Living/Working

October 15, 2021

Lawsuit of the week: Cryptocurrency exchange companies seek to dissolve phantom B.C. firm allegedly incorporated for ‘improper purpose’

In civil action filed in BC Supreme Court, plaintiffs say they fear company was created for reasons of "trademark infringement or financial fraud"

designer491/iStock/Getty Images Plus

A pair of companies behind an international cryptocurrency exchange platform are taking Bitmex Exchange Ltd. to court, claiming the B.C.-registered firm is shrouded in mystery and should be dissolved after being “incorporated for an improper purpose” including alleged trademark infringement and financial fraud.

In a petition filed in BC Supreme Court on September 29, HDR SG PTE Ltd. and its affiliate HDR Global Service (Canada) Ltd. claim they are part of the BitMEX Group, which runs a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency exchange platform offering “virtual asset derivative products” tied to Bitcoin. HDR Global, according to the petition, originally filed a registration of the BitMEX trademark in Canada in February 2018, which was granted by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office in March 2021.

The companies claim Bitmex Exchange Ltd. was incorporated in B.C. in June 2020 and came to their attention when it registered as a money-services business with the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network days after it was formed. But the petitioners claim they’re “unaware of any activities, commercial or otherwise, that are actually carried out by [Bitmex Exchange Ltd.] in Canada or any other country.”

“BEL owns no property or any identifiable assets of any kind. It has no public profile or public website. BEL’s [registered and records office] is a shared workspace, at which BEL does not appear to carry on any business whatsoever,” the petition states. “Registered mail sent to BEL at this address has been returned unclaimed, and persons at the RRO location are unaware of BEL.”

“Due to the use of BITMEX EXCHANGE in BEL’s corporate name and on BEL’s [Money Services Business] registration, petitioners have reasonable grounds to suspect that BEL was incorporated for an improper purpose, such as trademark infringement or financial fraud,” the petition states. 

For its part, the B.C. Registrar of Companies ordered Bitmex Exchange to provide the petitioners with corporate records in June 2021, but the company allegedly didn’t respond to the order. While the registrar has the authority to dissolve companies, it “does not exercise its authority” under the Business Corporations Act.

Staff at the registrar, according to the petitioners, “advised that this was due to its internal policy of declining to exercise its dissolution authority.”

“They further advised that his policy is general and applies to all companies which fail to produce corporate records in response to the Registrar’s orders, rather than any specific concerns about HDR’s request to dissolve BEL,” the petition states. “Instead, the Registrar advised the petitioners that they should seek redress in this Court.”

The petition’s factual basis has not been tested in court, and Bitmex Exchange Ltd. had not filed a response by press time.

 
Leading

Quality helping Knowledge ascend television network rankings

The pandemic has been bad for many, but good for Knowledge.

Not pandemic knowledge, per se – that is a beguiling hot mess at times – but capital-K Knowledge. As in the Knowledge Network, the province’s public broadcaster, emerging as a quiet success story in a sea of streaming and screens.

Without grand fanfare, amid its 40th anniversary, the Knowledge Network has risen in the last year to become the third-ranked network among British Columbians, behind only Global and CTV in popularity in prime-time evening viewing. If you set aside the brief period this summer of CBC’s coverage of the Olympics, Knowledge’s prime-time schedule of original and acquired educational programming surpasses that of the national public broadcaster, with 40,000 or so tuning in hourly.

Given the almost absurd number of available viewing choices, many of them marketed across conglomerated media empires, this is one of those Little Network That Could tales.

This, despite a frozen government budget for a decade – not even indexing for inflation – from British Columbian NDP and Liberal governments alike. Nothing suggests that will change any time soon, CEO Rudy Buttignol notes.

Rather than turning to the public through government, though, Knowledge has found its salvation in turning to the public through donations. It is a business model some high-quality media have found attainable in recent years, in that loyal audiences will pay modestly but steadily for premium offerings if they sense any frailty or that they might lose what they value. Knowledge has been able to build this model inarguably improving its quality for adults and children alike whose tastes are not served readily elsewhere, and of course it has done so in an uncluttered, commercial-free platform that appears to matter more than some programmers might think.

