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- 09/28/17--11:30: _Judge grants two-we...
- 09/28/17--09:58: _City on hook for $1...
- 09/28/17--08:44: _Judge rejects exper...
- 09/28/17--03:00: _Why care about gett...
- 09/28/17--11:36: _While all eyes were...
- 09/28/17--10:16: _‘Rob Ford Memorial ...
- 09/29/17--09:05: _‘Dammit, this is no...
- 09/29/17--11:17: _Wisconsin girl reac...
- 09/29/17--07:32: _Show respect or ‘ge...
- 09/29/17--11:11: _Ontario men sentenc...
- 09/29/17--10:57: _Threats put Toronto...
- 09/28/17--14:21: _Hugh Hefner’s Playb...
- 09/29/17--10:27: _Windsor police issu...
- 09/29/17--09:05: _Obama speaks in Tor...
- 09/29/17--04:00: _Guillermo del Toro'...
- 09/30/17--04:00: _How this family of ...
- 09/28/17--04:00: _Art meets activism ...
- 09/28/17--18:13: _Impaired driver Mar...
- 09/29/17--09:34: _Bail extended for J...
- 09/29/17--11:56: _Ismael Habib senten...
- 09/28/17--09:58: City on hook for $1.6 billion to fix crumbling public housing
- 09/28/17--08:44: Judge rejects expert witness as too biased in gas plants trial
- 09/29/17--11:17: Wisconsin girl reaches plea deal in Slender Man stabbing case
- 09/29/17--11:11: Ontario men sentenced in Sinaloa cartel-linked drug case
- 09/29/17--10:57: Threats put Toronto elementary schools in ‘hold and secure’
- 09/29/17--09:05: Obama speaks in Toronto: 'Me and Canada, we just have this thing'
- 09/28/17--04:00: Art meets activism at Nuit Blanche 2017
- At Nathan Phillips Square as part of the Monument to the Century of Revolutions program.
- At U of T’s Medical Science Building, 1 King’s College Circle, as part of the Taking to the Streets program.
- 160 Queen St. W., back entrance, as part of the Life on Neebahgeezis; A Luminous Engagement program.
- At Dundas St. W. and Chestnut St. as part of the Calculating Upon the Unforeseen program.
- At Wellesley St. West and Queen’s Park Cres. W. as part of the Taking it to the Streets program.
- 09/29/17--09:34: Bail extended for James Forcillo days before he was to be jailed
Family and friends of Taquisha McKitty cheered outside the courtroom Thursday afternoon when a judge ruled that she would grant a two-week injunction that would keep her on life support.
Superior Court Justice Lucille Shaw ruled that a doctor would run further tests on McKitty, 27, as her family hopes to get her death certificate cancelled.
McKitty was declared dead by Dr. Omar Hayani on Sept. 20, after a drug overdose on Sept. 14.
Hayani had signed a death certificate, but McKitty’s family believed the doctor acted too quickly. They argued that while she was considered brain dead — which is absolute death by Ontario law — her heart was beating and she was responsive to requests to move by friends and family.
McKitty’s family won an emergency injunction the next day to keep her on life support but that one expired Thursday.
Friends and family of McKitty stood outside of Brampton Civic hospital Wednesday, singing gospel songs and hoping for a miracle.
Judge grants two-week injunction to allow Brampton woman to stay on life support
The city is being put on the hook to close the budget gap for repairs to crumbling public housing — a bill totalling $1.6 billion.
The bulk of the remaining repairs backlog, long known and left unaddressed, is now to be the direct responsibility of the city, outlined in a 2018 budget tabled by Toronto Community Housing at the board Thursday.
The new plan, approved Thursday, means city council is now solely responsible for $160 million annually for the next 10 years. An additional $810 million is required to fund a total $2.4 billion over the next 10 years — what is expected from other levels of government.
It is a plan that both acknowledges the lack of investment from other governments to date and one that would ensure no more public housing units close.
“At the end of the day all levels of government have a responsibility to invest in Toronto Community Housing, but our TCH budget calls on the city to be our line of last defence always,” said Councillor Joe Cressy, a member of the TCH board, after the vote.
He said it’s significant that the city will now have a dedicated capital budget line item for Toronto Community Housing. On meeting that need to prevent more units being boarded up, Cressy said: “I’m optimistic the political will is there.”
The revised plans follow a council direction moved by Cressy and passed in July that Toronto Community Housing “ensure that no additional housing units are permanently closed in 2018 and 2019.”
The original 10-year capital repairs plan requested the city, province and federal governments split a $2.6 billion bill three ways.
Though the city, largely through mortgage and other refinancing, has contributed nearly $1 billion, the other governments have never committed to that plan.
There remain few additional opportunities to refinance mortgages, the TCH board heard Thursday.
Sheila Penny, vice-president of facilities management, confirmed Thursday that a re-forecasted plan would ensure no more units are shuttered.
Toronto Community Housing was on track to close 400 units next year on top of 600 to be closed this year.
Today, in communities like Firgrove in North York, there are residents packing their belongings into boxes as more than 100 families are displaced from their townhomes because they are beyond repair and soon to be inhabitable.
The repairs required are not superficial. They include roof replacement, new furnaces, elevators and plumbing problems.
TCH data provided to the Star earlier this year showed more than 30 social housing properties are already in serious disrepair and 222 of 364 developments are ranked in “poor” condition.
The new plan would see $300 million in repairs spending next year and in 2019, with spending ramping up to $350 million through 2026.
City council could fulfil a request to pay the $1.6 billion through other governments, if they agreed to pay.
The federal government announced $11 billion for affordable housing over 11 years, including social housing, but it is not yet known how much might be available for TCH and when.
The province has not responded to repeated pleas to contribute a one-third share and has not outlined social housing spending beyond $343 million promised over three years for energy retrofits.
City on hook for $1.6 billion to fix crumbling public housing
A retired OPP detective has been rejected as an expert witness for the Crown in the criminal trial of two Dalton McGuinty aides accused of deleting documents related to the cancellation of gas-fired power plants.
In a blow to prosecutors, Judge Timothy Lipson ruled Thursday that former detective-sergeant Robert Gagnon, a computer forensics specialist, cannot offer opinions when testifying on evidence gleaned from computer hard drives and BlackBerrys seized under search warrants.
Lipson said Gagnon was too close to the investigation to be relied upon for impartial interpretation.
“This is a clear case for exclusion,” the judge said in a ruling that took one hour to deliver in court.
Comments made about the case in emails and other forums by Gagnon were “the kind one would expect to hear from a partisan police investigator,” not an independent expert witness, Lipson added.
The trial was delayed for two days while Lipson made his ruling in the case against David Livingston, who was the final chief of staff to McGuinty before he stepped aside as premier, and former deputy chief Laura Miller.
They are charged with breach of trust, mischief in relation to data and misuse of a computer system in the alleged wiping of hard drives in the McGuinty premier’s office prior to Kathleen Wynne replacing him in February 2013.
Livingston, a former investment banker, and Miller have pleaded not guilty. They face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the charges laid almost two years ago.
Defence lawyers argued Gagnon, who was recruited out of retirement to do forensic examinations on the computers, was too involved in the investigation to be unbiased.
Prosecutor Tom Lemon flatly rejected that assertion, maintaining Gagnon is a technical expert hired to provide technical services and advice to a police probe that involved complicated and detailed forensic examinations of computers.
Miller lawyer Scott Hutchison said in court that Gagnon was involved in numerous meetings and conference calls about the case with OPP investigators and the Crown — and went so far as to suggest an additional charge of mischief in relation to data be laid against the defendants.
