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    Kathleen Wynne doesn’t want to be your friend; she just wants to be your premier.

    Languishing at historic lows in personal popularity polls, even as her government’s initiatives appear to be gaining traction, Wynne says Ontarians don’t have to love her when they vote on June 7, 2018.

    Asked earlier this week by CP24’s Cristina Tenaglia why Liberal policies are popular while polling suggests she, herself, is not, the premier smiled gamely and interjected.

    “You know what, you’re going to have to determine what it says about me,” Wynne said at a campaign-style event Tuesday at the Berkeley Street Theatre.

    “Here’s what I do in the morning: I get up. I read the newspaper. I listen to you guys. I go for my run and then I come to work and I do my job,” she said.

    “And my job is about creating a fair Ontario, creating an Ontario where kids and adults, seniors have the opportunity to live a life that is the very best life that they can live.

    “That’s my job.”

    That moment of candour at first seemed as though it may have been a slip of the tongue.

    But Wynne and her aides have retweeted video of her response to Tenaglia to tens of thousands of people on Twitter and posted it on Facebook.

    The Liberals have done so because they want voters to be thinking about policies, not personalities, when casting their ballots nine months from now.

    “Whether people like me or not, I’m really glad that people think that free tuition for kids who live in low income families is a good idea,” said Wynne.

    “I’m really glad that people think that having free medications for kids from zero to 25 is a really good idea,” she said.

    “I’m really glad that people think that increasing the minimum wage is a good idea, and that that makes for a fairer Ontario.”

    The premier, who trails both Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath in personal approval ratings, indicated she has no illusions about winning a popularity contest.

    “The people who love me are my family and I go home to them.

    “My job is to make sure that the people of Ontario have the best opportunity possible.”

    Internal government polling obtained by The Canadian Press through a Freedom of Information request suggests the Liberals are rebounding thanks in part to support for increasing the $11.40 hourly minimum wage to $14 in January and $15 in 2019.

    Last month, 71 per cent of respondents said they supported the policy, which is opposed by many business groups concerned about labour costs.

    “Increasing the minimum wage, along with protection for temporary and part-time workers, serves to increase confidence in government even more than increases to health care spending,” the Gandalf Group pollsters wrote.

    Gandalf, which is headed by David Herle, Wynne’s campaign manager, also found Ontarians like the 25 per cent cut in consumer electricity rates, which is being paid for through increased borrowing.

    One insider confided Wednesday that Liberals still have an uphill climb to ensure the premier, herself, is seen as the face of popular policies.

    “It’s great that people like the minimum wage, the hydro plan, and pharmacare, but we aren’t yet getting much credit for it,” said the senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal strategy.

    “We still have a long way to go.”

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    It was an icy day in March 2015 when two 10-year-olds at a Toronto Catholic school engaged in a pushing prank that went wrong. Their shoves sent a classmate toppling to the ground, causing him to break his arm.

    Two years later, the two children have been named by the school board’s insurer in a lawsuit arising from the incident, raising alarm about legal liability of students involved in schoolyard skirmishes.

    In the wake of the case, trustee Mike Del Grande wants the Toronto Catholic District School Board to advise parents of the risks of lawsuits and to make sure they have liability coverage as part of their property insurance.

    “This is the litigious atmosphere we’re in now and this is a warning that you should check your insurance policies,” he told the Star.

    “This stuff can go on and it’s under the radar and nobody knows about it until they’re in it.”

    Standard policies for homeowners, condo dwellers and tenants typically include liability coverage for policyholders and their children.

    It’s a sobering example of what can happen, even between children who are classmates and attend each other’s birthday parties, said Del Grande, who learned about the situation from the parents of the two children named in the lawsuit.

    “It’s ludicrous to put parents in that type of position. It’s unfair, it’s unconscionable,” he said.

    Parents of both children, a boy and a girl who were in Grade 5 at the time and are starting Grade 8 next week, confirmed details in conversations with the Star on condition that neither they, their children or the school were named.

    One of the children was interviewed by his family’s insurance adjustor this summer after notice that the school board’s insurer had filed a cross-claim for damages against both kids. He was asked to recall events from more than two years earlier.

    The other mother said her family does not have liability coverage.

    Experts in insurance law say although the action may seem shocking to many, naming minors in lawsuits is not uncommon and is usually aimed at triggering a parent’s insurance policy to cover costs of a settlement.

    The statement of claim in this case alleges that on that March day in 2015, the two kids had been going around the schoolyard pushing other children. When they approached the boy, he told them he didn’t want to be pushed, but they did it anyway. The fall broke his upper arm.

    In an interview, the mother of one of the kids described it as “a game” among students in which one person crouches behind the victim, and another one pushes them, sending them falling backward. Both parents said their children had not intended to cause harm. When it became apparent the boy was hurt, the boy involved in the pushing helped take him to the school office, his mother said.

    They found out the next day the boy’s arm was broken.

    The parents were contacted by police after the incident was reported, but no charges were laid, said one of the mothers. The injured child left the school before the end of the year, she added.

    Two months after the incident, she said her family received a series of lawyer’s letters indicating her son would be held responsible, and suggesting they advise their insurer.

    The injured boy suffered “great pain” as a result of the broken arm, while his mother was forced to take time off work and pay for child care and medical expenses as a result of the injury, lawyer Jane Lo of Toronto firm Klaiman Edmonds wrote in one letter on behalf of her client.

    “I have instructions to resolve this dispute in the amount of $5,000 in exchange for not naming (the boy) in the action,” Lo wrote in another letter, dated June 1, 2015. “My client will be willing to provide a release for that purpose.”

    The family did not respond to that proposal or follow-up letters, including one in July that warned if they failed to do so “we may commence a lawsuit without notice to you.”

    When they heard nothing further, they figured the matter had “blown over,” said his mother.

    Asked about the letters on Tuesday, Lo told the Star her client “felt that there was liability on the part of the children and we wanted to see if there could be a quick resolution. Unfortunately they didn’t accept the offer and we had to continue on with the action.”

    She declined to comment further.

    The families of the two pupils said they were not informed when, eight months after the incident, in November 2015, the injured child and his mother filed legal action against the school, its principal and the Catholic board, seeking a total of $600,000 in general and special damages, plus costs.

    They said they didn’t find out there was a lawsuit until March 2017, after receiving notice that the injured boy and his mother were adding the names of the other two pupils, now 12 and 13, to the lawsuit.

    However, last week, they were informed of another change — that their names were being removed from the plaintiffs’ legal action.

    “The school board hasn’t communicated anything to us,” said one mother. “We’ve never been contacted, we’ve been left on our own to deal with it.”

    The families feel “we’ve been thrown under the bus,” she said.

    In June, the Ontario School Boards’ Insurance Exchange, which provides coverage for schools and is acting for the Catholic board, filed a cross-claim against the two children, arguing the school, principal and board should not be held responsible and the children should be accountable for all damages because they broke the rules.

    The cross-claim argues the students were “negligent” and did not respect the school’s “hands off” policy.

    Their statement of defence argues the alleged injuries and damages outlined in the suit are “exaggerated, remote and not recoverable at law.”

    Boyd Critoph, a lawyer representing the school board insurance exchange, refused to comment.

    “I am advised that our general policy is not to discuss issues relating to any of our ongoing cases with the media,” he said in an email.

    A Catholic board spokesperson, John Yan, said the board “is aware of the situation” but no one can comment on a case that’s before the courts.

    The insurance exchange, a non-profit co-operative, insures most school boards in the province with one notable exception. The Toronto District School Board left the carrier in January, citing cost savings, and now has policies with various carriers through broker Aon Canada.

    Last year the insurance exchange collected details about more than 85,000 incidents involving injuries and in turn potential liability, according to the website. Incident reports are filed when students, volunteers, visitors or other non-employees are injured on school premises or while under school supervision.

    Insurance lawyers say while age 10 is unusually young for such a lawsuit, suing a minor is not unusual and cross-claims are a tactic to spread liability and costs among defendants.

    One case that named a 7-year-old who hit another student in the head in a Toronto schoolyard in 1998 dragged on for 15 years before the injured child was awarded more than $4 million in damages.

    Aviva Canada sees “a handful to two handfuls” of lawsuits involving minors each year, which tend to arise from such situations as a hockey fight or prolonged bullying, says chief claims officer Mark Warnquist.

    Warnquist, who is also a lawyer, stressed he isn’t familiar with the Catholic board case and could not comment on it directly.

    “It’s unfortunate but what happens here is only the lawyers win,” Warnquist said.

    Catholic trustees last week discussed Del Grande’s motion to raise the issue publicly at their September board meeting, said chair Angela Kennedy.

    But the notice of motion was raised in private sessions rather than during the public part of their August meeting and is currently scheduled for their private session next month, she said. That was on the advice of board counsel because legal action is underway, she added.

    But Del Grande wants the issue aired in a public forum because of the implications for schools and families.

    “This whole thing seems to be operating in a climate of fear,” he said. He said despite supervision and the best intentions, kids do reckless things and injuries happen. “Where does it end?”

    Warnquist of Aviva says parents shouldn’t necessarily be alarmed.

    “But they should know that this scenario just highlights the kinds of things that can happen in today’s society and that’s one of the reasons you buy insurance.”

