Saturday, November 22nd-1.9°C

Soldier dies in accident

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is offering his condolences after a soldier was killed in an "unfortunate incident" at CFB Petawawa in eastern Ontario.

Harper says in a statement that Craftsman Kyle Sinclair succumbed to injuries suffered in the incident.

"This incident is another painful reminder of the sacrifice that our brave men and women in uniform face daily in the defence of our nation's freedoms and liberties, both at home and abroad." Harper said.

Canadian Forces spokesman Lt. Jean-Francois Carpentier says the incident occurred Friday night but wouldn't offer any other details, citing a military investigation.

He says the 27-year-old had been with the military since December 2012.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson also issued a statement offering his condolences.

"The loss of any member of the Canadian Armed Forces is tragic," Nicholson said.

"An investigation will be conducted into the circumstances surrounding this incident to ensure that every precaution is taken to protect the safety and security of our soldiers."

The Canadian Press


Putin urged to leave Ukraine

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson called on Russia to get out of Ukraine on Saturday, saying that what's happening there is "completely unacceptable."

Speaking at the International Security Forum in Halifax, Nicholson told delegates during a panel discussion that the people of Ukraine deserve the freedom they fought for.

Nicholson said he believes Canada is doing all it can to oppose the conflict, but Russian President Vladimir Putin isn't getting the message.

"It's certainly my hope and the hope of everyone that he does get the message," he said. "We are not going to let up on this... Whether it takes five years or 50, the people of Ukraine deserve the freedom that they deserve, that they fought for.

"That has to be one of our goals."

The conflict in Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels are fighting Kyiv's troops, has claimed more than 4,000 lives.

A week ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made international headlines after telling Putin at the G20 summit in Australia to "get out of Ukraine" during a private leaders' retreat.

Harper warned that if the world community eases up on Russia for its annexation of Crimea earlier this year, it will only whet Putin's appetite for similar aggression.

The forum was also targeted by ISIL on Saturday, sending messages to participants and circulating a propaganda video, the forum’s president Peter Van Praagh said in a statement.

“ISIS is using our forum’s hashtag, #HISF2014, to circulate a propaganda video featuring a British captive, John Cantlie. We understand that ISIL is also sending messages to participants and staff of this forum," he said.

"While we cannot control the use of our forum’s hashtag on social media, we continue to monitor it.”

The Canadian Press

Charest denies illegal financing

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest is denying a report linking him to a political fundraising scheme with engineering giant SNC-Lavalin in the year before he took office.

Charest, who was premier from 2003 to 2012, says he has never participated in any illegal party financing activity.

Charest made the comments in a statement following a Radio-Canada report Friday that said Quebec's anti-corruption police unit is looking into whether he was involved in a financing operation with SNC-Lavalin in 2002.

According to Radio-Canada, Charest and a Quebec Liberal Party fundraiser approached SNC-Lavalin's chairman as part of an effort to raise $50,000 from the firm's employees.

Radio-Canada says it wasn't able to determine whether the Liberals ever got the money. SNC-Lavalin denies any wrongdoing.

Charest says the report reconstructs events of 12 years ago in a "tendentious" manner.

The Quebec Liberals were among several political parties to have been accused of illegal financing during testimony at the province’s Charbonneau inquiry into corruption.

The Canadian Press


'I'm not myself' says Ford

Hundreds of people lined up at city hall Friday to buy what was left of the Rob Ford bobbleheads, and some even got a chance to have their dolls signed by the cancer-stricken mayor of Toronto.

The lineup began as early as 7 a.m., and hundreds of the so-called "Robbie Bobbies" had been snapped up by the time a pale and tired-looking Ford arrived shortly before noon.

Speaking with difficulty and struggling to keep his eyes open, Ford described his ongoing battle with a rare and aggressive type of cancer in his abdomen.

"I am feeling all right. I am not myself. I'm still doing phone calls, still going out, taking care of my constituents. I haven't gotten my fire in my belly yet. I have to get that back. I really want to get that back," he told a crowd of reporters.

The proceeds from the sale of the bobbleheads will go to two city hospitals where Ford's been receiving cancer treatments.

"I am signing the bobbleheads to help the cause...They treated me phenomenally," he said.

Ford, whose time in office has been marred by scandal, including his admitted crack-cocaine use and a stint in rehab for alcohol abuse, has said fighting cancer has been his biggest challenge.

He is expected to return to hospital on Monday for a fourth round of chemotherapy. Ford said Friday that his tumour hadn't shrunk, but the usually fast-growing cancer hadn't gotten larger either.

