The biggest news stories of the year
Feb. 9-25: 2018 Winter Olympics
The 2018 Winter Olympics touched down in Pyeongchang, South Korea, spanning much of the month of February. Despite a strained environment due to historical political tensions between South Korea and North Korea, alongside the Russian doping scandal which forced Russian athletes to compete without representing Russia, the games were largely a success.
Close to 3,000 athletes competed and Canada ended up placing third overall, with 11 gold, eight silver and 10 bronze medals—the team’s most successful Winter Olympics yet. Beloved ice skating duo Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir took home two gold medals, making them the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history. Host nation South Korea took home 17 medals, their best ever.
Feb. 14: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting
A shooter opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 students and staff and injuring 17 more, making it the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history after the Columbine High School shooting in April of 1999.
Survivors and allies formed Never Again MSD, a student-led political movement to fight for stricter gun control laws in the country. Their activism largely led to an increase in the legal ownership for firearms in Florida from 18 to 21 and one of the largest global youth protests ever, March for Our Lives, in March.
Mar. 17: Cambridge Analytica Facebook scandal
Word of a possible scandal surrounding Facebook’s use of user data had been bubbling since 2015, but the news finally broke this year when a whistleblower from Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm tied to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, revealed the firm harvested data from up to 87 million Facebook profiles for political use.
The scandal prompted calls for better practice around data use by corporations and reshaped the understanding of the ethics of social media companies for many. It also led to a major blow to public opinion of Facebook, cutting more than $100 billion of Facebook’s share price in the days and weeks following the news. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was called to testify in front of the United States Congress on the scandal.
Apr. 6: Family separation at U.S.-Mexico border
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions implemented a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy for people entering the U.S. from Mexico outside of legal channels. This meant every crosser, even asylum seekers, were subject to federal prosecution. Because children crossing the border could not be held in federal jails they were separated from their parents and placed under the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. From April 18 to May 31, almost 2,000 children were reportedly separated from their families.
Trump later overturned the criticized policy with an executive order in late June and a federal court ordered the government to reunite separated children with their families within 30 days.
Apr. 6: Humboldt Broncos tragedy
In rural Saskatchewan, 16 people aboard the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team’s bus were killed and another 13 were injured after the bus collided with a transport truck. The majority of those killed were players on the team, along with the team’s coach, assistant coach, athletic therapist, bus driver and team announcer. Later in July, the RCMP charged the driver of the transport truck with 16 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.
In a nation known for its love of hockey, the tragedy struck a particular chord. People across the country placed hockey sticks outside their doors in remembrance. A GoFundMe campaign raised over $15 million for the families of those killed and the team in just 12 days, setting a national record.
Apr. 8: Syrian chemical attack
At least 70 people were killed in a chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma, allegedly carried out by the Syrian army in the midst of the civil war in the country which has been going on since 2011. The conflict has killed more than 465,000 Syrians.
Apr. 18: Deadly protests in Nicaragua
Protests erupted in Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America, after President Ortega announced increases in social security taxes and cuts to services. At least 63 protestors, mainly students, were killed.
Apr. 23: Toronto van attack
Ten people were killed, mainly women, and another 16 were injured after a man intentionally drove a van into pedestrians in downtown Toronto, largely on Yonge Street, making it the deadliest vehicle-ramming attack in Canadian history. The van came to a stop after roughly 2.2 kilometres, where Ken Lam, Toronto police constable, was hailed as a hero for arresting the suspect without using lethal force.
In later investigations into the suspect’s motives, it was discovered that he was linked to the ‘incel’ community, which is short for involuntary celibacy, a term adopted by misogynists who blame women for their inability to find sexual partners.
Apr. 27: Kim Jong-un crosses divide to South Korea
Kim Jong-un, leader of North Korea, made history by crossing the military line into South Korea that divides the two countries, for the first time since it was first drawn at the end of the Korean War in 1953. Jong-un’s crossing was seen as a major step towards peace between the two countries and South Korea’s ally, the U.S., who some believed were on the brink of nuclear war in 2017.
May 19: Royal wedding
British Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle married in England, with around 1.9 billion tuning in for the ceremony.
June 3: Guatemalan volcanic eruption
An estimated 109 people died after the Fuego volcano erupted in Guatemala.
June 18: Report reveals extent of opioid epidemic in Canada
A report released by the federal government revealed that in 2017 nearly 4,000 Canadians died from opioid overdoses, most of them traced back to the deadly drug fentanyl, up from 3,000 deaths in 2016.
July 8-10: Thailand cave rescue
After descending into a cave as part of an adventure in Thailand’s Chiang Rai province and becoming trapped inside for over two weeks due to monsoon flooding, all 12 members of a Thai junior soccer team and their assistant coach were successfully rescued. One member of the rescue team died, a former Thai navy diver who brought oxygen supplies to the boys and their coach trapped about four kilometres from the cave’s entrance.
July 18: Deadly heat in Quebec
At least 93 people died in Quebec after a July heat wave hit the province, 53 in the city of Montreal alone. Temperatures reached as high as 35 degrees Celsius in the first week of July.
July 22: Danforth shooting
A shooter opened fire late one night in downtown Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood, a largely Greek community, killing two people and wounding 13 more. The shooting became emblematic of an especially deadly year in Toronto, specifically surrounding gun violence. As of Nov. 26 there were 91 homicides recorded in Toronto since January, marking the deadliest year in the city on record.
July 23: Greece wildfires
A wildfire broke out in coastal Greece in the midst of a heat wave, killing 99 people and making it the second-deadliest wildfire in the 21st century after fires in Australia in 2009.
July 25: Water on mars?