    Ontario school boards sell Student Accident Insurance, but it only covers injuries for the child who’s insured, not if they hurt someone else.

    Standard policies for homeowners and tenants typically include liability coverage of $1 million to $2 million for policyholders, their kids and other household members, he said.

    Coverage includes the cost of hiring a lawyer, which can surpass the cost of a settlement or judgment, and can run into six figures “even if you’re in the right.”

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    Psssst! Want a smart thermostat . . . for free?

    Ontario is offering them, installed, also at no cost, along with free home energy reviews to 100,000 households in a bid to help cut greenhouse gas emissions.

    Environment and Climate Change Minister Chris Ballard unveiled the $40-million program Wednesday through the new Green Ontario Fund, which was launched with $377 million in revenues from the province’s cap-and-trade program.

    Aside from saving on the retail cost of a smart thermostat — this falls within the range of $200 to $350, depending on the model — Ballard said parents will want to get in on this to cut their heating and air-conditioning costs, which kids often have a hand in increasing.

    There’s also the pure joy of putting one over on their offspring.

    “I’ve had one for about three years, and it’s really cool,” he told a news conference at the Artscape Wychwood Barns on Christie St.

    “My kids would come home on a hot, sweaty spring day, and, you’ll note, there’s more and more hot, sweaty spring days.

    “I’d be at work and they’d immediately crank up the air-conditioning,” Ballard added.

    “I would get a notification on my smartphone about some activity going on and I would quietly dial back down the air-conditioning numbers. No fuss, no muss. There was no arguing. There were no problems. They didn’t even know what had gone on.”

    Read more:The new wave of products laying a foundation for smarter homes

    Smart heating controls save energy

    The free smart thermostats and installation will “help (households) reduce their carbon pollution and save money,” Ballard said.

    Homeowners and tenants can register now for the program, which will begin in the fall after more details have been worked out. They can do this online on a first-come, first-served basis.

    Ministry officials said households can save as much as 15 per cent on their energy bills by adjusting the temperature a couple of degrees when no one is home.

    “When you’re saving energy, you’re saving money,” said Green Ontario Fund chairman Parminder Sandhu.

    The program is open to people in detached and semi-detached homes, townhomes or row homes.

    Residents of multi-unit buildings do not qualify.

    Ballard said the free home-energy reviews will provide “personalized suggestions to help save money and help fight climate change.”

    He also advised Ontarians to go to the web site to learn details of other programs available to help save money and energy, and promised more programs to come, once the thermostat offer is underway.

    “There will be larger-ticket initiatives coming forward.”

    Sandu said the government is still making arrangements to purchase and hire installers for the 100,000 smart thermostats.

    “This is a big job.”

    The plan now is to allow homeowners to pick, which model they prefer, Sandu said.

    (Products from Nest, Honeywell and Toronto-based Ecobee are available.)

    Ontario held the second auction in its cap-and-trade program in June in a sell-out of emission allowances. It raised $504 million. An earlier auction raised $472 million.

    Under the cap-and-trade, there is a limit or cap on the amount of pollution companies in certain industries can release into the air, and they must purchase allowances if they exceed those limits.

    This can be done through auctions or from companies that produce less pollution than their limit.

    The idea is to create a financial incentive for businesses to be cleaner.

    In total, cap-and-trade is forecast to add $1.8 billion to government coffers this fiscal year.

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    A man was acquitted of a drunk driving charge after a Newmarket judge found his rights were violated when police allowed a TV camera operator to film him giving breath samples and speaking to a lawyer on the phone.

    Ontario Court Judge David Rose wrote that there was no evidence to suggest York Regional Police placed any restrictions on a Global News TV crew on the night in question in 2016 after approving their presence at a RIDE check in Richmond Hill.

    Concluded that Kunal Gautam’s rights to counsel and to be free from unreasonable search and seizure were infringed, Rose threw out the breath samples and acquitted him.

    “What is regrettable in this case is that otherwise reliable evidence of blood alcohol content of a motorist is excluded because York Regional Police saw apparent wisdom in giving Global News access to the RIDE truck (where the breath samples were taken),” Rose wrote in a decision released last week.

    “An effort to publicize a fairly routine police alcohol driving interdiction program will result in an acquittal. The irony is not lost on me.”

    York Regional Police have often stated that the region has a serious problem with drinking and driving. It was something that was also raised by the Crown attorney in the hearing before Rose. Police reported there were more than 1,200 drunk driving incidents in 2016.

    “Despite our efforts, the problem of impaired driving continues to exist, as you can see in the impaired driving media releases that we issue on a weekly basis,” said York police spokesperson Const. Andy Pattenden.

    The issue was put front and centre when a drunken Marco Muzzo slammed into another vehicle in Vaughan and killed three children and their grandfather in 2015. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in March 2016, about two months before Gautam was arrested.

    Gautam had provided two breath samples showing results of 152 and 146 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood — nearly twice the legal limit.

    The judge wrote that the rights violations were “particularly serious” because the order to allow Global News to film came from an unknown police official.

    “What aggravates the seriousness of the charter violations in this case is that there appears to have been no input from the actual officers on scene about what might happen if a TV news crew were allowed inside the RIDE truck,” Rose wrote.

    “The presence of Global News that night appears to have been an order ‘from on high.’ No witness personally took responsibility in the evidence to explain the rationale for Global TV being in the RIDE truck.”

    A segment that aired in May 2016 shows Gautam being taken into the RIDE truck by police, providing breath samples and telling officers he had only one drink. He spoke briefly to a Global reporter afterward.

    The segment caused him embarrassment at work and came as a surprise to some of the officers who worked the RIDE check that evening, Rose wrote in his ruling.

    Pattenden, the police spokesperson, told the Star that the ride-along was set up by the corporate communications department to demonstrate how serious a problem drunk driving continues to be. He did not say who gave approval.

    “The case that you specifically mentioned was dealt with by the courts and we respect the decision,” Pattenden wrote in an email. “Since that time, corporate communications has made changes in policy to ensure media is more closely supervised while on ride-alongs.”

    A Global executive said in a brief statement to the Star that Global’s journalists are trained to balance the rights of accused persons with the public’s right to know.

    “We operated in plain sight with police authorization, keeping as low a profile as the environment allowed,” said Ron Waksman, vice-president of digital and editorial standards and practices for Global News and Corus Radio.

    Gautam testified that while he spoke to duty counsel — the free legal advice hotline — in a phone booth in the RIDE truck, the Global camera operator placed his camera at the window looking into the booth.

    Rose wrote that he found Gautam’s testimony to be truthful, and that Gautam didn’t feel comfortable asking the lawyer questions because of the camera. His rights to counsel were therefore violated, the judge found.

    He also concluded that his right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure had been infringed because he had a privacy interest while he was in the breath room area of the RIDE truck.

    “Justice Rose did an excellent analysis and decided it was in the long-term best interests of justice to exclude the evidence,” said Gautam’s lawyer, Ken Anders.

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    AUSTIN, TEXAS—A federal judge late Wednesday temporarily blocked most of Texas’ tough new “sanctuary cities” law that would have allowed police to inquire about people’s immigration status during routine interactions such as traffic stops.

    The law, SB 4, had been cheered by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration but decried by immigrants’ rights groups who say it could force anyone who looks like they might be in the country illegally to “show papers.”

    The measure sailed through the Republican-controlled Legislature despite months of protests and opposition from business groups who worried that it could cause a labour-force shortage in industries such as construction. Opponents sued, arguing it violated the U.S. Constitution, and U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia’s ruling in San Antonio keeps it from taking effect as planned Friday — allowing the case time to proceed.

    Read more:

    Mexico, San Antonio police chief slam Texas’ sudden ‘sanctuary city’ ban

    Texas governor signs ban on ‘sanctuary cities’ in Facebook live video

    ‘Are you here illegally?’: Minneapolis transit officer asks about rider’s immigration status

    In a 94-page ruling, Garcia wrote that there “is overwhelming evidence by local officials, including local law enforcement, that SB 4 will erode public trust and make many communities and neighbourhoods less safe” and that “localities will suffer adverse economic consequences which, in turn, will harm the state of Texas.”

    “The Court cannot and does not second guess the Legislature,” he continued. “However, the state may not exercise its authority in a manner that violates the United States Constitution.”

    Garcia’s order suspends the law’s most contentious language while suggesting that even parts of the law that can go forward won’t withstand further legal challenges.

    The law had sought to fine law enforcement authorities who fail to honour federal requests to hold people jailed on offences that aren’t immigration related for possible deportation. It also would have ensured that police chiefs, sheriffs and constables could face removal from office and even criminal charges for failing to comply with such federal “detainer” requests.

    The four largest cities in Texas — San Antonio, Austin, Houston and Dallas — have joined the lawsuit, saying the law is vague and would have a chilling effect on immigrant communities. Their attorneys told Garcia that his ruling could determine if other states pursue copycat measures. Lawyers for the Texas attorney general’s office responded that the new law has fewer teeth than Arizona’s 2010 “Show Me Your Papers” measure that was partially struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Top conservatives say an immigration crackdown is necessary to enforce the rule of law. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has maintained that only lawbreakers have anything to worry about.