Lipson ruled this was “the most concerning example” of Gagnon’s involvement.
“Mr. Gagnon regarded himself as a team member.”
Hutchison also told Lipson that expert witnesses must be “independent and impartial” and said recent legal precedents require the court to determine in advance whether expert witnesses are admissible to prevent trials from being improperly influenced.
The gas-fired power plants were cancelled by McGuinty’s Liberal government before the 2011 provincial election.
McGuinty, who has said the plants were scrapped because they were too close to residential areas in Mississauga and Oakville, was not a subject of the police investigation and co-operated with officers.
Opposition parties insist the government scrapped the plants, which faced community opposition, at a huge cost to taxpayers to save Liberal seats in the 2011 vote in which McGuinty was reduced to a minority.
Judge rejects expert witness as too biased in gas plants trial
Don’t get me wrong: Hyperloop, the Elon Musk-inspired transportation technology that could one day ferry people to and from distant cities in under an hour, is extremely cool. It’s also extremely cool that this means of science fiction transportation, which moves passengers via “electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube,” might get its real-world start right here in Toronto.
Last year, Hyperloop One, a company attempting to turn Musk’s vision into a profitable reality, launched an open call for proposals, asking scientists to develop their own hyper-speed travel routes. And just last week, the company announced the winning results, among them a proposal by a design team called HyperCan, for a route that could transport people from Toronto to Montreal in 39 minutes.
Just imagine: No more five-and-a-half-hour road trips, no more red-eye bus rides and, most importantly, no more Tim Horton’s drive-through for dinner. If this kind of technology succeeds, it’s entirely possible that Torontonians could travel to Montreal to attend a Leafs away game against the Habs and make it home well before midnight. Thanks to Hyperloop, fair-weather Leafs fans that lose faith when their team is down a few goals after the second period may even be able to make it back to Toronto before the end of the third when (their loss) Auston Matthews turns things around for a win.
Like I said: extremely cool.
And yet, it’s also extremely infuriating. It’s infuriating because there’s something far cooler than Toronto’s very own hyper-speed travel tube. And that is a plain old-fashioned travel tube, a.k.a. a subway, the kind that can get a person from one end of the city to the other.
All this to say Toronto to Montreal in 39 minutes, while extremely cool, doesn’t count for much in the eyes of a regular TTC streetcar rider when it’s hard enough getting from Toronto to Toronto in 39 minutes.
I’m not advocating that the city abstain from celebrating advancements in technology or embracing the future; it’s difficult to get excited about province-to-province hyperspeed travel when it takes me almost a full hour to get to work within my own city on a good day. (A good day in my definition is when my streetcar doesn’t short turn or derail, forcing the driver to leave his post and literally get us back on track. There’s nothing more pathetically Toronto than sitting on a derailed streetcar looking out the window as your driver takes a wrench to the tracks while a police officer on horseback trots by; 2018, here we come!)
Forgive me if I am not optimistic about the Hyperloop. It just seems as though we’re really jumping the gun by applauding Star Trek-level stuff, when our congested, increasingly unaffordable city doesn’t even boast a fully wheelchair accessible transit system (the TTC has said all stations will be accessible by 2025).
The desire for Toronto to blossom into a so-called world-class metropolis worthy of films not just shot here but actually set here is normal. I share these desires. I’m just as insecure as the next Torontonian. But none of these dreams, be they Toronto’s first Hyperloop or our very own Amazon headquarters, will come to fruition or enjoy lasting success if we don’t work on the basics.
And there is nothing more basic than a decent, accessible transit system — one in which you can get from one end of the city to the other in a reasonable amount of time; one in which a person on horseback doesn’t reach his destination before you do.
In the end, the biggest barrier to this basic reality is not big ideas like the Hyperloop, but politicians unwilling to take big risks in fear of losing support and, eventually, power. Digging into the earth, closing off roads, building transit where people will actually use it: These are actions that will inconvenience and anger millions in the short term.
Unfortunately, they’re also the actions required to effect positive change. Unless someone in charge is willing to risk their power to effect that change, we can look forward to a very strange future in this city — a future where we’ll be able to get to Montreal in less time than it takes us to get home from work.
Emma Teitel is a national affairs columnist.
Why care about getting to Montreal in 39 minutes when the TTC can't get a commuter across Toronto in that time?: Teitel
Toronto’s 40th murder victim of the year had a few things in common with the city’s 41st.
They were both men, both killed on the same day, for starters. Sept. 17. They were both killed by gunshot. While they are unrelated, they were both targeted killings, police say.
Both victims were 54 years old. Both have two children. Both have ex-wives.
Neither was “known to police,” as police say; it’s a tool they use to confirm or negate shadiness.
Their deaths, however, were played very differently in the media, speaking volumes about how unequally we value the living.
Victim No. 41 was Simon Giannini, the real-estate agent killed at a downtown restaurant named Michael’s on Simcoe.
We don’t know why he was targeted. We don’t know what, if anything, he was involved with — but he got the benefit of respect, and rightly so.
Subsequent media stories about him consigned to him a more rounded character than a mere victim, describing a fun-loving guy, a great dad who was laughing moments before he was killed.
Until yesterday, victim No. 40 got no such benefit.
Everone Paul Mitchell was by all accounts an upstanding government of Ontario employee of 20 years, working for the Family Responsibility Office (FRO). He was killed in Regent Park in the early hours of that day.
His family and co-workers were devastated. Then came the second blow.
Their tears had not yet dried up when our mayor spoke the next day. Keep in mind police had not released a motive.
“The fact of the matter is — and these are facts coming right from the police — that the majority, significant majority, of these incidents that are happening of this kind are gang-related or have some suspicious relationship to gang activity,” said John Tory, as he pushed for a redevelopment of the area.
“He’s not gang-affiliated. No way. No how,” said his co-worker Kevin Douglas, who sat beside him for 10 years. Mitchell grew up in Regent Park and moved out years ago. He loved hockey and often went to Regent Park on weekends to play basketball with friends.
“He gives back to the community. He actually goes back to visit his friends and deals with kids in the community,” Douglas said. “This is the story of the good Samaritan. I don’t know what happened. I heard he broke up a fight.”
For those who knew and loved Mitchell, Tory’s statement added a layer of rage to the grief of the injustice of his death.
“The statement Tory made is pathetic,” said Douglas, who wants a retraction and apology.
If Tory or the police knew something about Mitchell that nobody else did, they should have either come out and said it or not said it at all.
“By no means were my comments directed at any individual,” Tory told me on Thursday.
“I understand how people might have taken the implication was about that this case.
“We always have the benefit of hindsight, and I should have said I’m not talking about Mr. Mitchell here but I’m talking about these kinds of incidents that the police describe as targeted, that many of these are gang-related.
“But I certainly regret the fact that it was even possible for anyone to draw a connection between those words and Mr. Mitchell.
“I send my heartfelt condolences to Mr. Mitchell, his family and his neighbours.”
In any case, Mitchell — the man those who know him say went above and beyond to help everyone — ended up damned by the circumstances of the neighbourhood he happened to be in.
“There are lots of so-called bad neighbourhoods,” said Douglas. “It may be 2 per cent of the people in those neighbourhoods that are really bad. Sometimes it’s people that don’t even live there that are being bad.
“If you are a good Samaritan and you’re giving back, you shouldn’t be ridiculed and your name drawn through the mud.
“He doesn’t deserve that. He was a good man. His kids don’t deserve to read their mayor talking foolishness about their father.”
I hope Tory’s words here offer him some comfort.
The co-workers I spoke with as well as those on online forums remember Mitchell as a “wonderful, kind passionate man,” a man with a “million-dollar smile.” They admired and respected him.
