Former Liberal senator battling CRA over $350K tax bill

The Canada Revenue Agency is taking a recently retired Liberal-appointed senator to court to force her to answer questions and turn over documents as part of a multi-year audit of her tax returns.

The dispute centres on $1.35 million in business losses that Pana Merchant claimed but the CRA disallowed, and comes as the tax affairs of a number of prominent Liberals — including former senator Leo Kolber and the party’s chief fundraiser, Stephen Bronfmanfaced public scrutiny in recent weeks.  

Filings in Federal Court show Merchant is being audited for several tax years going back to 2012.

In February 2016, the CRA sent her a request to fill out a questionnaire and provide certain documents “concerning her financial affairs and economic relationships.”

But Merchant “refused to complete the questionnaire or provide the related documents” as required under the Income Tax Act, the CRA alleges in its court submission.

Then in July, the agency hit her with a $350,000 tax bill for the 2014 and 2015 years, the court records show.

Finally in October, the CRA applied for an order from a judge to compel her to complete the questionnaire and provide the documents it says it requested.

None of the CRA’s claims has been proven in court. Merchant — who retired in March as a senator from Saskatchewan — has until the summer to file arguments in response, but a sworn statement her tax lawyer filed in court says she is “unclear” about what the CRA is contemplating.    

In a statement to CBC through her lawyer, Merchant said, “All documents were made available for CRA examination and continue to be available for examination.”

‘Losses occur’

The court documents show Merchant is contesting the CRA’s assessments of her income for 2014 and 2015, which the tax agency calculated to be $497,787 and $574,282 respectively — well above the base senator salary of about $140,000 at the time.

Notices of objection Merchant’s lawyer sent to the tax agency argue she should be allowed to deduct the $1.35 million in business losses she claimed for those two years.

“Mrs. Merchant has business interests,” the statement provided to CBC by her lawyer said. “Losses occur. It is impossible to understand the CRA rejection of the loss, which is under appeal, but the appeal will be resolved within a few weeks and additionally your facts are not correct.” (CBC asked Merchant, through her lawyer, what facts were “not correct” but received no reply.)

Merchant’s losses appear to stem from a side business she had that lent out money. There is no detail in the court files on the nature of the loans.

Merchant was nominated to the Senate in 2002 by Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. She served as deputy whip of the Senate Liberals from last November until retiring at the end of March, a year before she would have reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.

“I am not resigning because of health. I am not resigning because of some pending problem. I am not resigning because I should spend time with my family,” she said in her final speech in the Senate.

“Fourteen years — 5,200 days — helping to bring about change…. If 50,000 days were possible, it would not be enough.

“Well, sadly, enough.”

This is not her or her family’s first brush with the Canada Revenue Agency. Merchant launched three appeals against the CRA in Tax Court in 2005 and 2006, filings show, all of which were settled before going to trial. Her husband, prominent Saskatchewan class-action lawyer Tony Merchant, has also locked horns with the agency numerous times.

Merchant, her husband and his law firm — of which she is a part-owner — are all currently suing CBC over a 2013 report about his offshore financial dealings.

Ottawa turns to U.S. tech giants too often: internal memo

Canada’s home-grown tech companies have long complained that Ottawa keeps turning to giant American firms like IBM for its information-technology needs — and an internal federal report suggests they’re right.

“There is a large concentration (almost $10 billion) across a small number of large international companies,” says the study, which examined federal IT spending for the last nine years.

“This may indicate that not enough innovation is being developed in Canada, and is not sufficiently diversified across Canadian Small and Medium Enterprises.”

“It may also indicate that our IT procurement processes favour incumbents, and don’t foster enough new entrants into the process.”

Those comments are from Alex Benay, Canada’s chief information officer, who was hired to shake up Ottawa’s troubled tech policies and procedures. 

Benay was previously with OpenText, an information-management firm based in Waterloo, Ont., rising to become vice-president in 2011. He became president of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corp., which runs three federal museums in Ottawa, in 2014 before becoming chief information officer for the federal government in April this year.

