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12 of the week’s best long reads from the Star, May 21 to May 27, 2022

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From luxury mansions and suspicious money transfers to the deportation of a man who’s lived in Canada for 25 years, we’ve selected some of the best long reads of the week on thestar.com.

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1. After 25 years in Canada, this Toronto man is being deported to Bangladesh this week — and separated from his son and grandkids

When Mohammad Mahfuz Alam fled Bangladesh and a repressive regime in 1996 to seek political asylum in Canada, he had to leave his family behind.

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It was his hope that, one day, his wife and two children would join him here.

Though his refugee claim was later refused, he would end up spending the past quarter of a century in this country. He has worked hard to make sure his son and daughter had a good education back home and even bought a modest home in Toronto to which they might someday come.

His son, Shahed, a university graduate, arrived in Canada in 2015 as a skilled immigrant and reunited with his father at last.

But as he starts to watch his son raise his own family in Canada, Alam is finally facing his long-delayed deportation this Friday.

2. Luxury mansions. Millions in suspicious bank transfers. And concern that a Chinese businessman accused of bribery helped froth Canada’s housing market

Before moving from China to Canada in 2006, Runkai Chen told immigration officials that he made at most $41,000 a year. His wife, he said, was employed as a clerk.

Despite their modest incomes, a series of money transfers poured $114 million into the Chen family’s Canadian bank accounts a few years later.

Chen is now wanted for arrest by the Chinese government on charges of bribery for his alleged role in a major corruption scandal involving a senior military official.

He’s fighting to stay in Canada, where his family has two mansions in Vancouver overlooking the Pacific.

He is the owner of a Tudor-style home with mountain and ocean views he purchased in 2016 for $15.6 million. It sits a few doors down from another mansion his daughter bought in 2012 for about $14 million when she was 25. She did so without a mortgage and while listing her occupation as “student.”

Until now, Chen has been unknown to the public and referred to only as “Person A” in a case study by a British Columbia commission tasked with examining overseas money laundering in the province and its links to surging property prices.

3. John Derringer’s co-hosts allege abusive behaviour behind the scenes at Q107

Former co-hosts of Toronto Q107 morning man John Derringer are accusing him of workplace harassment and alleging that station owner Corus Entertainment allowed the behaviour to remain unchecked for years.

On social media, and in interviews with the Star, four former co-hosts have described a pattern of belligerent, abusive behaviour, with Derringer flying into a rage during commercial breaks or in front of as many as 20 staffers, dressing down female co-hosts and colleagues at the popular station. The former co-hosts said they complained to station managers and HR personnel to no avail.

One long-time co-host at the classic rock morning show, Maureen Holloway, said Corus management convinced people to endure this behaviour by paying what staff secretly referred to as “Derringer money” — raises and bonuses so they kept quiet and stayed.

Effective Tuesday morning, Corus Entertainment has taken Derringer and his show — Derringer in the Morning — off the air pending an investigation.

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4. Airport delays here to stay for the long-term, union says

What do you get when you cross a labour shortage with a severe thunderstorm and pent-up travel demand over a May long weekend?

At Toronto Pearson Airport, at least, it could be a long wait or even a cancelled flight. And though the thunderstorm may be over, air travellers may be in for more such delays in the coming months.

That’s what happened to many travellers over the Victoria Day long weekend. Photos and videos posted to social media show airport halls filled with masked travellers, baggage carousels surrounded and piled high with suitcases, and long, snaking lines.

While some travellers were more fortunate — posting photos of almost-empty airports — it’s clear that the chaos at airports isn’t going away as the summer months draw nearer. Catherine Cosgrove of Teamsters Canada, which represents around 1,000 GardaWorld screening workers across the country, said airport delays are here to stay for the long-term due to a shortage of workers in airport security.

“We envisage continued delays through the summer, fall and even through to next Christmas,” she said in an emailed statement.

5. Booming tourism has made Prince Edward County a go-to destination — except for the people who live and work there

After more than two years of working for a grocery chain in Toronto, Joel Levy was looking for employment that would put him back in a kitchen and reignite his passion for baking.

He found a dream job at the new Royal Hotel in Picton, Ont., where his skill as a bread baker is helping cement the hotel’s gastronomic pedigree in an area that has become a foodie mecca.

“I grew up in a small town and I wanted to go back to a small town — a slower lifestyle, more relaxed, less hustle and bustle, friendlier,” he said. “That’s what I was looking for.”

But even before he took the job, Levy recognized that finding a place to rent for himself and his beloved dog, George, would be a challenge in Prince Edward County.

The county’s tourism business has been a wild success. In just over a decade it’s become the go-to resort area for GTA visitors eager to sample local wines, craft breweries and farm-to-table cuisine while relaxing in one of about 600 short-term rentals and a growing number of boutique hotels.

Along with the urban élan, though, Prince Edward County has imported one of Toronto’s most pernicious problems — a housing shortage that hits particularly hard at the workers needed to convey the local produce from field to plate with a hospitable smile.

6. How a Toronto comedian made $205,000 investing in crypto – then lost it all while Coinbase shut him out

Like most people when they first invest in cryptocurrency, Shane Rochman thought bitcoin was the future. The economies of the world could collapse next week, he once proclaimed, but his digital coin collection would emerge unscathed.

Unless, of course, it was stolen first.

Rochman’s saga began in 2018. The 33-year-old was starting a new business: a series of Toronto food tours led by standup comics (himself included). He had recently married, and his wife was pregnant with their first son, Avery.