“I can’t even express the level of devastation in our office,” said Diane Gillies, a legal counsel at the FRO. “They are as upset about what happened in the media … as they are by his loss.”
Nobody expected front-page coverage, but neither did they expect such a narrow lens applied to the tragedy. All they wanted was an acknowledgement that he was a decent, upstanding person.
On Wednesday, the Sun published a story saying that Mitchell “was no thug,” after interviewing his friends.
That was welcome, but it also highlighted a subtle but clear difference between the two cases. The details of Giannini’s targeted death are not known, either, but his loved ones did not have to defend his character to the media even before they buried him.
“I came to court the next morning, and I was very distraught,” said Gillies. “And almost every single person without exception said, ‘Well, what was he doing in Regent Park.’ That was the first question. It made me think over the day that if I had been shot in Regent Park, there would have been a story, right? An accomplished white woman was in Regent Park and got shot. There must be a story behind it.”
Mitchell’s case, of a Black man killed in Regent Park, meant certain assumptions were already made.
“Targeted,” “gang-related” and “Regent Park” together translate into “not surprising” and the implication in parentheses: not worthwhile.
He was far from worthless for those who knew him; he was uniquely valued. The social committee at the FRO made the unanimous decision to put all the funds it had gathered in the course of the year towards the funeral Saturday.
Mitchell’s children are students; his son goes to high school, his daughter, Tiffany, is in university. Tiffany and her mother, Mitchell’s ex-wife, are helping arrange a funeral Saturday at the Covenant of Promise Ministries at Penn Dr. in North York.
Tiffany also set up a GoFundMe drive to raise money for the funeral.
What are the odds that someone will Google Mitchell’s name, read the media stories and send money? So low, that it has just managed to raise less than $2,000 of the $40,000 goal.
Giannini’s loved ones were no doubt shattered by his loss. So were Mitchell’s. The difference was that in death, Mitchell wasn’t publicly allowed the dignity he embodied in life.
This needs to be acknowledged, and repaired.
Shree Paradkar writes about discrimination and identity. You can follow her @shreeparadkar
While all eyes were on Toronto restaurant shooting, another tragedy went unnoticed: Paradkar
Doug Ford says his family is grateful, appreciative and “very honoured” that Toronto Mayor John Tory and others want to officially rename an Etobicoke playing field “Rob Ford Memorial Stadium.”
Ford made the comments Thursday as debate swirled about whether it is an appropriate honour for the late Rob Ford, beloved by many for his populist brand of public service and personal touch but reviled by others for his penny-pinching politics and tumultuous mayoral term scarred by substance abuse.
“We're grateful as a family that they are going to move forward with this,” Doug Ford said in an interview, after the Star reported that Tory wrote to his council colleagues proposing renaming Centennial Park stadium, along with as-yet unspecified honours for the late councillors Pam McConnell and Ron Moeser.
Doug Ford, a former Ward 2 Etobicoke North councillor who lost to Tory in the 2014 mayoral election, and has vowed to beat him in a 2018 rematch, publicly pushed for the renaming in a March interview with CityNews, saying he didn’t know why it was taking so long to honour his brother who had also represented the ward on council and died in March 2016 after a battle with a rare aggressive cancer.
“We’d like it to possibly be named the Rob Ford stadium. He coached there . . . . He played, himself, there and it’s local. It’s a pretty modest ask,” Doug Ford told the TV station.
On Thursday, he said Councillor Stephen Holyday, whose Ward 3 Etobicoke Centre includes the stadium, got behind the effort and there is no awkwardness in thanking Tory, currently a political enemy, for writing to his council colleagues urging them to support the move at city council.
“Politics is politics. We’ve known John and his family for over 25 years — he used to be a broadcaster and would kind of go after us once in a while so, it’s politics,” Doug Ford said. “You’ve got to separate politics and something like this, it’s always a sensitive area for anyone so we’re going to carry on.
“We’re grateful, we’re appreciative and we’ve very honoured,” plus pleased about promised honours for McConnell and Moeser, he said.
On Twitter, some celebrated the news but many panned the idea of naming a stadium, where children regularly have athletic championships, after a man who publicly struggled with drug and alcohol abuse and lied about it for months.
Fred Shilson emailed to say Rob Ford “has not really done a lot for sports in Etobicoke,” pointing to a list of local sports boosters he called more deserving.
A member of Tory’s executive committee, Councillor Jon Burnside, said he will vote against the Ford honour.
“I absolutely appreciate the attempt but am on record opposing the naming of civic roads or facilities after politicians,” he said in an interview.
“I firmly believe we should be celebrating the work of people who contribute to the building of the city without being paid. We can celebrate Rob Ford and Pam McConnell for the great work they did, but that was their job.”
Burnside noted he recently voted against naming a short TTC access street at York University “Howard Moscoe Way” after the former city councillor and TTC chair who is about to release his memoir.
If council insists on naming things after politicians, it should wait a decade to ensure the public still supports the change, Burnside said.
‘Rob Ford Memorial Stadium’ proposal triggers gratitude, groans in Toronto
SAN JUAN—The mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital city on Friday sharply criticized a senior Trump administration official for calling the government’s disaster response “a good news story,” comments that came amid mounting criticism of the federal reaction to the disaster here.
Trump administration officials have defended the federal effort, with acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke telling reporters outside the White House on Thursday that the relief effort “is proceeding very well considering the devastation that took place.” She called the federal response “a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane.”
After watching Duke’s comments, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz appeared visibly taken aback during an interview on CNN, calling the remarks “irresponsible” and saying they upset and frustrated her.
“Maybe from where she’s standing, it’s a good news story,” Cruz said. “When you’re drinking from a creek, it’s not a good news story. When you don’t have food for a baby, it’s not a good news story.”
Cruz praised the federal government for getting “boots on the ground,” and she thanked President Donald Trump for calling the capital. But she said the situation in Puerto Rico has worsened as people have struggled to get basic supplies such as food and water.
“Dammit, this is not a good news story,” Cruz said. “This is a people-are-dying story. This is a life or death story ... When you have people out there dying, literally scraping for food, where is the good news?”
Residents of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory that is home to more than 3 million American citizens, have struggled without electricity, drinking water, food and medical supplies since Hurricane Maria tore across the island on Sept. 20. Many hospitals remain without power, and fears are mounting about the spread of infection and disease the longer people lack electricity and clean water.
As the dire situation has worsened, the federal government’s initial response has drawn increasing scrutiny.
Critics of the administration have compared it to the government’s poor reaction to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or unfavourably contrasted it with the efforts shown after other disasters, including the recent intense hurricanes that battered Texas and Florida. The retired three-star general who commanded the massive U.S. military response to the Haitian earthquake of 2010 told The Post that it is fair to “ask why we’re not seeing a similar command and response” in Puerto Rico.
The Trump administration has bristled at the criticism, with multiple officials defending their response and the president complaining on Twitter about the media coverage. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello has praised the federal government’s efforts and said the president has called him multiple times.
The Trump administration has ramped up its efforts, rushing military hardware and other assets to Puerto Rico as it became apparent the initial response was inadequate and overmatched by the sheer scale of the catastrophe there.
Cruz warned after Maria hit of “horror” in the capital city’s streets, and she has expressed fears about looting. In an interview with The Washington Post on Thursday, Cruz said a curfew imposed by the governor seemed to be working, saying that crime is not a major concern of hers in the aftermath of the storm.
“It has gotten under control,” she said as she walked through the streets of the Old San Juan neighbourhood La Perla. “People are adapting to a new reality.”
