Articles on this Page
- 10/29/17--17:47: _Breast density is a...
- 10/29/17--17:38: _Toronto-York Spadin...
- 11/01/17--11:59: _Laura Babcock had a...
- 11/01/17--10:20: _Ten years after he ...
- 11/01/17--15:34: _Cross Australia's A...
- 11/01/17--14:57: _Chris Spence fights...
- 11/01/17--17:05: _What awaits special...
- 11/01/17--12:44: _Ryerson’s student c...
- 11/01/17--16:43: _Province intervenin...
- 11/01/17--16:05: _‘I haven’t been abl...
- 11/01/17--03:20: _At least 3 dead aft...
- 11/01/17--15:57: _Trump blames son-in...
- 11/01/17--15:11: _Canada to deploy mo...
- 11/01/17--16:57: _With 9 shots this N...
- 11/01/17--15:15: _Yukon has quietly s...
- 11/01/17--18:31: _2 killed, 1 injured...
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- 11/01/17--20:26: _Competition Bureau’...
- 11/01/17--18:56: _Ballet Victoria cut...
- 11/02/17--03:00: _Little Elizabeth Lu...
- 11/01/17--14:57: Chris Spence fights to keep his PhD amid plagiarism findings
- 11/01/17--17:05: What awaits special envoy Bob Rae as he arrives in Burma?
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When Naomi Pickersgill was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, it was a shock.
Just 35 days earlier, a mammogram scan of her breasts had come back normal.
It was only after an offhand remark by a specialist prompted her to research on the internet, that Pickersgill found out her mammogram, given as part of the Ontario Breast Screening Program, may not have revealed her cancer due to the density of her breasts.
The 54-year-old Stratford woman’s breasts were more glandular than fatty, making it difficult for radiologists to spot the tumours.
Like dense tissue, tumours also appear solid and white on a mammogram.
Pickersgill, who later had a mastectomy and is undergoing cancer treatment, was never told that her mammogram report indicated she had “close to a high density breast.” No one told her that this put her at an increased risk for developing breast cancer or that alternate screening tests were available, she said.
“If I had known then maybe I could have been more proactive,” she said. Among her options would have been to seek out an MRI or an ultrasound, two tests that are better at detecting cancer in dense breasts.
“I wasn’t empowered as a patient.”
Pickersgill isn’t alone. Her voice joins those of other women who believe their breast cancer may have been missed by mammogram due to the dense tissue. They say that without knowing about this risk factor, they were unable to advocate for themselves.
Breast “density is one of the strongest risk factors for breast cancer,” according to Cancer Care Ontario, the Ontario government’s principal adviser on cancer and chronic kidney disease care in the province. The problem, the Star found, is that if a woman has a breast density of just under 75 per cent, the patient is usually not told.
It is widely known, according to several experts the Star spoke with, that women with the densest breasts are twice as likely as women with average density to develop breast cancer. For them, mammography can be less accurate at finding their cancers.
In Ontario, women between 50 and 75 years old who have mammograms are notified by mail, and provided a fact sheet on breast density, if the tissue in their breasts is 75 per cent or more fibroglandular rather than fatty tissue. The fibrous tissue blocks X-rays more than fat. These women are also recalled for a mammogram every year, as opposed to the screening program’s standard of every two years, and the value of this is also questioned by critics who say that another mammogram a year later may not be the best solution.
But there is no protocol in the province mandating that women be informed by the breast screening program about density that is below 75 per cent but still high enough to raise a concern.
Across Canada, standards vary by province. Doctors in some provinces are provided with more information than in other provinces. Some doctors might share the information with their patients. Others may not.
Dense Breasts Canada, a group of breast cancer survivors and health-care workers dedicated to raising awareness about breast density, is fighting for mandatory notification of breast density across the country, to both patients and their doctors.
They are also pushing for a breast ultrasound for patients whose breasts are greater than 75 per cent fibroglandular tissue. Currently, this additional test, which is less susceptible to breast density’s masking effects, is not part of the provincial screening program. Instead, patients are sent for another mammogram one year earlier than normal.
Jennie Dale, Dense Breasts Canada co-founder, said women can be lulled into a “false sense of security” when negative mammogram results arrive in the mail. Failing to inform women about their breast density is like “withholding information that can affect their lives,” she said. “It’s kept a secret. This is about your health. It’s your right to know.”
Radiologist Paula Gordon, a University of British Columbia clinical professor and medical adviser to Dense Breasts Canada, said it is “patronizing” not to notify women of this risk factor.
Doctors regularly disclose other risk factors that could lead to further testing, such as measures of cholesterol and blood pressure, she said, adding that breast density is as strong a risk factor for breast cancer as is family history.
Knowing the level of their breast density may prompt women to take better care of themselves, conduct self-exams more regularly, perhaps watch their weight and exercise, which could mitigate an increased risk of developing breast cancer,” Gordon said. “It’s information women need to know.”
In terms of additional testing for dense breasts, Gordon said there is ample research showing that a breast ultrasound detects cancers missed by mammograms and that the earlier these cancers are found the greater the options for treatment. And the better the prognosis for the patient.
In British Columbia, where Gordon practices, breast density, captured by a radiologist under that province’s screening program, is not communicated to the patient or her doctor. A high density score likewise does not trigger a mail-out fact sheet or more frequent screening.
According to Cancer Care Ontario, radiologists interpreting mammograms as part of Ontario’s breast screening program do not grade each breast for specific levels of density. Rather, they only note whether a breast is over or under 75 per cent fibroglandular tissue, simply ticking off one of two boxes: “Breast density ≥ 75%” or “Breast density < 75 %”
On mammograms performed outside the confines of the screening program — mammograms used to locate known tumours, or screens requested by women who are not in the screening program — radiologists may score breasts on a four-point scale, according to radiologist Jean Seely, executive member of the breast imaging working group for the Canadian Association of Radiologists and chair of the newly created Canadian Society of Breast Imaging, an organization designed to provide advocacy and standardization across Canada for breast imaging.
The ratings on that four point scale range from a) “almost entirely fatty” to d), “the breasts are extremely dense, which lowers the sensitivity of mammography.”
But those scores, including c) “the breasts are heterogeneously dense, which may obscure small masses,” are not routinely communicated to the patient, Seely said.
In the U.S., 30 states have adopted breast density notification laws, making it mandatory for doctors to discuss the issue with their patients and tell them if they are above 50 per cent breast density, according to U.S. radiologist Debra Monticciolo, chair of the Commission on Breast Imaging for the American College of Radiology.
Dr. Derek Muradali, head of Breast Imaging at the University of Toronto and radiologist-in-chief for the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP), told the Star in an interview that he is “not quite sure of the rationale behind” the U.S. notification laws.
While he agrees mammograms are “not perfect” and breast cancers can hide in dense tissue, he doesn’t support more or different testing simply because a woman has dense breasts — something he said fluctuates over time (breasts typically become fattier with age, he said).
He said about 10 per cent of women in the provincial screening program have breasts that are 75 per cent or more glandular tissue.
Doctors can send patients for different kinds of tests if they are deemed high risk, have the BRCA gene that indicates a family history of breast cancer, or if there’s an aberration on the mammogram that merits further investigation, he said.
If these high-risk women can’t have an MRI, another test to screen for breast cancer that is not susceptible to the effects of density, for medical reasons (they may not be able to tolerate the dye injection) they can have an ultrasound, Muradali said. “Apart from this, based on the scientific literature, there is no reason to perform a screening breast ultrasound,” he said.
According to Cancer Care Ontario, there is “insufficient evidence” to recommend a breast ultrasound or MRI for women other than those at high risk for breast cancer.”
Muradali said his concern is that extra testing could lead to “false positives” and “harm,” such as needless biopsies and worry.
On informing women of their breast density, he said: “If women are informed of breast density they should be informed of it such that they shouldn’t experience any anxiety because of it.”
Martin Yaffe, a University of Toronto professor and cancer researcher at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre who has been studying breast density for 25 years and helped develop Ontario’s breast screening guidelines, said the province should take a common-sense approach and develop guidelines for supplementary screening, which include testing with breast ultrasound or MRI.
He said that since mammograms tend to be less accurate at detecting cancers in women with dense breasts, doing them more frequently — as in, every year as opposed to the screening program’s every two years — is “not the right answer.”
Yaffe suspects that the cost and availability of supplementary screening may have something to do with the province’s reluctance to make additional testing part of the protocol. Right now, the only way for a patient to have additional screening is for them to “push” for it, he said. “Women have to do their own homework and be their own advocates.”
In December Just over a month after her mammogram indicated she was in the clear, Pickersgill noticed swollen lymph nodes in her neck. Her cancer, diagnosed as invasive lobular carcinoma, a less common form of breast cancer, had already metastasized, she said. She had a single mastectomy a few months later, and a second mastectomy a year later.
It wasn’t until she heard the oncologist talk about density briefly, in the winter of this year, that Pickersgill said she marched into her family doctor’s office and demanded to see her file.
Flipping through the pages, she noticed that in 2012, when a mammogram detected cysts in one breast, a radiologist noted she had some density in both of her breasts. She was sent for a screening ultrasound. She trusted that her doctors were telling her everything she needed to know and were doing all they could.
While her cancer has spread to her spine, it is under control right now and still treatable. But it could take over and take her life at any time, she said.
