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    0 0

    Until Masai Ujiri decides he is leaving, he is not leaving. Simple. The president of the Toronto Raptors is in the first year of a five-year contract, and he promoted 32-year-old Bobby Webster to general manager on Wednesday, and as Webster said, “not only the front office, the coaches, the travel staff, you know, we believe in Masai and Masai believes in us. So we’ll keep it going.”

    But until Masai Ujiri says he is staying the door isn’t closed, and he hasn’t said he’s staying. That’s not an accident. The New York Knicks fired team president Phil Jackson Wednesday after three years of pure uncut bumbling comedy, and the Knicks are coming for Masai. Tim Leiweke, the former president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, is an adviser, which means he is the recruiter. The idea of this overture, as first reported by Frank Isola of the New York Daily News in 2016, has quietly been in the works for over a year.

    And for the first time since he assumed control of the Raptors, Ujiri’s future is actually a question. The organization is quietly projecting confidence that Ujiri won’t leave, but that’s either overconfidence or naiveté. Last year, Brooklyn inquired through intermediary parties about Ujiri, but it never reached any formal stages, bottomless resources be damned. A second team called last year and was politely rebuffed. Those weren’t serious.

    This is. Yes, the Knicks are a mess, in perpetuity. The Jackson era in New York mashed as many hilarious buttons as possible, culminating with multiple reports that the hall of fame coach fell asleep during a draft workout. Seinfeld hasn’t been on the air since 1998, but Jackson with the Knicks was like watching George Costanza, the sitcom’s hapless idiot, trying to get fired from the Yankees.

    Still, Phil got rich, and the final two years of his five-year, $60-million U.S. deal were guaranteed in April of this year. Ah, Zen.

    All that just makes the Knicks more desperate for a new saviour, and league sources indicate the Knicks are already confident Ujiri is coming to New York. When Ujiri came to Toronto from Denver he was lured by the city, the geography — it is easier to get home every summer to Africa, where Ujiri pours his soul every summer into his Giants of Africa charity — the resources, and the challenge of fixing a franchise that had never been fixed.

    Any of that sound familiar? New York has stubbornly buried a lot of good basketball men, made them laughingstocks. But Ujiri loves a challenge.

    Yes, MLSE treats Ujiri well. The Raptors signed him to the contract extension in September of 2016, and elevated him to president of basketball operations. The belief is that he is paid top-five money among NBA team executives. The organization supports his work with Giants of Africa, which is as dear to his heart as anything. He has autonomy, and political capital.

    But this is serious, and the organization may need to decide how far it is willing to go to keep a star executive. Ujiri hasn’t been perfect. The core of his winning teams — Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, coach Dwane Casey — were here when he arrived. The team was trying to shed the onerous contracts of Jonas Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll at the draft last week. The prospect of re-signing the 31-year-old Lowry or starting a longer rebuild — or retool — is staring the organization in the face, and the options aren’t great.

    Ujiri is still considered one of the few executives in the NBA with real aura, star power and deep connections, and that’s why the Knicks will chase him. Where MLSE would go to replace him is an open question, too. Before you dismiss them as the stumbling, bumbling Knicks, remember: Leiweke is the man who built MLSE’s current competitive structure: its rising hockey team, its stellar soccer team, the Raptors. He knows the owners, knows Ujiri and what pushes his buttons. Ujiri loved working for him. Leiweke pried Ujiri out of Denver in the first place, and as one MLSE official put it, “don’t forget that (Leiweke) wants to stick it to these guys.”

    The idea of New York is a powerful one, as is the idea of bigger dollars when you have a charitable organization that can use every penny. As well, the NBA would love to see the Knicks fixed: commissioner Adam Silver and Ujiri are on excellent terms, despite past wrist-slapping fines, and you can bet the league is interested in this.

    Now, Ujiri wouldn’t be working for Leiweke in New York: he would be working for James Dolan, in his hereditary mad idiot kingdom. The culture at Madison Square Garden has been toxic for a long time. Ujiri knows. After all, he’s the one who unloaded Carmelo Anthony there, and who fleeced them so badly on the Andrea Bargnani trade that Dolan nixed a Lowry trade in 2014. Funny how things work out.

    But if Ujiri decides that he can handle Dolan, dig out that culture and fix the Knicks ... well, that might be insane hubris, but it’s possible. It wouldn’t be the end of the Raptors, but it would leave a 32-year-old rookie GM in charge, and in all likelihood a dive into a rebuild, with franchise-changing decisions everywhere.

    Free agency opens July 1. As of Wednesday evening sources indicated the request had not been made, but that can change with a phone call. Despite the contract, sources indicate Ujiri can leave if he wants to leave. It’s really up to him.

    So Ujiri has a decision to make, and the tall foreheads at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment do, too. They could try to cut this off by asking Ujiri what else it would take to end all speculation, and delivering it. They can hope he loves it here and distrusts Dolan enough to stay. That is all possible.

    Or they can find out what Masai Ujiri is worth to the Toronto Raptors, after he leaves.

    0 0

    It was the mid-1800s, and hockey fanatics were bored.

    The Little Ice Age had come to an end and the ice had melted. The warm temperatures made hockey unplayable, and a lot of people grumpy.

    In England.

    “We found a couple of instances of people complaining, ‘we haven’t had the weather allowing us to go play hockey, this is terrible. Hockey is the greatest sport there is,’ ” says Jean-Patrice Martel, a hockey historian. He’s one of the authors of On the Origin of Hockey, published in 2014.

    Hockey has long been thought to be Canada’s game. But according to Martel’s research, the game as we know it originated in England.

    “There’s nothing that you can find about Canadian hockey that hadn’t been done before in England,” says Martel.

    An abundance of claims credit various Canadian cities — from Windsor, N.S., to Kingston, Niagara Falls and Halifax-Dartmouth — as the “Birthplace of Hockey.”

    “If you look at some of the literature that talks about the origins of hockey, they say that it was invented by British officers who were stationed in Canada (in each town). What an incredible coincidence,” says Martel.

    “The simpler explanation is that it’s not a coincidence. The evidence is that it was taught in the military schools. So when they came to Canada they said this is great, we don’t have to wait for frost, we can play all winter long.”

    The Windsor claim stems from an 1844 book by Thomas Chandler Haliburton describing “hurley on the ice” (an early moniker for hockey), supposedly in reference to his early 19th-century days as a student playing at King’s College in Windsor.

    About 2,500 people visited the Hockey Heritage Museum last year in Haliburton’s former home, which explores the sport’s origins. The town received a visit from Don Cherry and Ron MacLean in 2002 as that year’s Hockey Day in Canada host.

    “We’re a small area but I think we have a solid claim,” says Trina Norman, president of the Windsor Hockey Heritage Society.

    But the earliest known reference of a hockey-like game being played on ice comes from a 17th-century Scottish book, which mentions a game of shinny in Scotland in the winter of 1607-1608.

    Two centuries later, hockey had grown very popular among the English, according to Martel. At the time referred to as “bandy,” the earliest recorded game played on ice with skates was in England, he added.

    The cover of Martel’s book is a 1797 print by a British artist, which depicts two boys preparing for a hockey game on an island in the River Thames, complete with skates, a stick and a puck.

    Cheryl Maloney, president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, is working on a documentary to prove that the Mi’kmaq First Nations, known to have manufactured some of the first commercial hockey sticks in the mid-1800s, were the first people to play the game.

    She points to a 1749 British military diary cited by historian Thomas Raddall, who wrote that “garrison officers found the Indians playing a primitive form of hurley on ice, adopted and adapted it, and later put the game on skates.”

    Maloney says about 30 words in the Mi’kmaq language describe parts of hockey, such as sticks and skates. As the words existed before contact with British and French colonists, the Mi’kmaq could have been playing the game even earlier.

    “I’m confident in saying we’re the originators of hockey,” says Maloney of the Mi’kmaq. “Our history and our contribution have been erased.”

    Whatever its genesis, over the years it’s been Canadians who grabbed the puck and skated with it.

    “Hockey is a truly Canadian game,” says Martel. “Canada took it and transformed it and became the dominant country and changed the rules. Everywhere in the world that hockey’s played today, you can trace it back to Canada.”

