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Articles on this Page
- 10/20/17--18:15: _'Sunshine' approach...
- 10/20/17--08:24: _Pollution kills mor...
- 10/20/17--13:02: _Quebec’s Bill 62 de...
- 10/20/17--10:35: _Who wants Amazon’s ...
- 10/20/17--16:41: _How Ontario politic...
- 10/20/17--15:09: _Thousands of Canadi...
- 10/20/17--17:14: _Inside the governme...
- 10/21/17--06:41: _Man with knife atta...
- 10/21/17--04:00: _#MeToo opens door t...
- 10/20/17--14:00: _Toronto couple take...
- 10/21/17--04:00: _How every investor ...
- 10/20/17--17:44: _Civil servants kept...
- 10/21/17--16:49: _Four people arreste...
- 10/21/17--17:31: _Toronto Police find...
- 10/21/17--11:30: _Woman stabbed in ‘r...
- 10/21/17--16:20: _Mourners remember s...
- 10/21/17--15:26: _Experts worried as ...
- 10/21/17--12:00: _Quen Chow Lee, lead...
- 10/21/17--15:36: _Trump plans to rele...
- 10/21/17--07:00: _Late running supers...
- 10/20/17--13:02: Quebec’s Bill 62 declares war on sunglasses: Hébert
- 10/20/17--16:41: How Ontario politicians avoided Quebec’s burka backlash: Cohn
- 10/20/17--17:14: Inside the government’s $200,000 budget artwork
- 10/21/17--06:41: Man with knife attacks 8 people in Munich; 33-year-old arrested
- 10/21/17--04:00: #MeToo opens door to voices of women of colour: Paradkar
- 10/20/17--14:00: Toronto couple takes up #vanlife as a way around skyrocketing rents
- Brooklyn-based camera shop operator Eugene Mendlowits, 51, owned a 4-per-cent stake in the tower through a shell company called Barrel Tower Developments. In 2005, as the Toronto tower was in development, he and two partners purchased a New York sweater factory and converted it into lofts without the city’s permission. The building subsequently racked up more than 100 complaints from tenants, for issues relating to inadequate heat and faulty wiring, and dozens of bylaw violations. In 2009, the city ordered everyone evicted because conditions were “hazardous to illegal tenants occupying (the) building.” In 2014, one of Mendlowits’ partners in the factory — Menachem “Max” Stark — was kidnapped and bundled into a minivan, his body later found smouldering in a gas station dumpster. Mendlowits declined to answer written questions for this article.
- Former Chicago nursing home administrator David Meisels, 70, is listed as a director of a shell company called Harvester Developments, which owned 4 per cent of the Toronto tower. Since 2001, when he invested in the project, Meisels and his nursing home companies have been sued at least five times, including for allegedly failing to make staff welfare and pension contributions and for allegedly diverting money from public insurers — Medicare and Medicaid — to relatives and close associates. He has denied the claims and the cases were settled out of court. In 2010, federal authorities cut funding to one of his facilities, fearing that residents’ safety was at risk. Meisels and his son, Joseph, who Meisels said was also involved in the tower investment, have not responded to requests for comment.
- London-based auto body shop owner Jacob Gross, 43, is co-director of Harvester Developments and the former head of an almost identically named company in the U.K., Harvester Investments Ltd, which has been purchasing small-scale real estate in and around London since the mid-1990s. He has also held leading roles in more than a dozen other small U.K. companies, most in local real estate and automotive repair.
- Two more shell companies, Exeter Development Inc. and Haddar Development Corp., owned a collective 15-per-cent stake in the tower. The only name connected to them in public records is Joseph Teitelbaum, 43, a London, U.K., landlord, who was 27 years old at the time of the deal. Teitelbaum owns several million pounds’ worth of rental units through his interests in 42 companies registered in the U.K.. One of Teitelbaum’s companies defaulted on obligations to cover cost overruns for the Toronto tower and both were bought out in August 2011. Reached for comment, Teitelbaum denied personally investing any money in the Trump Tower and said he was a nominee signatory only. He would not name the investor he said he represented.
- Little-known Toronto billionaire Alex Shnaider, 49, would become the Toronto projects’ principal investor. Shnaider made his fortune in the former Soviet Union in the 1990s and 2000s. In less than a decade, he went from mopping floors at his parents’ deli near Bathurst and Steeles Sts. to making hundreds of millions through the purchase of a Ukrainian steel mill. He then diversified into other industries like malls, convenience stores and electricity across Eastern Europe.
- Toronto businessman Valery Levitan, 54, who worked with his father running a slot machine-repair service, owned a 12.5 per cent stake through a numbered Ontario corporation. Levitan, who convinced Shnaider to make his initial investment, also co-founded a company specializing in banknote validation technology for casinos. Levitan declined to comment.
- 10/21/17--17:31: Toronto Police find dead body in North York ravine
- 10/21/17--11:30: Woman stabbed in ‘random attack’ in Lawrence Park
- 10/21/17--15:36: Trump plans to release last cache of secret JFK assassination files
An employment equity regimen that relies on public disclosure rather than a mandatory quota system seems to have improved representation from women, visible minorities and Indigenous people in the public service, according to a new study.
Women now make up 54.4 per cent of federal government employees while visible minorities and Indigenous people account for 14.5 per cent and 5.2 per cent of the workforce, respectively, according to the report by the Institute for Research on Public Policy.
The latest government statistics say 50.4 per cent of Canada’s population are women, 20 per cent are visible minorities, and 4 per cent are Indigenous. The Canadian government defines visible minorities as non-white people other than Indigenous people.
Under the Employment Equity Act, the federal government is obligated to report annually on diversity within the government and in the federally regulated private sector.
The growth has been steady for both women and Indigenous people, who started at 46.1 per cent and 2 per cent respectively in 1993 when data became available, said report author Andrew Griffith.
And the almost quadrupling of representation for visible minorities from a mere 3.8 per cent in 1993 was remarkable, he noted.
“The transparency, sunshine-law approach and the politics of shame has shifted the representation of public services by a remarkable extent,” said Griffith, a retired director-general with the Immigration Department and now an independent policy analyst specializing multiculturalism and diversity.
“The organic and uncontroversial approach may have worked better than a quota system that would have created more resistance and tension.”
Based on data from the Treasury Board and Privy Council, Griffith also examined the diversity of public service management at each of the five executive levels, plus the deputy minister position.
Griffith’s study, a snapshot of March 2016, looked at 182,000 public servants including 5,302 executives classified from levels 1 to 5 in the management classification scheme, plus 70 deputy ministers.
Women made up 47.3 per cent of executive posts in 2016, compared to just 25.8 per cent in 2002 when officials began collecting gender data on management.
Last year, about 1 in 10 managers consisted of a person of colour, from just 1 out of 20 a decade ago when the collection of racial data started. The representation of Indigenous executives, however, was modest, rising to 3.7 per cent in 2016 from 3 per cent in 2005.
“There were gaps in the representation. That’s troubling,” said Robyn Benson, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents roughly 110,000 federal government employees.
“Some larger departments have a large pool (of diverse candidates) to choose from for promotion, but they are not doing as well as they should be doing.”
Benson said the Employment Equity Act has not been reviewed for 15 years and the union has been pushing hard for one to identify shortfalls. She would also like to see data on people with disabilities in the public service, which wasn’t part of the study.
“The Act needs stronger accountability,” she said. “If you sit in a room and see women, racialized and Indigenous people, and people with disabilities as workers and look to the managers who don’t reflect them, that’s just wrong.”
According to the study, across the public service 65 per cent of women are now under 50 years of age, compared with 60.8 per cent of men. Visible minorities are significantly younger: almost three-quarters (72.1 per cent) are under 50. Among Indigenous public servants, 64.2 per cent are under 50.
Female executives are almost evenly split between under and over 50; 53.4 per cent of male executives are over 50. Visible minorities are the youngest among executives, with 57.5 per cent under 50 while Indigenous executives are the next youngest, at 54.4 per cent under 50.
The federal departments with the highest female representation in their leadership were Public Health Agency of Canada (63 per cent); Justice Canada (61.1 per cent); Canada School of Public Service (58.1 per cent) and Veteran Affairs Canada (57.7 per cent). By contrast, Finance Canada and National Defence rank at the bottom, at 36.2 per cent and 35.8 per cent respectively.
For visible minorities, they fare best in leadership at Shared Services Canada (21.8 per cent); Health Canada (13 per cent); Immigration (12.6 per cent); Global Affairs (11.5 per cent) and the Canada Border Services Agency (11.4 per cent). However, they don’t do as well at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; Public Health Agency of Canada; Canadian Heritage and Statistics Canada — all below 7 per cent.
Indigenous executives make up almost 1 in 5 leadership positions at Indigenous Affairs, 7.6 per cent at Correctional Service and 6.5 per cent at Health Canada, but under 3 per cent at Public Services and Procurement Canada; Justice; and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.
“The data presents the departments an opportunity to look at how they compare to each other, especially for the outliers who are low in diversity representation,” said Griffith.
“They need to ask what they could do to improve the representation of these groups with their hiring and promotion practices.”
'Sunshine' approach to diversity in federal public service working, study says
NEW DELHI—Environmental pollution — from filthy air to contaminated water — is killing more people every year than all war and violence in the world. More than smoking, hunger or natural disasters. More than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
One out of every six premature deaths in the world in 2015 — about 9 million — could be attributed to disease from toxic exposure, according to a major study released Thursday in the Lancet medical journal. The financial cost from pollution-related death, sickness and welfare is equally massive, the report says, costing some $4.6 trillion in annual losses — or about 6.2 per cent of the global economy.
“There’s been a lot of study of pollution, but it’s never received the resources or level of attention as, say, AIDS or climate change,” said epidemiologist Philip Landrigan, dean of global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, and the lead author on the report.
The report marks the first attempt to pull together data on disease and death caused by all forms of pollution combined.
“Pollution is a massive problem that people aren’t seeing because they’re looking at scattered bits of it,” Landrigan said.
Experts say the 9 million premature deaths the study found was just a partial estimate, and the number of people killed by pollution is undoubtedly higher and will be quantified once more research is done and new methods of assessing harmful impacts are developed.
Areas like Sub-Saharan Africa have yet to even set up air pollution monitoring systems. Soil pollution has received scant attention. And there are still plenty of potential toxins still being ignored, with less than half of the 5,000 new chemicals widely dispersed throughout the environment since 1950 having been tested for safety or toxicity.
“In the West, we got the lead out of the gasoline, so we thought lead was handled. We got rid of the burning rivers, cleaned up the worst of the toxic sites. And then all of those discussions went into the background” just as industry began booming in developing nations, said Richard Fuller, head of the global toxic watchdog Pure Earth and one of the 47 scientists, policy-makers and public health experts who contributed to the 51-page report.
“To some extent these countries look to the West for examples and discussion, and we’d dropped it,” Fuller said.
Asia and Africa are the regions putting the most people at risk, the study found, while India tops the list of individual countries.
One out of every four premature deaths in India in 2015, or some 2.5 million, was attributed to pollution. China’s environment was the second deadliest, with more than 1.8 million premature deaths, or one in five, blamed on pollution-related illness, the study found.
Several other countries such Bangladesh, Pakistan, North Korea, South Sudan and Haiti also see nearly a fifth of their premature deaths caused by pollution.
