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- 07/22/17--04:00: _Charges stayed agai...
- 07/22/17--07:37: _Trump to help commi...
- 07/22/17--08:29: _Branden Grace sets ...
- 07/22/17--07:16: _How Toronto's chief...
- 07/22/17--12:46: _Police ID body of w...
- 07/23/17--11:41: _One man dead, anoth...
- 07/23/17--09:56: _New mental health w...
- 07/22/17--15:31: _Serial killer Eliza...
- 07/22/17--17:07: _Princes William and...
- 07/23/17--11:03: _New citizenship stu...
- 07/22/17--14:42: _Four Toronto builde...
- 07/23/17--06:49: _10 die in immigrant...
- 07/23/17--11:03: _Spieth wins British...
- 07/23/17--03:00: _Cautious glimmer of...
- 07/23/17--10:58: _Team Sky rider Chri...
- 07/23/17--12:04: _Sears Canada faces ...
- 07/23/17--05:36: _Police appeal for w...
- 07/23/17--14:00: _Companies take on m...
- 07/24/17--03:00: _U.K. hospital insuf...
- 07/24/17--03:00: _Get ready — Toronto...
- 07/22/17--07:37: Trump to help commission USS Gerald R. Ford, a $12.9 billion warship
- 07/22/17--08:29: Branden Grace sets major championship record with 62 at British Open
- 07/22/17--07:16: How Toronto's chief medical officer became the people’s doctor
- 07/22/17--12:46: Police ID body of woman found near Brampton creek
- 07/23/17--11:41: One man dead, another arrested in single-car rollover in Oshawa
- 07/23/17--09:56: New mental health workers being sent to Pikangikum First Nation
- 07/23/17--06:49: 10 die in immigrant-smuggling attempt in sweltering truck in Texas
- 07/23/17--11:03: Spieth wins British Open in dramatic finish
- 07/23/17--10:58: Team Sky rider Chris Froome wins 4th Tour de France title
- 07/23/17--14:00: Companies take on menstruation with new kind of sportswear
- Carded by police – in case there’s some future, maybe, possible, potential indiscretion.
- Racially-profiled – cause, y’know, they are up to no good. Right?
- Disengaged and discouraged in the halls of learning.
- Overlooked in the workplace, their credentials undervalued and competencies discounted.
- Under-paid, over-worked, over-incarcerated, victims of higher unemployment, poorer health and more likely to be victims of violence.
- Invisible everywhere except in the bulging tenancy of the prison complex where membership costs as little as smoking a joint, the kind of indiscretion that earns white citizens a shrug of the shoulder, not the long arm of the law.
When Philip Alafe entered the Brantford police station at 6:50 p.m. on July 3, 2015, after being arrested, he told the booking officer he had mental health issues — depression and anxiety — as well as sickle cell anemia, a disease that leaves him in excruciating pain without his medications.
He said he was not suicidal; the booking officer described him to the court as sober and passive.
But after Staff Sgt. Cheney Venn took away Alafe’s blanket, mattress and, following a violent struggle, his thin, police-issued white jumpsuit, leaving him cold, naked and in pain for three hours, he tied his socks together in an attempt to fashion a noose.
“They were just treating me worse than an animal,” said Alafe, 27, in a recent interview. “I got stripped of everything . . . I just didn’t want to live anymore . . . I thought I was going to be in that situation forever.”
He finally got his jumpsuit back, four and a half hours after it was taken away.
After seeing the surveillance videos of Alafe’s holding cell, which were made court exhibits and documented the “cruel and unusual treatment,” Ontario Court Justice Ken Lenz found Alafe’s rights under sections 7 and 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been violated. The judge stayed the charges Alafe faced: dangerous driving and assault with a weapon for allegedly driving his vehicle at others.
Lenz’s scathing ruling issued in April condemned the behaviour of Venn, whom the judge found repeatedly violated police policies on the treatment of people in custody and people with mental health concerns.
Lenz described Alafe’s treatment as “egregious” and “clearly degrading to human dignity.”
“There was in this case nothing the defendant could do to stop his mistreatment even when he did behave as requested for extensive periods of time,” the judge said.
Venn, a police officer for 23 years, testified that removing blankets, mattresses and clothing was considered common practice in similar situations.
But, Lenz noted, Brantford police policy states that a blanket should not be provided only if there is a history of suicidal tendencies, the prisoner is exhibiting destructive behaviour and, in the opinion of the officer in charge, to provide a blanket may be harmful to the prisoner, any person, or the facility.
The policy says nothing about removing mattresses, and states that clothing may only be removed if the prisoner is suicidal, Lenz said in his ruling.
Venn admitted during cross-examination by Alafe’s lawyer Josh Tuttle that he was not concerned Alafe would self-harm until the sock incident, which came three hours after Alafe had been left naked in the cell, Lenz said.
“Frankly, looking at it on an overall basis, Officer Venn was bullying someone in his control because he could,” Lenz said. “This looks more like punishment than an attempt to elicit good behaviour.”
Without the cell videos, Lenz said, he would likely have simply believed the officer’s testimony.
“That it’s a difficult job is no excuse for the type of behaviour that took place that night,” Lenz said. “The defendant said he felt he was treated like an animal, and he was, and that he no longer trusts the police, a perception I’m beginning to share.”
Brantford chief of police Geoffrey Nelson has ordered an investigation into potential professional misconduct. That investigation remains ongoing, according to a media release sent in response to questions from the Star.
“Accordingly, no further comment will be made at this time,” the release said. Venn did not respond to direct requests for comment. He remains on regular duties.
A review of Brantford Police Service policy and training practices related to prisoner care and handling is also being undertaken, according to the release, with the findings to be presented to the Police Services Board.
When the Star sought access to the video exhibits at the heart of the court ruling, a lawyer for the Brantford Police Service argued that the faces of all police officers in the booking and cell videos should be obscured, citing concerns about the reputation of the officers and the ongoing internal investigation.
Lenz ordered the Star to obscure the faces of only the officers in the booking video since their conduct was not at issue in the case. However, the public is entitled to see for themselves the behaviour of the officers in the cell videos, he said.
Alafe was arrested in Mississauga on the afternoon of July 3, 2015, on an outstanding warrant, and transported by OPP officers to the Brantford police station. He arrived at 6:50 p.m. His urine-soaked pants and underwear had been removed.
Alafe was given medication for his sickle cell anemia and put in a holding cell at 7:23 p.m., the videos show. He remained well-behaved until about 11 p.m., when he started trying to attract the attention of an officer to get more medication or medical attention. Venn testified officers cannot hear any audio from the room where the cell surveillance videos are monitored.
Venn’s shift started at 10:30 p.m., and his first interaction with Alafe was at 11:21 p.m., when Venn aggressively yelled at Alafe and told him to stop throwing wet toilet paper at the camera.
“Your toilet paper will go, your mattress will go and so will your blanket. It’ll be a very frigging cold night,” he said.
Alafe continued being what the judge said was “a pain in the neck” by throwing wet toilet paper in his cell, but was not harming anyone. Venn returned to the cell and took away Alafe’s mattress and blanket. He gave Alafe one of his pills (Alafe had asked for more, as his prescription allows for two or three as needed) and told him he’d get his things back if he behaved.
Venn came back to the cell twice more in the next three hours, warning Alafe not to tie his jumpsuit to the bars of the cell and taking his T-shirt away when he tied it to the bars.
Venn testified he was concerned about clothing being on the bars concealing Alafe in case he wanted to self-harm and said Alafe was warned several times not to put anything on the bars.
At 3:01 a.m., there was a struggle that was “terrible to watch,” Lenz said in his ruling, as Venn forcefully took the jumpsuit away from Alafe using three punches. Alafe was left naked in the cell apart from his socks.
“I just didn’t feel that he was going to be compliant with my requests,” Venn testified in response to a question about why he did not return the blanket, mattress or jumpsuit when Alafe was behaving. “He hadn’t been all night and I didn’t see at that time where anything was going to change.”
Lenz found there were several times when Alafe was behaving and Venn could have returned the items, but he chose not to.
He also criticized Venn for deciding Alafe did not need medical attention without making any inquiries, or even Googling “sickle cell anemia.”
Venn told the court he thought “Mr. Alafe was attempting to get out of the cells in order to go to a more comfortable setting, that being a hospital or mental health (ward).”
In response to questions from Lenz, Venn testified that he knew Alafe had mental health issues as noted on the booking form, but never tried to find out what exactly that meant.
He also told the court that he never found out anything about sickle cell anemia, its symptoms and what could happen if medication was not taken.
A letter filed with the court by Alafe’s doctor said the disease causes abnormal red blood cells, which frequently block circulation to bones and joints, leading to tissue death, significant inflammation, severe pain and possibly permanent organ damage. These episodes are made worse by cold, dehydration and stress.
Alafe’s condition affects his hip joint in particular, his doctor wrote. He is on a regimen of strong painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants.
“Without these medications, even for a short period of time, his pain becomes unbearable,” the doctor wrote.
Lenz found it bizarre that Venn chose not to use his crisis intervention, which emphasizes dialogue and de-escalation. “If anything there was escalation and there was little or no type of reasonable dialogue as between the defendant and the officer,” Lenz said.
Venn’s interactions with Alafe were in stark contrast to the officers on the next shift, who came to take Alafe for fingerprinting at 7:30 a.m.
“It’s mutual respect,” one officer said in a calm voice, giving Alafe a jumpsuit and promising he would get his mattress back. “I’m not going to disrespect you and I don’t want you to disrespect me either.”
Once Alafe’s mattress and blanket were returned, he went to sleep.
Lenz noted in his ruling that Alafe has no criminal record and no history of anti-social behaviour.
In an interview, Alafe said he continues to deal with issues stemming from that night, which he calls the worst of his life.
He admits his misbehaving and attempts to provoke the officers into coming to his cell were “not the most mature,” but says he was tired, cold, hungry and just trying to get their attention so he could ask for his medication and blanket.
“They say you are innocent until proven guilty, but they had already convicted me and sentenced me for the rest of my life,” he said.
Alafe is from Nigeria and arrived in Canada in 2010 after his father died. He is currently applying for refugee status.
“I believe if I didn’t have the videos, no one would have believed me,” he said.
“People don’t believe it happens . . . especially in Canada.”
WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump will help commission the USS Gerald R. Ford, a $12.9 billion warship that after delays and cost overruns will officially be turned over to the Navy.