"It's good that it hasn't grown," he said.

Doctors discovered the cancer in September and the mayor dropped his bid for re-election shortly afterwards, opting instead to run for city council. He was elected by a wide margin.

Four models of bobbleheads were on sale Friday, including a limited edition football model with a price tag of $100. The rest were priced at $30 each. They were also being sold online.

Some in the crowd said they came hoping for a chance to shake hands with the controversial mayor.

"Rob Ford, I got his signature, his autograph, and it's a life-long opportunity for me," said Burns Anderson, of Thornhill, Ont., who bought the Jimmy Kimmel edition. It depicts Ford wearing a black suit and shirt with a red tie, the same outfit the scandal-plagued mayor wore on the late-night host's show last March.

Jessica Stevenson said she had the day off and decided to travel to Toronto to buy a Ford bobblehead.

"I came all the way from Brampton to get this because the money goes to a good cause," she said.

Others said it was Ford's notoriety that brought them to city hall.

"I think that just the craze around Rob Ford and his past is going to make this a memorable gift for myself and other people in my family," said Kelly Moore, of Toronto, who bought three bobbleheads.

"And the fact he signed it is also pretty cool."

Toronto's mayor-elect John Tory takes office Dec. 2.

The Canadian Press

Shared defence no problem

A more integrated common defence strategy with the United States isn't a threat to Canada's sovereignty, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said Friday.

Nicholson said Canada has willingly entered into several bilateral arrangements, such as NATO, Norad and free trade, and Canadians understand that external and internal security threats make increased co-operation necessary.

Nicholson said the case for co-operation has already been made and the relationship with the U.S. works.

"I think Canadians accept that," he said. "I don't buy into the idea that somehow anybody's giving up anything."

Norad's commander, U.S. Gen. Charles Jacoby, was also part of the panel. He said current arrangements work because there is such confidence and trust on both sides of the border.

"I don't see it as a giving up or gaining equation," said Jacoby. "I think we have mechanisms in place that allow plenty of decision making space for our political leadership."

Both made the comments while part of a panel discussion at the opening of the sixth annual Halifax International Security Forum.

Forum president Peter Van Praagh said the three day event has attracted 300 participants from 60 countries, including a large U.S. congressional delegation led by U.S. Sen. John McCain.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version had a wrong first name for Rob Nicholson

The Canadian Press

Assaulted teen meets rescuer

A 16-year-old Manitoba teen who was viciously beaten, assaulted and left to die beside a river, has finally met one of the men who rescued her.

Rinelle Harper gave Sean Vincent a soapstone sculpture of a polar bear and a painting from her First Nation at a downtown Winnipeg hotel on Thursday. Rinelle, who didn't speak at the meeting and appeared embarrassed at all the attention, looked down and fiddled with her hair.

She asked through her family that the numerous media cameras present not show her face, still swollen and bruised from the attack. As she tinkered with the tablecloth with a bandaged finger, her family hugged Vincent and thanked him for being there when Rinelle needed him most.

"The family want to express their appreciation and their thank you to Sean for giving support to Rinelle in her time of need," said Fred Harper, Rinelle's grandfather. "She was left for dead ... but she was saved, so she's here with us. Her fast recovery is a miracle from above."

The girl's meeting with Vincent was the first time she had ventured out of the hotel room where she's been staying with her family since being discharged from hospital a week ago.

Vincent and another construction worker found a battered and bruised Rinelle under a downtown bridge near the Assiniboine River on the morning of Nov. 8. They covered her with their coats, called 911 and waited with her until paramedics arrived.

Vincent, who has two girls around Rinelle's age, said he was excited to meet the teen. The last time he saw her, she was "fighting for air" under a downtown bridge.

"She shouldn't have to live through that. No one should have to see that. It was a bad scene all around," Vincent said. "At the end of the day, she's the hero. We were just people going to work on a Saturday. We were at the right place at the right time."

Police have said Rinelle was out with friends celebrating the completion of her midterms the night of Nov. 7. The teen from the northern reserve of Garden Hill was studying at a boarding school for aboriginal students in Winnipeg.

She got separated from her friends and struck up a conversation with two males. The three walked to the Assiniboine River where police say Rinelle was attacked and ended up in the frigid water. She managed to crawl out upstream, but was attacked again and "left for dead," police said.

Police alleged the same pair beat and sexually assaulted another woman a short time later.

