Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel

Embed this content in your HTML


Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels

Channel Catalog

Channel Description:


older | 1 | .... | 957 | 958 | (Page 959) | 960 | 961 | .... | 1035 | newer

    0 0

    PARIS—U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron set aside lingering differences on climate change during their meeting in France on Thursday, asserting that it shouldn’t prevent them from working together toward a postwar road map for Syria and to enhance Mideast security.

    Trump, standing alongside Macron at a news conference, said the two nations have “occasional disagreements” but that would not disrupt a friendship that dates back to the American Revolution. He remained noncommittal about the United States eventually rejoining the global climate agreement that bears Paris’ name, telling Macron, “if it happens that will be wonderful, and if it doesn’t that will be OK too.”

    Macron acknowledged sharp differences on the Paris climate pact but said the two leaders could find other areas of co-operation. “Should that have an impact on the discussions we’re having on all other topics? No, absolutely not,” he said.

    Read more: Donald Trump’s guide to Paris is a guy named Jim who ‘doesn’t go there anymore.’ He may not exist

    Trump arrived in the French capital on Thursday for a whirlwind, 36-hour visit to meet with Macron and tackle potential solutions to the crisis in Syria and discuss broader counterterrorism strategies before being feted at Bastille Day celebrations Friday.

    The president landed in Paris amid questions about emails showing that his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., welcomed the prospect of receiving Russian government support in last year’s presidential campaign between his father and Hillary Clinton.

    Trump defended his namesake, saying that “most people would have taken that meeting,” a message that contradicted his incoming FBI director’s testimony that Donald Trump Jr. should have instead alerted authorities.

    Trump called his son a “wonderful young man” and continued to downplay the issue, saying that “nothing happened” as a result of the meeting.

    During his flight to Paris, Trump had praised his son as “a good boy” and a “good kid” and said that he’d listened to the Russian lawyer’s pitch “out of politeness.”

    Read more: Trump campaign was eager to accept campaign help from Russian government, emails show

    Read the Donald Trump Jr. emails: An offer of ‘documents and information that would incriminate Hillary’

    Trump also continued to cast doubt on the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Putin had meddled in the election to help him win, telling reporters that, “the next time I’m with Putin, I’m going to ask him: Who were you really for? Because I can’t believe that he would have been for me.” The conversation was originally described as off-the-record, but the White House decided to release portions Thursday.

    Topics like resolving the years-long civil war in Syria and countering terrorism gave Trump and Macron areas to co-operate. The two said they also discussed the security situations in Ukraine and Libya.

    Trump praised a ceasefire in southern Syria that he helped broker last week with Russia and Jordan and said the U.S. was working on a second ceasefire in a “rough part of Syria.”

    Macron said he discussed with Trump a road map for the country that would help stabilize the situation after the war ends. He has argued for intervention in Syria, saying that President Bashar Assad is a threat to the war-ravaged country and Daesh, also known as ISIS, is a threat to France.

    France has been plagued in recent years by extremist attacks and Trump noted that during last year’s Bastille Day celebrations, a 19-ton cargo truck deliberately plowed into crowds in Nice, killing more than 80 people.

    While the U.S. has split with the major world powers on the environment, the two leaders tried to patch over those differences.

    Trump has said the climate deal was unfair to the U.S. but said the country was committed to protecting the environment despite his recent withdrawal decision.

    Macron, a staunch advocate of research to combat global warming, has beckoned “all responsible citizens,” including American scientists and researchers, to bring their fight against climate change to France.

    Trump, Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other world leaders huddled last week in Hamburg, Germany during a summit of the world’s leading rich and developing nations. Merkel and Macron met again Thursday in Paris, before Macron’s meeting with Trump. Trump and Merkel were not expected to meet.

    Merkel said during a joint appearance with Macron that it was important they keep talking with Trump even where the differences between them are clear.

    “We did not paper over these differences, but nevertheless contact, the ability to speak is of course important,” she said.

    Trump and Macron spent several hours together Thursday in some of Paris’ most opulent settings, with a visit to the golden-domed Invalides monument followed by meetings at the presidential palace. Trump also marked the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I by visiting U.S. troops.

    The visit, along with the celebration of French national pride on Bastille Day, was cast by the White House as a commemoration of the U.S.-French military alliance — both then and now.

    The leaders and their wives capped Thursday with a lavish dinner at the Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower.

    All of which put Trump in the awkward position of being feted in a city he has repeatedly disparaged. When he announced his decision on the climate agreement, Trump said he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” And he has frequently said in the past that the city has been ruined by the threat of terrorism, which he ties to immigrants.

    “Paris isn’t Paris any longer,” he said in February.

    Asked about those comments, Trump called Paris “one of the great cities, one of the most beautiful cities in the world” and heaped praise on the recently-elected Macron, telling reporters, “You have a great leader now, you have a great president.”

    “You’re going to have a very, very peaceful and beautiful Paris and I’m coming back,” Trump said, needling Macron, “You better do a good job please. Otherwise you’re going to make me look very bad.”

    His dutiful host, Macron, responded, “You’re always welcome.”

    0 0

    One of the country's biggest real estate companies is predicting an 18.5 per cent year-end price increase in the Toronto housing market this year, compared to a 13.8 per cent national year-over-year rise.

    Given the significant gains of the first half of 2017, the company expects a year-end home price average of $862,264, up from $837,232 at the end of the second quarter.

    Wednesday's quarter-point interest rate hike by the Bank of Canada doesn't alter Royal LePage's mid-year forecast.

    Despite double-digit year-over-year increases in the second quarter, the company's mid-year report notes that buyers have been standoffish since the province introduced its fair housing tax on April 20.

    Read more:

    Rate hike won't discourage home purchases, say realtors

    Bank of Canada hikes interest rate for first time in 7 years

    Annual pace of housing starts picked up in June: CMHC

    CEO Phil Soper said he expects home prices will be soft for the balance of 2017.

    "We are experiencing a housing correction in the GTA, no doubt about it," he said.

    But that is different from the price correction that occurred in Vancouver when a similar tax was launched there last summer.

    The 9 per cent of foreign buyer activity in Richmond Hill, compares to about 18 per cent in Richmond, B.C. The B.C. city is a smaller market and prices were about 50 per cent higher, he said.

    "Almost half of the (Vancouver) market disappeared overnight," said Soper. "I believe what we'll see (in Toronto) is modest price increases but fewer homes being sold — not as a violent as the Vancouver correction where we saw 40 to 50 per cent of the transactions disappear."

    The Royal LePage forecast is slightly more optimistic than the Toronto Real Estate Board's (TREB) revised expectation of a year-end 13- to 18-per-cent increase.

    The report predicts that consumers, who have been waiting to see if sellers drop their prices substantially, will re-enter the market once they recognize that isn't going to happen.

    Second quarter home prices rose 22.8 per cent year-over-year in the city of Toronto with Scarborough showing a 21.1 per cent increase as millennials moved east in search of affordability.

    For that reason, that part of the city is not expected to slow as much as other areas in the coming months, said Royal Lepage.

    Vaughan saw the highest price gains in Canada during the quarter with a 27.5 per cent year-over-year increase and an average $1.1 million home price.

    Richmond Hill, which also grew by 26.6 per cent year-over-year to an average $1.34 million has been hard hit by the foreign buyers tax, notes the report.

    Given that Toronto and Vancouver are both growing with strong economies, it’s not clear how long the foreign buyers tax and other measures will quell demand for housing, said Soper.

    "Like public transit, housing policy is something which needs a persistent, long-term focus," he said.

    0 0

    Two-and-a-half kilometres. That’s the distance between the gallery in Toronto where artworks utilize fashion to tell the stories of the oppressed and the alley where a store turns to fashion to trample on their tragedies.

    One is a series called WANTED at the Art Gallery of Ontario where two Toronto artists have used fashion photography to cast light on the hushed-up history of slavery in Canada. The other is a camouflage jacket, on sale at a men’s store named Uncle Otis in Yorkville, that was worn by Belgian soldiers in the aftermath of an especially brutal and bloody colonization of what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo during which they killed more than 10 million people.

    From the WANTED series, you’ll see on a billboard splashed up at Yonge-Dundas Square, an image of Tracy Moore, the host of Cityline.

    In the photo, though, she is unnamed. She is wearing red, carrying weights. “Black gown and red callimanco petticoat” say the words on the image, describing her clothing. Next to the photo, another board that says “Not for sale.”

    The inspiration for that “ad” and about nine others displayed at the AGO came from advertisements in newspapers such as Upper Canada Gazette and Quebec Gazette in the 1700s posted by Canadian slave owners after the people they had enslaved had run away. In the ads were descriptions of what the enslaved people were last seen wearing.

    That detail motivated artists Camille Turner and Camal Pirbhai to transform those fugitive slave ads into artworks that look like contemporary fashion ads.

    “Black gown and red callimanco petticoat” was the description that appeared in a newspaper ad in August 1766. “Whoever apprehends said Negro Girl, and brings her back to said WERDEN, or to Mrs. Mary Wiggans, at Montreal, shall have ONE PISTOLE Reward, and all necessary Charges, paid by I. WERDEN,” it read.

    “We are not honouring slaves,” Turner told me by email.” We are honouring people who thought of themselves as free and took action to liberate themselves.”

    “We wanted to restore their humanity. We don’t have access to the words of enslaved people but through these ads we know their actions. They took matters into their own hands, stealthily running away despite the risks and consequences of recapture.”

    “None of my Canadian schooling had taught me about this reality (of slavery in Canada),” Pirbhai said.

    “I immediately related this to the obliviousness we seem to show towards the current day slave trade existing in the fashion industry. Fashion ads were the perfect conduit to parallel the injustices of the past and the issues of today.”

    Issues of today at a micro level include instances like at Uncle Otis that sells the camouflage jacket under the U.K. based label Maharishi.

    One problem is the appropriation of the word Maharishi for a line of surplus military clothing. In Sanskrit, maha means great, rishi means sage. What a great sage has to do with military jackets beats me.

    “The camouflage pattern, especially in the context of defence-budget-subsidised clothing, offers itself as a perfect canvas for customised, anti-military statements of peace and freedom,” says the Maharishi website.

    This leaves me none the wiser.

    Still, fashion is ripe with appropriation of “exotic” words from other languages — and in this case is likely used to add an aura of mysticism.

    What about the choice of jacket? How is it any different from Nazi-era military gear?

    Nobody responded to my repeated email requests for comment on the choice of label and the jacket from Maharishi and Uncle Otis; a manager at the store refused comment when I went there. I tried for two weeks. That was ample time to respond or quietly take down an offensive jacket after they were informed what it stood for.

    The jacket itself selling for a hefty $590 (slashed, almost half price! from the original $950) is described thus: “This beautiful pick is of the M65 Belgian Smock Jacket used in the Congo. Maharishi reclaims it with handpainted tigerstripe came, repaired wear-and-tear holes and replaced missing buttons.”