“Find out what your breast density is,” she said. “If you do have dense tissue, you need to be aware of it. We need to be aware of our bodies.”
Another women’s experience shows the importance of more detailed screening.
When Jodie Sonnenburg, 49, an elementary school teacher in Ottawa, felt a lump in her right breast in March 2016, she told her doctor, who sent her for a mammogram. The test came back clear. Knowing her mammogram was negative, she didn’t panic when, a few months later, Sonnenburg noticed the lump under her arm was making her skin dimple slightly differently. “Again, I wasn’t worried,” she said. “I had done my due diligence by having my annual mammogram, right?”
This time, her doctor sent her for an ultrasound. Immediately after performing the ultrasound test, the technician took her over to the mammography machine. Two weeks later, she met with her doctor who shared the results. The ultrasound showed her tumour but the mammogram on the same day did not pick it up. A few weeks after that she was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.
Sonnenburg said she always knew she had dense breasts, but she didn’t know what that meant or that it was a risk factor.
“Knowing that my breasts were so dense, why wasn’t I offered an ultrasound in the first place?” she asks now. “Had I known the correlation, I would have most certainly insisted. It could have been caught so much earlier.”
Jennifer Young, president-elect for Ontario’s College of Family Physicians, said that physicians are all different when it comes to communicating information to patients, and deciding what information to discuss. Likewise, all patients are different, she said, and have varied desires for information. Young said physicians try their best to establish a relationship with each patient and use that to guide what to talk about.
“I have not read any studies that convinced me that I need to increase a woman’s anxiety about her breasts if I don’t have to,” she said about discussing the issue of notifying women about moderate breast density. Young said she does believe women should be notified about density over 75 per cent. “There’s enough stuff out there that people can feel anxious about,” she said.
The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care is slated to release new breast cancer screening guidelines in 2018. The task force is not in a position to comment until the guidelines are completed and released, an email to the Star from the task force, said.
Breast density is a risk women need to know about, cancer survivor group says
Dazzling. Thrilling. Breathtaking.
You wouldn’t normally associate such adjectives with a TTC station. But that was actually the typical reaction Saturday when the public got a sneak peek at three new stations on the long-awaited Toronto-York Spadina subway extension, on track to open Dec. 17.
“It’s just so unique; it really stands out,” said Israel Mbevi, while outside the new Pioneer Village station on Steeles Ave. W. in the rain with his 12-year-old son Baraka.
“We came here from Mississauga on a rainy day just to see this. He loves anything to do with trains,” Mbevi said.
The trains aren’t in service yet, so shuttle buses ferried droves of curiosity seekers, transit buffs, train fanatics and long-suffering commuters from Sheppard West station, on the western side of the Yonge-University line, up to the Pioneer Village, Highway 407 and Vaughan Metropolitan Centre stations.
Officials said by the halfway point of the four-hour open house that more than 2,000 people had already visited the stations.
The six-stop, 8.6-kilometre extension has been in the works for over a decade and was beset by a two-year delay and cost overruns that ballooned to $3.2 billion from $2.63 billion.
Gary David Brown said he was “attracted by the novelty of it, and just curious to see how our tax dollars are being spent.”
Spectators were wowed by the ultra-modern architecture and design touches including huge skylights, reflective ceilings, a giant stained-glass mural, terrazzo flooring and slanted columns on the platform and brass railings that include a ledge for cyclists to just glide their bikes down the stairs beside them to get to the train.
Each has a dramatically different design to reflect the character of the nearby community, said project director Keith Sibley, whose project management firm Bechtel took over in 2015.
“I’m happy to say we’re in position to open Dec. 17th,” he said.
Sibley noted how people told him that the massive brown chandelier at Pioneer Village station resembles “the sesame seed bun on a Big Mac, or a very big mushroom.”
“People are saying the 407 station looks like a spaceship has landed,” noted Sibley, who was thrilled with the turnout and all the questions he was being asked.
With less than 50 days to go before opening day on the line, visitors were scooping up TTC memorabilia for sale at Pioneer Village station while a two-piece band played “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” for all the kids running around. People talked to the architects and transit officials while York University had recruiters on sight and of course there was an information stand for Black Creek Pioneer Village, a 10-minute walk from the station.
The other three stops on the highly anticipated extension will include Finch West, Downsview Park and York University.
With his two children in tow, Toronto shop teacher David Hann said he was pleased to see it all finally come to fruition, though oo late for his sister, who endured the dreaded commute to the remote York University campus where she attended school.
“It was one of the reasons I went to U of T,” he said with a laugh.
“It’s also been . . . years since we saw the last subway line built, and I was in high school then, so it’s been a while,” he said, referring to the Sheppard subway line.
Toronto-York Spadina subway extension lures crowds with station sneak peeks
It took an Ontario prosecutor 10 minutes to read through a lifetime of pain for Laura Babcock.
Crown attorney Jill Cameron walked the jury in her murder trial through the young woman’s mental-health records, which detailed more than a dozen visits to specialists in the year leading up to her disappearance in the summer of 2012.
“She feels no one loves or cares about her,” reads a note from a psychiatrist at Toronto’s St. Joseph’s Health Centre on April 29, 2012.
She banged her head against the wall to relieve her “extreme anxiety,” and she lived with an overwhelming fear of death since childhood, read another.
Babcock’s mother, Linda, closed her eyes and bowed her head as she sat in the packed courtroom on Wednesday. Her father, Clayton, rubbed his temples and clenched his jaw.
The Crown contends Dellen Millard, 32, of Toronto, and Mark Smich, 30 of Oakville killed Babcock and burned her body in an industrial incinerator because she was the odd woman out in a love triangle with Millard and his girlfriend.
They believe she was killed on July 3 or 4, 2012. Her body has not been found. Both Millard and Smich have pleaded not guilty.
Millard, who is representing himself, has said he didn’t care much about his girlfriend at the time or about her feud with Babcock. Court has heard there was bad blood between the two women.
Babcock’s mental-health records came as an admission in court agreed upon by the prosecution and both accused.
“We had a stack of documents from Ms. Babcock’s various mental-health treatments at three different hospitals that she had attended as an outpatient and on one occasion as an inpatient,” Justice Michael Code told the jury.
They boiled her records down to eight pages that only detail the time from August 2011 to April 2012.
Babcock lived through extreme anxiety, depression and borderline personality disorder, the records state. She purged herself. She cried all the time and she obsessed over death.
“Her major concern is death and what would happen after she dies,” reads a note from a nurse at William Osler Health Centre in Etobicoke on Aug. 18, 2011.
The next day, Babcock told a social worker at the same hospital that she has had negative thoughts since she was 5 years old.
“Does not want to die, but likes to see blood. Some days she believes anything is doable,” reads one note from a doctor at William Osler on Sept. 15, 2011.
She would blame her parents for not understanding her. Then she’d take it back.
On Jan. 20, 2012, a note from her file at a Toronto mental-health hospital reads: “Long-standing history of worthlessness and emptiness.”
She told a nurse on March 14, 2012, that she sometimes wished to die, but on several other occasions she told hospital staff she did not contemplate suicide.
Babcock told one psychiatrist she felt misunderstood. She accused her parents of not believing her most recent diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.
“She would sometimes state that it’s not until she’s dead that people would realize she had an illness,” said a note from a psychiatrist on April 29, 2012.
At that, Babcock’s mother breathed deeply, shaking her head.
Laura Babcock had an intense fear of death since childhood, court hears in murder trial for Dellen Millard and Mark Smich
In a rare move, a Toronto man will face a third trial for the same murder.
“The Crown is intending to proceed with this prosecution,” Crown attorney Julie Battersby told a Superior Court judge Wednesday, in the case of Warren Nigel Abbey, who was sitting in the prisoner's box.
Abbey is accused of first-degree murder in the execution-style shooting death of Simeon Peter, 19, in Scarborough in 2004. His lawyer declined to comment to the Star on Wednesday.
Abbey was acquitted at his first trial in 2007, but after the Crown appealed, he was tried a second time in 2011, at which point he was found guilty. Then Abbey appealed, and last summer, the Ontario Court of Appeal ordered that he should face a new trial.
The decision to proceed to a third trial was ultimately at the discretion of the Crown, which could have chosen to withdraw the charge. The new trial may prove to be an uphill battle for prosecutors, who find themselves without a key part of their evidence against Abbey following the Court of Appeal ruling in August.
The Crown had alleged at Abbey's second trial that he was an associate of the Malvern Crew gang who shot and killed Peter, mistakenly believing he was a member of the rival Galloway Boys, and that Abbey had a teardrop tattooed under his right eye about four months later.
Testifying for the Crown, sociologist Mark Totten said a teardrop tattoo meant one of three things: the individual had lost a loved one or fellow gang member, had spent time in prison or had killed a rival gang member.
But Ontario's top court came down hard on Totten in their ruling overturning Abbey's conviction. After the defence raised “fresh evidence” — issues surrounding Totten's research and testimony — the court found Totten's testimony contained “inaccuracies” and even “falsehoods.”
A three-judge panel found his evidence “unreliable,” that he “misrepresented” the sample size of gang members in some of his studies, and that statistics he provided on the stand about gang members with teardrop tattoos are nowhere to be found in his studies.