Phoenix Pay Protest

Public servants protest problems with the Phoenix pay system, which the federal government hired IBM to manage. A new pilot project has suggested Ottawa should be supporting home-grown tech companies. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

In an Aug. 14 memo, Benay reported on a pilot project that created the first government-wide database of federal procurement, billed as part of an “open government” initiative.

CBC News obtained the document under the Access to Information Act.

Ottawa’s previous proactive posting of contracts was a mess because the “use of various data sets and standards makes it virtually impossible to paint a government-wide picture of departmental spending on a vendor by vendor basis,” Benay wrote.

Disparate sets

His office hired Toronto-based ThinkData Works Inc. in late June to knit the disparate data sets together and produce reports. The results of the sole-source contract, worth $24,860, revealed the heavy use of big international firms for major IT projects, such as the wildly over-budget and dysfunctional Phoenix pay system.

Federal procurement rules do not always give contracts to the lowest bidder. A points system also takes into other factors, including track record and qualifications of staff.

The Council of Canadian Innovators, founded in 2015 and chaired by Jim Balsillie, formerly with BlackBerry, has been pressing Ottawa to steer more tech dollars to Canadian firms rather than rely on Google, Netflix, Amazon and other foreign tech giants. The council counts more than 75 CEOs of Canadian tech firms among its members.

Asked to comment on the memo, executive director Benjamin Bergen said: “Far too often, Canadians watch IT contracts get handed out to foreign multinational companies when highly qualified domestic companies here in Canada are overlooked because the current procurement process favours incumbents and doesn’t foster enough new entrants into the process.”

IT procurement could be better distributed across the country – Alex Benay, Canada’s chief information officer

“This doesn’t align with Canada’s goal of increasing its innovation outputs and helping domestic partners scale-up,” he said.

The Benay memo also noted when Ottawa does spend IT money domestically, it doesn’t spread it around. “… there is a large concentration of IT procurement in firms based in Ottawa and Toronto. … IT procurement could be better distributed across the country.”

Alex Benay Science Technology Museum

Alex Benay was appointed Canada’s new chief information officer in April, partly to get Ottawa’s IT policies and procedures back on track. (CBC)

The pilot project also revealed that Ottawa spent some $2.7 billion on IT staffing agencies, to bring in professionals on contract rather than relying on trained public servants – long a complaint of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), representing those public servants.

“This data may indicate that more investment is required in better preparing internal IT staff to address the needs of the GC [Government of Canada],” Benay said.

PIPSC president Debi Daviau welcomed the finding.

“We’ve been saying for years that more investment in internal government IT staff — our members — is required,” she said.

Technology a $6B annual cost

“Now, Canada’s CIO seems to be saying it too. We could not agree more. This work should be kept as much as possible in house, with the government’s own IT specialists.”

“We’ve seen what happens when there’s an over-reliance on external suppliers — the email system consolidation and Phoenix fiascos immediately come to mind.”

Benay said in August the federal government spends more than $6 billion annually on technology, and has about 17,000 employees in the sector.

Debi Daviau PIPSC union president

Debi Daviau, president of the PIPSC, welcomes the memo, saying her group has always pressed for better use and training of federal IT professionals, rather than bringing in consultants so frequently. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

Follow @DeanBeeby on Twitter

Kevin Rubletz guilty of second-degree murder in death of Jessica Newman

A Calgary jury has found Kevin Rubletz guilty of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of his former girlfriend Jessica Newman. 

Members of Newman’s family shed tears as the verdict was read Thursday evening in a Calgary courtroom. Rubletz showed no outward emotion. 

Newman was last seen in March 2015 and it was two months before her body was found in a rural ditch near Balzac, Alta. She was wearing a sweatshirt belonging to Rubletz’s mother and the medical examiner testified she suffered 75 stab wounds. 

Rhonda Stewart mother of Jessica Newman

Jessica Newman’s mother, Rhonda Stewart, outside the courtroom after Kevin Rubletz was convicted of second-degree murder in Newman’s death. (Elissa Carpenter/CBC)

Rubletz and Newman had a mostly loving, on-again, off-again relationship and shared a son. But when she began bettering herself — drinking less, going to the gym and dating another man — Rubletz found his “fuel for murder,” according to the Crown.

