The Fifth Estate

Friday, Jan. 15, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC-TV

When Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008, heralding the onset of the latest recession, the focus was on the greed and vanity of the Americans who ran the doomed investment giant. But, in a co-production with PBS FRONTLINE, the fifth estate has uncovered the Canadian connection to that collapse, in House of Cards, on Friday, Jan. 15, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC Television.

His name: Brian Chisick. A Grade 10 dropout from Vancouver who moved to California, Chisick pioneered a predatory type of lending there. He made his first fortune preying on borrowers with hidden upfront fees and sky-high interest rates. Wall Street behemoths like Lehman Brothers bankrolled Chisick and learned that they could sell bad loans to millions of people. This inspired a pandemic of self-delusion and excess that brought on an economic crisis unmatched since the Great Depression, 80 years ago.

House of Cards is also the story of one of Wall Street’s “masters of the universe”, Lehman Brothers’ chairman and CEO Richard Fuld. Once an icon of rugged capitalism, Fuld eventually became a symbol of vanity and greed. His company’s lending practices would eventually cause the collapse of the storied financial institution Lehman Brothers. In its ruins lay the reputations of the proud and powerful and, more significantly, the lives of millions of ordinary people who put their trust, and their life savings, in Lehman Brothers.

About the collapse of Lehman Brothers, one interview subject says: “They’ll be talking about it for a hundred years. It was the day capitalism changed.”

The reporter on House of Cards is Linden MacIntyre. The producer/director is Neil Docherty.

Friday, Jan. 8, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC-TV

Ashley Smith was a troubled 19-year-old when she choked herself to death with a strip of cloth at Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont. Her death made national headlines and led to a scathing report by Canada’s federal prison ombudsman. Now, through exclusive access to prison video exposing Ashley’s treatment in custody, the fifth estate shares the story of this young woman’s harrowing life and the circumstances surrounding her death, in Out of Control, on Friday, Jan. 8, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC Television.

Ashley Smith was barely into her teens when she was sent to a youth detention centre in her home province of New Brunswick. Her crime: she had tossed crabapples at a mailman. Smith’s one-month sentence would stretch to more than three years, served in 11 institutions in five provinces.

To tell Ashley’s story, the fifth estate fought for and gained access to shocking prison video, showing Smith being subdued by physical force, pepper sprayed, and cocooned in a completely restrictive body bag called “the wrap”. The longer Smith was confined to her various segregation cells, the worse her behaviour became and the more extreme, and frequent, the punishments. What she really needed was mental health assessment and treatment. She never got it. 

How did a girl from a loving family die the way she did? With the prison videotapes and exclusive access to Smith’s parents, along with a fellow inmate, the fifth estate and host Hana Gartner expose a system that fails the many Ashley Smiths still incarcerated in Canadian institutions.

Executive producer of the fifth estate is Sally Reardon. CBC News Network rebroadcasts the fifth estate on Saturdays, at 8 p.m. ET, Sundays, at 7 p.m. ET, and Tuesdays, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Friday, Nov. 27, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC-TV

On Sept. 11, 2001, the world watched in shock and disbelief as planes flew in to New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, and Americans realized they were under attack. But by whom? What really happened? In The Unofficial Story, airing Friday, Nov. 27, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC-TV’s the fifth estate, Bob McKeown introduces us to people who believe the real force behind the attacks was not Osama Bin Laden, but the U.S. government itself.

Emerging from the dust and debris that day was a movement, known these days as 9/11 Truth or “truthers”—people who believe that Sept. 11 was part of a vast conspiracy and cover-up by a criminal faction within the U.S. government. As the fifth estate reports, public opinion polls now show that the majority of Americans believe the Bush Administration had advance knowledge of those attacks and somehow allowed them to happen and that one-third of Canadians share the same belief.

In The Unofficial Story, Bob McKeown explores why these questions and theories are growing in popularity.

You’ll meet some of the leading proponents of “truther” theories: Richard Gage, an American architect, explains how the WTC twin towers and the lesser known ‘Tower #7’ could only have crumbled as they did due to explosive charges placed inside the buildings. Others, including Canadian professor Kee Dewdney, insist that the story of the brave fight by the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 must have been a hoax. But, you’ll also hear from others who dispel “truther” theories and try to understand why, from JFK’s assassination to the moon landing to Sept. 11, a culture of conspiracy springs up around certain historic events.  

Despite the difference of opinion between those who blame the hijackers and those who blame their own government, the real importance of the fight over Sept. 11 truth is that it may have less to do with the past than the future.

