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    BEIJING—Warning there would be “no winner” in the event of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula, China on Tuesday urged North Korea and the United States to stop their escalating war of words and sit down for talks on cooling the recent spike in tensions.

    The comments from foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang reinforce China’s position that all sides should avoid provoking each other following biting new United Nations economic sanctions on North Korea and a new exchange of threats between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

    “A war on the Korean Peninsula will have no winner, which will also be a tragedy for regional countries,” Lu told reporters at a daily briefing. “Given our consistent opposition to the war and chaos on the peninsula, we totally disapprove of an escalation of the war of words between the U.S. and North Korea.”

    Read more:

    Even Trump’s top aides think taunting North Korea’s leader is a huge risk: Analysis

    Donald Trump’s tweet is ‘a declaration of war,’ North Korea says

    A short history of ‘dotard,’ the arcane insult Kim Jong Un used in his threat against Trump

    Lu’s remarks came after North Korea’s top diplomat on Monday characterized Trump’s tweet that Kim “won’t be around much longer” as a declaration of war against his country by the United States.

    However, Lu noted that the Trump administration denied that it had declared war on North Korea and said the U.S. remained committed to eliminating nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula through peaceful means.

    China accounts for about 90 per cent of North Korea’s foreign trade and is under constant pressure from the U.S. and others to tighten the screws on its neighbour and former close Communist ally.

    Beijing has responded by voting in favour of increasingly harsh U.N. resolutions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs and announced Saturday that it will limit energy supplies to North Korea and stop buying its textiles as dictated by the latest sanctions.

    China urges North Korea, U.S. to cool it, adds there’s ‘no winner’ if war breaks outChina urges North Korea, U.S. to cool it, adds there’s ‘no winner’ if war breaks out

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    The first time a police officer pulled a gun on DeMar DeRozan he was 15, he thinks; he and two friends were just riding bikes. Kyle Lowry had it happen too: he was 13, maybe, and he says they were just being kids. Fred VanVleet was 13 when he and his teenage older brothers were pulled over for speeding, and the police officer just pulled the gun out, didn’t point it at them, just held it as they spoke. VanVleet never forgot.

    As sports has been pulled into the gasoline-and-matches soaked orbit of the President of the United States, the arguments are by their nature bigger, balder, stupider. Athletes are following Colin Kaepernick, and are protesting the flag! The anthem! The troops! The United States itself! So much yelling, so much anger, so much dishonesty. There’s a lot of pushpin, bumper-sticker patriotism going around.

    But media day in the NBA was full of thoughtful reactions: LeBron James speaking eloquently and at length, and San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich too — “we have no clue what being white means” — and Washington’s John Wall, and more. It was a remarkable day in the NBA.

    It was remarkable in Toronto, too. There was a lot to listen to. DeRozan, the Raptors all-star, grew up in Compton, Calif.

    “I’ve had friends killed by police officers,” says DeRozan. “A couple days after being at my house, when I was young, and even recently. And it sucks, because even myself, I drive a nice car and I’m still being questioned: How you get this car? Do you do this, do you do that? And it’s not fair at the end of the day because I always think about, I have my kids in the car. You see all these incidents on the internet, with these officers doing things to people and it’s caught on camera, and they still have no repercussions. And they still get up the next day like, it’s just another day.”

    Lowry, his fellow all-star, gets told this story. He nods.

    “Yeah, it’s happened to me,” says Lowry, who grew up in north Philadelphia. “I haven’t been pulled over too many times, but I’ve been asked that question enough. ‘Whose car is this?’ It’s mine. And knowing that you really want to say: FU, this is my s---, I paid for it, I’ve earned this. You can’t. Because you know it might not be the right thing to say. You don’t know how that cop’s day is going. They’re not all bad cops out there. There are many amazing patrolmen, patrolwomen out there. But you have to be careful, you do have these thoughts. You have to think: I have to be careful, and watch my ass.”

    VanVleet grew up in Rockford, Ill., and lost his father to gun violence at age 5. His white mother tried to teach him, as best she could.

    “I learned early on that when a cop pulls you over you turn the music off, you take your hat off, you take your glasses off, you put your hands on the wheel,” says Van Vleet, whose stepfather was a Black police officer. “Or, before he gets there, you have your registration ready so that when he gets there, you don’t have to reach. If you don’t feel comfortable, you say, I don’t want to grab it.”

    Norman Powell grew up in San Diego. People don’t think San Diego is tough, but Norm says south San Diego, where he grew up, was.

    “It was always: no sudden movements, be polite, be kind, always show your hands,” says Powell. “Like a safety protocol.”

    They say Canada feels much safer, for the record. But they are millionaires, even famous, and they still worry if blue and red lights flash in the rearview mirror at home. They learned how to be careful from their parents, because their parents grew up Black in America, too.

    “It’s no secret: in urban cities and places, you’re taught a fear of the police from day one,” says veteran swingman C.J. Miles. “Even if you haven’t done anything wrong. I wasn’t a criminal, but at the same time you see the police and think, I have to get to a different place.”

    “Yeah, I could go on for days with that,” says DeRozan, asked about the LAPD. “It was tough when it came to the police. Seeing ’em, not wanting to look ’em in the eye, because you didn’t want to get questioned. You see ’em, you go in the house. It’s the way we grew up, to where it became like we was hiding or running from something, even if you didn’t do anything, just because you didn’t want to get hassled or get harassed for something you didn’t do.”

    “I can remember nights of walking down the street and getting pulled over, or driving with a group of my friends and being suspected of being gang members, or on Halloween, we were trying to beat the crossing light and a police car pulls up and tells us to get on the ground,” says Powell. “You know? Don’t move. We weren’t doing anything. Tenth grade. It was Halloween, and we were told to get on the ground. We were judged on our appearance, on our look. It’s reality. And you deal with it.

    “But it’s always been a worry. It’s still a worry for me now, when I go back home.”

    That’s what Kaepernick was protesting, and it became what hundreds of NFL players were protesting. Beyond Donald Trump, the buffoon, that’s what NBA players are talking about, with the support of the league and of management.

    “My reaction is I like the players’ reaction,” said Raptors president Masai Ujiri. “I like LeBron’s reaction. I like (Steph) Curry’s reaction. I like Kobe (Bryant’s) reaction.”

    So when people talk about politics, about unity, about having a platform and a voice, what they are saying is this: America should treat Black people — or a great number of other visible minorities, while we’re on the subject — the same way whites are treated when it comes to law enforcement, sentencing, everything. They have seen the videos of Philando Castile, of Tamir Rice, of Alton Sterling, on and on. Coach Dwane Casey grew up in segregated Kentucky schools until the fourth grade, and he feels like America is sliding back to where it was in the 1960s. This is where they are.

    “It’s crazy and it’s sad that I didn’t know until I got older,” says VanVleet. “Because you’re used to it. You think it’s normal for cops to stop you for no reason. You think it’s normal for people to discriminate. As Black people we have become accustomed to it, to deal with it.”

    We should listen to them. The Raptors say they haven’t decided if or how to make a statement, but we should listen to why they would, why it’s about more than some loudmouth bum of a president. NBA players want that to change: for themselves, and for their children. Of course, their parents did too. That’s why they taught them to fear the police, to watch out, to be careful. Because they loved their children, and wanted them to be safe.

    Raptors' DeRozan, Lowry know where the need to protest comes from: ArthurRaptors' DeRozan, Lowry know where the need to protest comes from: Arthur

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    Alarming standardized test results for high school students in applied courses are raising questions at Canada’s largest school board about how some of its most at-risk youth are being taught.

    Only 28 per cent of Grade 9 students taking applied math at the Toronto District School Board met the provincial standard in math skills in 2016-2017, according to Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) data released last week.

    That’s down from 32 per cent the previous year and compares with an 80-per-cent success rate for those in the academic stream.

    Evidence of a growing gap — the most pronounced among the 10 GTA boards — comes on the heels of several reports that call for an end to academic streaming and argue the practice is discriminatory, sends the wrong message, and limits choices down the road for kids barely in their teens.

    Read more:

    Doing the math on marks and class sizes

    Report card, curriculum changes on the way in Ontario

    Ontario to launch review of how students are tested

    “Absolutely, we are concerned,” said Manon Gardner, TDSB executive superintendent of teaching and learning. “Obviously those are not the numbers we want for our students. We are looking deep into this in terms of what can we change.”

    One in four Grade 9 students in the Toronto board — a total of almost 4,000 kids — were enrolled in applied math last year, so the fact that almost three-quarters were below the provincial standard — of roughly a B — means a substantial number may be falling through the cracks.

