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    OTTAWA—The constitutional guarantee of aboriginal rights does not give Indigenous groups the right of a veto over land development in the name of religious freedom, says the country’s top court.

    In a landmark decision on how courts should protect not only Indigenous religious beliefs, but all religious beliefs, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Thursday that a British Columbia First Nation, the Ktunaxa people, could not block the development of a ski resort in the Jumbo Valley because they fear the Grizzly Bear Spirit they worship would depart.

    The high court says the constitution’s religious freedom guarantee protects Canadians’ freedom to hold beliefs and to practice their faith, but does not require the state or courts to protect what they believe in — the “object of beliefs or the spiritual focal point of worship, such as Grizzly Bear Spirit.”

    “Rather the state’s duty is to protect everyone’s freedom to hold such beliefs and to manifest them in worship and practice, or by teaching and dissemination,” wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Malcolm Rowe.

    The high court said the provincial government’s decision to approve the ski resort and efforts over two decades to accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of the Ktunaxa people were reasonable, and entitled to deference by the courts.

    The case was a precedent-setting clash of rights — the freedom of religious belief and aboriginal rights against land resource development in the broad public interest.

    But the high court said the courts must tread carefully when deciding such cases, and not overreach.

    The decision was 9-0, written mainly by McLachlin and Rowe. Justices Michael Moldaver and Suzanne Côté wrote separate reasons that concluded the development’s approval did infringe the religious freedom of the First Nations group. Yet they agreed the province had acted reasonably in its limitation on those rights.

    The court didn’t set out new ground on the duty of government to consult and accommodate aboriginal rights, however it set new limits on what the religious freedom guarantee in the Charter really means.

    Ktunaxa Nation representatives were not immediately available for reaction, the council’s office said.

    Assembly of First Nations national chief Perry Bellegarde said the decision is a blow to the Ktunaxa and shows a “lack of awareness and understanding from the Supreme Court” about their “world view.”

    “Whether it be a potlatch ceremony, or a sun dance ceremony or a sweat lodge ceremony, we are inextricably tied to the land and the waters,” he said.

    Bellegarde said now that the judicial branch has said “one thing” about the development, it’s up to the executive and the legislative branch “if they’re really true about nation-to-nation reconciliation” to truly listen to the Ktunaxa’s concerns.

    “We have a lot of work to do…to fully implement the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples,” he said.

    New Democrat MP Wayne Stetski, whose constituency includes the Ktunaxa, told the Star in an interview the ruling is “important because it says spiritual aspects from First Nations have to be properly considered. In this case the province had adequately consulted around the spiritual aspects of Jumbo Valley.”

    But, he added, “the majority of my constituents do not support it,” and neither does he.

    “I don’t think we need another downhill ski area in my riding — we have 10 already if I remember the count — so from my perspective, this area is really important to the Ktunaxa; I’d like to see it stay in its natural state,” said Stetski.

    The case pitted the religious freedom and aboriginal rights of the Ktunaxa (pronounced TeNaHa) against the B.C government and the company Jumbo Glacier Resorts.

    The Ktunaxa Nation Council, representing people whose traditional territorial claim straddled the Canada-U.S. border, opposed a proposal by Glacier Resorts.

    The company wanted to build a year-round overnight ski resort in the Jumbo Valley, about 55 kilometres west of Invermere, with lifts to glacier runs that were previously reachable via helicopter — a $900 million project that would create up to 800 permanent direct jobs.

    Although the company did not immediately react to the Supreme Court ruling either, its website has pushed back against critics, including those in a documentary that airs on Netflix. It says the area is not a pristine wilderness, but is centered on an old sawmill site. It said the closest First Nation, the Shuswap Indian Band, lives 55 km from the project and was “consistently supportive” of the project, while the Ktunaxa Nation, located “approximately 188 km away from the project, has been vociferously opposed.”

    The company said the Ktunaxa were involved since the beginning in 1991 and “did not bring the notion of ‘spiritual values’ to the table until 2009 — when one elder recalled its existence.” The company says grizzly bear hunting is allowed in the project area, and since the project was first proposed, more than 70 grizzly bears have been killed in the area for “sport.” The company also points out that Ktunaxa support the grizzly bear hunt and are involved in guide outfitting.

    The high court said throughout two decades of negotiations and consultations, the province tried to accommodate the Indigenous concerns, but consultations “are a two-way street.”

    When the Ktunaxa finally asserted in 2009 a “novel claim” — that development must be barred altogether to protect the presence of the Grizzly Bear Spirit itself and the “subjective spiritual meaning they derive from it” — the court said the Ktunaxa got it wrong.

    “This novel claim that would extend [the religious freedom guarantee] beyond its scope and would put deeply held personal beliefs under judicial scrutiny,” the court wrote.

    McLachlin and Rowe said the B.C. government had met its duty to consult and accommodate the First Nation’s concerns. The government reduced the resort development area by 60 per cent, had ordered on-site environmental monitors, allowed for continued use of the area for traditional practices and “measures designed to reduce the impact of the development on grizzly bears,” the court said. Moreover, the government rejected development on the lower Jumbo Creek area and a ski lift on the west side of the valley because of perceived greater visitation by grizzly bears in these areas.” It established a wildlife management area and offered to continue to protect the grizzly bear population through law and policies.

    “The duty is to consult and, where warranted, accommodate. Section 35 guarantees the process of consultation and accommodation by setting out its claims clearly…and as early as possible. There is no guarantee that, in the end, the specific accommodation sought will be warranted or possible,” the ruling says.

    “The ultimate obligation is that the Crown act honourably.”

    The high court noted that another Indigenous group, the Shuswap, had been involved in the early negotiations and agreed their concerns were met, and the Ktunaxa’s later attempts to completely bar the development sought effectively to ask the courts “in the guise of judicial review of an administrative decision, to pronounce on the validity of their claim to a sacred site and associated spiritual practices.”

    While Section 35 of the Canadian constitution guarantees potential rights “embedded in as-yet unproven Aboriginal claims,” those rights cannot be established via a court sitting in judicial review of an administrative decision,” McLachlin and Rowe wrote.

    “Aboriginal rights must be proven by tested evidence.”

    Justices Moldaver and Côté agreed the minister had balanced his statutory obligations with the aboriginal group’s claim, however they disagreed with the majority’s conclusion that the Ktunaxa’s religious freedom wasn’t infringed. The result, Moldaver wrote, is that the development of the ski resort would desecrate the area the Ktunaxa call Qat’muk and “cause Grizzly Bear Spirit to leave, thus severing the Ktunaxas connection to the land.”

    “As a result the Ktunaxa would no longer receive spiritual guidance and assistance from Grizzly Bear Spirit. All songs, rituals, and ceremonies associated with Grizzly Bear Spirit would become meaningless,” he wrote.

    Read more:

    Controversial B.C. resort to appeal minister’s decision


    Supreme Court approves B.C. ski resort development on Indigenous landsSupreme Court approves B.C. ski resort development on Indigenous lands

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    Staff and students at Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts have had to endure the deaths of three of their own in the span of a month.

    This triple tragedy has brought a sombre and numb feeling to the building, said Wexford’s principal Tom Lazarou.

    While principals and teachers aren’t specifically trained to help students process grief, Lazarou said, they can do their part by listening.

    Wexford’s first loss was Susan Longuet, a guidance counsellor for 11 years, who died of cancer on Sept. 16.

    “She did things for students away from Wexford and we had no idea. It’s a huge loss,” said Lazarou, adding that she would help students from home, supporting them with their plans for the future.

    Two weeks later, Nicole Sutton, a French teacher who had been at Wexford for 16 years, died of a brain aneurysm.

    “It shocked us a great deal because she was very young and it’s tragic; she worked Friday and she passed away Saturday,” he said.

    The biggest shock for students was 15-year-old Isaiah Witt, who died after being stabbed in East York on Oct. 7.

    Mohamad Ayoub, 15, couldn’t sleep the night he found out his friend died.

    “I didn’t believe it,” Ayoub said. “If he’d see someone lonely he’d go up and ask to be friends. He was just so nice.”

    After hearing about Witt’s death, students at Wexford began to wonder who would be next.

    “I was telling my parents, 'if anyone else dies I’m leaving the school',” Ayoub said.

    But Lazarou assures the community that students are safest in school with their peers and teachers.

    Wexford turned to the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) for assistance to help students deal with the three losses.

    According to TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird, the board has 115 social workers who can aid staff and students.

    “Some issues may only require one counsellor, while issues affecting a large number of students may require multiple counsellors,” Bird said.