Trump, who is commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces, was travelling to Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia on Saturday to preside over a ceremony during which the USS Ford, the first member of the next generation of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, will be welcomed to the fleet with the words: “Man our ship and bring her to life.”
Trump, who visited the carrier in March to promote his plans for a military buildup, told Time magazine this year that the Navy should revert to using steam catapults to launch fighter jets because some of the state-of-the-art systems and technology aboard the USS Ford “costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it’s no good.”
Construction on the USS Ford started in 2009 and was to be completed by September 2015 at a cost of $10.5 billion. The Navy has attributed the delays and budget overruns to the ship’s state-of-the-art systems and technology, including electromagnetic launch systems for jets and drones that will replace steam catapults.
The warship also has a smaller island that sits farther back on the ship to make it easier and quicker to refuel, re-arm and relaunch planes, and a nuclear power plant designed to allow cruising speeds of more than 30 knots and operation for 20 years without refuelling .
The vessel completed sea trials in April but still will go through a battery of tests and workups at sea before becoming operational and ready for deployment, work that is expected to cost nearly $780 million and take more than four years to complete, congressional auditors said in a report this month.
The USS Ford is named after the country’s 38th president, who rose to the rank of lieutenant commander in the Navy during World War II. After military service, Ford was elected to the House of Representatives, serving Michigan until he was tapped by President Richard M. Nixon to become vice-president.
Ford became president after Nixon resigned during the Watergate scandal. His daughter, Susan Ford Bales, christened the vessel in 2013.
Docked at Naval Station Norfolk, the USS Ford eventually will house about 2,600 sailors, 600 fewer than the previous generation of aircraft carriers. The Navy says that will save more than $4 billion over the ship’s 50-year lifespan.
The air wing to support the Ford could add more personnel to the ship, which is designed to house more than 4,600 crew members.
Trump travelled to the carrier in March to promote his plans to boost spending on the military. He had pledged repeatedly during the presidential campaign to rebuild what he said was the nation’s “depleted” military. Lawmakers are working on a budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.
The president’s return visit Saturday was falling during what the White House has coined as “Made in America” week, during which Trump and other administration officials highlighted a wide assortment of products — ranging from trucks and helicopters to baseball bats and glass bottles for pharmaceuticals — that are manufactured in the United States.
“This is American craftsmanship at its biggest, at its best, at its finest,” Trump said aboard the carrier earlier this year. “American workers are the greatest anywhere in the world. This warship, and all who serve on it, should be a source of shared pride for our nation.”
The Ford was built at Newport News Shipbuilding, the giant Navy contractor in Virginia. Trump tweeted before departing Saturday for the ceremony that the Ford is the largest aircraft carrier in the world.
SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND—Branden Grace set the new standard for scoring in the majors Saturday with a 62 in the British Open, the lowest score ever recorded in 442 major championships.
Grace pounced on a serene day that was ideal for scoring at Royal Birkdale. He moved to 8-under par for the round with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 17th, and then wrapped up the record with a beautiful lag from behind the 18th green to 2 feet.
From the time Johnny Miller shot his famous 63 in the final round at Oakmont to win the 1973 U.S. Open, a 63 was posted in the majors 30 more times, most recently by Justin Thomas in the U.S. Open last month at Erin Hills.
No one ever got lower until Grace.
“Look at that number! That is sweet,” Miller said from the broadcast booth at Royal Birkdale.
Grace went out in 29 and seemed to stall until a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-3 14th put him at 7 under with two par 5s ahead of him. He missed an opportunity on the 15th hole, but drilled his tee shot on the 17th and easily hit the green for his two-putt birdie.
“A special day,” Grace said.
With his name in the record book, still to be determined was whether he had a chance to add his name to the claret jug. Grace, who made the cut by one shot, finished at 4-under 206. He was two shots behind Jordan Spieth, who was on the range still warming up.
And there were plenty of low scores offered on this day at Royal Birkdale.
Grace was oblivious to all of it, falling into a steady diet of fairways and greens, and making enough putts.
“I had no idea whatsoever that was the lowest,” Grace said. “I was so in the zone, playing so well. I was just trying to finish the round without a bogey. Sometimes it helps not knowing these things.”
And it helped playing with Jason Dufner and his dry sense of humour. Dufner shot a 66.
“It’s kind of neat to be a part of history,” Dufner said. “It’s a great experience for him. It was semi-cool for me.”
Dufner was among those who had a chance to first break the 63 barrier. He had a 10-foot birdie putt for 62 in the second round of the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill that he left short.
Grace’s record score came one year after Phil Mickelson almost became the first to shoot 62 until his birdie putt on the 18th at Royal Troon in the first round swirled around the edge of the cup.
Tiger Woods had a vicious lip-out in his bid for 62 in the second round of the 2007 PGA Championship at Southern Hills. And then there was Jack Nicklaus in the first round of Baltusrol for the 1980 U.S. Open. He missed a 3-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole and had to settle for a 63.
Grace’s record score came 44 years after Miller was the first to shoot 63 in a major. Miller’s record was 33 years after Lloyd Mangrum was the first to shoot 64 in a major, at the 1940 Masters.
When Dr. Eileen de Villa was a medical student doing hospital rotations in the late 1990s, she came face to face with the horrors afflicting Toronto’s most vulnerable people.
Like the homeless man with diabetic vascular disease whose blood flow was so poor that maggots were feeding off the decaying tissue in his feet. Or the mentally ill woman who seemed to be doing better after a lengthy hospitalization only to commit suicide a couple weeks after being discharged.
De Villa’s eyes well up at the memories.
“(I saw) very complex medical situations that were clearly aggravated by social circumstances, income challenges, housing challenges, access to services challenges,” she says.
“That was very formative for me.”
Decades later, de Villa now has a vastly expanded role: As the city’s new medical officer of health, she is responsible for the well-being of 2.8 million Torontonians.
The 48-year-old oversees a department of 1,800 and an operating budget of $245 million — money used for a wide array of services, including combating West Nile virus and Lyme disease, ensuring food safety in restaurants, enforcing smoking regulations and preparing for a potential flu pandemic.
“She knows Toronto backwards and forwards, knows and understands the city’s diversity, knows and understands the social inequality issues,” says Coun. Joe Mihevc, who chairs Toronto’s board of health and led the search to replace the retired Dr. David McKeown. “What really impressed the selection committee is her focus on a science-based approach to public health.”
De Villa took over Canada’s largest municipal public health unit in late March. The job has the married mother of three young boys juggling responsibilities.
But she hasn’t forgotten the lessons learned as a University of Toronto med student: that an individual’s health can be determined by their social circumstances.
It is a notion that echoes the values imbued in her as a child.
Although de Villa had a privileged upbringing, her parents — Toronto cardiologist Dr. Maria Antonina “Nenette” de Villa, and her late father, Dr. Guillermo “Jun” de Villa, an obstetrician/gynecologist — drilled into her and brother Joey the importance of helping the less fortunate.
“I was raised in a household where the general teaching was, ‘You’ve been a very fortunate person; you’ve been afforded a great opportunity.’ And the expectation is to give back,” de Villa says during an interview at Toronto Public Health headquarters near Yonge and Dundas Sts.
Her childhood was filled with lively dinner table discussions about political tumult in the Philippines, the birthplace of her parents and older brother. Although de Villa was born in Boston — her parents had travelled to the U.S. for their medical residencies — the family returned to the Philippines in 1972. Her father had a large extended family there and wanted his kids to think of the country as home. That plan didn’t last long, however. In 1975, with the Philippines under martial law and the iron-fist rule of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the de Villas fled to Canada.
In Toronto, the de Villas became prominent members of the Filipino community. De Villa’s father joined a local anti-Marcos group in 1983 following the assassination of opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr. “These issues in the Philippines were front and centre in the minds of people here,” de Villa recalls.
By the early 1990s, de Villa’s mind was on her own career. She had completed a bachelor of science at McGill University, but the next step weighed heavily on her.
“Like many other young people, I thought, do I want to do exactly what my parents did (medicine)? Maybe not. There’s always a bit of forming your own identity, thinking that you don’t want to be constrained necessarily by your family’s history.”
A family friend mentioned that the United Nations offered internships. De Villa applied and got one in Vienna with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, which supports developing countries. Through this experience, she became interested in international health, or “community health” as it was termed at the time.
She then decided to purse a master’s degree in health science at U of T, specializing in health promotion. One of the requirements was securing work placements. She landed several more UN internships, including one with the secretariat for the International Conference on Population and Development.
“So I ended up with this wonderful blend of medical, health care and health system-related (knowledge) along with political and public policy aspects — which at the end of the day is public health,” says de Villa.
Embracing the idea of a medicine career, she entered U of T’s medical school. She graduated in 1998 and made one diversion — obtaining her MBA at the Schulich School of Business at York University — before beginning her residency, specializing in public health and preventive medicine.
One rotation landed her in the downtown head office of Toronto Public Health. That’s where de Villa first met the woman who would become a role model: Dr. Sheela Basrur, Toronto’s medical officer of health at the time.
De Villa witnessed Basrur’s leadership during both the garbage strike in the summer of 2002 and the SARS crisis in the spring/summer of 2003.
During the labour dispute, Basrur and her staff ordered cleanups when illegal dumping in public parks prompted concerns about rat infestations. During the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak — which killed 44 people in Canada and forced the quarantine of 25,000 Torontonians — Basrur became known for her highly visible leadership, her steady decision making and her calm, reassuring messaging.
“She talked openly with us (the public health team) about striking the right balance between making sure you’ve got public confidence and trust, while staying true to the evidence and the science.”
Basrur, who died in 2008 of a rare form of cancer, was a “master” at finding that balance, says de Villa.
In 2004, her residency completed, de Villa was appointed one of Peel Region’s associate medical officers of health. Her file included medical consultation, vaccination and prevention and control of communicable diseases such as TB, STDs and blood-borne infections. She was also responsible for helping to oversee the region’s air quality, and food and water safety.
Dr. Megan Ward, who began as an associate medical officer of health for Peel around the same time as de Villa and still holds the position, says de Villa helped to steer the department’s budget process and guide contract negotiations with public health nurses.
In her 10 years on the job, de Villa maintained an “extremely respectful” manner, especially in dealing with her staff, regardless of the individual’s role in the organization, says Ward.
“She’s extremely courteous to people. That comes out in terms of careful listening to what people are saying, (and) their perspective. She asks lots of questions, which demonstrates that she really wants to understand.”