Still, many poorer countries have yet to make pollution control a priority, experts say. India has taken some recent actions, such as tightening vehicle and factory emission standards and occasionally limiting the number of cars on New Delhi’s roads. But they have done little about crop burning, garbage fires, construction dust or rampant use of the dirtiest fossil fuels.
A court ban on firework sales before the Diwali festival didn’t stop New Delhi residents from firing rockets and lighting crackers throughout Thursday night. They awoke Friday morning to acrid, smoke-filled skies and levels of dangerous, lung-clogging particulate matter known as PM2.5 that went beyond 900 parts per million — 90 times the recommended limit by the World Health Organization, and 22 times higher than India’s own limits.
“Even though better pollution norms are coming in, still the pollution levels are continuously increasing,” said Shambhavi Shukla, a research associate with the Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment, which was not involved in the Lancet study.
To reach its figures on the overall global pollution burden, the study’s authors used methods outlined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for assessing field data from soil tests, as well as with air and water pollution data from the Global Burden of Disease, an ongoing study run by institutions including the World Health Organization and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
Even the conservative estimate of 9 million pollution-related deaths is one-and-a-half times higher than the number of people killed by smoking, three times the number killed by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, more than six times the number killed in road accidents, and 15 times the number killed in war or other forms of violence, according to GBD tallies.
It is most often the world’s poorest who suffer, the study found. The vast majority of pollution-related deaths — 92 per cent — occur in low- or middle-income countries, where policy-makers are chiefly concerned with developing their economies, lifting people out of poverty and building basic infrastructure. Environmental regulations in those countries tend to be weaker, and industries lean on outdated technologies and dirtier fuels.
In wealthier countries where overall pollution is not as rampant, it is still the poorest communities that are more often exposed, the report says.
“What people don’t realize is that pollution does damage to economies. People who are sick or dead cannot contribute to the economy. They need to be looked after” — which is also costly, Fuller said.
“There is this myth that finance ministers still live by, that you have to let industry pollute or else you won’t develop,” he said. “It just isn’t true.”
The report cites EPA research showing that the U.S. has gained some $30 in benefits for every dollar spent on controlling air pollution since 1970, when Congress enacted the Clean Air Act, one of the world’s most ambitious environmental laws. Removing lead from gasoline has earned the U.S. economy another $6 trillion cumulatively since 1980, according to studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some experts cautioned, however, that the report’s economic message was murky. Reducing the pollution quantified in the report might impact production, and so would not likely translate into gains equal to the $4.6 trillion in economic losses.
The report “highlights the social and economic justice of this issue,” said Marc Jeuland, associate professor with the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Duke Global Health Institute at Duke University, who was not involved in the study.
Without more concrete evidence for how specific policies might lead to economic gains, “policy-makers will often find it difficult to take action, and this report thus only goes part way in making the case for action,” he said.
Jeuland also noted that, while the report counts mortality by each pollutant, there are possible overlaps — for example, someone exposed to both air pollution and water contamination — and actions to address one pollutant may not reduce mortality.
“People should be careful not to extrapolate from the U.S. numbers on net (economic) benefits, because the net effects of pollution control will not be equivalent across locations,” he said.
The study’s conclusions on the economic cost of pollution measure lost productivity and health care costs, while also considering studies measuring people’s “willingness to pay” to reduce the probability of dying. While these types of studies yield estimates at best, they are used by many governments and economists trying to understand how societies value individual lives.
While there has never been an international declaration on pollution, the topic is gaining traction.
The World Bank in April declared that reducing pollution, in all forms, would now be a global priority. And in December, the United Nations will host its first conference on the topic of pollution.
“The relationship between pollution and poverty is very clear,” said Ernesto Sanchez-Triana, lead environmental specialist at the World Bank. “And controlling pollution would help us address many other problems, from climate change to malnutrition. The linkages can’t be ignored.”
Pollution kills more people every year than wars, disasters and hunger: study
MONTREAL—Somewhere in the Quebec government’s legal department, a team of lawyers is bracing to argue in court in what may be the not-too-distant future that the wearing of dark sunglasses puts the safety of the province’s public transit system at risk. Ditto presumably in the case of local libraries and city parks.
For a province to declare war on sunglasses is pretty unique in the history of Canada. For a government to do so in the name of the separation of church and state is even more remarkable.
And yet according to Quebec’s Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée, the sunglasses ban is part of Bill 62, the just-adopted law that requires Quebecers to uncover their faces to provide or receive provincial and municipal services.
Vallée’s contention is that critics who describe the law as a discriminatory attack on the fundamental rights of the minority of Muslim women who wear the face-covering niqabs and/or burkas have it wrong.
One can understand why so many would have come to that conclusion given that the bill’s title is: “An act to foster adherence to state religious neutrality and, in particular, to provide a framework for requests for accommodations on religious grounds in certain bodies.”
Notwithstanding the bill’s label, Vallée’s says that under her law someone sporting dark sunglasses would be treated in the same way as a woman wearing a face-covering veil. Both would have to remove them for the duration of a transit ride or in the minister’s own words for “as long as the service is being rendered.”
Vallée’s comments mostly illustrate the lengths to which Premier Philippe Couillard’s Liberal government has to go to claim that it has, if not a public policy rationale, at least a legal footing for its dubious bill.
Unless some smaller Quebec town wants to wage war on face-covering snow apparel, Bill 62 may not be tested in real life anytime soon.
Muslim women who veil their faces are hard to come by anywhere in Quebec but in particular outside Montreal. Denis Coderre and Valérie Plante — the two main candidates vying for the mayoralty of the province’s metropolis in next month’s municipal election — have both vouched to disregard the new law. The union that represents the city’s employees is also set to give its prescriptions a pass. There are no penal sanctions for those who fail to apply Bill 62.
Indeed there are those who believe Couillard’s plan was to fend off charges that his government is failing to address the religious accommodation issue with a bill that is neither applicable nor legally viable.
What the new law will not do is end Quebec’s decade-long travails on the front of the accommodation of religious minorities.
It may not even be on the books long enough to be thrown out by the courts on constitutional grounds. That’s because it could be replaced by a more restrictive but not necessarily more constitutional law on religious wear sooner rather than later.
If elected to government next fall, either of Quebec’s main opposition parties would replace the Liberal ban on face-coverings with a wider one that would prohibit judges, crown attorneys, prison guards and police officers from wearing religious garments at work.
The Coalition Avenir Québec — whom the latest of polls cast as the ruling Liberals’ main election rival — would add elementary and secondary school teachers to the list of those on whom it would impose a secular dress code.
The niqab flare-up in the 2015 election, the more recent backlash over M103, the federal Liberal motion dealing with Islamophobia, the floating of a values test on would-be immigrants at the time of the federal Conservative leadership campaign have demonstrated that the debate over the accommodation of religious minorities is not limited to Quebec.
On Friday, a tweet by Ontario Tory Leader Patrick Brown suggesting that, absent a federal intervention, the province should support a Charter-based court challenge of the Quebec law prompted a load of pro-Bill 62 responses from followers purporting to be Ontario voters.
Two decades ago the federal government sought guidance from the Supreme Court on the divisive matter of Quebec secession. If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wanted to be proactive in the festering debate over reasonable accommodation, he would seek the advice of Canada’s top court on achieving a Charter-friendly balance between the rights of religious minorities and the values of a secular society.
Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Quebec’s Bill 62 declares war on sunglasses: Hébert
You can almost hear the TV announcer’s voice booming through the speakers: “There’s $5 billion on the line and 50,000 new jobs. Do you have what it takes to be Amazon’s next HQ2?”
The contestants cheer. They’re all big city mayors — John Tory and Naheed Nenshi among them — vying for the grand prize: a red rose from Jeff Bezos.
But this is not a reality TV show; this is Amazon’s offer to the city that hosts its new HQ2 development — a replica of their home base in Seattle.
The winning proposal has to be located near an urban centre, an airport, and must be close to the highway. The development is slated to start at 500,000 sq. ft., but is expected to reach up to 8,000,000 sq. ft. as the project continues.
More than 100 cities have put forward bids to woo Bezos and Amazon.
To win over the heart and mind of the tech giant, however, applicants are going to have to be memorable.
With the final HQ2 bids submitted Thursday, the Star takes a look at the craziest gimmicks cities have come up with in order to score top prize, and a place in Bezos heart.
Sun Corridor Inc., an economic development group based out of Arizona, packed a 6.5-metre cactus into a truck and delivered it direct to Bezos in Seattle.
Amazon had to turn down the spiky specimen, however, telling the city in a tweet that they could not accept gifts — “even really cool ones.”
Amazon donated the cactus to a desert museum.
New York City
Light me up, baby.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that the city would go “Amazon Orange” in an attempt to appeal to Bezos sensibilities.
Several of the city’s landmarks, including the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center, were outfitted in bright orange for the duration of Wednesday evening.
Working the Canadian Way, Ottawa finalized their pledge with a chorus of hockey fans.
Attendees of a hockey game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Ottawa Senators were asked to cheer for Amazon at the game’s intermission— in both French and English.
Taking a flirty approach to winning Bezos heart, Birmingham set up giant imitation Dash Buttons throughout the city. The buttons were programmed to tweet one of 600 pickup lines at Amazon when pressed.
One such tweet professed Birmingham’s hunger for Amazon’s affection, reading: “We are Chipotle and these other cities are Taco Bell, Amazon.”
Some lovers might catch a grenade for you, but Nenshi would fight a bear.
Calgary infiltrated Seattle with persuasive graffiti, and hung a 60-metre long banner across from Amazon’s current HQ proclaiming its willingness to take down a bear in Bezos honour.
Capitalizing on the dreary weather in Amazon’s Seattle home base, Denver offered a reprieve from the cold and damp, telling the company they had “300 days of sunshine” and “bluer and prettier” skies than the Seattle HQ, according to the Associated Press.
(Albuquerque, New Mexico, on the other hand, has counter offered 310 cloudless days.)
In addition to their appeal to nature, Denver also touted the opportunity for Amazonians to eat, drink, and be merry. The city referred to the large number of breweries in Colorado — six per every 100,000 residents — as a reason for Amazon to set up shop in Denver.
In perhaps the most outrageous stunt to take home the grand prize, Stonecrest is offering to change its name to Amazon.
The new city, incorporated in 2016,has offered to dedicate 139 hectares of the city for use by the company, and has offered to install Bezos as the de-facto mayor of Amazon.
Who wants Amazon’s HQ2 the most? Take a look at bids from other cities
From burka-bashing to Quebec-baiting, the politics of multiculturalism can bring out the best and worst in us. All of us.
To their credit, Ontario’s politicians came together Thursday to rise above conventional politics — especially the so-called “identity politics” that divides people along racial, religious and ethnic lines. By unanimously condemning Quebec’s new ban on face coverings for Muslim women (who seek public services), Queen’s Park delivered an unprecedented rebuke to the national assembly.
To their discredit, Quebec’s politicians keep pandering to people’s worst instincts, relying on the politics of fear to brand a few burka-clad women as targets for public shaming. This week’s new law on face-coverings is an act unworthy of that great province, which should understand the sanctity of minority rights more than most, given its own language challenges.
You don’t have to love face coverings to understand the underside of this hateful crusade against Muslim women.
Picking on a harmless group is never pretty. But it is especially ugly when state power intimidates new immigrants facing possible language, health or safety issues — making them objects of ostracization and opprobrium.