    A team of four grief counsellors was brought to Wexford for two days.

    “The biggest part of a loss is to go through the process and deal with it and be more resilient about it,” Lazarou said.

    Lazarou is positive the school will get through this. Teachers are resuming classes as normal and students are back to learning.

    “I think what I’ve realized through this is that I’m human too,” he said.

    Scarborough's Wexford school community mourns loss of counsellor, teacher, student in one month spanScarborough's Wexford school community mourns loss of counsellor, teacher, student in one month span

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    The head of Google’s parent company contrasted divisive U.S. politics against Canada’s innovation and immigration-friendly policies Thursday, adding his company owes this country a favour — one the Prime Minister said he’d be sure to call in.

    Alphabet Inc. chairman Eric Schmidt said during an onstage chat with Justin Trudeau in Toronto that his company is “enormously thankful to Canadians” for the country’s artificial intelligence innovations.

    “We now use it throughout our entire business and it’s a major driver of our corporate success,” he said at Google’s Go North conference. “So we owe you, right. And we remember.”

    Read more: Thales creates new artificial intelligence hub in Montreal

    Facebook follows Google, Microsoft to Montreal with new AI research lab

    Trudeau replied that Canada would make sure to hold him to it, now that it was “on record.”

    “We’ll make sure that works out,” the prime minister quipped.

    Google is among the backers of the Vector Institute, a Toronto-based artificial intelligence research lab which is part of Ottawa’s strategy to drive innovation in Canada. Ottawa is putting up to $50 million into the institute, Ontario is investing $50 million and more than 30 private-sector companies are set to invest $80 million.

    That’s in addition to Google’s AI lab in Montreal, which the tech giant launched in November 2016.

    But as Google’s relationship with Canada becomes increasingly cozy, relations between the U.S. and its northern neighbour have come under pressure.

    The U.S., Canada and Mexico have been in prolonged negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement, a deal Schmidt said has been “enormously successful.”

    Schmidt added that he was worried about the impact that U.S. identity politics under Donald Trump — in contrast to Canada’s focus on inclusivity and diversity — would have on the countries’ dealings.

    Schmidt noted that the U.S. is “critically dependent” on supply chains from Canada, “including the back and forth that we have in the tech industry.”

    “I’m concerned that the politics in the United States are going to drive various wedges between the excellent historical relations between Canada and the United States,” said Schmidt, who wore socks were emblazoned with the Canadian flag.

    The former Google CEO added that the North American Free Trade Agreement has been very successful and asked the Prime Minister about a timeline for when the negotiations will be complete.

    Trudeau said Canada is “carefully evaluating everything they put forward” and warned of dire consequences if the deal collapses.

    “As soon as you thicken that border, or shut things down, there are going to be negative impacts on the American economy, on American workers,” he said.

    “Of course there can be way more impacts on Canada because we are much smaller and more dependent on the U.S. But, at the same time, it’s gonna hurt if we fail to move forward with NAFTA.”

    He also noted Canada recently signed a trade deal with Europe and said the country is engaging with Asia as it looks to “diversify a certain bit.”

    Meanwhile, Trudeau said there is a “unity of approach and purpose on this” across the political spectrum in Canada, which is an “advantage.”

    “We are not going to be pushed into accepting something that is bad for Canada.”

    Google parent chair says company owes Canada, worried about U.S.-Canada relationsGoogle parent chair says company owes Canada, worried about U.S.-Canada relations

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    TORONTO—A murder trial has heard that the final cellphone call from a Toronto woman who vanished five years ago connected with a cell tower near the home of a man accused of killing her.

    Danielle Fortier, who works with Rogers Communications, says that call was made at 7:03 p.m on July 3, 2012, and no texts or messages have been sent from the phone since then.

    Dellen Millard, 32, of Toronto, and Mark Smich, 30 of Oakville, Ont., are facing first-degree murder charges in the presumed death of Laura Babcock, whose body has not been found.

    The Crown contends that Babcock was killed because she was the odd woman out in a love triangle with Millard and his girlfriend.

    Court has heard that Millard was sleeping with several women at the time of Babcock’s disappearance and didn’t care much about the animosity between Babcock and his girlfriend.

    Both Millard and Smich have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

    Read more:

    Laura Babcock had an intense fear of death since childhood, court hears in murder trial for Dellen Millard and Mark Smich

    Accused killer Dellen Millard appears to be getting comfortable acting as his own lawyer: DiManno

    Trial into Laura Babcock's murder hears of bitter text message exchange: DiManno

    Laura Babcock’s final cellphone call connected with cell tower near Dellen Millard’s home, court hearsLaura Babcock’s final cellphone call connected with cell tower near Dellen Millard’s home, court hears

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    DARTMOUTH, N.S.—Police say two Hells Angels members from Nova Scotia and Ontario face drug trafficking and other charges after a nine-month investigation.

    RCMP say Mark David Heickert — a full-patch gang member of the Oshawa Hells Angels — was arrested at a home in Orillia, Ont., without incident.

    The 48-year-old man is charged with conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and conspiracy to possess proceeds of crime.

    Read more:

    Former Hells Angels’ enforcer survives Sherway Gardens murder bid

    New Satan’s Choice biker club considering shutting down after harsh Facebook criticism

    P.E.I. police arrest 9 men tied to Woodbridge Hells Angels chapter

    Paul Francis Monahan of Halifax, 61, is charged with several counts including trafficking in marijuana and conspiracy to traffic cocaine.

    Police say they found two kilograms of cocaine and a sawed-off shotgun as they searched homes in Orillia and Ostrea Lake, N.S.

    The Mounties also said they seized cash and small quantities of marijuana and unidentified pills at the Hells Angels clubhouse in Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S.

    “Because of our strong partnerships with law enforcement throughout Nova Scotia and Ontario, we were able to disrupt the criminal actions of the Hells Angels and prevent drugs from reaching our streets,” RCMP Supt. Alfredo Bangloy said in a news release.

    “We want outlaw motorcycle gangs to know that they have been a priority for law enforcement in Nova Scotia, and they will continue to be. They are not welcome in our communities.”

    Police shut down the former Hells Angels chapter in Halifax in 2001 with a raid that imprisoned four of its seven members. Justice officials seized its clubhouse.

    But the gang has resurfaced in recent years mainly through affiliates or “puppet clubs” in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I.

    One of those associate clubs made headlines with a “welcome home” event in June 2016 at Musquodoboit Harbour which drew more than 100 bikers.

    Last December, members linked to the Hells Angels in Woodbridge, Ont., held a party in Charlottetown to celebrate a new “hangaround club” for recruits who typically go through a lengthy initiation process to reach full-patch status.

    Police link gang presence with higher addiction rates and crimes that feed drug habits such as home break-ins.

    Monahan was to appear in provincial court in Dartmouth, N.S., Thursday.

    Heickert was to appear Thursday in Ontario provincial court.

    Police say more charges are expected as the investigation led by the Nova Scotia RCMP combined forces special enforcement unit continues. It started in February and has included several other RCMP teams along with Halifax Regional Police and the Ontario Provincial Police biker enforcement unit.

    Hells Angels charged with drug trafficking in Nova Scotia, Ontario, RCMP sayHells Angels charged with drug trafficking in Nova Scotia, Ontario, RCMP say

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    Ontario is considering an “urgent” 22-per-cent increase to welfare over three years and a new housing benefit to begin as early as 2019 as part of a 10-year roadmap to overhaul the province’s antiquated and rule-bound income security system, the Star has learned.

    The proposals are included in a 180-page report by a provincially-appointed panel of community activists and experts being released Thursday by Community and Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek.

    Although the panel says it is impossible to provide a 10-year price tag for the reforms, early measures are expected to cost $3.2 billion annually by 2021, according to the report obtained by the Star.

    Jaczek, who set up the panel in July 2016, said she wanted the group to tackle the province’s “confusing, complicated and intrusive” welfare rules and to consider a broader approach to income security that includes housing, child benefits, health benefits, training and employment supports.

    At the time, Jaczek predicted there would be a commitment to help vulnerable Ontarians in the 2018 budget and said the Liberals are prepared to fight the next election on the issue.

    The panel, headed by former Ontario provincial court judge George Thomson calls on the government to create a system that treats individuals with dignity and respect and helps them reach their full potential through a comprehensive system of income and in-kind support.

    The plan includes simple and easy-to-access social assistance, seamless and integrated employment and training support, access to prescription drugs, dental, vision and hearing care services for all low-income Ontarians, affordable child care, a portable housing benefit and an “assured income” for people with disabilities.

