It’s been an interesting year for the Kingston, Brockville and Belleville regions. From mysterious deaths in Kingston and Brockville to the prison farms reopening, the area has seen its ups and downs.
If you’d like to take a look back, here are some of Global Kingston’s biggest and strangest stories of 2018.
Cobourg Tim Hortons cuts employee benefits after Ontario minimum-wage hike
After Ontario’s minimum wage was raised to $14 earlier in the year, a Cobourg, Ont., Tim Hortons had to answer to public outrage when they cut their benefits and breaks to accommodate for the wage hike.
Paid breaks were eliminated, and health and dental benefits, which were previously completely covered, were reduced to 50 per cent for employees who worked for the company for more than five years.
A protest called “No Timmys Tuesday” surfaced as a reaction to the changes, which prompted people to avoid the chain on Tuesdays.
Those protests also materialized in person, when several people gathered outside Tim Hortons in Coburg to voice their concerns about the changes.
James Switzer found dead after being missing for four months
After James Switzer left his Kingston home on Christmas night in 2017 to buy a pack of cigarettes, he never returned.
Switzer’s mysterious disappearance had kept people in Kingston guessing, even after his wallet was found outside of a Bingo location about a month after he went missing.
Three months later, his remains were found in early April 2018. Police ruled out foul play, and said he most likely died from the exposure to the elements.
Caught on tape: Teenage girls fight while parents cheer them on
A shocking incident was caught on video and posted to social media earlier in the year. Two teenage girls were filmed while they brutally beat each other in McCullough Park in Kingston’s west end, while adults cheered them on, and onlookers sometimes jumped in to attack both girls.
The video shows several teens videotaping the fight with their phones, and at least two adults, one of which claims to be the mother of one of the girls, encouraged the girls to keep fighting. Kingston police never announced any charges laid against anyone involved in the incident.
IKEA opens collection point in Kingston
Although many in Kingston were hoping for something much larger, the big-box store didn’t set up shop in Kingston this year. But IKEA did make it much easier for Kingstonians to access their home goods when they opened a pick-up point in the city in mid-April.
READ MORE: IKEA opens collection point in Kingston
Serious one-vehicle collision injures seven people ranging from 12 to 25 years old
In August 2018, seven people ranging in age from 12 to 25 were taken to hospital after a serious one-vehicle collision in Kingston.
The youngest of those in the car at the time of the collision, a pre-teen youth in the front passenger seat, sustained life-threatening injuries and was airlifted to CHEO in Ottawa.
Four other youths were treated at Kingston General Hospital for minor injuries. It is still unclear whether the 12-year-old survived from his injuries.
Kingston prison farms to reopen
After eight years of fighting, local prison farm supporters got their wish. In late February, the federal government budgeted $4.3 million to reopen the agricultural side of the Joyceville and Collins Bay institutions, which were shuttered by the former Conservative government several years back.
READ MORE: Kingston prison farms to reopen
About 30 dairy cows were promised for the Kingston prisons, along with a herd of milking goats. Supporters of the program say having agricultural work like farming available for prisoners helps with the rehabilitation process. A theory that will be tested once again when the program opens in the spring of 2019.
Youth gang’s alleged involvement in Brockville death
The death of 33-year-old Damian Sobieraj rocked the small city of Brockville — and his death became a symbol of a years-long youth violence problem in Brockville. While the investigation into Sobieraj’s death lagged on, Brockville police were trying to quell fears of the supposed gang wreaking havoc on the city.
New groups started to form, a neighbourhood watch and a gang of do-gooders who dubbed themselves “The Brockville Watchdogs,” who patrolled the streets at night.
In early November, a 15-year-old girl from the group of youths was charged with manslaughter in relation to Sobieraj’s death.
Kingston schools threatened, put under lockdown
Over two days in early December, eight schools were threatened and 10 schools were locked down, while many others were put under hold and secures. Police say the threats of violence using weapons were phoned into the eight schools.
A new Twitter account appeared — after the first school was put under lockdown — that took responsibility for the threat. The account then took responsibility for all seven threats that followed to the schools.
Although the lockdowns ended two days after the first school was locked down, Kingston police have not named a suspect or announced any arrests.
Lost villages of the St. Lawrence River, Canada’s Atlantis
Global Kingston reporter Paul Soucy took a deep dive into the past to explore the historic sinking of several villages and hamlets now hidden under the St. Lawrence River.
From the mid- to late-1950s, homes were moved from Aultsville, Dickinson’s Landing, Farran’s Point, Mille Roches, Moulinette, Wales, six no-longer-existing villages along the St. Lawrence River, as well as the lost hamlets of Maplegrove, Santa Cruz and Woodlands. Those inhabitants made up the new towns of Long Sault and Ingleside.
The migration was due to the hydroelectric potential of the Long Sault Rapids. In 1958, a hydro dam connecting Cornwall to New York State was built, a dam that’s still in operation to this day.
The story focused on the memories of those who moved from those small towns and hamlets so many years ago.
Shots fired at Kingston General Hospital
In mid-November, an inmate from Millhaven Institution was brought to Kingston General Hospital for medical reasons. While he was there, police say the inmate grabbed the officer’s gun and two shots were fired, one of them hitting a person waiting in the emergency area who suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
The hospital was locked down waiting for police to respond. When they arrived, the inmate was secured and arrested. Corey Ryan Ward was charged with three counts of attempted murder, three counts of discharging a weapon with intent, one count of aggravated assault, one count of disarming a peace officer and one count of possession of a weapon.