    Belgian Congo was rich in rubber, ivory, gold and other minerals, and Belgium extracted billions of dollars of wealth on the backs of local labour, committing atrocities and a genocide that decimated half the population of the land.

    A more apt description of what this jacket symbolizes, then, would be: “It has the smell of the blood of the Congolese still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little smock jacket, neither will attempts to cover it with tiger stripes or repair the wear-and-tear brought about by kidnapping, beating, starving, mutilating, torturing, and murdering Congolese people for Europe’s economic gain. Wear it — to our economic gain.”

    This isn’t art, this isn’t fashion. This is continuing to profit from exploitation.

    Art has purpose.

    “For us, art is about provoking critical thinking and prompting conversations,” said Turner. “We feel it is our responsibility to speak to future generations about our history.”

    Over to you, Maharishi.

    Shree Paradkar tackles issues of race and gender. You can follow her @shreeparadkar

    0 0

    A Toronto art teacher has been arrested after allegedly sexually assaulting a seven-year-old girl who was attending an art program at a studio located in Toronto’s Junction area, police say.

    According to detectives, the incident occurred in June while the victim was a part of a 10-week arts program at 4Cats Arts, located at 1615 Dupont St.

    Her 24-year-old art teacher allegedly assaulted her during the program sessions, police said.

    The art teacher was employed at the studio in Oct. 2016 and has since been relieved of his duties, according Det. Eduardo Dizon.

    Further details surrounding the incident have not been released by police to protect the victim’s privacy.

    Police say they are concerned there may be other victims.

    Jordan Pereira is charged with one count of sexual assault, investigators said Thursday.

    He is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 24.

    Detectives are asking anyone with information regarding this incident to contact police at (416) 808-2922 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at (416) 222-TIPS (8477).

    0 0

    Until his life was on the line, Edward Sapiano believed he was invincible. Now, he knows it.

    “I like to joke, and a joke has a grain of truth, I am the next step in human evolution,” says the 54-year-old Toronto criminal defence lawyer.

    “When I’m in court, my adversaries are merely biological. I am superior.”

    For Sapiano, a two-year comeback in the making is complete.

    He’s busy rattling off his greatest hits — from the Toronto 18 terrorism trial to his courtroom showdown more than a decade ago with a Superior Court judge he argued was biased against all defendants — when Sapiano realizes he missed his exit on Highway 401 about half an hour ago.

    It’s been just over a week since finishing his work on the first-degree murder trial of Michael Davani and former NCAA basketball player Alwayne Bigby.

    Sapiano is heading to Gores Landing, Ont., normally a 1.5-hour drive east of the city, where he owns a farm and forest on his 51-hectare property.

    While Bigby was acquitted, a jury found Sapiano’s client Davani guilty of first-degree murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of Andrea White. The seven-week trial was Sapiano’s first while on 24-hour dialysis, after a break from his law practice caused by kidney failure.

    The sight of Sapiano in a courtroom may not thrill judges and cops — he says he’s made a career of “taking on power” — but no one is happier to see him than his two goats, Beatrice and Princess, as he arrives at his farm.

    “They’re very playful. They’re like children,” says Sapiano as he feeds his goats bits of Tostitos chips. “I go for walks, I can take them out of here and they’ll follow me.”

    For two years, the goats, as well as Sapiano’s eight chickens, were his main companions.

    After the diagnosis forced him off the Jennifer Pan murder trial in August 2014, Sapiano says he went through “a wonderful, hellish experience.”

    “I had to redefine myself. I had created Edward Sapiano and then suddenly I’m taken out for two years,” he says. “I think everybody should endure extreme bodily dysfunction and pain for a period of time because it teaches you so much.”

    With a beard stretching down to his chest and his robes traded for jeans, he was sitting at a bus stop along Queen St. one day when he began to violently vomit.

    “I look up. There’s a whole class of kids, about eight years old, being led by their teacher, looking at me,” he says. “There’s a homeless guy on the other side of the street looking at me curiously and I realize from the perspective of children and other people, there’s no difference between me and that homeless guy who’s been making bad decision his whole life long.”

    Having already owned his farm for a year, this seemed like the perfect time to escape.

    “I felt uncomfortable being in Toronto for that period because people would look at me and think that I drank too much, whereas my goats didn’t mind,” says Sapiano.

    Sequestered on his farm with endless free time, he took on project after project. He learned to weld, built a workshop for his tools, took up beekeeping and made honey.

    Just as he’s learned to charm juries with his energetic deliveries, Sapiano says he’s also warmed himself to nature.

    “I have a working relationship with a family of ravens,” he says, at first seemingly in jest before it becomes apparent he is serious. “I leave them chicken eggs and in return they keep the hawks away from my property, thereby protecting the chickens. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”

    He says he’s always had an affinity for the outdoors, having owned another 80-hectare forest near Peterborough for decades. As he motors through the forest on one of his ATVs, Sapiano breathes in the air, a smell he says you just can’t get in the city.

    “I used to laugh at myself these last two years because my bodily dysfunction, the pain and enduring all this, it was like a Greek tragedy,” he says. “Me lying on my forest floor violently shaking and vomiting, with my goats staring at me. And it’s a beautiful place to be, especially if you’re violently vomiting.”

    Now that he’s back in the courtroom, Sapiano still commutes to the farm most weekends from his downtown loft and plans to stay all summer preparing for his next murder trial which is set to begin in September.

    Doctors have given him two dialysis machines, one for each location, that rest on a countertop next to his bed. Every evening at 9 p.m., Sapiano slips on a face mask and plugs a small hose from the machine, roughly the size of a printer, into a hole in his abdomen, which pumps 10 litres of dialysis through him during the night.

    It leaves two litres of dialysis inside him when he wakes up at 6 a.m. and by around noon, he’ll use a manual system, which he takes with him on the go, to drain the liquid and pump a fresh batch into his body.

    This ritual is what keeps Sapiano alive until he potentially receives a kidney transplant. He’s on a waiting list to receive one from a deceased donor, but has turned down offers from friends and family because he doesn’t want to feel indebted to them for the rest of his life.

    Sapiano’s dialysis routine allowed him to return to the courtroom this past spring pain-free.

    “When everyone else is going to lunch, I go to a room in the courthouse . . . and I plug into this apparatus,” says Sapiano.

    David Wilson, his co-counsel representing Davani, said he figured he’d see a change in Sapiano since the last time the two teamed up for a murder trial in 2011.

    Wilson recalled Sapiano’s dogged work ethic and high-octane energy back then, but he wasn’t sure he’d see it this go-round. He said he was expecting Sapiano to need breaks mid-trial or at least a reduced workload.

    “But that really wasn’t the case. He was basically his normal self,” Wilson said. “That’s really who he is and how he practises. That’s generally the way he presents to juries, is as this larger than life advocate, almost like some character you’d see on television. But he’s a real lawyer. It’s not just theatre.”

    Wilson said he became concerned once early on in the trial as Sapiano cross-examined a witness. He had begun sweating and his stomach was bothering him, to the point Sapiano requested permission from the judge to sit down as he finished his questioning.

    But aside from that brief spell lasting about five minutes, Sapiano says his special circumstances were kept hidden during the trial.

    “At court it’s very important to me that this is an invisible handicap,” he says. “At no time did I tell the judge I need another hour, at no time was the court schedule affected by my handicap. At no time did the jury become aware that I’ve got this issue. I don’t want it costing the court any time.”

    Despite his client’s conviction, a verdict he called “predictable,” Sapiano says he feels the jury got it right in the murder trial, which he says was “unwinnable.”

    “It was a disappointing trial for my great return,” he admits. “I would’ve liked to have come back to a trial where I could feel self-righteous.”

    But he views the case as a learning experience, and because of this, a positive experience.

    “Life had been too easy for me,” says Sapiano. “There’s no such thing as a bad experience so long as you survive it.”

    He says his future in the legal profession depends on two factors: his health and his enjoyment. He says he could see himself practising for another decade, but wouldn’t turn down a murder trial 10 years from now if he’s still enthusiastic enough to take it on.

    While he takes his health more seriously now — he hadn’t been to a doctor in a decade before his kidney failure — he also vows he won’t interrupt a trial to receive a kidney transplant should that time come.

    But as unbelievable as it sounds, today, Sapiano says he’s grateful for his kidney failure.

    “You could stick a knife in my chest and as long as I survive it, it’s a wonderful experience because I survived it,” he says. “Every day above ground is a damn good day.”

    0 0

    WASHINGTON—The defences keep changing. The goalposts keep moving. And the saga of Donald Trump and Russian election interference keeps getting both more ridiculous and more serious.

    This week’s sensational episode is a rare combination of cloak-and-dagger and Beavis and Butthead. The president’s clueless eldest son, a clueless British publicist and a Russian pop singer come together for a series of astoundingly indiscreet conversations in which the son declares, in writing, “I love it” when he’s offered incriminating information on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government . . . .

    Laugh-out-loud farcical ineptitude. And yet the Watergate scandal also began with bumbling peripheral players caught red-handed. Junior’s errors make it seem more likely that the investigations into this scandal might discover something as damning as the probes into that one did.

    Special counsel Robert Mueller, the former FBI director, has assembled a dream team of investigators with expertise in a wide range of wrongdoing, from money laundering to campaign finance violations. Until the New York Times began publishing its Donald Jr. scoops on Saturday, it was fashionable in Washington to speculate that Mueller would manage to find transgressions of some kind, just not collusion, itself.

    The focus is squarely back on collusion.

    There’s a lot we still don’t know. We do know, now, that the president’s eldest son was eager to accept covert Russian help — and that two of Trump’s other closest advisors were prepared to meet with someone who promised such help.

    If Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort were willing to take that bait, in what other ways were they willing to deal with the Russians?

    If Donald Trump Jr. was so unsurprised by the publicist’s assertion that Russia was making an effort to “support” Trump, what previous conversations had the campaign held with the Russians?

    And, now, as in 1973, the main question becomes: what did the president know and when did he know it?

    The timeline sure is curious.

    On June 7, Donald Trump Jr. set up the meeting for two days later. On that very same Wednesday, the senior Trump promised a bombshell speech, probably for the following Monday, about “all of the things have taken place with the Clintons.”

    The speech never happened: a terrorist attacked Pulse nightclub the day before, and Trump spoke about that. But he had sounded like a man who thought he was about to come into possession of some dirt.

    In a Wednesday interview with Reuters, Trump denied knowing that his son had held the meeting until a “couple of days ago.”

    But speaking to reporters later that day on Air Force One, he cracked open the door a little bit: “Maybe it was mentioned at some point,” he said, but he didn’t know about the offer of Clinton information.

    On this story, from these people, even the most categorical denials are no longer credible.

