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Articles on this Page
- 09/17/17--10:49: _As Trump mocks Kim ...
- 09/17/17--03:00: _Booze, benches, bat...
- 09/16/17--19:57: _Joy, fulfilment, de...
- 09/17/17--13:39: _Father of boy in Am...
- 09/17/17--08:44: _A carnival worker c...
- 09/17/17--11:52: _Toronto police ID m...
- 09/17/17--13:04: _‘Mommy wine festiva...
- 09/17/17--12:09: _Trump retweets imag...
- 09/17/17--03:00: _Handing out money f...
- 09/17/17--13:10: _World’s oldest pers...
- 09/17/17--05:15: _Man dies in hospita...
- 09/17/17--10:01: _Marseille acid atta...
- 09/17/17--15:27: _The NDP and the roa...
- 09/18/17--05:48: _London police quest...
- 09/18/17--03:00: _Sears pension ‘slap...
- 09/18/17--02:30: _Food bank usage in ...
- 09/17/17--20:23: _Lupul gets physical...
- 09/17/17--17:15: _Media happily chron...
- 09/18/17--09:02: _Trudeau welcomes Br...
- 09/18/17--09:22: _Kathleen Wynne want...
- McMaster said “the president’s ears are open” to possible participation in a new global climate agreement that addresses his concerns about the original 2015 deal, when Barack Obama was president. The White House has denied reports that Trump has changed his mind about withdrawing the U.S. from the accord.
- McMasters suggested that Friday’s bomb attack in London could lead Trump to introduce a stronger travel ban. Trump’s original travel ban has been tied up in court, with the Supreme Court scheduled to hear arguments next month in a legal challenge.
- 09/16/17--19:57: Joy, fulfilment, despair motivates Canadian humanitarian clown
- 09/17/17--13:39: Father of boy in Amber Alert still in Ontario hospital
- 09/17/17--11:52: Toronto police ID man killed in shooting near Regent Park
- 09/17/17--13:04: ‘Mommy wine festival’ ignores mental health risks, experts say
- 09/17/17--12:09: Trump retweets image of him hitting Hillary Clinton with golf ball
- 09/17/17--03:00: Handing out money for free harder than it looks
- 09/17/17--13:10: World’s oldest person, Violet Brown, dies at 117
- 09/17/17--05:15: Man dies in hospital after Toronto restaurant shooting
- 09/17/17--15:27: The NDP and the road back to relevance: Tim Harper
- 09/18/17--05:48: London police questioning 2 ex-foster children over subway bomb
- 09/18/17--03:00: Sears pension ‘slap’ shows need to diversify savings
- 09/18/17--02:30: Food bank usage in Toronto back to recession-era levels, report says
- Close to 20 per cent of those assisted by a food bank are employed or recently employed,
- 62 per cent of users have a disability,
- 35 per cent have post-secondary education.
- 09/17/17--20:23: Lupul gets physical with Maple Leafs on social media
SOMERSET, N.J.—President Donald Trump mocked the leader of nuclear-armed North Korea on Sunday as “Rocket Man” while White House advisers said the isolated country would face destruction unless it shelves its weapons programs and bellicose threats.
The warnings came a day after Kim Jong Un pledged to continue those programs, saying North Korea is nearing its goal of “equilibrium” in military force with the United States.
North Korea will be high on the agenda for world leaders this coming week at the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly, Trump’s biggest moment on the world stage since his inauguration in January.
Trump is scheduled to address the world body, which he has criticized as weak and incompetent, on Tuesday.
Read more: Read more on U.S. President Donald Trump
Trump, who spent the weekend at his New Jersey golf club, tweeted that he and South Korean President Moon Jae-in discussed North Korea during their latest telephone conversation Saturday.
Asked about Trump’s description of Kim, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said “Rocket Man” was “a new one and I think maybe for the president.” But, he said, “that’s where the rockets are coming from. Rockets, though, we ought to probably not laugh too much about because they do represent a great threat to all.”
McMcaster said Kim is “going to have to give up his nuclear weapons because the president has said he’s not going to tolerate this regime threatening the United States and our citizens with a nuclear weapon.”
Asked if that meant Trump would launch a military strike, McMaster said, “He’s been very clear about that, that all options are on the table.”
Some doubt that Kim would ever agree to surrender his arsenal.
“I think that North Korea is not going to give up its program with nothing on the table,” said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a member of the Senate intelligence committee.
Kim has threatened Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific, and has fired missiles over Japan, a U.S. ally. North Korea also recently tested its most powerful bomb.
The UN Security Council has voted unanimously twice in recent weeks to tighten economic sanctions on North Korea, including targeting shipments of oil and other fuel used in missile testing. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said North Korea was starting to “feel the pinch.”
Trump, in a tweet, asserted that long lines for gas were forming in North Korea, and he said that was “too bad.”
Haley warned of a tougher U.S. response to future North Korean provocations, and said she would be happy to turn the matter over to Defence Secretary Jim Mattis “because he has plenty of military options.”
Mattis said after Kim tested a hydrogen bomb earlier this month that the U.S. would answer any threat from the North with a “massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming.”
Trump has threatened to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea if the North continued with its threats. Haley said that wasn’t an empty threat from the president but she declined to describe the president’s intentions.
“If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behaviour, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed and we all know that and none of us want that,” Haley said. “None of us want war. But we also have to look at the fact that you are dealing with someone who is being reckless, irresponsible and is continuing to give threats not only to the United States, but to all their allies, so something is going to have to be done.”
The White House said after Trump’s tweet that he and Moon were committed to strengthening deterrence and defence capabilities, and maximizing economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea.
But Haley said the Security Council had “pretty much exhausted” all its options.
In other developments Sunday:
Haley and Feinstein spoke on CNN’s State of the Union and McMaster appeared on ABC’s This Week and Fox News Sunday.
Right now, the city is conducting a survey about its parkland strategy (you can fill it out online or attend public meetings about it around the city). At the same time, it is entertaining a proposal from Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, chair of the parks committee, to allow people to buy and drink beer in public parks.
So it seems an opportune time — as we enjoy the last few weeks of prime Toronto park season and reflect on our experiences of the summer — to offer a few suggestions. These are small ones — nothing so grandiose as a plan for new parks, or even new types of parks, and nothing so expensive, either. But from my picnic blanket under the trees, they seem like they’re small things that would make a huge difference to our enjoyment of park spaces.
First off, yes, let people drink beer (or wine, or whatever) in parks. But don’t bother limiting it to some kind of rotating “beer truck” special events — as the proposal seems like it might — or otherwise bog it down in quicksand of overregulation. As my colleague at Metro, Matt Elliott, recently wrote, there’s every danger that the city will put up all kinds of fenced-off beer holding pens in corners of parks, or put so many rules and permits onto what can be drunk or sold and how that they suck all the fun out of what should be a way for people to have fun.
Golf courses can already have their licensed area include all the playing areas and the grass around the clubhouse —essentially the whole course— so people can wander around with a beer while they play. The same seems like it would work just fine in public parks.
