Cole Burston/CP LifeLabs signage is seen outside of one of the lab’s Toronto locations, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019.

In the news: LifeLabs lawsuit and no fireworks as fires rage in Australia

Here’s what’s making headlines on Dec. 30, 2019

What we are watching in Canada …

A proposed class action lawsuit has been filed against medical services company LifeLabs over a data breach that allowed hackers to access the personal information of up to 15 million customers.

An unproven statement of claim filed in Ontario Superior Court on Dec. 27, accuses LifeLabs of negligence, breach of contract and violating their customers’ confidence as well as privacy and consumer protection laws.

It was filed on behalf of five named plaintiffs, but seeks to represent all Canadians who used LifeLabs’ services, or else those who were told they were affected by the breach, if that information becomes available.

The plaintiffs allege LifeLabs “failed to implement adequate measures and controls to detect and respond swiftly to threats and risks to the Personal Information and health records of the class members,” in violation of the company’s own privacy policy.

LifeLabs has said the data hack affected up to 15 million customers, almost all of them in Ontario and British Columbia. The compromised database included health card numbers, names, email addresses, logins, passwords and dates of birth, but it was unclear how many files were accessed. The lab results of 85,000 customers in Ontario were also obtained by the hackers, the company said.

The class action, which has yet to be certified, asks for more than $1.13 billion in compensation for LifeLabs’ clients, who they say experienced repercussions including damage to their credit reputation, wasted time, and mental anguish.

READ MORE: LifeLabs facing proposed class action over data breach affecting up to 15M clients

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Also this …

— Jeremy Reitman, a stalwart of the Canadian womenswear scene who guided Montreal-based Reitmans Ltd. through the so-called retail apocalypse, has died.

The company announced the death of its chairman and CEO in a brief statement on Sunday, saying the entire company mourns for him.

“The board of directors, management team and employees of the company extend their deepest sympathies to the Reitman family.”

Reitman was also a loving father, stepfather and grandfather, according to an obituary published on the website of a Montreal funeral home.

The obituary says Reitman died peacefully in Florida on Saturday. It says he was an alumnus of Dartmouth College, McGill Law, Westmount High School and Camp Kennebec.

He was also the grandson of Reitmans Ltd. founders Herman and Sarah Reitman. His brother, Stephen Reitman, serves as chief operating officer.

Jeremy Reitman was head of the 93-year-old family business for a decade, serving as president before taking over as CEO and chairman. He steered the company through a rapidly changing retail landscape, contending with an influx of U.S. competitors who set their sights on the Canadian market and the rise of e-commerce. Amid the ruins of Canadian retailers, Reitmans is one of the few domestic chains still standing, though it is shrinking.

When he took control, the company was growing, from 854 stores in 2004 to 968 in 2011. Today, there are 587.

READ MORE: Reitmans CEO Jeremy Reitman has died, company announces

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ICYMI (in case you missed it) …

An annual review of how well the federal government interacts with Canadians as they access benefits suggests more people would turn to online channels, if there was a human around to help them out.

The Service Canada client survey found nearly half of people who could use online services would be convinced to do so if they had help by phone, an online chat or a video link.

And that, the report notes, is due to the fact that many people access benefits or services at meaningful points in their lives, which are often the first time they interact with Service Canada.

In turn, people have a sense of needing more help to make sure they are getting it right, so they trek down to government offices rather than filling out forms online.

The Service Canada review, which cost just under $250,000, was delivered earlier this year and made public this month.

Officials have been working for years on simplifying and expanding online services, but antiquated equipment as well as complicated rules for procurement and data use have slowed down the pace of change.

READ MORE: Service Canada told key to improving use, ease of online services is human touch

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What we are watching in the U.S. …

The U.S. carried out military strikes in Iraq and Syria targeting an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia blamed for a rocket attack that killed an American contractor, Defence Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the strikes send the message that the U.S. will not tolerate actions by Iran that jeopardize American lives.

“Precision defensive strikes” were conducted against five sites of Kataeb Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades, Defence Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement earlier Sunday.

The U.S. blames the militia for a rocket barrage Friday that killed a U.S. defence contractor at a military compound near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq. Officials said as many as 30 rockets were fired in Friday’s assault.

Esper said the U.S. hit three of the militia’s sites in western Iraq and two in eastern Syria, including weapon depots and the militia’s command and control bases.

U.S. Air Force F-15 Strike Eagles carried out the strikes and all the aircraft safely returned to their home base, Esper said. At the ammunition storage facilities that were struck, significant secondary explosions were observed.

Pompeo, Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew to Palm Beach, Florida, after the operation to brief President Donald Trump.

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What we are watching in the rest of the world …

New Year’s Eve fireworks in Australia’s capital and other cities have been cancelled as the wildfire danger worsens in oppressive summer heat, and pressure was building for Sydney’s iconic celebrations to be similarly scrapped.

Temperatures on Tuesday were set to hit 38 Celsius in the capital, Canberra, and 33 C in Sydney, Australia’s largest city. Thick smoke that has shrouded the city’s iconic landmarks in recent months was also expected on Tuesday.

“Hot air is coming out of the centre of Australia, it’s particularly dry and then unfortunately conditions are expected to worsen in New South Wales as we head into Tuesday,” Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

Wildfires worsened by the southern hemisphere’s summertime heat have killed nine people and razed more than 1,000 homes in the past few months, with New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, bearing the brunt.

Of the 97 fires burning across New South Wales on Monday, 43 were not yet contained. Total fire bans were imposed in Sydney and other places.

The City of Sydney Council has approved Tuesday’s fireworks show, although fire authorities warned it could be cancelled if catastrophic wildfire conditions are declared.

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The Canadian Press


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