Community members have been protecting one another, “retaking the streets,” she said. But she worried that if the government doesn’t help supply more food and water to communities in need, “people will become desperate.”
“When people become desperate in life-or-death situations, they may be prone to do something they wouldn’t normally do,” she said.
Cruz also pleaded with the federal government to remove “red tape” that is slowing down the relief efforts.
“The FEMA people have their hearts in the right place,” she said of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But, “there is a bottleneck somewhere.”
Cruz said it is critical to find an immediate solution: “People will die. People have died.”
As many as seven people are believed to have died in their homes because of lack of oxygen or dehydration, Cruz said. The municipality rescued 11 people from a nursing home with severe dehydration.
After a call from the White House, Cruz said, FEMA personnel were deployed to the San Juan municipal office, which she said was an encouraging sign. Federal officials also sent pallets of water, food and nourishment for infants and toddlers.
Cruz said she shared with the White House some of the costs the city has already incurred: The municipality invested more than $4.8 million (U.S.) in preparation for and in response to Irma, she said. Hurricane Maria costs already mounted to $6.9 million as of Wednesday.
She said there were 3,000 shipping containers in the San Juan port that hadn’t been moved because the gates couldn’t be opened electronically, adding: “I’m sorry, you open the gates and by hand you push everything out.”
From a historic city wall in Old San Juan, wooden signs could be seen from a basketball court below: “SOS, we need water, canopies, food. La Perla.”
“Despacito,” the signs read. “Don’t abandon us.”
The cry for help came from residents of La Perla, a neighbourhood on a waterfront hillside once known as one of the most dangerous barrios in the Caribbean. About 300 families live in the bright-coloured, stacked houses on narrow streets.
For many years, La Perla was characterized as a haven for crime and drugs. More recently, residents and the San Juan mayor say, crime has declined significantly. The neighbourhood, a breeding ground for reggaeton artists, also received a boost from Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s hit song, Despacito. The music video, which takes place with a backdrop of La Perla, has drawn scores of tourists to the area.
At dusk on Thursday evening, Jaeliz Perez, 10, played basketball with her cousin, Luis Perez, at the court in La Perla, the waves crashing against the shore below them. On the other side of the court, a group volunteering with the municipality cleaned up trees and other debris with construction vehicles.
As the sun began to set, Jaeliz and her cousin walked up the steps, across the wall, and down another set of stairs to their home in La Perla. They needed to be home before the curfew, and before a blanket of darkness covered the neighbourhood.
“My grandpa wouldn’t like it,” if she stayed out any later, she said. “It can be dangerous.”
They went home and joined their extended family sitting on the front porch in the darkness, chatting together by the light of one cellphone flashlight. The inside of their home was entirely dark, and the view from their back balcony showed a hillside that was pitch black.
“Look, the only thing giving us light is the moon,” Eva Elias, Jaeliz’s grandmother, said.
The family has been getting by in the evenings with candles, lanterns or cellphones. But walking through La Perla’s dark streets at night can be hairy — the terrain is uneven, the slope at times steep. Residents walked to neighbouring homes with flash lights, but even then it was hard to tell who was coming or going.
“The kids are playing in the streets, it’s dangerous for them,” Yashira Gomez, a community leader, said, adding that there are downed wires and debris still strewn about the streets.
Gathering around one light overlooking the street, a group of neighbours shared soda and snacks. The National Park Service had distributed water cisterns to some families, but a water truck hadn’t been there in eight days, they said. They were running out of food. They had all gathered sticks and branches together, making a pile in front of their homes and building a makeshift oven around it.
As families walked up one of the tunnel exits, they came across a godsend: a water tank, left there a few hours before from the municipality. In the dark, children and their parents filled up gallon jugs of water to take back to their homes.
The poor neighbourhood “is very emblematic of San Juan,” Cruz said. “They might not have money but they have dignity.”
When Cruz said an organization called Operation Blessings, based in Virginia Beach, was planning on installing a desalination system that would provide the neighbourhood with 6,800 litres of drinking water a day “so that you don’t have to depend on the government,” the announcement was greeted with applause.
The organization also donated small, solar-powered lanterns. Cruz said light is crucial for personal security, because “it keeps away the looting, it keeps away the things people are not supposed to do.”
Holding their lanterns and exchanging hugs with the mayor, La Perla residents walked around the neighbourhood past 8 p.m., its streets suddenly brighter.
“Look, before this was quiet,” Cruz said. “Now, this is life.”
‘Dammit, this is not a good news story’: San Juan mayor slams Trump administration’s sugar coating of Puerto Rico hurricane response
WAUKESHA, WIS.—The second of two Wisconsin girls charged with repeatedly stabbing a classmate to impress horror character Slender Man will plead guilty in a deal that will send her to a state mental hospital and bring an end a case that shocked people in part because the attackers were only 12.
The deal, announced in court Friday, means both girls will avoid prison time for the attack on Payton Leutner, who was also 12. Morgan Geyser, now 15, will be treated indefinitely at a mental hospital. Her co-defendant, Anissa Weier, faces at least three years in a mental hospital.
“It’s been a tragic experience for everyone,” Geyser’s attorney, Donna Kuchler, said after a brief court hearing Friday. “Our hearts go out to the victim and her family. And we’re very grateful that the district attorney’s office gave this case the considering it deserves.”
Weier and Geyser lured Payton Leutner, who was also 12, into the woods at a park in Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb. Geyser stabbed Leutner 19 times while Weier urged her on, according to investigators. Leutner survived after she crawled out of the woods to a path where a passing bicyclist found her.
Both Weier and Geyser told detectives they felt they had to kill Leutner to become Slender Man’s “proxies,” or servants, and protect their families from him.
Geyser had been scheduled to go on trial Oct. 16. The plea deal comes after a jury this month determined that Weier was mentally ill at the time of the attack on Leutner.
Geyser was at Friday’s hearing but didn’t speak. Afterward, the judge allowed her to spend three hours with her family before returning her to a mental hospital where she has been receiving treatment.
Leutner’s parents did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.
Geyser and Weier were charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide, which carries a possible sentence of up to 65 years in prison. Weier pleaded guilty to a reduced charge last month, and a jury then determined the sentence.
Unlike Weier, Geyser will plead guilty to the original charge from prosecutors. But Geyser won’t face a sentencing phase where attorneys would argue that she was mentally ill when the crime occurred and shouldn’t face prison time.
“It’s just fair. It saves everybody a trial. It saves the victim, her family,” Kuchler said.
The deal calls for doctors to evaluate Geyser and report to a judge to determine how long she should remain in a state mental hospital.
During a hearing in August, Weier said that she didn’t want to harm Leutner and that the stabbing plot was Geyser’s idea. She said she participated because she was afraid of what would happen if she didn’t.
“I believed that if I didn’t go through with it, Slender Man would come and attack and kill myself, my friends and my family. Those I cared about the most,” she said.
Slender Man started with an online post in 2009, as a mysterious spectre whose image people edit into everyday scenes of children at play. He is typically depicted as a spidery figure in a black suit with a featureless white face. He was regarded by his devotees as alternately a sinister force and an avenging angel.
Wisconsin girl reaches plea deal in Slender Man stabbing case
NEW YORK—The head of the U.S. Air Force Academy delivered a resounding message on Thursday in response to racial slurs that were found on the academy’s campus, saying that if students could not treat their peers of different races with respect, “then you need to get out.”
In a five-minute address in front of the academy’s 4,000 cadets and 1,500 staff members, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria affirmed the air force’s belief in “the power of diversity” and insisted that “small thinking and horrible ideas” had no place there.
He was responding to racial slurs that were found on the dormitory message boards of five black students at a preparatory school on the academy’s campus on Monday, said the academy, which is investigating.