Executive producer of the fifth estate is Sally Reardon. CBC News Network rebroadcasts the fifth estate on Saturdays, at 8 p.m. ET, Sundays, at 7 p.m. ET, and Tuesdays, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Friday, Nov. 13, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC-TV

On Feb. 23, 2009, 24-year-old Sam Brown of British Columbia was arrested by U.S. authorities in Washington State as he landed a helicopter he had piloted across the border. Sam’s crime: he was attempting to smuggle almost 200 kilograms of marijuana, “B.C. Bud”. Only a few days after his arrest, Sam hanged himself in his jail cell. In Over The Edge, airing Friday, Nov. 13, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC-TV’s the fifth estate, Linden MacIntyre takes us into the world of drug smuggling in B.C. and the role in it of young people like Sam Brown.

Sam was an extreme sports enthusiast, who thrived on the adrenaline of risk taking. He grew up in the B.C. interior, living in Nelson, where the flourishing mountain biking scene offered him new challenges. Rugged and picturesque, Nelson is a hotbed for the young and unconventional, a magnet for extreme sports enthusiasts—and a centre for the lucrative, underground marijuana industry.

The homegrown pot, “B.C. Bud”, pours billions of illegal dollars into local economies in B.C.  Huge demand for the drug has allowed Nelson to ride out normal economic swings. But “B.C. Bud” also fuels a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise on B.C.’s lower mainland and the United States, sustained largely by a core group of thrill-seekers like Sam—young people who smuggle drugs for the sheer high of the risk and their addiction to the easy money.

In Over The Edge, the fifth estate reconstructs Sam’s final smuggling mission. Linden MacIntyre speaks with a former smuggler who recruited Sam into that world. Viewers will also hear from his sisters and father, still grappling with the circumstances of his arrest and his death, as well as Sam’s American lawyers, some of the last people to speak with him before he took his life.

Executive producer of the fifth estate is Sally Reardon. CBC News Network rebroadcasts the fifth estate on Saturdays, at 8 p.m. ET, Sundays, at 7 p.m. ET, and Tuesdays, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Friday, Nov. 6, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC-TV

On a peaceful summer’s night in July 2008, along a stretch of the Trans Canada Highway in Manitoba, the unthinkable happened. What started as just another Prairie bus ride became a nightmare when the lives of two passengers intersected tragically and resulted in the murder of Tim McLean. In Bus 1170, airing Friday, Nov. 6, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC-TV’s the fifth estate, Bob McKeown takes us inside what happened on Greyhound 1170 through the eyes of the surviving passengers and other witnesses.

A seemingly random decision, to take the Greyhound from B.C. to Winnipeg rather than a friend’s offer of a plane ticket, would cost 22-year-old Tim McLean his life, would profoundly change the lives of dozens of others who saw his murder and shock anyone who has heard about it since.  On Greyhound 1170, Vincent Li, a diagnosed schizophrenic on his own randomly chosen bus journey, sat beside McLean and then, obeying voices inside his head, repeatedly stabbed and then cannibalized McLean’s body.

In Bus 1170, the fifth estate recounts the story from the perspective of two of the surviving passengers. Stephen Allison vividly recounts his sense of foreboding as Li walked down the aisle and took the seat across from him, beside Tim McLean. And Kayli Shaw remembers the chilling moment when Allison ran by her yelling at the driver to pull over, that someone was being stabbed. She says she is still haunted by the sound of Tim McLean’s screams. 

Bob McKeown also introduces us to truck driver Chris Alguire, who stopped his truck when he saw the Greyhound at the side of the road. Alguire tried to confront Li. What he saw has left him unable to resume his former job or life since then. We’ll also meet the man who probably knows Vincent Li best, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Stanley Yaren. He spent hours with Li and transcripts of their conversations are re-created to understand why Li felt he had no choice but to kill McLean.

And the fifth estate talks to Tim McLean’s family—his father, stepmother and mother—who today still struggle to understand why the RCMP stood outside Bus 1170 for five hours, as Li cut up their son’s body, before intervening. 

Executive Producer of the fifth estate is Sally Reardon. CBC News Network rebroadcasts the fifth estate on Saturdays, at 8 p.m. ET, Sundays, at 7 p.m. ET, and Tuesdays, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Friday, Oct. 30, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC-TV

Every Nov. 11 we mark Remembrance Day to honour the sacrifices made by those who serve their country in wartime. We remember, especially, the dead and those who carry the physical wounds of war. But, what of those with the invisible injuries, the crippling wounds of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

In Broken Heroes, airing Friday, Oct. 30, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC-TV’s the fifth estate, Gillian Findlay introduces us to three Canadian soldiers, recently returned from Afghanistan: Jeff, Matt and Dave. All three speak candidly about the hell that now consumes their lives:  flashbacks hurtling them back to the danger of the war zone, grief for dead comrades, their ongoing battles with addiction, even suicide attempts.