    Moments like the 1972 Summit Series, an emotional victory over the Soviet Union sealed by Paul Henderson’s goal, have helped shape the identity of a hockey-obsessed nation.

    But the obsession may be dampening.

    Just 25 years ago, about 70 per cent of all NHL players were Canadian, according to data compiled by This fell to about 46 per cent this past year.

    Solutions Research Group’s Canadian Youth Sports Report, released in 2014, showed hockey was actually the fourth most popular sport or activity among youth, with 531,000 participants, ages 3 to 17.

    Swimming led with 1.12 million, followed by soccer (767,000) and dance (625,500). Among new Canadians, hockey trailed soccer and basketball in popularity by team sport.

    “For many years, minor hockey was fortunate that they put up a sign or they opened the doors to registration and people showed up,” says Scott Smith, the incoming president of Hockey Canada.

    “Canadian culture has changed,” Smith says. “With diversity comes a very diverse level of interest in sport and recreational activities . . . and that’s a good thing. I don’t think hockey wants to be perceived as being the only activity for Canadians.”

    In 2012, the Bauer Hockey equipment company launched a global project to add one million new players by 2022. It partnered with Hockey Canada to study why families enrolling their children in minor sports were rejecting hockey.

    One problem it uncovered was that unlike every other sport, hockey wasn’t seen as “fun” due to a culture of competitiveness and intensity created by “crazy hockey parents.” According to the report, parents thought the sport was unsafe, and required too much time — and money.

    But the report showed that despite challenges, hockey still attracted immigrants. About two-fifths of new Canadian adults watched or attended games.

    “When you’re new to a place, you’re looking for things that you can find as common ground with people,” says Harnarayan Singh, host of the Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi broadcasts.

    Singh, born in Canada to immigrant parents, says hockey is still seen as a unifying force among newcomers. He says his viewers have told him how watching the sport in their native language has helped them.

    “It’s what brings us together,” says Singh. “We’ve been told by many that being able to watch hockey in Punjabi has helped them at their workplace in terms of camaraderie amongst colleagues because of hockey being that water cooler topic.”

    Singh, who wears a turban, recalled looking different from his classmates growing up in a small Alberta town in the 1980s. Hockey was the equalizer, he says, something only possible in Canada.

    “I think my opinion of Canada, and being Canadian, would be actually quite different had it not been for being so interested and passionate about the sport from such a young age,” he says. “I quickly learned that talking about hockey, being a hockey fan at school made me normal.”

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    Motorists have come to expect gridlock in Toronto’s rapidly growing downtown core.

    But congestion of another kind is on the rise in the city’s condo canyons as young urban singles become couples with kids, according to a new analysis of 2016 census data.

    “Who knew that the waterfront condo area was going to be the site of the city’s first stroller traffic jam,” says Sean Meagher of Social Planning Toronto, which crunched recently released age and sex data from the census for the city’s 140 neighbourhoods.

    “When you’re bringing up a child in a small condo, your local park, library, and community centres become your living room or backyard, and we have to invest more to respond to this changing landscape,” he says.

    Although Toronto’s overall population of preschoolers has barely increased since 2006 — from 134,980 to 136,000 — the city’s downtown core is experiencing a baby boom and is now home to thousands of children under age 5, according to the non-profit research and advocacy agency.

    In the census neighbourhood known as Waterfront Communities-The Island, an area that runs across the bottom of the city from Bathurst St. to the Don River, the number of kids under 5 has almost tripled to 2,120 in the last 10 years.

    Next door in Niagara neighbourhood, an area that includes condo towers around Fort York and part of Liberty Village, the number of young kids has more than doubled along with the overall population.

    Along the Bay St. corridor south of Bloor to Front St., the number of preschoolers has jumped by 88 per cent, outstripping the overall population which increased by 70 per cent.

    The census data explains the scramble for licensed child care downtown and in east-end Toronto neighbourhoods such as Riverdale, Danforth Village and Danforth-East York where parents have formed Facebook groups and signed petitions to demand more spots.

    And it accounts for the push for more parks, recreation and open space downtown.

    “When we opened this centre 25 years ago, no one envisioned that people from north of the Gardiner Expressway would come here,” says Leona Rodall, executive director of the Waterfront Neighbourhood Centre on Queens Quay at the foot of Bathurst St.

    “Well, they are coming. They are coming all the way from City Place and the Niagara neighbourhood,” she says, marveling at how parents with strollers travelling south on Bathurst cross six lanes of traffic rutted with streetcar tracks on Lake Shore Blvd. to participate in programs.

    In 1991, the community-run centre was planned to serve about 7,000 residents. Now it serves as many as 40,000, she notes.

    About 120 tots and their caregivers regularly show up for the centre’s baby drop-in program that runs two afternoons a week from 1-3 p.m., a crush that has forced staff to split the program into two one-hour time slots to accommodate everyone, Rodall notes.

    “It was getting to the point where I was worried about fire code regulations,” she says.

    Bidisha De Sarkar, 37, and Pras Chatterjee, 41, moved to the Entertainment District after they were married 11 years ago to be close to work and the downtown lifestyle.

    When De Sarkar was pregnant six years ago, they moved to a larger condo in the St. Lawrence Market and are now raising two children in a 1,250 sq ft. two-bedroom unit they rent on The Esplanade.

    “The number of families has been growing over the last decade,” De Sarkar says. “But in the last five years there has really been an up-tick. And they are staying. They are not just having a baby and then moving to the suburbs.”

    Soaring housing costs are one reason, she acknowledges. “But life is pretty good downtown. Everything is so accessible. And it’s become a real community.”

    Parents in their building connect through a Facebook group and on Wednesday evenings families gather on the large 6th floor patio where there is a sandbox, a small play structure and a communal shed with toys for children to play with.

    “We call it ‘bikes, barbeques and balls,’ ” De Sarkar says.

    Child care is a concern for many area families. And for those without a car, it’s difficult to travel outside the neighbourhood for recreation programs when local spots are full.

    Chatterjee says they “lucked out” when they got a spot in the St. Lawrence Co-Operative Day Care for Raina after she was born five years ago. But there was no room for baby Sabine when De Sarkar went back to work last December. However, they are very happy with a licensed home daycare they found for Sabine in a nearby condo building.

    The couple has talked about buying a house, especially now that De Sarkar is working in Mississauga.

    “But I can’t imagine leaving just yet,” she says. “We have met so many families who have made a conscious decision to stay for a few more years. And some are having their third child and even fourth child in units our size.”

    Meagher at Social Planning Toronto says the data shows more infrastructure for families is needed downtown.

    “A lot of this housing has already been created, so we need to be thinking about how we play catch-up,” he says.

    Some of that work is already happening, says Ann-Marie Nasr, manager of strategic initiatives for the city’s planning department.

    City parks and recreation staff will be releasing a new master plan in the fall that will set the stage for everything from new parks, aquatic facilities and recreation centres.

    Planning staff are conducting a feasibility study for Rail Deck Park, a proposed a 3-hectare park over the downtown rail corridor between Bathurst and Blue Jays Way.

    And Toronto Children’s Services has just released a 10-year child care growth strategy.

    “This report shows the success of our downtown,” Nasr says. “When families feel they can bring children up in different neighbourhoods across the city, including our downtown, it just shows the livability and the success of those places.

    “It’s a good news story,” she adds. “There are a lot of downtowns that don’t even have people let alone children. It’s a good challenge to have.”

    0 0

    OTTAWA—A large teepee erected by Indigenous demonstrators to kick off a four-day Canada Day protest was standing in front of Parliament Hill early Thursday just hours after their initial attempt was thwarted by police.

    Police had blocked the group just inside the gates to Parliament Hill on Wednesday evening as demonstrators carried wooden poles on their shoulders to erect a teepee.

    Both sides had refused to budge and a spokeswoman at the scene said 10 people were briefly held in custody before being released. Demonstrators initially said about 15-20 people had been taken into custody.

    Candace Day Neveau, from a group called the Bawating Water Protectors that arrived in Ottawa from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on Wednesday, said those arrested were ordered to stay away from Parliament Hill for six months.

