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    The men guiding CP Rail train 235 through pre-dawn Toronto found themselves scrambling to get to work with less sleep than they had wanted.

    On the night of Aug. 20, 2016, the locomotive engineer had gone to bed at 10:15 p.m., requesting that he be woken at 5:30 a.m. so he could join a train scheduled to leave the yard in Scarborough at 7 a.m. Instead, he was called at 3:15 a.m. and ordered to work just 90 minutes later.

    His co-worker, a conductor, had it even worse. He was living in Smiths Falls, outside Ottawa, and was told to report to work in Toronto. He slept in his car for a few nights. On the evening of Aug. 20, he dozed in his car for 90 minutes before reporting for duty just before midnight. He hadn’t had a solid night’s sleep for days.

    The two men headed west from Scarborough at 5 a.m. Their train, which consisted of just two locomotives, passed through the quiet streets of Leaside and Rosedale to midtown Toronto. Fourteen minutes later, while travelling at 77 km/h on the north track, it rounded a right-hand curve and passed by a signal warning of a stop signal just ahead.

    Seconds later, the crew saw an eastbound train — CP 118 — on the south track and didn’t notice immediately that the tail end of this 3,000-foot-long train was on a crossover linking the north and south tracks with its last cars still on the north track about half a mile away.

    When the engineer on train 235 did notice what was going on, he hit the emergency brakes. It was too late. His train clipped four of train 118’s cars before the two locomotives derailed and came to rest near Howland Ave. just off Dupont St., and spilling 2,500 litres of diesel fuel. It was 800 feet past the signal ordering it to stop.

    Annex residents jolted awake that morning had cause to wonder what had happened on their doorstep. A recent report by the Transportation Safety Board provides little comfort that this was an exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime incident. Indeed, the board shows a sense of weariness that issues on its “watchlist” are not being dealt with.

    • It suggests that fatigue from unpredictable sleep patterns likely played a part in the accident and it notes that Transport Canada is not doing enough to deal with train crews operating without adequate rest.

    • Additional physical fail-safe defences have not been implemented to ensure railway signals are recognized and followed. (The TSB notes that technologies for ensuring that signals are following — some dating from the 1920 — have been implemented in the United States but are not in use in Canada.)

    Transport Canada, which is in the midst of a review of the Railway Safety Act, needs to determine why Canada’s railways have made only marginal progress on safety in the past 30 years despite a succession of reports that said the system for shipping dangerous goods needs improvement.

    The derailment on Howland Ave. should serve as a wake-up call.

    The CP Rail corridor through midtown Toronto is the route on which tens of thousands of tank cars carrying flammable liquids, such as ethanol and other dangerous goods, are shipped.

    Relocation of the midtown CP Rail line to a less densely populated area was first recommended in a royal commission report that investigated the derailment and explosion of a CP train in Mississauga in 1979.

    But relocation, while it may assuage residents of midtown Toronto, is not an answer to the challenge of moving dangerous goods across Canada. Shipment by rail will never be completely without risk but there are a number of measures the government could mandate that would reduce this risk.

    In the shorter term, for example, the phase-out of inadequate tank cars currently set for 2025 should be accelerated and better braking systems mandated. As well, trains carrying dangerous goods should be shorter and travel at lower speeds.

    The authors of the TSB report are too cautious to call out successive governments for their inattention to rail safety but they make it clear that it remains a critical issue that urgently needs to be addressed.

    Correction – August 11, 2017: This article was edited from a previous version to update an incorrect photo caption.

    Claire Kilgour Hervey and Henry Wiercinski are co-chairs of Rail Safety First (, which advocates for safe, transparent and accountable rail traffic.

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    It’s a hot topic when it’s hot outside; it’s a hot topic when it’s cold outside.

    Ontarians love to complain about their hydro bills.

    But are ratepayers in Canada’s most populous province really getting ripped off?

    And, if so, who or what is to blame for that?

    Here are some answers to questions that have long perplexed and vexed consumers:

    How did we get to where we are today? In 2003, when the Liberals took power, we were dealing with brown-outs because there wasn’t enough power. Now we have too much. What happened?

    The government undertook major upgrades to improve and modernize the electricity system, making it more reliable, adding generating plants and transmission lines to keep the lights and air conditioners on. Later in the decade, there was a push toward green energy as a way to create manufacturing jobs here in solar panels and wind turbines given forecasts that electricity demand would keep rising rapidly. But along came the 2008-09 global recession, and demand forecasts proved too high as manufacturing trailed off. However, lucrative contracts to green energy producers were already in place. The government has since cancelled some, but others keep coming on stream because contracts were signed.

    Is electricity more expensive in Ontario than in neighbouring provinces and states?

    More expensive than some, not as high as others. According to a 2016 Hydro Quebec survey, average electricity prices for residential customers per kilowatt hour in selected major North American cities in April 2016 were (not including taxes, all figures in Canadian dollars.):

    Adjusting for the most recent rate cuts in Ontario, the Ministry of Energy calculates that Ontario now averages 14.12 cents per kilowatt hour for residential customers, higher than the Canadian average of 12.84 cents.

    One kilowatt hour of electricity is enough to power an LED television for 10 episodes of a typical program.

    What’s the deal with Premier Kathleen Wynne’s claim that hydro bills have gone down 25 per cent this year?

    In response to complaints that electricity costs were too high, the province began instantly rebating the 8 per cent provincial portion of the HST on electricity Jan. 1. That was followed by another 17 per cent reduction in electricity costs, for most ratepayers, by July 1 as the government decided to do two things: First, costs of hydro subsidies for the poor, and for rural and remote residents who pay high delivery fees, were switched from hydro bills to the broader tax base of all Ontarians; second, the cost of billions of dollars in hydro system improvements from the last decade is being spread over the next 30 years.

    How much will I save?

    The government says the average monthly household bill will drop $41 to $121 this summer.

    How can the province afford that?

    The government plans to borrow billions and make hydro ratepayers foot the bill in the long run. Wynne has compared it to extending a mortgage on a house to enjoy better cash flow with lower payments now. The additional debt interest will cost $25 billion over the next 30 years.

    Opposition parties say the Liberal plan doesn’t fix underlying problems that have made electricity expensive and simply borrows money to spread the costs over a longer period of time.

    Wynne argues it’s reasonable to do that because the hydro system improvements will benefit coming generations of Ontarians, making it unfair to force consumers to pay the full costs now.

    What’s the long-term cost of subsidizing electricity?

    In May, the province’s financial accountability officer (FAO) warned the hydro rate cut will cost the province in the long run — some $21 billion over the next 30 years. The FAO also warned that if the province is unable to produce a balanced budget at any time over the next 29 years, the cost of the cut could actually balloon to as much as $93 million because the government would have to borrow to pay for it.

    And while electricity costs will be lower over the next decade, they will be slightly more expensive after 2027.

    What are all those charges on our hydro bills?

  • The electricity charge, which is simply for the amount of power used in your household.

    • Delivery charge, or the cost of getting the electricity into your home. It is based on how many customers are in a particular area and how far it is from generating stations. Residents of Toronto and other cities generally enjoy much cheaper delivery costs than people in remote or rural areas.

    • Regulatory charges are a smaller portion of the bill. They are to cover the costs of administering the wholesale electricity system, to maintain the reliability of the provincial grid and to fund energy conservation efforts.

    • The HST or harmonized sales tax of 13 per cent, of which the 8 per cent provincial portion is now instantly rebated on bills. The other 5 per cent goes to the federal government.

    • Customers who are not on time-of-use rates will see a separate “global adjustment” charge on their bills. While that is included in time-of-use rates, it is listed separately for residential and other customers who have signed retail contracts for their electricity.

    (The global adjustment, in place since 2005, is the cost of paying for electricity that is produced from non-market agreements, including contracts with private generators, the regulated output of Ontario Power Generation and from other arrangements, such as renewable power contracts. Those sources now make up the vast bulk of Ontario’s power supply.)

    For more tips on how to read your hydro bill, the Ontario Energy Board has an explanation on its website.

    Where does Ontario get its electricity?

    The vast majority of the province’s electrical generation — 61 per cent per cent last year — is produced at nuclear reactors at Bruce, Darlington and Pickering. Only about a quarter — 24 per cent — actually comes from “hydro,” meaning it is generated from hydroelectric generating stations such as Niagara Falls, where fast-moving water flows over turbines that generate power. Another 9 per cent is from plants fuelled by natural gas or oil and 6 per cent is from wind and less than 1 per cent each from solar and biofuels.

    How much electricity does this province use in winter versus summer?

    The winter record of 24,979 megawatts was set Dec. 20, 2004. But more power is used in the summer due to air conditioning. The highest use in Ontario history was during a heat wave on Aug. 1, 2006 when the load demand was 27,005 megawatts. Put in context, Ontario now has an installed generation capacity of 36,130 megawatts, according to the Independent Electricity System Operator’s latest figures. That means there is a surplus of power and the risk of blackouts and brownouts is lower, though those can still occur in extreme weather conditions or if there are technical problems.

    If nuclear power is so efficient, why don’t we just build more reactors?

    There are few more expensive things in the world than nuclear reactors. Building new nukes is costly and time-consuming while refurbishing old stations is also financially daunting. That’s because nuclear projects are almost always plagued by cost overruns caused by lengthy environmental assessments and engineering hurdles. And once they are built, getting rid of radioactive waste is challenging. Currently, Ontario Power Generation is undertaking a 10-year $12.8 billion refurbishment of the Darlington nuclear station just east of Oshawa.

    Why do ratepayers bankroll “green energy producers” with long-term contracts to purchase wind and solar power for more than the market price?