Closing statements were made by Crown and defence lawyers on Wednesday.

The former couple were due in court the day after she disappeared in 2015. They planned to alter their custody arrangement and allow Newman more access to her son.

On March 10, 2015, the day before their family court hearing for Newman to get 50 per cent custody, Rubletz picked her up from work and the two had coffee. He told police he dropped her off at home afterward.

But in a second interview, when investigators told Rubletz they would be collecting surveillance camera video from that night, he then said he had driven to Balzac to clear his head. 

University of Moncton president Raymond Théberge nominated for federal language watchdog: Radio-Canada

The president of the largest French-language university in Canada outside Quebec is the Liberal government’s nominee to be the next commissioner of official languages, Radio-Canada is reporting.

A Franco-Manitoban, Raymond Théberge has been president and vice-chancellor of the Moncton, N.B., university since 2012. Théberge previously served as a deputy minister, which is a senior non-political role, in the government of former Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty. 

The official languages commissioner is an officer of Parliament whose job it is to ensure both official languages have equal status in federal institutions, legislation and in Parliament itself. 

The reported appointment comes after the previous nominee, Madeleine Meilleur, withdrew her candidacy after it emerged that the former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister had donated to the federal Liberal Party and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he was campaigning to head up the party. 

Théberge was never a member of the Liberal Party of Canada nor did he donate to the party, Radio-Canada reported.

Before being officially appointed, a nominee must appear before a House of Commons committee, a process that could take a few weeks.

When the Trudeau government first chose Meilleur as commissioner, Francophone groups and opposition parties sharply criticized her nomination, arguing the commissioner must be independent of any political influence.

The process for nominating Meilleur was also criticized. The NDP argued the Liberals violated the Official Languages ​​Act by not consulting opposition parties before making the nomination. Meilleur eventually withdrew her name from contention.

On Thursday Trudeau told reporters in Prince Edward Island that his party made a commitment to find the right person and is consulting with the opposition parties, but has no announcement to make yet. 

Minister of Canadian Heritage, Mélanie Joly, who has not confirmed the report of Théberge’s nomination, said she recently consulted with the opposition critics on her government’s nomination. 

“The appointment process for the Commissioner of Official Languages ​​is very important,” she said in French. “We want to respect the integrity of the process. “

The Société Nationale de l’Acadie (SNA), welcomed the news saying Théberge had been nominated.

“The journey of Mr. Théberge, in Manitoba, Ontario more recently in Acadia, suggests that he has a good knowledge of French-speaking communities in Canada,” SNA President Louise Imbeault said in a French statement.

Informing vs. consulting

New Democrat Nathan Cullen said his party has received letters from the prime minister’s office informing them of two proposed appointments — one for the official languages commissioner’s job, and the second for the next federal lobbying commissioner.

However, Cullen said Trudeau’s office is once again informing the opposition parties rather than consulting with them as required.

“This is the exact same thing that they did when they appointed a language commissioner — or tried to — months ago and the whole thing blew up in their face.”

“I’m surprised, actually, because I thought they would have learned that respecting the law and respecting Parliament was important to Mr. Trudeau. That is apparently not so much the case.”

However, the government is running out of time to fill the two positions. Interim Official Languages Commissioner Ghislaine Saikaley’s mandate is scheduled to end on Dec. 16 while outgoing Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd’s mandate, which has been renewed in the past, ends on Dec. 29.

Once the government officially announces the candidates, they will have to testify before a parliamentary committee and be approved by a vote in Parliament. However, Parliament already has a busy agenda and it is only scheduled to sit for three more weeks before it rises for its six-week Christmas break.

Hammy, B.C.’s most famous deer, no longer has his hammock — but his antler is still purple

Hammy, the most famous deer in British Columbia, no longer has a purple hammock on his head.

The Prince Rupert buck made international headlines after being spotted wandering around the North Coast city with an eye-catching piece of purple fabric on his right antler.

