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- 07/04/17--11:48: _City of Toronto apo...
- 07/04/17--03:00: _Judge tells Ontario...
- 07/04/17--08:38: _Are video games lea...
- 07/04/17--15:16: _Foreign real estate...
- 07/04/17--13:50: _Hearing moved again...
- 07/04/17--10:01: _RCMP lays terror ch...
- 07/04/17--15:12: _Toronto Community H...
- 07/04/17--15:04: _Indigenous woman hi...
- 07/04/17--14:58: _Controversial U of ...
- 06/30/17--17:00: _Metrolinx $500-mill...
- 07/04/17--17:59: _‘Odious’ or overdue...
- 07/05/17--11:56: _Rate hike not expec...
- 07/04/17--13:23: _Why the family cott...
- 07/05/17--06:58: _Fight to stop 24-st...
- 07/05/17--05:29: _Councillor Kristyn ...
- 07/05/17--13:34: _Man charged in Vaug...
- 07/05/17--05:51: _Toronto teen presum...
- 07/05/17--12:13: _Trump’s aides don’t...
- 07/05/17--14:00: _The yellow made us ...
- 07/05/17--13:51: _Family denied fundi...
- 07/04/17--08:38: Are video games leading young men to work less?
- 07/04/17--15:16: Foreign real estate buyers in Ontario small in number, figures show
- 07/04/17--13:50: Hearing moved again for accused in hostage taking
- 07/04/17--15:04: Indigenous woman hit by trailer hitch in Thunder Bay dies
- 07/05/17--11:56: Rate hike not expected to slow record auto sales
- 07/04/17--13:23: Why the family cottage may prove hard to hold onto
- 07/05/17--06:58: Fight to stop 24-storey Eglinton Ave. condo loses at council
- 07/05/17--13:34: Man charged in Vaughan café explosion
- 07/05/17--05:51: Toronto teen presumed drowned on school trip to Algonquin Park
A rapper took to Twitter to defend himself Tuesday after the City of Toronto apologized for “inappropriate content” during his performance at Canada 150 celebrations the night before.
Belly was the final performer at 10:10 p.m. at the city’s four-day festival at Nathan Phillips Square. He was the final act, followed by fireworks around 11 p.m.
Belly performed songs such as “Consuela,” laced with profanity and adult content.
Toronto’s special events Twitter account tweeted an apology for the closing performance later that evening, which was re-tweeted by the official City of Toronto account.
Belly then tweeted on Tuesday afternoon that the event organizers were aware that he would be swearing during his performance. The tweet was later deleted.
His tweet “THEY WILL NEVER CENSOR MY ART,” was also later deleted.
He earlier tweeted: “That’s the beauty of living somewhere with REAL freedoms.”
The festival was advertised as a free event for the public with no age restriction.
Some concert-goers said Belly’s performance wasn’t appropriate for an event where there were families and young kids.
“It’s a family event, the city should have known better,” tweeted Tina Pulciani.
But some people said strong language should be expected at live performances.
“What did you expect lol,” somebody else tweeted.
City Hall has hosted numerous events for the Canada 150 celebrations, including fireworks and concerts every night in the square. Acts have included Barenaked Ladies, Buffy Sainte-Marie and a surprise performance from Drake.
It won’t be easy for Althea Reyes to drag another person before a judge. The one-time beauty queen has been declared a “vexatious litigant” for repeatedly abusing Ontario courts with frivolous lawsuits.
The rare designation means she cannot continue or begin any new cases in any level of court in Ontario without first getting permission from a judge.
Reyes is appealing the May 31 order by Justice Paul Perell restricting her access to the courts.
Ontario’s attorney general had requested Reyes be declared vexatious, saying in a court application that her barrage of lawsuits and court motions are a frivolous “abuse of the court’s process and a waste of judicial and public resources.”
A 2016 Star investigation found Reyes has sued at least 30 people, companies and organizations since 2011 in Toronto. She has targeted successful men she had relationships with, a school board, bank employees, a pawnshop, a dry cleaning business, lawyers who have opposed her in the courtroom, and a complete stranger.
Reyes, who attended law school but is not licensed to practice law, has used her legal knowledge to drag out proceedings and aggravate the people she has pulled into court, the Star found.
She has a long history of defending herself — often successfully — against criminal charges, including fraudulent impersonation. That charge was withdrawn in January after Reyes agreed to a peace bond and not to use, in any way, the name Allison Reyes.
The new order does not prevent her from defending herself in court against criminal charges.
On more than one occasion Reyes presented herself as a lawyer and took money to represent people in small claims court, prompting the Law Society of Upper Canada to obtain an injunction forbidding her to offer legal services.
When reached by phone last week, Reyes hung up. She then tried to take the Star to court by filing an emergency motion that asked, among other things, for a judge to prohibit the journalists from contacting her.
The motion was tossed by a judge because she did not first get permission to file it.
The order against Reyes is the 197th time the Ontario courts have declared someone a vexatious litigant — and the second time such an order has been made against Reyes.
The first order, made in 2009 following an acrimonious child support dispute, barred Reyes from starting or continuing any court proceedings — but only if the cases were connected to her daughter.
The new one is much broader and prevents Reyes from filing any court action without first getting approval from a judge.
Reyes had flouted the narrower 2009 order and continued to launch new lawsuits involving her child.
In fall 2016, a Superior Court judge threw out three of those cases, explaining that “the court has mistakenly allowed several claims to be commenced by the plaintiff without leave.”
The new order also blocks Reyes from filing any court proceedings under any of her aliases. Reyes has gone by a number of names: Althea, Allie and Elle.
In court filings, a lawyer for the attorney general said Reyes routinely refuses to respect the outcome of court cases when they go against her and instead rolls the allegations over into new lawsuits, sometimes suing the lawyers who had previously opposed her.
“(Reyes) then pursues frivolous appeals, routinely fails to appear in court when required to do so and then fails to pay costs awards made against her.”
Reyes, uncharacteristically, did not file any paperwork or attend the hearing where she was found to be a vexatious litigant.
In her notice of appeal, she calls the vexatious litigant declaration “a very serious matter” and says she was entitled to more time to retain a lawyer.
The lawsuits she filed, she maintains, were an attempt to recover possessions that were lost while she was being kept in custody for charges that were later withdrawn or dismissed.
“The claims are not vexatious or frivolous as it is her right to obtain her property being illegally withheld by a third party,” her notice reads.
Some of Reyes lawsuits targeted former romantic partners, men who hold prominent positions in the worlds of media, finance and the arts, including one who gave her almost $100,000 and paid private school fees for one of her children.
Last November, Reyes told the Star to hold off on publishing her story until all of her matters before the court were concluded, or else.
“The minute you publish anything you’re getting sued,” she said.
Reyes recently informed the court that she intends to soon file an application to get permission to pursue a lawsuit against the Star.
If innovations in housework helped free women to enter the labour force in the 1960s and 1970s, could innovations in leisure — like League of Legends — be taking men out of the labour force today?
That’s the logic behind a new working paper released Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The paper — by economists Erik Hurst, Mark Aguiar, Mark Bils and Kerwin Charles — argues that video games help explain why younger men are working fewer hours.
That claim got a lot of attention last year when the University of Chicago published a graduation speech given by Hurst at its business school, where he discussed some of his preliminary findings. He says the paper is now ready to be read by the public.
By 2015, American men aged 31 to 55 were working about 163 fewer hours a year than that same age group did in 2000. Men aged 21 to 30 were working 203 fewer hours a year. One puzzle is why the working hours for young men fell so much more than those of their older counterparts. The gap between the two groups grew by about 40 hours a year, or a full workweek on average.
Other experts have pointed to a host of reasons — globalization, technological change, the shift to service work — that employers may not be hiring young men. Instead of looking at why employers don’t want young men, this group of economists considered a different question: Why don’t young men want to work?
Hurst and his colleagues estimate that, since 2004, video games have been responsible for reducing the amount of work that young men do by 15 to 30 hours over the course of a year. Using the recession as a natural experiment, the authors studied how people who suddenly found themselves with extra time spent their leisure hours, then estimated how increases in video game time affected work.