    Time and again, “never happened” has morphed into “it happened, but not that way” to “it happened that way, fine, but there’s nothing wrong with it.”

    And so, this week, the president’s declarative cries of “fake news” and “total hoax” have been replaced by defensive claims that such meetings are “very standard.”

    It does not currently appear as if most Republicans care about the continued unravelling. Members of Congress brushed off questions. The Fox News cheering section tiptoed as artfully as ever to stay in step with dear leader. Trump voters delivered their usual standing-by-their-man indifference to local newspapers.

    But Watergate also failed to budge Republicans for a time, and then a presidency vanished. Trump may serve eight years, for all we know now. More than ever, however, it seems that there is more to come.

    As if trying to prove that the story could get sillier, senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway went on Fox Wednesday and held up pieces of paper on which she crossed out the word “collusion” and pointed to the words “illusion” and “delusion.”

    “What’s the conclusion? Collusion? No. We don’t have that yet.”

    Conway was smiling.

    But after the preceding four days, the “yet” sounded ominous.

    0 0

    On the day Tatyana Hargrove rode her bike to try to buy her dad a Father’s Day gift, temperatures in Bakersfield, Calif., had reached triple digits, so she stopped on the way home to take a drink of water in the shade.

    The 19-year-old turned around at the intersection where she had paused and noticed three police cars. One of the officers, she said, had already drawn his gun.

    What followed, according to both Hargrove and police, was a case of mistaken identity and an altercation in which police punched Hargrove in the mouth, unleashed a police K-9 dog on her and arrested her. Though the incident took place June 18, it gained wider attention this week after the Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP shared a video of Hargrove’s account on its Facebook page that garnered millions of views.

    On the day police stopped Hargrove, officers had been looking for a suspect — described as a 25- to 30-year-old, bald black man standing 5-foot-10 and weighing about 170 pounds — who had threatened several people with a machete at a nearby grocery store, according to a police report.

    “She appeared to be a male and matched the description of the suspect that had brandished the machete and was also within the same complex the suspect had fled to,” Christopher Moore, the arresting officer, wrote in his report.

    But Hargrove is none of those things.

    For starters, she is female. She stands 5-foot-2 and weighs 115 pounds “soaking wet,” according to her father in a widely shared video of Hargrove’s account of the incident posted on the Facebook page for the Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP.

    In the video, Hargrove stands with a pair of crutches near the intersection where she was stopped by police and described how one of the officers demanded she give him her backpack, she said.

    When she asked if they had a warrant, one of the officers gestured toward a police K-9 behind him, she said.

    “I then got scared and then I was like, here, take the backpack, just take the backpack,” Hargrove added.

    After that, she said in the video, the officer grabbed her by her wrist, then punched her and threw her onto the ground; shortly afterward, the police K-9 “came and started eating at my leg.”

    The same officer then put his knee on her back and other knee against her head, despite her protests, she said.

    “I told him ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’ and then I started yelling out, ‘Somebody help me, somebody help me! They’re gonna kill me!’” she said. “And then finally, he let me up, he tied my hands behind my back and then he tied my feet together and he threw me in the back of the car.”

    According to the police report, Hargrove was arrested for resisting or delaying an officer and aggravated assault on an officer. Hargrove was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of her injuries, including abrasions on her face and scrapes and punctures from the police K-9’s “engagement on her right thigh,” Moore, the arresting officer, wrote in his report.

    Moore noted that “several nurses” at the hospital referred to Hargrove as a male and that “when I corrected them and advised she was a female they were surprised and apologized for the mistake.”

    After she was treated for her injuries, Hargrove was booked into jail, the report said. She was detained for nearly 16 hours there before being bailed out by her parents, according to the NAACP.

    In the police report, Moore wrote that Hargrove had “spun into” one of the officers with her left shoulder, causing him to fall backward, and then “quickly manoeuvred her body to get back on top of him” after the officer punched her.

    “At this time I was forced to quickly consider the following; (Hargrove) matched the description of the suspect that had brandished a machete, her backpack was within her arm’s reach and the main compartment was unzipped allowing her immediate access to the machete,” Moore wrote. After weighing whether he could use his Taser or baton on Hargrove, Moore wrote that he decided to unleash the police K-9, Hamer.

    In the police report, Moore wrote that after officers placed Hargrove in a police car, she continued to scream out of the window at them for about five minutes.

    “While Hargrove was in the backseat I asked what her name was and when she provided it as ‘Tatyana’ I said, ‘Don’t lie to me, that’s a girl’s name. What is your name?’ ” the police report stated. “Hargrove said, ‘I’m a girl, I just don’t dress like one.’ This was when I first discovered she was a female.”

    A search of her backpack revealed no weapons, the report stated.

    A Bakersfield police spokesperson told The Washington Post he would not comment further on the case but confirmed that the department had determined that the officers had exercised appropriate use of force on Hargrove.

    In the video on the Bakersfield NAACP’s Facebook page, Hargrove does not say anything about fighting back at the officers.

    “I read the paper, my paperwork, though, and it said that I shoved an officer and flipped him on his back,” she said in the video, adding a look of disbelief. “There were dogs and guns drawn on me. Like, I would never do anything like that.”

    A call to the Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP was not immediately returned Wednesday. The group is organizing a “Justice for Tatyana” rally Thursday, started a petition to have Hargrove’s charges dismissed and launched a crowdfunding page to raise money for her medical bills and legal fees.

    Hargrove’s parents, who were interviewed for the video but not named, said it was extremely difficult for them to believe what happened to their daughter could be justified.

    “Every day I have to change her bandages and I see her, the injuries that she has. It’s really hard for me,” Hargrove’s mother said in the video, fighting back tears.

    “Why should my daughter be charged with a crime? All she did was stop to drink some water because it was 100-something degrees. That’s ridiculous,” Hargrove’s father said in the video. “She was coming home to celebrate Father’s Day with me. It’s not right. It’s not right.”

    0 0

    It took less than one minute for nearly half of Sears Canada’s head office employees in Toronto to be let go before they were shown the door at a meeting at the downtown Metro Convention Centre on June 22.

    Peter Myers, 59, a senior director of planning at Sears Canada, was sitting in the front row. In 2014, Myers starred in an amusing commercial with his brother, comedian Mike Myers, that has logged more than 1.8 million views on You Tube in English and in French.

    In the ad, Mike peppers his older brother with questions about rumours that Sears Canada is closing. Peter reassures Mike that that’s not happening.

    “We’re not going anywhere. You of all people should know not to believe everything you read in the papers,” Peter tells Mike.

    Three years later, Peter was in a conference room with colleagues being told by a Sears official that they were being laid off because Sears was restructuring.

    That same morning in a downtown courthouse, Sears Canada obtained temporary protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), allowing them to close 59 stores and let go 2,900 employees without paying severance, as part of an effort to keep at least part of the chain in business.

    At the same time, at a meeting at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel on Front St., hundreds of Sears Canada employees were being told they still had jobs.

    At the convention centre, following the brief announcement by a Sears spokesperson, the company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) representative made a few consoling remarks and pointed to the exit doors, recommending that the employees take advantage of taxi chits being offered to get them home.

    “It’s a rough day,” he said.

    The employees were not told in the meeting that they would not be getting severance. They learned that when they opened information packages they were told to pick up on their way out of the room.

    All told that morning, 500 of the 1,185 people who worked at Sears Canada’s head office in Toronto were let go.

    Later they learned that Sears Canada was also planning to seek approval from the court to stop topping up a deficit in the pension plan, of which Myers is a member, and to stop paying pension benefits, including dental and health benefits.

    In court on Thursday, Sears reversed that stance, agreeing to keep paying the deficit and the benefits until the end of September in order to avoid a legal challenge from lawyers representing employees.

    The severance issue was not resolved.

    The situation, on the heels of long fights involving employees of Nortel Networks Ltd., Stelco Inc. and Vertis Communications, has caught the attention of politicians.

    Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told reporters at Queen's Park on Thursday that at this point, the Ministry of Economic Development is “paying very close attention to what's happening,” and that “we are very concerned when a large number of people like this are at risk of losing not only their jobs, but their future security.”

    At this point in the process, there is no real role for the province in the Sears situation, Wynne said. But as the economy transforms, she added, workers are being displaced and the government needs to do what it can to support families.

    “When I hear the (Sears) stories reported and I read about them, my first thought is for those families whose jobs are on the line,” said Wynne.

    “My hope would be that the people who have given many of the good years of their life, that they are treated well in a situation like this.”

    The provincial NDP tabled a non-binding motion in May 2016 calling for better pension protection for workers at companies going through restructuring and bankruptcy, said NDP MPP Catherine Fife on Thursday.

    It was supported by the Wynne Liberals and the Progressive Conservative party under Patrick Brown.

    “Unfortunately the premier did not act on this and we have another company giving creditors priority over the employees that built the company,” said Fife, adding that the NDP will continue to raise the issue at Queen’s Park.

    “It’s time to put employees first.”

    Myers describes himself as an extremely positive person, and he can see more than his own side to the story, pointing to the suppliers who won’t be paid as a result of the CCAA filing. He understands that letting go of three people to save seven is ultimately for the greater good, but the existing legislation seems to him one-sided.

    “I have a feeling there is something legislative that has to change, but everything they are doing is legal,” said Myers.

    In a business insolvency, employees generally have to line up behind secured creditors for severance that they would ordinarily be entitled to. Someone like Myers, who would have celebrated 36 years at the company in August, would have been eligible for about two years of payments, according to labour lawyer Jon Pinkus of Samfiru Tumarkin LLP.

    “Arguably we have it wrong right now. Arguably we have an equation where the most vulnerable people are those that are protected the least,” said Pinkus.

    He said Sears Canada abruptly broke off discussions with the firm’s lawyers, who had been negotiating severance settlements on behalf of employees who had been let go before the CCAA application.

    Sears named its pension obligations as one of the reasons it sought creditor protection. The pension has a deficit of $267 million, which the company has been paying down at a rate of about $3.7 million a month, payments Sears argued in its application for CCAA it could no longer afford.

    “The funding deficit has become a significant strain on the liquidity available to conduct ongoing operations,” according to documents the company filed in court on June 22.

    As of Dec. 31, there were 16,921 members in the defined benefit component of the Sears Pension Plan — 13,121 of them retired.

    The average cost of paying pension health and dental benefits and life insurance premiums is about $1.045 million a month, according to the company.

    When Target exited Canada in 2015 after a disastrous attempt to expand outside the U.S., Target Corporation set up a $90 million (U.S.) fund to pay severance to 17,600 Canadian Target workers, to ensure that all employees received 16 weeks of termination pay.

    While Sears Canada and Sears Holdings in the U.S. are separate entities, Eddie Lampert, chief executive officer of Sears Holdings, together with his ESL companies and Fairholme Capital Management, is a majority shareholder.