Scientists found evidence of water on Mars for the first time below the planet’s south polar ice cap, about 20 kilometres across. While the finding is exciting, it does not confirm life on Mars.
Aug. 10: Fredericton mass shooting
A mass shooting took place in Fredericton, New Brunswick, were four people were killed, including two police officers. The suspect has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder.
Aug. 19: Italian bridge collapse
A 200-metre section of the Morandi bridge in Italy full of vehicles collapsed, killing 43 people. Allegations that experts had warned that the bridge might be unstable are still being investigated.
Sept 6: Gay sex legalized in India
The Supreme Court of India overturned a colonial law which made gay sex a criminal offence, ruling discrimination based on sexual orientation is a violation of fundamental rights.
Sept. 22: Iranian parade attack
A total of 29 people were killed and 70 more wounded in an attack on a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz. Both the Ahvaz National Resistance and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility.
Sept 28: Indonesian earthquake
A 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck Indonesia, triggering a tsunami. Together, the natural disasters killed over 2,000 and injured more than 10,000.
Oct. 2: Waterloo scientist wins Nobel Prize in Physics
Donna Strickland, a professor at the University of Waterloo, shared the annual Nobel Prize in Physics for her work developing chirped pulse amplification, a technique used to deliver extremely powerful and finite amounts of energy through laser light.
Oct. 2: Murder of journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi government
Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the Saudi Arabian government, was killed in the country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. The Saudis originally denied that Khashoggi had been killed all before changing their tone and saying he was killed inside the building on orders from an intelligence officer.
In mid-November several prominent news outlets reported that the CIA had concluded that Khashoggi’s murder had been ordered by the Saudi crown prince. U.S. President Trump was widely criticized for disputing their findings, writing in a statement on Nov. 20 that “we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi.”
Oct. 6: Kavanaugh sworn into Supreme Court of the United States
After a tumultuous few weeks leading up the swearing-in of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court after allegations of sexual misconduct emerged against him, Kavanaugh was voted into the court by the U.S. Senate, 50-48.
Kavanaugh, nominated by U.S. President Donald Trump, faced allegations of sexual misconduct from three different women, all of which he denied. The most prominent of these allegations dated back to his time in high school in the 1980s, where Christine Blasey Ford, now a psychology professor, alleged to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he sexually assaulted her at a party when she was 15 and he was 17.
Oct. 8: Critical global warming report released
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a heavily cited and scientifically-backed report that made widespread calls for climate change action. The report states that there is only 12 years left for humankind to mediate climate change to prevent global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Oct. 19: India train accident
A train struck a massive crowd in India during the annual Hindu festival, Dussehra, killing at least 59.
Oct. 20: Brexit protests
An estimated 700,000 people marched through central London in protest of Brexit, the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. They demanded a second referendum for Brexit after the first narrowly passed in 2016, the second largest protest in the U.K. in the 21st century after an anti-Iraq war march in 2003.
Oct. 27: Pittsburgh synagogue shooting
A shooter with anti-semitic motives opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, killing 11 and injuring seven. The shooting became emblematic of a sharp increase in hate crimes in the United States: a report from the FBI found there was a 23 per cent increase in religion-based hate crimes in general in 2017 and a 37 per cent increase in anti-Jewish hate crimes specifically.
Oct. 28: Brazil elects far-right president
After being stabbed on the campaign trail Jair Bolsonaro, known for his nationalist and populist approach to politics, was selected to be the next president of Brazil, winning 55 per cent of the vote. Bolsonaro’s win raised concerns due to his advocacy of far-right policies. Bolsonaro has been described as a vocal opponent to same-sex marriage, environmental regulations (Brazil contains about 60 per cent of the Amazon rainforest), abortion and immigration.
Nov. 8: California fires
A monstrous forest fire spanning over 150,000 acres (about the size of Chicago) burned in Northern California for much of November, killing 85 and injuring close to 250. The fire also destroyed close to 14,000 homes, making it the deadliest and most destructive fire in the state on record. The province of British Columbia also experienced its worst ever year for wildfires. As of Nov. 26, almost 300 people were still unaccounted for in California.
Nov. 9: 2018 U.S. midterms
Just under half of all eligible voters in the United States hit the polls in the 2018 midterm elections, the highest turnout in over a century. The Republicans increased their control of the Senate while Democrats regained control of the House, giving the party the ability to subpoena the Trump administration. A record number of women were elected to the House and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will become the youngest woman to ever be elected to Congress. Two Indigenous women were elected to Congress for the first time.
Nov. 16: Largest oil spill in Newfoundland history
The largest ever oil spill took place off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. An estimated 250,000 litres spilled into the ocean southeast of the provincial capital, St. John’s, from the SeaRose oil platform.
Nov. 21: Severe famine in Yemen civil war
International charity Save the Children revealed that close to 85,000 children under the age of five may have died of hunger in the midst of a civil war that started in 2014, between the state government and the Houthi militia. The conflict increased in 2015 when Saudi Arabia began bombing the Houthi militia, backed by the U.S., U.K. and France. The conflict itself has killed at least 10,000 and has put a staggering 14 million people at a risk of starvation.
Nov. 25: Ukraine-Russia conflict intensifies
Russian warships fired upon and then seized control of three Ukrainian vessels in the Russia-controlled Kerch Strait amidst Russian military intervention in Ukraine, which have been going on since 2014. The next day the Ukraine government invoked martial law along its coastline. Russia is also imprisoning close to 100 Ukrainians illegally and a statement from the G7 condemned Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
Nov. 26: Touchdown on mars
NASA’s InSight spacecraft lands on Mars, only the eighth to ever do so. It will explore the planet for the next two years to try to help scientists uncover its past.