Between 2004 and 2015, young men’s leisure time grew by 2.3 hours a week. A majority of that increase — 60 per cent — was spent playing video games, according to government time use surveys. In contrast, young women’s leisure time grew by 1.4 hours a week. A negligible amount of that extra time was spent on video games. Likewise for older men and older women: Neither group reported having spent any meaningful extra free time playing video games.
The analysis excluded full-time students, and showed that the amount of time young men spent on household chores or child care was not going up.
In some ways, the increase in video game time for men makes sense: Median wages for men have been stagnant for decades. Over the same period, the quality of video games has grown significantly. In the 1990s, games like Mario Bros. were little more than eight-bit virtual toys. Today, you and your closest buddies can go on quests in games like World of Warcraft that can last for days.
Large social video games did not become hugely popular until the release of World of Warcraft in late 2004. These games are different from more rudimentary games like Pong and Space Invaders that older men grew up playing.
Experts say that the social aspect is particularly important.
“Games provide a sense of waking in the morning with one goal: I’m trying to improve this skill, teammates are counting on me and my online community is relying on me,” said Jane McGonigal, a video game scholar and game designer. “There is a routine and daily progress that does a good job at replacing traditional work.”
Adam Alter, a professor of marketing and psychology at New York University who studies digital addiction, highlighted the fact that, unlike TV shows or concerts, today’s video games don’t end.
Most forms of entertainment have some form of a stopping cue — signals that remind you that a certain act or episode is ending, like a commercial or a timer. “Many video games don’t have them,” Alter said. “They’re built to be endless or have long-range goals that we don’t like to abandon.”
These characteristics make video games attractive to many people, and 41 per cent of the American game-playing population are women, according to the video gaming advocacy group Entertainment Software Association. But this data showed no increase in video game time for women.
Hurst argues that women are more likely to choose the types of mobile games that people tend to play while doing something else, like riding in a car or standing in line. The time use survey captures only people’s primary activity, not the secondary nature of casual mobile games like Candy Crush.
Some economists are skeptical of the conclusions, pointing out that the labour force participation rates for young men in other countries where video games are popular, like Japan, have not fallen in similar fashion.
But if we accept the authors’ claim that some segment of men is dropping out of the labour force to play games, is that necessarily a bad thing?
Young non-college-educated men — the group most likely to be home playing games — are more likely to say that they are happy than similar men a decade ago. Older non-college-educated men are the unhappier ones.
According to Hurst, young men may simply be shuffling around the years in their life that they want to work. “Why not have a little fun in your 20s and work in your 80s?” he said.
Of course, that assumes that young Americans who choose video games over work — a group for whom there is no historical data — will be able to find good jobs someday. And that they won’t be seduced by the kinds of games available in 2070.
Less than 5 per cent of the 18,282 real estate deals in the Toronto and Golden Horseshoe area involved foreign buyers in the month after a new tax targetting them was introduced, the province reports.
The Liberal government implemented a 15 per cent “non-resident speculation tax” in April, along with a number of other measures to help combat skyrocketing prices amid surging demand.
The figures released Tuesday cover transactions from April 24 to May 26 that could be subject to the new tax. Overall, 4.7 per cent of the 18,282 purchases were made by foreign businesses or buyers who weren’t citizens or permanent Canadian residents.
Tim Hudak, who heads the Ontario Real Estate Association, said the province’s statistics are close to the 4.9 per cent previously reported by the Toronto Real Estate Board, adding the “the ultimate solution to addressing the barriers facing Ontario home buyers is to increase housing supply.
“The best way to increase supply is seeing more of the ‘missing middle’ type homes being built like townhouses, stacked flats or midrise buildings.”
The province released the foreign buyer numbers a day before a housing forum — bringing together experts, economics and community groups — was to meet for the first time in a bid to find ways to make housing more affordable and to address demand.
PC Finance Critic Vic Fedeli said the Liberals finally have some data on the issue, providing “some evidence to finally base their decisions on.”
However, he added, “it’s awkward for the government, they can never know what impact their policies have — all they wanted to do was rush out with an announcement so they could have a photo op” he said of the April announcement.
“What concerned us the most about this whole thing was the lack of preparedness and lack of data,” he said in a telephone interview. “ … It was very loosely put together and that always worries us.”
Fedeli said rather than raising taxes, the government needs to deal with the regulations and red tape that developers say are slowing down housing projects.
When Ontario’s speculation tax was announced, foreign purchasers were thought to comprise about 5 per cent of buyers. The tax is similar to one in British Columbia, introduced a year ago, and covers Greater Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara, Kitchener-Waterloo, north to Barrie and east to Peterborough.
Refugees, or those whose spouse is a citizen or permanent resident, are among a small group who are exempt from the tax.
The province’s 16-point Fair Housing Plan — which includes the speculation tax, $100 million in land for 2,000 new homes and a doubling of the land transfer tax rebate for those entering the market — “sought to stabilize the market and give more individuals and young families an opportunity to buy a home. Early indicators show that the plan is working,” said Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa.
Indeed, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported a 25.3 per cent drop in sales between April and May in Greater Toronto, calling it the biggest monthly drop in five years.
The accused in a dramatic hostage taking at a massage parlour, Michael Storms, 35, appeared in court on Tuesday, where his bail hearing was moved a second time.
Storms still doesn’t have a lawyer.
The case began a week ago, when Storms — who alleges he’s been on a terror watch list for over a decade, and was under constant RCMP and CSIS surveillance — entered an Eglinton West massage parlour, where he is accused of forcibly confining three women inside.
In a phone call from Storms to the Star’s newsroom during the incident he said that he quickly let two of the women free, keeping the third for over an hour.
Police arrested Storms within hours of the call, and charged him with three counts of forcible confinement and three counts of uttering threats.
After a tumultuous appearance in court last week, where his bail hearing was pushed due to a lack of legal counsel, Storms returned to Court on Tuesday, where duty counsel requested he be brought into the holding box alone.
Storms emerged in a white padded garment, cut off where his sleeves would begin. Duty counsel requested a moment to speak with him, resulting in rushed whispers through a small slit in the glass.
As duty counsel began to explain their discussion, Storms jumped in.
“I was given a list that I was told you can choose a lawyer from,” Storms told Judge Esther Daniel. But, he noted, he’s been unable to call legal representation himself without access to a phone line.
At his own request, Storms has been placed in segregation.
According to the Ministry of Correctional Services, all inmates — including those in segregation — have access to phone services and counsel.
“He was told the segregation sergeant would make a call on his behalf,” the assigned duty counsel — who declined to provide his name to The Star — reported to the courtroom.
“He doesn’t think that has happened. He just wanted that put on the record.”
The rest of the courtroom discussion centered around how Storms would ensure he’s secured legal counsel by Tuesday.
“Can you assist him while he’s here, and make calls?” Daniel asked of duty counsel, who agreed and offered his aid to Storms. Daniel noted that, if there were specific lawyers Storms wanted them to call, they could.
“They said, at jail, they said that in segregation, I couldn’t make the call myself, but I could select a lawyer from the list,” Storms replied.
Daniel resolved to adjourn the case for one more week, marking Storms case for medical attention.
Though the Ministry wouldn’t provide comment on what specific medical or mental health attention Storms is receiving, they wrote in an email that “all inmates have access to a variety of services and supports including health care, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers.”
Before Storms was lead away, Daniel aired a final worry. “I do have some concerns at this point in time,” she said. “We may very well be in this same situation in a week.”
Storms next appearance is slated for July 11.
The Scarborough woman accused of swinging a golf club and a knife at Canadian Tire employees and customers, and who has also pledged allegiance to Daesh, had left to go to Syria to join the terrorist organization in April 2016, according to the RCMP.
On Tuesday, the RCMP charged Rehab Dughmosh, 32, a Syrian-Canadian mother of two young children, with 14 criminal counts under terrorism provisions, which state that Dughmosh’s actions were performed “at the direction, behest or benefit of a terrorist organization.”
These include previous charges of four counts of attempted murder, four counts of assault with a weapon, three counts of carrying a dangerous weapon and two counts of carrying a concealed weapon. She is also facing a new charge of leaving Canada for the purpose of participating in a terrorist group.