A 17-year-old, who cannot be named, and 20-year-old Justin James Hudson are facing numerous charges in the two assaults, including attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault. Both are to appear in court next week.

A passerby noticed Rinelle early the next morning and told Vincent and fellow construction worker Ed Mehanovic. When they first saw her, surrounded in blood and gravel, they didn't know if the teen was alive or dead, Vincent said. She was taken to hospital in critical condition.

The vicious assault, coming so soon after the body of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine was found in the Red River, has prompted aboriginal leaders to call yet again for an end to violence against women.

The Canadian Press

7 rescued from downed plane

RCMP say the pilot and passengers of a small plane that made a forced landing in bad weather on the ice of Great Slave Lake have been rescued.

Cpl. Todd Scaplen says the seven have been flown by helicopter to Yellowknife and none appear to be seriously hurt.

The military says the Air Tindi Cessna 208 Caravan declared an emergency when its engine quit this morning in icy conditions after leaving Yellowknife for Fort Simpson.

The plane landed about 40 kilometres west of Yellowknife on the north arm of the lake.

The Transportation Safety Board is sending a team of investigators to determine what happened.

The Canadian Press

Broken baby strollers recalled

Health Canada has announced the recall of a brand of baby strollers because a folding hinge on the products poses a risk to children's fingers.

The department says while there have been no reports of injuries in Canada, several children in the United States have lost fingertips or parts of a finger.

The recalled strollers are made by a company called Graco Children's Products Inc.; the recall affects eight models of Graco strollers and travel systems.

All the affected models are single-occupant strollers with a spring-loaded fold lock on the side and a one-hand fold release mechanism on the handle.

The recall relates to the Aspen, Breeze, Capri, Cirrus, Literider, Sierra and Sterling models and covers products sold in Canada from August 2000 to November 2014.

Owners should contact the company immediately for a free repair kit, which will be available at the beginning of December.

They can be ordered by phone at 1-800-667-8184 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. ET Monday through Friday.

Owners of Graco strollers can find model numbers and the date of manufacture on a label located on the stroller's tubing frame.

"While waiting for a repair kit, caregivers should exercise extreme care when unfolding the stroller to be certain that the hinges are firmly locked before placing a child in the stroller," Health Canada said.

"Caregivers are advised to immediately remove the child from a stroller that begins to fold to keep their fingers from the side hinge area."

It is estimated that over 200,000 of the strollers have been purchased in Canada.

The Canadian Press

Veterans Affairs funds go unspent

Veterans Affairs Canada has returned $1.13 billion to the federal treasury in unspent funds since the Conservatives came to power in 2006 — cash that critics say should have gone towards improved benefits and services.

The figure, which surfaced this week in the House of Commons, has led to renewed criticism of the Harper government, which is already smarting over its frayed relations with disgruntled former soldiers.

Data tabled in the House in response to a written question shows roughly one-third of the so-called lapsed funds were handed back between the 2011 and 2013 budget years when the government was engaged in a massive deficit-cutting drive.

The Conservatives often trumpet how much the budget for veterans care has gone up under their watch — right now it's about $3.4 billion a year, up from $2.8 billion when the Tories took office.

What they don't say is that anywhere between 4.7 per cent and 8.2 per cent of the total allocation has been allowed to lapse because of the department's inability or reluctance to spend it all, said NDP veterans critic Peter Stoffer.

Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino met Wednesday in Quebec City with select organizations representing ex-soldiers, but some of the loudest critics of the department's spending on benefits and services were not invited.

On Tuesday, Stoffer put a pointed question about the lapsed funds to Fantino, who answered by tallying up the government's total spending on the veteran's department — roughly $30 billion since 2006.

"It means improved rehabilitation for Canadian veterans," Fantino said. "It means more counselling for veterans' families. It means more money for veterans' higher education and retraining. It means we care deeply about our veterans."

But that didn't answer the question of why so much of the budget has been allowed to lapse, said Stoffer, noting that the overall budget of the department is something the government is committed to under the law.

The use of lapsed funding to reduce the federal deficit is an exercise that's being practised across all departments, he added.

"The deputy ministers ... have obviously been told by the higher-ups that, 'This money has to come back to us in order for us to have our books balanced, and that way we can use that money for other purposes, like income-splitting.'"

Over the last two fiscal years, all federal departments allowed more than $18 billion in budgeted funding to lapse, according public accounts figures released at the end of October.

Frank Valeriote, the Liberal veterans critic, said ex-soldiers who've been denied benefits will look at the unspent funds and feel "hoodwinked, completely abandoned" and wonder why they've made sacrifices for their country.