    While Sears Canada is broke now, it wasn’t so long ago that it was paying millions of dollars in dividends to shareholders: $509 million in a special dividend in 2013 and $102 million in dividends in 2012. In 2005, when it was still 54 per cent owned by U.S. based parent Sears Holdings Corp., Sears Canada sold its credit card business for more than $3.4 billion in cash and debt.

    A spokesperson for Sears Canada declined to comment for this article, pointing instead to the news released filed by the company on June 22.

    “Getting the federal government to move on bankruptcy and insolvency protection for employees was nearly impossible,” said Susan Rowland, a lawyer who focused her career on pensions and benefits law, and an expert in restructuring and funding pension plans who worked with provinces and the federal government on pension issues.

    “They didn’t want to in any way impede the flow of lending to companies that wanted to go into business or carry on a business.”

    The reason for the imbalance in the system, Rowland and others say, is that if a company trying to restructure had to pay employees severance and top up the pension plan, it could prove too expensive to make a restructuring possible — no one would lend to a company with so many liabilities. Instead of restructuring and possibly continuing to operate, employing thousands directly and indirectly, the company would be forced to shut down entirely.

    Setting the bar that high could also be a deterrent to new businesses, according to experts.

    While restructuring, companies typically set aside millions of dollars to continue paying top executives, as Sears has done for 43 executives, but there is a reason for that too, said Rowland.

    “The 43 people at head office, if they quit, the business is gone, all you have left is some odds and ends of inventory. You have to keep your key people back and you have to pay them to stay and not go looking for alternate employment,” said Rowland.

    The good news for Sears Canada pensioners is that if their pension fund does come up short, they may qualify for payments under Ontario’s Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund (PBGF).

    “In the event of the wind up of the Sears pension plan, the PBGF could provide financial assistance if Sears Canada is unable to fund the wind up deficit,” according to Malon Edwards, a spokesperson for the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), which administers the Pension Benefits Act and the PBGF.

    Some pensioners are taking it in stride.

    “I think the whole goal of the company is to survive and to protect the employees it still has,” said Harold Mandel, a former vice-president of real estate, who has been retired from the company for 29 years and whose pension may be affected by the CCAA filing.

    “The company is certainly important for the good of the country.”

    0 0

    A mistake in a Toronto Leisure Swim brochure sparked controversy this week in the St. Clair West neighbourhood, as residents believed an archaic dress code rule was in effect at the women’s only swim time at Joseph J. Piccininni pool.

    “Full-sized swim suit and T-shirt must be worn,” reads a note under the pool’s women-only leisure swim time listing in the Etobicoke York District leisure brochure.

    Signs are now posted in the facility at St. Clair Ave. W. and Lansdowne Ave., saying that this information is incorrect, and brochures there have been edited by hand.

    The note became the subject of controversy in the community, when Viola Dessanti, confused about the dress code restriction, asked her neighbours about it on Facebook.

    “I am interested in going swimming and I genuinely wanted to know whether I had to wear a T-shirt or not,” she said in an interview.

    She said she didn’t expect the flurry of confusion and debate that followed. Dessanti’s post had more than 100 comments and responses as of Thursday afternoon as neighbours debated the appropriateness of the dress code.

    Some community members, like Dessanti, were simply confused by the phrasing of the restriction. Others said that the rule seemed out-of-date, and unenforceable.

    Matthew Cutler, public relations manager for the city’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation department, said that the error likely arose because a staff member referenced an old version of the brochure in creation of the new one.

    The dress code rule was a relic of a community-run program for Muslim swimmers that was at least 10 years old, he said.

    “At some point in the editing process we missed this content, which has obviously caused a great deal of confusion in the local community,” Cutler said.

    He added that there are no dress code rules in any of the women-only swim programs in the city, of which there are 10.

    An unexpected result of the controversy is that some members of the St. Clair West community began to see the dress code as a good idea, one that could encourage some people who wouldn’t otherwise use the pools to try swimming.

    Dessanti is among those who think that the city should consider bringing a similar swimming time slot back.

    “I think it’s wonderful that we have a space in Toronto that accommodates or even recognizes that option,” referring to the dress code that she believed to be in effect.

    She added that she would be happy to wear a T-shirt while swimming during that time, if there was the possibility that it could make others more comfortable to use the facilities too.

    Janine Mosley, a former lifeguard who describes herself as a “water-loving parent” and is active in the neighbourhood, said that she has observed first-hand how some women are motivated to learn to swim when a safer space is made available to them through women-only swim times.

    “I think it’s such an important thing to give all people access to learn the skills that they need to be safe,” she said, pointing out that Toronto is a city with ample open water that could pose a major risk to residents even if they do know how to swim.

    Cutler said that the city is aware of the positive impact women-only swim times can have on communities.

    “The intention is to create a space that is more welcoming, that feels safer,” he said. “I certainly haven’t seen any research or evidence that setting rules about what people have to wear at the event would make people feel any more or less safe.”

    Cutler said that if the city was brought a suggestion to implement dress codes as a way of improving its women-only swim time program, the department would consider the idea.

    0 0

    Five intelligence officers and analysts with Canada’s spy service have launched a $35-million lawsuit against their employer, claiming the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is a toxic workplace with managers who openly espouse Islamophobic, racist and homophobic views and discriminate against Muslim, Black and gay employees.

    The allegations contained in a 54-page statement of claim — filed in Federal Court and obtained by the Toronto Star — provide detailed accusations from inside one of the country’s most secretive organizations.

    One of the complainants, a Toronto intelligence officer with more than a decade of service and identified in the claim by the pseudonym “Alex,” is gay and has a Muslim partner.

    According to the statement of claim, an October 2015 email sent to him by his manager “Simon” stated: “Careful your Muslim in-laws don’t behead you in your sleep for being homo.” Another boss, given the pseudonym “Joe,” allegedly wrote: “You’re just a fag hiding in your little corner sobbing.”

    None of the allegations contained in the claim, which was filed Thursday morning, has been proven in court.

    CSIS Director David Vigneault issued a statement responding to the Star’s questions about the claim. Vigneault, who was appointed as the spy agency’s director last month, said CSIS “takes any allegations of inappropriate behaviour very seriously.”

    “I would like to reinforce that, as an organization, CSIS does not tolerate harassment, discrimination or bullying under any circumstances. The Service’s values and ethics must be reflected in all of our behaviours and decision-making, and reflect the CSIS Employee Code of Conduct principles of respect for democracy, respect for people, integrity, stewardship, and professional excellence.”

    He also wrote that employees are encouraged to report “real, potential or perceived incidents of harassment, without fear of reprisal, to their supervisor or senior management.”

    Toronto lawyer John Phillips, who is representing the five employees, said in an email to the Star, “I am not in a position to provide a comment at this time.”

    The lawsuit follows three scathing reports on RCMP harassment, including the May federal auditor general report on the police force’s failure to manage the mental health needs of its employees.

    While CSIS has come under scrutiny for past intelligence operations, this lawsuit is a rare public airing of internal complaints for an organization that was recognized as one of Canada’s top 100 employers for 2017.

    Among the criteria cited by Mediacorp Canada Inc., which manages the competition, is the spy agency’s attempt to “help employees find a balance between work and their personal lives.” CSIS was given a B+ for “work atmosphere and communications,” and commended for “summer golf and softball tournaments, winter hockey tournament (with time off for players and fans) to raise money for the United Way, annual spy BBQ, summer parties across the organization, long service awards celebrations and a special Christmas party for employees’ children.”

    The five intelligence officers and analysts are identified by pseudonyms the claim states, “because they have been warned by their employer, CSIS, that they are forbidden from publicly identifying themselves, or any colleagues.” The Star does not know the identity of the complainants, nor have they been interviewed.

    Under Canada’s Security of Information Act identifying a spy can be considered an offence. All of the complainants are CSIS employees but are on medical leave due to stress and other mental and physical conditions that they claim were caused by the alleged abuse.

    Managers mentioned in the claim are also identified by fake names.

    In addition to Alex, the CSIS employees making the allegations are a Muslim analyst with more than 20 years at the agency who alleges he was told he should “complain to Allah;” a multilingual Muslim analyst who was allegedly called a “sand monkey” by his boss; a female intelligence officer, also Muslim and multilingual, who claims she faced constant suspicion after deciding to wear a hijab in 2004; and the service’s first female Black intelligence officer who claims she was told, “it’s people like you the Service likes to promote.”

    All five allege in the claim when they tried to report the abuse, their circumstances got worse and their complaints resulted in no action.

    “Bahira,” who says she was discriminated against as a Muslim woman, alleges, “CSIS has a culture of secrecy which does not accept whistle-blowing or complaints, regardless of the underlying harm.”

    A ‘gay boy who wanted to take gay selfies with VIPs’

    Alex, described in the claim as a highly decorated employee who was in an elite management program, alleges that in addition to being called a “fag” or “gay boy,” a manager reportedly joked to the service’s Toronto office during a 2014 Town Hall meeting that Alex “(took) it from behind.”

    According to the statement of claim, one email concerning Alex states: “OT for the homo is approved.”

    “Simon,” the manager who allegedly wrote some of the most offensive emails, often teased Alex about “getting fat,” and allegedly posted an unflattering photo of him in a staff elevator. When a colleague removed it and complained to her director, she was allegedly told to “mind her own business.”

    Alex also allegedly clashed with Simon when he tried to get information about an ongoing operation during a mid-afternoon Christmas party he did not attend. His attempts to reach Simon and others at the Toronto office — calls, texts and emails — were ignored, Alex claims.

    The following day, Alex alleges Simon confronted him about being friends with someone who was a terrorist. (They were connected on Facebook). The claim states the accusation was “unfounded and maliciously motivated” and when Alex mentioned that the individual in question was gay, Simon went on a tirade about “gay men always having their shirts off.”

    “Alex then used the meeting to complain that Simon had let down the team the day before by refusing to take a call on an operational matter during a party. Simon responded that Alex was just a ‘gay boy who wanted to take gay selfies with VIPs.’”

    According to the statement of claim, Alex left the meeting in tears.

    ‘All Muslims are terrorists’

    Bahira is described as an intelligence officer with more than a decade of experience. In 2004, she decided to wear a hijab, which she alleges caused “an uproar, and a stirring of suspicion so intense that it exists today.”

    She alleges her managers, “William” and “Charles,” told her to report all activities connected with the Muslim community.

    “She reported attending the mosque biweekly, and making donations randomly. Bahira was told that her security clearance could be revoked for associating with organizations or individuals in the Muslim community who could be perceived as antithetical to CSIS.”

    During a foreign posting with the service’s counterterrorism unit Bahira claims that she was treated differently due to her faith. “She was embarrassingly underworked relative to her colleagues, who were overburdened. When this circumstance became a matter of contention in her group, Bahira went to her supervisor who admitted to Bahira that he had been instructed not to give her access to any source files due to her involvement with a Muslim organization,” the claim states.

