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    The year Sebastian Commock spent waiting for his refugee hearing was the most “agonizing, frustrating” year of his life.

    “I’m still not fully recovered from that year, and that was just one year,” he said.

    With his own experience of being in limbo behind him, Commock has turned his attention to refugee claimants who’ve been waiting five years — or in some cases more — for hearings to decide whether they can remain in Canada.

    As of March, there were 5,514 so-called “legacy” refugee claimants whose cases haven’t been decided. Their claims were filed before Dec. 15, 2012, which means they aren’t subject to tighter timelines established by the former Conservative government.

    Over the last five years, the Immigration and Refugee Board has worked through more than 26,000 of those claims. More than 13,000 were rejected, almost 8,700 were accepted, and the rest were either abandoned or withdrawn.

    In September, the board’s legacy task force will embark on a two-year process to decide the remaining claims.

    To help support legacy claimants through that process, Commock founded a new advocacy and support group in March. Four months later, the Canadian Legacy Refugee Advocacy and Alliance (CLRAA) is working to support more than 150 legacy claimants. They’ve been able to reach hundreds of others through the 519, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ inclusion, where Commock and another member of the executive committee work.

    While the organization is mostly supporting LGBTQ legacy refugee claimants, the group is open to legacy claimants who have come to Canada for any reason, Commock said.

    Last week, Commock and another member of the CLRAA executive met with the head of the Immigration and Refugee Board’s legacy task force to discuss the upcoming process and get the wheels turning.

    In the next week about 450 legacy claimants will be given a date for their hearings, Commock said. It’s news they’ve been waiting years to hear.

    Though the head of the task force, Gaétan Cousineau, could not agree to offer amnesty to legacy refugees, he did commit to look through the remaining claims to determine if any could be decided based on their paper application, Commock said.

    The Immigration and Refugee Board has an expedited policy which allows claims from Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, Burundi, Egypt, Afghanistan and Yemen to be decided without a hearing and a process to allow certain “straight forward” claims to be addressed through shortened hearings, a spokesperson for the board explained.

    With hearings finally within reach, Commock said the task force is urging legacy claimants to touch base with their lawyers and legal aid.

    Legal aid case files automatically close after three years if no work has been done of them, said Graeme Burk, a communications adviser for Legal Aid Ontario.

    That means any refugee claimants who were relying on legal aid for support through their claims process need to be have their financial eligibility reassessed.

    While Commock reported there is momentum from the legacy task force, Janet Dench, the executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, remains concerned about the whole process.

    It’s “deeply disappointing” and “grossly unfair” to refugees who have been waiting years for Canada to decide if they can stay, she said.

    The Canadian Council for Refugees, like CLRAA, wanted to see a simplified process, with minimum criteria, that would have allowed refugee claimants to become permanent residents without going through the hearing process.

    “This is a population that has been seriously neglected by the government, which brought into effect a process where they were basically put to the back of the queue.”

    For Lucas, a legacy refugee claimant whose name has been changed to protect his identity, the years of waiting for a hearing have made him question whether he made the right choice in coming to Canada.

    In Saint Lucia, “fear and shame” took over his life. As a gay man, “you’re considered nasty, you’re a nasty person,” he told the Star.

    He was forced to leave his home community when his family was attacked with machetes, but the threats followed him when he moved to a larger centre.

    “I left home every day with fear, fear and shame.”

    Though challenges in Canada aren’t the same, his life hasn’t been easy since he came here.

    “Sometimes honestly I feel like I jumped out of the frying pan into the fire,” he said.

    As a gay person in Canada, he doesn’t feel the same fear and shame that he felt at home, but his unsettled refugee claim means he still can’t be open about it, for fear he may have to return.

    The waiting game has taken on a toll on his professional life as well. His status as a refugee claimant has left him unable to pursue higher education and better job opportunities, he said.

    It’s an emotional roller-coaster Commock knows too well.

    As a gay man in Jamaica, Commock said he faced “shame, ridicule and scorn.” He felt constant fear for his safety.

    “I wanted to be able to live free, express myself, love who I wanted to love, and I wasn’t given that opportunity in Jamaica,” he said.

    So he came to Canada.

    But the uncertainty he faced as he waited for his hearing made his first year here, “the worst year of my life.”

    For those still waiting for certainty, Commock and the rest of the CLRAA executive hope their support can make it a little bit easier.


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    NEW YORK—The New York Times is asking Fox News’ morning show Fox & Friends to apologize for what the newspaper calls a “malicious and inaccurate segment” about the newspaper, intelligence leaks and Daesh that aired Saturday.

    New York Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha said Sunday that she requested an “on-air apology and tweet.” The paper, she wrote, took issue with a Fox host on the segment saying that Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “was able to sneak away under the cover of darkness after a New York Times story” in 2015 and a host’s comment that the U.S. government “would have had al-Baghdadi based on the intelligence that we had except someone leaked information to the failing New York Times.”

    The segment referred to comments by a top military official noted in a Friday Fox story. In the Fox story, Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command, said his team was “close” to al-Baghdadi after a 2015 raid but the “lead went dead” after it “was leaked in a prominent national newspaper.” The Fox story connected Thomas with the Times, saying that Thomas “appeared to be referring to a New York Times report in June 2015 that detailed how American intelligence agencies had ‘extracted valuable information.’”

    The FoxNews.com story was updated online Sunday with a Times statement. Fox & Friends will “provide an updated story to viewers tomorrow morning based on the FoxNews.com report,” the company said in a statement emailed by Fox spokesperson Caley Cronin Sunday.

    The Times wrote a story Sunday saying President Donald Trump was wrong when he tweeted Saturday morning that the “failing” New York Times “foiled” a government attempt to kill al-Baghdadi, apparently a reaction to Fox’s story. The Times also pushed back against Fox’s story, noting that the Pentagon issued a news release more than three weeks before the Times article that could have tipped off al-Baghdadi. The paper also said the Pentagon “raised no objections” with it before the 2015 article on the intelligence gleaned from the raid was published.


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    Spoiler alert: This story contains spoilers for The Big Bang Theory.

    Mayim Bialik, the star of The Big Bang Theory, makes a living with the spoken word.

    On the popular sitcom she plays neuroscientist neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler. But vocal chord strain means she is under strict doctor’s orders not to talk for a month.

    That didn’t stop her from conducting an interview with the Star — via email. She agreed to talk about life, that cliffhanger proposal from Sheldon in the Season 10 finale, which garnered record viewership, and even what she really thinks of Donald Trump.

    Bialik, 41, started her career as a child actor, playing the younger version of Bette Midler’s character in 1988’s Beaches, then the title role of the spunky Italian-American teenager Blossom in the sitcom that premiered in 1990 and ran for five seasons.

    Before she was hired as a new Big Bang character in Season 3, she was first mentioned in a scene as that smart “girl from Blossom” who would be a candidate for the physics bowl team.

    Bialik’s life had a major influence on the show’s writers because, like her character, she also happens to have a PhD in neuroscience.

    Bialik has said she thought the series was a game show when she first heard of it. For most folks, it’s hard to be oblivious to Big Bang: it’s the most watched scripted show on broadcast television in Canada and the United States. Season 11 starts in September.

    Needless to say, Bialik makes a bit more change for Big Bang than her 1990 appearance in an episode of Doogie Howser, M.D., for which she posted her royalty cheque on Instagram last week, a grand total of two cents.

    You recently announced that you’re under doctor’s orders not to speak for a month. You have also disclosed that your father also had trouble with his vocal chords. Can you explain what happened, how your medical condition got to this point?

    I’ve got a naturally raspy voice and my job involves . . . talking! I discovered I wasn’t using my voice correctly and had been straining my vocal chords a few years ago.

    My father’s condition had nothing to do with mine; it was simply a coincidence that he had sprained chords as part of his degenerative condition.

    There’s some pretty severe damage lately and my ENT has ordered me to not to use my voice for a whole month, which is going to be very hard as I love to talk and need to talk!

    How hard has day-to-day life been, not being able to communicate with your kids and family, not to mention work?

    Well, my kids are a combination of angry and thrilled. They’ll probably get to watch a lot more movies while I’m on vocal rest. My voice is temporarily gone, but my body is not and I can still communicate in my own way. I use a whiteboard a lot and my computer.

    You’ve said that once you “remove words” you get to see who you really are. What have you found out about yourself?

    I talk too much. I don’t listen enough. I don’t rely enough on those who love me to care for me. I am learning that now.

    The Season 10 finale has a real cliffhanger: Sheldon going down on one knee and proposing to Amy. Was this a surprise for you? Or have they perhaps been milking this a little too long and it’s simply time for the two characters to get together?