PTSD is not a new phenomenon. In the First World War, it was called “shell shock”, never really understood, and never adequately dealt with. But, the urgency to find a treatment has never been greater. By the time Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan is over in 2011, 35,000 Canadian men and women will have served there. Using the military’s own arguably conservative estimate, as many as 2,000 of those could be coming home with PTSD.

What Canada’s military knows about PTSD comes largely from General Romeo Dallaire’s very public personal story. After witnessing the Rwandan genocide, Dallaire returned to Canada, consumed by what he had seen and what he felt he had not done. He tells Gillian Findlay that he attempted suicide four times. Now a Senator, Dallaire argues that military suicides should be recorded as any other casualty and criticizes Canada’s armed forces command for not doing enough to help.

Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Walter Natynchuk, acknowledges that more could have been done in the past for soldiers suffering from PTSD and says that it is now one of his highest priorities. 

There’s no easy answer, but one thing is clear: Canada’s true casualty rate won’t be known until long after the fighting has stopped.

Executive producer of the fifth estate is Sally Reardon. CBC News Network rebroadcasts the fifth estate on Saturdays at 8 p.m. ET, Sundays, at 7 p.m. ET, and Tuesdays, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Friday, Oct. 16, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC-TV

He was a physical lightweight in a heavyweight league. Against all odds, Theo Fleury established himself as a major star in the National Hockey League. In his rookie year, he helped the Calgary Flames win the Stanley Cup, in 1989, and went on to rack up Hall of Fame stats. He was a key member of Canada’s gold-medal men’s hockey team at the 2002 Olympics. But, through it all, Theo Fleury was as troubled as he was talented and tough.

In The Fall and Rise of Theo Fleury, airing Friday, Oct. 16, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC-TV, the fifth estate tells Fleury’s remarkable story, the staggering fall from grace that cost him millions of dollars, his family and almost, his life. Fleury talks with Bob McKeown about how he struggled back from the brink of despair to become, today, clean and sober and ready to help others.

With a “tell-all” book hitting the shelves this week (Playing with Fire, HarperCollins Canada), Fleury goes on the record with the fifth estate and candidly discusses the dark issues that haunted him during the glory years, including the sexual abuse he experienced as a teenager at the hand of the now notorious junior hockey coach, Graham James. Behind the public bravado was a man struggling to shake off his demons. He found his release in increasingly erratic behaviour on and off the ice, fuelled by addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex.

Fleury’s candid and unsentimental recounting of those years of torment and, finally, his vanquishing of those demons, will be an inspiration to many, a cautionary tale for others. As Fleury himself points out, he made it through the darkness, so can others.

The fifth estate’s Bob McKeown talks to those who know Fleury best—both personally and professionally. We’ll meet Sheldon Kennedy—Fleury’s childhood friend, Calgary Flames teammate, and a victim of the same junior hockey coach. And the fifth estate talks with Fleury’s wife, Jennifer, who married Theo in September 2006, following a year of sobriety, and with whom he credits turning his life around.

Acting executive producer of the fifth estate is Sally Reardon. CBC Newsworld rebroadcasts the fifth estate on Sundays, at 7 p.m. ET, and Tuesdays, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Friday, Oct. 16, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC-TV

He was a physical lightweight in a heavyweight league. Against all odds, Theo Fleury established himself as a major star in the National Hockey League. In his rookie year, he helped the Calgary Flames win the Stanley Cup, in 1989, and went on to rack up Hall of Fame stats. He was a key member of Canada’s gold-medal men’s hockey team at the 2002 Olympics. But, through it all, Theo Fleury was as troubled as he was talented and tough.

In The Fall and Rise of Theo Fleury, airing Friday, Oct. 16, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC-TV, the fifth estate tells Fleury’s remarkable story, the staggering fall from grace that cost him millions of dollars, his family and almost, his life. Fleury talks with Bob McKeown about how he struggled back from the brink of despair to become, today, clean and sober and ready to help others.

With a “tell-all” book hitting the shelves this week (Playing with Fire, HarperCollins Canada), Fleury goes on the record with the fifth estate and candidly discusses the dark issues that haunted him during the glory years, including the sexual abuse he experienced as a teenager at the hand of the now notorious junior hockey coach, Graham James. Behind the public bravado was a man struggling to shake off his demons. He found his release in increasingly erratic behaviour on and off the ice, fuelled by addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex.

Fleury’s candid and unsentimental recounting of those years of torment and, finally, his vanquishing of those demons, will be an inspiration to many, a cautionary tale for others. As Fleury himself points out, he made it through the darkness, so can others.