“If you’re outraged by those words then you’re in the right place,” Silveria said. “You should be outraged not only as an airman, but as a human being.”
The episode attracted national attention when Tracye Whitfield, the mother of one of the students, posted a photo on Facebook of the message, which paired the words “go home” with a racial slur. “It’s a nerve-racking feeling,” Whitfield told a local news station in Colorado Springs, near where the academy is located.
The preparatory school, usually called the “prep school,” prepares candidates for admission to the academy proper. About 240 students, called “cadet candidates,” attend the school each year.
Though the slurs were discovered at the prep school, “it would be naïve” to think the episode did not reflect on the academy and the air force as a whole, Silveria said.
“Some of you may think that that happened down at the prep school and doesn’t apply to us,” he said. “I would be naïve, and we would all be naïve, to think that everything is perfect here.”
He then explicitly linked the discovery of the slurs to events like the demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., where white supremacists marched with torches in August, and Ferguson, Mo., where the fatal shooting of a black teenager by a police officer in 2014 set off protests across the country. He said that these events formed a backdrop that had to be addressed, and that to think otherwise would be “tone deaf.”
After calling for a civil discourse, he spoke of the power of various forms of diversity, evoking “the power that we come from all walks of life, that we come from all parts of this country, that we come from all races, we come from all backgrounds, gender, all makeup, all upbringing.”
He added: “This is our institution and no one can take away our values. No one can write on a board and question our values.”
Silveria grew up in an air force family and graduated from the academy in 1985. It was announced in May that he would return to become superintendent, and in his first address to cadets, in August, he said that his defining values were “respect and dignity.”
Toward the end of his remarks on Thursday, he referenced those values again, exhorting cadets to take out their phones and film his words so that they could remember, share and discuss them.
“If you can’t treat someone from another gender with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” he said. “If you demean someone in any way, you need to get out. If you can’t treat someone from another race, or different colour skin, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.”
The Air Force Academy has struggled to address different forms of discrimination in the past. In 2014, a Pentagon report found that sexual assault and harassment were widespread at the three military academies and that, of the 70 reported incidents in the 2012-2013 school year, almost two-thirds took place at the Air Force Academy. There were 32 reports of sexual assault at the school in the 2015-2016 school year, the Pentagon said, down from 49 the previous year.
The academy has also come under fire for religious intolerance and insensitivity. A 2005 Pentagon report found that there was a “perception of religious bias” on campus as well as examples of improper proselytizing from both cadets and officers at the school.
Show respect or ‘get out,’ U.S. general says after racist slurs found on air force campus
WELLAND—Two southern Ontario men were sentenced to lengthy prison terms for their roles in a massive drug importation network directed by Ontario-based members of the powerful Sinaloa cocaine cartel of Mexico.
Vito Buffone, 53, of Caledon and Jeffery Kompon, 46, of Welland, were given sentences of 22 years and 20 years respectively by Justice James Ramsey on Thursday.
They were among 14 arrested in early morning raids in the GTA and Niagara Region on Sept. 22, 2014 by some 200 police officers from seven law enforcement agencies.
The police operation, called Project Roadmaster, targeted cocaine importation into the Greater Toronto Area from Mexico, Central America and South America.
Det. Sgt. Shawn Clarkson of Niagara Regional Police said the case was the first time he has heard of Mexican cartel members operating inside Ontario.
“It’s one of the most significant drug cases in this region,” Clarkson said.
At the time of the arrests, the Sinaloa cartel was headed by Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman, who’s now awaiting trial in the U.S.
Mexican nationals Raul Bulhosen of Toronto and Borja Vilalta-Castellanos of Mississauga were earlier sentenced to prison terms of 18 and 17 years for their roles in the operation.
Jaime Ortiz-Sieiro of Mexico City was earlier deported for misrepresentation of immigration officials.
Court heard that a massive amount of cocaine was smuggled by truck from the U.S. to the Niagara Region and by ship through the Port of Montreal.
It was hidden in shipments of drug-filled granite boulders that were used for kitchen countertops.
The Crown had called for life terms for Buffone and Kompon for their roles in the sophisticated operation, which brought 2,431 kilos of cocaine into Ontario in 2013 alone, at a time when local prices were roughly $36,000 to $39,500 a kilo.
“Real harms, not just abstract ones, have befallen the community,” Crown prosecutor Lisa Matthews said.
The Sinaloa Cartel has a reputation for horrific violence but the judge noted that neither Buffone or Kompon were charged with violent offenses.
This is the first prison term for both men.
Buffone operated a warehouse that re-marketed damaged goods. He received fines for narcotics offenses and possession of stolen property offense decades ago.
Kompon, has a Grade 11 education, is self-educated in computer technology and has experience running restaurants, court heard.
“I don’t get the vibes from either of the ones before me that they’d be involved in that kind of thing (violence),” the judge said.
Bryant, suggested that his client was a pawn for higher-ups in the operation.
“To me he seemed to be a man with a certain amount of class and considerable intelligence,” the judge said of Buffone.
Ontario men sentenced in Sinaloa cartel-linked drug case
Police were at two schools in Toronto’s east end Friday afternoon after threats were issued against them.
Officers were first called to Duke of Connaught Junior and Senior School in Leslieville on Thursday after threats were received there. The school was placed in “hold and secure” status, which continued through Friday as classes continued.
In that case, Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook said a person of interest was arrested on unrelated charges, and was being questioned by police.
Then on Friday, Westwood Middle School was also placed in hold and secure after a threat was received there.
Police said Friday afternoon that it was “too soon to say” whether the two threats were connected.
While there was no immediate concern about the safety of the students, police have a uniformed presence at the schools.
Threats put Toronto elementary schools in ‘hold and secure’
Since news broke that Hugh Hefner, founder and editor of Playboy magazine, died Wednesday night at the age of 91 fans called him a “cultural icon,” and “media titan,” while critics hesitated to mourn a man they said embodied “male entitlement.”
Oakville resident Julie McLeod remembers him another way: as a kind, gracious host.
Hefner was well-known as a radical hedonist who played a major role in bringing sex into the mainstream of American media — a legacy that’s brought him both praise and derision.
McLeod, a former model and actress, was living in a hotel in Los Angeles in 1984 when her friend and fellow model Carrie Leigh — then Hefner’s girlfriend — invited her to stay at his famed home instead.
“I was a young woman so I was apprehensive,” McLeod told the Star on Thursday, nodding to the controversy surrounding Hefner that he made his living largely off women’s sexuality.
“There are a lot of people that will presume I must have been a playmate and it must have been wild. That was contrary to my experience.
“I am very much a feminist and I never for a moment felt any level of sexism or stereotypical treatment of females,” she said of her time with the celebrity.
McLeod told the Star she ended up staying at the Playboy mansion for about six months as a guest, where she got to know Hefner, his friends, and many “playmates” — women featured in the magazine who stayed in the mansion’s guesthouse.
As soon as she arrived she was given a list of where all the guests in the mansion were staying, and how to reach the butler. It was an instant signal of the luxurious lifestyle she had just entered.
She described the time of her stay as both “wonderful” and “surreal.”
“The most wonderful side of it was Hef’s just a normal human being,” she said.
One time over Christmas, Hefner was worried about her being lonely, so he made sure to keep her company over a private breakfast — a small, human act of kindness, she said.
Other times she more easily recognized the glamorous, larger-than-life celebrity hotspot the mansion was painted as in the media.
On Christmas Eve, Hefner and his guests were sitting around a large ornate Christmas tree when Tony Bennett came out to sing.
“You never knew who you’d see,” McLeod said.