That was the message Ontario sent to Quebecers next door, and pointedly shared with people here at home. But it came reluctantly, for it comes at a political price to Queen’s Park.
The province has gone to extraordinary lengths to forge closer ties with its neighbour. Nurturing the federalist impulse, joint Ontario-Quebec cabinet meetings were convened, culminating with invitations for each premier to speak in the other’s legislature.
Now, Ontario’s very public admonition has put that bilateral bonhomie under strain.
More than a tale of two divergent legislatures, it is a clash of two political cultures. One province sees strength in diversity, the other fears multiculturalism could weaken its French face.
That said, there is a temptation among some in English Canada to lapse into allegations of supposedly racist tendencies in Quebec. Not only was such stereotyping absent from the fine speeches in Ontario’s legislature, it would be a misreading of Canada’s strengths and weaknesses.
For it is a universal truth that people everywhere and anywhere are prone to prejudice. Discrimination resides in any society or hierarchy.
The best social norms inhibit such impulses, but the worst pandering can incite racism at any time, in any place. All it takes is a fateful, fearful trigger from influential leaders who legitimize intolerance, preying on ignorance and profiting at the ballot box.
The Parti Québécois crossed a line when it followed the divisive path of identity politics long ago, and it has now crossed party lines. This week, by contrast, Ontario’s politicians outclassed Quebec’s brazenly opportunistic political class.
Yet Quebec and the PQ are far from alone.
Donald Trump made identity politics the defining policy of his presidential campaign, and its ugliness has paid off handsomely for him. Australian politicians, who share our political and cultural antecedents, have also been prone to prejudice against Muslim migrants on their shores.
Lest we be complacent, English Canada is hardly immune.
We had a glimpse in our last federal election, when then-prime minister Stephen Harper argued with a straight face that we needed to see the face of Muslim women taking the oath of citizenship. Just as his party propagated the idea of a “barbaric cultural practices” snitch line (ostensibly targeting the pre-Islamic ritual of female genital cutting, but in reality driving a political wedge).
Those electoral tactics put the federal New Democrats on the spot but the party refused to forsake minority rights, even at some cost to its Quebec base. Undaunted, the NDP has just chosen Jagmeet Singh as its new leader — knowing that his turban would have been targeted by the original PQ proposal banning religious articles.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Premier Kathleen Wynne are often photographed wearing a head scarf when visiting conservative mosques or on Islamic holidays — a symbolic gesture of respect. Progressive Conservative leader, Patrick Brown, who served as a backbencher in Harper’s government at the time of the anti-niqab hysteria, has been commendably outspoken in condemning it since his move to Queen’s Park (his PCs also broke with the federal Conservatives by unequivocally supporting a provincial resolution against Islamophobia).
Ontarians are no better than Quebecers, or anyone else. We have no natural immunity from the virulent strains of intolerance that incubate everywhere and infect political discourse elsewhere.
This province is more fortunate than most in having three major party leaders who, for all their faults, understand the fundamentals of social cohesion. And the perils of persecution.
On this issue, rather than exploiting the darkest corners of the body politic they are appealing to the brighter side of the human psyche. That is politics at its best.
Martin Regg Cohn’s political column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. email@example.com, Twitter: @reggcohn
How Ontario politicians avoided Quebec’s burka backlash: Cohn
WASHINGTON—Kristen Dewar’s NAFTA nightmare goes like this.
She is representing one of her 100 clients at a criminal trial. Then Donald Trump terminates the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Suddenly, she cannot keep working in North Carolina without breaking the law herself.
Dewar, 34, is a defence lawyer from Mississauga who is allowed to practice in the U.S. under the “TN” immigration status reserved for Canadian and Mexican professionals.
TN stands for Trade NAFTA. And NAFTA might vanish, in which case the TN status might vanish as well.
“And I have to go home,” Dewar said. “I would be literally a person without status.”
The possible demise of the trade pact has alarmed Canadian professionals working in the U.S. under the TN, an immigration category unlike the others: it was created not through domestic U.S. law but through NAFTA itself.
They are engineers, scientists, architects, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and graphic designers, among more than 50 additional occupations. If Trump follows through on his threat to terminate NAFTA— and he is not thwarted by lawsuits or Congress — it is entirely unclear what will happen to them.
It is possible Trump and Congress would allow them to stay indefinitely. It is possible they would be allowed to stay until their current three-year permit expired. But it is also very possible, given Trump’s desire to reduce immigration of all kinds, that they would be forced to leave the country fast.
“It’s a little bit unnerving,” said Mike Doherty, 30, a software engineer from Cambridge working at a large technology company in Silicon Valley. “I think the really unfortunate thing is that if things totally fall apart, no one really knows what that means. Do people have to leave the country immediately? Is there a six-month grace period? Do you potentially get to stay for the remainder of your work permit? No one really knows.”
Immigration lawyers say they have experienced a flurry of concerned inquiries from TN holders. They have little reassurance to offer.
“I’m advising them that I don’t know what Mr. Trump has in mind,” said Blair Hodgman, an immigration lawyer licensed in Nova Scotia, Ohio and Massachusetts. “Who knows what’s going to happen?”
The apprehension over the TN is another example of just how wide-ranging the impact of a NAFTA termination could be. While the deal is widely understood to govern the manufacturing and trade in hard goods, like cars, it also affects everything from immigration to intellectual property to entertainment.
Some Canadian firms could stand to benefit if the TN were eliminated, since some of Canada’s educated professionals would be forced to return home. But the Liberal government generally sees professional mobility as an asset. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has said Canada will push in the ongoing NAFTA negotiations for more professional occupations to be added to the outdated 63-occupation TN list.
The idea is a tough sell to the Trump administration. Trump has backed a bill to cut legal immigration in half. And he has repeatedly, as recently as this month, floated the idea of killing NAFTA altogether.
At the talks, a Canadian official said on condition of anonymity, the U.S. has largely stayed quiet during Canada-Mexico discussions of the professional-entry issue, participating “only to the degree to avoid being seen as non-co-operative.”
Hodgman and other lawyers said people who are able to renew their TNs now should do so to position themselves for the possibility the U.S. will let them stick out their current term.
It is not only individuals fretting. The demise of the TN would harm the American companies who employ them.
“We represent companies that transfer workers through the NAFTA agreement. And their HR departments are quite concerned about how it’s going to impact their ability to recruit foreign workers,” said Michael Niren, a lawyer and chief executive of Canadian-American immigration firm VisaPlace.
The U.S. government said it could not immediately provide statistics on how many Canadians currently hold TN status. But the number is at least in the tens of thousands.
Unlike most other U.S. work visas, TNs can be obtained immediately at the Canada-U.S. border. And there is no defined limit on how long they can be renewed.
If the TN disappeared, some Canadians would likely be able to obtain other visas through their employers. Others would almost certainly be out of luck.
“I have my life set up here. So the uncertainty is always on my mind every time I read these articles or see Trump’s tweets or anything like that. I definitely don’t want to be kicked back to Canada all of a sudden. I’d have to uproot my life,” said Rami Abou Ghanem, 27, a Calgary software engineer working in New York City. “For my field, I found there are a lot more opportunities in this country.”
Doherty was able to look on the bright side: Canadians face far less dire prospects than some of the other people Trump has tried to evict.
“We’re really lucky that if I do get sent home, it’s going to be to Canada and not somewhere tragic,” he said.
Thousands of Canadians live in the U.S. on NAFTA permits. What happens if Trump kills the treaty?
OTTAWA—Between Feb. 1 and March 13 of this year, functionaries in some of the most powerful corners of the federal government, including the finance department and Prime Minister’s Office, were seized with a series of pressing questions.
Should the teenage boy on the cover of the upcoming budget, for instance, be really happy with a big smile, or just sort of happy with a smaller smile?
Should the little girl in the next photo be holding a soccer ball, or playing the cello? Actually, what about an electric guitar? No, wait, let’s make it an acoustic guitar — but make sure you add some music notes floating in the air.
Such were the preoccupations of government officials that are detailed in a 607-page trove of documents released recently to the Ottawa-based investigative journalism website, Blacklocks. They pertain to the Liberal government’s meticulous planning for the design of the 2017 budget cover — the physical front and back of the book — as well as accompanying fact sheets, web advertisements and explanatory videos.
The whopper in the release, first reported last week, is that the finance department spent $212,234 on this exercise. That figure was compared with what the former Conservative government spent on budget covers, which, at a reported $600 in one instance, appears paltry — or frugal — in comparison.
But, of course, the $212,000 cost of the current regime’s budget cover also included ad spending and videos for the 2017 budget’s website. Still, the documents show that just the photo shoot for the four images on the budget cover — actors posed at a studio in Montreal — cost the public $24,990.
The stack of emails and design details also provides a look into how carefully this government can manage the images it releases.
In early February, Natalie Rieger, senior marketing advisor in the finance department, nailed down an agreement with the advertising giant, McCann. Their Montreal office would design the budget cover, draw up the factsheets and make promotional videos. The McCann team of copywriters and artists got to work and appeared to liaise regularly with Rieger as their work progressed.
The government’s priorities were outlined in a background document provided to the agency. Ottawa wanted the design and advertisements to be “friendly and positive” and targeted to “all Canadians, with a focus on families, seniors and businesses.”
The government wanted to highlight what it considered chief accomplishments and priorities for the Justin Trudeau regime. These included the tax cut for a middle-income bracket, their re-jigged payout scheme for families with kids, planned enhancements to the Canada Pension Plan, billions of dollars committed for infrastructure and their “innovation agenda.”
The finance department also instructed the agency to consult with Ottawa “regarding the depiction of minority groups.”
By Feb. 6, Rieger was in touch with officials from the Privy Council Office — what’s often called the “nerve centre” of the bureaucracy that supports the cabinet and prime minister.
Over the next five weeks, chains of emails show detailed discussions between Rieger, the higher-ups in government and the McCann agency. They zeroed in on the concept they liked — the cover would depict an arrangement of four photographs, each one representing a “pillar” of the budget vision. The government liked the agency’s idea to add “chalk” drawings on top of the photos. These would be “superimposed onto real-life contexts to illustrate visions of the future.”
For the “innovation and skills” category, they wanted a “female older millennial” in her mid 30s, or “perhaps early 40s Gen Xer,” one email suggested. An “elderly man” fit the bill for their vision of “Stronger Canada,” while a “young girl,” maybe 7 or 8, would fit well into the “Fair Government” category, which would reflect their commitments to building a country where any child can achieve their dreams.
Finally, for “Infrastructure,” the poster boy would be a “sharply dressed” teenager wearing “mid-tone colours” and glasses. This last piece of attire received particular attention, with the ad agency even offering a mockup of the shape and size of the glasses in one of their missives to Ottawa.
Dan Lauzon, the director of communications for Finance Minister Bill Morneau, appears to have settled the matter in an email Feb. 23. “I vote glasses,” he wrote. “Put me on team hipster.”
But there was also the matter of the actors themselves. Whose faces should be the faces of the 2017 budget? Sorry, it’s #Budget2017 (an official made a point of underlining the importance of that capital B).
Following their instructions to consult on the depictions of minorities, a McCann executive wrote: “We would like to know about ethnicities you would like us to cover. Asian? Native? Indian? Latino? There are four models, so we will have to choose.”
The agency provided a host of options, prompting Rieger to ask if “No. 2” for one of the categories is Indigenous. The response came that Indigenous people “are identified by the yellow squares.”
They went with No. 2 — the future engineer with the “hipster” glasses.
