she put her clothes back on but he took them off a second time.

At that point, Leah said she was unable to communicate and felt as though she was underwater. She wrapped herself in a bedsheet, according to her statement.

She says Wollach then put a condom on and raped her. Afterward, Leah told police he asked her if she had sex while “high, stoned or on medication.”

Leah tried to get dressed but instead, she said Wollach brought her to his bathroom, placed her in the shower and scrubbed her with soap.

Drug found in hair sample

He then drove her to an intersection near her house where she got out of his car. Hours later, Leah went to an urgent care clinic for a rape kit.

Eventually, when Leah was ready to pursue a police investigation, samples collected during the rape kit came back without DNA evidence connected to Wollach.

Investigators then sent a sample of her hair to a lab in Paris. Months later, the lab results showed diphenhydramine had been in Leah’s system around the time of the alleged attack.

The drug is an antihistamine used to treat allergies, insomnia and Parkinson’s tremors.

Leah told police she had not taken any antihistamines around the time of the assault.

Wollach was arrested and charged in late 2018. He is currently on bail and will be back in court next month.

Prosecutor Donna Spaner who is assigned to the case said she could not comment on a matter before the courts. 

The Calgary Police Service released a statement saying it could not comment on Wollach’s case specifically but said the following: 

“The Calgary Police Service encourages anyone who has been sexually assaulted to report it, regardless of when the assault occurred. There is no time limit on how long a victim has to report a sexual assault in Canada and police can still investigate an incident decades after it occurred.

“Victims of sexual assault can report it to the police by calling the non-emergency line at 403-266-1234 or attending a district office.”

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Federal Budget 2021: Ottawa adds $1B to broadband fund for rural, remote communities

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The federal government will add $1 billion to a fund for improving high-speed communications in rural and remote areas of Canada, bringing the total to $2.75 billion by 2026, the Liberals said Monday in their first full budget since the pandemic began last year.

The money is going to the Universal Broadband Fund, which is designed to support the installation of “backbone” infrastructure that connects underserved communities to high-speed internet.

It’s one of many government and private-sector initiatives that have gained urgency since the pandemic began, as Canadians became more dependent on internet service for applications ranging from e-learning to daily business operations.

Ottawa says the additional money will keep it on track to have high-speed broadband in 98 per cent of the country by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030.

Money spent on high-speed communications will be good for a recovering economy, said Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, a non-partisan think-tank.

The latest data from Statistics Canada says there were about five million people working from home during the pandemic, up from about two million prior to that, Antunes said in an interview.

“That’s a quarter or so of the workforce,” he added. “And I think a fair number of those people are going to continue to work from home, at least in some part-time way.”

Improved connections to high-speed broadband and mobile communications will add to the productive capacity of the economy overall, especially as it reaches beyond Canada’s cities, Antunes said.

He said there’s been a “real issue” with economic growth outside major urban centres and the improved connectivity “is something that can help stimulate that.”

The Universal Broadband Fund was initially mentioned in the 2019 budget, though specifics were not available until last November’s fiscal update.

The $1-billion top-up to the broadband fund announced today is in addition to $1.75 billion promised to the fund by the federal government’s November fiscal update.

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COVID-19: What you need to know for April 19

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Provincewide

  • Per today’s government report, there are 4,447 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 421,442 since the pandemic began; 2,202 people are in hospital, 755 of them in intensive care, and 516 on ventilators. To date, 7,735 people have died.
  • According to data from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, there are 40 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 36 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 127 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 3,755 confirmed resident deaths and 11 confirmed staff deaths.
  • Per the government’s report on Ontario’s vaccination program, as of 7 p.m. yesterday, Ontario has administered 66,897 new doses of COVID-19 vaccines, for a total of 3,904,778 since December 2020. 3,212,768 people have received only one dose, and 346,005 people have received both doses.

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Federal budget 2021 highlights: Child care, recovery benefits, OAS increases – everything you need to know

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The federal government’s first budget in more than two years certainly looks the part: At 739 pages, it is a hefty document chock full of billions in new spending.

Those funds will be spread among a number of key groups – students, seniors, parents and small-business owners, to name a few – as Ottawa looks to bolster Canada’s recovery from COVID-19 but also plan for life beyond the pandemic.

To that end, the deficit is projected to hit $354.2-billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which just ended – better than expected about five months ago, given the economy’s resilience over the winter months. It is estimated to fall to $154.7-billion this fiscal year, before dropping further in the years to come as pandemic spending recedes from view.

Here are some of the highlights from Monday’s budget.

The budget outlines tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies for a national child-care program, a promise the Liberal Party has made in some form since the early 1990s. Child-care supports became a point of national debate during pandemic lockdowns as parents with young children struggled to juggle work and family responsibilities.

In total, the government proposes spending as much as $30-billion over the next five years, and $8.3-billion each year after that, to bring child-care fees down to a $10-a-day average by 2026. The proposal, which requires negotiation with the provinces and territories, would split subsidies evenly with those governments and targets a 50-per-cent reduction in average child-care fees by the end of 2022.

The federal program is largely modelled on Quebec’s subsidized child-care system, implemented in the 1990s in an effort to increase women’s access to the labour market. Since then, labour participation rates for women aged 25 to 54 in the province have grown to exceed the national average by four percentage points.

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