She said she understands why some people have a stereotypical view of Hefner — after all, he worked hard to hone his “playboy” image and project it to the outside world.
Wild parties weren’t really part of the deal, at least not in McLeod’s experience there. On Fridays and Saturdays party guests would usually go home by 11 p.m.
Still, “they all want to believe in that Hollywood dazzle,” she said.
Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion a ‘surreal’ experience for Canadian who stayed six months
VATICAN CITY—Police in Windsor, Ont. have issued an arrest warrant for the Vatican diplomat who was recalled from the United States in a child pornography investigation, accusing him of accessing porn over Christmas last year from a church.
Police in Windsor said Carlo Capella, 50, allegedly uploaded the child porn to a social networking site while visiting a place of worship between Dec. 24 and Dec. 27.
The Vatican recalled Capella after the U.S. State Department notified it Aug. 21 of a “possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images” by one of its diplomats in Washington.
It never identified Capella by name, but Windsor police did so in a statement announcing the arrest warrant Thursday.
The Vatican says its own prosecutor was investigating and seeking further information from the U.S.
In the statement, Windsor police accused Capella of accessing, possessing and distributing pornography. It said authorities were alerted in February that someone in Windsor had allegedly uploaded child porn using a social networking site.
They obtained records of the internet service provider and determined the dates in question.
In a statement, the Diocese of London in Ontario confirmed that it helped investigators who had suspicions of “possible violations of child pornography laws by using a computer address at a local church.”
It declined further comment, citing a police request.
The Vatican hasn’t commented beyond its initial statement, or even officially identified Capella as the recalled diplomat. Several U.S. church officials have complained that the Vatican was being less than transparent about the case.
The head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, urged the Holy See to be “forthcoming with more details,” a reflection of how the U.S. church still struggles with credibility problems 15 years after the sex abuse scandal erupted in the U.S.
The diplomat recall was expected to lurk in the background of an international conference in Rome planned for next week at the Pontifical Gregorian University on protecting children from online sexual exploitation, pornography and abuse.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state and Capella’s boss, is set to deliver the keynote speech Tuesday on “The Holy See and its commitment to combating sex abuse online.”
Panellists at the conference, which was organized months ago, are to include top law enforcement and academic experts in the field of child protection and cybercrimes, with an entire morning devoted to “Child Sexual Abuse Online: Who are the offenders?”
Windsor police issue arrest warrant for recalled Vatican diplomat in child porn case
Former U.S. president Barack Obama visited Toronto on Friday to deliver a lunchtime speech about global citizenship. The event was hosted by Ottawa-based think-tank Canada2020.
The Obama event at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre was expected to attract about 3,000 people, with politicians at all levels attending.
Obama speaks in Toronto: 'Me and Canada, we just have this thing'
One morning this week at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the attentive would have witnessed the dystopian fantasy equivalent of a solar eclipse: There, emerging from the Grange, the gallery’s Victorian manse, was Margaret Atwood, passing so close to film director Guillermo del Toro, tucked into the gallery’s closet-sized green room for a slate of quickie interviews, as to touch.
With Atwood fully in the swing of a Hollywood renaissance, it would be fair to imagine them converging here for that very purpose. But no. “I’ve never met her, but I would love to,” says del Toro, every bit the wide-eyed fan. “She’s so important. Her work is perennial; it never stops being relevant.”
While it might seem a surprising affinity — Atwood has, at least to my knowledge, not written of angels of death with multiple eyeballs embedded in their wings, or of an amphibious man-thing with a taste for hard-boiled eggs — think again. In A Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood’s monsters may favour three-piece suits or long button-hooked gowns over scales and fangs, but they’re monsters all the same. And the radical tension of a world stretched to extremes, leaving a wasteland of human wreckage as it snaps, is their common ground. (So is Toronto, where del Toro spends most of the time now, he says. “I live in Leslieville, very bohemian,” he laughs).
At the AGO, del Toro’s At Home With Monsters opens to the public tomorrow, and it’s an intense, overpoweringly completist view into the esthetic and philosophical fascinations of its maker. The show, for the most part, is a full transposition of del Toro’s Bleak House (after Charles Dickens’ Gothic tale) in Los Angeles, a sprawling pair of suburban homes transformed into an interior landscape of del Toro’s mind.
It is, very simply, a lot: more than 500 objects, from original Disney animation cells (think not of the mouse, but Sleeping Beauty’s dragon, or the demon presiding over a scene of Fantasia) to drawings and paintings, some gore-laden, some beguilingly innocent, by favourite illustrators and artists to hundreds of comic books, Victorian novels, production models (the aforementioned angel of death, Pan, the horned demon from Pan’s Labyrinth, a giant vampire’s sarcophagus from The Strain) and, in one faithful recreation of the library from Crimson Peak, a room with perpetual rain.
The obvious questions are what, if anything, separates At Home With Monsters from a new exhibit at Universal Studios, and what, exactly, is it doing in an art museum at all? The answers, or my answers, are: not a lot (at least at first glance) and I’m not exactly sure. But del Toro has his own.
“For me, for sure, there is no line,” he said, when asked about the traditional church-and-state division between culture, high and low. “Art for me is a spiritual exercise. And if you stay only on one side of that line, you’re a Victorian: you’re John Ruskin. You’re extolling virtues in art that it doesn’t need, that aren’t necessary. That limits you.”
It’s a reasonable argument and it helps that it’s made from so learned a point of view. Del Toro is impossibly well-read (Ruskin, a Victorian-era utopian philosopher, is a paragon of rigid one-note idealism), an obsessive’s obsessive on a vast range of cultural history and philosophy.
As a child, he says, he had comic books and encyclopedias side by side, and would toggle back and forth between Spider-Man and French Impressionism, and the division between things never occurred to him.
“The exercise, I think, is that any cultural consumption without a cognitive process is deplorable,” he says. “If you just consume pop culture and don’t process it, critically, or try to elevate it in your mind and make it your own, it’s just sad. But the same can be said of the sanctioned manifestations of art. If you go to an art museum just to check a box, to accept what you’re told, then what is the point?”
It’s been a busy few months for the director, as his new film, The Shape of Water, about an amphibious humanoid kept in captivity who becomes romantically entangled with one of his keepers, is already generating Oscar chatter. Such is the contradiction of del Toro: a genre-ish monster movie that transcends its parameters with the force of its emotional core.
It embodies its maker almost perfectly. Over a brief spate of time, del Toro ranges from H.P. Lovecraft (a cherished, fetishized favourite, to the point where he’s recreated the author’s library, not to mention the author himself, at his Bleak House) to Henry James and Oscar Wilde, from horror comic book virtuoso Bernie Wrightson to B-grade fantasy film director Ray Harryhausen to Francisco Goya (“What do you do with the most vibrant, terrifying, intimate period of his work, his dark painting?” he asks, excitedly).
In many ways, his fascinations are a mirror of cultural history and the countercurrents that animate them: the grotesque, a visceral, sensualist’s subculture running beneath the politely opulent beauty of the baroque, or the wave of Gothic horror that ran counter to the Enlightenment.
“When we talk about Victorian society being a moral and artistic corset, what is that corset holding? How big will the spillage be?” he laughs. “When you read Mary Shelley or Lord Byron, the 1800s are really fascinating, because there’s a counter-movement to the Age of Reason. What’s great about Victorian art is that it sublimates with the fanatasic. And the resurgence of the Gothic speaks, to me, about taking the urge to do something wild, something savage.”
It should come as no surprise that, alongside Lovecraft, Shelley’s Frankenstein is a central fascination and appears around every corner here. Its tale — of human hubris interfering with the divine, begetting violence and woe — could have been written by del Toro himself. At some point, it will be: a new film version is one of the director’s fondest hopes.