    My jaw was on the floor . . . I literally had no idea this proposal from Sheldon was coming. Like: none. So, if you want me to tell you what happens in the season opener of Season 11 . . . I can’t, because I don’t know! Your guess is as good as mine! Sure, I have opinions and ideas . . . as an actor and a writer, I could see this playing out several ways. But that’s not my job right now. My job is to wait through the summer to see what our writers decide!

    How do you think the damage to your vocal chords might impact your role moving forward?

    It won’t affect it at all. I will be back to normal voice by the time we start filming.

    The Big Bang Theory remains the No. 1 show in North America. Fans have been incredibly supportive, but some critics can’t figure out why the longevity and fandom. Why do you think it continues to resonate?

    We show a group of people who are not popular or super attractive; we are a show about how the other half lives. And I think so many people can identify with being an outsider and our show taps into that. Plus, we have amazing writers who have crafted characters people really invest in.

    You’ve always been an outspoken environmentalist. Donald Trump has said global warming is a hoax. As a scientist what’s your response to that?

    He has no idea what he is talking about. With all due respect. Ahem.

    Your latest environmental campaign is with SodaStream to get rid of plastic water bottles. Canada is a net exporter of bottled water to the world. And there has been much debate about whether we should be charging more for our natural resources or perhaps even having an outright ban on bottled water. What’s the solution apart from making your own pop?

    My love affair with the environment started as a teenager: I was fascinated with all animals and with marine animals in particular. Even in high school, I used canvas bags instead of paper or plastic and was ridiculed for it; it wasn’t part of our collective consciousness yet as a society to reduce and reuse yet!

    When the city I lived in began recycling, I cried with joy — finally! Still to this day I try, as much as I can, to reduce my own carbon footprint — I don’t consume animal products, I don’t have a lawn, I take very short showers, I read up on ways to consume less. I buy fewer things, own fewer things, and donate things I don’t need and downsize even in small ways. I’m not trying to be a goody-goody (although I have been accused of that for sure), but being kind to the planet is critical for our health, the health of the planet and the health of generations to come.

    A lot of people feel like, “What’s the use? We’re doomed anyway,” but the truth is that recycling is better than nothing; small efforts do matter.


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    COLUMBUS—Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said President Donald Trump would trigger “a cataclysm’’ if he fires Special Counsel Robert Mueller or pardons himself, even as one of the president’s lawyers said pardons aren’t being discussed.

    Schumer said he can’t imagine his Republican colleagues, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, “just standing by” if Trump moves to dismiss Mueller or pardons himself or someone close to him who’s under investigation.

    “It would be one of the greatest, greatest breaking of rule of law, of traditional democratic norms of what our democracy is about,” Schumer said on ABC’s “This Week’’ on Sunday. “It would cause a cataclysm in Washington.”

    While the president has the constitutional power to grant pardons — though the U.S. Supreme Court probably would have to decide whether he could pardon himself — his legal team isn’t having conversations with him about it, Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s personal attorneys, said on ABC.

    “We’re not researching the issue because the issue of pardons is not on the table,” Sekulow said. “There’s nothing to pardon from.”

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    The president and members of his inner circle are facing Congressional and FBI investigations of possible collusion with Russia in its interference with the 2016 presidential election. Mueller is also examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, a person familiar with the probe said.

    Trump suggested in an interview with the New York Times on July 19 that Mueller would cross “a red line’’ if he looked into those issues, and the president mentioned pardons as part of a series of early-morning Twitter posts on Saturday.

    “While all agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us,” Trump told his 34.3 million followers on Twitter.

    Anthony Scaramucci, whom Trump named his new communications director on Friday, called the focus on Russia “overblown.’’ He said on “Fox News Sunday’’ that the president brought up the issue of pardons in the Oval Office last week and said that he doesn’t need to use it.

    “There’s nobody around him that has to be pardoned,’’ Scaramucci said. “He was just making the statement about the power of pardons.’’

    Trump “in all likelihood” has the power to pardon himself, but it’s not a good idea, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

    “In a political sphere, I would caution someone to think about pardoning themselves or family members,” Paul said.

    Trump also has suggested on Twitter that Mueller and members of his legal team have conflicts of interest because of donations to Democratic political candidates — something Scaramucci, daughter Ivanka Trump and the president himself have done in the past.

    Sekulow said while Trump’s legal team is monitoring potential conflicts, it hasn’t raised any with Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mueller after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.

    “We’re going to be constantly evaluating that situation,’’ Sekulow said on ABC. “And if an investigation were to arise and we thought that the conflict was relevant, we would raise it without question.’’

    Only Rosenstein can fire Mueller, and he’s said he won’t do it without “good cause.” So Trump would first have to purge the upper ranks of the Justice Department until he finds someone willing to follow his orders and dismiss the special counsel.

    Trump is “clearly worried” about what Mueller may unearth about the Trump Organization and what’s concerning is “anything that could be held over the president’s head that could influence U.S. policy,” Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation on Sunday.”

    Schiff said he’d also be worried if Trump wants Sessions out so he can name a new attorney general to supervise Mueller’s investigation.

    “If this is part of a longer-term stratagem to define or confine the scope of the Mueller investigation, that would be very concerning,” Schiff said.

    Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said even if Trump is frustrated by the Russian probe, he should stop talking about the special counsel, Mueller’s staff, or the investigation.

    “I know it’s hard, but he needs to step back and not comment, and let Bob Mueller, who is an individual with the utmost integrity, carry out the investigation and make his determination,” Collins said on CBS.

    Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he’s not satisfied with an agreement announced by the panel on July 20.

    It would allow Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to discuss handing over documents and be interviewed by the committee members and staff in private, ahead of a possible public hearing later.

    The panel previously had scheduled a hearing Wednesday and invited Trump Jr., Manafort and other witnesses. Trump Jr. has said he’s willing to testify under oath.

    “I think that they need to be under oath,” Franken said. “And they need to release all the documents.”


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    WASHINGTON—Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner denied Monday that he colluded with Russians in the course of President Donald Trump’s successful White House bid, declaring in a statement ahead of interviews with congressional committees that he has “nothing to hide.”

    The 11-page statement , released hours before Kushner’s closed-door appearance before the Senate intelligence committee, details four contacts with Russians during Trump’s campaign and transition. It aims to explain inconsistencies and omissions in a security clearance form that have invited public scrutiny.

    “I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Kushner said in the prepared remarks in which he also insists that none of the contacts, which include meetings at Trump Tower with the Russian ambassador and a Russian lawyer, was improper.

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

    In speaking to Congress, Kushner — as both the president’s son-in-law and a trusted senior adviser during the campaign and inside the White House — becomes the first member of the president’s inner circle to face questions from congressional investigators as they probe Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible links to the Trump campaign. He is to meet with staff on the Senate intelligence committee Monday and lawmakers on the House intelligence committee Tuesday.

    Kushner’s appearances have been highly anticipated, in part because of a series of headlines in recent months about his interactions with Russians and because the reticent Kushner had until Monday not personally responded to questions about an incomplete security clearance form and his conversations with foreigners.

    “I have shown today that I am willing to do so and will continue to co-operate as I have nothing to hide,” he said in the statement.

    The document provides for the first time Kushner’s own recollection of a meeting at Trump Tower with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. to talk about secure lines of communications and, months earlier, of a gathering with a Russian lawyer who was said to have damaging information to provide about Hillary Clinton.

    In the document, Kushner calls the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya such a “waste of time” that he asked his assistant to call him out of the gathering.

    Emails released this month show that the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., accepted the meeting with the idea that he would receive information as part of a Russian government effort to help Trump’s campaign. But Kushner says he hadn’t seen those emails until recently shown them by his lawyers.

    Kushner said in his statement that Trump Jr. invited him to the meeting. He says he arrived late and when he heard the lawyer discussing the issue of adoptions, he texted his assistant to call him out.

    “No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign, there was no follow up to the meeting that I am aware of, I do not recall how many people were there (or their names), and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted,” Kushner’s statement says.

    Kushner also denied reports he discussed setting up a “secret back-channel” with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. But he did detail a conversation with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in December at Trump Tower in which retired U.S. army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, then-incoming national security adviser, also attended.

    During the meeting, Kushner said he and Kislyak talked about establishing a secure line for the countries to communicate about policy in Syria.

    Kushner said that when Kislyak asked if there was a secure way for him to provide information on Syria from what Kislyak called his “generals,” Kushner asked if there was an existing communications channel at the embassy that could be used to convey the information to Flynn.

    “The Ambassador said that would not be possible and so we all agreed that we would receive this information after the Inauguration. Nothing else occurred,” the statement said.

    Kushner said he never proposed an ongoing secret form of communication.