“I have concluded that the fresh evidence shows Totten's opinion evidence on the meaning of a teardrop tattoo to be too unreliable to be heard by a jury. If the trial judge had known about the fresh evidence he would have ruled Totten's evidence inadmissible,” Court of Appeal Justice John Laskin wrote for the panel.
“And the absence of Totten's evidence would reasonably be expected to have affected the jury's verdict. I would admit the fresh evidence, allow Abbey's appeal, overturn his conviction and order a new trial.”
Indeed, at Abbey's first trial, the Crown was barred by the judge from having Totten give evidence, and the jury ended up acquitting Abbey.
There is other Crown evidence, but Laskin noted in his ruling that the rest of the Crown's case “was not overly strong,” and included poor eyewitness testimony and “problematic” evidence from three Malvern Crew members whose testimony implicated Abbey. Two of them testified in exchange for being granted immunity on a number of serious offences, while the third member refused to testify at the second trial.
It was ironic that the Court of Appeal ordered a third trial due to Totten's evidence, given the fact that it was the Court of Appeal — albeit a different panel of judges — that allowed the Crown's appeal and ordered a second trial in 2009, finding that Totten should have been allowed to give evidence on teardrop tattoos. (The issues about Totten's evidence that were before the top court this year were not before it in 2009.)
Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel in 2009, Justice David Doherty said that viewed cumulatively, Totten's evidence along with the evidence of Malvern Crew members about the meaning of teardrop tattoos “could reasonably present a compelling picture for the Crown.”
“I do not suggest that a jury would necessarily take that view of the excluded evidence,” he wrote. “I say only that a reasonable jury could take that view. If it did, the verdict could very well be different.”
And it was. Abbey was convicted of first-degree murder by a jury at his second trial in 2011, and sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole for 25 years.
A date for his third trial will be set Dec. 5.
Ten years after he was acquitted, this Toronto man faces a third trial for the same murderTen years after he was acquitted, this Toronto man faces a third trial for the same murder
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—Visitors to Uluru, a giant sandstone slab jutting from the central Australian desert, have for decades ignored a sign at the rock’s base that politely reads: “Please don’t climb.”
On Wednesday, the board members of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which manages the popular site also known as Ayers Rock, said they would soon stop requesting that hikers respect the landmark. Instead, they will demand it.
Beginning in 2019, climbing Uluru, which is considered sacred to the region’s Indigenous Anangu people, will be banned, the board said.
“It is an extremely important place,” said Sammy Wilson, an Indigenous community representative who sits on the park’s board and is what is known as a traditional owner. Uluru, he said, is “not a theme park like Disneyland.”
Climbing the 347-metre-tall rock in Australia’s Northern Territory will be banned as of Oct. 26, 2019, a historically significant date for the site. On that day in 1985, the government returned ownership of Uluru to the Anangu people. As part of that agreement, the Anangu lease the site back to the government, and the two parties jointly manage it.
Uluru has, for many in Australia, come to symbolize the struggle for Indigenous rights. Mr. Wilson said some people in the government wanted to keep the rock open to hikers, but “it’s not their law that lies in this land.”
Traditional owners do not climb Uluru out of respect, and they worry that hiking will damage the stone. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There has been opposition to the climbing ban. Last year, Adam Giles, a politician with an Indigenous heritage who was then the Northern Territory chief minister, called the idea “ludicrous.”
But Sally Barnes, Australia’s director of national parks, said it was a “significant moment for all Australians” that “marks a new chapter in our history.”
“It clearly says we put country and culture first when managing this place for all Australians and our visitors from around the world,” she said on Wednesday.
About 250,000 people visit Uluru every year, according to the park’s website. In recent years, the number of visitors wishing to climb the rock has dropped significantly, to less than 20 per cent, according to Ms. Barnes. Tour operators now offer alternatives to climbing Uluru, including camel tours around its base.
“The best view of Uluru is from the bottom,” one social media user said on Wednesday.
Cross Australia's Ayers Rock off your bucket list, all climbing will be banned starting in 2019
When allegations of plagiarism exploded in early 2013, Chris Spence lost his sterling reputation and his job leading Canada’s largest school board.
Last year, he was stripped of his teaching licence, and in June, a University of Toronto tribunal recommended his PhD be revoked.
But Spence, disgraced former director of the Toronto District School Board, continues to fight back.
On Thursday, his lawyers will appeal the June decision by an independent tribunal at U of T, which found him guilty of plagiarism in his dissertation, and recommended he lose his PhD and be expelled.
That ruling was made after the tribunal was presented with 67 examples of passages in Spence’s paper that were not properly credited to others or cited as sources.
But Spence’s notice of appeal argues the tribunal erred by failing to grant an adjournment when he was unable to attend the proceedings for medical reasons. As a result, Spence was “denied the opportunity to present a full defence,” says the notice.
It alleges potential bias on the part of the tribunal chair, a conflict of interest by the university’s law firm and concludes the penalty recommended “was excessive” and didn’t properly consider Spence’s circumstances or less severe options.
Spence, currently living in Chicago, is not required or expected to attend the Thursday appeal, his lawyer Darryl Singer said in an email.
The U of T hearing in June came after years of procedural delays by Spence’s previous lawyers. When Spence did not appear, his lawyer at the time, Carol Shirtliff-Hinds, requested yet another postponement, arguing she was concerned for his mental state and was unable to get clear instructions from him about his defence. That request was denied.
Spence also cited medical reasons last year when he didn’t appear in front of the Ontario College of Teachers disciplinary committee, which later imposed its harshest penalty by revoking his teaching licence.
Spence has filed an appeal of that decision through Ontario divisional court.
The fallout has been going on for almost five years since the first allegations in January 2013 that Spence had lifted passages of other writers’ work without crediting them in newspaper articles, including in the Star, as well as blogs and books.
Spence has had some loyal supporters who cite his dedication to students, particularly at-risk youth, and argue the penalty imposed by the college was too harsh.
However, a crowdfunding website launched last spring as part of what was dubbed “the Spence Defence” to help cover legal costs fell far short of its goal.
“I’m not involved any more,” said Bruce Davis, a former TDSB chair who conducted an interview posted online last May as part of the “Let Spence Teach” campaign.
“I still believe the (Ontario College of Teachers) punishment was disproportionate. Really, Chris has got to take the lead to defend his reputation.”
Chris Spence fights to keep his PhD amid plagiarism findings
OTTAWA—Picture 2,300 football fields side-by-side, home to hundreds of thousands of people living under bamboo and plastic sheeting — no flushing toilets or running water to be found.
More than two-thirds are women and children, many of whom were victims of sexual violence or some continuing form of exploitation. Much of the area used to be forested but the trees have been cut to make way for the shelters, so the occasional rampaging wild elephant tramples through.
That’s how Michael Dunford describes what’s become of Bangladesh’s lush, southeastern countryside since late August when 600,000 traumatized Rohingya Muslims fled Burma in what’s been described by many — including Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland — as ethnic cleansing. They’ve swelled the ranks of fleeing Rohingya in Bangladesh to 900,000.
That’s just some of the scene that awaits Bob Rae, Canada’s newly appointed special envoy to the Rohingya refugee crisis. The former Ontario premier and ex-interim Liberal leader arrived Wednesday in the South Asian region as Burma’s fleeing Muslim population continues to seek refuge in Bangladesh, already one of the world’s poorest countries.
“The population is the equivalent of the size of Washington, D.C., yet there is nothing there at the moment,” said Dunford, the emergency co-ordinator for the UN World Food Program in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
“All of us are trying to remember when anything on this scale happened previously,” he said. “It’s probably not since the mid-90s with the Great Lakes and Rwanda that we have seen anything on this scale.”
Conrad Sauve, president of the Canadian Red Cross, described other formidable environmental hurdles: it’s now the rainy season, which means the area is caked in mud.
“This is a place prone to hurricanes as well,” Sauve added.
In a series of interviews, Sauve, Dunford and other international aid workers described the speed and surprise of the squalor that has engulfed Bangladesh since the Aug. 25 influx of Rohingya Muslims, triggered by insurgent attacks on police posts in Burma. That led to a brutal response by the country’s armed forces, aided by Buddhist mobs.
Aid agencies say 70 per cent of those fleeing are women and children. There are many reports of young girls and their mothers facing sexual assaults as they fled, as their villages burned while they watched their husbands killed. After days of hiking through the wilderness, they are arriving in Bangladesh emaciated and traumatized.
Sauve recalled meeting a 10-year-old boy at a Red Cross field hospital earlier this week who had arrived with his two-year-old brother — and no other family member. After giving him some medical attention, the Red Cross dispatched a social worker to follow up and see where the two boys were living.
“We found out who the adult was and whether this was a safe environment for the child,” Sauve said, since unaccompanied children are often targets for sexual exploitation and cheap labour.
Iljitsj Wemerman, a Dutch member of CARE International’s rapid response team, has covered crises in Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere over the last decade, but he’s been struck by what he’s seen in his first month in Bangladesh.
“All these crises, they’re very bad, but what I see here, the number of children, and the mothers, it’s really shocking,” said Wemerman.
“You can see it in their faces: they’ve experienced a lot of things. They are traumatized. They don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The indignities continue, said Wemerman, who pointed out that 200 people are being forced to share a single latrine — makeshift bathrooms that aren’t particularly private.