    On the final day of the legislative session in May, tensions boiled over when Republican state Rep. Matt Rinaldi told Democrats that he had called federal immigration agents to report protesters in the Capitol who held signs saying they were illegally in the country. One Democratic legislator admitted pushing Rinaldi, who responded by telling one Democrat that he would “shoot him in self-defence.”

    The Trump administration has made “sanctuary cities” a target. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has threatened to pull federal money from jurisdictions that hinder communication between local police and immigration authorities and has praised Texas’ law.

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    HOUSTON—Harvey’s floodwaters started dropping across much of the Houston area and the storm weakened slightly Wednesday but major dangers remained for the U.S. Gulf Coast area, including the threat of an explosion at a stricken Texas chemical plant and major flooding further east near the Texas-Louisiana line.

    The scope of the devastation caused by the hurricane came into sharper focus, meanwhile, and the murky green floodwaters from the record-breaking, 1.3-metre deluge of rain began yielding up bodies as predicted.

    The confirmed death toll climbed to at least 31, including six family members — four of them children — whose bodies were pulled Wednesday from a van that had been swept off a Houston bridge into a bayou.

    “Unfortunately, it seems that our worst thoughts are being realized,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said after the van that disappeared over the weekend was found in 3 metres of muddy water.

    As the water receded, Houston’s fire department said it would begin a block-by-block search of thousands of flooded homes. Assistant Fire Chief Richard Mann said the searches were to ensure “no people were left behind.”

    While conditions in the nation’s fourth-largest city appeared to improve, another crisis related to Harvey emerged at a chemical plant about 40 kilometres northeast of Houston. A spokesperson for the Arkema Inc. plant in Crosby, Texas, said late Wednesday that the flooded facility had lost power and backup generators, leaving it without refrigeration for chemicals that become volatile as the temperature rises.

    “The fire will happen. It will resemble a gasoline fire. It will be explosive and intense in nature,” said Janet Hill, spokesperson for the French company.

    The last of the plant’s employees evacuated on Tuesday and residents within 2.4 kilometres were told to leave, Hill said.

    Read more: FEMA director says Harvey is probably the worst disaster in Texas history

    Tropical storm Harvey makes landfall again, this time in Louisiana

    Harvey causes chaos in Houston, 6 family members feared dead after van swept away

    Shivering girl, 3, found clinging to drowned mom in Harvey aftermath

    Another threat was east of Houston where conditions deteriorated close to the Louisiana line as Harvey again reached land.

    Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, struggled with rising floodwaters and worked to evacuate residents after Harvey completed a U-turn in the Gulf of Mexico and rolled ashore early Wednesday for the second time in six days. It hit southwestern Louisiana as a tropical storm with heavy rain and winds of 72 km/h.

    Forecasters downgraded Harvey to a tropical depression late Wednesday from a tropical storm but it still has lots of rain and potential damage to spread, with 10 to 20 centimetres forecast from the Louisiana-Texas line into Tennessee and Kentucky through Friday. Some spots may get as much as a foot, raising the risk of more flooding.

    For much of the Houston area, forecasters said the rain is pretty much over.

    “We have good news,” said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the Harris County Flood Control District. “The water levels are going down.”

    Houston’s two major airports were up and running again Wednesday. Officials said they were resuming limited bus and light rail service as well as trash pickup.

    At Hermann Park, south of downtown, children glided by in strollers and wagons, joggers took in midday runs and couples walked beside cascading fountains and beneath a sparkling sun. People pulled into drive-thru restaurants and emerged from a store with groceries.

    At the same time, many thousands of Houston-area homes are under water and could stay that way for days or weeks. And Lindner cautioned that homes near at least one swollen bayou could still get flooded.

    Officials said 911 centres in the Houston area are getting more than 1,000 calls an hour from people seeking help.

    In Houston’s flooded Meyerland neighbourhood, hundreds of families emptied their homes of sodden possessions under a baking sun as the temperature climbed into the 90s. They piled up couches, soggy drywall and carpets ripped out of foul-smelling homes where the floodwaters had lingered for more than 24 hours.

    The curbs were lined with the pickup trucks of cleanup contractors and friends.

    For Harry Duffey, a 48-year-old computer security specialist, this was flood No. 3 in as many years. Just before the flood, he got a notice that his flood insurance premium had nearly doubled to $5,300 a year.

    “Everywhere we look this water has cost me money after money after money. It just does not end,” he said. But he said he has no intention of moving: “This is in my blood. This is where I’m from.”

    Altogether, more than 1,000 homes in Texas were destroyed and close to 50,000 damaged, and over 32,000 people were in shelters across the state, emergency officials reported. About 10,000 more National Guard troops are being deployed to Texas, bringing the total to 24,000, Gov. Greg Abbott said.

    Confirmed deaths from the storm include a married couple who drowned after their pickup truck was swept away while they were on the phone with a 911 dispatcher asking for help, officials said.

    Others among the dead include a woman whose body was discovered floating in Beaumont, a man who tried to swim across a flooded road, and a woman who died after she and her young daughter were swept into a drainage canal in Beaumont. The child was rescued clinging to her dead mother, authorities said.

    When Harvey paid its return visit to land overnight, it hit near Cameron, Louisiana, about 72 kilometres from Port Arthur.

    Port Arthur found itself increasingly isolated as floodwaters swamped most major roads out of the city.

    More than 500 people — along with dozens of dogs, cats, a lizard and a monkey — took shelter at the Max Bowl bowling alley in Port Arthur after firefighters popped the lock in the middle of the night, said the establishment’s general manager, Jeff Tolliver.

    “The monkey was a little surprising, but we’re trying to help,” he said.

    In Orange, Texas, about 48 kilometres east of Beaumont, residents of a retirement home surrounded by thigh-deep water were rescued by National Guardsmen and wildlife officers, who carried them from the second floor and put them aboard an airboat.

    Harvey initially came ashore as a Category 4 hurricane in Texas on Friday, then went back out to sea and lingered off the coast as a tropical storm for days, inundating flood-prone Houston.

    Harvey’s five straight days of rain totalled close to 132 centimetres, the heaviest tropical downpour ever recorded in the continental U.S.

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    Dissatisfied with commercial radio, Andrew O’Connor decided to shake it up by tapping into Toronto airwaves to broadcast what is, in his opinion, righteous, underappreciated music.

    Every Thursday the 38-year-old radio guru does just that with Disco 3000, a homespun show that’s been in operation for three years — his tag line: “Good music on the radio.”

    “Nobody puts together a thoughtful program of music anymore, something that reflects a time in place, an emotion,” he said in his modest apartment. “There’s this notion that we have to coddle people’s ears and never challenge them.”

    Pirate radio is rare in Canada and is more commonly found in remote areas, like First Nations reserves, O’Connor said.

    He operates without a license, making his work illegal, technically, but because the range is so limited, he doesn’t see a problem.

    “I’m under the radar,” he said. “It’s small enough that nobody really notices. The main things that will cause trouble are interfering with somebody else’s signal or broadcasting hate speech, neither of which I come anywhere close to doing.”

    According to the Radiocommunication Act, interfering or obstructing radio signals is prohibited.

    “Unauthorized radio broadcasting, including pirate radio, can cause interference to public safety radio operations and aeronautical radio navigation and communications and jeopardize the safety of Canadians,” said a spokesperson in a written statement.

    O’Connor’s show, which can be found on frequency 87.5 FM between 9 and 11 p.m. every Thursday, was chock-full of genre-defying music. Sun Ra and Harry Partch were played — artists that fit within the experimental, avant-garde vein. Punctuated between sets was O’Connor’s crooning voice, guiding listeners through each song.

    Last Thursday, O’Connor played Sun Ra’s “Unknown Kohoutek,”a song about a comet that was spotted in our solar system in the 1970s.

    “If I had to describe it,” O’Connor said, “I’d call it polyrhythmic spiritual jazz, with Sun Ra’s classic organ wizardry.”

    The broadcast is exclusive to Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood. A Star reporter walked around the area with a hand-held radio that evening to determine how far O’Connor’s signal would reach — feedback choked it out along Roncesvalles Ave., Marion St., Jameson Ave. and south of King St. West. If you find yourself within these parameters, however, the transmission will most likely be clear. O’Connor said there are many variables that can affect the broadcast, like weather and quality of the receiver.

    He said that no night is average, adding that he plays Motown and contemporary hip-hop at times, too.

    Martin Watson, 34, has been tuning into Disco 3000 since its inception — he listens to it whenever he has a chance, he said.

    “I get to hear all of these fantastic bands that I’ve never heard on (commercial) radio, outside a few college shows,” he said. “The other thing is the freedom of the format.”

    Watson added that he enjoys the pure “physicality” of the experience.

    “I’ve never felt the same sense of immediacy with anything online,” he said. “An analog radio show, you have to be ready at a specific time.”

    O’Connor prefers his analog rig over the internet because of its old-school way of reaching people.

    “The fact that I can sit in a room listening to records and this magic box can take it to the antenna, shoot it out into the air and people around me with a different magic box can pull it out of the air and listen with me is a beautiful thing,” he said.