    “Failing to reform the income security system comes with a heavy price tag. Moreover, it is a cost that will lead to ever-worsening outcomes for low-income people and the economy as a whole,” the report argues.

    As a first step, the panel says the government should adopt a minimum income standard “a floor below which no one should fall” to be achieved within 10 years based on the provincial poverty line of about $22,000 for a single person. The standard for people with disabilities would be 30 per cent higher.

    It also recommends starting work immediately to define a “market basket measure” that includes a basket of goods with prices reflecting the true costs and adjusted for all regions of Ontario, including the north. The measure would be used to evaluate the adequacy of the minimum income, the report says.

    “The combination of social assistance and other income supports, in the absence of earnings and private income, should provide enough resources to cover essential living costs such as housing, nutritious food, transportation, disability related costs and other necessities, so people can avoid poverty, protect wellbeing and focus on employment goals and social inclusion,” the report says.

    In the short term, the working group suggests a 22-per-cent increase to Ontario Works by 2020 to $893 a month, up from $721.

    It recommends a 15-per-cent hike to the Ontario Disability Support Program to $1,334, up from $1,151.

    For those who may balk at the cost, the reports says the “urgent, yet modest” increases to social assistance over the next three years amount to only 63 per cent and 70 per cent of the amounts being provided to participants in the basic income pilot for non-disabled individuals and people with disabilities respectively.

    But this is only a starting point, the report says. Over subsequent years the “minimum income standard” will be achieved through a combination of social assistance and other income security reforms, it says.

    A housing benefit should be available to low-income households starting in 2019 and initially cover 25 per cent of the gap between the actual cost of housing and a person’s ability to pay. Coverage would increase in subsequent years to cover 75 per cent by 2027-28.

    The report recommends boosting supports for families with children, particularly grandparents and other relatives raising kids in the care of children’s aid to align with payments received by foster parents.

    The panel also wants the government to help all low-income people, including those living in First Nation communities, access benefits paid through the tax system, such as the national child benefit.

    With Ottawa signaling improvements to the federal Working Income Tax Benefit, the panel calls on Ontario to ensure changes boost incomes for low-wage workers in this province.

    The report recommends adding coverage for dentures for people on social assistance by 2018 and expanding health benefits to all low-income adults over the next 10 years, starting with prescription drug coverage and then following with dental, vision and hearing care coverage.

    “No matter our background, our successes or our challenges, we all have a shared interest in supporting everyone’s ability to thrive and contribute to the social fabric of our communities and the economic well-being of our province,” the report says.

    “These are not investments into the system as it exists today,” the panel notes. “Rather, these are investments that will create the system of tomorrow — one that reflects the fundamental changes necessary to help people achieve social and economic inclusion,” the report adds.

    Proposed welfare reform plan includes 22% boost to paymentsProposed welfare reform plan includes 22% boost to payments

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    SALMON ARM, B.C.—Human remains found at a farm where RCMP have been conducting extensive searches have been identified as those of one of several women who have gone missing in British Columbia’s north Okanagan.

    Police said no charges have been laid in connection with Traci Genereaux’s death, which is being treated as suspicious.

    An autopsy has been completed but the results are not being released, the RCMP said in a news release Wednesday evening.

    RCMP have said five women including Genereaux have gone missing in the same area of north Okanagan in the past 20 months. Police have not linked any of the other cases with the search of the farm.

    Darcy Genereaux has said his daughter went missing in May and the RCMP asked him for a blood sample last week.

    Police said Genereaux’s family has been notified and they’re being offered support from victim assistance workers.

    Mounties began searching the rural property near Salmon Arm last month and announced the discovery of human remains on Oct. 21.

    The investigation of the 10-hectare property located on Salmon River Road is ongoing and police said they’re working to establish a timeline of Genereaux’s whereabouts on the days leading up to May 29 when she was last heard from in Vernon, B.C.

    Her father has described Genereaux — who he said would have turned 19 on Oct. 4 — as artistic, funny and loud.

    “She got out of her bad decisions, got back to being happy and she was the life of the party. She didn’t need a party, she was just the life of it,” he said in an interview earlier this week.

    Although police have not linked the property search to any other cases, Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said in the news release: “All other families that have been publicly linked to the ongoing investigation by the media were also contacted and made aware of the investigational update.”

    A forensics team specializing in recovering evidence was brought in to help last week and Mounties said the underwater recovery team had been conducting searches of the Salmon River, which runs through the property.

    Police said due to the size of the property, number of out buildings and terrain, more resources and equipment have since been brought in.

    A timeline of completing the search has not been set and police are calling the investigation “fluid.”

    A title search shows the property is owned by Wayne and Evelyn Sagmoen.

    It is not know whether they are related to Curtis Wayne Sagmoen, who was charged Oct. 17 with disguising his face with intent to commit an offence, uttering threats and weapons offences.

    The charges came after police issued a warning to “the general public and women sex workers” about a possible risk around Salmon River Road after an incident on Aug. 28 when a woman was allegedly threatened with a firearm.

    Police have not linked the search of the farm with the public warning.

    Sagmoen’s lawyer, Lisa Jean Helps, declined to comment after her client appeared in court on the charges he is facing last week in Vernon.

    “We are expecting that this may take some time to work its way through the justice system and we look forward to this all being litigated in front of a court of competent jurisdiction,” she said.

    Sagmoen is scheduled to appear in court in Vernon on Nov. 23.

    Human remains found on B.C. farm identified as missing womanHuman remains found on B.C. farm identified as missing woman

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    A coalition of unions is using Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown own campaign commercial in a new attack ad against him.

    Working Families — funded by public- and private-sector unions — released its latest TV spot Thursday, entitled “Can You Believe Patrick Brown?”

    The 30-second commercial hacks Brown’s slick ad from earlier this year that was designed to showcase the Tories’ moderate direction.

    “It doesn’t matter who you are; it doesn’t matter where you’re from; it doesn’t matter who you love,” says Brown, as a Working Families graphic splashes across the screen reminding viewers that “Patrick Brown Opposed Marriage Equality” as a Conservative MP in Ottawa.

    “It doesn’t matter if you belong to a union,” he says, as the words “Patrick Brown Voted To Restrict Unions” are superimposed over his photograph.

    “It doesn’t matter how much you make,” Brown intones, as “Patrick Brown Wants Minimum-Wage Hike Delayed” appears on screen, a reference to his concerns over the $11.60 hourly wage jumping to $14 in January and $15 in 2019.

    “It doesn’t matter where you worship,” he continues, as “Patrick Brown Supported A Burka Ban” is emblazoned across footage of him at a temple and marching with Sikhs in the Khalsa Day parade.

    “You have a home in the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario,” the PC leader concludes.

    It’s the second ad targetting Brown by Working Families, an influential coalition that has helped swing the last four Ontario elections to the Liberals with attack ads against the Tories.

    With voters headed to the polls on June 7, 2018, the unions have been hammering the Tory leader on his voting record as an MP in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government between 2006 and 2015.

    Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton) suggested Working Families is just doing the Liberal premier’s bidding.

    “Life is good for Kathleen Wynne’s well-connected friends and they’ll do and say anything to keep it that way,” said MacLeod, who has also been critical of Working Ontario Women, a similar anti-Tory group bankrolled by the Service Employees International Union.

    Last week, Working Families depicted Brown as a cartoon weathervane atop the legislative assembly whose views on major issues constantly change.

    “Patrick Brown will say anything to get elected. He now says he’s pro-choice, but when it counted Patrick Brown had a 100 per cent pro-life voting record,” said the announcer.

    “He now says he supports equal marriage, but when it counted he voted against it,” he continued.

    “He now says he welcomes labour into his party, but when it counted his votes hurt working people. When it counts for us, Patrick Brown can’t be counted on. He just blows with the winds of political opportunity.”

    Unions using Patrick Brown's ad against himUnions using Patrick Brown's ad against him

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    The creation of an inspector general to monitor police services, penalties for officers who fail to co-operate in police watchdog investigations, and the ability to suspend officers without pay were part of an announcement Thursday to revamp policing and the police oversight system in Ontario.

    “The changes we are proposing today represent the largest transformation to Ontario's policing and community safety in over 25 years,” said Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Marie-France Lalonde, along with Attorney General Yasir Naqvi.

    The ability for chiefs to suspend officers without pay has been called upon for years, including by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. Ontario is currently the sole province in Canada that requires suspension with pay except when an officer is sentenced to jail time.