Although the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said at the time he appeared to be doing fine, officers later worried the hammock could get tangled during rutting season  — a time when bucks like Hammy compete for does by locking antlers.

hammock removal

Hammy was tranquilized so officers could remove the hammock from his head. (Conservation Officer Service)

After Hammy managed to evade officers during an initial trip to Prince Rupert, he was successfully tranquilized on a return visit Nov. 23.

Officers monitored the deer until he came to and ate some food before Hammy wandered away, and said he appeared to be doing “great.” They also put a small amount of purple paint on his antler to replace the hammock so he could still be identified  — at least until it falls off over the winter.

The officers said it is standard practice to tag animals they’ve tranquilized, but they chose to use purple in recognition of Hammy’s fame.

Hammy now

Although the hammock is gone, a small portion of purple remains on Hammy’s antlers. (Terrace Conservation Officer Service)

International fame

“It’s been kind of a neat experience to go through,” said officer Zane Testawich. “People all over wanted to see where this story went.” 

A Facebook group titled “Chronicles of Hammy the Deer” attracted over 1,000 members and its founder, Marcédes Mack, was interviewed by outlets ranging from Reuters to the BBC.

“It’s huge,” she said. “I don’t even know where half these people are contacting me from… it’s been crazy.”

Hammy crosswalk

Hammy’s movements are tracked by devoted fans. (Kaylee Lynne Stephen)

Mack was the person who discovered Hammy tangled in a neighbour’s yard while visiting her family in Prince Rupert back in August. RCMP officers attended and cut him loose, but not before he dashed off with the now-famous fabric still tangled in his antler.

Mack said she wanted to know how the deer, which she nicknamed Hammy “for obvious reasons” was doing after she returned home, so she created the group as a way for people to share photos as they saw him around town.

His story soon exploded with residents creating Christmas decorations, Halloween costumes and t-shirts in tribute to the deer.

Hammock to be auctioned off

Mack said conservation officers said they would be sending her the hammock “since I contacted them first”, but it won’t be in her hands for long.

Hammy on a bridge

Hammy ‘strutting his stuff’ on Prince Rupert’s 6th Ave. East bridge. (Sara Jordan)

 She plans to give part of the hammock to the local museum “for historical purposes”, with the rest being auctioned off to raise funds for the Prince Rupert Wildlife Rehab Centre. Mack has also been advocating for conservation officers to be stationed in Prince Rupert, since right now they are called in from Terrace, 140 kilometers away.

She said although sharing the story of Hammy has been fun, she’s happy it appears to be winding down.

“It’s kept me so busy it’s kind of ridiculous,” she laughed. “I’m surprised it’s not my part-time job.”

Hammy t-shirt

Frances Riley of Haley Apparel created a custom T-shirt inspired by Hammy the deer. ‘He looks both noble and ridiculous,’ she said. Money from the shirt was given to the local wildlife shelter. (George Baker/CBC)

The best of Hammy

Hammy inspired a number of tributes from people in Prince Rupert, and beyond. Here are a few.

Christmas ornament

Leah Thams has created custom Christmas ornaments with proceeds going to the Prince Rupert Wildlife Rehab Centre. (Leah Thams)

Hammy Christmas ornament

A Hammy Christmas ornament created by children at a daycare in Prince Rupert. (Morgan Wilson)

Hammy Mural

Dwayne MacNeill gave a wildlife mural in Prince Rupert a touch of purple in tribute to Hammy. (Dwayne MacNeill)

Christmas cookie

Melody Halas created Hammy Christmas cookies. (Melody Halas)

Hammy - wanted

A wanted poster of Hammy was created when conservation officers announced their intention to tranquilize him and remove the hammock from his antler. (Photo: David MacKenzie Poster: Diane Gent)

Hammy decoration

Tracy Rempel repurposed some decorations for a holiday tribute to Hammy. (Tracy Rempel)

Hammy nails

Nikki Humpherville’s nails were inspired by Hammy. (Nikki Humpherville)

Hammy the dog

Shelly Samuels’ four-legged friend MJ gets into the Hammy spirit. (Shelly Samuels)

With files from George Baker.