According to federal Crown prosecutor Howard Piafsky, Dughmosh left Canada on April 24, 2016, to go to Syria, but was intercepted in Turkey and sent back.
Earlier that month, Dughmosh separated from her husband of more than seven years. According to court records, Dughmosh was married to Anas Hanafy in November 2008 and started living with him in Canada in September 2010. A month later, they had their first child.
Hanafy applied for divorce in May 2017.
Including Tuesday’s appearance, Dughmosh has now been in court four times, each time wearing a black niqab and green prison clothing. In her first appearance she pledged allegiance to Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL) and “to the leader of the believers Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”
She has repeated versions of this allegiance in her subsequent appearances while also claiming that she does not believe in the Canadian justice system.
“I renounce any man-made law,” she said through an Arabic interpreter in her June 26 court appearance.
“I only believe in the divine law created by Allah. I want Allah to be the supreme word.”
Dughmosh has refused the aid of any legal counsel, despite repeated entreaties by the judge to reconsider, based on the seriousness of her charges.
“I reject all counsel here,” Dughmosh said. “I would like to revoke my Canadian citizenship that I received. I don’t want to have any allegiance to you.
“If you release me, I will commit these actions again and again and again.”
On Tuesday, Dughmosh was confused about the new charges laid against her, claiming that they were the same as the old ones. “I always said I was with ISIS,” she said.
Dughmosh also tried to plead guilty to the charges. “If I were to plead guilty for the old and new charge, will the case end today?” she asked.
This was not the first time Dughmosh tried to plead guilty. On June 26, she announced her willingness to plead guilty immediately.
“What I just said proves I’m guilty, that I will go on fighting you.”
In both appearances, the judge has responded to her attempts by remanding the case to allow the Crown more time to prepare full disclosure.
“I’d like you to think about and reconsider whether you’d be willing to speak to a lawyer,” Judge Kimberley Crosbie said to Dughmosh.
Police sources have confirmed to the Star that Dughmosh was wearing a headband with Daesh markings at the Canadian Tire incident on June 3, and pledged her allegiance to that terror group inside the store.
One store employee sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the incident, during which police said a woman swung a golf club at employees and a customer, then began to utter threats before being restrained. Police alleged the woman then pulled a large knife from under her clothing, which employees and customers managed to pry from her hand.
Neighbours at Dughmosh’s apartment building told the Star she wasn’t well known and was rarely seen. One source said her name is not on the apartment lease.
“Her performance in court suggests to me we’re dealing with a very radicalized woman,” said Phil Gurski, a former strategic analyst at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, referring to how Dughmosh pledged allegiance to Daesh before her first bail hearing on June 7 even began.
“The only difference is that 14th charge (leaving Canada for the purpose of participating in a terrorist group); otherwise it’s just a case of a common assault,” said Gurski.
The Crown has asked for the case to be remanded for two weeks. Dughmosh, who remains in custody, will appear in court again July 21.
With files from Wendy Gillis and Jayme Poisson
With files from Wendy Gillis and Jayme Poisson
City council has sent clear direction to Toronto Community Housing to not close any additional homes with hundreds at risk of being shuttered for lack of funding.
But in the absence of commitments from other levels of government, it’s council that will have to find hundreds of millions of dollars in next year’s and the following budget in order to prevent those closures.
They don’t yet know how to close that gap.
Council, voting 36 to 6 on a motion by Councillor Joe Cressy at a meeting Tuesday, asked Toronto Community Housing to ensure no additional units are closed.
Cressy said closing even one more unit would be a “collective failure.”
“As a city and as a province and as a country we have let down TCHC over many years and we’ve let down the residents who live there,” Cressy said on the floor of council.
By the end of this year, a total 600 units are expected to have been closed due to a lack of repairs. Another 400 are at risk of closure next year.
“In a city like ours, we should be having a debate about how much housing to build, not how to better maintain and govern the housing we have,” Cressy said.
Capital repairs originally planned for 2018 total $438 million and another $500 million in 2019. With city funds running out and no new funds committed, Toronto Community Housing has prepared for additional closures. The corporation is short $262 million for repairs in 2018 and $428 million in 2019. That does not include additional funds required for redevelopment projects and climbing operating costs.
To date, the provincial government has not committed to the 10-year, $2.6-billion repairs plan, despite repeated private meetings, public demands, press conferences and letters to Toronto representatives from Mayor John Tory.
The federal government has announced billions of dollars in country-wide funding, including for social housing, but it has not yet been detailed how much will be available to Toronto Community Housing and how soon.
There are currently more than 181,000 people on the waitlist for subsidized housing in Toronto.
Councillor Ana Bailao, the city’s affordable housing advocate, said they will continue look at various financing options, including additional mortgage refinancing on Toronto Community Housing properties.
“However, I think that it is very important that we do not leave our partners off the hook,” she told reporters after the vote. “They have the responsibility over these tenants.”
Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19 Trinity-Spadina) said the real test for council will come at budget time.
“Are we going to be willing to put our money where our mouth is and spend the money necessary to protect these tenants and put them first?”
On Tuesday, council unanimously supported the overall direction presented by staff in what’s called the Tenants First plan — an attempt to decentralize parts of Toronto Community Housing.
The most significant part of the plan recommends hiving off dozens of seniors-designated buildings and making them accountable to a new city agency.
The financial impact of that move and how it might affect tenants’ lives has not yet been detailed. A further report is expected by the end of the year.
With files from Ainslie Cruickshank
With files from Ainslie Cruickshank
Barbara Kentner, a young Indigenous mother who was hit in the stomach by a trailer hitch thrown by a passenger in a speeding car in Thunder Bay, passed away early on Tuesday morning.
The metal trailer hitch struck Kentner, 34, on January 29 and she sustained devastating internal injuries. Her sister Melissa, who was walking down the street with Barbara at the time of the assault, said she heard a blond passenger in the car yell, “I (expletive) got one of them,” as they drove past.
Barbara spent the next five months hospitalized in agony as her major organs shut down. Barbara’s teenage daughter Serena, Melissa and her cousin Debbie Kakagamic were all fixtures at her side.
Kentner is being remembered as a mom and a devoted sister who was always happy, full of life and who was dearly loved by her family.
“She had a wonderful sense of humour and she loved every member of her family and everybody loved her,” said Kakagamic. “She has one daughter Serena, who is 16. Serena would go to the hospital and climb in bed and lay with her mom. She loved her mom so much. She rubbed her mom’s forehead, held her hand, straightened her blanket out for her.”
Her family and Indigenous leaders in Thunder Bay are demanding her death be considered a hate crime. For years, many Indigenous people in Thunder Bay have complained about the level of racism they face in the city daily. During the eight-month long inquest into the seven Indigenous students who died between 2000 to 2011 while at high school in Thunder Bay, many youth testified they were the targets of racial taunts and often had garbage thrown at them from passing cars. Of the seven students who died, five were found in the rivers and three of those deaths were ruled ‘undetermined’ by the inquest jury.
The city has been further on edge after the disappearances and deaths of Indigenous teens Tammy Keeash, 17, and Josiah Begg, 14. Both vanished on the night of May 6 and then were later found dead in the city’s waterways. Indigenous leaders say they no longer trust the local police authorities to investigate the teens’ deaths and they wanted the RCMP to come in and takeover the investigations. The Thunder Bay Police Service is currently being investigated for “systemic racism” concerning how they handle Indigenous missing persons and death cases by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.
Late last month, Ontario’s Chief Coroner Dr. Dirk Huyer announced that York Regional Police and the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service would be brought in to investigate Begg and Keeash’s deaths.
Also last month, Statistics Canada reported that Thunder Bay had the highest number of hate crimes reported by police in a metropolitan area across the country.
In the Kentner case, Thunder Bay Police Services said that a post mortem will now be conducted in Toronto sometime this week. Police made an arrest in the case in February and charged Brayden Bushby, 18, with aggravated assault. His case is still before the courts.
“The determination and consideration of this incident being a hate motivated crime would be part of the penalty/sentencing aspect of the trial of the accused,” said Chris Adams, executive officer with Thunder Bay Police Services.
Racism is a huge problem in Thunder Bay and everyone in the city must acknowledge it and work together to end it, said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum.