That is forcing some women to avoid drinking water during the day “because they fear going to the latrines, which do not provide any privacy whatsoever.”
A predominant conversation taking place on the ground right now is how an eventual transition to a more permanent setup can be accomplished given that the Rohingya won’t be going home any time soon, said Sauve.
“What we’re hearing from the government is the idea of building a mega-camp, a city basically. It’s not clear when that will happen. The challenge is again is around sanitation, which is a big issue.”
Fred Witteveen, the Bangladesh country director for World Vision, said the unfolding humanitarian crisis — “instant North York without an infrastructure” — needs to be addressed diplomatically, and Rae’s presence could help.
“It’s important for him the see the reality on the ground. It really helps to form a picture of a desperate situation,” said Witteveen, a long-time Toronto resident.
“It will inform whatever conversations he has at a very high level.”
What awaits special envoy Bob Rae as he arrives in Burma?
A publicly funded building that opened two years ago is inaccessible to people with disabilities and is another example of how weak provincial regulations are failing to ensure new buildings can be used by everyone, says a Toronto lawyer.
Ryerson University’s $112-million Student Learning Centre poses safety risks for people with disabilities, advocate David Lepofsky says.
Lepofsky released a video showing how Ryerson’s building poses what he says are risks for people with blindness, low vision, mobility disabilities, dyslexia and balance issues.
The video follows Lepofsky walking with his white cane trying to navigate the centre’s steep staircases and student socializing areas. Several times in the video, he walks into pillars, including one that stands in the middle of the staircase in the path of a handrail.
Two other pillars lean in an angled position, one in front of an elevator and next to a ramp so it’s difficult for a walking stick to detect.
“Ryerson tried to do the right thing, they wanted to make the building accessible,” said Lepofsky, head of a grassroots alliance that monitors progress on the province’s landmark Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
“But the problem is twofold — one: Ontario’s building laws are weak and don’t require buildings to meet the needs of those with disabilities and two: architects are not properly trained in accessibility and nor do they give it priority.”
The eight-storey structure, which opened in February 2015 at the corner of Yonge and Gould Sts., provides space on campus for students to socialize and work. The building won an award from the Canadian Architect Magazine for its proposed design in 2012.
It was designed by the architectural team of Zeidler and Snøhetta. Zeidler Partnership Architects could not be reached for comment, while a spokesperson for Snøhetta directed all questions to Ryerson.
Andreas Kyprianou, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Accessibility, said the province is well on its way to remove barriers so that people with disabilities can participate in all aspects of daily life but recognizes that there is more to do.
“Accessibility in buildings, including accessible washrooms, wheelchair ramps, and elevators, are regulated by Ontario’s Building Code and is administered by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs,” Kyprianou said in an email. “It is the responsibility of municipalities to enforce the Building Code, including reviewing building plans, issuing permits, and conducting construction inspections.”
A spokesperson for Ryerson said the university has been taking immediate measures to make the Student Learning Centre more accessible.
“The SLC held an open, community wide charrette to hear concerns and share ideas on how to improve accessibility at the SLC,” said spokesperson Johanna VanderMaas. “Ryerson University is committed to providing an accessible learning and employment environment for students, employees and members of the Ryerson community.”
It’s the second time that Lepofsky has used a video to show his concerns regarding accessibility laws and new buildings in Ontario. Lepofsky made a video last year showing accessibility issues at Centennial College’s Culinary Arts Centre shortly after it opened.
In his video released Sunday, Lepofsky highlights how the Ryerson building poses risks for people with blindness, low vision, mobility disabilities, dyslexia and balance issues.
Lepofsky argues that many of the accessibility issues could have been easily avoided but that architects and designers gave priority to the building’s aesthetic look instead of focusing on whether it can be used by everyone.
The video shows Lepofsky walking with his white cane trying to navigate the centre’s steep staircases and student socializing areas. Several times in the video, he walks into pillars. There’s one problematic pillar standing in the middle of the staircase, while two others lean in an angled position in front of an elevator and next to a ramp.
In the video, he also shows how the award-winning building has angled railings that make it very difficult to climb stairs for people who are blind or have balance issues and how labels written in Braille in the elevators are mislabelled.
“People generally assume that new buildings are more accessible than old buildings because we improved the laws and it’s not something we have to worry about anymore,” Lepofsky said. “That’s not true, here you see a very new building with significant accessibility problems.”
In a letter dated Oct. 23 to the Ontario Ministry of Accessibility, Lepofsky asked the government to launch a new strategy to address the recurring disability accessibility barriers in the province.
The student centre, Lepofsky said, would not have been built with these issues if the Ontario Building Code and Ontario’s Disabilities Act had more strict regulations and standards. The government and other institutions need to also focus on training architects on accessibility, he added.
“If we don’t change the laws and if architects are not being trained sufficiently about accessibility, then we are creating more generations of problems and paying for it,” he said. “Someone shouldn’t be getting a licence to be an architect or a design professional without being really trained to design a building that everyone could use.”
Ryerson’s student centre isn’t accessible for students with disabilities, advocate says
Ontario is dispatching its Emergency Medical Assistance Team to set up a tent in Moss Park to provide a heated and insulated space for safe injections.
“This is an overdose crisis. People are dying and, today, Minister Eric Hoskins and the Ontario government have stepped up,” Councillor Joe Cressy said Wednesday night. The tent will be set up Thursday and replace a temporary site run by the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society (TOPS). The ministry will work with TOPS staff, Cressy said.
Earlier in the day, harm-reduction workers had gathered for a press conference in Moss Park to draw attention to the need for warm and safe space for the people they serve and how red tape in a time of crisis is endangering lives.
“We are in a public health emergency,” harm-reduction worker Zoe Dodd said. “We are asking the province and the federal government and the city to ignore legal exemptions and let rooms open to save lives across the province.”
The tent opened in August and was set up and taken down each day by TOPS members. Staffed by off-the-clock nurses and volunteers, the tent supervised 1,976 injections and stopped or reversed 85 drug overdoses, according to staff.
The organizers had been speaking with the city and multi-service agency Fred Victor about moving their services into the agency’s basement while they waited for an exemption from the federal government that would allow them to operate legally.
That move will not be possible, they have been told, without federal approval. With winter approaching, the tent is not sufficient shelter for them to provide lifesaving work, they said. In the interim, they want city support to open a trailer in Moss Park and the province to declare a state of emergency.
Fred Victor’s executive director, Mark Aston, said the agency is deeply supportive of the work being done in the park, but after lengthy in-house discussions, they determined they need the exemption before they can provide a space for this service.
“This issue has hit everyone,” and the systems preventing swift care for people in crisis, or preventing TOPS from expanding, must be examined and fixed, he said. They are in the final stages of finishing the application for the exemption, he said.
Mayor John Tory and Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Eric Hoskins wrote a joint letter to Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor on Tuesday requesting the application be approved immediately.
“Under the circumstances and the urgency of this local situation, we ask that you provide a short-term or conditional exemption to enable the service to open as soon as possible,” they wrote.
“Many people are using the overdose prevention site, and many lives have been saved by overdose reversals. However, operating this type of health service in a park is not sustainable, not least because winter is approaching.”
Petitpas Taylor told the Star Wednesday that once the application arrives she has instructed her staff to move as quickly as possible, but could not provide a timeline. “We do know it is time-sensitive. We recognize that winter is fast approaching,” and want to make sure people are getting the help they need, she said.
Meanwhile, at the tent, organizers say an exemption isn’t the solution to a worsening and deadly crisis.
“We are in an emergency situation and in an emergency what you need is to be fast and dynamic and responsive to changing needs,” said Sarah Ovens, a social worker and organizer with TOPS. “The exemption process is the opposite of that.”
The city has opened an interim safe injection site, with more planned for Toronto and across Ontario.
On Monday, the city’s public health committee heard that 70 people have died as a result of homelessness in Toronto this year. Most died in the emergency shelter system or inner city hospitals. Four died outdoors.
That next day the city’s emergency shelter system was at 95 per cent capacity and Wednesday marked the start of the city’s Out of the Cold programs, a volunteer-led cold relief endeavour operating out of faith-based organizations across the city.
Leigh Chapman, a registered nurse and TOPS organizer said people will be seeking warm places to use drugs including Out of the Cold sites.
“The city is acting as if we have time to wait. The province is acting as if we had time. We buried a volunteer on Monday,” said Chapman, speaking about a 22-year-old who had been supporting the tent since it opened.
Leon “Pops” Alward, 46, told the Star he overdosed at a friend’s place in October and was revived using Naloxone, a medication that blocks or reverses opioid overdoses. People are relying on each other for harm reduction and without low-barrier sites like the tent, he said, deaths are guaranteed to rise.
“People are dying, consistently,” he said.
City staff said workers at the Out of the Cold programs and the city’s five cold-respite centres are expected to have Naloxone kits and training on how to use them.
Councillor Cressy said the city has an “ethical obligation” to address the needs of a vulnerable population.
“If the federal government is not willing to expedite the exemption or willing to change the law I believe the city and the province should ignore them,” he said.
With files from David Rider
Province intervening at Moss Park injection site with a medical assistance team
The widow of a gas station attendant, dragged to his death by a SUV driver when he tried to prevent the thief from stealing gas in 2012, said she has had no peace or happiness since losing her husband.
