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TOPSTORIES

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    It should be clear by now that in the world of handing out awards, “best” can often mean something different than most of us understand it to mean.

    Just look at the history of the highest-profile awards. At the Oscars, How Green Was My Valley beat Citizen Kane for best picture of 1941, Dances With Wolves won over Goodfellas in 1990, and Forrest Gump beat Pulp Fiction in 1994. At the Grammy Awards, an upstart group called Milli Vanilli won “best new artist” in 1989. And that’s without even getting into the era in which Kanye West might rush the stage to point out injustices.

    Stupid is as stupid does, as one inane “best picture” title character was fond of saying. And award winners have certainly won an award — merit, perhaps, is a separate conversation.

    So: the TTC is the best transit system in North America over the past year, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

    At a press conference announcing the award Monday morning, TTC chief executive Andy Byford said the award shows Toronto’s transit system is “back where we belong as No. 1 in North America.”

    To which hundreds of thousands of Toronto commuters might shake their heads and ask, “No. 1 at what?”

    Read more:TTC named best public transit agency in North America

    I like Andy Byford — I think he has made dramatic improvements to the TTC’s customer service and management in his roughly five years heading the agency. I think it will be a shame if, as is rumoured around city hall and as he has not denied, he leaves at the end of his contract later this year because he’s fed up with trying to manage an agency in the chaotic and skinflint political conditions that have long prevailed in Toronto. I think if you’re in his position, and someone hands your organization a big award, you smile and accept it and take a moment to brag about your success. I don’t want to pick on Byford.

    But come on.

    Let us review, in part, TTC headlines from 2016 and 2017: a summer of failing air conditioning on the Bloor subway line left passengers trapped in underground sweatboxes; ridership failed to meet expectations; fare collection machines across the system widely failed to be in service; fares continued to rise (up more than 35 per cent in the decade since 2007); the delivery of new streetcars remains years behind schedule and existing streetcars have failed in adverse weather conditions — and some streetcar lines have been completely out of service for months at a time for repairs. The Yonge subway line is over capacity. The Bloor subway line is over capacity. The King and Queen streetcar lines are over capacity. Earlier this year, bus service on some lines was cut in the shivering cold of winter due to a lack of vehicles.

    I know TTC managers and executives bristle when this parade of customer complaints is rolled out. Last year, TTC chair Josh Colle took to the pages of this newspaper to complain about whiny critics who fail to recognize how hard and well TTC staff work to provide service while managing the lowest level of government funding among major transit systems in North America.

    And while I remain a whiny critic, I agree with him that the efficiency of our transit system — the number of passengers it manages to carry despite low funding and a relatively small track network of high-order vehicles — is underappreciated.

    I mean, there are awards I could see giving the TTC. As a kid, I won a hockey award for “most improved player” on my team that I (and all my teammates, I think) understood to mean I was not very good at the sport at all, but was obviously putting in a lot of effort and practice to get less bad at it. Something like that.

    Or better than that, actually: if there were some kind of award for MacGyvering together a workable, functioning network without the resources that would seem to make that possible, the TTC should win every year, I think. From the way it uses a bus network to feed its subways to carry far more passengers per kilometre than you’d expect, to the way it keeps streetcars on the road by continuing to employ a full-time blacksmith in 2017, the TTC does quite a lot with relatively little. And as Byford notes, they seem to have dramatically improved on a lot of very visible customer service standards in the past half-decade.

    But best? No. 1?

    Really?

    My big concern with patting ourselves on the back over recognition like this is not the frustration it provokes in customers who still feel, day to day, like the transit system has a long way to go. It is the complacency it may encourage in the political masters who are responsible for most of those headaches. They have underfunded the system for decades, and continue to do so, while planning to spend billions on politically motivated line extensions that won’t improve the service where it needs improving most.

    Increase spending to make service better? It’s a difficult political request at any time. But when you’re asking to do so just after being recognized as the “best” on the continent, it’s all the easier to find yourself dismissed. “We don’t need to invest in getting better. We’re already the best!”

    That, it seems to me, is exactly what happened last time the TTC won this award in 1986, just before a long, sustained period of dramatic budget cutting, system stagnation, deferred maintenance and falling ridership through the 1990s.

    Best? Bah. Forget the awards. We just want a ride.

    Edward Keenan writes on city issues ekeenan@thestar.ca . Follow: @thekeenanwire


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    Ontario’s legal regulator is contemplating major changes to the contingency fee system — “you don’t pay unless we win” — in an effort to stop “double dipping,” a practice in which lawyers take more money from their clients than the law allows.

    A Law Society of Upper Canada working group is considering a variety of recommendations, including capping lawyers’ fees, introducing a mandatory standardized contingency fee agreement, and requiring independent legal advice before fees are paid.

    “The working group is concerned that there appears to have been widespread non-compliance with the current regulatory requirements governing Ontario’s contingency fee regime,” says a report by the working group.

    “Change is necessary in order to protect consumers.”

    The recommendations come on the heels of a Star investigation that found that personal injury lawyers in the province routinely take two portions of money from their clients’ settlements, a practice known as “double dipping” in legal circles. In simple terms, lawyers working on contingency cannot take a sum of money called “costs” in addition to an agreed-upon percentage fee from the final settlement.

    The Star found that many Ontario residents have been overcharged thousands of dollars and likely do not know it.

    Earlier this month, Ontario’s Court of Appeal upheld a class action certification enabling a possible 6,000 accident victims to try to get their money back from personal injury law firm Neinstein & Associates, which is accused of double dipping into client settlements.

    In April, the law society made changes to the referral fee system and the way lawyers can advertise their services, issues that were part of earlier stories in the Star series.

    The working group’s latest report shines a spotlight on the remaining piece of the puzzle — contingency fee agreements. The report says the law society has found that the “single greatest issue” with contingency fee agreements is how fees are calculated. As part of its current review, the working group said it has considered academic and media reports, and is reaching out now for more advice.

    “Contingent fees are an important way of ensuring access to justice,” said Malcolm Mercer, chair of the working group. “But ensuring they are fair is complicated and we look forward to assistance and thoughts from those involved.”

    The report recommends changes to the Solicitors Act, which governs lawyer conduct, to “ensure that fees are clear, fair and reasonable.”

    Because contingency fee agreements are “unduly complex,” the working group says, it recommends requiring a mandatory standardized agreement.

    The report says that will make it easy for clients to understand what they’re signing and compare the cost of legal services.

    Under the current system, when a lawyer completes a case with an insurance company, the settlement amount is divided up into costs, damages and disbursements — legal out-of-pocket expenses. The working group has recommended that the only fee the lawyer will be able to take is an agreed-upon percentage of the full settlement, minus disbursements.

    The provision in the Solicitors Act that gives “costs” to clients in contingency fee cases not only makes fee calculations more “difficult,” the report says, but can lead to miscommunications and create “inherent conflict between the licensee’s interest and the client’s interest.”

    At times, the report said, the cost issue has “enabled unprofessional conduct by licensees putting their interests above their client’s interest.”

    Simplifying the fee calculations should be accompanied, the report says, by safeguards that could include requiring that clients get independent legal advice before paying their bill and telling clients exactly what they are paying for by disclosing — before the fees are paid — “the value of the time actually spent on the matter at the licensee’s agreed hourly rates.”

    But the working group feels that lawyers should be able to tailor their contingency fee rates — most lawyers take between 25 to 35 per cent — in order to take on higher risk cases.

    The working group is considering a variety of options, including setting a sliding scale contingency fee lawyers for cases that settle at various stages prior to trial to a maximum fee for matters that go to trial.

    Regardless of changes, the report said that lawyers and clients should still be able to jointly seek court approval to allow a lawyer to charge above contingency fee limits, in order to ensure access to justice for higher risk cases.