Right now — famously at Trinity Bellwoods, but also even at my local family playground — many, many people routinely bring a bottle of wine or a tall can of IPA to the park. And it causes few problems that anyone can see. All the city has to do is change the law to conform to a relatively uncontroversial common practice.
And then, to complement this, the city can go ahead and license sales concessions — truck-based or otherwise — as a service to park users and a source of cash, too.
It was after I had kids that I realized parks serve roughly the same purpose in a community as pubs: they’re convenient local places to relax, blow off steam, celebrate, meet people, and catch up on neighbourhood news and gossip. Seems like there are relatively few reasons not to add another similarity to the list by letting people do those things over a beer if they want.
Which brings us to my second suggestion. You know what else bars have? Bar stools. Chairs. Places for people to sit down while they socialize and pass the time.
You know what Toronto’s parks don’t have enough of? Places to sit down, or things to sit on. Sure, there are a few wooden benches affixed in place here and there, and the odd well-placed rock. But as I wrote last summer, there really are relatively few places to have a seat in our public places, including in our parks.
In New York City and Paris, cheap, movable chairs are a ubiquitous and well-used fixture of parks and public squares. And they are better than park benches specifically because there are lots of them and you can move them around — into the shade, or into conversation circles, or whatever — as you like. “People don’t care about the architectural design of a public space,” writer Jonathan Rowe observed, summarizing the work of legendary urbanist William H. Whyte. “What they do care about is one simple thing: places to sit.” We need more of them in our parks, particularly local neighbourhood drop-in parkettes where people stopping in spontaneously are less likely to have packed a picnic blanket or beach towel with them.
Finally, if people are sitting around enjoying themselves and having a drink, they need something else. Something very basic in which the city has, in my experience, failed spectacularly. They need a decent place to go to the washroom.
“A 5-year-old little girl needed to use the washroom,” a Toronto resident named Betty Lynn wrote me recently about a trip to High Park — one of the city’s flagship destination parks. “She went ahead of me and I was surprised to see her back off, and so hesitant to go into a stall and wouldn’t enter. I looked in and agreed . . . and, frankly was horrified at the sight. Not only unflushed and horribly smelly, but with huge amounts of toilet paper all over the floor, little clean toilet paper, water all over the floor and no lock on the doors! Of the wash basins only one had water (cold), the sinks were filthy and rusted and the floor looked like it hadn’t be cleaned (never mind painted) in decades.”
If you’re from Toronto, it’s likely nothing about Lynn’s description will surprise you. It seems like in our public parks in particular, there are two states in which you find a public washroom.
The first state is disgusting. As Lynn describes.
The second state is locked. For much of the year, the toilets in many parks are closed unless they are attached to a specific facility like a pool or a skating rink that is open. I recall with amazement this spring, while the cherry trees were blooming in High Park, on the same weekend as the park’s baseball and soccer leagues opened their seasons, the park was full of people. Police had gated the entrances to car traffic because there was gridlock on the park roads. The walkways were like Union Station during the morning rush hour. The park was predictably full for the event-packed weekend. And the public washrooms were . . . not yet open for the season.
Almost every fast-food joint and mom-and-pop diner in the city manages to keep restrooms open, and relatively clean, stocked with toilet paper, with functioning sinks and locking stall doors. It isn’t difficult or unreasonable to expect the city to manage the same thing in public facilities.
There’s the three-point plan: let people have a drink, let them have a seat while they do it and give them a decent washroom facility for when they need it. It isn’t a grandiose parkland strategy, but it is an easy way to make our existing parks much better.
Edward Keenan writes on city issues firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow: @thekeenanwire
Edward Keenan writes on city issues email@example.com . Follow: @thekeenanwire
MONTREAL—After years working birthday parties, private functions and public festivals, of making people laugh for profit as Yahou the clown, Guillaume Vermette decided to follow his dream.
The 29-year-old from Trois-Rivières, Que., sold his entertainment company two years ago, launched a fundraising campaign, filled a backpack and dove into a new life marked by overwhelming misery, suffering, violence and desperation.
Vermette, a full-time humanitarian clown, has never felt so enriched. He has never felt so enraged, either.
Now his shows are for street kids in Haiti and Burkina Faso, Syrian refugees in Greece and Jordan, Burmese refugees in Thailand and Russian orphans living in ramshackle conditions.
“Yes, it’s rough sometimes,” he admitted in a recent interview. “If you brought me a recipe to save the world I’d drop my clown nose and do it.”
But the world ricochets from the ruins of Syria and Iraq, to the Rohingya Muslims fleeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Burma, to the heightened nuclear threat from North Korea. And Vermette’s red plastic nose, powder blue suit, red suspenders and, sometimes, ballerina’s pink tutu are never in the closet for long.
In conversation he rants against injustice, exploitation, prejudice and intolerance. He says that what he has seen in the last year or so convinces him that the world is becoming an uglier place. Then he bursts out in an unbridled laugh.
“You have to accept that you can’t change the world. You have to accept that the world is a horrible place,” he said. “To embody change is the best thing you can do—and to be positive. But to be honest, it’s getting harder and harder. I thought it would get easier but it’s not.”
The first time he put on a costume was about 12 years ago while working as a summer camp counsellor in the Inuit community of Salluit in northern Quebec.
He was a 17-year-old white kid working with Inuit youth not much younger than he was but who were already facing serious personal, social and substance-abuse issues. One day, Vermette went into the camp’s costume closet on his break, dressed up and started walking through the streets, marveling at the reaction.
“It was fun, but I felt there was something more—a human contact,” he said. “It allows you to realize that we are all the same. We laugh at the same things. We are touched by the same things.”
An idea was born. He took private clown courses, created his own entertainment company at the age of 19 and enrolled in university, studying psychology. It grew to the point where he had 30 performers working for him and no time to continue his studies.
Some of the profits from Yahou Productions went to pay for humanitarian work, but he was frustrated by bureaucracy trying to get into hospitals and orphanages, where his tricks and gags might brighten someone’s day.
In 2011, a friend slipped Vermette a piece of paper with a telephone number and the name of Patch AdamsPatch Adams, the American doctor and activist clown portrayed by Robin Williams in the 1998 movie. It took him two weeks to work up his courage.
“I called and introduced myself as Guillaume the clown from Trois-Rivières in very bad English at the time. He listened to me and, at the end, asked me to come with him to Russia with about 40 other clowns to tour the orphanages,” Vermette said.
In the years since, Vermette has been to Russia 17 times working with an organization called Maria’s Children, that visits orphanages and hospitals and helps the survivors of the 2004 Beslan school massacre in which about 330 people, including 180 children, were killed by Chechen terrorists after a three-day hostage situation.
One of the kids, Ruslan, lost his father and sister in the Beslan attack. Ruslan’s only surviving relative, his mother, has never really recovered from the trauma, Vermette said.
“I don’t do shows for him because it doesn’t interest him. He needs a presence. He needs a mother and a brother and that’s what I give him as best as I can.”
Patch Adams, perhaps the world’s most famous humanitarian clown, is no longer just an inspiration for Vermette. He is a friend.
“I think the strongest thing that Guillaume brings is that he really has a deeply loving heart for all people,” Adams said in a telephone interview.
He’s also become well respected in the community of itinerant performers who cross paths in far-flung refugee camps or come together for humanitarian missions.