    He also said he met with a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, at the request of Kislyak but that no specific policies were discussed.

    Kushner also explained that his application form for a security clearance form was submitted prematurely due to a miscommunication with his assistant, who had erroneously believed the document was complete.

    He said he mistakenly omitted all of his foreign contacts, not just his meetings with Russians, and has worked in the last six months with the FBI to correct the record.

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    In addition, Kushner described receiving a “random email” during the presidential campaign from someone claiming to have Trump’s tax returns and demanding ransom to keep the information secret.

    Unlike every other major presidential candidate over the last 40 years, Trump didn’t release his tax returns during the campaign. Since taking office, he has continued to refuse.

    Kushner said he interpreted the late October email as a hoax and that the email came from a person going by the name “Guccifer400.” The name is an apparent reference to Guccifer 2.0, an anonymous hacker who has claimed responsibility for breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems.

    Kushner said the emailer demanded payment in Bitcoin, an online currency. Kushner says he showed the email to a Secret Service agent, who told him to ignore it.

    Trump Jr. and Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was also at the June 2016 meeting, were scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. But on Friday their attorneys said they remained in negotiations with that panel. The two men are now in discussions to be privately interviewed by staff or lawmakers, though the GOP chairman of the committee, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, has said they will eventually testify in public.

    The president took to Twitter over the weekend to defend himself and repeat his criticism of the investigations. On Sunday, Trump tweeted: “As the phoney Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!”


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    Kyle Ashley, Toronto’s famous bike lane guardian, spotted the Canada Post truck veer into a lane on St. George St. The driver spotted the parking enforcement officer.

    “He jumped out of the truck, trampling a garden, and asked me for two minutes to make his delivery. I said, ‘No, this is a bike lane, you should park legally.’ He called me a jerk, got in his vehicle and drove off to avoid the ticket.”

    On Friday, another Canada Post driver on Runnymede St. pleaded in vain for leniency before he told Ashley: “You're a f------ idiot,” said the parking officer. Ashley later lodged a complaint.

    Ashley has seen a lot in the seven weeks since he started focusing exclusively on lane invaders, unleashing $150 tickets as he pedals around town using social media to spread the word that bike lanes are not convenient pull-over shoulders for motorists who have other options that don’t force cyclists into vehicle traffic.

    He estimates up to 90 per cent of his tickets land on the windshields of delivery vehicles including those of courier companies FedEx, Purolator and UPS.

    In his experience, however, Canada Post— the nation’s mail mover, a Crown corporation — is the worst offender.

    “Of all the ones who are still holding out from engaging in the positive behaviours that we’ve started seeing from Beck Taxi, Mister Produce and others, the one that I’m still seeing the most infractions coming from would be Canada Post,” Ashley said early this week.

    “The flagrant disregard for the bike lanes is strongest from them. I don’t know if they think they have impunity because the trucks say Canada Post, or if they just don’t care about the public image or the public safety.”

    Ashley said two Canada Post drivers recently told him they were told it “‘was okay to block the bike lane and get the parking ticket so long as they weren’t in (front of) fire hydrants or (getting) accessible parking tickets.’ That’s obviously not true — I’ve ticketed city vehicles for parking in a bike lane.”

    He advises delivery drivers who can’t find a legal spot to park in an alleyway, as long as they don’t block it, or block a live lane of vehicle traffic if other vehicles can go around it. Cyclists have only one lane.

    Mayor John Tory called a Canada Post manager Wednesday after being asked for comment for this story.

    “I asked if he could help the city by making clear to people that we really can’t have this going on,” Tory said. “He said that, as a result of a media inquiry they had already picked up on this and sent out a note (to drivers) and were taking it very seriously.”

    Ashley said Thursday that, after a couple of days with noticeably fewer bike lane breaches, Canada Post’s numbers had started to rise again.

    Jon Hamilton, a senior Canada Post spokesperson, said in an interview from Ottawa that drivers are instructed to follow the rules of the road and shown photos of parking examples good and bad shared by Ashley and others on social media.

    The postal operator is constantly examining routes and making other changes to cope with the demands of a rapidly growing city and ongoing surge in delivery demand caused by e-commerce, he said.

    “The vast majority of our drivers don’t have issues. They go the extra mile to find a spot,” in Toronto, he said.

    “We are making changes, and we are talking to our drivers, and we expect them to follow the rules of the road.

    “At the same time, there are challenges, and it’s a balance, and there are a lot of people who depend on Canada Post and the work we do so we can’t just make instant changes that have a huge impact on the small businesses that rely on us or the people that have ordered stuff they need, sometimes medicine and things like that.”

    David Turnbull of the Canadian Courier & Logistics AssociationCanadian Courier & Logistics Association, representing members including FedEx and Purolator, blamed the City of Toronto for “dragging its feet” in creating a sufficient number of courier delivery zones so couriers have an alternative to bike lanes.

    “To have commerce in this city, you have to have deliveries,” he said. “I’m as frustrated as any cyclist.”

    One reason companies can treat such tickets as a cost of doing business is the city’s “global resolution” process. Companies with many tickets can get some cancelled, and pay a fraction of the total possible fine, in exchange for not subjecting the city to court costs and proving they were on delivery.

    Tickets that cannot be cancelled under the process include those for parking too close to fire hydrants or in disabled spots.

    The global resolution process will continue after next month when the city expects to move its parking tickets out of the provincial court system and into a city-run administrative penalty system where screening officers will decide which delivery company tickets’ can be cancelled.

    The new system will offer a benefit for keeping bike lanes clear. Drivers who now leave illegal spots before a parking officer can affix the ticket to their vehicle don’t have to pay it. Under the new system, such drivers will receive tickets in the mail and face the same fines.


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    A Mississauga man who has been charged with willful promotion of hatred says he’s “not going anywhere,” and that he intends to run for mayor of the city.

    The charges come after “a lengthy investigation into numerous incidents reported to police, involving Kevin Johnston and concerns information published on various social media sites,” Peel police said in a news release Monday.

    Johnston, 45, was released on bail after a brief appearance in court Monday. The conditions of his release included an order to have no contact with three people, whose names are under a publication ban. He was also ordered to stay 100 metres away from any mosque or Muslim community centre in Ontario, except for when travelling on the road.

    Johnston, wearing a blue polo shirt and jeans, sat calmly in court as the details of the case were read in court.

    Outside the courtroom, he was defiant.

    “I’m going to run for mayor against Bonnie Crombie next election,” Johnston said. “She can’t stop me through the courts.”

    Johnston does not have legal counsel yet. He will appear next Sept. 8.

    Johnston has previously ran for mayor, and lost to Mississauga Mayor Crombie in 2014. He is best known for his strong views about the Muslim community, having opposed the construction of a mosque in Meadowvale, offered prize money for videos of students praying on Fridays, and protested against the federal anti-Islamophobia motion, M-103.

    Last year, a story published on the Mississauga Gazette site resulted in Crombie filing a hate-crime complaint with Peel police. It was not immediately clear if that complaint prompted Monday’s charges.

    For police to lay a hate-related criminal charge, a criminal offence must have occurred – such as an assault, damage to property — and hate or bias toward a victim must have motivated the criminal offence.

    At Queen’s Park, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said the government “takes allegations of hate crime very seriously. Ontario prosecutes these cases vigorously, where there is a reasonable prospect of conviction.

    With files from Robert Benzie

    “In a multicultural and inclusive province like Ontario, the promotion of hatred stands in direct opposition to our fundamental values of equality and diversity. Hate divides people and communities,” Naqvi said Monday.

    The consent of the attorney general is required to lay hate-crime charges.

    Naqvi’s office confirmed he received a formal request from Peel police to lay the charge of willful promotion of hatred.

    “Hate crimes are, by their very nature, serious offences because their impacts can be devastating, spreading from the individual, through the social fabric of our communities and society as a whole,” he said.


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    BRAMPTON, ONT.—Police west of Toronto are warning parents that a woman convicted of deliberately poisoning four young children in her care has been released from prison.

    Peel regional police say Christine Allen, 36, was released Monday and will be living in the Charolais Boulevard area in Brampton, Ont.

    Police say Allen is at an elevated risk to reoffend, adding that they will be working with Correctional Service Canada to monitor her activities within the community.

    Read more: Ex-daycare operator accused of poisoning four more children, including day-old baby

    Allen will be subject to numerous conditions, including not being in the presence of any children under the age of 16 unless accompanied by an adult approved by her parole supervisor.

    Police are advising the public to use caution if they encounter Allen.

    Allen ran a home daycare in Kitchener, Ont., from 2009 to 2011 and was sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted in 2014 of four counts of administering a noxious substance to cause bodily harm.