‘It’s still not what it used to be’: Alberta economy rebounds but unemployment remains sticky

Retail sales continue to climb in Alberta while EI payouts continue to decline but the province’s unemployment rate remains notably higher than the national average.

“Right now, the Alberta economy … even though it’s rebounding, it’s still not what it used to be,” said Pedro Antunes, deputy chief economist with the Conference Board of Canada.

“It’s certainly not the kind of economy that Albertans have come to enjoy in the past decade or so.”

Data released Thursday shows retail trade in the province grew by 0.3 per cent in September, on a seasonally adjusted basis.

That’s the fourth increase in the past sixth months.

Motor vehicles helped drive the growth, Statistics Canada noted, with sales up 13.5 per cent over last year.

New car dealers, in particular, saw even stronger growth, with sales up 16 per cent compared to September 2016.

Gasoline sales were also up 10 per cent, while sales of building materials and supplies grew 9.2 per cent.

Other retail industries saw more modest growth, including electronics and appliances (5.9 per cent), food and beverage (2.1 per cent) and home furnishings (1.7 per cent).

EI payouts on the decline

Meanwhile, Statistics Canada also reported Thursday that fewer Albertans are receiving Employment Insurance benefits.

A total of 63,000 people received regular EI payments in September, down 5.2 per cent from August and 34.7 per cent from a year earlier.

EI recipients as a share of the total labour force also declined to 2.5 per cent, bringing it below the national level for the first time in nearly two years.

The lower number of EI beneficiaries does not necessarily mean more people are finding work, however.

People who remain unemployed but have simply had their EI benefits run out, for example, are included in the declining numbers.

“In general, changes in the number of beneficiaries can reflect a number of different circumstances, including people becoming beneficiaries, those going back to work, those exhausting their regular benefits, and those no longer receiving benefits for other reasons,” Statistics Canada said in a release.

Unemployment not falling as fast

Alberta’s unemployment rate has also been declining, but at a slower pace.

And at 7.8 per cent, it remains significantly above the national average of 6.2 per cent.

Antunes noted Alberta has added about 20,000 jobs so far this year but said it will take some time for employment levels to return to anything near the pre-recession levels.

“The Alberta economy is obviously still very dependent on the energy sector and, without oil prices getting back into those ranges that we might have seen in the past, I think it does mean a slower growth,” he said.

Most of the job growth in 2017 has come in the private sector, said University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe, but the jobs that are being created aren’t necessarily the same jobs that used to exist, particularly in oil and gas and related industries.

“That’s hit young men — certainly young men with lower levels of education, on average — particularly hard,” Tombe said.

“And so even though the aggregate economy may be seeing growth, that’s certainly not to deny that there’s lots of areas where people won’t be seeing it.”

Alberta to lead in GDP growth in 2017

Two reports put out this week say Alberta will lead the country in GDP growth this year but neither foresees a sudden decline in the province’s unemployment rate in the near future.

ATB Financial projects Alberta’s economy will grow by 3.9 per cent in 2017 and another 2.7 per cent in 2018, with unemployment averaging 7.3 per cent next year.

The Conference Board of Canada, meanwhile, projects Alberta’s real GDP growth this year at 6.7 per cent and 2.1 per cent in 2018, with next year’s unemployment rate hovering around eight per cent.

The GDP growth comes after two years of economic contraction in the province and, even if Alberta hits the Conference Board’s high-end projection for this year, Tombe said that still wouldn’t bring the GDP back to its 2014 level.

It would take about 7.8 per cent growth to reach that mark, he said.

He also noted that Alberta’s GDP, per person, remained the highest of all provinces even at its lowest point during the latest oil-price crash.

“We’re substantially better off than every other province, even at the bottom of our recession,” Tombe said.

Children out of cancer treatment options offered hope by new Terry Fox program

Seeing children suffering with cancer when he was being treated himself broke Terry Fox’s heart and inspired his Marathon of Hope.

Now, those efforts have fuelled a unique initiative to give kids and young adults across the country a chance to live when there are few, if any, treatment options left.