    He’s been working in the radio arts industry for 20 years freelancing and working on commissioned art projects around the country, which could help explain why he considers his show to be a “community art project.”

    “I’m interested in someone who’s gonna come along for the ride,” he said.

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    Residents of Houston have been rescued by helicopter, boat and now by Jet Ski.

    An older couple was rescued from their home earlier this week by a man on a Jet Ski after the pair was forced to stay on the second floor of their house for a few days as water levels rose as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

    A photo posted to Reddit shows Karen Spencer half way out her front door looking back at the camera smiling and sitting on the back of the Jet Ski, the floodwater filling up the house around her.

    An ABC news report on Wednesday identified the rescuers as Keith Christensen and Winston Savice Jr., and showed footage of the Spencers reuniting with the men and thanking them.

    The photo, which has been viewed about 768,000 times and received hundreds of comments, was taken by Karen’s husband, J.C. Spencer, their granddaughter Ivy James told the Star.

    Read more:

    Shivering girl, 3, found clinging to drowned mom in Harvey aftermath

    Tropical storm Harvey makes landfall again, this time in Louisiana

    J.C. told ABC News they called their local Chick-fil-A restaurant, where they are regulars, and ordered a boat along with their favourite food.

    “I ordered two grilled chicken burritos with extra egg and a boat. And can you believe that one of the managers of Chick-fil-A, she sent her husband to pick us up and we are so grateful,” J.C. said to ABC News.

    He said the managers sent two separate jet skis for them.

    “I can’t believe I’m leaving my flooded house in a Jet Ski,” Spencer told ABC, adding that they had abandoned most of their belongings.

    James said her grandparents had weathered the flood upstairs and “couldn’t do very much” as the water kept rising.

    The hurricane has forced thousands of people to flee to higher ground and rooftops in and around Houston.

    Authorities have confirmed more than 20 deaths, including six members of a single family, including four children, who were found dead in a submerged van after their vehicle was apparently swept off a bridge.

    About 13,000 people have been rescued in the Houston area.

    Thanks to their Jet Ski rescuers, the Spencers are now safe and staying at a friend’s apartment.

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    If you’re looking for a simple answer to the question “Why do so many people hate the media?” all you have to do is turn your attention to this week’s hullabaloo over Melania Trump’s shoes.

    On Tuesday, the first lady of the United States boarded an airplane bound for Hurricane Harvey-ravaged Texas, rocking sky-high snakeskin pumps. Not surprisingly, minutes after photos of this spectacle hit the internet, thousands of observers wondered why the first lady didn’t don a getup a little more practical for the purpose of entering a disaster zone. What kind of person, Twitter wanted to know, wears stilettos into the eye of a storm? The Trump kind, of course.

    In addition to sheer disbelief, the first lady’s flashy footwear provoked something else: catty condemnation from journalists. For example, Vogue magazine, a publication I would have pegged as a natural ally to the first lady on a subject like this, was one of many outlets to make the case that not only are heels impractical in a disaster context: they are insensitive, too.

    “But what kind of message,” wrote Lynn Yaeger in Vogue, “does a fly-in visit from a First Lady in sky-high stilettos send to those suffering the enormous hardship, the devastation of this natural disaster?” Here’s Robin Givhan in the Washington Post, no less judgmental about Trump’s footgear. “And for her trip to Texas,” Givhan writes, “the first lady offered up a fashion moment instead of an expression of empathy.”

    Read more:

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    ‘Texas can handle anything’: Trump offers reassurances on Harvey recovery

    Melania Trump thanks Chelsea Clinton for defending Barron after website criticizes his clothes

    At the risk of defending a woman who stands for nothing I like, I have to ask, why can’t a person offer up both things — fashion and empathy — at the same time? Why are fashion and empathy mutually exclusive? Is it really impossible to help people, dressed your best? (I guess Princess Diana never got the memo.)

    But more to the point, I think it’s time we finally laid to rest the expectation that leaders and their spouses dress for a part they will never realistically play. Does anyone honestly expect that a head of state and his wife are going to enter the fray, as relief workers, swimming down the street plucking stray cats from the floodwaters?

    Though she did change into tennis shoes upon arrival in Texas, I’m pretty sure that Melania Trump is perfectly capable of doing in five-inch heels what most politicians and their spouses do in disaster zones: hand out blankets and juice boxes and occasionally pose for photos with traumatized people who would rather be anywhere else.

    It’s no wonder so many people on social media have come to the first lady’s defence, cursing the mainstream media and leaving angry comments under editorials mocking her shoes. Some on the left appear incapable of recognizing that it is media preoccupation with the first lady’s shoes — not the shoes themselves — that many people find repulsive. They are repulsed because devoting so much space to Trump’s lack of sensible footwear implies that hurricane victims whose belongings are literally swimming away actually give a crap about wardrobe etiquette.

    Of course, it would be a different story entirely if the Washington Post were on the ground in Texas asking local residents “How are you holding up?” and the general consensus was: “We’d be a whole lot better if Melania Trump was wearing galoshes.” But to my knowledge no one has said this, which makes the media condemnation of the first lady’s footwear appear cynical, spiteful and disingenuous.

    So why do we — the media — do it? Why do journalists appear to turn every meme and every series of irreverent tweets into a full-blown news cycle? We do it because we think we have to. We do it because our industry is facing a disaster all its own (extinction) and editors are pressured to latch onto anything and everything “people are talking about” in hopes of racking up clicks and squeezing whatever revenue they can from a viral moment.

    This situation isn’t helped by the fact that the president of the United States regularly devalues our work and labels it false and irrelevant, a.k.a., “Fake News!”

    But when we take the viral bait, when we make fun of his wife’s shoes under the guise that we are expressing genuine concern for disaster victims, we make it way too easy for him to devalue us. And the end result is that we are, in fact, less relevant, and more loathed than before.

    Emma Teitel is a national affairs columnist.

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    Mohammed Shamji, a Toronto neurosurgeon charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, was denied bail Wednesday.

    Shamji is accused of killing his wife, Elana Fric-Shamji, a family physician found dead inside a suitcase by the West Humber River in Vaughan on Dec. 1.

    At the time, police said they believed Fric-Shamji had been strangled and suffered from blunt-force trauma. The pair were married for 12 years and had three children together. Days before her body was found, Fric-Shamji had filed for divorce.

    Shamji’s trial is expected to begin in fall 2018.

    He’s also charged with indignity to human remains.

    Read more:

    ‘We miss her greatly’: Slain doctor’s family thanks public for support

    Toronto doctor accused of murdering wife was charged with assaulting her in 2005

    Toronto neurosurgeon charged with murder of family doctor wife

    Speaking to media after the bail decision, Shamji’s lawyer, Liam O’Connor, said he wasn’t disappointed with the decision but was surprised, given the “level of support out there” for his client.

    “I haven’t seen a story where there wasn’t a second side,” he told reporters outside court. “That story will be told, I assure you.”

    Shamji, dressed in a blue button-up shirt and a dark grey suit, looked nervous, staring straight ahead throughout the proceedings. The 41-year-old had a faint five o’clock shadow, his hair neat and trimmed short.

    Details of what happened in court are covered by a publication ban.

    At one point, as the judge detailed the allegations against him, Shamji shook his head. He didn’t display any emotion as Justice Michael Brown read his decision.

    Members of Shamji’s family sat behind the prisoner’s box, with some holding onto each other for support. At least one dabbed her eyes with a tissue as she left the courtroom.

    Members of Fric-Shamji’s family didn’t appear to be present.

    If he was granted bail, Shamji would not have been permitted to practise medicine “in any capacity,” said Kathryn Clarke, spokesperson at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO).

    Shamji’s profile with the college shows the former neurosurgeon’s registration expired on Aug. 10 due to a failure to renew his membership. His privileges to practise at the University Health Network were previously suspended in December 2016.

    Since his arrest in 2016, he’s been held at the Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton.

    In 2005, when the pair were newlyweds living in Ottawa, Shamji was charged with uttering threats and assaulting Fric-Shamji. The charges were dropped after he signed a peace bond.

    With files from Vjosa Isai

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    A blockade by members of Six Nations has barred a portion of Argyle Street, the main road in Caledonia for the past 21 days.

    The protest is connected to a parcel of land that was put into a federal corporation in March by Six Nations’ elected band council, allegedly reneging on an Ontario promise to return it to Six Nations people in 2006 to ameliorate the Caledonia Standoff — a protest that saw a group of Indigenous people occupy a housing development called Douglas Creek Estates. The blockade is situated near the site where violence broke out over 10 years ago.

    It concerns a disagreement between the elected band council and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, a traditional government system comprised of five First Nations. The latter says it has been responsible for the lands for over 10 years.

    A letter penned by former Ontario premier David Peterson in 2006 states that “The title of the Burtch lands will be included in the lands rights process of the Haudenosaunee/ Six Nations/Canada/Ontario. It is the intention that the land title be returned to its original state, its status under the Haldimand Proclamation.”

    Ontario honoured the 2006 commitment by transferring the land into the corporation, said a spokesperson with the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

    “We are hopeful that all of the parties involved will be able to work together in a spirit of mutual respect to ensure the land benefits all the people of Six Nations,” said Antoine Tedesco in a written statement. “As this matter is before the courts right now, any further comment would be inappropriate.”