1. Light bulb
After ditching plans for a graduation hat, the government settled on a light bulb to represent the flash of brilliance for the woman on the boat (which is supposed to be an icebreaker, by the way). Emails show they took pains to make sure the bulb was an LED, rather than one of the old-fashioned, kilojoule-gobbling variety.
2. Heart monitor
Initially, this was to show the man’s blood pressure reading. Presumably to remain “positive,” as their mandate dictated, it read a perfect 120/80. But for reasons that documents fail to explain, the decision was made to go with the basic heart and pulse reading. From this, the viewer can conclude that the smiling man in the chair is, indeed, alive.
3. The hand
The man is reaching out to grasp the faceless outline of a hand that enters the frame from nowhere. Several emails pertained to the existence of this hand. It’s meant to be the warm and affecting touch of a caregiver. Judging by the man’s expression, he’s more than happy to accept the touch of a disembodied cartoon figure.
The teenage boy, who is supposed to portray a future engineer, is wearing glasses. But this wasn’t an automatic choice. Like pretty much everything else, it was considered with care. In the end, this discussion reaped one of the most memorable quotes from the email trove: “I vote glasses,” said the official from the finance department. “Put me on team hipster.”
5. The iPad
Yes, that’s an iPad. Originally it was an amp, because the girl was rocking out at high voltage on an imaginary electric guitar. That changed when they switched to the smoother vibe of an acoustic. But they still wanted some technology, so after some debate about where it should be placed and whether it should have a cord plugged into something — well, you can see the result.
Inside the government’s $200,000 budget artwork
BERLIN—A man with a knife attacked eight people in Munich on Saturday and then fled, police said. The suspected assailant, a local German already known to police for theft and other offences, was arrested a few hours later.
No one was seriously hurt in the attack that started at around 8.30 a.m. in the Haidhausen area, east of downtown Munich. Police said they believe it was not a terror attack, they suspect instead that the assailant had psychological problems.
The lone attacker apparently went after passersby indiscriminately with a knife, police said. He attacked eight people in all, including a 12-year-old child, at different sites. They mainly had superficial stab wounds and in at least one case had been hit.
About three hours later, police arrested a man matching a description they had issued based on witness reports. They said he was heavy, unshaven with short blond hair and had a black bicycle and a backpack.
The 33-year-old suspect, who was carrying a knife when he was arrested, was already known to police for bodily harm, drug offences and theft, city police chief Hubertus Andrae told reporters.
The suspect didn’t immediately give police any information on his motive.
“There are absolutely no indications at present of a terrorist, political or religious background, though we can only rule things out when all the questioning is finished,” Andrae said. “Rather than that, we believe that the perpetrator had psychological problems.”
He said police have “no serious doubts” that the suspect was the assailant, and that there was no longer any danger to the public.
Man with knife attacks 8 people in Munich; 33-year-old arrested
It’s been two weeks since movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was outed and ousted for alleged sexual assault and rape. One week since a hashtag sparked a movement that exposed the global scale of the sexual misconduct epidemic.
In social media terms, you could say the #WeinsteinScandal relit the spark for a decade-old #MeToo movement, which opened the #Floodgates releasing harrowing stories of sexual experiences in various forums, prompting the confessional and rather ghastly #ItWasMe, but also leading a few men to step up and say #IWill and #IWillChange.
It’s stupendous, really, this mass level gaslighting: about half of humanity has been silently heaving under misogynistic pressure to receive unwanted sexual advances as a compliment, or consider them the price to pay for ambition, or as part of the parcel of living with the other half.
This violence draws its power from the secrecy vested in it; it depends on concealment.
As long as those who are sexually assaulted keep it secret, it allows the creation of a parallel world where men — especially those who present to the world as powerful, talented and therefore respectable — can inflict violence on them. They can be secure in the knowledge that the shame of their actions will be borne by the violated, and serve to silence them.
As long as there is silence, these men have the power to wound.
It hardly needs saying that this misogynistic duplicity is also supported by women who are conditioned to see as normal a system that privileges men. These are the women who will rush to dismiss others’ experiences or minimize them as a rite of passage: “This is just normal.” “That guy is an idiot.” “This happens to everyone. You’re not that special.” “Be the better person.” “Don’t be weak.”
That wall of silence is crashing down.
We’ve seen it before, high-profile cases of sexual misconduct leading to the sharing of stories. This time around though, the sharing has penetrated more layers, opening the door wider to hear the experiences of women of colour.
Tarana Burke is the Black woman who founded the Me Too movement 10 years ago, long before the actress Alyssa Milano tweeted about it last Sunday.
“Sexual violence knows no race or class or gender,” Burke told The Root, “but the response to sexual violence does.”
For women of colour, there are additional layers that constrict speaking out: patriarchy within their own cultures, instances of racial contempt and misogyny from white men (or men of another race in positions of power) and lack of support from white women.
Then there is the fear of contributing to racial stereotyping, something white women don’t have to bear. Women of colour face pressure from within their communities to not speak out against perpetrators of their own background, to not air dirty laundry in public, for fear that the entire community would be further marginalized.
The sexual assault of a white woman by a white man is about toxic gender power dynamics — nothing to do with whiteness. But narratives around sexual assault of, say, a Muslim woman by a Muslim man are framed as a problem with Islam; that of a Black woman by a Black man as a problem of Black criminality, that of an Indigenous woman by an Indigenous man as a problem of backwardness and substance abuse.
If minority women speak up, not only are they disbelieved, they are criticized by their own people and left alone by people from other communities who see it as an internal problem. The isolation is acute.
“Me Too is about the response to sexual violence,” said Burke. “And it’s also about the journey towards healing.”
In the past week, the actions of six Indigenous female authors shone a spotlight on that healing process. Their work was scheduled to appear in an anthology by the University of Regina Press until they learned that the anthology would also include the work of Neal McLeod, the award-winning poet from James Smith First Nation, Sask. In 2014, McLeod, who is Cree and Swedish, had pled guilty to domestic assault.
The writers asked the publisher to remove McLeod’s work from Kisiskâciwan: Indigenous Voices from Where the River Flows Swiftly. “We cannot consent to publish our work alongside Neal McLeod, whom to the best of our knowledge has not made amends to those that he has harmed,” they said in an open letter.
McLeod had already resigned from his job at University of Trent where he was an associate professor in Indigenous Studies. He had already pled guilty. Was that adequate?
“I believe there can be redemption for violent men, just as there can be for anyone,” said U of R Press publisher Bruce Walsh, who refused the women’s request to pull McLeod’s work.
From the First Nations authors’ perspective, though, McLeod may have been penalized by a colonial code of justice, but their understanding was he had not made amends with the communities he hurt.
“Every Indigenous person is accountable to their community, and . . . if you’re not making amends to the community you are accountable to then . . . prepare to have your wrongdoings named,” one of the people involved said, on condition of anonymity because they needed time to reflect on developments that took place after they first spoke to me.
What happened after was the author himself withdrew his contribution to the anthology, “I do not want others to leave so I can stay,” he said in a public statement where he offered his regrets to his communities. “I attended ceremonies, went through intensive counselling, and also used my poetry as a way to process my feelings,” he said. “I sought the advice and teachings of elders about how to be a better man going forward.”
The episode triggered anguished but respectful debate and disagreement among community members, but there is no right way to call out abuse, no guide books to show marginalized women how to deal with the dual challenge of patriarchy within and bigotry without.
The anthology will still be published next year, now without the words of either the poet or the six authors. At first blush, it appears as if the women lost a platform for their stories, but in naming the abuse and seeking accountability, they gained a voice.
In the long run, that is progress.
Shree Paradkar writes about discrimination and identity. You can follow her @shreeparadkar
#MeToo opens door to voices of women of colour: Paradkar
Eamon Fitzgerald and Rebecca Moroney start their day like many couples: ruffling out of entangled sheets, groaning at the alarm, boiling water in a tea kettle and clicking on a laptop.
But when they pause to look out their bedroom window, their view is a little different — partly due to the windshield wipers.
The Toronto couple has been living in a converted cargo van since spring — travelling thousands of kilometres across Canada. Their view changes often, from the snow-topped mountains of Squamish, B.C., to the beaches of Prince Edward County.
“It’s like we have a $5 million cottage on the water,” says Moroney, of spending summer days parked along a County side street. “The best part of van life is you have your home with you everywhere you go.”
Moroney, 27, and Fitzgerald, 25 are among thousands who have taken up “van life.” With more than 2.1 million posts under the hashtag #vanlife on the photo-sharing app Instagram, it’s one of the most coveted lifestyles on social media.
Today’s van lifers aren’t the off-the-grid driveway squatters or Woodstock hippies of the ’60s. These millennial-aged wanderers, also known as digital nomads, are extremely plugged in; mostly freelance writers and entrepreneurs, they’re an Apple-era hybrid of HGTV renovation shows, Coachella festival style blogs, and Dragons’ Den success stories.
Some adopt the lifestyle as an alternative to paying high rents while others see it as the next step in the minimalist “tiny homes” movement. But even those who can afford spacious bricks-and-mortar housing have taken to #vanlife, such as former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Daniel Norris, who made headlines in 2015 for moving into a van during the off-season, telling the Star at the time he did it for the “solitude.”
In March, they were preparing to sign a lease on a basement apartment near Trinity Bellwoods Park for $2,200 a month, when Fitzgerald, who had been following the #vanlife hashtag for months, saw a post about a 2008 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van for sale for $13,500. Their business was locking in more clients around Ontario, and they thought a van would let them expand beyond the province.
“We dropped the lease, I kid you not, and drove out to the lot where the van was and we bought the van,” recalls Moroney.
They spent a month and $11,000 renovating the interior with mostly discounted items, such as recycled wood and subway tile from Italy found on Kijiji. They insulated and panelled the walls and ceiling, and installed a foldaway table, futon-style bed, couch, a mini fridge, cabinets and a counter with a stovetop and sink connected to three 19-litre fresh water tanks. The most expensive items were solar panels installed on the roof.
For the next five months, they zigzagged from New Brunswick to B.C., cooking vegan meals and showering at yoga studios that granted trial passes. They made use of washrooms at cafés, restaurants, gyms and various public facilities — “Call us lucky but we’re not your pee-in-the-middle-of-the-night kind of people,” jokes Moroney — and parked wherever they could find a quiet space: a few paid campsites, but mostly for free near beaches, behind clients’ cafés, on side streets in small towns and in Walmart parking lots.
Though some van lifers are nervous about unauthorized parking — known as “stealth camping” — Moroney and Fitzgerald haven’t run into any problems. “Most nights, if we haven’t found somewhere epic to park, like a great spot on the water, we’ll look for a Walmart,” says Moroney.
Since the van doubles as a home and office, come tax time the couple are able to write off most of their regular expenses, which aren’t that much to begin with — their monthly bills include $60 for internet, $100 for van insurance, and between $200 and $500 for gas.
Like many van lifers, the couple also makes money off social media content. In September, they made $500 on their YouTube channel, which has some 21,000 subscribers, and may soon enter the sponsored Instagram post market.
They met writers and fellow van lifers Lisa Felepchuk, 33, and Coleman Molnar, 31, “the way all great friendships begin in 2017” — on Instagram, jokes Felepchuk.
Known as Li et Co online, the Toronto couple spoke with the Star by phone from a public library parking lot in Kenora, Ont., where they’d stopped to take advantage of free Wi-Fi on their way to Banff, Alta.