Today the network receives about $6.6 million in annual provincial grants and another $6 million from its base of 47,000 direct supporters. The former keeps the lights on, the latter keeps the cameras on. The public benevolence in relatively small but consistent pledges, Buttignol says, is why it can commission and acquire programming.

“Without them, we would not be able to do anything like what we do.”

Knowledge has developed a demographically bookended strategy appealing to the serious elder and the curious child; in the process it captures the parent and the middle aged in a schedule that accessibly challenges and never panders. It isn’t a particularly prolific programmer, but it asserts its place through sophisticated curation.

Last week, the most adventurous yet of its original programming debuted, an extraordinary four-part documentary series titled British Columbia: An Untold History. It ought to be required viewing. I could fortunately preview the four hours, which roll out on Tuesdays at 9 in the next weeks and stream across knowledge.ca and the network’s apps across platforms.

The series serves as a crash reset on what we know about where we live. The segments – Change + Resistance, Labour + Persistence, Migration + Resilience and Nature + Co-Existence – are an unflinching examination of the socio-economic tensions that have defined us without us learning deeply about them. They are exquisitely shot creative documentaries, authoritatively informed by voices traditionally excluded from the public narrative. They are, in educational terms, a rewrite of the curriculum, eye-openers and mind-openers – and yes, uncomfortable, depending on your subject position.

An Untold History is exactly what public broadcasting was meant to be, but in many quarters isn’t, and emblematic of how Knowledge has matured under Buttignol in his 14 years.

At 70, responsible in no small way in this country for the development of cultural policy, Buttignol is far from any removal of its application or dialing back his dedication. Others in the industry see him as in his prime. He chairs an international advisory council on Hot Docs, the largest documentary festival in North America, and his CV reveals incessant occupation and leadership across several boards and industry entities as a four-decade executive.

He has not been shy about pronouncing upon the lamentable dismantling of Canadian media and its enfeebled state in asserting national identity, and his voice was prominent in efforts to tax the Silicon Valley giants that operated unfettered in Canada until recently.

He spent a dozen years patiently nurturing the development of An Untold History, brought to the screen by series producers Leena Minifie of the Gitxaala Nation and Trish Dolman of Screen Siren Pictures and writer-director Kevin Eastwood. The first draft of the project’s research from Jennifer Chiu weighed in at 98 pages, whittled to four by Eastwood. Buttignol’s favourite episode is about our story of immigration, unsurprising as someone who came to Canada from Italy at age four with his mother to reunite with his father, who had come a year earlier to work for the railway in laying track in northern Alberta. Our favourite media, whether film or music, revives our childhood.

He has one eye on succession in three years when his latest term expires, but meantime has another important landmark project to unfurl, one aimed at developing a new viewership that holds its space over generations.

It will be a $10 million series of 40 children’s animated (and musical) shorts, Luna, Chip and Inkie: Adventure Rangers Go, 11-minute episodes based on the 15-second clips of their characters we can now see as interstitials that dot the full half-day of the Knowledge schedule devoted to kids. This will be a healthy portion of his legacy, his version of Sesame Street, and an opportunity for Knowledge to reach beyond the province to find global audiences, with Canadian intellectual property in tow. It sets the place in good hands for the future.

And it is being done because British Columbians cared for it to be done. •

Kirk LaPointe is publisher and editor-in-chief of BIV and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.

 

 
Spending

Growing a trend: Plant-based foods taking root at major Canadian grocery stores

Here's why your Vancouver big box grocery store's shelves now hold so many more vegan products

Shoppers at major Canadian grocery stores are finding an increasing number of plant-based foods to help them go vegan or simply swap out a little meat and dairy | Paul Burns/Getty Images

There was a time not too long ago when the pursuit of vegan food products meant a trip to a specialty grocery store, even in a city like Vancouver. But the old tropes of the funky co-op staffed by hippies and bean sprout enthusiasts is very old news. In fact, even the term "vegan" has fallen by the wayside, having become somewhat of a pejorative, replaced by the more gentle "plant-based."