Crown attorney Jenny Rodopoulos read aloud Vaishali Prajapati’s victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing for Max Tutiven, the SUV driver who killed Prajapati’s husband Jayesh Prajapati. Last month, a jury foundof second degree murder.
On the night of Sept. 15, 2012, Tutiven drove his SUV to a Shell station at Roselawn and Marlee Aves., where Jayesh, 44, was working as an attendant. Tutiven filled up with $112.85 worth of gas and proceeded to drive away without paying. Jayesh tried to stop him, but was hit and dragged by the vehicle for 78 metres down Roselawn Ave. Tutiven fled the scene.
Vaishali described the scene hours later, when police knocked on the door of the Prajapatis one-bedroom apartment. Vaishali answered and was asked to sit down. Police said that Jayesh, the father of her then-12-year-old child and the man who “meant everything’ to her, had been killed.
“I didn’t know what was happening,” she said. “I went and laid down on my bed and cried. I cried for days and nights. I was in paralyzing shock. I was not eating or drinking anything. I was incapable of walking. If I tried, I would fall down.”
Jayesh and Vaishali had saved almost enough money to buy their first home. But when Jayesh died, Vaishali could barely afford to provide for her son Rishabh. They now live in a small, basement apartment, she said. She works as a labourer and does not earn a regular or reliable income.
“I haven’t been able to experience a single day with peace or happiness,” Vaishali said. “My son has bared too much pain for a lifetime.”
Rishabh, now 16, said he is thankful for the times his father carried him on his shoulders, even when he was getting too big, and taught him how to love others.
“I want to thank you for being the first person I ever loved,” he said in his victim impact statement. “I would be completely lost in this world without you.”
Jayesh would spend the mornings before work with his son, helping him get ready for school, or on weekends teaching him about chemistry.
“He was such a loving, caring father. I always miss him,” Rishabh said. “But then I think about his happiness and I feel that it is better off he is in heaven than this deceitful world.”
Tutiven stared without expression straight ahead as Rishabh and Vaishali spoke. He rocked forward once in his seat, briefly bowing his head, only when Crown attorney Joseph Callaghan asked the judge that he be ineligible for parole for 17 years.
For second degree murder, Tutiven faces a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment and can’t apply for parole for at least 10 years. Defense lawyer Edward Sapiano requested he be eligible in 12 years, saying he’s an “honest criminal.”
Tutiven has 69 past convictions for theft, assault and dangerous driving. He had fled two prior accident scenes and in 2008 had his driver’s licence suspended for life.
Sentencing will resume next week.
‘I haven’t been able to experience a single day with peace or happiness’: gas-and-dash victim’s widow
A portion of Highway 400 near Bradford remained closed late Wednesday afternoon following a deadly multi-vehicle collision that caused a massive explosion Tuesday night, killing at least three people.
Police said the number of fatalities was expected to rise as first responders combed through the burned-out wreckage of some 14 vehicles.
“We continue to work on identifying the victims inside the vehicles,” Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said from the scene. “We are in the process of separating some of the vehicles to get a better look inside to see how many more victims that have maybe not yet been identified.”
OPP said the fiery crash happened around 11:30 p.m. between County Rd. 88 and Hwy. 89. Schmidt said 14 vehicles were involved in the crash, including two fully loaded fuel tankers and three transport trucks.
Schmidt said the crash occurred about an hour after another collision, about one kilometre up the road, which involved three vehicles and had slowed the traffic along the highway. He said one of the fuel tankers approaching the area where traffic had slowed appeared to have crashed through other vehicles, setting off a chain reaction.
“The sky was clear, it was dark, obviously, at the time . . . no issues on the road surface for visibility,” Schmidt said, adding police will be looking at possible mechanical issues as well as any possible human factors.
The fuel tankers exploded on impact, Schmidt said. Video footage from the scene posted on social media showed towering flames and explosions.
“It is absolutely a devastating scene. It is something I’ve never seen in my career,” Schmidt said of the crash site, which had twisted metal and unrecognizable debris scattered across the highway.
Due to the massive blaze, Schmidt said investigators are having difficulty identifying the victims and collecting evidence.
“We’re dealing with a massive scene . . . fire, explosions, and just absolute carnage and devastation,” Schmidt said. “The temperatures that were achieved in this crash were apocalyptic.”
All lanes of Hwy. 400 were closed in both directions between County Rd. 88 and Hwy. 89. Closures will likely last until Thursday morning, Schmidt said.
The intense heat may have also damaged the highway. Schmidt said it may need repaving before it will be open traffic.
Schmidt said several people were taken to hospital. Their injuries are considered non life-threatening.
Witnesses told police that some people were seen running away from the scene as the “wall of fire” consumed all the vehicles. Schmidt said it took emergency services at least 2 ½ hours to extinguish the fire. He added that “fire departments from every service in the region” teamed up to tame the blaze.
Luba Zariczny was travelling south on Hwy. 400 toward her home in Mississauga when she arrived at the scene about five minutes after the explosion.
“I could see fuel tankers as well as multiple vehicles completely engulfed in flames and a lot of them completely burnt up,” Zariczny told the Star. “There was a lot of black smoke covering the sky.”
She decided to pull over to make a video of the fiery crash.
“It was frightening,” Zariczny said. “I felt pain for the people and families that were involved.”
Paul Novosad, a freelance photographer who observed first responders battling the blaze, counted about 26 fire trucks swarming over the scene in what he described as a well co-ordinated effort.
“The fire was just spectacular. It kept blowing up, the diesel,” he said. “The heat must have been incredible.”
OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes visited the crash site and said the collision could have been 100 times worst based on the devastation he have seen.
“It is a miracle that we don’t have 25 lives, 25 bodies down there,” Hawkes said.
According to preliminary information he received, the driver of the truck that smashed into a queue of vehicles never stopped. He said the portion of the highway, where it happened, is straight and going downhill so there is no reason for the driver to not slow down.
“These trucks are, in essence, missiles travelling down the highway,” said Hawkes. “The trend seems to be getting worse.”
The OPP will work with the public, transportation ministry, and the trucking industry to push and to enhance their strategy to prevent a collision with this magnitude from happening, Hawkes said.
At Queen’s Park, Progressive Conservative MPP Michael Harris (Kitchener-Conestoga) called on the province to set up a task force of experts to investigate ways to cut down on the number of “preventable” deadly crashes on 400-series highways.
“People are becoming more and more nervous getting on the highway,” Harris told reporters, calling on the government to table promised legislation with increased penalties for careless and distracted driving.
“We need to up our game on enforcement.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne expressed her condolences to the victims’ families, calling the accident “a horrible, horrible tragedy.”
“We will in the aftermath of this collision, obviously we will look at what happened, we will be advised on whether there’s more that could have been done to prevent such a crash,” she said.
“Any death on the highway that is preventable should be prevented. And so we will continue to work to make sure that we do everything that is possible to prevent this kind of tragedy happening again.”
Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said motorists need to use common sense and that involves “leaving a safe distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you. You shouldn’t be distracted at any point in time you should be focused on the task at hand and obeying the rules of the road.”
He called the fiery Hwy. 400 crash Tuesday night “particularly horrific.”
The stretch of the highway where the crash happened has been under construction for months.
As recently as last week, provincial police were highlighting the dangerous nature of accidents involving commercial transport trucks.
The force said it has responded to more than 5,000 such collisions this year, with 67 people killed. In the two previous years, OPP tracked 13,668 crashes involving commercial transport trucks that killed a total of 155 people.
The Ontario Trucking Association said last week that the industry is committed to road safety, noting that there has been a 66 per cent decrease in the fatality rate from large truck collisions between 1995 and 2014 despite a 75 per cent rise in large truck vehicle registrations.
Mike Millian of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada said the public should avoid jumping into conclusions on the cause of the crash. But he said the trucking industry is working with all their partners in creating a safety plan.
“We as an industry, no matter whose at fault, need to do whatever we can to work together with the MTO, with the police, and with the general public to do what we can to make sure our roadways are safe,” Millian said.
The OPP recommends that drivers use Yonge St. and Hwy. 27 as alternate routes during the closure.
With files from Rob Ferguson, Robert Benzie and The Canadian Press
At least 3 dead after explosive 14-vehicle collision on Highway 400At least 3 dead after explosive 14-vehicle collision on Highway 400
NEW YORK—A seething U.S. President Donald Trump is placing blame for the current state of the widening Russia investigation on his son-in-law Jared Kushner, according to a report Wednesday.
As indictments were unsealed against former Trump campaign staff and special counsel Robert Mueller revealed Monday that at least one former Trump campaign adviser has pleaded guilty to federal charges, Trump’s frustration with Kushner has grown exponentially, Vanity Fair reported.
The charges against former campaign chairperson Paul Manafort, which Trump himself said happened “long before” he joined the eventual GOP nominee’s team, should also worry the president, according to former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg.
“Here’s what Manafort’s indictment tells me: Mueller is going to go over every financial dealing of Jared Kushner and the Trump Organization,” Nunberg said. “Trump is at 33 per cent in Gallup. You can’t go any lower. He’s f ---ed.”
Manafort and business associate Rick Gates face 12 felony counts, including money laundering, conspiracy and acting as unregistered foreign agents.