    Videos posted on social media showed RCMP officers dragging away at least one person as others chanted “shame” and “let our people go!” Police had also erected a barricade to prevent anyone from going further up the Hill.

    However, Day Neveau later said demonstrators intended to carry through with their plan to erect a teepee. Photographs on social media early Thursday showed a large tan-coloured teepee had been erected inside a barricade in front of the Parliament buildings.

    Organizers say the demonstration marked the first day of a “reoccupation” ceremony to counter Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations because Indigenous Peoples have little reason to celebrate colonization.

    Jessica Bolduc, who was with the Sault Ste. Marie group, said they wanted to build a teepee on what is unceded Algonquin territory.

    Bolduc said it is also about recognizing there is much work to do before anyone can say Canada had achieved reconciliation.

    “I think Canada has one sort of view and way in which they engage with the world around them and then there is the Indigenous experience,” said Bolduc.

    “We talk about this smart and caring nation, but don’t acknowledge that those privileges aren’t afforded to indigenous peoples in the same way that they are to folks who have settled here, whether that was 200 years ago or to people who we are welcoming here today in a ceremony of becoming Canadian,” she said.

    The demonstration was being held across from the former Langevin Block, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had renamed as the Office of the Prime Minister and the Privy Council on June 21.

    He said the change reflected what he called the “deep pain” felt by indigenous communities over having the building named after Hector-Louis Langevin, a father of Confederation and an architect of the residential school system.

    0 0

    The release of FIFA investigator Michael Garcia’s 2014 report into the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was met mostly with shrugs. The report, which had been suppressed by FIFA except for a 42-page summary that Garcia dubbed a “materially incomplete and erroneous” interpretation of his findings, didn’t contain any smoking guns with regards to Russia’s and Qatar’s successful World Cup bids. It really just made a whole lot of people look pretty shady, which, in the world of FIFA, is par for the course.

    Among the shadiness was England’s fantastically doomed bid for the 2018 World Cup, which was eliminated from consideration after receiving just two of 22 votes in the first round of the selection process in 2010. It turns out that English soccer officials, who were among the first to cry foul after Russia won the right to host the 2018 World Cup, weren’t exactly on the level, either.

    Read more: FIFA publishes Garcia report on 2018, 2022 World Cups after leak

    And among those officials were Prince William — who also serves as president of England’s Football Association — and former prime minister David Cameron. The two were present at a 2010 meeting at a luxury hotel in Switzerland between members of England’s 2018 bid team and Chung Mong-joon, a member of the FIFA executive committee (whose members voted on World Cup hosts at the time). He also was the head of the soccer federation in South Korea, which at the time was bidding for the 2022 World Cup. According to the report, Cameron asked Chung to vote for England’s 2018 bid, and Chung said he would if Geoff Thompson, who headed up England’s bid and also was a FIFA vice president, voted for South Korea’s 2022 bid. Thompson, who also was at the meeting in the Duke of Cambridge’s hotel suite, replied that he would do so.

    It’s never been revealed if Chung provided one of England’s two votes and he denied the allegation, which was provided to Garcia’s investigators by Thompson himself and another England official who was in the room, but such horse-trading is against FIFA’s anti-collusion rules. At the very least, it was highly inappropriate behaviour by both the England representatives and Chung, who in 2015 was banned from world soccer by FIFA for six years for multiple violations of the organization’s code of ethics.

    “In many cases, England 2018 accommodated or at least attempted to satisfy, the improper requests made by these Executive Committee members,” Garcia’s report stated.

    Prince William’s representatives declined to comment to multiple media organizations. The Duke of Cambridge is more of a figurehead as FA president than anything else; since 1939, the role has been filled by a member of the British royal family. The FA chairman is the person responsible for actually setting policy, while the chief executive handles day-to-day operations.

    0 0

    Communities that want to keep a closed school or other public building from being sold off will get their chance, with a new program that buys them time to make the case to keep them open as local hubs.

    Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli announced the $2 million fund on Thursday morning, which will cover the costs of the proposed buildings while giving groups 18 months to pitch a “business plan.”

    “The province’s role is to help make it easier for communities to come together and offer services in an integrated and co-ordinated way, and to make the best use of public space,” he said in a statement.

    “Our new initiative gives local communities the opportunity they need to use public properties, and build their vibrant and successful hubs.”

    The hope is that the funding will prompt local governments and community, parent and Indigenous groups to work together to figure out what kinds of services could be offered in the facilities — such as daycares, health clinics or employment services — secure them as partners, and create a business plan.

    The move comes after widespread criticism that as school boards in particular feel pressure to sell off unused space, there’s been no co-ordinated effort to allow communities to find ways to keep the buildings open and viable.

    Last December, the provincial government announced it was contributing $20 million to a 30,000-square-foot community hub and school project in the Bloor-Dufferin area, with the school board contributing $121.5 million by selling off 7.3 acres of land at the site. The project is considered a model for the province, and residents there have asked for it to include affordable housing, child care, and even space for local artists.

    “Schools are at the heart of our communities and they are already natural community hubs,” Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said at the time. “I am excited to see how the space at Bloor-Dufferin will be transformed to benefit their students and revitalize their community.”

    The government has been promoting the idea of community hubs, and in 2015 the premier’s advisory group came up with an action plan to get them into more neighbourhoods.

    The province’s special adviser on hubs, Karen Pitre, was also at Thursday morning’s announcement.

    “This new initiative is another tool that is critical to supporting the community hubs movement in Ontario,” she said. “Having sufficient time and resources is critical to their success. The high level of engagement around community hubs is encouraging, and I look forward to continuing our work together.”

    The announcement was made at the St. James Town Community Corner in downtown Toronto.

    The $2 million is to help cover the costs of maintenance and upkeep of the buildings under consideration while plans are being developed, over the 18 months.

    Applications will be accepted starting July 4.

    0 0

    A 27-year-old man has died after being shot outside a strip club in Mississauga early Thursday morning, police say.

    Peel police were called to Diamonds Cabaret, on Dundas St. E. near Dixie Rd., around 2:40 a.m.

    Police say there was an altercation outside the club when the victim was shot. He was taken to a local hospital where he died from his injuries.

    Police are notifying the victim’s family and interviewing witnesses. There is no information on suspects at this time.

    0 0

    Members of an advocacy group descended on city hall Thursday to present the TTC with a mock award for being the “least funded” public transit system on the continent.

    The stunt was in response to the announcement, made Monday by TTC CEO Andy Byford, that the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) had named the TTC its transit agency of the year.

    The APTA award provoked incredulous reactions from many Toronto transit users, who complained that their daily experience of overcrowded vehicles and frequently delayed service leaves much to be desired.

    “We would love for the TTC to be the best transit system in North America, but quite frankly it’s not. And the main reason why is because our elected officials are not properly funding the TTC,” said Jessica Bell, the executive director of TTCriders, who also recently secured the Ontario NDPnomination for University-Rosedale.

    Bell said that the group doesn’t take issue with transit agency workers or the officials who run the agency, but argued that when measured on a per rider basis, the financial subsidy the city gives the TTC is the lowest of major systems on the continent.

    Bell also criticized the TTC for implementing fare increases every year for the past six years while not increasing service at the same rate. As the Star reported last November, more than a quarter of the TTC’s bus and streetcar routes regularly exceed the agency’s crowding standards.

    “We want better service and lower fares,” Bell said.

    The TTC’s approved budget for 2017 was a record high of $1.8 billion, which included a city subsidy of about $545 million. With annual ridership budgeted at 544 million people, the subsidy works out to roughly $1 per rider, its highest level in recent years.

    Despite the increase, the per rider subsidy remains lower than that of other North American systems, including Los Angeles ($3 U.S. per rider), New York City ($1.52 U.S.), and Montreal ($1.16).

    At Monday’s announcement, Byford said that APTA had given the TTC the award because of the five-year modernization plan that he implemented upon taking over the agency in 2012.

    Accomplishments the TTC cited included increased service reliability, “unprecedented capital investment” in new transit facilities, a more positive work culture among employees, and the introduction of new buses, streetcars, and subways.