Once, when de Villa had a heavy schedule of off-site meetings and was feeling detached from her staff, she got an espresso maker, put it on a push cart and visited different floors of Peel Region’s public health headquarters talking to staff and delivering coffee. “It was very friendly,” Ward recalls. “There was no agenda.”
It is a kindness she inherited from her father, Guillermo, who was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal for his contributions to public life.When he died in 2006 at age 67, those gathered at his funeral heard that Guillermo never wanted his family wealth to stand out. Although his family could afford to buy him proper shoes for school, he refused to wear them, “not wanting to appear snobbish or spoiled,” his son Joey said at the service, according to local Filipino newspaper Filipiniana.
In her eulogy, de Villa said: “I can see how Dad’s love has been woven into many lives and returned many times over. If we take that love and do with it as he did, lending an ear, a hand or a shoulder to those who need it … and working together for the betterment of our community, then he will live on …”
And so his spirit lives on, not only in de Villa’s professional life, but her personal one as well. She has volunteered for a number of organizations including the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Carolyn Hammond, a close friend of de Villa’s for 10 years, describes her as calm, level-headed and approachable.
As an example, Hammond, a wine columnist for the Star, recalls the time she and de Villa were downtown chatting over cheesecake and latte. A stranger sitting beside de Villa said hello to her in French, not knowing if she could speak the language. She can, and the two launched into a conversation in which the man explained he was a visitor from the Ivory Coast.
De Villa “just has this incredible openness to everyone,” says Hammond. “A lot of people would be nervous about talking to a stranger and wouldn’t engage. But that’s the way she is.
“It’s moments like this that are always so refreshing to see in a person, and wonderful to see in a friend.”
De Villa’s openness extends to those in her west-end neighbourhood, including an elderly couple who live next door with their 60-year-old son, who is blind and mentally challenged.
For many years, the couple was a huge support to de Villa, her husband and sons.
“They were superb gardeners. They were my regular supply of the best lettuce, beans and tomatoes. They always took care of us … (then) time marched on and the roles needed to reverse. I’m now better able to provide them with support and assistance, and I do,’’ de Villa explains, adding others in the neighbourhood pitch in as well.
“They’re an extended branch of my family,” de Villa says.
A major part of her relationship with the family is going for walks with the son. He is a sports fan and has a collection of jerseys and caps that he likes to air out once a year. “We take them out, hang them on the line.... We sit and chat. That makes him happy and makes me happy.”
The couple’s older son, who doesn’t live at home and asked that the family not be identified, said his dad is 93 and his 89-year-old mom has mobility issues. The plan is to have his parents and younger brother stay in their home as long as possible, and the support from de Villa is helping make that happen.
“It’s a really warm relationship,” he says.
It’s an example of the “engaged citizen” de Villa aims to be.
As medical officer of health, “[I have] the great fortune of being able to work professionally in an area that actually is about city building and community building,” she says.
“To me, that is not a responsibility that stops when the work day is done.”
De Villa’s priorities
Toronto’s medical officer of health is one of the city’s top-paying civil service jobs.
De Villa, who made $290,104 in 2016 as Peel Region’s medical officer of health, according to the Sunshine List, took over the Toronto position in March after Dr. David McKeown retired last summer. McKeown’s salary in 2015 was $296,221.
But with the big salary comes big responsibilities. De Villa’s health priorities for the city include:
The opioid crisis
At the start of the year, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Toronto’s acting medical officer of health, said the opioid crisis “is having a devastating impact ... on our community.” Around the same time, Mayor John Tory identified reducing the number of overdoses as a vital public health issue. Opioids, alone or combined with other drugs, were blamed for 135 or 66 per cent of all accidental deaths in 2015 in Toronto, according to a Toronto public health report. To combat the problem, several agencies, including public health and the police, are working together this year. And Toronto is getting three medically supervised drug injection sites.
De Villa and Toronto’s board of health recently called on Ottawa to immediately decriminalize recreational pot possession until legislation to legalize and regulate cannabis comes into force in July 2018. Otherwise, young people arrested and convicted of possessing pot in the interim could be burdened with a criminal record that could impact their future job prospects, housing and economic status — and therefore their health.
Diabetes and heart disease
Referring to a 2014 report by medical officers of health in the GTA and Hamilton, de Villa notes there are 57,000 new cases of diabetes each year in the GTA and 7,000 new cases of heart disease. Together, treating these conditions costs about $1.4 billion per year, yet about a quarter of the cases could have been prevented through increased physical activity, she says. In a YouTube video, de Villa says physical activity has been “engineered out” of urban living. A lover of racquet sports and cycling, de Villa says many of us need to walk more and use more public transit and that workplaces need to encourage employees to be more active.
A body found near a creek in Brampton on Friday has been identified as a 28-year-old woman who went missing a few days before her body was discovered.
Peel regional police “positively confirmed” the identity of the woman as Kara Clark of Brampton. She was found by a passerby around 2:30 p.m. on Friday on the west side of the intersection of Castlemore Rd. and Humberwest Pkwy.
Police said Clark went missing on July 18 after she was last seen leaving a residence in the area around 1 a.m.
Const. Mark Fischer said her death is considered suspicious and the homicide bureau and missing persons bureau are involved in the investigation.
Fischer said an autopsy was to be performed Saturday to determine her cause of death.
“When the results come in and when the pathologists complete his or her investigation, we can better determine if it was a homicide.”
Castlemore Rd. was closed between Airport Rd. and Humberwest Pkwy. for the investigation but it reopened Saturday morning.
One man is dead and another has been arrested after a single-car rollover in Oshawa this morning.
Just after 3 a.m., a car that was travelling down Rossland Rd. at high speed lost control and flipped, rolling several times and striking a tree before finally coming to a stop, police say.
Of the four occupants, one man in his 40s was pronounced dead at the scene and a woman was transported to hospital with non life-threatening injuries.
The crash happened in a residential area, between Park Rd. and Gibbons St.
One man, a passenger in the car, fled the scene for unknown reasons. Considering the severity of the crash, police are concerned he may also have injuries.
The driver, who was uninjured, remained on the scene and was charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle resulting in death.
Police are still investigating, but say that more charges could be laid as they look into whether alcohol or drug impairment was a factor.
OTTAWA—Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins is announcing funding for 20 full-time mental health workers for Pikangikum First Nation— a remote community struggling with a suicide crisis and pressing mental health needs from about 380 people seeking counselling.
The mental health workers will be going to the reserve, located near the Ontario and Manitoba border, immediately at a cost of about $1.6 million dollars, Hoskins said.
“This can’t be an issue of jurisdiction,” Hoskins said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“We heard directly from the chief ... as well as others that the situation on the ground in Pikangikum, just how grave it is and the need for trauma counselling as well as broader mental health supports for children and youth at risk.”
There are eight mental health workers on the ground at the moment jointly funded by the province and the federal government, he said.
Pikangikum has had a long-standing battle with suicide; at least four young people have taken their lives in the remote community recently.
Ontario is also announcing what it calls a new Indigenous youth and community wellness secretariat designed to co-ordinate and speed up government efforts while it also works with Indigenous partners and Ottawa, Hoskins said.
“It will become, essentially, a one-stop shop for ... our Indigenous partners if a response is required or if there is a circumstance that requires an urgent response,” he said.
“We expect next week it will start ... It will be a full-time secretariat to almost fast-track key files whether it is in health or education.”
Hoskins’ announcements come as he prepares to meet Monday in Ottawa with federal Health Minister Jane Philpott and Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler — the head of an umbrella organization representing 49 communities in northern Ontario.
The group is expected to sign a charter of principles aiming to transform the health care system for First Nations.
Philpott and Hoskins have both agreed profound change will be required to end the suicide crisis — although Indigenous health experts want to see concrete commitments out of Monday’s meeting, including more control at the level of First Nations.
Dr. Michael Kirlew, a physician based in Sioux Lookout, Ont., believes the Indigenous youth suicide crisis in northern Ontario and elsewhere will not be addressed unless there is a fundamental rethink of the way care is delivered on reserves.
“The health-care system ... First Nations people receive is not equal,” he said, noting Canada has grown accustomed to witnessing this injustice.
“It is inferior .... It is not equitable. The children, whether they are in Pikangikum, Summer Beaver, Wapekeka, they do not have access to mental health services they need, period.”
Indigenous health has been focused on measuring the number of dollars spent as opposed to health outcomes, added Dr. Alika Lafontaine, the past president of the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada.
That needs to change, he said.
“When you’re talking about health transformation, what you’re really looking at is changing the intent of the system to achieve a different outcome,” he said.
“In Indigenous health, what you’re trying to do is create an outcome that’s different than our colonial outcome which was extinguishing the rights of Indigenous people through land and resources.”
Bob Nault, a Liberal MP who represents an Ontario riding that encompasses reserves including Pikangikum, agrees the health care system as it stands now is not capable of producing sustainable, long-term results.
He said he has been witnessing the same problem for the past 30 years, including as a former Indigenous affairs minister under former prime minister Jean Chretien.
“We can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and put a little Band-Aid on it and say ‘we’re doing it differently’,” he said. “We are not doing it differently so far, that I’ve seen.”
Communities have already put forward transformation proposals, Kirlew added.
“Communities know what is going to work for them,” he said. “Why can’t we help support those plans?”
A misconduct hearing at the College of Nurses of Ontario on Tuesday may shed light on what steps the college took after being notified about medication mistakes made by serial killer Elizabeth Wettlaufer.
Wettlaufer — who was sentenced to life in prison last month for the murders of eight elderly patients, attempted murders of four others and two charges of aggravated assault — was fired from Caressant Care in 2014 for a “medication error.” She went on to kill one of the victims after her 2014 firing.
The panel will likely punish Wettlaufer severely, but what many want to know is why it didn’t do so well before she confessed to her crimes, without prompting, in September 2016, and voluntarily resigned her status as a registered nurse.
The college had been informed 30 months earlier that Wettlaufer had been fired from a nursing home for putting the life of a patient at risk. Yet she continued to work — and kill — as a fully licensed registered nurse, leading some observers of the college to bluntly question its ability to police the profession.
The college has repeatedly refused Star requests for interviews and information.
Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, a public policy advocacy group that represents 41,000 nurses and backs calls for an inquiry into the college’s actions, said the college must be transparent about everything that happened.
During the hearings, the college should tell the public who knew what, and what it did to stop Wettlaufer after learning that the nurse’s medication error was part of a pattern of behaviour, Grinspun said. The only way to make changes is by knowing exactly how the situation went so spectacularly wrong, she added.