    Province-wide numbers for the nearly 35,000 Grade 9 kids in applied math are also dismal, with 56 per cent of them failing to meet the Ontario standard versus 83 per cent of academic students.

    At Peel District School Board, the second-largest board, 39 per cent of students in applied were successful versus 84 per cent in academic classes.

    The gulf is worrisome, says Mary Reid, professor at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).

    No matter what people think of standardized testing, “this is statistically significant and we can’t ignore it,” says Reid. “These are alarming results.”

    Math isn’t the only area of concern. All Grade 10 students in Ontario write a literacy test and must pass in order to graduate. But the success rate for students enrolled in applied English has declined over the past five years, with only 44 per cent passing in 2017 — versus 92 per cent of those in the academic stream. Students who fail are enrolled in a literacy course and can retake the test.

    At the TDSB, 39 per cent of applied students taking the literacy test for the first time passed, versus 87 per cent of academic students.

    Reid says the disparity between test results for kids in university-bound academic courses and the more hands-on applied level amount to “a real inequity” and a failure of the system because education is supposed to be “about closing the achievement gap.”

    The troubling findings this month came in the wake of an announcement by the province that it plans to re-examine its curriculum and assessment process.

    Meanwhile, the trend in applied is becoming significant enough that the EQAO chose to highlight it when releasing the first wave of data last month, said chief executive Norah Marsh.

    The gap “creates a lot of questions as far as what’s happening for those students,” she said.

    Tracking students through tests in Grades 3, 6 and 9 shows that putting them in separate streams can have negative consequences.

    For example, kids who didn’t meet the standard in Grade 6 were more likely to be successful in Grade 9 if they took the academic course, she said.

    She added that students receiving special-education supports, who made up 41 per cent of Grade 9 applied math classes, are also more successful in academic courses if they receive appropriate accommodations.

    Eighty-one per cent of special-ed students in Grade 10 academic English passed the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test, she said, versus 36 per cent of special-ed students in the applied course.

    The latest EQAO results follow a series of reports raising concerns about the impact of streaming, including one from the research and advocacy group People for Education two years ago that cited a widening achievement gap and found kids in applied courses are less likely to graduate or go on to post-secondary.

    Last month, the advocacy group Social Planning Toronto highlighted the lack of guidance and information families receive about streaming, which disproportionately impacts racialized students and those from low-income families. And an earlier report from York University found Black youth are twice as likely to be in applied courses as other racial groups.

    Rising concerns have led to a growing number of TDSB high schools starting to “de-stream” by gradually eliminating applied level courses for Grade 9 and 10 students and instead placing most in the academic stream.

    Schools like C.W. Jefferys Collegiate, the first to launch a de-streaming pilot in 2014, have seen achievement levels rise across the board when all students are supported and expected to succeed in academic courses.

    Jefferys has removed all Grade 9 applied courses except math, which is next on the list. But EQAO results show progress is well underway, with 80 per cent of kids in applied math meeting the provincial standard last year, up sharply from 52 per cent in 2016 and 41 per cent the previous year.

    This year Oakwood Collegiate Institute became the first high school to end all Grade 9 applied courses at once, a process generated by teachers and involving co-ordination with feeder schools to ensure students who would have been headed for applied get all the support they need, according to principal Steve Yee.

    Gardner says in the past two years the TDSB has redirected about 5 per cent of students headed towards applied into academic courses instead, with up to 16 high schools in different phases of de-streaming this year.

    Education experts like Mary Reid say eliminating streaming is the way to address the problem.

    “You teach to the academic curriculum, and you get rid of labels,” says Reid, adding that research shows all students do better in mixed-ability groupings, but streaming does the most harm to those who are struggling.

    Educators raise alarm over declining scores for applied studentsEducators raise alarm over declining scores for applied students

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    Charity the cow is being moooved.

    But where she will go, and when, is still up in the air.

    Markham councillors faced an udderly unique predicament Monday in deciding if they would let the city’s famous stainless steel cow statue on stilts — honouring a bovine that never actually stepped hoof in the city — stay put or be put out to pasture.

    After hearing from residents, who brought pictures of the statue from the vantage point of inside their homes, the majority of councillors voted to move Charity from its home on a small parkette on Charity Cres., to a location that has yet to be determined.

    It is also not clear when the 25 foot-high statue will be taken down.

    “What we voted is to remove it, to find a location and also to come back in October to get a report and to have it relocated by the end of 2017,” said regional councillor Nirmala Armstrong, after the meeting.

    Mayor Frank Scarpitti voted against relocating the statue.

    The statue called Charity: Perpetuation of Perfection, was donated and installed earlier this summer by local developer Helen Roman-Barber and has attracted hundreds of curious bovine art critics and lovers to the quiet suburb of Cathedraltown, near Elgin Mills Rd. and Woodbine Ave.

    Roman-Barber, said the statue of Charity, was to honour her father, developer Stephen Roman, who owned Romandale Farm, the land on which Cathedraltown now rests. It was also to honour his purchase of a 50-per cent share in Brookview Tony Charity — regarded as the greatest show cow of all time.

    Charity, who lived most of her life at the Hanover Hill Farm in Port Perry and is buried there, never visited Markham.

    Read more:

    Is story behind Markham’s controversial cow sculpture a tall tale?

    Just who gave approval for Markham’s cow statue?

    Cheers for Charity, that beautiful, balancing bovine: Mallick

    The decision to move Charity came after a lengthy discussion with residents who expressed concerns about the “intrusive” nature of the public art piece, the lack of consultation before installation and the immense height of the cow located just a few feet from their homes.

    “The cow is terrifyingly close,” said resident Vic Lam, who showed council a picture of Charity from his 4-year-old son’s window. “It’s at eye level, which is absurd,” said Lam. “Imagine your child trying to sleep, and outside his window, at eye level, is a large chrome cow. It even gives me anxiety, let alone a child.”

    They all agreed the art should remain in Markham, calling it “good art in a bad location.”

    “In keeping Markham’s heritage and past, we are disrespecting the present,” said resident Joanna So, who lives on Charity Cres.

    “Honouring the past must not come at the expense of people who live here today. We ask the statue be made at a different location, for public viewing, so both honouring the past and the present can be achieved.”

    Stephen Chait, director of economic growth, culture and entrepreneurship for the City of Markham, said the artist behind the statue was not open to bringing it down off the stilts. And councillors said in previous discussions, Roman-Barber was not open to moving it.

    But councillors asked staff Monday to talk to her again.

    Ed Shiller, a spokesman for Roman-Barber said the developer “has made her position with regard to the statue of Charity clear from the beginning.”

    Roman-Barber has always maintained Charity belongs on Charity Cres.

    According to a memorandum signed between the town and the developer in 2016, Markham “reserves the right… to remove from public display or relocate the sculpture if deemed necessary or desirable by the city.”

    The city does have to consult with the donor prior to any final decision being made, but the “decision of the city shall be final,” the memo says, giving the donor the option to take back the sculpture, if they so wish.

    Ward 6 councillor Amanda Collucci says she still has concerns about the open-ended nature of the motion and will be pushing for clarity, when the matter comes back to council Oct. 17.

    “I don’t think it’s acceptable to leave it open. Where’s the deadline? We have to have a deadline. For the residents, it’s okay to have it there for up to six months, but one or two years, that’s not acceptable,” she said.

    But Charity Cres. resident Danny Da Silva is optimistic.

    “It looks like there is a great deal of support,” he said. “Now they (the councillors) see what we see, they feel what we feel, and I hope we can move forward and find it a proper home.”

    Ward 5 councillor Colin Campbell agrees.

    “Make it a tourist attraction where people can come and see it,” said Campbell. “I think we will work something out, and Ms. Roman-Barber will come around and put it in a place where everyone can enjoy it.”

    Markham’s cow statue on stilts to get new homeMarkham’s cow statue on stilts to get new home

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    The packed public meeting made clear the enthusiasm for a massive park decked over the rail corridor downtown remains strong a year after a surprise announcement.

    But details of how it will be built and developers’ competing interests remain sparse.

    The council chamber at city hall was at standing-room capacity only for a statutory public meeting Monday night on the city’s plan to build a 21-acre park from Bathurst St. to Blue Jays Way — what has been given the working title of “Rail Deck Park.”

    It has become a major promise of Mayor John Tory’s administration to see it built, though the path to funding and construction remain unclear. Early estimates suggested the park would cost at least $1.05 billion.

    “I am not going to make any pretense about being objective about this,” Tory told the full house. “I believe this is a bold idea and I’m going to tell you with every ounce of determination that I have: It will be built.”

    Tory said he is “confident” the private sector will “shoulder a big portion of the cost.”