    A statement released by Mayor John Tory’s office Monday noted that in 2015 he and TTC chair Josh Colle announced $90 million in funding to restore service that had been cut under the previous administration. The statement also said that the TTC’s 2017 budget was $80 million higher than the year before.

    After a brief news conference outside Tory’s office, TTCriders gave the mock award to one of his staffers, who took it inside.

    0 0

    WASHINGTON—A scaled-back version of U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban takes effect Thursday evening, stripped of provisions that brought protests and chaos at airports worldwide in January yet still likely to generate a new round of court fights.

    The new rules, the product of months of legal wrangling, aren’t so much an outright ban as a tightening of already-tough visa policies affecting citizens from six Muslim-majority countries. Refugees are covered, too.

    Administration officials predicted that implementation, beginning at 8 p.m. EDT, would be orderly. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Dan Hetlage said his agency expected “business as usual at our ports of entry.”

    Yet amid vows from immigration and refugee advocates to challenge the new requirements, the administration sometimes struggled to explain how the new requirements would make the United States safer.

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

    Under the temporary rules, citizens from Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen who already have visas will be allowed into the United States. But people from those countries who need new visas will now have to prove a close family relationship or an existing relationship with an entity like a school or business in the U.S.

    It’s unclear to what degree the new rules will affect travel. Few people in most of the countries have the means for leisure travel, and those that do already face intensive screenings before being issued visas.

    Still, human rights groups on Thursday girded for new legal battles. The American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups challenging the ban, called the new criteria “extremely restrictive,” “arbitrary” in their exclusions and designed to “disparage and condemn Muslims.”

    Much of the confusion in January, when Trump’s first ban took effect, resulted from travellers with previously approved visas being kept off flights or barred entry on arrival in the United States. Immigration officials were instructed Thursday not to block anyone with valid travel documents and otherwise eligible to visit the United States.

    Read more:

    U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Trump’s travel ban leaves more questions than answers

    U.S. Supreme Court allows limited version of Trump’s travel ban to take effect

    Syrian couple separated by U.S. travel ban reunited in Toronto

    Karen Tumlin, legal director of the National Immigration Law Center, said the rules “would slam the door shut on so many who have waited for months or years to be reunited with their families.

    Trump, who made a tough approach to immigration a cornerstone of his election campaign, issued a ban on travellers from the six countries, plus Iraq, shortly after taking office in January. That ban also blocked refugees from any country. Trump said these were temporary measures needed to prevent terrorism until vetting procedures could be reviewed. Opponents noted that visa and refugee vetting were already strict and said there was no evidence that refugees or citizens of those six countries posed a threat. They saw the ban as part of Trump’s campaign promise to bar Muslims from entering the United States.

    Lower courts blocked the initial order and, later, a revised Trump order intended to overcome legal hurdles. The Supreme Court on Monday partially reinstated the revised ban but exempted travellers who could prove a “bona fide relationship” with a U.S. person or entity. The court offered only broad guidelines.

    In guidance issued late Wednesday, the State Department said the personal relationships would include a parent, spouse, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling already in the United States. It does not include other relationships such as grandparents, grandchildren, aunts and uncles.

    Business or professional links must be “formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course rather than for the purpose of evading” the ban. Journalists, students, workers or lecturers who have valid invitations or employment contracts in the U.S. would be exempt from the ban. The exemption does not apply to those who seek a relationship with an American business or educational institution purely for the purpose of avoiding the rules.

    Refugees from any country will face similar requirements, under the new rules. But the U.S. has almost filled its quota of 50,000 refugees for the budget year ending in September and the new rules won’t apply to the few remaining refugees. They could apply for the next batch of refugees for the next budget year, but with the Supreme Court set to consider the overall ban in October, those rules could change again.

    The travel ban may have the largest impact on Iranians. In 2015, the most recently available data, nearly 26,000 Iranians were allowed into the United States on visitor or tourist visas. Iranian’s made up the lion’s share of the roughly 65,000 foreigners from the six countries who visited with temporary, or non-immigrant visas that year.

    American journalist Paul Gottinger, said he and his fiancé Mahsa Abbasi Mivehkar, an Iranian, applied for the visa nearly a year ago but are still waiting on a decision. Gottinger says the couple was due to wed at a Japanese garden in his parents’ home state of Minnesota this month but postponed until August because they had not yet received the visa.

    Now, he expects they will have to delay again.

    “Every twist and turn of the courts, we’re holding our hearts and our stomachs are falling to the floor,” he said by phone from Turkey.

    The new regulations may also affect the wedding plans of Rama Issa-Ibrahim, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York.

    She is Syrian-American and had planned to get married this fall. While her father in Syria may be able to get a visa, her aunts and uncles may well be blocked.

    “I would love for them to be at this wedding, and unfortunately, they aren’t going to be able to be here,” she said, adding that the ceremony would be postponed.

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    IQALUIT, NUNAVUT—Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall touched down Thursday in Iqaluit, kicking off a royal visit that’s scheduled to culminate on Parliament Hill this weekend as Canada marks its 150th anniversary.

    Shortly after an Airbus flying the flag of the Prince of Wales taxied to a stop on a windswept tarmac, the royal couple was greeted with an official welcome of military honours.

    A phalanx of dignitaries was on hand to greet the royal couple, including Gov. Gen. David Johnston, Nunavut Commissioner Nellie Kusugak and Premier Peter Taptuna.

    Read more:Iqaluit prepares for royal visit from Prince Charles, Camilla

    After inspecting the guard of Canadian Rangers, Charles made his way to a stage outside the legislative building for the official welcoming ceremony, which also included a stirring performance by Indigenous throat singers.

    “Your visit means a great deal to us,” Johnston said as he thanked the couple for their contributions to Canada.

    Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett also welcomed the royal couple, noting they would meet inspiring Indigenous youth during their visit. “I wish you a wonderful visit with us in Canada,” Bennett said.

    Charles said he and his wife couldn’t be happier to be back in Canada.

    “Arriving here today brings back the happiest of memories chiefly because this is where I began my first visit to this great country almost 50 years ago,” he said.

    “I have never forgotten the warmth of the welcome from the Inuit people, which made me feel instantly at home as indeed I have with all Canadians on my subsequent visits.”

    The prince said he hopes the celebration of Confederation’s 150th anniversary will encourage all Canadians to look forward with hope and inspiration.

    “Each time I visit Canada, I see the strength and resilience of the people who live here,” he said. “The importance of their Indigenous traditions and the vision and drive that helped shape this extraordinary nation.

    “I pray that the celebration of 150 years of Confederation will encourage all Canadians not just to look back with pride, but also to look forward with hope and inspiration.”

    As part of his 18th visit to Canada, the prince is also meeting with groups focused on the promotion and preservation of the Inuit language including Pirurvik — a non-government centre that bears a name meaning “place of growth.”

    Charles will also hear about the Inuit language authority, watch an Inuktitut translation of a children’s book inspired by Old Man of Lochnagar — a book he authored — and receive a brief language lesson.

    The duchess, who is in Canada for the fourth time, will attend a separate event dedicated to women’s wellness in the North including the Qayuqtuvik Food Centre that offers a free hot meal program to local residents.

    Charles, who visited the territory when it was part of the Northwest Territories in 1970, will also stop at the Nunavut Research Institute to learn about environmental projects underway in the North including research on arctic insects and water projects.

    Later, the couple will visit a community celebration in the afternoon at Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park — an event hosted by the premier featuring local artists and performances — and join elders for tea and bannock.

    On Friday, they travel to Ontario and Canadian Forces Base Trenton, where the Prince of Wales will meet military personnel who specialize in airlift and search and rescue operations.

    The pair will also visit a farmer’s market in Prince Edward County before flying to Ottawa, where they will spend Canada Day to mark the country’s 150th anniversary of Confederation.

    The last official royal tour to Canada took place last fall with the The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who toured five communities in B.C. — Victoria, Vancouver, Haida Gwaii, Bella Bella, and Kelowna — as well as two in Yukon.

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    Several child protection groups are warning that Snapchat’s new location-sharing feature could allow predators to more easily track young people.

    The Canadian Centre for Child Protection and MediaSmarts are among the watchdog groups raising concerns about “Snap Maps” — an opt-in feature that shares a user’s location on a map.