And plant-based products are becoming increasingly more mainstream.

Now more than ever, the shelves of major Canadian grocery stores hold a staggering array of animal-free foods, many of which are made to emulate the flavour and texture of its equivalent in the non-vegan world. Plant-based dairy alternatives include not only "milks" and "creams" but also all manner of "cheese," yogurt, and frozen treats. You'll find ready-to-cook plant-based patties to sub out for beef burgers, "crumble" to stand in for ground meat, and all sorts of frozen faux chicken and fish products, along with sausages, dips, spreads, and desserts.

From jackfruit to jerky, shoppers at major Vancouver grocery chains can easily flex their flexitarian - or full-on vegan - muscles with ease these days.

Going beyond Beyond Meat and more

Many of the products are made by high-profile global brands that have tapped into the Canadian market have secured positioning on grocery store shelves here in B.C., often starting with a single product, like Beyond Meat's burger, before adding to the line-up. Beyond Meat has made its ground meat substitute and larger savoury sausages available, and has just added the company's Beyond Breakfast Sausage Links.

“With the launch of our first retail breakfast product, we’re enabling Canadians to enjoy Beyond Meat products any time of day, satiating the growing appetite for plant-based protein in the country," said Heena Verma, Marketing Director for Canada, Beyond Meat.

Nudging up against Beyond Meat in the packaged meat section of your local major grocery store is Impossible Foods, another U.S.-based company making a name for itself in the industry. Other global brands you'll also readily spot in mainstream grocery stores include California's Earth Island (which began in the 70s as indie vegetarian market Follow Your Heart in Los Angeles) and Greece's Violife, which makes several kinds of vegan "cheese" products.

Metro Vancouver-based businesses take root in mainstream plant-based product sector

Conversely, Port Moody's Noble Jerky - which began as a business making meaty beef jerky - has gone all-vegan, and has entered the U.S. and Australian markets, in addition to now being sold at behemoth grocer Walmart Canada.

The company's switch to being all plant-based marks what Noble sees as an inevitable shift in the market: "With so many large meat companies shifting towards offering vegan options, the growing demand for plant-based products, and the rise of health and environment trends, the prospect of our food industry is clear – the future of meat is vegan," explains the company.

When it comes to the boutique brands, including many that got off the ground as one-person endeavours here in Metro Vancouver, several small plant-based businesses have grown into major multi-national enterprises while Canadian grocery chains have expanded their lines of in-house plant-based products, tapping into a broadening sector of the consumer market.

Burnaby-based Earth's Own rose to prominence in the milk alternative sector with its line of oat beverages - non-dairy milk alternatives cannot legally use the word "milk" in their product names - and is now a fixture in the dairy case at major Vancouver grocery stores, as well as independent ones. The company subsequently expanded its line to include nut-based milk alternatives, followed by a duo of cream-style products made with oats - one made for use in coffee and the other as a "culinary" or cooking cream substitute.

Now Earth's Own is expanding again with products like a spreadable plant-based butter, non-dairy "cream cheese spread" and "sour cream," and a ranch-flavoured dip. 

Those products will be sharing shelf-space with other Vancouver-based plant-based brands that have grown exponentially, like Spread'em Kitchen, which started out making dairy-free dips and spreads before expanding to add "cheese" and other products to its roster. Spread'em got its start in the home kitchen of its founder, who was making the products and selling them at Vancouver farmers' markets as a weekend side hustle.

Canadian grocers making more plant-based items themselves

When it comes to longtime innovators in the Canadian grocery sector, it's hard to beat Loblaw, which has tapped into trends in ingredients, eating habits, and the like for decades. Now Loblaw Companies Limited's President's Choice (PC) in-house label features an ever-expanding array of plant-based items, available for sale in Vancouver in stores like The Real Canadian Superstore, City Market, and No Frills. 