    Amid questions about that cost and the city’s commitment to build the park no matter what, staff for the first time confirmed the park will have to be built in phases and identified a nearly 9-acre “priority” phase from just east of Portland St. to Spadina Ave. Future phases, staff said, could continue “over time.”

    Staff also clearly outlined for the first time that the majority of the air rights over the rail corridor — the space above the active railway lines that carry GO trains in and out of Union Station — belong to a mix of private groups, which includes a claim from a group of private developers who have proposed to deck over the space to build eight office and condominium towers.

    The estimated cost to acquire those air rights through either negotiations or expropriation — which the city has the power to do — has yet to be made public. Those answers weren’t available from staff Monday night.

    Councillor Joe Cressy, who represents Ward 20 (Trinity-Spadina), which contains the corridor, noted there are hundreds of millions of dollars in reserves that are dedicated to the creation of parks and that the city is currently under-collecting those fees from developers through provincial legislation.

    But even with an increase in what’s collected in parkland fees, it is unlikely to fully cover the cost to construct and maintain the massive park.

    Cressy said political will is required.

    “You get the city you pay for,” he said. “If we as Torontonians want to live in a great livable city ... then let’s, for goodness sake, pay for it and build it.”

    Those in the crowd agreed the park plan should move forward.

    “Over and over again wonderful plans are made out, money is spent on developing the plans, everything moves towards it and then it doesn’t happen. Toronto is lily-livered half the time,” said one woman, who had the final word.

    “Smarten up and be a proper city.”

    A further staff report on costs and a funding plan is expected in November.

    Much enthusiasm for Rail Deck Park plan that is short on detailsMuch enthusiasm for Rail Deck Park plan that is short on details

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    After hearing anguished, exasperated pleas from Toronto drug users and overdose prevention workers, public health board members voted Monday to step up efforts to save lives in the ongoing opioid crisis.

    Ontario’s health minister, however, has already rejected one key call — that the province declare the surge in opioid overdoses and deaths an “emergency” under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

    The health board voted unanimously to ask for the emergency designation after Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health, said that, in B.C., such a designation improved access to overdose data and helped “create (new) overdose prevention sites” in that province.

    An emergency designation in Ontario, she said, could trigger “a smoother flow, per se, of dollars” to do likewise here, but acknowledged the province would still have ultimate control over the timing and distribution of roughly $300 million it has so far pledged to help reduce overdose deaths.

    At Queen’s Park hours earlier, Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins told reporters that declaring a state of emergency is unnecessary because it “would not provide me with opportunities or powers that I don't already have. I feel confident in my current ability to work, in collaboration with partners, to address the public health crisis that is the opioid crisis.”

    Hoskins added he is “confident that we've got the tools that we need — but we've got a lot of work to do, and it’s multi-faceted,” suggesting more funding could be coming to reverse a spike in overdose deaths seen across Canada since fentanyl, a highly toxic painkiller, started hitting the streets.

    Read more:

    Toronto Public Library to offer staff naloxone training for overdoses in branches

    ER visits for opioid overdoses skyrocket

    Moss Park’s pop-up safe-injection site to get a permanent home

    Councillor Joe Cressy, the head of Toronto’s drug strategy, told fellow health committee members that “the province has to treat this more seriously than it has . . . this is an emergency thus they have to call it an emergency.”

    The word itself is not important, he said, but discussions with B.C. authorities suggest the designation could bring urgency to an response to the overdose crisis that he, along with the drug users and harm-reduction workers, say is already years behind, at the cost of Torontonians’ lives.

    Other measures approved by the health board include having de Villa look at adding more safe-injection sites in Toronto — there is currently an illegal volunteer-run site in Moss Park, a city-run one on Victoria St. near Ryerson University, with two more set to open in community health centres in late October — and adding safe-inhalation so that people can smoke crack and other drugs with medical help nearby and without fear of arrest.

    Safe inhalation happens at Moss Park but is currently not allowed under the Health Canada rules being followed for the other sites.

    De Villa is going to report back with her “best possible health advice” on the issue of fully decriminalizing drugs — she has already said Canada’s current crime-based approach has failed and a health-based approach should be considered. And, if city council agrees, she will be designated Toronto’s “overdose co-ordinator with authority to direct and co-ordinate city’s response across divisions and agencies.”

    Amy Wright, a harm reduction worker who lost a brother to suicide after he struggled with addiction, told the committee that when the phone rings she always expects to hear that another family member has died from overdose. She has called the public health threat “a huge crisis.”

    “I am praying for this city to do something, there needs to be a mass shift in how we view substance abuse,” she said.

    Olympia Trypis, a 22-year-old peer mentor in the youth shelter system, cried as she described the stigma of drug use. She fears that an overdose will end her life, or that she’ll be arrested or robbed of her drugs She believes that politicians follow the public, and aren’t going to lead change.

    “I am just begging you to be a hero because every day at the site I see heroes,” she said, referring to volunteers who ensure people can use drugs safely and rescue those who start to overdose.

    “We need the public to push you guys to be leaders so you guys can decriminalize drugs that are killing people.”

    With files from Kristin Rushowy

    Public health board members call on Ontario to declare opioid crisis state of emergencyPublic health board members call on Ontario to declare opioid crisis state of emergency

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    A North York recycling plant that employed low-wage temporary job agency workers for years has been ordered to pay $1.33 million in fines and back pay to workers for violating the City of Toronto’s fair wage policy.

    Canada Fibers Ltd. has two seven-year contracts to process blue bin recyclables for the city, worth a combined total of more than $264 million. Their contracts stipulated that all workers, including temp agency employees, were to be paid $12.34 an hour with pay increases tied to inflation, according to Fair Wage Office manager Mark Piplica.

    In 2015, a series of Star reports highlighted the story of “perma-temp” Angel Reyes, then a 61-year-old father of three who worked at the company for years at minimum wage — which at the time was $11 an hour.

    The city’s Fair Wage Office subsequently launched a two-year investigation into Canada Fibers and found that some 1,600 workers were owed money for being paid below agreed-upon rates.

    “We’re actually really close to finalizing all of the distribution (to workers),” said Piplica, who told the Star most employees owed money were hired through temp agencies.

    “Many workers, they’re going to get some money,” said Reyes. “That’s a beautiful thing.”

    Piplica said the investigation was complex because Canada Fibers has multiple locations, but said the company co-operated fully and will now be using directly-hired employees to process city recycling.

    “To their credit, they’ve stepped up,” Piplica said.

    A spokesperson for Canada Fibers said in a statement to the Star that the company was “pleased that it has now reached a fair and reasonable resolution with the city on the applicability of wage regulations to its Arrow Road facility.

    “Specifically, Canada Fibers has agreed to pay approximately $1.2 million in good faith payments to employees, with approximately $135,000 as an administration fee to the City of Toronto,” the statement said.

    “Canada Fibers continues to believe it has been in full compliance with all city regulations in the work that it does for the City of Toronto. In the interest of the company’s long-term relationship with its business partner, the city, and to stop analyzing and reanalyzing the facts of the dispute, Canada Fibers has agreed to conclude the review and make good faith retroactive payments to applicable employees,” it added.

    “We’re glad to see the Fair Wages Office investigated and temp agency workers hopefully will be able to recoup their lost wages,” said Mary Gellatly of Parkdale Community Legal Services.

    “But we have concerns about Canada Fibers’ use of temp agency workers when it was in a long-term contract with the city to do Toronto’s curbside recycling.”

    After speaking out to the Star, Reyes lost his temp job at Canada Fibers — but was subsequently offered a permanent job by a reader.

    Read more:

    I went undercover in a Toronto factory where temp workers have died. Here's what I found

    Ontario employers cashing in on temporary workers

    Temp work growth is ‘alarming’ and changes are coming, says Ontario labour minister

    The Star has reported extensively on the growth of the temp agency industry, and statistics show there are now more temp agencies operating in the GTA than seven Canadian provinces combined.

    The city investigation found Canada Fibers was using five different temp agencies to staff its facilities. Businesses with municipal contracts are responsible for ensuring all subcontractors — including temp agencies — abide by the city’s fair wage guidelines.

    Gellatly said the investigation highlights why proposed provincial legislation to make it illegal to pay temporary or part-time employees less for doing the same work as permanent counterparts is so important.

    “This is why the Bill 148 provision for equal work for equal pay for temp agency workers is so important — for workers not covered by fair wages policy at the City of Toronto,” she said.

    “We need to see improvements so the equal pay provisions really can be enforced,” she added.

    Piplica said temps who worked at Canada Fibers could contact his office directly if they believe they might be eligible for back wages.

    “It’s a good news story all around,” he said.