    In 2009, former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty announced a sweeping green energy strategy, including the feed-in tariff (FIT) that would pay companies and individuals a premium for generating clean electricity. It was an economic development tool to encourage manufacturers to build wind turbines and solar panels here in Ontario. To create a market for such equipment, the government encouraged farmers and others in rural Ontario to install wind turbines by guaranteeing them a fixed price over 20 years for the power they generate. That’s why there are so many turbines and solar panels in the countryside.

    Why did the Liberals sell off the majority share in Hydro One and will privatization increase electricity bills?

    Over the past year or so, Wynne’s government has sold more than 51 per cent of the provincial transmission utility, making some $9 billion — $5 billion to pay off Hydro One’s debt and $4 billion to bankroll transportation infrastructure such as public transit, roads and bridges. Critics charge the sell-off was so the Liberals could balance the books before the 2018 election.

    But Hydro One cannot unilaterally increase electricity rates. Those are set by the independent Ontario Energy Board and, like all private and public utilities, Hydro One needs the board’s permission to hike rates.

    Still, both the Tories and the New Democrats insist privatization will lead to higher costs while the Liberals claim the company could be better run and actually save ratepayers money.

    Just how unhappy were Ontarians with their hydro bills?

    Before Hydro One was privatized, Ontario’s ombudsman was looking into 10,500 complaints about billing errors, including some cases where Hydro One had mistakenly gone into customers’ bank accounts and withdrawn thousands of dollars. As well, a new computer system meant about 100,000 customers received no bills over several months, while others got “estimates” which meant many were faced with huge makeup payments when actual usage was calculated. Then customers were threatened with losing power, even in the winter.

    Faced with mounting criticism, the Liberal government in February quickly enacted a bill to outlaw winter disconnections across the province.

    The ombudsman’s office lost the authority to handle consumer complaints once it was no longer 100 per cent publicly owned. Complaints are now handled internally by Hydro One.

    How efficient is Ontario’s hydro system?

    In 2015, auditor general Bonnie Lysyk said consumers were being hit with billions of extra dollars in costs because of overpriced green energy, poor government planning and substandard service from Hydro One. Her value-for-money audit estimated that from 2006 to 2014, Ontarians paid $37 billion more than necessary, a figure that would balloon to $133 billion by 2032.

    “Hydro One’s customers have a power system for which reliability appears to be worsening while costs are increasing,” Lysyk said at the time.

    Her analysis did not take into account the health benefits and savings as a result of phasing out cheaper, dirty coal-fuelled generation. Smog warnings and smog days are now rare.

    Isn’t there a lawsuit aimed at stopping the sale of Hydro One shares?

    Yes. The Canadian Union of Public Employees has filed a $1.1 million civil suit in Ontario Superior Court of Justice, which held a hearing in June to hash out arguments from the union and the government as to whether the case should proceed. The government — which has already sold all the intended shares in Hydro One — has asked for the suit to be dismissed, calling it a political stunt. The union alleges the government “knowingly structured” the sale to reward investors and the Ontario Liberal Party through fundraising with investment bankers. Ontario’s integrity commissioner has ruled there was no wrongdoing with the fundraising events. The judge in the lawsuit has reserved his decision as to whether it should go ahead.

    What about the “gas-plants email” trial that starts in September?

    Before the 2011 election, McGuinty cancelled two gas-fired power plants that were to be built in Oakville and Mississauga because they were unpopular with local residents and could have led to the defeat of five Liberal MPPs in those areas.

    Lysyk has estimated the cancellation will cost ratepayers $1 billion over 20 years in terms of compensating the companies behind the scrapped plants and building replacement plants near Napanee and Sarnia.

    In 2013, as McGuinty was handing the reins of power to Wynne, his chief of staff and deputy chief of staff were implicated after computer hard-drives were deleted in the premier’s office. Ontario Provincial Police launched an investigation in response to a complaint from the Progressive Conservatives that said emails related to the gas plants could have been deleted. Charges were laid in 2015.

    Both David Livingston and Laura Miller go to trial Sept. 11 for criminal breach of trust. They deny any wrongdoing. McGuinty, who co-operated with police, was never under investigation.

    When will we learn more about the direction hydro rates are headed in Ontario?

    Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault said the latest version of the government’s long-term energy plan, which is updated every four years, will be released soon. He has pledged to find ways to remove more costs from the system.

    What have the opposition parties at Queen’s Park promised to do about hydro?

    • New Democrats: NDP Leader Andrea Horwath insists she can chop hydro bills by up to 30 per cent by keeping the Wynne government’s instant rebate of the 8 per cent provincial HST, asking the federal government to scrap its remaining 5 per cent HST, eliminating time-of-use pricing, capping profits of private power producers and buying back shares in Hydro One. Rival parties have scoffed at the multibillion share buyback plan, saying it isn’t feasible, and cast doubt that the feds would forego their HST on electricity. Since the buyback promise was announced, Hydro One announced it is spending $6.7 billion to buy U.S.-based Avista, raising further questions about the viability and affordability of that pledge.

    • Progressive Conservatives: Despite promising to unveil a hydro plan earlier this year, Tory Leader Patrick Brown has yet to deliver his party’s policy and may not until just before the June 7, 2018 election.

    • Green Party: Green Leader Mike Schreiner wants to phase out nuclear power and use that money to help Ontario families and businesses conserve energy. Instead of Wynne’s 25 per cent across-the-board hydro rate cut, the Green Party would target price reductions to the poor who need help the most. Any further privatization of Hydro One would be stopped. The Greens would conduct an independent, public review of electricity generation costs to guide future choices.

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    The Ontario Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial for a member of the notorious Galloway Boys, who was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted murder in 2009 after a multi-million-dollar, high-profile gang trial.

    While the province’s highest court allowed Jason Wisdom’s appeal, it dismissed the appeals of Tyshan Riley, leader of the east-end Toronto street gang, and of Philip Atkins.

    The three men were convicted of murder, attempted murder and murder to benefit a criminal organization in the shooting death of Brenton Charlton and Leonard Bell, two innocent men ambushed on Mar. 3, 2004, while they were stopped at a red light at a busy Scarborough intersection.

    The three men, serving life sentences, appealed their convictions on various grounds, including concerns about the fairness of the jury selection process, the judge’s charge to the jury and admissibility of some evidence.

    The court rejected the grounds of appeal.

    But the court agreed with Wisdom’s argument that bad character evidence about his involvement in an attempted theft/robbery of a Money Mart store, four months after the shooting, should not have been admitted at trial.

    “By and large, we agree with Wisdom’s position on this issue,” the judges wrote in their 48-page decision. “We conclude that this evidence should not have been admitted and a new trial must be ordered for Wisdom.”

    The judges didn’t feel the admission of the evidence brought the same prejudice to Riley and Atkins, therefore “the trial judge’s error in admitting the Money Mart evidence does not justify ordering a new trial for either of them.”

    The decision, released Friday, was written by Court of Appeal Justices Harry LaForme, David Watt and Gary Trotter.

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    AUSTIN, TEXAS—Police in Austin have released surveillance video showing a car plunging seven stories from a downtown parking garage and striking another vehicle as it lands in an alley.

    The video released Thursday shows the car landing atop an SUV then rolling upside down onto the ground. Moments later, people run to help the driver escape.

    Police say the July accident happened when the woman drove through retention wires on the seventh floor, hit a building across the street and plunged to the alley below.

    The SUV’s driver wasn’t hurt. Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services officials said at the time that the woman was treated at a hospital.

    Last September, a sport utility vehicle plunged from the ninth floor of the same parking garage.

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    BEIJING—China won’t come to North Korea’s help if it launches missiles threatening U.S. soil and there is retaliation, a state-owned newspaper warned on Friday, but it would intervene if Washington strikes first.

    The Global Times newspaper is not an official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, but in this case its editorial probably does reflect government policy and can be considered “semi-official,” experts said.

    China has already warned both Washington and Pyongyang not to do anything that raises tensions or causes instability on the Korean Peninsula.

    In an editorial, The Global Times said China should make it clear to both sides: “when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand.”

    “China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral,” it added. “If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.”

    The Global Times warning comes at the end of a week of threat and counter-threat between Washington and Pyongyang, and as the United States weighs up its options to deal with the threat of North Korea’s nuclear and missile program.

    The Global Times said both sides were engaging in a “reckless game” that runs the risk of descending into a real war.

    On Tuesday, President Donald Trump threatened to respond to further threats from North Korea by unleashing “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Pyongyang in turn threatened to strike the U.S. territory of Guam in the Western Pacific with ballistic missiles.

    The Global Times also cited reports that the Pentagon has prepared plans for B-1B strategic bombers to make pre-emptive strikes on North Korea’s missile sites, and a strongly worded ultimatum from Secretary of Defense James Mattis that North Korea should not consider “actions that would lead to the end of its regime and destruction of its people.”

    The paper’s comments also reflect the 1961 Sino-North Korean Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, which obliges China to intervene if North Korea is subject to unprovoked aggression- but not necessarily if Pyongyang starts a war.

    “The key point is in the first half of the sentence; China opposes North Korea testing missiles in the waters around Guam,” said Cheng Xiaohe, a North Korea expert at Renmin University of China in Beijing.

    With the situation on the Korean Peninsula sliding dangerously towards the point of no return, Chinese media are starting to declare their positions on any potential war, he said. “Secondly, in a half-official way, China is starting to review and clarify the 1961 treaty.”

    China has become deeply frustrated with the regime in Pyongyang, and genuinely wants to see a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. But it has always refused to do anything that might destabilize or topple a regime which has long been both ally and buffer state.

    That’s because Beijing does not want to see a unified Korean state allied to the United States right up against its border: indeed, hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers died during the 1950-53 Korean War to prevent that happening.