Woven into del Toro’s agglomeration of stuff are the occasional piece from the AGO’s own collection and they help blur the line he so steadfastly ignores. From a Goya — one of those dark paintings, natch — to Tissot to Piranesi, well-placed images coax the fantastic from across the border of the art-historical canon.
“Guillermo didn’t want to do a show that was all plastic and glitz and studio junk,” said Jim Shedden, the AGO’s curator on the exhibition. “It’s not about him being a particular genius. It’s about the spectrum of things that inform his world view.”
The starry-eyed fanboys will find much to their liking: gloopy masks and production models from Pan’s Labyrinth, ectoplasmic explosions in quick-cut film clips from Mimic, Cronos, Crimson Peak, the monster-mashing of the Hellboy movies and the splatter-filled Blade II. “What did Lord Byron say? If all else fails, shock them. That could have been said by a B-movie director,” del Toro laughs.
But the CBC hustled out a quickie online earlier this week, calling it a memorabilia show, and that’s not exactly fair. Del Toro’s esthetic may sit comfortably in the genre of occasionally shlocky horror/fantasy, his narrative urge — toward allegory, parables of universal and timeless transformation from innocence to experience, and beyond — transcends it. In that way, he makes an opening through which almost all of us can pass.
“Ultimately, the nature of humanity is the fundamental lack of peace between two sides: the profane and the divine,” he says. “I try to speak about purity rather than innocence, because innocence is a construct, something that’s supposed to exist above reality, outside the real world. None of us can do that. But each of us embodies within us a state of grace. That, I believe.”
Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters opens at the Art Gallery of Ontario Saturday and continues to Jan. 7, 2018. Please see www.ago.net/guillermo-del-toro-at-home-with-monsters
Guillermo del Toro's new AGO show is a monster with a mysterious purpose
It began as a quixotic quest.
Derek Rayside, dedicated motorist and Queens Quay condo dweller, was exasperated by the stop-and-go-traffic on what should have been a breezy trip to Costco in south Etobicoke.
The supposed 15-minute journey could take triple that time.
He believed there had to be a better, more pleasant, way to make the monthly shopping expedition with his wife and two young children. This was three years ago during a massive Queens Quay makeover that made driving even worse but brought separated bike lanes.
So, in a moment of inspiration bordering on the Seussian, Rayside made it his mission to get his family — all four of them — on a single bike. Oh, and, at the same time, transport groceries that could total $900.
“Going to Costco to do your shopping is like the ultimate task in family transportation,” says the 42-year-old. “If we can shop at Costco by bike, we can do everything else by bike too.”
Rayside is the associate director of software engineering at the University of Waterloo so he’s accustomed to tricky problem solving.
He put his puzzler to work.
He made two shopping test rides to Costco on a single bike with his son Colin, now 7, in a child’s seat. The 13.5-kilometre trip was probably the longest he had ever made on two wheels. Rayside doesn’t consider himself a cyclist; he’s more of a “not good” hockey player.
While the cargo pushed his limits physically, Rayside discovered that the trip along the Martin Goodman Trail, north on Park Lawn Rd., across Manitoba St., north again on Royal York Rd. and then west on Queen Elizabeth Blvd., was very safe.
“We knew it was within the realm of the feasible, we just needed better technology,” he says.
Rayside contacted Ronald Onderwater, who has been making triple tandem bikes in Amsterdam for about a decade. Rayside asked him to modify the design, mainly adding an extension to the middle seat so his wife, Stephanie Xie, could ride there.
The base bike cost about $4,500, but Rayside said it replaces a family car, a 2000 Toyota which he was able to ditch in 2016.
“It costs dramatically less to operate,” he says. “It costs less to buy, less to park. Everything costs less.”
The Onderwater XL Triple Tandem arrived two years ago, but it required more tinkering for Rayside to achieve his goal.
The rise up and over the Gardiner Expressway on Royal York, insignificant to a single bike, was like a mountain for a cyclist moving about 275 kilograms. The bike itself, made of steel, Rayside says, is “extremely heavy.” He guesses it weighs around 50 kilograms.
“With two children, two adults plus groceries, any little bump is a hill,” he said.
So he worked with bike technicians in Vancouver, Oakville and at Toronto’s Biseagal to develop and install an electric assist on the bike. Rayside used the best parts he could get so that motor, equal to one horsepower, cost about $3,000. So with taxes, upgrades on the some accessories and a $500 trailer, it is a $10,000 investment.
Now the family does virtually everything downtown by bike including riding to hockey camp at Moss Park Arena — with sticks strapped to the chain guard — or getting the kids to Kung Fu classes in Chinatown.
Previous to the addition of the electric assist — running strictly on the pedal power of three people — the bike’s average speed was 14 km/h. Now it can motor along at about 20 km/h.
Though, Rayside says, “the guys in Lycra still go faster than us.”
On a recent Sunday, the family cut a striking image as they made their way to and from the Etobicoke store. Colin sat up front followed by Xie, who is 5-foot-4, then the lanky 6-foot-4 Rayside with Charlotte, 3, in a baby seat behind him. Rayside pilots the bike, doing the shifting, braking and steering.
The day’s groceries totalled $611.32 — down from the previous month’s $900 — with all of it fitting in the trailer except for two Lego advent calendars.
If the family made the ride non-stop it would take about 45 to 50 minutes, same as a car on a slow day. But, says Rayside, the family cycling adventure is much more fun, with stops to play, as they pedal along the waterfront or through quiet neighbourhoods.
Rayside is a passionate supporter of bike lanes and cycling because of both the health benefits for riders and economic advantages for a city. He believes the only way to reduce traffic congestion is to provide people with alternatives to driving.
Though he calls Toronto’s improvements for the cycling community “slow baby steps” he believes it is possible for families to use pedal power for most errands and outings.
Xie, a stem cell biologist, had never previously cycled — that’s why Rayside thought it safer for them both to be on the same bike — but she has come to love it.
“As a scientist, I’m often in places where there really are no windows, sitting in front of a computer,” she says. “So it’s really nice on the weekend to get out and about, get the fresh air and do what we need to do without ever getting into a car.”
Rayside uses his tandem all year. He has access to a car but only drives it about once a month for distant trips. For work, he takes a Greyhound bus to the University of Waterloo — two hours each way — while Xie, a researcher at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center, walks or takes transit.
Rayside said his unusual ride draws stares and when stopped, strangers often approach to ask him about it or take a photo.
“The bike brings a smile to everyone’s face,” says Rayside. “It’s a great way to connect with everyone in the city.”
How this family of four transports themselves and $900 of Costco groceries — all on one bike
An activist edge inflects this year’s Nuit Blanche, the annual all-nighter that over its 12 years of art (and artlike) activity has run the gamut from spectacle to amusement to sobriety (though not, typically, of its audience) and back again.
Politically aware work isn’t entirely new ground for the event, though this year’s instalment is shot fully through with the issues of the moment — fitting, really, in the watershed coming-to-terms with some of the uglier truths that Canada’s sesquicentennial has brought into the light. (Though it remains not entirely above blatant product placement, sneaking a Netflix-concocted ad for its second season of Stranger Things masquerading as an installation into the program. Everyone has bills to pay, I suppose.)
Whatever the case, the makeshift shipping-container village now rising on Nathan Phillips Square in preparation for Saturday’s event seems an appropriately apocalyptic survivalist’s motif for so politically fraught a moment, which Nuit Blanche this year has fully embraced. From Indigenous issues to Black Lives Matter to the growing class schisms in the city itself, this year’s edition embraces revolution both specifically and broadly, making it seem poised for relevance to its surroundings, here and now, perhaps more than any time in its history. And that’s good.