    When she complained, she alleges that rather than deal with the issue a director general asked her if she was frustrated being a second-generation Canadian Muslim. “With tears in her eyes, Bahira listened to the Director General explain that he perceived security threats emanating from second and third generation Canadian Muslims — clearly referring to her — despite the fact that she was a CSIS Intelligence Officer and subject to the same rigorous security clearances as non-Muslim officers.”

    Bahira claims she remained dedicated to CSIS, but “the loyalty was not returned,” and that she eventually became withdrawn and “began having her lunch in her office and crying in the stairwell.”

    By contrast, when Bahira was seconded to help an ally’s intelligence service she was praised for her communication skills and knowledge of Islamic and Arabic culture, according to the statement of claim. She alleges Anne McLellan, one of Canada’s former deputy prime ministers, also received thanks from the foreign government for Bahira’s service. “However, Bahira’s work was not even acknowledged by CSIS,” the statement claims.

    Ignorant and discriminating behaviour among managers was not contained to one region, according to the claim. Bahira moved to a different unit and was allegedly goaded by one manager with comments such as, “Muslim women are inferior.” The same boss allegedly “went on at length about how then-President Barack Obama was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

    “Cemal,” an analyst who has worked for CSIS for more than 20 years, is also Muslim. He claims: “The culture of CSIS is hostile to Muslims, and this is more than just an unfriendly work environment — it is deeply ingrained prejudice of distrust for Muslims which has meant that Muslims are used and managed as needed, but are not part of the team.”

    Cemal alleges a poster of the Twin Towers burning on Sept. 11, 2001, with the words “Ninety-Nine Names of Allah” once hung in the Toronto office.

    In the claim, Cemal says Alex told him that senior managers would call Cemal “Muslim Brotherhood,” “Sheikh” or “Imam,” when referring to him at social events or “drinking sessions.”

    “Through participation in these group sessions, Alex learned that anti-Muslim sentiment was pervasive within the group. There existed a deep-seated distrust and contempt for all Muslims, which manifested in conversations ranging from terrorism to human resources,” the statement of claim alleges.

    Alex’s Muslim partner accompanied him to one social event where his boss Simon allegedly declared, “all Muslims are terrorists.” Alex’s partner left the room, uncomfortable, after which Simon reportedly yelled, “All Muslims are terrorists.”

    The complainant called “Emran” in the statement of claim is a Canadian citizen who has worked as an analyst for CSIS for more than 10 years. He is fluent in five languages and worked in Canada except for a two-year international posting.

    During a training session for that overseas assignment, Emran claims a colleague would single him out as being Muslim, making comments such as “Muslims and armed weapons are a bad mix.”

    “The attacks were relentless, and clearly made some participants in the group uncomfortable, but nobody spoke out, including the trainers,” the claim states.

    ‘It’s people like you the Service likes to promote’

    Emran worked abroad for two years, but says the abuse followed. He alleges his boss “Jeff” had a problem with Arabs.

    “I want you to take care of the liaison with the ‘Sand Monkeys’ because you are one of theirs and you speak their language,” Jeff allegedly told Emran.

    When he returned to Canada in 2013, Emran says he faced a smear campaign where he was called “a sexual deviant” and “dangerous.” He alleges another rumour circulated that he was “being sought by the Arabs and they were out to get him.”

    “The threats and rumour-mongering were part of the craft of manipulation and deceit that was stock and trade of CSIS agents, and Emran recognized these techniques being used against him, to undermine his mental well-being and career.”

    In its most recent public report, CSIS, with more than 3,000 employees, is described as a “unique workplace” that is “flexible and innovative.” As of March 31, 2016, 52 per cent of the workforce was male and 15 per cent were visible minorities. Although 69 per cent spoke both French and English, only 18 per cent were fluent in another language. Those employees spoke more than 105 languages, the report states.

    In 2014, the Canadian Human Rights Commission conducted an “employment equity audit report” of CSIS. The internal report concluded that visible minorities were under-represented in management and “faced barriers to advancement.”

    Dina, who joined the service in 2001, seemed to be the exception. She was the first female black intelligence officer at CSIS, according to the claim, and rose through the ranks, becoming a “level 9 Supervisor.”

    Yet Dina claims she was often made to feel as a “token black woman (who) was promoted without merit.”

    Fed up by the discrimination, which she claims was tolerated by management, she decided in 2016 to bring a harassment complaint against one colleague directly to the Staff Relations chief, the director general and her boss, Simon.

    She claims she was given a runaround — told by Staff Relations that Simon had decided to personally investigate. A few weeks later, the director general told her that the complaint was “unfounded.” He assured her that Staff Relations had properly investigated, after she had been told they weren’t. The claim alleges she then went to her boss Simon, who told her “he wasn’t involved.”

    ‘The public would be shocked about this if they only knew’

    All five complainants allege they raised objections and made claims of harassment — formally and informally — to managers and representatives of CSIS’s employee association over the years but say “management was simply indifferent.”

    Often colleagues or managers told them to just tolerate the alleged abuse.

    “We do what’s asked of us and keep our heads down and don’t cause trouble,” wrote one colleague, according to the claim. Another email to Alex stated that if he complained, “there will be no turning back.”

    Alex claims he was “overwhelmed by a sense of betrayal,” and by 2016 could no longer stay quiet.

    Two months after he formally complained in April 2016, according to the claim, several colleagues wrote a joint email supporting him, saying the managers often yelled at him for speaking out. “None of these things are professional and this is not how (we) expect managers to act,” the email stated, adding that they can attest Alex “is NOT making any of this up.”

    Last summer, a “third-party” investigation was conducted into Alex’s allegations, and according to the statement of claim, concluded that CSIS had an “old boy’s club” culture and there is a general fear of managers’ “reprisal, retribution and punishment,” while complaints made against management are often “dismissed and disregarded.”

    “The workplace atmosphere is ‘work-hard, play-hard,’ with regular consumption of alcohol in the office and politically incorrect, off-colour jokes and teasing. It is a loose, locker-room type of environment.”

    According to the claim, one witness reportedly commented to the third-party investigator: “The public would be shocked about this if they only knew; we keep our own secrets.”

    Alex threatened legal action, at which point he was issued a letter acknowledging that he had been harassed. But the letter “failed to propose any redress or even offer an apology,” the claim states.

    Instead, Alex said the situation got worse. He was told to stop coming to weekly management meetings. “Alex was punished,” the claim states, “for exposing management to the scrutiny of an outsider — scrutiny that had never been imposed on this enclave of privileged individuals who considered themselves above the law.”

    0 0

    About 400 workers at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. facility at the Woodbine horse racing track have been locked out after their employer and union were unable to reach a new contract agreement.

    The lockout comes after the workers, who are members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, voted over the weekend to reject a tentative agreement that had been reached with OLG.

    The union says its bargaining team sent a revised offer to the OLG on Wednesday, but it was rejected.

    A PSAC spokesperson says the lockout began at 12:01 a.m. Friday and workers were escorted off the premises.

    A group of workers and union representatives are currently picketing outside the facility in northwest Toronto.

    OLG says as a result of the labour dispute, the electronic poker room at Woodbine will be closed and an onsite courtesy shuttle will be unavailable.

    PSAC had said the main sticking point in its discussions with OLG is around working conditions for part-time employees, who they say represent 60 per cent of its members.

    “Workers are continuing to stand firm against an offer that would not improve their working conditions, especially for part-time workers,” PSAC Ontario regional vice-president Sharon DeSousa said in a statement Thursday.

    “We have part-time workers who have been working full-time hours for over 10 years now, yet the OLG will not allow them full-time status; how is this fair?”

    0 0

    Environment Canada described the rain that accompanied last night’s thunderstorm as “light,” however, the flooding in the Beach neighbourhood was anything but that.

    A storm that swept through the area around 1 a.m. left multiple cars partially submerged, with water reaching halfway up their wheels. Photos of the scene from Hubbard Blvd. and Glen Manor Dr. show the water pooling in a low section of the street where several cars were parked.

    Flooding was also reported on the westbound lanes of Highway 401 around the same time, and two lanes were blocked for several hours.

    The Environment Canada forecast for the next few days calls for more rain, which could lead to additional flooding.

    Friday is expected to have warmer temperatures than the past couple of days, with a high of 23 C, but there’s also 40 per cent chance of showers and a risk of a thunderstorm.

    Saturday will bring a welcome respite from the gloom, Environment Canada says, with sunny skies and a high of 28 C. Sunday and Monday are expected to be cloudy days, with 60 and 40 per cent chances of rain respectively.

    0 0

    After weeks of waiting for confirmation from the mother of pop herself, Beyoncé has officially introduced the world to her newborn twins with an internet-breaking Instagram post.

    The picture was posted exactly one month after the twins’birth and the caption revealed their names to be Sir Carter and Rumi.

    Although many rumours about the names of Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s offspring had surfaced on social media before this announcement, these monikers won’t come as a surprise to eagle-eyed fans who noticed a company associated with many Beyoncé trademarks had trademarked the names Sir Carter and Rumi Carter in late June. That makes the babies’ names legally off limits on everything from fragrances to leather picture frames to baby teething rings.

    Beyoncé’s Instagram announcement about the twins follows the same esthetic as her pregnancy announcement in February: florals and flowing fabrics.

    “We are incredibly grateful that our family will be growing by two,” she said in that caption.

    Posted to her 104 million subscribers, the pregnancy shoot garnered 11 million likes. The twins’ introduction into the world has earned 4.7 million since in the five hours since the picture was posted.

    0 0

    The aftermath of a fatal split-second decision behind the wheel erupted in a bizarre altercation Thursday, between the grieving family of a dead man and the driver who says he ran him down to save another life.

    Anthony James Kiss has been charged with manslaughter in the death of Dario Humberto Romero, who was struck and killed in the early hours of June 7 in west-end Toronto.

    Kiss said Romero was chasing a woman on to the street with a knife, and that he drove into him to stop the attack.

    Romero’s family confronted Kiss in the hallway prior to his court appearance Thursday, with Romero’s girlfriend Cecilia Tofalo telling him that her husband had a 12-year-old son.

    “You left him without a father!” Tofalo yelled at Kiss.

    “You killed an innocent person!” screamed a friend of Romero’s.

    “He was about to kill someone!” Kiss shouted back.

    Read more: Pedestrian killed in Eglinton Ave. W. hit-and-run

    Kiss, who has been out on bail and was accompanied by his mother Carole, was escorted out of the courthouse by police after they broke up the argument.

    “Of course we’re going to have an emotional outburst,” one of Romero’s sisters said after the verbal confrontation.