    So for now, the current uneasy status quo for China still seems better than the alternatives.

    That is doubly true ahead of an important Communist Party Congress in the fall, at which President Xi Jinping wants to project an aura of stability and control as he aims to consolidate his power at the start of a second five-year term.

    Nevertheless, experts said debate is underway behind the scenes in China about its support for the North Korean regime.

    In an article on the Financial Times China website in May, for example, Tong Zhiwei, a law professor at the East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai, argued that China should make terminating the 1961 treaty a near-term diplomatic goal, because North Korea, also known as the DPRK, had used it as cover to develop its nuclear program and avoid punishment.

    That, he wrote, was not in China’s interests.

    “In the past 57 years, the treaty has strongly protected the security of the DPRK and peace on the Korean Peninsula, but it has also been used by the North Korean authorities to protect their international wrongful acts from punishment,” he wrote.

    Meanwhile, China has reacted strongly to the United States sending a warship close to an island it controls in the South China Sea.

    The U.S. navy destroyer, USS John S. McCain, travelled close to Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands on Thursday, in the third “freedom of navigation” exercise in the area conducted under the Trump administration, Reuters reported.

    China’s Defense Ministry said two Chinese warships “jumped into action” and warned the U.S. ship to leave, labelling the move a “provocation” that seriously harms mutual trust.

    China’s Foreign Ministry said the operation had violated international and Chinese law and seriously harmed Beijing’s sovereignty and security.

    “The Chinese side is strongly dissatisfied with this and will lodge solemn representations to the U.S. side,” the ministry said in a statement.

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    DENVER—Taylor Swift’s former bodyguard testified Friday that he saw a DJ reach under her skirt a moment before a photographer snapped their picture during a meet-and-greet where the singer says the radio host groped her.

    Security guard Greg Dent, who no longer works for Swift, said he was standing a few steps away but did not intervene because he generally took his cues from the pop star, and she gave him no signals during the 2013 pre-concert encounter at a Denver arena.

    Seated at her legal team’s table in a federal courtroom, Swift chuckled when Dent testified that, after the photo was taken, he suspected that KYGO-FM host David Mueller would be at the bar of the arena — and another guard found him there.

    Dent’s account came on the fourth day of testimony in a civil trial over dueling lawsuits between Swift and Mueller, who denies groping her and is seeking up to $3 million (U.S.) from the singer-songwriter, her mother and their radio liaison to compensate him for his ruined career.

    Swift is countersuing for just $1 and what she calls a chance to stand up for other women.

    A day earlier, Swift spent an hour on the witness stand herself defiantly recounting what she called a “despicable and horrifying and shocking” encounter.

    “He stayed attached to my bare ass-cheek as I lurched away from him,” Swift testified.

    “It was a definite grab. A very long grab,” she added in her testimony.

    Read more:

    Taylor Swift takes stand at groping trial: ‘It was a definite grab. A very long grab’

    DJ in groping case says Taylor Swift photo is ‘weird and awkward’

    Taylor Swift ‘absolutely certain’ she was sexually assaulted, court hears

    Swift’s testy exchange with Mueller’s attorney occasionally elicited chuckles — even from the six-woman, two-man jury. She got a laugh when she said Dent saw Mueller “lift my skirt” but someone would have had to have been underneath her to see the actual groping — “and we didn’t have anyone positioned there.”

    Swift testified that after the photo was taken at the meet-and-greet session, she tried to get as far away Mueller as she could. She said she told him and his girlfriend, who was also in the photo, “thank you for coming” in a monotone voice before they left.

    She also said she was stunned and did not say anything to Mueller or halt the event after he left because she did not want to disappoint several dozen people waiting in line for photos with her.

    In the image, shown to jurors during opening statements but not publicly released, Mueller’s hand is behind Swift, just below her waist. Both are smiling.

    Swift’s photographer, Stephanie Simbeck, testified Thursday that she knew something was wrong as she shot the photo. She testified that Swift later told her what happened, looked at a photo and pointed out Mueller as the person responsible.

    The trial is scheduled to last through next Thursday but appeared Friday to be moving quickly toward closing arguments.

    Dent’s testimony left Mueller’s former girlfriend, Shannon Melcher, as the only remaining potential witness who was in the room at the time.

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    EDMONTON—Canada’s foreign minister says North Korea’s nuclear program poses a “grave threat” to the security of the world.

    Chrystia Freeland says Canada stands by allies like the United States when they are threatened but she says we need to find ways to de-escalate the situation, which has been marked by heated rhetoric from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

    She says North Korea must recognize that the path it is on can have no positive ending.

    Freeland expressed relief at the release of Canadian pastor Hyeong Soo Lim, who was serving a life sentence in North Korea for anti-state activities.

    She says Canada had been clear from the outset that Lim had to be released and returned home.

    Freeland says the international community is united when it comes to condemning the actions of North Korea and Canada is very much engaged in finding a solution.

    Read more:

    Trump warns North Korea that U.S. is ‘locked and loaded’

    Freeing of Hyeon Soo Lim is a bright spot in Korean crisis: Editorial

    China warns North Korea: You’re on your own if you go after the U.S.

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    Liars. Sots. Creeps.

    Swinging dicks who took free drinks and free food — comped to the badge.

    Palsy-walsy with strip club bouncers and barkeeps.

    Puking in the bathroom, on the street, in a hotel lobby.

    A disgrace to the uniform they weren’t wearing.

    Oh, but not rapists. Acquitted of sexual assault, the lot of them, because guilt was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

    They. Must. Go.

    Leslie Nyznik, Sameer Kara, Joshua Cabero: Police officers who can never again possibly be trusted to do a job that demands integrity and reputability and basic decency.

    How can they possibly work alongside female colleagues after the brass-balls hokum they pulled on a waitress at the Brass Rail, pretending to be with a porno film crew from Miami? How can they possibly respond to potential vice crimes when their own off-duty behaviour was so execrable? How can they possibly investigate a sex assault complaint?

    Hey, now that we’re done with this broad — the parking officer colleague who testified she hadn’t consented to sex with them in a hotel room in the early morning hours of Jan. 17, 2015 — should we call a hooker?

    No, they’re not rapists. Criminal trials demand a high standard of proof. But they are reprehensible human beings who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a vulnerable, traumatized victim — regardless of the offence committed — or exercise their deeply flawed judgment at a crime scene.

    I wouldn’t trust them as far I could throw them. Which is what Police Chief Mark Saunders should do — throw them off the force. Or go down trying, amidst a group of defence lawyers who make a specialized well-heeled career out of springing bad cops.

    It is unclear what Saunders will do with these pathetic little men, only one of whom — Nyznik — took the stand at trial, point-cop just as he was on Rookie Buy Night. And isn’t that a fine tradition, introducing the newbie to perks of the law enforcement trade, like bar managers who will offer up a drink even though the joint isn’t open and entree to the special-special vodka fridge elite level of service.

    The three 51 Division officers have been suspended with pay since across-the-board sex assault charge were laid in February, 2015. There would likely be legal hurdles to overcome but Saunders can still have them all charged with discreditable conduct under the Police Act. If so, it would be interesting to see if the police union would pay for their lawyers, which they didn’t do at the criminal trial because the alleged offence occurred off-duty.

    If Saunders wants to be viewed as a police chief of substance — and thus far he hasn’t scored high marks — he absolutely must take disciplinary comeuppance to its farthest reaches. It is vital he sends a message to the men and women under his command, and the city they police, that, no, no, no, these individuals don’t deserve to wear the uniform. Employment as a police officer is both duty and privilege. None of these men deserve to exercise the authority granted them against you or me or anybody else. Not for the charges they were acquitted of, but for what they did throughout that dissolute night and how they (and their lawyers) spun it afterwards.

    Let me quote Molloy, in her verdict rendered Wednesday, on the subject of Nyznik’s stilted testimony, which she characterized as “less than forthright” in places, specifically his contention that the complainant (AB a pseudonym) initiated each and every sex act that took place.

    “Some of this simply did not ring true. Further, his description of how the group sex was carried out, particularly with the complainant purportedly servicing all three of them at once with Mr. Nyznik as much as touching her to provide assistance, seems improbable. As the Crown pointed out, AB would have to be some kind of contortionist to accomplish all of that at once.”

    Even on the small stuff, Molloy was dubious. For example, when the prosecutor was trying to make the point that AB was a parking enforcement officer but aspired to become a full police officer, “Mr. Nyznik refused to agree that there was any hierarchy between police officers and parking enforcement officers. However, later in his evidence, he said that he knew of some police officers who ‘dropped down’ to parking enforcement, clearly a reference to his belief that police officers are higher on the chain. Similarly, he refused to acknowledge the possibility that there would ever be any career repercussions or ‘blacklisting’ if a woman within the force reported she had been sexually assaulted by police officers. I find it hard to be accept this as an honestly held belief.”

    Crucially, Molloy said she did not “necessarily believe” Nyznik’s evidence but “making a determination that someone has lied under oath is not an easy task.” In the end she was left with a he-said she-said scenario, so typical of sex assault trials, and a complainant whose testimony was riddled with inconsistencies, contradictions, memory lapses and a narrative often in conflict with the limited objective evidence, such as surveillance video.

    “On the sole contentious issue of consent, her evidence stands alone,” Molloy wrote. “In order to convict, I would need to be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that her evidence was both credible and reliable with respect to the issue of consent. Given the frailties in her evidence, I simply cannot be sure of that important fact to the degree of certainty necessary to make a finding of criminal responsibility.”

    But this isn’t about AB anymore, wherever she is now and however she’s managing to pick up the shreds of her life and career.