The product line-up recently saw a boost in items, including things like oat-based yogurts, ready-to-cook sausages, and more frozen heat-and-serve items like breaded "chicken" strips.

For Loblaw, creating these items became a matter of meeting the consumer demand for products that could easily assist them in removing some, not necessarily all of the meat from their diet. 

“Canadians have been embracing a flexitarian mindset for a while now, looking to include more plant-based products in their weekly meals," Kathlyne Ross, Vice President, Product and Innovation, Loblaw Companies Limited tells Vancouver Is Awesome. "With that in mind, our team has developed over 80 PC Plant Based products to offer Canadians more meat and dairy alternatives that are full of flavour, providing the plant-based solutions we know they’re looking for.”

Often shoppers are looking for simple subs and swaps to solve the "what's the dinner?" problem while at the same time making an effort to consume fewer animal products. For some shoppers, that's by going vegetarian or plant-based one night a week for "Meatless Monday," while for others it's a little more. "If you want to easily swap in a groundless beef alternative to your family Taco Tuesday meal, we’ve got you covered," says Ross, of the robust PC Plant Based product line-up.

Those customers are what Loblaw calls "plant curious."

Ross says giving consumers plenty of choice at the grocery store is key, too, as is convenience. "For those plant curious Canadians, our goal is to help them welcome a wider variety of delicious plant-based alternatives into their everyday diet, in a way that is easy and convenient for them," adds Ross.

For those who consider themselves plant curious, flexitarian, or entirely plant-based, take note: your nearest big box grocery store is definitely paying attention.

 
Spending

Check out this interactive John and Yoko exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery (VIDEO)

You can help complete some of the works

Growing Freedom: The instructions of Yoko Ono and The art of John and Yoko opens Oct. 9 and runs until May 2, 2022.

Two pioneering pop artists are the focus of the Vancouver Art Gallery's new exhibition.

Growing Freedom: The instructions of Yoko Ono and The art of John and Yoko opens Oct. 9 and runs until May 2, 2022.

The installment examines the creative collaboration between Ono and her late husband, Beatles co-founder John Lennon.

The exhibition is organized into two parts. The first emphasizes Ono's often radical approach to visual art. Some of the featured works invite viewers to participate in the creative process. Guests are welcome to mend broken china or even hammer nails into a canvas.

"It's not like you have to keep your hands in your pockets at all times. It really is about engaging with the works in a physical and spiritual way," explains curator Cheryl Sim.

The second portion showcases various collaborative projects for peace undertaken by Ono and Lennon. These include the famous War Is Over (If you want it) campaign and Bed-Ins For Peace, both from 1969.

Visitors are encouraged to bring headphones to access audio content throughout the exhibition; a limited supply of disposable headphones will be available.

The Vancouver Art Gallery is open seven days a week; hours vary depending on the day.

 
Spending

Vancouver ale house named 'Best Brewery Experience' in B.C.

Founded in 1997, R&B Brewing takes first place in honours awarded by BC Ale Trail

R&B Brewing in Vancouver's Mt. Pleasant neighbourhood has been named the 'Best Brewery Experience' in B.C. | BC Ale Trail

One of Vancouver's first microbreweries has been named the 'Best Brewery Experience' in the province.

Following the tallying of more than 4,200 votes, R&B Brewing took first place in the fourth annual awarding of the accolade, which is given out by the BC Ale Trail. It's the first time a brewery in Vancouver, or even the Lower Mainland, received the award. 

"This award means a lot to us," says R&B co-founder Barry Benson in a press release. "Now I get to do what I really like, which is going out, selling beer, meeting new people. The brew crew we have is the most amazing brew crew ever. The front-of-house staff is great."

R&B Brewing, located at 54 East 4 Ave., was created in 1997 by Benson and Rick Dellow. In 2015 it was bought by Squamish's Howe Sound Brewing, which helped revive the front-of-house space.

"It’s an honour and a privilege to give this award to one of the OGs in craft brewing in BC,” says Ken Beattie, Executive Director of the BC Craft Brewers Guild. “This award gives folks all across B.C. a chance to single out breweries that work hard to create amazing consumer experiences."