    “My nephew is fatherless, we lost another sibling,” said Romero’s sister Paola, referring to a 1999 house fire that killed their sister Daniella. “We don’t know why (Kiss) did what he did.”

    The case was put over until Aug. 3. Kiss, 31, also faces charges of impaired operation of a motor vehicle causing death, over 80 mgs operation of a motor vehicle causing death, and failure to stop at scene of accident causing death.

    “I had to make a quick decision to use my vehicle to stop him,” Kiss told the Star last month in a phone interview. “I didn’t want death, that’s why I was trying to do this, do what I did, to prevent death.”

    Kiss was sitting in his car at a red light near Black Creek Dr. and Eglinton Ave. with his girlfriend, when he said he saw a man standing at a nearby bus stop pull a knife on a woman.

    “I look back at the light, it’s still red, I look back at them, and by then the male had pulled a knife and went for the woman like three or four times, stabbed at her,” Kiss said.

    Kiss, a father of four and Wasaga Beach resident, attributes his actions that night to his training as a security guard.

    “I’m observant, I look around, that’s how I am,” he said. “And I looked at him again then this guy just pulled out a knife, man, and just went right at her.”

    He says he hasn’t talked to the woman and doesn’t know if she knew the man or what may have sparked the alleged attack.

    “She was off to the side minding her own business with her arms crossed, just waiting for the bus,” he said.

    His girlfriend, Michelle Adams, corroborated his account in a separate interview with the Star.

    “I hear Anthony screaming like, ‘oh my God he’s stabbing her, he’s going to kill her,’ ” Adams said. “I looked over again and I realized that he was making stabbing motions towards her.”

    The woman then began to run across the street, both said. They could hear her screaming for help with the man trailing her, he said.

    “Anthony’s still freaking out in the car at that moment and then all of a sudden the car just went flying towards him,” Adams said. “So he went towards the man and obviously hit him. The woman had made it to the median in between the two lanes.”

    Romero, 37, died from the impact at the scene.

    “He was a good guy, very family oriented . . . He would give you the last dollar in his pocket if he needed it,” said his brother-in-law, who did not want to be identified due to the nature of his job with children.

    “He was a father. He was a brother. He was an uncle,” said the brother-in-law. “He was an embedded individual in our family.”

    The brother-in-law said that Romero suffered with mental illness, and was diagnosed with extreme paranoia, triggered from the trauma of losing his sister in the house fire in 1999.

    Toronto police Det. Susan Gomes, the investigating officer on the case, has said she could not comment because the case is an “active investigation and further is currently before the courts.” A police news report issued at the time of the incident said a 59-year-old woman at the scene suffered injuries unrelated to the collision.

    When reached by the Star, the woman said, “I cannot talk to you, I’m sorry.”

    Kiss said he left the scene because he was panicking.

    “I was straight shocked, I couldn’t believe what had just happened in front of my eyes,” Kiss said. “It was insane, I just witnessed some male pull out a knife and try to kill a woman right in front of me.”

    He said police stopped them shortly after on the highway as they were heading towards Barrie.

    Kiss said he and his girlfriend were coming from a CKY concert and had hung out with the metal band in their tour bus afterwards.

    He said he blew just above the legal limit.

    “I wasn’t intoxicated; I had a few beers within eight hours that was it,” Kiss told the Star in an earlier interview on Facebook.

    Kiss said he has had trouble sleeping, and that he has been crying constantly ever since the collision. He said he is now working with a mental health professional.

    His girlfriend said some people don’t understand Kiss’s decision.

    “There are a lot of people who are sending him messages saying that he was wrong and stuff,” Adams said. “But, I mean, who’s to say what they would have done, everyone would say ‘would have, could have’ until they’re in that position, right?”

    Adams expressed sympathy for Romero’s family.

    “I’m hurting for his family because they lost someone too,” she said. “I want the family of the man who know that nobody meant to kill him, never meant for his life to end.

    “I just hope that they know why it happened. And that they don’t just blame Anthony for attacking him for no reason or something.”

    A GoFundMe page was launched by a friend of Kiss last month with a goal of $30,000 to help fund Kiss’s legal and trauma counselling fees. So far it has raised $895.

    “Right now, he looks like a monster,” Adams said. “It sucks that he did something that has messed him up so bad for someone and then is taking such bad backlash for it.”

    “I want them to look at him as someone who risked his life to go to jail for a stranger.”

    0 0

    The per square foot price of Toronto area condos rose in the second quarter of this year as investor inquiries migrated to Montreal developments, according to a report from BuzzBuzzHome.

    The online real estate hub says investor inquiries for Ontario developments declined 72 per cent between the first and second quarter. In the same period, information requests from investors interested in Montreal properties increased 91 per cent.

    Greg White, vice-president of data for BuzzBuzzHome, said his company doesn't have precise information on how many of those inquiries are from outside Canada.

    The company, which tracks new home construction, attributes the shift in investor interest to Ontario's Fair Housing Plan, announced April 20. Aimed at cooling the province's hot housing markets, it includes a 15 per cent foreign buyers tax and expanded rent controls.

    About a third of Toronto's rental stock is in condos.

    "Whether this is a short-lived reaction to perceived policy effects or a long-lasting shift remains to be seen," says the report.

    In most parts of Montreal, the median per square foot price for condos increased about 5 per cent.

    In Toronto, the price per square foot rose in the second quarter in every part of the Toronto region except Durham, which remained steady at about $400 per sq. ft.

    That part of the region still has limited condo development, but that is changing, said White.

    "There are some projects that are happening in Durham, that may change the urban style along the lines of what you're seeing in York Region or Mississauga," he said.

    Because it reports on inquiries, BuzzBuzzHome gets a sense of buyer profiles before sales actually take place, said White.

    It saw a slight increase in the number of downsizers interested in Toronto area condos in the second quarter. That suggests some strength in the mid-market range of the category as those buyers are looking for something above the entry-level and below the higher end offerings.

    White speculated that empty nesters don't want to spend all their home equity on a condo.

    "Downsizers need to cash out and get a little bit more liquid because they've got their retired lives to pay for. They need to transition some of that equity to annuity types of investments," he said.

    Condo inventory was down 52 per cent in the second quarter in the Toronto region. More lower-priced units were sold in the first quarter, which has raised the median price per square foot of available condos, said White. Prices for high-end condos have not moved downwards, he added.

    Although it accounted for fewer than 2,000 units, Halton Region saw the sharpest price rise in the area — from about $500 per sq. ft. at the start of April to about $700 per sq. ft. by the end of June.

    In Toronto, which dominates the regional condo market, there were about 90,000 units available in the second quarter, when prices rose from about $625 per sq. ft. to about $750.

    The new home market in Calgary hasn't recovered from the oil price decline in 2014, in the same way as the re-sale market has, said BuzzBuzzHome.

    "Multi-family inventory in the pipeline increased 2.6 per cent quarter-over-quarter, suggesting possible oversupply problems," said the company's New Home Market Update for that city.

    Condo inventories were down quarter over quarter in Vancouver but inquiries increased in the second quarter mostly from investors, move-up buyers and downsizers, said BuzzBuzzHome.

    That could signal a healthy economy but it also creates challenges for younger, less affluent buyers, said the real estate hub.

    0 0

    MONTREAL — Just 49 voters in a rural Quebec municipality will cast ballots in a referendum Sunday to decide whether a parcel of land should be turned into a Muslim-run cemetery for people in the Quebec City area.

    The voters in Saint-Apollinaire, which is located about an hour southwest of the provincial capital, will decide whether to uphold or overturn zoning changes needed to turn a plot currently used to bury ashes contained in funeral urns into a cemetery that operates in accordance with the Islamic faith, according to town officials.

    But the results risk sending a strong message across Canada and outside the country’s borders, said resident Sylvain Roy.

    “My opinion is that the municipality risks being a symbol of social exclusion in all of Canada, in North America and perhaps further away than that,” said Roy, who is director of the Harmonia funeral home that is selling the land to the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec.

    The crucial zoning change is the result of a discussion that began in October 2016 when Roy met a Muslim family that had no local options for burying their loved one in accordance with their religious customs. The only Muslim-run cemetery in Quebec is 250 kilometres away in Laval, a suburb immediately north of Montreal.

    But the issue came to wider public notice this winter after a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque that killed six men and injured a number of others during Sunday evening prayers. One of the six victims was buried in Laval while the others were returned to the countries they were born in.

    The tragedy spurred members of the mosque to complete the transaction for the land in Saint-Apollinaire in February, reportedly worth $215,000. Mayor Bernard Ouellet and the municipal council followed through on May 1 with unanimous approval of the necessary zoning changes.

    But plans were already underway to challenge the changes with a referendum that allows neighbouring residents who might be affected by the project to have a vote on council’s decision. Seventeen signatures were enough to call the referendum. A simple majority of the 49 eligible voters will be enough to uphold council’s changes or overturn the zoning amendment.

    The leader of the group contesting the change, Sunny Létourneau, said they proposed the creation of a multi-confessional cemetery, a co-operative with the Muslim community and a privately run business with separate plot for Islamic burials.

    “They told us that it was contrary to their beliefs,” Létourneau said of the Muslim community. “But when we consulted other imams and other mosques, they said there is nothing in the Qur’an that prevents that.”

    One example is the recent opening last Sunday of a 500-plot section reserved for Muslims that is contained in a larger cemetery, located 30 kilometres from Quebec City.

    Mélijade Rodrigue, a spokesperson for the Lépine Cloutier/Athos Funeral Home, said the Muslim section in the company’s Saint-Augustin- de-Desmaures, Que., cemetery is the latest example of religious cohabitation, but there are others in the province.

    But the Centre Culturel Islamique du Québec wants the certainty and security that will be guaranteed by owning the land outright.

    “When you have land that you own, families have a plot for eternity,” Mohamed Kesri, the organization’s secretary, told The Canadian Press.

    Létourneau said she has other concerns if the project goes ahead, from the maintenance and care that the cemetery grounds will receive to the financial effects to the municipality from tax breaks granted to religious groups in Quebec.

    But her biggest problem is that cemeteries run by religious groups, be they Muslim, Catholic, Jewish or another denomination, keep people out.

    “It’s all religions that pose a problem,” she said, noting that her mother is Catholic but she was never baptized into the faith.

    “I have no religion and I refuse to submit to a religion. I respect peoples’ faiths but it means that I won’t even be able to be buried in the same cemetery as my parents ... It’s a problem that will only grow in our society.”

    No one will hazard a guess as to the outcome of Sunday’s referendum. Roy, the Harmonia funeral director, said there are about 10 people who are stridently in favour of maintaining the zoning change, 10 people stridently against it and roughly 29 people somewhere in the middle whose leaning will decide the outcome.

    Voting closes at 8 p.m. Sunday night. Results are expected to be announced a few minutes later.