"It is reprehensible and unconscionable what they're doing so that the government can create an image of fiscal responsibility," he said.

A spokeswoman for Fantino said late Wednesday that the department must have resources to pay for benefits and medical treatment, and that when there is a "few per cent overage" the "unused (cash) is reinvested into the following year's budget process."

Ashlee Smith said the opposition knows the procedure is a "long-standing parliamentary tradition" and accused them of playing political games.

The Quebec City meeting came on Wednesday at a time when multiple Conservative sources say there is concern that the party's reliable support in the veterans community is bleeding away because of the loud and prolonged battle.

The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, say there is growing frustration within the party over Fantino's apparent inability to forge positive relationships with veterans, unlike his predecessor, Steven Blaney.

Beyond veterans, long considered a natural constituency for Conservatives, there are signs the Tories are in trouble with ordinary Canadians on the issue. A newly released internal poll on public perceptions of the Canadian Forces suggests the treatment of veterans was registering strongly with respondents.

"Problems that veterans face (42 per cent) and soldiers returning home (29 per cent) were top of mind for many Canadians when asked what they recalled about the (Canadian Armed Forces)," said the Phoneix Strategies Perspectives survey, conducted last May, but released by National Defence online this week.

The survey of 2,025 people found more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of those asked recalled recently seeing, reading, or hearing about issues faced by returning soldiers or their families.

That's a significant increase over 48 per cent of respondents to a similar poll conducted in 2012.

Follow @Murray_Brewster on Twitter

The Canadian Press

Jailed indefinitely

The sister of a woman who was found murdered in her Calgary condominium in July 1999 says she gets little comfort from a dangerous offender designation given to a man who had once been accused of the crime.

Scott McLaughlin, 45, was ordered to be jailed indefinitely by a judge in Windsor, Ont., this week.

Court was told he had more than 60 criminal convictions including the 2009 sexual assault of a 71-year-old Ontario woman.

Fifteen years ago, he was convicted of second-degree murder in the strangulation death of Gail Foley, but he successfully appealed and the charge was stayed.

On Wednesday, Patsy Foley Cunningham said she was relieved to hear McLaughlin would be behind bars for a long time.

However, given his lengthy and violent criminal record, she wondered why it took so long coming.

“It’s about time and it’s just sad how many people had to ... be badly hurt or just plain robbed by people like him," she said.

No one else was ever charged with Gail Foley’s murder and Calgary police say unless new evidence surfaces, they won’t investigate further.

McLaughlin actually spent six years behind bars before winning his freedom in the Foley case.

His conviction was overturned when Chief Justice Catherine Fraser ruled the case against him was a circumstantial one and ordered a new trial.

Gary Cornfield, acting chief Crown at the prosecutor's office in Calgary, said at the time that a long, hard look was taken at the case before the decision was made to stay the charge.

He suggested there were concerns about the credibility of witnesses and his office concluded they were unlikely to get a conviction.

Foley's naked body was found on the floor of her basement bedroom on July 22, 1999.

She had been strangled and possibly sexually assaulted.

Justice Peter Martin, the judge in McLaughlin's first trial, had said numerous police wire-tapped phone conversations between the accused and several people while he was at the Remand Centre proved his guilt.

(CHQR, The Canadian Press)

The Canadian Press

Man shoots two wolves

A First Nations' man who claims to have an aboriginal right to shoot wolves has pleaded not guilty to three charges under the Yukon Wildlife Act.

Clayton Thomas told a Yukon territorial court that he acted in accordance with his aboriginal rights when he shot two wolves in a Whitehorse subdivision last year.

Thomas, a 33-year-old member of British Columbia’s Tahltan First Nation, is charged with 10 infractions of the act.

Prosecutor Lee Kirkpatrick said the Crown will proceed on three charges: illegal hunting, the careless use of a firearm and trafficking in wildlife.

Thomas doesn’t dispute that he shot the two wolves last year.

He argued he was justified in doing so, that the wolves were a safety concern in the neighbourhood, and as an aboriginal, his actions were legal.

Representing himself, Thomas said he plans to call six witnesses — including Tahltan elders from Watson Lake and Dease Lake, B.C. — to testify when his hearing resumes in December.

When the trial started Monday, Kirkpatrick read a statement of agreed facts by Thomas and the Crown.

On April 17, 2013, Yukon conservation officers received a complaint from a resident in the Mount Sima subdivision that wolves killed his dog at the end of his driveway.