Here, a handful of things to look for.
The Stolen People
Picture a fallen civilization, a century or less from now, where drab government-issue workstations dot the landscape, in which remaining citizens scratch out meagre survival: extracting water from the near-dead landscape and ingesting a government-rationed serum to stay alive. At night — like, say, Nuit Blanche — it becomes a gathering place for the Stolen People, the activist descendants of the Black Lives Matter movement, refusing extinction and conformity both. That’s the dystopic narrative told by Syrus Marcus Ware and Melisse Watson and, while its form is yet to be revealed, the story is both compelling and close to the bone.
Holding Still, Holding Together
I saw this piece, a video work by Annie MacDonell, at the Ryerson Image Centre last year and it’s a quietly mesmerizing thing. A troupe of dancers bleed across the frame in ghostly movement, some entangled to prevent their removal while others drag them dully from one point to the next. A poetic evocation of the often-brutal treatment protesters meet at the hands of authority, the work is absent a specific cause and focused on the body — both the strength to be found in numbers, and the violations it can endure to prove a point.
It’s a talk show, of sorts, though Jimmy Kimmel it’s not. Inside the Campbell House museum, Cherish Violet Blood of the Kainaiwa First Nation will host a marathon session of conversation, musical performance and video around issues like race, gender and class that “makes space for Indigenous voices that unapologetically resist a Canadian narrative.” If it sounds heavy, fair enough, but your host will have a light touch. Blood is a comedian, among other things, and won’t leave you squirming for long.
The makeshift home of an imagined nation is, nominally, what Embassy is about, but the darker implications of this project by Cedric Bomford and Verena Kaminiarz abound. In a global climate beset with radical instability, the identity of such a space — existing, defunct, yet to be? — is a dystopic riddle that cuts close to the bone. It’s part of a program about possible futures though, as the world fractures further as nations threaten each other with increasing bluster, it seems less a question of if than when.
Booming bass echoes from under the bridge that serves as a gateway to the University of Toronto at Wellesley St., and the toggle the sound plays with — between dread and euphoria — is fitting enough for these troubling times. Joseph Namy’s project here slides along that slippery edge, the throbbing emanating from a cluster of cars parked haphazardly beneath the bridge. The gathering’s ambiguity — is it an illicit late-night party? a protest? a rumble? — is also its strength, with anxiety and exhilaration hand in hand.
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 30, from sunset to sunrise
WHERE: The Taking it to the Streets Program is all within a few hundred metres of Queen’s Park, south of Bloor and north of College; Century of Revolutions takes place entirely at Nathan Phillips Square; Life on Neebahgeezis spreads from Yonge St. to the east to University Ave. to the west, north of King St. and south of Shuter St.; and Calculating Upon the Unforeseen clusters close to Dundas St. W. between Yonge in the east and Beverley in the west.
Independent projects spread further afield, as far west as High Park, as far north as St. Clair Ave. and as far east as the Don Valley Parkway. For a full map of projects, please see nbto.com/program/event-map.html
Art meets activism at Nuit Blanche 2017
Two years after the impaired driving crash that claimed the lives of three children and their grandfather, Marco Muzzo has reportedly been moved to a minimum security prison and is likely to apply for unattended day release in October.
On Sept. 26, Jennifer Neville-Lake wrote a tribute to all three of her children — Daniel, 9, Harry, 5, and Milly, 2 — on Facebook in a post shared more than 2,000 times.
“Another year is dead and gone,” she wrote. “Another year and I’m still here. Another year of every day hearing how many others have joined this gruesome family I was forced into, made up of victims of impaired driving.”
Also killed during the 2015 crash in Vaughan was Neville-Lake’s father, Gary Neville, 69. Badly injured were her mother, Neriza Neville, and grandmother Josefina Frias.
The anniversary and post came as Muzzo appears to be benefiting from prison rules designed to help inmates reintegrate into the community.
Despite being sentenced in March 2016 to 10 years for impaired driving, Muzzo can apply for “unescorted temporary absences” on Oct. 18. They can be granted by the prison’s warden, according to Corrections Canada spokesman Kyle Lawlor.
Global News reported that Muzzo was moved from medium security to a minimum security prison last week.
But Corrections Canada would not confirm this or the name of the prison where he is being held.
An inmate’s preparedness for a minimum security prison, which has no fences but does have boundaries, is decided based on three factors, according to Corrections Canada: an inmate’s risk to the public, their flight risk and their institutional behaviour.
YorkRegion.com repeatedly asked Corrections Canada why the details of Muzzo’s imprisonment are being withheld from the public, but was told information could not be released under the Privacy Act.
Corrections Canada did provide Muzzo’s schedule for release, including his eligibility for day parole, on Nov. 9, 2018; full parole eligibility, on May 9, 2019; his statutory release date, June 18, 2022; and his warrant expiry, June 28, 2025.
York Regional Police say impaired driving charges remain high, despite having fallen somewhat from last year. From January 2017 to Sept. 12, there were 853 impaired charges in the region, down 47 from 2016.
Meanwhile, the Facebook post from Jennifer Neville-Lake described her continued agony over her children’s death.
“I’ve learned about how unfair, unjust and just downright cruel it is that I have to wait to be driven daily to visit my children and my dad at their forever bed, to sit at the foot of a tombstone that bears their beautiful photos and the dates of their individual sunrises and sunsets,” Lake’s post said. “The cold, lifeless monument that bears their names is a stark reminder of what happened to them and who took them away from me and put them in the cold ground.”
Impaired driver Marco Muzzo moved to minimum security prison, reports say
Toronto police Const. James Forcillo will not spend the night in jail before his appeal hearing next week, after his bail was extended at a hearing Thursday — 72 hours before the suspended cop was due to surrender and be put behind bars.
The move comes after his lawyers successfully argued to have the court consider allowing new evidence to be introduced as part of Forcillo’s appeal of his attempted murder conviction in the July 2013 shooting death of Sammy Yatim.
Documents filed in support of the bail extension also state that Forcillo and his wife, Irina, divorced in July. The new bail document still includes Forcillo’s ex-wife as a surety, but names her as Irina Ratushnyak.
“She has subsequently taken her maiden name back. She and (Forcillo) remain on good terms and continue to live together and co-parent their two children,” reads an affidavit prepared by an employee Forcillo’s lawyers’ firm, Brauti Thorning Zibarras.
Instead of having to surrender into custody the night before the appeal, Forcillo’s new bail conditions state he must surrender to the court by April 2, 2018 “or before 6:00 pm on the day before the hearing of the ‘fresh evidence’ phase of the appeal whichever is earliest,” according to the bail documents.
More to come.
Bail extended for James Forcillo days before he was to be jailed
MONTREAL—A Quebec man convicted of attempting to leave Canada to join Daesh, also known as ISIS, has been sentenced to nine years in prison.
A judge sentenced Ismael Habib today to eight years for the terrorism-related offence and one additional year for giving false information to obtain a passport.
The Crown had argued for a nine-year prison term, while Habib’s attorney suggested six-and-a-half years minus the nearly 27 months Habib has served in pre-trial custody.
Habib, 29, was ensnared by an RCMP-led sting operation, in which he admitted to an undercover agent posing as a crime boss that he wanted to travel to Syria to join Daesh.
He was found guilty in June, making him the first adult in Canada to be convicted after going to trial on the charge of attempting to leave Canada to join Daesh.
Ismael Habib sentenced to 9 years for attempting to leave Canada to join Daesh