Since March 2016, they’ve made a home in their 1983 Volkswagen Westfalia, which they share with their cat named Mewan McGregor (they keep a litter box on the floor and have only stepped in it on a couple of occasions).
The couple adopted van life, which is more common on the West Coast and in sunny California than Ontario, for the freedom and to escape Toronto’s rent — and nasty winters.
“Toronto is not a hippie hot spot in Canada,” says Molnar. They spent most of last winter in Arizona. “We were paying close to $2,000 to live in this city that’s frigid cold for six months a year and all we did was dream about going on vacation somewhere else.”
But for Moroney and Fitzgerald, their business keeps them from being able to chase the sun. And when the weather changes with the area codes — like last month, when they went from a Toronto heat wave to frigid temperatures in Winnipeg in a matter of days — van life isn’t as charming as the Instagram shots.
But the couple, who’ve since installed a heater, are determined to continue van life over the winter.
“It is our home,” says Fitzgerald. “It’s the most comfortable bed we know.”
“Sometimes we’ll go and sleep somewhere else,” says Moroney, “and every night we do, we’re like ‘Why did we do that? We miss our van.’ ”
Toronto couple takes up #vanlife as a way around skyrocketing rents
Let’s say you’re Donald Trump.
It’s 2002 and you’ve agreed to have your name emblazoned across the top of the tallest residential tower in Canada, a $500-million, five-star condo-hotel in downtown Toronto.
Here’s the thing: Only months into the project, your lead developer is publicly exposed in the pages of the Toronto Star as a fugitive fraudster on the run from U.S. justice. Your major institutional partner — the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company — bails shortly after.
Your remaining partners in the deal — a group of investors assembled by the criminal who was just outed — include a New York camera store owner, a former Chicago nursing-home administrator, two small-time landlords in Britain and a little-known Toronto billionaire who earned a fortune in the former Soviet Union.
The one thing they all have in common — no experience in condo tower development.
Do you pull out? For Trump, the answer was no. The billionaire dug in, repeatedly told the world he was investing his own money in the project — claims that would prove false — and gushed about its spectacular promise, knowing his profits were guaranteed.
“Nothing like this has ever been built in Toronto,” Trump said in 2004 as he relaunched the stalled project. “It is going to be the ultimate destination for business, pleasure and entertainment.”
Fast forward to 2016 and Trump’s Toronto tower is built but bankrupt — a rare failure in Toronto’s booming downtown condo market.
In the last decade, more than 400 condominium towers of 14 storeys or more have been successfully built in Toronto, according to records at City Hall. Among those, the half-dozen industry insiders and analysts interviewed for this story could identify only one that went bankrupt after completion: the Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto.
An investigation by the Toronto Star and Columbia Journalism Investigations in New York reveals the tower that until recently bore the U.S. president’s name was so hamstrung by inexperienced partners and an unorthodox foreign financing deal that it couldn’t be saved by Trump’s public assurances of excellence.
“It’s pretty hard to make a mess of a real-estate investment (in Toronto),” said Toronto lawyer Marc Senderowitz, who represented four of the project’s minority investors. “In retrospect, I could have taken their money, bought a small commercial building and sat on it for 15 years ... Things just went off the rails.”
A review of bankruptcy documents and public records in three countries, as well as interviews with the rotating cast of players involved in the deal over more than a decade provides new insights about Trump’s business approach, the unconventional partners he works with and the risks for those who bet on the Trump brand.
In the end, every investor lost money on Toronto’s Trump Tower. Everyone except Trump, who walked away with millions.
“Trump never put money in; he just took money out,” said John Latimer, a former Toronto developer who worked briefly for the project.
Now that Trump is U.S. president, his conduct during the Toronto project gives an indication of how he might manage challenges with far higher stakes than a mere real estate deal.
“As I understand it, in Toronto, Trump made inaccurate statements” that may have influenced people who invested in the project, said Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis who specializes in legal and government ethics. “He has shown a willingness to speak inaccurately and encourages people to rely on his inaccuracies, even when that ends up causing harm to them.”
“In the case of the Toronto deal, the harm was financial. In the case of the presidency,” she said, it could be “apocalyptic.”
Trump projects around the world — from the former Soviet republics ofGeorgia and Azerbaijan to New York City— have attracted media scrutiny for their partners with Russian links and the Trump organization’s questionable due diligence.
The parallels between Trump’s tower in New York’s SoHo neighbourhood — which also entered bankruptcy — and the Toronto development, are striking: Both towers used the same hybrid hotel-condo model; both ran into trouble when the global financial crisis hit in 2007 and some unit purchasers walked away, while others sued. In both projects, Trump claimed to have a financial stake, only later to admit that it was a licensing deal. In both projects Trump family members presented inflated sales figures when the towers, in reality, stood nearly empty.
In the New York case, Trump’s children Donald Jr. and Ivanka were investigated for potential felony fraud charges for their role in misrepresenting sales figures.
Today, more than five years after the Toronto tower opened, the skyscraper on Adelaide St. remains three-quarters empty, current property records show.
Last fall, the tower’s development company, Talon International Inc., went bankrupt, unable to repay more than $300 million owing on the construction loan. While the tower’s new owners have removed Trump’s name, the full story of who partnered with Trump to build in Toronto has never been told.
The first try
Initially, the name at the top of the tower on Bay and Adelaide Sts. was to read “Ritz-Carlton.”
The project was the dream of Trump’s original partner, Leib Waldman, a Toronto condo developer with a track record of several successful towers and apartment blocks across the GTA. Waldman hired the prestigious architect Eberhard Zeidler and raised seed money in the Orthodox Jewish community in Toronto, New York and London, U.K.
Waldman’s minority investors, some of whom have never been publicly identified, have varied and often colourful backgrounds, but no experience in condo tower development.
The four foreign partners — Mendlowits, Meisels, Gross and Teitelbaum — made their investments through shell companies registered in New Brunswick.
“They had to have corporate entities to make the investments, but those corporations never carried on active businesses,” said Senderowitz, who helped set up the shell companies. “They were only incorporated for the purpose of owning ownership shares in this project.”
The only investor who agreed to speak on the record was Gross.
“I don’t know why this failed and so many other projects were successful,” Gross said. “It is mind boggling to us.”
At the Trump Organization, concerns over Waldman emerged almost immediately, said a source familiar with the deal.
“We quickly learned that Waldman was an empty suit. I recall one or two of his cheques bouncing,” said the source, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the development. “He was difficult and disreputable to deal with.”
The Ritz-Carlton project collapsed in 2001 after the Star revealed Waldman was a wanted fugitive who had fled to Toronto from the U.S. after pleading guilty to bankruptcy fraud and embezzlement in 1995.
Waldman was detained for extradition, leaving everyone pointing fingers at each other.
“Neither the Ritz-Carlton nor the Trump Organization would have entered into this partnership if they had knowledge of this,” a senior Trump executive said in the aftermath of the Waldman revelations. “To some extent we were looking for the Ritz-Carlton to do due diligence.”
The Ritz-Carlton pulled out, leaving the minority investors, the architect, lawyers and engineers with unpaid invoices and little hope of seeing the plan come to fruition.
Trump remained convinced his brand would save the project.
“Having his name on a project brought great credibility to the project, particularly if the developer did not have a great track record,” said the source familiar with the project.
For a short while, Waldman continued to run the tower project from a jail cell in Etobicoke.
“I had to go to the Mimico detention centre to have him sign documents. I drew the short straw. I’d never been in a prison before,” said Senderowitz.
Contacted for comment in Israel, where he moved after serving his prison sentence in U.S., Waldman said: “There was the Toronto Star article and the project was getting some bad publicity. I removed myself.”
John Latimer, a former Toronto developer, was brought in to rescue the project. He called a meeting and told everyone: either you keep working for free in order to get this project off the ground or you’ll never get paid anything.
“They wanted to keep this thing alive so they could get their money back,” Latimer said in an interview.
Zeidler, the tower’s architect, recalled being relieved.
“We are $270,000 in the hole, but at least the project is moving,” Zeidler wrote in his autobiography.
Shnaider steps up
Alex Shnaider, who had originally agreed to a smaller investment alongside the others, was persuaded to become the project’s main backer.
Shnaider initially agreed to a sit-down interview for this article but cancelled more than a month later. Instead, a Washington, D.C., public relations firm acted as a go-between, relaying written questions and answers.
On paper, Shnaider was a promising lead investor. He was wealthy, and despite his lack of condo and hotel experience, he was a business phenom.
Under the banner of the Midland Group, Shnaider built his sprawling business portfolio in the countries that had just emerged from behind the Iron Curtain. He started out in the early 1990s, working for Seabeco, a controversial investment firm run by his father-in-law, Boris Birshtein, who had links to powerful political figures in the former Soviet Union.
From there he expanded rapidly. By his early 30s, Shnaider — with his partner Eduard Shifrin, a Ukrainian businessman — was already co-owner of one of the largest steel mills in Ukraine. By 2001, they were able to acquire 93 per cent of the factory for the bargain-basement price of $70 million (U.S.), according to multiple media reports. Shnaider’s spokesperson challenges that figure, saying in a written statement that they paid “significantly” more.
In 2005, their stake had reportedly grown to be worth $1.2 billion.
Shnaider then diversified into industries as varied as Russian Formula One racing, Moscow shopping malls, Ukrainian convenience stores, an Israeli soccer team and the Armenian electricity grid. He was rewarded with hundreds of millions in profits. Everything he touched seemed to turn to gold.
Back home, Shnaider was living a life few Canadians can imagine.
In 2006, he bought a $4.3-million (Canadian) mansion in Toronto’s exclusive Bridle Path neighbourhood, which sold last year for $22 million. He travelled on a private jet and vacationed on his yacht, the 52-metre Midlandia.
Two years later, Shnaider’s former wife rented a hangar at Pearson International Airport to celebrate his 40th birthday, allowing their jet-setting guests to fly in and out for the party.
He would one up her for their daughter’s 16th birthday in 2013, hiring Justin Bieber to perform in a private concert at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
For all his wealth, Shnaider was virtually unknown in Toronto until he stepped into the limelight alongside Donald Trump in 2004 to launch pre-construction sales for their tower.
Three years later, wielding golden shovels, they broke ground side by side at a ceremony to mark the start of construction.
Financial documents, made public when Shnaider’s development company, Talon, went bankrupt, show his European bank financed the tower in a way no Canadian institution would; he hired his friend Levitan, the slot machine-repair businessman, to manage the construction and sales, and Levitan’s wife, Inna, to do the interior design; he allowed his sales director, Adina Zak, to sell units to herself and flip them to buyers at a profit.
Shnaider’s spokesperson denied he had a decision-making role in the tower.
“Mr. Shnaider did not have an executive role in this project and was not a developer — he was not involved in the sale of units,” she said.
Waldman had been the only one with any experience in tower development, and his departure left a team of condo rookies, as well as his son, Joseph, to whom he transferred his 11-per-cent stake in the tower. Levitan was put in charge of managing the construction and sales for the $500 million tower.
By all accounts hard-working, Levitan was in over his head.
“The trouble is, as nice and smart a guy as Val was, he didn’t really know the process,” said Latimer, the developer who briefly worked on the project.
But the lure of Trump’s wealth and success convinced the tower’s backers that they would succeed, said Senderowitz, the Toronto lawyer.