“This has been going on for far too long. This is our reality as many Indigenous peoples, especially our women, have come to me with their stories,” Achneepineskum said in a release.
“There is an escalation of violence in this city, and we must not minimize these horrible situations. A young Indigenous mother died today, and a young girl is without her mother — this should not happen. What do you say to a young girl that loses her mother?”
Kakagamic, who spent last week with Kentner, said her cousin was incredibly touched by all the flowers and well wishes she received from her family and from perfect strangers.
“She was sleeping a lot, awake sometimes but not opening her eyes. I would get the flowers and bring them right to her and get her to smell them. She couldn’t believe she got flowers. It was so sad, the tears rolled down her cheeks, because people cared,” said Kakagamic.
“She was a very caring person and one of the thoughts that would often go through her head as she was laying there was that she would not wish this on anybody. She really suffered,” she said.
Kentner, who is originally from Waabigon Saaga’igan Anishinaabeg or Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation, lost her parents at an early age. She was raised in Thunder Bay.
Kakagamic is with the Ontario Native Women’s Association. Much of the organizations work concerns murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls and the ongoing national inquiry into the more than 1,181 lost victims. “It is hard to believe one of your own family members is now added to that list,” she said.
A controversial University of Toronto psychology professor is making nearly $50,000 per month through crowdfunding, from a base of supporters that was ignited in large part by the professor’s anti-political correctness views.
Prof. Jordan Peterson, who made headlines last fall when he publicly refused to use gender neutral pronouns, has been using the fundraising platform Patreon since last March to subsidize costs associated with filming and uploading videos of his lectures to YouTube.
He is now harnessing his online clout with eyes on a new goal — to offer an online university degree in the humanities for which students pay only for examinations.
“I’m fighting this as a battle of ideas,” Peterson told the Star. “Hopefully I can bring high-quality education to millions of people — for nothing. Wouldn’t that be cool.”
Peterson said he views university establishments as “the next best thing to a cult” due to their focus on what he calls “postmodern” themes such as equity. He says his independent project will contrast the university model by providing straight humanities education.
For about his first seven months on Patreon, Peterson earned about $1,000 per month. That changed last October, when he saw a dramatic increase in support, which has not slowed. The professor surpassed a fundraising goal of $45,000 on June 10, and is now aiming for $100,000 per month. On Monday, Peterson was making $49,460 every month from 4,432 patrons.
He is currently the 32nd highest-earning Patreon creator, of more than 75,000 people who are using the site to fundraise.
“Obviously people are pretty happy with the approach that I’ve been taking to psychological matters and, I suppose, to some degree, political matters online,” Peterson said.
Luis Dizon, a U of T graduate student, said he supports Peterson through Patreon because he’s “fostering important conversations.”
“I listened to many of his lectures and found that they resonated with my world view and social views,” he said.
Peterson maintains, for instance, that the call for equity — levelling the playing field by prioritizing historically disadvantaged communities — is “so dangerous that it borders on treasonous,” and that the idea of socially determined gender is “just flat out wrong.”
Critics of Peterson have been adamant that these stances amount to transphobia and bigotry; student groups called for the professor to apologize in the fall, and the university issued him a letter urging him to adhere to anti-discrimination policies.
Mollie Starr, a spokesperson for Patreon, which prohibits bullying and harassment as part of its community guidelines, said the company has “very few records of him being reported.”
Since October, Peterson has spoken publicly on his anti-political correctness views, testifying in opposition to Bill C-16, which would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code to include protection for gender identity or expression.
He says that his goal in speaking publicly and in setting up the hypothetical university is philosophical rather than political.
“People just have to watch what I’m doing like they are now and decide for themselves if it’s worth supporting,” he said. “They can quit supporting me at any time.”
The professor said he has no intention of leaving his job at U of T, and that his relationship with the university is positive.
Althea Blackburn-Evans, a U of T spokesperson, said that the university does not have concerns about his current YouTube productions.
Regarding his proposed crowdfunded accreditation program, Blackburn-Evans said that she was not aware of a professor carrying out a similar project in the past.
“As far as I know, Professor Peterson hasn’t discussed this with the university,” she said. “So really, we’ll have to wait and see how his plans materialize before we can comment on them specifically.”
A rail manufacturer has challenged Metrolinx’s decision to issue a $528-million sole-source contract for vehicles to run on Toronto-area rail lines, claiming the non-competitive deal violates government procurement policies as well as international trade agreements.
In a letter to Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, the president and CEO of Siemens Canada, a Germany-based corporation, said the company was “extremely disappointed” with the provincial transit agency’s decision last month to purchase 61 light rail vehicles (LRVs) from Alstom without allowing other companies to submit bids. Alstom is a French company.
“We believe the decision violates the government’s own procurement directive,” said Robert Hardt in the letter dated May 24.
In the document, which has not been made public but was obtained by the Star, Hardt also asserted that the deal “is inconsistent with public procurement provisions” in CETA, the European-Canadian free trade agreement signed in October.
“This decision effectively eliminates Siemens from competition for future light rail car procurement in Ontario, thus causing us irreparable harm,” Hardt said. “We are, of course, exploring all options available to us to respond to this decision.”
In an email, Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said the Alstom deal had to be expedited because delays to the Bombardier light-rail vehicle order were jeopardizing the opening of the Crosstown and Finch LRTs, both scheduled to enter service in 2021.
“The purchase of Alstom vehicles is a contingency plan to address the emergency created by Bombardier’s failure to perform and deliver,” she wrote. “Single-sourcing in this type of situation is aligned with our procurement policies.”
Siemens met with Del Duca’s staff in June to discuss the issue, according to a transportation ministry spokesperson.
When Del Duca announced the deal with Alstom he framed it as a back-up plan in case the province’s troubled purchase with Bombardier falls through.
Metrolinx is currently in dispute resolution with Bombardier over the fate of that $770-million deal, which was for 182 LRVs to operate on the Eglinton Crosstown and other Toronto-area lines. The agency claims that the company has missed delivery deadlines and has breached the contract. Bombardier denies it’s in default.
According to Metrolinx’s procurement policy, the agency is supposed to issue competitive public tenders for goods valued over $25,000, and to award the contract to the lowest bidder. If the project is complex, the agency is supposed to publicly advertise a request for proposals. In the case of the Alstom contract, Metrolinx did neither.
The policy makes exceptions for “emergency purchases” however, which it defines as situations when an “immediate purchase… is essential to prevent serious delays (or) excessive costs.”
Alstom is already supplying low-floor LRVs for Ottawa’s Confederation LRT line and is the only company that already has a Canadian supply chain for the cars up and running, Aikins said.
Metrolinx argued in court in March that it needed a contingency plan. In a hearing over the Bombardier contract, the agency said it needed an urgent resolution to the dispute with Bombardier or else the opening of the LRT lines could be delayed. Bombardier countered that the company still had plenty of time to produce a fleet for opening day. The judge eventually ruled in favour of Bombardier.
The price Metrolinx agreed to pay for the 61 Alstom LRVs works out to about $8.66 million per vehicle, and appears to be roughly in line with the company’s other recent contracts.
According to a report that went before Ottawa city council in 2012, the cost of 34 of the vehicles for Stage 1 of the Confederation line was about $10.1 million apiece. In a deal announced in June, Ottawa is buying 38 more of the vehicles for Stage 2 at about $7.89 million each.
A case that has divided Canadians for nearly 15 years continued to do so Tuesday as news leaked that Ottawa would apologize to Omar Khadr and offer a settlement of more than $10 million for the abuse he endured while in U.S. custody in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.
The vitriol was most intense among fringe commentators on the far right and left, but the issue quickly drew political reactions from across the spectrum, with former members of the Harper administration taking to Twitter and other social media to weigh in.
“Odious,” wrote former Conservative defence minister Jason Kenney, now leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party, on Twitter. “Confessed terrorist who assembled & planted the same kind of IED (improvised explosive device) that killed 97 Canadians to be given $10-million.”
Others praised the government apology as long overdue. “Finally we have seen the light!” wrote Shelly Whitman, executive director of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative.
While Khadr’s case has always elicited a vigorous debate, news of the settlement triggered extreme commentary Tuesday, including calls on social media for Khadr’s murder and the deaths of the journalists reporting the story, or of advocates who support a government apology.