Eight-year-old Marlow Ploughman of Shannonville, Ont., has relapsed four times and is on a new drug thanks to genetic testing involving a project that brings together collaborators from over 30 pediatric cancer research and funding organizations.

The girl was diagnosed at age 2½ with late-stage rhabdomyosarcoma, or cancer of the soft tissue, such as muscle, after a vine-like tumour was found in her calf, said her mother, Tanya Boehm.

After three rounds of radiation, chemotherapy protocols and at least four clinical trials, there were no therapies left to try as the cancer spread to the girl’s neck and lungs.

‘Families like ours have hope’

A program called Terry Fox PROFYLE, short for Precision Oncology for Young People, seemed to be the only hope for Marlow, Boehm said.

PROFYLE provides precision treatment by sequencing tumour samples on a molecular level and analyzing the vast amount of information at any of three labs in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal for patients up to age 29, regardless of where in Canada they live.

Until now, such testing was not always available for young cancer patients in rural or remote areas, let alone the collaboration of scientists and researchers from across the country to guide treatment.

“It presents options and time,” Boehm said. “We were told with Marlow when the cancer came back the first time that she was going to die. … I think it’s fantastic that finally, families like ours have hope.”

Marlow’s oncologist and project leader, Dr. David Malkin of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, said the focus of the five-year project is the approximately 20 per cent of pediatric cancer patients whose disease is considered hard to treat.

Terry Fox Exhibition 20130704

Terry Fox, shown in August 1980 during his Marathon of Hope, was 18 when he was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer), and his right leg was amputated just above the knee in 1977. The scientific director of the Terry Fox Research Institute says Fox would have been a candidate for DNA sequencing treatment if it had been an option back then. (Canadian Press)

“Every pediatric centre across the country is part of PROFYLE and several of the adult centres will also be able to enrol their patients into the study. Even in the pilot phase, we have had patients from all provinces now enrolled,” Malkin said.

About 40 people are participating in the study and about half of them have had their tumours sequenced because of the partnership that has so far provided $16.4 million, including $5 million from the Terry Fox Research Institute.

“One of the reasons that PROFYLE is so important is that the cancers that occur in young people are inherently different than they are in adults,” said Malkin.

“We need to be collecting much, much more information on the sequences of childhood and young adult tumours and personalize it and make it more precise so we can work with industry and pharma and develop ways that we can get these drugs for kids.”

About 1,900 youth under age 18 are diagnosed with cancer every year in Canada, and about a third of them would be eligible for PROFYLE, he said, adding that only two other programs in the world come close to what PROFYLE offers.

“What is unique about PROFYLE is that it’s truly national.”

Terry Fox would have qualified

Patrick Sullivan, whose three-year-old son Finn died of rhabdomyosarcoma in 2008, has raised over $2 million for the BC Cancer Foundation and is on the executive committee of PROFYLE, for which he has committed another $250,000.

He said Finn, who was “introverted with a heavy streak of silly,” would have qualified for PROFYLE, but the cost of molecular sequencing and analysis was far too high in 2008.

“It not only offers hope for families, which would have been enough for me, it offers a way to integrate this type of approach for kids, adolescents and young adults and for all Canadians,” he said.

Dr. Victor Ling, scientific director of the Terry Fox Research Institute in Vancouver, said Fox, who was diagnosed at age 18 and died four years later, would have qualified for PROFYLE.

“We did not know how to do DNA sequencing in those days, we did not have the drugs that we have now.”

Darryl Fox, Terry’s brother and a senior adviser at the Terry Fox Research Institute, said Terry was passionate about meeting young cancer patients, especially during the Marathon of Hope.

“We’re bringing not only children’s hospitals and fundraisers together, but in 1980 he united a country. He brought Canadians together for a common cause and we continue to do that and this program is an example of that.”

Winnipeg woman searches for child whose heritage was hidden when she gave him up in 1979

Lynn Paul wants to fill a hole in her life that’s been there since she gave up her baby for adoption in 1979 — and fill a hole in his knowledge about himself.

Paul wants to find her son and let him know about his heritage, which was not correct on the adoption forms she filled out, following the advice of her own mother.