    Clients would still be able to get their fees assessed, the report said.

    The working group is seeking lawyer feedback on its ideas until Sept. 29 before formulating final recommendations.


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    After freezing prices at the start of the year, Metrolinx plans to increase fares for GO Transit and the Union Pearson Express this fall.

    A report going to the transit agency’s board on Wednesday recommends that the cost of single-ticket adult fares be raised by about 3 per cent, effective Sept. 2, 2017.

    The change would only affect trips that cost more than $5.65, however. Rides that are $5.65 or cheaper wouldn’t change.

    The report estimates that the increase will generate an additional $8.5 million for Metrolinx, the provincial agency in charge of transit planning in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

    The revenue is needed to “to meet the needs of our growing customer base, expand services, and ensure the financial sustainability of the corporation,” according to the report.

    GO is in the midst of a major service expansion and continues to add trips during peak and off-peak periods. By 2025 Metrolinx plans to quadruple the number of weekly trips on the rail network from 1,500 to 6,000 as part of its regional express rail program.

    “No one likes to pay more,” said agency spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins.

    “We understand that … But they do want to pay more for good service and expanded service.”

    She described the increase as “modest.”

    Between 2013 and 2016, GO fares increased roughly 5 per cent per year, with the changes coming into effect each February. Last December the Metrolinx board forewent the usual hike, however.

    The decision came months after service disruptions in June and July related in part to construction at Union Station significantly drove down on-time performance.

    Aikins said a possible factor in the board’s decision to not raise prices earlier this year was “to give customers a break” after the patch of poor service. She said she couldn’t speculate on whether there would be another fare increase in February 2018.

    Under the new fare structure, the cost of a trip between Union Station and Barrie would increase from $13.55 to $13.95, or $12.03 to $12.35 for Presto card users.

    The cost of a ride on the Union Pearson Express, between Union and the airport, would go from $12.00 to $12.35, or from $9.00 to $9.25 if using Presto.

    If approved, the increase would mark the first time Metrolinx has raised fares for the Union Pearson Express.

    The agency was forced to slash prices for the air-rail link in March 2016, after initial high prices deterred riders and left trains running mostly empty for months.


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    WASHINGTON—A deep national revulsion toward President Donald Trump has sent Canadians’ opinions of the United States plummeting to a level of antipathy never before seen in the 35 years a pollster has been asking.

    A major Pew Research survey released on Monday found that just 43 per cent of Canadians hold a favourable view of the U.S., with 51 per cent holding an unfavourable view.

    That is a steep decline since last year, the final year of Democrat Barack Obama’s presidency, when Pew found 65 per cent of Canadians favourably disposed to the U.S. And it is lower than even the low point of the unpopular presidency of Republican George W. Bush, when 55 per cent of Canadians were favourable.

    At no time since at least the early 1980s, and likely much earlier, has a majority of Canadians held a negative view of our neighbour and ally.

    “Maybe it was pretty bad in 1812,” joked Environics Institute executive director Keith Neuman, “but there’s no data for that.”

    The rise of Trump has almost certainly caused the precipitous fall. Under Obama last year, 83 per cent of Canadians had confidence in the president to do the right thing in world affairs. Under Trump this year, it is a mere 22 per cent.

    Perceptions of the U.S. have worsened dramatically on every continent since Trump’s election. Only in Russia has there been a significant improvement — 26 percentage points.

    Pew has never found Canadians so displeased with the U.S. since it launched the survey in 2002. A recent Environics survey found a similarly historic result: 53 per cent of Canadians were unfavourable, the first majority disapproval since the firm started polling the issue in 1982.

    “I don’t imagine it would have been lower in the ’60s or the ’70s,” Neuman said.

    In the 1980s and 1990s, during the tenures of Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat Bill Clinton, Environics found more than 78 per cent of Canadians favourable to the U.S. In lower-quality polls in the early 1940s and early 1960s, more than 30 per cent of Canadians said they wanted Canada to join the U.S.

    Canada, of course, also has a long tradition of anti-Americanism. Historian Jack Granatstein calls it “the Canadian secular religion,” with roots as far back as the U.S. Continental Army’s 1775 invasion of Quebec.

    So it is theoretically possible that a Canadian majority disliked the U.S. at some point between Confederation and today. There were no reliable surveys for most of Canada’s first century in existence.

    “Most Canadians think, I believe, that the Americans go into periodic episodes of utter craziness, and they’re in one now,” said Granatstein, author of a book on Canadian anti-American sentiment. “So it’s not surprising that Canadians would reach back to their tribal beliefs and assume that. It’s a long history.”

    Canadians dislike Trump for both his personality and his policies.

    Ninety-two per cent think he is arrogant, 78 per cent think he is intolerant, 72 per cent think he is dangerous, Pew found. Just 16 per cent think he is well qualified to be president.

    Many countries that strongly dislike Trump still believe he is a strong leader. In Mexico, for example, 77 per cent say he is strong. But Canadians differ: 38 per cent say Trump is strong, his third-lowest score of the 37 countries polled.

    Eighty-four per cent of Canadians oppose Trump’s proposed wall on the Mexican border. Seventy-eight per cent oppose his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Sixty-four per cent oppose his proposed ban on travellers from some Muslim-majority countries.

    Perhaps most notably, 78 per cent oppose the idea of “withdrawing” from trade agreements. (Trump, in fact, has said he prefers to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement than cancel it.) The survey comes two months before the likely launch of Trump-initiated NAFTA talks.

    Aware of Trump’s toxicity in Canada but determined to avoid economic harm, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has attempted to strike a delicate balance: making nice with the president while finding diplomatic ways to show disagreement. The NDP has sometimes urged him to take a harder line.

    “Every Canadian prime minister has to pull off a Goldilocks act. Canadians never like it when their prime minister is too warm or too cold with the president. This is a particularly difficult set of circumstances,” said Roland Paris, a University of Ottawa professor and a former senior Trudeau foreign policy adviser.

    Canadians, Paris said, “clearly dislike Trump and what he stands for, and they want their government to pursue an independent path that reflects their values. But on the other hand, Canadians expect their government to maintain an effective relationship with the United States, including the president.”

    A majority of Canadians, 52 per cent, said they expect the relationship to stay the same. But 37 per cent said it would get worse, while only 9 per cent said it would get better.

    Canadians are still fans of their everyday counterparts across the border, though a bit less than during the Obama era. Sixty-five per cent said they have a favourable view of Americans, down from 71 per cent in 2013.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel has replaced Obama as Canadians’ favourite world leader. Sixty-six per cent said they have confidence in her to do the right thing. Canadians have more confidence in Chinese President Xi Jinping (30 per cent) than in Trump, with Russian President Vladimir Putin (19 per cent) almost tied with Trump.

    World confidence in Trump is far lower than it was in Obama. By country, a median of 22 per cent have confidence in Trump; it was 64 per cent for Obama. Opinions of the U.S. have “plummeted in a diverse set of countries from Latin America, North America, Europe, Asia and Africa,” Pew wrote.

    The Pew phone survey of 1,022 Canadian adults was conducted between Feb. 16 and March 3. The margin of error is 3.6 percentage points.


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    “If I were you, I’d stay in Canada, LOL.”

    Despite the prompt to laugh out loud, I felt numb as I read this WhatsApp message from my friend, Melissa, a fellow Black Brit.

    I doubt she was laughing either. She was back in London — my hometown — while I was with my husband and our two kids, then aged two and three, enjoying a wonderful holiday in sunny Toronto. It was June 23, 2016 and the U.K. had voted to leave the European Union. Following a campaign, which had focused heavily on immigration, team Leave had proved victorious.