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    Circumstances in which an officer can now be suspended without pay in Ontario include when the officer is in custody or the subject of bail or other court conditions that prevent them from performing their usual police duties, as well as if charged with a serious offence that was not committed in the course of their duties.

    Changes to police oversight announced by the government Thursday include establishing penalties for officers who don't comply with oversight investigations, as well as setting timelines for investigations and reporting the results to the public.

    The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the arm's-length agency that probes police-involved death, serious injury and allegations of sexual assault, has often faced criticism for taking too long with its investigations. Naqvi also said Thursday the SIU, which falls under the jurisdiction of the attorney general, would be rebranded as the Ontario Special Investigations Unit.

    Other proposed changes include:

    Greater SIU powers of investigation: The changes give greater strength to the SIU, expanding its powers to launch investigations not only into the behaviour of on-duty current police officers, but former officers, special constables (such as those working for universities) and in certain circumstances, off-duty officers and members of First Nations police services

    Expanded SIU powers to lay criminal charges: The watchdog would be able to lay any criminal charge uncovered during an investigation — regardless of whether it is directly related to the death, serious injury or allegation of sexual assault that triggered the probe.

    Independent police complaints province-wide by 2022: Within the next five years the Ontario Policing Complaints Agency (formerly the Office of the Independent Police Review Director) would no longer refer its complaints back to police service where the complaint originated for an investigation. The agency would instead investigate almost all of these complaints itself.

    Penalties for non-cooperation: Both the SIU and the newly named Ontario Policing Complaints Agency would also be able to impose penalties for officers who fail to co-operate with its investigations. A non-cooperative officer could face a $50,000 fine, a year in jail, or both.

    Limiting police officers working for watchdogs: The legislation would give the government the ability to put a cap on the number of former police officers who could work within an investigative team on the SIU or who could be employed by the newly named OPCA.

    The new office of the inspector general would have the power to oversee and monitor police services and police services boards, the government said Thursday, and would be able to review complaints, including against board members and chiefs of police.

    “I want that person's name immediately, because I will be the first one reaching out to that person,” Joanne MacIsaac, whose brother Michael was shot and killed by Durham police in 2013, told the Star.

    Many of the oversight recommendations were in response to an independent review conducted by Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch.

    Last spring, the judge recommended major changes to Ontario's police watchdogs, including the SIU, which probes deaths, serious injuries and allegations of sexual assault involving police.

    The same day Tulloch released his comprehensive report to improve police oversight, Naqvi announced action on some of the key recommendations, including more transparency and the collection of race-based statistics by the SIU and the two other watchdogs.

    Naqvi reiterated the government's commitment Thursday to comply with another key Tulloch recommendation, saying the government is working toward posting previously secret SIU investigation reports.

    Many of the policing changes will form part of the Safer Ontario Act, which replaces the current Police Services Act. Changes to police oversight will be included in the new Police Oversight Act and Ontario Policing Discipline Tribunal Act.

    Currently, police oversight forms just a small part of the Police Services Act. Another Tulloch recommendation was that oversight should be in a separate piece of legislation.

    ‘The largest transformation to Ontario’s policing and community safety in over 25 years’‘The largest transformation to Ontario’s policing and community safety in over 25 years’‘The largest transformation to Ontario’s policing and community safety in over 25 years’‘The largest transformation to Ontario’s policing and community safety in over 25 years’

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    A veteran truck driver and father of nine who worked tirelessly to support his family in northeastern Ontario was one of three people killed in a pileup that set off a massive fireball on a highway north of Toronto, his grieving wife said Thursday.

    Nikiyah Mulak-Dunn said she first feared the worst for her husband Benjamin Dunn after a friend pointed out images in the media of what appeared to be his truck engulfed in flames.

    Related story:At least three people dead following collision, explosion on Hwy. 400

    Provincial police later confirmed the grim news, plunging the family into despair and uncertainty, she said. Grief counsellors have been at the family's North Bay home to help Mulak-Dunn talk to her children, who are between one and 16 years old, about the loss of their father, she said.

    “It's just been devastating,” she said. “I don't know where we're at right now, we're just trying to process and we're all in shock and disbelief and just pretty traumatized, I'd say, so it's going to have to be day by day.”

    She said her husband — who was the family's sole breadwinner — had been working as a trucker for at least a decade and drove that same route regularly. He also juggled two other jobs as a miner and a welder, she said.

    “He was just a devoted and hardworking husband and father and he would just do anything for anyone if they asked and even if they didn't ask, he was a very caring, intuitive person. He loved people and cared about them a lot.”

    Friends have rallied behind the grieving family, organizing meal trains and offering to plow their driveway all winter, Mulak-Dunn said. Others have launched online fundraising campaigns.

    Police have not publicly identified those killed Tuesday night in the multi-vehicle crash on Hwy. 400 that set off a massive fireball and sent motorists running for their lives.

    That stretch of highway south of Barrie was closed for more than 24 hours after the crash, which police have said involved at least four transport trucks and two fuel tankers that spilled thousands of litres of fuel on the road.

    Police said the impact sent a wave of fuel and flames rushing down the highway, leaving behind charred, twisted metal and debris. One lane of the northbound highway will be closed again sometime Thursday for an environmental cleanup, they said.

    The cause of the crash remains under investigation but police suggested the blame may lie with the driver of a transport truck they say crashed into slowing traffic.

    Just days earlier, provincial police had sounded the alarm about fatal collisions caused by distracted truck drivers.

    The force said last week that since Jan. 1, its officers have tracked more than 5,000 transport truck-related collisions that have left 67 people dead.

    The Ontario Trucking Association has said 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.

    ‘Devoted and hardworking’ father of 9 identified as a victim in Hwy. 400 crash‘Devoted and hardworking’ father of 9 identified as a victim in Hwy. 400 crash‘Devoted and hardworking’ father of 9 identified as a victim in Hwy. 400 crash‘Devoted and hardworking’ father of 9 identified as a victim in Hwy. 400 crash

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    The usual seasonal bounce in re-sale homes between September and October was more pronounced than usual this year in the Toronto region, growing 12 per cent.

    But there were still 2,597 — about 27 per cent — fewer sales this October compared to the same month last year.

    Home prices also rose 2.3 per cent year over year in October, but new numbers from the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) on Thursday showed some areas are doing better than others.

    Read More:The Star looks at the present and future of Toronto housing

    The average price of a home — including all housing types from apartments to detached houses with yards — rose 2.3 per cent to $780,104, compared to $762,691 last year.

    But detached house prices were down 2.5 per cent across the region — a 4 per cent decline in the 905 area to an average price of $910,488 and, a 1.1 per cent drop in Toronto to about $1.3 million.

    Condos, however, continued to perform well, up 21.8 per cent across the region to an average price of $523,041.

    The divide between the City of Toronto and the surrounding region is a function of the housing stock that's on the market, said Jason Mercer, TREB's director of market analysis.

    In the 905 there are more detached homes on the market, he said, "so you haven't seen as much upward pressure on prices there."

    TREB's annual survey will show how the new mortgage stress tests introduced last month are impacting consumers' buying attitudes, said Mercer.

    "While the number of transactions was still down relative to last year's record pace, it certainly does appear that sales momentum is picking up," board president Tim Syrianos said in a press release.

    Royal LePage agent Elli Davis, said the number of homes she sold last month was almost identical to the same period last year. After a lull in the summer, buyers are starting to come back to the market, she said.

    "Condos under $500,000 are flying," said Davis.

    There is also scarce supply to feed the demand from downsizing buyers for condos priced between $1 million and $3 million.

    "We have very little supply, so when a listing comes out everybody's running to it," she said.

    Some sellers still haven't adjusted to the new market realities and are pricing their properties in the expectation of selling for the prices their neighbours garnered earlier this year or last year, she said.

    Some are struggling with whether to sell their home before buying another.

    "A lot of people are still buying first, but they have to be cognizant of what their property will sell for so they can be realistic when we get to that point," said Davis.

    South of Bloor St., from Etobicoke to the Beaches, houses are still selling in multiple offers and two- and three-bedroom condos are being snapped up, said Ara Mamourian broker-partner at in Leslieville.

    "But what's really going nuts is the rental market right now," he said. "We can't keep a rental property on the market for more than 24 hours without at least two or three applications on it."

    Some consumers have been priced out of the home ownership market, said Mamourian.