In a call Tuesday with former White House Chief strategist Stephen Bannon, Trump laid the blame for the expanding scandal surrounding Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference squarely on Kushner’s shoulders, Nunberg told Vanity Fair.
“Jared is the worst political adviser in the White House in modern history,” Nunberg said. “I’m only saying publicly what everyone says behind the scenes at Fox News, in conservative media, and the Senate and Congress.”
Bannon, back at his old role as the head of conservative news site Breitbart, has reportedly advised the president to shake up his legal team and do all he can to pressure Congress to defund Mueller’s investigation, sources told Vanity Fair.
“Mueller shouldn’t be allowed to be a clean shot on goal,” a Bannon confidant told the magazine. “He must be contested and checked. Right now he has unchecked power.”
In an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, Trump insisted he wasn’t upset about Mueller’s moves.
“It has nothing to do with us,” Trump said.
Asked about another report that he’s been “angry at everybody,” Trump told the paper, “Actually, I’m not angry with anybody.”
Trump blames son-in-law Jared Kushner for Mueller’s widening Russia probe, report says
OTTAWA—Canada is stepping up efforts to put gender issues front and centre in conflict zones, including the deployment of more women soldiers on peace support missions, elements of a strategy that will be part of long-awaited peacekeeping initiatives expected in the coming weeks.
In a possible preview of the priorities for that peace mission, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland unveiled Ottawa’s action plan on women, peace and security Wednesday, saying that a “feminist foreign policy” is needed now more than ever in the face of “angry reactionary movements.”
“We must take courageous action towards gender equality, especially where women are most vulnerable,’ Freeland said.
The foreign affairs minister denied that such an agenda was about political correctness or “virtue signaling.” Rather, she said that putting such a focus on foreign issues has practical impacts that bring changes on the ground.
“It matters because where women, in all their diversity, are included in our collective security, everyone is safer,” she said.
The plan earmarks a total of $17.1 million in all for gender initiatives to encourage the participation of women and girls in efforts to prevent and resolve conflict.
It includes funding to help train female police officers for UN peace missions, improve gender equality in UN operations and promote the inclusion of women in peace building.
The investments support initiatives in places such as Mali, Colombia and Haiti, which have been named as possible locales for Canada’s peace deployment.
Elements of the plan, a follow-up to a strategy first rolled out by the Conservatives in 2011, also include cracking down on abuse and sexual assaults by security personnel and peacekeepers.
“There can be no impunity for these crimes. Not for soldiers. Not for civilians. Not for those sent to keep the peace or provide assistance,” Freeland said.
In a strong show of support for the policy, four of Freeland cabinet colleagues were on hand, including International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef, and several foreign diplomats, among them Kelly Craft, the new U.S. ambassador to Canada.
It comes as Ottawa is closing in on a decision to deploy up to 600 soldiers and 150 police officers on a peace support mission. During the 2015 election, Justin Trudeau pledged that a Liberal government would return Canada to United Nations peacekeeping but his government has dragged its feet on making a decision.
Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff, met with cabinet ministers on Tuesday and it’s believed that the peace mission was the focus of that discussion.
The Star had reported that while Mali was one likely destination for the deployment it’s possible that Canada’s peace mission — comprising trainers and support, such as transport aircraft and helicopters — will be spread among several countries.
Vance, who was present for Wednesday’s announcement, would only say that the government “will announce its decision when it’s made its decision.”
But he said that elements of Wednesday’s strategy are a priority for the Canadian Armed Forces.
“The military deployments that will occur as part of peace-support operations will be announced in due course and will be consistent with exactly what has been briefed today,” Vance told reporters.
As the Star has previously reported, Ottawa has committed to deploy more women on the upcoming peace mission and Vance said that can be “critical” to the success of such operations.
“There are clearly instances when a high percentage of women is very valuable in terms of accessing populations, putting in place the kind of measures necessary to protection the population but also to find out what is going on,” he said.
“But it’s more than that and I think Canada’s ambitions will be higher than that, in terms of how to make peacekeeping more effective overall,” Vance said.
Some form of an announcement is now expected before Canada plays host to a UN peacekeeping summit in Vancouver in mid-November.
During an appearance at the Senate earlier in the week, Sajjan cited changing conditions on the ground as one reason for the delayed announcement of a peace mission.
“When I talk about the changes on the ground, we’re talking about the different radical groups, different events, how the corruption are impacting things, the elections as well,” he said Wednesday.
But Sajjan said too that Canada’s approach to the coming peace mission will involve more than just the military.
“While we look at the military role of what they can do, that we also have to keep in mind that this is not just a strictly a military solution and should not just be a military question,” Sajjan said.
“We have to be looking at it from a whole-of-government perspective and those are some of the initiatives that have been ongoing,’ he said.
Canada to deploy more female troops to conflict zones in new ‘feminist foreign policy’ to tackle gender issues abroad
NEW YORK—Sayfullo Saipov sped a rented truck down nearly a mile of a Hudson River bike path on Tuesday afternoon, crushing eight people to death and injuring 11 more, before crashing in front of Stuyvesant High School in Tribeca.
Then he began to run.
But at Chambers St., there was Officer Ryan Nash.
Nash fired nine shots at Saipov, ending the worst terrorist attack in New York City since Sept. 11, 2001. The police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, said Tuesday that one bullet struck Saipov in his abdomen. Saipov, who police say is responsible for the attack, was brandishing two weapons, which turned out to be a pellet gun and paintball gun.
“To NYPD Officer Ryan Nash-thank you for your bravery & quick action in stopping yesterday’s terrorist attack,” William J. Bratton, a former commissioner of the New York Police Department, wrote on Twitter. “Truly one of New York’s Finest.”
In a news conference on Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he had spoken to Nash since the attack. “He is a good young man; he was very humble about what he did, but what he did was extraordinary,” the mayor said. “And it gave people such faith and such appreciation in our police force.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo joined in the praise, calling the officer “talented” and “brave.”
Nash is a five-year veteran of the force, working day tours in the First Precinct in Lower Manhattan, according to a person familiar with the details of Tuesday’s incident. He was one of four officers responding to a call from Stuyvesant High School at 345 Chambers St. on Tuesday afternoon. Nash and his partner, Officer John Hasiotis, had been summoned to help with a student who was in the nurses’ office and had indicated that he wanted to kill himself. Two other officers had been called as backup.
Outside, Saipov’s vehicular rampage was ending with a crash at Chambers St. and West St., where he slammed his white rental truck into a yellow school bus and fled into the streets.
The four officers rushed out of the school, turning east toward the highway and confronting Saipov on the street. He had what appeared to be pistols in each hand and turned toward the officers as they approached. Nash was the closest, and fired nine times from his department-issued service gun.
When Saipov dropped to the pavement, a civilian — who had previously attempted to tackle the suspect as he was getting out of the rented truck — approached the wounded man, who was still clutching the two weapons.
The civilian kicked the guns out of Saipov’s hands.
Saipov, an Uzbeki immigrant and sometime Uber driver living in Paterson, N.J., was hospitalized at Bellevue Hospital Center, police said.
With 9 shots this NYPD vet ended the worst terrorist attack in the city since 9/11
The Yukon government has spent $2.5 million on settling approximately 40 sexual abuse lawsuits since 2000, the territory’s justice minister revealed in a statement.
The statement from Justice Minister Tracy McPhee comes weeks after two Toronto Star stories, also published in the Yukon News, revealed that the territorial government has been quietly settling lawsuits over sexual abuse by a former school principal identified only as “J.V.” Reporter Jesse Winter uncovered at least seven lawsuits involving J.V. and found that the settlements often involved confidentiality agreements preventing the victims from talking about the settlements.
The Yukon News has since identified at least one more sexual abuse case involving another government-affiliated official settled in a similar fashion.
“Some cases have been dismissed or discontinued, and most have been settled.… Settlements are tailored to the individual circumstances of each case, therefore not all settlement amounts are the same,” McPhee said.
The payouts would include the territorial government’s payments, money paid by insurers and, in some cases, the plaintiff’s legal costs, the statement says.
The territorial government had previously told Winter — before his stories were published — that it could not disclose how many sexual abuse cases existed or how much it has spent settling them.
The Yukon government and justice department declined to comment on how many of the “approximately” 40 cases had actually been settled, dismissed or discontinued, if any cases are still active, the range of settlement payouts and how many cases, if any, were launched before 2000.
In an emailed statement, the communications director for the minister’s office said McPhee is “committed to reviewing the available information and providing as much information as possible to the public.”
In the Oct. 30 statement, McPhee said lawyers for the government have “never insisted on non-disclosure clauses that would prevent a victim from disclosing their personal circumstances, including any details about any abuse they suffered.”
“Our focus has always been on ensuring that the actual settlement negotiations and settlement details remain confidential. This is not to deter victims from coming forward but to encourage settlement by allowing for detailed discussions about themerits of each case by all parties,” the statement says. “We believe that coming to a settlement is always a better alternative for those involved but in particular for the victim.”
Whitehorse lawyer Dan Shier, who has represented clients in cases involving J.V., said he thought McPhee’s statement was a “positive step.”
He disagreed, however, that confidentiality clauses “encourage settlement.”
“It just doesn’t work,” Shier said. “So what (McPhee is) saying is that they’ve never tried to stop people talking about their experience and that’s fine, that’s never been part of a confidentiality agreement that I know of.”