“I’m Indigenous. I am Cree, Ojibway and Métis, and so there’s Scottish and Welsh and all British area that are covered in my genetic background. I would like him to know that he is Indigenous.”

When she turned 53 earlier this month, Paul decided to put her name on the Manitoba Post-Adoption Registry to see if she can find her son. The registry does not facilitate reunions but it allows birth parents and adoptees to put their names on a list showing they are interested in finding family and allowing access to their records.

In 1979, Paul was 14 and pregnant.

Her parents weren’t prepared to help her raise the baby, so it was decided she should give her child up for adoption.

On July 8, 1979, she gave birth to a baby boy at the Misericordia Hospital in Winnipeg. She named him Robert Michael.

She only got to hold him for a short time.

“One of the nurses said it wasn’t advisable for me to get attached, but I wanted those moments,” Paul said.

“So I chose to spend as much time as I could with him. I fed him bottles and I looked at his little hands and his feet, and I smelled him. You know that baby smell.”

When the papers were done and taken care of, I asked her, “Why? Why Welsh?” … And she goes, “Unfortunately, people don’t want to adopt mixed-race babies”– Lynn Paul

Her mother told her to put down Welsh for her ethnicity when she was filling out the adoption paperwork.

“When the papers were done and taken care of, I asked her, ‘Why? Why Welsh?’ Like, what was Welsh? And what part did it have in my life? And she goes, ‘Unfortunately, people don’t want to adopt mixed-race babies,'” Paul said.

Paul was discharged from the hospital two days later and never saw her baby again, but she never forgot him.

“I think about this child just about every day, and he’s not a child any more, he’s a man. You know, the first Mother’s Days were very hard; his birthdays were hard,” she said.

The paperwork for the Post-Adoption registry is still going through, so Paul put the only photo she has of her son on Facebook, along with information about his birth, to see if social media might find him.

The post has been shared more than 6,000 times.

Paul said her baby’s adoptive parents were in their 30s at the time of adoption and may be in their 70s now.

“Maybe at this point in time he may have a family of his own where he’s looking for medical history,” Paul said.

“He can ask me whatever he wants.”

More from CBC Manitoba:

How coping with autism led a young man to paint — and win over dog show lovers

A Manitoba artist who began painting dogs as a way to cope with struggles associated with autism is now getting international attention for his work.

Alec Baldwin’s painting was featured at the National Dog Show held in Philadelphia last weekend. It was used on VIP passes, the cover of the program, posters and 8,000 brochures, and even on the wrapper of the show’s official chocolate bar.

“It’s amazing,” the 24-year-old from Gimli said when asked about how it feels to paint dogs, an animal he deeply loves.

Dog show program

One of Alec Baldwin’s paintings is featured on the cover of the National Dog Show program. (Kennel Club of Philadelphia)

Short on words but full on talent, Baldwin also plays guitar and piano — he is at the Grade 10 level with the Royal Conservatory of Music.

He is a dog handler who shows at competitions and is a Special Olympics athlete going to Nova Scotia next year as part of the Manitoba team.

“But above all, he has a good heart,” said Tanis Baldwin, beaming with love for her son.

“When I was at the show [in Philadelphia], I looked down at my VIP pass and it had his painting on it, and it dawned on me that everyone around here who was a VIP has his painting around their neck.

“I’m really proud of him. He’s worked really hard — he’s had to work harder than anybody because of his struggle with language.”

Alec Baldwin

At 2½ years old, Alec Baldwin was diagnosed with mild to severe autism, and his parents were told he likely wouldn’t be able to speak when he was 18. (CBC)

At 2½ years old, Baldwin was diagnosed with mild to severe autism, and his parents were told he likely wouldn’t be able to speak at 18. They were told to have a photo album of objects that he could point to in order to communicate with them.

They refused to accept that.

“We’ve worked on his weaknesses and built on his strengths,” Tanis said. “That’s the best you can do with any child.”

She took Alec out of school for a few years when he was young and got him into art, buying him a how-to-draw dogs book.