    "They don't have the down payment money, but they certainly do have the monthly cash flow to float a nice, high-quality rental. That's why we're seeing the $3,000- to $4,000-a-month rental market really do well," he said, adding that it's difficult to find a one-bedroom apartment for under $2,000 a month.

    "We're seeing folks double up, taking on roommates, taking on two-bedroom apartments for $1,200 to $1,300 each, versus a one-bedroom that would cost them $2,000," he said.

    In Oakville, where ground-level housing comprises the largest share of the market, things are slower, said Century 21 Miller agent Jamie Vieira.

    "Everybody assumed that we'd get busy because of the mortgage rules coming in effect Jan. 1, so there would be some rush to buy but that doesn't seem to be happening," he said.

    "We have a lot of inventory sitting around and (sellers) trying to wrap their heads around the price. September was slow too," said Vieira, adding that prices are nowhere near what they were in March and April when the Toronto region housing market peaked.

    TREB reported 888 active listings this October compared to only 400 last year. While the average Oakville home price of about $1.09 million is up about $43,000 year over year, the median price fell $67,500.

    "We're up at the peak inventory we had at the end of June and sales are 45 per cent down. Take those two things combined and it's not a good market," said Vieira.

    In April Toronto region home prices peaked at 33 per cent above the previous year. But the provincial government's Fair Housing policies, including a foreign buyers tax, immediately cooled the market.

    That was followed by two hikes in the Bank of Canada rate and, more recently, more mortgage stress testing rules by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.

    The CHMC warned last month that the country's hottest housing markets remain “highly vulnerable” with evidence of moderate overvaluation and price acceleration in Toronto, Hamilton, Vancouver, Victoria and Saskatoon.

    Detached Toronto home prices fall, while condo prices soar in OctoberDetached Toronto home prices fall, while condo prices soar in October

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    OTTAWA—The number of cabinet ministers in the same boat as Finance Minister Bill Morneau — who hung onto publicly traded shares in a numbered corporation — is “fewer than five” and “could be one, two, three or four,” says the federal ethics watchdog.

    It was an astonishingly vague statement that prompted mockery on Twitter and fuelled theatric outrage in the Commons.

    Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer taunted the finance minister about how many of his colleagues had squirreled away assets: “Am I getting warmer or colder? It is more than one, but less than five. Is it four? Is it three? Is it two? Why cannot this minister just answer simple questions? Who are the other ministers and how many are there?”

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and now Morneau, say the number is two: Morneau, who said he has now “divested” his Morneau Shepell shares and put other assets into a blind trust; and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, whose assets held by her and her husband’s investment management company were sold off in April 2016.

    But Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson — who says those assets are nonetheless legally held — refuses to be precise.

    Not about this government, nor about the last.

    Dawson now says that “fewer than five” cabinet ministers in the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper also did the same thing as Morneau — held controlled assets indirectly.

    That stands in contrast to the number 21 cited by Morneau Tuesday when he tried to turn tables on his Opposition critics and challenged whether “21 members on the other side of the House who have private corporations” had disclosed all their assets to Dawson, as he claimed he had done.

    Yet Morneau admitted he has paid the $200 fine Dawson levied for belated disclosure of his ownership of a French company that holds his family villa in Provence, calling it an “administrative error.”

    And Morneau dropped any talk of what previous Conservative MPs may or may not have done.

    Dawson’s office — whose job it is to parse the personal portfolios of every MP to ensure ethical rules are not broken — will not identify either Liberals or Conservatives, saying their asset declarations to her are confidential.

    Her office tried — in vain — to set the record straight after the Globe and Mail said Dawson was “at odds with” the PMO over the number of Liberal ministers who currently hold controlled assets indirectly.

    That’s what got Morneau in hot water when it was revealed he’d never put those assets in a blind trust — as many had assumed — because Dawson had told him the law did not require it.

    On Thursday, Dawson’s spokesperson Jocelyne Brisebois said the commissioner “did not wish to give an exact number” of who else is using what the Opposition calls the Morneau loophole.

    Pressed by the Star to clarify what authority prevented the ethics commissioner from being more precise, Brisebois said the information “is not required to be made public.”

    “Confidential disclosures are kept confidential as contemplated by the Conflict of Interest Act. Providing a range rather than a precise number provides some information, but is as far as we feel it is appropriate to go.”

    Instead, the ethics watchdog took refuge in obscurity, saying the number was “fewer than five, giving a general sense of an upper limit to the number, meaning it could be one, two, three or four.”

    The statement triggered hilarity on Twitter. CBC’s parliamentary writer Aaron Wherry tweeted “Ethics commissioner's office confirms that numbers fewer than five include four, three, two and one…. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has not yet commented.”

    But it prompted the NDP to claim Dawson has said “up to five” ministers used the loophole.

    As for the number of Conservatives who ever used it, the Ottawa Citizen previously reported that former Conservative finance minister Joe Oliver was “sole owner of a private corporation which owns investment accounts” and his wife had a locked-in retirement account composed of publicly traded securities, that were not considered directly controlled because they were in pooled accounts. Oliver himself tweeted Wednesday that after his appointment to cabinet he sold all his publicly traded shares, and all his investments “were in open ended funds as permitted by conflict act.” He said all decisions for fund portfolios were made by third party fund managers, and his only other assets were his home, personal effects and bank accounts.

    As well, the newspaper had reported Oliver’s predecessor Jim Flaherty’s wife Christine Elliott, held a portfolio of Canadian equities while her husband was in cabinet.

    Dawson had urged the previous Conservative government close the loophole allowing indirect holdings of controlled assets when the act was under review in 2013. The Commons ethics committee says it will take a new look at the provisions, and summon Dawson to testify.

    Ethics watchdog cagey over who holds whatEthics watchdog cagey over who holds what

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    Canada’s democratic institutions minister is considering tougher digital political advertising rules after social media giants detailed how Kremlin-linked operators harnessed their platforms to rile Americans over divisive issues in the 2016 U.S. election.

    “I am actively thinking and working on ways to ensure that (the Elections) Act is up to date with regard to new technology,” Minister Karina Gould said in a phone interview Thursday.

    “I’m looking (at the act) to ensure the mechanisms we have in place are strong enough, and if they’re not, to ensure we’re doing what we can so that’s not an area that can be exploited.”

    Her remarks come a day after hotly anticipated back-to-back hearings on Capitol Hill in which representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google provided the most detailed account thus far of how foreign groups used the sites in an attempt to meddle in the presidential election.

    The three tech giants previously admitted Russian groups, including a St Petersburg-based troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency, placed thousands of ads and used fake accounts and automated bots to sow false information and discord.

    Dozens of examples released by congressional investigators Wednesday show the posts extended well beyond favouring then-candidate, now-president Donald Trump, but had more to do with incendiary issues such as gun laws, LGBT rights, race relations and immigration. Some targeted swing states and people as young as 13. Others may have confused and suppressed voters.

    Gould said she is paying close attention to what transpired in the U.S. and that securing Canada’s next vote from the rapidly evolving threat of foreign and malicious interference is top priority.

    She didn’t rule out stricter laws for digital advertising — something the Chief Electoral Officer and Senate have urged. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also included a review of the third-party spending regime during and between elections in his latest marching orders to the minister.

    “That obviously includes any advertising that would be done online, and so I’m certainly thinking about what the possible changes are to the Canada Elections Act,” Gould said.

    “We do need to think critically because we do regulate other media platforms in Canada, in terms of how they share election advertising (and) with regards to outside influence . . . I think social media platforms do fall under that,” she said.

    She added the review is “actively underway” but could not commit to a timeline beyond “relatively soon.”

    Elections Canada has already indicated any changes must be enacted by spring 2018 in order to be implemented in time for the 2019 federal election.

    Currently it’s illegal in Canada for foreign entities to “induce” voters to cast their ballots a certain way — but the chief electoral officer has said that language is vague and difficult to enforce.

    The chief electoral officer was backed up earlier this year by a Senate committee that also poked holes in the law that could allow foreign actors to bankroll third parties — such as associations, unions, advocacy groups — to undermine the democratic process.

    Foreign entities aren’t allowed to fund third parties for the purpose of election advertising. But third parties aren’t required to disclose contributions they receive beyond the six months before the writ drops and during the campaign period.

    So it’s plausible a foreign entity could give a third party money outside that window to buy political ads, and no one would know.

    There have also been cries to update the definition of election advertising, which includes paid print, radio, TV and internet spots. It doesn’t include text, email or social media messages posted for free, such as a tweet or YouTube video.

    Facebook and Twitter executives told U.S. Congress the Russia-linked posts in question weren’t limited to paid content.