    This summer, Mohawk farmer Kristine Hill was evicted from the Burtch lands— about 380 acres west of the reserve line — after an injunction was filed against her, despite the Confederacy issuing a five-year lease to her. A decision on this case, along with a contempt of court charge, will be delivered in an Ontario court on Sept. 22, said Hill.

    “The government needs to sit down and talk,” said Hill. “They can’t make unilateral decisions, pan-Aboriginal decisions and expect individual nations to be happy with that.”

    Hill did not want to comment about the blockade or Burtch lands because her court case is ongoing.

    “Ontario defaulted on the original agreement,” she said, adding that the elected band council is carrying out the province’s bidding. “The province is responsible for what’s happening here because it did not live up to its obligations, in terms of that letter and the promises they made. They broke their promise.”

    The land is being held in trust until it becomes designated reserve land. The Confederacy is at odds with this concept — it wants the area to be independent from the Canadian government.

    The Confederacy has been invited to sit on the board of the corporation, Tedesco said.

    In a press released dated June 4, a Confederacy chief says the offer relegates the council from a government to an individual on the board.

    Elected band council staff did not respond to requests for comment.

    On Tuesday, members of Six Nations addressed the media on the outskirts of Caledonia, south of Hamilton, providing site updates. Independent interviews were refused and no photographs of people at the barricade were permitted.

    “We the Onkwehonwe of Kanonhstaton are still standing strong,” said Ronda Martin, in front of the blockade decorated with Haudenosaunee and Mohawk Warrior flags, built of what appeared to be part of a decommissioned electrical tower. “We ask again for the public’s patience as we work on some very complicated issues.”

    In a YouTube video uploaded by Turtle Island News on Aug. 17, a woman identified as Doreen Silversmith lists off three demands of Six Nations people at the barricade. They include that the province and the Canadian government return to the negotiation table with the Confederacy, that Ontario honour its promise encapsulated in the 2006 letter and that Six Nations elected band council withdraw its injunction against Hill.

    A camp has been established behind a gate — surrounding a small hut were tents, lawn chairs and a small crowd.

    A Caledonia resident who lives close to the blockade called the demonstration an “inconvenience” because it obstructs the thoroughfare.

    “The local businesses, they’re being impacted severely,” said Sean Sullivan, 45. “It’s a land dispute, but it has nothing to do with Caledonia. This is in the wrong place.

    “I’m supportive of their claims, but let’s compensate them and deal with it,” he said.

    OPP cruisers are stationed at opposing stretches along Argyle St. around the clock, said OPP spokesperson Rod Leclair.

    “Our only role is preserving the peace,” he said. “There has been no problems. It’s been peaceful.”

    Martin said that First Nations people have been corresponding with Indigenous councils this month to raise awareness and gather support.

    “We continue to put pressure on the Canadian government to honour our treaties and respect our jurisdiction over our sovereign lands, people and water.”

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    When Diana, Princess of Wales left Toronto in October 1991, after a trip with both sons and her husband in the last year of their marriage, a treasure now worth thousands of dollars was tucked away underground at King and Church Sts.

    This week — which marks 20 years since her death on Aug. 31 — St. James Cathedral archivist Nancy Mallett rifled through shelves in their basement to find the non-descript box it was filed away in.

    At first, even she didn’t know for sure where it was.

    Read more:

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    Once located, the box was opened to reveal a bible: time-worn since it was gifted to the church in 1860, with gilded pages and thin red lines hemming in large-font verses. As per tradition, its pages bears over 100 years of signatures from visiting royals and dignitaries.

    But, among the splendor, one page in particular stands as a historical rarity.

    The signatures of Diana, her husband Prince Charles, and their two boys — all in a neat line down one page. Pen met paper on Oct. 27, 1991, when the entire family attended a 10:40 a.m. service at St. James, just hours before sailing away on the Royal Yacht Britannia.

    “Nobody really thought about the children signing the bible, but Harry had just learned to write his name, as the story goes,” Mallett explained. “When he saw his father signing, he wanted to sign his name.”

    William, she said, just had to sign after his little brother had been allowed to. Both boys mimicked their father’s straight line beneath the signature, with a deliberate period after their names. Diana’s famous, loopy script came last, with the same punctuation but the line below distinctly ajar.

    The royal couple would separate just one year later. Mallett believes that left the St. James’ bible and one other in England as the only copies of the entire family’s autograph in existence.

    Daniel Wade from Paul Fraser Collectibles valued the single page, not even factoring in the bible as a whole, at $8,000. “Royal signatures are in general scarce because royal protocol forbids signing autographs,” he said, adding that William and Harry’s were “extremely rare,” even alone.

    Documents as simple as an old go-kart waiver, signed by Diana, William and Harry, have been listed on online auction sites for thousands of dollars.

    But in that moment, in a Toronto cathedral, all four willingly penned their names into a register that the church has held for hundreds of years. “You know, there’s a very sweet picture of everyone signing it,” Mallett added.

    Though the royal visit seemed to be snapped from every possible angle, only cathedral photographer Michael Hudson was privy to that moment.

    “I was shadowed by a Scotland Yard security officer on my shoulder,” Hudson recalled via email. “Charles and Diana seemed to chat a little bit together but mostly she was attentive to William and Harry.”

    “I wasn’t listening, just trying to get the shots” — he confirmed that there was a moment when the entire family began to laugh at something the pint-sized prince either said or did.

    Some details of the moment are clearer in his memory. Nine-year-old William signed with his left hand. Diana was wearing the now-famous blue sapphire ring.

    Other, vibrant details were preserved in film. Diana was enveloped in the dual colours of the Canadian flag, all ivory and scarlet. Standing to the right of the family in golden-hued vestments, Rev. S Duncan Abraham, dean of Toronto, looked over their shoulders as they autographed the holy book.

    On the phone from his cottage, Abraham remembers how many people wanted to come to the service that day. Police estimated as many as 2,500 people swelling through the streets outside the cathedral during the service.

    Complicating things further, the church had already booked a special service that day for the 150th anniversary of Trinity College.

    “One of the things that’s always stuck in my mind when we were planning for that service was in picking the hymns,” Abraham said. One called “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation,” played at Diana and Charles’ wedding, seemed appropriate at the time.

    “We didn’t know about the stresses and strains on their marriage at this stage,” Abraham said. “We made a boo-boo on that one, I’ll tell you.”

    But any strain on the royal marriage didn’t stand out to those who attended the Sunday morning Matins service. Parishioner Gloria Weibe has seen her fair share of royal visits to St. James, but that day sticks out in her mind.

    “I think this was very special, because it was the family,” she said. She called Diana “such a presence, really,” recalling her physical beauty and sense of fashion. But in the church, they were a family like any other.

    “Once you’re seated the service just carries on. For me, that’s the way it should be,” Weibe said. “You feel a connection with them in that they’re coming to worship and attend church with us.”

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    The Toronto District School Board’s decision to suspend a controversial program that places armed police officers in high schools has come under criticism from officials who say the move was made in haste. But advocacy group Black Lives Matter said the decision marked a step forward.

    TDSB trustees voted Wednesday night to discontinue the Student Resource Officer initiative, pending a review of the practice, due in November.

    “It was felt that the presence of (officers) during the review when we were asking people to talk about them might be intimidating and create a potential bias,” TDSB Chair Robin Pilkey told the Star.

    About 16 votes were cast in favour of suspension and six votes were cast against, said Pilkey, who voted to suspend.

    The Student Resource Officer program, in place since 2008, has garnered a mix of praise and criticism since its inception. Some students, parents and school staff have said the presence of armed, uniformed police improves safety, and gives teens a chance to get to know local officers.

    Others have expressed concern that the program leads to criminalization of relatively minor schoolyard problems and alienates marginalized students who may not feel comfortable around police.

    In June, the TDSB ordered a review of the program to take place this fall.

    A report on the planning for the TDSB review of the program was scheduled for Wednesday night’s board meeting, prompting Trustee Marit Stiles to draft a motion for the program suspension.

    “Earlier in the day, I circulated to all trustees a motion I intended to introduce related to the report (on the review),” Stiles told the Star. “It was introduced during the meeting as business arising from the (review) report.”

    The trustees debated the suspension issue for at least an hour, Stiles added.

    The decision to suspend the program was “unfortunate,” Mayor John Tory told reporters on Thursday.

    The Toronto Police Services Board, of which Tory is a member, has commissioned its own review of the SRO program, to be completed in Spring 2018.

    “The school board decided they would take a different approach, and, before that review is done, cancel the program,” Tory said.

    “I wasn’t prepared to rush to judgment to say the program was perfect or imperfect,” he added.

    At least one trustee has said board officials should have been given time to consult their communities before the vote.

    Trustees would normally have a week or two to discuss a motion like this, “but we had no chance to do any of that,” Trustee Pamela Gough, who voted against the suspension, said.

    “My decision last night not to support it was basically a status quo until we hear the evidence and we hear the voices of the people actually in the schools,” she added.

    “Evidence-based decision making is better than taking a stab in the dark on a topic, especially when the motion, came with such short notice.”

    Stiles acknowledged that not all the trustees were comfortable with suspending the SRO program, but added that officials have had ample time to consider the public’s feelings about the practice.

