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In a year filled with many great pieces of journalism, these are the long-form stories that stood out to readers

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Compilation of photos for the best long reads of 2019Staff and wire photos

How the RCMP found Canada’s most wanted fugitives with a raven, a Cree trapper and luck

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Billy Beardy drives a quad with reporter Renata D'Aliesio east along an ATV trail towards the Nelson River, part of the suspected route B.C. murder suspects Kam McCleod and Bryer Schmegelsky took after burning their car. September 10, 2019Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

From the air, the forests of Northern Manitoba look immense. From the ground, they look impenetrable. Distance means something different out here. So this summer, when the Mounties came searching for two murder suspects on the run, they could never know how close they came – until they found them.

For the Manitoba RCMP and Billy Beardy, the Fox Lake Cree Nation member who helped search for the fugitives, the manhunt was a frustrating game of cat and mouse. But serendipitous discoveries brought them closer and closer.

The Globe and Mail’s Renata D’Aliesio and photojournalist Melissa Tait were on the ground in Manitoba while the search was ongoing. They saw how the fugitives’ story ended. They returned to tell the story of their pursuers.

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From the streets to the halls of justice: Former foster child, teen mom is now a graduate from UBC law school

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Dawn Johnson watches her recreational baseball team the Longhouse Lighting with her children in Vancouver, B.C., May 12, 2019: Sky, second from left, Emma and Ryley, a close family friend, who she refers to as her son.Jimmy Jeong/The Globe and Mail

Dawn Johnson couldn’t know it then, but the night she called the police to escape her abusive partner marked the end of her beginning, one steeped in violence, pain and abuse of every type. Life didn’t suddenly become any easier. But that night, the former foster kid with 36 addresses began charting an astonishing, new course for her life, and that of the baby girl she’d named Sky.

One that led her to the University of British Columbia’s Peter Allard School of Law, from which Ms. Johnson graduated on May 30.

She chose to open up to Nancy Macdonald about her early struggles in hopes it might reach a scarred, young First Nations woman, just like she used to be.

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Brainstorm: How my ‘mild concussion’ became a dizzying, year-long ordeal

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At right is what the brain of Kathryn Blaze Baum (pictured at left) looked like in an MRI on March 24, 2017, nearly five months after she suffered a concussion. She obtained a digital copy of the scan and more than 100 pages of medical records and notes to piece together how health-care professionals perceived her during by Melissa Tait; MRI scan courtesy of Kathryn Blaze Baum/photo by Melissa Tait; MRI scan courtesy of Kathryn Blaze Baum

I wanted to know why my symptoms – primarily, agonizing migraines – refused to subside. Would I ever feel like myself again? After all, I was an otherwise healthy, active 32-year-old who had endured only a “mild concussion” the November before, when a car door swung back and slammed against my head.

My “mild concussion” and post-concussion syndrome reduced me from an energetic, social woman and passionate journalist to an anxious and depressed migrainer who lived in a mental fog and was extraordinarily sensitive to light and sound. I had to trust I was getting better, even if I didn’t feel any better. Even if my brain wasn’t letting me know.

Most concussion patients are symptom-free within weeks. But Kathryn Blaze Baum spent months stuck in a fog of pain, tinnitus, disorientation and health-care bureaucracy. How can someone heal when their brain won’t co-operate?

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Why does any Canadian need a handgun? What the gun control debate is missing

For more than a year after the shooting, the families of the Danforth victims were waiting for the Liberals to clamp down on handguns.

Meanwhile, the number of gun homicides across Canada continued to climb. By the end of 2018, they hit 249 (up 60 per cent since 2014). Shootings in Toronto notched a record high of 428.

The Globe and Mail’s Patrick White and Tom Cardoso obtained dozens of federal, provincial and municipal databases on guns, and while they revealed much about the types of guns being seized by police, they proved too uneven and incomplete to create any kind of national picture of where the guns actually came from.

Canada’s heated debate over gun control has largely focused on assault-style rifles. But a year-long investigation shows that won’t solve the problem.

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In the dark: The cost of Canada’s data deficit

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Illustration by Rob Dobi

When it comes to basic data about its own citizens – from divorce rates to driving patterns to labour trends – Canada simply doesn’t have the answers. Our ignorance is decades in the making, with causes that cut to the heart of Canada’s identity as a country.

But if the problem has deep roots, it has never mattered more. We live in a data-driven age, when the internet and the processing power of computers has made it easier than ever to hoover up statistics about a society, make them public and accessible, and crowdsource better decisions.

While the federal government has made some progress on the file, a months-long investigation by Eric Andrew-Gee and Tavia Grant has shown that Canada still has a long way to go.

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The life-changing magic of making do

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Illustration by Melinda Josie

Our bloated culture of consumption extends far beyond clothing. Each year, Canadian adults spend about $9,000 for consumer packaged goods – about twice as much as 25 years ago. We replace our smartphones every 25 months. We swap out TVs like toothbrushes. We browse for Instant Pots, pet-hair-removal gloves and spa bath pillows when we’re at dinner, when we’re driving and when we’re drunk.

Unsurprisingly, we are drowning in stuff. It is easy to understand the appeal of these alternative ideologies of consumerism, both of which reflect the same fundamental truth: All this stuff isn’t making us happy.

Making do is a deeply pragmatic philosophy. It means asking of our things the only question we should ever ask of them: “Can you fulfill your intended use for me?” The answer – if we can be honest, and resist a moment of discomfort, inconvenience or boredom –is, extraordinarily often, yes, argues Benjamin Leszcz.