    The chief electoral officer also wants to make is a specific offence to spread false or misleading information about a candidate or political campaign online.

    Sen. Linda Frum has introduced a private member’s bill to close the gaps in Canadian elections law. U.S. lawmakers are having a mirror debate with the recently proposed Honest Ads Act.

    In the meantime Facebook and Twitter have introduced measures to improve political ad transparency on their platforms and to crack down on fake accounts. Facebook and Google have also launched digital media literacy campaigns in Canada to combat the scourge of so-called fake news. The companies have all pledged to continue to co-operate with congressional investigators as well.

    Gould lauded the platforms for self-policing but said it’s only a first step.

    “Social media platforms need to be thinking about their internal processes to ensure that we avoid these types of campaigns in the future.”

    Federal government eyeing tougher rules for digital election advertisingFederal government eyeing tougher rules for digital election advertising

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    Canada’s Indigenous population, Statistics Canada has recently reminded us, is growing at a rate that dwarfs that of the country’s non-Indigenous population.

    It is also a younger population. Close to 30 per cent of the Indigenous population is under 15, almost double the non-Indigenous percentage in that age group.

    And that youth too often starts behind.

    Canadian children who identify as First Nations, Metis or Inuit make up about 8 per cent of all Canadians aged 4 years and younger, yet they make up more than half the pre-schoolers in foster care.

    Of all children in foster care in this country, more than four in 10 are Indigenous.

    Children only get one childhood, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said Thursday. So there must be some urgency in righting wrongs.

    But official Ottawa is where urgency goes to die.

    Two of the most vital measures of Indigenous reconciliation, the gap in child welfare funding and the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, have returned to centre stage this week.

    To listen to those seeking change in recent days is to hear the quintessential Canadian laments about stifling bureaucracy, overlapping jurisdictions and work being done at cross purposes.

    Bellegarde was in the capital Thursday for a “day of action” to press the government on a gnawing wound for Indigenous leaders, the continued foot-dragging by the Liberals who have been ordered by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to stop discriminating against Indigenous on-reserve children on funding for health and welfare.

    Cindy Blackstock of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the AFN won a ruling against the government in January, 2016, and Ottawa has not moved despite three binding orders of non-compliance.

    It is a case of discrimination, nothing less.

    “Everybody gets it,” Bellegarde said. “Let’s get it done.’’

    Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott wants to move and she will convene an emergency meeting with the provinces in early 2018 to deal with the “crisis-level’’ rates of Indigenous children in care.

    The status quo is not working and reform of the child welfare system is immediately needed, she wrote in a letter to the provinces released this week.

    Philpott pledges Ottawa will step up and she concedes that much provincial work is already being done.

    As recently as June, Philpott was being accused of trying to quash provisions of the tribunal ruling, even as she maintained the government was merely trying to “clarify” provisions in an application for a judicial review.

    The provincial involvement is needed, but it raises the jurisdictional mess of 13 bilateral agreements.

    Ottawa, however, could move immediately and comply with the tribunal. The AFN has calculated $155 million is needed immediately to close the gap with off-reserve spending.

    A day earlier, more frustration was aired, this time from the national inquiry, a key to the Liberal reconciliation endeavour, but now an inquiry which has drawn national attention only for its false starts, postponed hearings, firings and resignations.

    It too is straddling jurisdictional lines legally, simultaneously holding 14 joint inquiries because each province and territory allowed it to probe within their jurisdiction.

    It is also trying to do things differently, de-colonizing the system on the go, as it put it in its interim report. The inquiry system it is working under is unable to respond quickly or flexibly based on “Indigenous worldviews.”

    It bared its list of frustrations.

    Federal privacy laws mean that Ottawa would not give the inquiry the contact information for victims’ families and survivors who were involved in the pre-inquiry period.

    Federal insistence on security clearances means it takes on average four months to hire someone and procurement policies mean it can take eight months to open an office. Even then, the inquiry said in its interim report, the offices opened without the telephones, computers and Internet service needed because of foot-dragging by bureaucrats.

    And Ottawa’s contract policies have meant it has been slow to pay cultural advisors or elders at the hearings or make timely payments for travel or out-of-pocket expenses. That makes it difficult to hire and keep Fire Keepers or Knowledge Keepers, positions that need to be filled if the inquiry is to deliver a family-first, non-colonial process.

    This government may have its heart in the right place when it comes to Indigenous reconciliation. But muscling aside an entrenched bureaucracy that slows, rather than speeds, action, will take more than that.

    Tim Harper writes on national affairs., Twitter: @nutgraf1

    Ottawa’s all talk and no action on Indigenous reconciliation: Tim HarperOttawa’s all talk and no action on Indigenous reconciliation: Tim Harper

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    A class-action lawsuit is not the best way for the thousands of families across Canada affected by Motherisk’s flawed drug and alcohol testing to fight for compensation in court, a Toronto judge has ruled.

    In his decision not to certify a proposed national class-action lawsuit related to the litany of problems uncovered at the Hospital for Sick Children’s Motherisk lab, Superior Court Justice Paul Perell said that because of the “intensely individualistic” nature of the claims, individual lawsuits would be more “efficient and expeditious.”

    “The significant damages are caused not by the common unreliability of the tests, but by an individual’s test being wrong with sometimes tragic consequences,” he said. “Class members should not suffer the disappointment of a class action that will not take them far enough on the path to substantive justice.”

    Read more:

    Fallout from Motherisk’s flawed tests a national tragedy

    What’s ailing SickKids? How Toronto’s world-class children’s hospital missed the warning signs

    Perell noted that there are already 328 named plaintiffs pursuing claims outside of the class-action lawsuit.

    The lawyers for the plaintiff said Thursday they plan to appeal the decision to Divisional Court.

    “The main thrust of the decision, that these individuals should proceed to soldier on in individual cases, we fundamentally disagree with,” lawyer Jody Brown said. “It would be uneconomical to have thousands of (people) litigating on the same issues and it would deny people access to the courts.”

    Brown said they also “strongly disagree” with Perell’s finding on punitive damages, which the plaintiff had asked him to certify on top of ordinary compensation, arguing that the defendants — who include Sick Kids, Motherisk founder Dr. Gideon Koren and former lab manager Joey Gareri — prioritized business interests over providing reliable test results.

    Perell said: “However egregious the conduct of Dr. Koren and Mr. Gareri in increasing the Hospital’s not-for-profit revenues and however egregious the failure of the administration of the hospital to supervise its Motherisk laboratory, and, however tragic and heartbreaking the outcomes in individual cases, a punitive award would ultimately not be visited on the defendants but rather would be inflicted on the sick children at the hospital.”

    But Brown said no entity should be “immune” from punitive damages simply because they do good work outside of the bounds of a court case.

    Perell’s ruling underscores the complexity of a national tragedy with no easy fix that was the product of failings across multiple systems, including the hospital, child protection and the courts, as the Star has reported.

    Sick Kids made millions from Motherisk’s hair-strand tests, which influenced criminal cases, private custody fights and thousands of child protection decisions, ranging from parents who briefly came under the scrutiny of a child welfare agency to cases where children were removed permanently.

    The proposed class-action sought compensation for the estimated 10,000 individuals who produced a positive Motherisk test from 2005 to 2015, the period during which a government-commissioned review deemed the lab’s testing to be “inadequate and unreliable” for use in legal proceedings.

    If it were certified, the class-action lawsuit would have included a common issues trial, where issues shared across the class could be decided, followed by individual issues trials, where the unique circumstances in individual cases could be determined.

    But even if the plaintiff in this case proved in a common issues trial that there was a class-wide breach of duty of care, the most substantive issues — whether Motherisk’s tests were “unreliable, false and adversely influential to the outcome of the individual’s court proceedings” — would still have to be decided individually, Perell said.

    This “truth about the causation of the harm” explains why the Motherisk Commission, which is probing affected child protection files in Ontario, established a process to pinpoint cases where the testing had a “significant impact” on the outcome, he said.

    “The Motherisk Commission recognized that an unreliable test that did not influence the result of the court proceedings does not occasion a harm for which there might be compensatory damages,” he said.

    Lawyer Darryl Cruz, who represents Koren, said Perell made the right decision.

    The “issues are simply too individualized to be decided across the entire population of people who were tested at Motherisk and this decision will allow issues to be litigated fairly through the regular court process,” he said.