    It’s about an ugly peek inside the lives of these three cops and the blow they’ve dealt to the force’s reputation.

    Their continuing presence is intolerable.

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

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    Environment Canada is investigating reports of two tornadoes that may have touched down in southwestern Ontario during dramatic thunderstorms yesterday evening.

    Residents in the area of Leamington and Hawkesville took to social media last night just after two storms hit to post pictures and testimony of what they witnessed.

    One resident in Leamington caught a photo of their possible tornado that Kuhn called “clear-cut.”

    “In my opinion, that’s going to be a confirmed tornado,” said Rob Kuhn, a severe weather meteorologist with Environment Canada.

    “Public reports come in, and if there’s enough of them and if they look like they bear some weight … we try and send out an investigative team to check it out,” Kuhn said.

    A damage survey team is looking into a tornado that may have touched down in Hawkesville, near Waterloo, Kuhn said, adding that “there is damage in the area: downed power lines and debris in open fields.”

    There was also “structural damage” found in the area, of a “two by four constructed wall that was ripped up and tossed,” possibly a part of a barn, as well as aluminum siding and “some kind of silo.”

    “Something was destroyed,” Kuhn said.

    The damage in the Hawkesville area continued east towards Elmira and possibly stretched south towards the village of Maryhill as well, he said.

    Thunderstorms moved over Leamington at 5:40 p.m., and over Hawkesville at 7:30 p.m. If confirmed, these will be the seventh and eighth tornadoes in Ontario since March, following two tornadoes that touched down in Muskoka only last week.

    Another resident posted a video on Twitter of the funnel cloud in the distance.

    The Leamington tornado is currently called “probable” by the weather agency.

    “There are some reports of damage there to solar panels and a greenhouse,” Kohn confirmed, stating that the Hawkesville reported tornado is the current priority. “The one in Hawkesville may have more damage associated with it than Leamington.”

    Environment Canada put out a severe thunderstorm watch just after 1 p.m. on Friday for the Waterloo-Wellington area, which was upgraded to a warning at 6:51 p.m. The severe thunderstorm warning included a mention of a possible “isolated, brief tornado” touching down, forty minutes before that warning turned into an official tornado warning at 7:30 p.m.

    Waterloo Regional Police confirmed that they got a call at 7:36 p.m. for a possible tornado passing through, and said there were no injuries.

    “Any severe thunderstorm can produce a tornado without warning,” Kuhn said.

    Although they don’t know yet how powerful the potential tornadoes could have been, Kuhn said that the current damage assessment indicated that there were likely winds gusts within the thunderstorm of at least 90 km/h.

    The two tornadoes didn’t spring from the same thunderstorm, but from the same cold front, Kuhn said. The outer regions of the GTA also felt the pressure from this storm system, with several severe thunderstorm watches announced around 8 p.m. last night.

    Kuhn was driving home to Kitchener into the same thunderstorm that affected Hawkesville yesterday evening, and said it had “one heck of a lot of lightning.”

    The constant lightning lasted for around half an hour, he says, but storms continued in the area until “at least 11 p.m.”

    “When you were outside, you could see it to the north, and it was just non-stop rumbling. It just kept going, it’s really quite amazing.”

    At home, his dog did not appreciate the spectacle: “when there’s continuous thunder, (he) just sits there and barks at it.”

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    NAIROBI, KENYA—In an escalation of Kenya’s deadly election violence, police on Saturday fired live ammunition at rioters and used tear gas on vehicles carrying opposition officials trying to enter a Nairobi slum where they have strong support. A young girl was killed by a stray bullet, nine bodies with gunshot wounds were brought overnight to the capital’s main morgue, and a watchdog group said police gunfire has killed 24 people since Tuesday’s disputed vote.

    The chaos in the Nairobi slums of Mathare and Kibera, as well as in the opposition stronghold of Kisumu city, contrasted with widespread calm — and celebrations in some areas — in the country of 45 million after Kenya’s election commission said late Friday that President Uhuru Kenyatta won a second term. Protests, often violent, began soon after voting when Kenyatta’s main challenger, Raila Odinga, alleged vote-rigging.

    The government said life was returning to normal and that those challenging security forces were criminals intent on looting and destroying property. However, the police came under scrutiny for what the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, which monitors government institutions, described as the “unlawful and unacceptable” use of excessive force.

    Read more: Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta wins second term amid claims vote was rigged

    Kenya’s opposition leader alleges election hacking, sparking deadly protests

    Seventeen of the two dozen people shot by police died in Nairobi, the commission said. It cited allegations of police breaking into homes, beating people, threatening them with rape and demanding money. The watchdog group also lamented “the destruction of private property by both civilians and allegedly by security personnel in the course of their duty.”

    Police shot and killed two people during riots by opposition supporters on the outskirts of Kisumu, a regional police commander, Leonard Katana, said Saturday. Another five people were injured by gunfire in Kisumu, Katana said.

    In Mathare, where Odinga has significant support, police opened fire to disperse protesters who blocked roads and set up burning barricades. Associated Press photographers saw police charging demonstrators and firing live rounds and tear gas.

    One Mathare resident, Wycliff Mokaya, told The Associated Press that his 9-year-old daughter was killed by a stray bullet while on the third-floor balcony of their home.

    “I was watching her play with her friends when she suddenly fell down,” Mokaya said. “She was my only hope.”

    Nine bodies with gunshot wounds were brought to the Nairobi morgue from Mathare, a mortuary official said Saturday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

    An Associated Press photographer said police used tear gas on a large opposition convoy trying to enter the Kibera slum. Police also fired shots in the air.

    The Kenya Red Cross said it helped a total of 93 people who were injured during the clashes since the election results were announced.

    Police harassed and assaulted at least four journalists covering the violence, witnesses said.

    The unrest followed a victory speech Friday in which Kenyatta, whose father was Kenya’s first president after independence from British colonial rule, said he was extending a “hand of friendship” to the opposition.

    Kenyatta won with a decisive 54 per cent of the vote to nearly 45 per cent for Odinga, but the bitter dispute over the integrity of the election process tempered what many Kenyans had hoped would be a celebration of democracy in a regional power known for its economic promise and long-term stability. The opposition said the election commission’s database had been hacked and results were manipulated against Odinga.

    The unrest also exposed divisions in a society where poverty and government corruption have angered large numbers of Kenyans, including those who have been protesting in the slums and see Odinga as a voice for their grievances.

    Adding to the rift is ethnic loyalty. Kenyatta is widely seen as the representative of the Kikuyu people, the country’s largest ethnic group, while Odinga is associated with the Luo group, which has never produced a head of state.

    But reconciliation efforts and the introduction of a progressive constitution in 2010 have helped to defuse fears of the kind of ethnic-fueled violence that followed the 2007 election in which more than 1,000 people were killed. Odinga ran unsuccessfully in that election; he also lost the 2013 vote to Kenyatta and took allegations of vote-tampering to Kenya’s highest court, which rejected his case.

    Recalling its failed legal challenge in 2013, the opposition has said it will not go to court again. It has not directly urged supporters to stage protests, instead telling them to stay safe.

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    SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA—Chinese President Xi Jinping made a plea for cool-headedness over escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea in a phone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday, urging both sides to avoid words or actions that could worsen the situation.

    The call came after Trump unleashed a slew of fresh threats against North Korea on Friday, declaring the U.S. military “locked and loaded” and warning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he “will regret it fast” if he takes any action against U.S. territories or allies.

    Trump has pushed China to pressure North Korea to halt a nuclear weapons program that is nearing the capability of targeting the United States. China is the North’s biggest economic partner and source of aid, but says it alone can’t compel Pyongyang to end its nuclear and missile programs.

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

    The White House said in a statement that Trump and Xi “agreed North Korea must stop its provocative and escalatory behaviour.” It also said that the two “reiterated their mutual commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

    State-run China Central Television quoted Xi as telling Trump the “relevant parties must maintain restraint and avoid words and deeds that would exacerbate the tension on the Korean Peninsula.”

    Read more: Trump says North Korea ‘will regret it fast’ if it acts against U.S. territory or ally

    As Trump ramps up tough talk on North Korea, U.S., South Korea plan to go ahead with war games

    China warns North Korea: You’re on your own if you go after the U.S.

    But restraint was not the word of the day on Friday as Trump sent out a cascade of unscripted statements, including what appeared to be another red line — the mere utterance of threats — that would trigger a U.S. attack against North Korea and “big, big trouble” for Kim.

    North Korea’s Minju Joson newspaper, meanwhile, lashed back at the U.S. in an editorial Saturday.

    “The powerful revolutionary Paektusan army of the DPRK, capable of fighting any war the U.S. wants, is now on the standby to launch fire into its mainland, waiting for an order of final attack,” it said. DPRK stands for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

    The tough talk capped a week in which long-standing tensions between the countries risked abruptly boiling over.

    New United Nations sanctions condemning the North’s rapidly developing nuclear program drew fresh ire and threats from Pyongyang. Trump, responding to a report that U.S. intelligence indicates Pyongyang can now put a nuclear warhead on its long-range missiles, vowed to rain down “fire and fury” if challenged.

    The North then came out with a threat to lob four intermediate-range “Hwasong-12” missiles near Guam, a tiny U.S. territory some 3,200 kilometres from Pyongyang.

    At the epicentre of the rhetoric, Trump’s New Jersey golf course, the president seemed to put Kim on notice, saying, “If he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat — which by the way he has been uttering for years and his family has been uttering for years — or he does anything with respect to Guam or anyplace else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast.”

    Asked if the U.S. was going to war, he said cryptically, “I think you know the answer to that.”