    Recycling plant ordered to pay $1.33M in fines, back wagesRecycling plant ordered to pay $1.33M in fines, back wages

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    WASHINGTON—The U.S. ramped up its response Monday to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, even as President Donald Trump brought up the island’s struggles before Hurricane Maria struck — including “billions of dollars” in debt to “Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.”

    The Trump administration has tried to blunt criticism that its response to Hurricane Maria has fallen short of its efforts in Texas and Florida after the recent hurricanes there.

    Read more: Parts of Puerto Rico nearing desperation as food, water and fuel supplies begin to run out

    Days after the Category 4 storm slammed into Puerto Rico, many of the more than 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the territory were still without adequate food, water and fuel. Flights off the island were infrequent, communications were spotty and roads were clogged with debris. Officials said electrical power may not be fully restored for more than a month.

    Trump himself pointed out some differences between the two states and the island in a series of tweets Monday night.

    “Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble.”

    Trump also noted that the island’s electrical grid was already “in terrible shape.” Still, he promised, “Food, water and medical are top priorities—and doing well.”

    In Washington, officials said no armada of U.S. Navy ships was headed to the island because supplies could be carried in more efficiently by plane. The Trump administration ruled out temporarily setting aside federal restrictions on foreign ships’ transportation of cargo, saying it wasn’t needed. The government had waived those rules in Florida and Texas until last week.

    Though the administration said the focus on aid was strong, when two Cabinet secretaries spoke at a conference on another subject — including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whose agency is helping restore the island’s power — neither made any mention of Puerto Rico or Hurricane Maria.

    Democratic lawmakers with large Puerto Rican constituencies back on the mainland characterized the response so far as too little and too slow. The confirmed death toll from Maria jumped to at least 49 on Monday, including 16 in Puerto Rico.

    “Puerto Ricans are Americans,” said Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., who travelled to Puerto Rico over the weekend to assess the damage. “We cannot and will not turn our backs on them.”

    Trump himself was expected at the end of last week to visit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, after they had been ravaged by Hurricane Irma. But the trip was delayed after Maria set its sights on the islands.

    The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, and White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert landed in San Juan on Monday, appearing with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello at a news briefing. Though Rossello had urgently called for more emergency assistance over the weekend, he expressed his gratitude for the help so far.

    The governor said the presence of Long and Bossert was “a clear indication that the administration is committed with Puerto Rico’s recovery process.”

    Long said, “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We realize that.”

    Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made no mention of Puerto Rico or the hurricane during a joint appearance before the National Petroleum Council, a business-friendly federal advisory committee. News reporters were not allowed to ask questions.

    Perry had travelled with Trump to Texas and Florida following hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

    Energy Department crews are working in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, co-ordinating with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, FEMA and a team from the New York Power Authority, among others. An eight-member team from the Western Area Power Authority, an Energy Department agency, assisted with initial damage assessments in Puerto Rico and has been redeployed to St. Thomas. A spokeswoman said additional responders would go to Puerto Rico as soon as transportation to the hurricane-ravaged island could be arranged.

    Zinke’s department oversees the U.S. Virgin Islands, along with other territories.

    The federal response to Maria faces obvious logistical challenges beyond those in Texas or Florida. Supplies must be delivered by air or sea, rather than with convoys of trucks.

    FEMA said it had more than 700 staff on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They were helping co-ordinate a federal response that now includes more than 10,000 federal personnel spread across the two Caribbean archipelagos.

    In Puerto Rico, federal workers supplied diesel to fuel generators at hospitals and delivered desperately needed food and water to hard-hit communities across the island. Cargo flights are bringing in additional supplies, and barges loaded with more goods are starting to arrive in the island’s ports.

    San Juan’s international airport handled nearly 100 arrivals and departures on Sunday, including military and relief operations, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The Pentagon dispatched the Navy amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, which provided helicopters and Marines to help with the relief effort onshore.

    However, the Trump administration said Monday it would not waive federal restrictions on foreign ships’ transportation of cargo as it had following Harvey and Irma. The administration said it will continue to enforce the Jones Act, which requires that goods transported between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-flagged ships.

    Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan said the agency had concluded there were already enough US-flagged vessels available.

    On Capitol Hill, congressional leaders were talking about how to pay for it all. Puerto Rico was already struggling from steep financial and economic challenges before Maria made landfall.

    Last year, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi joined with President Barack Obama to help recession-ravaged Puerto Rico deal with its debt crisis. After the devastating storm, Puerto Ricans will now be eligible to benefit from the same pots of federal emergency disaster aid and rebuilding funds available to residents in Texas and Florida.

    Lawmakers approved a $15 billion hurricane relief packaged after Harvey hit Texas, but billions more will likely now be needed to respond to Maria.

    Ryan said Monday that Congress will ensure the people of Puerto Rico “have what they need.”

    Singer Marc Anthony, meanwhile, had some scathing words for Trump, pleading with the president to forget about football and focus instead on hurricane-hammered Puerto Rico.

    Anthony tweeted on Monday night: "Mr. President shut the f--- up about NFL. Do something about our people in need in #PuertoRico. We are American Citizens too."

    The 49-year-old singer was born in New York, but his parents are from Puerto Rico, which was hit hard by Hurricane Maria.

    Anthony is one of many entertainers with Puerto Rican roots trying to summon support. "Hamilton" star Lin-Manuel tweeted that he's "texting every famous Puerto Rican singer I know and several I don't."

    As millions struggle for food, water and fuel after Hurricane Maria, Trump tweets how Puerto Rico is billions in debtAs millions struggle for food, water and fuel after Hurricane Maria, Trump tweets how Puerto Rico is billions in debt

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    Judging by the reaction, it was like the world finally got its first glimpse of the Loch Ness monster, which just happened to be frolicking with Bigfoot.

    Though we already knew Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are very much in love and on a possible collision course with matrimony — get ready to set those alarm clocks again for 3 a.m. — seeing them together in public remained high on the bucket list of any royal watcher who doesn’t happen to chauffer a secret limo or make tea in a palace kitchen.

    Without photographic evidence, this courtship amounted to hearsay.

    This changed with a flashbulb flourish on Monday afternoon in Toronto when Harry and Meghan attended a wheelchair tennis event for the Invictus Games. They could have sauntered into a human sacrifice ceremony and nobody would have noticed, since every camera within a two-block radius of Nathan Phillips Square was zoomed in tightly on their grinning faces.

    Within minutes, the images hit the wires and surged across social media and a sight that once seemed as elusive as the Bermuda Triangle — Harry and Meghan are within kissing range — was made official.

    The Internet wobbled on its axis, as if stumbling upon grainy images that proved Donald Trump was covertly working for George Soros.

    Read more:

    Prince Harry, Meghan Markle make first public appearance together at Invictus Games

    Meghan Markle’s surprise appearance ‘with’ Prince Harry sets Royal watchers abuzz: Govani

    “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Officially Make Their First Joint Appearance Together,” declared Marie Claire, as the Associated Press issued a video alert and Fleet Street added emergency bandwidth to handle the dozens of uploaded images that zigged across the transom, promising to mesmerize millions around the world.

    Cosmopolitan offered readers a “Definitive Timeline” of the relationship. Vanity Fair noted the intimate whispering. The Daily Express seized upon the handholding. Harper’s Bazaar, gobsmacked and in an apparent state of commoner euphoria, simply tweeted out an “It’s official,” followed by a heart emoji.

    It’s possible two-thirds of People’s editorial staff needed first aid.

    The images of Harry and Meghan were the opposite of glamorous, which in these cynical times made them delightful. Here was Markle as Queen Victoria could have never imagined: in a white blouse and ripped jeans. Harry, meanwhile, did little to counter the growing view his sartorial inspiration remains a fictional auto mechanic who dreams of landing a Gap campaign sometime during the grunge era.

    But somehow it all worked. Somehow, it all felt right.

    In one sweet image, the couple giggle and walk in front of the 3D Toronto sign, appropriately sandwiched between the “R” and “O” in the background. In another, they are seated and staring at each other — or at least staring at the frantic images bouncing off their matching sunglasses and glowing teeth.

    The most striking feature in every image is the lack of pomp and circumstance.

    These are not photos you’d associate with Buckingham Palace. They seem more like something you’d find on an Instagram account that specializes in college fashion.

    This relationship appears to not be celebrity in nature or scope.

    Her body language says, “I love this bearded fool.”

    His body language says, “I adore this freckled goddess.”

    What becomes of all this remains to be seen. But for a few moments on Monday, in a city that may well factor into the couple’s long-range plans, it was hard not to feel happy for two kindred spirits who have managed to find each other while journeying across very different worlds. It was hard not to see them both as young people in love and old souls in sync.