“A clown like Guillaume could be making a really decent wage. Circus is back in a big way. With his skills and experience he could be absolutely packing away the money, but we don’t miss it so it’s not a sacrifice,” said Ash Perrin, founder of The Flying Seagull Project, a troupe that works with refugees in Europe.
Perrin and Vermette first worked together in 2016 in northern Greece, where 14,000 refugees stayed in a makeshift camp, hoping to make asylum claims in Europe. Their common work ethic and concern for the children united them while performing up to eight shows a day in hot, difficult conditions.
“(Children) pick up on the atmosphere of the parents,” Perrin said. “Parents are losing hope after they’ve been there a while. Hope is a thin resource in the camp.”
One moment from that trip is etched in Vermette’s memory. While he was performing, surrounded by kids, a fight broke out and gunshots pierced the air. Everyone scrambled to safety, except Vermette, who couldn’t hear anything over the sounds of the children laughing.
For that brief moment, he had removed his audience from their hostile and miserable reality and transported them to a place of happiness. And he had done his job.
“I’m a clown. I distribute happiness and joy—a moment of normal childhood in the midst of chaos and suffering,” Vermette said. “So far that has been my focus, but I’m reflecting on that. I think I want to do more.”
MONTREAL—A man who was arrested after police found his 6-year-old son, who had been the subject of an Amber Alert, remains in an Ontario hospital.
The boy vanished from St-Eustache, Que., on Thursday and his father was apprehended in Ontario nearly 24 hours later. By then, the body of the boy’s mother had also been discovered in the family home.
Ontario Provincial Police say the man suffered injuries that required medical assessment and he was sent to hospital Saturday.
The man appeared by video link earlier in the day from a police station in Renfrew, Ont., where he had been held since his arrest on Friday night.
Quebec provincial police have not responded to requests for comment about what charges the man might face when he returns to his home province.
As of Sunday afternoon, it was not yet clear when the man would be transferred to Quebec police.
“This man will be back in Quebec when his health conditions are better,” said spokesperson Claude Denis.
Meanwhile, volunteers and police officers continued their search Sunday for a 71-year-old man who has been missing from Lachute, Que., west of Montreal, since Friday.
Yvon Lacasse previously used the car in which the 6-year-old boy was found safe.
Denis says investigators now want to speak to a motorcyclist who could be a useful witness and are asking for help from the public.
Police have images from a surveillance camera that show a motorcyclist in Lachute who may have seen Lacasse’s car Thursday at about 6 p.m. — the time police say the car was stolen.
“In the pictures, we can see the motorcyclist and we can also see the car of Mr. Lacasse,” Denis said Sunday.
Denis is also asking motorists, campers and others living in the area between Lachute and Rouyn-Noranda, Que., to check ditches, cabins and backyards as the search for missing man continues.
Lacasse is bald with brown eyes, five feet five inches tall and weighs just under 100 pounds.
Police are asking anyone who thinks they may have seen him to call 911.
GREENSBORO, N.C.—A fair worker who was trying to fix a broken Ferris wheel in North Carolina fell from the ride and suffered minor injuries.
Cellphone video posted on WHAS11 showed the worker climbing up the Ferris wheel after one of the gondola cars began to tilt out of its normal position Friday night. The television station reported that at least one young boy was inside the stuck gondola car.
When the worker dislodged the car, he lost his balance and fell, banging his body on the ride.
The Central Carolina Fair in Greensboro said in a statement Saturday that the worker was taken to a hospital. He was later released.
The ride was inspected by state officials and approved for future use.
Toronto police have identified the 54-year-old man shot and killed near Regent Park early Saturday morning.
Everone Paul Mitchell was visiting a nearby residence when the shooting took place around Gerrard and River Sts., police said.
Another victim, 57, was taken to trauma centre with non life-threatening injuries.
Police are still gathering evidence and accessing video surveillance.
A Toronto woman who organized a daytime wine festival for new mothers has found herself caught in a firestorm over the pervasiveness of alcohol at a time when heavy drinking is on the rise among women.
The weekday event, dubbed “A Very Mommy Wine Festival,” was meant to give new moms a chance to get together and have fun without the judgment and “mommy-shaming” they consistently face, organizer Alana Kayfetz said.
The 33-year-old, who has a 1-year-old son, argues the backlash is simply another facet of the pressure placed on mothers.
“If this was a man’s beer fest where babies were welcome, it would be celebrated, it would be revered,” Kayfetz said. “We would say, ‘Oh that’s so cute, look at those dads guzzling beer and holding their babies.’ No one would question it.”
But critics, some of them experts on substance use, have expressed concerns that making alcohol a focus of social events normalizes drinking and increases the risk of binge-drinking, a behaviour that has grown among Canadian women while hitting a plateau among men.
The number of teen girls and women who reported drinking in the last year has not changed since the mid-1990s. But the proportion of teen girls and women who reported heavy drinking has gone from 8.3 per cent in 2001 to 13.2 per cent in 2014, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada.
In comparison, the proportion of teen boys and men who reported heavy drinking in the last year has stayed around 23 per cent.
When having a drink or two is par for the course at social events, it can be a slippery slope, said Catherine Paradis, a senior research and policy analyst with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.
“The more you drink, the more likely you are to binge-drink,” she said. Binge-drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks on one occasion for men, or four for women.
Part of the problem is that alcohol is “everywhere,” from races that see runners travel between breweries to university information sessions to cooking shows, Paradis said.
“And now, you feel isolated and at risk for post-partum depression and anxiety? Join the boozy mom playdate,” she said.
Ashley Wettlaufer, a researcher at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said events that prominently feature alcohol typically have alcohol brands as sponsors, which is a form of stealth marketing much like product placement in movies and television.
“This is another way in which women are being targeted — the brands are aligning themselves with, say, breast cancer charities, for example,” Wettlaufer said.
“We now see events like beer yoga advertised on social media and of course groups and events like the mommy wine festival,” she said, noting that Canada’s current regulations on alcohol advertising don’t apply to the internet and social media.
Though most research on alcohol ads has focused on youth, it suggests exposure is linked to increased drinking and positive impressions of brands, she said.
“This is all concerning because of the health impact of alcohol, especially for women,” such as increased risk of several cancers, including breast cancer, Wettlaufer said.
Kayfetz, the organizer, said drinking at the festival was optional, as it is for every other event she organizes through her company, MomsTO.
And the marketing — which includes taglines such as “babes on the hips, wine on the lips” — is tongue-in-cheek, she said.
“I never thought about what we’re doing in part of the dialogue of the larger marketing phenomenon, what’s happening with alcohol being marketed to women,” she said.
“We tried ‘Mommies that like to drink tea, join us,’ but nobody came.”
WASHINGTON —In the latest instance of U.S. President Donald Trump seeming to revel in the notion of physical attacks against perceived enemies, the president retweeted an animated GIF showing him hitting a golf ball that knocks down Hillary Clinton.
Critics swiftly responded. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., appearing on ABC’s This Week, said: “It’s distressing to have a president that frankly will tweet and retweet things as juvenile as that.”