“We cannot bring eight lives lost tragically back,” Grinspun said.
“We need to honour them by doing all we can to learn for the future so it never repeats again.”
Wettlaufer is accused of professional misconduct against a total of 14 patients whom she killed, attempted to kill or assaulted between 2007 and 2014 — acts she’s already admitted to in court.
Meanwhile, a provincial order from January that stopped the Caressant Care location in Woodstock, Ont., where Wettlaufer once worked, from admitting new patients remains in place. An inspection in March found that the home had failed to report reasonable suspicions of abuse or neglect of a resident, according to a report posted to a government database.
Caressant operates 15 nursing homes in Ontario.
Last month, Wettlaufer was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years for the crimes, which she committed by injecting her victims with overdoses of insulin — a gruesome method of murder, Justice Bruce Thomas noted during sentencing.
“It was a painful and contorting experience on the minds of the victims,” he said.
In the College of Nurses’ notice to Wettlaufer about the hearing, the organization said her actions were “disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional.”
A registered nurse since 1995, Wettlaufer resigned from the profession last fall, a day after police first learned of the crimes.
During her sentencing hearing, Thomas said Wettlaufer was the “shadow of death” passing over her patients. He also said she had diminished public faith in the entire nursing profession.
Should the college find the professional misconduct allegations against her to be true, it could formally prevent Wettlaufer from working as a nurse again.
As well, Wettlaufer may be fined up to $35,000, to be paid to the province’s finance minister. The college may also force her to reimburse its legal costs and the money it spent investigating her and holding the hearing.
Wettlaufer, who lived and committed most of her crimes in Woodstock, was charged with the murders, attempted murders and assaults in October 2016. A month earlier, she had confessed about some of the killings to staff at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, who passed the information on to police.
Wettlaufer’s murder victims ranged in age from 75 to 96. Their friends and relatives said they never suspected anything untoward about the deaths, and during victim impact statements, expressed deep devastation and a sense of betrayal from both Wettlaufer and the health-care system.
In addition to Wettlaufer’s life imprisonment for first-degree murder, she was also sentenced in June to 10 years for each of the four attempted murder counts and seven years for each of the two aggravated assault counts. All the sentences are to be served concurrently.
Wetlauffer had a troubled life before her arrest. She told several people — including a past girlfriend and a pastor — about her crimes, but none reported them to police until CAMH did so last year.
Now one of Canada’s most prolific serial killers, Wettlaufer is a recovering drug addict who has been to rehab twice and started attacking patients shortly after the end of her 10-year marriage in 2007. In court, she described feeling a “red surge” before killing, as well as euphoria once her victims were dead.
This hearing isn’t the only inquiry into Wettlaufer’s case. Ontario’s Liberal government has also promised to launch its own probe, and is currently trying to decide on the scope and terms of the review. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has said the provincial government should examine staffing levels, funding, long wait lists and other systemic issues affecting long-term-care homes.
With files from Sandro Contenta
With files from Sandro Contenta
LONDON—It was a typical phone call between two boys playing and their mother, who was on vacation in France. It was brief — the boys wanted to get back to playing with their cousins, not spend time on the phone chatting.
The brevity of that 1997 call troubles Prince William and Prince Harry to this day — for their mother, Princess Diana, would die in a car crash that night.
“Harry and I were in a desperate rush to say goodbye — you know, ‘See you later’ … If I’d known now obviously what was going to happen, I wouldn’t have been so blasé about it and everything else,” William says in a new documentary. “But that phone call sticks in my mind, quite heavily.”
Harry tells the filmmakers the final chat is something he will regret until the end of his days.
“Looking back on it now, it’s incredibly hard. I’ll have to sort of deal with that for the rest of my life,” Harry said. “Not knowing that was the last time I was going to speak to my mum. How differently that conversation would have panned out if I’d had even the slightest inkling her life was going to be taken that night.”
The ITV documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy will air Monday on British TV. Excerpts from the film, and new family photographs, were to be released Sunday.
The show is one of a series of tributes to Diana expected as the 20th anniversary of her death on Aug. 31, 1997, approaches.
It is only in the last year that William and Harry have spoken openly in public about their feelings about the sudden loss of their mother. William — second in line to the British throne after his father, Prince Charles — was 15 at the time. Harry was only 12.
The documentary chronicles Diana’s charitable works, including her historic outreach to AIDS victims and her campaign to ban landmines.
William and Harry also stress their mother’s fun-loving side, which they say the public generally didn’t see.
“Our mother was a total kid through and through. When everybody says to me, ‘So she was fun. Give us an example,’ all I can hear is her laugh in my head,” says Harry.
William tells a story that reveals the privileged life they led as children: one day, Diana surprised him by having three of the world’s top models waiting for him when he got home from school.
“She organized when I came home from school to have Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell waiting at the top of the stairs. I was probably a 12- or 13-year-old boy who had posters of them on his wall,” William said. “I went bright red and didn’t know quite what to say. And sort of fumbled and I think pretty much fell down the stairs on the way up.”
William says he frequently tells his children — Prince George, 4, and Princess Charlotte, 2 — about Diana so she can be a presence in her grandchildren’s lives.
“She’d be a lovely grandmother,” he said. “She’d absolutely love it. She’d love the children to bits.”
OTTAWA—Respecting treaties with Indigenous Peoples, paying taxes and filling out the census are listed as mandatory obligations of Canadian citizenship in a draft version of a new study guide for the citizenship exam.
The working copy obtained by The Canadian Press suggests the federal government has completely overhauled the book used by prospective Canadians to prepare for the test.
The current “Discover Canada” guide dates back to 2011 when the previous Conservative government did its own overhaul designed to provide more information on Canadian values and history.
Some of the Conservatives’ insertions attracted controversy, including increased detail about the War of 1812 and a warning that certain “barbaric cultural practices,” such as honour killings and female genital mutilation, are crimes in Canada.
Getting rid of both those elements was what former Liberal Immigration Minister John McCallum had in mind when he said early in 2016 that the book was up for a rewrite. But although work has been underway for over a year, there’s no date set for publication of a final version.
In the draft version, the reference to barbaric cultural practices is gone, as is the inclusion of getting a job as one of the responsibilities of citizenship.
Instead, the proposed new guide breaks down the responsibilities of citizenship into two categories: voluntary and mandatory.
Voluntary responsibilities are listed as respecting the human rights of others, understanding official bilingualism and participating in the political process.
Obeying the law, serving on a jury, paying taxes, filling out the census and respecting treaties with Indigenous Peoples are mandatory.
“Today, Canadians, for example, can own their own homes and buy land thanks to treaties that the government negotiated,” the draft version says. “Every Canadian has responsibilities under those treaties as well. They are agreements of honour.”
The draft guide delves extensively into the history and present-day lives of Indigenous Peoples, including multiple references to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report on residential schools and a lengthy section on what happened at those schools. The current guide contains a single paragraph.
The draft also devotes substantive sections to sad chapters of Canadian history when the Chinese, South Asians, Jews and disabled Canadians were discriminated against, references that were absent or exceptionally limited previously.
The new version also documents the evolution of the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups, as well as other sexual minorities. Bureaucrats had sought to include similar themes in the 2011 book but were overruled by then-immigration minister Jason Kenney, with their efforts reduced to a single line on gay marriage.
There’s also an entirely new section called “Quality of Life in Canada” that delves into the education system — including a pitch for people to save money for their children’s schooling — the history of medicare, descriptions of family life, leisure time, effects of the environment on Canadian arts and culture and even a paragraph seeking to explain Canadian humour.
Canadians like to make fun of themselves, the book notes.
“Humour and satire about the experience of Indigenous, racialized, refugee and immigration peoples and their experiences is growing in popularity,” the section says.
The rewrite is part of a much broader renewal of citizenship laws and process that is underway. In June, legislation passed that changed the age for those who need to pass the knowledge test for citizenship, among other things.
Briefing notes obtained separately from the draft copy show nearly every government department is being consulted for input into the guide. But the team inside the Immigration Department didn’t just look there.
They were also taking cues from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, sharing copies of his remarks for themes to incorporate.
One of Trudeau’s often repeated mantras — “Canada has learned how to be strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them” — appears to be paraphrased directly in the opening section of the book: Canadians have learned how to be strong because of our differences.”
The briefing notes say the guide is to be released to mark Canada’s 150th birthday but elsewhere note that production time is at least four months once a final version has been approved.
A spokesperson for the Immigration Department stressed the importance of the consultations that have gone into the new guide.
“While this may take more time, this broader approach will result in a final product that better reflects Canada’s diversity and Indigenous history, as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” Lindsay Wemp said in an email.
Exploring how four of Toronto’s iconic names impacted future generations of their families, from a war-hero-turned-Maple Leafs owner to the settlers of Willowdale.
Anne Smythe, a Toronto artist, didn’t always appreciate her surname.
Her grandfather Conn Smythe fought in both world wars before taking up ownership of the Maple Leafs. He’s the namesake of the Stanley Cup’s top playoff performer trophy, in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and known for his philanthropy.
“When I was growing up it was mortifying,” Anne, 61, said. “As soon as you said your last name, boys wanted to date me because they thought they could get hockey tickets. First thing they ever said was ‘oh, are you related to?’ ”
Her stance has since changed.
“It took a long time to be proud of it but I certainly am now,” she added. “But less and less people remember. It doesn’t mean anything to most people. You’ve got to be pretty old to go ‘oh, are you related to?’ ”
Her father, Hugh Smythe, was Conn’s youngest son and became the Leafs’ doctor. While she describes her kids as “rabid hockey fans,” Anne never fell in love with the sport.
“I wasn’t a great teenager so they used to have to make me go,” she said, laughing.
Elizabeth Smythe Brinton, another of Conn’s granddaughters, grew up in Maple Leaf Gardens with her father Stafford — who became the team’s president.
“That was home,” she said of the Gardens. “I love being part of Leafs Nation. It means the world to me.”
Elizabeth describes Conn fondly: He was driven, obsessed with self-improvement, compulsive about his farm and softened by his wife Irene.
“He had such a pride in our military and his times serving with people shoulder to shoulder,” she said. “He thought Canada was just a fantastically wonderful country and that was rare in those times to hear that but we heard it constantly.”
She credits him for giving to those in need and sending letters to religious leaders to ask for the names of people too proud to ask for a handout so that he could anonymously send them money.
But his good nature didn’t always show.