    The children were given an over-the-counter eye care product containing Tetrahydrozoline, which can cause abnormal drowsiness, low blood pressure, respiratory problems and decreased heart rates if ingested.

    None of the children died, but police say one became seriously ill.


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    Toronto's past may have a future after all. Despite the city's rush to tear down anything that stands in the way of yet another condo tower, developers are beginning to realize there's money to be made in heritage.

    The most recent example is the Great Hall, a stately Victorian pile that has presided over the corner of Queen and Dovercourt since 1889. During its 128-year history, the building has housed a YMCA, the Royal Templars of Temperance, the Polish National Union Alliance as well as a gallery, theatre centre and an art school. It has also hosted weddings, diverse cultural events and countless indie rock concerts.

    But for decades the Great Hall was a mess. Inside and out it was shabby and rundown, almost derelict. Visitors had to look hard to see beyond the dirt, dust and peeling paint. Though Torontonians have loved the building forever and feel a personal connection to it, until now no one was willing to invest the money needed to restore it and bring it up to modern standards.

    Enter Steve Metlitski, a Belarusian immigrant who saw the Great Hall and immediately recognized its architectural, cultural, social and economic value. His firm, Triangle Development, bought the building and spent more than $4 million it to refurbish the west end landmark. His goal, he freely admits, was not just to make a profit, but a profit with honour. In its newest incarnation, it is a rental venue available for everything from classical music and rock concerts to corporate events and parties.

    “The building wasn't up to code but it had kept its original charm,” Metlitski says. “It has a lot of personality and character. It's living history; people can feel it when they come. The best use of a real estate asset like the Great Hall is to keep it as is. It's something you couldn't build today.”

    No doubt about that. Wandering through the urban homogeneity of a city created by bottom-line builders and hapless bureaucrats, it isn't hard to understand what Metlitski saw in the hall. Though the default response in Toronto is to demolish first and beg forgiveness after, as he points out, “Sometimes it's about more than money.”

    Indeed, the search for the sort of experience offered by the Great Hall has grown intense. According to a U.S. study commissioned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Edge Research and the American Express Foundation, millennials are the reason. The report claims that fully 80 per cent of millennials “would rather spend money at businesses supporting efforts to preserve and protect buildings, architecture and neighbourhoods over those that don’t.” It also found that twice as many millennials (52 per cent) choose to shop and eat in “historic downtowns . . . and places with historic appeal . . . over malls and planned commercial districts or recently constructed places.”

    “The report reflects what we’ve seen in cities from Los Angeles to Buffalo to Houston,” Trust president and CEO Stephanie Meeks said in a news release, “millennials prefer to live, work and play in neighborhoods with historic buildings. The revitalization of many urban communities is being driven in large part by the influx of young people seeking authentic experiences and places with character that are found in historic neighborhoods.”

    In other words, the Great Hall is one of those special places sought by those bright young things who spend much of their lives confined to 600-square-foot apartments in the glass-and-steel highrises that now form the landscape of downtown Toronto. Its four main rooms are filled with design details and materials that are no longer part of the architectural conversation. Crown mouldings, oak floors, hand-painted walls are found throughout. One of the spaces, Longboat Hall, is named for Tom Longboat, who won the Boston Marathon in 1907. The great Indigenous long distance runner trained here on a raised track that serves as the balcony in a space that accommodates 400 people. Several original signs, painted on a wall, enhance the already strong sense of history.

    Meanwhile, farther east at Queen and Parliament, the old Marty Millionaire furniture store is also undergoing renovation. Its bilious turquoise exterior has given way to a shockingly elegant glass-and-brick facade. The three-storey Italianate structure, built in 1907, will become the headquarters of Free the Children's WE Learning Centre. Already the intersection, long one of Toronto's most depressed, has been transformed. Tellingly, the new Shoppers Drug Mart, which opened on the same corner several years ago, contributes nothing to the area.

    More than ever, a little enlightenment goes a long way.

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


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    A controversial New York restaurant opened by a Toronto expat has provoked protests in Brooklyn.

    In late June, Torontonian Becca Brennan opened the upscale restaurant Summerhill in Crown Heights, a predominantly Black neighbourhood. But longtime locals have pushed back against what they see as aggressive gentrification and selling the illusion of slumming it in their neighbourhood.

    Brennan’s marketing for the restaurant, which is named for the affluent Toronto area where she grew up, promoted a “bullet hole” in the wall and drinking wine out of40s in brown paper bags. Cocktails at the restaurant are $12 and one of the dishes bears the hipster-friendly name “Keep Austin Weird.”

    The “bullet hole” in the wall is likely due to moving and construction, reports the New York City blog Gothamist.

    Rally organizers criticized Brennan as out of touch with the neighbourhood and its history.

    A Facebook statement posted by protest co-organizer Justine Stephens said Brennan was “profiting by perpetuating violent and ridiculous stereotypes, all while disrespecting and appropriating a history that does not belong to the owner of this bar.”

    Up to 200 people protested outside the restaurant Saturday, where they carried signs and chanted “Bye-bye, Becky.”

    Brennan declined to do an interview with Metro, but in an emailed statement she apologized for her actions.

    “I deeply apologize for any offence that my recent comments might have caused. I did not intend to be insensitive to anyone in the neighbourhood, and I am sorry that my words have caused pain,” she wrote.

    Brennan also wrote that she would reach out to community organizations such as theCrown Heights Tenant Union, whose members were involved in the protests. “I recognize that I have more work to do to continue healing relationships with my neighbours,” she added.

    Rally organizers made several demands of Brennan, including that she apologize, remove the “bullet-holed” wall and hire local people of colour at living wages.

    Brennan’s marketing pitch for Summerhill has not gone over well on social media.

    New York journalist Brandon Gates tweeted, “This is disgusting. Shame on you, Summerhill.”

    Many others left negative comments on the review site Yelp, although there were also some supporters of the restaurant who stood up for “freedom of speech.”


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    Custodians of safety with a few bad apples? Or institutional oppressors who are above the law?

    One is a Law & Order view of the police, in which they are essentially a force of good. Individual officers may struggle with internal demons, but they ultimately prevail in their quest to keep society safe. This would be the perspective of those who find the system works for them, who believe all it needs is you to be law abiding.

    Perched on the opposite end is the view in which the police are armed thugs with the means to oppress by any means necessary those deemed undesirable, whether because of class, race, religion, skin colour, ability, legal status or sexual orientation. This would be the perspective of those who find their existence criminalized.

    The recent developments in the vicious assault of Whitby teen Dafonte Miller allegedly by off-duty Toronto policeman Michael Theriault is a call for serious reckoning of the role of police in our society.

    The account by Julian Falconer, Miller’s lawyer, is chilling: Miller and his friends were walking on the street at 3 a.m. toward a friend’s house, when they were jumped.

    His friends were able to escape. Miller couldn’t. He was savagely beaten with a steel pipe.

    Durham police showed up in numbers. They didn’t take any witness statements. They didn’t ascertain if the off-duty cop was drunk. They didn’t even call the SIU that is supposed to investigate incidents of serious harm or death in cases involving the police, on- or off-duty.

    No, they arrested Miller, and charged him with theft under $5,000, two counts of assault with a weapon, possession of a weapon and possession related to marijuana.

    Is it not the role of the police to keep our streets safe enough for us to walk on them at night? Or is our much-vaunted freedom only available to those deemed worth protecting?

    It was Falconer who called the SIU. On July 18, the SIU charged Theriault with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and public mischief. He has been suspended with pay. Two days later, the SIU laid the same charges against Christian Theriault — the cop’s brother, Falconer says. The charges against Miller have been withdrawn.

    There are many instances of police overstepping the mark. The brutality they displayed during the G20 summit in Toronto. Their use of excessive force toward people suffering mental illness; Toronto police officer James Forcillo’s multiple bullets that killed Sammy Yatim, Constable Andrew Doyle’s bullets that killed Andrew Loku.

    The casual cruelty Brantford Police Staff Sgt. Cheney Venn inflicted upon Philip Alafe, who was struggling with sickle cell anemia, depression, anxiety.

    The complicity of the RCMP in tearing Indigenous children away from their own homes to abusive residential schools.

    The incarceration rates for Indigenous and Black people that are disproportionate to their populations and the criminalization of people from both groups in ways white people and those with proximity to whiteness are not.

    The dismal record of arrests for rape and convictions in assault cases.

    You would have to be wilfully obtuse to not see a pattern of deep-rooted dysfunctionality in our police services.

    None of this even addresses issues of workplace sexual harassment within the RCMP for which their commissioner tearfully apologized.

    Another time, Bob Paulson admitted to a group of First Nations leaders there were racists in his organization. “I don’t want them to be in my police force.”