“They just wanted Trump’s star power to pull this off,” he said.
Teitelbaum, in particular, was convinced of its success, Latimer recalled.
“All he could see was the dollar signs ringing up. This was gonna be a big payday for him,” said Latimer. “Two years later he called me to ask if I’d buy a suite in the hotel. That made it seem like things were in trouble.”
Teitelbaum rejects this account, claiming he was never an investor.
Until now, the real ownership of the tower has been shrouded in secrecy.
Without ever providing details, Trump started telling reporters in 2001 that he had made a “substantial” investment in the Toronto tower. As late as 2007, Trump was publicly bragging about his supposedly savvy investment, which would have benefitted from the appreciating Canadian dollar.
“People are saying, ‘great play,’ but I actually didn’t mean to invest because of the dollar. I just ended up being a genius for all the wrong reasons,” Trump told the Star in 2007.
It wasn’t until 2011 that Talon disclosed Trump only had a contract to license out his name and manage the hotel.
“He showed up when they broke ground, did a press conference … and walked away,” said Senderowitz.
Levitan and Shnaider became the tower’s real salesmen, but their project was a tough sell on Bay St.
Levitan met with Canadian construction financiers in a series of meetings in 2006, according to sources.
“Everyone passed on it,” said one Toronto financier, who met with Levitan and turned him down.
Even though Shnaider was based in Toronto, the fact that virtually all his assets were overseas didn’t sit well with local lenders.
“We didn’t like the fact that it was an inexperienced developer coming from abroad,” said the financier, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he is not permitted by his employer to discuss confidential financial matters. “If a loan goes into default, we have to go after the debtors. When they’re foreign, we can’t get their assets.”
In the end, the financing for the tower’s construction came from an Austrian bank, Raiffeisen Zentralbank Osterreich, which had little experience in the North American market.
One of its only other projects on this side of the Atlantic was the Red Leaves resort in Muskoka, a project that also went bankrupt.
Raiffeisen, which invests heavily in the former Soviet republics and had financed several of Shnaider’s previous ventures, faced scrutiny about a decade ago when a deputy central banker in Moscow accused it of acting as a conduit for wealthy Russians to launder money abroad. Raiffeisen denied wrongdoing, according to news reports.
The bank declined to comment for this article.
Adam Powadiuk, director of commercial finance at First National Financial, a real-estate lender in Toronto, reviewed the tower’s financing agreement and said it contained many “wacky” elements that “amplify the risk in a significant way.”
Typically in Toronto, banks require developers to sell enough pre-construction units to cover the entire cost of a loan before any funds are released. Not so in this case.
Raiffeisen asked Talon to pre-sell $250 million in condos and hotel rooms — only about 80 per cent of the $310.5-million loan.
Talon didn’t even reach that lower bar.
While Shnaider publicly stated the tower had sold more than $250 million in units, the bankruptcy documents tell a different story. Based on purchasers’ deposits, it appears Talon only ever sold $218-million worth of units.
One investor, auto body shop owner Gross, said that the tower’s backers were aware construction started before enough units were sold.
“We knew,” Gross said in an interview. “We were hoping that time would be on our side.”
In public, the sales figure was constantly shifting.
Seventy five per cent of the units were sold, Shnaider said in 2007, shortly before groundbreaking. A few months later, Trump said the number was 70 per cent. By 2012, Talon was reporting 60 per cent were sold. The next year, the company admitted less than half the units had been bought.
In 2007, Shnaider announced he would buy for himself the tower’s $20-million, 12,000-square-foot “super penthouse” — Canada’s most expensive condo at the time. Public records show he never closed the deal. And Shnaider wasn’t the only buyer to back out.
According to Talon’s bankruptcy, the company only ever collected $108.3 million in unit sales — less than half of what it had said was sold and more than $200 million shy of what was needed to pay off the principal of the loan.
While revenue wasn’t coming in, construction costs were spiralling due to the exceptionally small building lot, design changes on the fly that would cut 13 storeys off the top of the planned 70-storey tower and eight months of delays caused by extreme weather.
When Talon maxed out the bank loan, the investors had to come up with another $106 million to cover the tower’s completion, bankruptcy records show.
The minority investors contributed at first but eventually, Shnaider was paying for everything out of his own pocket.
At the same time, records from the Panama Papers leak show Shnaider and his partner sold their stake in the Ukrainian steel mill to a VEB, a bank controlled by the Kremlin. They received $850 million (U.S.). Shnaider’s lawyer initially told the Wall Street Journal that $15 million of that money went to cover cost overruns at the Trump Tower. He later told the New York Times that none of the sales proceeds were used to cover costs in Toronto.
Even once the tower was complete, few people wanted to buy in.
Typically, banks intervene quickly when sales stall in an effort to protect their investments, real estate experts say. They bring in their own sales and marketing teams; they might even bring in contractors to finish construction.
But between 2008 and 2013 — the depth of the global financial crisis — the Austrian bank pushed back the repayment deadlines 12 times, according to bankruptcy records, waiting for sales to materialize. The tower was built, but it sat three-quarters empty, hemorrhaging money just to keep the lights on.
When Talon finally declared bankruptcy last year — nine years after taking out the construction loan — it still owed Raiffeisen $301 million on the $310 million it borrowed, bankruptcy records show.
Powadiuk called that level of outstanding debt “enormous” and “very strange” in the Canadian context.
“I can’t picture a scenario, the way that most lenders in Canada do these things, where you end up with that kind of chain of events,” Powadiuk said.
An empty grand opening
The tower’s lavish ribbon cutting — originally planned for September 2010 — didn’t take place until April 2012.
The pomp and ceremony included Trump and his children, each with a pair of golden scissors, surrounded by models, alongside then mayor Rob Ford bearing a wide smile.
As dignitaries and Toronto’s most powerful businesspeople gathered to fete the project’s success, the tower’s failure was likely already sealed.
Another five-star hotel, a new Ritz-Carleton, had just opened in Toronto and a second, the Shangri-La, was about to do so. Trump’s decade-old project looked stale by comparison.
“This one was dragging on and suddenly it has a bad smell,” said Latimer.
After the hotel opened its doors, too many rooms sat empty. Hotel room purchasers were hit with thousands of dollars of additional fees and commercial property tax. One disappointed buyer tried to auction off his condo, but no one met the minimum bid. Several unit ownerssued Shnaider’s company for misrepresenting their projected profits and a judge ordered one buyer’s deposit returned. A class-action lawsuit on behalf of other buyers is pending in Superior Court.
When business didn’t pick up, Talon publicly clashed with Trump, blaming the future president’s people for mismanaging the hotel. The president’s organization filed a legal motion to prevent the termination of its licensing agreement, alleging Talon was plotting to sell the remaining units and walk away. The motion was shelved.
One thing was now clear: Trump’s brand offered no guarantee of success.
“(Trump) wasn’t hands on,” said Senderowitz. “He just delegated everything. His own management style was literally chaotic.”
Everyone was losing money, including Shnaider.
“Mr. Shnaider lost more money on the Trump Tower Project than anyone else,” a spokesperson said in a written statement. “Mr. Shnaider had high hopes for the project and wanted it to succeed. These hopes were not realized.
“The project was unsuccessful, in Mr. Shnaider’s opinion, because of the global financial crisis and its effect on buyers’ and potential buyers’ ability to close or obtain funding to close, and because of inexperienced management.”
In the end, the tower and every investor’s stake in it went to JCF Capital, which had bought the tower’s debt and paid the Trump Organization to exit its licensing agreement in June. Two days later, JCF sold the hotel to InnVest, a major Canadian hotel operator. The 74 unsold condos are now back on the market, being offered under the St. Regis brand.
The total amount of money Trump received from the failed Toronto project is unclear.
Public financial disclosure documents filed by Trump in the U.S. show he collected $1.7 million (U.S.) in management fees from the Toronto project between 2014 and 2016. Walking away from the deal brought Trump’s organization a further payout of at least $6 million (Canadian), according to a 2017 Bloomberg report citing an inside source.
Requests for comment from The Trump Organization went unanswered.
“I don’t know why it failed. It’s a mystery to me,” said the source familiar with the project. “The only thing I can really conclude is the Trump brand didn’t have popularity in Toronto.”
The five letters at the top of the tower came down this summer, amid global headlines and downtown rubbernecking. The hotel has been temporarily renamed the Adelaide in anticipation of a full rebranding next year.
All that remains of Trump’s name now are a few plaques adorning the building’s street-level facade. They’ve been covered with a silver film that doesn’t quite hide the infamous moniker.
Shnaider and the minority investors have dispersed. No one wants to have anything to do with Trump anymore. Even Shnaider, who heavily promoted the tower, now wants to distance himself from its namesake.
“Mr. Shnaider and Mr. Trump met a total of four times in person,” reads a written statement from Shnaider’s spokesperson. “The two did not discuss substantive business issues. They do not have any ongoing relationship.”
With files from Asaf Shalev
How every investor lost money on Trump Tower Toronto (but Donald Trump made millions anyway)
Senior civil servants quietly decided not to kill off email accounts of departing political staff during Dalton McGuinty’s final months in power in case they contained crucial records on the cancellations of two gas plants.
The testimony Friday from cabinet office legal counsel William Bromm underlined officials’ concerns that the premier’s office was not saving documents demanded in freedom of information requests and by a committee of MPPs.
Knowing that a new premier would be taking over in February 2013, top bureaucrats departed from the standard procedure of closing email accounts, Bromm told the criminal trial of two top McGuinty aides accused of deleting documents.
“We were uncomfortable if we just deleted and decommissioned these accounts,” added Bromm.
Asked by Crown prosecutor Sarah Egan why officials, including cabinet office chief administrative officer Linda Jackson, kept this decision from political staff, Bromm, a lawyer, replied candidly.
“We didn’t want to be in a position to be told not to do it.”
Former McGuinty chief of staff David Livingston and his deputy, Laura Miller, have pled not guilty to breach of trust, mischief in relation to data and misuse of a computer system in the alleged wiping of hard drives.
Bromm said the email decision was made in November or early December of 2012, a few weeks after McGuinty prorogued the legislature amid a political furor over the plant cancellations and resigned, triggering a Liberal leadership race.
The cautious approach meant “we could unfreeze . . . and search” the email accounts when the legislature resumed sitting, Bromm said.
He fully expected opposition MPPs dominating legislative committees in the minority parliament to revive legal demands the energy minister produce all documents detailing reasons behind the gas-fired power plant cancellations in Oakville and Mississauga before the 2011 election.
Officials were also aware an opposition motion of contempt of Parliament aimed at then-energy minister Chris Bentley could also be revived, with potentially serious personal legal consequences for him, Bromm said.
He testified that Livingston thought it strange that MPPs could legally demand emails detailing the plant cancellations, which corroborates evidence earlier this week from former cabinet secretary Peter Wallace.
“Mr. Livingston indicated, at the time, he thought that particular power was ridiculous,” Bromm said. “They could, in fact, order a minister to produce any record.”
Wallace testified Monday that Livingston called that power “political bull----.”
In a surprise move, lawyers for the prosecution and defence agreed Friday that a maximum of 400 deleted computer files are at issue in the case — a tiny fraction of the original police estimate.
OPP forensic tests of hard drives recovered from McGuinty’s office through search warrants show White Canyon deletion software was installed on 20 of the 24 computers examined by retired detective Robert Gagnon.