Speaking to journalists in Ireland, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would not comment on the settlement, first reported Monday night by the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail.
“There is a judicial process underway that has been underway for a number of years now, and we are anticipating, like I think a number of people are, that the judicial process is coming to its conclusion,” Trudeau said.
The Khadr saga — from his capture in a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan to news this week of a settlement in a lengthy civil case — has spanned years when both the Liberals and Conservatives have been in power.
Those close to the matter from both parties have said privately that the case was particularly personal for former prime minister Stephen Harper, under whom the government spent millions fighting three Khadr cases to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The government lost all three cases and, ironically, it was the 2010 Supreme Court decision that may have helped seal the multimillion-dollar deal in this civil case.
Calling his conditions in Guantanamo “oppressive,” the high court justices issued a “declaration” that stated unequivocally that Canadian intelligence officials had violated Khadr’s rights as a citizen during their interrogations of the Toronto-born teenager in 2003.
“Interrogation of a youth, to elicit statements about the most serious criminal charges while detained in these conditions and without access to counsel … offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects,” the court wrote.
Khadr was 15 years old when he was shot and detained following the July 2002 firefight in Afghanistan where U.S. Delta Force Sgt. Christopher Speer was fatally wounded. Khadr was held and interrogated for days while grievously wounded at the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan. Shortly after his 16th birthday, in the fall of 2002, he was sent to Guantanamo Bay.
Now 30 and living in Edmonton, Khadr is recovering from surgery earlier this year to repair wounds suffered 15 years ago. He has said he hopes to attend courses in the fall to become a nurse.
Speer’s widow, Tabitha, and Sgt. Layne Morris, who lost sight in one eye in the 2002 firefight, filed a wrongful death and injury lawsuit against Khadr and his family, and were granted a default judgement of $134.2 million (U.S.) in damages in 2015. The case was not contested and not enforceable in a Canadian court unless lawyers took legal action here.
Tuesday night, The Associated Press reported that Don Winder, a Salt Lake City-based attorney for Speer and Morris, said they filed an application a few weeks ago in Canada to ensure that any money paid by the Canadian government to Khadr will go to them instead. It has yet to be heard. “We will be proceeding with that application and trying to make sure that if he gets money, it goes to the widow of Sgt. Speer and Layne Morris for the loss of an eye.”
The timing of their application — before news of the settlement had been made public — raises questions about how they were tipped off to the deal.
Khadr’s case is historic both because of his age at the time of his capture and because of the charges he faced under Guantanamo’s military commissions, which were created after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Khadr remains the only child soldier prosecuted for war crimes in modern history, and both the U.S. and Canada — considered a leader in fighting to protect the rights of minors in conflict zones — were harshly criticized for not considering his age.
Khadr is also the only detainee the Pentagon prosecuted for the death of a U.S. service member, a new crime of “murder in violation of the laws of war,” despite the fact that thousands were killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2010, Khadr pleaded guilty in Guantanamo in return for a chance to serve his sentence in Canada. Once released, he told the Star he was not certain whether he threw the grenade that killed Speer, but took the Pentagon plea deal as he believed it was his only way to leave the U.S. prison in Cuba.
A Washington court is currently considering an appeal of Khadr’s Guantanamo conviction.
A looming increase in the Bank of Canada’s benchmark interest rate is not expected to have a significant short term impact on vehicle borrowing costs or put the brakes on record auto sales in Canada for 2017.
“If there’s a 25-basis-point bump it’s hard to see a direct link to higher rates in the short and medium term,” said Michael Hatch, chief economist at the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association.
Hatch noted that even if the Bank increased rates next week, consumer and business interest rates would remain at historic lows.
Sales figures released this week indicate that the Canadian auto industry remains on track for all-time record sales of more than two million units this year, after topping the one million sales mark for the first time over the first half.
That’s in marked contrast to the U.S., where softness in fleet sales has reduced the annualized sales pace to only 16.4 million units, well below the average of 17 million during the previous five months.
While DesRosiers Automotive warned that “surpassing 2016 as an all-time record setting year may not be a foregone conclusion,” if Canada follows the U.S. trend, observers such as Carlos Gomes, Scotiabank auto industry specialist, said strong business investment and job creation keep the industry here on pace for sales of 2.1 million units in 2017.
Gomes said increased business investment has added to rental and lease vehicle activity in Canada, while double-digit fleet sales declines have been recorded by several Asian automakers south of the border.
Overall vehicle purchases in Canada climbed a record 6.5 per cent on an annualized basis in June, with truck sales posting a double-digit year-over-year increase and accounting for nearly 69 per cent of the Canadian new vehicle sales.
Those surging truck sales more than offset weakness in the passenger vehicle category.
George Iny, president of the Automobile Protection Association, said he expects car makers to maintain low rates on new vehicles because it makes long-term car loans of seven to eight years more palatable to the buying public.
“It's a bad loop if they get into it, if they raise rates, because it will then make the long loan unattractive,” he said. “And then people won't take the vehicle at all."
Higher rates may actually lead to a short-term blip as dealers and buyers look to take advantage of rates now, added Bill Johnston, vice-president of data and analytics at the Equifax Canada credit bureau.
“(But) over coming months, the cumulative rate hikes will begin to slowdown auto sales as manufacturers will find it more difficult to offer the long-term promo rates.”
Hatch, however, said he believes Canada’s better-than-expected job creation performance this year suggests that higher borrowing costs would not derail record sales, although they could push up lease and loan costs over the longer term if the rate creeps up “a lot more.”
The current overnight rate, the interest rate the central bank charges a financial institution to borrow money overnight, has been set at 0.5 per cent since 2015, but is forecast to rise at the Bank of Canada’s rate policy meeting on July 12.
Bank Governor Stephen Poloz told CNBC last month that low rates since the 2008 fiscal crisis have “done their job.”
And Poloz in an interview with Germany’s Handelsblatt added that he is confident Canadian households can weather a hike despite high ratios of debt to disposable income, given that delinquency rates remain low amid rising net household wealth that mirrors residential real estate values.
With files from the Canadian Press
With files from the Canadian Press
As Ontario’s cottage country ages, its largest generation of owners faces challenges in handing down their properties.
Cottages in communities such as Muskoka and Haliburton may no longer be passed down, because the children of baby boomers may not be able to afford the capital gains taxes.
“I think we’ve seen this trend happening over the last few years and people hope and dream that they can keep them,” said Troy Austen, a real estate sales representative with Team Haliburton Highlands Re/Max. “I had people in here the other day and they haven’t even been up in 10 years between the brother and sister, but they’ve still hung onto it forever. It becomes emotional.”
When selling, in general terms, cottage owners must pay tax on half of however much the cottage has appreciated in value above its base cost. Any improvements owners have done will raise the base cost above the original purchase price. The taxes owed can still be debilitating when the property is transferred within the family.
Some will use life insurance or other means to pay off capital gains taxes for their children. But, with prices climbing — the average Muskoka cottage is now $1.5 million — it’s not always a seamless process.
“Typically, if somebody couldn’t afford to pay the capital gains on a cottage, they probably couldn’t afford to keep it anyways,” Austen said. “There are people who can’t afford to do it.”
“A lot of people bought cottages in the ’50s and ’60s for low amounts and they’ve really appreciated. In some of the hot cottage areas, you could be looking at appreciations in the millions of dollars,” said Cynthia Caskey, TD vice president, branch manager and certified retirement planner.
Raymond Selbie, a cottage-country wills and estate lawyer, warns that if families don’t plan ahead for the capital gains taxes they’ll have to pay when the property changes hands, children may not be able to afford to control their own inheritance.
“The taxes often outweigh the ability of the estate to flow the property,” Selbie said. “One of the worst-case scenarios is if there’s not enough funds in the estate to pay that large tax bill because there was not proper planning,” added Prashant Patel, RBC’s vice-president of high net worth planning services.
As a result, many properties can no longer stay in the family.
“I noticed this year, I’ve been pricing a lot of stuff that has been in the family for sometimes 80 years,” Austen said, adding that children are now more strapped for money than their parents were when they inherited or purchased their cottage decades ago.