    Queen’s Park appointed retired judge Susan Lang to probe Motherisk in late 2014 after a Star investigation exposed questions about the reliability of the lab’s hair tests. Sick Kids initially defended the reliability of Motherisk’s testing, but closed the lab in the spring of 2015 after learning it had been misled about Motherisk’s international proficiency testing results.

    Sick Kids CEO Michael Apkon issued a public apology in October 2015. Koren retired in June of 2015, and is now working in Israel.

    Led by retired judge Judy Beaman, the Motherisk Commission has so far identified 50 cases where Motherisk testing had a significant impact on decisions to remove children from their families.

    Rachel Mendleson can be reached at

    Judge rejects proposed class-action over Motherisk drug-testing scandalJudge rejects proposed class-action over Motherisk drug-testing scandal

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    Toronto city council has appointed Lucy Troisi to replace the late Pam McConnell as the councillor for Ward 28, rejecting the McConnell family’s pick.

    Troisi, executive director of the Cabbagetown Youth Centre, got the votes of council’s right-leaning allies of Mayor John Tory although Tory himself voted for Mike Creek, an anti-poverty activist the McConnell family wanted to succeed her.

    In an interview after the close vote, which went to a second ballot, Troisi did not hide her support for Tory’s agenda including low property taxes and the Scarborough subway.

    “I don’t know if that made the difference but absolutely I like the mayor’s agenda and I’ll be supporting that,” on council, Troisi told reporters.

    In all, there were 31 candidates vying to replace McConnell, but only Troisi and Creek made it to the second ballot

    McConnell was Tory’s anti-poverty advocate, but also a leader of council’s left wing who regularly voted against the mayor on issues including budget reductions, the Scarborough subway and keeping the east Gardiner expressway elevated instead of turning into a ground-level boulevard.

    But Troisi, who worked with McConnell on initiatives when Troisi was a manager in the city parks department, said she can fulfill McConnell’s legacy in the year that she will hold the seat. Troisi, like most of the candidates, vowed not to use the appointment as a springboard to running in the 2018 election.

    “Absolutely, I’ll be pushing the poverty-equity agenda for sure,” she said, adding council needed another female voice on council.

    Her priorities, she said, will include Regent Park redevelopment and protecting Toronto islands from flooding.

    Ward 28, including the east downtown waterfront and from Sherbourne St. to the Don Valley Parkway north to Bloor St., is one of the busiest in the city, with booming development and wealth, but also significant poverty.

    Longtime representative McConnell died in July at age 71. Her council allies argued strongly for the appointment of Creek, a longtime anti-poverty activist who worked closely with McConnell on many projects including Regent Park, where he was also her neighbour.

    Creek, who was once homeless and is openly gay, told council he hoped to continue his mentor’s work. “I spoke with Pam every day,” he said, promising to be a non-partisan, collaborative voice at council.

    Creek, director of strategic initiatives at the non-profit Working for Change, would give the ward “the collaborative, engaging and respectful approach that characterized Pam and which led to her success as a political leader,” McConnell’s husband and children said in a letter to councillors.

    Councillor Joe Mihevc, another Creek supporter, tabled four pages of endorsements for him from a host of Ward 28 activists and community group leaders, as well as former mayor Barbara Hall.

    Many of Troisi’s council supporters said they appreciated her roots in a big family with a disabled father, growing up in Regent Park, as well as the need to have more women on council plus her familiarity with city hall that should help her “hit the ground running.”

    Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, however, said Troisi got his vote for other reasons, noting city council will soon head into tough budget deliberations.

    “We’re going to be asked to make some tough decisions and I would like someone on this council who actually votes the way that I think this council should be going,” Minnan-Wong told council, adding Troisi had assured him she supports Tory’s agenda — “holding the line on taxes”, supporting the Scarborough subway and keeping the Gardiner aloft.

    Some of McConnell’s former council allies looked shaken after the vote.

    “Council’s right wing, despite the endorsements of 150 community leaders, has denied Ward 28 a vote at council,” said Councillor Mike Layton.

    Toronto council selects Tory supporter to replace Pam McConnellToronto council selects Tory supporter to replace Pam McConnell

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    A 50-year-old woman detained by Canadian immigration officials in a maximum-security jail in Milton died on Monday, according to a brief news release from the Canada Border Services Agency.

    The agency, which has the power to arrest and jail non-citizens, would not disclose the woman’s identity, country of origin or her cause of death, as per its usual protocol.

    The woman is the 10th person to die in immigration detention in the last five years and at least the sixteenth since 2000.

    Immigration detainees are not criminally charged, but are detained on an indefinite basis, either because they have been deemed a danger to the public, are unlikely to show up for their deportation or because their identity is in doubt.

    The average length of detention last year was 19.5 days, but there is no limit to how long someone can stay in detention and some cases drag on for months or years.

    In Ontario, immigration detainees are held either at the Immigration Holding Centre, a minimum-security facility in Etobicoke exclusive to immigration detainees, or in maximum-security provincial jails, where they are treated as sentenced criminals and those awaiting trial are.

    An immigration detainee’s detention is reviewed every 30 days by the quasi-judicial Immigration and Refugee Board, but where the person is detained is at the sole discretion of CBSA officers and is not subject to any oversight.

    This aspect of the system was recently criticized by Superior Court Justice Alfred O’Marra, who ordered longtime immigration detainee Ebrahim Toure, who had spent four-and-a-half years in a maximum-security jail, to be transferred immediately to the less-restrictive Immigration Holding Centre.

    The woman who died on Monday was detained at the Vanier Centre for Women, where she was apparently “found in medical distress and immediately taken to hospital,” according to the agency’s release.

    She died “shortly thereafter.”

    The CBSA did not clarify whether she died at, or on the way to, the hospital, nor did it say to which hospital she was taken.

    It refused to answer the Star’s questions on how long the woman had been detained, nor would it give the grounds for her detention.

    Canada’s immigration detention system has come under increased scrutiny this year, in the wake of a number of high-profile court challenges.

    In April, Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer released Kashif Ali, who had spent seven years in maximum-security jail because immigration officials were unable to deport him, saying Canada could not “purport to hold someone in detention forever.”

    In August, Justice Edward Morgan ordered the immediate release of an immigration detainee whom, he said, was jailed “for no real reason at all.”

    The Liberal government has vowed to improve the system, saying it intends to reduce the use of maximum-security jails and expand alternatives to detention. The Liberals are detaining fewer people for immigration purposes than the Conservatives did under Stephen Harper, according to the most recent statistics

    But they have not made any policy changes to a system that has been widely criticized by human rights organizations.

    “People keep dying in immigration holding centres and maximum-security prisons,” said Nisha Toomey, spokeswoman for the End Immigration Detention Network.

    “People will stop dying when the Canadian government stops leaving them there to die.”

    This latest immigration detention death is the fourth since March 2016, when Melkioro Gahunga and Francisco Astorga both died in a single week.

    Gahunga, a 64-year-old Burundian refugee, reportedly hanged himself at the Toronto East Detention Centre, while Astorga, a 39-year-old Chilean migrant, died after overdosing on fentanyl and methamphetamine, according to a coroner’s inquest into his death.

    A 24-year-old man died at the Edmonton Remand Centre in May 2016.

    His identity, country of origin and cause of death have never been disclosed.

    50-year-old woman dies in immigration detention50-year-old woman dies in immigration detention

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    NEW YORK—CNN is reporting that eight current or former House of Cards workers claim that Kevin Spacey made the production a “toxic” workplace and one ex-employee alleges the actor sexually assaulted him.

    The workers’ identities were withheld from Thursday’s report because they fear professional fallout, the cable news channel said.

    Among them is a former production assistant who alleged that Spacey assaulted him during one of the Netflix show’s early seasons, and CNN reported that all of the people described Spacey’s behaviour as predatory.

    Read more:

    Kevin Spacey seeking ‘evaluation and treatment’ amid sexual assault accusations

    House of Cards producers press pause on filming in wake of Kevin Spacey allegations

    Actress Paz de la Huerta accuses Harvey Weinstein of raping her twice

    The report accuses Spacey of allegedly targeted staffers who were typically young and male with nonconsensual touching and crude comments.

    The talent agency CAA is no longer representing Kevin Spacey as of late Thursday evening.

    A person with knowledge of the decision who was not authorized to speak publicly confirmed that both CAA and Spacey’s publicist Staci Wolfe have parted ways with the actor amid growing claims of sexual harassment against him.

    Representatives from the agency did not immediately respond to request for comment.

    The fallout stems from last weekend’s BuzzFeed News report in which actor Anthony Rapp said that Spacey attempted to seduce him in 1986, when Rapp was 14.