    Experts say child predators who befriend young users could use the feature to figure out where they live, go to school, the route they walk every day, and eventually build up a picture of their routine.

    The feature was included in a recent update to the social media app, which is especially popular with teens. It lets users send photos, videos, and messages that disappear after a set period of time.

    Read more: Why schools should ban Snapchat permanently

    Users can select who can see where they are — whether that be all friends, a select group, or no one, also known as “Ghost Mode.”

    Earlier this week, the Winnipeg-based Canadian Centre for Child Protection issued an alert through its program about Snap Maps, saying users may not realize it updates their location each time they open the app, even when they’re not sharing stories.

    The group also urges parents to talk to their kids about keeping their location private and ensuring their “friends” on Snapchat — and all social media — are people they have met in person.

    Thierry Plante of the Ottawa-based digital and media literacy group MediaSmarts points to the “troubling consequences” of allowing others to know your location.

    “It becomes a very useful tracking tool for somebody who has other intentions,” says Plante.

    “Parents do need to be very present in the digital lives of their children and have the conversation about how to use that feature, whether or not that feature is something they should be using or not, and then together ... if you have decided to use it, how to set the feature in a way to minimize that risk.”

    Childnet International also released a statement about the feature last week.

    “Given how specific this new feature is on Snapchat — giving your location to a precise pinpoint on a map — we would encourage users not to share their location, especially with people they don’t know in person,” the group said in a statement.

    A Snapchat spokesperson said in a statement that “the safety of our community is very important to us” and stressed that using Snap Map “is completely optional.”

    “Snapchatters can choose exactly who they want to share their location with, if at all, and can change that setting at any time. It’s also not possible to share your location with someone who isn’t already your friend on Snapchat, and the majority of interactions on Snapchat take place between close friends,” reads the statement.

    Snapchat has an online parents guide offering tips on keeping teens safe while using the app, as well as an online “safety centre” where anyone can report a safety concern.

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    Ontario’s police watchdog saw a slight increase in the number of cases it opened and the number of officers it charged with crimes in 2016, according to its annual report released Thursday.

    The Special Investigations Unit, which probes police-involved deaths, serious injuries and allegations of sexual assault, opened 327 cases in 2016, up from 312 in 2015 — a 5 per cent increase.

    Among the 296 cases it closed in 2016 — which includes cases opened prior to that year — the agency laid charges in 17 cases against 20 police officers. This number is up from 16 officers charged by the SIU in 2015.

    Of those 296 cases, 113 were closed by “memo,” meaning the SIU received information at the early stage of an investigation that the incident does not actually fall under SIU jurisdiction.

    “Examples of such incidents include investigations in which it becomes evident early on that the injury was not directly or indirectly caused by the actions of a police officer,” the report states.

    “In these instances, the SIU director exercises his/her discretion and ‘terminates’ all further SIU involvement, filing a memo to that effect with the attorney general.”

    The 2016-17 report was made public just two months after the 2015-16 annual report was released. As the Star previously reported, the release of that document had been delayed by nine months.

    The SIU said at the time the 2015-16 report was delayed due to “a number of resource and production-related factors.”

    The report released Thursday is the first to not indicate the number of SIU cases closed within 30 days, a practice the watchdog has done away with.

    The SIU — which has often faced criticism for the length of its investigations — had instituted a performance standard in the 1990s to close 65 per cent of its cases within 30 business days.

    But in two previous annual reports, from 2014-15 and 2015-16, the number was only 33 per cent and 28 per cent, respectively.

    This is in stark contrast to the final two reports under previous director Ian Scott’s tenure, when the agency closed 73 per cent of cases within 30 days in 2012-13 and 71 per cent in the 2011-12 period.

    The annual report released Thursday indicates that the average number of days to close cases in 2016 was 110.8 days.

    SIU spokesperson Monica Hudon told the Star that every year cases become more complex and require more time to investigate.

    “As well, with the increased prevalence of cellphone video, security video, dash cam video, automated vehicle location (AVL) data, and other new forms of technology, the requirements and time needed to analyze such evidence has multiplied,” she said.

    “It is important to note that each investigation is different, with its own requirements for evidence gathering and analysis. The unit concludes each investigation once all the relevant evidence and data has been collected and analyzed, no matter how many days have passed.”

    In a sweeping review of Ontario’s police oversight bodies, Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch recommended this year that the SIU aim to conclude its investigations within 120 days. When it cannot, the SIU should report to the public at that time and every 60 days after, he said.

    In addition, Tulloch recommended the creation of a deputy director position to speed up closure rates by easing the workload on the SIU director, who is currently the only person responsible for making the decision to lay a criminal charge.

    The Ministry of the Attorney General is currently reviewing the more than 100 recommendations from Tulloch’s report, released in April.

    Hudon, of the SIU, said concluding investigations within 120 days would require more resources for the agency.

    With files from Wendy Gillis

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    WASHINGTON—The president of the United States has returned to his habit of disparaging women.

    In two tweets jaw-dropping even given Donald Trump’s history of public sexism, he insulted MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski in three ways on Thursday morning.

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

    “I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!” he wrote on Twitter.

    “He’s covering his hands here,” she said, “because they’re teensy.”

    It was unclear what prompted Trump’s rage. During Thursday’s Morning Joe, though, Brzezinski mocked the size of his hands — a subject about which he is thought to be sensitive — while mocking the fake Time magazine covers of Trump that the Washington Post discovered hanging in his golf clubs.

    Brzezinski’s first response to Trump’s insults was an image of a Cheerios cereal box with the phrase “Made for little hands.”

    MSNBC public relations chief Mark Kornblau‏ wrote on Twitter: “Never imagined a day when I would think to myself, ‘it is beneath my dignity to respond to the President of the United States.’” He did respond; in a statement, MSNBC said: “It’s a sad day for America when the president spends his time bullying, lying and spewing petty personal attacks instead of doing his job.”

    Trump’s remarks were defended by first lady Melania Trump, who once said she planned to launch an initiative to combat online bullying.

    “As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder,” Stephanie Grisham, a spokesperson for Melania Trump, told CNN.

    This is at the least the second time a Trump insult involved an accusation that the woman was bleeding. During the Republican primary, he claimed that a debate moderator who asked him tough questions, Megyn Kelly, had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

    Trump was accused of sexual assault by more than 10 women during the campaign. His claim that Brzezinski was too unattractive for him to spend time around calls to mind his response to the assault accusations: he suggested that some of those women were too unattractive for him to want to assault.

    He has previously mocked the appearance of a number of female public figures, from Republican candidate Carly Fiorina to comedian Rosie O’Donnell.

    And he was accused of sexist behaviour in the Oval Office on Tuesday, when he summoned a female Irish journalist to his desk in the middle of his phone conversation with Ireland’s prime minister and remarked on her “nice smile.”

    Trump offered no evidence for his claims about Brzezinski’s appearance.

    Trump’s aides have tried and failed to get him to stop tweeting incendiary remarks that distract from his political agenda. His administration had billed this week as “Energy Week.”

    Trump made the comments on Brzezinski on a day he is planning to meet with the new president of South Korea, give a speech on energy, implement part of his long-delayed ban on travellers from six Muslim-majority countries, and attempt to make progress on his stalled health-care legislation.

    Trump’s tweeting is unpopular across the political spectrum; polls show that even a majority of his own voters want him to stop. His latest remarks drew condemnation, and gasps, from across the political spectrum.

    “Please just stop. This isn't normal and it's beneath the dignity of your office,” Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse wrote on Twitter.

    “If anyone on my staff did this they would be fired instantly,” wrote Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz.

    Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy linked Trump’s “crazy” remark to his health-care legislation.

    “Mocks people w mental illness. Cheerleads effort to end their insurance. Not sure how much more monstrous this can get,” he wrote.

    Trump has frequently claimed not to be watching television shows, particularly on CNN, that he was indeed watching. He tweeted the insults of Brzezinski during the last 10 minutes of Morning Joe.

    Contrary to Trump’s claim, Morning Joe is performing well in the ratings. The website Adweek reports that it averaged 1.1 million viewers in May, the first time it exceeded one million and an 89 per cent spike from its 583,000-viewer averaged in May of last year.