The award takes into account a variety of factors, from the quality of beer to the atmosphere in the restaurant. Past winners were Townsite in Powell River, Land & Sea in Comox, and Twin City in Port Alberni.

 

 
Exploring

What are we reading? October 14, 2021

Photo: selimaksan/Getty Images

Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.

 

Kirk LaPointe, publisher and editor-in-chief:

Baseball playoffs are on, and if you’re finding the games are dragging on, there might be some hope down the road. The Atlantic League is a petri dish for all sorts of experiments in rules that are intended to accelerate the game and make it more thrilling. – Bloomberg BusinessWeek

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-10-11/mlb-rule-changes-atlantic-league-tests-tweaks-meant-to-save-baseball

 

A Peter Jackson-directed documentary, six hours in length and in three parts,arrives next month and revisits the latter stage of The Beatles. Editor-in-chief David Remnick writes lovingly about the Fab Four, although more from a Paul than a John perspective. – The New Yorker

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/10/18/paul-mccartney-doesnt-really-want-to-stop-the-show

 

Jeremy Hainsworth, reporter:

The Peer and the Gangster: A Very British Cover-up by Daniel Smith. 

Author Daniel Smith digs behind the headline to look at the relationship between flamboyant politician Lord Boothby and  gangster Ronnie Kray. The scandal disappeared almost as soon as it arrived.

Using interviews, MI5 intelligence records, government papers, extensive interviews and  contemporary reports and secondary sources, Smith pieces together how politicians, police, intelligence officials, lawyers and the media crushed the story.

 

Glen Korstrom, reporter: 

This blog has an interesting take as it explores the phenomenon on artificial-intelligence, and audio tours at tourist attractions, and whether they are a help or hindrance to local tourism economies. – Couchfish

https://couchfish.substack.com/p/couchfish-a-leaky-robot

 

No one knows exactly how Google’s search algorithm works, as this blog post openly admits. Google executives have, however, dropped hints that are worth reflecting on when posting content. – Semrush Blog

https://www.semrush.com/blog/google-search-algorithm/

 

With Vancouver’s film industry booming, some homeowners could be tempted to allow their homes to be used in shoots. This piece sets out the pros and cons. – WSJ
https://www.wsj.com/articles/using-your-house-for-a-movie-or-tv-set-can-be-lucrative-but-also-disruptive-11633547149?st=0lcsfer9ez5f257&reflink=article_copyURL_share

 

Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor:

Like ginkgo trees, dragonflies and horseshoe crabs, crocodiles are often referred to as “living fossils” because of their basic appearance has changed little over hundreds of millions of years. New research, however, suggests that the outsized reptiles have never stopped undergoing genetic modification but are in a kind of evolutionary closed loop dictated by their environment: “Modern croc species look so similar not because of conserving ancient traits, but because crocodiles are evolving the same skull shapes over and over again through time.” – Smithsonian

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/modern-crocodiles-are-evolving-rapid-rate-180978432/

 

A scam ad using his name and image to perpetrate a cannabis gummies fraud prompted this call by David Suzuki for better media literacy and regulation of online information: “We must see our information systems – news media, social media, etc. – as the foundations of democracy they are, and we must insist on keeping them, and the people who use them, healthy." – rabble.ca

https://rabble.ca/technology/cbd-gummy-scam-illustrates-need-for-media-literacy/

 

Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

Look no further than your rooftop for a huge untapped potential source for generating clean, renewable electricity everywhere in the world, according to this Nature Communications study of rooftop solar panels. – Nature Communications

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-25720-2

 

Meanwhile, scientists on the cold, hard realities beat are getting closer to reaching absolute zero [−273.15 C; -459.67 F] in lab experiments, and even though that might not mean much to Canadians bracing for another long, cold, dark winter, it is far from nothing when it comes to particle physics and manipulating the characteristics of helium, nitrogen and other gases for use in technology and industry. – Popular Mechanics

https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/a37852132/coldest-temperature-recorded-in-lab/