    No, sir.

    The few bad apples argument does not hold any more. Acknowledging some officers are racists conveniently reduces the problem to a level of individual accountability and absolves the institution of its systemic biases against the already marginalized.

    Is it surprising then that people from those groups don’t come forward with information for police?

    After a Scarborough house party shooting on the weekend that left two people dead and one in hospital, police said they were struggling to find witnesses.

    “We’ve had very little co-operation from people,” police Det. Rob North told reporters. Did people not have much to say because they were in shock processing what had happened? Were they defiantly refusing to speak? We don’t know.

    The next day police shot off another loaded term. The victims were “known to police.” Were they known because they’ve been involved in illegal activities as the term implies? Or were they known because they were stopped on the street for doing nothing wrong and had their information documented? We don’t know.

    Yet, Toronto police operate on a $1-billion plus budget with some of it sliced off for “community engagement.” It’s as if one hand tries to build relations with the very people the other hand crushes.

    If the Dafonte Miller case came to the surface it’s because a high-profile lawyer got the SIU involved, leading to a police officer being charged, and that became newsworthy enough for the media to cover. When establishments close ranks they present daunting layers of opacity that require Herculean efforts to dent.

    How many such incidents with varying degrees of violence take place far from the public eye will warrant a guess based on your trust in the police.

    None of this means there aren’t noble individual police officers who are good human beings, highly skilled and perseverant in the pursuit of justice.

    What the last few years have shown, however, is the institution of police is not a good system with a few bad apples. It’s a rotten system with a few good eggs.

    Whom does this institution serve, whom does it protect and who is it accountable to?

    Unfortunately, the answers are clear: The privileged, itself and no one.

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


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    Condo dwellers who want to sit on their building's board will be required to be trained in the management and operation of their homes under new rules announced by the Ontario government Tuesday.

    ‎The new policies are designed to better protect condo owners and communities, said Government and Consumer Services Minister Tracy MacCharles.

    Under the new rules, which start Sept. 1 and will be phased in over the next year, the Condominium Authority of Ontario will require condo corporations to issue mandatory updates to owners.

    Directors will have to declare their occupancy in the building and any conflicts involving service contracts.

    A Condo Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario will be in charge of licensing and regulating condo managers beginning Nov. 1.

    Condo managers will only be licensed when they have met certain training standards.

    The new government standards will enhance owners' access to condo corporation records, and give them more information and ability to participate in meetings where decisions affecting their homes are discussed.

    More than half of new homes being built in Ontario are condos, according to the province. About 1.6 million people live in condos already.


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    Sen. Murray Sinclair, the respected former chair of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, will lead an investigation into Thunder Bay’s embattled police board.

    The Ontario Civilian Police Commission, a quasi-judicial agency that oversees all police boards in the province, announced Sinclair’s appointment on Monday.

    In a statement, the commission said it has “serious concerns about the state of civilian police oversight and public confidence in the delivery of police services in Thunder Bay.”

    This announcement was welcome news for Indigenous leaders, advocates and Thunder Bay citizens. Thunder Bay has been rocked by a series of crises: both its mayor and police chief are facing charges, and the police service and board are both under investigation.

    Racial tensions in the city are also at a high point after the deaths of two Indigenous teens in May, and the July 4 death of Barbara Kentner, a 34-year-old mother who was hospitalized for months after being hit by a metal trailer hitch in the stomach as she walked down a Thunder Bay street.

    “Those of us who have had the honour and privilege to work with Murray Sinclair, we believe in his ability to do a thorough job and fulfil the mandate given to him by the OCPC,” said Alvin Fiddler, grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a political organization of 49 First Nations in northern Ontario. Fiddler was manager of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s regional and Ontario liaisons. The commission documented the painful 150-year history of Canada’s residential school system, which saw 150,000 Indigenous children taken from their families to attend government-funded, church-run schools. Sinclair was appointed head of the commission in 2009.

    The Ontario Civilian Police Commission — which, along with Sinclair, was not conducting interviews Monday — said in the statement that it has concerns with the police board’s ability to address matters raised by Indigenous leaders relating to “a recent series of deaths of Indigenous youths and the quality of the investigations into these deaths conducted by the Thunder Bay Police Service.”

    The police service is currently under investigation for allegations of “systemic racism” by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) regarding how the force handles Indigenous death and disappearance cases.

    Julian Falconer, NAN’s lawyer during an inquest into the deaths of seven Indigenous students who lost their lives while at school in Thunder Bay from 2000 to 2011, called Sinclair’s appointment an important step. Three of those students were found in rivers and their cause of death was ruled undetermined by a coroner’s jury last summer.

    “It is essential someone of Sinclair’s prominence receive the appointment because it sends a loud and clear message on the level of seriousness of the issues,” Falconer said.

    Sinclair’s investigation will neither interfere with nor duplicate the review being carried out by the OIPRD, or any related police or coroner’s investigations.

    The commission also said it is concerned with police “board representatives stating that the public’s concerns about systemic racism existing within the service and the quality of the service’s investigations are without basis.”

    The commission’s statement noted the recent criminal accusations against Thunder Bay police Chief J.P. Levesque, who was charged with breach of trust and obstruction of justice in May. He is now on leave.

    Sinclair’s investigation will probe the board’s performance in carrying out its responsibilities to ensure “adequate and effective” police services. He will also examine the board’s role in determining “objectives and priorities with respect to police services” in Thunder Bay and its role in establishing policies for the effective management of the police.

    In addition, the probe will examine the board’s role in ensuring that police service in the city complies with the Police Services Act, specifically the importance of “safeguarding the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Code.”

    An interim report is to be released on Oct. 31, with a final report expected by March 31, 2018.

    Racial tensions are heightened in the city after the recent deaths of two Indigenous teens. Both Tammy Keeash and Josiah Begg disappeared on the night of May 6.

    Keeash, a 17-year-old high school student from North Caribou Lake First Nation, failed to make her curfew that night and her body was discovered on May 7, lying in shallow waters.

    Begg, a 14-year-old from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation, vanished while he was in town for medical appointments. He was found dead in the McIntyre River on May 18 after an intensive community search.

    Ontario’s chief coroner, Dr. Dirk Huyer, announced last month that York Regional Police would be brought in to investigate the deaths of Keeash and Begg.

    Last Friday, Ontario Provincial Police charged Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs, a former police officer, with extortion and obstruction of justice in connection with an investigation into “allegations of criminal wrongdoing that include a municipal official and local resident.”

    The OPP alleges that Hobbs, 65; his wife, Marisa, 53; and a third person, Mary Voss, 46, attempted to induce a prominent local lawyer “to purchase a house (for Voss), by threats, accusations, or menaces of disclosing criminal allegations to the police, thereby committing extortion,” court documents show.

    Hobbs’ lawyer Brian Greenspan told the Star on Friday that his client denies the charges. Hobbs and his wife’s obstruction charges are both related to their alleged attempt to interfere with an investigation into an allegation of extortion reported to the RCMP, court documents show. Hobbs is now on paid leave.

    The charges have not been proven in court. But they are the latest in a series of criminal and civil allegations that also saw prominent lawyer Sandy Zaitzeff arrested on sexual assault charges late last year.


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    The College of Nurses of Ontario will hold a hearing Tuesday into charges of professional misconduct against serial killer Elizabeth Wettlaufer.

    The hearing comes just weeks after Wettlaufer was sentenced to life in prison for the murders of eight elderly patients, attempted murders of four others and two charges of aggravated assault. She is accused of professional misconduct against the 14 patients, all of whom she injected with insulin.

    She is not expected to attend the hearing.

    Wettlaufer was fired from Caressant Care in Woodstock, Ont. in 2014 for a “medication error” but was able to continue working elsewhere, raising questions about the college’s oversight.

    About 30 months prior to Wettlaufer’s confession to staff at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, the college was notified that she had a history of medication errors that put patients at risk.

    Still, the college allowed Wettlaufer to continue working. She confessed in court to murdering 75-year-old Arpad Horvath at a London, Ont. nursing home five months after she was fired in Woodstock, and unsuccessfully trying to kill two others before she was arrested.

    Although Wettlaufer voluntarily resigned her status as a registered nurse in 2016, the college may formally prevent her from working in profession ever again. Wettlaufer has been in custody since she was arrested in Oct. 2016, and has no chance of parole for 25 years.

    It may also fine Wettlaufer 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.

    In the college’s notice to Wettlaufer about the hearing, the organization said her actions were “disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional.” During sentencing, Thomas also noted that her actions had tarnished public trust in her profession.

    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.


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    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump bragged about his election victory, insulted Hillary Clinton, attacked the “fake news,” told bizarre stories, said untrue things.