    It was a sad day for racial unity. Being Black in Britain already had its challenges. But with the Brexit vote came the validation closet racists needed that it was OK to step out of those closets and voice their “kick-the-foreigners-out” type of rhetoric.

    Meanwhile, my family and I were in Toronto, a city, which, just like London, could easily provide the backdrop for a United Colours of Benetton advertisement. Both cities are culturally diverse and both pride themselves on this multiculturalism.

    But while Brexit sparked that unofficial theme of “kick the foreigners out,” Canada appeared to operate with a genuinely “all are welcome” policy.

    It was this, among other things — gorgeous sunshine and friendlier faces to name a few — that intrigued us enough to plan a return trip to Toronto. But this time, we’d be coming back for a longer stay — five months — to get a sense of whether we could move here for good.

    It was a bold move, not least because we decided to return in winter, to see if we could handle Canada’s brutal blizzards. But we’d also be leaving behind our home, our families — parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and cousins — and our friends.

    Additionally, our daughter and son were settled in their London nursery — a feat that had taken time for our 2-year-old son, who is notoriously anti-social. So watching them say goodbye to their friends was emotional.

    But we had a window of opportunity before our daughter was due to begin school, so we leapt.

    We arrived in Toronto in February and were quickly reacquainted with the diversity we had found so appealing on our last trip. And as time went on, we discovered that our Britishness was an added bonus. It has proven to be the catalyst for several conversations that Torontonians have struck up with my husband and me.

    Some have immediately recognized our accents. “You guys visiting from England?” asked a sales clerk when we recently visited the Royal Ontario Museum.

    Others didn’t place our dialect and so asked the obvious question: “Where are you from?” In Toronto, this simple inquiry isn’t loaded with the bothersome insinuation it tends to come with in London.

    In Toronto, I could respond by saying, “England” and not expect any further questions — apart from the occasional, “Cool, which part?” In London, I’ve been asked that same question by white English folks on several occasions, and every time I responded “England,” they retorted: “Yeah, but where are you really from?”

    Then, of course, there were the more recent tragedies which hit my city: The attack on Westminster this March, which saw 52-year-old Khalid Masood kill four pedestrians after driving into them with a car, before going on to fatally stab a police officer. And then there was the attack on London Bridge and nearby Borough Market, which left eight people dead.

    Both atrocities were declared as Islam-related terror attacks, which served as a catalyst for a rise in Islamophobia.

    Sadly, this anti-Muslim rhetoric became typified when 47-year-old Darren Osborne allegedly drove his van into a group of worshippers near Finsbury Park Mosque, leaving one man dead. Osborne, who had reportedly turned against Muslims following the London Bridge attack, allegedly shouted, “I’m going to kill all Muslims” when he carried out his own terror attack near the north London mosque.

    Watching all of these events unfold on the news while sitting in our temporary Toronto home was hard. Much as I love my city, I grew weary of seeing social media posts about how “resilient” us Londoners are and how we won’t let these atrocities overcome us if we stand united. True as this may be, I’m tired of the need for resilience. I just want my family to feel safe.

    I’m well aware that Canada isn’t a racism-free or crime-free utopia. But being there as a Black Brit was refreshing. Here, my Britishness has (so far) been deemed more intriguing than my Blackness.

    At my children’s Toronto preschool — where, incidentally, they were the only two Black kids in attendance — their peers were unfazed by their skin colour and were more intrigued that these two British kids say ‘to-mah-tow’ instead of ‘to-may-tow.’

    A fellow mum (sorry, mom) at the preschool engaged me in a conversation about the British Royal family, while another mom told me she’s in awe of the U.K.’s London Underground public transport service.

    Here, my unique selling point was my Britishness — and that was a welcome change.

    Coming back to Toronto this year has also reaffirmed something my husband and I had concluded during our 2016 trip: Torontonians are friendlier than Londoners.

    In fact, last year, my husband and I became so accustomed to returning the smiles and greetings of “hello” from passersby in Toronto that we forgot to break the habit when we returned to London. However, we were quickly reminded that we were back on U.K. soil when my husband, while unloading our suitcases from the car, greeted a passerby with a friendly “hi.” The look on the stranger’s face was a mixture of surprise and suspicion. Yep, we were back in London.

    Upon returning to Toronto this winter, we were thrilled to find that even below-zero temperatures didn’t stop people from extending a smile, a head nod or a “hello” as they passed us by. We, however, found it much harder to smile back through chattering teeth.

    Seeing our rental car covered in icicles, I was reminded of how a longtime family friend had reacted when he’d learned we planned to return to Toronto in February. A Jamaican man, who, like many Jamaicans (including my parents), aren’t huge fans of icy temperatures, he declared: “Canada? In winter? Yuh crazy?”

    Nonetheless, I soon found myself embracing Toronto’s snowfall — because it was proper snow. Not the half-hearted flakes that fell in East London last December. It was snow that settled thickly enough to cause my children to insist we head into the garden to build a snowman. (Naturally, I obliged.)

    At the opposite end of the weather spectrum is Toronto’s sizzling sunshine, which we were treated to last year. English summers are notoriously flaky, so it took me a while to accept that, in Toronto, it wasn’t necessary to keep a cardigan and umbrella in my handbag, just in case of a sudden downpour.

    I remembered what a fellow Toronto-based Brit had told me: “I love that Canada has real seasons,” she said. “Proper summers and proper winters.” I’ve come to appreciate this also.

    So thank you, Toronto for giving my family this experience. I would have been grateful for a heads-up about your raccoons — it would have spared me near heart failure when I opened my garbage bin in the first week of our stay and one jumped out at me. That aside, I’ve come to love my adopted city.

    My family and I recently arrived back in our London hometown and we returned with a wealth of wonderful memories.

    Farewell for now, Toronto. I have no doubt that one day, we’ll be back.

    Davina Hamilton is a journalist, mother-of-two and the former entertainment editor of UK publication, The Voice newspaper.


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    BRUSSELS—The European Union slapped a record 2.42 billion euro ($2.72 billion U.S.) fine on Internet giant Google on Tuesday for taking advantage of its dominance in online searches to direct customers to its own online shopping business.

    European regulators gave the company based in Mountain View, California, 90 days to stop or face fines of up to 5 per cent of the average daily worldwide revenue of parent company Alphabet.

    Google says it is considering an appeal.

    The European Commission, which polices EU competition rules, alleges Google elevates its shopping service even when other options might have better deals.

    Read more:

    Google’s search engine aims to become employment engine

    Google steps up fight against extremist content on YouTube

    EU leaders to ask Facebook, Twitter, Google to weed out terrorist content

    The Commission said Google “gave prominent placement in its search results only to its own comparison shopping service, whilst demoting rival services. It stifled competition on the merits in comparison shopping markets.”

    “What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told reporters.

    Google maintains it’s just trying to package its search results in a way that makes it easier for consumers to find what they want.

    “When you shop online, you want to find the products you’re looking for quickly and easily. And advertisers want to promote those same products. That’s why Google shows shopping ads, connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both,” Kent Walker, senior vice-president at Google, said in a statement.

    “We will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case,” he said.

    The fine is the highest ever imposed in Europe for anti-competitive behaviour, exceeding a 1.06 billion euros penalty on Silicon Valley chip maker Intel in 2009.

    But the penalty is likely to leave a bigger dent in Google’s pride and reputation than its finances. Alphabet has more than $92 billion in cash, including nearly $56 billion in accounts outside of Europe.

    Vestager said the Commission’s probe, which started in 2008, looked at some 1.7 billion search queries. Investigators found that on average even Google Shopping’s most highly-ranked rivals only appeared on page 4 of Google search results. Vestager said that 90 per cent of user-clicks are on page one.

    “As a result, competitors were much less likely to be clicked on,” she said.