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    A massive explosion at a Woodbridge café has police wondering if southern Ontario is on the brink of a hot summer of mob violence.

    “It’s a suspicious explosion,” Const. Andy Pattenden said after the blast early Thursday, which knocked a wall off the Café Corretto on Winges Rd., near the Hwy. 7 and Weston Rd.

    The incident came as investigators probe whether there are connections between a spate of recent mob attacks in Hamilton and York Region.

    “Things are heating up,” another police source said.

    The explosion showered a parking lot with parts of gaming machines and bricks, covering a black BMW sedan in debris.

    It was the fifth violent incident with possible mob undertones in southern Ontario in the past two months, coming just two days after someone sprayed the Hamilton home of mobster/baker Pasquale (Pat) Musitano.

    Musitano’s younger brother, Angelo Musitano, 39, was shot dead May 2 in the driveway of his Waterdown home while his wife and preschool children were inside.

    No arrests have been made in the killing or the attack on Pasquale Musitano’s home.

    The Musitano brothers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in the 1997 fatal shooting death of Niagara crime boss Carmen Barillaro after their hitman, Kenny Murdock, turned against them. The brothers were released from prison in October 2006 after serving two-thirds of their 10-year sentences.

    In the fourth recent incident, there were no injuries when someone shot up the home of a wealthy York Region mobster in mid-June. That mobster has since gone on vacation.

    And on June 12, someone tossed what appeared to be an accelerant into the Di Manno Bakery on Buttermill Ave., near Hwy. 7 and Hwy. 400, around 1:30 a.m.

    Thursday’s attack on the Café Corretto happened at around 5:20 a.m.

    Pattenden said a 33-year-old man was spotted near the scene suffering from non-life threatening injuries. He was arrested and taken to hospital, but there was no immediate word on charges, Pattenden said.

    The scene was been sealed off by police pending investigations by the Ontario Fire Marshal and Emergency Management.

    The business was one of 11 cafes in Toronto and York Region where illegal gaming machines were found in January 2016 by police in Project Oeider, which targeted illegal gaming machines.

    That project was run by a combined forces unit that included investigators from the RCMP, OPP, York Regional Police, Toronto Police Service and Peel Regional Police.

    It resulted in the seizures of 74 illegal gaming machines and approximately $200,000 in cash from the 11 cafes.

    The explosion was in a corner unit of the one-storey plaza, which also contains a car tinting business and a nail salon.

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    Before Monday, before the 911 call and police investigation, Pedro Ruiz III, an aspiring YouTube star in rural Minnesota, spent considerable time convincing his girlfriend to shoot a gun at his chest.

    There would be a thick encyclopedia book between the barrel and his body, authorities say he told 19-year-old Monalisa Perez. The pages, he reasoned, would stop the bullet.

    He even had evidence that it had worked once before — a different book with an entrance hole but no exit.

    So on Monday evening, the young couple positioned two cameras outside their home and prepared for their breakthrough stunt. They wanted fame, family said, and danger often brings it.

    “Me and Pedro are probably going to shoot one of the most dangerous videos ever,” Perez teased in a tweet at 5 p.m. “HIS idea not MINE.”

    It had been three months since the young couple added their vlog, La MonaLisa, to YouTube, where they posted clips of their daily lives and their 3-year-old daughter. They live in Halstad, Minn., a tiny town on the North Dakota border between Grand Forks and Fargo. Episodes featured shots from their home, the car or at the doctor’s office, which is where Perez revealed in May that she was pregnant with a boy.

    Their shtick, though, was pulling minor pranks: doughnuts with baby powder instead of powdered sugar, feigning paralysis from a grocery store wheelchair, hiding hot peppers on an egg salad sandwich. Just this week, Perez posted a video of Ruiz doing a handstand inside a rotating fun house tunnel at the county fair.

    But the bullet and book stunt was supposed to be their breakthrough.

    “I said, don’t do it, don’t do it,” Ruiz’s aunt, Claudia Ruiz, told her nephew when he shared his idea, according to Valley News Live. “Why are you going to use a gun? Why?”

    His response, she said, was simple: “Because, we want more viewers.”

    With one camera attached to a ladder and the other propped on the back of a car, the couple staged their stunt, according to authorities. Ruiz held the book to his chest and Perez held the gun, a gold Desert Eagle .50 calibre pistol considered“one of the most powerful semi-automatic handguns in the world.”

    From a foot away, court documents say, Perez fired.

    This time, the bullet didn’t stop in the book but instead pierced Ruiz in the chest. Medics tried to revive him, authorities said, but he was declared dead at the house.

    Neighbours told ABC affiliate WDAY-TV that they watched the scene unfold from afar.

    “Everyone was crying,” neighbour Wayne Cameron told the TV station. “I was standing behind that tree over there. And that was it. I just couldn’t take it anymore so I had to go back home.”

    When Perez called 911 at 6:30 p.m., she told dispatchers the shooting was accidental and explained the YouTube plan. Later, according to court documents, she said that her boyfriend had been trying to convince her to shoot the book “for awhile” and she finally relented. She told them about the other book Ruiz had shot, the one that blocked the bullet, and described the gun she fired.

    A sheriff’s deputy found it in the grass outside the home.

    Perez was arrested Monday on a charge of reckless discharge of a gun. On Wednesday, that charge was upgraded to second degree manslaughter. She was released on $7,000 bail after her initial court appearance and ordered to wear a GPS monitor and stay away from firearms, reported KVRR TV. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years behind bars.

    “They were in love. They loved each other,” Ruiz’s aunt, Claudia Ruiz, told Valley News Live. “It was just a prank gone wrong. It shouldn’t have happened like this. It shouldn’t have happened at all.”

    Claudia Ruiz described Perez as a loving girlfriend and mother who had been with her nephew for six years. According to Perez’s social media accounts, the young woman was a stay-at-home mom. It appears she controlled the camera for many of their YouTube vlogs and often shared intimate, personal details with viewers.

    “Our Vlogs will show you the real life of a young couple who happen to be teen parents,” the description on their channel reads. “From highs to lows. Achievements to struggles. Join the fun, Follow our journey!”

    In a Facebook post last week that included the vlog post from their trip to the fair, Perez wrote that they were in the process of making Ruiz his own YouTube channel. His would focus on “all the crazy stuff,” she wrote. La MonaLisa would be about their “family life.”

    “Oh man is it going to be sweet!,” she wrote.

    Perez had discussed the book stunt before the shooting, family members told KVRR. Along with Perez and friends, they had tried to talk him out of it.

    “I wish they wouldn’t have done it,” Claudia Ruiz told WDAY-TV. “I wish he would’ve just done another prank. He was so young. He had so much going for himself.”

    Another aunt, Lisa Primeau, said she “pretty much raised” Pedro Ruiz after his mother died in Texas when he was a child, reported the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Ruiz was always “putting a dangerous twist on everything he did,” Primeau told the newspaper, like jumping off the top of the house into the swimming pool.

    “We called him our little daredevil,” Primeau told the Star Tribune.

    The aunts said they all are supporting Perez. They want to name her unborn baby Pedro, after his father.

    “It’s a tragic incident. What she did ... she has to live with that,” Primeau told the Star Tribune. “It’s the worst punishment she can get.”

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    My soul is so suburban that when I visited the shopping mall of my youth last week (Hillcrest Mall in Richmond Hill), I nearly cried because of how much it had changed. Gone was the Mr. Sub, the Zellers, and, saddest of all, the General Store: an overpriced knick-knack shop that sold model cars and special items for left-handed people (my late Bubbie Shoshie called this the “crap store”; clearly she wasn’t the only one who felt this way).

    Those who grew up in cities might be under the impression that every suburb and shopping mall is more or less the same. And perhaps to outsiders they are. But if you’re an insider — if you grew up, like I did, on a residential grid of cookie cutter houses — you don’t feel this way. In fact, it’s precisely because you weren’t spoiled with stuff to look at that you’re more attuned to the details of your environment. The sameness of the landscape sharpens your senses. As a result, you know your Indigo, your Silver City, your Kelseys restaurant and of course, your mall, like the back of your hand. (I could pick the Richmond Hill Indigo out of a lineup blindfolded.)