Caskey, who also serves as a portfolio manager with TD, advises families to have tough conversations about the future of their cottage.
“A big reason that the kids may be enamoured with the cottage is because their parents are paying for it,” Caskey said.
“When the kids have to pay for it — taxes and maintenance and upkeep — often they choose not to continue with the family cottage. And I think knowing and understanding their stance up-front may help parents decide what route they want to go down in terms of planning for the cottage itself as well as the tax implications.”
Growing concerns over real estate and money make it harder to avoid family disputes between siblings than in generations’ past. “Sometimes there might be four kids or three kids and one or none have money, so that makes it really difficult,” said Austen.
There are ways to plan ahead, though.
Parents can place their children on the cottage’s deed as co-owners early, triggering the capital gains tax now and spreading it out in phases so that the tax bill is smaller when the property is fully transferred.
Or they can transfer it before death entirely.
“If there’s expectation that the cottage is going to significantly appreciate, then maybe you transfer the cottage now and then that way the appreciation is not in the parents’ name, it’s in the children’s, and then you’re deferring the tax until when the children sell it or when they pass away,” said Patel.
Parents can also sell the cottage to their kids through a promissory note or IOU, which can spread the cost of the capital gains tax out over five years.
If the cottage has appreciated more than the parents’ home, it can also be worth declaring it their primary residence, rendering its sale or transfer tax free.
“Everyone has to do their own math to determine which property is most beneficial to use as your principle residence,” added Patel.
Still, the looming influx of baby-boomer cottage transfers will create uncertainty in the market and parents must plan for powers of attorney, according to Caskey.
“Every day they (baby boomers) are a day older,” she finished. “They’re really redefining the cottage market and so we are in some ways in uncharted territory.
A 24-storey condo that local councillors said would undermine plans for the booming Yonge-Eglinton area has been approved by council.
Staff recommendations to allow the high-rise at 90 Eglinton Ave. West and allow the developer to only replace 50 per cent of the six-storey office space there now was accepted by council Tuesday night in a 35 to 6 vote.
Councillor Josh Matlow, whose Ward 22 (St. Paul’s) borders that stretch of Eglinton Ave. was one of those opposed to the plan.
He moved that council request the developer provide full office replacement, as the plans approved by council for that area require, and address additional concerns about the size and shape of the building and its relationship to Eglinton Ave., where mid-rise development was directed by council.
“If we as council go in that direction rather than what my motion asks us to do, we will then undermine our own policy. We will undermine our own interests,” Matlow told his colleagues Tuesday. “And what will happen in your wards along with mine is that over and over again developers’ lawyers will use this as a precedent.”
The city is currently engaged in a years-long fight to defend the office replacement requirement at the Ontario Municipal Board, which hears land-use disputes.
The developer, Madison Homes, has argued the rules regarding mid-rise development did not apply to them at the time they applied for permission to build the condo.
Though planning staff disagreed when the application was first made and council directed a mid-rise development at that site, a more recent staff report said the application at 24-storeys and with 50 per cent office replacement was acceptable.
Staff said at a May meeting of the North York community council they had received “somewhat conflicting directions” about whether the site should be midrise.
Local residents associations, including the umbrella Federation of North Toronto Residents’ Associations, agreed that the tall condo outside the designated Yonge-Eglinton growth area creates “city-wide implications.”
“The city’s official plan is about planning for development and managing growth, not just allowing development after development because it’s near a subway. This development contravenes many principles that have been endorsed by council to make our city liveable,” co-chairs Geoff Kettel and Cathie Macdonald wrote in a June 28 letter to council.
Though council backed Matlow’s motion, the development application was approved as is after local Councillor Christin Carmichael Greb’s motion to refuse the application was rejected in a 9 to 32 vote.
“This development has been going on since before I was elected,” Greb told council. “Residents have been up in arms since the application has been put in and I have been supporting residents with their fight.”
A Toronto councillor is withdrawing a motion asking the council to establish an “Intersectional Awareness Week” after it ran afoul of detractors from unexpected quarters.
“I will be withdrawing the motion,” said Kristyn Wong-Tam, who also released a statement Wednesday morning, barely five days after the motion was launched. “I was hoping…that it was the beginning of a powerful movement to raise awareness that we are not single-issue people.”
The City Council had directed Toronto’s City Manager to create an “Intersectional Gender-Based Framework to Assess Budgetary Impacts,” in next year’s budget, her statement said.
“A dynamic young, LGBTQ2S+ racialized woman working with my office proposed the creation of an Intersectionality Awareness Week. She diligently did her research and with the input of my office staff, drafted a motion which was wholeheartedly endorsed.”
The opposition to her proposal came not from the usual suspects such as Councillors Giorgio Mammoliti or Jim Karygiannis, who tabled an openly hostile motion against Black Lives Matter couched as support for Toronto Police, but from several high-profile Black scholars, activists and community workers.
Intersectionality is the term coined by the American scholar and civil rights advocate Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw to describe the invisible overlapping or intersection of issues of class, race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality when it comes to discrimination. She first applied it in the context of Black feminism.
While she used the term in 1980s, it has entered the mainstream only in recent years, and while I have a distaste for what I call “academese” — jargon that serves to obfuscate rather than clarify — the word “intersectionality” has expanded into an exceptionally effective descriptor of marginalized people at the crossroads of multiple identities.
Wong-Tam’s proposal aiming to commence an educational campaign fell apart after her critics released an open letter asking for the motion to be withdrawn.
At issue were the following points:
1. The timing. The proposal came on the heels of the inquest that ruled the death of Andrew Loku, a mentally ill Black man killed by police a homicide, a verdict with no criminal liability. The timing suggested it was, yet again, a token gesture of mollification by the city, a symbolism without substance.
2. The motion did not take into account the contribution of Crenshaw (an omission that was later amended) for the term intersectionality, and the work of other Black feminists, and it did not reference Blackness, suggesting it ignored Black struggles.
3. The exclusion of Black activists from the planning of the proposal that suggested a disregard for their experiences.
“I was prepared to amend it after some of the comments I heard. I recognize there are individuals deeply attached to the discussion,” Wong-Tam told me. She says Crenshaw, whom she reached out to after the initial motion, was supportive of her proposal and described it as incredibly exciting news. The hope was that city council could partner with local universities to bring Crenshaw to Toronto to launch the initiative, she said.
The proposal also had the support of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations.
“Now that there’s this open letter,” Wong-Tam said. “I also want to be respectful of what they say. I understand their skepticism especially in light of police shootings.
“There was nothing behind the motion that was meant to harm anybody. It would allow us to create a forum to better understand the concept of intersectionality.”
Her critics didn’t see it that way. They saw the proposal as celebratory.
“What exactly has the city done in order to warrant the celebration of Intersectionality Awareness Week? What awareness does the city have that it feels that it can lead such an initiative?” asked Dr. OmiSoore Dryden, Chair, Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Thorneloe University (at Laurentian). “I would really like councillors to focus on this job, instead of the time and energy they have put into the pretence of this ‘awareness week.’”
There are no bad people in this conflict — a rarity these days — only people on the same side disagreeing on the way forward.
As a racialized immigrant woman of colour in the LGBTQ community, Wong-Tam gets intersectionality.
As people experiencing daily oppression, Black people are opposed to yet another government awareness program with brochures and seminars.
There’s also a chicken-and-egg tension; Black activists want Wong-Tam to establish credibility and see action before words. “We want a commitment from the City of Toronto to actually do some substantive work in helping Black people live our lives fully.”
For Wong-Tam, spreading awareness would lead to action. “I don’t believe we can get to a place of full equity by not having these dialogues. This is how we build allyship.”
There is a gap in the understanding of the term “intersectionality” in the broader population, and Wong-Tam has identified it as one that needs to be addressed.
With the shockwaves of the Loku verdict still reverberating, the time to address that gap may not be right now. But in time I hope these two sides get together to hammer out concrete steps to make it happen.
Shree Paradkar tackles issues of race and gender. You can follow her @shreeparadkar
Shree Paradkar tackles issues of race and gender. You can follow her @shreeparadkar
York Region police have charged one man and are seeking another suspect in last week’s explosion at a a café in Vaughan.