    It is up to Google to decide what changes it wants to make to comply with the Commission’s ruling, but any remedy must ensure that rival companies receive the same treatment as Google Shopping.

    “We will monitor Google’s compliance closely,” Vestager said.

    She noted that that any company or person who has suffered damages due to the company’s practices can make claims to national courts.

    More broadly, Vestager said, the probe has established that Google is dominant in general internet search in all 31 countries of the European economic area. This will affect other cases the Commission might build against the internet giant’s various businesses, like Google Images.

    She also noted that regulators are making “good progress” in its other Google probes into Android and search advertising, and that the “preliminary conclusion” is that they breach EU antitrust rules.

    The Commission has come under fire in the United States for a perceived bias against U.S. companies.

    Vestager said she has examined statistics concerning antitrust, merger control and state aid decisions and that “I can find no facts to support any kind of bias.”


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    A two-alarm fire broke out at a semi-detached house in Leslieville that spread next door early Tuesday morning.

    Toronto fire sent 12 trucks and 45 firefighters to Booth Ave., between Queen St. E. and Eastern Ave., at around 3:30 a.m.

    The blaze started in a house that was undergoing renovation and spread to the adjacent house, Toronto fire Captain Adrian Ratushniak said.

    Eric Ing, whose house is across the street and was awake when the fire broke out, told the Star that he saw the homes were covered in flames.

    When he ran outside, he saw heavy smoke and flames coming from the roof.

    Ing said the people who lived in the adjacent house were on his front yard crying as they watched their house go up in flames.

    “They said they heard crackling next door and got up to investigate then realized the house (they shared a wall with) was on fire,” he said.

    Ratushniak said no one was injured. Residents from the two houses next to the semi-detached homes were evacuated and put on TTC buses temporarily.

    Firefighters were able to contain the fire from spreading to nearby houses.

    Ratushniak said the fire was put out at around 6:20 a.m.

    There’s no word yet on what caused the blaze and how much was damaged.


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    It didn’t take long for Trillium Park to become part of the landscape of Toronto. Barely a week after opening, the new space already feels as if it’s been around forever. The fact it sits on what was once a parking lot makes its appearance that much sweeter.

    The problem now is the surrounding city. Located on the water’s edge at the east end of Ontario Place, Trillium Park throws the stinginess of the urban context into sharp relief. That includes Lake Shore Blvd., the highway that separates city and lake; the absence of decent north/south connections; the lack of pedestrian amenities and the green desert that lines Lake Ontario, designed, it seems, for the convenience of lawn mowers.

    There’s nothing new about any of this, of course, but the clash between old and new Toronto has never been harder to ignore. Apparently city officials realized this and made a point of not putting up any signage to mark the entrance to the park. If you don’t know where it is, it’s hard to find. In fact, the entrance is at Lake Shore and Ontario Place Blvd., a few blocks east of where a 5-year old boy was run over and killed several weeks ago.

    Chances that Official Toronto will acknowledge the challenge let alone rise to it are low; this is the mayor and council, don’t forget, that threw away a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tear down the east end of the Gardiner Expressway and opted instead to spend $1 billion to rebuild it bigger than ever. This is the mayor and council that remain committed to their discredited vision of a fully suburbanized city with a takeout chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage.

    The endless talk about parks is little more than political blather. The city has neither the means nor the will even to maintain the parks it already has. Indeed, without the province, Trillium Park would still be what it was — and what many councillors would prefer — a parking lot.

    But those for whom the measure of urban excellence goes beyond utility will welcome the new facility. Landscape architects Walter Kehm and Patrick Morello of LANDinc have fashioned a space that offers grassy lawns as well as beds thickly planted with indigenous trees and plants. A wide asphalt pathway winds through the site making it ideal for cyclists, rollerbladers and baby strollers. Most spectacularly, dozens of granite boulders from a Huntsville quarry serve as everything from benches and sculptures to landforms and retaining walls.

    Though the park is not large, the designers created a sense of spaciousness by varying ground level. As it rises and falls, it reveals a series of unexpected twists and turns, big vistas and small episodes. The parade of delights both engages and educates. It shows off nature, but doesn’t pretend to be nature. Like the dreck visible in every direction, the park is part of the built environment. More pointedly, however, it proves that man-made can be more than cheap landscapes constructed by the lowest bidders.

    “The big idea here is natural regeneration,” says Kehm. The park’s motto, carved in stone, is “Walk Gently On The Land.”

    Easier said than done, especially on a landfill site that would be under water if left as it was. The ground had to be raised 1.5 metres before either regeneration or gentle walking could happen.

    In addition to enticing people, the park was designed for butterflies, birds and bees. Still, one can’t help but pity any poor creature that finds itself in the vicinity. Outside the park, there’s not much to nourish the passing Lepidoptera or avian straggler.

    Humans, on the other hand, will find endless possibilities. Anyone drawn to ruins will want to take advantage of its presence to tour Ontario Place where the people’s pleasure domes, now empty, await restoration. The 75-acre attraction, opened in 1971 and closed 41 years later, is ripe with potential. And although Torontonians are opposed, it’s an ideal location for residential development. But because condo has become a dirty word, politicians have sworn that won’t occur.

    In the meantime, it will fall to Trillium Park to lead this part of the city into the modern age. As this small but happily radical space makes clear, Toronto could be more than the sum of its parts. It could be not just beautiful but alive.

    Christopher Hume’s column appears weekly. He can be reached at jcwhume4@gmail.com


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    Peel Regional police have now identified the three victims of the fatal two-car collision in Mississauga on Sunday.

    The crash happened shortly before 11 p.m. on Winston Churchill Blvd. near the Queen Elizabeth Way.

    Police say a silver Mazda was travelling southbound when it crossed the centre median and collided with a silver Mercedes.

    Ayon Brown, 5, and Keziah Edwards-Young, 13, who were passengers of the Mercedes, died en route to the hospital.

    Brown was the son of Camall Brown-Williams, 24, who was driving the Mercedes, and Lakeisha Edwards-Smith, 25, who was the front passenger, said police.

    Edwards-Young was the brother of Edwards-Smith.

    Police said Brown-Williams suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Edwards-Smith remains in a Toronto trauma centre in critical condition.

    The fifth passenger in the car, Jynnai Hartley, 7, was taken to a trauma centre and remains in stable condition.

    Police said Hartley is the goddaughter of Edwards-Smith.

    Peel District School Board sent a letter to students and families of Edwards-Young’s school on Monday. “Last night, Keziah passed away in a fatal car accident,” the letter read.

    “Keziah was a well liked student – a valuable member of our school community. We will miss him.”

    Counsellors will be at Edwards-Young’s school to support students and staff, and a table will be set up in the school’s library for students to leave messages of remembrance.

    “Keziah’s passing is deeply felt by everyone at the school. Even students who did not personally know Keziah may be affected by the loss,” the letter read.

    The driver of the Mazda, Canville Roberts, 40, of Mississauga, was pronounced dead at the scene.

    Elisha Totten, who witnessed the crash, told the Star she saw the Mazda swerve into oncoming traffic and hit the Mercedes. She said speed might have been a factor.

    “All I heard was a big boom,” said Totten. “It sounded like a transport truck smashed into something. It was really loud.”

    She said people rushed toward the crash and attempted to pull people from both cars.

    “All I heard was tragic screaming,” said Totten. “A guy got out of the car on the driver side said and he started yelling ‘That’s my son! That's my son!’”

    She said the collision destroyed the Mazda, and that “you couldn’t even tell that it was a car.”

    Investigators are appealing for witnesses who may have seen the collision, have dashboard video footage to contact the Major Collision Bureau or Crime Stoppers.


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    Another one bites the dust.