“He was, um, in control,” Anne described. “He wasn’t particularly warm.”
Thomas Smythe, the eldest of his great-grandchildren, remembers him differently. He recalls visiting the Smythe farm in Caledon, Ont., on weekends until he was 10 and playing with the accessible chair that ran up the stairwell.
“He was just a really lovely old dude,” Thomas said, laughing and remembering his great-grandfather as someone who was youthful, had a great sense of humour and loved children, supporting charities like War Amps.
While Thomas — a television personality and designer — isn’t a huge hockey fan, his sister Christie is and they still have Conn’s season tickets to the Leafs.
Even three generations removed, he understands what it means to be a Smythe.
“The legacy of being Conn Smythe’s great-grandson is really actually one of service,” he said, pointing to Conn’s fortune left to his foundation — the board for which the Smythes now sit on — rather than to the family, in order to help support charities.
“He was a champion of the underdog,” Thomas finished. “We were all raised with the sense of ‘you don’t get to be here if you don’t contribute to community and country.’ ”
“Maple Leafs stood for courage; they stood for being almost like heroes and gladiators in our midst. It stood for character. It stood for a lot. And we were all expected to live up to that as kids,” echoed Elizabeth.
The Masseys have passed down their family names so often it can be hard to decipher Harts from Harts and Vincents from Vincents.
Raymond Massey’s grandfather (also Raymond) was the grandson of Hart Massey, one of Toronto’s builders and the man behind the agricultural equipment mammoth Massey Ferguson. Another of Hart’s grandsons, Vincent, was Canada’s first domestic-born governor general.
“I’m honoured to be named after the former governor general,” said Vincent Massey, great- nephew to Vincent Massey. “It makes me very proud.”
Their names live on through the historic Massey Hall, Massey St., Massey College, Hart House, and the hundreds of churches Raymond’s great-great-grandfather’s foundation helped build across the country.
The Massey Foundation took the money from Hart’s estate to “do things of social value, normally tied to education,” according to Raymond.
He recalls visiting Hart House as a teenager and flying from Vancouver, where his section of the family lives, to vote on the foundation’s board as his dad prepared to cede his seat to his children.
“It first served as a barracks in the war and now it’s a living, breathing institution that feels like a piece of Cambridge or Oxford,” he said of Hart House. “It’s such a cool place. I love it.”
Now 60, Raymond is the foundation’s co-chair and recently brought his niece on a visit to Toronto to tour through the family’s old mansion and its mausoleum at Mount Pleasant Cemetery.
“It is wonderful that there are institutions in the city that the family had a hand in developing,” echoed John, another of Hart’s descendants.
But Raymond admits his family’s history isn’t spotless. Author Charlotte Gray documented the ‘The Massey Murder,’ the story of an 18-year-old domestic servant shooting a Massey patriarch in 1915.
Once, at a party, someone also accused Raymond of being the descendant of an anti-Semite.
“I’d never met her before, she had figured out who I was and she came up to me and said ‘finally, I get to face a Massey. I just want to tell you that you ruined my family. My father was a Jew and he was fired from the Massey factory and our family went through extreme hardship afterwards’ and I said ‘what, why, what’s going on?,’ ” Raymond recalled.
“I had no idea there might have been anything like that going on in the family.”
Still, while he now questions his family’s history, he’s proud.
“There may be some other things lurking in the background, I don’t know, but in general it’s a solid name that has done a lot of good things and some of that legacy is still continuing,” he finished.
And it will, he hopes, continue with his curious niece.
When Margot Rivers grew up in East York, her two older sisters went to school with two boys from around the corner.
And they were close, playing and fighting “all the time.”
What they didn’t know was that they were related, descendants of one of Toronto’s iconic names.
“It turned out it was my mom’s cousin’s two sons,” said Rivers. “All the time we were growing up, my mom’s aunt and her cousin would walk by our house. And they had no idea. It’s crazy.”
Decades later, Rivers was inspired by that coincidence — and her grandmother’s death in a mental institution before she was born — to look into her family history.
Now she knows her story.
She’s a Steele.
Her great-great-grandfather was John Cussons Steele, whose name is on a street that runs more than 77 kilometres east-west across the top of the city she grew up in, dividing Toronto from York Region.
Steele was born in the Bond Lake area in 1837 and settled at the corner of what’s now Yonge St. and Steeles Ave., where he bought and ran the Green Bush Inn — meeting place for the Upper Canada Rebellion — and much of the land around it after his father Thomas died.
Rivers’ daughter now lives on Glass St. in Aurora, Ont., a few blocks from where Steele, her great-great-great-grandfather passed away on Spruce St.
And Rivers wasn’t alone in her curiosity.
On Mortimer Ave. in the east end, Rivers grew up near another family namesake: Ferrier Ave.
Abigail Steele, J.C.’s granddaughter, married a Ferrier and settled much of what is now the Danforth (there was a ‘Ferrier Building’ before it became a Greek restaurant), Mimico and Islington.
Rivers, 55, and Deborah Ferrier, 65, have communicated online about their Steele ancestry.
Ferrier, too, has been doing research into their shared great-great grandfather.
“I’m Abigail Steele’s fifth-oldest grandchild,” Ferrier said proudly on a recent phone call before a family reunion. “We were here and helped build Toronto.”
Just south of Steeles Ave., descendants of the Cummer family have tracked their heritage to the founding of Cummer’s Settlement — later renamed Willowdale — and Cummer Ave., which starts on Yonge St., running east to Leslie St.
Tim Morris’s grandfather married Sarah Cummer, a descendant of Jacob Cummer, one of Toronto’s pioneers. Sarah’s father Samuel Cummer was the seventh child of David Cummer, who was the eighth of Jacob’s 14 kids.
Morris lived in Scarborough and Leaside before moving to the Beaches. He has visited the various burial sites of his ancestors in Willowdale.
“They’re pioneers, those people,” Morris, 70, said.
The family’s history is enshrined in ‘The Cummer Memoranda,’ a 1911 book that tracked how Jacob’s family arrived in, and built Willowdale, from Germany via Reading, Penn., in the fall of 1776.
Jacob’s father John is said to have refused command of William Lyon Mackenzie’s forces in the Mackenzie Rebellion in 1837, according to the book. Written by Wellington and Clyde Cummer and published for private circulation, it stands as “a record of the progenitors and descendants of Jacob Cummer, a Canadian pioneer.”
Ian Cummer lives in Manitoba, where his grandfather Amos (another grandson of Samuel’s) moved. He too has a copy of the family book.
“It has been passed down for generations,” said Ian, 59, of his great-great-grandfather’s folklore.
One day, he hopes to visit the family’s two Heritage Toronto plaques at McKee Public School and on the northwest corner of Doris Ave. and McKee Ave., as well as the church Jacob donated land for.
Eunice Lucas, another of Jacob’s ancestors, has tracked her heritage through her grandmother Francis Cummer. Lucas got her copy of the memoranda from her father.
Now 62, Lucas was born in Toronto and moved to Windsor when she was 12.
She attended Meadowvale School and lived in a retrofitted two-room garage on Zaph Ave. with no plumbing. But she didn’t know of her family’s late 1700s roots in the area until she began her genealogy research.
“Everything he did was of the most substantial character, for he worked for good foundations,” the inside of The Cummer Memoranda’s first page reads.
For that, Lucas speaks fondly of Jacob, her “entrepreneurial” ancestor.
“My father was an entrepreneur, he had his own business. I went into an entrepreneur and now have a couple of apartments that I rent out. My brother is an entrepreneur. It still runs in the lineage,” she said.
SAN ANTONIO—Authorities At least 10 people died after being crammed into the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer found parked outside a Walmart in the midsummer Texas heat, authorities said Sunday in what they described as an immigrant-smuggling attempt gone wrong.
The driver was arrested, and nearly 20 others rescued from the rig were hospitalized in dire condition, many with extreme dehydration and heatstroke, officials said.
Authorities were called to the parking lot late Saturday night or early Sunday and found eight dead inside the 18-wheeler. Two more victims died at the hospital, Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told The Associated Press.
Based on initial interviews with survivors, Homan said there may have been more than 100 people in the truck at one point. Thirty-eight were found inside, and the rest were believed to have fled or been picked up, authorities said.
Homan said some of the survivors told authorities they were from Mexico.
It was just the latest smuggling-by-truck operation to end in tragedy. In one of the worst cases on record in the U.S., 19 immigrants locked inside a stifling rig died in Victoria, Texas, in 2003.
“We’re looking at a human-trafficking crime,” Police Chief William McManus said, adding that many of those inside the 18-wheeler appeared to be in their 20s and 30s and that there were also apparently two school-age children.
He called it “a horrific tragedy.”
Authorities did not say whether the rig was locked when they arrived, whether it was used to smuggle the occupants across the border into the U.S., or where it might have been headed. San Antonio is about a 150-mile (240-kilometre) drive from the Mexican border.
There was no immediate word on any charges brought against the driver, whose name was not released. The U.S. Homeland Security Department stepped in to take the lead in the investigation.
The victims “were very hot to the touch. So these people were in this trailer without any signs of any type of water,” San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said.
The temperature in San Antonio reached 101 degrees (38 Celsius) on Saturday and didn’t dip below 90 (32 C) until after 10 p.m. The trailer didn’t have a working air conditioning system, Hood said.
The tragedy came to light after a person from the truck approached a Walmart employee in the parking lot and asked for water late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, McManus said.
The employee gave the person water and then called police, who found the dead and the desperate inside the rig. Some of those in the truck ran into the woods, leading to a search, McManus said.
Hours later, after daybreak, a helicopter hovered over the area, and investigators were still gathering evidence from the tractor-trailer, which had an Iowa license plate and was registered to Pyle Transportation Inc. of Schaller, Iowa. A company official did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.
Investigators checked store surveillance video, which showed vehicles arriving and picking up people from the truck, authorities said.
“By any standard, the horrific crime uncovered last night ranks as a stark reminder of why human smuggling networks must be pursued, caught and punished,” Homan said in a statement.
In the May 2003 case, the immigrants were being taken from South Texas to Houston. Prosecutors said the driver heard them begging and screaming for their lives but refused to free them. The driver was sentenced to nearly 34 years in prison.
The Border Patrol has reported at least four truck seizures this month in and around Laredo, Texas. On July 7, agents found 72 people crammed into a truck with no means of escape, the agency said. They were from Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Authorities in Mexico have also made a number of such discoveries over the years.