“Of the 632,000 files deleted on these computers, a total of no more than 400 included any user-created content,” Miller lawyer Scott Hutchison said, referring to files created by political staff.
The rest were standard computer programs and similar files, he added.
McGuinty was not a subject of the OPP investigation and co-operated with police.
Civil servants kept emails in case they shed light on McGuinty’s gas plant cancellations
Four people have been arrested following protests in Nathan Phillips Square on Saturday afternoon involving anti-Justin Trudeau and anti-racist demonstrations.
Police officers gathered in the middle of the square, flanked by both demonstrations.
According to Toronto Police Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook, two of the individuals were charged with causing a disturbance, one with assault of a police officer, and the other with having a prohibited weapon that appeared to be a form of pepper or bear spray.
Four people arrested after clashing anti-Trudeau and anti-racism demonstrations at Nathan Phillips Square
Toronto Police say a body has been recovered in a ravine near Black Creek in North York.
Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook said that Saturday morning around 9 a.m. police were called to a ravine by Derrydown Rd., where a body was found. Police say a bystander someone spotted it as they were walking by.
She says that the death is being treated as suspicious, and an autopsy should be completed within the next 24 hours.
The age and sex of the victim have yet to be disclosed and next of kin have not been notified.
Toronto Police find dead body in North York ravine
Police are searching for a suspect after a woman was stabbed in a “random attack” in the Lawrence Park area Saturday.
Const. David Hopkinson said the woman made her own way to hospital and police later found a crime scene at Weybourne Cres. and Dinnick Cres., southeast of Lawrence Ave. E. and Yonge St.
Hopkinson said the woman’s injuries weren’t life-threatening.
Police said the suspect is a white male in his 20s with a thin moustache and skinny, scruffy hair. He wore a black hoodie and is between five feet seven inches and five feet eight inches tall, police said.
Woman stabbed in ‘random attack’ in Lawrence Park
COOPER CITY, FLA.—Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between U.S. President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman, but his three comrades who died with him.
Some of the 1,200 mourners exiting the church after Saturday’s service said the portrait of Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, was joined on stage by photographs of Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Wash.; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Ga. The four died Oct. 4 in Niger when they were attacked by militants tied to Daesh, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Johnson’s family asked reporters to remain outside for the service.
“We have to remember that one thing: that it wasn’t just one soldier who lost his life,” said Berchel Davis, a retired police officer who has six children in the military. He said the preacher and Rep. Frederica Wilson both made that a part of their talks. “That was a good gesture on everyone’s part.”
He and others said the fight between Trump and Wilson was never mentioned during the service.
Johnson’s pregnant widow, Myeshia, had held the arm of an army officer as she led her two young children and her family, dressed in white, into the Christ the Rock Community Church in suburban Fort Lauderdale. The modern hymn “I’m Yours” could be heard coming from inside.
Johnson’s sister, Angela Ghent, said after the service that “it don’t feel real” that her brother was killed.
“It hasn’t hit me yet, I haven’t had time to grieve,” said Ghent, who last spoke to her brother a few weeks before he died. She said she was glad mourners got to hear about her brother’s love for bikes and cars, not just his military service.
The fight between Trump and Wilson had taken the focus off Johnson, whose widow is due to have a daughter in January. Sgt. Johnson told friends she will be named La’Shee. The couple, who were high school sweethearts, already had a 6-year-old daughter, Ah’Leeysa, and 2-year-old son, La David Jr. An online fundraiser has raised more than $600,000 to pay for the children’s education.
Johnson’s mother died when he was 5; he was raised by his aunt. His family enrolled him in 5000 Role Models, a project Wilson began in 1993 when she was an educator where African-American boys are paired with mentors who prepare them for college, vocational school or the military.
“We teach them to be a good man, a good husband and a good father. Sgt. Johnson typified all of those characteristics,” said mourner Carlton Crawl, a public school consultant who is one of the program’s mentors.
In 2013, a year before he enlisted, Johnson was featured in a local television newscast for his ability to do bicycle tricks, earning the nickname “Wheelie King.” He said he learned his tricks by going slow.
“Once you feel comfortable, you could just ride all day,” he told the interviewer.
The war of words between the president and Wilson began Tuesday when the Miami-area Democrat said Trump told Myeshia Johnson in a phone call that her husband “knew what he signed up for” and didn’t appear to know his name, a version later backed up by Johnson’s aunt. Wilson was riding with Johnson’s family to meet the body and heard the call on speakerphone. She was principal of a school Johnson’s father attended.
Trump tweeted Wilson “fabricated” his statement and the fight escalated through the week. Trump in other tweets called her “wacky” and accused her of “SECRETLY” listening to the phone call.
Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, entered the fray Thursday. The retired Marine general asserted that the congresswoman had delivered a 2015 speech at an FBI field office dedication in which she “talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building,” rather than keeping the focus on the fallen agents for which it was named. Video of the speech contradicted his recollection.
Wilson, who is black, fired back Friday when she told The New York Times: “The White House itself is full white supremacists.”
The retorts persisted Saturday morning, with Trump tweeting: “I hope the Fake News Media keeps talking about Wacky Congresswoman Wilson in that she, as a representative, is killing the Democrat Party!”
Mourners remember soldier at centre of Trump fight during Fort Lauderdale funeral
TOKYO—Have North Korea’s nuclear tests become so big that they’ve altered the geological structure of the land? Some analysts now see signs that Mount Mantap, the 7,200-foot-high peak under which North Korea detonates its nuclear bombs, is suffering from “tired mountain syndrome.”
The mountain visibly shifted during the last nuclear test, an enormous detonation that was recorded as a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in North Korea’s northeast. Since then, the area, which is not known for natural seismic activity, has had three more quakes.
“What we are seeing from North Korea looks like some kind of stress in the ground,” said Paul G. Richards, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “In that part of the world, there were stresses in the ground but the explosions have shaken them up.”
Chinese scientists have already warned that further nuclear tests could cause the mountain to collapse and release the radiation from the blast.
North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests since 2006, all of them in tunnels burrowed deep under Mount Mantap at a site known as the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility. Intelligence analysts and experts alike use satellite imagery to keep close track on movement at the three entrances to the tunnels for signals that a test might be coming.
After the latest nuclear test on Sept. 3., Kim Jong Un’s regime claimed that it had set off a hydrogen bomb and that it had been a “perfect success.”
The regime is known for brazen exaggeration, but analysts and many government officials said the size of the earthquake the test generated suggested that North Korea had detonated a thermonuclear device at least 17 times the size of the American bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
It registered as an artificial 6.3-magnitude earthquake so big it shook houses in northeastern China. Eight minutes later, there was a 4.1-magnitude earthquake that appeared to be a tunnel collapsing at the site.
Images captured by Airbus, a space technology company that makes earth observation satellites, showed the mountain literally moving during the test. An 85-acre area on the peak of Mount Mantap visibly subsided during the explosion, an indication of both the size of the blast and the weakness of the mountain.
Since that day, there have been three much smaller quakes at the site, in the two to three magnitude range, each of them setting fears that North Korea had conducted another nuclear test that had perhaps gone wrong. But they all turned out to be natural.
That has analysts Frank V. Pabian and Jack Liu wondering if Mount Mantap is suffering from “tired mountain syndrome,” a diagnosis previously applied to the Soviet Union’s atomic test sites.
“The underground detonation of nuclear explosions considerably alters the properties of the rock mass,” Vitaly V. Adushkin and William Leith wrote in a report on the Soviet tests for the United States Geological Survey in 2001. This leads to fracturing and rocks breaking, and changes along tectonic faults.
Earthquakes also occurred at the U.S.’s nuclear test site in Nevada after detonations there.
“The experience we had from the Nevada test site and decades of monitoring the Soviet Union’s major test sites in Kazakhstan showed that after a very large nuclear explosion, several other significant things can happen,” said Richards. This included cavities collapsing hours or even months later, he said.
Pabian and Liu said that the North Korean test site also seemed to be suffering.
“Based on the severity of the initial blast, the post-test tremors, and the extent of observable surface disturbances, we have to assume that there must have been substantial damage to the existing tunnel network under Mount Mantap,” they wrote in a report for the specialist North Korea website 38 North.
But the degradation of the mountain does not necessarily mean that it would be abandoned as a test site — just as the United States did not abandon the Nevada test site after earthquakes there, they said. Instead, the U.S. kept using the site until a nuclear test moratorium took effect in 1992.
For that reason, analysts will continue to keep a close eye on the Punggye-ri test site to see if North Korea starts excavating there again — a sign of possible preparations for another test.
The previous tests took place through the north portal to the underground tunnels, but even if those tunnels had collapsed, North Korea’s nuclear scientists might still use tunnel complexes linked to the south and west portals, Pabian and Liu said.
Chinese scientists have warned that another test under the mountain could lead to an environmental disaster. If the whole mountain caved in on itself, radiation could escape and drift across the region, said Wang Naiyan, the former chairman of the China Nuclear Society and senior researcher on China’s nuclear weapons program.
“We call it ‘taking the roof off.’ If the mountain collapses and the hole is exposed, it will let out many bad things,” Wang told the South China Morning Post last month.
The recent seismic events have triggered another environmental concern, at least on the internet: that the nuclear tests might trigger the eruption of Mount Paekdu, an active volcano straddling the border between North Korea and China more than 80 miles away. The mountain has not experienced a major eruption for centuries, and its last small rumble was in 1903.
This, experts say, is a stretch.
Volcanic eruptions happen when molten rock flows into the magma chamber under the surface, said Colin Wilson, professor of volcanology at Victoria University in New Zealand.
If an earthquake occurs when the magma is hot and, as Wilson puts it, “ready to roll,” then it could trigger an eruption. But if the molten rock is not activated, then even a large earthquake won’t cause a volcanic eruption.
He cited the Tohoku earthquake in 2011, which had a magnitude of 9 but did not cause any of Japan’s many volcanoes to blow their tops.
“There’s no point in kicking a dead horse,” Wilson said. “If the horse is up and ready and you give it a slap on the bum, it will take off. But if it’s dead, even if you slap it, it’s not going anywhere.”
Experts worried as mountain hosting North Korea’s nuclear blasts shows signs of exhaustionExperts worried as mountain hosting North Korea’s nuclear blasts shows signs of exhaustion
Quen Chow Lee, one of three immigrant litigants who led a class-action lawsuit against Ottawa over its discriminatory Chinese head tax, has died. She was 105.
Born in China in October 18, 1911, Lee was nicknamed “Nooey Quen” — meaning women’s rights in English.
Her toughness helped her overcome war, poverty, a 14-year separation from her husband, and the drawn-out legal battle for government redress, said her son Yew Lee.
“She was a tough lady, determined, committed and stubborn, someone who had a strong sense of justice,” said Lee. “Yet, she was a very loving mother and grandmother.”
A native of Taishan, Chow Lee married to Guang Foo Lee in 1930, when he returned to China from Canada to find a wife. He was born in 1892, also in Taishan, and paid a $500 head tax in 1913 to come to Canada.
After the marriage, Lee only stayed two years in China because Canadian laws then made Chinese people pay another $500 head tax if they were out of the country for too long. He left behind his wife, pregnant with a third child, and two kids.
Between 1885 and 1923, the Canadian government collected a total of $23 million from some 81,000 people under the various forms of the Chinese Immigration Act.
Because of the Second World War and the civil war in China, Chow Lee and her children lost touch with her husband for almost 14 years.