The original Twitter post, from a user whose Twitter handle consists of an expletive, was sent last week and retweeted Sunday by the president, who is spending the weekend at his New Jersey golf property.
A former Trump campaign strategist, David Urban, brushed off the controversy. “Retweets do not equal endorsements,” he said on CNN’s State of the Union.
The president has previously taken to Twitter to retweet animations, including one that depicted him pummeling a figure with a CNN logo superimposed on his head. Another presidential Twitter share last month, later deleted, showed a train hitting a person, again with a CNN logo imposed on the figure’s head.
Trump associates have previously dismissed criticism of such retweets, suggesting they were intended to be humorous.
Clinton’s new book about the campaign was released last week, and Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to deride her as a sore loser.
In the first part of the animation Trump retweeted on Sunday, the president is seen in golf attire, teeing off. The second shows footage of Clinton tripping as she boards a plane, with the video altered to show her being struck in the back with a golf ball.
Money for nothing?
Offering up to $1,400 a month with no strings attached to someone living in poverty may sound easy, says Kwame McKenzie, special adviser to Ontario’s basic income pilot project.
“But it’s not,” says the respected psychiatrist, researcher and international expert on the social causes of illness, suicide and health equity.
“We have spent a lot of time teaching people that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” McKenzie says. “You have to build techniques and strategies to reassure people that they aren’t going to be let down and it isn’t a scam.”
About 28,000 residents in the Hamilton-Brantford and Thunder Bay areas have received 40-page application packages in the mail since Premier Kathleen Wynne launched the three-year initiative in late April. Recruitment in Lindsay, the third trial site, begins later this fall.
The pilot is expected to cost $50 million a year and help the government determine whether a less intrusive and more trusting approach to delivering income support improves health, education and housing outcomes for low-income workers and people on welfare. The government also wants to see if providing an income floor below which nobody can fall improves job prospects for those living on low incomes.
But so far, the randomized weekly mail-outs have resulted in relatively few applications and even fewer cheques in the hands of low-income Ontarians.
Based on feedback from public information meetings over the summer, many of the packages landed in the mailboxes of people who aren’t eligible, either because they are too old or earning too much money.
Up to 4,000 individuals ages 18 to 64 with after-tax incomes under about $34,000 (or under $48,000 for couples and under about $46,000 for a single person with a disability) will receive the provincial cash. Up to 4,000 others will get no extra money, but will be tracked as a control group.
People with disabilities will receive an additional $500 a month. And the basic income will be reduced by 50 cents for every dollar earned until a participant is no longer financially eligible.
The government won’t say how many have signed up or how many cheques were issued in July and August. But community agencies partnering with the government to raise awareness and help potential participants apply, say few low-income people with application forms have come forward for assistance.
Mackenzie, who heads the Wellesley Institute health think-tank and is director of clinical health equity at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, says this isn’t unusual and that studies of this kind use randomized mail-outs as much for advertising as recruitment.
It helps to get the word out, so when people are tapped in more targeted enrolment efforts, they know something about it, he says.
“If you want to reach more marginalized populations you need a number of different ways of getting people talking about it,” he says.
Last month, provincial officials began setting up open and targeted enrolment sessions in food banks and community agencies in Thunder Bay and Brantford. Lakehead Social Planning Council in Thunder Bay is also reaching out to potential participants over Facebook. Open enrolment sessions will start in Hamilton next week.
The weekly mail-outs have changed to a “less intimidating” one-page letter inviting people to request an application package or visit the government’s basic income website for more information, said Karen Glass, the government’s senior bureaucrat on the file. Reminder postcards are being sent to those who received the initial package. And now, anyone living in the household, including an adult son or daughter — not just the person named on the envelope — will be eligible to apply.
“What we learn from this pilot will help inform our longer-term plans for income security reform,” said Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek and Housing Minister Peter Milczyn, who are jointly leading the project.
“At the same time, we will continue to look for ways to improve social assistance to better support the individuals and families who are relying on this system today,” they added in a joint statement.
Trevor Beecraft, executive director of the Welcome Inn Community Centre, Brantford’s only emergency homeless shelter, hopes the pilot project’s targeted enrolment efforts reach his clients.
“The people we serve have no addresses so those who could potentially benefit the most from the basic income have had no access to the application form,” said Beecraft. The centre’s 36-bed shelter in a local church provided 8,000 sleeps last year and has served 232 individual users so far this year.
“It’s going to be a skewed result if they don’t have the homeless involved in the demographics of their study,” he said.
In addition to having no address, many homeless people lack government-issued identification and most probably haven’t filed their 2016 taxes and won’t have a T1 tax return document needed to verify their income.
“The other barrier for the demographic I work with is literacy . . . . There are a lot of barriers for those who could use this the most.”
Beecraft says the study needs to learn what support homeless people would need if they suddenly saw their incomes jump.
This comes from a greater concern among anti-poverty advocates that if the basic income proves successful for higher functioning people on low-incomes and eventually replaces welfare, services for the most vulnerable would be cut to pay for the change.
“Just because you give them more money doesn’t take away the challenges of mental health or addictions that many of them face,” Beecraft says. “But it would make it much easier for organizations like ours to find them suitable housing that meets their needs.”
Convincing them to apply for the pilot project, however, is another matter, he noted.
Some are afraid to try it because there is no guarantee they will be chosen to get the extra money. Others can’t imagine moving into more secure housing and beginning to live a better life, only to see it taken away when the project ends in three years.
“Everything they would have built up through the pilot would be lost. People with foresight are saying they don’t want to be in that situation, even if they would be better off in the short term,” Beecraft says.
And for others it’s just paranoia. “It is hard for them to trust.”
Thunder Bay resident Taras Harapyuk, who hasn’t worked since 2015 when he fell while lifting a ladder off his truck, received an application package in July and completed it about three weeks ago.
The 57-year-old former heating and fireplace installer, who has been living on about $700 a month in welfare payments, is “praying” he will be among 4,000 chosen to receive the cash.
“I was very happy to get (the application) because I really need temporary help,” he said by phone from his modest bungalow where he has lost heat, hydro and even water due to mounting bills he can no longer pay.
A visiting nurse, who has been helping Harapyuk with pain management after back and shoulder surgery related to his injury, assisted with the application.
“I know how to save. I know how to make money last. It would help me get back on my feet,” he said Friday after a physiotherapy appointment. “I am strong. I never give up. But I just need a little bit of help.”
McKenzie, who is not being paid for his research advice to the government, says the project, believed to be the largest in the world at the moment, is a huge opportunity.
“The people who are part of this basic income pilot are going to be helping Ontario set its course, but also leading Canada and maybe parts of the world in a different way of looking at how to provide securer lives for people in low income,” he said.
“I hope all of the people who sign up will be thinking: Wow. This is big, eh? To be part of history.”
SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC—The world’s oldest person has died in Jamaica. Violet Brown was 117 years and 189 days old.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness expressed his condolences in a Facebook post, calling her “an inspiring woman.”
The woman known as “Aunt V” died Friday at a local hospital, where she had been treated for heart arrhythmia and dehydration.
With her death, the Gerontology Research Group lists Nabi Tajima of Japan as the oldest surviving person. She was born on Aug. 4, 1900.