    A third Progressive Conservative riding association executive committee has resigned en masse.

    The Newmarket-Aurora Provincial Progressive Conservative Association board of directors has quit in protest of the party’s nomination process.

    Riding association president Derek Murray informed PC executive director Bob Stanley of the executive’s decision in an email June 15.

    Volunteers on the Ottawa West-Nepean board abandoned the party last Friday amid allegations of ballot-stuffing in their May 6 nomination.

    The Kanata-Carleton Progressive Conservative riding association stepped down June 11 over ideological differences with Tory Leader Patrick Brown, who is trying to steer the party to the political centre.

    In Newmarket-Aurora, activists had formally challenged the controversial April 8 nomination of candidate Charity McGrath Di Paolo.

    “The nomination process and election has been tainted by a blatant breach of the nomination rules,” Murray and other executive members said in an April 27 letter to Brown.

    They alleged supporters of rival candidates Tom Vegh and Bill Hogg “were physically blocked from approaching or speaking with” Tories being bussed in for the meeting.

    But the party rejected their appeal and Brown personally signed off on all 64 nominated Tory candidates – after hiring private-sector auditors PwC to oversee all selection meetings moving forward.

    The 14 Newmarket-Aurora volunteers cited “the blatant disregard for the democratic rights of the people of this riding to choose their local candidate in a fair, open and transparent process” in their letter of resignation.

    Warning the same thing “is being allowed to openly occur across numerous other ridings,” they said they could no longer serve the party locally.

    “In the circumstances and environment, it has become impossible to carry out in good conscience that fiduciary responsibility.”

    Murray, who was riding president for eight years and a volunteer for nearly two decades, said Tuesday the executive board was “disillusioned and annoyed” by what happened in Newmarket-Aurora.

    “They’ve got nothing if they don’t have volunteers. We’re the people who do the work and we don’t get paid for it,” said the life-long Tory.

    Still, he vowed to stay involved with the party by helping the campaign of Tory candidate Michael Parsa in the newly created riding of Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, next door to Newmarket-Aurora.


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    The Beer Store is now offering home delivery in two Ontario communities.

    Customers in Ottawa and the Toronto suburb of Scarborough can now place an order online and have their purchases delivered within two hours.

    Those placing the online orders will be subject to age verification requirements.

    The Beer Store describes the limited roll-out as a pilot project, but offered no immediate details about potential expansion.

    It says home delivery is part of its promise to modernize service.

    The Liquor Control Board of Ontario began offering home delivery across Ontario last year.


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    NEW YORK—U.S. President Donald Trump used the resignations of three CNN journalists involved in a retracted Russia-related story to resume his attack on the network’s credibility Tuesday.

    The story was about a supposed investigation into a pre-inaugural meeting between a Trump associate and the head of a Russian investment fund. CNN accepted the journalists’ resignations Monday.

    Trump wrote in a Tuesday morning tweet, “Wow, CNN had to retract big story on ‘Russia,’ with 3 employees forced to resign. What about all the other phoney stories they do? FAKE NEWS!”

    Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

    A message seeking comment was left at CNN.

    The story was posted on the network’s website Thursday and was removed, with all links disabled, Friday night. CNN immediately apologized to Anthony Scaramucci, the Trump transition team member who was reported to be involved in the meeting.

    The story’s author, Thomas Frank, was among those who resigned, according to a network executive who requested anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss personnel issues. Also losing their jobs were Eric Lichtblau, an assistant managing editor in CNN’s Washington bureau, and Lex Haris, head of the investigations unit.

    CNN, in initially taking down the story, said it didn’t meet its editorial standards. The episode is a damaging blow for a network that Trump has frequently derided as “fake news,” and for a story that never even made it onto any of CNN’s television networks.

    The story had been quickly questioned both internally and externally, including by the conservative site Breitbart News. It was determined that the story was posted without going through the expected checks and balances for a story of such sensitivity, the executive said.

    Read more:

    We have evidence Russia tried to hack 21 state elections systems, U.S. intelligence officials testify

    Trump’s tweets, rallies wash away White House press briefings — and transparency

    Democrats want answers on Kushner’s alleged Russia connections as Trump calls ‘fake news’

    The failure to follow proper procedures is what led to the resignations, the CNN executive said.

    It’s not immediately clear what in the story is factually incorrect, or whether CNN will continue to report on the issue. The retracted story had said the Senate investigations committee was looking into a January 16 discussion between Scaramucci and Kirill Dmitriev, whose Russian Direct Investment Fund guides investments by U.S. entities in Russia. Scaramucci, in the story, said he exchanged pleasantries in a restaurant with Dmitriev.

    The report also said that two Democratic senators wanted to know whether Scaramucci had indicated in the meeting whether sanctions against Russia would be lifted, a decision that could impact the investment fund.

    Following the retraction, Scaramucci tweeted that CNN “did the right thing. Classy move. Apology accepted. Everyone makes mistakes. Moving on.”

    Haris, in a statement to CNN’s Reliable Sources, noted that he’d been with CNN since 2001, “and am sure about one thing: This is a news organization that prizes accuracy and fairness above all else. I am leaving, but will carry those principles wherever I go.”


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    Police say a Toronto doctor has been charged after an alleged sexual assault on a patient.

    They say the complainant alleges she was sexually assaulted by the doctor during treatment.

    Investigators say Dr. Stephen Strigler, 57, was arrested on Monday and charged with sexual assault.

    Police are asking anyone with information to contact investigators.

    Strigler is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 4.


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    A man trying to help a lost toddler find her parents was misidentified as a kidnapper on social media over the weekend, according to police in Lakeland, Florida, prompting him to leave town in fear for his safety and the safety of his family.

    The man was also punched by the child’s father who told local media that he “thought he was trying to take my daughter” and “wanted to kill him.”

    The whole episode prompted the Lakeland Police Department to warn citizens to “be careful about what you post on social media so as not to victimize an innocent person ... Before posting information on matters such as this, we encourage people to identify the source and the validity of such claims before sharing them.”

    Lakeland police, in a Facebook post, said the falsely accused man was visiting friends at a softball game when he noticed at a 2-year old had gotten separated from her parents. She was “wandering by herself,” police said, and the man “believed that she was lost.

    “The citizen attempted to ask the girl where her parents were and walked with her in hopes she could point them out,” the statement said, a fact verified by at least one independent witness.

    At that point, “bystanders” told the parents that the man was “attempting to kidnap the child,” said police.

    As the two were nearing the playground, three men approached them from behind, Patch reported. One man grabbed the girl and the other man, who is the child’s father punched the man five or six times.

    “I thought he was trying to take my daughter,” the girl’s father told News Channel 8.

    “I saw this man with my daughter in his hands walking toward the parking lot. What would you do?” the father asked. “I wanted to kill him.”

    The father told The Washington Post that it all happened very quickly, “within 45-seconds.”

    The investigating officer noted the victim’s face had several cuts and was swollen.

    Police concluded that the man was only trying to help. “We had an independent eyewitness that saw him walking around, asking, ‘Is this your parents? Is that your father?’” Sgt. Gary Gross with the Lakeland Police Department told Fox 13 News.

    According to police the young girl tried to pull away but the man was concerned for her safety and picked her up and continued walking toward the playground, “hoping that he would be able to locate the child’s father.”

    The father and his friends were not satisfied with the man’s explanation or that of the police. “So, I guess in Lakeland, you can kidnap a child and get away with it,” the father said to police, local media reported.

    According to WFLA, other media outlets and police, family members and friends went on social media and shared the man’s photo, his Facebook page and his place of business, “calling him a child predator,” WFLA said.