    Casual, down-to-earth and blissfully unconcerned with what anyone thinks. If this is the future of the royal family, Harry and Meghan are pushing it in the right direction.

    A first look at love: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle make first appearance together as a coupleA first look at love: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle make first appearance together as a coupleA first look at love: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle make first appearance together as a coupleA first look at love: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle make first appearance together as a coupleA first look at love: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle make first appearance together as a coupleA first look at love: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle make first appearance together as a couple

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    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump and his Republican colleagues appear to have failed again to repeal Obamacare.

    Republicans’ last-minute push to transform the U.S. health system radically was effectively defeated Monday, when one of the senators who killed their previous bill, Maine’s Susan Collins, announced that she was opposed to this one, too.

    Collins was the third declared Republican “no” vote, along with Sen. John McCain and Sen. Rand Paul. The party can only afford to lose two members, and Sen. Bill Cassidy, co-author of the proposal, conceded earlier Monday that the bill would die if Collins was not on board.

    “It’s time for us to move on to tax reform,” Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy told the Baton Rouge Advocate.

    Cassidy said he would keep trying to repeal Obamacare, but he also said he would not make any more changes to try to win over opponents, BuzzFeed reported.

    His widely unpopular plan, known as Graham-Cassidy, would have left millions fewer people with insurance, imposed deep cuts on Democratic states in favour of some Republican states, made insurance pricier for people with “pre-existing” conditions, and, in the view of policy experts, created chaos around the country.

    Analysts said it was the most radical Republican plan to date. But Republicans, trying to meet a Sept. 30 deadline to pass the bill with just 50 votes, not the 60 needed thereafter, tried to ram it through the Senate.

    Collins said she was concerned about the “devastating” cuts the bill would make to the Medicaid program for low-income people, the weakening of protections for pre-existing conditions, and the likely premium increases for others. She also criticized the rushed process, which was McCain’s chief concern.

    Read more:

    John McCain says he can’t ‘in good conscience’ vote for GOP health bill, leaving it all but dead

    ‘Catastrophic’: Millions at risk, again, as Trump and Republicans push new health bill

    Jimmy Kimmel slams Bill Cassidy, Trump over GOP health-care bill

    The apparent collapse of Graham-Cassidy deepens a major embarrassment for Trump and his party. Republicans had promised for seven years to eradicate Barack Obama’s signature policy. Trump himself ran on a repeal pledge, claiming it would be “so easy.”

    The legislative disaster could hurt Republicans in the 2018 elections. But it could conceivably help, sparing them from the wrath of people who would have been harmed if the bill passed.

    Activists, many with disabilities, had swamped Capitol Hill earlier Monday, chanting to disrupt the one committee hearing on the bill. People in wheelchairs affiliated with activist group ADAPT were dragged away as cameras rolled.

    The bill was opposed by virtually every interest group, from the insurance industry to the seniors’ lobby to groups representing patients, doctors and nurses. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, whose baby boy has a heart defect, galvanized the opposition with a series of furious monologues.

    The emergence of Graham-Cassidy prompted Republicans to abandon bipartisan negotiations to fix Obamacare.

    Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said his party wants to reignite the talks.

    It is possible Republicans will try to revive the repeal drive at some point later in the year or early next.

    Trump, Republicans appear to fail again as Sen. Susan Collins comes out against Obamacare repealTrump, Republicans appear to fail again as Sen. Susan Collins comes out against Obamacare repeal

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    WASHINGTON—The vice-president of the United States has some less-than-complimentary words for Canada’s health-care system, which he accuses of certain “failings.”

    Mike Pence made the remarks in an interview last week with Alaska radio station KFQD.

    He was being asked about the Republican health legislation struggling to get through Congress.

    Republicans appear to be wrestling to get a bill that would repeal Obamacare through the legislature before a procedural deadline later this month — and the effort is in deep trouble.

    Read more:

    Trump, Republicans appear to fail again as Susan Collins comes out against Obamacare repeal

    John McCain says he can’t ‘in good conscience’ vote for GOP health bill, leaving it all but dead

    ‘Catastrophic’: Millions at risk, again, as Trump and Republicans push new health bill

    Pence warned that if the legislative effort collapses, the U.S. will be on a course for something similar to Canada.

    That’s because the Democratic party is starting to rally to an unprecedented degree around the idea of single-payer health care as a long-term solution to the U.S.’s endless health debates.

    “We have a clear choice here,” Pence said.

    “You know, somewhere in between where I’m sitting in Washington, D.C., and Alaska, is a place called Canada. I probably don’t need to tell the people in Alaska about the failings of national socialized health care because it’s right in our neighbour and you see the results every day.

    “Look, we’ve got a choice: It’s between big government, Washington, D.C., solutions that ultimately, I believe, will collapse into single-payer health care — or whether or not we’re going to repeal the (Obamacare) individual mandate.”

    Canada’s health system is known to suffer from long wait times, especially for elective procedures. On the other hand, Canadians not only have longer life expectancies, but also spend far less on health care than Americans according to World Bank data.

    The Trump administration has just received a fresh round of bad news about its health-reform effort: After John McCain, Susan Collins became the latest senator Monday to say she opposes the Obamacare repeal bill, almost certainly dooming it.

    The Congressional Budget Office attempted to assess the bill, and released a preliminary report Monday. It said the legislation would end health coverage for millions, but reduce federal spending by more than $133 billion (U.S.) over a decade.

    But the non-partisan watchdog said it needed more time to properly analyze the bill — time it doesn’t have, because of the Republican rush to get a bill passed.

    U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence blasts ‘failings’ of Canadian health systemU.S. Vice-President Mike Pence blasts ‘failings’ of Canadian health system

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    The company that owns Glen Abbey Golf Course announced Monday that it has filed an application to demolish the site.

    In a letter sent to the Town of Oakville, ClubLink lawyer Mark Flowers said the company “will be proceeding with an application to the Town under section 34 of the Ontario Heritage Act to remove the golf course and demolish all buildings on the lands other than those that are proposed to be retained under ClubLink’s redevelopment proposal.

    The RayDor Estate House, which is currently leased to Golf Canada for its offices, the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Stables would be spared.

    The golf giant is hoping to build 3,222 residential units including nine nine-to-12 storey apartment buildings on the Glen Abbey Golf Course property at 1333 Dorval Dr.

    This proposal has created a great deal of concern among area residents, who fear what the development will do to traffic levels in the area.

    Others worry about the loss of green space, some have a problem with the proposed development’s density levels while others do not want to see a world-class golf course leave Oakville.

    Flowers said the demolition application was in response to the Aug. 21 decision by Oakville’s Planning and Development Council to pass a notice of intention to designate the entire 92-hectacre property under the Ontario Heritage Act.

    Experts cited the fact the course was designed by golf superstar Jack Nicklaus and its “spoke-and-wheel” design as evidence of cultural significance worth preserving.

    ClubLink officials called the council decision extremely broad and overreaching.

    They also noted they would not be appealing that decision because recommendations by the Conservation Review Board, which would hear the matter, are not binding on the Town.

    This decision not to appeal didn’t stop ClubLink from lashing out about the notice to designate.

    “The Town’s insistence that the entire golf course has heritage value and that the removal of the golf course cannot conserve the heritage resource might mean that ClubLink would be required to operate and maintain the golf course in perpetuity,” said ClubLink Chair and CEO Rai Sahi in a press release.

    “That’s simply not how the Ontario Heritage Act works.”

    Oakville Mayor Rob Burton says he’s not surprised by ClubLink’s demolition application.

    “The lands are currently deemed to be designated under Section 33 of the Heritage Act,” he said. “The applicant appears to be following the prescribed procedure to begin the process to seek approval for demolition of a designated property. Council will give this new application the consideration it is due within the required timeframe of 90 days from completion of the requirements.”

    It should be noted that if council rules against ClubLink in the demolition matter, ClubLink would have the option of appealing to the Ontario Municipal Board.

    The application to demolish Glen Abbey comes as the Town prepares to consider ClubLink’s development plans for the site at its Tuesday special council meeting.

    Town staff has recommended council refuse this development request.

    In the same press release that ClubLink announced it had applied to demolish Glen Abbey Golf Course, the company also called on the Town to get on board with the development proposal.

    The developer again noted that 54 per cent of the overall site would be preserved as publicly accessible green space and that ClubLink would pay $126 million in development charges.

    “This is an incredible opportunity and an enormous public benefit for the people of Oakville and the surrounding regions,” Sahi said.

    “Oakville Council should not miss this opportunity to take ownership of these lands for the public benefit.”