Brown was born Violet Moss — or Mosse: Both spellings were sometimes used — on March 10, 1900, and spent much of her life cutting sugar cane near her home in the Duanvale district in western Jamaica.
A biography posted on the website of a foundation named in her honour said she was baptized at age 13 at the Trittonvale Baptist Church and remained a member throughout her life, long serving as organist. She credited her longevity to hard work and her Christian faith.
Her husband, Augustus Brown, died in 1997 and the eldest of her six children died in April at age 97.
In an interview this year with The Associated Press, Brown said she was surprised but grateful to have lived so long.
“This is what God has given me, so I have to take it,” she said.
A 54-year-old real estate agent who was shot and killed Saturday night in a downtown restaurant was targetted by the gunman, Toronto police say.
Simon Giannini was shot multiple times at Michael’s restaurant on Simcoe near Simcoe St. and Adelaide St. W. around 8:50 p.m.
Paramedics rushed him to hospital where he later succumbed to his injuries.
It’s the second shooting at that restaurant in the Entertainment District in the last two years, but police said there’s nothing at this point to indicate that they are connected.
“We are keeping our eyes open and looking at all options,” homicide Det. Shannon Dawson told reporters.
The latest shooting appears to be a targetted incident and Giannini wasn’t known to police, Dawson said.
He was in the company of someone else when he was shot, she said.
“I’m sure it was very frightening for customers,” Dawson said.
The suspect fled west on Pearl St. in a white SUV. Police said he was wearing a hooded jacket covering his face and jogging pants. He is described to be in possession of a black handgun, possibly wearing a dark or grey hoodie.
Witnesses told police they heard four to five shots fired when the shooting took place within the restaurant.
The homicide unit is asking anyone who might have witnessed the shooting to contact police or Crime Stoppers.
With files from Alexandra Jones and Bryann Aguilar
PARIS—Four American college students were attacked with acid Sunday at a train station in the French city of Marseille, but French authorities so far do not think extremist views motivated the 41-year-old woman who was arrested as the alleged assailant, the local prosecutor’s office and the students’ school said.
Boston College, a private Jesuit university in Massachusetts, said in a statement Sunday that the four female students were treated for burns at a Marseille hospital after they were sprayed in the face with acid on Sunday morning. The statement said the four all were juniors studying abroad, three of them at the college’s Paris program.
“It appears that the students are fine, considering the circumstances, though they may require additional treatment for burns,” Nick Gozik, who directs Boston College’s Office of International Programs. “We have been in contact with the students and their parents and remain in touch with French officials and the U.S. Embassy regarding the incident.”
Police in France described the suspect as “disturbed” and said the attack was not thought at this point to be terror-related, according the university’s statement.
The Paris prosecutor’s office said earlier Sunday that its counter-terrorism division had decided for the time being not to assume jurisdiction for investigating the attack. The prosecutor’s office in the capital, which has responsibility for all terror-related cases in France, did not explain the reasoning behind the decision.
A spokesperson for the Marseille prosecutor’s office told The Associated Press in a telephone call that the suspect did not make any extremist threats or declarations during the late morning attack at the city’s Saint Charles train station. She said there were no obvious indications that the woman’s actions were terror-related.
The spokesperson spoke on condition of anonymity, per the custom of the French judicial system. She said all four of the victims were in their 20s and treated at a hospital, two of them for shock. The suspect was taken into police custody.
Boston College identified the students as Courtney Siverling, Charlotte Kaufman, Michelle Krug and Kelsey Kosten.
The Marseille fire department was alerted just after 11 a.m. and dispatched four vehicles and 14 firefighters to the train station, a department spokeswoman said.
Two of the Americans were “slightly injured” with acid but did not require emergency medical treatment from medics at the scene, the spokesperson said. She requested anonymity in keeping with fire department protocol.
A person with knowledge of the investigation said the suspect had a history of mental health problems but no apparent past links to extremism. The person was not authorized to be publicly named speaking about the investigation. Regional newspaper La Provence said the assailant remained at the site of the attack without trying to flee.
A spokesperson for the United States embassy in Paris said the U.S. consulate in Marseille was in contact with French authorities.
U.S. authorities in France are not immediately commenting on what happened to protect the privacy of the American tourists, embassy spokesman Alex Daniels said.
Marseille is a port city in southern France that is closer to Barcelona than Paris.
In previous incidents in Marseille, a driver deliberately rammed into two bus stops last month, killing a woman, but officials said it wasn’t terror-related.
In April, French police said they thwarted an imminent “terror attack” and arrested two suspected radicals in Marseille just days before the first round of France’s presidential election. Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters the two suspects “were getting ready to carry out an imminent, violent action.”
In January 2016, a 15-year-old Turkish Kurd was arrested after attacking a Jewish teacher on a Marseille street. He told police he acted in the name of Daesh, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
HAMILTON—For federal New Democrats, this exercise is not about winning.
Oh, there were lots of calls about winning in 2019 as leadership candidates delivered their final pitches here Sunday.
First, they have to yet again find relevance. Loftier aspirations will have to wait.
As online voting begins in the NDP leadership race Monday, it is useful to recall how far this party has tumbled in five years. When party members gathered in Toronto in March 2012, they believed they had convened to choose a leader who would take the last, final step for the late Jack Layton and form government for the first time in its history.
The 2015 defeat stung the faithful. It led to lapsed party memberships. It sapped enthusiasm. It led to a stunning repudiation of leader Tom Mulcair, who was then allowed to hang around too long.
And it has led to a party that lost its energy, its fire and, ultimately that relevancy.
Now, Jagmeet Singh, Charlie Angus, Guy Caron or Niki Ashton must put this party back on the map.
Sunday in Hamilton the quartet made their final appeal in a room that only sporadically erupted in anything beyond a mid-afternoon torpor.
There is no reliable polling to determine a winner in a race that could be decided as early as Oct. 1 or as late as Oct. 15, depending on the number of ballots needed.
But by the metrics available, membership sales and money raised— and more importantly, buzz generated, viral videos and social media use that combines humour with panache — Singh does appear to be a front-runner.
The Bramalea-Gore-Malton MPP has already delivered for the party. One can only imagine the lack of coverage and interest there would be for a party that desperately needs some attention had Singh not entered the race.
As one senior caucus member told me, Singh offers the “biggest risk, biggest reward.”
He offers the party a chance to compete in regions where it never has federally — such as the crucial 905 belt — and where it must return if it can plot power again, like the city of Toronto.
Singh promises growth. Backers believe he will grow personally as he moves from provincial to federal politics. They also believe he will grow the party with fresh membership.
Mention the NDP leadership race to those of us who do not live in the political world, and you get a lot of blank stares. Those same people, however, know Singh.
His opponents believe if he cannot win on the first ballot, he cannot grow.
Angus has worked assiduously to court second-choice support. Caron’s team believes he can finish third, stay on the ballot and grow his support because the Quebec MP has run a strong campaign. Ashton, the only one of the four making a second bid at leadership, has run the most unabashedly leftist campaign and has built perhaps the youngest core of supporters. She has also won union support and is a much more formidable campaigner than the Ashton of 2012.