    In other words, it was a typical Trump rally. Except he was speaking to children.

    Read more:

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    Trump appeared Monday evening at the 19th National Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia. Speaking to some 40,000 people, most of whom were boys under 18, Trump departed from his prepared text, which was a conventional tribute to the value of scouting, and delivered a rambling address reminiscent of his famous monologues from the 2016 campaign.

    The speech left pundits aghast. Below, the 17 most remarkable moments:

    1) He began by insulting the media: “Tonight, we put aside all of the policy fights in Washington, DC you’ve been hearing about with the fake news.” He added: “Boy, you’ve got a lot of people here. The press will say it’s about 200 people. It looks like about 45,000 people.”

    2) He said “hell”: “Instead, we’re going to talk about success. About how all of you amazing young Scouts can achieve your dreams. What to think of what I’ve been thinking about — you want to achieve your dreams. I said, ‘Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?’”

    3) He spoke of the Washington “cesspool”: “You know, I go to Washington and I see all these politicians, and I see the swamp and it’s not a good place. In fact today I said, ‘We ought to change it from the word swamp to the word cesspool or perhaps to the word sewer,’ but it’s not good. Not good.”

    4) He falsely claimed the “fake media” wouldn’t report the size of the crowd: “By the way what do you think the chances are that this incredible massive crowd, record-setting, is going to be shown on television tonight? One per cent or zero? The fake media will say President Trump spoke — and you know what this is — ‘President Trump spoke before a small crowd of Boy Scouts today.’ That’s some, that is some crowd. Fake media. Fake news.”

    5) He falsely suggested the media wouldn’t show the crowd on television:“Some of you here tonight might even have camped out in this yard when Mike (Pence) was the governor of Indiana, but the scouting was very, very important. And by the way, where are our Indiana scouts tonight? I wonder if the television cameras will follow you. They don’t like doing that when they see these massive crowds. They don’t like doing that.”

    6) He called the Affordable Care Act “horrible”: “Secretary Tom Price is also here. Today Dr. Price still lives the Scout oath, helping to keep millions of Americans strong and healthy as our Secretary of Health and Human Services. He’s doing a great job and hopefully he’s going to get the votes tomorrow to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare that’s really hurting us.”

    7) He mock-threatened to fire his health secretary: “By the way, are you going to get the votes? He better get ‘em. He better get ‘em. Oh, he better. Otherwise I’ll say ‘Tom, you’re fired.’”

    8) He accidentally said “sex”: “Each of these leaders will tell you that their road to American sex. And you have to understand—their American success…”

    9) He jabbed at predecessor Barack Obama: “By the way, just a question: did President Obama ever come to a Jamboree? And we’ll be back. We’ll be back. The answer’s no, but we’ll be back.”

    10) He told a meandering five-minute story about developer William Levitt: “He sold his company for a tremendous amount of money and he went out and bought a big yacht and he had a very interesting life. I won’t go any more than that because you’re Boy Scouts, I’m not going to tell you what he did — should I tell you? Should I tell you? Oh, you’re Boy Scouts, but you know life, you know life.”

    He continued: “What happened is he bought back his company and he bought back a lot of empty land…and in the end he failed and he failed badly. He lost all of his money, he went personally bankrupt, and he was now much older. And I saw him at a cocktail party. And it was very sad. Because the hottest people in New York were at this party. It was the party of Steve Ross. Steve Ross, he was one of the great people. He came and…”

    11) He bragged about his election victory: “Do you remember that famous night on television, November 8, where they said, these dishonest people, where they said, ‘There is no path to victory for Donald Trump.” He continued: “Do you remember that incredible night with the maps. And the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue. And that map was so red it was unbelievable, and they didn’t know what to say.”

    12) He falsely claimed it is harder to win the Electoral College for Republicans than for Democrats: “We have a tremendous disadvantage in the Electoral College. Popular vote is much easier.”

    13) He mocked Hillary Clinton’s campaign strategy: “Michigan came in. And we worked hard there. You know, my opponent didn’t work hard there. Because she was told, she was told she was going to win Michigan.”

    14) He disparaged opinion polls: “The polls, that’s also fake news. They’re fake polls.”

    15) He suggested children voted for him: “So I have to tell you. What we did, in all fairness, is an unbelievable tribute to you and all the other millions and millions of people that came out and voted for Make America Great Again.”

    16) He falsely claimed he had produced the best jobs report in 16 years: “We had the best jobs report in 16 years.”

    17) He promised to bring back “Merry Christmas”: “Under the Trump administration, you’ll be saying Merry Christmas again when you go shopping. Believe me. Merry Christmas. They’ve been downplaying that little beautiful phrase. You’re going to be saying Merry Christmas again, folks.”


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    The first thing Blake Talbot saw when he arrived at the scene of his mother’s accident was the blood.

    Just minutes earlier, he had received a call at his job at a nearby rec centre from a woman who said she was with his mother, who had just crashed her bicycle.

    Talbot arrived to find his mom, Stacey Talbot, 56, inside an ambulance, “covered in blood and still bleeding,” with “her upper lip and nose (swelled to) more than double their size.”

    Read more: Cyclist’s death renews calls for stricter penalties for drivers

    That’s when she told him the full story: she was knocked off her bike after a vehicle turned in front of her, and she felt lucky to be alive.

    “I didn’t even see it coming,” she told the Star.

    Shortly after the accident, Blake, 26, shared a photo of his mother, bloodied shirt and all, in a Facebook post, calling for justice for what he and his mother believe was a hit and run.

    Halton Regional Police confirmed that they are investigating, and are doing “extensive canvassing” to try to find out more about the alleged incident.

    The online engagement has snowballed since Blake uploaded the picture Friday. The original post had more than 1,200 likes, 750 comments and 5,300 shares on Facebook as of early Monday evening, with countless strangers and friends expressing their outrage and sadness at the incident.

    “We would love to catch the dirt bag who thinks it’s OK to leave a bleeding woman they just hit on the street,” Talbot’s post reads, describing his mother as “the most peaceful person.”

    Stacey Talbot told the Star she had been riding home from work around 2:30 p.m. on Friday on Nottinghill Gate in Oakville when a car crossed into her lane while attempting to make a turn in front of her, causing her to crash into the vehicle.

    “When I first looked up (after the collision), I thought that the car had pulled over onto the side of the road. Then I went down again,” Talbot said. “And then there was a lady there who was helping me and I assumed she was the driver (until) I said something about the car, and (she) said there was no car there, it left.”

    That woman was the one who called her son, and has since given her account of events to police, Blake Talbot said.

    Incidents like this are relatively rare in the Halton region, said Sgt. Ryan Snow.

    “(We) only get about 100 collisions (per year) in our region involving cyclists,” he said.

    Since 2010 Halton Regional Police have only recorded six deaths in collisions between cyclists and vehicles. In 2016, there was one death and 83 non-fatal injuries. Unfortunately, Sgt. Snow said that solving hit and runs can be difficult, especially since drivers sometimes don’t realize they’ve struck someone.

    “Without a licence plate number . . . the ability of the police to locate the offending vehicle and driver becomes greatly diminished,” Snow said.

    Halton Traffic Services told the Star police believe they are looking for a “white car,” but the division said that they have not yet been able to get more detailed suspect information.

    Stacey Talbot has been in hospital since the accident Friday, when a CT scan revealed bleeding in her brain. An MRI was performed Monday, but as of early evening they had yet to receive the results.

    She said her son’s impassioned defence of her is one reason why they received such a “crazy” response online. “I think that really touched people.”

    She needs new glasses, and her teeth are so numb that she can’t “chew or bite with them at all,” but despite that, she is willing to forgive the driver.

    That’s not good enough for Blake. The fact that his mother said the car continued on despite hitting her is “inexcusable” to him.

    “We are Canadian,” he said. “We are known for being caring, giving people. At least we used to be.”

    Thankfully his mother was wearing her helmet at the time of the accident. He believes that “if she wasn’t wearing her bike helmet, it would have killed her.”

    Sgt. Snow said that “a helmet is not the be all and end all of walking away from a collision,” but that at the end of the day “anyone riding a bicycle” should have one on.

    “I’ve always been kind of hit and miss with wearing my helmet and fortunately I had my helmet on when that happened,” Stacey Talbot said. “I will never ride without a helmet again.”

    With files from Emily Fearon


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    WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, officials say, and launched a fresh Twitter tirade Tuesday against the man who was the first U.S. senator to endorse his candidacy.

    “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are Emails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!” Trump tweeted.