    Police, however, called him a “good Samaritan” in their statement. “It is understandable how parents can possibly be upset in a situation involving a lost child,” the statement said. “However, this incident truly involved a good Samaritan trying to assist a lost child finding” her parents.

    “Accounts of this incident have circulated on social media with false information and speculation. Posting false information on Facebook could cause a defamation of character claim and those posting false information could be held libel.”

    The police statement noted that only one person called authorities to “get the correct information.”

    One Facebook user responded: “I was one of those who shared post thinking it was helpful, now I feel awful that it clearly was not! Definitely teaches me to double check sources before spreading!”

    “Now this man’s face is all over the internet,” said another commenter on the police department’s Facebook page. “ ... The assumptions that were made can ruin this guys (sic) life. Unbelievable.”

    The good Samaritan told several local outlets that he has now left town with his family for their safety. He says he will not press charges against the father.

    The father made no apologies for his actions but told The Post, “All that matters is that my daughter is home safely.”

    The police statement did not provide names. In order to protect the child and the falsely accused man, The Post is not using names in this story.


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    Jason Grilli’s name will never be raised to the Level of Excellence at the Rogers Centre with the Blue Jays’ immortals, but for 184 games from May 31, 2016 until Tuesday — when manager John Gibbons told the veteran his services were no longer needed — he had been an important piece of the club’s ever-changing bullpen puzzle.

    The 40-year-old Michigan native brought emotion and wisdom to a nomadic encampment of relievers that often seemed like it featured a revolving door of young, untested pitchers behind closer Roberto Osuna. The fact is, it can be easier for young players to share their fears and failures with a fellow player who has been there, done that, rather than a coach. Grilli was always open to that mentor role.

    Everything Grilli did was with genuine emotion, whether that included the successes of 2016 or the failures of 2017. Above his locker when he left, instead of his name, was a handwritten message for teammates: “Stay in the fight.”

    Grilli had been called into the manager’s office mid-afternoon Tuesday, where he was told he was being designated for assignment. That means the club has 10 days to make a trade or, in Grilli’s case, offer him his release so that he can find another job as a free agent. The Jays owe him about $1.6 million U.S., the amount remaining on the option year of a contract they picked up in November. The Jays suggested they won’t wait the full available time before setting him free.

    “He was struggling,” Gibbons said. “We really couldn’t find a role. In that role he was pitching in, we needed multiple innings at times. We weren’t using him to do that. He couldn’t do that.

    “Some of the other guys that pitched so well had moved into his role. This will hopefully give him a fresh start somewhere else. Maybe he’ll go and do for somebody what he did for us last year. He really saved us last year. It got to the point where he wasn’t getting steady work. I control all that, but other guys were pitching better. It was really tough finding him some work.”

    Grilli did not hang around to speak to the media — not out of disrespect, but more likely out of emotion. He had travel arrangements to make to get back to his wife and two boys, and had to let them know he was on his way home.

    Grilli was often willing to share his emotions. Some of his favourite moments as a major-league father were when he had his sons with him in the clubhouse or on the field at the Rogers Centre. Some of Grilli’s favourite major-league moments were with his own dad, former Tiger and Blue Jay Steve Grilli, in the clubhouse or on the field at Tiger Stadium or in Syracuse with the Jays’ Triple-A affiliate at that time.

    After being an important setup man for the Jays on their way to a wild-card berth following his acquisition from the Braves last May, Grilli began 2017 in the same role with high expectations for a contender, but struggled in high-leverage situations. For the season he is 2-4 with a 6.97 ERA in 26 games, allowing nine home runs in 20 2/3 innings — including four in one game against the Yankees on June 3. At 40, he is not a multiple-innings man and has no minor-league options.

    “There’s excuses, there’s reasons,” Grilli said in an interview this month. “I’m not going to list the reasons, but I know what they were. This is a long season and I’m trying not to draw any parallels (with last year). I had to make some adjustments and I don’t even want to go there. I take sole responsibility for when I stink. No one feels worse when you’re out there trying to win and you’re put in a situation to do the job and you let your team and the manager down …”

    Meanwhile, other Jays pitchers blessed with options — including Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes and Dominic Leone — had been stepping up their games over the first two months, earning work in more important late-game situations. Also, right-hander Joe Smith had established himself as a reliable eighth-inning guy and will be back soon from the disabled list. And when Aaron Sanchez returns to the rotation it’s likely interim starter Joe Biagini will be headed back to the ’pen as well. That’s a crowded house.

    “It really came down to how he was being used and what he’s best at, and those two things not matching up for us,” general manager Ross Atkins explained, about the timing of their painful parting of the ways. “He’s been someone that has impacted the Blue Jays in such a positive way, which made it extremely difficult. He’s as professional as they come. He’s been a leader for us. But we felt it was best for the other six or seven guys in the ’pen to have some more versatility there.”

    Replacing Grilli on the 25-man roster is right-hander Chris Smith, a 28-year-old with no major-league experience. He was promoted last September but did not get into a game. In 2017, he was 1-2 with a 3.93 ERA in 14 games for Triple-A Buffalo with two walks and 15 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings. Like many in the Jays’ revolving-door bullpen, he has remaining options.

    The Jays made a second move on Tuesday, activating outfielder Ezequiel Carrera from the 10-day DL. He had been out with a fractured right foot. To make room on the roster, the club optioned outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. back to the Bisons. They have used 21 pitchers and 20 position players in the first 75 games.


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    Talk about making a big splash.

    At the same Leslieville pool where Olympian Penny Oleksiak learned to swim, a $45,000 donation will keep alive the swim programming, and with it, neighbourhood kids’ gold-medal dreams.

    “It’s the little pool that could,” Councillor Paula Fletcher said Tuesday after Daniels Corporation ($30,000) and Sierra Building Group ($15,000) stepped forward with the money.

    The city will also contribute $10,000 if a motion at council passes next week, Fletcher said.

    The pool, located inside the Duke of Connaught Public School, which is attached to the S.H. Armstrong Community Centre, is one of 29 school pool locations used by the city to offer swimming lessons and other programming after school hours and on weekends.

    As part of the 2017 budget process, council approved the relocation of the pool’s aquatic programming to other city-owned facilities within roughly two kilometres to save about $162,000.

    “I was really sad, I started crying,” said Keagan Valentine, 11, Tuesday, remembering his reaction to the news that his beloved Sharks swim team would no longer have a place to train.

    One of the reasons Keagan started swimming there about four or five years ago was the proximity to his house, which is across the street. If the city cancelled programming there, he says he would have missed competing with his “amazing team.”

    “We love our pool. We love being together.” He participated in a winter rally to save the community pool.

    Oleksiak made waves during the budget debate after tweeting her support to save the programming.

    Mayor John Tory agreed to review the proposed cut – tweeting back “gold medal message received.” But he and council eventually voted to pull funding after staff produced figures showing the east-end school pool had a “utilization” rate of only 69 per cent.

    Council directed city staff to form a working group, including representatives from the local community, Toronto District School Board and the new HOPE Shelter, to develop a plan to improve the pool’s performance.

    The east-end neighbourhood is filled with new families, many of whom weren’t aware the pool existed inside the school or that it was available for community use, local resident Sara Ehrhardt, co-chair of the working group, said Tuesday.

    Nor were the swimming programs offered by the city best-suited to the community’s needs, she added. “There is no shortage of demand in our neighbourhood.”

    The relocation was problematic for many residents who don’t own cars and either walk places or use transit, she noted. The two-kilometre radius might not sound far away except if “you’re pushing a stroller with a 2-year-old in the winter.”

    Over the last few months, media attention about the budget cut along with social media heightened awareness of the pool and pushed its usage to 89 per cent this spring.

    The city’s programming has now finished for the season. The pool will remain closed over the summer while it undergoes upgrades, but, if council agrees, will re-open in the fall without losing a day of programming.