    But Trump’s comments did not appear to be backed by significant military mobilization on either side of the Pacific, and an important, quiet diplomatic channel remained open. As a precaution, Japan deployed missile defence batteries under the path a North Korean missile might take.

    Life on the streets of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, also remained calm.

    There have been no air raid drills or cars in camouflage netting as has been the case during previous crises. State-run media ensures that the population gets the North Korean side of the story, but doesn’t convey any sense of international concern about the situation.

    U.S. officials say they will be going ahead with long-scheduled military exercises with South Korea. Pyongyang says it will be ready to send its missile launch plan to Kim for approval just before or as the drills begin.

    Called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, the exercises are expected to run Aug. 21-31 and involve tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops on the ground and in the sea and air. North Korea claims the exercises are a rehearsal for war, but Washington and Seoul say they are necessary to deter North Korean aggression.

    Trump began his Friday barrage with an especially fiery tweet: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

    He later retweeted a posting from U.S. Pacific Command that showed B-1B Lancer bomber planes on Guam that “stand ready to fulfil USFK’s #FightTonight mission if called upon to do so.” “Fight tonight” has long been the motto of U.S. forces in South Korea to show they’re always ready for combat on the Korean Peninsula.

    Trump also brushed away calls for caution from other world leaders, including Germany’s Angela Merkel.

    “I don’t see a military solution and I don’t think it’s called for,” Merkel said Friday, calling on the UN Security Council to continue to address the crisis.

    “I think escalating the rhetoric is the wrong answer,” Merkel added.

    “Let her speak for Germany,” Trump said, when asked about the comment. “Perhaps she is referring to Germany. She’s certainly not referring to the United States, that I can tell you.”

    By evening, he seemed to have mellowed a bit.

    “Hopefully it’ll all work out,” Trump said. “Nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump.”

    Speaking to Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo, he promised: “You are safe. We are with you a thousand per cent.”

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    On the afternoon of July 5, Isaak Komisarchik, 82, was seen in a Denver nursing home, wearing pyjama pants and a grey and white striped shirt. He walked to his mailbox and stopped by the office to pick up a few things, his daughter said.

    Then, his daughter told a local television station, “he just disappeared.”

    Days went by with no one seeing or hearing from the elderly man, who had begun showing signs of dementia and would become “disoriented at times,” his daughter told KUSA.

    His disappearance perplexed authorities and relatives, who said Komisarchik was physically incapable of walking very far from home.

    Posters and flyers were distributed throughout the southeast Denver area — pictures of the grey-haired, brown-eyed man’s face could be seen plastered on light posts and on news sites. Firefighters scoured the quiet neighbourhood, searching through five nearby ponds for the beloved father and grandfather.

    “We are really worried and really, really anxious to get him back,” his daughter, Yelena told KUSA after he had been missing for three days. “He should be safe, so where is he?” his granddaughter, Elina said.

    Weeks went by, and authorities couldn’t find him. Then, several residents of a nearby apartment building — less than a mile from the nursing facility where Komisarchik was last seen — began complaining to management about a stench coming from the building’s parking garage.

    On Aug. 2, nearly a month after he went missing, maintenance workers reported to fire authorities a discovery: a decomposed body in an elevator car in the parking garage. The body was soon identified as Komisarchik’s.

    And this week, authorities began to unravel what may have happened in Komisarchik’s final moments.

    At some point on or before July 6, Komisarchik stepped inside the parking garage elevator. For reasons that remain unclear, he struggled to get out.

    So in an attempt to seek help, Komisarchik pushed the elevator’s emergency button — twice over the course of eight minutes, a Denver Fire Department spokesperson told the Denver Post. But no one responded.

    Electronic records show that the elevator’s emergency alarm was pressed at 9:09 p.m. and 9:17 p.m. on July 6, the day after Komisarchik was last spotted, according to KUSA. Pushing this emergency button should trigger an alert to an elevator monitoring group or the fire department. But during the time Komisarchik was in the elevator, the fire department received no emergency calls from that car, the Denver Post reported.

    “Something is not right,” Capt. Greg Pixley, a Denver Fire Department spokesman told the Denver Post.

    Denver Police told a local ABC affiliate that the elevator management company received an alert from the elevator and notified the apartment building management. Apartment workers checked two of the elevators, the ABC affiliate reported, but not a third elevator, where Komisarchik’s body was eventually found.

    That specific elevator was not in use in recent weeks because it was in an area of the parking garage that was under renovation, according to a statement from Greystar Management Services, which manages the apartment complex, Woodstream Village.

    “We are saddened by the tragic loss of life and extend our deepest condolences to Mr. Komisarchik’s family and friends,” said the statement released to local news outlets by spokesperson Lindsay Andrews.

    Now police and fire officials are working to figure out exactly what happened in the elevator car, and why Komisarchik’s calls for help went seemingly unanswered.

    Although some tenants told local media the elevator was not working, a spokesperson for Denver police said it was indeed operable. It was last inspected in December and deemed to be in working condition, fire officials also said.

    “How he got in there and when he got in there is obviously what we’re trying to figure out,” police spokesperson John White told the Denver Post.

    City codes require that all elevator cars have an emergency alert system including an alarm switch and a phone or intercom. Emergency calls from an elevator car must be able to connect either with on-site security, with an elevator monitoring company or directly with the Denver Fire Department, the Denver Post reported. Code also mandates that elevator operators must monitor emergency alerts at all times.

    The discovery of Komisarchik’s body and the revelations about his calls for help have left his relatives with intense grief and many still unanswered questions.

    A number of family members declined to give interviews. One relative, Komisarchik’s cousin’s wife, Svetlana Komisarchik, said in a written message, “it’s hard for me to talk about him.”

    “He had a great sense of humour,” she told The Washington Post, adding that she was very close with him. He liked to tell jokes and write poems, she said, and he loved his family deeply, “especially his grandchildren,” she said.

    Other relatives, speaking to KUSA while Isaak Komisarchik was still missing, also spoke fondly of his witty personality and his poems, brilliantly written in Russian.

    “There was no event or celebration without him scribbling any lines,” his daughter, identified only as Yelena, told KUSA.

    Family pictures showed him playing chess and pool with his family, and enjoying time outside.

    “He was always the one sharing slightly inappropriate jokes with us, a little bit of bathroom humour,” his granddaughter, Elina, told KUSA.

    “We are still trying to come to terms with his horrible death,” Svetlana Komisarchik said.

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    After six years of trying to have a baby, Daren Herbert and his wife were stunned to discover he was the reason they were having difficulty.

    He and Joanne were in their late 30s and both had suspected the issue was with her. But it turned out that his “catastrophically low levels of sperm” were the problem.

    “(I was) afraid, shocked, surprised and feeling guilty because all that time we had assumed it was something to do with her,” recalls the Toronto actor. “I remember thinking, ‘Is it something I did through the course of my life that made my numbers drop so drastically? Or have they always been low?’ ”

    A growing number of men are asking such questions as they grapple with fertility issues.

    For Herbert, 41, and Joanne, 40, the journey to parenthood culminated happily in May with the birth of daughter Ori, after they underwent two cycles of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). But across Canada about 16 per cent of couples struggle with infertility — a figure that has doubled since the 1980s.

    Men are solely responsible for infertility in about 30 per cent of those cases, and contribute to half the cases overall, according to Health Canada. Factors affecting male fertility include genetics, a history of sexually transmitted infections, and environmental and lifestyle influences, such as exposure to pesticides, chemicals and smoking, excessive alcohol and stress.

    It’s an issue that doesn’t get as much attention as female infertility — in part because women see doctors more regularly than men and are conscious of their biological clock. But a man’s age also affects sperm quality and count. Some do become fathers later in life — former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, artist Pablo Picasso, rocker Mick Jagger — but they’re the exception.

    Acomprehensive study published this summer shows sperm counts of Western men dropped by more than 50 per cent in less than four decades. Sperm count is the best measure of male fertility. Researchers from Hebrew University of Jerusalem looked at data from 185 studies of almost 43,000 men done between 1973 and 2011. They found a 52. 4 per cent decline in sperm concentration and a 59.3 per cent decline in total sperm count in men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. There was no significant decline in counts in men from South America, Asia and Africa, where fewer studies have been done.

    “(Infertility) can be a very painful thing for a lot of people — and it was for us,” Herbert says. “But our pain was short-lived …. We were very lucky.”

    That’s because couples can go through numerous IVF cycles and never have a baby.

    The meta-analysis didn’t examine the cause for the decline, but the authors say the fact that it’s occurring in the West suggests chemicals used in commercial products play a role. They warn the decline has implications beyond fertility and reproduction, saying it may be a “canary in the coal mine” for male health across the lifespan.

    “In the industrialized world we’re seeing a very definite and clear decline in sperm counts, in quality, even among fertile men, and as the world becomes more toxic, the effect will be greater,” says Dr. Art Leader of The Ottawa Fertility Centre and a board member of Conceivable Dreams, an Ontario-based infertility patient advocacy group.

    “I think as well as The Handmaid’s Tale we’re going to have a sequel to it called The Manservant’s Tale.”

    Although men can’t change the burden of global pollution there are things they can do to optimize fertility, says the professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine at the University of Ottawa.

    He suggests minimizing alcohol, smoking and exposure to smoke, increasing exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, eating organic foods, taking an adequate dose of Vitamin D and not using anabolic steroids. And be mindful of endocrine disruptors, which are chemicals found in everyday products that interfere with the body’s naturally occurring hormones. Examples include bisphenol A (BPA), dioxins, phthalates and fire retardants.

    Even medications used by men to stop hair loss — finasteride and minoxidil — have been shown to lower sperm counts. But once men stop taking these drugs, sperm counts bounce back.