    But no matter how well we know our suburban landmarks and defend their existence to our city-slicker friends, they are apparently not long for this world.

    Read more: How neighbourhood malls are struggling to survive

    According to new research published by Credit Suisse, 20 to 25 per cent of all malls in the U.S. are projected to close by the year 2022. This month, Sears Canada, a mall mainstay, announced plans to close 59 stores, a move that will result in the elimination of nearly 3000 jobs.

    Retail analyst Robert Warren says there are a few major contributing factors to the demise of the North American mall: the baby boomer demographic isn’t spending at malls as often as it once did, millennial consumers want more choice — which they can find online — and TV streaming gives us more reason than ever to stay home.

    But there’s something else in the mall-decline mix too. And that’s the reality that at the vast majority of North American malls, there simply isn’t enough to do. Most western shopping centres are devoted almost exclusively to retail, which means if you aren’t buying clothes or renewing your criminally overpriced cellphone plan, you don’t have much reason to stick around after you’ve run your errands.

    In many parts of Asia, however, the opposite is true. This winter, I travelled throughout Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan, where I observed and participated in a mall culture totally unlike our own. Nearly every mall I visited had some element of amusement totally unrelated to the purchasing of stuff. No matter how small, every shopping centre was a miniature West Edmonton Mall, complete with at least one of the following amenities: an aquarium, an arcade, a petting zoo, a batting cage, a bowling ally, laser tag, a high-tech photo booth, a pop culture-themed restaurant, a karaoke stall and even occasionally a museum.

    What’s more, it wasn’t just families with young children and teens using these amenities; they were popular with everybody, regardless of age. In East Asia, it became clear to me very quickly that there’s no shame in enjoying the recreational activities you loved as a kid well into adulthood.

    Warren says Canadian shopping centres might benefit from the amusement model popular in Asian malls. He even notes that where West Edmonton Mall does well is on “the theme stuff.”

    “(Asian) malls are different than ours in that they’ve turned them into entertainment locations,” Warren says. “I think with the massive population we’re (Canada) drawing in from Asia, if a mall operator started to do things like (adding more amusement) they’d draw those consumers in because it’s a bit of a touch of home for them.”

    In my mind, the Asian mall model wouldn’t just attract new Canadians from Asian countries or tourists looking for a touch of home, but anyone looking for a variety of amusement in one place. Social media went wild this week with news that Cineplex opened the Rec Room in downtown Toronto — what is essentially a sprawling arcade for adults. Among the activities Torontonian millennials currently go nuts for: escape rooms, axe throwing, board game cafes and lining up for hours on Queen St. W. for something called “charcoal ice cream.”

    All of these things point to the reality that millennial adults want to participate in recreational activities that don’t involve getting plastered and going to a bar or nightclub. Malls can use this desire for wholesome recreation to their advantage. Right now most of these activities are spread thin throughout the city and suburbs, often in repurposed warehouses. Why aren’t they at your local mall?

    The suburban shopping centre is a town square. If you live in the suburbs, it’s where you go to see and be seen, especially in the wintertime, where the mall is pretty much the only public space you can go to and not freeze your butt off. For a lot of suburbanites, malls aren’t cultural dead zones. They’re meeting places, walking tracks and study spots. In other words, they’re hotbeds of culture. We can turn our noses up at them or we can save them. I say we save them, one arcade and board game cafe at a time. Hillcrest, I’m rooting for you.

    Emma Teitel is a national affairs columnist.

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    Being struck by lightning and having your recovery exacerbated by a head injury may not qualify as a blessing to most, but Ottawa singer and songwriter Kellylee Evans considers these accidents a godsend.

    “It’s the best thing that ever happened to me, every weird circumstance,” says the bubbly Evans, the Juno Award winner and single mother of three who is just getting her career back on track after four years of recovery.

    Evans, who has released six albums and is almost a household name in France, said the subsequent journey that began with a freak lightning strike through the plumbing of her Ottawa kitchen has been a wake-up call and reset her priorities to be more family-oriented.

    “I would have never seen how much my kids needed me if this had never happened,” she admitted during a recent rainy June day as she was being driven from Mississauga to Toronto following a rehearsal for upcoming shows in Ottawa (National Arts Centre, July 3), Montreal (Upstairs Jazz Bar, July 4) and Toronto (Hugh’s Room Live, July 21).

    Before her June 2013 misfortune, Evans’ career was on an upswing. She had a label deal with Universal Music France and was traveling to the country “almost monthly” to perform SRO concerts. She had won a Juno Award in 2011 for Vocal Jazz Album for Nina, her tribute to Nina Simone. She was performing more regularly in Canada and had opened a few shows for George Benson. She had secured Ramon Hervey, Vanessa Williams’ ex, as her personal manager.

    And although she suffered headaches, heart palpitations and was temporarily confined to a wheelchair as a result of the electricity that coursed through her body, Evans recovered sufficiently to record Come On, her 2015 “ post-modern romantic soul” album.

    She never got the chance to tour it. The night before its release, Evans stood up too quickly after taking a bath, fainted and bonked her head on the tub, concussing herself and causing a relapse of the lightning strike symptoms.

    “I was nauseous, dizzy, my legs were not working properly,” she recalls. “I had a gig two days later and the guys in my band knew that I was bad because I slept during intermission — out cold — and they know I don’t do that. I went to my brother’s wedding and I was just a mess. When I got home I could hardly function. I was in a daze.

    “I still had a tour planned, and finally my doctor said, ‘That’s it, you’re off for six months.’ I just wasn’t getting any better. My management kept calling me, asking what should we do? And I couldn’t lift my head out of bed.”

    Evans, a newly single parent at the time, was incapacitated and on indefinite bed rest. A month later, her good friend, Toronto singer Amanda Martinez, initiated a crowd-funding campaign that eventually raised more than $43,000 to help Evans with living expenses.

    The singer says she initially opposed the idea, but friends and supporters rallied to give Evans much more than cash.

    “We were totally on our own, but once people figured that out, we weren’t totally on our own,” she says. “One friend signed us up to this website where the call went out to all of our friends so they could see what was on our schedule and what we needed help with. Somebody would show up. There were meals planned, pick-ups and drop-offs. There were activities for my kids or if I had a doctor’s appointment and needed somebody to take me there and stay with me. People signed up for months and months.

    “You get to this point where you think, man, can I just get better? I’m sure you have people who are tired of helping you. You wonder when people will say, OK, that’s enough. But we’ve been so lucky. People moved us. People helped us find a home, put my kids in school, picked my kids up from weekly practices and still do.”

    Over the past 10 months, Evans, who first came to prominence when she placed second at the 2004 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition, has been slowly reintegrating herself into life and livelihood.

    She accepted a yearlong artist-in-residence position, mentoring and hosting an interview series, with Carleton University in January. In April, she sang the national anthem at the Juno Cup festivities in Ottawa, joined Jim Cuddy for a duet of “Try” during a Warner Music Canada after-party that week and a few weeks later joined The Cooper Brothers for an event on harmonies.

    “I was nervous, but it seemed worth the risk to try,” Evans admits. “I did and it worked out. Now I’m back to do these gigs to see how it works. I still have issues with drums and loud sounds, so we don’t have drums for the next few dates: it’s very intimate — myself, guitar, piano and acoustic bass.”

    She’s the first to admit she hasn’t fully recovered.

    “If I had the money to sit and rest my brain a bit longer, I wouldn’t go back yet,” Evans discloses. “I would wait another six months because I’m still not at 100 percent. It’s not fun to have a setback and flare-ups suck. But I need to take care of my family, so back out on the road I go. . .”

    One thing she won’t be doing is moving out of the country, something she was contemplating, until her illness and terrorism caused her to reconsider her plans.

    “I hit my head on the 11th,” Evans explains. “On the 12th, my album came out and the next night there were terrorist attacks in Paris. Two people at my label were killed, and it was in the neighbourhood where we were going to have a concert a couple weeks later. The music industry in France just shut down for a few days.