    The president’s anger over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the government’s investigation of Russian meddling in the U.S. election had burst into public view Monday when he referred to Sessions in a tweet as “beleaguered.” Privately, Trump has speculated aloud to allies in recent days about the potential consequences of firing Sessions, according to three people who have recently spoken to the president. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

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

    On Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox News’ Fox & Friends that the president is “frustrated and disappointed” with Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe.

    “That frustration certainly hasn’t gone away. And I don’t think it will,” she said.

    Trump often talks about making staff changes without following through, so those who have spoken with the president cautioned that a change may not be imminent or happen at all.

    “So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?” the president tweeted Monday. His tweet came just hours before his son-in-law, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, travelled to Capitol Hill to be interviewed about his meetings with Russians.

    Trump’s rapid-fire tweeting resumed at daybreak Tuesday, with the president wondering aloud about Sessions’ “VERY weak” position on “Hillary Clinton crimes.”

    In another post to his Twitter account, Trump said: “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign — quietly working to boost Clinton. So where is the investigation A.G.”

    He also mocked the Russia investigation in congress, suggesting that Congress might want to talk to his 11-year-old son after it finished with Kushner.

    “Jared Kushner did very well yesterday in proving he did not collude with the Russians. Witch Hunt. Next up, 11 year old Barron Trump!” he tweeted.

    Trump’s intensifying criticism of Sessions has fuelled speculation that Sessions may resign even if Trump opts not to fire him. During an event at the White House, Trump ignored a shouted question about whether Sessions should step down. The attorney general said last week he intended to stay in his post.

    If Trump were to fire Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would be elevated to the top post on an acting basis. That would leave the president with another attorney general of whom he has been sharply critical in both public and private for his handling of the Russia probe, according to four White House and outside advisers who, like others interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

    It could also raise the spectre of Trump asking Rosenstein — or whomever he appoints to fill the position — to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and potential collusion with Trump’s campaign.

    Read more:

    Trump’s attacks on Sessions, Mueller raise concerns about ‘authoritarian’ tactics

    Jared Kushner says he ‘did not collude’ with Russia after closed-door interview

    Trump pushes his fellow Republicans to support health-care overhaul

    The name of one longtime Trump ally, Rudy Giuliani, was floated Monday as a possible replacement for Sessions, but a person who recently spoke to the former New York City mayor said that Giuliani had not been approached about the position. Giuliani told CNN on Monday that he did not want the post and would have recused himself had he been in Sessions’ position.

    The president’s tweet about the former Alabama senator comes less than a week after Trump, in a New York Times interview, said that Sessions should never have taken the job as attorney general if he was going to recuse himself. Sessions made that decision after it was revealed that he had met with a top Russian diplomat last year.

    Trump has seethed about Sessions’ decision for months, viewing it as disloyal — arguably the most grievous offence in the president’s mind — and resenting that the attorney general did not give the White House a proper heads-up before making the announcement that he would recuse himself. His fury has been fanned by several close confidants — including his son Donald Trump Jr, who is also ensnared in the Russia probe — who are angry that Sessions made his decision.

    Trump and Sessions’ conversations in recent weeks have been infrequent. Sessions had recently asked senior White House staff how he might patch up relations with the president but that effort did not go anywhere, according to a person briefed on the conversations. Sessions was in the West Wing on Monday but did not meet with the president, according to deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

    Newt Gingrich, a frequent Trump adviser, said that the president, with his criticisms of Sessions, was simply venting and being “honest about his feelings. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to do anything,” Gingrich said. Still, he said the president’s comments would have repercussions when it comes to staff morale.

    “Anybody who is good at team building would suggest to the president that attacking members of your team rattles the whole team,” Gingrich said.

    Sessions and Trump used to be close, sharing both a friendship and an ideology. Sessions risked his reputation when he became the first U.S. senator to endorse the celebrity businessman and his early backing gave Trump legitimacy, especially among the hard-line anti-immigration forces that bolstered his candidacy.

    After Trump’s public rebuke last week, Sessions said, “I’m totally confident that we can continue to run this office in an effective way.”


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    The family of a 26-year-old cyclist, who was killed in a hit-and-run by a 19-year-old driver who wove around stopped traffic to speed through an amber light, were devastated to learn the man will be able to drive again in 10 years.

    Mitchell Irwin, now 21, was sentenced to four years in prison and a six-year driving ban on Monday after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Adam Excell, as well as failing to remain at the scene and breaching his bail conditions.

    “It doesn’t seem like justice was served today,” said Excell’s cousin Ashley Ferguson, wearing a handmade bicycle pendant gifted to her in Excell’s memory. “If you take someone’s life while driving, I don’t think you should be able to drive. You shouldn’t have that privilege.”

    More than 20 of Excell’s family members and friends filled the courtroom, dressed as if at a funeral, to hear the sentencing. Many left in tears.

    According to the agreed statement of facts, Irwin was driving north on Avenue Rd. at 11:20 p.m. on June 13, 2015, with two friends. Excell had been going south on Avenue and waited for oncoming traffic to stop before making a left turn onto Davenport Rd. Irwin approached the intersection speeding, suddenly changed lanes to get around a stopped car and entered the intersection, striking Excell. He was going 87 kilometres an hour in a 50 km/h zone. Though his windshield was smashed, Irwin didn’t stop. Instead, he drove to a nearby school, dumped out a case of beer, and made the hour-long drive home to Keswick.

    He surrendered to police the next day and was released on bail. However, he breached his bail conditions multiple times, according to the agreed statement of facts. Photos posted to social media showed Irwin associating with the two friends who were in his car that night, as well as holding alcohol. He was also found intoxicated on another occasion, though he was prohibited from drinking.

    Prosecutor Neville Golwalla and Irwin’s defence lawyer, Leo Kinahan, both agreed a four-year prison sentence would be appropriate given that Irwin pleaded guilty, showed remorse and is a young man with no criminal record. However they disagreed on how long the driving prohibition should be. The Crown sought a 10-year ban, the defence a five-year ban.

    Superior Court Justice Maureen Forestell sentenced Irwin to four years in prison and imposed a six-year driving ban after that. While that sentence would once have been considered high, she noted during submissions, sentences have been steadily climbing for dangerous and impaired driving offences.

    Forestell said she accepts that Irwin’s remorse is genuine and that he has taken responsibility for his actions.

    But she also noted Irwin had only a G2 licence at the time of the crash, that he stopped after the crash to take a case of beer out of his car and that he left the scene to avoid being caught.

    There was no evidence as to whether Irwin had been drinking at the time of the crash. Irwin told police he was the designated driver for his friends.

    “Mr. Irwin did not intend to kill anyone or indeed to hurt anyone,” Forestell said. “He did, however , intend to drive in a manner that put the public at risk. He intended to drive in a way that cost Adam Excell his life. Mr. Irwin intended to leave the scene, leaving Mr. Excell injured and dying.”

    Irwin was handcuffed and taken into custody as his own family and friends sobbed.

    After the guilty plea Friday, Excell’s mother, Brenda, urged drivers to be more cautious and slow down. She questioned whether driver education programs are doing enough to tackle careless and risky driving.

    “I’m afraid every time I drive,” she said in her lengthy victim impact statement. “All I see is bad drivers and dangerous situations. Noticing close calls is now the new normal. Crazy stupid things people do with no idea the effect their stupidity will have on their loved ones or on their victim’s loved ones.”

    Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto, says it is crucial that road violence be taken seriously.

    “Every single death on our roads is preventable,” he said. “There is an immense amount of power that comes with driving a motor vehicle … (Drivers) need to slow down, need to put their phones down, need to pay attention and drive sober. It is huge responsibility and a privilege to be driving.”

    At least 16 pedestrians and two cyclists have been killed in traffic collisions in Toronto this year. Unlike in Mitchell’s case, which involved criminal charges, many cases are dealt with through Highway Traffic Act charges that carry much lower penalties.

    Advocates are calling for a “vulnerable road user” law to stiffen penalties for drivers who kill or injure cyclists or pedestrians.

    Outside the courthouse, Excell’s friend Leyah Cynamon told reporters Excell’s legacy lives on through all the lives he touched.

    “He was a huge human being. He lived big, he lived well and he loved a lot of people,” she said of the artist, outdoorsman and cyclist. “He continues to be a huge inspiration to all of us, even in his death. We hope that we can honour him, create meaning and find adventure.”

    With files from Ben Spurr


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    Ontario’s legal regulator has been stymied for months in trying to investigate high-profile personal injury lawyer Jeremy Diamond, the Law Society Tribunal has been told.

    Documents filed as part of a disciplinary hearing for Diamond on Monday reveal that since October, the lawyer has been under investigation by the Law Society of Upper Canada for allegedly “failing to adequately inform clients” about referral fees, “charging unreasonable referral fees,” “engaging in improper/misleading advertising” and “failing to properly supervise” his staff.