Rochman needed to plan ahead. He wanted a home and an education fund for his son. He opened a few savings accounts and invested about $12,000 in a diverse portfolio of stocks and bonds.

But his collage of side-hustles weren’t quite paying the bills, and Rochman often found himself pulling money out of his savings. That’s when a friend told him about cryptocurrency — “the next big thing.”

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7. Watching Doug Ford up close on the campaign trail, I saw a changed man in changed times

This isn’t the Doug Ford campaign you usually see, writes Star political columnist Martin Regg Cohn.

Today there are no boastful backdrops or choreographed photo ops showcasing his legacy as Progressive Conservative leader. No TV cameras transmitting his musings live, nor media hordes to harangue him in real time.

No teleprompter to read from.

Just Ford, unscripted — and me.

But not unguarded. Bodyguards shadow us at every step, and Ford never truly lets his guard down — though he comes as close to candour, up close, as I’ve heard him during his past four years as premier.

8. Special devices, black market tech and guns: The tools behind the GTA’s car-theft crime wave

Nishan Ahluwalia woke up on a January morning to a shock. His new Range Rover was gone from the driveway of his Brampton home.

To his surprise, the thieves had somehow evaded detection, bypassing the motion-sensor security cameras watching the driveway — leaving no sign that the luxury SUV had ever been there before it was stolen around 1:30 a.m., while Ahluwalia, a realtor, was working in the basement.

The last trace of the vehicle was recorded in the Range Rover App. It led Ahluwalia and police to a nearby truck yard — but his vehicle was gone.

“We couldn’t find any conclusion about what really happened,” he told the Star, only able to guess that the thieves had somehow intercepted the signal from his car’s key fob.

“I left the key in the kitchen which is not far from my garage and, I guess, they picked up the signal, programmed it and just drove it off.”

9. ‘I put my neck on the line’: Toronto doctor vaccinated hundreds of kids under 5 ‘off label’

A Toronto physician has vaccinated hundreds of children under five — some as young as six months old — against COVID-19, despite the vaccine not being authorized by Health Canada for this age group.

The Star has learned public health officials stepped in after they discovered Dr. Christopher Sun, a family doctor in Weston-Mount Dennis, was giving COVID vaccines to ineligible children.

In a conversation with the Star, Sun said he gave the COVID vaccine to about 500 kids between the ages of six months and five years during a three-month span, a decision he said he made “to protect children.”

Sun, who believes he was “one of the only people in Ontario” vaccinating children under five, said he felt compelled to give the COVID vaccine “off label” to this age group after some parents started to ask for the shot in late December. They told him they wanted to protect their families during the Omicron wave.

“I put my neck on the line and did what I wanted to get done, which was to protect children,” he said in an interview. Health Canada has not approved any COVID vaccines for children under five.

10. Doug Ford is spending billions to expand nursing home chains with some of the worst COVID-19 death rates

Nursing home chains with some of the highest COVID-19 death rates are set to reap big financial rewards under the Ford government’s $6.4-billion expansion of the province’s long-term-care system.

According to records obtained by the Star, more than half of the approximately 60,000 new and redeveloped beds in the government’s plan are set to go to private, for-profit companies — many of which had far higher death rates than non-profit and city-run chains.

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Non-profit nursing homes are set to receive just over 30 per cent of the total beds. Municipal chains, which reported by far the lowest death rates during the pandemic, will receive just six per cent.

The end result is billions of dollars in taxpayer money going to the very model of elderly care that failed during the pandemic — resulting in nearly 4,400 resident deaths — locking it in for decades.

“We’ve just been through the worst mass tragedy in long-term care in a generation and those operators who were the worst, who were responsible for the most deaths, they’re now getting the most funding. I’m outraged,” said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, which represents more than 400 seniors’ groups, patient organizations and unions across the province.

11. Homeless and in high school: How a unique shelter is helping Toronto teens beat the odds and stay in school

Just as the sun cracks above the horizon, 17-year-old Amna begins her trek to school.

She boards a TTC bus in North Etobicoke, the first of three. If transit moves seamlessly, the route takes about an hour and a half. It’s usually closer to two hours — a reality that prompted her guidance counsellor to ask for understanding from her teachers if she hustles in late.

Amna doesn’t go to school every day. That was another negotiation. She makes the commute to the Brampton high school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, squeezing in presentations and the warmth of her friends’ laughter.

“Being in that environment just lifts you up,” she says.

The other days, she studies online, logging on from her home of nearly a year — a Toronto shelter for homeless youth between 16 and 24, which has a program aimed at keeping those in high school and post-secondary school on track to graduate.

12. Stocks surged to new heights during the pandemic — now they’re crashing fast. Are we in trouble?

For much of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian investors lived by a simple, stress-free maxim: stocks go up.

Even as a viral illness infected millions and swallowed economies whole, the stock market soared, slicing through the upheaval and delivering double-digit returns that padded investors’ portfolios.

The biggest corporate winners of this time reflected our rewired lives. While we binge-watched “Tiger King,” Netflix stock jumped 108 per cent. As we forgot to unmute ourselves in meetings, Zoom shares leapt 422 per cent. In 2021, when the outside world finally looked inviting again, Home Depot stock grew 54 per cent.

Soon enough, bubbles began surfacing everywhere. A rush of new stock traders, enticed by easy-access trading apps like Wealthsimple, played the market like it was Candy Crush. Companies without obvious business prospects — the “meme stocks” à la GameStop, AMC Theatres and BlackBerry — saw their shares surge as bored investors bought them for laughs.

Now those investors are reckoning with a downturn.

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