A blast that demolished the exterior cement wall of Caffé Corretto on Winges Rd., near Highway 7 on June 29 before 5:30 a.m., was called “suspicious” by police.
Nearby, police found a 33-year-old man suffering from injuries that weren’t life-threatening. He was arrested and taken to hospital.
Juan Eduardo Munoz has been charged with arson and public mischief. He’s also charged with possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000, accused of stealing a black BMW sedan parked next to the café and covered in debris from the explosion.
Police are seeking a second suspect they believe was also involved in this incident.
With files from Peter Edwards
With files from Peter Edwards
A group of Toronto high school students in Algonquin Park are en route back to the city after their trip took a tragic turn Tuesday evening, with a 15-year-old boy presumed drowned.
Ontario Provincial Police were notified around 8 p.m. Tuesday that the teen had been swimming with his classmates in Big Trout Lake when he went underwater and did not resurface, said Killaloe OPP spokesperson Catherine Yarmel.
The student has been identified as Jeremiah Perry by Toronto District School Board trustee for Ward 4, Tiffany Ford, who spoke with The Star.
Perry was a student at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute in North York, and joined some classmates and students from Westview Centennial Secondary School on an annual excursion to Algonquin Park.
TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said the group was on a summer school outdoor education program that focused on leadership development. The students canoed and portaged as part of the trip, and Bird said that swim tests would have been done prior to departure.
Perry’s parents have been notified and parents of all the other students on this trip were called Tuesday morning, TDSB spokesperson Bird said.
Wednesday afternoon students returning from the trip were flown into the shores of Big Trout Lake via a Ministry of Natural Resources plane, making several trips to return small groups of students at a time.
On the shore, an underwater search and recovery truck was parked in the OPP staging area.
A child and youth counsellor is on scene, and will travel back by bus with the students. Some students could be seen going in and out of the blue bus on site at Big Trout Lake waiting to take the group back to Toronto.
“We are fortunate she (the counsellor) was able to go because she knows the kids from the school... It’s important they’re there to support each other,” Shari Schwartz-Maltz, a TDSB spokesperson said.
Schwartz-Maltz confirmed that of the six staff, two are teachers and the others are outdoor education specialists.
“There’s a lot of confusion, none of us knows what really happened, but it’s important for them to know that there’s a place to go and they can be together,” she said.
“The community is still praying for the parents and the students….We’re a resilient community. All we can really do is pray for the family and be there for the family,” TDSB trustee Ford said.
But even his top aides do not know precisely what Trump will decide to say or do when he meets President Vladimir Putin of Russia face-to-face this week on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic summit gathering in Hamburg, Germany. And that is what most worries his advisers and officials across his administration as he lands in Poland Wednesday on his second foreign trip, first to Warsaw and then to Hamburg.
The highly anticipated conversation with Putin on Friday is in many ways a necessity, given the critical disputes separating the United States and Russia. But it is also a diplomatic and political risk for Trump, who faces a web of investigations into his campaign’s possible links to Russia, as well as questions about his willingness to take on Moscow for its military misdeeds and election meddling on his behalf. The air of uncertainty about the meeting is only heightened by the president’s tendency for unpredictable utterances and awkward optics.
If Trump’s first foreign trip in May was a chance for him to escape turmoil at home — staff infighting, a stalled agenda and the Russia-related investigations — his second thrusts him into the maelstrom. And at the centre of it, Putin awaits.
“There’s a fair amount of nervousness in the White House and at the State Department about this meeting and how they manage it because they see a lot of potential risks,” said Steven Pifer, a former ambassador to Ukraine who has worked for the National Security Council and the State Department. “There is this gray cloud for the president of the investigations about collusion, so any kind of a deal is going to get the micro-scrutiny of, ‘Is this a giveaway to the Russians?’”
Trump himself is not troubled by the meeting. He has told aides he is more annoyed by the prospect of being scolded by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and other leaders for pulling out of the Paris climate accords and for his hard line on immigration.
Trump’s team said he might bring up Russia’s documented meddling in the 2016 election, but he is unlikely to dwell on it: Doing so would emphasize doubts about the legitimacy of his election. Aides expect him to focus on Syria, including creating safe zones, fighting Daesh, also known as ISIS and ISIL, and confronting Putin’s unwillingness to stop the government of President Bashar Assad from using chemical weapons against civilians.
A day before Trump was to leave Washington, the White House announced that the meeting with Putin would be a formal bilateral discussion, rather than a quick pull-aside at the economic summit meeting that some had expected.
The format benefits both. Putin, a canny one-on-one operator who once brought a Labrador retriever to a meeting with Merkel because he knew she was afraid of dogs, will be able to take the measure of Trump.
Trump’s aides are seeking structure and predictability. They hope that a formal meeting, with aides present and an agenda, will leave less room for improvisation and relegate Russia’s meddling in the campaign to a secondary topic, behind more pressing policy concerns that the president is eager to address.
“Nobody has found the slightest evidence of collusion, any evidence the vote was tampered with, so now they have turned their obsession to Russian ‘interference,’” said Kellyanne Conway, the president’s senior counselor and former campaign manager. “I don’t think that’s what the American people are interested in.”
Trump’s meeting with Putin is one of several charged encounters he will face in Hamburg. After North Korea’s announcement Tuesday that it had successfully tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile, his planned huddle with President Xi Jinping of China took on greater significance, as Trump bristles at Beijing’s refusal to do more to confront the nuclear threat from North Korea and weighs his limited options for acting alone. He is also planning private discussions with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea that are certain to centre on the North’s continued provocations.
But the political stakes could not be higher for Trump in his meeting with Putin, as U.S. lawmakers in both parties press him to stand tough. They signaled their wariness last month with a 98-2 vote in the Senate to codify sanctions against Russia and require that Congress review any move by the president to lift them, a step the White House is resisting.
“Let’s be clear: The Russians interfered in our election and helped elect Donald Trump president,” said Democratic Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. “There is a serious, ongoing criminal investigation into this matter. And President Trump must refrain from any unilateral concessions to Russia.”
Cognizant of the perils, the White House has planned Trump’s itinerary to counter the perception that he is too friendly with Moscow. In Warsaw on Thursday, he will deliver a major speech and meet with Central and Eastern European allies, activities calculated to demonstrate his commitment to NATO in the face of Russian aggression. But there, too, Trump will be under pressure to do what he refused to in Brussels during his first trip: explicitly endorse, on European soil, the Article 5 collective defense principle that undergirds NATO.
His advisers say that he is eager to meet with President Andrzej Duda of Poland, a center-right politician who shares Trump’s skepticism about migration from Syria, and that he sees a chance to make lucrative energy deals with Duda’s government — perhaps at the expense of Russia.
But the substance and body language of his encounter with Putin will draw the most scrutiny.
“I expect an Olympian level of macho posturing between these two leaders, who both understand the power of symbolism,” said Derek Chollet, a former assistant secretary of defense. “Putin will be very prepared for this meeting. He’s someone who is a master at manipulation.”
Putin has signaled that he will press Trump to lift sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea, its interference in Ukraine and its election meddling, and to hand over Russian diplomatic compounds on Long Island, New York, and in Maryland that the United States seized last year.
The potential pitfalls are more than theoretical. White House officials recall with dread the images that emerged from Trump’s May meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak of Russia in the Oval Office, which showed the president grinning, laughing and clasping hands with the Russian officials.
The biggest concern, people who have spoken recently with members of his team said, is that Trump, in trying to forge a rapport, appears to be unwittingly siding with Putin. Like Trump, Putin has expressed disdain for the news media, and he asserted in a recent interview that secretive elements within the U.S. government were working against the president’s agenda. Two people close to Trump said they expected the men to bond over their disdain for “fake news.”
“You don’t want to come out of there saying, ‘We’re friends, and the enemy is the deep state and the media,’” said Michael A. McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia. “If it were somebody else other than Trump, you could imagine a tough conversation about Ukraine and election meddling, but that’s probably too optimistic. Politics does constrain, I think, the parameters of the possible for any kind of major breakthrough.”
How do we bring back the world’s largest rubber duck?