    Spacey apologized earlier this week for the incident but said he didn’t recall what might have been “drunken behaviour.” In a statement Wednesday, Spacey’s publicist said he’s seeking unspecified treatment.

    Eight ‘House of Cards’ workers accuse Kevin Spacey of harassment, report saysEight ‘House of Cards’ workers accuse Kevin Spacey of harassment, report says

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    The province has committed to new legislation that will require accreditation for forensic laboratories operating in Ontario in the wake of a Star investigation that revealed thousands of child protection cases across the country had relied on faulty evidence from the Hospital for Sick Children’s Motherisk lab.

    The new Forensic Laboratories Act, announced Thursday as part of a broader government effort to modernize policing in Ontario, aims to create better oversight of forensic labs to ensure they meet mandated standards going forward and is the first legislation of its kind in Canada.

    It’s a move Toronto criminal defence lawyer Daniel Brown called a “really great step forward,” but one that’s “long overdue.”

    Read more:Judge rejects proposed class-action over Motherisk drug-testing scandal

    “There was certainly a need for forensic lab accreditation and better controls over the evidence that’s being presented in criminal courts,” he said. “Hundreds of people have been impacted by faulty scientific evidence in the court rooms.”

    As revealed by a Star investigation thousands of child protection cases and at least eight criminal cases across Canada relied on the results of Motherisk’s discredited hair-strand drug and alcohol tests between the late 1990s and early 2015. At the same time, the lab was earning millions of dollars in revenue. The Hospital for Sick Children closed the Motherisk lab in 2015.

    The revelations followed another Sick Kids scandal, which also highlighted the risks of faulty science, involving disgraced pathologist Charles Smith, whose mistakes tainted more than a dozen criminal cases.

    Under the province’s new accreditation framework forensic labs will be subject to proficiency testing, annual audits, performance reports and surveillance visits.

    “Our government is committed to holding forensic laboratories in Ontario to a consistently high standard,” said Yanni Dagonas, a spokesperson for Community Safety Minister Marie-France Lalonde, in a statement.

    It’s unclear how many labs will be affected by the new legislation given the current lack of oversight, but the government is proposing a transitional period of up to two years to give laboratories time to go through the accreditation process, which can take between 18 and 24 months, he said.

    Once the new accreditation standards come into force accreditation bodies would be able to issue warnings, suspend lab activities and revoke accreditation if labs fail to comply with the rules.

    The proposed legislation also says unaccredited labs that conduct testing covered by the act could be subject to fines of up to $30,000 for a first offence.

    Though Brown said most of his concerns regarding standards for forensic labs were addressed during government consultations earlier this year, he is concerned the new legislation won’t address the admissibility of evidence from labs that may not be accredited and instead leave it up to the courts’ discretion.

    “The problem in the past is that the courts have failed to properly scrutinize evidence from non-forensic lab sources,” he said, pointing to the case of Tamara Broomfield, who was tried in 2009 and convicted for breaking her son’s bones and feeding him cocaine, as an example.

    In that case, which blew the lid off the Motherisk scandal, Motherisk tests on her son’s hair, which claimed to show he had consumed high levels of cocaine over 15 months, were admitted by the court.

    “That was done by a lab that wasn’t forensically accredited and nobody raised that issue at her trial and part of the problem is that they lacked the scientific literacy to do that,” Brown said, adding, “we can’t simply rely on the word of experts because … sometimes the experts can lead the courts astray.”

    Brown, who is also a Toronto director with the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, tried to have Broomfield’s case reopened in 2010. Her cocaine-related conviction was eventually overturned in 2014, prompting the Star’s investigation.

    Many other cases that relied on Motherisk tests are now under review as well. Altogether, the disgraced lab performed tests on more than 25,000 people in Canada.

    Brown said he hopes to see the new rules enforced as soon as possible.

    “Cases are taking place everyday in the criminal court system and the family court system that are relying on forensic evidence and we want to make sure that the way this evidence is being presented in court and the standards that underlie the science are sound,” he said.

    With files from Rachel Mendleson

    New rules will require forensic labs to be accreditedNew rules will require forensic labs to be accredited

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    Alleged serial rapist Harvey Weinstein has been blacklisted by his peers and ousted from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But there remains one very exclusive group that will have him: the Edenbridge Bonfire Society.

    The EBS is world famous for lighting up enormous effigies of widely loathed figures on Guy Fawkes Day, such as U.S. President Donald Trump and disgraced FIFA president Sepp Blatter. The group recently announced that Weinstein’s image has been selected to burn in this weekend’s Guy Fawkes celebration, in what will be a demonstration of a career gone up in flames. Meanwhile, two other Hollywood big shots — director James Toback and producer Brett Ratner — stand accused of sexual misconduct, though neither one has had his likeness scorched in public. But tomorrow is another day.

    If I were a predatory Hollywood producer I’d be very afraid. Only a truly committed cynic could argue that attitudes have not shifted in favour of victims of sexual assault and harassment in the entertainment industry, in light of the recent allegations. And yet, despite this weekend’s symbolic burning at the stake, there is still great reason to be cynical about our culture’s attitudes toward victims of sexual assault. Even though we have made significant strides at condemning abuse in one area of entertainment, we remain virtually silent when it comes to condemning it in another area: the world of adult entertainment.

    Two of pornography’s mega stars — men who are arguably more famous internationally than Harvey Weinstein — are facing allegations of serial harassment and sexual assault. Ron Jeremy is a 64-year-old porn legend, and James Deen is a 31-year-old porn legend in the making. Both men have made appearances in mainstream entertainment: Deen starred alongside Lindsay Lohan in the 2013 Paul Schrader film, The Canyons, and Jeremy’s long-standing pop culture status needs no explanation.

    Both men are also alleged serial abusers. Multiple women, including a former partner, have accused Deen of sexual assault, and Jeremy faces multiple accusations of groping (in addition to an accusation of rape by a former co-star). Last year, a webcam model known as Miss Lollipop tweeted the following: “Not my 1st, but at a my 1st adult con, posing for a photo w ron jeremy — he slips his finger under my panties and into my vagina. #notokay”

    Former porn actress turned professional writer Aurora Snow outlined the well-known reality of allegations against Jeremy and Deen in a piece in the Daily Beast this week. Snow wondered, understandably, why the two stars (who deny the allegations against them) appear to have been spared the public evisceration their Hollywood counterparts are now enduring. Unlike Weinstein et al, porn industry insiders and fans have not excommunicated Jeremy and Deen nor burned their images in a gigantic bonfire.

    Nor has mainstream entertainment. In fact, Esquire magazine, a publication that has been critical of Weinstein in recent weeks, published a glowing interview with Jeremy in September, positioning the porn legend as a “feminist” who “cares deeply about animals.”

    Esquire editor Nate Erickson writes: “Social media has helped him (Jeremy) reveal another side: a guy who understands civil rights better than our own president.”

    He’s also a guy, Erickson fails to mention, who, like the president, stands accused of groping multiple women.

    So what gives? Why are we eager to burn a replica of a bathrobe-clad Weinstein but we appear content to let Jeremy and Deen go unscathed?

    The answer can’t be that in cases of sexual abuse, we believe the accused should be given the benefit of the doubt. After all, Weinstein certainly doesn’t have the benefit of the doubt. What he does have, however, is a lineup of sympathetic accusers. Weinstein’s accusers, many of them A-list actresses, are beautiful, intelligent, moneyed and seemingly trustworthy.

    Many of Jeremy and Deen’s accusers, on the other hand, have participated in the adult entertainment industry. They are exactly the kind of women about whom men have zero qualms making statements such as “She was asking for it” and “Well, what did she expect? Look what she does for a living.”

    Of course beautiful, “dignified” women, like Angelina Jolie and Lupita Nyong’o, are in no way immune to sexual predatory behaviour by powerful men. But their claims are, as evidenced by Weinstein’s fall, taken far more seriously than the claims of women who are paid to act in the buff.

    What this may mean is that despite all of the inspirational social media campaigns (#Metoo) and endless talk show chatter around the Weinstein allegations, our attitudes have not shifted in favour of victims of sexual assault. They’ve shifted, rather, in favour of sympathetic victims of assault: women who have done Shakespeare — not porn.

    This is a step, forward yes. But it’s a small one. And until we are prepared to issue sympathy to every kind of victim, and condemnation to every kind of creep, we won’t make it very far.

    Condemnation of sexual assaults can’t be selective: TeitelCondemnation of sexual assaults can’t be selective: Teitel

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