A statement said a week later that an unnamed source told the conservation officers that Thomas, also a neighbourhood resident, had killed a black wolf the night the dog was killed, and texted a photo of the wolf to friends.

Conservation officers received a second tip that Thomas had sent around a photo of him holding up a grey wolf carcass. The source reported hearing gun shots at about 11 p.m. April 17, and more gunshots at about midnight on April 22.

Conservation officers served a search warrant at Thomas’ home on May 3.

Officers seized 47 items, including five wolf hides, sheep horns, firearms, ammunition and computers. The five wolves, Thomas said, were harvested in B.C. under his subsistence rights.

The statement said Thomas admitted to shooting two wolves in the neighbourhood.

Thomas did not have residents' permission to be hunting within one kilometre of houses, Kirkpatrick said, as wildlife laws dictate.

Three days have been set aside for Thomas' witnesses to testify about Tahltan culture and hunting and trapping practices, starting Dec. 8.

(Whitehorse Star)

The Canadian Press

Female chefs need not apply

The owners of a Yukon pizzeria are facing more than a little bit of heat outside of their kitchen over an employment posting on social media.

The posting on Tony's Pizza Facebook page — which has since been taken down — originally stated that it was looking for a pizza chef at its Whitehorse restaurant.

But when a woman posted her own response that she had already applied, the restaurant replied: "I would prefer to have a male in the kitchen, less distraction for the other male employees."

The statement generated several Facebook posts, prompting an apology from the restaurant's owners.

"Sometimes people do or say things that hurt or offend other people," stated the post from Tony's Pizza. "It happens to everyone. I sincerely apologize for my actions. I have endeavoured to rectify this situation to the best of my ability."

Tony's co-owner Kathleen Lundgaard said in an interview that if she could take it back she would.

"People who know us know we're not like that."

She said the posting was an "isolated" thing.

But local resident Blake Lepine said the incident in his view was a clear case of discrimination, and he took it to the Yukon Human Rights Commission.

"It needs to be addressed," he said.

Commission spokeswoman Heather MacFadgen said she can't speak specifically about the issue because complaints are treated as confidential until they’ve been dealt with or go to the board of adjudication for a decision.

But she said under current legislation complaints must come from the person who believes they were discriminated against.

When asked about suggestions on social media that there should be a boycott of the restaurant, Lundgaard said customers have the choice to go elsewhere.

But she also noted that she hoped that one comment on social media wouldn't tarnish the 13 years her family has spent building the business and its reputation.

The Canadian Press

Robocall mastermind jailed

Interfering with a citizen's right to vote merits real jail time, an Ontario judge declared Wednesday as he made Michael Sona the first person ever to spend time behind bars for violating the Canada Elections Act.

Sona, the former Conservative staffer convicted in the 2011 robocalls scandal, was sentenced to nine months behind bars and one year's probation for what Justice Gary Hearn called "an affront to the electoral process."

He's the first person convicted of wilfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent an elector from voting under the Canada Elections Act, said Hearn, who called his task "a difficult and troublesome sentencing."

Hearn said he believes Sona did not act alone in the scheme, in which some 6,700 automated phone calls were placed on the morning of the 2011 federal election with misleading information on how to vote.

Sona was just 22 at the time of the offence, lacked proper guidance from more experienced colleagues, and has suffered emotionally in the aftermath, Hearn acknowledged.

But jail time was nonetheless warranted in order to send the unmistakable message — particularly to those involved in politics — that messing with the electoral process is a serious crime, he said.

"This was a deliberate and considered course of criminal conduct specifically designed to subvert the inherent fairness of the electoral process," Hearn told the court.

"This was a federal election undertaken to elect representatives who form the governing body in our nation. This was not an amateurish Grade 8 election campaign for student council. Conduct such as that of Mr. Sona is not suitable at any time."

Sona hung his head and fiddled with his BlackBerry, his family members beside him in tears, as Hearn delivered his fate. He was later led out of the courtroom by police.

Sona's lawyer, Norm Boxall, said his client would be transferred to an unspecified provincial jail. He said a decision has not yet been made whether to file an appeal.

"He's obviously disappointed with the decision, but he's strong," Boxall said outside court.

"He will be considering all of his options in the upcoming days, and those decisions are best made when persons can reflect calmly and logically and not do them in the emotional aftermath of a decision."