    “We’ve been talking about the future of the SRO program for quite some time,” Stiles said.

    “I think if enough trustees were concerned about that we would have seen a vote against the motion,” Stiles added.

    The controversy over the Student Resource Officer program erupted in May after a review of the nearly decade-old program was one of the items on the agenda of the Toronto police board meeting. A group of teachers and school workers presented a detailed report about the negative impact the program in schools. A motion to suspend the program was deferred to June.

    Things became more heated at the June board meeting, where 74 people spoke against uniformed police officers in school. Protestors from Black Lives Matter and other groups filled the auditorium at police headquarters. The meeting was disrupted a couple of times as tensions rose and board members were heckled. At the end of a long night, the board decided to postpone the decision over the motion until the end of the year.

    It was no different during the board’s August meeting where Toronto police chief Mark Saunders presented a plan to have Ryerson University perform a review of the contested program. Activists attended the meeting calling for board members to resign. They also carried signs saying “We’re here for Dafonte,” in reference to Black teen Dafonte Miller who was allegedly beaten by an off-duty Toronto police officer and his brother.

    Responding to the decision of the TDSB to suspend the program, Black Lives Matter put out a statement: “Last night, Toronto District School Board Trustees voted to temporarily suspend the School Resource Officer (SRO) program for the start of the school year. The program will be suspended to allow for the TDSB to conduct a review of the program, its effectiveness, and hear from students from marginalized communities about their experiences with cops in schools.

    “While this is not a full victory, this is an important step forward. After years of activism from groups like Education Not Incarceration (ENI), and the Latinx, Afro-Latin-America, Abya Yala Education Network (LAEN), the TDSB has undertaken a thorough review of the program to happen throughout the fall.

    “Toronto Police Services Board are also conducting their own (questionable) review of the program. This review will be overseen by a committee comprised of TPS board chair, the Chief of Police, amongst others. We remain skeptical of any instance in which cops are reviewing other cops.

    “It’s time to hear from students themselves about their experiences with police surveillance, criminalization, profiling, and their experiences with armed police officers in their classrooms. The work has only begun.”

    Forty-six of the TDSB’s 113 high schools had student resources officers in 2016-2017, though one has since closed and three others suspended the program due to “schedule issues.”

    Five schools have an officer assigned solely to them last year. The rest shared one or two officers with other TDSB and Toronto Catholic District School board institutions.

    The SRO program has been in place since 2008, instituted in large part as a response to the murder of 15-year-old Jordan Manners, in the halls of C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute in North York.

    As part of the TDSB’s review of the SRO program, the board’s research department will conduct a written survey of staff and students at participating schools.

    The TDSB has also scheduled three community meetings for the week of September 18 to 24 to discuss having police in schools.

    Research findings will be made public by November, at which time the board will discuss whether, or how, the program should continue, Pilkey said.

    With files from Annie Arnone and Jennifer Pagliaro

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    One man is dead following a shooting in a North York mall Thursday afternoon.

    Toronto police Const. Caroline de Kloet said officers rushed to the North York Sheridan mall on Jane St. and Wilson Ave. around 5:20 p.m. after reports of a shooting.

    A man in his 20s was found suffering from gunshot wounds to the head, paramedics said. He was later pronounced dead on the scene.

    De Kloet said police are looking for four suspects. One suspect is described as wearing dark clothing with a hoody and white sneakers and having his or her face covered.

    The three other suspects are described as male, black, and wearing dark clothing and masks.

    Police are investigating. They are asking for anyone with information to contact them or Crime Stoppers. They have not revealed the identity of the victim.

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    Ontario’s human rights tribunal has ruled that a 9-year-old autistic boy can’t bring his service dog with him into class.

    The decision says Kenner Fee’s family failed to prove that having his black Labrador Ivy in the classroom would help him with his education.

    Adjudicator and tribunal vice-chair Laurie Letheren found that the Waterloo Catholic District School Board took all necessary steps to evaluate whether the dog was needed in the classroom, and supported the board’s decision not to allow the service animal to sit beside Kenner during lessons.

    Read more:Ontario family fights to have autistic son’s service dog in classroom

    The tribunal heard from Kenner’s family that his autism leaves him prone to agitation, emotional outbursts and even bolting from his surroundings, but that having Ivy beside him significantly helps regulate his behaviour.

    Letheren accepted that evidence, but also accepted testimony from school board staff suggesting Kenner was performing well in class without Ivy, and that any problems he was encountering would not necessarily be addressed by the dog’s presence.

    Fee’s lawyer Laura McKeen says the family is crushed by the decision and is considering their next steps, including Kenner’s future education plans. She says the Fees have the right to appeal the ruling, but have not yet decided if they will do so.

    “They truly believe that Kenner’s service animal Ivy is essential to his entire life, including and specifically his education,” she said. “The Fees are devastated by the impact that decision is going to have on Kenner going forward.”

    The Waterloo Catholic District School Board did not comment specifically on the decision other than to acknowledge the outcome in their favour.

    “We work alongside families to make student-centred, individualized decisions that we collectively believe will allow them to flourish,” Director of Education Loretta Notten said in a statement. “Student success is of paramount importance to us and we strive to bring each one to their fullest potential.”

    The Aug. 30 tribunal decision chronicles a fight Kenner’s family began in April 2014 to get Ivy into the boy’s class, something that has not been allowed to date.

    The tribunal heard that Kenner had been matched with Ivy after training with the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, an internationally accredited school that provides service dogs to address a range of disabilities.

    Kenner’s father, Craig Fee, told the tribunal that Ivy’s presence had made a noticeable difference in Kenner’s life and helped regulate his behaviour. When he sought permission to bring Ivy into Kenner’s classroom, however, the request was denied.

    Board employees told the tribunal there were concerns that Ivy would set Kenner back in his independence, adding that he may rely too much on the dog rather than working directly with staff and peers.

    Kenner’s father and various professionals working with Kenner told the tribunal the boy’s anxiety got worse the longer he went without his service animal during school days.

    The decision said that assertion was not supported by testimony from board staff, who said Kenner was largely compliant with instructions and generally functioning fairly well academically.

    Behaviour tracking sheets submitted to the tribunal noted instances when Kenner allegedly tried to leave the school yard and even climb out a window, but a special education teacher downplayed the incidents in his testimony.

    He said in both cases Kenner threatened to go through with an escape, but stopped upon being prompted by a teacher. The teacher also denied an incident noted in a behaviour tracking sheet indicating Kenner threw a chair, saying the student had never intentionally done anything to endanger himself or others.

    The teacher testified that Kenner was not visibly upset in class, though he did tell the tribunal that Kenner would sometimes yell out for Ivy.

    Letheren said that while having Ivy there would eliminate that issue, she said the dog “could not provide indicators about why the applicant may be feeling so stressed at school.”

    Letheren also went on to note that Kenner is prone to “exaggerating his situation” according to testimony from both his father and a teacher.

    Letheren said the board had taken appropriate steps to put learning supports in place for Kenner and that Ivy’s presence was not necessary.

    “I find that the evidence demonstrates that the supports and strategies that the respondent has provided to accommodate his disability related needs are providing him the opportunity to realize (his) potential and develop into (a) highly skilled, knowledgeable, caring citizen who contribute(s) to (his) society,” she wrote.

    The ruling was met with shock and dismay by some members of the autism community.

    Laura Kirby-McIntosh, vice-president of the Ontario Autism Coalition, said the decision represents a setback for education in the province since school boards can apply provincial accessibility guidelines according to their own discretion.

    “The injustice here is that whether or not service dogs enter a school is going to be completely left to the discretion of 72 different individual school boards. To me, your rights should not change depending on your postal code.”

    Currently, Ontario’s education act does not treat schools as spaces that are open to the public, which is what permits boards to bar service animals from the premises if they wish.

    Kirby-McIntosh said there’s a pressing need for a provincewide education standard on all accessibility issues, including service animal access.

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    HALIFAX—No criminal charges will be laid against five so-called “Proud Boys” who disrupted a Mi’kmaq ceremony in downtown Halifax on Canada Day, the Royal Canadian Navy says.

    Rear-Admiral John Newton said Thursday that an investigation has wrapped up with no further actions taken against the servicemen, although they remain on an unspecified term of probation and must adhere to unspecified conditions.

    “If they fail … they are gone. This is not lightweight punishment,” he told reporters.

    The servicemen had been relieved of their duties and re-assigned to other jobs, pending the results of the military police investigation into the incident at a statue of Halifax’s controversial founder, Edward Cornwallis.

    Newton said one of the servicemen has since left the Forces, but the others are being returned to their operational units and regular duties. He said the serviceman who left the forces had initiated the process well before the July 1 incident.

    Read more: Two Navy members involved in confrontation at Indigenous ceremony on Canada Day

    He said the members displayed “behaviour inconsistent with the values and ethics expected of those in uniform,” and the military has taken appropriate measures to address “individual shortcomings.”

    Specifically, Newton said they had contravened a section of the Queens Regulations and Orders “where your personal actions, on duty or off duty, could be perceived or are in contravention with the policies of the Canadian Armed Forces.”