    But for months, Diamond failed to hand over documents showing the amounts of referral fees coming into his firm, in addition to numerous other financial documents requested by the law society, according to affidavits filed by a society investigator and forensic auditor.

    Lawyers are self-regulated in Ontario and must turn over financial details about their practices to the law society when requested.

    That brought Diamond to a hearing Monday at the tribunal on University Ave. to face allegations that he didn’t co-operate with a law society investigation that began in October and is ongoing.

    In May, the law society said that in addition to not co-operating with its investigation, Diamond failed to maintain required financial records — an allegation that was withdrawn after the lawyer provided the requested information.

    The law society alleges that it took 10 months and considerable effort — including four separate letters — to compel Diamond to provide it with documents detailing his referral fee operation since October 2013, including a complete listing of all referral fees received and paid, dates of payments and where the money was coming from.

    A Star investigation published in December found that the Diamond & Diamond firm had for many years been attracting thousands of would-be clients and then referring cases out to other lawyers in return for sometimes hefty fees. The Star found that clients were often unaware of the referrals and associated fees. Diamond & Diamond has told the Star that it has a growing roster of lawyers who handle cases in house.

    Diamond & Diamond’s marketing, which has included women in tight T-shirts and ads above urinals at the Air Canada Centre, has raised the ire of the law society, clients and some lawyers.

    At Monday’s hearing, law society lawyer Nisha Dhanoa argued that the society’s October 2016 request for information was “abundantly clear” and if any confusion existed, it was resolved by early 2017 when the society explained in more detail the records it required. She told the hearing that it wasn’t until June, after the law society alleged professional misconduct, that Diamond handed over financial information that got to the “heart” of what the society wanted.

    “It was no mystery what the law society was looking for,” Dhanoa said.

    She told the hearing that Diamond initially told the law society he did not keep the kinds of records it was seeking. However, she said that changed in the spring when Diamond said he kept a form of the required information. She said that Diamond’s “contradiction” in answers demonstrates that he wasn’t “acting in good faith.”

    Read more:

    Jeremy Diamond is the face of personal injury law but he's never tried a case

    Jeremy Diamond faces professional misconduct probe

    Dhanoa also pointed out that Diamond had a professional obligation to keep books and records in a format dictated by the law society and should have been able to provide them when asked.

    Diamond’s lawyers, Robert Centa and Kris Borg-Olivier, told the hearing their client didn’t try to hide anything, and didn’t fully understand what the law society was asking for until early April. Once Diamond understood, he complied with the law society’s request and turned over the requested information and documents, the lawyers argued.

    His lawyers said the investigation was “complex,” “unique” and interconnected with other investigations into two other lawyers at the firm — Jeremy Diamond’s wife, Sandra Zisckind, and her brother, Isaac Zisckind. (The law society is keeping details of these investigations confidential.) The lawyers argued that the investigation into Diamond was constantly evolving, as were the demands of the law society.

    “There may have been a failure to communicate. There was not a failure to co-operate,” Centa told the hearing. “This was a complicated investigation and it may have taken more time than the law society wanted.”

    “There was no attempt to hide anything. All of the information was put forward,” he said.

    At the conclusion of Monday’s hearing, Law Society Tribunal adjudicator Raj Anand said “you’ve given me lots to think about” and reserved his decision. The law society could not say when a decision would be made.


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    What a rare thing has been mutiny in Bountiful.

    Understandable, though, for those raised, coerced and married into a fiercely patriarchal breakaway Mormon cult that functions as little more than an insular matrix for the sex trafficking of child brides by lecherous polygamous husbands.

    While the boys — don’t forget the “lost boys” — are driven away by self-anointed bishops, dirty old men who won’t abide the threat posed by young males.

    Jane Oler — daughter at the time of the church’s presiding elder and wedded off at the relatively advanced age of 18 in 1975 — did not, ultimately, tolerate it. Not after 27 years of marriage to Winston Blackmore, during which her husband took 24 more wives.

    She got away in 2003, leaving husband, faith and polygamous community behind.

    In April, Jane Blackmore testified in court against both her former husband and her brother. “I told him I am feeling a heavy responsibility for the number of children and the number of wives in this family that need care and support,” the mother of seven said from the stand. “I just felt a huge weight of responsibility for children and for them to get what they needed.”

    Five months earlier, she’d also appeared as a witness in another trial involving members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She testified about how, as a teenager, she’d been told that her marriage to Blackmore had been deemed by the church’s prophet and it was to take place the very next morning. “I felt like I had been sucker-punched. I felt like I was going to throw up.”

    In that trial, last winter, Brandon Blackmore (Winston’s cousin) and his wife Emily Gail Blackmore were convicted of taking a 13-year-old girl from B.C. to Utah — removing her from Canada for sexual purposes — and witnessing the child’s marriage to Warren Jeffs, 49-year-old prophet of the Church. Jeffs already had more than 80 wives.

    They are to be sentenced in August.

    Their co-accused, James Oler, was acquitted, now under appeal.

    This is what they do to girls, groomed to obedience — pimp them to greybeards as an article of faith. And while that is not remotely uncommon in several faiths that permit underage and plural marriage, it is forbidden under Canadian law which recognizes only one wife at a time.

    Yet for decades this has been going on under our noses, in Bountiful, B.C., with the law sorely inept at putting a stop to it, at protecting vulnerable girls and, yes, those ostracized boys.

    Despite a 2011 ruling by the B.C. Supreme Court — a hearing I covered— firmly declaring that the Criminal Code section banning polygamy did not violate religious rights; that the harmful effects of polygamy — physical and sexual abuse, incest, child brides, the subjugation of women and the expulsion from the community of young men — outweighed any claims to freedom of religion.

    This week, in Cranbrook, B.C., Justice Sheri Ann Donegan found Winston Blackmore and co-accused James Oler guilty of practicing polygamy, or what the defendants righteously describe as “celestial marriages,” in accordance with the “rules” — made up out of cultish whole cloth — of the FLDS, a sect that has been long disavowed by the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), which outlawed polygamy in 1904.

    Donegan praised Jane Blackmore’s testimony as highly credible. “There was nothing contrived or rehearsed in her answers,” the judge noted, as reported by The Canadian Press. “She was impartial.”

    Winston Blackmore, unapologetic and unbowed, was listed on the indictment as having 148 children, three of whom have been born since the evidentiary part of the trial concluded. For James Oler, four wives were listed on the indictment with a fifth added during the trial. The number of children he’s fathered is unknown.

    The two men are facing up to five years in prison. That’s it — a five-year maximum, not for their twisted beliefs but for their degenerate actions.

    They wear it proudly, self-righteously.

    “Mr. Blackmore . . . would not deny his faith in his 2009 statement to police,” Donegan stated. “He spoke openly about his practice of polygamy.”

    Both men were charged in 2014, for the second time, with practicing polygamy. The law has been chasing them — and other FLDS adherents — for two decades, with little to show for it.

    Blackmore’s lawyer already told the court he would launch a constitutional challenge if his client was found guilty.

    Indeed, this is a matter which deserves to be decided once and for all at the Supreme Court of Canada level and not left to trial judges to apply the 2011 B.C. ruling. For more than a century before that judgment, polygamy had been legally prohibited yet few charges were ever laid. The law might occasionally go after an individual but it clearly doesn’t know what to do when an entire community coalesces around a polygamous canon and makes bishops out of bigamists.

    In Canada the law doesn’t care how many adults choose to shack up together, nor should authorities pursue such matters. It will be interesting, however, if plural marriage — by FLDS members or, say, Muslims, where men are permitted to take up to four wives in many formally Islamic countries — will again be challenged as a breach of constitutional religious rights. There was a news story recently of a same-sex married couple who want a third party to their union recognized as a lawful spouse.

    We turn ourselves inside-out to respect differences but I don’t think we understand where we’re going and unintended consequences.

    Girls forced into marriage, their husbands chosen for them, a practice which extends far beyond the Bountiful whack-jobs and devout Muslims.

    Sexual abuse by any other name, cloaked as quack religion. Sexual trafficking of minors. And all the inside-Bountiful proscriptions that strip girls of every fundamental right this country holds sacred under the rubric of obedience.

    If Omar Khadr, a self-professed (if latterly renounced) Al Qaeda disciple can be awarded $10 million for Canada’s alleged complicity in the violation of his rights while imprisoned and tortured at Guantanamo, then surely the government owes compensation to the Bountiful victims.

    If someone can please go in there and identify them. If we can all please recognize sexism and child abuse for what it is instead of weaseling out to religious doctrine, from the Catholic Church to the charlatan FLDS pulpit.

    Because we have allowed Bountiful to exist.

    Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.


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