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B.C. man kicked off WestJet flight after falling asleep before takeoff

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A B.C. man who recently suffered a stroke said he was left humiliated and out more than $1,000 after WestJet kicked him off a flight to Cuba and stranded his family at the Toronto airport.

The airline removed Stephen Bennett from the Oct. 13 flight after he took a sleeping pill and fell into a deep sleep, raising concerns from at least one crew member who mandated he be awake before takeoff.

WestJet says it was acting within its rights, as it needs to use an “abundance of caution” when determining if passengers are fit to fly in order to prevent more serious issues while in the air.

But Bennett claims the decision to oust him was unjust, because he was ultimately wide awake before takeoff and multiple medical professionals deemed him fit for air travel.

Josefa Sapelino, Stephen Bennett and their 21-year-old son Tyson Bennett are shown on vacation in Cayo Coco, Cuba. (Submitted by Stephen Bennett)

“I felt like I had no rights,” said Bennett, who lives in Burnaby and has difficulty walking without assistance after suffering a stroke two months ago.

He was travelling with his wife and son, who accompanied him off the plane. The family says it was forced to pay more than $1,600 to arrange another flight so they could still get to their hotel — booked, along with the original flight, through WestJet Vacations.

“They wouldn’t assist us,” said Bennett. “We’re financially hurt. I’m so emotionally hurt.”

While WestJet wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the case, it said it stands by the crew’s decisions. The airline also referenced federal aviation regulations, which state that airlines, at their discretion, can deny boarding to any passenger who shows signs that they could pose a safety risk.

“It is the crew’s duty to assess and refuse anyone who may not be fit to fly,” said WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart.

Doing so, she said, prevents the risk of a more serious medical incident while in flight.

Wake-up call

Bennett said he took a doctor-prescribed sleeping pill shortly before the family’s connecting flight from Toronto to Cuba because he was tired and suffering from leg pain.

Once on board, he fell asleep in the lap of his wife, Josefa Sapelino. A flight attendant told Sapelino to wake Bennett, but she said she decided not to bother him when he didn’t respond to a light nudge.

“He wanted to sleep; I don’t worry about it,” she said.

Passenger Shelley Hickey, from St. John’s, was seated across the aisle from the family. She said the flight attendant returned, adamant that Sapelino wake Bennett prior to takeoff.

“She said he had to be awake in case they had some kind of an air flight accident — he had to be alert,” said Hickey.

After some more nudging from his wife, Bennett was awake and alert within five minutes, Hickey said.

The crew then recruited a passenger who was a nurse to assess Bennett. “She said that he was fine,” said Hickey. 

But paramedics soon arrived with a wheelchair and removed Bennett from the plane, despite his pleas that he wasn’t ill and had simply taken a sedative.

WestJet stands by its crew’s decision, saying it was done in the name of safety. (Todd Korol/Reuters)

“[The flight attendant] said: ‘You have to go. We couldn’t wake you up. You’re a medical emergency, and it’s for the safety of all the passengers,'” said Bennett. “I was so humiliated.”

Two paramedics took him to the boarding ramp, checked his vitals and determined he was fit to travel, which they reported to the WestJet crew, Bennett said. He also called one of his doctors and got him to send an email, confirming he was fit to fly.

But the crew wouldn’t let him back on board.

“I was in tears,” said Bennett. “They became the medical team, the judge and the jury.”

‘It’s your fault’

Before ousting him, Hickey said a flight attendant told Bennett he would be put on another flight. “He was assured he would be taken care of once he got off,” she said. 

Bennett said he visited WestJet’s customer service desk at the airport and called WestJet Vacations, but all they offered was the airline’s next Cayo Coco flight — seven days later.

“They just kept talking down to me, cutting me off in conversation, telling me, ‘Look, you don’t understand, it’s your fault.'”

Not wanting to lose out on their week-long, $4,000 all-inclusive vacation package, the family rebooked tickets on the next available Air Canada flight.

It didn’t leave for a couple of days, so on top of paying $1,226 for three new tickets, they paid $432 for a Toronto hotel and lost two days of their trip.

“I’m ready to cry right now just talking about it, because we lost so much money,” said Bennett.

Standing by its decision

When a crew suspects a passenger is unfit to fly, WestJet said it must make a decision in the name of safety for all those involved in the fight.

“These decisions are not taken lightly, but are made for the safety of the guest in question, other guests on the aircraft and our crews,” said Stewart.

“We stand by our crew’s decisions and believe that what we have offered to this guest is reasonable under the circumstances.”

Bennett says he’s been offered no compensation so far, with the exception of a seat upgrade when flying back from Cuba. He plans to take WestJet to court to fight for compensation and an apology.

“You just can’t treat people like that,” he said.

The Canadian Transportation Agency said if passengers feel they’ve been unjustly denied boarding, they can file a complaint with the quasi-judicial regulator.

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Couple from Toronto buys dream home in Mushaboom

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MUSHABOOM – A couple who lived and raised a family in downtown Toronto developed a five-year plan in 2015 to purchase their dream home.

In September they moved into the home – located on Malagash Island in Mushaboom on Nova Scotia’s stunning Eastern Shore – that met and exceeded their best dreams for their retirement.

The Camerons, Bruce and Tanya, decided in 2019 they would explore the Maritimes to see what real estate was available to become their potential retirement home. In the spring of 2020, during a global pandemic, the real estate boom hit their city, and they were hearing the same for Nova Scotia. Our province was their first-choice for attaining their desire for an entirely different lifestyle – away from the busyness of the city.

“We had $300,000 to $350,000 as a home value in mind to buy. Our semi-detached located off Danforth in Toronto was priced at $850,000. We wanted to come out ahead, so we would be secure in retirement,” Tanya said.