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David Milgaard works to help free other innocent people – even though it opens the wounds of his past

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David Milgaard who was wrongfully convicted for the rape and murder of nursing assistant Gail Miller finds peace at home in Cochrane, Alberta,Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

In 1969, he was arrested for a murder he didn’t commit, and spent 23 years in prison as an innocent man. His story is one of Canada’s most egregious wrongful convictions, and it is never out of the news for long, even now.

He was found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison. But David Milgaard steadfastly declared his innocence, and his mother, Joyce, believed him. She fought tirelessly to see him released, and then worked seven years more for him to be exonerated and compensated.

In his most in-depth interview in decades, Mr. Milgaard talks to Jana G. Pruden about living in the shadow of a wrongful conviction, and what it means to be free.

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Caught in the new cold war: A journey to Crimea

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Family of a young Russian soldier makes a photo at the bench with sign Crimean bridge on the top of mountain Mithridat in Kerch.The Globe and Mail

This is Kerch, in Crimea. It was once a Ukrainian city – until Russia annexed it. Behind this young Russian soldier and his family, a Russian bridge spans the sea from Russian soil. In Sevastopol, Russian ships fill the harbour. In Simferopol, Russia’s president, painted as a ship’s captain, adorns the side of a building.

In a new kind of Cold War, Crimea lies behind a new kind of Iron Curtain. And The Globe’s Mark MacKinnon crossed it.

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How did Gerald Cotten die? A Quadriga mystery, from India to Canada and back

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The Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur, India, is built to resemble a modern-day palace. Gerald Cotten and Jennifer Robertson came here on their honeymoon before Mr. Cotten died. Photo by Nathan Vanderklippe / The Globe and MailNathan VanderKlippe/The Globe and Mail

One day, he was on his honeymoon, enjoying the opulence of Jaipur.

Gerald Cotten, the head of the QuadrigaCX cryptocurrency exchange, was unwell, and the events that would unfold over the next 24 hours would leave him dead in a Jaipur hospital – thrusting him and the circumstances surrounding his death into the international spotlight.

The exchange, now under creditor protection, owes roughly $250-million to 115,000 people – and almost three-quarters of the funds cannot be located. Only Mr. Cotten held the passwords to encrypted vaults that could offer clues to the whereabouts of that money. Now, his demise has left his company and industry in turmoil.

Nathan Vanderklippe, Jessica Leeder and Alexandra Posadzki wrote a piece on what we know about how he lived and how his final day unfolded.

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The diehard Raptors fan who embodies the best of Toronto (it’s not Drake)

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Toronto Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia shows his support for the team during the Eid Dinner hosted by The Canadian-Muslim Vote, in Toronto, on Friday, June 21, 2019.Andrew Lahodynskyj/The Canadian Press

If you’ve seen a Raptors game, you’ve seen Nav Bhatia. Here’s what’s crazy: He’s been to every single Raptors home game since 1995. Every single one. He was there through the SkyDome years, the Barney jerseys, the trade demands, blizzards, a zillion coaches and more.

Big deal, right? There’s more. Mr. Bhatia came to Canada as an immigrant from India in the 1980s with almost nothing. He didn’t have a job or money, and he struggled to rent a tiny basement apartment for $300 a month. His early co-workers weren’t exactly friendly.

These are some of the reasons why Muhammad Lila believes that Mr. Bhatia represents Toronto best. “When the finals tip off, the world’s going to see that spirit on display: diverse, strong and caring,” he wrote back in May.

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Educating Grayson: Are inclusive classrooms failing students?

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Second grader Grayson Kahn, who has been diagnosed with autism and who has had no prior issues at school, at his home with his mother Lisa Kahn on a weekday since he is suspended in Guelph, Ont. on November 13, 2018.Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

The issue of inclusive classrooms has become a matter of fierce debate – and some educators wonder if inclusion has gone too far for students with very complex needs. Inclusiveness can’t work, they say, without a thoughtful rethinking of how we teach children with diverse needs and how we structure the school day.

After an incident when Grayson struck an educational assistant, leaving her with bruises, scrapes and a concussion, the seven-year-old was expelled from school. Now his parents are scrambling to piece together a new plan for educating their son, who they firmly believe belongs in the public school system.

The family’s experience highlights the growing challenges that parents – and educators – face when it comes to accommodating special-needs children in the public school system. Over the past few decades, schools across Canada have moved toward a model of inclusive education, but many are struggling to find the best ways to include children with complex needs in regular classrooms, Caroline Alphonso reports.

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How an immigration scheme steers newcomers into Canadian trucking jobs – and puts lives at risk

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Foreign truck driver Mahan Singh poses at a friends house on a rare day he is not behind the wheel of an 18 wheeler, in Toronto, Ont. on Saturday, August 31, 2019.J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

Mahan Singh remembers feeling terrified he would lose control on an icy highway and kill someone.

An investigation by The Globe’s Kathy Tomlinson discovered that young foreign nationals like Mr. Singh are routinely steered into trucking by some immigration consultants, in collaboration with particular trucking firms. Both take cash payoffs from recruits in exchange for jobs – even though that practice is illegal.

The novice drivers are often unable to decipher Canadian road signs or handle their trucks properly before being sent out on the roads. That inexperience has led to crashes and near misses, according to documented cases, as well as interviews with two dozen sources, including truck drivers, dispatchers, tow operators and industry representatives.

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