    Earlier this month, the city’s community development and recreation committee, congratulated pool supporters for increasing its usage and agreed to Fletcher’s motion asking council to consider restoring programming there during the 2018 budget process.

    “I think the community will really show in the fall that this is a popular pool,” said the councillor. The pool isn’t in the area she represents, (Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth), but many of her residents use the facility.

    In order to accept the developer donations, Etobicoke Councillor Mark Grimes agreed to move a motion at council next week to re-open the 2017 operating budget for parks, forestry and recreation.


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    LONDON—British prosecutors charged a former senior police officer with manslaughter Wednesday as they announced the first criminal cases in the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster that left 96 people dead, many crushed against metal fences, and changed English soccer forever.

    The families of the victims have waged a decades-long quest to seek justice for their loved ones, who they believed were unfairly blamed in the April 15, 1989, tragedy. The initial deaths were ruled accidental — a ruling overturned in 2012 after a new, wide-ranging inquiry.

    Last year new inquests found the 96 had been unlawfully killed. Files were sent to prosecutors for criminal charges to be considered and they announced their highly anticipated decisions Wednesday.

    Those charged include the police commander on the day, David Duckenfield, who is accused of gross negligence manslaughter in the deaths of 95 men, women and children. Prosecutors declined to charge the manslaughter of the 96th casualty because he died four years after the fateful match.

    The former chief of South Yorkshire Police, Norman Bettison, is charged with misconduct in public office for lying about the disaster and its aftermath.

    Graham Henry Mackrell, the secretary and safety officer for the Sheffield Wednesday Football Club at the time, was charged with failing to carry out health and safety duties.

    Peter Metcalf, the attorney for the South Yorkshire Police, was charged with acting “with intent to pervert the course of public justice” relating to changes in witness statements during an inquiry into the tragedy. Former Chief Superintendent Donald Denton and former Detective Chief Inspector Alan Foster were charged for their involvement in the same matter.

    “Criminal proceedings have now commenced and the defendants have a right to a fair trial,” said Sue Hemming, the head prosecutor for special crime and counter terror. “It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”

    The tragedy at the stadium in Sheffield unfolded when more than 2,000 Liverpool soccer fans flooded into a standing-room section behind a goal, with the 54,000-capacity stadium already nearly full for the match against Nottingham Forest. The victims were smashed against metal anti-riot fences or trampled underfoot. Many suffocated in the crush.

    At the time, hooliganism was common, and there were immediate attempts to defend the police and blame rowdy Liverpool fans — a narrative that the Hillsborough families have challenged for decades.

    The original inquest recorded verdicts of accidental death. But the families challenged it and pressed for a new inquiry. They succeeded in getting the verdicts overturned in 2012 after a far-reaching inquiry that examined previously secret documents and exposed wrongdoing and mistakes by police.

    The Hillsborough disaster prompted a sweeping modernization of stadiums across England. Top division stadiums were largely transformed into safer, all-seat venues, with fences around fields torn down.

    British Prime Minister Theresa May says this is a “day of really mixed emotions” for families of the fans who died, but that justice is moving forward “after so many years of waiting.”

    Among them was Barry Devonside, who lost his son Christopher in the disaster. He insisted it was “only right and proper that we fought for our loved ones.”

    “I was frightened we were going to be let down again,” he told Sky News. “We have been smacked in the face on a number of occasions. The families have acted with the utmost of dignity.”


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    Ontario Provincial Police have arrested an alleged shooting suspect after an intense police chase along Hwy. 400 during the morning rush hour on Wednesday, they say.

    At 6:30 a.m., Toronto police responded to a call about a shooting in the area of Steeles Ave. and Norfinch Dr. in North York.

    Upon arrival, investigators discovered that a woman in her 50s had been shot multiple times in a nearby parking lot and a man in his 60s had been assaulted. The woman was transported to a local hospital in serious condition.

    In a tweet, police said the shooting suspect had fled the scene and police were in pursuit of a silver Honda Civic.

    Footage of the dramatic chase shows multiple police cruisers speeding along Hwy. 400 and hitting a car along the way.

    The suspect was arrested by the OPP in Orillia, after they had deployed a spike belt.

    His identity has not yet been released.

    OPP have closed some roads in the area and continue to investigate the incident.


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    The myth: Canadian are the most polite people on the planet.

    Gusting wind whips garbage down the canyons of Toronto’s financial district. It’s the kind of blast that sends neckties flying into men’s faces, but here in Yusuf Farooqi’s cab, it feels refreshing in the steamy evening rush hour. Farooqi is driving his taxi with the window down, his brown eyes scanning for cyclists, fares, drivers and pedestrians.

    The 38-year-old father of two is an owner-driver with Beck. He says 95 per cent of the riders are polite. That’s not always the case with other drivers. In more than a decade behind the wheel, he has seen his share of middle fingers, and had one angry cyclist spit on his windshield. He turned on the washer fluid and let it go.

    “When it’s your business you’re not going to be stressed,” he says. “You won’t last.”

    We are in the crucible of one of Canada’s most impolite situations to see if that old mythology holds up. Are Canadians the most polite people in the world?

    I’m a bit of a cynic. Like most Canadians, I grew up close to the border, and more often than not, I found Michiganders were friendly, welcoming and polite. I didn’t completely understand why Canadians sewed small flags on backpacks and packed patriotic towels for all-inclusive vacations. The implicit message seemed passive aggressive, and maybe a little impolite. Love us world, but know we are different. We are not like them.

    Politeness should not be confused with friendliness, although it often gets tangled up in it. Politeness is about making contact, acknowledging someone else’s presence and following implicit rules. “Politeness is a bit reserved, it brings with it a somewhat forbidding expectation that other people should be polite as well,” says Dylan Reid, author of Toronto Public Etiquette Guide.

    “I think Americans value friendliness more than politeness, so they might get in your business a little more in a friendly way, in a way that Canadians might find intrusive.” Reid says. Politeness varies regionally. People may be more easygoing in other parts of the country, but in Toronto, efficiency is at the core of politeness.

    Like right now. Farooqi sees a woman standing on King St., scanning the traffic. He waves, she nods, he waits, and then pulls a U-turn. They exchange hellos. Shelley Edwards raises her eyebrows because I am already in the cab, but within seconds, she is on board with our weird situation, and engrossed in the discussion. Edwards moved to Toronto 30 years ago from Winnipeg, and she’s never been at a loss looking for help.

    “I’ve always believed it was a Canadian thing,” she says of politeness.

    At Bay and King, a rush-hour dreamer drives into the intersection on the dying embers of a flashing hand. Yellow changes to red, as it always does, and he blocks eastbound King drivers for most of the light cycle. Farooqi hates this move (“That should be ticketed”) but he’s not going to honk.

    “That makes you a polite driver,” Edwards laughs from the back seat. “I would have been on the horn by now.”

    Edwards drives regularly from the west end into downtown. “You let somebody in, knowing a mile from now someone will let you in,” she says. “It’s good karma.”

    We let off Edwards at Bloor and Church. “Take your time,” Farooqi says. “We Canadians, we are very nice.”

    Where did that idea come from? University of Toronto semiotics professor Marcel Danesi doesn’t believe the mythology. “You cannot anymore say this culture is subjectively more polite than the other,” he says.

    “They are different in how they interact.” Over the phone, he tells a quick anecdote about teaching in Vermont, jaywalking across a street and having a car slow down in anticipation.

    “If that happened in Toronto they’d be aiming for you,” he laughs. “OK?”

    He thinks the idea of the polite Canadian took root in media portrayals and Canada’s northern landscape. In literature of yore there was an idea that Canadians were welcoming because of their isolation.