The fifth estate’s Bob McKeown talks to those who know Fleury best—both personally and professionally. We’ll meet Sheldon Kennedy—Fleury’s childhood friend, Calgary Flames teammate, and a victim of the same junior hockey coach. And the fifth estate talks with Fleury’s wife, Jennifer, who married Theo in September 2006, following a year of sobriety, and with whom he credits turning his life around.

Acting executive producer of the fifth estate is Sally Reardon. CBC Newsworld rebroadcasts the fifth estate on Sundays, at 7 p.m. ET, and Tuesdays, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

FRIDAY, OCT. 9, AT 9 P.M. (9:30 NT), ON CBC-TV

Her name is Nadia Kajouji: eighteen years old, pretty, self-confident, an ambitious student with her sights set on a career in law and politics. Her world seems bright, and her future limitless as she begins her first year at Ottawa’s Carleton University in the fall of 2007.

But, as the fifth estate reports in Death Online, Nadia’s world is about to change, in a tragic way, and what happens to her will lead to an international search for an Internet predator.

Nadia’s world began to fall apart soon after her arrival at Carleton University. In never-before-seen personal video diaries, Nadia records her descent into suicidal depression. The university assigns her a counselor, a doctor prescribes anti-depressants, but Nadia’s parents are never told about their daughter’s desperate mental state.  Nor does anyone know of Nadia’s secret online friend, identified only as Cami D, who is pushing the fragile girl towards suicide. On March 9, 2008, Nadia jumped into the Rideau River. Her body would not be found for six weeks.

Far away from Nadia’s despair, in the English countryside, Celia Blay stumbles upon a cyber-world of websites, chat rooms and newsgroups all dedicated to suicide. More chilling, she discovers that one person, in particular, is encouraging severely depressed people to commit suicide. The retired schoolteacher turns amateur sleuth and tracks down the identity of this predator. She identifies him as William Melchert-Dinkel, a middle-aged nurse and father of two living in Faribault, Minnesota. Melchert-Dinkel has several online pseudonyms. One of them is  Nadia Kajouji’s friend, Cami D.

The fifth estate’s Bob McKeown tells the story of Celia’s remarkable, awful, discovery and her attempts to get police, first in England, then in the United States, to investigate William Melchert-Dinkel. When they finally do pick up the case, it is too late to save Nadia.

In Death Online, airing Friday, Oct. 9, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC-TV, the fifth estate talks to Nadia’s parents and friends, to the amateur sleuth Celia Blay, and McKeown confronts William Melchert-Dinkel himself, asking him: why?

Acting executive producer of the fifth estate is Sally Reardon. CBC Newsworld rebroadcasts the fifth estate on Sundays, at 7 p.m. ET, and Tuesdays, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

For more information on the fifth estate, visit their website at www.cbc.ca/fifth and join us on Facebook.

FRIDAY, OCT. 2, AT 9 P.M. (9:30 NT), ON CBC-TV

Canadians are being told the recession is ending. But, across the country, for the unemployed, or those about to become unemployed, recovery seems far away.

This week, the fifth estate puts a human face on the economic downturn, through a close-up encounter with the employees of an auto parts plant that is closing. Edscha of Canada, in Niagara Falls, Ont., manufactures car door hinges. But, the German-owned company has also been affected by the worldwide downturn and, in order to save itself, is killing off this Canadian plant, putting 200 workers, many of whom have worked there for decades, out of jobs. Linden MacIntyre and a fifth estate team spent more than a month at the Edscha plant as its final day approached. They record the human cost of the recession, and see first-hand the fight for one final payout—severance money they are entitled to under Ontario law.

It’s a painful, dramatic struggle, focusing on two men linked by a common cause, but who are ultimately divided bitterly in their objectives. They are Brian Nicholl, a 50-year-old single father and idealistic plant steward, ready to fight for every penny that is owed the workers. And Jerry Dias, a veteran CAW union negotiator who understands, all too well, that at the end of the day, you take the best of what you can get.

In The Education of Brian Nicholl, airing Friday, Oct. 2, at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT), on CBC-TV, the grim reality of job loss for thousands of Canadians becomes all too clear. What will be the outcome of the fight for severance pay at Edscha? What could it mean for others facing job losses elsewhere? No one is more surprised at the answers than Brian Nicholl, who learns tough lessons about corporate behaviour, the limits of the law and the difference between knowing what is right, and doing what is possible.

Acting executive producer of the fifth estate is Sally Reardon. CBC Newsworld rebroadcasts the fifth estate on Sundays, at 7 p.m. ET, and Tuesdays, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.