She could surprise. If she is the first to drop off the ballot, however, her backers are expected to split three ways.
This party faces myriad challenges at this point, midterm of the Justin Trudeau government. It will be trying to find its way back in 2019 on Trudeau’s turf.
It needs to find that relevancy in Quebec again and this is a tough road for any of the four, not just the turbaned Singh.
The party sold 124,000 memberships during this race, but a mere 4,907 of them were sold in Quebec, about half the total sold during the 2012 race.
It allowed itself to be outmanoeuvred by Trudeau on traditional left-of-centre issues and has largely been rudderless for 16 months.
But it has enormous opportunity as well.
Halfway through his term, Trudeau has given the NDP an opening to exploit on electoral reform, a campaign promise broken; Indigenous reconciliation, a campaign promise undelivered; and the environment, where the Trudeau policy on pipelines is coming up against NDP opposition in British Columbia.
When there was excitement in the room Sunday, it was provided by Singh, who also was fortuitously given the final speaking spot, which he used to end the day parading offstage with chanting supporters and raucous drummers.
This is a party with several steps ahead in its comeback. It has to get noticed.
Jagmeet Singh always gets noticed.
Tim Harper writes on national affairs. He can be reached at Tjharper77@gmail.com or Twitter: @nutgraf1
Tim Harper writes on national affairs. He can be reached at Tjharper77@gmail.com or Twitter: @nutgraf1
LONDON—The two suspects detained over last week’s London subway bombing are an 18-year-old refugee from Iraq and a 21-year-old believed to be from Syria, both of whom were fostered by a British couple, according to a local official and media reports.
The 18-year-old was detained Saturday at the southeast England port of Dover, a departure point for ferries to France. The 21-year-old was held later the same day in Hounslow in west London. Photos published by the Sun newspaper showed a man being detained outside a fast-food restaurant in Hounslow, which was searched by police.
Both men are being held under the Terrorism Act and are being questioned at a London police station about Friday’s attack.
Thirty people were injured when an improvised explosive device partly exploded aboard a crowded London Underground train at Parsons Green station during the morning rush hour. None of the injuries was life-threatening, and experts said it appears the main charge of the bomb didn’t detonate.
After the rush-hour bombing, British officials raised the country’s terror threat level to the highest level, “critical,” meaning an attack may be imminent. They lowered it Sunday to “severe,” and police said the investigation was making rapid progress.
Police searched three addresses, including the house in suburban Sunbury, outside London, of Penelope and Ronald Jones. The couple has been honoured by Queen Elizabeth II for fostering more than 200 children, including refugees from Middle Eastern conflicts.
Ian Harvey, who heads local Spelthorne Borough Council, said he believed the 18-year-old was an Iraqi orphan who moved to the U.K. when he was 15 after his parents died and had lived in the Sunbury house. He said the 21-year-old was also a former foster child of the Joneses.
Stephen Griffiths, who lives across the street, said police had visited the house several times, most recently two or three weeks ago.
“The police were there multiple times over the span of about a month — a few times a week,” he said.
“You always think foster kids are going to have a bit of trouble, but you don’t think terrorism,” he added.
Footage obtained by broadcaster ITV shows a man near the Sunbury address Friday morning carrying a bag from Lidl supermarket. Images posted on social media following the attack appeared to show wires protruding from a flaming bucket contained in a Lidl bag on the floor of the train carriage.
Commuters returned to Parsons Green station Monday for the first morning rush hour since the bombing. Police asked the travelling public to be vigilant and said there would be more armed police on the transit network for the time being.
Most of the injured in Friday’s explosion aboard a District Line train suffered flash burns while some were injured in the panicked rush to leave.
Daesh has claimed responsibility for the attack, but British officials say there is no proof yet that it was involved.
Four other violent attacks in Britain this year have killed 36 people. Three were the work of attackers motivated by Islamic extremism, and one by anti-Muslim hatred.
In the deadliest attack, a suicide bomber struck a packed concert hall in Manchester in northern England, killing 22 people. The other attacks, near Parliament, on London Bridge and near a mosque in Finsbury Park in north London, involved vehicles and, in two cases, knives.
Sue Earl, a 38-year Sears Canada employee, was shocked when she found out she would only initially receive 81 per cent of the value of her pension as part of the company's insolvency process.
The 64-year-old from Cobourg, Ont., had assumed her defined-benefit pension was “money in the bank,” a guaranteed amount she'd receive in retirement regardless of the financial health of the failing retailer.
But then, she also didn't think Sears would cancel the severance payments she'd been receiving since her store was closed last year — that's what happened after it filed for court protection from creditors in June.
She said the other 19 per cent of her defined-benefit pension is “up in the air.”
“Our letter said it would be paid out to us in the next five years, but that depends what they do with it, whether they wind it up or what's going to happen,” Earl said.
“It's just one more slap, really. You lose your severance and then you find out you might not get all of your pension money.”
Personal finance experts say the Sears case shows the risk of depending too much on a defined-benefit pension plan to provide income in retirement if the plan is not fully funded and the sponsor goes bust.
James McCreath, an associate portfolio manager with BMO Nesbitt Burns in Calgary, says employer-sponsored pension plans are a good thing because they force people to save for retirement but when a company isn't healthy enough to fund them, it can result in a lot of stress for employees.
“If I had a defined benefit plan, I'd certainly sharpen my pencil on reviewing it to see if there's an unfunded liability and how that perhaps would impact my retirement,” he said.
Tony Salgado, director of CIBC Wealth Strategies in Toronto, says many don't even know what kind of pension plan they have, much less what their retirement income might be.
“Incorporate some wiggle room,” he advises.
“If you were to take a 10 per cent haircut on what you have through your retirement pension plan, what other sources of income will you have available?”
Defined-benefit plans promise members a retirement income usually based on salary and years of service. But an aging population that is living longer has increased the cost of the plans at the same time that low interest rates have also increased funding requirements, leaving many plan sponsors with a shortfall.
Sears has been paying $3.7 million a month to top up its underfunded defined-benefit plan, as required by Ontario provincial law, but has asked a court to allow it to suspend those payments while it restructures.
Meanwhile, Ontario has proposed new rules that would see defined-benefit pension plans it regulates not require topping up as long as they are 85 per cent funded, down from the current 100 per cent.
In Cobourg, Sue Earl says she is receiving employment insurance benefits and has started her Canada Pension Plan payments early to top up her RRSPs and pay down debt.
She has received a pay out on the defined-contribution pension plan Sears started in 2008, but is still waiting for payout of the defined benefit plan it replaced — both have to be reinvested in locked-in accounts until retirement.
Her husband, Ralph, has a small pension and, after a “hard look at our finances,” she thinks they'll be OK.
“I mean, we're not driving Mercedes, we're going to drive our car into the ground. If we take a trip we're going to be budgeting for it. I mean, we're going to have to be careful with our money.”
Suzanne Davison, a 72-year-old who lives in federal co-op housing in Toronto with her 63-year-old brother, goes to her local food bank every week.
On her last visit, she collected a tiny bag of potatoes, two cookies, a box of cereal, romaine lettuce, a little carton of milk, a bag of pretzels, a little jar of peanut butter, a Little Caesers pizza and cranberry juice.