No, no. Don’t tell me this can’t be done. We live in a city with a retractable dome and a free-standing tower that was once the tallest in the world. Anything is possible. And don’t talk to me about logistics or money. If we can blow $3.4 billion and counting on a ludicrous one-stop subway extension to Scarborough, surely we can pony up for an inflatable duck that will bring joy and comfort to way more lives.
Perhaps we can make the duck an everlasting attraction by adding a mallard tax to foreign homebuyers. Or maybe Norm Kelly can help subsidize the year-round costs by volunteering to work inside the duck or by donating a slice of the revenue he generates from shamelessly hawking hats and sweats on Twitter.
However we do it, it needs to be done.
The rubber duck must become a permanent installation.
Did I expect to have strong feelings about what is essentially a bath toy the size of an aircraft carrier? I did not. But now that it has floated into other provincial waters, it feels like we’ve been robbed of something we never knew we needed: a novelty sight gag with the power to unite.
Young or old, rich or poor, liberal or conservative, whatever the colour of your skin, whatever the cause of your social media feuds, the world’s largest rubber duck was immune to all that divides us. It actually didn’t do anything this long weekend except soak up the gawks and gapes of awed humans who flocked to the monstrosity as if on a religious pilgrimage.
Apparently, in duck we trust. Show me one person who was underwhelmed by this anti-Godzilla and I will show you a liar. In these cynical times, with snark and negativity now rivaling carbon dioxide as an atmospheric threat, the duck turned even the coldest of hearts into pâté.
Children pointed and laughed. Grown-ups couldn’t help but smile and snap selfies, as if posing with a giant yellow celebrity. For a nice change, there was no bickering, no disagreement, no backlash. As the crowds arrived, shattering attendance records for the Redpath Waterfront Festival, the duck achieved the impossible: it brought us together.
Everyone adored the duck. The visual assault on perspective and expectation — being in close proximity to a rubber duck that is 61 feet tall, 79 feet wide, 89 feet long and 30,000 pounds is like staring up at a highrise and realizing it is made entirely of Lego bricks — was a literal reminder that we are much smaller than we often imagine and, as such, the delight of sheer spectacle remains possible even as the world seems to be turning into one big cluster-duck.
If anything, we should be quacking our ducky praises far and wide, telling everyone about how this magnificent fowl made us feel. This public art deserves to manifest in every troubled region across the planet.
We should put a few in the Korean Peninsula to help brighten the mood and defuse the friction before catastrophe dawns. You can’t tell me Kim Jong Un will still be inclined to trigger nuclear Armageddon when, during the next missile test, he squints into his binoculars and beholds a flock of grinning fake birds.
And since ducks are amphibious, we could place one strategically outside the White House, where Donald Trump might see it when he’s not watching TV or clacking out insane tweets. Who knows, an artificial duck might even serve as a therapy animal for a synthetic president before it’s too late for the rest of us.
Me, I’m thinking about commissioning a giant duck for my own living room or backyard. Then whenever my wife is ticked about something I did, I’ll take her hand and say, “Come with me, darling. Let us visit with the duck. Let us calm down.”
You know, aside from the minuscule risk of spontaneous deflation or accidental explosion, there is very little downside to having a giant rubber duck in our eternal midst. Or, really, a giant anything. This is a principle of tourism small towns already understand, whether it’s selling baked goods from inside a giant apple that beckons from the 401 or greeting travellers with a giant Canada goose statue or tempting visitors with a giant Muskoka chair that makes for great Lilliputian photo-ops.
Build it and they will come.
Build it massive and they will have a moment of Zen.
Come back, Rubber Ducky. You’re the one.
You made downtime so much fun.
When Joanne MacIsaac looks around at the lawyers who will represent the various parties at the upcoming coroner’s inquest into her brother Michael’s death, the same question always comes back to her:
If public dollars are funding all of these lawyers, why does her family have to foot the bill for their own?
“This should be a level playing field, funding should be given to everyone,” MacIsaac told the Star. “Either they fund every party involved, or they fund none . . . They don’t facilitate our participation in the process, but they facilitate everyone else's. Perhaps they just want the status quo.”
The inquest, set to begin July 17 in Toronto, will delve into the circumstances surrounding the death of Michael MacIsaac, who was shot by Durham police Const. Brian Taylor on an Ajax street in December 2013.
Michael, 47, was holding a table leg when confronted by police, according to Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, which cleared Taylor of criminal wrongdoing. MacIsaac’s family has disputed the SIU’s version of events. They also believe he left his house naked that day after having an epileptic seizure.
The MacIsaacs’ predicament around legal representation highlights the fact that there is no guarantee of funding for a lawyer at a coroner’s inquest for a family of a person killed by police.
The issue was addressed this spring in a recommendation from Justice Michael Tulloch following his sweeping review of Ontario’s police oversight bodies. The provincial government will only say that the recommendation, which calls for publicly-funded legal assistance for families, is among many from Tulloch currently under review.
The police services board and the individual police officers have lawyers who are typically funded directly by tax dollars or indirectly through union dues. There is also a publicly-funded Crown attorney who acts as coroner’s counsel and presents the case to the inquest jury.
“I do have standing at the inquest, but it’s as if they would expect us, if we can’t get legal representation, for me to stand up, as a bereaved sister, and go against seasoned attorneys who are being funded by the government,” said MacIsaac. “How is that fair and balanced? It’s not.”
The question around funding has been raised several times in the past during previous inquests into police shootings, but the government hasn’t taken action.
Former Metro Toronto councillor Bev Salmon wrote last year to politicians, including Premier Kathleen Wynne, urging them to fund lawyers for families, following the inquest into the Toronto police shooting death of Ian Pryce, whose mother, Heather Thompson, is a friend of Salmon’s.
“(Families) can’t be worrying about whether they can afford a lawyer or not. The police are covered, so you need a balance,” Salmon told the Star last year.
She received a reply from the deputy minister at the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, stating that the coroner’s inquest legal fee reimbursement program assists parents and spouses of individuals whose deaths have been deemed to be the result of a criminal act.
As critics have pointed out, it’s rare for police shootings in Ontario to lead to criminal charges against the officers, including in the MacIsaac case, and so families likely wouldn’t qualify for legal representation funding at an inquest.
In his report made public in April following his review, Tulloch said many affected families felt they were not “adequately supported” at coroner’s inquests.
“Some family members pointed out that the police have their own lawyers, yet they are generally expected to pay out of their own pocket if they want one,” he wrote. “Many of these family members are simply unable to do so. That is unfortunate since families have a special interest in obtaining a complete understanding of the circumstances of the death.
“Without legal assistance or representation, they may not ask the right questions, know what arguments to make when issues arise, or understand how the inquest procedures work.”
The recommendation for funding is just one of dozens that the government said it is reviewing, with no timeline for possible implementation.
“We know that coroner’s inquests can be a difficult time for the families involved. We recognize the importance of family involvement in the process and value the participation of those given standing,” said Yanni Dagonas, a spokesperson for Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Marie-France Lalonde.
The government’s statements on the recommendation are of little comfort to MacIsaac, who is meeting with Lalonde on Thursday.
She has created a GoFundMe page to raise funds. She and other family members have been able to pool around $12,000, which is on top of the tens of thousands they’ve already invested in their own investigation into what happened to Michael. Their goal for legal funding is $25,000.
“In my view, it’s important that the families be represented to counterbalance the police view,” said lawyer Peter Rosenthal, who has represented many families at police shooting inquests and will be one of the lawyers representing the MacIsaac family.
Rosenthal represented Thompson pro bono at the inquest into her son Ian’s death, but pointed out that it’s not possible for a family to always find a lawyer who can do an inquest for free.
“I was in a position to offer pro bono assistance sometimes because I had another job, but it's not reasonable to expect a lawyer to do it too frequently because a lawyer has to make a living. And these things require a huge amount of time.”
MacIsaac said her family has been denied funding through Legal Aid Ontario’s test case program, which has funded lawyers for families at police shooting inquests in the past. A meeting with Attorney General Yasir Naqvi also proved to be unhelpful, she said.
“This process is not going to ease my pain, my family's pain, or bring Michael back,” MacIsaac said.
“The only thing that this process can do would be to make change, and hopefully prevent such shootings from happening in the future. So why is my family responsible to foot the bill for that?”