Yukon has quietly spent $2.5M settling sexual abuse cases since 2000Yukon has quietly spent $2.5M settling sexual abuse cases since 2000
A gunman opened fire at a Walmart in Thornton, Colo., on Wednesday evening, striking multiple people, the police said. Two men were confirmed dead, and a woman was taken to the hospital.
It was unclear whether the gunman was among those shot.
The Thornton Police Department confirmed the shooting on Twitter at 6:27 p.m. local time and urged people to stay away from the area.
About an hour later, the department said there was no active shooter “at this time,” but that it was an “active crime scene.”
Witnesses told local news outlets that they had heard multiple shots, and that panic had erupted.
“I was by customer service and I started to hear pops, loud pops, and they kept going, pop pop pop, probably six pops,” a Walmart employee told KDVR, Fox’s Denver affiliate. “Everyone got down. Everyone started screaming. It was crazy.”
Videos posted on Twitter showed a large police response, and Nick Metz, the police chief in nearby Aurora, tweeted that his department’s SWAT team would “assist as needed.”
Local news outlets reported that families of possible victims had been instructed to gather a few blocks away. The Walmart is part of the Thornton Town Center, a shopping complex steps from Interstate 25.
The police asked witnesses to go to the northern end of the centre’s parking lot.
Thornton, a city less than 20 kilometres north of Denver, has about 136,000 residents.
More to come.
2 killed, 1 injured in shooting inside Colorado Walmart: police 2 killed, 1 injured in shooting inside Colorado Walmart: police 2 killed, 1 injured in shooting inside Colorado Walmart: police
DENVER—It was supposed to be the altitude that was the problem for the Raptors as the team ascended to the Mile High City on Wednesday, and even that wasn’t supposed to last long.
Initial shock might hamper Toronto, coach Dwane Casey predicted before his team took on the Denver Nuggets at about 1,609.3 metres above sea level, but he hoped short rotations leading to quick stints on the floor would help the Raptors fight through the early burn and find their feet.
But two nights after the Raptors carved out one of their best defensive performances of the season that included holding the Portland Blazers to a franchise-record six-point second quarter, Toronto gave up a season-high 34 points in the first quarter on its way to a 129-111 loss to the Nuggets.
The men who found their feet on the night belonged to Denver, who had returned home on the heels of a 2-2 trip to the East Coast. Forward Paul Millsap, the longtime Altanta Hawk playing his eighth game as a member of the Nuggets organization, tied his previous season-high for points, 19, in the first half alone, going 6-for-10 in the field and adding four from the free-throw line. He finished the with 20 points total, adding three assists in second half.
Millsap finished the night behind only Canadian Jamal Murray on the scoresheet. The Kitchener native shook off an early nosedive into the crowd, on the chase for an errant ball, to accumulate a game-high 24 points.
And not to be outdone, six-foot-11 centre Nikola Jokic neared the land of the triple-double, putting up eight points, 10 assists and 16 rebounds of his own. Altogether, the home team shot 50 per cent from three-point range, compared to Toronto’s 35.5 per cent from beyond the arc, a number that grew after the game was already out of reach.
Casey had praised the Nuggets’ decision to bring in Millsap on more than one occasion heading into the game, calling the front line combination of the 32-year-old veteran and Jokic “as skilled and effective as there is in the league.”
“(Millsap’s) a multi-dimensional player, very dynamic player. He’s a huge catch for the Denver organization,” Casey said.
The Raptors had hoped to temper the threat the pair posed with the gang defence mentality that served them so effectively earlier in the week, helped on by the return of Serge Ibaka from a swollen right knee and Jonas Valanciunas with a sprained left ankle. Toronto’s two bigs had missed one and four games, respectively, with their injuries.
Their reemergence could have meant little to no action for some of the younger players who had stepped up in their absence. But with the threat the altitude posed, Casey expanded his roster to 12 players in an effort to keep his team fresh on the court. It was clear Toronto felt the weight of a blowout long before 13th man Alfonzo McKinnie came into the game in the fourth quarter.
“We’re going to keep the units together,” Casey said. “Some guys’ minutes will be cut just because of that but it doesn’t mean they’re not part of the team and their time may come at any moment, so they’ve got to be ready.”
But the Raptors didn’t look fresh when they faltered early and gave up that season-high 34-point first quarter, which led to a season-high 60-point half. Things went from bad to worse in the third quarter as Toronto, in foul trouble with five minutes still to play, surrendered another 43 points, allowing the Nuggets to reach triple digits with one still to play.
Toronto failed to find its rhythm while working with more hands and less time. Norm Powell set a new season high for points for the second consecutive game with 14 points, but the likes of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry were quieted.
The Raptors will hope that any of the cobwebs that did come from the altitude —and the system they employed to defend against it — will be gone by Friday night, when Toronto visits Utah for the final contest of this six-game West Coast road trip.
“It’s bad because it’s altitude,” Casey said before the game. “It’s good because you’ve been in two spots with similar problems.”
Raptors can’t come back from a mile-high deficit in Denver
Experts reacted with surprise on Wednesday to news that the Competition Bureau is investigating possible price-fixing of bread products by suppliers and retailers in Canada’s grocery industry.
“I think it’s unlikely that it’s a widespread or very senior scheme,” said Mark Satov, strategy adviser and founder, Satov Consultants Inc.
Satov was reacting to the news that Competition Bureau investigators, accompanied by RCMP and local police forces, on Tuesday raided offices in Toronto, Montreal and Stellarton, N.S., where Sobey’s Inc. headquarters are located.
“They arrived in our Stellarton and Ontario offices (Tuesday),” said Sobey’s spokesperson Jacquelin Corrado. “We are co-operating to support the investigation and have advised employees internally of the process underway.”
Loblaw and Metro have also confirmed the investigation, which is looking at activity as far back as 2001.
The idea that upper management was aware of the activity seems remote, said Satov, given the potential downside, which includes criminal charges and fines. But information can flow through many different channels in the grocery industry.
Recent trends in the price of bread don’t seem to support a case for price-fixing, said food market analyst Kevin Grier, who tracks food prices using Statistics Canada data.
“We’ve been in deflationary mode since June 2016 on bread and rolls. Between May 2016 and September 2017, the Consumer Price Index for bread and buns has dropped nearly six per cent,” said Grier.
Engaging in price-fixing would break the public’s trust in grocers, he added.
“We trust that our grocers are giving us safe food and we trust that they are pricing the food competitively. We trust that we’re getting value. If they break the trust — if this is true — then that trust is broken and it will take a long time to fix.”
Gary Sands, senior vice-president, Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG), said that while his organization has been aware of concerns around bread pricing, his association did not file a complaint with the Bureau.
“We will await the results of this process, like everyone else,” said Sands.
Canada Bread Company Limited confirmed it is included in the industry-wide investigation by the Competition Bureau into pricing conduct dating back to 2001.
Canada Bread describes itself as the leading producer and distributor of packaged fresh bread and bakery products, including grocery store staples like Dempster’s, Villaggio and Vachon. It was purchased by Grupo Bimbo, headquartered in Mexico City, in early 2014.
Grupo Bimbo is the world’s largest baking company, with operations in 22 countries.
Canada Bread employs 4,175 people across Canada.
“Canada Bread operates with the highest ethical standards and complies with all legal and regulatory standards. The company has not been charged with any offences,” according to a statement from the company.
George Weston Limited, which operates one of Canada’s largest bakeries, has also indicated it is aware of the investigation, as has Walmart Canada Corp.
With files from the Canadian Press
Competition Bureau’s bread price-fixing probe leaves experts surprised
VANCOUVER—Ballet Victoria has cut ties with a choreographer after renewed media attention to allegations that he took nude photographs of underage dancers in the 1980s and 1990s.
Bruce Monk was fired by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in 2015 after Maclean’s reported that several women were co-operating with a Winnipeg police investigation into photos he took of them as teenage dancers.
The investigation concluded without charges and Monk declined comment on the allegations this week through his lawyer.
He is facing two lawsuits, one filed by a woman in Winnipeg alleging he took nude photos of her when she was 16, and a proposed class-action lawsuit filed in Toronto.
In a statement of defence in response to the Winnipeg suit, Monk denies taking any photographs of the woman when she was a minor and calls her allegations “false and meritless.”
CBC reported on Monday that Monk has been doing volunteer and contract work with Ballet Victoria. Artistic director Paul Destrooper is quoted in the article as saying he believes Monk is innocent and nude photographs are not unusual in ballet.
On Wednesday, Ballet Victoria issued a statement saying Monk would no longer work with the company.
“Ballet Victoria cares for the physical and emotional health of all artists, staff and volunteers with great care and diligence,” it says. “To (ensure) the integrity of the company Bruce Monk will no longer be involved with Ballet Victoria.”
The statement says Destrooper worked with Monk at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for 11 years from 1990 until 2001 and was never aware of any inappropriate behaviour or allegations.
It says Monk came to the company as a guest choreographer in 2008. When criminal allegations were made, the working relationship was suspended, but it resumed when no charges were laid.
In late 2016, he began working on small contracts as a lighting and production designer and volunteered his services in the office and as a driver, the statement says.