Their century-old home had prime location near the subway and GO Transit Line for a great 13-minute commute downtown.

“We enjoyed our community,” explains Bruce “… we had great neighbours, young children around and street parties – lots of social activity.”

Bruce says, “Our agent suggested a starting quote of $899,000. We did not do any renovations and only some staging. Fifty couples went through and we received four significant offers. Six days later we sold – with zero conditions – and a price of over a million dollars. We just requested a closing of September 2020 to get the kids off to school – which we got.”

The couple got more than they had anticipated.

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Rabobank Announces Leadership Changes in U.S., Canadian Offices

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NEW YORK, Dec. 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Rabobank, the leading global food and agribusiness bank, has appointed two of its top executives, Tamira Treffers-Herrera and Robert Sinescu, to become Co-Heads of North American Client Coverage, positioning the Bank for future growth in the region.

Treffers-Herrera has also assumed the role of Vice Chairperson and Head of the Atlanta office, where she additionally oversees Rabobank Mexico, which is led by Eduardo Palacios. Sinescu is the Head of the Chicago office, and also oversees Rabobank Canada, led by Marc Drouin, who was recently appointed as Canada’s General Manager.

Treffers-Herrera and Sinescu report to David Bassett, Head of Wholesale Banking North America, the Bank’s corporate and investment banking business for the region based in New York.

“Both Tamira and Robert have a demonstrated history of strong leadership, operational excellence and passion for our clients,” Bassett said. “Their broad experience and deep sector expertise will be invaluable in delivering dynamic results for clients while accelerating our growth trajectory in North America.”

Each office will have an even greater focus on key Food & Agribusiness sectors and clients: The Chicago office will drive growth in sectors including Dairy, Farm Inputs and Grains & Oilseeds, which are also key areas of focus for the Canada office. The Atlanta office will focus heavily on sectors such as Animal Protein, Beverages, Sugar, and Supply Chains, which are important sectors in Mexico as well.

“Rabobank is fully committed to our clients throughout North America, and we believe our new sector-focused coverage will improve our ability to provide knowledge-based, value-added solutions that benefit our clients,” Bassett said.

Treffers-Herrera was most recently based in London as CEO of Rabobank’s European Region from 2016-2020, where she took the organization through Brexit. Prior to that, she worked in the Atlanta office from 2002-2016. During her tenure in Atlanta, Treffers-Herrera served as Global Sector Head – Consumer Food & Beverages, and prior to that she was a senior banker for a portfolio of large beverage and consumer foods clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kentucky, a Master of Arts from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and has studied at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Harvard Business School.

Sinescu has been with Rabobank for over 21 years and was previously General Manager of Rabobank Canada, where he oversaw all operations, business development, commercial strategy and relationships with regulators. In addition, he continues to serve as CEO of Rabo Securities Canada Inc. Prior to Canada, he was a senior banker, Head of Corporate Banking, European Sector Head for Sugar, and a member of the Management Team for Rabobank France. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from the Bucharest School of Business, a Master of Business Administration & Management and a Master of Science in Banking and Corporate Finance from Sorbonne University in Paris, and has studied at Brown University.

Drouin has worked with Rabobank’s Canadian team for more than nine years and most recently served as a senior banker, Head of Rabobank Canada’s AgVendor Program and a member of Rabobank Canada’s Management Team. He brings extensive wholesale banking experience within the Dairy, G&O, CPG and Supply Chain sectors. Drouin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University and a Master of Business Administration in International Finance, Marketing and Management from the Schulich School of Business at York University.

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Real Estate

Greybrook Realty Partners & Marlin Spring Brand Jointly Owned Asset Manager – Greyspring Apartments

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TORONTO, Dec. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Greybrook Realty Partners and Marlin Spring are pleased to announce the new branding of their jointly owned investment and asset management firm, Greyspring Apartments. With a portfolio of more than 2,000 units and CAD$375 million in assets under management, Greyspring Apartments is focused on the acquisition and repositioning of multi-family assets throughout Canada.

The new name and branding is an important step in Greyspring’s evolution as an independent operating business. Formed in 2018 by long standing-partners Marlin Spring and Greybrook Realty Partners, Greyspring Apartments was established with the goal of building a leading asset management firm with a robust portfolio of residential rental real estate assets in primary and secondary markets across Canada.

Greyspring’s talented team of real estate, asset management and finance professionals is overseen and guided by the Management Board, whose members include Benjamin Bakst, CEO, Marlin Spring; Elliot Kazarnovksy, CFO, Marlin Spring; Sasha Cucuz, CEO, Greybrook Securities Inc.; Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Chris Salapoutis, President & COO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Ashi Mathur, President, Marlin Spring; and Karl Brady. In addition to his role on the Management Board, Karl Brady leads Greyspring Apartments as its President. 

“We are pleased to announce the official name and branding of a business we formed with our partners at Marlin Spring a few years ago,” said Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners. “Greyspring has been diligently focused on the execution of strategic value-add programs across its portfolio that are improving the quality of housing for tenants and overall asset values. For Greybrook investors, expanding from our core business in real estate development to the value-add space through Greyspring, has allowed us to provide our clients with investment opportunities that diversify their real estate investment portfolios.”

“Marlin Spring and Greybrook have partnered on many residential real estate projects in recent years,” said Benjamin Bakst, CEO and Cofounder, Marlin Spring. “To a great extent, Greyspring illustrates our approach to partnerships. We believe in, and strive for, responsible growth through deepening our relationships with our trusted partners. With Greyspring, we’ve formalized our focus on providing better and more affordable living experiences for Canadians. This vision aligns with our mission to deliver exceptional real estate value to all our stakeholders with an uncompromising adherence to our core values.”

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