    Back in the 19th century, in a welcome speech to the American commissioner of education in 1891, Principal Grant, (likely George Munro Grant, of Queen’s University) said Canadians were the most courteous people “under the sun.”

    “That is one of the advantages we get from having so many French in Canada, for Frenchmen are always polite,” he said.

    Almost a century earlier, in a walking trip along the eastern seaboard in 1821, American Phillip Stansbury noted the same thing:

    “Bonjour is the common salutation, and wherever two meet, whether acquaintances or strangers, their hands are respectfully applied to their hats or caps, and the friendly bon jour. pleasingly uttered as they pass,” he wrote in A Pedestrian Tour of Two Thousand Three Hundred Miles in North America.

    When Stansbury returned home, he felt a relief to be rid of such polite and mundane people.

    “There is something, notwithstanding all their complacency, that makes many an American glad to escape out of their province … The contrast is plain. There we have reserved, austere, unambitious peasants: here, plain, open-hearted, merrymaking farmers.”

    Stansbury even went to a Vermont hilltop to look back at us with moderate scorn: “It seemed as if clouds, cold and storms, had been left with Canada, whose horrible hemlock swamps spread in wide prospect to the north.”

    The Americans had a storm of their own, and the long simmering issue of slavery in a land of liberty erupted in the Civil War in 1861. When it ended in 1865, the disparate groups living in what would become Canada began to warily watch their militarized neighbour.

    “The story theoretically starts out as mutual accommodation” between the French and English, says Michael Adams, president of Environics research, and author of Fire and Ice: the United States Canada and the Myth of Converging Values.“From the perspective of Aboriginal people actually it was colonialism.

    “It isn’t that we understood or even liked each other very much,” he says, “But we were more afraid of the Americans, so we created a country.”

    As a marketing ploy, being polite was an early hit. In 1897, the Queen’s Hotel in Montreal was trying to make a name for itself as the “Polite Hotel of Canada.”

    “From the proprietor to the bell boys, all exhibit to the guests that true politeness which grudges no pains to ensure the comfort of its object,” an advertisement noted in the local press.

    This year, Roots has a button to celebrate 150 years of Confederation. It says “nice.”

    “We’re polite, friendly people that say sorry when you bump into us,” an accompanying explanation states. “During the past 150 years, we’ve shown the world what it means to be nice though our bravery, strength, pride and confidence.”

    In an age of truth and reconciliation and Black Lives Matter, that seems a little too easy. Canada’s history, with residential schools, discriminatory laws, and internment camps, is messy. The Canadian experience, through the lens of politeness, doesn’t exactly fit on a button.

    Adams believes that modern Canadian politeness stems from Charter values of equality and multiculturalism, and a rejection of hierarchical culture.

    “We kind of pride ourselves on being a country that can bring people from all over the world and we more or less get along,” he says.

    Inherent in Canadian politeness is a rebuffing of other countries where you see the rise of xenophobic nationalism and divisive politics.

    He calls the U.S. a “50-50” nation, with shrinking common ground between the two camps. “That’s a nation that is quite stressed and on edge,” he says. Canada is a “two-to-one” nation, with about two out of three people being “more or less progressive,” and the remaining people not open to diversity or social change.

    To be polite in Canada is to hold open a door, perhaps make some small talk, and maybe establish a common humanity.

    “It’s an ideology that becomes self-fulfilling if you have the institutions to support it,” he says.

    Back in the cab, the sidewalks thin out at 6 p.m. We have picked up three fares: Edwards, a couple with groceries, and an architect. Everyone was nice.

    Farooqi drops me off and waves goodbye. I don’t know if Canadians are more intrinsically polite than any other culture, but when we’re not using the idea as a crutch to avoid critically examining our history and ourselves, it is a nice idea to aspire to. I keep thinking of what an architect said as we drove down Bay St.: “It doesn’t hurt to be polite,” he said. “It changes everything.”


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    PARIS—Companies and governments around the world on Wednesday counted the cost of a software epidemic that has disrupted ports, hospitals, and banks. Ukraine, which was hardest hit and where the attack likely originated, said it had secured critical state assets — though everyday life remained affected, with cash machines out of order.

    As the cyberattack’s intensity around the world waned on its second day, the Ukrainian Cabinet said that “all strategic assets, including those involved in protecting state security, are working normally.”

    But that still left a large number of non-strategic assets — including dozens of banks and other institutions — fighting to get back online. Cash machines in Kyiv seen by an Associated Press photographer were still out of order Wednesday, and Ukrainian news reports said that flight information at the city’s Boryspil airport was being provided in manual mode.

    A local cybersecurity expert discounted the Ukrainian government’s assurances.

    “Obviously they don’t control the situation,” Victor Zhora of Infosafe in Kyiv told the AP.

    Others outside Ukraine were struggling, too. At India’s largest container port, one of the terminals was idled by the malicious software, which goes by a variety of names including ExPetr. M.K. Sirkar, a manager at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai, said that no containers could be loaded or unloaded Wednesday at the terminal operated by A.P. Moller-Maersk, the Denmark-based shipping giant.

    In a statement, Moller-Maersk acknowledged that its APM Terminals had been “impacted in a number of ports” and that an undisclosed number of systems were shut down “to contain the issue.” The company declined to provide further detail or make an official available for an interview.

    At the very least, thousands of computers worldwide have been struck by the malware, according to preliminary accounts published by cybersecurity firms, although most of the damage remains hidden away in corporate offices and industrial parks. Some names have trickled into the public domain as the disruption becomes obvious.

    Read more:

    Massive new cyberattack hits Europe, U.S. with widespread ransom demands

    Ransomware’s strange history began with a colourful culprit

    Surfer worked from bedroom to bring ‘WannaCry’ cyberattack to a halt

    In Pennsylvania, lab and diagnostic services were closed at the satellite offices of the Heritage Valley Health System, for example. In Tasmania, an Australian official said a Cadbury chocolate factory had stopped production after computers there crashed.

    Other organizations affected include U.S. drugmaker Merck, food and drinks company Mondelez International, global law firm DLA Piper, and London-based advertising group WPP.

    As IT security workers turned their eye toward cleaning up the mess, others wondered at the attackers’ motives. Ransomware — which scrambles a computer’s data until a payment is made — has grown explosively over the past couple of years, powered in part by the growing popularity of digital currencies such as Bitcoin. But some believed that this latest ransomware outbreak was less aimed at gathering money than at sending a message to Ukraine and its allies.

    That hunch was buttressed by the way the malware appears to have been seeded using a rogue update to a piece of Ukrainian accounting software. The timing could also be a clue, coming the same day as the assassination of a senior Ukrainian military intelligence officer in the nation’s capital and a day before a national holiday celebrating a new constitution signed after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

    “The threat we’re talking about looks like it was specially developed for Ukraine because that was the place it created most of the damage,” said Bogdan Botezatu, of Romanian security firm Bitdefender, calling it a case of “national sabotage.”

    Suspicions were further heightened by the re-emergence of the mysterious Shadow Brokers group of hackers, whose dramatic leak of powerful NSA tools helped power Tuesday’s outbreak, as it did a previous ransomware explosion last month that was dubbed “WannaCry.”

    In a post published Wednesday, The Shadow Brokers made new threats, announced a new money-making scheme and made a boastful reference to the recent chaos.

    “Another global cyber attack is fitting end for first month of theshadowbrokers dump service,” the group said, referring to a subscription service which purportedly offers hackers early access to even more of the NSA’s digital break-in tools.

    “There is much theshadowbrokers can be saying about this but what is point and having not already being said”

    Few take Shadow Brokers’ threats or their ostentatious demands for cash at face value, but the timing of their re-emergence dropped another hint at the spy games possibly playing out behind the scenes.


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