Boxall said Sona would likely consult with another lawyer to determine whether an appeal is appropriate. He could then seek a release from jail pending his appeal. Should he decide not to appeal, he could be eligible to apply for parole after three months, Boxall said.

Sona is a youthful, first-time offender, but that couldn't be allowed to overshadow the seriousness of the case, Hearn said. Given his background, he presumably supported the right of people to a free and fair vote, he continued.

"He took very active steps to see that this did not happen and the sentence must be such that the serious nature of this conduct is made apparent to those similarly inclined."

Hearn said he did recognize that Sona had already suffered considerably, noting periods of stress and depression; he also said Sona had taken "rather drastic steps" to deal with those problems "in a very inappropriate manner."

Boxall refused to elaborate.

Although the Crown and defence agreed he likely did not act alone, Sona was the only person charged in the scheme. He had been facing a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Boxall had asked for a suspended sentence or a six-to-12-month conditional sentence with house arrest, parole and a requirement for community service.

Ruth McGuirl of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada applauded Hearn's sentence.

"The trial judge sent out a message today that the type of conduct which interferes with the fundamental rights of voters warrants jail time," McGuirl said.

"It is (hoped) that this sentence will send a message which will deter anyone who would like to participate in any kind of similar conduct."

The Canadian Press

Brain therapy fights depression

Doctors are increasingly turning to brain stimulation therapy, a non-invasive procedure that uses electromagnetic energy, to treat severe depression that doesn't respond to standard antidepressant medications and psychotherapy.

Known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, the treatment "exercises" an area of the brain thought to be underactive in people with depression.

TMS is administered using a hand-held electromagnet that is held over the skull above the targeted area of the brain — within the prefrontal cortex — which is determined through an MRI scan.

"The magnetic field passes unimpeded through the skull, and so when it interacts with the brain, it causes an electrical current to flow in the brain tissue that it touches," said Dr. Mark George, director of the Brain Stimulation Laboratory at the Medical University of South Carolina.

"And so it's a relatively neat trick where you can non-invasively get in and stimulate the brain of an awake, alert person without any real major discomfort," George explained Tuesday during a teleconference organized by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.

George, a psychiatrist and neurologist who pioneered the use of TMS to treat depression about 15 years ago, said the therapy is well-tolerated by patients and has minimal side-effects.

Up to 40 per cent of people diagnosed with major depression don't respond to antidepressants, the drugs' effects don't last, or patients can't tolerate their side-effects, he said. "So it's a big part of the population that needs a new treatment, and TMS is now starting to go there."

Gail Bellissimo, 52, of Mississauga, Ont., suffered for years with severe depression, and she could find no relief, even after trying several antidepressant drugs, combined with psychotherapy.

"Depression steals so much from a person. I describe it as an illness that insidiously takes one's senses — sight, sound, touch, even smell and taste," she said. "There's no dimension to anything. Everything is dull, flat, monotone."

Bellissimo said depression affected her ability to absorb and remember information. She often retreated into silence because the disorder hampered her ability to communicate properly.

"I began to hate myself because I knew that I was letting down my family," said the married mother of four sons, aged 16 to 25. "And I just couldn't get to that place where I felt that everyone else was, experiencing and enjoying life."

"Telling someone who's depressed to look on the bright side, appreciate the little things or live in the moment — it doesn't work. There are no moments. With depression, there's just existence."

But in February, Bellissimo was enrolled in a clinical trial at CAMH to compare different lengths of TMS therapy in patients with so-called treatment-resistant depression.

She had the shorter version — about three-minute sessions in which she received TMS therapy five days a week for four weeks, with an option for two more weeks, which she opted for. Treatment typically involves 40-minute sessions, five days a week for four weeks.

Her treatment, given in roughly five-second pulses with a few seconds' rest in between, "felt like someone tapping away at one spot" on the left side of her forehead, she said, adding that she experienced a headache, among the most commonly reported side-effects, but only after that first treatment.

Two weeks into her sessions, Bellissimo noticed "a shift ... it was a clarity and lightness," and full-fledged senses began to return.

"I could breathe. The lead weight and the incapacitating fog was lifted, allowing me to see a path, the direction of which was finally a positive one," she said. "I could laugh again."

"The treatment has allowed me to thrive — not just survive. I'm in the best place I've ever been, loving life, recovering and looking forward."

Dr. Jeff Daskalakis, head of the Temerty Centre for Therapeutic Brain Intervention at CAMH, said treatment-resistant depression costs the health-care system about $19,000 per patient per year, while TMS costs about $6,500 per person.

The Canadian Press

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