Chow Lee raised the children on her own until after the repeal in 1947 of the Chinese Immigration Act, which had effectively banned Chinese immigration to Canada for more than two decades. Although Chinese wives could now join their husbands in Canada, most had to wait patiently before the family saved enough money for the fares.
“I’ve endured so many years of hardship. We had no money and nothing to eat,” Chow Lee said in the 2004 documentary, In the Shadow of Gold Mountain, by Karen Cho. “Some women remarried farmers from faraway just to survive . . . but I didn’t want to because of my children.”
Chow Lee arrived in Canada with her three children after Christmas in 1950 and settled in Sudbury, Ont. where the family ran a number of restaurants: the Capitol Café, the Star Restaurant, the China House Restaurant, the Empress Tavern and Lee’s Palace.
After her husband passed away in 1967, Chow Lee once again was left to raise her children on her own — now five of them, with the two youngest ones born in Canada.
Growing up, Yew Lee said his mother would pull out a piece of paper from a leather-and-brass box and just looked at it. It was his father’s head tax certificate.
“She kept it in a steamer trunk above the restaurant. She would pull it out many many times. We knew something was wrong and the paper was significant,” Yew Lee recalled. “She always felt the injustice had to be righted.”
Chow Lee was already retired in her late 80s when the family got in touch with the Chinese Canadian National Council, which had spearheaded the redress campaign. She immediately volunteered to be one of the lead claimants of the class-action lawsuit representing the head-tax-payers’ widows.
Chow Lee would travel in her wheelchair to fundraising events and rallies between Toronto and Ottawa to raise public awareness about Canada’s racist past against the Chinese.
“We approached many head-tax-payers and families to sue the government, but many turned down because they were ashamed of it and didn’t want to talk about it. But Mrs. Lee needed no convincing,” said Avvy Go, one of the lawyers involved in the lawsuit. “She was a true inspiration for all of us.”
Although the lawsuit was ultimately dismissed and subsequent appeals were denied, it set into motion talks with the government that ended in an official apology at the House of Commons on June 22, 2006.
Chow Lee was in the audience when then prime minister Stephen Harper apologized in Cantonese to the Chinese-Canadian community.
“Even though we didn’t win the lawsuit, Mrs. Lee never gave up hope. She never had any regret,” said Go. “She used her suffering to propel her to fight injustice and challenge the government head on for its treatment of the Chinese. She was a model not only for the Chinese, but all Canadians.”
Quen Chow Lee, lead plaintiff in lawsuit over Chinese head tax, dies at 105Quen Chow Lee, lead plaintiff in lawsuit over Chinese head tax, dies at 105
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump announced Saturday that he planned to release the tens of thousands of never-before-seen documents left in the files related to president John F. Kennedy’s assassination held by the National Archives and Records Administration.
“Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened,” Trump tweeted.
Kennedy assassination experts have been speculating for weeks about whether Trump would disclose the documents. The 1992 Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act required that the millions of pages — many of them contained in CIA and FBI documents — be published in 25 years, by Oct. 26. Over the years, the National Archives has released most of the documents, either in full or partially redacted.
But one final batch remains, and only the president has the authority to extend the papers’ secrecy past the October deadline.
In his tweet, Trump seemed to strongly imply he was going to release all the remaining documents, but the White House later said that if other government agencies made a strong case not to release the documents, he wouldn’t.
“The president believes that these documents should be made available in the interests of full transparency unless agencies provide a compelling and clear national security or law enforcement justification otherwise,” the White House said in a statement Saturday.
In the days leading up to Trump’s announcement, a National Security Council official told the Washington Post that government agencies were urging the president not to release some of the documents. But Trump’s longtime confidant Roger Stone told conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of Infowars this week that he personally lobbied Trump to publish all of the documents.
Stone also told Jones that CIA Director Mike Pompeo “has been lobbying the president furiously not to release these documents.”
Some Republican lawmakers have also been urging Trump for a full release. Earlier this month, Rep. Walter Jones and Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, brought forward resolutions calling on Trump to “reject any claims for the continued postponement” of the documents.
“No reason 2 keep hidden anymore,” Grassley tweeted earlier this month. “Time 2 let American ppl + historians draw own conclusions.”
Though Kennedy assassination experts say they don’t think the last batch of papers contains any major bombshells, the president’s decision to release the documents could heighten the clarity around the assassination, which has fuelled so many conspiracy theorists, including Trump himself.
In May 2016, while on the presidential campaign trail, Trump gave an interview to Fox News strongly accusing the father of his GOP primary opponent Sen. Ted Cruz of consorting with Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald right before the shooting.
Some Kennedy assassination researchers believe the trove could shed light on a key question that president Lyndon Johnson tried to unsuccessfully put to rest in 1963: did Oswald act alone, or was he aided or propelled by a foreign government?
The records are also said to include details on Oswald’s activities while he was travelling in Mexico City in late September 1963 and courting Cuban and Soviet spies, as well as the CIA’s personality profiles written of Oswald after the assassination.
But some experts fear the history that may be lost forever in unreadable documents in the trove. One listed as “unintelligible” is a secret communication from the CIA to the Office of Naval Intelligence about Oswald in October 1963 — weeks before the assassination. Oswald had been honourably discharged from the Marine Corps in 1959, but he was outraged and made violent threats after learning in October 1963 that the military had changed his discharge to a dishonourable one.
Phil Shenon, who wrote a book about the Warren Commission, the congressional body that investigated Kennedy’s killing, said he was pleased with Trump’s decision to release the documents. But he wonders to what degree the papers will ultimately be released.
“It’s great news that the president is focused on this and that he’s trying to demonstrate transparency. But the question remains whether he will open the library in full — every word in every document, as the law requires,” Shenon said. “And my understanding is that he won’t without infuriating people at the CIA and elsewhere who are determined to keep at least some of the information secret, especially in documents created in the 1990s.”
There are about 3,100 previously unreleased files that hold tens of thousands of pages of new material. The National Archives also has another 30,000 pages of information that have been disclosed before, but only partially and with redactions.
Jefferson Morley, a former Post reporter who has studied the Kennedy assassination records for years, said the last tranche of material is also intriguing because it contains files on senior CIA officials from the 1960s — officers well aware of Oswald’s activities in the days before the assassination.
He specifically pointed to the files of former CIA officers William Harvey and David Phillips. Morley said Harvey led the agency’s assassinations operations and feuded constantly with Kennedy’s brother, Robert F. Kennedy, over the administration’s crisis with Cuba. Phillips, Morley said, oversaw the agency’s operations against Cuban president Fidel Castro and was deeply familiar with the CIA’s surveillance of Oswald in Mexico City.
“What’s in those files could tell us how those men did their jobs,” said Morley, who wrote a 2008 book on the agency’s Mexico City station chief. “There might be stuff on why we were interested in the Cuban consulate, how we surveilled the consulate, how we did our audio work and how did we recruit spies there?
“We might understand much better why they were watching Oswald.”
With files from John Wagner and Carol Leonnig.
Trump plans to release last cache of secret JFK assassination files
Sports scientists and gear manufacturers spend their days coming up with new ways to make running faster, easier and healthier.
Ed Whitlock ignored every single one of their innovations.
That’s a big part of what made the legendary runner so appealing and his dozens of world record runs on the track and road so astonishing.
He didn’t follow a special diet, he didn’t cross-train or stretch, he didn’t have a coach and he didn’t use any of the latest running gear.
He simply ran as long as he could in training and as fast as he could in a race, firm in his belief that people can do far more than they think they can. And, in the process, he redefined what’s possible for runners at any age.
Whitlock, who died of prostate cancer in March, a week after his 86th birthday, remains the only runner in the world over 70 years of age to run a sub-three-hour marathon and the oldest man, at 85, to run a sub-four-hour one.
Those world records along with another of his will be honoured with special pace groups at Sunday’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
“I’m 43 years old and this will be my 18th marathon and the only one of Ed’s paces that I could comfortably do was the one when he was 85 and had cancer,” says Ben Kaplan, who will lead the three-hour, 56-minute group.
“It’s unbelievable and the notion of walking in his footsteps fills me with awe and wonderment,” says Kaplan, manager of iRun magazine.
Two other runners will lead groups at Whitlock’s 2:54 marathon record, which he set when he was 73 years old and, if age-graded, is considered by many to be one of the fastest marathons ever run, and his 3:15 record set when he was 80. Pacers run specific times to help other runners achieve their race goals.
Whitlock was really on his third running career when he started consistently setting world records in middle distances on the track all the way up to the marathon.
He ran as a young man in England — in the same era that Roger Bannister was chasing the four-minute mile — before giving it up when he moved to Canada to work as a mining engineer in 1952.
He ran for a time in his 40s when his son, Clive, decided he wanted to run a marathon. And, finally, he picked it up again after he retired and — on the strength of his three-hour training runs in loops around the cemetery near his home in Milton — set the record books ablaze.
Kaplan begged him to write an advice column for the magazine.
He wouldn’t, saying simply: “I don’t know if what I’m doing is good for me let alone tell anybody else what to do.”
Whitlock was an unusual combination of being a humble man who very much wanted to set world records.
“Your dad has a nasty competitive streak,” Neil Whitlock recalls his mom once telling him.
“He ran races to perform well, to beat the other person, to set records. It was not about health and fitness, it was all about performance,” he says.
“But (that competitive streak) never came out in anything else he did — he never let on there was this driving force beneath the water.”
Nick Croker, a member of Black Lungs Toronto, a competitive distance running club, will pace Whitlock’s most revered marathon record.
“I hope when I’m 73 I’m still able to run, that would be enough for me, to run 2:54 is mind boggling, really,” Croker says.
It’s a fast time, falling 10 minutes under the qualifying standard for the fastest of runners at the Boston Marathon, the ultimate goal for many recreational runners.
Noel Guy, from the Longboat Roadrunners, will pace 3:15, Whitlock’s world record for the 80-85 age group.
Croker and Guy are among the many fans of Whitlock’s low-tech approach.
“It says something about running, it’s a simple sport and sometimes we make it too complicated by trying to be fancy,” Croker says.
“If you just run you’ll get a lot of success.”
Still, he says he may borrow a GPS watch on race day to make doubly sure he’s on pace to deliver runners across the line right on time. No pacer wants to miss the mark and certainly not one running in remembrance of Whitlock.
Croker’s last conversation with Whitlock came at the Canadian Masters Championships in 2016 just weeks after he’d set a 5,000-metre world record at the Ontario Masters Championships.
“I asked him if he’d set a world record this time, too, and he was very modest saying, no, no he was slow this time, he didn’t set a world record. Not many have a bad day because they didn’t set a world record.”
To the running community, Whitlock is one of the world’s all-time greats.
“It’s a little bit difficult to wrap my head around the public figure my dad is because to me he’s just dad,” says Neil Whitlock.
As to what his dad would make of the signing wall and display cabinets of his memorabilia at the race expo, the planned minute of silence at the start of Sunday’s race and the pace groups running his records, his son isn’t sure.
“I think he might have been a bit embarrassed — ‘Why are you making such a big fuss about me?’ sort of thing.”
But if there’s Whitlock legacy to be had, he says, it should be this: “There’s no reason to give up or to quit running and age shouldn’t be a barrier. The times my dad ran may have been exceptional but I think it indicates that you don’t have to let age be something that slows you down.”
Late running superstar Ed Whitlock still sets pace at Toronto Waterfront Marathon