    ClubLink applies to demolish Glen Abbey golf courseClubLink applies to demolish Glen Abbey golf course

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    A 27-year-old Kitchener man has been charged with tossing a Molotov cocktail into a Vaughan bakery last June, one of more than a dozen violent incidents investigated by GTA organized crime police this summer.

    A window of the Di Manno Bakery on Buttermill Avenue in the Jane Street and Highway 7 area was broken and York Regional Police reported finding a canister containing an accelerant inside at 1:30 a.m. on June 12.

    That same night, the front door of a home on Mellings Drive in Vaughan was fired upon.

    Then, just two months later on Aug. 7, the garage of the house was fired on.

    York Regional Police responded to the Mellings Drive residence that night to find bullet holes in the garage.

    And two weeks after that, arson investigators were called after it was fully engulfed in flames in late August.

    The house was unoccupied and under guard at the time of the fire and shootings, and there were no injuries in any of the attacks.

    Property records show the Mellings Drive house belongs to Maria Arevalo and Giuseppe Cuntrera. It was bought in May 2005 for $785,000.

    Police are also investigating an attempted arson at the home of Cuntrera’s uncle in August.

    The Caffe Corretto in Vaughan was destroyed by an explosion in late June.

    Days before that, the Hamilton home of baker Pasquale (Pat) Musitano was sprayed with bullets.

    On May 2, Musitano’s younger brother, Angelo Musitano, was shot to death in the driveway of his home in Waterdown while his wife and preschool-aged children were inside.

    The brothers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in the fatal shooting death of Niagara crime boss Carmen Barillaro in 1997.

    They were initially also accused of hiring a hitman to kill Hamilton Mob boss Johnny “Pops’ Papalia in 1997.

    Immediately after the Di Manno Bakery incident, police appealed for anyone with dashcam video from the area to come forward.

    Rustam Suleimanov is scheduled to appear in Newmarket court on Thursday to face charges of arson causing damage to property and break and enter.

    He was arrested in Kitchener with the assistance of Waterloo Regional Police officers.

    Kitchener man arrested in Vaughan bakery bombingKitchener man arrested in Vaughan bakery bombing

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    TD Bank estimates increasing Ontario’s hourly minimum wage to $15 could cost the province up to 90,000 jobs.

    “Ontario’s bold plan to raise the minimum wage by one-third over the next 18 months has fueled much debate about its potential impact on Canada’s largest economy,” the bank reports in its economic assessment released Tuesday.

    “Raising the minimum wage can potentially generate more benefits to society than costs in terms of any resulting job lost. However, the relatively rapid speed of the implementation and its timing within the economic cycle are two factors that will likely accentuate the negative hit to Ontario employment,” TD warned.

    “Our baseline job forecast builds in a net reduction in jobs of around 80,000 to 90,000 positions by the end of the decade,” said the bank, conceding the overall workforce would continue to rise after the $11.40 hourly rate jumps to $14 next year and $15 in 2019.

    “The estimated job impacts would still leave employment expanding over the next few years, but, at a tepid clip of around 0.5 per cent annually.”

    TD, which last month reported its quarterly profits skyrocketed by 17 per cent to $2.77 billion, recommends to “extend the implementation period by at least two years, to 2021.”

    As well, it recommends “differentiated minimum wages across Ontario in order to alleviate adverse side effects.”

    That would say a $15 rate in Toronto, where the cost of living is higher, but “in Windsor, an $11-$12 level would be more appropriate.”

    Premier Kathleen Wynne dismissed the bank’s projections, which come after the province’s Financial Accountability Office estimated 50,000 jobs could be lost.

    “We have duelling economists on this issue,” said Wynne.

    “I have been very clear that in a province as wealthy as Ontario, to have people who are working full time at maybe two jobs and still having to go to the food bank . . . is unacceptable,” she said.

    “And that’s why we’re raising the minimum wage.”

    TD warns raising minimum wage could cost 90,000 jobsTD warns raising minimum wage could cost 90,000 jobs

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    Some city councillors are questioning the salary of Toronto Hydro’s million-dollar man.

    Hydro chief executive Anthony Haines earned, according to regulatory filings, a total of $1,041,138 last year, $522,286 of it in base salary plus performance bonuses and incentives worth $508,551, as well as $6,967 in benefits and $3,334 in perquisite expenses.

    The next highest paid executive at the city-owned electrical utility was Dino Priore, executive vice-president and chief engineering and construction officer, who earned $521,238, including $192,889 in performance bonuses and incentives. Total pay disclosed for three other executives ranged from $460,218 to $280,643.

    Haines’s pay packet dwarfs those of other big earners at the City of Toronto and its arm’s-length agencies. For comparison, Mayor John Tory last year earned $186,044.32; city manager Peter Wallace $362,877.11; TTC chief executive Andy Byford $354.809.70; and John Tracogna, chief executive of Toronto Zoo, $252,360.76.

    At executive committee Tuesday, Councillor David Shiner tore a strip off another Hydro executive vice-president, Chris Tyrrell, who went to city hall to answer questions about an agenda item on Hydro’s annual general meeting and 2016 audited financial statements.

    Shiner said Haines, himself, should have appeared before Mayor John Tory and his executive to answer questions.

    The councillor demanded to know when Hydro will respond to a July 2016 directive to give council a comparison of the salaries of the utility’s executives with those of other public sector equivalents and to explain why some bonuses and incentives are way over the council-directed bonus maximum of 25 per cent of base salary.

    “Why are the bonuses for senior executives almost 100 per cent, and some of the others 60 per cent, when we say 25 per cent, and where does that come from?” Shiner asked Tyrell, noting the city last year agreed to inject $200 million into Hydro to solve a cash crunch and protect the utility’s credit rating.

    Tyrrell said Hydro hired a consultant to examine the pay of the utility’s executive pay. The resulting report will go to Hydro’s annual general meeting and then to the city manager in November and then to city council.

    Asked by Shiner to provide the instructions given to the consultant so that he’ll know what questions to ask when the report lands, Tyrrell told him, “I’d have to take that back to the (Hydro) board.”

    Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who sits on Hydro’s board, defended the utility for being slow in reporting back with financial information, saying, “They’re not the only ones,” and pointing a finger at Toronto Parking Authority and Build Toronto.

    Minnan-Wong continued, “Hydro salaries are very generous. They are the highest in any organization here at the city or any other agency, board or commission.

    “We have our first employee who makes over $1 million, and that’s certain to get attention . . . . I have made my views known on the (Hydro) board. Let’s have a vigorous discussion when (the consultant report) comes forward and not jump to conclusions.”

    Haines, who heads the province’s third-biggest electrical utility, is not the only Hydro executive in Ontario to face salary questions. Mayo Schmidt, the head of Hydro One, earned $4.4 million in salary and bonuses last year.

    In an interview, Shiner said taxpayers need to be assured that total pay for executives of city-owned agencies is “reasonable and appropriate for the work they are doing.”

    “When I sat on the board of Toronto Hydro (starting in the early 2000s), the senior staff were making half of what they are now, and I’m concerned it might be out of line,” Shiner said. “I don’t know why any of our staff should be making $1 million a year for running a regulated company that receives the power from the provincial grid and distributes it throughout the city.”

    Hydro spokesperson Brian Buchan said, in a statement, that the utility has been “very responsive” to council demands for information on executive pay and is ahead of a deadline to report back by the end of 2017.

    As for the base pay and bonuses, themselves, he said, “It is important to look at relevant comparators when considering what appropriate compensation is. That’s why the study is being done for the city manager and council . . . so the right analysis can be made.

    “The appropriateness of compensation for Mr. Haines and other executives are contained within the report, and it would not be appropriate for me to comment on that until the report has been approved, submitted, presented by the city manager and scrutinized through the process set by city council.”

    Toronto Hydro CEO faces questions over pay of more than $1 millionToronto Hydro CEO faces questions over pay of more than $1 million

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    A 22-year-old Toronto man is facing charges after police alleged he posed as a travel agent and scammed several travellers into buying fraudulent tickets from him last summer.

    Police said in a release on Tuesday that the travellers bought airline tickets ranging in price from $400 to $3,000, by Interac e-transfer from a travel agent between June and August.

    These travellers were able to check the airline website and confirm their bookings. But, police said, the fraudulent bookings would be cancelled days later because of issues with a credit card used to book them.

    Police said the fraudulent travel agent, who allegedly used several aliases, including Jack Chen and Jason Wang, was able to deposit the e-transfers for the tickets into his own bank account.

    Police said they’re concerned that there are other victims.

    Hangfeng Zhang, 22, was charged on Tuesday with two counts each of fraud under $5,000 and possession of property obtained by crime under $5,000.

    He is due in court on November 9.