    0 0

    Two Toronto officers caught mocking and laughing at a woman with Down syndrome on a dashcam video in November will appear at a tribunal to face Police Service Act charges, says a spokesperson.

    Consts. Sasa Sljivo and Matthew Saris were heard calling 29-year-old Francie Munoz a “little disfigured” as she was sitting in the back seat of her mother’s Jeep during a traffic stop.

    Her mother was being ticketed by the officers for an alleged traffic violation. The interaction on a dashcam video showed the officers calling Francie “different,” laughing again, before saying “Artistic. That’s gonna be my new code word for . . . different.”

    The two officers face a police tribunal hearing Aug. 15 to face charges under the Police Services Act, Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray said Friday.

    Gray said further details on the exact charges will be released when they appear in court.

    In a letter dated Friday and sent directly to the family, Sljivo and Saris apologized for their “inexcusable remarks” and took full responsibility.

    “We regret the emotional distress we caused to you, your family and the broader community. You have our assurance that our lapse in judgment will not be repeated,” the letter read.

    The Munoz family told the Star that the tribunal wasn’t enough, and they want a public apology from the officers.

    “They insulted a whole community,” Francie’s father, Carlos Munoz said Friday morning after he had been told by the head of the Toronto police union Mike McCormack that his daughter won’t be receiving a public apology.

    “The reason we are asking for a public apology is so people can judge by themselves whether the officers are truly remorseful for their actions or if they are just upset that they came off impolite.”

    McCormack told the Star in an email that repeated attempts were made to arrange an in-person meeting with Francie and her family.

    “Mr. Munoz made a demand that he would not meet with the officers unless there was a public shaming,” McCormack said.

    He added the officers “have accepted responsibility for their comments from the beginning and have always wished to make a personal and meaningful apology.”

    “They have taken a lot of justified criticism from the public and their peers and regret their comments,” McCormack wrote.

    0 0

    It often seems, when it comes to Toronto transit, that every silver lining comes surrounded by a dark cloud.

    So it is with news about the St. Clair streetcar route. Starting in September, the TTC will be rolling out its big, new, accessible, air-conditioned streetcars on the route, which is fine news. At the same time, it will discontinue the two-hour transfer that has been available on that route since the right-of-way was built, which is terrible news.

    In fact, the second half of that combination is the exact opposite of what the TTC should be doing. It ought to be expanding the two-hour-transfer rule across the entire system, especially as it goes to a fare system using the Presto card exclusively.

    A bit of background, for those who may be unfamiliar: for most — soon all — of the TTC network, people can pay one fare for an entire uninterrupted trip in one direction, even if they have to change vehicles along the way. If they do need to change vehicles, they use a paper transfer to show they’ve already paid. (Those using Presto cards have the same rules apply, though they don’t need a physical transfer; their card is supposed to keep track and not charge them when they tap on the next vehicle.)

    But riders cannot use their transfers (or Presto credit) for a return trip, and they cannot use it to hop off and then hop back on the same vehicle, either. Get off to grab a coffee and want to continue your trip? Pay another fare. Travelled two stops to the variety store, and now want to go back where you started? Pay another fare.

    On St. Clair, the TTC has been in the midst of a semi-permanent pilot project for the past dozen years where different rules apply: instead of covering a single trip in a single direction, a transfer is good for two hours of travel on the St. Clair line. If you live near St. Clair, you can go to the grocery store, do your shopping, and return home, all on the same fare. You can hop off, visit a newsstand, hop back on and then get off at the café, then get back on and go to the subway. Or whatever you like. One fare is good for two hours of travel.

    The time-based system is used in most other transit systems in the GTA and internationally, and is popular with riders. “The approach has been requested frequently by customers,” the TTC wrote in a report in 2014. With one notable exception, “all other aspects of a time-based transfer system would appear to be positive for both customers and employees,” the report further says. There’s a strong suggestion in there that this system would “undoubtedly increase the number of customer journeys.”

    Win, win, win, win, win. That’s what a time-based transfer system represents for riders, for obvious reasons. It’s simple and easy to understand. It allows flexibility to do a little shopping, or to make a quick return trip. It gives you the freedom to get off a crowded car for a break, or to catch the next one. It’s a luxury that is already one of the great perks of having a Metropass — stopping off to buy a litre of milk on the way home doesn’t suddenly double the cost of your commute. And there’s no conceivable reason to think it’s fair to think it should.

    System-wise, this would be a marginal perk for commuters, who typically put in eight or so hours of work between trips. But for those trying to use the TTC for neighbourhood errands, it would be game changing. Especially in places like the tower neighbourhoods along Lawrence Ave. in Scarborough, for example, where the local post office, grocery store, café, and butcher shop may be located in strip malls many kilometres apart. It would take hours to complete a few little errands on foot. And under the current transfer rules, it would cost a significant sum when you need to pay a new fare every time you stop. A two-hour transfer window would make life easier, and more affordable.

    And the thing is, the introduction of the Presto card makes it make even more sense. As a peer review appendix in that 2014 TTC report notes, the Presto system works more easily with a time-based system than with the existing convoluted one. At that time, three years ago, TTC executives were apparently expecting to go to a time-based system once Presto was implemented, and the peer review panel endorsed that expectation as a positive move.

    Instead, the TTC is currently trying to have Presto enforce its current system. The result is that my Twitter feed — admittedly not a scientific survey — is constantly full of people complaining they’ve been dinged for extra fares because the system didn’t recognize their legit transfers. Simplicity is a virtue in itself when it comes to customer service, and it’s hard to get much simpler than “one fare lasts two hours.” Simple for the card-reader machines to track and understand, too.

    So what’s the catch? What’s that one notable exception to the all-aspects-positive conclusion? Well, it would cost the system, the TTC estimates, about $20 million per year in lost revenue.

    That may sound like a lot of money. I don’t have it available. But in the context of the TTC and city budgets, it’s relative peanuts compared to the benefits to riders. A 10-cent fare hike brings in $27 million. A 1 per cent property tax increase brings in about $25 million.

    Things that improve the service cost some money, and they are worth it. Allowing kids to ride free — as the TTC started doing in 2015 — cost the system $8 million per year. But in the first-year of the policy, the number of kids riding transit doubled. That’s success!

    The purpose of the transit system is not to maximize revenue by unfairly dinging passengers who want to ride it. The purpose is to provide a great service to riders that is affordable and convenient and makes life easier. Sometimes, if they do it right, achieving that goal costs a little money.

    What did the TTC itself say about timed-transfer concept again? “Frequently requested by riders”! “Positive” in virtually every respect for “riders and operators”! “Undoubtedly” will increase ridership!

    Something like that, you’d think they’d want to expand it so everyone benefits. Instead, they’re ending it in the one place they saw how successful it could be.

    Edward Keenan writes on city issues . Follow: @thekeenanwire

    0 0

    It takes all of Tam-thanh Doan’s strength to haul herself up the 14 wooden stairs, to the second floor of her North York home.

    Each step is laboured and precise, a necessity for Doan, 74, who uses two prosthetic legs and has no fingers on her right hand and is missing parts of the fingers on her left.

    She is constantly afraid she will fall, or one day become too weak to make the twice-daily climb to her bedroom and the upstairs bathroom, the only one in the house. Staying in bed, she says, feels like she is in jail.

    Doan lives in a Toronto Community Housing Corp. townhouse she has called home for about 10 years. She is on a waitlist for an accessible unit, but public housing staff can’t predict when the type of home she needs will be available.

    A single mother, who came to Canada as a refugee from Vietnam, Doan has already faced enormous challenges but has held on to her positive outlook.

    In August 2016, a kidney stone led to septic shock and the loss of her fingers and lower legs. After months in the hospital and rehabilitation, she came home in January.

    From the base of the stairs it is two steps to the landing.

    She crosses her left arm across her body and wraps her hand around a wood-topped banister. It creaks and sways as she hauls herself up each step. “You see? Here,” she says, shaking the bottom portion.

    Going down, her left hand grasps the banister, she presses the stump of her right arm against the wall and leans back to keep her balance.

    The prosthetics are metal rods, capped with thick plastic and packed with padding to cushion the stumps below her knees. Each weighs just over two kilograms. Her “feet” are clad in white leather running shoes, with black trim.

    Doan has been on the list since November.

    “I have to wait, I know that. But I hope they don’t forget me,” she says, showing the Star her home in late June.

    Earlier that month she fell down the stairs and cut her head.

    People are processed in chronological order, says Brayden Akers, a spokesperson with the housing provider, via email.

    “This provides a fair and equitable process for all tenants in need of an accessible unit; to not place priority on one disability over another,” he says.

    Doan lives with her adult son and has asked for a two-bedroom unit and they have identified a list of potential buildings.

    Toronto Community Housing has 39 fully-modified units, 225 partially modified units and 10,000 with accessibility features, like a grab bar in the bathroom. There are 52 households on the TCHC accessible waitlist, says Akers.

    If partial or fully accessible units open up Doan will be asked if she wants to take a look. If a unit in the regular buildings on their list becomes available housing staff will see if it can be modified.

    On top of prioritizing higher needs tenants, the housing provider is struggling to deal with a massive repair backlog, in a city already facing an affordable housing shortage. The waitlist for affordable housing, which includes TCHC housing, in Toronto has topped 181,000 people.

    Akers says everything was done to make sure her current home is safe, that they worked with “support agencies to ensure home care supports and assistive devices were in place.”

    The Ontario Disability Support Program provided her elevated toilet seat, a wheelchair, a hospital bed, reaching devices and her prosthetic legs.

    Doan’s daughter Hilda, 26, says the housing accessibility co-ordinator has been very pleasant, but sorting out who is responsible for her all of her mother’s housing needs has been a confusing and, at times, opaque process.

    “The main issue right now is that going up and down the stairs is difficult, so now that it’s been a little over half a year we are hoping that in the time that we are waiting for a unit that they make this process as easy as possible for her,” she told the Star in late June.

    Her wheelchair fits in her kitchen and living room. She can still get outside to tend parts of her wide vegetable and flower garden, where she harvests the baby lettuce she eats every day.

    Early in July a railing was installed in the stairwell and a small, metal folding ramp was set up at her door. Toronto community housing paid for both. Doan still uses her walker to get outside because the wheelchair is bulky and hard to move.

    Doan came to Canada in the 1980s, part of a wave of refugees known as “boat people” who risked their lives to escape Vietnam by sea. Doan made several tries to leave and was jailed multiple times in harsh conditions, her daughter says.

    “It was very demeaning. You don’t get to shower, you don’t get fed properly you get to shower when it rains,” she says. Eventually she made it to an island off the coast of Malaysia and then spent months in a refugee camp and then on to Kuala Lumpur, before coming to Toronto.

    Her daughter says she lied about her age to get work, so her identification says she is 64. In Canada, Doan worked as a seamstress and ran her own textile and flooring business, where she also did installation. She also worked behind the scenes at the CN Tower and supported her children, who she had very late in life, on her own.