Last December, they found 110 migrants trapped and suffocating inside a truck after it crashed while speeding in the state of Veracruz. Most were from Central America, and 48 were minors. Some were injured in the crash.
Last October, also in Veracruz state, four migrants suffocated in a truck carrying 55 people.
SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND—Jordan Spieth is the British Open champion, just like expected, though not like anyone could have imagined.
On the verge of another meltdown in a major, so wild off the tee that he played one shot from the driving range at Royal Birkdale and lost the lead for the first time all weekend, Spieth bounced back with a collection of clutch shots, delivering a rally that ranks among the best.
A near ace. A 50-foot eagle putt. A 30-foot birdie putt.
Spieth played the final five holes in 5 under par and closed with a 1-under 69 for a three-shot victory over Matt Kuchar, giving him the third leg of the career Grand Slam and a chance to be the youngest to win them all next month at the PGA Championship.
Li Haotong of China shot a remarkable 63 and finished third. Austin Connelly (73), a dual Canadian-American citizen who was born in Irving, Texas, tied for 14th at 2 under after entering the final day in a tie for third.
Spieth joined Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win three different majors at age 23, and even the Golden Bear was impressed.
“Is Jordan Spieth something else?” Nicklaus tweeted during a wild back nine.
Spieth missed four putts inside eight feet on the front nine and lost his three-shot lead. Then, he looked certain to lose the British Open — and the reputation he craves as a reliable closer — when his tee shot on the par-4 13th was some 75 yards right of the fairway, buried in grass on a dune so steep he could barely stand up.
He took a penalty shot for an unplayable lie, and when he realized the practice range was in play, headed back on a line so far that he was behind the equipment trucks. He still had a blind shot with a 3-iron over the dunes to a fairway littered with pot bunkers, stopping just short of one of them near the green.
Kuchar, who had to wait 20 minutes for Spieth to get his situation sorted, missed his 15-foot birdie putt. Spieth pitched over the bunker to seven feet and made the putt to escape with bogey, falling behind for the first time.
And that’s when the show began.
Spieth hit a 6-iron that plopped down in front of the pin at the par-3 14th and came within inches of a hole-in-one. He rolled in a 4-foot birdie putt and tied Kuchar. Given new life, he holed a 50-foot eagle putt and turned to caddie Michael Greller and said, “Go get that!”
Emotions rolling, Spieth followed with a 30-foot birdie at the 16th and was ahead by two. And after Kuchar holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-5 17th, Spieth assured himself a two-shot margin up the final hole by pouring in yet another birdie.
From the driving range to the claret jug, Spieth put himself in hallowed territory just days before his 24th birthday. Nicklaus was about six months younger than Spieth when he won the 1963 PGA Championship for the third leg of the Grand Slam.
Spieth goes to Quail Hollow in North Carolina next month with a chance to get that final portion of the Grand Slam.
Kuchar closed with a 69 and did nothing wrong. He just had no answers for Spieth’s final blitz. Kuchar had a one-shot lead leaving the 13th green. He played the next four holes with two pars and two birdies and was two shots behind.
Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim has been in North Korean detention since January 2015.
That was 900 days ago. And counting.
The leader of Mississauga’s Light Presbyterian Church went missing during a humanitarian mission in a northern region where Lim was so well-known for his charity work, he’d been granted a frequent access visa.
Weeks later, North Korean authorities confirmed they’d arrested Lim, now 62, ostensibly for plotting to overthrow Kim Jong Un’s authoritarian regime. The pastor was sentenced to life in a hard-labour camp where he told an American journalist, given unique access to Lim, that he digs holes eight hours a day, six days a week.
Now, there is renewed — but cautious — hope for Lim’s release.
Last Friday, North Korean officials arranged a meeting “in the humanitarian spirit” between the imprisoned Canadian and a Swedish Embassy diplomat in Pyongyang, according to state media outlet Korean Central News Agency.
The timing of the July 14 meeting has also commanded attention: It came four weeks after American university student Otto Warmbier was released from a North Korean prison, in a coma, and died just days after arriving home.
“Any type of contact is always good,” said Toronto lawyer Jack Kim, a special adviser at HanVoice, the largest Canadian organization advocating on behalf of North Korean human rights and refugees.
“It means the North Koreans haven’t forgotten about Rev. Lim and are at least continuing the dialogue, even if it’s on humanitarian grounds.”
Details surrounding Lim’s disappearance more than two years ago have been scant. The Star has since learned the pastor vanished the same day he entered North Korea after two men approached him and invited him to the capital, Pyongyang.
Kim described the North Korean regime as “one of the most opaque countries in the world” and noted last week’s meeting did not include an official from Global Affairs Canada, the ministry tasked with securing Lim’s release.
“The fact that it was not someone from Global Affairs, but the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, to a certain degree, tempers my enthusiasm about this,” said Kim, who has met Lim.
“I think you could look at this (meeting) with guarded, perhaps minimal, optimism.”
North Korean officials have permitted two prior Canadian consular visits, the last one in December 2016.
Lim has also met previously with Swedish Ambassador Torkel Stiernlöf, who is based in Pyongyang. It’s unknown if Stiernlöf was in the Friday meeting; the Swedish Embassy did not respond to an email from the Star. Canada does not have a diplomatic presence in North Korea and the Swedish Embassy acts as Canada’s protecting power.
Canadian Senator Yonah Martin, deputy leader of the opposition in the Senate, is a friend of Lim’s. She said the North Korean gesture in arranging the meeting provides an opening for Canada to engage the regime more urgently “because there is great and growing concern about Rev. Lim’s health.”
Lim has high blood pressure and requires medication. The North Koreans have allowed medication to be sent to him.
“Rev. Lim has lost a considerable amount of weight — between 60 to 80 pounds — and he isn’t well,” Martin said from her Burnaby, B.C., home.
“I hope this is an opportunity for Canada to follow up in whatever way will bring Rev. Lim home. I don’t want to say ‘now or never,’ but I hope something can come out of this,” she continued.
The North Korean news story also invited the Canadian government to resolve Lim’s case.
Lim asked the unnamed Swedish diplomat “to convey his request to the Canadian government for making active efforts to settle his issue,” according to an English language report citing the original article. In addition, the story stated the meeting was organized “on the basis of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and in the humanitarian spirit.”
Global Affairs has said little publicly during Lim’s detainment other than to state frequently that his imprisonment “is absolutely a priority.”
The ministry did not answer a list of questions about the July 14 meeting from the Star or confirm that it occurred. Instead, ministry spokesperson Jocelyn Sweet emailed this statement: “The Government of Canada is very concerned about the health, well-being, and continued detention of Mr. Lim. This case is absolutely a priority for us. We have been actively engaged on this difficult case and consular officials are working actively to secure Mr. Lim’s release.
“As there are privacy considerations and this is an active case, we are unable to disclose further details,” Sweet added.
Lim’s wife, Geum Young Lim, and son, James, have remained silent since the pastor disappeared; friends say mother and son have long trusted the Canadian government to handle the sensitive negotiations and don’t want to be distractions by granting interviews.
However, Warmbier’s death appears to have deeply affected the Lims. The mother and son released a statement through family spokesperson Lisa Pak two days after the 22-year-old died in Cincinnati.
“We are heartbroken at the news of Otto’s passing. What has happened is tragic. We strongly urge the Canadian government to place more attention on Reverend Lim’s case,” according to the June 21 statement.
“Canada’s political leadership must stand up for the rights of a Canadian humanitarian. We are desperate to see our husband and father home, and we are pleading for an active escalation in diplomatic efforts. Our hearts and prayers are with the Warmbiers. This ordeal of all families involved has to end,” it concluded.
Martin said with Lim detained for so long — he became a grandfather for the first time while in the labour camp and that grandchild is now 10 months old — the family is now “beyond frustrated.”
“They are exasperated, they are so exhausted from just hoping and waiting for something to happen,” Martin said.
Martin also wondered: “It’s been over 900 days. Why has he been forgotten?”
Lim, his wife and son — the Lims’ only child — are all South Korean natives. The family immigrated to Canada in 1986 when Lim had the opportunity to obtain his Master's degree at the University of Toronto’s Knox College. Lim is a Canadian citizen.
After graduating, Lim began ministering in Canada with the Light Presbyterian Church, which then had only about five families. He became a strong preacher and, under his spiritual direction as senior pastor, the church grew to 3,000 members. A new, multi-purpose facility for the burgeoning church opened in May 2009 near Goreway Dr. and Derry Rd. in Mississauga.
Lim’s passion for humanitarian work took him and church associates around the world: Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea. But it was in North Korea where he found his calling, visiting there about 110 times.
The federal government does not want Canadian citizens travelling to North Korea, which is officially called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
There is a warning on the Global Affairs Canada website: NORTH KOREA — AVOID ALL TRAVEL.
The ministry explains that the advisory exists “due to the uncertain security situation caused by North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program and highly repressive regime” and that “the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular assistance in North Korea is extremely limited.”
Lim had been travelling to North Korea since 1997 and, according to friends, felt comfortable bringing basic human necessities, including food and other nourishment, to a needy population. Lim’s comfort level was evident in that he brought his son James, now 34, with him on about 28 humanitarian missions, friends said. James now lives in the United States.
Lim visited two places on missions: The capital of Pyongyang (via flights from Seoul and Beijing) and in the north, Rajin, which is in a region known as Rason (via flights from Seoul to the Chinese autonomous prefecture of Yanbian, then a two-hour drive to a North Korean border entry point near Rajin).
To piece together Lim’s final trip, the Star interviewed his friends, reviewed documents related to his humanitarian travels and obtained a missing persons profile filed to Toronto Police Services. Some of Lim’s friends asked not to be identified for fear of jeopardizing Lim’s safety or discussions regarding his release.
Based on new information, this is how the pastor’s 2015 mission unfolded:
On Jan. 27, 2015, Lim flew from Seoul to Yanbian in China.
On Jan. 30, Lim and a Canadian colleague, who was already in Yanbian, drove two hours in an SUV to the North Korean border point. The men were cleared to enter Rajin as representatives of the Light Presbyterian Church and an associated program, Global Assistance Partners.
Their plan was to check on a seniors’ nursing home and orphanages sponsored by the church and the assistance program.
The Canadian men had only been in Rajin for a few hours when they met with two men; one a local, the other possibly from Pyongyang, according to the missing person’s profile. The missing persons profile (filed to police by Pak on behalf of the family) contained information relayed by Lim’s Canadian companion, who declined to be interviewed for this story.