    Toronto man charged in travel agent scamToronto man charged in travel agent scam

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    A failed refugee claimant who has spent four-and-a-half years in a maximum security jail because the government has been unable to deport him argued in Ontario Superior Court on Tuesday that his ongoing detention violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    Ebrahim Toure, who has been locked up at Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay since February 2013 despite not facing any criminal charges, is arguing that his detention is indefinite and arbitrary because there is no reasonable prospect he will be deported in the “foreseeable” future.

    The 46-year-old, who was profiled earlier this year as part of a Star investigation into Canada’s immigration detention system, said he is not trying to stay in Canada and is willing to be deported. He said he was born in Gambia and grew up partly in Guinea, but has no identity documents. He can’t prove his citizenship to either country, so neither will issue him a passport or agree to take him back.

    Immigration officials, meanwhile, accuse Toure — who used multiple aliases while working illegally in the U.S. in the early 2000s and previously insisted he was “100 per cent” from Guinea — of deceiving them and intentionally thwarting his removal. They believe his name is Bakaba Touray and that he is withholding information that would allow them to deport him. He says he has given them all the information he has.

    Toure is the latest immigration detainee to take the government to court on a habeas corpus application — a long-enshrined legal recourse that allows anyone held by the state to contest the lawfulness of their detention.

    Read more:

    ‘Why is this man in prison?’, judge asks government lawyer in immigration detention case

    Immigration detainees can be jailed indefinitely, federal judge rules

    Immigration board refuses to release four-year detainee Ebrahim Toure

    It’s the same mechanism by which immigration detainee Ricardo Scotland was released last month in a scathing decision by Justice Edward Morgan, who roundly criticized both the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Immigration and Refugee Board and likened Scotland’s baffling predicament to a Franz Kafka novel.

    “Although the government cannot provide a clear rationale for Mr. Scotland’s initial or continued detention,” Morgan wrote, “the reason for this lack of clarity is itself clear to me: there is no rationale. Mr. Scotland is being held in prison for no real reason at all.”

    It’s also how Kashif Ali, who was held in immigration detention for more than seven years while the government tried to deport him, was released in April when Justice Ian Nordheimer said Canada could not “purport to hold someone in detention forever.”

    Habeas corpus has, in effect, allowed long-term immigration detainees to circumvent the system by which the federal government indefinitely jails non-citizens while it tries to deport them.

    Toure, who is being held solely as a flight risk and is not considered a danger to the public, is now the longest-serving immigration detainee in detention.

    On Tuesday, the first day of a scheduled two-day hearing, the small courtroom was filled to capacity with supporters from Toronto’s West African communities, as well as members of the End Immigration Detention Network. Dozens of people were forced to wait in the hallway until the proceedings were moved to a larger courtroom in the afternoon.

    Court heard testimony from two CBSA officials responsible for Toure’s case: John Oliveira, who makes the government’s case for Toure’s continued detention at the Immigration and Refugee Board; and Dale Lewis, an investigator with the CBSA’s Long-Term Detentions Unit.

    Toure’s lawyers, Jared Will and Jean Marie Vecina, spent most of the day questioning Oliveira and Lewis about the depth and documentation of their efforts to remove Toure from the country.

    Will challenged Lewis to explain how and why he was certain that Toure — who says he is illiterate — was wilfully deceiving the government about the spelling of his last name. He said the two spellings are phonetically identical. “For someone who is illiterate or has never had any identity documents, are those actually two different names?” Will asked. “If you can’t read or write, what’s the difference between Touray and Toure?”

    “I don’t know what to say,” Lewis said.

    Since taking power in 2015, the Liberal government has detained fewer people for immigration purposes than the Conservatives under Stephen Harper. Long-term detentions — 90 days or more — are also decreasing.

    Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, under whose purview immigration detention falls, has said repeatedly that the government intends to create a “better” and “fairer” immigration detention system that reduces the use of criminal jails and expands alternatives to detention. A new “framework” for alternatives to detention is scheduled to be implemented next spring, for instance, and ongoing investments into federal immigration detention centres are aimed at reducing the use of provincial jails.

    But advocates of immigration detainees are looking for more significant and immediate changes.

    Before Tuesday’s hearing, the End Immigration Detention Network held a rally outside the University Ave. Courthouse calling for a 90-day limit on immigration detention. Almost all of Europe, as well as several other countries, have strict limits on how long their governments can hold someone in immigration detention, ranging from 45 days to 18 months. Canada, like the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, has no such limit, so cases like Toure’s can drag on indefinitely. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has called on Canada to set a “reasonable” time limit for immigration detention.

    Toure’s hearing continues Wednesday.

    Immigration detainee who has spent four years in jail says detention violates Canada’s charter of rightsImmigration detainee who has spent four years in jail says detention violates Canada’s charter of rights

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    OTTAWA—Under pressure from Canada and the U.S., Mexico appears willing to agree to enforceable labour standards to improve working conditions as the price for ensuring duty-free trade with its North American neighbours.

    Moises Kalach, the head of trade for the Mexican national business council that is in close consultation with Mexico’s negotiating team, told the Star that Mexico is prepared to accept tougher labour provisions than are in the 23-year-old NAFTA.

    “In the end, Mexico will sign to a deal that is a balanced pact, that will be beneficial to Mexico. If that balanced pact or new deal has a labour provision inside of it and that focuses a higher standards, probably yes, but it has to be a whole thing.”

    “We’ve been very clear, a good deal has to have no tariffs, has to be a free trade agreement. You cannot limit exports. We would not sign into something that’s lower than what we have in NAFTA,” he said in an interview at the Mexican embassy.

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    That means “rules of origin” that would increase the requirement for made-in-America content or “specific country content,” in, for example, autos or auto parts, or steel, or other manufactured goods are not going to fly, said Kalach, a powerful advisor to the Mexican negotiating team.

    “We feel that loses the spirit of the free trade agreement, so we don’t see that as a good deal. We don’t see that is something we should agree to.”

    Labour and rules of origin were two major issues on the table Tuesday and Wednesday in Ottawa.

    Both Canada and the U.S. came to NAFTA talks pushing for language to improve wages and working conditions with an eye to helping Mexican workers, but also to reduce the competitive advantage that has helped Mexico woo away manufacturing jobs.

    Each country has offered detailed proposals, with the U.S. laying out specific text Tuesday.

    The Canadian proposal on labour won praise from union leaders here, even though it did not set out how much a living wage should be, and they criticized the U.S. position as not going far enough.

    Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told the Commons that Ottawa’s negotiators “put forward the most progressive, the strongest labour chapter, that Canada has ever put forward in a negotiation.”

    Emily Davis, a spokesperson for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, said the U.S. proposal would replace “the original NAFTA’s toothless approach on labour with enforceable provisions to benefit workers across America.

    “The United States’ advocacy for workers includes seeking commitments from Mexico and Canada to respect collective bargaining and other core labour standards.”

    Jerry Dias, head of Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, said the American labour proposals simply mirror the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, which the U.S. abandoned, and which set the bar too low for enforcement. Dias said it does not allow for human rights violations to be considered as unfair trade practices, and Mexico would exploit such gaps.

    Juan Gallardo, a Mexican businessman who is also part of Mexico’s business advisory group at the talks, rejected the idea other countries should impose minimum wages and working conditions on Mexican workers.

    “Dictating wage increases from abroad is simply not going to happen,” he told reporters. Mexico is happy to consider “suggestions . . . with the understanding that each country obviously has the right and obligation to set its own working standards,” Gallardo said.

    Kalach pushed back at critics who say lower labour and environmental standards have drawn companies to Mexico.

    “If it was only wages . . . , why don’t all the plants go to Guatemala, or Trinidad (and) Tobago, if it’s cheap labour that they’re looking for? There are other countries that are paying much lower wages than we do.”

    Instead, he said, Mexico offers business an attractive “package,” including free trade agreements with 46 countries, strong supply chains, proximity to the U.S. market, technology, and a “growing, good, young labour base.”

    On Tuesday, Dias met with the Mexican team negotiating the labour chapter. and he said there is an “understanding” on their part that the United States and Canada likely won’t agree to a new trade pact unless it contains labour provisions.

    “I think they are getting their head there . . . . It’s pretty crystal clear that, unless we fix this, there’s not going to be a deal,” he told reporters Tuesday.

    That was also the impression that Teamsters Canada officials took away from their meeting with Mexican negotiators, who have yet to table their own proposal on labour.

    “We got the impression that they are juggling domestic politics and NAFTA talks. . . . We did get the sense that the Mexicans are getting strong pushback from their own business community,” said Christopher Monette, director of public affairs for the union.