Sarah Doucet, who filed the proposed class-action suit in Toronto, said she first became aware Monk was involved with Ballet Victoria in September 2015 when she saw a photo of him rehearsing with a woman on the company’s Facebook page. She said she contacted the company’s board.
When the company severed ties with Monk on Wednesday, Doucet said she felt relief.
“It’s unfortunate that it took public pressure for Ballet Victoria to finally do the right thing,” said Doucet.
Doucet alleges in her statement of claim that she was a student at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s dance school, aged about 16 or 17, when she approached Monk to take photos for her portfolio, as it was common knowledge that the instructor would take headshots of students.
She says he complained the straps of her bodysuit were ruining her neckline and alleges that he coerced her into removing the top half of the bodysuit, so her torso was naked. She was humiliated and overwhelmed by a deep sense of personal violation, the lawsuit alleges.
None of the allegations has been proven in court and the class action has not been certified. The Canadian Press was not able to determine if a statement of defence has been filed in the case.
Doucet’s lawyer, Margaret Waddell, said a court date is scheduled for the end of November to set a timetable for proceeding with the certification motion and she hopes to have it heard early in 2018.
Ballet Victoria cuts ties with choreographer after allegations he took nude photos of underage dancers
This week, as we count down to the Star’s 125th anniversary, we revisit stories that have inspired readers and changed lives.
For Phillipa Lue, the death of her 6-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, was not in vain.
Nearly three decades have passed since the plight of the terminally ill Toronto girl, in need of a bone marrow donor, spurred strangers in this city to come forward and assist in extraordinary ways.
In March 1990, a frantic four-month campaign was launched to try to save Elizabeth. The brave girl with long hair and short bangs suffered from aplastic anemia, a very rare disorder caused by the failure of her bone marrow to make blood cells.
Elizabeth required marrow from a stranger, so her normally shy mother put her HR job on hold and reached out for help to launch a massive drive in search of a matching donor.
As the Save Elizabeth Lue campaign began, the Star was the first news outlet to write about it, and did dozens more stories, as other media joined in. Her face was all over the news.
But no match was found. Elizabeth died that August.
Her mother, and those who were close to the campaign at the time, say her legacy lives on. As a result of the campaign, Canada’s registry of potential bone marrow and stem cell donors was bolstered by thousands of new names, particularly those from the Chinese community and other Asian communities.
In memory of her daughter, Phillipa Lue is encouraging more visible minorities to sign up as potential donors, to improve the chances of survival for people from diverse communities who need bone marrow and stem cell transplants. Lives have been saved.
Just over $1 million was donated by the public to help pay for the testing needed in the search for a matching donor for Elizabeth. And remaining money in the foundation set up in her name has since been used to support bone marrow and stem cell drives for more than a dozen other people.
The effort to find a match for Elizabeth also brought forward Torontonians, Canadians and people around the world — not just of Chinese descent.
“I underestimated the passion and generosity of Canadians,” said Dr. Joseph Wong, a family physician and one of the key organizers of the Elizabeth Lue drive 27 years ago.
The campaign began after Phillipa and her husband, Gary, got the news from doctors Dec. 29, 1989, that Elizabeth was terminally ill with aplastic anemia.
“Then you watch her just waste away in front of your eyes and you’re not able to help her to bear the pain and suffering she’s going through,” Phillipa, who lives in Markham, said in a recent interview.
Neither Phillipa nor Gary nor Elizabeth’s brother Michael were suitable matches for a bone marrow donation. Nor were there matches on the Canadian Red Cross registry (now Canadian Blood Services). To get on the registry at that time, you had to be a blood donor.
One possible solution emerged: mount a campaign to find a stranger to donate marrow.
The chances of finding a suitable match for Elizabeth in the Chinese community were better at 1 in 4,000 — due to genetic similarities. But that meant people had to put their names on the bone marrow registry. They had to have blood drawn and consent to donate marrow if their blood test revealed a match.
Marrow is in our bones and produces oxygen-carrying red cells, white cells used to ward off infection and platelets that clot blood and stop bleeding. Aplastic anemia halts production of these cells. To treat it, damaged bone marrow is destroyed, then replaced by a donor’s healthy marrow.
Matching donors provide marrow through a process in which doctors stick a needle into the donor’s pelvic bone to draw the jellylike bone marrow out.
But there were challenges in trying to rescue Elizabeth. For one thing doctors gave her only a few months to live after the diagnosis. There were the logistics of rallying volunteers to help launch the drive. And there would be costs to test people who came to the drive — $75 (U.S.) a person.
What’s more, in parts of the Chinese community, giving blood was not something done readily. According to cultural beliefs held by some, bones, blood, human tissue and organs are considered sacred because they are passed down from one’s parents.
Phillipa called Dr. Wong, a leader in Toronto’s Chinese community, for help to find a donor.
Busy with his medical practice and other commitments, he was reluctant. He knew that about 120 volunteers would be needed to launch the search. And where would the money come from for the testing?
“I agreed after agonizing consideration that I could not bear to see a 6-year-old girl die due to the excuse I’m too busy,” Wong, 69, said in a recent interview.
He assembled a team including Lue’s parents and some of their relatives. There were also volunteers such as Pauline Tong, who was active in the Chinese community; Dr. Marshall Deltoff, a Toronto chiropractor; and Helen Cox, a lab company executive who helped organize IV nurses, lab technicians and people experienced in taking blood.
Dr. Wong contacted Star reporter Tony Wong (no relation) to get some exposure. Tony met Elizabeth at the Hospital for Sick Children.
“I saw Elizabeth and my heart broke,” Tony Wong, now a television critic for the Star, said recently. “I knew we (the Star) had to do something.”
The Star carried its first story March 16, 1990, with the headline “Right donor could save life of 6-year-old with anemia.”
Clinics were set up in Scarborough, Toronto, Markham and other locations for potential donors to give blood. Dr. Wong arrived at the Toronto clinic in Grange Park at 8:30 a.m. on April 1 to get ready for the 10 a.m. opening, and was shocked by what he saw: 100 people already in line.
A total of 1,800 people showed up at the clinics that first day. And financial donations from across the country would soon pour in through banks.
“Donations from places I’d never heard of in Canada — the response was so amazing, not just from the Chinese community,” Dr. Wong recalled.
Added Pauline Tong, 68, a key volunteer: “I think a lot of people really identified” with Elizabeth.
Helped by some friends, Dr. Wong secured a $150,000 line of credit — money needed to send the blood collected to a U.S. lab for testing, to get marrow data.
Potential donors were tested for human leukocyte antigens, which are immune system recognition signals. Six antigens needed to be identical to the recipient.
By early June 1990, more than 5,300 people had been tested in clinics, costing nearly $450,000. No match was found.
As interest in the story spread, the registry grew and the search expanded overseas. In June two potential donors were found in Taiwan. But they were soon deemed not close enough a match for Elizabeth.
Elizabeth’s tissue type was sent to Singapore, and officials in China and Hong Kong — along with Jamaica, where Elizabeth’s family comes from — were contacted, with no success.
By early July 1990, 10,000 people had been tested in Canada, their names added to the registry. The number of Asians on registries in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan had also increased.
But by late July the search for a donor for Elizabeth was abandoned. Her condition had worsened to the point she wouldn’t survive a transplant. On Aug. 31 she died in her mother’s arms.
For Phillipa and the family, anniversaries of her death, birthdays and holidays are painful. But she knows some good also came from the tragedy.
Among the people helped by the bolstered registry was a New Jersey woman named Cammy Lee.
Lee, 44, is alive thanks to a bone marrow transplant from Virginia Lau of Richmond Hill in 1992. That operation was performed to treat Lee’s leukemia. Shortly afterward, Lee received four life-saving doses of Lau’s fresh T cells from her blood, a procedure used to treat Lee’s lymphoma. Lee has been cancer-free ever since.
Lee met Lau in Toronto in 1994 — along with Elizabeth’s parents, who came face to face with a woman saved by the campaign for Elizabeth.
On the phone from New Jersey, Lee said “Virginia saved my life.” She is also grateful to Elizabeth.
Lee would become a recruiter for the National Marrow Donor Program in the U.S. She sought out Asian Americans, and encouraged them to become marrow and stem cell donors.
Stem cell transplants are now the more common method because donors only lose the stem cells in their peripheral blood — a tiny fraction of one’s whole blood.
According to a recent statement from Canadian Blood Services, almost 420,000 volunteer donors are registered with the service’s OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network to help any patient in need. OneMatch is also part of an international network of 75 registries and 53 (umbilical) cord blood banks that are part of a global database.
Currently 32 per cent of the OneMatch registry is non-Caucasian, Canadian Blood Services says. When Elizabeth was seeking a donor it was 2 per cent.
Elizabeth Lue’s mother wants to see further increases.
“If you’re a patient and you’re a racial minority, your chances (of finding a bone marrow/stem cell donor) are slim. Most of the banks in the world are Caucasian and our bank in Canada is about (70 per cent) Caucasian,” said Lue.
Looking back, Lue says her daughter “really didn’t stand a chance” during the 1990 donor drive because the pool was just too small.
“Time ran out . . . it’s a numbers game. That’s just the way it is.”
Read more on the Star’s 125th anniversary in Saturday’s special Insight section and athttps://www.thestar.com/anniversary.html
Little Elizabeth Lue left a legacy that has helped save lives