The box of cereal was expired. She couldn’t have the cranberry juice because it’s full of sugar and she has Type 2 diabetes. The rest will last two or three days.
Davison is a low income senior, with a small pension and a brother on disability. Between the more than $1,000 she pays a month for rent, bus fares and phone bills — and the limited function in her right hand — the food bank is the only place she can go.
“The whole problem is lack of income,” Davison said. “You can only do so much with the money you get, right?”
Food banks visits in Toronto are back to levels seen during the height of the recession almost 10 years ago, according to the newest “Who’s Hungry” report by the Daily Bread Food Bank, with usage by seniors like Davison increasing by 27 per cent.
According to the report, many seniors don’t seem to be receiving all the federal benefits they are entitled to. In particular, many are not receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement — a program that is also excluding newcomer families.
“I can’t work, and my pension is taxed, and I don’t have (Ontario Disability Support Program) or welfare,” Davison said. “(The food bank is) not all that great, but it’s better than starving to death.”
Kate Halsey, a food bank coordinator for Yonge Street Mission in Regent Park, has worked at food banks for more than three years and has watched the rise in food bank usage first hand.
“It is startling to me that senior population access of food banks is increasing,” Halsey said.
On a daily basis, she said the Yonge Street Mission registers at least three new people for the food bank: varying from newcomers to Canada who have master’s and PhD degrees but not enough money for food; people who go back to school and are paying tuition; and people who are just trying to make ends meet at the end of the month.
“It could be anyone, it could be your neighbour, it could be your grandmother, your best friend,” Halsey said. “It could also be the man on the corner. There’s not a population we serve more than others.”
Alongside increased usage by seniors, the report found that the rise in food bank visits has largely been driven by a jump in Scarborough, where usage has risen by 30 per cent over the last year, compared to the four per cent rise in other parts of the city.
Other notable findings in the report include:
Similar statistics were found in another recent study by Food Banks Canada, which surveys more than 3,000 agencies across the country. It found that on average, food banks help more than 850,000 Canadians every month. It also noted that:
<bullet>More than half of Canadians polled know someone who has visited a food bank,
<bullet>More than one-third of people helped by food banks are children,
<bullet>One out six people assisted by food banks are employed.
“Food banks are really that last resort so they really have to have broad shoulders to be able to help the increasing number of people that walk through their doors,” said Marzena Gersho, communications director at Food Banks Canada
The official definition for “hunger,” according to Gersho, is “when a household lacks physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
Starting Monday, food banks are leading Hunger Awareness Week in hopes to start a conversation around these statistics and changing landscapes. Gersho would like Canadians to support local food banks but also demand policy changes that closely examine the roots of poverty, hunger and welfare
“We need to remind everyone that we really do have people who are struggling,” Gersho said.
Veteran forward Joffrey Lupul used his Instagram account to suggest he’s ready to play for the Maple Leafs and that he did not fail a physical.
“I’m ready. Just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote under a photograph of an unidentified snowboarder.
In comments after his post, some followers encouraged him to come back, some professed to miss him and one urged him to tell “the real story” of his injury.
Lupul responded to one of them about the physical the team said he failed on Thursday.
“Haha failed physical. They cheat, everyone lets them,” Lupul wrote on — and later deleted from — his verified @jlupul account.
The Maple Leafs declined comment, while neither the NHL Players’ Association nor the NHL could be immediately reached for reaction.
The image had more than 1,000 likes within three hours, including one from teammate Nazem Kadri.
Lupul’s injury, like one to defenceman Stephane Robidas, has always been clouded in mystery. Some believed the Leafs were using the long-term injured reserve as an end run around the salary cap, and to create roster spots for younger players.
Robidas had talked about being the seventh defenceman on the last day of training camp in 2015-16. The next day, he was on the injured list and never skated for the team.
The joke was that he was lost on Robidas Island. The same thing seemed to happen to Lupul, who was also deemed unfit to play before training camp ahead of the 2016-17 season.
No one has ever disputed the career-ending concussion suffered by Nathan Horton, who was injured prior to becoming a Leaf. When the Leafs put Horton on long-term IR, they get to use the equivalent of his $5.3-million U.S. salary to sign other players.
They did the same with Lupul ($5.25 million) and Robidas ($3 million), whose contract ended in July. Robidas is now in the organization’s player development ranks.
Last year, defenceman Jared Cowen disputed his buyout, claiming he was injured and that the buyout broke the rules. He lost the case, then lashed out at the Leafs a few days ago. The quirk of Cowen’s buyout was that he was more valuable to the Leafs injured than healthy, since it created extra salary-cap space for the 2016-17 season.
“I wish teams would have more of an interest in taking better care of their players instead of whatever their goal or mindset was there,” Cowen said in an interview with BSN Denver.com. “Basically, they got me, figured out that I was hurt, they didn’t want to deal with it and they got rid of me.”
We were birds on a wire, crows jostling for gawking space inside the practice rink of the Lillehammer Olympics.
Here, for the first time since The Incident — as the infamous knee-whack against Nancy Kerrigan is defined in the new movie I, Tonya, presented as a fake doc biopic — were the two protagonists from one of the biggest scandals in sports history, together on the ice.
Studiously ignoring one another, even as they skated by each other.
Very much looking the parts they’d already assumed in sports lore: Kerrigan, after removing her warm-up top, in a delicate lacy ensemble; Tonya Harding, badass, in a splashy leotard.
Reporters took note. Lots of notes.
Even then, at those 1994 Olympics, before all the sordid details were revealed by an FBI investigation — and some of the facts are still unclear more than two decades later — there was enough of a known back story to fill in the tabloid tableau.
Harding was white trash, as scuzzy as her untameable bangs, her garish home-sewn costumes, her foul mouth, her entire disreputable narrative: The Outcast.
Kerrigan was all class and chic, evoking a luminous young Katharine Hepburn with the angled cheekbones and lithe silhouette, her elegant costumes designed by Vera Wang: The Ice Princess.
How eagerly we succumbed to the handy tropes.
Awaiting the cat fight that never unfolded.
Only seven weeks had passed since a then-unknown assailant had taken a metal baton to Kerrigan’s knee, leaving her crumpled in the corridor of a Detroit rink, wailing: WHYWHYWHY?!?!?! And that bewildered lament, even in pre-social media days — but captured by a TV crew — became a satirized screech.
“People made such a big deal and almost, like complaining, why would I say that?” Kerrigan told ABC earlier this year. “Well, after getting attacked you don’t know what you’re going to say. But I think it’s a reasonable question. Like, Why did this just happen? What happened? Like, why?”
It happened, as the world now knows, because a clot of bumbling thugs — on the lowest rung of goonery — had hatched a scheme to eliminate rival Kerrigan from the U.S. figure skating championships and thus the upcoming Winter Games, all in aid of advancing Harding’s gold medal chances. (Kerrigan was given one of two team spots anyway on merit, with Harding, and recovered in time to compete.)
All of this is told in faux documentary style in I, Tonya, a rollicking film that was the critical darling at the Toronto International Film Festival, with very much a Tonya-centric point of view.