    “But I thought I was going to move to France. I had this plan. It just seemed like the most obvious thing. I was in France for every month for years. And I was on the road so much, it would make more sense to have my kids with me in France than to have them here.”

    Instead, she’s staying put.

    “I don’t have any more plans to move,” she insists. “This is my country. This is where my health care is. This is where my family and friends are. I feel really strongly about having my kids continue to grow up here. I think what I’ve gotten out of this is what a treat for me it is to be with my kids. It’s amazing. I love knowing what they’re up to on a daily basis. As much as I love singing and the response to what I do, I feel like my kids need me more. Being on the road doesn’t have the same appeal.”

    As for new music, Kellylee Evans say she’s begun thinking about writing, but figures it’ll be a while.

    “I’ve been working on recovery in so many ways — spiritual, emotional, physical, relationship and being a good parent,” she explains. “I’m sure I could write a whole bunch of songs, but I want them to be about the next space that I’m not yet in. I’m still processing and I don’t think I’m through what’s still happening right now. I just want to get through it.”

    Most importantly, Evans says this ordeal has changed her perspective.

    “I never felt like I needed to ask for help. This was a really good, big lesson in that you don’t have to do everything yourself. Get help. Be vulnerable. It’s okay.”

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    VICTORIA—The NDP has been asked to form a government in British Columbia after the Liberals were defeated in a non-confidence vote in the legislature, sending them to the Opposition benches for the first time in 16 years.

    Premier-designate John Horgan emerged from a meeting with Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon to say he was asked to form a government after reaching a deal with the Green party on a legislative agenda.

    But his fledgling government faces hurdles because even with the support of the three Green members of the legislature, the NDP can only count on 44 votes in the 87-seat legislature, putting them in a precarious position.

    Read more:

    B.C. legislature may come to an impasse over Speaker role

    B.C. Green-NDP minority deal aims for electoral reform, pipeline defeat

    B.C. New Democrats get support from Greens to form minority government

    No members of the legislature broke ranks in the confidence vote as the Greens backed the New Democrats’ to defeat Premier Christy Clark’s government, ending the Liberals 16 years in power.

    The Liberals lost the vote 44-42.

    Clark made an impassioned plea to members of the legislature to support her government, saying voters in May’s election sent a message that they want the three parties to work together.

    In a bid to remain in power, the Liberals adopted NDP and Green promises from last month’s election in their throne speech including higher social assistance rates, banning corporate, union and third-party donations to political parties, spending more on childcare and increasing the carbon tax.

    “When we go into political combat we all acknowledge that sometimes we spend so much time fighting with one another in here that it’s hard to listen to what British Columbians want. And the throne speech is an answer to that,” she said.

    “It’s an answer to what voters told us on May 9. It’s an acknowledgment, a sincere acknowledgment, that we didn’t get it right. It is an expression of renewed priorities based on what voters told us, including that they want us to work across party lines with one another.”

    But the opposition parties signalled from the outset they had no intention of backing the Liberals, defeating two measures they had supported during the election.

    The work of government has been in limbo for almost two months since the Liberals won a minority government with 43 members in the 87-seat legislature.

    Because the Speaker doesn’t typically cast a vote, the New Democrats and Greens wanted Liberal Steve Thomson to remain in the chair, but he resigned shortly after the non-confidence motion passed. Settling who serves as Speaker will be a key decision when the legislature returns.

    Clark said earlier this week the legislature can’t work if the NDP is in power because the election results were so tight.

    Her comments prompted ridicule and heated exchanges in the house on Thursday, with accusations the Liberals were clinging to power.

    Clark suggested Green party Leader Andrew Weaver lied when he told voters he would work with all politicians in the legislature.

    “He wasn’t telling the truth about that then and he isn’t telling the truth about what he is saying today,” Clark said to applause from the Liberals.

    Weaver said it was time for the Liberal members to move to the opposition benches.

    “They are acting like belligerent children as they’re going into that time out.”

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    MONTREAL—In the city that I’ve called home for the past 20 years, one would be hard-pressed to find signs that Saturday is a special Canada day. A bicycle ride across town on the eve of the country’s 150th anniversary elicits no Maple Leaf flag — except at various hotel and official venues.

    Quebec leases expire on July 1. Year in and year out, Canada Day in Montreal is marked by a ballet of moving vans. This year is no exception. The city has spent the past six months celebrating its 375th anniversary. And last week was the June 24th Fête Nationale. It is not as if we were suffering from a deficit of history or festivities.

    But for those of us who are old enough to have been there the contrast between this sedate sesquicentennial weekend and Canada’s last significant birthday in 1967 could not be more striking.

    I was entering adolescence at the time of Expo 67. My family had moved from Hull (now Gatineau) to Toronto the previous fall. My English was still a work in progress. Our neighbours’ French even more so.

    On our street, the family that lived next door was among the first to trek to Montreal to visit Expo. They did not know that the Quebec short form for “excusez-moi” is “scuse”. Expo 67 being the crowd scene that it was, it was a word they heard many times a day. At least one child came home wondering if the expression was a code of some sort.

    My mother had relatives on the south shore of Montreal. The seven of us — two parents and five kids including a toddler — camped there for our Expo week. My aunt and uncle lived in a leafy empty nest. They shed crocodile tears when we departed.

    Like many of my generation, my first passport was the Expo version. That is probably where I picked up a lifelong travel bug. But the world I encountered on the man-made islands was an artificial paradise.

    A very popular pavilion was that of Czechoslovakia. It featured leading edge multimedia presentations as well as puppet shows. It was a magic place that spoke to us of a magic land. By the following summer, Prague was under Soviet occupation for having tried to cut a hole in the Iron Curtain.

    An entire section of the United States pavilion was devoted to the conquest of space. The first walk on the moon would take place two years later. Of the American civil rights movement, there was no trace

    In the politically correct francophone fashion of the time, my parents took us to France’s pavilion and gave the U.K.’s showcase a wide berth. We had migrated to the cottage by the time French president Charles de Gaulle generated diplomatic havoc by saluting a free Quebec. We all sat around the radio to listen to the live broadcast of his Montreal speech.

    Little did most visitors know that the face Canada put forward at Expo was about to be transformed. Trudeaumania was less than a year away from seizing the country. Talks that would lead to the founding of the Parti Québécois were underway.

    There are those who pine for the innocence of Canada’s centennial year. But it was largely based on ignorance.

    If you are reading this column and/or have read me in the Star for the past number of years, know that few could have fathomed my journalistic path at the time of Expo 67 and not just because women did not take up much space in its “Man and his World thematic environment.

    On the day I was offered this column almost two decades ago, I was taken aback by the fact that a non-Quebec media organization like The Star would make a francophone one of its top national politics niche.

    It was a few years later that I joined the nascent CBC At Issue panel in a similar role.

    At the time of Expo 67, competing soliloquies passed for a national dialogue. The reporting of Canadian politics took place in language silos. Today those silos are no longer as hermetic. The temptation to pigeonhole voices remains rampant but in an increasingly diverse media coop, it cannot endure.

    Breaking down some of those barriers is one of Peter Mansbridge’s main contributions not so much to broadcasting as to a more authentic national conversation.

    Saturday is Mansbridge’s last broadcast as CBC’s chief correspondent. The next time all hell breaks loose, someone else will walk us through the minefield of breaking news. As my former column-mate the much-missed James Travers would say: Fly straight Peter…

    Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

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    Toronto’s island airport has taken down an advertisement after animal rights activists complained it is disrespectful to cows.

    The poster at Billy Bishop Airport said, “You’re precious cargo, not cattle,” and outlined upgrades being made to the passenger terminal.

    Activist Len Goldberg says in a Facebook post that message is “insulting” to cows.

    He says he rallied a number of like-minded people to contact the government body that operates the airport to complain.

    A PortsToronto spokesperson says the offending poster was immediately removed and that particular message won’t be part of the ad campaign moving forward.

    Deborah Wilson says the ad had implied disrespect for animals that was not intended.

    “Perspective and discourse is an interesting and important element of any public campaign,” said Wilson. “We appreciate that these concerns were brought forward so that we could better understand the issue and respond quickly to remedy the situation.”

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