My Top Story of 2018

In a nation with an endless supply of high octane news, political drama, and White House turmoil, there are plenty of stories that stood out for me in 2018  – but I’d like to share one in particular that I often think about:

Back in early November, we were on assignment in the small town of Dawson, Georgia, as part of our mid-term election coverage.  The State’s Governor’s race was getting particularly nasty with racist robocalls  and explosive accusations of voter suppression.

It’s an especially sensitive issue in a state where the painful struggle for civil rights still lingers. As we travelled around, I could sense growing fears among African-Americans—not just in Dawson, but across Georgia—that history was repeating itself.

Tamika Williams was one of more than 50,000 voters who mysteriously vanished from voter rolls.  She told us she had been living in the same home in Dawson for more than 6 years and registered to vote in every election without incident – until this year.

She told us when she went to the advance polls, she was told her name was not on the list and was denied her right to cast a ballot.  She says she was given no explanation and instructed to fill out several forms and then mail it in to get her name restored – a lengthy process that probably wouldn’t be resolved until well after Election Day.

We later met up with Reverend Ezekiel Holly. The civil rights pioneer, now in his late 70s, said he returned to his activist roots to ensure eligible voters in the town could exercise their right he helped fight for back in the 1960s.


He brought us to the local NAACP office, where old newspaper clippings from that turbulent era were posted on the wall.  Stories about racially-motivated church burnings were beside vintage campaign posters warning against equal voting rights. It was a sobering reminder about racial tensions in America.

Down the road, a pastor at a small Baptist Church held a get-out-the-vote rally, reminding the congregation how many of their relatives risked their lives for civil rights and it was their responsibility to uphold that right:

In the final weekend before election day, President Trump held a last minute rally in nearby Macon, GA for Republican Brian Kemp. We had a prime spot for this.

In the end, Kemp won the election; Abrams says she will seek political office once again.

But the most meaningful update for me was from Tamika Williams.  After being turned away from advance polls and feeling discouraged, she sent me this photo with her smiling and with a sticker on her shirt – confirming that she voted on Election Day.

tamika williams

Overdue Update!

I’m feeling guilty for not updating this site in almost 4 years! So much has happened.

Perhaps the most important update is that I moved from the Canadian capital in Ottawa, Ontario, to the chaos in Washington, DC as a foreign corespondent with CTV National News.  I arrived here in 2016 just in time to cover its historic election, and it’s been the most incredible assignment of my career:


Trump Rally in Tampa Florida/Oct 2016

There’s no shortage of opinion/analysis on Trump’s presidency so I won’t bore you with mine.  But one thing I promised myself the night he won is that I would brush up on my NAFTA file ahead of messy trade talks. So let’s focus on that story:


The bromance between President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared to start off well, but soured quickly. Trump called Trudeau “weak” and White House advisors didn’t respect Trudeau’s globalist world view.

When Trump escalated threats to scrap NAFTA entirely, it triggered a frantic  scramble behind-the-scenes to salvage talks – which included an intervention directly from the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Here’s a yarn I broke during those tense times:

Behind the scenes: Why Trump changed his mind on NAFTA

We covered almost every NAFTA round including high stakes talks in Mexico City.  Top sources often complained that Americans were getting frustrated by Canadian negotiators who warned of “red lines” on various proposals, but refused to provide counter-proposals.  Canadians, meantime, would spin that Americans were being “unreasonable” and often questioned how a nationalist government could negotiate a free trade deal in good faith

Throughout,  I kept hearing Canada’s refusal to crack open its protected dairy market was a “deal breaker” for Americans more than auto and intellectual property.

When the deal was eventually finalized, I had a chance to ask President Trump that question directly in the Rose Garden.  Watch his response here:

Of course, I have several more stories I’ll share with you eventually  But this one stands out because it connected my Canadian expertise with my American experience.

Crisis in the Canadian Forces


It’s been heartbreaking to report on the tragic suicides of 7 Canadian soldiers in as many weeks.  Many of them were young with new families, like  28 year old Cpl. Camilo Sanhueza-Martinez, a reservist belonging to The Princess of Wales’ Own Regiment based in Kingston, Ont., who was discovered in his apartment last week. 


The body of Cpl. Martinez, who served in Afghanistan in 2010, was found in his apartment in Kingston, Ontario (CTV News Photo)

The military told me Martinez had no medical history of mental illness, or PTSD. But health experts say the symptoms of mental illness can take years to fester, and the smallest thing can trigger thoughts and feelings that lead to tragedy.


Cpl. Leona MacEchern drove into an oncoming semitrailer after leaving a note to her family. (CTV Photo)

For Cpl. Leona MacEchern, it seemed the stress of dealing with her treatment resulted in a horrific “final desperate act”.  Her husband tells me she purposely drove into into an oncoming semi-truck on Christmas Day.

He says his wife – a 20 year veteran of the service – had been battling Veterans Affairs over benefits stemming from dental work going back decades.  You can read his full statement here.

Ever since I first reported on the rash of suicides in the military in November, I’ve been flooded with emails and calls from veterans and/or soldiers who’ve been dealing with the aftermath of war. But this email stands out:

“After reading your report about suicide and mental health in the military, the article about Corporal Leona MacEachern, and her family’s statement, I am hoping that you can pass along my deepest sympathies to the MacEachern family. I wish I could have known her so that I could give her a hug, tell her that I know what she is going through because I have also been through that hell, and tell her that it does get better.

A year ago about this time of year, I was commuting an hour each way on the highway.  I would drive to work and think about crossing over in to the path of a semi.  The only thing that stopped me was wondering if it would be a ‘successful suicide’ or not.

I am the mother of four children and married to a Canadian soldier. Like Corporal MacEachern, I also thought that ending my life would help my family.  They would receive a large life insurance payment and not have to put up with me anymore.

I sought help through my work’s Employee Assistance Program, but the counsellors they put me in touch with were not helpful at all.  One counsellor said that she thought I had ADD.  I told her that even if that was the case, I did not want to live anymore, so what did it matter?

I remember walking my son in his stroller, thankful that it was raining so that no one would see my cry, knowing that I was not going to make it.  I did not know why I was so sad. I was angry and frustrated with myself for feeling this way and the help I sought through EAP and the Community for Mental Health was not helping. Finally I called two psychologists.  One called me back.  The other didn’t.  He said that he had many patients and there was a waiting list but he could see me in a few months.

I took a deep breath and said that I wouldn’t last that long.

Fortunately for me he agreed to see me that Friday.  It was three days.  I agreed to wait three days.  The days were unbearable, just like every other day, but I made it.  That was June 15th, 2013. I have been seeing him on a weekly basis ever since and working on the issues that eventually led me to a deep and dark pit of despair. My recovery from my major depressive episode has been a long and painful process, but I am feeling much better and expect to return to work soon.

I would like to help other people, like Corporal Leona MacEachern, that are struggling.”

The Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program has a confidential 24/7 toll-free telephone advisory and referral service for all military personnel and their families: 1-800-268-7708.