    The navy has ensured the servicemen have a clear understanding of the expected ethical behaviours and standards of conduct within the Armed Forces, he said.

    Newton told reporters the remaining servicemen — three navy and one army — will have a permanent mark on their record.

    “They have to actually pass this probationary period to get back onto their full career progress,” he said.

    “I’m not going to spell out the individual type of probationary measures because there is privacy and confidentiality of the members involved and they have that right as individual citizens,” said Newton.

    The investigation began in early July, a few days after a group of “Proud Boys” confronted Indigenous people gathered in a park for what they described as a sacred rite. The incident was caught on videotape and spread on social media.

    Rebecca Thomas, who was at the Canada Day ceremony, said she was disappointed at the “lack of consequences” for the service members who were involved in the incident.

    “I would have liked to have seen a restorative justice process for these individuals where they have to face the community that they wronged,” said Thomas, who is Mi’kmaq and Halifax’s poet laureate.

    “I worry about something that could have been a teachable moment is now just turning into a straight form of punishment within a very familiar context. It doesn’t seem that things were learned.”

    Thomas wonders whether the punishment would have been as lenient had the service members interrupted a Roman Catholic mass or a Remembrance Day ceremony.

    “It could be an indication on how the Armed Forces see Indigenous ceremony,” she said. “I would like to hope that these individuals have changed their feelings on Indigenous peoples but I don’t have any proof to that effect.”

    The Armed Forces previously apologized for the servicemen’s actions. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, both condemned the actions of the men.

    The “Proud Boys” — known for matching black polo shirts often worn by members — was founded in the U.S. by Gavin McInnes, a Canadian who helped establish Vice Media and is now an outspoken, right-wing political pundit.

    The “Proud Boys” call themselves “Western chauvinists.”

    A Facebook post from the Proud Boys Canadian Chapters Thursday struck a triumphal and defiant tone in reaction to the navy’s actions.

    “We win, our brothers in the Halifax 5 are returning to active military duty with no charges, let the SJW (Social Justice Warriors) tears pour,” it said. “Proud of our boys.”

    Newton said he has met with the servicemen twice, and they are remorseful and dealing with a world changed by social media.

    He said reporters don’t know the servicemen’s version of the story, but “it means nothing” anyway, because what matters is what the public perceives.

    Newton said he has dealt with many navy mishaps caused by personal mistakes, and although the servicemen embarrassed the military, the matter has been dealt with through the governing policies and procedures.

    “You cannot just turn around and fire everybody. They have rights,” he said.

    “You can’t pursue it just because you want to. You just can’t. What we are doing doesn’t solve all of the issues. But it is as good an outcome as I can strive for.”

    Newton said he has also met with Chief Grizzly Mamma, who was part of the Indigenous ceremony interrupted by the “Proud Boys.”

    Thursday was Newton’s last full day as commander of Canada’s East Coast navy, as he begins work with Veterans Affairs Canada in Charlottetown. Rear Admiral Craig Baines will assume command in Halifax in a ceremony Friday morning.

    In a statement Thursday, the military said the Halifax incident has provided a leadership opportunity for military brass — and the best way to confront and defeat intolerance is through education and training.

    “Any action by a Canadian Armed Forces member (in uniform or not) that demonstrates intolerance or shows disrespect towards the people and cultures we value in Canada is completely unacceptable,” it said.

    “The Canadian Armed Forces celebrates the contributions that First Nations, Inuit and Metis people have made to Canada and its military.

    “The chain of command has taken appropriate measures to address individual shortcomings, intended to drive home a clear understanding of the ethical behaviour and standard of conduct that we demand all our members uphold and maintain.”

    It said the Armed Forces view diversity as a source of strength and flexibility.

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    Put your campaign signs away for Jennifer Keesmaat — for now.

    The departing chief planner who has earned celebrity status amid a five-year push for a transit-oriented, cycling friendly city, says she has no interest in seeking political office in 2018.

    “It’s not something that I can imagine at this point,” Keesmaat said in an interview Thursday when asked about speculation she might be persuaded to run for the Liberal Party provincially.

    “I have no illusions about the demands of political life because I’ve been so up close to it for the past five years,” she said the progressive bureaucrat, who calls the Yonge-Eglinton area home.

    And the mayor’s office?

    “That is not, in any way, my intention to run for mayor...

    “ 2018,” she added.

    The city announced Keesmaat’s departure Monday. It came as a surprise to her staff and has left a city that has become accustomed to her confident leadership style and prolific social media posts at something of a loss.

    As a mother whose time has been dominated these past years by city hall affairs, Keesmaat said she’s looking forward to spending more time at home in the coming months, especially as her daughter will leave for university in a year’s time.

    “This is my last year with her, and that was a big part of the decision right now,” she said. “I actually need to make it home to dinner a few times in the week.”

    Keesmaat’s tenure at city hall ends Sept. 29.

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    PORT PERRY—The Port Perry Hospital remains closed following a rooftop fire that forced an evacuation and caused millions in damage, but not even flames could stop the arrival of new baby Bryce Witruk.

    One person suffered minor injuries in the fire, which was caused by roofing work and started just before 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 25. Seagrave mother Nicole Witruk had just entered active delivery as the fire alarm rang through the building, followed shortly by the power shutting off.

    “At first they said it was probably a drill, but then Ian [Witruk, Nicole’s husband] opened the door and there was in a cop in the hallway, he said ‘you can’t be in there, you need to evacuate, there’s a fire,’” Nicole recalls.

    “Next thing I know Ian is saying there’s smoke in the hallway, and the nurses are throwing IV bags on top of me and they’re pushing me out the door.”

    Nicole was taken to the parking lot. Once Dr. Kim Ferguson determined she was ready to start pushing, emergency crews scrambled to get an ambulance in place so she could deliver.

    “It was a close call,” Ian recalls. “We were getting ready to hold up sheets to make a room but then EMS got there and it was only 13 minutes after that he was born.”

    The couple said they were comforted by all the staff and emergency personnel on the scene, including many members of hospital staff who came in during their off hours to help during the crisis.

    “Everyone was there. Dr. Ferguson was amazing, the head surgeon was there, the anesthesiologist came back, if anything happened we would have had everyone we needed right there,” Nicole said.

    “There were so many nurses and doctors and even emergency personnel there encouraging me and that was really nice because I needed it, my epidural had started to wear off by then and it was just nice to have so many people cheering me on.”

    Ian too said it is a moment he won’t soon forget.

    “When he came out and everyone heard him cry they started singing happy birthday, it was a really nice moment. I think we were all tearing up after, it was like a load lifted off, it was a happy moment.”

    They credit the staff for their level of calm and expertise during the emergency.

    “The staff and doctors were absolutely amazing and we couldn’t have done it without them, but more than that it was nice to see how everyone gathered together and stepped up,” Nicole said.

    “It was cool to see how amazing the Port Perry community is. I want people to realize how important the hospital is, it’s a key part of our community. They’re always so welcoming there, it’s another reason we love being a part of this community.”

    The hospital remains temporarily closed while damages are assessed and teams work to determine what will be required to safely reopen the hospital after the rooftop fire.

    “The origin and cause was determined to be a hot tar roofing application process that ignited nearby insulation,” said Township of Scugog fire Chief Mark Berney. “The estimated dollar loss is approximately $10 million.”

    Altogether five trucks and 20 firefighters responded, with aid provided by the Oshawa and Uxbridge Fire Departments. The fire was brought under control within 35 minutes, with the scene fully secured by 8:45 p.m.

    Berney also had high praise for hospital staff and the various agencies that assisted with the evacuation of all 22 patients from the hospital to Lakeridge sites in Oshawa and Bowmanville, including Durham Region EMS, Durham Regional Police and Durham Region Transit. One other expectant mother was labouring in the New Life Centre when the fire broke out, but was safely relocated to Oshawa before delivery.

    “I was very impressed with the actions of the hospital staff, it was quite obvious they had practised their emergency plan and they did it very well,” Berney explained, noting the fire posed a unique set of challenges.

    “There’s a lot of potential unknowns in terms of how many beds are occupied, what the mobility of patients is as well as the different types of gases used for procedures,” he explained.

    “There’s no telltale as to how many people are in the hospital at any one time so in cases like that it really comes down to whether or not locations like hospitals not only have, but have practised, emergency plans.”

    He also praised the community for coming together to help during the crisis.

    “There were a lot of people there, and a lot of people not in uniform,” he said.

    “Bystanders and family members of patients played a significant role in caring for patients until they could be properly relocated by EMS.”

    Hospital officials are assuring residents that care will be available at other sites throughout the community while the hospital is repaired.

    “We want to reassure patients and families that while the Port Perry Hospital remains temporarily closed, we are able to provide safe, quality care within our regional system,” says Matthew Anderson, Lakeridge Health president and CEO.

    “Port Perry Hospital remains critical to access and delivery of care for the community. Lakeridge Health is committed to restoring and reopening the hospital as soon as possible. During the time of closure, we will extend capacity at other acute care hospitals within our network to help alleviate patient volumes.”

    The majority of surgical and diagnostic procedures are being shifted to Lakeridge Health’s Oshawa and Bowmanville sites, while additional capacity at Ajax-Pickering Hospital may also be used if needed. Expectant moms planning to deliver at the New Life Centre are asked to discuss their birth plans with their medical professional, while all hospital-based care and deliveries will be provided at the Oshawa Hospital.