She was always the more compelling character in this Grand Guignol pas de deux on ice, the redneck renegade high school dropout, a skating savant from the wrong side of the tracks with the monster mom — stage mother from hell, LaVona, depicted with wicked chain-smoking bite by Allison Janney in the movie — and the violent ex-husband who initiated “The Whack Heard Around the World,” though he still insists the plot was supposed to involve nothing more than threatening letters to Kerrigan.
A complete loser was Jeff Gillooly and his moron conspiracy theorist sidekick, Shawn Eckhardt, who hired the clubbing assailants. Yet Harding, a tough broad who often gave as good as she got, kept going back to him, despite blackened eyes and a gun pointed at her face. This was the reality, the norm, she’d known all her life. The people who loved you hurt you.
She was never loved in the bitchy world of elite figure skating. She was vulgar and tawdry. Judges rarely rewarded her with the scores she deserved as a superb figure skater, one of only two women — at that time — to ever cleanly land a triple Axel jump in competition. I, Tonya makes a rightfully huge deal about this, though it was Japan’s Midori Ito who’d done it first, most notably at the 1989 World Championships and the ’92 Olympics.
But no American had ever pulled it off on the international stage.
Harding was a far more powerful skater than Kerrigan, more athletic, built like a fire plug. But Kerrigan embodied the qualities that then, and even now, are preferred in a figure skating universe that promotes ideals of femininity: gracefulness, charm, beauty, the whole phoney fairytale. Pretty girls in pretty boxes.
I, Tonya, with its black humour, rips the chiffon and bugle beads off that charade too.
Margot Robbie, as Harding, is a revelation, plumbing the depths of an unapologetic anti-heroine. Audiences might not like her, but they will come closer to understanding her pathology. The movie argues she was never part of the plot against Kerrigan, though Harding did ultimately plead guilty to conspiring to hinder prosecution — helping to cover it up.
She was fined $100,000, stripped of her 1994 U.S. title and barred from ever competing again as a figure skater, anywhere. It was excessively cruel, that ban.
In retrospect, I, Tonya is also an indictment of us, the media, during what was then the dawning of the 24/7 media cycle, the gobsmacking scandal cranked for all it was worth in the lead-up to a Games where CBS devoted 40 per cent of its 120-hour coverage to figure skating.
Harding was the most famous athlete on the planet. We giddily chronicled every moment of her rise and fall and fall.
I’ve gone back and read those stories, mine included, with a professional cringe. How we rendered the principal players as almost cartoon figures, good against evil, the virtue of Kerrigan versus the coarseness of Harding, paragon and outlaw, poodle and pit bull.
Robbie, as Harding, calls us out — how she went from abusive upbringing to abusive spouse to abusive mythmakers.
“Nancy gets hit one time and the whole world (expletive),” she says in the film. “For me, it’s an everyday occurrence.”
But the melodramas just kept on coming.
Those old enough to remember Lillehammer will recall the evening of the free skate, when Harding, after sucking on her asthma aspirator, rushed onto the ice with a torn skate lace. Barely into her program, she came to a tearful stop, skated to the judges’ panel and propped her leg on the board, begging for a do-over. Which she was given. Didn’t matter. A mess of nerves and stress, Harding popped her triple Axel and finished eighth.
Kerrigan copped silver in a slim — 4 to 5 in first placement marks — verdict by the judges. Visibly glum on the podium, standing just below gold medallist Oksana Baiul from Ukraine.
And the aftermath?
Oskana sank into alcoholism, drunkenly crashing her car into a tree three years later.
Kerrigan battled an eating disorder. Just this past season, she was an (eliminated) contestant on Dancing With the Stars.
Harding became a sideshow celebrity pugilist.
“Why not?” she shrugs in I, Tonya.
She’d been a punching bag all her life.
OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and British Prime Minister Theresa May are meeting on Parliament Hill as she makes her first visit to Canada.
Trudeau says he and May have a wide agenda to discuss, including trade.
He says it’s a great opportunity to talk with May ahead of his trip to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly.
He says he wants to ensure that Canada’s relationship with Britain remains strong as that country moves to break from the European Union.
May says she is pleased to be in Canada and has a lot of topics to discuss — including trade, Trudeau’s efforts on behalf of women’s empowerment and ways to curb the use of the internet by terrorists.
As the two chatted in Trudeau’s office, May chuckled that, unlike some other political visitors lately, she can’t match Trudeau in his trademark use of colourful socks.
Just because Donald Trump got away with lying about Hillary Clinton doesn’t mean that tactic will work in Ontario, warns Premier Kathleen Wynne.
“Last week, Patrick Brown made a statement about me that was false and defamatory,” Wynne told reporters Monday at Queen’s Park.
“In the days that followed, he, disappointingly, did not retract those comments,” said the premier, who has given Brown six weeks to apologize or she may launch a defamation suit against him.
“We’re going to govern ourselves by the timeline set by the Libel and Slander Act, and I think we’ll let the lawyers go through that process in the interim,” she said.
But Wynne, who publicly supported Clinton over Trump, made it clear that she did not wish to see a reprise of the tone of last year’s U.S. presidential election in the 2018 Ontario campaign.
“Let’s just hope and pray that that’s not the level of political debate that we’re going to have here in Ontario or in Canada. I deplore any behaviour that isn’t based on truth . . . that’s defamatory and doesn’t deal in honest interaction,” the premier said.
“And so, no matter who it is, whether it’s the president or whether it’s the leader of the opposition in Ontario, I don’t think that behaviour belongs in politics. There are lots of differing opinions without us descending into dishonesty and defamation,” she said.
Brown’s office reiterated Monday that the leader would continue to ignore Wynne’s legal threats, which he has repeatedly dismissed as “baseless.”
Last Tuesday, on the eve of her testimony as a Crown witness in the Sudbury byelection bribery case, the Tory chief said Ontario had “a sitting premier sitting in trial” and that Wynne “stands trial.”
In fact, Patricia Sorbara, the premier’s former deputy chief of staff, and Liberal activist Gerry Lougheed are on trial for alleged Election Act violations related to the 2015 byelection. Both deny any wrongdoing.
Wynne’s lawyer, Jack Siegel, last Wednesday served Brown with a letter stating that he “made a statement about the premier of Ontario that is false and defamatory.”
“Contrary to your statement, Premier Wynne is not standing trial. Your statement is false and misleading and appears to have been made with the intention to harm the reputation of Ms. Wynne,” the lawyer wrote, giving the PC leader until 5 p.m. Thursday to apologize.
That deadline came and went and on Friday, the premier’s office said they would give Brown until Oct. 24 before determining their next course of action.
Senior Conservative officials insist the leader does not need to apologize, despite calls from newspaper editorialists and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, among others.
But the gaffe has given the Liberals a golden opportunity to paint Brown as a Trumpian fabulist.
Deputy Premier Deb Matthews was the first to pounce on his snafu and draw the American parallel.
“There is a principle in Canada that you do not make defamatory, misleading comments about another political leader,” Matthews said last Thursday.
“In Canada, we actually expect people to be honest. There is, south of the border, a change in that culture. I do not want to see that change coming to Canada.”