    Men should also be wary of reproductive hazards on the job, says Leader. For instance, bakers and chefs who work in hot places; mechanics and industrial workers who handle the metal degreaser Trichloroethylene (TCE), and farmers who work with herbicides and pesticides may be at risk.

    If someone is really concerned, they can freeze their sperm before age 40, says Leader, noting: “Men have a best-before date of 40.”

    For Herbert, learning in 2014 that he had a low sperm count was a difficult blow. The normal range is 15 million to 200 million sperm per millilitre of semen — he had about one million.

    But infertility wasn’t something he felt comfortable talking about with his buddies.

    “There is a taboo attached,” he says. “What’s the stigma? That you’re shooting blanks. It just doesn’t feel manly. This is the one thing that should be easy for us to do.

    “We go through so much of our life trying not to get somebody pregnant ... And then you get to this stage and it’s like, ‘What? I need help? It’s not working? I don’t have enough?’ ”

    In hindsight, Herbert says, it would have been “a lot more helpful for me to talk about it.” But he didn’t, except with his wife, who happens to be a psychotherapist.

    Jan Silverman, a fertility counsellor who also works at Create Fertility Centre in Toronto, says men don’t easily open up about infertility. But when given the chance they will.

    “We get all kinds of guys coming out with sperm issues,” says Silverman, who runs an infertility support group. “Wives will say ‘Oh, he’ll never talk.’ And you get them in the room, with a couple of other guys there, and before you know it they are talking.”

    Often what surfaces are feelings of shame, embarrassment and sexual inadequacy. And there’s guilt because even though they’re infertile, it’s their female partners who undergo the invasive and uncomfortable fertility treatments.“I’ll never forget having this huge police officer — a six-foot-five, big, burly guy — who found he had a sperm count of zero. He sat in my office weeping, asking ‘Me?’

    “That was so poignant and telling because you never know. That’s the interesting thing about sperm. Just because you ejaculate you don’t know what’s in there. So for men, there is such a sense of shock.”

    Even popular culture is tackling the topic. Recently on the HBO hit Ballers, the main character Spencer Strasmore, a retired football player portrayed by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, is worried he may not have swimmers and seeks a referral to a fertility specialist. It’s still unclear how that storyline will unfold because moments before he goes into a collection room to ejaculate, he gets called away for work.

    Dr. Keith Jarvi, director of the Murray Koffler Urologic Wellness Centre and Head of Urology at the Mount Sinai Hospital, says a sperm test should be the first thing a couple undergoes as part of fertility testing.

    “It’s not any statement about your manhood,” says Jarvi, who heads the biggest centre in Canada for male infertility. “The frequency with having a lower sperm count is not uncommon.”

    The test checks to see if there is sperm, how much of it there is, how it moves and if it appears healthy and normal. The test is covered by OHIP, relatively easy to do and may spare the female partner from undergoing treatments.

    “Guys are often ignored,” says Jarvi. “But if you ignore the guy you might not find a fertility problem that could be fixed.”

    Sometimes the fix is simple. Avoiding regular exposure to heat, such as hot baths and saunas, wearing looser underwear and keeping the genital area cool have all been shown to help.

    “There’s a whole series of new techniques and new treatments that we can now offer men that we couldn’t offer them 15 years ago,” he says. “We’re now taking on more and more patients who we thought before had no hope.”

    For the Herberts, fertility doctors suggested a type of IVF called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection, which is commonly used to treat severe male factor infertility. It’s a laboratory process involving eggs extracted from the female, and semen retrieved from the man. An embryologist takes a single healthy sperm and injects it into the egg to create an embryo that is then transferred to the uterus.

    Herbert and his wife also made lifestyle changes. He started taking vitamins, improved his diet, stopped doing hot yoga, started acupuncture and eliminated soaps, shampoos, deodorants, toothpaste and household products with potentially harmful chemicals.

    In total, they spent about $30,000 during that first IVF attempt.

    “Once we said, ‘We’re going for this,’ then we were all in,” says Herbert.

    But it wasn’t enough. In November 2015 they were devastated to learn that first cycle of IVF didn’t work. They tried again in 2016. By then the Ontario Fertility Program was up and running and they were eligible for provincial funding, which cut their costs by half. The procedure is covered, but not the drugs. Conceivable Dreams, where Herbert is a member, is trying to persuade insurance companies to add the drug cost to their standard plans.

    About 8,200 patients have received government funded IVF treatments since it was introduced in December 2015, says the health ministry. There is a database tracking how many funded IVF cycles are the result of male infertility, but the figures are not yet available.

    Doctors warned that IVF was a crap shoot, but the Herberts hit the jackpot on their second attempt.

    “If it had been unsuccessful, I would’ve spent the rest of my life having to carry that: We spent our lives childless because of me. That’s pretty intense.”

    But then Ori came along. Herbert now looks forward to a life filled with discovering the joys of fatherhood: Playing with her, teaching her to walk, speaking with her.

    “She’s like a book that I’m anxious to read.”

    Protecting your Sperm

    • Clean your house: Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, mop the floors and clean with a damp cloth to reduce fertility-impairing chemicals that may be in the dust, such as flame-retardants, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and phthalates. Particles may come from household products, construction materials in older homes and the outdoors.

    • Avoid plastic containers and metal cans: Plastic containers may have phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), which can leach into food or water. Opt for glass kitchenware and glass jars. Metal canned foods are often lined with BPA, so cut back and opt for fresh ingredients.

    • Check labels on body care products: Many contain phthalates, a class of toxic chemicals that aren’t usually listed but can lurk under non-specific ingredient fragrance. Read the labels and avoid lead acetate, phthalates and any product with the generic word fragrance.

    • Shop organic: Studies have found elevated rates of infertility among farm workers and agricultural communities exposed to high amounts of pesticides. Buy organic food as much as possible.

    • Be aware of cellphone radiation: Some studies suggest cellphone radiation can affect sperm quality. Since levels decline with distance, keep your phone out of the front pocket and away from your genitals.

    Source: Environmental Working Group

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    Tenants of Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood say they have won several significant concessions from their landlord, MetCap Living Management Inc., concluding a rent strike that began May 1.

    Tenants had claimed their units in 12 Parkdale buildings were badly in need of repairs and they were facing repeated and unfair rent hikes intended to force out low-income tenants. Many tenets had withheld their rent payments in response. The final agreement will see lower rent increases at the buildings, according to a Saturday press release from a tenant group.

    MetCap president and chief executive officer Brent Merrill, has maintained throughout that many efforts were made to address tenant concerns at all the buildings, including setting up special hotlines for tenants to report repair issues. He also, he says, reached out personally to tenants who complained about unfulfilled work orders.

    Withholding rent was just one of several actions taken by tenants. There were several rallies and marches through Parkdale, the brief occupation of a lobby and stairwell, outside a MetCap office and the short-term shutdown of a hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board.

    “We won this strike because we refused to play by the rules,” said Bryan Daley, who lives at a seven-story building at 90 Jameson Ave., in the press release. “Parkdale came together as a community and organized to defend our homes and we came out on top.”

    The number of people who participated in the actual strike was never entirely clear. Parkdale Community Services said as many as 200 tenants withheld rent in May and up to 300 in June, across the 12 buildings. The headcount was an estimate, based on public meetings and information from tenant representatives.

    “The organizing of hundreds of working class people in Parkdale, including us and our neighbours, has shifted the balance of power between landlords and tenants in Parkdale in our favour,” said a statement on the Parkdale Organize website from the Rent Strikers’ Negotiating Committee.

    In early February, MetCap applied to the Landlord and Tenant Board to raise rent 3 per cent above provincial guidelines, each year for three years, due to renovation costs.

    This is legal, though an above guideline rent increase must be approved by the Landlord and Tenant Board.

    A 1.5 per cent rent increase has already been approved for 2017.

    The dispute took a frightening turn at the end of May, when a supporter stepped in front of Merrill’s moving truck and was forced to back-peddle, then jump to the side. Merrill told the Star he did a rolling stop to pick up a badly frightened building manager who had been chased by tenant supporters.

    Merrill confirmed that in June, several hundred tenants in buildings across Parkdale were sent notices warning them to pay rent, or potentially face a hearing before the Landlord Tenant Board. But, said Merrill, there was no way to know how many were participating in the strike and that volume of notices was not unusual for Parkdale.

    Vic Natola, a community legal worker, with Parkdale Community Legal Services said MetCap staff reached out at the end of June “to talk about tenant demands and what needs to happen to end the rent strike,” and negotiations began shortly after.

    “The demands have been constant and consistent through the entire negotiations and the strike. No more Above Guideline Increases and fix our buildings,” said Natola. “It was pretty much all hands on deck to help support the tenants through that,” said Natola. “We continued to provide legal support because tenants don’t know the law inside and out and we do.”

    The meetings included tenant representatives from several buildings taking part in the rent strike, MetCap staff and Brent Merrill and staff from AIMCO, and Parkdale Community Legal Services. All sides agreed to not talk about the details, until a resolution was reached.

    “Nobody had any interest of putting the negotiations at risk,” said Natola.

    With files from Emily Mathieu

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    The lawyer for a Canadian man accused in a massive hack of Yahoo emails says his client will bypass the extradition hearing and go directly to the United States to face the charges.

    The hearing for Karim Baratov, 22, was scheduled for next month.

    Baratov was arrested in Hamilton in March under the Extradition Act after U.S. authorities indicted him and three others — two of them allegedly officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service — for computer hacking, economic espionage and other crimes.

    After several months planning to fight the extradition, his lawyer Amedeo DiCarlo said in June that Baratov was considering bypassing his extradition hearing in an effort to speed up the legal process.