    As this round of talks prepared to wrap up, Freeland hosted a private dinner Tuesday with Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, Mexico’s Secretary of Economy, and Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative.

    Mexico appears willing to improve conditions for workers in NAFTA negotiationsMexico appears willing to improve conditions for workers in NAFTA negotiations

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    Max Tutiven killed Jayesh Prajapati while committing a “gas-and-dash” theft, but he did not intend to hurt anyone, a jury heard Tuesday, as Tutiven took the stand in his second-degree murder trial.

    During his testimony, Tutiven admitted to driving the SUV that hit Prajapati and dragged him for 78 metres on the night of Sept. 15, 2012.

    He admitted to stealing gas from the Shell station where Prajapati worked.

    But, Tutiven testified, he never saw Prajapati approach his SUV, and when he heard something being dragged under his vehicle, he assumed it was a road pylon.

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    Prajapati was working in the kiosk of a Shell station near Eglinton Ave. W. and Allen Rd. when he saw the driver of a silver SUV pulling away from the pump without paying for $112.85 worth of gas, the Crown has said during the weeklong trial.

    Prajapati, a husband and father, ran out to try to stop the driver from getting away, but was hit by the SUV and dragged to his death.

    Tutiven, 44, has pleaded not guilty to the charge of second-degree murder, which requires that the accused person intended to kill their victim.

    On Tuesday, Tutiven laid out his version of the events leading to Prajapati’s death, as Prajapati’s wife listened with the help of an interpreter from her seat in the centre of the courtroom, and Tutiven’s mother looked on.

    “I’ve been waiting for this moment five years,” Tutiven said, composing his thoughts early in his testimony.

    Tutiven pulled up to the Shell station intending to steal gas, as he had done every three to four days, at various gas stations, since he was 16 years old, he said.

    After filling his SUV’s tank and two jerry cans, he looked up to see Prajapati in the gas station kiosk serving customers, and decided it was safe to drive off without being caught.

    But, when Tutiven tried to pull out, there was a black car parked at the pump in front of him, blocking his path, he told the court. Tutiven reversed his SUV and tried to drive around the black car, turning to look out his driver’s side window so he could make sure his left bumper hadn’t hit the other vehicle.

    At no time did he see Prajapati, Tutiven said.

    He thought he could hear someone yell, “Stop, stop,” but assumed it was the attendant calling through a window in the kiosk, he said.

    He did not think it was possible that Prajapati could have made it from the kiosk to his SUV in the short amount of time since he had seen the attendant dealing with customers, he said.

    As Tutiven pulled out of the gas station and onto Roselawn Ave. he heard a dragging sound under his car and assumed it was a pylon, though he had not seen a pylon at the gas station.

    Tutiven, who lived in Montreal but made frequent visits to his hometown of Toronto, then drove straight back to the room he had rented for the weekend in North York.

    Hours later he was woken up by a call from his father, who told him police and come by to look for him, but did not tell him why, Tutiven said.

    Tutiven only learned someone had been killed, and that he was a suspect, while at a friend’s house in Kingston two days later, he testified.

    He abandoned the SUV in Kingston and returned by bus to Montreal where he remained until his arrest in 2015, he said.

    “There (was) no point in me turning myself in, there is no benefit of me turning myself in . . . except that I spend more time in jail,” Tutiven told the court, adding that he believed his arrest was “inevitable.”

    Tutiven has about 40 criminal convictions to his name, for such crimes as assault, car theft and possession of stolen property, the court heard.

    His main source of income at the time involved defrauding cellphone companies to resell used phones, he said. He would also occasionally work with friends to steal cars from dealerships or break into warehouses to rob them, he testified.

    During cross-examination Tuesday, Crown attorney Joseph Callaghan argued Tutiven’s testimony could simply be a demonstration of his criminal ability to fool people.

    “You are quite successful at lying, deceiving, defrauding to get your way,” Callaghan told Tutiven.

    “You’re trying to make this jury your next sucker,” he added.

    Tutiven disagreed, saying his crimes were not an indication that he is untruthful.

    “Does stealing a car make me dishonest? Does it make me a liar?” Tutiven asked.

    The Crown will continue cross-examining Tutiven on Wednesday.

    Accused murderer admits he drove SUV that killed gas station worker in ‘gas-and-dash’ theftAccused murderer admits he drove SUV that killed gas station worker in ‘gas-and-dash’ theft

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    Whitchurch-Stouffville Mayor Justin Altmann will have to apologize, respect staff, and lose a month’s pay, after fellow councillors accepted the penalties put forward in a damning ethics report that found his CSI-style wall constituted “workplace harassment.”

    Councillors came to the decision Tuesday evening, despite a lengthy statement from Altmann’s lawyer, Hermie Abraham, suggesting the probe was biased and lacked natural justice and that the entire investigation be reviewed.

    In a memo submitted to council, Altmann defended his decision to create his “mind-map” — made up of photos of staff, colleagues and members of the public connected by black lines — and responded to a number of allegations made by staff about his behaviour over the past few years.

    Details of Altmann’s behaviour were presented to council Tuesday by integrity commissioner Suzanne Craig, who had been investigating the wall since staff filed a complaint in March.

    In her 30-page report published Friday, she concluded that Altmann’s extensive CSI-wall was “vexatious” and “disturbing to staff” and amounted to a “serious incident of workplace harassment.”

    In her report, Craig asked council to consider such penalties as asking Altmann for a formal apology, imploring him to interact respectfully with staff and suspending his pay for 30 days. The maximum penalty under the Municipal Act is to dock an elected official three months’ pay.

    The mayor’s salary was about $105,000 in 2016, which also included pay he received for sitting on regional council.

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    On Tuesday, in a packed council room that included security guards and a police presence, some councillors suggested the presentation of the report was “punitive enough.”

    “I believe the mayor should apologize for how he made staff feel for putting up the wall, and he should commit to creating a better work environment with staff,” said Ward 5 councillor Iain Lovatt, adding docking Altmann’s pay seems “unnecessarily punitive.”

    “I believe the fact that we are here today and have faced national scrutiny for months, and have had to listen to this report is punitive enough.”

    But after a lengthy in-camera meeting, councillors decided to accept all of the integrity commissioner’s recommendations.

    “We have to show support for our staff,” said Ward 3 councillor Hugo Kroon.

    The memo submitted by Altmann’s lawyer tries to explain why the mayor created the wall display in the first place, saying it was his attempt to conduct a “mini-investigation” into anonymous packages he believes were sent out to the public to “discredit, threaten and harass the mayor.”

    According to the document, the mayor began to create the wall on Jan. 4 in his private office washroom, and included members of the public and council related to an ongoing lawsuit in the town.

    “The wall was simply a mind-mapping exercise to ‘connect the dots’ between breached town policies, the anonymous packages, and matter with (the lawsuit),” the memo says. “It is our submission that by creating the diagram on the wall in his private bathroom, the mayor would have not anticipated, known or believed that various staff members would be entering his private bathroom for the purpose of viewing the wall.”

    In the memo, Altmann takes exception to additional complaints made by staff but not investigated by Craig, as they came before the code of conduct was implemented in the town.

    “The very inclusion of these supplementary allegations creates a prejudice to the mayor in the minds of the reader of the final report,” said Abraham.

    The mayor refuted many of those allegations, including that he told a staffer he was “going to blow up this place.” What he actually meant, the memo said, was that “it was time to expose the corporation” and not blow up the place with a violent meaning.

    It was also alleged he told certain staff he was “their king” and they were supposed to defend him. The memo explained that the mayor used an analogy that corporations were like monarchies and lords and armies protect the interest of the king, and that “staff should ensure that council members and the mayor are protected.”

    It was also alleged that the mayor replaced furniture in the councillor boardroom with his own dining room furniture and when he was confronted by staff, he told them “you need to learn your place because I am the CEO of the corporation and I am your boss.” His response in the memo was that there was no furniture policy in place and he was given authority and approval to do so. He admitted to yelling at the staff member and later apologized.

    The mayor also took issue with a complaint that he allowed a blind therapy dog named Smiley to wear the mayoral chain of office when the dog and its owner were being honoured during the town’s strawberry festival. In response, Altmann explained that Smiley had been recognized internationally and that placing the chain of office on the dog was not a show of disrespect for the mayor’s office. Further, the memo said, there were no rules in place that prohibited the use of the chain of office in this manner.

    When questioned about the mayor’s concerns around fairness, Craig says the mayor had “reasonable opportunities to respond” and she went “beyond” her obligation in the code protocol.”

    Stouffville mayor ordered to apologize for ‘disturbing’ behaviourStouffville mayor ordered to apologize for ‘disturbing’ behaviour

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