“He just took off,” Tanis said, eventually drawing every dog in the Canadian Kennel Club books and the American Kennel Club book.

Baldwin used watercolour pencils and made 200 portraits of dogs that he gave to the owners of his subjects.

Eventually, he switched to paint, and one of his pieces, a 40-by-60-inch night scene with 35 champion dogs, won best acrylic painting in the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba’s fine art show in Gimli last year.

Rottweiler

Painting dogs, like this one, has become a passion for Alec Baldwin. (CBC)

Baldwin gave it to Wayne Ferguson, president of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, which runs the National Dog Show. Ferguson phoned Baldwin to say he had it framed and hung in his home den.

He then commissioned Baldwin to do a painting for the show. The finished piece is another night scene with lanterns in the sky above the Philadelphia skyline. There are 15 previous champion dogs standing on or near a blue carpet path leading to the city.

The painting was unveiled at a special gala for VIPs, including Baldwin and his mom.

Appropriately, his work is part of an event that celebrates achievement because Baldwin has accomplished so much.

“He’s come from a place where in school they didn’t believe he would do anything, to today,” said Tanis. “He has come a long way.”

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Manitoba artist with autism gets spotlight at National Dog Show in Philadelphia

A Manitoba artist who began painting dogs as a way to cope with struggles associated with autism is now getting international attention for his work.

Alec Baldwin’s painting was featured at the National Dog Show held in Philadelphia last weekend. It was used on VIP passes, the cover of the program, posters and 8,000 brochures, and even on the wrapper of the show’s official chocolate bar.

“It’s amazing,” the 24-year-old from Gimli said when asked about how it feels to paint dogs, an animal he deeply loves.

One of Alec Baldwin’s paintings is featured on the cover of the National Dog Show program. (Kennel Club of Philadelphia)

Short on words but full on talent, Baldwin also plays guitar and piano — he is at the Grade 10 level with the Royal Conservatory of Music.

He is a dog handler who shows at competitions and is a Special Olympics athlete going to Nova Scotia next year as part of the Manitoba team.

“But above all, he has a good heart,” said Tanis Baldwin, beaming with love for her son.

“When I was at the show [in Philadelphia], I looked down at my VIP pass and it had his painting on it, and it dawned on me that everyone around here who was a VIP has his painting around their neck.

“I’m really proud of him. He’s worked really hard — he’s had to work harder than anybody because of his struggle with language.”

At 2½ years old, Alec Baldwin was diagnosed with mild to severe autism, and his parents were told he likely wouldn’t be able to speak when he was 18. (CBC)

At 2½ years old, Baldwin was diagnosed with mild to severe autism, and his parents were told he likely wouldn’t be able to speak at 18. They were told to have a photo album of objects that he could point to in order to communicate with them.

They refused to accept that.

“We’ve worked on his weaknesses and built on his strengths,” Tanis said. “That’s the best you can do with any child.”

She took Alec out of school for a few years when he was young and got him into art, buying him a how-to-draw dogs book.

“He just took off,” Tanis said, eventually drawing every dog in the Canadian Kennel Club books and the American Kennel Club book.

Baldwin used watercolour pencils and made 200 portraits of dogs that he gave to the owners of his subjects.

Eventually, he switched to paint, and one of his pieces, a 40-by-60-inch night scene with 35 champion dogs, won best acrylic painting in the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba’s fine art show in Gimli last year.

Painting dogs, like this one, has become a passion for Alec Baldwin. (CBC)

Baldwin gave it to Wayne Ferguson, president of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, which runs the National Dog Show. Ferguson phoned Baldwin to say he had it framed and hung in his home den.

He then commissioned Baldwin to do a painting for the show. The finished piece is another night scene with lanterns in the sky above the Philadelphia skyline. There are 15 previous champion dogs standing on or near a blue carpet path leading to the city.

The painting was unveiled at a special gala for VIPs, including Baldwin and his mom.

Appropriately, his work is part of an event that celebrates achievement because Baldwin has accomplished so much.

“He’s come from a place where in school they didn’t believe he would do anything, to today,” said Tanis. “He has come a long way.”

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