Information submitted to Toronto police stated one North Korean man “suggested Rev. Lim make a visit to Pyongyang with him in a car; he assured that a necessary visa and exemption from the (Ebola) quarantine will be arranged.”
At that time, North Korea apparently had a mandatory 21-day Ebola quarantine period for all foreigners, according to information in Lim’s missing person’s profile.
The two Canadian men became separated, friends say, and Lim’s companion did not see Lim get into a vehicle. Lim had not visited Pyongyang “in some time,” the missing persons profile noted.
On Jan. 31, the other Canadian returned to China.
On Feb. 4, Lim was scheduled to depart from North Korea and return home but did not appear in Rajin or Yanbian. His whereabouts were unknown and “after repeated attempts, as of Monday Feb. 23, 2015, there has been no news” of Lim, according to the missing persons report.
Senator Martin said she hopes Canadians “are paying attention” to Lim’s plight as much as his family and congregation — which held a public prayer vigil in June — are.
“He’s a man of God, a man of great faith and a man of deep conviction; there is a real presence about him when you meet him,” Martin said of Lim.
“The fact that he has such a large congregation and he had people across the country and around the world supporting his (humanitarian) work speaks to his character.”
PARIS—Riding a bright yellow bike to match his shiny leader’s jersey, defending champion Chris Froome won his fourth and most challenging Tour de France title on Sunday.
The 32-year-old Kenyan-born British rider finished 54 seconds ahead of Colombian Rigoberto Uran overall, the smallest margin of his wins.
This was the third straight win for the Team Sky rider. His first in 2013 came the year after former teammate Bradley Wiggins sparked off an era of British dominance.
Frenchman Romain Bardet, runner-up last year, placed 2 minutes, 20 seconds behind in third place, denying Spaniard Mikel Landa — Froome’s teammate — a podium spot by just one second. Italian Fabio Aru finished fifth.
As per tradition, the 21st stage was reserved for sprinters and mostly a procession for Froome and the other overall leaders.
Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen won the final stage in a dash to the line, edging German rider Andre Greipel and Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Moments later, Froome and the rest of the peloton crossed the line after eight laps of an eye-catching circuit around the city’s landmarks, finishing as usual on the famed Champs-Elysees.
Froome now needs only one more title to match the Tour record of five shared by Jacques Anquetil, Eddie Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Miguel Indurain.
Froome sealed his win on Saturday, finishing third in the time trial in Marseille where he put more time into Uran and Bardet, who dropped from second to third.
After more than three weeks of stressful racing, it was a relaxed and easygoing atmosphere as riders set out from Montgeron in the Essone suburb south of Paris to the evening finish 103 kilometres (64 miles) away.
Froome chatted casually with two-time champion Alberto Contador, the Spanish veteran, as if they were on a sight-seeding ride.
Right in front of them, Frenchman Warren Barguil — wearing the best climber’s red-and-white polka dot jersey — swapped race anecdotes with Australian Michael Matthews, wearing the green jersey awarded for the Tour’s top sprinter.
Matthews became the third Australian to win the green jersey, all this decade, following Robbie McEwen and Baden Cooke.
Froome’s teammates wore a yellow stripe on the back of their Team Sky shirts. They allowed themselves a flute of champagne, chinking glasses with leader Froome, as they casually rolled through the streets under cloudy skies beside cheering fans packing the roads into Paris.
Everyone was in high spirits, happy to be make it through a grueling race that saw Australian Richie Porte, one of the pre-race favourites, and Froome’s teammate Geraint Thomas both crash out. Britain’s Mark Cavendish, a 30-time Tour stage winner, and Marcel Kittel — winner of five stages this year — pulled out injured after crashes.
As the slow-moving peloton passed near where Frenchman Yoann Offredo grew up, a television camera moved alongside, asking what it was like to be riding so close to home.
“I might nip to the bathroom,” he said, jokingly.
Another rider, Cyril Gautier, asked his girlfriend Caroline to marry him: the proposal scrawled on a piece of paper held up by the smiling Frenchman as he blew a kiss to the camera.
Barring a crash, Froome was virtually assured of winning.
The route to another victory continued to unfurl before him without mishap — although he did have to change bikes at one stage. Barguil had a brief hiccup, needing to catch up after a puncture, but generally the peloton took in the sights.
Riders passed the Hotel des Invalides — a magnificent, sprawling set of buildings ordered by King Louis XIV in the 17th century — and actually rode through the resplendent Grand Palais exhibition hall, then past the golden statute of Joan of Arc, up the famed Champs-Elysees from the iconic Place de la Concorde and its towering 23-meter Egyptian obelix, and around the Arc de Triomphe.
Some might say Froome did not shine too brightly because he didn’t win a stage, but neither did American Greg Lemond when clinching his third and final Tour in 1990.
For Froome, consistency and a dogged ability to respond when put under pressure were the keys to his latest success.
Sears Canada is facing a social media campaign calling for a boycott after the company said it planned on paying millions in bonuses to keep executives on board during restructuring, despite not offering severance to laid-off workers.
The retailer’s Facebook page has been flooded with comments from people vowing not to shop at Sears, and the hashtag #BoycottSearsCanada has been gaining traction on Twitter.
Sears Canada, which is operating under court protection from creditors, began liquidation sales on Friday at 59 department and Sears Home stores slated for closure.
The company has said it plans to cut approximately 2,900 jobs, without severance, while paying $9.2 million in retention bonuses to key staff.
Several people participating in the boycott say they’re not spending their hard-earned dollars at a store they say rewards mismanagement at the expense of front-line retail workers.
A retail analyst says that the boycott could impact people still working at the stores, but it may not make a difference if the retailer goes out of business.
Sears Canada declined to comment on the matter.
Toronto police have potentially hundreds of witnesses but no leads after a shooting at a Scarborough birthday bash left two men dead and a woman, the party’s host, in hospital with serious injuries.
When police arrived at the two-storey brick home on Gennela Square around 1 a.m. on Sunday, guests were flooding into the street from the backyard, Toronto Police Det. Rob North said.
The home, near Morningside and Sheppard Aves., backs onto the Toronto Zoo.
Despite there being “upwards of 200 people” at the party, North says police are struggling to find witnesses.
“They were actually invited to celebrate the birthday of the female victim,” North said.
He urged those who captured video of the shooting on their phones or iPads to come forward or, at the very least, send their recordings to CrimeStoppers.
“We’ve had very little co-operation from people,” North said.
All three victims are “known to police,” North said. He would not provide additional details.
Rinaldo Cole, 33, and Dwayne Campbell, 30, both of Toronto, were pronounced dead at the scene. The woman, in her 20s, was taken to hospital with serious injuries, paramedics confirmed. She is now in stable condition, North said. She was described as a frequent visitor to the home. Neither of the deceased men lived at the residence.
The police K9 unit and emergency task force are on scene investigating.
This was not the only shooting before Sunday’s sunrise.
Another incident took place near Danforth Rd. and Eglinton Ave. E.
Before midnight, there were reports of four or five shots fired. Police confirmed there were two victims. One was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Again, around 2:45 a.m., five people were shot inside a bar near Ellesmere Rd. and Victoria Park Ave., Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook said. All five victims had serious but non life-threatening injuries.
Working out on your period is known to ease PMS and cramps, not to mention help battle fatigue, but many women are put off by the threat of leaks and the uncomfortable nature of wearing tampons or pads while in movement.
While for decades, tampons and pad makers have touted the protection of their products, there’s been little innovation specifically around gear to keep ladies active during menstruation. But in recent years, there’s been a boom in period panties (underwear designed with additional layers of special fabric to trap menstrual flow) and cotton pads (natural-fabric pads with a Velcro fastener that can be washed out and reused each month).
And amid this wave of new ways of dealing with periods, a number of companies are rolling out products designed to protect women as they keep active with leak and period-proof sportswear.
Sport Shorts from Lunapads
In August, the Vancouver-based company, which has been making period panties since the early ’90s, is rolling out a new line of sport shorts geared at teen girls. If successful, it’ll introduce a similar product for all ages. The shorts are designed to be worn alone or with tampons and pads, and have an absorbent layer to trap up to two tampons worth of menstrual flow. $60 to $80, lunapads.com.
Yoga pants and Dancewear from Dear Kate
Last year, New York period-panty maker Dear Kate unveiled its first line of yoga pants and followed it up with a pair of dance leotards, launched this past June. The yoga pants are available in a variety of patterns and invite wearers to “go commando,” while the dancewear leotards come in black. Both the pants and leotard have an absorbent gusset that can hold one teaspoon of liquid — usually enough for a short workout. Leggings, $143; Leotard, $65, dearkates.com.
Training shorts from Thinx
New York period-panty maker Thinx unveiled a newer line of training shorts, ditching the tight-fitting look of so much gym-wear in favour of a pair of baggier traditional-looking health class-inspired shorts. Lined with a pair of its signature undies, the shorts can hold up to two tampons worth of liquid in its four layers of moisture-wicking fabric. $86, shethinx.com.
PantyProp leak proof leggings
New York-based PantyProp rolled out a pair of leggings that are undies, period protection and gym-wear (or lounge wear) all in one. It can be worn with a pad, tampon, cup or all alone, and will hold up to four teaspoons worth of flow. And with proper care promises to last up to three years. The product is made in the U.S. and ships to Canada with no duty or fees. $66, pantyprop.com.
Seamless panties from Knixwear
Made from a carbon-based cotton, Toronto-based Knixwear bills itself as additional protection against period leaks, founder Joanna Griffiths says. The underwear itself can hold upwards of 15 mL of liquid — roughly two tampons worth — and can be worn with a tampon or pad. The fast-drying cotton makes it ideal for women while they work out, Griffiths adds, while its seamless cut means it can easily be worn under tight-fitting yoga pants. $26 to $32, knixwear.com.
It’s not Brexit, really, that Brits are talking about down at the pub. It’s the baby.
Because the life of one very sick infant is a common denominator, a horror that can strike any family. More morally confounding, at least in the moment, than the great befuddlement of disentangling from Europe and how much that’s going to cost.
Everybody wants what’s best for Charlie Gard. There’s far less agreement on what that might be for the terminally ill 11-month-old at the centre of a power struggle between medical authorities, the baby’s parents, a hospital of tremendous renown, a judge who’s expected to pronounce with the wisdom of Solomon and a platoon of lawyers.