    “The response from our staff, partners and local emergency services has been extremely positive and we would like to thank them for quickly delivering care and for supporting higher than normal volumes at this time,” adds Anderson.

    A new information line is being set up to help patients, families and health service providers better understand when cancelled or postponed appointments will be rebooked.

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    CROSBY, TEXAS—At least 2 tons of highly unstable chemicals used in such products as plastics and paint exploded and burned at a flood-crippled plant near Houston early Thursday, sending up a plume of acrid black smoke that stung the eyes and lungs.

    The blaze at the Arkema Inc. chemical plant burned out around midday, but emergency crews continued to hold back because of the danger that eight other trailers containing the same compound could blow, too.

    No serious injuries were reported. But the blast added a new hazard to Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath and raised questions about the adequacy of the company’s master plan to protect the public in the event of an emergency in the flood-prone Houston metropolitan area of 5.6 million people.

    “This should be a wake-up call (for) all kinds of plants that are storing and converting reactive chemicals in areas which have high population densities,” said Nicholas Ashford, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology expert.

    The Environmental Protection Agency and Texas environmental regulators called the health risks minimal in Crosby but urged residents downwind to stay indoors with windows closed to avoid inhaling the smoke.

    Arkeda had warned earlier in the week that an explosion of organic peroxides stored at the plant was imminent because Harvey’s floodwaters engulfed the backup generators and knocked out the refrigeration necessary to keep the compounds from degrading and catching fire.

    All employees had been pulled from the plant before the blast, and up to 5,000 people living within 2.4 kilometres had been warned to evacuate on Tuesday.

    Two explosions in the middle of the night blew open a trailer containing the chemicals, lighting up the sky with 9- to 12-metre flames in the small farm and ranching community of Crosby, 40 kilometres from Houston, authorities said. Aerial footage showed a trailer carcass, its sides melted, burning in a flooded lot.

    Read more:

    Shivering girl, 3, found clinging to drowned mom in Harvey aftermath

    On Houston roads turned rivers, volunteer rescuers improvise to save the trapped and desperate

    Houston sees glimmer of hope after Harvey but threats loom

    The Texas environmental agency called the smoke “especially acrid and irritating” and said it can impair breathing and inflame the eyes, nose and throat.

    Fifteen sheriff’s deputies complained of respiratory irritation. They were examined at a hospital and released.

    The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, an independent federal agency, launched an investigation into the accident.

    The plant is along a corridor near Houston that contains one of the biggest concentrations of refineries, pipelines and chemical plants in the country.

    Andrea Morrow, a spokesperson for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said the agency had not received any reports of trouble at other chemical plants in the hurricane-stricken zone.

    Texas A&M chemical safety expert Sam Mannan said the risk management plan that Arkema was required by state and federal law to develop did not address how it would deal with power and refrigeration failures or flooding.

    A 2016 analysis he did with university colleagues ranked the Crosby plant among the 70 or so facilities with the biggest potential to cause harm in greater Houston, based on such factors as the type and amount of chemicals and the population density.

    Arkema, which is headquartered in France, did not immediately return calls on the plant’s contingency planning.

    Rachel Moreno, a spokesperson for the fire marshal of Harris County, which encompasses Houston, would not discuss details of the risk management plan, such as how high the plant’s backup generators were placed.

    Arkema officials did not directly notify local emergency managers of the generator failure, Moreno said. It came, instead, by way of the plant’s workers, who told the Crosby Volunteer Fire Department about it when they were rescued during the hurricane, she said.

    On Thursday, Rich Rennard, an executive at Arkema, said the chemical compounds were transferred to refrigerated containers after power was lost. But he said those containers failed too, causing the chemicals in one unit to burn. Rennard said more explosions were expected from the remaining containers.

    In February, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Arkema nearly $110,000 — later reduced to just over $90,000 — over 10 serious safety violations found during an inspection at the Crosby plant, according to agency records.

    Records obtained by AP show that Arkema had kept using some equipment even when safety systems weren’t working properly, and didn’t inspect or test it as recommended. In one unit, the company also didn’t ensure equipment there was safe or keep employees up to date on their training.

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    WASHINGTON—The Trump administration on Thursday announced it has chosen four companies to build concrete prototypes of the president’s much-touted border wall.

    Construction of the prototypes, to take place in San Diego, is the first step in fulfilling Trump’s campaign promise of building a “big, beautiful” wall stretching along the 3,200-kilometre Mexico border.

    “Today we mark a significant milestone,” said Ronald Vitiello, acting deputy commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “This is the first tangible result of the action planning that has gone on. This is the use of the resources we had available for this year.” There appears to be a lack of political will to fund a continuous barrier. Congress has set aside $20 million in the current budget to build the prototypes but has not appropriated any other money for the wall. Each of the four contracts are worth between just under $400,000 and $500,000, Vitiello said.

    The companies chosen are: Caddell Construction in Montgomery, Ala.; Fisher Sand & Gravel/DBA Fisher Industries in Tempe, Ariz.; Texas Sterling Construction in Houston, Texas; and W.G. Yates & Sons Construction in Philadelphia, Miss.

    Read more:Companies bidding to design Trump’s border wall brace for hostile site

    Construction is expected to begin on the concrete prototypes in two weeks, Vitiello said, and should be complete this fall within 30 days after breaking ground. Each prototype will be nine metres long and up to nine metres high, and will be located within close proximity of each other, he said. They will act as a secondary barrier in a border enforcement zone that already has a fence.

    Homeland Security officials will then spend 30 to 60 days using small hand tools to test the prototypes to see how resistant they are to tampering and penetration, Vitiello said. Officials will consider esthetics as well as anti-climb features and how technology could be used to complement the physical barrier.

    “We are not just asking for a physical structure,” Vitiello said. “We’re asking for all the tools that help secure the border.”

    The administration was originally expected to announce its decision on prototypes in June, but the contracting process was delayed after protests from two companies that had not made the list of finalists.

    The Government Accountability Office dismissed the protests last Friday, but unsuccessful bidders now have another opportunity to file new protests, which could further delay construction.

    During his visit last week to Phoenix, Trump threatened to shut down the government if Congress does not agree to fund his wall in September.

    “Believe me, if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” Trump said during his Arizona rally. “The American people voted for immigration control. That’s one of the reasons I’m here, and that is what the American people deserve, and they’re going to get it.”

    Eleven hundred kilometres of fencing has already been built in the most critical areas, following the 2006 Secure Fence Act under President George W. Bush. And there’s been a significant decrease in the number of illegal border crossers since Trump took office.

    The government in March asked for design submissions for two types of wall: a reinforced concrete barrier wall as well as one made of an alternative material with see-through capability. The government specified that the wall must be insurmountable and “esthetically pleasing in colour,” at least from the United States side.

    More than 200 companies responded with proposals. The contenders were winnowed down to a secret list of about 20 finalists.

    Thursday’s announcement by U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not include the winners of the non-concrete wall prototype. Trump earlier this summer had floated the possibility of a solar-paneled wall, between 12 and 15 metres high, as a way to help pay for construction.

    But with less than 2 per cent of the U.S. population living within 65 kilometres of the Mexico border, most of the electricity generated by the wall would be useless — without the construction of costly transmission lines to channel the electricity to other parts of the country.

    Vitiello said the agency expects to award up to four contracts for the non-concrete prototypes next week. The prototypes will allow the agency to learn about what type of structure would work best along the border. They could function as permanent barriers in San Diego, or be removed or relocated elsewhere, he said.

    The firms selected to build the prototypes are not necessarily the ones that would be picked to build the wall, an agency official said. Another bidding process would ensue if funding is approved for the wall itself.

    “This is not a competition to build the rest of the wall,” the official said.

    Trump’s 2018 budget calls for $2.6 billion for “high-priority tactical infrastructure and border security technology.” Of that amount, $1.6 billion is for “bricks and mortar construction” and $1 billion is for infrastructure and technology, such as roads needed to access construction sites and surveillance equipment.

    Since the campaign, Trump has scaled back his wall ambitions, admitting that a continuous barrier would not be possible — nor necessary — given natural barriers such as lakes, rivers, and mountains. A seamless wall is also unrealistic because of international treaty and flood zone requirements.

    The administration had hoped to add more than 160 new kilometres of wall over the next two years, according to a Department of Homeland Security planning document. Among the “high priority” locations would be the border sectors of the Rio Grande Valley in the southern tip of Texas as well as El Paso; Tucson, Ariz.; and San Diego, Calif.

    Of the more than 400,000 illegal immigrants apprehended along the southern border in 2016, nearly half were stopped in the Rio Grande Valley, according to data compiled by the U.S. Border Patrol.

    Customs and Border Protection said in June that it would be installing 35 new gates in the Rio Grande Valley to cover existing gaps, as well as begin replacing fencing in San Diego and vehicle barriers in El Paso. Trump has pointed to these repairs as a sign that his wall promise was coming to life.

    Customs and Border Protection had initially planned to award contracts by June 12, with construction beginning by July 21, according to a June Homeland Security Inspector General’s report.

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