    Read more: Social media posts detail lavish lifestyle of alleged Yahoo hacker

    Accused Yahoo hacker Karim Baratov to stay in custody after bail decision upheld

    Lawyers for accused hacker Karim Baratov to appeal bail decision

    DiCarlo has previously said Baratov is getting bored behind bars — where he’s been since his arrest in March — and that he doesn’t want his client to spend more time than necessary in custody if it looks like he could be exonerated or spared incarceration in the U.S.

    He has stressed that waiving the extradition hearing does not mean admitting guilt.

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    A teenager who wore the shirt and tie that a Toronto cop bought for him after he allegedly attempted to steal them for a job interview has been hired.

    Const. Niran Jeyanesan thought he was responding to a routine shoplifting call on Aug. 6 at a Walmart in the city’s north end. The 18-year-old who had allegedly attempted to make off with some clothes had picked out a long-sleeved shirt, a tie and a pair of socks. He told the officers they were meant for a job interview.

    Jeyanesan said the teen told him he didn’t have the clothes he thought would land the “service industry position” he had applied for. He said his father had fallen ill and he wanted to help provide.

    “He was very remorseful, very ashamed,” Jeyanesan said of the teen at the time. “I could see that this is truly a mistake and this person wanted a chance at life.”

    Jeyanesan decided to purchase the shirt and tie for the teenager, who left the police station without charges following questioning. He also referred the teenager’s father to a job.

    Police spokesperson Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook said the teenager called Jeyanesan, who gave the teen his number, and let him know that the outfit worked — he landed the position and starts work on Monday.

    “There was already a sense of pride and admiration that I had toward the officer’s actions to begin with,” Douglas-Cook said. “(It) just added to it that much more when I heard the end result of how his actions have paid off thus far.”

    With files from The Canadian Press

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    Hyeon Soo Lim, a Toronto-area pastor who was detained in North Korea for over two years, is back in the city after catching a connecting flight in Ottawa.

    Lim arrived in Toronto in the late morning Saturday, and is “landed and resting,” according to a press release from his family.

    Lim was detained by North Korean authorities in January 2015 while in the country on a charitable mission. He was later convicted of attempting to subvert the authoritarian regime of Kim Jong Un and sentenced to life in a labour camp.

    North Korea’s Central Court on Wednesday granted Lim “sick bail” on humanitarian grounds.

    It has been reported that Lim was in poor health and had lost a lot of weight.

    Lim was seen in video footage taken Thursday at a U.S. military base in Fussa, Japan, appearing thinner but walking unaided.

    Lim is expected to attend a Sunday service at his church, the Light Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, which had fought and prayed for his release.

    With files from Mary Ormsby

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    Students at the University of Waterloo know Chase Graham took his own life.

    They may never have met him. They may not know he was a brilliant student or that he had a sharp sense of humour under a shy, quiet exterior.

    But they know he died by suicide at school on March 20.

    “We hear about the ones like Chase, who die on campus,” Graham’s mother, Andrea Graham, said.

    “But he very well could have waited a month and done it when he was in his apartment in Toronto while on his co-op placement and then people wouldn’t have associated it with a student death.”

    The attention Chase Graham’s death received is rare, though his story is not. Countless successful, promising young students struggle to adapt to the major change of starting post-secondary school.

    But nobody — not the Chief Coroner, nor the Ontario government nor university officials — can say how many university and college student die by suicide each year.

    The Office of the Chief Coroner should be responsible for tracking student suicides, Andrea Graham said.

    “We need to start doing some things to stop these (suicides) happening, and part of it is having an accurate view of what’s actually going on.”

    Public health authorities in Canada and around the world have called for comprehensive tracking of suicide deaths, arguing that better, more available statistics make it easier for professionals to prevent suicides.

    But Ontario has an inconsistent patchwork of tracking systems which does not come close to being comprehensive.

    The Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario tracks suicides by age group, but does not keep track of whether people who die by suicide are students or what their profession was.

    Steps are being taken to make suicide data more accurate and available, Deputy Chief Coroner Dr. Reuven Jhirad said.

    The Chief Coroners office will work to standardize the information collected by each regional coroner during investigations, and to create a database where details about a death, such as whether or not someone was a student, can be easily searched, Jhirad added. There is no specific date for when these measures will be in place.

    In a survey of Ontario’s 20 universities, the Star found that only about half keep any kind of formal statistics on the number of student suicides. Of those universities, several track only suicides that occur on their campus, meaning that any deaths that occur at a student’s off-campus residence or their family home does not get included in their tally.

    “As can be appreciated, we are only aware of the nature of a student death as indicated to us by the family or police,” said Brenda Whiteside, Associate VP of Student Affairs at Guelph, one of the schools that tracks on and off-campus suicides. “The numbers represent the best information we have.”

    In February, Whiteside confirmed that four Guelph students had died by suicide in the 2016-17 academic year, after a student petition and social media backlash demanded more attention be paid to mental health.

    At the times the deaths occurred, the university did what many schools do — they released a statement saying the student had died, in some cases mentioning the student’s name, but never mentioning the cause of death.

    “It is generally agreed upon by experts that suicide data are under-reported due to misclassification issues (including) the stigma associated with suicide, and provincial and territorial differences in the type of information collected by coroners or medical examiners reports,” said Rebecca Purdy, a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada.

    Suicide has long been a taboo topic that, until a couple of decades ago was hardly spoken about at all, even in private, said Robert Whitley, a psychiatry professor at McGill University, who has researched the coverage of suicide in media.

    Not even newspapers covered suicides, largely out of fear that the news could inspire copy-cat deaths. But those attitudes are changing.

    Recent research has shown that increasing public attention paid to suicide is a positive, if it is handled sensitively. It helps raise awareness and start discussions, Whitley said.

    “(Now) suicide is something which we can talk about. It’s the tragedy which everyone’s trying to avoid but ... it’s something people can have empathy and compassion for and respond to,” Whitley added. “That’s much better than a society where people think it’s a crime and a sin that you shouldn't even talk about or think about.”

    The start of university or college can be a particularly difficult time for young people’s mental health.

    Beginning post-secondary school often means moving away from home for the first time, and being far from family and friends. The majority of mental health issues begin to surface during a person’s teens or 20s. But age restrictions on youth programs force many young people to abandon the mental health services they have accessed for years around the age of 18 — leaving them on their own to find new sources of help in the adult health care system.

    In 2016, researchers from the Public Health Agency of Canada consulted with over 350 community organizations, government officials and indigenous groups, to identify priorities for suicide prevention in Canada.

    One of the key findings from the consultation was that Canadian suicide statistics, “including suicide ... data and research results, is fragmented, complex” and often difficult to access.

    “Data and research results provide the basis of evidence needed to define the scope of the problem in Canada... track changes in suicide rates, better understand risk and protective factors, inform policies and programs, and evaluate prevention efforts,” the Public Health Agency wrote.

    Similarly, in a 2014 report, the World Health Organization, called for improved availability and quality of data on suicides and suicide attempts globally, saying they were “required for effective suicide prevention.”

    In the days after Graham’s death, the second on-campus suicide at the University of Waterloo since January, the school’s President Feridun Hamdullahpur announced the creation of an advisory committee on mental health, citing “the recent suicide of a first-year student” as a catalyst.

    It was the first time the university had ever publicly acknowledged a specific student suicide, said Walter Mittelstaedt, the university’s director of Campus Wellness.

    “What we said this time was in response to a growing concern and misinformation,” Mittelstaedt said.

    “(Social media users) were repeatedly saying the University of Waterloo has the worst suicide rate of all campuses, which I mean, we have no way of knowing that.”

    The Waterloo president’s statement on Chase Graham’s suicide “makes me feel hopeful that the university will be taking a different approach in terms of communication and public relations on issues like these,” Waterloo student and mental health advocate Dia Rahman said.

    It was disappointing, however, that the statement only came after a student petition and social media discussion called attention to the suicide, she added.

    “For the betterment of the community, as well as helping universities... maintain wellbeing, I think student suicides should be better tracked,” Rahman said.

    “How else would you figure out whether there’s a dire need for something to be changed in the community?”

    Asked whether Waterloo will publicly disclose all student suicides in future, Mittelstaedt said it was “something for us to think about” as the school’s mental health advisory progresses.

    “Each university has to decide how much of a problem mental health and suicide is for them and will have a unique response to it,” he added. “I don’t think (the right approach) is necessarily an overall public response.”

    Mental health-related data is “severely lacking” across the board, not just for suicide and not just for university students, said Eric Windeler, whose son Jack died by suicide in 2010 during his first year at Queen’s University.

    “Writ large, the system is not tracking that stuff and you can’t function in a system properly without data, that’s for absolute certain,” said Windeler, who sits on the provincial government’s Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council and co-founded with Jack’s mother the youth mental health organization

    Focusing on suicide data alone, though, misses the bigger picture of mental health challenges on campus, Windeler added.

    “You have to look at the whole mental health piece not just suicide to understand the amount of struggle that’s going on there,” he said.

    “Suicide is kind of the tip of the iceberg. A school can go a whole year with zero suicides... but that doesn’t mean that 20 per cent of the population at that school isn’t struggling at a level that is affecting their day-to-day life.”

    Andrea Graham wants to see universities’ approach to mental health change. She has called for more convenient and proactive access to mental health services for students who may feel isolated at school. She has expressed great frustration with what she said was Waterloo’s lack of communication with her family. She wants schools to do a better job of responding after a student has died by suicide, to ensure that other students are coping.

    But tracking of student suicides is needed if we want to understand the scope of the problem, Andrea Graham said.

    “I just hope some things change,” she added. “I just dread the day that I hear of something else happening.”