    “Life has been difficult for her and she had tried really hard. She has had success, she had her own business and it went under. It’s just that life didn’t work out for her and she is stuck,” says her daughter.

    Hilda flew her mother to Vancouver in 2016 so she could see more of Canada. It was during the trip that a kidney stone resulted in sepsis. The potentially lethal condition can impact circulation and led to the amputations and weeks of intensive care.

    She started a GoFundMe page and used most of the $17,500 raised to get her mother home and plans to buy lighter prosthetic legs.

    It was in October, when Doan was in rehabilitation in Toronto, that her children started asking about moving, or making changes to the townhouse.

    They inquired about stair-lifts, which can be installed in some units, but housing doesn’t cover the cost, maintenance or ongoing repair of assistive devices.

    After conversations between an accessibility co-ordinator and the family’s occupational therapist they applied for an accessible home.

    If needed, Doan could also live in a one-level apartment with an automatic door opener and roll-in-shower, they determined.

    Doan’s daughter says she asked early on if they could apply to every building to speed up the process and was told there was no way to expedite the move. She was then told the more buildings they picked the better, so they chose a list.

    Akers says they have encouraged Doan and her son to expand their choices to the entire housing portfolio from the outset, but Doan’s son told them they want to stick with their list.

    While she waits, Doan counts on practice and good health to get her up the stairs.

    In June, she lost her balance, tumbled to the landing and cut her head. She was alone and called 911 on her cellphone.

    Her upstairs bedroom is where she stores her documents and much of her medical supplies in a tall plastic container near her bed.

    Photos of her as a young woman, her children and four of her siblings are placed around the room. One sister lives in the United States. Doan would like to sponsor her niece in Vietnam, to help care for her, but doesn’t know how.

    She says she feels strong, but worries what could happen if she got sick.

    Her neighbours and friends check in on her, but everybody agrees she needs a new home. She is also looking forward to a quieter place.

    It was important to Doan to say that community housing works best when everybody takes care of and respects each other.

    Being positive is part of her nature and she refuses to give up.

    “No pain. No gain,” she says.

    0 0

    Thousands of Canadian girls are at risk of female genital mutilation, government officials believe. And some are being taken overseas to have the dangerous procedure done — an illegal act known as “vacation cutting.”

    Officials from the federal government’s Global Affairs Ministry warn that, as with forced marriage, the “one chance rule” applies to these cases, meaning a professional might get only one opportunity to speak to a potential victim and save her, according to documents obtained by the Star.

    And yet Canada has done little to understand the scope of the problem and is lagging far behind other developed countries in efforts to prevent it, experts say.

    “Based on the limited information available, it is possible that a few thousand Canadian girls are at risk, some of whom will be taken overseas for the procedure,” wrote Elaine Cukeric of the federal government’s Vulnerable Children’s Unit in a June 2015 email to a Canadian consular official in Nairobi, Kenya. At the time, the unit — tasked with dealing with issues related to Canadian children abroad — was reaching out to consulates in Africa, the Middle East, India and Pakistan where cutting is prevalent and asking for their experience dealing with the practice so that “we might develop an effective strategy.”

    In a statement to the Star, a Global Affairs spokesperson said the federal government “recognizes that female genital mutilation/cutting is one of the most severe violations of the human rights of women and girls” and when made aware of a case they provide “appropriate consular services.” The spokesperson could not say how many cases her ministry has dealt with in recent years because they “do not have a specific category to track cases of (FGM)” and, further, are “not aware of any updated statistics on the issue of Canadian girls at risk.”

    Read more:'I just remember screaming,' Toronto FGM survivor recalls the day she was cut

    Female genital mutilation (FGM) — also known as female genital cutting or female circumcision — is a procedure that intentionally alters or causes injury to external female organs. It can be inflicted on girls as young as 1 and varies in severity from partial removal of the clitoris, to excising the clitoris and labia and stitching up the walls of the vulva to leave only a tiny opening — known as infibulation.

    FGM has no health benefits for girls and women. It can cause severe bleeding, problems with urination and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths, according to the World Health Organization. It can also deny women sexual pleasure. FGM affects more than 200 million women worldwide, according to UNICEF. It is a crime in Canada, as is sending a child elsewhere to have the procedure done.

    What is unknown — beyond anecdotal evidence — is whether FGM is happening within Canadian borders. In the U.S., a doctor in Michigan was recently charged with carrying out the practice on up to 100 young girls, according to federal prosecutors, who say that no Canadian victims have been identified yet. There have also been cases in the U.K., France and Australia.

    Cukeric’s email correspondence, and dozens of additional emails sent by government employees over the past three years and released to the Star through an access to information request, reference multiple cases the government is aware of in which Canadian girls have undergone or are alleged to have undergone cutting abroad.

    Government officials reference summaries of specific cases they are aware of, which are housed in internal servers. Many of the cases arose because “a relative (aunt/cousin) was the complainant,” said a Nairobi official. A different consular official in Nairobi wrote that their office had seen “several cases, not all of them successful.” Other officials mention known cases in Somalia and Pakistan — where it is “understood they have a lot of experience dealing with” FGM cases.

    In one email chain from September 2015, officials reference a case in which a “little girl” was “alleged to be removed from Canada for the purposes of female circumcision.” (The child’s location in Canada and the country she was allegedly taken to have both been redacted to protect her privacy.)

    Local police and children’s services “were unable to prevent the girl from leaving,” said one email.

    FGM is practised in 29 countries, mainly in Africa, the Middle East, India and other parts of Asia. It is seen by some as a rite of passage into womanhood or a condition of marriage. Though it is not considered an Islamic practice — it predates the religion — for some, it is a religious ritual or requirement and there is tremendous societal pressure placed on families to have it done.

    In another document from June 2015 summarizing an hour-long phone call with a senior consular officer in Nairobi, the official describes the “very delicate cases” and focuses on Somalia as an example.

    The official explains that many Somali families relocated to Canada during the civil war in the 1990s, and some grew “concerned about the development of Canadian values.” In one example, a family might tell their children they are going on vacation to Australia, but instead, according to the documents, they travel to a small, remote village in Somalia for the girls to be cut. The official adds that the Canadian government has found out about these cases because “having grown up in Canada, the girls know their rights” and use social media to tell a friend, who in turn contacts Canadian authorities.

    The consular official then listed a series of challenges associated with intervening, including the “right of the father to prohibit movement” and the fact that locally engaged staff overseas “may be less concerned with FGM and therefore less likely to act.”

    It is also very difficult for victims of FGM to speak out against their families, the official said, adding that telling the embassy their story means they might never see their parents or siblings again. “It becomes the most difficult decision of their young lives,” she said.

    In another summary of a discussion about FGM with a Toronto-based expert whose identity has been censored, the expert tells the Vulnerable Children’s Unit that Global Affairs had previously received accounts of “some girls who have been severely beaten and/or sexually abused by family members prior to (FGM), sometimes due to the girl’s attempt to contact authorities for assistance.”

    At the same time, officials acknowledge they likely aren’t seeing the majority of cases.

    “I think (FGM) is highly under-reported at the consular level, as most victims are young … and often not in a position to help themselves,” said yet another consular official in Nairobi in an email sent in March of this year. She added that for older girls, “it is often done in conjunction with a forced marriage, so the two issues are closely linked and might be reported as (forced marriage) instead of (FGM).”

    In 1997, the Criminal Code was amended to include female genital mutilation as a form of aggravated assault. It’s not just the person performing the mutilation who could face justice. Provisions in the code also allow for others to be charged, for example, if a parent actively participates in the offence by holding a child’s hands or requests that someone perform it. And the amendments make it illegal to remove a child from Canada for the purpose of female genital mutilation.

    There has never been a criminal conviction for female genital mutilation in Canada.

    In its statement to the Star, Global Affairs say efforts to prevent FGM “remain collaborative,” and it also sent statements on behalf of the RCMP; the Department of Justice; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada; and Status of Women Canada. They reference various steps taken by government agencies. For example, the RCMP is currently in the midst of developing an internal policy to deal with FGM. The Justice Department has given nearly $350,000 in funding to an organization in Quebec, RAFIQ, to develop “tools on the physical and psychological consequences of FGM.”

    “The purpose of this project is to try to empower other women to denounce this kind of practice and to help young women to understand why it is not a good practice,” said Maria Montejo, chair of the board of RAFIQ.

    The statement from Global Affairs also says that, “going forward, we will do more work with local women’s organizations.”

    While there is some progress being made, Canada’s efforts fall short of what other countries are actively doing, said Corinne Packer, a senior researcher at the University of Ottawa’s school of public health. Packer co-authored a 2015 report on Canada’s response to FGM for the Canadian Medical Association Journal and reviewed the government responses provided to the Star.

    “We’re behind the ball. We’re putting our head in the ground like an ostrich,” she said, adding that by the time a girl is overseas, it’s often too late. More work needs to done on prevention in Canada, Packer said.

    Earlier this summer, U.S. Homeland Security launched a pilot program to help prevent vacation cutting. The program is based on an initiative at London’s Heathrow airport, where security agents are trained to identify girls who are risk.

    Canada’s Justice Department, in a 2014 internal memo also obtained by the Star through an access to information request, acknowledges that the U.K. has “recently initiated a more proactive approach to FGM with a view to increased prosecutions.”

    Kowser Omer-Hashi, a former Somali refugee now living in Toronto, was subjected to FGM. She is a former midwife who has been campaigning against the practice for more than two decades.

    “We have a prime minister who declared himself a feminist and has a daughter the same age as children who could be losing their lives at this moment,” Omer-Hashi said. “If that doesn’t touch his heart to do something about FGM, I think there is no hope.”

    In the internal emails obtained by the Star, government officials speaking amongst themselves suggest, and at times admit, that the Canadian response has not been adequate.

    In the 2015 email chain discussing the case in which the “little girl” was alleged to have been removed from Canada for the purpose of FGM and neither local police nor children’s services believed they were able to intervene, one official from Global Affairs asks for an update on how the case unfolded.

    “I believe we never heard back from local partners (CAS and others),” said one response.

    But in the same chain, another official said that at a recent meeting about FGM, the Department of Justice and the RCMP said local authorities “had jurisdiction to do more to prevent removal” under Canada’s laws.

    In yet another email in the chain, which is largely censored, Sean Blane, deputy director of the Consular Operations Bureau, said: “I think this speaks to our need for policy of process.”

    Blane said at another point in the thread, “I honestly think if we’re going to do any work on FGM it could be on prevention while in Canada.”

    With files from Michele Henry

    Jayme Poisson can be reached at or 416-814-2725.

older | 1 | .... | 957 | 958 | (Page 959) | 960 | 961 | .... | 1035 | newer