Though Charlie’s mom and dad weren’t the only parties astonished to discover last week that the barrister who’s speaking for their little boy in front of the bench — appointed to the role by a publicly funded state body that acts in the best interests of children in court cases — is also chair of Compassion in Dying, a sister organization to Dignity in Dying, a charity that advocates to make assisted dying legal in the United Kingdom.
The conflict of interest is obvious and galling, though few involved in this long-running drama seem to appreciate that fact.
(As an aside, why do death activists always attach terms like “dignity” to their campaigns? As if death, however messy and agonizing, is ever undignified, except perhaps as a public execution. Even then, the indignity accrues to the state that embraces capital punishment.)
A private tragedy has turned into Grand Guignol theatre, sloshing beyond the walls of the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London where Charlie is being “treated” — except there’s been no treatment beyond keeping the baby alive on a ventilator while Justice Nicholas Francis considers a last-chance appeal that might persuade the judge to reverse his April decision that life support should be switched off.
The Pope has weighed in, with a Vatican-owned hospital in Rome offering to take Charlie into its care. U.S. President Donald Trump has said he would help the family if they want to pursue experimental treatment in the U.S. Editorial writers have delicately taken sides, always posited within a framework of compassion and mercy.
Charlie is allegedly in the terminal stage of mitochondrial depletion syndrome, a gene mutation disorder that affects muscles, organs and the brain. There is no cure and the condition is astronomically rare — only 16 known cases have been recorded, according to the literature.
This baby, specialists say, cannot see, cannot cry, cannot move, cannot breathe on his own, suffers seizures and is on a low dose of morphine because doctors believe he’s in pain. It’s the pain factor — if true, which nobody can assert unequivocally — that’s most distressing and far more convincing an argument for ending Charlie’s existence than inchoate postulating about quality of life, an issue that rightfully alarms the old, the frail and the severely disabled.
For Charlie’s parents — indeed, for anybody ever confronted with life-or-death decisions on behalf of a loved one — their son is warm to the touch. They can hold him. They can love him. They can desperately seek experimental treatment, a fragile lifeline that might be available and which could perhaps alleviate some of the symptoms, with a small — maybe 10 per cent — chance of improving brain function.
The hospital argues that Charlie has already suffered irreversible brain damage and the proposed therapy — Dr. Michio Hirano, professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Centre examined the baby last week for the first time — would not improve Charlie’s quality of life.
On Friday, during a procedure before the same judge — he’s said he will reopen the hearing only if presented with compelling new evidence — the hospital’s lawyer revealed that the latest MRI scan made for “sad reading,” information that had not been shared with the parents in advance. Charlie’s mom fled the courtroom in tears; the baby’s father shouted: “Evil!”
The lawyer apologized. “I didn’t mean to cause distress.”
It has been nothing but distressful, lo these many months. Charlie’s parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, have lost their battle at every level of the legal process: High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.
More than $1.7 million has been raised via a public funding campaign to help the parents access treatment in the U.S. Meanwhile, the case grows ever more toxic with the hospital complaining on the weekend that its staff and patients are being constantly harassed and death threats have been received. There’s an irony there — indignation over hothead death threats when death, Charlie’s death, is precisely what the hospital has deemed humane.
The hospital has not been shy about parading its own suffering. But its professed empathy for the suffering parents rings hollow. Most abominably, after the judge sided with the hospital in his April decision, hospital authorities refused the parents’ entreaty that they be allowed to take their baby home to die. They would not permit even that small mercy.
Charlie’s parents may be grasping at straws. Yet their greater sin, it seems, is a refusal to capitulate to monolithic medical authority and to the state, which has aligned itself with that establishment. It was the hospital that turned to the courts for permission to end the baby’s life. The judge is expected to rule on this last-ditch gambit Tuesday.
Why such adamant opposition to even the faintest-hope therapy? What does the hospital have to lose? How can what’s “best” for Charlie equal death? There is no best in death.
Charlie’s case may indeed be hopeless. But the hospital is insisting the baby die on its terms.
That is insufferable.
Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Unless you are a liar, you won’t be able to say you were not warned.
You cannot plead ignorance to the perennial, century after century cannibalization of Black humanity and dignity in the pursuit of western civilization.
You cannot say no one told us there is a problem; that the descendants of enslaved Africans are still considered less than human. That even as they walk among us, in Toronto the Good, in the burgeoning suburbs from Burlington to Bowmanville and up to Barrie, an off-duty cop allegedly stopped a young Black man for no apparent reason, fabricated evidence, beat him up and no one in the police chain of command reported it to the agency that investigates police. The cop faced no repercussions until the young Black man’s lawyer reported it. The young Black man was left with several broken bones and an eye that is so badly damaged it will have to be taken out.
Our Black citizens are:
These are not the wild musings of Black Lives Matter (BLM) radicals we tolerate for a moment before we tune out and return to a world dominated by the colonizer. (Those European empire builders who traversed the world to “discover” indigenous and established civilizations, capture land, enslave the inhabitants and appropriate their labour for economic gain — all the while denigrating the captured as heathen or not fully human.)
These are the lived daily experiences of Black folk — our friends and lovers, our teacher and accountant, our surgeon and carpenter and insurance broker. These are the stories laid bare again Wednesday by the latest report, called the Black Experience Project, chronicling Black life in the GTA.
And, give me a shake, the next generation of Black people in Toronto feel more victimized than the previous one.
Astonishingly, half of Black youths aged 16 to 24 identify racism as the greatest challenge facing the Black community. These are kids born here. In 2011, for the first time, the majority of young Black adults in the GTA were Canadian-born, outnumbering those born in the islands. But instead of building security on top of their parent’s angst, they report anxiety beyond that of their elders.
And still you wonder why Black Lives Matter has such resonance.
Hundreds filled the auditorium of the downtown Y on Wednesday night to receive the report, six years in the making. Black folk interviewed themselves, in depth, 250 questions over two or more hours, each posed to more than 1,500 respondents in the GTA, buttressed by the polling expertise of the Environics Institute.
Findings? No surprises here. The gathering had a vibe of self-prescribed group therapy where victims comfort each other with nodding heads and sighs that breathe, “the story of my life.”
Validation is good, one woman said, providing feedback. “Now I know it’s not just me; I’m not crazy,” she said.
Another summed up the daily toll of racism encountered in a society steeped in the ethos of colonized and colonizer. “It drains you,” she said.
Then she asked the tough question. “How are you getting this information in front of the people who need to hear — so it’s not just us talking to ourselves, telling us what we already know?”
Almost 40 years ago when I took pictures and wrote stories for Contrast Newspaper, the parade of headlines had a numbing sameness: Man beaten by police. Mother says school discriminates. Youth says racism kept him from job.
In the 1980s when I joined with Toronto Star colleague Leslie Papp to examine life in Metro Toronto for Black folk compared with whites, little had changed. In daily interactions large and small, Black folk endured the slings and arrows of outrageous racism.
In 2002 the Star unleashed its study on racial profiling, Black pain and suffering finally received an official stamp of institutional and scientific approval. No one who was serious could deny the reality anymore. Black people were being targeted, harassed, arrested, imprisoned and victimized at a rate three to four times their white neighbours — not because of wanton crimes but for the same misdemeanor and behavior that left white citizens free of censure.
When the Star verified in 2010 what Black youths complained about from my Contrast days — that they are systematically watched, targeted, surveilled, had their movements recorded and “carded” as a matter of police policy — one would have thought the jig was up.
But no, the racism deniers only got bolder and intransigent.
Police chiefs and mayors and citizens defended the most outrageous violation of the human and civil rights of its Black citizens — in the name of a safety no one could identify or specify.
I sat at a police services board meeting and watched my mayor support carding — immediately after Black and white citizens begged the board to please, stop, in the name of God or justice. Former metro councillor Bev Salmon was in tears. Former police board member Roy Williams was near depressed. Desmond Cole renounced his journalism credentials and attempted to shame the bastards into doing the right thing. And they sat there unmoved.
I wept that day — at police headquarters.
I wept many other nights that year as I watched the systematic de-humanization of Black people, across America and the globe.
Why do we matter so little?
Fowzia Duale Virtue, one of the presenters Wednesday night, in a moment of revelation, put her finger on the trigger:
“I’ve been Black in a lot of places in the world. I’ve lived on four continents, lived in 22 countries” and encountered racism “so overt that I didn’t want to spend another” dollar in that place. And she’s experienced the “refreshing welcome of humanity in places without the history of colonization.”
Right here, Black response evolved into Black Lives Matter (BLM) — young, accented in Canadian lilt and vocabulary. Where Dudley Laws and Charles Roach and Black Action Defence Committee (BAD-C) once roamed, BLM occupies. The youths seem more strident, more forceful, direct and impatient and radical.
And some GTA teacher posted or retweeted the sentiment that says BLM is our local terrorist group.
Dude! You should be ecstatic. The alternative will be unrecognizable — more combustible and radical and urgent and disruptive than the 2017 version of BLM.
Consider that the majority of young Black adults is now Canadian born. They have more white friends and connections than their immigrant parents. One might expect their reported experiences in Toronto society would leave them with a more hopeful, less victimized existence. Yet this latest report says:
“Young Black Canadian-born adults are more likely to identify racism as an obstacle they face; more likely to say they experience some forms of unfair treatment because they are Black; and more likely to be adversely affected by these experiences. It appears, therefore, that young Black adults are more impatient with the failure of Canadian society to deliver on the country’s promise of equality.”
That’s what should bother us. BAD-C leads to BLM. What will BLM morph into, if current conditions persist?
Carding had to go because it was just too odious. The disrespect so obvious that regular middle-class folk, Black and white, could see its devilish design. But the racism that’s part of our DNA is so much harder to erase.
Black people have shown they won’t stop pushing for equality. Toronto’s next wave of Black voices will be more urgent, strident, boisterous and radical. You can count on that.
Malcolm X talked about the ballot or the bullet, even as Martin Luther King marched in non-violent protest. One day, the idea of Black Lives Matter as an incendiary terrorist group will be as absurd as calling the Black Action Defense Committee dangerous. Current requests will pale in the face of future demands.
“We are just like everyone else,” Virtue said Wednesday, her form steady, poised, articulate and resolute. “We will fight and demand that our humanity is respected and honoured and received.”
We won’t be able to send these kids home — back to Africa or Jamaica. They are home. What too many of them are telling us — if we open our ears and hearts — is that our beloved Toronto doesn’t feel like home.
We have been warned.
Royson James’ column appears weekly. email@example.com
Royson James’ column appears weekly. firstname.lastname@example.org