    0 0

    CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA.—A car plowed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally Saturday in a Virginia college town, killing one person and sending at least 26 others to hospitals.

    An Associated Press reporter saw at least one person on the ground receiving medical treatment immediately after the car careened into the line of several hundred people. The driver was arrested.

    Matt Korbon, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, said counterprotesters were marching when “suddenly there was just this tire screeching sound.” A silver sedan smashed into another car, then backed up, plowing through “a sea of people.”

    Read more: Chanting ‘blood and soil’ and ‘white lives matter,’ white nationalists march in Charlottesville

    People scattered, running for safety in different directions, he said.

    It happened about two hours after violent clashes broke out between white nationalists, who descended on the town to rally against the city’s plans to remove a statue of the Confederal Gen. Robert E. Lee, and others who arrived to protest the racism.

    Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays. At least eight were injured and one arrested in connection to the earlier violence.

    A state official says the driver of the car that plowed into group of protesters is in custody.

    Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, and police dressed in riot gear ordered people out.

    Small bands of protesters who showed up to express their opposition to the rally were seen marching around the city peacefully by midafternoon, chanting and waving flags. Helicopters circled overhead.

    Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler had called for what he termed a “pro-white” rally to protest the city of Charlottesville’s decision to remove the confederate statue from a downtown park.

    Colleen Cook, 26, stood on a curb shouting at the rally attendees to go home.

    Cook, a teacher who attended the University of Virginia, said she sent her son, who is black, out of town for the weekend.

    “This isn’t how he should have to grow up,” she said.

    Cliff Erickson leaned against a fence and took in the scene. He said he thinks removing the statue amounts to erasing history and said the “counterprotesters are crazier than the alt-right.”

    “Both sides are hoping for a confrontation,” he said.

    It’s the latest confrontation in Charlottesville since the city about 100 miles outside of Washington, D.C., voted earlier this year to remove a statue of Lee.

    In May, a torch-wielding group that included prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer gathered around the statue for a nighttime protest, and in July, about 50 members of a North Carolina-based KKK group travelled there for a rally, where they were met by hundreds of counterprotesters.

    Kessler said this week that the rally is partly about the removal of Confederate symbols but also about free speech and “advocating for white people.”

    “This is about an anti-white climate within the Western world and the need for white people to have advocacy like other groups do,” he said in an interview.

    Between rally attendees and counterprotesters, authorities were expecting as many as 6,000 people, Charlottesville police said this week.

    Among those expected to attend are Confederate heritage groups, KKK members, militia groups and “alt-right” activists, who generally espouse a mix of racism, white nationalism and populism.

    Both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which track extremist groups, said the event has the potential to be the largest of its kind in at least a decade.

    Officials have been preparing for the rally for months. Virginia State Police will be assisting local authorities, and a spokesman said the Virginia National Guard “will closely monitor the situation and will be able to rapidly respond and provide additional assistance if needed.”

    Police instituted road closures around downtown, and many businesses in the popular open-air shopping mall opted to close for the day.

    Both local hospitals said they had taken precautions to prepare for an influx of patients and had extra staff on call.

    There were also fights Friday night, when hundreds of white nationalists marched through the University of Virginia campus carrying torches.

    A university spokesman said one person was arrested and several people were injured.

    Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer said he was disgusted that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed President Donald Trump for inflaming racial prejudices with his campaign last year.

    “I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president.”

    Charlottesville, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is a liberal-leaning city that’s home to the flagship University of Virginia and Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

    The statue’s removal is part of a broader city effort to change the way Charlottesville’s history of race is told in public spaces. The city has also renamed Lee Park, where the statue stands, and Jackson Park, named for Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. They’re now called Emancipation Park and Justice Park, respectively.

    For now, the Lee statue remains. A group called the Monument Fund filed a lawsuit arguing that removing the statue would violate a state law governing war memorials. A judge has agreed to a temporary injunction that blocks the city from removing the statue for six months.

    0 0

    The remnants of all four of my grandparents’ early lives are scattered across the eastern Indian state of Bihar. Growing up in the home they rebuilt in Karachi, Pakistan, a home they named after the village they left behind, we’d sometimes hear the echoes of their past lives, from a time when Pakistan didn’t exist.

    Within the walls of their new two-storey home, they’d remember the seven-storey building in the village where they all lived in Bihar. The garden in front of their new home couldn’t compare to the courtyard they gathered in every evening for big communal dinners in India. The long walk or bike ride they took every day was forgone for a shorter walk to the neighbourhood mosque or the nearby market.

    Monday, Aug. 14 marks 70 years since they migrated westwards to Pakistan. The future leaders of the Muslim-majority country demanded independence in 1947 just as colonialism was leaving India and a deep-seated conflict between Hindus and Muslims was taking root, violently.

    Seventy years on, their children and grandchildren would move westwards again, leaving everything behind once more, to suburban Canada — this time for reasons relating to social security and economic prosperity. We carry a legacy with us of a country the generation before struggled to live in, a legacy we’re just starting to understand.

    After my paternal grandfather, S.G.M. Badruddin, died, my father found some unpublished essays of his — the personal experience of a journalist who had to flee from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in the early 1970s, where he worked as a news editor, to West Pakistan (now just Pakistan). Therein was a story of a man I didn’t know — someone who had conversations with leaders, who escaped through secret paths and covert car rides with Christian missionaries across the subcontinent.

    In a memorable essay, my grandfather describes the six-week journey he took from Dhaka in Bangladesh, to Calcutta and Patna in India, to Kathmandu in Nepal, and then to Bangkok in Thailand, all the way to Karachi. While reading it, I mapped out my own journey from Karachi to Riyadh, Al Khobar and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, to Dubai, to Mississauga.

    His was a harrowing tale of struggle. Mine is less so. But we both lost homes. We both made new homes. We both changed our identities.

    No one spoke of Partition when I was younger. My grandparents were quiet about the experience, and no one asked. Yet it was always a part of us. Every Aug. 14, the televisions would be turned to the parade at Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s tomb — the burial place of the father of the Pakistani state.

    We commemorated their migration by wearing green and draping flags on our cars, across our balconies, across our chests. Back then it was tradition, a fun thing to do that connected me and my sisters to my cousins in Pakistan.

    It stayed a tradition until we immigrated to Canada more than seven years ago. The fact that we would start celebrating with red and white and not the familiar green and white suddenly made us hyper-aware of the evolving fabric of my identity.

    I wasn’t alone. Sarah Qidwai, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, has been hearing stories of Partition from her grandmother, Kamni Siddiqui, for as long as she can remember. But it took an undergraduate history course for her to sit down and record, in detail, her grandmother’s experience of it.

    Siddiqui, a retired professor of chemistry, was 9 in 1947. Her father told her they were “going to a land where (you) will be free to practise your own culture and religion, but there will be hardships and surprises.”

    Like me, Qidwai found parallels in this. “As a family, we moved to Canada in 2004 and it was a lot more peaceful than what Grandma experienced in 1947,” said Qidwai. And now that Siddiqui has applied for Canadian citizenship, the history seems more poignant — this time her choice had fewer hardships and surprises.

    If the history of Partition is complicated, its legacy is even more so. Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi children grow up knowing the names of the leaders of Partition and their roles in the creation of the three countries. First came the British man who arbitrarily drew a border that separated India into East and West Pakistan. Second came independence, the constitutions, the death of a founder. And then, almost 15 years later, East Pakistan had another independence movement to become Bangladesh.

    The fluctuating borders led to new identities that continue to be defined by the memories of their creation. To this day, the violent history is romanticized, the idea of a new state for Muslims to just be Muslims is lauded, the fact of independence is idealized.

    The reality for our grandparents, however, was very different — and it took me 25 years and a journey to Canada to figure that out. As I became more comfortable in my hyphenated identity, I started asking more questions and reading more about the country we, metaphorically, left behind.

    It was the same for Seemal Saif, an employee at the Ontario ministry of infrastructure, who was 19 years old, and studying in Canada, when she finally understood the weight of her grandmother’s history.

    Before Partition, Saif’s grandmother lived in Jalalabad, India — a state right at the border with newly formed Pakistan. At 7 years old, Saif’s grandmother wasn’t aware of the severity of the riots between Hindus and Muslims — reports of rapes and murders of Muslim women were increasing rapidly.

    All the women and children in the village, including Saif’s grandmother, were locked up as they awaited an opportune moment to escape. In the event that theycouldn’t, if the riots reached their home first, the family would burn down these rooms, women and children inside. It was deemed to be more honourable for them to be killed by their family members than raped by a Hindu mob.

    By 1948, more than 15 million people had been uprooted, and estimates suggest between one and two million died, with death and suffering on all sides. The 1951 census of Pakistan alone identified the number of displaced persons in Pakistan at more than seven million.

    “These were communities that lived together for centuries, they had been neigbours for generations,” said Saif. “Being in Canada, there’s a lot of talk about diversity but it’s also a fragile concept … I value it a lot more knowing this history than I would’ve just living in Pakistan.”

    There is a generation of new immigrants that is just starting to draw these parallels, myself included — a process complicated both by the deaths of our grandparents who experienced it and the fading memories of our uncles and aunts who moved with them, just children at the time.

    Partition’s ghosts continue to affect us; our grandparents’ past continues to follow us. The legacy of their migration continues to influence the reasons we immigrate: the right to freely and safely be the way we want to be.

    The one constant in both our journeys, though, as even my grandfather notes in his essay, is our personal identification with the places left behind. For him it was Dhaka and Patna. And while, I may be building a life in the streets of the 6ix, I’m pulled to the lives that used to be in the streets of Karachi, the roads through India, and the journeys across new borders.

    My experience of Partition is just starting.

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